Saturday, December 27, 2014

Book Review: The Presence of God (2014)

The Presence of God: Its Place In the Storyline of Scripture and the Story of Our Lives. J. Ryan Lister. 2014. Crossway. 368 pages. [Source: Review copy]
It is everywhere. We hear about it all the time. It is alluded to in the sermon. We call for it in our prayers. We sing about it in our hymns and choruses. For Christians, it is hard to escape. As I write this paragraph, I have just returned from a Christian college’s chapel service where I counted seventeen references to it in a fifty-minute service while, of course, paying full attention to the sermon, prayers, and songs. In fact, I think you would be hard pressed to leave your own sanctuary this Sunday without at least one reference to it as well. What is this refrain we hear over and over again in our churches, small groups, and devotionals? It is the presence of God.
I loved the focus of J. Ryan Lister's The Presence of God. The book promises to trace God's presence through Scripture, to reveal how our God is a God who draws near to His people, and draws near in order to redeem
Once we step out beyond the initial overgrowth of confusion and obscurities surrounding this theme, we actually find that the biblical path ahead is well worn. Yahweh is the present God, and the biblical Canon is a beautiful and creative story of how he fulfills his promise to be in the midst of his people. Scripture’s narrative suggests that the past, present, and future realities of redemption are inextricably tied to God’s drawing near to a people.
I love, love, love the book of Revelation. I do. And Revelation 21:3 is one of my FAVORITE verses. It reads, "And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God." Isn't it glorious to think about?! That's a verse that just resonates with meaning and emotion. 
This objective, though, is not only prevalent at the story’s end, but also woven throughout Scripture’s plot line.
God redeems us in order to have fellowship with us. How did he redeem us? By becoming one of us--the incarnation. 

The Presence of God is a book designed to help readers understand the Bible, to help readers see the big picture of the Bible. The presence of God is the unifying theme of Scripture, Lister argues. And it's hard to deny for the case he presents is a strong one! Lister covers books from the Old Testament and the New Testament. Does he cover each and every book of the Bible? I'm not sure that he covers all 66 books of the Bible--at least not equally. But. He covers the whole story--each major section of Scripture. (Law, prophets, wisdom books, etc.) Readers spend time with Adam, Abraham, Moses, David, etc. By the end of the book, readers will have something to grasp--a way to understand the Bible and the gospel story. In great detail, he traces his theme. God longs to be near to the people He has chosen. God hates sin, for not only is sin offensive and repulsive, it keeps us apart from Him.  God draws near in order to redeem us, to restore us. He wants to be with us! He wants us to be with him for eternity! 

Read The Presence of God
  • If you are longing for God's presence
  • If you are wanting a deeper understanding of Scripture
  • If you want to grasp the 'big picture' of Scripture
  • If you're looking for a simple but comprehensive way to make sense of the gospel
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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