Thursday, December 31, 2009

2 Questions

Keeping it very simple today. Just a couple of questions I'm curious about.

1. What was your favorite moment this past Christmas?

2. How do you take in the New Year? Do you go to a party? Sleep through it? What?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Primal by Mark Batterson (Book Review)

I’ve been working my way through Mark Batterson’s new book Primal this past week. Thank you Multnomah for the complimentary copy! The book is a very easy read and I think someone with ADD would really like it because Mark jumps around a lot telling different stories.

In this book Mark focuses on getting back to the basics of Christianity. Getting back to what is primal. What is primal? What is left of Western Christianity after you strip it of all the fancy bells and whistles? It’s about loving God and loving others. Mark then examines the great commandment of Jesus in Mark 12:28-31. Mark will seek to answer the questions: What does it mean to love God with our heart? What does it mean to love God with our soul? What does it mean to love God with our mind? What does it mean to love God with our strength?

It’s a quick easy read and it doesn’t get too complicated. However, I wished there was more depth to it. I don’t think Mark fleshed out enough what it means to really love God with all your heart and soul (the other chapters weren’t bad). There just wasn’t enough to really help a person understand what the heart is and what the soul is. Those chapters left me wanting more and a bit confused about the heart and soul of a person.

Again, if you like a lot of stories or need some good illustrations for your sermon pick this book up. If you really want a solid explanation of what it means to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength buy, read and study Dallas Willard’s book Renovation of The Heart.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Good and Beautiful God (Chapter 2)

Chapter 2 – God is Good

In this next chapter Smith writes to convince us of God’s goodness. Smith lost a 2 year old and the experience has shaped his theology of God and suffering. He shares a little about getting through that difficult time of grief. The most haunting thing is a story where a pastor friend of his blames his daughter’s death on some kind of sin he or his wife must have done. This brings a lot of confusion and soul searching to his life. Thankfully he emerges with a pretty solid view of God’s goodness and that God is purely good and has our best interests in mind.
I like this being a Wesleyan. We affirm the goodness of God and the goodness of creation. We start with Genesis 1 and 2 instead of Genesis 3. The Bible doesn’t start with sin; it starts with God the goodness of His creation. He created a perfect world and called it good. Sin is why we have all the imperfections and problems. Sin was never a part of God’s creation or plan.
Smith shares some thoughts Augustine had in regards to why bad things happen to good people and vice versa. Ultimately there is a trust we are going to have to have in God to set the world right and bring the justice we so eagerly desire. He concludes the chapter with the thought that we will know why such bad things have happened when we see Jesus.

Chapter 2 Soul Training Exercise

How do we experience God’s goodness? Two spiritual disciplines are recommended, silence and awareness of God’s creation. It is recommended that we take 5 minutes a day and sit in silence. This is a pretty easy challenge, but still a challenge because of the fast paced mentality of our world. We are always on the move. To practice awareness of creation Smith asks us to take a walk or just look at nature and praise God for its beauty. Again, very simple. These things together help us experience God’s goodness because we sit in silence knowing God is in control. The stillness helps us know God is good. and we become aware of His creation knowing He made a good world.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

The Good and Beautiful God

The Good and Beautiful God
James Bryan Smith

Here are some notes I’ve gathered from the first chapter of The Good and Beautiful God by James B. Smith. If this first chapter is any indication of what the rest of the book will be like, this is going to be a fun read!

Chapter 1 – What Are You Seeking?

How do we change? How do we become the type of person Jesus talks about in His Sermon on the Mount? Is that even possible? Smith believes it is and declares that we change through training our soul. Smith was mentored by Dallas Willard and Richard Foster and a lot of their influence is seen (read?) here in this first chapter.

Is change in our lives brought about by willpower? Is that what it takes to change? Smith points out that our will actually has no power, but is controlled via our mind, engaging in the spiritual disciplines, and participating in the church, and the Holy Spirit. I like what he is saying here. Of course change in our lives involves God, but it also involves us working with God. Smith is not promoting salvation by works in any way, he is focusing in on how we Christians can live as Christians and be transformed by God’s grace in this wonderful process of being made holy. In this first chapter he asks us to rethink our lives and the stories that form our lives, to examine what we practice in regards to spiritual disciplines, and observe who we hang around with and what we are learning from them.

Chapter 1 Soul Training Exercise

Each chapter has a soul training exercise that is designed to engage you in the transformation process promoted in this book. The first exercise: sleep. We are encouraged to get a full day of rest. Smith pushes us to try and sleep until we feel we are fully rested and we couldn't possibly rest anymore. That’s it. It starts out that simple. This first chapter ends with a couple of reflection questions about what you experienced while trying to rest your body.

You need to check this book out. This book is designed to be used within a small group and I believe God will use this book and the activities in it to bring about transformation to those willing to give it a try.

Your thoughts?