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Month: August 2017

The Great Book Giveaway

Our home library is a carefully tended collection of kids books, fiction, biographies, history, and Christian books of all kinds that I’ve accumulated over my years at Bible College. I love that our kids love to read, and I’m looking forward to sharing the journey with them as they read through our library in the coming years. Personally, I know that my relationship with God is richer thanks to many authors who have teased out how to practically apply the teaching of the Bible for myself and my family. I’m grateful for the resources that help me understand hard doctrines or difficult parts of scripture. Recently however, I’ve come to realise that there’s also a hidden risk of pride, greed, or worse that could take root as a result of our ever-growing library, and there’s a number of reasons why I’ve decided that there’s value in taking steps to ensure books remain the slave and not the master.

We Have Limited Space

I love books. Books that have to be posted, arrive in the mail, and be held, smelled, and flipped through… books that take up space. Don’t get me wrong, I’m increasingly investing in e-books these days; but my love for the physical remains undiminished. Although, having purchased yet another bookshelf for our home recently (and with the threat of moving house looming on the horizon) I’m becoming more reticent when it comes to choosing print over pixels. The truth is I really don’t need hundreds of books, and quantity doesn’t always equal quality.

Books are Made to be Read

A book that sits on my shelf after being read once or twice isn’t doing anyone any good. Sure there are reference books that hold ongoing value for research, sermon prep, that kind of thing. But on the whole, I tend to read a book once (I’m a big fan of reading highlighter-in-hand, I read every footnote and appendix, and sometimes I write a review), then I shelve it. I’m not precious about my library though; I love being able to loan books to people when I know it would speak into their situation with more eloquence than I could (which is always). For the most part however, my books are enjoyed once or twice by me, then sit on the shelf.

My Library Changes with Me

Just like I no longer read The Very Hungry Caterpillar (at least, not by myself), there are plenty of books on my shelf that I read five years ago that I simply wouldn’t pick up again. That’s not to say they’re not great, but there are numerous reasons why I won’t return to them; I was interested in a particular subject that has now been replaced by a new interest, changes to lifestyle (i.e. becoming a parent) has shifted my focus, or as I’ve (hopefully) grown spiritually I’m simply seeking books that are addressing things from a different perspective. But even though I may have changed, somewhere there is a person for whom these books will be the perfect fit.

The Risk of Idolatry

What I’ve come to realise lately is that there’s a degree of selfishness – even greed – in holding on to these books that could be detrimental if left unchecked. It’s not sinful to give away books, but it may be sinful to hold on to them. Along similar lines, if I’m sharing with people what this or that author says on a certain topic rather than drawing on what the Bible has to say then I’m at risk of giving books too much worth. The reality is that these bits of paper can’t come with me to heaven, and when I’m more interested in having an impressive stack of bedside reading than I am in picking up my Bible, that’s idolatry. And that’s a problem.

Where to From Here?

So how do I keep my love of books in check? I’ve decided to adopt an ‘Add-a-Book, Remove-a-Book’ policy. My library is now at the point where everything I have is high-quality, so I can confidently give away a book that I know will benefit someone else every time a new book is added to my shelf.

How Do You Get Involved?

If you’d like to participate in this ongoing promotion, all you need to do is hit the button below and subscribe to the blog; then each time I purchase a new book, I’ll choose a name from the list of subscribers, and get in touch with you via email to let you know what titles are up for grabs.

Just subscribe to chrismacleavy.com below and be eligible for free books!

Wednesdays on the Web (16/08)

A Christian Response to Charlottseville

This week, I realised that as a white Australian, I don’t have all the categories in which to process the events that took place in Charlottesville recently. My mind boggles and my emotions reel at the horrific scene and the disturbing attitudes that are still very much alive in parts of American culture. There have been any number of responses to this painful experience, including Righteously Angry, Graciously Hopeful by J. D. Greear; The Five Crowds of Charlottesville by The Cripplegate; A Time for Moral Clarity by Denny Burk; and The Gospel Coalition’s What Now in Charlottesville?

The Meaning of Marriage

David McGregor, Senior Lecturer in Theology at Tabor Adelaide offers his thoughts on Tim & Kathy Keller’s book. I love the way McGregor writes, and if you’re unsure whether you should read the Keller’s book, McGregor can show you why.

Both single and married people need to realize that, as wonderful as marriage is, it only works best if it is not held up as the ultimate in and of itself – the “Real Marriage that our souls need and the Real Family that our hearts were made for” can only be found in the love that God has for us, and our true brothers and sisters in the Christian community who share our ultimate hopes.

Be Who You Are: Teaching Kids about Gender

The second biggest topic to break my newsfeed this week was a tie between SSM and gender dysphoria. Here are some thoughtful insights about the latter.

Why We Struggle to Pray in the Digital Age

None of these are ground-breaking discoveries or insights into our technology-addicted no-attention-span society. But Scott Slayton also offers some challenging remedies which are sure to shake things up in your schedule.

Like I said, the fact that Christians do trust God in the midst of their suffering should be intriguing to atheists. What do Christians see in God that makes knowing Him worth any amount of suffering they experience? Christian, every time you trust God in your suffering, you’re making an argument for the value of God, and everyone can see it.

 

Love, Enjoy, Resist the World

When it comes to Scripture’s use of world, it’s easy to misinterpret the term in one verse or another. The Christian who doesn’t carefully consider context can find themselves living with too much legalism or too much liberty. In his book The Disciple-Making Parent, Chap Bettis reminds us that God loves every person in the world, and as followers of Jesus He calls us to do likewise. Further, God made the world that we live in and He declared it good. He made the natural wonders of the Great Barrier Reef and the Grand Canyon, and he gifted us with every good thing the world contains for our enjoyment. But at the same time, Christians are clearly called to leave the world behind and wholeheartedly follow Jesus.

Love, Enjoy, Resist

The disciple-making parent teaches their children to love the world and enjoy the world, while simultaneously resisting the world. But what does that look like?

Love the World

When it comes to the New Testament authors’ positive use of world as the object of our loving, it should be clear that these passages aren’t referring to the broken, sinful, spiritually corrupted system that is opposed to God. Rather, this should bring to our minds those people for whom Jesus died. The New Testament presents a coherent message that as Christians we are to love our neighbour (read: everyone) and Jesus told his followers that second only to loving God, we should love our neighbour as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:39).

Enjoy the World

Because God made all things good, a Christian can – and should – find pleasure in music, books, sports, movies, and food to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). Jesus’ call to discipleship doesn’t mean we have to leave behind us the enjoyment of a sport or the exhilaration of a symphony; as disciple-making parents, we should point our children to the Creator through the enjoyment of his good gifts.

Resist the World

At the same time, Scripture teaches us that as Christians, we are not to be conformed to the pattern of the world (Romans 12) and John tells us “do not love the world” (1 John 2:15). In his book The Pursuit of God, A. W. Tozer writes:

A whole new generation of Christians has come up believing it is possible to accept Christ without forsaking the world.

This is the negative use of world that refers to those things which would seek to overthrow God as the primary object of our affections. Again, this doesn’t mean that being a Christian means we’re anti-fun or anti-possessions. My household loves all things Marvel; our bookshelves contain the latest comics, our kids wear Avengers pyjamas or sleep under Iron-Man sheets, and we never leave the cinema before watching the very last post-credit scene. However, if we’re talking about Marvel more than we’re talking about Jesus then we’ve got an idol, and we have a problem. Disciple-making parents need to talk about Jesus and his kingdom more than we talk about bands, movies, clothes, food, or things.

Why It Matters

When our children are young, they are forming their values, beliefs, and the way they look at the world. Christians parents are charged with helping these young disciples to navigate the waters of loving the world and enjoying the world, while resisting the world all at the same time. God wants us to enjoy his good gifts while remembering that our greatest pleasure is found in God Himself. One way to achieve this is by allowing Christ’s kingdom to graciously invade our conversations; that in our joys, encouragements, corrections, and conversations our children would see Christ as our treasure and goal. As disciple-making parents, we want to instill in our children an ability to delight in knowing Jesus Christ in, through, and before all other things.

Councils & Creeds: The Athanasian Creed

We’re in a series of articles exploring the councils and creeds of the Christian church. Why? Because when it comes to faithfully and diligently working out our salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12) we miss a great deal when we simply try to construct our own “real Christianity” with nothing more than a bible. To take heed from those who have gone before us is to benefit from the wealth found in the most important theological declarations of the Christian tradition.

Today we continue the series with a look at the Athanasian Creed.

Background

The Athanasian Creed is refreshingly straightforward in its presentation of the Trinity, in particular. By 1090 AD the great theologian Anselm held the Athanasian Creed as part of the Tria Symbola; the three great Creeds of the Christian Faith (The Apostles’, The Nicene, and The Athanasian Creeds). According to Martin Luther, the Athanasian Creed was “the most important and glorious composition since the days of the apostles.” John Calvin also counted it among the three great creeds.

The Creed

The Creed consists of 42 articles (I’ve removed the numbers to aid in reading) and can be divided into three sections: [1] the Trinity, [2] the Two Natures of Christ (as defined and defended at Chalcedon), and [3] the condemnations or “anathemas” defining the boundaries outside which is no longer orthodox faith.

It reads:

Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith; which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly. And the catholic faith is this: that we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; neither confounding the persons nor dividing the substance.

For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Spirit. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit is all one; the glory equal, the majesty coeternal. Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Spirit. The Father uncreated, the Son uncreated, and the Holy Spirit uncreated. The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Spirit incomprehensible. The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Spirit eternal. And yet they are not three eternals but one eternal.

As also there are not three uncreated nor three incomprehensible, but one uncreated and one incomprehensible. So likewise the Father is almighty, the Son almighty, and the Holy Spirit almighty. And yet they are not three almighties, but one almighty. So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God; and yet they are not three Gods, but one God. So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Spirit Lord; and yet they are not three Lords but one Lord.

For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity to acknowledge every Person by himself to be God and Lord; so are we forbidden by the catholic religion to say; there are three Gods or three Lords. The Father is made of none, neither created nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone; not made nor created, but begotten. The Holy Spirit is of the Father and of the Son; neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding. So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Spirit, not three Holy Spirits.

And in this Trinity none is before or after another; none is greater or less than another. But the whole three Persons are coeternal, and coequal. So that in all things, as aforesaid, the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshipped. He therefore that will be saved must thus think of the Trinity. Furthermore it is necessary to everlasting salvation; that he also believe rightly the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. For the right faith is that we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and man. God of the substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds; and man of substance of His mother, born in the world. Perfect God and perfect man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting. Equal to the Father as touching His Godhead, and inferior to the Father as touching His manhood. Who, although He is God and man, yet He is not two, but one Christ. One, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh, but by taking of that manhood into God. One altogether, not by confusion of substance, but by unity of person. For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man, so God and man is one Christ.

Who suffered for our salvation, descended into hell, rose again the third day from the dead; He ascended into heaven, He sits on the right hand of the Father, God, Almighty; from whence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead. At whose coming all men shall rise again with their bodies; and shall give account of their own works.
And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting and they that have done evil into everlasting fire. This is the catholic faith, which except a man believe faithfully he cannot be saved.

Why it Matters

Christian faith is not merely a matter of the heart. As thinking creatures, we will be held accountable for giving intellectual expression to our belief. Creeds like this serve as a healthy check that we’re believing what Christians have always believed about God, Christ, The Trinity, eternal life, and other fundamentals of the faith. But for all of the theological statements, there is a wonderful richness and joy found in right-thinking about the God we love and serve. As revealed in Scripture (and articulated by the Creeds), the Father sends the Son; the Son reveals the Father; and the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and Son to comfort, teach, and guide in the truth. How much richer is our Christianity, our prayer life, our love for God, ourselves, and for our neighbour when we seek to better know and understand each member of the Trinity rather than merely “love God”. The Athanasian Creed helps us see each Person of the Godhead, gives us insight into their mutual loving relationship, and helps us to realise that salvation is actually an invitation by this God for us to enter into the eternal joy that is the Trinitarian life.

More articles in Councils & Creeds:

Wednesdays on the Web (09/08)

I Don’t Understand Christians Watching Game of Thrones

I don’t expect those who are strangers to the light to be bothered by the darkness. But for conservative Christians who care about marriage and immorality and decency in so many other areas, it is baffling that Game of Thrones gets a free pass.

The Gospel is the Entire Meal

Often and in various ways, well-meaning Christians may try to supplement the gospel with more “meaty” teaching; as if the gospel were a side-dish, or at best the appetizer designed to whet your appetite for the rest of the meal. But the gospel is a great and glorious meal, and the only one we’ll ever need.

On “Orthodox Christianity”

This post from James K. A. Smith encourages Christians to be more astute when it comes to employing terms like orthodox. It’s longer, but well worth the read. There’s also a very interesting follow-up article titled “Orthodoxy, Sexuality, and the Local Church” which provides some poignant food for thought.

How to Tell Your Friend the Hard Truth

Remember the gospel. Remember your need for grace.

5 Things to Know about the Transgender Debate

There’s an enormous difference between the political aspects of the culture war surrounding transgenderism and the reality that there are precious persons who have genuine struggles with gender dysphoria — a condition where a person senses that their gender identity (how they feel about being male or female) may not align with their biological sex and experiences emotional distress as a result.

Christians cannot avoid the transgender debate. In his new book Andrew Walker from the ERLC helps Christians to understand a more biblical posture towards an issue that requires equal amounts of conviction and compassion,

The Simple yet Costly Call

A few years ago, I took a week-long prayer retreat on a small island off the coast of Queensland. It was a time of crisis in my life, and I needed time to process, pray, and pursue God’s will for my present, but also my future. The afternoon that I arrived on the island, I took the sage advice of my pastor; I dropped my bags inside the door, and went straight to sleep. This might not have felt like a particularly appropriate or highly spiritual way to begin a prayer retreat, but actually it was both. Trying to seek God when I was emotionally exhausted and mentally spent would have been unfruitful; likewise – as my pastor encouraged me – taking time to rest was actually one way in which I was living out my being made in the image of God, and uninterrupted sleep was the best spiritual act I could have started my time with.

I’ve never really been one to pray in a way that expects God to speak to me in an audible voice; I know that God’s primary means of revelation has always been through the Word (both in Jesus, and in the written words of Scripture). Sitting on the beach with nothing but my bible, paper, and pen, I made plans to seek God by prayerfully reading through the gospels, writing as I went. I began at Matthew 1:1, and asked the Holy Spirit to comfort my grieving soul, speak to my troubled mind, and show me himself and his will for me through these accounts of the person and work of Jesus. You probably won’t be surprised when I tell you that God showed up. You’ll probably be equally unsurprised when I tell you that it wasn’t in the way I expected, nor was it with the answers I think I was subconsciously hoping for.

As I reached the end of the gospel of John, I was struck by Jesus’ call to Peter that bracketed the life of this disciple. Beginning in Matthew 4:19, Jesus sees Peter fishing and calls to him “follow me”. Then in John 21:19 after Jesus’ death and resurrection, Jesus once again finds Peter back in his boat and repeats the call to him “follow me”. In between these two calls is the life shared between Jesus and Peter, with Peter experiencing both the wonder of being close to Jesus and the overwhelming guilt of betrayal as he denies Jesus exactly as prophesied.

In the turmoil of my own life, I suddenly realised how true this was of me. I had accepted the call to follow Jesus, to sit under the tutelage of the Holy Spirit and the instruction of the Bible, and yet in a time of extreme hardship I had taken my eyes off Jesus and returned to the familiar comforts of sitting in my boat. For me, that meant expecting to find the answers within my own head knowledge, thinly veiled in acts of personal piety that I knew were the right activities to engage in. There on that beach, Jesus repeated his profoundly simple yet costly call to me, revealing these idols that I had made in trying to get it together on my own, and calling me back out of the boat.

It suddenly became clear that Jesus’ call to me contained everything I had been seeking in limitless measure; comfort, wisdom, and direction. All I needed to do was drop my nets and follow.

Councils & Creeds: Chalcedon

We’re in a series of articles exploring the councils and creeds of the Christian church. Why? Because when it comes to faithfully and diligently working out our salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12) we miss a great deal when we simply try to construct our own “real Christianity” with nothing more than a bible. To take heed from those who have gone before us is to benefit from the wealth found in the most important theological declarations of the Christian tradition.

Today we continue the series with a look at the council of Chalcedon.

Background

Back at the First Council of Ephesus, Christians sought to better articulate the position stated by the Nicene Creed regarding the relationship between the man Jesus Christ and the eternal Son of God. However, thanks to men like Nestorious the waters remained muddied, and the definition remained vulnerable to misinterpretation. In 451 the council of Chalcedon – the fourth ecumenical council of the church – came together to finally settle the questions surrounding how to rightly think about the two natures of Christ.

The Controversy

After Nestorius, a man named Eutyches (staunchly anti-Nestorian) posited a view called Monophysitism (physis being the Greek word for nature) which held that while there were two natures before the union of the incarnation, after the incarnation there was only one. This meant that rather than a union, the divine nature and the human nature mixed together to form a new “third nature”, categorically neither divine nor human.

The Result

Over five hundred bishops, including representation from Pope Leo himself (who had written his comprehensive “Tome” on Christology), came together to draft the most significant Christological statement the church had ever seen. The first draft presented to the council generally pleased everyone, except for the language used to define the two natures of Christ. Changed were made inspired from Leo’s Tome which read “two natures are united without change, and without division, and without confusion in Christ.”

The resulting statement of faith pays respect to previous ecumenical councils and tradition, and presents orthodox Christology which is neither the Nestorian heresy (two persons in Christ) or Eutychean heresy (one nature in Christ). It reads:

Therefore, following the holy Fathers, we all with one accord teach men to acknowledge one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, at once complete in Godhead and complete in manhood, truly God and truly man, consisting also of a reasonable soul and body; of one substance [homoousios] with the Father as regards his Godhead, and at the same time of one substance with us as regards his manhood; like us in all respects, apart from sin; as regards his Godhead, begotten of the Father before all ages, but yet as regards his manhood begotten, for us men and for our salvation, of Mary the Virgin, the God-bearer; One and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, recognised in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation; the distinction of natures being in no way annulled by the union, but rather the characteristics of each nature being preserved and coming together to form one person and subsistence [hypostasis], not as parted or separated into two persons, but one and the same Son and Only-begotten God the Word, Lord Jesus Christ; even as the prophets from earliest times spoke of him, and our Lord Jesus Christ himself taught us, and the creed of the Fathers has handed down to us.

Why it Matters

The definition of Chalcedon defined the incarnation event as the true descending of the Second Person of the Trinity, while denying that a man was converted into God or that God was converted into a man. There was no mixing or confusion of the human and the divine; the two remained distinct in the one person. In the end, Chalcedon did not seek to define how the union took place, but it set the limit beyond which error lies. If you go outside of the Christological boundaries set by Chalcedon about the person of Jesus Christ, you’re talking about a different person. Chalcedon is also comforting, because when we think on this Christ, we’re reminded of a God who fully relates to our humanness, and yet is also the Holy, awesome Creator and Judge of the earth.

Finally, without seeing Christ through the lens of Chalcedon, one finds it difficult to see how salvation was accomplished. In the God-man Jesus Christ, we see God’s promise of reconciliation extended to us on one side, and the fulfilment of that covenant by humanity on the other side. It is only in Jesus as fully man and fully God that the price for sin could be paid and our salvation secured.

More articles in Councils & Creeds:

Wednesdays on the Web (02/08)

Making the Most of Working from Home

I’ve used Evernote for many years and consider myself a power-user, but one feature I’ve under-utilised is their blog. This post has a great deal of wisdom when it comes to successfully being able to manage your work/life balance, while also dispelling some common productivity myths.

Are You a Healthy Church Member?

A healthy church member is someone that, in one sense, shares all the sensibilities of a good pastor. They’re going to have a concern for the spiritual growth of others, they’re going to have a concern for the right teaching of God’s Word, and they will have a concern for the church’s witness to the community, for reaching their neighbors and friends. They’ll do that as people who have a high view of what it means to be a member of a church.

Read a Biography this Summer

I’ve always embraced the idea of taking rest seriously. I’m a firm believer that when we rest, we’re actually being like God.

Five Necessities of Soul Care

This month I’m reading Don Whitney’s book on Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life. Dave Higl from the Wesleyan Church puts his finger on five wonderful disciplines to counteract our modern mindsets of multitasking, and take time to put ourselves in a position where God can work in us for our good and his glory.

Christian Discipleship’s Most Important Ingredient

If you’re an imperfect follower of Christ like me, you’ll be grateful for Jared C. Wilson’s focus (and encouragement) in this new book.

Reflections on the 50th Anniversary of My Diving Accident

Joni Eareckson Tada reflects on 50 years of trusting God through chronic pain and quadriplegia. Joni continually teaches me more about the depth of grace and dependence on God in a way that I’ve never experienced, but long to live in.

The Enemy We Need

Russ Ramsey calls suffering “the enemy we need”. He writes

The day will come when sorrow and death will be no more. Until that day, we will struggle with the limits of living in this broken world. And we will suffer. But our Lord uses our suffering to produce endurance, which produces character, which produces a hope that will not disappoint.

And part of this character is produced when God uses our seasons of affliction to dredge the floor of the heart to bring to the surface pride, which we would never confront and may not even see if we did not suffer.

This is his merciful continuing work in me.

Bad Joke Telling

What I[‘m] Read[ing] in July

July turned out to be a whirlwind month filled with all sorts of unexpected curveballs and unseen circumstances. As a result, I didn’t get through the books I had set for myself for this month, and so this edition of What I Read gets renamed “What I’m Reading”, because I’m mid-way through everything.

The Disciple-Making Parent

This could be the best book I’ve read on parenting so far. There are plenty of books that teach about parenting as connecting with the heart of your child, taking expected and unexpected moments to disciple your children, and infusing the gospel into your conversations as well as your corrections. But the value that The Disciple-Making Parent brings has been the importance of highlighting that discipleship begins with you as a person before it’s about you as a parent… and then brings in all the other things as well. This is where I’ve spent most of my July; and if you’re a parent, you won’t go wrong investing your money in this book.

Emotionally Healthy Spirituality

Pete Scazzero’s book was recommended to me by my Christian Spirituality lecturer to help me become more emotionally intelligent, because I still have much – actually everything – to learn about EI. I’m finding that I relate to much of Scazzero’s book already (I’m about 1/3 of the way through) and can see how this is already helping me to become more and more open to how God works through our emotions. God is present to us in many ways, and that includes not only transcendentally (i.e. external, look outside of yourself etc.), but also immanently. A fascinating read.

The Flash

I’ve been able to catch up on a number of single issues of The Flash lately (much to my brain’s relief) and am really enjoying the direction that DC’s Rebirth is going, particularly with Barry Allen. It’s been nice to see the return of villains like Mirror Master, Captain Cold (probably my personal favourite), and even see Iris West (but no spoilers).

The Chestnut King (100 Cupboard, book #3)

I’ve been really fortunate to be introduced to some high quality fiction this last 12 months. Robbin Hobb leads the way for me, but N.D. Wilson’s 100 Cupboards trilogy has been a blast, and I’m looking forward to reading it with my boys one day. The Chestnut King finishes off the trilogy, and I can’t wait to see how it ends.