we really could use prayer support

This morning we are sharing in a service here in Globe, AZ about the ministry in the Grand Canyon National Park – we really could use prayer support from those willing to pray for us.  its been a difficult process for us to be doing itineration – debbie is sick with a real bad sore throat going on 2 weeks now (last dr visit said it was just a normal cold…), samuel is getting sick too and so they are both pretty tired. We are pretty far behind schedule with regard to raising funds for the budget we’ve been given by US Missions – despite our going about things as we were trained to do.  We should be at 50-55% by now and we are not even close – i wish i could explain it.  i know the economy is bad (and AZ is among the worst hit states) but i really do wonder if there are other things going on that are holding us back – others who started when we did are well on their way yet we lag behind.   i know it isn’t okay to compare but we need something to monitor how we are doing and at this point, with me being the ultimate pessimist, it is daunting.

The ministry at the canyon has not always been well supported and this is unfortunate – it is one of the greatest opportunities we have to reach nations – millions and millions of people come to the canyon every year from all over the world.  everyday, thousands come and see God’s handiwork in the canyon yet many refuse in their hearts to give him credit.  some do, many don’t.   Additionally, we have around 600, sometimes up to 1000 international students living and working in the park for any number of months in internships – student from areas of the world where the church has not yet been established (or not well established) – they come from unreached nations (china, mongolia, thailand, vietnam, the philippines, egypt, morraco, turkey, the ukraine, to name a few).  right here in the grand canyon national park, we have the opportunity to impact these students with the gospel in a way they will not have when they go back home.  they come to get better english skills and experience in the various areas of hospitality service in the park to build on their resume’s for back home or even in and among other nations.   Already, two guys we knew from china emailed us to thank us for telling them about God for they now believe in him!   Imagine that!

So, we need prayer and financial support (we need monthly supporters) if we are going to continue on in reaching the nations.

Pray with us!

An interview with author Timothy Gombis

Matthew Montonini has yet another great interview with an NT Scholar – this time with Tim Gombis who recently wrote The Drama of Ephesians: Participating in the Triumph of God (IVP, 2010).    Here is an excerpt:

2. Your main goal in this book is to perform ‘a dramatic reading’ of Ephesians (9). Could you explain how this differs from the typical way Ephesians is mined for doctrinal truths in order to produce a coherent theological system?

Christians sometimes fall into the habit of reading the Bible as a resource for something else—something outside of the Bible, like a doctrinal system. So, we see Paul mention justification in Galatians 2 or Romans 3 and we call to mind our doctrine of justification and note mentally that these passages are ones that can be utilized when speaking of that doctrine. Any part of Scripture, then, becomes a collection of bits of data to be taken elsewhere and arranged along with loads of other bits to create something else.

But we seldom imagine that there are narratival and theologically rich trajectories in Scripture, even in Paul’s letters. We need to learn to read “across” the text to determine these trajectories and then immerse ourselves in them to see how the gospel that Paul articulates to churches in Rome or Asia Minor might rebuke, redeem, and transform us. It’s a far more compelling exercise to find ourselves as characters in these gospel narratives, trying on different roles and gaining wisdom for creative Christian action in the world.

Additionally:

9. After reading this volume, I realize two things immediately. One, pastors and leaders need to engage your volume in order for the message of Ephesians to be captured within their faith communities. Second, this is a book that needs to be read more than once, as there are many profound and practical insights of which the reader needs to be reminded.

What is your hope for this volume?

I hope the book sheds light on Paul’s cosmic vision of God’s redemptive mission and how communities are empowered to participate in that. I hope that it expands the horizons of readers’ imaginations so that they see that God’s salvation is huge—cosmic in scope. At the same time, it is embodied and performed in the simplest acts of humility and self-giving love. God’s resurrection power is overwhelming and overpowering, but we get in on it when we reconcile, forgive, transform strangers into friends, and love one another in the name of Jesus.

Go. Get. This. Book!  Enjoy!   In agreement with Mike Bird, “this could be one of the best books on Ephesians since Markus Barth’s The Broken Wall.”  Well, I never read that book but this is an exciting one for sure – I am in the middle of reading it and it is good!

reading as spiritual discipline

John Wesley is quoted as having once said:

It cannot be that the people should grow in grace unless they give themselves to reading. A reading people will always be a knowing people.

While it isn’t typically listed as one of the classical spiritual disciplines, reading is one of them – it is through reading that we can learn to slow ourselves down long enough to hear what others are saying both to us and to others and that through that exercise, we can both engage in the conversation (the present one and the one of the ages), and receive from others allowing them to speak into our lives in one fashion or another.

One author who blogs, Karen Spears Zacharias, has a post about this issue today – she met a Christian bookstore manager AND pastor who seemingly proudly declared to her, an author, “I manage the bookstore, but I don’t read.”   This is outrageous!  lol!  Who does this man think he is?  He is both a bookstore manage and a pastor and he does not read??!!  How?  Why?  Could we but wonder as to not only his own spiritual health but that of the congregation he supposedly leads?  Zacharias shares:

This gnawing in my gut is more than indigestion — it’s the disturbing recognition that far too many pastors have abandoned the spiritual discipline of reading. And I’m not just talking about Bible reading, although I’ve heard my share of sermons this year that I suspect were pre-packaged and downloaded online.

I’m talking about reading a book besides the Bible.

And I might add, and that not superficial material.  Mix it up and read deep too.  From the pastoral perspective I think it was Doug Stuart in his book, Old Testament Exegesis, where he argued that “the good exegete reads widely and broadly.”  Pastors and church leaders, let alone bookstore managers, need to be well read people.  Why?  Because readers are leaders and if our leaders are not reading, it will hurt their leadership.  Plain and simple.

So let us take heed from this example and once again lead our congregations by example and be readers, readers who read widely and broadly, leaders who are well read people.

Go here to see what Rick Warren says about Pastors and Reading.

The greatest hinderance to missions

says Christopher Wright is idolatryHere is a portion of what he had to say at the recent 3rd Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization:

God’s people today, like in the Old Testament, have fallen to worshiping the false gods and idols of the world, said the international director of U.K.-based Langham Partnerships as he spoke before the thousands attending the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization.

“Idolatry … is the biggest single obstacle to world mission,” said Wright, who will be the main drafter of the much-anticipated Cape Town Commitment that will come out of the weeklong gathering of mission-minded Christian leaders.

According to Wright, the three idols are: power and pride, popularity and success, and wealth and greed.

Many evangelical leaders, he said, have become obsessed about their status and power in the Christian church and have become disobedient to Christ in the process. They worship popularity and therefore exaggerate or report dishonest statistics to make themselves look more successful than they are Similar to the false prophets of old, these leaders claim to speak the word of God but really act in their own self-interest.

The Church was dazzled by these super apostles who boasted about their credentials and their impressive speaking and great popularity,” said the theologian, whose ministry was once led by John Stott, the evangelical leader who was the main drafter of the first two Lausanne covenants.

But the Kingdom of God cannot be built on the foundations of dishonesty and lies, such as questionable statistics of success, he said. It also cannot be built based on the false teaching of prosperity gospel, which distorts what it means to be blessed by God and does not properly teach about suffering and the cross, Wright added.

“We are a scandal and a stumbling block to the mission of God,” Wright stated.

Ouch!  But I think Wright is dead on.  There is a serious problem in the church when there is, for example, in the case of one congregation I know of, a 25-30 year gap between the time one congregation sends out one or more long term career missionaries, and when they send the next one out, if at all.  Maybe this indicates a shift in thinking about missions, but still, it is not a good sign.

I happen to know a few long term missionaries who are nearing retirement and they are all wondering where the new missionaries are going to come from, especially when missions conventions are either altogether non-existent or done in haphazard fashion where the missionaries are only allowed a few minutes to share their visions, aren’t given much time to interact with congregations and so on.

Why?  One possibility is as Wright is suggesting – congregations have lost the vision to engage in cross-cultural mission due to various idolatrous practices and attitudes.   I am concerned too this can happen as well when we sing the song “everybody is a missionary” because, as one Stephen Neill once said, “When everything is missions, nothing is missions” and when everything becomes missions then, I think, urgency to proclaim the gospel can be lost because areas of the world where it needs to be more strongly supported or emphasized end up loosing out, and then, unreached peoples continue to go on unreached while we stay safe in our nice big mega-church buildings patting ourselves on the back for being such good and faithful Christians, when more likely we’re just participating in a closed system of self congratulation and idolatry – which is what Christ Wright is getting at.

Time is short people, we can’t waste time on ourselves and our echo chamber conversations – the work of the gospel must go on and carried out with urgency and diligence.

Blessings

HT

Good J. Gresham Machen quote

as quoted in a book I am reading that given to me by a friend when we were down in Yuma a couple weeks ago:

The truth is that liberalism, has lost sight of the very center and core of the Christian teaching…. one attribute of God is absolutely fundamental in the Bible…. in order to render unintelligible the rest.  That attribute is the awful transcendence of God.  It is true, indeed, that not a sparrow falls to the ground without him.  But He is immanent in the world not because He is identified with the world, but because He is the free Creator and upholder of it.  Between the creature and the Creator, a great gulf is fixed.

J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1987), 62-63, as quoted in Peter Jones, One or Two: Seeing a World of Difference (Escondido, CA: Main Entry Editions), 53.

I appreciate that my friend gave this book to me – we shared with him about what’s going on here at the Canyon and it made him think this book and I guess he had an extra copy – it has helped me see that New Age Philosophy is on the way out in terms of its influence and instead warns us of the rise of what Jones calls Neopaganism.  Jones argues that “Western culture . . . is being hijacked by a spiritual ideology that I call Neopaganism” (p. 11 of the book).  Jones is effectively showing how and why this  Neopaganism is at the heart of radical environmentalism, various quests for spirituality, the more extreme elements of the social justice movement, and theological liberalism.

It’s a helpful book for me and will help me better understand some of the issues we face as we do ministry here in the Grand Canyon National Park, South Rim.   I think you might want to give it a look see yourself some time.

In essence there are only really two worldviews one can take on – the one-ism view that all is one and one is all and that through the one we can save ourselves and the creation – the old time pagan lie that began at the garden and which led to the fall of man.

Or two-ism, which is that there is the Creator and the creation and that the Creator (YHWH) is not the creation and vice versa – the God of the Christian Bible (YHWH) is the only true God and he is transcendent and apart from the creation.  He alone is to be worshiped, not the creation, which is the problem of one-ism and the neopagan belief about the world and creation.  We are not God or gods – only God is God.  If we deny the reality of the one true and transcendent God – we will fall susceptible to the lie of the devil and modern day pagan beliefs.  Plain and simple.

ps., the problem of neopaganism is why I won’t and don’t encourage people to participate in yoga.  It was predicted in the 1950′s by Carl Jung that Christians would be doing a baptized form of yoga and now we see it happening.  Sorry, not going to go there.

so I got my copy

of Dave Black’s second edition of his Why Four Gospels? book yesterday!  It is a gracious reprint of the book by Henry Neufeld of Energion Publications.  Thank you Henry for your gracious willingness to keep Dave Black’s book in print.  It is appreciated by us pastors and students of the Word who desire to know more of God’s Word.

Here is a description of the book:

In Why Four Gospels? noted Greek and New Testament scholar David Alan Black, concisely and clearly presents the case for the early development of the gospels, beginning with Matthew, rather than Mark. But this is much more than a discussion of the order in which the gospels were written. Using both internal data from the gospels themselves and an exhaustive and careful examination of the statements of the early church fathers, Dr. Black places each gospel in the context of the early development of Christianity.

Though Markan priority is the dominant position still in Biblical scholarship, Dr. Black argues that this position is not based on the best evidence available, that the internal evidence is often given more weight than it deserves and alternative explanations are dismissed or ignored. If you would like an outline of the basis for accepting both early authorship of the gospels and the priority of Matthew, this book is for you.

This will be an interesting and challenging read I look forward too – so far most of my exposure and understanding of the composition and authorship of the Gospels comes from reading Robert H. Stein’s Studying the Synoptic Gospels: Origin and Interpretation (Baker Academic, 2001).  At least now I have a couple books from two different perspectives and be able to get a better understanding of the issues.

A review is forthcoming…

New book on Ephesians – USPS edition

Remember the posts I did on Theilman’s new work out on Ephesians?  Well, Adrianna Wright of IVP saw my post and let me know she was sending me a copy of Timothy Gombis’ new book The Drama of Ephesians: Participating in the Triumph of God (IVP, 2010).  I was happily obliged to receive it!

It came on Saturday but I didn’t have the chance to post about it til now, nor have I had much time to even skim it – but it does look pretty interesting.  To be sure, it is not a commentary but more of a work from a thematic approach which I am fine with as I think these kinds of works do well to complement commentaries and such.

In fact I did notice in the preface that Gombis wants it to be a work that can bridge the gap between acadamia and the general non academic audience (Gombis earned his PhD at the University of St Andrews under the supervision of Bruce Longenecker).  I like that approach because it was written for the church and not for some echo chamber of academic scholars.  I know that sounds harsh but I think that some works can be like that when more often the academy needs to put out works that reflect solid academic scholarship but is accessible to the general audience.  This is as it should be, no?

Well, here is a description from the publisher:

Timothy Gombis has rediscovered Ephesians as a deeply dramatic text that follows the narrative arc of the triumph of God in Christ. Here Paul invites the church to celebrate and participate in this divine victory over the powers of this present age. In Gombis’s dramatic reading of Ephesians we are drawn into a theological and cultural engagement with this epochal story of redemption.

Additionally, he offers a new way of interpreting Ephesisans (from an author Q&A that came with the book):

Rather than reading Paul through traditional theological categories, The Drama of Ephesians reads the letter through the ending which is saturated with warfare imagery and rhetoric.  Rather than seeing this as some sort of rhetorically powerful tacked-on ending, it actually sets the interpretive trajectory for the entire letter and brings Paul’s argument to light.

Well now, this should be pretty interesting don’tcha think?  lol!  It different that is.  Many of us have seen it from a “Sit, Walk, Stand” approach but I think Gombis may be on to something here so it should be a fun read!

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Go here to see an interview with the author!

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3 part interview with J. Ramsey Michaels on John

Matthew Montonini who blogs at New Testament Perspectives did a three part interview with J. Ramsey Michaels on his new NICNT commentary on John.  Here is Part I. Part II. Part III.  There is lots of good stuff.

Here is one part that stood out to me in part one:

3) You have written commentaries on 1 Peter, Revelation, Hebrews, and a more popular level commentary on John’s Gospel. Could you give a glimpse on your process in writing a commentary, particularly with regards to your latest?

I work with the text and only the text at first, trying to discern the narrative flow, and forming my own impressions of what is going on. Only when I have formed these impressions and spotted the areas in which I still have significant questions do I turn to the commentaries and secondary literature to see to what extent these authors have the same impressions I do. Sometimes one or more of them changes my mind, sometimes not. As I go along, I notice if something I discover compels me to modify what I said earlier. Early on, I develop some sense of how long this thing is supposed to be, and try to tailor my comments accordingly. I have been pleasantly surprised that they usually come out to about the right length or detail – even though I confess, this one is a tad long.

Well, yeah, you could say that!  lol!  I think the good professor provides a good example of how we as pastors and or students of the Bible should be working with the text – work the text first on your own so far as you can, then consult other works.

a new book

Some of you are going to think I’ve either gone off the deep end or will frustrated trying to figure me out, as in, why would a supposed arminian read a book on The Theology of B.B. Warfield?  Yup, I got a copy – I saw it and thought about how he has influenced many aspects of American Evangelical Christianity irrespective of denominational background and decided to give it a try – should be interesting to say the least!

Here is a description:

The first comprehensive, systematic treatment of B. B. Warfield’s theology. This single volume gives scholars, pastors, and students a concise account of Warfield’s position on all theological topics.

Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield (1851–1921) was undoubtedly one of the greatest Reformed theologians in the history of America. As professor of didactic and polemic theology at Princeton University, he wrote extensively in defense of fundamental Christian doctrines. While his writing touched on the full spectrum of theological topics, it was spread over hundreds of periodicals, books, and pamphlets, and a significant portion has never been published in an accessible form. Warfield stands as a dominant figure on the theological landscape, but few have a comprehensive grasp of his theology, largely because of the difficulty of tracing his ideas through numerous sources.

Fred G. Zaspel has spent many years studying Warfield’s published and unpublished writing, and presents here a concise and coherent systematic theology per B. B. Warfield. For the first time ever, readers can, in one volume, access the content of this great theologian’s academic, sermonic, and devotional works. Scholars, pastors, and students will profit from the unique combination of comprehensive detail and devotional warmth in this systematic theology.

Like I said, should be interesting reading for sure.  Here is a link to the contents and chp 1 and endorsements, etc.  It’s a nice looking book too, hardback and nice readable layout.

blogging and preaching

I just wanted to post and let my readers and fellow bloggers (the very few who read my blog) know that I enjoy the conversations and more often than not some element of what we all (or you all) talk about end up in my sermons or teachings in one fashion or another (or at least how I understand what is being discussed) – sometimes directly or sometimes indirectly – there isn’t necessarily any one topic per se, it all just depends – some have helped me better understand the dynamics of God’s grace, that if often means favor, that God actually likes us and isn’t just tolerating us, etc).  Others have helped me better understand the message and purpose of Paul’s letter to the Philippians and even some conversations on the Revelation and even the Genesis narrative.   Even the conversations on the trinity help or get thrown in in one facet or another.  And believe it or not there was even a time I had our congregation read the Apostles Creed to begin the service!  lol!  (I want to do that more often).

So just know I may be a Pentecostal pastor but I do listen and try to learn from you all and either apply it to my own life or share it with our congregation (or those guest to the park who care to show up and join in).

Thanks for being there and speaking into my life and into the life of our congregation.