Month: June 2018

Movies > Books?

 

I read. Maybe just a little.

If you pay attention to what I post, you know that I’ve been averaging a book a week for over a year now. And these are the books I read in pursuing being a better pastor! I also read plenty of books for fun, and over on my other blog I’ll be writing about the year’s worth of books in a few weeks. Most of my continuing education comes from my personal reading and various conferences.

But this week I haven’t been doing much professional reading. Instead, I’ve been watching movies. (more…)

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Review: The 10 Minute Bible Journey

The 10 Minute Bible Journey
by Dale Mason; foreword by Ken Ham

The Bible is a big book and it can be hard to wrap your arms around it. In The 10 Minute Bible Journey, Dale Mason takes the reader through 52 bite-size chunks that gives the “big picture” of Scripture. Each lesson is two pages of text and one page-size picture, and each lesson shows how these events connect directly or indirectly to Jesus. By the time the reader finishes the book, they should have a good idea of how the Bible fits together, to equip them to read the entire Bible on their own.

With a few caveats (one of them pretty major), I am going to highly recommend this book. It does a good job compressing the narrative of Scripture and showing how everything fits together. It keeps pointing to Jesus as the central person of the Bible, constantly directing the reader to him. While some of the lessons are little rocky in just how they present the information, many of them are compelling. The lessons on Jesus’s birth in particular are very well written, even grabbing me (who, you know, kinda know that story pretty well!). I appreciated the highlighting of Jesus throughout. (more…)

Longing for His Home

Home.

When I think of that word, there’s a longing. The “O” is long, almost tremulous. And for the last two weeks, I have longed for home.

We went on vacation. And it was a good vacation. We visited friends we haven’t seen in years. We visited family we haven’t seen in years. We visited my parents. I got to play violin with my dad for worship. And the time spent with each person was far, far too short. I did not want to part with any of them.

But home beckoned.

I longed to be back home. Back where I belong. Back with my family in my house, in my town, with my congregation, and sleeping again in my own bed. I was ready to get back to directly serving rather than “just” recharging. And as we began the return voyage on Monday, my heart tore. I wanted to see my parents more. But oh, the call of home was so great. And I longed to return.

When we finally entered the front door of our house last night, it was indeed a homecoming. No one waited to throw us a party. No one had prettied it up while we were gone (though the woman we arranged to take care of our lawn did indeed do a fantastic job). It was nothing special… beyond being the place where we belong.

Where we belong. (more…)

Review: Ready to Return?

Ready to Return? The Need for a Fundamental Shift in Church Culture to Save a Generation
by Ken Ham with Jeff Kinley; Research by Britt Beemer

Why have so many 20-somethings left the church, and what will it take to reclaim them? How can we make sure that 20-somethings that remain don’t disappear? This book uses research to show what went wrong and what the church can do about it.

…or so the back of the book claims. (more…)

Late for My Own Sermon

How could I show up fifteen minutes late for worship? I’m the freaking pastor! My family scuttles in to a row of seats as I rush back to get my robe on. The guest pastor is sort of hopping from leg to leg – his granddaughter is being baptized today, and he asked permission to step in and do that. So not only am I late, showing disrespect to my congregation, but I’m looking bad in front of a brother in the ministry.

Not just any brother in the ministry.

The freaking president of the seminary. A man who taught me.

He leans over and whispers to me, “You good to go?”

I nod.

He stands to start the service. And as he does, he sort of quirks his head like I remember him doing so often in class. “You know, this sort of reminds me…” And he launches into an incredible devotion, just off the top of his head, like always did in class. Just taking something that just happened and using it as an example of Law or Gospel, marrying it to a biblical text, and just making the sacred an everyday thing in the best way.

And he’s doing it here in my congregation, where I just showed up fifteen minutes late for worship. And then I glance at the bulletin.

I don’t remember what I’m preaching on. (more…)

Review: To Africa With Love

To Africa with Love
by E. H. Wendland

In 1962, Pastor E. H. Wendland was commissioned as a missionary to central Africa. This book, published in 1974, sums up his theology, methodology, and missiology. It talks about the difficulties and blessings of preaching Christ in a changing culture and a sometimes dangerous place. The back of the book includes a number of short stories of things that happened to him and fellow missionaries as they sought to preach the Gospel.

I’m honestly disappointed in this book. I feel that perhaps Wendland was tasked to write a book about his time as a missionary, and he was given instructions in what to include. Rather than go deep in any area, this book feels like it’s an inch deep in vast waters. None of it is bad. None of it is false. And yet, I feel like I didn’t get to learn a whole lot, nor that he went in depth in any one thing.

Now, it may be that since I’ve already received training and have experience as a pastor, much of what he wrote was old news. Perhaps a layman reading this book would find it the perfect depth. I confess that. Yet, throughout, I wanted more information on pretty much any one subject. Wendland often will talk about generalities, but often seems to refrain from specific stories to illustrate. I do understand the need to be careful about what you share, but it made much of it harder to grasp. I find as I think about my reading that I recall his specific stories at the end of the book much better than most of the text! (more…)

Review: The World’s Last Night

The World’s Last Night and Other Essays
by C. S. Lewis

In this collection of essays, C. S. Lewis addresses a number of topics in thoughtful, witty, and direct ways. Lewis talks about the possibility of life on other planets, why no one seems to like the doctrine of Final Judgment, and has Screwtape (of The Screwtape Letters) propose a toast. Taken together, this quick read will lead readers to deeper thoughts about culture and our reaction to what God says.

After the last few books leaving me… unfulfilled, I wanted to read something that would likely leave me at least thoughtful, if not edified. I also wanted something fairly quick to read. I devoured the book in two days, but easily could have done it in one if I’d wanted. The essays average less than twenty pages each, making the reading swift. And it’s C. S. Lewis, so while I won’t agree with everything he writes, he’ll at least get me thinking.

And this volume delivered. (more…)

Vacation Cometh

I’m leaving in four hours. I’ve had an hourly countdown going for the last few days. Most of this week I had a hard time concentrating on ministry because vacation is coming soon.

If this place is so awesome, why am I eager to leave?

I’ve been at my new congregation for a year now. This place has been such a blessing. There’s still sin and plenty of it. People still desperately need Jesus here. I get frustrated yet. But overall, I have been given a year to heal and to begin a very different ministry that seems to fit me well. I rejoice in what God has given me here. I rejoice that though I am such a sinful, pathetic minister, God continues to forgive my sin and even allows me to share that forgiveness with his people.

But I still wanna leave.

Honestly, I think I know what it is. Even work that’s a joy can wear on a person. I’ve been here well over a year. Last year’s vacation was moving here, which isn’t a vacation at all. That means it’s been two years since I’ve really been able to have a few days to rest, and two years ago was… very difficult on me. I’m just worn out, and I’m excited for this chance to be refreshed. I’m excited to visit old friends I’ve not seen in a while. I’m excited to visit my family.

And I’m reminded: Even in the Garden of Eden there was rest. Even before there was sin, God gave Adam and Eve rest every seventh day. Even when work was a joy, God told them to pause once a week.

If God gave rest there, then it’s good to rest here, where sin tears at us in this broken world.

I can’t wait to get going. After worship and Bible study today we’re scooting out of here. Because rest, too, is a gift from God.

Oh! Incidentally, I may not be posting during my vacation. Maybe I will. The reviews will autopost in the meantime. But I shall return, to continue growing in ministry.

Because God is good, whether we’re working or resting, because he has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature. He purchased and won me with his blood. And I can rest in him… even as I’m resting on vacation.