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Month: January 2018

What I Read in January

12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You

It became clear to me very quickly why this book made so many Best of 2017 lists. Chapters 1 & 2 were so convicting, but simultaneously so eye-opening that I felt like I should stop and go over them again. Doing an excellent job of evaluating these 12 Ways, Reinke does an outstanding job of remaining impartial; not ever being pro-phone or anti-phone, simply laying down the facts and observing the ways culture has changed for good or ill. Read my full review here.

Batman/The Flash: The Button

Batman finds on his cave wall the bloody smiley-face button of the Comedian, the iconic symbol of Alan Moore’s Watchmen series from the 1980s. The story-behind-the-story is set for the upcoming Doomsday Clock twelve-issue series, which has just begun. The Button sets the stage for Doomsday Clock with a story of Bruce Wayne and Barry Allen investigating the source behind the appearance of this button. It’s very hard to talk about anything without giving spoilers, but it can be said that this was the most popular DC release in a long time, with multiple reprints needed as copies flew off the shelves.

The Monster in the Hollows

Finally I’ve got around to this, the final book in the trilogy of The Wingfeather Saga. These books go on my All Time Best list, and I look forward to reading them with my kids as soon as they’re old enough. As with the previous two books, Peterson is a skilled world-builder; drawing the reader in to every sight, sound, and smell. The book moves quickly, but with so much detail that every experience is shared and felt. The new places are wonderful, the creatures terrible, and the journey of self-discovery for the High King of Anniera is gritty and glorious.

Making All Things New

When it comes to the pain brought about by sexual sin, Jesus has come to renew both the wayward and the wounded, the sexually immoral and the sexually victimized. The message of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that his grace extends healing to those suffering in sin, and to those who have suffered because of sin. In order to rightly renew sexuality, David Powlison writes that first “we must have a vision for what it is intended to be, for what’s gone wrong, and for how to bring about transformation.” In Making All Things New: Restoring Joy to the Sexually Broken, Powlison presents that better way—a way where victims of betrayal or assault can live a better life than just “Survivor”, and those currently trapped in dark and hidden sins can walk towards the Light and be free from shame.
Read my full review here.


What have you been reading?

Contend for the Gospel

Recently I noticed a church saying “let’s be known for what we’re for, not what we’re against”. While this is a nice idea and appeals to a generation desperately clinging to positivity and acceptance, it’s unrealistic—and frankly negligent—of a church to not be willing to say what they’re against. This pervasive theme of compromising biblical truths, sometimes masked in ‘ecumenicism’, is resulting in a church unwilling to stand for biblical truths if it means being labelled ‘divisive’ or the ever-increasing ‘bigot’.

Would the early church have been as effective in their faithful ministry had they not out-rightly denied early heresies like Arianism or Gnosticism? There is a responsibility upon 21st century Christians to stand for the gospel, and stand against that which seeks to attack the gospel.

Look at Jude’s epistle. Jude uses the entirety of his epistle to warn about ungodly people and call the church to persevere and contend for the faith. Instead of his initial desire to write about their common salvation, the need to appeal to the church to fight for the gospel takes precedence. He writes

Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
(Jude 3–4, ESV)

Jude is appealing with great urgency for the church to contend earnestly for the faith that at this point, had been established and fixed by the apostolic teaching. If Jude, inspired by the Holy Spirit, believed there wasn’t much point contending over biblical truths because it can be divisive, or if he thought it best not to ruffle any feathers, he likely wouldn’t have used this strong exhortation to call the church to fight for the gospel. Verse 3 also draws attention to something of great significance. We contend earnestly for the faith because it has been “entrusted to God’s holy people”. The Greek word for ‘entrusted’ here is paradídōmi which means to give over into power or use, or to give into the hands of another. It’s emphasis is on stewardship. It is used in Matthew 25:14 in the Parable of the Bags of Gold – “Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them” (emphasis added). Our faith has been given and entrusted to us by God and it is our responsibility to steward this in a way that brings honour to Christ. This stewardship requires a willingness to fight for the faith once for all delivered to God’s holy people by affirming things consistent with Scripture, and denying that which is against Scripture.

At this point, fundamentalists and hot-heads can begin to cry “amen!” while holding their bible more like a weapon. Contending earnestly for the gospel entrusted to us is not done with a sledgehammer. We must always be prepared to give a defence for the gospel, and do so with gentleness and meekness. This doesn’t mean accepting every view as true and valid. It means disagreeing and rejecting anything against God and his word in a respectful and loving manner. This brings honour to Christ. Agreeing or even inadvertently affirming that which is against Christ does not honour him.

So as Jude used his only epistle in the canon to urge those in Christ to contend earnestly for the faith entrusted to God’s holy people, this is an exhortation to Christ’s church to fight for the gospel in the midst of a world where many are losing the willingness to stand for truth. Let us be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry (James 1:19), but let us not neglect that which has been entrusted to us and be diligent in our fight for the truth of the beautiful gospel of Jesus Christ.


This post was written by Tom Edwards. Tom is husband to a beautiful woman named Jasmine and carer of a cheeky and chubby pug named Spencer. He loves Christ, theology, and seeing God save souls and build His church.

That’s a Wrap! (27/01)

Seven Reasons Why Church is Difficult for those Touched by Mental Illness

As a parent—but also as a person—I understand some of the challenges addressed here. Stephen Grcevich, MD (child and adolescent psychiatrist) writes:

Evangelically-minded churches have made great strides in recognizing the struggles common among persons in the church with mental illness. Where we have much work yet to do is in connecting with individuals and families outside the church and formulating strategies for welcoming them into our worship services and including them in activities most critical for making disciples.

Something Better than the Gospel

Fred Sanders. He said it.

An Open Letter to Christians who are Using Porn

The biggest thing about secret sin is that it’s secret. Tim Thornborough succinctly writes that the first step to exterminate it is to expose it.
BONUS: Tim Challies’ review of Vaughn Roberts new book The Porn Problem (currently AU$6.41 on Book Depository) is well worth reading.

A Guided Tour to 2017’s Bestselling Christian Books

Oh man, this post is not what you think it is. What is happening in the world?

How Curiosity Feeds Creativity

Barnabas Piper wrote the book on curiousity (no really, you can read my review here). He writes:

People are created to be image bearers of God. One of the primary, unique ways we do this is through creativity, and the only way to be truly creative is by being intentionally curious.

Disguised Destruction

Wise words from Katelyn Milligan. Do you often find yourself saying “The words I said were fine. And I’m allowed to say them that way, because I’m frustrated.” How we say things is equally-if-not-more important than what we’re saying. Milligan writes:

When one speaks without considering how it might affect others, not only is it selfish, but it’s reckless, and recklessness is destructive—destructive to oneself and to relationships.

Dads, Spend Time with your Kids One-on-One

Maybe it’s obvious (and if it isn’t, it should be) but there is a special demonstration of love and grace that takes place when a parent sets aside time to get inside a child’s world as an individual. This doesn’t disregard or discount important family times, devotions, discipleship opportunities in the car or at the dinner table, but there’s opportunity for eternal investment here that should not be missed.

My Favourite Tweet this Week:

Three Personal and Professional Updates

The beginning of 2018 has not been uneventful for the MacLeavy family. It seems that life is always full, and often when it rains it pours. But we know that there are people out there who love to both pray, and offer practical support in many other ways. So I thought it was time we shared a few of our happenings (both personally and professionally). We’re thankful to God for placing us in a community of loving, praying, supportive people and so here are three quick updates we’d like to share with you.

House & Family: Well, it seems the house we’re currently renting was sold on the weekend. While we’re yet to find out any of the details, if you’re in our area you can probably expect a call from us in the near future requesting moving boxes. Our lease doesn’t run out for several months, so finding out whether the house has been sold to investors or owner/occupiers in the first step. Also, if you’re local, you may have noticed that we bought a new car recently. While it makes sense to upgrade from our 2004 model to a shinier 2011 model, the main reason is actually much more exciting. We’re expecting another baby in August, and we’re going to need more room. Buying a third baby seat for the car was a little bit daunting, and we’ve also decided not to find out the baby’s gender. So over the next few months, we’ll be working towards a new place with extra space!

A New Theology Project: Recently I was invited to be part of a new initiative that will be launching soon in 2018 at North Pine Baptist Church. Running a couple of times each term, we’ll be holding some adult theology classes. With the aim of discussing topics that are more easily addressed in a class-style environment, these talks aim to be much less formal than a Sunday sermon, and include a generous time for Q&A at the end. I’ll be teaching a few of these classes, addressing a range of contemporary topics from a Christian worldview. It’s going to be exciting!

Career Questions: There have been a number of internal restructures within the company I work for recently, and this continues to cause a low-level anxiety in most of the staff who remain. While I’m fairly confident that my position is secure, as the sole income earner for our family of five I’d prefer to know for sure. With another restructure looming on the horizon, please pray with me that I would have wisdom to manage what God gives our family, and have trust in his sovereignty to not only meet our every need but orchestrate every circumstance for our good and his glory.


Making All Things New: Restoring Joy to the Sexually Broken

When it comes to the pain brought about by sexual sin, Jesus has come to renew both the wayward and the wounded, the sexually immoral and the sexually victimized. The message of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that his grace extends healing to those suffering in sin, and to those who have suffered because of sin. In order to rightly renew sexuality, David Powlison writes that first “we must have a vision for what it is intended to be, for what’s gone wrong, and for how to bring about transformation.” In Making All Things New: Restoring Joy to the Sexually Broken, Powlison presents that better way—a way where victims of betrayal or assault can live a better life than just “Survivor”, and those currently trapped in dark and hidden sins can walk towards the Light and be free from shame.

To get an understanding of just how multifaceted this issue is, in chapter three Powlison introduces five knots we must distentangle as we work towards the holistic renewal of sexuality. In summary, these are Unholy Desires (sins of overt immorality—in person or in your imagination—with the wrong object of desire), Unholy Pain (when you’ve been treated like an object, the very thought of sex becomes stained by sufferings at the hand of others), An Unredeemed Sense of Guilt (for those trapped in sin, guilt turns them inward. Grace reminds us just how vast forgiveness is), Not Just a Male Problem (sexual immorality is no respecter of gender. Thankfully, Jesus’ mercy extends to all sinners with the same gender-blindness), and Sexual Struggles within Marriage (marriage is not a garden of uncomplicated sexual delight. Your sexuality will be remade in part by dealing with every other sin, as husband and wife walk with Christ).

A Christ-redefined life offers no quick fixes or instant removal of all the pain and baggage brought about by sexual sin. In chapters 4 – 9 Powlison shows how repentance of sin commences a sexual repatterning in us1.

Renewal is an ongoing journey, and Powlison encourages us to “have a vision for a long process (lifelong), with a glorious end (the last day), that is actually going somewhere (today).” Getting uncomfortably practical, Making All Things New unpacks the reality that while an immoral act or fantasy is a sin in itself, such behaviour always arises from desires and beliefs that dethrone God; loving something more than him. Whether it’s pornography or promiscuity, adultery or abuse, the battle for renewal is wider and deeper than simply struggling with the behaviour. Sexual sin is symptomatic, and is merely the manifestation of the deeper war for the heart’s loyalty.

We are people in process. Having discussed the direction we’re headed, the hard road to restoration, and the destination of rightly-oriented loving relationships, Making All Things New concludes with the greatest encouragement for the sin-sufferer and the suffering sinner. It is God’s will that we abstain from sexual immorality (1 Thessalonians 4:3); it is God who works in us (Jude 24), God who strengthens us (Galatians 5:16), and God who has promised to never leave us (Psalm 23:4, Hebrews 13:5). At every decision point, before every fork in the road, we recall that the living God walks the road beside us. While we are not yet what we shall be, we are growing towards it with the one who truly forgives, and truly renews.

buy the book from The Book Depository, free delivery


1. I loved the idea of repentance commencing a holy, Christ-oriented ‘sexual repatterning’ in us, from the book endorsement written by Rosaria Butterfield (former professor of English at Syracuse University).


That’s a Wrap! (21/01)

Engaging with the Bible Beyond Merely Reading

Melinda Cousins (Senior Lecturer in Biblical Studies at Tabor) writes of the wonderful, less practiced ways in which we can—and should—engage with the Biblical text.

As someone who became a Christian as a teenager in the 1990s, I was taught to read the Bible in my daily “quiet time” as a private, silent, individual, and visual exercise. (And to feel quite guilty when I found this difficult or unexciting). Studying and teaching the Bible in more recent years, I have been challenged by the idea that this is not the only way to engage with God’s Word, and perhaps not even the ‘best’ way. It is certainly not the way most members of the community of faith throughout history have engaged with this text.

Lord, Help My Stupidity

There’s not much to say about this post. I get this. I am this. Lord, help my stupidity.

Gender Equality and Gender War

I’m in the middle of taking an in-depth look at sex, gender, identity, and the Christian worldview. This post (and the linked articles) share some interesting—and not always obvious—implications and connections.

5 Myths About Marriage

As always, Paul David Tripp might appear to be stating the obvious, however it’s often the simple truths that we need to be reminded of. In an age where many views have downgraded marriage to the changing belief that marriage is no longer about God’s original intent but rather a social/sexual arrangement between two people (no matter their gender), these thoughts offer a valuable reminder.

What Did Early Christians Believe about Hell?

With the existence of heresies about the afterlife (such as Universalism, in all its variant forms) still prevalent today, I appreciate Cold Case Christianity compiling this post of statements from early church fathers and writings. Notwithstanding the Bible as the final authority, there is much weight to be added to the discussion from these great early believers.

Making Sense of Scripture’s ‘Inconsistency’

Tim Keller nails it.

Once you grant the main premise of the Bible—about the surpassing significance of Christ and his salvation—then all the various parts of the Bible make sense. Because of Christ, the ceremonial law is repealed. Because of Christ, the church is no longer a nation-state imposing civil penalties. It all falls into place. However, if you reject the idea of Christ as Son of God and Savior, then, of course, the Bible is at best a mishmash containing some inspiration and wisdom, but most of it would have to be rejected as foolish or erroneous.

Why We Desperately Need C.S. Lewis’ “Newspaper Rule”

This was not about Lewis seeing all reporters and papers as “fake news.” It was about recognizing their (and his) limits and understanding our temptation to judge others. When you read or see a negative story about someone, how quickly do you jump from “That was bad” to “They are bad”?

Why it’s Better to Dive than Water Ski

work hard to be picky about what books get to sit on my nightstand. I follow bloggers and publishers whose opinions, works, and theological viewpoints I’ve come to trust over the years. This means that in general, even though I’m reading a high volume of books, I can also look back and say that I’m reading a high quality of books too (because honestly, life is too short for poor prose and dodgy doctrine). 2017 was a great year for books. The ways in which my life has been enriched through the theologians, biographers, story-tellers, artists, and authors of all kinds in 2017 are many. Although I still have a long way to go, my eyes have been opened and my worldview expanded, and the point of convergence for this newly acquired knowledge is an increased self-awareness and me developing strategies to change myself for the better.

Dive, Don’t Ski

As I sat in the first week of the new year and considered all that I wanted to achieve, I recalled an analogy used by Tony Reinke in his 2017 book 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You. Reinke talks about how we live in a world of tweets and short, rapid content; he likens our reading styles today to water skiing over the surface of the ocean without ever taking the time to simply stay in one place and dive deep. The wonders that reside sometimes only a few feet beneath the waves are so often passed over in the temporary exhilaration of breadth, distance, and speed.

So, how has this changed my approach to reading in 2018?

As much as I loved the overwhelming majority of the books I read in 2017, it’s easy to read simply for breadth, amusement, and information. If we make the Bible the ocean in Reinke’s analogy, it is not a book that should be read cover to cover and added to the “completed” shelf. Nor is it a book to recreationally ski across the surface of by quickly reading a page here or there. Rather God’s word requires more lingering, exploratory reading; reading that intentionally dives down deep with the desire to encounter, and discover, and know. That’s what I need to do more in 2018.

Reading More by Reading Less

This year I might not read the same number of books I read in 2017. But I’m making the decision to protect and prioritise my reading of scripture over and above other books, and to choose a reading plan that doesn’t only let me tick the “completed’ checkbox, but takes me further into this book in which I encounter the living God, and am forever changed. And when my church starts a 2 month series on Colossians (Or 1 John, or Psalms) maybe I’ll swim to that same spot. Although it might be hard to resist the temptation to move on at first, I’ll have my oxygen tank and underwater camera at the ready, and I’m going to learn to dive deep.

The Listening Life

Possibly the most transformative book I read in 2017 is Adam S. McHugh’s The Listening Life. Every page was like looking in a mirror; the sentences revealing how little I knew about true listening. McHugh writes

I got serious about listening when I realised I was missing things. Layers of meaning and opportunities for connection lurking near the surface of my relationships, but I wasn’t hearing them, even with those people I loved most. I was skilled at saying wise and empathetic sounding things; I was more skilled at holding people at arm’s-length. Whenever a conversation turned towards emotions, I started looking for an exit.

One of the characteristics of a genuinely good book of this genre is the ability of the author to speak personally in a way that makes us wonder how he was able to write directly to our thoughts and behaviours, while simultaneously speaking from a position of having seen things get better, and sharing a practical path forward to those goals. This is one of those books.

A Brief Review

The question that drives The Listening Life is “how would our relationships change if we approached every situation with the intention of listening first?” McHugh laments how much we have lost the art of listening in our technology-centric, modern convenience, noisy and distracting world. And so the book begins as it should, by laying a foundation for what listening truly looks like: a practice of focused attention. In order to understand ourselves and how we are truly meant to be, chapter two points us directly to our example, Jesus Christ The King Who Listens. Then the book opens up, and McHugh takes an in-depth look at how we approach, listen, and seek to better understand God (chapter 3), Scripture (chapter 4), creation (chapter 5), our neighbours (chapter 6), and our own bodies and emotions (chapter 8) through the discipline of listening. Cultivating this posture of listening not only lies at the heart of a true and mature spirituality, but greatly equips us to better participate in God’s saving mission in the world.

One Profound Takeaway

When it comes to listening to God, Scripture, or creation, I can (usually) find a quiet place and focus. Leaving my phone out of sight and keeping a notepad and pen within arms reach for those nagging thoughts pretty much does the trick. But when it comes to conversations with others, McHugh has shown me just how lazy and unloving I was being without even realising it, and how a little discipline would go such a long way in better emulating the listening Saviour who draws close and listens to me. In his chapter on loving others, he writes about Pushing The Arrow:

Imagine that there is a big arrow hovering over the space between two people engaged in a conversation. It is a very smart, mind-reading arrow, and it swivels to point at whomever the attention in the conversation is focused on. To listen, we remind ourselves, is to pay focused and loving attention on another. So, as the listener in this conversation, your goal is to keep the arrow pointing at the other person for as long as possible. That’s it. Push the arrow toward the interests, needs, and heart of the other person. Encourage the other person to keep talking, to take an idea further, to go deeper into a story, memory, or emotion. Then you are listening. If you remember nothing else from this chapter, remember this.

I was inescapably struck so many times in this chapter by how much I listen in order to respond, to offer advice, to one-up a story, or simply hearing out of obligation (all the while thinking about other things). In the last few weeks, I’ve intentionally entered every conversation with the aim of ‘pushing the arrow’; but not purely for the exercise or social experiment, but because I want to be a person who loves through listening, and you can only reliably listen in the moment if you have become a listening sort of person—someone who has developed a listening heart. When it comes to better loving God and loving others, Adam S. McHugh’s The Listening Life has been the most helpful, most revealing, most profound and practical advice I’ve ever read on how to be a listener, not just someone who occasionally listens.

Buy This Book from Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

That’s a Wrap! (13/01)

Don’t be Content with Sloppy Christianity

Josh Buice writes

If we’re not satisfied with sloppy football, sloppy airplane pilots or flight attendants, sloppy lawyers, or even sloppy waste management services—we should not be content with sloppy Christianity within our local church.

Publicly, We Say #MeToo. Privately, We Have Misgivings

New York Times opinion writer and feminist Daphne Merkin shines a side light on the current hot topic of #MeToo. I appreciate her call for a broader, earlier prevention strategy which includes ownership by individuals, parents, and society-at-large.

Evaluating your Life for Fillers and Drainers

I thoroughly appreciate the depth to which David Murray has taken his exploration of a life which is balanced, healthy, and has room to rest. I’ve purchased his recent best seller Reset, and will be getting to it in Feb (hopefully). In this article, he writes

At first it’s difficult to figure out, but eventually we notice that some activities fill our tanks while others drain us. Then, we figure out that we have to balance fillers and drainers so that when we engage in a draining activity, we follow it with something that fills us; otherwise we’ll be running on fumes, which won’t last long. Managing our energy consumption is as important as managing our money and our time.

In 2018, Don’t Forget Humility

This article struck me in many ways, particularly point 4 “Welcome some correction into your life”. This year, for the first time I took my wife out one evening and asked her to help me write a list of all the ways she would like to see me improve in 2018. I should have taken a bigger notebook and a second pen; and the list wasn’t an easy one to hear. It’s true that few practices further humility like this one.

Raising Sons in a “Boys will be Boys” World”

This is the word.

How manhood plays out in the various personalities, interests, gifts, and cultures is wide and diverse. But what it means to be a man is unchanging. I’m less concerned about whether they play sports, and more concerned about if they stand up for the kid getting picked on. I’m less concerned if they choose cooking over a drill, and more concerned that they honor women as co-image bearers. You see where I’m going with this? I don’t want to make the mistake that the culture makes, and make manhood about one thing (in the culture it’s about sex and in some church contexts it’s about hyper-masculinity). The stereotypes don’t help anyone—man or woman.

Theology Matters?

12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You

Self-criticism in the digital age is a necessary discipline. The way we live, the way we interact, our personal habits, and our desire for distraction have all experienced a radical shift since the emergence of mobile Internet, the smart phone, and the built-in camera. The results are that often the smart phone has become our instantly accessible non-pharmaceutical antidepressant; providing instant gratification, escape, or the temporary high of acceptance that briefly lifts us out of our mundane. While our smart phones can be a God-send, in many ways pulling the lever on the slot machine of random distractions is the devil. In his 2017 book 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You, Tony Reinke reveals how smart phones have created a new set of struggles, and why it’s so important for us to not simply identify the changes in our behaviour, but actually respond with wisdom, setting boundaries for ourselves and our families, for their good and for ours.

Have our phones really re-wired our brains? Have we been reprogrammed by these same devices that boost our productivity, increase our ministry reach, and connect us to treasured loved ones in a way that (if left unchecked) can cause significant damage to our relationship with God and with others? Reinke poignantly observes

Whether it’s a “breaking-news” alert, a direct-message prompt, a text message, or a news app, our phones make our lives vulnerable to the immediacy of the moment in a way unknown to every earlier generation and culture. Social media and mobile web access on our phones all drive the immediacy of events around the world into our lives. As a result, we suffer from neomania, an addiction to anything new within the last five minutes.

Reinke also points to the way our lives have now been totally transformed, often lived with the aim of being “Instagram-able”. Through social media our lives have become moments of shareable stageplays—he pleads with us to consider the motives behind our constant self-promotion (either as a parent sharing every moment of their child’s growth: a behaviour he called “sharenting”, or that person who can’t possibly go on a ‘missions trip’ without stopping to take that selfie with all the kids outside the orphanage) in light of the gospel of the humble and self-sacrificing Saviour.

A neat feature of the way Reinke seeks to address these issues is that the book is organized into a chiasm. So, while each chapter contributes something valuable to the overall discussion, the chiasm means that chapter one is thematically paired to chapter twelve, chapter two is paired with chapter eleven, and so on. As an example, our phones feed our craving for immediate approval (chapter three) which promises to hedge against our fear of missing out (chapter ten). Here’s the full twelve chapters so you can see for yourself where he’s going:

1. We Are Addicted to Distraction
2. We Ignore Our Flesh and Blood
3. We Crave Immediate Approval
4. We Lose Our Literacy
5. We Feed on the Produced
6. We Become Like What We “Like”
7. We Get Lonely
8. We Get Comfortable in Secret Vices
9. We Lose Meaning
10. We Fear Missing Out
11. We Become Harsh to One Another
12. We Lose Our Place in Time

The central chapters are six and seven, where Reinke explains how “our phones overtake and distort our identity (6) and tempt us toward unhealthy isolation and loneliness (7)”. But it isn’t just about warnings, for within each of the chapters are life-giving disciplines to flip the chapter title into something aimed at helping us protect and preserve our spiritual health in the digital age. These include minimizing unnecessary distractions in order to hear from God (chapter one) by embracing our place in God’s unfolding history (chapter twelve), and seeking God’s ultimate approval (chapter three) to find that in Christ we have no ultimate regrets to fear (chapter ten).

12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You is a book that all of us need, and some of us need desperately. Reinke writes with great humility, including himself in the narrative to help us see him not only as a teacher but also as a fellow struggler. I completely relate to (and am very guilty of) Reinke’s lament that some days he feels like his phone is a digital vampire, sucking away his life and time; while other days he feels like a cybernetic centaur as body and phone blend seamlessly into something more powerful and productive than either could be on their own. Reinke’s observations are simultaneously sage and stinging; and I can’t avoid walking away with new awareness of just how reliant I am on this small rounded rectangle. I’m challenged to enter a new era of engagement with my phone; recognising that often the dings and rings can wait, that I need not be so concerned about the scrubbed-up version of my digital self, and that in my relationships my phone habits will help or hinder me in pointing people to the all-satisfying Saviour.

buy the book from The Book Depository, free delivery

Going Analog

I am unashamedly a child of the Internet age. I am the IT expert in my family and I work in IT. I always have my phone within 10 metres of me and I read about half of my books on an electronic device. As an extension of that I’m sure it comes as no surprise that I haven’t used a physical Bible in any significant way for almost a decade. Instead I have the YouVersion app on my phone which gives me access to every conceivable Bible translation in a few seconds. So why is it that I’ve just ordered a physical Bible?

Firstly, I’m changing how I’m reading the Bible this year. In past years I’ve followed plans that will take me through the entire Bible in a year. While I have found this beneficial I’m looking to read more deeply this year. One of the many podcasts I listen to on a weekly basis (I did say I was a child of the Internet) is John Macarthur’s Grace to You. A couple of months ago he had a series on Bible memorisation which really challenged me; so this year I’m going to put more focus on doing that, and a physical Bible will be my tool of choice. The location of words on a page are an aid in memorisation, and you lose that on a phone. Also, reading on a phone lends itself to rapid skimming so I’m hoping that having the physical book in my hand will cause me to focus more.

Secondly—and following on from the goal of focusing—my phone contains a large number of distractions. From my phone I could access Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, the Internet, my Kindle App, or Email. These are all available at my fingertips when I’m sitting in church with my Bible app open. I’d like to say that I never check any of these things out when I’m in church but that would be a lie. It doesn’t even take much conscious thought for that to happen, my fingers just do it when I’m holding my phone. So, what is the solution? A physical Bible. I can have the Bible open and the various apps on my phone can sit in my pocket out of sight and out of mind.

Finally, I have a two year old daughter and I’ve been thinking about how to raise her in the faith. While there are a lot of factors to this I firmly believe that one of those factors is to live out my own faith in full view of her. This is also a multi-faceted thing; one of those facets is demonstrating a clear habit of Bible reading. Given that there are so many things that I could be doing if I spend an extended period of time looking at my phone, it seems that a physical Bible is the only way to make this obvious without explicitly saying it.

So, am I saying goodbye to the digital Bible? No. I still see great value in it; if I need to find a particular verse and I don’t know where it is or if I want to compare a verse in various versions, I’m still going to pull out my phone. There’s also going to be plenty of times where I won’t have the physical Bible with me, but my phone simply won’t be my primary Bible anymore. So this year, in this regard, I’m going analog—and I think it’s going to be incredibly beneficial.

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.

That’s a Wrap! (05/01)

Must I Join a Church to Be a Christian?

This old chestnut pops up every year (or more). Jeff Robinson says it better than me.

On the evidence of Scripture, to claim to be a devoted Christian and yet disclaim Christ’s church seems a little like saying, “I want to drive a nice car, but I’d rather not have an engine.” Or “I love to eat, but I despise food.”

Meeting God in Depression

In this episode of the Hills Church podcast my friend Matthew Bell shares the reality of the Dark Night of the Soul, provides some practical suggestions on regaining hope and restoring joy, and reminds us of the encouragement we find in knowing that God walked in our shoes in the person of Jesus Christ.

The Beauty of Sleep

In line with what I’ve read in more than one place last year (not the least of which is Trillia Newbell’s Enjoy) this post reminds us of the importance that rest is not unproductive, nor is it something we should feel low-level guilt over. When we rest we’re being like God, and it’s probably exactly what we need.

Welcoming God into the Worship Gathering

If that notion seems a little strange to you, that’s because it is.

Bible Reading Plans for 2018

In case you haven’t got one yet, you’re bound to find a few here that suit every reading level.
The bottom line? Just take up and read!

A Prayer for the First Sunday after Christmas Day

Almighty God, you have poured upon us the new light of your incarnate Word: Grant that this light, enkindled in our hearts, may shine forth in our lives; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

4 Ways to Make 2018 Great

I love the way my friend Pastor Kyllum Lewis cuts through the pie-in-the-sky New Years Resolution notions to bring this insightful, practical, and—most of all, achievable—list of ways to go into 2018. I personally think that this list is a great foundation for loving God and loving others (without neglecting yourself) better, and they can be tailored to fit anyone! Well worth reading and applying.

The Wingfeather Saga—now a short film

A contender for best fiction I read in 2017, it’s now available as this visual treat. If you need it, perhaps this will motivate you to buy the books. They’re amazing.

What I Read in December

Norse Mythology

This was a birthday gift, which just happen to be the day before Thor: Ragnarok came out in cinemas (and we had tickets for opening weekend). An excellent book full of fascinating stories told masterfully, and I found myself wishing the book was longer. Original stories of the beginnings of Oden, Loki, Thor, Sif, Surtur, and of course the end of Asgard: Ragnarok. Thoroughly enjoyable tales of myth and legend, and a welcome change of pace.

A Wrinkle in Time

This is one of the classic books that’s always been on my “I really should read that one day” list. The additional nudge that I needed was Disney’s promised 2018 movie adaptation. The short version? It is clear why this story is still being released 50 years later; the characters are vibrant and fantastical, the places both exciting yet not without danger, and with the pictures it painted across my imagination I’d say that the filmmakers have their work cut out for them.

The Littlest Watchman

There’s a sense in which I almost love Advent more than Christmas. Last year, we read Scott James’ other Advent book The Expected One and will continue to read it in years to come. This new, beautifully illustrated story about a boy called Benjamin is full of wonder and expectation. And while our kids are still too young to grasp the full implication of waiting for Jesus’ return, it’s still a delightful story for adults as much as kids.

Why The Reformation Still Matters

This is a highly valuable book with a lot of rich content regarding all that the Reformation has to offer Christianity today. I chose to grab this as audiobook, and wish I hadn’t. The poor choice of audiobook reader mispronounced many names, titles, places (he either isn’t a Christian, or didn’t do his homework before reading). It would have had a much greater impact on me if read by an original author. Still, the book highlights a number of things we have inherited from the Reformation, and should continue to hold on to.

What have you been reading?

See what else I read in 2017:

The Most Read Articles of 2017

Writing blog posts isn’t a walk in the park, and without anyone to regularly fact-check, quality-control, or contribute content it can be hard to produce regular material that will invest value in your readership. There’s no magic formula, and (just like preaching) sometimes the posts you put the most work into fall flat, and the ones you weren’t so sure about publishing get more hits than you ever expected. I’ve tossed and turned over whether to keep an eye on the statistics of the blog (because it could easily become an idol), but I enjoy seeing what actually gets clicks, and that helps me craft my content. Here are the top 10 articles of 2017.

1. God and the Transgender Debate (September 2017). I loved reviewing this book. It has been instrumental in shaping—and expanding—my worldview with regard to sex, identity, homosexuality, and the psychology of conditions like gender dysphoria.

2. Christless Christianity (May 2017). Horton’s book continues to be relevant in his critique of a Christianity which displaces pursuit of Christ for a more palatable set of beliefs. Ben Smith provided this pointed summary.

3. Know Christ’s Love (July 2017). A good reminder that God isn’t interested merely in intellectual assent, but an all-in love expressed in and through community.

4. How to Love Those Who are Hurting (January 2017). Furman taught me a great deal about how to love people walking through pain and suffering; including what not to do or say.

5. Sing! (October 2017). Singing with the gathered body of believers is one of my favourite ways to worship. The Getty’s biblically rich exhortation to think deeply on this expression is wonderful and relevant to every Christian.

6. Lessons in the Art of Giving Away Your Life (June 2017). Ever wanted a clear picture of what someone living as part of God’s kingdom looks like? Look no further.

7. Give Up Lent for Lent? (March 2017). Part of me enjoys writing posts like this to poke fun at Christians who think it abhorrent to adopt practices that aren’t specifically mentioned in the bible. But I deeply appreciate and look forward to the opportunity for refocus that Lent provides each year.

8. Betrayed by my Own Body (February 2017). Still a terrible runner. Still running.

9. What Makes a Missionary? (March 2017). Plenty of folks have adopted the title “Missionary” over the years. These are my thoughts on whether you may (and should) lay claim to the title, or not.

10. Justification is Not ‘Just-as-if-I’d Never Sinned’ (July 2017). This year I’ve come across so many Christians leaning precariously on comfortable clichés that I’d like to see dropped from our vocab. Oh, here’s one now.

There are some big things on the horizon for 2018 (and some that may still fall to the cutting room floor, depending on other commitments) but from me to you, thanks for reading!