Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Books Read, 2013 Update (May to present)

The purpose of this list is to help me remember what I've been putting through my brain as well as give you possible titles to consider in your upcoming reading:

"The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert" - by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield - I highly recommend this memoir of a former tenured English professor and practicing lesbian who had a whirlwind conversion to Jesus Christ. She calls it her "train wreck conversion" in which in a nutshell, she lost everything, except her dog.

"Me, Myself, and Bob" by Phil Vischer: The creator of Veggie Tales traces his rise and fall in the professional world (up to 2004). This is a fantastic book for leaders, artists, pastors, and the like. I highly, highly recommend it.

"The Otherworld" by Jared Wilson - a fun sci-fi, fantasy thriller set in modern Texas. Wilson crafts a tale with a bit of aliens, a bit of demons, and a daring journey of good vs. evil.

"The Sword" by Bryan Litfin: This is a post-apocalyptic adventure book with a great storyline. It's only the first book of three, but I'm planning to move on to #2 soon with excitement.

"Redemptive Divorce" by Mark Gaither: a helpful book that gives hope to any spouse who has suffered long at the hands of an offending love one. This book models both truth and grace, believing in the power of the Gospel.

"The Meaning of Marriage" by Tim Keller: One of the absolute best books on marriage that is out there.

"The Most Important Thing Happening" by Mark Stevens: I loved (loved!) this fiction book that weaves together a series of short stories into one epic tale. This is great writing and worth your time.

"The Light Princess" by George MacDonald: A short fiction book about a person who has lost any sense of gravity both physically and spiritually. This book serves as a helpful reminder to a cynical world that a world without gravity is a world incapable of love, hope, or joy.

"How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth by Fee and Stuart: An ok introduction to reading through the Bible.

"Out of the Silent Planet" by CS Lewis: Book One of Lewis' space trilogy (a read aloud book with Carrie).

"Prodigal God" by Tim Keller: Maybe one of the best books introducing people to Jesus.

"Lectures to My Students" by Charles Spurgeon: a must-read book for any Christian leader, also a book that should be reread every 5 years.

"Ben-Hur" by Lewis Wallace: a wonderful book tracing a fictional character during the time of Jesus Christ.

"The Life of Martyn-Lloyd Jones, 1899-1901" by Ian Murray: A fun introduction to one of the greatest 20th century preachers.

"Charles Hodge: The Pride of Princeton" by Hoffecker: I wouldn't really recommend this unless you are a lover of all things Princeton, Presbyterianism, or Reformed theology. To be honest, it ended up being a disappointing book for me.

"Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry" by Paul David Tripp: A good book for those who love and support pastors and for the pastors themselves. 

"The Great Divorce" by CS Lewis: This is Lewis fiction at his best, depicting the ultimate choice of each person for Heaven or for Hell.

"The Art of Pastoring" by David Hansen: a beautiful book that traces the theological nature of what it means to be a shepherd in the modern church.

Any recommendations out there for me to close up 2013 or as we move into 2014?


Thursday, September 19, 2013

My shocking sin...

Rosaria Champagne Butterfield writes in her memoir, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, “Are our testimonies honoring to the whole landscape of the Christian journey? Not if they only speak of the ‘how-shocking-was-my-sin-before-I-met-the-Lord’ story. (As though the sin I commit today is less shocking.) Not if they only share the safe feelings, rehearsed responses, and good ‘decisions’ for which we give ourselves unearned credit.”

In other words, if you tell someone how you became a Christian and in so doing you make yourself look good, you've failed miserably.

This was a nice introduction to a book that describes her journey from being "a leftist, lesbian professor" (her words) into a life of following Jesus Christ (and in so doing leaving behind her former life).

As I reflect personally, I confess that I was a sin-infested young boy when I became a follower of Jesus. Today, with eyes wide open after walking with Jesus for 20 years, I still feel the sin infestation alive and well. I still need grace, redemption, and the good news of the Gospel. My sin is more shocking than it was before...because I'm less ignorant to what I'm doing to God, others, and myself.

I need a Savior today just like I needed Him the first day I cried out to Him.


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A Millennial Remembers 9.11

There have been loads of news reports about and mini-autobiographies by millennials lately; I thought I'd add to the stack. By the way "a millennial" is someone born between 1981-2000, and studies show we like to talk about ourselves, so here I go...

On September 11, 2001, I was a junior at Iowa State University. I woke up late for class that day, and ran in and out of my fraternity's kitchen to grab a bite to eat. At the counter sat our fraternity mom (60 some years of age) transfixed to the television screen like normal. She made mention of planes, buildings, and terrorism. I looked at the screen for all of 5 seconds and then headed on my way.

I'm not proud of it, but world news did not mean much then. As a senior in high school, I sloughed off a massacre at Columbine. I could see its affect on others, but to be honest, I didn't get it. Three years later, a tragedy in New York was simply news that did not affect me. I jumped on my bicycle and headed to class where something significant was at hand...learning Classical Greek.

I think it was on my bike that things began to sink in. First, I noticed a holy hush over the campus. There was a sense of paralysis felt by the professors. By noon, I knew that the world was no longer "out there," but next door. That night I joined hundreds of other classmates in prayer in the center of campus. Candles were lit; prayers were offered; and cries for peace and justice were heard.

I grew up a bit that day. Though my first reaction was obliviousness and self-absorption, by the day's end I realized one person or just a half-dozen people can be the instigators of great evil or great good.

I'm shamed by my first reactions, but thankful that they were not my last reflections. Millennials are notorious for not growing up. I think the reason is that it's easier to be self-consumed. It's easier to focus our lives on the newest I-phone arrival rather than on a Middle East crisis, a world hunger crisis, and a sexually transmitted disease crisis. But the day we grow up is the day we actually contemplate the pain, sorrow, and anguish of "the other."

9-11 was one of the first days in my life that 'the other' became a real person, a person like me. People who were just a year older than me had walked into work but never walked out. People flying on airplanes for fun and vacation met their Maker that day. It could have been me.

I wish 9-11 never happened. I wish no tragedy ever to strike this country or another again. But I know that in a fallen world, sinful people will bring more destruction. My hope for myself, my fellow Millennials, and the generations before and after us won't linger so long in obliviousness and self-absorption. Rather, let us care for the other, or as the wisest man who ever walked this planet said: "Love your neighbor as yourself."

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

To blog or not to blog---that is the question

So, I'm moving to a time of prayer on whether to keep this thing alive. So too, I'm receiving counsel.

Having a guaranteed weekly outlet for sharing my heart and soul from the pulpit, I've found fewer compulsions to write here.

But if this has been helpful for you to think through subjects I may continue. So let me know...

Thanks,
Matt