Best commentaries

A commentary might help you study better. But how do you know what to choose?

For serious Bible study, you benefit from hearing what others say about the text. But how do you know which commentaries to buy?

Several commentators have chosen their favourites at BestCommentaries.com. Like everyone, they have their bias (Evangelical, with a Calvinistic bent), but it’s still a good indicator.

And the good news is that you’ll find many (not all) of the top commentaries for each book of the Bible on sale at Logos this month (May 2018).

Which Bible book will you study next? Pick up the commentary. Continue reading “Best commentaries”

Why doesn’t God sort it out? (Matthew 13:47-50)

If God is all-powerful and all-loving, why doesn’t he sort out injustice now?

Open Matthew 13:47-50.

Why is the world such a mess if it’s God’s kingdom? How can so much evil and injustice exist in the kingdom of God?

Why doesn’t our heavenly king sort out his earthly realm? Is this really the best God can do?

That’s no theoretical question. Ask the people in pain. Ask the parents of the 17 killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida in February. Why doesn’t God act? Philip Yancey calls it, “the question that never goes away.”

Megaphones blare, “What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!Continue reading “Why doesn’t God sort it out? (Matthew 13:47-50)”

What’s the value of God’s reign? (Matthew 13:45-46)

What would it be worth to have God reigning over us?

Open Matthew 13:45-46.

Did you hear the one about the art lover who found an original by someone she and her husband admired? She texted the details to get his opinion. Between meetings, he rushed back a reply, “No. Price too high.” But his fumbling fingers missed the full stop. The text she received read, “No price too high.”

Did you hear the one Jesus told about the pearl merchant? He found the one he’d been waiting for, the elusive pearl with flawless shape, glistening tone, and perfect lustre. He traded everything away to have the thing he’d been waiting his whole life to find.

For Jesus, God’s reign over the world is that one thing worth trading everything for. Like the pearl merchant you might recognize it as the thing you’ve been searching for. Or you may not have been searching; perhaps you just stumbled on it, like treasure buried in a field. Either way, when you see it for what it is — the possibility of everything on earth functioning as beautifully as it was designed to do — what value do you place on it? Continue reading “What’s the value of God’s reign? (Matthew 13:45-46)”

Discovering what counts (Matthew 13:44)

What’s your dream? And what will you do to get there?

Open Matthew 13:44.

What’s your dream? And what would you do to get it? Your honest answers to those questions reveal more about you than you realize.

Someone caught up in the first euphoria of love dreams of a beautiful life with that special someone, whatever it costs. The entrepreneur dreams of owning the Monopoly board, driven by a plan that just might give it to him.

But our best dreams are bigger than ourselves. Dreams like clean drinking water for Africa, empowering locals to transform Cambodia, or A21’s audacious vision to end modern slavery. Syrians dream of living in a country where they need not fear being shot, and some young Americans do too. Martin Luther King Jr still speaks, “I have a dream …”

The trouble with dreams is that the how is more difficult than the what. Continue reading “Discovering what counts (Matthew 13:44)”

What’s the Bible’s main theme?

What is the Bible about? What picture do you get when you put the pieces together?

Say your niece is reading The Chronicles of Narnia. You ask, “What do you think the story is about?” and she says, “I think it’s about the wardrobe.”

“What about the lion? Was the story about him?”

“Well he’s in the story, but the wardrobe is important. Don’t you see? That’s how you get in. That’s why it’s the final word in the title.”

You might wonder how much of the story she’s read. But how do you go about identifying the core theme of an extended story like Narnia, Lord of the Rings, or the Bible.

What is the Bible’s message? Is personal salvation the main theme? Or is that just the bit about how you get in? Continue reading “What’s the Bible’s main theme?”

Parables help us get our bearings (Matthew 13:34-35)

Wisdom: learning from where we’ve been, to end up in a better place.

Open Matthew 3:34-35.

So why did Jesus speak in parables? He was revealing divine plans that had been confidential since the world was founded.

That’s how Matthew’s community understood him, based on Psalm 78:2:
I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter what has been hidden since the foundation of the world (quoted in Matthew 13:35).

But why did they think that Psalm was about Jesus? Was it just because the Psalm used the word parable? Continue reading “Parables help us get our bearings (Matthew 13:34-35)”

Infecting the world with good (Matthew 13:33)

How is the kingdom of heaven like a woman baking bread?

Open Matthew 13:33.

There’s nothing like the smell of fresh bread in the morning. Flour, water, and yeast go in the bread maker in the evening, and in the morning the aroma of fresh bread helps you rise to a new day.

We have it so easy. Back in Jesus’ day they kneaded the dough by hand, kept aside some sourdough as leaven for tomorrow, waited for it to rise, punched it down again, waited some more, and then built a fire to bake it.

Jesus told a story about a woman who must have been baking for a party. She took her leaven and hid it in three big 8 kilogram batches of flour. How on earth is the heaven’s kingdom like that? Continue reading “Infecting the world with good (Matthew 13:33)”

The little seed that filled the world (Matthew 13:31-32)

Open Matthew 13:31-32.

A few years back, our film crew sent this email from Israel:

Dear Allen. We’re trying to film a mustard tree, but our guide says mustard seeds only grow to be shrubs. We got some great shots of the mustard seeds, but now we’re stuck. Any ideas?

They were talking about these words from Jesus: Continue reading “The little seed that filled the world (Matthew 13:31-32)”

What about the weeds in God’s world? (Matthew 13:24-43)

How can God allow good and evil to coexist and not sort it out?

Open Matthew 13:24-43.

Jesus told some funny stories. The farmhands find weeds in the wheat field, so they ask if they should pull out the weeds. The farmer says, “I sowed good seed, so our enemy must have come and planted the weeds while we were all asleep.” Never in my life have I met a farmer who would jump to that conclusion!

Even funnier is the farmer’s response, “Nah! Leave all the plants growing in the field. We’ll sort them out at harvest time. If I let you lot pull out the weeds, you’ll pull out some of my wheat as well.”

There is no way Jesus could get a position at agricultural college if he gives that advice to his students. Why would he dream up such a story?

Continue reading “What about the weeds in God’s world? (Matthew 13:24-43)”

Calling all creatives (Matthew 13:10-17)

Why did Jesus teach in parables? Can his method inspire artists today?

Open Matthew 13:10-17. and Isaiah 6:9-10

Creatives know the struggle. How overt do you make your art? Do you feed people facts to change their minds, knowing the facts will drown in the data swamp? Do you inspire people with the seeds of what’s possible, knowing that most people won’t grasp your meaning?

There was a time I wished the Bible told it plainly. Just spell out what I must do instead of all that story and poetry. I was wrong, and Jesus knew it.

Jesus constantly went out on a limb, choosing the creative extreme. Not even his close friends understood his stories at times.

One day, they confronted him, “Why do you speak in parables?” Did you expect a straight answer? Here’s what he said:

Continue reading “Calling all creatives (Matthew 13:10-17)”

Who was the sower? (Matthew 13:1-23)

What’s the point of the sower parable? Is it about the soils, the seed, or the sower?

Open Matthew 13:1-23.

So what do you make of the sower parable? Is it a challenge to respond the way the good soil did? Don’t be like the hard path, or the shallow ground, or where things crowd out the word?

That’s okay as far as it goes, but it wasn’t what Jesus was saying. When he explained the parable, he didn’t say, “You are the soils, so make sure you’re the good one.” It wasn’t about you. It wasn’t even about the soils, although that was the setting of the story. The parable was about the sower and his sowing.

Continue reading “Who was the sower? (Matthew 13:1-23)”