Sep 25, 2013

A Spiritual Biography of C.S. Lewis

There are many biographies of C.S. Lewis out there and a few more have been released recently. I can't speak for all of them, but this one is certainly one worth reading. A Life Observed: A Spiritual Biography of C.S. Lewis is not your ordinary biography. Devin Brown has set out to paint a picture of C.S. Lewis's spiritual life. He admits that he is not setting out to write a lengthy and definitive biography of C.S. Lewis. Instead Brown writes that his goal is, "to focus closely on the story of Lewis's spiritual journey and his search for the object of the mysterious longing he called Joy."

Devin does in fact do what he set out to do. He chronicles the spiritual development of Lewis into and out of Atheism. If you are familiar with Lewis's autobiography Surprised By Joy, much of the first half of this book will be familiar to you. It almost reads like a commentary on Surprised By Joy. Of course, being an autobiography, Lewis's own work does not give the complete picture of his life and Brown's work does. While some might not see this as beneficial, since the beginning of this book is largely based of Lewis's own writing, Brown's work is really helpful for those who want to explore the life of Lewis and how it impacted is writing. While he relies heavily on Surprised By Joy, Brown also works in connections to the other writings of Lewis. He shows how Lewis's own experiences impact the events of the Chronicles of Narnia and the Space Trilogy.

I really enjoyed reading this biography. While many biographies are really thick and full of seemingly unending details, this one had a specific purpose which makes it much more accessible for the person who would like to know more about the life of C.S. Lewis without taking the time to read a hefty book.  I also thought the purpose of this biography was beneficial to its subject. The spiritual development of Lewis's life has a great impact on all the works that he wrote both fiction and non-fiction and knowing that brings a greater depth to his books. If you are a fan of C.S. Lewis, you should take some time to read this work. You will have a greater appreciation for the books of this beloved author.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Brazos Press through I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Aug 1, 2013

Millennials in the Church

A few days ago, Rachel Held Evans wrote an article about why Millennials are leaving the church. This article has stirred up a lot of debate. I don't really wish to comment or or argue with either article, others have done enough of that. What I'd like to do is to say that this is something the church needs to be discussing. I think there are many things that Evans gets right, and think that there are some things that are probably overstated. Frankly, whether she is right or wrong is not nearly as important as the fact that Millennials are leaving the church.

In his book You Lost Me, David Kinnaman, president of the Barna Group, reveals research about how Millennials who grew up in the church are leaving the church. According to Barna's research, "Over half of Millennials with a Christian background (59%) have, at some point, dropped out of going to church after having gone regularly, and half have been significantly frustrated by their faith." There are many different reasons, but the reality is they are leaving. Kinnaman's book explores all the reasons why Millennials are say they are leaving, some of which Evans discusses in her article on CNN.

Whatever the reasons, this is a topic that needs to be discussed in the church. My generation is not satisfied with what they are finding. I don't think Millennials are right on every point, but good questions are being raised. If you are a church leader, please take some time to engage the Millennials in your church. If you don't, you may lose most of them for good.

Other posts to check out:
Why Millennials Are Leaving the Church: A Response to Rachel Held Evans
How to keep Millennials in the church? Let’s keep church un-cool.
The Church Failed Millennials, Just Not In the Way You Think It Did
Rearranging the Chairs and other wastes of time: A response to Rachel Held Evans
The Real Secret of Keeping Millennials in the Church
Young Evangelicals are switching to high churches
Three Spiritual Journeys of Millennials
More on millennials and the future of Christianity...(a list of resources & conversations)

Jul 31, 2013

Discipleship and Following Jesus

One of the main issues in the American churches these day is what it means to be a disciple. Many of the conferences being held and books being published are on about discipleship and how to become a disciple who makes disciples. Among those vocal about discipleship, David Platt is probably the most popularly known because of his books about being a "radical" follower of Jesus. His recent book Follow Me is similar in message to his Radical books, but is more specifically focused on discipleship.

If you've heard Platt speak recently, you're probably familiar with the message of this book. Essentially, it boils down to the idea that many Christians are either being deceived or deceiving themselves when it comes to being a real disciple/follower of Jesus. Many people think they are Christians because they prayed a prayer or were baptized. After that, however, they are not changing their lives to look like Christ. They continue on with their life the way it was before. To become a follower of Christ means that your life is different than it was before.

I believe that this is a message that Christians need to hear. Being a disciple is not only about making the decision to follow Christ, but also about actually following him. Much like in Radical, Platt is not afraid to be brutally honest about how Christians are living and how they should be living. He urges us to follow through with our commitment of being a disciple and live up to the call to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Christ.

That being said, the majority of this book is brutal honesty and primarily about what we are doing wrong. What he writes is needed, but while reading the the book it seemed like it was written against what is happening and not for what could be happening. There is discussion of what needs to happen in the last few chapters, but it felt out of balance. In his discussion of what we are doing wrong, I believe he is right in calling us to reexamine some of these potentially harmful practices that we have adopted.

Even though it is a bit harsh, Follow Me is still a very good book and gives us a needed reminder that following Christ does not end at baptism. Christ calls us to more than just a decision to accept his forgiveness. He asks us to follow him and tell others about him.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Tyndale House Publishers through I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Jul 3, 2013

God's Favorite Place on Earth

Often times when we approach the story of scripture, we don't realize the depth of the story that we are entering. When Jesus was here on earth, there was so much more going on that what is recorded in scripture. John even says so at the end of his gospel. It's that depth that Frank Viola is exploring in God's Favorite Place on Earth. The story element of his book is written in first person narrative from the perspective of Lazarus. Through the voice of Lazarus, Viola writes how Bethany was Jesus' favorite place to stay when he lived on earth. He was welcomed by the people, developed deep friendships, performed a great miracle, and even ascended to heaven in the town of Bethany. After writing the story half, the other half of each chapter is a reflection on the text and application to our lives today.

Overall, this is a very interesting book. It approaches scripture in a faithful manor, but asks us to look at it from a different angle. It's not the typical way of interacting with the biblical story. I enjoyed seeing if from a different perspective. Through is different perspective, we see that there is more to each story than meets the eye. Even though it's different, he does his best to retell the story in a manor faithful to scripture combined with the best scholarly research about the stories that he retells. Whether Viola's story from Lazarus' perspective is entirely accurate or not, it is compelling. I believe that seeing scripture from a different angle like Viola has done, allows us to reencounter texts that we have read so many times with a new perspective.

I would recommend reading this book. It would be a great supliment to a personal Bible study or a group bible study. Viola even recommends this book to groups for study. The only caution I would give is that the middle chapters of this book are lengthy. For some, it would be no problem to read this over the course of a week, for others the length of the chapters might be difficult. I even found them to be a bit wordy. I think that in some places, it could have been shorter. Aside from the length, however, this is a fascinating read that will help you to interact with familiar scriptures in a new way.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from David C. Cook through I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Jun 10, 2013

Exploring Narnia

Originally published on Englewood Review of Books.

Review of The Lion’s World: A Journey Into the Heart of Narnia by Rowan Williams

Hardback: Oxford UP, 2013
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]

Recently, while discussing the role of fictional stories in spiritual formation with my students, I found myself returning to the works of C.S. Lewis as an example. While I did not discuss The Chronicles of Narnia, I can undeniably say that the fictional works of Lewis have shaped me spiritually. From a young age, I have read and reread the Narnian stories. They have become a part of my spiritual formation and of many others as well. Lewis has had this effect on Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury, as well. He also confesses to repeatedly reading and studying the Lewis’ works and writes of Lewis, “He is someone that you do not quickly come to the end of – as a complex personality and as a writer and thinker” (xi). In The Lion’s World, Williams explores this complexity of Lewis in conjunction with the depth of the Land of Narnia that Lewis created. He doesn’t set out to “decode images or to uncover a system;” instead he aims “to show how certain central themes hang together – a concern to do justice to the difference of God, the disturbing and exhilarating otherness of what we encounter in the life of faith” (6).

Williams begins by discussing Lewis’s intent for writing Narnia. Lewis realized that he lived in a culture that thought they knew what Christianity was all about and denied it, without actually knowing what they denied. He found that he was, “dealing with a public who thought they knew what it was they were disbelieving when they announced their disbelief in Christian doctrine” (17). It was a culture that believed they knew what they were against because it was a part of their culture. Because of this, Lewis wrote fiction to help his readers engage with religion without religious speak. “He wants his readers to experience what it is that religious (specifically Christian) talk is about, without resorting to religious talk as we usually meet it” (19). Lewis attempted to make world where we can encounter the Christian story in a strange new way, specifically a world aimed at children. This strange encounter with the Christian story is what Lewis called “mouthwash for the imagination.” Williams writes that, “The point of Narnia is to help us rinse out what is stale in our thinking about Christianity – which is almost everything” (28).

Chapter 2 is a brief look at the criticisms of Lewis’s work. The three main critiques of Lewis are racial stereotyping, sexism, and violence. In addressing the critiques, Williams both defends and accuses Lewis in his writing. Essentially, there are faults in Lewis, but if we faithfully read Lewis’ work, but he is certainly not one sided in these areas of criticism. While he portrays violence, he is certainly not unashamedly for it. While may show women in an old fashioned light, his stories are not without their strong women. While these things exist in his work, it is important to remember what culture Lewis came out of and see that in fact there are times when he is against those things of which he is accused. Williams sums it up like this, “In short, Lewis is indisputably a writer whose instinctive – and sometimes quite deliberate – attitudes to women and ethnic ‘others’ are abrasive for most contemporaries. But – as with any pre-modern writer – what is interesting is not how Lewis reflects the views of an era but how he qualifies or undercuts them in obedience to the demands of a narrative or a spiritual imperative or both” (45-46).

After the critiques, Williams moves on to a more in depth look at the lion himself. In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Aslan comes the “rightful king of Narnia, but he makes his first appearance as a rebel against the established order” (50). He destroys the endless winter of the witch. Again, in Prince Caspian, Aslan is, in a more pronounced way, connected with conspiracy and revolt. Williams suggests Lewis, “is introducing us to a God who, so far from being the guarantor of the order that we see around us, is its deadly enemy” (50). This likely comes out of Lewis’s childhood. While growing up, Lewis was angry at God for making a world filled with suffering. In Narnia, however, Aslan is the one who delivers us from, “Tyranny and suffering and above all the dreary dictatorship of unthinking and bullying power” (51).

Not only does Lewis present this vision of God rebelling against the tyranny of the world, but meeting him always evokes great joy and pleasure. And while he is good and to be enjoyed, but it is never forgotten in Narnia that he is not a tame lion and one must accept him as he is. Lewis presents Aslan as being unashamed of who he is and impossible to change. “Aslan cannot make himself other than he is; he cannot make saltwater fresh, and if we elect to drink saltwater, he cannot make the consequences other than they are” (68).

Chapters 4 and 5 describe how personally interacting with Aslan affects someone. Aslan interacts redemptively with different individuals throughout the Narnian stories. The key to his interactions is how personal Aslan is and how he helps individuals see their part in the story and how Aslan is working in their life. Aslan does not want someone to be concerned with how he is working in another’s life, but wants to reveal how he is working in that person’s life. We each have a part in the story, and Aslan is giving the chance to make amends and fix our mistakes. It is very difficult for all those who are confronted by Aslan. Some who are confronted, like Lucy in Voyage of the Dawn Treader, are willing to repent. Others are choose not to accept the truth like the dwarfs in The Last Battle. Only in meeting Aslan, however, can the truth be revealed and understood.

In his final chapter, Williams explores the depths of Aslan’s country. At the end of the Chronicles of Narnia, the characters find themselves stepping out of Narnia and into Aslan’s country. A place that they can only described as a more real version of Narnia. It is a deeper and more vivid version of the world that we know. “Everything we know is a copy of ‘something in Aslan’s real world’, England no less than Narnia. So the further we go into Aslan’s world, the more vivid becomes our apprehension of what has mattered in our own world” (116-117). Lewis shows us that the end of all things does not end all things, but instead the beginning of the real reality. Death is not the end and neither is the end of the universe, instead it is beginning of real life in Aslan’s country.

Rowan Williams does an amazing job of exploring the depths of Narnia and unpacking the story the Lewis uses us to teach children and adults about the Christian story. In his conclusion, Williams rightly surmises, “The reader is brought to Narnia for a little in order to know Aslan better in this world” (144). There is so much more that could be said about this book, but if you love Narnia and want to explore the depths even more, I would highly encourage you to read this book. Although at times Williams speaks on an academic level about Narnia, the message of Rowan Williams’s The Lion’s World is clear and will benefit anyone who loves the Chronicles of Narnia. After reading The Lion’s World, I want to go and experience the world of Narnia all over again.

Jun 6, 2013

Justice for Orphans

As the uncle of two adopted children and friend of many who have and have been adopted, I can say that adoption has changed my life for the better. I've seen the way that adoption has changed lives, and I'm grateful that families have the ability to adopt children who otherwise have no family. Because of what I have seen, it wasn't hard for me to believe that adoption is one of the best ways to keep children from growing up in orphanages. It wasn't until I read Orphan Justice that I realized that adoption wasn't the only way to enact social justice on the behalf of Orphans.

In each chapter, Johnny Carr brings you deeper in the world of orphans. Reading this book opened up my eyes to issues I never would have connected to orphans. In the first few chapters, Carr discusses what can make a child an orphan. One of the first major things that I learned was that not all children in orphanages are without parents. There are single parent orphans who grow up in orphanages because their parents are not able to provide for them. Knowing this, it becomes easier to see that adoption, while a very good option, is not the only way to keep children from beings orphans. There are often deeper issues at work that need to be addressed in order to lower the number of children in orphanages. Issues like human trafficking, HIV, and poverty can often lead to children being put into an orphanage. When we fight these problems, we can help children from becoming orphans. The second half of the book addresses foster care, racism, abortion, and church budgets. These chapters aren't about what creates orphans, but more about dealing with the issues more apparent in the United States. Carr addresses these from the perspective of how the church have a better impact in these areas.

In all areas of the book, Carr most important point is that "God made the family for children." Children should not have to grow up in orphanages, but instead should be able to grow up in a family, be it their own family or an adopted family. He believes that the church needs to make a stand and fight for children. What I really appreciate about this is how he argues for the church to make an impact. He believes that the church needs to have a presence in the communities where there are orphans. That way the church can do its most important work of spreading the gospel while helping to heal what is broken in the community. If we can fight things like poverty, aids, and human trafficking around the world and in our own communities  then we can help children return to their own families instead of having to grow up in an orphanage.

If you're like me, you probably thought adoption was the only way to help an orphan. After reading  Orphan Justice, my eyes have been opened to the problems that create orphans and how we can help children grow up in families. You should read this book. It's a eye opener and a practical book. It doesn't just sound the alarm, but every chapter ends with a section of what you can do. This book will open your eyes to what is going on in the world and how you can help children grow up in a family.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from B&H Publishing Group through I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

May 22, 2013

Knowing when or when not to Quit

Don't let the title of the book fool you, Jon Acuff doesn't want you to quit your day job. Well, actually he does, just not right now. Writing from his own experience of repeatedly quitting, Acuff's book Quitter is an encouragement not to quit yet. We all have dreams of the jobs that we'd like to have and it seems like that pesky day job just gets in our way, so we think about quitting. As a writer and public speaker, Acuff gets it. He has toughed out (or at least tried to tough out) his fair share of jobs that he did not like. The problem is quitting often brings more problems than it solves. Quitting causes us to answer to all the bills and costs that were covered by that job that we didn't like. While quitting your current job to pursue your dream job may sound wonderful, it often makes it harder to pursue your dream. Instead, Jon Acuff shares his experience of finally learning to tough it out in a job that wasn't his dream in order to get to his dream. He offers advice on how to work your dream around your day job and how to look for ways for your current job to prepare you for your dream. Rather than dreading your job and wishing you could quit, you are instead laying the foundation for your dream job so that you can be ready for it when it becomes possible.

While listening (because I "read" the audio book) to this, I didn't think that it applied to me because I'm not working in a field that is so far off from my own. What I began to learn, however, if you're not in your dream job, you shouldn't just sit around and wait for it to happen. As a fairly recent graduate, I can tell you I had high hopes of graduating and then finding my dream job. Unfortunately,  that hasn't happened. Listening to Quitter, I realized that you need to pursue your dream job even if your not getting paid for it, and if you're not getting paid for it then you will have to work some other job in the meantime. While that may sound discouraging to some, Acuff does a fantastic job of walking through the process of "falling in like" with your job so that you benefit from that experience and "hustling" to work on your dream when you're not at work. If you're not in your dream job, you should read Quitter. I would also highly recommend listening to Jon Acuff's book (or any of his books) because he's funny and super enjoyable to listen to. He also adds in extra commentary that doesn't show up in the book. Either way, you'll benefit from spending some time with Quitter.

May 13, 2013

Discovering our Christlikeness

I have to admit, that I struggled with Prototype. I'll go ahead and tell you now that I when I finished the book, I enjoyed it. It's a good book and I would recommend reading it. The reason why I'm wrestling with this review is I didn't enjoy it at first. It took me a little bit to get into the book and really understand the direction that Jonathan Martin was going.

The subtitle of Prototype is, "What happens when you discover you're more like Jesus than you think?" Entering into Prototype, I was expecting to see something more theological. This comes out of my experience last fall teaching about Jesus in a Basic Christian Beliefs class. I was expecting "theological speak." I taught my class about how Jesus is the prototype for the new human, so I thought that I would see sections of scripture from the New Testament spelled out through thorough exegesis explaining how Jesus set the example for the new humanity. Martin does use scripture and he does show how Christ, he just didn't do that in the way I expected and I say this because I know I won't be alone in that expectation. Instead, he does something better. He shows it through real life stories of how he has seen his life and other lives changed. He makes this clear in his last chapter titled "witness" and I think that is an appropriate way to describe this book. It is a statement of what he has seen and now he is witnessing to the call of God to be his beloved like Christ is. It is possible to live a new life and live like God's beloved child.

All that being said, Martin does a great job of explaining how Jesus shows us a new way to be human. He does this by starting off with the fact that God call us, like he calls Jesus, his beloved. God want to love us like his children in the same way he does Christ. Our lives are different now because of the resurrection. Christ came to change the world and make it possible for us to live new lives. The message of the book reminds me of the refrain that Rob Bell keeps returning to at the end of his video The gods aren't angry which is, "You don't have to live like this anymore." Martin is calling all of us broken down sinners to a life where we are called the beloved of God and can live in the light of the resurrection.

This isn't a technical book. That's what I expected, but I'm glad it's not what I got. It's testimony to the life changing power of the life and resurrection of Jesus Christ. If you want to see if change is possible, if you want to hear stories of life change, or if you don't believe that you are loved by God, then you should read this book. It's not the greatest book ever written, but it does tell stories of real people who have been changed by the love of God and there's nothing quite as amazing as that.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Tyndale House Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

May 7, 2013

What does it mean to be a Member of the Church?

In his new book, I am a Church Member, Thom Rainer tackles the tough question of what it means to be a church member. He does this is in a surprisingly short book by building the book around 6 pledges that we should make as church members. Each chapter explains one of the pledges and ends with a formal pledge with a line to sign and date. The pledge is followed by questions for study.

The pledges are:

1. I will be a functioning church member.
2. I will be a unifying church member.
3. I will not let my church be about my preferences and desires.
4. I will pray for my church leaders.
5. I will lead my family to be healthy church members.
6. I will treasure church membership as a gift.

I believe for many there will be problems getting past the title of the book. Some view church membership as an outdated idea or have seen how it has been poorly practiced and they have rejected the idea of church membership. If you can get past the title, however, you will find that Rainer has done a fantastic job of trying to rescue the idea of church membership and show the Biblical basis and practices of church membership. The first three pledges really drive home the point of Rainer's book and reveal what many people have let church membership become.

The problem with membership is that many have let it become something more like a country club membership. In this view, membership asks what we can get out of it instead of how do we function as a member. Rainer describes it this way, "For them membership is about receiving instead of giving, being served instead of serving, rights instead of responsibilities, and entitlements instead of sacrifices. This wrongful view of membership sees the tithes and offerings as membership dues that entitle members to never-ending list of privileges and expectations, instead of an unconditional cheerful gift to God." Instead, he proposes that membership is about being a member of the body of Christ. A member that functions according to his or her place in the body and does so willingly. Much like we expect the parts of our human body to function, Christ expects the members of his church to function.

With this in mind, the pledges are fairly straightforward. Church members will actively participate in the body of Christ. They will work to create unity in the body. They will not put their preferences and desires above other. They pray for their leaders. They love their friends and family and help them to love the church too. Finally, they treasure their membership in the body of Christ and are grateful for the gift God has given them.

Reading this book, I wasn't sure what to expect because of the topic. I have read Rainer before, and loved his work. This one turned out to be no exception. He writes simply and succinctly about what a Biblical church member looks like. I found first few pledges convicting. As a younger person, I want to point the finger at the older generations saying that they have warped church membership. My generation, however, has been found to be highly narcissistic, so I know we're to blame as well. I found the last few to be uplifting and encouraging. I especially appreciated that Rainer argues that families should be worshipping together on a regular basis (something near and dear to my wife, it was the topic of her Master's project).

I would certainly recommend that you read this book if you are a member of a church. It's less than 100 pages and is built for studying with a group. If you're opposed to church membership, you should read this book and interact with what Rainer has to say. When you get down to it, it's hard to argue against someone who encourages Christians to be active in their church, united with each other, humble about their preferences, praying for their leaders, caring for their family, and thankful to God for the opportunity to serve in His church.

Read an excerpt here.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from B&H Publishing Group through I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

May 2, 2013

The Secret of Seven Great Men

What does real manhood look like? Who are the role models for men today? These are the questions that lay the foundation for Eric Metaxas' book 7 Men. Metaxas argues that the answer for what real manhood looks like these days goes to one of two extremes. In one extreme men are overly "macho." Men like this use their strength to dominate others and control the weak. Metaxas writes that this is a man, "who might be a man on the outside, but who on the inside is simple an insecure and selfish boy."  The other extreme, he argues, is the total lack of manhood, one where "there is no real difference between men an women." Instead, he believes that the Bible give us a difference picture of what manhood should be. Men should be servant leaders. Just as Christ came not to be served but to serve, men are called to live their lives in service to God and to others. Even many times men are stronger, their strength give protection and serves those around them instead of dominating and lording over others.

For this reason, Metaxas selected 7 men he believes to be good examples of Godly manhood. These men were given power or fame and denied it. They lived in pivotal moments in history and used their lives to serve other instead of their own need. He writes about George Washington, William Wilberforce, Eric Liddell, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Jackie Robinson, Pope John Paul II, and Charles Colson (two of whom he has already written about: Bonhoeffer and Wilberforce). For each man, he gives a brief biography focusing on the choices that they made that exemplified real manhood and not some other version. Each of these mini-biographies are very well written and he opens each one with a personal reflection and reason why he chose this man. Honestly, there are many men that he could have chosen from, but he picked this men mainly because of the formative influences on his life.

As a fan of, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I know that for some the subject of "manhood" and "masculinity" may be over done or old news, but I do believe that this book is very beneficial. Whatever you believe about the roles of men and women, it's hard to argue with Metaxas on the point that there are few good role models out in our society, either for men or women. This book provides just that, good Christian role models. Honestly, other than the fact that this book is all about men, beyond the introduction he doesn't emphasize the idea of manliness and mostly lets the biographies speak for themselves.

7 Men is a great book that paints a brief and moving picture of 7 great men who did their best to life godly lives and make good impact on the world around them. I would highly recommend reading this book even if you don't agree with Metaxas' introduction. The lives of these men are great examples in world that desperately needs them. I also think the world needs to hear about the lives of 7 godly women, too.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Apr 8, 2013

Grace in our Debates

I know I’m at least week late on this, but that’s alright. I don’t want to weigh on any of the debates. I want to talk about the debating. I’ve been thinking a lot about the way debating that has been going on in our nation and I want to comment on how debating happens, especially among fellow believers.

While reading What We Talk About When We Talk About God, I was struck by his chapter on the paradox of talking about God. The paradox of God is essentially the fact that we cannot fully know him or describe him and yet we must. It’s hard to live in this paradox. We want answers to our questions. Bell writes,  “Take faith, for example. For many people in our world, the opposite of faith is doubt. The goal, then, within this understanding, is to eliminate doubt.” Many of us want to eliminate doubt. We want it all spelled out for us so that we know what is right and what is wrong. This desire for right and wrong plays greatly into debates that involve theology and morality and it’s this desire that I’ve been thinking about.

People want answers. People were raised to have specific answers for specific questions. Some people, for various reasons, change their mind and choose to believe something else. Whatever we believe, the point is this: we are all trying to do our best to come up with the right answers. When you put the right answers in the context in religion, then the right answers become a big deal. The right answers, for many people, have eternal consequences. Some people are fearful of having the wrong answers and others are concerned that everyone else has the wrong answer.

For that reason, I think that it is important for us to enter debates with grace. It doesn’t matter what side you’re on, you need to be graceful. When discussing matters of faith or morality, people have taken that side because they genuinely think that it is right and they are arguing that side and often it’s because they believe it potentially has eternal importance. When we argue over what religion is right, hopefully at some level it’s because there is genuine concern for the other persons eternal destination. The same can go with what is or is not sinful. If I genuinely believe that you are doing something to endanger your eternal salvation, the right thing should be correction.

I know that many are just rude about their beliefs, and that’s just wrong. I think that those people need to be graceful as well. The point is, have grace when you debate. I think we need to understand that part of the reason for the debate is a genuine concern over you life and salvation. If someone thinks that you’re wrong and your life is in danger, then be grateful for their concern and try to debate kindly with them.

Most of us are just people trying to do our best. If we didn't genuinely think our beliefs were right, then why would we hold them? Be gracious, listen, and disagree in love.

Here are a couple of things that I would recommend that relate to this topic:
Video response from Penn Jillette after being given a Bible (I know it’s an old video, but he has good things to say).
Blog from Donald Miller about Religious Legalism. It’s not the same as what I’ve written here, but it certainly speaks to the same issue.

Apr 5, 2013

Talking about God with Rob Bell, Part 3

This is the last part of my review, the first part is here and the second is here.

Rob Bell wraps up What We Talk About When We Talk About God with a chapter called “so” (there’s also an epilogue that’s about 2.5 pages long). The final chapter brings all of the points together and puts it in the context of life. We often live our lives in a very mechanical way especially in the western world. We’ve been told that this is all there is and we’re only a collection of atoms that form the human machine. We also tend live our lives in a divided world where there is sacred time and secular time. We go through a routine that sort of all blurs together and miss what is happening in our lives. Again, Rob Bell is trying to remind us that there is no differentiating between the sacred and secular. God is here, present in our lives and acting in our lives. He is trying to help us and pull us along in the right direction. We should not let our life become ordinary and routine. Bell argues that we need open our eyes that life is much deeper than we realize and that God is at work all around us.

This is the first time I’ve written more than one post on a single book. I’ve done this because I think there’s a lot to be said about this book. For the most part, I enjoyed it and would encourage you to read it. I think this book would be very approachable to someone who is new to talking about God or uneasy about religion. Rob Bell is a very good with words and very funny. His writing is approachable. This book would create great discussions. I think for people who are already Christians, this book will stretch you a little bit. I think we need to do more to recognize God in our daily lives and remember that God is for us. Also, I believe that if more Christians approached theology with the humility expressed in the third chapter (both), that there would be less fighting in Christian circles. When we recognize that God is beyond us then maybe we might relax and be more forgiving as we talk and try to understand who God is.

While I appreciate this book, there are also things about the book that make me uneasy. One is the science. I appreciate his love of science and find most of it interesting, but get a little uncomfortable how he spiritualizes some of it and describes how everything is interconnected. While he is certainly isn’t pantheistic, this feels like it’s dipping into some new age beliefs mixing quantum physics and spirituality (it reminded me of this). Second, and probably more importantly, I feels like Bell is drifting to a more open and accepting religion. I think tht there are times when we need to be stretched in our beliefs, when we need to realize that God is ahead of us and maybe we are wrong. At the same time, some of this book has the feel of leading to a more open faith where whatever you believe about God is alright as long as you're good. Bell doesn't say this, but they way he rights and speaks, it could certainly lead that way.

This is a good book. I suggest that you read it with a friend who is unsure about religion and let it open up some dialogues. I just think that we need to be cautious when venturing into some of the territory that Rob Bell explores. 

Apr 3, 2013

Talking about God with Rob Bell, Part 2

This is the second part of my review, the first part is here.

The second section of What We Talk About When We Talk About God is the heart of Rob Bell’s message. Chapters 4-6 (with, for, and ahead) present his way of “talking about God.” While the first few chapters of What We Talk About is about the "talking" itself, these chapters focus on the content of what is being talked about. They address what we are or should be saying about God.

Chapter 4 is familiar to any Christian. This chapter discusses how God is “with” us. This of course is at the heart of the name Emmanuel, which means “God with us.” This chapter is a reminder that God is here with us. This also comes through in our everyday lives. We live with this feeling that there is so much more going on in this world. Most people sense that there is something deeper going on in our lives. God is present in all of our lives and we all live in this reality where God is working.

Chapter 5 discusses a God who is “for” us. Many times we think that God is vindictive and out to get us. God, however, is for us. He wants to see us succeed. God cares for us, loves us, and wants to help us. The prime example of this is the story of Easter. Jesus died for us. Yes we are sinners and we’re messed up, but God has come to fix that. Jesus died to save us from our sins. 

Finally, in chapter 6, Bell describes how God is “ahead” of us. Of the three, this is likely the least familiar to readers. It is not very often that someone uses the word “ahead” to describe God. What he means by this is that God is ahead of us in our thinking, that is he is more forward thinking than we are. His example for this is the idea of an eye for an eye that comes from the Old Testament law. We see this law as backward and built on revenge, but what we see in the O.T. is God establishing order in judicial system and ordering that the punishment fit the crime. If you kill someone’s ox, then you owe them an ox. You don’t owe them 3 oxen and you can’t just give them a chicken. Also, as a victim you cannot retaliate by killing 3 of his oxen. There is just payment, no more no less. This is a step forward in thinking, while to us it may seem like a step back. Bell argues that this is how God works. He is always moving us forward and progressing us in our thinking.

For the most part, I believe most Christians will agree with these statements. First of all, Christianity is built on the fact that God is with us. Jesus came lived with us and now the Holy Spirit dwells among us. God is in fact with us. Second, God is for his people. Jesus died for our sins. I’m not sure that you could make the argument that God is against us. Yes, he is against our sin, but has made a way for us to be freed from that sin. Lastly, I do believe that God is more forward thinking than we are. Look at the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus takes a few of the commandments a step farther and says it’s not just about murder, instead it’s about hate, or it’s not about adultery, it’s about lust. James says that true religion is displayed by taking care of orphans and widows. God is ahead of us pulling us forward.

I do, however, think that we need to be careful. While God is for us, we are for God as well. We need to be watchful that God being “for” us doesn’t turn into God wants me to be happy. Jesus died for our sins, but he also calls us to take up our cross to follow him. Scripture also tell us Christians will share in the sufferings of Jesus. If God being for us turns into wanting happiness, we can be tempted to do things that make us happy that aren’t good. Bell doesn’t advocate God wanting us to be happy, but he also doesn’t discuss that God being for us doesn’t mean that life will be easy.

My other concern is in the area of God being ahead of us. While I agree with his examples, I am also afraid of what someone could justify by claiming that God is ahead of us in our thinking. One that comes to mind would be in the area of universalism. Is God ahead of us and showing us that all religions are okay? There are some areas that we think God is ahead of us and in reality he is not. God is good and is ahead of us in goodness, but we need to be careful that we don’t step away from the hard truths claiming that God is ahead of us. There are places where God is pulling us, but he has also given us his scripture as his guide. We always need to be faithful to what he has already told us.

Read Part 3 here.

Apr 1, 2013

Talking about God with Rob Bell, Part 1

Rob Bell is at it again. Right around 2 years ago, Bell released his book Love Wins (which I reviewed here). This caused quite a stir in the evangelical Christian community. Now, Bell has written What We Talk About When We Talk About God (the video here sums most of it up). This book has not caused as much of a stir, but is certainly worth discussion. Once I was able to get my hands on the book, I read it and enjoyed it, and I’m going to give it a couple of posts here on the blog. There are essentially three parts of this book and to discuss them all would be too long for just one post. In this post, I'll looking at the first 3 chapters (hum, open, and both). The next posts will explore chapters 4-6 (with, for, and ahead) and then the last chapters (so and epilogue). In the last post, I’ll also give my general review.

His book opens with a comparison of our talk about God with an oldsmobile (see his book trailer for the story). This sets the stage for why Bell is writing. Oldsmobiles are outdated being left behind and God seems to be getting the same treatment. In our fast paced world, God, especially the God of the Bible, seems to be treated as old and no longer necessary. Bell’s experience, however, has been that people recognize in their lives that there is something beyond them and they can feel it (the hum) in their lives, but most religious discussion of God has turned them away. That’s why he’s writing this book. We need to change the way that we talk about God. He argues that we need to speak about God in a way that connects to people. God seems irrelevant, but Bell thinks that it doesn’t have to be that way.

The next two chapters, serve as an extension of the introduction. They prepare the way for Bell to talk about how God is with us, for us, and ahead of us. “Open” is a jump into science. Much of it is very similar to what he spoke about in his video “Everything is Spiritual.” The heart of this chapter is that the universe is not as definable as we think it is. While we are all taught Newtonian Physics, there are many things about the universe, particularly in the realm of quantum physics, that make the universe more open and unexplainable than we realize it actually is. Because of this, it is very sensible for us to talk about God. Bell writes, “When we talk about God, then, we're talking about something very real and yet beyond our conventional means of analysis and description.”

Chapter three, titled “Both,” is focused on the paradoxical nature of talking about God. One one side of the paradox is the fact that God is beyond us and beyond our understanding. We can know God, but we cannot fully know or understand him. Bell writes, “So when we talk about God we're using language, language that employs a vast array of words and phrases and forms to describe a reality that is fundamentally beyond words and phrases and forms.” On the other side of the paradox, we must talk about God. For us to know him, we have to talk about him.

When it comes to the first section of this book. I’m really pleased. The science section is kind of long, and some of it seems unnecessary, but ultimately I’m very pleased how he talks about theological discussion. Ultimately, talking about God is theology and I think more people need to hear what he says about how we discuss theology. We use words and phrases to describe the indescribable. There is humility needed when approaching theology. Many people think that they have solved the riddle of God or that they have theology down, when really they have barely scratched the surface. It reminds me of how Chesterton describes the difference between poets and logicians in his book Orthodoxy. “The poet only asks to get his head into the heavens. It is the logician who seeks to get the heavens into his head. And it is his head that splits.” There is no way to reason all of God.

The part that I am cautious about is the discussion of updating the way talk about God. While I don’t disagree with Bell, if not careful this can lead anywhere. There are times when we need to change the way that we speak about God, but we need to be careful not to change the truth about God. This too requires humility. Sometimes we need to recognize that we speak incorrectly about God or in an unhelpful manner, and that does require change. On the other hand, we need to also be willing to stick to the truth when it is unpopular.

Part 2 of the review
Part 3 of the review

Mar 28, 2013

Brief Reflection on Maundy Thursday and Love

In light of my recent post on Christian leadership, I decided that today is an appropriate day to again reflect on the how the church behaves differently than the world. On the church's calendar, today is Maundy Thursday. This day derives its name from the Latin word that is the root of our word mandate. It's called this because of Jesus' words in John, "a new command I give to you" or a new "mandate." This mandate comes after his washing of the disciples feet. Jesus is displaying that his style of leadership is built on love and service, not on power. With this "new mandate," Jesus instructs his disciples to do the same to one another and then says that this is how the world will know that they are his disciples, by their love (John 13:34-35)

The love that Jesus speaks of here is not a feeling, but a lifestyle of putting others before yourself and treating others as you would want to be treated. This is love that Jesus shows us by laying down his life on the cross. This is love is more than just a singular action or a feeling, it is a virtue or a "a certain quality of character" as C.S. Lewis describes virtue in Mere Christianity. Our God is love, it is a part of his nature, and here Jesus commands us to make love apart of our character as well. So, while we typically spend this week think about what Jesus did for the world, today we are reminded of what He has asked us to do as well. We are to make love one of our defining characteristics like Christ did. As Paul wrote in Colossians 3, we are to clothe ourselves with love which binds all other virtues together in perfect unity.

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends." (John 15:9-13 NIV)

Mar 14, 2013

Thoughts on the new Pope and Christian Leadership

I'm not a Catholic, but like most have kept up with what's happening over in the Vatican. I watched as Benedict left for the last time as the Pope, and followed the announcement of the new Pope yesterday. In all of this, I have watched and shook my head as the American media has tried to understand what it means to be a leader in the church. They have talked about the power that the pope has in the world and speculated (quite a lot) about whether or not they would elect an American. Listening to the news, it all began to sound like election time in America. They were asking who was qualified, what kind of changes would this person make, and did they have the right leadership skills to be the Pope. It was all primarily about the power and position of the papacy.

Then yesterday, the church and the new pope did something that messed with the media's perception of "power" in the church. They elected someone that no one in the media considered and he choose a name that truly demonstrated what Christian leadership is all about. They elected man who has served the poor and chose to forgo some of the privileges that his previous role allowed him. They elected a man who is known for his act of washing the feet of 12 AIDS patients in 2001. Then they announced the name of the new pope. His name is Francis. He took the name of a very famous saint who is famously humble. Saint Francis chose a life of poverty and spent his life serving the poor and preaching the gospel. Of all the names he could have chosen, I think that this name is quite appropriate for someone who is supposed to lead the church. When it comes to being a leader in the church, it's not about power or wealth. It's not about having the most impressive resume or being the smartest guy around. It's not about being able to dominate the boardroom or be at the top of your field. It's about being like Christ.  Jesus Christ, "Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!" (Phil 2:6-8 NIV)

While I'm not a catholic, I am impressed with the new pope's choice of name and I hope that he lives up to it. I hope that he emulates the life of Francis and the life of Christ. I hope that he leads in humility and shows the world that Christian leadership is different from political leadership. He is a man with a lot of influence, and I pray that his influence spreads the gospel and shows the love of Christ to those in need.

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." (James 1:27 NIV)

For more about on this subject please check out my friend David's post, "The new Pope and why Protestants should care."

Mar 11, 2013

fighting the idols in our lives

If I asked you which of the Ten Commandments gave you the most trouble, you probably would admit to the second commandment. In Exodus 20:4 God commands, "You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below." I don't think that this is a common problem in America today. I very rarely, if ever, see actual idols that were made to worship. There is, however, still an idolatry problem in our world today. Kyle Idleman meets this problem head on in his new book gods at war. He argues that while we aren't setting up statues or other images and bowing down to them, we're elevating people, ideas, and objects in our lives to a place higher than God. Idleman writes, "Anything at all can become an idol once it becomes a substitute for God in our lives." Whenever we make a choice that goes against God or favors someone or something over God, we have become idolaters.

gods at war is broken down into four sections. The first section defines what he means by idolatry. Idleman describes how we are in a battle with the "gods" of this world. These gods are fighting for our attention and drawing us away from Christ. The idols are not the same anymore. Unlike the Israelites who were following after Baal, Ashteroth, and Molech, we worship the gods of pleasure, power, and love. Essentially, though, we are doing the exact same thing as the Israelites. Instead of following God and pursuing obedience to him, we give our obedience and worship to something other than god. Worshipping Baal has the same consequence as worshiping love. The last three sections explore the ways we worship in the "temples" of power, pleasure, and love. Idleman explores how we devote ourselves to gods like money, success, food, entertainment, romance, and even family. Each of chapter in these sections (except for the last one) ends with questions to help the reader identify the idols that may be in their life.

I really appreciate what Kyle Idleman has done in gods at war. When I wrote my thesis on faith, I came to the same basic conclusions about where we put our faith. Ultimately if we are not trusting and seeking after God with our lives, then we have given something that isn't God the position of God in our hearts. I think a lot of people need to hear this today. The subject matter, however, is very similar to Timothy Keller's book Counterfeit Gods. If you've read Keller's book, this book is not going to much different. One thing Idleman does different is his book does a great job of helping you reevaluate the values you are giving to different people and things in your life. The reflective questions that appear in the book help you take this step. I don't think most of us realize how we have let something that might be good turn into a false god and rule over our lives. It does not, however, explore in depth in any one of the false god's that it discusses. For that reason, I believe this book would be best used in a group study since it comes with questions already imbedded in the text. Going through this book with a small group would allow someone to analyze each "god"a little more in depth (there are also online resources at

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Zondervan as part of the book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Mar 4, 2013

The Dangerous Calling of Ministry

The call to full-time ministry is a dangerous call. For some it is dangerous in the sense of outward persecution, but for most who will read Paul David Tripp's book the danger is spiritual. Speaking from personal experience and from his experience counseling other pastors, Tripp describes the hazards encountered in full-time ministry. He shares how he has suffered and seen others suffer from the perils of personal sin, pride, burnout, and mediocrity. At the heart of all of it, however, is a failure by ministers to sit under their own teaching and to take to heart the scripture they spend so much time studying. We can become so good at studying and teaching about scripture and about spiritual disciplines, that we rarely spend time applying scripture to our lives and practicing Spiritual disciplines. There many points of application that readers can take away from Dangerous Calling, but  I believe this is one of the the most important points to remember. I don't think that most ministers would admit to thinking that they're above their own teaching, but it is very easy to live like it. I know personally I enjoy studying and reading about scripture and get so caught up in the act of studying and learning that I sometimes fail to worship the God I meet in scripture or practice what I learned.

Along with sitting under your own teaching, Tripp also reminds ministers to remember whose glory we are seeking in ministry. We are not seeking our own glory. Everyone in the church, ministers included, should be seeking the glory of God and avoiding self-glory. When we recognize that we are aiming to glorify God, we recognize that we are all sinners saved by grace, even seminary grads.  Last May, I graduated from Seminary and received my M.A. in Christian Education. I love my education and thankfully my professors seek teach more than knowledge. They taught us not only to study but to serve and worship God. I'm now pursing full-time ministry and am very thankful that I came across some recommendations for prospective ministers from The first book was Dangerous Calling, and I'm glad I read it. It's a good reminder for someone like me who is going into ministry that even though I have received a seminary education I am not above it all.

If you're going into ministry, you should read this book. If you're in ministry, you should read this book. If you are close to someone in ministry who is having difficulties, you should read this book. If you're an elder at a church, you should read this book. This book doesn't cover every problem that a minster might have, but it serves as a good reminder for anyone connected to ministry or serving in ministry. It can be dangerous to be in ministry if you neglect yourself and forget whom you are serving.

I went to the library and got this book based on the recommendation from I wasn't asked to write a review, but my wife says that I should write more book reviews. You should go to your library and get books, libraries are wonderful.

Feb 5, 2013

Exploring the Virtues in Tolkien and Lewis

Both J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis were godly men and their writing was informed by their faith. Although not always evident to everyone or plain in all of their stories, they crafted their characters and worlds to reveal the virtues of the Christian life. It is more obvious in the work of Lewis, whose fiction works clearly represent Biblical stories and virtues. Tolkien's work is more often praised for the depth of the fantasy world that he created. Unfortunately, many have chosen to obsess over the characters and the world itself and not examine the virtue, or lack thereof, built into his characters. In his book On the Shoulders of Hobbits, Louis Markos examines the virtues behind the stories and characters. He shows how the faith of Tolkien and Lewis undergird the stories of Middle-Earth and Narnia. Markos divides his book into four main sections with four chapters each. The four main sections are the Road, the Classical Virtues, the Theological Virtues, and Evil. In each chapter, he primarily discusses how The Lord of the RingsThe Hobbit, and The Chronicles of Narnia portray the particular virtue or, in the case of evil, the lack of virtue.
Markos begins with the Road. While itself is not a virtue, this is an appropriate place to start when discussing the virtues in the world of story. All good stories begin with a hero being swept up into some sort of journey. This is especially true of Tolkien's works (he even wrote a poem about the Road). The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings begin with a hobbit (or hobbits) leaving their shire on a journey. Markos rightly explains that all of us are called to take to the road and live out some sort of journey. Although our journey may not be as life threatening as those the Lewis and Tolkien write about, we all have to answer the call to live out the journey set before us.

The heart and meat of this book is found in parts two, three, and four. In sections two and three, Markos expounds how the seven virtues, four cardinal and three theological, are found in the work of Tolkien and Lewis. In the cardinal virtues, Markos does a fantastic job of revealing the characteristics of various characters in Middle-Earth and Narnia and the virtues that they portray. I particularly enjoy his exploration of wisdom and how wisdom and knowledge are not one in the same. Markos shows the differences between the wisdom and discernment of Gandalf and Saruman's quest for knowledge and power. He explains that Saruman's quest for power gives him great knowledge of evil and he gains great power, but Saruman's quest is ultimately folly because he quest for power blinds him to the fact that he is merely a pawn of Sauron. Gandalf, however, understands the wisdom of destroying the ring and not trying to better understand it and wield its power. 

The next part focuses on the three theological virtues of faith, hope, and love. Markos adds to this list friendship. This is, on one hand understandable, because of key role that friendship plays in Lord of the Rings and in many of the Narnia tales. On the other hand, it seems a bit odd that Markos seeks to add to the theological virtues. Looking at the table of contents, it appears that he was merely seeking for symmetry in his four sections to have four chapters. That being said, it is a well written chapter on the importance of friendship both in the lives of the authors and their works. Following friendship, he discusses faith, hope, and love. Compared to the section on the cardinal virtues, this is the weaker of the two discussions of the virtues. Primarily, I was disappointed with his section on faith. Instead of discussion the deep trust in faith that requires, primarily focuses on the meaning of the Greek word Kairos and how the council of Eldrond was a "Kairos" moment that called the characters to faith. 

Finally, Markos finishes with a discussion of evil, which might seem a little out of place, but fits in perfectly to round off this discussion. Not surprisingly, Lewis and Tolkien show a similar understanding of the nature of evil in the world. Neither of them consider evil or any evil power capable of creating anything. They are merely twisting and warping that which is good into evil. Markos explains that the "opposites" of the virtues, are not really opposites. Evil only has the power to steal, kill, and destroy what is good, it has no creative power. This is important in the real world because we need to see that God is the source of life and is more powerful that evil. It takes what God has created and twists, warps, and destroys. What may seem powerful to us, ultimately has no power over the Creator. The vices are not the opposite of the virtues, but merely a twisting of them.

Normally, I don't write reviews this long, but I am very pleased with this book and enjoy talking about this subject. Even though I have offered a few critiques, I believe that this is a fantastic book and a must read for anyone wanting to delve deeper into the writings of Tolkien and Lewis. I wish that Markos would have ventured more into The Silmarillion and into some of Lewis's other fiction works (primarily the Space Trilogy), but that would likely make this a much larger book. As it is now, it is very approachable for anyone who appreciates Lewis and Tolkien. For someone like me who wants more, Markos includes a list of books about Tolkien and books about Lewis for further study. If you like C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, which most people do, read this book. It will help you appreciate their books and understand them as not just fantasy books, but as works of devout Christian men expressing their faith.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Moody Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Jan 9, 2013

Who do you think you are?

How do you define your identity? Many people struggle with this. They try to define their identity in many ways and with many things. In his newest book Who Do You Think You Are?Mark Driscoll answers this question with two words, "In Christ." As a Christian, when we ask ourselves who we are, we ought to start with the fact that we are in Christ. We should not let anyone or anything other than Christ define us. Driscoll writes that, "The absolute best place to begin constructing an identity is in Jesus Christ."

Driscoll writes Who Do You Think You Are? because he has seen many Christians struggle with their identity. They have let other people, past events, and culture define their identity instead of letting Jesus be the one who shows them who they really are. He begins the book by saying that most people are in an identity crisis. People don't know how find their identity. Many have lett items, duties, others, longings, or sufferings (i-d-o-l-s) tell them who they are. Driscoll argues that instead, we are children of God made in his image and should let that define our identity. He starts of with that it means to be "in Christ." When we accept Jesus as their savior, we are no longer in Adam, instead they are now in Christ. We have received a new life and a new identity. Instead of making our own identity and living in our sin, Jesus defines our identity and we live our lives in him. Christ paid the price for our sin and made a way for us to be new. From here, Driscoll uses Ephesians as a basis as a way of understanding what it means to be in Christ. He writes that Christians are saints, blessed, appreciated, saved, reconciled, afflicted, heard, gifted, new, forgiven, adopted, loved, rewarded, and victorious.

I know that there are a lot of people who aren't fans of Driscoll, but I think that even many of his critics (not all, I'm sure that someone could find something wrong with this book) would be hard pressed to disagree with the premise of this book or the way in which he goes about it. One of the things that I have always appreciated about Mark Driscoll is his love of scripture. I don't always agree with his interpretations of it, but he is a man who studies and does his best to be faithful to the text. This faithfulness to the Bible shines through in Who Do You Think You Are? Starting in chapter 3, he opens each chapter with a passage of Ephesians then uses that text to explain who we are in Christ. In addition to the faithfulness to scripture, I believe the topic of this book is not one that would easily lend itself to controversy. Driscoll covers a topic that every Christian has to understand. We all have to understand how our identity is shaped by a relationship with Christ. The only place that he might cause trouble for some is when he gets to Ephesians 5:22 and addresses the issue of wives submitting to their husbands. Even there, though, Driscoll is not writing primarily about husbands and wives, he is writing about how Christ loves the church.

Even if you don't like Driscoll, I would suggest this book. If you are in Christ, you can benefit from this book. He covers a wide range of ways the people struggle to create their identity and odds are you have struggled with one of these ways. I believe that many people will be encouraged by this book and I believe that is why Driscoll wrote the book in the first place. It's well written, it's very scriptural, and it's obvious that he did a lot of study to prepare for this book. I would recommend this book for most any one and it would be great for a group to work through together. If you have some time Who Do You Think You Are? would be a great way to start your year.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”