Blogroll: The Good Book Company
I read blogs, as well as write one. The 'blogroll' on this site reproduces some posts from some of the people I enjoy reading. There are currently 25 posts from the blog 'The Good Book Company.'
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In the past few decades, personality assessments have become increasingly popular. Companies are spending big money on them. Churches, too, are using them for team building and to help staff increase personal awareness. In fact, ask most people of a certain age and they will tell you they have heard of or taken one of more of these tests (DISC or Myers-Briggs are two of the more popular ones).
In spite of their popularity—or maybe because of it—the question is: for Christians, are these tests helpful, or a distraction?
[inline_product:unstuck]Imagine this: Joseph and Stuart
Joseph and Stuart were business partners. Stuart was great at sales and Joseph handled all the systems to keep up with the data: the clients, income, expenses, and profit. The two of them worked well together for the first five years and business was booming.
But something started to change. Whereas they used to always have each other’s back, over time the relationship began to crumble. Little resentments and frustrations became more and more pronounced. Joseph would get frustrated with Stuart because he didn’t appreciate all the hard work Joseph was doing in the office. Stuart began to get frustrated with Joseph because he never seemed very excited when Stuart landed a new client. Stuart was loud and funny, and the life of the party, while Joseph was more reserved and would often go unnoticed. Resentment grew. Several years later, Joseph tried to push Stuart out of the business and they eventually wound up in a lawsuit.
Do you see what was happening? Joseph and Stuart have different strengths that add value to the business and make it successful. But the problem comes when each person over-values their own strengths and under-values the other person’s strengths. Then they start to see the other person’s strengths as weaknesses. This leads to uncharitable attitudes, which lead to broken relationships.
What personality assessments seek to do is to make an individual aware of their own strengths and weaknesses and also the strengths and weaknesses of others so that they can work better together. Understanding leads to harmony, while misunderstanding leads to hurtful and potentially destructive conflict.
Most personality assessments are essentially measuring similar things. For example:
Are you an introvert or extrovert?
Do you prefer accomplishing tasks with people or being with people to accomplish a task?
How do you relate to others in groups and one on one?
How quickly do you make decision?
Are you a very structured person?
How are you motivated?
What is your style of conflict?
What kinds of things are you interested in?
How do you relax and recharge?
These assessments can be used wisely by Christians to understand themselves and others better. After all, our personality and emotional makeup are part of the unique and wonderful way that we have been created by God. As such, much of our personality and emotional makeup is present from birth, but they can also be shaped as we grow up. The Bible celebrates personality by painting pictures of very unique individuals. Consider the apostle Peter. Whenever Jesus asks a question, Peter is often the one who speaks up. He’s the first disciple to blurt out that Jesus is the Christ (Matthew 16 v 13-20). He’s the only disciple who initially refuses to let Jesus wash his feet (John 13 v 6-9). In the Garden of Gethsemane, he’s adamant that he will lay down his life for Jesus—but it turns out he’s all talk (v 31-38). Through all his faults and failings, we get the distinct impression from the Gospel accounts that Peter is an expressive, outgoing guy!How understanding personality could have helped Joseph and Stuart
Joseph and Stuart are very different. Joseph is an introvert and needs time to focus so that he can get his work done. Stuart, on the other hand, is an extrovert and is drawn to people. These differences made their business successful. Stuart left the office and spent time with people selling the product, while Joseph stayed in the office and kept up with the details. Joseph and Stuart are stronger and weaker at different things, but there is nothing inherently sinful in the way that they get things done.
However, at some point Joseph and Stuart started being critical of each other’s weaknesses, and feeling like their strengths weren’t being appreciated by the other. Their differences led to misunderstanding, which led to uncharitable perceptions and attitudes, and in turn led to sinful pride, criticism and defensiveness. Had Joseph and Stuart known how their differences were a good thing, they could have avoided the conflict.
Now, if Joseph and Stuart were going to continue to work together, they would need to admit and confess their sinful attitudes and actions towards each other and forgive one another. But they would also need to understand their different personalities, strengths and ways of getting things done in order to move forward.
The truth is that sometimes we are too quick to go on a sin hunt in another person’s life when what we are dealing with are simple but important differences. We’ve all been uniquely wired by God. Understanding our own and other people's personalities will help us to remain humble and grateful for one another.
Stephen Weinberg, a Physics Nobel Prize winner once said,
“The world needs to wake up from the long nightmare of religion. Anything we scientists can do to weaken the hold of religion should be done, and may in fact be our greatest contribution to civilisation.”
I hope you didn’t miss the rather sinister-sounding totalitarian element in this statement: “anything we scientists can do…”
This attitude is not new. I first met it fifty years ago while studying at Cambridge University. I found myself at a formal college dinner sitting beside another Nobel Prize winner. I had never met a scientist of such distinction before and, in order to gain the most from the conversation, I tried to ask him some questions. For instance, how did his science shape his worldview—his big picture of the status and meaning of the universe? In particular, I was interested in whether his wide-ranging studies had led him to reflect on the existence of God.
He told me, "If you want a career in science, you must give up this childish faith in God."
It was clear that he was not comfortable with that question, and I immediately backed off. However, at the end of the meal, he invited me to come to his study. He had also invited two or three other senior academics but no other students. I was invited to sit, and, so far as I recall, they remained standing.
He said, “Lennox, do you want a career in science?”
“Yes, sir,” I replied.
“Then,” he said, “in front of witnesses, tonight, you must give up this childish faith in God. If you do not, then it will cripple you intellectually and you will suffer by comparison with your peers. You simply will not make it.”
Talk about pressure! I had never experienced anything like it before.
I sat in the chair paralysed and shocked by the effrontery and unexpectedness of the onslaught. I didn’t really know what to say, but eventually I managed to blurt out, “Sir, what have you got to offer me that is better than what I have got?” In response, he offered me the concept of “Creative Evolution” put forward in 1907 by French philosopher Henri Bergson.
In fact, thanks to C.S. Lewis, I knew a little about Bergson and replied that I could not see how Bergson’s philosophy was enough to base an entire worldview upon and provide a foundation for meaning, morality and life. With a shaking voice, and as respectfully as I could, I told the group standing around me that I found the biblical worldview vastly more enriching and the evidence for its truth compelling, and so, with all due respect, I would take the risk and stick with it.
It was a remarkable situation. Here was a brilliant scientist trying to bully me into giving up Christianity. I have thought many times since that, if it had been the other way around, and I had been an atheist in the chair surrounded by Christian academics pressuring me to give up my atheism, it would have caused reverberations around the university, and probably have ended with disciplinary proceedings against the professors involved.
But that rather scary incident put steel into my heart and mind. I resolved to do my best to be as good a scientist as I could and, if ever I had the opportunity, to encourage people to think about the big questions of God and science and make up their own minds without being bullied or pressured. It has been my privilege in the years that have followed to engage thoughtfully with many people, both young and old, in a spirit of friendship and open enquiry on these questions.
The idea that if you wish to be scientifically respectable you have to be an atheist is falseThe dark side of academia
I learned another valuable lesson that day: about the existence of a dark side to academia. There are some scientists who set out with preconceived ideas, do not really wish to discuss evidence, and appear to be fixated not on the pursuit of truth but on propagating the notions that science and God do not mix and that those who believe in God are simply ignorant.
This is simply not true.
What’s more, you don’t need to have a great deal of insight to see that it is false. Think of the Nobel Prize in Physics, for example. It was won in 2013 by Peter Higgs, a Scotsman who is an atheist, for his groundbreaking work on subatomic particles, and his prediction, later proved, of the existence of the Higgs boson. Some years before that, it was won by William Phillips, an American who is a Christian.
If science and God do not mix, there would be no Christian Nobel Prize winners. In fact, between 1901 and 2000 over 60% of Nobel Laureates were Christians. I want to suggest that what divides Professors Higgs and Phillips is not their physics or their standing as scientists—they’ve both won the Nobel Prize. What divides them is their worldview.
Higgs is an atheist and Phillips is a Christian. It follows that the claim of those academics who tried to intimidate me in Cambridge so many years ago—that if you wish to be scientifically respectable you have to be an atheist—is obviously false. There cannot be an essential conflict between being a scientist and having faith in God.
This is an extract from Can Science Explain Everything? Oxford Maths Professor and Christian believer Prof. John Lennox offers a fresh way of thinking about science and Christianity that dispels the common misconceptions about both. He reveals that not only are they not opposed, but they can and must mix to give us a fuller understanding of the universe and the meaning of our existence.
If you are alive and reading these days, you have probably heard the term “mindfulness.”
You might know people who are practising mindfulness to help them navigate the pressures of daily life. Maybe it’s used in your school or workplaces as a tool to reduce stress and boost creativity. In recent years mindfulness has been promoted by public health bodies as a way to promote mental wellbeing, and as a treatment for depression and anxiety. The guided meditation app Headspace—one of dozens you can find in your app store—has been downloaded over 31 million times.
So what should Christians make of the mindfulness trend? Should we jump on the bandwagon? Should we be suspicious and hold it at arm's length? Or is there another way?
[inline_product:unstuck]What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us (https://www.mindful.org/what-is-mindfulness/).
The theory is that when we are mindful in the present, we can avoid the pitfalls of letting the past or the future hijack us from living in the moment. While definitions can vary, the word “meditation” is often used synonymously with “mindfulness”.
Here’s a sample step by step mindfulness practice:
Take a moment to be still and relax.
Pay attention to the sensations in your body. If you are anxious, angry, sad, etc, where can you locate that in your body? What is your body saying?
Stay present in the moment and focus on what you are thinking and feeling. Do this without judgement, even if it is a “negative” emotion like sadness or anxiety.
Label the emotions you are feeling with as much precision as possible.
Ask yourself why you feel this way, and what triggered it.
Let the emotions pass.
Re-enter your world with calm and a commitment to be grateful and caring.
In recent years, scientific research has confirmed what most religious traditions have been saying for a long time: practising meditation is good for the body and soul. That is why you will find most religious traditions include meditation as a vital element to living out the tenants of one’s beliefs. This is true of the Christian tradition as well.
Today, most mindfulness practices are secular. They don’t emphasize any faith component, which is partly why it has become so popular—mindfulness is for everyone. You don’t have to necessarily believe anything in particular.What is Christian mindfulness?
I believe that there is a way to practise “Christian mindfulness”—something that connects with the secular trend, but adds a very important dimension. In my new book, Unstuck: A Nine Step Journey to Change that Lasts, I walk through nine steps that share some similarities to the steps above with one main difference: the presence of a personal God, who communes with us and redeems us as we are mindful of his presence with us in the moment.
It is impossible to overstate the difference this makes. Secular mindfulness is personal and horizontal: you pay attention to yourself, so as to be more present for others. Christian mindfulness introduces a vertical dimension: you are paying attention to who God is and your relationship with him through his grace to you in Jesus. This is what is utterly unique about Christian mindfulness.
In one sense, all Christians should be “mindful” Christians. Paul encourages the believers in Philippi to be consciously mindful of the present benefits of being united to Christ.
All Christians are called to be mindful—mindful of our unity with Christ, and the presence of his Spirit.
"Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion…" (Philippians 2 v 1).
His next statement is a call to live in light of that present reality and awareness.
"… then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others." (v 2-4)
Christians have a personal, loving, accepting, forgiving, gracious and present Saviour, who aides us day by day through the work of the Holy Spirit within us. As we go about our daily lives, with all of the stresses and busyness, we are constantly invited to be mindful of God’s presence with us, his care for us and new power in us that he has provided to face each moment of each day.
One way we are to be “mindful” Christians is through prayer: we are to live our lives as we “pray without ceasing” (I Thessalonians 5 v 17). The word “without ceasing” does not mean “non-stop” but “constantly recurring”—in other words, we are encouraged to punctuate our daily lives with intervals of prayer. You might describe this as living with a moment by moment mindfulness of God’s presence with us.
As you go about your day today, you can practise Christian mindfulness. It isn’t that complicated, and you don’t need an app. Find ways and times to slow down and allow yourself to be mindful of your connection to Christ. As you do, allow his love to calm you and encourage you.
You don’t have to call it “mindfulness”, but all Christians are called to be mindful—mindful of our unity with Christ, and the presence of his Spirit. And it’s with that awareness that we can live with gratitude and move towards others with compassion.
‘Only one life, twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last’. The famous words of CT Studd who gave up everything for overseas mission and headed off on the slow boat to China. But what if instead you’re on the train to the office or hospital or school staff room, or in the van going to the construction site or warehouse, or on the bus to the supermarket checkout job, or in the car dropping the kids off at school? You too have only one life. Do you ever feel you’re wasting it? Do you ever feel that if you were really keen as a Christian, you’d be working for a church or overseas as a missionary? Where does regular work fit into God’s purposes?
When Jesus began his three year public teaching ministry at the age of about 30, people in his home town made a fascinating comment, recorded in Mark 6:3. They said, ‘Is not this the carpenter?’ We don’t know much about those first 30 years, but we do know this – Jesus did a regular job. He worked as a carpenter. For years. And that’s worth reflecting on. The following five points the Bible makes about work will be familiar, but we may not often think and imagine how they must have shaped Jesus’ experience of work.Work is a gift
The concept of work first appears in the Bible in Genesis 2:15: ‘The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it’. Work was part of the original good creation, before the Fall. Work is a good thing. A good gift. Work was part of how humanity was to rule the world under God. God had told humanity in Genesis 1:28 to rule over the world, and that rule was exercised in part through the work of having families, procreating, and working the ground.
The way God set up the world, work was required for things to function. God gives us our daily bread, but nothing is going to pop up in the toaster in the morning without the hard work of the farmer, the baker, the truck driver, and the team at the local supermarket. Work was part of what we were created to do – whether the work of the home, bringing up kids, or work outside the home; whether paid or unpaid.
So as long as our work is not illegal or immoral, it can be part of how we serve God as his people, redeemed through Christ. It’s not as if your only service of the Lord is what you do on Sundays at church. Your daily work is service too. My grandmother had a sign over her kitchen which read, ‘Divine service is conducted here daily’. And it’s not as if you can only serve God in the ‘caring professions’. Society needs plumbers and bankers just as much as nurses and teachers. Colossians 3:24 tells Christian slaves ‘you are serving the Lord Christ’.
And so when the Son of God became man, he got a regular job. That’s making quite a statement about the value and dignity of work. The first Adam was a gardener, the last Adam a carpenter. Both were manual labourers. Was Jesus just treading water for those 15 (or however many) years? Could his time have been better spent? No, he was fulfilling all righteousness. Living the perfect life. Serving the Lord. Working for him.
And that will have meant he worked hard, was conscientious, didn’t do a shoddy job. You can bet his tables and chairs were well-made. Shame none of them survived. Would be quite something to have an original chair made in the Galilean workship, with the initials ‘JC’ engraved on the chair leg.Work is not God
The first of the Ten Commandments says ‘You shall have no other gods besides me’. There’s only one God, and work is not it. The Lord alone is God. Anything else we put in that centre circle in our life will function as our god. We mustn’t do that. We mustn’t let a good thing become a God thing. That’s idolatry. ‘Keep yourselves from idols’ 1 John 5:21 says.
Work is not meant to be what we look to for our ultimate security and identity and meaning and glory. And that is one reason a good work-life balance is so important. We need rest. And it’s a statement that there’s more to life than work.
Jesus did his job as a carpenter, served his Father in it, earned money to support himself and the wider family. But work was not his god. In his work he wasn’t driven by love of money, trying to get as rich as possible. Or by the desire for security, trying to prove himself or fulfil his potential. He wasn’t driven by envy and competitiveness, trying to be better than everyone else. He was driven by love of the Father and a desire to serve him.Work is a grind
In Genesis 3, work falls under God’s judgement on sin. The work of the home, bearing and raising kids, and the work of the ground, both become painful. Death also enters the world, creating a sense of futility in work.
"Imagine how he would have behaved in his carpenter’s workshop. Being kind, loving, patient, self-controlled."
In Genesis 4 we have the first example of envy, hatred, and violence at work. Cain kills Abel in the workplace – in the field. In Genesis 31 Jacob sums up his 20 year long work experience with Laban as ‘by day the heat consumed me, and the cold by night, and my sleep fled from my eyes…you have changed my wages ten times’. Harsh work conditions, and unfair treatment by his employer.
In Genesis 39 we have the first case of sexual harassment in the workplace. The boss’ wife tries to seduce Joseph. He resists her. She makes a false accusation. He’s subject to unfair dismissal; and wrongfully imprisoned. No union or HR department to defend him.
Work is really hard for many people today: poorly paid, boring, awful conditions. Think of the sewer workers in India, cleaning out sewers by hand, without protective gear; for a pittance; exploited; many fatalities. Many of them are Christian. And even in ‘good jobs’ you have pressure and frustration. And you have to deal with the sins of the heart spilling over into workplace relationships – coveting, envy, slander, gossip, pride, selfish ambition. It makes work a grind.
That would have been true for Jesus as well. He would have had to deal with difficult customers, perhaps an unreasonable boss, or envious co-workers, long hours, tiredness, things going wrong, pressure of orders and too much work. He would have needed to rely on his heavenly Father in prayer, and to persevere – as do we.Work is a godliness challenge
Colossian 3:22-4:1 tells Christian slaves how to behave in their work: to obey the boss, work with integrity, be conscientious, put your heart into it. Galatians 5 famously lists the fruit of the Spirit. Being Christian at work means displaying this fruit in the workplace. That should be our ambition at work - to be godly. And repenting of our sin when we’re not.
And so for Jesus. Imagine how he would have behaved in his carpenter’s workshop. Being kind, loving, patient, self-controlled. Not flying off the handle when things went wrong. Not blaming others. Not gossiping or grumbling. Not flirting.Work is a gospel opportunity
And finally, work is a gospel opportunity – an opportunity to get the gospel out to others. Titus 2:10 tells slaves to be godly at work ‘so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Saviour attractive’. Our lives at work will either support or undermine the gospel. But living the life and being known as a Christian is not enough. In the end people need to hear the message about Jesus. And if not through us, then through whom? And so in Colossians 4:3 Paul prays ‘that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ’. It is a good workplace prayer. That at appropriate times and places, God would open a door for the message, and we would walk through it.
Don’t you think that Jesus would made the most of every opportunity to talk to colleagues and customers about his heavenly Father and their spiritual needs? Surely the sort of conversation he had with the woman at the well in John 4 didn’t just suddenly begin when he started his public ministry. Surely this was how he operated throughout his working life too, out of love for others.
So if we want a model of being Christian at work, we could do a lot worse than look to Jesus, the Son of God, the Saviour, the Lord - and the carpenter.
Marcus Nodder is the author of Making Work Work, eight studies for individuals or groups showing God's perspective on work, whether at home, at an office or in a factory.
Christmas can be a real spiritual high point in the year, a time to enjoy worshipping the birth of our Saviour with renewed wonder and joy. But, ironically, for some it can also be a low point. It’s hard not to give so much time and energy to cooking, present-buying and socialising that it leaves us feeling wiped out. They’re all good things, but so easily crowd out any time for proper reflection and meditation.
But with the dawning of a new year comes that opportunity. Social events often get cancelled as people calm down a bit and try not to spend money, and there’s no need to exhaust ourselves rushing around shopping centres and attending plays, concerts and so on. It’s a bit of breathing space to invest our time elsewhere.
Here are two ideas for how to make the most of it:1. Do a bite-sized Bible reading every day.
Nothing new I know, but this simple discipline often slips during the festive season. Yet the rewards of setting our eyes on things above on a day to day basis far outweigh the effort. Just like exercise, we know it’s good for us, but once we’re out the habit, it seems so hard to start up again. ‘Spiritual Healthcheck’ is a resource that has been specifically designed to help you kick start a healthy habit of daily Bible reading. Sixteen short devotions, dotted around the New Testament, will help you assess your faith and excite you about God’s plans to make it grow and thrive. It’s so easy to do and it will inspire you to carry on reading your Bible once you’ve reached the end.2. Read a Christian book.
There is usually a bit more time in the evenings in January and February, and for me it is very tempting to simply collapse in front of the TV before getting an early night. But just as relaxing and far more rewarding, is to cosy up on the sofa with a good book and a cup of tea. Getting stuck into a longer thought piece than the soundbite pieces of content I consume on my iPad or phone is also very welcome.
New for 2019
Tim Lane’s new book, Unstuck provides the opportunity to look at the attitudes and behaviours that we’d love to see change. Unlike various self-help books that offer strategies and ways of talking yourself in or out of things, the starting point of this book is that we need to look outside of ourselves. Only God has the power to change us from the inside out, and so we need to look to him to empower us to break free from unwanted habits and behaviours that don’t seem to go away. Tim Lane presents nine steps towards change that lasts and they are all truths rooted in scripture. Each chapter is fascinating and easy to read, leaving you with a feeling of lightness as you realise change is possible if we depend on God for it.
If you are a twenty-something navigating your way through the challenges of adulting, there’s a book written specifically for you by someone who knows what you’re going through. In Is This It? Rachel Jones is honest about the difficulties of being a young adult. She knows what it’s like to dread family occasions because relatives will ask you what you’re doing with your life, to still have lots of stuff at your parents’ house with very little prospect of owning your own home, and to find that social media leaves you with the miserable suspicion that most of your friends have more fun/a better relationship/more money/a better house/more friends than you do! But she is a Christian and she also recognises that knowing Jesus makes all the difference. If you’ve started the new year wondering “Is this it”? there is no better way to spend the long winter nights than reading this warm, amusing and hope-filled book.
So as well as the usual task list of trying to lose weight and trying not to spend money, treat your mind and soul at the start of 2019 by getting stuck into some reading that will point you to Jesus. What better way to start the new year?
We released over 40 new titles this year. In my capacity as the Marketing Manager, I have to read (as much as I can) of each one and understand the central message behind it.
I’m certainly not complaining. It’s great. I get to engage with the biblical wisdom and insight of dozens of different minds and ideas throughout the year. Some great advice on courage from Matt Chandler, some exhortation to do hard things by Dave Griffiths-Jones and a better vision for human flourishing from Dan Darling.
But one thing I have learned is that if I'm not intentional about applying these important lessons then they just get lost.
I imagine you're the same.
So here are four small, manageable changes, inspired by some of our 2018 releases, that I intend to make to be a better Christian, husband, father, church member and colleague next year.Be present
I'm a classic task-oriented kind of person. If I'm not careful, and to my wife's dismay, all of life can reduced to a mere to-do list. Sunday mornings become about just meeting the demands of whatever serving roles we’re doing that week, family life can be only about getting jobs around the house done, and work relationships are whittled down to fulfilling numerous interrelating tasks. I'm in real danger of never actually being present with people, listening to them, and not rushing off to some other urgent pressing need.
It comes down to this: while I may be 'getting things done', I'm almost always missing out on some bigger and better things that God has for me. Namely, his love.
In a chapter of Enjoying God, Tim Chester explains that one of the ways in which God loves us is through the community we experience with our family in Christ. He says:
"“No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another,” says John in 1 John 4 v 12-13, “God lives in us and his love is made complete in us”. John’s point is this: we can’t see God, but we can see one another. So we see the love of the invisible God in the love of the visible church. God’s love becomes a reality that can be seen and heard and touched in the life of the Christian community.
“And brotherly love isn’t a poor substitute for the real thing. For brotherly love is divine love. God loves us through the love of other Christians. He loves us in other ways, of course—supremely in the gift of his Son. But the love we experience from other Christians starts with God.
“The brother who speaks a word of comfort to you, the sister who bakes a cake for you, the family who welcome you into their home—all are the hands and feet of God. When a brother hugs you, Christ is hugging you. When a sister sits by your hospital bed, Christ is sitting by your bedside. When a friend weeps with you, Christ is weeping with you. Christian love is the overflow of God’s love to us.“
Resolved: To be more present in all my interactions with other people.Be real
We're more connected than we've ever been before. I am currently part of 15 active Whatsapp groups which provide a helpful (and sometimes exhausting - more on that later) way for me to share updates, photos and videos with family and friends all across the world. But the headlines say we're also more lonely than we've ever been before, and the way we use social media can ironically leave us increasingly isolated.
I'm a big advocate for the potential of social media - as Daniel Darling helpfully points out in The Dignity Revolution, technology is not intrinsically evil - but I am aware of how it can warp our sense of reality and provide people with another opportunity to carefully curate their public image by putting forward an essentially fake version of themselves. This, argues Catherine Parks in her book Real, is a major contributor to our current loneliness epidemic.
"If we long for connection and community, why do we so often default to fakery? It’s because being real requires something that most of us find excruciatingly difficult: vulnerability. We don’t want other people to see our emotional weak spots. In fact, this is why we often find online community easier—it gives us a defensive barrier to full exposure. Both online and offline, we’ve become experts at hiding the “real” us—and lots of us aren’t sure how to stop."
Resolved: To force every social media post through the ‘fake’ filter and resist the lure of putting forward subtle, yet shallow self-congratulatory content about myself. The next time I'm tempted to share a cute picture of my kids online, I'm going to think twice. Maybe that moment was just for us.Be restful
We all want more rest, but the relentless treadmill of life keeps us moving. The pressure to be seen to be busy and important is ever rising, I’m becoming more and more convinced that no one really knows why.
I have two children under the age of 4. They need to be fed, watered, and dropped off at nursery, the house needs to be clean respectable, work targets need to be achieved passable and church activities need to be joyfully dutifully done. There have been a few memorable forgettable days this past year where I have been so exhausted it has felt a chore deciding which socks to wear.
So it was a relief to be given the permission by Adam Mabry in his book The Art of Rest that saying 'no' to things can actually be incredibly godly. It was truly liberating to hear Adam describe rest as an act of resistance to a culture that demands busyness.
"For followers of Jesus, rest isn't a sign of weakness. Rest is a profound act of resistance against the siren call of self-justification. It's not about admitting weakness. It's about having the strength to rest."
The good news about rest, he argues, is that it doesn’t need to compete with your already rammed schedule. Far from being simply an evening spent bingewatching Netflix, rest is a radical call to trust in Jesus with everything we already have going on. Many of us are anxious because we so often submit to false rulers, but now that I'm in Christ I no longer need to justify myself to the god of busyness or approval. I can just be.
Resolved: To implement (and keep) a digital sabbath every Sunday. Instead of checking my phone every half an hour, I'm switching it off and putting it in another room.Be in the Bible
Is there anything more guilt-inducing than a talk or article about the benefits of daily Bible reading? It’s not their fault, they’re saying all the right things. My problem is that I so often make it just another task on the to-do list (see above) and that sucks out all the joy and purpose out of it. I try to go too fast, too soon, and inevitably crash and burn.
I’m reminded of what John Hindley says in You Can Really Grow.
“The Bible is about Jesus. Bible reading never saved anyone. Bible reading never grew anyone. Hearing from Christ, about Christ, in the Bible is what saves and grows us. The Bible is first and foremost a love letter, from Christ, to his people. It is about Jesus and his
love for us. [Grasping this] changes the nature of Bible reading from information to relation, from growing in knowledge to growing in love.”
Resolved: To form a realistic daily Bible reading habit that is sustainable throughout the year.
It's great that some people have the capacity to read the entire Bible in a year (all powe to them), but perhaps like me you just need a place to (re)start your daily Bible reading. And that's fine.
So - four resolutions for 2019. Hardly Jonathan Edwards level, I know - but I have a strong suspicion that if by December 31st I’ve kept these four, I will have been a better husband, father, church member and colleague - and I’ll be a far happier child of God.
“What changed last time you read your Bible?
For most of us, the answer is: Nothing.
And so, for many of us, Bible reading slides into short spurts punctuating longer gaps. Others are more disciplined and optimistic. So we continue reading our Bible each day, hoping that in tomorrow’s reading, it’ll “work”, it will all click into place, and something will change. But we never reach tomorrow.”
So begins John Hindley in his chapter entitled ‘Bible reading can damage your health’ in his book (still one of the favourite ones that we’ve published during my 8 years at TGBC) You Can Really Grow. And I read that, and I think: Ah, that’s me. Then he continues…
“I have struggled for years to read the Bible. Even as a full-time Christian pastor, my guilty secret was that the gaps between reading it spanned days or even weeks.”
And I think… ah, that’s me. In fact, in many ways that’s still me. This New Year, I want to make a fresh start. And I could do a lot worse than read this chapter once a week. Here are a few particularly helpful parts of it…
“I think I know what I was getting wrong about the Bible. First, I was reading it to help my understanding, to mould my behaviour, to guide my decisions, and to change my feelings. And second, I was reading it because it is true.
Paloma Faith wrote a song: Do you want the truth or something beautiful? and the lyric has stuck with me. I think I shared the assumption behind the title—that truth and beauty are incompatible. So the Bible was true, important, essential… but it was dry and, to be honest, a little dull. It was not beautiful.
Don’t get me wrong—the Bible can help my understanding, behaviour, decisions and feelings. And it is true. But it not about me, and it is not merely truth. That’s what I was getting wrong.
In fact, the Bible is about Jesus.
You probably knew that already. But do you read the Bible as if you know that? When we do, it changes everything. In Jesus, we see truth and beauty. We see the most wonderful life we could imagine, lived on the canvas of history, rather than a novel.
Do you want the truth, or something beautiful? Yes. I want both; I find them in Jesus, and so I long to read his Bible."
If you sit down with your Bible, think: I am about to hear from Jesus, about Jesus. I am opening up his love letter.How to read the Bible (and enjoy it)
When my wife Flick and I were dating, we wrote each other letters. I read Flick’s letters for information about what she had been doing, I read them to know how to behave as her boyfriend, and I certainly read them for the feelings they gave me. But if this was all, I would have entirely missed the point, and broken her heart. I read those letters because I loved her. I wanted to hear from Flick because of my love for her and her love for me. And as I heard from her on those pages, I grew in my love for her.
I read them because I couldn’t not—because I loved her.
The Bible is first and foremost a love letter, from Christ, to his people. It is about Jesus and his love for us. Just as Flick’s letters enabled me to “see” her even though she wasn’t actually with me, so in the Bible we “see” Jesus. One day, we’ll be just like him, because we’ll be with him (1 John 3 v 2). But in this life, we become more like him as we hear from and see him in his word.
The Bible is about Jesus. Bible reading never saved anyone. Bible reading never grew anyone. Hearing from Christ, about Christ, in the Bible is what saves and grows us. [Grasping this] changes the nature of Bible reading from information to relation, from growing in knowledge to growing in love.
That is what Paul is getting at when he tells us to:
Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all
wisdom through psalms, hymns and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your
hearts. (Colossians 3 v 16)
He doesn’t expect the Bible simply to inform us; he expects it to dwell in us richly. This is a picture of Bible reading as a life-transforming experience, not as an information exchange. He expects it to change us, and for us to change others with it, through admonishing and teaching.
In other words, because he knew whose the words of the Bible were, and whom they were about, Paul knew what the Bible could do. He knew there was a way to read the Bible that changes us greatly—by reading it as a love letter from Christ.”
If I read the Bible like that, then… well… I’ll actually read the Bible. Not because I have to, but because I want to. Maybe you, like me, need to get restarted (or just started) with daily Bible reading. There are many helpful aids to helping us with devotional times in Scripture – daily notes, apps, accessible in-depth guides, and so on. You can find loads of blogs and articles giving you five tips (find a place on your own… establish a routine… etc). But honestly, I’ve realised that for me, it’s not so much that I need to learn the how as that I need to remember the why. I need to remind myself of what John says at the end of that wonderful chapter:
“It will change so much, and help you grow so much, if you sit down with your Bible, ask the Spirit for help, and think: I am about to hear from Jesus, about Jesus. I am opening up his love letter. He is true, he is beautiful, and he is speaking to me.”Find your way to get into God's word
This year our blog has seen many thought-provoking pieces from countless different authors. We hope that your thoughts have been stirred and your hearts encouraged by it. Have a look at our most-viewed blogs of 2018:1. A 5 minute theology of periods
We need to talk about periods. After all, it seems like everyone else is—whether it’s the recent debate in the UK over tax on sanitary products or the trend for “free bleeding” (google it… or actually, don’t). There’s a growing movement on social media to ditch the shame and secrecy around “that time of the month”, and get everyone—women and men—to get comfortable and open about it. But whereas you can find Christian blogs and even whole books on most other bodily experiences—eating, sleeping, sickness, sex—not so much on menstruation.
2. Things women wish you wouldn't say in church
To coincide with the release of Kathleen Nielson’s new book, Women and God, we conducted a survey. It invited Christian women to share their opinions, thoughts and feelings on the place and experience of women in church and family life—the responses were very insightful! In this piece, we shared moments or things that are said in church life that have made women cringe.3. 6 reality checks that hit you in your 20s
The twenties can be an amazing time in your life. You get to taste the liberty of living on your own for the first time. You’re no longer a minor at age twenty-one. You can rent a car at twenty-five. You get to take your first steps in your career path. What’s there not to like? Well, here’s a bit of reality that’s going to hit you in the face like a dodge ball at recess when you’re not paying attention. Maybe that’s a bit strong. Probably not. Life can be rough. Let me introduce you to some reality checks that prey on people in their twenties.4. Rediscovering the lost art of lament
How does God want us to deal with the great difficulties of life? Does he want us to ignore them, to get over them, to power through them, or to be crushed by them? No. He wants us to lament over them. That is the great lesson of a little-read passage in the Old Testament prophet, Micah. Following Micah, we will see that God actually invites his people to lament over them. He wants us to honestly assess what we’re seeing, and also to pour out our great sorrow to him at what we see.5. Slaying entitlement by embracing contentment: lessons from Africa
Mary K. Mohler shares stories of missionaries in Africa and the lessons they have taught her about contentment: “We are completely dependent on our all-powerful God, who generously gives us every gift we possess. He owes us nothing but condemnation. We owe him everything—including hearts that brim with great thankfulness.”
6. 6 things you need to know about iGen
Are you a parent frustrated by how much time your teenager spends on their phone and video games? Or a professor puzzled by your new students’ calls for safe spaces and trigger warnings? Or a pastor wondering why your preaching doesn’t seem to connect with anyone under 25? Welcome to iGen.7. Here’s what it's like being a church leader and depressed
I am a pastor who lives with depression. And nowhere in scripture am I disqualified for it. Quite the opposite. As I weigh up my own church leadership experiences in the context of living with depression, I think it has actually been a net gain. Let me tell you why.8. Should Christians abandon Christmas?
When you add to that the way that Christmas, and the month preceding it, has been hi-jacked by commercialism, and then consider how many people find Christmas an especially difficult time, then maybe there’s a case for evangelicals abandoning it. What would really be lost?
9. William Wilberforce’s Lesser Known Campaign
It’s a little known fact that everyday, William Wilberforce scored himself against each fruit of the spirit displayed in his behaviour of the previous day. His habit was then to thank God that he had been given grace in the areas he had done well in. But also to confess and to ask God to help him in the areas he was struggling with.10. 5 things to pray for 2018
At the beginning of the year, Rachel Jones suggested 5 things to pray for your walk with God throughout 2018, all drawn from Philippians 3 v12-14. They’re just as relevant for 2019 as they were for 2018!
In the midst of the gift-buying, make-everybody-happy, food-gorging craziness that is Christmas, we pray that you experience joy and peace all year round, and into eternity! On behalf of everyone at The Good Book Company, we wish you a very Happy Christmas and a Happy New Year.
It’s almost Christmas, and I’m looking forward to one of the sweetest moments of my whole year.
It’s not that moment when the Jones clan gathers round the table for Christmas dinner. Nor is it reliving family traditions, or being reunited with the childhood pet rabbit, or joking around with my siblings, or unwrapping that long-awaited soda stream (yes, that really is on my Christmas list).
No, my favourite moment of the whole year is driving home for Christmas, while listening to Chris Rea’s song “Driving Home for Christmas”.
This year I’ll be making the annual 250-mile pilgrimage to my parents’ house in a clapped-out old Micra with intermittent power steering and a rattle in the exhaust that bystanders have been known to pass comment on.
But when that distinctive piano jingle and Chris Rea’s smooth tones come on the radio, I’ll be euphoric. In that moment, the lack of power steering becomes a light and momentary affliction. The top-to-toe tailbacks on the motorway can’t dampen my mood. I’m going home.
And that’s my favourite moment of the year.Driving home for Christmas, forever
Wouldn’t it be great to capture some of that unquenchable driving-home-for-Christmas joy in our Christian lives?
In one of my favourite verses in the New Testament, Jesus describes heaven as his “Father’s house [with] many rooms … And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14 v 2-3).
Which means that right now, if you’re a Christian, you’re driving home for Christmas—and this destination will not disappoint. You’re driving towards endless celebration and feasting, with a banquet that will put the best Christmas dinner in the shade. This home is safe and permanent—there’ll be no rogue landlord or dodgy neighbours. It’s where our family is—a multitude of perfected brothers and sisters to celebrate with.
Best of all, waiting eagerly at the door to welcome us in is Jesus himself. He’s the One who knows us and loves us more deeply than we can imagine—the One who left his home in heaven, lived the life of a roaming preacher and died the death of a social outcast to bring us home. Now he’s standing at heaven’s door, ready to embrace us and say, “Welcome home”.
Right now, if you’re a Christian, you’re driving home for Christmas—and this destination will not disappoint.
If I went through life with that destination in view, then my attitude on the journey would be so much better.
If I was really excited about the end goal, I’d make much better company in the car.
If I was carefully watching the miles and minutes countdown on the SatNav, I’d be more determined to make sure everyone I know gets there too.
If I was daydreaming about the destination, then the frustrations and disappointments en route wouldn’t crush me.
And let’s face it, there will be plenty of frustrations and disappointments en route—even in the next couple of weeks over the holiday period.
In fact, that’s why driving home for Christmas is better than being home for Christmas. Most people over the age of 11 knows that the anticipation of Christmas outperforms the reality. In the reality of home, I find I’m not quite the person I want to be. I end up bickering with my siblings, and criticising my parents, and feeling a little bit sick and stuffy from all that overeating. And the childhood rabbit… well, he’s long dead.
So in a few days time, when I’m driving home for Christmas, and that distinctive piano jingle strikes up, I will say a little prayer: I’ll thank God that his promised destination will never disappoint; I’ll ask him to make me more excited for eternity than I am for Christmas; and I’ll pray that I’d be joyfully driving home for Christmas, whatever happens en route and for however much of the journey I’ve got left.
Adapted from Is This It? The Difference Jesus Makes to that ‘Where-is-my-life-going-I-hate-my-job-I-have-no-real-friends-Is-God-even-here-Will-I-end-up-alone-I-wish-I-was-back-at-school-Will-this-ever-feel-like-home-Am-I-failing-at-life’ Feeling, which releases on 1st January. Pre-order now.
The brainy book is in. A recent Guardian article explained the sales phenomenon behind Sapiens, a wildly successful a history of mankind, that reflects a surprisingly broader trend in consumer habits: the current boom of non-fiction.
We live in an uncertain world, the article explains, and in order to get a better, clearer comprehension of our environment “we are turning away from glitzy but disposable stories of fame and excess and towards more serious, thoughtful, quiet books that help us understand our place in the world.”
Which is why I’m so excited about these 7 titles in The Good Book Company’s 2019 line-up, because these will each be particularly helpful in enabling you to understand yourself and your world better.Can Science Explain Everything?
Can science explain everything? Many people think so. Science, and the technologies it has spawned, has delivered so much to the world: clean water; more food; better healthcare; longer life. And we live in a time of rapid scientific progress that holds enormous promise for many of the problems we face as humankind. So much so, in fact, that many see no need or use for religion and belief systems that offer us answers to the mysteries of our universe. Science has explained it, they assume. Religion is redundant.
Oxford Maths Professor and Christian believer John Lennox offers a fresh way of thinking about science and Christianity that dispels the common misconceptions about both. He reveals that not only are they not opposed, but they can and must mix to give us a fuller understanding of the universe and the meaning of our existence.
Releases: 1 January
[inline_product:occasci]Is This It?
The Difference Jesus Makes to that ‘Where-is-my-life- going-I-hate-my-job-I-have-no-real-friends-Is-God-even-here-Will-I-end-up-alone-I-wish-I-was-back-at-school-Will- this-ever-feel-like-home-Am-I-failing-at-life’ Feeling
Sooner or later, most of us find that adult life is not all it’s cracked up to be. At some point we take a look at where we’ve got to and wonder: “Is this it? Why did no one warn me that adult life was going to be this… difficult?”
Rachel Jones is 20-something, trying to keep it together, and ready to say what we’re all thinking. Whether you’re just feeling a bit lost or having a full “quarter life crisis”, this funny, honest, hopeful book reveals the difference Jesus makes to the challenges of adulting.
Releases: 1 January.
A nine-step journey to change that lasts
Dr. Timothy Lane takes you on a nine step journey towards lasting change. This practical and biblical guidance recognizes that the path to lasting change can only be found by growing in grace as we look to Christ and are empowered by the Holy Spirit. So these steps are much more than strategies: they are truths that are rooted in Scripture.
Whatever your struggle, this warm and encouraging book will empower you to break free from unwanted habits and behaviors that don’t seem to go away.
Releases : 1 January
[inline_product:unstuck]Am I Just My Brain?
Modern research is uncovering more and more detail of what our brain is and how it works. We are living, thinking creatures who carry around with us an amazing organic supercomputer in our heads.
But what is the relationship between our brains and our minds—and ultimately our sense of identity as a person? Are we more than machines? Is free-will an illusion? Do we have a soul?
Brain scientist Sharon Dirckx lays out the current understanding of who we are from biologists, philosophers, theologians and psychologists, and points towards a bigger picture, that suggests answers to the fundamental questions of our existence. Not just "What am I?", but "Who am I?"—and "Why am I?"
Releases: 1 May
Whether it's TV boxsets, Instagram stories or historical novels, we all consume culture. So it’s important that we are neither bewitched by it—buying into everything it tells us—or bewildered by it—lashing out in judgment or retreating into a Christian bubble.
Dan Strange encourages Christians to engage with everything they watch, read and play in a positive and discerning way. He also teaches Christians how to think and speak about culture in a way that plugs in to a bigger and better reality—the story of King Jesus, and his cosmic plan for the world.
Releases: 1 May
Not Forsaken (US only)
A story of life after abuse: how faith brought one woman from victim to survivor
A raw personal testimony and reflection on surviving abuse and the power of gospel hope.
Author Jennifer Michelle Greenberg suffered abuse at the hands of her church-going father. She speaks candidly about her experience and how God brought her through. Her reflections offer biblical truths and gospel hope that can help both survivors of abuse and those who walk alongside them or pastor their churches.
Releases: 1 September. Cover coming soon.His Testimonies, My Heritage
Women of Color on the Word of God
Hear the voices of women of color on the most important subject in any age—the word of God.
This inspiring collection of devotions is by a diverse group of women of color—African-Americans, Hispanic and Asian women. Featuring Kristie Anyabwile, Jackie Hill-Perry, Trillia Newbell, Elicia Horton, Christina Edmondson, Blair Linne and more. It is a faithful exposition of Psalm 119 and incorporates each contributor’s cultural expression both within the teaching and as they bring the word of God to bear on their lives.
Readers will be thrilled and encouraged by hearing God speak through his word as it is expounded by these faithful teachers, and they will long for more.
Releases: 1 September. Cover coming soon.
2018 has been an exciting year for us here at The Good Book Company. By God’s grace, we’ve released over 40 products on a vast array of topics. We hope you loved reading them as much as we loved editing, designing, printing, promoting and delivering them.
Here is the list of our top 10 bestselling books released in 2018:1. An Even Better Christmas
The bestselling book of the year is Matt Chandler’s new Christmas book, An Even Better Christmas. We all love Christmas—none more than Matt Chandler. He’s a self-confessed Christmas fiend. But he knows, more acutely than most, what it’s like to suffer at Christmas. In the book, he shares the story of Christmas 2009, which he spent recovering from neurosurgery and coming to terms with a terminal cancer diagnosis. This personal, warm and compelling book, shows how the God of the Bible offers what we really crave—joy and peace—at Christmas, all year round, and into eternity! It’s a lovely little book to remind yourself of the God of Christmas or to introduce an unbelieving friend or family member to him for the first time.
[inline_product:evenbet]2. Love Came Down at Christmas
You’ve been loving this year’s Advent devotional! Love Came Down at Christmas by Sinclair Ferguson comes in at second. In it, Sinclair Ferguson brings the rich theology of the incarnation to life with his trademark warmth and clarity. And it’s got gold foil on the cover! We’re not surprised that it’s been a firm favourite of the year.
[inline_product:lovecame]3. Take Heart
In third is Take Heart by Matt Chandler. Take Heart is a stirring, passionate call for courage to stand firm and thrive in an increasingly post-Christian culture. The book addresses the increasing secularisation of the west. However, instead of mourning the loss of Christendom, Matt suggests that it is perhaps a good thing. Take a look at the trailer...
[inline_product:heart]4. A Very Noisy Christmas
A Very Noisy Christmas is a fun re-telling of the Christmas story for young children, including regular invitations to make some noise! Many toddler groups have enjoyed reading it this Christmas season and it's a brilliant little resource to giveaway to families at Christmas services.
5. The Art of Rest
Next is The Art of Rest by debut author Adam Mabry. Adam is the first to admit that he doesn’t do rest—and yet, over the years he has learnt to embrace the life-changing, soul-refreshing practice of rest. This book casts a realistic vision for rest that, if you’re anything like me, will move you to repentance for a stubborn resistance of rest and renewed dependence on the Lord.
[inline_product:rest]6. Life Tastes Better
Terry Virgo’s little evangelistic giveaway book, Life Tastes Better, comes in at sixth place. In it, Terry unpacks how and why life tastes so much better when we let Jesus take control of our lives. He draws on his decades of introducing the real Jesus to people, to display the gospel in a warm, attractive way.
[inline_product:ltb]7. Women and God
Next up is Women and God by Kathleen Nielson. This book enters into the discussion of what the Bible really says about women. Kathleen asks the hard questions about the Old Testament Law, the role of women in marriage and the role of women in the church, consistently pointing us to God’s word and his perfectly created order.
[inline_product:wag]8. A Jesus Christmas
A Jesus Christmas is a family devotional for Advent by Barbara Reaoch. Each of the 25 readings looks at one of the serpent's lies from Genesis 3, and then shows how the glorious truth of Christmas beats it every time! We’ve loved seeing your kids’ interpretations of the day’s study in the journalling space.
[inline_product:ajc]9. Growing in Gratitude
In 9th place is Growing in Gratitude by Mary K. Mohler. This thoroughly Bible-centred unpacking of Christian gratitude is Mary’s first book, and builds on her 25 years of experience in mentoring seminary wives at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville. Rosaria Butterfield commented, “As I was reading this book, I felt like I was sitting with Mary in her kitchen, listening, learning, praying, and thanking God for the unity and beauty and power of the gospel to equip us, truly, to every good work”.
[inline_product:gig]10. Enjoying God
And at number 10 is Enjoying God by Tim Chester. We believe in God, we serve God, we trust God, but would we say that we enjoy God on a day to day basis? What exactly does a personal relationship with God look like, and how is it even possible? This new book by Tim Chester shows us how we can enjoy God in every moment of every day, whether we are experiencing good times or hard times; whether we are changing nappies, or stuck on a train. He explores how the Father, the Son and the Spirit relate to us in our day-to-day lives, and how to respond.
What books have you been loving this year? Let us know in the comments. We very much appreciate another year of your support—have a very happy Christmas from everyone at The Good Book Company.
Injustice fills today’s headlines. Christians are hunted and killed in Somalia. Men are auctioned off as slaves in Libya. Imperfect babies are murdered in Iceland. Gang violence claims the lives of young men in America. Daughters are discarded in India for not being sons. Orphans are transported across borders and forced into prostitution in Nepal.
I’m heartbroken for the vulnerable people who endure injustice. The Lord opened my eyes to injustice and oppression a few years ago. In his mercy, he rescued me from my bubble of indifference, safety, and comfort. I was aware of oppression, but not personally affected by it. Knowing my four sons slept comfortably in their warm beds led to my own peaceful sleep. Injustice was easy to ignore with my egocentric worldview. But God.
With the Holy Spirit’s prompting, I began to wonder about the many mothers worldwide who are denied peaceful sleep because their children have been trafficked. I began to feel burdened for families without access to the gospel, clean water, food, and security. I repented of my indifference toward the plight of the vulnerable. He changed me and redirected my priorities. I wanted to be a seeker of justice and corrector of oppression (Isa. 1:17).
There are many ways to obey God’s good command to seek justice. Here are a few suggestions:
Justice seekers pray. We are abiders; we can do nothing on our own (John 15:5). We don’t seek justice in our own strength. We do the Lord’s work in his power. We humbly ask him for it. We are not the true givers of justice; our Father is. We are needy for him, and so we pray. We fight on our knees. Here are a few prayer guides to get you started—Operation World, IJM, and I Commit to Pray.
Justice seekers love. We strive to love like God loves. We love by giving ourselves. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son” (John 3:16). We get involved in the lives of the vulnerable, just as Christ involved himself in our lives when we were vulnerable in our sin. We love as we give our time, talents, and treasures. We love because he first loved us (1 John 4:19).
Justice seekers speak. We use our voices for the voiceless (Prov. 31:8). We leverage our networks to raise awareness. We challenge people who are content to live in their bubbles. We educate ourselves and others on ways to help. We tell stories of heroes who are making a difference. We show how these stories merge into God’s greater redemptive story. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “silence in the face of evil is evil itself.” So, we are not silent.
Justice seekers imitate. If we are in Christ, then we are God’s children. Our heavenly Father loves justice (Isa. 61:8) and therefore, so do we. We do what our Father does. We care. We feed. We clothe. We teach. We empower. We show compassion because our Father shows us compassion.
Justice seekers fight. We fight leaders who abuse their power. We stand between sexual predators and their prey. We protect the elderly from those who exploit them. We battle for justice in the courts and government. We fight through law enforcement. We fight with our votes. We fight with the sword of the Spirit (Eph. 6:17).
Justice seekers remember that the gospel is at the heart of justice seeking
Justice seekers advance. We shine the light into the darkness (John 1:5). We advance the kingdom for the glory of Christ. We seek his kingdom on earth and reflect it through our lives. We make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:19). We advance the gospel that has the power to save those in darkness (Rom. 1:16). We do not retreat. We press on.
Justice seekers collaborate. This mission is communal. So, we wisely partner with other like-minded people as we fight for the weak. We work together as members of one body teeming with different gifts (Rom. 12:4-8), because strategic networking for the glory of God is critical to justice seeking.
Justice seekers worship. “Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness” (Ps. 29:2). Our God is alive. He reigns on the throne. His glory fills the earth, and he is worthy of our praise. We worship the God who works righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed (Ps. 103:6). He deserves our praise.
Justice seekers engage. We don’t ignore oppression; we engage it. We don’t look away in the face of injustice. We see it and let exposure lead us to action. We avoid pornography, knowing, among other things, that it fuels modern-day slavery. We welcome the fatherless into our homes. We welcome refugees into our communities. We welcome people who look different than us into our social circles. Oppression flourishes in the darkness, so we make every effort to combat it.
Justice seekers wait. While we work, we wait in anticipation. We wait for restoration. We wait for God to make all things new (Rev. 21:5). “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4). We long for justice and for the God of justice (Isa. 30:18). Come, Lord Jesus.
This list is not exhaustive but serves as a starting place. We aren’t capable of doing everything, but we are commanded to do something. When we feel helpless, we can rejoice; our insufficiency displays the sufficiency of Christ. Our weakness magnifies his strength (2 Cor. 12:10).
When we are overwhelmed, we can rest. God is sovereign over all the earth, and his purposes will not be thwarted (Job 42:2). He will reconcile people to himself (2 Cor. 5:18-19).
When we think that evil will prevail, we can trust. The battle is already won. Christ has overcome the world (John 16:33), and victory is ours in him.
When our unjust actions taint us, we can repent. He will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).
Above all, justice seekers remember that the gospel is at the heart of justice seeking. Justice is ultimately fulfilled in Christ. When we seek justice, we find Christ. We don’t just desire people to be rescued from physical oppression—we want God to free them from the chief oppressor. “We fight like Jesus fights,” Gloria Furman said in her book Alive in Him, “loving righteousness at the cost of our lives, insisting on God’s truth, spreading the good news of his kingdom, and rescuing lost people out of darkness.”
That bubble we live in can be attractive and feel safe. It keeps our vision narrow and shields us from the outside world. But bubbles can be popped so that we no longer hide from or ignore oppression but, in Jesus name, seek justice.
From the tiniest unborn life to the elderly at the end of life, from immigrants and refugees to those trafficked against their will, all life matters to God. Join the ERLC in Washington, D.C. on January 17-18, 2019, for Evangelicals for Life, one of the largest gatherings of pro-life Christians in the country. Speakers include Russell Moore, J.D. Greear, Steven Curtis Chapman, Keith and Kristyn Getty, and more. Register now to join us!
I love Christmas, even more now than when I was a kid. And while early in my marriage, I was admittedly against decorating before Thanksgiving, I’ve even relaxed on that rule. Christmas is, without question, my favorite time of the year. But as much as I love the holiday and what it ultimately means, there is a vast gap between the Christmas the commercials promise and the Christmas we experience.
Despite all the music, decorations and parties, this is actually a difficult season for many. People often get the “Christmas blues,” finding the holidays to be a time when they’re particularly vulnerable to depression. And then there’s the “Christmas hangover.” It’s not the one caused by too much eggnog; it’s the one that hits after the presents are opened, the stockings are empty, the meal is over and we find ourselves thinking, “Is that it?”
The Christmas blues and the Christmas hangover come together when unbridled expectations meet reality—when we build up an expectation for something that it can’t possibly meet. We have plenty of help building these expectations from social media, TV commercials and department stores. They paint the picture that our loneliness will be turned into joy and that the gift we want so badly will ultimately satisfy.
[inline_product:evenbet]A joy that fades
But these expectations can’t possibly be met. Sometimes the holidays don’t bring families together. Or, they bring families together just to let a grenade go off among them. Sometimes you get everything you want and still that nagging, empty feeling is there. Sometimes the season is terribly lonely because you have lost a loved one.
If we feel this as Christians then you can only imagine what it’s like for someone who has yet find the real substance of Christmas altogether. Beneath the fixed smiles and the compulsory “cheer,” these can be dark, difficult times for those who have yet to meet the Savior, the One to which all the silver, gold and gift-giving points.
We have the chance to show the world around us what that true substance isA unique opportunity for the Church
This sad cycle of Christmas actually creates a unique situation for Christians if we’re willing to recognize it and do something about it. Given the reality of the Christmas blues and the fact that people seem more open during this season to spiritual, meaningful things, Christmas affords the opportunity for evangelism. This holiday creates the perfect time and space for us to give people the only thing that will wake them up from their spiritual slumber, to give them the only gift that will bring them true joy and satisfaction.
Knowing the opportunity we have as the people of God, here are a few things to consider as you seek to make the most of Christmas this year and faithfully share the love of God:
- Begin praying now for those in your life who are far from God and don’t know the Lord. Plead with the Lord to save them this Christmas season, for the Holy Spirit to open their eyes to the glory and beauty of Jesus Christ. Ask our good Father to give you the chance to share the gospel and give you wisdom and boldness as you do so.
- Make specific plans to see a few of these individuals in the weeks and days leading up to Christmas. Maybe you could invite a friend over for dinner. Maybe you could attend a particular Christmas party. Maybe you could reach out to a cousin and make sure they’ll be at the family get together. Begin thinking about when and where you’ll be able to share the gospel with them.
- Practice sharing the gospel aloud and writing it out. Meditate on passages like John 3:16-17, Romans 3:23-25 and 1 Corinthians 15:3-4. Think about how you would approach things differently depending on the person. Consider ways to bring it up in conversation. Be prepared to give testimony to the goodness and faithfulness of our God in the life, death and resurrection of Christ!
This Christmas, we have the chance to not only overcome the chaos and confusion of the holidays and find the substance underneath the shadows. We also have the chance to show the world around us what that true substance is. Everyone will be looking for it. They do every year. And they will be depressed and disappointed yet again if they’re only left with a shadow or facade. They’ll find themselves wrought with the Christmas blues and a Christmas hangover another year.
As we move into the weeks ahead, let us be bold and courageous as we share the good news of the gospel, the greatest gift in the world, with our coworkers, friends, family and anyone who will listen. Let us be excited and expectant about introducing others to their God and King, who sees them, hears them, cares for them and will give them a joy and peace that is actually real and will actually last.
An Even Better Christmas is a new book from Matt Chandler that’s designed to be given away to non-believing friends and family or at Christmas services and other evangelistic events.
You may think the staff of a publishing company that releases 45+ books a year, most of which need to be read, understood and promoted, to have very little appetite for a bit of extra-curricular reading in their leisure time. Well, it appears we can’t help ourselves, and here is what we read and loved in 2018:
Prisoners of Geography by Tim Marshall
Carl Laferton, Editorial Director
Every now and then, a book completely changes the way you look at the world. This one has done that for me with politics. It describes how geography drives (and in some cases determines) the way governments and leaders approach, interact with, and sometimes attack their neighbours. It is a strangely page-turning kind of book, that I found myself really looking forward to reading. The writing is good, the insights are great. So, it’s my book of the year. Honourable mentions for my ‘non-TGBC Christian book of the year’ to None Like Him (Jen Wilkin)… ‘re-read book’ to Rubicon (Tom Holland)… ‘fun book’ to How to be a Footballer (Peter Crouch).
None Like Him by Jen Wilkin
Jackie Moralee, Editorial and Marketing Administrator
This is a book that lifts your eyes to the Lord and causes you to marvel at his greatness and then to marvel even further that he would set his love on you. It completely resets your perspective, taking your eyes off yourself and fixing them firmly and meditatively on our wonderful God and Father. You get to revel in all that’s great about Him and it brings a wonderful sense of security and calm as you realise how small and dependent you are - and yet so safe and loved. This is a book I will read over and over for the sheer pleasure of it and to drag my rebellious mind back to the truth about the character of my God and his mercy and grace towards me.
Walking With God Through Pain and Suffering by Timothy Keller
Alexa Burstow, Marketing Consultant
Following the deaths of three young people whose parents we are close to, I was desperate to see if I had somehow missed the answer to the question of why God allows evil and suffering. Of course, having read the book I still don’t know the reason for it. But, as Timothy Keller says, we know what the reason can’t be. "It can’t be that he doesn’t love us! It can’t be that he doesn’t care. He is so committed to our ultimate happiness that he was willing to plunge into the greatest depths of suffering himself. It’s only half an answer to the question ‘Why?’ But its the half we need."
Notes From a Small Island by Bill Bryson
Alison Mitchell, Senior Editor
It describes his final journey around Britain before moving his family back to the States. The edition that I own was written in 1995, so part of the charm was remembering what our “small island” was like 20 years ago. I love the way Bryson writes. He never uses obscure terms or convoluted sentences, yet the way he puts words together is supremely clever. He engages your emotions, from sad pathos to laugh-out-loud hilarity. And he succeeds at something we aim for all of our own books, which is that it always feels as if he is walking alongside the reader, enjoying life with them - and never standing over us telling us what to do.
Hope When It Hurts by Sarah Walton and Kristen Wetherell
Ben Earle, Logistics Manager (North America)
As I've journeyed through years of sometimes excruciating physical pain, the book that's meant much to me this year is "Hope When It Hurts." The authors, Kristen and Sarah, have helped me to reorient my perspective on the topic of pain and suffering. It has become evident, lately, that this trial that I'm going through isn't necessarily about me getting through it; rather, it's primarily about God receiving glory in and through it. The Lord has used both Kristen and Sarah to show me that God is more concerned with making me holy than happy. I'm convinced that God is making me holy though this trial He's giving me grace to endure. This brilliant work has pointed me to Scripture where I've found much hope in a seemingly hopeless situation.
Salamis: The Greatest Naval Battle in the Ancient World by Barry Strauss
Richard Roper, Senior Buyer
This book shows how one man, the Athenian leader Themistocles, had the foresight to transform Athens from a land power to a naval power in the few years between the Battle of Marathon in 490BC and the second Persian invasion ten years later. I enjoyed it because was well written, easy to read and brought the distant past into focus by looking at the actions and motivations of real people. It ties the biblical narrative loosely into ‘real’ world events, strengthening the historicity of our faith and showing how events from the past shape our present day. Can you imagine European civilisation without Aristotelian logic or democratic government? Reading history is not about discovering the past, it’s about understanding today.
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Noah Yuval Hariri
Tim Thornborough, Publishing Director
This book by a Jewish academic has rarely been out of the top ten non-fiction best-seller lists since it was published in 2014—and for good reason. It is a sweeping narrative of the development of human thinking, culture, economics, politics and philosophy that is packed with fascinating ideas and insights. At the same time it is tragically and robustly atheistic. But all the more reason for me to read it and ponder what my atheist friends are thinking, and how we might meet this challenge evangelistically and apologetically.
I Married A Soldier by Brenda Hale and Rachel Farmer
Robin Fairbairn, Ministry Development Officer
This book tells the story of how Brenda, a young Northern Irish girl, meets Mark Hale, a British Soldier who is on a tour of duty in Northern Ireland. A story unfolds of romance, marriage, and of how they both come to faith in Christ. What it was like for Brenda living as a military wife and of the tragic death of Captain Mark Hale in Afghanistan. It made me laugh, and weep and even at times be angry as she speaks honestly of her struggles as a young widow.
Tombland by CJ Sansom
Tom Beard, Logistics Manager (UK)
This was a cracking historical fiction tale about a time I don’t know much about, especially the coming of the then new Prayer Book which was so radical. It really helped me appreciate the role of good liturgy.
How to Think: A Survival Guide for a World at Odds by Alan Jacobs
Joe Henegan, Marketing Manager
This book helpfully dismantles a lot of assumptions we have around thinking. For example, we all know that it’s good to think for yourself, right? Wrong. Thinking independently of other human beings is impossible, and if it were possible it would be undesirable. Thinking is fundamentally social. But what I really love is how he demonstrates that thinking well is not just the preserve of very intelligent people. Even people like me can think well (sometimes). In our increasingly pluralist but partial age, we need a book like this to be confident about what we know and believe, and to engage in public discourse with patience, humility and generosity.
The Ascent by Peter Grant
Sayuri Kato, Customer Services
Peter Grant was a member of the leadership team at the international development charity Tearfund, and in this devotional he draws you closer to God as he invites you to ‘climb a mountain’ with him. It's simple, short and easy to read yet it’s is full of insight and makes you feel you want to come back again and again as it brings a real joy of knowing Him as your personal saviour.