Saturday, September 26, 2015

David Gregory's unlikely spiritual journey

In this age we live in, an age of pluralism, inclusivism, universalism, and anything goes, it was refreshing to read about someone who is looking to define his faith for himself. And so David Gregory defines his faith walk according to a question that a sitting President asked him on more than one occasion: How’s your faith?  How’s Your Faith? An Unlikely Spiritual Journey (Simon and Schuster, 2015) is Gregory’s answer to that question asked him when he was a correspondent covering the White House during the terms of George W. Bush.
Gregory is an excellent communicator, as one might expect from a reporter who ended his career as moderator of the TV show “Meet the Press”. And he puts those communication skills to good use as he describes mixed faith families, growing up with an alcoholic mother, making decisions as to whether his own children should be brought up as Jewish or Methodist.
There are many people who ask themselves some of the same questions that Gregory has asked in this book, they just aren’t in the position to ask some of the same experts that he did. One of the things that makes the book stand out is that Gregory did more than just ask people who think like him to validate what he already thinks. He talked to Evangelicals, Catholics, Muslims, Jews, and even spoke with at least one Hindu, a proponent of the prosperity gospel and members of twelve step programs. He got answers from all of them, and all those answers help him to define his personal faith.
While it’s an engaging story, I never got the sense that David Gregory truly understands what it is that he believes. While I do agree that all religions have their strong points, it’s difficult for me to understand how anybody would feel comfortable with a pick and choose approach to eternity. Understanding other religions is a good thing, picking 1 from column ‘A’ and 2 from column ‘B’ just doesn’t work for me.
I hope that those who read this book, and it’s a well written story, perhaps slanted a bit towards making Gregory look good, will learn from his journey, and then make a decision for a specific religion rather than trying to take the best from each and in the process being left with something that ends up being ‘none of the above’.
Well written, and an interesting story, but theologically speaking, I wish he had come to a definite conclusion.
My friends at Grace Hill Media provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for my review.  As a bonus they provided a copy for me to give away to a reader of my blog. One week from today I’ll randomly select someone who has commented on the blog (or on the link to FaceBook)


Sunday, September 20, 2015

thoughts on "Prayer, Power & Results

Prayer is one of the most important tools that a Christian has in the spiritual tool box. Unfortunately it’s a tool that many don’t know how to use, or they forget to use, or they wait until everything else has failed before they think to use. Pastor Bo can’t do anything about your forgetting or waiting to use, but he can help with the ‘how to’ part.
Prayer Power & Results by Abolaji Muyiwa Akinbo (“Pastor Bo” to his congregation) (Xulon Press, 2015) is designed to help develop a powerful prayer life that yields results. Section one consists of 10 chapters designed to bring/give/offer understanding about prayer. What it is, (and isn’t), how it works, and the attributes of a prayer warrior.  The second section, “Prayers for Results” consists of pages of sentence prayers for a myriad of circumstances ranging from difficulties with coworkers, parents, and teenagers, to health issues and almost anything else you can think of.
I like the fact that Pastor Bo uses scripture to interpret scripture but think he could have fleshed out his explanations a little bit more. Similarly, close to 200 pages of ‘prayers for results’ seems like a lot, but often there is only 1 or 2 sentences on the second page of any one chapter, and often it seems like except for one word, (which didn’t really change the meaning of the prayer) the sentence prayers are repeated.
I applaud the intent and the effort behind this book, but would have rather seen the first section expanded, and the second could have been shorter.
I received a copy of this book in exchange for a review: my thoughts, presented honestly.


Sunday, September 6, 2015

Stay is the new going---my thoughts

You’ve seen the saying embroidered on pillows, and perhaps motivational speakers still tell people to “bloom where they’re planted”, but Alan Briggs in his book Staying Is the New Going: Choosing To Love Where God Places You (Nav Press 2015) takes it to a whole new level.
If you go to church on any kind of regular basis then you’ve heard about the “Great Commission”-- Jesus’ words to the disciples found in Matthew 28:18-20; you know that command to go into all the world making disciples.  And there is a lot to be said for traveling the world, sharing the gospel with unreached people groups, but as Briggs points out, there are probably some of those unreached groups right in your own neighborhood, and sometimes the way to ‘go’ is to simply stay, to be there for the long haul. To build relationships and look for opportunities to share.
As Briggs wisely points out, there are more ways to share the gospel than by inviting someone to church. He met people where they were and with time, and perhaps a request to pick apples to make cider, neighbors and acquaintances become friends, and often become part of the kingdom of God.
                In this easy-to-read book the author presents a theology of place, it’s nothing new: the prophet Jeremiah (29: 5-7) discussed the concept centuries before the birth of Christ: “"Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. 6 Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. 7 Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper." (NIV)
                But there’s more to it than just buying a house and letting the mortgage payment make you a part of the neighborhood, it’s all about getting to know, and becoming a part of, the story of that neighborhood.
                Briggs makes several good points, things that we know but may have forgotten, things like church friends can mingle with you friends from outside of church. Things like unchurched people have to deal with life the same as church folk do, and when life happens, sometimes they need a shoulder to lean on.  Things like every Christian is called to be missional, even if they are not a full time, professional, deployed-overseas-missionary.
I liked this book.  I still want to go on a short-term mission trip, but it helped me realize that mission can be done on my block as well as half-way across the world; and for anyone who might be feeling guilty for not having traveled thousands of mile, this book will help you alleviate or eliminate that guilt.
I received a copy of the book form the publisher in exchange for my review.  There was no requirement to provide a positive review.


Buy a DVD instead

Exactly what is a “jackwagon’?  I’m not sure that the book ever answers the question, but that probably wasn’t the purpose of the book in the first place. (On line dictionaries suggest that a jackwagon is a loser, someone you consider worthless or lazy). It wasn’t the title of the book that interested me; it was the author. When I saw that “Diary of a Jackwagon” by Time Hawkins with John Driver, (Thomas Nelson 2015) was available for review I started salivating.  What can I say, Tim Hawkins is funny. His timing is near perfect, the faces he makes leave audiences rolling in the aisles or turning fake leather seats different colors (see page 145 for the reference to that). He sings, plays the guitar, and regardless of what he’s talking about, I’ve never heard anything that would make me cringe if my mother or a child were sitting next to me.
  I mean it, the guy is funny. Much funnier than the book. The words are the same, but the inflections in his voice when talking about certain subjects (read: people) don’t come through on the written page. Neither do the facial expressions, the timing or the hysterical singing style.
I like Tim Hawkins; I like his DVDs; I like watching him in person, but his special brand of humor didn’t, for me at least, translate onto the written page.  If I had just watched Tim performing the routines in this book, I’m sure it would rate an A++++, but as a book it just didn’t work.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my review. The opinions expressed are my own. I was not required to write a positive review.