Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Thoughts on Kingdom Come by Phil Ryken

Kingdom Come was a book I was excited to read because this is a topic that has become more and more prevalent in my thinking and comforting in my doubts, fears, and struggles over the past few months and years.  The thought of the Kingdom of God consumated on this earth propels me foward every day.  "Come Lord Jesus" has become my constant  and persistent prayer.

Ryken takes aim in the beginning of the book at the Harold Campings of our world, recounting his latest failed rapture prediction and using his false prophecies to springboard into a discussion of  the particularly damaging nature of these doomsday profits(yep, I did that). Ryken points out that these false prophecies of the coming Kingdom cause unbelievers to be skeptical(2000 years of "any day now") and believers to be apathetic about His return.  One of the issues Ryken takes with these claims that I hadn't thought about is that they are simply not optimistic enough.

The problem with saying that Jesus will come again next October is not that he probably won’t come that month after all, but that we should expect his return much sooner! The Bible’s last prayer ought to be our daily expectation: “Come, Lord Jesus!” So we pray the way Jesus taught us to pray, “Your kingdom come” (Matt. 6:10)

Ryken wants the reader to be in a constant anticipation and yearning and expectation for the Kingdom of God to come...today. Not next October,  not next week, but now!  But many of us do not.  Why?

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Wrestling with the Devil



Lex Luger takes the reader through his life-the good, the bad, and everything in between. Early on in the book I was concerned that the narrative seemed to glorify his sinful past and felt that some commentary from Lex would have been beneficial. This concern fades as the book progresses and Lex becomes more explicit in his faith and less nostalgic about his past. 

One thing I really appreciated about this book is how Lex is respectful of the people he mentions. He never speaks negatively about a person and, in situations that warrant a critical reference, does not mention those by name. It is so easy to turn an autobiography into a means of disparaging those with whom you have had issues, and Lex chooses not to do so. 

This is a good, fast, entertaining read. I appreciate Lex's candor and enjoyed the book.

I received a review copy of this book from the publisher through Netgalley.com

Saturday, August 24, 2013

A Review of Crazy Busy by Kevin DeYoung

What is one of the greatest dangers facing all of us? What is one of the most debilitating issues with which we will constantly deal? I think the frantic, hectic, all-consuming nature of our cultures day-to-day existence could possibly be the answer. Never in history has there been so much to distract, so much to fill every waking hour and every quiet moment. If Pascal is correct that "All men’s miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone," then most of us are so omni-connected and our lives so full that we will never even have a chance to not be miserable.

DeYoung warns the reader from the beginning that he is not speaking as an expert on how to be not busy, but rather as a fellow pilgrim struggling through this particular issue. Crazy Busy is a short, simple and clear presentation on a very practical issue. DeYoung outlines his book as 3,7,1; three dangers to avoid in chapter 2, seven diagnoses to consider in chapters 3-9, and one thing you must do in chapter 10. 

DeYoung cites many culprits in the struggle against chronic busyness including people pleasing, pats on the back, poor planning--all rooted in pride. One of the greatest, for me at least, is when the believer attempts to do what God doesn't expect them to do. DeYoung argues that the believer needs to understand that they are not the Savior. They do not have to do everything because, quite frankly, they cannot do everything. "Along with the Apostle's Creed and the Belgic Confession and the Westminster Confession, make sure you confess John the Baptist's creed: I am not the Christ."

Just because a cause is worthy does not mean that God expects you to engage in it. Just because there is a need, does not mean that God expects you to meet it. Learning the difference between "care" and "do" is crucial for a believer to maintain their joy. Apathy is not an option, but I am still not God and not capable to fix every problem, right every wrong, and cure every woe. As DeYoung puts it, "Not giving a rip about sex slaves is not an option for the Christian. Not doing something directly to combat this particular evil is an option."

This is where it is important to remember that the Christian does not walk this road alone. He is a part, a member, of something greater. The church definitely has to care and do in regards to sex slaves(and all injustices), but that doesn't mean that each individual Christian is bound to do for each individual woe. We are a whole made up of parts with different passions and giftings and remembering that will allow each of us to operate in our passion and with our giftings without feeling the condemnation for not doing everything. We are finite, created beings. We cannot do it all.

DeYoung takes the point that all of us are finite creatures and applies it most strikingly, for me at least, to the role of parents. His point is clear. Parents need to chill out. Good, loving, caring, Christian parents need to acknowledge their finitude in reference to their children. Do I need to love my children? Yes. Do I need to teach the Bible to my children? Yes. Am I responsible for my children? Yes, but not ultimately. I need to recognize that my children belong ultimately to God and relieve myself of a burden I am incapable of bearing and a responsibility that is inappropriate for me to take as my own anyway. Parents, especially Christian parents, have a tendency to overemphasize their impact on their children. We have to discard the determinism that drives so much of our time, focus and effort because, while we may influence, we do not have the power to determine our child's future. Good or bad. "(E)ven the kid hooked on Angry Birds who just downed a pack of Fun Dip and is now watching his fifth Pixar movie of the week still has a decent shot at not being a sociopath." The fact that my child belongs to God drives me to be attentive and loving and a good parent, but with a freedom and peace in knowing that one much greater, much more attentive, much more loving, is ultimately responsible for them.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

A Review of "To Live is Christ, To Die is Gain", by Matt Chandler



If you hated the gospel, wouldn’t the apostle Paul be the most frustrating human being alive? It did not matter what anyone did to this man, he loved God and continued to show it in every possible way.
We see Paul’s gospel fixation echoed throughout his letter to the Philippians. He is the man who when threatened says, “Well, to die is gain.” In response his captors will say, “We’ll torture you, then.” He says, “I don’t count the present suffering as worthy to even compare to the future glory.” You can’t win with a guy like this. If you want to kill him, he’s cool with that because it means he gets to be with Jesus. If you want to make him suffer, he’s cool with that, so long as it makes him like Jesus. If you want to let him live, he’s fine with that, because to him, “to live is Christ.” Paul is, as Richard Sibbes says of everyone united with Christ, a man who “can never be conquered.”--Matt Chandler- To Live is Christ, To Die is Gain

When I first became a Christian I was a bit unsure how to proceed in my study of Scripture.  I knew it was important to read the Bible, but remained unsure what to study.  I began a Bible reading program where you read some from the OT and some from the NT every day.  I would always get stuck after a little while, give up and then start over.  I visited the Gospel of Matthew and the first half of Genesis over a dozen times in this cycle.

At some point I began working at a Christian bookstore and bought a John Macarthur commentary that was on sale.  I was excited to study something other than Matthew and Genesis, although I did and still do have a special fondness for both of those books.  I began to go with Dr. Macarthur through this commentary and through the book he was commenting on and I began to fall in love.  I began to fall in love with the style and scholarship of Macarthur’s writing, but exponentially more so i began to fall in love with this book he was exegeting.  Over and over again I would find myself getting lost in the words of the apostle Paul.

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in meyou may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplicationwith thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.