Thursday, March 22, 2012

Review - The Gadarene by John Piper

The Gadarene by John Piper was my first experience in reading a graphic novel (a grown up comic book). I wasn’t sure how I would like it, if it would keep my attention or if the story would flow well in that format. The first few pages removed any doubts I had.

I was memorized by the merging of literature and art. The art in this book, done by Drew Blom, truly enhanced the story. Not once did it get in the way. It was as if I was watching a movie one frame at a time.

The story is taken from Mark 5:1-20, the account of the demon possessed man that Christ exorcized. The demons had the name Legion and when cast out they went into a herd of 2000 pigs and drown.

What is remarkable is that is the last chapter of The Gadarene. If you have read Mark 5 you know that there is no background on this man, yet the first three chapters give us background on him. Obviously that is purely supposition. But don’t think it blasphemous for Piper to give us some background. The story he presents is as plausible as any other. What Piper gives us is to enhance our understanding of the story, like a pastor or Sunday School teacher does each Sunday.

You won’t be disappointed. I found this story gripping. I couldn’t put the book down. I was pulled into that particular time period with the words and art. I felt like I knew the people and believed every action they committed. I was there with those people as they lived this.

It is my hope that you find a copy of this soon. You will be encouraged, convicted and hopefully closer to God as a result of reading it.

You can purchase it at Amazon.

Review - Filling Up the Afflictions of Christ by John Piper

John Piper has a series of books titles The Swans are not Silent in which he writes mini-biographies of some of the martyrs of the faith. Piper gives a little background on the lives of those he writes about but he mainly focuses on the ministerial hardships each man faced.

In book five, Filling up the Afflictions of Christ (title taken from Colossians 1:24), Piper writes about three giants of the faith, William Tyndale, Adoniram Judson and John Patton. Each of these men gave their lives to take the Gospel to the nations.

William Tyndale was the first to translate the Bible into English, a task the Catholic Church told him not to partake of. In 1536 the church had him strangled then burned at the stake. Piper writes about the environment that Tyndale lived in and how it led to his death.

John Patton was a Scottish missionary to the New Hebrides in 1824. He lost his wife and children, fought false accusations and had courage to face threats from the natives, all the while never losing sight of the call that God had given to reach those people with the gospel.

Adoniram Judson, at the age of 24, took his young bride to Burma. He lived among those people for 38 years during which time he spent 17 months in prison, lost two wives and several children.

Piper writes about each man in a heart wrenching fashion. Reading of these men gives me courage to stand in the face of any persecution I may face for the sake of the Gospel. We are indebted to these men who gave us the English Bible and had the courage to take the Gospel to the hardest areas of the world. I pray that I will have just a fraction of their dedication. This book will help me gain confidence in the grace of God to do what He has called me to do.

Review - Because the Time is Near by John MacArthur

Revelation is the most neglected book in all of Scripture. Yet it is the only book in the Bible that has a blessing associated with reading, hearing and doing what is found in it. Obviously we are blessed for doing those things with entire Bible but Revelation specifically gives one. Revelation begins (1:3) and ends (22:7) with that blessing. So we need to give as much attention to Revelation as we do any other book of the Bible, yet so many of us don’t.

John MacArthur has written Because the Time is Near to help fellow Christians understand Revelation. As he always does he writes in a manner is understandable to the average reader. He takes the deep things found in a text and explains them in clear and concise way. Another given with MacArthur is his use of Scripture to explain Scripture. You get more cross references in this commentary than with most.

For the sections of Revelation that are do not have consensus on its meaning, MacArthur give a variety of views of the passage, then tells you his. Whether you agree with his final conclusion you will appreciate his handling of the text.

MacArthur breaks each topic found in Revelation into sub-topics to take the reader deeper into the text, a writing style that is invaluable. It makes studying this book easier and to come back to later.

This is not part of his commentary set that includes two volumes of commentary on Revelation (those go even deeper into the text). With that said I highly recommend this book. You will gain so much insight into the last book of the Bible you will want to read the other editions found in the aforementioned commentary set.

Review - Calvin's Commentaries

Commentaries provide a wealth of information to a student of the Bible. We can turn to them when we encounter a passage in Scripture that gives us pause. We can also use them to understand a particular point of view. Both of those can be found in John Calvin’s 22 volume commentary set.

John Calvin was one of the great reformers of the church. He devoted himself to preaching and teaching God’s Word. Throughout his life he wrote about the doctrines we find in Scripture. His Institutes of Christian Religion is a classic and his commentaries are excellent as well.

He is most known for his teaching on the doctrines of grace, or better known as Calvinism. In this commentary set you will find those doctrines expounded throughout. This shouldn’t be a hindrance to anyone who objects to that teaching because there is so much more in this commentary set than those doctrines. Also, this will give you a better understanding of those doctrines which is a good thing.

As I prepare to teach Sunday School or preach a sermon I turn to Calvin as much as anyone else. His commentaries are an invaluable tool in my Bible study and will be in yours. Your faith will grow as you sit under Calvin’s teaching.

The only books of the Bible Calvin didn't write a commentary on are 2 and 3 John and Revelation.

As an added bonus, you will receive a copy of his Institutes when you order through Christianbook or Amazon. Christianbook has them at an amazing price. Don’t pass up this commentary set.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Review - The Voice

The Voice is a new translation of the Bible that takes the text and rewrites it as a story. The preface gives us the following: “The Voice retains the unique literary perspective of the human writers…The heart of the project is retelling the story of the Bible in a form as fluid as modern literary works, yet remaining painstakingly true to the original Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic texts.

The name The Voice is what they have called Christ. They base it on the Greek word logos used in John 1 to name Christ. Unfortunately saying that the Greek work logos means voice is a bad translation. Why they would have translated logos as voice while trying to stay true to the original languages is baffling. When one does a comparison of the English words they use to translate the Greek they mistranslate or even worse they admit they add words they know are not in the original language. This completely undermines the interpretative process they claim to have used.

When looking at some of the authors/contributors you will see the name Brian McLaren, a leader in the emergent church movement. To put it plainly McLaren denies much of the Bible. He believes that we have the message of Christ wrong. This is one of the individuals who are part of the translating team of The Voice.

I understand that people want a translation of the Bible that is easy to read. We need to make sure that everyone can and does understand the Bible. What we have to be careful of is rewriting what the Bible originally says. Instead of changing the Bible under the guise of making it readable why did they not make a commentary explaining what the Bible actually says, unless that isn’t what they really wanted to do?

It is unfortunate that this translation was crafted. Its goal isn’t trying to give us a “fresh translation” (their words) of Scripture, it gives us a corrupted reading of God’s Holy Word.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Escaping God's Judgment through Obedience

In Exodus 12 we read of The Passover of the Israelites during the tenth and final plague God brings on Egypt. In verse seven God tells the Israelites,“(t)hen they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it (the lamb that was sacrificed),” then in verses 12-13, “(f)or I will pass through the land of Egypt that night (the night of The Passover), and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the LORD. The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt.

In chapter twelve God gives specific details on how the sacrifice it to be handled, which is the sacrifice used to get the blood in the passages I referenced above. He tells them in those verses how He wants the blood placed on their doorposts. Then He will pass over the houses with the blood and executes judgment on those houses that don’t.

Here is what caught my attention today while reading this, what if the children of Israel didn’t do exactly as God commanded? What if they applied the blood to the windows instead of the sides and top of the doors? Or what if they had only applied it to the sides but not the top of the door or visa-versa? If they disobeyed would they be immune from God’s judgment since they were His chosen?

I think the answer is obvious; God would have brought judgment on that house like He did to the Egyptians. God gave clear instructions on how He wanted the blood applied and if they didn’t obey, judgment came.

This makes a very clear and important point to us who claim to be children of God. If we believe that we can follow God however we want because we are His children, we are mistaken. Far too often we make up our own rules to follow Christ (i.e. believing church attendance is optional; being like the world instead of being separated from it; living how we wish and asking for forgiveness later; putting our interests ahead of others; and the list can go on). God clearly tells us in His Word how we are to live for Him and the blessings (passing over those homes who obeyed Him) or judgment (like the Egyptians) He gives out.

If we believe that we will never face God’s judgment for our disobedience because we take His name we are mistaken. So the question I have for you is this, which do you want - God’s blessing or judgment? Your obedience to God’s Word is the key.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Convicting Worship

I have been preparing to teach Revelation 7 in my Sunday School class this Sunday and I came upon this heavenly scene in verses 9-12:
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!" And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, "Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen." (emphasis added)
I kept reading this over and over. I couldn’t tell you how many times I re-read that passage before I realized I had tears rolling down my face. I was moved by the fact that in heaven even the angels fall on their face in worship of God. This act is full of emotion, humility and reverential fear. Nothing mattered to those angels at that moment except giving God the worship he deserves.

So often during our church services I stand there and sing line after line with little thought to the words. My mind gets easily distracted with everything around me that God slips from my thoughts. God is there in that place and I am thinking about lunch. I wonder how much longer do I need to stand before I can sit yet those angels in this passage wouldn’t dare be in any other posture of worship than prostrate on their faces on the ground at the feet of God. Complete humility and pure worship.

I am convicted. My worship isn’t not what it should be. I am not close to being free enough during our corporate worship setting to fall on my face before God. That has to change. So I am going to make it my goal during worship to regularly lie at the feet of Jesus. There is no other place I would rather be.