I’m not big on New Year’s Resolutions. Instead of making ambitious and unrealistic promises that will inevitably be broken before Lent, I like to approach these things with a lighter attitude. This post isn’t about solemn vows to change the world in the new year. It’s just list of stuff I liked this year and stuff I want to try in the next one.
Things I Enjoyed in 2019
2019 was a horrible year for me, so I’m really not sorry to watch it fade into my past. It can stay there in the garbage can of memories alongside those horrible perms my mom made me get in the 1980’s and the embarrassing things I said 25 years ago that still pop up out of nowhere to make me shudder in fresh shame. That’s the kind of trashy company that 2019 will be keeping, and I’m cool with that.
In order to end it on a happy note, however, I thought another recommendation list would be fun. These are the books and studies I’ve enjoyed since the summer. If you want suggestions from earlier in the year, go and check out this list I compiled in July. All of those suggestions still apply (especially the Paul biography…you should read it…amazeballs).
What did you like in your study and reading this year? What do you want to try in bible study for 2020? Please let me know in the comments.
Stuff I Liked (and think you might like, too)
Men and Women in Christ by Andrew Bartlett
I’m still in the middle of reading this one, and I love it. It’s a neutral approach to the questions of biblical gender roles and the limitations placed on women in the church.
The book is neither complementarian nor egalitarian, and the way Bartlett covers this subject is extraordinary by virtue of the fact that he isn’t defending a position but seeking one. It’s a scholarly work written in language that anyone will be able to work through. He’s organized the book into chapters that deal with one piece of scripture at a time, methodically moving through issues of translation, context, and harmony with other scriptures to reason what each verse means and where historical interpretations have led us into truth or error. It’s heavily-footnoted and thorough. People much more knowledgable than I am have reviewed this book in detail, and I encourage you to seek out those reviews if you have questions. I’m enjoying the work of studying through the book very much.
“Divisions can be healed when Christian scholars go back to Scripture with open and humble minds, filled with the Lord’s love and joy, and desiring to regain unity in order to please him.”
This book is a very important piece of work on a topic that continues to divide Christians in the ugliest ways. It must be addressed with love, humility, and reason. Bartlett’s expressly-stated intention of keeping “the primacy of Scripture over tradition” is long overdue. It’s encouraging.
Life in Year One by Scott Korb
This one is a history book, and I loved every page of it. Korb opens the book by emphatically declaring:
“This is not a book about Jesus. Yet, if Jesus had been the kind of person who had neighbors, which by all accounts he very much wasn’t, this would be a book about them.”
The book details what life was like in the first century A.D. in Ancient Palestine. It’s a wonderful book divided into chapters that tackle different areas of daily living rather than attempting to list out events or some sort of timeline. The book talks about the houses, the bathing habits, the diets, the money, and more. It’s a lovely painting of how life would’ve worked and what the world must’ve looked like for Jesus and his contemporaries. This one is a nice, cozy pleasure read, and each chapter is easy to consume by itself in one sitting. Everyone who reads the Bible should read this book. It’s wonderful.
Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin
This book is, without a doubt in my mind, the best book I’ve ever come across about how to “do” solo bible study.
I became really fond of Jen Wilkin over the past year. My Tuesday Ladies and I have worked through two of her studies, and we love her approach to the Bible. She’s just a breath of clean air. She’s no-nonsense about scripture, but she’s warm and encouraging in her teaching. Her passion for biblical literacy is genuine and inspiring. Women of the Word is a careful and methodical explanation of how to study the Bible on your own. Wilkin highlights the common mistakes and dangers of modern, me-focused study. She helps the reader with concrete processes for shifting that focus entirely back to God. She stresses the importance of learning to approach scripture by yourself, without commentary or a pastor series to dissect every verse for you. It’s a serious book about the dangers of biblical illiteracy and practical, realistic ways you can foster a habit of “loving God with your mind.”
“The heart cannot love what the mind doesn’t know.”
I loved this book because it answers so many of the questions and fears that people have. It corrects so many of the flawed methods and mindsets people come to the Bible with. It has wise recommendations that, if followed, will prevent frustration, bad interpretation, bad application, and vulnerability to false teaching/theology.
If any of the above sounds like something you’ve been looking for, then Women of the Word is the book you want. Whether you’re a man or a woman, this book can walk you through it.
Biblical Archaeological Review
This one is a magazine. It’s a bi-monthly, so there are only 6 issues per year. If someone is digging something up from the Ancient Near East or anything else relevant to biblical history, this magazine will tell you all about it. They’ll include incredible photos, and you will be consistently amazed by what they find–you know, if you’re into this type of thing. Which I very much am. I get stupid excited when a new one arrives. I’m talking Cadence (pictured above)-when-someone’s-cooking-sausage levels of excitement. We only have two hard-copy periodicals delivered to our house, and this is one of them. Check it out.
Bible Study: God of Creation & God of Covenant by Jen Wilkin
I know! It’s like a Jen Wilkin love fest in here, but I’ve read a lot of her stuff this year, and it all started because we really wanted to revisit the book of Genesis in my Tuesday group. We discussed several books of scripture to focus on, and everyone seemed to converge on Genesis. We put together a plan for tackling a book that is 50 chapters long, and we knew we’d need a published study to lead us through it. We looked around and selected Wilkin’s duo because we’d used her Sermon on the Mount series in 2018. We learned a lot from that one, so it was an easy choice to trust her a second time. We completed Creation in the Fall Season, and we’ll start Covenant together in January.
I’ve had Genesis on my plate for the last four months and will continue with Genesis right up until Lent begins. It has been time well spent, and these studies are an excellent structure. Jen’s teaching videos are always very helpful, and the study guides are some of the best “homework” I’ve seen in a published study like this. We have grown very fond of Jen Wilkin in my Tuesday Group, and any list of my favorites from the second half of 2019 would be incomplete without her name on it. I did a write-up of the God of Creation study after we finished it, if you’re interested.
Stuff I’m Going to Try
She Reads Truth – Study Subscription Box
I signed up for this because I’ve used the She Reads Truth reading app for years and the She Reads Truth (SRT) Bible is my daily carry. I’ve got a bit of brand loyalty going with this company, already, but I’d never purchased any of their study books until now.
The SRT system works by having everyone on the SRT reading plan (whether using the study books, the Bible alone, or the reading app) in the same scripture on the same day…all over the world. It’s a lovely thought, right? It’s caught on in a huge way, and I love knowing that every day I read my SRT passage or chapters, there are just thousands of other Christians reading the exact same scripture. /shrug It makes me happy.
I’ve spent a couple of years looking at their study books and wanting them because they are beautiful. I never actually bought one, though, because I didn’t think I’d actually use it. I already have a Bible with wide margins and eleventy billion tools at my disposal for commentary and guided reading. I just didn’t see the use of a book with the scripture printed inside–you know, other than the pretty pictures.
I decided I would try it because it’s Christmas and why not just check it out? With the subscription box, you get the reading plan books as soon as they’re available for shipping each month, and the price per book is reduced from $24 to $20. You have the option to cancel or change your subscription at any time, and it’s extremely simple to do. You can choose to pay for the entire year upfront, or you can pay $20, once per month. It’s very flexible. Check the link for all the details.
My first book came today, and it is magnificent. I received the study book for their 2020 Genesis plan, which will start once Advent season ends. This book far exceeds what I thought it would be. It’s not just a glossy magazine with scripture in it. This book has beautiful artwork, heavy paper stock that you can journal on with just about anything, and so much extra content. There are charts, timelines, family trees, pages for daily note-taking, weekly response questions, and supplemental scripture readings (all fully printed in the book for the days you’re meant to read them). There is also, of course, the entire book of Genesis beautifully printed and arranged. Honestly, it’s just an order of magnitude above and beyond what I expected.
The book is also well-bound. I really hate glue-bound paperbacks because you can’t crack them down to lie flat, and I thought that’s all these were. There is visible glue on the spine, and you do have to coax the spine open, but the folios are sewn-in. Sewn. In. They don’t even sew in the folios for hardcovers in most mass market books. Have you ever even heard of someone sew-binding folios into workbooks like this?!!! I haven’t. I’m stunned, to be honest, because books like these are generally very flimsy and will fall apart if you don’t handle them like Grandma’s china. This careful binding and the gorgeous paper stock alone would make these worth their $24 price tag. Add the rich color of the printing and the artwork throughout…these are a very good product.
I’m impressed. Can you tell I’m impressed?
I splurged (because it’s Christmas) and got myself the book + memory card subscription for one year. I look forward to using them and reviewing them for you as 2020 gets rolling.
For the Menfolk – Because Everyone Needs to Develop a Daily Bible Habit
They Have the Same Subscription for Men with He Reads Truth (HRT). The materials for HRT are designed by men, for men, and it’s done with the same care and precision that they put into the SRT products. The art, size, and layout is designed to appeal to men and encourage them to stay in a daily habit of reading the Bible. The scripture and schedule is the same as the SRT program, so a lot of husbands and wives choose to do the daily reading together.
I think that is a gorgeous picture of mutual submission to God in marriage.
Whether single or married, you can subscribe to the same monthly box as the women–but for men. Simply choose the HRT/Men’s option instead of the SRT/Women’s option, and the books will arrive each month so that you’re ready to start the next reading plan as the previous one ends. The community nature of the “reads truth” project is the part I find so lovely, and because the focus is a daily reading habit, there is no “teaching time” that you miss. You can jump in anywhere, any time.
Leviticus – Writing a Study for my Tuesday Ladies
For those who are new here or haven’t read about it in my many ramblings, I was brought to Christ in the book of Leviticus, chapter 17, verse 11. It was–I don’t know how else to say this–a supernatural moment, and I will live the rest of my life in gratitude for it. Because the book illustrated the Cross to me in a way that never tracked (made sense) before, I feel compelled to share it with people. So many people don’t read Leviticus at all, and those who do often feel they haven’t “gotten anything out of it.”
He is in there, y’all. In His most high and lifted up glory, He is in there. The message of Leviticus is light and love, and since so many people have trouble seeing that, I want to help. I’m not qualified to teach, but everyone keeps telling me that God equips the called. So I’m going to try it. I’m going to write a study, pass it around to anyone with a proper Bible education who is willing to help me make sure I don’t mess it up…and then just pray for it to connect somebody to this foundational piece of scripture.
I need to just testify for minute, okay? Bear with me.
I want people to see Leviticus the way it was shown to me, and the studies I’ve seen are too clinical. I haven’t found anything with enough passion in it–enough genuine awe at the genius of it and the message of invitation and warmth it contains. Leviticus is beautiful, and there is so much in the Bible that simply doesn’t shine the way it’s meant to without Leviticus underneath it. Everything in the Bible is clearer with Leviticus. The Cross is clearer with Leviticus. The New Testament, to me, is like a stained glass window, and Leviticus is the sunrise that makes all of those colorful images light up and make sense. Of course the glass is beautiful on its own, and you can make out the most important pieces without any help. But when you put that light behind it? You will finally see it in the way it is meant to be seen. The explosion of color and clarity that Leviticus brings to the Gospel will drop you to your knees.
Well…that’s what happened to me, anyway.
God used Leviticus to bring me home, so it will always be special to me in a personal way. I’m going to try my very best to get a solid start on figuring out how to gather a team who can help me share it with others.
The Four Gospels
I’ve been an Old Testament girl from pretty much the beginning. When I started my reading plan back in 2016, I was in Lamentations, Habakkuk, Ezekiel, and the Psalms. I remember those being first. The Gospel books were always on the plan next to something else, and that something else was usually an Old Testament book. I felt closer to God as a Father image back then, and I didn’t have any real belief in Jesus at the time. The Old Testament felt warmer, safer, and easier to put my trust in. That sounds so odd to me now, but that’s how it was. I got to meet Jesus outside of the Gospel books, and that is pretty backward to the way most Christians “get there.” I don’t like that I feel less comfortable with Luke than I do with Paul. I don’t like that John, which is so beautiful, gets less affection and reflection from me than the book of Judges (of all things). I want to work on that.
Because of the way I started, and because I was so consumed by the struggling I had to do in Genesis-Deuteronomy, I never connected with the Gospel books. In my personal study this year, I will try to focus on the Gospels and keep my eyes on God as the Christ. It is my primary goal for solo Bible study in 2020 to learn how to love Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John as much as I have loved Leviticus, Deuteronomy, Judges, and Romans.