Off the Shelf: 2015 Review

It’s been an interesting year, has it not? Many things have changed within our society at large and across the ever globalized network of nations which we live amongst. We have witnessed the atrocities of IS in the Middle East, executing people at will and eradicating priceless historical sites and artifacts. We have also seen key “leaders” in churches proactively denying the cross of Jesus and his atonement as the centre point of the biblical gospel. But its not all bad, doom and gloom. We have also seen times of celebration and rejoicing. The 150th anniversary of OMF and its work to tell others about Jesus in East Asia was very special. There was also the return of Star Wars to the big screen causing my inner child great excitement as the force was awakened once again. Another note of great joy for me has been the return to form of BVB 09; Dortmund once again proving to be a force in the Bundesliga after a poor run last season.

Here is my contribution and the things which have influenced me most during the last 12 months; this is my 2015. 

Books (theology)

It is tough to narrow this down to only a few as all of the books I have been able to read this year have, in some way, contributed to a better understanding of what God has done for me in Jesus.

  1. Old Testament Ethics for the People of God (2004) by Chris Wright – I first came across his work in my biblical theology of mission class at college and since then I have always found his work stimulating and practically applicable. This volume in particular is to be praised for the way it highlights the connections between God, Israel and the Land and how these transfer into broader application within the church; namely the theological angle, the social angle and the economic angle. This lens is then used to look at various subjects such as, poverty, nationhood and ecology.
  2. On Giants’ Shoulders: Bringing new life to Japan (2002) by Patrick McElligott – I can’t remember whether it was Phil or Cath Steed who gave this particular book to me but it certainly was one of my favourites this year. As an autobiography it charts the life of Patrick growing up in inner city London and journeying on to Japan to serve Christ. Through many high’s and low’s we see that God is faithful.
  3. Mark: Expository thoughts on the Gospels (1857; 2012) by J.C. Ryle – Starting a news series of bible talks is always exciting as well as daunting. Thankfully there are many who have gone that way before me though and Ryle’s insights into Mark’s call to discipleship have been refreshing to me. You can see his heart to pastor people shining through as he exhorts and encourages us to follow Jesus.
  4. Against All Odds: God at work in an impossible situation (2007) by Elizabeth Goldsmith – Having been forced out of China in the middle of the 20th C OMF faced a big challenge. Serving the Chinese while not being permitted in China. In the midst of difficult and uncertain times work was established in Malaysia and this book records much of what took place during this period of transition. It was inspiring to see the different ways that God used people to continue his work of drawing people to himself.

Books (other)

There are a couple which come to mind  one of which became very helpful during this last year.

  1. Haynes service and repairs manual for Ford Focus 2001 to 2005 – What a helpful book this proved to be! A quick PDF viewer search and everything was made a lot easier when trying to repair the clutch pedal. Sadly the car didn’t make it through the MOT with numerous faults that were beyond my experience to fix. So raise your glasses for KJ52VZM, you served us well.
  2. Cities in Civilisation (1998) by Sir Peter Hall – This is really a cheat as I am still reading it. However what I have read so far has been very interesting looking at the concepts and underlying structures which come together to form important cultural hubs.

Videos 

We all see lots of videos everyday, especially on Facebook. Here are two of the best that I have seen this year.

  1. No regrets, No retreat: Brighton beach – To celebrate the 150th anniversary of OMF, Tim Keessee produced an excellent intro of how the organisation started –
  2. Patagonia – A stunning short film documenting (in timelapse) the beauty of this vast region in South America. It reminded me of how small I am and how vast and glorious God is.

Films 

We always tend to be catching up on what everyone else has seen and this year has been no different.

  1. Paddington – This was an excellent film. What’s more we even went to see it in the cinema. After a cold walk through a hailstorm we enjoyed the antics of everyone’s favourite bear from darkest Peru. One of the reasons that I liked this so much is because it was just a nice film. It wasn’t trying to be flashy.
  2.  The Hunger Games (1-3) – Spending some time away on the Isle of Skye gave us ample time to watch the first three hunger games films (still haven’t seen the last one). They were well written discussing important themes. I think they work particularly well because we always want to see someone fight to liberate the people who cannot free themselves.
  3. Star Wars: The Force Awakens – As I said earlier, I was super excited about this! And I was not disappointed, the story was good and the filming by Abrams was excellent. There could have been more development of the characters I feel, but no doubt this will happen in episode VIII.

Sport 

2015 has seen some great sporting action and some of my favourites have done well throughout the year.

  1. Chelsea – From winning the league to sacking the special one, it has been interesting to say the least. Onwards and upwards for next season.
  2. Davis Cup – Team GB winning the Davis cup was great to watch. Andy Murray sealed it in style with his signature lob. Click here
  3. Lewis the III and a poor Mclaren – My favourite team took a beating this year with both drivers making sure that everyone knew about how bad the car was. However I was helped along the way with the fact that Lewis Hamilton took his 3rd Drivers Championship. Click here
  4. Usain Bolt beating Justin Gatlin – When we were watching this the atmosphere was tense. We all wanted to see Bolt win because it would have been tragic if Gatlin had taken the title. Click here

Praise and Worship 

Certain messages or songs have been very pertinent to both of us during this year as we have been seeking God’s leading in our life.

  1. The plundering of property and the power of hope – We listened to this together one evening and to say that it was a challenge is an understatement. But on the other hand it was one of the most encouraging messages we have heard together this year. To listen click here 
  2. Adore – Chris Tomlin’s new album based around songs for Christmas was very good with many of the tracks helping to focus our minds on the real reason for the celebration. In particular the song he shall reign forevermore was excellent. Often we forget this crucial aspect of the faith that he is reigning right now and he will reign forever.
  3. Lessons from a life of pastoral ministry – After many years of pastoral ministry Sinclair Ferguson’s advice to a young, naive pastor like myself were both helpful and humbling. Well worth listening to. To listen click here 

Book of the Bible 

I was sharing with a couple of friends the other day about this very topic and I was telling them that the book of Ezekiel has been very much at the forefront of my mind this year. The way that God sustains Ezekiel even in declining times, gives him a difficult message to take to the people but still it is shot through with the great theme of gracious redemption (18:30-32, 36:1-37). He desire that his people will turn and find in him the fullness of joy and in doing so the meaning and purpose for their existence.

Well these have been some of the things which have helped to shape my year. Hope that you have enjoyed having a look through some of them. Here’s to 2016 and may the Lord bless you and keep you, and give you peace for whatever lies ahead.

 

 

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