June 09, 2021

Review: Hearers & Doers by Kevin J. Vanhoozer


Hearers and Doers: A Pastor's Guide to Growing Disciples Through Scripture and DoctrineHearers and Doers: A Pastor's Guide to Growing Disciples Through Scripture and Doctrine by Kevin J. Vanhoozer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Kevin J. Vanhoozer has written perhaps the most helpful book for pastors that I've ever read. His claim that "reading Scripture theologically is the royal road to discipleship" (pg xi) is both, in my estimation, exactly right and and woefully under embraced. I'm not sure a lot of Christians would even know what to do with a phrase such as, "reading Scripture theologically."

This is not a how-to book in the sense of "start this program and run it for 75 days, followed by a 43 day fast, and 12 consecutive 24 minute prayer meetings, and viola! disciples." But neither is it a book that flies around in the stratosphere of theory. Vanhoozer puts forward a compelling biblical vision for what a disciple is, and then argues -perhaps argue isn't even the right word here- that God really did give us the right equipment when he gave us the Bible and not a step-by-step guidebook.

The reason I wonder if argue is the right word is that Vanhoozer advances much of this through metaphor-which is a strikingly biblical way to communicate, if foreign to many books about the Bible. The metaphors which dominate are the idea of fitness -that a disciple is meant to be one fit for service- and the concept of disciples as actors of God's story, given a proverbial script by God in his word, but this script doesn't give us the precise lines to say in every situation, but instead teaches us what is fitting, in such a way that if we fully inhabit the biblical story, when we enter our world we will know how to act in such a way as it fitting. Again, fitness. If with a slightly different shade of meaning.

I cannot commend this book highly enough to pastors and laypeople alike.

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June 07, 2021

Commonplace Monday

 "Neglecting the church is neglecting Jesus."

Sam Allberry, Why bother with church?, pg 31

June 02, 2021

Review: The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara


The Killer Angels (The Civil War Trilogy, #2)The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was amazed by how much I liked this book.

I enjoy history, though I don't read a ton of it anymore. Having listened to U.S. Grant's memoir earlier in the year, I decided to try a different part of the war, and a different style of book.

The writing is very good, and I felt like I was in the mind of each of the individual characters. The ability to essentially shift writing styles for chapters at a time and to somehow still feel like the book was cohesive is something I have seen poorly imitated, and so I was pretty skeptical. But Shaara nailed it. My heart broke with Longstreet, it thrilled with Chamberlain, and all in all I was left with that feeling I get anytime I read any good writing on war: what a hellish mess. There are beauties and glories, as with any part of human existence. But the sum total is not beauty. Men fighting for a million different personal or cultural reasons, many of which weren't the reasons that the war itself was being fought. Men being given authority because of their education or connections who have no business leading anything, let alone other men. Thousands of lives wasted in lost causes.

What a hellish mess. Bad situations with no good answers. How quintessential to the fallen human experience. How needed for people in our current chaos, to see these are struggles people have always dealt with.

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May 26, 2021

Review: And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer by Fredrik Backman

And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and LongerAnd Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer by Fredrik Backman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This novella takes you inside the mind of a man and his memories, and walks you through the painful experience of losing those memories, only slipping out from time to time to help you feel how devastating this experience is not only for the man himself, but for his grandson and son as well.

Backman’s prose is absolutely spot on. Delightful would be the wrong word given this subject matter, but the grace of his language is part of what makes the pain bearable.

I lost my grandfather (on my mom’s side) almost a year ago, following several years of noticeable cognitive decline, and my own father has severe memory impairment following a stroke several years back. The pain I felt for ever character in this story was palpable. Devastating. And yet this book is so suffused with beauty. I suppose to give it a two word summary I would combine those two. And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer is a Devastatingly Beautiful book.

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May 24, 2021

Commonplace Monday

 "Pastors must remain vigilant, guarding not only the orthodoxy of statements of faith but also the imaginations of their congregants."

Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Hearers & Doers, pg 12

May 17, 2021

Commonplace Monday

 "Doctrine is not a distraction but the church's main business: living each day, all day, to the glory of God."

Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Hearers & Doers, pg 134

May 12, 2021

Review: Weakness is the Way by J. I. Packer

Weakness Is the Way: Life with Christ Our StrengthWeakness Is the Way: Life with Christ Our Strength by J.I. Packer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was not what I anticipated; I was anticipating a more extended meditation upon the topic of weakness, whereas this book is actually a meditation upon Paul's second letter to the Corinthian church, with particular application to weakness. Which is probably what I needed.

Packer is always lucid, incisive, and to the point, and this book is no different.

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May 10, 2021

Commonplace Monday

 "There is no such thing as love or worship that is merely private."

Anthony Esolen, Life Under Compulsion, pg 212

May 05, 2021

Review: The Pilgrim's Progress by Bunyan

The Pilgrim's ProgressThe Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I had started to read this several years ago and put it down. I always had in my mind the idea that this was a simple, perhaps over-simple, book. As I listened to the audio book over the past couple of days and was struck both by Bunyan's quite complex and nuanced view of the Christian life-or pilgrimage, as it were-and by the beauty of his language. Highly recommended.

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May 03, 2021

Commonplace Monday

 So next time you hear someone say, "The church is a people, not a place," you might respond: "Sort of. The people become a people by regularly assembling in a place. You can't call the team a team if they never play together."

Jonathan Leeman, One Assembly, pg 64

About Me

Follower of Jesus. Husband of one. Father of four. Pastor at Remsen Bible Fellowship (remsenbible.com).