Friday, February 25, 2011

Review of Washed and Waiting by Wesley Hill

Homosexuality is a hot-button issue within the church.  The issue is not one that is between the church and the world; as in the church says its wrong the world says its evil.  There are many that seemingly love Jesus that make arguments that homosexuality is an okay option for a believing Christian.  And there are certainly those that take the position that homosexuality is wrong and they do so in anger and pride. 

For those like me, that feel the biblical position on homosexuality is that it is sinful, one thing that is often lost in the middle of discussing homosexuality and battling legislation is that real people are fighting real sin.  If we truly believe that homosexuality is sinful then we have to truly believe that the only remedy is the gospel (not legislation or simply saying STOP IT!). 

Summary

Wesley Hill writes Washed and Waiting from the perspective of someone in the middle of the struggle.  He believes that homosexuality is sinful but yet he still struggles with homosexual desires.  As it says on the front cover, “he advocates neither unqualified ‘healing’ for those who struggle nor accommodation to temptation, but rather faithfulness in the midst of brokenness.” 

From the midst of this brokenness Wesley hopes to equip struggling Christians on the frontline of three main battles.  The first is to fully understand the gospel’s call on his life and how this confronts his homosexual desire and empower him to obey Christ in the midst of it.  The second battle is loneliness.  And the last battle is to battle the shame and guilt that accompanies this brokenness. 

The books three chapters are centered around these three battles.  Interspersed between these are mini-biographies of those that have fought the fight (homosexuality), two of whom have and finished the race.  These people are  Henri Nouwen, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and Wesley himself.  (Honestly, I’m not sure that Nouwen and Hopkins add much to the discussion; but they certainly are not bad chapters).

This book is not meant to be a defense of Hill’s position.  It is simply as Hill described meant to help people in their struggle.  He wants to help people who struggle with same-sex desire to cling to Jesus in the midst of this brokenness. 

Interaction

So, how in the world do I interact with this book?  Honestly the book rebuked me, encouraged me, and rocked me to the core.  So I’m struggling with how to faithfully interact with this book.

First, I will say that unless you read this book knowing that Wesley’s struggle is YOUR struggle you will not get it.  This book isn’t fundamentally about homosexuality.  It’s really a book about how a sinner can simultaneously be a saint.  It’s a book about clinging to the faithfulness of Jesus in the midst of our own unfaithfulness, idolatry, and brokenness.  It is about being afflicted with the gospel.

Secondly, the most unique thing about this book is Hill’s pleading with the church to help in healing this brokenness.  This is refreshing.  Often the relationship between church and homosexuality is either “accept me without change” or “change before we accept you”.  Hill writes above the fray on this.  To him the church is the answer to loneliness that comes from his struggle. 

Hill’s statement here is worth chewing on:

“…the New Testament views the church—rather than marriage—as the primary place where human love is best expressed and experienced” (111)

I love how throughout this book he places our struggle with sin in the larger story that is lived out in the context of the church.  Beautiful. 

Thirdly, Hill’s view of sanctification is positive and refreshing.  He rightly understands that struggling against sin is not a mark of unfaithfulness but faithfulness.  His view is perhaps best summed up in this paragraph:

The Bible calls the Christian struggle against sin faith (Hebrews 12:3-4; 10:37-39).  It calls the Christian fight against impure cravings holiness (Romans 6:12-13, 22).  So I am trying to appropriate these biblical descriptions for myself.  I am learning to look at my daily wrestling with disordered desires and call it trust.  I am learning to look at my battle to keep from giving in to my temptations and call it sanctification.  I am learning to see that my flawed, imperfect, yet never-giving up faithfulness is precisely the spiritual fruit that God will praise me for on the last day, to the ultimate honor of Jesus Christ.

I need that perspective.  And that is really the final thing for me to interact with.  I am not certain how this book would help one struggling with same-sex attraction, because I don’t.  But I do struggle with sin that is just as offensive to God.  And I minister to people that struggle with a multitude of sins.  I minister to people that have same-sex attraction.  So how does this book help me minister?  In one regard it really doesn’t have a ton of unique things to say about ministering to people with same-sex attraction.  You have to read between the lines to pick that up.  But at the end of the day you come to learn that what a homosexual person (or a believer struggling with homosexual desire) needs is the same thing you need; namely, Jesus Christ and every implication of His glorious gospel. 

One final thing that is worthy of mention**.  Many have been upset that Hill uses the term gay Christian or homosexual Christian.  I understand their concern.  In fact I probably would encourage him not to use it.  But this book is so much more than a linguistics exercise.  If you are worried about his views of justification, sanctification, and identity in Christ then make certain those concerns are coming from the book itself and not Hill’s use of this term.  He defends his use of the term—and even though I don’t find it wise, he does.

At the end of the day this is not a book about what do you label someone that has faith in Jesus, has homosexual desire, and lives celibate in response.  This book is about the simple truth that there exists people that have faith in Jesus, sin that isn’t compatible, and a fight for holiness in response. 

I am recommending this book for a number of people.  Those that have these struggles.  Pastors.  Parents with homosexual children.  And honestly anyone that wants to see an example and learn from someone that is clinging to Jesus in the midst of brokenness.  It’s only 160 pages and it is a very engaging read. 

You can buy it from Amazon for only 10.14

Just Stop IT!

There are actually some times when this may be good counseling.  Of course it would need to be firmly supported by a decent season of gospel teaching.  So that the encouragement to STOP IT! is something that stems from the gospel.  In other words Jesus redeemed you from sin now stop living in it! 

But there are also other times when this is horrible counseling.  And it has left a good number of people hurt in its wake.  I think especially of two hot button issues within the church today; homosexuality and depression.  Consider depression.  How do you tell someone whose mind is broken to “STOP IT”?  In order to have the power to STOP IT I need my brain to function normally.  That takes time and a ton of gospel work.  The same thing goes with homosexual desires.  (Consider Wesley Hill’s book as a resource for this). 

Lord, give me the grace to trust in the power of the gospel.  Without Your grace my sense of urgency (helping people, helping myself) will quickly turn into impatience.  Help me to see that often gospel work takes time to root out idols and replace them with Christ.  Forgive me for times when I have counseled people to STOP IT when all they really needed was a partner.  Forgive me also for times when I’ve been cowardly and refused to believe in the power of the gospel.  Forgive me for times when I should have said STOP IT, but instead I cowered.  Thank you that people’s health and the furtherance of your kingdom does not depend on me “getting it” and ministering perfectly.  Thanks for your grace.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Review of The Expository Genius of John Calvin by Steven Lawson

John Calvin. 

What came to mind when you read those words?  Do you think of a heretic that burned people at the stake?  Is he a hard-edged egotistical maniac that sat in an ivory tower writing theology books?  Or perhaps you think of him as your theological hero.  Some may even think maybe he’s a guy that sells jeans and cologne.  Regardless of the John Calvin you think you know Steve Lawson has made the argument, and numerous others with him, that Calvin should fundamentally be thought of as a pastor and a preacher. 

That is why Lawson has written this book, The Expository Genius of John Calvin .  Lawson wants us to consider Calvin the Preacher and the way he went about the sacred task of declaring Christ to men through the preached Word.  But he does not merely want us to admire Calvin; Lawson wants us to emulate him.  As his stated goal proclaims:

The goal here is not to take a sentimental journey—the hour is too desperate for such a triviality. Rather, the aim of this book is to raise the bar for a new generation of expositors.  The method is to see what a commitment to biblical preaching looks like by examining the work of a man who was sold out to this sacred duty.  (xii)

Lawson offers eight chapters on the preaching of Calvin that is filled with 32 distinctives.  Lawson begins with a brief biography and then covers everything from the preparation of the minister, the message itself, the delivery of the sermon, and the conclusion of the sermon.  Through we read from Calvin himself and are also introduced to a good amount of Calvin’s sermons. 

If you pick up this book thinking that Calvin is a cold dictator, a distant theologian, or a passionless teacher you will be surprised that you do not know the Calvin that stood in the Genevan pulpit.  Calvin modeled what Lloyd-Jones called theology on fire in his preaching.  Truly there is much to learn from Calvin.

I do think that occasionally Lawson will overstate his case.  At the end of each chapter it seems as if he puts Calvin on a pedestal and then asks, “where is Calvin today”.  The closing of every chapter seems to follow a formula.  Calvin was X, we desperately need X today, so be X. 

I understand that Lawson is attempting to use the life of Calvin to motivate preachers today to emulate him—and Calvin’s preaching is certainly worthy of emulation.  But at times it seems like Lawson is saying nobody today is doing X and this is why the church stinks—so maybe if you start doing X things will get better.  I assume this is not his intention or his heart.  But I simply find this a dangerous approach to encouraging men in ministry.  We don’t need another John Calvin.  We need people to be who God has called them to be in the generation God has called us to.  Follow Calvin, yes.  But God isn’t calling you to be the next John Calvin.  He’s calling you to be a you that is utterly transformed by the gospel. 

Even with that being said this book is very beneficial.  You can ignore a few of the overstatements and learn from Lawson and Calvin.  He is right we need faithful expositors in our day just as Calvin was in his.  I guess I’m just more optimistic that God is and has risen up many gospel-centered expository preachers in our day.  Men that exude much of these 32 distinctives whether they’ve even heard of John Calvin. 

I am not going to encourage every preacher to go out and buy this book.  But I would certainly say that it is worthy of adding to your library.  Those that love church history (preacher or not) will appreciate learning about Calvin the preacher.  Those going into ministry could learn a ton from this work.  Those in ministry could learn a ton.  Actually the greatest thing this book offers is presenting Calvin as the preacher he truly was.  Many could think they are preaching like Calvin but they are boring “exegetes” that aren’t even engaging in expository preaching.  We all could learn from someone like John Calvin to stoke the fire of the gospel in our preaching ministries.   

I received The Expository Genius of John Calvin free from Reformation Trust in exchange for a review.  But you’ll have to buy it for 10 bucks .

Why I’m Not Doing a Series of Devotions on Revelation Even Though A Good Number Wanted Me To…

One of the things I want to do is use my writing ministry more in my ministry here at Jasper.  So, to this end I hope to start writing daily (maybe somewhat daily) devotionals going through a particular place in Scripture.  A few people (some on Facebook others in person) suggested that I go through Revelation.  At this particular time I am not and here is why:

Mostly it is because, I can almost guarantee that I have a different view of Revelation (eschatology) than 90% of our members.  That’s okay.  I’m not afraid of having a different view, nor am I embarrassed of my view.  But I do think that eschatology (end times) for some is a hot button issue.  So I will briefly share my view of the end times (without much explanation) and then close with why I am going to start these devotions at another place in Scripture. 

-My core belief on eschatology is that Jesus wins, and fully redeems the church He bought with His blood.  That’s the story. 

-I don’t believe the church is secretly raptured before a seven year period of tribulation.  Nor do I believe the church is raptured half way through, or any other time.  I believe in the second coming, but not a secret rapture of the church.  Here is a brief explanation of this position…

-I could probably sum up what I don’t believe by saying I disagree with the Left Behind books, though I think they are well written fiction.  I disagree with Hal Lindsey though I do like his mustache. 

-I don’t think the Middle East is the center of Bible prophecy.  I am not what is called a dispensationalist.  I do think that there may be a great conversion of Jewish people, but I don’t think that God has a special plan for ethnic Israel and a special plan for spiritual Israel. 

-I don’t think you should read Revelation as an end times manual.  So, if I did a study on it you would continue to hear me say day after day “Christ is the conquering King, that is what this text is about”.  And that wouldn’t be a bad thing but I can do that from other texts that aren’t as loaded with controversy. 

-In line with this fundamentally Revelation is not a “revelation of the end times” it is “the revelation of Jesus Christ”.  Yes it may be about “the things that will soon take place” but at the center of the story is the conquering King Jesus and not the Tribulation Force.

-I’m either a historic premillenialist or an amillenialist.  If you know what that means good.  If not, don’t worry about it. 

Okay those are a few of my general eschatological views.  So why am I not going to do a series (at least now) on my interpretation of Revelation?  Because it would cause more trouble than what it is worth.  What I mean is that I can proclaim to you the message of Revelation (as I understand it) from a ton of other places that are not loaded with controversy. 

Yes, Revelation is essential to Scripture.  And, no I’m not refusing to teach the entire Word of God.  I’m just saying that I’d rather start somewhere else…

If you have any questions, or want more explanation on these views, then feel free to leave a comment or email me at mike@fbjasper.org

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Quick Review of Soulprint by Mark Batterson

You are unique.  And this is a gift from God.  Mark Batterson writes Soulprint in the hopes that we will discover our God-given unique identity.  He does this through looking at the unique life of King David. 

There are seven chapters in this book, though Batterson frames them more like a story with an opening, scenes, and a closing act.  The first chapter (opening) serves as an introduction to Batterson’s main thesis that the best way to worship God is to be uniquely you.  The next five chapters read like large devotions centered around the central theme and the life of David.  The closing act attempts to tie it all together and encourage us to live out our destiny.  I should mention there are also discussion questions at the end of the book. 

Batterson is a pretty good contemporary writer.  He fits well within the pop-Christian sub culture and it is easy to see why he has a large following.  Whether that is positive or not I will leave for you to judge.  But you will not be bored reading this book.  The author does a great job of sharing engaging stories and making his point in practical ways.  You can tell that he is a pastor (a mega-church pastor at that). 

But would I recommend this book?  I do agree with Batterson’s major premise that God has uniquely created us and part of our worship is being who God created us to be.  But there are several things missing here.  For one there is not much discussion of the church.  My identity is individual but it is also corporate.  So there is a decent amount of ecclesiology that is missing in this book and could help with living out your identity. 

Also I have never been a big fan of the “be like David” type of books.  In the end this more a “be yourself” book but it is also a “David was himself”.  It’s never wrong to use biblical people as examples but it can run the risk of muting the gospel.  There is nothing here that is overtly anti-biblical or un-biblical but I think Batterson may be working from the wrong foundation.  There should be more imago Dei, more ecclesiology, and frankly more Jesus. 

I would love to interact with this book more but it’s pretty run of the mill stuff:  have confidence in God, remember what He has done, have integrity, be authentic, don’t be defined by sin, and use this book as a jumping point to your journey of self-discovery.  But these all are very stand alone and rather than explode out of the gospel as an implication it seems that Batterson is assuming the gospel and saying, “now do these things”.

You can buy Soulprint for $9.40

I received this book free from Multnomah in exchange for a review.

Please…Don’t Ignore Me!!!

Are you paying attention to this article?  I sure hope you are.  I mean I REALLY hope that you read this an pay attention.  Not because I particularly care about you, and not even because I really care about Jesus.  I hope you read this article because it helps me to bow to my idol: His name is attention.

I could maybe blame other people for this “good desire” gone bad.  Maybe I developed this really strong desire because I found myself miserably alone and ignored in grade school.  Maybe it has something to do with my family of origin.  I could mention quite a few other excuses as well.  But they aren’t legit.  I’m not fundamentally a victim.  I’m more an aggressive idolater than I am a victim.  I want attention.  And I quite often want it more than God.

My idolatry is as old as the Garden.  Adam and Eve had God’s attention.  But they wanted more.  They didn’t want grace-centered attention.  They didn’t want Creature-creator attention.  They wanted God-like attention.  Fundamentally, they wanted to be God and receive glory as He does.  So they exchanged the glory of God for that which is created.  And in the process they exchanged the good attention of God for an inauthentic, shame-filled, mock attention--where they hide from God and only show him what they want Him to see. 

My heart cries out something similar, “Please, don’t ignore me!”  And it affects everything I do.  My humor is muddied by this idol.  If it will get me a laugh (attention) then holiness is secondary.  My preaching and writing is often driven by this idol.  That’s why I beat myself up after every sermon.  Or why I wait after every post to see who is reading.  This is one reason I study so hard.  Why I write so much, and sadly sometimes it is why I preach.

It’s painful to admit to myself that my mandate is often, “so live and so study and so serve and so preach and so write that Mike Leake be the only boast of this generation” when the mandate in my office reads, “so live and so study and so serve and so preach and so write that Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen God, be the only boast of this generation”.

And you know what happens when I’m not the only boast of this generation?  Do you know what happens when I feel ignored?  Anger, depression, shame, etc.  I sin on top of sin.

But it’s even worse when I do have attention.  My attention morphs into pride, misplaced joy, and idol worship.  And rightly enough it never satisfies (because only God can satisfy) so I hunger for more attention even in the midst of basking in it.  And then soon enough even when I get the attention I so passionately long for I get depressed because I know two things:  it’s not real and it won’t last. 
I’m not a helpless victim.  I’m an idolater and it has left me barren.

But hold on!  That is NOT fundamentally my identity.  I am NOT an idolater.  I have been redeemed by Jesus Christ.  This is part of the process of holiness.  He is ripping this barren and empty idol out of my life and out of my heart.

This holiness IS VERY PAINFUL!  I’m seeing my very identity being mauled, ripped, torn, mocked, and ultimately I’m watching the thing I have built my life around come crashing down.  That hurts.
But as He is ripping this foolish idolatry out of my heart He is satisfying my every longing with Himself.  I’m not sure what comes first.  Does He increase my joy in Him and therefore I let go of idols easier?  Or does He just rip out the idol and slowly in its place replace it with cruciform love?  I don’t really care.  All I know is that He is wounding me, injuring me, and tearing me into pieces but at the same time He is healing, restoring, and building me up in Christ.

So I’m making war.  Painful war on the flesh.  I’m making war to be satisfied in Jesus and Him alone and not to feed my idolatrous desire to have the attention of others.

This is the wonderful Christian life…

Monday, February 14, 2011

Review of Redemption by Mike Wilkerson

When I first learned of my opportunity to review this book for Crossway I was excited.  I had been exposed to Wilkerson through one of my classes in seminary.  My class had an hour long phone conference with him as he shared about what Mars Hill did for soul care in their congregation.  He also mentioned this book as an adaptation of the material they use in their Redemption groups.  I quickly jotted down the title as one to pick up in January.

I expected Redemption to strengthen the way that I do ministry and help me develop a plan for healing the brokenness in our church community.  I did not expect it to confront my idolatry.  But it did. 

One of the things that I often pray is, “Break me where I need broken and heal me where I need healed”.  There are certain books that have a tendency to be used by God to do both.  Wilkerson’s book confronts our idolatry (breaks us) but it also displays the beauty of Christ and provides substantial healing. 

As stated earlier this is an adaptation of what Mars Hill uses for their redemption groups.  Their redemption groups are an interesting concept.  Rather than having specific groups for various addictions they have one specific group.  But what is even more interesting is that they not only combine the various forms of addiction, they also have those that are victims go through the same material in the same group.  This book is essentially what they use. 

How can something possibly tie together victims and addicts?  The thread that holds these two together is the biblical theme of Redemption.  In this book Wilkerson uses the biblical story of the Exodus as a framework for God’s pattern of redemption.  One thing that addicts and victims have in common is a desperate need for redemption (freedom). 

This is why I thought I would use this book to strengthen ministry to broken people.  I know that I am broken but I would not have classified myself as much of a victim or an addict.  But this book is useful for every sinner that needs redemption and healing.  We all carry wounds and we all worship idols.  Wilkerson uses the story of the Exodus to both break and heal sinners in the name of Jesus. 

The book is eight chapters long.  Stories of real people is interwoven with the real biblical story of the Israelite Exodus.  God redeems people today just as He redeemed the Israelites, and he does it through Christ.  Wilkerson shows his firm commitment to the Scriptures and solid biblical scholarship.  But he also shows that he is a physician of the soul as well.  He shows how the gospel heals real life sinners. 

I heartily recommend this book to everyone.  In fact I am trying to figure out ways to use this book in our congregation.  Immediately after reading it I told my wife to put down all my other book suggestions (I have a tendency to suggest way too many books for people to read) and to focus on this one.  In the coming months we are going to slowly go through this book and use the discussion questions at the end of each chapter. 

I would like to see something from Wilkerson and the folks at Mars Hill on the specifics and ministry side to these Redemption groups.  I think it is an awesome idea and I would love to see something that is a little more small-group/curriculum based as well.  But don’t wait for those.  Whoever you are if you have a beating heart this book will greatly benefit you.

You can buy the hardcopy for only 10.87 or you can buy the e-book for 7.99

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Bridge of Grace

O LORD, how many are my foes!
        Many are rising against me;
     many are saying of my soul,
        there is no salvation for him in God. Selah

    But you, O LORD, are a shield about me,
        my glory, and the lifter of my head.
     I cried aloud to the LORD,
        and he answered me from his holy hill. Selah

    I lay down and slept;
        I woke again, for the LORD sustained me.
     I will not be afraid of many thousands of people
        who have set themselves against me all around.

    Arise, O LORD!
        Save me, O my God!
    For you strike all my enemies on the cheek;
        you break the teeth of the wicked.
    Salvation belongs to the LORD;
        your blessing be on your people! Selah
(Psalm 3 ESV)

I love this Psalm.  Here is David broken, hurting, and feeling trapped.  I mean the guys own son is thirsty for his blood.  And to top it all off he hears their taunting, “there is no salvation for him in God”. 

Now that can mean a couple of things.  It could mean that they are saying, “David, you are so wicked there is no hope for you to be found in the Lord; there is no way that God can forgive someone like you.”  Or it could be simply questioning the faithfulness of God.  More than likely it is the first one. 

Have you heard these messengers? 

Perhaps they are saying, “your sins are so bad there is no hope for your soul.  Clean yourself up and then maybe the Lord will find you acceptable”.  Sometimes it cuts deeper.  It’s not just our behavior that is unacceptable, it’s our entire being.  And at times they sound like this, “You are on your own. If you want change you better make it happen yourself. God is sick of having to do it. It’s about time you start carrying your load”.

And every day we hear from messengers saying, “This will save you”. Underneath this idolatry is the message that you had better find refuge in this new (fill in the blank) because God isn’t sufficient to make you acceptable.

In our darker times we believe the lie.  We try something new.  Even holy, churchy, Jesus-sounding things.  This new study will finally fix me.  This new strategy for conquering addiction will finally break the chains.  This new information will transform me.  This new community will finally heal these wounds. 

But notice David…

He had a history with the Lord.  He believed that God was is shield (notice that it isn’t that God gives David a shield.  God IS the shield).  He knew that these messengers were liars, and it did not matter how many or how loud they shouted.  David had firmly experienced and had it settled in his mind (at least on this occasion) that Salvation belongs to the Lord and in nothing else. 

David is only saying what Spurgeon did thousands of years later:

Ah! the bridge of grace will bear your weight, brother. Thousands of big sinners have gone across that bridge, yea, tens of thousands have gone over it. I can hear their trampings now as they traverse the great arches of the bridge of salvation. They come by their thousands, by their myriads; e'er since the day when Christ first entered into His glory, they come, and yet never a stone has sprung in that mighty bridge. Some have been the chief of sinners, and some have come at the very last of their days, but the arch has never yielded beneath their weight. I will go with them trusting to the same support; it will bear me over as it has borne them.

Don’t believe the lie…the bridge of grace will bear your weight!!!!  Salvation belongs to the Lord. 

Would I Sizzle?

For some strange reason I was avoiding Don't Call It a Comeback .  Not sure why but I had some sort of internal revulsion to it.  But I decided to purchase it anyways because usually my feelings like that are stupid.  I am glad I did.  Kevin DeYoung’s first chapter is phenomenal.  (Duh, Kevin DeYoung’s writing usually does ignite my passion for Jesus). 

There is one quote in DeYoung’s chapter that I want to share with you because it is rocking me.  It is actually a quote from W.E. Sangster who was interviewing a somewhat shy ministry candidate that said he doubted he would set the Thames on fire with his preaching and ministry.  To this Sangster responded:

“I’m not interested to know if you can set the Thames on fire. What I want to know is this: If I picked you up by the scruff of the neck and dropped you into the Thames, would it sizzle?”

Wow.  And as DeYoung points out this is very much akin to what McCheyne also said, “What my people need most from me is my personal holiness”.  God is more interested in my heart towards him than he is in anything that I do “for” him. 

Theologically that is a duh for me.  I’ve preached sermons about this.  But this quote (and the truth it stems from) confronts a deep-seated idol in my heart: attention.  You see I WANT to set the Thames on fire.  (Or maybe the Ohio).  And I want to do it for Jesus.  Well, not really.  I’m sure that is in there somewhere, but I want my name to be in lights. 

And here is the disgusting thing.  I want my name to be in lights as being “gospel-centered, loving Jesus,etc.”  If I am being honest with myself for far too long I have been more concerned with appearing to be gospel-centered than actually being gospel-centered. 

Then I read this quote and it stopped me dead in my tracks (combined with a few things as precursors to God breaking me with this).  God wants me to sizzle.  The folks in Matthew 7 set the world on fire (Lord, Lord, didn’t we…) but they didn’t sizzle (depart from me I never knew you).  Jesus wants sizzling servants not “successful” glory-stealers. 

So, I am praying a simple, though passionate, prayer today.  Jesus, make me sizzle. 

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Quick Review of Life of Luther by Barnas Sears

Attic Books, which I believe is a division of New Leaf books is doing the church a great service by republishing these old books.  I was fortunate enough to receive a free copy of Barans Sears’ Life of Luther in exchange for a review. 

As bibliophile (that’s book lover) I have to say that the look of these books is amazing.  I love the “old” feel to them, with their somewhat dilapidated looking edges and rustic covers.  There is something that makes reading history feel more significant when the book feels older. 

But we all know that it is never wise to judge a book by its cover, nor its serrated edges.  So, what is on the inside of this Life of Luther?  How does it stack up to the others? 

For one thing this is a book written in 1850.  Therefore, there are certain issues in modern works on Luther that are not dealt with.  Certain things are assumed (justification by faith as the center of the Reformation) and some things are ignored (Luther and the Jews).  You will not find some of the contemporary discussions on Luther. 

But that is partly what makes this read so fun.  It feels like you are reading something more akin to the literature in Luther’s time period.  It is raw.  It doesn’t hold punches; nor does Sears seem to find the need to defend the bombastic Luther. 

How does this work on Luther stack up to the others?  Of the Luther books that I have read this one was one of the most fun.  Probably because Sears actually includes many quotes from Luther.  This is a pretty comprehensive look at Luther and a pretty typical look at Luther from an 1850’s perspective.  If you like church history, the Reformation period, and/or Luther then Sears’ Life of Luther is certainly  worthy of your consideration.

Today in Blogworld 2.9.11

This is more like the last 5 days in blogworld.  Sorry for my absence.

Free Chapter of Redemption.  (You are going to want to buy this book , I’ll be reviewing it in the next few days).

How to Provoke Your Children to Anger

Erik Raymond wonders if we preach a day of atonement gospel…

Challies is interviewing MacArthur.  Check out the first 5 Q’s.

The Holcomb’s are clearing up Myths and Misconceptions about Sexual Assault

In case you ever wondered about Carl Trueman’s reading habits…

CJ on The Pastor on Personal Criticism:  A Kind and Painful Bruising

David Murray on sorrow overload.  (HT: JT)

Preach it Until You Feel It

The Centrality of the Gospel in a Distracted World

I’ve got more, but this will keep you busy for today…

What are the Best App’s?

I finally saved up enough money to purchase an Ipod Touch.  I thought it would be beneficial to me as a pastor (scheduling), a music lover, and a student.  So I saved up (in the form of a tax refund) and forked out the dough. 

But I need a little help.  You see I’m kind of a moron when it comes to all these new-fangled technology thingies.  And due to my uncoolness I end up downloading apps like “Cat Toss” only to find out they are lame.  Would you be willing to help me?  What are some of the best and most used apps that are on your i-magig?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

New Music Tuesday

Pretty much everything that came out today, at least in my opinion, is pretty lame.  Either that or I have never heard of them and need your help…

Some of you may like The Wailin’ Jennys (not Waylon Jennings) new offering Bright Morning Stars

If you like Jazz Kurt Elling is pretty cool.  His latest, The Gate , is a good jazz record (whatever that means). 

Some of you may like Hawk Nelson.  If you do then you may want their new album: Crazy Love/The Light Sides .  This is a 2 disc set…Crazy Love is new and The Light Sides is some of their hits done acoustically. 

See what I mean.  Nothing much to write home about.  Amazon does have a pretty solid Name Your Link.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Something to Chew On

“…provocative language and sweeping generalizations usually provoke, nurture, and justify the worst tendencies in human nature, rather than furthering the outworking of our redemption.”  -David Powlison

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A Verse that should cause every counselor, pastor, and teacher to pause…

    They have healed the wound of my people lightly,
        saying, ‘Peace, peace,’
        when there is no peace.
     Were they ashamed when they committed abomination?
        No, they were not at all ashamed;
        they did not know how to blush.
    Therefore they shall fall among those who fall;
        at the time that I punish them, they shall be overthrown,”
    says the LORD.
(Jeremiah 6:14-15 ESV)

Today in Blogworld 2.2.11

Iain Murray, whom I respect greatly, has written an article giving some cautions for expository preaching.  Honestly, I’m not sure I agree.  (Maybe I’ll explain later).  Colin Adams is discussing this article on his blog.

7 Lessons on Suffering from Spurgeon (who battled gout and depression)

Exodus: The Back Story of Redemption

An Inferiority Complex can be Prideful

I am really excited about this one.  Free Audiobook of Adopted for Life.

My wife will really dig this:

(HT: 22 Words)

Do you adorn the gospel with friendliness?

More from the Secret Church Simulcast

Interview with Piper on the 25th Anniversary of Desiring God.  Check out the photos.

The new shape to the Creation v. Evolution Debate

The Affliction of the Gospel

This is hilarious, the Internet 16 years ago.

(HT: Denny Burk)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

New Music Tuesday 2.1.11

Bob Marley fans will be excited about this Live 2 Disc-Set :

RED, a Christian metal band, has a new CD out called Until We Have Faces.  From Amazon: RED’s anticipated third studio project unleashes a torrential outpouring of in-your-face rock this troupe has become known for.  You can buy it today for only 5.99 .

I feel weird even suggesting it…but apparently many people like Rod Stewart.  If you are, I suggest counseling.  But on your way to your counseling session why not listen to his new Greatest Hits album: The Best Of... The Great American Songbook

If you like Gospel music you will be excited that WOW Gospel 2011 is now available.  It is two-discs of the best Gospel music of 2011. 

Feel free to check out the other new releases

Review of Defiant Joy: The Life of Chesterton by Kevin Belmonte

For awhile now I have been intrigued by G.K. Chesterton, but my exposure to him as remained minimal.  So I was very excited for the opportunity to review Kevin Belmonte’s biography on the life and work of Chesterton .  I received this book free from Thomas Nelson in exchange for a review. 

Belmonte is an apt biographer, I enjoyed his smaller work on William Wilberforce, and so I assumed this one would be good as well.  It weighs in at 315 pages and Belmonte states early that his goal is not to be extensive but to provide a summary of the life and writings of Chesterton.  His hope is that this work will encourage those of us newly exposed to G.K. to seek out more. 

For one with a minimum amount of exposure to Chesterton I feel that now I have a decent grasp on his works.  There are large portions of his writings and also of reviews by his contemporaries.  It is an interesting take on a biography.  Honestly it is more of a survey of his writings than it is an introduction to his life.

I was looking for something more on the life of Chesterton—and Belmonte said he had hoped to survey his works “in the context of his remarkable life”.  In reading this I think Belmonte knocked his first goal out of the park.  This is a very apt survey of the works of Chesterton.  He could have interacted with Chesterton a little more, but it serves as an apt introductory survey. 

However, if you are looking for an introduction into the life of Chesterton I would not suggest this book.  After trudging through 315 pages of Chesterton I still only feel minimally exposed to his life.  I know a few general facts but I wish Belmonte would have quoted less and interacted with his life a little more. 

Perhaps you will like it.  I had a hard time getting through it.  Maybe if this were the second Chesterton book that I had read I would have enjoyed this offering more.  But did Belmonte accomplish his goal of making me want to read more Chesterton?  Yes and no.  I want to read more of Chesterton because I am still intrigued by him—but I have to humbly confess that I will not be picking up another Chesterton work because of this one. 

If you are already somewhat exposed to Chesterton and want something that interacts with all of his works then Belmonte’s work here will be fitting.  But if you are looking for an introduction into the life of Chesterton I think you may want to look elsewhere. 

Rating 3 out of 5 stars

Buy it from Amazon for only 11.81

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