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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

"Encounters with Jesus" (Tim Keller)

TITLE: Encounters with Jesus: Unexpected Answers to Life's Biggest Questions
AUTHOR: Tim Keller
PUBLISHER: New York, NY: Dutton Press, (240 pages).

Another book by Tim Keller? This popular preacher and author has done it again. Writing as one who has benefited from an honest search about life's biggest questions, Keller lets the gospel of John lead the way. With his theological depth and biblical insights, Keller stands in the gap to bridge the first century text with contemporary contexts. Selecting ten passages from the gospel of John, the extremely well-read author bakes the questions with measured explanations.Beginning with a personal sharing of his own faith journey, Keller invites the reader, especially the skeptic to discover the answers for oneself not just to look for solutions but to come face to face with the beauty of Christ. He calls this, "Encounters with Jesus," describing how the skeptical student like Nathaniel who despite his worldly brilliance cannot grapple with spiritual depth that Jesus provides. Both the Samaritan woman (outsider) as well as the Pharisee (insider) encounter Jesus through different ways. Then there are the grieving sisters, Martha and Mary, who in losing their brother Lazarus, gains a greater insight into the Person of Christ, who is able to resurrect anyone. In the wedding at Cana, readers learn how a seemingly mundane shortage of wine becomes a sign in which Jesus reveals his glory. That very incident at Cana is pointing readers toward the grandest Feast of Feasts when the kingdom comes. These and several other incidents point to some of life's most pressing questions. The first five chapters cover questions such as:
  • What is the meaning of life?
  • What is the meaning and purpose of marriage?
  • What is wrong with the world?
  • Where and what is the hope of the world?
  • What about life after death?
  • What is faith all about?
  • ...
The next five chapters deal with something more tangible for us: How do we personally encounter Christ today? Keller challenges us to encounter Jesus through an expanded description of the Incarnation: Christ among us. Jesus is seen as the Overcomer, the Intercessor, the Obedient Son, The Victor, and the One who will come again.

There are three reasons why I like this book. First, it is grounded in Scripture. Keller has a unique way of letting the Bible deal with the actual questions of life. This is especially so for the first five chapters where Keller leads us through a Bible study with him as a guide, using questions not just to trigger our curiosity but also to bridge one idea with the next. What is most insightful is the way Keller puts forth his interpretation. For instance, the wedding at Cana may lead many people to ponder why Jesus even bothers with the shortage of wine. When readers learn about the way the sign is pointing to the kingdom and to the glory of God, it makes more sense. Second, readers are given both a philosophical and scholarly treat each time they read a book from Keller. He quotes from theologians like Louis Berkhof, Richard Bauckham, and Jonathan Edwards. He cites classics from Dostoyevsky. He shares insights from modern poets and writers such as Annie Dillard, Philip Yancey, and even JK Rowling! Not only does he makes readers want to read these additional references for themselves, readers are taught to look at these external sources with an enlightened mind. Third, I like the way Keller stands in the gap to make the ancient texts resonate with modern minds. Believers come out encouraged to dig deeper into the Word of God. Non-believers can begin to appreciate what the Bible can offer. The book also challenges standard paradigms and understandings of the very ordinary stories in the Bible. Honestly, for some of us, bible stories can become so familiar that it is tempting to simply gloss over the texts. With Keller, we get a dependable guide to look at the Bible passages afresh.

One can benefit most by using this book within a group discussion setting.

Rating: 5 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Dutton Press and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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