Review: Parables

John MacArthur, Thomas Nelson, 2015, 4 of 5 stars

screen-shot-2016-12-07-at-11-28-28-amI was very much helped by this recent book by MacArthur on the parables because he corrects so much sloppy thinking about the parables. Yes, the parables made hard truths understandable to those with ears to hear. But they also purposefully hid truths to those with hardened hearts. The latter is an idea rarely heard.

This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand….’You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive’ (Mt. 13:13-14).

MacArthur addresses about a dozen of the forty or so parables. The chapters are short and Scripture saturated, making the book a great tool for Bible studies. And as with any MacArthur book, expect no political correctness or nuance, as seen in his explanation of the rich man and Lazarus: “Jesus’ primary intent is to produce in sinners a terror of eternal hell….Hell is punitive, not remedial. People in hell don’t get better” (170, 174).

Review: Paul the Missionary

Eckhard Schnabel, IVP, 2008, 518 pages, 5 of 5 stars

screen-shot-2016-12-07-at-10-59-09-amFrom time to time, most missionaries have asked themselves why their ministry is not as successful as the Apostle Paul’s. “I must be using the wrong strategy,” we groan. And it is certainly understandable to search for patterns in his ministry in hopes of garnering the same triumphs. But Paul was fruitful, Schnabel argues, not because of methods but because of the Holy Spirit’s work.

This theme is among the many reasons I consider Paul the Missionary among the top five books I have read on missions. It is a challenge to missionaries to (re)evaluate the goals and methods of their ministry in light of the work of the apostle Paul.

Schnabel’s goal is to examine “Paul’s missionary work—proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ and establishing communities of believers—in terms of the goals that he had and in terms of the methods he used” (30).

And just in case we were wondering what a missionary is, he defines him as one who establishes contact with unbelievers, proclaims to them the gospel, leads them to Christ, and integrates them into a local church.

Did Paul have a missionary strategy? Schnabel says no in that he didn’t use a carefully nuanced, well-formulated game plan but yes in that he did have a broad and flexible goal to preach the gospel to as many people as possible while relying predominantly upon the Spirit’s power to change lives.

Common Misconceptions about Paul and Missions

Schnabel’s greatest strength is exposing popular misconceptions about missions and Paul’s ministry. I have consolidated six of them:  Continue reading

Four Cautions for the Short-Termer’s Swag

 

screen-shot-2016-11-18-at-3-28-03-pmShort-term missionaries are as popular as ever these days. Like Abraham’s descendants, they are too many to count. Short-term missions (STMs) has its advantages. I’ve counted myself among their rank many times and I may not even be a full-time missionary today had it not been for those early short-term trips.

But there is a dangerous side that churches would do well to spend more time thinking about.

Let us address just one: STMs, by their very nature, appeal to fallen humanity’s infatuation with the new. If familiarity breeds contempt, the new and avant-garde breeds respect and esteem.

Consider Jesus’s words in John 4:44. “For Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honor in his own hometown.” His patris here refers not only to his boyhood stomping grounds of Nazareth—where his old neighbors had tried to kill him (Lk. 4:29)—but to Galilee in general. People rarely value what they are familiar with. This passage provides some valuable lessons to the newbies assailing the foreign fields.

(1) Don’t assume every salvation testimony is legitimate. 

“But,” you say, “verse 45 says the Galileans welcomed Jesus.” Yes, the same way an atheist welcomes a Christian doctor. The same way Simon “believed” in Christ (Ac. 8:13). The same way the Jews believed in Jesus just two chapters earlier:

Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. 24 But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people. (Jn. 2:23-24)

Notice, Jesus gives no qualifying adjective to define their belief in v. 23. They believed. And yet Jesus in his wisdom knew that the true nature of the belief for many of them was not sincere. If Jesus in his wisdom could read between the lines, so should we. For every verse the Christian is told to believe all things (1Co. 13:7), there are others warning him of naivety (Pr. 4:15; 9:13; Jn. 6:64; 13:11). Continue reading

South Africa and the Insanity of Abortion

screen-shot-2016-10-25-at-5-21-55-pmThe words of Job’s friend millennia ago are just as relevant for today’s South Africa.

A stupid man will get understanding when a wild donkey’s colt is born a man! (Job 11:12)

This statement was an ancient absurdity—akin to our modern-day “that’ll happen when hell freezes over.” A dimwit won’t become wise any more than a wild donkey can bear a human child. Donkeys are lowly beasts. Humans are image-bearers. Only a cretin could miss that, right? Continue reading

Review: The Gospel for Muslims

Thabiti Anyabwile, Moody, 2010, 177 pages, 3 of 5 stars

screen-shot-2016-10-25-at-10-35-26-pmIt is important to know where each Christian book on Islam fits. A Christian Guide to the Qur’an will help you interpret Islam’s holy book. James White’s books are more scholarly and help you prepare for debates. This paperback by Anyabwile is short, irenic, and personal—the kind of book you could give to your Muslim friend.

For those thinking, “I don’t even know where to start with my coworker Malik”, this book is simple and practical. It is first and foremost evangelistic. He even has a whole chapter on hospitality (“you coffee table should have an abundance of pastries…”). Continue reading

The Folly of “Faith” Healing

screen-shot-2016-10-15-at-2-30-01-pmTD Jakes and his false teaching of modalism is certainly a great threat to the church. Here in Africa, however, his followers are most influenced by another of his heresies: the Prosperity Gospel.

Stickers like that on the left is common in our villages. Notice the name of the church, the key words, and the swanky pose. Most of this is the cheap imitation of what they see Jakes do on TV and in his books. As the pastor of the Potter’s House, Jakes has crystalized in his doctrinal statement the false teaching that is rampant in so many African churches:

We believe that it is God’s will to heal and deliver His people today as He did in the days of the first Apostles. It is by the stripes of Jesus that we are healed, delivered and made whole. We have authority over sickness, disease, demons, curses, and every circumstance in life.

The Prosperity Gospel teaches that it is always God’s will to heal. If healing doesn’t come, it is because of the sick person’s lack of faith. But is this true? Was faith necessary for healing in the New Testament?   Continue reading