Happy New Year. There’s a good chance 2020-2022 (hopefully not beyond) will be treated as a single unit in the history books, but for us mere mortals a new year is always a chance to reflect on what has been and make some plans for what comes next. I wanted to share some of the things that I found helpful in 2021 with the prayer it could bless you in 2022.
Esther and I came across this book as a free giveaway from The Gospel Coalition this summer. I can’t turn down a free book. By God’s providence, this book was exactly what we needed to hear.
This book examines the common Christian experience of waiting. Whether that be waiting on God, waiting for an answer to prayer, or waiting on life to progress and change. The chapter titles of the book are very specific: Waiting for a spouse, waiting for a child, waiting for a prodigal, etc. But the points apply to Christians in all circumstances.
Since Genesis chapter 3, men and women have been waiting for God to work. God’s people were waiting for the child of promise, waiting for the rain to fall, waiting for the promised land, waiting for the promised King, waiting for the Messiah, and now we wait for Christ to return. Howard does an amazing job of presenting the biblical truth that waiting is the default position of our lives as Christians. In our waiting, we can live as a parable to a watching world of where our hope and foundation are. I would recommend this book to everyone, even if you are not actively waiting on any of the items discussed specifically, you know someone who is. And all of us need to have a solid trust in God’s purpose in our waiting to live the Christian life with faithfulness.
If you would like a book that is a little more substantial, Church history is always a worthwhile pursuit. I was assigned this book in seminary and finally got around to completing it (I do not recommend treating your school work this way). In reading Church history, I am challenged by the named giants of the faith, as well as the remarkable work of many nameless saints to bring the gospel to the nations so you and I could worship in Sault Ste. Marie, On., in 2022. I am also amazed at God’s faithfulness to preserve his Church throughout the generations even amid immense persecution, corruption, and conflict.
Gonzalez presents the story of the Church in a very readable way and remains neutral in his analysis of the events. In reading Church history, you will be reminded that “there is nothing new under the sun” and God’s grace is needed every day if we are to pass the truth of Jesus Christ and His Word to the next generation. If you don’t think reading a 500+ page book is your thing, do what I did and buy it on audiobook and listen to it as you drive or go about your day. Audiobooks are a great way to get through tough volumes you may never get the time to read otherwise.
I am a podcast guy. If you have had a long enough conversation with me, you have probably heard me say, “I was listening to a podcast the other day…”. I’m picky about podcasts, and this year I found a new one to add to the rotation. Bible Talk is presented by 9marks, which is a ministry of Mark Dever and Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. In this podcast, pastors Alex Duke, Sam Emadi, and Jim Hamilton move through the text of the Bible a few chapters at a time and discuss the text in its context. They talk about the story, the language, the culture, the connections to other scripture, and what God is revealing about his grand plan for redemption on every page of the Bible as it points to salvation in Jesus Christ. It has been incredibly helpful for me in growing my understanding of the application and importance of the books of Genesis and Exodus. The podcast has made it up to Number chapter 14 the last time I checked so there are lots of episodes for you to binge or work through little by little. This podcast is a great companion to an annual Bible reading plan. Put this podcast on while you are washing dishes, driving to work, or sit down with your bible and follow along. I have been greatly blessed by it; I hope you will be too.
If I have suggested the briefing on this blog before I apologize, but this podcast is a staple in my daily routine. I have listened to The Briefing every day for over 6 years. Thanks to Albert Mohler’s thoughtful analysis, I have grown in my ability to translate and understand the world around me. The Briefing is “a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.” If you have looked at a news headline and thought, “What would God think of this?” then a good place to build your muscles in responding is Albert Mohler’s, The Briefing.
This year’s Gospel Coalition Conference was virtual, but the messages were encouraging. It was a journey through the book of Hebrews on the theme of, Jesus is Greater. I especially enjoyed Julius Kim’s sermon on Hebrews Chapter 3, Jesus the Final Mediator. His discussion of the events of Exodus 17 as they are alluded to in Hebrews was so powerful. God puts himself on trial to pay the price for his people’s rebellion. It’s worth listening to and celebrating the gift of our Saviour’s mediation for us.
In October 2021, Esther and I took a trip to Western Canada. At the end of that trip, we went to Church and were very blessed by the sermon Pastor Matt gave at Westside Church in Vancouver. The series was on spiritual gifts and has shaped a lot of conversations in our house and our ministry over the past few months. One metaphor that stuck out to us was that of the snowblower. When you use your spiritual gift(s), that action feels like a snowblower. It is easy, joyous, and feels right. When you are working outside of your spiritual gifting it feels like a shovel. It's hard work and takes much more effort. This doesn't mean that we are only to do "snowblower" tasks, but it is important to discern the difference so that you can understand the levels of joy and/or frustration you feel with certain types of service in God's Kingdom and Church. The series starts with asking the question, "Who is the Holy Spirit?" and moves through the different gift lists found in the New Testament dividing the gifts into Love, Word, and Power gifts. Very helpful.
Movie / TV:
Now, I will admit, there is very little to recommend or commend from television and movies at this point. My watching habits have been dialled down to lock picking videos and hunting shows. But, as I looked through my streaming history, there are a few standout items I would recommend:
This documentary commemorates the 1990 robbery of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, MA. The stolen works were valued at over $500 million and there is a $10 million reward for information leading to the arts' recovery. It’s a real-life mystery that has Esther and me looking at any large piece of art and asking, “I wonder if the “Sea of Galilee” is under there?” Worth a watch.
I love nature documentaries and if you buy a new Apple device and get a 1-year-free-trial of Apple TV+, use it to watch Tiny World. This nature documentary gets up close and personal with the small animals we usually don’t think of or even see. Follow the life of mergansers in a Canadian pond, or the creatures who bring an English garden to life. Some of the shots the cinematographers get are simply unbelievable. It will encourage you to marvel at God’s good purposes in caring for the sparrow and the lily of the field.
Happy New Year! I am looking forward to another year of serving you through this blog. Remember you can submit questions about the Bible, theology, the news, or life issues here.