Review of Chasing Contentment

Chasing Contentment

Chasing Contentment by Erik Raymond is one of the best books I have come across this year. In this book the Raymond draws on his own person study and the works of Jeremiah Burroughs and Thomas Watson in addressing the topic of contentment.

As is noted right on the cover we live in a discontented age. Almost every aspect of our culture seems to encourage discontentment so that our discontentment can become a source to profit from. I think the definition provided:”the inward, gracious, quiet spirit, that joyfully rests in God’s providence” is one that captures the biblical understanding of contentment. After defining contentment Raymond explores how we learn contentment. One of the keys to contentment as Raymond points out is understanding what we really deserve in light of our sin against God. Too often believers can drift into discontentment because they have not rightly understood the enormity of sin and God’s amazing grace. Throughout this book Raymond encourages the reader to see the pursuit of contentment in terms of our relationship with God and the promises of God something especially evident in the books closing chapter.

I would recommend this book to any pastor I know. Many pastors are prone to discontentment and even those who might not be still minister to people who are largely discontent in life. In a day an age where everything is telling us we need newer, better, and more this book points us to the path of true contentment in God’s care and provision for us in this present age.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of the ebook from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

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Review of Removing the Stain of Racism from the Southern Baptist Convention

In Removing the Stain of Racism from the Southern Baptist Convention Jarvis Williams and Kevin Jones have gathered voices from across the SBC to speak to a vital issue in Baptist life. Anyone familiar with the history of the convention knows that the SBC came to existence because of a disagreement with northern Baptists over the appointment of slaveholders as missionaries. As a Southern Baptist I readily acknowledge that the Southern Baptists were on the wrong side of the issue, slaveholders should not have been permitted to serve as missionaries, in fact were the churches in step with the New Testament ethic it would have condemned the slavery practiced in their midst.

In the first two chapters of this book Albert Mohler and Matt Hall address the root and historical causes of racism in the convention. Jarvis Williams draws on biblical steps toward remedying racism. Walter Strickland addresses the theological nature of racism. Craig Mitchell addresses the issue in light of Christian ethics. Kevin Smith’s chapter which stands out addresses the importance of the pulpit and the pastor’s personal example in addressing racism. The closing chapters of the book address steps needed to address racism in the more institutional aspects of Baptist life with attention given to the progress that has been made in Baptist life.

You might ask why this book is needed. I would point to that fact that I know pastors who have in their ministry had to push back against racism in the local church. One particular pastor at one point in his ministry had deacons who wanted a bylaws revision that would require the dismissal of a worship service should an African-American show up. I’ve had members of my own church admit to the fact that the world they group up in was blatantly racist. We can also look at our present, I pastor a church in an area that is half white and half black but my church isn’t. I am absolutely convinced that the ongoing segregated nature of Sunday morning worship speaks volumes about the fact that work is needed in this area. I hope many pastors will pick this book up and take the work of racial reconciliation seriously.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of the book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

Review of Abandoned Faith

In Abandoned Faith authors Alex McFarland and Jason Jimenez explore the influences that have led to an increasing number of millennials distancing themselves from biblical Christianity.  I will admit that I’m not sure that lumping a group of people born in a 30 year window together as a generation is entirely helpful. As one who would fall into the age range of millennials  I think it is important to point out that as technology has rapidly progressed those born in the 80’s grew up in very different world that those born in the late 90’s or even in 2000.

Th first part of this book addresses some of the main causes behind the shift away from Christianity. Some of the causes addressed are the lack of parental involvement in shaping children’s faith in the home, increasing exposure to immoral influences such as pornography, and delayed maturity. The second section addresses challenges and forces influencing millennials. Sections three and four provide practical steps for parents to reach out to millennial children and instill a foundation of biblical faithfulness.

I think the authors provide some valuable insights but as with any book addressing such a wide range of individuals whether what is said will depend on the person in question. One thing is certain is that Christian parents and church leaders cannot continue to ignore the fact that many are growing up and failing to develop a biblical understanding of Christianity.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of the book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

Review of This Is Our Time

 

In This Is Our Time author Trevin Wax identifies and explores some of the pervasive false beliefs shaping our culture, and in many ways shaping evangelicals. Wax in this work displays an adeptness for understanding the pervading views and values of our culture.

As Trevin Wax notes in his introduction this book is really divided into two main sections. In the first half of the book he examines the habits that shape our life, and in doing so really explores where and how the false beliefs of our culture are so easily transmitted. In the first chapter he addresses the habits surrounding our usage of smart phones and social media. Chapter two addresses the influence that Hollywood and popular entertainment have and how one can see either a reflection of what society is in entertainment or the vision the maker has for society’s future. The third chapter addresses the idea that happiness has become the ultimate good for many in society. The fourth chapter addresses society’s attempt to find happiness through materialism.

In the section in which the focus shifts to the larger myths of society the problem of feeling to at home in society. Trevin helpfully points to the importance of the needed tension of being in but not of. The next two areas of focus are marriage and sexuality. The final chapter addresses the false beliefs surrounding progress and the equally problematic view that the former times were better.

If you’re looking for book to aid you in exegeting culture than I would recommend this book for you. I do believe that Trevin Wax’s time in Romania has helped him understand American society and culture in a way that is not possible if one has not stepped outside of it. As the saying goes if you want to know what water is like don’t ask the fish, and I think to truly understand any culture one must be able to see it from both an inside and outside perspective, something I think Trevin does in this work.

Disclosure: I received an advanced review copy of the book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

 

 

Review of Dream With Me

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In a  day and age where racial division seems to be increasing we could all benefit from the wisdom and insight John Perkins provides in Dream With Me.

In this work John Perkins tells the story of his life and work in racial reconciliation. Perkins faithfully paints a picture of where things were in regards to racial relationships. Perkins life was one of seeking reconciliation across race boundaries. Reading Perkins recollections brings one truth to light, the good old days never were. What one sees in Perkins life is the impact that Christ can have in working through a life surrendered to His love.

We are country that is fractured along racial and socioeconomic lines and in this work Perkins shares his hope and dream that the church would be true to what it is called to be a people of love and reconciliation in a divided world. This is a book that will challenge any reader as it should. If your heart is burdened to see reconciliation happen in churches and communities read this book. If you aren’t burdened to see that happen repent and read this book.

Disclosure: I received a copy of the book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

Christmas conflicts

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This Christmas the most important fights aren’t about nativity scenes or red cups. There are two issues that have been a source of contention among professing Christians, which I will address briefly.

Andy Stanley has again proven how slippery slope he is on in minimizing the importance of the virginal conception of Christ. Details on that can be found here. A few thoughts:

  1. To drive a wedge between the incarnation and the resurrection is absurd. It’s not just his prediction of His death and resurrection that make Jesus worthy. The biblical testimony is that He is both God and man. Stanley is quoted as saying “Christianity doesn’t hinge on the truth or even the stories around the birth of Jesus,” Stanley said. “It really hinges on the resurrection of Jesus.” That is false, Christianity hinge upon the whole Christ, and we cannot pick apart the person and work of Christ to satisfy the culture.
  2. It seems Andy Stanley is ignorant of the possibility that Galatians 4:4 may indeed be a reference to the virginal conception of Christ. I would commend this article for your reading. I fear Andy Stanley is in dangerous position in his willingness to discount biblical truth.

Regarding the canceling of church services for Christmas I’d like to share two thoughts I posted on Facebook the other day as I believe it deserves repeating.

  1. Sunday is the Lord’s day(singular possessive) and Christmas is short for Christ’s mass, and really every day is His not ours.
  2. If going to church on a holiday aka holy day is too much of a demand you’re going to have serious problems with God, he wants complete surrender, not just convenient Christianity.

Wrong Battles and Wrong Weapons

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Modern evangelicalism is fighting the wrong battles, against the wrong enemies, with the wrong weapons.

In this past election cycle we have witnessed that many Christian leaders are clearly fighting the wrong battles. The battle that the church has been charged with is not a political one one. Paul in speaking of his ministry in 2 Corinthians points to the nature of our warfare:

For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete. (2 Corinthians 10:3-6 ESV)

We are not waging war according to the flesh. Part of what Paul is conveying is that people are not the enemy we are at war against. Taken hand in hand with what Paul says in Ephesians, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12 ESV).” Our enemies are of the spiritual sort sewing the seeds of demonic doctrine and removing the word of God from the hearts of many who heart it. Again Paul tells his son in the faith Timothy, “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons (1 Timothy 4:1 ESV).” Those we might often consider are enemies are not, they are they slaves of our enemy the thing which can liberate them from their spiritual bondage is not political in nature.

Our battle against the forces at darkness in the world to day will never be won through lobbying the political powers in control, or by voting in and voting out political leaders. Our weapons if we are to fight the right battle against the right enemy must be the same weapons used by the apostle Paul. Paul’s weapons are those which bring about the obedience of faith. In Ephesians 6 there is only one spiritual weapon listed and that is the sword of the spirit which is the word of God. Our weapon is the gospel, the gospel in which God shines the light of His glory in the redemptive work of the Son. If your primary battle is against a political party your fighting the wrong battle against the wrong enemy. Our enemy is none other than Satan himself who trembles at the truth of the gospel. As we move toward Christmas and the New Year let us remember the true battle that we face and not get side tracked.

 

Review:First Freedom: The Beginning and End of Religious Liberty

In First Freedom: The Beginning and End of Religious Liberty editors Jason G. Duesing , Thomas White, and Malcom Yarnell have compiled a resource on religious liberty that should be in every Christian leader’s hands. While many are breathing a sigh of relief over the result of the elections, the truth of the matter is that religious liberty in America is ill-understood in the church and stands on precarious ground in our current cultural milieu.

The first section of this book addresses the historical background of religious liberty. Dr. Patterson demonstrates how religious liberty is entirely consistent with the New Testament doctrine of the exclusivity of Christ. In the historical context given it is readily evident that the rejection of religious liberty was one of the greatest shortcomings of the magisterial Reformers. What is made clear by White and Yarnell in their chapters is that religious liberty is a tenant inherent to the Baptist identity, and our republic has the influence of early Baptists largely to thank for the inclusion of this principal in our founding documents. The third section is particularly important in how thoroughly the contributors explain the meaning of religious liberty, which is particularly important as many are seeking to encroach upon individuals right to free expression of their religious beliefs, which is especially seen in the opposition encountered by those who are opposed to same-sex marriage. The third and final chapter addresses the looming challenges to religious liberty in contemporary America. The contributors address the dangers posed to religious liberty by the continuing encroachment of the progressive movement in regards to human sexuality, as well as implications to Christian schools,, and the bearing of international law on religious liberty.

What is the purpose of the religious liberty we strive to protect in America? Is it our own personal comfort and protection? Ultimately the purpose of our religious liberty is as Duesing says in his closing chapter, “the glory of God in salvation through judgment(256).” Our faith is a a faith that incorporates all of our life and currently we have been given great freedom to share the good new of the gospel with a lost and dying world to an extent that is truly unprecedented in human history. Read this book and let it remind you of the value and true purpose of religious liberty in bringing the gospel to those who need to hear it.

Disclosure: I received a copy of the book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

3 Thoughts for Thursday

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This morning as I  saw some of the feedback concerning the debate and the election. Three thoughts occurred to me in regards to evangelical fears/concerns in regards to this election. Here they are:

1) What if we lose our religious liberty?

There is a great amount of fear among evangelicals regarding the issue of religious liberty in light of the presidential candidates. I think those most afraid are probably those least aware of the origins of Christianity. Just for reminder being a Christian means you claim to be a follower of the crucified Christ. We follow the Jesus who said this, “Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours(John 15:20).” The Christian religion is the only one that is practiced best in situations of persecution. If religious protections are removed we just might get to see in America what authentic New Testament Christianity looks like. A simple survey of the Bible would demonstrate the only way to avoid persecution in this age is to compromise our faith, as Paul says “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived (2 Ti 3:12–13).” If we have Jesus we stand to lose nothing, no prison, no fine, no death sentence can separate us from the love of God in Christ. Fear not we have a God whose strength is made perfect in our weakness and religion the beauty of which is not clouded by persecution.

2) What about abortion?

The first Christians lived in a culture where the prevailing pagan mindset believed it was entirely acceptable to leave unwanted infants to die of exposure. They did not just complain of the evil and compromise of the world, they did something. Many of the early Christian apologists pointed to how Christians rescued those left to die of exposure as a proof of the genuineness of their faith. If all we do is talk about abortion and vote for candidates that profess to be pro-life we aren’t doing anything. Abortion was widespread even when illegal. We need to follow the example of the church and do something in addition to voting. We need to support our local crisis pregnancy, not just verbally but with our time and resources. We need to do everything we can to support those who seek to adopt babies that would be aborted. Talk is cheap. Let us love the unborn not in word alone but in deed and in truth.

3)You say you want a revolution…

It seems like a lot of people feel if ______ wins we should revolt. That’s not a Christian response. The only commands I see written in the context of corrupt tyrants is that the people of God are to pray for them and be subject to them. You want a revolution? Share the gospel, it will turn the world upside down. Be different, be holy, don’t be angry, don’t afraid. I close with Peter’s admonition to a church about to enter a fiery trial:

 Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good?  But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled,  but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,  having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.  For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil(1 Pe 3:13–17).”

Review: America at the Crossroads

In America at the Crossroads George Barna draws on the latest research to explore how America has changed and what that might hold for the future.

Barna explores the changes and devlopments in the faith and spirituality of Americans. From his research we can see that even those who have biblical principals will find greater difficulty from the surrounding culture which is becoming rapidly postChristian. We seen in his section on the political helps shed light on this present election year as to why it is so polarized and why there is so much dissatisfaction with politicians. In the third section we see the change in overall priorities which has an impact on issues such as birthrates, view of institutions, and retirement.The final section charts a course of Christian engagement and cultural transformation.

I think this book will help pastors and other leaders understand how the larger culture has changed. Often times we are like the frog and the kettle completely unaware that the water is coming to a boil. I commend Barna for acknowledging how many of the changes we are experiencing are reflective of the judgment of God, anyone who doubts that should compare the recent transpiring events of our culture to Romans 1. Barna helpfully reminds readers while we have a responsibility to act, to be salt and light, God is the only who can change our country.

Disclosure: I received a copy of the book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and 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 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html