Books at a Glance Jan 31, 2014

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Greetings from Books At a Glance!

As always, to help you buy more discerningly, we’re sending you a list of the articles that we featured this week. enjoy!

Book Summary:
Understanding Biblical TheologyUNDERSTANDING BIBLICAL THEOLOGY: A COMPARISON OF THEORY AND PRACTICE, by Edward Klink III and Darian Lockett

Understanding Biblical Theology: A Comparison of Theory and Practice Edward W. Klink III and Darian R. Lockett Zondervan, 2012 192 pp., Paperback (Paperback)      (Kindle) A brief book summary from Books At a Glance About the Authors Edward W. Klink III (PhD, University of St. Andrew […] Continue Reading

Author-Interview:

Depak RejuInterview with Deepak Reju, author of ON GUARD: PREVENTING AND RESPONDING TO CHILD ABUSE

Let’s begin at the bottom – how do you define child abuse? And perhaps you could expand on it briefly for us.    Reju:   Child abuse can be defined as any act or failure to act resulting in imminent risk, serious injury, death, physical or emotional or sexual harm, or exploitation of a child…. &n […] Continue Reading

Author-Interview:

On Guard by Deepak RejuDeepak Reju Interview Part 2, ON GUARD: PREVENTING AND RESPONDING TO CHILD ABUSE

I’ve been surprised at how many churches don’t have a child protection policy or don’t use any kind of screening measures (references, criminal background checks, etc.). The first and foremost thing that a church can do is get a good policy in place. If a church doesn’t have a policy, I’ve included in the […] Continue Reading

Book Review:

Recovering Eden by Zack EswineRECOVERING EDEN: THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ECCLESIASTES, by Zack Eswine

Because of its challenging material and tone, unlike some other biblical books, Ecclesiastes has generated several distinct ways of understanding how it teaches. Which approach one embraces has significant impact on the final interpretation. One may decide that the book teaches as straightforwardly as other texts do and deny or explain […] Continue Reading

Book Review:

Forgotten SongsFORGOTTEN SONGS: RECLAIMING THE PSALMS FOR CHRISTIAN WORSHIP, by C. Richard Wells and Ray Van Neste

The book, Forgotten Songs, suggests that one answer to this question is a rediscovery of the psalms which are too often a neglected treasure of the Church. They are of great help in guiding our worship, shaping us in our devotion to God, and sometimes giving us the very words to express ourselves in all of our conflicting e […] Continue Reading

Blogs:
Our 5 Most Popular Book Reviews in 2014As we wrap-up 2014 and start 2015, we thought that you’d enjoy seeing the articles that were the most popular in each category — Blogs, Author-Interviews, Book Reviews, and Book Summaries. As you saw with yesterday […] Continue Reading
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Catching the Spirit of Romans

What is the proper place of the Holy Spirit today?

Through the centuries the Church’s perception of the Holy Spirit has often been overstated or understated.
The Montanists, for instance, stirred a strong reaction by their claims of immediate Spirit-direction. And centuries later Joachim of Fiore mistakenly posited a new Age of the Spirit to displace the presumed passing of the ages of the Father and the Son. Many followed his lead, to the growing concern of church leaders.
Catching the Spirit of RomansThe 17th century Puritans were then equally errant—in the face of cultic Spirit groups like the Familists—by reducing the Spirit’s role to the invisible “doctrine of means”: holding that he only works indirectly, through “means of grace” such as preaching, praying, Bible reading, and the like.
So what is the proper place of the Spirit in the Church for today?
The answer, of course, is: Whatever God wants it to be. And he gives us some clear indications in the Bible. The book of Acts, for instance, tells us how the Spirit was the overt director of early Church growth. His activism was powerful and pervasive.
Yet there are arguable hesitations in treating all the descriptions in Acts of the Spirit’s activism as normative for today. So in asking how the Spirit means to minister today, especially given the historic cycle of abuses-and-suppressive reactions, we look for guidance from the Bible.
And the New Testament epistles offer as much as we need to know about the Spirit’s work. In Paul’s epistle to the Romans, for instance, we have crucial coaching on the Spirit’s role in forming faith. Paul’s Spirit-rich ministry was described in Acts; then in Romans Paul presents the Spirit’s work with special care. So let’s go there.
In an overview reading of Romans we find what might be called Spirit-bursts among longer stretches of relative silence. The epistle starts with a reference to the Spirit in Paul’s introductory remarks. Following that are one-off references in 2:29, 5:5, and 7:6. Chapter 8 then explodes with 21 references—the greatest concentration in the Bible—followed by notices in 9:1, 11:8, 12:11, and 14:17. And, finally, Paul ends with a micro-burst of 4 references in chapter 15.
References to the Father and the Son, by comparison, are much more common and evenly distributed. And that raises a question: is the Spirit’s role diminished by Paul’s relatively localized references?
No. The same pattern is found in the Gospels and elsewhere in Scripture. John, for one, has his own major Spirit discussions in chapters 3 and 14-16. Even the Old Testament has concentrations as in Isaiah 63 and Ezekiel 36-37.
Reasons for this pattern grow out of the Spirit’s unique role—his ministry in the “economy” of the Trinity. The Spirit, in very simple terms, has the role of facilitating fellowship or communion both within the Godhead and in our union with Christ. The Father, for instance, planned our salvation; the Son accomplished it; and the Spirit applies it. Each role is crucial but the narrative discussion of the planning and the accomplishing has the most print.
With that in mind, let’s trace the Spirit-in-Romans in a very brief overview. We’ll need to read between the lines at points and I invite each reader to take a look for himself or herself.
Paul launches the epistle with a Trinitarian reference to the Son’s human heritage in King David and to the Holy Spirit in his deity—the latter being witnessed to by the power evidenced in Christ’s resurrection (1:4). The text is cryptic—reflecting some assumptions we need to chase elsewhere.
Paul’s concern in writing to the Romans features a disturbing tension between one or more of the Jewish Christian house-churches—a group still devoted to Jewish practices—and the Gentile-Christian (with some Jews involved) house-church. The former presumably saw Jesus as the Messiah who came in a Jewish context—with Gentile Christians then expected to take up Judaism in expressing their faith. In chapter 2 Paul dismisses this vision and, with that, he reminds these Jews that their own spirituality lacks moral credibility.
The Gentile-Christian house church—certainly the community led by Aquila with his wife Priscilla (16:3-4)—offered a healthy contrast to the unhappy Jews. The Gentile Christians had an exemplary spirituality (2:14-16). Paul attributed the success of their genuine spirituality to the Spirit’s work of circumcising the heart—of aligning the heart to God’s ways by inner reformation (2:29).
The key text in Romans for understanding this inside-out change of heart was then offered in Paul’s call for hope in the face of external persecutions: “hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (5:5).
Love, then, is God’s power for change. The sin of self-love or pride can only be dissolved by a greater love. And the Spirit—the Trinity’s agent of fellowship—carries God’s love to the soul. Paul—without losing sight of this truth—then called on Romans to embrace this grace of love—“that while we were still sinners Christ died for us” (5:8)—with a new sense of freedom and power.
Then when we reach chapter 8 we find that, despite Paul’s silence about the Spirit’s presence and fellowship in chapters 6-7, his presence was still seen as the basis for transformation. Once again this is accomplished by the Spirit sharing God’s love with his chosen ones: “[Nothing of any sort] in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (8:39). In other words the Spirit is forever pouring that love out in our hearts and that sets up the security we need!
There’s much more to be said but I’m out of space. Let me just say that later texts like chapter 12:1-3 call for rethinking everything in life on the basis of this love. We see this link to love in later references—“Let love be genuine” and “love is the fulfilling of the law” (12:9 & 13:10)—and in the summary of 15:13 we return to the Spirit’s work of producing hope: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”
So how does the Spirit change us? By dramatic signs and wonders on the one hand? Or by disappearing and leaving the task of faith to us, on the other? Or—as in Romans—by living in us, and forever speaking into our hearts: “The Father loves you and he wants you to call him Daddy! Come with me and let’s enjoy him as much as the Son does!” Read Romans and see for yourself.
Spirit’s unique role—his ministry in the “economy” of the Trinity. The Spirit, in very simple terms, has the role of facilitating fellowship or communion both within the Godhead and in our union with Christ. The Father, for instance, planned our salvation; the Son accomplished it; and the Spirit applies it. Each role is crucial but the narrative discussion of the planning and the accomplishing has the most print.
With that in mind, let’s trace the Spirit-in-Romans in a very brief overview. We’ll need to read between the lines at points and I invite each reader to take a look for himself or herself.
Paul launches the epistle with a Trinitarian reference to the Son’s human heritage in King David and to the Holy Spirit in his deity—the latter being witnessed to by the power evidenced in Christ’s resurrection (1:4). The text is cryptic—reflecting some assumptions we need to chase elsewhere.
Paul’s concern in writing to the Romans features a disturbing tension between one or more of the Jewish Christian house-churches—a group still devoted to Jewish practices—and the Gentile-Christian (with some Jews involved) house-church. The former presumably saw Jesus as the Messiah who came in a Jewish context—with Gentile Christians then expected to take up Judaism in expressing their faith. In chapter 2 Paul dismisses this vision and, with that, he reminds these Jews that their own spirituality lacks moral credibility.
The Gentile-Christian house church—certainly the community led by Aquila with his wife Priscilla (16:3-4)—offered a healthy contrast to the unhappy Jews. The Gentile Christians had an exemplary spirituality (2:14-16). Paul attributed the success of their genuine spirituality to the Spirit’s work of circumcising the heart—of aligning the heart to God’s ways by inner reformation (2:29).
The key text in Romans for understanding this inside-out change of heart was then offered in Paul’s call for hope in the face of external persecutions: “hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (5:5).
Love, then, is God’s power for change. The sin of self-love or pride can only be dissolved by a greater love. And the Spirit—the Trinity’s agent of fellowship—carries God’s love to the soul. Paul—without losing sight of this truth—then called on Romans to embrace this grace of love—“that while we were still sinners Christ died for us” (5:8)—with a new sense of freedom and power.
Then when we reach chapter 8 we find that, despite Paul’s silence about the Spirit’s presence and fellowship in chapters 6-7, his presence was still seen as the basis for transformation. Once again this is accomplished by the Spirit sharing God’s love with his chosen ones: “[Nothing of any sort] in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (8:39). In other words the Spirit is forever pouring that love out in our hearts and that sets up the security we need!
There’s much more to be said but I’m out of space. Let me just say that later texts like chapter 12:1-3 call for rethinking everything in life on the basis of this love. We see this link to love in later references—“Let love be genuine” and “love is the fulfilling of the law” (12:9 & 13:10)—and in the summary of 15:13 we return to the Spirit’s work of producing hope: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”
So how does the Spirit change us? By dramatic signs and wonders on the one hand? Or by disappearing and leaving the task of faith to us, on the other? Or—as in Romans—by living in us, and forever speaking into our hearts: “The Father loves you and he wants you to call him Daddy! Come with me and let’s enjoy him as much as the Son does!” Read Romans and see for yourself.
~ Ron

Thoughts? You are invited to comment on Ron’s articles at Cor Deo UK
 
Dr. Ron Frost
Ron served on faculty for more than 20 years at Multnomah Bible College and Biblical Seminary. At the seminary, from 1995-2007, he was professor of historical theology and ethics. He earned his PhD at King’s College of the University of London. His research featured Richard Sibbes (1577-1635). He now teaches internationally while serving as a pastoral care consultant to missionaries with Barnabas International. Ron authored Discover the Power of the Bible and writes on spreadinggoodness.org [See “Resources”].
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Redeem the Time (Part Two)

Proclamation, Perseverance, and Prison

Colossians 4:2-6

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with colossians - andy murraythanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prisonthat I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.

Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

Introduction:

Andrew MurrayLast time we began to examine 6 priorities that emerge at the end of the letter to the Colossians. Those who are chosen, holy, and beloved, citizens of the heavenly country, should be investing their energies in certain kinds of things during their short time on this planet. Last time we looked at investing in prayer and prudence.

And as we examined the kind of pray in which we ought to be investing, we saw that we are called to steadfast, watchful, and thankful prayer. We are not to give up, but pray without ceasing. We are to be awake and alert to the times in which we live, not sleeping and distracted. This is the age of the harvest. And this steadfast, watchful prayer is to be accompanied by a heart overflowing with thanks for what God has done for us in Christ.

We saw last time that Pauls prayer request was not for personal comfort – it was for open doors and clear words to declare the mystery of Christ. Epaphrasprayer was not for the comfort of the church it was for the maturity and full assurance of the church. There was a mindfulness that these men had, and alertness to the times – they were not seeking their own kingdoms; they were seeking to magnify Christ and they were serving His kingdom and they were laying their lives down for it.

As we look at what walking in prudence or wisdom looks like in reference to outsiders we said it had to involve speaking the Word to Christ with gracious and winsome speech, mindful of seeing those who are outsiders become insiders. Kindness without speaking will rescue no one from their sins, but speaking the truth without love will be a clanging gong and a noisy symbol and a distraction from the beauty of the Words of Life.

Paul is demonstrating and calling the church to wake up and make the best use of the time. Paul was awake to the age in which he lived. This is the age of grace to the nations. This is the age of the Word of Salvation. This is the age when God has made known how great among the nations are the riches of Christ! Are we gripped by the glory of the grace of Christ and are we mindful of the times? Are we awake?

This week we continue to examine the priorities in which we ought to be investing our lives in this age. The next priority we will look at is Proclamation.

Proclamation:

You may be thinking, Didnt we already talk about proclamation last time? Wasnt that part of the discussion about the content of Pauls prayer and part of the discussion about walking in wisdom toward outsiders?

Yes, it was. But I think this point is so central and so important, that I want to linger and soak here. I have read and heard so many people who seem to talk and think about Christianity and the activities of the church apart from the message of the gospel. I want to make sure that we do not leave Colossians without seeing Pauls priority of proclaiming the message of Christ.

Gaining Perspective:

It is all to easy to lose our focus and become distracted from the throbbing heartbeat of the faith. What is the throbbing heart beat of our faith? It is the answer to the great problem in the world.

The great problem in the world is not your broken car, your broken dreams, your broken plans. It is not broken buildings, broken communities, broken governments. It is not broken marriages, broken friendships, or broken bodies – these are symptoms of the problem. The great problem in the world is not a horizontal problem.

The great problem is the world is that God is not honored. The great problem in the world is that the one true and living God, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth, has been universally rejected, belittled, ignored, dishonored. The God of blazing holiness and infinite power and beauty and goodness is unwavering in His opposition toward sin. If a person enters the presence of God as a sinner he will be utterly consumed. The great problem in the world is that we have invited the unquenchable wrath of the Almighty.

The great question is how then shall we be saved?

The glory of the gospel is lost on so many people because it addresses a problem they dont think they have. The glorious news will appear glorious only when God appears to us as glorious. It is when we consider God, as He truly is, and our hopeless, sinful condition that the proclamation of Christ will strike us as glorious and vital. The message of Christ is the throbbing heart beat of the church. The greatest issue in every persons life is whether God is for them or against them.

If God is against you, it matters not what earthly comforts you secure – they will be momentary and puny and will give way to everlasting and full condemnation. You will be cast away into outer darkness forever.

But if God is for you, it matters not what earthly troubles you face – they will be momentary and puny and will give way to everlasting and full joy in His presence, forever secure with Him.

If we think that Christianity is chiefly and first about recovering from addiction, or restoring marriages, or repairing a dysfunctional life, or providing for the poor – if we start with those problems as if they were the main problem we will miss the throbbing heartbeat of our faith.

The Throbbing Heartbeat:

The glorious news is that God, because of His great love, chose to deliver a people from  their sin and condemnation and to transfer them into everlasting life and light and joy, by Jesus Christ the only Redeemer. God has dealt with the greatest problem, the true problem, the true disease, by the work Christ.

So, why did Paul pray this way in Colossians 4:3?

Colossians 4:3

“At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ …”

Pauls focused mission was to make the gospel of Christ known. Every letter we have of Paul in the NT shows us that this was his great desire. Colossians is no different. Paul saw no greater need in the world than to declare the mystery of Christ again and again. Even as it meant continual suffering and persecution in his life and even as it had landed him in prison, he did not waver from this priority to proclaim Christ.

As Romans 1 tells us the gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. Paul was compelled to make the mystery of Christ know to everyone he possibly could. He had been entrusted with the words of life, the hope of glory, the message which is able to save mens souls. For loves sake, how could he keep silent?

Pauls Priority, Our Example:

We have been entrusted with these same words of life.

Listen to 1 Peter 2:9

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

According to 1 Peter 2:9 we are called into the family of God for the purpose of proclamation. We, who should be destroyed by his excellencies, have been made His treasure in order to be His trumpeters in this world. He has made a way that we might be a people for His own possession, holy, chosen, beloved SO THAT we may proclaim His excellencies. You were not rescued to be silent. You were rescued to be a trumpet for your God! And not just to those who have never heard.

Christ our Life and Song:

I need you to remind me again and again of Gods work. I think there is a temptation to think that the gospel is the message that the world out there needs to hear. This message of salvation is for the perishing to get into the church, but we who are in the church go on in our walk with the Lord by something else. NO!

Colossians 2:6-7

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

The gospel is not just for outsides!

The gospel is what Paul has been giving the church in this letter. It is as we behold the glory of Christ and His glorious work for us, and is as we embrace that work and embrace the love of God for us in Christ everyday that we will be nourished and built up and knit together.

The assembling of Gods people together should not be marked by finger pointing and condemnation, but by a pointing to Christ and reconciliation. This ought to be a place of refreshment, as we remember and rejoice in the Word of Life, the gospel. Our judgement day is past. God is on your side now and forevermore. He will lead us as His beloved children away from sin and toward holiness. He is working all things together for our good.

My great prayer for Christs people and for myself, is that we would become more and more people of the gospel.

Is your life invested in Proclamation?

Perseverance:

Next. Another priority we find in this last section of Colossians is perseverance.

A People of Activity:

Paul and his fellow laborers were engaged in action in this age. They were laboring for something. They were pouring out their lives to make mature disciples of Christ. The glory of Christ in the gospel moved them. We are not to be a slumbering people. The night is far spent the day is at hand. “Wake up,” Paul says. This section is full of the action of the saints: Pray, give thanks, declare, speak, send, tell, encourage, care for, comfort, always struggle, work hard, read, share, remember, work for the Kingdom of God together.

When Were Weary:

But isnt it true that we all get discouraged at times? We get weary and overwhelmed. It looks like Archippus, here in verse 17, may have been tempted to throw in the towel and so Paul says, “And say to Archippus, See that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord.’”

We are not told what the ministry of Archippus was, but he received it in the Lord and Paul called the church in Colossi to exhort him to complete it. Paul calls him to persevere in the work God had for him in the Lord.

When we are discouraged and weary and overwhelmed in the work God has for us, we must remember where we received this work. Paul says to Archippus that he received his ministry in the Lord.I take this to be a pregnant phrase. This letter has been full of unpacking what it means to be in Christand in the Lord.I believe this makes all the difference.

Your labor is not a laboring to get in the Lord. Your work is not a working from fear of failure or punishment. Our work is a work in the Lord Jesus. Your service is not a service in danger of fruitlessness. In Christ all things work together for our good.

I had an opportunity recently to sit down with a few pastors in the area and pastor Paul Buckley shared with us a paper he had put together about the dangers of burnout in ministry. He shared an illustration that I thought was very helpful. Pastor Buckley writes,

You should live like a retired billionaire who has already accomplished all his dreams and life goals and now sits atop of endless riches. You should live like a spiritual version of Bill Gates. Jesus has done everything for you, accomplishing the most important goals and dreams the Father has, winning you eternal riches.

When we embrace again and again the truth about the riches that are ours in Christ, we will be guarding our souls from discouragement, weariness, and burnout. And rather than producing lazy, fruitless, passionless laborers, the glorious message produces perseverance in the face of incredible odds.

Romans 8:31-39

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who diedmore than that, who was raisedwho is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,

For your sake we are being killed all the day long;

we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Dont give up Archippus. Dont go to sleep. Persevere in the ministry you have received in the Lord. Persevere until the Lord appears – your salvation is nearer than when you first believed!

We cannot lose, for God is with us and in us and His Kingdom cannot faileven if imprisonment and affliction and death await us.

Prison:

As we finish up, we need to think very soberly about the fact that Paul was in prison on account of Christ. We need to think about the priority of prison. By this I dont mean that this passage is calling us pursue pain and misery and prison as ends in themselves, as if there was something inherently godly in denying ourself and being miserable.

Rather, I believe the priority we see in this passage is the priority of valuing Christ able all other treasures. What is your only hope in life and death?Is it, That [you] are not [your] own, but belong, body and soul, both in life and death, to God and to [your] Savior Jesus Christ(New City Catechism, question 1)?

What is the hope of your life? Where is your treasure? The people of God have always been strangers and exiles on the earth, trusting God for a better country, their heavenly home. What you have in Christ is worth more than houses and family and job and comfort and anything this life can afford.

In our culture we have experienced many comforts. That may change. Comfort has not been the experience of many of the people of God throughout history, and is not the experience of many of our brothers and sisters in the world today. Pauls example calls us to invest our lives in Christ and for Christ and live from Christ come what may. Is Christ your treasure?

Conclusion:

Paul speaks to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20, just before he is imprisoned and says in Acts 20:22-25,

And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.

What are your priorities in this world? Are you investing in

Prayer, Prudence, Proclamation, Perseverance, and Prison?

Are we awake to the hour?

I pray that the Word of Christ will lodge in our chests, grip our hearts, change our minds and color our vision of the world. I pray that the Word of Christ will move our feet, season our words, and bolster our courage – that God may be honored, Christ may be praised and multitudes may be made alive.

.

About Andrew Murray
Andrew “Andy” Murray was born and raised in New Hampshire. His father, pastor Loren Murray, served Fellowship Bible Church in Chester, NH. At six years of age Andy trusted in Jesus Christ and was baptized. He was brought up “acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” At the age of 12 his father was in a fatal car accident. Reflecting on the loss of his dad Andy writes; “I see now the wise and loving hand of Christ in my life, as He used this event to, shape, mold and press me toward Himself. It was this event that sparked in me an earnest desire to know God from His Word. By His grace, this desire has continued to grow.” Andy met his wife, Elizabeth, at Philadelphia Biblical University (now Cairn University). They have four wonderful boys. Visit Windham Bible Chapel.