What I read in 2018 – Just the Highlights!

By “Highlights” I do not mean the kids’ magazine, that staple of my dentist’s office as a kid, but rather my favorite reads of the year. I read 104 books in 2018 as I pursued my goal of two books a week; this does not include daily Bible reading or magazines. One happy turn was that in 2018 I spent 7 months in the States, a short distance from the Ronks Public Library and also from the library in Lancaster Bible College. Karen and I also listened to a number of these titles as Audible books as we traveled around the Northeast.

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Unless I indicate otherwise, I would recommend all of these books.

THEOLOGY

Septuagint: Every year I form a group of Bible students on Facebook, where we push each other to read the Scriptures in the original languages. In 2019-2020 we are, Heaven willing, reading the entire Septuagint (known as the LXX) from cover to cover. This was the massive writing project of the rabbis, who between the 3rd-1st centuries BC rendered the Bible from a Semitic language, Hebrew, into Greek – they were apparently the first to undertake such a leap. We began the first week of 2019, and to prepare I read A Handbook to the Septuagint by Ottley; The Septuagint by Jennifer Dines.

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Devotional: C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory, is a series of sermons. One of them contains his famous statement, “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. (more…)

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Will it Kill your Pastor if he Visits You? A Response to Thom S. Rainer

Thom S. Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources and has a very popular blog on church life. Having read with approval a number of his other articles, I was surprised to find one that I roundly disagreed with.

It is titled “FIFTEEN REASONS WHY YOUR PASTOR SHOULD NOT VISIT MUCH”

And he is serious. He is really not happy with churches which expect to see their pastor in their home any time soon. Unless it’s an emergency. A big one.

So with all due respect, I responded to him on his blog, and will offer much the same thoughts here. (Here is another, very useful, response, by Andrew Roy Croft, who offers a positive argument for pastoral visitation).

To begin with, I thought this was one of those stealth articles that start off, “10 Reasons to Vote the Socialist Ticket,” but turn out to be pro-Republican. But no, I read it through a number of times, and it’s not ironic.

His point is that pastoral visitation a newfangled idea, that there’s altogether too much visitation going on, and it should be slimmed down and (perhaps) limited only to extreme situations. Otherwise pastor visitation is the Zika virus that will kill your church, leave your pastor burned (out) beyond recognition, and make him/her leave! Oh yes he will!!

Don't answer the door! It might be the pastor, and it will lead to him burning out, quitting, and destruction for your church!

Don’t answer the door! It might be the pastor, and it will lead to him burning out, quitting, and apocalyptic destruction for your church!

Pastor Rainer has 15 objections to pastoral visitation, many of which are, upon closer examination, the same reason stated differently. To quote:

  1. It’s unbiblical. 2. It deprives members of their roles and opportunities. 3. It fosters a country club mentality. 4. It turns a church inwardly. 5. It takes away from sermon preparation. 6. It takes away from the pastor’s outward focus (the same as #4, right?) 7. It takes away vital leadership from the pastor. 8. It fosters unhealthy comparisons among the members. 9. It is never enough. 10. It leads to pastoral burnout (see #9). 11. It leads to high pastoral turnover (see #9, 10). 12. It puts a lid on Great Commission growth of the church (see #4, 6). 13. It leads pastors to get their affirmation from the wrong source. 14. It causes biblical church members to leave. 15. It is a sign that the church is dying (see #14). And then later: It’s a key sign of [church] sickness. It’s a clear step toward [congregational] death.

So, it is no exaggeration that his message is that pastoral visitation may even now be killing your church!

Let’s define “pastoral visitation” as, where one or more of the leaders of the church go to where their people are, traditionally but not necessarily in the home, hospital, or long-term care facility, in order to spend time with them and to conduct pastoral ministry (exhortation, encouragement, correction).

Here is part of the response that I wrote on his website, that there were three weaknesses to the argument; I address the author as “you.”

First, the historical. You write that “‘Visitation of the members’ became a common job description of pastors about a century ago.” You imply that it is a recent innovation.

While it may have become more conventional these days to write the thing out in a job description, visitation of the members has been part of the pastoral task since the beginning. In fact, it was a vital aspect (more…)

Persecution is NOT good for what ails the church (Part Two)

Spiritual growth comes through Spirit-power and direction, applied from the inside out as God rewrites our heart, soul and mind to conform to his righteousness. Revivals of history have come as the result of prayer and the Spirit’s power; most are absent of any persecution as a proximate cause: the Reformation, Great Awakening, the Wesleyan Revival, the Second Great Awakening, the Korean Revival, the Welsh Revival.

Read Part I: https://openoureyeslord.com/2013/03/26/persecution-is-not-good-for-what-ails-the-church/

And now, Part Two:

Therefore I propose Viewpoint B:

  • Tribulation is not a “good” but an evil, albeit one that can be turned to good use in the one who is faithful.
  • Therefore, Christians should not pray that persecution would come, hoping for a “bank shot” which will lead to revival.
  • If revival is what we want, we should pray for revival.
  • And finally: we should pray that persecution will NOT come; and that if it does come, that it will abate.

Here are some key Bible texts: (more…)