I spent a couple hours arranging my upcoming book and, so far, it looks like I’ll have a 175-200 page general Introduction to the Baha’i Faith for Christian Readers. Actually, I’ll try to make it accessible to any reader, but it will be written from my perspective as an Evangelical Christian — I’ll be presenting the material in a semi-autobiographical fashion. There are a couple of reasons for this approach, but the most practical consideration for presenting this material to someone new to the Baha’i Faith is where we find ourselves in history — we are entering in on the “ground floor” of Baha’i history and development as a distinct religion.… Read the rest
I knew Winston Churchill was a painter, but only recently heard of his essay, Painting As A Pastime. Former President George W. Bush credited this little book with both his deliverance from “sitting on the couch, eating potato chips” in retirement and awakening in him a newfound passion for art and painting. I thought I’d read the essay online, but The Estate of Winston S. Churchill has a tight hold on the former British Prime Minister’s massive collection of writings and correspondence.
I read the reviews and found this gem on Amazon.com “used” — it was actually new and I picked it up for about the price of a sugary, dairy-based corporate coffee drink.… Read the rest
Let me begin my post about this book with one of the endorsements from the back cover:
… Read the rest
Offenses will come. It’s a given. Unpacking Forgiveness wisely prepares us for the aftermath. Grieving the loss of our six children in a van accident and then being reminded of that loss throughout thirteen years of subsequent battles forced us to search the Scriptures concerning the issue of forgiveness. Chris not only has confirmed answers that we had found but has thoroughly sorted out what it takes to be right with God and man.
I’m a new artist and had this conversation with Denise the other day: “My drawing skills are horrible and I’m so impatient that I’m not really observing my subjects at all. After I get going, the process slows me down and I begin seeing everything I missed.” Denise, as she typically does, listened patiently to my exposed inner thoughts and acknowledged my concerns. Then, she continued with her reading. This is a “conversation” we’ve had at least five times over the past couple of months and it was just this last Monday I engaged in the self-flagellation one more time.
I had the opportunity to attend the Andrew Fuller Conference at Southern Seminary this past week. On my flight home, I read a book I’ve been looking forward to for years — D.A. Carson’s Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor: The Life and Reflections of Tom Carson.
I was first drawn to this book through a couple of podcasts and/or interviews of Dr. Carson when it came out. The book recounts the rather ordinary, yet significant life of his father Tom, a Baptist pastor1 in French Quebec through the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. There are a number of reviews of the book out there and I’ll link to a few at the bottom of the post.… Read the rest
Back in June of this year, Nancy Guthrie messaged to tell me that she was reading a review copy of a forthcoming book and I was quoted in it! Well, that was exciting news. I wrote Good Mr. Baxter about 25 years ago and it has remained in obscurity for the most part. I was just happy to see that someone read it and found something of value. You can find my semi-immortal words on page 49 of Dr. Michael Haykin‘s Eight Women of Faith!
This is my mini-review of his biographical sketches of eight historically significant Evangelical women, in one volume.… Read the rest
From Thom Rainer’s book, Autopsy of a Deceased Church, the author lists some tell-tale signs to alert us that our church is in trouble. Here are the most telling, in my opinion:
- “The church refused to look like the community. The community began a transition toward a lower socioeconomic class thirty years ago, but the church members had no desire to reach the new residents. The congregation thus became an island of middle-class members in a sea of lower-class residents.”
- “There was no attempt to reach the community.”
- “More and more emphasis was placed on the past.”
- “The percentage of the budget for members’ needs kept increasing.
I suppose it’s fitting I write a review of Matt Perman’s book What’s Best Next (WBN) toward the end of a day that I’ve spent piddling, getting very little done, on the way to working myself up to settle down to watch a movie.
My cousin Nancy pointed me to What’s Best Next, while discussing our recent retirements. For Type A personalities or those of us who obsess over how much time we’re wasting, our first impulse is to prioritize and jump right into finding more time. That’s universal and, if you don’t believe me, just scroll through the thousands of productivity products and strategies on the web.… Read the rest
Yesterday, I began in earnest to bring my latest writing and publishing project to life. I created an outline and plan for a book titled The Baha’i Faith: An Introduction for Christian Readers. Why an introduction to the Baha’i faith, you ask? Because there still aren’t nearly enough resources out there for popular consumption on the subject, since I first encountered the Baha’i faith back in the 80s. Sources tend to be partisan and there is very little dialogue between opposing groups, who share an interest in the Baha’i faith and its roots in Babism, Sufism, Twelver Shi’ism, and Islam. Of course, Baha’is will accuse me of being so biased, that I can’t possibly add anything helpful to the discussion.… Read the rest
I have to concur with the writer, that “racking up mile after mile is difficult, mind-expanding, and hypnotic—just like putting words down on a page.” But, it’s also energizing and freeing to be out on the road, around town or through the woods, working out ideas and problems, step by step, mile by mile.
… Read the rest
Freedom, consciousness, and wildness: Running offers writers escape with purpose. When confronted with “structural problems” in her writing as the result of a “long, snarled, frustrating and sometimes despairing morning of work,” Joyce Carol Oates would ease her writing blocks with afternoon runs. For Oates and many other writers, running is process and proves especially useful for the type of cloistered, intensive work they do.
If you haven’t already read it, this is a fine book about cultivating healthy, Gospel relationships within the Church. I read Ken Sande’s first edition of The Peacemaker years ago and have to say this revised and updated Third Edition is greatly improved. I skimmed over my highlighted copy about a month ago and was pleasantly surprised to rediscover this gem, buried among so much treasure:
… Read the rest
People who use escape responses [to conflict] are usually intent on “peace-faking,” or making things look good even when they are not. (This is especially common in the church, where people are often more concerned about the appearance of peace than the reality of peace).
I don’t recall memorizing, reciting or reading Robert Frost’s poems in school, while growing up in Southern California. That may seem unusual for anyone my age or older, because he was the nation’s poet laureate and all the rage in the early ’60s. He wrote a poem for John F. Kennedy’s inauguration, which bound him inextricably to the times and events that many baby-boomers cling to as their coming of age.
I had, in the words of one Richard Baxter biographer, a defective and desultory education. I think it was more my fault than any deficiencies in the educational system or my teachers.… Read the rest
Leading on Empty by Wayne Cordeiro is a book for burnouts. I picked it up back in February of 2013, when I finally realized I was experiencing long-term exhaustion (the formal diagnosis). I was a classic case — I didn’t know I had arrived at burnout, until I was actually coming out of it. A friend pointed me to this text as a classic on the subject, specifically written for Christians.
The book was not overly helpful for me, because I had stumbled into solutions or had recognized and addressed many of the symptoms already. It did help me to make sense of the troubled waters I’d just passed through and gave me a few tips or reminders to get back on course.… Read the rest
Let’s talk about Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More? Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist by Karen Swallow Prior. Dr. Prior is a Professor of English at Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA. She is also the author of Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me (T. S. Poetry Press 2012) and a contributing writer for Christianity Today, The Atlantic, In Touch, Her.meneutics and Think Christian. Ms. Prior is a member of the Faith Advisory Council of the Humane Society of the United States, living out a fierce commitment to her family of dogs, horses, and chickens in rural Virginia, along with her husband, Roy.… Read the rest
Last year, I joined a group of men reading through the Bible in a year, with the aid of this Biblical theology, The King in His Beauty: A Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments. It was an incredible experience, hearing the Story of God in a cover-to-cover reading of the Scriptures. So, it was both shocking and delightful to hear Nancy Guthrie express many of the same discoveries our men’s group made, covering essentially the same ground. I highly recommend a good listen to this podcast for anyone, at any stage in your story, following Jesus: WHI-1254 | Seeing Jesus in the Old Testament, Part 1 – Out of the Horse’s Mouth.… Read the rest
I’ve finished reading Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More? Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist by Karen Swallow Prior. I have my own review, and I’m just about ready to push the “Publish” button. But, for now you can find this interview of the author over at The Gospel Coalition. From the biography:
… Read the rest
More was born in a rapidly changing society, and her life embodies many of those changes. She was born to laboring class parents but became an early example of social mobility by rising well above her station by the end of her life. But having both lower class origins and upper class attainments gave More an opportunity to effectively reach both rich and poor and in between through her writing and her reform efforts.
The Gospel Coalition has a number of good videos and this one is worth watching and not so much because of the people they name, who actually influenced them: when all is said and done they only name a few! Rather, what I found most valuable are the reasons why they urge us to read, watch or listen to a variety of Christian thinkers, leaders, and noteworthy historical figures, after reading our Bibles. The panel is mainly addressing preachers or leaders, but I think their advice is sound for any Jesus follower.… Read the rest
Being Human: The Nature of Spiritual Experience (BH) by Jerram Barrs and Ranald Macaulay – this book appeared at a crucial time in my walk as a young Christian and exerted a powerful influence on my entire life. Its message continues to play a valuable role, causing me to examine and evaluate the perpetual and ubiquitous ebb and flow of new movements, trendy philosophies and sure-fire techniques, rising and receding within the contemporary Christian culture. America has been appropriately described as a disposable society and the church has not only adopted a superficial, sanctified brand of consumerism, but might even teach the folks up on the Mad Avenue a few tricks!… Read the rest
Alexander Strauch’s Biblical Eldership (BE) packs the most thorough exposition of relevant passages concerning elders in the Bible into one volume, while offering a spirited and compelling apologetic for the practice of non-clerical, plural leadership in the local church. But, it’s not just for church leaders – all readers will find a clear and well-reasoned appeal to all Christians to practice a humble, relational style of Christianity modeled after Jesus Christ. And, even if you do not find Alex Strauch’s model or paradigm ultimately convincing and advocate a monarchical episcopacy or congregational form of church government, I guarantee you will be challenged, inspired and equipped to take your ministry, whatever it may be, more seriously and you will serve with greater passion and effectiveness.… Read the rest
J.I. Packer is a true gentleman. He read my biography of Richard Baxter and mailed me a copy of his book, A Grief Sanctified, along with a thoughtful note. This is the second time I’ve received a personal communication from the world-class theologian and author of the classic, Knowing God. The first was back around 1988, when he sent me a detailed, thorough reply to a question about ecclesiology, along with a fairly lengthy paper (which he obviously read).
I’ve learned something through all my research and writing adventures over the years. The great ones are generous with their time, their writings, and their knowledge.… Read the rest
What does every church leader need in the 21st century? Perhaps you gave the standard Sunday school response: Jesus! Well, that is certainly true. Since we are imbibing some more Gospel Goodness, you may have thought I was going to wrestle you to the ground and pin you until you cried “GOSPEL!” You wouldn’t be far off. Authors Scott Thomas and Tom Wood lead off with this simple and succinct conviction:
Every church leader needs a coach. Every church leader needs to be coaching other leaders.
I’m inclined to agree with them. For church leaders, a relationship with Christ is a given.… Read the rest
Now that we’re a bit better at gospeling ourselves, thanks to Joe Thorn’s Note to Self (yeah, that’s gospel as a verb), we can look at another standard work on the Gospel-Centered Everything bookshelf . The Gospel-Centered Life (GCL) is a nine-lesson small group study and a helpful resource for individuals. There is also a Gospel-Centered Life Leader’s Guide. These books are authored by Will Walker and blogger/writer, Bob Thune, one of the pastors at Coram Deo Church Community (yeah, you read that church name right and the word order is significant).
I’ve been known to claim GCL is the closest thing to a perfect book I’ve come across in a long time — I’m being mildly hyperbolic.… Read the rest
I thought I’d kick off my regular blogging with a discussion of a few books I’ve found not only insightful but actually helpful over a difficult decade for Denise and myself. After 41 years together, we’ve seen some huge changes, weathered a catastrophic illness, and lost loved ones. But, this was probably the most concentrated season of loss, sadness, and reorientation ever, reaching a crescendo these past three years.
We have been sustained through it all by the Gospel or the Good News: That Jesus died for our sins, according to the Scriptures — that He was buried, rose again the third day, and ascended to the right hand of the Father.… Read the rest
So, we met some new friends in Sedgwick Me — Joanne and Doug. They told us that Pushcart Press, the world’s smallest bookstore, is in the building at the back of what was once Donny and Eleanor’s garage and auto dealership. We stopped by to check it out. The Pushcart Prize is a prestigious literary project, pioneered by Bill Henderson over 30 years ago. As it turns out, Mr. Henderson is now a resident of Sedgwick, where I once served as Postmaster and our family wintered for a year before moving up to Blue Hill. From the PP website:
… Read the rest
The Pushcart Prize – Best of the Small Presses series, published every year since 1976, is the most honored literary project in America.
It took nearly twenty years, but my short biography of Richard Baxter is in publication and you can get your hands on a copy of it on at Lewis and Roth, using PayPal, VISA© or MasterCard. It’s only $9.95 and a nominal charge for shipping and handling, so how can you go wrong? Most of my sales have been by money order or personal check and you can find that order form right here.
“Who’s Richard Baxter?” you ask.
The well-known Christian author and authority on the Puritans, J.I. Packer, called him “incomparable” in his zeal and abilities, as well as “…the most outstanding pastor, evangelist and writer on practical and devotional themes that Puritanism produced.”… Read the rest