Monday, October 18, 2010

Review of "Cliff Falls" a Novel by C.B.Shiepe

There aren't many books you can read in a sitting or two but this one by C.B. Shiepe falls into that category. It is a very well written novel about a famous childhood movie star known as little guy Mike. It all comes to a head for Clay Grant as the child actor gets fed up with his life. His manipulative handlers have gone too far and he can't play the game anymore. A thought came in Clay's mind and he wrote it down. "...scared children-all of us-dealing with adult things-wondering if we are that strong. And everyone wants us to be someone or something else...."

It was his 18th birthday and in his pain he burned some of the toys that depicted his persona "little guy Mike". Before he new it the whole studio was up in flames and he was running not only from the law but from his persona that had enveloped his life. While on the run he ends up in jail and a 71 year old pastor friend Reagon Mitchell bails him out. Reagon is like God in the parable of the prodigal son. He welcomes Clay into his fold with grace and a plan to set both Clay and his son Ted (think older brother) free. How this comes about makes for very entertaining reading and also very inspiring. Lots of relational issues with pain and deep hurts exposed. It's the power of grace working through relationships. A great read.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Review: "The Naked Gospel" by Andrew Farley

I really enjoyed the first half of this book. Here he takes on several key issues that most christians believe in and shoots them down. One of these areas is the idea that christians are sinners. This is something preached and believed in by most christians. He lays an excellent groundwork for the work of Christ's sacrifice and how believers are a new creation. They are forgiven etc... He is not the first to declare this but he does it with a lot of clarity. Another key area that he deals with is the difference between the "old man" and the flesh and sin. Farley believes a christian's old man is no longer an issue but the issue is with the flesh and sin. He makes the point that this is very important as it affects how one views themselves. If our old man is present it means we are at war with ourselves so to speak. Again a very good explanation on our identity. He writes very effectively on how the law is not meant for the christian. This is perhaps one of the best points he makes.

The second half of the book Farley seems to start interpreting a lot of verses based on his redemptive theological lens which at times seems to be dancing around what seems to be obvious truth. A term he accuses others of doing. Well I suppose we all do it to some degree. Difficult passages are solved easily by saying they are applied to non christians. The seemingly difficult faith vs works passage in James is easily solved by saying it is referring toward salvation only. Another example is the overcomers in Revelation. These are according to Farley "all christians". His interpretation of 1John on confessing sin does seem however to fit rather well to this lens.

The end of the book was also a bit disheartening as he mentions the signs and wonders in acts were mainly for the lift off of the church and are not really meant for today. He does not go so far as saying he does not believe in them but merely that we now have the written word so we don't need them any more. His next book is also going to explain how those in Heb. 6 who tasted of heavenly gift and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost were really non believers which were enemies of God. Can anyone say more dancing. All in all though it is worth the read just for his excellent treatment of the identity of the believer.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Review: The Book of the Sheperd

Recently read "The Book of the Shepherd" by author Joann Davis.

This small story of fiction exceeded my expectations. It's very short, is set in times of antiquity and yet reveals marvelous nuggets of truth that are very relative in today's world.

The tale begins with a small fellowship consisting of a young shepherd, a boy and a young servant girl. They have grown up in an abusive world where there is a religious fervor to uphold the letter of the law but little compassion for those caught in it's web. They yearn for a new way one that they heard exists but have yet to see. On their journey they encounter many difficulties. The shepherd longs to see this new life of love and grace yet gets drafted in a carnal war. What seems tragic turns into an opportunity to demonstrate what loving your enemy may look like, loved it! Along the way there is the blind man that sees with his heart, and the storyteller that helps the characters share their story and discover who they really are. It really is a great read and one that you can read over and over and discover new truths and hope that is practical and encouraging.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Through the River (Book Review)

Just finished another book review for Viral Bloggers

The title is "Through the River" Understanding your Assumptions about truth. Authors are Jon & Mindy Hirst with Dr. Paul Hiebert.
The book is written to help people of faith better understand how they come to perceive the truth they hold. They use an allegory to depict three different faith cultures and how those environments create a "truth lens" to allow their inhabitants to perceive truth.
Dr. Hiebert was an anthropologist and brings some interesting perceptions regarding how differently something can be viewed depending on ones culture.

The three cultures depicted in the book are the Rock dwellers (Positivists), Island Dwellers (Instrumentalists) and Valley Dwellers (Critical Realists). The Positivists believe the truth to be knowable and needs to be shared. The Instrumentalists are more interested in how the truth is perceived and it is more of a subjective process. The critical realists seeks to find a balance between the two and provide an opportunity for dialogue and an understanding in the context of community.

In the allegory a rock dweller discovers some information that creates a disruption with his/her truth lens and begins to question the adequacy of their lens for interpreting truth. They then enter the river of instrumentalism and try and sort out how this truth applies to their current situation or experience. The book attempts to describe the solution by swimming across the river of instrumentalism and onto the shores of critical realism. Here they are able to hold on to the truth they know and continue to learn the truth they are learning. Supposedly, this view is the cure all for one who has a disruption with their objective truth and finds a lack of solution with the relativism in the river of instrumentalism.

This is probably a great book for a post modernist, not being from that camp it didn't quite strike a chord with me. While it does provide answers to the difficulties in perceiving truth I don't think the critical realists lens is as clear as the authors claim it to be. The sure shore of Critical Realism rather seemed a bit like an island in the river of instrumentalism combining reason and logic with intuition (that was not adequately described) and positivism and hoping that by dialoging together in a group truth will be discovered. I find it a bit disheartening that in a book written to people of faith about truth I can't recall anything written about the Holy Spirit whom Jesus said would lead us into all truth. Truth it seems in the critical realist camp is a process that one learns about. Maybe I'm too mystical but I'm skeptical of a system that attempts to figure out a method of perceiving truth without bringing in the spiritual aspects of it.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Bo's Cafe (book review)

This last week I got the chance to read "Bo's Cafe" new novel by John Lynch, Bill Thrall and Bruce McNicol. The book is published by Windblown Media, for those who don't recognize the name they are the publishers of "The Shack". Here is another fantastic novel that I would have read in two days had I had the time. Like the Shack it is a very well written narrative with lots of great insights concerning difficult situations and recovery in the lives of the characters depicted within the story.
It basically revolves around a community of grace oriented individuals who have come to realize they can't *fix* anyone even themselves but like Larry Crabb (Connecting) they realize that we get healed in relationships where there is openness, trust and protection. So basically it is the story of an individual who is in a marital crisis and his whole world is caving in and he bumps into or begins connecting with Andy (part of the grace crowd at Bo's Cafe). We are taken on a journey of distrust, suspicion, unbelief and then relational connection, openness, sharing and healing in ones deepest parts of their being. It's a really great story of the redemption of one told through the stages of crisis and into a relationship that only grace could enable.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Diversity Culture

A few weeks ago I received a book from Mike Morrell of the Viral Bloggers to review. The name of the book is "The Diversity Culture" with a tag line of "Creating conversations of faith with Buddhist Baristas, Agnostic Students, Aging Hippies, Political Activists, and everyone in between". I must say I was hoping to get one of the other more interesting titles and well known authors. To my surprise however this was a very interesting and engaging read.

The author is Matthew Raley a Pastor of an Evangelistic Free church in California. He comes across in this book as more of a prophet to that body (evangelicalism) than a defender of its culture. He is clear at bringing out the pitfalls of bigotry, stereotyping, labels etc... that so many of us in evangelicalism are guilty of. He calls this the "reject correct" approach. He doesn't let those in the post Modernism or emerging streams off either as he shows that the "accept-affirm" approach also has its weaknesses. These are just a couple of the great points of tension he writes about in the book relating to the diverse culture we are all in. He then contrasts and compares this tension with the way Jesus related to the women at the well. The dialogue between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well has always been one of my favorite biblical narratives. Raley takes this narrative to new heights as he applies it's principals to how we as Christians can effectively relate to the diverse cultural mindsets that exist in our culture right now.

This would be a great book for Christians to have a discussion about. It's not only current in its relevance but prophetic in its overall message of hope in relating to others of diverse philosophies.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

An Organic Wedding

This coming June our son is going to get married. This is not going to be your average wedding. Why do I say that? Well there are many reasons but we can start by saying that Leah had a dream of her wedding with children around her dressed in white and tossing it seems white flowers towards her and her groom. At this point she and Jaron were friends but they had not communicated verbally any feelings toward each other. Incorporating children into the wedding party dressed in white however is not the only reason this is going to be an unusual wedding. It is going to take place at Leah’s folk’s house on a point on a lake in a clearing in the midst of a group of tall pine trees.

The fathers Dean and I are the officiates whatever that will entail for as yet we have not got that far into the story. Hopefully we will get there soon, we have had some marriage counseling take place with Jaron and Leah but it has been far from the ordinary as it has taken place organically in group settings usually with Leah’s parents and Pam and I. These were not times specifically set up for counseling it occurred naturally within our fellowship times. I was actually amazed at how much ground got covered and how many of the “normal” counseling topics got covered.

Jaron and Leah met very naturally within the small fellowship we have between our two families and a few other families. To get the background on how their relationship grew see their story here: and click on “our story”

Have just recently finished reading Frank Viola’s new book “From Eternity to Here”. If you get a chance get a copy of this book you won’t regret it. One of the main points Frank brings out is the eternal purpose of God to have a marriage partner for the son Jesus. The understanding that marriage is a type of this eternal relationship is a very awakening experience in one’s spirit. Oh I know we all seem to have a mental knowledge of this biblical principal but to have it come from the heart / spirit is an altogether matter. As John Eldridge so often says in order to understand the story we have fallen into it is important to understand the context. Well one of the main contexts of story you and I have fallen into is that God has created us for fellowship. Not just fellowship but a very intimate and purposeful relationship best depicted in our rather shallow ability to understand by the marriage relationship. The church corporately is the bride.

When fellow Christians think of the ripening of the fig tree in Mt. 24 before the coming of Jesus Christ they think of physical Israel. This is good and right but Israel is a type of something much more than what is represented by physical Israel. To actually understand what is in the mind and heart of God regarding this we need to have a grasp of the bigger picture/ context and that includes the bride of Christ.

Son 2:12-13 The flowers appear on the earth; The time of the singing of birds is come, And the voice of the turtle-dove is heard in our land; The fig-tree ripeneth her green figs, And the vines are in blossom; They give forth their fragrance. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.

Actually it is the bride that is the fulfillment of the type represented by Israel. This is a people not represented by Jewish or gentile roots but by their relationship to the bridegroom. And it appears the voice of the turtle-dove is heard. This is a dove that migrates south in the winter and so isn’t heard until spring. It seems to represent the awakening of the bride to the wooing of the bridegroom. There is much blooming and fresh awakening here depicted showing the response and time of love to be very close at hand.

One doesn’t have to be prophetic to see this happening with the body of Christ as there are so many that are coming into a fuller understanding of the love of God and a fresh understanding of what the ecclesia is today.