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CHRIS MACLEAVY Posts

Wednesdays on the Web (21/06)

Stop Telling Me God is My Father

In light of American Fathers Day recently, this article provides a poignant perspective from a person whose story is more common than we realise, and yet we can be remarkably dismissive through our Christian clichés.

The Problem with Pet Sins

There’s a number of reasons why I find this post fascinating and valuable. First, because I’m currently reading James K. A. Smith’s You Are What You Love in which I’m seeing more clearly the importance of self-awareness when it comes to re-calibrating our hearts away from the practices of the world and forming habits that align our spiritual compass to the ‘true North’ of Jesus Christ, and second because it answers the popular question of “Does God always answer prayer?” with the less popular “Actually, no”.

Sin is Cosmic Treason

North Pine Baptist Church is currently in a series on Heaven & Hell, and this continues to prompt a number of questions (some healthy, some less so) about God’s love vis-a-vis his righteous justice when it comes to eternal destinations. This post adds value to that discussion by reminding us of the seriousness of sin, the scandal of the cross, and God’s glory displayed in and through everything he does.

Re-calibrating Life

This short post continues a theme I’m seeing in my reading lately; one of reorientation away from the things of the world that would seek to distract, depress, or destroy and lift one’s eyes to him who redeems and restores. In this author’s case, the Psalms are a helpful way to still our souls and fix our eyes on Jesus.

10 Things You Should Know about God’s Attributes

Easy to read and with plenty of headings, this is a list that you could skim through in under a minute. And yet, I’d encourage you to pause; smell the flowers, touch the leaves, turn over the stones. These attributes are wondrous, and they lead us to worship.

3-2-1: The Story of God, the World, and You

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When Authenticity & Holiness Collide

I read an interview recently with a Christian artist who was asked about his use of an expletive in a recent song. His response was that this particular word is something found in his normal vocabulary so it would be “disingenuous to leave it out.” It got me thinking; when did we start valuing authenticity over holiness? We are seeing more and more people in public arenas – particularly musicians and pastors –  who are using expletives and the justification tends to be that they are just being “real.”

Now I understand that there are Christians who don’t have an issue with swearing, but while there is a conversation to be had with regards to Ephesians 4:29, that’s not something I’m going to take up at the moment. Instead, I would argue that we need to consider 1 Corinthians 8. Paul addresses the issue of the consumption of food that has been offered to idols. He recognises that there are Christians who know that idols are nothing, and so they understand that there is no significance in food being offered to these idols thus they have no issue with eating it. Paul affirms their understanding and supports their right to eat the food.  Having recognised this attitude and affirming their right to eat the food Paul then goes on to give a caution. He warns the Corinthians that while they understand that there is no sin in eating food offered to idols there are others in their midst who genuinely view this activity as a sin who could be led to act against their conscience. He instructs them to consider their weaker brothers and not eat the food in their presence.

This situation is comparable to those who believe that expletives are just a natural part of language and so feel comfortable using them. Again, not taking up the argument on whether Christians should swear, but it is important to remember that there are many Christians who believe that swearing is sinful. Because of this surely it is the responsibility of any Christian with a public platform to speak and act in a way that is not going to cause others to sin against their conscience while they are in public, regardless of how they act in private.

Does this mean that we should present ourselves as being perfect people without any flaws? Of course not. Let us, however, always try to make sure that we don’t glorify those actions and behaviours that our Christian brothers and sisters consider to be sinful in a manner that would cause them to stumble. Instead, let us point to them as evidence for our continual need for Christ.

 


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.

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Wednesdays on the Web (14/06)

The Gospel Domino Effect

Here Courtney Yantes discusses “the grand chain reaction of dominoes”, and how these dominoes continue to crash into each other throughout human history for our good and the good of others.

Proceed at Once to the Text

I was reading a sermon by Charles Spurgeon not too long ago, wherein his opening remarks he stated, “Let us proceed at once to the text!” That little, almost insignificant phrase struck me in a way that made me pause. No jokes, no personal stories, no novelty; just procession to the text. How could the man dubbed the “Prince of Preachers” attract thousands upon thousands, week upon week, by simply proceeding to the text?

A Graphically Expressed Third Way on Gender Stuff in a Messed Up World: Complementarian? Egalitarian? Or the Cross?

There has been some valuable (respectful) discussion on the Internet about this issue in recent weeks. Everyone from Scot McKnight to Rachel Held Evans have opinions – strong opinions – on this issue that will remain contentious until Christ returns. In the mean time however, Nathan offers an alternative which is winsome and worthy of further discussion.

Life lessons around the Dinner Table: Guarding Family Time

As a parent, I urge you to radically prioritize family time and local church time over these things. Nobody can teach your child about life like you can. God uniquely knit you together to be the most effective life-teacher your child can have in this world. You are the chisel with which God wants to shape your child.

Understanding Your Emotions

Lately I’ve taken a greater interest in Emotional Intelligence. Largely because I’m terrible at it, and know very little about it. Psychology Today contributor Sarah-Nicole Bostan provides this helpful intro for understanding a little more EI, pointing out good ways to regulate emotion (while simultaneously highlighting how not to). I found this EI primer (of sorts) insightful.

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Councils & Creeds: An Introduction

Over the coming weeks, I’m inviting you to join me on a journey through an important part of the history of the Christian church. Many Christians today aren’t aware of the substantial debt we owe to our forebears who paved the way for us to grasp concepts that we now learn about in Sunday school. By wrestling with issues like God as Trinity, the humanity and divinity of Jesus Christ, and the inerrancy of Scripture, they hammered out for future generations a clear understanding of these significant doctrines. Essentially now our Christianity 101, these crucial theological positions that make up the foundation of orthodox Christianity were formed at councils and by creeds, some over many years. Orthodox here is defined as “conforming to the Christian faith as represented in the creeds of the early church” so a departure from any of the tenets that we’ll be looking at over the next several weeks marks a departure from Christianity as attested and accepted by two millennia of faithful followers.
In summary, this is important stuff.

This series is a primer; a quick (but hopefully helpful) look at significant events and documents that have aided in the establishment and defence of orthodox Christian doctrine throughout the centuries. Each article will present the conflict or controversy that called for a response, then focus on the resulting doctrine or document and demonstrate why it has such lasting value for the Christian church today.

Whether you’re new to the Christian faith, or you’re familiar with these events already, I hope you’ll join me. We have much to benefit from examining our rich heritage, and much to learn from those who have gone before.

We truly stand on the shoulders of giants. Watch this space.

 

More articles in Councils & Creeds:

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Only The Good Stuff

High on my list of new podcasts for 2017 is Stephen Altrogge’s latest project Only The Good Stuff. It’s been thoroughly enjoyable so far, with an upbeat tone that is refreshing as well as entertaining. The show’s intent is to feature zero complaining, no negativity, only discussion about things that his guests are truly enjoying. I love the premise, and so after listening to several episodes, I became inspired and set about making a list of my own. So here’s ‘the good stuff’ that I’ve been enjoying in 2017.

1. The Note Sleeve by Bellroy

Simply the best purchase I’ve made so far this year has been this wallet by Bellroy. In concert with the Stocard app for iPhone, I’ve simplified my wallet from two dozen credit cards, membership cards, rewards cards, and licences down to a super slim form (at least an inch thinner) that now fits in my pocket so easily I barely know its there. The design of this wallet gives me three quick access slots for my most used cards, and hides the rest away for their less frequent use. Carrying my wallet has always been an annoying necessity and a bulky irritation that no one has come up with a better solution for. Until now, and I’m loving it.

2. Todoist

I have a terrible memory. But a conversation in late 2016 brought a moment of clarity that has revolutionized the way that I organise my thoughts and plan my actions. Always concerned that my terrible memory would be hurtful at worst or seen as a negative at best, the enlightening statement went something like this “think of making lists as placing scaffolding around your weakness”. Suddenly, leaning on to-do lists no longer feels like a cop-out. Enter todoist, the app that helps me to keep track of everything that my brain would otherwise have forgotten five minutes after I thought of it. Todoist is my task manager; whenever I think of something I need to do, it goes straight into todoist as a snappy one-line item such as “ARRANGE: Truck hire for Saturday”. It gets a due date, and its saved. The pressure is off, but the task isn’t forgotten. Win/Win.

3. De-cluttering

My family moved house a fortnight ago, and into a home which has more storage space, more floor space, just more space. But here’s the funny thing; in unpacking everything from boxes in the garage to their final resting places in drawers, cupboards, or shelves, even though we’ve nearly finished and still have plenty of room I’ve actually found that continuing to reduce our material possessions has been wonderfully therapeutic. While being grateful that we still have an empty shelf here and there, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed multiple runs to the local dump, giving clothes to charity by the box load, and generally asking whether we really need this or that. There’s all sorts of theological reflections that can be made here, but suffice it to say that living more simply and getting down to what really matters has been good for my soul, and I’m finding great joy in letting go of a lot of things that don’t matter all that much in order to make space for the things that do.

4. The Kindle Voyage

The time was long overdue when I decided it was time to upgrade my Kindle – purchased over a decade ago – for a newer model. To give you an idea of what I was reading on, my old Kindle had no light, wasn’t a touch screen, and boasted a full manual keyboard at the bottom. I’d considered the cost: at AU$300 this wasn’t a small purchase, but at the rate I buy books (and averaging $20 per book) the Voyage would set me back the cost of only 15 books. The adaptive light sensor means I can literally read anywhere anytime in perfect clarity, and simply applying pressure on the bezel to turn the page means I can keep a comfortable hold – no more buttons. I love to read. And as much as I love paperbacks, we’ve just bought our fourth bookshelf for the house. So transitioning more of my purchases to e-books saves dollars, and makes sense.

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Wednesdays on the Web (07/06)

The Danger of “Has God Called You?”

You will notice that missing from the list of qualifications of elders and deacons is an “inner call”. It’s just not there. So why then do we add extra-biblical qualifications? I wonder if what we are really asking with this “inner call” is whether or not somebody wants to do it. Do you feel compelled into this ministry? Do you desire the work of an elder? But that makes us uncomfortable so we’ve sanctified our language a bit. It’s sounds so much better to say, “God is calling me into this ministry” rather than saying, “I’d really like to preach”. But the Bible speaks the way of the latter more than the former.

Do you want to? Are you qualified? Do others recognize this?

Then do it.

Are Unhappy Christians a Poor Witness?

This is a discussion that I think needs to be had at every level within the church.

Encouragement and Compliment are Brothers not Twins

I’ve been thinking about being a better encourager lately. I’m not a natural encourager, and so I have to remind myself to daily to find ways to deliver on this. On that journey, this post speaks practically to me as I seek to get it right.

Living out of the Stories on my Calendar

I often share about the benefits that come from engagement with the church calendar, and how remembering these events shapes us in a positive way. Melinda says it better than me.

The Descent of the Dove and the Meaning of Pentecost

Yesterday was Pentecost Sunday. What’s it really all about?

Practice Your Devotion

This is an area I constantly need to re-motivate in. How is my relationship with God when no one is looking? Am I constantly seeking to cultivate a deeper communion with the Triune God in my private time? I need this, and my wife and children need this. This article has much for me to take to heart.

On a Lighter Note, and because we just passed Pentecost Sunday..

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The Tech-Wise Family

Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in Its Proper Place.

We live in a world saturated with technology. From the moment most of us wake to the moment that we go to bed there is at least one screen calling for our time and attention. While there are many good things about technology, in The Tech-Wise Family Andy Crouch encourages his readers to consider the impact that these devices have on our lives, our families, and our children. Now before we get too far, it must be made clear that Crouch is not anti-technology. In fact, early in the book he refers to himself as “a certified geek” so this book is not about getting rid of technology from our lives but merely putting it in its proper place so that it is a benefit to our families rather than something that damages them.

“If we don’t learn to put technology, in all its forms, in its proper place, we will miss out on many of the best parts of life in a family.”

The core of the book consists of “Ten Tech-Wise Commitments” that Andy and his family have made. In each chapter, he looks at one of these Commitments, outlining the issue that it aims to solve, and he provides statistics from Barna group that show the impact and extensiveness of the issue. Finally, Crouch provides a practical way of living out that Commitment. The Commitments provide a shift of focus from our devices to our families in a way that is challenging (at times) but with attractive benefits. The Commitments range from Filling the House with Things That Encourage Creativity Rather Than Consumption to Making Car Time Conversation Time to Intentionally Turning Devices Off Regularly.

The Ten Commitments are not designed as a be-all-and-end-all list that every family should adhere to. Instead, it is a starting point for us to consider how much technology is, and should be, ingrained in our lives. In fact, there is even the understanding that we aren’t going to keep the Ten Commitments perfectly. Every chapter concludes with a “Crouch Family Reality Check” where Crouch looks at how well his family has actually done in keeping them. He reports that some they have done well, but a lot of them have been kept imperfectly at best. By presenting this reality check he stands not as an Expert (with a capital E) giving direction on how we should live our lives but as a fellow parent and husband trying to do the best he can.

I haven’t come out of this book with a determination to keep every one of these Commitments but it has definitely made me think about how much I engage with devices in my day-to-day life. It has also made me consider the impact and example of that engagement for my daughter as she grows up. I’m not about to pull the plug on all of the electronic devices in my house all at once but I am going to start with walking away from my phone a bit more and just being in the moment. I think that’s the point.

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Wednesdays on the Web (31/05)

Don’t Pursue Feelings. Pursue Christ.

I am far from emotionally intelligent. I have a long way to go before I can perceive all the nuances of emotion and develop a greater awareness of emotional well being in myself as well as in others. When it comes to considering feelings with regard to our Christian faith, emotion has an important part to play here too; just make sure it isn’t the lead role.

Know Your Doctrine

“Doctine Divides.” “I find doctrine boring.” This article doesn’t speak to a single crowd, denomination, or ‘tribe’ of Christianity; all of us have a responsibility to pursue the God that we love by learning his ways, and doctrine does not merely inform our minds, but also warms our hearts and reforms our behaviour. There are so many things in this article that are close to my heart when it comes to not simply seeing people come to know Christ, but to grow into mature disciples who are well equipped to take this gospel to others.

The Only Spiritual Gifts Test You’ll Ever Need

Stephen Altrogge pushes back on plans and programs designed to help you work out (in 200 questions over 10 weeks) what your spiritual gifts are. His approach isn’t just straightforward, it shatters complacency and procrastination. Go use your gifts right now!

6 Ways Men can support Women’s Discipleship

Having read Trillia Newbell’s book Enjoy last month (my review here), the by-line on this article caught my eye. As expected, Trillia writes with clarity and conviction. Even if you just skim the titles of the 6 points, you’ll come away encouraged and inspired to see these highly practical points gain traction in your local church, and be reminded of the value and responsibility we all have to ensure that women are never sidelined when it comes to theological education and discipleship.

Someone is Offended on the Internet

“I know a lot about feeling offended. It is a struggle I have had all of my life. As a Christian, I know this is a path to sin, and I understand that I must be willing to be offended. Ultimately feeling offended all of the time is a sign of pride, of self-focus. Self-focus can lead to negativity, and that is a destructive force.

…I want to be so conformed to Christ that I lose the taste for negativity.”

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What I Read in May

The Biblical Doctrine of the Trinity

This month I’ve continued my reading on the Trinity, this time with B. B. Warfield. I thoroughly enjoyed this short walk through every passage of Scripture where the Trinity is present. You often hear people talk about the fact that the Trinity isn’t explicitly revealed in the bible, but Warfield demonstrates how the three persons of the Trinity (and the orthodox position on the Triune God) permeates all of Scripture, from the Old Testament all the way through to the words of Jesus, Paul, and others.

Enjoy

Another book added to my shelf by an fantastic woman author engaged in solid thinking. For everyone. Read my full review here.

The Flash Volume 2: Speed of Darkness

I’ve come to love so much about the Flash. There’s little doubt that Batman rules the DCU, but the way Barry Allen continues to display that his goodness is his greatest strength appeals to me. Although it works with a different plot line to where the current The Flash TV series – which just hit the end of season 3 – is headed, neither is second to the other. Both great writing, both true to the world I know and love.

The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu: And Their Race to Save the World’s Most Precious Manuscripts

Joshua Hammer’s true story of his time documenting the life of Abdel Kader Haidara, who smuggled tens of thousands of ancient manuscripts during the height of Al Qaeda and other extremist groups enforcing Sharia Law, banning and burning everything that opposed them. Exciting, terrifying, real. Much respect for both the author, and the men who risked their lives to preserve their culture.

The Passionate Preaching of Martin Lloyd-Jones

There’s a sense in which Steven Lawson had an easy task in writing about this man. Lloyd-Jones has been widely recognised as the man who resurrected expository preaching, passionately advocating for the systematic journey through all of Scripture. He never forced a topic upon the text, but lived and studied to bring the message of God to the people from the natural flow of God’s word. I particularly loved this sentiment from Lloyd-Jones:

“I never allow the pew to influence the pulpit;
when I was a physician I never let the patient write his own prescription”

I’ll be seeking out some more of Lloyd-Jones work now, most likely his Studies in the Sermon on the Mount.

The Hobbit

While I’m fairly certain I’m not the last person on earth to read these works by J.R.R. Tolkien, I think I must be close. I’ve never read any of Tolkien’s works, so I’m starting here. I’ll move into the LOTR trilogy in the coming months, then on to Unfinished Tales and The Silmarillion.

 

Here’s what I read in

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Wednesdays on the Web (24/05)

Keep Your Phone in your Pocket

“Once your brain has become accustomed to on-demand distraction, Nass discovered, it’s hard to shake the addiction even when you want to concentrate. To put this more concretely: If every moment of potential boredom in your life—say, having to wait five minutes in line or sit alone in a  restaurant until a friend arrives—is relieved with a quick glance at your smartphone, then your brain has likely been rewired to a point where, like the ‘mental wrecks’ in Nass’s research, it’s not ready for deep work—even if you regularly schedule time to practice this concentration.”

Where Are the Women who will Write like Him?

I’ve seen this call somewhere else recently. Too often Christian women authors seem to be relegated to the “feeling” books rather than the “thinking” books. While there is valid acknowledgement that women are often better at self-awareness and emotional sensitivity, I know a great many women who are better theologians than me, and I’ve read some amazing tranformative books this year by authors such as Jen Wilkin, Gloria Furman, and Hannah Anderson. I’m glad that these women are reading, thinking, and engaging with me through the written word. Gender should never be an obstacle to writing good books of all kinds.

Marriage Wounds

“Having a spouse is like living with a mirror that constantly shows you where you are weak, where you are prideful, and how in desperate need of a Savior you really are.”

Small Wonder

We glorify God when we pause, rest, and wonder.

How to Become a Tech-Wise Family

If you’re a parent, this podcast is worth your time.

The home, he says, must limit technology in order to delight in God, neighbor, family, and nature. The church, he says, will not enjoy authentic community unless it disciples Christians in countercultural living when it comes to our TVs, video games, and smartphones.

At $6 on Kindle and $9 in paperback, this book has been added to my wishlist.

Come and Drink

Last Sunday I preached this message from John 4. This story as much to teach us as we strive to be people who are more mission-minded.

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What We’re For, Not What We’re Against

Over the last few weeks I’ve observed (or participated in) a number of discussions on hot topics. In almost every conversation, there comes a point at which the art of effective argument disappears and comments become personal attacks instead of rationale and fact. It’s a sad thing to see that often opportunities for mutually beneficial discourse give off more heat than light.

All too often, the sad state of affairs is that Christians (not exclusively, but frequently) tend to define themselves by what we’re against. Killing unborn babies. Homosexual relationships. The refugee crisis. We sure can be vocal when it comes to that which we find immoral, unjust, or otherwise against our ideologies. But where’s the good in being known by what we oppose? How does that display the love of Jesus to a world that so desperately needs him?

In The Curious Christian, Barnabas Piper writes

Christians are to live lives marked by love – to as 1 Corinthians 13 puts it believe all things, hope all things, endure all things. This means we are to be defined by characteristics of grace. We are to assume the best of people and offer them the same hope and patience and mercy we know we so desperately need. We are to offer them second and third and fifty-fourth chances. In short, we are to exude the love Jesus poured out on us.

However, assuming the best of people doesn’t mean that we pull the wool over our own eyes. We have been given God’s clear, inerrant Word as our moral guidepost; the lens through which we see the world, the means by which we are saved, and the exact how by which we are called to live as members of the family of God on earth. We can be sure that in its pages we find everything we should be; simultaneously we also find a lot of things that we shouldn’t be.

As a student attending a seminary made up of students and lecturers of differing persuasions on what would be classed as “secondary issues”, that journey included much more than beginning to grasp the content of the bible and learning about the tools we use to rightly read and apply its demands. (side note: my learning is far from over) I witnessed the art of conversation and the importance of approaching the beliefs of another with humility and respect. For another person to share their opinion is a privilege, and learning to listen well is the least I can do. Not listening in order to respond, but listening in order to learn. I’ve graduated now, but every day I’m reminded of how little I really know and that my convictions – no matter how strong – have zero influence on the posture I should take towards another person opening up to me.

The gospel promises to change lives. As followers of Christ and lovers of this gospel, we should be people who are mission-minded; our posture being one that desires to display the same humility that Christ modeled in his incarnation. If our attitude indicates that Christ makes no difference to how we live or how we treat others, we immediately undermine its credibility. Ultimately, our goal is not to win arguments, but to see people come to know Christ.

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On My Table:
Life & Books with Nathan Campbell

This month’s On My Table comes from Nathan Campbell. Nathan is a husband to Robyn, a father to Soph (5), Xavi (almost 4) and Ellie (almost 2); he’s also a pastor of Creek Road Presbyterian Church’s South Bank campus (but the names and ages for all those people would take too long to write down), and a blogger at st-eutychus.com. Because he’s a total Christian ministry cliché he also likes coffee, but he tries not to just paint by numbers when it comes to coffee so he helped start a social enterprise cafe in West End and he has a stupidly big commercial machine plumbed in at home, so that’s not totally boring.

What book(s) are you currently reading?

I have about 5o unfinished books on my kindle that I work through simultaneously, to keep me on my toes a bit and help me think about how things integrate. I’m currently reading lots of books about public Christianity and culture (I’m always reading lots of books about public Christianity) including Confident Pluralism by John Inazu, The Benedict Option by Rod Dreher, To Change the World by James Davison Hunter, and Culture Makers by Andy Crouch, A Secular Age by Charles Taylor, Becoming the Gospel by Michael Gorman. I’m also reading bits of Subversive Christianity by Brian Walsh, which was written in the 90s and feels really prophetic and amazing, in hindsight.

Oh, and a bunch of fiction, at the moment the one I’m into most is Fool Moon, the second Dresden Files book by Jim Butcher. I’m perpetually slogging my way through David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest as well.

What was the last book you left unfinished?

I don’t finish lots of books; the last one I deliberately abandoned because I didn’t want to finish it/life is too short was the second book in the Malazan Book of the Fallen series by Stephen Erickson, somebody had told me that he was a fantastic ‘world builder’ (I’d been reading lots about ‘mythopoeia’ (fantasy world building) after really loving Tolkien’s essay On Fairy Stories which basically argues that world-building (and exploring new worlds) is a thing we do because we’re made in the image of the world building God.

Is there a book you feel guilty for not reading?

No. Life’s too short, and there are too many books to feel guilty about not reading them all. There are plenty of books I just go ‘nah, I don’t want to read that’… I don’t read much John Piper (for varying reasons) and sometimes I feel bad.

Is there a book you wish you’d written?

I recently listened to Mike Cosper’s Stories We Tell, as an audiobook, which was the latest in a long line of books I wish I’d written that I’d like to give to lots of people. James K. A. Smith writes lots of books where for the first half, as he does cultural analysis and anthropology, I’m like ‘man, this is how I see the world’ but then I find his application a little bit constricting, You Are What You Love is pretty brilliant. I also love Stanley Hauerwas’s Resident Aliens, and Michael Gorman’s Cruciformity, those are two of the more important books I’ve read in shaping how I think about church and the Christian life. I wrote my thesis at college on the image of God, and what that is, and I reckon Hannah Anderson’s Made For More and Brian Walsh’s Subversive Christianity are something like the books I’d write on that, if I was going to write one.  Most of the time when I read anything by David Foster Wallace I wish I had his brain and his ability to breathe life into sentences so they feel like they’re spoken by some crazy, energetic adult with the ability to pay attention to lots of things at once and weave them all together. I’ve got a few novel ideas in my head and would love to write something one day, I read a novel recently, The Book Of Strange New Things, which, though the protagonist grapples with his Christian faith, shows how faith and life can intersect in meaningful and interesting ways.

What was the last book you gave as a present?

C.S Lewis’ Mere Christianity; I bought it for a lady who has just started coming to church. I bought a Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy parody called Zombie McCrombie From An Overturned Kombi for someone, but haven’t given it to them yet.

Best biography you’ve ever read?

I don’t read lots of biographies. But Matthew’s Gospel is right up there… I did enjoy Steve Jobs’ biography by Walter Isaacson. I did not enjoy Alex Ferguson’s autobiography.

What 5 books would you take to a desert island?

I’m guessing the Bible is a given…

Augustine, City of God
I love Augustine, I’d love to finish reading this from cover to cover rather than dipping in and out for study. A desert island seems like as good a place as any… and it’s big enough to keep me going for quite a while. It does seem a little pointless to have a book about how civilisation should be ordered if there’s no civilisation though…

Bear Gryll’s Survival Camp
I’m pretty terrible at the sort of skills you might need to survive on a desert island. I’d want something like this. I’ve never read it, but just googled Bear Gryll’s survival book; cause he’s the kind of person I’d want leading the way.

Tish Harrison Warren, Liturgy of the Ordinary
I’ve been doing lots of reading/thinking around the idea that we’re liturgical animals and that we are shaped by our love/worship (see Jamie Smith’s cultural liturgies series) and that we shape our loves by our habits in connection with the ‘story’ we live in (where we get our picture of what a good/flourishing life looks like). I’d have to rethink what that looks like in the isolation of a desert island setting, and what practices would help me continue to cultivate a love for God and a participation in the Gospel apart from people (and that’s hard, because I think to participate in the Gospel is to share it, maybe I’d write books and hope someone discovers them one day when they come to settle on this island). Anyway; Liturgy of the Ordinary is a fantastic picture of how one woman, Tish Harrison Wells, consciously shapes her life and habits liturgically around the Gospel.

J.R.R Tolkien, Lord of the Rings
I love fiction, especially high fantasy. I haven’t read Lord of the Rings for a few years, but I love the reminder that Tolkien gives us that there’s more to life than just the material world.

David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest
In terms of sprawling dystopian ‘world building’ this is a masterpiece that is, I think, on par with Lord Of The Rings. The reason I haven’t finished it is every three pages I have to stop and think about how I see the world, or I get caught up in some small observation about a seemingly trivial thing. DFW is like the agnostic (or searching) Tolkien or C.S Lewis, he writes in a world that is haunted by the loss of something transcendent, and I think the bleakness of this world, in a deserted; island context, would be a good reminder that belief in something more isn’t just preferable but true.

What book has most frustrated you?

Born This Way, a book on how Christians should approach sexuality published by Matthias Media. I thought it was pastorally damaging and it made me realise that there’s a massive division between the way people from my Christian tradition (reformed evangelical) think and speak as modernists, to the way the people we live next to think and speak as post-modernists (we need stories and experience to make sense of our world, not just the facts).

What is one book (apart from the bible) you’d encourage every Christian to read?

The Plausibility Problem by Ed Shaw, a perfect counter-example to Born This Way, that, while it’s about how to make the gospel plausible for same sex attracted brothers and sisters, has such a rich picture of what life following Jesus could (and should) look like that it should shape not just the way we speak, but the way we live together; and Paradoxology by Krish Kandiah which shows something of the richness at the heart of Christian belief in quite an approachable way while staring down some pretty big questions.

How does reading fit into your life?
And what does your routine look like?

I read voraciously I guess; I’m almost never not reading in my spare time, but not just books, I read lots of online stuff from journal articles, to blogs, to tweets. I think what I try to do though is never to be bogged down in finishing one book, or exclusively reading one author (except in fiction, where I like to wait until an author has finished their ‘world building’/story-telling rather than having to wait years and years for the next installment — I’m looking at you George Martin, and you Patrick Rothfuss). So I have lots of unread books going at the same time, usually around a theme (though sometimes not, and that can be fun too), and I think knowledge is more ‘iterative’ than revolutionary, so I try to have these books as conversation partners with each other, and with what I already think, and then I’ll often try to write epic, sprawling, blog series that bring these ideas together, or they’ll get turned into a teaching series at church. But it also means my kindle is full of books that are about 50% read, and I keep adding books faster than I can read them.

I’m looking forward to that desert island… can I take my kindle instead of just five paper books?

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Wednesdays on the Web (17/05)

Fast From Food, Not Facebook

I cannot fully convey how much I agree with this article. For years I’ve pushed back against the idea that fasting from social media is a valid engagement with this valuable spiritual discipline. It’s not. While I can appreciate those who have specific medical conditions that prevent them from biblical fasting (food), I completely agree with Tim on this one. And while we’re here quit calling the Daniel Fast biblical too. It’s a health gimmick thinly veiled. The End.

Learning a “Different World”: Loving Families with Special Needs

I have yet to meet a parent of a child with special needs who brags about methods, achievements, plans or systems. Parents of children with special needs, specifically those in the church, are some of the most humble people I know. They’re not quick to give advice or dispense wisdom, yet I learn much from their lives and how they patiently care for their children. We learn humility best by watching it at work in others. Many of these parents are beautiful examples for us to follow.

Ten Things To Do While You’re Waiting

Before you ask, no this post isn’t talking about alternatives to the fidget spinner.

The Mission of the Church is Eternal

This week I’m preparing a sermon on mission from John 4, and this popped up. Let’s be people who live as part of the church, and not just attend.

Carl Trueman – Reformation 500 Event


Registration closes Wednesday 19 July 2017 @ 5:00pm.

Get there.

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Wednesdays on the Web (10/05)

Your Kids Aren’t the Priority

Many married couples would have come across (or had thrust upon them) the advice that you must put your relationship with your husband or wife as the primary one.  Here, Ann Swindell adds value to this discussion on how to be purposeful about growing as spouses “even as we parent those small humans who are making lots of noise in the house”.

Make Room for Different Kinds of Discipleship

Notwithstanding the need for Christians to always be active members of a local gathering of believers, there are many other secondary ways in which Christians can engage in discipleship, mentoring, and be spiritually nourished. It’s good to be creative and reflect on how we can sharpen each other in our many and varied circumstances.

7 Things to Know About Conversational Prayer

This list contains several gems that explain or enhance the richness of prayer as a vital part of Christian Spirituality. Plus I appreciate the way Nick has bounded the conversation on all sides by a good theology that doesn’t allow for straying off the straight-and-narrow. Read this one slowly, twice.

You Don’t Even Have A bucket, Jesus

We can’t blame the woman for not understanding Jesus. In fact, how often do we make the same accusations of Jesus when he’s claiming to have everything for our circumstance?

The New City Catechism

Our family’s copy arrived yesterday, and a quick flick open told us that this could very well be the book that is going to see our family worship take off (finally). Because of the brief question and answer style, each one could be read in under 5 minutes, or used as a launch pad to open discussion for as long as your little learner’s attention will hold. Plus, even though The New City Catechism is available free as an app I’ve opted for the paperback; firstly because our kids get enough screen time already, but secondly because I’ve always found that my retention success is better from paper than from screen. But that’s just me, so I guess we’ll see. From the inside cover:

Throughout the history of the church, Christians have used catechisms – collections of questions and answers designed for memorization and recitation – to teach others the core doctrines of the faith.

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Enjoy: Trillia Newbell

I‘m one of those people who always tries to make the most of every opportunity. Need to get in the car? I’d better listen to a Christian podcast and learn something on the drive. I can sometimes find myself in low-level guilt if I simply play or relax without infusing it with more purpose. But can we honour God by doing things for no other reason than that they bring us pleasure? In her new book Enjoy: Finding the Freedom to Delight Daily in God’s Good Gifts, Trillia Newbell asks the question “why did I wrestle with guilt over time spent riding my bike, feeling as if it were a waste of time unless I turned it into something greater?” By exploring the twin realities that God is the giver of good gifts and that our chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever, Newbell invites us to consider what it looks like to enjoy a simple, leisurely activity for our good and God’s glory.

In eleven chapters, Newbell looks at how despite living in a fallen world, the Christian should never feel guilty about unwrapping and delighting in the many and varied gifts that God has intended for us to enjoy. This exploration includes our God-ordained enjoyment of (and with) other people, work, possessions, sex (in marriage), food, and more. One key area that I’m slow to get the message on is beautifully framed by Newbell in her chapter on rest called The Freedom to Press Pause. When we rest – and enjoy doing it – we’re actually fulfilling part of our design as creatures made in God’s image. Newbell is quick to remind us that taking a Sabbath is not a legalistic duty, but rather as we hit pause for a time (especially when work and deadlines are vying for our attention from every angle) we are accepting a wonderful gift of grace in which we demonstrate our trust and reliance on God.

When it comes to money and material possessions Newbell exhorts us to hold them lightly knowing that they are perishable things. By all means, remember that money and possessions are gifts from God and to be enjoyed in the knowledge that he has given them for his glory as we exercise wisdom in the distribution of our wealth among our work, rest, and play. But at the same time, Newbell encourages us to expand the categories in which we think of enjoyment, in that wealth also empowers greater generosity and here too “we give because of the joy of emulating our saviour.”

When we pause and learn to delight in these things, we also learn to delight in God and give proper thanks and admiration… We delight and give thanks not solely because he gives good gifts but also because he is God.

Most importantly, not all God’s gifts can be seen. God has also given us glorious promises, and faith through which we can lay hold of those promises in – and despite of – our varied circumstances. Most of all it is Newbell’s heart for glorifying God through the enjoyment of his good gifts that shines through on every page. As she infuses her own story into each chapter, the richness of what it means to enjoy giving, resting, sex, food, art, and more is simultaneously encouraging and transformative. Enjoy is a call to see and know God as the giver of these good gifts, and how those gifts (and the enjoyment of them) reveal something about him. Rich with scripture, Enjoy continues to point the reader back to Christ as the ultimate gift of God that we should enjoy in and above everything else. Through the pages of The Enjoy Project (practical application found at the end of each chapter), Enjoy is relevant and readily adopted into the life of every Christian for their good, and God’s glory. This is a great read for individuals or small groups.

 

Buy This Book from Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

 

I received this book free from Blogging for Books for review.

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Wednesdays on the Web (03/05)

Lord, Search my Heart

The glorious gospel miracle is that what God requires of us in Micah 6:8, he purchases for us and accomplishes in us.

A Marriage Checklist

So here’s a book that’s been on my shelf untouched for too long. At a guess, I’d say I’ve read 5-7 books on marriage since purchasing Keller’s The Meaning of Marriage, while it sits with a bookmark at page 1. Expanding on the old idea of Love Languages, Keller discusses love “currency” and here David Murray shares a practical list which is well worth frequenting. Simple, practical, über beneficial (if you get it right!).

Grace and The Non-Instagrammable Church

The real church is just that. It’s real. It hasn’t been photoshopped. There’s no filter or adjustable settings to clean up the mess, tone down the noise, or disguise the sin. And this is exactly how God designed it, and its the perfect place for grace to flourish. This culture of grace, this community of differents (to borrow from Scot McKnight) is where we see the message of the gospel most clearly displayed. Jared C. Wilson writes

You cannot grow in holiness and holier-than-thou-ness at the same time.

God uses our brokenness to display his grace; so we give thanks.

4 Methods to Organise Your Prayer Life

Whether you’re a paper person, an app person, a person who needs to find more time, or a person who has trouble remembering who or what you were planning on praying for, there’s something in this article that will help you get the most out of whatever time you set aside for in prayer.

Love the Lord with your Mind

Thanks to Jen Wilkin for the important reminder of intentionally cultivating our relationship with God through study.

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Christless Christianity

Early on in Michael Horton’s 2008 look at the state of Evangelical Christianity in America he states his case clearly by saying “My argument in this book is not that evangelicalism is becoming theologically liberal but that it is becoming theologically vacuous.” From this beginning he takes the reader on a journey through mainstream evangelicalism and shows where Christ has not been explicitly denied but simply ignored.

The first stop is to look at what has replaced Christ-centred Christianity, namely Moralistic, Therapeutic Deism. This is essentially the belief that there is a god who wants us to be good people and wants for us to be happy. While this is an attractive belief system – after all who doesn’t want a god who just wants us to be happy – Horton shows that it is a belief system that doesn’t have Jesus as its focal point. Instead the focus is the consumer.

So instead of introducing people to a majestic God who nevertheless condescended in mercy to save those who cannot save themselves, these sermons— even with the parable of the prodigal son as their text— proclaim a message that can be summarized as moralistic, therapeutic deism. As a product, the God experience can be sold and purchased with confidence that the customer is still king. Therefore, statements that would have appalled previous generations of mainline Protestants are assumed as a matter of course even among evangelicals today, such as George Barna’s defence of “a fundamental principle of Christian communication: the audience, not the message is sovereign.”

Having identified the problem we are now led through an in-depth look at a few specific examples. We see the gospel of Joel Osteen where we are essentially good people who just need to do the best we can, but “Who needs Christ if this is the gospel: ‘You’re not perfect, but you are trying to live better, and God looks at your heart. He sees the inside, and He is changing you little by little’?” We see the message of Joyce Meyer where we “live the gospel” by loving people but “love is actually the summary of the law. God’s commands stipulate what love of God and neighbour means. In the Bible, the law simply nails down what it means to love God and our neighbour.” Finally we look at the message that Willow Creek sent by their response to a survey on the health of the church which found that a large number of members described themselves as stalled spiritually. As Horton says “What I find remarkable is that those who identified themselves as “stalled” said, “I believe in Christ, but I haven’t grown much lately,” and the dissatisfied said, “My faith is central to my life and I’m trying to grow, but my church is letting me down.” These highly committed respondents even said they “desire much more challenge and depth from the services” and “60 percent would like to see ‘more in- depth Bible teaching.’” The take- away for the authors, however, was not that Willow Creek should provide a richer ministry but that the sheep must learn to fend for themselves— to become “self- feeders” who need to be more engaged in private spiritual practices.

Fortunately we are not shown the problem without an answer being provided. The answer is simple: we can never outgrow the gospel. We should never assume that everybody knows it and we can move beyond it.

When our churches assume the gospel, reduce it to slogans, or confuse it with moralism and hype, it is not surprising that the type of spirituality we fall back on is moralistic, therapeutic deism. In a therapeutic worldview, the self is always sovereign. Accommodating this false religion is not love— either of God or neighbour— but sloth, depriving human beings of genuine liberation and depriving God of the glory that is his due. The self must be dethroned. That’s the only way out.

This isn’t a book that all church-goers are going to enjoy. The people that it looks at are admired by many but unfortunately that is the point. It has been nearly a decade since the book was published and if anything the problem is now worse. I’m convinced that this should be required reading for anyone in the western church. “As heretical as it sounds today, it is probably worth telling Americans [and Australians] that you don’t need Jesus to have better families, finances, health, or even morality.” If that is true then we need to understand why we need Jesus and that’s not something that’s talked about enough these days.
 
Buy This Book from Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

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What I Read in April

I didn’t read as much as I normally would this April, but what I did read was fresh and nourishing. This month also saw me graduate with my M.Div, so I’m looking forward to being a little freer now to read more widely. Other books I read this month (not listed below) include Abraham Kuyper’s Lectures on Calvinism and Helmet Thieke’s A Little Exercise for Young Theologians.

Humble Roots

This month turned out holding a selection of books from thoroughly enjoyable women-theologians. The first off the bench was Hannah Anderson, whose book is tenaciously biblical while exploring humility through our physical bodies, emotions, and the natural world. Anderson reminded me afresh how pride is conquered through the recognition of our dependence on God, our need for a Saviour, and the sustaining power of the Spirit without any of whom we would be dust. These ‘roots’ were complimented with frequent practical examples of what humility looks like in real life. Highly recommended.

None Like Him

In ten chapters Jen Wilkin looks at ten of God’s incommunicable attributes (things that are only true of God), showing that God is infinite, incomprehensible, self-existent, self-sufficient, eternal, immutable, omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent, and sovereign. In a similar theme to another book I read this month, Wilkin talks about the importance of of studying God’s attributes; getting to know this incomprehensibly glorious God who has not only made himself known to us, but wants to be known by us.

The Deep Things of God: How The Trinity Changes Everything

Many people can go through the Christian life simply praying to god-in-general, never cultivating a relationship with any of the three persons of the Trinity. I loved being able to read about the beauty and wonder of the different functions of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and how encountering each one has increased tenfold my Christian life (not only my prayer life). Seeing the acts of God as acts in which the whole Trinity participates (The Father sends, the Son secures, and the Holy Spirit seals), as well as remembering that the Son taught us to pray “Our Father” through the Spirit is enriching and results in a deeper love and relationship with the God who is three-in-one.

Missional Motherhood

I read Dave Furman’s book a while back (read my review) and really enjoyed his honest appraisal and compassionate advice. Gloria Furman also writes with clarity, imparting the kind of wisdom that only comes from lived experience. With eyes fixed on seeing how God’s plan for motherhood is a high calling encapsulated within God’s grand redemptive plan, Gloria takes a sweeping look at the Old Testament before traveling forward to Jesus, showing how he is every mother’s Prophet, Priest, and King. The call to live out the gospel in our homes as places of Christ-exalting hospitality is a wonderful, life-giving message that will impart courage for every mother.

The Gospel Call & True Conversion

Among the most important questions in Christianity are around how we practically ‘work out our salvation’. Far from easy-believism or cheap grace, I found this to be a super-helpful systematic look at the common questions around the call of Christ, the response of humanity, what genuine conversion looks like (in light of getting the previous two right) and the demonstration of saving faith ongoing in the life of the Christian. I listened to the audio book for this one, and found myself wishing I could take out a highlighter and mark plenty of paragraphs on the way through.

Here’s what I read in

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Wednesdays on the Web (26/04)

This week’s edition is smaller than normal; but only in numbers, not in content. The reason it has fewer items is because each of these issues is producing so much heat and light on the Internet at the moment that whatever else has been said has been left standing just outside the limelight.

Jesus is Greater than your Depression

Here’s a wonderful story of hope on the blog of my friend Kyllum Lewis. I’ve never met Bethany, but her story is all too familiar for many. Her resilience in the face of depression is compassionately informative for those on the outside providing support, and comforting for those in the storm.

Depression tells me that there is no hope. Jesus tells me that I am safe in Him. God may choose to heal me completely, or He may not. His timing is always perfect and His ways are good.

The #BenOp Discussion Continues

Still being dubbed “the most discussed and most important religious book of the decade”, My news feed continues to be full of people polarised over Rod Dreher’s book. Every week there are another half dozen bloggers whose copy of the book has arrived, and some are even live-blogging as they read, or producing multi-part responses over several articles. #BenOp is still a big discussion point, and something to be considered by every Christian. My copy is yet to arrive, but when it does I’ll contribute my 2 cents. In the mean time, Goodreads provides a number of quotes from the book, Scot McKnight provides links to a few thought-provoking responses (as well as providing his own), and D. A. Carson weighs in as well.

Hermeneutics or Sexism?

Taking Second Place is the storm that is the hashtag #ThingsOnlyChristianWomenHear. Again, there’s no need to list the plentiful supply of articles and opinions on this one. While I feel this is painting with a very broad brush (I certainly don’t see this attitude or behaviour in my local Baptist, complementarian church),  I also recognise that this experience is very real; and I try hard to feel the real pain these women feel, praying that people would continue to be committed to equipping themselves to formal study of scripture in order to bring about biblically better conduct and stop the oppression wherever it is found.

 

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On My Table:
Life & Books with Geoff Bloor

This month’s On My Table comes from Geoff Bloor. Dr Geoff Bloor retired as Director, Social Work and Welfare at the Repatriation General Hospital in Adelaide about 5-6 years ago and now does a very small amount of teaching/consulting each year. He attends the St Morris church of Grace Anglican Network in Adelaide where he is a member of the joint Parish Council, a synod representative, a leader of 2 home groups and a leader in outreach to local migrants. He has always had an interest in theological study and made three previous attempts (several years apart) completing one subject each towards different qualifications, but then had to give up due to other commitments and the need to study towards other work related qualifications.

Now retired, Geoff has returned part-time to theological study and is enjoying sharing this journey with the academic staff and fellow students at Tabor College.

What book(s) are you currently reading?

N.T. Wright’s The Day the Revolution Began is an examination of the Gospels and of Paul’s writings about what happened at Easter and its implications.

John Swinton’s Living in the Memories of God. Swinton says that there are many ways to talk about dementia. The dominant narrative about dementia in Western societies is the medical one. This is a narrative of neuropsychiatric deficits and continuous decline, couched in terms of what the person can no longer do. Swinton points out that this narrative, whilst accurate, is limited. It is appropriate for medical care, but it is not an appropriate starting point for a theological consideration of dementia.

What was the last book you left unfinished?

I can’t remember a book that I didn’t eventually finish. Some books get put aside for a while but I then return to them.

Is there a book you feel guilty for not reading?

Not really. I read for mainly for pleasure.

Is there a book you wish you’d written?

I wish I could write a novel. They say everyone has a novel inside them. I don’t think I do.

What was the last book you gave as a present?

Steve Smith with Ying Kai, T4t: A Discipleship Re-RevolutionThis is the story behind a Church Planting Movement that began in China and resulted in about 2 million baptisms in a ten-year period beginning in 2001. It has now spread to several other countries. Although I do not usually like “how-to” books, this one has some good principles and ideas.

Best biography you’ve ever read?

I’m not sure that it was the best, but A Man called Peter by Catherine Marshall was very influential in my formative Christian years.

What 5 books would you take to a desert island?

Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God
Although written long ago, it is a simple and practical approach to being aware of God and to prayer.

Melody Green and David Hazarr, No Compromise: The Life Story of Keith Green
I love the music of this man, and his attempt to live a Christian life without compromise.

William Gurnell, The Christian in Complete Armour.
This is a modernised 3 volume set by the Banner of Truth Trust. It is a very practical set of writings on standing firm in Christ. Of all the puritan writers, I believe Gurnell speaks most directly to this age.

Deitrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together.
Bonhoeffer has some very wise words about living in Christian Community.

Anything by Ernest Hemmingway. He has such an easy-to-read writing style.

What book has most frustrated you?

Anything by Richard Dawkins.

What is one book (apart from the bible) you’d encourage every Christian to read?

The Gospel According to Peanuts by Robert Short, or any of the Peanuts, Charlie Brown or Snoopy comic books.

How does reading fit into your life?
And what does your routine look like?

I usually have several books on the go at once. These can range from books on management, theology, biology, social work, politics, to novels (especially crime thrillers), newspapers and comic strips. Now I am semi-retired I make much more time for reading. I usually pore over the paper in the morning and try to reflect on what is happening in the world from a Christian perspective. I follow this up with Bible reading later in the day. I usually read a novel or something lighter for a half hour or so before bed. I find that helps me to become calmer and ready for sleep after what is still quite a busy day.

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Wednesdays on the Web (19/04)

How Can a Busy Mom Become a Better theologian?

I’m currently reading Gloria Furman’s book Missional Motherhood, and I can tell you that she has a remarkable insight into the highs and lows of family life, and looking to the gospel of Jesus Christ for her strength, guidance, and joy in all things.

No Muse, No Music

Great art and music are inspired. In order to capture the world’s attention, they must have a muse, a muse that touches the soul.

I’m a Master of Divinity and I don’t know my Bible

While I don’t resonate with everything in this article, there is enough here that everyone could take away something of value.

The Mission Field Under My Roof

I wrote about this a little last week. Sometimes we (Western Christians) tend to be too inclined towards destinationism; the mental disposition that says we need a limelight to be of influence or purpose. But our first calling is always to our local congregation, our family (if you’re a parent).

Wherever we are, we want our children to know we cannot move forward in hope apart from Christ.

12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You

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The Heart of Holy Saturday

Yesterday we paused to remember that God the Son was crucified – for blasphemy, of all things. In churches around the world the death of the one and only saviour of humanity was proclaimed on Good Friday morning. We came together to worship God by giving him thanks; acknowledging that the death of the saviour Jesus Christ was an act of pure grace extended towards us, and that without God’s grace-filled intervention on our behalf, we would all be lost.

I also observe every year that for some pastors there remains a strong temptation to make sure that their service doesn’t end on a sombre note; after all, we need to remember Jesus’ death… but we don’t want to risk sending people away sad, so we remind them that “Sunday’s a-coming”. We’ll preach his death, but close the service with a happy song about resurrection victory.

But the paradox of Good Friday is that it does convey a deep seriousness and sadness, and it’s good for us to allow that seriousness to linger longer. Firstly because at the very lowest level of understanding, the fact that the saviour had to die such a scandalous (on many levels) death on our behalf demonstrates to us the seriousness of our sin, and communicates to us in clarion call that we should own the weight of that sin this Holy Saturday. Secondly on this day, Jesus is in the grave. His disciples aren’t reassuring each other that he’s currently securing for himself the very keys to Death and Hades before he emerges from the grave, resurrected in glorious splendor. No, they’re in confused, disoriented grief. What hope do we have now?

This Holy Saturday, let’s not miss the profoundness of this day by being too quick to move from the death of the saviour of the world directly to celebrating the resurrection. Rather (in the words of Jonathan Edwards) let’s remember that the only thing we contribute to our salvation is the sin that made it necessary. Let’s take a moment to think hard upon our sin, remember the infinitely costly price that we could never have paid, and live in thankfulness of the one who gave his life for us.

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Wednesdays on the Web (12/04)

Deeper Magic

In light of Easter – but not specific to it – I’ve had conversations around the resurrection of Jesus Christ more and more as the single point on which the validity of Christianity stands or falls. I’ve been collecting a number of apologetic works on this one, but as always, the authors at Wondering Fair bring something new in a way that I never could.

The Curious Christian

I read and reviewed Barnabas Piper’s latest book a short while back. Aaron Armstrong’s take on this helpful book is motivating and reminds me that curiosity is a healthy habit every Christian should practice and improve.

Helping Women Engage Culture

So much about this article is important for every Christian – not only women. However, there’s something uniquely beautiful about the way this article shines light on the weight of responsibility for the Christian woman.

Women, often called gatekeepers who monitor what comes in and goes out of the home, need to be theologically informed and culturally aware in order to fill the void of the uniquely female, Christian voices in society. This doesn’t require a commitment to a class or a formal program. It requires time in the word, a love for wisdom and insight, regular fellowship with other believers and intentional accountability for one’s thoughts and actions when wading through these murky cultural waters.

From Can’t Read to Don’t Read

Yes, exactly.

Speaking Hospitably

I’ve had this same argument many times. Actually, I’ve been on both sides of this argument many times. I’ve never thought of considering how I craft my sentences as a form of hospitality before.

Need a New Podcast?

If you don’t listen to The Happy Rant, you should definitely check it out.

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Not Just Thinkers

This weekend, I finally graduated from Bible College. Being a distance student, I boarded a plane and flew to the campus early so I could have a face-to-face meeting with each lecturer who had taught me for at least one class during the last 4-5 years. It was a rich, busy time of joyful introductions and nourishing conversation, mixed in with the anticipation of celebrating this hard-earned achievement. During the days I was on campus, I was met with The Dreaded Question (the one students hate answering, but can’t avoid) over and over, and I find myself still thinking about the answers that I gave.

What’s the question? The old “So, what are you going to do now?”

In his book A Little Exercise for Young Theologians, Helmut Thielicke discusses a number of enemies that face theologians today; one of these is the idolisation of the “doer” as opposed to the “thinker”. Sadly I’ve come across this anti-intellectual attitude in more than one place during my studies, even to the point that people have declared theology to be a tool of the enemy; set up purely to cause arguments and divide the Christian Church. In his congratulatory address at the start of the graduation ceremony, our Bible College President encouraged these fresh scholars to be “not only thinkers, but informed doers”. I spent a long time thinking about his choice of phrase.

Informed doers.

The words stirred thanks in me; thanks for the skills and tools that I’ve been equipped with in order to not simply keep the fire of my engine burning, but also to keep my wheels rolling. I’m grateful that the time of (formal) study is done, so that I can dedicate more of my resources to invest what I’ve learned in the classroom into my local congregation.

[As a small aside, please don’t think that I’m saying God needed me to have a Bible College degree before he could use me; I believe in the old adage “God doesn’t call the equipped, he equips the called”. In my case, I felt very clearly called to formal study. In order to teach the bible, I felt a weight of responsibility to get trained on how to rightly handle scripture, so a degree was my way of following God’s call for me. Also, the formal study is over, but the learning process should always continue. I’ll never stop being a learner; every time I sit in a room with my peers I realise that I really don’t know anything!]

So what’s the answer to The Dreaded Question? I think the answer is multifaceted and wonderful. I’m called to be a loving father, a faithful husband, a committed and active member of a local church, and while there may be other positions or destinations that God has in store for me and my family, I believe that God has called me to faithfully teach his Word; whether I’m preaching to hundreds, lecturing to fifties, discipling one person, or leading my family. All these are glorious privileges, and I’m grateful to God for the way in which a theological degree positions me to invest in every person in every place he puts me.

So I strive to be both a thinker, and an informed doer.

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Wednesdays on the Web (05/04)

Folding Singles into Family in the Life of the Church

I’ve just finished reading John Piper’s This Momentary Marriage, and I found the words that he wrote in this language of ‘folding’ others into your life (particularly folding singles into family) profound and wonderful. This article by Sean DeMars expands Piper’s thought and provides some practical strategy.

The New City Catechism

More than once I’ve tried a different approach to the way we do family devotions. More than once I’ve bought a different book with content appropriate for different children’s ages. More often that not, it’s fallen flat and I’ve been discouraged. I didn’t grow up with catechisms, but I’ve become increasingly convinced of their importance. The New City Catechism is 52 questions and answers developed and adapted from the Reformation catechisms, and it’s now available in print or an app.

Theological Primer: Divine Infinity

I’m currently reading Jen Wilkin’s None Like Him, and I’m loving the way that she is taking me on a journey through just 10 attributes that are true only of God. Here Kevin DeYoung discusses the attribute of God’s infinity. It’s a fantastic short summary that leads us to worship.

8 Things The Happiest Couples Do Every Morning

I’m not saying that I agree in the realistic application of all 8 of these things to every marriage situation, but I love the concept and I’d love to do as many of them as I can.

Why Artists Need Theology

While this has long been a tenant to which I hold with much conviction, after the recent bruhaha around Michael Gungor’s frightening comments (you can catch up on it for yourself in the article) this post reiterates the importance of theology and why artists are not exempt from needing a good one.

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