Category Archives: New Testament

What an Open Heaven Means to You

Under an Open Heaven: A New Way of Life Revealed in John’s Gospel

Under an Open Heaven: A New Way of Life Revealed in John’s Gospel by John E. Jonson

When reading the gospels, do you ever wonder what it’s all about? What it means to you? If those stories from so long ago really have any impact on your life today? I think if we’re honest, we all feel that at least on occasion.

John E. Johnson tackles these questions in his new book, Under an Open Heaven: A New Way of Life Revealed in John’s Gospel.  In a conversational, almost irreverent tone, he takes thirteen of Jesus’ conversations with others in the Gospel of John and explains how in each, Jesus is demonstrating what an open heaven looks like and what difference it made to His hearers and to us.

Contemporary and Scholarly

Johnson weaves his language between 1st century commentary and 21st century vernacular, reminding the reader that yes, this applies to you. He takes pages out of today’s headlines with mentions of elections, human needs, and the #NeverJesus crowd. And he inserts his reader into the narrative with, for example, Jesus asking the disciples “what food stores remain open” or the disciples recognizing that “even at thrift store prices, there is not that much money in the deacon fund to cover the need” of feeding five thousand adult males, not to mention the women and children. Blended into this very real, very contemporary narrative is excellent scholarship, many quotes, and precise documentation.

Applies to Real Life

So what does an open heaven mean to an ordinary person pursuing splendor? I found myself engaged with Jesus, the human, the one who faced common everyday needs and opportunities in his setting which strangely had a lot in common with my setting. This book took Jesus from “way back then” to right now, from “I wonder how this applies to me” to “Wow, that’s just like my life.” More than any commentary I’ve read, Under an Open Heaven gave me actionable concepts. In addition, application questions at the end of every chapter helped to extend the concept of an open heaven to my everyday life.

This book is readable and penetrating. Well worth your time.

Synced: Living Connected to the Heart of Jesus

Synced: Living Connected to the Heart of Jesus by Jennifer Kennedy Dean

Synced: Living Connected to the Heart of Jesus by Jennifer Kennedy Dean

Author Jennifer Kennedy Dean believes that the way to live synced to the heart of Jesus is to understand and base our lives on the model prayer Jesus gave us—the Lord’s Prayer. As a nationally respected writer, speaker, and executive on prayer and spiritual formation, she should know. And Synced: Living Connected to the Heart of Jesus is indeed a well-researched, easy-to-read book on this popular topic. Using the model prayer as an outline, she ventures far and wide with a combination of some good scholarship and some interesting stories.

And yet, as I read this book, I continued to feel uneasy. I couldn’t put my finger on the problem, and wondered if I’ve just read too many books on the Lord’s Prayer. Perhaps. I have read many. Unfortunately, this book didn’t rise to any level of significance. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the book; it’s just tired. I didn’t see much that was new, much that rose to a level that made me want to share the book. To quote the book. To teach the book. And most of the book focused on “what” rather than “how.” I didn’t come away with an increased ability to sync to Jesus.

In fairness, if the promotion on the book had indicated it was focused on the Lord’s Prayer, I probably would have passed on the blog tour because I recognize that the topic is so overdone that such books need to rise to a high level of excellence to stand out. So if you haven’t read a lot on the Lord’s Prayer, this book is well written. But if this is a topic you’re familiar with, you won’t learn much new in this book.

 

 

The Christmas Story in 40 Days

The Christmas Story in 40 Days

The Christmas Story in 40 Days

Although I’m a little late for this year, if you’re looking for a Christmas devotional, this might be the one. The Christmas Story in 40 Days is a simple little book that slows down the familiar story and bridges the gap between the past and the present.

Each day begins with four to five verses, followed by a text box with a comment or a historical note. On the facing page is a devotional thought and often a couple of interpretive questions, and then space for your personal thoughts.

I especially like the historical notes. The story is so familiar, but the notes sometimes added a new dimension for me. On the other hand, I found the book quite simplistic. It seems to be written at about a sixth grade reading level, and there are few deep concepts. However, that would make it a good book for a high school group or perhaps new Christians.

Aneko Press has provided a copy of The Christmas Story in 40 Days for me to give away. If you would like to win a free copy, leave a comment below. I’ll select a winner on Wednesday and ship it out to you right away.

Giving Thanks in All Things

How do you face adversity and frustrations? Do you complain or give thanks? 1 Thes. 5:18 commands – yes, commands – us, “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” As a young Christian, this concept really confused me. How could I give thanks for everything?

Praying hands In everything give thanks...

In everything give thanks…
Photo Credit: Irina Patrascu

But note that Paul doesn’t say to give thanks for everything, but rather, in everything. Yes, there is a huge difference. We may not be grateful for the thing that is happening to us, and that often makes sense. There are a lot of awful things happening in our world and our individual lives today. But when those things happen, we have a choice. We can complain and whine that God is being mean to us. Or we can assume that he is our good father, caring for us even better than the best of earthly fathers. And if we can believe that, we can give thanks in those circumstances for this care, even if we don’t like the circumstances.

How do we do that?

  • We can thank him that he is carrying us in the midst of the adversity.
  • We can thank him that it isn’t worse than it is. (Yep, it could always be worse).
  • We can thank him for what we are learning — or are going to learn when we calm down.
  • We can thank him that as others see our thankful reaction, they will be amazed at how good our God is.
  • We can thank him that we are being strengthened for the next trial.
  • We can thank him that we are being conformed to the image of Jesus Christ.

So take a minute right now and thank God in the middle of your circumstances. Praise him. Trust him. Then you will see much more clearly.

RELATED POSTS

10 Positive Things to be Thankful For

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff (Pt. 1)

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff (Pt. 2)