Thanks to all who participated!
Focused Biblical Scholarship to Teach the Text Effectively
The Teach the Text Commentary Series gives pastors the best of biblical scholarship and presents the information needed to move seamlessly from the meaning of the text to its effective communication. By providing focused commentary, this volume allows pastors to quickly grasp the most important information. Each unit of the commentary includes the big idea and key themes of the passage and sections dedicated to understanding, teaching, and illustrating the text.
The book of Acts is theological history, showing how Jesus’s crucifixion and resurrection informed the life, teaching, and ministry of the early church. God’s power is displayed through the Spirit in the outward spread and influence of the gospel. We see how God’s Old Testament promises are fulfilled in the church, composed of both Jews and Gentiles. It is an open-ended story, so its history and theology are needed for the life and mission of the church today.
“A trustworthy interpreter, David Garland guides the reader through Acts concisely, capturing the main points and theological message of each passage and offering vivid illustrations. This book will be a huge help to busy pastors preaching from this exciting biblical book.”–Craig S. Keener, F. M. and Ada Thompson Professor of Biblical Studies, Asbury Theological Seminary
“David Garland has enhanced his well-earned reputation as a superb commentary writer with this outstanding work on Acts. It is a genuine privilege to recommend this thoughtful, instructive, and carefully designed exposition as an important resource for students, teachers, and pastors alike.”–David S. Dockery, president, Trinity International University
“David Garland has written a wonderful commentary that is consistently faithful to the text, thoroughly informative on historical matters, deeply committed to theological explanation, focused on contemporary application, and always eminently readable.”–Eckhard J. Schnabel, professor of New Testament studies, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary
“The exegesis is careful, the theological insights are distilled, and the illustrations are genuinely illuminating. Acts is a wonderful deposit of biblical interpretation, theological explanation, and homiletical application. A must have for preachers!”–Michael F. Bird, lecturer in theology, Ridley College
Leave your name in the comments section no later than Friday, March 16th. I’ll draw the winner’s name that day. If I don’t hear back from the winner within seven days the book will go to another entry. Entries are limited to U.S. residents.
Congratulations to Harold Dixon on winning Friday’s book giveaway. Harold won a copy of Answering the Toughest Questions about Suffering and Evil by Bruce Bickel and Stan Jantz.
Thanks to all who participated!
Following the theme of the last post, this week I’m offering Answering the Toughest Questions about Suffering and Evil by Bruce Bickel and Stan Jantz. Here’s the catalog description:
You’ve got questions, and that’s okay.
When it comes to the big questions about suffering and evil, Bruce Bickel and Stan Jantz don’t pretend to have all the answers. But they do know how to wrestle with doubt. They welcome questions, and in these pages they ask some of the most important ones you may have about suffering and evil:
· If God created everything, did he create evil?
· Why is there suffering and evil in a world made good by God?
· Why doesn’t God eliminate suffering and evil?
· Why is the Bible so full of violence?
· Why do the innocent suffer?
· What can I do about suffering and evil?
· And more!
With candor, insight, and a disarming touch of humor, Bruce and Stan provide some answers to these critical questions, yet they leave enough space–and grace–for you to keep wrestling, asking, and seeking truth.
There is no shame in asking–after all, even some of the greatest men and women in the Bible had doubts. Don’t let your questions go unanswered. What you find might just change your life.
Bruce Bickel and Stan Jantz are the bestselling authors of more than 50 books, including the international bestseller God Is in the Small Stuff and the Christianity 101 series. Their passion is to communicate the truth about God in a way that is clear, correct, and casual. Bruce and his wife, Cheryl, live in Fresno, California. Stan and his wife, Karin, call Orange County, California, home. For more information visit http://www.conversantlife.com.
Leave your name in the comments section no later than Friday, March 2nd. I’ll draw the winner’s name that day. If I don’t hear back from the winner within seven days the book will go to another entry. Entries are limited to U.S. residents.
Most people don’t need any convincing that something is wrong with the world. We see it on the news, certainly. But we also experience it, we feel it deeply and personally. As I reflect on the injustice that my family and I have experienced, it’s impossible to keep the heartache pit from returning to my gut. Divorce. Miscarriage. Broken relationships. Death that came too soon. The injustice we experience, though limited by the grace of God, is palpable.
We can understand on some level what the problem is. As Cornelius Plantinga says in his book Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be, “The story of the fall tells us that sin corrupts: it puts asunder what God had joined together and joins together what God had put asunder. Like some devastating twister, corruption both explodes and implodes creation, pushing it back toward the ‘formless void’ from which it came.” Sin “interferes with the way things are supposed to be.”
And, yet, understanding that shalom has been violated doesn’t satisfy our questioning. Not many solutions to the long-agonized-over “problem of evil” have placated our uneasiness about it. Seriously, how could a good and loving God allow injustice? And why? No matter how we parse the concepts of love, free will, goodness, and sovereignty, most of us are left with a measure of dissatisfaction with the answers. As R.C. Sproul admitted, “To this date, I have yet to find a satisfying explanation for what theologians call the mystery of iniquity.”
Accompanying this intellectual mystery is the anguish and confusion that go along with personal suffering. In his book Lament for a Son, Nicholas Wolterstorff expresses his own grappling with personal loss: “How is faith to endure, O God, when you allow all this scraping and tearing on us? You have allowed rivers of blood to flow, mountains of suffering to pile up, sobs to become humanity’s song–all without lifting a finger that we could see. You have allowed bonds of love beyond number to be painfully snapped. If you have not abandoned us, explain yourself.”
Though God’s purposes for suffering and evil are usually hidden, we can still understand some of the ways in which God can and does use pain. C.S. Lewis gets at some of those purposes in The Problem of Pain: “We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” And, “If tribulation is a necessary element in redemption, we must anticipate that it will never cease till God sees the world to be either redeemed or no further redeemable.”
Whatever we reason are the God’s purposes for injustice, Christians at least agree that God is in the business of saving us from it. Tim Keller, in his book The Reason for God, speaks to the cosmic aspect of God’s salvation, saying that personal forgiveness “is an important means of God’s salvation, but not the final end or purpose of it. The purpose of Jesus’s coming is to put the whole world right, to renew and restore the creation, not to escape it. It is not just to bring personal forgiveness and peace, but also justice and shalom to the world.” Bringing balance to the idea of systemic evil, N.T. Wright cautions in Evil and the Justice of God, “The ‘problem of evil’ is not simply or purely a ‘cosmic’ thing; it is also a problem about me….The church is never more in danger than when it sees itself simply as the solution-bearer and forgets that every day it too must say, ‘Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner,’ and allow that confession to work its way into genuine humility even as it stands boldly before the world and its crazy empires.”
So even as I still feel the weight of cosmic injustice and as I feel its sting when I suffer personally, that’s where I’ve come to find myself—repenting of all the ways in which I have marred shalom and asking for the Lord’s mercy. As God defeats the idols of injustice in us, justice and righteousness flow down to the people and world around us (Amos 5:21-24) until the God of shalom crushes the Adversary under our feet (Rom. 16:20). Those are hopeful thoughts to me in an unjust world.
“Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God.”—Billy Graham (1918-2018)
This morning we received the sad—or, as he would want us to remember, not so sad—news that Billy Graham has died. One of the most recognized and influential Christians of the 20th Century and, truly, in the history of Christianity, Graham advised presidents, stood against segregation, and preached to many millions around the world. Today he is being praised by Christian leaders as a “bridge-builder” and a “champion of the Bible” who “lived life with Jesus” and believed “that the Gospel of Jesus was for everyone in every corner of the globe.”
It’s difficult to overstate Graham’s impact on American and Global Christianity. Through his “Crusades,” Graham is considered to have preached the gospel in person to more people than anyone else in history. He gave counsel to every president from Truman to Obama, befriending especially Eisenhower, Nixon, and Lyndon Johnson. He also frequently spoke out against racial segregation, insisting that his rallies be integrated. And he fostered relationships with individuals as diverse as Queen Elizabeth II, Martin Luther King Jr., and Robert H. Schuller.
Graham, largely as a function of his visibility, received his share of attacks and criticism over the years. His involvement in politics, anti-segregationist stance, ecumenical relationships, the decision-based nature of his rallies, and his later “inclusivist” sentiments all received blow-back from various groups. But despite criticism, he was known as a man of integrity who was remarkably able to avoid the sorts of scandals that brought down many of his contemporaries. And he proved to be far more unifying than dividing, credited with helping to unite Evangelicals from various backgrounds into a more distinct movement and succeeding in organizing and mobilizing evangelists from all over the world.
His use of new and varying technologies allowed Graham to be read and heard by countless millions through the media of radio, TV, film, newspapers, magazines, books, and the internet. The organizations he helped found—including the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, the Lausanne Movement, Christianity Today, Youth For Christ, and numerous others—and the millions whose lives he touched with the message of the gospel, will ensure that his influence will continue to live on.
As Mark Noll wrote, “The passing of Billy Graham will make the end of an important historical era.” Today, we reflect on that era as we honor a man who ran his race well, and is now in the presence of his personal Savior. Down here, he will be missed.