What does it mean to be a Member of the Church?

cover30071-mediumIn 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

The Secret of Seven Great Men

192919What 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

Talking about God with Rob Bell, Part 3

This is the last part of my review, the first part is here and the second is here.
 

What-We-Talk-about-When-We-Talk-about-God-hc-c-677x1024Rob Bell wraps up What We Talk About When We Talk About God with a chapter called “so” (there’s also an epilogue that’s about 2.5 pages long). The final chapter brings all of the points together and puts it in the context of life. We often live our lives in a very mechanical way especially in the western world. We’ve been told that this is all there is and we’re only a collection of atoms that form the human machine. We also tend live our lives in a divided world where there is sacred time and secular time. Instead, we should see that God is here, present and active in our lives. He is trying to help us and pull us along in the right direction. We should not let our life become ordinary and routine. Bell argues that we need open our eyes that life is much deeper than we realize and that God is at work all around us. Continue reading

Talking about God with Rob Bell, Part 2

This is the second part of my review, the first part is here.
 

What-We-Talk-about-When-We-Talk-about-God-hc-c-677x1024The second section of What We Talk About When We Talk About God is the heart of Rob Bell’s message. Chapters 4-6 (with, for, and ahead) present his way of “talking about God.” While the first few chapters of What We Talk About is about the “talking” itself, these chapters focus on the content of what is being talked about. They address what we are or should be saying about God. Continue reading

Talking about God with Rob Bell, Part 1

What-We-Talk-about-When-We-Talk-about-God-hc-c-677x1024Rob Bell is at it again. Right around 2 years ago, Bell released his book Love Wins (which I reviewed here). This caused quite a stir in the evangelical Christian community. Now, Bell has written What We Talk About When We Talk About God (the video here sums most of it up). This book has not caused as much of a stir, but is certainly worth discussion. Once I was able to get my hands on the book, I read it and enjoyed it, and I’m going to give it a couple of posts here on the blog. There are essentially three parts of this book and to discuss them all would be too long for just one post. In this post, I’ll looking at the first 3 chapters. The next posts will explore chapters 4-6 (with, for, and ahead) and then the last chapters (so and epilogue). In the last post, I’ll also give my general review.

Continue reading

Fighting the idols in our lives

_240_360_Book.804.coverOriginally posted on my former blog Life, The Universe and Everything.

If I asked you which of the Ten Commandments gave you the most trouble, you probably would admit to the second commandment. In Exodus 20:4 God commands, “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.” I don’t think that this is a common problem in America today. I very rarely, if ever, see actual idols that were made to worship. There is, however, still an idolatry problem in our world today. Kyle Idleman meets this problem head on in his new book gods at war. He argues that while we aren’t setting up statues or other images and bowing down to them, we’re elevating people, ideas, and objects in our lives to a place higher than God. Idleman writes, “Anything at all can become an idol once it becomes a substitute for God in our lives.” Whenever we make a choice that goes against God or favors someone or something over God, we have become idolaters.

Gods at war is broken down into four sections. The first section defines what he means by idolatry. Idleman describes how we are in a battle with the “gods” of this world. These gods are fighting for our attention and drawing us away from Christ. The idols are not the same anymore. Unlike the Israelites who were following after Baal, Ashteroth, and Molech, we worship the gods of pleasure, power, and love. Essentially, though, we are doing the exact same thing as the Israelites. Instead of following God and pursuing obedience to him, we give our obedience and worship to something other than god. Worshipping Baal has the same consequence as worshiping love. The last three sections explore the ways we worship in the “temples” of power, pleasure, and love. Idleman explores how we devote ourselves to gods like money, success, food, entertainment, romance, and even family. Each of chapter in these sections (except for the last one) ends with questions to help the reader identify the idols that may be in their life.

I really appreciate what Kyle Idleman has done in gods at war. When I wrote my thesis on faith, I came to the same basic conclusions about where we put our faith. Ultimately if we are not trusting and seeking after God with our lives, then we have given something that isn’t God the position of God in our hearts. I think a lot of people need to hear this today. The subject matter, however, is very similar to Timothy Keller’s book Counterfeit Gods. If you’ve read Keller’s book, this book is not going to much different. One thing Idleman does different is his book does a great job of helping you reevaluate the values you are giving to different people and things in your life. The reflective questions that appear in the book help you take this step. I don’t think most of us realize how we have let something that might be good turn into a false god and rule over our lives. It does not, however, explore in depth in any one of the false god’s that it discusses. For that reason, I believe this book would be best used in a group study since it comes with questions already imbedded in the text. Going through this book with a small group would allow someone to analyze each “god” a little more in depth, there are also online resources available.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Zondervan. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The Dangerous Calling of Ministry

The call to full-time ministry is a dangerous call. For some it is dangerous in the sense of outward persecution, but for most who will read Paul David Tripp’s book the danger is spiritual. Speaking from personal experience and from his experience counseling other pastors, Tripp describes the hazards encountered in full-time ministry. He shares how he has suffered and seen others suffer from the perils of personal sin, pride, burnout, and mediocrity. At the heart of all of it, however, is a failure by ministers to sit under their own teaching and to take to heart the scripture they spend so much time studying. We can become so good at studying and teaching about scripture and about spiritual disciplines, that we rarely spend time applying scripture to our lives and practicing Spiritual disciplines. There many points of application that readers can take away from Dangerous Calling, but  I believe this is one of the the most important points to remember. I don’t think that most ministers would admit to thinking that they’re above their own teaching, but it is very easy to live like it. I know personally I enjoy studying and reading about scripture and get so caught up in the act of studying and learning that I sometimes fail to worship the God I meet in scripture or practice what I learned.

Along with sitting under your own teaching, Tripp also reminds ministers to remember whose glory we are seeking in ministry. We are not seeking our own glory. Everyone in the church, ministers included, should be seeking the glory of God and avoiding self-glory. When we recognize that we are aiming to glorify God, we recognize that we are all sinners saved by grace, even seminary grads.  Last May, I graduated from Seminary and received my M.A. in Christian Education. I love my education and thankfully my professors seek teach more than knowledge. They taught us not only to study but to serve and worship God. I’m now pursing full-time ministry and am very thankful that I came across some recommendations for prospective ministers from bloggingtheologically.com. The first book was Dangerous Calling, and I’m glad I read it. It’s a good reminder for someone like me who is going into ministry that even though I have received a seminary education I am not above it all.

If you’re going into ministry, you should read this book. If you’re in ministry, you should read this book. If you are close to someone in ministry who is having difficulties, you should read this book. If you’re an elder at a church, you should read this book. This book doesn’t cover every problem that a minster might have, but it serves as a good reminder for anyone connected to ministry or serving in ministry. It can be dangerous to be in ministry if you neglect yourself and forget whom you are serving.

I went to the library and got this book based on the recommendation from bloggingtheologically.com. I wasn’t asked to write a review, but my wife says that I should write more book reviews. You should go to your library and get books, libraries are wonderful.

Exploring the Virtues in Tolkien and Lewis

13587295Both J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis were godly men and their writing was informed by their faith. Although not always evident to everyone or plain in all of their stories, they crafted their characters and worlds to reveal the virtues of the Christian life. It is more obvious in the work of Lewis, whose fiction works clearly represent Biblical stories and virtues. Tolkien’s work is more often praised for the depth of the fantasy world that he created. Unfortunately, many have chosen to obsess over the characters and the world itself and not examine the virtue, or lack thereof, built into his characters. In his book On the Shoulders of Hobbits, Louis Markos examines the virtues behind the stories and characters. He shows how the faith of Tolkien and Lewis undergird the stories of Middle-Earth and Narnia. Continue reading

Finding God in the Hobbit

978-1-4143-0596-7

Most people know that J.R.R. Tolkien was Christian. When reading his books, however, it might be very easy to miss that fact. Unlike the works of his friend C.S. Lewis, Tolkien’s most popular works do not seem to connect so easily to the Bible. When carefully examined, though, Tolkien’s faith shines through in his work. That is why Jim Ware has written his book Finding God in the Hobbit. The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are not an allegory for the Christian life and there isn’t Christ-like figure that can be clearly identified. So where is God to be found in Middle-Earth? Continue reading

Who is Jesus Christ?

_240_360_Book.705.coverJesus Christ is a somewhat controversial figure. Everyone has or is looking for an answer to the question, “Who is (or was) Jesus Christ?” There is very little denying that Jesus was a real person who really walked the earth in the first century AD, but one you get past that there are many divergent answers. The most popular scholarly thing to do in 21st century American culture is to join the quest for the “Historical Jesus.” This view examines Jesus through a historical lens and sometimes discounts scripture as a valid source for understanding Jesus. Apart from discounting scripture, I think that it is valid and helpful to see Jesus through the lens of first century Jewish (and Roman) culture. Where this can fall short, however, is looking at the bigger picture of who Jesus is beyond his life on earth. This is why Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola have written Jesus: A Theography. It is their belief, that while these historical pictures of Jesus are helpful, they are lacking the life of Christ before and after incarnation. The ultimate goal of their book Jesus is to give a picture of Christ in light of the entirety of scripture and not just within the Gospels. Continue reading