Favorite things from 2008

No, I'm not Oprah, although we may be in the same weight class. Because I'm not Oprah, I won't be giving away free stuff. But I can tell you some of what I've enjoyed the most in 2008.

Books - My favorite book of the year is actually an old one: The Heart of a Servant Leader by Jack Miller. It's a compilation of letters written by Jack Miller, pastor of New Life Presbyterian and founder of World Harvest Mission. They're so full of gospel that I keep a copy on my desk so I can read a letter or two when I need to be re-centered. An excellent book.

I didn't reach my reading goals this year, but I thoroughly enjoyed Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor (a must-read if you are an ordinary pastor), Why We're Not Emergent (strikes a good tone in its critique), volumes one and two of Iain Murray's biography of Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (which reminded me that most of the issues we deal with really aren't new), and Tim Keller's new books The Prodigal God and The Reason for God (the gospel for believers and unbelievers). Unpacking Forgiveness by Chris Brauns was also a highlight from the year.

Blogs - I read way too many blogs, but three of my favorites are newer. Trevin Wax is an awesome book reviewer and an insightful blogger. I love his stuff. Tullian Tchividjian is a must-read. Another newish one is Ed Stetzer's blog. The more I read him, the more I like him. I could probably list about fifty that I really appreciate, but these three would be at the top of the list.

By the way, I keep seeing my friend Bill Kinnon's blog making the list of people's favorites, and he deserves it.

Blog Post - For some reason, this post by Steve McCoy called "How I hit REFRESH" stands out as the most helpful post I read all year.

Sermon Downloads - When I have a Tim Keller sermon and a Matt Chandler sermon on my iPod, I never know which one to listen to first. But I usually go with Keller. Both are excellent and help me a lot.

Podcast - I'm really becoming a fan of Stuart McLean's The Vinyl Cafe. He's Canada's answer to Garrison Keillor. I started listening to him to learn how to tell stories better, but now I just listen to him for the sheer pleasure.

These are just a few of my favorite things from the past year.

Driscoll and Carson

If you recognize the names Mark Driscoll and D.A. Carson, you probably have strong feelings about both of them, positive or negative. But even if you're not a fan, I found Carson's book Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor one of my favorite reads from the past year. I've also come to appreciate Carson as more than an academic. I've become increasingly impressed as I've heard more about him beyond his scholarly work. He is the real deal.

I listened to an interview between Carson and Driscoll today, and found it to be good. You get a sense of Carson as a person. You can download it on iTunes or watch the video here.

Mystery Guests?

This post is from the defunct blog "Dying Church"

From GalliBlog:

The modern American church is often so large and so businesslike in its approach to ministry that it easily loses track of new people who might walk in the door. Most churches long ago abandoned the idea that a church can be a genuine community—where people really know each another, where they notice every single visitor and strike up conversations with them during and after Sunday morning. In a genuine community, there would be absolutely no need of mystery "church inspectors," because the community would know precisely how they practice the gift of hospitality. But the contemporary church is so lost and desperate for "tools" and "resources" that can help them "study" their "guests," even this might help.

Evangelicals and the Reformed

Michael F. Bird on the soft underbelly of those who call ourselves Reformed:

There is a group of the "reformed" out there who have basically decided to go and sit in their room, lock the door, and do nothing but than rant and moan about how everybody in the evangelical hallway is a theologically defficient turnip and only those in the room with them are among the doctrinally righteous elect. This group is typified by several traits: (1) They are more excited about all the things that they are against than anything that they are for; (2) They preach justification by faith, but in actuality practice justification by polemics; (3) They appear to believe in the inerrancy of a confession over the suffiency of the gospel; (4) They believe in the doctrines of grace, but do not treat others with grace; (5) They believe that unity is overrated; (6) They like doctrines about Jesus more than Jesus himself (and always defer to the Epistles over the Gospels); (7) mission means importing their debates and factions to other churches; and (8) The word "adiaphora" is considered an almost expletive...

A little harsh? Perhaps. Certainly not true of many of the Reformed people I know. Every group has its weaknesses, and Bird may be right in some of what he says. Reformed theology teaches us that we shouldn't be surprised by our own shortcomings, and gives us the resources to deal with them through repentance and the gospel. Definitely worth thinking about.

Bird also warns North American evangelicals of their blind spots (although he seems to mean American more than North American):

There are also some things about North American evangelicals that Christians outside of North American cannot comprehend: 1. Only North American evangelicals oppose measures to stem global warming, 2. Only North American evangelicals oppose universal health care, and 3. Only North American evangelicals support the Iraq War. Now, to Christians in the rest of the world this is somewhere between strange, funny, and frightening. Why is it that only North American evangelicals support these things? Are the rest of us stupid? It makes many of us suspicious that our North American evangelical friends have merged their theology with GOP economic policy, raised patriotism to an almost idolatrous level, and have a naive belief in the divinely given right of American hegemony. North Americans would do well to take the North-Americanism out of their evangelicalism and try to see Jesus through the eyes of Christians in other lands.

This is a word that needs to be heard in every culture, which is why we can benefit from those from other cultures and other eras. It helps us see our cultural blind spots.

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