Book Review: The Historical Reliability of the New Testament

historicalThe Historical Reliability of the New Testament: Countering the Challenges to Evangelical Christian Beliefs by Craig L. Blomberg is a mighty tome of over 700 pages of solidly researched materials aimed to bury the objections to the historicity of the Scriptures.

The scholarly work – written in an accessible format for those without an advanced theological degree – covers the length of the New Testament books, their transmission, their canonization, “the formation of the literature, external corroboration of its contents, apparent internal contradictions,…the so-called Gnostic Gospels…and the New Testament Apocrypha” (p xxiii).

In a world full of misinformation and assumptions about the Bible and how theology and historicity can’t go together, this thick book engages historical and current attempts to undermine the reliability of the Bible. The author does so without a condescending attitude and presents evidence and arguments that do not depend on being a Christian to believe, but are based on reliable data, scholarship, historical fact, and logic.

The Historical Reliability of the New Testament is a great book for those who have questions about the reliability of the Bible, those seeking to bolster their faith, and those seeking to engage others in an intellectual discussion regarding the reasonableness and historical validity of the Christian faith.

Disclosure: I received this book free from B& H Publishing Group through the B&H/Lifeway Bloggers program. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. 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.

Always Seek Her Heart

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High volume and high-intensity conflict between loved ones is great for daytime television talk shows. Epic emotional explosions or implosions of relationships is good for ratings and tends to be the stereotype of the “cause” of the dissolution or dissatisfaction of relationships.

Yet research by marriage research experts John and Julia Gottman demonstrates that the greater danger is the slow death of a relationship due to emotional disconnection. This happens as couples stop turning towards each other emotionally. The relationship is emotionally starved to death day-by-day until couples think that they have “fallen out of love.”

If you want to keep the fires of your relationship burning hot, seek her heart. Always.
Intentionally make time on a daily basis to feed her emotionally. Explore what makes her feel loved. Listen and ask about her dreams. Respond to her bids for your attention. Have fun together. Do little (and occasionally big) things to let her know that she is special and treasured.

As you seek her heart in the mundane aspects of life, you will fuel her with love and security. The two of you will be continually knit closer together on a heart level as a team. There will be a sense of confidence that no matter what the world throws your way, “we” can face it together as long as we both shall live.

Recently featured in the Rejoicing Rebecca newsletter as Relationship Commandment #8

How to Healthily Listen to Sermons

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How do we make the most of hearing the Word of God announced? There are ways that can set us up to receive help or hinder our hearts from hearing from God. Here are some helpful tips on healthily listening to sermons gleaned and adapted from Listen Up by Christopher Ash.

  1. Expect God to Speak

    When Peter tells Christians that they have been born again “through the living and enduring word of God,” he explains that “this is the word that was preached to you” (1 Peter 1:23-25). Hearing the Bible faithfully preached is a key vehicle for the Lord to speak to us; so we must practice prayerfully expecting and seeking that word from God each time we engage with His announced Word.

    Practice praying for the Spirit’s speaking before the Word is preached and practice deliberately quieting the mind and prayerfully focusing in on what is being preached during the sermon.

  2. Admit that God Knows Better Than You

    We must come to the preaching of God’s Word with humble hearts. We must acknowledge that we are sin-stained people who will be confronted and made uncomfortable by the pure, holy, and righteous Word of God.

    When the light of the Word shines upon the darkness of our hearts, we should observe when and how we disagree with the Bible or try to reinterpret it to allow us more comfort and then humbly repent by acknowledging that God is God, He is right and we are wrong, and the discomfort is in an area where we need to be changed to match God (instead of trying to change God and His Word to match us).

  3. Engage The Bible as it is Preached

    As the Word is being announced we are responsible for listening to the spoken word while also engaging the written Word. Let us be active listeners to the sermon, engaging the content and evaluating it not based on the communication skills of the preacher but upon the authority of the written Word of God. Let us pray, for the Spirit to open our minds and hearts as we actively engage in the sermon.

  4. Hear the Sermon While Gathered as the Church

    God’s purpose is not to shape a collection of individuals to be His image bearers but to form a people who together display His image on the earth (c.f. Ephesians). Not only does God call for the assembling together of His people as a testimony, coming together as an assembly for the preaching of the Word provides accountability for the living out of the Word and mutual encouragement.

    As we practice the healthy discipline of gathering together regularly, let us pray for the Spirit to continue to develop in us a deep love for our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ and a Spirit-driven desire to sit and listen together to the preached Word.

  5. Regularly (Week-by-Week) Gather Together as the Church

    It is a mistake to think that by some divine magic the word we hear today or read today will always fit exactly what I need that day or that week. The Bible isn’t designed for a series of quick fixes, but for the transformation and conformation of who we are from the inside out as we engage and are engaged by the Word on a regular basis.When we regularly engage the Word personally on a regular basis but also collectively on a regular basis we are in the position to let the Word dwell in us richly for today and for a future need.

    As we take in the regular teaching of the Word, we can healthily be gradually changed and shaped by Scripture individually and collectively. Let us be faithful to not simply assemble as the church when we are up for it, but to set regular attendance and engagement with our local church as the priority on our calendars.

  6. Do What the Bible Says

    It is incredibly sad for someone to sit under the preached Word of God, feel the conviction of the Spirit, proclaim the joy or inspiration from that sermon, and then to not follow through by doing what the Bible says as it was proclaimed. A lifestyle that enjoys being inspired but doesn’t act upon the Word is an entertainment based lifestyle, not a biblical lifestyle.

    If we are honest, we will humbly acknowledge that it is unlikely that we will be able to consistently follow through on our own, so let us get regularly connected with other Believers so that we can encourage one another unto love and good works as we obey the announced Word of God.

Regularly engage in the six practices above and see how much more the Word gets unlocked for you, how much more the Spirit speaks a word of conviction and/or encouragement, and how much more love you will have for your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

Book Review: A Disruptive Gospel

disruptive-gospelA Disruptive Gospel: Stories & Strategies for Transforming Your City by Mac Pier is an excellent book if you want to be inspired by stories and strategies that revolve around large scale prayer and unity conferences. The book promotes these unification efforts as what God is doing and how He is moving to transform cities from the inside out. Such efforts can be beautiful and can certainly be a way that the Spirit moves in cities through churches.

But if you are looking for stories and strategies that focus on how your local church, especially if your local church is not a well-funded and well-connected large church, can implement the gospel on a grass-roots level in ways to impact and transform your city then this book is not going to be helpful and maybe even depressing.

Disclosure: I received this book free from Baker Books through the Baker Books Bloggers http://www.bakerbooks.com/bakerbooksbloggers program. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. 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.

Book Review: Essential Worship

essential-worshipEssential Worship: A Handbook for Leaders by Greg Scheer is a worthwhile read and study if looking to reevaluate or launch a music worship element in a church or church program (e.g. youth gatherings).  The author does a masterful job of attempting to avoid taking an either-or approach to an often controversial area of ministry.

The struggle with the book is that there are so many topics touched and talked about as being important to consider – to the point that the reader can feel like it is impossible to actually live out the principles laid out in the book.

Despite the complications and nuances of the book that can be a bit overwhelming, the book is one to keep on the bookcase for reference after the first read/study.

Disclosure: I received this book free from Baker Books through the Baker Books Bloggers http://www.bakerbooks.com/bakerbooksbloggers program. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. 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.