We kicked off the fall at First Central Bible Church with a prayer walk for our public schools. It served to launch the current sermon series on Prayer: Moving Heaven for Earth. Our intern, Jack Gilbert, put together a prayer guide of suggested requests. About 45 people gathered on Sunday afternoon, August 28, prayed together, and then broke up into teams of 3-4 to go to the various public schools in Chicopee where they prayed as they walked around the schools. Click on the link to download a copy of the guide.
Monthly Archives: September 2016
Book Review: Greek for Everyone: Introductory Greek for Bible study and application, by A. Chadwick Thornhill
Professor A. Chadwick Thornhill has not written your traditional Greek grammar textbook. Instead, he has crafted a volume which sits between a Greek grammar and a biblical hermeneutics book. Most grammars jump immediately into the details of nouns, verbs, and vocabulary. Their goal is turn a student into a scholar. In contrast, the author’s focus “is learning Greek in order to become better students of Scripture rather than students of Greek.” He keeps that goal at the forefront of the book.
The author starts by giving his readers the big picture of language. His point is that “words do not have meaning.” Instead, words only have meaning within a context or “semantic domain.” He explains this principle by showing the big picture of the Gospel of Matthew.
Once the reader gains the big picture, then the author introduces the building blocks of Greek language. He explains the nature of the Greek New Testament, how to understand verb tenses, the various cases of nouns, as well as the details regarding pronouns, adjectives, prepositions, infinitives, and participles.
The author concludes the book with a discussion of English translations and a chapter on the hermeneutical (interpretation) principle of bridging contexts—historical, cultural, and grammatical. He also includes a chapter on the right and wrong way to do word studies.
The book is clearly written and easy to follow. It is a step-by-step guide to learning any language, but especially Greek. Having taken Greek in college and seminary, I found it a helpful refresher.
Disclosure: I received this book free from Baker Books through the Baker Books Bloggers www.bakerbooks.com/bakerbooksbloggers program. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.
I have been invited to return to Russia in March 2017 to help encourage and strengthen pastors and leaders. Below is a letter I sent to my church explaining the ministry and asking for their prayer and financial support. Please read through it and prayerfully consider joining my support team. Thanks for your consideration.
There are many misconceptions about prayer. If you listen to some folks, you get the impression that God only hears prayers offered in 16th Century King James English—“Dear Heavenly Father, we comest to Thee and bowest in Thine presence as abject worm-eaten sinners.” Others act as if they must find the right key to open heaven’s doors or perhaps need to hack God’s operating system and find the password to get in the back door. Still others believe God is so busy running the universe that we must take a number and wait in line until he has time for us. In addition, some folks pray as if God is required to do their bidding and so they make demands that he bless every plan.
You get a different perspective when you read about Abraham’s conversation with God in Genesis 18:16-33. You discover that prayer is a conversation where God reveals his plans to us and where we respond and ask how we can help him accomplish his plans. This fits with what we have discovered thus far in our series, that prayer is a conversation with a God who knows our needs, cares about our needs, and moves to meet our needs. We focus on God and his concerns first before we bring our requests to him.
Genesis 18:16-17 shows the depth of God’s relationship with Abraham. A servant is not privy to his master’s plans, but a friend will share his thoughts with his friends. As the friend of God, Abraham is included in what God has in store for the world. Abraham was to be a channel of blessing to the world (18:18), so he needed to know why God was removing one of those nations before he had a chance to bless it. Abraham was to teach justice to his children and grandchildren (18:19), but he needed to see it demonstrated so he could do more than teach the theory. God is going to model justice for Abraham in how he deals with the sin of Sodom (18:20-21).
Throughout this passage, God models his character for Abraham. God is omniscient and knows everything. He hears the cries of the oppressed and the downtrodden. But he is also a just judge who will base his judgment on firsthand information. He sends his angels to Sodom to investigate if things are as bad as he has heard (18:15, 21).
As Scripture reveals, Sodom had seen and experienced God’s grace on numerous occasions. When the inhabitants of Sodom were captured in the battle of the kings (Genesis 14:1-16), God allowed them to be rescued by Abraham. They heard the witness of Melchizedek, the priest of God Most High (14:17-20). They witnessed Abraham’s response to the king of Sodom that he would only serve the Most High God and would not take any of the spoils of war (14:21-24). Despite the repeated evidence of God’s grace, the people of Sodom were incredibly wicked. (This is not New England “wicked”—“wicked cold,” “wicked awesome.” This is evil wicked. On a scale of 0-10, these folks were a minus 15.) They were guilty and fully deserving of God’s righteous judgment.
And yet, the just judge is also a merciful God. He will spare the wicked for the sake of the righteous.
Abraham’s conversation with God is not a beat down of God. Abraham is not arm wrestling God in order to get his way. Abraham’s prayer is modest. He never challenges God’s evaluation of Sodom or pries into the details. His prayer is humble. He recognizes God is the Lord and he is but “dust and ashes” (18:27). Despite his modesty and humility, Abraham is persistent in his prayer. Six times he asks God for something specific, and becomes bolder with each request (50, 45, 40, 30, 20, 10 righteous people) (18:24-32). Abraham’s prayer is also persuasive as he appeals to God in light of God’s character. “Will not the judge of all the earth do what is just?” (18:25, 32).
As Christ followers, we need to understand God’s plan and our role in helping carry it out. God’s plan is to reach the world with the message of grace. Our role is to share the gospel and make disciples. Since God is going to bring judgment on the world, we must intercede for those who need mercy. Rather than just focus on ourselves, we should pray for the oppressed and downtrodden in our city, state, nation, and world.
This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on September 18, 2016. It is part of a series on Prayer: Moving Heaven for Earth. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.
Book Review: Befriend: Create belonging in an age of judgment, isolation, and fear, by Scott Sauls
What might happen if we took seriously Christ’s command to “love one another”? What might happen if Christ followers sincerely tried to love the least and the lost? What are some practical ways that we can create real friendship with those on the fringes of society? These questions lie at the heart of pastor and author Scott Sauls’ latest offering, Befriend: Create belonging in an age of judgment, isolation.
Far too often, according to the author, we settle for “less real versions of friendship.” These might include digital friendships, transactional friendships, and one-dimensional friendships. Rather than settle for false versions of friendship, the author challenges us to pursue real friendship—“the multilayered kind that exposes us to the grit of our own and each other’s lives; the kinds that positions us to love across the lines of our differences; the kind that leads us to lay down our lives for each others’ sake.”
As the author explains, the book “is a collection of twenty essays. Each essay attempts to explore a unique picture of real friendship…. Real friendship happens when we move toward the people we are most tempted to avoid. These are the people who are best equipped to challenge our perspectives, push our buttons, and require us to put on love.” Included in his list of challenging people to love are “prodigals and Pharisees,” “the ones you can’t control,” “dysfunctional family members,” “the poor and empty-handed,” “bullies and perpetrators,” “vulnerable women and humans not yet born,” and several others.
The book is well written and will challenge your thinking. The book is biblical and practical. It includes many real life stories and examples. I found it especially timely in light of the current debate over athletes who stand/kneel during the national anthem.
My impression is that the book appears to be written to those who are already following Christ. The only negative I found in the book is that it lacks a gospel presentation. In the chapter, “Befriend the one in the mirror,” he deals with the subject of shame and says that Christ has “lifted our shame off of us, nailing it to the cross.” However, he doesn’t go further to explain how we can receive forgiveness for our shame and sin.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Tyndale Blog Network http://tyndaleblognetwork.com/ book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
Book Review: Photographs From the Edge: A master photographer’s insights on capturing an extraordinary world, by Art Wolfe with Rob Sheppard
Art Wolfe and Rob Sheppard put together a collection of stunning photographs in a coffee-table quality art book. The book has the appearance of a “greatest hits” album of master photographer Art Wolfe’s work over the years. The work is organized by decades, starting in the 1980’s when Art used print film and going up to the 2010’s when he now specializes in digital photography. Much of his work centers on wildlife, but also includes geography and people from all over the world.
Each picture is dated, titled, and located geographically as to where and when it was taken. The author also gives the details of what camera was used, the film or ISO setting, and the lens he used. The artist also gives an explanation of the circumstances that led to each photograph, how he chose the subject, setting, lighting, etc. The editor also includes a section on “The nature of the photo” which explains a little about the animal, geographic landmark, or person in the picture. There is also a “Photo tip” about how to use lighting, lenses, color, and background to take a similar photograph.
The book is both entertaining and informative. I learned by reading the explanations and tips as well as by studying the details of the photos.
I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.