book review: If God is for Us

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A few months ago, I was thrilled to be added to the launch team for Trillia Newbell’s new study on Romans 8, If God is for Us. And yes—the entire study covers only Romans 8. I’ve received this question more than once! For me, personally, this study was a beautiful reminder that God’s love is fuller and deeper and more all-encompassing than I can fathom! I think Romans 8 is so familiar that we can sometimes gloss over the words and move from them too quickly. Newbell has arranged a study that is well-paced and allows the student to slow down and investigate more deeply these often-cherished verses. 

My initial impression was formed by the “Bible study basics” section, found at the front of the book. This is a helpful tool, especially for one who has not had much practice in studying independently. It gives simple guide rails for ferreting out the proper meaning of a passage and then applying it to one’s life. Then, the author sets out to show what this looks like, using the remainder of the book. 

The study portion of the book is divided into six week-long studies. The first week is different from the remaining five, in that its goal is to form broader context for Romans 8. After reading what I call the “journalistic context” provided by the author (who, what, when, where, why, how—as much as we can know, given current historical research), Week One hauls the reader through the first seven chapters of Romans. At first, I feared the daily readings would be too large to squeeze enough from them, but I was delighted to be wrong! Newbell asks probing inquiries about each text, then rounds out each day with a devotional and reflection questions. Each study session of the first week did seem to require more time than any of the following weeks, but that’s okay. The foundation was well-set by the time I turned my Bible page to Romans 8.

Weeks two through six were a bit less intense, in my opinion, and I appreciated the chance to nestle into a small collection of verses at a time, letting their truths seep into my heart. I approached each week as requiring six days: one day for the initial study, then one day for each of the devotionals and the related questions. It might not be necessary to pause between the study and the first devotional, but I felt it best, for my mind and heart, to give them some “think time”.  I particularly enjoyed the study day for Week Five, which involved a word study. I’ve always thought word studies are exceptionally fun! It is also noteworthy, in a study designed for women, that Newbell’s use of theological language was neither watered-down nor inaccessible. 

Newbell ends the book by addressing a common tendency: to absorb truths yet never pass them along in the form of evangelism. She calls the reader to toss aside our apprehensions and tell the good news! In my opinion, this was the best way to end the book!

If I had to change anything, it wouldn’t have to do with the content at all, but the functionality of the physical book: I would spiral-bind it! This book absolutely refused to lie flat, even after I man-handled the spine. This is definitely a first-world problem, I realize, but it did actually hinder the smoothness of my study sessions. It would be helpful to be able to lay open the book, along with other study materials, and not have it persist in flapping shut.

But setting aside that small frustration, I heartily recommend this book for anyone—but perhaps especially those who are in a more intense season of trial. (Though I always say that the best time to learn about God’s love is before you’re suffering, because that’s when you’re tempted to doubt it.)

If God is for Us is available in paperback and Kindle edition. Click here to purchase your copy!

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*I received an advance copy of this book, free of charge, from Moody Publishers, for the sole purpose of reviewing it.

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