Saturday, 7 December 2013

The Calvinist (a poem)

Check out this new poem by John Piper, called The Calvinist.  You can watch a video of it or read it here.

Friday, 22 November 2013

A Tale of 2 Jacks (and one Aldous): A round-up of C.S. Lewis remembrances 50 years later

Fifty years ago today, C.S. (Jack) Lewis died.  That same day President John F. (Jack) Kennedy was assassinated.  Aldous Huxley died on that day as well.  All three men left a legacy and have had an enduring influence but it is open for debate as to which one has had more impact since their deaths or who will have more impact on succeeding generations.  I'd argue that thus far it is Lewis who has had the biggest influence and that this will increasingly be the case.  Of course I think the history books will continue to give most attention to JFK - he was a very popular president and the leader of the free world during a goodish chunk of the Cold War, and he did preside over a period of particular cultural and societal upheaval and unparalleled technological innovation.  But when I talk about who will have the most enduring legacy, I am not referring to how much ink each man will get in history text books.  Huxley too was a very influential person whose thought extended very far beyond the book for which he is most well known today (A Brave New World).  His skill as a writer and critical thinker ensure he will not soon be forgotten.  If reckoning only by total word count in history texts, I am quite certain Lewis will continue to come in a distant third.  But I am not primarily defining ongoing influence and impact by the total tonnage of material written by professional historians and biographers or doctoral students.

If examined in terms of present-day and future impact, I believe that Kennedy and Huxley will decrease whereas Lewis's influence will continue to grow.  I believe this to be the case for many reasons, chief among which is the fact that Lewis wrote on Jesus Christ and the Christian faith, subjects of eternal relevance.  But another main reason I believe in Jack Lewis's ongoing influence in the world is because he wrote some of the best, most endearing and most enduring children's books ever written:  The Chronicles of Narnia.  Kennedy shaped much of the political world which followed his time at the helm.  Huxley of course continues to be an important voice in societal and political philosophy and cultural criticism.  But Lewis wrote stories which have repeatedly helped shape the souls of the children who read them, most of whom grow up to read these same stories to their children.  As children read these stories, they are brought into a greater understanding of the nature of God, themselves, creation, sin, the cross and resurrection, courage, justice, grace and mercy.  Kennedy and Huxley may continue to influence the thoughts people think in their heads, but Lewis will go on nurturing fat souls, joyful hearts and budding imaginations.  And these are the things which shape people, and the their futures, most.

Check out Lewis being remembered in a fitting way:
Lewis joins Dickens, Chaucer, Spenser, Shakespeare, Kipling, Tennyson, Austen, and many more by being honoured in Poet's Corner at Westminster Abbey.

For some further thoughts on Lewis, as well as Kennedy and Huxley, check these out (in no particular order of importance):
Al Mohler's "the briefing"
Lecture on Lewis by Alan Jacobs
C.S. Lewis at Desiring God
Trevin Wax on Peter Kreeft's book about Lewis, Kennedy & Huxley talking in purgatory
The Wardrobe Door  on why Lewis is still popular
Kevin DeYong on Aldous Huxley
One list of George Grant's favourite Lewis quotes
...and another George Grant list of favourite Lewis quotes
Justin Taylor on the two Jacks
2 lectures by John Piper on C.S. Lewis
A comparison of the two Jacks over at The Federalist
Sinclair Ferguson on asks 'who was C.S. Lewis?'
Mere Orthodoxy on what Lewis can teach us
and last but truly one of the best...
Kevin Vanhoozer looks at C.S. Lewis and the Imagination in Theology and Discipleship

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

What kind of father are you?

Jonathan Parnell over at Desiring God has some great thoughts on being the kind of father to our children that God the Father is to us, especially when they are the kind of children that we often are to our heavenly Father.  You can read those thoughts here.

All of the toes some of the time

Someone once said, "You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time."  Sage advice.

Regarding faithful biblical preaching, a good rule of thumb might be, "You should step on all of the toes some of the time, and some of the toes all of the time, but you should never step on none of the toes all of the time."

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Stony hearts will bleed


Throw away Thy rod,
Throw away Thy wrath;
          O my God,
Take the gentle path!

For my heart's desire
Unto Thine is bent:
          I aspire
To a full consent.

Not a word or look
I affect to own,
          But by book,
And Thy Book alone.

Though I fail, I weep;
Though I halt in pace,
          Yet I creep
To the Throne of Grace.

Then let wrath remove;
Love will do the deed:
          For with Love
Stony hearts will bleed.

Love is swift of foot;
Love's a man of war,
          And can shoot,
And can hit from far.

Who can 'scape his bow?
That which wrought on Thee,
          Brought Thee low,
Needs must work on me.

Throw away Thy rod;
Though man frailties hath,
          Thou art God:
Throw away Thy wrath!

   -  George Herbert, 1593-1632

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Belgium contemplates extending legal euthanasia to children

I came across this disturbing article the other day.  It seems Belgian lawmakers are contemplating extending the "right" to euthanasia to children.  After all, one wouldn't want to discriminate based on age.  A Catholic Archbishop makes and interesting observation to the Belgian senate:
“It is strange that minors are considered legally incompetent in key areas, such as getting married, but might (be able) to decide to die,” Catholic Archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard testified.
I agree with him that this distribution of "rights" to children is highly schizophrenic.  However, I am afraid that, in the far-gone West, and especially in nations as far gone as Belgium in embracing a fully secular humanist society, his comments are less likely to halt euthanasia for children and far more likely to extend decision-making rights to them in the other areas (such as age of sexual consent, marriage, etc.).  The article mentions that parents could help children make such a crucial decision.  I'm sure many adults would be willing to help minors make key decisions on sexuality as well, and I'm sure many of them would not be encouraging those children to wait until adulthood.

Francis Schaeffer warned that this is where relativistic secular humanism would lead.  Oh that we would read him and his present-day mantle-bearers more (Nancy Pearcey, Os Guinness, Douglas Wilson, D.A. Carson, John Piper, Ravi Zacharias, Herbert Schlossberg, etc.).  Oh, that we would see the heights from which we have fallen in the post-Christian West.  The title of one of Schaeffer's books says it well:  "What ever happened to the human race?"

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Halloween: Trick or Treat?

I wish I could figure out how to embed this video on my own blog, but since I can't, I'd encourage you to check this Halloween: Trick or Treat? video out over at Toby Sumpter's blog.

Everyone I preach to is either dead or used to be dead...

I was privileged to preach for a couple Sundays in a church out in beautiful Prince Edward Island two summers ago when our family was holidaying there.  I had no idea I would be preaching when we planned our trip, but when we got there and went to a church that some of my wife’s extended family attends, finding out they had just lost their pastor, I offered.  As a mentor and good friend used to say, “be ready to preach, pray, or die at a moment’s notice”.

Prior to preaching, I needed some quiet time to pray and prepare my heart and ask for God to work through my preaching.  Right beside the tiny country church was a cemetery.  I hopped the fence and wandered amongst the grave markers while praying for the service, the sermon, and the souls of all who would be attending.  Then a thought occurred to me. 

In a few minutes I would be preaching to a group of people, probably some of whom at least, were as spiritually dead as the folks I was walking among were physically dead.  Scripture says that in our natural state all people are dead in their trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1, 4-5).  Not weak, not injured, not handicapped, not disadvantaged, not exhibiting concerning symptoms, but dead.  What hope is there in preaching to dead people?  I might as well preach my sermon right here in the cemetery. 

But the God who inspired the Scriptures is the same God who raises the dead (Eph. 2:5-9).  Jesus called Lazarus to come forth from the tomb (Jn. 11) and Lazarus came.  Jesus didn’t bargain with him, Jesus didn’t plead with him, Jesus didn’t ask a dying man to summon his last vestige of strength and sit up.  Jesus commanded a dead man to live.  And because Jesus is God-enfleshed, the fullness of God in bodily form, the image of the God who gives life to the dead and who speaks what does not exist into existence (Rom. 4:17), Lazarus came forth from the grave. 

When a preacher gets up before a group of people and rightly declares God’s Word, there is usually a mixed crowd composed of some believers and some unbelievers.  That means that everyone he is preaching to either is currently dead or used to be dead.  It is God that resurrects people, working by his powerful Spirit, through the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ, as recorded in the Scriptures.  The message of salvation through the Son of God, applied to the hearts of people by the Spirit of God, under the sovereign purpose and calling of God the Father, that is power enough to raise the dead.  So a preacher may preach with the confidence that the Word he is proclaiming to dry bones is the Word of the God who, in his glorious love and sovereign power, delights to raise the dead. 

Saturday, 26 October 2013

When did Christ die for you?

I recently had the privilege of hearing Tim Chester speak at the Grace Agenda conference (called Gospel Presence:  The New Birth & the Nations, held in Moscow, Idaho).  I appreciated not only his encouragement and challenge to live out gospel grace in our homes but also his gospel filled and gracious way of saying it. 

While at the conference, I picked up his new book, Ordinary Hero: Living the cross and resurrection in everyday life.  I'm not very far into it, but already I have found some gold.  Here is an example from page 17:
"You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.  Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die.  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."  (Romans 5:6-8)
What's the demonstration of God's love?  The cross.  How do we know God loves us?  The cross.  What's the basis of hope that doesn't disappoint?  The cross.  While "loved" in Romans 8:37 is past tense, "demonstrates" in 5:8 is present tense.  The cross stands forever as the great demonstration of God's love.
Paul's argument begins with the question:  When did Christ die for you?  Was it when you started taking an interest in Jesus?  Was it when you began to go to church?  Was it when you cleaned up your life?  What is when you first read your Bible or prayed?  No, it was when you were a sinner.  When you were powerless.  When you were God's enemy (v 10).
If God gave his Son for you when you were at your worst, what circumstances could ever make him stop loving you?  If God loved us when we were his enemies, then he'll always love us.  Nothing will be able to separate us from that love.
How can we know that God loves us?  Because he loved us and gave his Son for us.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Zion & Babylon: the music of Josh Garrels

Over the last week, I've really began appreciating the music of Josh Garrels. There have been a few songs in particular that I've enjoyed but at the top of the list has been Zion & Babylon. To listen to a good mix of Josh Garrels' tunes, go to the link above and click on the free listening sample on the middle right of the page. I'd suggest listening to all the songs but if you like, scroll down - Zion & Babylon is song 7 of 8. It's just really good. I recommend listening to it while reading the lyrics:

Oh great mammon of form and function
Careless consumerist consumption
Dangerous dysfunction
Described as expensive taste
I’m a people disgraced
By what I claim I need
And what I want to waste
I take no account for nothing
If it’s not mine

It’s a misappropriation of funds
Protect my ninety percent with my guns
Whose side am I on?
Well who’s winning?
My kingdom’s built with the blood of slaves
Orphans, widows, and homeless graves
I sold their souls just to build my private mansion
Some people say that my time is coming
Kingdom come is the justice running
Down, down, down on me

I’m a poor child, I’m a lost son
I refuse to give my love to anyone,
Fight for the truth,
Or help the weaker ones
Because I love my Babylon
I am a slave, I was never free
I betrayed you for blood money
Oh I bought the world, all is vanity
Oh my Lord I’m your enemy

Come to me, and find your life
Children sing, Zion’s in sight
I said don’t trade your name for a serial number
Priceless lives were born from under graves
Where I found you
Say, my name ain’t yours and yours is not mine
Mine is the Lord, and yours is my child
That’s how it’s always been

Time to make a change
Leave your home
Give to the poor all that you own
Lose your life, so that you could find it
First will be last when the true world comes
Livin’ like a humble fool to overcome
The upside-down wisdom
Of a dying world
Zion’s not built with hands
And in this place God will dwell with man
Sick be healed and cripples stand
Sing Allelu
My kingdom’s built with the blood of my son
Selfless sacrifice for everyone
Faith, hope, love, and harmony
I said let this world know me by your love
By your love

Oh my child, daughters and sons
I made you in love to overcome
Free as a bird, my flowers in the sun
On your way to Mount Zion
All you slaves, be set free
Come on out child and come on home to me
We will dance, we will rejoice
If you can hear me then follow my voice

2 Corinthians: Damascus & Saul's 'Conversio-missioning'

Paul understood suffering for the sake of Christ as a central part of his calling as an apostle right from the beginning of his Christian experience.  Paul’s Damascus road Christophany and the events of the days that followed mark the miraculous conversion and commissioning of the apostle (Acts 9:3-19).  Though Luke records the chronological order of events which happened over three days, when Paul gives testimony of his conversion and commissioning as an apostle (Acts 22:6-21; 26:12-18), he speaks of it as all the same event.  Clearly Paul thought of his vision of the risen Christ (1 Cor. 15:8; Gal. 1:16; Acts 9:3-8), his three days of blindness, and his commissioning three days later (9:9-19) as part of the same conversion-commissioning event (we might call it his conversio-missioning).

Acts 9:15-16 ties Paul’s mission as Christ’s chosen instrument to carry his name “before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel” together with suffering for the sake of the gospel.  The Lord says to Ananias in his vision, “I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name” (Acts 9:16).  This cruciform commission must have been in the forefront of Paul’s mind at all times, being, as it was, among the first words Paul heard as a believer.  Suffering was promised to him at the same time as his mission was outlined for him.  When God allowed Paul to suffer, Paul could rejoice even in the midst of it for it only confirmed that he was still in the faithful service of Christ, still suffering for his name, still preaching a world-defying gospel, still going to those who were blind as he had once been, and he was receiving just what Jesus had prepared him to expect, especially as the “least of the apostles” who had “persecuted the church of God” (1 Cor. 15:8-9; cf. Eph. 3:8).

Saturday, 5 October 2013

2 Corinthians: Seeing, he was blind; once blinded, he began to see

Scholars often discuss the Damascus event in terms of Saul’s vision on the road (Acts 9:3-6) with somewhat less particular attention given to his commissioning in Damascus (Acts 9:10-18), in which Ananias is sent by the Lord to bring a message and to impart the Holy Spirit to Saul (eg. Seyoon Kim, The Origins of Paul's Gospel, 55-66).  But the three intervening days of blindness in which Saul neither ate nor drank (Acts 9:8-9) are, along with the Christophany and later reception of the Holy Spirit, no doubt central to Paul’s understanding of his calling as an apostle.  In 2 Cor. 4:4, Paul describes in “graphic metaphor” his own “direct and intense” experience of how unbelievers are blinded to the light of the gospel of Christ (Dennis E. Johnson, The Message of Acts in the History of Redemption, 112).  Paradoxically, Saul was blind to the truth of Christ until Christ blinded him on the road, where Saul, in his total physical blindness, began to see clearly for the first time.  In Paul’s robust theology of union with Christ in his death, burial and resurrection (Rom. 6:3-11; Gal. 2:20), we can see that Paul saw the story of Christ’s salvation event in the story of his own Damascus event.  In the Damascus event, in the vision of Christ and the words the Lord spoke, Saul died to self and to his old perceptions (Phil. 3:4-11), and in three days he was raised to resurrection life when he received the Spirit, his eyes were opened, his gospel mission was explained to him, and he was baptized.  In fact, the way Paul speaks of baptism makes it clear that the Lord taught him the theological meaning of baptism through this experience (Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12). 

2 Corinthians: Like master, like servant

It is significant that Paul, the apostle of Christ, listing the persecution of the Jewish forty lashes minus one and stoning as well as the Roman rod (2 Cor. 11:24-25), suffers at the hands of Jews and Gentiles (11:26) and their rulers (11:32).  Paul knew himself to be following in the footsteps of his Lord Jesus, God’s anointed, against whom both Israel and the Gentiles and their respective leaders had gathered together (Acts 4:27).  Paul’s commission as an apostle was to carry Christ’s name “before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel” (Acts 9:15).  The nature of Paul’s suffering (Acts 9:16), far from causing doubt about his legitimacy as a servant of Christ, should rather have been a confirmation of his apostleship to any church that really “got” the gospel.  Their confused judgment shows just how far from the cross of Christ the Corinthians had turned their gaze through the influence of the false apostles.