Best of 2014
I’ll publish my list of favorites from 2014 in a number of categories the first week of January. I’d love to publish yours as well. So just send your favorites in the following categories to us at firstname.lastname@example.org by the end of the year.
- Music – albums and individual songs
- Movies – your best and worst
- Television programs
- Radio station
~ UPDATED PAGES ON THE BLOG ~
- The Dawning of Indestructible Joy: Daily Readings for Advent by John Piper
- Why Suffering? Finding Meaning and Comfort When Life Doesn’t Make Sense by Ravi Zacharias and Vince Vitale
Music Review: Peter Furler Christmas Featuring David Ian
~ THIS AND THAT ~
The Pilgrim’s Progress (New Edition). Jonathan Parnell of Desiring God writes “Desiring God is excited to release a new edition of The Pilgrim’s Progress, free of charge in three digital formats (PDF, EPUB, MOBI). This new edition is the original first part of Bunyan’s classic, unabridged and redesigned in beautiful typesetting for modern readability. This edition also features a foreword by Leland Ryken, who kindly offered counsel to us since the beginning of this project, and a short biography of Bunyan’s life by John Piper. The preface to this edition was written by John Newton in 1776 to introduce an old version of the book that included his annotations. This preface was discovered by Tony Reinke, biographer of Newton, and is included now in print for the first time in over a century.”
First Trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The film will be in theatres December 18, 2015.
Next James Bond Film Announced. Daniel Craig will play 007 for the fourth time in Spectre, to be released October, 2015.
New McCartney Song. “Hope for the Future”, which Paul McCartney wrote for the record-breaking video game “Destiny”, will be released globally on December 8.
New Short Film, From The Village to The Basement Introduces Bob Dylan’s The Basement Tapes through a Time-lapse Road Trip narrated by Jeff Bridges. Available exclusively on Bob Dylan’s Official Facebook Page and BobDylan.com From The Village to The Basement compresses more than 12,000 photographs into an extended time-lapse tracking shot, opening on the sidewalk in front of the Washington Square Hotel in Greenwich Village, moving northward through upstate New York, and finally pulling into the driveway of Big Pink, where The Basement Tapes were famously recorded in 1967. Following the route traveled by Dylan and The Band from Manhattan to the West Saugerties on their way to Big Pink, From The Village to The Basement is a virtual road trip with narrator Jeff Bridges serving as tour guide, recounting the history and mystery of The Basement Tapes, their influence on American music and the bootleg culture these recordings launched.
The 2015 Grammy Award nominations in 83 categories were announced recently http://www.grammy.com/nominees. Congratulations to these artists for their nominations:
- Best Rock Album – Songs of Innocence – U2
- Best Rap Performance – “All I Need is You” – Lecrae
- Best Country Solo Performance – “Something in the Water” – Carrie Underwood
- Best Contemporary Christian Music Performance/Song – “Messengers” – Lecrae featuring King & Country
- Best Contemporary Christian Music Performance/Song – “Come as Your Are” – Crowder
- Best Contemporary Christian Music Performance/Song – “Multiplied” – NEEDTOBREATHE
- Best American Roots Song – “Terms of My Surrender” – John Hiatt
- Best Americana Album – Terms of My Surrender – John Hiatt
- Best Comedy Album – Obsessed – Jim Gaffigan
Check out Gawvi’s remixes of Trip Lee’s “Lazarus” and “Sweet Victory” http://www.gawvi.com/remix-tracks/ and also this dance video to Trip Lee’s “Manola” from Keone Madrid.
Lecrae hosts “Hope for the City” event in St. Louis December 13. He will be joined by Derek Minor, Propopaganda, J.R. , Flame and Thi’sl.
Powerful New Trip Lee Song Inspired by recent events. Listen to “Coulda Been Me” here (http://builttobrag.com/coulda-been-me/) and see the lyrics to the song below:
Don’t nobody wanna hear our pain
That’s how I’m feeling when I’m flipping through them twitter comments, all I feel is rain
They telling me get over it’s old
That stuff don’t exist no more
But that don’t ring true when I look in these streets
So it’s real when I feel like it coulda been me
Man can I tell you how I’m feeling right now
Ah they wanna know how I’m feeling right now
I feel like it coulda been me
I feel like it coulda been me
We all made in God’s image you know
All our lives matter, our vision is broke
We feel pain cause we been here before
Who’s innocent I don’t know
But it coulda been me
I feel like it coulda been me
I didn’t know Mike Brown
I ain’t know Trayvon
I didn’t know Sean Bell
But I know they gone
I ain’t know Oscar Grant or Tamir Rice
I didn’t know Eric Garner
But I know they life
Is worth more than they saying on the tv screen
I hate I got a long list, you finna see me scream
Cause I feel like they don’t see we kings
Made to rule like Him, they think we needy fiends
I wasn’t there when they shot at the man
I can’t solve cases, won’t say that I can
But I do know life as a young black man
Guess I can’t be mad that some don’t understand
But maybe you would
If you looked at my life and you stood where I stood
Use my eyes to look at these streets
It’s too real when I feel like it coulda been me
Man can I tell you how I’m feeling right now
Ah they wanna know how I’m feeling right now
I feel like it coulda been me
I feel like it coulda been me
Picture me as a teen
Picking out drinks in the store when I seen
The cashier looking at me, then he screams
Points at my hip and tells me I’m seen
But hold up, I ain’t know that I was that scary
And I ain’t know that I could shoot you with a blackberry
Very odd, that he saw me as a thug
When I’d never caught a case, never stole or bought drugs
Or how bout the time that I flew to a show
Full of joy, finna rap for a room full of folks
Outside then I find it’s a gun in my face
Handcuffs on my hands, pat down at the waist
It’s the same ol, same ol
I fit the description of a criminal that they know
They showed me picture, come on
Are you kidding? We don’t look a like
Well the cops thought we did if you looking right
Every black man I know
Got stories like those, reaping what they ain’t sow
When they assume you a thug from the jump
It don’t matter if you strapped with a pump
Look I don’t know if Mike Brown had his hands up
But I’m writing saying homie I’ma stand up
And I’ma tell you I feel I look in these streets
And say it’s real when I feel like it coulda been me
Skies feeling grey, eyes red
Black and white clash, clouds over head
How long till they heard what we said
How long till they hear what I said?
Shout out to all the good cops
Fighting bad guys, making good stops
I hate that on the hood blocks
In the end they might try to lump you in with all the crooks
I wanna say to all my young black men
I know it’s feeling like we just can’t win
But in your anger don’t sin
Don’t affirm what they thinking
Don’t let nobody tell us we ain’t got worth
Some will try to shut us down it will not work
I know it ain’t fair, but we know that He cares
And one day he’ll wipe away tears
Where’s your hope at? Mine is in him
Where is your hope at? Mine is in him
We got work to do, but my hope is in him
They got work to do too, but my hope is in him
Chicago Bulls superstar Derrick Rose wore an “I Can’t Breathe” t-shirt in warm-up before the Bulls Game with the Warriors on Saturday in Chicago.
I Can’t Breathe, But I Must Write. David Murray’s take on the Eric Garner decision.
A United Evangelical Response: The System Failed Eric Garner. What pastors, professors, and others are saying about the grand jury’s decision not to indict.
A Conversation with Lecrae, Voddie, and Others on Ferguson. Watch this conversation with Lecrae, Voddie Baucham, Phillip Holmes, James White, and B.J. Thompson on Ferguson, the gospel, the church, and the culture.
This cartoon from World Magazine resonated with me this week.
What ever happened to Rob Bell? Sarah Pulliam Bailey brings us up to date with Rob Bell, who eight years ago the Chicago Sun-Times wondered might be the next Billy Graham.
Brian Williams’ Slow Jam. Did you see Brian Williams join Jimmy Fallon and the Roots on The Tonight Show for a Slow Jam on President Obama’s recent Executive Order on Immigration?
Curt Schilling, ESPN’s Law, and evolution. Interesting story about the response to a tweet of former major league baseball player and believer Curt Schilling.
THEOLOGY AND CHRISTIAN LIVING:
A Prayer for Filling Our Hearts with Jesus–the Lord of Advent. Scotty Smith prays: “Dear Lord Jesus, knowing that it’s possible to “do Christmas” and miss Advent, today I want to fill my heart, as full as possible, with you. You are the One who has come and is coming again. Isaiah’s words fuel my worship and shrink my worries.”
Take a Break from the Chaos. David Mathis of Desiring God writes: You need a break from the chaos, from the noise and the crowds, more than you may think at first. You need the spiritual disciplines of silence and solitude.”
Four Impulses at the Heart of Desiring God. John Piper marvels at the existence of Desiring God ministries, now 20 years old.
Joy Is Free, But Not Cheap. Enjoy this three-minute video from John Piper on what the Desiring God ministry offers free, and encouraging people to partner with the ministry.
The State of Theology: The Good Book. Stephen Nichols continues his analysis of a recent major study on theology in America, this time looking at the Bible. He writes “American Christians have Bibles. We tend to have even more than 4.7 (the number per household). Do we read them? Do we cling to our Bibles as the authoritative and true Word of God to us? Do we obey and follow what we read? The answers to these questions make all the difference in the world.
5 Ugly Qualities of the Anti-Elder. As an Elder in my church, I found this article from Tim Challies of great interest
The Practice of Putting Sin to Death. Tim Challies continues his excellent series on John Owens’ book Overcoming Sin and Temptation. He writes that Owens’ has only two broad instructions: Put your faith in Christ, and rely on the power of the Holy Spirit.
When Do You Leave a Church? Jeff Robinson writes “There are certainly legitimate reasons to leave a church and sadly, it sometimes becomes necessary or even a duty to find a more biblically faithful body.”
Why the Church Needs a New Approach for Addressing Homosexuality. Eric Metaxas writes “Sixty percent of all Americans now live in a state in which marriage has been redefined to allow same-sex couples to “marry.” So should Christians give up, go home, and move on to another issue? Absolutely not. While the public policy issue may be largely settled, the matter of how the church should interact with gays—especially gay Christians—is far from settled. And on that subject, one Christian leader says we have a lot of repair work to do.”
Two Enemies of Determination. Darrin Patrick writes “In Jesus, we have the model of a determined man. He pressed on in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles. He resisted comfort and approval, knowing what was at stake in his failure. He endured great suffering and shame because he had a greater joy.”
Think the “Emergent Church” was Ineffective? Think again. Chelsen Vicar writes “Brian McLaren is right. The “emergent church” movement is growing. Not as a collective group, but as a savvy, scattered chain ever-present in the fiber of the Church.
The Importance of Hell. Tim Keller offers four reasons in this article.
The frightening side of Advent: Bonhoeffer’s Christmas sermons. Jeff K. Walters shares observations from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Christmas Sermons, preached between 1928 and his death in 1945.
My good friend Aaron, who works where I do and is also a local pastor, has written a Christmas poem for several years. Here’s his poem for this year:
Joy unto us the angels did sing
Joy unto us our savior was born king
Joy unto us a gift was given
Joy unto us a tree was slain
Joy unto us on the tree – our Lord and savior hang
Joy unto us the angel did say – he is Risen no longer he lay
Joy unto us the message must ring on and on
Joy unto you this Christmas season for only Jesus is our reason to have hope and holiday cheer
LUKE 2: 1 – 20
Visions of Vocation: Common Grace for the Common Good by Steven Garber.
Steve Garber was the speaker at my Covenant Seminary graduation in May. Tammy and I have been reading his book Visions of Vocation: Common Grace for the Common Good. This week we look at chapter 7 The Great Temptations.
- It is surprising that the promise of more knowledge—to know as God knows, in the words of the tempter—had the bitter fruit of anguish and shame.
- From that first temptation on, human beings have responded in countless ways to the same question: What will you do with what you know? Or to put it another way, Knowing what you know, how will you respond?
- We do not want knowing to necessarily mean caring. Not because we are morally misanthropic, but simply because the one who knows the most mourns the deepest. More knowledge often means more pain.
- Both offer a way to know that allow us to keep our eyes open, seeing things as they “really” are, but not requiring that we get so close that we are hurt by what we know. We have called these responses stoicism and cynicism. Both are ways to know that do not ask us to get too close to what we know; they allow us to protect ourselves from knowing too much, and therefore from caring too much.
- While I understand that there are horrors and heartaches that are beyond what anyone wants or imagines, it does not make a good life to think that we can have knowledge without responsibility, that we can know but not have to care.
- While there are honest joys every day, if one has eyes to see, there are also honest sorrows too, if one has eyes to see. What we do with the two realities is what distinguishes us, and is what is distinctive about different religious visions.
- Every account of human life, from varieties of theism to varieties of pantheism to varieties of materialism, has a vision of the human person at its heart—what is often called a telos. We believe certain things to be true of us as individuals, and true of human beings, and we live in that light. But we do not only live in that light, we theorize and imagine in that light as well. We develop economic and political visions, and we create artistic artifacts—sculpture, paintings, novels, poetry, music, theater and film—that resonate with what we believe to be true of human beings, in light of the telos that shapes our understanding of what is real and true and right.
- We know pathos, empathy, sympathy, passion and compassion, for example. Each of those words grows out of some effort to make sense of life, of a life where things are often not as they are supposed to be, where in fact there is disappointment, heartbreak and injustice. Knowing the world to be this way, knowing our experience to be this way, what will we do? How will we respond?
- Knowing that does not require one to respond. One knows, but does not have to step in. One knows, but does not have to be implicated. It is important to note that Stoicism is not malicious with its intentional indifference, but its willingness to look away at critical points is a problem for a good life and a good society.
- The great Hebrew scholar Abraham Heschel, in his magisterial study The Prophets, argues that the prophetic tradition as a whole was a response to the stoicism of their time, whether that was formally taught and debated, or was more street-level assumptions by ordinary people living ordinary lives.
- God hears and responds to what he hears, that he sees and acts on what he sees. Not an unmoved mover, but the one who knows and who feels what he knows.
- Another twentieth-century scholar, Benjamin B. Warfield of Princeton, intriguingly argues that the Gospels were a response to the stoicism of their time.
- Jesus’ response to the death of his friend was a million miles from the Stoic apatheia.
- Again, if there has not been an incarnation, a moment in human history when God shows that we can know and still love, then stoicism seems a very good answer to a very hard question: Knowing the hurt of life, what are you going to do?
- Living in Washington, D.C., for many years now, I have come to the conclusion that while the world at large may criticize the city for its hubris, “the Beltway mentality” and all, the reality is that the city is cynical.
- But the question which was first asked in the Garden, primordial and perennial as it was, is asked again of everyone who comes to town: Knowing what you know, what are you going to do?
- One of the best chroniclers of contemporary geo-politics is the British novelist John Le Carré. Le Carré is a master story-teller, seeing the evil of the human heart played out in public and political arenas—and he expects his readers to come to the same conclusion that he has. In a word, he is a cynic—about individuals and institutions, about persons and polities, about anyone and anything that has to do with power and money. And why not? There many good reasons to be cynical.
- “Life is good,” the T-shirts promise, and we buy them by the truckload. Well, sometimes in some places, but not very often in the massive ghettoes of Nairobi, which is where Le Carré takes us in The Constant Gardner.
- But there are exceptions. And it is here that Le Carré’s cynicism is more a protection of his heart than a truthful account of the heart. Whether conscious or not, intentional or not, the temptation to cynicism is always a way of keeping one’s heart from being wounded, again.
- There is much to be cynical about—and it is a good answer if there has not been an incarnation. But if that has happened, if the Word did become flesh, and if there are men and women who in and through their own vocations imitate the vocation of God, then sometimes and in some places the world becomes something more like the way it ought to be.
- Over twenty years ago, Mark Rodgers and I decided to be neighbors, remembering the credo of the Clapham community in London two hundred years ago: “Choose a neighbor before you choose a house.”
- There is nothing romantic about trying to do the right thing and feeling the indifference of those you work and live with.
- Can we know the world and still love the world? Can we know the messes of the world and still work on them because we want to, because we see ourselves as responsible, for love’s sake? Sometimes some people make that choice, like Mark has, and always it is a vocation in imitation of a vocation.
- At our best and truest, we stand in the long line of those who remember the profound insight of Thomas à Kempis in calling us to “the imitation of Christ.” To choose to know, and still love, is costly; it was for God, and it is for us. In fact it is the most difficult task imaginable.
- God knows us and still loves us. That is the heart of the incarnation, and not surprisingly the heart of J. I. Packer’s contemporary classic, Knowing God. His vision has shaped my vision, not only of God, but of life.
- The incarnation is not a call to life in rose gardens, somehow closing our eyes to the terrors of this very wounded world.
- Strange grace that it is, sometimes people decide that their vocations are in fact to know the world and still love the world; in fact, sometimes there are people who know the worst about the world and still love it. Truth be told, mostly those people are unnoticed in this life. At the end of the day, we are ordinary people in ordinary places. The wisest ones have always known this, reminding us of this deeper, truer truth.
- And while we may not be weighed down with the questions What will I do today to stay free from stoicism? How will I steer clear of cynicism today? the reality is that if we are to keep our commitments, sticking with what we believe is important, we will have to have reasons that make sense of vocations that implicate us in the histories and complexities of our communities and societies. To see ourselves as responsible, for love’s sake, is both hard work and good work—and it cannot be done alone.
- Stretched taut between the Last Supper and the Great Supper—with an invitation from Jesus to eat together week by week until he comes again—our Vocares always involve a meal.
- Simply, he sees his work as imitating the incarnation; knowing the way banking more often than not is, he works for what can be because he believes in what ought to be.
- Why get involved? It is one thing to know about messes, but it is something else altogether to step into a mess. It is one thing to know about things being wrong, but it is something else altogether to decide that I am responsible to make it right.
- Knowing what I know, what will I do? There are people who see themselves implicated in the way the world is and ought to be. For love’s sake, they see themselves as responsible for the way the world turns out. Sometimes they are bankers, and sometimes they make hamburgers. But always and everywhere, they are people who have vocations in imitation of the vocation of God: knowing the worst about the world, and still loving the world. They are people who learn to live in the tension of life, living with what is and longing for what will be—keeping clear of the great temptations, for the sake of the world. Simply said, they become hints of hope.
- If you say: I believed in God, I trusted God, and He didn’t come through – You only trusted God to meet your agenda. -Tim Keller
- If you have only been born once you will die twice, but if you are born twice you will only die once. -Steven Lawson
- By God’s grace, seek to make your home the most encouraging place your family knows. -Scotty Smith
- We fall privately before we ever fall publicly. -RC Sproul
- The gospel is not about what we have done or are called to do, but the announcement of God’s saving work in Jesus Christ. -Michael Horton
- Great sins draw out great grace. Where guilt is most terrible and fierce, the mercy of God appears most high and mighty. -John Bunyan
- If you make the goal of your life just to stay alive, you’ll fail. If you make the goal of your life the kingdom, you cannot lose. -Kevin DeYoung
- Fundamentally, Reformed theology is theology founded on and fashioned by God’s Word. For it is God’s Word that forms our theology, and it is we who are reformed by that theology as we constantly return to God’s Word every day and in every generation. –Burk Parsons
- The people who have taught me the most about grace are those who have blown it so bad that they know how much they need it. -Tullian Tchividjian
- Come, thou long expected Jesus, born to set thy people free; from our fears and sins release us, let us find our rest in thee. -Charles Wesley
- Just because we don’t see a reason why God allows evil and suffering doesn’t mean there isn’t one. Christmas is God going into the darkness for you. -Tim Keller
Martin Luther’s View on Why Clarity of Scripture Matters for Vocation. Andrew Spencer writes “Given the connection between the clarity of Scripture and a return of the doctrine of vocation, it should come as no surprise that the development of the sacred/secular divide in vocation began with a drift in the understanding of the ability for all people to interpret Scripture.”
Non-Negotiables in Team Members. Dave Kraft shares seven non-negotiables he looks for.
The Basics of a Biblical Theology of Work. Enjoy this excerpt from Amy Sherman’s excellent book Kingdom Calling: Vocational Stewardship for the Common Good, which I read in my Calling, Vocation and Work class at Covenant Seminary.
Garbage Collecting for the Glory of God. Joseph Sunde writes “In a new video from The High Calling1, Howard Butt, Jr. shares the story of David Magallenez, a garbage man who daily serves the people of San Antonio by removing their trash, and does so with a happy heart.”
What are You Hiding at Work? Jen Sanbulte writes “We’ve all done it. We’ve gone to work and put on the mask, afraid to be at work who we are in Church on Sunday. We hesitate to give people glimpses into our real life and emotions, because it is messy. Instead, we hide. God called us to be light, but many have a hard time figuring out what that looks like at work. And if we’re honest, we all want to be viewed as professional, as good workers, as normal.”
Why are Working Women Starting to Unplug from Their Churches? Sandra Crawford Williamson shares four reasons that are given as to why working women are choosing to stay home from church.
How Your Own Jealousy Can Keep You from Progress. In this podcast, Andy Andrews talks about selfishness, and how it can keep you and everyone around you from growing.
Your work is not as important as you want it to be: Called by Mark Labberton. Marcus Goodyear writes “This little book calls the entire faith and work movement to task, reminding Christians to focus on the First Thing. My career, my success, and my productivity are not elements of my primary calling. A Christian’s calling is not a personal one, but a shared calling with other Christians to something very simple and straightforward: love God and love your neighbor.”
Four Ways Leaders Can Release Control, and Ultimately Thrive. Cole NeSmith shares four ways leaders can release control, and become the leaders we are created to be.
4 Leadership Lessons from a King Who Finished Poorly. One of our favorite bloggers Kevin Halloran writes that “Unfortunately, we don’t have to look far to see failure in leadership. All leaders need to know what God wants them to do and NOT do.” He states that “Like many kings mentioned in the Bible Jehu is a mixed bag. I don’t want to leave a legacy like that. Here are a few lessons I gleaned from Jehu:”
Vocation and Jobs. Dr. Frederick W. Schmidt, Jr. “Look for the vocation that is deeply rooted in your life, the way of being that expresses God’s calling on your life. Whatever happens, you are God’s gift to the world in the making. No job can give you that. No job can take it away.”
Reconciling the Call to be Productive with the Messiness of Life. Matt Perman writes “One of the difficulties in affirming that God calls us to be productive is that this can sometimes be mistaken to mean that there is always an easy solution to our productivity challenges. We can think that there is no place for messiness, difficulty, and even falling behind in the life of truly productive, God-honoring people.”
10 Commandments that Fix All Lousy Meetings. Poorly run meetings are one of my pet-peeves. I appreciated this article from Dan Rockwell.
When You Are in Between Jobs. Luke Murry writes “How we handle unemployment ourselves and how we counsel others going through unemployment are both excellent opportunities to bring glory to God’s name.”
New Faith and Work Study Bible. The Bible: Faith and Work Edition will be a unique and engaging combination of doctrine, application, and community that can find its home not only on your nightstand at home, but also on your desktop at work. Its goal is to equip Christians to meaningfully engage various aspects of their work—even those we might not even think could be relevant—with a renewed sense of the power and relevance of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Secrets Of The Most Productive People. Fast Company article in which as senator, a chef, four CEOs, and DJ superstar Diplo reveal how, exactly, they get the most out of their days.
Season of Ministry. A good reminder to be open for opportunities to minister to others we lead during this Christmas season:
‘God’s Will and Your Vocation’, an excellent devotion I recently read in Ligonier Ministries’ TableTalk Magazine.
Where Does Our Time at Work Go? Sue Shellenbarger writes “The causes of overload have long been suspected—email and meetings—but new techniques that analyze employees’ email headers and online calendars are helping employers pinpoint exactly which work groups impose the most on employees’ time.”
The Value of Leadership Fears. Glenn Brooke writes “All leaders face fears and suffer trials. There is a grander purpose at work.”
Faith and Work Book Clubs – Won’t you read along with us?
God at Work: Your Christian Vocation in All of Life by Gene Edward Veith Jr.
When we recently visited St. Andrews Chapel where R.C. Sproul is one of the pastors, this book was the church’s “Book of the Month”. I’m excited to read it. We’ll look at a chapter each week – won’t you read along with us? This week we cover Chapter 6: Your Calling in the Family.
What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done by Matt Perman
We continue our overview of this excellent new book on productivity from a Christian perspective. This week we look at Chapter 24: The Greatest Cause in the World Productivity, world missions, and how our faith relates to our work.