The Gospel Speaks to Us All (Ministry Failures/Dropouts Too)


Screen Shot 2015-04-24 at 8.49.14 AM

It has been almost exactly a year since my wife and I were confronted with the harsh reality that we needed to find some other option than our plan at the time of continuing to minister full-time with The Navigators in Northern California. I have intentionally not shared much publicly (here on the blog or otherwise) about the reasons, process, etc etc etc. While we appropriately mourn some losses from the previous seasons in our life we also rejoice in the faithfulness of God as he has led us and provided for us in the new and at times frightening season. We have set him continually before us and because he is at our right hand, we shall not be shaken.

I reference these past events and trials not to dredge up the past but instead to say that when I read Jared Wilson’s (no, not Jarrid Wilson) piece on Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s new website For the Church, well…it spoke to me right where I’m at. If you’ve suffered discouragement, disappointment, fear, confusion, or hurt in a transition (to/from ministry or otherwise) and life hasn’t gone the way you’d hoped, I recommend checking it out. We need to be reminded of the gospel every single day: by ourselves and by others. Here’s a preview to give you a taste:

If you find yourself constantly measuring, constantly frustrated, constantly seeing all you don’t have, Bonhoeffer actually says you should be glad that God has led you into this predicament, because it means you’re realizing you have a wish-dream that needs to be “shattered by God” (his words).

Bound up in Isaac were all of Abraham’s hopes and dreams. Isaac was the child God promised. Isaac was the child Abraham and Sarah had schemed to conceive in ways other than by God’s providence. Isaac was his parents’ wish-dream. And I imagine Abraham had a vision for how God’s promise to multiply his descendants and expand his legacy into eternity would play out, and I imagine this lonely scenario of taking the wish-dream up the mountain to slay it was not it.

Whatever it is, we all have a vision for how life is supposed to go, what life is supposed to be like, what we want and how we want it and the way we want to feel about it, but then actual life happens, and when our heart is tuned to only find joy in the dream, we will never find joy, because we’ve placed it in a mirage.

For the rest of Jared’s story of leaving one ministry for another and his thoughts on Bonhoeffer, Abraham, and what God might be up to in scenarios like this, click here. I hope it encourages you as it did me and that all of us are continually redirected to the truth of the gospel.

Hallelujah for the good news that the only place we could find joy is in the presence of One who graciously, relentlessly, and faithfully invites us just as we are. As Augustine famously said of God, “Thou hast made us for thyself, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”

FREEsources-“Bonhoeffer on the Christian Life” by Stephen J. Nichols


6e3c7-06-13-book03

Crossway is giving away a FREE ebook copy of Bonhoeffer on the Christian Life for anyone who completes a short (5 question or so) survey about where they learn about new books. This giveaway is open today through March 15th. I have not read this entry yet but I have read the entry in this series on Jonathan Edwards. If this book is anything like that one then you should definitely get your hands on a free copy! Here’s the link to get started:

–> FREE copy of Bonhoeffer on the Christian Life <–

(and here’s the link to the Amazon page if you’d like to read some reviews first)

My Top Seven Books of 2014


This year I read a lot of books. As such, I decided it was a better idea to write a blog with a list of my top seven books of 2014 instead of everything I read this year. These are not necessarily books published in 2014–though several were–and these are not in any particular order. Instead, it’s simply a list of my favorite books that I read in 2014. I’ve broken them down into a few categories and included some thoughts on each. Enjoy!

Sci-Fi/FantasyWordsOfRadianceCover

1. Words of Radiance-Brandon Sanderson
I previously reviewed this book on my Goodreads account. Here’s an excerpt:
If you already have read some or all of Sanderson’s other books, rest assured-this is his best yet. But if you consider yourself a fan of fantasy (from Tolkien to Jordan to Martin to Rothfuss) and yet DON’T know about Sanderson-FIX THAT NOW! You will NOT regret it…Sanderson picks up all the threads he left them at the end of book one [of the series] with confidence and aplomb and deftly spins them out into gripping, surprising, and inspiring webs that reveal the true purpose and history of the Shattered Plains. Couldn’t recommend this book enough, even if I were to go on for several thousand more words, so I’ll leave it at this. Read this book!
That was how I felt back in March and it’s still how I feel now. This book is emblematic of why Sanderson is my favorite currently-living fantasy author. One of the most well-balanced, exciting, and just plain quality fantasy books I’ve ever read.

alrassanus

2. The Lions of Al-Rassan-Guy Gavriel Kay

Again, here’s an excerpt from a previous review (this time from this very blog):

The Reconquest of Al-Rassan is at hand. The three hundred year golden age of the caliphate’s rule is ending, and three characters-a Jaddite commander named Rodrigo Belmonte, a Kindath doctornamed Jehane, and an Asharite poet and soldier named Ammar ibn Khairan-are caught in the middle. The world is changing and they must find their place within it.

I thoroughly enjoyed the story, the writing, and the characters. If you’re looking for another new fantasy author, look no further.

Theology/Devotional

51G4bZO8VML._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_3. The Cost of Discipleship-Bohnoeffer
Perhaps one of the most challenging books I’ve ever read. And not just challenging, but paradigm shifting. In examining the difference between cheap grace and costly grace, commenting at length on the Sermon on the Mount, defining the believer’s part in this, and painting a vision of what the church should look like, Bonhoeffer answers the question of “what can the call to discipleship mean to-day?” (38) I already know I will be revisiting this one often.

81sMcTc4vPL._SL1500_
4. Celebration of Discipline-Richard J. Foster
Again, from a previous blog review:
[In reading this book] I found myself continually challenged and stretched in the best way possible. This is a book to read slowly and savor. Time and time again I found myself setting the book down to reflect or pray. Both a helpful book to read straight-through and also to serve as a reference in the future as a refresher.

51xmLGfqceL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_5. Evangelism in the Early Church-Michael Green
Evangelism in the Early Church is a superb introduction to, resource on, and portrait of the early Church’s evangelistic endeavors. Green is both careful and skillful in his analysis, presentation, and application of his insights on the state of the early Church. While it is not for everyone and while it has its areas of weakness, those who are dedicated enough to the material will reap rich rewards from his study on the message, messengers, and methods God used to spread the gospel and grow the Church in the first few centuries. As our culture increasingly reflects the circumstances the early Church encountered in the ancient world, it is a more timely set of lessons than ever. May we as the Church and the successors to the earliest believers rise to Green’s challenge of being willing to pay the price to return evangelism to the place of first importance that it held for them. (**I may post an extended review of this book in the future**)

91wDmVN6shL6. Prayer-Tim Keller
Disclaimer: As of the writing of this post, I haven’t fully finished the book. That said, this just might be the most important book on prayer written for quite some time (and certainly that I have personally read). I will CERTAINLY be reviewing this book in more detail in the coming days/weeks, but I couldn’t post this list and exclude this book. It’s just that good.

Biography

amazing-grace7. Amazing Grace-Eric Metaxas
I previously said that this book is “a heroic story about an amazingly humble and incredibly influential individual that is masterfully told by Metaxas. I can’t recommend this book highly enough!” As with my previous reviews, I’m sticking to my guns. This is the best biography I read this year. There’s a reason that Abraham Lincoln and David Livingstone (among countless others) considered William Wilberforce to be one of their heroes. An invaluable look at the life of a great man of faith.

Runners Up:

I initially wanted to include these books but will simply list the links to my reviews elsewhere for those who might be interested.
What about you? What were your top three or five or ten books that you read in 2014? I’d love to hear your recommendations for my to-read list for 2015! Sound off in the comments to join the conversation.