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Deuteronomy Bible Study: Episode One

May 12, 2016

Audio: Deuteronomy Episode One

Worksheet: https://docs.google.com/document/d/10OCbGGn7kaLEbTSw2q5c1pfdGTilowiR03rXZ-9mOrw/edit?usp=sharing

 

 

On Turning Thirty

January 24, 2016

It is 2016 and I am almost 30.

 

OK I am back. I had to take a walk after writing that first sentence because it got me thinking, what should a 30 year old man be all about?

If I knew the answer to that question I firmly believe my readership would be a lot more than it is right now. Luckily, I don’t have to have the answer because learning among angst is what life is all about. Am I right?

I don’t know the future, I don’t understand the present, and I am losing some of my memory of the past.

Yeehaw 30!

At this point you may be thinking that I am not all too excited about turning 30. You would be wrong.

Why would anyone be upset about turning 30?

The common attitude is to see aging as a problem. It is something that creeps in and steals youth from me. Aging is the enemy of youth.

This sentiment is easy to have. We feel that the older we get the more responsibility we have, the magic seems to disappear, our bodies begin doing things they didn’t use to, our hair changes (sometimes it dies), and we realize the world isn’t as happy as we use to think.

Christmas and Summer vacation reminds us of this. Every Christmas I hear someone (including me) say that Christmas just isn’t what it use to be. Every Summer I hear people wishing they still had Summer vacation but adulthood has squashed that.

Yes it has. Thank God.

Growing older means that we still have life and life is glorious thing. Think about how much you have because you are alive (If you didn’t think of everything then you can take a little more time). We are blessed by God to have been created. He loves his creation. Death is not a part of his perfection design. We must take life and be thankful that we have it.

Wait a minute now Mr. Guffey, (you can call me Colton) life is great but the part I do not like is the curse of sin that causes us to age and become fragile until we die. Aging truly is the thief of youth. 

In one sense, I’d say you are correct. We do have to deal with our bodies becoming frail and deal with a lot of psychological grief the longer we are around. But this does not mean that we should be pessimistic about aging.

Here is why:

  1. We have work to do that glorifies God
  2. Growing in wisdom glorifies God
  3. Leading others in wisdom glorifies God

Philippians 1:21-30
21 
For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. 24 But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.

27 Only let your manner of life be worthy[a] of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, 28 and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God.29 For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, 30 engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.

Paul shows the angst with life in this passage. For him, living is Christ and dying is gain. This is every Christian’s plight. We know that when we die we will be in the presence of the Lord. While we are in our fleshly bodies we are to live in and for Christ. We are by nature now (as regenerate beings) “in” Christ so we must live for Christ by continuing his mission and obeying his commandments. How exciting is life looking now?

If not too exciting then I think some deep soul searching should be done. I say this as a brother in Christ who does not always get excited about this. Thankfully Christ has saved me and is continuing to save me so that this becomes more and more exciting.

The older I get the more I learn about my savior and the more excited I get to serve Him. Growing in wisdom is a gift that God has granted us. Not only do we have His written Word but we have Jesus Christ himself and the Holy Spirit.  The writer of Hebrews shows us how God has spoken to His people through Christ:

Hebrews 1:1-4
Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets,
but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

So trusting in Christ and growing in Him is quite important. Not only is it important. It is awesome that we have the opportunity to do so. At age 29 I am much wiser than I was at 21. Ask anyone (I mean ANYone) and they will tell you the same about me. My friends and I talk about how dumb we once were and how 10 years from now we will look back on ourselves and talk about how dumb we were. If I am alive in 10 years then I will have had 10 more years to grow closer to the Lord.

Wait one more minute Mr. Guffey, (it’s Colton) why should we want to grow in wisdom when we can just depart from this body and be with Christ?

How do you intend to depart from your body? As Christians, we know that God is sovereign over life. It is not up to us to decide when we or anyone dies. Just because we have eternal life does not mean that our life will begin after we die. What we do now matters.

Remind yourself of this every morning: What we do Now matters!

Not only do we not have control over when we die, we have work to do while we are alive. As a disciple of Christ we are not only concerned with ourselves but with our neighbors. Paul was convinced that people needed him. Guess what? People need us. God has you and I here for a reason. That reason is to continue the mission of Christ and to obey his commandments.

The older I get, the more people I have come in contact with and the more people I have shared the gospel with, the more people I have served, and the more times I have helped disciple someone else. Again, all of these are blessings from the Lord. The great commission is not a labor in vain but a gift from out creator.

So when it comes to Christmas, why would I want to be an adult over a child? Well it isn’t that we should want to be an adult OVER being a child but that we look forward to the next step. As as child we enjoy getting Christmas gifts. As an adult we enjoy giving gifts. We still get them from others but the point is more about giving.

As Christians, we are to focus more on our neighbors than our own needs. We are to love our neighbors and our enemies. We are to disciple them and baptize them. God has given us the gift of Christ and now we are to go forth and serve others by sharing the gift we have been given. Why? Because God said so? Well… yeah, but also because we are excited to do so. I really enjoy giving my family their gifts on Christmas morning because I love them. I need to cling to Christ so that my excitement boils over to my neighbors and even to my enemies.

I am turning 30 soon. I may make it to 40, 50, 60, or even to 100. Only God knows. All I know is that my trust is in Him. To die is gain for sure but to live is Christ. What shall I do while I am alive, no matter my age? I am to continue Christ’s mission and obey his commandments more and more the older I get.

Book Review: The Conviction to Lead

December 28, 2015

Introduction

I have a great deal of respect for Dr. Mohler. I am a student of the Southern Theological Baptist Seminary where Mohler is the president and has been for twenty plus years. Before starting my seminary career I had heard many tales of Dr. Mohler. Several stories involved him having an insane memory. One pastor recalled having only met Mohler once and then many years later seeing him again and Mohler remembered the pastor’s name. There are stories told that if someone were to pick any book out of Mohler’s massive library and point to a page that he can remember the general gist of that certain page. The first story seems believable, and impressive, while the second seems a bit far-fetched.

Stories can sometimes stretch the truth so I cannot base my opinion of Dr. Mohler purely on stories I have heard. I can, though, base some of my opinion of him by what I know to be true. I know he reads several books a week, reads through several major newspapers and magazines a day, adheres to his presidential duties, writes, keeps up with a podcast, and sleeps very little at night (compared to what the average person needs).

Before my seminary career I did not know much about Albert Mohler but after a couple of years in seminary and having a relationship with people who knew him well, I can say that I respect the man, his leadership, and his convictions. I admit that sometimes I wish that I could be more like him in his abilities and intellect, but this is partly sinful. There is nothing wrong with looking towards fellow brothers and elders for inspiration and guidance in my walk with Christ as long as the end goal is to glorify God by my growth. Mohler’s book The Conviction to Lead is a great book written so that he can share with his brothers and sisters in Christ the leadership qualities that he has learned in his many years in leadership and ministry.

Review

The Conviction to Lead is structured as 25 chapters which focus on principles that revolve on convictional leadership. In the first chapter Mohler writes, “Wherever Christian leaders serve, in the church of in the secular world, their leadership should be driven by distinctively Christian conviction. (18-19)” This is the base thought pattern throughout the next 24 principles in his book. Every chapter’s foundation is built on leading with conviction as the leader’s driving force.

I will admit that for the bigger part of my adult life I did not care to read a book on leadership. Some of this was due to arrogance and some of it was the fact that the only author I knew was John Maxwell and he has written 1,000,000 books on leadership that I KNOW cannot all be groundbreaking (How could they be? I mean seriously!). My knowledge of other leadership books is minimal. It is difficult for me to compare this leadership book with others that are already out there which may be the reason why my thoughts on this book are so strong.

I loved this book. As I stated earlier, I respect Dr. Mohler a great deal and look up to a lot of his leadership. This book was like he and I sitting in front of a fireplace and him sharing his wisdom from years of service. Several of the principles he writes about I knew were characteristic of an effective leader but he opened my eyes more on how that characteristic should be refined. Several other principles he discussed were some of which I had never thought of before. For example, one of the chapters is titled “Leaders and the Media” where Mohler discusses how leaders should always be ready for interaction with the media. I have never held a position of leadership that I had ever thought about serious interaction with the media. Such a great piece of wisdom that I now have that I would have never thought of myself.

Mohler shares that leaders read, write, are able and ready to speak publically, they teach, they manage, they stand firm in what they believe, they think, they make decisions, they use their time wisely, and they do all of this and more with and out of their convictions.

The Conviction to Lead is a book that I will be recommending to all who I mentor or teach who feel called to lead. It is an easy read and is quite short (only 213 pages). It is very inspiring and convicting. Mohler finishes the book with the statement, “The legacy I aspire to is the perpetuation of conviction and the furtherance of a worthy mission – nothing less. (213)” No matter how many cool leadership traits Dr. Mohler has, such as reading several books a week and being really clear and intelligent in his writing and speaking, his point in leading is not for others to want to be just like him but to follow in his convictions and his mission which he considers worthy. I hope and pray that my leadership in every area of my life (marriage, fatherhood, ministry, work, hobbies, etc) is based on convictions and not about selfish gain.

Book Review: Hidden But Now Revealed: A Biblical Theology of Mystery

April 13, 2015

One of my favorite films is Signs written and directed by M. Night Shymalan. For those who have not seen this film please skip this paragraph as it contains MAJOR SPOILERS. The movie is about a small modern farming family who find crop circles in their crops and who eventually survive an alien attack on earth. The main character Graham, who was once a clergyman, lost his wife in an automobile accident and turned away from his faith in God. His wife uttered the words “swing away Merle” right before she died. Merle, Graham’s brother, is an old baseball player who would either strike out or hit a home run in his glory days. Graham’s son suffers from crippling asthma and his daughter is a germophobe and can not handle water that is not fresh. So instead of finishing a cup of water she will leave them around the house and just grab a fresh glass. Up until the climax of the movie the title and all of the plot leads us to believe that the movie is just about a family dealing with an alien invasion. The climax of the movie reveals to the audience though that the movie is really about a family surviving an alien invasion and a family reclaiming their faith in God through his provisions in their life. In the final scene of the movie we see an alien break into their house and grab Graham’s son. The alien squirts a poison into the boy’s lungs. Merle walks in and sees the alien holding the boy. Graham looks over to Merle and see’s a bat hanging on the wall as well as glasses of water sitting all over the house. The alien then bumps into a cup of water and it burns his skin. Graham looks at Merle and says, “swing away Merle.’ Merle grabs the bat and begins hitting the full glasses of water towards the alien. He drops the boy and Graham runs outside and realizing that his son did not breathe in any of the poison because of an asthmatic attack. The family remained safe and defeated the alien because of the provisions from God.

G,K, Beale’s new book written with Benjamin L. Gladd Hidden But Now Revealed: A Biblical Theology of Mystery deals with the Biblical topic of mystery. The Bible uses the term mystery in several places and the author’s goal in writing this book is to trace how the Biblical authors used the term in their own writings and how the whole Bible can be read with a hermeneutic based on this pattern. G.K. Beale is one of my favorite theologians as his knowledge of Scripture and how to read and understand it is inspiring. Beale and Gladd ask the question, is there discontinuity or continuity between the Old and New Testaments? The answer is, both. Studying the term mystery and tracing its use through both Testaments the authors hope to gain understating of how the Old and New Testaments relate to one another.

Beale and Gladd begin their journey in Daniel. They believe that the term mystery almost always has its roots in the occurrences in Daniel 2 and 4. The schema in Daniel shows a symbolic dream or a vision coming to an individual and then an interpretation following. The authors state, “Revelation of a mystery can be roughly defined as God fully disclosing wisdom about end-times events that were mostly hitherto unknown.” They continue later on, “The initial revelation was not entirely hidden but only partially, and the subsequent revelation discloses the fuller meaning of the end-times events (43).” The authors point out that the paradigm in Daniel is crucial for understanding the use of the term throughout the rest of Scripture.

The rest of the book looks at the use of mystery throughout the rest of Scripture as well as extra-biblical sources including early Judaism and the Pagan mystery religions. After looking through Matthew, Romans, 1 Corinthians, Ephesians, Colossians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, and Revelation, the authors find that more often than not the revealed mystery is linked to Christ in his personhood or the cross and his crucifixion. One example is the paradoxical nature of Jesus being humiliated and crushed on the cross while also being established as King of all creation at the same time. The Old Testament saw the Messiah as King so there is continuity. But with Christ it is was fully revealed that he would suffer and that his people would rule with him through humility and suffering which shows discontinuity.

The authors close with hermeneutical implications of this study. Understanding that the biblical concept of mystery always constitutes two parts, initial revelation followed by later fuller revelation, can help the reader grasp how the New Testament uses the Old. When reading Scripture we must remember that there is continuity and discontinuity in both Testaments and that when there is mystery there must be an initial and a later revelation.

Reading Scripture in this way supports authorial intent. One does not read the New Testament authors and think that they are making a new meaning from the Old Testament but that they are just writing from a more revealed understanding. God’s plan has not changed. He has only revealed more what was once hidden.

This book is one that I will reference many times throughout my ministry. I particularly like how it is structured. Each chapter focusing on a specific book of the Bible will be beneficial for me later when I am studying through or teaching an individual Biblical book. Once again, Beale has inspired me to read Scripture more clearly and with a fine tooth comb. Not only do I feel that I understand the Biblical concept of mystery better but I also feel I understand how to read Scripture in a more complete way.

M. Night Shymalan held the full meaning of the title of his film Signs until the end of the movie. God has held many mysteries hidden throughout history only to reveal them to his people at the appropriate time. I am grateful for the work these two men have put into this topic as it helps me to understand how God has worked and continues to work with his people.

*Thanks to IVP Academic for providing me a free review copy in exchange for a fair review.*

Book Review – Preaching With Accuracy: Finding Christ-Centered Big Ideas for Biblical Preaching by Randal E. Pelton

April 13, 2015

Randal E. Pelton’s book Preaching With Accuracy: Finding Christ-Centered Big Ideas for Biblical Preaching is a wonderful small book on how to prepare a sermon focusing on the main idea in a preaching passage and remaining gospel-centered. The book is short at only a 163 pages of content but the helpfulness of the book can stretch throughout a whole ministry.

Pelton’s goal with this book is that a preacher will allow the preaching passage of Scripture to control the meaning of the sermon while remembering and respecting Jesus’ hermeneutic of the Bible as a unified whole. His first step is expository preaching. By using 1 Corinthians 14:24-25 the author shows how expository preaching is functional for the believer in the pew as well as for the non-believer who comes to hear the word of God. The next chapter focuses on how to find the main point of a passage and how difficult this may be when a passage holds several small ideas that string together to form a man point. Sometimes the preaching portion does not contain a big idea because it is in fact a part of a larger section of Scripture that points to a big idea. Pelton lets the reader know that these portions should still be preached but from the perspective that they are just a portion of the larger idea the Biblical author is attempting to make.

The next chapter is the largest of the book and one that will be referenced much from the reader as it sets up a formula for how to find the Texbi (or Textual Big Idea). This is done by finding the broad subject + narrowed subject + the complement which = the Texbi. The formula expressed here is a great way for readers to understand how to find the big idea in a particular text. Pelton not only presents this formula but he also goes through each main Biblical genre to show how this formula is used.

The next step is to find the Conbi (or Contextual Big Idea). This step is accomplished by “allowing the immediate context of the preaching portion to flesh out the meaning of the textual big idea (18).” Context is incredibly important to understanding meaning in Scripture and Pelton shows how crucial it is when locating meaning in a preaching portion. The final step is to find the Canbi (or Canonical Big Idea). This final step is how the preaching portion is connected to the entire church by centering it on the gospel. This step makes the sermon Christ-centered as it connects the preaching portion to the whole storyline of Scripture and relates how God worked through all of the redemptive-historical narrative to his people throughout all of history up to the present.

In conclusion, Pelton shares how Christ-centered preaching should be applied by the church. Firstly, believers should reaffirm their faith in Christ and the gospel before moving the second step which is applying it to their life. This “Faith First Application” is for both believers and non-believers as believers will reaffirm and non-believers have the chance to put their faith in Christ.

This book is a must read for preachers as it emphasizes Christ-centered and Biblical preaching. The book shows how expository preaching is useful for both believers and non-believers. Pelton’s method is not just homiletical in nature but also hermeneutical as it helps preachers to remain contextual when preparing sermons. I will be referring it to my fellow brothers who are called to the ministry of preaching and teaching the word of God.

*Thanks to Kregel Academic for providing a free review copy of this work in exchange for a fair review*

The Blog Post on Reading Scripture Pt. 1

March 12, 2015

This is part of a series on Reading Scripture. The title is a reference to the television show Seinfeld. Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld (co-creators of Seinfeld) never wanted their writers to struggle over coming up with a creative name for their episodes because it could take away from the script so they told them to just keep the title easy and write The before what the episode was about. I have adopted that technique.


As a student in the youth ministry, I would always hear how important it was to have a quiet time. Quiet time (if you do not understand the lingo) refers to time spent everyday with God through prayer and Bible reading. You could have a 5 minute or an hour long quiet time. Quiet time could be in the morning when you were still in bed before school or at night when you were heading to bed  for the night. There were no specifics on when or where to do quiet time just as long as you did it. I always associated quiet time with my bed because that was when adults and leaders always seemed to suggest doing it (as a youth this was terrible timing for me because I didn’t spend much time in bed).The point of the quiet time was to make sure that you gave a little of your time to God everyday. Or that is how I understood it.

I would always get jazzed about doing quiet times after youth trips or great youth worship services. The youth trips inspired me because I would be so excited about my relationship with Christ that I would want nothing more than to learn more about him and to give as much as I could to him out of thanksgiving. Great worship services inspired me because I would hear someone preach the word in such a way that helped me understand Scripture in a unique way that I never understood before. I remember hearing Louis Giglio speak at a Student Life camp when I was a sophomore in high school and thought it was the most interesting sermon I had ever heard. He opened my mind and heart to the way of God more than I had ever noticed before. When we came home from the trip, I begged my youth pastor to find me some CD’s or tapes (yep) of his sermons so that I could learn more about the Bible and God.

While my excitement typically lasted for a time, it was always short lived. I would head back to school, and within a couple of weeks, my Bible reading and prayer life came to a halt. I didn’t have the drive to wake up a few minutes earlier to study my Bible, and I would never last long enough in bed at night to accomplish anything. There was a problem that I never realized until I got older.

I based my Bible reading and prayer life on my emotions, not discipline.

By treating my time with God like that, I was ultimately saying that I only wanted to learn when I felt like learning. I only needed God when I felt I needed God. God only deserved what I had time to give.

Thank God for growing me through trials and moments of suffering to realize this truth.

I no longer refer to quiet time as quiet time for several reasons:

1. I associate quiet time as something that I did only in my bed in the morning or evening.
2.I thought I should only do it once a day.
3. I felt like it was something of a chore.
4. I believed it was something I had to do to be a good Christian.
5. It makes me feel like I am going to quit something before I ever start it.

Do these reasons mean I think the phrase Quiet Time should be abandoned? No. These reasons are specific to me.

The point that I wish to make is that a revolution needed to happen in my life when it came to my understanding of Scripture reading and prayer.

The revolution came with the word discipline.

What I hope to do with this series is take what I have learned through leaders, professors, reading, and life and show how to make your Scripture reading and prayer life more fruitful.

I get asked by my family and friends all the time how to read the Bible better. I am always excited to hear this question because it is the first step in the discipline of reading Scripture.

I hope this series benefits you and your spiritual life as it has helped mine. I write this series out of love for my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ and out of gratitude to all of those who have helped me by teaching me what it means to have fruitful Scripture reading.

My prayer is that this series will help believers who like me have struggled with understanding the Bible and who need more discipline in their life.

Grace and Peace

For the Glory of God: A Biblical Theology of Worship – Book Review

February 25, 2015

“In the hubbub over worship styles, I sometimes wonder if we have explored seriously enough what the Scriptures have to say about acceptable worship.” Daniel I. Block in his book For the Glory of God: Recovering a Biblical Theology of Worship attempts to reorient the church’s mind to a holistic biblical perspective on worship. He does so by looking through various aspects of worship through the Old and New Testaments and then applying the biblical data to the church and its practices today.

Block begins his book by defining worship, “True worship involves reverential human acts of submission and homage before the divine Sovereign in response to his gracious revelation of himself and in accord with his will.” He worries that the church has become accustomed to only understanding worship as something done on Sunday morning or even as narrow as the music performed during a worship service. By defining worship in this way Block shows the reader that worship is more than just a service or music but involves the Christian’s entire life.

The author structures the book so that each chapter focuses on a scriptural aspect of worship. Block states, “I have selected, arranged, and presented these topics to orient readers to biblical perspectives and to encourage conversation among the people of God.” Each chapter gives well informed biblical data from both testaments and then concludes with Block’s modern day application. Block is transparent when he writes from his own bias but hopes the church, regardless of denomination or background, will reflect on the scriptural data given and use it in their practices to produce and encourage true worship. The book is written not just for the pastors and leaders of the church but for all of the people of God so that their lives may be lived according to a biblical understanding of true worship.