Robust in Love

Peterson - Practice ResurrectionWith today being Valentine’s Day, I thought it would be appropriate to write on the topic of love.

I am struck by this statement made by Eugene Peterson in Practice Resurrection: A Conversation on Growing up in Christ.1 He states this as the subject of his book: “healthy in God, robust in love.”2

What does it look like to be robust in love? And how does this happen? Peterson gets this phrase from his own translation of Ephesians 4:16:

We take our lead from Christ, who is the source of everything we do. He keeps us in step with each other. His very breath and blood flow through us, nourishing us so that we will grow up healthy in God, robust in love.

Peterson suggests that being healthy in God and robust in love requires that which is counter intuitive to the typical North American lifestyle: quietness, obscurity, patience, and a willingness to give up control.3 This is done, according to Peterson, as “we keep company with Jesus, alive and present, who knows where we are going better than we do, which is always ‘from glory to glory.'”4

The term “robust in love” is used within the context of community. Paul uses in depth the imagery of the church as a body, with Christ as the head and the lifeblood. The concern of this particular passage is that the body works properly. In order to work properly, the body must be nourished by Christ.

Take a moment to think about what this means. Christ is a person. He is not a program or a doctrine. He is not an idea to agree with or a moral standard to live by. He is the very life and breath of the church. What, then, are we expected to do with Christ?

This is where things get troublesome for our consumeristic culture: we are expected to simply be connected to Christ. Our trouble is that we think there is always something that needs to be done. Yes, there are things that need to be done, but the most important things, the things that involve being healthy in God and being robust in love, have very little to do with action and have far more to do with just being the body.

  1. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2010 []
  2. p. 5 []
  3. p. 6 []
  4. p. 8 []

Professionally Holy

“You probably won’t like this, but I work at a liquor store.”

I had asked this gentleman what he does for a living after just telling him that I was recently hired as a pastor. My first experience being stereotyped as a pastor. I have to admit, I didn’t like it.

I recently read an article in Leadership Journal about making the best of stereotypes as a pastor. One of the stereotypes is that pastors are out of touch with, or sheltered from, “the real world.”

The author turns this stereotype around by pointing out that, “if the only things I pay attention to are what everyone else is paying attention to, I have nothing to say.” In other words, pastors need to be somewhat disengaged from “the real world” because the business of a pastor is to be immersed in the world of prayer, the Scriptures, and the wisdom of God. We are in the business of knowing God and knowing the human heart so that we can help to point the way to Christ.

It is a relief to me knowing that immersion in prayer and Scripture may at times cause me to be thought of as out of touch with some aspects of the world. So, the next time someone thinks they are making me feel uncomfortable by what they have said, I can be reminded that it is all part of the territory of being “professionally holy.” I can embrace it as a calling rather than a criticism.

Book Review: Giving Up Gimmicks by Brian Cosby

Giving Up Gimmicks Book CoverBrian Cosby is not proposing anything new in his book Giving Up Gimmicks. But, that’s exactly the point. Cosby is rightly concerned that the entertainment culture has infiltrated youth ministry. Giving Up Gimmicks, then, is written for youth pastors, volunteers and parents of youth, in order to remind us about what is truly important when it comes to youth ministry.

Cosby traces five main themes, which he refers to as “means of grace” through which God works in His church, and he encourages his readers to implement these into youth ministry. These consist of Word, prayer, sacraments, service and community. Cosby seeks to show how youth ministry will have more depth and effectiveness by focussing on these things that are central to the gospel, than if youth ministry is driven by the entertainment culture.

I expect there are very few youth pastors out there who would disagree with Cosby’s argument. It is obvious to state that a gospel-centred ministry will result in greater depth and effectiveness in discipleship, than one that is focussed on entertainment. However, it is difficult to know how to implement a means of grace emphasis into a youth ministry, especially when the youth live and breath in an entertainment-saturated society. This short book helpfully provides some ideas for how to make youth ministry more gospel centred.

As I prepare to enter a pastoral position that has an emphasis on youth ministry, I found Cosby’s material to be a refreshing reminder of just what I am getting myself into. Although there is very little in this book that will be new to most youth pastors, it is material that we all need to be reminded of, whether we are just starting out or have been pastoring for years. For the less experienced pastor, Cosby provides somewhat of a template for youth ministry, and for the more experienced pastor, he provides a challenge to return to gospel-centred ministry.

For youth pastors, parents, and volunteers, Giving Up Gimmicks is an easily accessible guide to helping provide an environment that is challenging and healthy for the young people God has entrusted to our care.

1 John 1:5-10 in Two Parts

On February 24 and March 10 I preached from 1 John 1:5-10. Here are the videos:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Notes – Six acknowledgments from 1 John 1:5-10:

1. Acknowledge The Character of God – 1:5
2. Acknowledge The Reality of Your Relationship with God – 1:6
3. Acknowledge The Saving Work of Jesus – 1:7
4. Acknowledge The Condition of Humanity – 1:8
5. Acknowledge The Confession of Sin – 1:9
6. Acknowledge The Correctness of God’s Word – 1:10

Advent Day 23: For All People

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:8-11 ESV)

The good news proclaimed by the angel was and is meant to be for all people. This is a call for those who hear the good news to share it with others. Yesterday, we discovered that the news about Jesus is only good news if you believe you are in need of a saviour. However, how is someone to know this if no one ever tells them?

All around the world there is a common understanding of good and evil. People are somehow born with the knowledge of right and wrong. It is also common for all cultures to have some understanding of a justice system. When someone does something wrong, they should be punished. The gospel of Christ explains the reason for this common knowledge, and provides an eternal solution. Because we have all done wrong, we all deserve punishment. However, Christ’s life, death and resurrection solves our problem of eternal punishment. This solution of Christ’s salvation is truly for all people all over the world.

This should be a reason for celebration, and should stir within us a desire to tell people, just as the angel did, the good news of great joy that is for all the people.

Advent Day 22: Good News Of Great Joy

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:8-11 ESV)

The good news proclaimed was that a Saviour was born in order to save all people from eternal death. There is no better news than this in all of history.

However, in order for this to be good news, you must be willing to admit that you are in need of saving. Otherwise, the news of Christ is merely news. it doesn’t make the headlines if you don’t think there is a need for a Saviour.

If you are wondering what all the hype is about, take a moment to pray that God will open your eyes to your need for a Saviour. You may have heard the Christmas story all your life, but the thought that it is good news has never clicked with you. Today, I pray that God will show you just how good the news of Christ is!