Jesus On Every Page by David Murray

Jesus on Every Page by David MurrayThere’s a phrase you sometimes hear referring to middle-America – fly over country. This is born out of the (wrong) attitude that the really important stuff goes on on the east coast in places like New York and Washington and the west coast in places like Los Angeles. All the places in between are unimportant.

In some ways the church has treated the Old Testament like “fly over country” in recent years. We parachute in at the Creation then get airlifted out only to drop in again at the Exodus or the story of David and Goliath. But besides the most famous and beloved stories, much of the rest of the Old Testament is treated as either unimportant or irrelevant to New Testament believers. One consequence of this approach is that we see the Old Testament as a collection of stories teaching a moral lesson rather than as one seamless Story of the history of God’s redemption of His people.

It was this unbalanced approach to the Old Testament that led David Murray to write his new book Jesus On Every Page. He had two main goals for the book: to show that all of the Old Testament is all about Jesus Christ and to do so in a way that the average believer can understand and apply.

In my opinion, he succeeded in both. Starting with the second of those goals, David Murray is a good writer. He writes in a style that flows logically and is easy to follow. He uses word pictures and illustrations effectively to bring home his points and he’s quick to point out his own areas of weakness and struggle. It’s clear he’s not out just to show how smart he is but to help his readers learn. This is the same style I found helpful when I read his book on preaching a year or so back.

On the first point, the book is equally successful. The biggest strength of the book is Murray’s multi-faceted approach to the topic. As he points out, there are  a lot of books about one or two ways to see Jesus in the Old Testament but none that do what he’s done –  present an overview of ten different ways. Some of these ways I’d read about before, Jesus in the Old Testament Characters, for example, but others were less familiar to me such as discovering Jesus in Proverbs or in the Old Testament Law.

I was especially challenged by his discussion of Jesus’ Old Testament appearances. I am familiar with the idea that Christ appeared to people occasionally prior to His incarnation, such as in Genesis 18 when the Bible says the Lord appeared to Abraham concerning Sodom and Gomorrah. However, I’d never heard Murray’s point that God “speaks to sinners only through the channel of His Son in both the Old and New Testaments.” He teaches that every direct interaction of God with man is through the son. Meaning, for example it was the second person of the Trinity who was the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night during Israel’s wilderness wanderings. I don’t necessarily disagree but would like to explore this concept more.

One area I particularly appreciated was his treatment of Song of Solomon. He does an excellent job showing that Song of Solomon is not an anomaly but is also focused on Christ and is part of the seamless story of redemption that is the Old Testament. This is a welcome contrast to so much teaching on Song of Solomon today that treats it as nothing more than a Christian Kama Sutra.

I highly recommend this book. Our church is doing an Old Testament overview starting in the fall with our adult Bible study classes and I plan to use it both as a resource as I prepare to teach and as a suggested small group study for those in the class to supplement the teaching.

You can purchase the book several places, including at Amazon.com:

Jesus on Every Page: 10 Simple Ways to Seek and Find Christ in the Old Testament

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zmt0Sl4DmeI&w=640&h=360]

Disclosure: I was provided a review copy of this book free of charge.

Update on Calvin’s Institutes Reading Challenge

Update on Calvin's Institutes Reading Challenge

Back in December, I published a post called Read Calvin’s Institutes in 90 Days (or less).  Following the schedule I set up, I should finish in ninety days. I’m still going to finish in ninety days, it just won’t be ninety days in a row.

What happened? The ebb and flow of life. My father passed away in January, I’ve been busy with family, work, church, etc. As a result, I let myself get out of the habit of reading the daily passage at the time I’d set aside for it and got off track for a while.

However, I’ve now gotten back in the groove and am pursuing the reading again. Currently, per my Goodreads status, I’m 48% complete. While it’s important to approach long or weighty  works like “Institutes of the Christian Religion” with a plan for reading them, it’s also important not to give up if you get off track. View your plan as a map guiding you to the next step and encouraging you to keep going, not as a taskmaster accusing you with how far off course you are. You may get sidetracked for a few days in Chicago on your way from New York to LA but as long as you get back on the road you’ll eventually get there and at the end of the journey, you’ll be glad you finished it.

If you’d like a copy of the guide I developed to plan my reading of The Institutes you can download it free here:

90 Day Reading Guide for John Calvin’s “Institutes of the Christian Religion”

Read Calvin’s Institutes in 90 Days (or less)

Read Calvin's Institutes in 90 Days (or less)

I’ve always wanted a nice copy of John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion – not just to have it but to actually read it as well. Recently I was able to fulfill the first half of that wish by getting the edition published for the 500th anniversary of Calvin’s birth. Christianbook.com had it for only $19.99, a great price, so I went ahead and bought it. Now I have to make good on my second wish and read it.

This is not a light read. It’s also long. It’s over 900 pages, not including prefaces, introductions, etc. In my experience, the best way to read a book like this is in small portions over a long period of time. I’ve read the Bible that way for a while now, breaking it up into bite-sized portions and completing it over the course of six months to a year. (If you’ve not made plans to read the entirety of the scriptures in the coming year, I encourage you to do that. If you need some tips, go here). I wondered if something similar would work for Calvin’s Institutes.

The Plan

With that in mind, I developed a reading schedule for the Institutes that allows you to finish it completely in 90 days – actually 87 days if you’re diligent. Otherwise you’ve got a few days leeway. The Institutes consists of four books, each with chapter and section divisions. The schedule uses only book, chapter and section numbers (no page numbers) so it should be adaptable to any version you’re reading.

For each of the four books, I used a notation system similar to that used for chapter and verse in the Bible – chapter numbers first, the, if applicable, section numbers after a colon. For example 1-4 means read chapters one through four, 13:1-12 means read chapter thirteen, sections one through twelve and 11:12 – 12:3 means read chapter eleven, section twelve through chapter twelve, section three. You get the idea. I’ve tried to keep each section as close to ten pages as possible but some sections are a bit longer because a more natural break occurs a few pages further on.

To get a free copy of the reading schedule, go here where you can download it for your use and to share with whoever you’d like.

Other Resources

If you need a copy of Calvin’s Institutes, the Kindle version can be found here for only $0.99. A free copy is available here at Christian Classics Ethereal Library. Another helpful resource is Timothy Lane’s A Reader’s Guide to Calvin’s Institutes which provides chapter outlines and summaries. This is not designed to replace reading the full work but as a supplement to it.

If you use the schedule to read the Institutes in the coming months, I’d love to hear from you and find out how it went.

Tips for Using DropBox as a Portable Library

Using DropBox as a portable library

I rarely store files on my hard drive these days. Since I discovered DropBox, I use it to store pretty much everything. I also discovered recently that it makes a great portable library.

One of the best things about DropBox is the ability to access your files on any device, including smart phones and tablets – the same places you often read e-books. And because there are thousands of free books available as PDF files, you can store these in DropBox to read at your leisure.

Organizing

As with my Kindle library, my DropBox library is organized by category. First I created a folder called “Books.” Then, within that folder, I created folders for each category or genre: writing, economics, history, etc. When saving a book, I also change the file name to the full name of the book and the author using this format: TITLE by AUTHOR. For example,  Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt.  Because the file names PDFs come with are often not helpful in identifying the work, this makes finding a book much easier. It also makes locating books using the DropBox search function easy. From your “Books” folder, simply use the author’s last name or part of the title as a search term and it will find your book – very helpful if you have a lot of books.

Sharing

One of the great things about a DropBox library is how easily you can share your books. PDF files, like any other file, can certainly be attached to emails and sent to others. But, with DropBox you can easily share the folders you create with another DropBox user. This way they can read any book you save in the shared folder – something not as easy to do with Kindle or other e-readers.

Reading

So how do you read these books? You can simply open the files from your computer and read them on the screen. But that limits portability. You can also open them via the DropBox application on the iPad. This solves the portability problem but you must scroll through the document vertically – not ideal for reading in my opinion.

To read them more like other e-books, you’ll need to take an extra step or two. The best options I’ve found are opening the document in iBooks or sending it to Kindle. Within the DropBox iPad app is a feature called “Open in.” This gives you a drop down list of all the apps on your iPad that will open the file. One of those will be iBooks. Once opened there you can read the document using a more book-like right to left page swipe. IBooks also preserves the original formatting of the PDF and faithfully reproduces any images. A drawback is you cannot highlight text and make notes in the book. If this is important to you, you can purchase an app like  PDF Expert This will allow you to read with page swipes as well as highlight and make notes.

Finally, if you have a Kindle you can send the PDF document there using your Kindle email address. Create an email with the document as an attachment, being sure to type “convert” in the subject line. The book will show up on your Kindle a few  minutes after sending. This allows the PDF to be read like any other Kindle book. You will also be able to highlight text and make notes. One drawback is that formatting sometimes doesn’t come across exactly and images are often not easy to see, especially if the originals were in color. As a consequence, this method works best for high text, low image documents.

In a future post, I’ll list some places to get free PDF books for your DropBox library.

What are the best ways you’ve found to store and read PDF books?

How to Learn A Foreign Language Using Your Kindle

How To Learn a Foreign Language Using Your Kindle

I recently decided to improve my reading skills in German. I studied German for two years in High School and another year in college but have never taken the time to become well versed in the language. Since lot’s of studies show that learning a second language is great for your brain, I figured this would be a good way to give my ageing mind some exercise. Besides, I just think it would be cool to be able to pursue my passion for reading beyond the boundaries of the English language.

The idea came to me when I discovered the German language version of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Harry Potter und der Stein der Weisen) available free in the Kindle owner’s lending library. Given that this first installment of the Harry Potter series was written on a fifth and sixth grade level, I figured it would be a good test of my ability to read in German. However, what I discovered next, was even more helpful.

If you have a Kindle, you know that you can have the device provide a definition of a word by placing the cursor just to the left of the word. The definition then appears at the top or bottom of the screen. However, did you know you can change which dictionary the Kindle uses as a reference, even choosing a foreign language dictionary?

I purchased the German – English Dictionary by Daniel Eichhorn and downloaded it to my Kindle. I then made that my default dictionary. Now, when reading in German, words I don’t understand can be translated on the fly. This has proven enormously helpful. Reading is not just recognizing the individual words on the page but interacting with the words as they flow from sentences to paragraphs to chapters. It’s virtually impossible to get into the flow of a book if you have to stop every few seconds to consult another book to find the meaning of a word.

At first I was looking up multiple words per sentence, but now I’m having to look up fewer and fewer words as I read. Once you’ve placed the cursor on “Zauberer” a couple of times and see that it means “wizard”, you begin to remember that and just read right through it from then on. I sometimes now read an entire page or more before having to translate a word. That doesn’t mean I’m getting 100% of the words, just that I’m getting the gist of the meaning, enough to follow the story. Of course it also helps that I have a general idea of the story line ahead of time. Having three kids all of whom devoured the Potter books and saw all the  movies, I kind of know what’s coming next in most chapters.

Currently I’m about 35% through the book after a little over a week. A much slower pace than if I were reading in English but much better than I would have thought when I began this experiment. Once I’m finished with Harry Potter, I plan to try a book I’m not as familiar with to see how I do with that. Who knows, I may even expand to other languages eventually.

What about you? Have you leveraged your Kindle as language learning tool?