The Spirit always works through the Word

Highlighted Bible

Whenever I read or hear words like “resist the Spirit’s leading,” my first instinct is to cringe.1

This special appeal to the Spirit’s leading is most often used when espousing views contrary to those found in the words he inspired to be written on a host of issues like views of marriage and sexuality, the work of Christ, or the nature of God himself. And the question I find myself asking whenever I see the appeal made is a simple one: “How do you know?”


We are what our Creator says we are

debating at the table

How do you understand what it means to be human? Most of us think about humanity in terms of potential or utility—what we might be, or what we actually do. When someone asks us what we do for a living, for example, we say “I am a [fill in the blank].” When we talk about protecting the most vulnerable, it’s usually with an eye toward what they could be, whether a doctor, dentist, or delivery person.

I don’t think this kind of utilitarian approach to defining humanity works. It’s what we see the entire world trying to do every day, and it doesn’t make sense. If our identity is based on our job, education, intelligence, sexuality, or anything else you can think of, we’re thinking too small. We’re thinking in ways our Creator never intended for us. He gives us a better answer to the question we’re asking. He knows what makes a person a person because He’s the One who made us. And what He says is that a person, a human being, is one who is made in His image.

And therein lies the mystery, doesn’t it? What does it mean to be made in God’s image, according to His likeness (Gen. 1:26)? The short version is that as God’s image bearers, we are mirrors, reflecting God’s attributes to the rest of creation in three distinct but complementary ways:

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The gospel is more beautiful when we take sin seriously

The most personally convicting book I’ve read in ages

Feet in bed

Right now, I’m about halfway through David Murray’s Reset: Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Burnout Culture. I probably should have been done it about a week ago, when I started reading it on a plane, but I can’t finish it. At least not yet. It’s been a challenge.

The challenge doesn’t come from the writing itself. Murray’s style is inviting and the language is accessible. It’s not from a lack of interest in the book’s topic, either. If that were the case, I wouldn’t even be reading it. The challenge comes from being so darn convicted every time I read another paragraph.

Reset is Murray’s attempt to encourage all of us who are eager to work hard for the Lord1 to take a deep breath and slow down. Not to stop working hard, but to develop a sustainable pace. And Lord knows we need the encouragement. So, he offers ten “repair bays” to help us diagnose the warning signs in our lives and correct them. Of these, probably the most personally significant has been the chapter on rest. Sleep.

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How do I get the same passion as the Psalmists?

What matters most in prayer

If you want to really know yourself, start by knowing God


Almost all the advice we’re given today starts with some version of being true to ourselves. We should know our personality types, our strengths, and our gifts. There’s nothing wrong with any of these things, of course. In fact, it’s quite helpful. But if it’s where we start, aside from subscribing to a self-help methodology, we’re missing out on the bigger picture.

One of the reformers described that bigger picture this way: “Man never attains to a true self-knowledge until he has previously contemplated the face of God, and come down after such contemplation to look into himself.”1 This is the right starting point. If we really want to know ourselves, it starts by knowing God. When our attention is focused on ourselves, we can easily become puffed up or vain. We might see our strengths, but we struggle to see our weaknesses. We only get half a picture, and a distorted one at that. Instead, we need to start with God, with his goodness, with his character, and his glory, because this helps us to get a better picture of ourselves. Know the One in whose image we have been made. Know God so we can know our need for him. Know God to know the character of the One who sacrificed all to meet our need.

This is what protects us from pride and folly. It’s what helps us to live as we were meant to. If you really want to know yourself, start with knowing God.

  1. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion.

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The Curious Christian

~ Aaron Armstrong

People who know Emily or me knows we’re generally curious people. By that, I don’t mean that we’re odd (although we are Canadian). I mean we’re inquisitive. We like learning. We’re always reading. We like to try new foods and restaurants (despite what one of my coworkers suggests). These are good characteristics, ones we want to pass on to our kids, too.1

So reading Barnabas Piper’s new book, The Curious Christian, was a very affirming activity for me. Not because I’m a fan of confirmation bias, but because he’s noticed some of the same things I have: many people—especially Christians—aren’t all that curious. In fact, it might be fair to say that they don’t necessarily see curiosity as a good thing. But in writing this book, Piper wants his readers to recognize that curiosity is a good gift from God. A gift that allows us to grow in our relationships with others, the world around us, and with God himself.

A better vision, not another program

Here’s what you’re not going to find in this book. You won’t find seven step processes and how-tos for becoming more curious. That’s because curiosity isn’t something that can be systematized. It can’t be turned into a simple program because it’s a way of life. That’s what you’ll see again and again as you read this book as he first offers a vision of a curiosity-fueled Christian life (the “why”), then explores seven areas of our lives where curiosity matters (the “what”), and concluding with one chapter on the how of curiosity.

In other words, if you’re someone who relishes steps and systems, this book might drive you mad. But, as Piper himself writes, “Curiosity doesn’t have a recipe. It’s not like baking cookies. If it was, it wouldn’t be very curious, would it?” (153)

So if there’s not a series of steps and guidelines, why should anyone read this book? Here are three key areas where I found it helpful (and a brief attempt to apply it in each):

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Rejoice! We worship a God we can’t control


I was reading a really sweet book in a big box bookstore recently, considering whether or not it would be one worth bringing home for my family. It was a kids book, one written to tell children that God delights in them, which is certainly true. But it seemed to go a step further. It put the child in the center of all God’s hopes and dreams, as though the child is what God lives for.

This is not a “we should feel bad about the idea that God loves us” post, by the way. That’s not really my jam, anyway. God absolutely loves and delights in his people. But what stopped me from purchasing this book is that I want my kids to have a bigger picture of God than this book offered. I don’t want them to see themselves as being at the center of God’s dreams, because, frankly, that’s way too much pressure.

I want them to see God as approachable and as a God who delights in them and rejoices over them as Scripture says he does. But I want them to rejoice in knowing his happiness isn’t dependent upon them. That we don’t worship a God who can be manipulated or controlled in that way.

This is going to be one of those, “Jesus is not safe” posts, isn’t it? Well, sure, but only because it bears repeating. There is a difference between approachable and safe. An approachable Jesus is the one we find in Scripture. The one who invites us to come boldly before the throne of grace. A Jesus who humbles himself and takes the form of a servant, submitting himself to obedience, even to the point of death. If one might be so bold, he is approachable because he approached us.

There is a difference between approachable and safe. An approachable Jesus is the one we find in Scripture. The one who invites us to come boldly before the throne of grace. A Jesus who humbles himself and takes the form of a servant, submitting himself to obedience, even to the point of death. If one might be so bold, he is approachable because he first approached us.

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Joy and theology belong together

It seems to be rare to hear the words “theology” and “joy” together. Dour, grumpy, maybe on a good day affable… but joy? Nah…

And that’s a shame because it’s one of the things I love most about theology. It’s why I care about it and why I study it. Why I write about it and talk about it and read about it. Theology is all about joy.

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