Friday, October 29, 2010

Not Like Me: A Field Guide for Influencing a Diverse World by Eric Michael Bryant

Eric Michael Bryant in Not Like Me connects authentic relationships with impacting others for Jesus. Bryant provides a call to engage those that don’t look like us, share our culture or even believe the same as us. In fact he goes so far as to call us to love those people that the Christian mainstream hates. He notes that typically we push away people that don’t think or behave as we do removing our ability to influence them. Bryant instead points out the need to engage these not like me people in true friendships. He urges us to love people without judgment or conditions, realizing that though one may not have a relationship with Jesus, that God still loves that person unconditionally. This is the example that we must follow. Bryant shows that only be entering true relationships with people not like us can we have a lasting impact on their lives and help to show them the power of Jesus.

I have to be honest; I have wanted to read this book from when it was first issued as Peppermint-Filled PiƱatas. I’m very happy to say I was not disappointed. Bryant writes what we know in our own hearts, without a relationship with people we cannot expect to successfully impact them. But not only must we have a relationship, we must have a relationship built on love, respect and honesty not one based on a hidden agenda. By being honest we learn more about others and ourselves. Bryant reminds us that Jesus immersed himself amongst those that the religious establishment considered outsiders. And he angered that establishment as he moved salvation past a religious system of dos and do nots to a relationship with a living God. Not Like Me reminds us the simplest and best way for us to introduce someone to a friend, is to be a friend first.

I think this is an important work. Bryant urges us to move past our fears and preconceptions of others, others that we look down at, don’t understand and honestly fear for their cultural and moral choices and to look at people. Basically, he challenges us to look at people as people, not as sinners. By following Bryant’s charge and advice on friendship building we can find that key to demolishing the negative opinions that general public has of Christ followers especially charges of hate filled and judgmental. Not Like Me reminds us that like Jesus to save people we must first love people.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Grace of God by Andy Stanley


Andy Stanley in The Grace of God walks readers through the Old and New Testament to gather attributes of God’s grace. Stanley shows how God’s grace was established at creation and is a thread that runs throughout the entire Bible. God’s grace is a gift, freely given and not earned. God’s grace is unfair, given to those who did not earn it. Most importantly, Stanley shows that God’s grace is for you and me and in doing so shines light on God’s deepest desire to be in relationship with everyone, despite our failures and mistakes. Stanley shows us that grace is better and more unexpected than we could ever hope for.

The strength of The Grace of God is the easy to read narrative style. The structure of the book lies on top of the stories that Stanley retells. Stanley restates them in a way that both those acquainted with the stories and those not can enjoy and easily connect to his points about grace. The chronological sequence of the chapters is confusing when the chapter ending in Christ’s burial is followed by his encounter with then woman at the well. Overall The Grace of God is an encouraging book that reminds us that we can do nothing to earn grace and helps us to better understand the awesomeness of God’s grace. It’s a good book, but one I am afraid I overhyped my expectations for.

Review Copy Provided by Thomas Nelson

Friday, October 15, 2010

Why I Love Podcasts

Over the last six plus years I have been lucky to have a job that allows me to listen to a lot of podcasts on a daily basis while I complete my job duties. Over that time I have found some great advantages and disadvantages to having the time and access to teachings electronically. Today I want to provide my take on the advantages of podcasts.

Anytime Anywhere
I can listen at work. I can listen in the car. I can listen on a plane. I can listen in the living room. I can listen mowing the yard. I can listen on the train. I can listen walking. I can listen in the bathroom (though maybe I shouldn’t). I can listen at work at my desk. I can listen on the moon. You get the point. I can listen to this content anywhere where my MP3 player has power after a charge. As long as I have device power, I don’t need or require a cord or access to another device. I could be listening while standing in a cave, and that’s a powerful and convenient tool for enriching one’s spirit and mind. Podcasts and MP3 device liberate me from having to be at a set location and time to access content.

Great Teachings
Podcasts allow you access to teachers and preachers that geographical location would never make available to you. I have lived in both predominantly rural and urban areas during this six year span, but I have always lived distantly from those pastors and leaders I enjoy listening to. Without podcasts, I would not have access to those who unknown to them are helping to spiritually mentor me. Additionally, since these podcasts represent a number of diverse churches they have guest speakers that are either prominent or up and coming that I may not typically seek out on my own. While some of these speakers may be hit or miss they have also introduced me to authors that I would have not have typically sought out. And it was all free.

Variety, Variety, Variety
I listen to a variety of speakers from a variety of denominations with a variety of styles. Additionally, they have differing topics they empathize more than others. Creation care is one great example. For some of these speakers creation care is something that humans are very much a part of with calls of action to actively actively participation in stewarding the environment. For others, they do not stress the care of creation, or advocate the trashing of creation, but place it as a secondary issue behind salvation. Additionally diversity has introduced me to new ways of interacting with theology. I had courses in systematic theology, but it was through podcasts that I was introduced to narrative theology and I love a good story. Additionally, I was able to take in different teachers with different styles preaching to different kinds of communities. The great thing is when you take in so much variety, it becomes easy to see what matters most to us as a “Christian Culture.”

Churchless Does Not Mean Message less
I have been churchless my friend, but the great news is now I’m found. During that time I visited several churches, and during periods of burnout I visited nowhere. But during that entire time span despite not having a community I was not left without teaching and preaching. There really is no excuse for not accessing good teaching and preaching anytime anywhere thanks to podcasts and a little internet access.

These are all great reasons to start browsing the large library of teaching hosted on the internet.