Saturday, March 24, 2012

Social Media Thoughts - Part 1

It has been over three years since I first touched on the topic of social networking. Since December 2008, much has changed in the United States and the world. More and more people are using social media personally to stay connected and the business community around the globe continues to adopt social media tools as a means of getting and staying closer to their customers. Facebook will become a publicly traded company this year while MySpace continues to fade into the memory of history.

My own thinking on the use of social media continues to develop as time passes. I no longer use MySpace but have enthusiastically embraced Facebook and Twitter. In both networks I have met some amazing people with a wide array of interesting views on any topic you can imagine. Without a doubt there are many views with which I simply do not agree but I believe it is important for opinions from a Christian worldview to be expressed. For the most part, the people I interact with are respectful of one another even when we disagree.

Individuals and businesses have varying approaches to their use of social media that differ significantly from my own approach. Some people are very open to connect with others (like me) while others only connect with a small group of close friends. Some use many different services while others stick to one or two. Different services target segments of the population and fill differing needs. In addition to Facebook and Twitter, I use LinkedIn for professional contacts. As expected, there is some overlap among the various platforms.

Business users have different reasons for engaging social media. They have marketing reasons for doing so though I submit to the business community that social media fundamentally alters the marketing equation in ways that have yet to become apparent. In this space the advantage will go to the early adopters! Some businesses allow comments on their various sites while others are very controlling of all content. Both approaches have pros and cons. I favor the open approach personally as it allows others to see how the business interacts with less than glowing remarks about their products, services, or the experiences of those with whom they have done business.


I have become a fan of social media. It is a powerful, inexpensive way to reach a large number of people. There are tremendous implications to the way people receive news, entertainment, education, and remain connected to each other. My next blog will discuss the use of social media in the church.


Friday, March 23, 2012

Exegesis of Revelation3:14-22 Part 4

Application

The letter to the church at Laodicea is the final letter of seven written to the churches of the Roman province of Asia. Within the preceding six letters, Jesus had something which He commended in each church. This was not the case for the Laodicean church. On the contrary, Jesus opens this letter by first stating His qualifications for the indictment to come. Christ is about to level accusations against the Laodiceans that are in conflict with the way in which they see themselves. The situation the Laodicean church is not unlike that which modern Christians in America today. Often we rely on our wealth and own ingenuity rather than upon the guidance of God. Also like the Laodiceans, Christians in America seem to forget from where our blessings come. Jesus is the ultimate authority as He points out to the church at Laodicea.

Jesus completes His description of Himself and moves directly to the stinging indictment of the Laodiceans (v. 15-17). He has seen their works and is clearly not impressed! Christ accuses them of being neither cold nor hot. Being either may be a good thing. Cold water on a hot day is refreshing while hot water is beneficial when the weather is cold. The Laodiceans were lukewarm or indifferent which Jesus found very distasteful. He stated he would spit them from His mouth. This is better translated vomit and certainly gives a fuller image of how disgusted Jesus was with the indifference of the Laodicean church.

Unlike Colossae which had a gorgeous stream of fresh water from which to drink and Hierapolis which had its own hot spring, Laodicea had to have water brought by aqueduct some six miles. The water supply could be easily cut off which would leave the city vulnerable and helpless. With this vulnerability in mind, Laodicea became a city accustomed to compromise. Consider modern day Switzerland; they have perfected the art of being neutral! By the time the water arrived at in the city it was lukewarm and actually provoked nausea! The works of the Laodicean church were just as worthless as the city’s lukewarm water. The description in this passage is not referring to a backslidden condition either. This was an illustration of their lack of genuine faith.

Just like their city, the Laodicean church was too far from the source of spiritual refreshment for the weary and spiritual healing for the sick. This ineffective church literally made the Lord sick leaving Him ready to spit them out! They were religious but essentially useless as a tool for Jesus Christ. The Laodiceans thought they were wealthy yet failed to realize just how poor and naked they truly were!

Next Jesus provides the Laodiceans with the description of what they must do in order to avoid being spit out. Using irony, Jesus tells them they must purchase from Him gold refined by fire, white garments to clothe themselves, and salve to anoint their eyes so they may once again truly see. Of course, these are things the Laodiceans cannot buy yet God offers them freely. We can see in Isaiah 55:1 – 4 that God has offered us the opportunity buy milk and wine without money. These are spiritual in nature and yet the Laodiceans fail to realize this.

The gold refined in fire is a genuinely righteous character that has been tested and proven through Christ. Aside from the savior this is not possible. The white garments are obtained through the provision of Christ as a means to cover their nakedness which is their lack of righteousness in the sight of God.[1] The salve reminds the readers of the miracle where Jesus healed the man blind from birth by taking His saliva, mixing it with dirt and applying it to the man’s eyes. Laodicea was well known for the salve they manufactured for use in healing. Their salve could no more heal them spiritually than the water from their aqueduct could quench thirst! The Laodicean church claimed to have spiritual insight yet they failed to see their blindness and nakedness and true need for Jesus. The Savior loves these people but this love is balanced with a strong expectation that they will be disciplined.

In our own area are churches that are referred to as being mega-churches in our modern vernacular. They have grown so large that there seems to be a sense of their own accomplishment and their own ability to get things done. It remains to be seen how well these churches will fare once their charismatic leaders either retire or simply move on. In our own lives, Christ has high expectations of us and how we live for Him. When those expectations are not met we can expect to be rebuked and disciplined. Jesus stand at the door knocking, ready to come have intimate fellowship with those who hear His knock and open the door!

Having identified the problems and what should be done to correct them; Jesus describes the rewards that await those who overcome the sins which Christ has previously described (v. 21 – 22). Having already mentioned that intimate fellowship awaits those who make the necessary changes, Jesus now tells us that what awaits us is nothing short of sitting with Him on the throne with God the Father! This symbolism should not be taken to mean a throne so large that untold millions of people will be able to sit on it. Rather, the picture being painted for the followers of Christ is one of sharing in the rule and reign of Jesus over all of creation. This notion is found elsewhere in Scripture in passages such as Luke 19:17; 1 Cor. 6:3; and 2 Tim. 2:12 as well as elsewhere in Revelation in 20:4 and 22:6.



[1] Easley, Kendall H. Holman New Testament Commentary: Revelation. (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 60.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Exegesis of Revelation3:14-22 Part 3

Literary Analysis

Revelation, apocalyptic in its genre, was written to the Roman province of Asia. There were a number of cities connected by the great Circular Road of Asia which included all of the seven cities mention in chapters two and three. The cities are listed in the order in which a letter carrier would most likely have traveled assuming an arrival from Patmos by ship in the port at Ephesus.[1] The theme of the book is the revelation of the prophetic program and person of Christ. Revelation seeks to encourage Christians to endure the coming persecution and be secure in the knowledge that Christ is victorious over the world and the Devil. The book also serves as a reminder that all prophecy focuses on Christ in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. Finally, the book seeks to correct some of the doctrinal problems that persisted in these churches and provide them with guidance in areas such as Christian living and salvation. Though confusing at times, Revelation was written to be understood by the recipients.



[1] Easley, Kendall H. Holman New Testament Commentary: Revelation. (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 1.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Exegesis of Revelation3:14-22 Part 2

Historical Context

There are varying opinions as to the authorship and date of writing of Revelation. The author identifies himself as John in four different instances yet there is no specific indication as to who exactly this John was.[1] There are three possibilities for authorship of Revelation: John the Apostle, another person named John such as John the Elder, and a person using “John” as a pseudonym.[2] The third of these possibilities is very unlikely as pseudepigraphical writing among Christians at this time were not an accepted convention.[3] Left with these two options, it is necessary to determine if John the Elder and the apostle were two different people.

Walvoord states that it is likely John the Elder was simply another name used for John the Apostle.[4] This is further supported by Utley who also believed references to John the Elder were simply another name used for John the Apostle.[5] The fact that Justin Martyr, Irenaeus (Lyons), Tertullian, Origen, and the Muratorian Canon all affirm John the Apostle as the author of Revelation further reinforces the notion of Johannine authorship. Though there are differences in style and vocabulary with the other writings of John the Apostle, these are easily explained by the differences in genre. Further, it is the opinion of the author that the similarities far outweigh the differences. All of these factors lead to the conclusion that the author of Revelation is the “beloved disciple” John the Apostle.

As with authorship, there remains debate as to the date Revelation was written. The external evidence points toward a date late in the reign of the Roman emperor Domitian (ca. A.D. 95) and is based in the date proposed by Irenaeus. During this time John the Apostle was imprisoned on the island of Patmos for preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. The internal evidence is a bit mixed. The implied references to persecution in Revelation 17:6; 18:24; and 19:2 could be taken to refer to the first outbreak of Christian persecution during Nero’s reign in A.D. 64 though it is important to note that this persecution was confined to the city of Rome.[6] The type of persecution described in Revelation would seem to be universal in nature. If this is the case, a later date would seem to be implied. Though scholars continue to debate the date of authorship, it is the belief of the author that a later date is best supported. There is insufficient reason to contradict the view of the early church in this matter. Further, the lessons to be learned from Revelation do not change if the date of writing is ca. A.D. 60 or ca. A.D. 95.



[1] Mounce, Robert H. The Book of Revelation. (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997), 9.

[2] Beale, Gregory K. The New International Greek Testament Commentary: The Book of Revelation. (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1999), 34-36.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Walvoord, John F., Roy B. Zuck, and Dallas Theological Seminary. The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures. (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1983-c1985), 95.

[5] Utley, Robert James. Hope in Hard Times - The Final Curtain: Revelation. (Marshall, TX: Bible Lessons International, 2001), 11.

[6] Mounce, Robert H. The Book of Revelation. (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997), 18-19.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Exegesis of Revelation3:14-22 Part 1

**This series originated as an assignment for my studies at Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary**

INTRODUCTION

Perhaps the most complex book in all of Scripture, the Book of Revelation contains numerous literary genres though it is largely apocalyptic. Revelation records four visions that Jesus instructed the Apostle John to write down and send to the churches in the Roman province of Asia.[1] Early in the book John records letters to seven churches in Asia from Jesus. This monograph will focus on the letter to the church at Laodicea found in Revelation 3:14-22 and discuss the translation, exegetical issues, and historical context of the book. After a short literary analysis, the application to modern Christians and a possible sermon outline will conclude the author’s exegesis of the passage.

Translation and Exegetical Issues

In reviewing a number of English translations, all are quite similar in the choice of language used by the various translation teams. As one would expect, translations that use a formal equivalence approach to translation such as the New American Standard Bible (NASB), the King Kames Version (KJV), the Revised Standard Version (RSV), and English Standard Version (ESV) are all quite similar. Translations that utilized dynamic equivalence in their translation method are also similar though the variations are a bit more distinct.

Translation issues begin in the first verse of the letter. In verse 14 Jesus is describing Himself to the Laodiceans. The reader finds in most formal equivalence translations Christ referring to Himself as “the beginning of God’s creation”. The impression many readers may be left with is that Christ is God’s first creation. This is certainly not the case. Though the Greek word ἀρχή (archē) is correctly translated beginning, it is also correct to translate this word ruler and in this instance provides the reader with a clearer understanding of the text. Other passages in Scripture such as Colossians 1:15-17 and John 1:3 clearly demonstrate that God the Father created all things through the Son, Jesus Christ. With this in mind, dynamic equivalence translations such as The New International Version (NIV84), God’s Word translation (GW), and the Good News Translation (GNB) all do a better job of clearly stating the true nature of the risen Savior.

An interesting yet common translation found among formal and dynamic equivalence translations is the choice to render the word ἐμέω as spit in verse 16 where Jesus expresses is disapproval of the lukewarm Laodiceans. A better translation is vomit which more clearly indicates the disgust Jesus has with the indifference displayed by the Laodicean church. The Message[2] and Young’s Literal Translation[3] both choose the more graphic description to convey the sentiment being expressed by Christ.

While there are stylistic differences, the balance of the letter is more or less translated using very similar language. In describing the close, personal fellowship to be shared sitting next to Him on the throne, the more common use of conquerors in verse 21 is not as clear as using the term those who overcome to indicate who will share in the rewards of making the changes Jesus had mentioned previously. Again, Young’s Literal Translation[4] represents formal equivalency well while the New International Version[5] represents dynamic equivalency. The Amplified Bible also does an excellent job imparting the sense of closeness and fellowship to be shared with Christ by those in the church at Laodicea if they correct their ways.[6]



[1] Easley, Kendall H. Holman New Testament Commentary: Revelation. (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 1.

[2] Peterson, Eugene H. The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language. (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2002), Re 3:14-22.

[3] Young, Robert. Young's Literla Translation. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 1997), Re 3:14-22.

[4] Ibid.

[5] The Holy Bible: New International Version (electronic ed.). (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996, c1984), Re 3:14-22.

[6] The Amplified Bible, Containing the Amplified Old Testament and the Amplified New Testament. (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1987), Re 3:14-22.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Review - Preaching that Changes Lives

Michael Fabarez. Preaching that Changes Lives. Grand Rapids: Wipf and Stock Publishers.,

2002. 224 Pg. $24.99. ISBN 1-59752-368-2. Reviewed by Christopher L. Sanchez,

Seminary Student.

In his book Preaching that Changes Lives, Dr. Fabarez has managed to find that rare balance between sound doctrine and the practical. He finds this balance in the 15 chapters of his book divided into four parts.

Part 1: Rethink Your Task

Part 2: Prepare to Change Lives

Part 3: Preach to Change Lives

Part 4: Follow Through to Change Lives

There can be little doubt about the impact Dr. Fabarez believes preaching should have on the lives of those who hear the sermon delivered. Preaching should be done in such a way as to demand a response by those hearing the message and the Apostle Paul never allowed those whom he taught to forget this (p. 8 – 9). The two chapter that comprise part one lay the groundwork for the remainder of the book.

Early in part two, Fabarez drives home a critically important point: submitting to the principles one teaches (p. 26 – 27). To put it another, less academic way, we must practice what we preach! The importance of ministers constantly evaluating themselves and their own fitness to proclaim the Word of God is also a humbling topic that Fabarez handles thoroughly yet tactfully in just a few pages. After this bit of housekeeping, Fabarez uses the remaining chapters of part two to encourage sermon preparation with life-change in mind.

Part three opens with a reminder that the preacher’s audience will not change what they do not hear or understand. The entire counsel of God should be proclaimed to be sure but it must also be explained so that people understand what was said. These messages should focus on God and not something of the world which implicitly means Christ-centered preaching (p. 114 – 116). These types of messages are also, by their very nature, authoritative and Fabarez rightly reminds his readers that the preacher is not in the business of entertaining a crowd. The preacher is responsible for articulating the truth of God and the implications to this generation (p. 128 – 129).

Fabarez closes with part four focusing on the culture in the local church and providing the members of the congregation the tools necessary to make the changes that are being urged in the sermon. A fresh reminder of the importance of practicing what is being preached is offered as well. The importance of modeling the behavior that the preacher is encouraging others to change cannot be overstated and must be practiced purposefully (p. 190 – 194).

Dr. Fabarez offers a contemporary view of the task of preaching with more than an eye towards life-change. His work reminds us that the pastorate is a privilege that requires commitment, dedication, and a love for people and seeing them grow in their faith. The key strength to Fabarez’s is the thorough approach he takes to his topic. Every aspect of the book is intentional, practical, and useful for experienced church leaders or those in seminary preparing for the ministry the Lord will one day call them to. If there is a weakness to be found in this book, one might be critical of the leanness of the tools Dr. Fabarez offers for helping people make the changes in their lives the preacher may be suggesting. Were a second edition published, adding more meat to this chapter of the book to include current technology would be quite welcome and helpful.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Review - Between Two Worlds: The Art of Preaching in the Twentieth Century

John R.W. Stott. Between Two Worlds: The Art of Preaching in the Twentieth Century.

Grand Rapids: W.M. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1982. 351 Pg. $16.99.

ISBN 0-8028-35642-2. Reviewed by Christopher L. Sanchez, Seminary Student.

John Stott’s book Between Two Worlds: The Art of Preaching in the Twentieth Century is far more than a simple book detailing the tasks associated with preaching the sermon. Stott opens with the simple statement “preaching is indispensable to Christianity” (p. 15). From there he goes on to detail the history of preaching from Jesus’ earthly ministry into the twentieth century. Stott readily admits his recounting of this history is both incomplete and selective though it does ably serve to demonstrate the breadth of preaching throughout Christian history (p. 46-47).

Stott next turns his attention to the contemporary objections to preaching at the time of his writing. Stott identifies those three main objections as the anti-authority mood, the cybernetics revolution or changing communications, and the church’s loss of confidence in the Gospel. As expected, each objection is thoroughly refuted. From here Stott discusses the theological foundations for preaching and preaching as bridge-building to those who would hear the message being proclaimed.

In chapter five Stott discusses the need to study Scripture and lays the groundwork for the final three chapters which focus on the preparation and delivery of the sermon itself. Interestingly Stott devotes an entire chapter to sincerity and earnestness in delivery. He rightly mentions it is not enough to be sincere but one must also demonstrate earnestness in delivery which defines as feeling what we as preachers say in our sermons (p. 273). Stott concludes with a discussion of the need for courageous yet humble preachers in our pulpits. This point is as true today as it was thirty years ago when Stott penned this seminal work.

Throughout Stott’s eight chapters, he uses effective illustrations to make his points in a clear and memorable way. Another key strength of Stott’s book is the well stated need for verbally proclaiming God’s word. A critical review also requires an attempt to identify weaknesses in the work being reviewed. If something must be identified, the guidance concerning the actual preparation of the sermon could have been expanded. Without a doubt Stott’s many, many years in ministry qualify him to offer guidance in this area. Regrettably, Stott seems to have limited his remarks in this area.

Without a doubt, this volume should be on the bookshelf of every seminarian. Though some of the material seems dated such as the discussion about addiction to television found in chapter two, the book still offers a relevant perspective of the preaching ministry of the church. Seminarians and laity alike will find benefit in the pages of Stott’s fine work.