“We don’t usually want to be Pharisees. But we all want to feel like Pharisees — standing on solid statements, having a place from which to argue. Given the choice between knowledge and life we prefer knowledge. It’s how Adam and Eve chose their fruit. We’ve been choosing the same fruit ever since.” — Mandy Smith, Unfettered
I am far more able to slowly make my way through Eugene Peterson’s biography than most other books because I have to stop and repent so often.Read more
Isabel Wilkerson’s newest book is Caste: The Origins of our Discontents. The first book I read from her was The Warmth of Other Suns, detailing the 100 plus year history of migration from South to North for Black Americans following the Civil War.Read more
There has been a LOT of reading in this time of coronavirus. I was glad to be able to get an advance copy of Marlena Graves’ new book The Way Up is Down.
In this section she talks about the need for confession in our lives to deal with our sin and dwell humbly before the Lord. She makes the case for the return of the sacrament of confession in the Protestant Church:
“But the sacrament of confession involves confessing our sins to a representative of Christ’s church and receiving absolution. Confession is this traditional sense is of paramount importance. There is something mysteriously transformative in hearing the words of absolution: ‘In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven.'”
D.L. Mayfield’s new book, The Myth of the American Dream, is timely. There is a lot of gold in this book and I will do a review later on. But this quote is incredible:
My husband likes to say that we need the church to be our recovery group; we need it to be a place where we can share how tempted we are by the values of our world: upward mobility, progress, success, programs, achievements, individuality.
We need the Church, and the Kingdom of God, to remind us we are not in control. This isn’t about our “liberty.” This is about our allegiance.
I’ve begun reading The Coddling of the American Mind by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt. Lots of quotes to follow in the coming days. This book is needed reading.Read more
Miroslav Volf and Ryan McAnnally-Linz have authored a new book called:
Public Faith in Action: How to Think Carefully, Engage Wisely, and Vote with Integrity
Their main contention is that Christian faith belongs in the public square. It’s beyond the voting booth. It is engagement and there is a goal. The goal is not to “win.” The goal is to understand the activity of the Spirit that isn’t just about our own personal “flourishing” but also about the world around us to understand what is possible in true human flourishing.
What brings “Kingdom best” to the world around us? It is about abundant life. Not just our abundant life as individuals, but the life of the world around us.
Three measurements the authors use in defining “human flourishing”:
- Leading life well. How do I conduct myself in the world? Have I received God’s gifts well? Am I living in discernment of how to use those gifts? Am I acting “well” in light of, and in spite of, circumstances around me?
- Life going well. Working for our life circumstances to be “genuinely good.” Life going well depends on circumstances beyond our control. Our upbringing, our general health, the economic and political stability/instability of our country, etc. In Jesus’ day, he lived in a place where for a lot of people life wasn’t “going well,” so he delivered Kingdom power (healing, deliverance, etc.) into their lives so it had opportunity to “go well.” It is the understanding that we don’t minister to the “spirit” alone. We need to establish physical space of “going well” so physical needs aren’t huge obstacles.
- Life feeling good. There is an emotional component to the whole picture as well. The flourishing life is a life of joy. It is Paul saying no matter where he found himself, he was content.
Volf’s book is a challenge to go beyond our own spiritual “well being” to understand we can powerfully engage the world around us. We must engage the world around us. We need to do it with our own souls “being well.”
A challenge I like to bring to people from time to time is this question: “Is it well with your soul?” The deepest part of who we are can indeed be satisfied in Christ. And when that goes well, we can thoughtfully and joyfully engage our world to bring human flourishing more into a reality.
I have been away for a couple of days forcing myself to write. My wife has been insisting I get some things down in a book format instead of piece mealing things together in scattered teachings and blog posts.
Where I decided to focus was around several thoughts on our incredibly changing times. As I was putting all this together over the past couple of days, I was not filled with angst. I was not filled with fear. I haven’t felt that way at all, even though I am fully aware of the HUGE changes we are experiencing and will continue to experience as the Church in America.
As I am putting all this together, I am full of HOPE. This is probably the greatest OPPORTUNITY for the Church in America. If we can get our heads up, our minds clear, and our hearts fully on Jesus, we just may see that these changes are not going to waste. There are tough changes, to be sure, but at the other end of all this we have the opportunity to actually be the Church of the Living God.
I am not filled with fear or anxiety. I am filled with HOPE.
There is a great work ahead of us. I am excited to be getting at it!