Why Christians should be Concerned with Environmental Issues

The Gatekeeper

By Jeffrey B. Riley

The Environment! Global Warming! Why should Christians get involved with those kinds of debates? Don’t we have more important, or perhaps more interesting, issues to consider? The Great Commission, for example.

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Book Review: The Grand Paradox

In his second book, The Grand Paradox, Ken Wytsma provides readers with the opportunity to face their doubts and fears while finding the reassurance needed to dive deeper into relationship with the Imago Dei. Finding a balance between the messiness of life and the mysteriousness of God, Wytsma summarizes that, “faith is often characterized less by clarity than by confusion. (xx)” As he continues to write, Ken allows the reader to ask questions often faced by Christians in this messy world. Some of the questions include (7):
• Do we have the wrong definition of faith? (Chapter 3)
• I have doubts…does that mean I don’t have faith? (Chapter 7)
• What is God calling me, personally, to do? (Chapter 8 & 9)
These questions, amongst others, provide the backbone for examining the Christian life lived amongst the messiness and the mysteriousness of God. This paradox “is learning to ‘live the questions’ faith engenders. (13)” The ability to survive a life of faith with one’s faith in tact seems to be getting more difficult, yet this catch-22 can lead to wrestling with God’s plan for one’s life.
From this point of discussion, Wytsma continues to build on the definition of faith with the ideology that faith is perplexing, unreasonable, and scary, yet it requires a blind leap to trust. (41) “A common theme in the Old and New Testaments is that ‘the just shall live by faith’. (53)” Wytsma answers, “if we are not looking out for ourselves, then we have to trust that God is looking out for us. (53)” This creates the paradox found later through addressing doubt.
The paradox between faith and doubt is a complex structure that many pastors today believe should not be within the person of faith. In The Grand Paradox, Wytsma identifies two types of doubt: honest doubt and stupid doubt. (65) Honest doubts begin when we:
• Encounter the complexity of the universe
• Confront evil in the world
• Feel lost or broken
• Can’t find God
In the end, doubt creates a need for answers, but the answers rarely provide the needed reasoning; another paradox that Wytsma goes on to answer in depth in later chapters.
Throughout The Grand Paradox, there are tremendous resources for those who struggle within their faith, those who have little faith, and those who are strong in their faith. As a book written by a pastor, college president, and conference founder the candor that Wytsma writes with provides for the right atmosphere to allow one’s doubts and fears to marinade in the correct responses. This book is the perfect resource for the strong of faith, and a needed resource for those who struggle to comprehend their place in God.

God’s Favorite Place on Earth

Shortly, I will be receiving a review copy of God’s Favorite Place on Earth by Frank Viola. The book released May 1st and stayed in the top # 50 on Amazon.com for 8 straight days. There’s a lot of buzz about this book on the Web, and I’ll be writing a review after I read it.
Here are a few interesting nuggets about the book.
* It’s been recommended by 47 Christian authors, including John Ortberg, Jack Hayford, Leonard Sweet, Tricia Goyer, Mary DeMuth, Greg Boyd, Todd Hunter, Jon Acuff, Phil Cooke, and many others.
* There is an interesting video trailer for the book that introduces it.
* The book tells the story of Jesus in the little village of Bethany and the amazing things that happened there through the eyes of Lazarus. It combines biblical narrative, dramatization, theological insights, and nonfiction devotional teaching. It argues that “Bethany” was God’s Favorite Place on Earth and explains how every Christian and every church can be “Bethanys” today for God.
* The book addresses 18 specific struggles that Christians face today and offers hope, challenge, and fresh insight.
You can check all of this out at God’s Favorite Place on Earth and get the book on discount.
– See more at: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/frankviola/freecopy/#sthash.8AwLMdib.dpuf

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/frankviola/freecopy/

Review of Pursuing Justice, by Ken Wytsma

ImagePursuing Justice, by Ken Wytsma provides an excellent foundation for a personal understanding of justice from a biblical perspective. Injustice is not simply a biblical, historical problem, rather one that devastates individuals, families, cities, states, and nations regularly. This issue is one that is at the heart of God and one that he deeply desires to rectify, therefore everyone must shift his/her understanding of a just society. To accomplish this he/she must have “an encounter with the heart of God, and God’s heart beats with justice” (9).

Beginning with the idea of “Redeeming Justice”, Wytsma, establishes the parameters he will work between throughout his book. Paired with the understanding of truth, as a universal paradigm through which individuals look to see what is real, justice must be the other lens (8). When seeking to understand justice, from a biblical perspective, he/she will examine the word in the original biblical languages of Hebrew and Greek. In this examination process, he/she will identify that righteousness and justice are one in the same. Being the same word points him/her back to the character of God.

Chapter 2, “Dynamic Art”, explains how justice is a method of growing closer to God. By identifying the overlaps between justice, theology, and shalom the evidence for a needed paradigm shift is vast. When examining the need for justice in society, Christians must determine the connection between justice and the gospel. Dr. John M. Perkins, as quoted on page 37, stated, “Preaching a gospel absent of justice is preaching no gospel at all”. This concept points to the social gospel movement of the 60’s when Dr. Perkins began his ministry known as Christian Community Development. Many today are fearful that this movement will result in the same outcome, but Pursuing Justice establishes a greater basis and depth for living justly and not simply meeting basic human needs.

Chapter 6, “Stained Glass”, discusses when religion gets in the way of justice. There must be a balance struck between meeting needs and submission to the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20, Mark 16:15, Luke 24:44-49, John 20:21, and Acts 1:8). Carried out through empathy, justice, completed only with the Great Commission added can provide long-term sustainable impact. By starting exposure to justice early, individuals will increase empathy and reduce materialism. From this point on, Wytsma, makes the clear call for individuals, both Christian and not, to live their life from the overflow of justice within his/her heart.

Through personal experiences, interludes, scripture, and quotes Ken Wytsma has written an exceptional manifesto for justice lived out. Recommended for anyone in ministry or not, anyone desiring to understand the modern justice movement or someone who has struggled with doing justice in the past. The foundation established in Pursuing Justice will guide the reader on a personal journey through his/her prejudices regarding the need for justice and call him/her to live and die for bigger things.

Book Review for The Just Church, by Jim Martin

 

The Just Church, by Jim Martin of International Justice Mission, provides an excellent foundation for the local Church to carry out the Biblical command to seek justice. With the basis of social justice grounded in scripture, this book will reignite the Church’s passion for reaching those in need. Broken in two sections (Justice, Discipleship, & the Failure Point of Faith and The Justice Journey), The Just Church explores the journey from failure to joy while providing practical insight into the application of developing a just church structure.

In the first section, Justice, Discipleship, & the Failure Point of Faith, Jim Martin details the failure of faith through the story of Blair. In the quote below we can begin to understand the passionate pursuit that a true disciple of Jesus will take to expand his kingdom.

God‘s gracious call to us is an invitation to pursue him out of our comfort zones and into a place where failure is a real possibility–perhaps even an inevitability. It’s a call to follow God to places where dependence on him is a necessity. […] To accept this invitation is to discover the work of justice is significantly about our own discipleship” (p. 10).

The reason for our personal discipleship is not to simply obey a command of God (Matt. 28:18-20), but rather to build his kingdom, bring him glory, and bring justice in an unjust world. In order to accomplish this we must grow our faith. “Faith grows most profoundly when it regularly encounters the failure point (50)” and “we grow faith not by sitting alone and trying to flex our faith muscles. We grow faith by putting ourselves in situations that will require faith of us” (49-50).

In the second section, The Justice Journey, Jim Martin expands the readers understanding of the process of spiritual formation. Through fueling our work, encountering the just God, discovering ones talent, need & call, and stepping out in faith instead of fear this book will “invite you on the adventure with God, who is in the habit of using the pilgrimage to transform the pilgrim” (234). With this in mind, if you find yourself drawn to social justice, the hurting world around you, or you simply want to fulfill the purpose of God on this earth The Just Church will equip you with the necessary vision and passion to begin pursing the mission of God. Moreover, “if you muster the courage to be faithful, what you will witness is God’s unambiguously miraculous power to rescue and deliver. When that happens, a whole new kind of fear enters your soul–an awe-struck appreciation for the God of justice who is able to do immeasurably more than you could ask or imagine” (192).