Friday, April 29, 2016

Our Community Needs Us...

... Even if they don't realize it. This morning Pastor Fred Lopez of Hope Resurrected Church and I met with Ogden City's Mayor Caldwell.  There is a lot of stuff going on in the city right now - urban redevelopment, blight areas, refugee resettlement, new jobs are some of the ones that we read about in the paper. But many of the old problems still exist. 
We discovered that there a are a lot of agencies helping in various ways, but often there is a major overlap because there is a lack of co-ordination between agencies, and often it's difficult to keep track of who offers what service.
One of the major issues is a lack of structure and positive role models for young people in inner city areas.  Mayor Caldwell recently attended an event where 4th graders were invited to participate in a "Reality Town'. There were any number of companies 'offering' jobs that we're represented, but the majority of the 4th graders went to the convenience store hoping for work. Why didn't they aspire to something else? For many of them it's because there was food there- something that didn't always happen at home. God, please let my heart break as yours does for those who are hungry.
Gangs are still an issue, along with drug and alcohol abuse which often leads to unemployment, prostitution and crime. Sometimes chronic unemployment is the motivating factor for the drug and alcohol abuse.  Hope Resurrected church is seeing lots of people from those backgrounds accepting Christ. They made it a point to reach out to that section of the community.
The city is working with various state and federal agencies to  improve the availability and condition of low income housing. Lots of programs exist, many of which require sweat equity. 
Yes we need to keep praying, but at some point, we're also called to action.
How will you respond when Jesus calls you to to play a role in the life of "the least of these"?  Ask Wayne Feller about the guidance we're given in Matthew's gospel.  

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Greatest Question: Is Jesus Man, Myth or Messiah?

Was Jesus just a man? Was he a myth? Or is He truly the Messiah. Author Rice Broocks suggests that history's greatest question is just who was Jesus; and he sets out to answer it in his recently released book Man Myth Messiah: Answering History's Greatest Question ( W Publishing Group, 2016).
As Dr Gary Habermas points out in the forward, Broocks builds a strong Christian foundation from which action should proceed. Historical facts and reliability of scripture make up the first few chapters, then Broocks  moves on to the facts behind the resurrection and crucifixion, and then the deity of Jesus.  But he doesn't stop there.  As Christians we are called to carry the good news and so Broocks devotes some space to showing why believers need to be engaged in discipleship and evangelism.
In his introduction Broocks points out that churches are starting to see a real need to equip people to defend their faith (p xviii). Fifty years ago that might not have been needed, but in this age of millennials, post-modernism, and  an increasingly diverse demographic in most of our neighborhoods, it's often not enough think that we know what we believe, we have to know why we believe it, and be able to explain why.
Broocks has done an excellent job of compiling information from scholars and theologians, and putting it into language that the average church person can understand.  He provides answers to the most frequent arguments that a Christian is likely to encounter, and as I read this book, I finally felt that I was also gaining the confidence needed to share and defend my faith in Jesus the Messiah.
Notice I said gain the confidence. I have been sure of and confident in my faith for quite some time, however that doesn't mean that I have felt comfortable proclaiming it, and when challenged, I was likely to back down. I didn't change my idea of Jesus, but I felt definitely unprepared  to get into a prolonged discussion of why. Now I feel that I have the information I need to explain the what and why of my faith.
This book serves as a stand-alone read, or could easily be used in a Sunday school class or small group, and  could serve as a valuable resource for Pastors to use in preparing sermons or evangelism training.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my review.


Saturday, April 9, 2016

The Bible is Really One Story, not 66 individual books

Many people try. Few succeed. I’m talking about reading through the Bible in its entirety. Plenty of good intentions, but people tend to get lost in the genealogies, the long lists, the censuses, and the laws and the rules.  People who want to read the Bible have heard that it’s a love letter from God, they’ve heard that it’s a compelling read, but all of a sudden, it’s very dry, and there seems to be nothing compelling about it. And when read as a collection of books, it often loses something.
                And that’s why I’m giving Telling God's Story: The Biblical Narrative from Beginning to End (B&H Publishing, 2013) 5 stars.  The authors, Preben Vang and Terry G. Carter do an excellent job of tying the 66 ‘individual books’ together, and manage to show how the Bible is really one story.
                Instead of trying to go one book at a time, the authors discuss the Bible as a series of 14 Episodes, each with 2 or more Acts. The Episodes cover major themes and each Act covers a sub-topic. Episode 12, “This Gospel Shall Be for All People”, for example has four acts covering 1) Pentecost, 2) the Jerusalem church and the early spread of the gospel, 3) Paul’s first 2 missionary journeys, and 4) Paul’s third missionary journey and his arrest and final days.
                Each ‘ACT” is followed by a series of ‘Bible Questions’, ‘Questions to Study and Ponder’, and ‘Assignments’. The book also contains a number of maps showing the location of where things were happening and the routes that were followed. Numerous charts and illustrations add to the value of this book.
                I found the Last Thoughts section particularly useful as it includes a section on worldview and includes a chart with answers to the Big Questions from 3 perspectives: modernity, post-modernity, and the Bible.
                An excellent resource for anyone who is interested in the Bible—that includes new believers as well as those who have been following Jesus for many years. I wish I had had this book while I was in Seminary, and expect that it will be a valuable resource for years to come as each Sunday requires a new sermon based on scripture.
                I can see several uses for this book. Individuals could use it as during their personal devotion time, answering the questions and praying through some of the ‘questions to study and ponder. The questions and assignments would be great discussion starters for a small group or Sunday school class. And of course the book could be used as a text book. The questions and assignments are fairly basic, and since many of the assignments ask for just a few hundred words, I would suggest that the text be used either in high school, or for an “Intro to the Bible”, “Intro to Christianity” or perhaps as part of the curriculum for a comparative religion class.
Again 5 stars for this excellent book which brings to life the grand story of God's story from Genesis to  the Revelation.

I received this book for free from B&H Academic and 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.”