Review: Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy

I can’t remember the last time I shed tears while going through a biography, because I did this time. Everything about Eric Metaxas’ work is beautiful. Excellent. I was not only impressed but so moved that I feel the words I just used are an injustice to his great work.

It is obvious by now that I’m impressed and highly recommend reading (or listening) to Bonhoeffer’s story by the author already mentioned. No author can produce a great work without being engrossed in his subject. This is obvious in the meticulous research and captivating story-telling by the author.

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No Election Required

No Election Required
This is a guest blog post by Dan Wolgemuth. He had shared this on Facebook first. It had great impact on me and I asked him if I could share it here. He graciously agreed. Thank you Dan!

At last check there were somewhere around 20 candidates aspiring to be the next President of the United States.

In the early days of campaigning, these individuals look for ways to differentiate themselves from the crowded field. Each speech, every public encounter, and nearly all of their interactions are carefully scrutinized, evaluated and commented on.

Political philosophy and personal values are squeezed out of each written or spoken sentence. Questions swirl and answers are evaluated. Words illuminate. Speeches inform.

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The ‘Spiritual’ Books I Read In 2013

I’ve published ‘other’ books I read in 2013 here. Everything we read shapes and impacts us. It makes a difference to our spiritual journey.

There are many God-inspired books available as much as there are some to stay away from. Fortunately I haven’t come across one in while. I only started, this blog, I Am Jonah later in the year and thus never wrote much about books.

spiritual books of 2013

On the other hand, starting this blog is not primarily for reviewing books like I did here. I only will do that if it falls in like with the general theme. Not that I will always be “stuck” to the theme… I’m sure the theme will also evolve with time.

(Then there’s that time I asked about classics…)

Then again, it is great to get an insight into books I’ve read as they form an part of my journey. Dependent on their impact or course.

This is just a list of the ‘spiritual’ books I’ve read in 2013 (outside of my theology studies, that is):

My theology studies and other work get in the way of how much other stuff I can read. That’s all good cause it is also formative and just as important. If not more because of its much more exhaustive nature.

Reading is a great way to have understanding and application of Scripture. Anything that helps you dig a little deeper in tha Word will help you grow better.

Knowledge Of The Holy by A.W. Tozer, has been my favorite ‘spiritual’ book since I read it. It will cause you to yearn for a clear picture of God. I also highly recommend Tozer’s other book, The Pursuit Of God.

Fixing Abraham by Chris Tiegreen challenged me to stop putting God in a frame in how He might want to work in and through me as well as others. Chris makes a very compelling case for not dictating to ourselves and others about God and His ways.

Pagan Christianity by Frank Viola and George Barna was a great read. Well researched and I would recommend reading. I did a review of the book here.

This is not meant to be a review of the books but just a list. So I’ll end with this: all the books I listed had something that challenged me and the way I walk. Because of personalities and seasons, not everyone is going to draw the same things or find value in the same books to the same extent.

This was my list…

What books did you read in 2013? How did they impact you? Any recommendations for me and others?

 

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Earth, Clouds And Sky

 

I never used to get, “appreciate God’s grandeur through His creation” speech when I went on camps…

Saw this not far from home today. It is beautiful.

#landscape #nature

What God Has Prepared

Sometimes I just don’t have a handle on how God does things because I try to understand His divine and lofty ways through through my finite and selfish mind and lens.

God, help me see your plans for my life, for others others through my life and to appreciate You and your ways as You and Your ways really are.

Amen.

#iamjonah

Pagan Christianity?: A Review

This was a book I never rushed to finish. Partly because I have been reading other books and working on my theology assignments. The other part of it is that I wanted to be careful to take as much in and reflect on some of the things put forward by Frank Viola and George Barna.

It is apparent that Pagan Christianity? is well thought out, researched and crafted. It was not “slap dash” work. Frank and George do communicate a heart for the Church as God intended. It is clear they have a sound understanding of the Church and her purpose.

Thus they wrote the book to explore practices that have been or are compromising the Church. This is a worthwhile endeavor. How the Church does things can detract and or compromise her identity and mission. Pagan Christianity? highlights the birth of some practices.

Frank and George highlight how they can and do compromise the identity and mission of the Church. They highlight some practices as originating from pagan worship. Man-made.

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They are upfront with not being agreed with. The publisher also gives a disclaimer. They make it clear that by publishing the book they’re not endorsing nor do they necessarily share the same opinions as the authors.

With that, there are areas that I don’t agree with Frank and George. They believe in the Church, the ecclesia, or gathering and community of believers to be organic. On this I agree with. However, I almost get the impression that “organic” is synonymous with house Church.

House churches are the story of the early church. They are not irrelevant now, but my take is that they may not be practical in all contexts. The object, for me, is not the venue, it is what the gatherings should produce, the purpose of the gatherings.

They must produce Christ mature Christ followers. This means that they are like Christ in both likeness and works. For example, Pagan Christianity? discourages a lack of Church buildings. One of the reasons is that they end up consuming a significant amount of funds and placing an undue burden on congregations.

I believe there must be a balance here. In some instances buildings, as venues and not sacred spaces, enable permanence, and consistency. In some instances due to modern life, it is difficult to run house Church or use other buildings or venues such as community halls etc.

With this my take is that the purpose of everything must remain clearly visible. (I am not saying Frank and George advocate ambiguity).

I’m a strong believer in the priesthood of all believers. I believe everyone in the Church, the body of Christ, has a role to play in her edification, so that as a collective and individuals, we become more like Christ.

There are principles on the identity and the mission of God through the Church that cannot and must never be violated.

I could go on and highlight a few more things. However, it might be more pertinent to communicate what I feel makes the heart of the book.

The most important take away from the book is that we look at the expression of our relationship with God. As individuals and community of believers.

We must constantly assess how and why we are doing things in the light of God’s word. We must be clear about the impact of all our practices and make sure that it enables community and maturity in the faith, producing Christ like people. A scripturally sound Church.

We must examine the origin of some practices against the backdrop of whether it enables growth of Christ followers, the mission of the Church and the glory of God.

I would recommend reading Pagan Christianity. However, that it must be read with openness to challenging thought and practices for the sake of making sure that the heart of all practices as Christ followers and the Church is as God intends.

I’d recommend reading it in a non-prescriptive way but facilitating conversation and reflection. Frank and George present their case and rest at saying readers must discern for themselves steps they need to be taking.

Ultimately an important thing to do is listening to what God’s Spirit says to you. Ultimately, and most importantly, no one’s opinion or perspective must eclipse God’s.

Again, I recommend reading Pagan Christianity with an openness to challenging thought and practices for the sake of making sure that the heart of and our practices as Christ followers and the Church is as God intends. Read in a non-prescriptive way but for the purposes of facilitating conversation and reflection.

[affiliate link to book]

Now Reading

 

It’s taken a while to read and finish this book. I’ve shared an excerpt from it. I’ve also made reference to how it made me think about some things.

I will be doing a review of it soon.

What “spiritual” book have you read or are you reading that’s challenging you in your walk?

View After Church

 

My view after worship gathering with the Church today.

Somehow I always have a different perspective on the same thing after “encounter” with God in worship and listening to His word. Interacting with the Church i.e. other Christ-followers also helps.

Sometimes I don’t “feel like it” but I’m grateful that God allows me to connect with people and Himself in the life-changing experiences.

 

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Success When God Sends

Jonah’s story, the one in the Bible, starts with God’s word “coming” to Jonah (Jonah 1:1). (This is one of those moments my head says, “Whatever that means”). God reaches and speaks to us differently at different times, as different people.

God sends us. How humbling.

Related:

ME | What The Assignments God Gives Reveal (Part 1)

GOD | What The Assignments God Gives Us Reveal [Part 2]

OTHERS | What The Assignments God Gives Us Reveal [Part 3]

So, God sends Jonah, he didn’t go where he should have at first, but ended up seeing an entire city turn to God. What a story. I sometimes get caught up imagining that. Reaching an entire city, right up to its king.

Success When God Sends

I read this and don’t understand why silly Jonah got upset with that. Who wouldn’t want a city turning to God, as God’s sent person to that city? Jonah had what many Christ followers call, “A successful” ministry.

I want one. A successful ministry that is. I have these moments I imagine myself being “used of God” (that voice in my head again, “whatever that means”) that entire cities turn to Him. Ministry should be like that. Because God is with us, we must see “great responses and harvests”

(I feel “polluted” with jargon.)

I mean I’ve heard Daniel 11:32 preached… You know, “Those who know their God will do great things.” Does that “great things” mean I’ll get to stand in front of thousands to preach? Is great defined by the number of people who come to “hear me” preach or read my blogs?

Do I have the same definition of “great things” as God does?

It is the discrepancy between God’s definitions and mine that cause frustration in me [Click to Tweet]

In fact, these discrepancies are the source of my biggest disappointments with God. Why hasn’t God done this or that? One of the reasons is that simple: I have imposed my definitions of success and His will on Him. God doesn’t honor that.

What if my story is not Jonah’s? What if my story is Jeremiah’s, who from a young age preached as God sent him and so nothing as “dramatic and grand” as Jonah?

Jeremiah hardly had success like Jonah, if any. He preached throughout his life and every time he did, things got bad for him. He was arrested, thrown in a well and ridiculed. Had God sent him? Yes.

Am I willing to be in discomfort for the sake of God sending me?

There are times God has sent me, and I knew it was God sending me. However, somewhere along the way I battled separating what God wanted from what I wanted. I was clear about what the goal was. But somehow my selfish ambition and ego tried to feature in the execution.

Has “success” when God sends us, become subjective… to us and not by God’s standards? [Click to Tweet]

I pray I don’t get it twisted. I don’t ever want to get caught up in the belief that the more crowds I preach to the more successful and blessed I am. I don’t want the attention I draw or fail to draw to be the measure of God’s blessing on what I do or the assignments I know He’s called me too.

I’m confident that God was equally happy with Jonah and Jeremiah meeting their assignments. (Well He wasn’t happy about Jonah’s whining after, but you get the point I’m trying to make. Right?)

Sometimes I Am Just Jonah, when it comes to aligning God’s will and mine.

God, may doing exactly what you send me to do be enough. Help me never to make anything else more important. May my success be enough in being true only to you and where you send me. Amen.

[Photo Credit: StockMonkeys.com]

The Nice “Small” Feeling

 

I love moments when I look up and just feel small.

They remind me how small and frail I am. That I am not the center as I sometimes believe or want to be be.

They remind me that God is not as small as I sometimes make Him to be. These moments remind me there’s so much more to my existence than the mundane.

Looking up and feeling small today reminds me that God still has plan for me.

You have these kind of moments? What do they remind you of?