Wednesday, September 30, 2009

September Reading List

58. The Whiskey Rebels(ua), by David Liss
59. The Baby Chronicles (pb), by Judy Baer
60. Restoring Broken Things (ua), by Steven Curtis Chapman & Scotty Smith
61. Sticky Church (pb), by Larry Osborne
62. The Coming (ua), by Joe Haldeman
63. Black Powder War (ua), by Naomi Novik
64. Stone of Tears (ua), by Terry Goodkind

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Podcast Review

Inside Worship

This excellently-produced podcast comes out monthly from Vineyard Music, and runs 20-30 minutes. The podcast features an interview each month with a worship leader, focusing specifically on one particular song and how it was written, the inspiration behind it, etc ...

The target audience of the podcast is other worship leaders -- chord charts are provided for each featured song. And though I do not fit that criteria, I am always intrigued by the insights that the songwriters express about their music.

Monday, September 21, 2009

St. Augustine on ...... some modern preachers?

More than 1500 years ago, Augustine preached a sermon on "negligent shepherds"
The negligent shepherd fails to say to the believer: My son, come to the service of God. stand fast in fear and in righteousness, and prepare your soul for temptation. A shepherd who does say this strengthens the one who is weak and makes him strong. Such a believer will then not hope for the prosperity of this world. For if he has been taught to hope for worldly gain, he will be corrupted by prosperity. When adversity comes, he will be wounded or perhaps destroyed.

The builder who builds in such manner is not building the believer on a rock but upon sand. But the rock was Christ. Christians must imitate Christ’s sufferings, not set their hearts on pleasures. He who is weak will be strengthened when told: “Yes, expect the temptations of this world, but the Lord will deliver you from them all if your heart has not abandoned him. For it was to strengthen your heart that he came to suffer and die, came to be spit upon and crowned with thorns, came to be accused of shameful things, yes, came to be fastened to the wood of the cross. All these things he did for you, and you did nothing. He did them not for himself, but for you”.

But what sort of shepherds are they who for fear of giving offense not only fail to prepare the sheep for the temptations that threaten, but even promise them worldly happiness? God himself made no such promise to this world. On the contrary, God foretold hardship upon hardship in this world until the end of time. And you want the Christian to be exempt from these troubles? Precisely because he is a Christian, he is destined to suffer more in this world.

For the Apostle says: All who desire to live a holy life in Christ will suffer persecution. But you, shepherd, seek what is yours and not what is Christ’s, you disregard what the Apostle says: All who want to live a holy life in Christ will suffer persecution. You say instead: “If you live a holy life in Christ, all good things will be yours in abundance. If you do not have children, you will embrace and nourish all men, and none of them shall die”. Is this the way you build up the believer? Take note of what you are doing and where you are placing him. You have built him on sand. The rains will come, the river will overflow and rush in, the winds will blow, and the elements will dash against that house of yours. It will fall, and its ruin will be great.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Book Review

Sticky Church, by Larry Osborne.

Osborne, lead pastor at San Diego's North Coast Church, accurately diagnoses a problem facing many churches today -- the wide open "back door." To Osborne, the key to church life is not bringing as many people as possible into the church, but keeping them in the church. He wanted North Coast to be more "sticky."

The solution that they implemented, to strong results, was sermon-based small groups. The church previously had small groups, but re-orienting them to be a discussion of the prior week's sermon increased commitment to the groups and to the church. Basing small groups on the sermon made entering existing small groups easier for new attendees. From an educational standpoint, reiterating a message in a different form a few days later should increase comprehension and retention of the lesson.

I can see how this idea could be effective, but I've left the book unconvinced that they are the best answer for every church with a wide "back door." But to the extent that pastors and church leaders consider the unique characteristics of their church, Osborne's book presents a tool worth considering.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

N.T. Wright on Liturgy

There is nothing wrong with having a form of words composed by somebody else. Indeed, there is probably something wrong if you don’t. Some Christians, some of the time, can sustain a life of prayer entirely out of their own internal resources, just as there are hardy mountaineers (I have met one) who can walk the Scottish highlands in their bare feet. But most of us need boots, not because we don’t want to do the walking ourselves, but because we do.

This plea, it will be obvious, is aimed in one particular direction: the growing number of Christians in many countries who, without knowing it, is absorbing an element of late modern culture … as if it were Christianity itself. To them I want to say: there is nothing wrong, nothing sub-Christian, nothing to do with “works-righteousness”, about using words, set forms, prayers, and sequences, written by other people in other centuries.

Indeed, the idea that I must always find my own words, that I must generate my own devotion from scratch every morning, that unless I think of new words I must be spiritually lazy or deficient – that has the all-too-familiar sign of human pride, of “doing it my own way”, or yes, works-righteousness.

Good liturgy can, should be, a sign and means of grace, an occasion of humility (accepting that someone else has said, better than I can, what I deeply want to express) and gratitude.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

The Glory of Solitude

Paul Tillich, as quoted in Marcia Ford's Traditions of the Ancients:

"Our language has wisely sensed the two sides of being alone. It has created the word 'loneliness' to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word 'solitude' to express the glory of being alone."