Careful Love

We’re all careful about what we love. If we love a movie, we’ll read the reviews, track the showings, and buy tickets in advance. If we love an author, we’ll follow their writing, pre-order their books, and dive into their biography. If we love our spouse, we’ll think about them and tell them what we appreciate about them.

But if our true love is the sound of our own voice, then tracking what God loves will be unappealing, distasteful. Service to others, prayer for the kids, prayer in general, Sunday gatherings, community groups, discipleship, and evangelism will all become negotiable. Why? Those words have to contend with the voice of the Inner Me.

If the weather is bad, if there’s traffic, if we just don’t feel like it, we won’t expend the energy necessary to join the church in worship and be shaped by God’s word. Instead, we’re shaped by our own inner words, our rationalizations.

If its been a long day, and the kids have been trying, then we won’t make the extra effort to join our community group and encourage others. We won’t lay our head down, reviewing God’s grace from the day, and thank him before we sleep. Instead of listening to his words to find rest, we’ll invite digital words in to soothe us from a narrative that excises God. We’ll be carelessly shaped by other voices.

Joshua urges the people of God, “Be careful to love the Lord your God” (23:11). Be careful, pay attention, slow down, reflect on what you love. If we don’t, we will be blinded by our own idolatry, snag our eye on a thorn, pop an eardrum. We’ll be maimed and disfigured.

But if we love God, we’ll read his words, listen to his voice, and invite them in to shape us more than anything else. His voice will speak the loudest. As a result, we’ll stand tall, even in hard times. Our eyesight will be clear. We’ll even have words for others. So let’s be careful with our love, and trust the words that never fail, “not one word has failed of all the good things that the LORD your God promised concerning you. All have come to pass for you; not one of them has failed” (23:14).

Favorite Summer Reads

While I didn’t read as much as I would have liked this summer (lots of family time, travel, movies & writing), I definitely found some gems. Here are four favorites:

Favorite Fiction: The Great Alone, Kristin Hannah

This book is great for page-turning leisure and characters you care about.

After reading Hannah’s New York Times best-selling Nightingale, I thought I would try another one of her novels. I finished this 400-page novel in four days. The story follows a family’s move to Alaska in search of a new beginning. As I read the compelling descriptions of Alaska’s raw beauty, I found myself longing to see it firsthand. This beauty, however, is sharply contrasted by the challenges of rugged, remote living and a dark, inner struggle within the family. It is a story of love and loss, hope and redemption, justice and compassion. It moved me to the brink of tears several times.

Most Fascinating: How to Change Your Mind, Michael Pollan

This book is a trip, perhaps a sign of things to come, and evidence that rational-materialists can be converted by the hope of paradigms of greater explanatory power.

Pollan is most well-known for his Omnivore’s Dilemma, but in this book he takes a deep dive into the scientific, historical, existential, and spiritual merits (and concerns) in using psychedelic drugs. As a rational-materialist, Pollan experiences a kind of conversion to the usefulness and spiritually eye-opening power of psychedelics. It was remarkable to watch a credible intellectual long for more than his scientific worldview would allow, while also learning more than I wanted to about drugs. I

Most Timely: The Death of Truth, Michiko Kakutani

This book is excellent for preachers who want to commend truth to a secular audience.

Although left-leaning, the Pulitzer prize-winning Kakutani tries to show how conservatives and liberals have contributed to the death of truth in our modern age. While Trump is a constant heuristic of moral and truth decay, the book develops its call for truth and fact by appealing to literature, philosophy, and common sense. It is admirable to see a journalist champion truth in this way, even if it’s not always even-handed.

Favorite Christian: Disruptive Witness, Alan Noble

Everyone in your church needs to read this.

Alan’s thesis is apropos: in an age of thin beliefs, and pantheon-like approach to truth statements, Christianity and Christians must be more disruptive in their witness for the exclusive and unique claims of Jesus to be heard. He takes up major insights of the philosopher Charles Taylor, explains and applies them to various aspects of discipleship. I think just about everyone in our church would benefit from reading this book.


The Holy Spirit in Discipleship

The Pastors Conference is excellent all the way around. I was refreshed, inspired, and challenged. Kevin DeYoung’s message on Preaching was filled with wisdom for preachers old and new.

I had the opportunity to speak on the Holy Spirit and covered three areas: the Personal Spirit, Powerful Spirit, and Creation-Perfecting Spirit. Most of this content will be available in my forthcoming book, Here in Spirit: Knowing the Spirit who Creates, Sustains, and Transforms Everything.

Sessions from The Mission of God (Dublin)

This summer I had the privilege of serving pastors in Ireland. The theme of the conference was The Mission of God. Dr. Tim Ward also gave two helpful lectures on preaching and application, with some interesting reflections on generating application that is, and is not, warranted from a text in redemptive-historical preaching. Here is the audio:

Session One – Jonathan Dodson  “Surviving God’s Mission in the City, Genesis 18:22 – 19:38″
Session Two – Jonathan Dodson  “Evangelism in a Secular Culture”
Session Three – Tim Ward  “Effective application (part 1)”
Session Four – Tim Ward “Effective application (part 2)”
Session Seven – Jonathan Dodson  “Gospel community in a secular society, 1 Peter 2:1-11″

T.C. Hammond Theological Lecture with Q&A: “Spiritual Friendship”  (Jonathan Dodson)