Take Root, Bear Fruit summer sale!

Are you looking to take your Bible study deeper? Summer is a great time to invest your thoughts into the deeper truths of God’s Word. My book, Take Root Bear Fruit, can help you do that, with 9 chapters of study in some of the most theologically-rich passages in all the Bible.

This is a short book (less than 100 pages of text), but you’ll want to take your time and savor these dear doctrines of the faith. Study along with your Bible open and multiple color pens handy!

And, because I want to get this book into your hands (and off my shelf), I’ve lowered the price for the month of July…from $16 to $12. So order now! As they say, these prices can’t last forever! (Well, they could, but I’m trying to create a sense of urgency here.)

Take Root, Bear Fruit paperback book

Summer pricing Passage-based Theologically-rich Life-connected

$12.00

Writing for laypersons?

Meme by Dennis Bills, http://www.Reformingwv.org

As I begin the research and writing on my next book (Title TBD), I am struck by how much research is required in order to do justice to the topic (to be announced at a later date).

My first book, Take Root Bear Fruit, involved a modicum of inquiry into commentaries and tomes of theology, but I was largely writing from heart and mind things that had been simmering for some time. Perhaps that is the way of many first books. Certainly I felt that I was writing for myself even as I wrote to influence and persuade others.

Writing for a blog is a whole ‘nother thing. In blog writing, you are trying to be succinct. There’s a rule of thumb of “500 words or less” (I fail often). But in pursuing concision, I often am constrained from fully developing and defending a line of thought.

I recently found this meme created by Presbyterian pastor and author Dennis Bills. It literally made me LOL. Even in its humor, it pulls me away from the tendency to be pithy (and lazy) and pushes me to delving into the depths of the topic at hand.

Yes, this new work is not meant to be overly scholastic. But that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be scholarly. I may be writing for the layperson, but my passion for church people is that they engage their Bibles with their minds. This will necessarily involve some academic pursuit into deeper waters.

So, where before, I may have finished a paragraph ready to move on to another sub-heading, I now find myself realizing that I just opened a can of worms, and I need to explain it more fully. Back to research. I don’t want to short-change my explanation.

Far too much writing in the Christian market today is aimed at the lowest common denominator. It moves too quickly from doctrinal content (if any) to life lessons and morality instruction. If it quotes Scripture at all, it does so in a proof-text fashion with no systematic instruction. Lord willing, I will not do that.

May I not be academically lazy in my writing in the name of “writing for the layperson.”

New book – research begun

I’ve begun the research and writing for a new book, hopefully to release this year, but it may take me into 2022. I’m not ready to reveal the content or title yet, but I’ve pictured some of the books I’m researching for this project. Oh, and I should have included the Bible in my research as well.

Please pray for this endeavor. I am hoping that through this work, believers will treasure God’s great salvation more greatly.

And my first book, Take Root Bear Fruit, is still available. You can order it here.

Why a 1-year teacher in my life was the dedicatee of my book

When we look back and think of the people who have a great impact on our lives, we generally think of people who walked with us for an extended period of time. In my life, there are certainly those people. Interestingly, there are also those whose path intersected with mine for only a short time, and yet their influence was considerable. Mike Andrus (Mike Andrus, Council member emeritus of The Gospel Coalition) was such a person.

I was a freshman student at Miami Christian College (Florida) in 1974, the only year Dr. Andrus taught at the school. Mike recently wrote to me,  “More than once I have wondered why God led us from Kansas to Miami and back to Kansas in one year’s time.” I would say that having an impact on young students like me is why.

I believe my first encounter with Dr. Andrus was him presenting a message in chapel during freshman orientation week. He spoke from Isaiah 40 about God’s transcendence and immanence, using terms like “microcosm” and “macrocosm” to exegete the text. I readily admit that I have shamelessly “borrowed” his thoughts here as I’ve preached that passage. It even became the basis for the first chapter of my book, Take Root, Bear Fruit, and ultimately why the book is dedicated to him. His ability with the text of Scripture was like nothing I had seen before, and I was immediately drawn in.

My fellow students and I loved the way he didn’t just follow typical explanations in his teaching. I remember one time when we were discussing the doctrine of the impeccability of Christ, and the textbook said something pretty basic like, “Jesus was unable to sin, but was truly tempted to sin.” Mike read that and said, “Fat! What kind of temptation is that?” (“Fat” was a localized expression, probably native only to our small campus, that was a kind of “Christian cussing.”) Not only did we love his use of the colloquial, but the fact that he would question a typical understanding of a doctrine was a fine example.

At the beginning of my second semester, I was buying books for my classes. I picked up one – A General Introduction to the Bible by Geisler and Nix. As I thumbed through the contents, I saw chapters like, “Writing Materials” and “Manuscript Transmission, Preparation, and Preservation.” I groaned. This didn’t look at all interesting. Turns out that if I could retake any class from my college days, it would be that one taught by Mike Andrus.

Classes from Mike were more like dialogs. I can recall several times when someone would raise a question or challenge a point, and Dr. Andrus would rest his chin in his hand while he contemplated what we had suggested. We felt listened to and respected. I felt that with all my profs at MCC, but none more so than with Dr. Andrus.

There was the time that he taught on eternal security, and per usual, came at the standard “once saved, always saved, no matter what” expression because he didn’t think it jibed with the overall tenor of Scripture. He wasn’t denying the security of the believer, but that expression didn’t sit right with him because, as he said, “It does matter what.” Somewhat confused, I approached him after class to discuss further. Eventually he offered to lend me his notes. I thought that was the most amazing thing, to be loaned the personal notes of one of my profs. And it may have taken years, but I think I eventually “got” what he was trying to say that day.

The relentless pursuit of biblical understanding from the text of Scripture itself is the mark he made on my life. My passion for God’s Word and for God’s people to learn it, obey it, and teach it comes from the many teachers I have been blessed to sit under. But the most memorable was Dr. Michael Andrus. And it all testifies that God has a purpose for even those smaller encounters.

Take Root, Bear Fruit is the new book from author Mark Knox. It is a book of theology from the standpoint of key passages of Scripture. Look for details soon on how to get a copy.

How my book came to be

Many years ago, thinking about the question of biblical literacy, I asked myself, What would I think the 100 most important Scripture passages are? This resulted in the beginning of a list (which I still have somewhere). There was also some dialog with a friend on this question.

Fast-forward several years, and I began to think about writing a book. Eventually I thought I could pick up my old idea and modify it. 25 Bible Passages You Should Know was born. I even worked up a mock-up cover and selected passages for consideration.

I began to write and wrote the chapter on John 1:1-18. For the most part, the structure of that first effort became the format for all the chapters to follow, with some editing later on.

It was at this point I discovered two things: one, my first chapter was much longer than I’d envisioned when I was thinking of writing about 25. Two, I realized that some of my selected passages would form a theological framework of understanding the Bible, while others would form a historical framework. The two different frameworks would necessitate different writing styles.

So I decided to turn my focus to theological passages only, and my Table of Contents was now reduced to 13 passages. Since I’d been thinking of the term “framework,” I began to play with that as the title. Again, a cover mock-up followed, this time following a blueprint motif.

Let me add that the idea of doing mock-ups of cover art might seem premature at the early stages of writing, but creating them allowed me to engage in some right-brain activity, which was a break from the very analytical left-brain act of composing the chapters. Plus, I would print and display these art pieces as a way to visualize the end product which was highly motivating for me.

After writing about 5 chapters, I really began to question the product I was creating. Should I continue to write as I had been, or should I turn this book into something else? A friend gave me some great feedback that could possibly change the focus of the end product. Should I make a Bible study guide? A picture book? This could have paralyzed me but instead, I decided to soldier on in the form in which I had begun. Once I finished I could then choose how I would ultimately package my content.

As the result of some discussion with another friend, I made the decision to cut my content to 9 main chapters, organized loosely into 3 sections. I also went back and added some focus on the methodology of studying passages of the Bible. But it remains a book more about doctrines than about methods.

Finally, as I wrote the Introduction last, the concept of “organic” understanding of Bible passages came to me. I wrote of the difference between systematic theology and the expository theology I was writing about. Once the term “organic” surfaced, it changed the whole motif of the artwork from a blueprint to a growing plant. Even the color scheme on the artwork morphed into earth tones.

Isaiah 37:31 – And the surviving remnant of the house of Judah shall again take root downward and bear fruit upward – has long been a mantra for me as I learn and teach the Bible. This verse dove-tailed right into what I was doing with writing this book, and so the title – Take Root, Bear Fruitcame to be.

It is my passion to see God’s people transformed by God’s Word. This book is written out of that passion, and I pray that you will be helped by it.

takerootbearfruit.net

Bible reading skill: logical argument

Take Root, Bear Fruit

[What follows is an excerpt from my book, Take Root, Bear Fruit, Reading the Bible for an Organic Understanding of Theology. Look for its release soon.]

In our Bible reading and study, we sometimes lose sight that at its literary heart, it is a human book. The Bible, as the inspired Word of God, is a unique book, but at the same time it is literarily a normal book. The historical literature is written like all historical writing of its time. When Paul wrote his epistles to various churches or individuals, he wrote in the common means of letter writing of the day.

But, because we revere the Word of God, we have sometimes fallen victim to the forms that our Bible takes. No other book in our collection is bound like our Bibles, in calf-skin leather with gold edging and multiple ribbon markers. The pages are very thin, to the point that we can even see the printing on the pages behind, even though we’ve learned to tune that out. Some of our Bibles are printed in two columns per page; what other book does that? Some editions have notes; others have “cross references” in a center column. Some Bibles start each new verse at the beginning of a new line; others arrange the verses into a paragraph style.

All of these features, while good in and of themselves, have had the tendency to color our perception of Scripture. And we begin to read the text differently than it was intended to be read.

Perhaps the most significant feature of our modern Bibles is the inclusion of chapters and verses, which were not part of the original manuscripts and have only commonly been in use for about 500 years. This feature, while handy for looking things up and memorization, has not been without its unintended negative consequences. The very fact that Scripture is divided into bite-sized verses tends us toward only looking at the text as a series of sayings. As we said in the Introduction, “pearls on a string.” At best, we lose sight of the whole of the text. At worst, we can abuse the meaning of the verses by quoting them out of their context. This is why, as I said, this book is being written with a focus on passages.

One of the “normal” literary forms the Bible takes is of making a cohesive and logical argument. Instead of the analogy of pearls on a string, think of an unbreakable chain of iron, as the passage builds the argument. John 1:1-18 is one such passage where we can examine this form of logical argument. This is especially important because John 1:1 – “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” – is a common proof text for the deity and Godhood of Jesus Christ. However, false teachers, notably the Jehovah’s Witnesses, translate the last clause of this verse, “The Word was a god.” What are we to do if our doctrine of the deity of Christ depends only on this single verse? Well, we could argue for the correct translation and many have done so. But we could also delve into the full passage and discern the logical argument in which John is engaging. It is scarcely possible to proclaim Jesus a merely “a” god, when the passage goes on to assert that he is eternal, that he holds the power of being (“life”) in himself, and that all things were made through him.

John reasons in logical fashion to make his case. To put the argument into a simple syllogism-

The Logos (the Word) is God.
Jesus Christ is the Word made flesh.
Therefore, Jesus Christ is God.

The logical argument trumps any mistranslation of any single verse.