Saturday, December 24, 2011

think about what Christmas really is

One of the books that I read this year was a fun one called "Christmas is not Your Birthday" by Michael Slaughter. (I'm writing at home, and the book is at my office, or I'd be able to include some quotes to make you ponder the meaning of life). But the title of the book says it all. Somehow Christmas has lost the magic of the celebration of the birth of a Baby who would grow up to change the world. The secular version is about giving, but more about the getting. Christmas Villages around the country have miniature versions of the North Pole, complete with elves making toys. City decoration judging committees look for the biggest light display, stores put up Christmas decorations starting right after the 4th of July, and it seems like the seasonal music starts long before the season does.
      On the positive side, people are more interested in doing for others at this time of year, so interested that the available slots fill up quickly (but there are still plenty of openings from Feb thru Oct).
   But Christmas is about more than Santa, lights, and Lady Gaga having issues with her Christmas Tree.
     It's about students at local schools raising thousands of dollars for cancer research and to support families in need.
       It's about the NDPA Lions collecting "gifts of warmth": coats, gloves, caps, and building 125 hygiene kits for the Rescue Mission.
       It's about  donations to the Pastor, with instructions to anonymously give to those who might need a little help.
       It's about families who stage live Nativity displays for family, friends, neighbors and strangers to enjoy.
       It's about many of the things that Charlie Trentelman, JaNae Francis and others have been writing about in the Standard Examiner over the past few weeks.

      It's about 90,000 visitors to Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus, and the prayer that this will be the year that Palestine achieves statehood with all that implies: PEACE in the area as Muslims, Jews and Christians learn to live together.
        Christmas is about a lot more than presents under the tree. It's about HOPE for a better future; it's about PEACE - an absence of war, but also an inner peace. It's about JOY, it's about LOVE, and it's about eternal LIFE. It's about the presence of a Savior, who reaches out to each of you and asks you to follow Him.
          So celebrate the Christmas Season, and as you do, remember to keep Christ central in all you do. After all, it's Christmas- not your birthday

Friday, December 16, 2011

As Dagwood says "it's about giving"!

I'm so impressed with the folks at North Davis Prep Academy. Their Lion's Pride generosity is definitely Lion-Sized.

I mentioned some needs in the community and the 6th graders for the 4th year in a row are building hygiene kits as a project in conjunction with their reading of "A Christmas Carol". The 4th grade classes are the focal point for a collection in the elementary building. The Jr. Hi Christmas concert was an opportunity to share a 'gift of warmth'. And that's just during the Christmas season.The Lions have collected food for the hungry, toys and books for children in shelters, and that's just a few of the things I know about.

As we invest in the future of our children, one of the most important things we can teach them is that it's not always all about them. Sharing with others is a great way to make a difference in our community. And like it or not, our communities are now GLOCAL (GLObal/loCAL) communities. The difference we make today in the life of a child  here along the Wasatch Front has the potential to impact the world tomorrow.

Thanks to everyone at NDPA who makes this possible: the administration, faculty and staff, the parents, and especially the Lions - those amazing students who see a problem and go to work figuring out how to solve it -- and in doing so make the world a better place for all of us.
Go Lions!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The monsters within us…a review of "Night of the Living Dead Christian" by Matt Mikalatos

As I started reading Matt Mikalatos’ “Night of the Living Dead Christian”, my first reaction was “Okay that was weird”, and then I read a little bit further and found I couldn’t put the book down. Hmmm, that happened with Mikalatos’ other book *Imaginary Jesus* too.

Although I never had an opportunity to read a book quite like this in a systematic theology class in Seminary, this book does address the issue of soteriology: the study of the doctrine of salvation. You may not recognize it as theology at first, but in this age of the 30 second sound bite, and all sorts of horror movies, (and love stories dealing with werewolves and vampires) this book speaks to all of us Christian or pre-believer, about what salvation looks like.

In asking the question “what does it mean to be truly transformed?” the author invites us to look at the monsters within. And by the way, we spend a lot of time learning and cultivating bad habits, sometimes it takes a while to stop them from managing our lives. Mikalatos comically uses werewolves, vampires, and zombies as metaphor for the sinfulness that we still carry with us, and that rears its ugly head on occasion, no matter how hard we try to keep it buried, or to run or hide from it.

You may know some of the friendly monsters we meet in this book, the zombies that rally around the idea that Jesus wants our brains and not our hearts; the werewolf with the buttons that set him off, the vampires who are selfishly out for blood, and even the monster killer, convinced that monsters can never change or be changed. There’s a pastor who still has issues, and the main character, Matt Mikalatos (where have I heard that name before?) is a Christian who still has some growing to do. Maybe you’ve even gotten caught up in some of the conflict between the dark and light sides in your community, your church, your family or your life.

This book offers glimpses of the church, and allows us to poke some gentle fun at the things we do in the name of Jesus. Sometimes we get it right for the wrong reasons; sometimes we have the right reason, and get it wrong anyway. And sometimes we’re lucky enough to experience so much grace that we have to try to spread the message, whether we realize or not that we don’t have all the answers. And some days all any of us can say is “maybe we should go to church”.

You’ll probably end up crying over this book, sometimes when you see grace, love and transformation, and other times because you’ll be laughing so hard that you can’t stop the tears.

Check out this video clip of the author discussing his book:

Check out Matt here: and check out the publisher here:

By the way, I got a copy of the book for agreeing to write this review, and Matt and the nice folks at Tyndale let me have another copy to give to one of you. Leave a comment by 12/22/2011 to be considered for the random giveaway. (It helps if you leave some contact info so I can contact the winner – and I promise I won’t send monsters to your house if you don’t like my review.)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Occupy something forgot the MLB

I'm still wondering why the 'occupy this' folks, in an attempt to create solidarity among the working class - the 99% vs the 1% - occupied the ports the other day, resulting in lots of stevedores, dock workers, truckdrivers, forklift operators etc (all part of the 99%)  getting to take an extra day off, probably without pay.  At the same time this was going on, they seem to have forgotten to occupy Major League Baseball, where two announcements were recently made: one payer gets $70+ million for a five year contract, and another signed a 10 year contract worth 1/4 of a billion dollars. 

I must be traveling in the wrong circles: 99% of the people I know don't make that kind of money (come to think of it, the other 1% of the people I know don't make anywhere near that either).

Someday maybe someone can explain to me how costing the taxpayers millions of dollars in clean-up costs and court costs as unorganized groups claim their constitutional right to be someplace where they have no right to be, helps further the cause that they haven't defined yet.

I'm all for social justice, I just want to know what it is that I'm fighting for - what injustice I'm protesting against.

P.S. I also wanat to know where the $25,000,000.00 a year jobs are around here.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

cold is just a state of mind

I keep trying to convince myself that cold is all relative, and it's just a state of mind. at 4:30 this morning, barefoot and in pajamas, I walked to the end of the driveway to get the newspaper. It didn't kill me, got back to the house without turning into an icicle, and thoroughly enjoyed reading the paper and sipping a cup of coffee.

About six hours later, it took about 5 minutes to change the marquis at church. This time I had shoes on, and wore a jacket over warm clothes. My hands still got numb.

It seems like almost everybody I talk to is complaining about the cold: I usually agree with them. And this is from the guy that is planning on voluntarily jumping into frigid water in January.  (click).

And then just when I’ve convinced myself that we should all turn up the heat, add several more layers of clothing and burrow under a pile of heavy blankets, I read a list of the "15 coldest cities" and guess what? Ogden isn't on that list, neither is West Point. In fact based on some of those temperatures, and what my thermometer indicates, it would probably have to be a list of the top 115 coldest cities for us to be included.

So, I’m going to pretend its summer, especially at about 9:00 am on Jan 21, 2012, when you'll be able to find me at Fort Buenaventura where, along with several other beach lovers, I'll be “freezin for a reason”. (By the way the public is invited to financially support my insanity. All donations go to the NDPA scholarship fund, to help give deserving students the opportunity to study in Spain as part of their 9th grade educational experience).

So what are you waiting for? Let’s break out the shorts and tee shirts, just in time for Christmas!

Tyndale Christmas giveaway

I love contests. I hardly ever win, but i keep entering, especially when there's no entry fee associated with entering.

And Tyndale has a contest, so i entered, you can too.
here's the details:
Here are the NLT Facebook page giveaway details:
Starting on November 29th until December 24th at the New Living Translation Facebook page we're giving away lots of great prizes and something free for you just for singing up.
By visiting the giveaway entry page (located on the NLT Facebook page, the link is under the profile picture) and entering your name and e-mail address you'll be entered to win the following prizes:
• One random person each day will win a Life Application Study Bible Family Pack (Guys Life Application Study Bible hc, Girls Life Application Study Bible hc, Student's Life Application Study Bible hc, Life Application Study Bible hc, Life Application Study Bible Large Print hc).
• One Random person each week will win an Apple iPad 2!
Everyone that signs up gets a free download copy of the Life Application Bible Study – Book of Luke!

And Book of Luke is a really good place to read about the Christmas Story.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Going Deep reviewed

Several years ago Gordon MacDonald wrote a book, about a church and the people who didn’t realize just how much they needed to and wanted to change the way they were doing things. Going Deep: Becoming a Person of Influence picks up where that book left off.
This is the story of a church that has transitioned over time, and become a relevant entity in its community. But now it’s time for the next step. Dr MacDonald, pastor, author, educator, in his role as pastor of this transforming church has a conversation with a neighbor, a neighbor who doesn’t go to church, but who has some good ideas. He asks “GMAC” for an elevator story of the church, and the process begins.
Many churches have it down pat when it comes to doing what they need to be doing to further the kingdom today, but MacDonald and his leadership team, the people that are committed to going deep, take it a step further. They become intentional about finding deep people and training them. These people are being trained to train others and to be future leaders.
It’s not all easy, and we get a glimpse of the conflicts that arise when certain people aren’t chosen. We see the heartbreak when someone drops out, the joy when people are transformed, and we get to experience grace in many different ways.
Seminary still has its place for training church leaders, but this book shows that much of the ‘nuts and bolts’ training can and should be done at the level of the local church.
This book is an enjoyable read, but it lacks some of the enthusiasm of Who Stole My Church.
I received a copy of this book in exchange for my review.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Why We Can Believe the Bible

God Has Spoken: Proof of the Bible’s Divine Inspiration by Hank Hanegraaff

Hank Hanegraaff has done it again. Over the years I’ve struggled with many of the issues that he addresses as to the origins of the book we call “The Holy Bible”. Some of the questions concerning reliability arose when something didn’t make sense to me; other questions have been posed to me by parishioners who wonder why and how we’ve come to accept certain things as gospel and left other things out of the canon. Most of the questions I’ve had to deal with, as well as many more are addressed in this book.
Although I don’t do well with memorization, and as such acronyms aren’t all that helpful to me, for many people this will be a helpful tool. The book is divided into 4 sections, M (manuscripts) A (archeologists) P (prophecy) and S (scripture). Each of the 4 sections within the overall MAPS is broken down further and additional acronyms are provided to remind the reader of where he is going.
At times it seems that the author is directly responding to the claims of Bart Ehrman, and I would have liked to see a little more interaction with others involved in the criticism of Scriptures.
Some theological issues can be discussed in a way that invites enthusiastic participation, but this topic is one that leads either to emotional discussions, or a somewhat staid and dry presentation of the facts. It seems obvious though, from looking at the extensive notes, bibliography and indices that Hanegraaff has done his homework.
This is definitely a welcome resource for use with those who have doubts about the origin of the Bible and are wondering whether it is indeed God's inspired word or just a guide for leading a good life. There are those who view scripture as a collection of made up stories so the historical evidence provided will help them see the Bible as much more than they had previously thought.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for writing an unbiased review.
Four out of five stars

Friday, October 14, 2011

review of a Huber Hill and the Dead Man's Treasure by B.K. Bostik

A fun and quick read with a little bit of all the stuff that makes us want more. Huber Hill is the classic misfit, but he learns to overcome some of what life has thrown at him, and his big heart takes him in the right direction. In this first book of the series, Huber,his twin sister and a long time enemy turned best friend set off on an adventure of a lifetime after Grandpa Nick passes on and passes along a box full of papers. A bit of local folklore proves to be more than just a myth, and along the way, the three young people learn more about themselves and others then they would ever have imagined.

I'm trying to decided if Bostik's story telling skills and insight into the adolescent mind are what made him such a popular teacher and great junior high counselor, or if he took what he learned from his students and turned it into such a fun book. And just for fun, you get to practice your Spanish, which will come in handy when the "aventura continuara en EspaƱa".

The only downside is that we have to wait until next October for the next book in the series to come out.


Thursday, September 29, 2011

Prayer Can Bring You Closer to God

John I Snyder’s book on prayer is needed, but I’m not sure it went far enough to attain its stated purpose. I firmly believe that God acts in His time not ours and think we should be a little more aggressive in reminding people that sometimes the answer, just like we tell our kids, is “you’re going to have to wait”.
That being said, I enjoyed “Your 100 Day Prayer: the Transforming Power of Actively Waiting on God”. Snyder teaches us how to pray “with boldness, asking for the moon.” He shows us a new way to go to the creator of the universe with our prayers, and gives us the prayers to do so.
This book is not about the prayers that we might offer up on the morning of a test: dear God, let me get a good grade on the math quiz. No, this is about the prayers that go beyond the little things that we usually pray for. The author says that he’s showing us a model of prayer to be used ‘when facing a crisis or problem of greater than normal difficulty’.
He teaches us about the power of sustained prayer, a prayer that is repeated many times over a period of time when we’re facing major issues or decisions. Those times when we ought to be remembering to go to the Lord in prayer, because that’s when we need it.
For 100 days we are invited to focus on a single problem or issue. The book is laid out simply: a scripture verse, a devotional thought, a short prayer, and a place to record our own thoughts, insights, or answers.
There’s even a section on helping us get through the times when it seems that God is ignoring us, or just flat says no.
Jesus spent a lot of time in prayer; unfortunately most of us aren’t that disciplined. This book is an excellent way of getting into the habit of daily prayer. And you might just be surprised how much closer you feel to God as you intentionally spend time with Him each day!

I was provided a copy of this book in exchange for writing an unbiased review.

Is Your Faith Built On A Firm Foundation?

Jesus told a parable about houses that were built on sand and on rock: the house on the firm foundation withstood the winds, rains and stormy weather, the other – not so much. In “Dug down Deep: Building Your Life on Truths That Last”, Joshua Harris gives us the information we need to know in order to have that firm foundation when the storms hit.
My first exposure to Joshua Harris was several years ago when I got a copy of “Stop Dating the Church”. I liked the way he wrote, and so was excited to be able to review “Dug down Deep”. Harris writes in a style that is pleasing on the senses and easy to read, but still gets the point across.
As he did in ‘Dating’ he cuts to the chase and gets to his point quickly and without leaving any doubt about what he believes. In this day of being afraid that everything we say will offend someone, so we don’t say anything, it’s refreshing to read a book which puts forth, without apology, Biblical principles, and then have the author attempt to tell his readers why he believes so strongly in what God has told us.
I’m familiar with many of the sources that Harris quotes, and I have to admit that he has a firmer grasp on them that I do. With that being said, this book serves as a primer of Systematic Theology. A book on theology that is eminently more readable because the author isn’t afraid to share stories that involve his family; he also tells a few tales on himself that illustrate the concepts that he is describing.
Discussing the attributes of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, along with things like sanctification and justification are generally undertaken in thick books with tiny print and a ton of unfamiliar and unpronounceable words. Harris takes some of the mystery out of some of those words, and makes theology accessible to the Christian who wants to have a firmer foundation on which to base his ever-growing faith.
This may not be a book that seminary professors will assign for a major paper, but if you’re new to the Christian life, or a pastor who needs something to help explain concepts to the congregation, this just might be the book to help you with that firm foundation.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for writing a review. I was not required to write a favorable review.
41/2 of 5 stars

Friday, September 16, 2011


It’s been interesting to talk to people lately and discover what they’re looking for in a church. It’s even more interesting to see how some people’s ideas of what the church should be like closely parallel the advertizing campaigns of major retailers.
Seems like very few people are interested in the church that talks about what happened in the Garden of Eden, they don’t want to hear from the Prophet Isaiah about the Suffering Servant. Fulfilling the Great Commission isn’t high on most people’s to do list or their ‘bucket list’. They don’t want to humble themselves like Paul writes of Christ doing (Philippians 2). And they certainly don’t want to hear about Hell. (Most people, though, do like the idea of Heaven.) Spiritual disciplines, serving and giving aren’t high on the list either.
So what do some people want in their churches?
We can turn to major food and retail chains for the world’s picture of the ‘perfect’ church:
Burger King – Do it your way. (As long as you’re comfortable with it; pick what you like and leave the rest)
Baskin Robbins – 31 flavors. (Something for everyone, try something different every time you come through the doors. Mix and match depending on your mood)
Sears – the Softer Side. (let’s make sure you’re comfortable)
Wal-Mart - Always low prices...Always. (‘Roll Back” on tithing?)
Starbucks – Take comfort in rituals. (Find something you like, that relaxes you, and stick with it)
Staples – That Was Easy. (I work hard all week, Sunday should be kick back time)
Nike – Just Do it! ( get it over with already, so I can go home and watch the ball game)
Amazon - and you’re done! (Go on line and find the church you like and have it instantly downloaded to your computer or shipped to your house for your enjoyment at a convenient time.
Prudential Financial: Growing and Protecting Your Wealth (Prosperity Gospel, anyone?)

How about it, do you have a slogan that describes the church you’re looking for?
(I kinda like Ford’s: Built for the road ahead!)

Monday, September 5, 2011

A Book I Wish I had Written

I just read “Christmas Is not Your Birthday: Experience the Joy of Living and Giving like Jesus” by Mike Slaughter. It should be required reading, especially for those people who only go to church on Christmas.
Over the years I’ve decided that I don’t like Christmas very much, (I actually prefer Easter), but couldn’t explain exactly why. What could possibly be wrong with celebrating the birth of the Savior? But for some reason something about it feels wrong. Slaughter provides some insight into what’s wrong with Christmas in America: it often has little to do with Jesus and a lot to do with us.
Slaughter debunks the myth of the Santa Claus Jesus, and forces us to take a hard look at the box in which we’ve tried to put God. Then he shows us, through Scripture what we should really be seeing when we look at Jesus.
And it doesn’t stop there; we get to look at what it means to be a follower of Jesus, the real reason for the celebration of His birth.
Slaughter gives ideas on how to celebrate in a way that honors God by serving and loving others rather than merely satisfying our materialistic desires. We get to look at what Jesus came to do, and it wasn’t just to give us a reason for a party.
As Christians we have already been given the most incredible gift. In response we should be sharing that love, proclaiming the good news and living our lives in a way that pleases Jesus. slaughter tells us why and shows us how.
I received a digital copy of this book in exchange for a review.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

get to where God wants you Review of Craig Groeschel's "CHAZOWN

Craig Groeschel’s “Chazown” is a book about finding and getting to that place where God wants you to be so that He can best use you. Craig starts out with a great concept: get the vision of what God is calling you to do, and then do whatever it takes to get there. Don’t just follow the crowd; be a little weird if you have to. Figure out what you’re core values are and then make decisions based on those values. And be prepared to make mistakes, but realize that those mistakes don’t have to be fatal.
All good advice, but I wanted something a little deeper. The “You’re the Author” section at the end of each chapter was helpful, but just didn’t go quite far enough.
I really liked the personal examples, the transparency and humanness that Craig used to illustrate his various points.
Over all, this was not quite the book I was expecting. I’ve seen the book on the shelves; I liked the cover, I was tempted to pick it up, but for some reason never got around to buying it. I’ve read some other, newer, stuff by Craig Groeschel, and was hoping that this would be as good or better. It wasn’t.
I imagine those readers a decade or two younger than me, readers who may be new to this whole church thing would really like this book. Most of the things that Craig writes about are nothing new for people who have been around the church for a while. He does however present them in a different way than many ‘boomers’ are used to having them explained. It’s a way that seems to be appealing to younger generations.
Although I don’t see myself using this on a regular basis as a reference; I also wouldn’t hesitate to give a copy of this book to someone with questions and a desire to get to the next step,
3.5/5 stars
Multnomah provided me a copy of this book in exchange for my review. I was not required to write a positive review.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Whose Hell is Hell?

Apologist Bobby Conway tackles a popular writer’s interpretation of Hell in his book Hell, Rob Bell, and What Happens When People Die. And as he presents the case, the Bible wins. Conway uses a well-accepted and established technique for interpreting scripture: he turns to scripture.
To be fair I’ve not read Bell’s book Love Wins. I’ve heard about it, and heard of all the uproar, and wanted to see what the other voices were saying.
Conway introduces his book with the statement that he is not attacking Rob Bell; rather he is “defending orthodox Christianity.” He tempers that comment with the statement that Bell’s book is a threat because of Bell’s “massive influence as a pastor, author, and personality.” One of the things that I found especially pleasing about this book is that Conway is gracious enough to point out where Bell is on target.
Conway sets out to remind us what God, Jesus, and the Bible say about Hell, and points out where Bell differs. The bad news is that we all deserve hell; the good news is Jesus offers a way to escape that which we deserve. “Salvation is believing in Jesus. There is no formulaic prayer in the Bible”
And we’re reminded that regardless of Bell’s brazen question, about the possibility that God fails, why would we even want to imply that because someone goes to hell that God has failed? A quote from J. I. Packer puts it in perspective: “Hell appears as God's measure of respect for human choice.”
This is a tough debate to moderate. Based on my upbringing, my education, my belief and my faith, what Bell is credited with saying sounds like heresy. Conway, on the other hand puts things in the perspective that I am used to and comfortable with. Given the choices however, I think I’ll stick with my traditional scriptural view.
Love doesn’t win, God wins, Jesus wins and in the process there is a lot of love shown. But the choice is still yours. And as Packer and Conway point out, God respects that element of human choice.
4.5/5 stars

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

breaking free of the gerbil syndrome: a review of It's Your Kid Not a Gerbil

Kevin Leman has written the book which should turn parenting upside down, and in the process strengthen the family. The title, It’s Your Kid, Not a Gerbil says it all.
For years we’ve heard that we have to get our kids on the fast track, they have to be involved in sports and arts; they should have study time and develop good study habits. And that’s all good stuff, but there’s a limit. Leman reminds us that at some point we have to say no to the ‘good’ in favor of the ‘better’.
Gerbils get in the little wheel, expend a lot of energy going in circles, and end up going nowhere. All too often it seems like we want our kids to get on that wheel and run nonstop. But what’s the cost?. Yes, we want the kids to develop good study habits, social skills and everything else, but when the kids are pushed so that the parents can brag about the accomplishments - it’s time to step back.
Dr Leman points out that at some point parents need to step up and be parents. Spending time with our kids when they’re young is ultimately more important than having them be recruited to an Ivy League school before they’re out of junior high. Family time is more important to a child than all sorts of lessons, and most kids would rather have their parents love them for who they are and not just for what they do.
Leman writes with a blend of humor and wisdom that engages the reader on any number of levels. He points out some of the misguided attempts at parenting that we all make, and he offers some great techniques and skills that parents can learn.
One of the things that I really liked about this book is that I never felt put down for being a poor parent, but often felt encouraged that I am trying hard and there are ways that will make it easier for me to do even better at offering my child the best future possible.
You probably know somebody that needs to read this book.
5/5 stars

Friday, August 19, 2011

Muscular Faith - a review

“We are not born again by good works; we are born again for good works." Ben Patterson tells us about the difference in Muscular Faith: How to Strengthen Your Heart, Soul and Mind for the Only Challenge That Matters. He reminds us that the Apostle Paul says that the intent of grace is to make us God's masterpiece. Starting with the premise that we don’t do good works in order to be saved, we do good works because we are saved, Patterson takes us on a journey of what life looks like inside the kingdom.
The concept of “finishing well” as Paul wrote about in his epistles, is one that intrigues me. And with Paul’s life as a part of the background, the reader is allowed a glimpse of the ‘muscular faith’ that kingdom life involves. In other words, Christianity is not for wimps. It’s also not for people who think that as we have to do to be considered a good Christian is show up at church once in a while. Community is a part of the faith that God graces us with, and that He wants us to experience.
Accepting the call requires a conscious decision, the stakes are high but there definitely are obstacles. And this is not a short term mission trip. It requires commitment, and perseverance.
Especially helpful are the chapters found in PART 4: The Essentials. Prayer, Sabbath, joy, and a host of other things keep us on the narrow path that leads to Jesus.
A pleasant read, with lots of insight from an experienced pastor.
I received a review copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased opinion of the book

There’s a rumor going around…

I liked the book "Rumors of God: Experience the Kind of Faith You've Only Heard About". Darren Whitehead and Jon Tyson have written a fun and easy to read book which, by the way, goes a lot deeper than just fun and easy. Over and over I found myself backing up to see if I had ‘really just read that'.
Part of the reason that this book is such an enjoyable read is because we so rarely slow down long enough to really look at and evaluate what’s going on in our lives. “Rumors” catches us off guard and forces us to look back a little, to think about what’s going on around us and to reevaluate what we think, what we know, and what we think we know.
"Rumors of God" includes rumors of abundant life, generosity, love, grace, freedom, commitment, community, justice, hope and so much more. But here’s the kicker: it’s not just rumors - it’s fact, it’s real, it’s God's truth.
Using Scripture, along with examples drawn from real life, we get a chance to see what Jesus is calling us to do to usher in the Kingdom. Along the way they slaughter some sacred cows (where ever did we get the idea that worship was all about making us feel good? It’s supposed to be something we offer up to God).
This book may be an easy read, but accepting the reality of the kingdom life requires mush more than just skimming the surface. Don’t just listen to the rumors, dig a little deeper and discover the truth that God has in store for each of us.
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

What's the Least I Can Believe and Still Be a Christian? a review

If you were on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you? Many people would like to say ‘yes’, to this question that Greg Laurie and others have asked, but there’s a slight problem: much of the evidence they have to present wouldn’t be compelling enough for a conviction.
Martin Thielen’s book What’s the Least I Can Believe and Still Be a Christian? sets out to give us enough information to be able to do the things that will lead to a conviction. Granted there are some people who just don’t care, but there are many others who thanks to the movies or the press, and perhaps an occasional off-the-mark sermon, have the wrong idea of what’s involved in being a Christian, and living a Christian life style.
Thielen book consists of two sections; the first consist of “Ten Things Christians Don’t Need to Believe”. This are the things that we’ve learned over the years, and know in our hearts that are sound bible teaching, except for one small thing: they’re not biblical. In the section he talks about misconceptions concerning disease, doubt, evolution, homosexuality, social justice, the environment, women preachers and a number of other hot buttons. For the most part I agree with his assessments, but sometimes he pushes things just a little farther than I’m willing to go.
Section two is “Ten Things Christians Do Need to Believe.” This section is about Jesus: His identity, His priorities, His work, His resurrection, His vision, His legacy and His promise. In this section I tended to be more in agreement theologically speaking.
Overall I think Thielen has done a good job of pointing out some of the misconceptions of modern church-goers, and pointing out what the important things are when it comes to following Jesus.
Just Chapter 18 – “Jesus’ Legacy: Is the Church Still Relevant” makes the book worth reading.
4.5/5 stars
I received a galley copy of this book in exchange for a review.

digging in the wrong place.

Building projects require some preliminary work, and the other day my back yard got its share of colored paint so the contractor would know where to dig. (actually so he would know where not to dig.)He spent a lot of time with a shovel looking for electric or gas lines, but couldn't find them. The next day he had the yard painter come back to repaint. so he could dig some more. Turns out he would have spent a lot of time looking because the lines were painted in the wrong place.

It reminds me of that old(?) song: "Lookin' for Love in all the Wrong Places". You just can't find something when it isn't there. Doesn't matter that someone said it was there or might be there, that it used to be there, that it should be there, or that you want it to be there; if it's not there, it's not there.

And if you're looking in the wrong place, you'll probably find something, it just won't be what you thought you were looking for.

Or maybe it's like the treasure maps we used to have as kids, "X" might have marked a spot, but I never dug a big enough hole to find the buried treasure.

A lot of people treat prayer like that too. We say we're praying, but in actuality we're just going to God and telling Him what we want Him to do for us in a particular situation. We're drawing lines so we know where to dig for the answer. Then we sit back and wait, and when we don't get the answer that we told God would be an acceptable response, we decide that God wasn't listening or God doesn't answer prayers, or worse that God just doesn't care. Sometimes we've drawn the lines in the wrong place.


Sometimes we just need to get out of God's way, and let Him answer our prayers in the way that He thinks is best. The lines we draw, the "X" that we put on the map, the places we decide would be the best places to look just might not be right.

Learn to let God decide for you, and you might just be surprised.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Married, or just dating? Book review: Why Church Matters by Joshua harris

“Married, or just dating?”
I enjoyed Joshua Harris’ book when it was published several years ago under a different title: Stop Dating the Church. I enjoyed reading it again as Why Church Matters: Discovering Your Place in the Family of God.
Harris invites his readers to look at their relationships with the church in the context of a marriage. Are you married to the church, or do you try to put the church into the category of ‘friends with benefits”?
The author encourages us to become passionate about our relationship with the church, to see it more than something we do on Sunday morning, whether we want to or not. God's plan for the church is something exciting, but unless we fully engage, we miss out on all that it has to offer. It’s the age old dilemma of those who want to claim Jesus as Savior, but refuse to acknowledge Him as LORD. We want to pick and choose, to take the parts that make us feel good, and leave the rest.
Christ calls the church His bride, and in a very real sense when we think of marriage, think of this beautiful person with whom we want to spend the rest of our life, we think in terms of passion, of love, of commitment. Unless there were some ulterior motives, we wouldn’t go into a marriage relationship with the idea that once you get married you’ll spend one hour a week together, and during the time you’ll be bored silly. Yet people want to sign up to be part of the church, the bride of Christ, and go into the relationship with that attitude…
As Christians we have been given access to the most exciting news the world has ever known, it’s up to us to joyfully proclaim that news. Harris in this engaging book offers some suggestions to help us find or reclaim that passion that should be part of our relationship with the Christ and the Church. He invites us to take that next step, to make the commitment, to become as passionate about the church as we are about our hobbies.
There’s a stark warning for church leadership too, if your local church isn’t biblical, if it’s nothing to get passionate about, then people who want to get passionately involved might just move on.
Wondering what’s missing on Sunday morning? This book is for you!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

it's a beautiful day

I haven't been here lately, i've been reviewing lots of books and articles, but they were submitted for a grade, and weren't the books that I've been getting from publishers. The last paper for this class was submitted on Friday... now a break until October.

we had a baptism at church this morning and that's always fun, and participated in a funeral this afternoon. Also fun, but in a totally different way.

actually picked a couple of cucumbers today, along with some tomatos, squash, eggplant, and peppers. Fresh veggies taste so much better than store-bought ones.
Get to mow the lawn this evening (it's starting to cool down) and maybe do some baking.
...then i can start reading for pleasure again. I miss it-- and my kindle is full of books waiting to be read and reviewed.

Nolan starts school tomorrow. My baby is in 9th grade - hard to believe it, but he's almost 15.

Yes, it's a beautiful day. Hope you're enjoying it!

Friday, July 29, 2011

The God I Never Knew by Robert Morris – A Review

For Robert Morris, the God he never knew, but fortunately has come to know very well, is the Holy Spirit. And Mr. Morris isn’t selfish when it comes to this relationship… he wants each of us to be able to experience that same joy that he has found with this relatively recent friendship.
Depending on the denomination or even the congregation to which you belong, those two words, Holy Spirit, might excite you, intrigue you, or possibly even terrify you. And that’s because He is probably the least well understand of the three persons who make up the Trinity.
Morris tells how he was warned, when he went away to seminary, to stay away from those people who talk about the Holy Spirit. And therein lays the problem. The majority of Christians either try to quietly skip over His name when it appears in the Gospel reading, or, in the name of the Holy Spirit, they act in such a way that makes the rest of us want to skip over His name and run from him.
And so to counteract this plethora of misinformation, Morris has written this book. It’s filled with anecdotes about his experience with the Holy Spirit, and shows how he has been able to move from acknowledging the Spirit as a mere acquaintance to warmly embracing Him as a friend. And as he relives that journey, Morris invites his readers to join him on the trip.
We learn a lot about the Spirit, His attributes, His power, and how He is there for us. But Morris doesn’t just scribble out his impressions, he carefully points us to the Scriptures, those passages of The Word of God, that tell us about this remarkable personage.
I certainly agree with the thrust of the subtitle of this book: “How Real Relationship with the Holy Spirit Can Change Your Life” but I was left looking for the “How’ The personal stories are there, the Scripture references are there, the reasons to have the relationship are there, but I think Morris could have done a better job offering tips on how to develop the relationship. Yes it will be individualized and personal for each of us, but this is more like an outline of the speech that will be given later.
Lots of good information, just not presented in a way that will help me remember this book as a memorable one. 3½ of 5 stars

I received a copy of this book free from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review.

Friday, July 15, 2011

watering the lawn

When the grass seems greener on the other side of the fence -- it may be time to water your lawn.

I'm trying to put things into perspective, for me. I find my self getting upset at things that really don't impact me too much, except that the sense of entitlement that seems so prevalent really bothers me. Seems like everyone wants something that someone else has, but no one wants to give up anything that they already have to get that something else.

- Everyone wants a balanced budget but one side doesn't want to increase income, and the other doesn't want to decrease spending.
- We're told to look out for bikes, which most motorists would be glad to do, if bikers would consistently follow the rules: but gee, sometimes it's just too convenient to use pedestrian rules becuase traffic is backed up.
- Truckers want bigger rigs, and then expect car drivers to intuitively know when to stay out of the right turn lane because the trucker is making a wide turn.
- Buy a house you can't afford, fall behind on the payments and the government should help you out. While the bankers get big bonuses for being part of the problem, Joe Average pays the bills. Maybe it's Joe Average's fault - after all if he hadn't have worked hard and paid for a nice house, it wouldn't be there for somebody else to see and want.

It's on the road, in the workplace, in schools and churches, and in the government. We want more for less; and if you've got it and I want it, then I should be able to have it.

Somehow it seems that the working hard to get it part doesn't enter into the equation. I wish my garden were as productive as that of my neighbor. But he's out there watering and weeding a lot more than I have the time or inclination for. His grass is a lot greener than mine is too...

Maybe I should go water my lawn.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Review: "Why God Won't Go Away" by Alister McGrath

The “New Atheists” not only don’t believe in God, but they’ve taken it upon themselves to ensure that everyone knows exactly what they think on the subject. As Gary Wolf described the movement it involves “enthusiastic advocation of atheism” along with criticism of any type of “religious belief and cultural respect for religion”.
And this is the mindset that Alister McGrath addresses in his book “Why God Won’t Go Away”. McGrath is well-known and respected as a theologian, and he shows why he has earned that distinction with this book.
This book is divided into three distinct parts which take us from the beginnings of The New Atheism, and what makes it different from your every day average atheism. Many atheists choose not to believe in God, or a higher power, or any type of deity, and prefer not to have someone else’s views forced on them. They either don’t believe that God exists, or they actively believe that God does not exist.
The New Atheists are different in that they are “anti-Theist” Not only do they not believe, and they seem intent on removing the choice to believe from everyone else. McGrath points out that the New Atheists’ adamant non-belief in God is secondary to their opposition to any form of religious belief or practice. That’s like me saying that I don’t like peas, but what really matters is that you shouldn’t be able to eat them because I don’t like them. The several attempts to make the new atheist movement a force to be reckoned with all seem to have failed, but a few diehards, remain as a very vocal minority.
Next we are treated to a look at some of the faulty logic of the movement; three main themes that repeatedly surface are violence reason and science, all of which the new atheists regularly use in their attacks on Christianity, and for that matter any other religion or religious culture. For example according to the New Atheists, all science is provable, while religion runs from evidence. Of course other faulty logic includes things like “All religion is evil, the Soviet Union was evil, therefore the Soviet Union must have been religious.
As Dr. McGrath points out, reason and science are used a lot, but when used by the opposing side, they refuse to listen: obviously religion and science have to be at odds, even when they are saying the same thing.
As the book comes to an end, we are shown how the New Atheist movement is declining, and seems to be dying. No matter how much some of the leading voices proclaim that God is a figment of our imagination, He just won’t get out of our heads. God just won’t go away. And as the committed atheists make their voices heard, it seems that more and more people are becoming interested in God.
I found this to be an insightful look at one of the many cultural phenomena that the Church is faced with today. The author didn’t blindly and deliberately attack the viewpoints of the New Atheists, rather he systematically addresses many of their issues. As a pastor I highly recommend this book, to anyone looking to understand more about the culture in which we find ourselves ministering.

review: God Wins by Mark Galli

There’s been a lot of hype about Love Wins by Rob Bell, some of it arguably well deserved, but some of it seemed like a knee jerk reaction, especially when you find out that some of the loudest noise was coming from people who hadn’t actually read the book. The teasers that publishers put out are meant to get your attention, and it certainly worked in this case.
Having said that, it’s time to move on to God Wins. Mark Galli presents a defense of the gospel teachings about God, Heaven and Hell at the expense of Bell’s book.
God Wins is a well thought out response; Galli addresses the questions that Bell raises, and reminds us that none of the questions raised by Bell are actually new. As human beings we try to justify ourselves, through our actions, our words, and even our questions, and as Galli points out, “our questions are largely driven by a desire to justify ourselves, to put God in the dock, and to don those judicial robes.”
Galli points out that in the books of Habakkuk and Job, we can see that people have been asking God those hard questions since a very early time in our history. And God's answers aren’t what we expect. God’ view of what’s important differs from ours. His answer may be ‘loving silence’.
Throughout the book Galli is careful to use scripture to back up his arguments and rebuttals, careful to use Jesus’ teachings in context, and careful to not attack Bell as so many others seem to have done. He takes a logical approach to the subject matter, and address Bell’s points one by one, offering an alternative view. He points out where he and Bell agree, and where he thinks that Bell should have gone a little further.
Overall I felt that this was a fair analysis of Bell’s book, sound reasoning, backed by scripture, and the study questions at the end of the book are helpful and thought-provoking. Not necessarily an easy read, but given the culture in which we find ourselves, definitely a book that needed to be written.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

not another book review

I just realized that most of my recent posts have been book reviews. That's a good thing because it means that publishers are sending me free books to review. It's a bad thing because it means that I spend more time reading/reviewing than I spend doing school work/ church related stuff, and just plain old blogging.
life is enjoyable. Several people spent the day at the church sorting the growing pile of donations for the upcoming rumamge sale. My wife was one of them so after they finished, she hung around until I finished and then we went to lunch.

hope to get some stuff done this evening, and have to make a trip to Wally World to get bananas for breakfast.

plants (not just weeds) are growing in the garden, and there are even some more pinkish red spots on a couple of tomato plants.

tomorrow should have a chance to help a friend out,

and I even won a book in an on-line giveaway.

It certainly would be easy to find things to complain about, but it's just as easy to find things that are going well. case in point: i can complain about getting older, or be grateful i woke up on the green side of the grass AND got a senior discount at Applebees today.

And Sunday's sermon is coming along well. I might even learn something as i'm preparing ☺

hope you take some time to see how God is blessing you today!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Am I Really a Christian - book review

Am I Really a Christian: The Most Important Question You’re not Asking.
From the introduction: “This is a book aimed at convincing you that you may not be a Christian.” That seems a pretty scary way to start a book, but for me it worked. And it worked because I’ve been asking the same questions, and thinking the same sorts of things – I know that probably means I’m judging, so I’m probably lacking some part of the Christian DNA.
But as McKinley works through his premise that there are a lot of people out there calling themselves Christians that may not be, I became more and more convinced that this books has been needed for a long time. As a pastor I get to talk to a captive audience most Sunday mornings; and one of the things that I frequently put forth is that in our attempt to make the Gospel more accessible, we’ve dummied it down so much that a lot of people in our churches think that once you’ve said the ‘sinner’s prayer” you’re free to go forth to sin happily ever after.
McKinley points out some of the common misconceptions about being a Christian, and backing up his thesis with the appropriate scriptures, he shows that it takes more than liking Jesus, or saying that you’re a Christian to make you one. He also points out some of the things that a lot of people do which makes it difficult for others to accept without question the idea that they’re Christians. Things like judging others, enjoying sin, and liking your stuff top that list.
This is not a book for the weak at heart. It was too easy to see myself painted in the pages of this book – oops I do that, oh-oh, I don’t do that – am I really a Christian? If you don’t get discouraged and stop reading, then you’ll get to the point where the author reminds us that feeling like a yo-yo is normal, but if you look closel,y you’ll see even as a yo-yo, the lows aren’t as low as they once were.
He finishes the book with a more positive slant, and shows us how we can know that we are a Christian, and if we’ve been living a lie, how to go about making it up. He also offers some useful tips on what the church can do to help us continue on the Christian walk.
Because this book forced me to look at myself, it was not a particularly easy book to read, although it was worth the effort. There is no way anyone can accuse McKinley of dummying down the Gospel, and that might be just what we need in today’s changing world.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Review: 40 Days Without Food

Russ Masterson heard a call on his life and answered it; the result is this delightful account of his 40 days without food. As he states in the introduction, “I once went 40 days without food. Toward the end of each day I wrote some thoughts in a journal. Six years later I read those pages and found a story of divine goodness to a starving child”.
Not knowing what to do next is a tough place to be, and when you try to figure out the next step and keep hearing that still small voice saying “fast for 40 days” you have to wonder what’s going on. But Masterson figured that he might as well try since the answers weren’t coming from anywhere else. Of course he built in escape clauses and gave himself a way out if he needed it.
And then the fun begins. How do you let people know what you’re doing and then deal with their reactions? What about the bad breath and the mixed up emotions? When will there be enough hours to sleep and how can it be this cold when the temperature is so high.
And throughout are the theological discussions with ‘Mac’ which seem to put things into perspective.
Masterson’s experience closely paralleled my own, which is probably why I so enjoyed the book. Days of thinking I’ll never make it unless I can take a pill and sleep for the next 40-39-38 days, especially if I have to smell anymore of those delicious smells coming from nearby kitchens. Thinking that I’ll never make it unless God starts talking to me, after all look at what I’m doing, and then realizing that this isn’t a bargaining chip and that God is right there, waiting for the committee in my head to shut up so that I can hear what God is saying.
As he struggles with life on life’s terms he learns important lessons, like “I’m not God, and there are some questions that I can’t answer” and lessons about solitude and forgiveness, and especially about love. Oh and there’s also an important lesson about 150# and God's sense of humor.
I rank it 5/5. As an added bonus there is an appendix which offers some practical tips about fasting.
I received an electronic galley free in exchange for a review of this book.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Review: A Place Called Blessing

About 15 years ago I heard Dr Trent speak about “The Blessing” at a conference. I bought the book that day and have referred to it over the years for use in ministry. I also bought the other book that is mentioned here (“I’d Choose You”) and it was a favorite bedtime book for my son for a long time. “A Place Called Blessing” is based on the principles of the Old Testament blessing as described in “The Blessing”: meaningful touch; a spoken message; attaching high value; picturing a special future; and an active commitment.
“A Place Called Blessing” tells the story of a child named Josh as he grows to manhood. It’s not a pretty childhood, his parents die in a car crash and he and his brothers are put in a series of foster homes; josh quickly learns that many people can’t be trusted. Eventually he ends up in a children’s home, but when he turns 18 he’s on his own. Josh of one of those people that is willing to do whatever it takes, he wants to work for what he gets, and finds it hard to accept things from other people. It’s hard for him to accept dinner, much less friendship of love. But the story progresses and we notice a remarkable change in Josh as he allows himself to be loved and even to love.
The elements of the blessing are almost as subtle as subliminal messaging. If I hadn’t known I was looking for them, I doubt that I would have seen them, but Dr Trent does a good job in the ‘special message’ at the end of the book as well as through the study guide that is included, in showing just how each of the elements appears in the story.
Have a box of tissues nearby, and don’t plan on putting this book down until you’ve finished it.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 <: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
I give it a 5/5

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

book review: Every Man's battle

When I requested this book I didn’t notice the part of the title that said this is a companion guide for personal or group study. Although the book might be used as stand-alone material with the reader adapting as necessary to not having read the book, it didn’t work that well for me.
The authors address an important question --how to stay on the path of sexual purity – while being bombarded from every direction with impediments to staying on the path.
The first 50+ pages give the reader a good introduction and overview of the problem and the reasons why men should be focused viewing sex as God intended it. As the authors point out it’s difficult to maintain a biblical viewpoint with the access of internet pornography, movies that 20 years ago would have been rated “R” but are now rated PG-13, and the use of sex in print ads…all to sell something.
One thing that particularly stood out was that thanks to the prevalence of pornographic or sexually stimulating materials so readily available, men are becoming more inwardly focused: even within the confines of marriage, sex often becomes more about intensity than about intimacy.
As the authors point out, if single men don’t fight and win this battle, they get married and it quickly becomes the married man’s battle.
There are some excellent tips in this book for single and married men.
I can’t give this book the high score that it probably deserves because it came as a stand-alone and it seems that it really needs to be used in conjunction with another book.
“I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review”.

Our hotdogs church

First day of summer, the temperature finally matched the season, and it was time for PRAYZE. Funny, last month we thought maybe we should have moved the grill in order to be in the sun, but last night we needed to keep it in the shade. How things change!

If you aren't familiar with our PRAYZE, it's a different kind of worship, sometimes we sit in a classroom and study a passage, along with singing some praise songs, or even a hymn, but during the summer we like to move outside, bring out the grill and 'be church'. Who ever shows up is there,there might be music (last night Karen brought her guitar, so we had some singing) but the only sermon preached is done with actions not words, it's the one that we live.

Jess told me that he went through 20 packages of hot dogs last night -that would have been a lot of hotdogs for the 15 or so that were there from the church, but we like to share. So we offer hotdogs to anyone going by.

One man told us that we were God's way of providing him a miracle. He's homeless and was hungry, wondering where he could find something to eat when Lynn and Sharon invited him to come over for a hotdog.

Kids are always hungry, so they're happy, and some of the adults that showed up may not have had a meal yesterday either. Other people just stopped to visit, to listen to the music, and to enjoy the fellowship.

I shudder to think that the way to a person's soul is through a hotdog, but we plant seeds, we share God's love, we invite people to fellowship with us on Sunday morning, and we remind people that we're there, that our church body is a part of the community and that we exist to share the Gospel.

Now if we could just figure out why hotdogs come in packages of 8 and the buns come in packages of 10.


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Historicity in Action

I wish I had had this resource when I was growing up. Focus on the Family has come out with a great way to teach people why the Bible can be believed and trusted. “Is the Bible Reliable? Building the historical case” goes far beyond the basics that used to be all the justification that we needed - the Bible is God's Word. Maybe you’ve heard someone say “the Bible says it, I believe it, that’s good enough for me”.
The problem is that in the multi-cultural context in which we live, many people don’t believe that they can use the bible’s claims to be divinely inspired as proof that it is. In this two DVD set, Dr Stephen Meyer takes us through a series of lessons, starting with Abraham and the Patriarchs, passing through the Davidic monarchy, and ending with the trial of Jesus. in each session he shows us what the bible says, and then uses extra-biblical material that corroborates the scripture: historical records about people and places mentioned in the bible, archeological finds, even styles of writing in use during different periods.
Meyer talks about different world views, and how they do or don’t fit the historical evidence. In this country, the mind set for many years was predominantly Christian, most of us were willing to accept the idea that if the gospel writers said that Jesus quoted something from the Psalms or one of the books of the Torah, that was evidence of the reliability of the bible. It corroborated itself. People who didn’t grow up with that mindset need a little more evidence and this series lays it out.
Meyer also gives some great advice as he tells the students that they are liable to meet people who will challenge their belief in God, Jesus, and the Bible, and they should try to understand where those people are coming from, and now they have information which will help them defend their faith.
This DVD-study guide set is advertised as being for college students, and some of the non-lecture materials are geared toward that age group, but my son, a junior high school student, watched with me and was able to grasp the concepts and interact with the ideas presented. I think that it would also work for an adult Sunday school or small group.
5 of 5 stars, and I want to look at other materials from TRUE-U
Tyndale House Publishers provided me with a complimentary copy of this material for review purposes.

quotes from the Rogue - a review

I ordered “The Quotable Rogue –the Ideals of Sarah Palin in Her Own Words” without really knowing what to expect. I read it and still don’t know what to expect. Editor Matt Lewis has compiled a number of statements or quotes from Governor Palin that show her to be an articulate and knowledgeable woman. And I ‘m sure that’s the case; however, I was left with the vague sense that these quotes were taken as much out of context as were all the ‘Palin-bashing’ quotes that many of us grew so tired of during the last presidential campaign, and that continue today every time the much maligned Governor and former Vice presidential nominee makes a statement or appears at an event.

This is a collection of quotable statements, excerpts from interviews and media releases, loosely organized by categories such as “On the Real America”, “On Living in Alaska”, “on Civil Rights”, and “On Being Sarah”. A careful study might give the reader some insight into what Mrs. Palin thinks, but in this reviewer’s opinion, the book doesn’t lend itself to careful study.

If you’re a big Palin fan, and are looking for something to counteract the charges that she’s all fluff, there are some quotes that might do that for you, but as much as I wanted to be able to get to know Sarah Palin as a political figure to be contended with, I couldn’t find it in this book. Some great quotes that we’ve heard before are repeated here in context, quotes about ‘that hopey-changey thing’, loving a zamboni, but troopers’ cars need to be a higher priority’, or ‘referring to her opponent in the last election, ‘going rogaine’, and some that might not have gotten quite as much press are included also.

This book is like a plate covered with parsley and other garnish, but without enough meat in the moose stew.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A Pair of Prodigals

Christopher Yuan and Angela Yuan, in their autobiographical book “Out of a Far Country” have written an intriguing retelling of the story of the Prodigal Son. When it came time to choose a book to review, this seemed to be the best of a rather mediocre lot, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. The personages in the book don’t ‘read’ as well as fictional characters might, but there was something in the stories that managed to keep my attention. Although in this case it’s drugs and a gay lifestyle that separated Christopher and his mother, the story is universal and timeless: as children many of us want to be our own person, and so we insist on doing even those things that we know will hurt our parents hearts – not to mention the heart of God. And as parents we want the best for our children and often have a difficult time dealing with their decisions. And God has to deal with all of His children and our sometimes less than wonderful choices.

Although Angela frequently mentioned her Chinese background and culture as being important in some of her decisions, there wasn’t enough of the culture shared for me to really see how it must have impacted her. Likewise she frequently mentioned the marital difficulties that she experienced but at times it seemed that she threw that in as an excuse for her decisions. Just a little more insight might have made it easier to understand some of her thought processes.

Christopher on the other hand seems to have developed a knack for writing; he provides enough explanation so that the reader can understand the environment in which he found himself - without bogging us down with details that would make most of us uncomfortable.

I’ve known people who lived the roller coaster ride of ‘sex, drugs and rock & roll’ and wish I could say that their lives were such an awesome display of God's grace as was that of Christopher Yuan. The story of the preparing, the God-moments, the total brokenness that was required for both Christopher and Angela to be pulled into God's loving arms where they could experience the redemption that God desires for each of us make this worth the read, regardless what you might think of the literary style or even some of the subject matter.

And the truth is that just like the father and son in Luke 15, just like Angela Yuan and her son Christopher, we’re all prodigals, traveling our own journey away from and back to God. And I join Angela in praying that your ‘sentence’ will be not too short, not too long, but just the right length for you to be able to come to fully experience the love of God.

4.5 out of 5 stars

“I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review”.

Why do we strive for 'good behavior'?

I picked up the current issue of "Our Daily Bread" this morning, and today's (June 8, 2011) devotional was based on Revelation 2:1-7. I recently referred to that passage for a paper I was writing, so  was interested to see what was being said about it. Joe Stowell writes: "Good behavior should always be an act of worship. Resisting temptation, forgiving, serving, and loving each other are all opportuninties to tangibly express our love for Jesus -- not to get a star next to our name or a pat on the back".

The passage from John's Revelation is directed to the Church at Ephesus, and in it Jesus chastizes the local congregation for leaving their first love behind. "You have forsaken your first love" "repent and do the things you did at first". (Rev 2 4-5, NIV) 

We see it all the time, not just at church, but at our various jobs, our relationships, in school, even in play. Did you ever buy an expensive 'have to have' piece of sports equipment or video game, and after about a week not have time for it any more? 

We start something new and we're way excited,  but it quickly becomes old, and we tire of the ridicule, or other things take precedence in our lives. New believers are often on fire for the Lord, but as time goes by they frequently seem to run out of stream.  They don't have the time to do the things that they were doing, it's not that they're doing anything wrong, they're just not doing as much of the right stuff or they're doing the right stuff but not dfor the right reasons. As Stowell points out, our good behavior should be an act of worship, an act of telling Jesus how much we love Him.

Stowell refers to the star next to our name, or a pat on the back. I put it a little differently: we don't do ABC or XYZ to earn Jesus' love, to earn God's love, to earn our salvation, but rather because of it! The church at Ephesus might have stopped doing the things they had been doing, or maybe they kept doing some of them, but for the wrong reasons.

People go to church to show off new cars and clothes, but forget to worship while they're there. They help widows and orphans and feed the hungry because it's a tax write-off. Their prayers are a way to let God know what a good job they're doing, and practicing the spiritual disciplines is more about letting others know how 'holy' they are.  It's easy to forsake the first love.

I have to ask myself if I'm doing 'stuff' for the gold star or as an act of worship. My whole life should be an act of worship, sadly though, it doesn't always turn out that way.

As Joe Stowell puts it, "When was the last time you did something "good" out of love for Jesus?

Think about it

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

review of Ian Morgan Cron's "Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me

What can I say? I liked the book “Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me”. Ian Morgan Cron writes in a delightfully engaging style, which invites the reader to come into his world, to share his pain, and more importantly, to share in the grace he experienced which allowed him to overcome the demons of his childhood and young adult years.

Billed as ‘a memoir…of sorts’, Cron describes a childhood and adolescence of trying to please a father who couldn’t be pleased. Along the way he describes the terrors of life with an alcoholic parent, his own descent into alcoholism, hitting his bottom, and, thanks to the grace of God, his road to recovery. As he writes about his parents, his Nanny, his wife and children, life on two continents, adolescent angst, disillusionment and joys, things seem so real that at times I thought I must be reading a book of non-fiction. This is the gut-wrenching stuff of life, which usually comes across as sounding false when we try to accurately describe it.

Learn about the difference in jumping and falling, a deliberate descent versus spiraling downward, totally out of control. Be reminded that sometimes it’s not about you (page 212). Learn about God as the grace of glue that mends us (page 248) and be reminded that no one should eat alone (also on 248)

This book is so readable on so many levels: are you struggling with the idea of a loving God? Read this book. Read this book if your family has been torn apart by alcoholism, or if your alcoholism is tearing your family apart. Read this book if your life seems to be a roller coaster ride that the attendant won’t let you get off of. And you can even read this book if you’re just looking for a feel good story with which to curl up by the fireplace.

Warning: (tongue in cheek) One of the great things about this book is that Christian writers endorse it, and you won’t find any gratuitous sex, profanity or violence. Cron is also the author of “Chasing Francis: A Pilgrim’s Tale”. My prayer is that he has more books waiting to be written

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Not the Jolt I Was Expecting book Review: Jolt, by Phil Cooke

Phil Cooke lists 25 jolts for us to follow in his book “JOLT: Get the Jump on a World That’s Constantly Changing”. The basic premise of the book is that the world is changing and organizations have to change and adapt if they are going to survive. In order to help organizations and churches, and to some extent even individuals do that, he’s put together a list of 25 jump-starters, or as he calls them, jolts.

I didn’t see any jolt that couldn’t help, but most of them I’ve heard before. There were some gems hidden among his explanations, expansions, and variations on a theme, and I definitely recognized some things that would be helpful for the church where I serve if we could learn to embrace them.

I wasn’t a big fan of the writing style, and I think it’s because I didn’t quite get who the target audience was. As I said earlier the jolts can apply to a wide variety of organizations, levels of management, and even individuals; however a CEO, a first line supervisor and the person who wants to get out of a rut and better his life, sometimes need to hear the message in different ways.

There are some ‘jolts’ I want to try, but this book wasn’t quite as electrifying as I had hoped it would be.

Four of five stars

I was provided a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for writing the review.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Hotdogs and the Gospel

A few weeks ago we decided that weather permitting we would start holding our monthly PRAYZE meeting outside in May, weather permitting. It was warm and windy and Sunday, cloudy and cool on Monday, and it poured on Tuesday-- until about 3 pm; even after we got to the church there was some question as to whether we would be outside or inside. The sun was shining so we opted for outside.

When we meet inside the church, we pray, we sing, and we have a bible study, but outside, well things are different. We make lemonade, cook hotdogs on the grill, and get to meet our neighbors. It’s different every time we do this, and last night Kassidy played her guitar and Nolan brought out the keyboard (hit a button and it plays a song) but he also played a little.

We wander around talking to people, and explain to them that God has blessed us as individuals and as a church, and so we want to bless others. My ‘instructions’ to the group that shows up are simple: everyone that we talk to, at the very least, needs to be invited to attend church on Sunday. Sometimes we get to share a bit more of the gospel message, other times not so much, but we’re planting seeds.

You’re right, most of them don’t come, but at least we’ve made the offer, and to be honest, some of the people we talk to are already attending another church, and I’m not really interested in being a shepherd that steals from someone else’s flock.

And along the way there are some surprises: last night a gentleman showed up and said that he’d been gone from here for about six years, but he remembered me, and wondered if I was still going to the Ogden Rescue Mission…(yes we are- most months on the 4th Thursday Nolan and I are there)

So we get to hang out and have a good time; some hungry people get something to eat; and along the way we get to proclaim the good news that Jesus is Lord.
 Anybody want a hotdog?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Teach your child (or an adult) to pray

“This Little Prayer of Mine” by Anthony DeStefano is a delightful prayer in poem. This could easily become a favorite bedtime book of any child.

Teaching children how to pray can be difficult but I think that DeStefano has nailed it with this book. He includes some elements which many adults should include in their prayers. Help me to be generous, love me forever, help me do the things I should be doing, and forgive me when I don’t. This prayer model touches on things that impact kids, but also adults…

This book belongs in every church ‘s elementary Sunday school library, and would make a great gift for parents or grandparents who read to their small children.

Five stars!

I received a review copy free from the publisher in return for an unbiased review.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Elephants vs rabbits: small is the new big

“Small is Big” shatters the mega-church myth. Tony and Felicity Dale are medical doctors turned church planters and authors; and they’re church planters with a twist. They’re not out to set new attendance records, but rather their goal is to teach others to plant churches that multiply. It’s not longer about how big your budget, building, and membership role is – what matters is sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ in such a way that new believers are excited enough to go start their own church. They’re not out to bash mega-churches, or ‘legacy churches’, in fact they write about working together with voices from those disciplines to improve everybody’s products. This book is about a return to basics, following New Testament models, to make a huge difference as small groups of people become churches, become the Church.

I had mixed reactions to this book. I don’t think there was anything that I disagree with theologically or procedurally. I’m glad to hear someone take a stand other than the one of the majority voices that bigger is better. Multi-site, multi-campus, multi-pastor, orchestra-sized praise bands may have their place, but not everyone is comfortable there, and much of the work of the church is done by the people connected in a small group, so there is a lot in common.

As a seminary graduate and professional pastor, I don’t like the idea that churches don’t need pastors; that the New Testament church got along fine without us. But often I find myself thinking that it would be so much fun to be able to minister, to be the church without having to deal with building funds, budgets, bylaws, choirs, and administrative boards.

But the bottom line is that if more of us – mega church, legacy church, or cell church - were focused on being the church, on multiplying the church, on making disciples, on fulfilling the Great Commission, we might see a marked difference in the world from the way it is.

Even though I enjoy being “the pastor” I can think of several people who need to read this book: the ones who’s first response to any request for help is “but you’re the pastor, you’re the professional, that’s why we pay you”. The work of sharing the gospel is not delegated solely to the pastor…it’s the job of every Christian, and this book offers some good advice on how lay people, can be effective in multiplying the church.

To comply with new regulations introduced by the Federal Trade Commission, I have been asked to mention as part of every Web review that Tyndale House Publishers has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Another Anniversary - So What?

The church where I serve is the oldest Baptist church in Utah. How does that happen? Easy: be the first to open the doors, and then keep them open. As a church we now have 130 years of history and that’s impressive, but I’ve been thinking about it and wonder why we should care.

In this country we tend to like new and improved. We want bigger, better, faster. Throughout Europe when something has outlived its purpose they make a museum. Here we’re just starting to do something other than tear it down and haul it away. Who’s right? I don’t know the answer to that, but its fun to wander through Zaragoza, Spain and see the remains of the city that used to be there: remains in which they have found Roman coins from the time of Christ.

I’ve been going through the history of our church lately, as we look forward to celebrating a milestone. God has been good to us over the years, even though there have been some rough spots. So what are we celebrating? The building isn’t even 100 years old, and all throughout Europe you can find buildings, or the remains of buildings which are 1000 years old.

Businesses that don’t provide a service or goods that are needed don’t survive. And in many ways a church is like a business. So at some point we use these milestones called longevity anniversaries to take inventory of what we are, where we have been, and where we are going.

The past is a fun place to visit, but I no longer want to live there. So as we celebrate this anniversary, we want to look not so much at the past but rather towards the future. Hopefully we can use the past to point out what worked, and then figure out why. We can look to see what didn’t work and why; but as we look towards the past, it’s not with the goal of returning. We don’t want to stay there; the purpose of studying the past should always be to learn how to remain relevant in the future.

Learning from our mistakes and building on our successes will help us as we move into the next season that God has planned for us. So we care about the past because it has brought us this far and, if we let it, will prepare us for the future.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Hope you said a prayer

    Yesterday was Cinco de Mayo, and lots of people in my little corner of the world celebrated it. Yesterday was also the annual National Day of Prayer. Probably not so many people celebrated. Granted it's more fun to go to a party than to rush off to city hall on your lunch hour but...
    Mayor and Mrs Godfrey and City Council Chair Gochnour joined a small crowd on the steps of Ogden's municipal building and listened as 9 pastors prayed for them and the country.
    I don't know about you, but I think that prayer works.  A few of us were talking after the event and someone commented that last year, Mayor Godfrey had asked that as we pray for the community we would pray for creation of jobs; he had hopes that the Ogden area was on track for several hundred new jobs. Seems like those prayers worked, and then some since many new jobs have come to Ogden this past year. Prayer works.
    I got to pray for government leaders. And as I prayed,  I remembered Abraham. "Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him." (Gen 18:18 NIV).
So I prayed that our leaders would be blessed, and that through them others would be blessed also.
    Who did you pray for yesterday? Who will you pray for today?

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Average Joe - a review

Average Joe: God's Extraordinary Calling to Ordinary Men

Face it, we can't all have super powers! We don't but God does, and sometimes he picks on us Average Joes and uses us to do things we could only dream about.

I've been interested in Men's ministry for several years, and I keep reading all the men's ministry books, and most of the time I finish the book, put it down and look for another book, (or another ministry in which to get interested).Average Joe is different. Instead of leaving me feeling like there's no way I can ever be that {you fill in the blank} I finished this book, delighted to hear that it's okay to be an Average Joe.

Troy Meeder has found the right words to show us that we're not all a Billy Graham, a Chuck Colson or a Coach McCartney. Most of us are average guys, but God takes those average qualities that most of us wish were different and He uses them, and us, in some pretty extraordinary ways.

Meeder is a man's man; he fishes, flies an airplane, rides horses, and enjoys the wilderness. His life is a mass of stories, and throughout the book you sense that he doesn't see himself as anybody special, he just goes about the business of being Troy Meeder, and being the best Troy Meeder that he can be. And as he goes about taking care of business, God uses him.

Maybe I shouldn't say this, since this is a book for the manly man, but there were a couple of times that I had to wipe away a tear or two, but there were other times that I laughed, I thought, I mused, I pondered, and left the book hoping to run into a few more Average Joes.

It's all about story telling these days and Meeder is an excellent storyteller. Sometimes the stories went a little long, and when I read the introduction to the study guide, I found myself thinking that Meeder's editor should have been the kind of facilitator the Meeder recommends for this to work as a small group study. I would have liked some more scripture references, but all in all this is much better than many of the books that try to tell us how to do things if we want to be extraordinary Josephs: this is an average guy telling us what he does, how he does it, and how God works through him despite his being so average.

"I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review".

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Beyond Talent - a review

I haven't read much of John Maxwell's material, but after reading *Beyond Talent: Become Someone Who Gets Extraordinary Results* it's easy to see why his books have sold millions of copies.

Maxwell starts with the premise that talent abounds in the world, but true success requires that we do something more with that God-given talent than just sit around and wait for it to make us rich. Talent isn't everything as so many people would like us to believe. Talent is important but by itself it won't take us very far.

Starting with Belief, moving on through Passion and Relationships to Teamwork, Maxwell lists thirteen things, that when added to talent, give it the boost that make some people successful in their field. Each chapter is full of examples of what he’s talking about, and the examples are people that I've actually heard of: sports figures, inventors, actors, politicians and the goes on. Andrew Carnegie, Winston Churchill, Tom Hanks, Thomas Edison and Abraham Lincoln all offer valuable lessons on how to augment your talent with one of the 13 traits that Maxwell has identified.

What others have done, how it worked for them, and tips for the reader to try are followed in each chapter by a set of application exercises, easy enough so that it’s feasible to do them, and tough enough that you feel they’ll be beneficial.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who knows he has talent, and just can’t figure out why he hasn’t gotten further along in life than he has.

I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255

Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Everlasting Campaign

Well, the long awaited moment has arrived. Wait, it hasn’t actually been all that long has it? Of course you know what I’m talking about, it’s not Christmas, nor Easter, and not even your birthday. We’re gearing up for the 2012 presidential election. So for the next few months we get to listen to:

Those who are running, but say that they’re not.

Those who are ‘thinking about it”, setting up exploratory committees and appearing at fundraisers

Those who really aren’t running but say that they are, just to keep things interesting,

Those who really aren’t running, but like to hear themselves talk.

And those who are definitely putting themselves forward as a viable candidate.

And now that the Royal Wedding has come and gone, maybe we need this kind of intrigue to keep reporters gainfully employed.

BUT, here’s my take.

Many of those who have expressed an interested in being their party’s candidate are already employed by that party: Representatives, Senators, Governors, and yes even the President. Now they want to not do their job until Nov of next year (that’s a year and a half) as they go out and try to convince the nation to hire them.

To put it into perspective, I pastor a small church, how happy do you think the congregation I serve would be if from now until next November I was only in the pulpit a few times (well, maybe some of them would be happy at that) because I was traveling around the country, visiting other churches trying to find a job at the denominational level? Of course I would still want the title, and the paycheck, I just wouldn’t be doing the job.

Or think of it this way. The president has declared his intention to run for a second term. As we get closer and closer to the election, he spends less and less time being president and more and more time being a candidate. He stops being president to spend time telling the country why he should be president for another 4 years.

Here’s my take: the campaign season runs way too long. Set campaign limits - Campaigning for the party nomination starts 1 June and the party conventions are held at the end of July. Then the actual campaign lasts 3 months: Aug, Sept and Oct, with the election in early November. Who knows more people might actually vote since they wouldn’t be so tired of hearing about politics?

Monday, April 25, 2011

Listening to the Voices on Taxes

I enjoy listening to the voices that are out there. They help me decide what I think when it comes to certain issues.

The voices in Washington DC that say we have to raise taxes to pay for all the programs that we think we should be funding.

The voices in Washington DC that say that we should cut taxes to stimulate the economy.

The voices of the people who just want to go to work and not depend on some of those programs.

The voices of the Political Action Committees and special action advocates who make a good case for why everyone except their clients should help with the mess we’re in.

The voices of the people who write into the newspaper or call into radio talk shows out of frustration with what’s going on in the country that we love.

The voices of the letter to the editor writer who pointed out that CEOs of big companies get a salary for the job they do. Taxing that salary doesn’t eliminate jobs, exempting that salary doesn’t create jobs. CEOs of big corporations don’t write personal checks to pay the employees’ salaries.

The voices of two young women overheard in a fast food joint, comparing notes on their tax returns. How much they’re ‘getting back’. In quotes because they’re both apparently stay at home moms with several children and the tax credits amounted to several thousand dollars more that their tax liability. In my opinion, you only ‘get it back’ if you gave it in the first place. Besides, they’re more than happy to tell you that they can’t work or they would lose out on WIC and CHIP and food stamps – lots of “in Kind” each month that isn’t taxed.

The voices that remind us that only about half of US families are paying the National Income Tax. And it seems like most of them are middle class. The lower class doesn’t make enough to have much of a liability, and the upper class has the credits, exemptions, deductions and can afford the lawyers to find the loopholes.

So I listen to the voices, and get sick to my stomach, then I worry about the future of my son and the next few generations.

And I add my own voice in case the people who represent me in Washington DC are listening.

Make some tough decisions:

Maybe a flat tax, that everybody pays.

Eliminate all the deductions and exemptions. Yeah that means that I get dinged, but so will everybody else.

The tax credits should zero out. Carry over the excess for a year if you need to since hopefully things will change and the employment situation will get better. But no more getting back more than you paid in. If you make more by not working than you do working, then why work.

There’s lots of voices out there. Too bad we’re not all singing the same song

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A review of Shaun Alexander’s “The Walk”

I’m not a sports fan and had no idea who Shaun Alexander was prior to reading THE WALK, but I am interested in making discipleship work as an ongoing process rather than a program, so based on the limited information available, this book looked like something that would be of interest.

On the cover, perhaps as a subtitle, are the words “clear direction and spiritual power for your life.” unfortunately I didn’t find much about this book to be ‘clear’. Solid biblical principles and teaching are present, but it didn’t seem too clear or coherent. The examples provided didn’t always do enough to demonstrate his point, and there were other places where it seemed that relating a personal experience would have furthered the discussion.

I did like how Alexander has identified the individual stages that an individual goes through on the Walk, but it felt like he was stretching when he used Peter to prove his points. A big problem that many Christians have is trying to force God, Jesus, and in this case the Apostle Peter, to fit into the man sized boxes that we create for them.

This was one of those books that I kept reading hoping to get excited about. Sadly, that never happened.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Monday, April 18, 2011

Max on Life - a review

This is one of the books that I would have liked to have had more time to savor, rather than having to read it quickly to meet a deadline for the review. I would have liked to have had it several years ago while attending seminary, as it would have been a great tool in several of the classes.

This book is formatted as an advice column: Max answers questions from struggling believers, from agnostics, and I think even a self-professed atheist or two, on matters of the faith. Throughout the book his brief but touching answers make it plain why Max Lucado is one of America’s favorite authors. Whether you’re asking questions about hope in the midst of despair, to help you deal with relationship issues, your kids, or what happens after I die, Max has answers.

Real questions from real people form the basis for the book, and Max answers as YOUR pastor,( or the pastor you wish was yours) would. You can read it as a daily devotional, when there is a certain issue you’re dealing with, or on those days when you just need to know that you’re not the only one with problems and that God loves you.

As a believer who often has questions, I found this book helpful. As a pastor who often needs answers to questions from members of the congregation, I’m delighted to have this book as a part of my library.

five stars!

I was provided a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for writing the review.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

looking for a few good iconoclasts

I was reading last night and came across the word ‘ICONOCLAST’. At least I think I came across it, because about 30 minutes later I couldn’t find it again. I couldn’t remember what it means but I like the sound of it, and seem to remember hearing the word before, probably in a church history course.

I know that ‘icons’ are images of some sort, but couldn’t remember what the suffix might mean. Luckily we no longer live in the “Age of Aquarius”, but rather in the ‘age of Google’, so it didn’t take more than a few keystrokes to discover that an ‘iconoclast’ is, according to, a nonconformist, a rebel dissenter or radical; “a breaker or destroyer of images, especially those set up for religious veneration’; or someone who attacks cherished beliefs and traditions.

And as I thought about the definition, I came to the conclusion that being an iconoclast might be fun.

Although most people probably don’t know the meaning of the word, they have either been involved in some iconoclastic behavior, or have been the target of it, in the sense that it’s their cherished beliefs that are being attacked.

Remember I mentioned church history? Back in the 8th and 9th centuries there was a disagreement over the Greek Orthodox practice of using icons, or images, in the church building, and in worship. The iconoclasts wanted to destroy the images.

Today the term isn’t used so much to describe destruction of art work, as it is to describe someone who dares to attack the sacred cows. It’s the person who comes up with a good idea, which is probably a good thing, except for the fact that it means changing the way we’ve always done it. You’ve dealt with those people before: they want to get rid of the things that you’ve worked so hard to preserve. They want you to get rid of the typewriter in favor of a computer. They thought kerosene lamps should be replaced with electric lighting, the horse and buggy could be put away in favor of a car, and even the barges on the canal system had to go in favor of trains that went at the breakneck speed of 15 mph, scaring women, children and livestock.In the past 30 or years they've asked you to go from record albums to 8-tracks, to cassettes to CDs. You finally got used to the walkman and now you're supposed to get an I-Pod. They even want you to have a cell phone so you can be in constant contact.

The past is fascinating, and it teaches us valuable lessons, but it’s the past, and if we hold on to it too tightly, we miss the present and eliminate the possibility of a future.

Are you an iconoclast, or have you had to deal with one?