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Author: Chris MacLeavy

34. ESTJ. Theology. Family. Marvel.

What Makes a Missionary?

There’s an underlying assumption in the Christian church that somehow if you travel overseas and help out in an orphanage that you can assign yourself the designation missionary. Building houses, rescuing girls from trafficking, and equipping villages with clean water are all wonderful acts, but it seems to me that this broad use of the term brings with it widespread negative implications for the entire evangelistic enterprise of the church. In a recent article linked to by the International Missions Board the author provides this definition of mission: [Mission] is God’s plan that people from every nation, tribe and language will come to saving faith in Jesus through the preaching of the Gospel. Perhaps that seems simplistic. And in a sense, it is. But it’s also worthy of…

Wednesdays on the Web (08/03)

God Wants our Sad Esther Fleece from the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission reminds us that while the culture around us pushes the message that sadness is a ‘negative’ emotion and we should aim to avoid it at all costs (whether by medication, or distraction, or relationship, or whatever) God has not only given us these emotions, but also the language to express them, and a book which is full of lessons on how to face suffering on the days when we don’t have it together. Pixels are People In light of its potentially destructive power, why would any Christian use social media? The short answer is because the Lord is sovereign and pixels are people. There are more than three billion Internet users around the…

Sacrifice, Substitution, and Surrender

Recently I’ve been getting so much out of North Pine Baptist Church’s series on the Temple and Tabernacle that I’ve made an unofficial transcript of the latest message. I’m sharing it here because of the gospel-soaked, scripture-rich content and the immense good news and practical application that it presents for Christians today.



Morning everyone, good to see you all today. Let’s pray shall we.

Father this morning we continue in this series entitled God in Our Midst and we want to thank you that you are indeed here with us this morning. Lord we are in the presence of a Holy God. This morning as we look at this bronze altar and what it signifies – what it points to – we pray again that you might have grace upon us. That you might help us to understand and grasp in a deeper way the significance of sacrifice; of the sacrifice that has been made for us through Jesus Christ. Lord this morning as we hear from your word we ask that our minds and our hearts would be clear; that they would be attentive to what you have to say to us today. Lord convict us in our hearts, help us to know the very things you want to speak to us about this morning. For you – indeed we know – want to speak to us, and we thank you for that. We pray this morning as we open up this passage together that Jesus Christ might be honoured and glorified. Amen.

Romans 6:23 says this: “For the wages of sin is death”. The wages of sin is death. Wages have featured a lot in the news this week. Those of you who have been across the news this week will know that there has been penalty rates and things like that discussed in the media. When we think about wages we understand them to be those things which are owing to us because of the work we’ve done. We work, we get paid; they’re our wages. But the bible clearly states that when it comes to the things that we’ve done, the work that we’ve done, the sin we’ve committed before God, then we have something owing to us for that. And that is death. We all deserve to die because of our sin.

Puts a real cloud down on everything, doesn’t it.

And you might think this morning as we start off this message and we think about sin and the fact that it deserves death you might think “well you know what, that’s a bit harsh, isn’t it?”

Last week as we began the series on the tabernacle, we focused on the fact that God is a holy God. That his holiness points to his absolute perfection. His absolute purity. His absolute goodness. His absolute glory. His absolute justice and righteousness. His separateness or his apartness from everything else. Nothing can come even close to this holy God because he is so perfect and glorious and righteous and just. He is so pure. If we liken God in his holiness to the sun, it is both good and terrifying at the same time. It brings heat and light in order for life to grow and flourish, but it also has the capacity to kill anything that comes close to it. And because God is holy, it means that he is like that sun in that he cannot have anything to do with sin, that as soon as we draw close, as soon as sin comes anywhere in the vicinity of God it is consumed by his holy fire. His holiness naturally condemns and destroys sin and anything affected by it.

Well then, how do we ever hope to approach this holy God? How can we ever hope to have any kind of relationship with him? To come into presence? Well we discover how we do that through this imagery of the brazen altar in the tabernacle. This bronze altar. And we’ll see this and what it ultimately points to.

Forgiveness: Rarely Easy, Never Optional

In the parable of the unforgiving servant (Matthew 18:21-35), Jesus tells of a servant who owed his king a great sum of money. The king ordered the man be sold, along with his wife and children to pay the debt. However the servant fell on his knees imploring the king to have patience with him, and the king ended up forgiving him; the servant now completely released from the debt. But then that same man went out and seized a fellow servant who owed him a relatively small sum and demanded he paid back what was owed, throwing the man in prison until the debt was paid. Having witnessed this, several people went and told the king and the unforgiving servant was himself thrown into…

Give Up Lent for Lent?

Recently The Cripplegate published a thoughtful piece on why evangelicals should consider giving up Lent. Like everything on the Internet, it was praised or pummeled with opinions from every point along the spectrum. The post contained a helpful overview of (Catholic) church history pertaining to the development of Lent, followed by a self-diagnostic of sorts where we take a good look at our motivations for participating in Lent and step back to look at the way in which we’ve choosen to engage with it. In short, this author felt that the act of giving something up as a way of preparing for Easter is simply anachronistic. Far from a response that would be titled ‘here’s why I think he’s wrong’,  I offer these thoughts to encourage what…

Wednesdays on the Web (29/02)

Marriage, Hospitality and the Spiritual Life Dr. Stuart Devenish makes four observations for Christian couples. He writes “if our faith isn’t being put to work in our marriage-relationships, it can hardly be put to work in relationships outside of marriage” Why Papa of The Shack is not Aslan of Narnia The follow-up to last week’s post on why you should not waste your time or money on the upcoming movie of The Shack. Challies has three excellent points (he had me at allegorical fiction). Read this, and you’ll be persuaded that life is too short for bad films. Growing (in) Humility If the world, the flesh, and the devil continually tempt us to pride, and humility is essential for spiritual progress, what are some practical…

On My Table:
Life & Books with Brian Douglas

This month’s On My Table comes from Brian Douglas, Associate Pastor at All Saints Presbyterian Church in Boise, Idaho and chaplain at the Wyakin Foundation. He was previously a teacher, sold books and outdoors gear, and was a security guard. He grew up near Miami, but his mom raised him to love Detroit Tigers baseball. What book(s) are you currently reading? Throughout 2017, I’ll be reading Calvin’s Institutes with a bunch of friends. Wilbourne, Union with Christ. Soren Kierkegaard, The Present Age. Re-reading Keller, Reason for God in anticipation of reading Making Sense of God. And I’m slowly cooking my way through Peláez & Silverman, The Cuban Table. Next in the queue: Taunton, The Faith of Christopher Hitchens, and Gjelten, Bacardi and the Long Fight for Cuba.…

Wednesdays on the Web (22/02)

  Please Stop Saying “God Told Me” Unless this kind of language is immediately followed by Scripture, it’s a big red flag. Josh Buice discusses why (oh, and I agree with him). Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility ‬This post is a little longer than normally keeps my attention span, but John MacArthur has been doing this a long time. His words are carefully chosen and they’re well worth your time. For Better Conversations Here’s some insight into the lost art of conversation from the President of Christian Communicators Worldwide. Off the back of Barnabas Piper’s new book: The Curious Christian this is a fascinating, valuable read. Keep your focus on the other person as you talk to each other. Look at him or her, probe…

The Temple and the Tabernacle

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

Marvel at the Jewels

Humans were made to wonder. Built into each of us is a curiosity about things and a capacity to pause and ponder. When it comes to meditation, it shouldn’t surprise us that the world has taken hold of this means of grace that God designed to aid our spiritual journey and turned it into a human-centric self-help endeavour. Whereas world religions (and other groups) would define meditation as the act of stilling your thoughts, emptying your mind, and focusing on nothing outside of yourself, Christian meditation is different. Almost the complete opposite in fact. God designed us to hear his voice, primarily through the reading of his written word. Moreover, he not only wants us to hear but also to reflect on what we’ve heard. In his…

Wednesdays on the Web (15/02)

Marital Love Must be Sexual In the last of a four part series on the Puritans’ theology of marriage, Joel Beeke makes a solid case from scripture (and the Puritans) as to why marital love absolutely must be sexual. While the Puritans would never be seen as reducing marriage to sex, they emphasized that sexual intimacy is the “due benevolence” that married people owe to their spouses, and in this way they demonstrate God’s design for marriage as the fullest, most intimate form of love on earth. An Intro to the Institutes More and more lately I’ve become convinced that I need to get into Calvin’s Institutes. Karl Barth once said: “I could gladly and profitably set myself down and spend all the rest of my…

You and Me Forever:
Marriage in Light of Eternity

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

The Ugliness of Knowledge without Conviction

Even today one of my greatest struggles is refusing to let my knowledge of God stand in the place of genuine faith in God. Sometimes I can barely tell a difference. Am I speaking from conviction or from a head full of knowledge? Am I acting rightly out of a sense of moral obligation and knowing it’s “the right thing to do” or out of a life that seeks to honor Christ? Am I speaking the truth out of love or out of a desire to impress? Motives are rarely clean and pure. It is difficult to delineate, especially since knowledge is part of faith. But the difference shows up in how I feel about my actions. If I find joy in honoring Christ when…

Wednesdays on the Web (08/02)

How to Create a Kingdom Culture in your Home Talking to our family members happens naturally. Having spiritual content to those conversations doesn’t. God knew this and made it a command in Israel. We can talk about the weather all we want, but bring up something spiritual and you get…crickets. Kingdom culture requires kingdom conversations. Not only is it an opportunity to teach our children, but the conversation itself elevates the culture of the home toward the things of God. The Father is Not the Son The theology nerd in me loves conversations like this, and I’ve kept track (from a safe distance) of the ongoing debate that raged in the latter half of 2016 over the functional relationship of the members of the Trinity.…

The Curious Christian

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

Betrayed by My Own Body

I’m a terrible runner. I’d like to think of myself as a runner, but the reality is that I’m inconsistent and the fruit of that is evident to every other true runner around me. Don’t get me wrong; like many others I come to the run with energy, enthusiasm, and a strong desire to do better than the time before. However without discipline to back up my determination the result will be much the same; willpower is not enough and I’m inevitably betrayed by my own body. I reach that point in every run when my body begins to tell me that it’s not too happy with the current state of affairs; it would much rather not be moving so fast or working so hard, thanks very much.…

More to Follow

Sometimes loving others is hard. Our own sinfulness means that we’re naturally inclined to be selfish, and our fallen bodies and minds are prone to weariness. When we persevere with those who are harder to love we often find ourselves getting tired, losing patience, or sometimes simply walking away and assigning him or her to the ‘too hard’ basket. The gospel of Jesus Christ is good news for us because it reminds us that it is because of God’s unconditional love for us that we can offer unconditional love for others. In his book Being There, Dave Furman writes I read a story of an artist who once submitted a painting of Niagara Falls to an art show but forgot to give it a title. The…

Wednesdays on the Web (01/02)

Recovering Godly Speech in an Age of Profanity It no longer shocks us when vulgar language appears in movies, on stage, or in our workplaces. For the most part, we flippantly approve of it with statements like “well, that’s why it’s rated M”. But the bible has a very different response to this, and our attitude as Christians is to be increasingly countercultural. Performing a “Time Audit” of Your Life Time is the resource that governs all others. J. D. Greear provides this thought-provoking (even if you don’t actually DO it) perspective to help us all be more self-aware of where our time is actually going, and how the quality of everything else can be positively – or negatively – impacted by how we manage…

What I’m Reading in February

Reading for 2017 is well under way (check out what I read in January here). Here’s what I’m looking forward to this month. Habits of Grace: David Mathis So far I’ve read the forward (by John Piper) and I love the way he sets the reader up with the expectation that Mathis’ aim is to help believers enjoy Jesus through the spiritual disciplines. Having practiced (or at the very least become aware of) many spiritual disciplines from various branches of Christianity throughout history, I’m very much looking forward to the encouragement of Mathis in deepening my Christian spirituality, and enjoying Jesus more. Assassin’s Quest (Farseer Trilogy, Book #3): Robin Hobb The Farseer Trilogy are the books that I both want to finish, and don’t want to…

Wednesdays on the Web (25/01)

Reading Out of Love for Others As an avid reader who sometimes feels guilty for taking ‘selfish’ time to read, I appreciated every point that Tim Challies makes here. As with most things, reading is about the motivation of your heart. This is a great list to help keep me in check by asking “who am I reading for?” Your Responsibility to the Church Contrasted with the prolific (and dangerous) variety of “churches” available today, John MacArthur sums up everything a church should be. So what is an ordinary church? What do you mean an ordinary church? I mean a normal, customary, regular, common, ordinary church. Well, what would that be like? Well, here we go. You’d have a saved congregation, a saved congregation; that’s…

On My Table:
Life & Books with Ben Smith

This month’s On My Table comes from Ben Smith. He’s a husband and a father, a self-confessed geek, and a theology nerd. He lives with the conviction that all people should be honoured and respected while ideas and beliefs should be tested and challenged. What book(s) are you currently reading? One of my missions for the year is to read through Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion. I’m also reading through Martin Luther’s Commentary on Romans with some friends of mine. Both books have been absolute gold so far. I’m also reading The Rise of Rome by Plutarch. It’s a selection of his Parallel Lives where he compares Greek and Roman heroes. I read “The Rise and Fall of Athens: Nine Greek Lives” last year…

Wednesdays on the Web (18/01)

When a Marriage Dies This profound, humbling honesty from Barnabas Piper still resonates with me a week after reading it. Piper writes with self-awareness and insight (both of which I could use more of); whether or not you can personally relate to his subject matter, you’re guaranteed to be moved by his words. Christianity and Transgender I’m almost positive that I don’t have the right categories in which to rightly think about this. Sam Allberry shares some thoughts on how and why Christianity offers the only real solution to transgender issues. Why You Should Not Use Your Phone for Personal Devotions Perhaps you’ve never struggled with using a phone for your devotional times (like I have). David Murray argues five reasons to avoid using technology…

How to Love Those who are Hurting

Ten years ago Dave Furman developed a nerve disorder resulting in chronic pain and a disability that prevents him from using both his arms. Working through depression as he came to terms with needing care on a daily basis, Furman now writes of the journey (shared with his wife and four children) offering highly practical encouragement for how to love those who are walking through pain and suffering. The first two chapters address the suffering of those who daily care for the needs of another. In a very personal way, Furman recognises that oftentimes the friends and family of the sufferer don’t have their experiences addressed or needs validated, and so he begins with two chapters called Grieving Your Loss in Another’s Pain and Walking with God. He…

Wednesdays on the Web (11/01)

Are You Curious? I don’t know a whole lot about what I’ll be doing in March, but I know I’d love to be checking out Barnabas Piper’s new book The Curious Christian. While I wait (with bated breath, whatever that means..), I can content my curiosity by checking out his 12 Ways to be a Curious Person. In this teaser to the book, Piper outlines ways in which curiosity is a gift from God which we are to engage for our growth and his glory. Alongside encouragements to explore, ask (and really listen!), read, and try new things, he reminds us Curiosity is about God and for God. It is an expression of worship and it honors Him by exploring the depths and breadth of…

Is Your Personal Testimony Enough?

I am an American Ninja Warrior Fan. There’s something about watching people going through obstacle courses and performing feats of endurance, athleticism and strength that I could only dream of doing. I’ve seen 7 seasons so far and amidst all of the amazing feats there is something that has stuck out to me because of its familiarity. One of the big things that they do is try and get to know the contestants and there’s been a familiar story that comes through over and over again. “I was a drunk/drug addict/suicidal/depressed/didn’t have a place in the world… but then I discovered American Ninja Warrior and I started trying to do some of the stuff and it helped me turn my life around and now I’m…