a couple of books

I am looking to pick up soon:

Incarnational Ministry: The Presence of Christ in Church, Society, and Family: Essays in Honor of Ray S. Anderson (Wipf & Stock, 2009).  About the book:

How does the reality of the incarnation inform and shape the nature of Christian ministry? What is the church’s impact in the world when its members embody the powerfully redemptive presence of Christ-in personal as well as corporate witness?

These key questions are addresses in ‘Incarnational Ministry: The Presence of Christ in the Church, Society, and Family’-a volume honoring the significant contributions and personal witness of Ray S. Anderson to a theology of incarnational ministry. The essays explore three central themes: (1) the church’s nature and life as the ministry of the incarnate Savior; (2) the church in mission and service, witnessing to Christ’s solidarity with the world; (3) the church in ministry to families and as family to all of humanity.

The diverse voices in this volume harmonize in a shared passion for the church to engage in the “hard theological thinking and costly personal practice that should flow from its doctrine of the incarnation.”

The Tangible Kingdom: Creating Incarnational Community (Jossey-Bass Leadership Network Series) (Jossey Bass: 2008).   About the book:

According to a recent survey, of the nine in every ten Americans who identify themselves as Christian, only a third of these actually participate in a faith community with any regularity. Many faith seekers have tried different churches, methods, programs, leaders, teachers, and styles only to discover that nothing holds their interest.

Written for those who are trying to nurture authentic faith communities and for those who have struggled to retain their faith, The Tangible Kingdom offers theological answers and real-life stories that demonstrate how the best ancient church practices can re-emerge in today’s culture, through any church of any size. In this remarkable book, Hugh Halter and Matt Smay—two missional leaders and church planters—outline an innovative model for creating thriving grass-roots faith communities.

Starting from nothing, Halter and Smay began meeting in homes, coffee shops, and anywhere they could. Their goal wasn’t to attract people to worship services, but to be the faithful church in small pockets throughout their city. Based on their experiences, the authors offer some intentional activities and habits of life that can help a faith community make God’s kingdom more tangible. Halter and Smay call for churches to take a leap from their safe environments of their buildings and truly enter into the real world—God’s reality….

I am looking at these two books to get more thoughts on the nature of incarnational ministry as it has been a focus of mine since Christmas and something I have been preaching about in our services using the example of the Lord Jesus in the “Christ-hymn” in Philippians 2: 1-11.  I am realizing more and more what it it means to follow the downward path of Jesus in humilty, obedience and with a servant’s heart, who and that not just the “leaders” of the congregation, but really, every Christian needs to be intentional in following Jesus with completely dependence upon the Holy Spirit, otherwise it’s just too hard to be a causal Christian. 

If we want to be and do all that God wants us and requires of us to be and do as followers of Jesus, we need to become humble obedient servants, just as Jesus himself was (a humble, obedient, servant).   Otherwise, we’ll just go with the flow and live nominal Christian lives – lukewarm and not on fire for the Lord.

Pentecostalism quote of the day

There are a couple of posts up regarding the question of what can emergents and Pentecostals learn from each other and it started with Tony Jones who will be presenting a paper on this topic at the upcoming Society for Pentecostal Studies meeting.   I don’t really know that much about the emergent movement, but I think know a few things about Pentecostals.  You should consider checking out the comment thread to learn some interesting things about what Pentecostals tend to believe (in a general sense).  Here is one quote that I thought captures a good sense of how Pentecostal see things (in general):

Pentecostals appreciate the importance of recognizing that not everything has a rational/logical explanation and perhaps there ARE other forces at work and perhaps followers of Jesus can change things through prayer.

To me, this really captures the heart of how Pentecostals see things in relation to the Christian’s faith life and practice.  This is true, we don’t always see things necessarily as having rational or logical explanations – I mean is it always logical to be one who gives their life working to help the poor, oppressed, displaced?  Also, while some may be too quick to see demons around every corner – Pentecostals in general tend to be more open to the possibility that not every situation has a psychological or social explanation either – there are spiritual forces of darkness at work and the devil did come to steal, kill, and destroy.  I would readily assert that such things as drug abuse, sexual perversion, abortions, and even divorce, and anger in the heart of many men are all influenced demonically in one way or anther even though we could probably try to find some psychological or social explanation for such things.

And definitely, we believe prayer changes things – for the prayer of a righteous person avails much!

Christopher Wright AGTS lectures now online

Christopher Wright of The Mission of God or Knowing God the Father, Knowing Jesus, Knowing the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament fame  spoke at the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary last week, Jan 19-21, 2010.  His lectures are now uploaded to the Seminary website for public listening (scroll to bottom of the page for the list of audio files).

Happy Listening.

on over interpreting the Bible….

Kevin Vanhoozer wrote:

Literary theorists are divided, however, as to the role of the reader with regard to interpretation. Umberto Eco recently gave a series of lectures at Cambridge University on “overinterpretation” in which he suggested that the right of readers have recently eclipsed the right of texts, to the point where the text cannot “talk back” but must meekly submit to whatever interpretation is foisted upon it by the enthusiastic interpreter. What are the limits to what readers should be doing with texts? The following typology distinguishes various approaches to interpretation on the basis of the degree, and nature, of the reader’s interpretive activity.

In other words, we can’t just make the Bible say whatever we want it to.  There are limits and boundaries that need to be imposed when we interpret the Bible – there aren’t hundreds of levels of meaning or hundreds of ways to understand the Bible.  There are only a few at the most.  Coming up with lots of different meanings and interpretations is what happens when we “overinterpret” the Bible.  Remember, some interpretations can be false.

Instead, he suggests we need to both understand the text, and overstand the text:

Our responsibility to the text is two-fold: we are to seek its meaning (=understanding) and ascertain its significance (=overstanding). Understanding means grasping the sense-potential of the text as opposed to our readerly interests. The initial aim of understanding is to recover the text’s primary communicative intention, its implied meaning….. Secondly, “overstanding.” Because readers inhabit their own contexts, their questions and interests may not always coincide with those of the text. Now it is only proper that readers inquire about the continued ability of a text to speak to new situations. When I impose my questions on a text, I am trying to “overstand” it. But, and this is crucial, readers can only ascertain the continuing significance of a text (i.e., its ability to respond to our aims and interests and to address our world), after the preliminary act of justice and understanding that we have just described.

The purpose of overstanding is to allow the world of the text to penetrate our world. Ascertaining a text’s significance and applying its meaning to our context is a way of honoring the text. Overstanding remains at the service of understanding, for the reason that we seek answers to our questions is so that we can follow the text into our context. Understanding occurs when we succeed in grasping the intentions of another mind. The Bible is overinterpreted only when one overstands without having first understood.

You overinterpret the text when you impose your own questions and ideas on the text without first understanding the text on its own terms.  Make sense now?

So to conclude he asserts:

Biblical interpretation is not over when we have grasped with our minds the implied and applied meaning of the text. Interpretation remains incomplete until we respond to the text, until we allow the meaning to move from page to practice. “To follow” something means not only to understand it but to go along with it. We must put feet on our hermeneutics; the good reader walks differently after conversing with the text. As W. Beardslee observed, a literary style generates a style of life. It is not enough to hear or even to understand God’s Word; it must be done. We do or “perform” God’s Word when we grasp its implied meaning and appropriate or apply it in our present contexts. The reader is indeed active, but interpretive activity must be governed by the ethical virtues of justice and respect and by the theological virtues of humility and love. Is the Bible being overinterpreted? If biblical interpretation excludes this performative dimension, we may well decide that the Bible is not being interpreted enough.

So I think I understood what he was saying.  Do you?

new book giveaway

From an email from:

Adam J. Sabados

Marketing Services Coordinator

Tyndale House Publishers

—————————-

Dear TBN Blogger,

As a faithful blogger and Tyndale supporter I just wanted to give you some information on the exciting launch of our new Tyndale.com website.  On February 1st we will be introducing a newly designed, more user friendly, and information packed site.

As a blogger and social media user here are some exciting features that can benefit you:

–          Links to all of Tyndale’s social media sites

–          A list of all Tyndale authors and their blogs, Facebook and Twitter accounts, etc.

–          A place where you can share stories about Tyndale products that have had an effect on your life

–          Under product details you can post reviews with a link to your own blog so others can see the exciting other books you’ve been reviewing

To celebrate the launch of this new site, Tyndale is giving away four books a day in the following categories: Fiction, Non-Fiction, Bibles, and Kids.

All you have to do is visit the site to sign up.  If you don’t win one day, keep coming back to sign up!

Feel free to pass this information along to your friends, family, blog readers, Facebook friends, or Twitter followers.  Don’t feel obligated to pass this information along, but please visit www.tyndale.com starting on February 1st for a chance to win!

I have attached a Tyndale 30 day launch celebration logo to this email – feel free to post it anywhere and everywhere.

If you have any questions feel free to email me or follow me on Twitter (@adamsab).

Thank you and God Bless!

———————-

!If you’re into all this, head on over and check it out

on caring for the poor

this is what Mark Sanford’s Lt Governor Andre Bauer had to say:

“My grandmother was not a highly educated woman, but she told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals. You know why? Because they breed! You’re facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a person ample food supply. They will reproduce, especially ones that don’t think too much further than that.”

I wonder, is he friends with Pat Robertson?   Shame on you Bauer.  Have some compassion.  Jesus said there would always be poor people – so help them.  While certainly there are some who take advantage of the system, there are not a few who are poor by no fault of their own, especially children Mr Bauer.  Shame on you for such a crude, insensitive, immoral comment.

the Superbowl

I’m pretty sure the Colts will take it – but I’ll be rooting for the Saints!  I always like the underdog wins kinds of stories.  And this being the Saints first time to the Superbowl, I’d love to see them take the cake!

Book Review: Faithful Preaching

Many thanks to Jim Baird of Broadman & Holman Academic for this review copy of Tony Merida’s recent work: Faithful Preaching: Declaring Scripture with Responsibility, Passion, and Authenticity (Broadman & Holman, 2009).

In writing Faithful preaching, Merida’s main audience is those who have entered, or are preparing to enter, the ministry of the Word.  He has “an eye toward the younger generation of preachers who face the pressures of performance-driven, man-centered, and shallow Christianity” (xv).  But really, it’s a good book for any pastor, chaplain or Bible teacher interested in improving his or her preaching and teaching.   For Merida, the end goal is not to be flashy but faithful in one’s preaching of the Word of God.

What is faithful preaching?

Faithful preaching is the responsible, passionate, and authentic declaration of the Christ-exalting Scriptures, by the power of the Spirit, for the glory of the Triune God.

One thing that impressed me was that Merida included the person of the Holy Spirit in his definition of  and explanation of preaching.   He devoted an entire chapter to the person of the Holy Spirit who calls, confirms, and empowers the person who publically proclaims the Word of God.  This is not something you see that often in preaching books and when you do, the role of the Spirit in preaching tends to be treated in a limited way.

What is the role of the Spirit in preaching? First, there is the call to preach.  “There must be an actual call to preach” (45).  That call must be both internal and external.   Aspects of the internal calling involve “a sense of leading, purpose, and growing commitment” (49).  There is also the external calling which has to do with the “affirmation of spiritually mature Christians” (49).  Merida asserts that “spiritual leaders are identified by other spiritual leaders” (49).  And certainly this process should confirm the inward sense of calling.  One way to know you are called to public proclamation of the Word of God is through acknowledgement of such by those mature Christians in your life and or faith community, e.g., elders.

While describing the nature of the Spirit in preaching can be difficult, Merida recognizes that it is not that preachers don’t believe in the Spirit’s operation, but rather they “often fail to experientially depend upon him” (51).  At issue here is the fact that so many insist that we need to stick to the objective source of truth, the Scriptures and that is enough.  But what preachers need to realize is that parsing verbs and giving running commentaries on a passage isn’t enough to change and transform lives – rather another element is needed, namely the subjective work of the Holy Spirit (51).  This is what will ultimately transform lives, and this is the primary work of the Spirit in the preaching task.

But this isn’t all – the more we emphasize the glory of God in the pulpit – the more we will sense the work of the Spirit in and through our preaching.   “Spirit Empowered preaching is God-centered and Christ-exalting because the Spirit glorifies Christ and makes the glory of God known” (56).

Part two emphasizes faithfulness to the Word of God.  Here Merida focuses on the nuts and bolts of putting together an expository sermon, for that is what he sees as the best means of faithful preaching.  Here you can see him utilizing elements of the inductive method of Bible study as he encourages observation of the text asking “what does it say?” with a heavy emphasis on the text and its context.  He also encourages diagraming the text, which will greatly aid in observation and interpretation (i.e., understanding the passage).

In addition to the typical approach of observation, interpretation, application, Merida adds redemptive integration – making note of the redemptive focus of the text: is the gospel related to in the passage of focus?  If so, how? and if so, find a way to integrate it into the sermon or teaching.  The purpose of redemptive integration Merida asserts:

It is both theological and exegetical….The purpose of integrating biblical theology to exegesis is to look for redemptive themes and Christological connections that display the unity of the Bible.  Jesus said that the Scriptures testify about Him in some way (Luke 24:27).  To miss the redemptive connection is to miss an important piece in interpretation.  So, we must changes lenses from a microscope… to a wide angle lens.  The grace of God should be integrated naturally, not artificially in exegesis, and woven throughout in the application of your sermon (71).

Indeed.  While not every passage is Christological and not every passage redemptive, I agree that if there is opportunity to reflect on a redemptive theme, then the preacher should not hesitate to make note of it.  There is nothing more important than the gospel and we should be quick to highlight it.

Part three emphasizes faithfulness to the call of God.  The discussion relates to the person of the preacher in the importance of watching one’s life and doctrine closely.  While no one is perfect, those who teach and preach the Word of God, are held to a higher standard.  What good is the preaching and teaching if the preacher himself is not up to par in his own relationship with the Lord and (so far as it is possible with him or her) with other people?  While we are all human and “make mistakes” (i.e., sin) no pastor should have too many obviously glaring and problematic sins in one’s personal life.  For example, no p*rn, no adultery.  While we all may get angry from time to time, no Pastor should allow anger to take control of him or her, to the point that affects his or her ability to fulfill his or her vocation.  Don’t lie, don’t cheat on taxes, that sort of thing.  As do all Christians, those in vocational ministry or those aspiring to such need to train themselves in godliness.  You have to work it and keep it at the forefront of all you say and do.  Read the Word, pray a lot, practice spiritual disciplines.  He also strongly encourages the memorization of Scripture and not just a verse here and there, but whole books of the Bible.  

Part four emphasizes faithfulness to the mission of God as it relates to preaching.  Given the levels of biblical illiteracy in our culture today (and given that knowing the Bible well is not high on the list of many peoples life goals) the Preacher needs to think much like a missionary in a cross cultural situation.   The goal of the preacher is the preach the word authentically and passionately in a way that connects with people.  In our post-modern, post Christian culture, people get upset at others trying to persuade them of the truth – Merida encourages the reader that it is okay to persuade people about truth.  Certainly, it is the power of the Spirit that changes hearts but this should not stop us from giving sound reasoning for belief in the gospel. 

Merida encourages the reader to contend for the gospel. There are many who seek to pervert the truth of the Word of God and it is the job of the preacher to contend against these things through clear, specific, well informed, and apologetic preaching of the Word.

So much more could be said, and while no book is perfect, I think Tony Merida did well to write this book in the way he wants us to preach: clearly, boldly, faithfully!  I heartily recommend those interested in fine tuning their preaching to not hesitate in picking up a copy of Faithful Preaching.

Thought for the day: The Holy Spirit is God

Tom McDaniel, at What’s Next God? is blogging through Francis Chan’s book Forgotten God: Reversing our Tragic neglect of the Holy Spirit (David. C. Cook, 2009).  He’s doing a good job too!  In three separate post he does a series “Theology of the Holy Spirit.”  Part I; Part II; Part III.  In Part I covers some attributes of the Spirit and one point stuck out to me:

The Holy Spirit is God.

Again, Mr. Chan does a brilliant job describing the Holy Spirit. He is not a lessor or different kind of Being than God the Father or God the Son. The Spirit is God. When we forget about the Spirit, we really are forgetting about God.

OuchThis bears repeating: When we forget about the Spirit, we really are forgetting about God!!   This is a very serious assertion – but one that needs to be considered and taken to heart.  I think even sometimes Pentecostals, and more so those in the Charismania and Third Wave movements, how we treat the Holy Spirit often reflects our understanding of his diety and role within the Triune Godhead

When we abuse the gifts (use them for selfish gain or attention, or to control others) and prance around and crawl around barking like dogs, laughing like Hyenas claiming it is a manifestation of the Spirit – whoa, that is serious and, frankly, I am surpised more haven’t been struck by the hand of God for their irreverence.  But we are in an era of grace and God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world but that it might be saved through him, I guess that’s the scandal of grace.

But, when we respect the person and work of the sovereign Spirit of God in the life of the believer and in the community of faith, the proper response is to give room for the Spirit to move and manifest his presence in our hearts and in our midst.  Usually, the most powerful way this is done is in quiet reverence, a waiting upon the Spirit, both individually and corporately.  Certainly there will be some emotion such as tears (not mournful) or a sense for the need to be solemn or joyful yet not boisterous or loud.  When this happens there are times when one can literally feel his presence – sometimes its a lightness, sometimes its a heaviness such that one can hardly stand – it can vary.   Other times, it is in the midst of worship and joyful celebration with shouts of praise and some dancing in the aisles, even some laughter but not the outofcontrolyouthinkyou’reRodneyHowardBrowne junk. 

All that to say, let’s take this to heart: When we forget about the Spirit, we really are forgetting about God.

Roe v. Wade

Today, Jan 22,2010 is the 37th anniversary of the date mass murder of babies in the United States began – one that makes Pharoah efforts to wipe out the male Hebrew babies in ancient Egypt, look like miniscule.   Here are some links to visit:

According to The Guttmacher Institute:

There are approximately some 42 million abortions a year worldwide with some 1.37 million of those happening in America. 

Since 1973 though to 2008 45 million induced abortions have been performed in the US.

Think abortions are limited to non Christians?  Think again.  According to The Gutmacher Institute’s studies, 43% of abortions are to women who identify themselves as Protestant, while 27% are performed on Catholic women. 

The greatest incidence of abortions occur among the poor. 

It’s a tragedy.  A holocaust really.  And we wonder why we’re having so many issues in America? 

Here are some other links to visit:

Overturning and Undermining Roe v. Wade: An Interview with Clarke Forsythe (via Justin Taylor)

Why should Roe v. Wade be overruled?

It authorizes the homicide of the unborn child as national policy, a national “right.” It means abortion on demand nationwide as a practical matter, and it is an unjust, unconstitutional usurpation of the people’s right of self-government to decide the abortion issue, as the people decide other controversial issues, through the normal processes of representative government.

An excerpt from Richard Hays on Abortion (via Seth Ehorn)

Abortion is an extraordinarily challenging test case, because it is a major ethical issue not addressed explicitly by any NT texts at all. Thus, our opinions on the NT trajectory and the appropriation of any NT ethic on abortion should be met with humility about our claims and sensitivity to the task at hand. Hays will include some relevant OT texts because they inform the issue and are cited in the debate (although his book is mainly about the NT).

Well, it’s something to ponder.  May God have mercy on us all!