Book Review: Walking in the Spirit.

It is with thanks to Angie from Crossway Publishers that I offer a review of Kenneth Berding’s short book Walking in the Spirit (Crossway, 2011).

My wife didn’t like me too much for saying this but if there were ever a book that could be truly described as “how to be a Pentecostal or Charismatic, without actually being one…”. Ken Berding’s latest book Walking in the Spirit would be it!  Really, I don’t mean to be presumptuous or condescending on purpose but the things Berding talks about in this book is what you hear about in your average Pentecostal church on a fairly regular basis.  For the average Pentecostal or Charismatic Christian (not the fringe folk you see all too often on Scott Bailey’s blog) this is what living the Christian life is all about, Walking in the Spirit. Hearing the voice of the Spirit in one’s heart and life; walking and or living in the power of the Spirit; praying in the Spirit (not necessarily in tongues); hoping in the Spirit (for the eschatological fulfillment of all things); living life led by the Spirit of God and so on.  This is the essence of what it is to live the Spirit led life.  Well, that is how I see it anyways.

Dr. Berding (PhD, Westminster; Prof at Talbot) then, has written a tightly focused work centering on one of the more significant passages in the Bible on the person and work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer, Romans 8. It is not a scholarly work and does not interact too much with major scholarly commentaries on Romans.

Instead, he seeks to talk specifically about a life led by the Spirit and draws his points from the text of Romans 8:1-24.  In a lot of ways it reads a bit like a 7 part sermon series on the Holy Spirit since he fills the texts with plenty of personal stories and anecdotes and points of application along with questions for consideration at the end of each chapter (hint, hint, wink wink, for those wanting to do something like that in their congregation).

It is a short book with only 112 pages (7 chapters) of main text with two appendices one of which he seemed to write to calm some scholars down who might read the book (it addresses some basic academic issues with regarding the passage, i.e., some OT in the NT stuff with regard to the use of the “law”).  It could easily be read in one sitting but I think the better approach would be to read one chapter at a time and let the concept and points sink into one’s heart and life.  Personally, I found it quite stirring and am still feeling the effects of having read it).

Each of the chapters talk about a different element of the work of the Spirit and follows the flow of the text so the first chapter hits on the first instance of the work of the Spirit in the passage.   So, for example, one chapter focuses on what it means to set one’s mind on the things of the Spirit.  Another focuses on what it means to put to death the misdeeds of the body by the Spirit.  Yet another, what it means to be led by the Spirit, and what it means to know God as our Father by the Spirit (no, Abba doesn’t mean “daddy”), to hope in the Spirit and also what it means to pray in the Spirit.

FWIW, I actually agree with him that “praying in the Spirit” is not about tongues per se, but, that it is to pray in conjunction with, or alongside the leading of, the Spirit.  For example, all too often a person gets sick or is injured in some fashion, prayer requests go out for quick healing and such for said person.  Well, to the consternation of many, it should be asked, is this the leading of the Spirit as to how we should pray for this person?  Maybe we should simply pray that they be strong through the process and so on.  How is the Holy Spirit leading us to pray regarding various situations?  That is what it is to be led by the Spirit.

So, if you want to be invigorated in your “spirit-ual” life and walk this book is certainly a good place to start.  I really do recommend it to any and all, and even maybe especially to scholars who tend to get all too heady about stuff (not that there is anything wrong with that per se).

Blessings.

CBD Sale: NA27 Wide Margin Edition!

soon as I can I want to get it.  it’s on sale for $20 at CBD – given I had to throw away my really nice cloth bound NA 27 – this could be a great alternative….

562002: Novum Testamentum Graece (NA27), Wide-Margin Edition Novum Testamentum Graece (NA27), Wide-Margin Edition
By E. Nestle, B. & K. Aland, eds. / Hendrickson Publishers

The leading edition of the original text of the New Testament, this scholarly edition is designed for extensive research, textual criticism, and other academic studies.

In keeping with the goals of serious and advanced New Testament scholars, the revised critical apparatus shows a nearly exhaustive list of variants but includes only the most significant witnesses for each variant. The Greek text has paragraph and section breaks. Cross-references in the margins are extensive and include synoptic parallels. Five appendices offer in-depth information for further understanding of passages.

The introduction appears in both English and German. Text, notes, and critical apparatus appear in a clear font throughout the volume.

Larger in size but priced lower than the large print edition, this user-friendly edition gives professors and students the opportunity to make notes in their Bible as they translate the New Testament.

just ordered

thanks to the graciousness of a few folks I was able to use a couple gift cards (the rest will be for Debbie).   So I decided on the following:

Harold Hoehner’s Ephesians: An Exegetical Commentary (Baker Academic, 2002).   This was a big chunk of the bill but I just could not go on not having it anymore.   Probably the only other commentary on Ephesians that I’ll be interested in from here out is the one by Clint Arnold in the Zondervan set.  So, for now it is Hoehner, Theilman, Gombis on Ephesians.

Patrick Miller’s The Ten Commandments: Interpretation: Resources for the Use of Scripture in the Church (WJK, 2009).  I first learned of Miller’s work when I had classes at the Fuller Seminary branch in Seattle on a class on the Psalms.  I like his stuff and wanted to get this work since the Ten Commandments have such widespread influence in how we understand our relationship with God, with others and with the Scriptures in general.

Christopher W. Morgan, et al., Hell Under Fire: Modern Scholarship Reinvents Eternal Punishment (Zondevan, 2004).  With Hell being the “hot” topic at the moment (pun intended) I wanted something I could read up on for myself (though at the moment I am caught between the traditional (everlasting ongoing never ending punishment forever and forever) view and the conditional immortality (that eternal destruction (death) is ultimate and eternal “life” is granted only to believers) view (for which I will later have to consider reading Edwad Fudge’s book The Fire That Consumes: A Biblical and Historical Study of the Doctrine of Final Punishment).

So that was my order!

Is there a “best” Study Bible?

Well, probably not necessarily, as, like with translations, each has its own purpose and usefulness, but probably, the better ones are those that encourage actual engagement with the text of Scripture – and, in my opinion, the “best” “study” Bible available that encourages in-depth engagement with the biblical text, is one put out by Precept Ministries: The New Inductive Study Bible (Harvest House Publishers) (the main “new” part is that it was reformatted and updated when the NASU came out).

In fact, this one probably does so well at encouraging actual and in-depth engagement with the biblical text that probably just looking through and thinking about what it encourages people to do, could make you tired…. lol!

So what does the New Inductive Study Bible ask the user to do?

Well, the dead giveaway is at the bottom of the photo to the left: discovering the truth for yourself.  Well, at least, discover the truths of Scripture for yourself utilizing the Inductive method of Bible study!

First, it asks him or her to spend time observing the text asking “what does the text say?”  This stage is also known as the “overview.”  One way to observe the text is to use the “5 w’s and an H.”  Other ways involve marking out specific “key” repeated or theologically weighted words and or phrases and such in a definitive way so as to make things stand out; then make lists recording the observations and so on and so forth.  Even outlining or structuring is a kind of way to observe the text – which forces you to do the most important part of observation: read and reread, and reread the text, over and over and over again.   the more you read the text, the more you’ll see and the more you see, the more you’ll begin to understand.  In the observation stage, you are dipping in and out of the text so that at times you see the forest and at other times you get in closer to take a look at the trees and their roots looking to get the context of the passage or book being studied.  (see here for some examples)

Next, it asks the user to begin interpreting the text asking “what does the text mean?”  Now, usually, good interpretation flows out of observation – so once we begin to get an understanding of what the text says or is saying, we can begin to understand it’s meaning.  Interpretation involves doing context studies, background studies, word studies, reflecting on the text itself  comparing passages or versus “letting Scripture interpret Scripture” and so on.  Al this is to be done on your own – no commentaries and such until after you have done as much work on the text yourself.

Finally, it asks the user to begin applying the text asking “what does it mean to/for me or to/for us?”  Now that we have begun to get a handle on the meaning of the text, we can begin to apply it’s truths to our own lives or our own faith communities.  The moment we engage a truth we should begin applying which can happen any number of ways: when your eyes are opened to some concept it brings some level of personal transformation be it an understanding about God, the church, one another or even our own self.  Once that truth is understood, we can begin waking in it – be it God’s love and acceptance for us, learning to love, accept, and forgive one another; the need to evangelize and share the hope we have in the Lord, etc.

Of course there are various study tips and mini-articles and so on, and I am sure we could all find something to quibble with or quarrel over, but the whole point of this particular “study Bible” is to get people into the text and to do their own work – instead of relying on edited notes and such at the bottom of the page helping you understand the passage, the Inductive Study Bible utilizes the Inductive method so you could, in following the method, write your own notes and think for yourself about the truths of Scripture!  🙂

So, all that so explain why I believe the New Inductive Study Bible is one of the best out there for really and actually “studying” the Bible.  and this is why I’ll be getting a new one soon since I had to throw away my other one.

I realize this probably isn’t the best Bible to give to a brand new believer (though I have heard of new believers doing well learning the Inductive Method) – that might be too much too fast (probably would not give any “study” bible to a new believer but instead a regular Bible to read and gain basic familiarity with the Bible and its contents) – but the ISB is better for the person read to get in personal study of the Bible (and especially done in a group with others such as done one’s one work (like homework) then meet up with others to talk about what you learned to help keep each other on track).

As to other kinds of Study Bibles such as the ESVSB, NLTSB, NIVSB, etc, what I would prefer to see is the Inductive Study Bible as the primary one worked with and used – then other others used as references (after one has finished with the overview of the passage or book under study first).  The same would go for commentaries, they are fine and good to use, just wait to look at them after you do your own work.

Lastly, I realize I am probably emphasizing a method more then a kind of “study” Bible per se as one can utilize the inductive method with any Bible or by just printing out the passage or book under study on regular paper to put in a notebook, but I do feel the NISB is the best in utilizing a method of study over just giving commentary notes at the bottom and articles spread throughout and leaving folks to figure out what to do with them.

Blessings,

on pastors as servants and stewards

I am reading this book: Mad Church Disease: Overcoming the Burnout Epidemic (Zondervan 2009) right now (which is pretty good and if you’re in ministry and tired, you should get it too – it will help).  Burn out can affect our whole being and life: spiritual, emotional, physical, even relational health.  Throughout the book the author has short little interviews with pastors from around the country who have burned out (or came awful close to it) and survived to tell about it (or even in some cases, lived to tell about it, literally).  In the section about getting back to Spiritual health, she interviews a pastor in Texas named Matt Carter.

A.J.: Do you see the current Western church as being ineffective in reaching people with the gospel and growing them?  why?

M.C.: Pastor Bob Roberts asked the question in a recent book, “If we (the church) could plant one thousand mega-churches all over the United States over the next ten years, wouldn’t we be able to completely change this country for the cause of Christ?  The answer Pastor Roberts reached was, “No.”  Why?  Because that is exactly what the church in the United States did over the last ten years.  We planted over one thousand churches that have grown to more than two thousand members apiece; and yet, per capita, there are fewer people going to church today than ever before in the history of our countrySomething is terribly wrong.

Why is this occurring? I think there are several reasons, but I’m personally convinced that one of the main reasons people in America are leaving the church in droves is because there is severe biblical malnourishment in the body of Christ.  They are leaving in droves not because we aren’t clever enough, not because we don’t have enough resources, but because people come to church, are entertained, and the leave starving, anemic, and utterly ineffective for the kingdom of God.  I believe this is a direct result of pastors not fulfilling primary responsibilities God designed for them through Scripture (130).

Here is the part I wanted to get to but felt I had to include the above for this to make better sense.

A.J.: What do you see as the primary responsibilities of pastors and church leaders?

M.C.: In Scripture, we see two primary responsibilities of the pastor: servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.  The apostle Paul wrote, “Men ought to regard us [pastors] as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the secret things of God.  Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful’ (1 Corinthians 4:1-2).  Unfortunately, so many pastors view themselves first and foremost not as servants of Christ, not at those responsible for stewarding the deep things of God to their people, but rather as servants of the church! I grew up in a church that expected the pastor to be available to meet the every whim and need of every congregant.  If someone needed to meet with him, he better be available!  If someone was in the hospital, he better go!  If someone needed to meet with him, he better be available!  If he spent too much time on his sermon rather than with the people, it was said of him that he was “a good preacher” but “not a good pastor.”  Although hospital visitations, meetings, and coffee times with the church are important, Scripture reveals that they are not the pastor’s primary responsibilities.  Being a servant of Christ and a steward of the deep things of God are (130-131).

In view of Mark’s post the other day, perhaps not just pastors and leaders, but Christians in general are burning out of church and or ministry because there is first malnourishment in the pulpit (though not in all cases) and second, because there is confusion and perhaps conflation of roles and responsibilities within the congregation?

If pastors are doing everything or more than they should, they will burn out, fast.  And it seems, that burn out is not limited to just pastors.  Even the rest of the folk can burn out when trying to do too much or when they function outside of their proper or spiritually gifted roles within the body (and when they are not taking care of themselves adequately).

Finally, any thoughts about the pastor’s primary role being servants of Christ first and foremost (not servants of the church) and then as stewards of the mysteries (the deep things) of God?

statisitical support for theological education?

sounds like there is.

Marc Cortez highlights this in his recent blog post discussing drop out rates for seminary graduates.  He writes:

You often hear people lament the high dropout rate of those entering vocational ministry, particularly in their first few years. In a post earlier this week, John Ortberg repeated the statistic that ”90 percent of people who enter vocational ministry will end up in another field.” I’ve heard similar comments to the effect that 50% of more of seminary grads will drop out of ministry within the first five years.

Those are pretty startling claims. If people are burning out of ministry that quickly, then we are doing something desperately wrong.

The problem is that it’s not true.

read the rest.

This is certainly very encouraging news because, like many who don’t always check their facts and just promote myths and half truths, I actually believed this statement – that many seminary graduates drop out of ministry within the first five years.  I believed it because I have seen it (but not a lot of it).  We are going into our fourth year here at the Canyon so I hope we make it.

But I think the main thing being emphasized is that the strongest value of getting a good theological education is ministerial vitality.

Whether one is in church ministry, missions, chaplaincy, or some other venue of Christian ministry, a solid theological education will always prove valuable and give one the tools necessary to make it for the long haul.

Now, if course, this is not true of every person since every situation is different and there are folks who’ve been “in the ministry” for a hundred years with a basic Bible college degree or the basic level correspondence courses for ministerial licensing and such (or nothing at all) and they are strong, healthy and doing just fine, though I would not say this is the norm.  But as it turns out, it is also not the norm to see seminary grads dropping out of the ministry left and right.

So, while getting that master of divinity isn’t everything – it certainly carries a lot of weight and contributes significantly to long term ministerial vitality strength and endurance.

This is also why, having been out of seminary 5 years now, I am considering possibilities of doing ThM work.

I have heard too that for many pastors, pursing a DMin has really contributed to their ministerial vitality and brought some renewal to their ministry and personal spiritual lives.

In a nutshell, a good theological education teaches you how not to burn out and how to protect yourself and others.

See also Brian LePort’s comments!

Book Review: T.F. Torrance’s Incarnation

It is with much thanks to Adrianna Wright of IVP for her graciousness in allowing me to read (in part) and review T.F. Torrance’s Incarnation: The Person and Life of Christ (IVP, 2008).

This is a long overdue review (over a year) and for that I sincerely apologize.   I have to say at the out set I have not yet read this book in its entirety so there is just no possible way I can offer a full and complete review – so it will only at best be an inadequate partial review – why have I not read the whole thing? Well, its a big book from a theological standpoint.  It’s not light reading by any means, so though it is only 371 pages including endnotes, appendices, index and so on, there is a lot to read and chew on. It’s going to take me a while to really get through it – so instead of delaying I am writing a partial review.

In this book on Christology, Torrance “addresses both the heart and head through a deeply biblical, unified, Christ-centered and trinitarian theology.”  He “presents a full account of the meaning and significance of the life and person of Jesus Christ, demonstrating that his work of revelation and reconciliation can only be understood in the light of who he is – true God and true man united in one person.”    Torrance contends that the whole life of Jesus Christ from his birth through to his resurrection and ascension, even to his second coming are of saving significance.  (quotes from the inside cover).

One question I want to address is what is the value or purpose of reading such a deeply theological work such as Torrance or even Barth and others for the pastor and preacher? The primary value lies in nature and purpose of church dogmatics.  The editor writes “Christian dogmatics is that discipline which which attempts to express the essential content of Christian faith and doctrine as an aid to the church in her teaching and preaching” (xxii).  In sum, the purpose of reading this particular work on Christology or even a work like Barth’s Dogmatics (even if one does not agree with all the finer points being discussed), is it allows the preacher to proclaim Christ and the Scriptures in a richer and deeper way.

Essentially, it adds theological depth to the sermon or teaching.

You want to be a strong pastor/theologian?  Read Torrance, Barth and the like!  🙂

Both Torrance and Barth (Torrance was for a time, a student of Barth) sought to put forth a dogmatics of Christian Theology for the help of the pastor so he or she could faithfully proclaim the Scriptures in an articulate and unified way that was line with faithful interpretation, historical Christian teaching including the Fathers (“all the saints” xxiii) thus proclaiming Christ and bringing glory to him.

Some of the leading features of Torrance’s theology are as follows:

The heart of Torrance’s theology is the Trinity and deity of Christ…. The truth of the Trinity, ‘more to be adorned than expressed,’ and the deity of Christ belong together (xxx-xxxi).

The deity of Christ is the guarantee of reconciliation.  Because Jesus Christ is God, he not only makes God known, but what he does is the work of God.  The words and acts of Jesus and of the Father are identical.  The deity of Jesus is therefore the guarantee that the reconciliation we see and receive in his the reconciliation of God himself (xxxi).

The full humanity of Christ is of equal importance with his deity.  If Jesus is not God then it is not God that has saved us, but equally, if Jesus is not man then man has not been saved.  The deity and the humanity of Jesus are equally important and neither without the other can bring salvation (xxxii).

The humanity of Jesus is the guarantee of human reconciliation and forgiveness.  In fact, the very act of incarnation is an act of reconciliation because now in the person of Jesus Christ, there is a permanent union of God and man (an act of reconciliation or re-union) (xxxiv).

The hypostatic union of God and man in the one person of Christ needs to be understood dynamically – not statically.  It needs to include the whole life of Jesus from his birth through to his resurrection.  This ‘hypostatic union’ had to be maintained throughout the life of Jesus not just at his birth.  “Throughout it all, the hypostatic union held fast as Jesus clung to the Father in utter and obedient dependence in prayer.  And the hypostatic union emerged victorious and unscathed in the resurrection as the eternal union of God and man in Christ Jesus” (xxxvi).

The hypostatic union is at the heart of the gospel.  “The doctrine of the union of God and man in Christ is the absolute heart of the gospel.  it tells us that the full reality of God in his love has come all the way to suffering and sinful humanity and has united himself with us. It tells us that we have been accepted in the fullness of our humanity and brought as we are into union with him in Christ. It tells us that because Christ is the permanent union of God and man, his person is the indivisible and living center of our salvation for all time”   (xxxvi).

There is much much more to this work than can possibly be reviewed here – so this will have to suffice!  I highly recommend this as a work for pastors to read and consume and integrate into their thinking and theology and preaching/teaching ministry.

I agree with Eugene Peterson

Pastoral ministry in America is being ruined.  With all the over-focus on leadership development and such, the church is creating CEO type pastors and not shepherd-pastors – little actual direct soul care takes place from the pastor to the parishioner anymore.  Additionally, with the CEO style leadership focus this leads to a focus on measures of “success” – the implication being that a successful church is one that is a numerically growing church (this isn’t necessarily all bad but we need to break ourselves from being too over-concerned about it).   More important to a strong pastoral ministry is a strong focus on following Jesus – living a faithful and obedient life and long (and short) term spiritual formation/growth of all in the congregations.

Of course we are to be evangelical and work faithfully at sharing the gospel with all in our communities and those we come in contact with – and then seek to integrate them in to the larger congregation – yet this is not all there is to it.

One thing I think I have been “getting” since learning pastoral ministry here at the Grand Canyon is that our congregations are “living communities of faith.”  Through simply being and living as a faithful congregation that too is a kind of witness to the community we live in – but also being a Christian doesn’t mean we can just stay in the same place spiritually all our lives. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 3:18 that “we all are being transformed into his image with ever increasing glory…”  So at the heart of a solid pastoral ministry I think isn’t going to be “strong leadership” so much as it is going to be strong spiritual formation.  Hopefully I am not confusing the two (I am still new to pastoring and learning what it all means).

This is why I need to make Peterson my pastor/mentor by way of his books – I want to learn to be a true pastor and not just some corporate style leader – I want to learn what it means to lead in the Jesus way and style and teach others to do the same.  This is something that connects with me – I knew there was a reason I was not comfortable with the whole “you have to be a strong leader” approach to ministry – who says and why for?  All you have to do is follow Jesus faithfully and lead his way and it’ll all be good.

Thanks to Derek Vreeland for sharing his thoughts on his blog.

on understanding the Bible

In my last post linking to Jim West’s blog post urging pastors not to lose their Hebrew and Greek, Robert commented and asked:

I have a question, so do you think it is not possible to learn what the passage means if read in an English translation?

Of course not.  While I strongly encourage anyone to learn the biblical languages, I understand not all are able to seize this opportunity for any number of valid reasons.  While it certainly helps and for many is a real eye opener (knowing the languages) I am not going to say with absolute dogmatism, that if you don’t know the biblical languages or know how to use them that you simply will not or cannot know or understand the Bible – to me that leans too close to gnosticism (a kind of spiritual and intellectual superiority complex). 

Here was my reply:

Robert, I understand.  Yes, thank God for English versions!  Yes, you can understand the Bible without necessarily knowing Hebrew and Greek.  I personally advocate Inductive Bible Study Methods to achieve this (observation, interpretation, application) and also the use of flow of thought analytical diagamming.  For learning to do word studies and such I’d suggest Gordon Fee’s NT exegesis book along with Doug Stuart’s OT exegesis which has good pastor helps.  Also think about getting Carson’s Exegetical Fallacies and Walter Kaiser’s Toward an Exegetical Theology (to help with diagramming).  For inductive method stuff, one good book on this is called Grasping God’s Word.  It’s college level but good nonetheless (and has a separate workbook).  The New Inductive Study Bible is also a resource. Precept Ministries also has lots of good stuff for use in the church for teaching Inductive Bible study.

There are lots of other resources to consider, these are jus a few. 

I hope that helps.

Psalm 20

TNIV  Psalm 20:1 For the director of music.

 A psalm of David.

May the LORD answer you when you are in distress;

may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.

 2 May he send you help from the sanctuary and grant you support from Zion.

 3 May he remember all your sacrifices and accept your burnt offerings.

 4 May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.

 5 May we shout for joy over your victory and lift up our banners in the name of our God.

May the LORD grant all your requests.

 6 Now this I know: The LORD gives victory to his anointed.

He answers him from his heavenly sanctuary with the victorious power of his right hand.

 7 Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.

 8 They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm.

 9 LORD, give victory to the king!  Answer us when we call!

———–

Right now I am in a situation where that is all I can do – trust in the name of the Lord our God.  Every pastor or leader at one time or another, maybe even several times, will face a time of testing in his or her ministry.  How can he or she be sure to pass the test?  I think one part of it is to not “trust in chariots” or “in horses,” but…. “trust in the name of the LORD our God.”  

Trust.  It can be a hard thing to do sometimes but it is what the Lord calls us to do – and he will get us through the times of testing if we just trust in him.   And what is the promise if we trust?  He will answer “from his heavenly sanctuary with the victorious power of his right hand.”   He will give victory to his anointed ones!

So if and when you face testing in your life, trust not in chariots, or in horses, but…. “trust in the name of the LORD our God.”