Wow! Imagine what would have happened if they won?
Monthly Archives: June 2011
Book Review: Billy Graham in Quotes, by Franklin Graham with Donna Lee Toney
Billy Graham in Quotes is a unique anthology of the thoughts of one of the preeminent Christians of our time. The authors have gleaned material from Graham’s seven decades of ministry, drawing from both his published and personal works. The material is then arranged topically for easy reference, covering subjects from A – Y, abortion to young people. Each quote is footnoted so you can find the source of the quotation.
Reading through the material, I was struck that none of the quotes are particularly profound or pithy. Rather, than are plain-spoken and down to earth. Having said that, they still communicate hope, truth, redemption, and grace. They reveal Billy Graham’s heart for the world and his commitment to the Word of God.
While the book is a source of hope and encouragement, it’s greatest benefit will be to those who speak or preach, as it is a helpful collection of thoughts and quotes. It is a worthy addition to a speaker’s resource library.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com http://BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
This story points out the importance of making sure your faith is grounded on a solid rock–“Women trust GPS, drive SUV into Mercer Slough.” It really does matter what you put your trust in.
Sad, but funny at the same time.
Author Steven James has written a fascinating series of novels about the FBI’s hunt for serial killers. The Pawn, The Rook, The Knight, and The Bishop are his current offerings, with The Queen coming out later this year. The main character is FBI Special Agent Patrick Bowers, a specialist in geospatial profiling, the study of where crimes occur in order to determine where a killer lives or works. Each of the books is a well-written, adrenaline laced thrill ride.
Along the way, James weaves spiritual truth into each of his novels. His fourth offering, The Bishop focuses on the question of original sin—are we born evil and must follow our natures, or do we choose to do evil? The author offers one of the more creative and thought-provoking definitions of original sin that I have read.
In one section of the book, Special Agent Patrick Bowers is having a conversation with his step-daughter, Tessa. Tessa asks him one of the core questions of life, “Patrick, do you believe some people are born pure evil?” After thinking about his experience in law enforcement, Bowers offers his answer, which then stimulates the following exchange about human nature and original sin.
“I guess I think of it more like we’re all born with a shell of good around us, but it’s fractured—for everyone it is. We all know what’s right—even psychopaths who lack empathy are aware of their lack of compassion. I think all people know what’s good, even though, all too often, we’re attracted to what is not.”
“To the fractures.”
She thought for a moment, “Are you saying we have an instinct for evil?”
“I wouldn’t put it like that. But we definitely have a weakness for it. I guess I’d maybe even say an inclination toward it.”
She peered at the forest. “Because sometimes we enjoy doing it.”
“Yes.” It was troubling to admit. “Sometimes we do.”
“And if we’re good, then we seal up the fractures? Is that what you’re saying?”
This is where things got a little sticky. “Actually, I don’t we can seal them, Tessa. I don’t think anyone ever has. That’s why we have to be aware of—“
“What he said: ‘The road to the unthinkable is not paved by slight departures from your heart, but by tentative forays into it.”
In this dialogue, Steven James has crafted a creative definition of human depravity. Men and women are not completely bad. There are times when we can choose to do what is right. But at our core, we are fractured, and we cannot seal that fracture by ourselves. That is why we need a Savior, one who can heal our fractures through his forgiveness.
For the first time since high school, I packed my luggage, loaded my car, and headed off to summer camp. But this time, there was no volleyball, horseback rides, canoeing, smores around the campfire, singing in the chapel, or sleeping on bunks in A-frame cabins. No, this camp was for people who wanted to learn how to use their laptop to study the Bible.
CampLogos is a 2-day workshop designed to train folks how to use Logos Bible Software. Considering I have used Logos since it was introduced in the early 90’s, I was way overdue to attend. I started using Logos version 1 with its 3.5” floppy disks, graduated to Libronix, and then upgraded to version 3 and now 4. Since the software is fairly intuitive, I was able to teach myself how to use it. But once Logos 4 was introduced, I finally admitted that I was only scratching the surface of what the software was capable of. Listening to the endorsement of a good friend, I enrolled in CampLogos, where me and 95 of my closest friends gathered in Bellingham to listen to Morris Proctor reveal the secrets of Logos Bible Software.
The seminar is akin to drinking from a fire hose. From 9am – 4pm each day, you are inundated by a flood of information. But Morris Proctor is an effective teacher, and he continually repeats the information and reviews it over and over again to ensure that is it understood. He also points out where you can find the information in the syllabus so as to review it at a later date. The seminar is very hands on and interactive. Instead of merely listening to a lecture, you practice using the software on your own laptop. Mo walks you through numerous exercises to help you learn and master the tools.
The session I attended was the National CampLogos, held at Bellingham, WA. The proximity to Logos’ headquarters allowed for three benefits. One was a tour of the Logos facility on the afternoon of the first day. A second benefit was having a number of the Logos staff attending the conference and interacting with the participants. The third benefit was hearing from the founders of Logos, Dale and Bob Pritchard. Dale spoke during lunch on the first day and Bob the second. They gave a preview of coming upgrades and new software as well as answered questions. The previews and Q&A sessions proved to be very informative. All three benefits left me very impressed with the organization and its future direction.
CampLogos was well worth the time, money, drive, and energy to attend. In addition to discovering tools I didn’t know existed, I learned how to better configure my Logos library to suit my own style of Bible study and sermon preparation. The workshop helped me to add some new tools to my tool belt and to sharpen my own saw, both of which will hopefully make me more effective in ministry.
Book Review: Radical Together: Unleashing the people of God for the purpose of God, by David Platt
It is refreshing to read a book about what a church can do if it becomes serious about following Christ. Far too many books on the church today present magic formulas for growth, emphasize charismatic leadership and advocate innovative programs which cater to people’s wants and preferences. But few books tell of what the church can accomplish if it dies to self and follows Christ wholeheartedly.
David Platt’s newest book follows up on Radical, where he calls Christians to take back their faith from the American dream. In Radical Together, he looks at the same theme, but from a corporate viewpoint. He seeks to answer the question, “How can we in the church best unleash the people of God in the Spirit of God with the Word of God for the glory of God in the world?”
He answers the question by describing six characteristics of a radical church:
- One of the worst enemies of Christians can be good things in the church. We need to put everything in our lives on the table for Christ, and ask him if there is a better way to use our time, energy, and money for his glory.
- The gospel that saves us from work saves us to work. While we don’t work to earn God’s approval, we do work to demonstrate the reality of our faith.
- The Word does the work. God’s Word should be the foundation for teaching and preaching in the church, not pop-psychology or the latest bestselling book.
- Building the right church depends on using all the wrong people. God’s plan is not dependent on performances, places, programs, and professionals. His plan is for every person among the people of God to count for the advancement of the kingdom of God.
- We are living—and longing—for the end of the world. God’s desire is for people from every tribe, language, and people group to come to know him. Only then will the end come.
- We are selfless followers of a self-centered God. We exist for the glory of God, and God exists for the glory of God.
A short, but challenging book. It made me think about my own church and how we might need to change if we took God and his plan seriously.
I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
Photos taken on June 2-3 of Seattle while driving (with both hands on the wheel) using a Canon PowerShot SD1300IS (12.1 megapixels)
On I-5 heading south towards downtown
Heading east on SR520, between Montlake and the east high rise
Heading east on SR520, between the east high rise and Bellevue
On a clear day, there’s not many places prettier! The scenery makes the commute tolerable.
Yesterday we took a creative approach to our worship service at United Evangelical Free Church in Seattle. Rather than a typical, normal service with music and sermon, we opted for a “Reading & Reflection” service. Admitting that I get my best ideas from other people, it was an idea I borrowed and adapted from Grace Evangelical Free Church in La Mirada, CA, where two of my children attended while students at Biola University.
The service was designed to serve as a transition or buffer between sermon series. It would allow us to look back and reflect on what we learned from the series on The Life of David, as well as look forward and preview what we will study in The Gospel of Mark.
During the first third of the service, we had a time of open sharing where folks could tell what they learned from the life of David and how his life impacted theirs. Several spoke of what it meant to be a man of God. Others spoke of realizing that while God forgives our failures, he may still allow us to deal with the consequences of our choices. It provided an opportunity for mutual encouragement and building up one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11).
The middle of the service focused on celebrating communion or the Lord’s table. We were reminded of what Jesus Christ did on the cross for us.
The latter third of the service previewed the passages I will preach on from June – August. Seven different people read Mark 1:1-3:6 in nine different translations and paraphrases. The readers were a mix of old and young, men and women. Using this approach allowed us to hear the Scripture in a different voice and from different voices.
The sharing, communion, and readings were all interspersed between music and worship. Here’s a copy of the order of worship in case you are interested in the details.
Our dining room table arrived shortly after our first-born child joined the family. Now, after almost 25 years, it is receiving a well-deserved makeover (the table, not the first-born). As it sits on the deck (on a sunny day, no less), it is halfway through the refinishing process. It has been stripped, sanded, and stained. Now it needs to receive three coats of finish. The chairs are also undergoing the same process, though they are not quite as far along.
As I worked on this project, I reflected that more than just meals were eaten at the table. Issues were discussed, news was shared. laughter was heard, tears were shed, homework was completed, contracts were signed, decisions were made, interviews were conducted, sermons were prepared, fellowship was enjoyed. manners were taught, questions were asked, birthdays were celebrated, books were read, character was developed, problems were researched, bills were paid, prayers were offered, hearts were opened, a family was raised . . . and LIFE was lived.
Here’s to 25 more years of table talk!
I wonder what God thinks when churches make the headlines for having conflict with their neighbors. Reading the article, “Loud music at sheriff’s church rocks neighbors,” left me rather curious. I was even more puzzled when I visited the church’s website and read their purpose statement.
“We are a local church devoted to reaching out to our neighbors and bringing them the freedom faith brings and the love a Christian community shares.”
Granted, the news article is one-sided because it only talks about the church’s music and the neighbor’s response. It says nothing about their doctrine, ministries, or outreach. They appear to be a large church, so they must be doing something right to attract people. Their website makes it sound like they have a vibrant ministry.
But simply comparing the news report and the church’s website, it would appear that their practice runs counter to their purpose. And that makes me curious.
On the one hand, I recognize that Scripture instructs believers to praise God with all manner of instruments (Psalm 150), including “loud, clashing cymbals” (verse 5). We should be creative, expressive, and yes, at times loud, in our praise of God.
On the other hand, Christ followers are the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world.” We are to live in such a way that people “see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:13-16). As salt, we are to penetrate, preserve, and add flavor. As light, we are to shine. We are to make a difference in the world. However, we need to use wisdom and discretion. If we are too salty we can leave an after taste in people’s mouths. If we are too bright, we can blind people with the truth rather than lead them out of darkness. How people respond will tell us whether or not we are successful. The result should be that God is praised rather than his followers being criticized.
As Christ followers, we need to make wise choices in how we live. Scripture instructs us to use our freedom to serve one another in love rather than to satisfy ourselves (Galatians 5:13-15). We are told that the way we live will distinguish true believers from false teachers (Matthew 7:15-20).
Christ followers are to be known as people who praise God and worship him. Christ followers are also to be known as people who demonstrate their faith by making a difference in the world. We should have a distinctive sound, but an even more distinctive service. When the former drowns out the latter, perhaps it’s time to reevaluate.