NRH


A Devotional to Help You Hide the Word of God in Your Heart

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I’ve not made Scripture memorization the priority that I should have in the past. As part of my attempt to rectify this, I bought Scripture by Heart: Devotional Practices for Memorizing God’s Word by Joseph Choonmin Kang. He’s a new pastor/author to me, but I saw that he runs with the Dallas Williard/Richard Foster crowd. That and the positive reviews on Amazon convinced me to give this book a try, and I’m very glad I did.

It’s divided into 30 short sections that are easily readable in a single 15-20 minute session, and those are often further subdivided into a devotional thought followed by practical advice for memorization. So not only to do you get a great biblical foundation for the importance of committing scripture to memory, you learn how to memorize Bible verses as well.

Each reflection is based on a portion of Scripture itself. I read the whole book in a matter of hours, but it’s one I plan to return to as a regular for devotional use. It’s clearly meant to be read over the course of about a month, and I think it would be best experienced that way. The thoughts are simple, but deep, and demand time to them really sink in.

A few thoughts from the book that struck me with particular force:

"To memorize the Bible, we have to pray the Bible first" p. 11

“Learning Scripture by heart throws open the door to meditation.” p. 17

“Our goal isn’t memorizing as many Scripture verses as possible. It’s conforming to the image of Jesus Christ.” p. 106

“Nothing is more essential for the minister of the gospel than spiritual training. Nothing is more essential to spiritual training than memorizing Scripture.” p. 120

Biblical success is “accomplishing something God has entrusted to us.” p. 125

“Patience is always a prelude to perfection.” p. 139

This is a fantastic book of devotions and practical advice for any Christian seeking to grow deeper in the discipline of memorization.

Buy it on Amazon

How to Discuss Theology -- Without Losing Friends

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The Importance of Theological Conversation

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I’ve had some fantastic discussions lately with friends and acquaintances around theology. Over the past few days I’ve been able to really dig into difficult topics like defining the Gospel, the doctrine of Justification by Faith, and the peace teachings of Jesus.

It’s become readily apparent that these conversations are incredibly important for everyone involved. Not only does speaking about the Bible and God ignite interest and promote learning of new things, it also helps to ensure that we are not reading the Scriptures in a “vacuum.”

Getting input and thoughts from other faithful Christians is part of reading the Scriptures in community (as they are meant to be read) and can be one way to way make sure you’re not heading into error.

These discussions also provide opportunity for you see flaws or weaknesses in your own thought process. If you’re humble, this can help you to come to better conclusions about the passages you read. If your arguments are good then there is further opportunity to gain confidence that you are on the right track.

It’s not that every Christian has to be a theologian, but every Christian should think theologically. That is, they need to take the time to ponder God as he is revealed in the Scriptures, wrestling through their discoveries in the context of the Church, and applying them to all of life.

You're Too Busy And So Am I

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Our culture is obsessed with busyness. The more and more I live and work here in the United States, the more apparent this becomes. A “strong work ethic” means basically working yourself to death. It seems that in many places it’s just expected that you’ll be sacrificing friends and family when you enter “the real world.” Perhaps we save enough to pay for our kids' college education, but I’m not sure we’ve counted the cost of losing precious time with them. Maybe we can afford that TV and even a bit of travel with our spouse, but we’ve lost everyday connections.

And God forbid you take a break and have fun once in a while. As a society we’ve developed a sense of guilt over taking vacations, asking for time off, etc. To balance work with rest seems to be received as lazy by many.

Why? None of this is necessary, unless you buy into the rest of the lies American culture tells you about what an “acceptable” standard of living is and what you have to do to get there.

Going deeper: being busy all the time is also another way to avoid conflict, live in denial, and keep yourself from becoming vulnerable to other people.

A life marked by constant busyness, with no rhythm of rest, is a sure way to love people less.

It seems like we Christians are some of the worst at this too. We expect our clergy to be on the clock 24/7 and bury ourselves in programs “for the Kingdom.” The destructive effects of this on our ministries and families is painfully obvious…just do some research on “pastor burnout.”

Shauna Niequist posts over at the Storyline blog:

Today, I want to communicate to my kids, through my words and my actions, that we don’t always have to be hustling, plates don’t always have to be spinning, balls don’t always have to be in the air.
Me too.

Press In or Give Up

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You have two options today.

Option Number One: act as if you believe what you say you believe. Press into the truth and your values. Commit. It’s difficult, maybe the most difficult thing you ever do. I try and fail, daily…but this is what perseverance is about.

I’m convinced that trying and failing is better than the alternative.

Option Number Two: Keep talking about and dressing up like and reading up on what you believe, but don’t actually do anything. Look, if you live like this, I don’t think you really believe what you think you believe. You certainly don’t value it, and you won’t ever live in light of the truth if you don’t pursue the truth. You’ve given up.

For those of us that claim the name Christ, this means–at the most basic level–really believing that he is the end-all, be-all, ultimate prize of life. It means living like he is God and that God is love. It means returning to and sharing this Love when you’re elated, happy, excited, angry, stretched-thin, left out, exhausted, crushed, or just plain busy. It means saying yes to crazy things, and no to perfectly sensible things. It means Truth over safety.

You have two options today. Press in or give up.

 

Worship is Doing

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There was a time when many in the Church objected to the laity simply watching a special class of people “performing” worship. After all, liturgy means “the work of the people.” The movement that emerged from this framework has paradoxically created a culture where pro-level musicianship is a practical requirement in order to be seen as appealing.

The last time you participated in corporate worship service, could you hear yourself singing? Could you hear your neighbor singing? The answer for me is often “no.” If not to hear the sounds created, why sing? Respectfully, why not simply think the songs to yourself?

Even when people are engaged in singing the songs of faith, we too often limit role of the congregation to that portion of the service. Where can we facilitate response via corporate prayers, recitation of Scripture, and even silent reflection? Those of us in mainstream Evangelicalism must realize the power of worship for spiritual formation, and that the biblical model is participatory. We  miss out when we perform in front of people, instead of lovingly leading them to engage alongside us.

Worship is something we do, not something we watch.

Rest in Peace, Brennan Manning

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I woke today to the news that Christian author and thinker Brennan Manning has died.

From his official website:

It is with mixed emotions that we must tell you that on Friday April 12, 2013, our Brother Brennan passed away.

While he will be greatly missed we should all take comfort in the fact that he is resting in the loving arms of his Abba.

Sincerly Art & Gerry Rubino

I will never forget that special time during college when I gathered with friends every week to go over a new chapter of Manning’s The Ragamuffin Gospel. We would often order pizza or make spaghetti for the group, and then dig in to what Brother Brennan was showing us about the great love of Jesus. It was an ordinary and beautiful expression of the Body of Christ.

I don’t know if anybody in our group of evangelicals had any idea he was Roman Catholic.

It was my first exposure to an extended teaching on the depths of grace and my introduction to the contemplative, mystical side of Christianity. Many of you know how important this has been for my faith over the years…

Although I haven’t read much of his work beyond The Ragamuffin Gospel, Manning’s witness to the grace of God faciliated a very profound–even life-changing–experience for a small group of us in the middle of Texas, and I am grateful.

We pray for the peace of Christ and the comfort of the Holy Spirit for Brennan’s family and friends. May he find eternal rest.

Church Should Be An Oasis

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Church should be an analog oasis in the midst of a digital desert. A community and place where one can rest from the demands of Facebook likes, instant at-replies, and false-front Instagram lives. Where not everything is designed to sell something via spectacle. The values of our culture are skimming the information overflow, pixel-perfect check-ins, and sensory bombardment. We know that this produces materialism, shorter attention spans, and a culture of shallowness.

Maybe we need a place where can take a break from it all…where we can leave our phones at the door, and drink deeply of Living Water without the distraction of a social stream. Maybe we need silence and renewal of communal contemplation in our shared worship experience. Perhaps a thoughtful, theologically-meaningful engagement of the senses is called for over the brute-force light and sound often hurled at us with all the subtlety of the stereotypical steam engine.

Perhaps this kind of “disconnected” worship could actually allow for a deeper communion with God, and with each other. We could begin to look beyond the over-saturated internet persona of our brothers and sisters, and better bear with one another as we strive toward perfect union with Christ.

Founding Fathers

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I’ve noticed that many Christians are quick to quote the Founding Fathers of the United States. Many look to these wise men for guidance today on how to best establish government…the idea is that if we get too far off base from what these men intended, we’re losing touch with our heritage, our roots, even what our nation was created to be.  Knowledge of these men is essential for correctly interpreting and applying our Constitution as a rule of life. There are no shortage of Christians who passionately affirm the vital importance of understanding the Founding Fathers in order to fully appreciate the history of America, accurately assess its present situation, and effectively discern positive paths into the future.

Astoundingly, however, few that I come in contact with have anything but the most rudimentary knowledge of the Church Fathers…those theological giants that built upon the foundation of the Apostle’s work in the establishment of the organized community of faith. How is it that we can ascribe so much importance to the thoughts of a few men (some Christian, some not) regarding the establishment of a secular government, but can all but dismiss the teachings of those that preserved, defended, and developed Apostolic doctrine for the Undivided Church?

It is possible for governments to stray from their original design and actually get better…but not the Church. Governments are designed by men (used by God, yes, but designed by men) whereas the Church is the Bride of Christ. The Church is a not an organization created by men, but rather a people chosen by God. Her order and doctrines are founded on the very teachings of Jesus, given to his Apostles, and preserved in Holy Scripture.

What better way to discern the original design of the Church (and the right interpretations and applications of her constitutional document, the Bible) than examine the teachings of earliest leaders in the Church and those close to them?

Pour: A poem about death and life

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We are called to pour out ourselves for the lost and forgotten, the broken and the marred.

That is what Christ did for us.

Although it is not something we accomplish by our own strength, he graciously enables us through his Spirit to take part in the redemption of all creation.

We live in the already-but-not-yet, but God’s Kingdom is coming, and the Body of Christ is the vessel that will usher in a new era.

Our actions become prophetic utterance, reflecting, enacting, anticipating the second, final coming of our Lord to rule the world.

This is the best study bible on the market

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The ESV Study Bible from Crossway is my tried and true companion for delving into Scripture. This review explains why.

The English Standard Version First, the basics on the translation used. The English Standard Version is a revision of the classic Revised Standard Version (RSV), which itself was an attempt to update the language of the venerable King James Version. The RSV updated most of the language, but kept the “Thee’s” and “Thou’s” for addressing the person of God. The ESV removed the remaining archaic language and changed just a few elements of style in certain places, however it remains remarkably similar to the RSV.

Like the the RSV, the translation philosophy is an “essentially literal” one. That means that when possible, the text is translated word-for-word into English from the original languages. Sometimes a word-for-word translation into English wouldn’t make sense, so in these cases the translators take a freer approach to convey what they perceive to be the plain meaning of the text. In keeping the the King James tradition, classic phrases like “the valley of the shadow of death” (Psalm 23) are for the most part retained and only slightly updated from the KJV/RSV. Key theological terms like “propitiation,” and “justification” are also present in this translation.

The issue of gender-neutral language has come up quite a bit in regards to the ESV. I think the editors chose a sensible approach, and–although not perfect–it generally produces both an accurate and understandable rendering. From the preface of the ESV:

“In the area of gender language, the goal of the ESV is to render literally what is in the original. For example, “anyone” replaces “any man” where there is no word corresponding to “man” in the original languages, and “people” rather than “men” is regularly used where the original languages refer to both men and women. But the words “man” and “men” are retained where a male meaning component is part of the original Greek or Hebrew. Likewise, the word “man” has been retained where the original text intends to convey a clear contrast between “God” on the one hand and “man” on the other hand, with “man” being used in the collective sense of the whole human race.”

For more on the ESV translation see Why I Chose the ESV

Notes, Study Articles, and Features I personally find the Old Testament to be particularly difficult to understand, and I find myself consulting the the notes in the ESV Study Bible often in order to gain clarity on a particular cultural issue or a passage has me theologically stuck. The maps help me to understand the geographic context, and the diagrams of Old Testament structures like the Tabernacle and the Temple are absolutely fantastic. Of course the notes are equally helpful the New Testament as well when it comes to difficult passages in the Gospels and Paul’s letters.

Clearly, the notes and study articles are what make any “study bible” unique. The comprehensive nature of the study notes and the many articles in the ESV Study Bible is simply unparalleled. The 20,000 exegetical notes provide key insights into understanding the text in its theological and cultural context. They are lucidly written and for the most part very accessible to the layperson. In addition to these comprehensive notes, 50 study articles examine Christian ethics, basic theology, the basis for biblical authority and more. Taken together, these articles make up a small library themselves! Combined with the detailed maps and diagrams, as well the standard ESV cross-references (which are themselves a fantastic resource for study), and you’ve got one of the most power resources studying and understanding the Bible today.

Theological and Denominational Bias While the ESV editors did make some effort to adhere to the “classical” Christian viewpoint and are not affiliated with any one denomination, some bias is clear in both the notes and the articles on Christian ethics. The article on Christian pacifism, for instance, represents the viewpoint without addressing the best arguments (in my opinion) and concludes that Just War Theory is the most correct solution. When it comes to the issue of ordaining women to ministry, the same thing applies–although the article does detail both positions, it clearly comes down on the side of men’s only ordination. On some of these issues that are not foundational to the Christian faith, I wish the writers had left more to the reader to decide based on the merits of the arguments themselves, without necessarily forming an explicit conclusion. It is also fair to say that the notes and articles are written from a evangelical, Protestant point of view, with certain Reformed or Calvinistic leanings. Although I am not a Calvinist, I do not find the articles on the doctrine of election, etc to be overbearing. Despite these small issue of bias, the information in the articles and notes is overwhelmingly useful, and the scholarship is top notch.

Many Editions Another thing I love about the ESV Study Bible is the wide variety of editions available, from a fantastic Digital Ebook version (available on Kindle, etc), to the standard hardback (the one I own) to nice genuine leather, to the new, smaller, personal-size edition. The totally online version is super-nice, as well.

Conclusion Over the years this affordable, single-volume work has become my most-used resource when it comes to understanding the Biblical text. Obviously, no single source should be your sole reference, but if you can only buy one book right now, or are just beginning to build your theology library, the ESV Study Bible is a great tome to start with. I think it would also be fantastic gift for occasions like confirmation, baptism, and ordination.

Get it on Amazon.

What Kind of Person is God?

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We know what kind of a person someone is primarily by what they do.

God created the world. He is powerful.

God has never tolerated sin. He actively wages war against it. He is holy.

God did not abandon us to evil. First he clothed us, then he sent his prophets and the law, and finally he gave us Jesus. He is faithful.

God poured out himself at great cost on our behalf. He is love.

Though we do not deserve salvation, he offers it to us and to those that believe the right to become sons of God. He is a merciful father.

He sent us his Spirit to intercede for us, to witness to Jesus, and to sustain us. He is with us.

He gives us wonderful gifts, not the least of which are the preaching of Gospel, the sacraments, and fellowship of the saints. He enjoys giving grace.

God’s personhood is absolutely vital in how we relate to him. It seems we get into trouble when we begin to relate to him a person he is not: the demanding taskmaster, the pushover dad, the distant diety, etc. We know, from his actions in history and in us, that he is a loving father full of mercy and grace, and that we may approach him as such.

Yet he is powerful and holy and will not be contained by finite creatures, and so we must also relate to him as what we are: small creatures desperately in need of redemption.

Stress & fear are the same thing

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I’m convinced that stress is ultimately nothing less than a form of fear. What if I don’t leave the house on time and we’re late I make a horrible first impression? What if I just can’t do everything I think I need to do? What’s going to happen if I can’t pay that bill?

These are sometimes legitimate concerns when they have to do with something that is within our ability to control. Often, though, the things that cause us fear are simply unable to be affected by us. If this is the case, we have to let them to go. There’s no question that this isn’t easy.

Letting go of the fear is one of the most difficult things I can do, but it’s also a response that is demanded of me as I respond to the message of Jesus. So many times we hear in the Scriptures, “Fear not!” (John 14:27, for example). And we can’t forget Jesus' words, “Today has enough worries of it’s own.” (Matt. 6:34)

If I really believe that God is holding this world together with nothing but his word…then surely the least I can do is let go of the false belief in my heart that something could happen that he can’t handle.

Life is a Sacrament

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A sacrament is commonly described as an outward sign of an inward grace. It is the physical manifestation that accompanies a spiritual reality. A glorious thing about Christianity is that although we readily acknowledge that there are special sacraments set aside for specific purposes (Holy Communion, Holy Baptism, Marriage, etc.) it becomes readily apparent that God has never limited himself to one or two or seven channels of his unmerited favor (grace).

I have become convinced the whole of the Christian life may viewed as sacramental in the sense that it entails both external and internal realities, intrinsically linked together for the purpose of bestowing all kinds of spiritual blessings. Religious ritual aside, consider what happens when we receive a warm embrace from a friend during a time of need.

The very privilege of our existence is given to us in both physical and spiritual form, simultaneously.

Why An Anglican Christian?

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Friends have recently asked me why I am an Anglican–instead of a Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox–Christian. Given the similarities between the traditions (Creedal orthodoxy, liturgical worship, sacramental theology), I think it’s a fair question.

I have certainly felt the tug toward Constantinople and a draw to “swim the Tiber” as well. When a church is so ancient–and has compelling claims as a result to the “fullness” of the truth–I think one must seriously consider those claims. I look forward to a day when our three churches are in full communion. I am encouraged by recent dialog between Anglican Church in North America, the Pope, and Orthodox Church in America. I have Anglican friends who have ended up going to both churches, and friends that have come to Anglicanism from both churches.

Nevertheless, I am very nearly convinced that classical Anglicanism is in doctrine and practice the most consistent with the apostolic faith as it was understood by the early (first 500 years) and undivided church. When Anglicanism is most true to those roots as they were formally articulated during the English Reformation, it seems to maintain catholicity while avoiding what seem to me to be the most egregious errors of the Roman and Eastern expressions.

Basically, Anglicanism adheres to catholic (universal, undivided) doctrine, practice and order, without elevating adiaphora (important, but secondary doctrines) to dogma (essential beliefs), and without requiring beliefs that simply cannot be proved from Holy Scripture as it has been historically interpreted by the faithful.

Examples of catholicity include:

Examples of adiaphora and errors include:

As much as I have in common with my Roman Catholic brothers and sisters, my rejection of Papal Infallibility automatically places me outside the boundaries of acceptable Roman Catholic beliefs. Similarly, my desire to remain in communion with churches that ordain women, are capital “R” Reformed, and that do not recognize all seven sacraments isn’t a viable position for a faithful Orthodox Christian.

So if I want to be truly catholic, Patristic, and submissive to a church that teaches what the Apostles and the early church received as “the faith once delivered,” Anglicanism is my only spot to land.

I believe in the Communion of the Saints

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We are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses… (Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV)

This past Sunday morning I received a call from my mom telling me that my dear grandmother (her mother) had passed away. We are blessed to know that she was a believer.

Until Sunday my thoughts on the communion of the saints were rather academic, but as we worshiped at church that morning I knew that although I am separated in a sense from my grandma, we were together in another way as we joined in with the heavenly worship through the Divine Service.

It is hard to describe the way that was comforting for me, except to say I am so thankful for the hope and present reality we have in our communion with Jesus. As believers, we are all alive in him.

O God, the King of saints, we praise and magnify thy holy Name for all thy servants who have finished their course in thy faith and fear; for the blessed Virgin Mary; for the holy patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and martyrs; and for all other thy righteous servants, known to us and unknown; and we beseech thee that, encouraged by their examples, aided by their prayers, and strengthened by their fellowship, we also may be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light; through the merits of thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

~ 1979 BCP, p. 489

A Study Bible by the Church

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J. Mark Bertrand has a typically comprehensive review of a fantastic new Bible design by the folks over at EvangelicalBible.com–one the best places to get high-quality editions of Holy Scripture. Their new Schuyler ESV Bible is clearly designed with care and precision, but it’s not just the goatskin cover and Jongbloed-printed text block that stand out with this edition.

This volume includes the great ecumenical creeds and confessions of Protestant Christianity bound under the same same cover as the Biblical text. You’ll find:

What this amounts to a unique kind of study Bible I don't think can be found anywhere else. I thought Bertrand's take was insightful:
Including these documents accomplishes a similar goal to that of a study Bible, with one significant difference: the views summarized are not those of an individual, or even a committee of scholars, but of a confessing church. They represent a collective endorsement and exposition of the faith contained in Scripture. While there is a great deal of consensus among the confessions, there are differences, too -- and I think that's helpful, as well, to those of us who want to have an informed view of what our fellow believers actually confess (as opposed to what they're accused of believing, if you see what I mean).
I absolutely love this idea. This also got me thinking about what a uniquely Anglican study Bible might look like--and I think it'd be similar, in that it would include the great creeds and the 39 Articles of Religion. I'd also like to see excerpts from the Church Fathers, the Book of Common Prayer, and the English Reformers.

It seems that if you’re looking for the kind of Bible that has non-intrusive study helps that have endured the test of time, you could do a lot worse than the Schuyler ESV.

Illusions of Influence

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I think the Internet can give us a tremendous advantage when it comes to influencing people. We can reach so many with our ideas, thoughts, and motivations that we would have otherwise had no chance of approaching. And these dreams can spread like a virus, sometimes becoming reality. I don’t want to minimize the reality or importance of this power.

On the other hand…

I wonder if I look my Twitter followers, forum members, and Facebook friends and see more influence than I really have. I wonder if I think too much about expressing my next earth shattering idea, at the expense of sharing with those in my immediate physical vicinity.

Could I be missing out on sharing my best ideas with those that would benefit most? Do I really have more influence among my “tweeps” or with those with whom I come into daily physical contact? My wife, children, friends, coworkers, employers and employees? Am I so focused on the the Twitterverse that I’ve looked past the universe of interconnected relationships that I can reach out and touch?

What if, in addition to posting to my blog, I printed out a few copies of my idea, and handed them to a few close friends? Instead of waiting for the Facebook likes and retweets to roll in, what if I handed them a folded piece of paper, and said, “I’d really love your thoughts on this…want to have lunch tomorrow?”

Why wouldn’t I do that with this post?

Identity Crisis

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I am twenty-eight years old, riddled with angst about the person I should be but I’m not, dreams dreamt and not acted on, talents wasted along with time, wondering if the next step will ever seem to take me closer a life embedded in almost subconscious assumptions. Values compromised, stubbornness still in a tenacious grip, and a rather disappointing self-pity often seem to surface in my thoughts.

Quarter life crisis is what they call it. I don’t want to sound self-absorbed, arrogant, or presumptuous…but I realize that’s what I often am.

The problem with my quest for a satisfying identity is that I consistently seek to find it in what I do for living, how I spend my recreational time, what I own and what other people think. Seems like my identity should be driving and molding all of those things, not the other way around.

Why do those idols pull at me like a magnet as sources of self-worth, but I only sluggishly turn my attention to my almost-seven-year marriage, my roles as father, son, brother, and service to the poor among us? How often do I find my identity in my faith practice instead of the person of Jesus Christ?

For the love of God, I just realized I think of my Christianity like a hobby instead of the very fibers that are tying me to Jesus.

There’s this nagging truth that as a Christian, what my identity should be is quite simple (if crushingly difficult to attain). I’m supposed to seek the mind of Jesus. I’m supposed to share in his suffering. I’m supposed to love who he loves, act as he acts, and grieve when he grieves.

The church brings me to his table each week, re-presenting his all-sufficient sacrifice to me. I eat his body and drink his blood to be united to him. I remember Jesus poured out and broken for my sin and yours.

Yet I still have a wandering eye for defining who I am.

Christ, have mercy.

I just. Don’t. Get it.

I’m supposed to die, even if to be raised in him (thank God for grace).

My identity, more than anything, is meant to be caught up in his.

Salvation by Faith and Works

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The Apostles Paul and James are often set against each other when it comes to roles of faith and works in salvation. It's often asserted that Paul affirms a "faith alone" approach (Titus 3:5-6), sola fide, while James plainly says one cannot be justified by faith alone (James 2:24). Although there is certainly a noticeable difference in emphasis between the two Apostles, each author actually speaks of both faith and works as playing a role in our salvation (of course, we have to read these passages in context and not just the proof texts to find this).

Paul often addresses those that would rely on works with out faith in Christ, yet he also says:

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? (Romans 6:1-2 ESV)

Paul is explicitly addressing behavior there.

James addresses those that give intellectual assent to the reality of Jesus, but don’t let that knowledge provoke a response. Yet faith could hardly be more important to James, because faith the is the catalyst for action.

But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. (James 2:18 ESV)

The problem many of us children of the Reformation have is that we de facto assume that “justification” and “salvation” are interchangeable words. However, I am not alone in suggesting that “salvation” is a word that–depending on context, of course–can mean any and all of the following vocabulary:

I think we should broaden our idea of salvation out from simply the moment of justification. God has much more in store for us, including being saved from not only eternal damnation, but from all the sin in our lives. We see this past (Eph. 2:8)/present (1 Cor. 1:18)/future (Rom 8:23) idea of salvation throughout Paul. If we understand salvation in this holistic sense, then the idea of works (being performed solely via the merits of Christ as a result of our justification) playing a role in our total salvation isn’t at all at odds with Ephesians 2:8-9, etc.

N. T. Wright (2009) says in his Justification: God’s Plan and Paul’s Vision,

' Salvation' is from death itself, and all that leads to it and shares its destructive character... 'Salvation' does not mean 'dying and going to heaven,' as so many Western Christians have supposed for so long...this great rescue operation, this great renewal of all things, has already been launched in Jesus Christ, and is already being put into operation through the Spirit" (p. 235).

References

Bock, Darrell L. (1989). Introducing New Testament Word Analysis. In S. McKnight (Ed.), Introducing New Testament Interpretation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic. Buy on Amazon

Wright, N. T. (2009). Justification: God’s plan & Paul’s vision. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic. Buy on Amazon

The ESV Single Column Legacy

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Many of you know that I’ve been on the quest for the perfect reading Bible. What I mean by “reading Bible” is a Bible I can sit down for long periods of time with, sans distractions, and simply soak up the text the way I would a good novel. Study Bibles and ultra compact editions are automatically out (although they have their purpose). Unfortunately editions suited for this kind of reading are relatively rare. So far my favorite candidates have been the ESV Personal Size Reference Bible, the KJV Clarion, and the NRSV Standard Bible. All are solid reading editions, but none were quite what I was looking for. In a perfect world, I’d have just the text of the Bible, in the English Standard Version, attractively presented with absolutely nothing else (no verses, chapters, headings, etc.).

The ESV Single Column Legacy from Crossway may be as close as I ever get to my ideal, and thanks to the generosity of my family, I was able to obtain one for my birthday!

The ESV Single Column Legacy truly is a Bible designed from the ground up for reading, and reading only. No cumbersome cross references, introductions, double columns, etc. This is simply the text of Holy Scripture, presented cleanly and with few distractions.

The text is set up in a single column, like, you know, every other book that’s meant to be read. Double columns are cool and all because you can pack more text on a page, but they’re just not as comfortable for lengthy reading sessions. the 9pt font is super comfortable to read. Additionally, the layout is proportioned according the Renaissance “perfect page” ideal, so there’s plenty of space for your eye to actually rest on the text. The paper is the most opaque Bible paper I’ve seen, and the “line matching” feature that ensures the print aligns on both sides of the page really works to reduce “ghosting” (show-through).

There’s the standard ESV Concordance in the back, and some maps. The top grain leather edition includes two ribbon markers (thank you, Crossway!), classic-looking raised bands on the spine, and it smells really nice. All editions have sewn binding.

The ESV Single Column Legacy Bible is hands-down the most readable ESV edition on the market. At $30 for the TruTone edition, you can get this beautiful Bible (guaranteed for life by Crossway) and you may never need to buy another reading Bible again.

Buy it on Amazon


More on this edition from the Bible Design Blog:

Religion with Room To Grow

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One of the best things about classical Anglican Christianity is that it is a tradition where one feels they have room to grow.

I can be more or less Calvinistic, adopt a higher or lower view of the Sacrament, change my stance on icons, discover catholicity, embrace my Protestantism, and refuse to conclusively define “Real Presence.”

I don’t feel I have to stay exactly the same as my understanding of Scripture, tradition, and Church grows and deepens. Yet there are clear boundaries in our formularies (The Book of Common Prayer, the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, the Ordinal) that guide me on this path and keep me from falling of edges of extremes.

This is tremendously freeing and comforting.

Enough by Patrick Rhone

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I’ve followed Patrick Rhone’s work for years now because he just keeps coming out with awesome. Also, he’s just a great human being.

Patrick is one of only a few writers out there speaking intelligently and thoughtfully on how real people interact with technology. Equal parts philosophical musing and practical advice, Rhone’s most recent book, Enough, explores what it means to find that balance between too little and too much in life. You’ll notice this work doesn’t just address social media and gadgets; Patrick brings unique insight on existing mindfully into multiple spheres of life. Enough is as useful and applicable as it is a pleasure to read.

Enough prompted me to pause and ponder the implications of what I have and what I need in new and fresh ways. I know it will do the same for you, too.

Buy the book and find out more here.

Lancelot Andrews Press BCP

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Since we began worshiping with an Anglican church, I’ve been extremely interested in the history and various incarnations of the Anglican liturgical standard, the Book of Common Prayer. The definitive edition is the 1662 BCP, which also serves as the doctrinal standard for most orthodox Anglicans.

Based on some recommendations by some fellow Anglican friends, I picked up the Lancelot Andrews Press Book of Common Prayer for a mere $15 shipped.

This edition of the Book of Common Prayer is not authorized by any recognized Anglican body that I am aware of, but is an effort by the publisher to create a version of the 1662 BCP that is conformable to Orthodox theology. The target audience for an edition like this would be Orthodox parishes looking to worship with a Western liturgy, or Anglican congregations that find themselves leaning a little toward the East.

First, let’s talk about the physical book itself. For a $15-$30 volume, I think you get your money’s worth. The soft cover is a nice, red “leatherlike” substance with gold accents. About the size of most standard thinline Bibles, the Lancelot Andrews Press BCP text block is trimmed in red. It’s a good looking book, and my washed-out cell-phone photos below don’t do it justice. On the inside, the paper is sufficiently opaque and the type is clear and easy to read. Rubrics are in red, and–although they border on being too light–are not difficult to parse.

(EDIT: The book is now offered in hardback only)

I’ve only really spent time examining the liturgy for morning and evening prayer, so I can’t comment on all the theological tweaks and liturgical alterations, but I can say this: except for the Marian hymns and prayers that are added, Evening and Morning Prayer are virtually identical to the classical 1662 forms. Readers will also find that the Nicene Creed is printed without the filioque, and the date of Easter conforms to the understanding of the Orthodox church. This edition does not include the Articles of Religion.

This really seems like a great devotional resources for both Anglican and Orthodox Christians. The form factor makes sharing the book with someone else for prayers very easy. I also really like the simplified liturgies for family worship, and I find the Orthodox theological nuances educational, at the least, and edifying in many places.

You can get one here.

A Talk From Francis Chan

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Yesterday I was present at a talk by famous author and pastor Francis Chan. His book Crazy Love changed the trajectory of my Christian life and ministry, so I was truly looking forward to hearing him speak. Here are some brief notes from the talk.

Right off the bat:

If you’ve come to hear from Francis Chan, and not God, you’re here for the wrong reasons. He is what we pursue.

Well, that was convicting because I’m pretty sure I went looking forward to a Francis Chan sermon, not expecting or asking for God to speak to me.

He spoke on the idea that the Holy Spirit comes and empowers in special ways primarily in times of crisis when Christians are on mission. Examples included the Spirit descending on the disciples in Acts as well as Elijah’s confrontation with the priests of Baal.

He talked about the experience of Korean missionaries imprisoned by the Taliban, who say it was a time of great closeness to Christ that they sometimes wish they could even return to.

Quote:

If you were a sheep, and Jesus was your shepherd (as in Psalm 23) wouldn't you sometimes want to go through the Valley of the Shadow of Death just to see what Jesus would do?"

As always, Francis comes across as incredibly sincere, and as someone who has a heart of obedience to Christ. He spoke the great importance of all Christians to be making disciples–if we are complaining about not being fed enough by our pastor, he says, it may be time to “man up,” feed yourself if you’ve been equipped to do so, and go to work making disciples. Otherwise you are keeping yourself in spiritual infancy.

Chan says the Holy Spirit in Acts is the same Holy Spirit today, and he calls us live out the mission of going into the world and making disciples. This will bring us into socially awkward situations and perhaps even physical danger, but this is where we see God, in obedience. If we don’t see parallels between our life and lives of the early Christians in Acts, something is wrong.

Very challenging, but his word on making disciples rings true. Am I being obedient to Christ, not just unto death, but even unto social awkwardness? Do I look at my relationships with friends, family, and my children as opportunities to make disciples? Am I willing to take an active role in seeking out the lost? Is something wrong if I don’t I have the time to search out God’s will via prayer and soaking in the Scriptures?

These are the questions I came away with.