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

Why We Can’t Be Silent

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer,  a German pastor and theologian who laid down his life in his opposition to the evils committed by his own country, touched on the reasoning behind why many are silent about the suffering of others and why Christians must not be silent in the face of the suffering going on in our country today.

It must be clear to us that most people learned only through personal experience occuring to their own bodies. First, this explains why most people are remarkably incapable of any sort of preventative action. We keep thinking that we ourselves will be spared when disaster strikes-until it is too late. Second, it explains our insensitivity toward the suffering others; solidarity with suffering arises in proportion to our own increasing fear of imminent doom. Much can be said to justify this attitude. Ethically, we wish to avoid meddling with fate. We draw the inner calling and strength for action only from an actual and present crisis…From a Christian perspective, though, can conceal that the real issue is our hearts’ lack of magnanimity. Christ avoided suffering until his hour had come; then, however, he went to it in freedom, seized it, and overcame it…Although we are not Christ, if we want to be Christians we must participate in Christ’s own magnanimous heart by engaging in responsible action that seizes the hour in complete freedom, facing the danger. And should do so in genuine solidarity with suffering flowing forth, not from fear, but from the liberating and redeeming love of Christ toward all who suffer. Inactive “waiting-and-seeing” or impassive “standing-by” are not Christian attitudes. Christians are prompted to action and suffering in solidarity not just by personal bodily experience, but by the experience incurred by their fellows for whose sake Christ himself suffered.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Meditations on the Cross, (pp. 25-26).

We cannot be silently indifferent as followers of Christ because we have entered into the fellowship of His sufferings which were for the world. Though I may never personally experience what an African-American may experience, I must not and cannot be indifferent to the sufferings because of Christ. I may never know what those in law enforcement experience but I cannot be indifferent to the sufferings that they might undergo. We who are followers of Christ have been given this hour in our countries history not to sit back, be in different toward, or deny the reality of others sufferings but to join them in their suffering that we might faithfully point to Christ the one who has entered into and experienced our sufferings.

Jesus Called- He Wants His Church Back

In Jesus Called- He Wants His Church Back Ray Johnston provides a wake up call to the church in America and a road map back to New Testament Christianity.

Johnston clearly lays out the problem with the church in America when he says “But with all His popularity, hardly anyone ever finds fault with Jesus… Or obeys Him (xvii).” In the first section of the book Johnston explores the problem with the church in America tracing a pattern of decline in different areas over seven decades and an abandonment of truth in favor of hedonism, individualism, pragmatism, and fatalism. In the section he looks explores the Christless nature of much of American Christianity. In the final section he points to the reader to Jesus.

Johnston confronts clearly so much of what has gone wrong in Christianity in America. He takes on the Moralistic Therapeutic Deism that has attempted to pass itself off as Christianity and clearly demonstrates that real biblical Christianity offers something much better. If you read this book and get angry or defensive he’s probably talking about you.

Pick up this book read it, be challenged by it, and most of all be encouraged by it.

Disclosure: I received this book free from from the publisher for providing this review. 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

Where is your treasure?

 

We live in a foolish culture. We have so many voices in our culture calling to store up and spend on ourselves. To place everything at our service, and because of that we live in a poor country. We are poor toward God. This Sunday I preached from Luke 12:13-21 where Jesus tells the story of a man who looks so much like what our culture calls us to do and to be and he calls him a fool. Are you a fool, is your treasure here?

Review of Renovate by Léonce Crump

There is a growing awareness that transience in life in general and ministry in particular doesn’t produce healthy lives. In Renovate Léonce Crump shares his journey of learning to love the place of ministry God had called him to, Atlanta, and how that has affected him and his ministry.

Crump traces the problems transience and migration have brought particularly in the context he is ministering in. He unpacks the biblical theology behind seeking investment and transformation of and in a community. He clearly shows how important it is for churches to focus as agents of redemption seeking both the salvation of individuals but also the transformation of culture in order to promote human flourishing. He writes from his experience of serving in an area where it would have been all too easy for him to move onto “greener pastures.”

The greatest weakness is that there needs to be more generalization so that more application can be made for those serving in rural contexts, but I guess that’s why pastors have Wendell Berry. Drawing from his experience he does demonstrate that failure and setback do not imply that one is in the wrong place. This book reminds every believer that sometimes patience is needed in seeking change and transformation in their communities through the power of the gospel.

Disclosure: I received this book free through Blogging for Books for review purposes. 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.