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.  

Wednesday, April 26, 2017


1. The Parable of the Sower or The Parable of the Soil

In this series I am writing about two parables. I don’t mean to infer from my title that this parable is actually two, just that it is known by two names. First I will discuss the parable of the sower, then in future posts I will discuss this parable in relation to the parable of the hidden treasure.

The parable of the sower is told in three gospels, commonly called the synoptic gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke. The parable of the hidden treasure is found only in Matthew. As we look at the parables I would like to demonstrate a principle of biblical interpretation (hermeneutics) that I call Scripture Best Interprets Scripture. “Use the Bible to help interpret itself. Interpret difficult passages with clear ones. This is sometimes called the law of non-contradiction. Because the Bible is God’s word, and God is true, the Bible will not contradict itself.” i

So let us begin. For sake of space I will leave you to read the parable for yourself. I suggest you read it from all three of the gospels. It is the same parable but each gospel author tells it with some slight differences. It is my thinking that these differences clarify rather than confuse, more views give us a wider perspective. I will highlight some of these along the way.

All three gospels begin “a sower went out to sow”.

The first condition is that the seeds fell along the path and then the birds devoured them. Not unusual; birds like seed. I remember feeding pigeons as a young boy. I was fascinated by the power I held in my hand. These birds would normally never come near me but as I began to scatter seed they came from everywhere and some were even so bold as to land on my head and arm. So is the intended meaning that a farmer should take care not to waste the seed or is it to show how to attract birds? Hmmmm? Lets keep reading.

The second condition we are told is rocky ground without much soil. Luke tells us that the soil “had no moisture” So what happens to seeds under these conditions? They spring up but have no depth so when the sun is hot they wither away. Again as a young boy at my school’s science fair, I had to present a science project. Mine was radish seeds/sprouts, my experiment was something like this. I learned the basics of germination. In order for seeds to grow, they need moisture and light (but not too much). The moral? A lack of moisture plus a hot sun kills the seedlings. So wouldn't a farmer avoid this situation? You bet, farmers clear the rocks from their fields.

Third condition is some seeds fell among thorns and “the thorns grew up and choked them.” Have you noticed anything yet? Perhaps a progression? First birds eat the seeds, this is rapid they don’t even get to germinate. Then the rocky ground prevents the seedlings from developing after germination but at least they sprouted. Here the thorns are choking the plants. This takes a little more time. I planted strawberries about five years ago. Overall they are doing good. I made one small mistake though. I thought I was doing the right thing. I used my lawnmower clippings as mulch. It worked great the first couple of years. I thought I was keeping the weeds down and it did for a time. But slowly the Bermuda grass clippings I was placing in my strawberries for mulch took root. Now it is a yearly battle to pull the Bermuda grass out. The grass is choking my strawberries! I am not a very good farmer.

The fourth condition is what every farmer wants, the seeds fell on good soil and produced crops. So what does all this mean? Jesus’ disciples had the same question. Mark’s version of the disciples asking Jesus about this is informative for interpreting parables “How then will you understand all the parables?” Luke and Matthew record for us that Jesus intends for the disciples “know the secrets of the Kingdom” so shouldn't we pay attention to what Jesus is about to tell them?

i Lesson 6: Principles of Biblical Interpretation,, last accessed 4/26/2017

Monday, April 24, 2017

Review: REFLECT, Becoming Yourself by Mirroring the Greatest Person in History by Thaddeus J. Williams

How would I describe this book? Is it theology, spiritual-formation, Christian living? Yes, yes and yes. I once read that the fruit of the Spirit is singular in Galatians 5:22 because they are not fruits but fruit; one fruit with multiple facets. To have one is to have them all. REFLECT, Becoming Yourself by Mirroring the Greatest Person in History by Thaddeus J. Williams is very helpful towards that end. Integrating the characteristics of Christ in an authentic way to bring Him glory, the author shows, is God’s design for our lives and God’s means to bring it about.

Each chapter; Reason, Emote (passion), Flip (holiness), Love, Elevate (grace), Create, Transform could stand on their own. The author provides many notes and challenged my thinking and preconceptions in an engaging and stimulating manner. Like a good friend speaking to my doubts and intimidations he leads me to the place where I can see for myself. There is much food for thought in each progressive chapter.

There are many quotes that I could give but my favorite came from the last chapter Transform, “Jesus is not a sum; he is a fully integrated Person. Every one of his attributes can be used as an adjective or adverb to describe any other attribute.” The author also kindly provides a REFLECT log you can copy from his book or download from his webpage. It is a suggested tool that he has used for 10 years and it is sort of a check list or inventory to help you to reflect on the status of your journey.

If purchase this book I would recommend buying two. You will get part way through and think of others you would love to share this journey with. If you lead a small study or prayer group this would make an excellent addition to your times together.

I love to meditate on scripture; this book would, in my mind, fall under Micah 6:8 “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God”

I am very grateful to The Weaver Book Company for providing me a copy of the book for an unbiased review. I am hopeful for the books success and looking forward to a study guide. I will be using this in my small group.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Meditation for Easter

Meditation for Easter

Psalm 2 verse 6

✠I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill. ✠

Psalm 3 verse 2

✠Many are saying of my soul, 
‘There is no salvation for him in God.’ (cf. Mk 15:26-32)

Psalm 3 verse 4

✠I cried aloud to the LORD, 
and he answered me from his holy hill. (cf. Mk 15:34)
Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani

Psalm 3 verse 5

✠I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the LORD sustained me. (cf. Mk 16:6)

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Spirituality of Paul by Leslie T. Hardin

The author starts with good background on the meaning of the term spirituality. He then asks a series of questions about how it relates to Paul. How does Paul imitate Jesus? What spiritual disciplines did he make use of? Then each following chapter focuses on one of the attributes of Paul’s spirituality.

In speaking of Paul’s use of the Old Testament the author says, “There’s hardly a chapter that doesn't contain a quote, an allusion, or a rhetorical wink in the direction of something from the Old Testament.” (p. 28)  The author takes some time to translate (my word) Paul’s oft used phrase, “works of the law” and refers to E. P. Sanders work. I found that very helpful.  He sums up Paul’s devotion to scripture as a progression; from learning about scripture, through thinking with scripture, to thinking from scripture.

This little book (182 pages) is not given to a swift read. I made that mistake and had to start again. This book in spite of it’s size is best read slowly. Not because it is difficult but rather because it is compressed. Each paragraph holds much to chew and digest. So don’t make my mistake, read it slowly and allow the author to show you something worth waiting for. For example as I was reading I was a bit irritated that there were so many scriptural references strung into the paragraph. I thought why  didn't the author just quote one or two examples? Then I took the time to look them up. Wow, I am glad I did.

Chapter 1 starts the journey of Paul’s spirituality with “Imitate me as I imitate Christ”. Chapter 2 explores Paul’s devotion to scripture. Chapter 3 explores Paul’s prayers. This chapter is rich and where I needed look up all the references the author gives. The most mentioned theme in Paul’s prayers is for others to have “continued growth in the faith” (p. 49)  One point which I found odd or perhaps misplaced, was the author’s treatment of Abba. (Rom 8:15, Gal 4:6) He points out that Abba should not be equated with Daddy (he provides footnotes) but he neglects to discuss why Paul would use that term.

The other themes dealt with in the following chapters are Disciple-Making, Proclaiming Christ, Worship, Holiness, Spiritual Gifts, Encouraging Others, Chapter 10 is on Suffering and Hardin definitely saved the best for last. The idea discussed is Paul’s Suffering through the lens of the “Suffering Servant” from Isaiah 42-56. This idea is rich and hopefully the author will develop it further.

One very helpful thought given is about the tension we feel about the origin of suffering. Does God cause it or allow it? Hardin very wisely (IMHO) offers “Sometimes the question of my response to suffering is of more concern to the Father and to my own spiritual development than is the question of its origin. (p. 166)

The 11th and final chapter is sort of an epilogue. Each chapter is densely packed and this one helped to unpack and give pause to meditate and digest. This work deserves careful attention and there are treasures to be gleaned, but as I said before, don’t hurry through this one.  The author also includes 8 pages of bibliography. Well done.

Monday, March 13, 2017

i see the Glory

rocks and trees 
water and sky

beauty i behold
through my eye

light shines bright 
photons fly

i see the Glory
I wonder why

This image is not original with me I found it here 

I encourage you to visit that site and see the other beautiful images of Lake Tahoe. 

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Let Your Kingdom Come

(I normally dislike music embedded in web-pages but this was so well done I couldn't not give you the option.)

Let Your Kingdom come” This is the second imperative in the Lord’s Prayer.

Before we look at that imperative, lets get a little background from something Jesus did in Matthew 16:13-20. Jesus asked his disciples “Who do people say that I am?” The disciples began to rattle off a list of possibilities that the people had been saying. “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” Then Jesus asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Jesus is asking what do they think? And then he asks, “What do you think?” Most of us know what Peter answered. “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

These verses are a source of some controversy and division across denominational lines. I don’t intend to address that here. What I find stunning is how Jesus answered Peter. “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.” Peter did not discover this truth. It was revealed by “my Father who is in heaven”.

So then; The confession of “Jesus as the Christ” is evidence of someone who is living in the Kingdom. Consider the following scriptures; Rom 10:9 “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” Matt 10:32-33 “So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.” 1 John 4:15 "Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God."

Next, Jesus in Matthew 16:18-19 says, "And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” The implication of these verses are debated in Christianity. I draw your attention to them because I hope you will see that the Lord’s Prayer is a helpful rubric for understanding these verses. As I mentioned above I am not going to address the meaning of “the keys” or “the rock”, but I will discuss the ideas of binding and loosing.

What is Jesus talking about? Is Jesus giving Peter the authority to bind and loose whatever he chooses? This idea makes the imagination run wild with possibilities. So in order to tame the imagination I suggest we use the Lord’s Prayer as a filter, a hermeneutic if you will to inform our imagination and understanding. “Let your kingdom come” becomes then a helpful guide with which to understand what Jesus is saying in vs 20.

So then when I pray let your kingdom come, I am not attempting to affect conditions in heaven. When I “bind” or “loose” something on earth I should not expect those things to be bound or loosed in heaven. It should be the reverse, praying let your kingdom come, I am attempting to affect conditions on earth. When I “bind or “loose” something on earth it should be something already bound or loosed in heaven. As Tom Wright has mentioned in his book The Lord and His Prayer Heaven is to come down! "Think of the vision at the end of Revelation. It isn’t about humans being snatched up from earth to heaven. The holy city, new Jerusalem, comes down from heaven to earth. God’s space and ours are finally married, integrated at last. That is what we pray for when we pray ‘thy Kingdom come’." (Pg. 24)

What are the things that are bound and loosed in heaven? Here are a few examples.

From Ephesians:
  • We have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.
  • God the Father chose us in Jesus “before the creation of the world” to be holy.
  • God has predestined us for adoption to sonship.
  • The Father has given us a surety of the Holy Spirit who guarantees our inheritance.

From Hebrews:
  • Jesus Christ is our high priest in heaven.

From James:
  • Wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.

From 1 Peter:
  • An inheritance that can never perish.

Also the sermon on the Mount gives examples of what citizens of the Kingdom will look like.

From Matthew:
  • Poor in spirit
  • Persecuted for righteousness
  • Hungry for righteousness
  • Meek
  • Pure in heart
  • Peacemakers
  • Merciful
Pray that these things would be bound in your heart as they already are in Heaven. Pray that they would come down and be made manifest in our lives on earth for the glory of God our Father and our Lord Jesus.

I’ll close with this thought from Mt 5:16.

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

To pray “Let your kingdom come” would look something like this. Loosing the good works in heaven;
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Eph 2:10

Jonah’s Prayer

Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the belly of the fish, saying,

I called I cried
out out out
out to the LORD
out of my distress
out of the belly of Hell!

He answered me
He heard my cry

You cast me drove me
into into away
into the deep
into the heart of the seas
away from your sight!

Wait! I will look again
I will look again on Your Holy Temple

My life slammed shut forever
deeper deeper down
deeper in water
deeper in weeds
down in death!

What? You O Lord
brought me up from the pit

Those not I
ignore Your faithfulness
Those not I
love their self made ideas

I not those
render Yours to You
I not those
gratefully yell
Salvation is from the LORD!

Inspired by Jonah 2:2–9

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

A Useful & Engaging Introduction to Interpreting Old Testament Apocalyptic Literature

Too many failed theories that look to current events as fulfillment of prophecy should lead us to our obvious need for clear and informed exegesis of apocalyptic literature. I believe this book will help fill that need. Whether you desire to become more familiar with Old Testament apocalyptic literature on your own or in a classroom setting this text is a good choice and will provide you with the knowledge and skills to approach the scripture with confidence.

I would say that the target audience is upper level students of scripture that have had at least some exposure to biblical languages, but it is not required to gain a wealth of information for moving forward in interpretation. The author liberally shares helpful references for further study. It is assumed however, that the serious student will progress in biblical languages.

The structure of the book is straightforward and progresses in a logical and easily digestible manner. Don’t be unimpressed at it’s small size. In only six chapters of two hundred pages this little book packs a huge punch.

Chapter one answers the question “What is Apocalyptic Literature?” This was a challenging chapter for me because it is concerned with definitions that I thought I already understood. I had much to learn and reflect on. How can one be sure that what you are looking at should be labeled apocalyptic? “… it may be helpful to think of apocalyptic literature as a continuum, with some texts further along in their utilization of apocalyptic features than other works … Such variation contributes to the difficulty in defining what is meant by the term apocalyptic.” (p. 30)

Chapter two builds on the definitions given previously and answers the question “What are the major themes in apocalyptic literature?” This chapter introduces a wide range of apocalyptic literature from the Old Testament, intertestamental Jewish literature, and the Dead Sea scrolls. Each theme discussed offers examples from a wide range of apocalyptic literature. Chapter three “Preparing for Interpretation” is very engaging, after looking at the different types of figurative language you are given tools and introduced to approximately fourteen pages of resources that range from Textual / Grammatical resources and Bible software to pseudepigraphical literature. Although there is no bibliography in the back of the book, these pages as well as the generous footnotes throughout more than make up for that lack. This was perhaps my favorite chapter, a practical tool belt to fasten your study of the text.

Chapter four offers guidelines for interpretation as well as practical help to avoiding common pitfalls. Perhaps the two that I appreciated most are: the need for “a humility that admits the limits of our knowledge and refuses to go beyond the clear data of the text” (p.128) and the discipline to restrain oneself from making arbitrary or fanciful timetables for Christ’s return. It is right to anticipate the Lord’s return but when it shall occur is unknowable. (cf. Acts1:17)

Chapter five walks us through helpful disciplines and offering practical guidelines for preaching apocalyptic literature. Making the apocalyptic relevant to modern hearers requires the ability to between the contexts of the ancient texts and the modern hearers. The author offers his own outlines of Daniel 7 as an example and leads the reader to how to accomplish this task on ones own. With pitfalls and problems discussed he moves from his exegetical outline to his homiletical outline. Chapter six allows you to practice with two more sections of apocalyptic literature, Daniel 8 and Joel 2. The author offers his outlines for each and five pages of reference material to assist in studying these sections. Lastly there is an appendix of material that covers the development of Jewish apocalyptic literature as well as a helpful glossary of terms that are used throughout the book.

This book widened my appreciation of Old Testament apocalyptic literature and the skills to rightly interpret it. I think anyone seeking to exegete with skill and humility will benefit from this work. I would like to thank Kregel Academic for sending me a complimentary copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Hallowed be Thy Name

Hallowed be Thy Name

This is the first of three imperative requests in the Lord’s Prayer. An imperative is a command or a request that is considered vital, a necessity.
Hallowed is a word we don’t use anymore. I struggled to use it in a sentence (other than the one in hand of course). Here are a couple of examples from online dictionaries. “The church stands on hallowed ground.” “The Ganges is hallowed as a sacred river.” So it is to make something holy, to consecrate, to honor, or to revere.
So from this dictionary definition I would say that this petition of the Lord’s prayer is this; Make holy God’s name, honor, revere, consecrate God’s name.

So then Jesus is teaching his disciples to consider God’s name holy. But I believe there is much more to it than that.
What comes to a 21st century western mind when we speak of someones name? Usually we think first of identity. In Jewish thought this is the last thing thought of. “a name is not merely an arbitrary designation, a random combination of sounds. The name conveys the nature and essence of the thing named. It represents the history and reputation of the being named.” (emphasis mine) (

Jesus is teaching us to ask the Father (G-d) to make His Name honored, revered, and sacred. Therefore we ask the Father (G-d) for help to make His Name holy. That’s something He would want to give, right? I mean since I struggle with making His Name holy wouldn’t the Father (G-d) be more than willing to answer this prayer and enable me to fulfill this request? The first thing I realize as I pray these words is that I am unable to fulfill what I am asking for. That is a breakthrough in understanding. That is consistent with Jesus’ other teachings on humility and repentance in prayer.

I hear echoes of the Shema in the Lord’s Prayer. Especially in this petition.

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”

To pray “hallowed be thy Name” in my opinion is the same imperative as “You shall love the LORD with all your heart ...” Remember in speaking about a name Jesus wasn't referring to the letters YHVH. He was referring to the character, reputation, and being of the Father (G-d).

Echoes of the Shema

The ShemaThe Lord’s Prayer

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God                          Our Father

You shall love the LORD your God with                  Hallowed be Thy Name
all your heart and with all your soul and
with all your might.

Above you can see the similarities between the Shema and the Lord’s Prayer. For Israel The LORD is “our” God. For followers of Jesus The LORD is “our” Father.

The Shema is considered by Jesus to be the greatest commandment. Observant Jews consider the Shema to be the most important part of the prayer service in Judaism. The Psalms mention the importance of the Name of the LORD.

Psalm138:2 ESV
I bow down toward your holy temple
    and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness,
    for you have exalted above all things
    your name and your word.

God has exalted above all things His Name and His Word

When we pray “Hallowed be Thy Name” we are in agreement with the Psalmist. We are in agreement with the Shema.

We are asking God to fill our hearts with love for His Name in the same way our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ loved The Name. In fact we are praying with Jesus the Son when we say “Our Father” and we are seeking His Spirit to fill our hearts with His Love when we say “Hallowed be Thy Name”. (Rom5:5

Let that sink in. Digest it. Meditate on it. Marinate in it. You may also need to pray as Paul did in Ephesians 3 for the strength to comprehend such love.