Friday, May 25, 2012

Blog Theme Song?

This afternoon I was splitting duty between rocking my crying, fussy son and preparing for a class I'll be teaching at church next week about God's providence--his sustaining, governing, and directing of all things for the sake of his saving purposes.  Getting annoyed and frustrated, I thought, "Music soothes the savage beast; maybe Ephraim will chill out with some music ... and a bottle."  With providence on my mind, I put on--who else?--Caedmon's Call.  As I listened to "Before There Was Time" (on In the Company of Angels) I realized it sums up everything good this blog is about.  Not only is this song about how God set his affection on his chosen people from before creation in order to redeem them from the darkness of sin and how he works out his care in every detail of their lives.  The song also even mentions the Anastasis fresco in Istanbul that makes up the page backdrop (Jesus taking Abraham and Sarah or Adam and Eve by the hand from the grave).  The notes on this song from the Caedmon's Call website profess: "Simply awestruck by the depth and breadth of God's plan and provision, to know that we are in His grasp more tightly than we can possibly understand."

To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!

Before there was time, 
There were visions in Your mind. 
There was death in the fall of mankind, 
But there was life in salvation's design. 
Before there were days, 
There were nights I could not see Your face, 
But the night couldn't keep me from grace 
When You came and took my place. 

So I cry, "Holy, only begotten Son of God, 
Ancient of Days." 
I cry, "Holy, only begotten Son of God." 
And sing the praises 
Of the One who saved me, 
And the promises He made. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Most Influential Books: Chosen in Christ, Richard D. Phillips

If it was John Piper who showed me that the Bible teaches an utterly sovereign God (Desiring God has a lengthy appendix about how God ordaining evil and sin to accomplish his purpose in creation), it was Rick Phillips who taught me that God's complete control is a doctrine that affords rest for our souls.  As the title implies, Chosen in Christ: The Glory of Grace in Ephesians 1 (Presbyterian & Reformed, 2004) is a book about the doctrines of grace or the "five points of Calvinism."  But far from attempting to analytically prove a cold, lifeless doctrine, this book was a warmhearted host offering a rich meal to his guests.  Phillips walks through every verse and phrase of the first chapter of Ephesians and unpacks Paul's teaching, along with help from the hymns of the church and preachers within the Reformed tradition.

Chosen in Christ helped me to see that predestination, election, and the sovereign plan of God in salvation are not the calculating schemes of a heavenly accountant nor a Macchiavellian despot, but the expression of the joy-securing love God bestows in grace upon his sinful people.

There is no debate raging within the Godhead concerning our place in salvation, no tension; there are no awkward silences or heated conversations.  Rather there is a grand and cohesive conspiracy of love originating in the eternal and sovereign grace of the Father.  (p. 33)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Most Influential Books: Desiring God, John Piper

Ask my wife: She's married to a bibliophile.  Perhaps more realistically, I like the idea of reading and being well-read more than the cost, time, and labor it actually takes to read a lot.  (My wish list has 146 books on it!)  But either way, I really enjoy reading.  (Olivia will add, "...nonfiction, that is!  When will you ever read The Hunger Games?).  I've long thought of posting about the books that have most influenced me, so in somewhat chronological order, I'll reveal a little bit about each one and how they've molded me.

Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist [DESIRING GOD UPDATED/E]After the Bible became to me a living book in the spring and summer of 2002, I began reading some Christian books--Lee Strobel, Bill Hybels, Brennan Manning, John Eldredge, as I recall.  But when I was on a Campus Crusade Summer Project in Ocean City, NJ, in 2003, I was introduced to John Piper's book Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist (Multnomah).  It seemed like every Crusade staff member had read it, and lots of students were talking about it.  I borrowed someone's copy and read it every week while sitting at the laundromat.  And it blew me away.

It wasn't so much Piper's thesis of "Christian hedonism" that jolted me--that God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him, which is what he created us for and what he demands of us.  What really struck me was how Piper handled the Bible.  He took every word with dead-seriousness, digging for every drop of truth.  He let the text of Scripture speak for itself, never trying to gloss over anything.  He chained together each word into thoughts--grammar matters!--each thought into arguments, and each argument into a God-exalting, idol-crushing weapon in the fight for our souls.  Until that point I had never listened to or read anyone who took the Bible so seriously and so joyfully.  It was ultimately Piper's handling of Scripture that made me want to dive into every book of the Bible and let God speak plainly.