Preaching is both a high calling and a nearly impossible task. If you read the literature on preaching, you see that the pastor is somehow supposed to be (at least):
- a biblical scholar—mastering the original languages, exegesis, history, and biblical theology
- a theologian—well versed in both historical and systematic theology as well as the major philosophies and issues of the day
- a cultural anthropologist—exegeting the surrounding culture and the forces pressing on and shaping the church
- a communicator—crafting oral presentations that can present all of this to interested but often distracted listeners and
- a shepherd—knowing the flock well enough to know what they need to near now to continue growing as the people of God.
Good luck with that. Mastering one of those is difficult enough, but all five? And I’m sure we could easily make the list longer if we tried.
I am currently in denial that January is actually over already. Since my calendar insists that this is true, however, here are our top five posts from the last month. Now I’m going to go change the due dates on my to do list so that it looks like I’m actually staying on top of things.
- Alone, Yet Not Alone: There must be something legalistic in the human makeup, because cold, rigid, unambiguous, unparadoxical belief is common, especially considering how fervently the Scriptures oppose it. And yet there is a silent majority who experience a faith that is attractively marked by combinations of fervor and doubt, clarity and confusion, empathy and moral demand. (New York Times)
- Why I Love an Evening Service: Of all the casualties the church has suffered in recent decades, I wonder if many will have longer-lasting consequences than the loss of the evening service. (Tim Challies)
- In Defense of Atonement Theology: The most profound consideration of all is the identity of the one who makes atonement. A traditional Christology offers the strongest answer. A God who is not in Christ does little more than throw Jesus under the bus, but a God who is in Christ empties the self at the cross. This is an astounding proposition. (Christian Century)
- The U.S. Puts ‘Moderate’ Restrictions on Religious Freedom: Overall, Grim’s characterization of Pew’s research suggests that the “moderate” restrictions on religion in the U.S. aren’t primarily abridgments of freedom; they’re part of the complex puzzle of governing a pluralistic political community. The right to free exercise of religion may seem simple in principle, but in practice, it involves figuring out how one group’s rights intersect with another’s. (The Atlantic)
Just one more list before we close out 2013. I’ve already done my 10 Favorite Posts of 2013 and my Favorite Albums of 2013, so now we just need to wrap things up with my favorite books of the year. As usual, I’m not saying that these were the “best” books, just the ones that I particularly enjoyed.
You’ll also notice that a couple of these books were actually published in 2012. That means that were published so late in the year that I couldn’t include them on last year’s list. Rather than exclude them completely, then, they get grandfathered in for this year.
If you love books and know of some particularly good ones that you’d like to recommend in any of these categories, please don’t hesitate to let me know. I’m always in the market for more books.
Every year there are a few posts that stand out just because I enjoyed them. Either I had a great time writing it, or I thought the content was particularly valuable. Two of these also made the Top 10 Posts of 2013 list, but the rest are just my personal favorites for the year. So here they are in no particular order. Enjoy!
Two Are Better Than One: A Meditation in the Key of We (This one was actually a guest post from Sandra Richter.)