Small Group Resource Recommend

Desiring God Ministries (John Piper) have recently released the following trailer (below) to promote their small group ministry resources. I have read all but one of the books related to the respective curriculums and would highly recommend them for a gathering of serious Christians. But here’s my question: What would be the best dvd/book/study guide curriculum for someone who is very new to Christianity or very new to small group ministries? In my limited survey of available resources, there appears to be a gap between ALPHA (not a fan BTW) on the one hand, and these solid, discipleship-focused, resources on the other hand. Maybe I’m creating a false dichotomy here, but it does appear that even the Scriptures distinguish between two types of followers in terms of what, and how, they are instructed (Hebrews 5:11-14).

Any suggestions for me?

Check out the trailer.

Even The Hummingbirds Fight

One of my favourite things about sitting on the deck at my cottage is watching (and listening to) the hummingbirds. I’m pretty sure that I’m not the first person to respond to the elegance of this little bird by pausing to thank the Creator of all for this tiny gift of creation (they weigh less than a penny). But there I am, reflecting silently, ‘How beautiful!’, when another hummingbird flies by to bully the first one away from the feeder that I have set out for their eating pleasure. The pattern continues for several minutes. These cute little birds are quite literally at war in order to secure the premiere spot in the pecking order.

Some folks will note how normal this is. ‘Nature can be harsh,’ they’ll say. Anyone who has seen a few episodes of Planet Earth gets this (particularly if you’ve seen the episode which tracks two tribes of monkeys engaged in a territorial dispute). Yes, by every appearance, it is indeed a ‘dog eat dog world’ out there. This present reality is normal in the sense that what we currently observe is commonplace. I’m not the first person to have witnessed a fight between hummingbirds. I admit that what I saw while sitting on the deck at my cottage was not the least bit unique. And yet, as I survey the Scripture I get the distinct sense that our current reality, our present day normal, isn’t what God intends.

Read the opening chapters of Genesis and we find man procuring his meals from fruit trees, while animals are presented as prospective helpers. The introduction of death of any kind is portrayed in direct relation to man’s ‘fall’ into sin (see Genesis 3). While I concede that consuming Certified Angus Beef is something I like immensely, I also get that our current experience of the ‘food chain’ was not God’s initial design…nor is it His ultimate design. ‘The way things are’ is not an accurate reflection of what life is meant to be. The persistence of conflict (‘natural’ and otherwise) and the harsh sting of death ought not to lead us to despair, but rather, it should produce a longing within each of us for a better way, a better world, and a better ‘reality’.

I am delighted to report that the Bible promises as much. Beyond the redemption of individual persons, the Scriptures speak also of the more thorough redemption of creation. The prophet Isaiah foretells of a day when ‘The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them’ (Isaiah 11:6). Similarly, the apostle John describes his vision of ‘a new heaven and a new earth’, a place where ‘there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain’ (Revelation 21:1-5).

How this specifically translates in eternity isn’t all that important to me. I am encouraged, however, to learn that the conflict and death that bothers me today will be entirely absent in glory. I am so encouraged to read that Christ’s death not only reconciled me to my Creator, but it reconciled ‘all things on earth and in heaven’ (Colossians 1:20).

This is the way it was meant to be from the beginning. Thankfully, someday, this will be reality.

Surgery For My Soul

Books can do many things…Books can entertain, provoke, and educate us. For me, the true measure of a book is in its ability to promote change in my life. Respectable Sins, written by Jerry Bridges, is one of those rare finds. Having just finished reading Respectable Sins, Beyond Opinion (Ravi Zacharias), and The Shaping Of Things To Come (Hirsch/Frost), Bridges’ book captivated me through his ability to shine a light on sins that I had largely ceased attempting to mortify.

The title, Respectable Sins, has a ‘tongue in cheek’ ring to it. There is nothing ‘respectable’ about the sins identified in Bridges book. Appropriately then, the book’s subtitle captures the author’s goal: Confronting The Sins We Tolerate.

Well said.

I lament to confess that it is true in my life. To a large degree, I have spent much of my energy averting the ‘big sins’, actions which would call into question my integrity as a Christian and as a minister of the Gospel. Bridges’ book prompts a more thorough inspection of both our habits and that which motivates our behaviours.

Bridges masterfully connects biblical exhortations with everyday circumstances and human tendencies and, with a most humble tone, challenges us to give due attention to a myriad of sins which have become largely tolerated, if not altogether accepted, in many Christian communities.

Some examples from his book: anxiety, discontentment, pride, irritability, envy, and gossip.

Ouch…ouch…double ouch.

Bridges’ book felt like surgery for my soul. With each chapter I felt the sting of conviction as Bridges brought to the surface attitudes and behaviours that were dishonouring to God and yet still very present in my life. Thankfully, surgery does not bring pain for pain’s sake. Surgery’s aim is to promote a healing transformation. Mercifully, this was my experience as I read Respectable Sins. Rather than despair at the reminder of what remains deficient in regard to my daily conduct, Bridges reminded me of the Divine resources available–resources designed to gradually mortify these inappropriate ways and make me live increasingly more like my Saviour.

To some, reading a book about sin might seem morbid. I, too, prefer to focus on what is positive, rather than what is negative. At first, my mind goes to what Paul told the Philippians, “forget what lies behind and strain towards what lies ahead” (Philippians 3:13). One might read that verse and think, ‘Never mind what I’ve been like. Thinking about all this sin is going to distract me from getting on in the journey towards Christ-likeness.’

Not at all.

Perhaps picking up on Paul’s metaphor of the race, the author of Hebrews exhorts us more specifically: “let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Hebrews 12:1).

Jerry Bridges’ Respectable Sins is one of the most balanced, biblical, and humbly delivered resources that I can recommend to a follower of Christ who is serious about making progress in “the race marked out for us”.

If you have read this book, I’d love to have you add your feedback to the Comments section.