Saturday, February 17, 2018

Book Review of the Radical Pursuit of Rest by John Koessler

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The Radical Pursuit of Rest: Escaping the Productivity Trap
by John Koessler
ISBN 978-0-8308-4444-9
IVP Books
Reviewed by Clint Walker

Often, among circles of recovering workaholics you hear the phrase, "I am not a human doing, I am a human being". While most of time when I hear quips like this I think the person has spent too much time in therapy or reading self-help books, this particular phrase has a ring of truth to it.

There is a certain percentage of our congregations and our society who are literally working themselves to death, trying to do everything they can, and not taking time to rest, to have Sabbath, and to remember that our lives are about relationships and not what we produce.

It is to this group of people that John Koessler brings his book The Radical Pursuit of Rest. He argues that the church has uncritically adopted a culture of productivity, anxiety, and activity that runs counter to God's message of grace, peace and rest. He addresses some of the roadblocks to the healthy rhythm of rest and work head on. If you read this book you will discover how you often deceive yourself, thinking you are resting when you are really continuing to hurry and hustle. You will also see that Koessler addresses some of the impediments to rest head on, and with sage wisdom. He will show you how the theme of rest runs through Scripture, and how it is part of God's promise for his people. Radical Pursuit of Rest speaks directly to our hurried, frazzled souls, and seeks to show us another way.

I recommend reading this book highly, both on your own, and perhaps in a book club you are a part of .

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Book Review of Godspeed by David Teems

Godspeed: Voices of the Reformation
David Teems
Abingdon Press
ISBN 978-1-5018-4715-8
Reviewed by Clint Walker

In many ways, Godspeed is a typical devotional. There is a quote, a bible passage, a devotional thought expanding on the Bible passage, a prayer after the teaching, and then usually a quote (or another quote) from a reformer from church history. This devotional leans heavily on Luther and Tyndale, but also includes other reformers such as Cramner, Wycliffe, and Calvin.

My experience with this study is that it was great to be connected to the historical church as I read the quotes and the teachings. A lot of times, when reading modern devotionals, it is easy to get caught in our present location in time and setting. This little devotional gets me out of my world with a different way of thinking, but yet expounding on the same word that I and the reformers both love.

Highly recommended!

Book Review of The Voices of the New Testament: Invitation to A Biblical Roundtable by Derek Tidball

The Voices of the New Testament: Invitation to A Biblical Roundtable
by Derek Tidball
IVP Academic
Reviewed by Clint Walker

I absolutely loved this book. The Voices of the New Testament attempts to bring biblical writers into dialogue with one another in order to highlight different perspectives on biblical texts, as well as biblical and theological issues. It does not attempt, like some more liberal scholars might try, to have different writers of different texts represent competing views of the message of Christ. Instead, Tidball illustrates how the Biblical witness brings differing voices with differing viewpoints that help us understand the truth about God in a fuller, more unified way.

One example is how the Scripture treats the Sonship of Christ. Some gospels use the term Son of God, while others use the term Son of Man. Hebrews takes the concept in one direction, while the gospel of John takes the understanding of the "Son" in a different direction. Together, when you read the dialogue between these fictional writers, you get a fuller picture of all of Biblical revelation.

This study is also a lot more readable than more pedantic academic works. The dialogical method and narrative structure of the conversations make the theology more readable, and more thought provoking.

This would be a great book for a class looking at themes in biblical history, whether in the church or in a college Bible class.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Book Review of Rediscovering Paul: An Introduction to his World, Letters, and Theology

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Rediscovering Paul: An Introduction to His World, Letters, and Theology
By David B. Capes, Rodney Reeves, and E. Randolph Richards
ISBN 978-0-8308-5191-1
IVP Academic
Reviewed by Clint Walker

This is a second edition of Rediscovering Paul, a book that is most often used as a textbook. Well loved by thinking evangelicals across the country, it is also a great read for a pastor or lay person who wants an introduction to a systematic treatment of Paul.

This second edition of this book is quite timely, as several people have been following N.T. Wright and James Dunn's lead with their rather deep and lengthy studies released in recent years, and so there has been a brighter light placed on Pauline Studies int he last few years.

As the subtitle indicates, this book seeks to put the leadership of the Apostle Paul in the Christian Church in context with his times and culture. Capes, Reeves and Richards do this by dedicating some portion of their book to addressing these concerns directly, but even as they begin to discuss Paul's letters, beliefs, spiritual life, and legacy they continue to contextualize the life and teachings of the Apostle Paul. You really, at certain points, get a glimpse into what it would be like to be a shopkeeper in Asia Minor, and the implications of being a new believer in Christ. It really is quite fascinating.

It approaches the biblical writings in the context of the places Paul ministered and the people he ministered with. So, we look at his letters as the letters he wrote before prison, and in prison. And we get to deal with the pastoral epistles in a little different way, as those are also addressed directly.

What I like about the book is the last chapter, which is the "so what does this mean to churches today?" chapter. I think in a lot of works that are more academic some of these things are discussed and implied indirectly, but I think that the author's willingness to engage how Paul may speak to the church today is enlightening.

This book is very easy to read. It would be a fun book to teach out of even in a local church.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Thinking about my generation...

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Young Pastors at Fall Nebraska Pastor Camp

Last week, as the Fall Pastor Camp Experience was winding down, our Associate Executive Greg Mamula gathered the "Young Pastors" for a picture. Previously, there was a picture of the millennial pastors at a gathering. I had left already, and was not included in that picture. So, I was honored to be included in this one. I had to make clear though, "You know, I am not one of you millenials. I am an old man. I am a Gen Xer."

Indeed, I did do a little survey regarding the ministers in this picture. Most of them graduated high school after 2000. I graduated high school in 1991. I am in a small group with a few of these folks. I am the old man in the group. 

Here is the deal though. There are not a lot of us Gen Xer pastors in my circles. A decade earlier, say born before 1964 or earlier, there are a number of Baby Boomers. Some of them are nearing retirement. For the first say 18 years of my ministry, I was almost always one of the two or three youngest in the room by at least 10 years. Now, in the last 5 years, the younger crowd has arrived in force. 

And so, I have been thinking lately. What happened to my generation. Here are a couple of possibilities:

  • By definition, there are fewer of us
  • My Generation must be less churched and more suspicious of religion even than the Millennials
  • Mainline denominations are resurgent with younger folks, but perhaps more Gen Xers went non-denominational.
What do you think?

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Book Review of The Unreformed Martin Luther by Andreas Malessa

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The Unreformed Martin Luther: A Serious (and Not So Serious) Look at the Man Behind the Myths
by Andreas Malessa
Kregel Publications
ISBN 978-0-8254-4456-2
Reviewed by Clint Walker

Martin Luther was a consequential historical leader. Not only did he begin the Protestant Reformation 500 years ago on Halloween, he was also as a result a "founding father" of modern Germany. As such, several stories have been circulated about Luther. Some are true, some are false, and some are exaggerated.

Andrea Malessa takes on each myth about Luther and examines the story for historical veracity. What did Luther really say about the use of alcohol? Did people really watch Luther and his wife have sex? If so, why? Is that story about Luther and planting a tree accurate? Did Luther's most important theological insights come to him while he was using the restroom? These questions and many others are examined in this fine book that helps the reader come to understand Luther better through playing "mythbusters" with a myriad of quotes and stories that are attributed to him.

This book was a fun read. Sometimes I found myself disappointed that certain quotes cannot be verified and certain stories are not true. At other times, I found myself intrigued with the differences in culture and perspective between Luther's Germany and modern day America. By the end of the book, I felt like I not only knew Luther's theology better, but I knew Luther as a person more intimately.

I recommend this book highly, and will re-read it on occasion and share it with others.

Monday, September 04, 2017

From the Mattea Channel: Bigfoot in the Redwoods

I am going to share videos the kids make on the blog every now and again. This from the Redwood National Forest this summer.

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

On Being Patient

When I was a kid, I fished a lot. I would get home from school, grab my fishing pole, and head down to the river to fish until dinner time (The world was a lot safer place forty years ago). Fishing was always a challenge for me. I was and am not the most patient person. In addition to this, I was very eager to catch fish. I was always wondering if I had a fish on. Every current and every snag felt like it could be a potential nibble on my pole. I would set my hook and start reeling my line in. And there would just be a poor, traumatized little worm on the end of my line. After a while, I added a bobber to my line and learned to trust it. Even more though, I learned that when a fish bit my line, I knew it. I may have thought I felt a bite before, but when the fish hit my bait, my pole would show the evidence and my hands would feel it.

Right now it is hard to patient as I seek to lead and grow this church. I know we need to take steps forward. We have even taken a few. Yet, as Jesus said, reaching out and living on mission for him is a lot like fishing. I keep hoping that I will be successful in growing our church. On the other hand, I know I need to be patient to respond to his timing and not my own. I will keep seeking the right holes to fish in, and I will pray that when God's timing is leading us in a specific direction, I will know it.