Thursday, September 29, 2011

Book Review of The Liberating Truth by Danielle Strickland


The Liberating Truth: How Jesus Empowers Women

By Danielle Strickland

ISBN 978-0-85721-019-7

Monarch Books

Review by Clint Walker



Over the last few years, I have been amassing a several books just on the issue of equality for women in the church. I live in a community where my commitment to Biblical equality is not always well-received, and I need to be well-versed in why I believe what I believe about women’s equality in and out of the church. Recently I was able to add The Liberating Truth by Danielle Strickland to this section of my library. It is a great edition.



Danielle Strickland is a skillful and passionate writer. She is an officer in the Salvation Army, and has spent much of her ministry reaching out to women in an intercultural and global manner. She communicates several cases of gender injustice that most of us should be shocked by, and shares anecdotes on how she brings Jesus into those extreme situations with her.



Her global observations about the oppression of women make Strickland keenly aware that oppression of women is a huge global problem. As she sees these situations, she finds clear hearings for the good news of Jesus, and how his gospel is a call of good news and equality for women.



Unfortunately, she is also able to notice that there are many anti-gospel messages in Christian circles. One of those anti-gospel messages are the messages that women are to be meek and subservient, supporting their men in their dreams but never submitting to the callings God may have put on their own hearts to preach and to lead. She challenges these anti-egalitarian viewpoints Biblically.



Throughout The Liberating Truth, Strickland tells many interesting stories about experiences she had while she was in the ministry. She writes captivatingly, and with true passion. The Liberating Truth is a tour de force in what God calls the church to be, and what God calls the church to do in relation to this call. An excellent book that I will return to again and again.

Book Review of the Beginning and the End of Wisdom by Douglas Sean O'Donnell

It is obvious that Douglas Sean O'Donnell loves the Word of God. It is obvious, in particular, that O'Donnell loves OT Wisdom literature, and relating OT Wisdom literature to the work and person of Jesus Christ. The passion of O'Donnell is obvious from the beginning to the end of his new book THE BEGINNING AND THE END OF WISDOM, which focuses on preaching Christ from the books of Proverbs,Ecclesiastes and Job.

The first six chapters of the book give examples of preaching OT Wisdom literature from the first and last chapters of Job, Ecclesiastes, and Proverbs. The final chapter of the book discusses the hermeneutical task of connecting Wisdom passages to the words and work of Christ.

Then, nearly half of the printed texts are notes and appendices. The book is heavily footnoted. There is a guide to preaching Hebrew poetry. One appendix simply focuses on summaries of each of the books covered in the text. The bibliography and notes are both extensive.

While I enjoyed the book, and will use it as a resource, I did not think THE BEGINNING AND THE END OF WISDOM accomplished the goals that are communicated in the title. I thought the book was thorough in offering guidance in interpreting texts in Scripture, but it did not offer near as much help in crafting the actual preaching event. For example, should one preach through these books verse by verse, or select certain passages that summarize the whole book? Should one preach Proverbs topically? Am I supposed to glean how to preach the passages simply by reading these rather lengthy sermons?
So, grab this book. But realize you are buying a book that is more about the hermeneutical task than a text on preaching methods and techniques.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Book Review of King Solomon by Phillip Graham Ryken

Israel was never more powerful than in the years when Solomon was their king. Having had his predescessor and father David establish the kingdom, Solomon was able to grow the nation of Israel in power and wealth. Yet it is the lust for power, wealth, and sex that ended up poisoning Solomon's life, and diminishing the kingdom for each generation that followed.

KING SOLOMON chronicles the life of Solomon. It in author Phillip Graham Ryken shares about how blessed and gifted Solomon was by God as a leader of Israel. He shares the different ways that Solomon starts well in relationship to God and his subjects. Then it shows how Solomon's life was diminished by allowing himself to be subject to the desires for wealth, power and sex.

This book, while telling the story of Solomon, makes quick work of drawing parallels between the life of Solomon and the temptations he faced with the plight of Western Christians and Western Christendom as a whole. Many in the church, and much of the church as a whole, is also easily tempted to surrender their mission in order to be sucessful, powerful, and financially secure. KING SOLOMON teaches us that comprimise to these temptation ultimately destroys lives, kingdoms and cultures, so we better be beware.

In the book KING SOLOMON, Ryken has written and intelligent and prophetic book that will challenge many of us. With a study guide in the back the book would be great for individual study and for group study. The book is an easy read, but its message is not easy to hear. We would, however, be wise to heed it.

Book Review of MOVE by Greg L. Hawkins and Cally Parkinson

Move: What 1,000 Churches Reveal about Spiritual Growth
by Greg L. Hawkins and Cally Parkinson
ISBN 978-0-310-32525-3
Published by Zondervan
Reviewed by Clint Walker

This year, when I attended a simulcast of Willow Creek Church's Global Leadership Summitt, I heard the leadership of the church talk about this recent study they had done about spiritual growth, and how the people at Willow Creek wanted to share what they learned about spiritual transformation with leaders everywhere.

Now, they have recently released their gleanings of their study on how people grow spiritually in the new book MoveMove shares about a well thought out, revealing, and somewhat surprising picture of how people grow. One thing the study revealed is descrete describable phases of spiritual development. Another thing that the study revealed were best practices of churches that effectively help people mature in their faith, instead of feeling "stuck" in an immature, stagnant faith journey.

Many churches feel stuck. This fine book will be helpful for many leaders in identifying where their church has stalled, and it will help those leaders to think through how to wisely lead people to take thei next step(s) in their faith. A great purchase for pastors and churches across the country, and well worth the cover price.



Sunday, September 25, 2011

Book Review of Sanctuary of the Soul: Journey Into Meditative Prayer by Richard Foster

SANCTUARY OF THE SOUL
By Richard Foster
ISBN 978-0-8308-3555-3
Published by Intervarsity Press (Formatio Imprint)
Reviewed by Clint Walker

I love just about everything that Richard Foster writes. So, when I saw that he was writing a new book on meditative prayer I pre-ordered it immediately. It came out a little early, and I have been slowly plodding away at reading this book. I just finished Foster's book, and I have to tell you, it exceeded my expectations.

Sanctuary of the Soul is a guide to help believers in understanding and practicing meditative prayer. I have always found meditative prayer and contemplative prayer difficult. This is because I both have some emotional discomfort with the practice of mediation in a secular/interfaith context, and because I feel like a failure when I attempt to understand and practice contemplative prayer.

Many of the practices of slowing in meditative prayer that people find helpful are true across religious groups. These practices include manipulation of one's posture, the use of relaxation techniques, the intentional slowing and measuring of one's breathe, and other similar things. Having been exposed to transcendental meditation, and believing it to be a non-Christian form of worship, and seeing similarities between common practices of TM and some forms of what Christian leaders call meditative prayer, I find myself immediately off-put by the way I have been led in "contemplative" spiritual exercises in a Christian context.

Also, I have studies several books on meditative prayer, and I find the descriptions of these kinds of prayer difficult. Books like The Cloud of Unknowing, Madame Guyon's Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ, and Merton's Seeds of Contemplation make me want to give up on the contemplative journey altogether.

Thankfully for me, God has raised up men like Richard Foster to write books like Sanctuary of the Soul. Foster's brilliance in his writing is that he makes challenging spiritual practices understandable, and in a small way attainable. Often as I read Foster describe a spiritual practice, I recognize that I have already prayed in that fashion. Then I read on, and I find that he often gives me very practical help in how to pray better and more meaningfully.

I found this process I described happened often as I read through Sanctuary of the Soul. For instance, Foster gives clear instructions in how to enter into meditative prayer effectively. Specifically he speaks about walking your way into meditative prayer, or reading poetry as a way to slow your mind into a more contemplative state. These are basic instructions and helpful advice in the life of prayer, but they are also things we ofen forget when we want to become more prayerful.

I discovered that there were several times where God was leading me into meditative prayer, and I did not know it because I did not have the words for it. I felt less discouraged that I could not "do mediative prayer" right, and I felt encouraged to do it in my own way. The result is a sense of grace and peace in my walk with God, and that a new way of praying can "make sense". And this is truly a gift.

I recommend many of you go out and purchase this fine book. It will be treasured in my life and on my shelf.


Friday, September 23, 2011

Two Songs I Someday Hope to Hear Sung in Christian Worship


ALRIGHT BY DARIUS RUCKER

Alright, Alright
Yeah it's alright, alright

Don't need no five star reservations
I've got spaghetti and a cheap bottle of wine
Don't need no concert in the city
I've got a stereo and the best of Patsy Cline
Ain't got no caviar no Dom Perignon
But as far as I can see, I've got everything I want

Cause I've got a roof over my head,
the woman I love laying in my bed
And it's alright, alright
I've got shoes under my feet
Forever in her eyes staring back at me
And it's alright, alright
And I've got all I need
And it's alright by me

Maybe later on we'll walk down to the river
Lay on a blanket and stare up at the moon
It may not be no French Riviera
But it's all the same to me as long as im with you

It may be a simple life, but that's okay
If you ask me baby, I think I've got it made

Cause I've got a roof over my head,
the woman I love laying in my bed
And it's alright, alright
I've got shoes under my feet
Forever in her eyes staring back at me
And it's alright, alright
And I've got all I need
And it's alright by me

It's alright by me, yeah yeah
When I lay down at night I thank the Lord above
For giving me everything I ever could dream of

Cause I've got a roof over my head,
the woman I love laying in my bed
And it's alright, alright, alright, alright
I've got shoes under my feet
Forever in her eyes staring back at me
And it's alright, alright, alright
And I've got all I need, yeah
I've got all I need
And it's alright by me
Oh yeah, it's alright by me

WONDERFUL WORLD BY LOUIS ARMSTRONG

I see trees of green, red roses too
I see them bloom, for me and you
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world

I see skies of blue, and clouds of white
The bright blessed day, dark sacred night
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world

The colors of the rainbow, so pretty in the sky
[| From: http://www.elyrics.net/read/l/louis-armstrong-lyrics/what-a-wonderful-world-lyrics.html |]
Are also on the faces, of people going by
I see friends shaking hands, sayin', "How do you do?"
They're really sayin', "I love you"

I hear babies cryin', I watch them grow
They'll learn much more, than I'll ever know
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world

Yes, I think to myself
What a wonderful world
Oh yeah

Flashes of Insight

One of the things that I started this blog for nearly 7 years ago was to capture thoughts that might otherwise escape me. Sometimes these were flashes of insight, other times pithy quotes, and still others were beginnings of lessons or sermons. I got tired of saying, "I was thinking about that the other day, and I had some good ideas, but I can't remember what went through my mind now." Thus the name FRIAR TUCK'S FLEETING THOUGHTS.

Today I carried a notebook with me. A little moleskine in my pocket that would help me remember stuff to think more about later.

Here have been some of my thoughts as I moved through my day:

  • Why do I often find ways to make things easier and less costly for people, instead of calling them to greater and more meaningful things?
  • Why do I spend so much of my time running errands for my congregation (making copies, cleaning and setting up classrooms, running interference for people), and so little time becoming to person and the leader God calls me to be and the church needs me to be?
  • How do I unite my calling to be an invested and godly father with my calling to be a thoughtful, yet industrious pastor for my congregation? (still have not figured out the work/family balance in relation to the ministerial life)
  • I am moved by the culture of kindness at this conference. I am moved because I don't really experience this in the same way at home even though I live in a small town where nearly everyone knows my name. I think this is partly because we are at a conference about being formed by the Holy Spirit. I think this is also partly because although I hate midwestern humidity and propriety, I honestly crave midwestern kindness and hospitality. Kansans are good at kindness and friendliness. Better than us Rocky Mountain folks and West Coast people. I also think part of this is my role as a religious functionary, which in my context means  that it is my job to care for my church and community, but not their I found myself getting emotional because someone stopped and asked ME about me, smiled, acted interested in my thoughts and feelings. Other than my wife, does not happen very often in my life.
  • Today, while at the conference, I felt myself experiencing this happiness and joy for no reason. I just could not help but smile. Can't tell you why.

Quotes from Dallas Willard at the Formation in Christlikeness conference

Today and tomorrow I am participating in a conference on Spiritual Formation called Formation in Christlikeness: The Process of Change. It is a discussion of how people grow to be more like Jesus.

Tonight, we had two speakers in the general session. The first was Dallas Willard. Dallas is the scholar and one of the "founding fathers" of the contempoary movement in churches toward spiritual formation. He spoke on the "VIM" (Vision, Intention, Means) process of change that is most directly taught in hsi book Renovation of the Heart.

Dallas is rather difficult to take notes with. The outline for his talk was given to us, but as I tried to fill it out I discovered he didn't fit into my structured notetaking method as well as I hoped he might.

What I did garner were several pithy quotes from his talk, and his conversation with James Bryan Smith afterward. Here are some of the quotes:

  • "A sure way to be miserable is to try and be happy" (I think this is so true!)
  • "To much of our time (as Christians) is spent answering questions nobody is asking"
  • "Why fast? Fasting trains you to be sweet and strong when you do not get what you want"
  • "Don't worry about perfection, work on progress"
  • "There is not a single problem in the church that discipleship in Christ will not cure"
  • "The Church is in the business of character transformation"
  • "The Romans Road--and similar methods of evangelism--are designed to deliver us from guilt, and not sin"

Monday, September 19, 2011

Book Review of On The Verge by Hirsch and Ferguson


ON THE VERGE
By Alan Hirsch and Dave Ferguson
ISBN 978-0-310-33100-1
Published by Zondervan
Reviewed by Clint Walker

What is the future of the church? How is the church going to reach coming generations for Christ? And what does that mean for the congregations we see today?

These are the thoughts and questions that Alan Hirsch and Dave Ferguson attempt to address in their book On the Verge. Written in part as a missiologial guide for church planters of missional churches, the authors attempt to craft a guide for church leaders to help them establish and maintain an “apostolic” vision for their congregation. While created by and for church planters, this book has excellent insights to think about and ponder for pastors of established churches as well.

Alan Hirsch is one of the leading voices in the missional church movement. As he has grown in influence, he has become less of a practicioner of congregational ministry, and more of a scholar/leader/visionary for missional churches as a whole. This is why he writes with Dave Ferguson, who is a church planter and currently trying to lead his congregation to continue their thrust toward reaching and influencing their communities for the Kingdom of God. The blend of consultant and practicioner, theory and hands on ministry is ingenious, and a good reason why this book is not only inspirational, but has the possibility of presenting a vision that actually works.

At the heart of the book is a four step system for establishing a continuing culture of innovation for churches that want to maintain their missional integrity within their ministry context (p. 46-47). The first step involves imagining what could be. The next step is shifting one’s thinking to accommodate and understand the new vision and paradigm the imagining process discovers. After that, one needs to take action. Then, as the church takes the steps to reach out and take action, they need to move and grow to both accommodate the new world the missional community is living in, and to also repeat the process of innovating once again. This sounds pretty basic, but harder to actually create this momentum in a congregation one is leading.

The text is fun, and thought provoking. As a pastor of a more historic church, I think creating this kind of culture would be more difficult for me than for a church leader who is beginning a new congregation. Nevertheless, moving congregations from being institutionally focused to mission focused is something we all must do in our own way, and help our churches continue to do long after our ministry is through. On the Verge helps people like me think through ways we might do just that.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

My newest realignment predictions for NCAA DI FBS

With the ACC going to 14 teams with Pitt and Syracuse, it begs the question: Who is going where with the football conferences. My latest prediction:


Where will teams in the big 12 go?

Big Ten--will add Iowa State and Missouri, then later Kansas and Kansas State

Pac 12--will add OU, Oklahoma St. Texas Tech, Texas



This leaves Baylor the odd man out. Baylor can see the handwriting on the wall. That is why they are threatening to sue


SEC--as Big East disintegrates, will pick up West Virginia to make a 14 team conference.
Which then leaves us with two 16 team conferences and two 14 team conferences.

What do the ACC and SEC do? Stand pat or get two more teams each?


I think the SEC, in part to avoid a lawsuit, and in part for recruiting, picks up Baylor and possibly TCU.


I then think the ACC picks up Rutgers and Conneticut. This solidifies the Eastern Seaboard for their conference. (this puts duke, uconn, pitt, north carolina and syracuse in the same basketball conference)

Here is what will then get interesting...do mid-majors make themselves superconference sized? Or does the independent school rise again with more independents?
Strangely enough, many of the mid-majors like the MAC (13), Conference USA (12) are already supersized.

I think the rest of the Big East stays in the Big East for Basketball, but that the Big East disolves in football. This leaves Cincinatti, USF, and Louisville without a football conference. Although it makes no geographic sense, I think they look to jump into the Mountain West for football only--which will give the mountain west 10 teams, and give the the eastern teams the most competitive conference outside of the big 4.
How do you think teams will realign?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Book Review for Young and In Love




YOUNG AND IN LOVE


By Ted Cunningham

ISBN 978-0-7814-0447-1

Published by David C. Cook

Reviewed by Clint Walker



Much of our culture, both inside and outside of the church, tends to believe that getting married young is not a wise idea. There are a number of reasons for this. Many statistics tend to lead us to believe that marrying young will lead more easily to divorce. Many counselors teach that persons need to get to “know themselves” before they enter into a marriage covenant, and thus should delay marriage at least until college is completed and a career has begun. Financial counselors warn that early marriage dooms husband and wife to poverty. Ted Cunningham seeks to tell us and then teach us that everything we have heard about the wisdom of delaying marriage is completely wrong. In his book Young and In Love, Cunningham argues in favor of Christian couples marrying young. He believes that young marriage is the most wise and God-honoring way to approach marriage, and that most of us have been lied to about the benefits of delaying marriage. Although I believe that Cunningham overstates his case, he does have many valid points.



Cunningham believes that teaching people to delay marriage demeans the institution of marriage on several fronts. He believes that delaying marriage increases the frequency of cohabitation. Then, as cohabitation increases so does divorce. Young and In Love also argues that “delaying marriage delays adulthood” (p. 68). As long as people delay marriage, Cunningham argues, they have a license to be selfish and “self-centered” (p. 70).



To Cunningham’s credit, he carefully acknowledges some of the ways that people rush into marriage, and some of the necessary delays for marriage. He is forthright about the truth that some people, especially young, chaste Christians, rush into marriage just because they do not want to wait to have sex any longer. He also wisely counsels against couples who marry young because it brings financial benefit (p. 85).



Young and In Love goes on; however, to argue against many of the prevailing arguments for delaying marriage. The arguments Cunningham disagrees with include increasing one’s financial health (p. 102-104), and waiting until one is through with college (p. 105-106).



I have enjoyed reading Cunningham’s arguments, although I think at times the book is overly repetitive. I agree with him on several points, and I disagree with him on others. You may agree or disagree with him, but I think if you read what he says you will agree with me that he has some intelligent arguments, and his point of view should be heard. Much of what we hear about delaying marriage is not value neutral, but driven by fears and agendas that may not be Scriptural or godly. Personally, I got married rather late (age 34), but I certainly would not resent anyone or blame anyone for choosing to marry at a younger age if they were ready and had found the right partner. If nothing else, Young and In Love can challenge prevailing thought enough to rejoice with those who marry at a young age, and support them instead of gritting our teeth believing that their marriage has no chance because they are too young.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Book Review of Playing Hurt by Brian Goins

PLAYING HURT
 By Brian Goins
ISBN 978-0-8254-2673-5
Published by Kregel
Reviewed by Clint Walker

 Ephesians 5:25 says, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” This is the starting point for Brian Goins’ Playing Hurt strategy to help men to be better and more effective husbands. The idea is to communicate sacrificial love to men in a way they can more easily relate to. Thus, the idea of “playing hurt” that many men have experienced or observed in athletic competition is tied to “taking one for the team” in a marriage relationship.

Playing Hurt is an ingenious metaphor for sacrificial love. Brian Goins does an admirable job of extending the metaphor throughout the whole book. He speaks of overcoming difficulty and the adversary through sacrificial love, and of being a servant leader for one’s household. He also challenges men to find a support team to help them be a better husband and father. His wisdom is witty, engaging, thought-provoking, and inspiring. As a husband with young children, I found the book to be a great encouragement.

However, I do have some honest concerns about the text. First, will very many men actually take the step to grab the book and read it? About half of the guys I know are not really committed readers. Of those that actually do enjoy reading books, very few of them are eager to read a “relationship book”. Because of this, I have concerns about whether Playing Hurt will actually get to its intended audience.

I also wonder if all of the athletic stories and metaphors are, at times, a little overdone. I know these kinds of stories are supposed to draw guys like me in, but at times it feels like the author is trying too hard to make the book too manly and cool. This feeling may be due to my experience as an athlete. I, at times, get tired of the some of the motivational tools coaches use with athletes, and some of those find their way into this text.

Also, when people would find out that I was an athlete, they would often try to communicate their point of view through athletic metaphors with me, assuming that I was not smart enough to figure out what they were saying otherwise I believe that Brian Goins has written the best book for Christian men on being a good Christian husband that I have ever read. It is easy to understand yet profound. Readers will find Goins easy to relate to, and will find his illustrations and stories especially helpful. It is definitely worth a read!