#Haiti2017 Wrapping Up


Today is our last day.  We leave for Miami late this afternoon and due to the complexities of travel to Haiti, (meaning: cost, flight times, etc.) we are spending the night in Miami and then heading back to the airport at 5am for our 7am flight back to NJ on Sunday.  Prayers are always appreciated for international travel, I get nervous going thru customs for no reason at all…not to mention shepherding 23 others thru it.  I am, however, very excited (geek) to try out the new “Mobile Passport” app – hopefully that will speed things up.  I’m thankful for modern conveniences.

I’ve also developed a rather ripping head cold…yes…in Haiti in July…that is making things a little more challenging.  Aren’t head colds something you get in February when it’s 17 degrees outside and you’ve all be cooped up in the house for 3 months?!  I’m thankful for Nurse Lisa and her well-stocked medical kit.  Mucinex and Advil are helping to keep it at bay.

I’m thankful for everyone on this team.  Each one gifted by God in such unique ways.  There are a lot of youth on this trip here, thankful for those who lead the way by example and those who are growing in discipleship by seeing God at work.


I’m thankful for being able to reconnect with some children – some we’ve seen for the last 3 trips!  Special bonds were strengthened and created.  We also made new connections.  We had the need for an additional translator and by God’s providence Lisa met a Haitian woman who spoke English and needed a job.  She hadn’t been able to buy food recently for her children, and she worked out perfectly.  We had several very good spiritual conversations with her, she was very transparent in saying that she believes God exists, but can’t trust him because why would he let her suffer so much?  Seeing God’s hand clearly as she had literally cried out to God to provide for her and then we show up from America and give her a job.  We are praying this strengthens her faith to trust him completely.

Yet, with all that thankfulness there is still the cloud of sin.  Yesterday was a hard day in some senses.  Some of the Haitian children knew yesterday was the last day we’d be with them, so they really ramped up their demands for “one dollar” or a “ballo.” [ball]  Like other times, this was very hard for me, and I had trouble holding back sinful responses when I was sinned against.  I felt like some of the relationships I had developed over the week came down to merely what I could give them.  And when they found out I wasn’t giving them what they wanted, some literally cursed at me and stormed off.

Naturally, all of these things cause deep thoughts to swirl in my brain.  I realized once again there is not much difference in what hinders Haitians and Americans from perceiving their real actual need for the gospel – materialism.  Just different sides of materialism.  Haitians seem to not be able to realize their true need of reconciliation with God thru Jesus because they can’t see past their everyday needs and poverty.  Americans seem to not be able to realize their true need of reconciliation with God thru Jesus because we can’t see past our overwhelming comfort and opportunity.  Same limitation – just two opposite ends of the spectrum.  One thinks God isn’t helping them, the other doesn’t see the need for God’s help at all.

Put all that together with that fact that I’ve been drawn to Romans 8 several times this week.  Ariana shared from it the other night during our meeting, I’ve been thinking of Romans 8:31 from time to time, and just today in a book I am reading Romans 8:22 and a “theology of groaning” was discussed.

“For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” (Romans 8:22–25 ESV)

God’s perfect creation is broken by sin, a sin that we chose to bring into this world when we rejected God’s authority over us, and continue to.  Now we struggle, strive…groan. Not only creation itself with all the evil and sin, but inwardly.  We struggle to see our true need for God.  We groan under the weight of sin and the effect it has on our souls.

We need to be not groaning in hopelessness, but rather in hope.  The permanent redemption we will experience one day when Jesus restores the world from it’s brokenness and we will spend eternity with him, without any struggling, striving, or groaning.  Without any limitations in seeing him clearly.

Until then, when Haitians or Americans, let us hope for what we do not yet see, and look past the materialism – whether in want or abundance – to clearly see our daily need for God, and his gracious provision of Himself in Jesus.


Haiti VBS 3.0

Welp…this trip has been unique in the sense that we did some sightseeing, tourism, and team building early…buuuuutttt that ended today.   Today…we WORKED! 


We started off the day with songs…as usual, I exhausted my knowledge of Creole songs in about 8 minutes, but the kids didn’t seem to mind much.  I had another chance to preach this morning, along with our theme of the day today which was creation.  This week, we are going thru the main storyline of the Bible – creation, fall, redemption, and restoration – and always pointing back to the gospel.  This morning I talked about Genesis 1:1 how God created all thing perfect, including all humans made in his image so that EVERYONE has value and worth. Then we talked about John 1:1-5 how Jesus is the one who creates light and life through faith – and darkness can never overcome the light…no matter how dark. As I’m sure you can well imagine, things in Haiti can be pretty dark.

We then did our regular Vacation Bible School with the kids – a time of crafts, games, and more teaching.  One of the highlights was a soccer game turned varsity keep away with about 5 of us and 40 Haitian kids.  We schooled them…but of course we may have had the height advantage.  As Marc put it “That was chaos, but the coolest chaos ever!”  This also included the ever popular Haitian kid game of “Steal the bald white guy’s hat and sunglasses, pose, and make him take 30 pictures of us…” 


We then fed as many kids as we could with 3 giant pots of rice and beans.  We took some of the last plates deep into the neighborhood behind the school, over raw sewage and past the neighborhood bathroom [which is actually just a pile of sand] to people who had houses deep into nooks and crannies.  Still there were met with smiles and a warm “merci” as we handed out food to people who probably weren’t sure where their food would be coming from.  

We then spent some time teaching English to the neighborhood kids, always a fulfilling…and fun time.  


There were also many good conversations with some of the adults who were milling about the square.  Many young men came looking for “Mister John” and were happy to reconnect with him.  He picked right up where he left, holding a Bible study with anyone who was interested. 

It’s always a blessing to see Haiti thru they eyes of the folks here for the first time.  To see such poverty and yet see the joy in the kids eyes is a unique and powerful juxtaposition.  [Another Marc Bray word] 

We are looking forward to the rest of the week with the children.  Please pray for stamina for the team as it is absolutely exhausting in the heat, and most of all for hearts to receive the light of the gospel of Christ. 

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.He was in the beginning with God.All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.In him was life, and the life was the light of men.The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”  (John 1:1–5 ESV)

Haiti 2017 Days 1-2

Hello there, Haiti…it’s been two years, but it’s nice to see you again!  Team Haiti 2107 arrived on Haitian soil approximately 5pm Thursday night and went thru the usual chaos and uncertainty of customs and baggage.  Overall though, travel was smooth and uneventful…but long!  We are very thankful for God’s grace in our journey.



We settled into the mission house at Deep River Mission, our home for the next 10 days, had some dinner, and decompressed a little.  The drive from the airport to the mission house was an eye opener, and particularly if you haven’t been here before, it is very sobering to see the poverty all around.  Still, this being my third time in Haiti, I found myself sufficiently sobered as well.


One store had painted above it Malachi 3:11 which reads – “I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the LORD of hosts.” (Malachi 3:11 ESV)  It was like a giant fist rising out of the ashes and boldly proclaiming “God is still here. Yes, this place is broken and people are desperate, but God will redeem. God will fight for us”  Indeed he has.  God has ultimately redeemed us in Jesus, in him we stand through faith in him – we will not be destroyed, we will be fruitful and productive – no matter what the life circumstance because the eternal matters of the soul transcends the temporal.


Haiti attracts people to help.  I was surprised again to see the plane half full of Americans, coming to volunteer in some capacity or another.  I had the great pleasure of sitting next to a very successful surgeon, coming to Haiti for the first time to volunteer.  We spoke of the big questions of life and I was able to share my own passion in the gospel – as it alone provides the answers and the satisfaction our soul cries out for.  I pray for him to know Christ.


We will spend the next 2 days preparing for next week’s VBS and doing work at the community center just outside the mission house.  Sunday will be the ever-popular trip to Children of the Promise orphanage, followed by the intense high-impact cardio workout hike up to the Citadel.  Monday starts the VBS whirlwind.

Thank you for your prayers and support.  If you would continue to pray for one of our own, our dear friend Stacey, who slipped last night and may have broken her wrist, it would be greatly appreciated.  She is in a lot of pain and I’m sure very anxious about spending the time here in Haiti with this injury.  We love her dearly and I’m sure she is hoping to soak in all that this trip can have to offer.  Pray that she still can!




Book Review – Sharing Jesus [without freaking out]

I can’t avoid the reality that I once had a near terminal case of CKD – “Christian Kid Disease.”    Those at risk for CKD include children of the 80s who went to Youth Group, went to church at least 4 times a week, listened to awful…and I mean AWFUL Contemporary Christian Music with even worse theology, and had a deep seated terror and a near co41eNHDPEIKL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgmplete paralysis when it came to “witnessing” [80s word] – or as it’s better known “evangelism.”  Fortunately, CKD has a cure – a heaping dose of the pure, unadulterated gospel.

Dr. Alvin Reid (Pastor and Professor of Evangelism at Southeastern Baptist Seminary) gets this, and thankfully wrote “Sharing Jesus [without freaking out}” to help those suffering with CKD learn to love sharing Jesus. As he states “We need to reboot our understanding of evangelism.”  Oh. I like this book.

Right away, Reid doesn’t fall into the CKD trap of making evangelism a super awkward Christianese-filled monologue where one pressures someone to ‘invite Jesus into their heart.’  Instead, “its in our everyday conversations that we can help people see that their life matters, that their passion to live comes from God and that he good news of Jesus can rescue them from pain.”  [2]

Reid makes many solid points, and one of the first that resonated loudly with me is that one of main reasons why Christians don’t share the hope of Jesus more often is because typically Christians surround themselves with other Christians…and spend life in a Christian bubble.  We need to be more intentional in our relationships – start real friendships that are based in love and naturally sharing Jesus.   He then goes on to outline several principles for being fruitful.

Principle 1: God created you for his glory, to advance his gospel with the gifts, talents, and opportunities he gave you. [11]  We need to be more intentional about owning the mission, not just feeling guilty about not participating in it. We need to back up the mission with credible lives, proclaiming the gospel in word and deed.

Principle 2: In order to share Jesus confidently and consistently with others, first share him confidently and consistently with yourself. [23]  We need to be biblical theologians. Not only do we need to know our Bibles, but we need to know the story of the Bible.  All the Bible points to Jesus, the center of the redemptive plan of a holy God who rescues a human race that rejected it’s Creator.  He writes “They need to see the story of Jesus is as big as the Bible itself, the story of Jesus is bigger than our times na dour individual lives, or even the spiritual aspect of our lives alone.” [25]  This is the grand metanarrative – the overarching ‘big story’ of the Bible – creation, fall, rescue, restoration.

Principle 3: Shifting from giving and evangelistic presentation to having an evangelistic conversation takes pressure off the witness and relates the gospel more clearly to an unbeliever.  [41] This is the weakness of the CKD model of the 80s where an awkward monologue was the tactic of choice.  Reid calls for more “gospel intelligence” and “gospel fluency” to introduce the gospel in everyday conversations.  He also calls for three vital things people can tell about us in a conversation:  (1) If we care about them, (2) If we believe what we are talking about, (3) If the hand of God is on our life. I also appreciated the realism in this book, for example the author writes “most times your conversations will not lead to a conversion, but will help nudge the person further along in their gospel understanding.”

Principle 4: God has sovereignly placed you in this world at this time with the abilities and gifts you have to bring glory to him and show the joy of the gospel to others. [56] This includes “starting with the why” – understanding why we are doing evangelism, even before the “how.”  [This is the great mistake of pragmatism.]  You were made to do this, he writes, with the personality, limitations, and circumstances of YOU!

Principle 5: Effective evangelistic conversations connect the unchanging gospel with the specific issues people face. [68] This is a realistic, non-programmatic approach – again in contrast to years gone by.  He gives five approaches to being a conversationalist in today’s different [social media[ world.  (1) The power of stories, (2) asking good questions, (3) genuine affirmation and encouragement – ie. not condemning a person for their sin, nor condoning it – affirm them as a person made in the image of God, (4) speak to the person’s mind and heart, and (5) connect beneath the surface.

Principle 6: Expect people to be open to the gospel, and learn to share Jesus where they live. [84] Quoting Bruce Ashford, Reid points out four areas which we are called to live out our faith: home, culture, workplace, and community.  [87] Reid reprints Thompson’s “Concentric Circles of Concern,”  and in so doing again points out the weakness in a programmatic, plastic evangelistic method – most of those “techniques” were geared towards “Person X’ – all well and good, but more realistically how about our family?  Our neighbors? Our co-workers? Those that God has sovereignly placed in our lives through relationships!  [see Principle 4!]

Principle 7: Talk to the actual person in front of you about the Jesus inside you; let them see and hear the change Jesus makes in you.  [99] The truth is “God uses people just like [us] to impact people just like those you know for his glory.” AMEN!  This principle included a helpful section on dealing with objections, in a gracious and accessible way.

Principle 8: Developing a lifestyle of sharing Jesus consistently flows out of a plan to share Jesus regularly. [112]  This speaks to living an intentional life.  This includes prayer [though covered more in Principle 5], but realistically understanding your giftedness, calling, and our passions.

I loved this book and highly recommend it, especially for those recovering from the effects of CKD.  It’s an easy, well-written, yet convicting and highly practical read – with all the theological grounding one would hope for.  Onward to the evangelistic revolution!







Book Review – Anger and Stress Management God’s Way

So, my knee jerk reaction upon seeing this book was probably reflective of 99% of other Americans.  “Yes, please.”  We all battle our sinful emotions – probably the top offenders are stress and anger…and it’s cousins: fear, worry, and anxiety.  We all probably can relate a little too easilydownload. That’s why Dr. Wayne Mack has written “Anger and Stress Management God’s Way.” (P&R, 2017).   Being a proponent of biblical counseling, I’ve found Dr. Mack’s writing to be consistently helpful and challenging.  (Take “Strengthening Your Marriage” for example…)

Mack splits the book into the two subject areas – anger and stress.  To kick things off, Mack asks “Is it always a sin to be angry?” and then delves into the details.  Our anger is sinful when we become angry for the wrong reasons [13], when we allow it to control us [19], and when it becomes the dominant feature of our lives [21].  Our anger is sinful when it involves brooding or fretting [25], when we keep a running record of how we have been mistreated [27], when we pretend to not be angry, prolonging the problem with our unbiblical response [30], when we return evil with evil [34], or when we attack or hurt a substitute [37].

Getting convicted yet?  Yeah…me too.

Mack then teaches how to be good and angry.  First, we are commanded in Ephesians 4:26 to deal with our problems on a regular, daily basis. This takes courage and intentionality.  Likewise, we need  to have the self-discipline to realize that we actually can control and restrain the expression of our anger.  Third, we need to take time to examine the reasons for our anger.  Pointedly, he writes “the bottom line reason for much of our sinful anger is because we have an agenda and someone or something is standing in the way of our fulfilling that agenda.” [51] Fourth, we need to learn to harness the energy created by our anger.

Mack provides even more practical steps by giving us six questions that can make the difference.  (1) What is happening? (2) How am I interpreting it? (3) What am I wanting? (4) What am I being tempted to do? (5) What is the biblical, God-honoring thing to do? (6) Will I chose to obey God or self?  We all will get angry – and we all need to therefore have a plan to deal with it properly when it comes up.

The author then moves on to the topic of stress.  One that is very near and dear to my heart, as currently my church is moving into a new building.  (What, me worry?!) Where does stress come from?  Our limitations and deficiencies, other people and situations.  How do we typically respond?  Debilitating fear or anxiety, worry, bitterness, anger, resentment, depression, discouragement, envy and jealousy, annoyance, irritability, and impatience, and denial…just to name a few.

Are the consequences?  You betcha.  It affects our relationships.  It affects our spiritual growth – sin stalls sanctification!  It affects our spiritual usefulness- we can be very busy in the church, but have you ever stopped in the midst of the stress to ask if you are actually bearing any fruit?  Here, have a stinger from Dr. Mack – “If you don’t handle stress differently than believers do, don’t expect to make an impact for Christ.” [95] It also affects our jobs and education, and finally one that I have noticed a lot is the affect that stress has on our health.

Have we ever thought that we are sick because we are not responding biblically to stress?  Christians overall, we need to do a much better job of caring diligently for our bodies and that includes obeying what the Bible says about stress.  One doctor told him that at least 65% of the people he operated on wouldn’t need the operations he performed if they would only learn how to handle their stressors in a biblical way! [98]  Another physician friend was so convinced of this that he was tempted to abandon the medical field to do full time biblical counseling because he thought it would do more good!  [98]  Aptly quoting Smith, “The real problem is not your counselee’s problems, but their response to those problems.” [100]

Dr. Mack then gives us a two part way of escape and biblically dealing with stress.  How can we properly overcome?  He gives us a few factors – first we must deliberately choose to see everything that happens to us within the framework of the sovereignty of God – see Ephesians 1:11.  [Oh…yes, I said the S word…] Second, we must also deliberately chose to give God thanks in the mist of everything and for everything. [1 Thes 5:18; Eph 5:20].  Third, we should seek to discover God’s purpose for each stressful situation – realizing that it may not be immediately clear to us. This calls for more biblical research – the answers to God’s will are in God’s word.  He provides some helpful examples from Scripture on the biblical principles at work here. One of the main reasons, that we love to discount…is that God uses the trials we encounter to help us identify pockets of immaturity and our areas of incompleteness. After we see them, we confess (acknowledge), seek God’s help, commit to discipline, and develop a plan for making that godliness more of a reality in our lives!

Fourth, we must seek to discover what God wants you to do in the midst of the stressful situation – again he gives us the answers in His word!  How can we glorify God in the midst of stress?  We CAN!  Fifth, we must avoid unnecessarily putting ourselves in stressful situations! Some people have a drama magnet…why?

Last, we need to look at ourselves in light of our great God.  Mack points out that “sometimes we become annoyed, angry, and resentful because we think that some right of ours is being denied.”   God has shown us incredible mercy and grace by providing us forgiveness, restoration and healing in Jesus.  Our calling is to “fulfill your Biblical responsibilities and leave your ‘rights’ to God.” [136]  Amen!




Book Review – The Curious Christian

Barnabas Piper is a curious dude.  I’ve recently become more acquainted with him via the Happy Rant podcast he co-hosts.  He has a position on just about everything.  Which, occasionally is irritating, but most of the time it makes me realize that he knows a lot of stuff.  People know a lot of stuff because they learn stuff.  They read, they research, they investigate. They ask questions.  They are curious.  Let’s face it.  I’d like to know more stuff, especially as it relates to maturing as a Christian.

Enter The Curious Christian515d3fl4iNL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_.  (Lifeway/B&H 2017)  This was my first foray into “Son of John Piper’s” writing, having read boatloads of Papa Piper.  Definitely different writing style, definitely has a bit of an opinionated edge to it, definitely not a theology book – but overall, very readable and very challenging.

When first digging into the book, I thought the thesis might be a bit of a stretch, but quickly realized that it was very applicable and accessible. Piper diligently gathers many quotes from well known people pointing to the value of curiosity.

By curiosity, he means the quest for more – more knowledge, more depth, more understanding.  We should do this by digging, asking questions, seeking answers.  The opposite of curiosity is “uncuriosity” and Piper asserts that Christians can fall into this trap and “miss the wonders God has for us” – we settle for “flannel graph depictions of God instead of relentlessly and eagerly seeking to know Him.”  This struck a chord with me, and I’m sure with many others. [Plus, anytime you mock the flannel graph, it’s bonus points in my book.] It is far too easy to become stale and stagnant.  God calls us to grow and mature [Ephesians 4:15] in our knowledge of Him, in our growth in maturity as a believer, and in our love for one another. [Phil 1:9].  If we are lazy, content with where we are, “uncurious” – we will not be living in line with God’s word.

Piper points out that children are naturally curious, but “somewhere in the midst of aging and “maturing,” nurture defeated nature, locked it in the dungeon of history, and left it to die It started in junior high school when we realized being a bright-eyed question asker wasn’t cool…”  Ain’t that the truth.  I remember the kids who asked the most questions in class were mocked, but usually they were some of the brightest academically. (I mean…that’s not as important as being cool…right?!)  Later in life,  when I was deep in the heart of the corporate world I noticed something else along those lines.  The “Big Dogs” – the executive brass – always asked questions.  Constantly.  Why do we do it that way?  What does that mean? Why not? So what?  Countless project status presentations made me anticipate their questions.  Piper’s point is one that I have witnessed myself – smart people are smart because they ask a ton of  questions…because they are curious.

So when talking about the most important thing – the gospel of Jesus Christ and our growth in that – why would Christians not be the most curious people on the planet?  Piper points out that curiosity seeks answers – truth.  God’s word is the ultimate truth. [John 17:17] Shouldn’t Christians then be more curious?  Um….Yes.

So why not?  Piper nails this with ouch-like conviction.  “Most things don’t cross most peoples minds or spark a question. Most people’s minds are stupefied by comfort and overwhelmed by business. The structure and pace of life leaves little room or motivation for asking questions or noticing anything new.”  I told you.  #Ouch.  Once again – our American prosperity and comfort is a blessing and a curse.

Christians are called to swim against this tide.  To not be lulled to sleep by the comforts of our culture.  To set our minds on the things above, [Col 3:2] to be striving with all of His strength as He powerfully works in us. [Col 1:28].  “Curiosity enlarges God in our minds…without the desire to see and understand and experience – without curiosity – we are content with a God-loves-me-so-I’m-all-good ‘relationship.’ That is barely a relationship at all.”

The implications that flow from this are many.  God is infinite in wisdom and knowledge – we should be seeking Him in His word daily, in prayer, in community with the church.  But we should be pressing the boundaries of our comfort zones for his glory.  Talking to your neighbors or people (strangers?) in line at the checkout (seriously?); digging deeper in our relationships that the usual “How are you doing?”  “Good, you know…staying out of trouble. Keeping busy”  smalltalk.  Even boldly stepping out in things like leading Bible studies, leading our families, fostering children, biblically counseling others, planting churches.  None of this happens without a curiosity for God and to see His glory made known.  (This is starting to sound more like Papa Piper after all…)

Piper is grounded in keeping God central in the quest for curiosity.  I appreciated this, and honestly I was concerned going in to this book that there would be no anchoring in the centrality of God in the thesis.  I was happy to see him include continual references to the fact that it is not curiosity for curiosity sake.

The author leads the reader into a practical application section in the 2nd half of the book.  Pushing on spiritually content and asking “So what?” and seeking to put the knowledge to use.  Piper calls us to take “advantage of every movie, every conversation, every book every everything to see how it might be something worth curating to connect people to the truth that saves.”  AMEN!  I’m a child of the 80’s where “everything in the world is bad and we must flee it!”  was the prevailing attitude. Nonsense.  All that did was raise a generation of Pharisees who didn’t know why we believed what we believed because were never were exposed to questions that tested it.  [I’m really not bitter anymore.]    This is not a license to sin [Romans 6:1…], but rather the call to engage curiously in this world and develop a biblical filter to which all things pass thru as we sift them – why?  To connect people to the truth that saves.

Piper develops this and it is appreciated.  Good parenting is hard, it’s scary – but we must let our kids learn and grow.  The temptation is to just say “no” but good parents don’t just say no – they teach their kids to ask questions.  “Why do you want to do this?”  “What are the implications?”  “How will this cause you go grow?” “What is biblically true about this and what isn’t?”  These are curiosity fueled growth questions, not legalistic management.

Again, he goes deeper and probes that theme with questions like “How does this shape my life?”  “What is this taking from me?”  “What is it giving me?” “What worldview is this espousing?” “How do I know this is trustworthy?” “Do I see God’s world better because of this?”  His point is well taken – embracing curiosity deepens us spiritually and God uses this pursuit to make us more effective and fruitful.  [2 Peter 1:8cf]  Shutting the door to curiosity our of laziness, or fear of the world can stifle us.

We should foster a culture of God-honoring curiosity.  Piper nails this in my favorite quote of the book —  “Of course, if asking questions is forbidden, most people stop thinking altogether. They just muddle ahead in whatever theological or biblical framework they were handed until life drunkenly runs a red light and smashes into them crushing the framework and leaving them with nothing but questions.”  Will all become curious, either voluntarily or not.

Overall, he points us back to the main goal of a believer (Papa would be proud) – glorifying God.  Well, he doesn’t say it like that, but that’s what it is.  He writes “One thing determines whether something is out of bounds for a Christian’s curiosity: does it honor God?”   That is the main reason to be curious – to honor God by submitting to him, growing as a believer, finding those “gospel intersection points” with others and sharing the hope of Christ, learning more from his word, more effectively serving him in his church.

As children of the God who created all things and works all things for his glory, Christians should perhaps be the most curious people indeed!


Book Review – The Essential Trinity


The Essential Trinity (P&R, North American Edition, 2017) is a collection of chapters by various contributors, edited by Brandon D. Crowe and Carl R. Trueman.

This book is definitely on the theologically academic side of the spectrum and that is appropriate given the nature of the subject matter.  The trinity needs to be explored at a good depth – our God is unmatched in his depth and complexity.

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” (Romans 11:33 ESV)

This book is very solid and thoroughly researched, while not being too deep so as to make for tough sledding.   It’s divided up into two parts – (1) New Testament Foundations – which essentially is a trinity-centric commentary of the NT books and (2) Practical Relevance – which, as titled, provides practical application of the doctrine of the trinity for personal and church contexts.

In Part 1, the various contributors diligently mine the Scriptures to shed light on their overall trinitarian structure.  As a pastor preaching through the gospel of John at the moment, I perhaps most enjoyed the chapter from Bauckman – “The Trinity and the Gospel of John,” though he does get a bit bogged down in the eternal existence of the Son nuances.  As Bauckman writes “The Gospel of John has played a hugely important role in the formation of classical Christian doctrine and in continued reflection on the Trinity” [91], and he solidly expounds that for us.

As one would expect, the letters of Paul are highlighted “alongside the Gospel of John as containing the richest vein of trinitarian theology in the New Testament.” [118] I appreciate the depth in which Brian Rosner wove together the trinitarian construct from various Pauline writings, with a particular focus on salvation.  Highlighting the perfect harmony of our three in one God and each role in salvation he writes “salvation is the narrative of the saving Trinity’s acting on behalf of human beings.” [122] I found myself welling up in worship and gratitude (with a healthy bit of awe) as “nothing magnifies the grace like appreciating the triune God’s work in salvation. And nothing gives believers more confidence that they are known and loved by God than pointing out the collaborative activity of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, and God’s Spirit.” [125]  AMEN!

The book has an appropriate balance of theological practicality in Part 1, touching on how the trinity impacts good works and conformity to Christ, and upholding the divinity of Christ and substitutionary atonement. As “some have argued (Gungor anyone?) that the Father’s sending of the Son to die amounts to an abusive, tyrannical act. However this misguided view severely misunderstands the trinitarian works of God.” [168]

Part 2 is really where the book powerfully shines in it’s application of the doctrine of the Trinity.  “Not only does the doctrine of the Trinity identify God; it also illumines all of God’d works, enabling us to perceive more clearly the wonders of the Father’s purpose in creation , of Christ’s incarnation and of the Spirt’s indwelling.” [213] This impacts prayer, revelation, worship, and preaching and each are thoroughly addressed in their own chapters in Part 2.

What we believe about God affects our prayer life – “a healthy, vibrant prayer life depends to a large extent upon a good understanding of trinitarian doctrine.” [228]  I was more than slightly convicted to remain diligent in promoting a robust understanding of the trinity from the pulpit, as was written – “not as an abstract truth, but as something with obvious, vital, practical significance.”  [239]

Our three-in-one God speaks to us, through His word and as he reveals himself to us – as “the goal of revelation is not just knowledge about God, but the knowledge of God” [257] and the “centerpiece of God’s revelation is the gospel.” [262]  We see the roles of the Trinity front and center as God the Father plans the redemption, God the Son fulfills the plan, and God the Spirit impresses the truths of the gospel on human hearts. [“Initiated by the Father, accomplished by the Son, and applied by the Holy Spirit – 270]

The basis of church worship must be an accurate knowledge of who God is and what he has done, according to His Word. Letham reviews key passages relating the doctrine of the Trinity and worship.  [Eph 2:18; John 4:23-24]  “Since Christian worship is determined, initiated and shaped by, and directed to, the holy Trinity, we worship the three with one undivided act of adoration.” [274]  There was an air of opposition to an “anti-liturgical movement” in this chapter, which came off as having an axe to grind, but the points of intentionality in Trinitarian worship were well taken.  However, getting real practical, a properly informed Trinitarian worship perspective should affect the way we treat people – specifically, it should unite, not divide.

Finally, the chapter on the Trinity and Preaching was the one that I found the most helpful.  It encouraged me in the importance of proclaiming God’s word where our three-in-one God actually speaks to us. “Without God’s word we simply would not know God.” [292]  There seems to be a frustrating increase in preachers and authors claiming direct revelation from God, and this chapter clearly reinforces the power and uniqueness of God speaking through His Word. “The fact that God is triune, and always speaks in a trinitarian way, should inform both the content and the intent of Christian preaching.” [298]  As Reeves writes, “preaching should foster sincere worship” [307] and this book as a whole strikes a good balance between the academic and the inspirational.