Known by King Jesus

We followed the backgrounds home in our green pickup truck. Open communications has always been important as I parent my three daughters. On these ride homes from school, I ask one or two open ended questions until the floodgates open. Once they open though, they don’t close easily.

That day Claire and I had a productive conversation, but as we pulled up to the curb of our home she said, “Madelynn is so popular dad. Everyone knows who she is and likes her. She even got the main part in the song for music class.”

I didn’t know what to say. I stumbled over a few words. I’m sure most of what I said was forgettable. I know it was because I don’t remember what I said.

Then it hit me. Simple. I turned the truck off. Looked her in the eyes and said, “Claire, who loves you more than Daddy?” She thought for a moment, “God does.”

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Calvin’s Institutes: The Ten Commandments

Are the ten commandments relevant today? Are they something we only pay lips service to? Or do they still guide and order the moral imperative for Christian living? Calvin says, “[M]an is so wrapped in darkest ignorance that, through natural law, he is scarcely able to savour what it means to serve God acceptably” (110). And that’s the bottom line isn’t it? Without God’s law we would remain in “darkest ignorance” and we would not know (not just sipping kind of know, but the drinking deeply kind of know) that we need the mercy of God. Calvin again, “[W]hen we compare the righteousness of the law with the life we lead and when we see how little we comply with God’s will, we recognize that we do not deserve to keep our place and position among his creatures, still less to be reckoned as his children” (111).

Some might say that this is whole of the law. It shows that we need the mercy of God, but Calvin goes on to make an important point. “The Lord, however, is not content to teach us only to revere his righteousness. He seeks to train our hears to love it and to hate iniquity, and thus adds both promises and threats” (ibid). The law does not exist solely to inspire fear of punishment and despair without the gospel. It does that, but, after it does its first work, God then trains our hearts to love him through loving his law. As David so regularly said in the Psalms, he delighted in the law of God.

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Review: Jason S. Sexton’s Two Views on the Doctrine of the Trinity

The doctrine of the Trinity is essential to the Christian faith and to an orthodox and full understanding of the attributes and works of God, especially the Trinitarian work of salvation. Yet, this key doctrine has seen little engagement beyond the patristic era. That is, until recently. Following the revival in Trinitarian thought largely led by Karl Barth, “The second half of the twentieth century saw a different kind of Trinitarian theology developing, giving way to what we will refer to broadly as the relational doctrine of the Trinity” (14). Naturally, the proliferation of relational models has stimulated robust responses from classical Trinitarians.

These explorations and debates have largely been confined to academic circles and dense monographs. However, as popular level books (such as Fred Sanders’s The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything) are rightfully calling the people in the pew back to a more explicit and robust Trinitarianianism, resources are needed to provide accessible backgrounds to and summaries of recent developments in Trinitarian theology.

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Review: John Piper’s A Godward Heart

A Godward Heart is classic John Piper. It’s full of passion, full of delight in God, full of awe and wonder. It reminds me of a narrative Psalms. As I was journeying through, I was searching for a unifying element. The meditations seemed so different, but the further I read the more I understoond that God himself held all of these meditations together. All of these meditations drive our hearts to God. They drive our minds to God. And they do so without wavering.

A Godward Heart starts with a brilliant piece on hearing God speak. You think at first Piper might be extolling the charismatic gifts, but as the meditations progress he’s undoubtedly extolling the Scriptures.

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Missional Love

The most iconic verse in the Bible may be John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” I wonder how many people in America haven’t heard that verse. Not as many have heard what John says later: “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 Jn. 4:8).

Love we see is absolutely integral to who God is, but did you notice how the the two references work backwards? Look at like this: Love is essential to who God is and it’s out of this love that he sent his Son to die. God’s love (and all true love) is not insular. It’s not looking in and loving oneself. That’s why the two greatest commandments according to Jesus are love God and love neighbor. That’s also why God as trinity is essential orthodoxy. God has been and will always be a God who overflows in his love for others. This originates with his love within the trinity and overflows onto us.

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The Cascade of Trinitarian Love Fills Our Homes

I have been reading Mike Reeves Delighting in the Trinity. If you have not read it yet you should immediately stop what you’re doing, purchase it, and invest some time digging into it. It is chock-full of truth about who God is. It stirs the affections and drives the heart toward Jesus Christ. All doctrine should be taught this way. These truths sink to the bottom of your heart. As I started reading through it, I started seeing this thread. This theme through out many chapters that made me ask the question, “How does the trinity transform my marriage?”

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Review: N. D. Wilson’s Notes from the Tilt-a-whirl

If you plan on purchasing Notes from the Tilt-a-whirl, consider supporting Grace for Sinners by purchasing from Amazon. 

5 out of 5 Stars
Author: N. D. Wilson
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Reading Level: Easy

N. D. Wilson posses a rare combination of wit and wisdom. Those qualities sing in Notes. It’s a book with deep roots with boughs that reach into the heavens. Wilson describes the creation of the book:

Here’s how it happened: Philosophers of various sizes and shapes and flavors and ages crowded into the saloon of my skull and began throwing elbows to make some space. Poets and preachers piled in with them. John Donne said some zippy things about Kant, and the ancients wouldn’t stop snickering at the moderns. On top of that, Gilbert Keith Chesterton (that fabulously large Catholic writer) overheard someone making fun of Milton (it didn’t matter that the insults were all true).

Note the eruption. (7)

Notes is one part triumphant postmillennialism, one part spoke word poetry, one part theology, and one part philosophy. Wilson says he strives for “unity in cacophony” (8) and that’s exactly what he achieves. You have swirling and whirling, separate but unified, theological and philosophical memoir. A joyful exploration of God in this world and in our life--even the dark, dusty corners.

He begins with the metaphor of carnival and  the tilt-a-whirl. Appropriately reading it is like fighting through the crowd at a carnival. You might bump into this person, weave between that couple; you might laugh a little, stand gob-smacked watching some strange carni doing who knows what, or stand in line listening to a friend talk. You’ll likely bump into Nietzsche who’s dressed like a clown; you’ll weave in and out of the seasons, and stand amazed at God’s creative power seen through nature. And somehow it all fits.

Notes is just as likely to make you dizzy, awe-struck, or sick (in the best possible way). I’d describe my ride on the tilt-a-whirl in this way: once ended I sat awe-struck with God laughing like when you experience something child-like for the first time in years. And I wanted to ride again. It gave me a fresh vision for who God is and why he’s so beautiful and awesome. It forced me to taste and see. That’s rare in a book that’s so robustly theological. Read Notes for yourself, you might find something you’ve lost like joy or wonder at who God is.

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.”

Four Truths about God I Can’t Live Without by Chase Blankenship

The character and works of God are incredibly diverse and multifaceted. Thousands upon thousands of words have been written in an attempt to summarize them. Collections of these works often become textbooks and required reading for Bible college and seminary students.

Tweet This: The character and works of God are incredibly diverse and multifaceted. #FourTruthsaboutGod @ChaseOye

Although no written systematization of biblical truth can or should replace the Scriptures, theologians do their utmost to put into order what God has chosen to reveal over thousands of years. By using the word “order” I do not mean to imply God haphazardly revelas his truth to us. However, it’s dangerous for us to draw conclusions without considering all of the biblical data on any given topic.

Systematic and Biblical Theologians must account for all of the evidence without omission. Every portion of Scripture is essential and indispensable if we hope to present a complete and credible work.

Theological Duct Tape
The questions I want to weave through this four part series are simple: What would happen if we omit the doctrines of God’s love, justice, sovereignty and accessibility?

 Tweet This: What happens if we omit certain doctrines about God? #FourTruthsAboutGod @ChaseOye

Two possibilities become tragic realities if we choose to ignore truths God reveals in his Word. And I have not decided which of the two is worse. The first tragedy involves an incomplete view of ourselves. Clearly doctrine was never meant to be entertainment for entertainment’s sake or words on paper. Doctrine was also never meant to be concealed or hidden. God gave us truth so that the Holy Spirit may skewer our sin nature and effectually change us by his power. When we do not give some doctrines their proper attention we handicap ourselves from becoming the man or woman that he wants us to be. We should never forget that God wants his people to grow and the means by which he accomplishes this is through the power of his Word!

Second, omitting a doctrine ultimately leads to an incomplete and insufficient view of God. Say, for example, you go to an art show in town and walk up to a painting of a young man playing baseball. He is standing at home plate waiting for the pitcher to throw. And by the shading, detail and expressions on the faces in the crowd you can tell that the game may very well depend on the outcome of what the young man up to bat may or may not accomplish. Now, you might say, that is all fine and well.You reach into your back pocket and you happen to have a roll of duct tape. You cut off a inch or so sized piece for yourself and proceed to place it over batter’s face on the canvas thus removing his expression and head altogether from view. What have you just done besides an act of vandalism? You have just taken away an element of the painting that undoubtedly gave a lot of force and meaning to the mood the painter was trying to convey. Now, the full impact of the painting and all of the elements are partially diminished. Some people do something similar to their view of God. They mentally “duct tape” a portion of his character out of sight. They change their God into something different. He becomes diminished. He is not the God revealed in Scripture. The sad reality is that many may even observe this “duct tape” in your life, but you’re blind to its existence.

The Assignment
Let me give you a little assignment. This may sound ridiculous at first (I don’t really expect anyone to do this but I think you will get the point). Go buy a brand new Bible, a sharpie and take a day off work. Sit down and read through the whole Bible (if you could actually do it in a day). Every time you read a reference to God’s love, justice, sovereignty, and accessibility completely mark it out with your sharpie.

Tweet This: Every time you read a reference to God’s love, justice, sovereignty, and accessibility blot it out. @ChaseOye

Now when I say, “mark it out” I mean blot out the words. Once you are convinced that all references to God’s love are omitted go back to the first chapter of Genesis and start reading again. As you go through the Scriptures a second time I want you to develop for yourself a biblical theology of the above characteristics of God. How helpful would your conclusions be for yourself and others? I’m afraid not too helpful. Next month we will discuss the love of God. Is God glorious without his love? Could you live without knowing that God loves you? We will attempt to answer these questions.

The Infinite Love of Our Suffering Savior

Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again. Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Sleep and take your rest later on. See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.” (Matthew 26:36-46)

I just finished reading Tim Keller’s The Obedient Master and I can’t remove my mind from the passage of Scripture above. I’ve just been meditating on it and considering it and allowing the Spirit to teach me from it. My goal is to share one point Keller makes and expand on it.

Through out the Old Testament, “the cup” is used as a picture of judgement, a picture of God’s wrath being poured out on a people who had broken covenant with him. It’s never used in connection with those who are faithfully keeping the covenant. The Prophets use a variety of images to describe this cup but one that’s arresting is “cup of staggering” (Is. 51:17, 22; Zech. 12:2). His wrath is so intense and so complete it makes even the most steadfast stagger. It takes them by surprise and knocks them off their feet.

In Matthew 26, we have Jesus who has faithfully kept all the law and fulfilled the covenant entering the Garden and getting a taste for the coming wrath of His Father. Something his tongue had never tasted before. The wine he shares with his Father previously had always be celebratory and joyful--the cup of communion. But here he is in the Garden: “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.”

What occurs next is astounding--the disciples fall asleep. They fail their friend in his most dire hour. They are children struggling to stay awake and engaged during family worship. We’ve all been there, am I right?

Jesus, on the other hand, prepares himself for the flood of God’s wrath on the cross by sampling that cup of staggering. He cries out, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me.” Again he finds his disciples sleeping.

If that were you and I, in desperate need of friendship and communion, and instead receiving neglect and abandonment we would most likely be boiling over with anger. “How dare you sleep while I’m suffering! You call yourself friends? True friends would be listening and sympathizing with me.”

Yet Christ, while tasting the cup of wrath to come, chooses to cover the sin of his disciples. In the midst of their neglect, he still chooses to go to the cross for them. He sees their inability and declares, “I will not lose any of them.”

Many people say they will not follow Christ because they do not believe his grace will cover their filth. Keller responds and assures,

I know people who have said: “I would follow Christ, but I do not think I can keep i t up. I do not trust myself. I think he’d get tired of my failures.” Please look at him in the garden. Look what his love for you has already enabled him to endure for you. If he had turned away from suffering and the cross, we would have been lost, but he didn’t do that. Hell came down on him, and he would not let go of us. His love for us has already taken everything that the universe could throw at it and it held fast--and you think that you are going to somehow going to upset him? Is Jesus going to look at you and say, “Well, that does it! Infinite existential torment was one thing, but I can only take so much!”? (Kindle Location 245 of 842)

Friends, his disciples slept for you and me. They slept so God could show us how steadfast He is in pursuit of his beloved. He chooses suffering, death, and wrath in the very face of their failures, not in spite of them. Do not doubt he does the same for you. He does not bear the full brunt of God’s staggering cup of wrath only to be petty and trite with you and me. He bears the wrath so we can be clothed in righteousness. We then share his glory because we are united with Him by the Spirit.

God’s Sovereignty and Christian Deism

God’s sovereignty may be one of the touchiest topics in Christianity. It may not hold the mainstream attention like gay rights or abortion, but church history demonstrates this doctrine creates tension within the church. Full disclosure: I’m a Guinness stout enjoyer of reformed theology. I love John Calvin, the Westminster Confession, and Presbyterian liturgy. But you don’t have to be Presbyterian to love God’s sovereignty.

Some wield God’s sovereignty like it’s the sword of the Spirit (Eph. 6:17). For some reformed theology conjures images of stodgy theologians and dusty orthodoxy. Some are stodgy, which is where the caricature comes from.

We, reformed folk, can be quick to speak to the truth of God’s sovereignty without considering the situation, timing, or practical implications of our words. God’s sovereignty isn’t a sword but rather a pillow to rest your head on, some one once said. Fellow reformed folk keep that in mind.

On the flip side, I see a growing trend within Christianity. Many see God’s sovereignty like a clock. God winds up his sovereign will and it keeps going until the end. Yes, He’s sovereign but it has very limited import for our daily life, and we dare not speak of God’s sovereignty over evil and the like.

That’s God’s sovereignty Bud Light edition. Kind of misses the point. If God is sovereign, it must have real consequences for our daily life and especially for our suffering. It’s not enough to pat some one on the head and say, “Well, God didn't mean for that to happen. That’s surely not part of His plan.”

That doesn’t do justice to the suffering Jesus experiences while on earth and our union and communion with him. I could write a book on all the admonitions in Scripture for us to prepare to suffer with Jesus. It also only moves the “problem” back one level. Instead of God actively working for good. He’s now on His heels because of the evil in the world, but, even in that scheme, He must allow it in the world. He very well could have not allowed it.

I would encourage you: Don’t reject God’s sovereignty in its most robust form because some wield it wildly. Lean hard on it and see if it won’t hold the weight of your suffering. See if the stick breaks and pierces your hand.

In some mysterious way, God reminds us when we see Jesus our affliction now will feel “light [and] momentary” compared to “eternal weight of glory” (2 Cor. 4:17).

Tim Keller Answers, “How Does the Gospel Shape and Inform Our Work?”

1. Our faith changes our motivation for work. For professionals and others who are prone to overwork and anxiety, the gospel prevents us from finding our significance and identity in money and success. For working-class people who are prone to captivation to what Paul calls “eyeservice” (Col 3:22 KJV; “their eye is on you,” NIV) and drudgery, our faith directs us to “work . . . with all [our] heart, as working for the Lord” (Col 3:23).

2. Our faith changes our conception of work. A robust theology of creation — and of God’s love and care for it — helps us see that even simple tasks such as making a shoe, filling a tooth, and digging a ditch are ways to serve God and build up human community. Our cultural pro- duction rearranges the material world in such a way that honors God and promotes human flourishing. A good theology of work resists the modern world’s tendency to value only expertise in the pursuits that command more money and power.

3. Our faith provides high ethics for Christians in the workplace. Many things are technically legal but biblically immoral and unwise and therefore out of bounds for believers. The ethical norms of the Christian life, grounded in the gospel of grace, should always lead believers to function with an extremely high level of integrity in their work.

4. Our faith gives us the basis for reconceiving the very way in which our kind of work is done. Every community works on the basis of a collective map of what is considered most important. If God and his grace are not at the center of a culture, then other things will be substituted as ultimate values. So every vocational field is distorted by idolatry. Christian medical professionals will soon see that some practices make money for them but don’t add value to patients’ lives. Christians in marketing will discern accepted patterns of communication that distort reality, manipulate emotions, or play to the worst aspects of the human heart. Christians in business will often discern a bias to seek short-term financial profit at the expense of the company’s long- term health or to adopt practices that put financial profit ahead of the good of employees, customers, or others in the community. Christians in the arts live and work in a culture in which narcissistic self-expression can become the ultimate end. And in most vocational fields, believers encounter workplaces in which ruthless, competitive behavior is the norm. A Christian worldview provides believers with ways to interpret the philosophies and practices that dominate their field and bring renewal and reform to them.

Tim Keller, Center Church (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012) pp. 335-36

Review: The Theology of Augustine by Matthew Levering

5 out of 5 Stars
Author: Matthew Levering
Publisher: Baker Academic
Buy The Theology of Augustine
Reading Level: Moderate

Overview. Matthew Levering seeks to introduce Augustine’s thought to a new generation. The style lends itself to those who are already reading theology (think college level). He describes his method:

Many introductions to Augustine’s theology treat his ideas on this and that topic, drawing upon a wide variety of his treatises, letters, and sermons. It seems to me more fruitful to introduce Augustine’s major ideas by surveying his most important works in their entirety. (p. xii)

Matthew examines Augustine’s On Christian Doctrine, Answer to Faustus, a Manichean; Homilies on the First Epistle of John, On the Predestination of the Saints, Confessions, City of God, and On the Trinity. The introduction also offers a concise historical sketch of Augustine’s life.

What I found edifying. First, it amazes me how diverse Augustine’s writings were. He wrote theological treatises, defenses, biographies, allegories, homilies--he writes it all. Second, I was impressed by how God-centered his thought was and robustly Trinitarianism. The culmination of this God-wardness arrives in the last work discussed On the Trinity which Matthew summarizes as a participation in the life of the Trinity (p. xviii). Last, when reading the chapter for Answer to Faustus, a Manichean it’s startling how unoriginal our liberalism is today. Augustine argues for the unity of the Old and New Testament and for a Christ-centered reading of both testaments. Many of Faustus’s arguments were right out of the pages of today’s lastest liberal bestseller. Solomon is right, “There’s nothing new under the sun.”

Recommendation. I could see the book being helpful for three kinds of Christians wanting to know more about Augustine. First, the reader who has read Augustine but maybe feels like some of what he’s read is over his head. He needs help understanding it all. Matthew moves through each of these books--summarizing major points and translating major thoughts. Second, the reader who is interested in learning more about Augustine but she doesn’t have the time or desire to read his books first hands. She just wants a Cliff Notes if you will. Last, anyone who loves historical theology or Augustine will love this book. An excellent book from start to finish.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the Baker Academic. 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.”

If you plan on purchasing The Theology of Augustine, consider supporting Grace for Sinners by purchasing from Amazon.

Review: Schaeffer on the Christian Life: Countercultural Spirituality by William Edgar

5 out of 5 Stars
Author: William Edgar
Publisher: Crossway
Buy Schaeffer on the Christian Life: Countercultural Spirituality
Reading Level: Easy

I dig this series. Last year I reviewed Warfield on the Christian Life: Living in Light of the Gospel so check that out. I was overjoyed to receive word on three more in this series (Schaeffer, Bonhoeffer, & Wesley) being released this year. The Schaeffer volume being the first of the bunch. These books are theological biographies focusing on the major contributions of our spiritual forefathers.

William Edgar has a unique perspective into the impact of Francis Schaeffer’s ministry because he was converted at L’abri and spent considerable time with the Schaeffer’s. Because of this close proximity, Edgar is able to not only explore the Schaeffer’s counterculture spirituality but also speak frankly about how the Schaeffer’s lived out this spirituality daily. He highlights the successes and he doesn’t shy away from the shadows. I appreciated the inclusion of Edith Schaeffer’s theology as well. This wasn’t just Francis’s ministry; Edith played a vital role at L’abri (and had her own views on theological points).

What struck me most was the Schaeffers’s daily expression of dependence on God through a robust prayer life. Every thing they needed at L’abri they prayed for and trusted God for. It challenged me to daily express my dependence on God by approaching him with my every day needs. There is something counterculture about that even among Christians. Maybe it shouldn’t be. In the West we live an abundant life and we don’t know how to wage war on our self-dependence through prayer. We don’t know how to bring our burdens to the throne of grace. We have our daily needs met by default. If we waged war on our self-dependence I wonder if we would think more deeply about what we truly need, what we could truly give, and what God would receive the glory for providing.

I could spend a lot of time discussing Schaeffer’s apologetic approach but I’ll keep it short. We could all learn a lesson from the way he engaged people in a way which put them off balance while expressing care and love. Schaeffer learned that truth always required love and we could learn that lesson in our current culture.

If you want to counter our current age’s blindspots I would recommend reading this series on Christian living. It will provide a helpful introduction to church history and biography within the framework of the theological contribution of these men.

A free copy of this book was provided by Crossway. If you plan on purchasing Schaeffer on the Christian Life: Countercultural Spirituality, consider supporting Grace for Sinners by purchasing from Amazon.

Pardon the Interruption

Luke 23:26 “And as they led him away, they seized one Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and laid on him the cross, to carry it behind Jesus”

Luke doesn’t say whether Simon was watching the brutal Roman spectacle or if he was just passing through when “they seized” him. But we do know he wasn’t expecting to be seized, to carry this man’s cross. Cyrene is in modern day Libya, Africa. Simon may not have even known who this Jesus Christ was. All he knew was he “was coming in from the country” and “they seized” him. Pardon the interruption. 

Is it much different in our lives? We are coming from here. Going to there. We are living life. And God interrupts our life. We cross paths with the crucified and risen Jesus Christ and nothing is ever the same. God works in the inconveniences and interruptions. Remember Paul walking to Tarsus to kill Christians and wham stopped dead in his tracks. King Jesus drops him to his knees and asks, “What are you doing?”

Be alert as you live life. Prepare yourself for the interruptions. God is sovereign over all of it. Over the jerk in front of you driving ten miles under the speed limit. Over your child who is poking around and not moving as fast as you would like. Over the co-worker who won’t stop talking and makes you late. All of these are opportunities for “steadfastness” (James 1:3).

For us to move beyond these interruptions, to grow from them, and to be transformed more into the image of Christ, we must see them as God’s work through providence. We must learn apply the gospel to even the smallest situations.

God transforms through the ordinary choices, the daily living, and the mundane. So pardon the interruption.

Resting in His Sovereignty and Love: Only in God’s economy can tragedy bring life

I was born in 1970 in Seattle, into drug and alcohol abuse. Oddly baptized (sprinkled) into the Episcopal Church. This was due to the formality of being the son of English immigrants who wanted his child to make a moral step into salvation.

My father and mother lasted some 10-12 months before divorcing. My first experience with my father was 15 years later and again 5 years after that. In 2005 a slow and timid start to a relationship began that exists to this day.

I was adopted after my parents’s divorce and raised in the LDS church that my mother and step father had converted to. Even as an adolescent a certain amount of confusion existed about how and why we went to church. Not in the community itself but the formality and practice of “church.”

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Review: Awaiting a Savior by Aaron Armstrong

5 out of 5 Stars
Author: Aaron Armstrong
Publisher: Cruciform Press
Buy Awaiting a Savior
Reading Level: Easy

If you recall I reviewed When Helping Hurts this last December and was impressed with the practicality provided by it. Awaiting a Savior in contrast would be a theological foundation for dealing with poverty which “is fundamentally a spiritual issue” (p. 20). Aaron connects poverty with the gospel story. He looks at the fall (p. 18 “the fall has made poverty the default setting” emphasis original; p. 22), redemption (p. 45), and consummation (pp. 11, 97) as they relate to poverty. Says Aaron, “The root cause of poverty is sin” (p. 8) and

Therefore, the basic premise of this book is that our good faith efforts to address legitimate questions of poverty and injustice must never lose sight of the fact that poverty will persist as long as the heart of man is ruled by sin. (pp. 9-10).

and lastly

While we are responsible for pursuing biblical solutions to poverty, our only hope for an ultimate solution is in the return of Christ, when he will put an end once and for all to sin, suffering, and death, and bring about the new creation. (p. 11)

You can taste the flavor of Awaiting a Savior through these statements.

What I also appreciate is Aaron’s faithfulness in expounding the gospel and making sure the issue of social justice is emphasized in a way which honors the gospel while also not downplaying the importance Scripture places on serving the poor. Let me provide you an example. Aaron says,

Those whose hearts are inclined to the Lord will seek true justice on earth as it is in heaven. Covenant faithfulness always leads to ethical faithfulness. (p. 56 emphasis original)

Such a small phrase but so important--“covenant faithfulness.” He connects the issue of poverty and the Christian duty to combat poverty within the larger theme of covenant in Scripture. It’s how the OT attacks the issue and provides continuity with a New Covenant ethic. A few pages later he fleshes this out,

We are called to care for the poor because God is glorified in our doing so. We care for the poor because we know what it feels like to be on the receiving end of grace. We were the poor in spirit. We were lost and without hope. We were separated from God and enslaved to sin. (pp. 67-68)

Social issues are important not because it’s popular amongst hipsters but because justice is important to God. Justice is part of who he is. You cannot preach the gospel in word without demonstrating its transformative effect in deeds. The one without the other is empty (James 2). Aaron has written a balanced and engaging book. And if justice is important to God then understanding foundational issues related to it should be important to Christians.

If you plan on purchasing Awaiting a Savior, consider supporting Grace for Sinners by purchasing from Amazon.