Archive for category: Books

The Lost World of Genesis One

02 Sep
September 2, 2015

lost world

At  the recommendation of two of the former pastors from my church, Pastor Bo Matthews and Pastor Bill Parsons, I grabbed a copy of John Walton’s “The Lost World of Genesis One.” Walton, an expert on the book of Genesis, attempts to propose an approach for reading and understanding chapter one of Genesis, one of the more fiercely debated portions of the Bible. He outlines eighteen propositions towards a literary and theological understanding of the passage. A large part of his approach centers on the idea that our best way of approaching the passage is NOT with our 21st century cultural and scientific leanings, but instead to understand how people in general understood and approached the cosmos 3500 years ago (approximately when Moses wrote Genesis), and how that would have shaped their understanding of Genesis one. Here are two of the key quotes that really resonated with me as I started reading it:

Through the entire Bible, there is not a single instance in which God revealed to Israel a science beyond their own culture. No passage offers a scientific perspective that was not common to the Old World science of antiquity. (page 20)

If God were intent on making his revelation correspond to science, we have to ask which science. We are well aware that science is dynamic rather than static. By its very nature science is in a constant state of flux. If we were to say that God’s revelation corresponds to “true science” we adopt an idea contrary to the very nature of science. What is accepted as true today, may not be accepted as true tomorrow, because what science provides is the best explanation of the data at the time. This “best explanation” is accepted by consensus, and often with a few detractors. Science moves forward as ideas are tested and new ones replace old ones. So if God aligned revelation with one particular science, it would have been unintelligible to people who lived prior to the time of that science, and it would be obsolete to those who live after that time. We gain nothing by bringing God’s revelation into accordance with today’s science. In contrast, it makes perfect sense that God communicated his revelation to his immediate audience in terms they understood. (page 18)

I was a history major in college. My approach to scripture has generally been shaped by that influence, which makes sense. And in reality, there are three types of writing that primarily shape scripture: poetry, history, and prophecy. Because of that, as our knowledge of history outside of scripture grows over the centuries, it tends to confirm what we read in scripture – of course. Scripture is in part history, so man’s historical discoveries should confirm the authoritative history that God inspired. But the debate about Genesis one in particular, and science in scripture in general, is a separate issue. It is looking at scripture as something that it was not intended to be. Does that mean all science in scripture disagrees with our scientific knowledge today? Of course not, but that does not mean it was intended to communicate what we sometimes try to read into it.

Ultimately, Walton makes the case that Genesis one is more about assigning functions than it is anything else. For example, the purpose behind labeling the light day was defining its role as a portion of time. This lines up with much of ancient thought that was more focused on role and function than material origin. Function defined existence and value.

Towards the end of the book I began to feel that Walton was dragging out the argument longer than he needed to. He made his most powerful statements when he focused on culture, understanding, limits of language, writing style, ancient culture and cosmology, etc. Some of his propositions later in the book seemed to focus more on the issue of whether or not science could address the issue of God and it seemed unnecessary to me. The historian in me loved the bulk of his propositions that focused on putting ourselves in the sandals of the original readers and how they would have understood Genesis one. Regardless of that, however, this is a must read. Walton has effectively proposed a thought provoking approach to understanding Genesis one that reconciles scripture and science in a powerful way.


Kindle as a Tool

29 Jul
July 29, 2015

kindleWhen ebooks were first being discussed, I swore I would never make the switch from real books to some digital platform. There is something undeniably real about holding an actual book, the weight of it, the smell of the paper, the feel of turning the pages.

Anyway, that’s what I thought. But now it’s 2015 and I love my Kindle. I also love my Kindle app for iPad, Kindle for PC, Kindle in the cloud, the Kindle app on my iPhone … you get the idea. It’s been an incredible resource for me as a pastor and as a seminary student.

  • Cost. The books are generally cheaper. And with the Kindle Matchbook option now, it’s possible to get Kindle versions of physical books bought from Amazon for three dollars or less.
  • Research. I love being able to do keyword searches. My ability to find applicable information for both sermons or research papers far quicker than when I was a college student 15+ years ago.
  • Highlights. Highlighting has turned into one of my critical tools. It’s possible to see all my highlights for a book grouped together – great for having critical information quickly accessible. Even more important? I’m able to log on to the Kindle website, copy and paste my highlights, and/or print them. This has been GREAT for sermons, papers, or even just collecting information that I want to pass on to other leaders or my team.
  • Convenience. Whatever device I read on syncs up with all my other devices, which means whichever one I pick up knows exactly how far into the book I am. If I’m waiting somewhere, I can read from my phone. Later I can use my iPad. If I’m in the sun? Switch to my actual Kindle. In addition, I am able to have my entire library with me at all times – great for travel.
  • The Beach. I love my basic Kindle when we go to the beach. The screen is great in the sun, it fits in my pocket for when we’re walking around, and the battery lasts the whole trip. Next week when we’re on vacation? I’m going to fly through several books while parked under an umbrella sitting in the sand, sipping a Diet Mt. Dew. It’s going to be awesome.

All that to say, my Kindle has become an indispensable tool. The guy who once swore he’d never give up paper does almost all his reading digitally now!

14 FREE RC Sproul books for Kindle!

22 May
May 22, 2013

sproulI just saw this and I’m not sure how long it will last, but the following fourteen (14!) books are free for Kindle for a limited time, all by R.C. Sproul, his ‘Crucial Questions’ series! They normally range in price from $4-$7, grab them while you can:

The 90-Day Fitness Challenge (review)

06 Jan
January 6, 2013

parham bookBack in 2010, former Biggest Loser contestants and inspiring Christian speakers, Phil and Amy Parham released a book called ‘The 90-Day Fitness Challenge.’ They had asked me (as well as a bunch of others) to write a blurb for the inside cover, which I was excited to do after I read their book. Anyway, I was looking through it the other day, saw my blurb and realized I never posted it, so here it is:

Being on the Biggest Loser was one of the most significant times in my Christian life. God designed and desires us to be spiritually and physically healthy, and the impact on our lives is huge. Phil and Amy Parham are the only ones to have put into writing what so many former contestants now know – that weight loss, pursuing health, and becoming the person God intended us to be is not just an exercise program, but a faith journey as well. As a pastor and weight-loss group leader, I love that The 90-Day Fitness Challenge is a complete program, tying together amazing teaching and resources on changing to a healthy lifestyle while honoring and involving our Creator. This is THE book to get for individuals or groups looking to change their lives for the long term!

If you want to grab a copy, you can find it here.


Moral Therapeutic Deism sermon

04 Jan
January 4, 2013

Last Sunday I got to preach in the main worship services, an opportunity that doesn’t come to often on a larger pastoral staff! I spoke on the topic of discipleship, why it’s important, and the critical importance of Christians of all ages pursing discipleship – especially as those who are younger tend to emulate the faith of the adults in their lives.

Tommy and Elizabeth, two of our students, introduced the topic for me with the above skit. Definitely a riot watching Tommy interact with unexpected targets – none of them knew what was coming. I knew it was working when the sound guys were still some of the loudest laughers in the room even the third time around!

Here are the notes I spoke from. They may or may not make sense, but they kept me mostly focused.

The meat of the message was discipleship. I referenced the research done by Christian Smith, as well as the text of ‘Almost Christian: What the faith of teenagers is telling the American church,’ by Kenda Creasy Dean throughout the sermon. I gave examples in our church for opportunities, like the Path, and a short checklist of what devoted young people have in common as a starting point for adults to be examples in:

  • Attends religious services weekly or more
  • Faith is very or extremely important in everyday life
  • Feels very or extremely close to God
  • Currently involved in a religious youth group
  • Prays a few times a week or more
  • Reads scripture once or twice a week or more

If you’re so inclined, click here to listen to or download the audio.

Another fantastic book based on similar research with a lot of GREAT practical advice to parents in passing on faith to the children is ‘Sticky Faith: Everyday Ideas to Build Lasting Faith in Your Kids’ by Dr. Kara Powell and Chap Clark.

A Parent’s Guide to Understanding Social Media (review)

05 Dec
December 5, 2012

So far I am loving the new ‘Simply for Parents’ line of books from Simply Youth Ministry. This particular one, A Parent’s Guide to Understanding Social Media, by Mark Oestreicher and Adam McLane, is one that I have been looking forward to for some time now. It is a much needed primer on social media to help parents guide their children through our changing world.

At only 72 pages, it is SHORT … but this is actually one the book’s strengths. From my experience, many parents are overwhelmed with all of the technologies their children seem to know instinctively, but this book is able to package solid, practical advice in a very non-intimidating package. Based on a seminar McLane has been teaching for some time now, he and Oestreicher walk parents through the basic forms of social media (both online, like Facebook & Twitter, and portable devices, like cell phones). They do a good job of painting the risks and the benefits, as well as great advice on how to communicate with your child in a way that points them towards wise usage.

The authors do a fantastic job of writing in a way that’s approachable both to the parent with no experience whatsoever in social media and the parent who is very immersed in it. Clear, simple explanations are done in such a way that I found myself taking notes to help with my own communication on the topic to parents. I loved the advice on social media usage, interacting with your teen online, how to set safe boundaries, and how to be a part of guiding them into being wise adults in this arena.

All in all, in this day and age this is a MUST for parents. Short, so it’s a quick read. Full of critical information directly impacting their children (whether they realize it or not). And at a great price. Personally, I think it’s great for parents of adolescents, but it’s an even stronger tool for the parents of pre-adolescents. Thinking through this topic BEFORE your child starts asking for a cellphone, Facebook, Instagram, etc., is a far better place to be than scrambling with decisions on the fly. My intent is to order a stack of them to have available for parents to purchase at my church. You can find the book in physical and Kindle format here, or at the Youth Cartel.

Man of Vision

05 Dec
December 5, 2012

I recently read Man of Vision, by Marilee Pierce Dunker. It’s the story of her parents, specifically Bob Pierce, the founder of World Vision and Samaritan’s Purse. Ultimately, it’s a tragic story of a man so focused and driven by the mission that he ends up losing his wife and family along the way.

The book description reads,

Rarely is anything accomplished for the Kingdom of God without a very real spiritual battle proportionate to the magnitude of the work being done. God honored the faith of Bob and Lorraine Pierce by enabling them to give birth to two ministries – World Vision and Samaritan’s Purse – that have reached around the world and literally transformed the lives of millions in the name of Jesus. Consequently the personal warfare they faced was unusually intense and vicious. To talk about the thrilling, positive things God did in their lives without showing the satanic attacks and wilderness experiences they went through would present a distorted picture of how God works. For nothing of any real value or lasting significance comes without a price.

As a pastor’s kid, I appreciated the challenge it must have been for Marilee, Bob Pierce’s daughter, to write such a candid book. While celebrating the amazing accomplishments for God’s kingdom, she also gave the reader intimate looks into the troubled and painful experience that was their family life. Ultimately, what it boiled down to was an incredibly unhealthy balance between ministry and family. On the one hand, he accomplished so much good, but at the same time his own drive for control and his singular vision tarnished that legacy. If I’m honest, there was a lot in the story I identified with, which had me reacting to his bad decisions more strongly than most readers probably would.

I did have one disagreement with the author; it almost seemed as though she attributed the great family cost to the reality of the great ministry achievement. In other words, because Bob Pierce did so much, it was inevitable that he would fall prey to great spiritual attack. While I agree there must have been tremendous spiritual struggle, it was his fallen, sinful nature that brought about the destruction. It was NOT an unavoidable price that had to be paid to accomplish such good. Either way, it was a story that started with such hope and vision that ended tragically. Definitely a story all ministry leaders could learn and benefit from.

#GoingSocial by Terrace Crawford

18 Oct
October 18, 2012

I just finished reading Terrace Crawford’s new book on using social media in ministry, #GoingSocial. It’s a great book, and while it’s just under 200 pages, it’s a quick read – I did it in one sitting.

Crawford does a great job of introducing the concept of using social media for ministry, the value in doing so, and the cultural relevance. He also does a great job of tackling some of the concerns people have that hold them back. The book is ideal for people with little to no social media experience or knowledge, as he carefully walks people through how to start using the major social media outlets out there.

He also gives some great practical advice on how to take advantage of the many outlets out there; blogging, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube. I actually found myself putting down the book as I was reading it to make some immediate changes to some of the social media outlets our student ministry uses, and then jumping back into the book.

I liked his writing style; easy to read, good pacing, informative but written in a way that those inexperienced wouldn’t be intimidated. At the same time, as someone who has been using all of those tools for years, I still felt like there was some solid advice and direction for me to act on as well. I came away from it feeling good about how we’ve been using Facebook for our student ministry and Twitter, but with a lot of great thoughts on how I could be more effective with YouTube – I’m definitely missing some opportunities there.

All in all, #GoingSocial is a must have for church leaders. It’s a great book, and one that I will be passing on to the other leaders in my church to take a look at. You can find it at the best price here.

Thoughts on writing

25 Sep
September 25, 2012

I love to write. I’ve written dozens of articles, had a column, contributed to two books, and blogged somewhat regularly for years. Even as child I would compose stories. As a teenager I kept a journal and was known for my short stories. In college I wrote scripts that were always well received. I am a writer.

My lifelong dream? To have a book of my own.

Which is probably why I always put it off. Dreams are sometimes easier unachieved. Not because it’s enjoyable, but because it’s safe. Without risking, the safety of never knowing failure is there.

Which explains why it has been somewhat challenging to finally start penning my first book. Is it inaccurate to say penning? Technically there are no pens involved … gotta love the digital age.

Either way, it’s finally starting to flow. I spent a couple days psyching myself out, having writer’s block before I even started. Which is amusing because it’s based on material I’ve already written, just finally being collected, rewritten, and connected in a way I’ve intended to do for a long time.

Anyway, I’m excited about it and looking forward to sharing it with everyone in the months to come. The goal is to have the manuscript completed in the next few weeks in time for a spring release.

College Ministry From Scratch (review)

17 Aug
August 17, 2012

While on vacation I checked out Chuck Bomar’s book ‘College Ministry From Scratch: A Practical Guide to Start and Sustain a Successful College Ministry.’ If you’re not familiar with Bomar, he’s kind of the college ministry expert in the ministry world at the moment.

I actually liked the book for several reasons:

  • It’s not intimidating. It’s not short, but it’s definitely not as long as his ‘College Ministry 101‘ book. In other words, I can see myself handing this to volunteers and seeing them use it.
  • I love that the first half of the book really condenses a lot of his teachings from College Ministry 101. It gives a great overview of the basics of college ministry, the vision and heart behind it, and the urgency/importance of it.
  • The second half was incredibly practical with a lot of step by step guides walking the reader through various pieces of college ministry.

Whether you’re a veteran college ministry leader or a rookie, this really was an all around valuable book to have. We’re currently in the midst of some leadership transition in our college ministry at Brandywine Valley Baptist Church and at this point I’m planning on getting a bunch of copies to give to leaders to help equip them going forward, as well as get us all on the same page.

So, to sum up: Fantastic book. Easy to read. Great balance of big picture purpose stuff as well as hands on practical ideas and tools.