Month: August 2017

Review: A Fragile Stone

A Fragile Stone: The Emotional Life of Simon Peter
by Michael Card

Who is Peter? Who is this man that so many Protestants ignore and Roman Catholics revere? If we strip away the myth and the tradition, what does Scripture say about him? In this book, Michael Card walks through what the Gospels, Acts, and Peter’s letters say about him. When he steps into imagination, he informs the reader, though that happens seldom. We see Peter as brash fisherman, growing disciple, fallen man, and the person Jesus used to help shepherd the church in its early years. Card highlights several times Peter said, “No!” to Jesus, and what they reveal about Peter. And in the end, he shows that Peter is a stone… just like we are, stones forming the building of the church.

I’ve enjoyed Michael Card’s music for a few years. His Unveiled Hope is fantastic, and I have a piano arrangement of “New Jerusalem” from that album that I’ve used numerous times in worship. He employs his poetry and musical talent to share Jesus. Card also wrote the excellent A Violent Grace that I recommend to just about anyone who’s looking for a good devotion book. With all that, I entered this book with high expectations.

For the most part, those expectations were met. (more…)

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Review: Fusion

Fusion
by Nelson Searcy with Jennifer Dykes Henson

How many first-time guests enter your church, never to return? How are we valuing these gifts from God, these opportunities to share Jesus? In this book, Searcy shows his method for turning a first-time visitor into a second-time-visitor into a regular visitor into a member. He gives the specifics of his congregation’s approach, explains the reasoning behind it, and how to get such a program started. He walks through how to engineer positive first impressions, generate a willingness to be contacted, and how to help ensure that visitors join the community of the congregation. The book includes a helpful appendix that summarizes the various resources found in the book.

The book offers exactly what it says it offers: a method of follow-up that’s pretty good. Searcy backs up his reasoning well with various surveys and shows so many good examples, I feel I could replicate his method fairly accurately. His approach is very seeker-friendly, for better or worse. It has nothing to do with what a church teaches or what a congregation’s creed is; all he’s interested in here is getting visitors to come back. (more…)

Why did they become atheists?

He had Scripture. It was all right there, plain as day. He already believed in God, but had a hard time putting things together. Now, he wasn’t a dumb man. Not in the least! He was in charge of a very important governmental office – the treasury of a kingdom! You don’t get that job by being dumb. It takes intelligence and wisdom! But God’s Word… that was difficult to understand.

He was riding home from a religious obligation in Jerusalem. He wanted to know God more, so he read his Word. (Incidentally, the fact that he had a private copy of some of the Bible also spoke to this man’s wealth.)

He read from Isaiah: “He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before the shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth. In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.”

Again, this man was smart. He knew how the world worked. He already believed in God; he didn’t suffer from a heart hardened against God’s Word. There was no language barrier; he understood the language. And though he was visiting from another nation, there’s wasn’t an immediate cultural barrier that kept him from understanding the words in front of him.

But he still didn’t get it. (more…)

Review: The Healing Journey

I have an older edition with a different cover. This one is WAY more inviting. 

The Healing Journey: for Adult Children of Alcoholics
by Daryl E. Quick

Children of alcoholic parents have been scarred, and they carry those scars with them into adulthood. They learned coping mechanisms in their childhood that got them through, but now those skills are hobbling their lives. Was it burying feelings? Was it keeping from relationships? Was it finding control or burying yourself in alcohol? This book, written by an adult child of an alcoholic, offers a practical process to heal, and heal well. It’s not an overnight change, but a journey that will take a long time. Quick advocates the AAA system: Awareness, Acceptance, and Action, and he goes through that process for emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. To make a change, we must first be aware of the problem. Then we must accept that this is reality; no more excuses, no more trying to look better. Only after being aware and accepting reality can we take action to change. In the action chapters, Quick offers many, many practical solutions for the process.

When I wrote about Keeping the Faith, I got a couple of suggestions of where to turn that would be a better resource. This was one of the recommendations, and it was a good one – for what it is. Quick’s AAA process works. I’ve been unwittingly using it in my counseling, apparently! So many people deny what is real that yes, the first step is awareness of the problem. But even that’s not enough; we must accept that the problem is real, and accept that it is our problem. (more…)

Proof of Racism

According to this article, I pastor a church that is “racist as hell:”

If your pastor, priest, or leadership is silent about the events taking place in Charlottesville, VA, you attend a white supremacist church. Simple. If your church does not spend a significant amount of time this weekend denouncing, condemning, and speaking out against the actions of the white supremacists gathering in Charlottesville, VA in the strongest possible terms, your church is racist as hell.”

Today we opened with the hymn “Church of God, Elect and Glorious.” It’s a hymn that praises each person of the Trinity for how they rescued fallen sinners. It’s got a glorious, soaring melody. The congregation struggled through it, since it was the first time we’d ever sung it.

Then, I opened worship with the Invocation. This ancient part of worship reminds us whom we are there to worship: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It’s a reminder of our baptisms, when the Holy Spirit created faith in many of our hearts. Even when I baptize adults, I refer the baptism as the “day you got your adoption papers from God.” The invocation also calls God to be present in this place as we worship him.

The next thing we did: as a congregation, together, we confessed our sins to God. And as soon as that was done, I announced forgiveness. Jesus was punished in our place, and our sins were taken away!

It’s kind of funny… but there were no current events at all yet in our worship service. (more…)

Review: No More Christian Nice Guy

No More Christian Nice Guy
by Paul Coughlin

Men who are nice are not Christ-like, but far too many churches teach them that good men are passive, nice, never angry, and should appease their superiors. In this book, Paul Coughlin tries to show that our society’s definition of “nice” is not something that Christ leads us to be, and that in fact Christ was not nice. Instead, men should be good, and if they are, it will make their lives, their family’s lives, and the church a far more attractive place to be. He includes chapters that show how niceness damages men at work, in their sex lives, and in their families, and then shows how being good will improve all of them. He also shows that being good does not make life easier, but it does make life better.

For years now I have railed against the word “nice.” What I find when people use that word is “kindness without sacrifice or discomfort.” Warn a sinner that he’s sinning? That wouldn’t be nice. Stand on Scripture? That wouldn’t be nice. Show anger at injustice? Oh, well, that just wouldn’t be nice. It’s hobbled my ministry at different times, particularly when dealing with older women. When I came across the book, the title alone made me smile.

Too bad I had to read the book to take the smile away. (more…)

The Ominous Assignment

The last time I asked this question, I ended up with all the problems brought to the surface. 

It was a simple assignment: Share what you use for personal devotions. Listening to a radio devotion? Reading a chapter of the Bible a day? Reading a meditation? Listening to a podcast? Whatever it is – what do you use?

Look, it’s not a hard concept. Those leading God’s church need to be in God’s Word. You can’t steward his people and not be listening to him. You can’t stand against the dark forces of this world unless you’re strengthened by his Word. You can’t know the lies if you don’t listen to the Truth. And you have no reason to resist sin if you don’t know the Gospel. Hearing God’s Gospel empowers God’s servants to serve.

Basically: There’s a gazillion reasons for any Christian to be regularly in God’s Word both in worship with other believers – and a gazillion more if you’re also a leader of Christians. (more…)

Review: Giving to God

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Giving to God: The Bible’s Good news about Living a Generous Life by Mark Allan Powell

How much money should a Christian give to God? It’s a question that a lot of Christians ask – often enough, grudgingly. Mark Allan Powell presents a very different method of stewardship: one that centers on joy. He reminds the reader how much God has given. He reminds that all we have is His. And then he points out the joy of giving. In the end, he outlines a method of figuring how much might be right for the reader to give – but only after pointing out the good news of God’s care again and again.

This book frustrated me so much. It correctly articulates so much… and then fails so often as well.

The book opens with a marvelous illustration, using a legend of the baptism of the Gauls. According to this legend, when the tribes of the Gauls were baptized, they refused to immerse one arm. Later, when they went into battle, they declared, “This arm isn’t Christian!” and used that to fight their enemies. Powell uses this as an illustration of how many Christians use their money: “That part of me wasn’t baptized! I can use it the way I want!” Yeah, I’m going to be using that illustration later on in my ministry. (more…)