Friday, January 30, 2015

Good quotes (Discovered in The Bible Study Handbook by Lindsay Olesberg)

It isn't easy to let a text read you. Your thirst for knowledge and information often makes you desire to own the word, instead of letting the word own you"--Henri Nouwen

When you or I open the Bible, we are beholding the very words of God--words that have a supernatural power to redeem, renew, refresh, and restore our lives to what he created them to be.--David Platt

Scripture is not in and of itself divine, but we should respect, even reverence, Scripture as the divinely appointed medium by which God chooses to reveal himself to us--Donald Bloesch

Every word in the book (the Bible) is intended to do something in us, give health and wholeness, vitality and holiness to our souls and our body--Eugene Peterson

One cannot simply read the Bible, like other books. One must be prepared to really enquire of it. Only thus will it reveal itself. Only if we expect from it the ultimate answer will we receive it.--Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Book Review of The Bible Study Handbook by Lindsay Olesberg

The Bible Study Handbook: A Comprehensive Guide to An Essential Practice
by Lindsay Olesberg
ISBN 978-0-8308-1049-9
IVP Connect
Reviewed by Clint Walker

The Bible Study Handbook is a book with a simple title that packs a powerful punch. Whether it is being used by a person seeking education and teaching in how to lead a Bible study, or a person who is seeking to study the Bible better for themselves, Lindsay Olesberg provides a book that is easily readable, inspiring, and sure to help the reader to grow both in their passion for the Lord's Word and their ability to handle it well.

The book is divided into three parts. The first section provides "foundations". This is designed to communicate more of the "why" of inductive Bible Study, but I found that this section had some very practical guidelines.

The next section, "Building Blocks", highlights attitudes and values that are essential to bring to studying and teaching the Word if you are going to get the most out of it. This is excellent too, and points a person seeking to become a real student of the Word in the right direction.

The final section is called "tool box". The title of that section is self-explanitory. It gives practical helps to guiding others through inductive Bible study, and getting more out of that study oneself.

The appendices also provide good, brief guidelines for Bible teachers, and to a lesser extent Bible students.

I would recommend this book to pastors, christian educators, and all with a passion for going deeper in the word

provided by IVP in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Book Review of Pursuing God's WIll Together by Ruth Haley Barton

Pursuing God's Will Together: A Discernment Practice for Leadership Groups
by Ruth Haley Barton
ISBN 978-0-8308-3566-9
IVP Formatio
Reviewed by Clint Walker

I am in the process of transitioning our church leadership teams and committees into spiritual communities of practice. In other words, I am seeking to have each team and committee (eventually) not just be a group of people that seeks to do business, but a small group that has a particular ministry and learning focus. The idea is that leadership within the church will be a growing and learning process, and not just another meeting I have to show up to. The teams will become life-giving communities instead of simply obligations. That is the goal.

I was in the process of introducing this paradigm shift when I discovered this book. This book calls leadership teams in congregations and other Christ-centered organizations to become communities of spiritual discernment. The first three quarters of the book teaches the readers how to establish a discernment culture within the organization. The final quarter of the book unveils a clear, practical methodology for practicing discernment in leadership gatherings and communities.

I have enjoyed this book so much that I am in the process of buying the book for each member of the leadership board of our church with my own money. It is a suburb introduction to doing ministry in a different way. It is going to be a great tool for moving us away from a purely business model of church leadership, and moving toward being a wisdom-seeking leadership team. I love it.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Book Review of The Sentinels of Andersonville by Tracy Groot

The Sentinels of Andersonville
by Tracy Groot
ISBN 978-1-4143-5948-9
Reviewed by Clint Walker

Writing about war is a lot like writing about sports. It is easy to make a mess of doing either. On one hand, one can easy tend toward a sentimentality that lacks both realism and readability. On the other hand, one can get so overly bogged down in detail that the reader is bored to tears. Tracy Groot in The Sentinels of Andersonville avoids both these pitfalls.

Set in one of the most grizzly and ugly prison camps in the Civil War, and perhaps in all of American history, one becomes acquainted with Confederate citizens that become aware of the shameful and immoral way that people were treated in Andersonville. Each in their own time, they come to the conclusion that something must be done to end the cruelty, and hatch a plan to help end the shameful and painful treatment that many are enduring. Will they get caught? Will they follow through with their plan that will be seen as both treason and weakness. You will have to read the book to find out.

Book Review of Olinger Stories by John Updike

Olinger Stories (Everyman's Pocket Classics)

Olinger Stories
by John Updike
ISBN 978-0-375-71250-0
Everyman's Pocket Classics
Reviewed by Clint Walker

I used to be able to sit down and read a good, solid book by an excellent writer in a day or so. This is not the case since I had children. Now I hardly have enough time to use the bathroom in peace. For this reason, I like to grab collections of short stories when I can, and read small nuggets of good literature. And it is for this reason that I picked up these autobiographical short stories by John Updike.

John Updike is one of the leading writers of the 20th century in America.  Olinger Stories is a collection of his autobiographical short stories that has been out for a long time. This printing of this fine book is a small hardback. It has an excellent cover and a ribbon. It would be great for putting in one's purse and backpack and getting in a quick read while the kids are on the playground, or while you are waiting to be seen in the doctors office.

Book Review of Beneath a Navajo Moon by Lisa Carter

Beneath a Navajo Moon 
by Lisa Carter
ISBN 98-1-4267-5799-0
Abingdon Press
Reviewed by Clint Walker

Lisa Carter always grounds her books firmly in a place. Whether writing about her native Carolina, or setting her book in the culture of Hawaii, she writes mysteries, that often have a twist of romance, and help readers explore regional culture and people at the same time.

This book does much of the same. It is a book set in Navajo, on the reservation that reaches across multiple states in the arid Southwest. The protagonist, Erin Dawson, is a Southerner, unfamiliar with the ways of the Navajo people, who sees a crime take place. Because of her involvement in the prosecution of the crime, she is forced to both stay near the people and the place where the crime took place. She learns a lot about herself and the people around her, and even finds the opportunity to bond with a gentleman friend. Because this is full of mystery, crime, and suspense, the book reads quickly.

As is typical of Abingdon books, it expresses a faith perspective without beating you over the head with an agenda. Good stuff.

Book Review of Jesus is the Question

Jesus is the Question: The 307 Questions Jesus asked and the 3 He Answered
by Martin Copenhaver
ISBN 978-1-4267-5514-9
Abingdon Press
Reviewed by Clint Walker

This is the book that I have been seeking for years. Martin Copenhaver, luminary of progressive Christianity and president of Andover-Newton seminary has written a book probing the questions of Jesus.

When I was in seminary, I had an internship of sorts at one of the traditional flagship churches of my denomination. Specifically, I was studying the nature of Associate Ministry, and participating in the broader life of the congregation. I did not really fit in. I did however, find myself captivated by a sermon series that Rev. Dick Olson was preaching called  "We Ask, He Asks", pairing the questions of Jesus with our very human concerns. Since then I have always desired to go deeper with this theme. Jesus is the Question has allowed me to do so.

Copenhaver artfully organizes the questions by topic. He probes deeply into where Jesus is seeking to lead his students and disciples with his questions, and then draws some humble conclusions at the end of each chapter. He also has "all the questions" in the back of the book, along with a discussion guide for classes and/or book clubs.

All in all, a fantastic achievement. If I don't use this is a study, I may use it as a guideline for a sermon series.

Book Review of Revival by Adam Hamilton

Revival: Faith as Wesley Lived It
by Adam Hamilton
ISBN 978-1-4267-7884-1
Abingdon Press
Reviewed by Clint Walker

Revival by Adam Hamilton is a thoughtful, meaningful study of Wesley's life and the lessons that believers today can learn from his example. The book cane be read alone, or it can be used in concert with a curriculum series that accompanies it, Revival challenges believers--especially those of Wesleyan and Methodist backgrounds--to grab on to the spiritual principles of Wesley's life, and to appropriate them for their own Christian journeys.

Each chapter, in addition to being linked with a spiritual principle and an segment of Wesley's life is also associated with a place. Because of this,even in the book, there are several helpful maps and pictures that help readers get grounded with the Wesley story.

Revival is an easy read. It has both helpful historical information as well as meaningful spiritual insight. It is a book that deserves attention, especially from those within the Methodist and Wesleyan tradition.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

2015 Poem 1

Constantly surrounded
Yet solitary
While also found
While claimed
Floating out to sea yet
Circling back to the same place

And again

Friday, January 09, 2015

All things new...a short meditation

Starting Over Again
“Behold I make all things new…”—Rev 21:5

God is our creator. He is also at work all around us re-creating and renewing people, communities, places, and indeed the entire cosmos. In the end, Scripture teaches that God will “redeem”, which is a fancy church word saying that he will take those in bondage and set them free, and he will take that which is broken, including humanity, and make it whole once again.

Because God’s kingdom is on the move, and God is seeking to make “all things new”, we need to remember to join him in that work. Here are a few ways we can do that:

  •  Choose to not give up on people or stick them with a label for the rest of their lives. (Matthew 7: 1-3)
  • Choose to be a lifelong learner, letting your heart be a fertile ground for the Spirits work (Matthew 13)
  • Allow God to transform your habits and attitudes to conform to his will (Romans 12:1)
  •  Don’t worship your traditions, especially when your traditions become more important that loving God or loving others. (Mark 7: 1-13)

Poetry and Prayer

One of the things I do when I am seeking to be centered in my spiritual journey and my devotional life that may seem unusual to some is that I read poetry. This may come as a surprise to many of you. I am not a good poetry person. As a matter of fact, I had all "A"s in my college career except for a B in poetry my freshman year at Trinity College (now Trinity International University). And the poetry I have written in the past is hopelessly cheesy. 

I like reading poetry as a part of my prayer and study because it slows me down. It makes me pay attention to words, which then helps me attend better to the words of theologians, God's Word, and my words in prayer. 

These words spoke to me today:


There is too much pain
I cannot understand
I cannot pray
I cannot pray for all the little ones with bellies bloated by starvation in India;
for all the angry Africans striving to be separate in a world struggling for wholeness;
for all the young Chinese men and women taught that hatred and killing are good and compassion evil;
or even all the frightened people in my own city looking for truth in pot or acid.
Here I am
and the ugly man with beery breath beside me reminds me that it is not my prayers that waken your concern, my Lord;
my prayers, my intercessions are not to ask for your love
for all your lost and lonely ones,
your sick and sinning souls,
but mine, my love, my acceptance of your love.
Your love for the woman sticking her umbrella and her expensive parcels into my ribs and snarling, “Why don’t you watch where you are going?”
Your love for the long-haired, gum chewing boy who shoves the old lady aside to grab a seat,
Your love for me, too, too tired to look with love,
to tired to look at Love, at you, in every person on the bus.
Expand my love, Lord, so I can help to bear the pain,
help your love move my love into the tired prostitute with false eyelashes and bunioned feet,
the corrupt policeman with his hand open for graft,
the addict, the derelict, the woman in the mink coat and discontented mouth,
the high school girl with heavy books and frightened eyes.
Help me through these scandalous particulars
to understand
your love.
Help me to pray.

This is no time for a child to be born,
With the earth betrayed by war and hate
And a comet slashing the sky to warn
That time runs out and the sun burns late.
That was no time for a child to be born,
In a land in the crushing grip of Rome;
Honour and truth were trampled by scorn–
Yet here did the Saviour make his home.
When is the time for love to be born?
The inn is full on the planet earth,
And by a comet the sky is torn–
Yet Love still takes the risk of birth.

Thoughtful articles regarding race and current events

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wrote this thoughtful piece for the Los Angeles Times: Don't Understand the Protests? Phil Vischer (of Veggie Ta...