Thursday, January 28, 2010

Book Review - The Shack

I read Tim Keller's review of William Young's The Shack today and found it to be balanced, fair and helpful. The review is well worth reading whether you've read the book or not, or even whether or not you intend to read the book.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Christian Community

I came across a great quote today. It was in a book that was citing another author's citation of this quote by yet another person. I know virtually nothing about R.H. Tawney, the person who originally said it. He might be the greatest theologian ever or he might have been a first rate heretic. Whatever he believed about anything else though, he got this one right:

"The man who seeks God in isolation from his fellows is likely to find, not God, but the devil, who will bear an embarrassing resemblance to himself. "

Two important points here:
  1. What we won't find...If we seek to find God apart from others, we will most likely not find Him. This is because God has created us to live in community. The Church is not just a bunch of individuals who happen to be Christians. Rather the Church is the Body of Christ. Your pain should be my pain and likewise your joys. We are called to reflect for a watching world that God who has existed in the perfect communion of the Holy Trinity from time eternal.
  2. What we will find...Most likely we will find something other than God, be it the devil or some idol that we have unduly elevated. Instead of us reflecting God, our god ends up looking a lot like us. I am reminded of Anne Lamott's observation, "You can safely assume you've created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do."

It may not always be pleasant or easy. We might not like what we hear if people are truly honest with us. But may we all have people in our lives to whom we give the access and the freedom to be used by God to shape and mold us into who He wants us to be. After all, I as I read in a Good Book once, "Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another."

Monday, January 25, 2010

Why We Love the Church

Josh Harris reminds us in this post that the affection and love we're to have for fellow-Christians is not to be based on how great we think others are or how much we enjoy them, but upon the work of Jesus Christ on our behalf.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Totally like whatever, you know?

I was reminded of how much I like this Taylor Mali poem when I saw it on Justin Taylor's blog today. It is a good reminder to not only believe what you say, but to say it like you believe it.

Typography from Ronnie Bruce on Vimeo.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Book Review: Counterfeit Gods

I recently finished reading Counterfeit Gods by Tim Keller. It is not quite the book that Keller’s New York Times bestseller The Reason for God was, but that is no slap in the face. Though a shorter book, like The Reason for God it is (un)apologetically written for a popular audience, and a book certainly worthy of reading.

There were many things in the book which I found to be helpful. Among them, I would like to mention these in particular:
  1. Keller functionally defines an idol as “anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination mote than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give.” In light of this, he reminds us that idols are often not bad things, but rather good things which we have turned into ultimate things.
  2. Keller makes a helpful delineation between surface idols (such as money, our spouse, our children) and deep idols (power, approval, comfort, control). The surface idols tend to be more easily observed in our lives, but they are usually symptoms of deep idols that need to be dealt with at the heart level.
  3. You can not simply remove your idols. It is necessary that they be replaced (with the love of Christ, of course) otherwise the idols will come back like weeds.
My only complaint (and perhaps it is more of a “critique” than a “complaint”) would be that Keller leans heavily on quotes from others (especially C.S. Lewis) throughout. I have no problem with any of the things said in these quotes, it is just that the book at times felt more like a clearing house for other people’s thoughts than a collection of Keller’s. This is probably just a matter of personal taste. Keller is a brilliant thinker in large part because he is so well read, and he is careful to attribute other people’s thoughts to them (which I do appreciate).

Friday, January 8, 2010

Patrick Henry Hughes

Here is an inspirational story about amazing talent, a father’s love, and fulfilling one’s God-given potential as opposed to being bound by others’ expectations.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

An Epiphany of Worship

Happy Epiphany to those who are wont to celebrate such days! Epiphany is the day on which the Church has historically commemorated the visit of the magi or wise men. In my devotions this morning I was looking at Matthew 2 which tells us about this event.

The actions of the magi are often held up as an example of how we should rightly respond to the news of Christ’s coming. Namely, we should come and worship, bearing our gifts and bowing before the Lord! This is altogether right, but there are also examples in the text as to how we ought not to respond.

Herod is one such example. His reaction to the news is one e responds to the news is one of blatant self-interest. We read of how he looks to kill the Christ-child so that his own throne would not be threatened. He eventually goes to the most horrifying of ends in his futile efforts to accomplish this.

While it probably true that none of us will respond with the same actions as Herod, we do need to be careful not to respond out of similar self-interest. Our day is one in which the popular view of Jesus is increasingly one of a self-help guru. While Jesus does indeed give our life purpose and it is only through knowing him that we can have our best life, these are not the ultimate reasons Jesus came. He came to redeem and renew his good creation, and to prepare a bride for himself. His work is about God’s glory, not our comfort.

One less obvious, though perhaps even more applicable example for many of us would be that of the chief priests and the scribes. These religious leaders know their Bible. As such they are able to properly identify and recite the prophecy of Micah 5:2 that fortells the location of the birth of the Christ. But what do they do next? Unfortunately, nothing. What the chief priests and the scribes should have done is gone online and booked an immediate trip to Bethlehem to see the Christ-child themselves!

Too often, when I read the Bible, I am like these religious leaders, merely gleaning information from the biblical text. At times I read it as a history book, telling me about past events. Other times I read it as an instruction manual, telling me how to live my life.

I need to be careful though not to read the Bible simply in either of these fashions. It is indeed these things, but it is far more. It is a book that is meant not only to inform us, but to transform us. I should read it so as to be changed by God.

I need to not only read the Bible, but meditate on it, mulling it over in my heart and mind, as did Mary when she “treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Luke 2:19). I need to ask God to use it to make me more like him, not simply because it gives us step-by-step directions, but because it is a book that is living and active (Hebrews 4:12) and capable of effecting such change.

May God be at work in us all this new year, transforming us ever-increasingly into the likeness of his Son!