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Posts Tagged ‘Jesus’

Calgary Author Confronts ‘Christian Materialism’

Wesley Hynd is a church planter and pastor in Calgary. He holds an MDiv from Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando and according to his bio, “loves to think deeply and challenge the status quo.” He is involved there with a cross-cultural Christian organization serving new Canadians.

His book, Jesus Take All of Me: Learning to See God as Beautiful in Every Part of Life, is self-published an available to retailers through Ingram at full trade terms. The back cover blurb describes its aim:

What does it really mean to follow Jesus? Is it just a set of intellectual facts about the cross, forgiveness of sins, and an afterlife? Or is it something more than that? Why is it that the lives of Christians and those who are not Christians seem to look so similar at times in the Western world? If someone followed you around live-tweeting your daily decisions and values, who would they say that you follow? These are some of the questions Wes Hynd has been wrestling with for 15 years as he has sought to identify some of the ways in which Western culture has subtly influenced our Christian faith, including in our:

Time
Career
Family
Friendships
Money
and Emotions

Released date: December 1; 284 pages, paperback; 9781738717019; $21.99 US; 90-second book trailer on YouTube. Book website: jesustakeallofme.com.

This Year’s Best Book on Prayer

November 28, 2022 1 comment

I frequently share the book reviews I’ve done at Thinking Out Loud with readers here, and this one, although there’s no particularly Canadian connection, is no exception. This is a book I have already recommended many, many times…


I hear Jesus saying, “Pray with the heart of a lover and the discipline of a monk” – Praying Like Monks (p193)

If the Bible tells us anything about how to pray, it says that God much prefers the rough draft full of rants and typos to the polished, edited version. – Praying Like Monks (p21)

Two years ago, when I reviewed Tyler Staton‘s first book, Searching for Enough, I commented that a book about the apostle Thomas was fitting since it is a recurring theme in Tyler’s preaching. Given the available instances online of Tyler speaking in his own church — Oaks Church Brooklyn and later Bridgetown Church Portland — and as guest speaker in various venues, that was an accurate reflection of his go-to theme.

In hindsight however, this sophomore book project, Praying Like Monks, Living Like Fools: An Invitation to the Wonder and Mystery of Prayer (Zondervan, 2022) lands the plane on a topic that is more central to Tyler’s heart and by which his current ministry is more defined.

You could deduce this partly from the fact he’s done not one, but two teaching series on prayer in this calendar year alone; one series, Teach us to Pray in January; and a second “Vision” series which began in September. (Click here for Bridgetown’s teaching page.)

But you could also discern it from a look at Tyler’s life: Even before entering his early teens, prayer became a defining part of his spiritual journey, to the point of doing early morning prayer walks around his middle school to pray for the students in his year. Those prayers bore fruit. Today, he’s National Director of the United States chapter of the 24/7 Prayer Movement, an organization founded by Pete Greig.

Full disclosure: I am a somewhat rabid fan of Tyler’s teaching. It meets my current need for sermon content that is both informative, illuminating and pastoral. I would start to read a fresh chapter convinced I must have already read it the day before, because many of the illustrations had stuck with me; a sort of situation where you’ve read the book before seeing the movie, only the other way around.

I also deeply respect him not only for the breadth of sources and influences that shaped the book, but also for the personal anecdotes where the principles taught have been brought to life through interactions with people both in and outside the church, and on both coasts of the U.S. Honestly, I could write about prayer, but it wouldn’t emerge the same as someone like Tyler Staton who is practitioner of the things described; someone who lives the lifestyle taught.

For the cynics who say that there are already too many books about prayer in a crowded Christian publishing market, I would answer, “I agree, but you need to read this one.” I’m not overly emotionally, but several times I had to rub my eyes, if you know what I mean. At the same time, there are some more lighthearted references. In a podcast, I think Tyler referred to letting people breathe after particularly heavy moments.

Some churches end the sermon time with the pastor saying, “Today, for your homework, I want you to…” At Bridgetown, the language used is “practices” and each chapter of Praying Like Monks contains action steps you can take. The ten chapters lend themselves to small group study — I’d even say take twelve weeks — and it’s good if you can listen to a few sermons online so that you’ve got Tyler’s voice in your head as you’re reading.

It’s hard for new voices to find an audience, but I really hope you’ll take my recommendation and consider this one.


As an example of Tyler Staton’s writing style, I offer this short excerpt which I ran at Christianity 201 a few weeks ago.

Link to: Publisher’s book information page

Zondervan, 272-page paperback, 9780310365358

 

Third Title in Skye Jethani’s “Serious” Series

Christian Book Shop Talk readers: I occasionally include reviews here which appeared on my other blog, even if there is no specific Canadian element. This is such a review.

Book Review: What if Jesus Was Serious About the Church?: A Visual Guide to Becoming the Community Jesus Intended (Moody Publishers, 2022)

Two years ago I was able to review the first book in what we now know has become a series, What if Jesus Was Serious? At the time, I mentioned that the use of “napkin doodles” therein was foreshadowed in one of Skye Jethani’s older books, With. I was unable to get a review copy of the follow-up, What if Jesus Was Serious About Prayer? but when the subject-at-hand for the third book was the modern church, I knew I wanted in, and despite the publisher’s great reluctance to grant review copies, was able to request one.

The reason I wanted to own this one in my personal collection is because this is a theme on which Skye is most outspoken when talking to Phil Vischer or interviewing guests weekly on The Holy Post Podcast. As a former pastor himself, and a former writer for over a decade with Christianity Today, Skye is able to articulate the challenges faced by the capital “C” Church worldwide, the small “c” church locally, and those whose vocational employment is church-related.

The podcast for which he is quite well known fails (in my view) in one respect, in that it is far too American-oriented. If you’re reading this review in the UK, or Australia, or Canada, and you’ve sensed that as well, you’ll be happy to know that the book casts a wider perspective beyond the U.S. I promise you’ll only roll your eyes once or twice.

So for those who need to play catch-up, as with the first two books, this one consists of short — never more than four page — chapters, each of which commences with a little drawing which might be a chart, or a diagram, or a cartoon, or a meme. It’s hard to describe them. Hence the reference to “napkin doodles.” The thing you would draw on a napkin (or blank paper place-mat) in a coffee shop when trying to explain an idea. (Again, the book With is must-reading to see how the concept evolved.)

This one has 51 such chapters, grouped in five sections; The Family Reunion, The Family Meal, The Family Gathering, The Family Business, and The Family Servants.

I immediately shared the second part with my wife. I find that I can never read enough about the Eucharist, Last Supper, or Communion Service, and our need to keep its centrality in the modern worship service. It and the third part, about the manner in which we worship are the longest two groupings in the book and include subjects that are important to the author.

Skye Jethani is so forthright and authoritative on these subjects, and I feel he is a voice that everyone in Evangelicalism needs to be hearing.

Because I tend to gush about the books I review — I choose them and don’t get books sent automatically — I do have a couple of criticisms. One is that for those who obsess over page counts, the 232 pages in this one include about 45 which are essentially blank. That’s a product of the way the book is formatted, and in balance, one needs to also consider this digest-sized paperback uses color process throughout.

The other thing was the ending. For me, there wasn’t one. The 51st article ended abruptly, which I expected given the concision that Skye employs throughout. But then I turned the page looking for a conclusion; something that would tie everything altogether, and there wasn’t one. No closing statement. Perhaps, as with the podcast for which he is known, there is a bonus chapter only available to Patreon supporters.

Those complaints aside, I encourage you to consider this. It’s fairly quick reading, and if you or someone in your family is employed in ministry, it contains a number of great conversation starters. If you simply care about where modern Evangelicalism is headed, it contains even more topics to provoke discussion.

Ontario Author’s Compelling Case for Christianity

The book we’re highlighting today is special to me because I’ve known the author, Clarke Dixon for a decade, and had read the material when it first appeared as part of his blog, now called Thinking Through Scripture. Clarke was a pastor in western Ontario, then Ottawa, and most recently Cobourg, Ontario.

Beautiful and Believable: The Reason for My Hope is especially directed towards those who might be sitting on the fence regarding Christianity, or doubting its core claims, or having specific objections.

From the introduction:

The picture of the diving board on the cover was taken by one of my sons where we vacation. My sons have taken the plunge from this board many times. Me, not so much. I can understand reticence. However, despite my caution, there are good reasons to dive in from this board. The water is deep. There are no sharks. Jumping in can be great fun. Or so I am told. I tend to be a skeptical person.

There are many reasons people share for being skeptical of the claims of Christianity. In this short book I would like to introduce you to some reasons that we can lay aside our doubts and fears and take the plunge into a life of faith. It is beautiful. It is believable. And it can be great fun.

This book is presented in two parts. The first part gives reasons to believe in God and trust in Jesus based on the beauty of Christianity. The water is refreshing on a hot summer day. Jumping in is a beautiful experience. Christianity, when expressed well, leads to greater beauty in one’s life, and indeed the world.

The second part gives reasons to believe in God and trust in Jesus despite the warnings of the people who say it is foolish to do so. According to the evidence, the water is deep, there are no sharks. Faith is not a blind leap, but a reasonable step.

If you are skeptical, I understand. However, I invite you to discover how Christianity is both beautiful and believable. I invite you to join me on the diving board, maybe we might even take a step . . .

The chapters are short — this is a great title to give to a guy, since some men have trouble staying on track while reading — and Beautiful and Believable is printed in a very clear, readable font.

Booksellers in Canada and the U.S. can order through Ingram, using ISBN 9798836457112 and while this is a short(er) discount product, the MSRP has been set generously low for the 142 page paperback. I’d encourage you to consider having this in stock.

CNN Religion Reporters Note Rise In “Historical Jesus” Publishing

Although the back-and-forth banter between authors sometimes bypasses more Evangelical Christian bookstores, when you study the publishing industry as a whole, there is a lot of effort current being put toward a single aspect of Christian belief…

The rise of Historical Jesus, Inc.

The search for the historical Jesus is an academic field, but it’s also turned into a thriving publishing industry, the New Yorker’s Adam Gopnik points out:

The appetite for historical study of the New Testament remains a publishing constant and a popular craze. Book after book – this year, ten in one month alone – appears, seeking the Truth.

That “Truth” revolves around the historical study of Jesus: Did he actually exist, what did he really say and do?

Biblical scholars such as the controversial Bart Ehrman have long tried to answer those questions, Gopnik says.

But the search for the historical Jesus has become so popular that it’s now luring non-academics like Paul Verhoeven, the director of the film Basic Instinct. Verhoeven just released a book written from a skeptic’s view of the historical Jesus entitled Jesus of Nazareth.

Verhoeven depicts Jesus as a political revolutionary, according to a press release from Seven Horses Press, the publisher of Verhoeven’s book:

Paul Verhoeven disrobes the mythical Jesus to reveal a man who is, after all, startlingly familiar to us, a man who has much in common with other great political leaders throughout history, human beings who believed that change was coming in their lifetimes.

In one of the most famous passages from the New Testament, Jesus asks his followers, “Who do you say I am?”

Two centuries later, skeptics – and the book industry – are still trying to answer.

Click the title link to follow comments on this story…

Michael Spencer aka The Internet Monk: First and Only Book Releases Posthumously

Nearly ten years ago, in November of 2000, Michael Spencer began blogging as The Internet Monk.   During that time he gained a huge online following, and when he passed away just a few short weeks ago, there was a huge outpouring of sympathy and love online.

Sadly, he never lived to see the publication of his first book, Mere Churchianity, being published by Multnomah.   I just finished reading the first chapter, “The Dairy Queen Incident,” and I think that Michael’s message is about to reach an entirely new set of readers.   Make sure you have copies on order.   (In Canada: Waterbrook/Multnomah is distributed to CBA trade by Augsburg-Fortress.)

…This is not a Christian book in the time-honored tradition. I’m not going to tell Christians to be nicer, care more, help other people, be generous, try to
forgive, do more for God, and so on, so that we can be better witnesses for Jesus.

I have good reasons for staying off the standard Christian-book path. It was churchianity—the “do more, be better, look good for God’s sake” variety—that turned me and my youth group into a room full of jerks.

So if you’re a Christian, by all means read this book.  You will find an approach to following Jesus that doesn’t ask you to do more while pretending to be righteous. I think you’ll like it.

But I’m not writing to church members who are happy where they’re at or to Christians who are heavily invested in the success and propagation of the church as an organization. I’m writing instead to those who
may still be associated with the church but no longer buy into much of what the church says. Not because they doubt the reality of God, but because they doubt that the church is really representing Jesus.

If you have customers who peruse Christian blogs, they will already be anticipating the release of this book.   You can send them to this blog post at iMonk to catch a first chapter download, but since most of us are bookstore buyers, I hope that neither the blog nor the publisher will mind me posting the link button here for us industry types.   Just click the image.

The Good Friday Service

It’s interesting attending the interdenominational Good Friday service in our town because I know almost everybody there by name.    I suppose they could say the same about me; “We all know Paul.”   It puts me in a rather unique position.

But if you think about what really matters, we all know Jesus.   People may not know the people sitting on their right or left, or in the row in front or behind, but we are members of one common family in Jesus Christ.

I wish there was an opportunity for us to get the same of attendance at a multi-church event that wasn’t Good Friday;  a chance to celebrate our unity and the things we hold in common as Christ followers.  I always find the sight of us all together in one place is somewhat distracting to the main focus of the day, Jesus Christ’s dying for our sins; for my sins.

However, it is for exactly that reason that we can come together on this day.   We are joined together in his death and resurrection.

Christian bookstore owners, managers and staff are truly blessed to see the “big picture” view of the Family of God on a more regular basis.    We experience what it means to say that what God is doing in a particular city or town is larger than any one particular congregation or assembly.

Or to put it another way, when others talk about “the church” (small C) they are usually thinking of the place they go on Sundays; but we are priveleged to get a view of “The Church” (large C) for which Christ died.

And for whom He is returning.