Friday Sports etc: Happy Reformation Day!


A good brother sent me this, seemed appropriate. 



Thursday Links:  ‘Saving Faith, part 1’ (BJ Maxwell)

Brother BJ has started a new series on saving faith and our need to understand and recognize it in the church. His first article points out our tendency to debate over issues that are not nearly as significant as simply defining what true, saving faith really is. Give it a read here:

Saving Faith, part 1

Looking forward to the rest of the series!


Wednesday Word: ‘Love First’ (1 Corinthians 8)

When I am confronted or questioned or criticized by a brother or sister in Christ, what is my first response?

If I am honest, my first response is usually along the lines of defense. I proclaim my innocence or my justification for whatever it is that we are discussing. I lay out my arguments, throw in some Scripture when I can, and do my best to defend my position. And normally this tactic works fairly well for me because I always feel as though I am right, or at least I feel like I won the argument (just ask my wife). 

Win or lose, truth is, I have probably accomplished very little because I did not begin with love. As I have been working through 1 Corinthians, I have seen Paul’s call to love over and over again. Thing is, it does not always look like what I expect. Love means laboring to end division (ch.1). Love means focusing on the gospel (ch. 2). Love means humbly recognizing my part and never boasting in men (ch. 3-4). Love means taking action against unrepentant sin (ch. 5). Love means suffering wrong and being defrauded (ch. 6). Love means committment and faithfulness (ch. 7). And love means caring more about my brother in Christ than I care about my rights (ch. 8).

The world has so poorly defined love that I am often hesitant to even use the word, but Paul continues to point me back to its importance when it comes to the local church. And how does he define it? The sacrifice of Christ on the cross for my sins. By fixing my gaze on the gospel, on the love of God displayed through the giving of His Son, I can defeat division, boast in the cross, walk through suffering, and lay down my rights for my friends. Through His strength and His grace, I can love the church as Christ has loved His Bride.

May love, true sacrificial love, always be my first response.


Tuesday Books: ‘A Song of Shadows’ (John Connolly)

I posted a few weeks ago about my enjoyment of John Connolly’s Charlie Parker series. I was able to check out the latest enstallment, ‘A Song of Shadows’, from my library recently. As I noted before, the whole series is dark. As I sit writing this, it is a dreary fall day, reminding me that winter is coming soon, and it is the perfect weather for reading/writing about Charlie Parker. The series reminds me of the movie ‘Seven’ with Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman (which I am not recommending). The movie has several scenes that are gloomy and dark, and the rest of them are evil and hard to watch. There is not one scene that is light. It’s like being caught in a rainstorm totally unprepared.  Before long, the cold and the wet soaks through and leaves you shivering. The Charlie Parker novels may not be as dark as that movie, but they have that same feel to them: ever encroaching darkness.

I am only about half way through ‘A Song of Shadows’ but I am thoroughly enjoying it. You may be wondering why a person even reads such novels, who enjoys such dreariness? Well, for me, I appreciate the honesty and brokenness of the main character and the ongoing mystery of the series. Once again, I find myself laughing out loud at his criminal assistants, but even then, the humor is brief and still carries a shade of grey. As you can tell from the cover, this particular book deals with survivors of Nazi Germany and the Jewish Holocaust, two of the darker realities of human history. As one tragedy leads to the next, you realize quickly that Parker is once again facing  vile enemies who will target him before it is all over. It is always interesting to see how it will all play out and how Parker’s unique abilities (and assistants) will serve him. Looking forward to see how this one will end. I assume that Parker will survive and be victorious in that regard. But I also assume that the darkness will not be defeated, not completely. I only know one Book where that happens (and it is not fiction!)

So if you are like me and you enjoy a dark mystery on a dreary fall day, then check out the lastest Parker novel.


Monday Music: ‘Carbon Ribs-Live’ (John Mark McMillan)

I cannot say that I am a huge fan of the direction that John Mark McMillan took on his latest album “Borderland” and I hear the influnce on his newest release: “Live at the Knight”. But he is a great songwriter (very poetic I think) and his live version of ‘Carbon Ribs’ is great. I really like how he closes by going into ‘Nothing but the blood of Jesus’ at the end. Good stuff. Give it a listen on Spotify here (and if you don’t have Spotify, why not?):


Thursday Links: ‘Former Cardinals baseball player becomes a Christian and what we can learn from it’ (Keith Simon)

If you are a Cardinals fan, then perhaps you have seen this article floating around for the past week or so. I had seen it linked on my Facebook page several times and finally clicked on it this week. (Maybe I was subconsciously avoiding articles about Cardinal baseball due to the loss to the Cubs!) Yet, when I did finally read the article, I was encouraged not so much by the fact that Colby Rasmus (who the article is about) used to play for the Cardinals, but just by the simplicity of how he came to know Christ. We have made witnessing far too difficult in our minds and we let that keep us from sharing the faith. But as this article points out, it is actually not that hard to love on someone and point them to Jesus. Give it a read here:

Former Cardinals baseball player becomes a Christian and what we can learn from it


Wednesday Word: ‘Back to the Future Consummation’

In the film ‘Back to the Future II’, Marty McFly travels to the future date of October 21st, 2015 (today’s date for those scoring at home). In light of this, today has been declared ‘Back to the Future Day.’ Wooohoo! I confess that I love those movies. I own the trilogy box-set pictured above. And I admit that it is a bit interesting to have actually made it to McFly’s future. In celebration, you can read about how others are celebrating. Or you can read about developments in the hoverboard industry. Or, my personal favorite, what technology we have today that is similar to what the movie predicted. It is fun to compare the fictional future with our current reality. In McFly’s 2015, ‘Jaws 19’ is about to be released and the Cubs win the World Series (both crazy predictions!) Everyone drives a flying car and they are all fueld with garbage (not quite). It is humurous to consider what folks in 1985 thought 2015 might look like.

But then, it is always humurous to think that anyone can predict the future, right? I mean, they do it science fiction movies because it is so obviously fictitious. Nobody really knows what will happen in 30 years or 3 years or even 3 days. We simply cannot know the future.

Such thinking leads many people to dismiss the Bible’s teaching about the future. How could the biblical authors know anything about what will happen in the days ahead? People think that is silly, and put it in the same category as hoverboards and trasholine.

Yet, for those who do believe Scripture to be God’s inerrant Word, the predictions about the future in the Bible is serious business. They believe that every prophecy in the text will eventually come to pass. Why do they believe in this? Why do they take these predictions about the future so seriously?

  1. They believe because it is specific: The prophecies in the Old and New Testaments are often very specific, unlike many others throughout history. If I say that war will come in the future, then I am not a prophet. But if I name the armies and the outcome, that is a bit different. And if I do it hundreds of years in advance, then that is amazing, which is exactly what God did for Abraham in Genesis 15:13-16. It is easy to make a general prediction about the future, it is much more difficult to be specific (as we see with McFly’s 2015).
  2. They believe because it is verified: It is interesting to see what the writers in 1985 got ‘close’ about 2015. Hoverboards and flying cars and self-tying shoes are being produced. The Cubs could still win the series (theoretically). But for the most part, none of it really came true. Yet, we find repeated fulfillments of prophecy in the pages of Scripture. So much so that I don’t even have time to scratch the surface. But just think about some of the prophecies concerning the Messiah that we celebrate each Christmas. He will be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). He will be a son of David (2 Samuel 7:1-17). He will be called Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14). All of these were fulfilled by Jesus. And if those are not convincing, then think about Isaiah’s prediction of His death in Isaiah 53. He will be despised and rejected by men (v. 3). He will be wounded for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities (v. 5). He will be like a lamb being led to the slaughter (v. 7). These words were written by the prophet 700 years before Jesus drew a breath. When I read about Jesus’ crucifixion in the Gospels, I cannot help but see the fulfillment of these predictions. In the same way, when I read about Jesus’ return in the pages of the New Testament, I am convinced that it will indeed come to pass.  The prophets foretold that He would come and He came. Jesus says He will return and He will come.
  3. They believe because of the Author: The reason why we rightfully question anyone who predicts the future is because they have not really been there.  If someone really could travel through time by going 88 miles per hour in a DeLorean, then perhaps we could believe what they say about the future.  For those who believe the Scriptures to be God’s Word, it is not hard for them to trust in what it says about the future. After all, the Author has been there. He knows exactly what can and will take place because He is sovereign over it all. You could say that He has unlimited supply of 1.21 gigowatts. Thus, when He reveals that the Son will return to judge the world and take home His Bride, then I would be foolish to not believe. He has said it in His Word, so I can believe it with all confidence.

So enjoy ‘Back to the Future Day.’ Have some laughs about the silly predictions in the movie (Cubs winning the series, hilarious!) But don’t treat the Bible like science-fiction. The future Day is coming. The present and future King will return for His own. Are you ready?


Tuesday Books: ‘Luke, vol. 1-2, Reformed Expository Commentary’ (Philip Graham Ryken)

As a pastor, I get the privilege of regularly reading through commentaries on books of the Bible. My goal is to read four for each sermon series that I do since they take different approaches to the text. Some commentaries are more technical, focusing on language and grammar and other important issues for exposition. On the other end of the spectrum are those that are more devotional, seeking to help the reader understand and apply particular passages to their life. Of course, all commentaries try to do a little bit of both, but usually they gravitate towards one side of the spectrum or the other.  Although a person might be willing to read one on the devotional side, normally folks don’t read through commentaries, and I get that.

But every now and then, I read one that I feel should be read by all (I usually recommend them to my Church when that happens). There are just some commentaries that handle the text so faithfully and communicate the truth so well that I wish everyone could read them. The series they come from will vary, the authors will vary, but the blessing of reading them is constant.

One such commentary is Philip Graham Ryken’s two volume set on the book of Luke in the Reformed Expository Commentary series. I know, two volumes, around 1,400 pages, who in the world is going to read that besides pastors and professors? How about you? What if your plan for Bible reading in 2016 was simply to study slowly through the Gospel of Luke, using Ryken’s commentary as a guide? Why would you do that? Let me give you a few reasons:

  1. We are getting great teaching on a great book: The volumes are broken up into sermons that Ryken preached at the Church he pastors over particular sections of the Gospel. Reading his explanations of the text and how he applies them is incredibly helpful. He avoids being too technical while showing that he has done his homework, as the saying goes. He helps you see the message that Luke was communicating (good exposition) and then shows you how it impacts your own life (good application). This may sound simple, but it is not always easy to do. Ryken does it well.
  2. The book is well written: Not sure that I would ever categorize a commentary a ‘page-turner’, but I looked forward each week to reading Ryken’s work. I was so often moved to praise Jesus and to want to follow Him more faithfully. I even laughed and cried some (I know, a little goofy). Instead of trudging through it and dreading your study of the Word, I think Ryken’s commentary will encourage your meditation on the text.
  3. Why not spend a year in Luke: Again, working through 1,400 pages is a bit overwhelming. And spending a year on only one book of the Bible might seem strange (especially to those who like to read through the Bible in a year). But, giving the book of Luke your full attention for 2016 will be a great way to study the Bible. And using a good resource like Ryken’s commentary will only aid you in that. Why not slow down and dig deep for a year?

So give it some thought. You will probably not be reading commentaries all of the time, but it would not hurt to read a really good one every now and again (maybe I could post a list of other good ones at some point). You could start with Ryken’s on Luke, my favorite so far.


Monday Music: ‘Behold Our God’ (Sovereign Grace Music)

This past weekend, my local Baptist association had a men’s retreat. We met at the association’s campground (a great place for a men’t retreat), cooked our Friday night meal over at open fire (seriously, we ate like the kings of old), and heard great Bible teaching from my former pastor, Lee Tankersley (you can hear him preach over at his Church’s website). And we were led in singing by one of my fellow pastor’s in the association, Josh Boley, who chose some God-honoring songs for us to sing. One of those was ‘Behold Our God.’ I had heard this song before at a couple of other men’s conferences and have always enjoyed it, but it was really encouraging to gather with men from our area to declare the greatness of God. I love the last verse that focuses on Christ:

“Who has felt the nails upon His hands?

Bearing all the guilt of sinful man

God, eternal, humbled to the grave

Jesus, Savior, risen now to reign!”

Good stuff. You can listen to it here:

Behold Our God

Wednesday Word: ‘The Better Way’ (1 Corinthians 6:12-7:5)

“The Bible is the owner’s manual for life.”

I have been hearing that statement from bible preachers and teachers for years. It has become a bit cliché these days, which is understandable. After all, when was the last time you looked at an owner’s manual? When cell phones came out, the first few that I purchased came with owner’s manuals and I read through them to understand how this incredible new technology worked. And it helped (for the most part). Nowadays, when I get a new cell phone I just start messing around with it until I can figure out how to transfer my contacts (read: I ask my wife how to do it) and just start making calls or sending texts. I figure I know how to make a cell phone do what I want it to do (for the most part).

I also remember getting my first Apple product: a second generation iPod! It was so cool in it’s sleek box with free headphones and free Apple stickers. And when I opened the owner’s manual I was amazed. No 50 page booklet, full of technical information and safety warnings. Just a simple ‘Quick Start Guide’ that got me up and running in no time at all (actually, thinking back, it did take some time because I had to download iTunes, upload songs, and figure out how to ‘sync’, a concept I didn’t really understand!) And many generations later, they have kept it simple, here is my latest manual:

(And for the record, I opened it for the first time to take this picture.)

Point is, we don’t really use owner’s manuals so we don’t really think about their purpose anymore. I mean all they do is tell us how to get started right? The rest is up to us.

Well, sorta. Yes, a good owner’s manual will tell us how to get going, but it will also tell us how to best use and best maintain the product.  It is not just a guide to get started but a guide to keep going, a guide to maximize usefulness and productivity. It is not just for the first day, but for the first year, or first ten years (which is probably why Apple does not include much because they want you to buy another product in a few months). This maintanence information is for the long haul, so that the owner can get the best out of the product.

For example, as pictured above, the owner’s manual for my 1999 Sonoma tells me what to do every 3,000 miles, 6,000 miles, even after 150,000 miles (It reads: “Buy a new car already!”) The instructions include things like change the oil, rotate the tires, engine accessory drive belt inspection (uh huh, I need to get right on that), etc. Now why do the manufacturers tell me to do all of this? They want my money (maybe). They want to be rude and pushy (less likely). They want to ruin my life and rob me of all joy (probably not). Perhaps they just want to help me get the best out of my truck. Perhaps they just want it to keep running even when it is, say, 16 years old. Makes sense. They are not trying to trick me or be mean to me, they are just trying to help out a person who might not know all there is to know about a 2.2L L4 engine (I had to look that up). They wrote it for my good.

In this sense, I think calling the Bible the owner’s manual for life can be helpful. Over the past two weeks in our study through 1 Corinthians we have looked at some of Paul’s teaching on sex. The Corinthians were seemingly being influnced by their culture to believe that the body is evil, while the spirit/soul is good (dualism). Some concluded that this meant it was ok for them to visit prostitutes (see 6:12-20) while others concluded that all sexual activity should cease (see 7:1-5). But Paul is writing to tell them that both of these ideas are wrong. They should not be committing sexual immorality and they should not be witholding sex from their spouse.

Now is Paul being mean? Is he being rude and pushy? What about the Lord who inspired this letter? Is He just trying to suck all of the joy out of our lives? Absolutely not! In fact, He is doing just the opposite. He doesn’t give us commands about how to use our bodies sexually because He is a cosmic dictator who is out to squash every ounce of happiness out of our lives once and for all. No, He is the sovereign Lord who created and redeemed us and plans for us to have joy eternal, which begins at least in part when we place our faith in His Son. The Lord gives us instructions about sex for our own good, our own joy. Nobody accuses their car manufacturer of being overly restrictive when they tell us to rotate our tires or change our oil. Yet, sometimes we treat our Creator like He is out to get us with all of His rules and commands when in reality, He only wants the best for us. It is not crazy to believe that the Creator of sex knows best how to teach us about sexual activity in our lives.

Truth is, you can choose to do whatever you want with your body. But make a wise decision. Would you rather listen to the limited knowledge and experience of men or to the eternal wisdom of God? As foolish as I am, I think I better stick with the owner’s manual.  It has not failed me yet.