In 2020, the unmerited and inexhaustible grace of God got me through every challenge. I was reminded of his grace by each of the following resources:
New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional. Paul David Tripp pointed me to the never-ending love of God with profound and accessible daily reflections. I intended to read it faithfully every morning but in reality probably read it four or five times per week. But it proved to be like daily bread for my soul. On some days his writings hit me like a ton of bricks; on others, like a gentle breeze.
A Credible Witness: Reflections on Power, Evangelism and Race. Obviously racial reconciliation was a huge topic in our nation in 2020. There were some secular/partisan books on the subject that I found to only bring more division, not reconciliation. But this book richly describes racial reconciliation as an outflow of the reconciling power of the gospel and near to the heart of God. Amen to that.
The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. During the first quarantine period, my family gathered each evening as I read a chapter or two from Anne Frank. Hearing about her “lockdown” experience, which was far worse than ours, gave us some much needed perspective. It bonded us as a family.
I don’t know how I would have gotten through 2020 without these songs and the worshiping community of Stanwich Church. The worship grounded me in the truths of Scripture while simultaneously drawing me into the heavenlies to remind me that God still “reigns above it all.” (Open Spotify for playlist).
These podcasts provided weekly conversations that rose above the fray of partisan politics and helped me dive more deeply into the heart of God to see how his love can be applied to our current crises. (Only the most recently published episode for each podcast is shown here).
A Conversation with Sam Allberry about What God Has to Say About Our Bodies – Signposts with Russell Moore
The Vanishing of Harry Pace Trailer from the Creators of Dolly Parton's America – Dolly Parton's America
Television and Film:
Parks and Rec. My wife Nancy and I binged this show during the summer months. All of the seasons were filmed before the current U.S. political climate so we welcomed the nightly escape from the present corrosive realities. The plots, relationships, and dialog are pure, clean, fun. “Literally!”
Ted Lasso. What if a truly non-cynical, gracious person was placed into our world of revenge and selfishness? Ted Lasso answers that question. On the surface it’s a farce (be warned about the cussing) but deep down I believe Ted Lasso is some sort of (imperfect) Christ figure.
Formula 1: Drive to Survive. It took me a while to figure out why Nancy and I have become so engrossed in this documentary, even to the point of following current Formula 1 races on the weekends. I think it’s simply because it brings us out of the U.S. and reminds us of all the wonder and drama of the rest of the developed world.
The Social Dilemma. It might seem strange that such a disturbing documentary would be included on this list of examples of God’s sustaining grace. But this movie offers hope, on some level, in the form of a proper diagnosis of two of the major ailments of our society: isolation and division. I consider this movie to be required viewing for all Americans.
One of the best sermons I’ve ever heard was preached in 2004 by the Rev. Charles Bartow, a favorite professor of mine at Princeton Theological Seminary. The sermon was entitled A Gauntlet With A Gift In’t (PDF). I have re-read that sermon many times this year as a reminder that God’s gift of grace is often discovered in the middle of life’s challenging gauntlets.
A sermon on John 9 in which we see five types of spiritual blindness and are invited to ask if we might need to be healed of any (or all) of them:
9 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 10 “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you come into the land that I give you and reap its harvest, you shall bring the sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest, 11 and he shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, so that you may be accepted. On the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it. 12 And on the day when you wave the sheaf, you shall offer a male lamb a year old without blemish as a burnt offering to the Lord. 13 And the grain offering with it shall be two tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil, a food offering to the Lord with a pleasing aroma, and the drink offering with it shall be of wine, a fourth of a hin. 14 And you shall eat neither bread nor grain parched or fresh until this same day, until you have brought the offering of your God: it is a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.
For just the audio of this sermon, click: The Blessed Life