Category: Books

Reading for 1 Corinthians

I’ve been reading 1 Corinthians a lot in preparation for preaching through it the rest of the year. If 1 Timothy lays the foundation for the church, 1 Corinthians builds a distinct community on top of that foundation, and it does so amidst a pluralistic culture swirling with the idolatries of knowledge, power, status, sex, and wealth.

1 Corinthians is practical theology par excellence. Every ethical exhortation is rooted in rich gospel thought. Ethical issues are treated with backwards Christology (cross) and forward Christology (new creation). The letter is retrieves old testament theology and, to use Richard Hays’ phrase, converts the imagination to think out the story of God in a way that resocializes them to live distinctly in their culture. Everything is here: biblical theology, practical issues, cultural engagement, pastoral wisdom, and Christ crucified and risen. Here are a few books I’m reading to help me understand and preach this letter well:

A Reader’ Greek New Testament 

This is a great version of the GNT with words that occur less than 30 times defined in the footnotes.

The Theology of First Corinthians

Victor Furnish does a nice job with the theology arguing that the gospel drives everything in this letter. I also have three others in this series including Green’s Luke and Bauckham’s on Revelation and have loved them both.

First Corinthians: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching

Richard Hays, one of my favorite NT authors, does biblical theology that inspires you.

Conflict & Community in Corinth 

Ben Witherington, especially good on Greco-Roman backgrounds.

The First Epistle to the Corinthians 

A heavy weight scholar with masterful exegetical skills and great detail. Eye-crossing at times.


10 Tips on Promoting Your Writing

1. If you care about what you write, you’ll spend time promoting it. No point in writing an article or book to let it sit in obscurity. If you believe it, you’ll spread it.

2. Have some goto verses to guide against spiritual pride. Don’t obsess about stats or read all the reviews. You also don’t have to answer every critic.

3. Let a publisher or agent do a fair amount of the promotion for you. If you have ideas on how you’d like them to help promote, don’t be afraid to creatively brainstorm and share ideas.

4. Stepping into the published author world is a whole new experience. You will face fresh temptations and encounter new joys. Dig deeper than ever to consistently find Christ as your chief joy, not what others think or say about you.

5. Don’t retweet everything, but if something is particularly good, and gets across what you want to get across, no harm in doing so. Ignore what critics and leaders say about RTs and just follow the Holy Spirit. RT doesn’t equal Self Praise. Though RTs certainly can be full of vanity, they can also be a way to spread the gospel, distribute wisdom, and rejoice in the truth.

6. Don’t get sucked into platform building. Don’t read books and blogs on this stuff. It will just build your ego. God will open doors. Be faithful, fight for joy in Christ, work hard at your craft, promote as the Spirit leads.

7. Have one blind eye and one deaf ear. Filter praise and critiques and let the Holy Spirit guide you. Talk to your heavenly Father, honestly, about it all. This is part of your discipleship now.

8. Invite godly accountability. Be transparent about your struggles and share your joys. Most people wont understand the challenge of being an author until you let them in on it. When they discover there’s genuine fight for the fame of Christ, they’ll be discipled for good or for ill in how you handle it. When they observe humility and genuine zeal for truth, people will join you in prayer and support.

9. Ask your elders if they will to support you through prayer, promotion, accountability. Let them be a voice to the church to teach them how to support you, particularly through praying for you and the kingdom influence of the book.

10. Get and remain zealous about God’s fame, not yours. It’s all his truth, grace, and glory anyway. Ask God everyday to make you a creative, truth-telling author who is full of grace and humility.

The Consequences of Dislocation

In our first year of marriage, it was not uncommon to find me steadily peering down toward my lap whenever we had guests at the dinner table. I had to be prepared. If the conversation remained superficial or became dull, I would discreetly turn my eyes from our guests, and to my wife’s horror, begin reading the book of choice, placed carefully in my lap.

I was present but absent.

Everywhere but Nowhere

This is, perhaps, an apropos description of modern life. Head down and heart disengaged, our thoughts are elsewhere. We are “dislocated”, as Jeremy Writebol posits in his new book, everPresent. Teeming with technological distraction, or simply absorbed with Self, we are often missing from the present. We have lost the wisdom of Seneca who warns, “To be everywhere is to be nowhere.”

Consequences of Dislocation

The consequences of dislocation often go uncalculated. Jeremy does some of the math for us. Our sense of place is, perhaps, the first to go. Preoccupation blinds us to the sights and sounds of our surroundings and, as a result, we fail to fully enjoy the gift of the moment. Our environments devolve into means. The inherent value of place is lost on us and, as a result, restoring broken places is often far from our minds.

Worse still, people are affected. In my foolish stints at the dinner table, I dishonored my wife and neglected persons, sent to my home to receive hospitality and love. Fifteen years later, I’ve improved my dinner table conduct considerably, but face a similar temptation with the Smartphone. Dislocation is now socially acceptable. Our children may suffer the most from our disengagement with the present. While we may scoff at the hippies who escaped parental duties in pursuit of a high, our substance of choice may actually take us further away from our children. Certainly, the substance varies from person to person. For some, it is accomplishment. Kierkegaard writes, “Let us never deceive youth by foolish talk about the mater of accomplishing. Let us never make them so busy in the service of the moment, that they forget the patience of willing something eternal.”

Of course, the lure of accomplishment can be cloaked in the eternal. “Ministry” is not immune from our disease. What then is the cause of our illness? Dislocation from God. Jeremy cautions that “soul dislocation is terminal.” This is true not only for us but also for those around us. Our diversion not only impedes communion but also disengages us from mission.

 We desperately need relocation.

 The Gospel Relocates us in the Present

The Christian faith possesses rich resources to remedy this crisis. EverPresent: How the Gospel Relocates Us in the Present transports us to those resources with fresh language and focused practice. It signals profound hope in the incarnate Christ who affirms place, and in the dying-rising Christ, who relocates us back into the all-satisfying presence of God. We do, after all, have a God who is omnipresent, with us and for the world in every moment. Jeremy sensitively and prophetically calls us to join God there, in the present, for our flourishing and the sake of the world.