Wednesday, 31 December 2014

TOP 10 BOOKS OF 2014

In, as ever, no particular order (other than the rough order in which I read them):
  • Wallace Stegner, Remembering Laughter
  • James Agee, A Death in the Family
  • Cornelius Plantinga Jr., Reading for Preaching: The preacher in conversation with storytellers, biographers, poets, and journalists. 
  • Rod Dehrer, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming
  • Gregory the Great, The Book of Pastoral Rule 
  • John Williams, Augustus
  • Wendell Berry, Hannah Coulter
  • Marilynne Robinson, Lila
  • David Kinnaman, You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church....And Rethinking Faith
  • Jason B Hood, Imitating God in Christ: Recapturing a Biblical Pattern


'...those who see in Genesis 1:28 the source of all our abuse of the natural world (most of them apparently having read no more of the Bible than that verse) are guilty of an extremely unintelligent misreading of Genesis 1:28 itself. How, for example, would one arrange to "replenish the earth" if "subdue" means, as alleged, "conquer" or "defeat" or "destroy"?' 
Wendell Berry, 'God and Country' in What Are People For? p.98.


'The evident ability of most church leaders to be "born again in Christ" without in the least discomforting their faith in the industrial economy's bill of goods, however convenient and understandable it may be, is not scriptural.'
Wendell Berry, 'God and Country' in What Are People For? p.98.


'No wonder so many sermons are devoted exclusively to "spiritual" subjects. If one is living by the tithes of history's most destructive economy, then the disembodiment of the soul becomes the chief of worldly conveniences.'
Wendell Berry, 'God and Country' in What Are People For?, p.96.


'That God created all this for for His pleasure, and that they continue to exist because they please Him, is formidable doctrine indeed, as far as possible both from the "anthropocentric" utilitarianism that some environmentalist critics claim to find in the Bible and from the grouchy spirituality of many Christians.'
Wendell Berry, 'Economy and Pleasure' in What Are People For?, p.138.


'Can a university, or a nation, afford this exclusive rule of competition, this purely economic economy? The great fault of this approach to things is that it is so drastically reductive; it does not permit us to live and work as human beings, as the best of our inheritance defines us. Rats and roaches live by competition under the law of supply and demand; it is the privilege of human beings to live under the laws of justice and mercy. It is impossible not to notice how little the proponents of the ideal of competition have to say about honesty, which is the fundamental economic virtue, and how very little they have to say about community, compassion, and mutual help.' 
Wendell Berry, 'Economy and Pleasure' in What Are People For?, p.135.

Tuesday, 30 December 2014


'God is here, within these walls; before me, behind me, on my right hand, on my left hand. He who fills immensity has come down to me here. I am now about to bow at His feet, and speak to Him...I may pour forth my desires before Him, and not one syllable from my lips shall escape his ear. I may speak to him as I would to my dearest friend I have on earth.'
Austin Phelps in Timothy Keller, Prayer, p.127.


'The worst sin is prayerlessness. Overt sin...or the glaring inconsistencies which often surprise us in Christian people are the effect of this, or its punishment...Not to want to pray, then, is the sin behind sin.'
PT Forsyth in Timothy Keller, Prayer, p.121.

Saturday, 27 December 2014


'We humans may say, "Let there be light in this room," but then we have to flick a switch or light a candle. Our words need deeds to back them up and can fail to achieve their purposes. God's words, however, cannot fail their purposes because, for God, speaking and acting are the same thing. The God of the Bible is a God who "by his very nature, acts through speaking."'
Timothy Keller, Prayer, p.52.


'Gods breath in man returning to his birth.'
George Herbert in Timothy Keller, Prayer, p.28.


'To discover the real you, look at what you spend time thinking about when no one is looking, when nothing is forcing you to think about anything in particular. At such moments, do your thoughts go toward God? You may want to be seen as a humble, unassuming person, but do you take the initiative to confess your sins before God? You wish to be perceived as a positive, cheerful person, but do you habitually thank God for everything you have and praise him for who he is? You may speak a great deal about what a "blessing" your faith is and how you "just really love the Lord," but if you are prayerless - is that really true? If you aren't joyful, humble, and faithful in private before God, then what you want to appear on the outside won't match what you truly are.'
Timothy Keller, Prayer, p.22.

Friday, 26 December 2014


'A minister may fill his pews, his communion roll, the mouths of the public, but what that minister is on his knees in secret before God Almighty, that he is and no more.'
Timothy Keller, Prayer, p.22.


'Prayer is the only entryway into genuine self-knowledge. It is also the main way we experience deep change - the reordering of our loves. Prayer is how God gives us many of the unimaginable things he has for us. Indeed, prayer makes it safe for God to give us many of the things we most desire. It is the way we know God,the way that we finally treat God as God. Prayer is simply the key to everything we need to do and be in life. 
We must learn to pray. We have to.'
Timothy Keller, Prayer, p.18.


'...prayer is not simply the solitary exploration of your own subjectivity. You are with Another, and he is unique. God is the only person from whom you can hide nothing. Before him you will unavoidably come to see yourself in a new, unique light. Prayer, therefore, leads to a self-knowledge that is impossible to achieve any other way.' 
Timothy Keller, Prayer: Experiencing Intimacy with God, p.12. 

Thursday, 25 December 2014


The Coming

And God held in his hand
A small globe. Look he said.
The son looked. Far off,
As through water, he saw
A scorched land of fierce
Colour. The light burned
There; crusted buildings
Cast their shadows: a bright
Serpent, A river
Uncoiled itself, radiant
With slime.
                    On a bare
Hill a bare tree saddened
The sky. many People
Held out their thin arms
To it, as though waiting
For a vanished April
To return to its crossed
Boughs. The son watched
Them. Let me go there, he said.

RS Thomas

Thursday, 18 December 2014


'If people in our Christian fellowships today were to announce that they had decided to keep God's law, we would probably be sceptical and alarmed. We would probably take them aside for some counselling and possibly alert other responsible people in the group to keep an eye on them. We would be sure nothing good would come of it. We know that one is not saved by keeping the law and can think of no other reason one should try to do it. 
This leaves us caught in a strange inversion of the work of the Judaizing teachers who digged the footsteps of Paul in New Testament days. As they wanted to add obedience to ritual law to faith in Christ, we want to subtract moral law from faith in Christ. How to combine faith with obedience is surely the essential task of the church...'
Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, p.157.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014


'...the aim of the popular teacher in Jesus' time was not to impart information, but to make a significant change in the lives of the hearers. Of course that may require an information transfer, but it is a peculiarly modern notion that the aim of teaching is to bring people to know things that may have no effect at all on their lives.'
Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, p.128.


'The powerful though vague and unsubstantiated presumption is that something has been found out that renders a spiritual understanding of reality in the manner of Jesus simply foolish to those who are "in the know." But when it comes time to say exactly what it is that has been found out, nothing of substance is forthcoming.'
Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, p.106.


'When you become a Christian - a disciple of Jesus - you do not become his helper. He becomes your helper. You do not become his benefactor. He becomes your benefactor. You do not become his servant. He becomes your servant. Jesus does not need your help; he commands your obedience and offers his help. 
Christmas. He came to serve, not to be served. He came to help us to do everything he calls us to do.'
John Piper, The Dawning of Indestructible Joy, p.56.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014


'History has brought us to the point where the Christian message is thought to be essentially concerned only with how to deal with sin: with wrongdoing or wrong-being and its effects. Life, our actual existence, is not included in what is now presented as the heart of the Christian message, or its is included only marginally. This is where we find ourselves today.
...When we examine the broad spectrum of Christian proclamation and practice, we see that the only thing made essential on the right wing of theology is forgiveness of the individual's sins. On the left it is the removal of structural evils. The current gospel then becomes a "gospel of sin management." Transformation of life and character is no part of the redemptive message. Moment-to-moment human reality in its depths is not the area of faith and eternal living. 
To the right, being a Christian is a matter of having your sins forgiven...To the left, you are a Christian if you have a significant commitment to the elimination of social evils. A Christian is either one who is ready to die and face the judgment of God or one who has an identifiable commitment to love and justice in society. That's it.
...What right and left have in common is that neither group has laid down a coherent framework of knowledge and practical direction adequate to personal transformation towards the abundance and redemption of ordinary life. What is taught as the essential message about Jesus has no natural connection to entering a life of discipleship to him. 
Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, p.49.


'Jesus of Nazareth has been the dominant figure in the history of Western culture for almost twenty centuries. If it were possible, with some sort of super magnet, to pull up out of that history every scrap of metal bearing at least a trace of his name, how much would be left?'
Jaroslav Pelikan in Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy: rediscovering our Hidden Life in God, p.19. 

Wednesday, 10 December 2014


'...the meaning of Christmas is that what is good and precious in your life need never be lost, and what is evil and undesirable in your life can be changed. The fears that the few good things that make you happy are slipping through your fingers, and the frustrations that the bad things you hate about yourself or you situation can't be changed - these fears and these frustrations are what Christmas came to destroy. 
It is God's message of hope this Advent that what is good need never be lost and what is bad can be changed. The Devil works to take the good and bring the bad. And Jesus came to destroy the works of the Devil.' 
John Piper, The Dawning of Indestructible Joy: Daily Readings for Advent, p.38. 

Tuesday, 9 December 2014


'Probably the easiest definition of an intime friend is someone else, not related by blood, for whom our existence matters significantly; someone, who is not our family per se but who cares whether we are around or not. In practical terms this means a person who, if they called you at a time when they expected you at home and found you were not there, would wonder a bit as they hung up the phone about where you might be and hope that you are OK.' 
David Morrison, Beyond Gay, p.181. 

Sunday, 7 December 2014


'...which is the higher view of human sexuality? Christianity's, in which human beings as free men and women give themselves to each other out of their own free will in a lifetime embrace, or the world's, in which human coupling appears to have more to do with being captive to emotion and desire than to free choice?' 
David Morrison, Beyond Gay, p.107. 

Tuesday, 2 December 2014


Wilt thou forgive that sin where I begun,
         Which was my sin, though it were done before?
Wilt thou forgive that sin, through which I run,
         And do run still, though still I do deplore?
                When thou hast done, thou hast not done,
                        For I have more.

Wilt thou forgive that sin which I have won
         Others to sin, and made my sin their door?
Wilt thou forgive that sin which I did shun
         A year or two, but wallow'd in, a score?
                When thou hast done, thou hast not done,
                        For I have more.

I have a sin of fear, that when I have spun
         My last thread, I shall perish on the shore;
But swear by thyself, that at my death thy Son
         Shall shine as he shines now, and heretofore;
                And, having done that, thou hast done;
                        I fear no more.

John Donne. Available at: