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?...

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Review: The Day the Revolution Began: Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus's Crucifixion

The Day the Revolution Began: Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus's Crucifixion The Day the Revolution Began: Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus's Crucifixion by N.T. Wright
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was a superb read! In typical Wright fashion, the material is engaging and thought provoking all throughout. In this volume, Wright takes on the 'platonized' version of Christianity that marks nearly all of the Western church, namely the view of atonement and eschatology ending with us 'abandoning' earth and 'going to heaven.' This is a grave error, according to Wright. Rather than living by a 'works contract' view of atonement (for this is highlights the penal substitution perspective), Wright emphasizes a 'vocational covenant' perspective. This seems similar to what I read (though I could be wrong because it's been a few years and I didn't read the whole volume) to G.K. Beale's 'A New Testament Biblical Theology.' Rather than 'abandoning' earth and escaping the physical world for heaven (a heavily Plato influenced idea), Wright recaptures the Biblical eschatology where there will be a new heavens and a new earth that come together (God with His people) and the reality of a physical resurrection.

While there is a lot of repetition, I believe Wright does so because of the subject matter he's addressing and the high likelihood of a reader to lose track of the picture he's trying to weave together and fall back into the platonized Christianity we are currently in. This book is definitely worth a read for minister and non alike! I ESPECIALLY like the last chapter, where Wright talks about the practical application and implications of this 'vocational covenant.' That chapter alone, for me, would have been worth the whole book! (Though I'm sure if you were to read it by itself, you'd develop an itching for more that could only be satisfied by reading the rest!) =)

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Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Review: TOTC Song of Songs

TOTC Song of Songs TOTC Song of Songs by Iain M. Duguid
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Granted, I haven't read too many commentaries on this greatly neglected book, but I can honestly say from a stand point of reading many commentaries in general, this one is a definite keeper! Duguid's treatment of the subject matter is straightforward, easy to understand, and makes sense! We decided to go through the Song of Songs (or Solomon depending on your preference) with our students in our campus ministry during the month of February and I used this commentary as a guide to help navigate the confusing paths that one ventures through when reading wisdom literature, let alone poetry. Since this is a combination of the two, you can imagine just how confusing it can be to try to understand what the author is trying to say. Overall I would HIGHLY recommend you check this out if you are looking to learn more about this book. Don't shy away from it! It's included in our Scriptures for a good reason, and I believe that Duguid has compiled an amazing resource to help guide us through the various interpretive barriers that we face reading it from a western, 21st century civilization point of view.

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Friday, December 29, 2017

Review: Whisper: How to Hear the Voice of God

Whisper: How to Hear the Voice of God Whisper: How to Hear the Voice of God by Mark Batterson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Let me start off by stating that I have not read too many books by Mark Batterson (though I own a few more that I hope to eventually get to). Of the books that I have read however, "Whisper" is my favorite. The main premise of the book is to help people learn how to be more attentive and responsive to the voice of God. Breaking down seven (7) 'languages' that God uses when He speaks to us, Batterson utilizes personal testimony as well as other stories from people whom he has met and heard about to illustrate and illuminate each 'language.'

The seven (7) languages that Batterson lists and explains, include:

1. Scripture
2. Desires
3. Doors
4. Dreams
5. People
7. Pain

I tried to approach this book without carrying a presupposition in regard to any of the seven (7) 'language' and I am thankful that I did. I would encourage you to do the same if you decide to give this book a chance. Overall, I think this book is a refreshing and much needed read for me. While there was much that I have heard prior to reading this book, there were new applications, stories, and practical suggestions that made the 'reminders' a worth while read. By the time I finished reading, I was encouraged to try out certain suggestions and felt a stronger desire to hear God more. I think Christians at any stage of their lives could benefit from this book.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

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