Years ago, I was a night owl. A combination of age, jobs, children, and other factors changed me. I love getting up in the morning and sitting down with some time for Bible reading, coffee, and a stack of books. Some days, my mind is still too inert to grasp much on the page, but on other days, it is a sponge. The key is perseverance. Good days or bad days, busy days or leisurely days, in sickness and health, I get up and read.
Here are some of the recent reading experiences that I have either finished or am still working on.
I cannot say that First John is my favorite book of the Bible, but it is the book that challenges me the most. The structure–the repeating patterns, the beauty, the brevity, and the depth of it always leave me wanting more to understand it. This commentary–1, 2, & 3 John by Constantine R. Campbell–makes a fine daily study in the three short letters John wrote. It is part of a series called The Story of God Bible Commentary, published by Zondervan.
These commentaries have three portions in each chapter: Listen to the Story, Explain the Story, and Live the Story. The method is useful for morning studies, but would also be beneficial for sermon preparation, family devotions, or any other format. Listening to the passage of Scripture is self explanatory, but it is also important not to forget. I confess to having jumped into a passage when working to prepare a lesson or sermon without having spent enough time just looking and listening to the words of the Bible.
In the portion on explaining the story, Campbell weaves in the textual issues regarding Greek words, interpretive challenges, and different views held by other commentators. I especially enjoyed some of the quotes Campbell included from Augustine.
Living the story is the application. Here Campbell includes stories and anecdotes along with specific suggestions on how to practice what is being learned. As a fan of Charles Spurgeon’s methods of using anecdotes and quips to enhance his sermons, I found this book full of plenty of encouraging and usable material.
Although the largest portion of this book was devoted to 1 John, I really found the chapters on 2 and 3 John quite enjoyable. All too often, those books are raced through without being given much thought.
This book was enjoyable to read and would be enjoyable to read again either for morning devotions or for lesson preparation.
Praying the Bible by Donald S. Whitney is published by Crossway. The Crossway website also has a video and additional helps for using this book. Some of you are probably familiar with Mr. Whitney fine book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life. If so, then you know that his writings are clear, practical, convicting, and Biblical.
This book is a short read of ten chapters and is less than 100 pages. It is easy to read one or two chapters in the morning. There are lots of good books on prayer that I have read. What stands out about this book is that it is not written to convince or convict us to pray, but tells us how to pray. Basically, Whitney focuses on using the Bible–as in the exact text we are reading–to formulate our daily prayers, weave in the various needs, expand upon the topics mentioned, and use the language of the Bible to pray.
Read it for yourself or share it with the family.
After several occasions where I glanced at and scanned a few pages, I have finally begun seriously reading Speak the Truth: How to bring God back into every conversation by Carmen LaBerge. Her website and more information about the topic (including a free read of the first chapter) can be found HERE.
After I received this book, I had a few doubts about reading it. First of all, I was not familiar with the author. Second, I found myself suspecting it might be a shallow read. Several chapters in, I am better acquainted with the author, and this is a solid and in-depth, but very readable book. It is not shallow or sappy. Every time I suspect the author might give a weak or watered-down answer, she hits a home run (to mix metaphors).
I will share a few quotes I have particularly enjoyed.
“To conceal from others the truth and grace of God’s reality, His love and the hope He offers in life and in death may well be the greatest sin we ever commit.” pages 10-11
“We treat life like Monopoly. When we land on a square God ‘owns,’ we owe Him rent money. He can have those certain properties, but as far as the rest of the board goes–we pursue it for all we’re worth. Truth is, it all belongs to God….” page 15 (Reminds me of the Kuyper “every square inch” quote.)
“The Gospel is the solution to jihad in the Middle East and the Gospel is the answer to famine in Africa. The Gospel confronts human sex trafficking in Asia and resolves the lonelines of your single neighbor.” pages 17-18
“If we are not taking God’s viewpoint into the conversation at the bar or in the bleachers, then it is not the culture’s fault that God’s perspective goes unheard. People can’t hear what no one is saying.” pages 39-40