Review: Women of the Word

My wife Carly was kind enough to read and review a recent release from Crossway by Jen Wilkin, a Bible teacher and author from Dallas. Here are her brief thoughts on the book (and I can speak for her: she gives it five stars!).

Jen Wilkin. Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Both Our Hearts and Our Minds. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2014. $9.94 (Amazon).

Jen Wilkin is an author and Bible teacher who attends the Dallas mega-church The Village. In this new book intended to help women in their study of Scripture, Jen reveals her own struggle with being raised in church yet being biblically ignorant. This gives the book such a real and personable feel. No one wants to learn from someone who claims they have it all together! Her personal stories are easy to relate to and help the reader understand the information in the book. The chapters are quick and easy to read, but contain vital content for becoming more biblically literate.

In the opening pages, Jen talks about the mountain of Biblical illiteracy many Christians face (chs. 1-2). And she says that this mountain must be moved one spoonful at a time. Yes! But just by the end of the introduction, I was ready to put on my work boots and start digging!

The highlight of the book comes in chapter 6 where Jen talks about the process of study. Her very practical process does seem a bit daunting and time consuming (especially to this stay at home mom of two toddlers!) but our generation is biblically illiterate and starving for a reason. We assume we don’t have time to study the Bible in depth so we give ourselves 5 minutes a day to “read the Bible” which really just means reading the verse of the day that we have texted to us while we’re brushing our teeth. The biggest take-away for me–the one line that stood out–was when she wrote, “The heart cannot love what the mind does not know.” I think I shouted “Amen!” out loud at that point.  If we want to know and love God deeply, we must know and love his Word. You must spend time studying God’s word if you want to know and love him!

If you gain nothing else from this book (believe me, though, you will gain more than this), you will gain a hunger to know God’s word deeply, and be mastered and changed by it.

So, I highly recommend this book to new and mature believers alike. I would love to see women’s ministries in churches read this book before launching into Bible and book studies which are helpful, but may not teach women to study the Bible for themselves.  It’s easy to read and engaging even for people who don’t usually read non-fiction.

After reading only a few chapters (and hi-lighting every other line), I arranged for a friend to read it with me and we meet and talk about it weekly. It’s been helpful for us to digest together and keep each other accountable in our study of Scripture.

Thank you, Jen, for writing this very practical and helpful tool that I hope and pray will be used to bring about spiritual renewal and Biblical literacy among Christians today!


Jesus, the Greater Satisfaction

Last week, I wrote two posts (1, 2) with questions to ask when you read the Bible. Today, I want us to think about how to identify the false gods we worship and seek Christ as a greater affection as it relates to Bible reading.

In any particular situation, we sin because we do not truly believe the gospel. There is some part of us that is still not fully redeemed and we therefore put our hope in things other than God. We have, in the words of the First Commandment, other gods before us. The Bible calls these other gods “idols.” Therefore, when we are asking questions to aid our meditation and prayer, we need to understand how to find the “sin beneath the sin.”

Think about this example. If I am told to not be harsh with my children (Eph. 6:4) the problem is not simply that I might yell at my kids from time to time. Yelling is a symptom of the harshness that lives in my heart. But what is the cause, the root issue? Where is the anger coming from? There is an idol (i.e. false god, a greater affection than Christ) that I am looking to for salvation. It may be that I think I deserve the right to a quiet night (comfort idol). It may be that I feel that their misbehavior makes me look or feel inadequate (reputation or approval idol). It may the that I feel they shame the family when they act a certain way (family idol). The external behavior of our sin is never the main problem. It’s always the heart. I don’t just get angry for anger’s sake. I get angry because I am worshiping a false god. 

When reading any passage, you must find out what the passage exposes in your attitude, behavior, and emotions, and then uncover what idol lies beneath it. Thinking about it this way might help (thank you, Tim Keller):

  • Power idol.“I only have worth/meaning when I am in control of ______.”
  • Approval idol. “I only have worth/meaning when ______ approves of me.”
  • Comfort idol. “I only have worth/meaning when things works out to my liking.”
  • Family idol. “I only have worth/meaning when my family is functioning well or if they are happy with me.”
  • Dependence idol. “I only have worth/meaning when ______ keeps me safe.”
  • Achievement idol. “I only have worth/meaning if I can achieve ______.”
  • Helping idol. “I only have worth/meaning if others need me to help them.”
  • Political idol. “I only have worth/meaning if my ideals/candidates/issues makes progress.”
  • Reputation idol. “I only have worth/meaning if I succeed at ______.”
  • Theological idol. “I only have worth/meaning if others embrace my beliefs/convictions.”
  • Money idol. “I only have meaning if I have a certain amount of money in the bank.”
  • _____ idol. The human heart is an idol factory, said John Calvin. Fill in the blank.

Ultimately, we have idols because they are more attractive to us than Jesus. When we fail to be compliant with Scripture, it’s not that we experience a cognitive dilemma. The problem is not that we fail to remember what God told us to do. It’s that we love something more than Jesus in the moment. Here are several questions we can ask after we have identified idols to move toward repentance and faith and love for Jesus:

  • What is more attractive to me about ______ than Jesus?
  • What things (i.e. triggers) propel me toward looking to _______ instead of Jesus?
  • How does Jesus meet my need in a way ______ cannot?
  • Why should Jesus be a superior satisfaction?
  • What specifics in the passage—or in other passages—bring me to worship Jesus for who he is and what he’s done?
  • What specifics in the passage give me the grace I need to fight this idol and walk in obedience?

How would you phrase these questions? What ones would you add that have been helpful to you? Be sure to check back in a couple days for one last post on questions to ask when reading the Bible. 

Life Reviews

Review: Gospel Transformation Bible

Gospel Transformation Bible. Edited by Bryan Chapell and Dane Ortlund. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2013. $25.93 (Amazon). 1904 pp.

Five years ago this month the ESV Study Bible–the “Lexus” of study Bibles, a friend once said–was first published. It has served thousands of Christians well. Now, Crossway has published a new type of application Bible with the same, beloved ESV text: the Gospel Transformation Bible.

Bryan Chapell and Dane Ortlund teamed up to edit this new volume, and over fifty scholars, pastors, and ministry practitioners wrote the application notes. In the introduction, Chapell stated that the goal of the GTB is two-fold: to identify gospel themes in every text and help readers apply gospel truths to their everyday lives.

The first thing to know is that this is not an expository study guide for Biblical passages. You will probably not want to run to this book if you want to know what a specific verse means. It also is not a book that tells you specifically what to do in life situations unlike, perhaps, older application-based study Bibles.

The GTB is somewhere in-between the two. It is intensely theological, but also heartily practical. You may not agree with every application, but that’s okay. You wouldn’t agree with every note in an academic study Bible either. What the GTB will do is help you understand the flow of redemptive history from Genesis to Revelation. It will equip you to discern how every text reveals some aspect of God’s grace, fully realized in Jesus Christ. But it will also point you toward gospel-centered motivations for personal and corporate holiness as it displays how grace, not self-empowered determination, changes us from the inside-out.

Gospeliscious Features
The book is pretty simple–there are four main features that will help you in your pursuit of gospel transformation as you read and study the Bible.

  • The Introduction. Chapell’s seven page introduction will probably be as valuable to readers as the actual passage notes. In the introduction, Chapell explains the importance of putting every text into its redemptive-historical context if we want to understand how that passage points us to Jesus. “[This] does not mean that every text mentions Jesus,” he writes. “Rather, every text relates some aspect of God’s redeeming grace that finds its fullest expression in Christ” (viii). He proposes four categories for identifying this grace in all of Scripture. He states that we must “identify how God’s Word predicts, prepares for, reflects, or results from the person and/or work of Christ” (ix). The notes for the Scriptures are tethered to these categories, but are by no means enslaved to them. Approaching Scripture with this framework will propel us beyond good interpretation toward “stimulation of a profound love for God that bears holy fruit, as pleasing the One we love above all brings our most profound and compelling joy” (xii).
  • A Gospel Roadmap. Each biblical book is introduced with a gospel roadmap (my word, not the GTB’s) for that particular book. This will help readers look out for the book’s major gospel themes. So, for example, the introduction to 1-2 Chronicles reveals that “[The genealogies] represent the carefully crafted lens through which we observe the one plan of God’s redemption. They teach us to rest in the unwavering commitment of God to fulfill all of his covenant promises” (489). Or take the introduction to Jude: “First and most pervasively, Jude displays the ‘photo negative’ of the gospel, giving us a vivid and dark picture of those who twist the lavish grace of the gospel into a license to sin” (1719).
  • The Notes. The notes on the Scriptures are going to connect the themes of Scripture together and show how only Christ can bring them to full resolution. They are going to show us how to apply the gospel in every aspect of life. When we turn to a typical study Bible, we are going to see what the text meant to the original hearers. In a typical application Bible, we are going to learn what to do. The GTB, however, is going to pave the way to see how God’s grace in Christ redeems us from our sin and empowers us to follow Christ and what our motivation is for doing so.
  • Topical Index. At the end there is a lengthy topical index that will help readers “see the way themes are picked up and developed throughout the Bible” (1755). From Abraham to Zion, and everything in between, this will greatly help readers understand how the Bible brings these topics to climax in Jesus. This will, no doubt, be useful for everyone from parents to Bible study leaders to preachers.

One Suggestion for Future Editions
In future editions, I think it would be wonderful to have some articles sprinkled in throughout the volume, or collected at the end of the book. One of the great things about the ESV Study Bible was that it had dozens of valuable articles on various biblical, theological, ethical, and historical issues. I think readers would be served well by expanding on the notes in articles that dig a bit deeper into some of the more significant gospel themes (covenant, creation, idolatry, atonement, etc.) and how God uses them to transform us.

A Home Run Resource
I highly recommend The Gospel Transformation Bible as you study the Scriptures. This is the study Bible you’ve been waiting for. Personally, I would love to get a copy into the hands of every person in our church.

If you need more convincing, watch this video of the GTB editors (16 minutes).


Happy Twenty10

My apologies for the laziness with blogging lately.  I really have no excuse.

I get married in less than two weeks, and the last six have been a whirlwind.  God has taught me more than I could ask for since being home from South Africa.  As always, he is continually revealing the dark parts of my heart to me (which have been ever so clear lately).  Holiness always hurts and never comes easy, and I am certainly no exception to that rule.  But, in spite of the rocky transition and my own sinful ways, I’m excited for 2010 — a new year, a new decade, and new beginnings, with the same, unchangeable God.

Since being home from Africa, I’ve found myself tending to trust in my own strength.  Obviously that never works out well.  Over the past three days, Habakkuk 3:19 has been on my mind.  Perhaps it will be a theme verse for this next year: “GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.”

Happy 2010 to all of you who visit this blog.  I’m blessed and humbled that you actually read what I write.  Thank you.


ESV Proverbs Wordle

Proverbs ESV