Online Reading (July 13, 2018)

What I’m reading on Friday the 13th (oooo)

Charity: Elon Musk volunteers to fix people’s water in Flint, Michigan.

Missions: Protests in Haiti strand American short-term missionaries.

“charity” gambling: An example of Chase the Ace for the benefit of a local fire department isn’t promoting much charity in a family.

Interpretation: So, how does one interpret scripture?

Online Reading (July 12, 2018)

What I’m reading today.

Heresy: A balanced article on seeing and naming false teachers.

Weather: scientists have cameras recording as a large glacier calves ice into the ocean.

Missions: Eliot Clarke expresses some of the possible pitfalls missionaries face in honour/shame cultures.

Academia and Religion: Scholar J. Budziszewski talks about the question of doing academic inquiry as a Christian at the Veritas Forum.

Online Reading (July 11, 2018)

Marriage: David Mathis has a decent article on the picture marriage is of Christ’s love for the Church.

Church Revitalization: Thom Rainer gives reasons for his optimism about a coming wave of Church revitalization.

Holiness: Over at the Cripplegate, a decent article on how to know you’re growing in holiness when struggling with anger.

Weather: Tropical Storm season begins for us in Newfoundland.

Sermon: TGC word of the week promotes a timely message about how buzz and belief are different things.

Of Cities to Come

Our experiences of coming home may have something to do with coming home to a place we’ve not yet been

And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there.

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2016), Re 21:22–25.

I believe that God provides signs in our daily lives for the ultimate joys He has prepared for us. When he talks about things in His Word, He isn’t just speaking in vague generalities, even when what we’re learning about isn’t easilly thought of from our perspective. He is using metaphor, but metaphor isn’t a pseudonym for “not true”.

Part of our confusion stems from our inability to understand metaphor. We imagine that something being spoken of metaphorically is less real than what is seen, touched, tasted and experienced, when in many cases, what is being spoken of is a deeper truth, one so deep that we can only think of it metaphorically, because what is concrete fails us. The concrete is the language of eternal truth, but it isn’t the deepest truth.

This is especially the case when God speaks in Revelation about the glories He has prepared for eternity to come. In the above quote, we see God telling us about a strange city where its light and its temple are God Himself. In a world that imagines us secular, I suppose we think we can imagine a city without a temple, but if what we’re talking about is the central works around which a city is built, and in which its people spend most of their time, it’d be like saying a Church without shopping malls or sports stadiums, as God is that ultimate value which now we often place in sports or in purchasing power.

This week I am attending meetings at a Church I once attended in South Korea: Sarang Community Church, Seoul. They have graciously asked me to talk about my work as a lead mentor for the learning community in St. John’s, and our work planting Churches in Newfoundland and Labrador. Probably in a later blog post I’ll explain just how important the English ministry at Sarang was for my life, but for now, it means that I’m visiting a city I once knew fairly well.
Since I got to Seoul yesterday, I’ve been hit by a strange feeling of both familiarity and strangeness. I am not Korean, and my Korean is barely at survival level. I do not look like a Korean even slightly, and yet as I’ve had experiences I’ve missed for years, from using the subway, to drinking ludicously overpriced coffee in Gangnam, to eating foods that are either unavailable or crazy expensive back home in Canada. All of this teaches me something about Revelation 21. I feel both familiar and alien.

In the city to come, while everything will be new and exciting, there will also be a safety and familiarity to it, as the center of that great new city to come is God Himself, who we know now in Christ. In essence, when that great day comes, and we are in the new kingdom, we will be in a great place we can only be in because of the grace of God in Jesus Christ, so in one sense, we will be alien, present not because of our own righteousness, but because of the righteousness of God imputed to us in Christ, but we will also be fully welcome, and in a very real sense that no city on earth can emulate, we will be home.

T4G Day 1, AM

So it seems I get better at blogging when I’m at these conferences, and I’m guessing this will be no different. Today I’m in Louisville, Kentucky for this year’s Together for the Gospel conference, with thousands of other pastors from around the world.

It isn’t my first time here, so I’m excited, but not in the same way as I was when I came first. I am preparing to hear good preaching, to meet pastors, and to find good books to read, but there isn’t the same kind of tensed expectation.

For a conference, that’s not a bad thing, it’s just a conference. But this morning, as I do my morning devotions, I’m also struck by how perfunctory it can be in my life to actually meet with the living God. It should be a wonderful, glorious experience as I stand before God in the righteousness of His Son through prayer and reading the very word of God.


Yet I can find my mind wandering from that, to the breakfast I hope to have, and to the sunrise over the river in Louisville (which is admittedly beautiful). I can often allow my affections to terminate on the intermediate blessings, and forget the blesser (even as one of those blessings is to spend time with the blesser), or imagine that it’s because of something good in me that I have these great blessings, and forget God altogether. The people of Israel seem to have been prone to this, which is why God says in Deut 9:4a:

“Do not say in your heart, after the LORD your God has thrust them out before you, ‘It is because of my righteousness that the LORD has brought me in to possess this land,’
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2016), Dt 9:4.

In context, it looks a little like God is seeking to dredge up old sins, just to make people feel under his thumb, but that isn’t what I think is happening. We really are stubborn people, and often quick to forget the great blessings we’ve been given. We find it far easier to gain short term immediate joy in things that don’t last instead of in the joy we’re promised in God. Our limited immediate circumstances can make us think things are better for us than they are, and that as a result, our blessings are only to be expected.

By God’s grace, my I recognize that grace today.

Faith in God Justifies.

Faith in God is a justifying thing, and faith is not your feelings.

But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you.
For you bless the righteous, O LORD; you cover him with favor as with a shield. Psalm 5:11–12 ESV

Some would say that the Old Testament lacks instances of justification by faith, but I’m not so sure that’s the case. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and if His plan was to see the righteous live by faith, and to be justified by their trust in God, we should see the idea in writings before the time of the incarnation.

In fact, that is what we see. One such point is something I recently came across in my morning Bible reading. In Psalm 5, we see the above couplet where the psalmist prays that God wouldcause rejoicing to come to all people who take refuge in Him. For our purposes, the reasoning the psalmist uses is important. He says that it is because (for) God blesses, not just those who take refuge in God, but the righteous.

There are two implications here for the Christian life: 1) putting your trust in God is righteousness. It is the fact that we put our ultimate value and trust in God that centrally makes the believer righteous. While this will result in right action (as if we trust God, we will trust what he says, and see his commands as good), it is not primarily the action that makes one righteous, but the ground for the action, namely a trust in God. 2) by the implication that the Psalmist to give joy to those he has implicitly defined as righteous, we can learn that faith is not in itself joy. Indeed, it can and should ground joy, but the fact that you aren’t “feeling” something every moment of every day is not in itself a sign that you are lacking faith or that you are outside the will of God. Since we are sinful people, our feelings do not always function properly, and sometimes we need to face periods of feeling empty through our faith. The proper response to a lack of joy in our lives is not primarily to seek the joy itself, but instead to seek God for the joy that He gives. Even more to the point, our failure to feel joy all the time is not a point at which we should say “well, I guess this taking refuge in the Lord thing isn’t working”, but instead an opportunity to drive deeper into refuge in God, because that is where joy is to be found, even if you don’t actively find it every moment.

Keep seeking your refuge in the Lord, and I will pray with the psalmist that God would grant joy to you and all who are righteous because they take refuge in the Lord.

Keep me in coffee

The author is often highly caffeinated. Keep him that way!