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Considering The Gospel Evidence (via Dale Ralph Davis)

The beginning of Gospel proclamation was not eye-witnesses trying to convince those who had not seen, but one group of eye-witnesses seeking to help other eye-witnesses understand what they all had seen. Even as Gospel proclamation continued on it was grounded in events that had happened and been seen and experienced.
From Dale Ralph Davis:

What does one make of all that? These were things that the early preachers of the gospel said and preached as eyewitnesses, as men who had been there. Here’s the crucial point: when they were preaching these things, they were preaching to other eyewitnesses, and they were often preaching to a lot of hostile eyewitnesses. If what the preachers were saying was not true, those hostile eyewitnesses would have exposed it as a fraud in the first century and you would never have heard of Christianity. Why didn’t that happen? Because even the hostile hearers could not dispute the truth and accuracy of what these original evangelists were proclaiming. When you preach in front of hostile hearers, you have to be careful with your facts. So, if you resist the gospel, do not claim that there is not enough evidence. There is evidence for you to deal with.

Dale Ralph Davis, True Words For Tough Times, EP Books, 2013, pg 69.

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Reading Without An Agenda (via Doug Sikkema)

One of twelve rules for a book-ish life.

Listen first, then respond. Reading is not a business meeting: the less of an agenda you have, the better. NB: If you’ve gone to grad school, my apologies: you’ll have some unlearning to do.

As someone who generally reads in preparation for particular outcomes, the action of reading without a preconceived idea of what I expect to get from that which I’m reading is hard because it’s fairly ingrained.
It’s also hard to read material without a prepared outcome in mind.

Read the whole post at Comment.

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The Best Selling Book From The Year You Were Born

This feature on online bookseller Wordery’s webpage allows you to put in your age and it will tell you what book sold the most copies in the year of your birth.
Could be a fun source of birthday presents.
Mine was Morris West’s The Shoes Of The Fisherman.
Have a look for yourself.

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The Christian Life: Balancing On A Paradox Of Delight And Distress (via Dale Ralph Davis)

A life that knows the power of the resurrection of Jesus will experience growth in character through both joy and pain according to Dale Ralph Davis:

You remember what Paul says in Philippians 3 in that marvellous verse, ‘That I may know him and the power of the resurrection’ (v. 10). What does that involve? To know Jesus is to know transformation of character, liberation from bandage, power through distress and difficulties; it is to know the power of his resurrection.
Some people today think that this is all that knowing Jesus involves, that it is just the hoopla of the power and the glory. But there is an ‘and’ in that sentence. What does knowing Jesus mean? ‘To know the power of his resurrection AND the fellowship of his sufferings, being shaped like him in his death.’ Paul is saying that if you are going to know Jesus, you are going to be balancing on a paradox. There is going to be a ‘both/and’: there is going to be a certain tension in God’s truth. So does God grant mighty deliverances and amazing providences and solid pleasures to those who serve him?
Yes, but faith does not guarantee immunity from terrible distress and need. If Jeremiah gives us any clue it is that in his mysterious mercy and in his strange kindness God may not bring us out of our miseries in our lifetime. It is balancing on a paradox of delight and distress.

Dale Ralph Davis, True Words For Tough Times, EP Books, 2013, pg 32-33.

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The Fire Of God’s Exclusive Love (via Dale Ralph Davis)

Dale Ralph Davis writes about the novel insistence of Yahweh that his people have no other gods, and what that reveals about Yahweh and the way he relates to his people.

Whoever heard of a god who demanded exclusive loyalty? There was no so-called god or goddess in the whole ancient near east who demanded exclusive devotion. Ishtar did not care if you worshipped Marduk part of the time. They did not care if you had a private shrine to some oak tree in your garden. It did not matter. It was OK. They were very tolerant. Why was this God utterly intolerant of any rivals?
It is because there was something in Israel called the covenant. That covenant was exclusive, like a marriage covenant, with Yahweh as the husband and Israel as his bride. It was to be an exclusive relationship. Any time, of course, that there is a breach in an exclusive relationship it ought to drive the one who is wronged into a fury. There is a proper kind of jealousy in love, and if it is not there, there is something wrong with the love. If the wife or the husband is being unfaithful, the other does not just say, ‘Well, you win some, you lose some.’ No, it should make you angry. It should infuriate you. It should stir up the proper jealousy of love. That is what you have in the fury of Yahweh, when he says, ‘they have forsaken me; they have burned incense to other gods; they have bowed down to the works of their hands.’ There ought to be a fire in love. And there is with Yahweh.
Of course, we are a little bit different from Judah. His problem with us is not some graven image as such. Our idols are a little more sophisticated. It might be fixation on our future. It might be security or comfort or addiction. It may be a little harder to detect. But Yahweh is simply fanatical in his Word about exclusive devotion to him.

Dale Ralph Davis, True Words For Tough Times, EP Books, 2013, pg 23.

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Taking The Hill – With Grandma (Canoeing The Mountains)

Tod Bolsinger sums up the Church as a body that functions relationally and purposefully. Sometimes the relationships can subvert the purpose, sometimes the purpose can overwhelm the relationships.
Pastors can focus on maintaining relationships at the cost of mission, or focus on outreach at the cost of caring for those who are already there.
If this problem or the solution was obvious or easy for leaders to negotiate churches would be a lot healthier than they are.
Bolsinger points out that pastors have to do both, lead with outward purpose and inward empathy:

We are called to take the hill – with Grandma
Christian work is a “family” and a “business” at the same time. To be a Christian is to find identity and mutual commitment in relationships constituted by God that make us into brothers and sisters, these relationships are inherently and intrinsically important. And at the same time we are a business with a mission to fulfill, services to offer, constituencies to support and regulations, demands, and obligations required of us. The organisation that has inherently valuable relationships also has an instrumentally critical purpose. And holding that tension, leading a Christian organization that is faithful to both mission and family, is indeed the challenge for most of us.

Tod Bolsinger, Canoeing The Mountains IVP Books, 2015, pg 221.

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The Challenge For Pastors Leader In Seasons Of Change – Canoeing The Mountains

I’m trying to work through the notions of leadership, governance, and management in the context of pastoral ministry with a team.
This quote from Tod Bolsinger expresses something of the problem, the need for change that I’m experiencing.

For most leaders I know and especially for pastors, all of this discussion of the different relationships certainly doesn’t sound like good news. While most of us are good at personally relating to people (praying, teaching, counselling), most of us have not been trained in organisational relationship skills. The ways we have been taught to lead are inadequate for this new terrain or circumstance. The skills we have honed (write sermons, visit hospitals, counselling, teach classes) we do independently, even individualistically. When we work with a committee, it is usually as a moderator, not a leader. Typically, we are more concerned about making sure the conversation is orderly than courageous or creative. So, most well-intentioned, even ambitious attempts for a Session or a pastor to bring transformation are doomed because of a lack of capacity more than anything else. A pastor needs to inspire like Kennedy, moderate governance like the Speaker of the House, and establish and lead innovation at NASA — all at the same time.

Tod Bolsinger, Canoeing The Mountains IVP Books, 2015, pg 166.