Monday, January 15, 2018

thoughts on 'Your God is Too Glorious'

Sometimes we all need to remember to stop and open our eyes, stop and smell the roses, stop and see where God is at work in our lives. And that’s usually easier said than done. So, it was a joy to read Your God Is Too Dangerous: Finding God in the Most Unexpected Places, by Chad Bird. (Baker Books, 2018)

                Elijah stood in a crevice, waiting for the LORD to pass by. Surprisingly enough, God didn’t appear in the Big, or in the LOUD, but in the small or the still.  While Elijah was waiting the was a wind, an earthquake, and a fire, but the LORD wasn’t there. Finally, he heard a still, small, whisper, and it was in that whisper that he found God.  And often that’s where we’ll find Him too, if we just learn to recognize Him.
                There is something amazing about being surprised by the glorious wonder of seeing God appear when and where you don’t expect Him. And this book is one surprise after another. Not only examples of God showing up unexpectedly, but also theological truths of which we need to be reminded from time to time.
                I enjoyed reading this book; there wasn’t anything earth-shatteringly new, but the stories brought a sense of serenity and peace. Something that is frequently missing in the craziness of today’s political climate.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my review.


Saturday, January 13, 2018

from healthy to fit-your body and your church

We live in a culture that says it values health. We all want to be healthy, but there is a sizable portion of the population that isn’t interested in doing the things that it takes to get and stay fit. It seems like it’s just a lot easier to visit the doctor, see how our choices have affected our health, and head to the pharmacy for the latest in a long list of prescriptions.  Yes it would healthier to quit smoking, change the diet, cut back on the drinking, get more sleep, and go to the gym. But who has the time, energy, interest to do all that?  (as a side not, after I started reading this book, even though it’s not about our physical health and fitness, I went and signed up at a Fitness place opening near my house.) That means convicting.  I pay them money, and they didn’t even give me a tee-shirt (or a speedo, because I’m mostly interested in the pool). Ask me in 6 months how it’s working out.
         I started reading this book and posted this on social media: “Wow! And I’m only on page 27. XXX I think you might like this book. XXX you might get some ideas too.” And no I didn’t recommend to my friends because of any health issues they may or may not have. You see they’re both interested in the main topic of Building the Body: 12 Characteristics of a Fit Church” by Gary McIntosh and Phil Stevenson (Baker Books, 2018).And that topic is not just the health, but the fitness of the local church. 
            Since as a society and culture we’re obsessed with fitness, the authors use a physical fitness model to talk about the church. (They attribute their model to the American College of Sports Medicine.) Fitness has 5 components: cardiovascular endurance, muscle strength, muscular endurance, flexibility, and body composition. They break each of these categories in sub-categories to define the 12 characteristics. Things like outreach, effective evangelism, strategies for making disciples, vision, worship, stewardship, and several other key elements.
        And to further the sports analogy, the physical fitness part, they turn to one of America’s favorite fitness activities (no, not watching football on the TV-chips in one hand, beer in the other). They talk about runners, and break them into 5 categories. 1) Beginner: no experience, philosophical-they like the idea of running, but haven’t really engaged in the activity. 2) Novice: some background in running, can perhaps run up to 3 miles—actively learning. 3) Intermediate: making progress in both running time and pace, and demonstrate knowledge of running well. 4) Advanced: familiar with necessary training, they push themselves and look for others to challenge them. They also share their expertise. The final category, 5) is the Elite runner. They compete at higher levels. Olympic class athletes.
        So what does this have to do with church growth, one of Dr. McIntosh’ area of expertise? He applies it to the church.  Gary and Phil put churches into this 5 categories, and provide helpful ways to evaluate where your church is. And they offer a disclaimer: rejoice where you are doing the right stuff, and identify areas for improvement—then push your church to the next level. After all we all want to make a difference for the Kingdom, and just as in physical fitness, being healthy is good, but being truly fit is better!
         I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my review


review Nick Vujicic "Be the Hands and Feet"

     I've heard Nick Vujicic speak several times: a public arena, a military installation, a high school auditorium. I even got to be part of a greeting committee at the airport one of the times he came to Utah.  His presentations are always spot on, his earlier books make for fascinating reading. And "Be the Hands and Feet" follows that pattern.

It's so obvious that Nick speaks from the heart, and his heart is beating in time with the Heart of God.
I got a different feel from reading this books, than other books by Nick.  Those always seemed to me to be motivational--directed to those that are often, for whatever reason, marginalized from society. Whether in books or speaking engagements, I walked away feeling empowered. One looks at the body of Nick Vujicic (one without hands or feet) and realize what he is doing, and you can't help but think, 'if he can do _____(and it's an impressive list of things he's done and experienced!), then I can certainly get through my issue, or meet my goals, or fulfill my dreams.
    In "Be the Hands and Feet: Living Out God's Love for All His Children", I felt that there is a slight difference.  This book is a call to the church, a call to the community, a call to the culture and society to actually be the hands and feet of God. Treat others--especially the ones that you might not normally associate with--as Jesus would treat them. This is a battle cry for human rights, human dignity, and Shalom such as humanity  hasn't seen since the Garden of Eden.
    Let Nick touch your heart, and encourage it to beat in time with the Heart of God. 
    And by the way if you ever have the opportunity to hear Nick in person, and he offers hugs, try to get one. You'll be blessed!
 Book releases in Mid February! pre-order now!
 I received an advance review copy of this book from the publisher as part of the Launch, and in case you didn't figure it out, I gave this book a 5/5.