October 8, 2012

A New Post ~For Granddaddy

Posted in Blogging, Book Reviews, Books, Just Life, Theology/Christian life, Together for the Gospel at 10:14 pm by catsinboxes

Yes, Granddaddy, I did take your rebuke to heart.  It has been almost a month since I have posted, so now that I have done my school, the garlic knots are on their first rise, and I have a hot cup of chai tea, I shall write a post.

Since my last post praising all the poetic beauties of fall, the season has moved on.  It’s cold, gray and windy.  In the past week, I watched the colors on the hills fade from bright shades of red and yellow to a muted russet.  Now even the birch, which survived till the weekend with golden yellow, have lost their leaves.  The wind is blustery, and the sky more often gray and foreboding than blue.  And yes, there have even been snow flurries, but it won’t stay.  It’s October, but it seems much more like November.  It’s a season of waiting: waiting for the final leaves to fall, waiting for the snow to come, waiting for the temperature to drop enough that the snow will stay.  With that bleakness outside, I’m enjoying the coziness of a warm house, warm socks, hot cups of tea and coffee, and good books.

You might notice that I didn’t add blogging to the above list of enjoyments.  That still needs to be fitted into the schedule.  I have thought of it, usually just as I’m trying to go to sleep.  Then I have the most wonderful ideas for blogging, but the timing just isn’t conducive!   I did decide one thing though during a late night brainstorming session.  I decided that my next post would be a book review.  So now that I’ve talked about the weather and my blogging or lack thereof . . . Here is my promised book review of Tempted and Tried by Russell Moore.

Russell Moore has, in the past year, become one of my favorite theological authors.  After reading Adopted for Life, I knew that I would like to read another of his books.  I had heard of Tempted and Tried, and I thought it sounded good.  So, it was on my radar when I went to the Together for the Gospel conference.  My desire to buy it was cemented by a conversation we had over dinner during the conference.  The meal plan pioneered this year allowed for fellowship over meals, and on one such occasion, I noticed that our fellow attendee had been reading Tempted and Tried.  I asked if he was enjoying it, and he highly recommended it.  That decided it; I definitely wanted to buy the book.

So it was bought, and I started reading it on the drive home.  Then life imposed, followed quickly by summer at camp.  Still, I persevered.  I brought it to camp.  I read it in moments during counselor training, I read it in quarter-hour segments sitting in the ministry center, I read it at the slingshot range despite the ministrations of MANY mosquitoes, and -my personal favorite- I read it sitting on the ground, my back against a massive oak tree, keeping one eye on the vacant slip n’slide.  (The slip n’slide and slingshot, though popular with some loyal campers, often suffered periods of neglect when other things such as the waterfront, archery or air rifles beckoned.  Thus a faithful book was very appreciated!)  My book does show some signs of this summer, the edges on the cover are slightly dividing, no doubt in protest after coming in contact with mist from the slip n’slide hose.

Within its pages, another thing marks this particular book as special.  While I had annotated before, it was with this book that I discovered the joy of highlighters.  And so, flipping through the book, you will find many phrases marked with highlighting in addition to pen and pencil marks, underlines, and notes jotted in the margins.

This was a wonderful book to read and to read slowly.  It is a book that I will certainly read again.  Moore is extremely readable yet deeply theological in his examination of temptation in Christian life and how Christ encountered and triumphed over temptation in the wilderness.  He begins by defining temptation and highlighting the significance of Christ’s temptation.  Throughout the book, Moore points to how Christ was fulfilling the Old Testament and shows how the strands of Old Testament history are evident and crucially important to understanding the wilderness temptations.  Here’s a sample of what I mean:

Jesus as the new humanity went to the same testing ground as his and our ancestors. . . . As he stood where Adam stood, he reclaimed what Adam lost.  The first Adam was tested in the God-blessed garden and fell.  The second Adam was tested in the God-cursed desert, and won.  (pg. 41)

Not only is this book theological though, it is intensely practical in making Christians aware that temptation isn’t something out there, something that might come along.  Rather, as Christians:

The issue isn’t whether you’re tempted, but whether you’re aware of it and striking back. (pg. 59)

Russell Moore is very aware of the spiritual warfare that is involved in living the Christian life.  His book is a wake up call, a call to courage, a call to be ready for battle.  There is so much depth to this book.  As Moore examines each of the ways Satan tempted Christ, he goes to the root of ‘why’ each temptation mattered and what the significance was in the temptation.  Not only that, he points to the fact that such temptations are still used today against God’s people.

This was an excellent read and one that I have found myself referring back to throughout the summer and into the fall.  You may have heard someone lament their sadness once a book is finished.  I enjoy books, but I don’t often feel that sense of loss.  Yet I did upon finishing this book.  It was so good, so solid, so perceptive, and so rooted in the truth.  If you have not read Tempted and Tried, I highly recommend it.  This is one book that you will not regret reading.

Postscript:  The garlic knots which were rising are now sitting next to me, the three survivors of dinner that is, and the cup of chai tea is long gone.  I do love to write, but I write over a period of time.  I do wish I could have fit this post into the time it took some garlic knots to rise!  

September 3, 2011

Marks of the Messenger

Posted in Book Reviews, Books, Faith, Favorite Quotes, Theology/Christian life, Together for the Gospel at 6:34 pm by catsinboxes

This week I finished reading Marks of the Messenger: Knowing, Living, and Speaking the Gospel by J. Mack Stiles (IVP, 2010).  It is one of the many books I received at Together for the Gospel 2010, and I thought it was very good.  Weaving together personal experience and scripture, J. Mack Stiles examines the gospel, true evangelism and what they entail to Christian life.

The following is not going to be a book review proper, or an outline of the book’s main points.  Instead I’m going to share points that I found particularly thought-provoking or encouraging.

While I enjoyed the entire book, I particularly enjoyed the final four chapters.

In chapter 7, which focuses on boldness in sharing the gospel, Stiles points to the prayer requests of Paul.   The gospel was central to the prayer requests of Paul.  Not only that, several of Paul’s prayer requests also concerned boldness, that he should be fearless in proclaiming the Gospel.  (Ephesians 6:19-20)  If Paul was asking that others pray he would be fearless, how much more should we?  I love that point!

Chapter 8 examines how the world’s view of love has shaped how Christians look at God.  I thought the following example was very appropriate:

“Me-centered love easily bleeds into Christian thinking about God’s love.  We start treating God as a celestial butler, and singing songs that make it hard to tell if Jesus is a savior or a boyfriend.  Take this refrain [referring to the crucifixion] for instance. ‘Like a rose, trampled on the ground, / You took the fall and thought of me; / Above all.’ ”

After quoting this, Stiles turns to scripture and points out that as Jesus prepared to go to the cross, he wasn’t thinking about us, he was thinking about doing his father’s will.  (John 12:27-28)  He concludes, “. . . Christians by the thousands sing this song and never realize its message is more culture than Bible.”  I’m thankful for the reminder and even more thankful for how intentional the worship is at my local church.

Stiles recognizes the influence of the local church, and in his second-to-last chapter emphasizes the importance of the local church in evangelism.  (This guy is friends with Mark Dever, so this is hardly a surprise!)  I thought that for one chapter he did an excellent job of covering a number of important points.

The concluding chapter is a manifesto, summing up the book.  Several points in the concluding chapters reminded me of Radical by David Platt, which would build on Marks of the Messenger nicely.

In conclusion, I’m going to share some passages that I highlighted while reading Marks of the Messenger:

On sin:

“To paraphrase G. K. Chesteron, I can’t see why people have such problems with original sin; it’s the one doctrine for which we have empirical data.  Just look at the last 3,500 years of human history.”  (pg. 30)

God’s love:

“God’s love is his most magnificent characteristic.  This is so assumed in Western culture it’s practically lost all meaning, but one thing that distinguishes God’s love is how his love, his perfect, tender, self-sacrificing love, holds back his red-hot, scorching wrath.”  (pg. 32)

Don’t assume the Gospel:

“The implications of the gospel are critical to becoming who we are meant to be as healthy evangelists.”  (pg. 53)

The gospel lived out:

“Our lives need to be lined up with, in accord with the gospel . As we’ve seen before, the gospel is not only about salvation.  The gospel is how we live every day.”  (pg. 56)

“Caring for others represents the gospel, it upholds the gospel, it points to the gospel, it’s an implication of the gospel, but it is not the gospel, and it is not equal to the gospel.”  (pg. 69)

“Boldness is not a lack of fear.  It is faith in something bigger than our fears so that we appear fearless.  Confidence in something bigger than our fears gives us the strength to do the right thing in spite of opposition or persecution.”  (pg. 82)

Have you read Marks of the Messenger?  If so, what did you think?  Please feel free to join the conversation! 

April 22, 2010

An Unexpected Post

Posted in Book Reviews, Korea, Theology/Christian life, Together for the Gospel at 7:42 pm by catsinboxes

Originally I was going to title this post, “A Long Expected Post.”  The allusion was to the first chapter of Tolkien’s Fellowship of the Ring.  But then I realized that my readers had probably given up hope weeks earlier of the possibility of any new posts.  So, I decided to title this post in honor of The Hobbit’s first chapter, allusion intended.

Now, my surprised reader, I will answer the question that you very fairly are asking . . . “Why haven’t you been posting???”  There are two answers to that question.  Firstly, I’ve been quite busy with some unexpected (you know, I just like that word today!) developments.  Secondly, I was out of town most of last week at the Together for the Gospel Conference.

The conference was wonderful, absolutely wonderful.  In fact, there are not strong enough words to describe just how good it was.  Not only that, it was very challenging and encouraging.  There were over 7,000 people attending.  Mostly it was men, but I heard that about 10% of that number were women.  That made quite a difference . . . especially when it came to restroom lines.  I could have laughed as I went trotting into the ladies’ bathroom, past the long line of men patiently queuing up for their bathroom.

I can’t wait for the next conference, in 2012.  We’re certainly going.  Until then, I have a lot of reading to do.   Conference attendees were given lots of books (their total worth is more than the cost of registration!).  So, I have about twenty new books, and I’d like to read through all of them.  I’ve started with Thabiti Anyabwhile’s excellent and very readable What is a Healthy Church Member?.

Much to Kelsey’s horror, I am actually annotating (fancy word for writing/highlighting) in my books as I read them.  I’ve found it’s an excellent way of retaining knowledge and marking down passages that I particularly like or find challenging.

I’ve also been reading a little of Joshua Harris’ Boy Meets Girl: Say Hello to Courtship.

Joshua Harris was a breakout speaker at the conference.  Kelsey went to his session, and so did several thousand other people.  I took a bit of pride in making up the minority of people not attending Joshua Harris’ breakout session.  Before I say any more, I really like Joshua Harris and his writing, I just didn’t feel like going to Joshua Harris’ session.  (It’s a rebel streak in me that refuses to go with the flow!)

Anyway, now that the conference is over, I’ve started reading Joshua Harris.  I really enjoy the challenge of his books, and they  encourage me to grow and increase in godliness so that, when “boy meets girl”, I’ll be spiritually ready!

My goal, as I continue reading, is to do individual posts about books I have read, or topics and passages in them that I find thought provoking.

Besides that reading, I’ve also been reading about Korea.  I’m prospectively going to spending two months there this summer.  One in Seoul and one (from what it sounds like) in a smaller city in the southern part of South Korea called Jinju.

This morning I started studying Korean.  I’m using a book called Read & Speak Korean for Beginners.

It’s very good and not nearly as daunting as part of me was expecting.  Hanguel (Korean script) only has 24 characters and is very phonetic.  Even after my first lesson, I’m starting to see a pattern.

So, that’s where I am.  I do intend to do more posts soon.  Please don’t give up on this blog.  I hate inconsistent blogs just as much as you do . . . maybe even more!  I just hope  I update my blog enough that my posts don’t become “long-expected.”  (Hah, worked in the allusion at the end … so there!)