Understanding Theology in 15 Minutes a Day

By Daryl Aaron

A Review

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How do we know God? I mean how do we really know God? Most of us, if we are perfectly honest with ourselves don’t spend near as much time with God as we think we should. We may quietly reflect upon what a meaningful amount of time in His Word each day should look like. Perhaps how much time we need to spend in prayer. Yet, it seems as though the busyness of our lives serves as a never-ending boundary, which keeps us from achieving this goal. Why is that? Well, I am sure there are a number of reasons. Yet, the fact remains that God still wants us to know Him. How? We know Him by developing a meaningful relationship with Him. How? Mainly just as simple as developing a relationship with our fellow humans; open communication and taking the time to getting to know the true character of God by knowing and understanding what pleases Him and obeying Him. How? (You sure ask a lot of questions, don’t you?). Simply by taking the time each day to study and reflect up His Word to know who He is; His character, His attributes.

Which also brings me to Daryl Aaron’s delightful volume, “Understanding Theology in 15 Minutes a Day.” Don’t be put off by the title. I was very pleased in my reading of this book. As I did so, I found at least two very useful purposes for this work. First of all, I can see it being put to use by those who either would like a refresher of their theology. Those who have read the tomes of rich theology and would like a refresher. Also, for those who have not had the chance to read these rich treasures, but would like to benefit from the fruits of those labors, this is the book for you. Secondly, this volume could also serve as a robust resource for a devotional study to supplement a time in God’s Word each day. This book includes a brief introduction of several significant doctrines. I hesitate even to title it “introduction,” because Aaron does such a marvelous job of describing these rich doctrines so concisely and clearly that you walk away with a rich understanding of the doctrine without feeling like your head is about to explode. He doesn’t waste words and gets straight to the point, which is what I really appreciate about Aaron. On the other hand, even though he briefly describes these doctrines doesn’t mean that you walk away with a children’s rendition of theology.

No, whether you are just beginning to take the step of entering into the rich realm of theology, or if you are a veteran, I am certain that you will appreciate this small volume as I did, and that you will find a valuable resource for your devotional life or for your initial journey into getting to know God better by studying more deeply who He is and how He operates. Happy reading!

I would like to extend my gratitude to Bethany House Publishers for the free copy of the book for me to offer this unbiased, balanced review.

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Accidental Pharisees
By Larry Osborne
Zondervan Publishers
A Review By Matthew Boutilier

Spiritual arrogance is not a back-of-the-line sin, it’s a front-of-the-line sin. So much so that sometimes I think of it as an occupational hazard of zealous faith, serious discipleship, and biblical scholarship.”

Zealous? Passionate? Intentional? How do you measure up? Better yet, how does the guy sitting in the pew next to you measure up?

Ever look in the mirror? Sure you have. Perhaps thousands of times. Like what you see? Really? Honestly? Larry Osborne in his toe-stepping, punch in the face treatise of the life of an accidental Pharisee will have you doing a double-take in the mirror tomorrow morning (perhaps right now). I guarantee you will notice a few more wrinkles and warts. Evaluation. To be perfectly honest and frank, we are never truly honest and frank, are we? We like what we see because we generally love ourselves. Yet, that really isn’t wrong, per se. I believe that to even be Scriptural. We read in Ephesians 5:29 where Paul says that a person does not hate his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it. We need a biblical definition of the word “love.” In other words, we need to “love” our bodies in the sense that we recognize our body as the temple of the Holy Spirit and we should desire to be a good steward of the resources that God has blessed us with and honor our bodies and never neglect them. Yet, at the same time, we are not to set up ourselves as idols; love in that sense. What Osborne is driving home is not this sort of self-love. No, what he is driving home is this “brood of vipers” (Jesus’ wording, not mine–see Matthew 23:33). What is so interesting is that Jesus during His earthly ministry was the most critical and harsh with the religious leaders of the day because they were supposed to know better. They were supposedly experts in the Torah. And, yes, the Torah is filled with God’s grace, love, and mercy (see Exodus 14, 15; Joshua 2).

Osborne asks us if we have a list. You know, the list that gives us a detailed evaluation of those who are less-than-spiritual than we are? That list is usually comprised with those who do not share the same areas of giftedness that we do. So, we make sport of them for not being as “spiritual” as we are, because if they were, surely they would recognize the need to be doing more than they are in our area of giftedness!

There were some areas where I thought, “Ok, where is Osborne going with this? How is going to steer the cart back on the topic at hand?” Yet, once the wheels were rolling, I began to catch up with his thought-processes. It certainly wasn’t him, it was me. Osborne has that knack. He has that keen ability to draw you into the story and to develop that rapport with you so that you don’t dismiss his discipline, rather, you welcome it. You get the feeling that he isn’t chiding you as a person who has it all together, but as a fellow struggler who is attempting to pull you out of the ditch. For that I am thankful. No use reading about not being a Pharisee by another Pharisee!

There were many areas that I found myself nodding in agreement, and, to quite frank, laughing uncontrollably! I was convicted by many areas where I found myself looking down my Pharisaical nose at those who did not somehow “measure up” to my standards of spiritual maturity. It gave me a healthy reminder that I need to be much more gracious, compassionate, and patient with my brothers and sisters. Indeed, I need to be the beneficiary of that sort of gentleness myself more often than I realize.

One point of contention that I would have with Osborne is that there are points where plays the grace card a little too loosely for my comfort. He mentions that God is a God of grace and love (which I certainly whole-heartedly agree with). For example, in developing an illustration of his point regarding how God is a God of grace and what Jesus requires to be a disciple of His Osborne remarks with the following illustration. He says that Jesus knowingly chose Peter with the complete understanding that he would later deny him. He went out of His way to reach out to doubting Thomas. And, he continues by stating that Jesus promises a lighter, not a heavier load for His disciples to carry. True, very true. But, we also need to read the rest of the story. I agree Jesus does in fact provide us with a lighter load. The Pharisees of the day (and our day as well) pride themselves on the fact that they load their adherents with heavier burdens. For whatever reason, it makes a person more spiritual if they appear to be bearing those burdens (and the heavier, the better) on their own and people witness it. But, my point is, yes, Peter denied Christ. In fact, he did so three times. Just as Jesus told him earlier. Ironically, Peter denied that as well! Thomas. The most famous skeptic in biblical history. Jesus restored him as well. But, when we look back at the story of Peter, in particular, we notice that this isn’t it. Jesus isn’t finished with Peter yet. Jesus didn’t just leave Peter where he was. Following the life-transforming, Spirit-empowering experience that occurred at Pentecost, Peter was literally a changed man (Acts 2). In fact he was martyred for his faith.

Overall, I believe Osborne gives a well-balanced, very helpful instruction in this much-needed area of spiritual arrogance. I believe that this was an ideal environment and platter in which to have it served as well. Osborne comes across as a down-to-earth fellow hiker who has come across a dark, jagged path you are approaching. He offers some good alternate routes as well as sound, biblical counsel to keep you from running down the wrong trail. It sure has sharpened my eyes. Hope it sharpens yours too…

Take a minute or two to check out the interview with Larry Osborne here:

Or, to check out the official trailer for the book here:

I would like to extend my gratitude to Cross-Focused Media for the free copy of the book for me to offer this unbiased, balanced review as well as Zondervan Publishing.

 

This is a great little book. I would recommend using it as a tour guide when reading through the Bible in a year to remain focused. It would also be beneficial especially when going through the Old Testament to see forward as the hope of Christ is progressively revealed.

I would not recommend this volume for those looking for an exhaustive explanation of each book of the Bible. It only highlights the themes of the books as well as gives explanations as to how each points to Christ. Williams also develops some good thought-provoking questions for further reflection as well as “hook” questions to give the reader the necessary nudge he/she may need to reflect upon a passage a little more before pursuing onward.

Williams does a great job developing a theology of Christology throughout Scripture without voiding progressive revelation. Although there are rare occasions where the author does seem to stretch his theory a little thin.

The author also does a great job in helping readers look at Scripture through a contemporary perspective. Giving interpretive insights into the books and maintaining their historical integrity, he accurately issues forth principles from the text which can be spiritually beneficial for contemporary readers.

One really nice element of the book is that Williams gives a very detailed, yet concise introduction to each book highlighting the essential composition of the book. He also densely compacts the thematic element of each book in a nice summary sentence. This can assist the reader in keeping a simple theme in mind as they read the book looking for how that theme develops throughout the book.

My focal point was the book of Genesis. I chose to review the book in light of Genesis because I believe there lies the foundation of Scripture. The beginnings. We note from this book that God’s creation was created perfect. Man fell yet God still desired to have a relationship with him. Even as man did not pursue God after his initial sin, God sought after him. Even though He was the One offended, He went after man. The love of God is so evident in the book of Genesis. It was an incredible experience to look at how this points to Christ.

As we look into this ancient book through the Jesus lens we are able to earmark certain narratives which deliberately pinpoint forward to Jesus. As we do so our hearts are pricked to recognize the certain fact that nothing takes God by surprise. It did not surprise Him when Adam and Eve succumbed to the wicked lure of the enemy in the Garden. God did not have to resort to a Plan B to take these new turn of events into consideration. No, by His sovereignty, this was all part of His plan. He is well aware of all the things that go on throughout history before they occur. Therefore, He had the plan worked out before the actual events came into the actual historical narrative. There is no, “well, if this occurs, then I will respond this way.” No, it is all taken into His consideration and the conclusion has already been planned.

I really appreciate this perspective of interactive reading. Sometimes it can become easy to get wrapped up in the narratives and lose sight of God’s overall purpose behind Scripture. All Scripture is to point us to our need for a Savior. The accounts of the Israelite’s following with reckless abandon and in the next sentence brazenly disobeying God give us a mirror in which to see our own fickleness in our relationship to God. It points us to promise. God has promised to make way for a Savior. We in our sin have no good quality in which to offer God to accept us. We have nothing in which to barter with. Yet, even as we carefully read in Genesis as to how God carefully plans and coordinates the various historical events, He is coordinating the way in which we can still maintain a relationship with God. And He is pointing us to the Savior through the workings of many complicated plots and sub-plots which also provides evidence of His grace, love, and mercy.