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Last and First of the Year

January 1, 2013

The last book I read in 2012 was The Edge of Redemption: A Story of Hope for Rescuing the Unreachable by Troy A. Evans. The book is an autobiographical look at the life of Pastor Troy Evans, a one time gang-banger on the streets of Grand Rapids MI, now pastor of a “hip-hop” church located on those same streets. The book is well-written and the story mostly interesting. Troy’s journey is a remarkable one. His story is truly one of redemption and the power of God to change a life.  Evans seems to lament much of his exploits as a gang leader, and yet points most of the blame at his environment and the local church’s inability to reach him.  Though I believe Troy’s story is worth telling, I had hoped for a better articulation of the gospel – personal responsibility for sin and the sovereign underserved love of God in salvation.

The first book I am reading in 2013 is Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself by Joe Thorn. As I begin this year, I want to press upon my self and others the need to remind us of the power of the gospel. Our daily need for the gospel of Jesus Christ to change our look and outlook is unquestionable, and yet we too often fail to avail ourselves to the simple discipline of speaking to ourselves the life-giving and life-sustaining truths found in Christ. I have heard Thorn’s book is a good place to start. I’ll let you know.

Zephaniah.  Lastly and firstly (if I might put it in those terms) I begin the year reading God’s word. Like most of the Minor Prophets, Zephaniah calls God’s people to repentance with the assured hope of reconciliation and restoration in God. The Minor Prophets are good for reminding us that the judgment of God is not anything to toy with. It begins:  “I will utterly sweep away everything from the face of the earth,” declares the LORD. “I will sweep away man and beast; I will sweep away the birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea, and the rubble with the wicked. I will cut off mankind from the face of the earth,” declares the LORD (1:2-3).  And yet, Zephaniah also reminds us that God’s word of judgment is not his last word. When God’s people repent and turn to him in faith, they find his word of grace, redemption, and the gospel is always God’s preferred and greater work. “The Lord has taken away your punishment, he has turned back your enemy. The Lord, the King of Israel, is with you; never again will you fear any harm….The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take gret delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing” (3:15-17).

God’s last word in 2012 was the gospel of Jesus Christ. His first word in 2013 is the gospel of Jesus Christ. New year. Same Lord and Savior. Praise God!

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