What Does It Mean to Be Human?

courtesy of pursuing veritas

Our church took eight weeks to consider what it means to be human, following the first three chapters of Genesis as our guide. The result was a study that was enriching, dignifying, and deeply convicting for us all.

If you missed one or all of them, you can download those eight messages on our church’s SermonAudio page, or just click on the individual sermon below:

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My Top Books for 2017

Before this year ends, let me toss in a few of my favorite books from 2017.

1. Best fiction
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

When I learned about this book, I didn’t think I’d be interested. It isn’t exactly historical fiction, and the topic is painful. But the book was riveting. It helped me understand the American black experience better, even though I have a long way to go. To be sure it is disturbing at times, but that’s part of its power.

Honorable mentions: The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ichiguro, Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

2. Best poetry
The Rain in Portugal by Billy Collins

I have to admit: the first poem by Collins I read was “Grand Central” … and yes I read it on a subway poster. But I was enthralled and had to read more. This collection was excellent, at times playful, at times poignant. One of my favorites is “Helium,” a reflection on the day after one’s death.

3. Best biography
Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush by Jon Meachum

Meachum’s television commentary during the 2016 presidential election compelled me to read three or four of his books this year. His treatment of Bush 41 was superb. Neither hagiographical nor harsh, he brings the reader into the mind of one of the most important people of the twentieth century.

Honorable mention: The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris

4. Best theology
The Liberating Image by J. Richard Middleton

Middleton’s book (as well as his subsequent treatments of the imago dei) was immensely helpful as I preached this fall on what it means to be human from Genesis 1–3. The author writes with both exegetical precision and existential relief. That is, the reader discovers that Middleton has found rest for his own soul in his exegesis of Scripture. The book is a bit eggheady, so if it seems a bit daunting, you can skip Part 2.

Honorable mention: Surprised by Hope by N. T. Wright

5. Best resource for pastors
Show and Tell by Dan Roam

Pastor friends, this book will take you less than thirty minutes to read—and it might save you, and your parishioners, a lot of heartache. Dan Roam is not a pastor; I’m not even sure he’s a believer. But he offers here an amazingly simple method for figuring out what you need to say, why you need to say it, and how you can do it most effectively. A game changer for me as a preacher.

Honorable mentions: Outgrowing the Ingrown Church by C. John Miller, Gilead by Marilynne Robinson (yes, I know, but it fits here too)

6. Best resource for spiritual growth
Depression: Looking Up From the Stubborn Darkness by Ed Welch

As the title suggests, this book is about depression, and it is written both for those battling depression and for those who are helping people suffering under it. But the book is much more. It’s a conversation with a skillful counselor about issues of the heart, unanswered questions, and what God is doing in the darkness. And it leads the reader to Jesus our hope. The Spirit granted me a number of light-bulb moments while reading it, and I trust he’ll do the same for you.

Honorable mention: You Are What You Love by James K. A. Smith

If you know me, you know how much I love You Are What You Love—and how highly I must think of Ed Welch’s book to recommend it before this one.

7. Best reread
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

Cried reading it. Again. Achingly beautiful. I love the last twenty-five pages. I could read them again and again. But they won’t make sense without the first seven hundred.

Honorable mention: Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis

Cried reading it. Again.

 

 

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A Bible Reading Plan for 2018

Each year I join thousands of Christians in an attempt to read through the Bible in twelve months. I’ve used a variety of methods (e.g., chronological, canonical, reading by author), and I typically read a different translation every year. In 2017 I read through the King James Version for the first time since I was a freshman in college.

For 2018 I wanted to do something different. I wanted a plan where:

  • I prayed through a psalm or part of a psalm every day,
  • I read some of the Gospels every day, and
  • I read some of the Proverbs every day.

Then of course I wanted to read through the rest of the Scriptures over the course of the year. And after my positive experience with this plan, I wanted a schedule set up for five days of reading per week to allow for missed days and time for deeper reflection and study.

Not surprisingly, I couldn’t find all of that in a single plan.

So I made one myself.

Check out my 2018 Bible Reading Plan to see if it’s something you want to do as well.

You’ll notice that I’ve left the Psalms and Proverbs columns blank. I’m in the middle of the Psalms now and didn’t want to start over, so I’m penciling in my prayer Psalms as I’m going along. And Proverbs is short enough that one need read only a few verses in order to get through it in a year. My hope is to read both books multiple times through 2018.

The way I’m using it is to do the first three columns (Psalms, Gospels, and OT History) in the morning and the second three columns (OT Prophecy, NT, and Proverbs) in the evening. Other ways this could be used include doing all of the readings in a single sitting or reserving one or two columns for family worship.

Whichever way you use it, it doesn’t take very long. It takes me less time to read than it takes me to lose all my lives in Soda Crush.

And if you’re not quite ready to attempt a full read through the Bible in 2018, you could use parts of this plan to accomplish your goals for the year.

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If this plan doesn’t suit you, here are some others that I’ve found useful:

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A few years ago I wrote a series of posts on the whole “read your Bible in a year” idea. You can find those below:

  1. Reading the Bible One Year
  2. Dangers Within
  3. Sitting Down
  4. Reading
  5. Plans
  6. Final Thoughts
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A Word about Faith and Obedience

220px-Robert_Moses_with_Battery_Bridge_model.jpgPerhaps no New Yorker is so vilified in the minds of other New Yorkers as Robert Moses. The man who served as Parks Commissioner for the middle decades of the twentieth century certainly led many good projects; if you’ve ever enjoyed Riverside Park, you have him to thank. But more than anyone Bob Moses has been blamed for tearing up neighborhoods through the abuse of power.

But the way it all started might be a surprise to you. The genesis of his vision was the problem of kids living in the slums who needed some kind of outlet. That prompted him to create parks in the city and parkways to get out of it. Unfortunately his solution may have created more problems than it solved.

In this way, Bob Moses illustrates something about human nature: we often rightly identify that we are in need, but wrongly identify what the need is. Such is the case in today’s text, where the disciples interrupt Jesus’ teaching to state their need, but their self-understanding was amiss.

Title: A Word about Faith and Obedience

Text: Luke 17.1–10

Overview

  • traps
  • forgiveness
  • faith
  • obedience
  • law and gospel

Resources

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John Knox

Throughjohn-knox-190x209.pngout 2017, this year that marks the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, we are tracing the history that led to the founding of our church through the lives of key people in that story. We began before the Reformation with
John Wycliffe and John Hus, and then looked at the lives of Martin Luther and John Calvin.

But for us to trace the story from the continent of Europe to the New World, we have to see w
hat happened in England and Scotland. And there’s no better single person to look at than the great Scottish Reformer, John Knox, whose life intersected with the great rulers of his day—the English Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I, Elizabeth I; and the Scottish Mary of Guise, Mary Queen of Scots, and James VI. Through these connections—and his often controversial stances—Knox helped lay the groundwork for many theological and philosophical truths we take for granted today.

Title: John Knox

Text: John 17.20–23

Overview

  • Knox and Mary of Guise
  • Knox and Edward VI
  • Knox and Bloody Mary
  • Knox and Mary Queen of Scots

Resources

 

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