Journaling

I started using a journaling Bible 6 months ago, and have found the experience helpful, both to my memory and to my spiritual condition. The notes I’ve made have been a reminder of God’s goodness to me, as I’ve reviewed them weeks later. How quickly I forget.

Crossway has produced a journaling Bible with an added twist (Illuminated Bible–Art Journaling Edition). Each book begins with a graphic that the artists feel represents that book. For the Psalms, the graphic shows a deer drinking in a pool of water bringing to memory the verse, “as a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you. O God” (Ps. 42:1). The graphic is meant to draw you into the Word and to express yourself with color. The wide margins of the text also do the same.

Throughout the text, additional graphics are included, some as a whole page, others as a small drawing in the margin. All are meant for us to engage with Scripture, not just as printed words, but as images of what the text is suggesting and our soul needs.

The one thing missing in the introduction is Crossway’s recommendations for the best tools to make the journal yours, without applying an ink or medium that would bleed through the page or cause the beautifully printed pages to become disfigured.

I’m thankful to Crossway for providing me with a copy of the Bible in exchange for my unbiased observations and comments.

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Good Assurance

A review of: Can We Trust the Gospels?
By Peter J. Williams

In a day and age when everything is questioned and we are encouraged to follow our feelings, it is refreshing to find a book that insists there is something that is reasonably reliable. When talking about the Gospels, to call them reasonably reliable seems odd. Williams states, “remember that this book is not about proving that the Gospels are true but about demonstrating that they can be rationally trusted.” (Kindle location 2012) The church needs this book which provides solid evidence that the Gospel accounts are to be trusted.

Dealing with a book that was written almost 2000 years ago, we must depend on circumstantial evidence to determine its accuracy and truthfulness. With the New Year, I will be reading through the Bible again. It is refreshing to know that what I read is trustworthy and can be applicable to my life. Though William’s book isn’t necessarily “simple” in its explanations, it is worth reading.

Having just read another book on the reliability of the Gospels, I noticed Williams takes a similar tact by determining, “that…alternative explanations will be complex, involving appeals to numerous scenarios normally judged to be improbable, whereas accepting the historical reliability of the Gospels will be simple.” (Kindle location 2207) Both books assert that the simplest explanation is the one most likely to contain the truth.

Crossway was kind enough to provide me a copy of the book in exchange for my unbiased review.

Every Sin / Every Temptation Not Taken

The Responsible Puppet

IMG_1980 - CopyEvery time you sin, it is an act of …
1. Disobedience – God made a command and you went against it
2. Pride – You decided you knew better than God
3. Selfishness – You put yourself first
4. Distancing – You have put space between you and God
5. Embracing – You have brought yourself closer to the will of Satan
6. Foolishness – You acted contrary to the will of the wisest person in the universe.

And for a Christian – it’s worse, because for a person in Christ, every sin is an act of …
1. Betrayal – You acted against your previous commitments to your Lord and Savior
2. Hypocrisy – You say you are a Christian, but you’re not acting like one.

You should remember these things when you confess your sins. And then remember – he is faithful and just and…

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War and Peace

A review of From Chaos to Cosmos: Creation to New Creation by Sidney Gredanus

Following along as Greidanus made his argument for the theme of chaos-cosmos running through Scripture was stimulating spiritually for me. It gave me a new appreciation for the complexity of Scripture and its flow. I had seen the redemption theme running through the Old Testament before, and the theme of chaos-cosmos helped me see more clearly the restoration that is still in process. Hints are found in the Old Testament, but are more clearly seen after Christ’s first coming, with the completion of the process at His second coming.

This book is one of the Short Studies in Biblical Theology series that seeks to aid the pastor by developing topics relating to an understanding of the “flow” of Scripture. The author’s thesis is that the world began in “Cosmos” or wholeness, but quickly sank into chaos with the introduction of sin.

Greidanus develops the theme of chaos-cosmos throughout the Biblical text starting in Genesis and ending with the restoration of cosmos in the last chapter of Revelation. Many of the places where chaos or cosmos are seen, the text uses metaphors and word pictures to describe either of the two states. Words like “sea,” “water,” “river,” and “darkness” are used for chaos, and “light,” “made alive,” and “garden” are used for cosmos.

The book ends with a useful appendix outlining two sermon series that could be preached on the theme. Each sermon has a basic overview of what should be presented from the particular scripture.

Crossway was kind enough to provide me a complimentary copy of the book through the Blog Review Program in exchange for an impartial review.

A view of the Temple Mount from the Mount of Olives. It was a short ways away that chaos met its match and death was defeated.

 

The Sermon on the Mount

Eremos Heights, one of the possible sites for the Sermon on the Mount

A review of Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount and His Confrontation with the World: A Study of Matthew 5-10 by D.A. Carson

“Several observations are in order,” is a favorite phrase of Carson. Typically, these observations are very practical and illuminate the text for the 21st century reader. He does not neglect the 1st century context though.
Carson carefully explains the text with particular emphasis on what Jesus words would have meant to the average hearer in Israel during His time. His explanations are in contrast to some of the “meanings” that have grown up since then, which try to explain the hard aspects of what Jesus was saying.
Many works cover the eight sayings of Jesus in what we know as the Beatitudes. Carson believes that those sayings are really an outline for the rest of the sermon that extends to chapter 10 of Matthew’s Gospel. Thus, he spends relatively little time unpacking the Beatitudes, and the bulk of the book looking at what comes immediately after.

As is most of Carson, the book is practical without being simplistic. It is readable, but still requires thought and careful review. I wish I’d found the book prior to preaching on the Beatitudes earlier this year.

Baker was kind enough to provide me a copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review.

Ring or no ring, Jesus stood before Pontius Pilate

It seems like every once in a while there is something unearthed in Israel that affirms the historicity of Scripture.

Ferrell's Travel Blog

By this time many people have heard the report on the news or read one of the numerous   articles stating that a ring possibly belonging to Pontius Pilate, the Roman prefect or procurator who condemned Jesus to be crucified, has been found.

The scholarly article on which the reports have been based has been published in Israel Exploration Journal 68:2 (2018). The popular article in The Times of Israel (here) includes a black and white photo of the area in the Herodium where the ring was found. I searched my photos and discovered a color picture I made of the same area in 2011. Even then some reconstructive work was underway.

Photo of the Herodium made from the garden where the ring was discovered. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins. Photo of the Herodium made from the garden where the ring was discovered. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins in 2011.

Our aerial photo below shows the Herodium in December, 2009. Additional excavations continue to be made on the…

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The 10 Words

A review of Kevin DeYoung’s book, The 10 Commandments.

Two examples of why DeYoung’s examination of the 10 commandments is practical and helpful for me today: First, growing up, one of the battles my brother and I fought with our parents was for the opportunity to play basketball in our yard on a Sunday afternoon. We won that battle. Were we right?
Second, next week I have jury duty. What does it mean to commit perjury and lie in court, the keeping of the ninth commandment?
Even to this day I struggle with what it means to keep the Sabbath, the fourth commandment. Can I do work of any kind? Must I rest? What constitutes rest? DeYoung has helped me think through some of those issues with his careful examination of what Sabbath-keeping is all about.
My time in court next week, sitting on a jury, will be interesting, as it is my first experience as a juror. What lies will be told? Will the truth be stretched to make either the plaintiff’s case or the defendant’s case look good? Do I ever stretch the truth to make myself look good?
Each of the 10 commandments is still very applicable today, though they were given centuries ago. They provide the foundation for our civil society and DeYoung not only explains their importance, but also makes them very practical. I found the book helpful and thought-provoking. It isn’t so detailed that you get bogged down as you read the details, nor is it an academic explanation of a long-forgotten document.
If the 10 commandments were more closely held today, what would our world be like? How am I doing with keeping them?

Crossway was kind enough to provide me a complimentary copy of the book through the Blog Review Program in exchange for an impartial review.

“Just the facts, Mam.”

Sargent Joe Friday’s famous line from the TV series Dragnet speaks for D. A. Carson’s book, “Basics for Believers.” Here’s my review.

Carson takes the reader through a study of the book of Philippians. It is part commentary of the text, and part application to the circumstances we find ourselves in the 21st century. He divides Paul’s letter into five parts, beginning with the idea of putting the Gospel first in chapter one. The remaining four chapters focus on the cross, adopting Jesus’s death as a test of our outlook, emulating worthy Christian leaders, and never giving up the Christian walk.

Carson is concerned that the church today has opted for a “domesticated version of the gospel.” This domestication has occurred due to the process of secularization, self-indulgence, and what he calls “philosophical pluralism.”

Throughout the book, the reader is admonished to follow the instructions that Paul lays out for the Philippians. For example, instead of self-indulgence, a Christ follower should be selfless. “May God grant that all who read the pages will pray earnestly for this virtue and resolve steadily to pursue it. For such believers will never be moved; they will never give up the Christian walk.” (P. 136)

Carson is expositional, and at the same time pastoral. His heart resonates with the Gospel like Paul the Apostle’s does, and his heart also is burdened for those who may read this book. I’ve read the book with a pencil and highlighter in hand. Its practicality will do me in good stead, both in my life and in my ministry. It is a short but a powerful book.

Baker was kind enough to provide me a copy in exchange for an unbiased review.

Masada and Herodium

No wonder Herod was called “Great.” In some ways he was a monster but as far as building was concerned he deserves the title “Great.”

Israel Tours

DSC_0288One of the exciting things about visiting historical, archaeological sites with a knowledgeable guide is that there is always something new. Two of the sites that I like to take visitors to are Masada and Herodium both which show King Herod’s genius as a builder and life 2000 years ago under Roman rule.

DSCN1861

When visiting Masada you may notice recent archaeological excavations being carried out by Tel Aviv University across from the Byzantine church. The site was chosen to gain more information about the open area on the top of Masada and 2 water cisterns were found from the time of Herod that were reused when Byzantine monks settled on the site. This is additional evidence that the open area was used for agriculture and in fact study of the sediment not only identified fertilizing agents, but also yielded the first signs of the presence of grape vines on…

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Do you scratch your head at times about life?

A review: When God’s Ways Make No Sense
by Dr. Larry Crabb

For the purposes of this review, I was tempted to add up the number of sentences in Crabb’s book that end in a question mark. I didn’t, since it would have taken a lot of time. There were many questions.
In typical Crabb style, he asks questions that he’s been wrestling with and then slowly provides the answer. Most chapters end with a question that the next chapter will answer, leading to another question and another chapter.
When the book arrives at its final conclusion, Crabb wrestles with what the sovereignty of God means. His premise is, when we don’t have a good understanding of God’s sovereignty, we conclude that He and His ways don’t make sense and may not be good.
Crabb looks at two common views of sovereignty and then adds his own definition. First, he looks at “meticulous sovereignty” or the reformed view. Second, he explains “contingent sovereignty” or what is commonly known as open theism. He finds both views inadequate in explaining the entire picture of who God is and how He acts.
Crabb’s attempt to define God’s sovereignty rests on four propositions and goes by the name “unthwarted sovereignty.” The propositions are: 1) “God is free to do whatever He wishes;” 2) “God is always active, always up to something good;” 3) “Even the wrath of man, energized by our flesh, directed by hell’s wisdom, and approved by the world, will further God’s eternal purpose to reveal Himself above all else as worthy of praise;” and 4) “The sovereign God sees to it that nothing that happens in this world, nothing that either lost or saved people can do, will thwart His purpose.”
Reading Crabb takes time and thought. It is well worth the effort. When I began reading the book, I was facing the prospect of lung cancer. How could a good God allow such a devastating possibility to happen to me? By the end of the book, I was much more aware of God’s goodness and my dependence on His love. To use Crabb’s formula, I was both trembling and trusting.

Baker was kind enough to provide me a copy of the book for my fair and honest evaluation.