Staff Pick – Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes

MisreadingScriptPlease note: The views & opinions expressed in any guest post featured on our site are those of the guest author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions & views of LifeWay Christian Resources.

“Did I tell you what I read today in Misreading Scripture?”

While reading this book, I think I asked my friends, co-workers and family this question constantly, wanting to share with them every little thing I read. I couldn’t stop talking about it. I was blown away by the insights and evidence the authors provided to explain the cultural differences between when the Bible was written and now.

Even without consciously knowing it, we all bring our own biases and assumptions with us when we read the Bible. As a 25-year-old female who was raised in America, I am going to interpret verses through the lens of our individualistic society, placing my rules and understanding of language and time into God’s Word. The worst part? I wouldn’t have even known I was doing it until I read E. Randolph Richards and Brandon J. O’Brien’s book, Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes.

The more I read this book, the more I realized what I didn’t understand about the Bible, and what I thought I knew might not even be right! According to the authors, we have cultural blinders that keep us from seeing what the original intent of the biblical author was, given the many differences between Western and Eastern cultures. We can learn from knowing how the Eastern authors understood the world, God and everyday life in order to properly receive what they were trying to communicate.

One of the parts that struck me was when the authors talked about virtues and vices. According to the authors, as Westerners, we supplement the biblical lists with virtues and vices from our own culture. An example they use is self-sufficiently, which is more likely a vice in the Bible because we should be relying on God and putting our faith in Him, not our own plans. We also focus more on avoiding sins and vices instead of focusing on putting on the virtues of the Bible.

Another example that was convicting was that when Paul tells women to dress modestly, Westerners usually will jump to thinking this means to make sure to not wear revealing clothes. But, the authors say, Paul was probably actually talking about dressing modestly in a financial sense, to make sure you weren’t showing off your wealth by what you were wearing. Wow.

Being aware of our cultural blinders can help us understand what the Scriptures meant to the original audiences, but that doesn’t mean the process of change is an easy one. By working hard to re-think assumptions, being teachable, and reading the Bible with others and an open heart we can see the Bible in new and even unexpected ways. Bringing their own personal experience, especially Richards’ Indonesian missionary work, and their easy-to-read style, this book is a great read for anyone who wants to learn more about the historical context of the Bible and how it affects us today.

“If our cultural blind spots keep us from reading the Bible correctly, then they can also keep us from applying the Bible correctly. If we want to follow Jesus faithfully and help others do the same, we need to do all we can to allow the Scriptures to speak to us on their own terms.”

Have you read anything that has inspired you lately? Share with us!

Check out Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes on sale for $6.95 for the next week here.

-Katie Cornett

Staff Pick – God Behaving Badly

GodBehavingBadlySometimes when I am reading the Old Testament, I have to stop and say, “Uh…what?” God can come off, well, angry, sexist and racist. It sometimes even seems worse compared to how loving and kind Jesus was in the New Testament, causing people to separate God into the mean, scary Old Testament God verses the nice New Testament Jesus. How do we reconcile these seemingly different portrayals of God?

That’s where David Lamb and God Behaving Badly come in. He wants us to discuss and study the hard questions that most of us ignore because we don’t understand. Each chapter is dedicated to a question about God’s character, like “Is God Angry or Loving?” and “Is God Legalistic or Gracious?” Using biblical references that we are uncomfortable with, he explains the historical circumstances to show how what God does is for good, even though it seems harsh to us.

It is important for us to study problematic texts so we will know how to answer people who question us. While Lamb knows he doesn’t have all the answers, what he does know is that God is good, no matter what He is doing. If you look closely at the Old Testament, you can see that He is characterized as loving, affirming, hospitable, and is the same throughout the whole Bible.

I would recommend this to anyone who wants to learn more about God and who He is in the Old and New Testaments.

Have you read anything that has inspired you lately? Share with us!

Check out God Behaving Badly for 50 percent off (for the next few days only!) here.

-Katie Cornett

Staff Pick – The Glory of Preaching

bob3_staffpickEach week the blog will feature a favorite book of a staff member that’s available on WORDsearch.

Do you know how much time pastors put into preparing their messages? Many people do not realize the amount of work it takes. I’ve heard people (non-pastors) talk about the easy “1-2 hour workweeks” that pastors have. As a pastor’s son and pastor-in-training, I’ve come to understand that this is not the case.

The one-hour message you hear from the pulpit is the result of 13 hours of study (in my experience), on average. Reading the original Greek and Hebrew texts, examining the context and comparing parallel passages are all things that go into this study time, with the goal of coming to a full and clear understanding of the text. After this time of study, the final step of the process is to communicate this understanding to other people. We call this teaching or preaching.

Homiletics is the art of preaching. It is the study of organizing biblical truth in an orderly manner so that it can be easily understood.

The Glory of Preaching gives great practical advice on order and structure, and it does so in a way that does not discount the spiritual aspect of preaching. God the Holy Spirit is the one who is at work in teaching us, and He chooses to do so through pastors. This participation of the pastor in the teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit is truly “glorious”.

I really enjoyed this contrast from chapter 3: “Expository preaching is not about getting a message out of the text; it is about inviting people into the text so that the text can do what only the text can do.”

This book is a valuable tool, and I intend to re-read it soon, because I know the benefit it will be for me in my own teaching. If you are looking for a book that will help you communicate more effectively the Truth that you are studying, I highly recommend this book.

I consider it a blessing to work with these kind of books, and to serve those who preach and teach to change lives.
Bob Bolender III is an e-book developer at WORDsearch who is studying to be a pastor under the training ministry at Austin Bible Church, where his father is the pastor. He is also a graduate of Word of God Bible College in Kiev, Ukraine, where he studied a lot of Greek, Hebrew, Russian and a little bit of Ukrainian.

Download The Glory of Preaching, a new release, for $19.95 here.

Have you read a book that has inspired you lately? Let us know!

Staff Pick – Biblical Counseling Keys

BibCounsLibSEach week the blog will feature a favorite book of a staff member that’s available on WORDsearch.

Do you ever wonder…

Who is God?

“Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.” (Psalm 9:10)

Who am I, and what is my true identity?

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” (Psalm 139:13)

 Why am I lonely?

Question: “How can I feel lonely when I have Christ in my heart?”

Answer: It is not sinful to experience the pain of loneliness. In fact, it’s perfectly normal. We are made to have significant relationships with God and with others. When there is great loss or a great change in our lives, we experience great pain and stress. Even Jesus hurt when His friend Lazarus died. Tears are not wrong; they are God-given for healing.

What is true integrity?

“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.” (Luke 16:10)

Why does a good God allow evil and suffering?

“Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” (Job 2:10)

What does a real friend look like?

“Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself…. And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself.” (1 Samuel 18:1, 3)

What are the causes of fear?

“In God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” (Psalm 56:11)

June Hunt has a remarkable way of taking common struggles. She uses Scripture, outlines, bullet points, charts and illustrations to clearly explaining how to deal with them. She has real-life answers in titles such as God: Who Is He?, Mentoring, Self-Worth, Integrity, Pride & Humility, Communication and so many others.

I have personally turned to them in times when I didn’t know where to start and have always been encouraged, motivated and enlightened. This resource is truly a gold mine of information and a must-have for anyone living in the world today!

Erica has worked at WORDsearch for over nine years, and is currently an e-book developer. She loves God, spending time with her family and the Texas Longhorns.

Download The Biblical Counseling Library, usually $149.95, for $89.95 here.

Have you read a book that has inspired you lately? Let us know!

Staff Pick – The 365-Day Devotional Commentary

4CEach week the blog will feature a favorite book of a staff member that’s available on WORDsearch.

For years and years, I’ve been trying to successfully read through the entire Bible. I’ll invariably get bogged down somewhere in Leviticus or somewhere in the minor prophets, if I’m lucky to make it that far. Around the beginning of this year though, I decided to take a good look at one of the books we were having a promotion on: The 365-Day Devotional Commentary by Lawrence Richards.

This isn’t your typical daily reading plan that just gives you several chapters to read per day and then leaves you on your own. Each day’s offering has its own theme, key verse and concise, easy-to-understand commentary. There’s also a daily devotional related to the passage, practical application and a quote that helps add to what you learned. Even some of those harder passages that I’ve normally glossed over before have become richer through this study, and I’ve learned many things I didn’t know before.

For anyone with a busy schedule, this is a great way to spend time in God’s word and gain additional insight about what He’s trying to communicate to you. There’s also no pressure to keep up with the dates, so if you miss a day here or there, that’s no problem. It’s there waiting for you in the program whenever you get back to it.

Mike Giles works in sales/customer service for WORDsearch, and has been there for almost a year and a half.  He is married to his college sweetheart and has two wonderful children. He is very active at New Hope First Baptist Church in Cedar Park, TX. He also enjoys writing children’s books and loves everything regarding his alma mater, Baylor University.

Check out a nice discount on The 365-Day Devotional Commentary here.

Have you read a book that has inspired you lately? Let us know!

Staff Pick – God’s Word for Students

IMG_8223Each week the blog will feature a favorite book of a staff member that’s available on WORDsearch.

My favorite book that I keep returning to in my WORDsearch library is God’s Word for Students by Wayne Rice. Though at first glance this book may not look like much and that it is something for children, I have found practical and Scriptural advice from it daily. Because it is written for students, there is no jargon that you have to wade through, so it delivers a message that is easy to understand and to remember. This devotional always provokes thought in me and makes me want to apply it to my life. I believe that anyone of any age can see the good wisdom in this book and find a way to apply it in your life.  So before you judge a book by its cover, take it from me that sometimes it the small things in life that pack the most wisdom.

God’s Word for Students was developed by leading youth ministry professionals from around the world to help you pass the tests you face in life every day. It is a great resource for personal Bible study on nearly every subject imaginable. God’s Word is a living book — alive with new insights that God wants you to discover and apply to your life right now. If you open your heart and mind to what God has to say to you, the Holy Spirit will reveal God’s Word in a fresh, new way. You’ll be amazed by what you read—you’ll also be encouraged, empowered, and filled with hope.

Desiree Schreiner is in the Sales/Customer Service department at WORDsearch. She enjoys her cats, the outdoors and traveling with her husband. One day she hopes to travel abroad in Europe and Canada to hike where few have traveled. 

Download God’s Word for Students, on sale for one week from $29.95 to $9.95 here.

Have you read a book that has inspired you lately? Let us know!