Month: February 2019

Review: Understand the Bible Better

5 Things You Can Do to Understand the Bible Better
by Zach McIntosh

You want to read the Bible better, right? This short book aims at equipping you to do just that! In five chapters, it talks about the central premise of the Bible, how to read the Old Testament, how to read the New Testament, how to expect the Bible to change you as you read it, and how to get help with the parts you don’t understand. In the end, it encourages the reader with great advice: The best way to read the Bible better… is just to read the Bible!

Well, chalk another dash in the “frustrating book” column for me! The advice in this book is solid. The chapters on the Old and New Testament give great introductory material that equips the reader on the breakdown of the major “storylines” and how to read different sections. Those two chapters are, by far, the best parts of the book. (more…)

You didn’t forget me.

Jail

Photo by Matthew Ansley on Unsplash

The tears start the second she sees me. She was taken into custody yesterday. The reason doesn’t matter for now. What does matter is the shame that overwhelms her. What does matter is her fear of abandonment. What does matter is the uncertainty of the future.

And then she sees me.

Look, ain’t no one gonna accuse me of being pretty. My face does not bring joy to millions.

But today, it brought joy to her. She was not forgotten. (more…)

Review: Family Trees & Olive Branches

Family Trees & Olive Branches
by Christina Hergenrader

Your family tree might have some unsightly blemishes that no one likes talking about. Maybe your family tree is stunted or warped. Is your family tree a mighty oak or a palm tree? No matter what, your family tree has influenced you in many ways, whether you recognize it or not. Why not have a family tree grown in grace? But how do you create a culture of grace? In this book, Christina Hergenrader shows readers how to grow in that grace and extend it to your immediate family and beyond.

I recently read a book about how to speak to your children that led me feeling guilty, not empowered. The book lacked any forgiveness. I didn’t recommend the book.

This book is the exact opposite of that one. Hergenrader has written a book soaked in the Gospel. She constantly reminds the reader that their identity is “child of God” and it is based on what Jesus has done, not on what we do. She begins, ends, and revels throughout in the Gospel. And throughout, she unpacks what the Gospel means as we live with our families. (more…)

Review: Living with Dying

Living with Dying: Blessings and Prayers for Those Who Grieve 
Ed. by Scot A. Kinnaman

This little book provides a wealth of resources for those preparing for death, readying for the death of a loved one, or mourning. It contains devotions, Bible passages, favorite hymns, selected psalms, and prayers sorted by category easily looked up in the table of contents or in the index. Those who mourn or those who minister to those who mourn will find much help in this book.

In general.

Mostly.

Except when it doesn’t help. (more…)

“I hain’t never been baptized.”

Old man

Pastor, what do you teach about baptism?”

That wasn’t the question I was expecting. I visit a medical rehab hospital twice a week and talk to anyone who wants to talk to me. I usually have good conversations and lots of opportunities to present the Gospel. People ask me questions all the time, and spiritual questions aren’t uncommon.

I think this is the first time I’ve been asked about baptism, though.

I answered, “Well, I believe what Peter writes in First Peter – that ‘Baptism now saves you.’”

The old man nodded, a smile on his joyous face. “That’s right! Baptism washes your sins away in the blood of Christ, right?”

I grin. I run into a lot of people. Many people who don’t know Jesus, but also a lot of Christians from very different backgrounds. Most don’t get the Sacraments, so this kind of surprises me. “That’s right!” I answer. (more…)

Review: Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up?

Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up? 12 False Christs
by Matthew Richard

Which Jesus is real? Is it the national icon who stands for America at all times (and probably your political party)? How about the moral example who shows you how to live? Or is Jesus a therapist who helps you get past your problems? All of these Jesuses are spooking around, depending who you talk to. Which one is real, and what do we do with all the other Jesuses?

Matthew Richard has done a fantastic job in this book showing many ways our North American culture has reshaped Jesus into various idols that look Christian but really, really aren’t. Every chapter begins with a story demonstrating a time someone in Richard’s life espoused a fake Jesus. It continues to show the presuppositions that undergird each fake Jesus and this fake Jesus’s weaknesses. Then there’s a section detailing how to respond to each fake Jesus, followed by a brief summary of what the real Jesus does in contrast to the fake Jesus. (more…)

Slow Down

Slow Down

Sometimes you need to slow down.

So I’m told.

Repeatedly.

There are several church members in the hospital right now, and it’s my policy to visit someone in the hospital daily if at all possible. And so I’ve been visiting the hospitals a lot lately. And it takes a lot of time and emotional energy. I come back home… just wiped out.

And one of those people I’ve been visiting? “Pastor, I love you. Stop. You need rest, too!”

Yesterday at worship, someone else pulled me aside: “Pastor, you need to take a break.”

Earlier last week, another person: “Pastor, you’re working too hard.”

…maybe it’s time I listen. (more…)