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Not Letting ‘Awesome’ Define Your Life (via Chad Bird)

Chad Bird contends that God does not reveal himself on the mountaintops of life as consistently as he is found in the valleys.
He makes reference to what he describes as “one of the most in-American verses in the Bible,” truthfully one of the most counter-cultural verses of our age.

If I could rewind my life and go back twenty years, I would dream small and relish the joys of an unaccomplished life. “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life,” Paul urges (l Thess. 4:11 NIV). This is arguably one of the most un-American verses in the Bible. Those words have become almost a mantra for me. I must say them over and over to silence the lifelong indoctrination I have received from a culture that idolizes those who do big things and urges us all to do likewise. “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life.” In other words, make it your ambition not to let “awesome” define your life, dictate your relationships, weigh the importance of who you are, or guide you in discerning how and where God is found.
To lead a quiet life doesn’t mean that you lower your expectations as much as you lower your gaze. Instead of looking up to the next accomplishment, the next rung on the ladder, you look down at the daily life you live, the children God has given you, the spouse by your side, your aging parents, your dear friends, the poor and needy — all those “little things” you miss when you’re always looking up to the “next big thing” in your life.

Your God Is Too Glorious, Chad Bird, Baker, 2018, pg 14.


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The Fountain Of Public Prosperity by Stuart Piggin and Robert Lindner

The Fountain Of Public Prosperity by Stuart Piggin and Robert Lindner is a scholarly history of evangelical Christians in Australian history in the period from 1740 to 1914. (A second proposed volume will cover the period from 1914 to 2014).
Not only do the authors seek to demonstrate the ways in which evangelicals have shaped, and been shaped by, Australian society; they also seek to examine why historians have not recognised the distinctives at work in that interaction.
The aim of the authors:

“This book is primarily the story of how the evangelical movement has helped to shape Australian history. It is secondarily the story of how the evangelical movement has been shaped by its Australian context. The first story is much harder to document than the second, and more effort will be expended in finding it. Both stories are largely untold, but lots of stories are untold. Why are these deserving of particular attention, and, if they are so valuable, why have they not already become part of the historiographical mainstream? An analysis follows of the possible reasons for the chronic neglect of these stories. Definitions of evangelicalism are then reviewed and the main findings and themes of the present study are summarised.”

The Fountain Of Public Prosperity, Stuart Piggin and Robert D. Lindner. Monash University Publishing, 2018, pg 12.


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Watership Down Trailer

The BBC are producing a “new adaptation of Watership Down [that] uses Richard Adams’ bestselling novel as its source to bring an innovative interpretation to the much loved classic”.
I’m not sure what that exactly means, but it looks like Hazel, Fiver, Bigwig and the others will be along.
It wouldn’t be the same without Art Garfunkel’s song, I wonder if it will be included or homaged somehow.
Here’s the trailer.


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An Unnecessary Pastor Rather Than The Manager Of A Religious Company (via Eugene Peterson)

Eugene Peterson has died at the age of 85.
The internet will provide you with plenty of eulogies, should you search them out.
A contemplative presence whose wisdom invited thought and consideration, even when the reader did not agree with his conclusions.

In his collaboration with Marva Dawn, published as the book The Unnecessary Pastor, Peterson identifies the third of three ways in which pastors should be unnecessary – countering the culturally shaped expectations that seek to define a pastor’s role, definitions that are at odds with a biblical expression of the role.
Peterson has already addressed the forces exerted by culture and even the pastor themselves to skew the nature of pastoral practice, and he then turns to the influence congregational expectations can make their contribution.
I don’t the situation Peterson addresses has abated in the twenty years or so since he wrote these words:

3. And we are unnecessary to what congregations insist that we must do and be: as the experts who help them stay ahead of the competition. Congregations want pastors who will lead them in the world of religious competition and provide a safe alternative to the world’s ways. They want pastors who lead. They want pastors the way the Israelites wanted a king — to make hash of the Philistines. Congregations get their ideas of what makes a pastor from the culture, not from the Scriptures: they want a winner; they want their needs met; they want to be part of something zesty and glamorous.
I am in conversation right now with a dozen or so men and women who are prepared to be pastors and who are waiting to be called by a congregation. And I am having the depressing experience of reading congregational descriptions of what these churches want in a pastor. With hardly an exception they don’t want pastors at all — they want managers of their religious company. They want a pastor they can follow so they won’t have to bother with following Jesus anymore.

The Unnecessary Pastor, Marva Dawn and Eugene Peterson, Eerdmans, pg 4


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Resilient Relationships And Daily Repentance (via Fleming Rutledge)

Fleming Rutledge writes about the final prophetic promise of the Christian Old Testament, and how that foreshadows the Gospel hope and the creation wide need for it.

The final words of the Christian Old Testament are quite amazing. The Hebrew Scriptures are arranged so that the prophetic literature is in the middle, but the Christian Old Testament has the prophets at the end. The last book is Malachi, and the next-to—last verses foresee a “great and terrible day,” the day of judgment and the second coming of the Lord. It will be a time when all that has been wrong will be set right. The example that Malachi gives is astonishing. At the last possible moment, he turns away from the language of wrath and flames to something very unexpected. This is the way the Old Testament ends: “Behold, I will send you the prophet Elijah [that would be John the Baptist] … He will turn the hearts of parents to their children and the hearts of children to their parents, so that I will not come and strike the land with a curse.”
The worst thing in the world, the prophet seems to be saying, is estrangement within families. It is given as the sign of the final judgment of God, his worst curse upon the human race. If you are a young person here today feeling miserable about your parents, if you are parents here today worried about your children, then this message is for you. God does not desire this situation. His will is for reconciliation. Family breakdown is a sign of the old age of Sin and Death. Reconciliation between parents and children is the sign that the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
Maybe you don’t have these kinds of problems yet in your family, but every family, over generations, will have some kind of wrenching, heartbreaking trouble. In every case, the fracturing of the most basic human connection is the antithesis of what God intends for his people. And reconciliation, when it happens, is one of the clearest of all indications that God is at work. Therefore the most important way that we can participate in the life of God is to seek reconciliation. Reconciliation is hard work. It requires daily repentance. For a number of years, I have had two distinguished psychoanalysts as teachers. I asked both of them a fundamental question: What is the most important ingredient in a strong marriage? They gave the same answer. One of them is a secular Jew so I was very surprised to hear him say, “The most important ingredient is asking forgiveness.”
Fleming Rutledge, Advent – The Once & Future Coming Of Jesus Christ, Eerdmans, 2018, pp 291-292.


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Loving The Subject Of Preaching More Than Loving The Action Of Preaching (via Lewis Allen)

Lewis Allen’s The Preacher’s Catechism is comprised of forty-three reflections based on catechism-style questions and answers aimed at preachers.
The chapters provide some doctrinal reflection and some personal reflection applications.
The first question: ‘What is God’s chief end in preaching?’
The answer to that question: ‘God’s chief end in preaching is to glorify his name.’
From Allen’s application of the theme.

What is your heartbeat? Do you love to preach, or do you love the One you preach? Do you love to prep your sermons, enjoying the hard mental and spiritual work, or do you love the One you are discovering more about? As Sunday comes, do you long to lift up the name of the triune God in your preaching, declaring the wonder of the three persons, or is your heart set on getting a bit more congregational love in your direction?
Our challenge as preachers is to remain lovers, to refuse to let our calling, however important and exciting, obscure our primary calling to be captivated ourselves by God’s love in Jesus Christ. We must teach others that God is love, and that life on earth is an invitation from heaven to know that love and to live in the light of it. Sermons that are mere information downloads are dry discourses and make for dry Christians, if Christians at all. Rather, we preach so that our hearers discover that the God of love has come to meet them in his Son.

The Preacher’s Catechism, Lewis Allen, Crossway, 2018, pg 30.


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Christian Resistance Is A Corporate Expression (via Fleming Rutledge)

Writing on 1 Peter, Fleming Rutledge identifies the theme of the letter as “the church among the nations as the people of the crucified, risen, and reigning Christ.”

The first epistle of Peter is a letter from a God’s—eye view, and the view it gives is of the church. We can never say it often enough: the Bible is addressed, for the most part, not to individuals, but to the people of God.7 We need to say still more. As Peter puts it in various ways over and over throughout the letter, the people of God have been constituted, not by their own preferences or choices, but by Gods’ prior choice, first of Israel, and then, through Jesus Christ, of the church. The church resists, endures, and conquers not through its own efforts, let alone its merits, but because of the call, the commission, and the continuing presence of God. “The God of all grace, Who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, establish, and strengthen you.” The church lives out of (not “into” but “out of”) its foundation upon the “living stone” (I Pet. 2:6), which is Christ, out of its baptism into his death and resurrection, out of its promised future guaranteed by his Holy Spirit. It is this certainty that gives courage for resistance.
Fleming Rutledge, Advent – The Once & Future Coming Of Jesus Christ, Eerdmans, 2018, pg 131.

The footnote indicated in the passage above expands the idea:

7. Therefore resistance is not largely a matter of individuals but of the corporate body. “Peter does not issue a general call to become a Christian and then, as a subsequent and perhaps optional move, for individual Christians to join togetherinto a voluntary association that might serve our projects of being individual Christians.” God precedes the people; the people precedes the person; the person is constituted by being incorporated into the people (Harink, 1&2 Peter, 73).