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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Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Review: Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God: The Scandalous Truth of the Very Good News

Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God: The Scandalous Truth of the Very Good News Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God: The Scandalous Truth of the Very Good News by Brian Zahnd
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was the first book that I've read within a day in a LONG time. Let that speak for what it's worth. I would also like to add, however, that just because I was able to read it fairly quickly and that in itself lends as a witness to the readability and intrigue of said book, it does not necessarily reflect my agreement with all of the material presented. That being said, I firmly believe that this is a book that most Christians (if not all) should read, not because what he said is necessarily completely true (though Zahnd believes it to be so and does a decent job backing his reasons for believing that) but simply because the subject matter is a HIGHLY important one.

What Zahnd presents in "Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God" is a conclusion of his personal journey as a Christian/minister from the first time encountering the famous "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" to today. Beginning with a direct challenge with the widely popular view of an angry, wrathful God, he weaves through a conversation with Biblical texts, historical theology, and church tradition to produce an intriguing and thought provoking contribution to the Christianity today.

By challenging the reader to interpret and filter what we read in Scripture through the lens of Jesus Himself, Zahnd comes to a picture of God that is vastly different from what was portrayed in Jonathan Edwards' famous sermon (and thus many theologians and pastors since). Overall Zahnd did a nice job collecting his thoughts and conclusions and presenting them in a logical, easy to follow progression through the course of the book. If I have one major criticism of his progression (other than some of his conclusion), I felt that he digressed a little from the main premise of his book in chapters 7-9 (dealing with parts of Revelation specifically), and thus could have condensed those 3 chapters more into 1 or 2.

Chapters 4 & 5 were BY FAR my favorite chapters to read, chew on, and wrestle with (Titled 'The Crucified God' and 'Who Killed Jesus?' respectively). Even if one were to end up disagreeing with everything he presents in these two chapters, Zahnd's conclusions and 'paper trail' for how he arrived at those conclusions are worth reading, exploring, and contemplating.

The chapter on hell (chapter 6) presents his conclusions on eternal punishment and how one might end up in either heaven or hell. From what I understand (and as always, I could have misunderstood), I would venture to say Zahn ends up on the spectrum close to the position re-made popular by Rob Bell not TOO long ago, though with some pretty significant differences (i.e. Bell- eventually Jesus redeems everyone... a Christian Universalist view made originating with Origen (ironic, huh?); Zahnd- Since God is love and the invitation of love is never retracted, one can still respond to that love even after death just as much as one can scorn and reject that love after death. In other words, only you can keep yourself in hell by continuing to reject love and as long as you do so, there you will remain.)

Some of the 'theological structure' that Zahnd builds regarding Scripture seems a little flimsy/suspect at times due to some perceived inconsistencies and 'weak' spots. This is simply my opinion and impression based upon what I feel you'll arrive at if you take EVERYTHING he says to the absolute end.

In conclusion, did Zahnd change my mind today? No. Did he give me things to ponder and think about as I read Scripture and grow in my relationship with Jesus? Absolutely. At the very least, I'd say Zahnd was successful in one of the main motives of which he set out to achieve. After reading 'Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God', you have to at least take a moment and rejoice how loving and awesome our God is.

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

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Sunday, October 1, 2017

Review: As Kingfishers Catch Fire: A Conversation on the Ways of God Formed by the Words of God

As Kingfishers Catch Fire: A Conversation on the Ways of God Formed by the Words of God As Kingfishers Catch Fire: A Conversation on the Ways of God Formed by the Words of God by Eugene H. Peterson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

First off, even though I own another book or two by Peterson, this is the first one that I've actually been able to read for a little bit so far in my life. Right off the get go I'll admit that this book wasn't quite what I expected, though that might not necessarily be a bad thing.

"As Kingfishers Catch Fire" is not so much a 'BOOK' as a collection of sermons that Peterson has preached over the many years of faithful service in the ministry. While that wasn't what I was expecting when I requested to read this book, it did turn out to prove useful as a devotional type book.

If you're looking to read this book from cover to cover in a sitting or two, you might be able to do it, but I certainly was not. It's rather lengthy (since it contains numerous teachings from such a long ministry). On top of that there are many parts that I encountered that were a little 'weird' to read, though probably wouldn't be if it were preached or taught audibly (someone who tells you different modalities don't matter, I would argue doesn't quite know what they're talking about, haha).

If you are looking for a fantastic book to use as a daily devotional or as a daily personal time book, then I would strongly recommend that you at least CONSIDER looking at this one. He also conveniently divides the book up into various 'eras' of the Bible, i.e. the various parts include a part on Moses, David, Isaiah, Solomon, Peter, Paul, and John. One of the things that I really love about Peterson's book for this purpose, is the fact that he is very purposeful at pairing passages from the Old Testament with the New Testament in his sections dealing with Moses, David, Isaiah, and Solomon (as an Old Testament guy with a New Testament degree, that excited me).

Other than as a devotional, it's still a decent read, but not one that I would necessarily move up to the top of my 'to-read' list.

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Sunday, July 9, 2017

Review: The Grand Weaver

The Grand Weaver: How God Shapes Us Through the Events of Our LivesThe Grand Weaver: How God Shapes Us Through the Events of Our Lives by Ravi Zacharias
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Once again, I enjoy reading Ravi's books. The more I become familiar with his writings and I hear him speak, I find myself hearing/reading some of the material again in a different context, yet it still proves refreshing. In this book Ravi set out to talk about how we can live our lives in God's design/will/plan. I found it impressive, and a little difficult for me to retain at times, how he weaves apologetically potent material into the book. That also might not completely fair as I was listening to this book via audiobook while mowing the lawn over the course of about a month. Overall this was a pretty decent book. It probably won't go down as my favorite book he's written, but still worth checking out.

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