Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Review of "Messiah in the Passover"

Messiah in the Passover by Darrell L. Bock and Mitch Glaser.

Since this book is a work by multiple authors (20+) you can approach reading it as a reference work. It is divided into five parts.

Biblical Foundations
I was looking for background on the Passover and how it informs Christianity. This book does that well and much more. I received my copy just before Easter so the information I appreciated first of all were the chapters on the Gospels and the treatment of the questions around whether or not the Last Supper was a Passover Seder and the chronology of John’s Gospel.

Passover and Church History
The Presidential Message on International Holocaust Remembrance Day (Jan 2018) has been in the news of late, bemoaning the fact that many of our younger generation do not know what the Holocaust was. This book should be on every Christian’s shelf for this reason alone. It contains a wealth of history that is directly related to similar events in the twentieth century that we call the Holocaust. For example, Jews were required to be identified by badges sewn onto their clothing by The Fourth Lateran Council (circa 1215).

Jewish Tradition and the Passover
Although the earliest writings we have on the traditions of the Passover are from the third century, the Messianic Analogies (p. 178) are intriguing and thought provoking.

Communicating the Gospel Through the Passover
The insights and allusions to Messiah in this section are good and communicate well. However more interesting to me is the idea that the words Seder and Haggadah have the meaning of Order and Telling. This answered for my long standing question, how did the Jews as a people survive for millenniums while keeping their identity as a people. I believe this section shows us their calendar and liturgy kept them united. There is a lesson here for Christians.

Celebrating Messiah in the Passover
Practical guidelines for participating in a Passover Seder. Complete with recipes and resources to guide you through your own celebration. I am planning to have one next Passover/Easter.

The end material includes 9 Appendices, 7 indices, a substantial bibliography, a good recommended reading list, a glossary, and abbreviations.

My take away is this, Rom 11:18 “remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you”

My thanks to Kregel Academic for providing me a copy for an unbiased review. 

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Hitchhiking Through Mark

This is a review of a book. Mark Through Old Testament Eyes The author is Andrew T. Le Peau. I had never heard of him but two things caught my attention.

1) He has taught the book of Mark for over 10 years at InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. 

2) The offer of reading intertextually, seeing how the Old Testament can illuminate the New Testament.

I can best describe my experience reading this book with a couple of analogies. 

1) Hitchhiking. While traveling dependent upon the goodwill of fellow travelers you are sometimes stuck in places where there has been little traffic. In these places previous hitchhikers inscribe their thoughts and ponderings on the backside of street signs. These texts tell you if you should wait or push off on foot. They give you a sense of not being alone, others have traveled this way before. 

2) Postcards. Everyplace I have visited I like to pick up postcards. They remind me of my visit and they are images I can share with others who have not been to those places.

The book is not technical and not quite devotional. It is a guide for learning and teaching Mark’s Gospel. More of a map with multiple points of interest noted nicely in tables and sidebars. I knew I was traveling in Mark but I didn't know there was so much to see along the way.

The notes the author has built into this commentary are informative and refreshing. You will go through the Gospel verse by verse for the most part. The brilliance of this author is the way he uses the many iterations of his teaching to pass on to the reader a rich experience. It shows. He points out Old Testament references a lot. Some of them I really appreciated, some of them I still need to ponder. All of them are worthwhile. You won’t feel like you've wasted your time with this book. Le Peau pays attention to the structure and passes on his insights. I found this really refreshing.

His bibliography is four and a half pages. Names with more than one entry are Kenneth Bailey, G. K. Beal, Craig Blomberg, Walter Bruggemann, R T France, John Gondingay, Richard Hays, Derek Kidner, Temper Longman, Alec Motyer, Rodney Stark, Mark Strauss, Willard Swartley John Walton, Christopher Writght, and N. T. Wright. As you can see the author has done his homework. My thanks and appreciation to Kregel Academic for providing me with a copy of this book for an unbiased review.

I recommend this work to students, teachers, pastors or anyone wishing to study/travel through Mark. The author, Andrew T. Le Peau, is an excellent teacher/guide. I look forward to future volumes in this series. Like postcards they will be worth collecting and showing to others who wish to travel this journey.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Thy will be done…

Thy will be done…

We have come to the 3rd imperative in the Lord’s Prayer. But I have to get something off my chest.

I knee jerk at the idea that it is wrong to pray “thy will be done” or that praying the Lord’s prayer is “vain repetition”. I have read some word-of-faith teachers claim that praying “if it be your will” or “thy will be done” is evidence of a lack of faith. The hyper-grace teachers claim that the Lord’s prayer belongs to the old covenant and therefore it is not for Christians. Both of these assertions are ridiculous.

Here’s why. Now I might step on some toes, so if I do I’m sorry. Soapbox mode ON.

Praying the Lord’s prayer is praying scripture not “vain repetition”.

Use not vain repetitions” is the King James translation, other translations say, “Do not use meaningless repetition” (NASB), “Do not heap up empty phrases” (ESV), or “Do not keep on babbling” (NIV). To suggest that praying the word of God back to God is vain or babbling is nonsense. The word of God spoken is powerful. “But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it” (Deu 30:14). We have been entrusted with the word of God and reading it, speaking it, praying it, meditating on it are all ways of learning it and keeping it in our heart.

Psalm 119 is full of examples:

13 With my lips I declare
all the rules of your mouth.

43 And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth,

48 I will lift up my hands toward your commandments, which I love,
and I will meditate on your statutes.

54 Your statutes have been my songs
in the house of my sojourning.

And here is a New Testament example:

Eph 5:18 &19
And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart,

Eph 6: 17 & 18
take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.

I would have to say that it is appropriate to worship God with His word in prayer from the passages above.

What about a lack of faith? Does praying “thy will be done” or “if it be your will” demonstrate a lack of faith? Here’s the rub. Insinuating that someone is deficient in faith because they claim not to know the will of God is also insinuating that somehow you are superior in your faith since you don’t pray like that. Well, how convenient for you. So then if you are superior in faith how about you just tell them what the will of God is and they won’t need to pray at all since they are standing in front of you, the prophet that insinuates!

What about the Lord’s prayer being a part of the old covenant according to hyper-grace teachers? Dumb and dumber. The logic goes like this.

  1. The portions of the Gospels before the Crucifixion belong to the old covenant because of Heb 9:22, “Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.”
  2. The Lord’s prayer occurred prior to the Crucifixion.
  3. Therefore it is part of the old covenant.

See any problem with that logic? (One problem is the first half of Heb 9:22 that says “almost everything” but I’ll leave that for another post.) The logic is built on a weak analogy. Every book of the New Testament was written after the Crucifixion. Every word of every book was breathed out by God after the Crucifixion. So by their own definition (after the Crucifixion) every word of the Lord’s prayer was written down by an Apostle directed by the Spirit, after Pentecost. So where do the hyper-grace teachers get the authority to place these things into the old covenant?

John 1:16 &17, “For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” Grace came through Jesus Christ. Forgiveness came by Jesus Christ. Hyper-grace teachers will tell you that there was no forgiveness before the cross because there was no “shedding of blood”. Well that is just not true.

Here are two New Testament examples of forgiveness without blood (pre-crucifixion).

Matt 9:2 And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.”
3 And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” 4 But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? 5 For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? 6 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Rise, pick up your bed and go home.”

Lu 7:47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” 48 And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” 50 And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Soapbox mode OFF.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

A review of Leaving Mormonism Why Four Scholars Changed Their Minds

To receive truth is a fundamental principle of Mormonism… Joseph Smith.

This work is the testimony of four scholars, all formerly LDS, contending for truth in a loving spirit of peace. If you are expecting another book about problems with Mormon history or Mormon scriptures this is not that book. You will find references to those things but the thrust here is to tell the how and why of the journey towards truth for these four authors. I encourage you to read on.

Dr Corey Miller CEO of Ratio Christi, searched the faith of his roots for the good life. Dr Miller answers questions most don’t think to ask about the nature and limitations of personal testimony. The implications of which are relevant for traditional Christians and Mormons alike. His exposure to the gospel of traditional Christianity made his Mormon experience feel like a “religious veneer of behaviorism” (p25). His working through these conflicts clarified his faith and he shows how we can have confidence in our testimonies. He clarifies the significant differences between the Mormon and Christian concepts of God and the plan of salvation.

Dr Latayne C. Scott tells of her heartbreaking journey from Mormonism. She was determined to discover the truth. Her journey led her to “Representational Research” a research method for reasoning or perhaps you could call it a hermeneutic for our mind. This tool along with “True Narrative Representations” enables one to rationally discern truth from fiction from error from lies. These tools Dr Scott explains very well and they have implications that are further reaching than just Mormon studies. This is a rich field to glean from for anyone who works with words. This section alone is worth the price of the book.

Dr Lynn K Wilder was a tenured professor at Brigham Young University. She has three sons who all served missions. She believed that the outside world was in opposition to the LDS Church and the Prophet. She never took seriously anti-Mormon literature but dismissed them as lies. However her position at BYU required her to wrestle with some hard questions about racist ideas in the LDS scriptures. This fractured her bubble. She writes that it wasn’t only these difficulties that led her away from Mormonism but rather it was her search for truth in the words of Christ. She doubted everything else. She found these most fully in the New Testament.

Dr Vince Eccles is descended from a well known Utah family. His upbringing was both wonderful and tumultuous. By the laying on of hands, after his baptism into Mormonism, his father prayed “Make him a peacemaker” quoting a section of Matthew 5. His father also instilled in him a rich imagination and a love of rigorous study. As a six year old boy he wondered what he would see if he flew a rocket ship to the edge of the universe. This was a good mix for a future physicist. Disillusioned by the LDS Church his search for the Creator took on a scientific quality. His boyhood rocket became a metaphor in his search for truth. Dr Eccles established criteria for assessing doctrines. He came through with three creed-like statements, God is One, God is Spirit, and God is Love. His journey of faith has been like his childhood both wonderful and tumultuous. Discouragement and a “dark night of the soul” eventually comes to all Christians. The truth Dr Eccles found and his dogged determinism to keep his rocket ship flying has enriched the Christian Church. His insights on the call of Abraham, the meeting with Melchizedek, the Shema, and the Golden Rule are wonderful and edifying. It is this reviewers hope that Dr Eccles will continue to write and share more.

Thanks to Kregel Publishing for a review copy of this book for an unbiased review.  

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Review of: "Walking Through Twilight" by Douglas Groothuis.

As a reviewer of books it is a privilege to write reviews. This one is special. As I read this book I realized I was peeking into private personal space. (mine as well as the author’s) As Dr. Groothuis thinks deeply about his experience and recounts them to us vulnerable and honest. Sort of like reading someone else's mail. An older brother helping us clean up the mess we made.

I am barely acquainted with the author, just a face in the crowd. But for you dear reader I offer as my review this open letter so that you may get a glimmer of the same experience I had reading this work of faith.

Dear Dr. G,

I just finished your book, “Walking Through Twilight: A Wife's Illness--A Philosopher's Lament”. I have to tell you, while reading your book, I felt like I was walking in your shadow. Although a shadow it was reflective. Dark yet strangely shimmering. Like when I put my John Coletrane vinyl on my turntable and it reflects the light coming in the window and makes it dance on the ceiling as I listen to “A Love Supreme”.

The reflections off your shadow leave a trail to follow. You have become a trailblazer and a guide. It’s not that I have never had a dark night of the soul, it’s that I have just barely learned to navigate them. Yet you are encouraging me not to just navigate them but to navigate them well. I suppose it is your gift to put into words what others can only sense. Thank you.

I need to tell you what touched me most. You mentioned the eeriness of lament and how opaque our situations can be. This description helps, it orients me to normal, or at least the normal of the lament. Your reflections on Psalm 90 was like a flash of lightning at night, illuminating the surroundings for just a split second. As it did I could see my lament wrapped up inside God’s bigger world. It’s as if “My God, my God why have you forsaken me” is surrounded in the greater “the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases”.

Thank you for this. I have already given a copy to a good friend and companion in lament. As our generation of baby boomers grow older lament will be more and more our new normal. I am grateful for this thoughtful and considerate guide.

Yours in lament,


Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Road Rage

Road Rage

I have a saying I tell myself and others as the occasion warrants; “Driving a car is like looking at yourself in the mirror”.

Mirrors have a long history, ancients thought mirrors were portals to the supernatural so their use in divination became widespread around the globe. They were used throughout the ages by the wealthy to help them enhance their beauty. Today mirrors are a practical item in every home. They help us prepare ourselves to greet the world outside. Mirrors are many times placed on the inside of entrances not just for decoration but as reminders of how we appear to others. Most of us make use of mirrors in private. Men shave, women apply makeup all in the privacy of our own space. Most of us drive our cars alone, as it were, in private and it is in private that we usually see ourselves as we truly are.

This is what I mean when I say that, “Driving a car is like looking at yourself in the mirror”. Whenever I go driving I can’t believe how many idiots and jerks are on the road! It seems to me that wherever I go the road is full of jerks in front of me and idiots behind me. Why can’t they just drive the way they’re supposed to? Or in other words, why can’t they drive just like me? After all isn’t my level of driving the best? Do you see now why I say that driving a car is like looking in a mirror? Let me add this, all the licensed drivers on the road have just as much right to be there as I do.

James 1:22-25
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

When we look in a mirror it is usually for the purpose of making a correction, brushing our hair or straightening a tie. As I said, men shave and women apply make up. James is telling us that just hearing the word and not doing the word is like looking in the mirror, forgetting what you saw without making corrections. Applying this to my story about driving, when I see the driving of all those jerks and idiots I would have to say that I am passing judgment on their driving skills. Right? I am using my standard of driving to evaluate everyone else on the road. My reaction to others on the road is a reflection (like a mirror) of what is in my heart. As a Christian I am uncomfortable with that. First, I hate being angry at strangers on the highway. Second, Where does this rage come from? Third, What can I do about it? I would like to make corrections.

James 4:1-4
What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?

Ouch! Is James really telling me that my driving behavior (judging everyone else on the road) is like being an enemy of God! My desires are at war within me. I want everyone on the road to drive according to my standard or at least according to my interpretation of the driving laws. I have set myself up as the standard and justify it by my condemnation of everyone else on the road. Ouch! I am upset with other people’s driving but I hardly notice the condemnation that is in my heart toward other people, people made in God’s image, people just like me.

Matt 7: 3-5
Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.

My condemnation of others and my unnoticed hypocrisy are the products of misplaced passions. I am in love with my own driving skill and my own judgment of others. James says that is enmity with God. I am opposing God when I should be embracing Him. Ouch!

So what can I do about it?

Heb 10:24
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,

I love this verse from Hebrews. It asks me to make use of a part of my mind that in today’s world we hardly notice anymore. It asks me to “consider”. I looked up the word consider in a thesaurus and here are some synonyms; contemplate, examine, study, meditate, ponder, ruminate. Scripture is asking me not to just think about this but to think hard and long. It asks me not only to consider but to “consider how”. I have found that when I ask questions of myself (like looking in a mirror) I usually ask questions like, “Why did you do that?”. My usual response to myself is, “Because you’re an idiot”. Not very helpful. I know that already, I’ve looked in the mirror remember? Hebrews asks us “how”, consider how. How can I change my experience on the road? How can I communicate to a stranger’s private space while driving down the road. Is there something I can do that will make a difference? How can I stir up others to love and good works?

Remember. (a word very similar to ‘consider’) Remember that everyone else on the road has just as much right to be there as you do. Remember that your anger won’t change the others drivers behavior. Remember you are in public. Driving in your car seems like you are in your private personal space but that is an illusion. You are actually on a public road that you must share it with others regardless of how they choose to drive. As a Christian this is an opportunity to display the love of God to those around you. What would that look like? Your travel time; give yourself extra time. You don’t want time constraints to bring frustration and anger into your drive. Give others preference. Let others go first. This is a basic Christian principle. 1 Corinthians 9:19 says, “For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them”. Servant of all, as you drive down the road remember you are a servant. Drive accordingly.

I would suggest that your drive can become for you a freedom and a blessing instead of a rat race. You have the power to look in this mirror and make the adjustments needed. This is where I hope you are “stirred up”. That you accept the challenge to drive with the love of Christ in your heart and demonstrate that by preferring others before yourself. Turn your commute into an act of worship instead of an act of hypocrisy.

Helpful references:
Romans 12:10
10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.

Philippians 2:4
4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

1 John 4:20
20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.

1 Corinthians 9:19
19 For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them.

Road rage in the news…

August 4 2017 Around 2 a.m., officials say Michael McCaskey, 64, of Kellyville, Okla., was driving westbound on the Turner Turnpike near Luther, when he swerved in front of a semi-truck.

An Oklahoma County jury chose to punish Samuel Max Powell, 45, with life in prison.
Police reported the shooting occurred about 7:45 p.m. Jan. 8, 2015, in south Oklahoma City.
“You messed with the wrong white guy, Mexican,” Assistant District Attorney Lori McConnell said, quoting a witness who testified during the trial.

May 26, 2017
Thirty-one-year-old Lawrence Finn of Pettigrew remained in jail Friday on a charge of second-degree murder. Arkansas State Police described the death Wednesday of 41-year-old Jason Miller of Alma as the result of a road-rage incident along Interstate 40 near the Oklahoma line.

OKLAHOMA CITY - The defendant in the road rage murder trial David Bloebaum has been found guilty of the first-degree murder and the jury has recommended he serve life in prison.
Bloebaum was accused of gunning down 29-year-old Jason Yousif after a road rage incident in the parking lot of a Super Target near Penn and Memorial back in September 2012.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Reordering the Trinity: Six Movements of God in the New Testament by Rodrick K. Durst

Rodrick K. Durst gives a marvelous gift to the Body of Christ, the Church. In his book he explores the triadic patterns of the Trinity in the New Testament. Dr. Durst took up the challenge to explore the meaning of the varieties of triadic orders presented in scripture. There are six possible combinations of Father Son and Spirit. Dr. Durst identifies seventy-five places in the New Testament where they are discernible and notes the context of each order and it’s implications.

In Part 1: Considering Four Key Questions, Durst discusses things like why does the Trinity matter? Where did the Trinity come from? Was the Trinity in the minds of the New Testament writers? As well as a very good chapter on the development of ideas about the Trinity throughout history.

The heart of the book is Part 2: The Contextual Question and the Trinitarian Matrix. Divided into six chapters each addressing one of the possible triadic orders. Those chapters are as follows:

Chapter 5: The Sending Triad: Father Son Spirit as the Missional Order
Chapter 6: The Saving Triad: Son Spirit Father as the Regenerative Order
Chapter 7: The Indwelling Triad: Son Father Spirit as the Christological Witness Order
Chapter 8: The Standing Triad: Spirit Father Son as the Sanctifying Order
Chapter 9: The Shaping Triad: Father Spirit Son as the Spiritual Formation Order
Chapter 10: The Uniting Triad: Spirit Son Father as the Ecclesial Order

This book will help anyone who desires to better understand the Trinity doctrinally as well as practical applications for living a fuller Trinitarian experience as a Christian believer. The book is scholarly but not written in a way that would keep non-specialists from gaining much benefit. The ample footnotes, very useful appendices, and bibliography are welcome resources. Each chapter has discussion questions and Part 2 in addition has what Dr. Durst calls sermon starters. To me they seem to be meditative synopsis with practical applications. Excellent work in my opinion.