A few years ago I attended a service called The Practice for the first time. A friend of mine recommended the service to me, so I decided to go and check it out. The first few times I went, it was because of who was speaking that night, someone like Shauna Niequist, Sarah Bessey, or Ruth Haley Barton. After a couple of times, I found myself wanting to attend because I was drawn to the service instead of just the speaker. Now, I look forward to attending every couple of months as a kind of a personal retreat after busy seasons of ministry.
The Practice is a service and a community that embraces the idea that “A Sunday service is not the main event but rather a training ground to help all of us become people who can live the way Jesus would if he were in our place.” Because of that we should engage in practices together that prepare us to walk in this world as followers of Jesus. Every service is centered around liturgy and practice and sends you with a charge to live out what you’ve just learned. It’s this idea of a practice based faith that Aaron Niequist writes about in his book The Eternal Current. Continue reading
What does is mean to be a Christian? There are a lot of different views about what it means to be a Christian. Most of the time it involves a set of beliefs and specific practices that people use to define Christianity. Jefferson Bethke, who gained internet fame with the video “Why I Hate Religion but Love Jesus,” wants to define Christianity in one way and one way alone. He defines Christianity by Jesus. It seems so simple, but many of us make Christianity way more difficult and, in Bethke’s terms, “religious.” We set up rules and regulations, determine beliefs that we have to be for or against, and create lists of people we like and people we don’t like. Often times, when we do that, we lose one important thing, Jesus. Bethke’s book Jesus > Religion (read Jesus is Greater than Religion), is an encouragement to get back to the teaching and actions of Jesus and to get away from the man made religion that has been built up around Him. Continue reading
There are many biographies of C.S. Lewis out there and more have been released recently. I can’t speak for all of them, but this one is certainly one worth reading. A Life Observed: A Spiritual Biography of C.S. Lewis is not your ordinary biography. Devin Brown has set out to paint a picture of C.S. Lewis’s spiritual life. He admits that he is not setting out to write a lengthy and definitive biography of C.S. Lewis. Instead Brown writes that his goal is, “to focus closely on the story of Lewis’s spiritual journey and his search for the object of the mysterious longing he called Joy.” Continue reading
Often times when we approach the story of scripture, we don’t realize the depth of the story that we are entering. When Jesus was here on earth, there was so much more going on that what is recorded in scripture. John even says so at the end of his gospel. It’s that depth that Frank Viola is exploring in God’s Favorite Place on Earth. The story element of his book is written in first person narrative from the perspective of Lazarus. Through the voice of Lazarus, Viola writes how Bethany was Jesus’ favorite place to stay when he lived on earth. He was welcomed by the people, developed deep friendships, performed a great miracle, and even ascended to heaven in the town of Bethany. After writing the story half, the other half of each chapter is a reflection on the text and application to our lives today. Continue reading
Originally published on Englewood Review of Books.
Review of The Lion’s World: A Journey Into the Heart of Narnia by Rowan Williams
Hardback: Oxford UP, 2013
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Recently, while discussing the role of fictional stories in spiritual formation with my students, I found myself returning to the works of C.S. Lewis as an example. While I did not discuss The Chronicles of Narnia, I can undeniably say that the fictional works of Lewis have shaped me spiritually. From a young age, I have read and reread the Narnian stories. They have become a part of my spiritual formation and of many others as well. Lewis has had this effect on Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury, as well. He also confesses to repeatedly reading and studying the Lewis’ works and writes of Lewis, “He is someone that you do not quickly come to the end of – as a complex personality and as a writer and thinker” (xi). In The Lion’s World, Williams explores this complexity of Lewis in conjunction with the depth of the Land of Narnia that Lewis created. He doesn’t set out to “decode images or to uncover a system;” instead he aims “to show how certain central themes hang together – a concern to do justice to the difference of God, the disturbing and exhilarating otherness of what we encounter in the life of faith” (6). Continue reading
Don’t let the title of the book fool you, Jon Acuff doesn’t want you to quit your day job. Well, actually he does, just not right now. Writing from his own experience of repeatedly quitting, Acuff’s book Quitter is an encouragement not to quit yet. We all have dreams of the jobs that we’d like to have and it seems like that pesky day job just gets in our way, so we think about quitting. As a writer and public speaker, Acuff gets it. He has toughed out (or at least tried to tough out) his fair share of jobs that he did not like. The problem is quitting often brings more problems than it solves. Quitting causes us to answer to all the bills and costs that were covered by that job that we didn’t like. While quitting your current job to pursue your dream job may sound wonderful, it often makes it harder to pursue your dream. Instead, Jon Acuff shares his experience of finally learning to tough it out in a job that wasn’t his dream in order to get to his dream. He offers advice on how to work your dream around your day job and how to look for ways for your current job to prepare you for your dream. Rather than dreading your job and wishing you could quit, you are instead laying the foundation for your dream job so that you can be ready for it when it becomes possible. Continue reading
I have to admit, that I struggled with Prototype. I’ll go ahead and tell you now that I when I finished the book, I enjoyed it. It’s a good book and I would recommend reading it. The reason why I’m wrestling with this review is I didn’t enjoy it at first. It took me a little bit to get into the book and really understand the direction that Jonathan Martin was going. Continue reading
In his new book, I am a Church Member, Thom Rainer tackles the tough question of what it means to be a church member. He does this is in a surprisingly short book by building the book around 6 pledges that we should make as church members. Each chapter explains one of the pledges and ends with a formal pledge with a line to sign and date. The pledge is followed by questions for study. Continue reading
What does real manhood look like? Who are the role models for men today? These are the questions that lay the foundation for Eric Metaxas’ book 7 Men. Metaxas argues that the answer for what real manhood looks like these days goes to one of two extremes. In one extreme men are overly “macho.” Men like this use their strength to dominate others and control the weak. Metaxas writes that this is a man, “who might be a man on the outside, but who on the inside is simple an insecure and selfish boy.” The other extreme, he argues, is the total lack of manhood, one where “there is no real difference between men an women.” Instead, he believes that the Bible give us a difference picture of what manhood should be. Men should be servant leaders. Just as Christ came not to be served but to serve, men are called to live their lives in service to God and to others. Even many times men are stronger, their strength give protection and serves those around them instead of dominating and lording over others. Continue reading