Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Gospel of Yes – Mike Glenn

The Gospel of Yes: We Have Missed the Most Important Thing About God. Finding It Changes Everything© 2012 WaterBrook Press, Colorado Springs

In the panoply of inspirational books encouraging Christians to be Christian one can find a multitude of definition books. David Platt stresses that we live Radical lives. Thom Rainer suggests that we find a way to Simple Church and Simple Life. It is great to be challenged, but at some point it would be nice to move from motivation to practice. Enter Mike Glenn, senior pastor of Brentwood Baptist Church in Brentwood (read Nashville), Tennessee. What Glenn does that sets his book apart from others who challenge the church to be Christ-like is to put a handle on what it takes to simplify, and do it radically.

Having grown up in the Southern tradition of nos and don’ts and stop that’s, Glenn has stumbled onto something that is more practical and freeing than the rhetoric that says, “Christians ought to . . .” Simply put, the author opens the reader’s eyes to a fresh emphasis on a couple of Scripture passages. The foundational passage for the book is one that throughout the ages has been used to encourage integrity in the Christian—“Let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no.’” (see Matthew 5:37) Glenn suggests that Christ has a “yes” for every believer, and that to say, “yes” to that yes in our lives will automatically require us to say, “no” to a number of other things, even good things. It is your yes that you must follow, not anyone else’s.

This refreshing take on Christian living helps to free up the believer to be all that he can be without being distracted by all the other good things there are open to us. The principle, as I see it, can be well learned by the church as well.

The writing is not without its hiccups. For instance, in the Introduction and first chapter of the book, Glenn is desperately trying to communicate his epiphany about the “gospel of yes” with limited or little success. However, as the reader moves into the following chapters, the idea becomes a tangible thing that can be grasped. This personal “yes” presented to every believer by God Himself is one that finds its way into all the Scripture.

Approaching a passage used by parents throughout the ages (both in and out of the church) to bully their children into proper behavior from the standpoint of God’s “yes” changes the emphasis from a child towing the line, to helping that child find her niche. The passage found at Proverbs 22:6 advises, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Throughout the ages parents have put the emphasis on the way trying to drag their children along with them on a path of Bible memorization and church attendance (not necessarily a bad thing). But Glenn suggests moving the emphasis from the pathway to the person—train a child in the way he should go—help him find his place and direction. If we will do this then our children will not only excel in the direction that is theirs, but they will also be following the “yes” offered to them by God Himself (which will keep them in the path that He has chosen for them—including the moral places we want them to be).

This is a challenging book in the respect that it forces us out of our comfortable world of nos and negatives, but it is also a more encouraging book for the Christian. We learn that it is okay to say, “no” to even some of the good things (if they are not part of our “yes”), and we learn that even when the going is difficult, following Christ is a reward in and of itself. Thanks for the re-wiring, Mike. Not only could this preacher/reader use it, but I think it will be helpful for the church in general. (four out of five reading glasses)

—Benjamin Potter, May 29, 2012

[Disclaimer: I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.]

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Erasing Hell – Francis Chan with Preston Sprinkle

Erasing Hell: What God Said About Eternity, and the Things We Made Up© 2011 David C. Cook, Colorado Springs

Francis Chan talks about Hell in this book. While the book is written from Chan’s point of view, he goes out of his way to give credit to his researcher, Preston Sprinkle. In fact, the Preface (p.9) attributes the bulk of the research and facts to Sprinkle. Regardless, this book is timely.

In a day when author after author is giving their take on what the afterlife will bring, Chan and Sprinkle offer not only an orthodox view of what Hell is, but also a level-headed one. The first half of the book focuses strongly on recent writings about Hell, with a pointed apologetic aimed at Rob Bell’s popular Love Wins. (I’ll not comment on Bell’s book specifically because I haven’t read it and don’t know if I’ll get around to that one or not.) In fact, while if what I’ve read in reviews and responses to Bell’s book are true then this is a needed response. However, since it comes across as a reaction to another’s writing weakens the book to some extent.

Even so, some of the questions that plague Christians are answered from a Scriptural standpoint:
Ø      Is there really a Hell?
Ø      If there is, what is it like?
Ø      Would a loving God really send somebody to Hell?

Chan even tackles the really tough questions that deal with what God is like. I have to ask along with the authors: What if God did do something that I consider unkind, would it make Him less God? (see chapter 6) The point that I cam away with that seems to keep coming back is that I am not God. Since I am not God, is it proper for me to impose my standards on Him? I would suggest that often when we do this we lessen who He is in exchange for exalting our own ethic upon Him.

In the end, I will read at least the last half of the book again and again, just for the challenge of remembering why I believe what I believe about God, Love, Justice, Righteousness, and yes, even Hell. (four out of five reading glasses)

—Benjamin Potter, May 23, 2012

[This is a review of the Nook version of this book.]

Forgotten God – Francis Chan

Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit

© 2009 David C. Cook, Colorado Springs

The second of Chan’s books is arguably the best of the three. In this volume, Chan tackles a subject that has divided the church for centuries—God, the Holy Spirit. The author reminds readers that while most Christians of the evangelical stripe have no issue with God, the Father (Creator of all things), nor God, the Son (Savior of the world), we have a great amount of difficulty wrapping our minds around the Spirit of God who indwells us.

After addressing the extremes—the Holy Spirit is some magical power that expresses Himself the same way all the time in every Christian (represented by the strictest of Pentecostal believers) versus the Holy Spirit is there, but you don’t give more than a passing nod lest you become too charismatic (or “a charizmatick” as my mother-by-law would put it) as represented by my own Baptist upbringing. Both of these views is inadequate because they are reactionary to one another. Historically, my Baptist roots would warn me not to put too much emphasis on the spiritual side of things—accompanied by shallow emotionalism and “getting carried away.”  On the other end of the spectrum, those who are reacting to my conservative reaction are so “spiritual” that they neglect the practice of real worship.

Chan’s book is a much needed call to remember that we are one with the Spirit when we are one with Christ. It is a balanced view of what we should view as living the Christ-filled life. This is a must-read for anyone who wants to (1) learn more about who the Spirit of God is and what He does; (2) make the Christian life their path; or (3) truly follow Jesus in daily Christian living. After all, we cannot do what we are called and expected to do in our own strength—we must have the Spirit.

Read this book. (five out of five reading glasses)

—Benjamin Potter, May 23, 2012
[This is a review of the Nook version of this book.]

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