Monthly Archives: February 2012
Notes on two books I’ve read recently:
Loving the Way Jesus Loves
My Rating: *****
Phil Ryken takes readers through “the love chapter” (1 Cor. 13: “Love is patient, love is kind …”) and illustrates it with snapshots from the life and ministry of Jesus.
Ryken’s reflections are profound, his stories engaging, his quotes well chosen, and his exegesis accessible. Loving the Way Jesus Loves challenges our loveless attitudes and behaviors in light of the Savior who loved us “to the uttermost.”
Rediscovering His Truth in an Age of Mass Marketed Spirituality
My Rating: ****
In Why Jesus?, the popular apologist examines humanity’s deep spiritual hungers and the common solutions presented by mass-marketed leaders of pop spirituality (Deepak Chopra, Oprah Winfrey, Eckhart Tolle, and so on). Ravi Zacharias exposes the empty promises of those who peddle spiritual advice at the expense of careful thinking and experiential wisdom.
The book shows why issues of exclusivity, authority, and relevance are always pertinent to conversations about spirituality, and ends with a plea for people to understand Jesus as Truth.
- These reviews first appeared in the February 2012 edition of Christianity Today.
An unusual optical phenomenon explains why the Titanic struck an iceberg and received no assistance from a nearby ship, according to new research by British historian Tim Maltin. Atmospheric conditions in the area that night were ripe for super refraction, Maltin found. This extraordinary bending of light causes miraging, which, he discovered, was recorded by several ships in the area. He says it also prevented the Titanic‘s lookouts from seeing the iceberg in time and the freighter Californian from identifying the ocean liner and communicating with it.
All of a sudden, they are bigots and haters — they who stood tall against discrimination, who marched and sat in, who knew better than most the pain of being told they were less than others.
As sinners, we are apt to assume the worst about people. We are eager to find favorable comparisons that make ourselves look good at the expense of others. We are quick to size people up and think we have them figured them out. But I have learned over the years-both as the giver and receiver of judgmental assumptions-that it’s best not to assume.
“I call upon you to forgive and to forgive completely Bro. Charles,” the pastor said, noting that Lohn would be baptized in a few weeks. When asked by a reporter why the public service was held, Sims noted …
A pastor recently asked me about the missional strategy behind The Gospel Project curriculum. “We’ve got people in small groups who study the Scriptures but aren’t involved in reaching out to their community with the gospel,” he said. “How can I get them motivated?”
In response, I mentioned how our natural tendency as church leaders is to reinforce the commands related to our mission, to tell people again and again what they should be doing. We think, If they aren’t reaching out to represent and proclaim Christ, they must not know what to do.
But is this really the case? In my experience, the problem isn’t that we’ve forgotten our responsibility to love our neighbor and share the gospel. The problem is that even when we know what our duty is, we still don’t do it.
That’s why I’m convinced that focusing most of your teaching on our missional duty isn’t the best way to motivate people to serve Christ long-term. It may result in some initial fruit, but it doesn’t effect the heart-change necessary for long-lasting obedience.
So what to do?
Exalt God. Magnify His holiness. Praise His greatness. Exult in His grace.
Set the magnificent, majestic God of the Bible before your people week after week, and pray that they will encounter Him for who He is. Why? Because it’s an encounter with an awesome God that motivates us to mission.
Case in point: our biblical heroes. As you read through the Bible, you’ll notice that whenever people come face to face with God’s …
My attitude only improved slightly, until I suddenly had the striking thought that I really think was from the Lord:
I have never once felt this way when you have wanted to spend time with me.
As far as it goes, many of the types of Christ in the Old Testament narrative are workable in an open theist framework. After all, God is always planning an Incarnation (Eph. 1:10), and much of what it means for Jesus to be Jesus is based solely on his own character and his own mission. But there’s more to typology.
What would it be like it King David came to your church to offer his “testimony,” especially related to God’s grace and his pain regarding his three sons? Here’s a Scripture-saturated sermon (weaving together 2 Samuel and the Psalms), creatively presenting such a testimony.
The Rev. Fred Luter II stood in the ruined sanctuary of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans for the first time after Hurricane Katrina, the air thick with the smell of decay.
Nine feet of floodwaters had scattered pews and debris throughout the 2,000-seat auditorium and left a residue of Mississippi River mud. The church’s 7,000 members had fled the city, and most would never return. Luter and his wife had been sleeping for weeks on a futon at their daughter’s apartment in Birmingham, …
As the months passed, it seemed the village became more desolate. The people were aging. Their children and grandchildren had moved to the cities. Whenever we walked down the main street, we passed rows of abandoned houses and saw brush overgrowing the courtyards.
The local Baptist church was merely a remnant of ten or so elderly members who, despite the decline of their village, were filled with hope. They loved the Lord, faithfully attended services, and consistently shared the gospel with their neighbors. They had been praying for a pastor, so they received great encouragement from our willingness to visit their church and minister to them once a month.
One day, I was talking with a Romanian man who had just returned to the country, fresh out of seminary in the United States. He told me of his ongoing search for a church in which to serve. I informed him of the little village church that had long been praying for a pastor. His reply came swiftly:
“I want a city church. I don’t want to fool with the villages. City churches have a future. What can I do with a handful of people? I want a church I can grow.”
The next time I ministered in the small village church, I could not help but wonder if maybe the seminary graduate was right. …
Today the potato is the fifth most important crop worldwide, after wheat, corn, rice and sugar cane. But in the 18th century the tuber was a startling novelty, frightening to some, bewildering to others—part of a global ecological convulsion set off by Christopher Columbus.
World magazine reviews Dane Ortlund’s Defiant Grace:
If you’re a Pharisee by nature—and you are—then this book is for you. It relentlessly focuses on the gospel, as revealed in Jesus’ life and teaching. “It’s time to blow aside the hazy cloud of condemnation that hangs over us throughout the day with the strong wind of gospel grace,” Ortlund writes.
Now a series of animal studies from Japan suggest that the exercising brain has unique methods of keeping itself fueled. What’s more, the finely honed energy balance that occurs in the brain appears to have implications not only for how well the brain functions during exercise, but also for how well our thinking and memory work the rest of the time.
But what if a leader’s good idea for church growth or success was not the vision Proverbs 29:18 had in mind? What if we aren’t free to insert anything we come up with, no matter how spiritual or “inspired by God”?
I knew that I should pray, that in fact I must pray, as part of getting ready to teach God’s Word. But I don’t …
O merciful Father,
do not consider what we have done against You;
but what our blessed Savior has done for us.
Don’t consider what we have made of ourselves,
but what He is making of us for You our God.
O that Christ may be “wisdom and righteousness,
sanctification and redemption”
to every one of our souls.
That His precious blood may cleanse us from all our sins,
and that Your Holy Spirit may renew and sanctify our souls.
May He crucify our flesh with its passion and lusts,
and cleanse all our brothers and sisters in Christ across the earth.
O let not “sin reign in our mortal bodies,
that we should obey it in its lusts.”
But, “being made free from sin,
let us be the servants of righteousness.”
Let us commend our hearts to you,
and let all our ways be pleasing in your sight.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who live and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
- John Wesley
Print transforms our thinking, images transform our feeling, telegraphs transform our informing, and phones transform our relating.
What do we get when we combine text, images, information access, and direct human-to-human connection? The answer is the most powerfully transformative technological system humans have ever created. The Internet and all of the websites, laptops, smartphones, tablets, and so on that we use to share information and connect to one another are now an essential part of our culture, and they both reflect and inform our values.
- John Dyer, From the Garden to the City
Seven links for your weekend reading:
4. Rick Santorum spent most of Wednesday night’s debate defending his record
6. Ed Stetzer on the SBC: Changing Names is Good; Changing Actions is Better