Books Read In November

Read my review HERE
Read my review HERE
See my review HERE

Read my review HERE

The Drama of Ephesians: Participating in the Triumph of God by Timothy G. Gombis

People tend to think that verse-by-verse expositional commentaries are always the best type of commentaries. However most commentaries are about scholars speaking to other scholars and while they have a place, they are not always accessible to everyone.

Some of the very best ‘commentaries’ are ones that deal with the broad brush strokes and themes of a book – giving you the whole picture. Timothy Gombis’ book The Drama of Ephesians does just that which makes it a very valuable commentary on Ephesians.

What Gombis does so well is to broaden our perspective to include both the earthly and spiritual message of Ephesians. He looks at the cosmic battle and the role of the Christian / Church as we live both in the here and now and yet also in the light of what is yet to come, the eternal kingdom of Christ.

Don’t get me wrong, this is not some wild charismatic polemic about the demonic world but solid biblical insight about the realities of what the church in Ephesus faced and what the church is faced with today. This book does a GREAT job of bringing this book into the present and how it relates to us today. Although very accessible, make no mistake – this is high scholarship presented in a very readable way. It is obvious Gombis spent much time immersed in this letter.

I wish more books like this are being written on the biblical books – we need them.

Very Highly recommended.

Calvinist Extends Hand of Friendship to Arminians

Adrian Warnock, a Calvinist from England writes:

I am more and more convinced that there are many godly Arminians out there that we Reformed people would do well to listen to more than we do. I am not talking about liberals who throw the Bible out, but those who might have come to different views from us on all kinds of things, but love the authority of Scripture. I might disagree with them but if they love the God of the Bible why would I not want to listen to them from time to time? But is it just me, or are there very few Arminians on the web?

Read Adrian Warnock’s whole post HERE

Also read Roger Olson’s fascinating post on Arminianism and theology here

Recent Reflections On Jeremiah 23 – Psalm 46 – Colossians 1 – Luke 23

AUDIO Here – Sunday Sermon 21 November 2010

Written Notes below

Have you ever looked at baby as it is in their mother’s arms sleeping? There is a sense of complete safety and security in the babies face. It knows that it is safe. I don’t know about you but there are times when I look at Caleb sleeping and think that I would like such a feeling of security and safety.

Where is your safe place?

Maybe your safe place is home. You walk through the front door at the end of the day and as the door closes behind you you feel safe. Maybe your safe place is your parents home, or the place in which you grew up – or maybe it’s a place you go to on vacation. Perhaps your safe place is being with your friends, who accept you as you are and have no expectation on you.

We all crave or desire a safe place? A place away from the stresses, concerns and busyness of life, work and the world. We all crave a place where those things no longer matter or can’t get to us – where we can forgot about them for a time.

Of course, our technology is making those safe places hard to find. Our cell phones now make us not just available by phone but by email. And the ability to use the Internet even on our phones means we can do almost anything from anywhere in the world, be it from a mountain resort in North Carolina to a beach in the Mediterranean.

Another reason that we crave safety is that we know that our world is not safe. Recently on the news a British couple were on their honeymoon in Cape Town, South Africa, when gunmen randomly hijacked the car they were traveling in and ended up killing the wife. This couple had done nothing wrong. They were not targeted because of who they were. They were simply enjoying the first few days of their married life together – and in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Of course we don’t have to go to another country to know the world is dangerous. Just read the newspapers or watch the evening news. Even every day activities such as driving or even crossing the road can be dangerous.

We naturally crave safety from the dangers and stresses we face. And we try to achieve this is a variety of ways. We try to make sure we live in nice neighborhoods or if we can in gated communities – protecting our selves and our possessions with alarms, weapons and insurances, trying to build greater and stronger safety barriers between us and the world.

The problem is that it doesn’t really work. Even our safest place does not always keep us safe. We can’t completely guarantee that we will not be faced with a violent person, or that we will never be robbed, or that South Carolina will not be hit by a huge hurricane or a violent tornado that will destroy what we have.

I don’t know if you have ever watched the movie called The Village. Directed by M. Night Shyamalan. I don’t want to spoil the film for you but it is about a remote rural village that appears to be set in the 19th century. Yet as the film unfolds we realize it is set in the 21st century and the village is made up of people who have experienced intense violence, hurt and pain in their lives and have secretly moved deep into a national forest and created a community – a safe place, to run away from the violence, pain and hurt of the modern world. The problem is that a murder takes place in this ‘safe’ community and they realize that they cannot run away from bad things happening.

Our passages this morning reveal to us the very safest place to be not just on the earth but also in the whole universe – Jesus Christ.

When we are with God, or in Christ we are truly and forever safe. When we are outside of God and not in Christ then we are in a very dangerous place.

Our Old Testament passage shows us what happens when people and a nation are not with God. Jeremiah, speaking by the power of the spirit, tells the people that certain shepherds, those religious and civil leaders who have lead the people away from God’s teaching in the scriptures, have lead themselves and the people away from safety and into grave danger.

However notice something. Although the flock is scattered – that is the Jews thrown into exile – there is a remnant. And that remnant – those people who still follow God –will be gathered, brought back and taken care of by the Shepherd.

This remnant, although sent into exile with all the others, and having experienced the consequences of God’s judgment on Israel, have always been in a safe place because they have always trusted in God.

This is the paradox that we need to understand – Trusting in God – being in Christ brings us to the safest place in the universe, but at the same time, it does not remove us from dangers or difficult times.

Being in Christ means we are totally safe during the dangerous and difficult times of life.

We see this in Christ’s own life. He obeys God perfectly. He follows him completely. Christ entrusts himself to the Father and we know that the Father loved the Son – the Father audibly says from heaven at Jesus’ baptism – You are My beloved Son I take delight in You.

And again at the transfiguration God says: This is my beloved Son. I take delight in Him. Listen to Him!

Jesus was completely secure in the Father – but he still went to the cross! He still suffered and died for our sins. He willingly suffered so that we could experience the true safety of knowing God.

Is Jesus Christ our safe place this morning?

It’s never too late for Jesus to be our safe place!! The thief on the cross is moments from death and destruction. And yet he has a revelation – he suddenly realizes that this man who is dying next to him is the safe place – the safe place he has looked for during his whole life and he says Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. And Jesus does not just say Yes – but he says those wonderful words – words which must have been so soothing to the thief – Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.

There is no place safer than with Jesus because he even rescues us from death.

Is Jesus Christ your safe place? Have you entrusted yourself to him – to be under his care – under his rule – under his shepherding?

How does he become our safe place; when we realize that the promise of scripture is completely true. That for all who trust in Jesus Christ, the promise is that he will be with us until the end of the age – and that he will never forsake us.

If we trust in Christ then He is with us and within us! Do we know everyday that God is TRULY with us and by his spirit in us? Do we know it to be as true as the fact that we breathe air?

No matter what happens in our day, week, month or year, do we totally believe that God is with us and that we are safe in his hands?

This is the call of the Psalmist this morning. He is saying that despite the troubles of life, even if the world begins to fall apart God is with us. Three times he says that God is with us. He also says that God is a ever present help in times of trouble; do not fear though the earth be moved, or the waters rage, the Lord of Hosts is with us – the God of Jacob is our stronghold.

But how do we know this? How do we grasp this? The Psalmist nails it in V11. He says, Be still, then, and know that I am God.

We start to know the truth that God is with us – that he is our help in times of trouble – that he is our safe place by being still and realizing that God is God.

The world demands our attention. The busyness and noise of life can mean we can miss what God is saying to us. We need to spend time being still before God; in prayer, meditation, reading the scriptures, even in silence – we need to make time to be still. Not so that God can come to us – he is already with us – but so that we can learn to recognize his voice – to know his presence, to feel that security and safety of being with Christ and in Christ and Christ in us.

It is only when we learn to trust that God is truly with us and in us that the spiritual and eternal truths that Jesus has obtained for us can become a reality in our lives. Only then can we hear the words of the Apostle Paul in Colossians, that the Father has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints – that he delivered us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved son – transferred us to the safest place in the whole universe – in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Is Jesus Christ your safe place? Do you know his presence with you everyday? Have you entrusted yourself into his care? Do you realize that in spite of the hardships, difficulties, and pain of life, that if you are in Christ then YOU…..ARE…….SAFE!

If you do not know Jesus Christ as your safe place today then be still and know that he is your God. Ask Jesus to come and be your safe place.

But if Jesus Christ is our safe place then let us live life to the full – under his care, entrusting ourselves to him, living utterly for his Kingdom, living for his majesty, knowing that whatever life throws at us we will one day hear him say Today, you will be with me in paradise.

Constantine – Good or Bad for the Church?

I have thought for a while that Constantine, the Emperor of Rome who appeared to convert to Christianity in the early 4th century, had a bad effect on the Church. I wrote a paper called the Paradox Of A Divided Church Called To Be Reconcilers To The World, in which some of the paper argued that we still live in the light of Constantine’s decision to legalize Christianity. The paper was published in a book called Out Of The Ooze edited by Spencer Burke. Kevin DeYoung, in his book Why We Love the Church actually references my chapter in order to disagree (which I think he does inadequately.)

Interestingly, a new book has been published by Peter Leithart called Defending Constantine. IVP have sent me a review copy to read and I have started to read it. I am intrigued by Leithart’s approach. Watch this space for a review.

However, I came across this clip of a Greg Boyd sermon which happens to tackle Constantine. I fully agree with Boyd’s analysis. You may disagree with Boyd’s theology but he is one of the most dynamic and interesting theologians out there today. His approach is ALWAYS thoughtful, scriptural and even when I might disagree, he is insightful. Here is the clip:

Some Reflections on Job 19 & Luke 20

It is remarkable how trivial issues can soon become so important, leaving us lost in a fog of irrelevancy and missing what is really important.

The Sadducees reveal exactly how lost in the fog they are. Here are educated men who only desire is to try and discredit Jesus. And how do this supposedly educated group of religious leaders try to discredit Jesus – with a long, confiluted and highly unlikely senario.

These men had spent time coming up with THIS – a women who gets married and whose husband dies, and she marries his brother who also dies, and so on.

In Matthew’s telling of this encounter, Jesus says to the Sadducees after they had finished outlining their senario You are in error because you do not know the scriptures or the power of God.

These are powerful words – Jesus is telling those who have spent a lifetime reading, studying, debating and digesting the scriptures that they are utterly wrong and they actually do not know the scriptures at all.

They had lost sight of what was important.

Theology can do that if we are not careful. We focus on one area, or on one thing and it becomes all encompassing. This can also happen in our lives – our circumstances can so easily crowd out what is important.

This was the danger with Job. Here he is in the midst of complete calamity – he has lost his family – he has lost his business – his income and he is certain his life will soon be lost. His body is rotting – and his friends are accusing him of having offended God. How easy would it have been for Job to have lost his perspective and his focus and who would have blamed him.

And yet what does he say – in the middle of his suffering he proclaims a great declaration of faith – For I know that my redeemer lives and at the last he will stand upon the earth and after my skin has been thus destroyed, then from my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see on my side and my eyes shall behold, and not another.

How wonderful is this – what a prayer! What a faith.

That is all the perspective we need – that our redeemer lives and we will see him. God is God. His promises endure forever. His forgiveness and grace have been poured out upon all who know him and trust in him.

So, as we pray and worship let us ask God to help us keep perspective – let us not get lost in irrelevancy – let us hold onto what is really important and not let the unimportant overwhelm us.

Mobilizing Hope: Faith-Inspired Activism For A Post-Civil Rights Generation by Adam Taylor

One of my most inspiring professors at Seminary was Dr Alan Storkey. Alan was passionate about the injustices of the world and he was active not just by speak out but by getting involved. He wrote a book called The Politics of Jesus in which he argued that Jesus’ ministry was intensely political. Whether you agree or disagree that Jesus’ ministry was political, as Christians we MUST be involved with our society and we must be ACTIVE in the injustices of the world BOTH by speaking out AND by our actions.

Adam Taylor’s book challenges us as believers in Christ to be ACTIVE against injustice. Building on the civil rights movement of the 60’s and the importance that Christian faith was to that movement, Taylor argues that by taking the same ethos and approach the church could have a momentous impact on the injustices of the 21st century and engaging society, politicians and business on behalf of the weak, vulnerable and oppressed.

Taylor is not advocating an all-encompassing social justice campaign. Too often such campaigns become the be all and end all of peoples lives. Social Justice should not be our driving force, but our foundation should be Jesus Christ, our faith, and the gospel. Taylor is arguing for a spiritual holistic approach to engaging the issues of our nation and the world with the truths of Jesus Christ. He writes while we are co-creators and co-celebrants with God in this kingdom building project, we must always remember that ultimately our vision and strength comes from the Lord.

In his book Taylor is calling the Church of Christ to action. How on earth can the Church not be at the front and center for the need for justice? Get inspired and read this book.

Highly Recommended!