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CHRIS MACLEAVY Posts

Letters to My Students: On Preaching

The health of the church rises or falls with the pulpit. It isn’t wild or controversial to say that preaching is God’s divinely ordained means for communicating his Word, nourishing his church, and for redeeming a people for himself. In Letters to My Students: On Preaching Jason K. Allen (president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and associate professor for preaching and pastoral ministry) writes out of his experience both as a preacher, and a teacher of aspiring preachers. With chapters like Eight Tips for Beginning Preachers, Preparing Your Sermon, and A Final Checklist Before You Preach Allen has provided a resource which is highly practical, helpfully specific, and undoubtedly better equips every preacher to rightly interpret and expositionally bring to bear God’s Word upon the…

He Numbered the Pores on My Face

Rarely is the sequel as good as the first installment. While this book isn’t intended to be a sequel to her first, Scarlet Hiltibidal has knocked it out of the proverbial park. Again. In my review of her first book, I praised the conversational tone in which Hiltibidal writes. It makes me feel like she’s not teaching someone whom she considers to be less than herself, but she makes me feel more like she’s a loving friend; reaching out with her experiences to encourage me to take the right path. Her ability to laugh—or more often, lament—at the exploits of her younger self is perhaps her greatest strength. It takes humility to confess struggles and ongoing patterns of sin (even past ones), and this is…

Adorning the Dark

In what is likely to be the minority position, I’m one of the people who actually love Andrew Peterson’s writing more than his music (and I love his music). I remember the agony as I waited for the final installment of The Wingfeather Saga to arrive in the mail, and the bittersweet elation I felt as I reached the end of another great book. So when I learned that Peterson was going to release a book about the creative process and overcoming some of the inner conflicts experienced by authors/artists/songwriters, I knew I needed to read what he’s written. Adorning the Dark: Thoughts on Community, Calling, and the Mystery of Making isn’t like other books on writing. Peterson’s natural gift for storytelling translates his toolbox…

Jesus is the Music

Open up YouTube and play almost any music video without sound. There are plenty of arms moving and lips pouting but you can’t tell the rhythm, you can’t follow along with the tune, and you can’t discern the message conveyed through the lyrics. It doesn’t make any sense on its own and ends up looking silly on top of being meaningless to the viewer. At best, you’re likely to lose interest well before the song is over and find something better to do with your time. Friedrich Nietzsche wrote ‘those who hear not the music think the dancers mad.’ These words struck me recently as I sat with some young adults in a discussion about living out their Christian faith. Dependence on God; devotion expressed…

American Gospel: A Review

Prolific at present (and not only in America) are the false “Christian” teachings that promote a ‘name-it-and-claim-it’ faith that guarantees health, wealth, and happiness (if you do it right) and the notion that God doesn’t want his children to suffer but that sickness and trials must somehow be outside of his will or control. False teachers are not a unique product of America, nor are those who have fallen for this message that parades around in Christian clothing, but is actually nothing of the sort. Enter American Gospel: a film by Brandon Kimber in which he presents a well researched, brilliantly executed, gloves-off critique of those ‘different gospels’ which continue to deceive thousands. Kimber doesn’t shy away from calling out the charlatans (the likes of…

Two New Titles on Fatherhood, Motherhood, and the Gospel

Our new baby will be here in the coming weeks, and God’s providence is not without some tongue-in-cheek humour, it seems. Within a few weeks of each other, Louie Giglio’s ‘Not Forsaken: Finding Freedom as Sons & Daughters of a Perfect Father’ and Gloria Furman’s ‘Labor With Hope: Gospel Meditations on Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Motherhood’ have come to me for review. I learned a great deal from both of these books, they’re encouraging, and they’re suitable for everyone (don’t relegate Furman’s book to ‘women only’, whatever you do). They’re both terrific reads about the joyful, pain-mingled work of parenthood and how every day reminds us of our great need of God. Not Forsaken: Finding Freedom as Sons & Daughters of a Perfect Father (Louie Giglio)…

More Than Mothers Day

Mothers Day in Australia has come and gone. For a day, we broke from normal routine in order to celebrate the endless, selfless investment that our mothers have sacrificially poured into our well-being on a daily basis since the day we were born. We made breakfasts, gave gifts, and showed our appreciation in creative and caring ways. Life has returned to routine again, and the mothers in our lives continue their faithful service to their families. Yes, Mothers Day is over for another year, and our mothers march on through what is undoubtedly both the best job and also the hardest job ever. Motherhood brings with it indescribable joy; but it also pushes to breaking point physically, mentally, and emotionally. The truth is that the…

Books Worth a Look:
A Long Obedience in the Same Direction

For the past few years, I’ve read a ton of books each year. They’ve been (mostly) the helpful, funny, fascinating, growing kind that you’re glad you invested your time in. However, quantity isn’t always quality, so I’m shifting my focus in 2019 to read fewer books; better books; books which grow me; and also intentionally reading much more of my Bible. So this year, I plan to re-read a small pile of books that have been particularly transformative for me. The Books Worth a Look series will be a monthly post sharing highlights from my deep dive into these books that I think are super helpful. A Long Obedience in the Same Direction (Eugene Peterson) In our world of microwave dinner sermons and instant-gratification goals, Peterson’s book is sorely needed.…

A Word of Encouragement to Pastors

Kevin DeYoung recently taught an intensive at Queensland Theological College on three things we must know in ministry. These things aren’t intended to be limited to those who preach and pastor, but rather they are an exhortation to all of us as fellow ministers of the gospel in the community of faith that God has placed us in.This following post is based on my notes from session one. The Rock on which the Church is Built Those who are called to church leadership in its various forms feel the weight of shepherding the people of God faithfully. Whether it be through careful selection of songs with lyrics that take focus off of self and make much of Christ; teaching and exhorting through faithfully expounding Scripture;…

Books Worth a Look:
True Worshipers

For the past few years, I’ve read a ton of books each year. They’ve been (mostly) the helpful, funny, fascinating, growing kind that you’re glad you invested your time in. However, quantity isn’t always quality, so I’m shifting my focus in 2019 to read fewer books; better books; books which grow me; and also intentionally reading much more of my Bible. So this year, I plan to re-read a small pile of books that have been particularly transformative for me. The Books Worth a Look series will be a monthly post sharing highlights from my deep dive into these books that I think are super helpful. True Worshipers (Bob Kauflin) When John Calvin wrote “we should consider it the great end of our existence to be found numbered among the…

Peace Like a River

Today is a day of revisiting difficult emotional territory. It was on this day in 2018 when we met our baby who had already gone to the next world before having the chance to see this one. (I processed those thoughts in a post called On Tragedy, Loss, and Learning) Now, just like it was then, I feel the tension between remembering the loss and the comfort of knowing our baby is in a better place; albeit without us. It feels like someone has thrown my emotions in a blender and I’m not sure which colour will be dominant when the whirring stops. What I Feel and What I Know I went to the memorial service. I lit a candle. I watched through tears as…

Lent: A Journey Towards Crucifixion

Back in 2014, I decided to make Lent part of the regular rhythm of my calendar. Now I’m not a Catholic, and so I didn’t bother with only eating fish for dinner on Fridays. But in this crazy-busy world, it isn’t hard to see the value in abstaining from something in order to make room for more important things. So what’s it all about? I wrote about Lent in 2018 and 2017 but packaged simply, Lent is a 40 day period of reflection, repentance, and preparation which begins on Ash Wednesday (6th March in 2019, you’re welcome) and ends with the celebration of the triumph of Easter Sunday. Back in 2014 I wrote about my first experience of Lent:  Where do you start? Everyone’s journey…

Love Compels Us

Recently I’ve had the privilege of spending Sunday afternoons at Deep; an appropriately-named bible study class for North Pine Baptist Church’s cohort of young adults. Digging into the significance of the Great Commission (and learning more about the One who issued it), we’re asking the question “why should we make disciples?” We’re discovering how obedience to this command gets right to the crux of God’s grand redemptive plan for reconciling the world back to himself (1 Peter 3:18). Because the answers to this question are so rich and relevant for every Christian, I thought I’d share a few brief thoughts from weeks one and two. 1. We Make Disciples Because It’s a Command Through the grand narrative of Scripture, we read of events, roles, and—most…

Afraid of All the Things

For as long as she can remember, Scarlet Hiltibidal has been an anxiously-wired person. I’m not talking about the usual trepidation of making new friends at school or the fear of making the right fashion choices. Oh, no. In Afraid of All the Things, Scarlet speaks at length about her fear of tornadoes (and firenados—yes, they exist); death by random sinkholes; infectious diseases and exploding internal organs; and being away at length from the safety of cities that have easy access to hospitals and police, and the option of a quick escape from threats via the ubiquitous taxi. The message that makes Scarlet’s book the kind that everyone should read is succinctly captured in the subtitle: Tornadoes, Cancer, Adoption, and Other Stuff You Need the…

Spurgeon’s Prayer for Reading Scripture

When it comes to spending time reading the Bible, C. H. Spurgeon stands in the company of great men and women who held a high view of Scripture. He (and they) reminded people that the Bible is not simply a group of words that teach us how to live as faithful disciples of Jesus, but its the book through which we actually encounter the living Christ. Recently I’ve been immersed in the writing of men such as John Piper, Martin Luther, and (a new book on the works of) Karl Barth; men who knew that Scripture was the primary means of grace through which we could see and savour the preeminent, living Christ. When it came to teaching his people how to approach the pages…

Books Worth a Look:
Being a Dad Who Leads

For the past few years, I’ve read a ton of books each year. They’ve been (mostly) the helpful, funny, fascinating, growing kind that you’re glad you invested your time in. However, quantity isn’t always quality, so I’m shifting my focus in 2019 to read fewer books; better books; books which grow me; and also intentionally reading much more of my Bible. So this year, I plan to re-read a small pile of books that have been particularly transformative for me. The Books Worth a Look series will be a monthly post sharing highlights from my deep dive into these books that I think are super helpful. Being a Dad Who Leads by John MacArthur Launching 2019 with a focus on how to be a better father (and husband) seemed like…

4 Albums I’m Enjoying Right Now

Crescendo by Jackie Hill Perry Released on Jan 18, 2019, this is the newest addition to my playlist, so I’m still getting the full feel of it. It boasts solid lyrics; is easy listening; and is (in my opinion) what realistic, Scripture-rich worship looks like. In a recent interview, Miller said: The Psalms have been my daily bread. The realness there of men who weren’t afraid to give a voice to their hurts.” I think Jesus is honored in that kind of honesty and that’s probably where some of the most beautiful worship comes to life.”  The Perfect Love of Christ by Immanuel Nashville This album isn’t new (2016) but I recently discovered it when the title track featured at Together for the Gospel in…

Pastor Appreciation Month

Every October, churches across North America pay tribute to pastors and their ministry. They take time to write notes, give gifts, and creatively express their gratitude for the ceaseless love and investment that their pastor makes in their spiritual growth and general well-being all year long. While I have previously discussed my mixed feelings towards Australians adopting various U.S. holidays (like Halloween or Thanksgiving), I hold no such mixed feelings towards the non-official Pastor Appreciation Month. In fact, I’m waiting to greet it with cake, streamers, and much adulation. Management and leadership icon Peter Drucker was recently quoted saying: Over the years I have made a career out of studying the most challenging management roles out there. After all of that I am now convinced the…

What Matters Most

Some people scoff at making resolutions. Others simply give up on goal-setting before they begin; pessimistically acknowledging that it always peters out by March or at best, May. I’m not a pessimist, but I’m not—I hope—legalistic about making and meeting goals either. Rather, I appreciate a milestone moment such as the transition to a new year as an opportunity to evaluate the year that was, and re-focus on what matters most. This past Sunday, the first Sunday of 2019, our people were encouraged to take this step with regard to choosing a Bible reading plan. I’m continually grateful to be part of a local body of believers that places such high value on intentional discipleship. So I’ve been thinking about what matters most. Last year…

Favourites of 2018

Rather than subject people to yet another “Top Ten Whatevers of 2018”, I thought I’d simply contribute a compilation of my favourite things from the year that was. So whether you enjoy podcasts or pictures, perhaps there’s something in this list of recommendations for you to enjoy. Books It’s a predictable place to start, but I read a lot of books. Books for pleasure, books for growth, books to rest with, and books to equip me to be a better husband/father/employee/disciple/friend. For a longer list of what I’ve read (and what I enjoyed reading the most) head to my page on Goodreads. Here are a few highlights. A Light So Lovely: The Spiritual Legacy of Madeleine L’Engle, Author of A Wrinkle in Time by Sarah…

A Blogging Sabbath-of-Sorts

I‘m going to be taking a break from regular blogging for the remainder of 2018. There are a couple of really good reasons for this: First, our family of five will be moving house in late October. While we hope that this will be a good thing for us in the long term, it does mean that while we’re busy searching for our next property our lives are slowly being packed into boxes, and we get to experience all the fun that goes with that. Second, I’ve decided to take on a major learning project for myself (the details aren’t important), and I so wanted to free up other self-imposed deadlines in order to make space to read, write, and focus on this specific thing.…

What I Read in September

September has seen me reach my 2018 reading goal of 52 books for the year. I’ve read some formative theology, some quality comic books, a few great biographies/memoirs, and even found a few fiction authors I’m going to get more of. Reaching this goal means I’ll be taking a break from posting what I’ve read for a while (more on that in my next post) but for now, here’s what I read in September. Spiritual Gifts: What They Are and Why They Matter Dr. Tom Schreiner has written an important book discussing the spiritual gifts, and whether or not those gifts have continued into today in a form that is consistent with the New Testament. His book is conversational, compassionate to those who hold a…

The Expulsive Power of a Greater Affection

All of us who have committed our lives to be disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ know that we are called to be distinct from the world. Maybe we looked the same as the world when we first encountered the saving love of God, but God doesn’t love us ‘just the way we are’ without also loving who he sees us becoming through Christ. Think about the Sermon on the Mount: the Beatitudes; our calling to be salt and light; increased prohibitions against things like anger and lust; and the call to love our enemies, and give to those in need. Every New Testament author writes of how inward transformation leads to outward transformation, and that the world will always find this peculiar. Perhaps the…

Spiritual Gifts: What They Are and Why They Matter

Cessationism is the belief that certain spiritual gifts in the New Testament—namely the more miraculous gifts—have ceased. However, far from concentrating on controversy Dr. Tom Schreiner’s approach is conversational, compassionate to those who hold a different conviction, and compelling in his unpacking of the Biblical text. Schreiner seeks to remind his readers that while he holds a nuanced cessationism (a term he fully explores in the book) this is not a first-order issue; we are not discussing the person of Christ or justification by grace alone through faith alone. At the same time, I appreciate the seriousness with which he approaches the matter of spiritual gifts. There are many churches today that either seek to quench the Spirit through a strict liturgy that allows little…

What I Read in August

The Gospel Comes with a House Key It’s true we are creatures who learn from story. As Butterfield recounts stories without end that demonstrate the messy, costly, rewarding ins-and-outs of what ‘Radically Ordinary Hospitality’ looks like, you will find yourself constantly convinced that hospitality is indeed the cornerstone of the Christian life. Sure, it means changing your budget to allow for extra meals for people, unexpected guests at your table, or taking care of a neighbour’s pet while they’re out of town. But it also serves to reveal Christ’s redeeming purpose in the world: making strangers into neighbours, and making neighbours into family. This book will leave you thinking more deeply about what Christlike hospitality might look like in your home, and how you might…