Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Judgment houses: have we misunderstood hell?

Amy Hall over at the Stand To Reason blog shares a few reasons from Russell Moore as to why judgment houses (or hell houses, haunted-house-type attractions created by churches, depicting sin and judgment for the purpose of evangelism) "often miss the mark."

What I find curious about the trend is not what it says about those who attend these judgment houses. Rather, I find these sorts of "Christian haunted houses" revealing regarding the churches' own misunderstandings about God's judgment, our guilt, and hell itself. Here are a couple of the points:
  1. They abstract judgment from the love of God
  2. They abstract judgment from the glory of God
  3. It's hard to cry at a judgment house

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Book Review: For the City by Patrick & Carter

"If your church closed its doors tomorrow, would your city even know it was gone?"

Church planting and community transformation are both hot topics in Christian print right now. For the City by Darrin Patrick and Matt Carter lies at the intersection of those two topics. However, the book grows out of the blood, sweat, and passion of two churches and pastors and is anything but opportunistic. Indeed it is a passionate plea to the body of Christ to live lives changed by the gospel that engage the city around them.

The book opens with three chapters (Part 1: A Tale of Two Cities) detailing the infancy of the two churches in Austin, TX and St. Louis, MO. While these chapters are light on practical application, it serves to emphasize the importance of knowing your city if you are to reach your city.

The remainder of the book (Part 2: In and For the City) lays out some of the central components to a church that will reach its city: contextualization, community, service, equipping, and suffering. These characteristics are fleshed out by personal accounts from the two churches—to mixed results. While some of the stories help give "handles" to these ideas, some of the other stories consume almost the entire chapter and leave very little space for further instruction. However, the book truly hits stride in the last three chapters ("Suffering", "Confessions", and "Conclusion: Live Like Jonah") and gospel rightly takes front and center in these humble and hopeful pieces.

In the end, For the City is a solid book by two pastors who are passionate about the gospel and what the gospel can do for their cities—and for yours.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Recommended for: Pastors, planters

This book was a free review copy provided by Zondervan.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

And while we're at it...

Here's two more:

"Be Winsome and Persuasive" by Tim Keller
In short, it is possible to seek to be winsome and persuasive out of a self-centeredness, rather than a God-centeredness. We may do it to be popular. On the other hand, it is just as possible to be bold and strongly polemical out of self-centereredness rather than God-centeredness. And therefore, looking very closely at our motives, we should be sure our polemics do not unnecessarily harden and antagonize our opponents. We should seek to win them, as Paul did Peter, not to be rid of them.
"How I Wish the Homosexuality Debate Would Go" by Trevin Wax
If you think my position on homosexuality is radical, just wait until you hear what else I believe! I believe that a teenage guy and girl who have sex in the backseat of a pick-up are sinning. The unmarried heterosexual couple living down the street from me is sinning. In fact, any sexual activity that takes place outside of the marriage covenant between a husband and wife is sinful. What’s more, Jesus takes this sexual ethic a step further and goes to the heart of the matter. That means that any time I even lust after someone else, I am sinning. Jesus’ radical view of sexuality shows all of us up as sexual sinners, and that’s why He came to die. Jesus died to save lustful, homo- and heterosexual sinners and transform our hearts and minds and behavior. Because He died for me, I owe Him my all. And as a follower of Jesus, I’m bound to what He says about sex and morality.

Friday, October 14, 2011

If we may break tradition . . .

I know we don't do this often, but I had to do a links post cause there's a couple really great things out there. One will require a few minutes to appreciate, the other will demand almost an hour.

Tullian Tchividjian shares a brief story over at the Gospel Coalition blog (it may or may not be a historical accounting) that illustrates that "redeeming unconditional love alone (not fear, not guilt, not shame) carries the power to compel heart-felt loyalty to the One who bought us".

Joel Shorey, one of the pastors of Covenant Fellowship Church in Glen Mills, PA, delivers a word-for-word recitation-as-sermon of the entire book of Hebrews. Incredible.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Life is an incremental series of becoming what you are in Christ

The following is an excerpt from John Piper's message on 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12 and his exhortation to his congregation to join small groups. However, I find his exhortation holds equally true to call every believer to give in the larger context of church.

"God is calling us into these relationships not primarily because of what you need to get from the group but because of what you need to give to the group. To give yourselves."
  1. To take a risk of sharing your soul,
  2. to put away all deceit and exploitation,
  3. to renounce man-pleasing,
  4. to be done with flattery and covetousness,
  5. to feel tender, mother-like affections for people,
  6. to be holy, righteous, and blameless in our conduct,
  7. and to feel father-like desires to encourage and lead others into God-centered legacy.
You say you have nothing to give? Then you must listen to his conclusion below (3:31).

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Killer deal over at All Re:Lit books 50% off!

(Sorry for posting this twice, Blogger killed all my links.)

There's one heckuva deal going on over at the Westminster Bookstore that will last for just one week (Wednesday the 12th).

All Re:Lit books are 50% off, or you can get the entire set of 16 books for $127 (52% off).

I've already availed myself of this killer deal since I have not read all the Re:Lit books yet, but I would also like to recommend a couple of my favorites.

A Meal With Jesus by Tim Chester has probably been my favorite and most surprising read of the year (surprising because it has been my favorite). Who knew a book about Jesus and food could be this good?!! You can get it for $7.49

Scandalous by D. A. Carson knocked me upside the head right when I thought I'd heard just about everything regarding Jesus and the cross. Short, painfully beautiful, and fresh. $7.99

Church Planter by Darrin Patrick was a solid read for me on the front end of my ministry at Redeemer Church. It covers the man (leadership qualifications), the message (the gospel), and the mission (the purpose of the church). $7.99

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Book Review: Reverberation by Jonathan Leeman

See details below on three copies being given away over at Moody Publishers blog (hurry, there's only a day left!).

Reverberation by Jonathan Leeman focuses on the power of the Word of God. Leeman says "It’s different from other books on Scripture in that (i) it’s tracing the process of how the Word creates the church and (ii) it’s fighting to help the reader grow in faith."

I genuinely enjoyed and benefited from this book as I felt a renewal in my love for and appreciation of the Word written (the Bible) the Word spoken (the sermon) and the Word practiced (the body of Christ). The book is broken up into just such sections, and they highlight and follow the movement of the Word:

Part 1: The Word
  • Invites and Divides
  • Acts
  • Frees
  • Gathers
Part 2: The Sermon
  • Exposes
  • Announces
  • Confronts
Part 3: The Reverberation
  • Sings
  • Prays
  • Disciples
  • Scatters and, Once Again, Invites
Leeman's style is straightforward and readable, his plea is passionate. As the church, we fall into countless temptations while we "do church" to do things under our own wisdom, our own power, our own strategies. Yet the Word of God is counter-intuitive to all of these, and these efforts can often (if not always) be counter-productive to true power of the Word. Leeman calls us all to fight this sort of drift that happens when one is not intentionally preaching and pursuing the Word of God.

Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Recommended for: Every Christian

And now the giveaway: Moody Publishers is giving away three copies over at their blog. Go check it out and good luck!

This book was a free review copy provided by Moody Publishers.

5 Ways Established Churches Should Think Like Plants

From the Gospel Coalition blog, 5 Ways Established Churches Should Think Like Plants by Brandon Levering. Here's the five points:
  1. Church plants clearly define their mission and keep it before them in everything they do.
  2. Church plants feel an acute sense of urgency to engage in evangelism.
  3. Church plants tend to better understand the culture they’re engaging.
  4. Church plants use a wider portion of the congregation in service.
  5. Church plants are more likely to think strategically about planting more churches.
Here's the question: what are you a part of? Would you consider it an established church or a church plant (secondary question: at what point does a plant become established)? And no matter which side of the fence you fall, do you agree with these characterizations?