Dec 30, 2010

Book Review: A Case for Amillenialism by Kim Riddlebarger

Case for Amillennialism, A: Understanding the End TimesA Case for Amillennialism: Understanding the End Times by Kim Riddlebarger has been sitting on my bookshelf for about two years now. At least I think that is how long it has been there. Nevertheless, the past year, as tumultous it has been for me, I have been trying to finish it. The problem is, I have been continually reading other books while I have been reading this one.

This book is rather weighty in comparison to most books I read on a regular basis. It essentially comes off as a theological treatise on eschatology more than an apologetic for the end time view known as 'Amillenialism.'

Riddlebarger makes it easy for me to relate to his views in this book because he focuses on the scriptural evidence while keeping the views of other end time perspectives in consideration. But there is a primary treatment of the Dispensational perspective, the view both Kim Riddlebarger and myself were former proponents of. This bias that may have developed shows itself consistently throughout this book.

I believe it is easy to adopt the views of others concerning the 'last days' in Christianity when the subject is made into a checklist and easy to digest. There is so much material on the subject at the Family Heresy Store in the $5.00 bin that anyone came become an armchair analyst of the end times. Unfortunately, a great majority of American Evangelicalism has come under the heavy influences of Premillenialism, Dispensationalism, and what I often refer to as Rapturism. This book would be a good place to start discerning the different view points before you 'camp' out in any particular teachers philosophy.

If you are looking to hear an honest analysis of the Amillenial viewpoint and digest a careful exegesis of the critical end times texts like Matthew 24, Revelation 19 and 20, and other critical contributions referring to Israel and its future, this book may serve you well. Even though it took me too long to read it, it probably is not a book I would blaze through anyway. I look forward to reading it again.

Hopefully you will too.

Dec 27, 2010

A Twisted Scripture

In the spirit of Alan Knox's " We Live It" series,

And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you your seminary credentials and pastoral training in that very hour what you ought to say shall prepare you to exegete the Scriptures correctly." (Luk 12:11-12 Twisted)

Dec 25, 2010

Book Review: Mere Churchianity by Michael Spencer

Mere Churchianity: Finding Your Way Back to Jesus-Shaped SpiritualityMere Churchianity: Finding Your Way Back to Jesus-Shaped Spirituality, is Michael Spencer's one and only book before his passing and he leaves us with a treatise on what he has termed 'Finding Your Way Back to Jesus-Shaped Spirituality.'

An enjoyable read for those looking to hear from one of the Internets most outspoken voices on the world of Christendom as many of us know it. Most notably, Spencer speaks volumes to those who have made an attempt or successfully escaped Christendom. With a humble down to earth approach, Spencer has directed his writing efforts in a new way. Now he is lending his effort toward a few specific groups of people,

 - Those who have already left the Church and rejected it

 - Those who have already left the Church and are seeking a genuine experience of 'Church'

 - Those who are thinking of leaving the Church

 - Those that have left and are thinking of going back

The readability readers of have enjoyed previously is also present here in this offering. Michael Spencer shares with his readers the personalized experiences from his life that have given him a desire to be and see a new example of the life that discipleship should give in the lives of believers.

Finding my own fundamentalist values challenged at every turn of the page has left me asking questions, turning to my Bible, and praying to the Christ for guidance on His will and how I can faithfully take part in it.

I would have liked to see a little more theological treatment of certain issues (mainly a definition of Church according to the Bible). I did not particularly care for some of the subtle ecumenical apologetics, and felt like I had read some of the latter chapters previously. Who knows, I could have been experienceing Deja-Vu, but it seemed like Spencer began to repeat himself.

Worth the purchase, so check it out!

"I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review."

Dec 23, 2010

Sowing a seed of death in the life of another

Death is an inescapable statistic that effects every living human being. Comparably, it effects all living things. In the past few months, a significant number of friends and loved ones have passed away. It causes one to consider the superstition that death hits home frequently during this ‘holiday’ time of year. I am not quite sure that it is more frequent, but I would attribute the season and family significance as playing a major role in the impact death has on family and friends. Most importantly, it causes me in particular to consider my role in those individuals lives. Did I have as much an impact on their life as their death has on mine? This hits much closer to home in the loss I experienced earlier this year when my mother had succumbed to a hard battle with cancer in a few short months. How much more do I hope that I had a significant impact on the one who bore me, nursed me, and loved me despite my past?

These are troubling questions. It is all the more troubling when I consider whether my impact was effective in changing their lives for the good. But what if the impact that one initially had was negative? What if my contribution to their life, in the long run, contributed to their death. This is such a sobering thought, because it makes you wonder why have I been left standing here to continue on, when my deeds, are much more deserving of the death endured by those I care about? Even if I made amends, and attempted to right the wrongs by doing something good for them before they died, have I truly done justice by them?

I suppose the case and point here is this. Guilt. It is powerful. It can crush someone, and it can destroy them. Guilt has certain degrees, depending on one’s conscience, but it still effects everyone of us to an extent. I am experiencing a little guilt, or say, responsibility for being the person who may have tipped the first domino in an old friends life, if I may be extreme here, many of my old friends lives. To say the least, their decisions are solely their own, but my contribution to their bad decision essentially initiated that chain of events leading to their demise. Should I feel accountable to some extent here? Should I acknowledge and accept this guilt that I may more fully repent?

One can consider Luke 9:62 and the setting of our hand to the plow and never looking back. For we shall not be worthy if our head is constantly over our shoulder, and the Kingdom will no longer be in our sight. But having been redeemed, do we now consider that the contributions, the sins against our neighbor, the life we once led is dead with the old man, or does the old man’s deeds still have bearing on our flesh. This is a tough one to meet out when we consider a Christianity that is entrenched in perfectionism and false piety, alluding to some victory over this life without trial. As if we are living our ‘best life’ now.

In a closing thought I am considering the idea posed to me by a dear brother in Christ. What was the response to Paul, now an Apostle, dead to Saul of Tarsus coming back through the towns and villages he once ravaged, seeking the blood of disciples who followed in the Way. What might have been the perception he had of the children left behind to dead fathers, imprisoned mothers. What of the widows and the stumbling blocks placed in the way of many who witnessed this man, who once committed evil in the name of religion, now proclaim the good news of eternal life? Eventually, we read that Paul’s resolve was nothing more than to know Christ and Him crucified amongst those he ministered to (1 Cor 2:2).

Christian, does your life’s history impact your future? What is now the measure of your resolve with your sins in view? Does being forgiven much cause you to love much (Luke 7:36-50)? Is the love you show a communication of the same life giving sound and voice of the Lord Jesus Christ that saves you? Tell me, are you making amends through sorrow or proclamation of the Gospel?

Yes, I feel some guilt behind the events of my past, but one faithful thing I can account to the Lord’s grace in all of this is amazing. I have witnessed His love for sinners through the opportunity given to preach Christ and Him crucified to those men before they died. We all are going to die. What is the measure of your resolve?

Dec 15, 2010

The autonomy to worship gods and idols

Originally posted at Seeking a Kingdom. Please note, we are still looking for authors interested in writing devotions for the blog. If you are interested, contact me through the tab above.
Isaiah 40:18-19  To whom then will you liken God, or what likeness compare with him? An idol! A craftsman casts it, and a goldsmith overlays it with gold and casts for it silver chains.
Scripture illustrates man’s propensity to create his own suitable standards. We value our way so much that even our standards as followers of Jesus Christ, start to become negotiable. When we find ourselves in this trap, we quickly begin making God like us, and in this we transgress His law (Exo 20:3-5). We begin to appeal to our own autonomy. Our defense and logic generally results in a self-righteous sentiment, “but God is loving, and understanding.”

Jesus spoke with a rich man who asked what was required of him to inherit eternal life (Mk 10:17-22), the Lord demonstrated the measurement by which men are evaluated and spoke to him of the law. But this man had great possessions, self-righteousness, and a trust in human attainments rather than Godly gain. But God’s love and understanding said (v21), “sell all that you have,” lay down your riches, follow me.

A scribe zealously assured that he would follow wherever the Lord went (Mat 8:19-22). And faithfully, those who approach Christ receive the ‘love and understanding’ of God. He draws out the truth of his motives by showing his utter lack. Following Christ wholly is dependent upon setting our affairs in order first. Man’s agenda to live life in accordance to man’s autonomy is minimized by Christ’s words, “let the dead bury their own dead.”

It is possible for Kingdom citizens to demonstrate faithfulness, realization of truth, and a casting out of dependence. Casting aside the old man we establish a desire to exchange our ways for Gods. The believers in Asia, under the instruction of the Gospel learned a better way. Their dependence upon magic arts and costly books quickly became irrelevant and they burned them, disposing of the foundation they once held dear, despite their cost, and established a new level to build upon (Acts 19:17-19).

All man is counted as dead in trespasses and sin (Eph 2:1-2), and in his innate desire to worship something, has chosen idols in the place of God. Man has chosen autonomy that supplants the statutes of the Most High and casts out any need for dependence upon Him. But who is wiser than God? Who consults of themselves and receives counsel more worthy than the Lords (Isa 40:13-14)?

We must ask ourselves if our watches are stopped at a pivotal time in our own history. Is the mystery of God made known to us? Have we heard the voice of the Son of God and now live (Jn 5:25)? Or do we seek status in the Kingdom without subscribing to its requirements?

The rich man was dead, and subject to his idols. The man burying his father was dead and subject to his idols. The book burners were dead, but they heard the voice of the Son of God, received life, and cast out their autonomy, their choice to follow man’s ways, his knowledge, his books of wisdom. With Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God, the answer to idolatry is cost counting. Has God’s love and understanding set you free from your chained idols, who are dead works of man’s hands? Or are you still autonomous?

Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, renew in me a right spirit, cast aside my transgression, and illuminate my path with your righteousness. Lord, let my ways be your ways. Let me worship you and seek your will. Let me strive to follow you, the Good Shepherd. I do not want to be bound to the work’s of my mind or man’s hands, but to your word.

Dec 14, 2010

Book Review: Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament

Galatians (Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament)
Galatians (Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament) by Thomas R. Schreiner is a fine example of a good commentary. With a mass of past and contemporaneous commentaries available to us for study, this new venture from Zondervan is very promising.

With most commentary, you will find a scholarly observation of the text, but be succumbed to an overwhelming abundance of authorial opinion. With the systematic breakdown of each chapter and verse, this commentary will only expose you to succinct portions of the author's opinion, and leave the rest to your observation of the text. Leaving you to compare the opinion of the writer to the content of the text, based on what the text actually presents, is a good plan for any exegete.

What's more appealing here is that the author does not merely expound upon a Greek explanation for this and for that. The commentary pains itself to clarify conflicting views, Greek translation, and scholarly perspective. The language of the commentary is conveyed in such a way that one need not be fluent in the original language to benefit from the exposure it provides, although it does help to know some basics. Plainly stated, this commentary is as much for the 'layman' as it is for the 'academic.'

Five great things about this commentary in particular -
  1. It is lightweight, readable, and presents well
  2. It exposes the reader to the essential information necessary for good exegesis, like background, opposing views, and language translation.
  3. It is affordable.
  4. The series is not bound to a singular author and each New Testament book is unique.
  5. It demonstrates the importance of understanding the nuance of language on modern exegesis
I wholly recommended purchasing this commentary if you have a few dollars in your book budget. If you have a ton of commentaries on Galatians, I am not sure this is going to stand out much more than some of the classics, but its editing, approach, and presentation will surely provide a refreshing approach to all things commentary!

*I received this book from Zondervan as a review copy

    Dec 3, 2010

    You lay your gift at your altar, and I will lay my gift at mine.

    In light of a recent discussion with a brother concerning how brethren are to treat one another when disagreement arises, I would like to re-post my thoughts on the matter from 2008. They are still the same as I have indicated here, and I still find it amazing that we seldom practice what we 'preach.'

    An interesting thing has occurred to me. So many of us believe that we fully grasp the consequences of our actions before we make decisions. So many times does this behavior incessantly repeat itself. On the contrary, the Christian, should learn from the mistakes that have been made. The benefit would then be applying the lesson learned from the consequence to any actions thereafter. So what of the behavior that causes tension amongst members of the body of Christ? When bad decisions are made, consequences occur, and chastisement (by the Lord) follows, what then? Does the failure to make the right decision warrant excommunication of the offender? To what degree and extent are consequences to be carried out?

    Mat 5:24 leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.

    So reading in Matthew, I observe the teachings of Christ, and the principle of reconciliation toward others when offense has occurred. Now I would ask the question, if you are making offerings up to God by way of worship, are you doing so without offense to God, or are you offending God by your worship for leaving such matters unattended? Or is it downright apathy and a willful choice to ignore it until it goes away?

    On to the last part of my concern. In the case of division, and the clear cut obvious nature of it's existence, what is to be done next? Division is clearly defined as being a separation between two things. Whether these things be people, places, or things, they are no longer in unification or like-mindedness. The Greek word σχίσμα (schisma), is the root word from which we base our own English word schism. It is a metaphorical definition of division or dissension. In reference to I Corinthians 12:25 this point comes home in a full thrust. Paul was instructing the Corinthian Christians to treat each other (as different as they may be) and care for each other the same as those who were similar. The attitude toward the gifts of others or the lack thereof is to be the same. We grieve when others are afficted, and we rejoice when others are exalted, all this we do as if it were occurring to us. This is unity amongst the brethren in the spiritual sense. Not a denominational, creedal, or formal allegiance. But in a purposeful, intentional, and cohesive bond that is unbreakable because it exists in the whole that is Christ's body. Existing eternally for His glory and Temporaly for His purposes.

    What's my point? Well, I would ask that if you preach Christ crucified, reconciliation of sinners toward God, and a righteous standard of living, then you should also exhibit that in your personal relationships with others. And where we fall terribly short (I do all the time), we attempt to correct the behavior, learn from it, and move on. Furthering our purpose, unison, and commission in the same spirit without division. If we are considering the differences of our brothers and their shortcomings when interacting with the body, we are also considering our own. This should be of the first things we consider before we cast our stones (or apathy) at each other.