Book Review – Acts (EP Study Commentary)

March 31, 2015

Of the writing of commentaries, there seems to be no end. And, as the author of the book under review notes, four exegetical commentaries on Acts have appeared since he began writing in 2009. So, why another commentary on the book of Acts? Because, as we continue to study the Word of God, we are constantly understanding more and more the intent of God’s Spirit in how He directed Luke to record this information. And, since each commentary has it’s own niche, this volume in the EP Study Commentary series, helpfully fills a niche between very entry-level popular commentaries and full blown exegetical commentaries. For that, it makes a solid contribution.

Guy Prentiss Waters in this commentary on Acts does a helpful job of providing just enough exegetical and theological details into the text without them making it overburdened. After a standard introduction where he introduces us to the book he moves into the text. He does an admirable job of setting the scene of each passage, analyzing details, and making theological conclusions. At the end of each section, he helpfully provides some application from the text. The application is not rooted completely in our time which makes it more readily able to be applied in different times and in different cultures. The application is helpful overall. For instance, while acknowledging that Pentecost is not completely reproducible in our churches today, that it does not mean there is no application whatsoever. He reminds us that Pentecost has reversed the curse of Babel and men can understand each other in sharing the Gospel and that Jesus has saved sinners from the judgment they deserve and that the Spirit of God is available to believers in full supply. These are helpful elements to consider from the text, especially as Acts is difficult to apply at times because of its narrative form.

While Waters would certainly be of the Reformed persuasion, it does not mean that those who are not will not glean from the text some important truths. For instance, strong dispensationalists might disagree with Waters on Acts 2 and the nature of Joel’s prophecy and the formation of the church and it’s relationship to the Kingdom of God, but Waters helpfully addresses the issues without damaging one side of the theological spectrum or the other. A review of this nature, cannot begin to work through all the issues and possible interpretations that arise, but suffice to say, Waters presents a strong, evangelical approach to the book of Acts that most will be able to find benefit from.

If this EP Study Commentary is indicative of all, these volumes would be helpful additions to the libraries of serious Christians. Theological without being unintelligible, they take the text and show what it meant and what it means. That makes these commentaries eminently successful. Consider adding this volume to your library. You will refer to it often.


Silly Rabbit, Easter’s About Christ

March 30, 2015

I love candy. My wife’s a chocolate person, but I’m particularly drawn to candy. So I love Easter with all the jelly beans and such. Of course I like the chocolate too. Everyone loves a chocolate rabbit in their Easter basket. And sure as shooting we’ll all be digging into Easter baskets in our home on Easter Sunday. But, that’ll come after the important part. Because no matter how good candy is, it’s not better than Christ.

Yet the world is full of people who want to associate the timing of Easter with pagan fertility celebrations around the time of spring. Hence rabbits and eggs. Yet, Christians have utilized the symbol of the egg since the beginning of the earliest Christian communities as a symbol of the resurrection, and the timing of the celebration has coincided with the lunar paschal calendar (i.e., following the Jewish Passover). So, Easter has been celebrated in various forms in generally the same time period since the very resurrection of Jesus that the event celebrates.

But, that’s all beside the point. My point is, that while candy and chocolate and rabbits are good, they can obscure the main point of the holiday: that Jesus Christ died and was buried and rose again on the third day to new life. At this point, Christianity stands or falls, and therefore, is of supreme significance in the life of the church. Easter, is, and should be, the greatest holiday in the church’s calendar. And the attempt of modern advertisers to take a Christian holiday and turn it into a commercial success notwithstanding, the holiday still is about Jesus Christ.

The Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 reminds us that without the resurrection there is no Christianity. He writes, “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:17). Christians know there is life after death, and Jesus’ resurrection confirms this for us. If Jesus was not resurrected then we would be a people without hope, still lost and condemned in our sin, awaiting judgment at the end of the line. But the beauty of Easter is that Christ has conquered death. It could not hold him, and therefore, those who trust in Jesus Christ for their salvation have hope of living eternally with him. So, like Paul then, when faced with death the Christian can exclaim, “’O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’” (1 Corinthians 15:55).

This is why Paul spends time arguing that the resurrection was verifiable. He tells the Corinthians that Jesus appeared after his resurrection to Peter, the other apostles, and more than 500 believers who were still alive at the time. Paul’s point? You could go out and ask for firsthand accounts that Jesus truly was alive. This meant that Jesus truly was God that his death had meaning for forgiving sins, and that God’s forgiveness of our sins resulted in what was originally supposed to be ours from the beginning: life forever with God in paradise. What joy and comfort there is in this life knowing that there is no fear in death, for I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. That’s what Easter does. It reminds us that we have hope that because Jesus lives, we will live too.

Whether Easter is connected to fertility rights from pagan times is beside the point. What’s not beside the point, is that the pagan gods died in winter and rose again in spring, only to die over and over again. Jesus died once, for all, the just for the unjust to bring you forgiveness and by his rising again, to bring you eternal life. That’s a much more powerful message that the world’s view of Easter. Candy and rabbits? I can take them or leave them. Christ’s death and resurrection? I cannot live without them.


Book Review – Walking with God in the Season of Motherhood

March 25, 2015

What follows is a review from my wife Tracy.

Motherhood is demanding, even exhausting at times. Many moms struggle with having the energy and fortitude necessary to keep up with the demands of their lives and the lives of their children. What adds to the difficulty, is motherhood doesn’t allow you to have much time to yourself. Getting adequate sleep can be a challenge, let alone carving out time to nourish yourself physically, emotionally, and most importantly, spiritually.

In her book, Walking with God in the Season of Motherhood (Waterbrook), Melissa Kruger gives us an encouraging and helpful antidote to this problem. This eleven-week devotional Bible study addresses many areas in which moms struggle. The first several weeks lay the groundwork by examining faith, wisdom, and prayer. The second part of the book looks at the fruits of the Spirit. Almost all moms will resonate with chapters covering such topics as joy, patience, and kindness. Each week of the devotional is broken down into five studies. The first four days examine topical Scripture verses, and the fifth day features a devotional reading. There is room right in the book to answer the brief, but helpful questions. The devotional contains all the Scripture readings within the book which is useful as well. Most readers could probably complete each day’s study in about 20 minutes. There is also a study guide in the back of the book for readers who wish to use the book in a group setting.

Moms desperately need to be encouraged and challenged spiritually on a daily basis. This practical book is a great resource for helping to make that happen. Pick up a copy and dedicate a few minutes each day to grow in your relationship with God. It is only at the foot of the cross that you will find the rest and energy you need to face the challenges of each day.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.


Character Counts

March 18, 2015

Should it be any surprise, according to a Gallup poll, that when asked which profession is seen as dishonest and unethical, politicians top the list? It seems to be a common understanding amongst Americans that all politicians are corrupt and perhaps that’s just the way things have to get done on Capitol Hill. It wasn’t always this way.

Once upon a time ago, there was something to be said for character among our governmental leaders. We would expect that people who represent us on a national and international level would strive to be honest, prudent, and ethical people with the interest of the people at heart. Of course, now, the expectation is that all politicians are corrupt, unethical liars. And unfortunately, it seems that is more often the case than not.

Now, as a Canadian who cannot vote in the US (yet) I don’t have a horse in this race. Also, being Canadian makes me a little unique as I don’t fit in either extreme of left-ward liberal progressives nor right-wing tea party conservatives. I’m probably more center-right. That being said, it’s important to mention that character should count when it comes to politicians, which brings me to Hilary Clinton.

I’ll start out by saying the mantra, “all politicians are corrupt.” Tis true. The heart is desperately wicked for all of us (Jeremiah 17:9). So this could easily be addressed to any potential Republican presidential candidate. But since the matter in the news is Hilary’s e-mails, I’m going to address that. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) recently wrote regarding the e-mail scandal, “Let’s start having serious discussions about the real issues impacting the people of our country.” I’m with Bernie on this one. There are more important issues out there than whether Hilary did the right thing with her e-mail correspondence while working for Foggy Bottom. That being said, the issue at the core of Hilary’s e-mail problems are about character. And who we are at the core of our being determines how we will handle all those other issues.

As a pastor, I’m constantly reminded that my character makes or breaks my ministry. Paul told us pastors in 1 Timothy 3:2 that we are to be “above reproach.” There shouldn’t be things in our lives that people can point to and then call our ministries into question. It’s because we represent something vital as undershepherds of Christ within the church. In the physical realm, our government plays something of such a vital role that too, our politicians should strive to be above reproach. If they are to represent the best interests of this nation, they cannot do it for their own misguided self-interested pursuits, but must do it for the better good. Let’s bring this back to the Clinton’s.

Certainly, the Clinton’s are not unknown to scandal. We may think of Whitewater or Monica Lewinsky. And none of us are without sin. As I mentioned, all of our hearts are desperately wicked. Yet, for those of specific callings, and the highest in the land being President, we should be considering whether or not our hopefuls are above reproach, or do past scandals and current ones, call into question the ethical positions of those who might one day be in our highest office. If our President is willing to do whatever they want for their own sake, what might that mean for the future of our nation?

E-mails and policies and procedures are certainly low on the priority list of issues facing this nation. Yet, they reveal something about our hearts and about our character. There’s an important warning, to both us and our governmental leaders from former President, James Garfield:

Now more than ever before, the people are responsible for the character of their Congress. If that body be ignorant, reckless and corrupt, it is because the people tolerate ignorance, recklessness and corruption. If it be intelligent, brave and pure, it is because the people demand these high qualities to represent them in the national legislature.

Let us not tolerate ignorance, recklessness, and corruption in our own lives, nor in the lives of our leaders.


An Exposition of the BFC Articles of Faith – Creation

March 16, 2015

Last time we considered the Holy Spirit in our exposition of the AoF. Today, we’ll consider Article 6 – Creation.

The triune God, according to His sovereign will, created out of nothing and out of things that He had made, by immediate and mediate action, the worlds and all that is in them.1 He is the Governor and Upholder of the creation by His wisdom and by the word of His mighty power.2

1 Gen.1:1,2. See also Gen.1:3-2:3. Heb.11:3.
2 Col.1:16,17

Exposition

While this article may be brief, it is loaded with a lot of details. And while some may feel the details are unimportant, the nature of our creation is that which is vitally important.

Accordingly, the article tells us that the triune God created everything. A few important elements are here. First, that the act of creation is a joint effort among all three members of the Triunity of God. The Father obviously acts a direct cause of creation, yet we see the Holy Spirit involved as well “hovering over the deep,” and we know of Christ’s direct involvement from Colossians 1:16 and 17. As an outpouring of a unanimous and harmonious decision of the will of God, God created all things from nothing.

We cannot fathom nothing. Even the vast expanse of outer space still contains microscopic particles. Yet, before the entire universe existed, before all matter existed in the space-time-mass continuum, God took the nothing and made it something. The universe as we know it was spoken into existence from no prior matter by God. The article also reminds us that God used matter to create as well. We, as humanity, are the prime example. God took dirt and made man, and took the rib of man and made woman. Not only is the powerful sovereign God of the universe the one who can create from nothing, He can also take matter and fundamentally change it into something completely different.

Not only did He create all things, but unlike the God of deism, He continues His active involvement in all things as well. While God’s creation of the laws of physics allows electrons to spin and build the basic foundation of matter, it doesn’t mean God isn’t upholding those same laws. An atom spins because God wills it to spin. This means that God didn’t just start things off and send us on our way. He’s intimately involved in our lives and in our world and cares about how things operate so as to maximize His own glory.

Now, the article doesn’t tell us how God created all things. This allows for some flexibility on these issues. But, I would be remiss as your pastor to not tell you that I believe that the Scriptures teach and that science verifies, that God created the universe in 6 24 hour day periods from nothing. He did not do it over millions of years nor use evolution to bring us to this point. This position is what is known as Young Earth Creationism.

For some good resources on the issue, consider the following:

Mortenson, Terry, ed. Coming to Grips with Genesis: Biblical Authority and the Age of the Earth. New Leaf, 2008.

Snelling, Andrew. Earth’s Catastrophic Past. 2 vols. Institute for Creation Research, 2009, 2010.

Kelly, Douglas F. Creation and Change. Christian Focus, 1997.

Pipa, Joseph & David Hall, eds. Did God Create in Six Days? Tolle Lege, 2005.


Book Review – Praying with Paul by D. A. Carson

March 11, 2015

I consider that if a book read leads one to develop a sermon series over it’s content, then said book has had a significant impact. D. A. Carson (Research Professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School), through this updated edition, provided both an illuminating and challenging book to stimulate us all in prayer. Praying with Paul, considers Paul’s major passages about his prayers for his readers and how what Paul prays for helps us with our prayers today.

None would argue that our weakness in much of evangelicalism is that we lack fervency and frequency in prayer. I can testify to my own struggles with this in my own life. And while there are many how-to-manuals on prayer, there is a lack of exegesis of Scripture of actual prayers and what they can teach us beyond the Lord’s Prayer. Carson, in what were originally messages given, leads us to consider a number of issues in which we should be praying today.

Carson considers Paul’s prayers as vital to be understood for our personal growth and the growth of the church today. He tackles such concepts of a framework of prayer from 2 Thessalonians 1:3-12, developing a passion for people in prayer from 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13, overcoming hurdles in Philippians 1:9-11, praying for power in Ephesians 3:14-21 and Romans 15:14-33. In each, Carson considers the text, rooted in its historical and grammatical contexts and shows how Paul’s patterns in prayer can lead us to much more effective praying. He ends each section with some helpful questions for reflecting on the material, as well as a helpful example of his own prayer for spiritual renewal. A study guide, by The Gospel Coalition, is also available to help make reading the book even better (available here).

As I said, if a book leads to significant change, then it is an effective book. Carson’s volume has lead me to consider prayer being a more serious thing in my life and in the life of my church. On that note, based upon his own breakdown of a sermon-series on it (p. 208), I plan to lead a series in Paul’s prayers in our church culminating in a week devoted to prayer. So, Carson has challenged me from Paul’s prayers to be a more effective prayer. I pray that it would be true in my life and in yours. Take up and read and be both challenged and encouraged by Paul’s prayers!


An Exposition of the BFC Articles of Faith – God the Holy Spirit

March 9, 2015
Last time we considered the Son of God in our exposition of the AoF. Today, we’ll consider Article 5 – God the Holy Spirit.
The eternal1 Holy Spirit, proceeding from the Father and the Son,2 is of the same substance and equal in power and glory with the Father and the Son. By Him the prophets were moved to speak the Word of God, and all writers of the Holy Scriptures were inspired to record infallibly the mind and will of God.3 He is the only efficient agent in the application of redemption. He convicts men of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment,4 moves them to repentance, and regenerates5 them by His grace, enabling them to embrace Jesus Christ by faith.

The Holy Spirit indwells all true believers, baptizing them into one body, of which Christ is the head.6 He, the divine Comforter, Intercessor, and Advocate, empowers the believer for service.7

1 Heb.9:14b
2 John 14:16,26
3 2Pe.1:21
4 John 16:7-11
5 John 3:5
6 1Cor.12:13
7 Acts 1:8

Exposition

If there is one member of the Trinity in whom we are greatly confused, it would be the Holy Spirit. We want to believe He exisits, but we’re not really sure who or, if we’re honest, what it is. And, how close should we get to the Holy Spirit? Too many folks within our big tent of evangelicalism love the Spirit and His gifts seemingly more than the other two members of the Triunity of God. And isn’t His job simply to make much of Jesus? So, what’s the big deal about the Holy Spirit?

The Articles of Faith reminds us that the Holy Spirit is just as much God as the Father and the Son, and is the Spirit, again because of His unique relationship to the Father and Son. He has existed from all eternity, but in a unique way, proceeds from both the Father and the Son (Upon this point the first division in Christianity occurred between Western Christianity and Eastern over what we call the filioque clause in the Nicene Creed. Filioque means, “and the son.” For more on this check out this resource) .Yet, no matter from whom He proceeds, He is completely God, and coequal in power and glory with both the Father and Son.

The Spirit’s ministry is unique in that He serves as the vehicle for which God has communicated His revelation to man. The AoF tells us that it was by the ministry of the Holy Spirit that God communicated through His prophets to both speak the Word of God, and the writers who penned it for us. While the writers of Scripture had their own grammar, style, and personality, the Holy Spirit superintended both the prophets as they spoke and the writers of the Old and New Testaments as they wrote to make sure it was the very perfect Word of God.

Not only is the Spirit involved in the communication of God’s revelation but He has the unique ministry of applying all of the spiritual benefits of Christ’s death and resurrection to us. He is the agent by which our redemption has been applied to us. He convicts us of our sin, challenges us to repent of said sin, and then by God’s grace, gives us the faith to believe in and trust in Jesus Christ alone for our salvation. The Spirit’s job is to make much of Christ and the work of Christ, but without the Spirit, we would never experience those blessings that Christ provided for us at the cross and the empty tomb.

Once we have been ushered into the body of Christ through our salvation, the Spirit takes up residence within us continuing to point us to Jesus. He continues to prompt us regarding our sin and our need for confession and our continuing need for Jesus. He unites us with all other believers through Spirit baptism. And not only does he continue to make us more like Christ through our growth in holiness but also is our comforter and who brings our prayers and petitions to the Father on our behalf, advocates for us and gives us all of the tools we need for life in the body of Christ.

Jesus Himself said, “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” (John 16:7). The Holy Spirit is not some unnecessary part of our life in Christ. Instead, He is integral and necessary for us to know God’s revelation to us, to know Jesus Christ as redeemer, and to live a life pleasing to God!

For more on the Holy Spirit, consider the following resources:

Ferguson, Sinclair. The Holy Spirit. InterVarsity, 1996.
Pettegrew, Larry D. The New Covenant Ministry of the Holy Spirit. Kress, 2013.
Cole, Graham A. He Who Gives Life: The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit. Crossway, 2007.
Palmer, Edwin. The Holy Spirit: His Person and Ministry. P & R, 1985.


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