Aug 23, 2011

Book Review: Read the Bible for Life by George Guthrie

Reading the Bible. Seems to be a challenge for many people. In large part, there appears to be a segment of the 'Christian' population that falls short in this facet of their 'faith.' The deficit is apparently so great that a book was written to address the problem directly.

Read the Bible for Life: Your Guide to Understanding and Living God's WordBut, this book does more than just address the problem of 'lazy' reading practices. This book engages the reader in conversation. At least, it allows you to sit at the table and read in onto conversations taking place between the author George H. Guthrie and those he has selected to comment on various topics regarding Bible reading. Essentially, the author has created what is deemed 'Your Guide to Understanding & Living God's Word.'

Read the Bible for Life: Your Guide to Understanding and Living God's WordHonestly, I found this book helpful. It was not only resourceful and informative, it provided practical insight from many respected men and women. Actually, it was only one woman, Mr. Guthrie's wife sits down for a dialog about reading the Bible with the family. While touching on virtually every facet of reading and understanding the Bible topics related to foundational hermeneutics, ie., context, translation, application, the author also takes us on a journey through discussions concerning the Old Testament, New Testament, and crossing the culture bridge and reading it for our modern context.

Some of those conversed with include David S. Dockery, Andreas Kostenberger, George Guthrie (yes, he speaks with himself), Bruce Waltke, David Platt, Douglas Moo, and Michael Card. Indeed a solid lineup of many whom I would enjoy gleaning insight and wisdom from regarding their walk with Christ and the sustenance they have derived from living and breathing his word.

Essentially, the purpose of the book is to teach us how to not only read the Bible, but to read it well, to read it for Life. I would highly recommend picking up a copy of this book. It is a worthy read, and is something worth picking back up off the shelf to get reacquainted with from time to time. It would also make an excellent gift for a student or new believer struggling to get a grip on the scriptures.

You can purchase Read the Bible for Life: Your Guide to Understanding and Living God's Word by clicking the link or the image above. You can also pick up the workbook here, Read the Bible for Life (Workbook).

If you are interested in receiving my reader's copy, dog ears, worn edges and all, you can enter into a drawing to receive this book at no charge to you. All you need to do is subscribe to this blog, leave me a message in the comment section, and I will enter you into the drawing. You may receive two entries into the drawing if you leave a comment telling me what you think the cause behind the deficiency in Bible reading is in today's 'church'? I will close this drawing and choose the winner on September 15th, 2011. Hope you win!

I received this copy of Read the Bible for Life from B&H publishing for an unbiased review.

Aug 8, 2011

Book Review: Pagan Christianity by Frank Viola and George Barna

Have you ever taken a step back from something that you have always known and endeared so much that it would hurt to let it go? What if the very thing you are so certain of and cherish so much is exposed for what it really is, and you find that you have been essentially living a lie your entire life?

Pagan Christianity?: Exploring the Roots of Our Church PracticesFrank Viola and George Barna collaborate together in this production from 2008 called Pagan Christianity. The book sets out to uncover deeply held beliefs and practices that many view as orthodox Christianity. Frank and George pull out all the stops in this treatise against the 'institutionalized' system of the Christian church and set out to trumpet a return to the church's biblical foundations. Frank and George instigate the presuppositions of the church of our day by contrasting it with historical and researched data while all the while campaigning for a more 'organic' approach.
We are also making an outrageous proposal: that the church in its contemporary, institutional form has neither a biblical nor a historical right to function as it does. This proposal, of course, is our conviction based on the historical evidence that we shall present in the book. You must decide if that proposal is valid or not. (page xx)
This book is a solid left-hook to the presuppositions and deeply held church traditions of our day. A few years ago, this would have been an extremely difficult book for me to read. But after reviewing the evidence contained in the scriptures, the attestation of scholarship, and willing to be challenged, I have been more swayed now than ever. What I once thought was 'church' never resembled anything close to what is revealed in the New Testament. Frank Viola and George Barna have assembled an excellent survey of the current church characteristics in modern Christendom, commented on them, and backed up their argumentation with a solid list of references, all jam packed into each chapter. You can read the fist chapter of this book online for free, or purchase it from your favorite book retailer.

Some of the fundamental flaws of this book are its purpose and lack of depth in the exegesis of some of the entries. Granted, the book presents a survey of the problems the authors see in the institutional church, sometimes it would do well to elaborate further on certain proof-texts that are often cited in defense of institutional practices. Furthermore, the refutation of the latter would be better received with more detailed presentation of the points. To the defense of the authors, they consistently claim that those explanations will come with greater detail in the follow up book, Reimagining Church: Pursuing the Dream of Organic Christianity, Frank Viola's positive follow up to the 'instigation' of Pagan Christianity.

All in all, if you are up for a challenging read, and you currently scratch your head every Sunday asking yourself, "Why do we do what we do?" You will probably find this book an intriguing, fast-paced, and invigorating read. I highly recommend it. Without agreeing to all of Frank and George's propounded views in this entry, I would state that they have done their homework. Where there is disagreement, further investigation quickly becomes warranted, and that is just based on their references alone.

Aug 6, 2011

Portrait of a disciple: Philip, Deacon or Evangelist?

(Acts 8:5)  Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them.
Philip. Means lover of horses. If that is of any eternal value to you, God bless it! Philip, also the name of an apostle, and one who was known as one of the seven. The one I endeavor to discuss here is the latter. This Philip, plausibly one of the first deacons and later referred to as an evangelist. Was he one or the other? Was he both? We know enough about Philip from the book of Acts to confirm a few things.*

Philip was:
  • selected as a deacon (therefore not one of the twelve) (Acts 6:1-5)
  • a servant of tables and widows (Acts 6:2)
  • full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom (Acts 6:3)
  • a preacher of the gospel in Samaria (Acts 8:5)
  • a performer of signs and miracles (Acts 8:6,13)
  • a messenger of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 8:12)
  • spoken to by Angels of the Lord (Acts 8:26)
  • directed by and submitted to the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:26,29,39)
  • sensitive to opportunities to preach Christ (Acts 8:30-37)
  • qualified to baptize (Acts 8:38-39)
  • found at Azotus, preaching in all the towns en route to Caesarea (Acts 8:40)
  • in Caesarea at least 25 years amongst the Gentiles when Paul came to enter his house (Acts 21:8)
  • the father of four unmarried prophetesses (Acts 21:9)
Well, that is quite a list. If the bio of this man were en-scripted on a conference brochure, it surely would bring registrants! Honestly, doing careful evaluation of the activities mentioned in the scripture give us cause to think there was much more that Philip did that was not recorded for us. But then again, Philip was found in Caesarea where his journeying ended in Acts 8 some 25 years later. One could infer that he took retirement. But one could also infer that he remained there and did the work of an evangelist. Luke, the author of Acts, ascribed Philip as an evangelist should we?

So following well accepted conjecture that the appointment of the seven in Acts 6 is evidence of the first deacons in the church, we look to the question, was Philip a deacon?

Deacons are:
  • dignified (1Ti 3:8)
  • reputable (1Ti 3:8)
  • proven blameless (1Ti 3:10)
Philip was:
  • dignified (Acts 6:3)
  • reputable (Acts 6:3)
  • full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom (Acts 6:3)
With minimal references to that which an evangelist actually does (Acts 21:8, Eph 4:11-12, 2 Tim 4:5), one must consider what information is actually available. Since it is obvious that Philip served in the capacity of deacon, we return to the question, was he an evangelist

If Paul wrote to Timothy, and exhorted him to do the work of an evangelist, we could learn some characteristics of an evangelists calling from what he was instructed.

Timothy was to:
  • correct false doctrine (1 Tim 1:3)
  • encourage and be an example (1 Tim 2:1, 1 Tim 2:8; 1 Tim 3:1-13, 1 Tim 4:12)
  • teach and instruct on matters of modesty (1 Tim 2:9-12)
  • preach, teach, and read scripture publicly (1 Tim 4:13)
  • teach honor amongst the elders (1 Tim 5:17) 
  • be selective of those he appointed and remain pure (1 Tim 5:22)
  • command the rich (1 Tim 6:17)
  • testify of the truth of Christ (2 Tim 1:8)
  • teach teachers (2 Tim 2:2)
an Evangelist is to:
  • preach the gospel from the scriptures
  • correct errors in the church
  • prepare leadership for the church
  • and spread the gospel from place to place
In conclusion, a candid look at the capacity of Stephen and Philip from the book of Acts tells two stories. One, they were worthy of their calling, and served the church as deacons. Two, they served well in preaching the good news.

Philip, was both a deacon  (Acts 6:1-5) and an evangelist (Acts 21:8).

Both narratives of the function of Philip in the book of Acts illustrate the principle of service that a disciple is to emulate (John 13:10-14) in the church of Jesus Christ. As a deacon, Philip may have served tables, but it is unlikely that the requirements of his calling were restricted to delivering soup and sandwiches (more on this in another post later). Philip's role as a deacon epitomizes the function of his role as an evangelist. As a disciple of Jesus Christ, he served his brethren through a posture of service and the function of a gift given to the church for its building and perfecting (Eph 4:11). The evangelist is not just a preacher of the gospel to the lost, he is an essential component to the equipping of the saints. Philip was not A deacon or AN evangelist!

Philip was a disciple living worthily of the calling with which he was called (Eph 4:1).