There’s a multitude of great pieces out this week. I tried to sift through them all to find just a couple, but some of these are so well worth your read, I couln’t help but share them all.
It seems as if every time I write something, I look over at thinkingpastorally.com and find Andrew Roycroft has written something similar, except more elegant and profound that I could ever put to words. I recently wrote a piece for Servants of Grace about learning to trust in God during sickness. Then I read this piece, and thought how beautifully insightful and confessional this article is that he wrote.
“Denial looks like a difficult discipline from the outside, but it is remarkably easy to achieve. All one needs to do is default on the narrative, on the particular spin that one’s actions and attitudes will embody, and the rest falls into place. No amount of information, exhortation, or even physical symptom can penetrate it, no amount of persuasion can dispel it. Seeing one’s own blind spot is a deeply disconcerting but potentially empowering experience. If I can’t interpret tiredness, then what other phenomena do I quietly accept and subsume into my life, what stories do I tell myself about sin, about ministry, about family, and a whole host of other things. In some ways I need to distrust myself, question my reading of the gauges in my life, and invite others into this process (more about this below).”
Roycroft, a pastor, reveals his own weakness in this poignant piece. A wonderful, insightful, thought-provoking, convicting, encouraging, read. If you have the time, make this a priority read.
Samuel James is another writer whom I link to often. Normally it’s through his own blog, letterandliturgy.com; this time he penned this piece for The Gospel Coalition. It’s one I, and I would wager many others, need to hear.
In this piece, James reviews Cal Newport’s new book, “Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World” and does so in an ingenious manner. Throughout the review, he inserts his own distractedness during his process of reviewing.
“A red circle appears at the bottom of my laptop, a crimson dot with a centered, perfect white digit: 1. One new email! Quickly open mail. Read the first line: “How can we make your life better?” It’s an ad from the software company whose product I installed earlier today. Sigh. Resume writing.”
If you want to declutter your social media, especially how much time you spend mindlessly scrolling your social media accounts, then read this review, and buy this book. It has now made my list of must-reads.
Persis Lorenti gives us delightful reasons for why taking notes during corporate worship helps nourish our souls. She reminds us that notetaking does not equate stenography. Anyone can write word for word; good notetaking is something more. Good notetaking listens to what the pastor preaches then writes down the essence of what he said.
This paragraph in particular is helpful to anyone looking to develop a habit of taking notes that last.
“Lastly, sermon notes are an aid to being a good Berean (Acts 17:11). This is more than fact-checking the pastor to see if what he said is so. This is an opportunity to prayerfully ponder what was spoken. So as I listen, I try to formulate a brief summary in a sentence or two of the sermon, as a mental handle for further meditation. In the following week, I try to reread the main text and other references. Then I can consider them as they relate to the subject at hand and within the larger context of the story line of the Bible. My notes also give me a way to pray through the application points and ask for the Holy Spirit’s help in applying these truths to my life. At my church, the midweek small groups discuss the previous sermon together, so our written notes not only help us individually but corporately as we discuss what resonated with us the most.”
Alisa Childers reviews the controversial new book, “Shameless: A Sexual Reformation,” from the even more controversial figure, Nadia Bolz-Weber. Unfortunately, many have latched onto Bolz-Weber’s vile teachings on sexuality in the church. Her teachings tell Christians to abandon God’s good created order in regards to human sexuality, and supplants them with the ethereal “whatever makes you happy” mantra ever present in today’s society. The problem with her reading of Scripture, is it leaves no room for conviction, no room for correction, and no room for holiness; she tells us to throw out what we don’t like about Scripture, and keep the things we do.
She also doesn’t see the whole Bible as authoritative for Christian life. She describes one of her parishioners tearing out the eight pages of the Bible that mentioned homosexuality. The parishioner threw them into the fire, finally “allowing herself to be free.” Then, tearing out the four Gospels, she clutched them to her heart and, in one cathartic motion, chucked the rest of the Bible into the fire.
Bolz-Weber’s approach tells us to rip out passages we disagree with. But by the time we get finished tearing out the difficult pages, the pages that call us to repent, the pages that call us to deny ourselves, the pages that tell us to find our hope and joy in Christ and not the world, the pages that call us to pick up our cross daily to follow Christ, there’s nothing left but a few verses to stamp on a coffee mug with a pithy picture that makes us feel better about ourselves.
Thankfully, Childers responds to this book with grace and dignity, yet does not mince words at the danger of this book. A great warning to those who may be caught up in focusing more on their sinful identity, than the true identity that matters, our identity in Christ and in Christ alone.
But as the originator and architect of sex, God is the one who gets to define sexual flourishing and decide what is “good.” From Genesis to Revelation, his Word is clear and unified in its sexual ethic. In Matthew 19, Jesus himself affirms the purpose of sex and marriage: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” Jesus also condemned “sexual immorality,” which would’ve been understood by his listeners to be any sexual activity outside of marriage between one man and one woman.
To define it any other way is to put one’s own opinion above God’s.
“Yes, we need reform. But what Bolz-Weber offers is not reformation. She has recycled a sexual ethic as old as paganism itself and rebranded it as Christian.”
This piece, from Matt Rusten at The Gospel Coalition, is another must-read.
“When work becomes a window for the worship of God and an avenue to love our neighbor, it reclaims its proper, dignified place. But until first things are put first, work will remain on the altar, and the religion of workism will remain an elite—and exhausting—alternative to true faith.”
Work is difficult yet rewarding. There are two dangers we face in this world when it comes to work. We either find it a constant burden on our bodies and souls and therefore grumble against the good work which God gave our hands to perform, or we love it too much, which leads to worshiping the gift of work rather than worshiping the God who gave this good work for us to perform.
Once again, I love the Puritans. They have shaped and continue to shape my theology and devotion toward God. With that in mind, it was beautiful to read how a single phrase about America’s greatest theologian, Jonathan Edwards, helped to save Jason Meyer’s ministry.
“When I read that phrase, “whose happiness was out of the reach of his enemies,” I literally had to sit down and turn my palms facing up into a posture of asking to receive from God. Everything in me collectively said: “I want that, Lord. Please teach me that, Lord!” That quote became a quest.”
May the Lord teach all of us to ground our happiness and lasting joy in the solid joy that comes by grace alone, through faith alone, and in Christ alone.
Well, that’s it for this week. There’s a lot of articles to read and ponder on. If you have the time, it may be best to put the phone down (or pick it up if that’s how you read) and read these articles.