The first sermon in a series on Galatians at Fairview Baptist Church in Apex, NC.
My latest article at Tabletalk:
Andrew Wyeth, one of America’s most renowned realist painters of the twentieth century, had an uncanny ability to capture the solemn nature of the rural American life with painstakingly controlled brushstrokes and a muted color palette. One of Wyeth’s most intriguing and iconic paintings is titled Christina’s World (1948). The central focus of the work is a brunette female lying in a field with her left hand struggling toward her far-off farmhouse. The figure in the painting is modeled after Wyeth’s neighbor, Anna Olson. Olson suffered from a degenerative muscular disorder that limited her to crawling around her house and family land.
There is nothing loud or wildly fantastic about the subject matter of Christina’s World. The power of the painting is held in what might be called the familiar whisper of beauty, a sense of the deep struggle in longing for home. It is a whisper that we cannot ignore. Like Christina’s World, beautiful art is never viewed with indifference. As philosopher Roger Scruton has noted, “Beauty demands to be noticed; it speaks directly to us like the voice of an intimate friend.” There is a sense in which all good art gives a certain voice to beauty. As C.S. Lewis reminds us in The Weight of Glory, beauty and art point beyond themselves. Beauty comes through as “the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.”
Read the rest of the article here.
My latest post at The Gospel Coalition is titled “In Christian Theology, Beauty Demands to Be Noticed“.
In a world without beauty, Balthasar declares, “What remains is . . . a mere lump of existence.” God did not have to create so many things in our world to be beautiful, but he did.
If beauty demands to be noticed, let us take note. If there’s something intrinsic in humanity that’s drawn to beauty, let it draw us in. Both the world and the Word call us to behold the sovereign Creator God.
As we see in the Word, all the beauty of this world points beyond itself to the breathtaking beauty of God himself. Beauty is a powerful signpost that calls out to all: “Look and see. The one true God is good.”
To read the entire article, click here.
This is the latest sermon from a series I am preaching at Fairview Baptist Church.
This is not a list of books published in 2017 (though some were), it is a list of books that I read in 2017.
As a pastor, I usually read 3-4 commentaries for each sermon series I preach (6 series in 2017). In order to narrow the list, I will set the commentaries aside.
This is a list of (somewhat) recently published books that had a profound impact on my own spiritual formation and philosophy of ministry. It’s also a list of books that I would recommend to my pastor friends. Click on the title to view it on Amazon.com.
Eswine helped us see that pastoral work keeps requiring our surrender to small, mostly overlooked things over long periods of time. As a pastor, I was never meant to know everything, fix everything, and be everywhere at once. That’s Jesus’ job, not yours.
You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit by James K.A. Smith
Smith has long argued, in the tradition of Augustine, that who and what we worship fundamentally shape our hearts. Too often we do not realize the ways our hearts are being taught to love rival gods instead of the One for whom we were made. Smith not only argues that worshiping in a local church is central to the heart of Christian formation and discipleship, he also suggests several practices for shaping the Christian life. This book is a popularized version of the arguments Smith made in his 2009 book Desiring the Kingdom.
How to Think: A Survival Guide for a World at Odds by Alan Jacobs
Have you ever wondered how much the herd mentality affects your thought life? Perhaps, our hostility toward one another is not based on facts, but on a desire to be included in a particular group. Professor Jacobs digs into the nuts and bolts of the cognitive process, offering hope that each of us can reclaim our mental lives from the impediments that plague us all.
The Pastor: A Memoir by Eugene Peterson
In this work, Peterson traces his journey of discovering of what it really means to be a pastor. As always, Peterson challenges conventional wisdom regarding church marketing, CEO pastors, and American Christian consumerism by presenting a simple, faith-based description of what being a minister means today. He urges us to pay attention to God, and to one another.
Making Sense of God: An Invitation to the Skeptical by Tim Keller
We live in the age of skepticism, where so much faith is placed in reason, progress, and emotion that one might wonder: why should anyone believe in Christianity? In this follow up The Reason for God (2009), Keller explores what role can faith and religion play in our modern lives.
Faith Speaking Understanding: Performing the Drama of Doctrine by Kevin Vanhoozer
In this book, Vanhoozer argues that theology is not merely a set of cognitive beliefs, but is also something we do that involves speech and action alike. In order to illustrate his point, he uses a theatrical model to explain the ways in which doctrine shapes Christian understanding and forms disciples. According to Vanhoozer, disciples need doctrinal direction as they walk onto the social stage in the great theater of the world.
The Way of the Dragon or the Way of the Lamb: Searching for Jesus’ Path of Power in a Church that Has Abandoned It by Jamin Goggin and Kyle Strobel
Why do so many pastors implode under the spotlight? Why do modern-day churches become so entangled in growing their brand that they lose sight of their true purpose? Because, according to Goggin and Strobel, Christians have succumbed to the temptations of power and forgotten Jesus’ seemingly contradictory path to power – giving it up. This book paints a richly biblical vision of power through weakness.
Union with Christ: The Way to Know and Enjoy God by Rankin Wilbourne
The gospel answers life’s most foundational questions about identity, destiny, and purpose. Union with Christ is a central gospel metaphor for understanding what it means to live in Christ and actually become like Him. According to Wilbourne, nothing is more practical for living the Christian life than grasping this reality!
I recently joined a podcast called “The Front Pew” with Chris Griggs and Ben Rudolph. The podcast is a conversation between three pastors in North Carolina about life, ministry, church and mission as they see it…from the front pew.
This past episode, we discussed the importance of reading and offered a list of books to read over the summer. Here is our list.
The Christian Life
- Matt – You Can Change, Tim Chester: http://amzn.to/2raPZle
- Ben – Dynamics of Spiritual Life, Richard Lovelace: http://amzn.to/2r6syOT
- Chris – Counterfeit Gods, Tim Keller: http://amzn.to/2sHRklk
- Matt – Progressive Covenentalism, Wellum and Walker: http://amzn.to/2sHKcFP
- Ben – The Cross of Christ, John Stott: http://amzn.to/2s8tOBb
- Chris – Delighting in the Trinity: http://amzn.to/2sIeKqQ
- Matt – The Trellis and the Vine: http://amzn.to/2rG0aSk
- Ben – The Church as Movement, Woodward: http://amzn.to/2sHBNC7
- Chris – The Prodigal Church, Wilson: http://amzn.to/2rav8hJ
- Matt – The Pastor, Peterson: http://amzn.to/2rarogk
- Ben – The Starfish and the Spider: http://amzn.to/2rFNB9p
- Chris – The Reformed Pastor: http://amzn.to/2s0FyEH
- Matt – Decisions Points, Bush: http://amzn.to/2sI0xdl
- Ben – Undaunted Courage, Ambrose: http://amzn.to/2s8AqPW
- Chris – Dual with the Devil, Collins: http://amzn.to/2rFRECI
- Matt – The Pickwick Papers, Dickens: http://amzn.to/2sjISvi
- Ben – The Cave and the Light: http://amzn.to/2sHXcuQ
- Chris – Man Hunt, Swanson: http://amzn.to/2rFRZ8s
Take up and read!
I have always found C.S. Lewis’s short essay, “Three Kinds of Men,” from a collection of his essays helpful (Present Concerns, pp. 9-10).
There are three kinds of people in the world.
The first class is of those who live simply for their own sake and pleasure, regarding Man and Nature as so much raw material to be cut up into whatever shape may serve them.
In the second class are those who acknowledge some other claim upon them—the will of God, the categorical imperative, or the good of society—and honestly try to pursue their own interests no further than this claim will allow. They try to surrender to the higher claim as much as it demands, like men paying a tax, but hope, like other taxpayers, that what is left over will be enough for them to live on. Their life is divided, like a soldier’s or a schoolboy’s life, into time “on parade” and “off parade,” “in school” and “out of school.”
But the third class is of those who can say like St Paul that for them “to live is Christ.” These people have got rid of the tiresome business of adjusting the rival claims of Self and God by the simple expedient of rejecting the claims of Self altogether. The old egoistic will has been turned round, reconditioned, and made into a new thing. The will of Christ no longer limits theirs; it is theirs. All their time, in belonging to Him, belongs also to them, for they are His.
And because there are three classes, any merely twofold division of the world into good and bad is disastrous. It overlooks the fact that the members of the second class (to which most of us belong) are always and necessarily unhappy. The tax which moral conscience levies on our desires does not in fact leave us enough to live on. As long as we are in this class we must either feel guilt because we have not paid the tax or penury because we have. The Christian doctrine that there is no “salvation” by works done to the moral law is a fact of daily experience. Back or on we must go. But there is no going on simply by our own efforts. If the new Self, the new Will, does not come at His own good pleasure to be born in us, we cannot produce Him synthetically.
The price of Christ is something, in a way, much easier than moral effort—it is to want Him. It is true that the wanting itself would be beyond our power but for one fact. The world is so built that, to help us desert our own satisfactions, they desert us. War and trouble and finally old age take from us one by one all those things that the natural Self hoped for at its setting out. Begging is our only wisdom, and want in the end makes it easier for us to be beggars. Even on those terms the Mercy will receive us.