About 9 months ago I joined a book program where I would get free books as long as I agreed to review them online and post about them. Kind of a buzz generating thing, thinking it would help people who were thinking about buying the book. So, I picked up this Billy Graham book, which is a reworked version of an 80’s book he wrote about the end times and the hints in the current world toward the end times.
So, as far as theology goes, the book wasn’t exactly novel, but I had never read a billy Graham book, so I really wanted to stick with it. Since it took me 9 months to read, I didn’t exactly find it inspirational.
Probably the best part of the book was remembering the cold war and the way everyone thought it was a sure sign of the end times. That worked out.
It’s been a long time that I have wanted to read the third installment of McLaren’s New Kind of Christian which is about hell and works through the issue in the narrative of a church’s struggle to remain faithful to the gospel, despite extreme pressures to go the fundamentalist route or the extreme liberal route. It seems that, in the western world, this is a tension that churches and church leaders have to deal with all the time and manage the practices of the church with the theology of the church.
So, in this context, McLaren decides to put some thoughts into the theology of hell. Who goes to hell and where is hell and why have hell are questions that have to have decent answers for any thinking Christian. After reading this book I jokingly told a friend of mine that I don’t think I can believe in hell any more! Of course, that’s not even remotely true, but I do not want to be guilty of just accepting what the traditional views on hell are, without examining the Scriptures and the relevant doctrines and historical theologies (for McLaren, that means a focus on the writings of C.S. Lewis).
So, while I’m still down with the existence of hell, this book can be appreciated by a wide range of different viewpoints and asks amazing questions that will push your thinking futher and your devotion to God further at the same time.
Here’s some fun quotes:
- p.15, “faith must engage with the culture in which it finds itself but how it can become so excessively enmeshed with that culture that its power is neutralized… If a faith becomes enmeshed, not just engaged, with a culture…people hardly notice – until a wave of cultural change hits. Then, when people want to move on from that fading culture, when they want to be part of the new wave, they feel they must leave behind their faith as well. Their only alternative is to try to disengage their faith fro the fading culture, but this is one of the most painful things a person can do”
- p. 63, “For the Pharisees, good meant disdaining, stigmatizing, excluding, and avoiding sinners. For Jesus, good meant forgiving sinners and reconciling them to the community… So for Jesus, good is always compassionate”
- p.129, “I’ve found I can only know so much until I find a community that shares my knowing. If I begin growing very far beyond what my community allows me to know, I need to persuade my community to think with me or else find or form a new community.”
I picked up Skye Jethani’s The Divine Commodity when it was recommended in a preaching podcast that I listen to. Jethani worked for Leadership Journal and Christianity Today. The book considers the way that people look at the church, both from within and from the outside, and see a consumeristic culture that has soaked in from the culture. It’s spot on in it’s evaluation of culture and western church culture. Then, it uses paintings by van Gogh to create a structure for the conversation. It’s a really interesting book and tackles the topic in a smart way.
There are a few parts where I question some assumptions, but that happens with all books. If you happen to come across this book, pick it up. It’s interesting and you will learn something new for sure!
I picked up Dr. Emerson Eggerichs book on marriage (a focus on the family distribution) when some great people from The Grove were interested in leading a life group that would be a marriage investment. They had heard of this material and we checked it out. So, I read this in one day and would not say that I was an expert at all.
Eggerichs leads Love and Respect Ministries, so this book is basically the sum total of the ministry, in book form. It’s a pretty basic system of help with a nice theological basis in Epsheisans – without becoming a male dominated chauvinistic fundamentalist manifesto with a pretty picture in the back book jacket (not that I was worried about that from focus on the family :). With the risk of over-simplification, Eggerichs’ message is for husbands to love their wives – fully and unconditionally. That sounds simple and easy, but in reality, it is the most challenging and sacrificial (and rewarding) decision a man can make. Then, at the same time, the wife is called to respect her husband – fully and unconditionally. Which, again, sounds simple, but when you know exactly what your husband struggles with and how he isn’t perfect, it is the most challenging and sacrificial (and rewarding) decision a woman can make.
What I love about this book is that it calls for husbands and wives to live the most sacrificial love oriented lives that the world will ever see – short of the sacrificial love of Jesus. In this, the world will see a beautiful image of the love God has for humanity. And thus, marriage is no longer just for the husband and wife…it is for the gospel, for God and for the world.