Thursday, August 31, 2006

Falling Leaves, Fingernails and Frailty

The mornings are getting cooler, there’s not as much light during the day and the leaves on the birch tree in front of our house are changing colour. Summer can’t be ending already, can it? Tomorrow is September 1st. I’d better get used to the idea of Autumn.

When I graduated from high school 23 years ago, a wise man told me that I could expect time to go faster each year from that time on. Time sure does fly, and it does seem to go faster each year.

This morning I remarked to my wife that I need to clip my fingernails again. Didn’t I just cut them a couple of days ago? It may seem like a silly illustration, but it is one of those reminders that time flies.

I’m tempted to complain about my busy schedule (even though it’s not that bad in the summer time) and the fast pace of life, but thinking about some older folks I know gives me cause for pause. I know seniors with ill health and failing eyesight who find that time moves very slowly. They remember the busy days of work and family, but those days are long gone. For some of them, the days are particularly long because they are lonely. A friend mentioned to me that Jonathan Edwards once remarked that it is a grace of God that our lives were shortened after the flood.

As the days rush by I need to pause and be thankful for health, strength, my family and my church. When I am busy, I need to remember that busyness is a reminder that I still have strength and something to be busy about. I ought to take more time to thank God for the opportunity to serve him and resolve to work wisely and diligently. At the same time, I need to hold my little world with an open hand, humbly confessing that it is not mine at all, but God’s. I am thankful for His love and grace, and pray for the wisdom to redeem the time. If I am satisfied in Christ, He will be the source of my strength during the years that time flies by and my comfort in those senior years – if the Lord wills – when all other comforts flee.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Jesus Everlasting King

Jesus, everlasting King,
Accept the tribute which we bring;
Accept the well deserved renown,
And wear our praises as Your crown.

1. O send Your Spirit to impart
Rest and repentance to our hearts,
Like the dear hour when from above
We first received Your pledge of love.

2. The gladness of redemption’s day,
Our hearts would wish it long to stay,
Nor let our faith forsake its hold,
Nor comforts sink, or love grow cold.

3. May every time of worship see
Your grace revealed more rich and free,
Till we are raised to sing Your name
At the great supper of the Lamb.

4. O that the months would roll away
And bring the coronation day;
The King of Grace shall fill the throne
With all His Father’s glories on.

Words by Isaac Watts(1674-1748)
©2003 detuned radio music (ASCAP).

Friday, August 25, 2006

The Holy Spirit

I have been meaning to post something all week. In fact, I have three essays that I’ve abandoned on my laptop – they are now metaphorically balled up and thrown into the corner. The papers were all on the topic of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. I’m in the middle of a four-week preaching series on the Holy Spirit. I’m also leading our Wednesday Bible study through a “Doctrine of God” series and we’re studying the work of the Holy Spirit right now. I have lots to say on this topic, but I can’t boil anything down satisfactorily for the blog. I don’t want to start a new series, but I can give you some thoughts in point form:
  • The more I study the person and work of the Holy Spirit the more I am amazed at the wonderful interaction between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Just look at Acts 2:33, for instance. Connect that to John 14-16 and Titus 3:3-8, and many other places. Wow.

  • Another key doctrine that has risen to the surface in this study is the centrality of the church. The church is extremely important to God. Consider this thought alone: Paul says that the spiritual gifts are for the purpose of building the church up to maturity (1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4). The gifts of the revelation writing and speaking Apostles are included in gifts lists. Therefore, even the work of the Apostles was for the purpose of building up the church. The preaching / teaching / serving ministry of the local church is at the centre of God’s redemptive purposes. This should be a no-brainer for anyone who has read Ephesians 3, for instance, but it is a truth that needs to be recovered in our day.

  • I am becoming more of a soft cessationist, even though I’ve always considered myself a moderate / cautious continuationalist. My reasons are biblical, though I can’t point to any one passage and say, “There, you see! The sign-gifts aren’t for today!” For instance, I am not convinced by the 1 Corinthians 13 argument for cessation. However, the combination of a better understanding of the purpose of miracles generally in scripture and the definition of the purpose of the charismata in 1 Corinthians has pushed me a little to the right of the thin line between these positions.

  • Even though I first studied Paul’s use of Isaiah 28 in 1 Corinthians 14 many years ago, I’m really fascinated all over again at that passage. Read 1 Corinthians 14:21-26 carefully. Now read the context of Isaiah 28:11. What was Isaiah talking about? What was the problem with the leaders in Israel? Why did Paul quote this verse in the context of tongues? What, if anything, did the events in Acts 2 have to do with this sign for unbelievers? Last but not least, what troublesome trajectory was the Apostle Paul seeking to correct for the Corinthian Church with respect to “super spirituality” regarding their leaders and their desire for spectacular gifts? I may post on this some day, but I think I would need a series to answer these questions. For that, I would need more holiday time, and that’s all gone for this year.

Speaking of time that’s gone, I need to run. You’re probably thankful that I didn’t go longer on these topics (I know I am), but I probably won’t let them go entirely (I have to preach on the so-called sign gifts on Sunday, for instance). Leave some good, provocative comments and I might just burn the midnight oil re-working some abandoned posts.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

My Industrious Wife

Check out Juanita's blog - she's been busy! (scroll down to look at all the pictures). Take note of all the nifty handmade things and all the fair ribbons in recognition of her excellent work.

Let me particularly highlight this beauty (not entered in the fair, but hanging in our school room):

I'm doing pennance for not appreciating it enough in person. It really is beautiful, Juanita! It looks better in person - you can't see the texture in a photo. Thanks for all you do, my dear!
How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds

How sweet the Name of Jesus sounds
In a believer’s ear!
It soothes his sorrows, heals his wounds,
And drives away his fear.

It makes the wounded spirit whole,
And calms the troubled breast;
’Tis manna to the hungry soul,
And to the weary, rest.

Dear Name, the Rock on which I build,
My Shield and Hiding Place,
My never failing treasury, filled
With boundless stores of grace!

By Thee my prayers acceptance gain,
Although with sin defiled;
Satan accuses me in vain,
And I am owned a child.

Jesus! my Shepherd, Husband, Friend,
O Prophet, Priest and King,
My Lord, my Life, my Way, my End,
Accept the praise I bring.

Weak is the effort of my heart,
And cold my warmest thought;
But when I see Thee as Thou art,
I’ll praise Thee as I ought.

Till then I would Thy love proclaim
With every fleeting breath,
And may the music of Thy Name
Refresh my soul in death!

John Newton 1725-1807

Saturday, August 19, 2006

The Future Is Now

A friend of mine pointed out an unintentional pun in my last dispensationalism post. The line ran, "I do plan to post more on eschatology in the future..." Now that he's pointed that out, and, considering my amillennial bias, I have to say something about eschatology right away (think about it ... you know, realized eschatology ... ? Oh, never mind).

Justin Taylor has given me a reason to post on eschatology - sort of. I appreciated Justin's post on Dennis Johnson's points regarding the interpretation of Revelation. It makes me want to get this commentary. This is good stuff.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Phriday Fotos

Other folks do photos on Friday regularly. I don't think I will. However, in honour of my wife's winning efforts in a "Bench Show" today, I'll post a few of our favorites in the next little while, starting with these:

Frank Turk for President

I came across a Martin Luther quote this morning and it inspired an idea. Here’s the quote (original source unknown and, for this purpose, unnecessary): “I would rather be governed by a wise Turk than a stupid Christian.”

How ‘bout that. Frank is the wisest Turk that I know, and there appears to be no end of stupid Christians. For evidence regarding stupid Christians, I could point you to a thousand places, but Purgatorio is a reliable source for such proof.

I really think that someone with administrative skills should get right on this campaign. 2008 is coming up quickly. I’m afraid that as a Canadian, I wouldn’t be the best person to initiate this nomination.

The person who does pick up this challenge to promote Frank should be able to come up with a spiffy computer graphic. Team Pyro has lots of skill and experience in this area – Frank’s even a member! I’m sure a “Turk for President” T-Shirt” would be a hit. The Pyros need to lighten up a bit; they’ve been awfully serious lately. A presidential campaign should do the trick.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Dispensationalism – The Final Post

Near the beginning of this mini-series I set myself an outline of past, present and future. Having read those posts, I see that I haven’t been very disciplined in my presentation. It ain’t gonna get any better in this post, which is supposedly a combination of reflections on my concerns regarding dispensationalism and the future and a conclusion of sorts.

When people find out that I am not a dispensationalist (or, as is more common, they find out that I don’t subscribe to the “Left Behind” timetable), they ask me, “Well then, what’s next in your view?”

I’m certainly looking forward to the return of Christ, and I believe that could be at any time. I do believe that death is a more likely outcome for me, just on the basis of “odds,” if you will. Here is the statement from our Fellowship Baptist Affirmation of Faith:

Section H - Future ThingsWe believe in the personal, bodily and glorious return of the Lord Jesus Christ; in the bodily resurrection of the just and the unjust; in the eternal blessedness of the redeemed and in the judgment and conscious, eternal punishment of the wicked.

Furthermore, I certainly subscribe to the order of things that I read in 1 Thessalonians 4, though I must say that my favorite eschatological passage is Romans 8:18-25.

I find the dispensational scheme incredibly complicated. I know the desire is to be literal in interpretation of Scripture, but the system gets read into simple “blessed hope” passages, such as 1 Thessalonians 4.

I don’t buy all the speculation of the other eschatological “camps” either, but I have learned from all of them. For instance, most Christians today snort at the ignorance of scholars in the past identifying the antichrist with the pope. Were they really so foolish? What about the significance of Roman persecution to the first century readers of the book of Revelation? The new, popular end-times scheme disregards all of this ancient wisdom (and some not so ancient).

Classic dispensationalism relegates large sections of the Bible (like the book of Matthew) to the future. In a previous church I was corrected by someone for teaching from the Sermon on the Mount because, “that is for the Kingdom, not the church age.” Another future bias is found in the book of Revelation. Is everything from chapter four onward really future? I think there is much in that book that has relevance to Christians past, present and future.

Another concern that I have is that there is so much political machinery behind “what must be” for Israel in the dispensational scheme. Need I elaborate? Who among us does not have a friend or relative who has shelves lined with videos pointing to “signs of the end.”

Instead of listing examples of my concerns with futurist speculation, let me give you an example of what I consider to be essential eschatology. Last Fall I downloaded the “Suffering and the Sovereignty of God” MP3s from Desiring God Ministries. On the way to the city one day I listened to Joni’s message. I’m glad I was alone, because I wept when I heard her express her longing to see Jesus and her genuine thankfulness for her disability because it made her rely on her Saviour. When she was expressing her heart’s longing for Heaven, I said to myself, “Now THAT’S eschatology!”

Perhaps my biggest complaint against the whole dispensational scheme is that it “unweaves the rainbow” (to use Robert Mounce’s phrase) with all its charts and graphs and confident statements regarding things left unfulfilled. Can’t we focus primarily on the longing to see Christ face to face?

I have almost dreaded doing this last post on dispensationalism (it was supposed to be two posts). It’s not that I’m not interested, but it is a big topic to critique adequately. Secondly, I have no desire to beat up on friends who are dispensational in their eschatology. Let me reiterate what I said in my first post: I believe this to be an in-house debate and that I do not consider eschatology to be a test of fellowship. I appreciate the work of Christians from a wide variety of eschatological convictions. When I began this screed, I thought I was entitled, somehow, because of my minority position. That’s not right. I hope my tone hasn’t been too negative. I do plan to post more on eschatology in the future – and I won’t hesitate to make some more knocks against the flaky prophecy culture in evangelicalism – but I want to mostly state what I do believe positively.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

The Precious Blood

I'm going to make you work a bit for this week's song, but it will be worth the effort.

Sovereign Grace Ministries has just released its Valley of Vision CD project, immediately after the Worship God 06 Conference, which ended just yesterday (you can find Tim Challies Live Blog here).

They are offering a the song The Precious Blood as a free download. This is a beautiful song (you can read the lyrics here). This song is an excellent Sunday mediation.

I can't wait to get the CD.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Rapture Fiction

I just finished reading Rapture Fiction and the Evangelical Crisis by Crawford Gribben (you can read a sample chapter online if you follow the link). It was published by Evangelical Press in April of this year. I highly recommend it. The book is only 144 pages long, but I was impressed with Dr. Gribben’s econonmy of language. I have read much longer books that contained far less content.

If you want to know what this book is about, pick up a copy and read the first two pages of the preface. Even these two sentences from the first page effectively capture the thesis of the book:

“Rapture Fiction and the Evangelical Crisis attempts to retain rapture novels’ enthusiasm for the return of Jesus Christ at the same time as it examines their presentation of the gospel. Its most basic argument is that rapture novels have emerged from an evangelicalism that shows signs of serious decay.”

The books in the Left Behind series receive the most attention in this book, due to their popularity and recent currency in Western culture. Dr. Gribben does trace the history of early novels and compares their content and methodology with the Left Behind books.

An unexpected bonus of this book is an excellent history of dispensational thought (chapter two). From my perspective, the history is even-handed and irenic. The author even corrects some of the false charges leveled against dispensationalism by its critics. It is obvious that Dr. Gribben does not wish to start a fight with dispensationalists, but he is eager to see the gospel defended in the face of modern evangelicalism’s decline. Where the gospel is proclaimed and a biblical view of the church is upheld, Dr. Gribben does not appear to have a quarrel with dispensationalism.

The author reviews the development of rapture fiction in chapter three. A changing understanding of what is meant by evangelical theology is evident in the progression of these novels over the decades leading up to the Left Behind era. Revivalism, politics and apocalyptic moods in culture have subtly changed the character of popular evangelicalism.

Chapters four through seven highlight ways in which rapture fiction betrays an evangelicalism in crisis in its understanding and presentation of the gospel, the marks of a true church and the Christian’s attitude towards the world. The critiques in these chapters apply to much more than the believer’s choice of reading material. These biblical warnings cut to the heart of true Christian discipleship.

The book ends with an appendix examining alternative perspectives to the eschatology of rapture fiction including brief descriptions of variations on Dispensationalism (Revised and Progressive), New Covenant, Reformed Baptist Covenant Theology, and Covenant theology. Dr. Gribben reminds the reader that none of these alternatives requires the abandonment of premillennial eschatology.

I hope that Rapture Fiction and the Evangelical Crisis finds a wide audience. It is accessible to thoughtful beginners as the author builds his case systematically, but it has enough depth to teach an experienced Christian. It is not only a biblical warning for people immersed in wishy-washy popular evangelicalism, it is a helpful corrective for crusty curmudgeons like me who scoff at books like Left Behind. I hope that this book will influence me to emulate some of Dr. Gribben’s gracious tenacity in confronting error.  

Tuesday, August 08, 2006


It's hard to get at blogging sometimes. I was hoping to do my penultimate Dispensationalism post last night, but we had an, uh, adventure in store for us.

For a change, it is not my injury. Our son Josh crashed his mountain bike on a gravel road and broke a bone in his hand. He and I went to our local hospital at about 1:00 pm. When the Dr. here finally looked at it, he said that he wanted us to go to the university hospital in Edmonton, a two-hour drive. We arrived in Edmonton at about 6:00 pm, sat around a whole lot, talked to about 8 different people, and left for home at about 1:15 am. They think Josh's hand will be fine, but the fracture is a bit distended (kinda crooked). He has some ugly road rash too, but it is already looking better.

Of course, there are other reasons that blogging doesn't get done at my planned pace.

New books from Monergism!

This lot includes an ESV To Do Bible, Rapture Fiction by Ian's friend Crawford Gribben and a new Systematic Theology by Robert Reymond.

I will get to my planned blogging, but CG's book is a real page turner.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Sometimes a Light Surprises

In his book The Discipline of Grace, Jerry Bridges makes a brief personal reflection on Habakkuk 3:17-19:

Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer's; he makes me tread on my high places.

These verses, in turn, got me singing Sometimes a Light Surprises from Indelible Grace II. That's not a bad thing. I haven't heard any earlier version, but I sure like this new one.

Suffering and sorrow is redeemed in God's providential care. Cowper knew sorrow, and God's grace. Instead of making my Sunday hymn post long, go and read this biography to get the rest of the story - or at least some more of his story.

1. Sometimes a light surprises
The Christian while he sings;
It is the Lord Who rises
With healing in His wings:
When comforts are declining,
He grants the soul again
A season of clear shining,
To cheer it after the rain

2. In holy contemplation
We sweetly then pursue
The theme of God’s salvation,
And find it ever new;
Set free from present sorrow,
We cheerfully can say,
Let the unknown tomorrow
Bring with it what it may.

3. Tomorrow can bring us nothing,
But He will bear us through:
Who gives the lilies clothing
Will clothe His people, too:
Beneath the spreading heavens
No creature but is fed;
And He Who feeds the ravens
Will give His children bread.

4. Though vine nor fig tree neither
Their wonted fruit should bear,
Though all the fields should wither,
Nor flocks or herds be there
Yet, God the same abiding,
His praise shall tune my voice;
For, while in Him confiding,
I cannot but rejoice.

This version: ©2001 Kevin Twit Music.
Original lyrics by William Cowper (1731-1800)

Thursday, August 03, 2006


I will finish my posts on dispensationalism soon, but in the meantime, some interesting things have popped up online. Justin Taylor has posted links to some of Kim Riddlebarger’s material, including a brief essay introducing Amillennialism (skip the first comment, old SSH is back).

Jason Robertson over at FIDE-O has been posting on Amillennialism. There has been a recent change in his perspective. Very interesting.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The Tags

I forgot to tag anyone with the book questions assignment. Like Ian, I don't like these meme things, but if I have to think about books, I don't mind.

How about Bugblaster, Kerux Paul (when he gets back from wherever he is) and Garry Weaver? See what trouble you get into when you have a blog?
Book Questions

I’ve been tagged by Ian over at Ruminations by the Lake. At first glance, his “books” project looked like fun. The more I’ve thought about this, however, the more daunting it seemed. I’m putting in more than one for some of these because it is hard to decide.

Disclaimer: I'm not including the Bible in my book selection. It would be the obvious choice for some of these.

1) One book that changed your life

Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton, particularly the chapter, “The Paradoxes of Christianity.” I often think about Dallimore’s two volumes on Whitefield as well. The Gagging of God by D.A. Carson influenced me, as did a few C.S. Lewis books, particularly his essay collections.

2) One book that you’ve read more than once:

The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis. It gets better every time. I think a know some of the people in that book. I've read the Lord of the Rings, the Hobbit and the Chronicles of Narnia several times as well.

3) One book you’d want on a deserted island

The Death of Death in the Death of Christ by John Owen. Maybe I’d finally finish it. Besides, when you’re alone, what could be more important than Owen’s subject matter?

4) One book that made you laugh:

Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome. It's goofy, but amusing.

5) One book that made you cry:

This is a tough one. I can’t think of any, though I know I have been moved by several books. I know that I had a lump in my throat reading parts of Edmund Clowney’s The Unfolding Mystery.

6) One book that you wish had been written:

A commentary on Romans by C.H. Spurgeon. I would love to see the fruit of his genius applied to a consecutive, systematic study through a book, particularly Romans.

7) One book that you wish had never been written:

A Wideness in God’s Mercy by Clark Pinnock (or several others by him). It is a shame to see Pinnock’s intellect and winsome manner off the rails, particularly when you see where he was earlier.

8) One book that you are currently reading:

The Discipline of Grace by Jerry Bridges. Highly recommended.

9) One book you’ve been meaning to read:

Religious Affections by Jonathan Edwards