Quest Study Bible (book review)

I was excited to get my copy of The Quest Study Bible. As I began to leaf through it and notice its unique format, I was suddenly transported back more than 20 years into my past…

“Daddy, what are you doing,” my young son asked, as I bent over some forms spread across my desk. 

“I’m filling out these tax forms,” I explained.

“Why?”

“So that I make sure I’m sending the right amount of tax money in to our government.”

“Why?”

“Because I don’t want to have to pay any late fees.” 

“Why?” 

“So we can keep more of my hard-earned money.” 

“Why?” 

“Go ask your mother….”

Any parent or grandparent knows that the incessant questions of kids is how they learn. Our youngsters are processing the world around them, asking questions, trying to make sense of how everything fits together. As our Heavenly Father’s children, we still learn about His world in much the same way. 

Some of the best-known catechisms of history have been handed down to us in a question-and-answer format like the Westminster Catechism—Q: What is the chief end of man? A: Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever. 

The Quest Study Bible preserves this Q&A learning format for those of us that are (hopefully) lifelong learners of God’s Word. Each book starts off with the basic Who, Why, When, and To Whom questions that many of us are asking. Then every single page contains the catechism-like Q&As that query the text you’re reading. For example, in the first chapter of Matthew’s Gospel we are treated to questions like: “Why give the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah?” and “What’s the significance of calling Jesus the Messiah?” 

To help you more quickly find some of the answers you may be seeking, I also appreciate the quite extensive “Index to Subjects” at the back of this Bible.

If you are looking for a unique way to engage with Scripture—especially if you have an eager-to-learn mind—you will really enjoy The Quest Study Bible. 

I am a Zondervan book reviewer. 

Ultimate Wisdom

Last week I posted a quote on some of my social media channels that simply stated: “Our opinions don’t matter if they don’t square with God’s Word on the matter.” This seemed to me to be a fairly uncontroversial statement, but one anonymous reader really took me to task for using the hashtag #objectivetruth. Apparently, he thinks there is no such thing. 

But don’t we all rely on objective, external standards all the time? For instance, a gallon of gasoline is a gallon regardless of where you buy it, or whether you feel like it’s a gallon or not. And when you go to pay for your gasoline, the price isn’t based on how the gas station attendant is feeling at that moment, but on the objective amount posted. 

Psalm 49 is somewhat unusual in that it is a “wisdom psalm.” This psalm feels a lot more like something we would read in Proverbs or Ecclesiastes than it does a prayer or song in the Psalms. 

For instance, the first four verses of this Psalm sound a lot like the opening verses of the Book of Proverbs. And verses 5-13 of the Psalm echo what Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 2. 

This psalmist—like Solomon—wants us to understand how important it is to get wisdom. So we are urged to listen intently to those who have hard-won insight, to those who have “been there, done that” so that we don’t have to repeat their folly. 

What is that wisdom? It can be broken down into two profound statements:

(1) Everyone dies. 

That can be a really depressing truth IF your focus is building your own kingdom. If all there is to life is what you can earn and build before you die, only to realize that your “kingdom” ends at your last breath, that can be very depressing. 

However, this realization that everyone dies can be a very liberating truth IF your focus is on the eternal kingdom that is awaiting you in Heaven. When you realize that Jesus is preparing a place for you to experience ultimate joy and unending pleasure forever and ever, then you will live here for what’s coming next! 

(2) Our eternal destination after we die is determined before we die.

If someone told me that he had discovered the secret to immortality, and then he died and came back to this life to tell me that his theory was correct, I would be wise listen to him. 

That’s exactly what Jesus did for us!

He told us that He would die on a Cross and that He would be raised back to life. AND HE DID IT! His hard-won insight, His “been there, done that” wise words to us are this—“Believe in Me. I died to pay the penalty for the sins that will keep you out of Paradise. So place your faith in what I did, and ask my Father to forgive your sins. Then I promise you that you will spend forever and ever with Me in Paradise!” 

THIS objective truth determines everything else about our lives. 

So I’ll repeat it again—

“Our opinions don’t matter if they don’t square with God’s Word on the matter.” —Craig T. Owens

Join me next Sunday as we continue our series looking at the Selahs in the Psalms. 

Am I The Genuine Article?

Examine and test and evaluate your own selves to see whether you are holding to your faith and showing the proper fruits of it. Test and prove yourselves… (2 Corinthians 13:5). 

The root word for discern in the New Testament Greek is dokimazō. This word means to examine something—scrutinize it closely—to see if it is genuine. We’re instructed to take a close, scrutinizing look at…

  • …our beliefs about God (Romans 1:28)
  • …our understanding of God’s will for our lives (Romans 12:2)
  • …our relationship with God and others (1 Corinthians 11:28) 
  • …our faith (2 Corinthians 13:5)
  • …our motives (2 Thessalonians 2:4)
  • …the teaching we are listening to (1 John 4:1) 

In his book Romans: God’s Glory, Donald Grey Barnhouse discussed the root word for discern (the Greek word dokimos). He said, 

“In the ancient world there was no banking system as we know it today, and no paper money. All money was made from metal, heated until liquid, poured into moulds and allowed to cool. When the coins were cooled, it was necessary to smooth off the uneven edges. The coins were comparatively soft, and of course many people shaved them closely. In one century, more than eighty laws were passed in Athens to stop the practice of whittling down the coins then in circulation. But some money-changers were men of integrity, who would accept no counterfeit money; they were men of honour who put only genuine, full-weight money into circulation. Such men were called dokimos, and this word is used here for the Christian as he is to be seen by the world.” (emphasis mine)

This should be said of every Christian: “They are dokimos—men and women who are honorable and are the real deal. They don’t shave anything off; they don’t water anything down. They can be scrutinized closely and found to be the genuine article.” 

The Bible makes it clear that before the world can call us dokimos, the Holy Spirit first has to stamp that word on us. It’s only after we have allowed Him to scrutinize (and correct) our beliefs, relationships, faith, and motives that we can be labeled dokimos. When we are the real deal in His presence, the world cannot help but see the genuine article when they examine us. 

Let’s live this way! May both God and the watching world be able to call us dokimos! 

15 Quotes On Prayer From J.C. Ryle

In my current Bible reading time, I am reading J.C. Ryle’s Expository Thoughts On The Gospels as a read-along companion with my Bible. Bishop Ryle correctly feels the weight and effectiveness of prayer in the life of a Christian. Here are some of his quotes regarding prayer. 

“If afflictions drive us nearer to Christ, the Bible, and prayer, they are positive blessings.” 

“It is not for us to prescribe either the time or the way in which our requests are to be answered.… Let us rather ‘continue in prayer,’ ‘watch unto prayer,’ ‘pray always and not faint.’” 

“Why is it that there is so much apparent religious working and yet so little result in positive conversions to God—so many sermons, and so few souls saved—so much machinery, and so little effect produced—so much running here and there and yet so few brought to Christ? Why is all this? The reply is short and simple: there is not enough private prayer. The cause of Christ does not need less working, but it does need among the workers more praying. … The most successful workmen in the Lord’s vineyard are those who are, like their Master, often and much upon their knees.” 

“If we would have good ministers we must remember our Lord’s example and pray for them. Their work is heavy. Their responsibility is enormous. Their strength is small. Let us see that we support them and hold up their hands by our prayers.” 

“Let us bear these rules in mind every Sunday morning before we go to hear the Word of God preached. Let us not rush into God’s presence careless, reckless, and unprepared, as if it mattered not in what way such work was done. Let us carry with us faith, reverence, and prayer. If these three are our companions, we shall hear with profit and return with praise.” 

“Let a petition for more faith form a part of all our daily prayers. As ever we would have peace, and calmness, and quietness of spirit, let us often say, ‘Lord, increase our faith.’” 

“Let us strive and pray that the same mind may be in us which was in our blessed Master. Like Him, let us be willing to go anywhere, do anything, suffer anything when the path of duty is clear and the voice of God calls. Let us set our faces steadfastly to our work when our work is plainly marked out, and drink our bitter cups patiently when they come from a Father’s hand.” 

“We must seek to have knowledge as well as zeal. Zeal without knowledge is an army without a general, and a ship without a rudder. We must pray that we may understand how to make a right application of Scripture.”

“Prayer is one of the best and most powerful means of helping forward the cause of Christ in the world. … Not all believers have money to give to missions. Very few have great intellectual gifts or extensive influence among men. But all believers can pray for the success of the Gospel—and they ought to pray for it daily.” 

“Prayer is one of the principal weapons which the minister of the Gospel ought to use. To be a true successor of the apostles, he must give himself to prayer as well as to the ministry of the Word (Acts 6:4). He must not only use the sword of the Spirit, but pray always, with all prayer and supplication (Ephesians 6:17, 18). This is the way to win a blessing on his own ministry. This, above all, is the way to procure helpers to carry on Christ’s work.” 

“Daily bread and daily mercy are by far the first and principal things that mortal man needs. He is the rich man who possesses them. He is the wise man who is not ashamed to pray for them every day.” 

“Nothing that concerns God’s people is too little for Him to manage or for them to bring before Him in prayer.”

“‘He spoke a parable to this end: that men ought always to pray, and not to give up.’ These words, be it remembered, are closely connected with the solemn doctrine of the second advent, with which the preceding chapter concludes. It is prayer without fainting during the long weary intervals between the first and second advents which Jesus is urging His disciples to keep up.” 

“Let us often pray that we may have wisdom from above in order to answer rightly when perplexing questions are put to us. The servant of Christ must expect a portion like his Master. He must count it no strange thing if the wicked and worldly-minded endeavor to entangle him in his talk, and to provoke him to speak unadvisedly with his lips.” 

“Whatever other means of relief we use, let us pray. The first Friend we should turn to ought to be God. The first message we should send ought to be to the throne of grace.” 

9 More Quotes From “Jesus Always”

Sarah Young does a masterful job of weaving Scriptures together and presenting them to us as though Jesus Himself were speaking to us in first person. You can check out my full book review of Jesus Always by clicking here. 

“The problem arises when you gaze too long into the future, trying to visualize and take control of those not-yet events. A future-focus can easily deteriorate into a problem-focus. Weeds of worry and fear spring up quickly in this sort of ‘soil.’ When you realize this has happened, turn away from your worries and back to the One Who is lovingly present with you. Rejoice that I will still be with you when you arrive at each coming stage of your journey.”

“When My followers are joyful, unbelievers are more likely to be drawn to Me. Joy shines in stark contrast to your ever-darkening world, and some people will ask you about it. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you the reason for your hope.”

“Treasure Me above all else. … To treasure something is to hold or keep it, esteeming it as precious. I am training you to hold securely onto Me, your Savior-God and constant Companion. … When you prize Me above all else, other things lose their grip on you.”

“Thank Me for all the challenges in your life. They are gifts from Me—opportunities to grow stronger and more dependent on Me. Most people think that the stronger they get, the less dependent they will be. But in My kingdom, strength and dependence go hand in hand.”

“For Christians, aloneness is an illusion—a dangerous one that can lead to depression or self-pity. The devil and his underlings work hard to cloud your awareness of My presence. It’s crucial for you to recognize and resist their attacks. Fight back with My powerful Word, which is living and active. Read it; ponder it; memorize it; speak it.”

“My followers often fail to see the many blessings I shower on them. They’re so busy looking for other things that they miss what is before them—or is on the way. They forget I am sovereign God and the timing of events is My prerogative.”

“Do not be frightened by world events or news reports. These reports are biased—presented as if I do not exist. News clips show tiny bits of world events from which the most important factor has been carefully removed: My presence in the world.”

“It’s important for you to grow not only more trusting but more thankful. A grateful attitude is essential for living near Me. Ingratitude is offensive to Me, and drags you down both spiritually and emotionally.”

“Stillness is a rare commodity in this world. Many people judge themselves and their day by how much they have accomplished. Resting in My presence is usually not one of those accomplishments. Yet how much blessing can be found in this holy rest!”

You can check out other questions I’ve shared from Jesus Always by clicking here and here.

Sunbeams From God

For You are the fountain of life, the light by which we see. Psalm 36:9

“I was standing today in the dark toolshed. The sun was shining outside and through the crack at the top of the door there came a sunbeam. From where I stood that beam of light, with the specks of dust floating in it, was the most striking thing in the place. Everything else was almost pitch-black. I was seeing the beam, not seeing things by it. Then I moved so that the beam fell on my eyes. Instantly the whole previous picture vanished. I saw no toolshed, and (above all) no beam. Instead I saw, framed in the irregular cranny at the top of the door, green leaves moving on the branches of a tree outside and beyond that, 90 odd million miles away, the sun. Looking along the beam, and looking at the beam are very different experiences.” —C.S. Lewis

“So we can say that when we ‘look along’ the heavens and not just ‘at’ the heavens, they succeed in their aim of ‘declaring the glory of God.’ That is, we see the glory of God, not just the glory of the heavens. We don’t just stand outside and analyze the natural world as a beam, but we let the beam fall on the eyes of our heart, so that we see the source of the beauty—the original Beauty, God Himself.  This is the essential key to unlocking the proper use of the physical world of sensation for spiritual purposes. All of God’s creation becomes a beam to be ‘looked along’ or a sound to be ‘heard along’ or a fragrance to be ‘smelled along’ or a flavor to be ‘tasted along’ or a touch to be ‘felt along.” —John Piper 

12 Quotes From “The Strenuous Life”

Teddy Roosevelt believed firmly that a nation rose or fell as individuals exercised strong character or lived a slothful life. He not only preached it, he lived it! The Strenuous Life is a collect of TR’s speeches that emphasized what he called “the manly characters.” Check out my full book review by clicking here. 

“We do not admire the man of timid peace. We admire the man who embodies victorious effort; the man who never wrongs his neighbor, who is prompt to help a friend, but who has those virile qualities necessary to win in the stern strife of actual life.” 

“A man’s first duty is to his own home, but he is not thereby excused from doing his duty to the State; for if he fails in this second duty it is under the penalty of ceasing to be a freeman. In the same way, while a nation’s first duty is within its own borders, it is not thereby absolved from facing its duties in the world as a whole; and if it refuses to do so, it merely forfeits its right to struggle for a place among the peoples that shape the destiny of mankind.” 

“If we stand idly by, if we seek merely swollen, slothful ease and ignoble peace, if we shrink from the hard contests where men must win at hazard of their lives and at the risk of all they hold dear, then the bolder and stronger peoples will pass us by, and will win for themselves the domination of the world. Let us therefore boldly face the life of strife, resolute to do our duty well and manfully; resolute to uphold righteousness by deed and by word; resolute to be both honest and brave, to serve high ideals, yet to use practical methods. Above all, let us shrink from no strife, moral or physical, within or without the nation, provided we are certain that the strife is justified, for it is only through strife, through hard and dangerous endeavor, that we shall ultimately win the goal of true national greatness.” 

“Scant attention is paid to the weakling or the coward who babbles of peace; but due heed is given to the strong man with sword girt on thigh who preaches peace, not from ignoble motives, not from fear or distrust of his own powers, but from a deep sense of moral obligation.” 

“Strive manfully for righteousness, and strive so as to make your efforts for good count.” 

“We are in honor bound to put into practice what we preach; to remember that we are not to be excused if we do not; and that in the last resort no material prosperity, no business acumen, no intellectual development of any kind, can atone in the life of a nation for the lack of the fundamental qualities of courage, honesty, and common sense.” 

“If a man permits largeness of heart to degenerate into softness of head, he inevitably becomes a nuisance in any relation of life. If sympathy becomes distorted and morbid, it hampers instead of helping the effort toward social betterment.” 

“The quality of self-help is so splendid a quality that nothing can compensate for its loss; yet, like every virtue, it can be twisted into a fault, and it becomes a fault if carried to the point of cold-hearted arrogance, of inability to understand that now and then the strongest may be in need of aid, and that for this reason alone, if for no other, the strong should always be glad of the chance in turn to aid the weak.” 

“The Bible always inculcates the need of the positive no less than the negative virtues, although certain people who profess to teach Christianity are apt to dwell wholly on the negative. We are bidden not merely to be harmless as doves, but also as wise as serpents. It is very much easier to carry out the former part of the order than the latter; while, on the other hand, it is of much more importance for the good of mankind that our goodness should be accompanied by wisdom than that we should merely be harmless. If with the serpent wisdom we unite the serpent guile, terrible will be the damage we do; and if, with the best of intentions, we can only manage to deserve the epithet of ‘harmless,’ it is hardly worth while to have lived in the world at all.” 

“The boy who is going to make a great man, or is going to count in any way in after life, must make up his mind not merely to overcome a thousand obstacles, but to win in spite of a thousand repulses or defeats.” 

“Softness of heart is an admirable quality, but when it extends its area until it also becomes softness of head, its results are anything but admirable.” 

“A man is worthless unless he has in him a lofty devotion to an ideal, and he is worthless also unless he strives to realize this ideal by practical methods. He must promise, both to himself and to others, only what he can perform; but what really can be performed he must promise, and such promise he must at all hazards make good.” 

More quotes from TR are coming soon, so stay tuned! 

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