Josh Philpot

Theology, the Church, and Music

Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category

God’s Wisdom in Proverbs—Dan Phillips

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Intro: I read most major works on the book of Proverbs for my doctoral coursework. So I try to make myself aware of new material on Proverbs. Kress Biblical Resources recently released a new book by Dan Phillips entitled, God’s Wisdom in Proverbs. Phillips is a pastor and blogger (see here). I first heard of him via his contributions to the Pyromaniacs blog. His writing is engaging and often humorous. It’s unique in the sense that I almost get the feeling that I’m conversing with him as I read. There is a give-and-take feel that is enjoyable. This new book is no different in style, although it is particularly rich theologically and pastorally, which is a refreshing take on a book that many take to be full or moralistic maxims.

Summary: The main thrust of God’s Wisdom in Proverbs is that the biblical book is not primarily about wisdom in general, but wisdom rooted in the revelation of God’s word; i.e., a wisdom that is defined as the skill for living in the fear of Yahweh. The first two chapters deal with interpretative issues, authorship, and design. Then Phillips spends a great deal defining “the fear of Yahweh” and “wisdom” in both the context of Proverbs and God’s unfolding revelation. These early chapters are focused on the sections of Proverbs that are most familiar: 1:1-7, 2:1-5, and 3:1-12. Then Phillips has three lengthy chapters on big topics in Proverbs like godly relationships, marriage, and child-training. The book ends with four appendices that provide further material—FAQ’s, as it were—on common mistakes and questions that Proverbs addresses, as well as some suggestions for teaching or preaching from the book. As someone who has thought a lot about how best to preach from Proverbs, I found this section particularly helpful.

I was a little confused as I began reading this book because I was expecting something entirely different. The title suggests that the book is a commentary. It is not a commentary. It begins like one (with introductory topics on the front end) and ends like one (with appendices on a few ancillary issues). So my initial comments in the margins of the book are the critical “this-is-not-how-to-write-a-commentary” type. But as I continued to read I was corrected, and then I was more and more refreshed by Phillips’ writing, particularly  in the chapters on marriage and child rearing. Indeed, I think Phillips has written the best thematic study on training children in Proverbs that I have read. No other commentary or book goes into the depth that he does on this topic, which includes a helpful biblical theological perspective. I was greatly encouraged by it and I hope to read that section again with my wife.

A little criticism: I have a few points of critical interaction. First, if someone is interested in delving into the issues surrounding Solomonic authorship I would suggest a few other resources. This is not to say that Phillips’ arguments are invalid, only that he doesn’t deal with all the historical and grammatical evidence against Solomonic authorship (I obviously agree that Solomon wrote the majority of the book). For instance, there is no mention of the Wisdom of Amenemope and how it relates to Proverbs 22:17-24:22, which is a huge issue in the authorship of Proverbs debate. One might think that this discussion has no place in a book like the one Phillips is writing, but since he devotes 11 pages at the beginning of the book to the issue of authorship in addition to an entire appendix (20 more pages), I would say that a big issue like this is worth treating (or at least referencing). He could easily point to Kenneth Kitchen’s article, “Proverbs and Wisdom Books in the Ancient Near East” (TB, 1977) or even Waltke’s section in his commentary to refute the critical view that says the Proverbs were adapted from Egyptian wisdom literature (which is patently false).

Second, the bibliography is a little dated, too, and Phillips missed a few excellent works like Steinmann’s commentary in the Concordia series (2009). That commentary has its own issues, but overall it’s the newest exhaustive commentary on Proverbs from a conservative perspective. Additionally I would have liked to see journal articles in the bibliography, of which there are very few. On the sources that Phillips does include in the bibliography, he adds a few comments so that readers know ahead of time what he thinks about the source. I’m studying with Duane Garrett who wrote a commentary on Proverbs (albeit a short one). On this book Phillips writes, “I would say that 90% of the time I go to Garrett for help with a verse, I come away disappointed.” I would be happy to expound on that point if Phillips ever desires to hear it. 🙂

Third, sometimes the organization of the various chapters is confusing. I would expect that in a book on Proverbs, for instance, the author to treat the material of a specific topic (such as marriage) within the book of Proverbs first before going to other books of the Bible to find material on the same topic. Phillips does this the other way around. In the end the reader arrives at the same point, just only by getting there via different avenues.

Last, Phillips goes a little overboard on word studies. I grant that lexical analysis is needed, especially in Proverbs as every commentator is prone to point out. But I think that Phillips could communicate his points clearly without going into the definitions of so many words. The definitions help, 0f course, but I was more interested in how the words are used in various contexts.

Conclusion: Dan Phillips and I are a like in a few ways. We’re both pastors. We’re both new to the Houston area. He’s bald and I’m balding. And we both love the book of Proverbs. On this last point I’m grateful that he has given us a fresh look at Proverbs with a pastoral perspective. He is a clever and witty writer, and the his points are clear. Although I have a few foibles with the book, it’s infinitely better than Longman’s How to Read Proverbs, and deserves a place on the shelf. I’m glad to have read it and I would certainly recommend it to others. It’s not a seminary-type book and I wouldn’t use it in the classroom at the M.Div. level, but I would in an undergrad setting.

Written by Josh Philpot

May 31, 2012 at 9:56 pm

New Preaching Commentary by Jim Hamilton

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I first met Jim Hamilton three years ago in 2009 in an attempt to convince him to be the preaching pastor at my church, Kenwood Baptist. He was intrigued and agreed to come preach for two Sundays and pray about it. Which text did he preach on as a candidate for pastor? Revelation 9 for the first and Revelation 10 for the second. Although skeptical at first (I say that with a smile), I was blessed afterward.

When we called him as pastor a month later he preached through the entire book of Revelation in a little over a year. The sermons are outstanding and you can find them on Kenwood’s website here. He has preached through four more books since that time (Titus, Ezra, Nehemiah, Mark, and now Jeremiah), but the sermons on Revelation are favorites of mine.

The sermons are now in manuscript form and part of the Preaching the Word commentary series. Revelation: The Spirit Speaks to the Churches is Jim’s newest book, and I’m thankful for the copy I have in my hands. Jim sets Revelation in a biblical theological context, combining exegetical precision with pastoral sensitivity. I’m grateful for his efforts in this regard. Jim communicates in a way that sticks, so to speak. I never left the pew on Sunday without having grasped both the meaning of the text in context and the need to “do” and apply. Jim is unique in this way. After all, who else do you know who would preach on the Seven Angels and Seven Plagues (Rev 15) on Christmas!

I want to encourage readers to get a copy of this commentary, and you won’t be disappointed.

 

 

Written by Josh Philpot

January 28, 2012 at 7:17 pm

Daniel (WBC) – John Goldingay

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0849902290I recently finished reading this commentary for my PhD seminar on the prophetic literature. The commentary is technical in the sense that the reader should know biblical Hebrew (and maybe Aramaic) while reading it, but he/she can still engage the work without it as well. The Word Biblical Commentary series breaks up each section (or, chapter) into four parts: Form, Setting, Comments, Explanation. One strength of Goldingay’s commentary lies in the “explanation” section, even though it is somewhat redundant in following the “comments.” There, he thinks through the text theologically and expounds on the material in light of God’s unfolding revelation. The problem is that this is Goldingay’s only strength. Sure, one might gain insights from Goldingay on Daniel’s language, how other non-canonical writers were influenced by Daniel, or even Daniel’s use of the OT, but observations like these are few and far between. Goldingay, rather, thinks that chapters 1-6 are allegorical “historiography” (and thus not actual history), that Daniel was not an historical person, and that the book should be dated during the Maccabean era (c. 168 BC) instead of during the time of the Israelite exile (605-538 BC, as the book itself attests). This dating leads Goldingay to interpret Daniel through the lens of secondary Jewish literature rather than in the context of the Bible, which I believe to be a serious flaw. Furthermore, the meaning of the text is lost in oodles of material on the book’s form, some of which is helpful, to be sure, but liberal to say the least.

In the end, I wouldn’t recommend this commentary for pastors since it lacks that sort of quality. Perhaps students of the OT or of intertestamental literature may benefit, but the commentary is lacking theologically, and Goldingay particularly avoids interaction with conservative approaches. It’s also dated (1989). I haven’t read Steinmann or Lucas yet, but at this point I’m still partial to Baldwin, which is also dated and very short.

Written by Josh Philpot

October 3, 2009 at 12:29 pm

The Miracles of the Exodus – Colin Humphreys

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0060582731I’ve been teaching through the book of Exodus at our Wednesday night Bible study at Kenwood. I picked up this book recently, mostly out of curiosity, to get a scientists take on the miraculous stories in the biblical account.

Summary: The subtitle of the book is, “A Scientists Discovery of the Extraordinary Natural Causes of the Biblical Stories,” and the substance is exactly that. The books author, Colin Humphreys, is a Cambridge University physicists. Although he specializes in “materials science” his hobby is archeology. With that as his motivation he set out to explain God’s amazing victory in bringing the people of Israel out of Egypt using the scientific method. Humphreys not only examines the plagues, the natural phenomenon of the Red Sea crossing, and the location of Mt. Sinai, but also the date of the exodus, the crossing of the Jordan river (Josh. 3), and the location of the lost city of Etham (Ex. 13:20). Using modern science Humphreys concludes that all the events in the book of Exodus are explainable according to natural forces particular to the ancient Near East setting.

What I liked: First, I liked that Humphreys intent is to show that the biblical account is true. Nowhere in the book does Humphreys write that the exodus was false or the result of ancient myth, and for this he is to be commended. Second, Humphreys explanation of the locations of the Red Sea (in the Gulf of Aqaba) and Mt. Sinai (in Midian and not in the Sinai peninsula) is very convincing. I first heard this explanation in an exegesis course on Exodus I took during my M.Div., and after examining other resources I think that of Humphreys is more compelling and fits better with the biblical data. Lastly, the book is very easy to read and accessible for anyone at any level.

What I didn’t like: Where I mainly disagree with Humphreys is in his qualifying presupposition to explaining all the miracles of the Exodus; that is, that natural forces explain everything rather than supernatural ones. In Humphreys’ view, science is able to explain everything, and thus the miracles are only supernatural from Israel’s own perspective. Therefore, what happens in Exodus are miracles of timing. To give one example, the pillar of cloud by day and fire by night – the presence of God leading the Israelites out of Egypt – is explainable as a volcano that erupted at the just the right time. This volcano just happens to be Mt. Sinai, which can be seen from 300 miles away in Egypt. The Israelites follow this cloud each day and night and are thus led by it, according to Humphreys. I think this view demotes the aspect of God’s intervening on the Israelites behalf (which God intended to do from the beginning), and also leaves for a high probability of chance. The same can be said about Humphreys’ take on the plagues, which I think can be disputed on the basis of his own analysis – timing.

Final Analysis: Humphreys has written a good book that was enjoyable to read. It is simple but not overly simplistic. I appreciated his desire to show the truthfulness of the Bible, especially with respect to the factual evidence of Scripture that is so easily disregarded. However, Humphreys demotes the aspect of God’s supernatural intervening on Israel’s behalf, and shows more faith in science than in the biblical record. Therefore, while I would highly recommend the sections on the Red Sea crossing and the location of Mt. Sinai (and other equally commendable chapters), I cannot recommend the sections on the plagues or the pillar of cloud and fire.

Written by Josh Philpot

June 15, 2009 at 3:11 am

Daniel: An Introduction and Commentary – Joyce G. Baldwin (TOTC)

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imageDBThis is an insightful and perceptive commentary that I completed this morning. Baldwin, now deceased, shows great exegetical skill as she expounds on one of the more interpretively difficult books in the OT. She is conservative in her approach, rightfully noting that the biblical and extra-biblical evidence supports the historical Daniel as the author, and that the historical personalities, dates and prophecies within the book are true. Additionally, Baldwin holds to a high view of Scripture and of God’s sovereign purpose and control of all of history, which is a needed refresher in light of the monumental but critical commentary of Collins (Hermeneia), and even Goldingay (WBC, who regards chapters 1-6 as allegorical). Although short and not completely exhaustive, I would highly recommend this commentary, especially for pastors. For me, it has been a great introduction to the subject matter of Daniel before my upcoming Ph.D. seminar on the book this fall.

Baldwin’s analysis of Daniel is as follows:

PART I: STORIES

I. Prologue: The Setting (1:1-21)
II. The Nations and the Most High God (2:1-7:28)
A. Nebuchadrezzar dreams of four kingdoms and of God’s kingdom (2:1-49)
B. Nebuchadrezzar the tyrant sees God’s servants rescued (3:1-30)
C. Judgment on Nebuchadrezzar (4:1-37)
C1. Judgment on Belshazzar (5:1-31)
B1. Darius the Mede sees Daniel rescued (6:1-28)

PART II: VISIONS

A1. Daniel has a vision of four kingdoms and of God’s kingdom (7:1-28)

III. The Second and Third Kingdoms Identified (8:1-27)
IV. Daniel’s Prayer and the Vision of the Seventy “Weeks” (9:1-27)
V. Vision of the Heavenly Messenger and His Final Revelation (10:1-12:13)

Here is a nice juicy quote concerning the hard text of Daniel 11, pp. 184-85:

“With regard to prophecy as foretelling, the church has lost its nerve. An earthbound, rationalistic humanism has so invaded Christian thinking as to tinge with faint ridicule all claims to see in the Bible anything more than the vaguest references to future events. Human thought, enthroned, has judged a chapter such as Daniel 11 to be history written after the event, whereas God enthroned, the one who was present at the beginning of time and will be present when time is no more, may surely claim with justification to ‘announce of old the things to come’ (Is. 44:7).”

Written by Josh Philpot

May 26, 2009 at 2:59 pm

Toward and Old Testament Theology – Walter Kaiser

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9780310371014Walter C. Kaiser Jr., distinguished professor of Old Testament and president emeritus of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, is an excellent scholar and leader in evangelicalism. Before coming to Gordon-Conwell he served at TEDS and as president of ETS, which alone vounch for a positive repuation. There he wrote one of his most significant publications, Toward an Old Testament Theology, which I read this week while off from school. Although some may consider his work passé (it was published in 1978), Kaiser is still masterful in presenting the canonical shape of the Hebrew Bible, exhibiting keen insight and exegetical skill throughout the book. The division of the book is threefold, and I want to make a few observations for the interested reader, all of which occur in the first section of the book.

Division:

I – Definition and Method (the best section of the book)
II – Materials for an Old Testament Theology (walks through each section of the Hebrew ordering of the Bible and explains the theology)
III – The Connection with New Testament Theology (a helpful transition into the Christian era)

An initial observation deals with the nature of the Bible. Kaiser makes clear that, at the time of his writing, biblical theology had failed to restate and reapply the authority of the Bible (as was the case with Gerhard von Rad and Walter Eichrodt). It is therefore his intention to do so. The OT is not a set of detached periods with little or no unity, says Kaiser. Rather, the OT is God’s inspired and infallible Word, as it claims to be, and should be treated as such:

The nature of the theology of the OT…is not merely a theology which is in conformity with the whole Bible, but it is that theology described and contained in the Bible and consciously joined from era to era as the whole previously antecedent context becomes the base for the theology which followed in each era (9).

The most useful way to confirm this authority lies in an inductive reading. In contrast to the method used by systematic theology called the Analogy/Rule of Faith, Kaiser utilizes what he calls the Analogy of Antecedent Scripture to approach his task. In his own words,

While the Analogy or Rule of Faith is deductive and collects all materials regardless of its relative dating, the Analogy of [Antecedent] Scripture is inductive and collects only those antecedent contexts which were in the Scripture writer’s mind as he wrote this new passage as indicated by the same terminology, formulas, or events to which this context adds another in the series (19).

For Kaiser, the text begs to be understood and set in a context of events and meanings. To that end, the exegete must depend on the theology of the periods preceding his given canonical text. Otherwise, he will be using new material in the NT or subsequent OT passages in trying to grasp the meaning of a given text. Kaiser asserts that this would be “an outright rebellion against the author and his claim to have received divine authority for for what he reports and says” (19). On the other hand, by employing the Analogy of Antecedent Scripture the exegete will come to understand the theological core of the canon, which is absolutely crucial to Kaiser’s method. In my own research, albeit limited, I’ve found this method to be very helpful and true to the original intent of the author.

The second (and most important) observation is in Kaiser’s identification of a canonical theological center in the OT. He sees the problem many face as twofold: 1) Does a key exists for an orderly and progressive arrangement of the subjects, themes, and teachings of the OT?, and 2) were the writers of the canon aware of such a theme (20)? Many attempts have been made to answer these questions but Kaiser finds them unsatisfactory and ambiguous. Therefore, he sets out to do so from the text itself and without the critical presuppositions others have brought to the table. Simply stated, God’s unifying plan is bound up in the terms “promise” and “blessing,” for “the divine promise pointed to a seed, a race, a family, a man, a land, and a blessing of universal proportions – all guaranteed, according to Genesis 17, as being everlasting and eternal. In that purpose resides the single plan of God” (see Gen. 3:15; 9:25-27; 12:1-3 as the key OT passages on the promise). The promise is textually confirmed in the vocabulary of the canonical books themselves, as well as certain epitomizing formulae which summarize the central action of God in a succinct phrase or two. Kaiser calls this the tripartite formula of promise – “I will be your God; you shall be My people, and I will dwell in the midst of you.” This formula is repeated in part or in full in Genesis 17:7-8; 28:21; Exodus 6:7; 29:45-46; Leviticus 11:45; 22:33; 25:38; 26:12, 44, 45; Numbers 15:41; Deuteronomy 4:20; 29:12-13; et. al. Later it appeared in Jeremiah 7:23; 11:4; 24:7; 30:22; 31:1, 33; 32:38; Ezekiel 11:20; 14:11; 36:28; 37:27; Zechariah 8:8; 13:9; and in the NT in 2 Corinthians 6:16 and Revelation 21:3-7 (33-34). Therefore, according to Kaiser the promise is the theological center of the OT. It is indeginous to the text itself, united and supported in all parts of the canon.

This answers the first question, but what about the second? Were the biblical writers aware and actively working according to this promise? Without going into too much detail, the organic unity of the text is rooted in history through the work of the authors. Thus, history is the unifying principle. This is clear in that the entire focus of the OT lies in the content and recipients of God’s covenants. God has promised in the biblical authors that he would freely do or be something for all men as he did in the past. His “oaths,” “pledges,” “declarations,” and the like all attest to his promissary “word” that he has acted in the past, is acting in the present, and will act in the future.

At this point I’ve mentioned only positive details about Kaiser’s work, the reason being that I didn’t find too much to be critical about. I will mention, however, that Kaiser fails give attention to the literary structure of certain key passages, which, as I’ve learned from Drs. Gentry and Garrett, aid immensely in interpretation (passages like Gen. 1-2; Exod. 15; poetic forumlae in the Proverbs; resumptive technique in Isaiah; the chiastic structure of Zephaniah, etc.). Kaiser also limits his treatment of the Psalms to a few pages, breezing over key ideas and themes so clearly present. Yet Kaiser generally comes to the same interpretation nonetheless. It is understood from the beginning that Kaiser does not intend to write a biblical theology in toto, such as in the works of Brevard Childs, Gerhard von Rad and Bruce Waltke (much later, of course). Instead, he has given us a concise theology, much like Stephen Dempster’s Dominion and Dynasty. As an aside, it would insteresting to compare Kaiser’s work with Dempster, but that study will have to wait, and this blog is already long enough! At this point I would probably recommend Dempster over Kaiser, but mainly because Dempster draws upon Kaiser’s previous (antecedent!) work, and is more up to date.

In the end, while reading Kaiser I was constantly reminded of the truthfulness of God’s Word in the OT, indeed the whole Bible, and the confidence Christians can have in handling it rightly. If we only had preachers to lead them in this task! I highly recommend this book for pastor’s, scholar’s and seminarians, but not necessarily for lay people. The language is often technical (but readable) and a knowledge of biblical Hebrew is a must.

Written by Josh Philpot

April 5, 2009 at 11:22 am

Vintage Church – Mark Driscoll

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41j3n3-sdkl_ss500_Although I am always interested in most things Mark Driscoll writes or preaches I had no intention of purchasing Vintage Church. But after a recent course in Missiology I’ve been thinking much about church planting and missions, and have had many questions as to the “how’s” and “where’s” and “why’s” of the subject in general. To be specific, if I were ever to plant a church in a city in the U.S. or abroad, where would I begin? How would I (and some close friends Lord willing) start such a thing? Knowing that Driscoll has successfully planted a church (and continues to plant more), and after reading an endorsement for the book by Driscoll himself, I decided to give it a try with hopes of learning from Driscoll’s experience at Mars Hill. I picked up the book from Lifeway, quickly discarded the dust jacket (very annoying), and dove in.

Vintage Church is part of a series of works by Resurgence Literature (Re:Lit) and published by Crossway. The first book to appear in this series was Vintage Jesus, which I skimmed but have not yet read. As the titles suggest, “Jesus” and “Church” are timeless and timely; that is, although ancient they speak the same truths to our culture and generation. Yet whereas Vintage Jesus sought to provide timeless answers to timely questions, Vintage Church seeks to combine timeless truths with timely methods in order to provide a biblical, attractive and influential model of “doing church.” Like Vintage Jesus and Death by Love (see my review here), Driscoll co-writes with professor Gerry Breshears of Western Seminary. Driscoll writes the bulk of each chapter and Breshears provides answers to expected and common questions at the end of the chapters, which are listed below:

1. What is the Christian Life?
2. What is a Christian Church?
3. Who is Supposed to Lead a Church?
4. Why is Preaching Important?
5. What Are Baptism and Communion?
6. How Can a Church be Unified?
7. What is Church Discipline?
8. How is Love Expressed in a Church?
9. What is a Missional Church?
10. What is a Multi-campus Church?
11. How Can a Church Utilize Technology?
12. How Could the Church Help Transform the World?

As you can see, any seminary student can answer the first 8 or 9 questions, or at least I hope they can. In this sense there is nothing new to learn in Vintage Church. Driscoll is clearly influenced by reformed theology and most matters of church polity and practice follow suit. Throughout the book he quotes from Grudem, Piper, Erickson and Calvin, which is to be expected. There are, of course, the open-handed differences that distinguish one denomination from another, such as credobaptism over paedobaptism, complementarian over egalitarian (maybe not so open-handed), male and female deacons (Driscoll holds to both), and the expressions of the Spirit in tongues and prophecy (also held by Driscoll). But for the most part his ecclesiology is thoroughly evangelical and God-honoring. The only unique material comes from Driscoll’s anecdotes and personal stories, which are always enjoyable, and from the final 3 or 4 chapters. To that end I don’t necessarily recommend the book, mostly because I don’t see the necessity of another book on ecclesiology. Certainly the church must change and adapt to the culture around them, that is agreed. But why waste 300 pages regurgitating what has already been written? Moreover, don’t we already have enough books floating around about missional, multi-campus, technologically advanced churches? Perhaps I’m being overly simplistic. I’ll leave that up for you to decide. Maybe I’m not “vintage” enough.

In the end, I had more fun reading the many “driscollisms” splattered throughout Vintage Church than the rest of the book. The man has an uncanny ability at turning a phrase. Here are some highlights:

“The people who showed up [in my early church plant] were generally non-Christians, new Christians, legalistic Christians, anti-Christians, and bitter, burned-out, de-churched maybe-Christians who all wanted to be in authority over themselves and do whatever they wanted in the name of community, which was code for mini-riot anarchy.”

“I once visited a church that gave me a free copy of the pastor’s sermon – on tape – even though I have not seen a tape player since the days when Michael Jackson was male. Looking around the room at the obvious lack of anyone younger than Methuselah, it seemed obvious that their traditionalism had run off emerging generations, thereby dividing their church into the two groups of BT (before tapes) and AT (after tapes).”

“The fact is that when our church was small, I, like many jealous, petty, and ill-informed young buck who know everything but have done nothing, liked to take my shots at well-known pastors of large churches. Now that I am one, I must confess that I was much like the out-of-shape guy with a bowl of chips sitting at home on the couch watching television and criticizing trained professional athletes, which is far easier than actually playing the sport.”

“Admittedly, churches do some incredibly goofy things when they pursue relevance for the sake of being uber hip and ultra cool. one pastor I know go so many piercings that he looked like a rack of lures at the Bass Pro Shop and started skateboarding, despite the fact he was a grandfather.”

Written by Josh Philpot

April 5, 2009 at 11:20 am