Wednesday 17 July 2024

Isaac Watts (Born 17 July 1674)

I’ve just been made aware – and can’t let the moment go past without writing a brief note – that today is the 350th anniversary of the birth of Isaac Watts: minister, scholar, linguist, theologian, and often referred to as ‘the father of English hymnody’.

He is perhaps most well-known for ‘When I Survey the Wondrous Cross’, but was also the author of the brilliant ‘Joy to the World’ (based on Psalm 98) and ‘Jesus Shall Reign Where’er the Sun’ (based on Psalm 72). Apparently, this last one was sung in Edinburgh Waverley Station when Eric Liddell set out to serve in China.

Tearfund Bible Study Films on Creation Care

Tearfund have pulled together a series of Bible study videos looking at the topic of creation care.

According to the website:

‘In the first four films, prominent church leaders from Scotland remind us that our hope is in a God whose majesty is written across creation. We need to be reconciled to him and to others, revitalised in our faith, and continually renewed and bearing fruit. And, as part of this restoration plan, we need to care for his good earth.

‘The fifth bonus film is of US New Testament theologian Professor Doug Moo speaking about creation care to an audience at a Tearfund Scotland event in Edinburgh in late 2023.’

1. Creation in the psalms (Psalms 8, 19 and 24)

Dr Jamie A Grant, Vice Principal (Academic), PhD coordinator and lecturer specialising in biblical studies, Highland Theological College

Jamie considers what these three psalms have to say about God, and our relationship with him and with creation. God is Lord over all the earth and his reign is good, so our actions as his people should reflect his goodness. Psalm 8 tells us how the created order speaks of God’s character, his majesty and the vastness of  creation, while Psalm 19 tells us about the beauty of creation and its missional impact in reflecting God’s glory. Psalm 24 is a profound reminder that our care for the environment is inextricably linked with our care for people.

2, My Father is the gardener (John 15:1–5)

Simon Dennis, Lead Pastor, Sheddocksley Baptist Church

In this familiar passage, Simon looks at God our Father as a gardener and considers how we can join with him in bearing fruit. Importantly, it is only in Jesus that we can live fruitful and flourishing lives. In him, all things are being made new, and all creation is longing for us to be who we were made to be. We are called to plant gardens and bear fruit wherever we are, whatever our sphere of influence, bearing his image and worshipping God.

3. Hope (Colossians 1:19–20)

Rev Ian Watson, Hope Free Church, Blackwood and Kirkmuirhill

What is our attitude to warnings about climate change? As Christians we can take the Bible seriously when it says there is a future for planet earth. We have this hope because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. God will reconcile all things to himself, which will include all of creation, not just his people. Our redeemer God will transform this fallen world and there will be no end to all of creation praising God. But in the meantime we have an obligation to care for this present creation, even as we look forward to the new one.

4. Strengthen what remains (Revelation 3:1–6)

Rev Peter Turnbull, Burghead Free Church, Elgin

In this study, Peter focuses on the call in Revelation 3:1–6  to ‘strengthen what remains’ within the church. Revitalisation and renewal are close to God’s heart and are a constant theme of scripture. Do we need to re-energise ourselves and our church for the witness and work of Christ? There is a desperate need to make Jesus known in this world, but to be effective, we must regain our first love of the gospel and strengthen the church.

5. The hermeneutics of creation care

Prof Doug Moo, Blanchard Professor of New Testament (retired)

Doug focuses on the importance of having a mind that is being renewed (Romans 12:1–2), which means applying biblical values to every aspect of life, including caring for creation. All things are being reconciled to God, including his good earth, and when his restoration plan is accomplished, this earth too will be renewed.

The videos, including transcripts, are available from here.

Saturday 13 July 2024

9Marks Journal (June 2024) on Seasons in a Pastor’s Life

The latest issue of the 9Marks Journal, available from here, looks at the topic of ‘Seasons in a Pastor’s Life’.

In the Editor’s Note, Jonathan Leeman writes [edited]:

‘When you’re young, you expect things like marriage and career to look one way, but so often it looks different. Like walking around the Byzantine hallways of a sprawling shopping mall, you sometimes stop, look around, and think, “Wait, how did I get here? Where am I?”

‘So in the life of a pastor. Entering the pastorate, you have one set of expectations. Then ministry takes you down strange pathways, whole seasons you didn’t anticipate. Every once in a while, you look around and think, “How did we get here? And, goodness, I’m tired.”

‘Having folks one or two steps ahead is helpful for moving through different. They can explain what to expect… Yet how reassuring for an older brother to come along, place an arm around the shoulder, and say, “Don’t worry. I was there. And I got through it. Here’s what God taught me.” Ah, yes, maybe I can make it through, too. 

‘Our goal for this edition of Church Matters is to have a number of men offer that arm for the shoulder. What should you expect for getting started, for the early stages of the race, for the many laps which follow, and for gliding gracefully through the finish line? Different seasons impose different challenges and afford different opportunities.’

Tuesday 9 July 2024

Christopher Ash on Zeal Without Burnout

Every month, The Good Book Company make available digital versions of one of their books at no charge. This month (July 2024) it’s Zeal Without Burnout: Seven Keys to a Lifelong Ministry of Sustainable Sacrifice by Christopher Ash, which is available in exchange for an email address here.

Thursday 20 June 2024

The Big Picture Magazine 10 (2024) on Economics

The latest issue of The Big Picture, a magazine produced by the Kirby Laing Centre, has recently been made available.

According to the blurb:

‘The Bible has plenty to say about money and business. Money represents both a key conduit of blessing and the chief object of idolatrous worship. In this issue, our community offers advice and examples for business leaders, inspiring stories of Christ-centred businesses, and important challenges for all Christians to integrate our faith into our work lives.’

More information is available here, and the issue can be downloaded as a pdf here.

Online versions of the previous issues of the magazine are available from here.

Friday 14 June 2024

Centre for Public Christianity (June 2024)

Among other items, the Centre for Public Christianity has posted a ‘Life and Faith’ interview (here) with Elizabeth Oldfield on her book, Fully Alive: Tending to the Soul in Turbulent Times.

In this interview with Life & Faith, Elizabeth talks about “steadiness of soul” in an increasingly chaotic world and what it means to live in a small, intentional community or “micro monastery” that can fit 18 people around the dinner table. The conversation also covers how Elizabeth has managed to cultivate a space for profound chats across social divides in the podcast The Sacred, and what it meant for Elizabeth to flout careerist dogma and quit her stable, secure job to rest and lean into a different way of life.’

Wednesday 12 June 2024

Theos Report on Love’s Labours

A new report from Theos has been published:

Hannah Rich, Love’s Labours: Good Work, Care Work and a Mutual Economy (London: Theos, 2024).

This is the third report in Theos’ Work Shift series, exploring how a renewed focus on the relational elements of work could improve the labour market.’

According to the blurb:

‘There is a crisis facing the adult social care sector in the UK at present, which is not only economic in nature, but also relational. The devaluation of paid care work in economic terms stems from a fundamental misunderstanding of what care is, what work is and even what love is.

‘Different workspaces, cultures and working conditions have the power to create different kinds of human relationships and forms of human community and in so doing, create different arenas for ‘love’ to flourish. Social care is therefore a key arena for the intersection between ‘love’ and ‘work’.

‘The intersection between love, work and care offers a way of reimagining how caring professions are valued. Further, the integration of Christian theological ideas of love and dignity allows a broader, more holistic policy debate than the current economistic one.

‘Drawing together sociological and theological literature with the first-hand experiences of those working in the social care sector, this report explores what ‘love’ means in this context and how rediscovering it might lead us to value care work differently and more highly.’

A pdf of the full report is available here.

Thursday 6 June 2024

Matt Fuller on Being True to Yourself

Every month, The Good Book Company make available digital versions of one of their books at no charge. This month (June 2024) it’s Be True to Yourself: Why It Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Does (And How That Can Make You Happy) by Matt Fuller, which is available in exchange for an email address here.

Wednesday 5 June 2024

Christian History Magazine on Awakenings

The latest issue of Christian History Magazine is devoted to ‘Awakenings’.

From the blurb:

‘Join Christian History as we unfold historical revivals from the sixteenth through eighteenth centuries, a second issue in our series on revival. Revival, as defined in CH's first issue in this series (#149), is 1.) popular – a widespread occurrence; 2.) transformative – resulting in conversion and recommitment to Christ; 3.) institutionally unsatisfied and critical – movements that question, reform, and renew institutions; and 4.) devotional – emotionally charged.

‘This issue details movements that certainly fit these criteria, focusing extensively on the First and Second Great Awakenings. Through stories and people you may be familiar with, to those figures less often recognized and easier to miss within the big “Awakening” picture, we invite you to follow the threads that spanned continents and faith traditions to weave a fascinating tapestry of spiritual revival.’

The whole magazine is available as a 12.7 MB pdf here.

Wednesday 29 May 2024

Lausanne Global Analysis 13, 3 (May 2024)

The latest issue of Lausanne Global Analysis, from The Lausanne Movement, is available online from here.

The essays (summaries of which are taken from the Issue Overview by Loun Ling Lee) circle around the term ‘missional’.

Lawrence Ko

From the Desert to the City: Missional living in the 21st century

According to Lawrence Ko, ‘being missional’ for the church today means to be incarnational like Christ. ‘The most crucial part of the church in the 21st Century is the participation of Christians in the life of the community, beyond the four walls of the church… to engage in civil society and promote social cohesion as peacemakers while revealing the hope of the kingdom in Christ.’ One practical example is the encouraging and equipping of Christian youths in multi-ethnic and multi-religious Singapore ‘to live in community and mediate ethnic and faith differences and conflicts’ in the society.

Benno van den Toren

Being Missional within Religious Communities: A Plea and Proposal for Interfaith Apologetics

We should ‘share the gospel with those who are deeply invested in their religious communities as imams, priests, monks, sannyasins, or committed lay believers.’ And the best approach is ‘interreligious apologetic witness,’ writes Benno van den Toren… [who] argues that the key characteristics of interfaith apologetics should be holistic, contextual, and embodied. ‘It should be embodied in the lifestyle of the witness that reflects God’s love and deep interest in every human being, but also demonstrates the courage Jesus and his apostles showed unmasking idolatry and hypocrisy.’ In other words, we should ‘engage in such interfaith apologetics with both humility and confidence.’

Lisa Loden

Peace and Reconciliation as Mission in a World in Conflict: A Perspective on the Israel-Hamas War from an Israeli Jewish Follower of Jesus

But what is ‘being missional’ in a conflict situation, such as the Israel-Hamas war, the latest in this intractable Israeli-Palestinian conflict? This is probably the most complex and challenging situation for being missional… Lisa Loden reflects on the conflicting narratives and theologies of the opposing parties in Israel and Palestine which give rise to their respective goals. They ‘cannot disengage from their goals as they are perceived as existential. As a result they cannot enter into a meaningful dialogue with one another,’ and ‘many peacebuilding initiatives are compromised.’ Yet Lisa holds firm to her conviction that ‘all God’s children have been given a ministry of reconciliation.’ ‘If we do not live according to Jesus’ words and actions, to comfort those who mourn, to be peacemakers, to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God, we will have failed God’s mission to be living witnesses to the way of the cross and the gospel of peace,’ she concludes.

Rula Khoury Mansour

Peace and Reconciliation as Mission in a World in Conflict: A Christian Perspective on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

As a Palestinian-Israeli Christian lawyer and peace scholar-practitioner, Rula Khoury Mansour believes that ‘amid deep-rooted violent contexts, reconciliation is not just a nice idea – it is an absolute necessity. It is the key to breaking the cycles of conflict and creating a future where Israelis and Palestinians can coexist peacefully.’ … [She] writes, ‘Reconciliation is a process through which a society moves from a divided past to a shared future, including the search for truth, forgiveness, justice, and healing.’ She takes us through each of these essential stages and applies that to the relationships between Palestinians and Israelis. ‘Through sincere dialogue, acknowledging shared suffering and conflicting histories, and embracing forgiveness, a new narrative can emerge. By applying justice in its diverse forms and embarking on a journey of collective healing, we lay the foundation for a harmonious tomorrow, transcending the wounds of the past.’

Tuesday 28 May 2024

Centre for Public Christianity (May 2024)

Among other items, the Centre for Public Christianity has posted a ‘Life and Faith’ interview (here) with Nick Spencer on his book with Hannah Waite, Playing God: Science, Religion, and the Future of Humanity.

‘They examine remarkable advancements we have made in technological capability – AI, pharmacology and genetic engineering, knowledge of outer space, genetic editing, healing in the womb—and note that the world that science is creating raises exactly the kind of questions that science can’t answer. Their book is a plea to maintain an open and multi-voiced language to address these questions drawing on ethical, humanistic and spiritual layers.’

Monday 27 May 2024

Mission Frontiers 46, 3–4 (May–August 2024)

The May–August 2024 issue of Mission Frontiers, published by Frontier Ventures, is a special double issue. It is available here, from where individual articles can be downloaded. The entire issue can be downloaded as two pdfs here and here.

Thursday 16 May 2024

Credo 15, 1 (2024) on Divine Simplicity

The current issue of Credo is available, this one devoted to the topic of divine simplicity.

Here’s the blurb:

‘As goes divine simplicity, so goes classical theism. For some theologians, the affirmation of divine simplicity proves too much to bear, and the denial of such a doctrine requires them to dismiss classical theism as a whole. For many others, however, it was the discovery of divine simplicity that set them on their way to embracing the classical doctrine of God in all of its beauty. The doctrine of divine simplicity teaches that God is not made up of parts and that all that is in God is God. God is not merely good but is goodness itself; God is not only loving but is love. On this truth hangs many classical doctrines – immutability, impassibility, and even Nicene trinitarianism. Readers of this issue of Credo Magazine will find, ironically, that the “whole” of Christian doctrine is very much dependent upon this one “part.” It is no wonder that divine simplicity has been held by Protestants of all denominations and is ubiquitous throughout the Reformed confessions. To confess divine simplicity was nothing less than an alliance with the orthodox doctrine of God handed on by the Great Tradition. Take up, read, and confess with ancient Israel and the Church as a whole that the Lord our God is one!’

Individual articles, along with interviews and book reviews, are available to read from here.

Wednesday 15 May 2024

Craig Bartholomew on Old Testament Wisdom and Politics

Most of the recent issues of Ethics in Conversation from the Kirby Laing Centre have been book reviews, and I haven’t bothered posting them here. But the latest is a piece by Craig Bartholomew on ‘Old Testament Wisdom and Politics’, which unpacks the following main points:

1. Faith and wisdom embrace and include in their remit politics and government

2. Faith and wisdom recognise that politics can go horribly wrong.

3. Wise politics prioritises the afflicted, the poor, the needy and those without a voice

4. OT Israel was never a democracy, but OT wisdom orients us in important ways

It’s available as a pdf here.

Friday 10 May 2024

Theos Report on Work-Life Integration

A new report from Theos has been published:

Paul Bickley, Working Five to Nine: How We Can Deliver Work-Life Integration (London: Theos, 2024).

This is the second report in Theos’ Work Shift series, exploring how a renewed focus on the relational elements of work could improve the labour market.’

According to the blurb:

‘We have fallen out of love with work. Rates of economic activity remain stubbornly high in the UK, while in other countries they have reverted to pre-pandemic downward trends. While this is being driven by ill health, our values around work have also shifted. Recent World Values Survey data show that the UK public are the least likely of 24 countries to say that work is very/rather important in their life (73% in the UK, compared to 96% in Italy, 94% in France, or 80% in the United States). Millennials in particular have shifted in their attitudes: in 2009, 41% felt that work should always come first. By 2022, this had fallen to 14%.

‘This report argues that, to address this, we need to pay attention to what Catholic Social Teaching calls “the subjective dimension” of work – that whatever else we say about it, we’re always talking about something people do. Work should contribute to human flourishing and development at the individual and corporate levels. We also need to recognise a growing appetite for greater freedom to fulfil what, from a Christian perspective, are also kinds of work, albeit unpaid. These can be as varied as caring responsibilities, civil and political actions, and personal development and education.

‘This is not a call for less employment, but to think about how we can ease the conflict between the goods of employment and the goods of all the unpaid work we do. In our public conversation, policy, and practice, we prioritise the former – but how can we give more space to the latter? We argue for the expansion and enforcement of basic worker rights, further use of four-day weeks, and maintaining and extending the used [sic] of thoughtful hybrid working.’

A pdf of the full report is available here.

Thursday 9 May 2024

Evangelical Alliance UK on Thinking Faithfully about Politics

The Evangelical Alliance UK has produced a report, following a survey of 1,300 people, on what they call ‘a snapshot of how evangelicals think and act as they engage in politics’.

More information is available here, and a pdf of the report can be download here.

Tuesday 7 May 2024

Chris and Melissa Swain on Discipling Children

Every month, The Good Book Company make available digital versions of one of their books at no charge. This month (May 2024) it’s Write it on Their Hearts: Practical Help for Discipling Your Kids by Chris Swain with Melissa Swain, which is available in exchange for an email address here.

Monday 6 May 2024

The Lausanne Movement on the State of the Great Commission

The Lausanne Movement recently released a report on ‘the state of the great commission’.

According to the website:

‘In anticipation of the Fourth Lausanne Congress in September 2024, the State of the Great Commission Report brings together over 150 key strategic thinkers as contributing authors, matched with the best global data to understand where the greatest gaps and opportunities are for the Great Commission’s fulfilment.

‘The report seeks to guide us through the current state and future trajectory of global missions up to 2050, delving deep into ten crucial questions that will shape the church and global missions between now and 2050.’

The portal for accessing the report is here.

There are three main sections to the report:

• Current status

• Context shifts

• Regional considerations

In the second of those sections – context shifts – the report considers ten key questions that will impact the church’s mission:

What is Polycentric Christianity?

Christianity is a dynamic and living faith which has experienced notable global shifts in the last 100 years, and including the growth of Christianity in the Global South, the rise of Pentecostalism, and the continued addition of denominations, leading to the question, ‘What is Polycentric Christianity?’

What is the Source of Hope?

The Christian gospel is a message of hope for all. However, it is not the only promoted avenue of ‘hope’ in our contemporary world. From competing world religions to secular ambitions and pleasures, the world is continually asking, ‘What is the source of hope?’

What is the Foundation of Trust?

The validity of the gospel message is independent of individuals or institutions; however, when those who share the good news are not trusted, the gospel is questioned. Globally, there is a perceived rise in distrust that is dynamically shaping cultures, as the world asks, ‘What is the foundation of trust?’ 

What Are the Emerging Demographics?

Looking forward to 2050, major economic and population demographic changes promise to shape global culture. As the church faithfully lives out the great commission in a contextualized way, it must ask, ‘What are the effects of the new emerging demographics?’ 

What is Community?

For a growing number of individuals in the world, where they call home, what home looks like, and who their neighbors are is dramatically changing. These fundamental shifts in place and populations bring forth the fundamental question, ‘What is community?’ 

What is Fair and Just?

As Scripture teaches, all humans are made in the image of God and are worthy. Yet, globally, not all humans are treated equally. With an increasing consciousness of discrimination, the world and the church continue to ask, ‘What is fair and just?’

What is Sustainable?

The preceding century has seen a rise of more products, more people, more energy, more debt, more work, and more expectations. This burden of more has led the world and the church to begin to ask, ‘What is sustainable?’

What Does it Mean to Be Human?

Rapid technological advancements and the redefinition of human sexual identity are challenging previously held beliefs regarding human distinctiveness. These shifts are driving this generation’s defining question, ‘What does it mean to be human?’

What is a Digital Life?

Between the third and fourth Lausanne global congress, digital technology has fundamentally changed the world. For most of the world, with notable exceptions, the internet, screens, social media, virtual work, shape large portions of life, leading to the question, ‘What is a digital life?’

What is Ministry in a Digital Age?

The majority of the world now lives in a digital age. Connections, influence, and ideas originate just as much, if not more, from digital media than personal relationships. As the church aims to be faithful to the Great Commission in this new digital context, ministry leaders are asking, ‘What is Ministry in a Digital Age?’

In a 28-minute video here, Matthew Niermann, director of the report, gives an overview of the State of the Great Commission report and draws out key insights.