Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A Break From Book Reviews

This post is coming when I am a) sick b) tired and c) introspective. This means it will be disconnected, possibly incoherent and swing wildly from sadness to joy. Let's begin...

Lately, I have been missing Michigan. I miss Portage. I want to go up and see all of my favorite landmarks. I want to eat at Sweetwater Doughnuts. I want to walk behind the public library and see the snow falling. I want to be around people that have similar accents and don't make fun of how I say "egg" and "leg" because they all say it weird too. I miss hanging out with people who enunciate every syllable in a word. I miss the Michigan sarcasm. I miss the way people let you into their hearts up there...even if it took a long time. I miss the awesome syrup. I miss the strong Dutch influences. Heck, I miss wooden shoes and clogging. I miss Plainwell ice cream. I miss feeling like it was really Fall and it was really Thanksgiving. I miss the Detroit Lions (I still don't know why).

I think honestly, I miss the memories. I miss being a kid sometimes. I miss the walks to the park with my mom. I miss going on nature hikes with my dad. I miss running around First Baptist Church of Portage with my church friends, thinking we were warriors and explorers. I miss the safety I felt during the holiday season. I miss the feel of fresh snow beneath my feet and my nose getting cold. I miss feeling suave and cool eating at Big Apple Bagels (because it had the word "deli" in the name). I miss waking up early and watching Saturday morning cartoons. I remember when the most epic event in my life consisted of Superman and Batman teaming up on Saturday morning to fight the Joker. There was nothing greater in my mind. I miss the innocence of collecting Archie comics and baseball cards and the excitement of going to Scott's Comics and Cards with my dad on Saturday morning. I miss the drive we used to have to take to get to a Wal-Mart in Otsego. I always knew I would be getting a Hot Wheels car from my dad. The most serious choice I had to make was which one to pick out.

As much as I miss those memories though, I know one thing: memories can become an idol. It is so easy to long for simpler times. It is so easy to think back and live in the past. But God has placed me in a particular topos, a place, for a specific purpose. For the past year or so, God has really been breaking me of my two biggest areas of personal struggle--focusing too much on the future and dwelling too much on the past. God has had to rip away virtually every single idol (like education) and has forced me to focus on the now. He has redirected my focus to my original calling of being a pastor.

He has really done this by refocusing my eyes upon the cross and the gospel. I have been exploring this concept of "preaching the gospel to yourself" for the past year and I can honestly say, it has revolutionized my life. It has opened my eyes anew to the wonders of the gospel. It has forced me to stop being so caught up in the past or focused too much on the future. God has forced me to look at him and just enjoy the grace of being where I am, who I am and who I am with. God has told me to stop with the "self-improvement" techniques and just delight in Him. I have been trying to explore the depth of the riches of God.

So while I still miss the things of my past, I am learning to realize my security back then was a grace God provided for a time. But my ultimate security and my ultimate joy should be found in Christ. I find security because of his death and resurrection. I am united with him and secure in him.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Theology of Luke and Acts Book Review

For years now there have been three major staples on my bookshelf: Darrell Bock's two-volume commentary on Luke and and his one volume commentary on Acts from the BECNT series. Bock has established himself as an expert on Lukan-source material. So I eagerly was anticipating his synthesis of Luke's theology in his Gospels and in Acts in A Theology of Luke and Acts: God's Promised Program, For All Nations which is a part of Zondervan's Biblical Theology of the New Testament series. I was not disappointed.

The first four chapters of this 500+ page resource are devoted to introductory matters and take up less than 1/5 of the book. The real meat and potatoes are found in 19 chapters where he absolutely breaks down the theology of Luke. I spent my time with chapter 5 in Bock's work which was devoted to a narrative development of the "Plan, Activity and Character of God." Bock walks the reader through virtually every chapter tracing how God's plan of introducing the "already not-yet of the kingdom" works itself out.

As Bock so eloquently displays in his narrative approach to the chapter, often the acts of God are placed out in the open and later are explained by the characters themselves. These sort of helpful insights are scattered throughout Bock's text and shed helpful light upon the text as a whole.

As a youth pastor, I am constantly looking for the application for my teens and for myself. Some commentaries leave me with a lot of research and a breathtaking amount of information, but with little I can really nail down and make practical. However, each of Bock's chapters is just loaded with application. I will fully admit that as I read through his book, I found myself praise God and his infinite wisdom.

That is the kind of writer Darrell Bock is--he is a theologian in love with God. I highly commend A Theology of Luke and Acts: God's Promised Program, For All Nations.

Thanks to Zondervan for providing me a review copy of the book in exchange for a fair and balanced review.*