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Author: Chris MacLeavy

34. ESTJ. Theology. Family. Marvel.

Love: The Fourth Sunday of Advent

Having re-lit the candles of hope, peace, and joy, we take this fourth Sunday of Advent to reflect on the coming of love. In God taking on humanity to seek and save humanity, we see clearly the greatest loving act that the world has ever known. This transcendent God – who himself made everything that was made – loved broken humanity so much that he humbled himself to take the form of a man and lived among us. The arrival of God incarnated in human flesh was itself a wondrous, supernatural, history-changing event; yet the Bible tells us that he had no great status, handsome features, or charismatic personality with which to draw a crowd. But come the crowds did. This Jesus, born in a…

Wednesdays on the Web (14/12)

14 Words of Advice for Guest Preachers Sam Bierig offers these punchy pointers for the times when you may be extended an invitation to preach at a church other than your own. Adhere to these, and you just might get asked to come back again. Don’t Take Your Religion So Seriously “I have no religious beliefs.  None…. There’s a better word for what I am: an apatheist.  It’s a neologism that fuses ‘apathy’ and ‘theism.’ It means someone who has absolutely no interest in the question of a god’s (or gods’) existence, and is just as uninterested in telling anyone else what to believe.” Ryan Dueck from Wondering Fair ponders the plausibility of this statement by a Canadian journalist offering apathy as an alternative religious worldview.…

Review: The Mission of God (C. H. Wright)

The mission of Israel was to live as God’s people in God’s land for God’s glory. But what of the Christian living in the twenty-first century under the New Covenant? How should the story of Old Testament Israel influence our reading of Scripture, and by application transform how we live? In clarifying his missional hermeneutic for the whole bible, Wright begins with a definition of terms. Most crucial is the acknowledgement that mission is not ours; mission is God’s. For Wright, a Christian worldview asserting that there is one God at work in human history and that (from the point of view of humanity) ‘mission’ means our committed participation in his purposes for the redemption of his creation is essential. Using this as the basis…

Peace: The Second Sunday of Advent

Having lit the candle of hope last Sunday, we take time this week to remember that as well as being the hope of the world, Jesus is also our peace. In the busyness of the Christmas season, it’s easy to get carried away with the pressures and anxieties that society places on us through the expectations of the season (or, what we in the West have imposed on it). But God desires that those who place their trust in him should not live as ones who are characterized by stressfully straining to succeed with the perfect presents or the most magnificent meal. Rather, we remember that after God created the heavens and the earth he rested (Gen 2:2), that Jesus taught us seek to peace…

The Joy of Finishing Well

Back in January, I jumped on board Tim Challies’ 2016 Reading Challenge (which looks like this). Working full-time, finishing my final year of study, and expecting our third child, this seemed a little ambitious even on the lightest plan (complete 1 book every 4 weeks). What I learned in the early months was that all I needed was to break away from my conventional reading style (I’m a physical book kind of guy) and by tapping in to resources like Audible and Kindle I could keep my attention span longer, and get through more because of that. Accepting this challenge was in no way a head-over-heels scramble to simply achieve the number though; rather I tried to be intentional about every book I invested time…

Hope: The First Sunday of Advent

Today is the first Sunday of Advent; the season of anticipation leading up to the celebration of the arrival of the one Lord and Saviour of the world. But before we rejoice and sing “it is the night of our dear Saviour’s birth”, we remember our desperate need for such a Saviour to save us from sin which is not only in us, but is us. We look to the history of Israel – which the apostle Paul tells us is our shared history through the finished work of Christ – to their hope for God’s coming Messiah to save, forgive, and restore them. Traditionally, the Sundays of Advent are marked by the lighting of a candle. The candle for this first Sunday is hope.…

Life After Seminary

I just clicked submit for the last paper required to complete my studies. While I sit with my bittersweet feelings and uncertainty about where I go from here, I know more than before that it’s important for me to have a vision for the future. So while I wait for my final grades, I consider the places where my reclaimed time and energy can be best redirected, and perhaps those places will come as no surprise. 1. More Family Discipleship My first responsibility and greatest privilege is not to crowds of thousands, or to a global audience via social media, or even to my dearly loved local church. The primary souls for whom I remain accountable to God for are my own congregation; my wife…

2016 Reading Challenge – APRIL UPDATE

2016 is well under way, and I’m making progress on the Challenge. Finding time to read is about to become a lot more interesting, as our third child is due at the end of April. So while the next list might be shorter, I’ll continue to post updates, as (so far) I highly recommend everything I’ve read. I haven’t listed the categories that these fit into, nor have I listed the numerous comic books that I’m reading each week, nor the texts that I’m reading for study; so this list is limited strictly to the 2016 Reading Challenge. If you read (or have read) any of these, I’d love to have more conversation about them so drop me a line! God Made All of Me,…

Communicating for a Change

Every journey begins and ends somewhere. The same should be said for every sermon. Unfortunately, what most of us grew up hearing were messages built around several points rather than one clear destination. Andy Stanley and Lane Jones explain that the point of having points is to move people systematically through an outline of information; but if life change is your goal, point by point preaching is by far the most effective approach. I haven’t written a hundred sermons. But I know that when I write, I have a dangerous tendency to structure a sermon too much like another one of my seminary papers; and that becomes obvious the moment its read aloud. Communicating for a Change contains so many implications, insights, imperatives, and instructions (one…

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