Thursday, October 30, 2014

What I've been reading - "Old Testament Essentials" by Tremper Longman

I have to be honest, I find many Bible study guides very frustrating. I find too many are far too shallow for my liking. There is far too much fluff out there or too many that are focused on helping one work through a very particular issue, which in my opinion, only feeds the problem of seeing the Bible as more of a fix-it manual than the unfolding story of God. A little while ago I was recommended a study called "Discipleship Essentials" (IVP) as a good study to work through with someone wanting to grow in their faith journey. When I looked it up I saw that this was an older series that IVP was in the process of reviving with not only an updated "Discipleship Essentials" but new titles as well, including "Old Testament Essentials" by Tremper Longman III. I picked it up for my own study, but more importantly to evaluate for future use. This study is by no means a lightweight, it requires time and commitment to work through and yet doesn't require a degree to dive into it. It is broken into 17 lessons and is over 200 pages in length. Each lesson is broken into a Bible Study with readings and questions, an essay giving background and significance of the section just studied, Anticipating the New Testament showing how this section looks forward and finally, The Ancient Story and Our Story which helps connect this section to life today.

Overall, I found this to be a good study as the big picture of the Old Testament is lacking in many people's understandings. Too often it is taught merely as a collection of Bible stories that we can learn some moral lesson from and not as a cohesive piece of God's story. The reality is, New Testament and the work of Christ can only be clearly seen through the story of the Old Testament. This study is great guide through the major themes of the Old Testament and not only how they set up the New Testament but also how to read them back through the lens of Christ.

I also really like the format of this series of studies. At present, this is the only one I have worked through in its entirety but I have picked up the New Testament, Witness, Discipleship and Leadership studies and at least skimmed them and they all appear to be of high calibre.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

What I've been reading - "With" by Skye Jethani

I was introduced to Skye Jethani through is participation in the Phil Vischer Podcast. Phil is the creator of VeggieTales and What's in the Bible. While we're talking about what I've been reading, Phil's "Me, Myself & Bob" is another must read. It was a very enlightening look at the rise, and fall, of VeggieTales.

Anyway, back to Skye's book, I found With to be one of the best spiritual formation books I've read in a long time. Skye lays out four postures we can take in our approach to God: Under, Over, From and For. What he does well is that he only in passing connects these to pagan ways but rather shows how these postures manifest themselves in the church today. What I found particularly helpful was how he talked about the college aged young adults he's worked with who had grown up in the church, heavily influenced under one of these postures and had found their faith coming up empty. He then takes us to the posture we were truly created to be in, that of being With God. He goes back to the garden where God walked with Adam and Eve until sin broke their relationship.He goes on to show that God made the ultimate move to restore our relationship in the incarnation where Jesus came and walked with us again.

Page after page, I found myself resonating with Skye and was encouraged to continue my walk With God.


Monday, September 15, 2014

What I've been reading - "Work Matters" by Paul Stevens

I am a big proponent of the importance of doing and understanding a good Biblical Theology, meaning, the overall metanarrative of scripture and orienting our own worldview to an alignment with our place within God's story. The Bible gives us many subplots in its pages that are but a part of the grand narrative and it is within these subplots we learn first about God but also see examples of how to live within God's story. In "Work Matters" Stevens takes us through scripture looking at the multitude of examples of people working and how each kind of work has value for faith and life. For most people work is a necessary part of everyday life and for too many work is seen as a distraction or necessary evil taking them away from important spiritual pursuits. As Stevens walks us through character after character he shows how the work they did were truly spiritual pursuits. I think one of my favorite chapters was the one on Ruth where he show the godliness of even subsistence work of barely scaping out a living but faithfully provided for your family. Overall I've found this to be a great look at work and faith and doing you work, whatever it is, to the glory of God. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

What I've been reading - "The Wingfeather Saga" by Andrew Peterson

Over the summer I spent much of my reading time lost in Andrew Peterson's Wingfeather saga. This four book series is a great allegory in the vein of Narnia and Middle Earth. The target audience is the youth / young adult market making it an easy read and easy to get lost in. The characters are deep and likeable. I found myself rooting for them to get through and rejoices as they each developed and learned more about themselves and what was truly important. Throughout the series we see the themes of the struggle between good and evil, redemption, sacrifice and the danger of giving in to the lies of being who you think you want to be rather than who you were meant to be. I believe it is important to read widely and to get lost in a good story on a regular basis and this series sure fit the bill. 

Check them out on Amazon

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Story of God, Story of Us - Review

"The Story of God, Story of Us" by Sean Gladding is one of the best books I've read in this past year. Gladding sets out to do something desperately needed in Christian thinking today, namely get a handle on the big story of the Bible.

Gladding starts his retelling of the grand biblical narrative with an evening gathering of the Jewish exiles gathering at the end of their work week by river of Babylon. As the exiles gather the young who have never known their homeland are beginning to express their frustration at their situation on of their wise elders tells them to know who they really are they must know who their God is. It is only in the knowning of the story of a God can they find their own story. As we journey through the telling of the story of God we learn together purpose, meaning and value that God has imprinted into us all. 

The New Testament is told by a leader in an early house church sharing the Story as it sees fulfilment through the promised Christ. The audience is a curious traveller who has heard of these Christians and wants to know more. The Story he hears encapsulated the Gospel and gives us a wonderful retelling that is easily shared and understood. 

Gladding has put the grand narrative of the Bible into a very engaging and accessible retelling of it allowing you to entering into the story of God and begin to see our own stories within it

Buy it here:

Monday, March 24, 2014

We should be better

We should be better. Period.

We all know it. We all strive for it, or at least resolve to do so. We all know we have shortcomings and areas to improve in. We should all eat better, exercise more, save more, rest more but I'm not talking about us as individuals, I want to talk about us as he church. The church should be better and those of us who are a part of it need to be better. 

A called people

Let's start in the beginning. God created the heavens and the earth, He created everything, seen and unseen, including us. We are not only His creation but He created us in His image. There is a lot in hat to unpack but we all know how things went, sin entered the world and God's creation, us included, were marred by sin. God didnt leave us like this however, He hatched a rescue plan by calling a man to go in faith on the promise of descendants, land and to become a blessing to all nations. Eventually God called the nation this man had fathered out of captivity and to Himself to be His people and to begin the process of restoring a fallen world. When the people were called out of Egypt they were gathered at the base of the mountain were God, through Moses, told them who they were, where they came from and how they were now to live in light of these revelations. 

Called to be better

The people of Israel were called to be better than the nations around them. Not better for they sake of being the best but better because they were to reflect the LORD their God and the fact that God's economy and God's ethics were better than those of man. Laws like allowing for gleaning showed hat God cared about the poor. Laws like putting a fence around your roof (because in that time and place roofs were flat and often used as patios) or not leaving open pits that people and animals could fall into show us that God wants us to not endanger people on our property. Laws about debt forgiveness, proper payment of wages and treatment of foriegners show us that God values people over money. You see God's people were to be different in such a way as to make the neighbours pause and ask "Why are you so different? Why do you conduct yourself with such honour and integrity?" 

Called to reflect

You see God was wanting His people to reflect Him, the way He had created us all to be. He wanted His people to be a light in the world that had grown dark with sin. He wanted His people to bring glory and worship to Him who had created, loved and called them. As one reads through he law, Leviticus and Deuteronmy in particular, you cannot help but see how these commands about how God's people were to live are inseperably mixed with the commands covering how they were to worship. The way they conducted business, the way they treated the poor and foriegner the responsibility they took for the safety of those on their property were not one realm and worship another, they were the same thing.

We haven't been called to change

Today as the church of Christ our calling is no different. We are a called people, called to reflect our Lord and to be salt and light in the world. The principles of the law of the Old Testament are still in effect. We are still to care for the poor, treat people fairly and generally reflect God to the world around us. As image-bearers of Christ, carriers of the name Christian our conduct is inseparable from our Worship, our Monday - Friday, 9-5 inseperable from our Sunday 10am. The trouble is we too often adopt a position of church is church and business is business. That we need to keep our faith out of business and keep the business world out of the church. This false worldview makes us act poorly in the world as individuals because we are a different person at work than we are at church. It also makes us act poorly as, and within, the church because things are "spiritual" and we should not let the spritual bend to the world. It sounds good, but it's too often wrong and we end up being image-marrers rather than image-bearers. 

A call to be better, not a call to tear down

I am writing this and the posts that will follow in this thread, not to tear down but in the hope it will spark honest reflection about how we can be better. I will share some of my own experiences as well as those of others. Examples given will be as anonymous as possible and are not meant to shame or expose anyone but rather to help us to see how we can all be better because we should be.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Thou shall not steal

So we all know it

It's number eight of "the big ten" right between adultery and bearing false witness. We don't do it do we? We don't steal. I personally have never held up a convenience store, robbed a bank or even pinched a candy bar. As a church we surely wouldn't do it, the media would be all over us in no time. Just imagine this "we need to put an addition on the church but we really can't afford it right now. No problem, we'll ask all the guys in the church to bring their trucks and their muscle and we'll go meet at the lumberyard after dark and and load up everything we need for the addition. It's for the Lord's work so it's fine, who can stop us from doing His good work?" Wouldn't fly would it?

How about, it's time to rebuild our church website and everything on the web is free so what does it matter if we just download and copy someone else's site? How about if we just take some of their pictures because they're really nice. What about music, have we kept up on our CCLI fees? Do we know what they cover? Do they cover every piece of music we use in ever setting we use it? When we have a family movie night, do we have the right to show the film publicly? Are we allowed to rip off this year's blockbuster for our VBS so we can latch on to the mulit-million dollar marketing blitz that has put the franchise in the mind, clothing, bedroom and toychest of every child in our community?

But it's for ministry!

The librarian at the school I went to seminary at told me once that theological libraries have the highest rate of theft among academic libraries. Think about that, the places we are training pastors and church leaders have the highest rate of theft. We speculated at the reasons for this, often theological students are broke. Bible colleges and seminaries are almost exclusively private schools and are quite costly. Often times students are already engaged in vocational ministry and thus already living on very little. Also, the books found in a theological library tend to be on the pricey side. Then of course there is that essential ingredient to sin, the justification. That little internal dialogue where tell ourselves "I really need this to do the ministry God has called me to do. Besides, I'll return it when I'm done with it." The intent to return it never goes away, it simply serves as the justification for what we have done. 

Doing it right

Leading lives and ministries of integrity and character means respecting the law and the rights of others. Even a national hero like Chris Hatfield has to respect copywrite ( ) so why shouldn't we as the church?  We'll use excuses like "it costs too much"or "it's too hard" or "we'll never get caught" ask yourself when are any of those excuses really valid.

We should be better.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The long journey

It's been over two years without a post which puts me in good stead with many bloggers. In the past two years I've moved on from the church I was at, moved back to my home town, been working in the business world but still keeping my toe in ministry. The biggest event of e past couple years has been the arrival of our son, who is very special in many ways and with him our family has been on a journey we never expected. Over he past few years I've learned much and mused much, we'll see how many of those musings make it here.