This is sermon #17 in the 1 John series. In this sermon from 1 John 5:14-17 I preach on prayer, intercession and assurance.
We live in an age when it’s becoming easier than ever to share our thoughts regarding products and services. With this ability, however, comes a great responsibility—our thoughts need to be thoughtful and truthful. Over the past five years I’ve had the opportunity to read and review books from every major Christian publisher. My wife often comments, “I’m so glad you get all these books for free to read.” Even before I started reviewing, I was reading a lot of books every year. A good review not only looks at the contents of the book, but also analyzes it with a goal of providing thoughtful reasons why the book accomplishes or doesn’t accomplish its intended purpose. It is important to note that this article is not meant to be a full-scope breakdown of the format for a “good review”, but hopefully the information presented here will inspire others to take care in future book-reviewing endeavors.
The Nuts and Bolts of Writing Reviews
When writing a review, I typically start with an introduction of the topic the book discuses. This can be done in as few as two to three sentences, and should conclude with the title of the book, the author’s name, and the main theme of the book. After introducing the book and the topic, I move on to providing a summary of the contents. Depending on where the review will be published, this can be as few as two to three sentences or as much as three to four paragraphs. From this point in the review, I usually take one to four paragraphs analyzing the book. It is within the analysis of the book that I share which parts I agreed with and where I disagreed with the book. Finally, I conclude the book review with why (or why not) I would recommend the book to others. If it is a book I would recommend, I will also include a target audience that I believe it would best benefit. If I am unable to recommend the book, I note why and try to suggest a few other resources on the same or similar topics.
My process, as outlined above, is not necessarily the one that is appropriate for every book-reviewer. Each reviewer’s process may be different, however the principles of my method are helpful regardless of how you write your reviews. I encourage you to think over your own process in light of what I’ve shared to perhaps improve your method, while maintaining your own writing voice and style.
Good Book Reviews Are a Blessing to the Church
Good reviews are a blessing to the Church (both inside and outside the local gathering). A good book review will not only help people interested in determining if they should buy the book, it will also help Christians to be discerning; something that should define the Christian life. Good reviews help Christians be discerning by allowing them to see which books are worth their time and which ones they should avoid. For example, when writing a critical book-review, try to not only state what you disagreed with (and why), but also state what you liked or found helpful about the book. This helps the reader see the value in the book, despite your areas of disagreement with the author.
You’ve written your review now—great! Now be sure you carefully proof-read your review. There’s nothing more embarrassing than realizing that your critical feedback of someone else’s work contains spelling and grammar issues. Not to mention that it also lowers your credibility as a book-reviewer if you don’t bother correcting your own mistakes. After you’ve hit Publish, don’t be afraid to share your review with your friends and followers on social media. Be creative with how you share your reviews, I’ve found that people appreciate thoughtful and creative updates. Use of eye-catching graphics (possibly of the book’s cover) can be used to draw attention as well; remember—you are writing this as a public service, and people should be made aware of it.
Writing good reviews that are thoughtful, without being “nit-picky”, is hard work. As with writing anything worthwhile, write your review with the author’s purpose in mind. Ask yourself, “Would the author of this book consider my review to be in alignment with his/her intent?” If the answer is no, I would encourage you to rethink how you’ll proceed in writing this review.
Book reviewing can be a difficult process, which often requires slowly working through the material in the book, and thoughtfully considering what you’ve read. Good reviews will include an introduction, summary of the book, an analysis of the book—either positive or negative, and a conclusion with a recommendation or non-recommendation of the book.
A Final Thought
Good reviews matter; they matter because we live in a world where people are searching for thoughtful feedback on products and services. As our society is becoming increasingly more connected, it will become ever more important to provide thoughtful and helpful reviews of product and services (including books). I encourage you to write good, thoughtful, and helpful reviews. People will not only appreciate what you’ve shared, they will pass it on, and perhaps even look for additional reviews from you in the future. It is my hope that you have found this article helpful and that others may benefit from the gift of your next “good review”.
Join Dave as he continues the study on the Gospel of John by looking at John 1:6-9 with the men at his local church. In this study Dave looks at John’s eight uses of the word witness in the Gospel of John and the features of being a faithful witness.
Every day the news reports on ISIS/ISIL and whether Islam is a religion of peace or a religion that promotes war. While people will likely continue to argue over that question for a long time, every Christian needs to understand what Islam teaches. Recognizing the importance of understanding Islam, R.C. Sproul and Abdul Saleeb wrote an enlightening expose titled, The Dark Side of Islam.
This book is structured around a series of conversations about Islam and how it differs from Christianity. Saleeb, a convert from Islam, has spent many years studying the differences between Islam and Christianity. With Dr. Sproul, he focuses on four basic areas in which Islam rejects the foundations of biblical Christianity: first, the nature and authority of the Bible; second, the nature of God; third, the character of humankind; and finally the deity and sacrificial death of Christ.
As you read this book, the authors will guide you in not only understanding Islam, but will also help you to answer questions and objections about the Christian faith from your Muslim neighbors and friends. Along the way, the authors ansswer the question, “Is Islam a religion of violence or peace?” from Saleeb’s firsthand knowledge and experience of Islam. He is right to note that Islam has a history of violence and that, “We should be aware of the religious roots of violence in Islam and to take this background more seriously…” (100). With that said, Saleeb’s ultimate goal is to help take “God’s people back to the cross and ask Christ for the strength and courage to witness to our Muslim friends, colaborers, colleagues, and neighbors—to witness to them with greater boldness and love and humility…” (100).
Whether you’ve wondered what the differences are between Islam and Christianity, or you’re familiar with them, I encourage you to read The Dark Side of Islam. While I’ve previously studied the differences between Islam and Christianity as outlined by Saleeb and Sproul in this book, I still benefited from reading this book, and believe you will also. I highly recommend this book to every Christian who desires to understand not only the theological differences, but also how to speak the truth in love to Muslims.
The purpose of this series is to help Christians think through the doctrine of Scripture and provide practical guidance on not only how to read the Bible but to deal with objections and attacks on the Bible.
- C. Walter shared practical tips for why Christians should read their Bible’s daily.
- J.C. Ryle answered the question, “Is the Bible the Word of God?”
- Mike Leake challenges us to use search engines for fact checking instead of fact giving when studying the Bible.
- Jeff Medders helped us learn to grow in love for the Bible.
- Dave started a five part series on how to hear, read and study God’s Word. Here’s part one.
- Dave continues a five part series on how to hear, read and study God’s Word with part two.
- Dave continues his series on how to hear, read and study God’s Word with part three.
- Jeff Medders wrote on ways to begin wielding the Word of God.
- Dave continues his series on how to hear, read and study God’s Word with part four.
- Jeff wrote on the smell of Bible breath.
- Dave concludes his series on how to hear, read and study God’s Word with part five.
Applying God’s Word- Benefits and Methods
The Bible promises the blessing of God on those who apply the Word of God to one’s daily life. The classic New Covenant statement on the value of integrating the spiritual with the concrete is James 1:22-25: “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.” Pithy and powerful is Jesus’ similar statement in John 13:17, “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.”
These verses teach that there can be a delusion in hearing God’s Word. Without minimizing the sufficiency of Scripture nor the power of the Holy Spirit to work through even the most casual brush with the Bible, we can frequently be deluded about Scripture’s impact on our lives. According to James, we can experience God’s truth so powerfully that what the Lord wants us to do becomes as plain as our face in the morning mirror. If we do not apply the truth as we meet it, we delude ourselves by thinking we have gained practical value, regardless of how wonderful the experience of discovering the truth has been. The one who will be blessed in what he does is the one who does what Scripture says.
For someone to be blessed in what he does is the equivalent of the promises of blessing, success and prosperity given in Joshua 1:8 and Psalm 1:1-3 to those who meditate on God’s Word. That’s because meditation should ultimately lead to application. When God instructed Joshua to meditate on His word day and night, He told him the purpose for meditating was “so that you may be careful to do everything written in it.” The promise “then you will be prosperous and successful” would be fulfilled, not as the result of meditation only, but as God’s blessing upon meditation-forged application.
The Lord wants you to be a doer of the Word. One should open the Bible with expectancy and anticipate the discovery of a practical response to the truth of God. It makes a big difference to come to the Bible with the faith that you will find an application for it as opposed to believing you won’t. Thomas Watson was called the nursing mother of the gigantic evangelical divines, and encouraged anticipation about application when he said, “Take every word as spoken to yourselves. When the word thunders against sin, think thus: “God means my sins” when it presents any duty, “God intends me in this.” Many put off Scripture from themselves, as if it only concerned those who lived in the time when it was written but if you intend to profit by the Word bring it home to yourselves, since medicine will do no good, unless it be applied.
Because of God’s inspiration of Scripture, believe that what you are reading was meant for you as well as for the first recipient of the message. Without that attitude you’ll rarely perceive the application of the passage of Scripture to your personal situation. Meditation is not an end in itself. Deep thinking on the truths and spiritual realities of Scripture is the key to putting them into practice. It is by means of meditating on the Bible that facts are fleshed out into practical application.
If one reads, hears or studies God’s Word without meditating on it, no wonder “applying Scripture to concrete situations” is difficult. Perhaps we could even train a parrot to memorize every verse of Scripture that we do, but if we don’t apply those verses to life, they won’t be of much lasting value to us or the parrot. How does the Word memorized become the Word applied? It happens through meditation.
Most information, even biblical information, flows through our minds like water through a sieve. There’s usually so much information come in each day and it comes in so quickly that we retain very little. When we meditate the truth remains and percolates. We can smell its aroma more fully and taste it better. As it brews in our brain the insights come. The heart is heated by meditation and cold truth is melted into passionate action.
Psalm 119:15, “I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.” It was through meditation on God’s Word that the psalmist discerned how to regard God’s ways for living, that is, how to be a doer of them. The way to determine how any Scripture applies to the concrete situations of life is to meditate on that Scripture.
Asking questions is one of the ways to meditate. The more questions you ask and answer about a verse of Scripture the more you will understand it and the more clearly you will see how it applies. Here are some examples of this: Does this text reveal something I should believe about God? Does this text reveal something I should praise or thank or trust God for? Does this text reveal something I should pray about for myself or others? Does this text reveal something I should have a new attitude about? Does this text reveal something I should make a decision about? Does this text reveal something I should do for the sake of Christ, others or myself? There are times when a verse of Scripture will have such evident application for your life that it will virtually jump off the page and plead with you to do what it says. More often than not, however, you must interview the verse, patiently asking questions of it until a down-to-earth response becomes clear.
Respond specifically to Scripture. An encounter with God through His Word should result in at least one specific response. After you have concluded your time of Bible intake you should be able to name at least one definite response you have made or will make to what you have encountered. That response may be an explicit act of faith, worship, praise, thanksgiving or prayer. It may take the form of asking someone’s forgiveness or speaking a word of encouragement. The response may involve the forsaking of sin or showing an act of love. Regardless of the nature of that response, consciously commit yourself to at least one action to take following the intake of God’s Word.
A Final Thought
Will you begin a plan of memorizing God’s Word? If you’ve been a Christian very long you’ve probably memorized more Scripture than you realize. Will you cultivate the discipline of meditating on God’s Word? Occasional Godward thoughts are not meditation. William Bridge said, “A man may think on God every day and meditate on God, no day.” God calls His people throughout the Scriptures to develop the practice of dwelling on Him in our thoughts. When you consider what the Scriptures say about meditation and when you weight the testimonies of some of the most godly men and women of Church history, the importance and value of Christian meditation for progress in Christian growth is undeniable.
Will you prove yourself an applier of the Word? You have read many verses from the Word of God in this series on reading and studying the Bible. What will you do in response to these passages of Scripture? The discipline of Bible intake, especially the discipline of applying God’s Word will often be difficult. The great difficulty in applying the Bible is the opposition to it. Dr. J.I. Packer said this:
“If I were the devil, one of my first aims would be to stop folk from digging into the Bible. Knowing that it is the Word of God, teaching men to know and love and serve the God of the Word, I should do all I could to surround it with the spiritual equivalent of pits, thorn hedges and man traps, to frighten people off. At all costs I should want to keep them from using their minds in a disciplined way to get the measure of its message.”
Now that you have learned to read and study the Bible in this series, are you now willing at all costs, to use your mind in a disciplined way to feed on the Word of God for the purpose of godliness? If your answer to that question is yes, then you are ready to grow in the knowledge of the Word of God and the Gospel of God since, “Nobody ever outgrows scripture; the Book widens and deepens with our years” (Charles Spurgeon, The Talking Book, Volume 17, Sermon #1017– Proverbs 6:22).