Month: August 2018

Review: Grow a Pair

Grow a Pair
by Jim Burgen and Scott Nickell

Men in our culture have a problem. They’re not men. They’re little boys pretending to be men. They either think masculinity is wrong and they give it up, or they twist it to become monsters. Many churches seem to teach that men have to stop being men if they’re going to be Christian. In Grow a Pair, Pastors Jim Burgen and Scott Nickell take a look at four biblical examples of men and how each demonstrated mastery or lack of pairs of qualities that makes men, men.

The authors picked a good assortment of men to check out. They look through the accounts of Joseph, Samson, David, and Boaz. The retellings of each story keeps pretty tight to the biblical narrative while using modern parlance. I appreciated that, as a way to stress the depth of sin and the height of God’s grace, they didn’t shy away from how sinful each example could be. In each example, the author also notes how they would have struggled in each case. In fact, after wrapping up Boaz’s story and talking about how he’s included in Jesus’s geneology, the authors write, “ You think your family is jacked up? You’ve got nothing on Jesus’s family” (147)! I appreciated this aspect of the book. (more…)

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If Jesus Is Real

brown wooden church bench near white painted wall

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I would be willing to die for my faith. At least I think I would be; if God is real, he is worth dying for. But watching adults who have lived twenty or thirty years longer than I have act as they are acting right now makes me wonder if this whole Christianity thing is real at all. If older Christians are showing me where this faith is going, I don’t want to go with them. I don’t want to be on that team.

That’s Rebecca K. Reynolds quoting a college student she worked with in her book Courage, Dear Heart: Letters to a Weary World (my review shall be forthcoming!).

The young woman’s emotions strike me. I agree with her.

I look at the many apathetic Christians that line the halls of the many churches I’ve belonged to. Don’t the get it? Jesus is so much bigger and more exciting and important than weekend sports (every weekend) or work (did you ask about getting the shift off or did it not matter?) or sleeping in (I get it. Sleep is important. I’m a new dad again. I miss sleep.).

I think about how many leadership teams are stressed about what’s going on with the church-as-organization but don’t seem to get invested in Jesus-as-head-of-church.

I think about how many people seem to limp through worship. The Law doesn’t seem to cut. The Gospel doesn’t seem to revive. The music doesn’t seem to touch them, and the prayers are something to be mumbled. And Communion? Oh, it’s Communion week again. Sure. Whatever.

Do they not get it? (more…)

Review: Meet Generation Z

Meet Generation Z
by James Emery White

Millennials are important, but they’re no longer the largest generation. That would be Generation Z, those born from 1993 to 2012. They are the first truly post-Christian generation in the West, and they will change how churches speak and do evangelism. Who are these people who are already changing our culture, and what should churches do?

Most of this book is fantastic. It uses population and census data along with some well-researched surveys to show how the upcoming generation is different than previous generations. It highlights the differences between Generation Z and Millennials, showing that churches that are going after Millennials may well miss the next generation. It makes fantastic applications of this information, as well.

For instance, the book shows that the majority of those who are Generation Z have not even heard of the shadow of the Gospel. That changes how we do evangelism; we cannot assume any base of knowledge. “The heart of any evangelistic process is going to have to major in explanation. Everything must be explained, from music to messages, symbols to ritual, because so little is understood” (110, emphasis in original). I have to admit that the book is really preaching to the choir with me on this particular point, but I think it needs to be stated over and over again. As someone who moved recently, I think I drove the PTA president up a wall because I kept asking what certain things were that he assumed everyone knew. Sorry, I’m new here! And how much more frustrating if the place doing it is a church! (more…)

The Blessing Unwanted

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We wanted nothing to do with this. We were happy already. We were stable. We didn’t need another.

And then God laughed and sent us another child.

Another.

We had enough. We hardly despise God’s gift of children. We have three healthy children. We roughhouse and listen to their music and yell at them to calm down! and feed them and hug them and feed them and feed them and feed them. We had all those kids early enough that my Bride and I had plans for what to do when they were either out of the house or old enough that we didn’t have to worry about being there 24/7. It was a good picture. This year finally all the kids were in school full-time. My Bride had a vista of choices she could make again.

And then God laughed and destroyed everything. (more…)

Review: Putting Amazing back into Grace

Putting Amazing back into Grace
by Michael Horton, Foreword by J. I. Packer

Grace is boring. The Gospel doesn’t work. We need something new! Something that actually connects with our lives!

Well… no. In Putting Amazing back into Grace, author Michael Horton shows that grace is exactly what is needed by showing how amazing it really is. He goes in depth, starting before the creation of the world and demonstrates how amazing God’s love is. He digs into the utter depravity of man and leads us to ever deeper wonders as we gasp out how amazing God’s grace is.

This book is amazing, except when it’s not. Horton’s Christless Christianity is a book I highly recommend. It diagnoses the problem that many modern American churches have: there is no Christ there. Here, Horton digs deeper into the Gospel. I was ready to love this book. Except Horton is a Calvinist, and that leaning is on full display. (more…)

Tearing Up My Bible for the Good of the Gospel

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She said she didn’t need to go to church, so I tore pages out of my Bible.

She’d been gone for a while and wanted a release of membership. I told her I had to do an exit interview. I wanted to know if we had sinned against her in some way, if she was despising the Means of Grace (which is the Gospel in Word and Sacraments), if there was some social issue that had come up, or what. And as we met, she told me that she didn’t need to go to church.

So I found Psalm 149:1-2, which talks about praising God in the assembly. And I told her that we better rip that out of the Bible, since clearly it’s not right. After all, if it was right, she’d be in worship regularly. So I tore it out of the Bible.

She was startled. Shocked.

I flipped to Luke 4. Showed that Jesus regularly attended worship. Well, can’t have that. If Jesus needs to go to worship, I need to, too. So I ripped it out.

She got up to leave. (more…)

Review: Do Hard Things

Do Hard Things
By Alex & Brett Harris; Foreword by Chuck Norris

Teens have been deceived. The teenage years aren’t the time to party and be kids. They’re the launchpad for the rest of your life. “The teen years are not a vacation from responsibility… They are the training ground of future leaders who dare to be responsible now” (13). In Do Hard Things, Alex and Brett Harris explain why so many teens have bought the lie and how they can make a difference – by doing hard things. Join the rebelution.

For what this book is, I’m pretty impressed. Two teens (nineteen when they wrote the book) talk about how low expectations have shackled their age group, and how to get past it. They talk about how the entire idea of “Teenage years” is so new, and in the past people the ages of thirteen and older were adults tasked with very adult responsibilities… and they changed the world. They share the stories of Clara Barton and George Washington. They point to how we often live up or down to the expectations put before us. (more…)

And No One Came

baseball bleachers chairs close up

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I invited four families. Not one came. One responded with an enthusiastic “yes!” to the invitation, and that was the only one I really counted on showing up. But… not even them.

And it wasn’t even to church.

Sure, it was a church outing. It was to a baseball game with tailgating ahead of time. And the church was covering all the expenses. Free.

So at this event designed to just introduce guests to our church family… I brought no guests. And at this great event… there was exactly two guests. Plenty of members, but only two guests.

This whole “Go into all the world thing” ain’t working out so well. (more…)