Friday, February 8, 2013

January Reading Log

Okay, here goes...

 1. The Grace of Repentance, by Sinclair Ferguson. 3 stars.

This short little booklet by Sinclair Ferguson sets for a classic, Reformed understanding of the doctrine of repentance.  The book has six chapters, the first three of which deserve 4 stars. The last three I thought were the weakest of the book, and seemed to be essays the author had written elsewhere that were thrown into this work to make it a short book length study.

I picked this book up in preparation for an upcoming series at New City Church, & there are some good nuggets that will prove helpful.
"Faith is trusting in Christ; repentance is turning from sin. They are two sides of the same coin of belonging to Jesus." 
"Evil deeds [& thoughts & words] are the fruit of an evil heart. They are not an aberration from our true self but a revelation of it."

 2. The Gospel & the Kingdom, G.E. Ladd. 4.5 stars.

I was first introduced to George Eldon Ladd in seminary with his massive, A Theology of the New Testament." This smaller book dealing with the Gospel and the Kingdom of Christ is a good work highlighting the fact that Christ's kingdom is both a present and future reality.  I enjoyed the chapter called "The Kingdom is Today" the most. Overall, it is a very important work.
"The kingdom of God belongs to the Age to Come. Yet the Age to Come has overlapped with this Age. We may taste of its powers and thereby be delivered from This Age and no longer live in conformity to it. This new transforming power is the power of The Age to Come; it is indeed the power of the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is future, but it is not only future. Like the powers of The Age to Come, the Kingdom of God has invaded this evil Age that men may know something of its blessings even while the evil Age goes on."

 3. The Gift & Giver: The Holy Spirit for Today, by Craig Keener. 3 stars.

I picked up this intro to charismatic theology by the respected scholar, Craig Keener. It had some great moments, but the consistency seemed to be off. He took on John MacArthur's Charismatic Chaos in a few places accusing him of using the worst examples / excesses of the Charismatic movement to make his case. Despite some of the uneven aspects of the work, it was a good overall primer on charismatic theology. It is an important reference for study in this area.
"It is most fully in worship that our hearts can embrace who God is, adoring him and finding the ways of his heart."

 4. Licensed to Kill: A Field Manual for Mortifying Sin, by Brian Hedges. 5 stars.

Brian Hedges has one of the best introductions to the Christian life that I have seen. It is called, Christ Formed in You: The Power of the Gospel for Personal Change (5 stars. Get it!). In that book, he has one chapter on the subject of mortification--or putting sin to death in our lives. What was in good, seminal form he unpacks further in Licensed to Kill. 

This little book comes with a powerful punch and is very practical. I read through it with some men from New City Church and we all benefitted from it immensely. The plus of Hedges work is that he roots our calling to put sin to death in our lives in the Gospel of grace itself. Therefore, there is no "Let go and let God" theology here. Neither is there a "Pull yourselves up by your bootstraps" mentality. Hedges does an excellent job teaching us how the Cross kills sin, and further what our active responsibility is in this endeavor.
"If we want to kill sin, we must aim at the right target. That target is not merely bad behavior but the sinful desires of the heart that produce the behavior. Mortifying sin will certainly bring about changes in what we say and do, but we need more than external reformation. Many people change their behavior without changing their heart to any significant degree. But Jesus is concerned about the root and motivation of sinful behavior--our drives and desires--not simply the behavior itself."

Thursday, February 7, 2013

This week's sermon intro brought to you courtesy of Time magazine

In the midst of prepping for Sunday's study in the Gospel of Luke, I noticed that once again news agencies are crowning the next political savior.  And it gives the perfect illustration for our text this week, Luke 3:15-22.

Of course, for anyone who has followed American politics even casually, this comes as no surprise. It's as silly as it is embarrassing, but it seems something in our nature longs for the perfect political savior.  Obama was hailed as the savior long before he was sworn into office. 

Of course, some can sweep this away as mere exaggeration, but more recently, actor Jamie Fox referred to the President as "our Lord and Savior" leaving little doubt that some people look to mere mortals to fill this role.

Time Magazine decided to go ahead & name its next Messiah, or at least the Republican's Messiah.  

I've often wondered what politicians think of this attention. No doubt some of them enjoy it. At least they make it easy to suspect it. 

But I'm glad that Senator Marco Rubio clarified the issue. In case there was any doubt, Rubio took to the fastest way to disseminate info:  Twitter.

Senator Rubio does here what John the Baptizer did in ancient times.

Luke 3 tells us,
"As the people were in expectation [of the coming Messiah], all were questioning in their hearts concering John, whether he might be the Christ, John answered them all, saying, 'I baptize with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sanles I am unworthy to untie.'"  
Like Rubio, John pointed people away from himself to the true Savior of the world.

And when anyone points away from themselves and point to the true King of Kings, #Jesus, there is true hope.



My friend, Sean, alerted me to this song by Derek Webb, "A Savior on Capital Hill."

I’m so tired of these mortal men
with their hands on their wallets
and their hearts full of sin
scared of their enemies, scared of their friends
and always running for re-election
so come to DC if it be thy will
because we’ve never had a savior on Capitol Hill

you can always trust the devil or a politician
to be the devil or a politician
but beyond that friends you’d best beware
‘cause at the Pentagon bar they’re an inseparable pair
and as long as the lobbyists are paying their bills
we’ll never have a savior on Capitol Hill

[Bridge] all of our problems gonna disappear
when we can whisper right in that President’s ear
he could walk right across the reflection pool
in his combat boots and ten thousand dollar suit

you can render unto Caesar everything that’s his
you can trust in his power to come to your defense
it’s the way of the world, the way of the gun
it’s the trading of an evil for a lesser one
so don’t hold your breath or your vote until
you think you’ve finally found a savior up on Capitol Hill

Thursday, January 31, 2013

So, who’s afraid of death?

Can I ask you a question?

If you could know the date of your death, would you want to know?

That’s an interesting question. As I’ve asked people this question over the years, I’ve found the conversations that ensued to be fascinating.

Some of us find the question itself to be distasteful. We don’t even want to think about it. To know would be depressing, and perhaps if it were to be sooner than later, well, that would put a damper on things. Better to live in the bliss of ignorance.

Others of us seem to be intrigued by the thought. To know the exact date of one’s death gives a sort of thrill. We feel a bit more alive knowing the expiry date. Better live while we can and suck all the marrow out of life. “Carpe diem!” Right?

It’s gonna happen. Book it. 

Whether you find the question distasteful or thrilling, one thing is certain: We all have a date with death. One day, your time on this planet will be up, and you will, as they say, assume room temperature.  For most people, the thought is a bit sobering no matter what you believe.

Woody Allen
I remember once hearing Woody Allen quip, “I’m not afraid of dying. I just don’t want to be around when it happens.” Many of us laugh in agreement nodding our heads.

The reason I remembered this quote is because I came across an interesting article in the NY Times in which Mr. Allen does admit the fact that he is afraid of death.

In typical Woody Allen style of humour, he tells of the strategy he employs to deal with his “constant terror” in the face of his date with death. And it is as telling as it is both fascinating and sad.

Mr. Allen describes his fear as an “obsession with personal vulnerability” that expresses itself not so much in terms of being a hypochondriac as in being an alarmist. Why? Because with every pain or new mark on his skin, he is certain that he has come down with some illness or disease that will prove to be the end of him. He asks,
When I panic over symptoms that require no more than an aspirin or a little calamine lotion, what is it I’m really frightened of? My best guess is dying. I have always had an animal fear of death, a fate I rank second only to having to sit through a rock concert. My wife tries to be consoling about mortality and assures me that death is a natural part of life, and that we all die sooner or later. 
She's right. But Mr. Allen's not comforted.

Undeterred, he does try to console himself, and since humour is the best medicine, he concludes his article with the thought, “…whether you’re a hypochondriac or an alarmist, at this point in time, either is probably better than being a Republican.”

In the end, Mr. Allen knows the clock is tickin’. Tick, tick, tickin’ away.

And then the end will come. Hence, the existential angst.

As an atheist, Mr. Allen believes that death is the end. And since that isn’t a pleasant thought, he lives in “constant terror.” Who knows but that little pain might be the death toll?

And watch out for those germs!

The death of death in the death of Christ

At the heart of Christianity is the proclamation that Jesus himself, as he predicted, conquered death by defeating it in his own death and resurrection.

The original disciples of Jesus who hid in fear for their own lives when their Teacher was crucified were in a matter of days transformed into fearless witnesses claiming to have seen the resurrected Jesus. And they gave their lives to seal their testimony.

Men who hid in fear of death suddenly were fearless in the face of it. Why?

Because in rising from the dead, Jesus made the definitive statement that death doesn’t have the last word. As the writer of the book of Hebrews said, through death Jesus can “deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery” (Hebrews 2:14-15).

Those who once were enslaved in “constant terror” can now be liberated.

Jesus’ resurrection was the firstfruits of the resurrection to come (1 Corinthians 15:20, 23). What Jews expected to happen at the end of history (the resurrection of the dead) actually happened in the middle of history in the resurrection of Jesus. Here is our definitive proof of the death of death.

And now, the follower of Christ can say with the Apostle Paul,

“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”

And that’s the cash value of the Good News about Jesus. Death, though our enemy, is a defeated enemy. And yes, death still sucks. It is ugly vandalism on the face of God’s canvas of creation.

But Jesus gets the last word.

And he makes everything beautiful in its time (Ecclesiastes 3:11). One day, when he returns to set the world to right,

"He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I lam making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” (Revelation 21:4-5)

Jesus offers you freedom from the fear of death. You don’t have to live in constant terror.

You can even know the (approximate) date.

And yes, there’s an app for that.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Save the Date: Be Ready Apologetics Conference

Save the date! March 8-9, 2013

I'm a part of a local apologetics group here in Calgary called Faith Beyond Belief. This organization is organizing a conference with some great speakers, including William Lane Craig, JP Moreland, Sean McDowell, Craig Hazen, & Clay Jones.

 We are very excited at the privilege of having these fine speakers and thinkers address us on issues of defending the Christian faith.

 For more info, check out, and sign up!