Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Charlatan's Boy by Jonathan Rogers

Grady is an orphan that has no idea of who he is or where he came from. He is also the narrator of Jonathan Roger's new book, The Charlatan's Boy:
"I don't remember one thing about the day I was born. It hasn't been for lack of trying either...I only know one man who might be able to tell me where I come from, and that man is a liar and a fraud."
That liar is Floyd, a flim-flammer just looking for his next big "act" that will rake in the copper coins. His on-going act is in the feechie trade; this act focuses on Grady playing the role of a for-real in the flesh feechie. Everyone in the frontier of Corenwald has heard of the feechies, but no one has ever seen one.
Grady plays one and Floyd cashes in on it. When the civilizers tire of talk of feechies, Floyd and Grady revive interest by creating a feechie scare across the land. The plan works and so business booms again.
Jonathan Rogers has created a world that hints of the American Deep South, with its tales that weave truth and legend. Being a native Georgian like Rogers, I appreciate his yarn-spinning and had to laugh at times thinking of similar type stories I had heard growing up...not of feechies, but of other mysterious entities just waiting to gobble you up in the night (or if they are daring, in broad daylight). Humor and sadness are quilted into satisfying quest for belonging and self discovery. I applaud Rogers for this contribution to Southern literature which is great for children and adults alike.
I received this book for free from Waterbrook Mutnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Tired of Trying to Measure Up by Jeff VanVonderen

I wasn't sure what to expect when I began reading this book. I only know that my spirit resonated with the title because I was, without question, tired of trying to measure up. VanVonderen has broken his book into two parts: Part 1: Wounded by Shame and Part 2: Healed by Grace.

Part 1 works toward revealing what is at the core of the feeling of not measuring up to what the world or specific people expect. It explores a fascinating model of how one gets caught in a cycle of give up/try hard. This cycle is one of defeat and a continual drive to "perform" better. VanVonderen details how this cycle works as one caught in it filters everything through a lens he calls the "shame-based grid", a view that clouds all of life with failure and shame. A person living in this grid will remain tired because nothing will ever be enough and yet will continue to try to do better and work a little harder to measure up and be acceptable. It is a futile effort with destructive results, not only to the one "trying harder" but to all relationships and people in their path. Reading this first section, I had more than a few "a-ha" moments as I saw myself in the illustration and model he presented. I was relieved to move to part 2 for some help in the cycle.

Part 2: Healed by Grace begins with an introduction stating that "it is God's grace, not our striving, that makes us accepted and acceptable. It is His performance in Christ, not our trying to perform, that eradicates our shame...we can be loved, accepted, capable, and worthwhile for free-because, in love, God purchased our eternal state of 'acceptedness' with the blood of His own Son, Jesus Christ...That's the real Good News of the gospel." This section introduces the "rest cycle" to replace the "give up/try hard cycle" and focuses on the grace grid which is replacing the shame-based grid. The goal of the grace grid is to be alive, where the goal of the shame based grid is to perform better and be acceptable. In Christ, the work has already been accomplished on the Cross by Christ and because of that, I am accepted and acceptable to Him, the only one I need to be accepted by. VanVonderen provides a lot of scripture to point out the grace grid that he is presenting, which is basically our identity in Christ.

This book helped to bring some clarity to areas of my life that I found to be helpful. Seeing some of his points played out in my life wasn't easy to take and accept, but overall it was beneficial to understanding why I do certain things and think certain ways. I recommend this book to anyone that battles feelings of inadequacy and struggles with being "good enough" in anyone's eyes. If you have wondered where all of these feelings come from and want to move to freedom in Christ, this is a good read for you.

Friday, November 19, 2010

In the Spirit of Christmas by Chuck Cape

The season is almost upon us. The time for celebrating the birth of Jesus. One of my favorite things about the Christmas season is the music. Late November and December have a melody of their own and the joy and peace is captured in them. You hear it in laughter and even in the background of the hustle and bustle of shoppers at the mall. I look forward to Christmas each year in hopes that a new selection of holiday songs will catch my ear and be added to my collection of favorites. This year it is In the Spirit of Christmas by Chuck Cape. You might not see this CD displayed at your local music store, but don't let it slip past you (it can be purchased at iTunes).
I am a big fan of instrumental keyboard music, especially solo piano, and George Winston's December has been my all-time favorite piano CD. In the Spirit of Christmas belongs right next to it and if I keep listening to it, it may even surpass George on my Christmas instrumental favorites list. Cape has painted musical decorations and a snowfall of notes that fill any room with the joy and wonder of Christmas.

"A Winter's Hymn", with it's beautiful melody has an undercurrent of sadness, much like the sadness that come in the cold, chilly months of winter when all of nature seems to come to a standstill, waiting in silence for the first ray of spring and the dawning of new life. The title fits perfectly the feelings that stirred in me when I first listened: I wanted to kneel in awe of God and His mysterious gift of winter. Capes unique renderings of traditional Christmas carols such as Away in a Manger, Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, Joy to the World, and Jingle Bells are refreshing and warm the heart like a hot mug of wassail or a cup of hot chocolate warm the body.
I have included a video below for "The Remembrance Carol." I love what Cape says about where the song came from. He says, "My mom was the one that showed me the spirit of Christmas, but life moves on and she passed away a few years ago. I wrote this song the first Christmas after she passed. So, this song is dedicated to my Mom and anyone who has ever missed someone at Christmas." His words breathe life into the song and I can relate to them. This year will mark the 10th year anniversary of the death of my father, who left us suddenly two weeks before Christmas that year and only one week before our annual family Christmas get together. Knowing the story behind the song, it is hard for me not to listen as tears fill my eyes as I remember in sadness, but also in thankfulness of the time I had with my father. So, like Chuck Cape says, this song is for those of us that know what it is like to miss someone as you take in the sights and sound of Christmas.

As you can tell, I recommend this CD to all lovers of Christmas music, especially those of you who, like me, love to hear piano music blanketing the landscape during Christmas. Thank you, Chuck Cape, for a brilliant addition to the ever-expanding playlist of Christmas music.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Adventures in Booga Booga Land-Volume 1

In Adventures in Booga Booga Land, we follow Gerard the Giraffe and Marty the monkey as they go through life in Booga Booga Land, living out the parables of Jesus. The first two segments cover the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16) and the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Builders (Matthew 5:24-27). These parts told the parables correctly, but I thought they failed in overall application when they didn't even mention Jesus. The only place it was even mentioned as being from Jesus was in the titles of the segments. If I was a child unable to read, I would have no idea these had anything to do with God or Jesus' teaching.

The final segment, based on the Light of the World/Lamp under a bowl passage in Matthew 5:14-16, just didn't seem to make much sense with regard to what the segment was supposed to be based on. On top of this, the voices for the various characters were nothing unique and the script was lame. Attempts at humor fell flat. Maybe the books are better. As much as I was hoping to like this DVD, I'm not even sure if I would be willing to give it another chance. Farewell, Booga Booga Land.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Retiring my Bible

I decided several weeks back, maybe even months, that on my birthday this year I would retire my Bible. I received this NIV Disciple's Study Bible from my parents on my birthday 1990, the year that Michelle and I returned to Christ after a time of wandering aimlessly. The truth contained in this book has carried me from the desert of Arizona back to Georgia and then to Tennessee. It has held me up through the death of my father and my brother. It has given me hope in the troubled waters of strained relationships and shined light into the dark places of my soul when I chose to hide in the shadows. In those twenty years, I have cried into it's pages over disappointments in life and unfulfilled dreams. It has consistently reminded me that I must die so Christ may live in me. Some lessons I learned and some I ignored, but it never gave up on me. The pages are filled with notes from my journey, so I will keep this treasured book in hopes that someone travelling behind me in later generations may pick it up and use it on the journey. So now I lay my friend aside and begin the next 20 years with my ESV Study Bible. I may consult my old friend occasionally to talk about "the good ole days" and see what it has been up to, but for now I say "Thank you" for a great 20 years.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Least Among You-DVD Review

The Least Among You, inspired by a true story, tells the story of Richard Kelly, a young black man, who is sent to serve probation at an all-white seminary after being arrested in the 1965 Watts riots. As Kelly faces racial obstacles to his acceptance at the seminary, he receives guidance from Samual Benton, the seminary's gardener and the only other black person on campus. Kelly finds that he is not only battling racism, but he is at the same time wrestling with God as the external war becomes one of an inner spiritual nature.Kelly must have an answer to a question: Is his purpose for being at the seminary a punishment or the providence of God?
I was hesitant in agreeing to review this DVD for Thomas Nelson's Booksneeze program, mainly because I haven't been overly impressed with many of the Christian movies (like Facing the Giants, etc.) that have been released in recent years, primarily because the preachiness of them just didn't feel like real life to me. With that said, I wasn't sure what to expect out of The Least Among You. I enjoyed the movie and had to examine my own heart as I asked myself how I would react or behave in the same situations the character's found themselves in. There were some scenes that lacked in their development and could have been explored a little more, but overall the film accomplished what I generally look for in a movie which is an hour or two of entertainment that doesn't insult my intelligence or overly offend me.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Outlive Your Life by Max Lucado

In recent months, I have read several books that focus on global human needs (hunger, poverty, etc.) and challenge Christians, especially wealthy western Christians, to take a front-line position in helping to meet these needs. Max Lucado's most recent book, Outlive Your Life, is in keeping with this theme.

Lucado is known for his gift of storytelling to make a deeper spiritual point and OYL is no different. This book uses the early chapters of the biblical book of Acts as a springboard to tackle such topics as turning a blind eye to human needs, the importance of community, persecution, defending the helpless, and the power of prayer. I admit that I am not a big fan of Lucado, because I am distracted at times by his attempts to tell an engaging story when an in-your-face point would be more effective. Some topics are best not watered down.

With all that said, I enjoyed this book and, oddly enough, some of the story illustrations were my favorite parts. Go figure, my biggest complaints about Lucado in the past were what I benefited most from in this latest book from him. The opening, Father Benjamin: A Fable, was insightful into what it means to Outlive Your Life.

This book includes a Discussion and Action Guide in the back. I did not work through every question, but the parts I did look over were well done. I am convinced that the book is not intended to be read apart from this action guide. Using this guide would greatly enhance the book and would be a great tool for small groups to use to put the concepts into practice in a community setting.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Radical by David Platt

This book crossed my path several times before I read it. I don't believe it is coincidental that I finally read it after returning from ten days in Kenya. I was, and still am, in a place of trying to sort through the ever-widening gap between how I live and how the average Kenyan lives. In Radical, David Platt addresses a variety of challenges that face western Christians, if they are to journey toward becoming more obedient to the teachings of Christ found in the scriptures. The subtitle of Radical is "taking back your faith from the American dream." Radical is built upon Platt's observation that we, American Christians, have made Jesus into our own image and worship this Jesus that feeds and even approves of our material excesses and devotion to our entertainment, comfort, and conveniences. God's purposes are much greater than this.
I must admit that this book made me uncomfortable as Platt told of his experiences from around the world working with various churches. This book is not just a book of inspiring stories. Platt does an excellent job in pointing to scripture to back up the truths he is sharing. I am confident that my squirming as I read this book came from the conviction of the Holy Spirit in how I have ignored and completely disobeyed the teachings of Christ because they weren't in line with the kingdom I am building for myself.
Here is some chapter titles that will give you a taste of what you can expect from Radical: (1) Someone Worth Losing Everything For (2) The Great Why of God: God's Global Purpose (3) How Much is Enough: American wealth in a World of Poverty.
I was both encouraged and challenged by this book. Encouraged that there are people addressing these topics and taking them seriously and challenged that I haven't been one of those people but have a stirring desire to be counted among them.
In this post, I have included 2 videos for you to watch: a general book video and also one of David Platt himself talking about the book. I strongly recommend this book for all Christians to read. It is in an easy to read style, but the content will not be easy for anyone. I am working my way through it a second time.

David Platt has challenged his church in Alabama to what he calls The Radical Experiment (http://www.radicalexperiment.org/).

Here are the five challenges included in the experiment:

In One Year:

  1. To pray for the entire world
  2. To read through the entire Bible
  3. To commit our lives to a multiplying community
  4. To sacrifice our money for a specific purpose
  5. To give our time in another context

Details of the above can be found in the "Overview" section of the Experiment website. If you are interested in being part of an "experimental group" at some point in the future, leave a comment on this posting and we can talk about it.

Blessings as you journey in a Radical life for for Jesus.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Boy Who Changed the World by Andy Andrews

Everything you do matters. This is the truth that Andy Andrews presents in his new children's book, The Boy Who Changed the World.

The story is about a boy named Norman that decides to change the world and as an adult does just that. However, the story is also about Henry, George, and Moses. You see, each of these people impacted another's life, and that person impacted another and so on. It's the butterfly effect, the name given to the principle that everything triggers an effect on something else . All of these people did something that led to Norman being able to change the world. This book is a wonderful tool to instill in children the truth that that they can make a difference in the world, even if that difference is several generations away. The things we do today impact the future. Nothing is insignificant. As you can imagine, this is a message not just for children. It is a message for grownups, too.

This book is great for kids of all ages with it's wonderful message and beautiful illustrations by Philip Hurst. All will enjoy this as we move toward doing our part in changing the world. It starts today. I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their Booksneeze books for bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16CFR, Part 255.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Two Books on Evangelism

Thousands of books have been written on evangelism, with some promising results from a particular technique or formula and others in total dependence on God's Spirit to lead. In this posting, I want to introduce you to 2 books on evangelism, both which are faithful to biblical truth regarding "going and making disciples of all nations" (Mt. 28:19).
The first book is Evangelism & the Sovereignty of God by J. I. Packer. In this small book, coming in at only 135 pages, Packer provides a sound, biblical response to the question 'If God is ultimately sovereign in the saving of men, then why is evangelism even necessary, since it is out of man's realm of power or control?'

Packer discusses human responsibility on the front end, then moves into a detailed discussion of what is meant by evangelism by looking at what it meant to the greatest evangelist of all time, the Apostle Paul. He summarizes the evangelistic message as a message about God, a message about sin, a message about Christ, and a summons to faith and repentance. But what about God's sovereignty? Packer makes it clear that God is the one who saves, but He has chosen to save by the Gospel and people must hear in order to respond, therefore or taking and preaching the message is a vital link in the process. It is not by us, it is through us. Packer speaks of the urgency of evangelism, because it enables the dead to hear and live. Because God is sovereign and we can be confident in it, Packer says we should be bold in sharing the Gospel; we should be patient, waiting for God to bring the harvest; and we should be prayerful, relying on God's power and sovereignty in all.

The second book is Marks of the Messenger by J. Mack Stiles. This is another excellent resource for anyone desiring to explore evangelism. Stiles, who lives in the Middle East, writes from the vantage point of a missionary so his book is packed with application stories and less scholarly than Packer's book. Like Packer, Stiles provides a description of the Gospel message because if the the message of the Gospel is not clear then the taking of the message to others is futile.
Stiles impacted me in his chapter entitled "On Your Guard." He says, "Losing the gospel doesn't happen all at once; it's much more like a four-generational process...in the first, the gospel is accepted; in the the second, the gospel is assumed; in the third, the gospel is confused; in the fourth, the gospel is lost." In other words, if we assume people understand the Gospel and are genuinely saved, then the next generation will confuse the true message of the gospel, and the generation after that will have no real gospel left. In this, I saw the progression of the gospel in America.
The importance of our lives matching the message is a focal point of Stiles as well. He stresses that we should be doing good, but the goodness we do should never be divorced from the hope of sharing the gospel message. Our lives should be radical messages of Christ. So where does one start in having this kind of life?
I am not going to list them all here, but Stiles ends his book with "16 ways to demonstrate love and unity in the church and in so doing become a healthy evangelist" The first two are (1) Attend a church that takes the gospel seriously and (2) Become an actual member of a church.
I recommend both of these books to anyone wanting to explore evangelism more deeply. After reading these, you will equipped with a better understanding of the gospel message and the need for taking this message to the world,along with practical tips for living out the gospel in your day-to-day living.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Walking in Kicheko

Walking in Kicheko was not that difficult. It was the seeing that proved to be no easy task. Kicheko means "mocked" and this name serves as a direct indication of how the residents here feel about themselves and how they are viewed by many in the community. Fountain of Hope Church in Syokimau is changing this perception as they open their hearts and arms to serve their neighbors in Kicheko.
Why was I troubled by what I saw in Kicheko? This community was literally a series of rooms built and held together by whatever could be found at the time of construction, whether it be sheet metal, cardboard, spare lumber. The pieces were leaned against each other, forming living spaces that were less extravagant than what the "family pets" enjoy in the U.S. I took note that my bathroom is larger than most of the living areas of these homes. Piles of garbage, in plain view, mark every step. Flies, dogs, and chickens share the open spaces.
In the middle of these horrible living conditions, the light shines in the faces of the children and the Fountain of Hope church members that live here and have been rescued from the dominion of darkness. They are alive and well as they walk and put their hope in Christ, rather than in their circumstances. I was blown away as I heard church members talking about how they wanted to help those around them in need. The focus was not on simply bettering their own situation, but bettering so as to help their neighbors. This is a God-focus and a lesson our Western churches can learn from our brothers and sisters in Kenya. As we build buildings, they are building the Kingdom.

Find your local "Kicheko" and serve there.

Clean up the sewage and trash, not just in the streets but in the hearts as well. and keep yourself from being polluted by the world (James 1:27)

Broken Toys and Smiles of Life-Kenya 2

Day one at Fountain of Hope Church, Nairobi found me strolling the grounds, taking in the Kenyan air with each breath, looking for God in the simple flowing moments of living. A single boy, wearing the blue shirt that all the boys wear, played in the dusty yard next to the church. He joyfully kicked a flattened ball of surgical green. His time of play and enjoyment was not tethered by the faultiness of a non-bouncing ball.

He stopped and graced me with his smile as I snapped this picture. It is a great reminder to me of how God uses us. I am full of faults, a ball with no bounce. Yet, through Him I can still smile and be part of the celebration of life. The world is imperfect, but in Christ all is being made perfect.

Kenya- Beginning thoughts

Enroute to Nairobi, Kenya the plane descended to Washington, D.C., the capital city of this country that I call home. From this aerial view, my attention was drawn to the presence of swimming pools of all shapes and sizes in most every yard. I knew that this would seem like a different planet from what I would be seeing over the next week as I visited my brothers and sisters in Africa. Though the lives of the residents are polar opposites, God still holds it all in His hands and desires for All people to enjoy Him and to find freedom in the Cross of Christ. Why do so many still not believe? is the question that I find myself returning to time and time again. Over the next few weeks, I will be sharing my experiences in Kenya with all of you and this question will be answered in various ways along with answers to its counterpart question of Why do people believe? Both are important questions.

Sitting uncomfortably in my airplane seat, I was comforted by knowing that one day the very clouds that I was flying through will burst open and Jesus will be known by all and all will acknowledge that He is Lord of Lords. He will gather His people and the "not yet" will become "now". I will at that time be truly home for the first time. But for some it will be too late. Don't be one of those. Turn to Him today.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Forgotten God by Francis Chan

Whatever happened to the Holy Spirit and why are Christians not living lives led by the Spirit? These questions are part of the focus of Francis Chan's latest book, Forgotten God: Reversing our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit.

Many Christians (and I have been guilty) give a nod of acknowledgment to the presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives, but fail to actively strive to be led by the Spirit in daily living. This was the aspect of Forgotten God that resonated with me. How often do I meditate on and live in accordance with the Spirit of God that indwells me? I have part of the triune God that has taken up residence within me. That is not only breathtaking and awe-inspiring, but unmistakeably liberating in its possible effects on my life. The same power that raised Jesus to life has made His home in me. He resides in you as well, if you have been born again through the Blood of Christ that took on your sin and gave you His righteous standing with God. Why does my life not reflect the Holy Spirit within me? That's a question this book left me asking myself over and over again. Oh, the number of times is countless that I have grieved the Spirit by living in accordance with my fleshly desires, rather than that of the Holy Spirit and His desires.

I was pleased that Chan pointed to scripture throughout the book because that is where we will encounter and learn from the Spirit as He guides us into truth. I was also glad that he didn't succumb to the temptation of delving into the ongoing debates that have divided the church throughout history with regards to various aspects of the Spirit and the role and gifts provided by the Spirit. His purpose was to bring us into remembrance of the Spirit, the Forgotten part of the Trinity, and to provide a tool to rescue us from the tragic neglect of the Spirit. I believe he achieved his goal and it without a doubt has made me give more careful attention to the Spirit in my life.

If you liked Francis Chan's previous book, Crazy Love, the Forgotten God will be no disappointment. I recommend them both, but I must lean to Forgotten God as my favorite of the two.

Watch the video below and hear Francis Chan talking about Forgotten God.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

What is the Gospel? By Greg Gilbert

Preach the Gospel. Share the Gospel. The Truth of the Gospel. In the church, we will hear statements like this and they elicit a hearty "Amen" from the eager listeners. But what is the Gospel? Ask 10 people and you will most likely get 10 very different responses. I asked some Christians I know this question and I was really surprised and, in many case, disappointed in their responses. I fully understand that each individual will his own style of articulating the message, but I found that the message and content was inconsistent, sometimes even unbiblical.
This variance in content is why Greg Gilbert's book What is the Gospel? is so important. This short book, with 128 pages including all of the notes pages and endorsements, is easy to read and accessable to any reader. It does not contain heavy theological vocabulary, just simple language to communicate the essence of the Gospel.
The book is organized into eight sections: Finding the Gospel in the Bible; God the Righteous Creator; Man the Sinner; Jesus Christ the Savior; Response-Faith and Repentance; The Kingdom; Keeping the Cross at the Center; and The Power of the Gospel.
This is a must-read for anyone wearing the name "Christian" because this name is grounded in the Gospel (the good news) of Jesus Christ. If you are not in agreement with the Gospel, then you are not a Christian and should wear a different name. We are exposed to false gospels on a daily basis which makes it all the more critical to stay grounded in the True Gospel so we are not led astray and may "contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints" (Jude 3).
This book is a great tool to help you.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

66 Love Letters by Larry Crabb

In 66 Love Letters, Larry Crabb embarks on a conversational journey through all 66 books of the Bible. In an unusual style, Crabb intertwines his struggles with living the Christian life with responses being communicated from God in the Bible. I don't usually take a long time to read a book, but this one took me several months. I discovered in the early pages that if I was going to benefit from this book, I would have to take it slow. Once I was comfortable with the alternating from Crabb's voice then to God's, I was able to move at a more rapid pace. One of the major truths communicated in the book was how God never promises an easy or comfortable earthly life for His people. In fact, suffering and pain are more common for those choosing the narrow road. I was weighed down at times over this recurring theme, but God kept reminding me to trust Him for what is to come and hope found its way in. I appreciated being pointed to some golden passages in the Bible that are easily missed in some of the least-read books. I recommend this book, but not if you want a quick read or if you want to hear how God wants you to live a comfortable pain-free life. Here is the final paragraph to give you a taste of God's 66 Love Letters to you:

Trust Me. Things are not as they seem. My Son is right now bringing His kingdom to earth. The collision of kingdoms, the resistance of everything opposed to My plan, is the source of all the upheaval in the world. My Son will judge severely. The forces of evil will be destroyed. And He will bless abundantly. My story is about to end in the eternal day of a new way to live in a new world, Can you hear the music? The party is underway. It won't be long till My Son makes everything new. And then you'll really dance!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Hole in our Gospel by Richard Stearns (An Exhortation)

You may have noticed that I didn't call this a book review. I found that this book did not need to be "reviewed" but needed to be used as a launching point for an exhortation. The Hole in our Gospel by Richard Stearns goes to the heart of the mission of Christ and the church. He correctly points to the hole in OUR gospel, because what we (the Western church) live out as the gospel is not the Gospel Jesus called us to. Yes we are saved, but have we given all to serve the poor, helpless, and the seemingly hopeless of the world's "least of these" to relieve the pain and suffering and free the captives? Are we spending ourselves for the poor? I look at myself and the answer is NO, I am not! The question that comes next is What now? Do I continue to sit at the buffet restaurant, shoveling food into my mouth while the rest of the world eats the crumbs from my table? And what about the Aids problem? And orphans? The lack of clean water?
Do I even see the food and clean water I enjoy each day as a blessing? Do I consider them at all?
Richard Stearns has written what could be the most important book for the church in many years. This should be required reading for all Christians. Stearns has packed his book with scripture references to show these aren't just his thoughts, but demands and commands from the very heart of God in His Word. In addition to the scripture, he recounts numerous stories of God's people in action to step out of themselves to love their neighbor.
I am left stirred with a shaken foundation, knowing I not only should do something but MUST.
There is a hole in our gospel, but not in THE GOSPEL. As the church, together we must fill it.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Plan B by Pete Wilson- Book Review

We all have a picture of what our lives should look like. Call them plans, dreams, expectations or whatever you choose. That is Plan A. What happens when the unexpected breaks in to our existence? It could be a job loss, illness, divorce or betrayal, or death. How are we to cope or respond when we suddenly have to resort to Plan B, the reality of life when we think God has let us down by not showing up in the pain and disappointment?

Drawing from his personal stories and experiences as a pastor and from Biblical texts and accounts, Pete Wilson has given us a valuable tool that I think most, if not all, people will be able to relate to and gather vital truths to help in Plan B living.

I have read much lately on the topic of suffering and pain. One thing I appreciate about Plan B is the way Pete Wilson shares as a fellow struggler, not talking down to his readers, but walking with them on their journeys through life. He doesn't give trite answers and quote scripture as if it will make the difficulties go away. In fact, there are times when he humanly and honestly admits that he doesn't have the answers. He does provide real stories, within scripture and from people he knows personally, making Plan B a comfortable read on an uncomfortable topic. He looks at the illusion of control, darkness, and what God is doing when we are waiting on Him. He explains the importance of having "me too" people in our lives and how lives can be transformed through tragedy. He doesn't wrap everything up neatly with a pretty bow, but he does leave you at the cross and embracing hope. Is there a better place to end? Thanks to Pete Wilson for a well written and much needed book.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Let the Nations Be Glad by John Piper

I was introduced to the writings of John Piper when I was in a men's group several years ago. Since then, I have read many of his books and would recommend all of them. So when the leader of the missions team at my church asked all of us to read Let the Nations be Glad, I didn't have to have my arm twisted. I was not disappointed. In typical Piperian (yes, I made that up!) fashion, deep theological thoughts are put forth, this time to the topic of missions.
Piper pours the foundation for a biblical worldview of missions, one with the supremacy of God as the overarching truth in taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth.
The opening paragraph of Chapter 1 is the spring from which the remainder of the book flows.

Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn't. Worship is ultimate, not man. When this age is over, and the countless millions of the redeemed fall on their faces before the throne of God, missions will be no more. It is a temporary necessity. But worship abides forever.

Can the call to missions make any more sense? If people were worshipping God in spirit and truth, we wouldn't have to proclaim the Gospel because everyone would already be living the Gospel.

This book is a great reminder to me of the necessity of missions and where prayer and suffering fit into the picture. I was challenged as I read of compassion for the soul's of men and I asked myself if I have that kind of compassion. Packed with scripture references, this book will help anyone in having a worldview that models a heart for missions, a heart sold out in satisfaction for God alone.

Free Book by Brian Tome

Jesus said if we hold to his teaching, then we are really his disciples. Then we will know the truth, and the truth will set us free (John 8:31-32). We all want to be free. Free from pain. Free from disappointment. Free from addiction. Free to truly live. This deep longing and how to begin the journey toward the freedom that eludes us is the focus of Brian Tome's latest book, Free Book.

Tome states his theme and purpose right on the front cover:

I am a fanatic about freedom. And I'm fanatical about coming at you hard in this book. I'm tired of seeing people beaten down by the world's systems and by religion. I'm sick of seeing people live safe, predictable lives while their God-given passions die. I hate the assumption that getting close to God means more rules and restrictions. No more. God's offering real freedom. Get yours.

Tome offers short chapters (for those of us with a short attention span) that are easy reads, but are full of truth that will guide you toward the freedom that Christ offers. The book is packed with personal stories and examples to illustrate the "do-ability" of the principles presented. The chapters on strongholds and "evicting the squatters" (the strongholds that move in and stay) are very helpful.
I benefited from the 4 phases that we experience on the road to freedom: (1) The Blahs-the beginning point when things are just messed up and you don't know what to do; (2)The Break-this is the moment of change when you take that first intentional step toward freedom; (3) The Blues-this is when you start to miss the old, familiar ways because you are not yet experiencing the blessings of the new freedom; and (4) The Blessings- when you are finally experiencing the grace that comes with the taste of freedom.

Tome's finishes his book in the final chapters by discussing community (because we can't be free in isolation) and grace and truth (because this is what Jesus was filled with, so should his people be).
I recommend this book for anyone that is taking seriously their walk toward freedom. Though some may be offended by his stepping out with things that they would deem "inappropriate" (whatever that means) for a Christian book, Tome chooses to exercise his freedom in Christ to simply tell it the way it is. I found it to be refreshing and encouraging.