Maxwell Leadership Bible

October 1, 2013 by  
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The Maxwell Leadership Bible has drawn lots of attention especially with the publication of John Maxwell’s new bestseller “Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn,” which deconstructs the winning model of church leadership on a totally different level. We’ve used his study Bible through the years especially in cases of young ministers’ training and mentorship.

Instead of a page by page annotation, the Maxwell Bible setup contains inline articles and discussions on various leadership issues within the text. Over 100 biographical profiles of Biblical leaders and short articles are combined with the philosophy behind two other bestsellers on leadership by the author: “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership” and “The 21 Indispensible Qualities of a Leader”

One of our initial comparison passages (Numbers ch.6 and Jeremiah ch.18) is commented, although Numb. 6 does have an article on the Nazarite vow within the Law of Sacrifice (qt. “Give up to go up”). Jeremiah 18, however, contains a great note on “teachability.” The annotation of v. 18 is simple, but strong: “To keep leading, keep learning!”

The Maxwell Bible is not doctrinally organized per se. Therefore, there’s not much on eschatology and particularly Rapture and Tribulation. Nevertheless, the lessons from the 7 Churches of Revelation are abundantly annotated and worthy to be read privately or taught in a classroom setting, but most of all taken literary and applied to today’s ecclesial reality.

This work is also not Pentecostal in particular, as it addresses church leadership in a general Biblical sense. There’s no particular reference to the Trinity, however Acts 2 comments on the magnetic power received by the apostles at Pentecost and in 1 Corinthians 14, the Spirit is called “Broker of gifts.” Instead of a concordance at the end of the Bible, there are several indexes containing leadership laws, qualities, issues and a complete list of profiles of Bible heroes who encompass the law of leadership.

Spirit Filled Life Bible Review

September 10, 2013 by  
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Several months ago, our team undertook the task of comparing and reviewing a growing number of Study Bibles appearing on the book market recently in what we called a 21st century Revival of Study Bibles. This article is part of our Study Bibles review series as outlined here:

Spirit Filled Life Bible Review
Dony K. Donev, D.Min.

The Spirit Filled Life Bible is another great example of a Pentecostal study Bible from the 90s, which sets the stage for this century’s study bibles revival. It was edited by Jack Hayford who later served as president and chancellor of King’s University (formerly The King’s College and Seminary). The text provides Bible commentary from a conservative Pentecostal perspective and study notes are a bit more detailed than the Fire Bible.

For example, the first Old Testament control passage we use in our study from Number 6 is well documented and discussed almost verse by verse. Under the title of “Priestly Blessing,” the Spirit Filled Life Bible makes the case for: (1) wave offering as part of worship (v.20), (2) personal blessing through the singular “you” in the original Hebrew (v.22), (3) a definition of blessing (v. 24) and much more on the final phrases in the blessing: “make His face shine upon you” and “lift up His countenance upon you.”

Jeremiah 18 also has several historical commentaries in the Spirit Filled Life Bible as part of Jeremiah’s laments described in a note in ch. 11. The point here is being made that the responsibility for the law in the Old Testament was given to the priest.

The doctrine of the Rapture is commented in Revelation ch.4 in both the footnotes and a special block note within the text. The first one gives three views of the Last Days (dispensational, futurist and historic/preterist), while the second correlates with the elements of John’s vision. The Dispensational interpretation is offered in continuity with the interpretation of the 7 Churches of Asia-Minor. Two other block notes with markings “Word Wealth” and “Kingdom Dynamics” are placed in 1 Thess. 5 explaining the origin of the word “Rapture.” The significant for Pentecostals phrase “in the Spirit” is explained as “a state of heightened spiritual sensitivity.”

The Tribulation is also clearly explained as post-Rapture event with a classic interpretation of the prophecy given in the text of Daniel 8. The 24 elders are viewed as “evidence of the church’s exemption from the Great Tribulation” as they “are already glorified, enthroned and crowned,” which without a doubt proceeds from pre-Millennial doctrinal interpretation.

The doctrine of the Trinity is preserved as per the Biblical Truths of the Foursquare Church, namely: “Trinity of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.” Thou the word “Trinity” itself is absent from the detailed word Concordance at the end of the Spirit Filled Life Bible, perhaps because it is not present in the actual Biblical text, it is persistently present in the commentaries. This is true even in the largely disputed (from a manuscript point of view) 1 John 5:5-6 which is explained as Trinitarian in the comments.

Similarly to the Fire Bible, the Holy Ghost baptism is explained in the forward to Acts along with a page full with notes on speaking in tongues in Acts ch. 2. Additionally, there is a chart with a six-fold involvement of the Holy Spirit in human history: in the beginning, the Old Testament and Old Testament prophecy, in salvation, the New Testament and in the written word. The Spiritual Gifts in 1 Corinthians 12 are discussed one by one. There’s also a very nice write-up at the end by Paul Walker of the Church of God who further explains “Holy Spirit Gifts and Power.”

The commentary notes at the end contain a self-guide by Pat Robertson, named “Spiritual Answers to Hard Questions.” Power over demons is explained along with the process of exorcisms, without explicit statements about the influence of demons over born-again Christians. The following subject on the Kingdom of God is also dealt with without any explicit reference to Kingdom Now Theology, although explicitly lengthier and detailed in comparison to the rest of the subjects. The final note deserves special attention and should be hereby quoted in place of an epilogue: “Lack of forgiveness blocs access to the kingdom (of God) and its marvelous power. (See also Mt. 6:5-15; Mark 11:22-26).”

The Fire Bible Review

August 20, 2013 by  
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Several months ago, our team undertook the task of comparing and reviewing a growing number of Study Bibles appearing on the book market recently in what we called a 21st century Revival of Study Bibles. This article is part of our Study Bibles review series as outlined here:

Fire Bible Review
Dony K. Donev, D.Min.

I’ve been personally following and using the Fire Bible since it was called the Full Life Study Bible. And not mainly because it is Pentecostal (much like Dake’s and Spirit Filled Life Bibles), but more so because a good portion of the commentaries were written by one of my favorite professors in seminary, Dr. French Arrington. Therefore, I was very truly blessed when our ministry was able to participate in the translation and promoting this great work in Bulgaria.

Beginning with our usual control passages from the Old Testament, Number 6 contains a great detail of explanation on the vow and practice of the Nazarite law. Furthermore, there is a special note on “Wine in the Old Testament” in the Fire Bible, and the Aaronic benediction at the end of the chapter is specifically marked, outlined and discussed as two articles are cited in connection with “Faith and Grace” and “The Peace of God.”

Our second control passage in Jeremiah 18 is also not left without discussion. Actually, the commentary in v.8 makes two powerful points on God taking account spiritual changes in our lives and not forcing our decision despite knowing the final outcome; thus presenting a typical Pentecostal approach on free will, God’s sovereignty and foreknowledge, which is further discussed in the article on “Election and Predestination.”

The doctrine of the Rapture is not only mentioned in Revelation 4, but preceded with a special article from 1 Thessalonians and a detailed chart of Last Day Events in the forward of Revelation in both the early and the Fire editions. The Tribulation is also clearly explained as a post-Rapture event, divided in two parts and well documented with Scripture references. Additionally, in a very balanced Pentecostal manner, the dispensations, although noted by some, are not explicitly defended in the pre-Millennial system. The significance of the phrase “in the Spirit” is dully noted, which brings us to Pneumatology.

In regards to Pentecostal theology, the doctrine of Trinity is presented in an indictable orthodox way after the Athanasius Confession. Perhaps, the only criticism could be that there’s no mention of the fact that some early Pentecostal groups indeed taught Jesus-only doctrine. The Holy Ghost baptism is both theoretically and practically explained in the forward to Acts, while there’s an additional article on Speaking in Tongues after Acts ch.2. This is further mentioned in a comment after Mark ch. 16 followed by an article on Spiritual Gifts in 1 Corinthians 12.

There’s also a detail discussion the doctrine of Sanctification in 1 Peter after the foreknowledge of God is additionally explained. Sanctification is viewed as immediate, not “giving up sin little by little,” yet “do not suggest an absolute perfection.” The work of God and man is defined, and most importantly God is viewed as one who desires to sanctify His people. There’s no specific comparison to a second work of grace, yet the general approach toward the doctrine and practice of sanctification presents a typical, historically accurate, Pentecostal point of view toward the teaching.

Mission of God Study Bible Review

July 30, 2013 by  
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Several months ago, our team undertook the task of comparing and reviewing a growing number of Study Bibles appearing on the book market recently in what we called a 21st century Revival of Study Bibles. This article is part of our Study Bibles review series as outlined here:

The Mission of God Study Bible is edited by Ed Stetzer and Philip Nation containing essays and commentaries by over 50 contributors among whom Billy Graham and Jack Hayford. Significant place is given to quotes from Francis Dubose’s 1983 book, God Who Sends. The primary purpose is to introduce a Missional Manifesto to the church of the 21st century. Beside book introductions, essays and cross-reference annotations, it promotes ideas from the Bible as QR Codes, Text Messages and Notes from God using the Holman Christian Standard Bible text as a foundation.

The initial commentary introduces God’s mission in creating the world and the divine plan to reconnect with His creation into a promise of an eternal land. The passages of our usual consideration (Numbers ch.6 and Jeremiah ch.18) are not particularly commented; however, the introduction to Numbers begins with a beautiful analogy of how serious God takes His mission leading the Israelites for 40 years in the wilderness. The notes on Jeremiah also contain Glenn Barth’s Dwelling and Working for God in the City.

Although not written by primarily Pentecostal authors, the commentary on Acts includes a very charismatic key to revival through making disciples using: (1) empowerment, (2) education and (3) evolving. This process is described as inclusive and hospitable to all in two articles on the Gentile conversion in Acts 10. The mission of the Christian ministry is enriched by the Gifts of the Spirit annotated personally by Ed Stetzer in 1 Corinthians 14 through the source, search and sovereignty of spirituality. But it is also inseparable from the marketplace as described in connection with the Corinthian church Acts ch.18.

The Pneumatological and ministry related commentaries connect well with the urgency of musicological eschatology starting with the phrase “In the Spirit” (Revelation 4:2). The notes conclude with another article with an urban theme on the Heavenly City. The eschatological mission in Revelation is explained as “Refocusing and Renewing the Church.” An article about missionary to China, Hudson Taylor is placed next to the story of the two witnesses, expressing the eschatological urgency to reach the whole world with the Gospel. This coincides with two commentaries on the Great Commission in Matthew 28, “The Mission of God and the Mission in the Church” and “Go Therefore.”

Overall a great missional tool with over 150 commentary notes and articles begins with the Missional Manifesto and concluding with the “Letters to the Church” from elder statesmen like Billy Graham, Jack Hayford, R. T. Kendall, Erwin Lutzer, Calvin Miller, and R.C. Sproul.

From ETERNITY to HERE (Review and Reflection)

July 1, 2012 by  
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violaDony K. Donev

To write this review of Frank Viola’s From Eternity to Here for The Pneuma Review has taken almost a year. In order to critique (even review) one’s work, you must know it. And not merely to have read it once or even twice, but to understand in depth the presuppositions that have led to its writing and the goals set with its publication. The way this is done is through studying the very mindset behind the author’s complete works. For the reading of a book must turn into a journey or it will never get you anywhere. Have I done all this – most probably not, but I sure tried. So, here is the result of my journey.

In times of postmodernism, when metanarratives, and especially Biblical metanarratives, are being deconstructed and questioned by just about every secular movement, there has been a consistent attempt to explain the story of the Bible again to a postmodern and unchurched generation in a way they would actually understand.

To begin with the obvious, the book is comprised of three narratives that already have been much openly discussed:

  • The Bride of Christ
  • The House of God
  • The Body of Christ and the Family of God

The careful reader immediately notices the family-framed language of the description, which perhaps derives from the story of the first family in Genesis, where Viola begins to show the true message of the Bible. It is not merely the fall of Adam and Eve, but the whole creation being God’s very plan for redemption of the universe and the salvation of mankind. This perspective changes the understood purpose of the Gospel from preoccupied with the fall of humankind to God-centered missio Dei.

The description of the creating and joining of Adam and Eve is simply phenomenal as it recreates the plan of God for humanity and the universe from a Biblical point of view. And from the very beginning, the book resembles the expository apologetic style of Augustine in De Civitate Dei (as even the full title De Civitate Dei contra Paganos is promptly resembled by Pagan Christianity). But instead of being philosophical, what we have here is much more a narrative, very similar to the approach taken by St. Symeon the New Theologian.

The view of God’s love is very similar to the way Karl Barth treats it in his commentary to the Romans. Perhaps, because Viola sees it from his own experience of knowing God from God’s own perspective through God’s grace. And at times when speaking of the ultimate purpose of God for mankind and the universe, Viola, almost like Barth, walks a very thin line bordering universalism. And while it is true that God draws the creation to Himself through His love, any self-conscious theologian would make his listeners aware of the danger of universalism, except, of course, if he/she subscribes to such a soteriological view. So, I wrote Viola with the question if he subscribes to universalism and his response was “No.” And I guess it would be quite difficult to be a Universalist, while considering hell a real and unpleasant place.

The three discourses of the book have been much discussed since its publication, yet a few observations are in order. Part one represents an ageless romance of transcendent and eternal God who creates His bride and reconciles the entire creation with Himself in order to redeem her back to His love – a passion that passes through space and time like no other.

The second narrative shows God on a mission. And while the Creator is described as “homeless” and searching for a home within His own creation, His mission is only completed in making mankind His home. Thus, the creation searches with God and a deserted and wildered mankind is found by God only to find eternal rest in Him alone.

This introduces the third “new species” discourse that quite frankly resolves the dilemma of one whole generation, whereas the story of the Bible is reconciled anew with a postmodern human mindset shaped by a Star Trek, Star Wars, Matrix-like culture. The union of Adam and Eve also puts a completely new perspective on the Biblical role of women and it makes an interesting case for their equal roles in creation and ministry.

Disappointment has been expressed in the unchurched language used in the book to describe God’s emotions, but what about a sermon preached in 1741 by one Jonathan Edwards under the name “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”? Yet, a warning is indeed in order as the beginning of the 21st century is marked by a surge of postmodern apologetics through which Christian authors address issues outside the institutionalized church (social, political and economical) with the language of the people. But this attempt often goes so “deep undercover” that it remains foreign even to the church itself. A prime example for this phenomenon was the “Purpose Driven Church,” which being a powerful address to the unchurched, often remains a mystery to many mainline Christians who simply could not separate themselves from the known church language. A fair warning would be finding a balanced way to present Biblical truths while keeping the language of the Bible itself as God intended it.

But even with the above, Viola’s story remains missional and concerned with Missio Dei not only for a selected few, but the entire mankind and the whole creation. And this brings the mission of God not to the foreign lands where it has been sent for centuries, but very much home where the real issue is. Embracing God’s love still remains the only spiritual ground where spiritual things do not replace the center of the Gospel – the incarnation of Christ Himself. And only then, the essence of being missional becomes the central dimension to the life and ministry of the church.

Viola views the loss of this dimension historically when the church was absorbed in the culture of Rome and Byzantium in a cultural ideology described by Eastern Orthodoxy as a symbiosis between church and state, which slowly, but surely removes Christ from the center of church and life. But this book is different from the rest, because it proposes a new ideological presupposition that encounters and resolve the deconstruction of church beliefs and praxis proposed by Pagan Christianity. Many traditional and even postmodern representatives of organized religion are terrified by the idea which Viola suggests, watching thousands of people leaving their churches to form not another church, not even a movement, but a new and phenomenal experience – a new phenomenon in the experience of God. For the claim that many current models of organized religion have reached a point of final capacity in the postmodern struggle of becoming more and more nominal may not be so farfetched after all.