Ghost Notes

Ghost Notes
A collections of original songs I wrote in 2015, and recorded with the FreeWay Musical Collective. Click the album image to listen.

inversions

Recorded in 2014, these songs are sort of a chronicle of my journey through a pastoral burn-out last winter. They deal with themes of mental-health, spiritual burn-out and depression, but also with the inexorable presence of God in the midst of darkness. Click the album art to download.

soundings

soundings
click image to download
"soundings" is a collection of songs I recorded in September/October of 2013. Dealing with themes of hope, ache, trust and spiritual loss, the songs on this album express various facets of my journey with God.

bridges

bridges
Click to download.
"Bridges" is a collection of original songs I wrote in the summer of 2011, during a soul-searching trip I took out to Alberta; a sort of long twilight in the dark night of the soul. I share it here in hopes these musical reflections on my own spiritual journey might be an encouragement to others: the sun does rise, blood-red but beautiful.

echoes

echoes
Prayers, poems and songs (2005-2009). Click to download
"echoes" is a collection of songs I wrote during my time studying at Briercrest Seminary (2004-2009). It's called "echoes" partly because these songs are "echoes" of times spent with God from my songwriting past, but also because there are musical "echoes" of hymns, songs or poems sprinkled throughout the album. Listen closely and you'll hear them.

Accidentals

This collection of mostly blues/rock/folk inspired songs was recorded in the spring and summer of 2015. I call it "accidentals" because all of the songs on this project were tunes I have had kicking around in my notebooks for many years but had never found a "home" for on previous albums. You can click the image to download the whole album.

blogs I follow

random reads

Book Reviews

Book Reviews
The Shallows, Nicholas Carr
In this very readable, very thought provoking analysis of electronic communciations technology and its impact on our brains and culture, Nicholas Carr brings together media theory (think Marshall McLuhan), history (think Gutenberg) and neuroscience (think discoveries in brain plasticity) to show how computer technology is shaping us in ways of which we are only dimly aware. He argues that such technologies reduce our capacity for deep, creative and sustained linear thought (or at least have the potential to do so) and predispose us to the fragmented, the cursive and the superficial. Worth the read.

Exclusion and Embrace, Miroslav Volf

Ecstasy and Intimacy: When the Holy Spirit Meets the Human Spirit, Edith Humphrey
A fascinating and engaging introduction to spiritual theology-- or the theology of spirituality, as the case may be. This book is a very scholarly, devotional, christo-centric, ecumenical and trinitarian overview of what it means for Christians to live in the Spirit and with the Spirit within. Bracing and enlightening.

Leading with a Limp, Dan Allender

five smooth stones for pastoral work, Eugene Peterson

From Darkness to Light: How One Became a Christian in the Early Church, Anne Fields

Life in the Ancient Near East, Daniel C. Snell
Snell's Life in the Ancient Near East offers a social history of the ANE, tracing the earliest settlement of Mesopotamia, the development of agriculture, first cities, ancient economy and the emergence of empire. Bringing together a rich variety of data gleaned both from the archaeological record and extant historical texts, he tells the history of this cradle of civilization with a special eye for the "human" element - focusing on the forces and factors that would have directly affected the daily life of the various strata of society. Worth a read generally, but all the more for someone with a particular interest in the biblical stories that find their setting and draw their characters and themes from the same provenience.


The Power and the Glory, Graham Greene

Flame of Yahweh: Sexuality in the Old Testament, Richard Davidson
Davidson's Old Testament theology of human sexuality is stunning in its achievement, challenging in its content, and edifying in its conclusions. Davidson addresses every-- and I do mean every-- Old Testament text that deals (even obliquely) with human sexuality, and, through detailed exegesis, careful synthesis, and deep interaction with the scholarly research, develops a detailed picture of the Old Testament's vision for redeemed human sexuality. 700 pages of Biblical scholarship at its best.


Eaarth, Bill McKibben
Bill McKibben's Eaarth, is a call for us to wake up smell the ecological coffee...while we can still brew it. Unlike his previous work, or any writing on ecology I've yet read, however, Eaarth does not argue that catastrophe is pending. Instead, he argues that catastrophe has arrived, and that our all talk about "going green to avert disaster," "and "saving the planet" is woefully obsolete. In ecological terms, the planet as we once knew it is gone, he argues, and rather than trying to "avert" disaster, we need to start figuring out how to live in the disaster that's happened. Key themes he identifies as important for life on planet Eaarth resonnated with me as profoundly Christian ways of being (disaster or no). We must stop assuming that "bigger" is better; we must acknowledge limits on economic and technological growth; we must get reacquainted with the land; we need eschew self-sufficency and nurture community.

Love Wins, Rob Bell
So fast and furious has the furor over this book been, that any review will inevitably feel redundant or tardy. Given the crowd on the band wagon by now, I actually had no intention of hopping on myself, but my kids got it for me for Father's Day. About 15 pages in, I realized that I could probably finish it in on good push, so I got it over with. My thoughts: probably the most over-hyped book I ever read; I loved it and found it frustratingly under-developed at the same time; while he raises some important issues, his handling of them reads like a yoda-meets-Tom-Wright account of salvation; nothing C. S. Lewis hasn't already said more clearly and more cleverly; I'm glad he wrote it, and I'm glad the Evangelical world has errupted over it the way it has, and I hope a much more spirited and generous and optimistic understanding of soteriology and eschatology will infuse the evangelical church's mission as a result.

Rediscovering Paul, David Capes et. al.
Rediscovering Paul is a hepful overview of Paul's life, times and theology. While at times I felt it might have gone deeper, or expressed its ideas more clearly, it provides some interesting and inspiring insights into the man behind the letters. Among these is its discussion of the communal aspect of first century letter writing, and the influence of one's community on one's personal sense of identity, and how those issues might have played out in Paul's writings. Another challenging issue that it tackles is the whole process of letter writing in the Greco-Roman world, especially as regards the role a scribe often played in shaping the text, smoothing out the langugae or providing stock phrases, etc.


Lavondyss, Robert Holdstock
If you've read George MacDonald's Lilith, then think of Lavondyss as sort of a Lilith-for-Non-Christians. It's the convoluted labyrinth of a story about a young girl called Tallis and her adventures in a magical wood that brings the Jungian archetypes buried deep in our subconscious to life. Dense with questions about Jungian psychology, and the spiritually-thin-places of the world, and death and myth and magic and story, it's pretty tough slugging at times, but thought provoking and challenging. At times I felt like I was reading the Narnia book C. S. Lewis might have written if he had pursued the "stab of northerness" in directions other than the Christian Faith where he found it eternally satisfied.

Jesus and Money, Ben Witherington III
My friend John Vlainic once ranked Ben Witheringon as one of the strongest Biblical scholars in the Wesleyan tradtion working today. This thin but powerful volume is evidence to support such an accolade. I opened it expecting (judging by the cover) either a how-to book on Christian finances, or (judging by the other books I've read on Christ and Money) a hodge-podge of Bible verses taken out of context and mushed together as proof texts about the tithe. I got neither; instead, Ben Witherington walks slowly, thoughtful and exegetically through the breadth of Biblical teaching, with special sensitivity to the cultural context of the various texts, the tension between Old and New Testament teaching on the topic, and the differences between modern and ancient economies. If I were to recommend one book to develop a biblical theology of money, it would be this one.

The Gravedigger File, Os Guinness
My first taste of Os Guinness, and, if you don't mind a mangled metaphor, it went down like a bracing pint of... well... Guinness. Grave Digger file is sort of a "Screwtape Letters" project on a church-wide scale. In concept, the book is a series of "training files" for an undercover agent attempting to undermine and ultimately sabotage the Western Church, delivered from the pen of a seasoned saboteur to a young agent recently assigned to Los Angeles. In plot, the young agent ultimately defects, and delivers the "Gravedigger File" into the hands of a Christian, urging him to alert the Church to the operation. It is bursting with "things that make you go hmmm..." and deserves a second, careful read with pen in hand, ready to mine it for its scintillating and eminently quotable lines.

Teaching on Creation Care

This week I had the opportunity to teach some of the material on Christian Faith and Creation Care that I developed as a research project when I was doing my M.Div at Briercrest Seminary.

For anyone interested, I thought I'd make the seminar material available for download here:  http://dl.dropbox.com/u/3057785/Heirs%20of%20the%20Earth.pdf

Or you can download the entire research project here:  http://dl.dropbox.com/u/3057785/Research%20Project.pdf

Deuteronomy 14:22-29

Deuteronomy 14:22-29.  "To Revere the Name of the Lord"

Faramir and the Weight of Glory

There's a scene in The Lord of the Rings (the novel, not the movie) that has been on my mind lately. It has no dramatic orc scrimmages or melees with arcane powers, so it’s easily overlooked, but for me it is a very poignant passage. If you recall, Frodo, Sam and Gollum have been wandering the Woods of Ithilien, looking for a path over the Mountains of Shadow and into the Land of Mordor, when Sam and Frodo are intercepted by Faramir and his band or rangers. Gollum, of course escapes and is caught later fishing in the forbidden pool by moonlight.

If that's sufficiently set the scene for you, try to remember the exchange between Faramir and Frodo, after they've brought him to their secret cave and before Sam inadvertently reveals to Faramir that they are bearing the Ring of Doom.

Earlier, Faramir had said in passing that, though he did not know what “Isildur’s Bane” was, he would not take the thing, even if it lay by the highway, not even if “Minas Tirith [were] falling in ruin and [he] alone could save her.” So when Sam later reveals the truth—that Isildur’s Bane is actually the One Ring and that Faramir actually has it within his reach—there's a moment of dramatic tension. Faramir stands up “very tall and stern,” and, though his eyes are glinting, he holds to his earlier word: “We are truth speakers, we men of Gondor. We boast seldom and then perform, or die in the attempt. Not if I found it on the highway would I take it, I said. ... even though I knew not clearly what this thing was when I spoke, I should take those words as a vow...”

Now: throughout this chapter, Faramir is characterized as sombre, wise, discerning and grave, but it’s this moment that reveals his true mettle. Something ancient and other-worldly in his nature shines in him sharply in this hour of testing, the same something that Sam later tries to articulate when he says: “You said my master had an elvish air; and that was good and true. But I can say this: you have an air too, sir, that reminds me of, well, of Gandalf, of wizards.”

Those who know well the mythic world of Middle Earth, will feel the full portent of Faramir’s response: “Maybe you discern from far away the air of Numenor.”

The reason this passage resonates with me so deeply is because I think that in this moment, Faramir is bringing us about close as we can come in fantasy fiction to what the Bible means when it talks about “the glory that is about to be revealed in us.” “Glory,” of course, is a really difficult concept for us to get. This is partly because it has such strong associations with light, which lends itself well to our modern penchant for “dazzle” but makes it difficult for us to imagine what is really in store for us in the age to come. Like C. S. Lewis once wondered—are we supposed to imagine that we’ll spend eternity walking about as living light bulbs?

Of course, in the Bible, glory is brilliant, and I don’t doubt that the Resurrected Jesus was blinding to look upon, but it’s worth remembering that in the ancient Hebrew, the word we translate as “glory”—kabod—literally means “weight.” This is probably why, over in 2 Corinthians 4:17, Paul refers to the eternal “weight” of glory (baros in the Greek) that our “light and momentary troubles" are working out for us.

Glory is as much "heavy" as it is "dazzling," as "weighty" as it is "brilliant."

Which brings us back to Faramir, because it’s not hard to imagine the weight one would feel in this princely man’s presence. In his piercing integrity, in his sombre dignity, in his far-reaching wisdom, in the “air of Numenor” that hangs about him we feel, or are meant to feel, I’m sure, something very heavy: his ears hear more than is said, his heart has deep capacity to feel, his mouth speaks only what he means. And for all this, though it is not blinding, necessarily, to look upon, there is a glory in his character.

I’ve never met a true Prince of Gondor, of course, but to a lesser extent, I have met Christians (not many—I have three men in mind here) whose presence was “weighty.” They cared enough about the truth to look intently past my masks, and to be transparent with their own; they cared enough about love that I knew they would call me honestly on my crap; their laughter rang sincerely and tears came genuinely; they meant what they said and held to their word, and when they acted there was godly intention behind it; and because of all this, it was “heavy”—both pressing but anchoring—to be in their company.

Whatever else “glory” means in the Bible, I hope that when it’s finally fully revealed in us, it will include a good full measure of these things.

Deuteronomy 8:11-20

Here's Sunday's sermon.

Deuteronomy 8:11-20 "Remember"



Announcing a New Blogging Project

Still working on that post on "Faramir and the Weight of Glory," but in the mean time, let me tell you about a new group blog I'm participating in called the conneXion. It's a project some of my friends and coleagues in the FMCiC are working on, and you're warmly invited to check out its debut over at:  http://fmcictheology.blogspot.com/.

And while I'm at it...

Speaking of reading (see my last post), a few months ago my pastor's network was exchanging their lists of "books that left their mark on us."  In lieu of a post on "Faramir and the Weight of Glory" that I'm working on, but not quite ready to publish, I thought I'd share the list I came up with here.  These kinds of lists are always so subjective (which is why they're fun... they show how dynamic our interactions with the literature are).  Only 3 months after witing it, I'd probably produce a quite different list-- I re-read Mrs. Dalloway last week, for instance, and can't for the life of me figure out why I would include it on a list like this, but, that's the mystery of reading, I suppose.  Anyways, for a bit of Saturday morning procrastination fodder, here goes:

Dale's List of Books that Left Their Mark on Me:

1. Jesus and the Victory of God, N. T. Wright.

A masterful, stunning and compelling portrait of the historical Jesus; scholarly, playful, generous and rich, it introduced me to the Messiah in a way few books before or since have. Read N.T. Wright. Start here.

2. The Resurrection of the Son of God, N.T. Wright

This one’s tough slugging but, oh, so worth the effort. Does for the resurrection what “Jesus and the Victory of God” does for the historical Jesus. You will never celebrate Easter the same...

3. Worship, Community and the Triune God of Grace, James Torrance

A short but sweet study of how Christian worship is really a participation by the Spirit in the Son’s worship of the Father. Deeply ministered to me, on so many levels.

4. The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood, Howard Pyle

Read this book dozens of times as a child. The first book I remember weeping genuine, grown up tears over. A classic.

5. A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula LeGuinn

Re-read this childhood classic last spring, and was stunned all over again by how rich, profound and satisfying it is. If you love fantasy novels and haven’t read this one, drop everything and run (don’t walk) to your local library. You will not be disappointed.

6. Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Wolfe

I have no idea why *Mrs. Dalloway* is embedded so deep in my heart. I read it for a novel course in University, and even though in almost every way it is the “anti-Dale,” it captivated me and has haunted me ever since.

7. Consolation of Philosophy, Boethius

No, I didn’t just include this one to sound smart. I read it for a course on Geoffry Chaucer in my under-grad and, man, it leaves you thinking.

8. That Hideous Strength, C.S. Lewis

This list could have been C.S. Lewis alone, and for sure the Narnia books belong here, but since I’ve already got one candidate from my childhood, *That Hideous Strength* will have to stand in for the C.S. Lewis corpus. This one’s well worth a read in its own right—I read it about every 4 years, and each time it’s a brand new book.

9. A Soldier of the Great War, Mark Helprin

This one’s a relatively recent read, so time will tell if it deserves to sit in such auspicious company as Lewis and Wright, but Helprin’s a genius story teller and a masterful artist; truly great fiction.

10. How Shall We Then Live, Francis Schaeffer

I used to be quite awed by Francis Schaeffer; over the years I’ve downgraded awe to deep appreciation, but I still find much of his work compelling in over-all vision, if not always in actual content. This Evangelical “Rise and Fall of Western Civilization” seized my imagination when I first read it.

terra incognita's 2011 Literary Awards

Like I usually do this time of year, I've been looking back on my reading in 2011, compiling my list of the best, the worst and the ugliest.  Using the same categories from 2010, here's my reading year in review:

Most Annoying Read:  Managing God's Money, Randy Alcorn
I read this one for a course on church stewardship I took in the fall and, while helpful and challenging, I list it in the "annoying" category because of its tendency to proof-text and its willingness to settle for cursive readings of the biblical text to shore up personal opinion about how to use God's money well.  The "yeah-but" factor was high on this one.

Most Traumatic Read:  Eaarth, Bill McKibben

Traumatic because McKibben argues that the environmental debate has moved into a whole new framework, where it's no longer meaningful to ask "what can we do to save planet Earth?" because planet Earth, as we once knew it, no longer exists (hence the extra "a" in the title).  The question we need to ask now is:  "What can we do to live on the 'new planet' that our failure to avert ecological disaster has thrust upon us?" 


Most Bombastic Read:  Love Wins,  Rob Bell

Not that the book itself was particularly bombastic, rather the bombast that accompanied its release earns it this distinctive accolade.  If ever there was an apt time to quote Plato-- "As empty vessels make the loudest sound, so they that have the least wit are the greatest babblers"-- it was on the occasion of the announcement of Rob Bell's new book.

 Most Disappointing Read:  The Abolition of Man, C. S. Lewis

I remember being smitten by Lewis' incisive logic and reasoned apologetic when I first read Abolition of Man some 10 or so years ago, so it was surprisingly disappointing for me to reread this gem and discover I actually disagreed with him on a number of philosophical and theological grounds, sometimes mildly, sometimes profoundly.  Did he change, or did I?

Most Rewarding Re-Read:  Lavondyss,  Robert Holdstock

Not sure what to make of this one-- it's utterly pagan, as fantasy novels go, probably the most "authentic" fantasy novel I've read, and surely the antithesis of the best Christian fantasy novels-- and yet at the same time, as a work of fiction it's rich, layered, original, challenging and, for all that, rewarding.

Most Enraptured Read:  That Hideous Strength,  C. S. Lewis

Why I find myself so enraptured every time I read That Hideous Strength, I'm at a loss to explain, but I love this novel.  I read it once every four or five years, and every read it's a brand new novel, exactly like the last time, but entirely different.  I love the insight and honesty with which Lewis portrays sins so mundane-- hypocrisy and social cliques and self-aggrandizement and marital strife-- against a backdrop of sin so cosmic and fantastical-- occult and fascism and world domination-- and the way he reveals, at the end of it all, how these two are really just different branches of the same root.  And it's wonderfully-written fiction, to boot.

Most Willing Required Read:  Jesus and Money,  Ben Witherington III

I read three books for the aforementioned church stewardship course and this one was, by far, the most illuminating.  Where Alcorn's book (above) failed, Witherington shone: careful, incisive and balanced handling of the biblical text coupled with an over-arching synthesis of the data.  Don't let the sub-title (A Guide for Times of Financial Crisis) fool you:  this is more a biblical theology of money than it is a fnancial guide, which is, perhaps, more helpful in times of financial crisis than any how-to guide.

Most Unexpectedly Interesting Read:  Gravedigger File,  Os Guinness

Sort of a C.S. Lewis's Screwtape Letters meets Francis Schaeffer's A Christian Manifesto, Os Guinness identifies with wit and clarity what's eating the modern church from the inside out.  Lots to ponder, lots to process and lots of quotable gems.

Most Edifying Read:  Flame of Yaheweh,  Richard Davidson

Davidson's Old Testament theology of human sexuality is stunning in its achievement, challenging in its content, and edifying in its conclusions.  Davidson addresses every-- and I do mean every-- Old Testament text that deals (even obliquely) with human sexuality, and, through detailed exegesis, careful synthesis, and deep interaction with the scholarly research, develops a detailed picture of the Old Testament's vision for  redeemed human sexuality.  700 pages of Biblical scholarship at its best.

Philippians 4:10-20

Here is the final installment in our verse-by-verser in Philippians.

Philippians 4:10-20 The (Other) Secret


On Re-reading Mrs Dalloway (a poem)

If Septimus Warren Smith be mad
then all sane men are fools
and Lear the all-wise
arbiter of them all
(having stared behind the gaping mask of death
and wept the tears of revelation)
if Septimus Warren Smith
leaping at sparrows from windows
be mad.

(My) (Evangelical) 2011 in Review

The novelty of the New Year wanes quickly, so only two weeks into 2012, this reflective look back at '011 already feels a bit cool.  But I was away for the first week of January so I'm only getting to it now, and hoping that enough of you are still mistakenly writing "2011" on your cheques that a year-in-review will still strike a nerve. 

Not sure how many of you remember any of the following headline highlights, but each in the list below stood out to me as especially significant, either for its impact on the Christian world, or for the light it shed on the State of that Nation known as the People of God.

January 12: Jay Bakker releases Fall to Grace
Son of the infamous televangelist with the same last name, Jay Bakker released a humble-autobiography-cum-church-manifesto about what's wrong with our present practice of the Fundamentals of the Faith, and what needs to change.  I was under the impression that fundamentalist snipers had neutralized most leading lights in the Emergent Church, but Bakker's book, at the very least, shows that the movement's not yet dead.

March 2:  Pakistani Minorities Minister shot dead
Shahbaz Bhatti's assassination for his political work in Pakistan to guarantee the religious freedoms of that country's Christian minority (1.5% of the population) was far more stunning and troubling than either the mainstream or Christian press gave it time for.  It struck me then, and later still when Coptic Christians in Egypt started to suffer persecution after the much-lauded "Arab Spring" thawed that country, how little attention the Canadian media pays to Christian persecution around the world.

March 15:  Rob Bell releases Love Wins
So much to say about this whole doctrine-meets-Internet debacle, so little time (which is perhaps why some distilled their commentary down to a single Tweet).  It demonstrated in ways few were prepared for what the gasoline of social media can do to the fires of doctrinal disagreement; it showed us how ill-prepared Christians really are after all to navigate the sticky strands of the World-Wide-Inter-Web; it showed us that the closets of Western Evangelicalism were bulging with Universalists of all description waiting-- just waiting-- for someone to jiggle the handle and discover it was unlocked; and it showed us (yet again) the dark under-belly of celebrity-pastor-culture.

April 23:  The Conservative Party promises Canadians an "Office of Religious Freedom" if elected
Whether this was, as some cynical pundits suggested at the time, a shameless ploy to secure the Christian Right vote, or not, it does shed light on the way politics and religion mix far less easily in Canada than they do down south, and that, more than any other party, the Tories "got" the psyche of the average Canadian evangelical.

May 1:  John Piper vets Rick Warren
That John Piper, the old-guard of the Neo-Reformed movement, saw fit publicly to interview Rick Warren, the Hawaiian-shirt-frocked front man for Purpose-Driven pragmatism, on his doctrinal soundness, says less about Warren's supposed "orthodoxy" than it does about the cult of celebrity in American churches, the widening fissures in Western Christendom, the crisis in Evangelical ecclesiology, the troubling in-grouping-out-grouping tendencies of the Neo-Reformed movement, and the even more troubling ex-Cathedral authority pastors with lucrative publishing deals can accumulate to themselves.

May 21:  Harold Camping's Rapture doesn't come
Probably the less said about this one the better, but it did remind me why I'm an Amillenialist, all over again, and reminded me of the wisdom of humbly taking Jesus at his word, when he said what he said back in Matthew 24:36.

June 1:  Christianity Today launches a "Quest for the Historical Adam"
This was, it seems, the year of the "Evangelical Doctrine on Public Display":  Hell, the Rapture, and Genesis-literalism all nova-ed brightly across the canopy of cyber-space this year.  Though this article received less attention than Love Wins, it did show us that the debate is much further from being settled than we ever thought, and that along with those universalists, the closets were also bulging with theo-evolutionists of a distinctly Evangelical variety.  

June 12:  The Book of Mormon (The Musical) wins a Tony for Best Musical
I include this one on the list because the fact that a Broadway musical about Mormonism garnered so much acclaim and accolades illustrates, among other things, how mainstream this religious movement has become.  One Mormon commenter, when asked if it troubled her to see a play so directly and irreverently satirizing her faith, said it all for me in her reply:  "No," she said, "it just tells me that the broader culture has finally become comfortable enough with Mormonism to poke fun at it."  At the risk of sounding prophetic: this illustrates an evolution in the main-stream perception of Mormonism that will have significant implications for credal Christianity and its witness in the world.

July 7:  Mark Driscoll's latest drivel
I'm thankful to Pastor Driscoll for the regular lessons he gives me in throttling my own indignation and choking back my bile.  He's so uniquely adept at saying stupid things insensitively that he has almost become his own adjective.  So: suffice it to say that this summer, when he posted an open invitation on Facebook for his friends and followers to share derisive stories about their encounters with "effeminate anatomically male" worship leaders, it was, for lack of a better word, totally driscollian.

July 27:  John Stott passes
We commended a lovely servant of Jesus and a humble states-man for the Faith to the Grace of God this year.  Preacher, pastor, evangelist, philanthropist (in the best sense of that word), writer, Christian leader, missionary, he was, by all accounts, a beautiful man and God used him wonderfully.  To commemorate his going to be with the Lord, I've added The Cross of Christ to my reading list this year.

Commentaries on the Book of Philippians

This fall I preached a verse-by-verse study on the Book of Philippians at the FreeWay.  Being a relatively new pastor, whenever I start a new sermon series I try to invest in one or two commentaries to help build my fledgling library. See past entries for my reviews of the commentaries I used when preaching Ecclesiastes and the Gospel of John. Here are some thoughts on the three main resources I consulted in preparing my series on Philippians:

The Epistle to the Philippians (NIGTC).
Peter O'Brien
By far the best commentary on Philippians I encountered, O'Brien's work is thorough, erudite, weighty and insightful.  Sometimes his exegesis went deeper and his review of scholarly debates went broader than necessary for sermon prep-- and sometimes this required a good deal of sifting and distilling on the part of the preacher--but the fruit of the labor was well worth it.  It promises to be invaluable for more academic studies of Philippians (should the need arise); though for my immediate purposes, I found it helpful to couple it with other more homiletical and practical resources.

Basics for Believers: An Exposition of Philippians
D. A. Carson.
While I was in seminary, I always found Carson's work with the ancient text to be disciplined, reliable and intently exegetical (sometimes almost stiflingly so).  His Exegetical Fallacies was required reading in one of my Greek courses, and his monumental commentary on the Gospel of John was a touchstone for a paper I wrote in Gospels class, so I came to Basics for Believers fully expecting the serious and careful handling of Philippians that I got. What I did not quite expect was the deeply pastoral and above all practical applications he would draw from his painstaking exposition.  Carson's ability to take scholarly minutiae about the obscure subtleties of Greek syntax and distill them down to concrete "basics" for believers is in stellar form in this slender volume.

Rediscovering Paul.  
David Capes et. al.
While not focused specifically on Philippians, Rediscovering Paul offered me a helpful overview of Paul's life, times and theology. While at times I felt it might have gone deeper, or expressed its ideas more clearly, it provides some interesting and inspiring insights into the man behind the letters. Among these is its discussion of the communal aspect of first century letter writing, and the influence of one's community on one's personal sense of identity, and how those issues might have played out in Paul's writings. Another challenging issue that it tackles is the whole process of letter writing in the Greco-Roman world, especially as regards the role a scribe often played in shaping the text, smoothing out the language or providing stock phrases, etc. Very helpful tertiary material.

Welcome 2012

Happy 2012 everyone. I trust you rang in the New Year with verve, and I assume the word "verve" means enthusiasm and abandon, in the context I'm using it in here. Me, I spent the evening watching family home-videos with the kids, cherishing the times and loving the people God's put in my life over the years.

For those of you who have almost given up hope of ever seeing something new posted here at terra incognita, let me assure you that my blogging hiatus is officially over and I have resolved to resume consistent posting for 2012. When I launched this blog three years ago, the well was near brimming with blogging ideas; this winter I kept putting the bucket in deeper and deeper and coming up dry. A few months break has allowed me to refresh and recharge, and I trust this coming year at terra incognita will be better than ever.

But as I sit here at the start another 365 days of potential, let me take a short glance back at the personal highlights of 2011:

1. Preaching a series on Ecclesiastes. This time last year I was gearing up to tackle this profound book in the pulpit. Little did I know how indelible mark this series would leave on my own soul.

2. My first (2) weddings. This spring I had the honour of officiating at my first two weddings (one in April, one in May) as a pastor.

3. Appointment to SCOD. This spring I also had the honour of being invited to sit on SCOD, the Free Methodist's "Study Commission on Doctrine." Our 2011 meeting was in October, and it was truly a joy to be sitting at a table with such a dynamic group of brothers and sisters in Christ who share my passion for going deep with the things of God.

4. Final ordination interview. The process to become an ordained pastor in the FMCiC involves 3 interviews with the Ministerial Education, Guidance and Placement Committee, spread out over four years. This September, being two years into the tracking process, I had my second interview. What a gift it was to discover, after the interview, that the Committee had agreed to "fast track" my journey, and my second of three interviews would serve as my final. Just this week I sent in my final paper for the final course required for ordination: the ordination itself will be sometime in the next few months.

5. Vacation to the Prairies. I miss the Prairies, a lot.

6. Learning the ukulele. We found Dani`s old childhood ukulele in a closet at my father-in-law`s house this summer. Toying around with it slowly morphed into experimenting with it into discovering its playful personality as a serious instrument.

7. Moving the church. I haven`t said much on this blog about the church move the FreeWay went through this summer. Mostly because I was so busy with the move itself, that I had little time to reflect in blogging form. I expect this winter I`ll have some time to do this kind of processing of the experience, but here as I look back at 2011, let me say that in many ways the church move dominated this year, and that God was doing some community-transforming stuff through it that has been a thrill to be part of.