2014: Movies, Books, Games, and Good Listening

As another year nears its end, I thought it would be fun to toss out a few things that have been particularly memorable/enjoyable for me. Here I’m thinking more in terms of books and entertainment.  So without further ado:

Movies

• Edge of Tomorrow (Or, Live. Die. Repeat) was a total surprise hit for me. I hate to admit it, but I do like Tom Cruise as an actor; and in this sci-fi grab-your-popcorn action flick, he delivered an excellent performance. Check it out. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

• Interstellar? I’m sorry, but no. I was really looking forward to this movie, but it totally let me down. So if you’re going to insist on watching a show about outer space, go with Gravity. It is far more entertaining.

Books

• Speaking of movies, perhaps you’ve heard about the forthcoming release of Unbroken. I plan on checking it out. But look. If you haven’t read the book Unbroken, I need you to stop right here, open another window in Amazon and order it. Don’t think about it. Just do it. It is easily one of the best books you’ll ever read.

• I’m nearly finished reading […]


Some Say I’m a Dreamer; But I’m Not the Only One

Occasionally when reading the dead theologians, and let’s face it, the dead guys are better reading,  you get a glimpse of the humanity of the writer that makes you smile. Occasionally a bit of humor is seen in Calvin. At times a bit of vulnerability is read in a’Brakel. When we are reminded that the best of men are mere men, we take comfort in knowing that we have the same savior who will sanctify us as he has sanctified those who have gone before us. We enjoy the humanity of our divines.

Today I was reading Spurgeon, as I often do on Mondays, and some humanity was seen in the reading. With Spurgeon this is not surprising because often we blush, smile, and occasionally LOL when reading the Prince of Preachers, but today’s reading was different. Today Spurgeon recalled a dream and he told his readership about it! Spurgeon recalled his dream and as I read it, I imagined him attempting to capture the essence of the dream and realizing that he cannot recall it in the same way that he experienced it. Dreams often do not retell well do they? This was no exception.


The Trinity’s Hymnbook (Part 2)

Uh-oh.

In preparing to teach a class at church this weekend, I realized what has been that nagging thought in the blog part of my conscience.  Toward the end of last year, I did a post entitled “The Trinity’s Hymnbook (Part 1),” which of course implies – and indeed promised – further installments which had not come before today.  As I remember it, we were in the process of moving the blog over to another site at that time.  So some delays moved my thinking to other areas. Regardless, part two is below.  

The first article looked at more direct references to the Trinity in the Psalms.  In this post, I want to take you “behind” the Psalter and look at what I believe is its greatest purpose as prophetical literature.  

Sorry for the delay.  However, a careful reading of the post did not say when I would write the next one!

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Knowing the purpose for which a book was written can make all the difference in understanding it, particularly when we read a book of the Bible.  For instance, knowing that the book of Proverbs shows a father writing instruction to his son, one who is on the verge of […]


Let Pulpit Freedom Ring!

In the 1920s a group of young people in the RPCNA asked their ministers why they chose to pastor in their particular denomination. As I reviewed the answers of these long dead ministers, I realized that common themes were found within each of their answers. One of the most common themes was that these ministers appreciated the freedom in the pulpit that they enjoyed in their denominational home. The whole counsel of God was preached and no topic was too base or taboo for the pulpit. Here are a few samples:

“Accepting the whole Bible as inspired and authoritative, this church believes that it should all be preached. This means that we have a freedom bounded only by the revealed will of God to preach truth and to condemn error…”
-RC Wylie

“The Covenanter pulpit is a free pulpit. The breadth of the Church’s confession makes it a forum for the fearless discussion of sin regardless of the form it may assume. The Covenanter minister may preach against the prevalent sins of the age and still feel that he stands on a pulpit which supports him; he may proclaim all the fundamentals of the Gospel, untrammeled by the conventions […]


The Hatred of Adam’s Hatefilled Race

Watching the news and hearing conversations over the last several weeks has been very hard. The media circus and endless commentaries surrounding Michael Brown and Eric Garner should cause Christians to pause. There’s been so much vitriolic hatred. I must admit, I feel a deep sympathy with the Psalmist, “My eyes shed streams of tears, because people do not keep your law.” Jesus is serious about loving your neighbor. In fact, the only thing more important than loving your neighbor is loving the Lord with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. But second to that, and like that, is loving your neighbor as yourself.

That’s radical command. Why? Because the heart of man is exceedingly hateful. To not love another is hate. And, if I can insist on it, the true tragedy of hatred is not the victimization, marginalization, or oppression of another. The ultimate tragedy, the ultimate outrage of hate is that hatred is sin. This is serious! If you hate your neighbor you’re in danger of the fires of hell. And it’s become clear to me that I don’t hate hatred near enough.

Now, I want to be clear. Hatred isn’t a respecter […]


A Hidden Treasure

One of the blessings I experience daily in my work at the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary is chapel.  Each day, we pause from work and classes for a half hour to sing, pray, and hear God’s Word read and preached.  As we have more students from other nations than anytime in RPTS history, many of the wives and children of students living near the seminary attend, and there is a great spirit of fellowship in our community, chapel feels more than ever like a slice of heaven.

I realized recently that this is a blessing I could and should share with others.  RPTS has a its own YouTube channel of the messages that are preached each day, with the videos archived here. This relatively unknown site is a great resource to hear messages given by professors and students alike, helping the church hear what’s on the heart of the men that serve at RPTS as well as becoming familiar with up and coming preachers.  And given that the length of the messages are about twenty minutes or so, you can enjoy hearing these devotionals without a huge time commitment.

I thought I would provide a little sampling.  Immediately below is a wonderful […]


On Stubbornness

Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding, which must be curbed with bit and bridle, or it will not stay near you.
Psalm 32:9

We don’t need to pretend that I know anything about horses or mules. All my information about them is secondhand at best. But we can take other people’s word when they tell us that horses need bridles to be steered and that mules are stubborn. So even without equine experience, God’s point in Psalm 32:9 is still evocative. Rather than simply telling us to stop being stubborn, He paints us a simultaneously humorous and devastating picture with a clear and simple point: when you resist God’s grace, you’re acting like a mule or a bad horse. You aren’t enjoying the living relationship He’s designed us to enjoy. You’re just pulling away from where God (graciously) wants you to go. 


A Review of “The Bible Tells Me So” – Noel Weeks

Peter Enns continues to slide further and further.

I do not remember where I heard it, or when I heard it, but I distinctly recall an atheist saying, when asked about the perspective of some liberal theologian, “He’s an atheist. He just doesn’t know it yet.”

It would certainly be wrong to say that Peter Enns is an atheist. He isn’t. He still maintains that Jesus is Lord, at least in some sense. That being said, his understanding of scriptural authority is staunchly liberal- liberal to the point where the very bottom of everything has no foundation. The floor is gone.

If you would like to hear a recent exchange between Peter Enns and David Instone-Brewer (which can be frustrating on several levels), check out the following Unbelievable radio show:

Unbelievable? Has defending scripture made us unable to read it?

Now if you would like to read a good review of Peter Enns’ most recent book, I would encourage you to hop over to Reformation 21. Noel Weeks interacts in a very helpful way, critiquing the work in a level-headed manner.

For a taste, here is a quote:

“Basically, the work presents a fairly common understanding of the authors of the Bible as victims of […]


When the Spirit Flows

In Ezekiel 47:1-12, the Lord gives His prophet a vision of water flowing out from the temple in Jerusalem.  This imagery gives us a vivid, prophetic portrayal of the Spirit’s work in the church.   We see what types of things should be happening when the Spirit is at work among the people of the Lord.

All churches should be longing for, cooperating with, and seeking more of the Spirit’s work among us.  Yet what does that look like?  Here are four brief encouragements this passage gives us.

When the Spirit is flowing, what is centralized becomes universalized.

By this time in Ezekiel’s prophesy, Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed.  Yet in his vision he saw an idealized temple rebuilt with perfectly symmetrical measurements, with water that flowed out from its threshold.   The water was heading eastward, in the direction Adam had been sent out from the garden of Eden. These waters flowed out into the desert into the Dead Sea, and brought this body of water – so full of salt nothing can live in it – alive. This pictures for us that the sin and death that Adam had caused to flow into the world will now be overcome by the life and power of the Spirit.   Ezekiel was seeing the […]


My Eyes Flow With Tears

A few years ago a little book caught my attention. Though I had read it before I noticed, for the first time, that it was unlike most books I had ever read. It was poetic. It was tragic and sorrowful. It was graphic and stirring. It was intense and emotional. Most fascinating, however, is that it was a book that profoundly reflected the heart of Jesus. Not Jesus as we sometimes think of him–confident as he calmed the storm, bold as he preached the kingdom, jealous as he overturned tables, or silent as he faced his oppressors. But Jesus as he stood by the grave of Lazarus and wept (Jn 11:35). Jesus as he approached Jerusalem weeping over it (Lk 19:41). Jesus as he offered up prayers with tears (Heb 5:7). It was the book of Lamentations.

I’m going to guess that Lamentations isn’t a book most of us are familiar with. In it, the Prophet Jeremiah is heartbroken and stunned at the destruction of Jerusalem, “How lonely sits the city that was full of people! How like a widow has she become, she who was great among the nations!” While the fall of Jerusalem is described in a purely historical […]