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Month: February 2017

On My Table:
Life & Books with Brian Douglas

This month’s On My Table comes from Brian Douglas, Associate Pastor at All Saints Presbyterian Church in Boise, Idaho and chaplain at the Wyakin Foundation. He was previously a teacher, sold books and outdoors gear, and was a security guard. He grew up near Miami, but his mom raised him to love Detroit Tigers baseball.

What book(s) are you currently reading?

Throughout 2017, I’ll be reading Calvin’s Institutes with a bunch of friends. Wilbourne, Union with Christ. Soren Kierkegaard, The Present Age. Re-reading Keller, Reason for God in anticipation of reading Making Sense of God. And I’m slowly cooking my way through Peláez & Silverman, The Cuban Table.

Next in the queue: Taunton, The Faith of Christopher Hitchens, and Gjelten, Bacardi and the Long Fight for Cuba. I read whatever I can find on Cuban history and culture.

What was the last book you left unfinished?

García’s One Hundred Years of Solitude. I was 150 pp. into the book when my wife stole it & read it. For the second time.

Is there a book you feel guilty for not reading?

Wallace, Infinite Jest, because I’ve started it four times, I think, but haven’t finished it yet.

Is there a book you wish you’d written?

I very strongly wish I could write poetry. Ideally something like Hopkins or Millay, but at this point I’d settle for any decent poetry at all. Maybe someday I’ll have a book of beautiful, thoughtful, readable poetry.

What was the last book you gave as a present?

I just sent Backhouse, Kierkegaard: A Single Life, to my friend, Claire.

Best biography you’ve ever read?

The one that impacted me the most was probably Edith Schaeffer, L’Abri.

What 5 books would you take to a desert island?

Potter, 3 Theories of Everything
This tiny book makes my brain think hard and well.

Reymond, A New Systematic Theology
He was a family friend growing up, so I was literally raised on this material. It’s a book I revisit often.

Hemingway, The Complete Short Stories
Best short stories ever written.

Anything by Rudyard Kipling
He’s just a fantastic storyteller. I especially love “The Man Who Would Be King.”

Wallace, Infinite Jest
Because it’s entertaining, and it would take me years to finally finish reading it.

What book has most frustrated you?

Probably what I’ve read by Richard Dawkins.

What is one book (apart from the Bible) you’d encourage every Christian to read?

Currently Wilbourne’s Union with Christ is pretty high on my list. It’s fantastic. Please read it!

How does reading fit into your life?
And what does your routine look like?

It’s far more haphazard than I’d like. When I’m reading well, it happens mostly in the morning and evening, as the day is starting and winding down. But I don’t often read well.

Wednesdays on the Web (22/02)

 


Please Stop Saying “God Told Me”

Unless this kind of language is immediately followed by Scripture, it’s a big red flag. Josh Buice discusses why (oh, and I agree with him).

Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility

‬This post is a little longer than normally keeps my attention span, but John MacArthur has been doing this a long time. His words are carefully chosen and they’re well worth your time.

For Better Conversations

Here’s some insight into the lost art of conversation from the President of Christian Communicators Worldwide. Off the back of Barnabas Piper’s new book: The Curious Christian this is a fascinating, valuable read.

Keep your focus on the other person as you talk to each other. Look at him or her, probe for insight (there is a perspective inside that person that you need to reflect on, even if it seems unwise), reach into their mind, imagination and experience out of genuine interest. Be persistent to find out how this person thinks, feels, experiences, hopes. Conversation is an adventure in knowledge acquisition. And if you grow in that, you are going to have to make the conversation about the other person most of the time, and not about you.

7 Reasons Worshipers need the Church

I’ve been doing a little more reading into this of late, but here is an accessible summary of seven key reasons why the Christian needs to attend the corporate gathering with other believers under the leadership of pastors and elders in order to flourish.

Why I won’t be seeing The Shack Movie

I don’t think I’ve ever disagreed with Tim Challies when it comes to matters of theological persuasion. He makes an interesting case here (and it might not be for the reason you think!) when it comes to (not) seeing this movie. At the time of writing this, he’s promised a follow-up post to address concerns from folks who have written in to voice their disagreement. I won’t be watching the movie either, but I’ll watch these conversations with keen interest.

Theology Matters

Joshua Harris and I share a love for encouraging people towards a good theology; because we’re all theologians, so why not be a good one.

The Temple and the Tabernacle

To be honest I think what initially attracted me to J. Daniel Hays’ The Temple and the Tabernacle: A Study of God’s Dwelling Places from Genesis to Revelation was the fact that it boasts over 60 full colour images in its almost 200 pages. Many pages of Scripture are filled with events taking place in or around a tabernacle or temple, and I was hoping to get a better handle on the particulars of each of these structures which played such a large role in the life of God’s people. Hays delivers an accessible, enjoyable survey of how these structures came to be, but he also demonstrates how the prominent biblical motif of “temple” weaves its way through Scripture from Genesis to Jesus, and the implications for the people of God today.

Hays begins with Eden as the Garden Temple where God dwells and relates to the people he created (this is the underlying reality of the later tabernacle and temple structures), and he shows 9 ways in which this place serves as the divinely constructed prototype for the later tabernacle that Moses built, and the temples of both King Solomon and Herod the Great. What I appreciate most about Hays’ work is his detailed summaries of the construction projects, including the extravagant furnishings with their function and symbolism. He places each of these structures (and their contents) in their historical and theological contexts, and follows Scripture’s naturally growing anticipation as he discusses the role that all these things play in foreshadowing greater future realities.

After admiring the significance of Eden, Moses’ tabernacle, Solomon’s temple, the postexilic rebuilding events recorded by Ezra and Haggai, and finally the temple of Herod the Great, we find ourselves entering the New Testament period. Here we come to learn that it’s been 400+ years since the presence of God has chosen to return to any temple, that is until Jesus Christ walks in through its gates. Hays brings together every untied thread; using Scripture to show how the temple, the sacrifice, the priesthood, the ark, and the very temple itself all come to find their fulfilment in the person and work of Jesus Christ. After centuries of carrying out the blood-soaked requirements of the old covenant, and witnessing the constant rebellion and sin of God’s chosen people, Hays writes

“God is very clear throughout the Old Testament about the righteousness demanded by his holiness. That is, the whole point of the stepped gradations of holiness in the tabernacle and temple (moving from the courtyard to the holy place to the most holy place) is to stress that the powerful and dangerous holiness surrounding God’s presence cannot allow sinful or unclean people into his presence.
…But with the death and resurrection of Christ, all of this changes dramatically.”

After a detailed examination of the second temple in the time of the gospels and the book of Acts, The Temple and the Tabernacle finally reaches the glorious event that all Scripture has been anticipating for hundreds of years: the arrival of God in Jesus Christ. In Jesus, God’s presence once again has come to dwell with his people, and through the sending of the Holy Spirit God now dwells in the newly constituted temple – his people. It is within the context of the sweeping arc of all salvation history that Hays has brought his readers on a journey from the garden temple at creation to the arrival of the Creator, and now he looks forward to the fullness of God’s presence in the ultimate climactic temple city of Revelation 21-22.

As the people of God today, we understand that the beauty of these remarkable structures does not lie in their being impressive feats of architecture, nor in the tons of precious resources that went into their construction. Rather, it is that God was present in them, relating to his people who came to worship him. Through them we are reminded of the immense privilege that Paul reminds us of in 1 Corinthians 3:16

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?

May we be humbled and awed as we consider that because of Jesus’ removal of the multiple layers of separation (courtyard, holy place, most holy place) the God who dwelt in unapproachable glory in the heart of the temple now chooses to dwell in our hearts. The Temple and The Tabernacle will leave you not only with a greater understanding of the reason for these old covenant structures and a greater appreciation for the unity of Scripture, but most importantly you’ll add meaning and depth to your own Christian journey by coming to see the daily joy and responsibility of living as those in whom this holy God has chosen to dwell.

Marvel at the Jewels

Humans were made to wonder. Built into each of us is a curiosity about things and a capacity to pause and ponder.

When it comes to meditation, it shouldn’t surprise us that the world has taken hold of this means of grace that God designed to aid our spiritual journey and turned it into a human-centric self-help endeavour. Whereas world religions (and other groups) would define meditation as the act of stilling your thoughts, emptying your mind, and focusing on nothing outside of yourself, Christian meditation is different. Almost the complete opposite in fact.

God designed us to hear his voice, primarily through the reading of his written word. Moreover, he not only wants us to hear but also to reflect on what we’ve heard. In his book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life Donald S. Whitney defines meditation like this:

“[Biblical meditation is] deep thinking on the truths and spiritual realities revealed in Scripture for the purposes of understanding, application, and prayer.”

Christian meditation doesn’t require the stilling of our thoughts, but rather encourages us to dwell on the truth found in Scripture; not the emptying of our minds, but the fixing of our eyes and affections on Jesus Christ and his gospel. Christian meditation should never be seeking to discover an inward strength to the exclusion of all outside influences; but the intentional reminding ourselves of the riches of the glorious reality of Jesus Christ. Never will true and lasting satisfaction be found when we look to ourselves in silence to meet our needs, but only when we acknowledge Jesus as our all-sufficient Saviour.

David Mathis leaves us with this great illustration in helping us understand the role of meditation:

There is a place in Bible reading for “raking” and gathering up the leaves at a swift pace, but when we “dig” in Bible study, we unearth the diamonds. In meditation, we marvel at the jewels.

For the Christian, meditation means “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Colossians 3:16) and it is a wonderful means of God’s daily supply of grace to us through his word.  The Psalmist declares in the longest Psalm in scripture:

Psalm 119:15 – I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.

Psalm 119:23 – Even though princes sit plotting against me, your servant will meditate on your statutes.

Psalm 119:27 – Make me understand the way of your precepts, and I will meditate on your wondrous works.

Psalm 119:48 – I will lift up my hands toward your commandments, which I love, and I will meditate on your statutes.

Psalm 119:78 – Let the insolent be put to shame, because they have wronged me with falsehood; as for me, I will meditate on your precepts.

Psalm 119:97 – Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.

Psalm 119:99 – I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation.

Psalm 119:148 – My eyes are awake before the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promise.

And so we press the bible to our hearts and we pray for the stirring of our affections as we return to the glorious truths of this gospel that has set us free. Let’s make sure we regularly dig deep in scripture, but also take time to marvel at the jewels.

Wednesdays on the Web (15/02)

Marital Love Must be Sexual

In the last of a four part series on the Puritans’ theology of marriage, Joel Beeke makes a solid case from scripture (and the Puritans) as to why marital love absolutely must be sexual. While the Puritans would never be seen as reducing marriage to sex, they emphasized that sexual intimacy is the “due benevolence” that married people owe to their spouses, and in this way they demonstrate God’s design for marriage as the fullest, most intimate form of love on earth.

An Intro to the Institutes

More and more lately I’ve become convinced that I need to get into Calvin’s Institutes. Karl Barth once said: “I could gladly and profitably set myself down and spend all the rest of my life just with Calvin.” I know a few guys who are reading through the Institutes, (and sharing via blogs) over 2017. There’s more than enough value for every Christian to engage in all that Calvin has laid out. Set aside the trepidation, and see for yourself.

The Goal of Church Discipline: Repentance unto Restoration

I’m enjoying this series from the guys at The Cripplegate. I continue to think about the notion of doing “house church” and those who choose to break away from the institutional church; this is one of the biblical reasons why I’m not sure that idea lines up with the church that Jesus is building.

Just as there is a great need for law and order to keep the peace in a civil society, so also is there a need for such law and order in the church. A civil society that has no laws, or that has no system of order to enforce those laws—no system to punish and rehabilitate offenders—is doomed to chaos. So severe is the nature of human depravity that a society of depraved human beings unrestrained by law and order is just unthinkable.
And the same is true of the church.

Manna: Resources for Life & Ministry

The school of Ministry, Theology, and Culture at Tabor Adelaide have produced issue #1 of their magazine for the church. There’s some great stuff here.

Sometimes college lecturers are accused of “living in an ivory tower”, “being too theoretical”, and “not concerned with the life of the church.” This stereotype doesn’t apply at Tabor; we are part of the church, and we want to see it grow in faithfulness to Jesus.

Abortion and Race

Thabiti Anyabwile gives a few short minutes on the parallels between abortion and slavery, and why both are completely unacceptable.

You and Me Forever:
Marriage in Light of Eternity

Having recently reviewed Dave Furman’s excellent book about the most important things to do (and not do) when it comes to showing true love for someone who is hurting, and how to ensure you take care of yourself in the process, Francis and Lisa Chan’s book on marriage in light of eternity overlaps in many wonderful places. Their first chapter Marriage isn’t that Great is Francis’ usual provocative style in which he reminds us that while we should be invested in nurturing, growing, and protecting our marriages we must always remember that our worship is to be directed only to God. In firmly fixing our gaze first and foremost on the all-satisfying God, we plant ourselves by the stream of living water from which we draw all the nutrients necessary to take care of ourselves and out of which we can truly love and care for our spouse. He writes

We need to prioritize our eternal relationship with our Creator above all things.
When two people are right with Him, they will be right with each other.

Francis affirms that while we are called to love and care for our spouse as we love ourselves, we should always keep God in the front of our minds in order that the love we have for our family doesn’t eclipse all others. God is far beyond us, and so our love for him should be far beyond our love for all others. Here’s our normal way of prioritising our affections (left) contrasted with the biblical mandate (right).

Lisa Chan supplements this by reminding us (in the same vein as Dave Furman) that it is when we find our identity and fulfillment in Christ that we have all the love, joy, peace, patience, and kindness to pour into our spouses. He fills us up so much that we don’t need anyone else to meet our needs; rather we spend our lives blessing our spouse and investing this limitless grace into their life for their good, and God gets the glory.

In the middle of You and Me Forever the Chans work through their take on the famous marriage pericope found in Ephesians 5. Francis begins by addressing the husbands on what the aggressive, sacrificial pursuit of loving your wife “as Christ loved the church” looks like. Lisa then follows with a word to women on the importance of shifting the focus more towards wives who strive to possess the humility of Christ rather than over-thinking how our culture bristles against the biblical command of “submit to your own husband, as to the Lord”. In both instances there is no better way to model to the world the mutual love between Christ and church than through our sacrifice and submission, which is ultimately loving obedience to God.

The thread that runs through each paragraph and page of You and Me Forever begins in the book’s subtitle. God’s mission is bigger than your marriage; and once cast in the light of eternity, you and your spouse will come to see that – paradoxically – it is in pursuit of God’s Kingdom above all else that your marriage will flourish like never before.

The way to have a great marriage is by not focusing on marriage.

You and Me Forever is as good a book as I have ever read on marriage. It is sensitive and insightful, but also gospel-soaked and Christ-exalting. Francis and Lisa Chan write to exhort couples everywhere from their experience of life and marriage that seeks to love God and love each other while walking together in the obedience of faith. I commend it to everyone.

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The Ugliness of Knowledge without Conviction

Even today one of my greatest struggles is refusing to let my knowledge of God stand in the place of genuine faith in God. Sometimes I can barely tell a difference. Am I speaking from conviction or from a head full of knowledge? Am I acting rightly out of a sense of moral obligation and knowing it’s “the right thing to do” or out of a life that seeks to honor Christ? Am I speaking the truth out of love or out of a desire to impress? Motives are rarely clean and pure. It is difficult to delineate, especially since knowledge is part of faith. But the difference shows up in how I feel about my actions. If I find joy in honoring Christ when nobody notices, it is real. If I stand by what I said because I believe it to be true and right instead of waffling, offering caveats, or backing down, it is real. If I find joy in one person being blessed by what I say or write instead of needing acclaim, it is real. In the end, faith looks like Jesus and knowledge looks like something a whole lot hollower and uglier.
– Barnabas Piper “Help My Unbelief”

I read this passage from Barnabas Piper recently and it got me wondering if he was reading my thoughts. To be honest, I felt that throughout most of the book, but this particular part has stuck with me because it puts a finger on something and pushes hard. It asks why I do what I do, why I act how I act, why I write, and why I share things on Facebook? If there was a clear, consistent answer in my life then it would be easy to move on but I keep finding myself drawn back to it. Do I do what I do for the glory of God or for my own? Too often the answer is, to some degree, both.

To me it’s a constant reminder of my total depravity, not that everything I do is utterly depraved but that even in the good things that I do there is an element of sin; and if nothing else that keeps me humble. It reminds me that however righteous I’m feeling at any particular time, I’m in need of God’s mercy. In the words of Jimmy Needham, there’s vice in all my virtue.

So, how do we react to this issue?
Do we stay silent until we know that our motives are pure?

I’m encouraged by Philippians 1:15-18

Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.

Obviously we want to follow the model of Paul; preaching purely out of love for Christ and indeed that should be our goal. However too often we find ourselves sitting at least somewhere in the middle preaching for selfish ambition. Paul takes comfort in the fact that even from those people – people like us – Christ is proclaimed. At the same time, we shouldn’t content ourselves with our flawed nature but should always try to keep our motives pure, striving to live our lives in a manner pleasing to God to whom all honour is due.

 


This post comes from Ben Smith, who shares a deep conviction of Scripture as the infallible counsel of God, and that aided by the Holy Spirit we can arrive at a coherent understanding of what it teaches as a whole.

Wednesdays on the Web (08/02)

How to Create a Kingdom Culture in your Home

Talking to our family members happens naturally. Having spiritual content to those conversations doesn’t. God knew this and made it a command in Israel. We can talk about the weather all we want, but bring up something spiritual and you get…crickets. Kingdom culture requires kingdom conversations. Not only is it an opportunity to teach our children, but the conversation itself elevates the culture of the home toward the things of God.

The Father is Not the Son

The theology nerd in me loves conversations like this, and I’ve kept track (from a safe distance) of the ongoing debate that raged in the latter half of 2016 over the functional relationship of the members of the Trinity. Mostly it baffles me that we’re even having these conversations when we could just – y’know – believe what has always been believed from the bible. At the same time, I’m reminded of the importance of knowing and contending for the truth. This article prompts me to stay sharp.

Why Pastors Must Pray

I know there’s nothing particularly new in this post. I also acknowledge that I could (and should!) replace the title with “Why Christians Must Pray” without hesitation. Still, this is a great reminder, and each one is worth remembering, Pastor or not.

How to Respond to the Refugee Crisis

International Missions Board President David Platt outlines five biblical truths that are undeniably calling us to biblical account (not just America) when it comes to our posture towards those who live this crisis every day. This article might be long, but every single point is well worth reading and meditating on.

Much of our response to the refugee crisis seems to flow from a view of the world that is far more American than biblical, far more concerned with the preservation of our country than the accomplishment of the Great Commission.

The 4 Types of Ineffective Apologies

This author from the Harvard Business Review writes

Those who study apologizing for a living suggest that an effective apology has three key components: taking responsibility for your role in a situation or event, and expressing regret; asking forgiveness; and promising it won’t happen again (or that you’ll at least try to prevent it in the future).

I recently watched a TED talk from Guy Winch, a Psychologist who also writes for pschologytoday highlight the importance of administering Emotional First Aid. It’s worth 17 minutes of your time.

The Curious Christian

Barnabas Piper begins The Curious Christian: How Discovering Wonder Enriches Every Part of Life by highlighting the critical placement of the suffix “-ish”. Jesus bade people to come to him with faith that was childlike; the wonder and curiosity displayed when everything prompts a question, everything fascinates and excites, and we bubble over with a desire to know. Consider this contrasted with Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 13:11 regarding putting aside childish things. Paul is talking about thinking, speaking, and reasoning like a child. In The Curious Christian, Piper laments that the former has been lost to us as we seek “maturity”, and wonder no longer has a place in the version we see. But maturity doesn’t (read shouldn’t) mean growing out of those aspects of childhood that Jesus embraced. Rather, instead of smothering childlike questions and wonder to make room for responsibility and adulthood Piper urges us to see that real maturity holds information and imagination in equal measure and with equal value. Indeed

Curiosity produces a proactive life rather than a reactive life.
We go on the hunt to discover rather than letting the new and strange come to us, and that is where learning and growth happen.

Beginning with Adam and Eve we see plainly that God designed humanity to be curious and creative; but their curiosity went too far and they sought to have that which wasn’t theirs to possess. Now creation is broken, you and I are broken, and so is our curiosity. But wait… how can curiosity be one of the ways that we’re made in God’s image and likeness? God knows everything, sees everything, is everywhere. There’s nothing for him to be curious about, nothing for him to discover. Piper’s answer to this question is vocation. We reflect the glory of God in our faith seeking understanding; in order to proclaim God to the world we must get to know him, and to do that we must possess a desire to learn. Christians must be curious. Godly curiosity – deeply rooted in the truth and worldview of Scripture illuminated by the Holy Spirit – equips us with discernment to see the world as it is and reflect God more as we live in it.

Piper (accurately) likens us to real-life Hobbits; we enjoy our comfortable lives and shelter from the happenings of the outside world, though we’re fascinated with tales of the goings-on “out there”, as long as – for the most part – it stays out there. But then

A wizard, as it were, knocks on our door, or a pile of dwarves devours everything in our pantry and sings a tale of a dragon. We begin to realize that our shrunken life isn’t enough to make sense of their lives and stories. We’ve heard rumor of such people and such experiences, but they were much more palatable online or “out there” where they belong.

Then there are the negative side effects of what Piper calls “uncuriosity”; binary thinking (inability to see shades of gray in an issue), missed connections (forgetting that strangers have a story too) and depleted friendships (lack of curiosity keeps acquaintances but makes it hard to have deep friendships). Curiosity is the discipline we foster that takes risks; it moves beyond the surface level small-talk to share about hopes, beliefs, and deep fears. And while curiosity makes us vulnerable, the risks often lead to great rewards.

Imagine a church, family, or work environment that encouraged a culture of curiosity. People taking the time to ask questions, and desiring deeply to understand the answers; a place where “tension and infighting would diminish because people would be curious enough to learn what others really said and really meant instead of construing meaning and creating drama or conflict”. Christian community would be a place of rich, nourishing relationships with God and others as we seek together to understand scripture with consistent curiosity and provide counsel with curious care.

And so Piper explores the question. But infinitely more than that, he implores us to rekindle in ourselves the yearning to ask questions of our own. And keep asking. Keep discovering. And use that knowledge to connect people and cultures to God’s truth so they too can see God’s glory.

The Curious Christian: How Discovering Wonder Enriches Every Part of Life will be available on 1st March 2017.
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Betrayed by My Own Body

I’m a terrible runner. I’d like to think of myself as a runner, but the reality is that I’m inconsistent and the fruit of that is evident to every other true runner around me. Don’t get me wrong; like many others I come to the run with energy, enthusiasm, and a strong desire to do better than the time before. However without discipline to back up my determination the result will be much the same; willpower is not enough and I’m inevitably betrayed by my own body.

I reach that point in every run when my body begins to tell me that it’s not too happy with the current state of affairs; it would much rather not be moving so fast or working so hard, thanks very much. When this point is reached there is a next-level commitment required; my will fights against my body to keep going, even though it tempts me in ever-increasing volume in my head “Rest. Just a little bit“. I know that once I rest, my momentum is likely irrecoverable, and the run will be twice as hard. All too often and all too soon, my body wins. I know the solution, I tell myself about it every time I come to that stop. It’s my hope that through continued discipline I will reach this point later and later into each run, and eventually it may be silenced entirely.

There’s another battle I fight that bears striking resemblance to this struggle of body and will; my war against sin. When it comes to being a disciple of Jesus Christ, I know (and am still coming to know) how I am called to live in light of his saving grace towards me. I can find in my Bible a Christian worldview and ethic that is relevant for my circumstances today. However when tragedy strikes, when persecution or false accusation comes, when situations seem beyond control then temptation rears its ugly head and seeks to seize the opportunity for harm. Here’s the rub: sin isn’t something ethereal around me or something waiting to pounce from behind me, nor is it sitting on my shoulder waiting for the chance to whisper an evil suggestion in my ear. No, sin is inside me. It’s part of me. Sin is part of my fallen nature, and as such I participate in a constant struggle against my own body for the strength and determination to choose the good.

When it comes to walking in the path of obedience, this isn’t something I want to leave to chance. Like running, I need to train if I want to see significant positive improvement. I need to discipline my body by regularly subjecting it to the kind of activity I want it to be doing better – and coincidentally if I want to be holistic about it, this also means removing things that would hinder my progress – thus hopefully winning the body/will battle more often. When it comes to the obedience of faith, Jesus made it simple to understand when he said

“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life;
whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life,
but the wrath of God remains on him.”
(John 3:36)

By putting believes and obey in the same sentence, Jesus articulated clearly that loving him means obeying him, and obeying him requires knowing how he wants me to live. When it comes to the struggle of obedience over sin, I don’t win the battle nearly as much as I wish I did; but I know that the Bible contains everything I need and the Holy Spirit gives me the strength to walk in that obedience, if I put my trust in him. Finally, when it comes to removing things that would hinder progress, I keep Daniel 4:27 in my mind to combat the temptations that come my way every hour: “break off your sins by practicing righteousness”.

When I substitute sleeping in with running often enough, I beat my fastest times. When I substitute a sinful opportunity with a Godly activity, I break off that sin and become more like the disciple of Jesus Christ I’m called to be.

Whatever your struggle, trust God for your strength, then choose to run.

More to Follow

Sometimes loving others is hard. Our own sinfulness means that we’re naturally inclined to be selfish, and our fallen bodies and minds are prone to weariness. When we persevere with those who are harder to love we often find ourselves getting tired, losing patience, or sometimes simply walking away and assigning him or her to the ‘too hard’ basket.

The gospel of Jesus Christ is good news for us because it reminds us that it is because of God’s unconditional love for us that we can offer unconditional love for others. In his book Being There, Dave Furman writes

I read a story of an artist who once submitted a painting of Niagara Falls to an art show but forgot to give it a title. The gallery came up with its own title, “More to Follow”. Niagara Falls has been flooding the areas below for thousands of years with life-giving water. This is a beautiful picture of the grace of God – there is always more grace he is pouring out. God is a never-ending conduit of grace for his people.

Left to our own devices, we want nothing to do with God. Our minds don’t think about him, our hearts don’t desire him. We certainly don’t love him even though he is infinitely worthy of it. But the gospel isn’t about us or what we can do. The gospel is about the reality that while we didn’t love God he first loved us; and out of pure, infinite grace he acted in Jesus Christ to make the way for us to love him and be loved by him.

In 1 Timothy 1:14 Paul writes “and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” Paul understood that God is the fountainhead from which the water of life flows. Without God, efforts in our own strength can only go on for so long. We’re like a dry sponge that doesn’t have an ounce of hope to squeeze out for another. If we abide in Christ, we’re planted by a flowing stream from which we constantly draw life-giving nutrients, and we can minister that grace to those around us, because the water never stops flowing.

As Christians, we can draw strength to love others daily through remembering God’s gracious response to our own unloveliness. In difficult times when loving is hard and people seem unlovely, our response can be less than gracious. But the gospel shapes our reactions and enables us to get up every day and keep loving. Furman writes

The good news of God’s saving grace in the gospel never gets old. It is balm for our weary souls every day. Just like when I get home and my kids run and give me the same hugs they did the day before. And I see my wife, and I tell her that I love her. She knows I love her, but I still tell her again and again. It’s old news – she knows it – but it’s sweet to hear over again.

Never lose sight of what God has done for you in the gospel; his infinite grace conquered our infinite unloveliness, and there’s more to follow.

Wednesdays on the Web (01/02)

Recovering Godly Speech in an Age of Profanity

It no longer shocks us when vulgar language appears in movies, on stage, or in our workplaces. For the most part, we flippantly approve of it with statements like “well, that’s why it’s rated M”. But the bible has a very different response to this, and our attitude as Christians is to be increasingly countercultural.

Performing a “Time Audit” of Your Life

Time is the resource that governs all others. J. D. Greear provides this thought-provoking (even if you don’t actually DO it) perspective to help us all be more self-aware of where our time is actually going, and how the quality of everything else can be positively – or negatively – impacted by how we manage it.

Australia Day as a Christian

Australia’s history is messy. Ugly. This is true, as far as I know, of every human nation. We’re not unique in this; nor are we really unique in wanting to live in blissful ignorance, or comfortable denial, or to not be held responsible for the ugliness of our nation’s past. That this is true of all nations.

Whatever happens with the date, there’s a way that is better by far in terms of bringing real change.
The way of Jesus.

10 Ridiculously Simple Steps for Writing a Book

If you’re a budding author, or you feel you’ve got something worthwhile to contribute to your area of passion, these tips from Jeff Goins will give you a solid start,or if you’re already mid-way through, there are ten bonus tips for staying motivated.

The Trump Inauguration Gigapixel

It’s been a while since I’ve seen one of these remarkable high resolution photos, but they’re just incredible. Oh, and it can be fun to check out the faces of folks in the crowd, too.

Food on Wooden Board Same As Food On Plate

Working in the heart of my city, this made me laugh.

“While the food we tested on wooden boards was generally more difficult to eat and about 30-40% more expensive, we found no difference in the food itself.”