Monday, May 21, 2018

Review: How to Be a Perfect Christian: Your Comprehensive Guide to Flawless Spiritual Living

How to Be a Perfect Christian: Your Comprehensive Guide to Flawless Spiritual Living How to Be a Perfect Christian: Your Comprehensive Guide to Flawless Spiritual Living by The Babylon Bee
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I wrote a better review but it was all deleted without saving. This is my shorter (probably not as good) review because my wrist is hurting, haha. =)

This book is satire. People of said it, it's worth saying again. It's important to know if you're planning on reading this book and taking everything it says seriously. That being said, it does do a fantastic job poking fun at REAL issues today by painting them in an outrageous light. Hence the satire. I have college students sending me articles all the time from the Babylon Bee, and the same humor you've come to expect from those are on nearly every page of this book! I found myself chuckling and laughing out loud quite a bit. I sometimes think about if I were to teach at a university what books would I use to teach with. This would be a book that I would have students use to do a project on. With the engaging humor and the over-the-top satire of it, I think it provides a perfect opportunity for students (and everyone else) to look at the outrageousness of it and follow the thread back to reality and evaluate if we (even if subconsciously) actually believe/act in these ways. Anyway, funny book, makes you think about how Christians today can appear and portray themselves, defiantly worth the read. If you pick up a copy, sit back and enjoy!

"I received this book from the publisher through their book launch program."

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Review: Original Blessing: Putting Sin in Its Rightful Place

Original Blessing: Putting Sin in Its Rightful Place Original Blessing: Putting Sin in Its Rightful Place by Danielle Shroyer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I've been reading this book off and on for a year (it's crazy when I looked down and saw I literally started this book and finished it on the same day a year apart... that wasn't intentional but cool that it happened, haha). Overall, this book is certainly an interesting book to read and a thought provoker. The theological concept of 'original sin' has always intrigued me, mainly because of how it really seems unnecessary and doesn't seem to have as much biblical basis as many claim. I'm not an end-all authority on theology so I really appreciate reading varying perspectives on different concepts. Shroyer's book is certainly a nice addition to the conversation. While at times it seems a little taxing to push through, there was much that I enjoyed reading, even if her contributions were not enough to yet convince me of ALL of her conclusions. In all fairness, I hope to reread this book in the future (within a much shorter time frame) and I'm hoping I'll be able to derive a better understanding/appreciation for this book as well as provide a better review. Overall, I have a hunch/suspicion that anyone who holds onto the doctrine of 'original sin' will take issue with this book and won't be convinced otherwise. Yet despite this, it's a book worth reading and given a serious shot at contributing a valid voice within this theological conversation.

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Sunday, May 6, 2018

Review: Out of a Far Country: A Gay Son's Journey to God, a Broken Mother's Search for Hope

Out of a Far Country: A Gay Son's Journey to God, a Broken Mother's Search for Hope Out of a Far Country: A Gay Son's Journey to God, a Broken Mother's Search for Hope by Christopher Yuan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Where to start... I grabbed this book about 3 years ago from a book table at a conference. It was one of those where (to be honest), the cover didn't really appeal to me and the title led me to believe it was a memoir of an immigrants journey to the US and becoming accustomed to 'Westernized' Christianity. Not that it would necessarily a bad read, it just wasn't something that really screamed at me to read. Nonetheless, something about this book made me buy it and keep it on my shelf.

I recently joined a 'launch team' to help read, review, and promote Dr. Yuan's newest book due late this summer, early fall. Due to this sudden opportunity, I remembered this book sitting on my shelf and thought to myself that I should probably make sure that I read his memoir (and first book) before I start adventuring into his new one (just in case there was some groundwork I needed to know). After finishing this book, all I can say is 'WOW!' I had NO idea how good this book was. Aside from the subtitle (which to be honest would trigger A LOT of 'judging a book by its cover by individuals who are pro same-sex relationships and the sort, due to the implications that the author arrived at a different destination than his beginning camp of homosexually active), reading about the life of Christopher AND his mother, the brokenness all throughout their family, and the awesome ways that God worked to speak to them and literally physically save their lives was just an absolutely incredible experience.

There was much to Chris's life that you wouldn't expect (but I don't want to spoil it for you, so you'll just have to pick it up and read it yourself). Nonetheless, to read about the journey, life choices, and metamorphosis that took place in the life of a family that dealt with as much as the Yuan family, is truly an enriching experience.

I HIGHLY recommend this book to just about anyone and everyone. It's not difficult to read by any stretch of the imagination, and is very engaging. It's presentation is genius, with each chapter written (almost as journal entries), alternating between Chris and his mother. Overall, fantastic, easy, and encouraging read that truly capture the modern day example of how prodigals lost in a far country from God can truly return home no matter what they've done and experience the love that their Creator has for them.

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Saturday, April 14, 2018

Review: Open to the Spirit: God in Us, God with Us, God Transforming Us

Open to the Spirit: God in Us, God with Us, God Transforming Us Open to the Spirit: God in Us, God with Us, God Transforming Us by Scot McKnight
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was able to request the book from Waterbrook press in order to write an unbiased review of it. First, if you know me, you know that I REALLY like reading Scot's work! I've enjoyed each of his three books on 'religious experience' (The Heaven Promise, The Hum of Angels, and Open to the Spirit), but this one was certainly my favorite of the three. In fact, this might be my favorite book that I've read by him since 'Jesus Creed' (I still have such books as "Fellowship of Differents" and "The Blue Parakeet" to read).

In this book, Scot does a beautiful job of calling us to a position of being 'open' to who the Holy Spirit is, and what He's doing around us and in us. There are probably parts of this book that would make some feel uncomfortable, simply because it's a subject matter that some of our circles in Christianity steer clear of and won't touch even with a 10ft pole. Regardless, this is a wonderful addition to the books available and is VERY easy to read. I highly recommend this book to anyone who has never really explored this mysterious figure of the Godhead, and is interested in exploring more about who the Holy Spirit is and what He does. Hands down, my 2 favorite chapters were chapter 9 (dealing with the subject of baptism in Scripture and how the Holy Spirit is connected with that) and chapter 15 (dealing with opening up to living a life of love infused and driven by the Spirit). There were other really good chapters (and a few that were just okay), but those two, I thought, were worth the time to read!

Reading this book ignites a desire to want to live life with more purpose, and helps you discover (or remember) truth that enables you to do just that. I would encourage you to read this book with an open mind, and then prayerfully and purposefully seek out what God may be leading you to do through the directing guidance of His very own Spirit!

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Sunday, April 1, 2018

Review: The Sacred Meal: The Ancient Practices Series

The Sacred Meal: The Ancient Practices Series The Sacred Meal: The Ancient Practices Series by Nora Gallagher
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I've made it a goal to someday finish all the books in this series. It won't really be that difficult because they've seemed to be pretty easy to read (thus far). I picked up this one because it has been a subject matter that has recently come up among my study of church history as well as in conversations we've been having in our campus ministry. Overall, am I thankful I read this book? Yes. Is this the book I was looking for to unpack and explore all of the history and varying interpretations of the Eucharist (or whatever else you'd like to call it)? No. In fact there were a couple of times while reading this book where I found myself thinking, "This doesn't seem to have much to do with what she's claiming to be writing about." Yet, just when I was close to writing off the book as a whole, I stumbled across gems throughout that made the read beneficial and enjoyable. If you had to pick only one book to read about the Eucharist, I would probably look elsewhere (where? I don't have an answer as of yet for you). However if you have the freedom and desire to read multiple books on the subject, I would encourage you to throw this one in the mix. It wasn't AS edifying as Scot McKnight's contribution in the series (the book on fasting), but with the difference in style from most writers writing on such a subject, and the poetic flair used throughout, this book is sure to at least help you rest some from the rigors of theological study while continuing on the journey.

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Review: The Jesus Creed: Loving God, Loving Others

The Jesus Creed: Loving God, Loving Others The Jesus Creed: Loving God, Loving Others by Scot McKnight
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It really doesn't take you so long to read this book. I started to reread this book with a student throughout last semester (Fall '17), but stopped three chapters short of finishing it again. However, it was kind of cool to see that the three chapters left all dealt with what we're celebrating this week/weekend. Back when I first read this book in the summer of 2009, I was floored. I absolutely LOVED it and it quickly became one of my favorite books of all time. Scot also became arguably the author that I follow and look forward to new releases from in hopes of reading it as soon as available. I highly recommend reading this book, especially if you're interested in the subject and implementation of discipleship based upon the life and teachings of Jesus.

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Sunday, March 4, 2018

The Conversation Continued... Managing Stress

This post is an effort, of sorts, to keep the conversation going. My hope is that what's talked about when we gather together isn't something that goes in one ear and then out the other, but rather something that informs, as well as challenges and encourages. Feel free to engage with me (and others) on here and/or in person!

"There is nothing else we do better when we do conversation well. There is no other communication device that provides such subtle and instantaneous feedback, nor permits such a range of evaluation and correctability."
- Richard Saul Wurman

So here's to the continuation of what began... to the conversation continued, about managing stress.

- - - 

This morning, Glenn walked us through something that is arguably the number one challenge and enemy college students face today, stress and worry. During the midst of our conversation, one of our guests, Justin, pointed out that it's whenever we are approaching the time of day when we lie down and begin to fall asleep, that we are seemingly bombarded by a surplus of worries and anxiety that we've seem to outrun all day. This got me thinking, maybe the reason we are overwhelmed by such stressful thoughts when we try to fall asleep is simply because that's the first time all day where we haven't kept ourselves busy to the point that we don't have time for them. Put another way, we've been running from them all day that we now that we finally stop, it catches up. Kyla shared a wonderful practical suggestion, that she will sometimes pray until she falls asleep. While that is absolutely a great idea, I wanted to pitch another one that while it might be challenging, I think it would be even more effective.

Maybe, since we're constantly running all day long, we need to take time to practice an old, neglected spiritual discipline: solitude. Think about it. Maybe all of our stresses and anxieties that bombard us at bedtime can be dealt with and given over of God during a time BEFORE bedtime. What if we stopped, just long enough, to allow our anxieties and worries to catch up and be dealt with before trying to sleep? This isn't an original idea. In fact, Jesus often practiced this while He was living here on earth. In an effort to keep this post from being SUPER LONG, I'll leave you with some practical suggestions/ideas, both for further research and for applying this discipline.

Thoughts For Application:

  1. Pick a time each week where you can go off on your own (for maybe 20 min), where you allow all of your worries/anxieties for the coming days gather before you. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you why your heart rate seems to race, and what is maybe even causing stress that you didn't even realize. Then, follow the Scriptures advice. "Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you." (1 Peter 5.17, NIV)
  2. Schedule your times. If you make them a non-negotiable in your schedule (treat it as a 'prior engagement' when other things arise), you'll be prepared and ready for when more stressful things get dumped on your plate (like homework, group projects, etc.).

Further Reading/Information:

  1. Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster  (HIGHLY recommended)

Now... let the conversation continue... what do you think?...