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

Image result for rediscovering Paul

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.

Monday, July 31, 2017

The Day After #1--Reflections on Sunday

A fellow blogger used to do this Monday Morning Quarterback kind of thing where he would blog about how worship went the weekend before. I think this might be helpful. Only I am calling mine "The Day After", reminding myself of the apocalyptic movie of my youth. I think I will review with less of a tick-tock and more of a general summary.

The Night Before
I am preaching in a different way than I ever have before while here at FBC North Platte. I am not sure that it is working, although my wife says it is.

Until about 2 years ago, I was generally a manuscript preacher. This means that I wrote out my entire sermon. I was trained to use sermon manuscripts in seminary, and Jene Bridgewater was one of my preaching mentors, and she always used a manuscript (usually finished an hour before worship).

Over time, I began to experiment with an outline that was shaped like a bulletin, and was only one page long. The first column visible was a cover, and the next three columns were the outline for the sermon. This allowed for a more conversational style, and more eye contact with persons in the congregation. I have continued this practice in North Platte.

When I came to North Platte, I prayed about what to preach, and I repurposed some sermons that had outlines with them. Now, after 6 months, the congregation likes to have a note-taking outline each Sunday. Sigh.

With this outline, a Powerpoint is also expected for the message. This had been the case for some of my sermons in Hot Springs, but when there were Powerpoint notes, they often were my sermon notes as well.

When I started this three part routine, I began by trying to put together the preaching outline first, and then derive my bulletin outline and Powerpoint from the prepared message. Lately this has turned around. I develop the Powerpoint and the bulletin outline first, and then draft the preaching outline the evening before, having it derived from how I put together the other two versions of the sermon. I think this works well.

This last week, knowing that people occasionally have a hard time knowing where we are in the bulletin outline, I took the bulletin outline of the message, and expanded on that with other material to flesh out the sermon. This seems to be a better process than vise versa, and the three-fold approach helps me to be more familiar with the material

Sunday School
I am sitting in with the children's class. I want to make kids ministry a priority here, even if we don't have a lot of kids yet. And, it avoids have to choose one adult class over another, or having to bounce around from class to class. It also allows us to use the two-adult rule.

We use an "internet" curriculum. It is not bad, but I think, as far as curriculum goes, we can do better. Especially if we want to grow the program.

I am still figuring out worship here at First Baptist. Historically, the service has been rather formal and somewhat traditional. Recently, there has been some movement toward contemporary worship and a more informal organization of the service. This more contemporary part of the service has been well done for the most part, but it is hard to sustain the momentum and depend on this every Sunday.

This last Sunday was a perfect example. We had nobody available for praise team. We attempted to have a mix between a more formal, scripted service and a less formal service with limited information. As we make changes, people still struggle to adapt. And I struggle to adapt to their "structure", and make it something comfortable for me.

There were hiccups, and not everything we tried worked (especially the children's song on video). Eventually we will get to a place ( I hope) where I don't feel like I am trying to implement other folks' vision for worship while also trying to do something that fits what I feel comfortable with.

The Sermon
People here in North Platte are Midwestern reserved. So I never really know how it is going. There are lots of times I feel like going to a manuscript would help me to craft my words better. And keep in better step with people's note-taking efforts.

I tend to move around a lot with my messages these days. I am not sure how that is working either. In the last three weeks, in part out of a recommendation from my Executive Minister, I try and make my way from the platform, down the stairs, to the floor, and then back up to the pulpit before I finish.

Even as I preach with notes, I tend to look at my notes less. This means that there are times the sermon does not flow the way it was planned, but it makes for a more heart-felt conversation between myself and the church.

I had a senior-pastor that discouraged the conversational tenor of my messages, telling me I could do conversational preaching if I wanted, but it would not work and it would not last very long. I always have that in the back of my head.

The sermon was on the armor of God. I finished the message with the refrain "Are you ready for the battle? Are you ready?"

After Worship
We had folks over for lunch. We are trying to be hospitable, and to teach the church to be the same way by setting a good example.

It was a good time, although toward the end of the dinner I got to speaking to much and listening to little. Which meant some of the other folks were eager to leave sooner than they might have been otherwise. Not a bad thing. I just need to reign myself in and facilitate a broader dinner conversation.

I like having people over for meals. And, practicing hospitality is something Scripture tells us to do.