Traveling Light

I guess I should have known what kind of trip it was going to be when I forgot my underwear. Not just a pair or two, mind you, but the whole supply. I had everything else with me: shirts, shorts, pants, swimsuit, socks, etc. and somehow I managed to forget my underwear.

My forgetfulness was followed up with an extra lengthy drive that would normally take about six and a half hours lengthened to ten hours. Thankfully, the kids behaved and the traffic wasn’t due to major accidents, just congestion.

A pleasant shuttle driver made the trip to one of the busiest airports in the country fairly innocuous. We arrived a considerable time before our flight, made it through security with little incident, and hunkered down to wait the nearly six hours until our flight.

That’s when we found out that the thunderstorms we’d been hearing about in the New York City area were forecast for right around the time of our departure. Before a rain drop could even leave the sky, our flight was delayed an hour. The hour delay became two which became about two and a half and it stayed that way until we were finally on our plane, taxiing to the runway.

And then we were off on our coast to coast trip.

Well, the excitement would just continue. Rolling into the airport about 3 or 4 hours after our original scheduled arrival, discovering my wife’s brand new bag was destroyed by a careless passenger’s baby oil leaking all over, arriving at the rental car place to discover that “we’ll track your plane’s progress and wait until it arrives” is just a statement of empty words

When we rolled into our hotel room at 4AM Pacific Time, I think we may have both retorted in stereo that we would not plan on traveling again for a very long time, at least not by air. But time always has a way of changing your mind but also bringing some clarity and perspective that seems quite elusive in the midst of the storm.

The next day, we made our way back to the airport to pick up a rental car, thanks to the kindness of someone who was part of the conference we were at. As we rolled out of the parking lot, I noticed the air pressure on the rear tire was low, which seemed odd considering we had just picked up the car.

We drove it back, left it with a woman who said she’d have it back in ten minutes. Ten minutes turned to twenty minutes. Twenty minutes turned to thirty minutes, and I began to panic. Had someone stolen our rental car? Did I just get hustled? I had images of “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” running through my mind when the parking attendant took Cameron’s dad’s Ferrari on a joy ride.

As I frantically asked multiple employees about the whereabouts of my car, the car came around the car. The young woman got out and reported that there had been a nail in the tire. Wow!

My wife and I put our heads together and prayed. We’d had enough. My energy was shot. My nerves were shot. I just wanted to go somewhere other than the conference I had come out to California to attend.

On day three, we experienced a neat God sighting when I realized that a woman to whom my wife had introduced me was from a church that had given me a scholarship while in seminary. That made my day, and maybe even the whole trip. If nothing else had happened that was encouraging that week, I think it would have all been worth it just to see this man and woman’s faces light up when they discovered that their little church had helped me out financially during seminary.

It was sure a lesson to me. I think the more obstacles I hit on the way to something, the more encouragement I should expect once I get there. It’s hard to keep that in mind, but I’m trying my best.

I’m flying to Cincinnati next month, and hoping that it’s an uneventful trip! But if it’s not, I guess I can expect great things!

Looking for Luther?

Martin Luther in His Own WordsWhen it comes to some of the giants of the faith, there are some whose catalog of written works is condensed enough that the task of determining just where to start reading does not seem such an ominous one. Take for instance the Apostle Paul. His letters are found within the New Testament and even if you didn’t know where to start, the works are brief enough that one could potentially tackle them within a month’s (or less) period of time.

At the same time, there are theologians across the centuries whose works are so many that to determine a starting point can seem like such a monumental task that one chooses instead not to dive into those works at all. In cases like the reformer John Calvin, or more modern theologians such as Charles Hodge, Karl Barth, and N.T. Wright, it would be incredibly helpful to have a tool that would be useful to find that starting point.

Enter Jack Kilcrease and Erwin Lutzer. Kilcrease and Lutzer have edited Luther’s writings and compiled and arranged them in a very approachable way in their work “Martin Luther In His Own Words.”

In the introduction, Lutzer writes, “We can neither forget Luther nor ignore him.” Through his words, we can see the reformer’s theology as well as his influence that continues to reach far beyond his lifetime because of the availability of his writings and works.

Appropriately, the book is divided into five sections based on the Five Solas of the Reformation: Sola Fide (Faith Alone), Sola Gratia (Grace Alone), Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone), Solus Christus (Christ Alone), and Soli Deo Gloria (To God Alone be the Glory). Each section contains two or three separate excerpts from Luther’s writings.

The sections are well-footnoted with helpful content. Context and word definitions that are specific to Luther and his time are explained so as to assist the reader, especially those with limited knowledge of the Reformation and church history. With the addition of these footnotes, there is no background information required prior to reading this book. It is a work that can stand on its own.

Lutzer begins the introduction by saying, “This is a book you will want to read more than once.” He is right. The works of Luther that are excerpted and cited are rich and deep, requiring multiple readings to fully drink in all that he expounds upon and shares. All of the specific source material is cited at the end of the book so as to ensure the reader knows just which translations of Luther’s works were used.

Whether you are already familiar with Luther’s works or if you are seeking to venture into them for the first time, this book is a great primer that might act as an appetizer and compass to know just where to start in digging deeper into Luther’s expansive works. While it may seem dry and even too scholarly at first hearing of it, this book gave me new insights into Luther and also helped me to realize that his works are approachable and more easily understood than I initially expected.

(This review is based upon a copy of this book which was provided free of charge from Baker Books. These opinions are my own; I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated for this review.)

The Most Misused Stories in the Bible – A Book Review

most misused storiesIt’s not uncommon for people who have grown up within the church to have heard many of the stories in the Bible time after time during their days in Sunday school. Some of us who were raised in that vein didn’t fully realize just what some of those stories were about until later on in life when we opened up our Bibles and actually read the stories for ourselves. We realized that some of the stories had only been told in part while others had been somewhat whitewashed and sterilized to take out the more mature elements of them.

There are many stories in the Bible that take on a life of their own depending on who gets a hold of them. These stories are the stories that Eric Bargerhuff focuses on in his book “The Most Misused Stories in the Bible.” Bargerhuff picks a select number of stories from the Bible that seem to have been hijacked for uses other than for what they were intended.

David and Goliath. Jonah and the big fish. Zacchaeus. The wise men. Cain and Abel and more. These stories have been used and abused to make points other than what they were originally intended to make. The main points and lessons that were to be gleaned from them seem to have taken a back seat for secondary lessons that have been elevated as more important.

Bargerhuff does an adequate job going through each of the stories on which he chooses to focus. This is not a book for biblical scholars, but I think that scholars would appreciate Bargerhuff’s focus here. His main intention is for people to be reading the Bible with an intelligent lens, one which thoughtfully approaches the Bible. He encourages the reader to dig deeper into these and other stories to study and determine what they are all about, leaving preconceived notions and prior experience behind.

Context. Biases. The overall big picture of the entire Bible. Bargerhuff does just enough exegetical and hermeneutical work to give a teaser to the reader who may be interested in going further into the study of the Bible. That is the best part of this book to me. Bargerhuff is encouraging people to dig in deeper to the Bible.

While he is promoting the idea of not reading our own agendas into our reading of the Bible, I never got a sense that he was being honest about his own. Each and every one of us bring a certain bias with us when we come the Bible. We will hopefully do our best to make sure that we do our best to remove those, but it is impossible to be completely objective in our readings. With that in mind, Bargerhuff encourages the reader to do all possible to study and bring new light to our readings of the Bible that we cannot arrive at on our own, without the aid of other resources.

It would have been helpful to have had a list of helpful resources at the end of this book in an appendix. Although Bargerhuff includes a Notes section that is extensive and which includes the resource that he used in the writing of this book, a separate section pointing the reader to helpful resources would have been a great addition to this book.

For those who are seeking to dig deeper into the Bible and study more on their own, this might be a good spring board to encourage that. This is a helpful book for those who are just starting out in their journey of studying the Bible. If you are already one who has a fairly well=proven method by which to engage the Bible, this may very well be a book that you can skip.

(This review is based upon a copy of this book which was provided free of charge from Bethany House Publishers. These opinions are my own; I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated for this review.)

The Imperfect Disciple – A Book Review

The Imperfect DiscipleOn the last page of “The Imperfect Disciple” Jared Wilson writes, “I wrote this book for all who are tired of being tired. I wrote this book for all who read the typical discipleship manuals and wonder who they could possibly be written for, the ones that makes us feel overly burdened and overly tasked and, because of all that, overly shamed.” And if we start with the ending, reading this page first, it really gives us a synopsis of “The Imperfect Disciple.”

Wilson’s sub-title for the book is, “Grace for people who can’t get their act together.” He reminds the reader throughout the book that discipleship is not just working harder, better, or more efficiently. We can only get to where we need to go through Jesus, not through our own efforts. Jesus is not looking for people who have it all together, Jesus is actually looking for people who can’t get their act together. It is those of us who don’t seem to be able to get our acts together that understand better that we are unable to get to where we need to get on our own.

Jared Wilson shares stories from his own experiences in ministry as he walks through what discipleship really can look like. We cannot simply manage our sin and think that’s enough to make us good disciples. In fact, if all we are doing is sin management, then we’ve missed the gospel and the essence of discipleship as it goes so much further than simply outward appearance and action. The essence of discipleship and the gospel penetrates to our hearts and souls, changing us from the inside out. That kind of change is not something that we are able to achieve on our own and the harder we try, the more frustrated we will become.

We cannot think that discipleship is all about us fitting God into the nooks and crannies of our lives. But Wilson says, “…God owns all of life, and worshiping God means we must revolve around him, not us. So God shouldn’t be confined to his own compartment in our schedule. Jesus does not abide in his assigned time slot; we abide in him.”

Wilson explores sabbath rest, worship, and other key areas of the life of a disciple of Jesus Christ. He challenges those of us who think we can achieve and encourages those of us who feel like we will never measure up. While there was nothing here that was earth shattering to me, Wilson’s writing style and delivery made this book a worthwhile read. If you’re looking for encouragement after having tried to measure up to impossible standards, the message of grace that is presented here could be salve for your soul and encouragement for the way forward.

(This review is based upon a copy of this book which was provided free of charge from Baker Books. These opinions are my own; I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated for this review.)