Archives For books

Awaiting a Savior

June 10, 2014

Awaiting a Savior, The gospel, the new creation, and the end of poverty
by Aaron Armstrong

This book is the book I’ve wanted to exist for a long time—and now it does. In Awaiting a Savior, Aaron Armstrong talks about the roots of poverty, not in economic terms, but spiritual terms. Aaron brings with him knowledge as an employee of a charity, but also an obvious study of the subject biblically. In a strangely refreshing way, he exposes poverty for what it really is at the root: the result of sin, and not just the sin of others, but our own sin, and not just our own sin, but original sin. He doesn’t make excuses for poverty in a “what will be will be” way, but instead joins every act of poverty with the greatest display of riches: grace and the gospel. I found myself tearing up time after time in this book and want to give it to every person I know who asks the question, “What can I do about the problem of poverty!?” I highly recommend this short and powerful book.

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To Whom Else Would We Go?

April 30, 2014

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Almost four years ago I sat in the front row of what we at my church call “the HV campus,” listening to Jen Wilkin spend an hour on the first verse of the bible, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” It was the first time in my life each word in a verse made sense to me. But even more than that, it was the first time I began to understand that God was not just a man in the sky with a check-list a mile long. He was a creator. He had attributes, character, a job. He was not a genie in a bottle, nor was he the jailer of the unrighteous. He was a creator.

Over the past four years I’ve had the blessing of sitting at the feet of some brilliant expositors of the word. Pastors, teachers, elders, and friends. The bible has become more than a rule book or tool book, a handy guide to living—it has become living water and I its thirsty recipient. I know I must have been taught to think this way before, but for some reason it didn’t click in my brain until the fall of 2010.

Yesterday a modern father of preaching announced a new endeavor and I can’t stop thinking about it. Every time I see another tweet or mention of it, I get more excited. It is not enough to feed a man a fish, we must teach him to fish, and this is what John Piper and his team will be putting their hands and minds to in the autumn of his life. I could not be more grateful.

If you are daily reader of the word, checking a quiet time off the list because you grudgingly know you ought to, or if you are a weak-faithed believer, one whose constant prayer is “Help my unbelief,” or if you are a student of the word, but constantly feeling somehow short-changed in your study of it, Look at the Book is for you. Look at the Book is for me. It is for all of us.

I’ve grown more and more weary of blogs and articles and tweets and opinions on every matter, more and more thirsty for the words of life. The bible contains those words of life and, friend, they are good. They are eternally good. They are trustworthy sayings. They are, from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21, proclaiming the gospel and the Kingdom of God.

Let’s be like the disciples in our study of God, “To whom else would we go? You have the words of eternal life?” Why would we forsake the living water and return to broken cisterns of blogs and other books to get Living Water?

Show Us Your Presence

January 7, 2014 — 22 Comments

I make no secret, there’s been an unrest in my soul in the past few months. I sat across from someone in November and they called the unrest, they read my mail, they eavesdropped on my mind: stick it out, dig in, stay, be, rest in. And I did.

Restlessness is the lack of rest, the angst of do instead of the respite of done. It comes from not having what we think we need.

But what if it really comes from not knowing what it is we need?

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

I’m working on a project that has me thinking a lot about food, about daily bread, manna, today’s provision—the table of God.

In Jewish culture, the bread sitting in the temple was called the shewbread and it was replenished weekly. It was baked by the Kohathite clan and only they knew the recipe. Every week, week in, week out, the bread was set there, in the presence of God, resting there until the Sabbath when it would be replenished by a new loaf.

A secret recipe for a seemingly useless loaf?

Doesn’t that feel like your life sometimes? That God is holding out on you, with a secret plan for your life that seems useless today? It causes a restlessness of the soul, right? It does for mine.

What are You doing here, I’m asking. What is He trying to show me with a secret useless bread?

The shewbread was also called the table of presence, and this stops me in my thoughts yesterday. What if the bread’s only purpose is to point to something greater? What if the bread is not for provision, but to point only to presence?

I’m asking myself what to do with the restlessness in my soul, the angst of the undone, the secrecy of His plan, the uselessness I feel. What if my purpose isn’t to feed, but to fear Him alone? What if that is my rest, until He replenishes?

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

My friend Jennie Allen just released her new book, Restless, and she’s inviting you in to ask those questions too. Comment below with the answer to this question and you have the chance to win one of five copies of Restless I’m giving away.

What is your restlessness today? Who, or what, are you resting in?

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Copying the Creator

December 4, 2013 — 9 Comments

It was the his third strike. He was a baseball player, so he and I both knew what that meant. Out.

I was a TA for an English class in college. It was my first semester as a transfer student. I hardly knew my way around campus and I’d been tapped on the shoulder by the chair of our department to assist one of the English professors.

The first inkling of plagiarism seemed innocent, an uncited source; the second instance seemed lazy; but with two warnings under his belt, he handed in his third paper full of paragraphs I found in their entirety in a few minute google search.

I don’t know what happened to him when I reported the situation to the administration, though I knew they didn’t handle that stuff lightly. Looking back I wish I’d been more careful to explain why this wasn’t acceptable. I had plenty more opportunities in my years as a TA to do so, but I never did.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Allegations of plagiarism by Mark Driscoll are all ablaze right now and they seem justified in some ways. Whole ideas or outlines have been lifted, slightly altered, and used as his own material. I would flunk a student for doing that, and yet—haven’t I done it a thousand times?

In recent weeks I chew on John 3:30, “He must increase. I must decrease.”

Whether you’re a college student trying to get a passing grade or a pastor churning out books written by a ghostwriter, there is an element of “increasing” present that I’m not sure is healthy. I would argue too that even bloggers must wrestle with this dichotomy. If it is true that we must be ever decreasing and increasing Him—what does that say about all our platform building?

We may not be building a tower of Babel to reach God, but what have we made our god in His place?

This isn’t easy wrestle through. God gives gifts to men and finds joy when we use them for His glory—but I wonder sometimes how many of us are like my college student: trying to get a passing grade. It doesn’t matter who we seek approval from—if we seek it from men, we’re in sin, and if we seek it from God, we do so in vain. If we are His children, we have His full approval in the righteousness of Christ.

I have one finger pointed at you and three back at myself here. I seek the approval of so many other than God and I want less of it. More than ever, I want to shrink my footprint—or at least my byline. More of Him, less of me.

God help us, we are all guilty of plagiarism. The wise man’s words “there is nothing new under the sun,” assure of us that. You are the author of all truth and we merely regurgitate it, chewed and masticated, hardly a form of its original beauty and intention. Help us to copy you, emulate you, take our truth from you—and if another steals words from us, let us hand them over willingly because we truly own nothing apart from You.

Review of Jesus Feminist

October 28, 2013 — 3 Comments

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Sarah Bessey has done a unique thing in her book and it’s something the whole Church should try a bit more. Interwoven with thoughts on theology, history, and her vision for the future of the Church, Sarah told her story.

Raised in Canada, educated in the Bible Belt, on staff at a church in Texas, and then relocating back to Canada gave Sarah a bit of a unique story. Though she grew up in the Church, she did not grow up in the kitschy church-culture so many of our contemporary couch theologians did. Her experience is not one of “I was this but now I’m enlightened, so now I’m this,” but instead it is a story of roots and wings in healthy ways.

Jesus Feminist is not the tired story of a woman raised in patriarchy and conservative theology who threw off her shackles after a theological awakening. That story is all too familiar and, unfortunately, so often riddled with grinding axes that it is difficult to see the trees for the forest. Sarah grinds no axes, points no fingers, and brings every point of her story to the beautiful complexity that is faith in Christ Jesus.

She has woven the gospel through her story and her theology, and this is why I do recommend Jesus Feminist.

Primarily I recommend Jesus Feminist to pastors and teachers, men and women who are in positions of influence and whose duties including shepherding people. I recommend it for the sole reason that Sarah’s story is the story of every-woman in some way. Perhaps not the same path or set of experiences, but it tells the journey of a woman who lands on her theology through the lens of both experience and the word of God.

These days many words are spoken, preached, or written in pragmatic ways—I often wonder if some of our modern theologians have walked through difficult things because it doesn’t seem to come through in their message. Sermons neatly packaged with four points and a promise—even in the gospel-centered crowd. I do not doubt they have experienced difficulties, but we need to hear it said explicitly. If true shepherding is to be done, we need to sit at the table with the people and their stories.

I recommend Jesus Feminist next to women in the Church who come from a more conservative position on gender roles, but who have wrestled with their current roles as women.

Serving in ministry, I see two main types of women in the Church. The first is a woman who has no construct for theology or Church history but feels the constraints of both. Without having a robust theology or prescriptive design for their role, those constructs can feel suffocating and I see women leaving good, healthy churches in search of churches more accommodating to their personal story. The second is a woman who has a deep theological grasp on complementary gender roles, but who may struggle to feel her ministry as a woman is valid. Jesus Feminist spends copious amounts of time on the descriptive role of women in the Bible and the roles of women in our present lives. I was personally encouraged to engage more fully as a woman, to bring my femininity to the table along with my theology.

Jesus Feminist, contrary to its provocative title and subtitle, does not seem to be a book meant to convince the reader of a radical position on gender roles. Instead it seems to be a book intended to point to the character of God, the purpose of His creation, and the journey He takes His children on toward the fullness of His kingdom. Is there a theological bias in the book? Yes, absolutely. Sarah is an egalitarian and believes in roles for men and women without distinction in the Church. But the book does not terminate on her bias, because her true bias is the name and renown of Christ, and a robust Church filled with all kinds of people fully used by Christ.

If there is a caution to potential readers, particularly ones from a more conservative perspective, it is this: let us not be so quick to ascribe definitions to words and catch phrases that we miss the deep complexity behind them. Feminism has brought with her many good and right things; she may have left the back door open too long, letting in the draft of culture’s sway, but I think we can agree we are grateful for the breeze of freedom, equality, and voice.

What Jesus Feminist does not do is explore the ways in which modern feminism has taken its toll on the people of Jesus. This could be because Sarah doesn’t believe it has, or it could be because Sarah believes to do much good there has to be an uncomfortable itch under the hem of the Church’s robes. I think Jesus Feminist is a fair handling of feminism in the Church, but I think to properly discuss what a Jesus Feminist is, we have to wrestle with feminism’s origins. This is my only critique of the book. I think if you’re going to title a book thus, the subject at hand should be handled in its own respect, historical and modern implications. Otherwise, if what Sarah espouses to be feminism is this Jesus Feminism, count me [nearly] all in. There’s a lot more to it, though, but I’m grateful she set the table and invited us in for discussion.

Discerning Disciples

October 24, 2013 — 5 Comments

David Murray is posing a good question over on his blog. I’d encourage you to read it, but not get lost in the names or issue he has with the book or author, and instead think about the heart of the question. I left a comment there, but haven’t stopped thinking about his question and just thought I’d flesh out my comment a bit more here.

His questions had to do with reading/reviewing/recommending a book he liked, by an author who he feels is in serious error in other areas. The questions:

1. Don’t read anything by [this author] on any subject because he’s in such error in a central Christian doctrine.

2. Read the book and learn from it, but don’t tell anyone, share anything from it, or review it favorably.

3. Read, review, and even recommend the book but point out that [this author] is in error on [another subject].

My thoughts:

One of the greatest problems in the Church today is, I believe, a lack of discernment. My generation absorbs and then spews out soundbites. I read so many blogs by my counterparts in which they will quote one line from someone and spend a whole post ranting on the out of context line. I’ve talked before about the importance of context when writing or responding, and maintain context to be my growing concern among my generation.

Because of this, it is not enough have men and women in leadership simply reading, but not helping us parse the material at hand, and especially not modeling what a discerning reader does. A truly discerning person does their absolute best to gain a full picture of the idea, person, or theology at hand.

We need men and women to teach us to parse material and model that for us. My testimony is in part the result of learning to parse information discerningly, to be set before a smorgasbord of theological views and have to wrestle with all of them before I could see the gospel plainly.

The wise man built on the rock, but he didn’t just set his house on a big boulder—it would have been just as shaky as a house built on sand. A wise man digs down deep until he hits rock. A discerning reader does the same.

We don’t want to make little parrots, we want to make disciples who dig down deep. Part of discipleship is discernment.

Read on, I say, and review on. And warn on too.

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“Every morning, when you wake up,” he used to say, “before you reaffirm your faith in the majesty of a loving God, before you say I believe for another day, read the Daily News with its record of the latest crimes and tragedies of mankind and then see if you can honestly say it again.” He was a fool in the sense that he didn’t or couldn’t or wouldn’t resolve, intellectualize, evade the tensions of his faith but lived those tensions out, torn almost in two by them at times. His faith was not a seamless garment but a ragged garment with the seams showing, the tears showing, a garment that he clutched about him like a man in a storm.

—on Union Theological Seminary professor James Muilenburg by Frederick Buechner in Now and Then, pg. 16

I don’t know when I first began to understand the bible was not a blueprint for life, that David was not a model of how to slay giants in my life and Balaam’s donkey wasn’t my cue to listen for God’s voice in odd places. It seems foreign to me now, to think of the Bible that way.

Here was the whole story of God and I spent my whole life trying to make it the story of me.

The Jesus Storybook Bibleby Sally Lloyd-Jones, takes a holistic and simple approach to the gospel, from Genesis to Revelation and is appropriate for the youngest of children—though I don’t know many adults who can read it without choking up themselves.

Sometimes I find the intricacies of the gospel seem so complex, the questions mount, and before I know it, I doubt God’s goodness and faithfulness and love for me. One of the opening lines in the book is, “They were lovely because God loved them. Because He made them.”

They were lovely because God loved them.

I recommend you buy this book right now, go! Buy it even if you don’t have children, but most certainly if you do.

For You!

I’m giving away the four DVD set of animated Jesus Storybook Bible. The illustrations are by Jago, the same illustrator from the book, and it is narrated by British actor David Suchet. I think its value is far greater than money alone, so even if you don’t win, I recommend purchasing them. The DVDs were given to me by Zondervan for review, so in return I’m gifting them to one amazing family!

To Enter

Winning is easy, really easy, and I hope fun.

I know a lot of you read Sayable and you feel like you know me, but I don’t know you! If you’d like to enter to win the four DVDs, tweet me a photo of your family or leave a comment on this post on Facebook attaching a photo in the comment. If you don’t feel comfortable showing your faces in public, no problem, email it to me here. If you’re single, upload a photo of people who are like family to you.

I’ll pick a winner Saturday at noon and contact you through whatever medium you shared your image with me. Cannot wait to “meet” your families!

This contest is now closed. The winner was Jonathan Wilson and family from Conway, AR. Thanks all! Seeing your family photos was one of the highlights of my blog-writing days!

 

April: 100 in 2013

May 2, 2013

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This photo is missing two books. One I returned to its owner and one I misplaced somewhere in our house…

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
I read this book every few years and always in April. I’m grateful for parents who invested in us early the value of eating whole and healthy foods. (I remember the first time I had Kraft Mac and Cheese I was afraid my mom could just SMELL it on me…) One thing I love about Kingsolver’s book, besides her always stellar voice, is the premise of this book, which is to eat whole, healthy, and locally. It’s a discipline, and one which is much more difficult in the DFW metroplex, but supporting local farmers, businesses, and entrepreneurs is always worth it. I highly recommend this read (especially on the cusp of summer!)

Life After Art by Matt Appling
Matt blogs at Church of No People and has reached out to me several times to just appreciate Sayable. Whenever I’ve read his thoughts I’ve been blessed to see the balanced and careful voice he brings to otherwise volatile conversations. In Life After Art, Matt talks about taking risks, living in beauty, and every person’s design to create as we were created. I was encouraged to read this short book if only for my own creatively zapped soul. I’m in the middle of a very dry season creatively, partially because of the heavy demand to produce, this book just refreshed and reminded me of the Ultimate Creator.

Delighting in the Trinity by Michael Reeves
Perhaps one of the most important books I’ll read this year, this surprisingly easy to grasp book on the trinity will claim that spot. I came into the past few years with a fuzzy at best and faulty at worst view of the Trinity, and understanding it has absolutely transformed the way I pray, the way I trust, and the footsteps I follow. Reeves takes the complex mystery of the Trinity, holds it tightly in his capable hands, and turns it from every side to show the beauty of our communal God.

The Devil in Pew Number Seven by Rebecca Nichols Alonzo
This was a quick read partially because the story is so riveting. Rebecca is growing up in a pastor’s family in the south and things seemed idyllic until a nightmare reminiscient of something the KKK would do began. The most astounding part of this book, though, is not the horrific events of her childhood, but the forgiveness and joy she walks in currently. If you’ve ever experienced deep pain, I would just encourage you to read this simply for the testimony present.

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
Somewhere in the past month I began to realize freshly that the enemy has it out for me. I don’t know what it was, I knew I was busy and pressed from every side, but I was also just dealing with latent sin and spiritual laziness. I felt discouraged and disheartened with numerable things. I felt defeated around every corner and I was just sitting in it. One morning on my way to class I was thinking about this book and had a minor epiphany for my own life: the enemy is plotting against me and my home, planning and devising ways to knock me down. He hates me. He hates me. And he hates you. This short read is always a reminder of whose I am not, but also a reminder to be active in fighting the enemy.

The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis
This is my second favorite of the Narnia books principally because of Puddleglum, I’m not gonna lie. I mean, who doesn’t love Puddleglum (much to his chagrin)?

Undercover Woman by Conway Edwards  (not available online)
In doing some research together for a summer project, a friend of mine asked me to read this and give him three pros and three cons. I stumbled over the pros, to be honest. It was not the principles that I struggled with, but the projection present in this short book. I can’t recommend this book because of some problematic things I noted; however, it was a good reminder of how important it is that we are under authority.

Glimpses of Grace by Gloria Furman
I’m just so encouraged by how many books are being published for women about the worth of the gospel in their homes. Last month’s Fit to Burst felt like an anomaly, but Gloria Furman has penned its equal! Glimpses of Grace takes the mundane, difficult, and joy-filled parts of life and points the reader full into the gospel at every turn. What a rich, rich treasure this book is. If you’re a mama especially, please buy this book. I think it will encourage you deeply.

Thanks to Gloria Furman, Josh Overton, Alison Luna, Philip Bleecker, & Matt Appling for this month’s books!

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It’s strangely easy to be brave when nobody expects you to be. You are the deus ex machina, sweeping in and rescuing with your words, your actions, your bravado. But then the standing ovation comes and who can take a bow without feeling awkward and out of place?

Maybe you’ve noticed, or maybe you haven’t, but it’s been a little quiet around here. Or rather, it’s been a little less than deep around here.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Here’s what happened: a year ago this month I started working on a book and when you start writing a book people in the know start talking about your platform and your reach and whether there will be a market for your words. So instead of scribbling your words on scraps of paper and in the margins of life, crafting sentences while you drive and wait and walk, you instead start working on an author’s lifeline: readers.

Did you know that the real worth of an author’s work is not in her bound or published words? It’s in how many people read those bound and published words. No one wants to say that of course, except the publishers when they’re squabbling over whose mark will be on the binding. Everyone else still wants to talk about your words and how they are needed and unusual and pretty and pithy and such. But deep down you suspect the real worth of your words is what someone will pay for them.

Sometimes they will pay for them with their emotions and sometimes their pennies, but pay for them, they will.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

A few someones have told me I am courageous and I look down at my person: can’t they see this? This frail and fearful lot? Can’t they see that whatever worth I have is not what I can do but Whose I am? I can put on a show, but the Author is the Finisher and the Principal Player.

I am studying Romans 6:13 this week, “Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.” The chapter is about sin and how we, like Christ, have died to sin—but what is sin if not the full spectrum of brokenness touching our every part? Hear me when I say I struggle to say fear is a sin, but whatever does not proceed from faith is sin, and fear is the lack of faith. See?

A year ago I took what had previously proceeded from faith and continued the work in fear: would I ever measure up? Would anyone important ever read me? What constituted success? Would I know it when it came? Would anyone care about a book if I even wrote it?

And now here I am, people expecting me to be brave and confident, to have the words and the theology and the answers, and the truth is, dear readers, I spent more time presenting myself to you than to God this year. Or at least more energy. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not discouraged. I can trust He is actually the God in the Machine and I am simply a gear or a bolt, or more likely a squeaky wheel or rusty washer, and we can move on from here (hopefully). I am not brave and I am not strong and I am not whatever good thing you think I am.

I’m just one person with words inside of me about a God I love and Who loves me and that’s the only story I have to tell.

And for His glory I want to tell it well.

February: 100 in 2013

March 4, 2013

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The Brothers K // David James Duncan
I talked about this book a lot while I was reading it, and everyone kept assuming I was talking about The Brothers Karamazov; I was not. The Brothers K came highly recommended to me by several people when I asked for suggestions, and though I was surprised I’d never even heard of it before, I put it on the list. This book will go down as one of the finest I’ve ever read. It is not a complex story, but it is a long one, and a beautifully told one. It’s simply the story of a family. I don’t know how else to describe it. That’s what it is. It’s 700 pages of fear, angst, beauty, love, hurt, joy, pain—all wrapped in one family. I have never been so sad to turn a last page.

Girls Like Us // Rachel Lloyd
Our new graphic designer and I are working on a toolkit to hand out to the myriad of people who ask, “I care about sex-trafficking, but what can I do about it?” As part of this project, I’m researching helpful books. One such book is Rachel Lloyd’s memoir of her life in the illegal sex business juxtaposed with her life now working in New York city for GEMS: Girls Educational and Mentoring Services. I especially appreciate Rachel’s story because she’s a perfect example of how girls with no money and little education are trafficked easily. Prostitution is not low-life girls who enjoy sex—there is nothing about that life that is simple or enjoyable, and Rachel clearly illuminates this while educating her readers.

Wordsmithy // Douglas Wilson
One of the quickest reads so far, and partially because Wilson is such a brilliant writer you can’t help but drink his words quickly. Especially great, because this is a book about writing. And it has now topped my list of recommended reads for aspiring writers. There is no hint of ego or assumption in this, it is filled with tips, book recommendations, quick punchy quips, and makes no bones about the fact that writing is often a long hike up a high mountain where the only view at the top is simply a better one of the world. Excellent.

Prince Caspian // C.S. Lewis
This has always been my least favorite of the Narnia series, and this time through was no different. I’ll assume most of you have read it, or will at some point read it, so I won’t belabor the point: sometimes you have to suffer through your least favorite Narnia book because you said you’d read all of them.

Treehouses of the World // Pete Nelson
When I was small I would watch Swiss Family Robinson JUST for the treehouse scenes. I’m not even kidding. I would fast-forward through all the other scenes just so I could study the construction of the most epic treehouse ever made. When I saw this book at Barnes and Noble on the cheap rack, I nabbed it immediately. The book highlights over 50 treehouses all over the US, giving their brief background, construction details, images, and some personal stories. It’s a keeper.

Brothers, We Are Not Professionals // John Piper
I’ve already written a full review on this one which you can read here.

The Weight of Glory // C.S. Lewis
One of the better habits I’ve adopted through this project is holding a pencil in one hand as I read (courtesy of Tony Reinke’s Lit which I read last month). Good thing, too, because I marked up this copy pretty good. Among my favorite essays this time through were Inner Ring and Membership, perhaps because of the juncture in life at which I am, I don’t know. I’m grateful, though, for Lewis’s poignant and truthful words never leaving me without conviction.

Gospel Deeps // Jared Wilson
Contrary to popular assumption, I don’t actually read that many blogs, about ten on average, and Jared’s has not left the list in about three years. His book Gospel Wakefulness was deeply impacting to me in my own journey toward understanding the gospel. As my pastor said in the foreword to the book, “People tend to understand the width of the gospel, in that they understand Jesus and the cross, but they have trouble with the depth of the gospel, struggling to see how it informs and shapes every aspect of our lives.” This book kept me marveling at the depths of the gospel all the way through, keeping me turning the pages, stopping at time to weep with gratefulness or find joy in the fullness of grace.

Special thanks to those of you who gifted books I read this month for 100 in 2013 (Geoffrey Swyka, Alison Luna, Mallory Bumgarner, Philip with-no-last-name =) ).

But I’m Not a Brother!?

February 24, 2013

When the good folks at B&H Books asked me to read and review the updated and expanded version of Brothers, We Are Not Professional: A Plea to Pastors for Radical Ministry, first I said, “But I’m not a brother.” Then I said, “Also, I’m not a pastor.” Doesn’t matter, came the reply, both read your blog. And so this is how it came to be that I added BWANP to one of the twelve coveted open spots for 100 in 2013.

I’m glad too, because this is less a book to brothers only or pastors only, but to all followers of Christ. Never have I read a more succinct, helpful, scripturally soaked treatise than this. Every page abounds with references to the Word and reminders of the gospel. Every suggestion is bolstered by scripture and every challenge is backed up firmly. I closed each chapter knowing with more certainty the call of Christ is one of coming and dying. It helps that the author is such an accomplished writer as well. Many can say these words, but saying them with eloquence is another matter altogether.

Much has been written on the original book already, so I’m not going to spend much time there. Instead, I’d like to just highlight a few things from some of the added chapters.

Brothers, God Does Make Much of Us: I am deeply grateful for this chapter specifically because often “Making Much of God” can shove aside the fact that we are deeply, deeply loved by God. With five points given to how God loves us and seven points given to how He makes much of us, it would be difficult for a reader to walk away feeling that they are only a puppet in a Master’s play.

Brothers, God is the Gospel: Gospel has become a bit of a buzzword in recent years, and though I don’t think that means we ought to find a replacement, I do think it’s a great opportunity for us to relearn, or recalibrate on what is the gospel. In God is the Gospel, there are laid out very clearly the components of a correct understanding of what the gospel is. In some measure we will only see in part until we see face to face, but in the meantime we ought to clearly grasp and communicate what it is the Gospel is until that day.

Brothers, Pursue the Tone of the Text: Recently someone described a certain conversation in my church circles as “tone-deaf” and it happened to be at the same time that I read this chapter. This chapter was somehow written tonefully, to coin a word; it sounded like music and I don’t think that was an accident. The message of the Gospel is hope, yet so often our pulpits are filled with cheap substitutes or pounding diatribes. Here the author reminds us that hope is full of joy, but sometimes the joy is eventual—so we ought to be mindful of our tone. Sorrow can lead to joy, but only if we sorrow according to those who have hope.

Brothers, Act the Miracle: The author confesses his most besetting sins and does not offer a four step program to defeat them, but instead illuminates the power of the cross over them. He reminds Christians that our sins have been canceled, and so therefore they may be conquered, while too often we do the latter in an attempt for God to do the former. This was my favorite chapter as this is one of my besetting sins.

There is much to be gleaned from this book and I highly, highly recommend it to anyone, pastors or new believers, mothers or children. It’s a book about being a disciple who makes disciples and this is the call on us all. It would be appropriate to go through with a small group. I even think it could be tailored to be appropriate to go through in family devotions. The chapters are short enough and structured in such a way that discussion points could be simplified and filtered for differing audiences.

You can purchase a copy here: Brothers, We Are Not Professional: A Plea to Pastors for Radical Ministry by John Piper

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100 in 2013

December 21, 2012

Some of you have asked for my 2013 reading plan and so here are a few quick thoughts, as well as the booklist.

1. I don’t have time to read 100 books in 2013. I didn’t have time in 2012, and I don’t foresee ever having the time to commit to such a project. If you know me at all, you know the possibility of failure is rarely a reason to not try something. Mumbo-jumbo about not setting yourself up for failure has never appealed to me much and so there is a very real possibility that I will hit March or September and get plumb tuckered out. I hope that doesn’t happen, but I won’t feel too badly if it does. The point is, I’m going to try.

2. On the suggestion of Mathew Sims, who reads voraciously—and blogs about what he reads, I scheduled the books out for the entire year. I will be reading, on average, eight books a month, with three books being spread out through the whole year (The Love of God by DA Carson, The Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster, and Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem). The goal of this project is not to cover my bases on what’s hot or not in various genres, the goal is to read and reread books that have piqued my interest. I have one or two books from each of these sections per month: fiction/novel, theology, non-fiction/essay, memoir/biography, children’s lit/young adult. No book is too short, some books are too long. Some are rereads, some I’ve never heard of before.

3. I top-loaded the second and last quarter, and made the first and third quarters a bit lighter. Because of my commitments elsewhere (work, Church, home. etc.), I knew that I would need to have lighter reading happening especially in the first quarter of this year. The quantity is still around eight a month, but the quality is a bit lighter.

4. I tried as much as possible to group like books in the same month. For example, one month I’ll be reading Crooked Little Heart by Anne Lamott, Living in Fiction by Annie Dillard, Evangelical Feminism by Wayne Grudem, Practical Theology for Women by Wendy Aslup, Bossypants by Tina Fey (this was my roommate’s suggestion when I told her I wanted to read a few pop-culture books…), West With the Night by Beryl Markham, and The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom. This will be a month that I’ll be focusing on the role of women in the church, the world, the culture, and in literature.

5. I made a spreadsheet of all the books, color coded them by books I already owned, planned to buy, would need to borrow from a friend or the library, or were work related. This way I could begin to budget my finances and my time in order to have the books on hand at the beginning of each month.

6. I read best when I read straight through a book. I’m a fast reader so this works for me. However, there are some books here that I want to read more slowly and so I’ll have two piles each month: one pile will be the books I read over the course of the month and one pile will be the books I’ll read in one or two sittings. Think of this like snowballing your debt, get the little ones done first so you can give the bigger ones their due time.

7. When I was in high-school reading 100 books a year was the norm. I’ve always been a voracious reader, but it’s only been in recent years that my book reading has lessened and my online article reading has increased. Part of the reason I’m doing this is because 2012 was a beating in the online blogosphere. Controversy abounded and I was wiped out. I began to see places in my mind that weren’t bearing much fruit because of what occurred online and the speed at which opinions were bandied. So this is my small attempt to step back, do what I love (read in quiet), and reap a different reward.

Pray for me if you think about it. I’ll be writing a blog at the end of each month with a short blurb about each book completed that month so you can follow along with me!

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At the beginning of the year Dan Schmidt approached me about contributing an essay to his upcoming compilation: Letters to Me. Dan has been an encouraging cheer-bringer to me for the past few years concerning my writing projects and I was excited about joining the stellar lineup of writers and thinkers he compiled.

The letters in this book will make you want to shake the shoulders of the writers, hug the writers, chastise the writers, and simply Love God More. But don’t take my word for it:

There is something maddeningly compelling about this book. You want to leap into its pages and shake some sense into the characters just like you’re reading a page-turning novel, except that it’s real life and if you could somehow grab them by their shoulders, you would realize you were staring yourself in the face. The talent of these storytellers is revealed in how universal their personal stories are. In their stories you will experience agony and joy, pain and healing, fall and redemption. –Adam S. McHugh, author Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture

Reading them will make you think and imagine a better life — maybe even give you the courage to live one. —Jeff Goins, author, Wrecked: When a Broken World Slams into Your Comfortable Life

I sat down to read this book and found myself so encouraged and strengthen through the community built around life in these stories that I only stopped when I reached the end of the book. These stories are my story. And they’re probably your stories. Dan Schmidt talks about “evidence of grace weaves through many of these letters” and it’s these threads that strengthen you. Matthew Sims, blogger

Its wisdom does not shame; its humility inspires because these lessons are from real people. Allison

Some of the most beautiful stories I’ve ever read. Dorea Luther

If you’d like to purchase a copy, you can by clicking on this link. And I’d be so grateful if you did! 

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(Some of you have asked about some of the names I’m listed alongside, feel free to email me if you have questions about that—I’d love to actually dialogue with you about my reasons instead of any assumptions getting in the way here. God’s glory, our joy!)