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Peace: The Second Sunday of Advent

Having lit the candle of hope last Sunday, we take time this week to remember that as well as being the hope of the world, Jesus is also our peace. In the busyness of the Christmas season, it’s easy to get carried away with the pressures and anxieties that society places on us through the expectations of the season (or, what we in the West have imposed on it). But God desires that those who place their trust in him should not live as ones who are characterized by stressfully straining to succeed with the perfect presents or the most magnificent meal.

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The Joy of Finishing Well

Back in January, I jumped on board Tim Challies’ 2016 Reading Challenge (which looks like this). Working full-time, finishing my final year of study, and expecting our third child, this seemed a little ambitious even on the lightest plan (complete 1 book every 4 weeks). What I learned in the early months was that all I needed was to break away from my conventional reading style (I’m a physical book kind of guy) and by tapping in to resources like Audible and Kindle I could keep my attention span longer, and get through more because of that. Accepting this challenge was in no way a head-over-heels scramble to simply achieve the number though; rather I tried to be intentional about every book I invested time in. While I almost couldn’t finish one, and tossed one away altogether, the end result was that I managed to complete 54 books (exceeding my goal by 2) and experienced a little of the joy of reading widely; even the bad books had value to add in getting to know better my likes, dislikes, and a pet peeve (or two) and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Below is a summary of my best picks from the 2016 Challenge.

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Hope: The First Sunday of Advent

Today is the first Sunday of Advent; the season of anticipation leading up to the celebration of the arrival of the one Lord and Saviour of the world. But before we rejoice and sing “it is the night of our dear Saviour’s birth”, we remember our desperate need for such a Saviour to save us from sin which is not only in us, but is us. We look to the history of Israel – which the apostle Paul tells us is our shared history through the finished work of Christ – to their hope for God’s coming Messiah to save, forgive, and restore them.

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Life After Seminary

I just clicked submit for the last paper required to complete my studies. While I sit with my bittersweet feelings and uncertainty about where I go from here, I know more than before that it’s important for me to have a vision for the future. So while I wait for my final grades, I consider the places where my reclaimed time and energy can be best redirected, and perhaps those places will come as no surprise.

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2016 Reading Challenge – APRIL UPDATE

2016 is well under way, and I’m making progress on the Challenge. Finding time to read is about to become a lot more interesting, as our third child is due at the end of April. So while the next list might be shorter, I’ll continue to post updates, as (so far) I highly recommend everything I’ve read. I haven’t listed the categories that these fit into, nor have I listed the numerous comic books that I’m reading each week, nor the texts that I’m reading for study; so this list is limited strictly to the 2016 Reading Challenge. If you read (or have read) any of these, I’d love to have more conversation about them so drop me a line!

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Communicating for a Change

Every journey begins and ends somewhere. The same should be said for every sermon. Unfortunately, what most of us grew up hearing were messages built around several points rather than one clear destination. Andy Stanley and Lane Jones explain that the point of having points is to move people systematically through an outline of information; but if life change is your goal, point by point preaching is by far the most effective approach.

I haven’t written a hundred sermons. But I know that when I write, I have a dangerous tendency to structure a sermon too much like another one of my seminary papers; and that becomes obvious the moment its read aloud. Communicating for a Change contains so many implications, insights, imperatives, and instructions (one of them is that alliterations are much less effective than you think!) for how to carefully craft a sermon that will not only engage your audience, but actually take them on a journey that they want to remain on all the way to the end.

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All too often relegated to a minor role, one of the most exciting developments in 20th century theological thought is a resurgence of interest in the Holy Spirit. While historically there have been a broad spectrum of views held with regard to the person and work of the Holy Spirit, no denomination or movement can be said to hold a monopoly on the Spirit’s activity or involvement, and the Bible itself presents no systematic view of the Holy Spirit any more than it presents such a neatly delivered package on any other doctrine. In his book Pneumatology: The Holy Spirit in Ecumenical, International and Contextual Perspective Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen surveys the Biblical canon (with commentary from church history) to form a solid ‘core’ for understanding the Holy Spirit. This is followed by an examination of perspectives on the Spirit from the main Christian traditions (Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Lutheran, and Pentecostal/Charismatic) with contributions from leading contemporary theologians.

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Through the Trials

I’ve just finished reading Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield. Reading about his various trials made me think of what our comment as Christians would be to him. I think a lot of us would tell Mr. Copperfield that the answer to his life’s woes is to become a Christian. Now I do agree of course that we should want and encourage everybody to know Christ, but I think we tend to sell that by making promises that God doesn’t make. We have a theology that says God will give us all sorts of blessings, and it implies – if not states outright – that when bad things happen it’s because we’ve stepped out from God’s covering or we’re being attacked by the devil.

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Knowing God vs Knowing about God

One of the beautiful things about Christianity is learning together in community. This week, the “Christian Classics” reading group that I’m part of began reading J.I. Packer’s theological masterpiece Knowing God. This book is a must-read for every Christian. Reading a chapter a week, I’m sure this won’t be the only post written from this rich contemporary classic. In the first two chapters, Packer defends the critical importance of the study of God. Not just for the academics or pastors, but rather every Christian should earnestly desire to know all that they can about the God who has saved them. He describes the humbling experience of coming to grasp something new of all that God is and does, and the only appropriate response in our learning – that of adoration, praise, and thankfulness.

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True Worshipers

When John Calvin wrote “we should consider it the great end of our existence to be found numbered among the worshippers of God” I’m sure he wasn’t picturing an auditorium with the house lights down, the stage lights up, and a band that is working hard to ‘create an atmosphere’ where people feel drawn to worship. At a time when worship has become an industry, Bob Kauflin (pastor, songwriter, and the director of Sovereign Grace Music) presents this incredibly helpful book that connects our practices as the gathered community of God to the much bigger all-of-life reality of worship.

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