Tuesday, June 28, 2011
A CARPENTER’S VIEW OF THE BIBLE
By Charlie March
Published by Pleasant Word
Reviewed by Clint Walker
Many books have been written about the Bible. Most of them have been written by people who have spent most of their lives in offices, cubicles, studies, and possibly coffee shops. A CARPENTER’S VIEW OF THE BIBLE IS DIFFERENT. The book’s author, Charlie March, has academic credentials. He also has thirty-two years experience as a finish carpenter. A CARPENTER’S VIEW OF THE BIBLE is a book for people who like to build things, by a person who loves the Lord and loves to build things.
Dr. March methodically takes his reader through different construction themes in Scripture. He reviews the significance of walls in the Old Testament. He mines architectural themes in Sodom and Gomorrah. He enlightens his readers to what Jesus and Paul said from a carpenter’s perspective as well. And he has much more to say as well.
This book would be great to give to a blue-collar guy who is interested in how the Bible can speak to his everyday life in a fresh way. I recommend it highly.
FAITH ELEMENT: HIGH
Monday, June 27, 2011
PRAYING FOR YOUR FUTURE HUSBAND
By Robin Jones Gunn and Tricia Goyer
Published by Multnomah
Reviewed by Clint Walker
Have you been waiting for Mr. Right, and wondering if he is going to ever come around? Are you tempted to settle for someone who might be “good enough” instead of waiting for God’s best choice for you to marry? Or do you keep looking for love, and finding that your ability to choose an appropriate partner is just a little bit “off”? If so, you might want to pick up PRAYING FOR YOUR FUTURE HUSBAND by Robin Jones Gunn and Tricia Goyer.
Gunn and Goyer have written a smart, entertaining guide for single women of all ages. Each chapter takes on a new issue in looking for a husband, and then there is room for journaling at the end of every chapter. Each chapter also is divided into wise words from each of the authors—and while they rarely disagree they often have differing perspectives. My favorite chapter is on “the list”, and the benefits and pitfalls of developing a list in what you are looking for in a future mate.
Many readers may dismiss a book written on future husbands written by romance novelists. Before I had this book in my hands I might have too. However, I believe this dismissal would be misguided. This is a fun book with helpful reminders to pray for and set godly standards in one’s dating life. It is well worth paying attention to.
Saturday, June 25, 2011
I got home from leading Bible Study at the McCuistion's place, and found a gaggle of geese greeting me on the front porch. The geese were there upon request of someone who gave money to the American Cancer Society. The teens in town are raising money for cancer awareness it seems, and we were the beneficiary.
Friday, June 24, 2011
Jennifer and I went to Subway this evening, got a treat at Sonic and then headed home from Rocky Ford. On the way home, I noticed a couple of police at the intersection. I did not, however, notice that they had the beat on me.
I pulled into the church parking lot (my front yard). About 15 seconds later the police pulled around the corner. The parked the car behind our van. Two male police officers sauntered out of the car. I thought the police were short staffed. It appears they are not.
They got out of the car. They began to tell us about the brake light being out on our new van. I thanked them. They told me to have a nice evening. Silence. They looked at each other. They looked at me. They looked at each other. They appeared to take a few steps back.
The other cop says, "You also didn't use your turn signal off of Main Street."
"Oh, sorry," I say they take a few steps back. They turn around. They come back. "Can I see your license?" they ask.
"Sure," I said
The police go into their car. Now at least 3 minutes into their call, they get in the car AND THEN they turned on the police lights. As I am parked. And my wife is walking into the house with the baby. They take 5 minutes to check my drivers license. They walk back to me. They give me my license back.
Then, lights still flashing, they ask to see my insurance. Really? "Sure, I guess," I say.
I get it out. They look at it. They frown. This takes about a minute. "Ok. Thanks. Get that light fixed soon," they say. They get back in the car and head down the road.
The way it was going, I am amazed they did not pull their guns on me.
I am left wondering several things.
- Why didn't they turn on the lights when they first made the stop if they were going to turn them on?
- Why couldn't they share all of their traffic concerns at the same time?
- Couldn't they ask for all of my information at the same time?
- If I had a problem with my light that merited a stop, couldn't they have pulled me over 4 blocks earlier?
- Do I really look that dangerous with an infant in a mini-van pulling up to a parsonage?
Until this evening, I would say I supported the police department. Now, I wonder why they don't have basic police skills, or basic people skills. It was the most unprofessional, Barney-fife police experience I have ever had.
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
BILLY GRAHAM IN QUOTES
Compiled by Franklin Graham with Donna Lee Toney
Published by Thomas Nelson
Reviewed by Clint Walker
I love quotes. I also love collections of quotations. So, when I had a chance to get BILLY GRAHAM IN QUOTES I seized my opportunity. This book does not disappoint. Franklin, Billy’s son, has put together a collection of quotations that span a wide variety of subjects, and that span over 50 years. As one reads this book, one gets a sense of Mr. Graham’s heart, his values, his theology, and his ministry. Furthermore, one gets a clear idea of where the best of evangelicalism has been in the 20th century, and where it might being going in the 21st century.
These quotes from Billy Graham are arranged by topic. They range from the clichés of an evangelist of yesterday, to some profound insights into the human condition. No matter what the topic, the quotes are easily understood and thought-provoking. This, in my opinion, was Graham’s strength: being able to preach and teach the Word of God in a way that speaks to a simple, common person, but at the same time make the intellectual occasionally stop and think about the words he was saying. Graham was the greatest Christian communicator of his generation. This collection of quotes demonstrates this.
The only criticism I have of the book is that I would have liked to have seen a more exhaustive index of this collection of nearly 400 pages of quotations. Perhaps this will be added in further editions.
*Thanks to Thomas Nelson Publishers for this complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review
By MATT REDMAN
Published by David C. Cook
Reviewed by Clint Walker
There are many books around about worship. Many of them are technical or theoretical. Or worse, the books choose to argue about styles of worship and why one is better than the other. Matt Redman’s book is different. In MIRROR BALL, Redman attempts to write a book about worship for the everyday person that will train their hearts to live lives of praise of the God of the Bible. I think he is reasonably successful.
Redman’s book has a fairly simple structure. He urges his readers to discover a passion for God, to take time to see Him for who he is, to submit ourselves to his power in our lives and his will for our lives, and then gratefully serve the Lord in appreciation and love for all of the things he is and all of the things he has done for us. Of course, the book is much more compelling than this simple, clinical outline. But you get the point…..
The book has several appealing aspects to it. It is a very quick read. Throughout the text, there are several illustrations from history, and from the author’s own experiences that taught him what it means to be a worshipper. The stories are easily understood and compelling. There were several good quotes spread throughout MIRROR BALL as well, which I enjoyed because I love collecting quotes. This book also has a generous, well-prepared study guide to help its readers go deeper in what it means to have a life of worship.
This would be a great book to study worship, either on one’s own, or in a small group. I think it would be an excellent study for a worship team in a local church as well.
*Thanks to David C. Cook and Amazon vine for this complimentary copy provided in exchange for an honest review.
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
I have now lost 77 lbs in 5 and a half months. That 83 lb goal is getting closer, and I am thankful for it. Then we will shoot to hit another 50 after that before thanksgiving. Then....who knows what.
Weight loss has been slower now than at the beginning. About 2 lbs a week. I believe, with limited exercise and after five months of cosistent controlled eating, this is a healthy normal rate. I would like to lose weight faster, but I am more and more confident that if I continue to make progress slower, I will like the results in the end.
I have chosen the way of "organic" weight loss. I have not tried to go with some fad diet. I have not used surgical intervention. I have not gotten on a television show. I have not read some new book. I have gotten on a weight watchers program that has kept me accountable for healthier, more controlled eating. This is not the easy way. It is not the "quick fix". For me it is the best way.
Not that I desparage the quick fix, if it really works for you. Quick fixes don't work for me though. I will just take them for granted.
Not taking the easy way allows God to slowly teach self-control and persistence to my stubborn soul. Even though, when my wife asks what I want to eat I often say, "I want a pizza buffet where I can eat pizza until my stomach hurts, and to wash it all down with a 2 liter bottle of Mountain Dew, but I will settle for...." And then we have a healthier normal meal.
Having said that, local observers will notice that I structure in "cheats" into my weight loss system. Instead of using my weight watchers weekly allowance during the week and tracking it, I wait to use the weekly allowance until after I weigh in. Then I allow myself to have some generally forbidden "treats" for that afternoon and evening, and get back on the wagon for the next day. So, there are some days when I do hit the pizza buffet, but it is planned and structured, instead of at the whim of my impulse control.
I wonder, as I write this, what other people's experiences are with weight loss, and the challenges they have faced and the insights they have learned.
Monday, June 20, 2011
By SCOTT WILLIAMS
Published by New Leaf Press
Reviewed by Clint Walker
Over 50 years ago, Martin Luther King Jr. said, “We must face the sad fact that at the eleven o’clock hour, when we stand to sing, we stand in the most segregated hour in America.” Sadly, what was true in Dr. King’s time continues to be true in our time as well.
Scott Williams is a key leader in Lifechurch.tv, a non-denominational church based out of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. He is an African-American pastor, and is seeking to make his local church and the American church more ethnically and racially integrated. Church Diversity is a tour de force on the importance of racial and ethnic diversity in the local church in America. Williams hits the issue from several angles, and makes a very convincing argument.
A big chunk of Williams’ book integrates his argument with his personal story. I thought this was a wise idea. It makes the book more readable, it makes clear that Williams has a strong personal investment in the issue he is speaking about, and it bolsters many of the points he is trying to make.
Scott Williams begins Church Diversity by making the argument that the church is, indeed, segregated on Sunday mornings. This is not only true with the black/white divide in American Christianity, it is also demonstrated by the myriad of small, ethnically driven churches that show up in any decent sized city in the United States. This was evidenced in the testimony of Jayson John, who is a multicultural minister of another church in Oklahoma, and is also of East Indian decent (pp. 71-75).
Church Diversity argues that multi-ethnic, multi-racial churches only come about through deliberate intentionality. The author shares in a convicting chapter that corporate America cares more about diversity that the church does. I think he is right. Williams says, “The only way race will become a non-issue is if we make race an issue” (p. 94).
This intentionality begins with leadership intentionally addressing the issue. Intention, however, is not enough to get very far in building a multi-ethnic church. Toward the end of the book, after making his case, Williams begins to lay out some clear principles for beginning multicultural ministry and transitioning your church into a multicultural church.
All in all, I thought Church Diversity was a unique book on creating multicultural Christian communities. I would have liked to have seen more on the Biblical foundation for multicultural churches and ministries. Also, some of the sections of the book were awkwardly stated. I thought Williams could have used some stronger editorial input on some technical aspects of his writing style. But these small weaknesses in this fine book should not keep people from reading it, especially if they live in a multicultural community.
Friday, June 17, 2011
By NATHAN BUSENITZ
Published by Harvest House
Reviewed by Clint Walker
Much is written these days about masculine spirituality and the importance of discovering male identity in Christ. Many of these books rely heavily on pop psychology or male archetypes to speak about what God calls men to be like, and to define what a “masculine Christian” looks like. Men of the Word takes a different approach. Looking at different men throughout Scripture, this text attempts to draw principles from each of these guys’ lives that help define what a “real man” of God is supposed to be like. The result is a great study on men of the Bible.
Men of the Word is essentially a monograph. Each chapter is written by a different person. A little research in the fine print of the book reveals that the author’s are all people who have worked or currently work as support pastors under the leadership of John MacArthur. This book is dedicated to Dr MacArthur in appreciation of his ministry in developing the authors as Christian leaders.
Although there are over a dozen different authors, the book reads in a surprisingly uniform manner. Each chapter has clear points, with a very similar method of presentation. This makes the text very easy to understand.
The book includes a study guide. The study guide is at the end of the book instead of the end of each chapter, which I think would be ideal for a men’s group.
I like the Biblically-centered nature of this study of masculinity. Many of the current resources I have heard and read about that deal with masculine spirituality and man-friendly churches that I have read centers on popular culture, instead of the Word of God. I believe this biblical focus is better, and will make this book a better resource for me in the future.
By WINSTON T. SMITH
Published by New Growth Press
Reviewed by Clint Walker
Marriage is not always easy. In fact, at times, it can be downright difficult and painful. What we often forget is that marriage can also be a very effective tool for spiritual transformation and for Christian witness. Winston T. Smith, in his book Marriage Matters reminds us of this very important truth.
Smith’s primary thesis is that God can use the ordinary moments of our marriages to grow us spiritually, to draw us closer to God, and to help us to heal the more profound problems that become stumbling blocks in our marriage relationships. Instead of waiting for our marriages to be healed by dramatic turning points, or with some instant insight, we need to be honest and reflective enough to allow God to slowly make our marriages better through baby steps toward love born in the routines of our everyday lives. Smith states it this way,
The path to change in your marriage is built on this truth: God is involved in
every moment of your marriage. In that sense, there are no ordinary moments,
only moments of God’s activity, of which you may or may not be aware , and in
which you may or may not chose to participate. (p.8)
Marriage Matters goes on to say that our problems in our marriage can often be helped as we look at our own lives, and see our side of the conflicts in our marriage as failures to love. Then, we need to take the steps needed to make our actions and attitudes more loving. This is a profoundly a spiritual issue, says Smith, because loving God and others is basic to Christian discipleship. When we place ourselves or other things as a priority over loving God and loving others we are sinning, and perhaps even worshipping and idol. It is at these moments, Smith argues, that we need to come back to our spiritual center for the sake of our marriage.
The rest of the book flows out of this foundation. Smith believes living in this truth will improve couple’s communication and their sex lives, and grow their openness, honesty, and happiness with one another. I think I agree with him.
This is a book that will be especially helpful for folks feeling stuck in their marriages, and looking for a way to move forward instead of repeating the same unhappy cycles. It will also be a wonderful vehicle for growth, as readers discover that their marriage is an opportunity for God to transform our souls more and more in His image.
Thursday, June 16, 2011
HALF THE CHURCH
By CAROLYN CUSTIS JAMES
Published by Zondervan
Reviewed by Clint Walker
Half the Church is not the book I expected when I ordered it. It was much more important, and much better.
In her newest book Carolyn Custis James takes on the global plight of women, and what it means to the church today. She begins by chronicling the inequality and injustice that women experience around the world. She shares how girls are valued less than boys when they are born in many parts of the world. She shares the many ways in which women are given less opportunity. James also chronicles the abuse of women in many cultures across the globe. Then, Half the Church asks a vital question. That question is “What does the church have to say about this injustice, and what is the church going to do about it?”
Ms. James argues, rather deftly I might add, that the church is saying and virtually nothing to address one of the more glaring injustices that confront the world today. She says that most of what we have to say to women is about marriage and motherhood, which is valuable, but also incomplete. To make this point about women she shares about her parents, and how well over half their marriage there were no children in the house. Are those years unimportant or irrelevant, or is her mother’s life about more than supporting her children and husband?
Half the Church is grounded in Scripture. It digs into Genesis and discusses what it means to bear God’s image. It also explores what the word “ezer” means in Hebrew, which is often inadequately translated as “helper”. It advocates for equality, fair treatment, and justice for women without coming across as militantly feminist. It is a brilliant text.
The one thing I struggled with is that I did not get the “flow” of the book. It seemed to hit its point from many different angles, but at times I did not feel like it was building toward an ultimate goal. It was just thoroughly covering and intriguingly covering the global plight of women, and the churches role is addressing this Biblically.
This book will occupy and important place on my bookshelf, and will be something I can refer to and loan out often.
*This book was given to me by Amazon Vine in exchange for an honest review
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
By LORILEE CRAKER
Published by Thomas Nelson
Reviewed by Clint Walker
Money Secrets of the Amish is my second book review in a series about Christian viewpoints on money and materialism. The book is written by veteran writer and journalist Lorilee Cracker from Grand Rapids, Michigan.
The first thing I must say about Money Secrets is, it is an entertaining read. Cracker brings a lot of her experiences in handling money to the forefront, often in a humorous way. There are several block quotes in each chapter that are appropriately selected and present memorable concepts. The author uses several anecdotes and success stories from other people, both mainstream American and Amish, to further her point. Finally, the book has some great advice.
As one might guess, Lorilee advocates for simpler living as a tool for being in a healthier financial position. So several chapters in this book have to do with delaying gratification, getting the full life out of the products you purchase, and reusing and repurposing stuff in an attempt to be more frugal. Yet there is so many more pithy observations than this.
Some of the observations that stood out to me were:
• Not paying bills on time is stealing from those you owe money to
• Purchasing gifts from a second hand store for others is entirely appropriate
• The idea of savings being like an umbrella to protect you from a “rainy day”
• That bartering your junk or services to supply needs or wants may be wise
I found Money Secrets to be smart, funny, and informative. It was a quick easy read, and a helpful thing for anyone to have on their bookshelf.
*This book was provided by Booksneeze in exchange for an honest review
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
MANAGING GOD'S MONEY: A BIBLICAL GUIDE
By RANDY ALCORN
Published by Tyndale
Reviewed by Clint Walker
I have recently been collecting books to review on money management. This is the first of a few of these books. When finished with the individual reviews, I am thinking about putting together a combined review of all of the books where I will compare and contrast them. For now, I want to share about Managing God's Money by Randy Alcorn with you.
There is much to commend about Managing God's Money: A Biblical Guide. Perhaps most striking is the very Biblical title of the book: Managing God's Money. From the beginning, the author and publisher remind us that the financial resources that we have responsibility for are not our own. They are given to us by God for us to manage and to use for his glory.
The book is an excellent resource. It has brief, intelligent, and easy to read summaries about most issues dealing with money. Alcorn begins by laying the foundation of some basic attitudes toward money that the Bible encourages and some basic principles about money that the Bible commands we take into account. He then shares about some thought patterns and perspectives that are roadblocks and lead to approaches toward money that are unbiblical. He shares about how important the uses of our financial resources are to our spiritual formation, including our attitudes toward giving.
After laying the Biblical foundation of a Christian's proper relationship with, and attitude toward money, Managing God's Money touches on a myriad of other questions about the wise stewardship of finances. Included in this is how to teach one's church and one's family about good stewardship, which I found especially helpful.
In addition to the stellar content that Alcorn contributes, there is much to commend about how the book is constructed and marketed. It is marketed in a mass-market edition, which allows for an economical purchase of this resource. The table of contents is essentially a detailed outline, which allows the reader to easily find the section they are most interested in, and thus makes this book strong reference material.
This is an excellent book and an affordable cost for those who want to learn more about money, and what God says about it.
*This book was provided by Tyndale in exchange for an honest review
Monday, June 13, 2011
- Newt Gingrich, though intelligent, came across as angry. Angry leaders do not get elected. This performance demonstrated that Newt will not be our next president.
- Herman Cain was marginalized by the leadership of the debate. They put him on the end of the stage. They cut him off more quickly than others.
- Pawlenty, by not strongly supporting his Obamneycare line, came across as cowardly and weak. People do not like cowardly and weak.
- Bachman came across softer, sweeter, and more human and relatable. This will help her in the primaries and caucus'.
- Bachman also came across as strong and articulate. I think her stock went up this evening.
- Romney came across as polished and presidential. This is a double-edged sword, but I think it helped Romney this evening.
- Hermann Cain will be heavily courted for a position in the admistration if a Republican wins the election.
- Ron Paul will never win, but he might just be people's favorite candiates to listen to and see in a debate.
Monday, June 06, 2011
By Kimberly Stuart
David C. Cook Publisher
Nellie Monroe is young and full of curiosity and imagination….so what else can she do but begin a career as a private investigator? Until Nellie figures out how to find a client to jump-start her career, she is working with a couple of odd characters in a golf shop and taking care of her Nona who tends to forget who she is some days.
Nellie finds her case, and begins to go “undercover” to an Amish community where she hopes to find information. Since she wants to blend-in, she finds a long skirt, and an old prairie bonnet which she plops over her “unfortunate hair” and walks up to the farmhouse asking for cooking lessons.
Meanwhile, a childhood friend is beginning to act strangely. He acts different now, and has trouble talking to her which for some strange reason upsets Nellie. Add to that, her parents finally come back from one of their trips and want to move Nona to a home. Nellie is scrambling to put all this together.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. Although this story has some serious moments, it is mainly just a fun read. The author has given the characters so much personality and wit in the dialogue that I often found myself laughing out loud. I will definitely look for more from Kimberly Stuart.
This book was reviewed by guest blogger Patricia Walker
By Kim Vogel Sawyer
Bethany House Publishers
Although the plot is predictable, the book is pleasant to read. As the characters develop and encounter obstacles, the author brings in scripture to remind all of us that when we let God do his work, the outcome can amaze us. The overall message is inspiring.
Sunday, June 05, 2011
1 Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. 2 Then Paul, as his custom was, went in to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and demonstrating that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus whom I preach to you is the Christ.” 4 And some of them were persuaded; and a great multitude of the devout Greeks, and not a few of the leading women, joined Paul and Silas.
5 But the Jews who were not persuaded, becoming envious,[a] took some of the evil men from the marketplace, and gathering a mob, set all the city in an uproar and attacked the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people. 6 But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some brethren to the rulers of the city, crying out, “These who have turned the world upside down have come here too. 7 Jason has harbored them, and these are all acting contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying there is another king—Jesus.” 8 And they troubled the crowd and the rulers of the city when they heard these things. 9 So when they had taken security from Jason and the rest, they let them go.
10 Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11 These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. 12 Therefore many of them believed, and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men. 13 But when the Jews from Thessalonica learned that the word of God was preached by Paul at Berea, they came there also and stirred up the crowds. 14 Then immediately the brethren sent Paul away, to go to the sea; but both Silas and Timothy remained there. 15 So those who conducted Paul brought him to Athens; and receiving a command for Silas and Timothy to come to him with all speed, they departed.
Fred Craddock is an old Southern Preacher that now resides in rural Georgia. He is in his 80s now, and is admired by scads of preachers much younger than himself. He is admired for two reasons. First, he is credited with developing a new kind of preaching style that encourages people to be drawn into the story of Scripture instead of simply informed about what Scripture says. Secondly, he is a master storyteller.
One of his stories goes something like this:
A very wealthy man called the university that Fred was working at. He asked for a meeting with the president of the university and Fred himself, who was the preaching professor for this seminary in Oklahoma. He said he wanted to help support the development of better preaching in the churches.
Who doesn’t want better preaching in churches?
The school was holding on by its fingernails financially, so they began to have discussions with the man. Finally he said he planned to give the school a sizeable endowment.
So the president and Fred the preaching professor went to visit with this man.
The gentleman asked if he could lead the three of them in a time of prayer. The men from the seminary agreed. They prayed for the school, and for the ministers that would be developed there etc etc.
He pulled out the papers that he already had prepared to commit to this astronomical contribution. He had a few questions.
“Now all of this goes to the preaching program?” he said
“Yes, it does.” The president of the seminary said.
He started to write, “Now, you understand, none of this goes for the women or the blacks.”
The president picked up his paperwork, packed his briefcase, and stood up. “I am sorry. I cannot accept your money on those conditions.” And Fred and the president began to leave the man’s office.
As they were leaving he said, “Well, I will find plenty of people who will take the money!” The president and Fred again said goodbye and left.
Turns out that man gave over 60 million dollars to higher education around the country. But just not to the women or the blacks, you understand?
I understand. I understand that there are some people who say that they are Christians, and yet some issue, some grudge, some amount of money, some loyalty is more important than their loyalty to God and his word.
The school we read about had convictions. Convictions based on who they had committed themselves to be: namely believers in Jesus Christ with unshakeable beliefs that were based upon Scripture that they would not compromise. The believed their ultimate marching orders came not from financial benefit, political opportunism, achievement, or popularity. Ultimately, these men were their marching orders came from Christ, and when anything compromised with loyalty to Christ and his kingdom they needed to step away.
The apostle Paul, Silas, and their entourage of assistants and missionaries continued their ministry in the first 15 verses of Acts 17. And if you just read over the passage the first time, as I did a couple of weeks ago, you might say to yourself, “Man this book of Acts is kind of repetitive!”
You know how it goes by now. The missionaries come into town. They preach at the synagogue. Lots of people come to Jesus. Some of the powerful Jews think they are heretics and get jealous. They find Gentiles that are also uncomfortable with Paul’s teaching and his popularity. They get them arrested. They drag them to the middle of a city and start a riot. Before long a church is started. Before long Silas and Paul need to move down the road to the next town before they get killed. Then the whole cycle starts again.
There are lots of places where there are cycles in Scripture, where it seems like the same story is being said over and over again. Read the book of Judges. Read how family cycles repeat themselves in the book of Genesis. This is shared for a couple of reasons. First, the Bible shares these repetitive things because we live our lives in certain rhythms and cycles. Also, the Bible shares about these events in this way because they are in fact, true.
And, when you read stuff where the same kind of story is repeated over and over again, it is important to re-read the details of that particular passage to see what unique is being said about what is happening to those particular people, in that particular situation. When you slow down, re-read for a few details, the deeper story of what is going on emerges.
The key to this passage is in verse 7. Verse 7 says, “these are all acting contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying there is another king—Jesus.”
You see, these Christians were dangerous. They were dangerous because they believed in a higher authority. They believed that the authority of Jesus trumped religious authority, the authority of tradition, governmental authority, political authority, the power of the crowd, and even their own individual rights and needs.
The men and women of Thessalonica and Berea, as well as the missionaries, are not political radicals. They are, however, religious radicals in any Greco-Roman measure. Their beliefs in the resurrection of Jesus defined their whole world view. Their faith was NOT a hobby. It defined their whole life—their professional life, their social life, how they spent their money, what they would and would not do with their friends and more. Their accusers were right. These Christians were turning the world upside down. Their accusers were on to something when they said that their loyalty was to a higher power—the God of the Bible. And they were correct in that this belief in Jesus was even more important to them than their loyalty to Caesar.
You can see this in the passage the kind of authority they bucked against. They came into the synagogue, which was, in effect, the church that they grew up in. The opened the Old Testament Scriptures, and they began to teach about how Jesus was spoken about in the old Testament and fulfilled the prophecies about what the Messiah should be. There were many people that supported them, but the guardians of the synagogue in Thessalonica did not like what they taught. It went against church tradition. It went against the way that it had always been done, and the way the faith had always believed and had always practiced. But it did not matter to Paul and Silas. The truth of Jesus was worth making the religious powers that be upset. Their faith in Jesus was bucking against the religious authority and the authority of the traditions and the ancestors of the synagogue. And it made the Jewish authorities angry. And they started a riot in order to bring trouble to Paul and the missionaries. They thought this trouble would make them stop. But Paul and Silas had a higher authority.
The Gentile citizens were easily swayed by the idea that the Christians were disloyal to the state. In some cases, this is not unjustified. You see, good citizens did not worship one God, they worshipped many gods. So when they were told that these people were “turning the world upside down” and “had another king besides Caesar”, they began to threaten and punish the Christians because they only worshipped one God and not many. The Christians were not going to support the unjust businesses like prostitution, and they treated slaves as equal to free men. And so they were humiliated, they were beaten, and they were punished. It did not matter what the Greco-Roman authorities said. Paul and Silas had a higher authority.
When Paul and the missionaries went to Berea, it appears that they experienced less strife. As a matter of fact, the Scripture says that the people in Berea were “fair-minded” to Paul and Silas. But they were not going to just trust the first smooth talking strangers that came into town. They too had a higher authority. Since God was their authority, they searched the Scriptures after each time Paul and Silas preached to make sure they were not being led astray. You see it wasn’t just Paul and Silas that had a higher authority. The Berean church had a higher authority than Paul and Silas. Their authority is the God of the Bible.
Friends, I could go on and on and on. The truth is this. As long as we call ourselves Christians, ultimate authority is due to Jesus, and ultimate loyalty is his as well. Unfortunately, it is also true, that as long as we have breathe, as long as we live in this world, as long we struggle against temptation and sin, that there will always be a myriad of other things vying for that power in our lives.
We will be tempted to give first place to money and things. We will be tempted to place our security and our hope in what is in our bank account. We will be tempted to make our financial well-being more important that our spiritual health. We will be tempted to hoard instead of to give. To be miserly instead of being generous. To be selfish instead of giving. And when we are tempted in this way, we need to remember we have a higher authority. Cash is not king. Jesus is.
We will be tempted to believe that government and political authority is our ultimate authority. We will be tempted to put our political agendas before God’s agenda for our church and our lives. We will be tempted to believe that being a Christian means being loyal to a political party, or a voting guide, or a government policy. But the government does not have authority over this church, or over my faith or your faith. We need to remember that a political party or a governmental authority is limited. We have a higher authority. That authority is Jesus.
We will sometimes be tempted to believe that this church has more authority than God has given it. We will be tempted to believe that our traditions are equivalent to the Word of God. We will be tempted to believe that the rituals of the church are more important than a relationship with Christ. We will be tempted to let the pastor do our thinking for us, instead of searching out the Scriptures for ourselves. We have a higher authority that church institutions and structures. We have the authority of Jesus Christ, who is the cornerstone of the church, and whose teaching is the solid rock the church is built upon.
There may be times when we are tempted to believe that the crowd has more authority than God. We may crave the approval of friends. We may long for the acceptance of others. We may hope to maintain peace with those around us at any cost. We may place all the authority for our lives in the hands of friends and family. We need to flee this temptation, and realize that the God who calls us to love our neighbor calls us to love Him with all our heart, all our soul, and all our mind first. We have a higher authority in our relationships. That authority is Jesus.
Finally, we may believe that we need to be on the throne in our own lives. We may be tempted to believe that our desires, our dreams, our hopes, our “rights” are more important that being loyal to Jesus, and to his commands. We may convince ourselves to do all sorts of sinful, taudry, and sordid things because we feel we have earned it, or we deserve it. It is then that we need to remember we have a higher authority. We need to take ourselves off of the throne in our own lives, and put Jesus up on it.
You see Jesus does not leave us an in-between option. Either he is Lord of all for us, or he is master of nothing in our lives. Jesus wants us fully-committed. Not half-hearted. Jesus wants us “all-in”, not frittering our lives away on penny ante wagers that lead only to sin and death. He doesn’t want part of our lives, he wants the whole.
And so we come to the cross. We come to the table. We remember that the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords gave it all for us. He died for us. He calls us to live our whole lives for Him. So as we come to this table, and we remember the body and the blood of our Lord, we remember that this sacrifice commands our complete devotion and loyalty. No half measures. No piece meal commitment. He gave it all for us. He asks us to give all of ourselves to Him.
As we come to this table, remember this. As we come to this table, commit to this. As we come to this table, believe this. As we come to this table, commit to live your whole lives like this. Amen.
Friday, June 03, 2011
The example from John 4 was excellent. As was the astute observation that John 4 points out that for some people, they need to experience belonging before believing.
Also helpful was his analysis of the essential role narrative plays in education and identity formation. Specifically, his noting that emerging generations process their lives through story is also wise to include.
Nevertheless there were a few things that I struggled with as I read this chapter. First, I felt that Johnson began his chapter with a little bit of antipathy toward people that use the storytelling style of evangelism. He seemed to imply that even when these people share the gospel faithfully, they are overly dramatic and self-centered. I personally don't believe this always has to be the case.
Also, I think that some of the instructions about a narrative style of evangelism attempts to understand all evangelistic encounters as one-time encounters. I believe this is a little too narrow of an understanding of the storytelling style. Many times, a storyteller-evangelist will slowly share his or her story over time. In this approach, people share their lives and their story of faith over time, as they share life with people, instead of trying to fit a story into a prescribed outline and getting the whole outline shared in one moment.
The more I read this book, the more I wish Mr. Johnson would have edited this book, wrote a few chapters, and allowed people who were passionate about each style to share about why they believe that their style of evangelism is powerful and effective. But it was not up to me!
All in all, though, Got Style? gives a a good cursory overview of the storytelling style. And, overall, I finding this book well worth my time in reading it.
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