Book Review – The Fringe Hours

May 19, 2015

A book review by my wife Tracy of The Fringe Hours by Jessica Turner.

Women, by nature, are hard workers. Whether they work in the home, out of the home, or both, women give of themselves and serve others on a constant basis. Jessica Turner’s book, The Fringe Hours addresses the very real need women have to find things they enjoy, and then find the time to do the things they enjoy!

As a mom, I was encouraged and convicted by this book. Sometimes in the extremely demanding life of caring for three young children, I feel like I lose a bit of myself. Where is that woman who used to enjoy a variety of activities and actually had a few moments to pursue those things? Turner begins her book by freeing women from the guilt of spending time on themselves, as well as confronting the fact that women can be their own worst enemies by imposing impossible standards on themselves and comparing themselves to others.

The second section of the book helps women uncover their passions and offers some very practical suggestions for how to find time in their lives to pursue the things they love. Yes, you have to get creative—Turner uses her morning hair-drying time as an opportunity to read her magazines—but as she points out, five minutes a day is enough to keep up with her subscriptions!

The third and fourth sections offer readers help in organizing their time, accepting help, and overcoming other barriers to finding time for themselves. Turner also encourages us to make time to sleep and to build meaningful relationships into our lives.

Self-care is a tricky topic because it can so easily become a very self-focused obsession. However, Turner tackles the topic carefully and builds her case well that taking care of yourself will help you be more fulfilled, happier, and will allow you more energy to care for others. She emphasizes the concept of balance in life which is a life-long pursuit for most of us.

No book can make time for you in your schedule, but this book will encourage you to really look at your life and to revisit some of the things you used to love to do. The questions to answer and motivation prompts throughout the book make it interactive and help you start applying what you are reading right away. Overall, a well-written book with a timely message for today’s busy women!


Book Review – Salad Love

May 19, 2015

A review from my wife Tracy, on the book Salad Love by David Bez.

Salad Love is one of my new favorite cookbooks! As someone who enjoys eating as healthfully as possible, and tries to incorporate as much produce in my diet as possible, this book is a wonderful addition to my cookbook collection.

The book offers readers 260 salad recipes that can be eaten as side dishes, or as full meals on their own. Since the salads were originally designed to be prepared for lunches in an office building, the ingredient lists are short and the preparation time is minimal. There is also a picture for every single recipe—I love that! Another wonderful feature is that the book is organized seasonally. This allows readers to take full advantage of any local markets or farm stands that may be available.

There are a few recipes that call for what I would consider to be slightly more exotic ingredients—quail eggs, octopus, and truffle paste to name a few—however, most of the recipes are completely doable and even quite affordable. Those that do make use of more unusual ingredients sometimes offer suggested substitutions as well.

If you eat a lot of salad, or are simply looking for some variety from the standard tossed salad, give this book a try. You will be pleasantly surprised at how much you can love salad!

This book was provided free of charge from “Blogging for Books” in exchange for my honest review.


Church, It Is Time to Become Unattractive

May 18, 2015

allenmickle:

I wanted to share with an article that, while perchance a bit provocative, is certainly challenging to us who are striving to reach a lost and dying world with the Gospel of Jesus. It is good not only to hear from me, but to hear from other helpful voices in the church. I would welcome your thoughts on it as well. Iron sharpens iron as the Word says. The article addresses the question, what are we trying to make the most attractive about us to the lost? Is it the trappings of ministry, or the pure and unadulterated Gospel. So, on that note, here is the article, Church, It is Time to Become Unattractive by Sam Kee:

Originally posted on Hope Stands:

What is the most attractive thing about your church?  How will you attract the younger generations?  What is “the thing” that has proven to be most effective for reaching our world?

I get magazines every week, telling me the answer.

Does your church need to have a certain look?  Does it need to have a café?  How should people dress?  What should the music sound like?  How should the lighting be set?  What are your programs like?  Do you have a good kid’s ministry?  What’s most effective?  What’s most pragmatic?

It’s sickening to realize that most of us read through the above questions and tried to answer them seriously.  It’s quite astounding to see how far we’ve drifted.  We’ve forgotten so much.  We have such little faith.  We honestly think that plugging in the “right” answers to these questions will increase the effectiveness of the church—as if music or…

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Book Review – Ulrigh Zwingli

May 14, 2015

My friend Bill Boekestein, has provided a vital resource in his new volume on Reformed theologian, Ulrich Zwingli in Evangelical Press’s, Bitesize Biographies series. Today, Zwingli, if he is known at all, is known purely for his view of the presence of the Lord in Communion, and nothing more. Yet, there is much more to the man and to his legacy for Christians today. Boekestein fills this lacunae in providing us a relatively brief, yet lucid description of his life and legacy for the average Christian.

Zwingli (1484-1531) was a leader of the Reformation in Switzerland, not only theologically, but practically in battle (in which he died) as Zwingli’s Reformation alliance fought those supporting the Roman Catholic Church. Part of his legacy, Boekestein notes one of the legacies from Zwingli was the move on Bullinger’s part (he followed Zwingli in his pulpit following his death) was to denounce formal involvement between the state and the church.

His greatest legacy, perhaps, is his efforts to Reform the church over and above any of his lasting theological legacies. Although, the controversy over the real presence of Christ in the Lord’s Table, wherein Zwingli and Luther could come to no accord at the Marburg Colloquy, is informative of how churches sought to be unified and yet, issues that seem unimportant to many Christians today, where, and are, quite significant still today. Many churches hold to more “memorial” approaches to the Lord’s Supper (although half-teasingly those churches are said to be more Zwinglian than Zwingli was), and should see Zwingli’s influence then in that area. While Zwingli’s approach did not become the majority position among Reformed churches (Calvin’s spiritual presence view is the most common), Zwingli still bears importance for today.

It’s important to know about God’s servants, and Boekestein admirably introduces a new generation to this hero of the Reformation and how his love for the pure church of God, should continue to influence us today. So, take up and read, and see how God’s choice servant of the past can continue to have meaning for us in the church today.


God’s Favorite Color is Green

May 11, 2015

The famed American theologian-philosopher Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758) once remarked on the color green in the rainbow mentioned in Revelation 4:3:

This rainbow was ‘in sight like unto an emerald,’ which is a precious stone of an exceeding lovely green color, so green that this color appears in nothing else so lively and lovely. This color is a most fit emblem of divine grace; it is a very lively color, not so dull as blue or purple, and yet most easy to the sight, more easy than the more fiery colors of yellow and red. It is the color of all the grass, herbs, and trees, and growth of the earth, and therefore fitly denotes life, flourishing, prosperity, and happiness, which are often in Scripture compared to the green and flourishing growth of the earth. As the benign influence of the sun on the face of the earth is shown by this color above all others, so is the grace, and benign influence, and communication of God fitly represented by this color.

Now, no one can truly know the color most loved by the Divine, but truly at this time of year, with the vast outpouring of verdant hues it is of little surprise that Edwards might think that green would be the color of God’s pleasure. From the front porch of my house in the woods of Stanfordville, I gaze out at the trees becoming lush with leaves and the beauty and “life” of the many shades of green I see. It’s a glorious moment in the transition from the harsh brutality of winter to the lush warmth of summer for that moment of spring when suddenly barren trees spring to life. Is there a more beautiful picture of life than the green of spring?

Far too often though, we fail to think upon or focus upon this momentous event that happens all around us. Gone are the days when we would, as children, gather leaves for pressing into assignments to note the variety of trees in our backyards. Gone are the childhood climbs into the branches of said trees to admire and appreciate the green around us. These and many other adventures and experiences among the flourishing greenery have been replaced with a weary thought that the mass of green will become a mass of brown simply to be cleaned up. Yet, it is the transition from green to brown to barren to green again, which should cause us to stop for a moment and focus upon that moment when life is restored and the green returns.

As much as winter is a necessity, we mourn during it for the life that we saw during spring summer and into fall. When the leaves fell we mourned for the life for which we saw all around us and the impending foreboding of snow and harsh wind. Then, when seemingly winter would never end, life bursts forth, unable to be contained forever, and demonstrates that life conquers death. Is it any wonder that Edwards might have thought that God’s favorite color was green in that it rendered for us, in color, an “emblem of divine grace” since life so clearly conquers death (1 Corinthians 15:55). Just as Jesus Christ burst out of the tomb at Easter to show that death had no hold on Him (Acts 2:24), the green leaves burst out from the tomb of winter to show, in visible representation, that God’s grace is not bound, nay, can be bound, but is ready to burst forth in glorious abundance.

So, regardless of whether God’s favorite color is green, take a moment to stop, relax, and enjoy life in its lush and green goodness. The green all around is evidence of our abundant riches of life that have been bestowed upon us. As Martin Luther (1483–1546) once wrote, “For in the true nature of things, if we rightly consider, every green tree is far more glorious than if it were made of gold and silver.”


The Actual Job of the Pastor

April 13, 2015

I’ll mention from the outset, that not all of you will agree with some of the positions that I take. That shouldn’t be much of a surprise since I’m an evangelical pastor that some of my positions are counter-cultural. But that’s not why I’m writing on this issue today. I’m writing concerning well-meaning Christians who don’t think people like me are going far enough.

Recently in the Northern Dutchess News, a letter to the editor appeared to call on the carpet pastors who are “apathetic cowards, invisible apostles, silenced saints while the cross lies abandoned in the gutter.” Strong words. He chastises the church for capitulating to the culture around itself instead of striving to be “salt and light” (Matthew 5:13–16). This is true in a number of cases. There are certainly churches and denominations that have given up on the book that undergirds all they say, think, and do: the Bible. Through amazing feats of hermeneutical gymnastics they rip the book from its context and make it say things it was never meant to say, all to appease the current cultural bugaboos. But, this writer specifically goes out to address evangelical pastors (like me) of not doing our job in leading the troops into the ongoing battle of the culture war.

Now, if all the job of a pastor was to lead a war against and ever-shifting culture, then frankly, I think I have my medals to prove my worth. I don’t normally brag, but I’ll pull a Paul on this one occasion (2 Corinthians 11:16–33):

  1. I have stood out front praying in front of Planned Parenthood.
  2. I have raised money and supported pregnancy resource centers and helped start one in the last community in which I ministered.
  3. I have spoken at a rally for religious freedom.
  4. I have participated and encouraged letter writing campaigns in support of persecuted brothers and sisters around the world and taken a stand for Christian values.
  5. I have publicly spoken out against the ongoing moral decline of our Western culture.
So, according to the letter writer, I should be fine. But unfortunately, the letter writer addresses issues which, fundamentally, are not the core part of what a pastor’s job is. Sure, a pastor is part of the larger world and should be exercising his rights of freedom of speech and religion, but his job is fundamentally about helping the people that the Lord has entrusted to him, and not necessarily as the leader of a culture war. What are the pastor’s jobs?
  1. To teach and preach the Word of God (2 Timothy 4:1–5). My primary obligation is to instruct my people what God has told us in His Word. That certainly includes what is morally right and wrong according to the Scriptures, and how Christians are to live in a world that fundamentally disagrees with them on said morality. But teaching the people is the primary obligation of the pastor. Not necessarily to lead a culture war as the general.
  2. To equip the saints for the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:12). As a product of teaching and preaching the Word of God, we are seeking to help our churches do the work of the ministry. It’s actually not my primary responsibility to be doing the work of the ministry (whether within the confines of our church doors or outside) but to give my people the tools and resources to do it. In the end, they’re the generals in a war against evil. I’m simply a military advisor.
  3. To lead the church (1 Peter 5:1–4). My job isn’t to lead the world. My job isn’t to be the world’s police officer. My job is to lead the church and exercise authority over it. While I need to speak the truth of the Scriptures into the world at large, my primary responsibility is to effectively lead the church God has given me. That’s enough work already than trying to lead the world too.
While I certainly have moral stands I take that are rooted in what God has revealed in the Bible, my primary job is not as a general of the culture war. Certainly I will speak the truth into the world (and expect the freedom to do so, just as I expect those with whom I disagree to have that same freedom), but I will primarily consider and care for the people that God has given to me. And I’m not going to whip them into a frenzy to brow-beat people of the world into submission. All people are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27) and deserving of our respect and goodwill (Galatians 6:10). And, while that means not calling what is evil good and what is good evil (Isaiah 5:20), it does mean we’re going to be gentle and kind, and show the world a different way, based upon our love for each other, and our love for people (1 Peter 2:12).

I’m not a general. I’m just a humble servant of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, trying to help prepare my little sheep-fold for glory.


Hope for Today

April 6, 2015
Easter sort of builds us up to a heightened level of spiritual frenzy just to let us down again on Monday. We move through a season of preparation, are confronted boldly with the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for our forgiveness of sins, and then move to a crescendo of joy at His resurrection on Easter Sunday. Then, the next morning, we wake up and everything was as it was before. The climax is over. We move into the denouement of the story and conclude and ask ourselves, “what does this all mean for me today?”

It’s a good question. Why does the resurrection matter? We understand the cross and forgiveness and appeasement of God’s wrath, yet the resurrection looks so much like an end of life thing. When I sin, Jesus death has paid for that sin. But how does the resurrection bear on my life today, and not just as promise of eternal life? How does His resurrection, and my resulting resurrection bear upon my life today?Our hope, not only in the future, but for today, on Easter Monday, and every day, is bound up in the resurrection. Consider Peter’s words in 1 Peter 1:3-9,

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Peter tells us, that those of us who are in Christ Jesus, have a living hope through Jesus’ resurrection. Not only do we have a future hope, but our hope is living and real and active for us today. The promise that we will receive our own resurrection, that is imperishable (it’ll never waste away), undefiled (never to be corrupted by sin), and unfading (it will never fade or lose it’s luster). Everything of which we see in our own lives today will be forever changed.

  • The chronic disease or pain will be gone. Have hope in the midst of it today, because it is momentary.
  • The sin issue that you’re constantly battling will be conquered. Have hope in the midst of it today, because it is momentary.
  • The signs of wear and tear and aging will be reversed. Have hope in the midst of it today, because it is momentary.

This is all being kept for us (preserved) by God and His power ready to be revealed to us at the end of our lives here on earth. This is something in which we can rejoice! All of our failed efforts, all of our desires to be young and beautiful, active and in good shape, pure and holy, are momentary pit-stops on our race to the finish line. At the end of the line is Jesus, and the promise of no more pain, sorrow, or tears. These things we experience in this life, are trials of faith. Will we trust in Jesus and the hope He offers in the resurrection, or will we turn our backs from Him.

All of this is simply making us more like Jesus. The trials, the pain, the tribulation, the suffering, is making us more like Him. Refining us into pure gold. So, when I see my trial, my pain, my disease, my sin, I see how Jesus is preparing me to inherit that incorruptible gift of new life. And while we may groan today under the weight of corruption, one day we will receive anew what was promised on Easter Sunday and will rejoice and praise Jesus! We will get to rejoice because we will one day receive the outcome of all of those trials that have refined our faith: salvation. Full and final.

So friends, take the resurrection of Jesus with you daily. Remind yourselves that Christ rose from the dead, and corruption and sin and disease and death have no lasting sway over us. Remember, when these things bring us low to the pits, we can remember, “this is momentary. I will receive an inheritance that will be eternal.”

We have hope through the resurrection of Jesus. Hope for tomorrow, and hope for today.


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