Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Quick Summaries for April 2018: Preaching to All Ages


Pace, R. Scott. Heath A. Thomas, Editor. Preaching By the Book: Developing and Delivering Text-Driven Sermons (Hobbs College Library). Nashville: B&H Academic/Oklahoma Baptist University, 2018. 123 Pages. Cloth. $19.99. http://www.bhpublishinggroup.com/products/preaching-by-the-book

Bolland, Richard. The Church Is One: Recapturing the Lost Unity Christ Intended for His Church on Earth. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (February 17, 2018) 132 Pages. Paper. $6.08. https://smile.amazon.com/Church-One-Recapturing-Christ-Intended/dp/1546625860

Kennedy, Jared. Illustrated by Trish Mahoney. The Beginner's Gospel Story Bible. Greensboro: New Growth Press, 2017. 314 Pages. Cloth. $29.99. https://newgrowthpress.com/the-beginners-gospel-story-bible/

Quick Summaries are pithy reviews
of releases that cross our desk.

These are reviews for when you don't have all day 

to decide whether a resource is worth
your time, money, storage space, or trouble.

+/When this Lutheran book review journal editor requested Preaching by the Book, we knew it would have a Baptist flavor. Chapter 7 on Invitations is as expected, though not overt. (What of John 15:16? What of Joshua 24 in context? How is "Decision Theology" consistent with Romans 2 or Psalm 51:5? Our human will is not strong enough to "decide." Does Scripture not say that we are dead in sin and enemies of God?). 


What I wanted our readers to know is the state of training in preaching at a place like Oklahoma Baptist University through one volume of the Hobbs College Library (21-volume set, Commendation Page). One volume in a new series, Preaching by the Book focuses on Developing and Delivering Text-Driven Sermons. A graduate of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis or Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne will be used to more theological rigor, more guidance, and a more solid Christological foundation than this book. For example, I have no doubt that the author of this book and its editor know the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. It should be more clear and more central to the book. 


All Christian preachers (and their hearers) could benefit from a proper distinction between Law and Gospel. Usually considered a Lutheran distinctive, it shouldn't be. Consider this brief new video summary: [https://youtu.be/GxVi5qKS3pM]. 


This title is concise, usually to the point, and well-written for its intended audience. Reading as an experienced preacher, I can hear specific advice and counsel in the book as helpful for the students it was written for. Reading as a Lutheran, I see different solutions for common problems. Use of an historic lectionary solves my problem of Selecting a Passage (10). Historic vestments solve my problem with how to dress for worship (15). 


The seven-point Process of Sermon Development (18) would greatly benefit from the proper distinction of Law and Gospel. As is, it could lead to a textual and biblical sermon that would leave Jesus out. Such a sermon would not be Christian and would have earned me an F in my homiletics courses. 


I appreciated the Investigation chapter's paragraph urging awareness of "historical lapse," both between the events and the record of them as well as that Bible time and today (25). Transitions are important. Don't Grind the Gears (76ff). The advice on visual aids is well taken (87). I would counsel against them as a crutch, would warn about the potential of overuse, and would agree that some could be too distracting, overwhelming, or unhelpful. 


The Conclusion was my favorite part because the concluding passage from 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 spoke so clearly about Christ, the true subject of our preaching. Yes, we should carefully discern what theological truth is taught in any passage. We should also look for Christ. Preachers, give your hearers Jesus!

+The Rev. Richard A. Bolland brings his decades of pastoral experience to his accessible, deep, and hopeful title, The Church Is One: Recapturing the Lost Unity Christ Intended for His Church on Earth. When we confess one holy Christian/catholic and apostolic Church, we do so as a confession of faith, not a description of what we see in fallen world, a valley of the shadow. Bolland points us to Christ and His Word, exemplified by the Foreword of the Rev. Daniel Preus and his reference to John 17:17, where Jesus says, "Your word is truth" (8). 


I agree that our creedal confessions should include the word catholic (not Catholic). To his discussion (22) I would add what I was taught, that the pre-Luther German word "christlich" was an acceptable translation of the Latin "catholica" and that German-origin Lutherans ended up with "Christian" in English for historical reasons and not only anti-Roman reasons.  


LBR readers know that we love clarity. Consider page 24: Permit Me To Make My Thesis Clear. Unity in doctrine and practice is divinely intended for the earthly, visible Christian Church. Division and disunity are marks of Satan's activity within the earthly gatherings of God's people. Therefore, any aspect of an institutional church body's activity or behavior that lends itself toward unity in doctrine and practice is Godly, and any aspect of a church body's activity or behavior that lends itself toward division and disunity is of the Devil and results in hindering and obfuscating the Gospel of Christ.


For the author's definitions of Church, Sect, and Cult, see 42ff. For his helpful description of the difference between fides qua creditor and fides quae creditor, zoom in on 51-52. An illustrative list of the errors of the Roman Church by date is found on pages 57-63. The Lord's Supper and its celebration in a local congregation is often a flash point of conflict and misunderstanding. I appreciate the author's bluntness: "Thus, the Lord's Supper is no place for any kind of division. It is no place for variance of views respecting what the Lord's Supper is and what it accomplishes. It is no place for multiple choice doctrine and it is certainly no place for contradictory practices…" (82)

Speaking of which, catechesis can be a medicine to differences in teaching and practice in our LCMS. Neglecting catechesis has disastrous consequences: "If people wish to join a Lutheran congregation, but retain non-Lutheran doctrine, practice, and worship forms; then this will be the end of the Lutheran character of that congregation" (108).


I agree with the author and Dr. Luther that the use of one translation is beneficial for the Church (128). If I were to re-word one sentence in the book it would be the last sentence of the first full paragraph on 128. Instead of "Officially adopted hymnals would be the sole source of liturgies and hymnody among us." I would say, "Doctrinally pure hymnals would be the sole source of liturgies and hymnody among us." The Lutheran Hymnal of 1941 does not have the same official "adoption" granted to Lutheran Worship (1982) and Lutheran Service Book (2004/2006).


Focusing on The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod yet of benefit to all Christians, The Church Is One points readers to Christ and His Word, faith in His Word instead of unbelief or human innovation, and unity in the Word of Christ. 


+/ The Beginner's Gospel Story Bible

We do like this title. Our concern is to properly understand our terms. Does "Gospel" mean the whole counsel of God or the good news of the forgiveness of sins as a gift in Christ alone? Or both? Consider how the publisher describes this title.

How do you explain the gospel to toddlers and preschoolers? Often adults are stumped, but Jared Kennedy's focus on the promises of God makes the gospel come alive to the littlest hearts. Through fifty-two Old and New Testament stories, The Beginner's Gospel Story Bible highlights God's perfect promises. Every page pops with bright colors, playful illustrations, fun learning opportunities, and, best of all each story points children to Jesus.
Kids know the value of a promise. Through the gospel, our good and all-powerful God keeps his word and fulfills his promises to us better than we could have ever thought or imagined! 

In The Beginner's Gospel Story Bible, author Jared Kennedy traces God's perfect promises through fifty-two Old and New Testament stories, retold in simple and compelling ways with toddlers and preschoolers in mind. Each gospel-centered story highlights God's tale of redemption through Jesus and the unexpected and surprising ways that God's grace and mercy are revealed throughout the Bible. Children will hear the good news of God's love for them clearly expressed in ways that will speak to their young hearts. Brightly colored illustrations highlight the stories and add fun teaching elements of counting, opposites, patterns, and object recognition to keep even the youngest child's attention. Every story also ends with a question that parents and caregivers can use to further reinforce the message.
Through reading this book one chapter at a time to your children—or letting them read it to you!—even the youngest kids will come to know that God's promises are especially for them, and that God always keeps his promises.
(Publisher's Website).


Designed with the "youngest kids" in mind, The Beginner's Gospel Story Bible, by Jared Kennedy and Illustrated by Trish Mahoney, will be appreciated by its intended audience and their parents. Art and design on cover and inside pages is inviting, creative, and edifying. 


The Old Testament is introduced as "Promises Made" in 27 stories, with "Promises Kept" being the overall theme for the remaining New Testament Stories, 52 in all. The stories included are technically paraphrases, which means interpretation and hermeneutics come into play. 


Issac's name is reinterpreted as happiness rather than doubt (compare 24 to Genesis 17:17 and 18:12-15). 


Repentance is defined as a "turn away" or "TURN AROUND" (187). 


Pages 245-27 introduce "communion" as a memorial meal. Lutheran parents would need to reaffirm Jesus' own words:


26 Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, "Take, eat; this is my body." 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, "Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom." 


I understood the question "Have you ever asked Jesus to forgive you for your sins?" as interpretable in a good way by Lutherans, yet also in a "Decision Theology" way by others (253). 


"Trust" can be a helpful age-appropriate synonym for faith, given further instruction as children grow (277, passim). 


We've reviewed material from the author's congregation before (http://lhpqbr.blogspot.com/2012/03/hymnody-resurgent-kentucky.html). This story Bible would not be my first choice to recommend to Lutheran parents, yet they could certainly use it in an edifying way for their children.

Rev. Paul J Cain is Senior Pastor of Immanuel, Sheridan, Wyoming, Headmaster of Martin Luther Grammar School and Immanuel Academy, a member of the Board of Directors of the Consortium for Classical Lutheran Education, Secretary of the Wyoming District of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and a member of its Board of Directors, Wyoming District Education Chairman/NLSA Commissioner, and Editor of Lutheran Book Review. He has served as an LCMS Circuit Visitor, District Worship Chairman and District Evangelism Chairman. A graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Rev. Cain is a contributor to Lutheran Service Book, Lutheranism 101, the forthcoming LSB Hymnal Companion volumes, and is the author of 5 Things You Can Do to Make Our Congregation a Caring Church. He is an occasional guest on KFUO radio. He has previously served Emmanuel, Green River, WY and Trinity, Morrill, NE. Rev. Cain is married to Ann and loves reading and listening to, composing, and making music. 

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