2019 Daily Bible Reading

Day 1/365 – Gen 1, Matt 1, Ezr 1 and Acts 1

Of Beginnings – Old and New

I’m beginning a new Bible reading plan this year – the first since 2014. In the spirit of finding a way to stay motivated, I’ll be writing a short reflection based on each day’s reading. It won’t be amazing material but I trust it’ll help me stay grounded. 

It’s highly fascinating that my walk through the Word in 2019 begins on January 1 with four beginnings: the beginning of human history in Genesis, the beginning of the Messiah in Matthew, the (new) beginning of Israel in Ezra after the exile and the beginnings of the church in Acts.

Why does God take such great pains to emphasize beginnings?

Might I suggest that God is concerned with beginnings because He is faithful? He goes to great details about how things begin so we can see His faithfulness in seeing them through to the end.

He creates – and in the end, that creation, though it will fall, is gloriously restored as the redeemed people of God live in His presence under His rule and blessing.

He calls out believers and grants them a glorious new beginning – one as His Church, His body, His bride.

He calls forth His people out of exile and in the end, that people will come out of the exile of sin and turn to the Messiah sent for them (Romans 11)

He sends His Son – in the most ordinary way possible, through human beings flawed and fallible – so that those who turn from their sins and trust in Him can have a new beginning.

A beginning crafted from the foundation of the world.

2019 Daily Bible Reading

Day 5 – Gen 5. Matt 5, Ezr 5 and Acts 5

Kingdom Living

Focus text: Matthew 5

How often do you think of the Kingdom of God?

If I’m honest, I don’t think about it as often as I should. More than ever, I find myself taken up with mundane things like a job, a house, a car and any other number of things that are honestly distractions from eternal matters.

Today’s reading takes us to the beginning of the Sermon of the Mount – three chapters in the Gospel according to Matthew that talk a great deal about the Kingdom of God and what it looks like to be a part of it.

Matthew 5:3-12 is a powerful portrait of what a citizen of the Kingdom looks like:

  • They are the poor in spirit – they recognize their need for God and their lack in light of that need
  • They are those who mourn at their sin and realize God is the only One who can truly comfort them in their mourning
  • They are the humble – those who recognize their lowly position in light of God’s greatness
  • They hunger and thirst for righteousness – they desire God’s righteousness intensely
  • They are merciful in their dealings with others, knowing that God has been merciful with them and continues to be merciful with them
  • They are the pure in heart – not by any merit of their own but solely by the gracious, sovereign work of God who sets them apart and causes them to desire that which is pure
  • They are peacemakers – flowing from the peace that we experience with God
  • They are those who are persecuted – persecuted because they live in line with the values of God’s Kingdom and not this world.

The Beatitudes are a reminder of kingdom living – life not in our strength and not by our merit but solely by the grace of God shown to us in Christ.

2019 Daily Bible Reading

Day 4/365 – Gen 4, Matt 4, Ezr 4 and Acts 4

Focus text: Matthew 4

When I got to today’s readings, I knew I had to cover Matthew 4!

The Temptation narrative is rich with theological meaning on so many levels but I want to highlight two of my favourite layers to that story.

Jesus succeeds where Adam failed:

Yesterday, we read Genesis 3 and the narrative of the Fall. One component of the Fall is that often missed is how the serpent’s temptation worked on three fronts:

The woman saw that the tree was good for food and delightful to look at, and that it was desirable for obtaining wisdom

That tactic was profoundly effective!

So she took some of its fruit and ate it; she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.

Genesis 3:6 CSB

Those three things – the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes and the pride of life (1 John 2:15-17) – come to the fore in Jesus’ temptation.

The first temptation was the temptation to turn stones into bread – a temptation to satisfy the body’s desire for food. The second temptation was the temptation for Jesus to throw Himself off the pinnacle of the Temple. Satan’s use of the Psalms suggest this was an attempt to appeal to some angelic rescue that would be seen by all – a clear appeal to pride. The final temptation involved being shown the kingdoms of the world and having them offered to Him for the low, low price of simply bowing down and worshipping Satan – an appeal to the desire of the eyes first and foremost.

But where Adam and Eve failed, Jesus glorously triumphs. The first Adam floundered in the serpent’s face in the garden – the second Adam begins His trampling of the serpent’s head in the wilderness.

Jesus succeeds where Israel failed:

Not only does Jesus succeed where Adam fails but He succeeded where Israel as a nation failed.

In the interest of brevity, I will simply note a few areas of similarity as well as contrast:

  • Israel, God’s firstborn, entered the wilderness after passing through the waters of the Red Sea
    • Jesus, God’s firstborn, entered the wilderness after passing through water in His baptism
  • Israel went into the wilderness for 40 years at the behest of God for their lack of faith in God’s direction
    • Jesus goes into the wilderness for 40 days at the leading of the Spirit
  • Israel grumbled for bread in the wilderness in a lack of faith
    • Jesus refuses bread in submission and faith in God
  • Israel constantly gave into idolatry in the wilderness
    • Jesus refused to worship Satan in the wilderness

Unlike Israel, whose history was one of constant failure and disobedience, Jesus succeeds in the wilderness!

Adam failed in the Garden and Israel failed in the wilderness – yet Jesus is the Victor over the adversary, fulfilling what was lacking in their stories…and in His obedient life, He succeeds where His elect has failed and His righteousness is imputed to their account.

Soli deo Gloria!

2019 Daily Bible Reading

Day 3/365 – Gen 3, Matt 3, Ezr 3, Acts

Focus text: Genesis 3

A pop quiz as we begin today’s meditation:

Who was the first recipient of the Gospel?

If you said Adam and Eve, you get partial credit. The first Gospel message is given to us in our first reading for today.

I will put hostility between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring.
He will strike your head,
and you will strike his heel.

Genesis 3:15 CSB

The first person to hear the Gospel, ladies and gentlemen, was the Devil!

But before I get into that, I want us to take note that this is in Genesis 3. Adam and Eve and the serpent are still, as yet, in the garden of Eden – and it’s the garden of Eden that has become ground zero for the Gospel.

We often think of the Gospel as a New Testament idea, something that only makes sense in light of the Cross and the coming of Jesus. That is not entirely wrong – after all, it is the New Testament that explicitly speaks of Christ and His redeeming work.

The reality is, though, the Gospel was not plan B after our first parents screwed up but it was always plan A. The Gospel started even earlier than the garden – it began in the mind of the triune God in eternity past when the Father chose a people, the Son covenanted to die for them and the Spirit as the bond of love between the Father and Son promised to apply the work of the Son to those the Father had chosen.

When Genesis 3:15 speaks of the victory of the woman’s Seed over the serpent, that might have been news to the Devil and it might have been news to Adam and Eve – but it wasn’t news to God.

Soli deo Gloria!

2019 Daily Bible Reading

Day 2/365 – Gen 2, Matt 2, Ezr 2 and Acts 2

When the Spirit Moves

I’m beginning a new Bible reading plan this year – the first since 2014. 
In the spirit of finding a way to stay motivated, I’ll be writing a short reflection 
based on each day’s reading. 
It won’t be amazing material but I trust it’ll help me stay grounded. 

Focus passage: Acts 2

Much is made of the person and work of the Holy Spirit in our day. With the advent of the Pentecostal movement in the 1900s and the charismatic renewal in the 1960s, interest in who the Holy Spirit is and what the Holy Spirit does has never been higher. Yet, with this increase of interest, there has arguably never been more confusion on the subject as there is at present.

Acts 2 and the events of the day of Pentecost provides us with some valuable lessons about what happens when the Spirit is truly at work:

  1. When the Spirit is at work, there is empowered proclamation (v1-4)
  2. When the Spirit is at work, God is valued as supreme (v5-11)
  3. When the Spirit is at work, Jesus is lifted up – in His life, His death and resurrection (v12-36)
  4. When the Spirit is at work, conviction, repentance and faith are born in the hearts of God’s elect (v37-41)
  5. When the Spirit is at work, the church behaves like the church (v42-47)

Perhaps in all the discussions about tongues, healing and prophecy, we are all in danger of losing sight of what truly happens when the Spirit moves.

2019 might be a good time to rediscover the Holy Spirit.

I recommend Arthur W. Pink’s fantastic book The Holy Spirit for a 
worthwhile treatment of the person and work of the Holy Spirit. 
You can order a free print copy or download a PDF or ePub edition 
from the friends at Chapel Library.

Sermons

The Tongue, the Bridle and the Blessing – Sinclair Ferguson

I’ve been captivated by James 3 of late.

I’ve had the opportunity to write on it a couple of times for Things Above Us and it’s a passage I am actively working to memorize.

In that vein, I was blessed to hear this message by Rev. Dr. Sinclair Ferguson from that text and wanted to share it with you.

Reviews, Uncategorized

Review: High King of Heaven, ed. John MacArthur

As Christians, our faith can be summed up in one name: Jesus.

High King of Heaven: Theological and Practical Perspectives on the Person and Work of Jesus
High King of Heaven: Theological and Practical Perspectives on the Person and Work of Jesus

Without Christ, there is no Christianity. Without Christ, there is no Gospel. Without Christ, there is no hope of eternal salvation – and yet so many Christians have little beyond a surface understanding of who Jesus is and what He has done for us.

It is in that vein that a book like High King of Heaven is heartily welcome. Arising from messages given at the 2017 Shepherd’s Conference, held at Grace Community Church in southern California, the book is an accessible, well-researched and well-studied presentation of the person and work of Christ as well as issues related to seeing Christ in the Scriptures.

The presentation unfolds in four parts: (1) The Person of Christ, (2) The Work of Christ, (3) The Word of Christ and (4) The Witness to Christ. Part 1 features stellar contributions from Dr. Michael Reeves on The Eternal Word: God the Son in Eternity Past (chapter 1), Dr. Mark Jones on The Son’s Relationship to the Father (chapter 3) and Dr. Keith Essex on The Virgin Birth (chapter 4).

Part 2 includes a powerful treatment of the Kenosis from Prof. Mike Riccardi (chapter 9) – a chapter that I believe is the price of the book as a whole 1, Dr. Michael Barrett on The Atonement (chapter 10) as well as The Second Coming from Dr. Michael Vlach (chapter 13).

Part 3 deals with the relationship between Christ and the Scriptures, which bear witness to Him (John 5:39). I found myself especially intrigued by Dr. Brad Klassen’s chapter on Christ and the Completion of the Canon – a subject that usually has very little written about it (chapter 15) – and Dr. Abner Chou’s treatment of Seeing Christ in the Old Testament (chapter 16).

The final section deals with The Witness to Christ – the final chapter (Do You Love Me?: The Essential Response to the High King of Heaven by Dr. John MacArthur) especially works as a fitting conclusion, calling for love for Christ as the heart of our faith.

My only gripe with this volume is that it felt too brief at points – it could have gone on a little longer and I still wouldn’t have been able to put it down.

I heartily commend this book to anyone seeking to grow in their love for Christ, our High King of Heaven. Tolle lege!

Reviews

Review: Power in the Pulpit by Jerry Vines and Jim Shaddix

Jerry Vines and Jim Shaddix, Power in the Pulpit: How to Prepare and Deliver Expository Sermons (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2017).

Can you teach preaching?

It’s an audacious question if you think about it. Can you teach someone how to proclaim the Word of the Living God and do so powerfully and accurately? 

I believe you can and I would venture to say that Power in the Pulpit provides an example of just how to teach someone how to preach.

In 415 pages, pastors and preachers Jerry Vines and Jim Shaddix provide a helpful map for chartering the wonderful waters of Biblical expository preaching in a fashion that will inspire, excite, encourage and challenge anyone who desires this noblest work.

The book divides into three parts. Part One covers the Preparation for Exposition – thinking through what is Biblical exposition, why we do it and what kind of man the Bible expositor is. It is on this foundation that Part Two builds, thinking about the “mechanics” of expository preaching in a section on The Process of Exposition – how one goes from a Bible and a piece of paper (or an open document) to a completed sermon before culminating in Part Three and its treatment of delivery and preparation in The Presentation of the Exposition.

A special touch are a number of “personal testimonies” scattered through the book which provide some flesh-and-blood examples of the principles exemplified. As an aspiring preacher myself, reading those personal insights provided some much-needed encouragement, both that I can faithfully handle and proclaim God’s Word and to pursue excellence in my ministry of preaching.

As good a book as this is, the book did have a couple of areas I would note as worth changing. Though there were a few examples in the appendices, a few worked examples along with the opportunity to think through and try one’s hand out at the varying steps of Biblical exposition would have been appreciated. I also would have appreciated having the bibliography at the end of each Part rather than relegated to an appendix but this is admittedly more of a personal scruple than something important.

All in all, Power in the Pulpit is a fine resource for budding preachers as well as more seasoned expositors seeking to keep the fires stoked and skills sharpened. I commend it unhesitatingly.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange of a fair and honest review. I was not obligated to provide a positive review.

Reviews, Uncategorized

Review: Long Before Luther by Nathan Busenitz

Nathan Busenitz, Long Before Luther: Tracing The Heart Of The Gospel From Christ To The Reformation (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2017).

If you’ve spent any length of time talking with various non-Protestant groups, whether in Roman Catholicism or those who are part of the Eastern Orthodox tradition, you’ll know that a common sticking point is justification by faith.

Though those are two very disparate groups, what you find is that one of the core arguments leveled against the Reformation doctrine of justification by faith alone is that it is a new doctrine – a doctrine that is an innovation in the history of the church and definitely not something the apostles believed or told. 

As if this theological impasse is not difficult enough, there are Protestants and even “evangelicals” who call the doctrine of sola fide a recent development.

The question of the hour is a simple one: Was the Reformation doctrine of justification by faith alone an invention or a recovery?

It is this question that Dr. Nathan Busenitz seeks to answer in his excellent book Long Before Luther: Tracing The Heart of the Gospel from Christ to the Reformation. Busenitz serves as Dean of Faculty and Assistant Professor of Theology at The Master’s Seminary in Los Angeles and has authored and contributed to such books as Reasons We Believe, Right Thinking in a Church Gone Astray, Men of the Word and Fools Gold.

Picking up the claim of historian Alistair McGrath in particular that no-one taught the doctrine of sola fide prior to the Reformers (pp. 25-29), Busenitz does the work of a historical detective, mining through the writings of various teachers and writers in church history, to demonstrate that the doctrine of Luther and the Reformers was, in fact, a RECOVERY and not an INVENTION.

With a faithfulness to the meaning of the authors he cites and a clear-headed analysis of their theology, Busenitz uses the three planks of McGrath’s argument to show that this teaching was understood by generations of believers before Luther – and thus is a doctrine that can be believed and trusted today.

Far from being an academic treatise, Busenitz succeeds in defending the Pauline teaching that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in the finished work of Christ alone. I encourage you to pick up a copy and have your confidence bolstered in the doctrine Busenitz rightfully calls the heart of the Gospel.

Uncategorized

Four MORE of My Favourite Non-Calvinist Preachers/Writers

About three years ago, I wrote an article called My Five Favourite Non-Calvinist Preachers/Writers, naming five authors or speakers who weren’t reformed but I enjoy listening to regardless. I recently re-posted that article on Facebook and realized there are some more authors and speakers I wanted to share on the blog.

I sincerely believe there are great authors outside of my own Calvinistic world and it is a shame to close one’s self off from them just because they don’t believe in or profess TULIP. With that, here are four more authors I enjoy reading and listening to.

J. Oswald Sanders

J. Oswald Sanders (1902-1992) was the director of the then-China Inland Mission, today known as Overseas Missionary Fellowship, in the 1950s and 1960s. He has had an incalculable impact on me through a trilogy of books he authored: Spiritual Leadership, Spiritual Maturity and Spiritual Discipleship.

Rich with Biblical truth while warm and fatherly in tone, Sanders’ writings have done much to get me thinking about the nature of Christian commitment, discipleship and following Jesus. I commend them to anyone seeking to get beyond a “Sunday religion” into a constant, day-by-day paradigm for all of life.

David Legge

I’m still hazy on how I came to know of Pastor David Legge but I do remember how I got interested in his ministry. At the time, he was pastor of the Iron Hall Assembly (now Iron Hall Evangelical Church) in Belfast, Northern Ireland and before long, I found myself sending off for MP3 CDs of his Bible messages through varying books of the Bible as well as a number of insightful topics. I’m a little wary of his more recent material but his older, more expositional ministry is worth your time. 1

Mac Brunson

I’ve been a keen listener to the ministry of Pastor Mac Brunson since I heard him speak at H.B. CharlesCutting It Straight Conference a few years ago and he is a solid, straight-down-the-line expositor. Combining good Bible teaching with a very homespun and down-to-earth delivery, I make it a point to listen to his sermon series as he completes them. You can find his preaching at the First Baptist Church Jacksonville website.

Charles Swindoll

Long-time speaker of Insight for Living, pastor of Stonebriar Community Church and arguably one of the greatest sons of Dallas Theological Seminary, Dr. Charles R. Swindoll is probably one of the easiest preachers to listen to. I’ve often used the phrase deceptively simple to describe his teaching: he doesn’t say anything mind-blowing but he is amazing at just looking at the text and letting the point of the text speak to the life of the listener. I remember listening to a series he did in 1 John while in college and learning so much about John’s emphasis on the Christian life as fellowship with God. I’d encourage you to listen to the archive of Insight for Living, download the study guides and be open to the possibility of learning something you might not have considered.

 

As I conclude, I am sure I will elicit worried reactions for a post like this.

That happened with the first post I did and I accept full responsibility for it. I have grown increasingly aware of the reality that all the good folks aren’t Calvinists and that to cut one’s self off from other voices in the body of Christ is more of a schismatic attitude than a Christ-like attitude.

Even if I am convinced of the doctrines of grace and boldly proclaim them, that should never lead to a haughty, arrogant, self-aggrandizing, “Calvinists are better” spirit. So…give these guys a listen. You might just learn something!