How To Use A Bible Commentary

photo[1]We have a solid selection of commentaries in our church library. I am encouraged to see the number of people in the congregation who make use of them, as these books can be a great help in deepening our understanding of God’s Word. But there can be pitfalls in referencing commentaries, too. The post below gives sound advice for avoiding some of the most common ones.

I would add one word of counsel in addition to the points the author makes: when reading a commentary, look for the arguments given and not simply the conclusions. Anyone can say that a particular verse means a certain thing. But what is more valuable is seeing the reasons given to support that understanding, and determining if those reasons are compelling.

Here’s the post: Don’t Be A Commentary Junkie

May this be a help as you pursue the inspired, inerrant, sufficient Scriptures!

–Pastor Greg

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Published in: | on April 22nd, 2015 | Comments Off

Play Ball!

IMG_1103This week marked the beginning of the 2015 Major League Baseball season. I realize that not everyone is a fan of America’s pastime (a fact that I will not try to hold against them), but it’s a big deal in our home. There is something intrinsically exciting about a new season. There is hope, new beginnings, a fresh start.

In our home we root for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Growing up in LA in the 1970s, I always knew who the players were going to be year in and year out. The outfield changed some, but I knew that Garvey, Lopes, Russell, and Cey would be in the infield. However, those days are largely gone. Today most players change ball clubs several times during the course of their careers. But even though the faces may change, I still find myself a fan of the boys in blue.

The wave of what begins this week will carry us through the summer and into the early fall. There will be many ups and downs over the course of 162 games. There will be moments where our team will look like the ‘27 Yankees, and there will be times where they look like the ’62 Mets. But I will root for them just the same. They are my team. And unless the cable companies can work out a deal, I will have to be content with listening to the voices of Vinny, Charlie, and Rick on the radio. But I will listen.

Dodger games have been a part of our family from the very beginning. I took Kristen to a day game when we were first dating. In the early and awkward stages of getting to know one another, we sat through a 17 inning game that started in sunshine and ended long after dark. By the end we were sunburned and cold in the Los Angeles night air, but we had shared an experience that will last a lifetime.

While on our honeymoon in Monterey, California, while planning a day trip to San Francisco, I happened to check to see if the Giants had a home game. They did, and not only that, they were playing the Dodgers! Yes, we went to a Dodgers-Giants game at the old Candlestick Park on our honeymoon, and even got to see Fernando Valenzuela pitch! I knew I had married a good woman.

Our kids have all become faithful Dodger fans as well. Our oldest daughter, Anna, married Mike this past summer, who is also a diehard Dodger fan. I look forward to the day when I can take my grandkids to a game, and keep the tradition going.

But I am quick to admit that baseball is temporal. In the age to come, I don’t think we will care that much who won the World Series in 2015. Any entertainment–and let’s be honest, sports are entertainment–can be an ungodly distraction. If any thing draws away from devotion to Christ, it has become a sin, an idol. If I find that I read the box score more than my Bible, or if I know the ERA of the Dodgers’ starting rotation, but cannot defend from Scripture the deity of Christ, things are out of whack.

But, on the other hand, if I receive a thing–whether it be baseball or ballet, a good book or a good steak, movies or Mozart–with thanksgiving, as a gift from God to be enjoyed but not worshipped, it is a good thing. There is a God-honoring, God-glorifying reality in recognizing beauty, excellence, hard work, achievement, team work, time with friends and family, or the simple pleasure of a sunny day and a hot dog. Temporal things can touch eternity, if received with thanksgiving. Worship shows up in our lives, not only on Sunday mornings, but daily when we recognize God as the source of all life and the giver of every good thing.

So, with thanksgiving in my heart to the God of the universe, the Creator and Sustainer of all life, the Lover of my soul, my Savior and my God, I say, “Play ball!”

–Pastor Dave

 

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Published in: | on April 7th, 2015 | Comments Off

Reflecting on the Cross with R.C. Sproul

Jesus Became a Curse for Us

The Curse Motif of the Atonement

One aspect of the atonement has receded in our day almost into obscurity. In our present-day efforts to communicate the work of Christ more gently and kindly, we flee from any mention of God inflicting a curse upon his Son. We shrink in horror from the words of the prophet Isaiah (chapter 53) that describe the ministry of the suffering servant of Israel and tell us that it pleased the Lord to bruise him. Can you take that in? Somehow the Father took pleasure in bruising the Son when he set before him that awful cup of divine wrath. How could the Father be pleased by bruising his Son were it not for his eternal purpose through that bruising to restore us as his children?

The curse motif that seems utterly foreign to us in this time in history. When we speak today of the idea of “curse”, what do we think of? We think, perhaps, of a voodoo witch doctor who places pins in a doll made to replicate his enemy. We think of an occultist who is involved in witchcraft, putting spells and hexes upon people. The very word curse in our culture suggests some kind of superstition, but in biblical categories there is nothing superstitious about it.

The Hebrew Benediction

If you really want to understand what it meant to a Jew to be cursed, I think the simplest way is to look at a benediction clergy often use to conclude a church service:

The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.
(Num. 6:24–26)

The structure of this famous Old Testament benediction follows a common Hebrew poetic form known as “parallelism”. There are various types of parallelism in Hebrew literature. There’s antithetical parallelism, in which ideas are set in contrast to each other. There is synthetic parallelism, which contains a building crescendo of ideas. But one of the most common forms of parallelism is synonymous parallelism, and, as the words suggest, this type of parallelism restates something with different words. There is no clearer example of synonymous parallelism anywhere in Scripture than in the benediction in Numbers 6, where exactly the same thing is said in three different ways. If you don’t understand one line of it, then look to the next one, and maybe it will reveal to you the meaning.

We see in the benediction three stanzas with two elements in each one: “bless” and “keep”; “face shine” and “be gracious”; and “lift up the light of his countenance” and “give you peace.” For the Jew, to be blessed by God was to be bathed in the refulgent glory that emanates from his face. “The Lord bless you” means “the Lord make his face to shine upon you.” Is this not what Moses begged for on the mountain when he asked to see God? Yet God told him that no man can see him and live. So God carved out a niche in the rock and placed Moses in the cleft of it, and God allowed Moses to see a glimpse of his backward parts but not of his face. After Moses had gotten that brief glance of the back side of God, his face shone for an extended period of time. But what the Jew longed for was to see God’s face, just once.

The Jews’ ultimate hope was the same hope that is given to us in the New Testament, the final eschatological hope of the beatific vision: “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). Don’t you want to see him? The hardest thing about being a Christian is serving a God you have never seen, which is why the Jew asked for that.

The Supreme Malediction

But my purpose here is not to explain the blessing of God but its polar opposite, its antithesis, which again can be seen in vivid contrast to the benediction. The supreme malediction would read something like this:

May the Lord curse you and abandon you. May the Lord keep you in darkness and give you only judgment without grace. May the Lord turn his back upon you and remove his peace from you forever.”

When on the cross, not only was the Father’s justice satisfied by the atoning work of the Son, but in bearing our sins the Lamb of God removed our sins from us as far as the east is from the west. He did it by being cursed. “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree’” (Gal. 3:13). He who is the incarnation of the glory of God became the very incarnation of the divine curse.

Excerpt taken from “The Curse Motif of the Cross” by R.C. Sproul in Proclaiming a Cross Centered Theology, Copyright ©2009. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, Il 60187.

Here is a link to the article on the ligonier website.

http://www.ligonier.org/blog/supreme-malediction-jesus-became-curse/

Here is a link to a video where Dr. Sproul talks about the same subject.

Curse Motif

 

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Published in: | on April 3rd, 2015 | Comments Off

A Fresh Look at Sunday

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It can be easy to take Sunday mornings for granted. For some of us, going to church is a routine developed years ago; for others, it is a fairly new part of our lives.

But I suspect for all of us there are times when we are tempted to “go on autopilot” – to attend out of habit and not reflect on what is happening when we gather as the people of God.

The following article encouraged me to consider afresh some of the amazing things that take place when the saints come together. I pray it will stir you as well.

The Wonder of Sunday Morning

I am looking forward to our time together this weekend!

–Pastor Greg

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Published in: | on March 25th, 2015 | Comments Off

One of the Respectable Sins…

First of all, Happy St. Paddy’s Day! Yes, I wore green, though in years past I usually forgot to don the one color most associated with my birth country. However, although I still somewhat petulantly believe that being born in Ireland should absolve one of having to wear green on St. Paddy’s Day, the drama that I receive (and pinches; that’s assault btw :)) have forced me to renegotiate my protocols.

That said, there is another day quickly approaching, which, if we’re honest, we pay far more attention to, in part because it involves something else that’s green: money! That’s right, I’m talking about everyone’s favorite day, Tax Day, April 15th, or the Ides of April as Shakespeare would have undoubtedly referred to it.

As Pastor Steve reminded us from Titus a few weeks ago, it is our duty as believers to honor the authority that God has placed over us, for as we do we obey and honor God. But the implications of this command are legion for our daily lives as Pastor Steve explained. One of the interesting related questions is, “What should our attitude be in the midst of honoring the earthly authorities placed over us?”

One of my favorite bloggers, Tim Challies, goes after this question in relation to paying taxes in this article titled, “Do You Pay Your Taxes Joyfully?”  It’s more than just resigning ourselves to do something as we inwardly despise the necessity.

I assume you pay your taxes, Christian, but…

Do You Pay Your Taxes Joyfully?

Thank God for His Grace!!!  May we be joyful in our obedience!

Geoff

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Published in: | on March 18th, 2015 | Comments Off

How to Honor the President

In this morning’s sermon from Titus 3:1-2, we discussed the responsibility of Christians to honor, submit to, and obey their leaders.

Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.

Paul gives a similar command in Romans 13, which he grounds in the fact that God is sovereign over all authorities and is the one who establishes leaders and governments.

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.

Several people asked me after the sermon this morning what it looks like to pray for and honor our leaders when we disagree with them and their political views.  Someone pointed me to a helpful blog post by Mark Altrogge at the Blazing Center blog.  It is a short and easy read with some helpful instruction on how to pray for and honor our leaders.

I pray it is helpful to you in the pursuit of being the Christian citizen God has called each of us to be in the city of man while awaiting His glorious return!

What It Means and Does Not Mean to Honor Our President

To the Praise of His Glory!

Pastor Steve

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Published in: | on March 8th, 2015 | Comments Off

Burden Bearing

Paint CanRather than waiting until we can do something really “spectacular,” let’s daily be on the lookout for opportunities to help bear the burdens of others in simple, significant ways. I trust this post by Tim Challies will be a help as we seek to develop that servant perspective: An Extraordinary Skill for Ordinary Christians.

 

–Pastor Greg

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Published in: | on February 25th, 2015 | Comments Off

One of my favorite saints…

SpurgeonNope, not Drew Brees, though I like him. I’m speaking about those people who have surrendered their lives to the Lord Jesus Christ and acknowledged the finished work of the Son of God on the cross. When I say saints, I mean believers. And one of my favorite saints is C. H. Spurgeon. I know he’s a favorite of many folks out there, but I have only recently reacquainted myself with him.

I obviously don’t agree with everything he says, nor do I with any human but Christ, but I have been extremely blessed by the gift God gave this man to bring out the implications in a Bible text.  MandE

I recently purchased the edition of Spurgeon’s devotional, Morning and Evening, edited by Alistair Begg. It’s a wonderful little book, with short passages meant for Spurgeon’s congregation to ponder, based on a particular text. (I read this in conjunction with Scripture; I’m not advocating reading only devotionals.)

I wanted to share a line from this morning’s reading:”Afflictions are often the black foils in which God sets the jewels of His children’s graces, to make them shine brighter.” This particular morning’s section is in response to Job 10:2, and reflects on how the child of God responds to adversity. So. Good.

The entire section is available here.

Such a good reminder for me to see trials as they truly are. I pray it would be helpful to you.

Geoff

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Published in: | on February 20th, 2015 | Comments Off

Yeah, Well, But What About the Crusades?

In the background of this picture is what remains of a Crusade-era fortress just off the coast of Sidon, in present day Lebanon. Vestiges of battles long ago can still be seen today, and the on-going arguments of their causes and their lasting legacy also continue.

DSCN0989

Kevin DeYoung has recently written an article regarding the Crusades on the Gospel Coalition blog (Yeah, Well, What about the Crusades?). As Muslim and Christian relations are a hot topic these days, and since the Crusades are often used as an argument against the truth claims of our faith by unbelievers of all kinds, it would benefit every believer to have at least a cursory understanding of the Crusades. History can serve as a caution that our faith is not attached to any human leader or government, but is founded in the person of Jesus Christ, and we find who He is and what He demands in the pages of Scripture.

–Pastor Dave

 

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Published in: | on February 10th, 2015 | Comments Off

Biblical Dating: Is there such a thing?

We have just started a short series on dating in high school on Wednesday night.  It’s been a while since we’ve gone through the topic together.  No matter how many times we walk through this topic, I’m always a bit surprised to find how much of the world has tinged or even taken over our understanding of relationships of any kind.  That said, there are a ton of biblically based resources out there to refute the seemingly universal understanding of dating.  I would like to share one that has been very helpful for years now to me in walking through this touchy topic with students and parents. There are others, but this one has been of particular value.  It’s bible-saturated and bible-driven, which is especially hard to find:

The Biblical Dating Series by Scott Croft

Scott Croft was an elder at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in D.C. for many years. If you’re wondering what biblical dating might look like, this article is a good place to start.  Either way, whether it’s for you or to help with someone else, I have found this biblical treatment, and its associated Q&A section, very helpful.  I hope it’s helpful!

Geoff

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Published in: | on February 5th, 2015 | Comments Off