Thursday, January 31, 2013

Is this really what Jesus said?


Thomas Nelson Publisher

This is a dialogue between the 2 authors on 26 different subjects ranging from ‘History’ to ‘Politics’ to ‘Resurrection’. Obviously with that many chapters and that many different subjects, nothing is covered very deeply.

As I was reading I could not help but think that this book would make good curriculum for Sunday School class or small group. With that said, it would have been nice to have some questions at the end of each chapter.

Though the book is an attempt to see what Jesus would have said and done on each subject. Those interpretations are open for debate. In some areas they would have done well to apply their own quote of Soren Kierkegaard when he said, “The matter is quite simple. The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand, we are obliged to act accordingly.”

For instance, it bothers me on the subject of homosexual marriage that they will not say that the physical act is sin. While we are to love all people, including homosexuals, adulterers, fornicators, pedophiles etc. we cannot approve of their actions.

In other areas the authors make some good points regarding community and the church taking care of not only of the poor and hurting but also of their own. They mention the fact that where God makes all things new in peoples lives, that means there are some professions and jobs people must get out of. When that is the case it is the churches responsibility to help meet the needs of that individual and his family.

If you are looking for something that will help you begin to think on a number of issues this might be a good place to start. However don’t expect more that a brief glance.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Impact Player Bobby Richardson

Bobby Richardson, a Christian, was the second baseman for the New York Yankees from 1955-1966.  This book describes some of those special games he played in along with some of the players he played with eg. Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford etc. If you are a baseball fan, especially of the Yankee stripe, you will enjoy this book.

This is not a tell-all type of book where the author tells us about the faults and failures of his teammates. He speaks highly of all of them. The only one with any negative overtures at all is his playing time with manager Casey Stengal, he so micro-managed that he would pinch-hit for players in the first inning. I am not sure that that type of managing would work in today’s game, he would probably be ran out of town by the fans.

     I was interested in the book because of Richardson being a Christian, I was curious to see how his faith worked out in the midst of a popular sports team. I was somewhat disappointed, for other than the fact of how he tried to influence other players with his faith, Mickey Mantle became a Christian on his death bed. He makes little mention of the unique struggles he had as a Christian and a ball player. I would like to know how he prayed as far as his skills were concerned. Did he have to do extra praying etc to play for Casey Stengal? Did he pray that his team would win and if they won was it an answer to his prayer and if they lost did that disturb his faith?

     I believe most of us on our jobs pray for co-workers that we cant get along with as well as things we are struggling to learn. I would have liked to know how does a baseball player pray and handle these type of things.

 I would give this book a 3 star rating.

Tyndale House Publishers has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

'GODSPEED' A Book Review

GODSPEED   by Britt Merrick  published by David C. Cook

The author begins the book by stating that what the church in America is missing is a right understanding of ‘mission’. He calls “living at Godspeed” is when we understand our mission, live as sent people of God and thus begin living the Jesus life to those around us.

He does a good job of establishing the biblical basis of us being a sent people, that we are called to join with Jesus on His mission. We are not bystanders but workers with God.

     He says that, “Mission is the single reason why your life’s purpose is different from most of the rest of the world.” That for mission minded people the question is not ‘What should I do?’ but ‘What is God doing?’

     I feel that for many of us to be able to answer that question we must first wait in prayer until we can hear from God and then be able to see what He is doing.

     The author also talks about the need to understand that the goal of the mission or the gospel is not to get people to come to our church service. We must understand that the church is ‘Gods express instrument for ministry and mission,’ and if we realize our identity as the church, and begin to live out that identity that we would ‘shake the world’.

He makes this profound statement that would be deeply unsettling for many Christians, “Because you and I were sent into the world, it follows logic that our most meaningful and fruitful Christian experiences should take place outside the church building.” Yet it seems that we spend so much of our resources and energy on the building.

 The author gives these statistics: “of the 52 parables Jesus told, forty-five of them took place in the market context. Of the 132 public appearances Jesus made, 122 of them occurred in the marketplace….of the forty miracles recorded in the book of Acts, thirty-nine of them occurred in the marketplace.”

     The author also stated that the model for mission is the incarnation of Christ and that model must shape the way we live in the world. He says “When the church does incarnational Christianity instead of religion, mission becomes more practical.”

This book provides the biblical material and challenge that should motivate us to begin moving out of our buildings and into the streets. It will help us realize that we are on mission with God.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Health Clinics/Mega churches

I have recently been thinking about our need for medical care/ hospitalization and the money mega-churches bring in. I wonder why these churches and their thousands, yea in many cases millions of dollars, don't invest in health clinics. I have recently heard of a satellite church of a mega church which takes in thirty thousand dollars a week-yet they are more concerned about buying property and buildings than in helping the sick. I just read this blog where a mega church within minutes collected 100,000.00 to donate to another mega church...I dont get it.
If you know of a mega church that funds a medical clinic with real doctors etc. please let me know.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A Way of Life

“THE JESUS LIFE: Eight Ways to Recover Authentic Christianity”  by Stephen W. Smith published by David C. Cook

The author’s emphasis upon following Jesus as a ‘way of life’ was refreshing. He ask this question, “Do we follow the Way or are we following a denomination, a person, a culture or a program or even a church?”  He suggests that many times we have left the Jesus life for the church life.

The confession the author makes can apply to many of us. He says, ”I knew how to live the church life, the American life, and the Baptist life. But I had to face the fact that I did not know how to live the Jesus life.” The author then suggest eight practices that can help us to begin living the Way

 One of those eight ways is the ‘way of companionship’. Jesus chose and wanted friends. The author points out that in life we have many acquaintances but as far as any deep friends are concerned we do not have the heart capacity to have that many. Just as God chose us we are to choose friends, but in that choosing we should expect that those friends will disappoint us. We must enter community knowing that no one in the group is perfect. We are an imperfect person in the midst of imperfect people.

Another practice the author brings out is ‘the way of the table’. “We stay alive and enjoy life when we learn to treat the mealtime as more than a meal.” It should become a time of communion as well as consumption. He gives some surprising statistics that show that families who share at least 5 meals together each week provide a shelter against many social vices including drug abuse.

 The author also says that we need to practice,  ‘The Way of Ritual”. Just as the Jews had many rituals that they followed (the festivals, special days etc) we need to establish rituals into our lives. He says that “rituals are familiar and recognized acts, events and traditions that help us have meaning, tie us together, and interpret through symbols what is happening in and around us.” Some New Testament rituals are baptism and the Lord’s supper.

 In reading I was reminded of Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

The question we may need to ask ourselves is what way are we practicing, the American way or the Jesus way or some other way? Possibly the reason many of our children are not Christians (followers of Jesus) today is because we showed them another way of life that was not of Jesus. 

Friday, June 08, 2012

In Need of a Revolution

“THE COMING REVOLUTION: Signs from America’s Past that Signal Our Nation’s Future”  by Richard G. Lee  published by Thomas Nelson

I had mixed feeling reading this book. On one hand the author did a lot of whining and crying about the terrible conditions of our country, which I got tired of reading about. On the other side where the author talked about the founding of our country and the circumstances surrounding it, it was a great read.

The author’s purpose of the book was to help us understand the environment of our countries revolutionary period and thus apply that to our political conditions of today.

The author states that, “The first Revolution was preceded and inspired, I believe, by the Great Awakening…I have come to believe that we are in the early stages of another awakening, perhaps of even greater magnitude.”

The author makes the points that:

  1. our founding fathers were Christians and that our country must return to our founding principles in order to restore our nation. He quotes from John Adams “…Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
  2. That our founders understood ‘original sin’ and the danger of unlimited power.
  3. That the Great Awakening under the leadership and preaching of men such as Jonathon Edwards and George Whitfield was a uniting factor in the revolution. “Before the Great Awakening the colonies had very little in common. They didn’t even like each other very much. But as the Awakening began to spread from town to village… there was a new sense of connection and cooperation between the colonies… This new sense of unity eventually developed into what we would recognize today as the American Spirit.”
  4. That the pulpit’s (preacher) call for a renewal of faith was also a call to resist tyranny.
  5. That education which followed the Great Awakening was for the most part Christian. “Fully 106 of the first 108 colleges in America were founded as Christian institutions. By the mid-nineteenth century there were 246 colleges in this country, virtually all of them founded either by Christian denominations or by individuals motivated by their Christian convictions.”
Where I whole-heartedly agreed with (how could I disagree with the facts) and enjoyed reading of the history of our nation during the revolution. In some regards the author fails to go far enough in his relating our history to our present dilemma.

I feel that:

  1. The author tends to equate a capitalist economy with a Christian worldview. Capitalism is corrupt if not balanced with the doctrine of original sin. If we forget about the sinfulness of man capitalism becomes a breeding ground for exploitation and greed.
  2. Whereas during and before the revolution preachers were looked at with respect and thus listened to. Today that respect does not exist, thus for the most part preachers are only preaching to the choir.
  3. Revival must begin in the church. Trying to reach the outsider without first renewing the inside is a waste of time. Those on the outside will only respond when they see that those on the inside our genuine. The church needs to take care of its own sin before condemning the sin of others. It needs to look at itself in the mirror before trying to force a mirror on others. 

Thursday, May 03, 2012

"As One Devil to Another' and a free book

“AS ONE DEVIL TO ANOTHER” by Richard Platt. Tyndale Publishers This book is a fictional correspondence, after the tradition of CS Lewis book “Screwtape Letters”, between one senior devil, ‘Slashreap’, and his underling ‘Scardaggar’.

 The senior devil is instructing his underling how to defeat and discourage his Christian ‘client’, a university postgraduate student.
In chapter 2 he discusses the 7 demonic virtues: cowardice, excess, injustice, lassitude, doubt, despair and arrogance. The author gives some keen insight into issues such as mentoring, suffering, technology, television, art etc. and ways in which the devil uses these things to hinder our relationship with God.

Some good quotes from the book are: the devil “centers our attention on brick-making that we have made them virtually incapable of becoming architects” p.18
Pushing directly against the purposes of God is so draining that“the best we can manage is a push from the side to deflect His purpose” p.46
In reference to physical beauty and sexuality the devil “has mastered the Dark Art of transforming physical beauty into spiritual ugliness” p.54
In talking about doing good works, “Perfect service to Him (God) creates, ultimately, a mind-set which is utterly indifferent to recognition. The central point is not who has done Good Work, but that Good Work has been done” p.66
In referring to natural beauty, “We teach them to see a desert while standing in a garden” p.114
I love this quote, “Our specialty for millennia has been the manufacture of complete fools” p.82

My favorite and most thought-provoking chapter was on ‘political-correctness’. The author uses the examples of calling ‘cripples’ ‘handicapped’ and calling homosexuality a alternative lifestyle to show how we have lost our ability to sympathize and even pray for those with physical liabilities and weaknesses to sin. This was a good book full of things to provoke thought and to apply for living in a fallen world.

The publishers have given me a coupon for a free book. Let me know if you are interested and it is yours.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

How do you know if you are in front?

How do you know if and when you are out in front? When you get kicked in the rear -John Maxwell
I got a few boot prints on my rear, doesnt necessarily feel good, but it is nice to know which way you are headed.

Saturday, March 31, 2012


Do you remember the story of Jeremy Bentham of London, England? He
died in 1832 and left his estate to University College London. But
he also stipulated that his body be embalmed, dressed up and brought
in to preside over the annual meeting of university administrators.
His preserved body is still there today, displayed in a glass
cabinet. And it is apparently still wheeled into the annual
meetings. For years, the secretary of the board added to the minutes
of each session, "Jeremy Bentham, present but not voting."

I've KNOWN people like that -- present but not voting. Too often, I
am one of them. These people are alive, but they are not really
living. As Benjamin Franklin may have put it, they died around 25
but won't be buried until they are 75. They live without passion.
They seem to have forgotten what thrill and wonder life can hold.
They get through each day, but seldom experience anything like deep
joy. They're alive, but barely.
(By Steve Goodier

Some people make no contribution. They say they want to be neutral. They say they dont want to take sides, or to get involved. They are like Jeremy Bentham, a corpse just hanging around. Wake up and get involved!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

To Believe is Human To Doubt, Divine

“INSURRECTION” by Peter Rollins

Get rid of your religion. This is about burning down our religious beliefs so that we may have a vibrant faith. The author attacks many of our cherished beliefs regarding God and Christ.
In the first section he talks about God as a function. We use God as a crutch to explain things that we do not understand. God comes as an after thought to rescue us from a perplexing situation. Faith is reduced to an idea that helps us cope with life.
In the chapter entitled, ‘To Believe is Human; to Doubt is Divine’, the writer uses the crucifixion as an analogy of us dying to the faith that we have constructed for ourselves. He says we must look to the experience of the cross as a sacrifice more than just a loss.

At this point in the book, I was thinking of how we talk of God so much. We either blame him or give him credit; in reality maybe we should just accept what comes our way and go on, knowing that God is in control. Is all of our ‘god-talk’ just a form of our self- made religion to give us comfort? When the Jews were so fearful (doubtful?) of God not even to mention or write his name, doesn’t it seem that we speak his name in too many trite situations? Does maybe the command, “Thou shalt not use the name of the Lord thy God in vain”, entail more than just not saying “G..D..”?

Another area of needed death that the author touched on is our avoidance of certain things instead of trying to work through that thing. That is, we resist being confronted with things that we already suspect to be true. He uses the example of the holocaust. Many civilians in Germany defended their lack of action in doing something about the mass extermination of the Jews by saying they were unaware of what was going on. Though there were hints all around, they avoided being confronted directly by the facts.
It is easier to avoid the truth and to live the status-quo, than to see the truth and then must act to change it. I suspect that is the case with abortion. It is easier to accept and live out the idea that the fetus is just a bunch of matter than to realize that it may be a child and then have to do something to stop the carnage.

That is the authors point in his section on ‘Resurrection’. He says, ”…the resurrection is a mode of living that embraces the lived experience of doubt, complexity, and unknowing, affirms life, and accepts our responsibility in transforming the world.”
The author uses the story of ‘Batman’ to show how we feed the system that we also think we are trying to change. He ask the question of Bruce Wayne, ‘Would Wayne Industries be better off using his money to develop a strong educational system, setting up training programs for the unemployed and helping small businesses to develop in fighting crime than investing millions into high tech equipment etc. that only he uses to fight a small amount of Gotham city crime?’

The author then asks this question, what if instead of giving to someone in need, our real job was to “help create a world where the poor do not exist? What if the church should be less concerned with creating saints than creating a world where we do not need saints? A world where people like Mother Teresa and Martin Luther King would have nothing to do.
In the very last part of the book there is ‘a conversation with the author’, when asked about trying to duplicate the first century church Rollins says. “The task is not to return to the early church, but rather to return to the event that gave birth to the early church”.

This is a book that needs to be read more than once and then a copy purchased for a friend, so you can discuss what the author has to say.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

N.T. Wright Interview

N.T. Wright Interview: “Simply Jesus” & Wright Responds to Critics

Click this link to read the unedited interview:

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Our Need For Conversation

“The Virtue of Dialogue: Conversation as a Hopeful Practice of Church Communities” by C. Christopher Smith

This is an e-book about how a church brought renewal to a dying abandoned urban neighborhood through conversation. That is talking across denominational, racial and economic divides in order to get to know one another. The author shares how his church (Englewood Christian Church) in Indianapolis, Indiana through a Sunday evening time of conversation began a number of businesses and community projects that has renewed and brought hope to their community.

He believes that that the starting point for any revival in a church or a community will be its ability to converse. Regarding their situation he says, “Conversation has not been a magical solution to bring us to one-mindedness or to solve all our conflicts…but we do agree on more things and have a much deeper sense of trust that God is guiding us and will continue to work in our midst.” He also believes that through conversations commitments to and love for one another is deepened.

In the final section of the book he shows through scripture (eg. 1 Corinthians 12-14) the practice of conversation and dialogue in the New Testament church. Then gives 3 reasons why conversations are hard to come by in our modern day churches:
1. Our reliance on hierarchical and authoritarian forms of leadership, in which we expect the leaders to make decisions for us.
2. Our democratic way of doing things, thus voting on issues. Which sometimes can shut out the minority voice
3. The size of our churches, in which it is hard to have any say within a large congregation.

He says by their church learning to talk to one another they have become equipped to talk with both their neighbors and other churches.

Overhaul I think the author has touched upon a needy area within the church. This booklet needs to be added to and expanded (the author does give a impressive list of recommended books for those who want to pursue the subject) to include how do we have meaningful conversation across our social type of networks.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

I am a Follower


by Leonard Sweet published by Thomas Nelson.

Some of the best things said were in the prologue of the book. The author talks about the overemphasis on leadership in our day and the need to become ‘first followers’.
“We have been told our entire lives that we should be leaders, that we need more leaders, leaders, leaders. But the truth is that the greatest way to create a movement is to be a follower and to show others how to follow. Following is the most underrated form of leadership in existence.”

The author uses Jesus declaration in John 14, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life…’ to establish his general outline of the book. And to encourage the fact that we are followers of Jesus not man. However, the book never seems to hit its mark. I expected and was disappointed in that the author fails to really show the problem of our modern push of leadership in the church and how that ‘leadership’ promotion hinders in developing true followers.
The author in sharing some things regarding his pre-conversion quotes Jean-Paul Sartre who defined sin as the “systematic substitution of the abstract for the concrete.” I felt this book seemed to lean more to the abstract than to the concrete.

I have read many of Leonard Sweets books and always look forward to his new ones. This was the worse one I have read. If this is the first of Sweet you have read and feel disappointed as I did, don’t let that hinder you from picking up and reading some of his other books eg. ‘Nudge’, ‘Post Modern Pilgrims’ and ‘Aqua Church’

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Become Sacriligious

Sacrilege: Finding Life in the Unorthodox Ways of Jesus by Hugh Halter
Published by Baker Books.

Two stories that the author shares hooked me with this book and from then on I had a hard time putting it down. The first was in the introduction where he shares his experience of going to the Holy Land but leaves disappointed because of his inability to find Jesus there. “…Religion, religious people, pious performances and massive stone impediments blocked me from…” seeing Jesus.
The second story, in the first chapter, he shares about a hard core neighbor who was giving him the finger ( ‘flipping him the bird’) while the author was mowing his lawn. Not sure how to handle it he decided to stop the mower, lifted both hands in the air and return the finger with both hands, he gave him the ‘double bird’. From that point on they became good friends and the neighbor was part of their faith community.
The author committed what he calls sacrilege, the act of taking what is deemed sacred and to disrespect, disregard, and be irreverent toward it. The author states that Jesus was the most sacrilegious revolutionary of all time and he calls his followers to be like him. Jesus was able to influence those around him because of his sacrilegious ways and thus the author uses the beatitudes to help us become like Jesus.

In the second beatitude “Blessed are those that mourn…” the author brought in those verses in Ecclesiastes which tell us that mourning is better than pleasure. Suggesting that for us to be sacrilegious we must risk being with those who hurt and those who are sick. He used the example of the monastic communities in the middle ages how they would move into areas where there was pain instead of moving away from it. The church would move out of areas where there was disease or plague but the monastics moved into those places. Living in Florida, I have sometimes wondered about our push to move away from the oncoming hurricanes when we know that there will be some who will not be able to move. Should we not stay to be able to help those who were unable to move?

This is just one example that the author uses to help us to realize that to be sacrilegious we must begin seeing things from a different perspective. A Jesus perspective. This is a good book and a easy read.