Are you planning to lead a study on Daniel or Revelation? Or perhaps some of the prophets who have apocalyptic portions within their pages? If so, Interpreting Apocalyptic Literature: An Exegetical Handbook by Richard A. Taylor might be a good addition ...

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"Why Didn’t You Warn Me?" - 5 new articles

  1. Interpreting Apocalyptic Literature
  2. Sensitive Preaching to the Sexually Hurting
  3. Thanksgiving Blessings
  4. The Heart of Leading Your Dysfunctional Group
  5. A Commentary on the Psalms (Vol 3)
  6. More Recent Articles

Interpreting Apocalyptic Literature

Are you planning to lead a study on Daniel or Revelation? Or perhaps some of the prophets who have apocalyptic portions within their pages? If so, Interpreting Apocalyptic Literature: An Exegetical Handbook by Richard A. Taylor might be a good addition to your library.

This book is clearly an academic book. It’s part of the Handbooks for Old Testament Exegesis series, edited by David M. Howard, Jr. and is aimed at folks doing serious exegesis. However, it’s quite readable and doesn’t use an abundance of Hebrew. While it doesn’t transliterate the Hebrew – a weakness in all Kregel Academic books – it does translate the words it uses and probably gives enough information for the lay leader to understand. The book gives an excellent overview of apocalyptic literature – what it is, major themes, interpreting, and proclaiming it. Taylor covers the apocalyptic passages in Daniel, the other prophets, and in extrabiblical texts. While not covering Revelation due to the nature of the series, it’s easy to use the principles based on what he does cover.

Taylor is careful to suggest how to interpret – and how not to interpret – apocalyptic literature. He explains the use of the Hebrew and Aramaic languages, the figures of speech, and several guidelines to interpretation. He argues for a measure of caution in interpreting this literature.

While he focuses primarily on Daniel and to a lesser extent the prophets, one of my favorite sections was his lengthy explanation of 15 extrabiblical Jewish texts. I’ve had very little experience with these, and appreciated his summaries of their content and meanings.

This will remain a good reference book in my library for both apocalyptic literature and the extrabiblical Jewish texts. My thanks to Kregel Academic for the opportunity to review this book.

    

Sensitive Preaching to the Sexually Hurting

Here’s a topic we don’t see in a lot of books or seminary classrooms – preaching on sexual pain. Dr. Sam Serio (DMin), a Christian counselor, pastor, author, and speaker, is well-equipped to train pastors and teachers on this sensitive topic. Serio estimates that 60 to 80 percent of all adults (sixteen years or older) in our churches are emotionally affected by sexual pain or sin that has been done by them or to them. He’s probably not far off. So why do our seminaries not address this topic? Why do our pastors not teach on it? His premise is that we should and we must. And he provides a powerful template for doing just that.

Serio begins Sensitive Preaching to the Sexually Hurting (Kregel Academic) with an overview of “who’s in your pews.”  Although it may seem extreme, having ministered to the sexually broken for over 30 years, I don’t think he’s exaggerating. You probably have a smaller cross section of broken people in your small group. He speaks of the pain of those who have been affected by casual sex, abortion, sexual assault and rape, childhood sexual abuse and molestation, pornography, same-sex attraction, homosexuality, and even sexless marriage.

Serio then offers suggestions about how to prepare your church to address sexual issues – without losing your job. He then suggests that rather than crafting a whole sermon (or small group lesson) around one sexual issue, that you begin the habit of weaving a paragraph or three into your teaching on a passage so it becomes an ongoing and more natural part of the conversation. And he teaches how to do it with grace and sensitivity rather than condemnation.

Valuable Templates

Perhaps the most valuable part of the book is that he doesn’t simply suggest you ought to talk about these issues. He actually identifies several passages where each topic might fit in naturally and then provides a template for the actual words to say in three to four paragraphs. He suggests how you weave these paragraphs into your sermon or teaching. After reading the book, the concept and tempo of weaving sexual topics into your teaching can become more natural.

If you preach or teach, this is a valuable and timely book. However, it can be heavy when taken in large bites. I suggest no more than a chapter at a time. Maybe less. Especially if you haven’t dealt with your own sexual brokenness. My only criticism is that it becomes a bit redundant, and therefore tedious. However, this is useful for those who select a topic rather than reading the book straight through. All in all, it’s a great resource for your bookshelf.

 

    

Thanksgiving Blessings

I’ve been quiet for far too long (more about that soon), but didn’t want to miss the opportunity to wish all of you a blessed Thanksgiving. I’ve come to realize that Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. I love autumn in California. I love the fellowship. I love the food. And I love the reminders to be thankful, both historically and present tense.  Yep, I love Thanksgiving.

I'm thankful for Jesus -- the Light of the World

I’m thankful for Jesus — the Light of the World

We have so much to be thankful for in this nation. We’ve just experienced, or are experiencing, one of the greatest of these – the peaceful transition of government. Sure, it’s been a little rocky this year, but seriously, we still have so many freedoms that are unique both in today’s world and in history. And folks, we have these freedoms because of the blessings of God.

And we have a responsibility to pray for our government – whether we like the players or not. The reality is, some of us have not been happy with the present administration, and some of us will not be happy with the next administration. But if we are Christ-followers, that doesn’t relieve us of the obligation — yes, obligation – to pray for those in authority over us (Rom. 13:1, 1 Tim. 2:1-2) – whether we agree with them or not. It is the prayers of the Church, the prayers of the saints, that will give us a peaceable and quiet life. So may I encourage each of us to pause this Thanksgiving, and every day, to pray for our leaders – outgoing and incoming. To pray for peace in our land. To pray for the electoral process to proceed peaceably as it has for 228 years. To pray that the hidden forces of darkness be hindered. To pray that the Church will move into its God-ordained position in the country.

But most of all, may I encourage each of us to thank God for the privilege of living, here and now. To thank him for the many blessings, tangible and intangible, that we enjoy. To thank him for our nation and the freedoms we enjoy. To thank him — just because…

So friends, enjoy the turkey, the pie, the autumn leaves, and the fellowship. But while you are enjoying, remember to thank our heavenly Father for all of his many blessings.

Photo  Credit: Chris Potako

    

The Heart of Leading Your Dysfunctional Group

It is my pleasure to welcome my friend and mentor, Michael Mack as today’s guest blogger. Mike is the author of  I’m a Leader . . . Now What? How to Guide an Effective Small Group and editor of the Help! Guide series, of which Why Didn’t You Warn Me? How to Deal with Challenging Group Members is a part. He blogs at www.smallgroupleadership.com.

 

You are the Heart of Your Group

You are the Heart of Your Group

 

Jesus’ small group was a mess. It was often dysfunctional. Except for its leader, this leadership training group seemed quite often to lack any observable spiritual leadership potential.

Within two pages in my Bible, Jesus had to:

  • Rebuke his apprentice leader (Mark 8:33). Actually, this verse says he looked at all the disciples as he addressed Peter: “You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”
  • Deal with Peter, who was missing the bigger vision during their mountaintop experience (9:5-6).
  • Stop an argument between some of his group members and the religious leaders (9:14-16).
  • Rescue his group members when they couldn’t do what he had told them to do (9:18, 25-28).
  • Correct his disciples, who were arguing about which of them was the greatest (9:33-34; also see 10:35-45).

The next time you feel like the tensions and problems in your group are overwhelming, look again at Jesus’ group!

A heart for God, a servant’s heart, humility, compassion—Jesus certainly had those traits, but from all discernible measures, the people in Jesus’ group did not have those qualities. And the worst culprits seem to be the men in Jesus’ core team: Peter, John, and James. We need to remember a vital biblical principle: “The Lord does not look at the things people look at” (1 Samuel 16:7).

Yes, Jesus’ group was a mess and often dysfunctional, but Jesus’ group was healthy. That might seem like an oxymoron, but I don’t believe it is. Jesus understood the principle of process. He did not see only what they were; he saw what they were becoming. And often this process of becoming looks very messy. By the way, this ability to see beyond what other people see in your friends, family, group members, etc., is another key characteristic of a leader after God’s heart. Like Jesus, seek to recognize not only who they are, but what, with God’s power, they can become.

I’ve written a lot about what makes a man or woman a leader after God’s heart. The most vital thing a leader does is spend time with Jesus, staying connected to the Vine (John 15). When you do, all that he is pouring into you will overflow into others. You can lead with Jesus’ love, humility, power, compassion, and commitment—even (or perhaps especially) when you are leading a dysfunctional group or challenging group members—when you abide in him each day. Without him you can do nothing.

Never lead your group alone. Especially when you are leading challenging people, you must have help! First, remember that Christ is with you. Depend on his presence with you, utilize his power in you, and seek his purposes for you. Acknowledge that he is the real leader of this group, and then fulfill your role as a steward leader. Also, share leadership with a core team of 2-3 others who bear with you the responsibility of shepherding, discipleship, caring, and prayer.

One quick word about leading challenging people. Every leader leads imperfect, challenging, sometimes dysfunctional people! As John Ortberg put it, Everyone’s Normal till You Get to Know Them! No leader has the capability on their own to effectively lead such people, which is why we need our all-powerful Savior to strengthen us and the Holy Spirit to lead us. Come to Jesus and he will give you rest.

If your group is a mess—if your group includes a bunch of dysfunctional, sinful, pride-laden, argumentative men and women—don’t give up! Ask God to help you see the process of what your group members are becoming. At the proper time—God’s time—you will reap a harvest if you do not give up!

© Michael C. Mack 2015.

Photo Credit: Glenn Lascuña  (edited)

 

 

    

A Commentary on the Psalms (Vol 3)

A Commentary on The Psalms, Volume 3 (90-150) by Allen P. Ross

A Commentary on The Psalms, Volume 3 (90-150) by Allen P. Ross

As a teacher, trainer, and leader, I love having an excellent library at my fingertips—that way I can write or prep at midnight. Over the years, I’ve been able to build just such a library. Recently I was delighted to add a new commentary: A Commentary on the Psalms: 90-150 (Kregel Exegetical Library) by Allen P. Ross (Kregel Academic, 2016).

Like all of the commentaries in this series, this book is rather academic. It’s designed for pastors, teachers, and serious students of the Bible. Hopefully that includes small group pastors and leaders. But it is probably a little dense for your average group member.

I like the layout of the book, which includes a very readable font size and margins. I also like the organization of the book, which includes five major sections for each Psalm:

INTRODUCTION:

Text and Textual Variants:

This section offers a translation of the Psalm. I could not find any discussion of the translation, but assume it is the translation done by the author. The translations don’t match any of the typical versions I’m familiar with. Textual variants are offered in the footnotes of the translation. I like having them readily available up front, and then out of the way in the heart of the commentary.

Composition and Context:

This is the usual author, date, context, and background found in all commentaries. Ross generally discusses the varying opinions on dating here, and sometimes gives his opinion. But he does offer the opposing views. For the Psalms, this is usually a discussion of whether the Psalm is pre- or post-exilic.

Exegetical Analysis:

Here he offers a brief summary and outline. It’s brief and to the point.

COMMENTARY IN EXPOSITORY FORM

This is the heart of each section, with a quite academic discussion of each verse or syncope. He covers the pertinent points without belaboring them as some commentators do. My only criticism of the book is in this section (and it is common to all books in the series). He uses the Hebrew words without transliteration. My Hebrew is rusty enough that I would love to see the transliteration, and perhaps the transliterated root. The same is true when he provides the Greek from the Septuagint – no transliterations.

MESSAGE AND APPLICATION:

This section is usually less than a page, but suggests the key principal in the Psalm and how we might apply it. This section will be useful to leaders.

Overall, I like this series, and A Commentary on the Psalms: 90-150 (Kregel Exegetical Library) is no exception. If you are studying Psalms 90-150, this book will be a good addition to your library.

 

 

    

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