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Month: September 2017

What I Read in September

September seemed to be a hot-button issue month. There was less quantity, but significantly more quality with my reading prompting discussions and exploration of people, their stories, and how they relate to what these authors had to say. Everywhere I went these books provoked thought, and I learned a lot. Here’s a brief overview of what sat on my nightstand this month.

God and the Transgender Debate

In this 2017 book Andrew Walker has crafted a compassionate guidebook for a complex condition. Stripping away unhelpful arguments from both sides Walker delivers the truth in love, and in a way which is profoundly helpful to both those who are struggling with gender dysphoria, and those who would seek to walk alongside them.  Read my full review.

 

Between the World and Me

Every page I turned in Coates’ book served to profoundly widen the gap between his world (as a black male in America) and mine. The story of race in America is one written on flesh, and this book is laid out as a letter of warning and pedagogy to his teenage son. He writes:

I have seen [The American Dream] all my life. And for so long I have wanted to escape into that Dream, to fold my country over my head like a blanket. But this has never been an option because the Dream rests on our backs, the bedding made from our bodies.

Amazing, emotional, and beautifully written.

Enjoying God

R. C. Sproul’s latest work is a soaring, worship-inspiring piece that encourages the heart while engaging the intellect. His exploration of the attributes that are unique to God puts into proper perspective how majestic and mighty the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit truly are—all the while remaining practical and pertinent to the every day life. I thoroughly appreciate Sproul’s ability to cause my heart to sing while satisfy the “so what?” question asked by my own curiosity. Read my full review.

The Flash Volume 3: Rogues Reloaded

If you’re enjoying watching The Flash from CW (season 3 begins early Oct 2017) then you’ll love this comic book counterpart. I’ve loved the extra character development (particularly of villains like Captain Cold, Mirror Master, and even Suicide Squad member Captain Boomerang) and a slightly different story arc with the same tensions between Barry’s relationships and those of his super identity. The DC Universe Rebirth hasn’t been wholly stellar, but The Flash continues to be my favourite.

What have you been reading?


See what else I read in 2017:

Enjoying God:
Finding Hope in the Attributes of God

R. C. Sproul’s latest work is a soaring, worship-inspiring piece that encourages the heart while engaging the intellect. His exploration of the attributes that are unique to God puts into proper perspective how majestic and mighty the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit truly are—all the while remaining practical and pertinent to the every day life. I thoroughly appreciate Sproul’s ability to cause my heart to sing while satisfying the “so what?” question asked by my own curiosity.

Along similar lines to the wonderful None Like Him by Jen Wilkin, Enjoying God dedicates a chapter to each of God’s incommunicable attributes (those that can be attributed to God alone), exploring the implications of how the Christian life should be lived in light of it. Chapters include God’s omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence, truth, immutability, justice, and love to name a few. My favourite chapter is Sproul’s unpacking of omniscience. I found it both comforting and challenging to consider that God knows everything about everything, and he learned none of it because it was all made by him. Of course, the extension of this notion is that none of us should forget that God also knows every thought and deed, and nothing is hidden from the Judge of all the earth.

While written with the layman in mind, Sproul tends to climb quite high in order to get a view of the whole landscape, occasionally creeping into more philosophical or scientific discussions, and so this book won’t be for everyone. At the same time, Enjoying God is a wonderful resource that encourages every Christian to plumb the deep waters of the beauty of our great God who knows us and has made himself known. Enjoying God will cause you to see that the more we know God, the more we understand how worthy he is of our worship, and our lives as well.

buy the book from The Book Depository, free delivery

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Baker Books Bloggers for review.

Wednesdays on the Web (27/09)

Christians, Horror, and IT

I’m not persuaded that you can be a Christian, and still find entertainment in work that is designed to glorify evil or lead people astray. Work like this is never good, no matter the craftsmanship. Tony Reinke writes

And I see this conviction as part of the answer to the most beautiful question in the Bible: “Who has eyes that will behold the king in his beauty?” (Isaiah 33:17). Answer: He “who stops his ears from hearing of bloodshed and shuts his eyes from looking on evil” (Isaiah 33:15). The beauty of God is for those who do not feed their sensory curiosities with violence and wickedness. On this basis I believe entertainment-by-gore is forbidden in Scripture, even at the level of what gets communicated to my senses as entirely fictional media.

Not all Christians hold to this position, and this article poses some interesting points about how God might use this darker genre.

Correct Ways to Correct

Addressing sin in the church is part of the function of the body of Christ we’re saved into and called to actively submit to and participate in. Christians should be characterised by their desire to become more like Christ, and a big part of this is the humility that is our necessary response to loving correction. Here’s a punchy little post about the need for correction, the goal of correction, and the (right) method for correction in the church.

5 Ways to Murder Your Marriage

This article uses irony in order to demonstrate ways that a person can destroy their marriage. These examples aren’t as rare or nuanced as you might hope.

Worship Is My Life, Not My Role

Bob Kauflin continues to encourage, convict, and spur me on to worship as a “living sacrifice”, not simply the 20-30 minutes I give God in song on a Sunday morning. He writes

Leading worship starts and ends with the way I live my life, not what I do on a public platform.

What does that look like?

Loving God More by Taking Better Care of Your Body

There’s always the risk of discussions like these being taken to far, but the benefits outlined here are obvious, and most of us recognise that we take better care of others when we also take time to care for ourselves.

 

The Councils of Carthage & Orange

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 Carthage and the council of Orange.

Background

Having now firmly established a solid theology on the Trinity, the person and nature of Christ, and the Person of the Holy Spirit, the church now turns to develop a ‘theological anthropology’ a clear articulation of the nature and sinful state of humankind, and their relationship to God. It was during this time that questions arose around the degree of human responsibility and the extent of God’s sovereignty, especially in light of Adam’s fall, and God’s gracious act through Christ. In the debates at Carthage and Orange, theologians debated human responsibility for sin, and the implications drawn vis-à-vis that responsibility from the reality that we live in a fallen world.

Pelagius & Augustine

Pelagius was a British monk who was deeply devoted to living a moral life. He developed a doctrine of sin and salvation that hinged on good works and good morals. According to Pelagius, sin wasn’t inherently part of human nature but rather comes from bad decisions and habits willingly formed. He was concerned that if Christians held to the doctrine of original sin it would give them an excuse to be defeatist or apathetic towards their own sins. Augustine (a North African Bishop) firmly believed in original sin. Further, he believed that it was by grace alone that a person was freed from the grip of sin, bestowing the ability to resist sin and love God.

The Councils

The eight canons that were passed at Carthage (418 A.D.) expressed significant support for Augustine. They recognised that a sinless life was impossible and that God’s grace – freely given and not earned – was the means by which a person was changed from the inside in order to “know what to seek, what we ought to avoid, and also that we should love to do so.” However, as council was not ecumenical it wasn’t universally accepted, and so a second council was convened at Orange a century later (529 A.D.) to revisit what was passed. After much debate, this council decided once more in support of Augustine; with 25 canons passed, many of which used Augustine’s language word for word.

Why it Matters

Even today Pelagianism (and semi-Pelagian) teachings creep into churches, leading young believers astray. We would like to believe that we have the power to choose good for ourselves, but the rulings of the council (and the words of Augustine) remind us that even if we were empowered with the free will to choose God on our own, due to our sinful nature we never would. The wonder of salvation for Augustine was that God loved him when he was deep (and inescapably) in sin. Rather than waiting for Augustine to exercise his own free will and choose to clean up his moral act, God broke in with scandalous disregard for what kind of person he was. Today we love and serve a God who loved us and saved us by giving his son for us, apart from anything we could or would have done.

but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8, ESV)

More articles in Councils & Creeds:

God and the Transgender Debate

When someone experiences a dissonance between their biological sex and the gender they feel they identify with, this can cause deep distress, inner anguish, and no small amount of conflict from without and within. It is a genuine – often unchosen – experience which needs to be met with love and unwavering support; these are real people. In his 2017 book God and the Transgender Debate: What Does the Bible Actually Say About Gender Identity? Andrew Walker has crafted a compassionate guidebook for a complex condition. Stripping away unhelpful arguments from both sides Walker delivers the truth in love, and in a way which is profoundly helpful to both those who are struggling with gender dysphoria, and those who would seek to walk alongside them.

Beginning with a quick history of how we got where we find ourselves today (thanks to events like the Sexual Revolution, and relativism), Walker moves quickly to lay out a helpful definition of terms (sex, gender, gender identity, gender dysphoria, transgender) highlighting that they’re not the same thing, and that someone struggling with one of these things is not necessarily struggling with one or more of the others. Chapter 5 provides the foundation for any discussion around these terms; it’s God’s sovereignty, his design for humankind as their Creator, and therefore his right to speak (and the words of Jesus) that are the ultimate issue behind the issue. Regarding the fact that gender dysphoria is not sinful, he writes:

It is vital to pause here to make a very clear distinction between experiencing a feeling and acting on a feeling. Come back to Eve in Eden at the start of Genesis 3. Eve was not sinning when Satan spoke to her to tempt her, when she saw the fruit’s beauty, or when she felt it was to be desired. She sinned when she went beyond observing the fruit’s beauty, followed her reason and feelings in opposition to God’s word, and took and ate it.

Walker also unravels the “I was born this way” argument through highlighting that we are all born with broken bodies affected by the fall, with all sorts of tendencies that do not lead to our ultimate joy and wholeness. The way I was born needs constant evaluation against scripture to determine if this propensity or that should be pursued or rejected, for my good. When it comes to modern medicine  – hormone replacement therapy and body-modifying surgeries – the reality is that we can grasp at being men instead of women, but God does not allow it. We are unable to do it and though we can try to change our form, we cannot change our genetic formatting. In truth, Walker says, there is no such thing as transgender. But support for this position is by no means limited to the Christian-worldview. Paul McHugh is one of the most esteemed psychiatrists alive today. He serves as the University Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Medical School, and is the former Psychiatrist-in-chief at their Hospital. He states:

In fact, gender dysphoria – the official psychiatric term for feeling oneself to be of the opposite sex – belongs in the family of similarly disordered assumptions about the body, such as anorexia nervosa and body dysmorphic disorder. Its treatment should not be directed at the body as with surgery and hormones any more than one treats obesity-fearing anorexic patients with liposuction. The treatment should strive to correct the false, problematic nature of the assumption and to resolve the psychological conflicts provoking it.

God and the Transgender Debate would not be complete if it merely defined the terms, stated the issues, and didn’t provide the answers. And so, in the back 7 chapters of his book Walker tackles the tough questions, provides pages of real-world examples of conversations he (as a parent) would have with children of different ages, and discusses at length how the church should best seek to equip itself to compassionately engage with sons, daughters, and friends who experience various sexuality-related struggles in loving community. I’m glad he highlights the blacks and the whites, but I’m more grateful that he explores the grays; every person is different, and there are no easy paths. Love requires listening, and transformation requires truth. While Walker’s words are not intended to be the final word on any of the many critical questions he seeks to provide answers to, they are profoundly helpful, practical, and offer invaluable insight into this complex and challenging debate.

Buy This Book from Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

Wednesdays on the Web (20/09)

Please Read Me Your Email

This is a terrific strategy when it comes to electronic communication, and not just when you’re a Pastor or in a position of leadership. I can see key situations being handled much better (by either the sender, or the receiver, or both) if a system like this was put in place.

Artists’ Spiritual Insights

I think that every bible college lecturer I learned from saw the value that artists throughout history have contributed through their craft to helping convey the beauty and significance of biblical truth. Take the time to pause in front of these examples and see for yourself.

Setting the Tone in Your Home

I will never forget the day that little five year old Sawyer looked up at me and said, “Mama, you’re always mad.” It was a wake up call like no other. The truth is that I hadn’t realized how irritable I had become in that phase of life. But, when he said it, scenes flashed through my mind, revealing the hard truth that I had become increasingly unreasonable in my interactions with my family. I was turning every small inconvenience into a huge show of annoyance, and even though I didn’t necessarily feel angry and upset all the time, as far as my family was concerned, I was behaving like I was.

5 Christian Comedians Who Are Crushing It

These clips will brighten your day.

What Is Biblical Meditation?

It’s funny how this conversation comes up at least once a year for me. Christianity has such a rich heritage of spiritual practices, and yet we still tend to muddy the waters which leads to well-meaning Christians seeking answers in the wrong places. This article helps by discussing what Christian meditation is, and what it is not.

So Many Different Bible Translations

Bill Mounce offers this helpful introduction to why there are different Bible translations, and why they can be trusted.

Engaging Diversity for God’s Purposes

Australia faces many challenges at present. Economic. Political. Spiritual. Integrity. Globalization. Morality. Others? Which challenge concerns you the most?

One of the significant issues occupying my mind constantly concerns diversity engagement. I know this choice is different to the standard or common selections from the options above. However, diversity is a feature of Australian life, creating potential threats to social cohesion and unity. Numerous headline stories in recent weeks highlight the tensions present currently in society and the struggles to respectfully dialogue with opposing views. The Same Sex Marriage postal vote is causing animosity and igniting extreme acts to shut down the opposing side. The statues in Sydney vandalized over the debate concerning Australia Day have polarized the population. The constant reminder of the fear associated with terrorism threatens to paralyze. Use of the name of Jesus in playgrounds could be banned. The debate over the wearing the burqa is set to continue. As well as the call to abandon Father’s Day and replace with Special Person’s Day. These are just to name a few.

My concern is the potential damage and impact inflicted on social cohesion from such confrontations, and the lasting legacy. Numerous consequences arise. Bullying results in profound hurt, broken relationships, hatred and fear. Respect for the other suffers. The world of blame, rejection, confrontation and insult intensifies. Overzealous minority voices impact freedom of speech as they attempt to seek conformity for their perspective and silence the majority. Enclaves form.

The current Australian context should ignite Christ’s followers to theologically reflect and evaluate the nature of a godly response to handling all forms of diversity. Following Christ brings with it expectations, beliefs and values concerning the response. Paul’s reminder to not conform to the patterns of the world (Rom 12:1-2) comes to mind here. The response contributes to the discussion and communicates non-verbally to the world an alternative pathway for engaging diversity.

My own life journey with diversity commenced when born into an international marriage over 50 years ago. Ever since then I have lived and worked in at least 4 countries, travelled to over 20, parented a son with disability issues with my British born wife and struggled with ongoing generational issues within Christian organizations.

Therefore, I bring some encouragement from my own response to diversity and the intrinsic sources for motivation to manage the threats, fear and relationship challenges. Diversity becomes opportunities for me to learn, grow and deepen my walk with God. Three theologically grounded concepts guide my response for culturally appropriate relationships and cross-cultural servanthood.

Firstly, attitudes to diversity set the tone for behavior. Romans 15:7 where Paul encourages the Roman Christians to accept one another as Christ accepted them is crucial for me. Acceptance builds off an openness to difference and communicates esteem even when differences exist. The combative, selfish-driven and confrontational spirit subsides. The value is seen in Jesus’ treatment of the Samaritan woman (John 4). Elmer in his book, Cross-Cultural Servanthood (IVP, 2006) explores this further.

Secondly, culturally appropriate knowledge and skills deepen the message of acceptance in contexts of diversity. God crossed borders to engage humanity through the incarnation of Christ. Jesus’ example provides clues for intercultural engagement. David Livermore’s book, Cultural Intelligence: Improving Your CQ to Engage Multicultural World (Baker Books, 2009) proposes a model/tool to approach caring for the other and building bridges across cultural chasms. Cultural intelligence is the capacity to function effectively cross-culturally through 4 capabilities around motivation and perseverance (CQ Drive), knowledge (CQ Knowledge), strategic planning for intercultural encounters (CQ Strategy), and participation in speech and non-verbal acts (CQ Action). Having the skills and knowledge to respond assists the capacity to address diversity and understand the other.

Thirdly, God’s control of all things and activity in the world means functioning in the community and the margins without fear, even of difference. God empowers believers to cope and engage. Frost and Rice’s recent book, To Alter the World (IVP, 2017) encourages believers to consider embracing the role of midwives for God in place-crafting and dialogue.

May the manner in which we engage diversity reflect God’s heart and expectations, and implement the knowledge and skills available to us, especially when empowered by the Holy Spirit.

 


This post was contributed by David Turnbull. David is Senior Lecturer in Intercultural Studies at Tabor College of Higher Education and has a passion to see God’s people engage the nations with the good news of Christ in a just and culturally intelligent manner. His cross-cultural involvement has spanned over five decades and four continents (primarily Africa) in the areas of training, equipping and facilitating through local churches, mission agencies, Missions Interlink locally and nationally and the Lausanne Movement. He is currently working on his PhD in the area of cultural intelligence.

A Prayer for the Church

O God, help us to view the Christian Church from a kingdom perspective. May we see the church as You see the church from your heavenly throne; a church without walls, a church without man-made denominational labels and organisational divisions, a church made up only of true believers who are spiritually connected to Christ and to each other through faith and obedience to Him who loved us and gave His life to save us.

Help us to see the big picture; that we belong to a people group who span the corridors to time from Adam to Christ’s Second Coming, a people of faith, a universal church of saints triumphant who have faithfully finished their course in this life and have gone to be with You; and the church militant who continue in this life to fight the good fight and defend the faith once delivered to the saints of the early church.

O God, keep us from becoming institutionalised in dead religion. Reform your church as you did in the Protestant Reformation. Raise up men and women of God who will blow the trumpet in Zion to awaken a sleeping, lukewarm, apostate church; a church given over to worldly business principles and marketing strategies, who peddle the gospel like a profane commodity instead of preaching it as a sacred trust.

Lord God, raise up leaders, shepherds of Israel, to lead Your church in the ways of righteousness and true holiness. Purge the Christian church worldwide from carnal motivations of success and the sins of pride, envy, and a competitive spirit. Rebuke and admonish those who have placed their trust and confidence in the arm of the flesh, (which is to say) their own abilities and human wisdom. Cause them to repent of their wicked ways and to seek first Your Kingdom and Your Righteousness. May the scales of deception and delusion fall from their eyes by the enlightening grace of Your Holy Spirit.

Lord Jesus, You said that You would build Your church and the gates of hell would not prevail against it; and yet the institutional church, heavily influenced by the Church Growth Movement, has usurped your role, your authority, and have taken custody and ownership of the church and of church growth. O God, convict and convince Your people in every land and in every place, both clergy and laity, that we are not called or commissioned to grow the church; we are called and commissioned to disciple new believers and to spread the good news of Jesus and his Kingdom throughout the world.

Help us to remember always – that one may plant, one may water, but it is You and only You that give the increase. You, O God, are the only one who can cause genuine church growth and the extension of your kingdom here upon the earth. For “Unless the Lord builds the House, they labour in vain who build it”.

Be pleased O God, to therefore forgive us our sins of selfishness, self-sufficiency, self-determination, and self-promotion. Cause us to humble ourselves under Your mighty hand, and to wait upon Your Spirit for all manner of divine enablement and blessing. We pray these things in the name of Your beloved Son; our Saviour and Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.


This prayer was taken from Lord, Teach us to Pray by Manfred Wagstaff, 2017.

Wednesdays on the Web (13/09)

7 Standards for Good Writing

I blog because I enjoy the act of writing; the craft of forming something with words and phrases that is clear, compelling, and convicting (when the piece calls for that). As an author himself, Barnabas Piper always seeks to be a better writer, and offers these global standards to consider.

How to Journal through the Psalms

The Psalms are so important for the Christian life; in them we encounter what it really means to have a God who is big enough to relate to the full range of human emotions and we rejoice. I know a few people who have made the Psalms part of their daily bible intake, and the benefits to journaling are many. Why not put these two great things together?

Beyond Veggie Tales: Forming the Moral Imagination of Your Kids

At a recent parenting conference, Phil Vischer shares how storytelling can be an effective tool for creating a Biblical framework for imagination and creativity. Watch the (16 minutes) video here.

Churchgoing is Beautiful

If you’re a Christian, church attendance is not optional. Pause in this article and see again the beauty of attending the Sunday morning service, called and gathered by the Holy Spirit. We are called to love, and be part of, the church.

Having Mental Health Issues doesn’t make you a Bad Christian

It is tough enough combatting the stigma of mental health in a culture that prides itself on entrepreneurship, self-reliance and curating Instagram-perfect lifestyles. But as a Christian, it was even worse. Speaking up about the emotional pain I once survived or was enduring, I ran into a lie often perpetuated in our church culture about mental health and spiritual fitness: If you’re feeling emotionally broken, your faith is weak or broken.

The Christian and Tithing

 

Yelling in an Echo Chamber:
Thoughts on the Plebiscite

If you’re in Australia at the moment it’s hard to miss the fact that we’re in the midst of cultural conflict. I am, of course, referring to the upcoming vote on whether Australia should legalize what is being referred to as Same Sex Marriage (SSM). It’s easy to tell because on one hand the editorial columns are filled with statements on why this is a thing that we must do, while my Facebook feed is being filled with people sharing articles on why this would be the worst thing in the world. Both sides have (what they believe to be) a compelling case, but there seems to be a lack of serious, mutually respectful debate and I think we need to take a step back and consider how we’re approaching the whole issue.

Prevalent on social media today are people who share every article they can find about how legalizing SSM will destroy the very fabric of society, stripping religious freedoms, and doing away with logic altogether. The problem is not necessarily the claims themselves, although I cringe when people share the ‘No’ ad (with the claim that a boy was encouraged to wear a dress when the claim has been refuted by the school involved). Indeed from looking at what has happened in other countries following this legislation passing, it is clear that there are some very credible objections that those outside the church could reasonably affirm. (I would argue that all of these are secondary issues for Christians but that is another story) When we consider our own approach to this very public issue, we would do well to carefully consider our audience, and appropriately adjust our tone.

First (before we get to sharing) we should always seek to fully comprehend the context we find ourselves in. Increasingly social media allows us to live and engage in an echo chamber, populated by people who agree with everything that we say and think. We share articles and videos to make our case but the only people who are seeing them are people who are already on the same page as us. On the other side of the equation, our viewpoint is only being reinforced because our friends are sharing the same things, thus we’re not forced to think about the other side of the argument.

Secondly, we are responsible for considering what would happen if (when) we had someone viewing our feed who was on the other side of the argument. Are they going to be persuaded by the dozens of items that we share daily about how society is imperiled by the advancement of the LGBT agenda? More pointedly, are they even going to bother looking at them and engage or are they going to just scroll right past because they don’t agree with the headlines? And what if – God forbid – we actually had a Facebook friend who identified as LGBT? Will their life change (not lifestyle but life) because we shared a video about somebody who didn’t like that they had two mums? I highly doubt it. Given these issues, we need to seriously think about how we engage this issue and ask what would be worse: SSM being legalized or people being so repulsed by our unflinching resolve that they are driven away from Christ?

Where to from Here?

The most important thing that we need to remember is that we’re not just dealing with An Issue, but behind the issue are real, flesh-and-blood people. These people have hopes, dreams, and feelings just like the rest of us and deserve to be treated with the same respect that we expect to receive. Does this mean that we abandon our convictions? Of course not, but it does mean that if we have an opportunity to actually engage with somebody with a different opinion then we should discuss it with grace and love. As the old saying goes, you catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

[Author’s Note: I highly encourage reading The Nashville Statement from the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood for a biblical foundation of this issue and Rosaria Butterfield’s autobiography Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert for further thoughts on how we engage the people on the other side of this issue.]

 


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 (06/09)

Jesus Isn’t Calling, God Has Already Spoken

I was already on board before listening to this ep from Sheologians; having my own reservations about the popularity of Sarah Young’s book and devotional sequel, even in my own congregation.

One More Time on Game of Thrones

It amazes me that Christians are actually even posing this question, but I’ve seen it a lot. Kevin DeYoung writes with conviction and clarity, and I have yet to see an argument that could oppose his points.

MacArthur and a Response to Racism

While Australia hasn’t had an event like Charlottesville, we’re not immune to racial issues. In this interview MacArthur frames a high-level response through a Christian worldview. Honestly, this would make our world a better place.

Why I Signed the Nashville Statement

Rosaria Butterfield has an amazing story, and is a wonderfully eloquent, highly intelligent, thoroughly engaging communicator. Her book (Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert) opened my eyes to a world I knew nothing about. In this piece, she writes

The issue is not whether people are good-intentioned and sincere in desiring things that God forbids.

The issue is whether we all bear the sin of Adam, inheriting an unchosen moral deformity, an energy of opposition to God, a rebellion that bequeaths to us a sin nature that we cannot erase on our own terms and by our own hands.

The issue is whether Jesus rose from the grave, is alive today, and whether His blood and love and resurrection makes any wit of difference in how you fight the original sin that distorts you, the actual sin that distracts you, and the indwelling sin that manipulates you.

The issue is whether you can trust the Bible to tell you who you are, who God is, and which way is up.

Hermeneutics for Parenting: Obey the Word

This helpful blog reveals some common errors to avoid, and a few helpful tips for making solid, biblical applications when it comes to teaching our children the truth of scripture; and it begins with living it out in our own lives.

A Sea Worth Sailing

I am undoubtedly being taken on a journey. It’s uncharted water, and in some part I feel like a passenger. The journey is about me though, and so I can’t be passive, nor can I come out the other side unchanged. In fact I’m convinced that I won’t even see the shore until I change. To extend the metaphor, this journey has seen wind and waves from many sides, but somehow they’re all pushing me to stay the course until it’s done. So, where have I sailed so far?

Learning to Listen

In the book named for him, James the brother of Jesus writes

My dear brothers and sisters, understand this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger (James 1:19, CSB)

Over the last few months I’ve repeatedly encountered the importance of listening. Not just hearing, but active and present engagement with the object of my attention. At times, this is another person. Other times (hopefully often) it’s being alone with God. As I’ve come to learn lately, it’s also important to listen to my own emotions and physiological responses in this body God has given me. What follows is a high-level view of what I’m learning about better loving through listening.

Listening to Others

Jesus said that everything the bible teaches regarding Christian living can be summed up like this: love God, and love others (Luke 10:27). As those who are fellow image-bearers of the God we love and serve, the least I can do is give people my full attention. As much as possible, I shouldn’t be distracted by my surroundings. Never interrupt a face-to-face conversation to answer a text unless it is a family emergency, a previously scheduled appointment, or you are in the seventh grade. I know that I often hear – rather mishear – things, so I’m also practicing the habit of repeating things back to people in the form of “so what you’re saying is…” This has been infinitely helpful not only in the passing on of instruction, but also general care, counselling, and conflict resolution. Asking intelligent questions further demonstrates that love is present in my listening, because I’m listening to learn, and not to lecture.

Listening to Myself

God made us with bodies as well as spirits. Jesus came and indwelt human flesh, thus articulating that our bodies are important to him. The New Testament authors speak of the fact that God is bringing about the redemption of the whole of creation, which includes our physical bodies being transformed on that last Day. With this in mind, isn’t it logical to assert that God would be interested in (even use) our bodies? In his book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, Peter Scazzero unpacks the benefits of paying attention to a sudden rush of adrenaline, muscle tension, that knot in your stomach, or other physiological signals as our bodies know how we’re feeling before we do. Learning to listen to our own bodies helps our ongoing sanctification; why did that person or situation make me tense up? Perhaps there’s some underlying anger or unforgiveness that needs to be dealt with? I’m slowly finding the value in learning how listening to my body is intrinsically connected (by many ties) to knowledge of God and becoming who he has made me to be.

Listening to God

Finally, how often do I try to squeeze my time with God in amongst the other things on my schedule? We live in a world of distraction; a world of noise and tasks and things simultaneously vying for our attention. This is so true for most of us (read=me) that being fully present in the moment is something of a lost art. Do you read your bible on the same phone that is flooded with notifications from dozens of apps? Have you ever stopped praying to answer the front door or a summons from down the hall, then completely forgotten you were praying? At best, things like this carry a high-probability of distraction, at worst they’re just plain unproductive, and disrespectful to the God of the universe. So lately, I’ve been disciplining myself to kill the biggest hindrance to active listening: multitasking. In The Imperfect Disciple, Jared C. Wilson writes

So if Jesus’s intentional prayer involved withdrawal to deserted places, and he did so often, how awesome do we think we are that we don’t have to follow suit?

When it comes to listening, I want to be the kind of person who treats listening as an act of love. And while I can’t yet see the shore, it’s certainly a sea worth sailing.

What I Read in August

The Imperfect Disciple

I’m grateful for Jared C. Wilson’s honest, down-to-earth look at what it means to be a disciple who is also human. We all stumble and fall; even Paul knew what it means to “do what I don’t want to do”. Wilson’s writing is easy to relate to, doesn’t come off as holier-than-thou, but rather seeks to walk side by side with us; offering encouragement for the average, broken-yet-striving Christian. One of my favourite sections was his wonderful walk through understanding and applying the beatitudes. For a sneak peak (and plenty to get the grey-matter thinking about), take a look at my top ten favourite quotes from the book.

Batman: I Am Suicide (DC Universe Rebirth Vol 2)

Tom King (and friends) did such a great job with Volume 1; despite the fact that I wasn’t too thrilled that the Justice League had to show up to ‘save’ Batman, like he ever needs that. The artwork is gritty and stunning, the story is compelling, and (without spoilers) introduces Nightwing, Batwoman, and … that’s all I’ll say. Tom King as a former CIA analyst turned writer, knows how to get inside great criminal minds, and doesn’t disappoint.

I am Spock

Leonard Nimoy’s second book is simply delightful. His fascinating (I couldn’t resist using Spock vernacular) story is full of joys and frustrations, and his frequent internal dialog with the ever-present Mr. Spock infuses drama, comedy, and irresistible Vulcan logic to each decision, action, and reaction along his turbulent, successful career. Nimoy writes with the delivery of a master storyteller, and has undoubtedly renewed my love for biography.

The God-Shaped Heart

One of the joys of being a blogger/book reviewer is the opportunity to read and review books before they’re published. Scheduled to hit the shelves on September 5, Christian psychiatrist Dr. Timothy Jennings delivers what he believes to be the keys to spiritual and emotional health in looking to God and his love for us. This book adds another layer to my journey towards better understanding Emotional Intelligence from a Christian worldview. Look out for my review of this one in the near future. Spoiler: I think you’ll love it.

Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life

Don Whitney speaks to an area of Christian spirituality that I truly love, in a way that I truly love to hear it. His rich heritage with men like Richard Foster has given him wonderful insight into components of the Christian’s journey that sadly the Church (at least in the West) has lost. Moving beyond the Word and prayer to look at silence and solitude, worship, serving, evangelism, fasting, journalling, and others, Don writes with the knowledge of a scholar and the experience of a seasoned pastor. His practical suggestions for how to cultivate these disciplines in your life have been valuable to me, and my hope is they could help you too.

What have you been reading?


See what else I read in 2017: