How to Read and Understand the Biblical Prophets

How to Read and Understand the Biblical ProphetsHow to Read and Understand the Biblical Prophets by Peter J. Gentry

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

This is a short, succinct book on the genre of prophecy and how this Hebrew literature was written. In our Western mindset, we often don’t properly read and understand Hebrew prophecy, as it was written in a style that we are not accustomed to. Peter Gentry takes us through the characteristics of Hebrew prophecy and how to better understand it. He uses multiple examples, particularly in Isaiah, to show the style and genre and demonstrate how this would have been understood to the original readers. As I’m currently studying Isaiah, I found this helpful to better understand what I am reading. There are charts throughout the book to demonstrate the chiastic structure that is common in Hebrew literature. We are not properly understanding the Bible if we don’t understand it the way the original readers understood its meaning. This book is a helpful resource to better understand the genre and structure of the biblical prophets so we can better grasp the original readers’ understanding of the text.

*I received a copy of this book free on Kindle from the publisher Crossway in exchange for my review.

No Little Women by Aimee Byrd

No Little Women: Equipping All Women in the Household of GodNo Little Women: Equipping All Women in the Household of God by Aimee Byrd

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book was “preaching to the choir” as they say, for it echoes much of what I have seen in the last several years. We are all theologians, but not necessarily good theologians. The “fluff” that is often published for women’s ministries has not helped Christian women to grow in their knowledge of God and His Word. And women are not being equipped to properly discern what is truth and what is error. Aimee tackles this difficult and often emotional topic in this book, challenging women not to be the “little women” that Paul warns about in 2 Timothy 3:6-7: “For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.”
While first defining the problem, this book doesn’t just leave us frustrated at what seems to be an insurmountable problem of Biblical illiteracy and lack of discernment. Aimee gives practical advice for how to combat this and equip women in how to be better discerners and studiers of God’s Word. Each chapter has discussion questions at the end for further reflection and thought. She encourages us to read critically and thoughtfully. In the last section she provides excerpts from popular women’s books and asks thoughtful questions to think about what these women are saying compared to God’s Word. In order to better detect error, we must be firmly grounded in the Bible. She also talks about theological triage and what is considered primary or first-order doctrine and is thus heresy, versus secondary doctrines that we might disagree on but still be within orthodoxy. Doctrines like the Trinity, Christ being both fully God and fully man, these are doctrines we cannot compromise on.
A lot of this book resonated with me. I get angry when I see the lack of discernment among Christians and their seemingly whole-hearted acceptance of false doctrine because it makes them feel good. It saddens me to see a lack of Bible knowledge and verses ripped out of context for their warm, fuzzy appeal. It encourages me to see books like this, that others see what I see and want to equip women to know their Bibles and thus know God, having their lives transformed by His truth. It thrills me that I’m not alone in my desire to learn theology and that there are other women out there that want to grow and learn together. I would love to join other women and have theology reading groups. The need is great!
I didn’t agree with everything in this book, but I think its overall message is much needed. I highly recommend that church leaders, women’s ministry teams, and the lay person in the pew read this book. Be aware of the need and see solutions for how to make needed changes. Let’s be passionate for truth – the truth found in God’s Word!

*I received a copy of this book free from the publisher P&R Publishing in exchange for my review.

Know the Word Study Bible (NKJV)

This Bible is designed to help one study the Bible. Each book of the Bible starts with an introduction summary and a “how to study” section for that particular book. There are brief notes like in any study Bible throughout each book, and also highlight sections to provide more insight into some of the chapters. For those just getting started in the study of God’s Word, this Bible can help them to not feel so intimidated by taking their hand so to speak and walking through the study with them.

There are also topical articles sprinkled throughout the Bible if one wanted to study a particular topic. Some of the topics include: God the Father, covenant, sanctification, salvation, and church. There is also a brief “what happened” between the Testaments. A concordance and some maps are included in the back.

Overall, this is a good Bible for someone who wants to get started with Bible study and isn’t sure where to start. It is in the New King James version, which is a reliable translation that is more word-for-word.

*I was sent a copy of this Bible free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers program in exchange for my review.

NKJV Word Study Bible

NKJV Word Study Bible: 1,700 Key Words that Unlock the Meaning of the BibleNKJV Word Study Bible: 1,700 Key Words that Unlock the Meaning of the Bible by Thomas Nelson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Doing word studies can open up a whole new world in Bible study. Word studies also make it possible for those of us who don’t know Greek or Hebrew to be able to better understand what the original authors were saying. This Bible provides word studies right in with the text, rather than having multiple volumes to reference the different numbers and words. While not every word is given in this Bible, key words are given to provide the original language meaning. If you’ve been intimidated in the past with having multiple places to look up words to understand the original meaning, this Bible can provide a great start to doing word studies and learning what the word meant in the original language. And the text is in the New King James Version, which is more reliable being a word-for-word translation rather than thought-for-thought.

So if you’re looking for a way to start doing word studies, this Bible can be a great start!  The word studies in this Bible do not include all the range of meanings like you would see in a Strong’s Concordance. They do give the concordance number so you can look it up for further study. But the explanation of the word is not the multiple listing, but rather an explanation of the fuller meaning of the word. As such, this is more a beginning introduction to word studies and can be a way to get one’s feet wet before diving further using Strong’s. As a disclaimer, nowadays, word studies can be done fairly easily online on sites such as Blue Letter Bible. Also, this Bible is not a Study Bible – there are no study notes. It just includes explanations of 1,700 key words throughout the text.

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Let’s Study Galatians by Derek Thomas

Bible study help

Sojourner Between Worlds

GalatiansGalatians by Derek W.H. Thomas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have enjoyed every “Let’s Study” book I have read so far. These books are very readable commentaries. They include the text of the Scripture and then explanation and expositing on the text. Each one I have read so far has been a different author, so the style of writing is different, but they have all been meaty treatises on the Bible. Yet not so deep that they are beyond the reach of the average person. If you are intimidated by commentaries, these are a great place to start in digging into a book of the Bible. They also include a group study guide at the back to use in a small group or Bible study setting.
In this book, Let’s Study Galatians, the author takes us through some background behind why Paul is writing this book. There…

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Genesis: A Commentary for Children by Nancy Ganz

Herein Is Love, Vol. 1: GenesisHerein Is Love, Vol. 1: Genesis by Nancy E. Ganz

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I discovered that a series of commentaries for children had been written, I was eager to check them out. The first in the series is on Genesis and subsequent books cover Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.

Basically the author writes about what is happening in the book of Genesis and provides further detail. One of the things I especially liked about this commentary is how she tied the stories in Genesis into the promise of Jesus Christ, the coming Savior. While written for children (and I would say older children, not young ones), the commentary is also enjoyable for adults to read. I would caution parents to read ahead of time to know if a section is age appropriate or to skip particular portions that their child might not be old enough to handle. Since Genesis does include talk of s*x, so does the commentary, though not luridly or inappropriately.

The book is written in a very readable style, story-like, drawing one into the stories of Genesis. Again, her tying Genesis in with God’s plan of redemption was well-done, I thought. There was a phrase she gave early on in the book that gave me pause and I don’t think I would agree with regarding the creation of man. “God breathed into him, so that God’s Spirit would be part of him.” I don’t agree with saying that God’s Spirit became part of man. I’m not sure what she meant to convey by that statement. Perhaps it just means that God created man as both a physical and spiritual being. Since the majority of the book seems to be sound theologically, that alone isn’t enough to make me not recommend the book. Just to point it out as a caution and potentially needing explanation when doing this with kids.

All in all, I would definitely recommend this for parents to use with their older children (upper elementary age, middle school). It could be used as a family devotional. Scripture passages are given with each chapter for digging deeper. It really helped to bring the book of Genesis alive and linked it with the theme of the whole Bible – Jesus Christ, our Redeemer.

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher Shepherd Press in exchange for my review.

1 Peter by Jen Wilkin

1 Peter: A Living Hope in Christ - Bible Study Book1 Peter: A Living Hope in Christ – Bible Study Book by Jen Wilkin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

 

I received a copy of this Bible study guide for review from Lifeway. One thing that was disappointing is that it is set up to be done with a dvd teaching curriculum, which I don’t have. I felt like I was missing part of the study by not having the teaching to go along with it. However, I went ahead to review the study without the dvd curriculum.

One of the great things about this 9 week study is that at the beginning of each week, on day 1, we are to read through the whole book of 1 Peter. This is an important part of Bible study, getting the full context of the book. I was quite pleased that this was made a part of the study. The full text in the ESV is also included in the back of the study guide.

Bible study is much better done in community, so I did not get the full impact of this study as I likely would if doing it with a group. But I found the questions were good at asking what the text was saying and what it would have meant to the original audience, as well as looking at cross-references to broaden the understanding of a concept (such as holiness). This is not a “fluff” Bible study like so many that are out there that tend to focus on feelings. This study asks questions and digs into the text for a better understanding of God’s Word. Having read Jen’s book Women of the Word and its excellent explanation of how to study the Bible, I expected this study guide to be well-written and it was.

I hope to be able to do this study in a group with the dvd teaching at some point to benefit more from it. In the meantime, I think it is a great study for women to do in better learning not only about 1 Peter, but also how to really study the Bible. There are group discussion questions at the end of each lesson to help facilitate the group study.

*I received a copy of this book free from the publisher in exchange for my review.

A Season of Waiting

It appears that I am currently in a season of waiting. I don’t know what God has for me regarding future ministry with teaching. While there are other ways I’m able to be involved at this time, teaching is not one of them. And I don’t know if it will even be a possibility in the future. I’m also trying to find someone to do a Bible study with. Currently I have not found anyone who is available to add on to what they are already involved in. I have found that I don’t particularly care for doing Bible study on my own. I am waiting for a Bible study book to arrive that I requested for review. That will be something I can work on until closer to summer when other ladies may be available to do a study with.

Waiting is never much fun. Yet God has designed that waiting be part of our lives. Even daily we wait in traffic at traffic lights, or in line at the grocery store, or on the phone trying to resolve a bill. And patience is part of the fruit of the Spirit that is to adorn the Christian’s life. God can use seasons of waiting to draw us closer to Him, to help us to depend on Him more and to develop our trust in Him. Perhaps I won’t have a chance to teach again. That is up to God. He is the one who gifts and provides opportunities for using those gifts. Am I desiring these things in my life rather than trusting God to fulfill His purposes in me? Even good things can become idols. We are all teachers in one way or another just in the relationships we have with others. God can use me to help teach others through my friendships and day-to-day living. It doesn’t have to be a formal teaching situation.

What I do during this time of waiting is important. In all areas of our lives we are to glorify God, to honor Him and obey Him. I need to be about the task of exalting Christ in what I say, how I act and my attitude through it all. “Do everything without complaining or arguing,” (Philippians 2:14). Perhaps you find yourself in a season of waiting as well. Or you are in a stage of life where you desire to use your gifts and are not able to because of other obligations with family or work. Rather than focusing on what we are not able to currently do, let us use the waiting time to focus on God and exalting Him to others around us.

Bible Study in Community

One of the things that I learned from the Simeon Trust workshop last year is the importance of studying the Bible in community. We don’t have all the answers ourselves. In studying the Bible, it is important to study along with other believers in order to keep each other in check, making sure we are understanding the text properly and not going off into some strange interpretation. I recently did a study on the book of Romans on my own and found it quite challenging. It was overwhelming and I felt like I had no way to check myself that I was on the right track in my understanding. Now I realize that commentaries can be used as a way to check oneself and see whether our interpretations are in line. But there is much to be said about studying the Bible with others who are studying it at the same time and can provide accountability and balance. My husband has been studying the Bible with a friend for the last several years. They study on their own and meet weekly to discuss what they’ve learned. I have seen the growth in him by studying the Bible this way. I long for something similar. Group studies are one way that this can happen and I am part of a weekly study at our new church.

I would encourage you to be part of a group Bible study (not just a book study, but actually studying the Bible). Or pair up with another person of the same sex to study through a book of the Bible together. If meeting regularly is an issue, email can be a great way to discuss what we’re learning also. I have done that before with my family since we don’t live near each other. But try to find others to study the Bible with you rather than doing it on your own. The insights learned, the balance of keeping oneself on track, and the fellowship of learning the Bible together is invaluable for a Christian’s growth.

Using a Study Guide for Bible Study

As you likely know from previous posts, I think it’s important for Christians to know how to study the Bible for themselves. I did a series on how to study the Bible using the inductive study method. You can find those posts here.

Confession time: while I like knowing how to study the Bible, I find that it’s hard for me to sit down and work through it on my own. I find that using a study guide helps me to stay on task and have a structure to the Bible study. I don’t want to rely on others for understanding what the Bible says, but it does help me to process better by using a study guide. However, there is so much fluff and unbiblical stuff out there that I would be very cautious about what guides to actually use. While I have found in the past that I like the Kay Arthur study guides, they sometimes get me bogged down in marking words and phrases and end up being more of a distraction than a help. A study guide that I’ve done in the past that was similar to the inductive method is the NavPress LifeChange series study guides (the original ones, not the new Double-Edged Th1nk ones). Those ask questions and help to move me along in the passage. Probably the best study guide I’ve found are the ones written by Keri Folmar and published by Cruciform Press. There are only 3 at this point: Philippians, James, and now Ephesians. They use the inductive method and are fantastic!

Some study guides that I haven’t used yet but have heard great things about are the “Seeing Jesus in the Old Testament” series by Nancy Guthrie, and the study guides written by Kathleen Nielson. I have the first 2 of the Guthrie series and the John and Isaiah guides by Nielson. Perhaps I can dive into some of those in the coming year. So while I encourage Christians to know how to study the Bible and to not rely on study guides, I also find that they can be a useful tool and a supplement to help keep me on track with my study. Also by knowing how to study the Bible, when using a guide, it’s easier to see if the author is getting off track and taking things out of context.