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Book Review – One Dominion

WOW!One Dominion Cover

I am not a “coffee table book” guy. Why would you ever have a book sitting on a table so that every once in a while guests in your home can pick it up, look through it, read the tidbits of information, and then set it back down? If your home and conversation is so boring guests want to look at a book, just let them leave. (Plus right now we have three children under age 10 so a “coffee table book” is just another source of perpetual frustration for all parties!)

Thus, my first word! WOW! One Dominion is a coffee table book I am proud to own, proud to put on display in our home, and proud to have our guests look through before, during, or after we visit. In fact, it may lead to me more good conversations – about Canada, history, or faith.

One Dominion includes appropriate historical photos of key individuals and events in the history leading up to and including the beginning of Canada as a nation in 1867. Informative vignettes (short-stories) about different people – ranging from education and health care to social and environmental causes – discuss significant as well as lesser-known Canadians and their contribution to this country. The common thread throughout the accounts is the desire to see Psalm 72:8 lived out in the nation.

You don`t have to be a history buff, an amateur photographer, an avid reader or even a person of faith to appreciate this wonderful book celebrating Canada on the occasion of its 150th birthday. I recommend this book for your coffee table… and I`ll be glad to chat about it with you as we visit!

One Dominion is available through Bible League Canada at https://bibleleague.ca/onedominion/, and authors Paul Richardson and Bob Beasley are available for interview.

One Dominion-Celebrating Canada-Prepared for a Purpose
Authors:  Paul Richardson and Bob Beasley | ISBN: 9780995039889
Retail: $29.99 CAN | Pages: 96 |  Size: 12×10 inches | Full-colour

Note: Graf-Martin publishers provided the reviewer with a free copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review.

 

Book Review – Swipe Right

Although I did not initially connect the title Swipe Right with the subtitle (“The Life-and-Death Power of Sex and Romance”), Levi Lusko connects the two concepts clearly in the introduction. In doing so, he identifies the urgency of the topic for the millennials and Generation Z for whom sexual opportunities are just a swipe away in the digital age.

Lusko writes with an enjoyable mix of humor and sarcasm, though some of his cultural references may be lost on the reader depending on your vintage (ie I understood the Danny DeVito and Arnold Schwarznegger joke relating to twins, but not a couple other “cultural references”). He explains the biblical texts with sanctified imagination while at the same time communicating the key principles and truths clearly and strongly. He is not shy in giving black-and-white warnings, yet speaks equal measures of grace and reality. It is enjoyable reading, biblically and theologically informed, and yet not without honest sharing of personal mistakes and pitfalls.

While his writing style is engaging, as a whole the book does not have a clear sequence or logical connection between topics. Furthermore, while there are plenty of strong warnings about the dangers of making poor friendship and sexual activity choices, and the strength and power of sexual connection is discussed appropriately for teenagers and young adults, it stays near the surface for the most part, a little lacking in depth.

Nonetheless, I recommend this book for teenagers or young adults because of its clear presentation of Scriptures sexual standards and the good, loving reasons for such boundaries. I believe they will enjoy reading it as much as this reviewer.

Note: This book was provided to the reviewer by the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review.

A Playlist for Christian Singles

Are you tired of singing love songs to Jesus?

Whether you are married or not, the number of love songs to Jesus sung some Sundays in churches around North America is comical… if you can get past the annoyance.

However, there are other songs of devotion that are legitimate in discussing worship, love and Jesus. As a young man in my late 20’s and early 30’s, I would turn to a handful of songs to play on the CD (an era before ipods) when I was feeling the angst, frustration, disappointment or confusion (or all of the above) of being single in a society – and even in a Christian sub-culture – that glamorizes marriage and romantic love. These songs helped me focus on the Source of my true contentment, Jesus, and yet expressed the reality of the challenges facing as a single guy who desired a godly wife (I believe the challenges are similar for a single woman).

As you will notice, the songs below helped me (re) focus on Jesus and His perfect will and love being my focus, rather than singleness. It wasn’t always easy. There were some tears once in a while. Yet more than anything I desired Christ to be my desire and purpose for living.

So… here’s my Single Person’s Playlist (admittedly from the early 2000’s)

The Lord did bless me with my wife, Sarah, in 2007 and friends sang Lifesong at our wedding ceremony because just as I wanted my life as single to sing for Jesus, now that is our desire and focus as a married couple.

Here are a couple good articles on the topic of singleness and finding satisfaction in Christ:

I would be curious to know your single person’s playlist. Please share below…

Book Review – Play the Man by Mark Batterson

Just in time for Father’s Day, Mark Batterson has written another quality book, this time touching on the topic of authentic manhood. With a great story from history to start each chapter, Batterson identifies seven characteristics of true manhood. As a pastor, he supports these virtues with biblical passages and examples.

As the book progresses, Batterson refers to the Discipleship Covenant and Rite of Passage ceremonies he worked through with both of his sons. and then includes the specifics of these concepts in the final two chapters.

Batterson is an exceptional writer and great story-teller. Although there is no explanation really offered for the choice of seven virtues or the specific seven he has selected, they are well-chosen. Some may argue the virtues he chose overlap too much, and others could argue the virtues do not encompass all the necessary areas of authentic Christian masculinity (ie significant virtues are missing). Notwithstanding the legitimacy of these concerns, it is doubtful any author would be able to identify “the list” of virtues. Scripture does not seem to give one and thus the challenge.

Another positive of Play the Man is the positive, forward-looking challenge it presents to men, rather than brow-beating them for failure. Also, while clearly approaching the virtues of true manhood from a Christian perspective, I believe the book would be meaningful to any man trying to become a better husband and father, even without the faith perspective.

The explanation of the Discipleship Covenant and Rite of Passage ceremonies are instructive. Batterson clearly reminds fathers to customize both events for the individual, even as he went about them differently with each of his sons.

Batterson has regularly been criticized for treating Scripture loosely, and I suspect some will find reason to again accuse him of such in this book. I see nothing troublesome with his use or explanations of the biblical passages and would contend (again) that those who actually take the time to read the full context surrounding a given passage will find good understanding and interpretation, and necessary cautions and reminders.

I would recommend this book strongly. In comparison with other books of this type (ie. Raising a Modern Day Knight by Robert Lewis), Batterson’s writing is superior in depth and quality, and more current (understandably). In addition, the soon-to-be-released group study resources would be worthy selections for a local church men’s ministry and/or small groups,

Note: The reviewer was provided with a copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review by Baker Books.

 

Hire an Intern

Are y200309672-001ou having serious questions about hiring that young 20-something who has applied for a position in your organization?

You want to give a young person a chance, but the little you have seen with other young adults does not give you a great deal of confidence? The person has not even graduated from college and wants to be an “intern” with us… and s/he doesn’t just want to sort papers and do filing for us. He wants to be involved in real-life work contexts. That sounds really risky! And its not like our company has a lot (or any) extra cash to “waste” on a maybe.

If that’s how you feel, it is still right to hire an intern… or two.

Here’s why.

Dan* served First Street Church (FSC) for seven years as youth pastor. During the course of his final two years with FSC, a couple of young men considering pastoral ministry had volunteered to help, one with the junior high (middle school) and one with the high school. They were finishing up their college degrees and it was a great way to get some practical experience. They meet weekly with Dan to talk about what they were doing with each group and Dan was still active in most of the events, regardless of the age group.

Then when Dan left FSC for another church, the board knew it would be challenging to hire a new youth pastor right away after the people had grown to love and appreciate Dan and his family so much. So, they chose to hire the two interns for the next year. Jon* would continue to work with the high school students and Jeremy* would continue to work with the junior high students. The one year turned into two years.

In hindsight, it seemed to work out well both for the youth interns who ended up with three years experience on their resumes as they went searching for full-time ministry, as well as for the church, who served their youth more than satisfactorily and also had time to search for a new youth pastor. Seeing the benefit of the previous model, they chose an older youth pastor who could work more with interns and coach them along.

Everyone thought that was the (happy) end of the story.

Fast forward 10 years. Jon and his family went on to serve as a youth pastor for five years in another community before going with an NGO to serve internationally. They returned to the FSC community and are employed by an educational organization in the area, still working students, especially high school age. He is well-respected for his skills in relating to students and for his wisdom in advising them.

Furthermore, while Jon* was a youth pastor in the other community, he impacted a high schooler named Shane.* Shane went off to college and after a few years ended up also training for the ministry, and working as a volunteer, then part-time, and eventually full-time.

Likewise, after serving as an intern, Jeremy and his family began the process of going overseas with a different NGO and have since worked in Asia for the past 4 years at an international school. Jeremy teaches middle school students primarily but connects with students of various ages as he also serves as the school chaplain some years.

So… hire the intern.

Your company may (or may not) have this kind of story to tell in 10 years. But for sure they will have invested in the future of not just your company, but possibly impacted many other lives because you invested in them.

*Names of individuals and organizations have been changed to protect the identity of the people who are part of this real-life situation.

Feel free to share some of your good (or bad) experiences with hiring an intern below.

 

Book Review – The Imperfect Disciple by Jared C Wilson

Jared C. Wilson admits there are already plenty of books on Christian discipleship available on the market and people of every denominational stripe argue for the best method and strategies for making disciples. However, as his subtitle (Grace for people who can`t get their act together) hints, this book is not a book of methods or one identifying a program to follow. Rather, with a dose of cynicism and a few jabs at well-intentioned ideas within Christianity, Wilson brings out various aspects of individual discipleship that are both insightful, non-programmatic, and challenging.

Some will not appreciate his cynicism, even sarcasm. In the beginning, it does come on quite strong, possibly too strong and negative for some readers. This reader appreciates the reality-check and honesty, and Wilson challenged my interpretations of some Scripture passages, and of discipleship. Likewise, he shares personal stories with rich vulnerability (eg. The time JI Packer made him cry) to illustrate his points. Regardless of your affection for his writing style, his slightly different approach to describing discipleship contains insightful ideas that can be applied by any Christian personally, They can also be carried into a group context, though this is not the primary goal. Having said that, Wilson affirms strongly the need for Christian community and the categorical impossibility of a “not-part-of-a-church Christian.”

A thought-provoking and inspiring Gospel-centered book on discipleship for every Christian to read, especially pastors and other church leaders.

Note: This book was provided by Baker Books in exchange for an unbiased review.

Now What?

A Reflection for Ascension Day (May 26, 2017)

Today we remember a significant day on the Christian calendar that we as Bible believing people do not think about enough – myself included. Forty days after Jesus rose from the dead… and yes, today is exactly 40 days since we celebrated Easter Sunday – Jesus ascended to heaven. Thus, this day is known as “Ascension Day.”

Like me, you may have heard very little, if anything, about Ascension Day – even if you’ve grown up going to church most of your life. And that may be partly because the fact that Jesus went up to heaven after 40 days doesn’t seem to impact us too much. He’s up in heaven. We’re down here. (So what?)

That is exactly the question I want to consider: What does Jesus ascension mean for the Christian living 2000 years later? We know how to respond to the work of Christ in dying and being resurrected for our sins: accept Him as our Lord and Savior. But what does it matter that Christ who went up to heaven? Looking at the responses of Jesus’ first disciples provides an example of how we as His followers 2000 years later are to live in light of His ascension into heaven.

[READ Acts 1:8-11]

1. Don’t Sky-gaze

Unfortunately, our first indication of what to do in light of Christ’s ascension is not a positive, but a negative. It is not a what-we-should-do, but a what-we-shouldn’t-do. In Acts 2:10-11 we read that the disciples “were looking intently…looking into the sky?” In short, the disciples were sky-gazing. The two men dressed in white asked a rhetorical question. In other words, they already knew the answer. “Why do you stand here looking into the sky?” It was pretty obvious why they were doing that. Cause Jesus had just gone up into the sky and had disappeared behind a cloud (verse 9). But the point the two men dressed in white are really making is, Hey guys, quit sky-gazing. He’s gone for the time being. Yes, he’ll be coming back, but you staring into the sky won’t make it happen any faster.

You’ve probably heard it said that some people are so heavenly-minded they are of no earthly good. For this moment in time, that was the description of the disciples. And some of Christians are just like those disciples. They are staring at the sky, eyes all glazed over waiting for Jesus to come back. But that’s not what Jesus wants His followers to do in between his ascension and his second coming. He wants His followers to be doing more than sky-gazing. He wants them to be working.

Notice that the passage that follows is not one of the most glamorous or evangelistic sections of the Bible. Chapter 2 gets exciting with Pentecost but the rest of chapter 1 is about the selection of another apostle, namely Matthias. The disciples don’t go into some great evangelistic campaign right away. They get down to the everyday nuts and bolts details of life. Judas killed himself so we need to find a replacement apostle in accordance with the Scriptures, so let’s get to it.

Yes, God wants Christians to be witnesses for him and to serve Him. That’s obvious. But part of living for the ascended Christ is getting our eyes off the skies and getting them on the everyday details of life that need to be done. Colossians 3:17 reminds believers “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus…” Christians need to be living out the daily details of Christ.

2. Worship Him

Now there’s a second passage that talks about the ascension and it is back in Luke 24:52-54. You may remember that Acts and Luke were both written by doctor Luke and are sort of a part 1/part 2 account of Christ’s life and the start of the Church. Before they returned to Jerusalem to take care of the replacement apostle selection, they did what? “Then they worshipped him…” Later in verse 53 we read that after they got to Jerusalem, Jesus’ followers continued to praise God. So the second aspect of our response to Christ’s ascension is to praise God.

Worship and praise can take place anywhere. Christians can and should worship and praise God, as the disciples did, continually. Maybe that means that while you are walking or driving to work, you sing – as opposed to worry about the troubles of the day. Everything we do as Christians is supposed to bring honour and glory to God. In other words, everything we do should be an act of worship.

3. Be Joyful

A direct result of living a life that praises and worships Christ is identified in verse 52. “Then they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy.” As a result of Christ’s ascension Christians should live with great joy.

Can you think of some Christian people who never have a smile on their face? who look like they just lost their best friend… almost all the time? I’m not suggesting we should put on a plastic smile when life is hard or sad, but Christians should definitely be people characterized by joy… and I think your face should show it. Most of you are energetic as young people and you are having lots of fun – and that’s great! I hope that your energy and enthusiasm and fun are fueled by the joy of the Lord, not just by the next great activity you are going to do with your friends. I hope you have a smile on your face not just because you enjoy what you are doing, but because you enjoy the life God has blessed you with. Are you a joy-filled person? If so, why? If not, why not?

4. Live Expectantly

Back to Acts 1:11. After the rhetorical question reminding the disciples to quit sky-gazing and get back to what God has for them to do, the two men dressed in white continue. “This same Jesus…into heaven.” It’s as if they are saying “Are you expecting him to come back down right away? He told you he’d leave you for a while and the return. He told you He would send the Comforter to be with you. Now back to work.” And its as if the disciples say, “But we love Him so much. We don’t want to miss him when he does come back.” And the two men dressed in white assure them that just as he’s gone up before your very eyes (verse 9) He will come back again and no one will miss it. Live in the real world, and live expectantly.

How do you and I live “expectantly”? Think about the way the word “expecting” is commonly used today… of a woman expecting a baby. In the last couple weeks before our children were born, I gained a new understanding what it meant to live “expectantly.” First of all, my wife couldn’t wait for the baby to be born as it was becoming increasingly uncomfortable; not painful but definitely uncomfortable.

Meanwhile, I was mostly excited. Waiting for my cell phone to ring to say “come home, its time to go to the hospital.” And though I was mostly excited, I was a little bit nervous too – would everything go okay. Would the baby be okay physically, mentally, etc? What if we something happened at the last moment.

In some ways, I think there’s a parallel between being “expectant” parents and living “expectantly” for Christ to return. Knowing that Christ will come back a second time should give us a new or different perspective on life than the rest of the people on earth. When we don’t get something we really wanted, it’s not the end of the world. It feels like it for a couple days. But in the perspective of eternity, it probably isn’t that significant. God’s in control of every detail. Or maybe you didn’t win that sports competition you worked all season for. Yeah, it stinks and it leaves a bad taste in your mouth for a while, but then again, in light of living with Christ forever, it’s barely a blip on the screen of eternity. That doesn’t mean that pain doesn’t hurt, even deeply and immensely. But it means that we can try as much as possible in our human understanding to see the disappointments and suffering in life on God’s timetable rather than ours. Why? Because as Christians, the promise of Christ’s Second Coming and living with Him so far outweighs our “momentary troubles.” Paul says it this way at the end of 2 Corinthians 4:

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away,  yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

So Christ is ascended. That’s a fact we believe because the Bible clearly describes it. And what does it mean the Christian living in 2017? It means that we are to live not sky-gazing, but faithfully doing the work God gives us each day, worshipping Him in all that we do, being joyful in all that we do, and having an eternal perspective on life since we know that He is coming back again for us someday soon. May God help us to live faithfully, joyfully, and expectantly for His glory until He comes again.

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