Tuesday, 31 December 2013

TOP 10 BOOKS OF 2013

In no particular order:

  • Richard  F Lovelace, Disciplines of Spiritual Life: An Evangelical Theology of Renewal  
  • Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy, The President's Club: Inside The World's Most Exclusive Fraternity
  • Flannery O'Connor (Edited by Sally Fitzgerald), The Habit of Being: The Letters of Flannery O'Connor 
  • John Flavel, The Mystery of Providence
  • Wendell Berry, Jayber Crow
  • Alan Paton, Too Late the Phalarope
  • Wallace Stegner, The Big Rock Candy Mountain 
  • Christopher West, Fill These Hearts: God, Sex and the Universal Longing
  • John Williams, Stoner 
  • Bruce A Ware, The Man Christ Jesus: Theological Reflections on the Humanity of Christ 

Thursday, 26 December 2013


'...I would like to be a mystic and immediately.' 
Flannery O'Connor, A Prayer Journal, p.38. 


'The Sex act is a religious act & and when it occurs without God is a mock act or at best an empty act. Proust is right that only a love which does not satisfy can continue. Two people can remain "in love" - a phrase made practically useless by stinking romanticism - only if their common desire for each other unites in a greater desire for God - i.e., they do not become satisfied but more desirous together of the supernatural love in union with God.'
Flannery O'Connor, A Prayer Journal, p.31.


'Man's desire for God is bedded in his unconscious & seeks to satisfy itself in physical possession of another human. This necessarily is a passing, fading attachment in its sensuous aspects since it is a poor substitute for what the unconscious is after. The more conscious the desire for God becomes the more successful the union with another becomes because the intelligence realizes the relation in its relation to a greater desire & if this intelligence is in both parties the motive power in the desire for God becomes double & gains in becoming God-like. The modern man isolated from faith, from raising his desire for God into a conscious desire, is sunk in the position of seeing physical love as an end in itself. Thus his romanticizing it, wallowing in it, & then cynicizing it.' 
Flannery O'Connor, A Prayer Journal, p.30.


'No one can be an atheist who does not know all things. Only God is an atheist. \\\the devil is the greatest believer & he has his reasons.' 
Flannery O'Connor, A Prayer Journal,  p.25. 


'If I ever do get to be a fine writer, it will not be because I am a fine writer but because God has given me credit for a few of the things He kindly wrote for me.' 
Flannery O'Connor, A Prayer Journal, p.23. 


'Sin is large & stale. You can never finish eating it nor ever digest it. It has to be vomited.' 
Flannery O'Connor, A Prayer Journal, p.22. 


'I do not know You God because I am in the way. Please help me to push myself aside.' 
Flannery O'Connor, A Prayer Journal, p.3. 

Wednesday, 25 December 2013


'The shepherds sing; and shall I silent be?
                My God, no hymn for thee?
My soul ’s a shepherd too; a flock it feeds
                Of thoughts, and words, and deeds.
The pasture is thy word: the streams, thy grace
                Enriching all the place.
Shepherd and flock shall sing, and all my powers
                Out-sing the day-light houres.
Then we will chide the sunne for letting night
                Take up his place and right:
We sing one common Lord; wherefore he should
                Himself the candle hold.
I will go searching, till I finde a sunne
                Shall stay, till we have done;
A willing shiner, that shall shine as gladly,
                As frost-nipt sunnes look sadly.
Then we will sing, shine all our own day,
                And one another pay:
His beams shall cheer my breast, and both so twine,
Till ev’n his beams sing, and my musick shine.'
George Herbert 

Tuesday, 24 December 2013


'Reticence, then - a healthy respect for limits - is a requisite pastoral skill. An enthusiasm for God's unlimited grace requires as its corollary a developed sensitivity to human limits. We have to know when and where to stop.'
Eugene H Peterson, Under the Unpredictable Plant, p.139.


'For Christ plays in ten thousand places,   
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men's faces.' 
Gerard Manley Hopkins in Eugene H Peterson, Under the Unpredictable Plant, p.126. 

Monday, 23 December 2013


'There are no dittos among souls.'
Friedrich von Hagel in Eugene H Peterson, Under the Unpredictable Plant, p.108. 


'If we want to pray our true condition, our total selves in response to the living God, expressing our feelings is not enough - we need a long apprenticeship in prayer. And then we need graduate school. The Psalms are the school.' 
Eugene H Peterson, Under the Unpredictable Plant,  p.102. 


'Are infant sounds more honest than Shakespeare's sonnets? They are both  honest, but the sonnets have far more experience in them. Honesty is essential in prayer, but we are after more. We are after as much of life as possible - all of life if possible - brought to expression in answering God, That means learning a form of prayer adequate to the complexity of our lives.' 
Eugene H Peterson, Under the Unpredictable Plant, p.101. 


'All men and women hunger for God. The hunger is masked and misinterpreted in many ways, but it is always there. Everyone is one the verge of crying out "My Lord and my God!" but the cry is drowned out by doubts or defiance, muffled by the dull ache of their routines, masked by the cozy accommodations with mediocrity.' 
Eugene H Peterson, Under the Unpredictable Plant, p.86. 


'We who regularly speak in the name of God to the people around us easily slip into speaking in godlike tones and assuming a godlike posture. The moment we do that, even slightly, any deference to us or any defiance of us can lead us into taking on a god-identity. We are, after all, speaking God's word. When people praise us, there is something God-honoring in what they say. When people reject us, there is something God-defying in the way they act. In either case our vocational identification with God's cause and God's word make us vulnerable to mistaken god-identities. No pastor, of course, is explicit in a claim to self-divinity, but year after year or adulation (or lack of it) make their mark. The condition works its way underground and requires strenuous vigilance to detect.' 
Eugene H Peterson, Under the Unpredictable Plant, p.84. 


'All out theological texts teach this...that it is characteristic of post-Eden human beings to try to be or get their own gods and that this characteristic is persistent, subtle and relentless. But when everyone around us is self-defined as a Christian, listens to us tell the gospel story regularly, and smiles in appreciation when we pray in the name of Jesus, we drop our guard, supposing that all that idol business is behind us, ancient history on the hills of Samaria. We assume that we are now free to concentrate on getting rid of the conspicuous trespasses of morality written in the second tablet of the law and no longer need to be vigilant regarding the so easily camouflaged spiritual sins in the first tablet.' 
Eugene H Peterson, Under the Unpredictable Plant, p.81. 

Friday, 20 December 2013


'The scientific ideals of objectivity and specialization have now crept into the humanities and made themselves at home. This has happened, I think, because have come to be infected with a suspicion of their usefulness or worthlessness in the face of the provability or workability or profitability of the applied sciences. The conviction is now widespread, for instance, that "a work of art" has no purpose but to be itself. Or if it is allowed that a poem, for instance, has a meaning, then its meaning is peculiar to its author, its time, or its convention.'
Wendell Berry, 'An Argument for Diversity' in What Are People For?, p.116. 


'...we need to stop thinking about the economic functions of individuals for a while, and try to learn to think of the economic functions of communities and households. We need to try to understand the long-term economies of places - places that is, that are considered as dwelling places for humans and their fellow creatures, not as exploitable resources.' 
Wendell Berry. 'An Argument for Diversity' in What Are People For? Essays, p.111. 

Tuesday, 17 December 2013


'...it is in our virtuous behavior that we are liable to the gravest of sins. It is while we are being good that we have the chance of being really bad.'
Eugene H Peterson, Under the Unpredictable Plant, p.31. 

Thursday, 12 December 2013


'...the norm for pastoral work is stability. Twenty-, thirty-, and forty-year long pastorates should be typical among us (as they once were) and not exceptional. Far too many pastors change parishes out of adolescent boredom, not as a consequence of mature wisdom. When this happens, neither pastors nor congregations have access to the conditions that are hospitable to maturity in the faith.' 
Eugene H Peterson, Under the Unpredictable plant, p.29. 


'Pastoral work consists of modest, daily, assigned work. It is like farm work. Most pastoral work involves routines similar to cleaning out the barn, mucking out the stalls, spreading manure, pulling weeds. This is not, any of it, bad work in itself, but if we expected to ride a glistening black stallion in daily parades and then return to the barn where a lackey grooms our steed for us, we will be severely disappointed and end up being horribly resentful.' 
Eugene H Peterson, Under the Unpredictable Plant, p.16. 


'I take it as a given that all of us would prefer to be our own gods than to worship God. Th Eden story is reenacted daily, not only generally in the homes and workplaces of our parishioners but quite particularly in the sanctuaries and meeting rooms in which we do our work. The only difference in the dynamics of the serpent's seduction in the explicitly religious workplace is that when pastors are seduced, our facility with language provides us with a thesaurus of self-deceiving euphemisms. Our skill in handling religious concepts gives us above average competence in phrasing things in such a way that our vocational shift from tending the Garden to running the Garden, our radical fall from vocational holiness to career idolatry, goes undetected by all but the serpent.' 
Eugene H Peterson, Under the Unpredictable Plant: An Exploration in Vocational Holiness, p.7.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013


'Let us learn from the divine principle lived fully and perfectly in Jesus's life that God will not fail to honor those who honor him, that he will exalt those who are humble, that he will reward obedience in ways beyond our comprehension. Oh, how our obedience matters! So, how wrong it is of us to appeal to our obedience as the basis for our right standing before God. If we could just get Ephesians 2:8-10 (i.e., not just vv.8-9) all together, we would be in such better shape as Christian people. Yes, we are saved by grace, through faith, fully and completely apart from works. But our salvation apart from works breeds a life filled with good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. May God grant us longing of heart to live more fully as Jesus lived. May we see that just as his relentless and perfect obedience, rendered in the power of the Spirit and in faith, brought him the full approval of his Father and the reward of his exaltation, so our obedience, rendered in the power of the Spirit and in faith, likewise will be seen and rewarded by our gracious and benevolent God. Let us learn from Jesus that obedience matters.'
Bruce A Ware, The Man Christ Jesus, p.146.   


'Let us take this truth to heart: Christ was exalted to the right hand of the Father and given his place of authority over all creation because he was "obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross" (Phil.2:6-11). What we see here is, no doubt, the most glorious illustration ever lived out of the principle articulated in James 4:10: "Humble yourselves before God and he will exalt you."'  
Bruce A Ware, The Man Christ Jesus, p.146. 


'In his first coming the wideness of God's mercy is manifest as his Son dies for the world and offers salvation to any and all who believe. But in his second coming the fury of God's judgement is manifest as his Son - the one and very same Son who died for the nations - now takes up his sword and smites the nations in their ongoing idolatry and rebellion against their creator God. Although God announces the certainty of this coming judgment, he does so in part to persuade rebels to drop their arms and bow to Jesus as their personal Lord and King. What mercy preceded such horrific destruction. How infinitely kind of of God to plan the first coming of Christ rather than to move directly to the substance of the second.' 
Bruce A Ware, The Man Christ Jesus, p.136. 

Saturday, 7 December 2013


'I do not think that what the Bible says about the love of God can long survive at the forefront of our thinking if it is to be abstracted from the sovereignty of God, the holiness of God, the wrath of God, the providence of God, or the personhood of God - to mention a few non-negotiable elements of basic Christianity.' 
DA Carson, The difficult doctrine of the love of God, p.11. 


'If anyone might be thought to have lived on auto-pilot, it would be Jesus. After all, along with his true and full humanity, he was fully God; and although he had the nature of a man, his human nature was totally sinless. You would think such a person (unlike any of us!) could coast. To have a divine nature and a sinless human nature would seem to make obedience easy. Well,  look again at Jesus. What you see is a man who labored to obey, who agonized in the testings the Father designed for him, who fought through the trials of life to maintain his integrity and obedience before his Father.
In the light of this, it should be certain that we who are not God, we who do not have sinless natures, will find it necessary also to fight for faith and labor for obedience.' 
Bruce A Ware, The Man Christ Jesus, p.70. 


'Where everything speaks against God, those who pray them attribute everything to God.' 
Erich Zenger, A God of Vengeance?, p.88.


'...the psalms of vengeance are a passionate clinging to God when everything really speaks against God. For that reason they can rightly be called psalms of zeal, to the extent that in them passion for God is aflame in the midst of ashes of doubt about God and despair over human beings. These psalms are an the expression of a longing that evil, and evil people, may not have the last word in history, for this world and its history belong to God. This, to use the theological terminology, these psalms are realized theodicy. They affirm God by surrendering the last word to God. They give to God not only their lament about their desperate situation, but also the right to judge the originators of that situation. They leave everything in God's hands, even feelings of hated and aggression. 
These psalms do not arise from the well-tempered psychological state of people from who every scrap of sensitivity and emotion has been driven out. On the contrary, they are serious about the fundamental biblical conviction that in prayer we may say everything, literally everything, if only we say it to GOD, who is our father... We have, in the meantime, learned from psychology that suppressed fears and repressed aggression do not overcome violence, but multiply it. What is necessary is that we learn to live with fears and aggressions by bringing them to consciousness and acting against their destructiveness. The psalms do not repress all this; they express it before GOD and place it in GOD'S hands.'
Erich Zenger, A God of Vengeance?, p.79.

Thursday, 5 December 2013


'One of the biggest dangers in preaching - one of the main reasons that Bible teachers fail to engage their listeners - is this: the preacher assumes that their listeners want  to go to the same destination as them. They think that by simply announcing their topic - or reading their Bible text - or even by opening the scriptures - their congregation will be salivating at the mouth with excitement - thrilled beyond measure to be taken into the wonderful destination that has been announced by the hard-working and faithful preacher.' 
Tim Hawkins, Messages that Move: How to give Bible talks that challenge and inspire, p.83. 

Monday, 2 December 2013


'Biblical poetry is a living space into which you can enter, as you might pass into the shade of a primeval olive tree that speaks with the winds of heaven.' 
Ludwig Strauss in Erich Zenger, A God of Vengeance: Understanding the Psalms of Divine Wrath, p.1.