Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Book Review: Spiritual Companioning

Angela H. Reed, Richard R. Osmer, and Marcus G. Smucker, Spiritual Companioning. Baker Academic, 2015. 208 pages. 

The Need for Community
Spiritual Companioning is co-written by three different authors with diverse Christian backgrounds: Angela Reed, a Baptist; Richard Osmer, a Presbyterian, and Marcus Smucker a Mennonite. Together they diagnose a real need in our busy, individually driven world: real Christian community. They perceive the problem of having a ministry that is program oriented and not people oriented. Their book is an attempted corrective to this problem through spiritual companioning.

They define spiritual companion as “a way of accompanying others in intentional relationships of prayerful reflection and conversation that help them notice God’s presence and calling in their personal lives, local communities, and the world” (pg. xx)

After establishing the need for spiritual companioning, the authors devote chapters to different ways in which spiritual companioning is accomplished:
1: Spiritual Companioning as Presence
2: Spiritual Companioning in the Congregation
3: Spiritual Companioning in Spiritual Direction
4: Spiritual Companioning in Small Groups
5: Spiritual Companioning in Everyday Life
6: Spiritual Companioning and the Journey of Life
7: Spiritual Companioning for Leaders

Chapter Format
Each chapter roughly follows the same outline:

Introduction Story
Understanding the Cultural Context
Listening to Scripture
Mining the Protestant Tradition
Practicing Spiritual Companions
Exploring the Stories of Congregations
For Further Reading

These chapter divisions are helpful for a wide exposure to the topic being discussed. The mix of culture discussion,Bible interpretation, historical overview and sharing stories make for enjoyable and diverse, albeit, brief sections.

I found the introduction and initial chapter to be the strongest in the book. They articulate a Christianity that is not program centered but people centered. That is a sentiment I readily identify with. Another strong chapter is Chapter 4, “Spiritual Companioning in Small Groups”

While their perception of isolation is right, and their commitment to community is sound; their vision of spirituality, at times, borders on mysticism. In each chapter, I enjoyed their sketch of cultural context, Scripture texts, surveys of history, and so in each chapter. I found less helpful their practical advice to implement the philosophy they articulate.

I did not agree with everything within Spiritual Companioning, but I did find it an enlightening, welcome contribution to a theology/philosophy of Christian community. While I would recommend more Biblical centered works on spirituality and church life like Francis Schaeffer’s True Spirituality or Tim Chester and Steve Timmis’ Total Church, Spiritual Companioning makes a fine supplemental read. What is most helpful about Spiritual Companioning is that the authors have correctly diagnosed the isolation facing plaguing Christianity and have proposed that life within Christian community brings a balm that our busy world cannot compete with. When read with discretion, this book can be helpful. In its essence, it is simply a portrait of the Christian life as lived in community, with believers serving on another. 

Disclosure: I received this book from Baker Academic in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4 out of 5 Green Chiles

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Book Review: The Gospel According to Heretics

David E. Wilhite, The Gospel According to Heretics. Baker Academic, 2015. 290 pages.

David Wilhite is professor of theology at George W. Truett Theological Seminary. His work, The Gospel According to the Heretics, is a sympathetic recounting early Christological heresies.

Wilhite opens his book with his definition of heresy and orthodoxy. Here, he weighs the tension between orthodoxy and heresy. He also alerts the reader that his book is a unique coverage of heretics because he is writing sympathetically. Wilhite strives to show, accurately, that much of what we know about the heretics and the heresies come from the orthodox victors. Inevitably, Wilhite argues, our perception of the early heretics are not as precise as they could be. Following this introduction are ten chapters, each of presenting a sketch of the heretic and his heresy:

1. Marcion: Supersessionsim
2. Ebion: Adoptionism
3. Gnostics: Docetism
4. Sabellius: Modalism
5. Arius: Subordinationsim
6. Apollinaris: Subhumanism

7. Nestorius: Dyoprosptism
8. Eutyches: Monophysitism
9. Iconoclasts: Antirepresnationalism
10. Muslims: Reductionism

The Complexity of History
History is very complex. Historical events are rarely so simple as we present them. Wilhite’s strength and weakness is his presentation of these heretics and heresies. Strength: It is intriguing to read deeper on the heretics and heresies than a surface level text book presentation. Weakness: Because of this presentation, Wilhite’s book is not ideal for first exposure to heretics and heresies.  A more beneficial introduction to heresy would be something like Alister McGrath’s Heresy, or Roger E. Olson’s Counterfeit Christianity.

Below are some recurring themes, that have present parallels,  that I took from this volume:
1. Heretics don’t wear red (or carry pitchforks). Not all heretics were malicious in intent.

2. Followers carry ideas further than the founder.

3. Right believers can be nasty.

While I would not recommend Wilhite’s book as a first option to studying heresy it is, overall, worth reading. He writes clearly and winsomely, is well researched, and provides a human glimpse at both the heretics and their orthodox opponents, both of whom are often just names and positions on a page. Because strands of these heresies are still alive today, works like this one are helpful to study—past perspective brings present clarity. For a discerning reader (and all of us should be discerning) this volume can be helpful.

4 out of 5 Green Chiles

Disclosure: I received this book from Baker Academic in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Favorite Books of the Bible

A Starting Place
Many Bible readers have difficulty deciding where to begin their Bible reading. Those who resolve to start in Genesis and read all the way through to Revelation often get hung up in Leviticus and Numbers before finally surrendering in frustration.

While all Scripture is “ is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness”(2 Tim. 3:16), some genres or books speak to us more than others. “For everything there is a season,” writes Solomon (Eccles. 3:1). Some books resonate with us more in the varied, at times horrific seasons in our lives. Below are books of the Bible that have been especially helpful to me. They greatly developed my thinking and feeling. They made God real to me, not because he isn't real or  wasn’t near, but because through these books I heard his heard his voice, loudly. It's hard to ignore a megaphone.

After every book, I’ve included a few helpful resources most of which are commentaries. The series the commentaries are part of is listed in parenthesis.

The Wisdom Literature (poetic books) fills this list. Without question, it is my favorite biblical genre. Here, beginning with the fear of Yahweh, my walk with God is greatly enriched.

Honorable Mentions: Genesis, Proverbs, Philippians, Hosea.

6) Psalms
I have made it my Bible reading practice to begin with a psalm. For me, this ancient Psalter has been liberating. In some expressions of Christianity, emotion is to be suppressed—at least negative emotion. People are told that if they aren’t happy or joyful they aren’t trusting God which is sinful. The psalms free us from this stoicism. Raw humanity finds a voice in this collection of songs—songs of joy and sorrow, songs of praise and defeat, songs of blessing and songs of cursing. 

This collection has sustained generations of Christians. Truly, these are soul songs. They help us to think and to feel.

Helpful Resources: Psalms by Tremper Longman III (TOTC), Psalms (2 vol.) by Derek Kidner (TOTC/ KCC), A Commentary on the Psalms (3 vol) by Allen Ross (KEL), Interpreting the Psalms by Mark Futato; Psalms as Torah by Gordon Wenham; Reflections on the Psalms by C.S. Lewis.

5) Job
Job is powerful book providing us with a robust theology of suffering. There are many things to be gleaned from this book, like insights about the divine character of God and his rule over Satan. Or on a more practical level, not blaming the sufferer for the woes like Job’s friends wrongly do when they insist that his own sin brought his suffering upon him.

I came to Job looking for philosophical answers for the problem of evil which the book didn’t answer. Instead, it communicated to me that suffering befalls on people, even good people who are following God. In this life, we may never know why we suffer, but that’s ok because God reigns and he is present with us always. Real wisdom trusts God. 

Helpful Resources: Job by Francis I. Anderson (TOTC); Job by Tremper Longman III (BCOTWP); Beyond Suffering by Layton Talbert; The Misery of Job and the Mercy of God by John Piper; When You Want to Yell at God by Craig G. Bartholomew; Old Testament Wisdom Literature: A Theological Introduction by Craig. G Bartholomew; The Wisdom of Job, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes by Derek Kidner.

4) 1 John

1 John was very meaningful to me during my mid teen years as I waded through the easy believism/ lordship salvation controversy. Those who advocate Free Grace Theology often elevate John’s writings, especially his gospel, above all other New Testament writings—a very flawed hermeneutic. Ironically, however, it is John who has some of the strongest language concerning present sin in the life of the believer (1 John 2:3-11; 3:4-24; 4:7-21).

1 John confirmed for me that mere belief saves no one, and that genuine Christians have accompanying works verifying their belief. They submit to the lordship of Christ. If they are truly saved they will overcome sin. 1 John was also very special to me because I preached from it when I had occasion to preach during my church internship during my undergrad years. This was a very special time for my development!

Commentaries: The Letters of John by Colin G. Kruse (PNTC), The Letters of John by John Stott (TNTC), 1, 2, & 3 John by Daniel Akin (NAC), 1, 2, and 3 John by Karen Jobes (ZECNT); A Theology of John’s Gospel and Letters by Andreas Köstenberger

3) Romans

While in junior high I on occasion read a chapter of Proverbs a day, but it wasn’t until I was in high school that daily Bible reading became a habit. The book of Romans is what started that habit. I remember sitting in the back of a hot bus driving back from Ironwood. As the bleak desert passed by my window, I was contemplating life. What else do you do in the desert? I decided that I would just read an entire book in one sitting. I decided on Romans, because if it was good enough to revolutionize Martin Luther’s theology it was good enough for Josh Valdez!

Romans was life changing for me. It was the first book that I read in one sitting. It answered so many questions I had. It sparked within me a hunger for God’s Word. Truly, it was revolutionary for my walk with God.

Helpful Resources: Romans by Thomas R. Schreiner (BECNT), The Epistle to the Romans by Douglas Moo (NICNT), Romans by C.E.B. Cranfield (ICC), Romans (2 vol) by John MacArthur (MNTC).

2) The Gospel of John
I enjoy experiencing the wisdom of Solomon and following the logic of Paul, but I love reading John. John writes with epic, emotional language. He emphasizes love and wonder. His gospel is theological biography, or theological passion. John writes about Jesus in a way that is absolutely captivating.

The Gospel of John is my favorite gospel and the one I frequently find myself returning to.

Helpful Resources: John by Andreas Köstenberger, A Theology of John’s Gospel and Letters by Andreas Köstenberger, The Gospel According to John by D.A. Carson (PNTC); John (2 vol) by John MacArthur (MNTC).

1) Ecclesiastes
The two years before I graduated from seminary were especially difficult for me. I was struggling with graduate work in Greek exegesis and Hebrew, which made me question whether I was really up to the task of being a proficient exegete. More difficult than my struggles in biblical language was the sharpening reality that I would not be able to serve the church I grew up in. Pastoring there was always my dream, and I began to realize that this dream would never be. I entered into a season of real doubt about my ministerial calling—seven years into college work (four years for the bachelors and three so far in the masters). Ecclesiastes was healing for me. I immersed myself in it and journeyed with Solomon. Misery loves company the saying goes, and Solomon was my company. He was a kindred spirit, I felt his own existential agony in my own struggle.

In Ecclesiastes, Solomon has an orthodox epistemology that conflicts with his existential life. Belief and experience are in tension. He knows in his head that Yahweh reigns, but as he observes the chaotic, conflicted nature of the world he agonizes internally. It doesn’t seem that there is justice in the world, nor does Yahweh seem to be on the throne. This is why the two opposite ends of the experiential pole surface through out. On the one hand Solomon celebrates the joyful life in the carpe diem passages (Eccles. 2: 24-26; 3:12-14, 22; 5:18-20; 8:15; 9:7-10; 11:7-12:7). On the other hand he concludes that all is hebel (vanity)! (Eccles. 1:2, 14; 2:1, 11, 15, 17, 19, 21, 23, 26, etc.). Life’s journey includes both, and we should accept that we will experience both in this glorious yet broken world.

Ecclesiastes doesn’t allow for a Christianity which naively proclaims your best life now. It doesn’t allow for a neat, clean Christianity that is free from doubt or suffering. It teaches that we will experience suffering and perhaps even doubt as we observe the world around us. Even so, we must fear God—reverently seeking him daily for our nourishment and submitting to his good rule.  Ecclesiastes is a powerful apologetic for our post-modern, post-Christian society. It is a book for our time.

Helpful Resources: Ecclesiastes by Craig G. Bartholomew (BCOTWP); Old Testament Wisdom Literature: A Theological Introduction by Craig G. Bartholomew and Ryan O’Dowd

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

NIV Zondervan Study Bible: A Recommendation

D.A. Carson, Gen. Ed, NIV Zondervan Study Bible. Zondervan, 2015. 2,912 pages.

Of Study Bibles
I’ve always been a fan of study Bibles. Although some find discomfort with having text of Scripture and commentary sharing the same page, I personally feel it a rich experience. Having access to explanatory notes written by top biblical scholars in their respective fields is a real privilege. It allows for us to dig deeper into the meaning of the text.

The NIV Zondervan Study Bible is huge, having 2,912 pages! The text is small, but readable—at least for this 26 year old. The text is very nicely laid out in one column for more natural reading. Each testament has its own introduction, as do each biblical section (Pentateuch, Historical Books, Wisdom Books, etc.) Each book has its own introduction and commentary written by leading biblical scholars. The Bible is in full color, filled with pictures, charts, and maps. In the back there are 28 articles on major themes of biblical theology as well as sizable concordance.

Immediately evident is the level of scholarship of the NIV Zondervan Study Bible.
Of study Bibles in print today, it is only matched by Crossway’s magisterial ESV Study Bible. The NIV Zondervan Study Bible is a rich resource having a magnificent team of evangelical contributors. The General Editor is preeminent New Testament scholar D.A. Carson. The team of associate editors is equally impressive:
  • Andrew David Naselli: Assistant Editor 
  • T. Desmond Alexander: Old Testament and Biblical Theology
  • Richard Hess: Old Testament, Archaeology, Maps
  • Douglas J. Moo: New Testament and Biblical Theology

Old Testament Wisdom Literature has is my favorite biblical genre. Ecclesiastes has topped Romans as my favorite book of the Bible. I was ecstatic to see the Craig G. Bartholomew as author of the notes for Ecclesiastes. Bartholomew has authored of the best commentary on Ecclesiastes on the market. His Ecclesiastes is from the phenomenal Baker Commentary on Old Testament Wisdom and Psalms Series (BCOTWP). In addition to Bartholomew, Bruce K. Waltke is author for the notes for Proverbs. Waltke, like Bartholomew, has written a standard commentary on the book he authors for in the study Bible. Waltke’s two volume commentary on Proverbs from the New International Commentary on the Old Testament (NICOT) is the best. In addition to Bartholomew and Waltke, Richard Hess has authored a top commentary on wisdom with his Song of Songs (BCOTWP). Hess authors notes for Song of Solomon.

In addition to a powerful section on the Old Testament Wisdom, the contributors to the rest of the Old Testament are impressive as well. Some notable OT contributors include T. Desmond Alexander, Richard Hess, Robert L. Hubbard, John Oswalt, and Tremper Longman III. John Oswalt like Bartholomew and Waltke has written a standard evangelical commentary  with his two volume The Book of Isaiah in the NICOT series.

The list of New Testament contributors is excellent. Notable among the list include D.A. Carson, Douglas Moo, Craig Blomberg, Eckhard Schnabel, David E. Garland, Robert W. Yarbrough, Karen Jobes, Colin Kruse, and Andrew Naselli.

In lieu of a section on systematic theology in the back, the NIV Zondervan Study Bible has 28 articles on major themes in biblical theology. Some notable articles include “The Story of the Bible: How the Good News About Jesus is Central” by Tim Keller; “The Glory of God” by James Hamilton; “The Kingdom of God” by T.D. Alexander, “Holiness” by Andrew Naselli;  “People of God” by Moisés Silva, “Mission” by Andreas Köstenberger, and “The Consummation” by Douglas Moo .

Biblical Theology
The real distinctive of the NIV Zondervan Study Bible is its emphasis on biblical theology. (For an explanation of the different branches of theology you can read my post here). This study Bible focuses on the overall story of the Bible analyzing how each book contributes to God’s story of redemption.


In a way I do feel a real connection to this publication. Associate editor, Andrew Naselli earned a PhD from Bob Jones University Seminary before earning another PhD at Trinity. I did my undergraduate and graduate work at BJU Seminary.  While I feel BJU Seminary has many weaknesses, one real strength it has is its emphasis on biblical theology. Courses I took in Old Testament and New Testament theology were outstanding. Seminary exposed me to the powerful tool of biblical theology,  which I have found absolutely essential in my short time in ministry so far. In future preparation for teaching and preaching, this study Bible will make a fine complement to the ESV Study Bible

Online Access
One weakness of the NIV Zondervan Study Bible is its freely included digital equivalent. Here, the ESV Study Bible really does shine over it. Through Crossway’s, you can access the entire ESV Study Bible commentary, articles, etc. in a clean column next to the text of Scripture. This is both beautiful and practical—allowing users to edit the appearance of the text to exclude chapter and verse numbers for a flowing reading experience. Crossway also allows for the full text of the ESV Study Bible to be downloaded into their ESV Bible app—which allows me to carry the ESV Study Bible with me everywhere I go (which comes in handy in a pinch, like when I've asked an interpretational question I didn't have an answer for!) :-)

The NIV Zondervan Study Bible does not have its own dedicated website like the ESV Study Bible. Instead, it links through either BibleGateway or Olive Tree. For me, at least, this is not nearly as convenient as having a dedicated website or seamless integration into a stunning app like the ESV Study Bible. 

Apart from the limitations of online access, the NIV Zondervan Study Bible is an outstanding resource. The contributing scholars are impressive. Its emphasis on biblical theology is unique and needed. The ESV Study Bible, my all time favorite, focuses more on systematic theology—which makes sense considering Wayne Grudem is its General Editor. The NIV Zondervan Study Bible, with its emphasis on biblical theology, will make a nice complement to the ESV Study BIble.  I will continue to use my ESV Study Bible as my primary study Bible, but the NIV Zondervan Study Bible will now be its loyal companion in my study. Overall, it is an excellent volume and I'm thankful that we another amazing resource to aid us in digging deeper into God's Word!

Rating: Five Hatch Green Chiles out of Five

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Sermon One

New Beginnings 
After eight years of school (four years in undergrad and four years in grad), I began a thrilling new chapter in my life. On June 1st, I started as the Associate Pastor at Desert Heights Church. On June 21st, I preached my first sermon as a pastor. 

The Text: 
Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise.  But just as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so also it is now.  But what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman.”  So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman. For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 4:28-5:1)

The Sermon:

Identity and Freedom from Desert Heights Church on Vimeo.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

This Technological World We Live In

Technology surrounds us every day, lets talk about that.   We will look at a few specific instances where we actually use technology. Then we will take a look at what it means to live as a Christian in this technological world. Technology is the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes, especially in industry1. It comes from the Greek word τέχνηλογία which means systematic treatment2. Wolfram Alpha defines it as the discipline dealing with the art or science of applying scientific knowledge to practical problems2. That means that technology can easily incorporate everything from a ceiling fan to a mainframe computer.

 If we went back we could find very early examples of technology and how it has changed the world around us but we will only look at three. The first is glass which is used in everything from fiber optics to house windows. The base component in glass, silica, is also used to produce silicon circuit boards which are in every last iPhone and laptop in the world. Glass itself is used, with other additives, as the screens for these devices. The second product is milk. Milk is classified as a hydrocarbon which is an organic compound consisting entirely of hydrogen and carbon3. Milk from a cow can be separated and refined into different products like butter, cream, and heavy whipping cream. Crude oil, another hydrocarbon, is separated and refined into things from asphalt to gasoline to plastic to polyester fabric. Some of those oil-based plastics are used in car interiors and other car parts along with the gasoline that is put in the car to make it go. The last product is metal. Metal has been mined and refined into everything from farm equipment like shovels and plows to laser guided missiles and aircraft carriers.

Christianity, over the last two thousand years, has had to adapt to different technologies. Algebra, clocks, chess, the printing press, electric light, automobile, telephone, radio, vaccination, computers, airplanes, anesthesia, refrigeration; have all been invented since Jesus ascended. Each of these new inventions brings with it new implications. Before clocks, people weren't on time but things still happened. Before radio ideas were spread. Before refrigeration there was no ice cream and people were okay with that. Before the printing press the Bible existed and Jesus was preached. Technology is not trying to replace life but improve on it. Do meaningless novels get published now? Yes, but there was a lot of meaningless publishing going on long before the printing press was invented, it just happened slower. Technology was employed and printing press was created through a long series of steps spanning two thousand years.

The three pieces of technology from earlier are the the building blocks of our current technological society. Copper, fiber optics, glass, hydrocarbons, silicone, and various metals make up all of the equipment that we use to connect with billions of people everyday. From the backbone servers of the Internet to the cellphones that we use to connect from almost anywhere, technology is built on top of these simple resources. Yes, they are refined. Some of them incredibly so, just take a look at what it takes to create fiber optic cables. These technologies were developed to make it easier to share information within the military and intelligence community in the USA starting in the 60's. Over the last fifty years the Internet has evolved to include hundreds of countries and billions of people. Carrying services from private pizza delivery to medical databases that enable doctors to provide faster diagnosis to patients, the Internet has grown to be an integral part of the lives of people living in developed countries for communication. How do we live with these technologies as Christians? Much of the early church lived under the rule of the Roman Empire. Rome was known for technological advancements not on their own, but by assimilating those they conquered. Rome was really good at conquering. One of the towns under Rome's influence was Ephesus. The Apostle Paul spent a lot of time at Ephesus. Ephesus was home to one of the seven wonders of the world, the Temple of Artemis. Being a wonder of the world it would have taken quite a lot of technological know-how to get that temple up and running. Technology and its effects were well known to those living in Ephesus.

In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul is reminding them of things that they should know already, but for some reason have stopped following. Paul is writing to remind his readers who they are in Christ and what that means for their walk of life. We are called to Walk Worthy of our Calling (4:1) and then part of that walking we are to Make the Most of Our Time (5:16). How are we supposed to make the most of our time? Let me ask this question, when was the last time you hand washed your clothes? Thank God for the invention of the washing machine and dryer, not just for the time saved but also the fact that clothes last longer and smell better than if you hand washed them. Next time you have the opportunity, ask a kid to make cookies from scratch and see how long it takes them. We as humans have to be taught certain things like how to be efficient with our time. Matt Perman addresses the Christian's view of efficiency in his book What's Best Next, "True productivity is not first about efficiency doing things right and doing them quickly but effectiveness doing the right things.4" So, with technology we have this tension where it takes care of those things that are more monotony like washing clothes to make way for more time to be effective. So, now that we have extra time since washing clothes, dishes, vacuuming (looking at you DJ Roomba) in our homes are now being automated, what then? Walk in good works! Paul clearly states
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8-10)
Paul then spends nearly three chapters on how we walk worthy of this Christian calling. Paul says, "Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord." (5:8b) And then Paul tells the readers to:
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. (Ephesians 5:15-17)
Twice in a short amount of time Christians are called to "discern what is pleasing to the Lord" and "understand what the will of the Lord is." This language leaves the question open, not to interpreting what is 'good', but what the "good" we are supposed to be walking in from 2:10. Paul tells us what is good and what is not good detailed in 4:17-6:9. But those good works that have been designed for us that we are supposed to walk in is not clearly told to each person. Now if we are spending all of our time in the monotony of life how are we ever going to figure out what those "good works" are that we supposed to be walking in? If we are being inefficient, washing clothes by hand inefficiency, then how can we ever be effective? But if we make our lives more efficient we can take the time to learn what those things are that we are supposed to be doing. Enter technology. Someone who refused to wash clothes by hand any more and created a washing machine to help himself and others spend their lives doing something other than washing clothes. So if we have technology available to us that can make our lives more efficient and allow us to be more effective then we should likely adopt that technology into our lives. It is not the technology that changes our hearts. Mike Cosper addresses how technology brings out what is in our hearts:
Their response to any critique of technology seems to echo the words of Jesus in the New Testament; no “thing”—-no device, for instance—-defiles us, but what’s in our hearts defiles us ( Matt. 15:11, 18). So the iPhone isn’t the problem, it’s our hearts in relation to the iPhone. The internet isn’t the problem, it’s what we put onto the internet, or what we download from it. The thing, in itself, isn’t evil. It’s what we do with the thing. 5
Our technology makes it very efficient for us to walk. But we have a different kind walk, as Paul reminds the Ephesians how they once walked,
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. (Ephesians 2:1-3)
Walking like this is not walking Worthy of our Calling like Paul calls his readers to do. Not only can it make us efficient at walking in a way we shouldn't, it makes us ineffective in walking as Children of light. Paul does not give his readers the choice to walk in both worlds. He makes it very clear that these two walks of life are diametrically opposed.
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:1-2)
Technology helps us be more efficient as we are called to do, Ephesians 5:15-16, thus allowing us to have more time to be effective. We can use technology to walk worthy and effective lives.   

 1. Technology - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. (n.d.). Retrieved March 5, 2015, from
2. Technology - Wolfram|Alpha. (n.d.). Retrieved March 17, 2015, from**Word-
3. Hydrocarbon - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. (n.d.). Retrieved April 24, 2015, from
4. Cosper, Mike (2011-11-02) Is Technology Neutral?
5. Perman, Matthew Aaron (2014-03-04). What's Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done (p. 49). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

Sean Rodgers is a IT Professional working for CREFORM Corporation who graduated from Bob Jones University with a Bachelors in Pastoral Studies and Art.  Sean lives in Downtown Greer, SC with his wife. They are members and shepherding group leaders at North Hills Community Church.  He cheers for the Cowboys and the Clippers.  He runs, a technology blog that helps its readers make the most of their technology.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

2015 Dallas Cowboys Prediction

2014 Review
The success of the 2014 Dallas Cowboys came out of nowhere. After cutting declining star Demarcus Ware and losing Sean Lee to another season ending injury, a pathetic defense looked even worse. Superstar quarterback Tony Romo was also coming off his second back surgery in two years. Things looked grim. Surprisingly, however, the Cowboys achieved a 12-4 record, won their division and advanced to the Divisional Round of the playoffs. Had Romo not broke his back against the Redskins, it’s likely they would have won that contest as well as the following week against the Arizona Cardinals, finishing with a 14-2 record.  In the Divisional Round their season ended at Lambeau Field partly as result of a costly DeMarco Murray fumble but more because of the controversial rule overturning a glorious reception from Romo to Dez Bryant. Everyone (except for Packers fans) perceived a catch, but the officials ruled it incomplete. Although it was a disappointing end to a great season, the 2014 Cowboys made a statement: The Cowboys are back.

#9 QB Tony Romo
In free agency, the Cowboys lost several players. Underachieving linebacker Bruce Carter went to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers along with cornerback Steerling Moore and wide receiver Dwayne Harris went to the New York Giants. Most significantly, after staying healthy for the first time in his career and putting up his best season (significantly due to Dallas’ formidable O-Line), DeMarco Murray joined Chip Kelley’s cast of injury prone stars in Philadelphia.  Although they lost some key players, the Cowboys did retain players essential to their success in right tackle Doug Free and linebacker Rolando McClain. They are still negotiating with wide receiver Dez Bryant. Most importantly, they brought in defensive end Greg Hardy giving their defense the pass rusher they desperately need. 

My predictions for the 2015 Cowboys season is the best case scenario—in my mind at least. Newly acquired defensive end Greg Hardy is suspended for a maximum of eight games. Second year defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence builds on his playoff success. Cornerback Brandon Carr plays up to his contract.  Linebacker Sean Lee stays healthy the entire season (something he has yet do accomplish in four years). Linebacker Rolando McClain plays every game. Running back Darren McFadden or the newly drafted running back takes some pressure off of Tony Romo’s shoulders.  Romo is the most important person on the Cowboys roster. If he goes down the season's fate will be thrust on Grandpa Weeden or inexperienced Dustin Vaughn. In other words, the season will be lost. Assuming all of those factors above, we can move on to the analysis.

The Cowboys open their season in their usual showdown with the New York Giants. Although Eli Muppet Manning is a mediocre quarterback

#55 LB Rolando McClain
he somehow always puts on a good show when facing the Cowboys. He’ll have a good day but his superior counterpart, Tony Romo will have a better day. Cowboys win 34-31 (1-0).

In week 2, the Cowboys face the Philadelphia Eagles. Here, they will meet up with former teammates running back DeMarco Murray and wide receiver Miles Austin. With so many new players, by this point in the season the Eagles will be mess. Cowboys win 31-24 (2-0)

After beating the Falcons 28-14 (3-0), the Cowboys will have a showdown with the New Orleans Saints.  Both defenses will give out in this game. The Cowboys secondary isn’t good enough to hold back Drew Brees but Rob Ryan’s defense will get shredded by Romo and Bryant. Cowboys win 38-31 (4-0).

Week 5 holds an exciting contest between America’s team and the New England Patriots. The Patriots and Cowboys will both be 4-0 at this meeting, reminiscent of their 2007 fight at Texas Stadium. The Cowboys defense will be the surprise factor here, with Marinelli bringing the heat against Brady who will spend his day pouting and ranting on the sidelines. Cowboys win 21-17 (5-0).

Following the most boring week in the season (bye) the Cowboys sweep the Giants 24-21 (6-0). and face the Seattle Seahawks. Here one of the NFL’s premiere offenses in the Cowboys will be challenged by on the NFL’s best defenses in the Seattle Seahawks. If it turns into a shootout, there’s no way Russell Wilson keeps up with Tony Romo. More likely, though, it will be a defensive fight, with the Cowboys pulling ahead late in the 4th quarter. Cowboys win 17-14 (7-0).

In week 9 the Cowboys will again beat the Eagles 24-14 (8-0) before annihilating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 38-14 (9-0). Every season the Cowboys get beat by a time they have no business getting beat by. This year, it will be the Miami Dolphins over the Cowboys, 24-21 (9-1).

On Thanksgiving Day the Panthers come to Dallas. On his first game back from suspension, Greg Hardy will play with vigor and lead a Dallas defense that has come together. Cowboys win big, 42-7 (10-1). Next, the 'Boys face off against the Washington Redskins and easily defeat them 34-10 (11-1).

#82 TE Jason Witten

Week 14 provides a rematch between the Packers and the Cowboys. In their previous match up, an immobile Aaron Rodgers stood comfortably in the pocket against a non existent pass rush. This game will be different with DeMarcus Lawrence and Greg Hardy providing pressure. The cold weather will make this game an old school grind through the run. Romo will make more key plays than Rodgers and the Cowboys will top the Packers 31-24 (12-1).

Next, the Cowboys easily defeat the Jets 35-7 (13-1). Then they travel to Buffalo where they top the Bills 21-17 (14-1). Finally, they close out their season against the Redskins and end on a victory 38-28 (15-1).

The Cowboys lone loss comes against the Miami Dolphins. They win their division and conference before bringing home their sixth Lombardi Trophy.  Tony Romo is named the league’s MVP. And finally, I can gloat on Facebook and to all my hater friends about the Cowboys. 

This prediction is obviously the optimism of a fan--a fan with annual rose colored glasses. For two decades I’ve been saying this is the year the Cowboys win it all. And again, I believe, this is the year for the Dallas Cowboys. I just can't help myself.

#88 WR Dez Bryant

Monday, April 20, 2015

Sex and Violence in the Bible: A Recommendation

Joseph W. Smith III, Sex & Violence in the Bible: A Survey 
of Explicit Content in the Holy Book. P&R Publishing, 2014. 240 pages.

Things We Don’t Talk About
It was my junior year of college and we had just finished prayer group. A few of the guys were still in my room and for some reason the topic of relationships and marriage came up. Because my own relationship adventures had yet to be successful,  I was busy preparing a cup of Earl Grey and did not contribute to the conversation. One guy was going on about how he couldn’t wait to be married so he could stare into his wife’s eyes, stroke her hair, and cook her breakfast, etc. My friend Andrew quickly jumped in.
“I can’t wait to be married because I want to have sex!”

The room immediately went silent. Awkward tension filled the air. I laughed and sipped my tea. 

Christians rightly strive to abstain from sex before marriage. Looking forward to the day for sexual fulfillment isn’t a bad thing.  How the people in the room shuffled uncomfortably, though, was telling.

Here was a group college kids, shifting uncomfortably because one of them was refreshingly honest about something personal.  Sex is a catalyst. Some graphically indulge in it—it fills their conversation in a perverse way. Others, treat it like it is less than godly—necessary for procreation and maybe even enjoyment, but not something to be talked about.

Violence, like sex, is another reality of life looked down upon. I remember hearing a youth pastor telling a group of people that no Christian should ever watch Breaking Bad because of its glorification of vice. Anyone who’s ever watched Breaking Bad knows just how ridiculous and naive that statement is. Sure, Breaking Bad is filled with objectionable content—the violence and darkness of the drug trade—but without such content the story loses its punch. The whole point of Breaking Bad is that money isn’t worth the cost of that life. So in order to communicate that message, that life needs to be seen in all of its ugliness.

How should Christians view sex and violence? What about objectionable elements in entertainment? Are these things beneath Christians? Joseph Smith III has written a work to aid Christians in answering this question by examining their role in the Bible. Sex and Violence in the Bible surveys explicit content in Scripture. Instead of summarizing all of the content covered in the book—being as it itself is a summary—it may be best to list the chapters. That will give you a good idea of the data covered within. The book consists of three parts and a conclusion that spells out implications for how Christians should view these topics.

Part 1: “Uncovering Nakedness”: Sex
1—“Please Give me Some”: A Few Aphrodisiacs
2—“Covering His Feet”: The Man’s Body
3—“I Will Lay Hold of Its Fruit”: The Woman’s Body
4—“Your Shame Will Be Seen”: Disrobing and Nudity
5—“If They Cannot Exercise Self-Control”: Premarital Sex
6—“Be Drunk with Love!”: Intercourse and Marriage
7—“Your Lewd Whoring”: Adultery
8—“The Wages of a Dog”: Prostitution
9—“You Shall Not”: Bestiality, Voyeurism, Incest, and Homosexuality

Part 2: “The Blood Gushed Out”: Violence
10:—“I Will Drench the Land”: Blood and Gore
11—“Weeping and Gnashing of Teeth”: Beatings, Attacks, and Tortures
12—“He Violated Her”: Rape
13—“Wallowing in His Blood”: Dismemberment and Other Disgusting Deaths
14—“The Smoke of a Furnace”: Death by Fire
15—“And the Son Shall Eat Their Fathers:” Cannibalism
16—“This Abomination”: Murdering Children
17—“120,000 in One Day”: Mass Killings, Assassinations

Part 3: “Any Unclean Thing”—Other Blunt or Unsavory Material
18—“Unclean until the Evening”: Menstruation, Semen, and Other “Discharges”
19—“Wasting Disease and Fever”: Bowels, Boils, Tumors, and Lepresy
20—“Their Flesh Will Rot”: Vomit, Corpses, and Other Gross-Outs
21—“And the Dung Came Out”: Feces and Urine

Conclusion: “Think About These Things”

As you can see, Smith covers every objectionable element in Scripture. His coverage of issues is as frank as Scripture’s. In some areas, he devotes time explaining some euphemisms that time and culture have made unrecognizable. He also interacts with various scholars proposals concerning some things that are unclear. One example of this interactacton is Ham’s looking on his naked father, Noah. Some have suggested the Noah’s curse demands more than mere looking on Ham's part, but possible homosexual practice. Smith interacts with each scholar, weighing the strengths of their arguments and then settling on what makes most sense. His coverage of the incident between Ham and Noah is on pages 78-81, and to see what he believes occurred, you’ll have to read the book!

A Needed Work
Over the past year in my Bible reading, I’ve been swimming in the Wisdom Books—mostly Ecclesiastes, but with occasional stops at Proverbs, Job and Song of Solomon. I’ve been nourished by their humanness. Proverbs presents us with the “a,b,c’s” of wisdom. Job and Ecclesiastes gives us advanced courses in wisdom—a Christian realism of knowing God  as good but experiencing suffering in life. Song of Solomon is a love song bathed in the joy of sex.

As I’ve spent this past year studying wisdom, I've read books that may relate to my study. Sex and Violence in the Bible was one of those. Smith’s work has broadened my perspective. While I knew Scripture was filled with objectionable content (especially the Old Testament) I had forgotten how pervasive it was.

Joseph Smith has written a much needed work for Christians. Sex and violence are universal experiences. Its part of life. The Bible is not above it. God includes these elements in His holy book.

Concerning objectionable content in Scripture and its place in Christianity, Smith writes:

The Bible is, in fact, refreshingly matter-of-fact in its approach, freely acknowledging what we all know: these things are an important part of life, and by no means to be ignored or overlooked. We want a religion that is true not for some of life—for spirituality, worship and service—but for all of our experience. The wide range of Scripture passages on sex, violence, and other uncomfortable material helps us to see that the Judeo-Christian tradition is true for all of life, that is does not prudishly overlook or sidestep certain issues; rather it concerns itself—often quite closely—even with mundane bodily matters like menses, skin disease, and nocturnal emission. (216-17)

Our avoidance of sex and violence has made Christianity neat and clean, at least on the outside. It doesn’t allow for the real struggle that we all endure daily. This is, in part, due to our avoidance of objectionable content in Scripture. Smith writes:

If we insist on sanitizing our church services and Sunday school classes, and we never talk about the graphic content that so clearly depicts the corruption and hopelessness in the heart of man, then we should not be surprised at how few of us are able to discuss the sin and depravity in our lives.

Smith makes some very helpful conclusions about sex and violence. First, sex:

In the case of sex, I am convinced that the best antidote for our cultures obsession is a truly biblical embracing of marital sexuality: a commitment to enjoy sex within God's parameters, yes, but to enjoy it fully and physically, with all the delirious abandonment modeled for us in the Song of Solomon and in Proverbs 5. If joyful married sex is God's intention from the beginning—to be naked in unashamed—then let us show the world how satisfying this is, and draw it back from the brink of romantic self-annihilation. (220)
Next, violence:
In the case of gore and violence, let’s admit that these issues are real—they are constants in life, alternately repulsive and fascinating, neither to be prudishly imagined out of existence nor used as some sort of lewd entertainment by a culture that sometimes seems unable to find stimulation in any other way. (220)

Joseph Smith has done a great service to the church with this resource surveying explicit content in the Bible. It demonstrates to Christians the Bible’s realism. Christians need not adopt a Victorian attitude about sex or violence. They need to have realistic perspective. 

Rating:  Five Hatch Green Chiles out of Five:

Friday, April 17, 2015

Preparing Sermons

Everyone develops sermons differently, and even in one’s own preparation it is not a static thing. Development occurs. Preparation processes change. For me, preparing sermons usually involves the same process, although some things have changed over the years.  This post is a description of my usual sermon preparation routine. This preparation is assuming an expository philosophy which begins with Scripture. I'm not looking to rant about whatever I feel is wrong with the world. Nor am I using a text to springboard a discussion. Instead, expository preaching unpacks a text and explains its meaning to God's people. 

Because  New Testament epistles are the easiest to preach, the process below reflects the preparation of one. Specifically, it reflects the sermon I preached over Christmas break at Desert Heights Church on Titus 2:11-14. If I were preaching narrative or poetry there would be similar elements of preparation, but there would be real differences, most notably in the propositional display. In narrative, the key is not so much the grammar of individual phrases or words, but the meaning of blocks of texts or repetitive themes.

#1 Pray
The first step in the process is prayer. The preacher serves as a spokesman for God. The message is not his own. He is only a messenger heralding the message of the King. The Holy Spirit must be directing the entire process.

Tools in sermon studying: Bible, MacBook, commentaries, NM Pinon Coffee and Garth Brooks

#2 Master the Book
The first step in understanding a specific passage is getting grasp on the message of the entire book. No text stands in isolation. The goal in mastering the book is identifying where your text fits within the overall book and how it contributes to its message.

#3 Propositional Display
If possible, this should be done in the original languages. But sermon preparation time is usually limited,  so the original languages should at least be consulted here and throughout the entire process. The goal in developing a propositional display is extracting the intrinsic outline of the text.  We don’t come to a text and impose our own outline on it. If our theology of preaching is correct, then we see that our purpose is not to deliver our own message but to discover and communicate the King’s message.

First, copy the text and place it within a writing program.  I work on a MacBook and preach my notes from an iPad, so I use Pages for convenience. Next, look for grammatical clues, whether you're using an English or a Greek text. In English asking the 5 “w’s” (
who, what, where, when, why, how, ) provides an easy way to analyze a text and explore the relationships of its phrases. The point is that you want to dissect a text and subjugate phrases beneath phrases so that the text’s intrinsic outline will emerge. 

Here is my propositional display of Titus 2:11-14:
In addition to extracting the inherit outline of a text, a propositional display provides borders in discussion. It visually demonstrates to us the major and minor points of the text. This, in turn, prevents us from getting side tracked or making sub points main points. In Titus 2:11-14 starting in the Greek text was crucial as it reveals that the passage is actually just one sentence with charis (grace) as its subject. We see that everything in the passage relates back to grace. So my preaching outline, the frame that I  hang points of explanation upon reflects this understanding:

There is nothing profound about my outline, it isn’t cute or cleverly alliterated.  I simply tried to the best of my ability to extract the text’s outline and communicate it.  Because grace is the the subject, the first point is an explanation of  what grace is and what is meant by its appearing. Because everything else in the passage spanning from verses 12 through 14 concerns grace's training work, that forms the second point. Grace trains us to renounce, live and wait.

The Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament is a new, ongoing commentary series that includes a propositional display for every textual unit. This is an excellent resource to ensure that your display is on the right track.

#4 Work Hard on Your Own
Commentaries should be used, but that’s the next step. Initial outlining and explanation should be done before consulting commentaries. You want to safeguard yourself from copying someone else's interpretation and becoming a clone. Also, you don’t want to rob yourself of the joy of discovery.

#5 Commentaries

Some Christians are opposed to commentaries. That is a strange position to hold to. Commentaries are gifts to the church. Scholars have dedicated their lives to the deep study of Scripture. They have become specialists in their fields to a depth that the local pastor cannot match. Commentaries are the fruit of their labor.

In my own study of Scripture I read as many commentaries as I possibly can. I don’t want to miss any idea or interpretation. Reading multiple commentaries provides a forum for various scholars to debate eachother about the passage's meaning. 

In my process of consulting commentaries, I always begin at the most simple level and work my way up to as advanced as I can comprehend. I’ll read all the introductions and then the actual expositions of texts. First, I consult study Bible notes, usually the MacArthur and ESV Study Bibles. Next, I read an expositional commentary like the Tyndale series (TOTC, TNTC). Then, I’ll read a more intermediate commentary like the MacArthur New Testament Commentary (MNTC), the New American Commentary Series (NAS) or the Pillar New Testament Commentary Series (PNTC). Finally, I’ll read several advanced commentaries. At this level, the commentaries I regularly consult are the New International Commentary Series (NICOT, NICNT), the Zondervan Exegetical Commentary Series (ZEC), and the Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament Series (BECNT).

#6 Pray Again
Prayer in sermon preparation shouldn’t be limited to the beginning of the project alone. The whole sermon process should be bathed and book ended in prayer. Delivering the King’s message is dependent upon the Holy Spirit’s guidance, illumination, and power.

Here is the sermon I preached on Titus 2:11-14:

God's Grace: The Foundation of Christian Life from Desert Heights Church on Vimeo.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Holy Week

Resources for Reflection 
Life is extremely busy. One danger for busy Christians is being swept up in all the craziness and neglecting seasons of reflection. Holy Week is a week that deserves sustained reflection. The Easter season is the most glorious season on the Christian calendar. Christ's death on Friday and Sunday Resurrection make our faith. This year, Good Friday falls on the April 3 which is the likely date on which Jesus died nearly two thousand years ago. For a convincing case of April 3, 33 as the date of Jesus' death see this article here.   Below are a few recent  resources that I have found especially beneficial in contemplation and celebration of our Lord's Passion and victorious Resurrection.

The Final Days of Jesus

Justin Taylor and Andreas Köstenberger have coauthored an excellent resource for Passion Week with their book The Final Days of Jesus: The Most Important Week of the Most Important Person Who Ever Lived. Justin Taylor works with Crossway and has had a hand in editing several volumes. Andreas Köstenberger is a leading Johannine scholar and has written multiple volumes concerning John's writings. His contribution to the Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament Series, John is excellent. He is the editor of Zondervan's Biblical Theology of the New Testament Series and author of its inaugural volume, A Theology of John's Gospel and Letters: The Word, the Christ, the Son of God. Köstenberger is my favorite New Testament scholar and I've personally gleaned so much from his writings (his commentary on John's Gospel is my personal favorite and his theology of John is superb). Köstenberger has shared his own list of Easter resources available on his site here.

The Final Days of Jesus is a chronological arrangement of Holy Week in the Gospel accounts. It also includes helpful graphs, maps and commentary. I worked through this volume during Holy Week last year and drank in its riches. 

Daily Videos
The second resource is a video series done by Crossway. These videos accompany The Final Days of Jesus but will work well as stand alone vignettes if you don't read the book. They feature several leading, conservative New Testament scholars including Andreas Köstenberger, Doug Moo and Grant Osborne.  These vignettes make for excellent daily supplements for reading each day's events of Holy Week in Scripture.

Palm Sunday:

The Final Days of Jesus: Palm Sunday from Crossway on Vimeo.


The Final Days of Jesus: Monday from Crossway on Vimeo.


The Final Days of Jesus: Tuesday from Crossway on Vimeo.


The Final Days of Jesus: Wednesday from Crossway on Vimeo.


The Final Days of Jesus: Thursday from Crossway on Vimeo.


The Final Days of Jesus: Friday from Crossway on Vimeo.


The Final Days of Jesus: Saturday from Crossway on Vimeo.

Resurrection Sunday:

The Final Days of Jesus: Resurrection Sunday from Crossway on Vimeo.

N.T. Wright on the Resurrection
Another very helpful resource is N.T. Wright. Wright is a leading voice on the Resurrection having authored a standard work with his tome,  The Resurrection of the Son of God. Some video resources that I have benefited from during the Easter season are his lecture on the Resurrection and his documentary on the Resurrection.

Lecture: "Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?"


Documentary: "Resurrection"

Monday, March 23, 2015

Preaching: A Kingdom Perspective

John Calvin preaching
An Unexpected Relationship 
Is every sermon preached from the Bible God's Word? What is good preaching?  We find an answer  to our questions in an unexpected place: the Kingdom of God.  Kingdom and preaching are related. The Kingdom of God is robust and its influence ripples across doctrine and practice. Its influence spreads even to preaching. This influence is so significant that in order to understand proper preaching, an understanding of the Kingdom is necessary. To see this relationship, a brief discussion of the Kingdom is in order.

The Kingdom of God pervaded Jesus’ teaching, it was the primary theme of his preaching. In Mark’s Gospel the first words Jesus speaks concerns the Kingdom. “Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God,” Mark writes (Mk 1:14). He then tells us what this Gospel proclamation was: “The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Jesus was proclaiming the Gospel of God and this Gospel of God is the good news of the Kingdom. Jesus Himself states that preaching the Kingdom was His purpose: “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose” (Luke 4:43). Matthew summarizes  Jesus  ministry this way: “And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people” (Matt. 4:23). Entrance into this Kingdom is through new birth. Jesus told Nicodemus: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (Jn. 3:3-5). Clearly, the Kingdom was paramount in Jesus' ministry purpose and preaching.

Not only is the Kingdom of God the dominant theme of Jesus preaching, it is the overarching story of the entire Bible1. If the Kingdom of God is the dominant theme of Jesus message as well as the story of the Bible, it is vital that we understand what it is. At its most basic level, the Kingdom is the reign of God. When someone repents of their sin and puts their trust in God they enter the Kingdom's realm by their submission to the lordship of Christ. Jesus told the Pharisees that "The Kingdom of God is in the midst of you" (Lk. 17:21).  The Kingdom, then, has a present manifestation. But Scripture also teaches that there is a future manifestation of the Kingdom (Rev. 12:10; 20).  There will be a time when the King will return and Heaven will come down to this earth (Rev. 21). In this blissful spring, God and man will be fully restored. Because of the present and future manifestations of the Kingdom, theologians refer to the Kingdom as “already/not yet.”

Unfortunately, the Kingdom of God is a forgotten doctrine among many Christians. In the tradition I was brought up in, the Kingdom is seen almost exclusively as the future, earthly reign of Jesus. The present manifestation of Kingdom as Jesus' reign in the lives of believers is neglected. Because this earth will be destroyed any way, this tradition minimizes God's restoration of His good creation. It views this world as a place where "I'm just a passing thu" and  ignores Heaven's future descent to earth, from which the King of the Universe will reign. In this eschatology churches develop a fortress mentality, hunkering down until Jesus returns. This Christianity tends to be pessimistic about the present and the future, bemoaning the passing of the glory days of Christianity and lamenting society's present and future vice. Missing is the doctrine of the triumphing Kingdom.

The Kingdom is huge and its pristine place needs to be recovered. The Kingdom is our metanarrative--the grand story that gives our own stories meaning. We find our place under Christ’s lordship. When we see ourselves as the subjects of King Jesus, we see that there is no secular/sacred divide. Everything is holy order and everything takes has Kingdom perspective. And that includes preaching.

Preaching as Stewardship and Heralding2
In 1 Corinthians 4:1-2 Paul gives a description of ministers: “This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they may be found faithful.” Paul describes those in ministry as servants and stewards. A steward is one who oversees one who takes care of something. And good steward is a faithful steward. A minister is a servant of the King. He has been entrusted to deliver the King’s message. Paul tells Titus that his preaching has "been entrusted by the command of God our Savior” (Tit. 1:3).

John Wesley Preaching
A minister is a faithful steward to the King, but he is also the King’s herald. A royal herald's job was to  deliver the King’s message to the subjects in the realm. Here, the Old Testament prophet provides a precedent for the New Testament teacher. These prophets would stand before the people of God and begin their delivery with “Thus says the Lord.” They were spokesmen for God. The prophet did not deliver his own opinions or message, he simply communicated His king’s address.  In this way, the New Testament teaching elder or pastor is the spokesman of God. Peter writes: "As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen" (1 Pet. 4:10-11).
If the one publicly teaching Scripture stands as the spokesman for God, what he says is dangerously significant. James warns, "Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness" (James 3:1). Most crucial for the the spokesman of God is accurate, faithful heralding of God's message. Faithful handling of God’s message is done most effectively in expository preaching. In expository preaching a text is expounded—each word, phrase, sentence or paragraph is analyzed and the message of the whole unit is communicated. The pastor does not have his own message to give or his own axe to grind. In expository preaching, the steward submits to the authority of God’s Word. He labors to find the Scripture's meaning, accurately interprets it, and then faithfully communicates it. After studying and rightly handling the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15), the spokesman can get in the pulpit and faithfully deliver God’s message. If His message is God's message he can say authoritatively, “thus says the Lord.” This why extra-biblical application is so dangerous. If a pastor stands before a congregation and makes application not present in the text under the guise of the "thus says the Lord" he leads people astray. He limits the Holy Spirit's application and shackles the congregation's consciences with his opinions and convictions. Preaching is a dangerous thing.  Right preaching, then, is both stewardship and heralding. 

Preaching in Kingdom Perspective
Because the Kingdom is the metanarrative—the story our story fits into—everything we do fits underneath its vast arch. We live our lives entirely under the lordship of Jesus. His lordship encompasses everything, even preaching.  As such, good and right preaching is guided by the King and His reign. Good preaching is not revivalistic excitement. It is not theatrical gesturing or pulpit pounding or shouting. It is not comedy hour or story time. It is not allegorizing biblical narrative, it is communicating why God included the narrative. Good preaching is the faithful, accurate, proclamation of the King’s message. The pastor doesn’t preach his own message to the congregation; instead, he submits to the message of the text and heralds it. Preaching in Kingdom perspective is steward's faithful heralding of the King’s message.

“Preaching is only authoritative as it accurately communicates God’s Word”~Mark Minnick

1 For excellent treatments of the Kingdom as the storyline of the entire Bible see Craig G. Bartholomew and Michael Goheen, The Drama of Scripture: Finding Our Place in the Biblical Story and Thomas R. Schreiner, The King in His Beauty: A Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments.

For a powerful argumentation of preaching as stewardship and heralding see Jason C. Meyer, Preaching: A Biblical Theology