Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Review - Revelation and the Antichrist

I took my Sunday School class on a study through the book of Revelation and looked for resources to help understand it’s meaning. I chose books that had different views of the symbolism as long as they based their views on Scripture. I also used resources that dug deep into the text to give to get a better understanding of the grammar, history, geography and customs of the time John wrote the letter. Even though our study is finished I will always be on the lookout for more study aids on the book of Revelation.

When I came across the book Revelation and the Antichrist by William Edward Dewberry I was intrigued because I assumed he would dig into Scripture, Old and New Testaments, and give an in depth look at how the role the Antichrist plays in the book of Revelation. I was looking forward to some exposition on those difficult passages concerning the timeline of events to take place in the end times. Unfortunately I was disappointed.

As I read I was put off by how quickly I was able to read this commentary. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy books that are easy to read. The problem is that when reading a commentary on Revelation I expect to take an occasional pause to digest and meditate what the author is saying. That didn’t happen here. Throughout the book he would site a passage then give a brief explanation on that passage with no real depth given. This happened over and over. I was expecting meat and got a snack.

He is an amillennialist (the view that we are currently in the millennial reign of Christ) but doesn’t give much reason why. As to his rapture view, not much is given. He does discuss dispensations so I am assuming he takes those views as well.

I wish I could recommend this book but I can’t. There are other worthy commentaries on Revelation (here is my review of one) that you should purchase if you are looking for an aid to help you understand this important book.

Disclaimer - I received this resource free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their Book Sneeze book review blogger program. All that was required of me is that I review it, positively or negatively, on my site.

Review - Cruciform

In the middle ages churches were decorated with mosaics, stained glass windows and many other devices that were used to help the congregants learn about the gospel. Understand that during that time many didn’t have a Bible in their home so the church was the main resource of understanding the gospel. And the way it was constructed was a huge help to understanding theology.

The most important feature to the church building was that it was in the shape of a cross. This is called cruciform. This told those that came to the building that the central message to be heard there was the cross. This goes along with Paul’s teaching in I Corinthians 2:2 where he tells the church in Corinth that he aims to know nothing among them except Jesus Christ and him crucified. The cross is and should be the main emphasis of a Christians teaching and life. That is what Jimmy Davis shows us in his wonderful little book Cruciform. As he states in the introduction, Here in the 21st century we need more cruciform churches. Not lavish cathedrals but living communities of disciples being shaped by the cross into the shape of the cross for the glory of God and the good of our neighbors, the nations, and the next generation. And he spends the rest of the book showing us how to do just that.

The cross was the most selfless act ever committed by a human. Christ gave up worship in heaven and became a servant, emptying himself, humbling himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, death on a cross (Philippians 2:5-11). Christ did that to redeem because our first parents, Adam and Eve, ruined the perfect relationship we had with God in the fall. His redeeming act was to reshape us by the cross. His death and resurrection was to bring us new purity, new passion, new power and a new partnership. As a result of Jesus’ work of shaping us by and into the cross we are to live a life in service to others, following the example of Christ (see previous paragraph).

Davis shows that since we have been formed by and into the cross we will be watching, waiting, willing and welcoming of others in service to others. This is the natural result of a life that has been changed by the cross.

This is a small portion of the truths found in this book. The 107 pages can be read in a few hours but it is filled with truths that will last a lifetime. It is a book that I will turn to again and again. If you decide to read it you won’t be disappointed.

You can purchase it at Christianbook, Amazon and CruciformPress.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Cruciform Press blogger review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Review - Expository Listening

I love teaching God’s Word. Opening the Bible, discussing what God wants to teach us gives me a thrill. Seeing people respond to Scripture is proof of its power.

I have read many books on how to teach God’s Word and have many more on my to-read list in the near future. One day when I was looking for another resource to help me teach better I came across a book on how to listen to Bible teaching better. And I couldn’t click to the next page. I was froze. A book on how to listen to preaching better. That is something I had never heard of before. And I had to have the book and read it. The book is titled Expository Listening by Ken Ramey and here is my review of this wonderful, helpful, important book.

In the introduction Ramey hits on something that I had never thought about - how often the Bible speaks about listening. If you are like me you think of all of the commands the Bible makes about getting up from my chair and do something, not sit in my chair and listen. What I have failed to realize is that listening is an action as much as helping the poor. Here is what Ramey says about this:
From cover to cover, the Bible is jam-packed with verses and passages that talk about the vital necessity of hearing and obeying God’s Word. God is very concerned about how preachers preach. But based on the sheer amount of biblical references to hearing and listening, it is unmistakable that God is just as, if not more, concerned about how listeners listen.
Something I mention often in my teaching and preaching is that when we stand before God we will give an account for all that we have said (Matthew 12:36) and done (Hebrews 4:13) but what I never thought about was giving an account for all of the sermons I have heard.
And at the end of your life you will stand before God and give an account for every sermon you heard. On that day, God will essentially ask you, “How has your life changed as a result of the thousands of times you have heard my Word preached?”
That is a staggering reality. We will give an account of how we allowed the sermons we heard to transform our lives. I won’t ever listen to another sermon the same way again.
Ramey, in the chapter on how to prepare beforehand to hear a sermon, says that we should Come to church with a spirit of anticipation, fully expecting God to speak to you through His Word in ways that will make a lasting difference in your life.

Of course only listening to God’s Word does nothing for you (James 1:22). The quote I gave earlier on standing before God and giving an account on how we listened to His Word taught implies that we must put what we hear into practice for that is how we will be judged on our listening, our doing what we have heard preached.

At the end of the book is a section I will turn to often titled “A Quick-Reference Guide for Listeners.” It is a summary of the vital truths found in this book.

If you have problems listening to sermons, if you find yourself distracted, not remembering what you were taught, then this book is for you. If you are a Bible teacher like me, get this book so you can know what God expects from our teaching. If you love to hear sermons, this book will encourage you and possibly point out some areas that you can improve your listening.

You can purchase it at Christianbook, Amazon or Kress Biblical.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Introduction to the Book of James

In February 2012 I began preaching through the book of James. When I started I knew that I would be challenged by the content of the letter but not to the level that I have been. James, the author, wrote this letter to show us how we are to live out our faith (that is the title I chose for the sermon series on this book).  I believe that if we put James’ teaching into practice, the church today will look more like the church during the time of the apostles. Reading the book of Acts and seeing how God moved will excite you to see those things take place in your church today. God did mighty things in them and will do the same in us. All He asks is pure devotion and obedience to Him and we can learn much of that from this book.

I will post the outline from each sermon bi-monthly, Lord willing. I also will add a link to the audio or video that was recorded of that sermon. I welcome all comments/questions that you may have. I believe they will help each of us grow in sanctification and the knowledge of God.

Too often we read a portion of Scripture without knowing the details of who wrote it, why they wrote it, where they wrote it, to whom did they write and the circumstances of their writing. This gives valuable information to understanding the letter more clearly. So this post will be the introduction and give background on this wonderful epistle (letter).

The author of this letter is James, who is believed to be Jesus’ half-brother (half-brother because they have the same mom but different dad’s - see Matthew 13:55). I find it exciting that we have a book in the Bible that was written by a family member of Christ. In what had to be heart breaking for Jesus is that James did not believe that that his half-brother was the Messiah (John 7:5) until after He had been crucified (Acts 1:14; I Corinthians 15:7). How many of us are living with the knowledge that our families don’t believe in us? This is just another way that Christ can sympathize with and care for us.

Eusebius tells us that James was a devout Jew that never let a razor touch his hair, never drank wine or ate meat. This plays an important role in the content of this letter. Because of the way he lived his life he was called James the Just and James the Righteous.

After his conversion James gained a prominent role in the early church. In Acts 15 we see that he was leading the Jerusalem Counsel. This counsel was important because they debated whether one had to be circumcised to be saved; am importation of an important Jewish custom into the new covenant, a custom that James would have fully understood because of his understanding of the law. We also see in Galatians 2:9-12 the leadership role James continued to play in the church.

It is believed that he died in A.D. 62. The Jewish elite asked him to recant his faith and wouldn't  A stark contrast to his denials of his brother as the Messiah before James’ conversion. Church history tells us that he was beaten then thrown from the pinnacle of the temple. This was to mock Christ. Remember in Matthew 4:5-7 Satan tempted Christ by telling Him that if he was to throw Himself off the pinnacle of the temple that angels would save Him. Being a slave of Christ cost James his life.

I enjoy word clouds. They give a good picture of what the author is trying to convey to us. The bigger the word the more often it is used. This is the word cloud for James' epistle.

These words stand out to me: God, Lord, faith, man, brethren and works. James' focus first and foremost is God and our faith in Him. Next is our fellow man. Throughout the epistle James teaches us how we are to relate to each other. Then our works. James 1:22 is the key to the letter. We must be a people of faith that puts that faith into action. If we don't then our faith is dead (James 2:17).

So I invite you to go on this journey with me through the book of James and learn how we are to live out our faith. Again, please leave comments or questions so that we can sharpen each other’s faith (Proverbs 27:17).