As followers of Christ, every year presents an opportunity for us to grow. Life experiences will come to you naturally as sources of enrichment (or otherwise) and often, these are outside your control. But you have the ability to think, to speak, to read, to reflect and unless you are facing a serious illness, you have the energy and time to ensure that your life is internally directed, and not driven by external circumstances.
This is why it is essential that you are reading, meditating and reflecting. You need to find a regular system that fits best for you but undoubtedly, you cannot hope to drink from God’s Word if it is a quick stopover. The mind needs time to settle in and pull away from the daily cares and concerns. Another wonderful opportunity is to participate in our Connect Groups, Cathedral Biblical Studies (CBS) and other CE courses.
Reading, especially good books, is another important source of growth. Trust me, if there is something that you will be doing in 2017 without regret, it is reading. You will look back and be glad that you did. I will share with you some from my 2016 list but bear in mind that I am a pastor. My list may not be helpful for you but nevertheless, I hope it inspires you.
Top on my list for 2016 is “Desiring the Kingdom” by James K. A. Smith. A Christian philosopher, he asks us to reflect carefully on how and why Christians grow (Christian education) and the process by which they do (worship). He dug deep into Scriptures and history (Augustine, Calvin) and challenges the modern fixation on information gathering as the only source of growth. Having been in ministry now for 40+ years, I do agree with him on many points from my own observations. Much of what he said here helps me to reflect on our life and ministry here in SAC.
The Vocation of Anglican Theology gives summaries of the thoughts and works of important Anglican theologians (and there are not many). I find in there some gems, such as the writings of John Jewel and Michael Ramsey.
Amazing Grace, authored by Eric Metaxas is superbly written and a very enjoyable and inspiring read of the biography of William Wilberforce, who served in politics in England in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. He was instrumental in the abolishment of slavery. His influence overlapped with the early years of the start of Anglican work in Singapore. It made me think of whether I share the same purity of motives in my own endeavour to serve out His cause.
First Things is a monthly magazine published by the Institute on Religion and Public Life. It seeks to ensure that faith has a place in shaping policies in the public square. The articles here have helped to equip me to better understand and deal with the relentless influence of secularism, which we sometimes (wrongly) assume to be the only credible voice in the West, and that Singapore is inevitably headed in the same direction. It has also helped me to be more discerning of the popular articles I find on the Net or The Straits Times, most of which are written by those wedded firmly to the spirit of the age.
Orientalism, the classic by Edward Said is critical of the West’s patronising way of imposing a worldview and defining realities which are not native to the culture and experience of the people under their subjection. There is much food for thought here on the clash of cultures and how our own often shape the way we look at others. This is increasingly important for Singapore, as we are now “patrons” to many countries around us. It is also applicable to our own society’s inter-racial and inter-faith relations.
Space can only permit me to list these few books. I have a few more that are contant companions for bite-size reflections such as Augustine’s Confessions, Raniero Cantalamessa’s Life in Christ and Thomas Kelly’s A Testament of Devotion.
May 2017 be another year of great reading. Don’t find the time to read: make time for it.