Life In The Spirit Study Bible (book review)

I love to read, averaging about 30 books per year. In addition to books, I have a lot of news feeds that I check daily. But hands down, everything else comes in a distant second place to my number-one read: the Bible. 

I read the Bible for myself. I read the Bible to prepare my Sunday messages. I read the Bible to teach classes. I read the Bible to confirm or refute what I am reading in other books and news feeds. And with all that Bible reading, I have also gravitated toward my favorite study Bible—The Life In The Spirit Study Bible. 

At one time people referred to this Bible as “the fire Bible” because of the graphic on the front cover depicting the fire that fell on praying Christians at the Pentecost celebration immediately following Christ’s ascension into heaven. That fire still falls in my heart every time I read God’s Word!

The study notes in this Bible are fantastic! But don’t be deceived by the name: these are not study notes that focus on the Holy Spirit out of proportion; rather, the role of the Spirit is merely noted where others have ignored it. Far too many people don’t ponder very much about the Holy Spirit’s involvement, except for perhaps the Book of Acts and maybe Paul’s instruction on the operational gifts of the Spirit in 1 Corinthians. The Life In The Spirit Study Bible simply seeks to make us aware of the Spirit’s involvement. 

In addition to the short commentary notes at the bottom of each page, there are several insightful and scholarly articles throughout this whole book that will make the Scripture come alive in new ways. 

This is my “preaching Bible” that I take with me for every sermon I deliver, which means it is the Bible I am diving deep into each day as I study. I cannot recommend this Bible to you highly enough. 

Soul And Spirit

If I were to ask you to define the material/physical part of you versus the immaterial part of you, it probably wouldn’t be too difficult. Obviously, we can touch the physical part but we cannot touch the immaterial part. 

But human as a three-part being—we have a body, a soul, and a spirit. So if I were to now ask you to describe the “dividing line” between the two immaterial parts of us (the soul and the spirit), you would probably have a more difficult time coming up with a definition. 

Both terms are used throughout the Bible. Sometimes it seems the words soul and spirit are almost used interchangeably, but they are most assuredly two separate parts of what makes us us. 

Please check out this chart that I shared with my friends at Calvary Assembly of God, and perhaps even take a few minutes to watch the video below. If you would like to download a PDF version of this chart, you may do so by clicking here → Soul and spirit side-by-side

Verses referenced—Genesis 1:26-27, 2:7; Ezekiel 18:20; Matthew 10:28; Hebrews 4:12

9 Quotes From “Surprised By Paradox”

Jen Pollock Michel has given us a thought-provoking look into her thoughts of some of the and solutions to the either-or challenges many Christians face. Please be sure to check out my full book review by clicking here. 

“Allowing for paradox does not represent a weakened approach to theological understanding. On the contrary, it allows for a robust theology, one that is filled with the sort of awe that not only regards God as unimaginably wondrous but also awakens in us the same desire Moses had to see Him as He is.” 

“As psychologists have described it, awe is ‘the experience of encountering something so vast—in size, skill, beauty, intensity, etc.—that we struggle to comprehend it and may even adjust our world to accommodate it.’ Awe is our slack-jawed response to natural phenomena like waterfalls and childbirth. To feel awe is to confirm a beautiful, wild universe, a world we neither made nor control. … For those of us inclined to religious belief, awe nurtures our certainty about God.”

“Modernity gave us more certainty than uncertainty—or at the very least certainty in certainty. We’ve come to an unassailable confidence that mystery, by dint of inquiry and scientific effort, can be wrestled and pinned down and made to cry uncle. We are no longer victims of the unknowable: we are masters of our own understanding. The great modern lie is one of infinite human autonomy and control.” 

“It is an old sin seduced by an old lie that we can be like God, perfectly knowing as He knows.… As soon as we think we have God figured out, we will have ceased to worship Him as He is.” 

“I also get tricked into thinking that the world must quiet around me if I mean to meet God. I forget the paradox of the burning bush: that Moses met God at Horeb on an unspectacular day, that his encounter with God was less planned and more happenstance. God did not speak to Moses as the prophet sat cross-legged and silent, his hands folded in reverent to prayer. God blazed up in the landscape of an ordinary Wednesday afternoon. This seems to be how it goes with God: a spiritual life is a material one.” 

“The paradox of God’s story is that He’s chosen to write its timelessness in the ticking heart of His Son and that He’s choosing to write it in our ticking hearts too.” 

“If the kingdom is good news, it surely isn’t safe. Because there is no square inch of our lives Jesus doesn’t intend to rule.” 

“To define grace apart from the Cross would be to say that God is simply given to leniency. It would be to essentially say that there are rules which we break and break badly, but God reassures us kindly that ‘it’s no big deal.’… The Cross speaks a thundering word about the cosmic big deal that is sin.” 

“To receive grace, we need humility. The only prerequisite for grace is empty hands. We have done nothing to make God notice us, and He is not impressed by us.” 

The Essential Jonathan Edwards (book review)

Some have called Jonathan Edwards the greatest American theologian, and I think it would be very hard to dispute that. Not only was he a brilliant thinker, but Edwards was also a prolific speaker and writer. So Owen Strachan and Douglas Sweeney have taken on a monumental challenge in attempting to give us an accurate glimpse of this important man in their book The Essential Jonathan Edwards. 

The first part of the book is a short biography of Edwards’ life. The biography is told alternating between the biography of Strachan and Sweeney and the words Edwards recounted in his sermons and memoirs. 

The remainder of the book attempts to give the reader a sense of Edwards’ thoughts on topics such as the beauty of God’s creation, the joy of experiencing God’s pleasure, the essential nature of the Christian life, and the after-life. These topics are covered in the same way as the biographical portion—alternating between the actual words of Jonathan Edwards and the summation of Strachan and Sweeney. 

I found this book a bit frustrating. I would have preferred a more traditional biography of this great man or a collection of Edwards’ sermons verbatim. But the alternation between Edwards’ words and Strachan and Sweeney’s thoughts didn’t flow very well for me. 

My recommendation would be to either read George Marsden’s full or shortened biographies of Edwards, or simply read a collection of Edwards’ sermons. 

I am a Moody Press book reviewer.

10 Quotes From “Yours, Jack”

Reading the collection of letters in Yours, Jack was a real treat, helping me to get to know the personality of the man behind so many of my favorite books. To read my full book review on these letters from C.S. Lewis, please click here. 

“Now the story of Christ is simply a true myth: a myth working on us in the same way as the others, but with this tremendous difference that it really happened: and one must be content to accept it in the same way, remembering that it is God’s myth where the others are men’s myths: i.e., the Pagan stories are God expressing Himself through the minds of poets, using such images as He found there, while Christianity is God expressing Himself through what we call ‘real things.’” 

“God not only understands but shares the desire which is at the root of all my evil—the desire for complete and ecstatic happiness. He made me for no other purpose than to enjoy it. But He knows, and I do not, how it can be really and permanently attained. He knows that most of my personal attempts to reach it are actually putting it further and further out of my reach. With these therefore He cannot sympathize or ‘agree’: His sympathy with my real will makes that impossible.” 

“The truth is that evil is not a real thing at all, like God. It is simply good spoiled. That is why I say there can be good without evil, but no evil without good. … Evil is a parasite. It is there only because good is there for it to spoil and confuse.” 

“So few of us will really rest all on Him if He leaves us any other support.” 

“The practical problem about charity (in our prayers) is very hard work, isn’t it? When you pray for Hitler and Stalin, how do you actually teach yourself to make the prayer real? The two things that help me are (A) A continual grasp of the idea that one is only joining one’s feeble little voice to the perpetual intercession of Christ, who died for those very men (B) A recollection, as firm as one can make it, of all one’s own cruelty which might have blossomed, under different conditions, into something terrible. You and I are not, at bottom, so different from these ghastly creatures.” 

“No amount of falls will really undo us if we keep on picking ourselves up each time. We shall of course be very muddy and tattered children by the time we reach home. But the bathrooms are all ready, the towels put out, and the clean clothes are in the airing cupboard. The only fatal thing is to lose one’s temper and give it up. It is when we noticed the dirt that God is most present to us: it is the very sign of His presence.” 

“I think we are meant to enjoy our Lord and, in Him, our friends, our food, our sleep, our jokes, and the bird’s song and the frosty sunrise.” 

“Keep clear of psychiatrists unless you know that they are also Christians. Otherwise they start with the assumption that your religion is an illusion and try to ‘cure’ it: and this assumption they make not as professional psychologists but as amateur philosophers. Often they have never given the question any serious thought.” 

Away with tears and fears and troubles! United in wedlock with the eternal Godhead Itself, our nature ascends into the Heaven of Heavens. So it would be impious to call ourselves ‘miserable.’ On the contrary, Man is a creature whom the Angels—were they capable of envy—would envy.” 

“Notice how we are perpetually surprised at Time. (‘How time flies! Fancy John being grown-up and married? I can hardly believe it!’) In heaven’s name, why? Unless, indeed, there is something in us which is not temporal.” 

More C.S. Lewis quotes coming soon. And you can also check out some of the quotes I’m sharing on Tumblr and Facebook. 

Bricks And Rungs (book review)

T.M. Moore is a first-rate theologian, so everything he writes is well-grounded in Scripture. However, when most people think of “theology,” they think of a lifeless treatise that is boring to read, or perhaps difficult to grasp. But T.M. totally shakes things up in Bricks And Rungs with rock-solid theology presented in beautiful poetic verse.

Bricks And Rungs is all about finding our purpose or calling in life. T.M. says—

“Most people have a sense of being here for some reason. They must become something, achieve something, or come to know something which they consider to be unique to them. Something is out there for them, beckoning them, drawing and wooing them beyond themselves to realize more of something, however that is envisioned or whatever it may be.

“Calling is experienced as a summons from without, a beckoning which resonates with something within, something deeply personal, leading us to aspire to more than what we know or are or have at present. …

“Everyone has a sense of calling. Christians know this to be a summons from God, a command which their lives are intended to fulfill by knowing God and serving Him. The Christian knows that each human being is called to know God and, knowing Him, to serve Him gladly and fruitfully. Calling thus involves our need to be blessed and to be a blessing to others.”

Some of these poems are autobiographical to T.M. Moore, some are reflections on Scripture, and some are musings about how each of us discovers our own calling. But all of these poems will open a window in your soul to hear God’s voice speaking to you about your own unique calling.

Take some time to linger over these insightful words.

Jesus’ Terrible Financial Advice (book review)

When a trained and certified financial advisor says you’re making a mistake with your finances, you will probably listen to him. But what if the one giving the terrible financial advice is Jesus? John Norton (a CPA with a Ph.D. in accounting) looks at the financial advice of Jesus in a whole new light in his book Jesus’ Terrible Financial Advice.

I’ll be honest with you: this book is not at all what I expected. When I hear someone say that Jesus gave “bad financial advice,” I just assume it’s a tongue-in-cheek lead in to a discussion on tithing or giving to missions. But as the subtitle of the book hints, John Norton flips the table on every financial concept that you’ve ever heard taught by the world’s financial experts.

Many people wrongly think that Jesus was anti-wealth, and that to be a truly “sold-out” follower of Jesus, Christians have to give up all semblance of nice things. But that’s not what Jesus taught or lived! Neither did Jesus say that Christians are to pursue wealth on earth. Does that sound like confusing double-talk? Far from it! It’s the truth that John unpacks in this very readable book. John tells us right up front, “I relied on just one rule while writing this book: ‘If my theology disagrees with God, one of us is wrong, and it’s not Him.’”

If you’ve ever struggled with how a Christian is supposed to handle the wealth and possessions of this world, this book will come as a welcome insight into what Jesus really wants for His children: freedom to glorify God!

“Like Jesus’ early followers, we are at a crossroads. He flips the tables on everything we thought we knew about peace, prosperity, and the pursuit of happiness. Jesus’ teachings about money and wealth hit us where we live, shake us free from a life that leads to death, and leave us immeasurably more blessed than we ever imagined. All with the single-minded purpose of bringing glory to His Father.” (John Thornton)

I believe you will be as pleasantly surprised at this book as I was.

I am a Moody Publishers book reviewer.

%d bloggers like this: