3 out of 4 stars
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Lois Rader spent years using a reading guide for her Bible study. Soon she found herself not satisfied with that and wanting more. She felt the Holy Spirit leading her into a unique Bible study that encompassed over a year of examining the red-letter words (words attributed to Jesus). The outcome is her creating a devotional book titled The Words of Jesus. She found that when we get caught up in the narrative so much we miss the point Jesus is making. Each chapter is divided up into themes and have corresponding sayings of Jesus that go with it. For example, the first chapter's topic is "Jesus' Early Ministry" and all of Jesus' remarks from the beginning of his teaching years are in it. After reading what Jesus spoke, Radar gives follow-up questions to delve further into the meaning behind the axioms.
I found this devotional comforting and revitalizing. I sometimes have a penchant for skimming the story because I think I know the gist. But, because all I had was Jesus' words, it was easier to zone in on his points. The sole focus on Jesus' words drew me out of my own Bible study routine and gave me more insights into the scriptures. Background information is important in putting Jesus' words into context, so sometimes Radar would ask the reader to read other passages to get a fuller perception of what was happening. I thought that this was a useful approach to understanding the whole gospel.
Radar's study questions ranged from simple to the more profound. By simple I mean it would be "what do you think about this passage?" Some other questions would probe deeper, and I would often sit back and mull it over more. One such question was after Jesus speaks on the cross saying, "It is finished." The author asks, "What is finished? Jesus' work on earth or the old covenant?" For most of us, we at once think of his work being finished, but the latter part of the query is plausible too. Being saved by adhering to the old covenant's divine laws ended when Jesus died on the cross and in its place came salvation by faith in his name.
The author provides more information on the history during that time and the meaning of words spoken to enhance the understanding of the passage. In one of Jesus' famous parables, he talks about getting a camel through the eye of a needle. The "eye of a needle" pertains to an opening in the wall of a city and sheds light on the broader meaning of this parable. When Jesus curses a fig tree, its physical attributes hold the key in why he withered it. In Greek, the word "hand" means "power" and the word "right" indicates the hand we reach out with and which we receive. So, Jesus' usage of the term "right hand" is calculated when he declares that we should cut off our "right hand" if it makes us sin.
I wish I could say the book was perfect, but I can't. There were a few punctuation and grammatical errors. Also, the arrangement of the narrative was off periodically with the subtitles. The subtitle would be "Jesus is Tempted," but Jesus is talking to Simon and changing his name to Peter. Or a subtitle would be placed in between Jesus' words and the study questions. Sometimes the font color was incorrect. All of Jesus' words were in red, but occasionally, so was the name of the book of the Bible and its verses. All these though were minor, and it did not hinder my reading too much.
I give Lois Radar's book The Words of Jesus 3 out of 4 stars for its ingenuity and clarity in presenting a different way of learning Jesus' teachings. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to deepen their faith or are looking for a fresh way to study Christianity. New believers or anyone who is curious about Jesus' sayings would benefit as well. The Bible can intimidate some in its entirety and the red-letter words only being read for starters is more assessable.
The Words of Jesus
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