2022 In Review
As we start 2023, I’d like to briefly reflect on the last year of ministry through The Garden Weekly. This is a unique ministry, it highlights the works of Christians who are creating videos, podcasts, and articles that will challenge and encourage you in your walk with Christ. The goal of this ministry is to help others help you be challenged, and therefore grow, in your faith.
I’m incredibly grateful for how this ministry has grown this year. On January 1, 2022, The Garden Weekly had 201 subscribers. The Garden Weekly now has 1,314 subscribers. That growth is incredible, and I hope that the more than 1,000 people who have joined this year have found this publication helpful. All glory be to God!
I’m so grateful for each of you who read The Garden Weekly. If you’ve found the ministry helpful and have the means, please do consider supporting the ministry. I know the ministry isn’t the most extravagant, but publishing through e-mail does have its costs, and it would be most appreciated.
Things You Can Pray About
- That this ministry continues to grow and people are discipled to Christ through it.
- That we continue to grow spiritually and that God is manifest in our personal lives and communities.
The Top Seven of the Year
A few notes on this top seven (+ five honorable mentions) list. First, this is a top seven list of content shared by the Garden Weekly this year, not a top seven list of content that was created this year.
Second, this was not the “most clicked on” or “most popular” content. This is a list of seven pieces of content that I’ve continued to find important or relevant, or that I keep thinking about or coming back to. This is a “most impactful” list, in many ways.
If you missed any of these, I can’t recommend taking the time to read, listen, and watch these seven pieces and meditate on them.
From Issue #88
Few issues have divided the church in recent years more than the topic of race and justice. Even if there is agreement that injustice and systemic racism still exist, approaches to address these issues sharply divide many Christians. For churches and Christians who believe silence and apathy are not biblical options on this topic, but who are confused and frustrated about the best way forward, what should they consider? What are the best things Christians and churches can do to help bring necessary change?
These and related questions are addressed in this debate between Brian Davis and Justin Giboney. Davis and Giboney share their respective arguments and engage in a discussion moderated by Jim Davis, teaching pastor at Orlando Grace Church.
From Issue #91
In sum, in a way that is incredibly freeing (if quite foreign) to contemporary American Christians (myself included), many of whom have entered the Advent season as members of what David French calls an “exhausted majority” (found across the political spectrum), the Advent story looks at political power…and yawns. In the Kingdom of God the currency of political power has a value almost akin to the currency of Monopoly money: it fulfills a humble and divinely ordained role to be sure, but it can fool its owner into believing that it has a potency and permanence that it simply doesn’t.
Apparently, the awesome political power of a Caesar Augustus or Herod the Great just isn’t that great. But we American Christians (across the political spectrum) all too often seem to join our culture in wanting to make political power great again. Why?
This is completely optional, and everything that is currently free will continue to be free. Thank you for reading The Garden Weekly.
Telling the Truth about Christian Institutional Sin | Nancy French, David French, and Curtis Chang 🎧 →
From Issue #69
Many evangelical institutions have recently reckoned with similar abuses (such as Ravi Zacharias Ministries and the Southern Baptist Convention), and that leads to the question: why does this keep happening? And why are so many people and institutions so eager to downplay abuse in order to protect the institutions? Does Jesus need our institutions?
From Issue #53
Now let’s filter that natural inclination to trust or follow people whom God in His mercy has used to bless our lives through our fallen nature and our fallen times. At the risk of oversimplification, I tend to see the same roughly three-step pattern repeat itself time and time again.
Step one is already outlined. It’s the leap from receiving a benefit or blessing through a person to granting them excessive appreciation or loyalty. A sure sign of excessive loyalty is extending trust to a man or a woman in a way that you wouldn’t extend it to anyone else.
Step two is when the personal becomes tribal. The leader becomes an avatar, a representative of us and our community. The difference from step one can be subtle, but it’s still profound. It’s the turn from saying, “I have loyalty because I’m grateful to this man” to “I have loyalty because he represents me.”
A siege mentality leads to step three: the refusal to hear criticism from the outside and crediting critique only from the inside. In part because of my three-decade experience defending religious believers, I’ve been prone to make exactly that mistake. Other people saw who Mark Driscoll was well before I did. Other people saw who Ravi Zacharias was well before I did. I often considered the source of criticism (hostile media, angry bloggers) before I considered the substance of criticism.
From Issue #80
Is there a Christian way to think about and engage with people who identify as something other than their birth sex?
We’re wading into one of the biggest culture war topics of the last 10 years: Transgender.
From Issue #62
Conservatives believe that history should be taught in a way that records the great achievements of Western or American history so as to bolster our reverence for this heritage…Conservatives very much believe it is essential that public history preserves for future generations the “important and remarkable achievements” of our country’s past…
…Liberals see history not as an opportunity to praise the “important and remarkable achievements” of our republican empire but to deconstruct our national myths, uncover how the putative greatness of the past often masks grievous oppression, and give voice to groups marginalized from orthodox histories.
Thus, while the conservative believes the function of history in public schools is to instill patriotism, the liberal believes that it should instead deconstruct our chauvinism.
And like liberal historiographers today, the Jewish scribes’ excoriation of their nation’s past was part of a moral crusade: only by grappling with the past legacy of unrighteousness and purifying themselves of its stain could they hope to build a truly righteous Jewish community.
Steeped in biblical history as they were, later Christian writers would adopt a similar historiographical agenda. Rome might have seen itself as the divinely ordained consummation of world history, but Christian writers would unmask a more unflattering portrait. Revelation paints Rome as a whore riding a beast, drunk on the blood of the saints, trafficking in all kinds of oppression and demonic activity. Only by recognizing this apocalypsis, this “unveiling” of the truth, and repenting can anyone hope to escape the final condemnation and enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
Although the Jewish community exiled in Babylon sought to portray Israel’s past as a compromised one, from the historical accounts they edited together there remain stories and heroes we instinctively admire. Gideon, Samson, David, and Solomon may all be ambiguous figures, but there is a certain wisdom in Sunday school portrayals of their achievements. Our imaginations are gripped by Samson’s final triumph over his Philistine captors and David’s courageous stand against Goliath. Whatever subtle hints the narrative gives us about Solomon’s morally complicated legacy, the list of accomplishments and building projects leave us in legitimate awe. And the author of Hebrews singles out many of these figures for praise in its hall of faith (Heb. 11).
What I mean to suggest by all this is that a true Christian historiography gives witness to both the good and bad in human history. Sin has reigned since Adam, and under its rule every empire has rested on the blood and bones of the oppressed. And yet, at the same time, the psalmist can declare (as a present reality) that God has set humankind “a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor” (Ps 8:5), giving him marvelous dominion over the earth.
From Issue #48
Much of the podcast was released in 2021, but I finished it in early 2022, and new post-script episodes have continued to be released this year. I’m cheating by placing this on the 2022 list, but only a little bit 🤏🏻.
Hosted by Mike Cosper, this podcast takes you inside the story of Mars Hill Church in Seattle – from its founding as part of one of the largest church planting movements in American history to its very public dissolution—and the aftermath that followed. You’ll hear from people who lived this story, experiencing the triumphs and losses of Mars Hill, knowing it as both an amazing, life-transforming work of God and as a dangerous, abusive environment. The issues that plague Mars Hill and its founder, Mark Driscoll — dangers like money, celebrity, youth, scandal, and power—aren’t unique, and only by looking closely at what happened in Seattle will we be able to see ourselves.
From Issue #44
...The more I learned about theology, the less I felt I knew. There was always one more theological concept I hadn’t heard of yet, one new argument from an opposing side, one more misconception or stereotype I had previously held, or one newly discovered verse I’d never truly considered. Unsurprisingly, this led me to the belief that I can sometimes be wrong, even when something made a great deal of sense to me previously. In other words, my concerns about being wrong were valid. This sort of realization can either bring theological paralysis or theological freedom.
From Issue #52
Gorman illustrates views on Revelation in a grid with four quadrants. The vertical axis represents a timeline for past, present, and future events that Revelation could represent. The horizontal axis represents reading the text as a code on one side versus reading the text as a lens on the other. Below are the five views of Revelation.
1. The Predictive Futurist: This view sees the text as a code that represents future events. The original meaning wasn’t fully understood by its original audience and will only be revealed when the events happen.
2. The Pretorist: This view sees the text as a code, but the events represented by the code already happened in the 1st century.
3. Poetic or Theopoetic: This view sees the text as poetic language used to express ultimate truths about God, evil, and history.
4. Theopolitical: This view sees the text as a form of political protest and dissent against the Roman empire that emerged out of a time of persecution in the 1st century. In this view, an emphasis is placed on the Kingdom of God as the antithesis to the kingdoms of this world.
5. Pastoral/Prophetic: This view sees the text as anchored in the past but meant to speak to every generation of readers. The imagery is seen as a challenge and comfort by showing us a heavenly perspective on the events of our world throughout time.
Tim shares that he is convinced the correct way to view Revelation is as a lens to view the world that is applicable for every generation. However, Tim also shares that all five views identify something important in Revelation.
From Issue #60
Many believers, she posited, focus their belief mainly on how we are saved (justification), while lessening the theological and practical importance of what we are saved to do. The kingdom, she proclaimed, is not only good for the future but is meant for today and should permeate every part of our world. And it is the role of the church—of every believer—to proclaim the goodness of the kingdom.
From Issue #70
In 1 Samuel 8, the Israelites clamor for a king. Why? They were tired of living in fear of their Philistine neighbors; they wanted a ruler to protect them (1 Sam. 8:20). Their demand appears right after a narrative describing how the Lord—who needed no army and no weapon bigger than a wooden box—caused the whole Philistine nation to quake in their boots.
Throughout the Old Testament, God instructs his people that the only fear worth having is “fear of the LORD;” those dominated by fear of man will mistakenly put their trust in men to save them from fear, and they will be sorely disappointed.
The New Testament drives home the same theme. Every fear ultimately gains its strength from our mortality, from the fear of death, which undermines the security of every earthly good. It’s through this fear that sin holds us in bondage, and from this fear that Christ came to set us free (Heb. 2:14–15).
Free from the fear of death and devil, Christ models for his followers a startlingly carefree attitude toward this world’s politics. The Jews of his time—like the subjects of oppressive rule in many eras—lived in constant fear and hatred of the tax collector, and they fiercely debated whether they ought to pay his unjust demand.
Christians should not ignore politics—God has established the government for their good and for the good of their community—but the curious calm that characterizes our political engagement should constantly puzzle and confound our unbelieving neighbors. Each election cycle, all of us should expect incredulous friends to ask us, “Don’t you even care?”
From Issue #75
Is ethnic reconciliation an essential part of the gospel, or is it an optional add on? …I argue for the former, that part of the reason why Christ came, died, and was raised from the dead was to create “in one new humanity” (Eph. 2) a multiethnic kingdom and church. After giving a long personal narrative about why this topic is important to me, I work through several key passages integral to the storyline of Scripture including: Genesis 12, Acts 2, 6, 8, 13, Galatians 2-3, Ephesians 2-3, and Revelation 5.
Keep Your Mind on Things Above
I will be praying for you this week.
“But you,” he asked them, “who do you say that I am? ”
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
— Matthew 16:15–16 (CSB)