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REF500 on Dialogue with Steve Bowers

I recently had the opportunity to talk about the Reformation and our festival celebrating it’s 500th anniversary on a local television show. Steve Bowers kindly invited me on his show Dialogue which airs on JEA’s EPlus TV 6 here in Jackson. The 30 minute segment will be shown several times over the next month or so and can be found on YouTube as shown below.

I hope the segment introduces more people to this important event in history and lets people know about our REF500 event coming up in March.

Latest REF500 Video

We have just updated the video at our REF500 homepage. Scott Lancaster has worked his magic once again to produce this video detailing the various aspects of our festival coming up in March. I am excited about the breadth and depth of the various events associated with our festival. Come and participate in the Scripture Reading Marathon as we publicly read the entirety of Scripture. We need over 400 volunteers, so come on! Join us for the free Festival of Preaching as five preachers expound each of the Solas of the Reformation. And join us for the centerpiece of the festival, our conference featuring Timothy George, Carl Trueman, Peter Leithart and David Lyle Jeffrey. We also have a great line up of speakers for parallel sessions, a concert, theater, film showing, and art exhibit.

 

New REF500 video

The REF500 event, celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, is now only about 2 months away! This new video gave me an opportunity to describe the wide array of events and activities that will take place as a part of this celebration at Union University. You can get all the details at our website. I hope you will join us.

 

“More About Jesus”

Last night at church we sang this simple, old hymn, and it struck me that it too is a wonderful prayer for a new year. Indeed, may I in this year know more of Jesus, grow deeper in “communion with my Lord,” taking His word deep into my heart that I might obey Him more faithfully and speak of Him more consistently to others.

 

More about Jesus would I know,
More of His grace to others show;
More of His saving fullness see,
More of His love Who died for me.

Refrain

More, more about Jesus,
More, more about Jesus;
More of His saving fullness see,
More of His love Who died for me.

More about Jesus let me learn,
More of His holy will discern;
Spirit of God, my teacher be,
Showing the things of Christ to me.

Refrain

More about Jesus; in His Word,
Holding communion with my Lord;
Hearing His voice in every line,
Making each faithful saying mine.

Refrain

More about Jesus; on His throne,
Riches in glory all His own;
More of His kingdom’s sure increase;
More of His coming, Prince of Peace.

Refrain

TAKE MY LIFE AND LET IT BE

For this first week of a New Year, I have chosen this great hymn as the poem of the week. I don’t remember hearing this sung as I grew up, but I heard it beautifully sung while I was in college and it has been a favorite ever since.

This is a fitting prayer for a New Year.

TAKE MY LIFE AND LET IT BE
Take my life, and let it be
consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
Take my moments and my days;
let them flow in ceaseless praise.
Take my hands, and let them move
at the impulse of Thy love.
Take my feet, and let them be
swift and beautiful for Thee.

Take my voice, and let me sing
always, only, for my King.
Take my lips, and let them be
filled with messages from Thee.
Take my silver and my gold;
not a mite would I withhold.
Take my intellect, and use
every power as Thou shalt choose.

Take my will, and make it Thine;
it shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart, it is Thine own;
it shall be Thy royal throne.
Take my love, my Lord, I pour at
Thy feet its treasure store.
Take myself, and I will be
ever, only, all for Thee.

- Frances R. Havergal, February 1874.

Best Reads of 2016

Each year I keep a list of the books I read all the way through, typically with brief notes, as a way of tracking my thoughts and a way to look back on each year and see some of what influenced me. So, in this post I have drawn from that list some of the best books I read this year with slightly edited versions of the notes I jotted down after reading them.

I selected a Top 20 from the books I read this year (with some help by combining a series!). These 20 aren’t listed in a particular order, and they made this list for various reasons ranging from sheer enjoyment to level of impact on me. Following the Top 20 are some more books I enjoyed reading this year (in no particular order) as well as some disappointing ones.

  1. Go Set a Watchman, Harper Lee- Despite all the criticism of the book, I thought it was superb. They say it was a draft. May I be so blessed as to write such drafts! If they announced she had a forthcoming volume of scrap stories about Jean Louise’s childhood, I would pre-order it today (or at least I’d start looking for a sale!). I love the way she writes, and the childhood stories are a favorite part of her books for me. So, even if such a collection had no great moral tale, I’d enjoy reading it. (Further comments).
  2. Total Commitment, Hal Poe- This was a fascinating read. Hal is a good friend, and I have long enjoyed hearing his stories. So, I was excited to see this autobiographical volume published. The book makes good points on call to ministry and contains insight into politics, but the main value in my estimation is the sheer joy of reading. Hal is a consummate story teller and he relishes the telling of them.
  3. The Yemassee, William Gilmore Simms- It is fitting for this to follow Hal’s book since Hal is the one who pointed me to Simms years ago. The book started slow, then was a fun story. The ending was clumsy, but adventure, heroism and insight to the historical era made this a compelling read. The Yemassee war was a major part of colonial America in the South which I knew nothing about previously
  4. All the Pretty Horses, Cormac McCarthy- Compelling story, though once again I’d have to say the ending dwindled. My favorite part was the first third- young men on their own living off the land demonstrating large capacity and a time when folks were quite free. This section is also quite humorous.
  5. Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business, Neil Postman- Once again I’m catching up with everyone else by finally reading this book. Reading it in the midst of this presidential election showed how prescient this book was.
  6. The Screwtape Letters, C S Lewis- Again, I was catching up with the rest of the world. It was challenging to see the probing discussion of how sin turns us away from goodness and truth. The points about wasting time, frittering away were convicting as well as some of the stuff about interpersonal strife, etc.
  7. Scottish Christian Heritage, Iain Murray- Excellent! This was likely the most soul stirring, enriching, challenging book I read this year. Murray writes well and the stories of faithfulness under trial are quite moving.
  8. Partisans & Redcoats: The Southern Conflict that Turned the Tide of the American Revolution, by Walter Edgar- I am intrigued by this portion of the Revolutionary War which, it seems, often gets overlooked in popular discussions. This is a great book, well researched and well written. I did not know the info abut Andrew Jackson as a young teenager fighting in the War.
  9. Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury- Wow. I had no idea how good this book would be- so prescient, so relevant. I immediately made this required reading for my high school age son. Amidst discussion of “fake news” and lack of reading, this book is a must read.
  10. Salute to Adventurers, John Buchan- fun read. A young Scottish man during the days of the Covenanters (1600’s) moves to Virginia to see after his uncle’s shipping business and he ends up playing a part in an Indian war. This is Buchan does Fenimore Cooper or W G Simms, and it comes off well. It stands well with Pathfinder or Cassique of Kiawah, and is quite similar. Like those other stories it has a romance angle, adventure, stress on hardiness, Indian cunning and vice as well as nobility, and the hero clashing with the upper crust. Christianity is latent and assumed as in Simms and Cooper. With Buchan’s angle it becomes also a critique of the Covenanters as fanatics. Though I differ with him strongly on this point, I really enjoyed the story.
  11. The Christian Scholar in the Age of the Reformation, E. Harris Harbison- I read this with some faculty colleagues at Union. Harbison traces the approach to academic study within the church by comparing and contrasting key leaders at various points in church history up to the Reformation.
  12. Remembering the Reformation: An Inquiry into the Meanings of Protestantism, Thomas Albert Howard- Howard walks through the celebrations of the Reformation at each significant anniversary. This provides interesting and helpful context to see how the Reformation has been used and remembered at each point.
  13. Courage, Endurance, Sacrifice: The Lives and Faith of Three Generations of Missionaries, Charlotte Harris Rees- Mrs. Rees tells the stories of her great-grandparents, grandparents and parents and their missionary endeavors. The stories are compelling and challenging as she recounts their challenges, sacrifices and passion for souls. The first chapter is about W. D. Powell for whom the theater at Union is named. I am excited for Mrs. Rees to come to Union in February for our Founders’ Day to tell the story of W. D. Powell.
  14. The Best Things in Life, Peter Kreeft- Superb! Kreeft does a fabulous job exposing fallacies common in our culture. This would be particularly helpful for college students. I also enjoyed Kreeft’s The Unaborted Socrates: A Dramatic Debate on the Issues Surrounding Abortion.
  15. Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold, C. S. Lewis- I had heard that this book was typically considered lesser among Lewis’s work so I was surprised by how readable and engaging it was. I don’t claim to have understood all he was trying to say, but I enjoyed and benefitted from it.
  16. War in the Wasteland, Douglas Bond- My family loves Douglas Bond books, and I enjoyed reading this work of historical fiction which presents a young man who encounters the pre-conversion C. S. Lewis in the trenches of World War I.
  17. Good Citizenship, Grover Cleveland- This is a small book including two speeches by President Cleveland: “Good Citizenship” and “Patriotism and Holiday Observance”. These are very timely as Cleveland critiques greed and the selling of political favors calling instead for thrift, hard work and love of your homeland.
  18. Scholar Gipsies, John Buchan- I have enjoyed Buchan for some time, I found this wonderful, beautiful book in Scotland this summer. It is largely the overflow of his childhood written in his early twenties. But what writing this is for such an age! He relishes and frolics in his native countryside. You can see the early seeds of so much of his later writing.
  19. Education of a Wandering Man, Louis L’Amour- I found this book at our local library’s sale, and it launched my L’Amour novel reading for the rest of the year (see below). This is a fascinating book about an adventurous life which included a thirst for learning at every stage. L’Amour provides a challenge to being active and for learning both from reading and listening to those who’ve gone before you. I think reading this autobiography is the best place to start before reading the novels, because you can then see his interests and concerns popping up in the novels.
  20. Louis L’Amour, especially his Sackett series. I listened to 17 L’Amour novels since the summer and loved them! I listened to The Man Called Noon and then the first 16 of the Sackett series (I’m on the final book of that series now but don’t expect to finish it before the end of the year). It would take too much space even to record here all the great quotes I’ve gleaned from these books. I appreciate the themes of industry, education, honor, and family. I think you can see L’Amour’s writing mature as well. I think the books at the beginning of the series (which were written later) stand above the later ones. The later ones have the same amount of adventure, but the later ones have more mature reflection. These have been fun companions on travels and errands around town.

Other Good Reads:

  1. J. R. R. Tolkien: A Life Inspired, Wyatt North- very readable, brief, engaging biography
  2. Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, J. D. Vance- I enjoyed this and learned from it. I think the hype surrounding it built up my expectations too high, though.
  3. Aeneid, Virgil (Feb)- I didn’t enjoy this nearly as much as The Odyssey.
  4. Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Redemption, Shane Kastler- This is not the best book on Forrest, but pretty good. He draws from good sources. It is a bit preachy at times, but it is an account of the spiritual life of Forrest. It doesn’t gloss over his sins, but details his postwar conversion.
  5. How Three Brothers Saved the Navy (The Kare Kids Adventures #3), Charles A. Salter- This was a fun read with my younger two children who enjoyed it. It is sort of “Hardy Boys” in a military family. The author explicitly encourages hard work and perseverance. (I commented previously on this book)
  6. America’s War for the Greater Middle East: A Military History, Andrew Bacevich- This is a challenging critique of the way the US has handled the Middle East over the last few decades.
  7. The Crescent and the Cross: The Eighth Voyage of Sinbad, Robert Rogland (April)- This is a well-conceived story building of the well-known 7 voyages of Sinbad and then telling how Sinbad came to faith in Jesus. (See further comments in my previous post).
  8. The Confederate Chronicles: No.1, The Ghost of a Chance, Boyd Parker- This was a fun read, cleverly conceived. I hope more of the series are forthcoming. In the story the Confederate government continues to function meeting as a secret society carrying out benevolent work and helping to protect the United States.
  9. The Body Snatchers, Robert Louis Stevenson- Like Stevenson’s Jekyl & Hyde, this is a compelling portrait of the snare of sin. In this case it shows particularly how one compromise ensnares you to great sin. The ending is abrupt, making me wish he had gone further developing the story since so many loose ends are left. It seems his point was to end with a shocking point, but I’m left wanting a further resolution.

Disappointing Reads

  1. Man in the High Castle, Phillip K. Dick- This was quite disappointing, not nearly as good as the Amazon series, which bears very little resemblance to the book. The most impressive thing to me is that someone was able to find in this subpar novel inspiration for a really good television series. I don’t know where the book is trying to go or what it is trying to say. I want a novel to have an exciting story or to probe deep truths. This did neither.
  2. The Book of Merlyn, T. H. White (July)- I have heard high praise of White’s other Arthurian stories so when I found this book, I decided to read it. However, it is loony. Not very good at all.

 

Creator of the Stars of Night

My poem of the week this week is this 7th century Latin hymn which captures well the truth we celebrate at Christmas.

 

CREATOR OF THE STARS OF NIGHT

Creator of the stars of night,
Thy people’s everlasting light,
Jesu, Redeemer, save us all,
And hear Thy servants when they call.

Thou, grieving that the ancient curse
Should doom to death a universe,
Hast found the medicine, full of grace,
To save and heal a ruined race.

Thou cam’st, the Bridegroom of the bride,
As drew the world to evening-tide;
Proceeding from a virgin shrine,
The spotless victim all divine.

At whose dread name, majestic now,
All knees must bend, all hearts must bow;
And things celestial Thee shall own,
And things terrestrial, Lord alone.

O Thou whose coming is with dread
To judge and doom the quick and dead,
Preserve us, while we dwell below,
From every insult of the foe.

To God the Father, God the Son,
And God the Spirit, Three in One,
Laud, honor, might, and glory be
From age to age eternally.

-          Unknown author, 7th Century (Conditor alme siderum); translated from Latin to English by John M. Neale in the Hymnal Noted, 1852

New Commentary by Grant Osborne

osborne-colphilWhile at ETS I was able to pick up a copy of this new commentary- the initial volume of a new commentary series- by Grant Osborne. Grant was my supervisor in my masters work so I was delighted to hear that he had started this project- a verse by verse commentary through the NT in accessible language and format, engaging deeply with the text but not losing the forest for the trees.

I had the opportunity to look at this volume before it was published and I think it is great. Here is the blurb which I wrote for it:

“Grant Osborne is ideally suited to write a series of concise commentaries through the New Testament. His exegetical and hermeneutical skills are well known, and anyone who has had the privilege of being in his classes also knows his pastoral heart and wisdom. This commentary is ideal for pastors and Bible study leaders as it pays close attention to the text without getting lost in technical details. Osborne expounds the text faithfully asking what God was saying through Paul to the Colossians and to Philemon and what that means for us today. This will be a wonderful resource for preachers, Bible study leaders and for help in daily Bible reading.”

Pastoral Epistles in Southeastern Theological Review

img_3602We had a great session at the Pastoral Epistles study group at ETS last week with four strong papers. I was pleased to announce in our session that the latest issue of the Southeastern Theological Review has been released and is devoted to the Pastoral Epistles. Most of the articles came from papers previously presented in our study group. Editor, Ben Merkle, has done a wonderful job bringing these together. You can see the contents in the photo.

I had the privilege of doing an interview on how the Pastoral Epistles discussing how they have impacted my life, noting some ongoing work and pointing to various ways the church needs the Pastorals specifically today.

Southeastern posts the full journal free online, so I expect it will appear at their website soon.

 

Happy Reformation Day 2016!

Yesterday I had the privilege of preaching on Romans 3 for Reformation Sunday at First Baptist Church, Jackson, TN. I tried to make clear the problem of humanity before a holy God and the only hope we have in the atoning work of Jesus.

This clip from a TV show powerfully illustrates our need for clear proclamation of the gospel. Too often today people shy away from clear proclamation of the gospel. This is a good reminder why we should celebrate the recovery of the clear gospel of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. It is also a reminder that this gospel must be proclaimed. All people are running out of time, and we must tell them.