Saturday, May 09, 2015

Book Review of A Second Shot of Coffee With Jesus by David Wilkie

A Second Shot of Coffee with Jesus
by David Wilkie
ISBN 978-0-8308-3693-2
IVP Books
Reviewed by Clint Walker

For a few years I was a devoted follower of Coffee with Jesus on Facebook. Then, the first book came out, my friend list increased on Facebook, and I did not see much from my Radio Free Babylon feed. So, when I got A Second Shot of Coffee with Jesus I was excited to see what the latest Word was from the witty and somewhat offbeat comic strip.

I was pleasantly surprised that the strip maintained its high quality, and yet at the same time Coffee with Jesus seemed to grow up a little bit as well. In my opinion, the early version of the messaging of Wilkie tending to lean heavily on pointing out some of hypocrisy and ideosyncracies of the contemporary Christian church. The strip certainly continues this theme from time to time, but it has developed depth and breathe that I did not anticipate. Wilkie has continued to be humorous, but has also mixed in some general cultural criticism and some pretty thoughtful messages about God's grace and love. Also, some thought provoking insights about spiritual warfare. I have enjoyed this book thoroughly.

For those who enjoyed the first book, this "second shot" eschews thematic messaging for volume of comic strips. Some of them have appeared online, but there are others that were saved specifically for this book.

My only criticism of the book has to do more with my age. The print seems awfully small in this book (with the strips), and it takes some effort for me to read that print at times. Nevertheless, it will sit out on my desk, and eventually my coffee table, should I ever get one.

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Book Review of Spiritual Equipping for Mission by Ryan Shaw

Spiritual Equipping for Mission: Thriving as God's Message Bearers
by Ryan Shaw
IVP Books
Reviewed by Clint Walker

I recently went to a wonderful retreat led by a missionary serving my denomination in Mexico. He began to share about how he had been serving tirelessly on the mission field, and encountered a good measure of success in his ministry there. Yet, at the same time, he felt he was spread more and more thin in his ministry. He was doing and going for the Lord, and yet he felt less connected to the practices and disciplines that brought him strength and spiritual health in his missionary journey. The retreat leader spoke about how God led him to a place of spiritual renewal in his ministry, and how he has been called to help other ministers and missionaries grow deeper in their spiritual journeys as well.

Ryan Shaw in his book Spiritual Equipping for Mission has similar concerns to my new friend. As a leader of a student missionary movement, he sees that many people on the mission field need equipping to grow deeper in their faith if they are going to have sustainable journeys as message bearers of Jesus and if they are going to form disciples instead of simply making converts. This book is focused on helping cross-cultural ministry servants, but it could be equally helpful for gospel message bearers in local churches in the United States.

Shaw chooses to use the term "message-bearers" to refer to missionaries. He discovered that the term "missionary" has a top-down, negative, and colonial connotation. So the term message bearer is used for those in cross-cultural ministry in this book. This terminology has the added benefit of being more holistic. It speaks of a missionary as one who comes and lives and embodies the kind of life that Christ offers by what they say but also by how they live. It speaks in terms of identity instead of task. I think this is brilliant.

Most of the book details each of the 10 spiritual disciplines of cross-cultural message bearers. These include:

  • Being saturated in the powerful presence of God
  • Embracing humility
  • Hungering and thirsting for God
  • Being clothed in God's Word
  • Discerning God's Guidance and Revelation
  • Pursuing a Lifestyle of Prayer
  • Cooperating with God's twofold purpose
  • Understanding the Times and Seasons of God
  • Persevering with Steadfastness and Stability
  • Pursuing a Focused Life
This will be a great guide, not just for international missionaries, but for each believer on a mission to bear the message of Christ to the world.

Friday, May 01, 2015

Book Review of Busyness: Finding God in the Whirlwind by Juanita Ryan

Busyness: Finding God in the Whirlwind
by Juanita Ryan
ISBN 978-0-8308-3107
IVP Connect (Lifeguide Bible Studies)
Reviewed by Clint Walker

Ever felt like you are so busy that it is difficult to discern and sense the presence of God in the middle of the whirlwind of activity and conflicting expectations? Juanita Ryan has too, and she has developed a Bible Study for people and groups of people that struggle with finding God in the midst of a hectic life.

While I might council many people living in the middle of a whirlwind that they need to ruthlessly eliminate hurry from their life, as Dallas Willard once advised someone he was mentoring, I do think Ms. Ryan presents to the church a valuable resource. She speaks to people in the midst of their busyness, and challenges them to set priorities, rest, and choose joy and service over bitterness and being self-serving. Since so many people feel so very busy in our world, this might be a good place to start to connect with people and begin to challenge them to bring Christ-centered practices in the midst of their personal chaos and find refreshment and healing.

A great new resource for small groups from IVP!

Book Review of Feasting on the Word: Guide to Children's Sermons by David L. Bartlett and Carol Bartlett

Feasting on the Word: Guide to Children's Sermons
by David Bartlett and Carol Bartlett
ISBN 978-0-664-23614-8
WJK Books
Reviewed by Clint Walker

Much of the Feasting on the Word resources feature highly practical worship resources for mainline churches. While focused on a practical matter of worship, the particular resource is more of a training manual on how to develop and present children's messages in church services. At the end of the text, there are a few dozen children's message manuscripts.

As one reads through this thoughtful book, one is challenged to think through a number of questions that the author's present in training their readers to work through the service. Some of those questions included are:

  • Should the person doing the children's message focus on the lectionary texts?
  • How do we develop intergenerational connections during worship?
  • What is the role of story in relationship to the children's message?
  • What issues and stories are appropriate for a children's message and what ones are not?
  • How should developmental concerns influence how you present children's messages?
  • How do you craft an effective children's message?
I enjoyed this book and its challenging the church to create better children's sermons. Yet, at the same time I know that what is here will be too heady and conceptual for many folks who deliver children's messages. This is not a book that will give you a quick fix for grabbing a children's message just before church on Sunday morning, but it will help pastor's craft children's messages with theological integrity and meaningful teaching for youngsters. All in all, a great book to have on my shelf!


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