Thursday, January 31, 2013

From the Preacher Man: Could we use a little more piety?

            I am a young fundamentalist. I make no excuse for using the term, but understand the unfortunate "side effects" that come with the title. Too many within our movement have been associated with legalistic, standards-based, action-emphasized Christianity. We win the lost with a zeal that many within broader evangelicalism lack, and have a burning desire to see the world come to know Christ, but too often introduce new converts to a new way of living rather than an intimate relationship with the Lord of the universe. 

As I have looked around at many churches today, I have become deeply concerned with a lack of piety within our churches, and within the lives of believers. But wait, isn't the behavior that I described above a definition of piety? 

Let's think for a minute about piety. Webster defined someone who is pious as:  "1. Godly; reverencing and honoring the Supreme Being in heart and in the practice of the duties he has enjoined; having due veneration and affection for the character of God, and habitually obeying his commands; religious; devoted to the service of God; applied to persons. 2. Dictated by reverence to God; proceeding from piety; applied to things; as pious awe; pious services of affections; pious sorrow."
            Think about what piety is- if I could put it into a brief, pithy saying that anyone could remember, I think I would describe it as "Inward holiness lived out in actions and attitudes." We find it so easy to "work to advance the cause of Christ." That keeps the spotlight external. We shine it on our neighbors, coworkers, and even fellow church members (for those who have the "spiritual gift" of correction), and that serves to keep the light off of our own pets sins and spiritual weaknesses. See, that is where we have crossed over into the land of the Pharisee. We have tried to cover a lack of holiness with a personal vigor in doing all the right things, and looking exactly the right way. That is not piety, but an inside out view of what genuine holiness is.

            See, piety begins within. It starts with my daily quiet time- reading, meditating on, and memorizing the Word of God. It carries over into my prayer time, as I give my Lord adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication. Through that process, my life is slowly changed from the inside out, and my actions and attitudes are affected. Those areas of weakness in my own life are exposed and I am forced to grow in them, shoring up the armor that covers them and protects me from spiritual attack. I have the mind of Christ, and it is revealed in what I say and how I say it. The rough edges of my life begin to smooth out, my Sunday worship gains a passion and emotion that is not generated externally (by music or other means), but comes from the overflow of devotion within my own heart. This is piety, and it changes every area of a person's life. 

            Will you help in bucking the trend that so many of us have fallen for? Let's do right- but let's have our actions flow out of a truly genuine piety. Get in the Word, fall in love with your Lord all over again, develop a prayer life that is vibrant, and then shock your pastor Sunday morning by singing passionately, graciously handling everyone around you, and maybe even throwing a few "amens" in during the message, just to let him know you're still awake!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

How we Chill - Sunday Nights in a Pastor's Home

Making pizza dough for Sunday Pizza Nite
The preacher man loves Sundays.  This is his favorite day of the week.  Just like a football player looks forward to game day, he loves to preach the message he has been preparing all week.

But let me tell you, it takes a LOT out of him.  After teaching Sunday School, preaching for 2 services, greeting and fellowshipping, and any afternoon counseling/emergencies that may be scheduled (or randomly come up) - he is emotionally exhausted by the end of the day.

So we have a little family tradition - PIZZA NITE!  I throw the ingredients for the dough into the bread machine before we leave for the evening service and by the time we get back, we are ready to roll (pun intended). Haha.

You can just watch him relax and unwind.  We try hard to make this a fun family time and I think he looks forward to it as the highlight of his week.

Ian is our little helper and he loves to "smoosh" the crust. 

Oh, and right now, we watch football while we eat pizza. . .

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Book Review: Contextualization in World Missions: Mapping and Assessing Evangelical Models

Yet another review from the "preacher man"

            Two caveats must preface this review. First, I am most assuredly not a missiologist, though I majored in Missions in Bible College. Second, my theological leanings place me in the conservative evangelical/fundamentalist slice of American Evangelicalism, so I maintain a strong tie to the authority and sufficiency of scripture in all areas. I found Moreau's work to be an excellent overview and categorizing of the contextualization models that exist in the world today.
            The book was definitely written to be used as a textbook, probably at the college level. It begins by explaining contextualization itself- various existing models, and some good and bad forms. Because contextualization carries so many meanings within its semantic range, this opening section was needed because of the various reactions and responses that evangelicals have when they hear the term. What I think needs to be understood is that the question ultimately becomes: at what point does contextualization cross the line from clarifying the Gospel to distorting it? The second half of the book deals with specific examples of evangelical contextualization, including Moreau's categories of the initiator as Facilitator, Guide, Herald, Pathfinder, Prophet and Restorer. He then examined a few trajectories that he sees future contextualization efforts taking.
            Overall, the book is strong, and will probably find its way into many college and seminary level courses on methods in missions. Its greatest strength is that it does just what it says it does- it lays out a map. Very little judgment is passed on any of the specific models. They are simply described as they fit. That also leads to the weaknesses. The book is written for missions-minded people, and may leave even college-level students confused at times over terminology and lines of thought. Also, the lack of critical thinking applied to various methods can be disturbing at times (evangelicals by definition are those who emphasize a Biblical Gospel, but within the included models are some who might fall outside that category), and the average reader probably would be intrigued by more interaction with things like the insider movements being used among Muslims, but once again, it was not within the purpose of the book to make judgments, only to report what is occurring within missions movements. 

5 out of 5 stars

I received a free copy of this book from Kregel Academic in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Book Review: The Tainted Coin: The Fifth Chronicle of Hugh de Singleton, Surgeon by Mel Starr

The Tainted Coin, Hugh de Singleton Surgeon Series #5   -     
        By: Mel Starr
            With the fervor over Downton Abbey, I expect to see a number of books emerging over the next few years that reflect the intricacies of life in England. The Tainted Coin is the fifth in a series of books that tracks the exploits of Hugh de Singleton, a Surgeon in 1367 England. In addition to his profession, Master Hugh serves as Bailiff to a Lord in Bampton. This position places him in the role of investigating any ill happenings that occur on the property in which he is employed. In this chronicle, Master Hugh finds a dying man on the land who eventually passes from a beating inflicted by mysterious characters. Digging into the man's life reveals a possible cause for the beating- the man appears to have come across an undetermined amount of treasure, which he may have been killed for. Master Hugh sets out to solve the murder, and the story line moves along, incorporating new and interesting characters throughout.
 Starr's book is part of a series, and really carries a strong feel for the time period during which it was written. He ties the geography into that of the popular Downton Abbey television series, though in a much earlier time period. The basics of English culture are the same, however. A fixed aristocracy of Lords with titles and estates inhabited by tenants who rent from them. Another strong point is the vocabulary. Starr tries as much as possible to incorporate the original terms and language of the period. This makes for an extensive glossary, but adds some depth and color to the story. 

            One weakness in the story is the conclusion. Without giving the ending away, the book ends on a somewhat anticlimactic note. All in all however, it was a fun read, and I will probably find myself looking up the rest of the books in the series.

 I give The Tainted Coin 4.5 out of 5 stars.

I received a free copy of this book from Kregel Publications in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Don't give up

This year I wrote out a list of goals for myself, much like I do every year.  I pray over this as I feel the goals I set can set the tone for the year. 
I want them to be challenging yet not overwhelming.

But there is one exception. . .

I want to memorize the book of Colossians. Did you know that you can memorize the entire book by learning just 2 verses each week?  That doesn't sound so hard, at least not in the little chunks.  I have been so impressed with the need for Scripture memory in my life.   I was inspired by this post.

But already I am struggling.  I am not good at memorizing things, or at least that is what I keep telling myself --- see how the negative self-talk creeps up on you.  We don't really need Satan to whisper in our ears, we do a good enough job all our own of convincing ourselves something can't be done.

So, if you, like me, have set a worthy goal for yourself in the new year and have already reached the point of discouragement. 

Then don't give up. 

You may just memorize those verses, or lose those twenty pounds, or finally kick that habit, or save enough money to buy that first home, or insert goal you think is nigh impossible here.


"Is anything too hard for the Lord?"  Trouble is I often think I can do this Christian life thing on my own.  What God really wants is our admission that we are totally dependent on Him. 

So it is really about the journey and not so much the destination.  We will look back on our efforts to reach a particular goal, realize that point when we finally allowed Him to carry us through to completion, and be grateful that we can see His hand working in our lives.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Book Review: Candle Bible for Kids

 Candle Bible for Kids, Toddler Edition  -     
        By: Juliet David

Candle Bible for Kids: Toddler Edition by Juliet David and illustrated by Jo Parry is a sweet little book with a selection of stories from the Bible.  Both the size of the book and the slightly thicker pages are made perfectly for a toddler’s little hands.  However, I have some thoughts regarding the illustrations and the content of this little Bible.

First off, the illustrations are absolutely adorable, but sometimes so “cute” that they are actually inaccurate.  Children depend so much on pictures to help them learn so I try to consider what my child will remember from the picture.  For instance, the pictures of Adam and Eve make them appear to be two children and the cute little ark makes a literal interpretation of the story seem laughable. 

Secondly the content is simple and straightforward throughout the book as you would expect for a Bible for this age.  There is a pretty good selection of stories from both the Old and New Testaments with the references listed occasionally for further reading.  However there is no clear presentation of the Gospel- no explanation as to why Jesus died.  The facts are stated, but the importance of these events are so life-altering that it seems like a glaring hole to me.  What good is a book of cute little children's stories if they lack purpose.

I don't know if you have been to the children's section of your local Christian bookstore lately, but there are numerous kids Bibles to choose from.  I think this one just happens to be run-of-the-mill and your money could be better spent elsewhere. 

3 out of 5 stars

I received a free copy of this book from Kregel Publications in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Book Review: At the Feet of Jesus by Joanna Weaver

 At the Feet of Jesus: Daily Devotions to Nurture a Mary Heart  -     
        By: Joanna Weaver

At the Feet of Jesus: Daily Devotions to Nurture a Mary Heart by Joanna Weaver  is a great women's devotional perfect to start off the new year.  I'm a pretty hard sell on devotionals, especially ones geared to women, but this one is worth checking out.  Weaver uses excerpts from her three books Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World, Having a Mary Spirit, and Lazarus Awakening to take you through the year.  She has even included some of what she calls "outtake" material, which is portions that didn't make it into the final publications of those three books.  So there is a book excerpt for each day, a recommended verse to read, and a question for reflection. 

I especially like her emphasis on knowing God by getting to know His Word.  She has included special pages called "Going Deeper" which give help ideas for accomplishing this.  One of the best parts of this book is her Bible reading plan that she has developed.  The plan goes back and forth between Old and New Testaments to change things up a bit.  If you have ever attempted to read the Bible from front to back, you can probably see the advantage to this.  And best of all, if you want to start this Bible reading plan on a day other than January 1st, just go to the listed website have the plan customized for you.  No excuses or procrastination -- just start today!

Having enjoyed Weaver's book Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World, I am hoping to read her other two books.  So it would seem a bit much to read the devotional and the books from which this devotional is drawn from.  I would probably choose one or the other based on time/interest.

In summary, this book is beautifully arranged and I have no doubt will be a great encouragement to many.

5 out of 5 stars.

I received a free copy of this book from WaterBrook Press in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Book Review for J.R.R. Tolkien: The Making of a Legend by Colin Duriez

Though a huge fan of Tolkien's works, this is the first biography of the author that I have read. While not an avid reader of biographical works, I enjoyed this portrayal of the famed author and creator of The Lord of the Rings

            I would consider the greatest strength of the work to be by far the portrayal of Tolkien's early life. Losing both parents at a young age, then experiencing the trauma of World War One, and being separated from the love of his love for an extended period of time all contributed greatly to the psyche of the man who would emerge as such a brilliant author. Duriez also does a nice job of dealing with Tolkien as a human with human inconsistencies and flaws, such as his struggle in maintaining close relationships with other human beings, a trait often possessed by those with brilliant intellects. The biography as a whole was also pretty readable, and keeps the attention fairly well. 

            The book possessed a few weaknesses. While being pretty readable, it also got choppy in places and was hard to follow chronologically. Also, Tolkien's faith journey was not well documented. As an evangelical Christian, I felt the work left to question whether Tolkien ever exhibited a conversion to genuine Christian faith or remained steeped in the Roman Catholic Church for his entire life. I also thought that Duriez relied pretty heavily on other works done on Tolkien to the point that the book gives off an air of not being composed of original research.

  Overall, this was an enjoyable read in which the positives outweighed the negatives.

 I would give J.R.R. Tolkien: The Making of a Legend 4 stars out of 5.

I received a free copy of this book from Kregel in exchange for a fair and honest review.
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