Friday, October 07, 2016

Book Recommendation--Out of the Flames by Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone

This past March (2016), a good friend of mine recommended a book to me, Out of the Flames, by Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone.  Not only is this book one of the best books I have read this year, it probably will fall into the category of one of the greatest books that I have read in my lifetime.  The subject matter of the book is “the remarkable story of a fearless scholar, a fatal heresy, and one of the rarest books in the world.”  It is the story about Michael Servetus who was one of the most brilliant men that has ever lived.  Not only was Servetus a theologian, he was also a scientist and was one of the first to discover the pulmonary circulation of the blood through the lungs but he also wrote a book that cost him his life. 

One of the reasons that I believe this book is so important is not only for the content of the book but also who wrote it.  It is written by Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone, a husband and wife team, who are not theologians.  This is important because of the subject matter they write about concerning Michael Servetus and his battle with one of the most sadistic souls who has ever lived, John Calvin.  The Goldstones are primarily book collectors and write about antiquarian books which are books that are very rare and usually very old.  One of the book’s descriptions states that the Goldstones are interested in the “enduring legacy of books.”  Because they are not theologians or church historians they have a tendency to write their book about Servetus without the normal bias that comes against Servetus by so many of the church historians, theologians, and religious philosophers who do undertake the task of writing about the conflict between Servetus and Calvin.  In fact, I have read before various accounts by authors who generally come from a Reformed bent and it appears to me that before they ever get their thoughts off the ground, Servetus is under a severe thrashing. 

Monday, October 03, 2016

What Is Good Preaching?

 I have just recently come home from the UPCI General Conference held in Indianapolis, Indiana.  A couple of the Thursday morning seminars provoked my thoughts for this blog.  The first was by Raymond Woodward, “Why I Call Myself a Teacher,” and the second one was by Jerry Jones, “Preaching and Revival.”  Both of the sessions highlighted the matter of preaching and its crucial importance for our churches and our world.  I was again drawn back to the fact that even though there are a wide diversity of demands made on pastor/teachers and evangelists in our day, we can ill afford to let our preaching slip way down the list of our priorities.  There is absolutely nothing that is as important as good preaching in our churches.  But that gives rise to a very good question—what is good preaching?

Friday, July 01, 2016

July With the Puritans--George Swinnock--Part 2

This is the second outing that we are going to spend with George Swinnock whom was introduced in the previous post.  One of the chief ways of gaining insight into the Puritans is the need to read their sermons but even more so than that is to think and meditate on what they have written.  Early on you will discover that there were some matters that set the writings of the Puritans apart.  I intend on showing you some of the chief themes and characteristics about their preaching.  First, they were very concerned about the state of their conscience.  Secondly, they were very focused in on the brevity of life.  Thirdly, they used some of the most masterful word pictures in their preaching.  I have gathered most of the material I will write today from Volume 1 of George Swinnock’s work (pp. 1-26).    

The State of the Conscience

The condition of the human heart is sinful and has great proclivities toward sin.  This is the reason that men must be converted because of his fallen nature.  Never be surprised at the actions that sinners fall into.  “Men’s hearts naturally, are like Nebuchadnezzar’s, the hearts of beasts, grazing only in fleshly pastures, savouring only sensual pleasures, till their reason returneth to them; then they bless and honour the most high God, who liveth forever, Dan. iv. 34; then they mind spiritual dainties, and relish celestial delights” (pp. 3-4).  This is the kind of understanding of the human condition that has been seriously lost and sorely neglected by much of our world today.  Somewhere along the way, educators, politicians, news commentators, and even religious leaders have come to believe that man is basically good.  Take that single sentence that Swinnock wrote in the 17th century and make a comparison with any Christian bestseller today and you will notice a drastic difference in the content of the books.  In fact, the New York Bestseller List for the Religion/Spirituality list for today has a book about Scientology in the first slot.  The books that follow are those which are very marketable which means that there is very little of a call toward holiness and devotion to God but rather how to get God to do what we want Him to do.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

July with the Puritans--George Swinnock--Part 1

It seems like forever ago that I spent a month blogging about some of the Puritans.  Back in March 2012, I wrote a series of articles on Puritan preaching along with a brief sketch of some of the Puritan preachers.  Those men were Jeremiah Burroughs, Thomas Brooks, Thomas Shepherd, and Thomas Watson.  During the last five years, I have continually drawn from the writings of these men and their works have often been as refreshing to me as an artesian well that watered my soul.  Their commitment to personal holiness, private prayer, and passionate but deep preaching has certainly been a motivation for me.  With that in mind, I have determined to spend another month with the Puritans in hopes that those who read this will make a decision to explore some of the lives and works of these men.

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Study Bibles for Expositors--The Holman Christian Standard Study Bible (HCSB)--Holman Bible Publishers

This study Bible is the sixth one that I will review.  Several years ago I ran across a garage sale where due to some very unfortunate events a man had compromised his ministry and his family was selling all of his books, commentaries, and Bibles.  While I did find some very useful books at dirt-cheap prices, I did not want to purchase the Bibles because there was a little something sacred about them even though this man was not of my doctrinal persuasion.  As I was about to leave, his ex-wife came over and gave me a copy of a very nice leather bound Holman Christian Standard Bible that was just plain text with a single reference column.  I started to read it some weeks later and found it to be a thought-provoking translation. 

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Study Bibles for Expositors--NIV Zondervan Study Bible--Zondervan Publishing

We have been reviewing several study Bibles that I thought would be helpful to those who are making a concerted effort to become effective expositors.  An expositor is a preacher who has a commitment to preach through the Bible dealing with the context, the doctrinal content, and the application to a New Testament apostolic church.  Expository preaching can be best summed up in this threefold manner:  Read the text, explain the text, and apply the text.  On the other hand don’t let that greatly simplified form lead you to think that this makes for simple preaching for it does not.  I have been working at this angle of preaching for a little over ten years now and it is the most demanding sort of preaching that a minister can give himself to.  It requires great discipline and you have to get control of your personal schedule so that you can effectively work somewhere that is free from interruptions.  However, the soul building that takes place in the preacher and in the life of the church will be astounding!  So all of these study Bibles that I have been reviewing for the last four posts is nothing more than an effort to encourage men to be students of Scripture. 

Monday, November 23, 2015

Study Bibles for Expositors--The NIV Archaeological Study Bible--Zondervan

The fourth study Bible that I would like to recommend to those who are endeavoring to develop into being an expositor is one that is very useful in looking at a text in a bit of a different light.  The NIV Archaeological Study Bible published by Zondervan is another excellent tool for those who would be critical of the biblical text.  A preacher will preach to a wide variety of people that visit the church where he will pastor.  For the most part the vast majority of apostolic churches have people who attend that believe the Scriptures to be authentic, inspired, inerrant, and authoritative.  But we have unbelievers who attend that do not have the same shared confidence in Scripture that we might not have and we have college students who attend schools where professors and other students can be militantly hostile against the Word of God.  This Bible is very helpful in combatting some of that rhetoric. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Study Bibles for Expositors--Dugan Topical Reference Bible--Dugan Publishers, Inc.

The third study Bible that we come to has a great sentimental value to me.  It is the Dugan Topical Reference Bible from Dugan Publishers out of Tennessee although I believe they are no longer in business.  I purchased this Study Bible on September 15, 1989 from Rev. Kelsey Griffin who was teaching my Bible Study Methods class my freshman year at Texas Bible College when it was still located in Houston.  He had boxes of these Bibles that he kept in his upstairs study/library and he sold them to the students for $20.  If I had known then what I know now I would have bought as many as I could afford at the time.  What is unique about this Bible is that it came at a time when computers were just starting to come on the scene but the vast majority of people did not have $2000-3000 to spend on one.  So most of the resources that ministers had available to them had to be in printed form of books.  Also at that time there was very few study Bibles around.  Most Pentecostal ministers used a Thompson Chain Reference Bible, a Schofield Study Bible, or a Dake’s Annotated Bible.  Occasionally you might find someone who had a Ryrie Study Bible but they were not very many who had those at the time.  There were a couple of features about the Dugan Bible that Brother Griffin brought to our attention.

Monday, November 09, 2015

Study Bibles for Expositors--English Standard Version (ESV) by Crossway

The next study Bible on the list is the English Standard Version (ESV) published by Crossway, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, Illinois.  The ESV was initially published in 2001 however the Study Bible was published in 2011.  If you are a Bible reader and are familiar with other translations, it won’t take you long to realize that the ESV closely resembles the New American Standard Bible.  There are not a lot of changes between to the two to the casual reader.  I am certain that it you made a comparison with charts and diagrams and so forth that there would be some notable differences between the two of them.  Before going further I would like to point out my usual disclaimer that just because I am a reader of this particular translation it does not mean that I can entirely endorse everything about the ESV Study Bible.  I look at it as simply being another tool in the toolbox of one who desires to be serious about the exposition of Scripture in his preaching. 

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Study Bibles for Expositors -- Hebrew-Greek KEYWORD Study Bible by AMG Publishers

Part 1—Hebrew-Greek KEY WORD Study Bible—AMG Publishers

If you would be a serious expositor of God’s Word, you are constantly on the lookout for good resources that will help you to pull all you can from the biblical text.  One of tools that you need is good study Bibles.  There was a time not too long ago when we would have had to say a good study Bible but as times have progressed there are many choices of study Bibles that are available for us to use.  For the month of November I intend to do a review of a host of study Bibles that I have found helpful to me in the last several years.  Another reason that I am going to spend November to do this would be because of Black Friday being just around the corner.  If you live near a chain Christian bookstore, you can pick up many of these study Bibles very cheaply and even more so if you decide to go with hardbound instead of bonded or genuine leather. 

Friday, October 30, 2015

Book Recommendation: Unashamed Workmen: How Expositors Prepare and Preach - Rhett Dodson

Increasingly I am much encouraged by some of the conversations that I am having with various Pentecostal pastors around the nation.  It is becoming more and more common that I am finding men who are paying the price with discipline and diligence to really dig into the Word so that their preaching has taken a different direction.  This direction change is coming because of the challenges that we are facing in our culture and the deep moral depravity that is assaulting the church.  We also have to contend more and more with the onward advancement of various world religions that are making inroads to the United States.  Our preaching has to change to meet those challenges for we can no longer afford to simply preach to the moment so that people get out of their seats and flutter about for a little while to satisfy some shallow emotional need they need to feel better about. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Isn't That Something?

I have been revisiting some of my journal scribblings from the last four years or so and have found a variety of thoughts I had written down.  Some of those scribblings had to do with little mental or spiritual stimulations that I thought I would put on this blog.  This post comes about from three different entries that I have merged together.  The first one was from Eugene Peterson’s very fine memoir, The Pastor and the other two were blog entries that Thom Rainer had written which dealt with pastoral ministry.  Peterson’s angle was that pastors have fallen into the trap of being turned into church growth gurus and it has cost them the priority of their own spiritual life of prayer, personal Bible reading/study (you would be shocked how many pastors don’t read the Bible on a regular basis), and the practice of spiritual disciplines which include the previous two and a host of others.  His fear was that pastors are being turned into executive automatons who can drive cattle about on a range but have lost the art of leading sheep through still pastures.  Rainer wrote about the dilemmas pastors face in the church which contribute to great dilemmas in the soul of the pastor.  The best way to describe it would be to say that the little foxes have gained an entrance and they are spoiling a harvest. 

Monday, October 19, 2015

Only 30%

Several weeks ago I had a very thought provoking discussion with my brother about Pentecostal preaching.  In 1992 my parents gave Mark a new Thompson Chain reference Bible for Christmas.  It wasn’t too long after that he began to use this Bible as his primary Bible as his everyday carry.  He used it for devotional matters, he used it at Texas Bible College in the classroom, and he also used it to preach.  One of the other things he did with this Bible was underline every sermon he heard during a twenty-year period.  After retiring this Bible in 2012, he discovered something very interesting about this Bible.  He went back and looked at all of the Scriptures that he had underlined when he was listening to preachers.  He noted that during that twenty-year time period that he had heard approximately 3,500 messages.  This came from a variety of places.  Obviously the bulk of these came from the local churches where he had attended during that twenty-year time period.  There were other unique places where he had listened to preaching.  He had been in multiple chapel services at TBC, he had gone to several of the larger Pentecostal churches in the Houston area, and he had been to various conferences although he had not attended as many as I have through the years. 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

On Pastoral Criticism--Part 3

We have spent the last two posts speaking of what takes place with criticism in the confines of a church.  The first one was what takes place in the soul of the pastor.  The second was what takes place in the soul of the critic.  This last post is devoted to what takes place in the church when critics began to do their work. 

As a leaping off point, look to Romans 16:17-20 from the Message (as a disclaimer, I don’t use the Message as a primary source):

Romans 16:17-20 MSG  One final word of counsel, friends. Keep a sharp eye out for those who take bits and pieces of the teaching that you learned and then use them to make trouble. Give these people a wide berth.  [18]  They have no intention of living for our Master Christ. They're only in this for what they can get out of it, and aren't above using pious sweet talk to dupe unsuspecting innocents.  [19]  And so while there has never been any question about your honesty in these matters--I couldn't be more proud of you!--I want you also to be smart, making sure every "good" thing is the real thing. Don't be gullible in regard to smooth-talking evil. Stay alert like this,  [20]  and before you know it the God of peace will come down on Satan with both feet, stomping him into the dirt. Enjoy the best of Jesus!

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

On Pastoral Criticism--Part 2

We are continuing this brief series on pastors and dealing with the fact that a pastor will have to deal with criticism on a fairly regular basis.  In the last post, I dealt with what criticism does to a pastor and the ways that he can let it work productively for him.  By no means am I insinuating that criticism does not have a mark that it leaves on a man who generally is working to do his best to help people to grow in their spiritual walk.  Over the years, I have had multiple conversations with pastors who were enduring some form of criticism for decisions they had made concerning the churches they pastored.  What I have found to be true is that the size of the church really does not matter.  It can be a small church or a mid-sized one, or a large church and all of these men of God found themselves having to contend with the critics they were attempting to lead.

Monday, May 04, 2015

On Pastoral Criticism--Part 1

There is one occupational hazard of a calling into the ministry, especially that of being a pastor, that seems to hurt more and grate at ministers more than any other—having to endure criticism.  It is one of the necessary pieces of territory that comes with holding a public place in ministry.  Even though it is painful to endure and it is understood that we have to deal with it, it has the capacity to create overwhelming waves of discouragement and free-falls into the abyss of despair.  No matter how faithful a man may be or how diligent he is in his work ethic, criticism is coming to a local church near you.  If you are district official, it is coming to district near you and there is nothing we can do to make us protected from it.

There will be waves of criticism that seem to come from every direction at times and then there will be periods when all seems to be at rest and you walk through life and ministry without a peep so to speak.  After having been involved in ministry for almost 30 years, I have come to realize that there is a fringe that every church has that is always buzzing about something.  Early in my ministry, I was very concerned about this fringe of the “mixed multitude” and what they were saying and doing.  However as the years have passed, I have come to believe what the Proverbs recommends, “Answer not a folly according to his folly” (Proverbs 26:4).  The best course is to leave them alone and let your only form of protest be the excellence of your work.  Let your work, your life, and your ethics stand in the face of criticism.  

Friday, March 06, 2015

A Conversation with UPCI Assistant General Superintendent (Eastern Zone) Paul Mooney

Yesterday, I shared with you the conversation that I enjoyed with the UPCI General Superintendent, David Bernard.  This blog is going to cover the gist of several conversations that I had with UPCI Assistant General Superintendent (Eastern Zone) Paul Mooney.

I have known Brother Mooney for quite a number of years.  I suppose the first time I officially met him was around 2004 or so at an Alabama District Men’s Conference.  Since that time he has preached at several camp meetings in Alabama in addition to a district conference.  He is one of the most uniquely brilliant men I have ever met!  He has a very gifted mind and you find that to be very obvious when you begin to interact with him because all of the times you spend with him there isn’t an ounce of wasted energy or time.  He also serves dual role as the pastor at the historic CalvaryTabernacle in Indianapolis and as the president of Indiana Bible College.  If ever there was an ardent supporter of apostolic doctrine and identity in this generation, he certainly falls into that category.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

A Conversation with UPCI General Superintendent David Bernard

At our General Conference this past fall, I was shocked with surprise when my District Superintendent, Rev. Stan Davidson, notified me that my name had been nominated for the Southeastern Regional Executive Presbyter.  I was even more surprised and honored to be voted into the two-year term which officially began in January.  One of the first assignments that I had to fulfill in this position was to attend the Executive Board meeting in St. Louis beginning this past Monday night (3/2/15).  This was followed by two days of General Board meetings all day Tuesday and Wednesday (3/3-4/15).  The General Board meetings went very well with the high point being on Tuesday night when the Spirit of the Lord moved into the N. A. Urshan Board Room.  A massive prayer meeting broke out among the leaders of the UPCI with the gifts of the Spirit in operation and lasting right at an hour.  I believe the entire constituency of the UPCI would have been greatly encouraged to have witnessed this.  There were leaders praying with and for each other and followed by some very powerful testimonies of what God is doing in our fellowship.  There is a lot of momentum and unity among us.  I heard several men who have been on the General Board for 30-40 years say they have never witnessed or experienced anything like this in all of their years of service.    

Monday, February 02, 2015

Apt to Teach - Part 2

I have a few more thoughts to add to the idea of this challenge that comes with being “apt to teach.”  As I revisited this passage again in 1 Timothy 3, it is important to point out that this is the only skill or practice that Paul notes is specific to the church.  He very well could and must be a teacher to his family but the overarching purpose of being apt to teach is that he provides instruction to the church.  We also must give consideration to the idea that all of the character traits that Paul lists; blameless, husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behavior, given to hospitality, not given to wine, no striker (not violent), not greedy of filthy lucre, patient, not a brawler, covetous, ruling his own house well, having his children in subjection, not a novice, and having a good report of those that are around him; that all of these matters will have a great impact on his ability to teach.  If these matters are compromised, his public ministry of teaching will be publically ignored and privately mocked and scorned.  This matter of character in apostolic ministry has far more reaching boundaries than most of us who are in public ministry grasp and understand.  You cannot separate your life and practice from your doctrine. 

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Apt To Teach - Part 1

Last year as I floundered through writing out the Pastoral Epistles in a journal with a fountain pen (all in the great hopes that my cursive handwriting would improve), I found an intriguing quality that was listed by Paul.  He instructed that a man who was desired the work of a bishop (KJV), overseer and bondservant (ESV), servant (ESV), and superintendent and overseer (Amplified) be “apt to teach”.  I was particularly struck by this phrase as I wrote the words from Weymouth.  He translated 1 Timothy 3:2 as “with a gift for teaching” and in 2 Timothy 2:24 as “a skillful teacher.”  The Amplified Bible also had a remarkable rendering also for in 1 Timothy 3:2 it is “a capable and qualified teacher” and 2 Timothy 2:24 it was “he must be a skilled and suitable teacher.”

I am certain that all students have at one point had a teacher or two or three who really stood out from the rest of the mix as someone who pushed your life in a direction of excellence.  I personally have had some who did that very thing for me as I have navigated through my years of education.  I have been incredibly blessed to have taken part in a wide range of education both in the classroom and clinical setting.  What I have realized is that of all the teachers that I ran across there were just handful who could fall into the category of being an excellent teacher.  It is apparent that Paul fell into the category of exceptional.  You can see his excellence coming through in a variety of ways when you read the account in Acts and scattered throughout his epistles.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

A Book Recommendation - Don Basham, Deliver Us From Evil

I am quick out of the chute this year having already finished a book in the first week of the New Year.  This book is not a particularly new book with an original publishing date of 1972 but it has gone through at least thirteen printings of the original edition.  Furthermore it has gone through a revision in 2005 and I have the second printing of that copy also.  Last year, I wrote several lengthy posts of some personal Bible study notes as I trackedthrough Kay Arthur’s book, Lord, Is ItWarfare?  Those are still available although I did not complete them because I had started writing with a fountain pen as described in the first post of this year.  I do have those notes written in another journal and perhaps may need to revisit them and post the rest of them.

Spiritual warfare has always been an interest of mine and I have more than 100 books in my personal library that deals with this subject.  The only subject that I have more single volumes about is holiness which logs in at more than 150 books devoted to that subject.  I have discovered over the course of the years that when you read and study about personal holiness and spiritual warfare together that you will have to come to grips with the very close link between to the two.  A commitment to personal holiness gives a Christian great power when he is dealing with the attack of the devil.  Indeed!  A real live devil who is not a concept, theme, or ideal planted in the human consciousness but an arch-angel who fell from heaven to lead a rebellion against God.  Spiritual warfare operates in zones that attempts to weaken the commitments that we make toward personal holiness and when we fall in the battle, we suffer and those around us suffer. 

Friday, January 02, 2015

Beginning 2015 with An Excuse

What a horrible way to begin a New Year!  I am speaking of beginning this year with an excuse.  However, this may not be so much of an excuse as an explanation.  As the year faded from spring to summer and then to fall and finally to the winter, I began to have inquiries as to why I had stopped blogging.  In fact the last post I had put on the Barnabas Blog was way back in April when I was in the midst of the series on spiritual warfare from Kay Arthur’s study guide, Lord, Is It Warfare?  So the questions that came my way were reasonable as to why I had “gone dark” on the Barnabas Blog.  This is why I had nothing to post. . .

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Book Recommendation -- A Commentary on Judges and Ruth -- Robert B. Chisholm Jr.

Several years ago, my plan for preaching started making a marked change in its direction.  I started working with the process of expository preaching.  To this date, I have completed several long passages of Scripture in this manner.  When I started this journey, I realized that my study habits would have to change and also my reading tools would have to change also.  Expository preaching means that you will have to use commentaries and language helps to accomplish the task of preaching God’s Word.  So I started the process of purchasing good reference books that would serve more as tools to go back to more than once.  Last year it was my good fortune to become a book reviewer for Kregel Publications.  They have an arm called the Academic division that supplies some very good reference material for an expositor.  This volume on Judges and Ruth was sent to me by Kregel.    

The most recent commentary is written by Robert B. Chisholm Jr., A Commentary on Judges and Ruth.  Kregel sent me this book several months ago while I was just beginning to do an expository series on Psalms.  I judged this book by Chisholm and liked it so well that I ended up purchasing Kregel’s volumes on Psalms by Allen P. Ross (the last volume is not available yet which will cover Psalms 90-150).  The Ross volumes are also very good and worth the investment. 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Lord, Is It Warfare? Week 4, Day 3

This is Week 4, Day 3 from the devotional Lord, Is It Warfare?  There is something that you will find as you develop a disciplined approach to a daily time in the Word.  Your mind and spirit will be stretched by the Scripture and you will also find a rhythm that as time passes in your devotions that you refuse to allow a rushed attitude to consume your time with the Lord.  (Although today’s entry is relatively short compared to some of the other ones.)  Busyness and hurry are great liabilities to us as we read through the Bible.  The soul is greatly fed as you work slowly through these assignments because overcoming the rush and hurry of devotion moves your thoughts into places that you would not normally be able to go.  That is why I know that the messages that I preach weekly make their most impact when they are “crock-pot” fare versus quick, grab it as you can “microwave” pabulum.

-We all come from Adam no matter what evolutionists and scientists might imply.  We were also created in the image of God. 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Lord, Is It Warfare? Week 4, Day 2

If you have not purchased your own copy of this devotional, Lord, Is It Warfare?, I want to encourage you to do so (Used books on Amazon start @ 0.42).  Not only is there an opportunity to interact in a personal journal with your own notes but the guide is designed in such a way as to encourage you to mark up your Bible.  Today’s entry is a little shorter than usual simply by the nature of the assignment that was given.  Following are my own reflections.

-This world was not always in the condition that it is in now.  It once was a perfect paradise that hosted God and His creation of Adam and Eve and the host of things that filled the world.  In a single moment, the unity of God and His creation was shattered by the wily snares of the serpent.  He tempted Eve and she fell to an unimaginable state.