Thursday, December 18, 2014

Two Book Notices



Mission at Nuremberg: An American Army Chaplain and the Trial of the Nazis
by Tim Townsend

My brother-in-law let me know about this book that chronicles the story of Army Chaplain Henry Gerecke, who was instrumental in ministering to Goering, Wilhelm Keitel, and others as they went through the Nuremberg Trials.  He also ministered to them as they awaited their death sentences.  So far, the book is quite remarkable and is a testimony of God's grace, for no criminal, not even the worst is bereft of hearing the good news of Jesus Christ.




America's Pastor: Billy Graham and the Shaping of a Nation by Grant Wacker

Wacker, Professor of Christian History at Duke Divinity School is well-acquainted with the way Billy Graham influenced the culture and set an example for Christianity throughout the 1950's up to today.  So far, the book has been an excellent presentation of Billy as preacher, motivator, and shaper of culture.  In fact, Wacker's main thesis is that Billy was adept at taking larger trends of culture and using them towards his evangelical ends.  You won't want to miss this book by an excellent historian.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Some Interesting Tid Bits about Shepherds








A few things here about shepherds in Jesus' day that you might not know:

1. Shepherds may have had small landholdings but this income wasn't enough to support their families, their own agricultural pursuits, and the heavy burden of taxation.

2. They often hired themselves out for extra wages, i.e. self-employed

3. They were often akin to the peasant class of society, not having much in the way of power or privilege.
4. Yet, the Jewish cult and Jerusalem temple were heavily dependent upon them, for they brought some 30,000 lambs for Passover.
5. Though they were thought highly by the Jewish people, many in the Greco-Roman world thought of them as the dregs of society. James Jeffers contends that, "“In general, Greeks and Romans looked down upon shepherds, who were thoughts of as dirty and smelly, since they spent most of their time out of doors with animals. Aristotle said that of among men, the “laziest are shepherds, who lead an idle life, and get their subsistence without trouble from tame animals; their flocks having to wander from place to place in search of pasture, they are compelled to follow them, cultivating a sort of living farm (Politics 1.8). Many Romans believed that shepherds practiced highway robbery as well."
6. Yet, they were the first as recorded by Luke to go and tell Mary and Joseph the significance of the birth of Jesus.
7. The gospel message enters through the dirty fingernails and aching muscles of shepherds so that the lowly might be lifted up and that all people, including the least of these, might hear and proclaim the good news.

See also The comments regarding shepherds are based upon my research, looking @

Joel B. Green, The Gospel of Luke (NICNT), 130.
James Jeffers, The Greco-Roman World of the New Testament Era: Exploring the Background of Early Christianity, 21
Gerard Lenski, Power and Social Stratification, 1966, 266-281.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Dear Terrible Intentions

Dear Terrible Intentions,

I’ve seen it played out in a myriad of conversations but it keeps playing out in my mind, namely, instead of giving people the benefit of the doubt when it comes to their vocal intentions, I assume that there conversation directed toward me carries with it the worst of intentions.  Terrible intentions, I wish you would vanish like the light that steps aside in this cold, dark December.  Yet, I know that assuming the worst of people only gives me freedom to feel better about myself and worse about them, because they are the one with the terrible intentions.  Why do I do this?  Could it be from a lack of really listening on my part?  Yes, it could be.  But, the more insidious part about this, terrible intentions, is that in ascribing the worst possible intentions to my conversation partner, I never allow myself to hear the beautiful truths of others, the  praises and joys of their words.

Might I add to this that the gravest danger in not actually hearing someone else’s conversation or intentions is that I fail to see myself and others as image bearers of God.  If I go on in this life only thinking that people are ascribing by their words the worst of intentions toward me, I am squashing the glimmer of the glorious way God has made them.  Not only this, but I am unduly criticizing myself in such a way that nothing good comes from my life, believing the lie that life is not worth living.  So what to do about you, terrible intentions?

Look them in the eye, tell that person across from you to repeat what they are saying to you, repeat their lines out loud and allow the truth to sink into your bones.  Allow your theology to inform and transform your present life right now by hearing what others are saying to you and taking their word at face value.  Have you been hurt by their words or terrible intentions before, if so, put your cards back on the table and listen again for the truth.   Have you given them an opportunity to speak clearly and rightly?  If those whom you are speaking with are conversing with ill intentions, find out what’s going on that is making them speak in such a negative way.  Instead of allowing your mind to swirl with the next painful verbal attack, ask a simple question of them, namely, “Tell me what’s going on in your life right now.”  Let us never forget that at the heart of the gospel are those who desire to hear the stories of others so they might share the Story of the Son with the world.

Your worst nightmare,

Spencer

Friday, December 5, 2014

Jesus Daily






Jesus Daily: 365 Interactive Devotions by Aaron Tabor, MD

Every day we are bombarded by a list of things to do, one more activity to finish just before the deadline.  In the midst of all this running around, we often forget how significant time with our Savior is each day.  This new devotional called Jesus Daily by Aaron Tabor, MD, is a wealth of help to get us focused on the one who loves more than anyone, Jesus.  With Scripture, a short devotion, and an actions point, each is filled with wisdom, inspiration and a better way of seeing Jesus in everyday life.

The entry for today is all about saying yes to God even when we don’t have all the details.  Obedience is not always easy when we’re sure of the end result, but when we know a call is from God, obedience flows out of a heart of service.  Aaron writes, “Therefore, we when she heard him say something that didn’t quite make sense, she was ready to obey because she knew it was from God.”  Finding God’s voice from all the surrounding competing voices can be hard for the Christian, but we know where to turn to hear his voice and his will, for it is found in His Scripture through the aid of His Spirit. 
I really enjoyed as well the snippets at the end of each day that calls us to action.  One suggestion on 

July 29th was to remain offline in your personal time, praying for those suffering around the world.  This advice takes us out of our comfortable lives and puts us into contact with our Heavenly Father, praying for those who suffer for His name every day.  Another reason I thought these action points were good is that Aaron wasn’t seeking to overwhelm and overload us with checklists but offered simple points of grace that we can do to help others, nourish our spiritual lives, and help us see the world as God sees it.

If you are looking for a devotional to lift up your spirits, point you to Jesus, and call you to live differently, Jesus Daily will be a boon of goodness for you.


Thanks to FaithWords and Katie Connors for the copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Urban Apologetics





Urban Apologetics: Why the Gospel is Good News for the City by Christopher W. Brooks

Campus Dean of Moody Theological Seminary in Michigan and Senior Pastor a church in Detroit, Christopher Brooks is well versed in the reason cities need the gospel.  Even more, he is painfully aware of how apologetics is necessary for the advancement of the gospel in urban soil.  In his new book, Urban Apologetics, Chris puts together a wise resource for those interested in the debates surrounding ethics, sexuality, and cultural issues.  The book ends up being wise in its approach, biblical in its approach, and winsome to those who offer up opposing viewpoints on these hot button issues.

In approaching ethics, Chris takes on the oft-cited suggestion that evil is outside of us and usually covers some outside entity such as Communists, Marxists, Republicans, Progressives, etc.  This fallacy, the goodness fallacy basically people as basically good and ‘we only misbehave when pressured by undesirable situations,’ (56).  Two fallacies follow from this goodness concept, namely that any evil is outside of us and that we are able both intellectually and morally to assess a situation by ourselves.  In other words, our individualism and pride trumps any willingness to look inside our own hearts for both evil and partiality. 

Secondly, Chris’ approach to use both scriptural testimony and social statistic studies is to be commended.  On the discussion on Christ and sexuality, he covers the biblical terrain regarding homosexuality with wisdom and clarity, but also introduces us to a 2012 study done by Mark Regnerus on children of same-sex relationships and the outcome of their lives (92-94).  While the study may still be debated, I was glad that Chris included some stats on lower income minorities and the disadvantages they face while still including the study by Regnerus.  Overall, Chris made the point that sexual activity outside God’s created design for marriage destroys both heterosexual and homosexual partnerships.

Overall, I think this book was a good introduction to the issues that modern Christians face living in urban settings.  The only criticism I have of the book is that I wish it was longer, both the chapters and the whole book.  Other issues could also be addressed such as cutting, depression, and the church’s response to these issues.


Thanks to Kregel Publications for the copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.