Book Review: Exalting Jesus in 1 & 2 Kings


A good commentary can be an invaluable aid to pastors, students, professors, and Christians in general. But not every commentary is equally suited for every task. Some excel in giving background information, others focus on the technical details of text criticism or the original languages, and others are more application-focused. Choosing the right type of commentary for the right task is a critical first step!

The Christ-Centered Exposition series is edited by David Platt, Daniel Akin, and Tony Merida. They have four goals for this commentary series, which they list in the introduction. 1) They seek to display exegetical accuracy. What the Bible says is what they want to say. 2) This series has pastors in view. It is designed to aid in sermon prep and drawing out the themes and applications from the text, not to be academic in nature. 3) They want the series to be known for helpful illustrations and theologically driven applications. And 4) they want to exalt Jesus from every book in the Bible.

exaltingTony Merida, who is the lead pastor of Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, NC and associate professor of preaching at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, is the author of the volume on 1 & 2 Kings. The book is divided into eleven chapters on 1 Kings and nine chapters on 2 Kings. Though 1 and 2 Kings have more chapters than that, Merida does what he terms “sectional exposition” (5) and does not treat every verse individually but treats every section. Some chapters in the commentary treat multiple chapters of 1 or 2 Kings (i.e. chapter 1 covers 1 Kings 1:1-2:46) but other chapters focus on a single chapter from Kings.

Each chapter of the commentary begins with a “Main Idea” summary that encapsulates the theme or main point of the unit of Scripture. Then comes an outline of the section that will be covered and an exposition of each section of the passage according to the outline. Merida sums up the themes of the unit of Scripture and concludes each chapter with reflections on how this passage fits with the bigger story the Bible is telling and also how it impacts us today. At the very end of each chapter are questions for discussion and reflection.

This commentary specifically and the series in general do exactly what they aim to do and do it well. If you’re looking for a verse-by-verse analysis that goes into great detail about the historical/socio-rhetorical background or parses every single Hebrew word and explains them you won’t find that here. But if you’re looking for a resource to help you teach others these admittedly at times hard-to-explain passages and relate them to the gospel, this is the book for you. I recommend this book and series to all pastors and Bible-teachers looking for an accessible yet robust commentary that takes the Bible seriously and makes much of Jesus.

4 stars out of 5


Tony Merida, Christ-Centered Exposition: 1 & 2 Kings. Nashville, B&H Publishing, 2015. 340 pp. Paperback. $14.99.

Thanks to Zondervan and B&H Bloggers for the review copy, which I received for free in exchange for an impartial review!

Book Review: “Four Views on Hell: Second Edition”


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Hell: it’s not a comfortable subject to broach with others. We probably don’t spend much time talking about it and as a result probably don’t spend too much time thinking about it either.

Recently the topic of hell has generated a considerable firestorm (pun intentional) of controversy with Rob Bell’s book Love Wins and the many responses, such as Francis Chan and Preston Sprinke’s Erasing Hell.

Into and partly because of this ongoing discussion, Zondervan has recently released the second edition of Four Views on Hell. This volume is edited by Preston Sprinkle (Chan’s cowriter on Erasing Hell) and features contributions from Denny Burk, John G. Stackhouse Jr., Robin A. Parry, and Jerry L. Walls.

All four contributors are Evangelical but each champions a different Protestant interpretation of what the Bible has to say about hell. Burk defends the view that has historically been dominant in the church: eternal conscious torment (think Dante’s Inferno). Stackhouse proposes instead the idea of terminal punishment, or annihilation. Parry suggests a universalist view that all eventually are redeemed (through Christ, distinguishing it from broader universalism). Lastly Walls argues for the existence of Purgatory and the tenability of Protestants believing in it.

So what exactly do they each have to say about hell?

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Book Review: “Discipling” by Mark Dever


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“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”
—Matthew 28:19-20a (ESV)

Discipleship: Jesus commands his followers to do it. But what does discipleship look like? Where do we disciple? And how exactly do we do it?

Mark Dever has written Discipling: How to Help Others Follow Jesus, the latest entry in the 9 Marks series “Building Healthy Churches,” in order to answer some of these basic questions. The stated goal of the book is to “help you understand biblical discipling and to encourage you in your obedience to Christ” (19).

Not sure where to start with discipling other believers or not sure how discipleship should fit within the context of the local church? Start here.

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Forever – Kari Jobe


A recent favorite of mine about Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday. Enjoy!

Forever by Kari Jobe

The moon and stars they wept
The morning sun was dead
The Savior of the world was fallen
His body on the cross
His blood poured out for us
The weight of every curse upon him

One final breath He gave
As Heaven looked away
The Son of God was laid in darkness
A battle in the grave
The war on death was waged
The power of hell forever broken

The ground began to shake
The stone was rolled away
His perfect love could not be overcome
Now death where is your sting
Our resurrected King has rendered you defeated

Forever, He is glorified
Forever, He is lifted high
Forever, He is risen
He is alive
He is alive

We sing Hallelujah
We sing Hallelujah
We sing Hallelujah
The Lamb has overcome

7 Quotes on Prayer by from “Mountain Rain”


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James O Fraser was a missionary to China in the early 20th Century. His story is one of powerful prayer, determined devotion, and sacrificial service. The book Mountain Rain tells the story of his life and ministry and is an incredible testimony that will inspire everyone who reads it not just to pray more but to be more expectant in prayer! I was challenged by James’ passionate prayers and felt that the best way to communicate that would be to share some of his thoughts on prayer. So here are seven excerpts from the book about his view of prayer.

1. On his desire for the Lisu people in China to come to faith

God is leading me onward and I am quite hopeful. I do not intend to be in too much of a hurry, and yet I will cry to God for a blessed work of grace among the Lisu as long as He lends me breath. (95)

2. On asking God what his will is

Do we spend much time waiting upon God to know His will before attempting to embark on His promises? (100)

3. On the Value of Unanswered Prayer

Unanswered prayers have taught me to seek the Lord’s will instead of my own. (101)

4. On Feeling God was asking him to ask in faith.

This is just what God seemed to be saying to me then: “Ask Me properly.” As much as to say, “You have been asking Me to do this for the last four years without ever really believing that I would do it: Now ask in faith.” (104)

5. On Praying “If it be thy will.”

The constant prefixing of “if it be thy will” to our prayers is often a mere subterfuge of unbelief. True submission to God is not inconsistent with…boldness. (107)

6. On the place of prayer in successful work.

Here we see God’s way of success in our work, whatever it may be — a trinity of prayer, faith, and patience. (120)

7. On the primacy of prayer.

I used to think that prayer should have the first place and teaching the second. I now feel that prayer should have the first, second and third place and teaching the fourth. (208)

Review: Ministry in the New Marriage Culture


mithmc“Same-sex marriage is here. So what do pastors and church leaders do now?”

So reads the first lines emblazoned on the back cover of this book, the latest offering from Jeff Iorg, the president of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary (which, disclaimer, is also where I am studying to complete my MDiv). Dr. Iorg is the editor of this book and has assembled 15 of the leading minds either from or affiliated with the seminary in order to address both this large question and many of the other related questions that follow.

Following the Introduction (chapter 1), the book is divided into three sections: Biblical Foundations for Ministry (chapters 2 & 3), Theological Foundations for Ministry (chapters 4-6), and Models and Methods for Ministry (chapters 7-15).

The first section, Biblical Foundations, is a brief overview of some of the biblical teachings and principles from the Old and New Testaments on marriage and sexual ethics. The book’s point of view on the issues is the historic (or non-affirming) teaching of the church on sexual ethics in general and homosexuality in particular. These two chapters are valuable for anyone who has not done an extensive study of the subject themselves but are also not the point of the book. Those looking for exhaustive treatments will want to look elsewhere, though these chapters serve as an appropriate starting point.

The Theological Foundations section covers Gospel Confidence, Ecclesiology, and Sexual Ethics. Of the three, the chapter on Ecclesiology by Rodrick Durst is a standout: it does an excellent job of bringing historical situations in the history of the church to bear on the current circumstances, is filled with encouragements to the reader, offers case studies of potential church issues, suggests practices that will be of benefit in resolving these issues, AND goes further than most of the other chapters by addressing trans* issues (a step not all of the authors take).

The Models and Methods section is the bread and butter of the book and will most likely be the most helpful of all the sections to pastors and other church leaders. In particular, the Preaching chapter by Tony Merida and the Legal Challenges chapter by Jim Wilson are incredibly valuable resources. I feel the chapter on legal challenges, while not for everyone, would be worth the price of the book all by itself to church leaders for its practical advice and suggestions on ways to preemptively protect churches from possible litigation and liability.

Answering Objections:

But wait, some might ask: why do we need another book by fifteen cisgender, evangelical, conservative authors (who are almost all white to boot)? What could they add that is possibly worth listening to? Don’t we need more voices who don’t represent this point of view?

The first part of the answer to that question is YES! We need more diversity in the conversation. I will not argue on that point. However, this book is diverse in its own way.

This is a book that is not directly arguing the abstract and/or theological question of same-sex marriage. It is instead focused on the practicals–what to do–in light of the legal realities that the churches maintaining the historic teaching are faced with and is mainly addressed to those who already agree with its theological perspective. For the book’s audience, this is a necessary book. There are few resources out there (to my admittedly limited knowledge!) that perform the function this book sets out to accomplish.

Is it a perfect book? No. Some chapters fall flat or come across as tone-deaf. Few will agree with every suggestion that every author makes (at least I don’t). And the book falls far short of answering every possible answer to the problems and opportunities churches will face in this arena. But while it doesn’t provide all the answers, it at least is beginning to ask the right questions and inviting the reader to answer them for themselves.

5 stars out of 5


Jeff Iorg, ed. Ministry in the New Marriage Culture. Nashville, B&H Publishing, 2015. 264 pp. Paperback. $14.99.

“Alive in You” by Jesus Culture


It’s been a while since I last shared what new music I’m listening to so here’s what’s been on repeat lately!

Jesus Culture’s latest cd has a song called “Alive in You” and I absolutely love it, especially the chorus:

You are God, You’re the Great I AM
Breath of Life I breathe You in
Even in the fire I’m alive in You.

You are strong in my brokenness
Sovereign over every step
Even in the fire I’m alive in You.

This past season has, for various reasons, often felt like a furnace. Heat, pressure, no idea what’s coming next…but Christ, “one like a son of the gods” (Dan. 3:25) not only can keep us alive in the flames of the furnace and use it to refine us: He is also with us in the furnace and sovereign over every step that led us there and every step we’ll take afterwards. It’s truth I need to keep hearing 🙂

 

Book Review: A Commentary on 1 & 2 Chronicles by Eugene H. Merrill


chronThere are so many different commentaries out there that it can be overwhelming to try and find a useful one! Both in my personal studies at GGBTS and as an employee at the library on campus I’ve seen the benefits of using a good commentary instead of a poor one.

So what do I think of the Kregel Exegetical Library volume on 1 & 2 Chronicles? It’s an excellent balance of helpful exegesis of the text and application of the material that would work equally well for the preacher and for the student or reader wanting to go deeper in their study of Chronicles.

A few specific points. First, the author. Eugene Merrill is an Old Testament professor at Dallas Theological Seminary who has written, among other things, Kingdom of Priests. Definitely a plus to have him writing this commentary and bringing his expertise to bear.

Commentaries fall somewhere on a range from scholarly/technical to pastoral/application. The one end will examine a book verse-by-verse (and perhaps word-by-word!) in a thorough analysis of the historical background, original language, and original meaning while the other end will focus on what the text means for us today and how we can apply it.

While this commentary falls more towards the scholarly side, it is by no means inaccessible to the pastor or layman. The author provides a discussion of each unit of text (rather than word-by-word) and includes textual critical notes, exegesis and exposition, and the occasional excursus of ideas or application of theology.

A Commentary on 1 & 2 Chronicles is a well balanced work that would make a solid addition to any study library.

4 stars out of 5


Eugene Merrill, A Commentary on 1 & 2 Chronicles. Grand Rapids, Kregel Publications, 2015. 640 pp. Hardcover. $39.99.

Thanks to Kregel Publications for the review copy, which I received for free in exchange for an impartial review!

MisterJoshuaRay’s Top 5 Posts of 2015


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2015 is almost over and 2016 is speedily approaching. As we look forward to the coming year it’s natural that we also look back and reflect on what this current year has brought.

I’d like to take a second to say thank you: thanks for reading this blog, commenting, and liking or retweeting any links I sent out. This blog isn’t much more than a journal if there’s no one out there reading and engaging, so thanks for helping be a part (note: not apart…pet peeve of mine!) of it.

As a personal reflection here on the blog, here are the top 5 posts I wrote/shared this year. It’s an eclectic bunch encompassing everything from politics to religion to entertainment to books old and new. (You can click on each title to read the original post)

1. 5 Quotes Worth Sharing from “Go Set a Watchman” by Harper Lee

The top post on my blog in 2015 is both a short review and a collection of quotes from Harper Lee’s second-released novel and proved to be popular just as much because of the book’s controversy and lack of quality as its positive qualities.

2. Book Review: “God and the Gay Christian” by Matthew Vines

After hearing a good amount (both positive and critical) about Matthew Vines’ book from other sources I decided to read it myself and share what I found in a post that went on to be the second most popular post of 2015. While I found Vines’ arguments about reinterpreting the Biblical texts concerning homosexuality to be well-articulated on the whole, I did not find them convincing or well-founded. However, reading the book DID change my mind about another issue! I’m glad to have read it both for the ways it challenged me and changed me.

3. C.S. Lewis on Homosexuality

Coming in at third in 2015 is a post similar to #2. While reading Surprised by Joy I came across a quote explaining Lewis’ relative paucity of quotes concerning homosexuality even in works like his autobiography that described conditions in the English boarding school system that included pederasty. His reasoning and restraint are a lesson for us all, and not just on this issue!

4. 40? More like *5* The Force Awakens Plot Holes

Though this is currently the most recent post on the blog, it rocketed into the top 5 posts in just a short amount of time. Seems Star Wars is dominating not just the box office but everything that it touches. Here I respond to an article listing a list of 40 alleged plot-holes in The Force Awakens and only find a handful to be actual objections.

5. Christian, Are You Celebrating SCOTUS’ Marriage Decision?

In the weeks following Obergefell v. Hodges I put up this short blog linking to two other articles responding to the decision. Despite its short length, the subject matter boosted the post into the top 5 here on the blog.

Honorable Mention: FREEsources-The Kneeling Christian
Although this post was written last year in 2014, it was STILL the most popular post on my blog in 2015 and (combined with last year) also of the whole blog! I’m pretty surprised by this and can only explain it by conjecturing that since the image I chose is now in the top page of results when you do a google image search for “kneeling prayer” or similar terms it must be people just looking for a picture to use that stumble upon my blog. Random!

 

Well that’s all, folks! Wishing that the rest of 2015 and also 2016 are full of blessing, growth, and God’s sustaining and loving presence through every circumstance for all of you!

40? More like *5* The Force Awakens Plot Holes


 

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This past week I’ve seen an article pop up a few times listing 40 Plot Holes from The Force Awakens. The list really is not very good, partially because I enjoyed The Force Awakens immensely but mainly because it’s just a low-quality article written by someone who seems not to understand how movies work in general or who wasn’t paying attention to this movie specifically. To demonstrate this, I will go through each proffered “plot hole” and assign it to one of four categories. These categories are:

Coincidence: The Star Wars universe is one where things are sometimes guided by the Force. The proton torpedoes sometimes just make it into that two-meter exhaust port. Sometimes the droid lands exactly where it needs to on the planet right near the very people who will help it get to where it needs to go. Scoundrels like Han might call it “luck,” but others know it to be the workings of a higher power. These aren’t plot holes–they’re how Star Wars movies work.

Future: The Force Awakens is the first movie in a planned trilogy, just like A New Hope. Yes, there are some unanswered questions, but that’s how trilogies work. Some things are intentionally left out and would have made the movie incredibly unwieldy and plodding. If these are unanswered after Episodes VIII and IX then maybe it’s a problem, but for the present let’s chill, shall we?

Not a plot hole: Some of these are just pouty reactions by someone looking for other problems to pad out a list of 40 plot holes. Let’s call them like they are, shall we?

Plot hole: The rarest of the categories (as we shall see), this is just something that can’t be readily explained or is an actual problem that better writing could have fixed/anticipated.

Finally, MAJOR SPOILERS in the rest of the article. With that warning, let’s have a blow-by-blow account of the list, shall we? (I’ve reproduced the questions in italics before my answers so you don’t need to go back and forth between articles, but I’ve left off the elaborations each question has in the original article unless they’re part of my response or relevant)

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