Tempted & Tried – Review

Tempted and Tried: Temptation and the Triumph of ChristTempted and Tried: Temptation and the Triumph of Christ by Russell D. Moore

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Russell Moore has written an excellent analysis of temptation in a work that is easily one of the best theological books I’ve read. His grasp of biblical theology, typology, culture, and human nature is stunning. Additionally, his “psychology of the demonic” is perhaps unsurpassed since C.S. Lewis’s “Screwtape Letters.” His pastoral wisdom throughout the book in invigorating, mostly because he pulls no punches. There is no false comfort here, but there is true comfort–we are victorious in Jesus Christ, but we will battle and struggle until the day we die. As he writes: “You cannot triumph over temptation. Only Jesus can.” A must-read for anyone wondering why they can’t do the good they know they should do, and for anyone wrestling with dark desires and finding no rest.

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Following Jesus, the Servant King – Review

Following Jesus, the Servant King: A Biblical Theology of Covenantal Discipleship (Biblical Theology for Life)Following Jesus, the Servant King: A Biblical Theology of Covenantal Discipleship by Jonathan Lunde

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Covenant theology is making a come-back! After a century of being eclipsed by Dispensationalism, theologians are re-discovering the covenantal unity of the Bible. Jonathan Lunde’s new book is a welcome contribution to this effort. Lunde shows how Jesus fulfills the deepest meanings of the Old Covenant Laws, and shows us how the principles of the Old Testament apply to us in the New Covenant. Lunde is well-read in the contemporary scholar literature. But this is not just a book about biblical theology. Lunde’s sub-title is: “A Biblical Theology of Covenantal Discipleship.” Accordingly, Lunde does a good job of connecting sometimes complicated theological arguments to real-life situations. Well worth a read!

(Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Zondervan 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.)

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The Politics of Jesus – Review

The Politics of Jesus The Politics of Jesus by John Howard Yoder

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Yoder is famous for being a pacifist (at least that’s all I really heard about him until reading this book). But, there’s tons of helpful material here besides his pacifist conclusions. Each point he makes is thoroughly documented, with scholarly interaction from the major theologians of the time (late 60s & 70s).

I found Yoder almost as exciting to read as N.T. Wright. His footnotes were often little rabbit-trails of gold.

Refreshing to read as Christians fret about Obama-care and what-not. Yoder points out that Jesus consistently refused to seized political power, and chose to submit to torture and crucifixion. But, through that revolutionary submission to power, he unleashed a Power that ultimately converted the Roman Empire.

Good stuff to remember this Holy Saturday …

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We Are the Resurrection Community

A wonderful quote from Robert L. Wilken’s The Spirit of Early Christian Thought:  “The Resurrection of Jesus is the central fact of Christian devotion and the ground of all Christian thinking.  The Resurrection was not a solitary occurence, a prodigious miracle, but an event within a framework of Jewish history, and it brought into being a new community, the church.  Christianity enters history not only as a message but as a communal life, a society …”

This year, the Eastern churches and the Western church will both celebrate Easter on the same day.  (The East and the West have followed different calendars for a long time.)  What a wonderful reminder that we are part of the same Body of Christ!  Even though we may have strong disagreements with each other (and may even doubt whether those “other churches” are even Christian), we will all be remembering and celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus Christ on the same day!  This the fact which has changed human history.  This is what creates a new society of redeemed people. 

“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation” (2 Cor.  5:17).  Let’s live like it!

Advent & Liturgical Colors

I love Advent and Christmas!  It’s the one time of the year when Christians remember the importance of liturgy, symbolism, ceremonies, feasting, sharing with the poor, and aesthetics in the home.  I suppose dour Puritans just sit through the season, frowning at all the joviality, but for the rest of us, it’s a reminder of what really matters.  Deep down, we know that high and important holidays call for a high liturgy.  I dare say even the most contemporary, seeker-sensitive church does something different in their worship service to mark this time of year.  And even though we loath the self-centered commercialism of it all, deep down we know that birth of a King should be honored with ceremonies, feasting, and decorations, and gift-giving.  We know this at weddings, we know this at Christmas and Easter, but we forget it for the rest of the year. 

As Douglas Wilson says about much of American worship these days: “The problem with contemporary worship music is not the kind of music it is, but rather the kind of occasion everyone seems to think the service is,” (Mother Kirk, pg. 130).  We realize that Christmas and Easter are really holy-days, and so we treat them differently.  But, the rest of the year, Sunday is just a time when we come to church to be entertained, to socialize, to hear an inspiring sermon, and get our spiritual “fix” for the week.

Now, to the main point.  Caleb Roberts (check out the promising new blog he contributes to) asks: “I am fortunate enough to attend a PCA church that embraces the use of the colors but doesn’t seem to draw them in and establish them in the life and heartbeat, if you will, of the church. I am still learning, but is there not some significance to the assignment of various colors to the different periods of the Church Year? If so, what was the historical way in which the colors were woven into the fabric of the liturgy?”

For starters, The Voice  has a good summary of how liturgical colors are used (both in the past, and currently).  And this is a good place to make my main point–there is no fixed pattern for liturgical color use.  There are general patterns, which have become standardized over time (just as there is no one liturgy that Christians have always followed, but there are liturgical patterns that have become standardized over time).  We should be wary of adopting any color scheme, thinking that we are somehow returning to the practice of the ancient and universal church.  It just ain’t so.  This is, however, a useful area to explore, because it forces us to consider some deeper questions.

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