“Christian Men Who Hate Women”

Christian Men Who Hate Women: Healing Hurting RelationshipsChristian Men Who Hate Women: Healing Hurting Relationships by Margaret J. Rinck

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This needs to read and understood in the circles I tend to run in. We rightly stress the need for husbands and fathers to be strong leaders, but this can create situations where abuse and co-dependent relationships thrive. We need to talk about this in our churches, so that we can create cultures where these types of sins are recognized, repented of, and where true healing can occur.

I know this book has a provocative title.  Here’s a summary of the book for those who are curious.

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Pursuing Justice – Review

Pursuing Justice: The Call to Live & Die for Bigger ThingsPursuing Justice: The Call to Live & Die for Bigger Things by Ken Wytsma

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is simply an outstanding book! Ken Wytsma has brought theological and practical depth to the contemporary Christian “justice” discussion. Ken recognizes that justice is a fad for many post-modern Christians, but Ken spends the first few chapters crafting a theology of justice firmly grounded in Scripture. What I appreciate most about Ken’s book is his measured approach. While he is clearly a passionate advocate for justice (through his work with World Relief, Food for the Hungry, and Kilns College), he brings Biblical balance and wisdom to his passion. So many “service projects” and “short-term mission trips” are just one-night stands with justice & mercy. After the mountain-top experience, we return to the well-worn ruts of our evangelical sub-culture, obedient consumers in the Church/Industrial Complex. Ken’s book will sustain those who desire to radically alter the pattern of their lives, answering the call to participate in the world-transforming work of a God who defines Himself by “justice” (Psalm 146:6-9). This was one of the huge revelations for me in this book–despite being a graduate student in theology, I had somehow missed the fact that justice is an attribute of God (Psalm 9:16). If we really want to know God, and imitate Him, we must pursue justice (Jeremiah 22:13-16). Ken is a wise guide for the journey.

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(Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> 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 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”)

Awakening of Hope – Review

The Awakening of Hope Pack: Why We Practice a Common FaithThe Awakening of Hope Pack: Why We Practice a Common Faith by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I respect what Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove is doing through Rutba House in Durham, NC, and through the New Monasticism movement.  I pray that more church leaders will follow his courageous and provocative example. Most church leaders stay secluded from the communities they live in, but Jonathan is busy getting his hands dirty in the real world. We’re both engaged in similar work, in the same part of the country, so I would consider I him an ally and a mentor. I share his vision, in general, though I suspect we would differ in some particulars. For instance, I’m not convinced that Christians should be pacifists, though I did find it interesting that the medieval church had rites of penitence and confession for returning soldiers (pg. 134). On other issues, such as women’s ordination and homosexuality, I’m afraid I must remain theologically old-school and “intolerant”. But, though I’m not a pacifist, I share Jonathan’s critique of the American military-industrial complex. Just because our government decides to go to war, does not make it “just.” Just because I believe homosexuality is sinful, does not mean I hate homosexuals. Rather, I believe we should welcome them into the church, as the only place to find true healing and healthy love.

On other issues, such as racial reconciliation and caring for the poor, Jonathan is putting us conservatives to shame. We sit comfortably in our pews, listening to yet another screed on the latest hot topic in the “culture wars,” while we neglect the poor down the road and only hang out with others of the same race. The stories that Jonathan tells are inspiring and moving. They encourage, and should provoke many American Christians to return to the ancient practices of community, eating together, making promises, thinking about where we live, fasting, making peace, and proclaiming the Gospel. It’s ironic that so many Christians can give a theologically-correct statement of the Gospel, yet it has so little effect on our lives. This book joins Davidd Platt’s “Radical” and J.D. Greear’s “Gospel” as essential reading for Christians looking to put feet on their faith.

May this little book speed the awakening of thousands more communities of genuine Hope!

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From John Newton

John Newton’s letters continue to be a treasure trove of spiritual insight.  “Letter XXVI” compares the rising of the sun to the gradual spiritual illumination in our lives, as the light of Christ shines more and more.  He ends with this:  “Hope then, my soul, against hope; though thy graces are faint and languid, he who planted them will water his own work, and not suffer them wholly to die.  He can make a little one as a thousand; at his presence mountains sink into plains, streams gush out of the flinty rock, and the wilderness blossoms as the rose.  He can pull down what sin builds us, and build up what sin pulls down; that which was impossible to us, is easy to him; and he has bid us expect seasons of refreshment from his presence.  Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”

Father Hunger – Review

Father Hunger: Why God Calls Men to Love and Lead Their FamiliesFather Hunger: Why God Calls Men to Love and Lead Their Families by Douglas Wilson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This should be required reading for all fathers, or for those who desire to be fathers. Leaders in every walk of life (especially pastors and teachers) will also profit from Wilson’s shrewd insights into Scripture, society, economics, politics, and the practical mechanics of family life. Wilson’s message on the importance of fathers may not be popular, but the evidence of a growing problem is undeniable. A disturbing number of our children are growing up without fathers, or with fathers who are “absent.”  Even worse is the father who comes home every night to his family, but ignores them. This book kicked my lazy rear in this regard, but also gave pastoral encouragement to stop abdicating and to lay my life down for my children.

At this point, a little disclosure is in order–Wilson was my teacher in college and a mentor to all of us. I also had the privilege of volunteering briefly at the coffee and bookshop run by his father, Jim Wilson. So I have seen the effects of faithful fathering in Wilson’s own family. I mention this simply because some people read Wilson’s material and react sharply to his sarcasm and his strident approach. There is no doubt that Wilson holds his beliefs firmly and argues passionately for his convictions, but I wish sometimes that readers could see the twinkle in his eyes and hear his laughter, even as he says some things that sound outlandish to our postmodern ears.

Especially interesting is the research included in the Appendix. It is done by the firm, Economic Modeling Specialists, and shows the monetary damage done to our national economy by cycles of “delinquent fathers.”

But the point of the book is not to blame “the liberals,” or the “lazy poor.” Wilson identifies the problem as sin, which equally afflicts rich and poor, liberal or conservative. No one can deny the importance of fathers in the lives of their children, and readers should apply the lessons of this book to themselves first. After they’ve focused on being fully present in the lives of their own children, perhaps they can think then about giving the book to their neighbors (Matt. 7:3).

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(Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> 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 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”)

“The Nihilistic Eros of the Consumer Society …”

Michael Horton’s People and Place:  A Covenant Ecclesiology continues to intrigue and inspire me on almost every page.  I love his description of modern idolatry:

“[Idolatry] requires its gods to make themselves available, fully present, visible, which means capable of being possessed and, if need be, manipulated to produce whatever the individual’s or group’s felt needs are determined to be at any moment.

“The nihilistic eros of the consumer society, which seems to have drawn much of American Christianity into its wake, creates a desire that can never be satisfied.  Ads and show windows offer us a perpetual stream of icons promising to fulfill our ambitions to have the life that they represent:  a fully realized eschatology.  Handing our credit card to the salesperson can be a sacrament of this transaction between sign and signified.  Yet this anonymous space of endless consumption is the parody of the place of promise:  true shalom.  Consuming images, living on the surface of immanence, we refuse to be called out of ourselves by an external word that would truly unite us to God and our neighbor.  Silently and alone, we surf channels and Web sites, window-shopping for identities (p. 59).”

The Art of Neighboring

Art of Neighboring, The, Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon, 978-0-8010-1459-8

Just got a review copy of The Art of Neighboring:  Building Genuine Relationships Right Outside Your Door, by Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon.  This book has a remarkable story behind it.  A few years ago, Jay and Dave gathered with the mayor of their town and several other pastors.  The goal of the discussion was to discuss how churches could work together for the good of the city.  Eventually, the mayor told them:  “The majority of the issues that our community is facing would be eliminated or drastically reduced if we could just figure out a way to become a community of great neighbors” (19).  Out of that discussion grew several city-transformation and neighboring movements that united churches around a common goal.

Jay and Dave ask a disturbing question:  What if Jesus expected us to take him literally when we told us to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matt. 22:34-3)?  Jesus did say this is the second greatest commandment, after all.  Jay and Dave have written this book to help us actually obey Jesus.  For many people, this will demand that they totally re-orient their lives.  We are very good at ignoring our neighbors, but can we really say we love Jesus if we disobey him?

Jay and Dave challenge us:  “The solutions to the problems in our neighborhoods aren’t ultimately found in the government, police or schools or in getting more people to church.  The solutions lie with us.  It’s within our power to become good neighbors, to care for the people around us and to be cared for by the people around us. There really is a different way to live, and we are finding that it is actually the best way to live” (22).

This is what 1LoveWake is all about (based here in the Triangle, NC).  You can also check out the Art of Neighboring web-site, which has other great resources.  You can find a nation-wide map which shows other people interested in being good neighbors, and you can enter your own information.  Let’s fill up the map!