Month: November 2018

Review: Move Toward the Mess

Move Toward the Mess: The Ultimate Fix for a Boring Christian Life
by John Hambrick

Jesus wasn’t boring. If he was, he wouldn’t have had the following he had. If Jesus was boring, the religious leaders would not have sought to kill him. So why is it that so many Christians are bored in their faith lives? John Hambrick tackles this challenge, pointing to grace from God and grace to our fellow humans as a stunning answer.

Overall, this book is pretty solid. I appreciate Hambrick’s repeated stress that we are forgiven in Christ, and that motivates us. He includes a chapter on guilt, showing that it should not be our motivator. We don’t do anything to gain forgiveness, after all! “God is bigger than the mess. And that confidence enables us to invest in things like self-control. It’s not so we can earn God’s favor. It’s because we already have it” (64). (more…)

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Am I OK?

Crowd

Today before worship one of my council members pulled me aside. “Pastor, can I have a second? I need to ask you a question. If you need to think about it before answering me, I understand. It’s about that paper you gave me.”

Ah.

About a month back, I made available to my council members a paper I had written on pastoral depression. It was meant to be a show of transparency: “Hey, I wrote this, and if you want, you can have access to it. It’s not an assignment or even something I’m asking you to do; it’s just something you can have if you want.”

And this man has read it now.

He pulls me aside, and very concerned, asks, “Is this a cry for help?” (more…)

Today I am thankful for depression.

Praying on Beach

I told them.

It started as a simple Thanksgiving sermon. Straightforward.

Ephesians 5:20: “always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

I look up from my Bible. “So, that’s it, right? Just give thanks to God for everything. Amen? All right. Shortest sermon ever.” I turn away, as if to move on to the next part of the worship service. The congregation chuckles. I turn back. “All right, we should probably go a little deeper, huh?”

I’m glad they chuckled. When you start with that lightness, it opens people up. It builds trust in a weird way.

I ask, “What are some things you thank God for?”

People in the congregation answer. Family. Nature. Food. Our senses. All great answers. I spend a few sentences on each answer, encouraging and confirming that it’s great to thank God for such things. And it is.

But did you notice… it doesn’t say, ‘Give thanks to God for the stuff you like.’ It doesn’t say, ‘Give thanks to God for the things you think are good.’ It says, ‘For everything.’”

And that’s not easy, is it?

How do you give thanks for things that cause pain? (more…)

Review: Gospel Reset

Gospel Reset: Salvation Made Relevant
by Ken Ham

The gospel message hasn’t changed, but the way in which it needs to be presented in a secularized culture does need to change” (10). Ken Ham attempts to show why our culture has changed and the necessity of changing how we present the Gospel, and then shows how that change should occur.

I got this book free in the mail, unsolicited. Apparently Answers in Genesis will occasionally send out free copies of books to local pastors, and I qualified! The entire book took me maybe an hour to read; it’s slim!

Ken Ham compares the Acts 2 sermon that Peter gave to Jews to the Acts 17 sermon that Paul gave to the Greeks. Ham rightly says that Peter didn’t have to explain concepts like God or sin because the Jews already had that basis; Paul had to set out the foundation because the Greeks had not been taught them. Ham then shows evidence that we now live in an Acts 17 culture, and as such we cannot assume that those we speak to understand basic concepts like God and sin.

So far so good. (more…)

Review: Letters to Malcolm

Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer
by C. S. Lewis

In a series of letters to a fictitious friend, C. S. Lewis writes about prayer. He talks about how he envisions God, what he prays about, how he prays, and in the process tackles such topics as worship, heaven, and repentance.

I enjoyed the format of this book. Lewis could have written all of this as essays, but instead formatted them all as warm letters. I didn’t find out “Malcolm” was fictional until after I’d finished reading this slim volume, so convincing was Lewis’s reactions to letters he apparently had never received, since there is no Malcolm! Each letter runs five to six pages in my volume, which is a perfect bite-sized length for me. (more…)

Sometimes putting the inmates in charge of the asylum is fun.

antique crumpled crumpled paper dirty

Photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com

By the time I left, he had something like fifty ideas, and excited for all of them.

I had come to ask questions and listen. This congregation has become content to a point bordering on apathy. I’m asking what they’re passionate about. I am not questioning their faith; I have seen it in action. But as a congregation, we’re certainly not moving together. We’re happy to show up for Sunday worship and nothing else as a family of believers. Time to tap into the passions they already have and use them.

I asked the family what we did that they were already passionate about.

Their young teen son said, “Helping at the hazardous waste cleanup! Can we do more of that?”

A couple times a year our congregation volunteers to help with various clean-up efforts in the community. It’s some of the few things we do outside our building, really. This was the first year this particular teen was old enough to participate, and he was excited to serve more.

He wants to make a difference. (more…)

Review: Ethics of Sex

Ethics of Sex: From Taboo to Delight
Ed. By Gifford A. Grobien

What does God have to say about sex? Our world screams so many messages about what to do with our lust and our bodies, but God’s Word often says something very different from the world. Ten essays make up this book, pointing the reader back to what God says.

And as with any collection of essays, there’s good ones and bad ones.

One essay quoted The Catechism of the Catholic Church over and over again and very little Scripture. Another quoted a lot of the Lutheran fathers and very little Scripture. I have issues with this. It doesn’t matter if you’re quoting Roman Catholic sources or Lutheran ones; I’m suspicious if you don’t go back to the Bible. (more…)