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Monday, August 13, 2018

"New Testament Christological Hymns" by Matthew Gordley. A Review

New Testament Christological Hymns: Exploring Texts, Contexts, and SignificanceNew Testament Christological Hymns: Exploring Texts, Contexts, and Significance by Matthew E. Gordley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There are passages in the New Testament that have a credal feel to them; stanzas that have a texture and tone that seems to lend itself to song. Matthew E. Gordley, dean of the College of Learning and Innovation at Carlow University, examines these portions in his newly released 252 page paperback, "New Testament Christological Hymns: Exploring Texts, Contexts and Significance". It is a mildly specialized manual, but is accessible to most perceptive and thoughtful readers.

In "New Testament Christological Hymns" Gordley explores several "hymnic passages" in detail. His aim is "to provide a comprehensive, comparative, and exegetically informed analysis of New Testament christological hymns in light of their cultural, literary, and theological contexts" (11).He begins by giving the genealogy of New Testament hymnic studies, appreciatively interacting with the critiques. He then moves on to examine hymns in the Greco-Roman world, as well as in Judaism, how they were used, and the narratival functions they fulfilled. Not only is this a valuable historical recollection, but the portion on resistance poetry was rather intriguing.

In chapters three through six, the author spends serious time scrutinizing Philippians 2.5-11, Colossians 1.15-20, John 1.1-18, Hebrews 1.1-4, several segments in Luke and Revelation. Gordley dialogues with numerous scholars who see these passages as hymns and those who don't. He walks through the structure of the passage, as well as what the paragraph was meant to do. With each "hymn" the author also looks for internal indications that might give any indications on early Christian worship.For me, one of the most thought-provoking aspects of the author's analysis was on these hymns being resistance (anti-imperial) poetry. Though I think the writer may be overstating the case, nevertheless it got the wheels in my head turning.

"New Testament Christological Hymns" is a worthwhile volume. I spent several Sunday evenings reading it, not only for the informative aspects, but in a devotional way. Whether you agree with the author's conclusions or not, you will gain a deeper appreciation for each of these passages, and see in them details you have missed. You also may find your heart getting strangely warmed as you delve into the purpose and point of each New Testament section. I highly recommend the book.

Thanks to IVP Academic for sending me a copy of this volume for the review. I sought, and they provided. I asked and they gave. I knocked and they opened the opportunity for me. They made no demands, other than that I give my honest review. And that is what is set before your eyes.

You can easily snag a copy of the book here: "New Testament Christological Hymns"

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"Early Christian Readings of Genesis One" by Craig Allert. A Review

Early Christian Readings of Genesis One: Patristic Exegesis and Literal InterpretationEarly Christian Readings of Genesis One: Patristic Exegesis and Literal Interpretation by Craig D. Allert
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

How did the earlier pastors and theologians of the Christian Church read Genesis one? Was it univocal or was there a breadth and variety? Craig Allert, professor of religious studies at Trinity Western University in Langley, British Columbia, has pulled together a goodly amount of material on this very subject in his new 368 page paperback, "Early Christian Readings of Genesis One: Patristic Exegesis and Literal Interpretation". It is written more for those who are "in the know," that is, those who (1) have a working knowledge of the patristics, and (2) who are familiar with the program and purpose of Biologos.

"Early Christian Readings of Genesis One" is a polemical book. It feels as if it is obsessed with arguing with Answers in Genesis, Institute for Creation Research, and other young-earth organizations who have enlisted some of the early church fathers to shore up their case. This contention runs (and dare I say it, ruins) the first three chapters, and keeps surfacing in the remainder of the material. If you want a ringside seat to a stout fight, this is the book. The good work that Allert did in this volume gets covered over and hidden by the cloudy dust-up.

Though I don't necessarily agree with the author's conclusions on Basil of Caesarea, Augustine, and others, nevertheless as long as he stayed with the patristic material it was highly informative. Allert works through the two ancient schools of biblical interpretation in Antioch and Alexandria and nicely explains the differences and how they worked. He spent quality and quantity time unpacking the ways Basil read Genesis One in the "Hexaemeron" and Augustine in his two main writings on the subject. His opening chapter on "Who Are the Church Fathers, and Why Should I Care" was magnificent. The author's broadly stated intention for the book is "to give a window into the strange new world of the church fathers and how they understood creation themes in Genesis 1" (3), and as long as he stayed on that task, he was successful.

Towards the beginning of the book "Early Christian Readings of Genesis One" twists it's ankle and hobbles through most of the material, sometimes regaining its pace, and at other times unable to do more than hop along. If you can filter out the squabbles and static, you will find it a useful read. This book would make a great addition to seminary level church history class. And it would be a valuable edition to a University library. It's a book worth getting.

My thanks to IVP Academic for sending me a copy of this book used for the review. It was sent at my request, and without any strings or obligations attached. This review is therefore freely given.

The book can be purchased here: "Early Christian Readings"

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"The Rhythm of Life 2nd Edition" by David Adam. A Review

The Rhythm of Life 2nd Edition: Celtic Daily PrayerThe Rhythm of Life 2nd Edition: Celtic Daily Prayer by David Adam
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This second edition is very similar to the first. It's a nice, handy 145 page glossy hardback guide to prayer. It has a simple "rule" for morning, midday, evening and night prayers for each day of the week. David Adam, accomplished author on Celtic spirituality who was vicar of the Holy Island of Lindisfarne for thirteen years, draws from several sources, some historical and others contemporary, to color the daily rhythm. Though it is geared for communal prayer, it is still usable for those who are alone.

Each day of the week resounds with a specific theme. Sunday is resurrection; Monday reflects on creation; Tuesday is shaped by incarnation; Wednesday is filled with the Holy Spirit; Thursday thinks about community; Friday gazes at the cross; and Saturday recalls the fellowship of the Saints. There are short litanies; Psalm recitations; small Scripture readings; praises; and collects. About ten years ago I obtained copies of the earlier edition for everyone living at home and we used it for a year in family worship. And I have recently picked up the second edition and utilized it in my personal daily devotions.

The main differences between the first edition and the second are visual. Not only has it been turned into a glossy hardback, but the cover is a soft set of blues with a watercolor beach scene. The art work between the covers has changed as well, leaving behind the more Celtic textures and taking on an abstract pencil sketch. The textual changes are minor, mainly moving away from the "Alternative Service Book" of 1990 and moving toward "Common Worship: Daily Prayer".

If you're looking for a tool to help keep you on track with daily prayer, "The Rhythm of Life" will work. If you're in need of a break from your normal devotional routine, this prayerbook would be a great way to give you a temporary change-up. Or maybe your in a communal setting, such as a deployed military unit, college fellowship, or retirement facility, and you have compatriots who desire to pray together, this is ideal for such settings. The volume will fit in your purse, slide into your satchel, and unobtrusively sit on your desk. This little prayer book is ideal for anyone who would benefit from a structure or routine to keep them "praying without ceasing". I highly recommend it!

My happy thanks to Church Publishing, who sent me a copy of the second edition used for this review. The thoughts contained in this review are freely given without any demands or stipulations by the publisher.

You can obtain a copy here: "Rhythm of Life: 2nd Edition"

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Sunday, August 12, 2018

"O LORD, Who Created..." - 12 August 2018


O LORD, who created the heavens (you are God!), who formed the earth and made it (you established it; you did not create it empty, you formed it to be inhabited!), you have spoken and said: “I am the LORD, and there is no other. I did not speak in secret, in a land of darkness; I did not say to the offspring of Jacob, ‘Seek me in vain.’ I the LORD speak the truth; I declare what is right” (Isaiah 45.18-19). It is to you we come to seek your face and call for help.

We pray for your church world over, including this congregation, Howard Memorial Baptist Church, Iglesia Bautista Emanuel, Iglesia Bautista Hispana de Edmond, and Kelham Baptist Church, that we all may be united together by your Holy Spirit, in your true Truth, and around your Son Jesus. We additionally pray for all of the congregations in our Hills and Plains Presbytery that you would guide us in truly and humbly serving you in order that your name may be glorified before all people.

Give wise discernment and discretion to those who are making career decisions…; those who are trying to map out their vocational directions…; and others who are just beginning the path of higher education and trying to figure out what majors they will be best fit for…

Take notice, O God, of the nations of the earth, together with Switzerland, Syria, Taiwan and Tajikistan. May those who govern and hold authority look out for all of their people – even those considered to be of the wrong clans and tribe – protecting and preserving their safety, securing their rights, and supporting their welfare. May justice and peace run throughout the whole earth.

O God, the fountain of wisdom, whose will is good and gracious, and whose law is truth: We beseech you to guide and bless our Senators and Representatives in Congress and the Legislature of this State so that they may enact such laws as shall please you, to the glory of your Name, for the welfare of this people, and to the peace and safety of your church.

Look after those who are indisputably poor, economically crushed, or educationally hobbled… present them with the ways and means to provide for their daily bread. And help us to see our role in being gracious to those in greater need than ourselves.

We thank you, Lord, for the rains of this past week, and the comfortable temperatures. We thank you for the pleasure of friends and laughter. We thank you for the days our health holds out. We thank you for your many kindnesses to our families.

We ask you to have compassion on those who suffer from any grief or trouble,…may they be delivered from their distress, be surrounded by caring family and helpful friends, and be drawn closer to you. 

Hear us as we pray for folks we know who are not Christians or have slipped away…save them by your merciful goodness, draw them into your church, and surround them with loving, gracious people. Hear us as we pray in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

"Lord God the Almighty, Who Delights..." - 5 August 2018


(This picture is from the conflict that is presently breaking out in Cameroon, which is on the western side of central Africa)

Lord God the Almighty, who delights in executing lovingkindness, justice and righteous throughout the earth, we pray for the Church and our world: For all of those who are oppressed, enslaved, abused, tormented by the cruelties of others, forced into bondage, shackled to destructive addictions, or held captive be thugs and drug cartels, we pray: Lord have mercy on them.

For those who are being truly persecuted for the Christian Faith around the world, in the Middle East, Rwanda, Asia, and numerous other places, we pray: Christ have mercy on them.

For those who are working in the name of Christ to alleviate poverty, famine, plague, and injustices of every kind, we pray: Lord have mercy on them and grant them success in their endeavors.

For your Church throughout the world, this congregation, Heritage Baptist Church, Highland Baptist, Highland Hills Baptist, and Highland Park Baptist Church, we pray. By your Holy Spirit and Holy Scriptures, defend us all from error, lead us into all truth, and fill us with godly courage to resist the world, the flesh and the devil.

Please be with the nations of this world, including Sudan, Suriname, the country once known as Swaziland but is now called Eswatini, Sweden, and especially Cameroon and Zimbabwe which are experiencing clashes and conflicts. Establish good order and lawful justice that their peoples may live safe, that the Gospel may go forth unhindered, and your church may dwell peaceful and secure.

For this country we pray for you to lead our leaders to make decisions and enforce laws that are fair and honorable; that the citizens and residents of our land may prosper in health, wealth, and civility, and that your people may live in peace and quietness. Where wildfires are raging, keep the firefighters unharmed and hardy, and grant them help in bringing the fires under control. Also, be the shield and protection for our U.S, military personnel; deliver them from injury and bring those who are deployed home safe.

For those who are unbelievers and those who are wayward, we pray….may they have faith in Christ, repentance unto life, and diligently use all the outward means by which Christ communicates to us the benefits of redemption.

For those whose faith is shaken because of emotional struggles, betrayals or discouragements, we pray…, lift them up, build up their confidence in you, and bring them support.

Finally, we pray for those who are in pain, for those who are fighting for their lives and health, for those who are having troubles in their homes and families, for those who are going through vocational instability, and for those in great financial hardship…..give them the help they need, bless them with friends and faithful company who will shoulder the burden with them, and grant them a satisfactory conclusion to all their distresses. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

"Recovering Leadership" by Thomas Hill III. A Review.

Recovering Leadership: Musings of an Addict LeaderRecovering Leadership: Musings of an Addict Leader by Thomas Hill III
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I had never met him before, though his children attended the same private school my sons did, yet we had never crossed paths. But just this last week we met for the first time at a surprise birthday party thrown at his home. During those three hours we explored each other's histories, hobbies and hopes. It was in the middle of our comfortable discussion that Thomas "Tom" Hill III, CEO of Kimray, Inc., discovered I do loads of book reviews and asked if I'd be willing to review his book. After a thoughtful pause I asked what the manuscript was about and he responded, "Leadership!" I agreed, and so was handed to me his recently published, 287 page hardback, "Recovering Leadership: Musings of an Addict Leader". It is written in such an easy way that I was able to complete it in two evenings.

Though "Recovering Leadership" is about leadership, it is also a tale, a chronicling of dreams, intentions, failures and recovery. As the author states, the book "is my story and the story of my family's company, Kimray, a leading manufacturer of valves and controls for oil and gas production." But even more intriguing, the "my story" part of the book is how the author nearly wrecked his family's company because he was an "addict leader - addicted to and motivated by my own accomplishment - and the culture I perpetuated was unhealthy and dysfunctional" (10). As I read I found myself absorbed into Hill's autobiographical narrative, which put flesh, blood and beating heart to the bones - the leadership principles - he brings out with each chapter.

Therefore "Recovering Leadership" is a title with a double entendre. The book is about leadership, CEO Thomas Hill III specifically, hitting rock bottom and recognizing that he was addicted to success, praise and accomplishment; that like all addicts, he misused, mishandled, manipulated and mangled to get his fix. But now he is on the road to recovering. And the volume really is about leadership, about regaining real leadership that serves the company's employees, its "team members," as well as seeking to make a difference in the world and the local community. It is about recovering the principle that the "way an organization treats people and uses resources will reveal what their true belief system is" (36). While I was reading I kept returning to my time spent with the author, reflecting on my interactions with him, and how this was the man I had engaged with. I was impressed with the way the man I met, and the man as self-portrayed, seemed to go together.

I spent 20 years in the USAF going to numerous Air Force leadership schools. I earned my Bachelor's degree in Human Resources Management, and I have poured over buckets of books on leadership for almost 4 decades. Therefore, I am normally leery of new books on this subject. To be honest, I was skeptical of this one when the author told me about it. But as I dove into the book, it captured me!

"Recovering Leadership" is truly a book about leadership. Not only does it present the Kimray story, and Tom Hill's story, but it maps out healthy leadership principles. This is a must read for corporate leaders, pastors, headmasters, Scout Masters, and Trail Life Trailmasters. It would be a worthwhile gift for that teenager in your life who has big dreams. And it should be in your hands as you think about life, love, losing, and living. I highly recommend the book!

My thanks to the author, Thomas Hill III, for the copy used for this review. The author made no stipulations or demands. Though I have met the man personally, I can honestly say that the remarks in this review are freely given.

You may purchase the book here: "Recovering Leadership"

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Sunday, July 29, 2018

"LORD, Faithful In All Your Words" - 29 July 2018



LORD, faithful in all your words and kind in all your works: we are grateful that you uphold all who are falling and raise up all who are bowed down. Truly, the eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing (Psalm 145.13b-16). It is to you we pray:

Grant, Almighty God, that all who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours (1 Corinthians 1.2) may be united in your truth, live together in your love, and reveal your glory in the world. We ask this for your people world over, for this congregation, and for Grand Blvd Baptist Church, Greater Trinity Baptist, Heavenly Heights Baptist, and Henderson Hills Baptist Church. Lord, in your mercy hear our prayer. 

Guide the people of all the nations, including South Africa, South Sudan, Spain, and Sri Lanka, in the ways of justice and peace; that we may honor one another and serve the common good. Lord, in your mercy hear our prayer.

Preserve these United States of America from all enemies foreign and domestic; preserve us from pride and arrogance; preserve us from moral implosion; and preserve us from social bedlam. And with the patriotic song we pray: America! America! God shed his grace on thee, and crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea. America! America! God mend thine every flaw, confirm thy soul in self-control, thy liberty in law. America! America! May God thy gold refine, till all success be nobleness, and every gain divine. Lord, in your mercy hear our prayer. 

Give us all a respect for the earth as your own creation, that we may use its resources rightly in the service of others and to your honor and glory. And do, please, continue to send us the rains we need in the amount we need. Lord, in your mercy hear our prayer.

Bless all whose lives are closely linked with ours, especially those who live in our neighborhoods and work in our offices, and grant that we may serve Christ in serving them, and exhibit the love of Christ to them. Lord, in your mercy hear our prayer.

Comfort and heal all those who suffer in body, mind, or spirit…; give them courage and hope in their troubles, and bring them the joy of your salvation. Lord, in your mercy hear our prayer.

We give you thanks for those who have run the race, who have kept the faith, and have now entered your presence. Help us to remember them fondly, and remember them with thankfulness. Lord, in your mercy hear our prayer.

We beseech you to look upon the generations that will arise from us and our own sons and daughters (WCF 21.4). May your steadfast love run to a thousand generations in our families; and may our descendants love you and keep your commandments (Exodus 20.6). Lord, in your mercy hear our prayer.

LORD you are righteous in all your ways and kind in all your works. You, O LORD, are near to all who call on you, to all who call on you in truth. You fulfill the desire of those who fear you; you also hear their cry and save them. You, LORD, preserve all who love you, but all the wicked you will destroy. Our mouths will speak the praise of the LORD, and let all flesh bless your holy name forever and ever (Psalm 145.17-21). Amen.

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