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Explore By The Book: John 14-17, Romans, James (Review)

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In Christianity, there is a lot of emphasis placed on spending time developing a relationship with God. This relationship starts when a person is born again by the Holy Spirit and places their faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior (Romans 8:15-16). However, though we are united to Christ (Galatians 2:20; 3:27), we have to daily abide in Christ and continue cultivating our relationship and union with God through daily Bible intake and prayer. We often struggle to cultivate these daily spiritual disciplines and need resources to help us grow in these areas. Timothy Keller and Sam Alberry have provided an excellent resource to enrich our study and application of God’s Word and deepen our prayer lives. Here are just a few of the reasons I highly recommend Explore By The Book: John 14-17, Romans, James for those needing a boost in their devotional lives or who simply want to have some guidance and consistency in their daily devotions.

You’ll Have To Keep Your Bible Open

From the introduction, the authors make it clear that this is an “open-book devotional” because “Its words are valuable only to the extent that they help you to enjoy the infinite value of words that are perfectly true, gloriously beautiful, and utterly wonderful— the words of the Lord.” I love this aspect of the book because far too often we find devotionals which allow us to read for 5 minutes, never open our Bibles, never ponder a gospel truth, never apply any particular command from God, and never pray in light of what we just read. If you’re looking for a quick one page pick-me-up that you’ll forget before you finish your breakfast, you’ll want to skip this one. However, if you want to mark up your Bible, meditate on the truths of God’s Word, and practically apply them through prayer and obedience, you will definitely want to grab this book and work through it in 90 days.

You’ll Be Called To Pray

Without prayer, most of what we do to cultivate a relationship with God will be useless. How often do we determine to apply a biblical principle or believe a truth to find that you don’t have the strength or the endurance to do so! Without prayer, all Bible study will either lead us toward self-righteousness or self-pity. We will find those difficult passages too taxing to press on until we grasp the truth. We will find the attributes of God we encounter in the Word to be boring or even offensive. I’ve been there and, chances are, you’ve been there too. Keller and Alberry stress the importance of prayer and often simply call readers to pray a basic and brief prayer of thanksgiving in relation to a truth revealed in the text. At other times, they call readers to pray for grace to apply a text in a specific or meaningful way. No matter where you are in the devotional, there is an opportunity to pray because there is an open Bible, and the Spirit of Truth is ready and willing to make His word understandable, accessible, and applicable to all who will read and ask.

You’ll Ponder Some Difficult Passages

If we are honest, Romans 9 probably doesn’t make it in most of our daily devotions. However, Keller and Alberry don’t shrink back or conveniently skip over those difficult passages like Romans 9 which discuss divine election and God’s sovereignty in salvation. Instead, they call readers to take an honest look at these passages and “ask God for understanding of his word and humility before his word.” Reading and studying difficult and offensive sections of God’s Word makes this book worth your time. For example, after reading and studying Romans 9:1-18, these are the application questions: “How does this passage make you more grateful that you are saved? Imagine someone says, “God is unfair to save some and not others.” How could you use verses 16-18 to answer them?” They are not striving to merely prove a theological point, they are striving to have believers glorify God in His character and use the Bible to define their views on doctrines like election and regeneration.

You’ll Get Reliable and Reformed Commentary

Many daily devotionals are compilations of pithy sayings or words of encouragement mainly focused on the person reading the devotional rather than God. Since this book is focused on God’s Word, you’re going to be reading commentary and application focused on the meaning of the text and the Savior whom all Scripture points to. Furthermore, the commentary of this book will present the reformed view of election, total depravity, and other doctrines. For some, this may be offensive. For others, this may be a a great opportunity to engage the Biblical text and hear an interpretation that may differ from your current doctrinal stance or presuppositions. Both Alberry and Keller are trustworthy names when it comes to teaching God’s Word and both have written commentaries on either Romans or James.

You’ll Have The Opportunity To Journal

The last of many reasons I recommend this book is because the authors call the readers to journal prayers, meditations, and application points for each day. Again, most daily devotionals are easy to read and even easier to forget. I have read countless mornings in great devotionals and books without ever taking the time to slow down, meditate on the text, journal my thoughts, and list my prayers in light of the text. Obviously, you’ll only benefit from this aspect if you set aside time and put forth the effort necessary to do these things.

 

I look forward to working slowly through this book over a 90 day period so I can soak up all of these benefits and more. I couldn’t more highly recommend a 90-day daily devotional!

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