It’s easy to go to a church gathering. It’s easy to sit and listen to a thirty to forty minute sermon. It’s easy to take communion and receive forgiveness for our sins. What’s hard is valuing all of that, putting it to work to show the real treasure of God’s Word in our lives. We may want to avoid obedience because we think it’s more rewarding, but it never is. Or we may think we’ll be more secure if we don’t take the Word to heart and risk acting. Or we may think we need more insight, but more often than not we need action, to act on the insight that’s been given, to express the obedience of faith, which shows the difference Christ really makes.
David Jackman’s comment is helpful:
Our problem is that we often fail to act as we know we should because we do not believe sufficiently to launch out on the bare word of our promising God. Yet nothing can be more certain or secure. When God applies his word to our lives in regard to something he is calling us to do, we must begin to do it, in the strength that he supplies, as soon as we can. Our temptation is to wait and then ask for further light, without acting on the light he has already given us. But all I need to do for my heart to Harden after.God has spoken in his word, is…nothing! A life that trusts and obey is a life that he can use.
– Joshua: People of Gods’ Purpose, 31
Since moving to Austin over a decade ago, coffeeshops have filled the streets about as quickly as high-rise condos have populated the skyline. You’ll find one of these below. Since using a Breville espresso machine, I’ve begun to favor beans that make for a great espresso. The fact that I’ve limited myself to a coffee a day over the past year has made me even more picky (although I’ve splurged a bit the last month!). All of these can be used to make a great cup of coffee and would be a great gift for a coffee lover.
Irving Coffee Roasters: Blackstrap – This espresso is rich, molasses-caramel, heavy-in-the-best-of-ways goodness. A favorite from NYC and worth ordering every single time.
Counter Culture: 46 – In addition to having a cool, pastel, no-nonsense compostable bag, this bean is smooth, smokey, and dark chocolate. Not as dark as Blackstrap, it’s a great everyday bean. Its name comes from the 46th recipe Counter Culture created.
Tweed: Timepiece – This coffee is from the most-expensive, sheik coffeeshop in Austin, Houndstooth, with its original store located in the downtown Frost Tower. These guys take coffee seriously, and it shows. Timepiece manages to combine the caramel I love with a brightness that keeps it from being too heavy.
- Biblical Epistemology – My prolegomena helped me grasp how a Biblical worldview in intellectually credible. The writings of John Frame and N.T Wright on critical realism helped me grasp a way of looking at the world that is neither naive or nihilist. We can perceive what is true, through reason, the Spirit, and the Word, but not all we say is true.
This enabled me to press into a pluralistic context like Austin, Texas with the requisite humility and confidence.
- Systematic Theology – Showed me how the Bible is theologically coherent. Apparent contradictions and various texts can be harmonized to tell us something about the nature, character, and purposes of God.
This enabled me to know God and answer some of the big questions regarding suffering, evil, election and so on.
- Hermeneutics – Enabled me to read and interpret texts well through propositional analysis, grammar, syntax, genre and so on. Discourse analysis was paradigm-shifting for me and taught me how to reason much better (Thank you Dr. Roy Ciampa!).
This enabled me to read the Bible and other books well, to reason well cultural texts and claims, as well as biblical ones.
- Biblical Exegesis – I got to apply hermeneutics to the whole Bible with the guardrails of mentors in order to understand the author’s intent. Lots of Bible. I added a second degree to get more practice and more Bible! In particular, Greg Beale’s categories for OT in NT exegesis helped me grasp how to make sense of what the NT authors do with the OT.
This launched me into the difficult task of showing the church, through preaching, that the two testaments are a whole.
- Biblical Theology – The above led me to read diachronically not just systematically, to read along the grain of Scripture so that the grand narrative of Creation-Fall-Redemption-New Creation is always my framework and Christ is at the center. Meredith Kline, Greg Beale, Sean McDonough were all a great help in this. Monotheistic Christology, the understanding that “Jesus is Lord” places Christ into the identity of YWHW simply blew my mind and still does.
That is gospel-Centered and led to a a consistent practice of challenging cultural notions of authority with the authority of Christ, basically preaching and teaching and discipling and counseling people into Jesus as King, not just as Savior
In light of my recent article at Lifeway Leadership, here are a few books I recommend reading if you feel exhausted by ministry, lackluster about the church, or distant from Jesus:
On The Brink – This book blends empathy, challenge, and biblical exhortation very well. An excellent help to anyone who feels “on the brink” or wants to better understand what pastors, in particular, often face.
Leading on Empty – This book combines science with sage advice. It contains some great best practices from an experienced pastor.
Near Unto God – A life-giving devotional by Abraham Kuyper. His brief devotional entries are packed with spiritual insight and stir religious affection.