I have the opportunity to be a workshop speaker at this year’s LYFE conference. My topic is the interpretation and application of Scripture; Navigating God’s word for LYFE.
Road signs provide safety and direction. Without them, every day travel would be a mess. This workshop is designed to offer both clarity and direction as one navigates through LYFE using God’s word. “What do I look for when reading God’s word?” “What does this passage mean?” “Does this passage really apply to me?” “What do I learn about my God?” Come join me in this workshop and learn how you can find the answers to these questions. Learning how to read, study, and apply God’s word is essential, because LYFE can be messy, and often times difficult to navigate.
For more information about the conference click here.
I was recently asked what books I plan to read in 2018. My goal this year is to read books that assist me while I teach in the academy (Undergraduate College & Seminary), serve in the church, and grow in my personal life. Baptist Bible Seminary recently posted a quick word regarding two resources I plan to read this new year. You can catch the story here. I do plan to read more than the two represented here, and as those decisions are made, I will post titles, short snippets, and/or reviews of the resources I read.
As you can see, NTResources is taking on a new and fresh look. Along with this new look, is a new weekly blog titled Greek for a Week. Greek for a week is a weekly video resource provided for those who want to learn, retain or grow their knowledge of New Testament Greek. The weekly 2-3-minute video provides a translation of a Greek text, and a discussion highlighting important grammatical point(s) that are beneficial for interpretation, application, and preaching.
The weekly blog is set to begin in February.
I have the privilege to speak to the students of Clarks Summit University in chapel, Tuesday, Sept 26. I challenged the students to chase after godliness with purpose from 1 Timothy 4:6-8. The message can be found here.
You will want to read the update by Dr. Mark McGinniss regarding the strategic changes to the Journal of Theology & Ministry that is published by Baptist Bible Seminary. Click here for the story.
The annual Council on Dispensational Hermeneutics is upon us again this year. The topic will be Dispensationalism and the Glory of God. The Council begins Wednesday, Sept. 13 and runs through Thursday, Sept. 14. This is the tenth year for the event. Please click here for more information.
Today I wish to honor a friend, mentor, professor, and colleague. Dr. William Arp went home to be with his Savior on Sunday, July 2. I am selfishly saddened because I will no longer have the opportunity to learn from him. I joined the faculty of Baptist Bible Seminary, Clarks Summit University two years ago (June 2015) and have enjoyed learning from Bill. His knowledge of God’s word was not just taught to others in a Seminary classroom, but also lived as an example in front of others. I had the privilege to watch and learn, his office was beside mine – what a joy.
I also grew in God’s word as a member of his ABF (BYKOTA) at Heritage Baptist Church. His teaching was clear and practical; you learned the word of God in his class. I recall Dr. Mike Stallard’s (former BBS dean) comment regarding Bill’s handling of God’s word; that is, “Bill can exegete the Pauline Epistles like nobody’s business.” And Mike was right. The words clear expositional teaching and preaching continue to come to mind when I think of Bill Arp. Bill, you will be missed dearly. Thank you for your honesty, gracious and guiding spirit. I personally know God’s word and handle it better today because of you. God bless you and one day I’ll see you again. Praise the Lord. You can read more of his story here.
Each year at Easter I am challenged to consider what I could do to involve my family in a meaningful reflection of the risen Savior, Jesus Christ. This year I have chosen to use a day-to-day reading of Jesus’ last days as it is recorded in the Gospel of Mark. The readings go from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday. It is a great way to meditate upon the resurrection throughout the week and provide a great family devotion time.
Please see the link here for the day-to-day reading.
I recently preached a Christmas sermon at NorthValley Baptist Church (Mayfield, PA) and used Luke 1:46-56 as my text. I began the message asking the congregation, “What’s worth celebrating to you?” As they sat there contemplating the question, I encouraged them to make a list. (before continuing to read this blog post, you, . . . yes you, create your list). I’m sure the majority of our lists include graduation ceremonies, weddings, birthdays, baptisms, salvations, one’s first job, accomplishments of our children, etc. But I wonder, would “God’s grace” make our list? Would we even stop and think about His grace as something to celebrate; is it even of the celebratory nature? To many, probably not.
But I want you to consider Luke’s recording of Mary’s Song of Praise. Luke interrupted the normal flow of his biblical narrative to engage the audience to join in the celebration of what God has done; and did so using Mary’s song of praise. This passage (1:46-56) follows closely on the heels of Luke’s recording of Gabriel’s announcement to Mary (1:26-38) and then Mary’s eager departure to visit Elizabeth (1:39-45). These two preceding portions of Luke’s story demonstrate the gracious hand of God; that is, Mary is with child, namely the Messiah, and Elizabeth, who is full of the Holy Spirit, discerns that Mary is blessed among women. Now, what does Mary do? Well, Darrell Bock in his commentary summarizes Mary’s response. He states, “Elizabeth’s blessing produces a reaction from Mary. She bursts into praise, offering a hymn of thanksgiving. The hymn gives thanks for God’s gracious dealings with her, actions that reflect how he has treated humanity through all generations,” (BEC, 142).
Mary declares that God is great and He is Savior (1:46-47). There are two reasons (ὅτι-clauses) for her praise. First, Mary praises God because of His loving care to use her to bear the child. She is privileged and graced by God. She also declares that “from now on, (ESV)” all generations will call her blessed. This is the cool part = ‘from now on,’ things will be different. Once Mary was touched by the gracious hand of God, things are and will be different. They are never the same! Amen!
Second, Mary praises God because He is holy; the mighty one (v. 49). God’s holiness is not an afterthought; rather it is an explanation of His sovereign authority as the ruler over his people. This description, ‘mighty one,’ refers to a warrior who fights on behalf of His people and delivers them.
Mary also declares that God is merciful and righteous (1:50-53). He is merciful because his mercy extends to those who fear Him; that is, those who acknowledge God’s rightful position and authority over them. His mercy (ἔλεος) is similar to the Hebrew term hesed – royal-covenant/faithful love. He is righteous because He extends His power and removes His enemies from His path. He exalts the humble and supplies need to the hungry.
Lastly, Mary praises God for His loyal love (1:54-55). It is God’s covenant mercy and remembrance of His promises to Abraham that Israel is and will be blessed. Bock states, “The point is that God’s action is motivated by his loyal love. He remembered mercy declaring that God’s actions grew out of his faithful regard for his covenant promises,” (BEC, 159). But it begins with Jesus, of whom Mary will deliver. She celebrates with an anthem of praise.
God’s act of salvation, isn’t this worth celebrating? What is your plan this Christmas season to do so? His act is rooted in grace and faithfulness, will you pause this Christmas season to praise the Lord for His faithfulness?
When I come to this time of the year, the thanksgiving holiday, I’m reminded of Paul’s thanksgiving sections within his letters. In his second letter to the Thessalonians, Paul highlights their faith and endurance under extreme difficulty. He does not hesitate to boast to other churches that God is working in and through them. These prayers are a great example of how we as believers can also pray.
In 2 Thessalonians 1:3-12, he begins by stating his obligation to pray for the Thessalonians. He saw his opportunity to pray as a personal responsibility before God on their behalf; a sense of proud boasting, if you will. Paul prayed for them because of the further development of their faith in God (cf. 1 Thess 1:3), the faith in God that produces action. He says that their faith grew abundantly and their love increased (2 Thess 1:3). As a result of this growth, Paul took the opportunity to boast to other churches. In fact, Paul’s motivation for boasting was the Thessalonians’ steadfastness and faith (v. 4), again, even amidst severe hostility. Mike Stallard in his commentary on the Thessalonian letters states,
Paul had noted this quality of the Thessalonians in his first epistle when he mentioned their ‘steadfastness of hope’ in Jesus (1 Thess 1:3). In the last chapter of the second epistle, the apostle prays that the Lord may direct their hearts into the ‘steadfastness‘ of Christ (3:5). This again shows the apostle’s constant teaching that there was always room for growth in the qualities that he acknowledged in the Thessalonians” (pp. 137-38).
I think the question that comes to my mind is, would Paul boast about my growth? I could also ask myself, what plan do I have in place this week for continued growth to occur?
Paul does not stop there. He continues in verses 5-10 to expand on the persecutions & afflictions. These terrible times were evidence of the righteous judgment of God (v. 5); that is, their suffering is a demonstration of the genuineness of their faith (their identity – cf. 1:1). They endured this suffering to be counted worthy of the kingdom of God. And, because God’s judgment is “just,” it’s “right;” it is right of him to repay those who trouble the Thessalonians. He will also give relief to the those who are being afflicted (vv. 6-7). One could say that a picture of this relief is the ‘slackening of a string on a bow.’ The relief He gives is when His Son is revealed and gives/hands-out vengeance to those who do not know God & who do not obey the gospel. It is a punishment that is eternal; it lasts forever (vv. 7-9).
Another question, knowing that one day Jesus will punish those who do not have a relationship with Him – does this motivate me to love others and share the gospel? What am I doing with the truth?
Paul concludes with a short prayer (cf. 1:11-12). His prayer is that God will help them to continue to display their true standing; their calling. It is an evaluation of their conduct in light of His calling; but all the time realizing that God enables them to do what is good and right. God’s calling is the foundation/basis for their conduct . . . now display it. However, they were not left to do it themselves. Paul states that this work of faith comes by the means of His power (v. 11). Ultimately for the purpose of the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to be glorified, and we, as believers, be glorified in Him. To be glorified in Christ is possible only because the most exalted God and Lord is the one who stands as the true source of all things (v. 12).
The focus of Paul’s prayer is living in the present while having knowledge of the hope of a future. Rest, relief, and honor is coming to the believer; whereas judgment, destruction, and separation from God awaits the unbeliever. This provides the reality for us to live day by day as we do the work of faith; and can only be carried out by God’s enabling grace. The suffering of one’s present life is to be one day replaced with glorification. This is Paul’s incentive for the believer to live a life worthy of his status, for the Spirit indwells him. Those who bear Christ’s name must also glorify God in that name. This is dependent upon the supply of grace that is sourced in the Spirit of God.
Click the link for the diagram of 2 Thessalonians 1:1-12.
I am amazed at how God utilizes circumstances, children, and every day life to conform, challenge, and care for his own. This morning I stepped back and thought to myself, “Thank you God for the opportunity and privilege to rear children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. Please place a hedge of protection around them as they begin a new school year.” God is a caring and loving God; He’s doing it through my children, Jack (14 years of age, Freshman in high school) and Nick (10 years of age, 5th grade in middle school).
My boys are a blessing to Missy and me; we are thankful. The boys love the Lord, love soccer, and strive, each in his own way, to honor and glorify God. These boys, . . . they are dependent upon their parents to provide, guide, and love & care for them. Missy and I are happy to take the mantle of shepherding our boys. Is it easy? No, not quite – but certainly a joy. My prayer for my two boys is Paul’s prayer to the Colossians,
“. . . asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Col 1:9-10).
I am blessed and thankful.
There is little doubt the Church today faces a culture that is very different than 20 years ago. As a matter of fact, the Church is to engage and minister to a culture that typically does not value biblical truth, does not accept biblical truth, and certainly does not live according to biblical truth. How does the Church engage a culture like this? Simple, . . . engage this culture with not our truth, but with God’s authoritative Word; and do so with all accuracy and relevancy.
Following the results of the American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS), Newsweek published a cover story in 2009 titled “The End of Christian America.” The ARIS results indicated a decline of 10 percentage points (86% to 76%) of self-identified Christians from 1990 to 2009. Another survey, from the Pew Research Study in 2012 published results that the self-identified Christians fell another 5 percent, and did so in only 5 years.
This looks to present a problem for the Church. Are there going to be any Christians to impact and engage this culture with the gospel of Jesus Christ? Ed Stetzer, in his blog titled “The Exchange” published in Christianity Today, states that the church is not dying, despite what others may report. The church is in transition, but not dying. Ed also states that the current cultural shift is bringing clarity that will assist in defining who we are as Christians; that is, potentially most of the 86% of those who checked the “Christian” box on a survey in 1990 were likely not genuine followers of Jesus Christ.
Being American and being Christian are NOT one-in-the-same. The Scriptures define Christian very differently than culture at large. It is quite possible that those people who checked the “Christian” box on a survey are no longer doing so; quite frankly because they no longer feel the societal pressure to be “Christian.” To them, shedding the label “Christian” makes sense.
What is facing the Church today? What crises present themselves as potential obstacles to the Church? Why is it important, and necessary, for the Church to be aware of them? While a faculty member at Baptist Bible College and Theological Seminary in Springfield, MO I was asked by the President of the College to speak at the annual meeting of the Baptist Bible Fellowship International in May of 2014. I spoke to hundreds of pastors in order to help prepare them to minister the gospel of Jesus Christ to an ever-changing, postmodern culture. I presented the Theological Crises Facing the Church Today. Since then, I have constructed some additional thoughts and resources in a paper (Preparing for Theological Issues) that I hope communicates the seriousness of what faces the Church today. May God provide us with the wisdom necessary to impact and engage today’s culture with the gospel.