Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Resurrection Seed #ResurrectionSeries14

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic,[b] “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her. (John 20:11-18 see also Matt. 28:1-10, Mk. 16:1-8, Lk. 24:1-12)
John shares a story of mistaken identity. Mary and other women arrive at Jesus’ tomb on the morning of his resurrection. The synoptics recall the women conversing among themselves to the effect of “Who’s going to roll the stone away?” But when they get there, the stone is already rolled back and as one might expect they are afraid and confused. Now the synoptics and John’s gospel report that the women went into the tomb and an angel reports Jesus’ resurrection. John then fills out the story with some other details.

Mary Magdalene returns with the disciples who see the empty tomb, and as the men are leaving, she stays and weeps outside the tomb. Jesus approaches her, “‘Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?’” As is often the case after the resurrection, Jesus is unrecognized in his risen state. She replies, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” What I love is his simple reply to her. Jesus says, “Mary” and immediately she knows her Lord. This scene is so intimate. You can sense the care Jesus has for her.

Part of what makes this passage compelling is Mary’s mistaking Jesus when we all know it’s him. Even though the section is short, I always find myself screaming, “It’s him, Mary. He’s alive!” John tells us she thinks he’s the gardener. She’s wrong in a way, but in another way she’s profoundly right. In the beginning starts with creation and ends in the Garden of Eden. God places Adam and Even in the garden to tend and care for it. They failed. Sin enters the world. Jesus arrives and enters the Garden Tomb and crushes the serpent’s head. It’s a death blow, but the writhing serpent will still cause chaos until his final breath. In the end, God’s temple, an eschatological temple-garden, will arrive and all things will be made new--including us.

Jesus is the the eschatological Gardener. He plants our bodies into the ground and one day those resurrection seeds will grow into a tall a tree. Paul reminds the Corinthians of this truth,
But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. For not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. (1 Corinthians 15:35-38)
Our bodies are seeds. We will die and be planted. We will rise up--just like Jesus, the first fruit of the resurrection. So as we meditate on the death and resurrection of Jesus this week, fear not saints. He did rise and we will rise with him. We are the resurrection seed and he is the gardener.
One with the Father, Ancient of Days,
Through the Spirit who clothes faith with certainty.
Honor and blessing, glory and praise
To the King crowned with pow'r and authority!
And we are raised with Him,
Death is dead, love has won, Christ has conquered;
And we shall reign with Him,
For He lives: Christ is risen from the dead!
“See What a Morning (Resurrection Hymn)”
Mathew Sims is the author of A Household Gospel Fulfilling the Great Commission in Our Homes and has written for CBMW Men’s blog, Gospel-Centered Discipleship, Borrowed Light, and Servants of Grace. He also works as the managing editor at Gospel-Centered Discipleship. They attend Downtown Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Greenville, SC.
Get Your Copy of A Household Gospel Today: Paperback or Digital

Monday, April 14, 2014

A Steaming Pile of Lies

I was meditating on this parable after reading Jared C. Wilson’s The Storytelling God (which I recently reviewed), and something struck me. That’s one of the things I love about the parables. Every time I read them, they feel fresh.

The prodigal son demands his inheritance before his father is even dead. He goes out into a far country and spends everything. Jesus says, “So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything” (Lk. 15:15-16). This “into a far country” reminds me of Adam and Even being exiled from the Garden, or even Joseph and his family staying in Egypt because of the famine. These retreats are not in the promised land. They are countries outside of the covenant land, the place of peace and rest. This son has made himself a stench by cutting himself off from the congregation of the Lord.

On top of that, this “citizen of the country” sends this Jewish boy to feed pigs, and doesn’t even provide food for the task. In this instant, the boy remembers something. “‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father’” (vv. 17-18). In this set of parables about lost things, the seeker is God. God is seeking his lost sheep, coin, and son. God pursues sinners.

The parable of the lost sheep and coin don’t have a “citizen of the country” who is a rascal and fiend. But could we be faithful to the text and suggest that this “citizen of the country” is a picture of the unregenerates’ master, the father of lies? Paul says we were members of the “the body of sin” (Rom. 6:6), but we die and rise with Christ to annul this unholy marriage. Paul through out Romans 6 plainly calls this marriage what it is--slavery. And do we not see that in Luke 15? This boy has enslaved himself to this citizen. This citizen is not a kind, generous man. He is a slave driver who doesn’t even provide for the basic needs of his workers. He treats them worse than the pigs.

The boy comes to his senses and remembers how his father treats even the very least of his servants with honor and respect. He provides for their needs and cares for them as people--in a way, they are part of his family. There’s something subtly suggested here. One of the points of the parable is to remind us that the pleasures Satan promises are a steaming pile of lies. God is a covenant keeper, a truth teller. He has said we will have pleasures forever more in Christ. He has said we are free. He has called those who believe sons. Let us, therefore, never return to the slop of the pig sty and rather pursue with all our might the joy that’s ours in Christ.
Mathew Sims is the author of A Household Gospel Fulfilling the Great Commission in Our Homes and has written for CBMW Men’s blog, Gospel-Centered Discipleship, Borrowed Light, and Servants of Grace. He also works as the managing editor at Gospel-Centered Discipleship. They attend Downtown Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Greenville, SC.
Get Your Copy of A Household Gospel Today: Paperback or Digital

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Review: Jared C. Wilson’s The Storytelling God

Jared C. Wilson. The Storytelling God.
Crossway, 2014. 192 pages. Paperback. Kindle.
The Storytelling God approaches the parables through Jesus and kingdom spectacles. “The rightful king has landed, and he is leading an insurrection against the pretenders to his throne” (17) and “The glory of Christ is to be had in the parables, provided the parables are had at all” (21). These loci help Jared see the “mosaic of God’s vision” in the variety of genres within all of Scripture (22), while also avoiding a “literary scavenger hunt” (28) as he examines the parables’ meaning. Some who are great theologians, but don’t have much if any literary chops, miss this. They’re searching for a direct one for one in all these stories, when they should be hearing and understanding the one main point of that parable. They should be interpreting them for what they are. Instead of wringing these parables dry of every last ounce of “meaning.”

Jared tackles many of the parables you might expect--the prodigal son, the sheep and the goat, the good Samaritan--but what I found compelling was the inclusio he forms around the standard parables. The book starts, as we discussed, with a robust treatment of God’s kingdom in Jesus Christ, and ends with chapters on “The Parables before the Parables” (the parabolic genre in the OT), “Jesus, the Living Parable” (the I AM’s of John’s Gospel), and ends with “The Unstoppable and Unfathomable Kingdom” (Mark 4:26-34). I love the set up. Everything is wrapped up in the kingdom of God and everything inside is Jesus from Old Testament parables to the New Testament parables. Ultimately, he encourages us to preach the gospel of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ. “If you know and speak the gospel, you are a channel for God’ destroying of strongholds and resurrection of lives. Every Christian who can articulate the gospel has the launch code and access to the button” (169-70).

Jared Wilson is well suited to write this kind of book. He’s not just a theologian, but also a reader and writer of good stories. In his hand, these parables come to life. “Once upon a time, a king came to earth to tell stories, and the stories contained the mystery of eternal life” (36). These parables are interruptions of our lives (175). But they are interruptions and stories in the way The Lord of the Rings are. They are not good stories meant as a sort of escapism. They are meant to create tension and, therefore, to remind us how real the kingdom of God is and how relevant and pertinent the preaching of that kingdom in the name of Jesus Christ is. The parables then drive us towards action for the kingdom. The Storytelling God understands this and, therefore, is worth your time.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Mathew Sims is the author of A Household Gospel Fulfilling the Great Commission in Our Homes and has written for CBMW Men’s blog, Gospel-Centered Discipleship, Borrowed Light, and Servants of Grace. He also works as the managing editor at Gospel-Centered Discipleship. They attend Downtown Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Greenville, SC.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Review: JinHyok Kim’s The Spirit of God and the Christian Life

JinHyok Kim. The Spirit of God and the Christian Life. Fortress Press, 2014. 329 pages. Kindle. Paperback.

There are few theologians more verbose than Karl Barth. This truth makes it even more amazing that Barth wrote few direct words on the work of the Holy Spirit. This could have been because he did not get to complete his epic Church Dogmatics. It may have been because of his Biblical obsession with Jesus Christ. In either case, JinHyok Kim in The Spirit of God and the Christian Life presents a compelling construction of what Barth’s complete pneumatology might have looked like had the theologian been able to fulfill his Church Dogmatics.

JinHyok Kim’s work on Karl Barth’s theology of the Holy Spirit is nothing short of stunning. There are numerous devotional portions amidst taxing descriptions of Barth’s philosophical distinctions. For an evangelical America that is far too similar to Barth’s liberal Germany, the renewed majesty found in studying the Holy Spirit and prayer is delightful. Both subjects are compellingly brought back into focus in the theology of Karl Barth. The activity of prayer is portrayed as sacred. The Holy Spirit is shown to be essential in all activities of the Trinity.

The Communication
The Spirit of God and the Christian Life: Reconstructing Karl Barth’s Pneumatology is a doctrinal thesis republished. In many ways it reads like a thesis (e.g. extensive endnotes). But in spite of its deep insights it overcomes the difficulties of communicating high-level theology clearly and efficiently. The language of the book is effective in its communication but also common and inviting in many places. In his own voice and tenor, JinHyok Kim communicates at both a technical and practical level with surprising efficiency.

It does not act as a good introduction to Barth’s theology. Those lacking previous exposure to the more foundational elements of Barth’s teaching will be provided only brief introductions on crucial subjects. Similarly, some background in the philosophy of Emmanuel Kant and theology of Fredrich Schleiermacher is beneficial to those seeking to analyze the fine-tuning of Barth’s theology in its cultural context (particularly true in chapter two). Regardless, the communication by JinHyok is proficient and the book is accessible for those with a critical mind.

The Content
The Spirit of God and the Christian Life is broken up into four chapters that highlight specific relationships to the Holy Spirit. JinHyok Kim walks through the topics of redemption, salvation history, revelation, and finally beauty--as he brings to light either obscure or small portions of Barth’s written material.

In the first chapter, JinHyok Kim explores previous interpretations of Barth’s pneumatology and provides his own lens of context. Barth’s theology of prayer, which Kim argues focused on the Holy Spirit and redemption, are difficult to construct given the incomplete nature of his final volume in Church Dogmatics. Nevertheless, The Spirit of God and the Christian Life is an attempt to reconstruct Barth’s theology using previous writing and lectures materials.

It is the Trinitarian foundation of Barth’s theology that made him stand out in the surrounding liberal atmosphere. His relation of the Holy Spirit to prayer in his commentary on Romans 8 stands out as the primary mode of Barth’s exploration on the role of the Holy Spirit in the elevation of believers to prayer. The Holy Spirit illumines the Word of God and relates us to the person of Jesus Christ. It is in this way that Karl Barth’s views on prayer move beyond the subjective anthropology of Schleiermacher. The Holy Spirit is the means of adoption in the Trinitarian act of redemption. The Holy Spirit in prayer lifts the “pray-er,” a term developed fully in the book, up together with Jesus Christ who is in fact God come down to man. Far from making prayer a less providential experience, Barth’s theology stresses the role that the Holy Spirit plays in bringing the eschatological realities of our identity in Christ to the forefront of verbal communication back to the Father. The effects on prayer should be sweeping and sweet.

In the second chapter, Barth’s Pneumatology is applied to the doctrine of election. Barth’s Pneumatology sets the context of election both as an eternal decree and an event in history. This interacts well and profoundly with Barth’s particular form of Christology: the double predestination found in Jesus Christ. This eternal decree of God upon “God-self,” a phrase utilized by JinHyok, stands eternal before all of creation and God’s creation cannot be fathomed apart from His previous decree, upon Himself, to save man through man. But election for Barth also must be an act of God’s freedom.

This focus on God’s freedom in election can only be sustained by emphasizing the Holy Spirit’s role in applying the election of Jesus Christ in time and space. God’s eternal election must work itself out from God-self, to the covenant community and only finally to individuals. Without these nuances JinHyok confirms that Barth can be misunderstood “as an amalgam of Reformed and Arminian soteriology, which eventually opts for the doctrine of universal salvation” (133).

The third chapter focused primarily on revelation. Though Barth’s work in the realm of election is well known, his neglected theology on revelation was equally groundbreaking. Once again JinHyok aptly demonstrates how the Holy Spirit mediates across the natural chasms of Barth’s theology. One of the more applicable highlights of the book occurs early in the chapter as Kim applies Barth’s pneumatology to the relationships of Divine-logic to human-logic, subject to object and finally revelation to language. It is in this last section that Kim presents valuable insight to the Spirit’s work in God revealing “God-self” to mankind. That God can assume the “medium of language to speak to humanity” (177) is meant to be an encouragement. Ultimately the church is told by Barth that it can rest assured in God’s ability. There is no such thing as church language and Christians “should keep silence again, enjoying their Sabbath and leaving it to the Word of God to speak for itself” (178).

The fourth and final chapter covers the Holy Spirit’s involvement with beauty. Barth’s presentation of the beauty found in the Lord is a unique theological characteristic. JinHyok aptly brings the glory of God, as Barth defined it, to the forefront of theology via God as God is and as God does. God’s glory and perfection (and hence His beauty) is made manifest in His freedom to love the world. This, of course, in Barth’s paradigm is recognized solely through the work of the Holy Spirit. Barth saw this as necessary to avoid the natural theology he felt plagued Protestant liberalism. The Spirit of God and the Christian Life comes to a close with a profound section on Barth and the arts. Though this section was some of the most enjoyable to read, the inclusion of the Holy Spirit directly was noticeable.

Conclusion
The Spirit of God and the Christian Life is a must read for individuals seeking to re-introduce joy, beauty, and the Holy Spirit into theology. The language and presentation provokes further interest while supplying substantial insights into the activity of the Holy Spirit in the life of Christians. The final chapter on the beauty of the Lord is needed desperately in the church today.

Ultimately, Barth’s response to the philosophy and theology of his day was grounded in Jesus Christ known through the Holy Spirit. And it is this same Holy Spirit that is needed today in the church. JinHyok Kim presents a starting point for analyzing Barth’s theology in light of a complete Pneumatology. It is up to the church to invest in the study of the Holy Spirit and improve on Barth’s doctrine.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Joshua Torrey is a New Mexico boy in an Austin, TX world. He is husband to Alaina and father to Kenzie & Judah and spends his free time studying for the edification of his household. These studies include the intricacies of hockey, football, curling, beer, and theology. He blogs theological musings and a running commentary of the Scriptures at The Torrey Gazette.


Wednesday, April 09, 2014

“but if it dies. . . ” #ResurrectionSeries14



Long ago, in a holy land, the Son of God lifted His eyes and asked a dead man to walk out of his rank tomb. The dead man obliged (Jn. 11).

Many believed in Him that day.

Others ratted Him out.

His days seemed to shorten after that.
Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him. (Jn. 12:24-26)

In John 12:21, Greeks had said to Philip, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Years later it would become popular to inscribe this request on pulpits. Fitting indeed.

The Lord Jesus replied to the request to see Him by talking about the fruit His death and resurrection would reap. Also, fitting for pulpits. His death and resurrection would trigger an everlasting harvest beginning with Jesus and culminating in life for His chosen, onward and onward.

“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (Rev. 22:13).

The Lord Jesus has a way with words.

For the Christian death is not so much about death as it is about life, and life is not so much about life as it is about death.

D.A. Carson writes,
Thus, if the image of the seed dying to bring forth many seeds is peculiarly applicable to the death of Jesus Christ, in a slightly different way it is properly applicable to Jesus’ followers. The thought rapidly moves from Jesus’ uniquely fruitful death (the death of one seed producing many seeds) to the mandated death of Jesus’ followers as the necessary condition of their own life. It could not be otherwise. To love one’s life in any absolute sense is to disavow God’s right of sovereignty, and therefore a brazen elevation of self to the level of idol. Those who love their own life in that way lose it, that is, they cause their own perdition. How Long, O Lord? (171-172)

My Resplendent Bride has battled the cancer since 2012.

Suffering is a queer thing: it simultaneously callouses one’s humor while removing scales from one’s eyes.

We’ve been inaugurated into the fellowship of the suffering. We see our once invisible companions everywhere we turn our eyes. How did we not see them before? Prosperity is a haze.

A dear lady once asked me, as we sat around a crowded lunch table, what the cancer had taught me.

“Don’t get cancer,” I replied.

Well, I thought it amusing at any rate.

My Resplendent Bride and I were just talking about how our casual talk of death could potentially make people uncomfortable. We’ve grown accustomed to going to the hospital three or four times a week. We’ve long forgotten the obvious truth that depending upon a stranger’s blood in a little baggy in order to live is… serious.

People die from this thing, this very thing right here, this thing that we are coexisting with against our wills. We hate it, yet it remains the obstinate unwelcome guest that won’t take the hint to leave.

We are not nonchalant people.

We are informed people.

We are everlasting people.

We are Christ’s fruit.

The Church is an eternal forest, and we all trace our lineage back to one seed.

But if a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone, but if it dies…


There is no me without her. This is a lie. This is a truth.

When my Resplendent Bride and I were joined in the covenant of marriage we ceased being two and became one. We are not that which we used to be.

If we were parted I would not be as I was.

Neither would I spend the rest of my days in my wingback chair like a wet cat.

We believe many years of this sojourn still lay before us. We dare to dream of the future. We are dreamers.

But we are Christians first.

Our culture is too jaded to talk about Heaven without snark; too myopic to talk about anything eternal, and too biopic to talk about resurrection in general because there is no resurrection without Jesus.

There is nothing whimsical about Resurrection.

Some have left fingernail marks on the word because they’ve clung tight to it all these years.

The Christian’s hope is that our Resurrection from the dead might be tied directly the crucified carpenter King’s resurrection.

Long ago, in a holy place, the Son of God called the dead to follow Him. Christ the Lord was crucified for our sins and buried. Yet He lives. Three days after His brutal execution He walked out of a borrowed grave. He left messengers in dazzling apparel who asked this question: “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” (Lk 24:5).
Evan Welcher is senior pastor of First Christian Church in Glenwood, Iowa. Husband of the lovely Danielle. Evan graduated with a B.S. in Bible from Emmaus Bible College in 2005. Evans goal in ministry is to stir up love for Jesus Christ by the giving of great care and fidelity to the teaching of the scriptures. He blogs at EvanWelcher.com.

Monday, April 07, 2014

Preaching Crucifixion or Cross?

Each year around this time, as we march with anticipation toward the glory and grandeur of Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday, there is a tendency to overemphasize the process of crucifixion in our zeal to say to others, “Behold the love of God for you! See what Jesus did for you!”

Now don’t get me wrong: we need to know what crucifixion is in order to understand how Jesus died. He wasn’t beheaded, run through with a sword, stoned to death, or drowned. He was crucified. First-century readers of the New Testament knew what crucifixion was, so there was no need for the Gospel writers to delve into all of its gruesome and brutal details.

Focusing on the details of crucifixion may be a true enough account of what Jesus went through, but the problem is that we may neglect to emphasize the greater horror of what Jesus endured. Mere crucifixion stops short of what Jesus did and doesn’t capture the wisdom of the cross and center of the gospel.

In our Good Friday ruminations, we may unintentionally let the method of the crucifixion obscure the message of the cross. Here are three truths to keep in mind.

1. People were crucified before, with, and after Jesus. Let’s observe first that crucifixion wasn’t unique to Jesus but was a violent method of execution that the Romans used with disturbing proficiency and effectiveness. Seeing someone hanging from a cross was an incredible public deterrent from rebelling against those in power. There were many crucifixions. What made the cross of Jesus different? Not the type of wood, length of nails, public scorn, or looming asphyxiation.

2. Unique to Jesus’ death was the cup he drank. In Gethsemane, Jesus knew he faced more than the punishment of men. He acknowledged that he would drink the “cup” of his Father’s wrath (Matt. 26:39). What he would endure on the cross was more than a painful death. The message of the Gospel is not that Jesus died in a manner hundreds of others did. The message is that on the cross Jesus took the cup of God’s judgment and drank it dry. Now while there are certain things you can portray in a film about Jesus—such as flogging, hauling the beam to Golgotha, agonizing cries and groans from pain, exasperation as legs weaken from pushing up to seize a breath—there are also things that don’t communicate through the art of film-making. Jesus bore wrath. The Son was forsaken. The Messiah was fulfilling prophecy. To onlookers, though, this was just another man getting his due, another troublemaker extinguished by mighty Rome. The insurrectionists to his right and left would not have seen the cup he spoke about at Gethsemane. The greatness of this event, though, was in the very thing no one else could see. Eyes didn’t discern something that had been planned before the foundation of the world.

3. The power of Jesus’ crucifixion was in the penal-substitution. Paul told the Corinthians he wanted “to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). But why? The wisdom of the cross is the power of God to those being saved (2:18). Paul wants to know God’s wisdom, even though some deem it foolishness, because on the cross the God-Man became sin for our sake (2 Cor. 5:21). He bore our griefs and sorrows (Isa 53:4), and he paid the wage for our transgressions and iniquities (53:5). The judgment he bore was for our sins, not for his own. He had been tempted but never sinned (Heb. 4:15) in order that he might make satisfy God’s justice hanging over sinners (Heb. 2:17). Paul believes this is a message of love: “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). What we deserved, the Son of God took upon himself.

The death of Jesus was the death of a man, but Jesus was more than a man. The Gospel declares that God’s Son—this One through whom the world was made and who upholds the universe—made purification for our sins (Heb. 1:2-3). And his cross was different than all those that were raised before, beside, and after it. There on that tree of shame and reproach, God’s Redeemer carried the weight of sin.

We should want people to know the message of the cross, and that means we must talk about sin and judgment, righteousness and wrath, substitution and redemption. We are not praying that our hearers be sympathetic and full of pity but repentant and full of godly sorrow. Gruesome verbal portrayals of crucifixion may make them cringe and shudder, but only the Gospel message of penal-substitution—the righteous dying for the unrighteous—can make the sinner cry out, “Jesus, son of God and Redeemer, have mercy on me a sinner!”
Mitch Chase is the preaching pastor at Kosmosdale Baptist Church and is the author of Behold Our Sovereign God. He enjoys hanging out with his family, reading good books, eating out, and being with friends. He blogs at Soli Deo Gloria and tweets sporadically and frequently from @MitchellChase.

Friday, April 04, 2014

Review: Mike Reeve’s Delighting in the Trinity

Mike Reeves. Delighting in the Trinity. IVP Academic, 2012. 135. Paperback. Kindle.

Right off the bat I’m going to tell you that you need to buy this book. It’s the kind that you’ll read over and over again. It’s the kind that could be considered a classic. What stood out to me as I read Delighting in the Trinity is the way Reeves took something that could be considered complicated, and made it warm and approachable and practical. That’s a rare feat especially for a book published by an academic imprint. “For God is triune, and it is as triune that he is so good and desirable” (9).

You can guess right off the bat that Delighting is about the Trinity, but as Reeves focuses in on the trinune God of Christianity we see clearer and clearer that God is love. There’s this cascading and overflowing love that God the Father shared in community with Son and Spirit from eternity past that’s shared with mankind when we were created. “It is that the Father has always enjoyed loving another, and so the act of creation by which he creates others to love seems utterly appropriate for him” (42). And that love is crystallized in God’s move towards us in the gospel. Reeves sojourns with us as he shares, loves, and delights in these truths.
For eternity, the Father so loves the Son that he excites the Son’s eternal love in response; Christ so loves the church that he excites our love in response; the husband so loves his wife that he excites her to love him back. Such is the spreading goodness that rolls out of the very being of this God ” (28)

In the best possible way, I felt like a child exploring the beauty of the woods for the first time. New beauty after new beauty after new beauty, I was left astounded at the depth of God’s triune awesomeness. “There is something gratuitous about creation, an unnecessary abundance of beauty, and through its blossoms and pleasures we can revel in the sheer largesse of the Father” (57).  I can think of very few books that I’ve read that have succeeded in such a profound way as Delighting has. I finished truly delighting deeply in the trinity. Have you ever been so taken back by something so beautiful, the fall out hasn’t fully registered? That’s where I am right now--restless somberness. I almost feel the need to sit down and just immediately read the book again. And in another way, that I should be sharing this overflow of Trinitarian love I’ve enjoyed.
Now some families like to keep themselves to themselves, but not this one. No, the outgoing Father, that original fountain of all life and love, is the head of an outgoing family. His life and being is one of going out with his love, and that is the life of his children are brought to share. . . . The truth is God is already on mission: in love, the Father has sent his Son and his Spirit. It is the outworking of his very nature” (105).
You will not read Delighting and sit still. It’s a book that will make you squirm. It will cause you to overflow with the love of God for others around you. It will compel you towards God’s mission--to bring all his scattered children home.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Mathew Sims is the author of A Household Gospel Fulfilling the Great Commission in Our Homes and has written for CBMW Men’s blog, Gospel Centered Discipleship, Borrowed Light, and Servants of Grace. He also works as the managing editor at Gospel-Centered Discipleship. They attend Downtown Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Greenville, SC.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

The Hands, Feet, and Fish of the Gospel #ResurrectionSeries14

There are no rules for these things. You hear the story over and over through the years and it seems so. . . obvious--that it had to happen exactly this way. But you know, there are no rules for these things.

Jesus rises from the dead and miraculously appears to the eleven (absent Thomas) in Luke 24. It’s a familiar account. But with that familiarity, we slip through the story, sliding by details, passing through nuance, the blurring speed of the bullet train blending savory detail away. For a few minutes, please slow down, pull over and take a long, deep breath of fresh mountain gospel air with me.
As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. (Luke 24:36-40)
“See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.” Following rumors and reports of seeing Jesus after his death, Jesus abruptly appears in the room with the disciples. They are startled, frightened, caught out-of-place, unsettled. To reassure them, He calls them to see His hands and his feet. Why? Why His hands? Did His hands stick in the disciples’ minds as He ministered to and with them? Was it His taking of the scroll in hand in Luke 4, declaring Himself as the fulfillment of God’s long-standing promise? Or, from Luke 7, his touch of the bier of the widow’s dead son? Could it be His healing and restoring touch of the leper in Matthew 8? Why His hands? Perhaps it was His mud-making healing touch of the blind man from John 9 or his compassionate healing touch of the blind men in Matthew 20?

Why His feet? Why call the focused attention of the shocked disciples to look at His feet? Did they have treasured memories of His walking by the Sea of Galilee in Matthew 4, calling His first disciples? Or His walking past as John the Baptist pointed out the Lamb of God as future disciples listen? Even more likely, the miraculous feet of Jesus walking on the water in Matthew 14, amidst the raging storm, stepping into the boat to bring the disciples safely to the other side?

Why His feet and hands? Although possible, I don't believe these are the real reasons. Something larger is in view here. The disciples were crushed at the arrest, trial, and crucifixion of Jesus.

Listen in as Thomas reacts to their report of Jesus’ appearance:
So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” (John 20:25)
Rather than treasured memories, His hands and feet still bore the fresh wounds of the nails. This was not Jesus simply telling the story because it had to be that way. He wrote his resurrection story with wounded feet and hands for the sake of love--patient love for His disciples.

There are no rules for this sort of thing. There is no playbook, no familiar territory with resurrection. Jesus could have instantly healed his body. He could have appeared to them in kingly raiment attended by angels. It could have happened ten million different ways. Yet, He chose to come intimately to His friends and show them His hands and feet, so they would know that it was truly Him.

Joy! Wonder struck them like a hammer, but it did not shake loose their unbelief. Not yet
And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them. (Luke 24:41-43)
“Have you anything here to eat?” Jesus asks. What? Lunch at a time like this? Not quite. Is Jesus eating for himself or for His disciples? “He took it and ate before them.” This everyday, common, run-of-the-mill broiled fish is the final blow to their unbelief. Jesus is eating in front of them, not to dull His hunger, but that they would shake free from the final shackles of unbelief, and believing, believe in Him.

Friends, this same Jesus, who suffered long and patiently with the disciples so long ago, continues his long-suffering and patience with His disciples today. We walk as they did, with a faltering, unsteady limp. He braces us with nail-scarred hands. He walks the path with us on nail-scarred feet. He defeated death, shrugging off its clammy, powerless grip as He walked alive from the tomb. The hands, feet, and fish of the gospel are true gifts of grace for the first disciples and for us today.

One day we shall see Him, our blessed risen Savior.

Amen and Hallelujah!
Dave Sherrill is husband to Diane and dad to his three children. He is a technology geek during the day and a theology geek at night. He is active in his home church, wearing many hats, sometimes simultaneously. He has had an internet ministry presence for over 20 years. He currently blogs at CRandE and you can follow him on Twitter.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Organic Catechizing

As many know, I’ve been working on a Catechism for the church at which my family serves. This Baptistic Catechism is a derivative of multiple Presybterian Confessions. Some days it pains me more than others to see the things that have been taken out. Other days I am stressed by my attempts to retain the meaning of the confessions while making the language modern and accessible to Baptistic ears.

But all of this is structured and strict catechizing. While the church should grow in its use of this, the family needs to be structured around something different. What does any of my structured work have to do with my family work? Almost nothing.

Walking & Catechizing
“You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” Deut 6:7-9
How seriously do you take these texts? I didn’t. I’m learning to. In our house we walk to the mail often. We use to take longer walks and I look forward to some of those in the future. But taking seriously God’s commands means I’ll “redeem the evil times” by talking with my daughter as we “walk by the way.”

Everything started quite innocently: I want my kid to know stuff. I want her to be able to identify the moon, the sun, trees, rocks, cars, houses, grass. . . you get the pictue. Nature stands in front of us as a way to teach our children. But to what end? “Child, what is that?” must be followed by “And Child, who made it?”

Before I knew it, I was teaching my child the importance of Genesis 1-2. Her spankings are teaching her the importance of Genesis 3-4. God intended for his Scriptures to be revealed to children through the living of a Godly lifestyle. Who am I to pass on a single oppurtunity to impress (read here “teach them diligently”) the word of God? I know who I am if I pass: a unfaithful father to God’s children (Mal 2:15). Why would I pass up talking to my kid on the way to get the mail?

The funny thing is I’m teaching her even when I’m not teaching her. Many times this probably is negative teaching. But occasionally it is possitive:

Kenzie: Joke, Joke, Joke. (Note: her new word was joke)

Alaina: Kenzie, who made a joke?

Kenzie: God joke.

And there you have it. Another catechism lessons completed. Do you really believe God made everything out of nothing? Then you agree with my kid, “God (made the concept of) joke.”

Family Reformation
“You are not like to see any general reformation, till you procure family reformation. Some little religion there may be, here and there; but while it is confined to single persons, and is not promoted in families, it will not prosper, nor promise much future increase.” Richard Baxter, The Reformed Pastor

Organically catechizing will change the world. This shouldn’t surprise us. The Lord essentially promises it to all faithful and obedient parents (Deut 30:6-10). The family is the source of reformation in the church. It will be the source of reformation in the world. Are we ready to take seriously the commands of God and experience his blessing?

Parents don’t have to be master theologians. They don’t need to be able to expound full length sermons on each questions of a renowned catechism. But they are called to organically teach their children the precepts of God. Diligently.

I live in Austin, Texas a city that worships organic stuff. Organic food. Organic dog food. Organic pencil sharpeners (maybe it’s a thing? I don’t know). What would happen if the church returned to organic catechizing?
Joshua Torrey is a New Mexico boy in an Austin, TX world. He is husband to Alaina and father to Kenzie & Judah and spends his free time studying for the edification of his household. These studies include the intricacies of hockey, football, curling, beer, and theology. He blogs theological musings and a running commentary of the Scriptures at The Torrey Gazette
Originally posted at Torrey Gazette

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Review: Peter Kreeft’s The Philosophy of Tolkien

Peter J. Kreeft. The Philosophy of Tolkien. Ignatius Press, 2005. 237. Paperback. Kindle.

I wasn’t planning on reviewing this one, but had so many requests for my thoughts on it that I figured I might as well put pen to paper. I read this as part of my research for the next book I’m working on and also because I’m a Tolkienphile. With that in mind, The Philosophy of Tolkien was the most enjoyable book I’ve read in a very long time and should be required reading for anyone who loves Tolkien. Kreeft opens the wardrobe to Middle-earth. I feel like I know Tolkien and Middle-earth better after reading this. That’s a feat considering how many times I’ve read Tolkien’s stories. On the other hand, I shouldn’t be surprised because “The Lord of the Rings is a deep mine with many precious gems,” Kreeft says, “deep enough for many others to plumb to their hearts’ content” (20).

The format is straightforward. Kreeft discusses the big questions of philosophy with Tolkien’s point of view in his line of site. Each assertion is backed up by quotations from The Lord of the Rings, his other writings (regularly his Letters and The Silmarillion), and usually C. S. Lewis.

I would normally point you to some of my favorite sections at this point, but I have underlines, notes, marginalia, and the like on almost every page. It’s a repository of wisdom on Tolkien. I will mention I enjoyed how Kreeft shows how poorly the critics of Tolkien (who can’t stand that The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are beloved classics and can’t stand The Lord of the Rings was voted book of the Millennium and Tolkien the most influential authors of the 20th century) understand him or his work. They cannot wrap their minds around someone who holds to a Christian worldview during a time where modernism and then postmodernism were infecting all of literature. It’s like trying to explain the intricacies of delicate and delicious coffee to someone who has no taste buds. They’re just as happy with Folgers instant coffee than a single source, shade grown, hand picked coffee bean roasted to perfection.

I must give credit where credit is due. Nate Claiborne recommended this book to me. I wouldn’t have read it without his thumbs up. I’ve read a lot of Tolkien criticism and have been left disappointed with most of it. Kreeft doesn’t disappoint.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Mathew Sims is the author of A Household Gospel Fulfilling the Great Commission in Our Homes and has written for CBMW Men’s blog, Gospel Centered Discipleship, Borrowed Light, and Servants of Grace. He also works as the managing editor at Gospel-Centered Discipleship. They attend Downtown Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Greenville, SC.