Welcome to the Story: Reading, Loving, and Living God’s Word is written by Dr. Stephen J. Nichols research professor of Christianity and culture at Lancaster Bible College and Graduate School. In this book, Dr. Nichols outlines the story of the Bible in four words: creation, fall, redemption and restoration. This book isn’t about just how creation, fall, redemption and restoration fit the storyline of the Bible, but rather goes beyond that to show why this story is fundamental to making sense of our own story. Everyone has a story full of different life experiences, but ultimately there is One story that supersedes all stories, and that is the story of the redemptive work of Christ.
Welcome to the Story does not stop at just explaining biblical or theological concepts, but rather teaches how one can read the Bible and understand the redemptive story of God reconciling people to Himself. Personally, I found Dr. Nichols book to be helpful as he proposes how the storyline of Scripture (creation, fall, redemption and restoration) ought to affect how we read the Bible, and love and live God’s Word. I appreciated the fact that even when the author gets practical he keeps the storyline of the Scriptures before his readers and applies that storyline to what God’s story does to us, and how it affects the way we live for Him.
The most helpful chapter in the book is chapter ten. In chapter ten the author gives helpful counsel on how to get started reading, loving and living the Scriptures. The most important points the author makes in this chapter are that it’s important to pay attention to the big picture, context, to one’s life, as well as to how to dig deeper into the Scriptures. I recommend you read Welcome to the Story to learn the storyline of Scripture and how the Story of God intersects with your own story.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Crossway as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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Review 2 for Welcome to the Story: Reading, Loving, and Living God's Word - eBook
Welcome to the Story by Stephen J. Nichols is the perfect title for this introduction to reading the Bible. He offers an invitation to all to learn how to read, love, and live God's Word in a deeper, more meaningful way. Yet he makes it so simple and refreshingly understandable for someone who is reading the Bible for the first time or for someone like me who has read bits and pieces here and there over many years but is finally beginning to understand how it all fits together.
Nichols puts the pieces of the puzzle together by explaining the biblical framework of Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration. He weaves personal narratives and makes interesting references to history and contemporary culture so that each chapter even reads like a story. He helps the reader to understand how the individual stories in the Bible with unique characters and plots work together to tell one Grand Story of what God has been doing from the beginning of time until the end of time. Better yet, he points to how God is not only the author but the main character throughout the Bible and how to understand where we fit into this true Story.
My favorite parts were near the end of the book. He suggests how we can see ourselves in the diverse characters throughout scripture. He highlights how God is the main character and His glory is paramount. Throughout the book he also promotes the value of reading the Bible in community. He offers helpful questions to ask yourself while you are reading any passage of scripture. Finally, he focuses on loving and living the truth of God in such a winsome way that you leave really wanting to start digging into scripture out of a genuine love for God and not out of guilt or duty.
This book is perfect for new believers. It is perfect for teenagers and young adults. And it is a perfect refresher course for any Christian who wants to learn how to simply articulate a Christian worldview and gain a better understanding of the big picture of scripture.
Disclaimer: Crossway provided me a free copy of this delightful book in return for my honest opinion.
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Review 3 for Welcome to the Story: Reading, Loving, and Living God's Word - eBook
When you read the Bible do you wonder how all the pieces of scripture are related to one another?
Do you struggle with understanding how the whole of God's Word can apply to your life?
Are you a bit intimidated by theology? Do the words soteriology and eschatology make your head spin?
If so, this is the book for you!
Welcome to the Story: Reading, Loving and Living God's Word is an easy-to-read, enjoyable book which hits on the big picture of what the Bible is all about. Creation. Fall. Redemption. Restoration.
"These four pieces to the plotline pop up all over the pages of Scripture. Getting the big picture of this biblical narrative helps make sense of all the various details in Scripture, as well as all the details of theology."
If you are unfamiliar with these major themes and how they are weaved throughout all of the Bible, this will be a helpful read for you. As we understand better how all of Scripture fits into these themes it affects our reading, studying and applying of the Bible.
In Welcome to the Story, Nichols also hits on important doctrines such as "already/not yet," the cultural mandate, incarnational ministry and more. If these are foreign concepts to you, this book will be a great introduction for you.
After giving us a bird's-eye-view, Nichols then gives us helpful tips on how to read and apply God's story to our lives.
Included are tips on how to learn to love the Word of God, steps towards a transformed mind, and a "cheat sheet" for reading the Bible.
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Review 4 for Welcome to the Story: Reading, Loving, and Living God's Word - eBook
This is an excellent book about the nature of scripture. Learning to love and understand God’s word so that is makes a lasting impact that changes your life requires more than just simply saying you will read it. You need to learn how to read the different parts, learn how the various types of writing and the different books relate to one another and the overall picture of God’s redemption of mankind. Then you need to learn how to apply all of this to your life. These are the issues discussed in this book by Stephen J. Nichols. He takes you beyond your eyes moving across pages of scripture to a point of absorbing the information in context, to loving the Word of God, to applying it to life.
Nichols informs the reader that the Bible is a story, but it is not a story ultimately about us. Yes, it is about our creation, our sin, and our redemption, but all of that is just a bit of the greater story about God and His Heart and His plan. Knowing this changes the way we read the Bible, and it changes how we apply the Bible to our lives. Learning to read the Bible as more than just isolated teachings and stories, and coming to see it as an entire story about God changes our lives entirely, and increases our love for the scripture. That is the point of this book and it is why you should go and read it.
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Review 5 for Welcome to the Story: Reading, Loving, and Living God's Word - eBook
There have been many books written regarding how to read the Bible, how to understand what you read and how to learn to love the Word of God. This short work by Stephen Nichols is along that line and is a good tool for new Christians as well as those who have known Christ for a long time. I think also that it will be a good resource tool for those who teach Sunday School or lead a small group Bible study.
There is nothing new nor profound in what Stephen writes, but he does bring it in a very refreshing way as he walks us through the totality of scripture and describes the best way to understand the Bible. He starts by pointing out that any good book has a beginning, a middle and an ending, as well as a consistent plot line. Well then he points out that the Holy Bible is consistent with that concept. It falls under the outline of A. Creation, B. The Fall, C. Redemption and D. Restoration.
Nichols points out that the Bible begins with Creation. God created a perfect environment for man to live in and to have fellowship with him. But very quickly after the creation we have The Fall of man into sin. That happens just three chapters into the book, literally just a couple of pages into the story. The Fall is the problem that occurs and the rest of the Bible is the story to tell us how God is going to redeem for Himself a people whom He can call his own and then provide them with the restoration of the sweet fellowship He desires with them.
On page 44 Nichols gives us a definition of 'sin' that helps us to see what the problem of the story is and what has occurred that causes the story to have to take a certain path. Nichols goes on to point out on page 46, that "we live in a culture that seems rather content to ignore our true condition." What does he mean by that? He means that we have fallen into sin and that we love to wallow in it and not really work very hard to correct our life's course and return to the fellowship with God that God intended at the Beginning of Creation. He further explains on page 64 that, "Americans have a problem, they read the Bible through the lens of their culture -- not as the Lord intended!" He then goes on to explain how best to read the word to help gain a firm understanding of what God is doing in His Story.
To help with that several of the chapters have a list of "Questions to ask" while reading the different styles of writing in the Bible. These questions are really good and will help anyone wanting to understand their Bible better how to ask good questions, do good research and understand the flow of the story through the Bible.
I think my favorite chapter in the book is Chapter Six, The Story within the Story. The reason is that in this chapter Nichols points out about finding ourselves in the lives of the different Characters who are written about in the Bible. He uses Peter, Paul and Mary (the mother of Jesus) as examples of characters who are human just like us and faced many of the same issues that we faced in life but yet God spoke to them and used them in a mighty way. This was a great chapter for helping to think through how to read about the different characters and using their life circumstances to help us better grapple with our life circumstances.
This is a very quick, short read, but will give you many profound ideas on how to read and understand God's Word.
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Review 6 for Welcome to the Story: Reading, Loving, and Living God's Word - eBook
I consider myself a child of the 80s. Though I was born in 1972, the decade beginning in 1980 would take me from the age of 8 to the age of 18. These were formative years. So it should be no surprise that what first came to mind when I considered the title Welcome to the Story, sent to me from Crossway for review, was nothing other than the Guns N Roses hit Welcome to the Jungle. This hard rock anthem parades the sins and sinners prevalent in Los Angeles before the hearers. The song points to the evil and depraved practices of citizens of the Californian city. Evil and sin are part of the story; but they are not the whole story. Stephen J. Nichols wants to introduce us to the whole story in all its completeness and wonder. Yes there is sin, but there is much more besides. Welcome to the Story – Reading, Loving, & Living God's Word is a book that attempts to encourage people, primarily believers but non-believers too, to engage their minds with the Bible, enlist their hearts to enjoy God's Word, and encounter life with Scripture's principles. In his own words, Nichols' book “invites you to enter in, to participate in, the story of the Bible” (17). Analysis of The Story, as well as practical advice, are the enticements the author uses to entice the reader to 'enter in' and 'participate in' the story of the Bible.
The Story Nichols introduces and initiates the reader to The Story, the big-picture biblical narrative, by way of literary analysis. As an English teacher, one of the ways in which I teach students to understand stories is through consideration of the elements of fiction. The elements of fiction are exactly what the name indicates. They are the building blocks of a story. The elements we consider in class are plot, conflict, setting, theme, characters and characterization, symbols, and point of view. In diagramming and detailing the big story of God's Word, Nichols focuses on plot, theme and characters.
The Plot “The story of the Bible has not just any plot, but the best plot line of them all.” (25) With this in mind, Nichols welcomes the reader to the story through a consideration of the plot of the Bible as a whole. Nichols believes that one of the keys to understanding, appreciating, and applying the Bible is a good grounding in the Bible's storyline. In English classes we teach students that a typical plot has 5 components: an introduction, rising action, a climax, falling action and a conclusion. Nichols mirrors these components through his 4-word synopsis of the Bible's plot; creation, fall, redemption, restoration. Nichols does a thorough job of this plot analysis and this 'big picture' explanation serves the book well in giving it a solid foundation to build on but also serves the reader well in providing a crucial idea for understanding the Bible and ultimately for understanding life. If after having read the book, readers possess this concept alone it would justify the cost of buying it and the time spent reading it.
The Theme The theme of a work of fiction is its main point or controlling idea. This is the cohesive concept of the story, the central concept of the author's narrative. Nichols introduces us to this element by writing, “the story is about God. God's ultimate end in creating and redeeming the world is his own glory. God's story is ultimately about God's glory.” (111) The author identifies the importance of understanding this theme with the title of the chapter in which he deals with it; “God's Story, God's Glory; Adventures in not Missing the Point.” If we don't realize that the quadratic plotline of creation, fall, redemption, and restoration are ultimately about God and his glory, we miss the point of life, of the Bible, of everything. We tend, the author purports, to make ourselves the point of the story which results in a minimalistic and misdirected life. “With God at the center, we live broadly and expansively. With ourselves at the center we live narrowly.” (115) Armed with the plot and the theme of the Bible, and thus life, we find ourselves a true compass bearing for life. These two elements of the biblical story dramatically affect how we read the verses, paragraphs, chapters and books of the bible. And thus they affect how we live our lives. This is a significant idea and Nichols elucidates it well.
The Characters Any great work of literature requires characters and the development of those characters. We call this characterization. Nichols draws the reader's attention not only to the story's plot and theme, but also to its characters. Characters in general, and biblical characters in particular, can help us make sense of the world says Nichols. They make the storyline come alive and hold our interest. The characters of the Bible, according to Nichols, have their own stories that “tell the grand movement from creation to fall to redemption to restoration.” (94) The characters in the Bible point towards our own life. We see a little bit, or a lot, of ourselves in them. We see how Scripture's plot encompasses and embraces their lives and we understand that we too are enfolded in this grandest of tales that shines forth God's glory. It is this chapter where Nichols brings out a crucial point; we are also characters in the story of God's work. This directs our attention to the fact that the Bible is not a work of fiction, but a real story. “We need to read the Bible in light of the people, real people, we find in its pages.” (101) Those characters, Moses, David, Jesus, are real people and theirs was a real story. And this is significant if we are to be maximally impacted by the biblical narrative. This is the real deal. Nichols examination of the Bible's characters and their characterization reinforces the work of Christ in redeeming and restoring the creation from the fall. This was a powerful chapter.
The Gospel Throughout the book Nichols often refers to the story within The Story; the gospel. Nichols draws our attention throughout the pages of this book to the central player in the redemption of humankind; Jesus Christ. There is a main character in The Story. It is Christ. The birth, life, death, and resurrection of the Son of God is the climax of this story and the author regularly brings that to our attention.
The Application “We don't passively watch the story of creation, fall, redemption, and restoration play itself out. We're not off in the gallery peering down on the stage. We are part of the story.” (132) Nichols wants to help the reader with applying the Bible to our lives. He follows the head-heart-hand paradigm by encouraging readers to understand and love the Word which should be followed by participation. The author exhorts the readers in a moving chapter to both proclaim The Story and be ministers of The Story. “We are to speak and we are to minister” (139). We must propagate The Story and we must serve God in The Story. Nichols' explanation of how one might apply his teaching and the teaching of the Word is both easy to understand and encouraging to encounter.
What Next? To answer the 'What next' question, Nichols provides some tips, tactics, and techniques for reading the Bible. He briefly summarizes some pitfalls that exist when we enter into reading God's Word. He then directs readers to pay attention to a few things: 1. pay attention to the big picture 2. pay attention to context 3. pay attention to your life Finally, Nichols presents the reader with some resource suggestions as well as some of his own resources. This is an excellent way to complete the book as it gives the reader something tangible to work on.
This book seemed to start slowly but by the end of the second chapter I was intrigued and interested to keep reading. Nichols is easy to understand and writes plainly but not without a bit of flourish. His thoughts and ideas are laid out creatively as is evidenced by the fact that, despite this topic being a popular one for centuries, he brings some freshness to it. I recommend this book for believers who are unfamiliar with these ideas, for believers who need a spark of encouragement in loving the Word, or even for non-believers who want to know what The Story is all about. Anyone who is involved and interested in literature would find this book valuable.