Monday, April 30, 2018

Must Have(s) for the Preacher of Romans

So, two titles that I would say those preaching from Romans really want to have by their side..... Moo's NIVAC on Romans and then C. Ash on Romans (2 part).    I would almost say essential.   Pate is good to have too (TTC series), but he is hit and miss a bit. 

D. Carson has said that only the most poorly-trained preacher would prefer Moo's NIVAC over his larger NIC volume on Romans.  I have both, but I would say that Carson is perhaps a bit condescending in this and also that I am happy to be "poorly trained" if this is so;  the NIVAC contains his exegetical thoughts but also moves all the way to application (helpful application from someone you can trust with interpretation).  So, you are getting everything instead of just exegesis and a bit of theology/mild application sprinkled in. 

I look forward to the ZECNT on Romans coming out. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Liberty University, Calvinism, and Orange Slices


Liberty University at the turn of the millennium was a good place.  Always promoted as the world’s most exciting university, it did and didn’t disappoint.  It was the best of colleges, it was (not) the worst of colleges. 


It didn’t disappoint because there was, well, genuine excitement.  We had all kinds of famous people come to speak to us in chapel.  It’s not chapel!  It’s convocation for Pete’s sake….for his sake and also for accreditation sake.  The excitement also included world-class division I athletics.  The LU Flames were actually close to the UNC Tarheels at halftime of their March Madness game in 1994.  That didn’t last too long, even though Jerry Falwell (Sr.), true to form (good form) said something like “yeah, we’re gonna whip those rascals” when interviewed on TV at halftime.  If it’s Christian, it oughta be better.   Aside from this notable moment, world-class division I athletics has also included Sid Bream thirty years ago. 

But, it was fun.  The Harvard of the south.  The Duke of the north.  All depends on your geographical point of view. 

It did disappoint only in the sense that it’s hard to live up to a self-billing as the world’s most exciting university.  Hard to live up to this in terms of actually placing a premium on high-quality academics.  But mainly hard just because somebody else may always be having more fun than you. 

Jerry (Sr.) joined in a bit with our snowball fight near his office one winter day.   Good times; fun guy.  We still haven’t gone to Notre Dame and whooped those guys in football.  But we did whip Baylor this year. 


My friends and I—okay, maybe just two or three of us—developed a nice and novel acrostic during our strenuous days of study in college at ole LU.   We, hopefully not illegally, adopted PEPSI as our battle cry for our newfound love.  Our newfound love was something called the “doctrines of grace.” 

Let me back up just a bit here.  And, after said backing-up and subsequent moving forward, we’ll get back to PEPSI. 
Liberty University is a Christian school.  A place of higher education with an explicit Christian emphasis.  Christian music, Christian bookstores, Christian t-shirts, Christian subculture, Christian school.   (Because, of course, without the defining adjective, you’d simply be left with music, bookstore, t-shirt, etc., and that would be just unacceptable.)

Liberty University was founded by the late Jerry Falwell (I do love him).  Like him, the school has been known for it’s fundamentalist, conservative, evangelical, and pro-Tim Lahaye stance.  (Tim Lahaye is a well-known ice skater and writer of books that span the genres) 
So, again, Evangelical, a bit fundamentalist many would say, and certainly Christian.  Not Calvinist.  No. 

So, we were brilliant.  Brilliant.  Being trained to think and wield our brains for the fine tools that they were, we said this.  If you take the word Pepsi, and turn it into a backwards acrostic, then you have a modern-day restatement of what every Christian of all times and all places has truly believed deep down in their heart of hearts.  And, that is….the doctrines of grace. 

ISPEP.  Get it?  The inability of man.  That’s “I,” the first letter.  Sovereign election.  Particular redemption.  Effectual calling.  And finally, the Preservation of the saints. 

When this hit me for the first time, fond thoughts about that carbonated beverage birthed in New Bern, NC filled my being. 

Church history professor Carl Diemer (it was a great class) didn’t seem to mind too much and even kind of laughed it off when he entered class a bit late one day only to find the acrostic ISPEP delineated on the board for all to see, complete with what each letter represented. 

G. Leverett taught his students that “Calvinism” wasn’t all bad, but this middle road was not the party line at the school. 

Historians of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries come to different conclusions, but most agree that that day will go down in the annals of His-story.  Much, in fact very much, like Luther nailing the 95 theses to the church door in Wittenburg was that fateful day in Lynchburg, VA—former home to many moonshiners we are told—when ISPEP was boldly written on the Religion Hall classroom board for on-time students and late professor to see.  

Really, nothing has been the same at the school since.  The student population has dramatically increased, buildings are popping-up everywhere, DC Talk has been welcomed back, and Jerry Sr.’s son famously said that the school had so much money they didn’t know what to do with it all. 
To which, of course, our dear friend who teaches there said the whole faculty responded warmly, contemplating their $29,000 / yr. in a most spiritual manner.  *I do not know what staff or faculty make at LU; I assume it is not $99,000. 


I used to love (candy) orange slices.  For many years of my early life, hardly a better treat could be found.  Brach’s, whatever.  Probably didn’t matter.  Man, they were so good.  And good for you.  Good for your teeth too.  Good for self-esteem.  I rarely eat them now.  I eat real orange slices.  Organic is way better than synthetic.  
My accountability partner and I went to Burger King one time during our first semester of seminary.   I had a bad reaction and have never been back since.  No, not just of that one BK location do I speak; I have not been back period.  Maybe once.  But anyway, if you do not agree with me that organic is always cheaper and always better, then you’d better just go ahead and take some extra clothes for purgatory. 

One circle of friends that I had while at LU involved a guy named Chris.  A mutual friend told me that this Chris was actually what is called a “5 pointer.”  Chris was a deer.  More precisely, Chris accepted all five “points” of Calvinism.  Couldn’t be. 
Just couldn’t be.  Had I not just recently given a speech in my LU communications class on the very subject of this old Calvinism/Arminianism debate?  I had.  And, what had been my scientific conclusion?  Answer: Neither could possibly have a corner on truth; the truth was somewhere in the middle!  
(don’t ever come down on anything fully; always straddle a little bit)

But Chris….I mean Chris wasn’t a close friend.  He was more of a friend of a friend.  Amicus.  Did he just want to be weird or something?  All five!? 

All five man.  Juan Maclean, E. Craig Sowder, James White, Wayne McCraw, and we haven’t even got to the pied Piper yet. 

You gotta go all the way.  If you don’t RC Sproul will call you basically not-smart for only doing 4.  Bruce Ware can straddle the fence on “L” (actually “P”) all he wants, but again, Sproul says he is basically slow.  And Sproul knows; he used to smoke. 

ISPEP.  Some, today, still do not understand or grasp what a bombshell this was over the war-torn landscape of not only Lynchburg but evangelicalism as a whole.  The old “TULIP” had been waxing and waning for some years.  Granted, the concepts were and are basically the same, but who wants to read a physical book anymore?  Fresh wineskins for fresh wine; that was what was needed.  And the wine ran freely through the Marriott dining hall on the campus of Liberty University. 

This was revolutionary.  No one before, no one, had been so excited about newfound truth.  No one had articulated their excitement in such exciting ways….at the world’s most exciting university nonetheless.  This was exciting.  Revolutionary, yes, but exciting. 

Again, the evidence speaks for itself:  enhanced football stadium, new baseball accommodations, more dining facilities, an online presence that is second-to none in higher education.  I have not received one penny of royalties from the university called Liberty. 

I am not bitter.  I choose, instead, to live my life by changing just one letter.  I want to get *better. 

Libery University has a nice bookstore now.  It is Barnes and Noble, I think.  There is a large theology section and some of the titles / authors are clearly in the “Reformed” camp….many of the authors and titles.  Coincidence?   Ispep. 

“We don’t believe in limited atonement.”   - Jerry Falwell (Sr.) 

No, we don’t.  We won’t stand for it.  That and Nancy Pelosi.  That’s okay, because often the things we seek so intently to squelch are the things that so beautifully flourish.  I tried to erase the memory of the Gaither Vocal Band, but now they are more popular than ever.   


I don’t like all oranges, especially if they’re bad.  These little things called halos or cuties are good.  I just can’t eat candy orange slices anymore.  I’d get sick, or maybe not, but at least wouldn’t feel good. 

My friend Dan Davis was married by one of the main campus pastors from LU many years ago.  This particular pastor used the acrostic DAVIS for his sermon points at the ceremony.  Dan was also giving “hey there, baby” eyes to his new wife as she walked down the aisle, but that is beside the point.  I thought it was a bit funny that Pastor Dwayne used DAVIS, the dude’s last name.  But hey, maybe it worked.  

He didn’t use ISPEP. 

I hope your marriage is o.k., Dan. 

“….my Henry the VIII, my David, Dr. Jerry Falwell…..I propose a standing ovation.”   -  John Borek  (one-time president of LU)

“She could be the one for me…”   - Vroom

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Genesis Commentaries

It has been pointed out that books like Genesis, Psalms, John, and Romans are favorites of preachers.  I get back to Genesis somewhat frequently; a great book.  Almost like it's inspired. 

Commentaries that I'm thankful to have used....asterisk indicates favorites: 

- Walton's NIVAC isn't the best one, but neither is it bad to have around!  (got it cheap on Kindle)

- *Longman's fairly new one in the very user-friendly Story of God series

- K. Hughes is good.

- *Allen Ross is user-friendly and good, but maybe not quite as good as he is on Leviticus.

- Sailhammer in the EBC (revised) has long been praised, but I think it has only moderate value in comparison to others like Ross or Longman. 

- Kidner




Monday, October 09, 2017

So Good; Go ahead and get this one.




The men of our church are reading this together for purpose of discussion, and it has indeed provided for some truly good times of interaction.  This book is so rich.  It is simple and easy to understand.  And yet, like the biblical book upon which it is based (Ecclesiastes), it is deep and profound too.  

Carson (D.A.) says that this is the best of all the recent expositions of Ecclesiastes.  It has helped me a lot;  highly recommended.   The endorsements of the book come from some of my favorites!.... A. Motyer, D. R. Davis, Carson, etc.   Another reason why I think our men are enjoying it so much is that it is faithful to get us into the text of Scripture itself.  

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Galatians Commentaries (and Brief Thoughts on commentaries)

Good commentaries on Galatians

Some of these I have used a good bit, and others I have used only some….but all in the list have profit, the most profit coming from the actual text of Galatians itself.  Asterisk indicates favorites.

*Schreiner (2010)  

T. George,  NAC  

P. Ryken,   REC 

*Stott,   BST 

*T. Wilson  PTW - highly recommended by Schreiner, Moo, Bird, etc.  

Blomberg in his Acts – Rev. book

Merida / Platt

M.  Luther,    unfortunately, I’ve only realized this gem recently. 

Traditional commentaries can be boring and are often not extremely helpful.  As has been pointed out many times, commentaries must be used wisely and sometimes that means sparingly.   The format of a commentary matters a whole lot to me.  The new ZECNT series (Schreiner above) has a nice format that is user-friendly and thorough / not lacking in depth.  BST has long been a favorite series.  PTW is great. 

Monday, September 25, 2017

Twenty Newer Books that have Helped me in Ministry

ESV study Bible
Zond. NIV Study Bible
An updated translation of the NLT
Blomberg’s 2 NT books (Jesus and the Gospels, and then the sequel)
Naselli’s new NT textbook
D. Murray’s preaching book

John Evans’s book on biblical commentaries….very good
Expositor’s Bible comm. On OT (8 volumes, newest edition)
Dale R. Davis on Joshua and on Judges
Ross on Leviticus
ESV Readers 6 volume Bible
Baker one-volume commentary
Wilbourne on Union with Christ….very good

ESV gospel transformation Bible
Fullerton’s preaching book
Longman on Psalms
Zond. NIV SB….just get it already!  (Get the large print edition if you care about your eyes.) 
Motyer’s new devotional on Psalms….very good  (Isaiah too)
Schreiner on 40 questions on the law
Schreiner on Galatians

Friday, January 27, 2017

Was very excited about this one; it didn't disappoint.  Legendary coaches for UNC, NC State, and the Dookies.  A fast read for a guy who was brought up on these things.  



Very, very happy with this one....

I agree with Justin Taylor's endorsement; he says that this is now his go-to book that he would recommend on this subject.  Tithing for Christians?  No.  Sabbath for Christians?  No.  Of course, there is much more explanation than that, but the whole thing is great.  



Very highly recommended...

9/10 rating.  Concise, rich, very helpful.  This book really thrills your soul.  


What can you say about this one?....Fantastic

This whole series (7 volumes by JC Ryle on the Gospels) is pretty much gold.  I used it most recently in preaching through Mark.  We use excerpts as a church in prayer meetings or small groups too.  So good, and free online!  


Grace Works...and so does this book.

I was very drawn to this one by the title and subtitle.  For some parts of this book, I was ready to give it a 9 or 9.5 / 10.    Overall, I give it a 7.5.  A good one.  



Bio. of a not-so-famous man

This one has some really good stuff in it for pastors.  A very ordinary pastor is the subject of the book.  Good for all Christians too.  




Saturday, January 21, 2017

You know you're a nerd when...

You take hours of delight with books about books.  I have found this one (yes, yes Carson and Longman are good too) to be unique and perhaps my favorite in this small niche of books about biblical reference works.  Highly recommended, and you get more than you pay for or initially think you're getting!  It's very pastoral and practical too.  



All the rage...


The whole world was talking about this book last year.  It is, indeed, very interesting and compelling, especially from such a young author...writing a memoir nonetheless!  My take:  you will be just fine if you never read this book (of course you will).   There are good things, both specific and general, to take away from this book.  But, while I might not use the word gratuitous, this book also comes with sometimes-generous sprinklings of material that does not please the Lord.  ....which, of course, is part of the very point of this good book.  But, you get my drift:  let your (biblically-informed) conscience be your guide, and don't violate it.  K. and I both read it.  



A good man

This was one of my more enjoyable experiences last year in reading this work.  To be sure, it is an academic writing about another academic.  But, neither of these--the author nor the subject--are ordinary academics!  (still, my dad reads a lot and couldn't get into it....so fair warning if you don't enjoy such things)  I really enjoyed it.  8.5/10