Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Book Review of Practicing the Presence of Jesus by Wally Armstrong




Practicing the Presence of Jesus
by Wally Armstrong
ISBN 978-1-60936-702-2
Summerside Press
Reviewed by Clint Walker

Part testimony, part guidebook for the spiritual journey Practicing the Presence of Jesus is a book about learning to live with and walk with Jesus in one's everyday life.

Wally Armstrong is a friend of a person I greatly admire--Ken Blanchard--and an accomplished golfer as well. He loves the Lord Jesus and wants everyone to have the kind of real, genuine, authentic relationship with Him that he has experienced.

This book is small and simple. It could easily be read in an hour or two, and yet there will be people that re-read it once they have grabbed it and read through it the first time. It is conversational in tone, and the whole book has a "can-do" attitude for the spiritual journey.

My biggest disappointment with the book is that I thought it would be more like "practicing the presence of God". It is not really that, in my opinion, although it is a good read. It is more like a basic primer for how to take the next steps in your spiritual journey once you have accepted Jesus and might be wondering what it might be like to know him better.


Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Pastoral Staycations



When I was in seminary at Central Baptist Theological Seminary offered some advice about self-care and the practice of taking vacation and leave time. O John Eldred gave the following advice from his experience in the ministry and in teaching ministry:

1.  Try and be as unavailable as possible when you are on leave, otherwise you will never really get away from the ministry.
2.  Try and get out of town, one way or another, when you are off at church, or you will never really be off.
3. Do not return for funerals or other emergencies from vacation, no matter what
4. Make sure nobody has your phone number while you are on vacation or leave, or people will call you with concerns
5. Try and take more than one week at a time off, because it takes more than a week to extract yourself from ministry concerns.

I have to say, I believe wholehearedly in Eldred's ministry advice, and I have followed almost none of it. This year, after battling cancer and having Jennifer switch a job, we have had no money or ability to get away as a family for an out of town vacation. So, we are stuck with me having to take time off, mainly to spend time with kids while their daycare provider is taking the holidays off. I have been practicing the pastoral staycation.

As I have shared on earlier posts, this does not work very well. People drop by for keys. The supply preachers want to talk through their messages (they are all lay persons). We have to find ways to escape the house early on Sunday so we are not visibly home while the congregation is at worship. I think we are going to have to go into debt if we have to and get gone for our next season of respite.


Monday, December 29, 2014

Book Review of Changing Signs of the Times by Crystal L. Downing



Changing Signs of Truth: A Christian Introduction to the Semiotics of Communication
by Crystal L. Downing
ISBN 978-0-8308-3966-7
IVP Academic
Reviewed by Clint Walker

The Changing Signs of Truth is a fascinating book by Crystal Downing. It discusses the power of "signs", or at risk of oversimplifying things, how symbolism in our communication forms how we understand and view the world.

As the title indicates, this book is also a book about how the meanings of words, signs, and symbols change over time, and how signs get reinterpreted especially today in our changing world. Downing impressively engages thinkers such as Derrida and Saussure in order to help Christians--especially evangelical Christians--learn how to engage and communicate with the culture around them more effectively.

This book is not for the faint of heart. It engages the disciplines of communication, theology, philosophy, and sociology in a thoughtful and academically informed way. The interdisciplinary work on display here is fascinating, but it takes some slow-reading and re-reading for the average student and reader.

A great addition to my library, and a book I want to delve into more at a later date.


Thursday, December 18, 2014

Book Review of Feasting on the Word: Advent Companion

Feasting on the Word Advent Companion  -     Edited By: David L. Bartlett, Barbara Brown Taylor, Kimberly Bracken Long
    By: Edited by D.L. Bartlett, B.B. Taylor & K.B. Long

by David L. Bartlett, Barbara Brown Taylor, and Kimberly Bracken Long
ISBN 978-0-664-25964-8
WJK Books
Reviewed by Clint Walker

Feasting on the Word: Advent Companion is such a nice resource for pastors to have. For many of us, it will save us a lot of work during the holiday season. Furthermore, the Advent Companion puts several different resources right at a worship leader, teacher, or pastor's finger tips. Included in this book are four worship services designed to use during the four Sundays of Advent. There are also four midweek studies. There is also a service provided for a "darkest night" services that uses the Psalms to speak to many people's profound sense of loss, brokenness and sadness during the Advent season.  There are also a few Eucharistic resources for Advent and Christmas in the back of the book.
Each Sunday also has a rather extensive preaching commentary that follows the pattern of the Feasting on the Word resources, sharing homiletical, pastoral, theological, and exegetical perspectives on each of the passages chosen.

What is surprising to many with this resource is that it does not strictly follow the Revised Common Lectionary, as many of the Feasting on the Word resources do. Instead it just offers one service for each Sunday of Advent. Perhaps this is because much of the groundwork of pure lectionary-based services has already been laid with their commentaries and worship companions. This is a great resource, however, for busy pastors leading a church through a busy season, and a resource I would recommend to any church that is in the least bit liturgical.



Thursday, December 11, 2014

Book Review of She Calls Me Daddy by Robert Wolgemuth




She Calls Me Daddy: 7 Things You Need to Know about Building a Complete Daughter
by Robert Wolgemuth
ISBN 978-1-58997-785-3
Tyndale
Focus on the Family Imprint
Reviewed by Clint Walker

This fine book is a reprint of an old favorite. She Calls Me Daddy is a practical, winsome guide to parenting daughters. Very conversational in style, Wolgemuth focuses on some vision and values for establishing yourself as a father that can raise healthy girls. Full of first person stories and helpful illustrations of both successes and failures of the author, the book is not only informative it is entertaining.

In this addition, I appreciated the section on non-traditional parenting such as single parenting, step parenting, and non-custodial fatherhood. It shows that the author is seeking to be in touch with the experiences that many men are going through in our culture that is rife with divorce and deadbeat dads.

This book was reprinted because it is a nice read and it has also proved to be helpful for Christian men who want to be good parents of girls for over a generation. I recommend picking up this book right away.


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Book Review of Not A Silent Night by Adam Hamilton



Not A Silent Night: Mary Looks Back to Bethlehem
by Adam Hamilton
ISBN 978-1-4267-7184-2
Abingdon Press
Reviewed by Clint Walker

Designed to partner with a video series if desired, Not A Silent Night is a brief, accessible study of the Advent and Christmas story through the eyes of Mary.

In this study Adam Hamilton takes a unique approach. Working back in time through Scriptural references about the life of Mary, Hamilton begins with the cross and the resurrection and works back to the manger. In doing so, he gives us a unique perspective about the purpose and meaning of Jesus' birth before we get to celebrating it.

His study, through the eyes of Mary awakens us to a new kind of beauty involving what happened. A beauty that redemptive, well-acquainted with suffering, and at the same time powerfully simple and strong.

Grab this book. And if you are a pastor, plan on teaching through what is in this book at some time in the future.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Book Review of Mercy and Melons by Lisa Hickman



Mercy & Melons: Praying the Alphabet
Lisa Nichols Hickman
978-1-4267-6753-1
Abingdon Press
Reviewed by Clint Walker

This is a wonderful, feel good book on being thankful and counting your blessings.

When I was a youth pastor, I used to use a little game to teach gratitude. I would put the kids in a circle, and I would have them pray through the alphabet, finding things to be thankful for with each letter of the alphabet. That is exactly what this book does, only with more beauty and depth.

In Mercy and Melons the author reflects on two things that she is grateful for with each letter of the alphabet. Each chapter, much like the cover drawing above, has beautiful calligraphy and illustrations that gives a visual for each thought. It is a fast read, and a good one.

This book would be a great collection of devotions for folks that need to lead meetings with devotions. It would keep the meeting positive and move it forward.


Book Review of The Daniel Plan by Rick Warren, Daniel Amen, and Mark Hyman




The Daniel Plan: 40 Days to a Healthier Life
by Rick Warren, Daniel Amen, and Mark Hyman
ISBN 978-0-310-34429-2
Zondervan
Reviewed by Clint Walker




Rick Warren is a well-known author, pastor, and Christian leader. He was beloved for being a normal guy who was also a pastor. The kind of guy that for several years loved to wear beach shirts and flip-flops to work, who preached straight-forward sermons, who at one point said that Mastercard saved his marriage, and was a little bit portly.

One day, after a mass baptism, he came to the conclusion that he needed to do something to help him get healthier, and he invited his friends at Saddleback Church to join him on the journey. He brought in some leading health experts, and developed with them what became known as the Daniel Plan, a health journey that combines some biblical principles on caring for one's body with some sound science and dietary wisdom.

The Daniel Plan as a book lays out the plan to begin a journey toward healthier living. Included are calls to eat better, to care for one's body through exercise and fitness, to find social support for healthier living as well as personal and emotional growth, and a challenge to grow deeper in faith disciplines. Also included in the book is a meal plan, a detox guide, and more.

I think this book has some solid advice for more disciplined living. My only struggle is that I have an aversion for overcommercialized trends, especially in the realm of Christian discipleship and marketing. Nonetheless, a great book and perhaps a fun community activity in churches for a season such as Lent.

Book Review of I Like Giving by Brad Formsma




I Like Giving: The Transforming Power of a Generous Life
by Brad Formsma
ISBN 978-1-60142-575-1
Waterbrook Press
Reviewed by Clint Walker

I picked up this book as part of my ongoing study on stewardship. One of the most most "invested" teams in our congregation right now is our stewardship team. They are studying what stewardship is all about, they are seeing the value of generosity, and they are trying to teach our church the importance and value of generous giving.

Brad Formsma may the most passionate, contagious advocate for being generous that I have ever read. He is simply passionate about giving. Especially when that giving goes toward the kind of things that allows lives to be transformed and relationships to grow.

I Like Giving begins with Brad sharing about his giving journey, and about how learning about, participating in, and advocating for the spiritual discipline of generosity has changed his life. It then begins to share about how giving works, different ways persons can live generosity, and how that generosity can form one's entire life.

I Like Giving is also a website which produces videos and shares stories of other people's giving stories. Some of the stories will move you to tears.

The only drawback for this book for my purposes (and most likely not a drawback for others) is that it proved to be relatively unhelpful in encouraging people to tithe to their local church, which is part of what I was looking for.


Thursday, November 27, 2014

Reflections on 10 years of blogging: Networking



Once I started blogging, it was not very long before I discovered that writing a weblog was a wonderful tool for networking. In early 2005, MySpace was just getting off of the ground, Facebook would not launch publicly for another two years, and Twitter was a glimmer in some techie's eye.

Networking happened in a number of ways for me in my blogging journey:

Professional Networking

One of the things I discovered through my blog is that I could connect to a number of ministry leaders and colleagues that also had blogs. We could have dialogue on certain issues about important matters. It was wonderful to have personal access to people with whom I might have never been able to have a conversation with otherwise. Authors personally asked me to review their books.

Also, there were influential community thought leaders throughout Colorado Springs that I was also able to connect with through my blog. This led to some interesting conversations with folks that I would have never had a chance to talk about my faith with otherwise. It also led to some stellar social invitations.

Social Networking

In my early blogging days, social networking happened in a couple of ways. One way to social network was through what I would call "blog-surfing". By this I mean that one could press a "next-blog" button on the top of one's blog, and surf from blog to blog all over the world. If a person had similar or shared interests, or said something interesting, you just left a comment on their blog and invited them to visit yours if they wished.

Also, once I started blogging, I had several friends, acquaintances, and friends of friends that began to blog. I met some neat people this way. For instance, I met Robin Moser, who turned me on to Red Dirt Country music, which I still enjoy. I also, through a happy accident, met someone who turned out to be related to some good friends of mine through Sterling, KS.

Some people from these blogs I keep track of  through Social Facebook today. Folks such as an artist/author in Austin, a stay at home mom that moved to Las Vegas, A businessman and thinker from Auckland, a working mother from El Paso, and a pet owner from Southern California, and a musician that now lives up in the Northwest.

The blog allowed me to talk about my ideas, my life, and my faith with seminarians and atheists, Muslims from Pakistan and missionaries in Africa. It was a great time for diverse conversations with Northern European fundamentalist Christians, African_American women from the South, homosexuals and homophobes, bestselling authors and people were afraid to get out of the house.
It was the hey-day of blogging as far as I was concerned.


Reflections on 10 years of Blogging: A New Beginning


I began blogging on December 7. 2004. For the next couple of weeks I am going to reflect on my blogging experience, and perhaps offer ideas about how my blog may evolve into the future.

Friar Tuck's Fleeting Thoughts was born after I had been at Colorado Springs for about 15 months. After serving at First Baptist Church of Colorado Springs. I was, for a number of reasons, feeling more and more isolated and lonely in my life and in my ministry. I felt trapped in my work. I felt stuck in my career. I was single. I did not have many hobbies, and I had always dreamed of being a writer.

I remember when I wrote my first post on my blog. It was intoxicating. It was like seeing my name in print. I had my own free website. I had the opportunity to form my own voice, to practice writing, and to share my thoughts with others. 

When I started blogging, my writing had several purposes:

Recording my thoughts and insights somewhere permanent, so that they would not get away from me.
I had this habit of reading something, and forgetting what I had read. I would think of things, but then forget what I was thinking about soon after I did so. The blog was a way of keeping track of those insights that came to mind, especially if I thought they would be helpful or useful later. So, the title became Friar Tuck's Fleeting Thoughts.

Strengthening my writing skill
I have wanted to be a writer since I was a child. And, if I was not a pastor I might have tried to be some sort of journalist. I still dream of writing books, being an academic, or something else that will allow me to read and write.

To develop a feedback loop for ministry thoughts and ideas
I was often thinking about theological and ministry matters, but had no way of having any sort of conversation about such things. Putting something down in writing and letting people respond gave me a forum to get the feedback I needed.

Developing a scrapbook of sorts of pictures and old writing I had done
I did not want to lose track of the writing I had done, and some of the sermons and articles I had written. This had happened in the past when computers crashed, so I began to assemble pictures and writing from the past on this blog as well.

Quote collection
I have always loved quotes. The blog would be a place to collect quotes and links to writing I appreciated.

And so I began to write and share, Many of the above goals were met. However, I had no idea how my blog was going to evolve and my experience with blogging was going to grow in the years to come

Monday, November 24, 2014

Book Review of John Knox for Armchair Theologians



John Knox for Armchair Theologians
by Suzanne McDonald (Illustrations by Ron Hill)
ISBN 978-0-664-23669-4
WJK Books
Reviewed by Clint Walker

I have been very interested in Calvin and in Reformed Theology for quite a while now. However, I have learned very little about the development of the Reformed Movement in Scotland and the rise of Presbyterianism in the British Isles. Thus, I found this John Knox for Armchair Theologians helpful and informative. The illustrations entertained me, and the reading was both instructive and easily accessible.

John Knox was a complex figure, and this book captures his complexity. Whether it is trying to discern his level of influence in the confessions and order of the early Presbyterians in Scotland, or discussing his marital history, McDonald does a good job at describing the importance of Knox while cutting through myth and controversy and getting down to business with real history and theological issues.

McDonald also does a great job at presenting the information in an orderly manner. Some of the "Armchair books" read more like monographs, bouncing around from issue to issue. This book has a logical and easy to follow progression that tells the story of Knox's life through his beliefs and his actions.


Book Review of Calvin's Theology and It's Reception edited by J. Todd Billings and I. John Hesselink



Calvin's Theology and Its Reception: Disputes, Developments, and New Possibilities 
edited by J. Todd Billings and I. John Hesselink
ISBN 978-0-664-23423-2
Westminster John Knox Press
Reviewed by Clint Walker

Calvin's Theology and Its Reception is a unique book of theological scholarship that will be used by people from all sorts of theological backgrounds from years to come. Including both conservative Reformed voices and well as voices that love Calvin and his theology which would be considered more mainline, this short paperback monograph packs a big punch in a fairly brief package.

Another thing that is very helpful about this book is the systematic way it is organized.  Each section has a few articles. Topics covered include: Scripture and Revelation, Union with God, Election, the Lord's Supper, and the church in society. Each section includes both reflection on the historic as well as the contemporary implications of different aspects of Calvin's theology. Of particular interest to many who, like me, are interested in matters of spiritual formation, will be the discussion of Union with Christ by J. Todd Billings and Michael Horton.

Having lauded this book for its diversity, I must also say this: at least have of the scholars that are writing in this book are from institutions in western Michigan. Nevertheless, this is a fine book, and would be great for a class on Calvin or a discussion group of Reformed pastors of any stripe.


Friday, November 21, 2014

The Faith and Friendships of Teenage Boys by Robert C. Dykstra, Allan Hugh Cole Jr., and Donald Capps




The Faith and Friendships of Teenage Boys
by Robert C. Dykstra, Allan Hugh Cole Jr., and Donald Capps
ISBN 978-0-664-23340-2
WJK Books
Reviewed by Clint Walker

Faith and Friendships of Teenage Boys is a short book put out by Westminster John Knox about the relationships of adolescent boys. The book is very therapeutic in its approach, with some references as well to how to relate and pass on the Christian faith to teen boys in the church.

This book is well researched and well documented. It is both accessible and intelligent, and will have much to offer to pastors, youth pastors, teachers, and parents of teens as well. Central to this book is that healthy identity formation for adolescents, including adolescent boys, takes place in the context of relationships. This is an important insight. Many youth leaders in churches are strongly geared toward relational ministry with teens, but have a harder time equipping teens to relate well to one another.

Also, a lot of attention has been paid to the dynamics of adolescent girls relationships with one another, including their structure, as well as the benefits and pitfalls of those relationships. Less attention has been paid to how boys relationships are structured, and how the social structures of adolescent boys can either be life-giving or destructive. (Most often boys have experience with both kinds of relationships).

I would recommend that youth leaders and pastors at least skim this book if they have any interest in either healthy spiritual formation or identity formation for adolescent boys.


Book Review of Violence In Scripture by Jerome F. D. Creach




Violence In Scripture
Interpretation Resources for the Use of Scripture in the Church
ISBN 978-0-664-23145-3
by Jerome F.D. Creach
WJK Books
Reviewed by Clint Walker

Violence In Scripture is part of the resources provided by Westminster John Knox Press and the Interpretation Series. To begin with, Interpretation put out a series of Bible commentaries directed at preachers and bible teachers. These commentaries are very practical and well respected. After finishing the Bible commentaries, the Interpretation folks began to take on the study of themes in Scripture, of which this work is a part.

Violence In Scripture takes on the issue of how the Bible deals with violent behavior, as the title indicates. It attacks this issue sequentially, moving through the narrative of Scripture from the Patriarchs, through the Pentateuch, in Hebrew history and through the Prophets, moving forward into the New Testament. The Psalms are also employed in this study.

The work in this commentary/study is smart, thoughtful, and even handed. Jerome F. D. Creach definitely has a perspective, but his perspective does not cloud him from being fair-minded and taking on the difficult issues regarding violence and discussing them with intelligence and integrity. I love how it is outlined, and the thoroughness of this fine work.

I will add this book to my library, and use it right along with my other books on war, peace, and violence in discerning God's will on such issues.


Friday, November 14, 2014

Book Review of The NIV Once-A-Day Bible for Leaders



The NIV Once A Day Bible For Leaders
ISBN 978-0-310-44243-1
Zondervan (HarperCollins)
Reviewed by Clint Walker

In my life, I have found that Bibles that help you read through the Bible in a year are a very helpful tool to promote discipline in one's Bible reading and in one's spiritual journey. The NIV Once A Day Bible for Leaders is one such resource.

The most popular Bible in this genre is from another publisher, and is knows as the One Year Bible. It will be helpful, then, to compare this Bible to that one in order to communicate the uniqueness of this product.

One clear difference is the choice by the editors to have either the Psalms or Proverbs as a part of the readings for the day. This is a good decision. In the One Year Bible, both are included in each reading, and to be honest it forces the readings from the Wisdom literature to be unnecessarily abbreviated.

Another difference is the brief devotional thought for each day based upon the theme of the Once-A-Day Bible. In this case, there is a brief daily devotional thought about leadership. So, for the person that wants to read through their Bible, and grow as a Christian leader, this is a perfect Bible/devotional to do both at the same time.

If this sounds like something you might be interested in, check it out.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Book Review of Organic Mentoring by Sue Edwards and Barbara Neumann




Organic Mentoring: A Mentor's Guide to Relationships with the Next Generation Women
Sue Edwards and Barbara Neumann
ISBN 978-0-8254-4333-6
Kregel Ministry
Reviewed by Clint Walker

Mentoring might be the most impact-filled way of forming disciples of Christ and building the church, but in our quest for efficiency and numbers in attendance in church programs it has often been neglected. Thankfully Sue Edwards and Barbara Neumann have put together a wise book that calls the church, and especially church womeen, to engage in the act of mentoring both to make disciples and to help them grow into maturity in the Christian faith.

The book is divided into two parts. The first part makes the case for a new day for mentoring, as well as a new way for mentoring women. Seeking to be sensitive to the needs and culture that mentors need to be missional within, they make the case for a new way to reach and mentor a new generation.

Then, the women lay out the specific fields of ministry and ways of reaching women in order to mentor them. Included are topics such as how to use technology to your advantage as a mentor, and ways of connecting to people who are not necessarily awash in church culture. This really is a rather thoughtful book. Something I hand to a mature Christian women who wants to make an impact on younger generations.


Monday, November 03, 2014

The Verizon Size Queen



So, I finally decide to do it. I walk into the Verizon store. Why, you ask? To try and get my phone working properly. I talked to the door lady. She seems to think the only way to properly update my phone is to work through Itunes. Then I get to the "expert" who was supposed to help me.  I explain that my updated apps are not working. That my Facetime is not working. I also added that I was having trouble updating the operating system.

She asked me what Iphone I had. I said I had a 4. She said with eyes rolling...."you only have a 4 and you only have 8G" she said with contempt.

She then repeated, "a 4," followed by the words, "that is a 5 year old phone."

She exhaled with a deep sigh. I asked, "So you are saying my phone is a dinosaur?"

"Press your phone," she replied. Then I complied, "Not even a 4s," she said contemptuously, "you only have a 4. A 4. With only 8G. We now have and IOS 8. You have an IOS 6."

She then shook her head.

I left half insulted, and half laughing. I called Jennifer. "I'm sorry honey," I said, "Apparently I am not man enough."

"Why is that," Jennifer said.

"I stopped by the Verizon store, Apparently the young lady there does not think I am man enough,"

Jen laughed.

"She says a 4 is so small and inadequate. How can you be satisfied with only 8G? My operating system is only a 6. She doesn't know how we could EVER be satisfied."

I guess I will have to upgrade. I told Jennifer, "I never thought it mattered whether my phone was a 4 or a 6. It was just how well I used it. I guess I was wrong."




Friday, October 31, 2014

Book Review of The Maxwell Leadership Bible



The Maxwell Leadership Bible
by God/and John Maxwell
ISBN 978-1-40167978-1
Thomas Nelson
Reviewed by Clint Walker

For decades now, John C. Maxwell has been revered both as a ministry leader and as an expert on business leadership throughout the world. He is known for his sequential, step-by-step "laws" that help people grow and develop as leaders wherever they work and live.

The Maxwell Leadership Bible brings together Maxwell's expertise as a minister and a business leader by developing a "study" bible of sorts that goes through Scripture and uses Scripture to communicate the leadership principles he espouses.

The Bible has sidebars and illustrations of Biblical leadership principles on nearly every page. Every book introduction highlights the leadership issues for that particular part of Scripture. There are a few articles in the front of the Bible that introduce principles of Biblical leadership. In the back of the Bible, the leadership laws that Maxwell has developed. There is also a index of leadership issues addressed in Scripture and in this study bible, As well as summaries of several of Maxwell's other books, and how they apply to what you would find and read in Scripture and in The Maxwell Leadership Bible.

This particular resource could have several uses:

  • A devotional guide for a group of leaders
  • A guide for someone who wanted to do an in-depth study of Biblical leadership
For fans of Maxwell and students of Christian leadership, this is a must have book!


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Apprentice Institute Quick Hits: Talk 1--James Bryan Smith




THE TALK


TITLE: LIGHT DARKNESS AND THE YES OF FAITH

Quote from Hans Urs von Balthasar
"God before us explains himself as love. Love radiates from God and instills the Light of love in our hearts."

Galatians 4:19


Formation for mission includes:

1. Recieving the light
2. Letting the light be formed in you
3. Bringing the Light to a darkened world


Monday, October 27, 2014

Book Review of Fleeing Herod by James Cowan


Fleeing Herod: A Journey through Coptic Egypt with the Holy Family


Fleeing Herod: A Journey through Coptic Egypt with the Holy Family
by James Cowan
ISBN 978-1-61261-304-8
Paraclete Press
Reviewed by Clint Walker

What a unique book! Fleeing Herod tells the story of a pilgrimage of sorts by James Cowan as he makes his way through Egypt in the footprints of the Holy Family. In the process, Cowan discusses the intersection and conflicts between history and scholarship, between the politics of Jesus' day and the politics of today, of his own religious traditions and those of Coptic Christians in Egypt. In the process, he allows us to see the story of the Holy Family's flight to Egypt in new light, allows us to hear from some lesser heard voices in the Middle East, and open the doors for some new spiritual insights.

Fleeing Herod reads like an adventure story, a search for hidden treasure for the soul that will keep most readers turning from page to page. Of course, as with any spiritual autobiography from Eat, Pray, Love to Augustine's Confessions, there are going to be parts of the book that hit home with the reader, and others where one just has to chalk up Cowan's perspectives to who he is. Word to the wise though, Cowan does more reporting than editorializing, even though there are points where his perspective comes shining through)  However, whoever reads this book will learn a lot, grow a lot, and be challenged to think about their lives, the world, and Scripture anew.


Saturday, October 25, 2014

Book Review of Ireland's Saint by J.B. Bury w/ Jon Sweeney


Ireland's Saint: The Essential Biography of St. Patrick (paperback, smaller format)


Ireland's Saint: The Essential Biography of St. Patrick
by J.B. Bury w/Jon M. Sweeney
ISBN 978-1-61261-333-8
Paraclete Press
Reviewed by Clint Walker

Ireland's Saint is a classic biography on the life of St. Patrick. First published over 100 years ago, people still regard this fine work as authoritative and the standard on telling the story of the ministry of St. Patrick. Bury was a scholar of the Greek and Roman Imperial history, and his study of the Early Church's expansion to the Emerald Isle is an outgrowth of that academic interest and its relation to his part of the world. For a person wanting to sift through the history from the legend, and to know more about Patrick than a few fanciful stories, this is a great book to have.

The book has some helpful, albeit rather expansive editorial helps from Jon Sweeney. First, Mr. Sweeney moves the summaries of Patrick's life and ministry, and its lasting impact to the front of the book. This, in my opinion, is a wonderful decision. One first sees the power of Patrick's story with this change, and then is left seeking to know more.

Another thing that Sweeney does is insert little annotations in side bars throughout the book that point to issues of discussion among religious folks or scholars, as well as highlighting some of the best of Bury's thought and work.

The text is relatively short. A small paperback that one could easily make their way through quickly. Pick this book up now, while it is on sale ($3 right now at Paraclete's web site), and then read it during Lent as you lead up to St. Patrick's day.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Book Review of the Way of Grace by Glandion Carney



The Way of Grace
by Glandion Carney with Marjean Brooks
ISBN 978-0-8308-3594-2
IVP Formatio
Reviewed by Clint Walker

Have you ever felt like you could not do the things that you used to do, or wanted to do? Have you ever felt like you life was out of your control, and wondered where God was in the midst of that struggle and pain? Have you ever struggled to find God's presence in the midst of persistent pain, disease, or other challenges? If you have, than you will relate to Glandion Carney, and his journey of faith that he shares in The Way of Grace.

This book is a spiritual autobiography and reflection on what it is like to experience God, and find deeper faith while facing Parkinson's disease. Carney centers his story around the experience of God's grace. Throughout the book he shares his physical, emotional and spiritual struggles, and how he finds God to be more and more faithful even as his body falls apart. The book is raw and confessional, with Carney sharing some deeply personal struggles and giving his readers some insight into some not-so-pretty parts of his thought life. It also has a lot of depth, drawing inspiration from saints that lived both decades and centuries ago.

This book is easy to relate to and easy to read. It is also beautiful. As one reads Glandion's words and testimony, one is prompted to remember and be thankful for the grace in our lives as well

Book Review of JOHN: THE GOSPEL OF WISDOM by Michael Card




John: The Gospel of Wisdom
by Michael Card
ISBN
IVP Books
Reviewed by Clint Walker

Michael Card has been a master story teller in his music for decades. He has focused much of his music ministry toward singing the story of God for the ages--with a special focus on the gospels. So, when Card continues his Biblical Imagination commentary series, and focuses on John--who focuses on lengthy narrative--readers like you and I should pay attention to what he hears and what he has to teach us.

As I opened the book, I was impressed that Card not only understands the narrative arc of the gospel of John and the stories within the story, he also deftly handles some of the more subtle theological themes and fields some of the more challenging questions that the gospel of John presents.

This specific commentary could work both as a devotional for many, as well as a commentary series for those teaching and preaching the Bible. It is deep in understanding, and yet accessible to most. I will return to this resource again and again.


Book Review of Coffee with Jesus by David Wiklie



Coffee with Jesus 
ISBN 978-0-8308-3662-8
IVP Books
Reviewed by Clint Walker

A few decades back I became familiar with a magazine that I came to love. It was called the Wittenburg Door, which was later shortened to The Door. It was a witty book full of sarcasm and wit from a Christian perspective. After a while, the magazine was bought by a group that had an ax to grind against televangelists. While I shared their antipathy for television preachers, I felt that the quality slowly declined in their magazine after the sale.

About a year or two ago, I discovered  Coffee with Jesus and its regular appearances on Facebook. I grew to love this wonderful mix of humor and exhortation as well.  The premise of the comic strip is that Jesus has regular encounters with ordinary folks at a local coffee shop. Most of the characters are close to middle-class and white. Satan also makes an appearance, as does a preacher in his collar from time to time.

Jesus clearly exhibits love and acceptance in these comics, but often "calls 'em as he sees em'". He does not avoid challenging the hypocrisy of folks in his sphere of influence. He also does not play the game of giving "church answers" to questions his friends come to him with. He is smart, witty, painfully honest, and compassionate. And, as you listen to him talk to others, he makes you smile.

This book is arranged topically. This allows the reader to search by issues or seasons of the year. I am tempted to scan copies of this book, and use specific strips in PowerPoint presentations for worship from time to time. The messages are that challenging and thought provoking. But, I am not sure what Jesus might say to me the next time we got together for coffee. :)

Friday, October 17, 2014

Book Review of the Accidental Revolutionary by Jerome Dean Mahaffey



The Accidental Revolutionary
by Jerome Dean Mahaffey
ISBN 978-160258391-7
Baylor University Press
Reviewed by Clint Walker

This book was released several years ago. And, a few years after receiving it, I am just getting down to posting a review of The Accidental Revolutionary by Jerome Dean Mahaffey. Let that not color your impression of this fine book or the reviewer however. The book is not really time-sensitive. And the thoughtful material takes some time to read, digest, and consider.

To make a long story short, Mahaffey's thesis is that George Whitfield's preaching and teaching helped galvanize and form the United States of America, and what he taught gave them philosophical underpinnings and theological justification for the revolt that would come in the colonies just a few years after his death.

Whitefield was unique. He was a Calvinist, and a revivalist. He was admired by the deist Benjamin Franklin, and had along and complicated relationship with John Wesley and his friends. He was born in England, but he died here in America, and his unique and dramatic preaching style was best received in the States.

From early on, Whitefield ordered his life and ministry as he felt led by the Spirit, even if that chafed against his peers and ecclesiastical authority. He took church meetings out of buildings and would speak in outdoor settings (which caused no little uproar, especially in England). He preached without notes. He went more where he wanted to go than where he was directed to go. He was led to faith by the Wesleys, but then adopted some theological beliefs that were not very compatible with them.

Certain ideas began to develop in his preaching and his conversations with folks, especially Americans. He gave people permission, through his preaching, to question authority. And his preaching began to plant the seeds that military revolt was justified in order to experience the freedom that God called his people to live in.

As the Declaration of Independence was written and the Revolution fought, people often felt they were fighting, in some sense, a holy war. Whitefield gave the colonists the theological groundwork to come to these conclusions. That is why some proclaim, "No Whitefield, no revolution" (ix)

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Quick Hits about the Kiss of Grace by Michael Frost at Sentralized 2014









THE TALK

Living by the Kiss of Grace


  • The kiss of grace insists that we must be present in the moment
    • Must be present in the moment
    • Must avoid the temptations of fear and laziness
    • Must understand NOW is the only time to respond to him
    • You did not meet Jesus 20 years ago, you are meeting him TODAY, NOW
  • The kiss of grace insists that we must throw all our faith on the goodness and the grace of God
    • Trust in the fundamental truth that Jesus loves you
    • Grace tells us that we are accepted by God just the way we are
  • The kiss of grace insists that we live with gratitude
    • The best motivator for mission is gratitude
    • "No one will remember me, no one will remember you, but we have been kissed by the grace of God, and that is enough

Quick Hits from Bob Roberts presentation at Sentralized 2014




THE TALK

Bob Roberts is a pastor of a megachurch in Dallas. He has had a suprisingly effective ministry with Muslims around the world. In DFW 40 percent of residents are born in non-English speaking countries(this does not include the high numbers of East Indian folks). There are 500,000 Muslims in the Metroplex.

He talked about being a witness in the public square.

"We Christians don't like the public square because we don't know how to be normal when we live in the public square"

Tips

  1. Respect authority
  2. Practice civility
  3. Stay calm under pressure
"The World is Open, We are Not"


Quick Hits from Caesar Kalinowski's presentation Sentralized 2014


Caesar Kalinowski

THE TALK


  1. Don't believe the do=be lies anymore.
  2. Understand that the mission is God's not yours
  3. Be filled with the Spirit
"We treat the Holy Spirit as the weird uncle of the Trinity"
"The point of the cross is to be filled with the Spirit"

What does the Spirit do?

helps, reminds, convicts of sin, leads, counsels, reveals, proclaims Jesus, knows the heart of the Father, advocates, guides. THESE THINGS ARE HIS RESPONSIBILITY, NOT MINE.

Ask "What's next Lord"

Instead of trying to figure out the Master plan, trust the Master who has the plan

Quick Hits from Brad Brisco's presentation at Sentralized 2014



THE TALK

I don't have the best notes on Brad's presentation, in part because much of his talk is also summarized in his book THE MISSIONAL QUEST.

But here is what I have

"There are no unsacred places, there are only sacred places and desecrated places"--Wendell Berry

He referenced Oldenburg--Great, good place

And he talked about three places where we experience life

First places--Home. Our missional practice there is neighboring.  We should offer Biblical hospitality. This is different from entertaining. Hospitality speaks of the LOVE of the stranger. In order to do this we need to have margin in our lives, because "relationships happen in the margins"

Second places--Work

Third place--Where we hang out. Our missional task in these places is twofold
1.  Identify and engage third places
2. Create third places
3. Support and defend third places


Insights from Christena Cleveland at Sentralized 2014


I Peter tells people not to be meddlers. In that context, meddling refers to trying to get non-Christians to be forced to live by Christian standards

The movement of transformation of communities and societies moves in this way:
Incarnation
Reputation
Conversation
Confrontation
Transformation



Kim Hammond's Sentness workshop and Sentralized 2014



THE TALK

We need to ask, are we a selling church or a sending church?

No one talks about postmodern stuff because we are now already there

How do we make the transition from selling to sending?


  • Begin to know the language of the people you want to reach
  • Understand their culture
  • Put yourself in proximity to people outside the church
We need to stop selling to people and start sending people. 10 percent are non-adopters. 10 percent are early adopters. Eighty percent of people in our church are waiting to be trained and sent

We need to share life with people. We are friendly but we don't love each other very much. diatribio--for skin to rub through skin because one is in close enough proximity

TAKE HOME
There is no real mission without proximity to those you are trying to reach


Starfish and Spiders and Church Movements Ori Brafman and Neil Cole at Sentralized 2014

How does one do starfish innovation in a spider organization?

  • Another question: how does one become an adaptive leader
  • Adaptive leaders should
    • Remember: Good artists copy, great artists steal
    • Create emotional bonds via networks
    • Repurpose ideas
In order to create a culture for starfish innovation one should...
    • Invite unusual suspects to the table
    • Create white space
    • Give circles specific models to solve
    • Shed spotlight on success
    • Change context and start again
(Cole)
Multiplication happens from micro to macro
    • start by reproducing disciples
    • then reproduce leaders
    • then reproduce churches....
Instead of joining a movement of God for people we try to create a movement of people for God

Concentric circles in multiplication
2-3-- life change
12-15--connect
25-75--place to train and equip
120-150--a tribe
300-500--a community that can set a culture


Quick Hits from the Missional Agenda for the Neighborhood Workshop by Michael Frost at Sentralized 2014



---Missional is more and different from recruitment to our brand of mission or ministry

--It is alerting everyone to the fact that YAHWEH reigns
How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, "Your God reigns!"--Isaiah 52:7

  • The mountains were places of idol worship
  • This was in Babylon
  • God says, "It is beautiful to proclaim my salvation THERE"
God's reign is utter, total and complete. Even it sometimes appears to be fitful, partial and mysterious.

If the only thing our neighbors know about the reign of God is what they see in you, what would that look like?

Would there be wholeness/shalom
Would it be relational
Would people see reconciliation
Would they see fear and laziness
Would they see justice and equality
Would they see beauty


Quotes from Nathan and Richard Foster's Presentation of Nathan's Making of an Ordinary Saint



"Love is a far greater motivator than guilt"--Nathan

"Virtue and vice are both deeply ingrained habits"--Richard

"We are learning to enjoy God--RELAX"--Richard

"Distraction is the great enemy of the soul today"

Those who have the wind of the Holy Spirit move forward--even in sleep"--Brother Lawrence