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Showing posts from February, 2013

The Grace of God for Sinners

The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield

Gender discussions, same-sex relationships, and sexuality permeate the culture in which we live. Often, as Christians, we steer clear of the debates on these issues for fear of getting our hands dirty (read our views changing). In steps the powerful story of Rosaria Butterfield, a former English professor whose life was filled with rage against the right wing, who campaigned for women's and lesbian rights. Rosaria was steeped in a lesbian relationship, being committed to her partner and their political activism. She writes, "In spite of having a worldview that valued flexibility, unanswerable Big Life Questions started to nag at me while I was doing initial research and writing for me second book, a study of the rise of the Religious Right in America,..." (6). Rosaria goes onto say that she published a letter in the local newspaper that bashed the Promise Keepers for their gender politics. After r…

When Donkeys Talk

When Donkeys Talk: A Quest to Rediscover the Mystery and Wonder of Christianity by Tyler Blanski
When Donkeys Talk is a humorous yet serious take on casting a more complete vision of what it means to be a Christian in the modern world.  Part apologetic, part cultural analysis, but more importantly, this book casts aspersion on the individualism and scientism of our world and looks to a more embodied Christianity.  Tyler tries to put us back in the mindset of a Medieval person wading through the waters of science, faith, and everyday living.  Seeking to integrate the body and spirit, Tyler seeks to identify Christian practices, including the sacraments in a way that does not segregate the spiritual from the bodily but rather incorporates them together.
What I most enjoyed about this book was exactly the point above, namely that the earthly or bodily is not to be discarded in God’s world but is extremely important. Tyler writes, “For the ancient Jews, God was literally taking up his ab…

Jesus the Messiah

Jesus the Messiah: Tracing the Promises, Expectations, and Coming of Israel’s King by Herbert W. Bateman IV, Darrell L. Bock, and Gordon H. Johnston
This new book by three capable scholars in the fields of Old Testament and New Testament is a welcome addition to the growing number of books on issues regarding Messiah, prophecy and fulfillment.  What is different from the start in this book is the authors’ insistence that “not all prophecy is exclusively pointing to Jesus, just ultimately(26).  They see the First Testament’s prophecies as providing information regarding ‘prefiguring portraits.’  Their commitment to a contextual-canonical reading allows for a reading that is faithful to the Old Testament context and its historical fulfillment while also maintaining the view that progressive fulfillment concern the whole scope of redemptive history. 
Why buy this book?
For one, this book provides a mountain of evidence in favor of understanding messianic trajectories in the Old Testam…

Clouds by Robin Jones Gunn

Clouds by Robin Jones Gunn
The relationship between Jonathan and Shelly in the new book, Clouds, by Robin Jones Gunn is set up for a perfect ending from the start.  Childhood friends, love relationship later on that is broken up by  Shelly running away, sets up the story for a hopeful ending.  The characters in the book are likable in that they don’t easily fit into a stereotype.  Shelly is passionate about following her dreams yet is willing to change them for a greater life, including one that opens up her connection to her sister Meredith.  Secondly, the plotline, though very predictable, moves along with much ease, keeping you interested how the plot thickens.
I didn’t love this book but I appreciated the character development and the connection the book made with God’s work in the world.  One of the ways Robin connects the work of God through her character’s lives is seeing God pursuing his people in relationship.  There is a point in the book when Shelly realizes her lackluster…

The Public Reading of Scripture

Devote Yourself to the Public Reading of Scripture by Jeffrey Arthurs
Congregations are moved by song, challenged by sermons, and focused prayer, but very few services highlight the importance of Scripture reading.  Jeffrey Arthurs, professor preaching at Gordon Conwell Seminary seeks to counter this trend by penning his book entitled Devote Yourself to the Public Reading of Scripture.  Centering his writing around the theme of building an appetite for a special meal, Arthurs connects the importance of reading Scripture aloud with way in which the Bible ministers to people when read well (14).  To begin, Arthurs provides five reasons why we should orally recite the Bible: we are commanded to read the Bible (1 Timothy 4:13), God transforms us through the Word, we do what the people of God have always done when reading the Bible, the Bible was meant to be read aloud and hearing is quite different than reading the Bible (15-33).  What I thought was unique about this list was that it cap…

The Briarpatch Gospel

The Briarpatch Gospel: Fearlessly Following Jesus into the Thorny Places by Shayne Wheeler
Have you ever felt what it’s like to fall down a steep ravine into a patch of briars, a collection of thorns and thistles that rub against your skin?  With the concept of the briarpatch, Pastor Shayne Wheeler of All Souls Fellowship in Decatur Georgia, weaves together the notion that Jesus is both found in the context of corporate worship and in the briarpatch (the world which we live in).  Shayne writes, “our lives matter  - to the homeless man on the corner begging for a quarter, the bald lady at church going through chemo for the second time, or the gay man who loves Jesus but has been rejected by Christians so many times that he finally given up trying.  This is life in the briarpatch” (10).  Too often believers in the church segregate themselves from the concerns and difficulties in their own backyards, not desiring to be stained by the concerns of the common man.  Yet, as Shayne points ou…

Reading Between the Lines

Reading Between the Line: A Christian Guide to Literature by Gene Edward Veith Jr.
This new reprint of Reading Between the Lines is a welcome addition to the growing number of books on the Christian faith and the arts.  The author, Gene Edward Veith Jr., is professor of literature at Patrick Henry College and is well acquainted with the struggle many Christians face when diving into the abyss of literature.  There are four main sections in the book, an opening apologetic for reading and criticism and a section each on forms, modes and traditions of literature.  The effectiveness of Veith’s proposal for seeing the dynamic importance of literature in the lives of our children hinges upon the idea that “If we cultivate reading – if we read habitually and for pleasure, reading the Bible, newspapers, the greats works of the past and the present, the wide-ranging “promiscuous reading” advocated by the Christian poet Milton – we will reinforce the patterns of the mind that support Christian …

Wisdom and Wonder Through Kuyper's Eyes

Wisdom and Wonder: Common Grace in Science and Art by Abraham Kuyper

This new translation by Nelson Kloosterman is a wonderful addition to the existing works of Kuyper’s already in English translation.  Vincent Bacote guides us through the political and social ramifications of Kuyper’s theology in a short but insightful introduction.  Seeking to understanding Kuyper and common grace, Bacote writes, “Common grace is God’s restraint of the full effects of sin after the Fall, preservation and maintenance of the created order, and distribution of talents to human beings” (26).  While modern people might still make sharp distinctions between science and art, Kuyper brought together both fields under the domain of scientific investigation.  This new translation is a great joy for many, including myself, because we need Abraham Kuyper to help elucidate a vision of cultural engagement and theological maturity that is neither ‘Club Christianity’ nor dominated by a secular worldview.  How does…

Comfort from Romans

Comforts from Romans: Celebrating the Gospel One Day at a Time by Elyse M. Fitzpatrick
This new devotional called Comforts from Romans by Elyse Fitzpatrick is a hard-hitting, edifying and challenging book on the first eight chapters of Paul’s letter to the Romans.  Many readers will know Elyse’s work from her devotional entitled Comforts from the Cross which were meditation on the good news of Jesus Christ.  The book itself is broken up into 32 daily readings starting with Romans 1:1 and ending with Romans 8:38-39.  One of the most important insights in the book is that the gospel is not good news temporarily for those who come in contact with it, but it is good news at every stage of faith development in the Christian life.  Elyse writes, “Oh, my friends, do you think about this good news every day?  Won’t you let it inform, enflame, embolden, and cheer you?” (21).  The gospel written about by the apostle Paul is a liberating message which brings about a new relationship in context o…

Pursuing Justice

Pursuing Justice by Ken Wytsma
In the myriad of books on social justice in our day and age, a few writings come to the top for their keen  insights, practical application, and biblical rootedness.  Pursuing Justice by Ken Wytsma is one of those books that strikes right at the heart of what justice is all about.  In the opening introduction of the book Wytsma closes in on a theme that is particularly pointed by saying “Giving our lives away as Jesus calls us to do requires an understanding of justice….requires us to understand biblical justice…is rooted in the character of God” (xxii).  As he spells in out in later chapters, Wytsma is concerned that we practice justice not for some altruistic end but to give our lives away as Jesus did, to be brought into the grand story of God’s redemption through playing an integral role and to reflect the image of God we are made in. 
Challenging men and women to act more justly through their just actions isn’t the route that Wytsma takes in his b…

Unglued Devotional

Unglued Devotional by Lysa Terkeurst
Lysa Terkeurst is known by bringing honesty and clarity to the life of every Christian by her insightful writing.  This new book, Unglued Devotional is a day by day unpacking of the major theme of her book Unglued in a easy to read format.  The days are broken up with a Scripture Reading, a thought for the Day and a short devotion.  I think the major focus of the devotional was centered around have the feeling of ‘unglued’ and trying to find godly ways to see this as an opportunity for change, for growth.  On Day 1 TerKeurst writes, “I know what it’s like to praise God one minute and in the next minute yell and scream at my child – and then to feel both the burden of my destructive behavior and the shame of my powerlessness  to stop it” (12).  Every parent can resonate with this feeling, the utter elation of praise and worship alongside the failure to enact this practice to those around us.  We disappoint our children, our spouse and with the same…