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Author: Chris MacLeavy

34. ESTJ. Theology. Family. Marvel.

Pneumatology

All too often relegated to a minor role, one of the most exciting developments in 20th century theological thought is a resurgence of interest in the Holy Spirit. While historically there have been a broad spectrum of views held with regard to the person and work of the Holy Spirit, no denomination or movement can be said to hold a monopoly on the Spirit’s activity or involvement, and the Bible itself presents no systematic view of the Holy Spirit any more than it presents such a neatly delivered package on any other doctrine. In his book Pneumatology: The Holy Spirit in Ecumenical, International and Contextual Perspective Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen surveys the Biblical canon (with commentary from church history) to form a solid ‘core’ for understanding the Holy…

Through the Trials

I’ve just finished reading Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield. Reading about his various trials made me think of what our comment as Christians would be to him. I think a lot of us would tell Mr. Copperfield that the answer to his life’s woes is to become a Christian. Now I do agree of course that we should want and encourage everybody to know Christ, but I think we tend to sell that by making promises that God doesn’t make. We have a theology that says God will give us all sorts of blessings, and it implies – if not states outright – that when bad things happen it’s because we’ve stepped out from God’s covering or we’re being attacked by the devil.

Knowing God vs Knowing about God

One of the beautiful things about Christianity is learning together in community. This week, the “Christian Classics” reading group that I’m part of began reading J.I. Packer’s theological masterpiece Knowing God. This book is a must-read for every Christian. Reading a chapter a week, I’m sure this won’t be the only post written from this rich contemporary classic. In the first two chapters, Packer defends the critical importance of the study of God. Not just for the academics or pastors, but rather every Christian should earnestly desire to know all that they can about the God who has saved them. He describes the humbling experience of coming to grasp something new of all that God is and does, and the only appropriate response in our learning – that of adoration, praise, and thankfulness.

True Worshipers

When John Calvin wrote “we should consider it the great end of our existence to be found numbered among the worshippers of God” I’m sure he wasn’t picturing an auditorium with the house lights down, the stage lights up, and a band that is working hard to ‘create an atmosphere’ where people feel drawn to worship. At a time when worship has become an industry, Bob Kauflin (pastor, songwriter, and the director of Sovereign Grace Music) presents this incredibly helpful book that connects our practices as the gathered community of God to the much bigger all-of-life reality of worship.

The 2016 Reading Challenge

This year, I’m getting together with some friends to participate in Tim Challies’ 2016 Reading Challenge. It’s simple really; I love to read, but I find I always read the same stuff. Whether you’re a light reader or do nothing but read, this is a fantastic, organised way to enlarge your scope of reading across topics and genres. Within the challenge, you can choose to read 13, 26, 52, 104, or (with extra credit) 109 books over the course of the year. That challenge is appealing to me because Tim’s plan will encourage me to read different kinds of books than I might normally read.

Taking the Lead

It seems to me that one of the big topics being taught at the moment is that of leadership. We have books on it, we have conferences on it, and it is being taught from pulpits across the world. The message appears to be that the goal is to get as far up the church organisational structure and that the best way to do that is to develop leadership skills. A measure of how good a Christian somebody is would correlate to their position in the church. It seems to me, however, that this teaching doesn’t really reflect the teaching of Christ Himself. Reading the gospels, I find Jesus spends very little time teaching about becoming a better leader, which you would think he would want to do given that he only had three years with the disciples before he was going to leave the church in their hands.

How Siri Helps My Spiritual Life

I’m a terrible multi-tasker. As much as I’d like to think otherwise, my brain simply can’t give an adequate level of attention to more than one or two things at a time. Most of us have been there; you’re having a time of prayer and the phone rings. Immediately, I forget that I’m spending time bringing my cares to the King of the universe, and instinctively reach for my phone. The phone call ends. I go get a glass of water, walk around the house for a bit, pack up some Lego, then eventually remember that I was praying.

I’m so sorry God! I totally forgot about you!

The distractions aren’t always the fault of my iPhone however; my brain is easily distracted by a million to-do lists for work, study, family, my own interests, upcoming events, you name it. But what if there was a way that my iPhone could be better used to clear the clutter from my brain before it takes over and I forget what really matters? Here are 5 ways Siri has helped me in my spiritual life.

The Light Has Come

In many Protestant churches – particularly those who don’t closely follow the rhythm of the traditional liturgical calendar – Advent has faded into the background, and the gap of silence between All Hallow’s Eve and Christmas Eve is filled only with the red and green consumerism that fills store shelves from November 1. But this tradition is rich with meaning and beauty that serves to enhance the significance of not only the coming that it looks back on, but also the future coming to which it points.

The Final Word

I’ve heard it said on more than one occasion “I’d become a Christian in a heartbeat if I heard God speak to me”. Even well-meaning Christians are frequently heard offering encouragement that begins with phrases such as “God spoke to me, and…” and while in most cases I tend to switch off after that, it begs an important question: should we be seeking this phenomenon as normative for the Christian life?

It’s Easier to Catch a Baseball than a Handful of Sand

Gary Millar and Phil Campbell have a passion for teaching the Bible book by book in a way that is scripturally faithful and also engaging. The challenge for any preacher lies in working hard to exegete the biblical text in order to preach it in a way that fits your own personality and delivery style, while enabling those listening to think more clearly and deeply about its contemporary relevance in their lives.

Review: Counter Culture

I think it would be impossible to read David Platt’s latest book without taking on something of the weight of burden his heart feels for the issues in its pages. He begins “imagine standing at the height of all the earth and seeing the depth of human poverty” and Platt is no stranger to spending extended periods in some of the world’s most impoverished places. As the former Pastor of the Church at Brook Hills and now as President of the International Mission Board, Platt has travelled extensively around the world witnessing the life-changing (and often life-threatening) implications of countering economic, spiritual, and moral poverty with the gospel in a world where racism, sex slavery, pornography and persecution are worse than any other time in human history. It is from this position that Platt makes a compassionate call to stand for justice and mercy in the world, while proclaiming without reservation that Jesus Christ is the Judge and Saviour of the world.

The Beginning of Wisdom

I was in a church recently and everybody was talking about the love of God. It struck me that while we are more than happy to wax eloquent about the love of God, we never talk about the fear of God. Now don’t misunderstand me; by no means do I want to diminish the amazing love of God – far from it – but I think that if that is all that we talk about then we are left with an incomplete and inadequate view of God. It can very easily lead to the image of God being a kindly old man who winks at sin because he loves us and even if he didn’t like it then he probably couldn’t do a whole lot about it anyway.

The Man behind the Miracle

Our church is currently walking through the Gospel of Mark, and I had the privilege of sharing from Mark 6:30-44. What follows is a slightly edited manuscript of my sermon on that day. (listen online here)

There are many miracles recorded in all four gospel accounts but only two miracles (the resurrection and this), that are recorded in all four Gospel accounts. We see it in Matthew 14, Mark 6, Luke 9, and John 6. And it’s little wonder that that’s the case; it’s certainly the grandest-scale miracle that Jesus ever performed. I know a lot of people might be tempted to say “yes, we know. Jesus feeds the 5,000 right? He heals a few sick, teaches them a little, then provides fish and bread for everyone. It’s an amazing miracle, yes, but we already know the story”. But Mark’s motivation behind writing his gospel account wasn’t to point to the miracles, but to answer the question “WHO IS THIS MAN?”. So in these few minutes we’re going to seek to answer that question. We’re going to look at three ways in this passage in which Jesus revealed his divine identity, and how every story Mark told was to dramatically direct people’s focus to Jesus.

Review: Intentional Parenting

When it comes to the goal of raising children who treasure Jesus above all things, Tad Thompson’s book Intentional Parenting: Family Discipleship by Design provides relevant, uncomplicated, practical theology in a punchy no-nonsense 100 pages. Short accessible chapters mean you get straight to the crux of each matter Tad addresses, and the “Now Make It Stick” section at the end of every chapter brings the point right into your home by asking questions and issuing challenges that help you know right where you’re at, and where you need to grow.

To Judge or Not to Judge

Scripture is filled with tensions; seemingly irreconcilable truths that taken at face value can’t seem to coexist while still holding that the Bible is entirely consistent, and totally infallible in its wholeness. One such example of this is the question of judging others. How do we reconcile Jesus’ oft-quoted words in Matthew 7 (“Don’t judge others, and you won’t be judged yourself”) with instructions from, say, Paul to Timothy in 1 Timothy 5 (“As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear”)? There is a mystery here that deserves exploration.

C. S. Lewis on the Church

When I first became a Christian, about fourteen years ago, I thought that I could do it on my own, by retiring to my rooms and reading theology, and I wouldn’t go to the churches and Gospel Halls; . . . I disliked very much their hymns, which I considered to be fifth-rate poems set to sixth-rate music. But as I went on I saw the great merit of it. I came up against different people of quite different outlooks and different education, and then gradually my conceit just began peeling off. I realized

A Biblical Foundation for Ethics

[when considering ethics, it is worth highlighting] the covenantal context of the commandments in the OT and the eschatological context of the Sermon on the Mount in the NT. It is misguided to abstract the Ten Commandments from God’s gracious and powerful act of redemption for Israel and his covenant commitment to them to be their God. They are not universal ethical rules. They are directions on how Israel is to live the free life as God’s people in grateful response to all that he has done and is for them. It is also a mistake to talk of the beatitudes in Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount as virtues to be cultivated and rewarded, and of the sermon in general as the epitome of…

Celebrating the Seeking Saviour

The word advent means “coming”. Christmas is a time when we celebrate the coming of Christ into the world, and the reason for his coming – to seek and save the lost. Similarly, Advent is a season for remembering that God is on a mission. He is sending, pursuing, searching, and saving. Two times in 1 John 3:1-10 we are told why Christmas happened – Christ came into the world to take away sin. The greatest glory that the world would ever see is when the Son of Man (Jesus’ favourite designation for himself) was lifted up on a cross to die for sinners, destroying sin.

The story of the Son of God coming into the world is so much more than historical fact. It is a message of hope sent by God to single parents, anxious teenagers, struggling preachers, depressed husbands, disabled neighbours, us. God’s message of hope this Advent is that since the Son of God lived, died, rose victorious, and is coming again, that what is bad can be changed and what is good need not be lost.

Our Great Inheritance

Preached at my church on 21st September 2014, this message encourages those who know Jesus Christ to enter into the fullness of what it means to have their identity found in Christ, as adopted children in the family of God.

What is Ministry, Anyway? (Part 2)

God is the Creator. Therefore, in order to be faithful we must inquire concerning God’s purpose in and for his creation. The world exists as the product of the outflow of divine love; the eternal relationship between Father, Spirit and Son, and his invitation for us to participate in the life of the Trinity[1]. God is not simply saving individuals and preparing them for heaven, but rather he’s setting apart a people among whom he can dwell, and who by their unity and diversity can represent his life and love to all nations[2]. Everyone gets community, but recently this took on new meaning for me when I became the step-father to a 10 year old with Cerebral Palsy, a hearing impairment and an intellectual impairment. The Apostle Paul talks about God’s sovereign and loving arrangement of His people in 1 Corinthians 12:18. So, with the knowledge that God has intentionally ordained some to be weaker, by Paul’s definition our churches are not complete without the presence of people living with some form of “disability”. But if that’s the case, why is it that we don’t see more people who are in some way disabled in our churches?

What is Ministry, Anyway? (Part 1)

So what is ministry, anyway? I want to offer four ideas. Four keys that have unlocked for me what ministry is. Not that I’ve “discovered”ministry; but that as I reflect on my life, I see the gradual revealing of my participation in God’s story and how it has shaped me – but more specifically for today – how it has moulded the way that I approach this “ministry thing”. My prayer today is that God would use my story (not that you’d see me though) to give us some tangible ways in which our theology of ministry can be practically applied to our daily lives, that God might get the glory both inside and outside the church.

Justification is Not ‘Just-as-if-I’d Never Sinned’

Lately I’ve been hearing preachers declare the good news of justification – a word central to the Christian Gospel. They frequently use the catchy word-play that justified means “just-as-if-I’d never sinned”. It seems like a clever phrase, and something that we as Christians can celebrate. But it’s not really that clever, because justification is so much more than this. The main flaw with this definition is that it’s incomplete. Justification should never be reduced to merely the removal of sin. It’s not a negative – sin being dealt with – it’s a positive: I have moved into a right relationship with God. Let’s explore a legal metaphor first. Recently there has been a court battle going on where a person was accused of a significant…

We Shared the Gospel with You, and our Lives as well

Yesterday our church family said goodbye to some dear friends. It was a bittersweet moment as the congregation joined in prayer to bless this couple prior to their departure back to the USA in a few days time. It would not be an exaggeration to say that during their time serving the church in Australia, they had touched every life with the love and grace that Jesus Christ exemplified, and every heart was heavy to see them go. At the same time, they (and we) know that their journey back to the US is in God’s timing, and so they were released with the most love-filled blessing a congregation could express. When Greg and Linda were invited to say a few departing words, Greg captured…

Compassion, the Gospel, and Us

An amazing thing about compassion is that because of God, it’s indestructible.

This Sunday we continued our series on the character of Christ. Taking examples from remarkable people like Mother Teresa, we saw what true Christ-empowered compassion really looks like. And along with forgiveness, humility and love, as Christians we are called to clothe ourselves (Colossians 3:12) with compassion as we represent Christ to the world. Mother Teresa’s life undeniably embodies compassion both in her everyday and through specific events; like when she convinced the committee that awarded her the Nobel Peace Prize to use the finances for her awards dinner to feed 400 starving children…for a year.

But the message of compassion is never complete if it doesn’t begin where this post started.

Pray for your Wife

I’m now fast approaching seven weeks until I get married. As I reflect upon the way that my life will change (and is already changing), I’m reminded of the way in which Scripture calls me to love my wife, and how Jesus demonstrated that love and relationship in community with the Father and the Spirit through prayer. It’s so important that I pray for my wife. And I don’t just mean a quick little prayer for her in the morning or at night; I mean intentional and devoted praying for her. As I’ve been thinking about reasons I need to pray for my wife, here are a few: Prayer causes me to consider her. I have a busy life, and I can easily be distracted…