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.