Friday, May 24, 2013

Review of Hearing God DVD by Dallas Willard (and friends)

Hearing God (DVD): Developing a Conversational Relationship with God  -     
        By: Dallas Willard, Richard J. Foster, John Ortberg

Hearing God DVD: Developing a Conversational Relationship with God
Dallas Willard
ISBN 978-0-8308-3568-3
IVP Formatio
Reviewed by Clint Walker

Several years ago, I read Dallas Willard's book Hearing God. It was a game changer. I found it helpful not only because it was meaningful for me in understanding how God speaks to me, but it was also a helpful guide in helping the youth I was leading how God may be speaking to them to.

Several years later, with updates and further words, Hearing God is still a powerful book. Out of all of the recently deceased Dallas Willard's book, it is easily the most accessible and the easiest to grab a hold of for people in the pews. At the same time, the book is well-written and thoughtful enough that even scholars can gain something new and powerful through reading it.

Viewers that like Dallas Willard's work will love the simplicity of this gem of a resource. Inside the case for the DVD is a brief discussion guide. Each session begins with a lecture in a beautiful mountain church by Dallas Willard. Then, after his lecture, he has a conversation about the topic he discussed with Richard Foster and John Ortberg. After that, if the class wants to hear more, there is a "bonus" lecture from Willard. There is no real frills to the video, it is almost like you are watching a very high quality video of a class or worship service.

Having said that, Willard is always profound. The viewer will find several quotes and turns of phrase that they will have to stop and write down. And the additional discussion draws the viewer in.

This DVD curriculum is simple, intelligent and life-changing. If you like a flash and dash curriculum this series is probably not for you. But if you want wise words from mature Christians about how to have a conversational relationship with God, this resource is perfect for you.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Book Review of the Lamb's Agenda by Samuel Rodriguez

The Lamb's Agenda: Why Jesus is Calling You to A Life of Righteousness and Justice
by Samuel Rodriguez
ISBN 978-1-4002-0449-8
Thomas Nelson
Reviewed by Clint Walker

Every couple of years, a voice rises up to remind the church that its call from Jesus is bigger than its present agenda. When I was going to college, a book called Rich Christians In An Age of Hunger opened my eyes to the possibility that there were things that folks that were on the other side of the political and ecclesiastical perspective had something to teach me. Specifically regarding the Bible's call to social action, compassion, justice issues, I discovered that gospel was bigger and more good news than I had anticipated.

The Lamb's Agenda is a book that tries to call Christians to stand for evangelism and social involvement, righteousness and justice. It calls people to be concerned about personal holiness as well as social holiness, and it reminds us that an evangelism without much compassion is relatively ineffective. Over and over again, other leaders have tried to tell believers in Jesus that their job is to be subject to a political agenda and party instead of being prophetic subjects of the Kingdom of God. Rodriguez reminds us that God calls us to preach John 3:16 and John 25.

 Rodriguez also reminds us to "prophetic not pathetic". What he means by this is that we need not get caught up in the problems and mindset of the world around us, but that instead we need to get invested in the prophetic vision of God is, calling his people to be different from the world instead of enmeshed in all its unhealthy drama and false dichotomies.

I really think this is a good book. I hope it gains a wide reading.

Book Reviewof Charts on the Life, Letters and Theology of Paul by Lars Kierspel

Charts on Charts on the Life, Letters, and Theology of Paul
Lars Kierspel
ISBN 978-0-8254-2936-1
Kregel Academic
Reviewed by Clint Walker

Although I am not an academic or a student, I am an avid learner. I love to read, to grow, and go deeper in my understanding. So, although my uses for Charts on the Life, Letters, and Theology of Paul are not as numerous as those scholars and students delving deep into Pauline studies, I still think this book contains excellent resources to further my understanding of God's truth and my ability to teach those God has put under my care as a pastor.

This is a large book full of numerous charts that help to organize information in a quick, easy to understand way. The book is divided roughly into thirds, with a third of the book being about Paul's person, a third being about the specific letters he wrote, and a third of the book dedicated to organizing the theology that was expressed in those letters. There are also some background materials as well.

What I find completely fascinating about my experience with this book is that just having some subjects explored and charted on a sheet of paper makes me think about and see Scripture in a new way. For instance, Kierspel has a chart that compares the similar ways that Luke refers to Jesus in his gospel, and the way he refers to Paul in his gospel. Through simply glancing at that chart, one can easily see that Luke is uniting the mission of Paul with the mission of Jesus Christ. Very interesting stuff.

The only think I have against this whole book is the layout. It could have been a lot slicker. A CD included as an extra resource would have been helpful with Charts on the Life, Letters, and Theology of Paul as well.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Book Review of Revealing Jesus by Darlene Zschech

Revealing Jesus: A 365 Day Devotional
by Darlene Zschech
ISBN 978-0-7642-1120-1
Bethany House Publishers
Reviewed by Clint Walker

Most people who know of Darlene Zschech know of her as the star of the Hillsong Australia movement. This is a movement of contemporary worship, written from within an evangelical and Pentecostal milieu. Few people know that she is also the co-pastor of a church on the coast of Australia. Fewer still that she is an author of books.

Pastor Zschech has recently released a devotional designed to help people know Jesus better, and fall in love with Jesus all over again. In Revealing Jesus, each day's study begins with a verse, then a devotional thought is shared, and after thought a brief prayer is prescribed for the reader to pray. In other words, the devotional has a pretty traditional format.

What is well-done about Revealing Jesus is that throughout the year of study, Zschech takes on some pretty useful series' of study. For instance, there is a rather extensive look at Revelation in November. In another month, the names of God are focused upon. And, at the end of every month a classic devotion written by a devotional master of days gone by.

The book is bound in a durable hardcover. This is good because the devotional will last through years of use and abuse. The layout of the pages are appealing, although I think they are perhaps more appealing to women than to men.

This is a great book to guide one's quiet time. I think it would be an especially good gift from a grandmother to her grandchild, or to a recent graduate of high school who is a believer in Jesus. The book has a lot to teach the heart about worship, and the mind about love for the Lord.

Book Review of Feasting on the Word Worship Companion: Liturgies for Year C, Volume 2 Edited by Kimberly Bracken Long

(I received this resource for free in exchange for an honest review)

Feasting on the Word Worship Companion: Liturgies for Year C, Vol. 2--Trinity Sunday Through Reign of Christ
ed. by Kimberly Bracken Long
ISBN 978-0-664-23918-3
Westminster John Knox Press
Reviewed by Clint Walker

Feasting on the Word Worship Companion: Year C, Vol. 2 is another in a long line of quality resources for Christian leaders seeking to lead other in worship and study of God's Word. First, Feasting on the Word put out several commentaries on Scripture that corresponded to the lectionary and the Christian Year. Then, they gathered together devotional resources for the devotional guide I have reviewed earlier. Now the folks with Feasting on the Word and WJK Press are developing worship resources for the local church as well. This volume is the second in the series, and completes year C's readings designed to support the Revised Common Lectionary.

What I like about Feasting on the Word Worship Companion: Year C, Vol. 2 is that it offers relevant professional worship resources that both respect the need for reverence in such resources, while at the same time having readings that are easy to understand. In other resources like this, writers often make the mistake of being too cute or flowery on one end of the spectrum, or using too many big words that the average congregation can't completely relate to on the other. The Feasting on the Word staff does an excellent job of being sober, direct, and plain-spoken while also sounding intelligent and worshipful.

I also enjoy the inclusion of both semi-continuous and complimentary readings during ordinary time. Prior to discovering this resource, I was not aware of this distinction of readings within the Revised Common Lectionary. For those of you, who like me, were unfamiliar with this "other lectionary", you need to know that you will love having the additional resources. The semi-continuous readings include sequential readings of Old Testament lections, which is extremely helpful if you want to preach a book of the Bible, or section of Scripture, instead of having your Old Testament readings hop all around to "compliment" the New Testament themes.

Feasting on the Word Worship Companion: Year C, Vol. 2 is a fairly expensive resource, but the reader of this book is getting a lot of bang for their buck. The book is hardcover, and thus designed to be durable. It has a bookmark built in, so you can keep your place for week to week. The book comes with a CD which has the whole book on a PDF file. This makes it easy to cut and paste the weekly resources right into worship bulletins or audio-visual presentations. At the back of the book there are additional resources for baptismal and eucharistic services.

For the church that uses liturgical resources, this book is a "must have". It is written in a timeless fashion, and will be useful for decades to come.


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