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Posts Tagged ‘D.A. Carson’


The times they are a-changing. That should be fairly obvious to anyone in America. Some resist the changes, while others adapt.

That includes Christians.

During the 2016 election I preached thru Esther to prepare people for this new world. I saw the two options as slow change and fast change. Both seemed more like the Persian king that I was comfortable thinking about.

I followed up Esther with 1 Peter to prepare my people for life as exiles. We are shifting to a post-Christian culture. As part of the previous majority, Christians are commonly disparaged by those seeking to re-balance the scales. I tried to draw this out and apply it to evangelism.

I wish the new book Evangelism as Exiles: Life on Mission as Strangers in Our Own Land by Elliot Clark was available at that time. Clark draws on his experiences as a missionary in a closed country to apply the message of 1 Peter to the newer American context. He provides us with a thoughtful exploration of evangelism as we move into the future where Christians are not welcome, just like Peter’s original audience.

After a foreword by D.A. Carson, Clark offers us an introduction (Embracing Exile) and 6 chapters to develop some of the primary themes in Peter’s letter: the hope of glory, godly fear, respect for others, evangelism as doxology and our true home. This is not a very long book (just over 150 pages). It will both comfort you and discomfort you. Filled with gospel hopes you also find some gospel imperatives as well.

Carson notes that opposition can be either cultural or judicial. Our missionaries would experience both at times, but we may have experienced some cultural opposition here in America. That opposition is increasing, and we are beginning to experience judicial opposition. This will mean that nominal Christians will fall by the wayside. But we have to consider how we will respond.

“Instead of whining and feeling sorry for ourselves because the culture is becoming unrecognizable, Christians should align their vision with that of the most mature first-century Christians.” D.A. Carson

It is time for many Christians to realize that the cultural war is over. It is post-D-Day and pre-VE day to borrow an analogy. We can live in fear and anger. Or we can realize there are profound gospel opportunities we didn’t have before. The New Testament was written to a church that was a cultural and religious minority. Therefore, there is much for us to discover there about our new cultural situation.

Peter wrote to “elect exiles”. Since become Christians, these people were exiles in the same cities they lived in before they converted. They engaged in evangelism despite lacking cultural power and influence. They relied on the Spirit and the Word more than programs and events. We may have to leave our programs and events but will still have the Word and Spirit.

Jesus experienced opposition from the Pharisees, scribes, Herodians, Sadducees, his own family, Roman officials and communities that were afraid of him. Sinners hate God and his gospel. When we represent God and his gospel, they may hate us too. Throughout his letter, Peter highlighted “the overlapping realities of their experience with the Savior’s.”

“In a world of seemingly unending shame, opposition, struggle, weakness, affliction, and persecution, the certainty of future glory is the unstoppable heartbeat of our enduring hope.”

Peter wanted them to know of their certain future, their hope. This future glory is Jesus’ shared glory. The afflictions we experience, and abuse heaped on us, cannot change or diminish that glory. We have a certain future, so don’t be overwhelmed by the uncertainty in the short-term.

I get it. I worry about how my kids will live. Will they have opportunities? Will they be persecuted? I’ve long thought I’ll probably end up in jail for my faith, and that may still happen. We need to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and the promise of glory.

Clark speaks of shame, not fear, as perhaps the greatest impediment to evangelism. Shame excludes. Exiles don’t fit in, and no one will let them in. Future glory is the only antidote to the power of shame.

“God has put us in these places, positions, and relationships for a reason, and that reason, among others, is to proclaim the good news of Christ.”

While shame may be the greatest impediment, fear is a real problem too. He reminds us that the biblical antidote to the fear of man is the fear of God. Clark brings us to Isaiah 8, for instance, to help us to see that Peter’s message wasn’t new nor novel. It is, however, relevant.

Not only should we fear God, but Clark reminds us to fear for them. Judgment is real too. They will face judgment. These two fears should motivate us to make the gospel known to people.

As Christians we are to honor everyone. Peter calls us to gentleness and respect as we make Jesus known. This is not natural to us. We want to revile in return. We want to mock and ridicule. That doesn’t work so well for evangelism which is a way to love other people. To do it in an unloving fashion works against the goal. Perhaps we need to rethink how to interact online. We do need to realize we are not inviting them into short-term glory but rather to be outcasts with us. The glory will come later.

Evangelism is about worship too, as Clark reminds us from 1 Peter 2. Perhaps we don’t evangelize because our hearts are not filled with His praises.

In the midst of this, Clark redefines our understanding of “opportunities”. We tend to reduce opportunities to those times we think the person will be open. We are like guys who will only ask a girl out if they think it likely she’ll say ‘yes’. Instead, we are to proclaim the gospel in season and out. We are heralds of the kingdom, not salesmen looking for an easy mark.

Peter, Clark notes, repeatedly returns to Noah who was a preacher of righteousness. He preached despite a lack of success. He didn’t figure out which way the wind was blowing but by faith was obedient to God even though those around him couldn’t conceive of a flood. People today can’t really conceive of a judgment that involves them. Yet, the Great Commission stands as a gospel responsibility.

Holiness matters too! Personal holiness authenticates the message we bring. Jesus changes people. He imputes righteousness to us in justification, and imparts righteousness to us in sanctification. We aren’t saved because we are holy, but are saved to be made holy.

He then moves into hospitality. In Peter’s day there were no hotels. Inns were often places with questionable and immoral behavior. Church planting teams, itinerant preachers and traveling Christians needed a place to stay. Christians were to open their doors to them. Worship took place in people’s homes as well. Evangelism includes inviting people into your homes as you offer them an eternal home. In closed countries hospitality is an essential part of friendship and therefore evangelism. It will be so here too.

Clark touches on some important topics in this book. It is not simply theoretical, as seen in the stories from his life on the mission field. This is a great corrective to the average American Christian’s view of evangelism and culture.

Do you feel like a stranger in your own country?

Do you feel a desire to share the gospel with people who seem so different from you?

If you answered yes to those questions, this book is for you. You will find the book both comforting and challenging. May God move us into the world as heralds of the good news.

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I woke up this morning thinking about my new sermon series and text. I begin a series on Philippians called Partners in the Gospel with the first two verses. Theoretically I’ve begun this series by looking at Acts 16 for the last four weeks to see the beginning of the church in Philippi through the ministry of Paul and Silas (and Timothy).

Image result for huddleJesus made each of those three men His partners in the gospel. He also made them one another’s partner for the gospel. We see Jesus then forming a partnership with Lydia and the jailer. These new Christians are not only partners with the church planting team, but one another particularly as Paul & Silas are shown the door by the city leaders.

I’ll be exploring this theme of being partners with Jesus and one another for the gospel in Tucson.

The resources I’ll be using are on the shorter side of things. The Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament series I’ve grown to appreciate recently does not have a volume on Philippians. I almost picked up the Baker Exegetical Commentary by Moises Silva.

Rather than get the larger, more technical Ralph Martin volume on Philippians in the Word Biblical Commentary Series, I decided to settle for his volume in the Tyndale New Testament Commentary Series. It should hit the highlights of his more technical commentary.

I like the practical nature of the Let’s Study series. The Philippians volume is written by Sinclair Ferguson. It only makes sense that I use that one.

I’ve had the D.A. Carson volume Basics for Believers: An Exposition of Philippians collecting dust for awhile. Time to read it.

I often use the Bible Speaks Today Series, and this will be no exception. Alec Motyer is the author of The Message of Philippians.

Lately I’ve enjoyed some of the volumes in the Focus on the Bible Series, so I’ll be reading David Chapman’s volume on Philippians.

For the Dead Guys, I’ll be reading Calvin’s Commentary on Philippians.

I will be trying a new series called Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Philippians. The authors are Tony Merida and Francis Chan. Merida, along with David Platt and Daniel Akin, is a series editor. I’m not sure if Chan is a plus or a minus at this point. But I want to make sure I’m keeping the focus on Jesus.

It sure sounds like a lot of reading but none of these books is big. If I don’t find particular volumes helpful, I can drop them easily. Overall, I’m looking forward to Philippians. I hope it will be encouraging, challenging and keep pointing people to Jesus, our partner in the gospel.

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1422489_10202619602351025_1890806628_nThis coming Sunday I begin a new sermon series on the Gospel of John. While I have preached individual sermons or holiday series from John, I have yet to preach thru the Gospel. As I begin the series I have a stack of books that will be read along the way. Some of you may find some of these helpful.

Teaching John: Unlocking the Gospel of John for the Bible Teacher by Dick Lucas & William Philip. This is a short book (137 pages) uses a few of the stories in John to help you understand the bigger picture.

Getting to Know John’s Gospel: A Fresh Look at its Main Ideas by Robert A. Peterson. This is another short book that gets you oriented to the 3 purposes for the Gospel of John. It looks at some of the main groupings: “I Am” statements, 7 signs and others that help teachers to get a better handle on what is going on.

The Seven Signs: Seeing the Glory of Christ in the Gospel of John by Anthony Selvaggio. This is another short book of more limited scope- the 7 signs. He goes more in depth with those signs than the previously mentioned books.

The God Who Became Human: A Biblical Theology of the Incarnation by Graham Cole. This is an entry from the New Studies in Biblical Theology series edited by D.A. Carson. This book will be particularly important in the first chapter.

Father, Son and Spirit: The Trinity and John’s Gospel by Andreas Kostenberger & Scott Swain. This is another entry in the New Studies in Biblical Theology. This is a key subject in John’s Gospel and a book like this really should be read as a result.

The Gospel According to John by D.A. Carson. This is part of the excellent Pillar Commentary series and done by a well-respected exegete & theologian. This is one of the standard commentaries on this gospel.

The Gospel According to John by Leon Morris. This is the older entry from the New International Commentary of the New Testament series. It has since been phased out and replaced by Michael Ramsey. I love Morris’ work and I’m glad I’ve got it.

The Gospel According to John by John Calvin. This is another good “old time” commentary. We interpret in community across time, and Calvin is a good one to study with.

Homilies on the Gospel of John (1-40) by Augustine. This is a good way to get in touch with the historical community of faith. I look forward to reading these sermons.

Books I Don’t Have Time to Read

No pastor can read everything. We have families to care for each day. There are also congregants that need our time and love. Here are some others that come recommended by others.

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The final section of The Explicit Gospel has to do with implications and applications. The majority of the section has to do with what happens if you stay on the ground or in the air too long.

“The explicit gospel holds the gospel on the ground and the gospel in the air as complementary, two views of the same redemptive plan God has for the world in the work of his Son.”

Think of it as a cross country trip. If you drive it you easily get lost in the details. Especially in west Texas. Monotony can set in. The hours grind by and you lose sight of the big picture- why you are going there. You just want to get there.

If you fly, let’s say a small private plan like my friend Steve, you can’t stay in the air too long or you’ll run out of fuel. You see the big picture, but you miss out on the details. You see the expanse of canyons and mountains. But you miss the nuances of those same places.

Not the best illustration, but hopefully it helps. Unfortunately it does break down because the two modes of transportation are not as obviously complementary. They are often mutually exclusive. Too often people treat the gospel on the ground and the air as mutually exclusive instead of complementary. These are the dangers that Chandler wants to make explicit.

He begins with a discussion of slippery slopes. Most theological errors are the result of over-emphasizing something that is true at the expense of something else that is true. In trying to protect one thing, we go too far and deny something else. His goal is to encourage us to avoid this by holding both together.

“So it is not usually in the affirmation of a truth that someone goes down the slippery slope, but in the denial of corresponding truths.”

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It has been on the fringes of a number of discussions I’ve had in recent months.  It often comes up (unseen) in discussions about baptism with Calvinistic credo baptists.  It has been at work in discussions about the relationship between law and gospel, and the Old and New Covenants.  “It” is New Covenant Theology (NCT).

Let’s start by realizing that this is a matter of disagreement within The Gospel Coalition.  There is freedom to disagree on this issue.  This is not a matter that puts one “outside the camp” but one that creates some significant differences of opinion within the camp.  Often we can’t resolve those differences on non-essentials because we ultimately are disagreeing about whether we should embrace Covenant Theology (CT) or NCT (yes, some of the Gospel Coalition guys are Dispensational).

I’ve been meaning to do a post on this for months now but haven’t had the time to really process things.  I probably still haven’t processed things as clearly as I want to.  As a young Christian, I drank from the Dispensational cistern via Hal Lindsey (I worked at a book store at the time of conversion and didn’t know any better).  I’ve since read books by Ryrie and others.  I “grew” out of it.  By that I mean that no one really showed me anything better or beat me up about it.  No one, as Dr. Nicole would say “disabused me” of this theology.  As I continued to read Scripture, I discovered it didn’t fit.  Scripture itself took Dispensationalism out of the picture for me.  But I was essentially left with nothing in its place when I arrived at RTS Orlando.

There I was grounded in CT, even if it took me years to embrace and/or understand all of the implications.  Baptism was the tough one for me, but I got there eventually (2 years after seminary).  I haven’t studied NCT itself as much, but have read many who espouse it (like D.A. Carson and other Trinity guys).

Last night someone sent me a link to the Desiring God website.  It was a short article meant to briefly describe Dispensationalism, CT & NCT.  The author went on to say that Piper’s own views are probably closest to NCT and farthest from Dispensational Theology.  NCT agrees with CT in seeing Scripture structured by Covenants, not Dispensations.  It agrees with Dispensationalism by seeing a discontinuity between the Old and New Covenants.  I’m not really interested in rehashing the Dispensational thing, so let’s look at the brief descriptions of CT & NCT and say a few things about each.

Covenant Theology
Covenant theology believes that God has structured his relationship with humanity by covenants rather than dispensations. For example, in Scripture we explicitly read of various covenants functioning as the major stages in redemptive history, such as the covenant with Abraham, the giving of the law, the covenant with David, and the new covenant. These post-fall covenants are not new tests of man’s faithfulness to each new stage of revelation (as are the dispensations in dispensationalism), but are rather differing administrations of the single, overarching covenant of grace.

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I’m tired from studying Canaanite religion and pondering the church schedule for the next 6 months.  No real connection there.  Since I was looking at some options for materials for us in groups and SS, I decided to see what books are going to be released in the next few months.  Here is what grabbed my attention:

The Works of John Newton.  It was probably re-released in December.  In the last few years I’ve grown to appreciate John Newton.  I’ve been pondering getting his works.  Good timing?

The Church of God as an Essential Element of the Gospel by Stuart Robinson.  This is another reprint.  The title alone intrigues me.

Reclaiming Adoption: Missional Living through the Rediscovery of Abba Father.  It is a book based on the Together for Adoption Conference (in 2009?).  It includes chapters by John Piper and Scotty Smith (both of whom pastor churches cultivating a culture of adoption).

The Intolerance of Tolerance by D.A. Carson.  Yes, published in October 2009, but oddly on the coming soon section of WTS Books.  Go figure.

Genesis 25-50 by John Currid.  I used his commentaries on Exodus when preaching through the book earlier in my ministry.  I found them helpful, and suspect this would be as well.  If I continue beyond the life of Abraham, I’ll have to pick this up.

The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way by Michael Horton.  This is a risky pick for me.  I used to be a big Horton fan, but I see his books as more diagnosis than cure these days.  I also hesitate with regard to his understanding/application of the 2 kingdoms doctrine.  But you never know.

Standing Forth: The Collected Writings of Roger Nicole.  Not new, but one I should get.  My late professor was a brilliant and godly man.

Speaking the Truth in Love: Life and Legacy of Roger Nicole.  You need to read biographies of men greatly used by God.  You learn, often, how they were greatly broken.  I’d like to learn more about my late professor.

When the Word Leads Your Pastoral Search: Biblical Principles and Practices to Guide Your Search by Chris Brauns.  I saw this and swore to myself.  This is the book I’ve been meaning to write.  I may still write it, though with particular reference to the Presbyterian circles in which I live and work.

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I posted on this topic a few years ago.  But recent studies have brought this topic back to the surface.  The Gospel Coalition has a number of posts about this issue of integrity.

 

Collin Hansen

Collin Hansen notes the professional price to be paid for plagiarism.  Sadly, politicians seem to pay no such price.  But as pastors, getting fired should not be what motivates our heart in anything.  He doesn’t suggest this should be our motive by the way.  But after learning a prominent evangelical pastor used Collin’s work without credit, he learned that evangelicalism has a different approach.  I guess it would be similar to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

Steve Brown used to tell us that a borrowed illustration should be noted the first time, “then it’s yours.”  He was speaking tongue in cheek of course.  Surely we aren’t expected to footnote our sermons for influential ideas.  But, if we are quoting someone we should not that with a simple “As Jonathan Edwards noted…”.  We can credit people for their important ideas, and should.  It is about integrity, not fanning the ego of the one whose work benefited us (see the interesting comments on Collin’s post).

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Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling by Andy Crouch was one of the hot books of 2008.  It has endorsements from such people as Lauren Winner, Richard Mouw, Tim Keller and James Emery White.  As such, it is not a book for a narrow group of people but is respected by a broad spectrum of Christian leaders.  As a result, I was looking forward to reading the book as I worked through Genesis.

I was not disappointed.  I expected an interesting, challenging read.  As far as specifics, I was not sure what to expect.  It did not go in some directions I had hoped, but took me in directions I probably needed to go.

One of the main things that Crouch does is look at the cultural import of Scripture.  This takes up much of the book.  He develops the way in which Scripture traces major developments in Scripture, and how culture affects the people in Scripture.  Scripture places us in a variety of cultures (ancient Canaan, Egypt, ancient Israel, Babylon, post-exilic Jerusalem and Galilee, etc.).

Crouch begins at the beginning- how the Scriptural account of creation is very different from the myths of other cultures.  There, we find the importance of structure for creativity.  Structure creates regularity without which no creativity can happen.  There must be some type of predictability for us to manipulate creation in order to display creativity.  Too much structure though stifles creativity.

“Culture is the realm of human freedom- its constraints and impossibilities are the boundaries within which we can create and innovate.”

He lays out some of the common questions regarding culture, and a few I hadn’t thought about before.

  1. What does this cultural artifact assume about the way the world is?
  2. What does this cultural artifact assume about the way the world should be?
  3. What does this cultural artifact make possible?
  4. What does this cultural artifact make impossible (or at least very different)?
  5. What new forms of culture are created in response to this artifact?

Questions 3 & 4 address the horizons of the possible and impossible in a culture.  This was some of the new material that I had not really pondered before.

“Family is culture at its smallest- and its most powerful!”

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Books on prayer are always a risky proposition.  They tend to raise some sort of controversy, whether they want to or not.  The Prayer of Jabez got lots of heat.  It was a little book, and wasn’t intended to be a treatise on prayer.  Did Wilkenson over-state his case?  At times.  But the book was not heretical like some people (at least in my circles) made it out to be.  Could have done without all the hype that spawned an industry.  Or take E.M. Bounds.  Some people love his stuff.  I just end up feeling guilty.  It only points out that facts that my prayer life is not like Martin Luther and John Calvin’s.  Not so helpful for me.

It is into this conflicted world that Will Davis Jr. released his latest book on prayer- Pray Big: The Power of Pinpoint Prayers.  I’m not sure what I was thinking when I asked for a review copy.  I guess I was hoping it would help my prayer life.  I’ve seen some reviews on Facebook- some people like this book, alot.

There were warning signs.  One of the blurbs on the back is by Don Piper.  Yes, Don.  He of 90 Minutes in Heaven fame.  The book that apparently has spawned its own cottage industry of calenders and devotionals.   Call me old-fashioned, but I’m thinking that if there is something about heaven God wants me to know, it will be … in the Bible!  So a guy who has functional issues with the authority of Scripture really likes this book.  Not a selling point for the likes of people like me.

Initially I had some agreement with Pastor Davis.  Most evangelicals are pretty superficial in their prayers.  “Bless Josh” is not really what the Father is looking for.  It reeks of a lack of thought both in knowing God and knowing Josh.  I also agree with Pastor Davis that Scripture should direct our prayer life.   Our areas of agreement began to dissipate quickly.  So quickly that I never finished the book.  The reason was there were unconstructive thoughts arising.  I felt I was being overly-critical.  Perhaps I wasn’t, but I decided for my own sake to stop reading.  Little did I realize it had it’s own cottage industry.

What was the problem?  I’ll mention 5.

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This Sunday will be my first official Sunday in the pulpit of Desert Springs.  I guess I was technically their pastor after my examination.  But now we have moved and are in the process of settling in.

In May I will begin a series called Foundations of Faith from Genesis.  But I had 1 Sunday lost in the shuffle there.  So I figured that of the recent sermons I preached in Vero Beach, the one of John 15 would be the most appropriate as we begin our life together.

Why so important?  Jesus is the true vine, and we can do NOTHING without Him.  I am merely one of the branches.  We must remember to seek our life in and from Him.  Jesus is the one essential component of a vibrant church.

Not only that but we must recognize the roll of fruitfulness as an inevitability of union with Christ the vine.  If we are really connected to Him by faith through the Spirit, we will be fruitful.

Third, the Father will prune all who are to be even more fruitful.  We are not to plateau, but to continue to increase in fruitfulness.

I’m thankful to read the pertinent portions of D.A. Carson’s commentary on the Gospel According to John in the Pillar New Testament Commentary series due to the gift of a friend.  I’m also relying on Leon Morris’ volume in the NICNT series.  He’s one of my favorite commentators.

Next time I spend time in John, I may want to look for Dick Lucas and William Philip’s Teaching John.  Lucas is someone Tim Keller often mentions as a thoughtful exegete and preacher of the Word.

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Since I’m feeling ill, I’ve got a bit more time to poke around the internet today.  With the return of a book allowance I was interested in what books might be coming out soon.

He's a Cavman fav!

O happy day!  Sinclair Ferguson has a new book coming out.  If you’ve been on this blog much, you’ll soon discover that Dr. Ferguson is one of my favorites.  His new book is called By Grace Alone: How the Grace of God Amazes Me.  He addresses the sad reality that many in the church are no amazed by God’s love & grace.  A bit of that entitlement mentality that plagues us in many ways.  I look forward to reading this.

Sorry, that is just one book.  But it promises to be a good one that is worth reading often.

Update:

Scandalous: The Cross and the Resurrection of Jesus by D.A. Carson.  Carson is another one of my favorite contemporary authors.  This series to designed to simply and clearly present central doctrines.  With them under attack (again), this should be a good defense of historical orthodoxy.

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D.A. Carson re-enters the discussion of Christianity’s relationship with culture in Christ and Culture Revisited.  I say re-enters because he hits some similar issues in The Gagging of God: Christianity Confronts Pluralism and his more recent Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church.  This time he evaluates the classic, influential work of H. Richard Niebuhr, Christ and Culture.  He arrives at the same essential point that I did while in seminary, just in a far more thoughtful and thorough way.  Due to my circumstances, it may have taken me as long to read it as it did for him to write it.

Here is a quick summery of Carson’s conclusions for you:

“Niebuhr’s typology offers his five types as slightly idealized competing options.  Yet this emphasis on choosing from among the options does not square with the canonical function of Scripture.  … Christians do not have the right to choose one of the options in the fivefold typology as if it were the whole.  The name of that game is reductionism.”

What Carson does is rightly is say that no one paradigm fits every situation.  Scripture reveals very different responses to different circumstances as people sought to live life under the gaze of God.  We are to utilize wisdom, always checking our hearts with Scripture lest we deceive ourselves, to chart the best course.

In developing this, Carson digs into some good biblical theology.  This is so we live in light of the main turning points of redemptive history (creation, fall, redemption, restoration), and in light of the already/not yet realities of our salvation.  When we focus on only one or two turning points of redemptive history we fall into reductionism and hover in one (often knee-jerk) response to what is happening around us.

Inevitably Christians find themselves squeezed between the claims and obligations of the broader culture and their allegiance to Christ.  The tensions between Christ and culture are both diverse and complex, but from a Christian perspective they find their origins in the stubborn refusal of human beings, made in God’s image, to acknowledge their creaturely dependence on their Maker. … Although there are better and worse examples of how these tensions might play out, there is no ideal stable paradigm that can be transported to other times and places: every culture is perpetually in flux, ensuring that no political structure is a permanent “solution” to the tension.

It may sound to some as relativism, but it really isn’t.  We apply unchanging standards to changing circumstances.  So at times we will adopt cultural practices, at times abandon them, at times adapt them etc.

It is when Carson begins to examine the various uses of the term ‘culture’ that this book gets a bit heady and philosophical.  It is at moments like that when I realize how average a thinker and how poorly read I am.  But my calling is different from his.  He wisely says you can jump to the next chapter.

He focuses a great deal of attention of the relationship between church and state (and how those terms are variously used).  In our quest for one ideal arraingment, we err.  He traces the development of various views in the West (notably the U.S. and France).  We should learn to tread lightly when wanting to criticize Christians in other cultures.  We often don’t have the frame of reference, and circumstances, they do.  And we often flounder in our own circumstances.  I gather we should take the log out of our eyes.

Overall it was a good read, but not an easy read.  But pastors and elders should labor through that they might shepherd their people through this potential quagmire.  I’m glad Carson revisited some old ground and gave us a better lay of the land.

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I’ve been working my way through  Christ & Culture Revisited by D.A. Carson.  In his chapter on Secularism, Democracy, Freedom and Power I found this appropriate as we celebrate that “holiday” to freedom.

The democratic tradition in the West has fostered a great deal of freedom from Scripture, God, tradition, and assorted moral constraints; it encouraged freedom toward doing your own thing, hedonism, self-centeredness, and consumerism.  By contrast, the Bible encourages freedom from self-centeredness, idolatry, greed, and all sin and freedom toward living our lives as those who bear God’s image and who have been transformed by his grace, such that our greatest joy become doing his will.  Even if that direction (“freedom toward”) will not be perfected until the new heaven and new earth, already the Christian is beginning to glimpse the glory of the words, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin …. so if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:34-36).

We have made an idol of freedom.  I grew up in NH where the license plates say “Live Free or Die”.  Yet, we have a profound misunderstanding regarding freedom.  This is a function of our depravity, our innate capacity to corrupt all that comes our way.  One of the first things “freedom” meant in former Soviet bloc countries was that suddenly pornography was available.  As we celebrate our freedom, perhaps we ought to also lament our abuses of that freedom.

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Jerram Barrs strikes again!  His book The Heart of Evangelism is a fantastic look at evangelism that truly gets to the heart of the matter.  He brings the same humble, gracious style to the subject of prayer with The Heart of Prayer: What Jesus Teaches Us.  He addresses topics that often seem to be guilt-inducing.  But he recognizes the internal and external obstacles to both evangelism and prayer.  He writes as a fellow struggler sitting at the feet of Jesus instead of as an expert practicioner.

Jerram focuses on Jesus’ teaching on prayer, so this book serves as a nice counterpart of D.A. Carson’s A Call to Spiritual Reformation, which focuses on Paul’s prayers.  These 2 men are very different, and both books are excellent though different.  This book is very accessible to lay people.  He tackles issues like public and private prayer, fasting, persevering in prayer, and Jesus’ prayers for His people.  He includes an appendix on mysticism.

This is an encouraging book.  It is also a humbling book.  That is a great combination.

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With a slight let up in work, I can get to work on the new box of books that just arrived from the Westminster Theological Seminary Bookstore.  Here’s what I got:

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Yes, John Piper has another new book out (I’m already behind).  It is called Finally Alive, and it explores the biblical doctrine of regeneration, being born again.  This is a much needed book since there is so much misunderstanding about what it means, and how it radically affects our lives.

You can look at sample pages.

Not sure about that cover.  Yeah, I know it is about the leaves blowing as a sign of the wind, and regeneration a sign of the Spirit’s work in our lives.  Still … unless you’re already biblically literate it’s lost on you.

Here is some more info from WTS Books:

“I cannot too strongly celebrate the publication of this book.” – D. A. Carson

Publisher’s Description: When Jesus said to Nicodemus, ‘You must be born again’, the devout and learned religious leader was unsure what Jesus meant. It would seem nothing has changed. Today ‘born again Christians’ fill churches that are seen as ineffectual at best, and even characterised by the ‘mosaic’ generation as ‘unchristian’.

The term ‘born again’ has been devalued both in society and in the church. Those claiming to be ‘born again’ live lives that are indistinguishable from those who don’t; they sin the same, embrace injustice the same, covert the same, do almost everything the same.

Being ‘born again’ is now defined by what people say they believe. The New Testament however defines Christians very differently.

“When Jesus said to Nicodemus, “You must be born again” (John 3:7), he was not sharing interesting and unimportant information. He was leading him to eternal life… If he does that for you (or if he already has), then you are (or you will be) truly, invincibly, finally alive.” (John Piper)

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Steve McCoy did a Big 5 on Prayer

Here are some of my favorite books on prayer:

Here are some of the books on prayer that I am interested in reading:

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Who said New England was a spiritual wasteland?  Okay, much of it is.  But I found some good sermons and lectures while visiting a website for a church in Portland, ME.

2006 Northern New England Presbytery (PCA) Missions Conference, Speaker Richard Pratt

2008 Northern New England Presbytery (PCA) Missions Conference, Speaker D.A. Carson

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Less than $15 at WTS Books!

Less than $15 at WTS Books!

I own and read this book under its previous title: Whoredom: God’s Unfaithful Wife in Biblical Theology.  I’ve recommended the book to friends, and on my blog.  I guess that title was a bit over the top for some people.  It was re-released as God’s Unfaithful Wife: A Biblical Theology of Spiritual Adultery.  Ray Ortlund’s book is still part of the New Studies in Biblical Theology series.

This is a great book on a very difficult subject.  It makes for must reading if you are reading, studying or preaching from any of the prophets that wrestled with Israel’s apostasy.  It works through the many passages that show how ugly it is, and how prevalent our temptation really is.

I’m glad this book is still available, and wish more pastors would read it.  This is particularly true in America where Satan’s strategy to neutralize the Church is seduction rather than persecution.  We live in dangerous times as prosperity (and the prospect of losing that prosperity) silently seduces us from faithfulness to the Holy One who has created, redeemed and adopted us.  It is the silent spiritual killer that is corrupting many sermons, books and churches.

Sorry if I sound alarmist, pessimistic and negative.

This book is not an easy read.  It is a bit academic in that it assumes some working knowledge of the original languages.  It is also difficult due to the metaphors Scripture uses to convey how corrupt Israel was in pursuing false gods or engaging in synchretism.  Scripture often sexualizes it (and translators work to make it PG) to drive the point home, shocking us for holy purposes.  Even if you never preach on those difficult texts, this book will help you keep such texts in mind as you encounter the common call to return to God with all your heart, to love the Lord with all we are and to be blameless before Him.

No, not an easy read but a very important read.  I’m glad D.A. Carson asked Ray Ortlund Jr. to make this a part of the NSBT series.

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I just finished D.A. Carson’s A Model of Christian Maturity: An Exposition of 2 Corinthians 10-13.  It was formerly published as From Triumphalism to Maturity.

It covers on of the more difficult passages of Paul’s letters, one which seems particularly appropriate in these times.  As I read the book, I could not help but think of many instances to “triumphalism” or an over-realized eschatology.

Carson writes in an understandable fashion that addresses the various exegetical problems of the text.  It is a book that is helpful for those wanting to better understand this passage of Scripture, or wanting to have a better understanding of mature Christian leadership.

In this passage of Scripture, Paul is trying to distinguish himself from the “super-apostles” who have entered the Corinthian church, seeking to supplant him.  Their ‘credentials’ lead us to believe that they are Judaizers who measure ministry by worldly standards of success rather than biblical standards of faithfulness.  They continually discredit Paul as not meeting their superior standards, seeking to win the Corinthians’ hearts and wallets.

They measure success by power- both in word and deed.  Their rhetorical style is worldly wisdom rather than the wisdom and scandal of Christ and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 1-2).  Like the Hellenistic teachers of the day, success is measured by the number of followers and the amount they are willing to pay to be taught by you.

(more…)

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