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Posted April 5, 2013
Understanding the Times is an exegetical commentary and study tool, based on Matthew 8 - 10. Precisely choosing the chapters immediately following the "Sermon the Mount", the author chose a text for six chapters that teach about the coming of Jesus present and coming Kingdom and how Jesus expects people to react to it. The two sections of this short work, the Arrival of the King and Understanding the Times, are meant to take the discourses of Christ in 1st century Galilee and move the reader and listener to do something with them now in the midst of today's crises and concerns, even on individual levels.
Taylor, the pastor of St. Helen's Bishopgate in London, and former Royal Army officer, wants his readers here to see that Jesus calls for people to proclaim his word and to offer 'gut wrenching' compassion to the watching world. So he does apply an approach where word and deed work together, driven by words spoken, but complementary to one another. This book is reworked sermons on the text, but it works well here, because the sermons themselves were exegetical and not so specifically topical to a particular congregation, that the general reader should feel out of place.
The writing is pastoral here, which means it is at times gentle and at times jarring, with real expectations asked, appropriately so, I think. The study questions at the end of each chapter are certainly thought provoking and should turn an individual or group to consider the text that Taylor is teaching on, seriously and with hope for long lasting 'spiritual food', beyond the discussion of the material itself.
As a tool for study, this is an ideal work, because the text is calling the reader to bring the content up to present day and have the Biblical text work on them in ways that they may not foresee. It is highly recommended.