Wednesday, November 12, 2014

'Fasting' by Scot McKnight

FastingFasting by Scot McKnight
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I must admit first off that I truly admire Scot McKnight and all that he's done to teach Bible and theology. One of my all time favorite books was "The Jesus Creed." In addition to content, his writing style is very easy to follow and conversational, and this book on fasting was no different. The most memorable part of his presentation of this discipline is how he defines fasting. The definition that he gives is "fasting is the natural, inevitable response of a person to a grievous sacred moment." He explains that for many Christians today, our focus has been on the wrong thing when it comes to fasting. He illustrates his point with the A->B->C model. A= sacred moment; B= Fasting; and C= Results. For many Christians today, and I would add for every other book on fasting that I've read so far in my life, the focus has been solely on the B->C connection. In other words, we fast TO GET something. McKnight argues that this mindset is flawed, [arguably] unbiblical, and risky. It's flawed and unbiblical because the examples proved throughout Scripture, always come about as a response to some situation that they are faced with (i.e. Jonah 3.4-10). It's also risky because there are some times when the results we are fasting for don't come. If fasting is only done to get something, and then we don't get it, how discouraging and damaging might that be for a person's continue discipline of fasting. Instead by focusing on the A->B relationship, all of those issues disappear.

In connection with other teachings from Jesus, as Christians if we are truly seeking God's Kingdom first and we pray and truly desire for God's will to be done here on earth as in heaven, then when we look around and see just how far things are from that reality, we should experience a 'grievous, sacred moment.' Since we are beings comprised of BOTH inner and outer parts (soul/spirit and body), the grieving practice is not 'complete' without both parts participating. Thus our inner selves feel sorrow, frustration, and longing for God's Kingdom to come, while our outer selves grieves through the discipline of fasting. I agree with McKnight that for some reason many Christians today have tried to separate and divide the human being into two, separate things. Some even go as far as to say the whole person is really just the inner part and the body is just a shell (which sounds dangerously close to Gnosticism to me). In reality the two parts of part of a whole, and both are needed for the whole person to be whole.

Overall, I highly recommend this book. I read it in two days, so it's not that difficult of a commitment to read. It certainly is going to be my 'go-to' whenever someone asks me about fasting!

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Thursday, October 30, 2014

October... it came.... it went...

In case you didn't get my newsletter that I sent out earlier this month, October was a very eventful month complete with our annual CSF Fall Retreat, which went extremely well! But instead of rewriting what I already wrote in the newsletter, I'll just leave the fall retreat talk to that. =)

The semester series is continuing to go well. Last night we talked about prayer. It's so interesting and sad to me that while prayer could be considered the easiest and most powerful thing to do, we often times have a hard time getting ourselves to spend any amount of time in it, aside from the ritual of 'blessing our meal'. I just completed a book by Stanley Grenz (Prayer: The Cry for the Kingdom) that I HIGHLY recommend to anyone who would like to read something about prayer and grow in that area of their life. Instead of turning Wednesday night into a Sunday School class, I instead too the time to help the students look at practical ways to improve their prayer life, in addition to encouraging them with passages of Scripture emphasizing the importance and power of prayer. One of the practical hints that I suggested was to join me and a small group of people who are going up to Hyner's View State Park area next Tuesday to just have a simple retreat away from campus and the stresses of life and school. There isn't any cell phone reception up there, and the view is breathtaking, being able to see over some of the mountain tops and down into valleys of the surrounding area. Here's a glimpse for you to picture a little bit of what it's like.

Another practical suggestion that I gave to the students to help with their devotional and prayer life, is to utilize a tool called It's an awesome website that helps give you structure in your prayer life, utilizing Scripture reading, prayer, journalist, and meditation. I really recommend this website to ANYONE who is looking to revitalize or maybe even try something new in their personal devotional life!

Well, I'm off to continue reading for next week and do other important things! Thanks for reading! =)


Saturday, September 27, 2014

Late September Update

This semester is off and running... we're already going on our 6th week of the fall semester! Emily and I were talking the other day, and we came to the conclusion that based upon what we've experienced so far this semester, our excitement for campus ministry has nearly returned to where it once was when we first began! I don't say this out of spite for any former students or anything like that, but unlike the previous two years, we've been able to overcome and avoid a great many of difficulties and stressful situations that we ran into previously! So in light of this rediscovered passion and excitement, we've been able to see again the FULL joy that serving on the mission field in campus ministry can bring!

This semester, we've begun going through a series called "Why Does It Matter?" Each week, we've been taking a look at various aspects of the Christian faith and determine why they really matter. I have to give Emily any credit that doesn't go to God in my own prayers that were asking for guidance, because she was a big help and 'dreamer' for this series, which has 'paid-off' greatly thus far! I've seen students wrestle with things that they thought they knew/believed, but realized that they were taking it for granted and only going through the motions because they were 'told' to believe it. We've also had a number of new students choose to join us on Wednesday nights and in our small groups on Sundays, Mondays, and Thursdays! Thus far this semester we've covered the topics of 1) Belief, 2) Discipleship, 3) Baptism, 4) Forgiveness, and 5) Community.

On the family front, Benjamin is doing better! He's back on trial feeds with the bottle with 'half-strength' formula! Just last week, his blood count did drop, but for the two weeks before that, it rose on its own! Even though his blood count did drop, it's still above the warning line that the doctors gave us, so that's still a relief. I just want to say that I appreciate your prayers and support, and I hope that you will continue to pray for Benjamin, Emily, myself, and the entire CSF Campus Ministry as we follow God's leading and serve in our roles as Campus Ministers! Thanks for reading this quick/short update, and I hope that I'll be more disciplined in updating you more as the semester continues to unfold! =)


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

I Like Giving

This is by far, the GREATEST book on giving that I have EVER read. I've read mean books about giving and have heard many sermons about giving, but none of them have never communicated how impactful giving can be as this book has. In addition to talking about the spiritual, emotional, and physical benefits to giving, Brad Formsma includes many stories from people inside and outside of his family. The stories alone are an encouragement to start making giving a regular part of your everyday life.

One of the things that I really like about this book, is that Brad doesn't talk about giving from a 'tithing' standpoint. He transcends the whole 'discussion' about tithing, and gets right at the root of giving being a heart issue. Rather than worrying about meeting a 'regulation' of turning over a certain percentage of income, Brad encourages his readers to move beyond this way of thinking and start looking at the needs of people around us. When we as Christians are able to move from an 'obligatory' mindset to a 'serving' mindset, we'll be in a much better place to be a blessing through giving and experience the blessing of giving ourselves.

I highly recommend this book to any and everyone! If you've read books about giving and have ever felt like they are slightly missing the point, I encourage you to try this book! I'm sure it won't disappoint! The stories alone will encourage and push you to start wanting to look for everyday opportunities to give to others in need.

"Blogging for Books provided this book to me for free in exchange for an honest review."

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Book Review "The Next Christians"

First, let me start off by saying that I'm really excited to get back into blogging, if for no other reason than to just share with you all some of the books I'm finally able to read now since I finished my master's degree program. Recently, I just finished reading another book the other day called "The Next Christians" by Gabe Lyons. I have to say that this book was able to put into words much of what my desires for the church today are. It's also really helped me develop a a way of analyzing churches and how effective they are at meeting the mission that Christ as given us. What Lyons does in this book is outline why the 'end of Christian America' is actually a good thing, and how the 'Next Christians' are utilizing this change to change how the greater culture views the church as a whole. One of the underlying values of the "Next Christians" is 'restoration.' This is key because EVERYTHING that the "Next Christians" believe, think, and do stems from this value! The basis for this value comes from embracing the 'entirety' of our story than rather just the end as many Christians today have the tendency of doing. What this means, is that the "Next Christians" believe in the importance of 'restoring' here on earth rather than just waiting and relying on Jesus' return and life after this. They believe that Jesus didn't die for us just to be 'saved' and then do nothing, but rather we were saved and then expected to join in God's current mission of restoration in the here and now! Obviously, for anyone who knows me, this really resonates with me! After establishing who the 'Next Christians' are, he spends chapters discussing the qualities/characteristics that they see as important and that differ from the previous generation(s) of the church. These qualities included:

  • Provoked, Not Offended
  • Creators, Not Critics
  • Called, Not Employed
  • Grounded, Not Distracted
  • In Community, Not Alone
  • Countercultural, Not "Relevant"
Lyons ends his book by discussing how throughout history, there has been big 'shifts' in Christianity that have occurred every 500 years. If this trend continues, then the next big "shift" is at the door step, and Lyons argues that the "Next Christians" are the ones who are going to usher it in with excitement and purpose.

I would encourage you all to read this book if you want to read something that deals with the Church and culture. There could be parts of Lyon's personal convictions that I know some people might find difficult or hard to accept, but what's obvious is Lyon's heart for the Church as a whole to reverse the current perception that our culture has of the Church (which is what the book 'Unchristian' deals with), and bring the restoration to the world. Well I guess that's all I have to say about this book for a short review. Until next time! =)