Living This Christian Life 🤴👸
In this short video (the last few minutes are just an update on his future online ministry plans), Pastor and Theologian Gavin Ortlund talks about the medieval view of friendship, focusing on Saint Anselm, and how different it is from our own.
The modern west, even the church, is facing an epidemic of loneliness, and Ortlund explains what the medieval church can teach us about friendship in Christ. It’s excellent.
Family Focus 🏡
I’d like you to consider approaching this Christmas a little more like your family is going to see everything for the first time. They are probably familiar with it, and your neighbors probably are too, but I want you to consider that most of us, like it or not, are so used to the consumerist Santa-centric celebrations that a distinctly Christian celebration—a truly Christ-centered holiday season—could be a real shift from what they expect. And it would be greater in all the best ways!
You may already have implemented some of Griffin’s suggestions, but some may be new to you. I’d like to highlight just a few.
2. Start four weeks early!
Christians have a whole season leading up to Christmas called Advent. You might have grown up in a church that practiced this, but if you didn’t, Advent is a great opportunity to lead your family in considering the waiting of humanity for Christ to be born. It is also a great season to teach how we now are waiting for Christ to come back again.
There are a lot of Advent resources available. There are calendars and devotionals and various Advent themed story books all designed to help your family consider what it means to wait on the Lord and be ready for his coming again.
I discovered advent as an adult and it’s been a blessing to my family to find advent resources to celebrate the coming of Jesus not just on one or two days, but for the whole advent season of the historical church calendar.
4. Confront consumerism.
Do not make Christmas about getting presents. It is worth repeating, do not let Christmas in your house be about getting presents! If shopping is the priority and “getting” is the goal, then you’ll miss an opportunity to do what Christ trained his disciples to do. Be counter cultural in the most generous and godly ways.
The incarnation should be the center of what we are doing. God did not send his Son so that we’d have an excuse to make a list of the things we want. Jesus was not born poor to a dejected and oppressed people so that we could have a reason to celebrate our lack of poverty.
It’s so easy to think of the holiday, the food, and the presents first. Remember to keep Christ first in your heart and actions this season.
6. Bury your hatchets.
Christmas is a great time to work on reconciling with family members. Whether it is a time of repentance needed in your immediate family or a conversation with distant relatives with whom you’ve had conflict, Christmas is the perfect time to give the gift of forgiveness or ask to receive it yourself.
Everyone’s family has its own unique brand of dysfunction. Let a time of focus on Christ be when you demonstrate that we want to have our transgressions forgiven as we forgive those who transgress against us.
Read and Reflect 📖
Adoration, the offering of worshipful praise, is widely recognized as a key element of prayer. But arguably, it is the aspect of prayer we are quickest to neglect or rush by.
When we pray, no one needs to remind us to prioritize making our requests known to God. Like kudzu, our requests tend to take over our prayers, with a little thanksgiving and confession fighting for sunlight here and there. But our adoration is often abbreviated to an opening statement like, “Lord, you are holy. We praise your name.” It’s more salutation than adoration, a quick hello before we are off to the real business of asking.
What if we savored adoration the way we savor it at a celebratory meal? What if we paused long enough to let it grow high and long, wide and deep? At a birthday dinner, no one follows up their praise of the honoree with requests or confessions. Adoration holds the full agenda, as it should. So here’s a thought: What if we sometimes prayed prayers that did nothing but adore?
This is certainly true of me. Wilken continues by giving us three things we should remember about prayers of adoration to God, but you’ll have to read the article to find out.
Listen and Learn 🎧
In the next of this issue’s links on social media and loneliness, Paul Tripp writes about how social media has changed us and normalized the abnormal.
If you spend any time on social media, you know how toxic that environment can be.
Every day it seems like someone is being canceled, controversies abound, and trolls run rampant. Seemingly normal men and women, Christian men and women, hurl insults and accusations at one another. What's going on? Where is all this anger division and mockery coming from, and what does it say about our heart?
In our interview today, Paul Trip discussed how we, as God's people should think about the reactive culture in which we live and how to make sure that we're not part of the problem.
As is usual for Paul Tripp, the interview is excellent. The ways we form our hearts have been influential in Christian thought for thousands of years. Yet so many people, Christians and not alike, are allowing social media’s algorithms to form their hearts in ways that society is now seeing as unhealthy. A large part of that is what Tripp looks at here: social media invites us to be reactive.
- Article Transcript 📃
- Reactivity: How the Gospel Transforms our Actions and Reactions | Paul Tripp 📚 (Affiliate Link)
Explore the Scriptures 📖
[The tabernacle] flips a well-known Christian phrase that is a dangerous half-truth, which is that God can’t have anything to do with sin, or sin cannot be in the presence of God. The tabernacle actually turns that over and says, “No, God’s purpose is to live among his people.” That means God moves into sin. God stakes out a claim in the region of sin and dedicates it and redeems it by his holy presence.
I've found that many Christians have a fascination with the Tabernacle, its purpose, and its design. This podcast is one of the best I've seen at explaining those things. The two podcasts after this one in their Exodus series also deal with these topics.
This is completely optional, and everything that is currently free will continue to be free. Thank you for reading The Garden Weekly.
Consider Another Perspective 🤔
Christ tells us we’re the salt and light here on earth (Matt. 5:13–16). But, as those verses also say, salt that has lost its taste is worthless, and a light is meant to be used, not hidden. Similarly, our social media profiles and interactions should shine Christ’s light into the lives of others as well as increase its strength in our own lives and preserve our saltiness. One important way we can do this is by following Paul’s command in Philippians 4:8 to think of things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise. This verse should be our guidebook not just to what we consume on social media but to what things we post and how we interact with others’ posts.
One of the reasons for our epidemic of loneliness is social media. We are more connected than ever (Hello from Michigan!) yet we have never been more apart. We interact through screens more than ever, but never less so in person. We treat people on social media in ways that we would not treat people face-to-face.
Tosh invites us to apply scripture to our social media profiles. Our social media interactions should be born from hearts changed by the Gospel and transfixed by God’s beauty.
Best with a Cup of Tea ☕️
One last link about how our interactions with others have changed. We no longer pursue eating and drinking around the table as generations in the past often did. Jesus often used food, drink, and conversation as a tool to invest himself in others and connect with them.
Food matters. Meals matter. Meals are full of significance. “Few acts are more expressive of companionship than the shared meal. …Someone with whom we share food is likely to be our friend, or well on the way to becoming one.”
How would you complete the sentence: “The Son of Man came…”? The Son of Man came…preaching the Word…to establish the kingdom of God…to die on the cross.
Perhaps the question is more revealing if we make it, “We should go…”? We should go…campaign for political change…preach on street corners…make the most of new media…adapt to the culture we want to reach.
There are three ways the New Testament completes the sentence, “The Son of Man came…” “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45); “The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10); “The Son of Man has come eating and drinking…” (Luke 7:34).
The first two are statements of purpose. Why did Jesus come? He came to serve, to give his life as a ransom, to seek and save the lost. The third is a statement of method. How did Jesus come? He came eating and drinking.
Chester lists Jesus' nine meals with people in the book of Luke alone. Then he makes his main point.
Jesus is called “a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.” This is why eating and drinking were so important in the mission of Jesus: they were a sign of his friendship with tax collectors and sinners. His “excess” of food and “excess” of grace are linked. In the ministry of Jesus, meals were enacted grace, community, and mission.
So the meals of Jesus represent something bigger. They represent a new world, a new kingdom, a new outlook. But they give that new reality substance. Jesus’s meals are not just symbols; they’re also application. They’re not just pictures; they’re the real thing in miniature. Food is stuff. It’s not ideas. It’s not theories. It’s, well, it’s food, and you put it in your mouth, taste it, and eat it. And meals are more than food. They’re social occasions. They represent friendship, community, and welcome.
I don’t want to reduce church and mission to meals, but I do want to argue that meals should be an integral and significant part of our shared life.
If you’re trying to think of practical ways to connect with others and combat loneliness, look no further than the table. Invite an acquaintance to lunch or dinner at home or a restaurant, whatever you can afford. It’s one guaranteed way to get to know people. If you feel daunted or pressured, that’s not my goal. My goal is to show you a possible path to deeper connections with family, friends, potential friends, or even the lost.
Keep Your Mind on Things Above
I will be praying for you this week.
Summoning the crowd, he told them, “Listen and understand: It’s not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth — this defiles a person.”
— Matthew 15:10–11 (CSB)