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Category: Friday Variety

Two Books to Stir Your Soul

At times I’ve read a great deal for my devotion times. I’ve read (and continue to read) the Puritans to help me in my devotion times in the past. I’ve read 10+ chapters a day. For whatever reason, I’ve been on a few verses plus a few pages in a good book kick lately. I need accessible, rich food for my soul, and I’ve found two books that have been incredibly helpful.

Delighting in the Trinity

9780830839834In this little book, Michael Reeves works some major wit and heft to lead you into seeing the shear beauty and glory of our Triune God. This isn’t a doctrine for heady Christians, it’s the heart and arteries of the Christian faith. No Trinity, no faith.

Reeves is accessible, fun and profound. In an age where any mention of “God” in public is considered a “win” for people of faith, Reeves reintroduces Christians to the profound joy of the Triune God. The Trinity is not what may sell major books, but it is the heart of the Christian faith, and it is the only sure ground of true, lasting and real joy. Ever. No Trinity, no joy. If that sounds like a big one to buy, then give Reeves a read. He’s simple, clever and clear. I read this for my devotion times over the last couple weeks, and it left me wanting more of the Triune God, and having a clear sense of the mystery of God as Three in One. Highly recommended.

Rejoicing in Christ

9780830840229This is Michael Reeve’s follow up book. I actually read this one first and loved it so much that I went back to read his one on the Trinity. As I said above, I find myself rather weary lately. I imagine this is just the way church planting goes. What I love about Reeves is that while he’s clearly very smart, he’s not out to impress anybody. He uses his gifts to lead us into the heart of the Gospel. In this book, he does just that. He leads us to Jesus, to marvel, wonder, to delight in him.

What I find especially interesting here is that the early church fought (sometimes with actual blows – thank you St. Nick!) to preserve and clarify the doctrines of the Trinity and Christ. Their formulations weren’t power plays or arguments over minutia. Reeves shows us how each point in the doctrine of Christ is crucial for our salvation and the glory of God. With good wit and some fun, he shows us how the early Church’s formulations about Christ were not only Biblical, but essential for life and godliness. This book is deep, accessible and rich. Very edifying while being easy to understand with deep, great truths. It helped me love Jesus Christ more. And for this weary soul, that’s just what I need in morning.

I’d recommend getting both of these – Delighting in the Trinity and Rejoicing in Christ – to not only enrich your understanding of the Christian faith, but lead you to experience the Christian faith. Which is to say, these books help you to experience the glorious Triune God through the Lord Jesus Christ.

Why The Church Is Not A Tweet

I distinctly remember reading Malcolm Gladwell’s piece Small Change almost 5 years ago. I remember where I was, and what the weather was that day. I generally read articles and move on, but this one stuck with me. Certainly Gladwell is an engaging, wildly successful and insightful writer, but I generally don’t remember articles, so this one was special.

The basic premise of the piece was that social media (Twitter, Facebook, blogs, ahem) talk a big talk, and appear to promote social change, but they pale in comparison to real, genuine protests or campaigns waged by the social activists of previous generations. He opens the article with an example of four young black students going into a segregated diner and asking for a cup of coffee. They were protesting, and physically there to do it. You can imagine the comparison: Does a tweet “Such and such is outrageous in our day and age #justice” effect the same explosive power of protest? Hardly.

The main crux of the article comes in the closing paragraphs, though I’d encourage you to read it.

It makes it easier for activists to express themselves, and harder for that expression to have any impact. The instruments of social media are well suited to making the existing social order more efficient.

That is to say, if social media is one’s choice medium of cultural protest, you’re protesting from the comfort of your couch. More often than not, there is no real skin in the game. No teeth in the bite, nobody cares in the end. I recognize that there are qualifications here and that this is not a universal law. One of the appeals of Gladwell is that when he unfolds an issue, it somehow seems so obviously simple – too simple, in fact. There are people for whom social media engagement is an outflow of their skin being on the line. However, in most cases, I don’t think that’s the case.

And yet, the Church.

To my mind, in contrast to all of that, stands the Church.

I am not one to say that the church is a protest to the world, or buy into those type of arguments. We are called to be holy – genuine, real holiness. And true holiness, like the Holy God, pursues and loves a lost and broken world. Holiness propels us towards the world, not to retreat from it.

Which leads me to simply point to the article with a reflection: The church is not a social media campaign for spiritual activism by #hashtag. Personally, I am deeply disinclined to buy into and support social media campaigns of any type because they are cheap, and require very little of me (might they in fact be cheap grace Herr Bonhoeffer?).

In contrast to cheap activism, the church is called to genuine love. Should we want real change – change without an agenda for personal comfort – then we must obey the simple command to love our neighbors. I’m often left wondering: Do our tweets and posts substitute for obedience to “love thy neighbor as thyself”? The church, in contrast to Facebook shares, is a family of people seeking to make new disciples by love, for love, with love – doing so by real, physical presence with their neighbors.

Tweets and blogs decrying this or that cause, this or that leader, this or that church or organization for supposed or real infections of love or justice – most are not brave. It is brave to press into the life of the church. It is requires grace to put your skin on the line, stay in the hardship, and commit to the long-term change of grace that only the Gospel can produce. The Gospel is the only change agent that produces real change in real people’s lives over time together. To use Gladwell’s language, if we want our lives and passions for Jesus to have an impact, we have to choose the harder path. The church, not twitter. The church is the mission of the real God, with real people in real community. The church is not a tweet.

To end, let me commend to you Malcolm Gladwell’s piece Small Change for your cogitation and brooding.

Friday Variety: The Best Bible Journal You Can Buy

I’m not exaggerating: this is the best Bible reading and prayer journal I’ve found.

I was first introduced to The Good News Dudes by my friend Ian McConnell. I checked out their website, was intrigued, and ordered one of their prayer journals. Then I ordered one for my wife. Then I ordered one for all the guys on our leadership team at our church. Then I considered ordering one for my 3 year old’s birthday, but figured I should wait until he can read.

When I’m reading my Bible in the morning I’ve found that journaling helps in a number of key ways.

  • Journaling keeps me disciplined. I don’t like journaling very much. Yet, when I have a journal, a record of my devotional life, I’m more consistent. I need that.
  • Journaling focuses my reading. If I know I need to crystallize what I’ve read into something I can write down, it helps me focus.
  • Journaling helps me think “out loud.” Sometimes when I’m stuck I’ll summarize verses, or ideas, in the text. I’ll see patterns. I’ll better understand the text.
  • Journaling keeps a record for reflection. I can look back and see what I’ve been learning over the last week, or last month. Reflection can help me see “Hey God is really emphasizing this theme in my reading this month.”

Now, the only problem has been that no journal has quite been what I need. I’ve tried journaling my daily reflections on Scripture on a trusty Moleskine, on cool recycled notebooks I’ve discovered in independent bookstores, on less fancy notebooks, even on my phone. All of them worked to some degree. But none of them felt quite perfect.

This one does.

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“Grace Alone” is not a bad reminder as you open the pages of Scripture every morning

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What’s on the page: Date / Scripture / Reflect / Pray for / #GraceAlone

a few things I love about this journal

  • Just the Right Amount of Space: I’m not great at journaling and I always feel guilty I don’t journal more. An open ended journal can feel intimidating. But that roughly half page looks inviting. “I can fill at least half that,” I think in the morning.
  • Simple, Undistracting Layout: I’ve seen prayer journals that try to do too much. This is just enough to get going and get out of the way.
  • Helpful Progression: The journal leads you through writing your Scripture, reflecting on it, praying according to it, and then ends with a gospel reminder (#gracealone). I love that it won’t let me leave my Scripture reading time without praying. And I love that it won’t let me leave my devotional time without seeing grace on the pages of Scripture as I head into my day.
  • Size & Quality: The journal has a nice weight and feel in your hands and pages are good quality. This makes me want to open it and use it. The bookmark is a nice touch. The size is just right–not too thin to lose, but not too big to throw into your backpack. There’s also a bit of room to toss in a couple sheets of paper, like a Bible reading plan.

 

In addition to the Scripture Journal the Good News Dudes also make other cool stuff like T-Shirts and old-school pennants (yes, pennants). I especially love the Pub Glass I got in my last order.

After a thoroughly unscientific analysis I’ve concluded that these journals could be beneficial for:

  • Spouses
  • Christian friends (especially as a not-so-subtle hint that they should be reading the Bible more)
  • Pastors (especially during Pastor Appreciation Month, or as a not-so-subtle hint that their last sermon was weird and that they should study the Bible more)
  • Literate children (illiterate toddlers will enjoy them as well for their size, weight, and ease with which they can be thrown across the room)
  • Students (they can double as your literature class notebook in a pinch)
  • Mean people (especially if you underline the word “grace” on each page before you give it to them)

The Giveaway

So here’s the thing. The guys at The Good News Dudes are graciously and eagerly providing a giveaway for one of these journals. Here’s how to enter:

  1. Leave a comment on our Facebook Page, Twitter or the blog about your journalling experience. Pro/con/hate/love/whatever.
  2. Put the hashtag #PlantReplant in the comment because we want to spread the word!
  3. One entry per person! Entries limited to U.S. addresses.

We’ll pick a winner this next Monday at 7am, Central Standard Time. We’ll then announce it that day and the Good News Dudes will take it from there.

Discount offer

While we’re at it, let’s throw in something else. The Good News Dudes are providing you gentle people with a 20% off discount for any purchase you make through their store just for making good reading decisions… ahem, I mean, for reading Plant/Replant. To get the discount, stroll over to their store, kick the tires and poke about, and enter the code PLANTREPLANT at checkout.

Have fun! And don’t shoot your eye out!

Friday Variety: God Made All of Me

(This feature of the blog will be quick takes from the week. Books, blogs, etc. that Ricky or I have read that are relevant to pastoral ministry, church planting, replanting, or not being a jerk. In that order for the most part.)

To my knowledge, God Made All Of Me is a singular and unique book: A book written to help children protect themselves from sexual assault and abuse from a distinctly Christian perspective. The Biblical doctrines of creation (God mad all things good) and protection (It’s ok to say no) are written at an accessible level for children to understand appropriate and inappropriate touch.

One of the central lines to the book is:

God made every part of your body and God called every part of your body good. Some parts of your body are for sharing and some parts are not for sharing.

Children are encouraged to clearly say No when they do not want to be touched. Additionally, the private parts are defined by bathing suit and underwear lines – a helpful starting point that’s easy for kids to understand. Even Grandma gets told No with confidence to illustrate saying No to kisses (unwanted touch), even to family members.

Clear language about body parts and names are used, with good justification which the authors explain in the back. The introduction and final remarks aim to equip parents (and all involved with caring for children) with clear facts about sexual abuse and clear, simple steps to help protect their children.

God Made All Of Me is timely and helpful. I would recommend all parents have this and read through it with their kids. It may not take precedence over Curious George, but it wasn’t designed to. It’s aimed to equip our children against real threats to their safety, without making them fearful of everybody. The aim is to equip children, not scare them. In this way, it not only uses Christian categories, but illustrates sober Christian grace.

Additional Resource

If you are a pastor of any kind, and involved in church leadership at any level, you must think carefully and thoroughly about child safety at any church function. As a church plant, we’ve decided to not be involved with some service projects because I saw gaping holes in their child safety policy. This is massively important for child safety and for volunteer safety. To this end, I simply recommend you check out and use Ministry Safe. This isn’t a sponsored ad, I just like them. I like everything about how they train children’s ministry workers to know how predators act, and how to identify problems. It provides much more for churches. Run by a lawyer husband-wife team, they’re legit. If you don’t have a thorough policy for your church, you’re inviting trouble. Please, check out Ministry Safe.

(Note: I was going to say that if you didn’t have a thorough children’s ministry policy that St. Peter would punch you in the face at the pearly gates, but my wife thought that was over the line. So, I deleted the line. Now you’re left having to wonder what that would have been like if I’d left it in.)