Saturday, January 23, 2010

Review: God's Comeback Kids by Don Kimrey

I'm so excited....Don's book, "God's Comeback Kids", came in the mail today!

Actually, it's a gift for my daughter, who turns 13 in a couple of weeks. But before I gift-wrap it, I couldn't help devouring this gem myself and banging out a review.

If you'd enjoy warm, anecdotal writing about some of the more lovable, yet flawed folks of Scripture - along with deeply poignant, touching applications to your own life's struggles - drop everything you're doing and order yourself a copy at the link above. Don's casual, down-to-earth style of writing is humorous at times and convicting at others, but is always enlightening and enjoyable.

As the title indicates, this book focuses on the stories of the biggest mess-ups God ever saved, as well as some hapless dudes who were just in the wrong place at the wrong time (from a human perspective!). If you are a Greek snob looking for an exegetical study of present perfect and auxiliary verb tenses, well... this is not that book. If you are looking for life lessons to be gleaned from the grace God lavished upon His repentant or underdog children, you will be blessed by Don's treatment of Joseph, Moses, Job, the Prodigal Son, and - my personal favorite - the Apostle Peter. (I did wonder why he left out the ultimate 'comeback kid', King David. Perhaps because David was such an obvious choice that his inclusion would have been a bit cliche. At least David left us with the great penitential Psalms, to aid in our own spiritual "comebacks").

Some of these "comeback kids" were victims of circumstance; they landed in perilous or unfortunate situations through no fault of their own. Don thoughtfully paints a 3-dimensional portrait of the characters of Joseph and Job, who even in horrific circumstances strove to glorify God. Through their life stories, he draws parallels to how we are to react when life throws a curve-ball.

From the chapter on the "comeback kid" with whom I most closely identify:

"Peter was also very impulsive. That's putting it mildly. There was no pretense about him. You weren't ever left to wonder what he thought, or how he felt about you. His impulsiveness was certainly one source of his prideful downfall. As you read the account of Jesus in agonizing prayer in that Garden, you can probably hear Pete snoring in the background. Peter was only dimly aware of the approaching soldiers led by Judas, the traitor. He was awakened abruptly. Startled, and perhaps only half-awake, confused with the torchlight playing off the Roman soldiers' armor and faces, with swift, instinctive angry skill he unsheathed his sword and sliced off a soldier's ear.

I've apologized for Peter for that act on several occasions. I feel I now know him well enough to tell you he did not mean to slice off the soldier's ear. He meant to split his skull! Wide open!

Jesus took control of the situation, corrected it, and commanded Peter to put his sword back in its scabbard. Those who live by the sword shall die by the sword," He said (Matthew 26:52).

Something I've observed which may be worth your further thought: Sometimes a person's great strength can also become his or her greatest point of weakness. If someone has a "gift of gab", that "gift" can become the Achilles heel which leads to a downfall. An above average beautiful lady or "too handsome" guy, has more than once allowed that to lead to unjustified pride which almost always leads to destruction. Of one sort or another, and sooner or later - if allowed to run its course unchecked."

Don's driving ambition, as he describes it, is "to get as close to Christ as I can and stay there." This passion shows through, loud and clear, in his writing. Although he demurs to call this work a "Bible study", it is far too deep and rich to be labelled simply a "devotional". Anyone, new Christian or seasoned believer alike, can learn a new lesson by examining the lives of these heroes afresh through Don's writing.

It was a pleasure to read, and recommend.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Why I am Proud.... live in Central Massachusetts:

Monday, January 11, 2010

Piper on "God Hunger" and the Value of the Fast

John Piper on the value of biblical fasting (HT: Mona Leiter):

God’s Greatest Adversaries Are His Gifts

The greatest enemy of hunger for God is not poison but apple pie. It is not the banquet of the wicked that dulls our appetite for heaven, but endless nibbling at the table of the world. It is not the X-rated video, but the prime-time dribble of triviality we drink in every night. For all the ill that Satan can do, when God describes what keeps us from the banquet table of his love, it is a piece of land, a yoke of oxen, and a wife (Luke 14:18-20). The greatest adversary of love to God is not his enemies but his gifts. And the most deadly appetites are not for the poison of evil, but for the simple pleasures of earth. For when these replace an appetite for God himself, the idolatry is scarcely recognizable, and almost incurable.

Piper's book, "A Hunger for God", is available to download for free through the Desiring God Christian Resource Library. Excellent discussion of the valuable, biblical model of drawing close to Christ through fasting.

Sunday, January 10, 2010


Seen on Facebook:

On that note, I'm off to bed.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Paul Washer on Jay Adams...on Depression

Recently, I watched the following short video of Paul Washer being interviewed on the subject of young pastors "idolizing" celebrity pastors. Tangentally, Washer mentioned a few of the men whose ministries have really blessed him and how he has learned from them - Jay Adams included. (As many of you know, Jay Adams is the founder of biblical counseling and the founder of NANC). He has written too many books to mention, but his writing has been extremely helpful to me, and thousands of others, in understanding where secular psychology falls flat and how God's Word is sufficient for the believer to overcome all manner of problems (especially those stemming from sin).

Rev. Paul Washer, or "Brother Paul" as he prefers to be called, is a deeply intense, strikingly humble and self-deprecating young pastor who has gained quite a following in recent years due to his radical call for repentance and uncompromised preaching of the Gospel. He has an incredible burden both for the lost and for the Church. Each time he opens his mouth, you sense the love, compassion, and sense of urgency as he pleads with people to recognize their lostness and the futility of a "cross-less" Christianity.

So it did not shock me when Brother Paul admitted in this interview (disclosing his own "clay feet") that he has struggles with depression. His overwhelming passion to know Christ and Him crucified belies an unusually intense personality. Seeing the way he speaks, the authentic emotion that carries itself into his message, and the depth of his love for people (enough to tell them hard truths), it is not surprising that he would be given to periods of melancholy (much like Charles Spurgeon was). It was extremely edifying to see him, in a few brief minutes, point to the Bible's answer to depression - paraphrasing Adams, who has laid out the Scriptural principals so clearly, so many times. He didn't endorse the man-centric solution "I just try to feel good about myself".

I have great respect for both Paul Washer and Jay Adams for their uncompromising commitment to live, and preach, to God's glory. I appreciate them for their humility, transparency, compassion, and constant teaching of the Truth - even when the world doesn't want to hear it.

"What I have learned from Jay Adams...the greatest thing is to be able to discern when I am believing a lie; something that is not true; that doesn't conform to God's Word, and then to preach it to myself. Instead of letting my heart preach to me, I want to preach God's Word to my heart, and stand on the realities of God's Word rather than on feelings.

Another thing that has been very helpful... is that so many things that would cause us to pity and coddle a man, instead of allowing that...the man should be rebuked - because he's believing a lie. So many things that seem to be where we treat ourselves as pitiful victims; when in actuality we're "filthy criminals" and just facing that....facing that with the Word of God and repenting.

Another thing that I think is very, very good is that it is not enough to say "no" to the flesh; to say "no" to an evil practice, but to substitute that evil practice with the doing of good; with virtue. It's not just "putting off"; but it's "putting on". And much of that has been very, very helpful." --- Paul Washer

Friday, January 1, 2010

“Why Study Church History?”: the Myopia of the Modern

I just stumbled across an excellent article by Josh Congrove of Clearnote Fellowship on the importance of knowing Church history. It's a long read, but he makes many valuable points which should be self-evident. Be sure and check out the original article here:

"Those of us who are Protestants are tempted to regard the study of Church history as unessential, an extra, perhaps even at odds with our belief in the sufficiency of Scripture. So why pursue it?

The principal reason is because God intends us to learn from the mistakes made and lessons learned by others in the past (Jer. 6:16). It's often been said that those who do not learn from the mistakes of history are doomed to repeat them, and we might be tempted to seize upon this as reason enough for learning about Church history. But there is a more important reason to study Church history: namely, that we’re not cosmic believers in karma but mortal believers in Jesus Christ. We’re responsible not to history but to the Judge of all history. And God has designed His world in such a way that we don't proceed through life simply in a cycle, but rather with the realization that history moves according to His plan, and He intends us to benefit from what Christians in previous eras have done, either rightly or wrongly.

And studying Church history shows us that the Church we see in Scripture didn’t stop there. It didn't exist independently from, or outside of, history, nor did the closing of Scripture's canon mean that the teaching of the apostles stopped with it.

At this point, it is possible for us to fall victim to one of two opposite errors. We might regard the early Church's practice as a) either an unimportant example that can be disregarded, or b) a relic to be slavishly copied. We can see both errors at work in the Church today, sometimes in the same groups.

We see the first error all over the contemporary evangelical world, most notably in the tendency of hip evangelicals to reject practices seen as outmoded, dated, and out of sync with the prevailing postmodern ethos. Fence the Lord's Table from nonbelievers? Disallow women from exercising authority in the Church? Neither of these sits well with evolved progressives who can't allow themselves to be seen in the same light as those primitive leaders of the Early Church.

The second error is one we might be tempted to see only in the Roman Catholic Church. After all, they're the ones concerned about tradition and relics, right? Don't be so sure. Think about it: the same hip emergents who disregard the example of the Early Church's doctrine and practice are often also those most concerned to claim its symbolism and ethos. How often do you hear of churches professing to recover the original essence of Christianity? Of finding again the "real" Jesus? Of creating an authentic "faith community" that fulfills a man's need to be both evolved and moored?

But this tendency isn't limited to emergent churches. Consider any number of "evangelical" churches that desire to tie themselves directly to the Early Church, skipping over 2,000 years of Church history in the process. How about the Campbellites or Restorationists of the Disciples of Christ or other "Christian Church" denominations, who hold the Lord's Supper every week in a haphazard miss-it-and-it's-gone fashion, claiming this to be a restoration of the practice of the Early Church? How about the adherents of Oneness Pentecostalism who excuse their rejection of orthodox Trinitarian doctrine by feigning an adherence to the pure simplicity of the doctrine of the Early Church?

Yet understanding Church history properly shows us that the truth handed down by the apostles (2 Thess. 2:15) continued to guide the church in its first centuries. Errant doctrine crept in, to be sure, but much was preserved by men of God striving to safeguard the good deposit they'd been given. And so, yes, on the one hand we see the error of baptismal regeneration creeping into the Church, but on the other hand we also see the faithful, careful exposition of the doctrine of the Trinity, embryonic in the Early Church, but carefully explained by later generations of faithful pastors. We see that the Christian faith spread worldwide, not simply because of its attractiveness to the poor, as secular scholars opine, but also because of the wise, bold apostolic mission of the Church in the centuries following the apostolic age. Any attempt to be "missional" today without understanding the missionary activity of the historic church is foolhardy and short-sighted.

Much of this myopia in the contemporary church also stems from another trait in our culture: narcissism. Our generation is arguably one of the most self-focused in history, and so it's no surprise that our churches are ever deluded by the mirage of rediscovery, and the allure of self-discovery. When we focus constantly on ourselves, our time, our modern sophistication, our evolved state, it's not long until we become guilty of the arrogance that assumes we can rediscover Jesus, recover original Christianity, or restore the true essence of faith—with no concern for the lessons and discoveries of the past 1,800 years.

It’s here that Church history becomes a great help to us. Understanding Church history shows us that the most incredible, most sophisticated discoveries in the Christian faith were made long ago. It shows us that our great need today is not to let postmodernism inform the doctrine of the Trinity, but rather to proclaim its doctrine, already discovered, to a world that needs old truth explained, not new truth uncovered. Church history shows us that most of the new perspectives we think we've opened today are really little more than rehashing of old heresy. Open theism is nothing more than the posterity of Pelagianism, and its adherents, if more sophisticated, are only the degraded descendents of a man whom St. Augustine defeated 1,600 years ago. Feminism is nothing but ancient goddess worship revived, and abortion nothing but ancient child-slaughter dressed up in American language. And so Church history shows us in detail what we already should have known from Scripture, that there is "nothing new under the sun" (Eccl. 1:9), no temptation but such as is common to man (1 Corinthians 10:13), and that those who ignore the lessons of God’s Church reveal a desire for self-imposed darkness.

But lest I end this brief defense on a negative note, consider also how Church history is a constant testimony to the faithfulness of God among His people. For 1,900 years after the apostles' passing, the Chief Shepherd has safeguarded His sheep, allowing sinful men still to serve as defenders of the truth, and His Church still to show itself as the "pillar and ground of the truth" (1 Timothy 3:15). And so those who ignore this history deprive themselves of the blessings of 2,000 years of God's working in ways that even the Apostles likely never imagined. Upon closing the last book of Scripture, did the Apostle John see how wondrously God would provide for the Church he had served so faithfully? Could he see how it would endure, protected from Arianism, from Pelagianism, from Islam? Could he also see how God would protect it from itself, even? How the innocent purity of the Apostolic message would be corrupted in the coming centuries by sacramentalism, indulgences, and Mariolatry? And how God would use His servants in recovering the truth of the Gospel but without disregarding the truth that had endured?

It's likely John saw none of these things in detail, but it's certain that in our day we can. God has provided us a record of His people's experiences, from Adam to Christ, from Christ to John, and now from John to us today. These things are not just pieces of arcane knowledge; they are records of mistakes made and lessons learned. They are "written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come" (1 Corinthians 10:11). God has given them to us as aids to our faith and antidotes to our narcissism, and we disregard them to our own peril and impoverishment. They are not Scripture, but they do show Scripture’s power, and the faithfulness of a God who throughout all time is establishing a Church that the gates of hell will never withstand (Matt. 16:18)."