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Showing posts from August, 2013

Timothy: A Little Fish with a Big Purpose

Timothy: A Little Fish with a Big Purpose by Brad Riley and Illustrated by Krystahl Goodale
Children’s stories are a standby at our house, for my daughter loves to hear an engaging and entertaining one.  This new book entitled Timothy: A Little Fish with a Big Purpose by Pastor Brad Riley is more than entertaining, for this story about obedience and God’s care over all of creation is stunning in both its message and illustrations.  The story centers around Jesus’ words in Matthew 17 as he sends Peter to go a catch a fish in whose mouth there is a shekel.  After catching the fish, Peter is to use the shekel to pay taxes for Jesus and himself.  This extraordinary miracle is laden with meaning that such ordinary people or fish, in this case, acting in obedience unto the Lord, can be used by God to spark something truly miraculous.  With this point in mind, Pastor Brad tells the story of how this very fish, Timothy, wa…

This Beautiful Mess

This Beautiful Mess: Practicing the Presence of the Kingdom of God by Rick McKinley

Rick McKinley, Pastor of Imago Dei Community, is the leader of a congregation that has left its footprint in the Portland area by its social activities. This book, This Beautiful Mess, is a revised and updated version of the same book originally published in 2006.  The goal of the book is to see “A vision of a King who is loving and good and who reign has changed everything.  A vision of a new realm of activity in His power that is breaking in and yet is not without opposition.  A vision desperately needed for the people of God today” (xvii).  Having just finished The Next Evangelicals, I was somewhat familiar with the movement in Portland of evangelical churches to engage the city, a town with a very s…

God in my Everything

God in my Everything: How an Ancient Rhythm Helps Busy People Enjoy God by Ken Shigematsu
After greatly enjoying a trip to Ireland to visit monasteries and monks, Pastor Ken Shigematsu came to the realization with a question that says, “Is it possible to follow the monastic way, enjoying God in every area of my life, while immersed in the busy routines of modern life” (17)?  Pastor Ken’s new book, God in my Everything is an exploration in seeing some ancient practices of the Christian faith as an aid in enjoying God in our hectic lives.  Ken is no stranger to business, for he was once what business types call the 7-11 man, waking at 7 in the morning, going to work and then arriving home after the day at nearly 11p.m.  He knew there was something better in store for him than working to the bone.  In this book, Ken seeks to promote a way of living that incorporates sustainable spiritual, social, physical and mental practices that help enliven one’s lif…

Soil and Sacrament

Soil and Sacrament: A Spiritual Memoir of Food and Faith by Fred Bahnson

Whew!  After reading this book you might want to check your hate of all things gardening at the door.  Fred Bahnson, Director of the Food, Faith and Religious Initiative at Wake Forest Divinity School tells his story of traveling to four different areas of the country where a rare combination of work alongside faith is taken into consideration.  His new book, Soil and Sacrament, is a welcome addition to the growing number of books on the relationship of the soil we till and the faith we profess.  Not content with painting the soil and sacrament movement as a modern agenda, Bahnson delves deep into the past to reveal the nature of God’s work in creating the good earth and having his followers tend to his creation.
The first place Bahnson heads to is Mepkin Abbey in South Carolina.  The Trappist monks who inhabit this Abbey revel in the movements of prayer, study, and work.  At the 3:30 a.m. prayer vigil, Bahnson …

Letters to Pope Francis

Letters to Pope Francis by Matthew Fox
Matthew Fox in his own unique style has written a series of letters to the new Pope for his own eyes.  Siding with the newly elected Pope Francis on many issues, Matthew is quick to push hard on issues of related to marriage and celibacy, liberation theology, and creation spirituality, which is much of his own making.  I’m not at all familiar with Fox’s prior work, but I think there are some good questions in this book alongside some rather unorthodox and unusual meanderings.  The tenor of the book is somewhat directed against the Church as continuing along the same line as before and more focused on bringing together concretely the ideals and practices of justice and compassion, the hallmark found in the life of St. Francis of Assisi.  In other words, for Fox, he seems to be asking, “Pope Francis, are you going to live up to the radical affection for issues of poverty…

Faces from Dante's Inferno

Faces from Dante’s Inferno by Peter Celano
Many college and high school students start their journeys through Dante’s Inferno with a timid spirit not really knowing what they are getting into when reading this work.  Yet, The Inferno is well worth the effort as Dante describes his view of the afterlife and hell in provocative and sharp terms.  Peter Celano, author of Faces from Dante’s Inferno has provided the reader of this great poem with a guide to its people, their words, and the significance of the poem.  The book is broken up into 13 chapters, with nine of those chapters focusing on the circles of hell, one chapter on the Inferno, one on the first three faces, one on Beatrice, and one on outside Hell’s gate.  The reward of this book is its keen description of the various players or contemporaries of Dante, his political allies and foes, and the way Dante considers the church in all of this. 
The opening introduction i…

Compassionate Jesus

Compassionate Jesus by Christopher W. Bogosh
This new book, Compassionate Jesus, is a Christian approach to medicine is an eye-opening and insightful book about the relationship between modern medicine, including its philosophy, and the gospel.  Engaging the idea of prolonging life at any cost, Christopher brings a robust biblical understanding of medicine to the table.  With stories, examples, biblical wisdom and first- hand knowledge of medical manuals and procedures, this book is a good foray into the world of modern medicine.  Not wanting to go with the status quo and follow the medical professionals advice without investigation, Christopher digs deeply into the Bible and science for a more compassionate approach to medicine.
At the beginning of the book, Chris takes us up front and center to his own life by telling of his sister’s tragic death in a car crash.  Chris gleans thre…


Greater by Steven Furtick
This book by Pastor Steven Furtick is a book designed to give greater purpose and meaning to believers as they long for something more in their lives.  Based on John 14:12, Furtick writes, “He’s (Jesus)calling us to be greater with Him through His Spirit within us” (5).  The goal isn’t to be greater than Jesus but to be a part of how God is doing extraordinary things through us.  I agree with Steven that the big thing that Christians are in danger is of wasting their lives.  Overall, there were some really good points that Furtick makes in this book alongside some troubling sections.  The places where Steven really drew me into the book was the way he used a series of questions to get at the heart of his point.
After walking through the life of Elisha in the Book of Kings, Steven examines what it means to find your calling.  The ways that believers might find their calling are unique an…

A Neglected Grace

A Neglected Grace: Family Worship in the Christian Home by Jason Helopoulos
Family worship is a lost art and tool to serve the living God.  Gathering around together as a family to read the Scriptures, pray, sing and rejoice is often a practice that is relegated to special occasions.  Yet, as author and pastor Jason Helopoulos reminds us, family worship is a living grace whereby we show our devotion to God.  In the introduction, Jason reminds the reader that, “I hope that this book will be an encouragement to the reader to have a true resolve to engage in family worship, but only by, in, through, and because of the grace of God” (16).  Family worship done with heavy hammer of guilt or out of sheer willful necessity will not bring about the joy that comes from knowing Christ.  For the good of our families and a strong desire to delight in our Savior, family worship can be an example of building practices into the life of the family that wi…

The Evangelicals You Don't Know

The Evangelicals You Don’t Know: Introducing the Next Generation of Christians by Tom Krattenmaker
Tom Krattenmaker, author of Onward Christian Athletes and Religion and Public Life Columnist for USA Today has written a provocative and unique book on the new face of evangelicalism.  This new book, The Evangelicals You Don’t Know, provides a fresh look into some leaders in the evangelical movement that you might not have hear of and who minister in very different ways than their evangelical forefathers.  The result of the book is a reorientation with leaders who do ministry in fresh and invigorating ways, at times including leaders in their respective communities who are diametrically opposed to their beliefs but want to seek the common good together.  Rather than just ride on the coattails of previous leaders such as James Dobson, the new Focus on the Family President Jim Daly focuses his effort on less overt political…

No Small Change

No Small Change by Charles E. Johns
This collection of is a series of short pieces designed to bring  an awareness of God’s grace to its readers.  The writings include pieces that go along with the church calendar events including Advent, Easter, Lent, Pentecost and Ordinary Time.  Drawn from his experience, God’s Word, and his time as a pastor, Charle

The Button Legacy

The Button Legacy by Ginger Marcinkowski
This short little book entitled The Button Legacy by Ginger Marcinkowski is a fast-moving short novel that picks up on the theme of stories that run through the lives of each character.  The book begins in New Brunswick with the main character, John remembering that each Canadian woman in his family would collect buttons from the scraps of old shirts and sweater and they would weave a quilt out of the fabric, tossing the buttons in a tin to remind them of a story.  Each button had a story that went along with it, some of good times and others remembering the terrible events of family life.  As John remembered these stories, his wife Ellen became enthralled with the stories told by way of the buttons. 
The book takes a little thing such as buttons on an old shirt or rag and places them through the eyes of  a storyteller.  Taking a physical object and using it by way of telling the stor…

Sunday School That Really Excels Edited by Steve R. Parr

Sunday School That Really Excels Edited by Steve R. Parr
This new book edited by Steve R. Parr, vice president for Sunday school and evangelism with the Georgia Baptist Convention is right for exploring the various challenges and motivation for Sunday schools in church.  Having always wondered why Sunday schools in the various churches I’ve been in don’t seem to do so well, this book caught my eye.  The difference between this book and others on Sunday school is that book is designed to tell stories of churches with thriving Sunday school programs rather than just relay some good principles (19).  Why, because stories are powerful in that they hit home for many people, relating the real experiences of life in a church.  The chapters in the book range from the state of Sunday school today to excelling in rural areas to excelling in a multicultural community.  The chapters are designed to be focused on particular demographic and stages o…

The Coming Interspiritual Age

The Coming Interspiritual Age by Kurt Johnson and David Robert Ord
This book was a new line of thought for me, bringing together a view of the world’s religions from Brother Teasdale that was new and unique.  The author’s write at the beginning of the book that the concept of interspiritual relates the sharing of ultimate experiences across all traditions, including the mystic spirituality found in each faith tradition as opposed to a religious fundamentalist position (7-8).  In gauging this definition, this seems to include those who hold lightly to their religious faith in terms of issues of discarding views of a more exclusivism type.  In his quest for unity of consciousness, Brother Teasdale outlines his foundational pillars in 8 points, ranging from an ecological awareness, a unity among religions, non-violence, and shared common thread between humanity.  Drawing heavily on the New Age proponent Eckhart Tolle and others, this list brims with confidence in a nondualism framework.

Death by Living

Death by Living by N.D. Wilson
Taking a wild ride down the Snake River is an episode in terror for some, but never getting into the raft is a choice altogether different.  N.D. Wilson, poet, writer of adventurous fiction and father to five takes a unique approach in his book entitled Death by Living.  Remarking that many people go through life barely living but just passing through, N.D. carefully pieces together the beauty of the story that God writes of our lives and the ways we fumble through trying to see this story unravel.  What takes place is N.D.’s introspective focus into the wild ride of life, including bedtime stories with an endless series of hyphens, taking his family with cousins from London to Rome in a van, and dealing with the death of loved ones.  The book is brimming with hope, the kind not seen by a Hallmark card but the kind of anticipation that comes from a father reuniting with his family after a long trip.