Sunday, October 12, 2014

A Book Review: Songs of a Suffering King

I found Songs of a Suffering King by J.V. Fesko to be a breath of fresh air.  The book covers Psalms 1-8 a chapter at a time.  I used it as a devotional tool while on vacation recently and found it to be a great resource for that purpose.  I read the text of each Psalm and then went to Fesko's book to help me think more deeply about the chapter I had just read.  The layout of the book is extremely conducive to this approach.  I expect that this is the kind of approach that Fesko had in mind when writing the book.

There is nothing particularly revolutionary about the book.  It is not likely to be the next bestseller that everyone is rushing to purchase.  But it deals with the text of Scripture in a way that is faithful to the original context of each Psalm, helping the reader to think rightly about the Word and make good application based on that right thinking.

It is clear that Fesko writes from a wealth of knowledge derived from many years of studying the Psalms.  However, he does so in a way that is very accessible and easy to understand.

The thing that stood out to me the most about the book is the way that Fesko demonstrates how each Psalm points to Christ.  Thankfully though, Fesko does not spiritualize the Psalms, skipping over the original context.  He demonstrates how the original context fits with the Christological focus of each Psalm.

I would definitely recommend this book to someone looking for a resource to help them in understanding the Psalms, not in a technical sense, but in a way that evokes worship to God.  I hope that Fesko will consider providing a similar resource for the entire Psalter.  Such a project would be a great blessing to the church.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for this review as a part of the Cross Focused Reviews program.

Monday, October 6, 2014

A Book Review: The Home Team

The Home Team by Clint Archer is well-written, freshly illustrated, challenging, and engaging book on the family.  The subtitle, God's Game Plan for the Family, demonstrates the purpose of the book.  Clint Archer has done an excellent job in writing a book on the family that will be a blessing to families and a useful resource for the church of the Lord Jesus.

When I first picked up the book, my first thought was, "Do we really need another book on the family?"  My answer to that question before reading this book was, "No."  There are a wealth of good gospel-centered resources for the family that have come out recently.  After reading this book though, I am confident that Clint Archer has made an important contribution in this area.

Archer begins the book where the Bible begins.  He goes to Genesis 2-3 to set God's design for the family in the context of creation.  He then points out that the problems and discord that exist in families are a result of the Fall.  The effects of the Fall are widespread and can only be pushed back by the gospel of Jesus Christ.

One of the things that stands out about this book is Archer's use of illustrations.  The book is full of sports illustrations and athletic metaphors, potentially making the book engaging for dads who are not big readers.  These are not illustrations just for the sake of having illustrations.  Each illustration helps drive home the point that is being made.  Also, while the illustrations are from sports, one does not have to be a sports fan to understand the things that are being communicated.

I would recommend this book to anyone seeking to think more deeply about the family from a gospel-centered perspective.  This book should prove to be a valuable resource to the church as we seek to preserve God's plan for the family in a day of shifting cultural priorities.

I received this book as a part of the Cross Focused Reviews program.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

A Book Review: Can I Really Trust the Bible?

I found Can I Really Trust the Bible? by Barry Cooper to be a helpful little book.  Its purpose is to explore questions concerning the authenticity and reliability of Scripture.

Cooper uses a helpful outline derived from the experiences of the great Bible scholar Whinnie-the-Pooh.

It had HUNNY written on it, but, just to make sure, he took off the paper cover and looked at it, and it looked just like honey.  "But you never can tell," said Pooh.  "I remember my uncle saying once that he had seen cheese just this colour."  So he put his tongue in, and took a large lick.  "Yes," he said, "it is.  No doubt about that."
Cooper then asks three questions: 

1. Does the Bible claim to be God's Word?
2. Does the Bible seem to be God's Word?
3. Does the Bible prove to be God's Word?

This approach takes the reader on a journey to discover first what the Bible says about itself.  The author then seeks to determine what the external evidence says about the Bible.  Finally, the call from Cooper is for the reader to taste and see that the Bible truly is the Word of God.  This tasting and seeing only happens as we commit ourselves to knowing God through His Word.

The work is far from technical, but it is also faithful to deal with the difficult questions related to the subject matter.  Cooper does a good job of maintaining a conversational tone throughout the book that will make this work a good primer for anyone initially interested in considering the authenticity of the Scriptures.  I will like recommend this book to others in the future.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for this review as a part of the Cross-focused reviews program.

Monday, September 22, 2014

My Heavenly Daddy

I haven't blogged in a while, but a trip to the beach is always good for some blogging inspiration.

Matthew 7:7-11 says…

"Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 9 Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!"

When my son Hudson was born on November 28, 2012, I began to think about my relationship with God as my Father in a deeper way.  As Hudson grows older and my relationship with him develops further, I feel that I am continually growing in my understanding of my heavenly Father.  My trip to the beach last week was no different.

I had a great time playing with Hudson on the beach.  He loved every minute of it.  He ran from the ocean to the dunes and back to the ocean again.  He chased seagulls and dug in the sand, exploring all that there was to see.

As he ran and played though, I was reminded afresh of how much he needs his daddy.  He does not know that he cannot just run into the ocean with reckless abandon.  The boy has no fear!  As the waves crashed against his little legs and the sand shifted under his small feet, he needed his daddy to help him stand and not fall.

I was reminded that I need my heavenly daddy.  As the waves of life crash against me, I must cling to my Father in heaven through the indwelling Holy Spirit and the spiritual disciplines of prayer and Bible study.

Romans 8:15-17 says…

For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

What a privilege it is to not only call the God of the universe my Creator and my God, but to call Him dad.

I am an evil father in the sense that I am a sinner and sometimes (even often) fail at being a godly father.  My heavenly Father never fails.  He loves me perfectly as His son.

My prayer for Hudson is that through the love of his earthly daddy, he would come to know my heavenly daddy as his daddy too.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Some Thoughts on Ferguson

If it turns out that this police officer did wrongly shoot Michael Brown, he may still be able to say with a clear conscience that he was not motivated by racism to do so. And even though he may be able to say that with a clear conscience, he may be wrong. He may have been motivated by racism and not even realize it. This is not an indictment against the officer or an excuse for him either. It is a call for each of us to examine our own hearts. We are often easily blind to the sin in our own hearts. May we examine our hearts, repent, seek the forgiveness of God, and work toward racial reconciliation in all areas of life.

Monday, August 11, 2014

What's the Big Deal?

Non-Christians often wonder why Christians care so much about sexual immorality.  Even professing Christians sometimes wonder why God cares so much about sex.  Maybe you have the same questions.

I must admit that it is strange to me that often the same people who wonder why God cares so much about sex take little time to consider why sex is such a big deal in the culture around us.  You don't have to go very far to see that talk of sex is pervasive in the culture in which we live.

My goal in this post, though, is not to rebuke the culture.  I expect lost people to act like lost people.  I am much more concerned with professing Christians acting like lost people.  I want to answer the question of why sexual immorality is such a big deal to God and why it should be a big deal to us.

Check out this passage of Scripture.

1 Corinthians 6:14-20 
And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! 16 Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” 17 But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. 18 Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

So why is sexual immorality such a big deal?

Believers will be resurrected (1 Corinthians 6:14).

It seems from this verse and 1 Corinthians 15 that part of the Corinthian error was to deny the resurrection of the dead.  Paul offers a lengthy correction of this error in 1 Corinthians 15.  If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised.  And if Christ has not been raised, the Christian faith is rendered void and powerless.

But, Christ has been raised.  And believers will be raised as well.  Therefore, what we do with our bodies matters.  Those who are in Christ will live forever with God in physical glorified bodies in a physical new heaven and new earth.

This truth should help us see how the Christian worldview pervades all of life.  What you do with your body matters because of eternity.  The Christian life is not just a bunch of dos and don'ts without any overarching purpose.  Our hope of future resurrection should inform every decision we make regarding what we do with and how we treat our bodies.

Believers are united to Christ (1 Corinthians 6:15-17).

Jesus reminds us in John 15 that He is the vine and we are the branches.  Paul tells us in Ephesians 5 that the marriage relationship between a man and a woman where the two become one is representative of our union with Christ.  1 Corinthians 6:15 tells us that we make up the body of Christ.  Therefore, according to Paul's logic, when you unite with someone sexually, you are in some sense uniting Christ with that person.

Paul continues to explain the seriousness of sexual sin in verse sixteen by pointing out that sexual union creates an enduring bond.  He makes the point by quoting from Genesis 2:24 where God first introduced the concept of a one flesh union between husband and wife.

This point debunks one of the lies of the culture and illustrates the vast chasm that exists between worldly wisdom and godly wisdom.  There is no such thing as casual sex.  The sexual relationship creates an enduring.  John MacArthur recounts that C.S. Lewis in his Screwtape Letters "says that each time a man and a woman enter into a sexual relationship a spiritual bond is established between them which must be eternally (for the rest of their lives) enjoyed or eternally endured."

This is why fornication and adultery are such a big deal.  This is why divorce is such a big deal.  This is why homosexuality is such a big deal.  The sexual union was created by God to be enjoyed between one man and one woman as long as they both shall live.  This is why brokenness and baggage exist when God's ideal is not met.

Believers are indwelt by the Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:18-19a).

Paul begins verse 18 with the command to flee sexual immorality.  The verb form carries with it both the force of a command and the idea of continually fleeing, such that it could be translated, "Keep on fleeing!"

We must flee from sexual immorality.  "How far is too far?" is the wrong question.  Do not play around with sexual sin.  It will bite you like a venomous snake.  Jesus says, "If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off."  Throw your computer or cell phone out the window.  Smash your TV with a sledge hammer.  Shred the smutty romance novels.  Dump your boyfriend or girlfriend.  For "it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell."

Paul continues to point out that believers are indwelt by the Spirit.  The biblical truth that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit should change the way we think about what we do with our bodies.

Believers were bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:19b-20).

The lie of the culture is that it is your body.  This is the lie of the abortion rights activists, sexual revolutionists, proponents of gender reassignment surgery, and others.  Paul refutes this belief with one short statement, "You are not your own."  You are not your own because God created and sustains your body.  And ultimately, you are not your own because God has redeemed your body with the precious blood of His Son Jesus Christ.


I love this passage because it deals with sexual immorality in the context of God's story rather than just a list of dos and don'ts.

You see, God created us in His image, male and female, for His glory.  Adam and Eve enjoyed a perfect relationship with God.  They walked with God in the cool of the day.  Unfortunately, it didn't take long for sin to enter the picture.  Adam and Eve disobeyed God creating enmity between them and their Creator.  Not only did it create enmity between them and their Creator, it created enmity between all of humanity and God.

The truth is that we are all sexual sinners.  Jesus says that while what you do with your body matters, your heart also matters.  Paul tells in his letter to the Romans that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

Thankfully the story doesn't end there.  A passage like 1 Corinthians 6 has the ability to leave us feeling dirty and hopeless because of our sin.  We can go away feeling beat up on.  But I want to make very clear that it doesn't matter where you have been or what you have done.  There is grace and forgiveness for you in the person of Jesus Christ if you would repent of your sin and place your faith in Jesus.

After experiencing that grace and forgiveness, the call upon each of our lives is to glorify God with our bodies.  God has not saved us that we might continue in sin.  The grace and forgiveness that we have received in Christ should propel us to glorify God with our bodies.

This is the passage I preached yesterday.  You can hear the entire sermon by clicking here.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

President Obama, Iraq, and the Christian Response

My heart is heavy this morning as I consider the current situation in Iraq.  It is a mess no matter which way you slice it.  It really doesn't matter whether you supported President George W. Bush's initial action to invade Iraq.  It really doesn't matter if you supported President Obama's decision to withdraw troops from Iraq.  This is a mess, and the United States is right to act.

I often find myself torn in situations like this.  I do not like that America has often taken the role of world police in various situations around the globe.  I do not like that we continue to borrow from China in order to send money to countries that hate us.  It seems that whenever there is conflict in the world, you can bet the Unites States will pick a side and fund it.

I voted for Ron Paul in the 2012 Republican primary.  I would like to be casting my ballot for Rand Paul in the 2016 Presidential Election.  That is, if he doesn't stick his foot in his mouth regarding this current crisis in Iraq.  If he does, I will be forced to question his ability to govern this country, and likely will not support his candidacy.

I typically despise America's interventionist tactics.  In this case, however, someone has to do something.  When two countries or two groups within a country are fighting, we should keep our nose out of it.  When people are being systematically run out of their homes and murdered with no means of defending themselves (i.e. the Holocaust), justice demands we act.

History has not looked kindly upon those who did nothing as Hitler systematically evicted people from their homes and placed them in concentration camps.  Many Jews and others were tortured and killed, and as any honest person would have to admit, not enough was done to stop the terror.

It is easy to look back on the Holocaust and wonder, "Why wasn't something done to stop these atrocities?"  It's easy to become slightly self-righteous in thinking we would have done something had we had the ability to do so.

Well, here is our chance.  Christians are being run out of their homes.  Men, women, and children are being beaten, tortured, and killed in Iraq by the terrorist group ISIS, which stands for Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.  While we as individuals cannot hop on a plane and put a stop to this genocide, our government has the ability to defend the helpless.

I am reminded of a well-known quote often attributed to Edmund Burke:

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."

I applaud the actions of President Obama thus far.  President Obama has authorized air strikes to stop these Islamic militants.  The U.S. has also been dropping humanitarian aid to those trapped on a mountaintop in Iraq.  You can read more about these efforts here.

President Obama said in a speech Thursday night, "Today, America is coming to help."  Thank you, Mr. President.  We are all tired of the constant conflict in the Middle East.  I know that you were hesitant to get involved in more conflict in Iraq.  I have those same feelings.  However, we cannot run from a situation where we have a moral imperative to act just because we are tired of conflict.

I am praying for the President and his advisers.  I am praying for those trapped on this mountaintop in Iraq and others who may still be fleeing.  I am even praying for these Islamic militants as they are not yet beyond the reach of God's saving hand.  I ask you to join me.  May we not be guilty of forgetting about this tragedy just because we find ourselves physically on the other side of the world.