Answering the Call: Toward a Biblical View of Vocation (1 Corinthians 7:17–24)

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Eight times in eight verses the apostle Paul speaks to the Corinthians about understanding their various vocations in light of God’s effectual “call.” These instructions about one’s calling before God broaden Paul’s focus in chapter 7 from marriage, singleness, and sexuality to matters concerning circumcision (Jew vs. Gentile) and slavery (bondservant and free).

All in all, Paul’s heavy emphasis on the Christians upward call in Christ make these verses a cornerstone for understanding our earthly labors at home, in the marketplace, or the church. You can listen to the audio from Sunday’s message (shortly) or peruse the sermon notes here. For those who want to go deeper, there are discussion questions below and links to a few other resources on the doctrine of vocation. Continue reading

Take This Book and Read :: 2009 Bible Reading Plans

The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; 

the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; 

the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;

the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes;

the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;

the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. 

More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; 

sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them is your servant warned; 

in keeping them there is great reward. (Psalm 19:7-11)

 

Psalm 19, and in fact the whole Bible, is clear about Scripture’s perfection, wisdom, necessity, purity, veracity, and value, not to mention the benefit and pleasure of its Words.  It is all of these things because it is God’s perfect revelation to his covenant people.  And his people cannot live without it.  For those who have our hope set on heaven, God’s Word is not a trifling thing, it is our life (cf. Deuteronomy 32:41).  It is essential because its words reveal to us our Triune God and God’s gracious plan for salvation–Jesus Christ.  Nothing else compares.

But too often we neglect this book.  Sometimes for lack of desire.  Sometimes for lack of discipline.  If the former, pray!  But if the latter, pray and plan!  And in your planning, it might be helpful to use a reading guide for 2009.  Let me commend a few.

Crossway Publishers has compiled a list of 10 Reading Plans that will help you get through the Bible in 2009.  Included in this list is Mc’Cheyne’s One Year Reading Plan . This is the reading plan used in D.A. Carson’s For the Love of God (Vol. 1 and Vol. 2).  Another helpful reading plan is the one commended by John Piper, Discipleship Journal Reading Plan . Both of these plans are excellent, as well as, the  Daily Reading Plan and the Chronological Reading Plan.

Personally, I will continue to use my own reading plan which includes 1 chapter from the gospels and 1 from the wisdom literature  in the morning; 4 OT history chapters at night (during the week), Psalms at dinner time and Sunday mornings, and 8-10 chapters of NT epistles or Minor Prophets on the Weekends.  I use this plan because of its relative flexibility and the fact that it includes material from every genre of the Bible each week, though not every day.  By God’s grace, this plan will take me through the Bible in 2009, with a little extra in the NT.

So in 2009, what is your plan? 

It matters less which one you choose, and more that you have one. It is already January 3, and time to get going.  I pray that God will bless the time you spend in his Word. He has promised to us that he will meet with us in His living Word (cf. Heb. 4:12).  So, take this book and read, and may the Lord open your eyes to the wonders of his Word.

Sola Deo Gloria, dss

P.S. Eric Schumacher has given us an ESV Study Bible reading schedule for the articles and outlines to complement our Bible reading.  I commend to you this guide, but admit with other reading this year, I will have to utilize this plan at a later date.

(HT: Justin Taylor who has a more expansive explanation of these Bible Reading Plans; Jim Hamilton at Moore to the Point who referenced Eric’s blog)

Top Ten Books of 2008

Studying at Southern Seminary has afforded me the gracious opportunity to read some of the choicest books on the Bible, theology, and Christian ministry.  This is a list of my Top Ten Books of 2008, books that I had the opportunity to read this year that I would commend to you for your perusal in 2009.  The list is eclectic, and intentionally so, but my hope is that each book would whet your appetite for more of Christ.  (The list is in chronological order, but I will say the best is last).

1. Enough: Staying Human in an Engineered Age by Bill McKibben.  The most fascinating book I read all year; not one I would have picked up by myself.  Assigned for my Ethics class with Dr. Russell Moore, Enough, written by an unbelieving environmentalist, is a fascinating look at the technologically-advacning world we live in.  The book deals with nanotechnology, articificial intelligence, and gene therapy, just to name a few.  McKibben goes into painstaking detail to show what science is researching and hoping to create, and from a secular point of view he asks the question, “When will it be enough?”  It is a great read, and it will challenge your thinking about what it means to be human. 

2. God and Marriage by Geoffrey Bromiley.  Before Christian Bookstores were flooded with marriage books, historical theologian, Geoffrey Bromiley, produced a short book that traces marriage through the Bible, shows the Trinitarian-marriage connections, and shows why a good theology of marriage is so important for a healthy marriage.  For less than five dollars used, you cannot pass this up.

3. Marriage: Sex in the Service of God by Christopher Ash.  Most thorough and rigorously biblical book on marriage today.  A must read for any pastor or biblical counselor.

4. Married for God by Christopher Ash.  The follow up to Ash’s first book on marriage, this popular level book grounds marriage in biblical theology and then proceeds to practically apply the Bible to today’s marriages.  Very readable, and worthwhile for any and all married couples, or those getting ready for marriage.

5. Against Heresies by Irenaeus of Lyons.  One of the earliest “biblical theologies” you can find.  Irenaeus was a second-century church apologist who read the Bible very well.  Challenging, but worthwhile.

6. Last Thing First by J.V. Fesko.  An edifying and stimulating look at eschatology (the study of last things) and  protology (the study of first things) in Genesis 1-3.  It ultimately is a book about Christ, as the alpha and omega.  In the spirit of Meredith Kline and William Dumbrell, it shows how God’s plan of redemption begins in the first 3 chapters of Genesis.  Very good!

7. The Letter to the Colossians and to Philemon (Pillar Commentary) by Douglas Moo.  Moo’s commentary was the most current and most biblical-theological commentary that I found on Colossians.  As I preached through the book in September – December, it served me well to see the OT-NT connections that Paul employed in his Christ-centered letter to the church at Colossae.

8. Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament edited by D.A. Carson and G.K. Beale.  Tremendous resource for preachers who want to pay special attention to inter-canonical connections.

9. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit by Andreas Kostenberger and Scott Swain.  The latest volume in the D.A. Carson edited New Studies in Biblical Theology.  Even though this book will be finished in 2009, it is too good to leave off the list.  The attention to biblical content and the faithful Trinitarian synthesis is excellent.  This is a must have for anyone preaching or teaching in or through the Gospel of John.

10. The ESV Study BibleThe Bible is surely the best and most important book I read all year; and this year the ESV Study Bible is simply the most edition published in 2008, maybe the century–not a hyperbole.  Speaking of the notes and articles, I have not read it en toto, but in scanning its contents and contributors, it is clear that this marks the finest evangelical study Bible to date.  ( Tim Challies provides a full review; Albert Mohler gives a helpful guide to using study Bibbles).  The biggest selling point though in our tech-savvy age, however, is the unbelievable online capabilities that accompany every copy.  At The ESV Study Bible website you can listen to the Bible, record your own notes, and hyperlink to every cross-reference.  Simply amazing!  This a great feature that sets the ESV SB light years ahead of the rest.  I pray that this volume will gain a large readership as it will tremedously benefit students of the Bible to read the Scriptures better…

…Which is the hope and prayer of 2009.  Of making manny books there is no end, and much study wearies the flesh (Ecc. 12:12), but the Word of God is life-giving and enriching.  It points us to Christ and shows our wickedness and desperate need for salvation (cf. John 5:39; 2 Tim. 3:15).  So then, let us endeavor to read the Bible more in 2009, and to find books that will help us understand the Scriptures with greater clarity and commitment.  

Tomorrow, I will post the 10 books I am most looking forward to in 2009…that I pray will enhance our understanding of and passion for the Bible.

Sola Deo Gloria, dss 

Albert Mohler on Study Bibles

bibleAre you looking to purchase or use a Study Bible? Which one should you choose?  And how should you use it? On his blog,  Dr. Albert Mohler offers a helpful guide on “How to Use Study Bibles.”  He lists three steps that will maximize the use of these excellent resources:

1. Read the text of the Bible first.  Meditate upon the text and read it with care. Apply your own knowledge of the Bible in order to understand the particular text within its context and place in the biblical story-line. Consider and note other texts that come to your mind as directly related to this text. Read the text with full attention and conviction.

2. Look carefully at the cross-references… Do not look only to the citations, but read the actual passages. This assistance is till the main contribution of the study Bible — making related and parallel passages more accessible. A first principle of interpreting the Bible is to interpret the Bible by the Bible. In other words, to allow the Bible to interpret itself text by text.

3. Take full advantage of the notes, articles, and other helps printed with the text. In some cases, short articles will help in understanding contested issues or matters that might otherwise require a Bible dictionary or encyclopedia. Where appropriate, maps can be very useful, along with tables of measurement and similar points of reference. The very best of the study Bibles will also offer some level of commentary within the notes.

I think Dr. Mohler’s comments are very important for Christians who use Study Bibles (SB), because he affirms the primacy of the inspired, inerrant, and authoritative Scriptures.  This must not be lost.  The dangers of SB’s are that they become a crutch and a competing authority.  “I am of Lucado.” or “I am John MacArthur;” or “I am of Ryrie.”  This cannot be our affiliation.  However, when used rightly, SB’s function as a blessed tool to better read Scripture and understand God’s Word.  Currently, the best edition, in my opinion, is the ESV Study Bible, but there are many others that are helpful and some that offer specialization in Archaelogy, Apologetics, and Literature .  Each of these make unique contributions, and should be judged not by the name on the cover, but on the faithfulness to the Name on the inside.

Sola Deo Gloria, dss

Bible Arc dot com, a Review and Infomercial

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It was a life-changing revelation to me when I discovered that Paul, for example, did not merely make a collection of divine pronouncements, but that he argued. This meant, for me, a whole new approach to Bible reading. No longer did I just read or memorize verses. I sought also to understand and memorize arguments. This involved finding the main point of each literary unit and then seeing how each proposition fit together to unfold and support the main point. (”Biblical Exegesis: Discovering the Meaning of Scriptural Texts,” pg. 18)

If you are familiar with John Piper’s preaching and method of exegesis, than you are probably familiar with his use of “arcing.”  Piper’s statement above reflects the way he reads the NT epistles, and the benefits of systematically interrogating the argument in each NT letter.  To that end, Pastor Piper has commended Daniel Fuller’s method of Biblical Arcing.  In short, it is an excellent means by which students of the Bible can hone in on the author’s intent.  I bring attention to this exegetical device, because recently, an online web site has been developed for the sole purpose of “arcing” New Testament passages.

Biblearc.com has many strengths.  For starters, it furnishes all the tools necessary to complete the arcing process.  It provides helpful sidebars with navigable widgets and buttons that provide great opportunity to use the arcing nomenclature — which is a little foreign for beginners.  It provides Greek, ESV, NASB, KJV translations, as well as the possibility of providing your own translation.  Moreover, it provides more than 2 hours worth of introduction and training.

Another interesting feature that is forthcoming will be the sharing feature, where completed “Arcs” will be posted, and discussion about their accuracy will be moderated on the website.  This could certainly provide some rich exegetical conversations.

While this method of Bible study is excellent in the dense theological material of Paul’s letters or other New Testament Epistles, it is probably less fruitful for NT narrative passages, or Old Testament literature.  In fact, currently this only works with the New Testament.  Though, even in gospel writing, a device like this still helps us microwave Christians to slow down and let the passage simmer in our minds.  Finally, the point-and-click arcing is more cumbersome than what you would do with paper and ink, but with all the tools in front of you, and with help just a few clicks away, this program looks to be very helpful for the novice “Arcer” (like me), not Archer (like Nimrod). 

In sum, the online capabilities of Bible Arc dot com are really quite impressive.  And for only ten dollars you can setup a yearly account that will save your work and come back to it at a later date.  Additionally, you can print your documents to a PDF file for your own record keeping, and with its note-taking possibilities, Bible Arc dot com provides a great platform for personal Bible study or sermon preparation.

Hats off to all those who created this web gem.  If you are serious about Bible studies, I encourage you to drop the ten bucks and avail yourself of this helpful resource.

(HT: Johnathon Bowers

Sola Deo Gloria, dss