Hallowed Be Your Name

When we are aware of someone’s name then we are aware of who they are.

A name defines us.

Some parents put time and meaning into the names they choose for their children, others don’t think too hard but come up with a name they like . But a name defines who we are. It represents us. It identifies who we are. Further, with time and experience, our name may become synonymous with particular things; with a particular family, with a particular place (if we’ve lived there a while), with a particular industry or workplace or organisation, and perhaps even a particular character trait.

I mean, think about the last few months here in Melbourne, how many times have you heard the Karen used in the media? Right now Karen is the name that represents someone who is an obnoxious, entitled, complainer.

But of course, this doesn’t rightly represent all Karen’s. We feel sorry for those people who are actually named Karen and are very nice people. Not all Karen’s are complainers, just like not all Wally’s are wasteful with water.

As we survey scripture we find there are over 100 names for God, many describing and revealing the character and person of God. In Matthew 6:9, continuing on from last week’s post, Jesus teaches us to honour the name of God, to hallow it, to recognise it as holy.

As we come to our Father in prayer we are to recognise that we are coming before God in all his majesty, holiness, righteousness, and beauty. We are children of the One who is all-powerful, all-glorious, all-excellent, and all-holy. And yet in prayer we are able to come before him and enjoy and adore him.

With this in mind, what then does it mean to adore God? I often feel we have inadequate words when we try to describe our adoration toward God.

You see when we adore something in human terms we have our heads affirming our adoration, our hearts yearning toward that which we adore, and our hands open to act toward that which we adore.

We think, we feel, and we act in adoration.

There is a head, heart, and hands aspect to this.

If we adore our particular football team we will watch the games, go to the games, buy a membership, debate others about how superior our team is, wear the scarf, and think often about our team and the players.

When we adore a person we will think about them, we will talk to them, we may have a photo of them on the wall, we will seek out the best for them–we want to be with them.

In prayer, as we show our adoration toward God, we come to him through relationship but we also come to him for who he is. We are drawn to God because of his greatness, his magnificence, his excellencies, his works for us and our world.

It can be stated rather crassly that the adoration component to prayer is simply repeating back to God how good he is. But I think this misses the point. We may well be telling God how good he is when we pray in adoration, but we do so because we recognise that God is God and we are not.

We are, after all, in a relationship with the God of the universe who has done things we cannot comprehend or understand, and whose character is displayed and told to us through his scriptures. Psalm 8 is a good example of adoration toward God, and we would do well to pray this Psalm as a prayer ourselves. It reads,

1 Lord, our Lord,
how magnificent is your name throughout the earth!
You have covered the heavens with your majesty.

2 From the mouths of infants and nursing babies,
you have established a stronghold
on account of your adversaries
in order to silence the enemy and the avenger.
3 When I observe your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you set in place,
4 what is a human being that you remember him,
a son of man that you look after him?
5 You made him little less than God
and crowned him with glory and honour.
6 You made him ruler over the works of your hands;
you put everything under his feet:
7 all the sheep and oxen,
as well as the animals in the wild,
8 the birds of the sky,
and the fish of the sea
that pass through the currents of the seas.

9 Lord, our Lord,
how magnificent is your name throughout the earth!

The whole Psalm resounds not only in praise for what God has done, but recognises the greatness of God. How majestic is your name in all the earth! It is a true Psalm of adoration toward God.

Jesus teaches us in the Lord’s Prayer that to begin prayer in adoration is prayer that highlights God’s goodness and greatness. It honours God’s name as holy. May we do this in our prayers during this time.


This continues our series in the Lord’s Prayer. More posts can be found at the following:

In Memoriam: JI Packer

It was about 10 days ago that I heard of the passing of JI Packer. What came to mind when I heard this news, as oddly as this may sound, were pleasant and appreciative memories for someone who has had an impact on my faith–from my view of the Bible, my view of theology, and in many ways, my view of God. 

In Memorandum_ JI Packer

There are greater people than I who can outline the 93 years of Packer’s life. There have been different tributes from various scholars, pastors, and theologians in many major Christian publications over the past week

My first introduction to Packer, that I can remember, was reading his book ‘Among God’s Giants’ (an early version of ‘A Quest for Godliness’). It was a book that outlined puritan history and gave mini-biographies of a number of significant puritan pastors and theologians. In my records, because I’m that kind of guy, I can tell you that I finished reading that book on the 5th of February 2007. 

Only a few months later I finished reading (1st May 2007, for those who are interested) the book he is most known for, ‘Knowing God’. What I remember is that this book had a profound effect on me. In my notes on this book I wrote a one sentence summary saying, “Orthodox theology focussing on the Calvinistic doctrines, and making them clear.” Seems apt. But it is also a book I have gone back to again and again. There is a sense of refreshment when reading Knowing God. Not only is it dripping with biblical truth, it is written in such a clear and concise way. 

When I first read Packer I was doing Christian mission work in a small village in the mountains of the Middle East. I was teaching students and connecting with people who were culturally, ethnically, and linguistically different to me in so many ways. It’s a time I remember fondly, it was a challenge and an adventure. But it was also the place where I experienced the most growth as a believer that I can remember. More than my upbringing as a pastor’s kid, more than my theological degree at college, and more than serving in the local church. And so it was here with Packer, and many other great Christian books, that I found my place theologically. I may have been walking with Jesus for nearly 10 years by this point but it felt like this was the first time I was hearing the gospel and amazing truths of the God I worship. I mean, just listen to how he speaks of the grace of God!

“In the New Testament, grace means God’s love in action toward people who merited the opposite of love. Grace means God moving heaven and earth to save sinners who could not lift a finger to save themselves. Grace means God sending his only Son to the cross to descend into hell so that we guilty ones might be reconciled to God and received into heaven.”

And then perhaps a word for today in waiting upon the Lord,

“‘Wait on the Lord’ is a constant refrain in the Psalms, and it is a necessary word, for God often keeps us waiting. He is not in such a hurry as we are, and it is not his way to give more light on the future than we need for action in the present, or to guide us more than one step at a time. When in doubt, do nothing, but continue to wait on God. When action is needed, light will come.”

And the whole book is like this…

What Packer brought through his books, particularly Knowing God, was a new sense of clarity and appreciation for the works and person of God. Not only was I reading about the God of the universe and with a God who I could have a relationship and commune with each and every day. 

Today I have at least a dozen of JI Packer books, most of which I’ve read. Each time I dip into any of his works I am struck again by the irresistible clarity in which he writes about God and the thorough practicality of the doctrine he explains. 

While I may never have met Packer in person, the amount he has written and the numerous sermons you can now find online, is a wealth and treasure trove for any believer. If you’ve never read anything of his then I would highly recommend doing so. 

Packer has invariably influenced many people, the word over, but he has also influenced me–personally. His impact on my life and faith, on my character and the way I follow Christ is something personal. This week I’ll go have a look over a few of his books I’ve got sitting on my shelves, perhaps dip into another one I haven’t read and see what he says. Whatever the case, it will be impactful, it will ooze Christ’s centrality, and it will point me towards greater worship of God. 

All this to say, Packer will have been enjoying the presence of his God this past week, and that the God he has known through veiled eyes will now be known in person and greater clarity than ever.

Published: Choosing Love by Heidi Johnston

After a long absence I had a book review published at TGCA recently. I wasn’t really the intended audience of Choosing Love by Heidi Johnston, however it was still worth the read. It would be particularly helpful for parents to talk through with their daughters, or a youth ministry leader with their youth group or small group.

You can find the review here.

“From the outset, Johnston puts these themes of love, relationships, marriage and sex into perspective by reminding us that we are all created in God’s image: made for relationship, and therefore are to express our love and desire for one-another in the way God intends. The foundation of the imago dei, and the defining of love as that which comes from God, and shown through his Son Jesus, is an important truth to be understood for teenagers and adults alike.”

Other writing can be found here

My Top Books of 2019

Well, it’s that time of year folks.

The unveiling of the top books I’ve read for 2019.

Exciting, isn’t it?!

Continuing my long-standing tradition of pretentiously blogging a list of books I read and rated highly, I submit my 2019 edition to you.

Oh, and here’s the previous years if you wish to read those lists too: 2014201520162017, 2018.

My Top Books of 2019

Excellent. This is an excellent book. Theology of sleep. Theology of rest. Theology of living by grace. Theology of sustaining ministry. Excellent. I don’t think I could’ve started the year off with a better book. In this age of hurry, burnout, and distraction this book is a good reminder we need to slow-down in this hurried life.

A different approach from Grisham in some ways. I found the storyline great, although I know plenty of people who didn’t. As usual it’s fast-paced, full of intrigue, and picking up themes of race and culture in the American South.

I haven’t read this since I read a children’s version when a child. It was good to listen to the audiobook and I found myself reminded of how good the story of ‘Christian’ is. Some terrific Christian themes and a good reminder of what it takes to remain faithful and persevere in the marathon that is the Christian life.

This was the best youth ministry book I read all year. It only came out mid-year and I was keen to get my hands on it. As I wrote in a review:

I have not read a youth ministry book which actually quotes Hebrew and Greek in its pages. But now I have. And it’s not just quoted for McGarry to look scholarly, it’s quoted to show the meaning behind a number of texts in the Old and New Testaments that build towards the book’s aim of,

…presenting a clear and simple but thoroughly biblical framework for thinking about youth ministry as the church’s expression of partnership with the family for co-evangelising and co-discipling the next generation. (p3)

Sam Allberry writes really well about biblical sexuality and same-sex attraction. A same-sex attracted minister himself, Allberry writes this brief book about the biblical understanding of homosexuality and what it means for those who are same-sex attracted. I found this a very helpful primer on these themes.

Continuing in a similar vein, DeYoung dives deep into the various passages in the Bible which speak of homosexuality. Furthermore, he writes to those who are critics of Biblical sexuality seeking to winsomely show the fault in their understandings. It is very good on the exegetical front and a good resource for teaching on such a topic.

For a personalised summary of all the books I read this year you can check out my Goodreads infographic for 2019.

Published: The Power of Two by Danny Hunt

My friend and colleague, Danny Hunt, recently wrote a book about being a second-chair leader. That is, a leader that has a boss.

It’s a short book but packed with wisdom and reflection from his 30-plus years of experience in church leadership. It is aimed mainly at those who are involved in church life, but would be suitable for other industries as well.

I was fortunate to read the book recently and have a review of it published on TGC Australia.

You can find it here.

Published: Gay Girl, Good God by Jackie Hill Perry

I recently read the book Gay Girl, Good God by Jackie Hill Perry.

It’s a book I’d highly recommend. And it is a book I found time to write a reflection on to better process some of the content.

As it happens, I’ve had that reflection published as a book review at The Gospel Coalition Australia site. You can read it here.

“I couldn’t be more different from Jackie Hill Perry.

I’m a man, she’s a woman.

I’m white, she’s black.

I’m from the wealthier side of Melbourne, Australia. Jackie is from a rougher area in Chicago, USA.

I’m hetero, she’s a former lesbian.

There’s a few differences, yet at the same time we now find ourselves brother and sister in Christ. No matter the differences of the past, or the differences now, our stories intersect as part of God’s grander story in Christ. And what a privilege that is having now read Jackie’s memoir, Gay Girl, Good God.”

I found it to be a great memoir, exploring the intersection of God’s story upon Jackie’s story as she wrestles with her sexuality and upbringing. It’s well worth reading if you have the time.

The full review can be found here.

Other books I’ve read recently, and written short summaries on, can be found here.

Recently Read: April 2019

Here are some short summaries of books I’ve read recently. I haven’t been reading as much as I’d like in recent time, but here are some of the books I’ve dipped into.

Recently Read_ April 2019

1. The Reckoning by John Grisham

This is the best Grisham book I’ve read in a long time. It is his usual fiction, but this time structured differently as he delves into one of the character’s past in particular detail. This is a very sad story in many ways, but keeps you interested as there are plenty of turns and twists and secrets, only to come together in the final few pages. A great read.

2. The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan

I hadn’t read The Pilgrim’s Progress properly, well, not that I can remember. I certainly remember the child versions I had when I lived at home. But thanks to Christian Audio I listened to it via their app. It was a great reminder of the trials and joys it is as a believer. This is Bunyan’s classic work and is an allegory for the Christian life, following Christian and his wife and family as they seek the Celestial City.  Definitely worth the read (again) and encouraging for my walk with Jesus.

3. Gay Girl, Good God by Jackie Hill Perry

This is a memoir, which details Jackie’s life as she has wrestled with her sexuality and lesbianism. It tells of the horrific situations she has experienced in her childhood, everything from abuse, to being discarded by her father, to family breakdown, and more. But then she tells of how she has been be called by God to follow Him and in turn find her life transformed. This is a powerful story, and great story that points more to God than it does to Jackie herself. It’s certainly worth the read.

I’ve written a more in-depth review here.

4. Tactics for Teen Ministry by Scott Petty

Scott is a youth minister up in Sydney and has written a whole selection of books for young people. This one targets the youth pastor and volunteers.

I found this book really helpful, and will most likely use some of the content to help train my leaders. It gives a good theological and ministry philosophy foundation at the beginning. The book then moves into more practical and specifics aspects of youth ministry, everything from team meetings, youth group meetings, how to prepare a talk, how to communicate to kids, parents, leaders, and the church etc. It also comes with good resources very clearly laid out in the appendices. And, it’s short – 100 pages or so.

I’d recommend this to any average youth pastor like me.

5. The Autobiography of William Jay by William Jay

I’m still working through this second half of this book but it is excellent. Jay was a minister and preacher in England during the 19th century. He was pastor of Argyle Chapel in Bath for 63 years. His story is amazing; but his reflections on life, discipleship, evangelism, church, and preaching, and writing are even better. He writes these reflections in 19 letters to his children, about ten years prior to his death. There is a wealth of gold in these letters and reflections, some of which I’ll no doubt write about in due course. You can read a little something I wrote about his views of writing memoir and keeping a diary here.


You can also read more book summaries I’ve written at the following posts: 

William Jay On Writing Memoir And Keeping A Diary

For over a decade I’ve wanted to read the autobiography of William Jay, ever since I heard the sketch of his life delivered by Iain Murray. It’s been years in the making, which includes his memoir sitting on my bookshelf for about five of those years. By the looks of it, through my pencil markings in the margins, it seems I’ve tried to read it before but only made it so far. Nevertheless, this past little while has meant I’ve devoured it and come to appreciate much of the content. With slight warning, I think it is highly likely I’ll be using William Jay as a topic for writing and speaking in coming weeks and months!

The memoir portion of this work is set out as 19 letters, written from Jay to his children. They cover much of the main elements of his life and ministry. Astoundingly, he served as the preacher and minister of Argyle Chapel in Bath for 63 years. He has much wisdom and godliness to share. And I should probably mention he lived from 1769-1853.

In his first letter Jay outlines some of the reasons for his writing such a memoir. There seems to have been a slight hesitation about it, even though he was a reasonably prolific writer on spiritual things. One of these reasons is the amount of books, memoir, and autobiography written in his day. Imagine what he’d think of these days when every person in public seems to have a biography written of them, or they feel compelled to put together something themselves.

Jay writes this,

“The present rage for biography is excessive and notorious, such is the voracity of its appetite, that it frequently waits not for the licence which death is supposed to give. It falls upon its prey, and devours it alive; and many a man may be himself the reader of his own character and history, furnished by some anonymous or even know writer.”

Evidently Jay looks down upon those who forcefully push through and write of themselves for all to read.

On the question of what to add into such a memoir Jay reflects on how biographers are a good witness of a person, but that self is the best witness for such a task. He comments on how the public wish to know the salacious details of a persons life rather than being satisfied with the content of the life.

“By a competent writer, the public life of an individual is easily supplied; but people are seldom satisfied without some insight into his more private retreats and recesses. They would know, not what he did, but why he did it. They would know, not only the direction in which he moved, but whether he was led into it by design or accident, and what retarded or aided his progress.”

And Jay also highlights the difference in where the information about a life may come from by making a distinction between memoir and keeping a diary. Jay says,

“A diary regards chiefly a man’s intercourse with God; and the variations of his religious views and feelings there recorded are designed to promote self-acquaintance, and not to divulge himself to others. Such a work is devotional rather than narrator, and will abound with much that is not proper for public observation.”

It is this final quote, with its definition of what a diary is, that I find interesting.

Keeping a diary or a journal is a great way to note down the events and feelings of a particular day, circumstance, or season. Moreover, it is a terrific way to reflect and commune with God. In a diary we can write what we are feeling about what God is doing, through his Word or through others, in a private manner. It is through a diary we can find ourselves learning more of how we are to think of who God is. And we can come to find ourselves writing in a devotional frame of mind, pondering and thinking on the things of God.

In a day and age where the temptation to think and share our thinking publicly through our social media streams this is refreshing. There are private thoughts meant only for private consumption. The ability to reflect for ourselves, and keep it private, is best for all parties–ourselves and others. While we may be tempted to share the all and sundry of our life perhaps it’s best to begin with a diary and actually work out what we think, believe, and hope.

Recently Read: January 2019

Here are some books I’ve read or listened to over the summer. And for what it’s worth there are some brief comments about them too.

1. The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert by Rosaria Butterfield

This is the incredible story of Rosaria herself. At one point she was a tenured professor, thought of with high regard for her LGBT and feminist views. After conversion to the Christian faith she understood herself differently; giving up her lesbian lifestyle and in time marrying a Presbyterian minister. This is a great book and well worth the read. I listened to it with Rosaria narrating. An astounding and excellent memoir.

2. Why The Reformation Still Matters by Michael Reeves

Again, I listened to this via audio book. The final three chapters move the book up in any sort of rating. However, because the first nine chapters aren’t particularly practical, which I expected they would be, then I didn’t find this book appealing or interesting. Not really worth the read.

3. Wisdom in Leadership by Craig Hamilton

It may have taken me 2.5 years from opening to closing this book but it was still a good one. There is something like 78 chapters, each about five pages long. It provides great practical advice for Christian leaders. Anything from how to lead a team to how to lead a meeting to how to build trust to how to deal with conflict. There are good chapters for those who are main leaders or those who volunteer under other leadership. Again, worth the read but don’t expect to read it through in one hit. It’s also worth noting that the author is Australian.

4. Without Warning by David Rosenfelt

A novel based around a murderer and his son seeking to get revenge on the Chief of Police. It moves quickly, involves a good amount of mystery, and is a fun read/listen.

5. Martin Luther by Eric Metaxas

There are plenty of Martin Luther biographies to read. Some are dry and academic but Metaxas’ one certainly isn’t. Like all good Metaxas books it is reasonably fast-paced and with great little side stories about what is going on in wider culture. I tend to read quickly to the halfway point and then slow down when reading Metaxas and this happened here too. It could have been shorter but is still a valuable and fun read on the life of one of the more significant people in world history and church history. You’re in for a humorous treat on page 334 too.

6. Reset: Living a Grace-paced Life in a Burnout Culture by David Murray

Easily the best book on this list. It may have been because of the time of year I read this one, or because I was feeling tired after 2018. Whatever it was, this book gives great theology that moves into great practice for rest, sleep, work, identity, sin and temptation, eating, exercise, and numerous other factors that can cause us to deplete our energy and lead us to burnout. Again, focused on Christian leaders but really gives good wisdom for a grace-paced life for all believers. I listened by audio, I’ll make sure I pick up a hard copy in due course. I think it’ll be useful for a small group study or course too.

7. Act of Treason by Vince Flynn

A fast-paced novel (ironic given the last book mentioned) about the attempt to take down the President and the US government. A typical thriller involving the CIA, the Russians, terrorists, and sleazy politicians.

8. How To Be A Christian: Your Comprehensive Growth to Flawless Spiritual Living by The Babylon Bee

The Babylon Bee. Enough said.

The whole book is satire. It’s mostly amusing but perhaps they do their best work in short blog posts, rather than 150-page books.

9. The Hand of Justice by Susanna Gregory

This is volume 10 in the Matthew Bartholomew series. I’ve grown to love the main characters of this series and the setting of medieval Cambridge is fascinating. There are always far too many murders to be anything realistic but it’s great fun when you’re into it. It is a holiday read as the writing is slow, nothing happens quickly. But, I liked this volume more than some of the recent ones I’d read.

10. The Prophet by Gibran Kahlil

A famous spiritualistic work by the admired Lebanese poet and writer Kahlil Gibran. I’ve known of this book since I lived in Lebanon over 10 years ago, he’s very famous and well regarded. The Prophet is about a prophet (obviously) who gives wisdom on the human condition and what it means to be human in relation to love, marriage, work, death, beauty, and other such topics. I was happy to have read this for the first time.

I hope you’ve had a good time reading so far in 2019 too.