Thursday, December 11, 2014

John Paul II on Trials

"We will certainly encounter trials. There is nothing extraordinary about this, it is part of the life of faith. At times our trials will be light, at times they will be very difficult, or even dramatic, In our trials we may feel alone, but God's grace, the grace of a victorious faith, will never abandon us. Therefore we can expect to triumph over every trial, even the hardest."

  -- from "Rise, Let Us Be On Our Way"

Friday, November 14, 2014

Book Review

This review first appeared on the Alan's Eyes and Ears Blog.

Rooted in Good Soil, by Tri Robinson. Paperback.

A third-generation farmer, as well as being a pastor, Tri Robinson has an interesting vantage point from which to analyze Jesus' parable of the sower. Robinson notes that the differences in outcomes in the story are due to the underlying condition of the soil. Robinson combines his knowledge of Scripture and farming to explain how we can develop the "good soil" required for spiritual growth.

The chapter relating the Trinity to the forces of soil, sun, and rain was the strongest part of the book. In it, Robinson tells vignettes from his life to show his own personal understanding of the roles of Father, Son, and Spirit in his own life. The chapter on the miracle of photosynthesis was also strong, discussing personal growth in a way I had not heard before.

The founding pastor of a large Vineyard church in Idaho, Robinson has written about the intersection of faith and the natural world before. His prior works, Saving God's Green Earth, and Small Footprint, Big Handprint, both argue for evangelical approaches to environmentalism and sustainability. He argues persuasively that a biblical worldview includes care and concern for creation.

This is not a theological tome, but is instead a readable treatise of discipleship, from a man who has been a church leader for many decades.

Source: borrowed from a friend.

Monday, October 13, 2014

John Paul II on Physics

"With regard to other disciplines, most of my contacts were with physicists. In the course of our many encounters, we would speak, for example, of the most recent discoveries in cosmology. This was a fascinating study, which confirmed for me Saint Paul's dictum that certain knowledge of God can also be reached through knowledge of the created world."

  -- from "Rise, Let Us Be On Our Way"

Thursday, September 04, 2014

John Paul II on Faith & Reason

"In my reading and in my studies I always tried to achieve a harmony between faith, reason, and the heart. These are not separate areas, but are profoundly interconnected, each giving life to the other. This coming together of faith, reason, and te heart is strongly influenced by our sense of wonder at the miracle of the human person -- at man's likeness to the Triune Gd, and the immensely profound bond between love and truth."

  --  from "Rise, Let Us Be On Our Way"

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Book Review

This review appeared first at the Alan's Eyes and Ears blog:

The Pope Who Quit, by Jon M Sweeney. Paperback.

When Pope Benedict XVI stepped down from his role as leader of the Catholic Church, news reports regularly mentioned that such an event had not happened in over seven centuries. This book tells the story of the only other man to voluntarily leave the papacy. Written while Benedict XVI still served as pope, Jon Sweeney tells the fascinating story of Pope Celestine V, whose tenure lasted only 15 weeks. “Fifteen disastrous weeks,” as chapter 14 is titled.

The College of Cardinals was deadlocked in 1294 about who should succeed Pope Nicholas IV, who had died two years before. The small group of electors was evenly split by their loyalties to different noble families, and they had been unable to achieve the required two-thirds vote. From his hermitage atop the surrounding mountains, the saintly 84-year-old hermit Peter Morrone was disgusted by the length of time the Church had been without a leader. He wrote a letter to the Cardinals telling them that they risked God’s wrath if the let the church remain without a pope for much longer. For whatever reason, be it the Holy Spirit, or be it the opportunity to name an outsider that neither side could criticize, Peter was elected by acclamation to the papacy.

This highly spiritual man was thoroughly unprepared and overmatched by the worldly requirements of the position. If the papacy were merely a job requiring spiritual leadership, Celestine V may have turned out to be a great leader. But there are worldly duties as well, from managing relations with the royal houses of Europe to dealing with issues arising from the Crusades. He had little interest, inclination, or ability to handle these duties, a fact which quickly became apparent.

Within six months of writing his first world-changing letter, he wrote another. With it, Celestine V became the first pontiff to ever abdicate the position. His reign was short and turbulent, but certainly memorable. And Jon M. Sweeney does an excellent job of making the events of the story come alive.

This is very little historical evidence for the events that Sweeney writes about, as he is quick to admit. Much of the specifics in this book are based on general historical knowledge of the period, and is applied to the events of this story. And even the documents that do exist from the period (or shortly thereafter) come in varying degrees of reliability.

What Sweeney had to do was not just find the documents, but evaluate them before deciding which information to include. There are more than twenty pages of notes at the end of the book, indicating the level of research that went into creating this book.

Source: public library.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Book Review

This review originally appeared at:Alan's Eyes & Ears blog.

The Skin Map, by Stephen R. Lawhead. Unabridged audio.

Stephen R. Lawhead is one of my favorite fantasy authors, but he has dipped into science fiction before, which is the genre where this series (this is the first book of Bright Empires) belongs.
Kit Livingstone is an ordinary fellow, with an ordinary life, an ordinary job, and an ordinary girlfriend. Until he is visited by his long-lost great-grandfather Cosimo. His long-dead great-grandfather Cosimo. With Cosimo's help, Kit finds that he can travel along ancient ley-lines to other times and/or other dimensions, and is recruited to the search for the one complete map of the lines. This is a parchment made from the skin of a man who learned about the ley-lines, and then tattooed them onto his body. It turns out that Cosimo and Kit are not alone in this quest to the find the skin map, and then the race is on.

In the past, Kit in joined in his quest by the enigmatic and flirtatious Lady Fayth, while his girlfriend Wilhelmina struggles to survive on her own in 17th century Prague, as the apprentice to a baker. All of these characters  get caught up in an omniverse of intersecting realities as they chase down the secret of the skin map.
This is just the first in a series of books, so the story does not come to a satisfying conclusion in terms of the overall plot, although branches of the intersecting realities do merge towards the end to give the story a nice launching-point into the next book.

Lawhead is strong in his characterizations, and the relationships between Kit and his compatriots all seem realistic. There are moments where credulity is strained between characters, especially in Wilhelmina's story, but this is a typical issue with time-travel stories -- I just don't think that people would be so blasé about meeting others from hundreds of years in the future. But again, that is a constant worry in this type of tale, and Lawhead does the best he can with that issue. The action is strong, the plot is intriguing, and the dangers that our crew of heroes face in future stories will bring me back to book #2 in the series.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Justin Holcomb on Heresy

From a conversation between Hoclomb and author Rachel Held Evans, on her blog:

"Heresy is not located in one’s beliefs about baptism, the continuation of certain spiritual gifts, women in ministry, or political issues. It is a specific and direct denial of any of the central beliefs of the Christian church about the deity and identity of the triune God and about the person and work of Jesus Christ."

Friday, April 25, 2014

John Paul II on Shepherds

"Christan tradition has adopted the biblical image of the shepherd in three forms: as the one who carries the lost sheep on his shoulders, and the one who leads his flocks to green pastures, and as the one who gathers his sheep with his staff and protects them from danger. In all three images there is a recurring theme: The shepherd is for the sheep, not the sheep for the shepherd."

Friday, March 21, 2014

John Paul II on the sick

Only later did I begin to grasp the profound meaning of the mysery of human suffering. In the weakness of the sick, I saw emergin ever more clearly a new strength - the strength of mercy. In a sense, the sick provoke mercy."  -- from "Rise, Let Us Be On Our Way"

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Book Review

This review originally appeared at Alan's Eyes Ears:

Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart, by J. D. Greear.

 here has long been a fixation in American evangelical culture on the "decision," the act of leading someone into a relationship with Christ via an altar call, or reciting the "sinner's prayer." But discipleship is not a one-time event, and this focus on the "decision" leaves many potential believers confused and adrift.

On the other hand, the impulse among some Christians, in some congregations, is to "come to Jesus" over and over. The author puts himself in this camp, saying in the first chapter that by the time he had turned eighteen, "I had probably 'asked Jesus into my heart' five thousand times."

Using his own life experiences as a Christian, and his experiences as a pastor, Greear focuses on the tension between these two extreme positions, and how neither represents a healthy view of salvation. He walks through the dual theological issues of repentance and assurance. It is a short book and quite readable, but it manages to move through these difficult issues in a thorough manner.

I like Greear's contention that salvation cannot always be traced to a particular moment in time, and a discussion of what repentance is and (more importantly) what it is not. Also, his example of relationship with God to sitting in a chair in insightful: it doesn't matter whether or not one can remember when they first sat in the chair, the only thing that matters is that one is currently sitting in that chair.

Although I don't always agree with Greear's answers to some of the knotty theological problems presented here, I can heartily recommend this book. I was glad to read a book for laymen that addressed the issues, and there is much wisdom contained here.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Contemporary Worship

From Robert E. Webber's Worship Old & New:

"New shifts are taking place in worship today that call for a reconfiguration of the worship space. Underneath all these shifts is the recovery of the biblical understanding of worship as the ocngregational celebration of God's mighty deeds of salvation. Worship is no longer something to be watched or listened to, but something to be done by the people."