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. 

When Faith Fails (book review)

Have you ever had your legs knocked out from under you? Ever felt like what you used to believe in doesn’t seem real anymore? Ever been screaming out for real answers? Good! That means you are growing and maturing beyond the pat answers of the past. Dominic Done has given us a great guide book through these times of questions: When Faith Fails—Finding God in the Shadow of Doubt.

I grew up in a Christian home as a fourth-generation Christian. I was in church during my formative years almost more than I was anywhere else. But at some point I had to confront my Christian faith—I had to ask myself, “Do I believe this just because my parents and grandparents believed it? Or do I believe it because it’s really true?” 

Maybe your story is similar to mine. Or maybe you are a first-generation Christian and the storm you are navigating right now is making you wonder if you were sold on an idea that just doesn’t hold up in “the real world.” All of these things can be classified as a crisis of faith, a questioning of just what is true. 

What do you do at this time? Dominic identifies three possibilities— 

“One option is to demonize your doubt: in this narrative, doubt is labeled as the nemesis of faith, and those who doubt are judged and marginalized. … The second option is to idolize your doubt. … I can’t help but wonder if there is a third way, one that doesn’t demonize or idolize doubt but recognizes doubt for what it is: an opportunity for authentic and vibrant faith. That is why I wrote this book. I wrote this book because you need to know that your doubts aren’t a sign of spiritual collapse but of a faith that is screaming out for substance and truth.”

Dominic leads us on a journey of discovery by sharing his own personal struggles with doubt, and by helping us see doubt in a whole new light. Doubts are normal. Doubts can be healthy. Healthy?! Yes, because, as Dominic points out, “Doubts aren’t just an obstacle; they’re an opportunity. Uncertainty can lead us into the beautiful mystery we call God.” 

Whether for yourself or for your friend who may be struggling with doubt, please pick up a copy of When Faith Fails. I promise you that you will understand more clearly what doubt really is. You’ll also understand that your doubts are a normal part of your maturation process. You’ll also see that God is waiting to reveal Himself to you through your times of doubting. This is a great book!

I am a Thomas Nelson book reviewer. 

Does Self-Help Get God’s Help?

This is part 1 in our series looking at phrases that sound biblical and then asking, “Is that in the Bible? 

Statement #1—God helps those who help themselves. Is that in the Bible? No, it is not! 

The reason why I think people have accepted this as biblical is an incorrect view of God. 

  1. Humanism says God is us, which makes us believe, “If it’s going to be, it’s up to me.” 
  2. Fatalism says there is no God and therefore no meaning to life, which makes us believe, “The outcome is what it is and no one has any say in the matter.” 
  3. Deism says there is a God, but it’s hard to get His attention, which makes us believe “He is either disinterested in me or unapproachable. He’s only available for the ‘big’ things.” 

The Bible flat-out rejects all three of these isms. 

Instead, we see a loving, approachable God. One who is both all-powerful and all-loving. He says things like…

  • I made you and know everything about you, and I remain infinitely interested and intimately involved in your life 
  • Come to Me and I will give you rest
  • I want you to cast all your anxieties on Me
  • Don’t be anxious about anything, but tell Me about everything that troubles you (Psalm 139:1-18; Matthew 11:28-29; 1 Peter 5:7; Philippians 4:6)

Not only is “God helps those who help themselves” untrue, but the exact opposite is also true—God helps those who cannot help themselves! 

In Isaiah 40:28-29, we read that God gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. 

“Yes, it is our strength, not our weakness, that is our hindrance and stumbling block.” —Horatius Bonar 

God gives power to the weak. He gives strength to those with no might of their own. God does NOT help those who think they can help themselves! God helps those who cannot help themselves! This is what Jesus came to do, and why we should rejoice in the fact that He does indeed help those who could never rescue themselves (Isaiah 53:4-5; 2 Corinthians 12:9)!

It is our can’ts that God uses as His opportunities to show how limitless He is. Our limitations magnify His love and His power. 

One of the best prayers you could ever pray is simply, “God, help!” This simple prayer acknowledges in just two words that you can’t but He most assuredly can! 

But those who wait for the Lord—who expect, look for, and hope in Him—shall change and renew their strength and power; they shall lift their wings and mount up close to God as eagles mount up to the sun; they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint or become tired. (Isaiah 40:31 AMP) 

Join me next week as we continue to explore various statements and ask, “Is that in the Bible? 

Is That In The Bible?

A meme that makes me chuckle every time I see it is a “quote” attributed to Abraham Lincoln in which he says, “The problem with quotes found on the internet is that they are often not true.” 

(Not to spoil the joke for you, but unless Lincoln knew how to time travel to the future, I don’t think he knew about the modern internet! 😂) 

I love this meme because it captures something that so many people fall into: a quick acceptance of a statement without verifying its source or thinking through the implications of the statement’s truthfulness. 

Some insightful comments sound Shakespearean, but William never wrote them. 

Some pieces of wisdom sound Socratic, but Socrates never taught them. 

Some religious maxims sound godly, but the Bible never recorded them. 

I would like to invite you to join me in a new series we are beginning this Sunday called Is That In The Bible? I think you may be surprised to discover just how many phrases we call biblical aren’t, and how many phrases there are that we never realized are actually in the Bible. 

By the way, if you have a phrase that you would like to have us explore in this series, please leave it in a comment below. 

You can join us in person at Calvary Assembly of God, or tune in for our Facebook Live broadcast. I’m looking forward to learning with you! 

Thursdays With Oswald—Jeremiah 14

Oswald ChambersThis is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.

Jeremiah 14

[These are notes from Oswald Chambers’ lecture on Jeremiah 14.] 

     While one desire remains unsatisfied, God is not Lord over all. That means we must quit some desires or else quit God. Most of us bring our desires to God and He has to wither them. When we delight in God He gives us our desires because they are in accordance with His will (see Psalm 37:4). 

From Notes On Jeremiah 

Wow, there’s a lot to contemplate in that short statement. 

Oswald Chambers references this verse: Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4). 

And then there’s this—You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy, at Your right hand there are pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11). 

Some things I’m contemplating:

  • Do I have unsatisfied desires? 
  • Have I taken that desire into God’s presence? 
  • If so, why does it still feel “unsatisfied”?

11 Quotes From “The Way Of Abundance”

Ann Voskamp speaks lovingly to the hurting and broken. She never condemns them for their brokenness, nor does she encourage them to stay in their difficult place. Instead, Ann brings a new perspective to the path of healing; a path that allows our brokenness to become our givenness to other broken and hurting people. This is The Way Of Abundance. Be sure to check out my full book review by clicking here. 

“Go fall in love with grace and mercy and the only One who has ever loved you to death—and back to the realest, abundant life. Because the world is begging us all to get out of bed and live given, get out of bed and sacrifice for someone hurting, for someone different, for someone forgotten or marginalized, to hold the hand of someone who doesn’t look like a us, to lean in and listen to someone angry and grieving and doubting the likes of us, to give a bit of ourselves to those who feel like they aren’t given much real space at the table.” 

“The real Jesus turns our questions of why—why this brokenness, why this darkness?—and says, ‘You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here.’ ‘This happened so the power of God could be seen in him’ [John 9:3]. There’s brokenness that’s not about blame. There’s brokenness that makes a canvas for God’s light to be lavishly splashed across the darkness. There’s brokenness that carves windows straight into our souls. Brokenness cracks open a soul so the power of God can crack the darkness in the world.” 

“When you aren’t afraid of being afraid, you transform fear into friend. … Feelings can accompany you, but they don’t get to control you. Feelings get to inform you, but they don’t get to form you. Feelings get to keep you company, but they don’t get to keep you in bondage. Only God keeps you.” 

“We are always lost until our heart makes its home inside of someone else. Our lives are unfulfilling if we only let our hearts fill us instead of filling other people’s broken places. The art of living is believing there is enough love in you, that you are loved enough by Him, to be made into love to give. Fulfilling lives happen when we give our hearts to fill other people’s empty spaces.” 

“There are really only two choices when begging temptation looks you square in your twitching eye: there is either the pain of self-denial, or the pain of self-destruction. … They’ll tell you there’s no such thing called temptation anymore, only repressed self-limitation. They’ll tell you temptation isn’t an issue for the sophisticated. And all I want to say: just don’t say you’re a follower of Christ if you’re actually following your own heart.” 

“Shame dies when stories are told in safe places. … Shame gets unspeakable power only if it’s unspeakable.” 

“The only way to live a truly remarkable life is not to get everyone to notice you, but to leave noticeable marks of His love everywhere you go.” 

“When you feel basically respectable, you want religion. And when you know you feel the brokenness of rejection, you want the gospel. In religion, it’s the ‘respectable’ who search for a God to impress. But in the Gospel, it’s God who searches for the brokenhearted rejected to save.” 

“Never fear the moments you imagine will freeze you: unexpected blasts of cold can be what draws you nearer to the flame of His love.” 

“The body of Christ must recapture its vision as the only collective in the world that exists for its nonmembers. … We are a community that will not dish out condemnation but courage, that will lean in and listen long and love large.” 

“You love as much as you are willing to be inconvenienced. … The brokenness of people is never truly an intrusion. Loving the broken people when it is inconvenient is the way to have fuller inclusion in the life of Christ.” 

The Way Of Abundance (book review)

About a year ago I read and reviewed The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp. And now that I share a review of her newest book—The Way Of Abundance—you might be tempted to think that brokenness and abundance sound contradictory, but you would be wrong! 

In The Broken Way, Ann wrote, “Unless we die, unless we surrender, unless we sacrifice, we remain alone. Lonely. But if we die, if we surrender, if we sacrifice, that is when we experience the abundance, that is when we dance in communion. The life that yields the most—yields the most” (emphasis mine). 

Now in The Way Of Abundance, she shares this opening thought, “What would happen if the scars you carry are what God uses to carry Christ to a scarred and broken world? Weak is the real strong. Brokenness is the real abundance” (emphasis mine). 

Brokenness cannot stop meaningfulness. God wants to work through your brokenness to do something abundantly more than you can even imagine. And He can and will do it if only you will yield your pain to Him. 

The Way Of Abundance is given to us in 60 shorter devotional-style chapters. It’s a two-month journey into getting to see our pain, disillusionment, brokenness, and questions in a new light. It’s a journey to get us to change the focus from our brokenness to Christ’s abundance, and in so doing, discovering how Christ can enrich the world through our yieldedness. 

What I wrote a year ago is just as true for this book: “This is a book of healing. A book that will remind you that you are not alone in your pain, in your questions, in your searching for answers. This book is a gift to anyone who feels broken, cut up, cut off, or beaten down.” 

Read this book for yourself. Read this book for other broken people. Read this book with other broken people. And then watch the abundance of Christ’s life explode like you’ve never imagined! 

I am a Zondervan book reviewer. 

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