"Did he or didn’t he? Did he step out of bounds or not?" In the world of sports, such questions are settled with instant replay. The referees look at"Did he or didn’t he? Did he step out of bounds or not?" In the world of sports, such questions are settled with instant replay. The referees look at the video monitor and "think again" about the play they had just presided over. But now with additional camera angles, the verdict is overturned. "No, he was in bounds! Play on."
In real life, however, relying on instant replay is not always a good idea. Some people go to the cameras over and over again, rehashing each scene and second-guessing each decision. Introspection like that can be a harmful practice. Yet who hasn’t taken joy in reliving a precious moment or grown through uncovering a destructive pattern?
Jared Mellinger addresses this thorny topic gracefully in a new book Think Again: Relief from the Burden of Introspection (New Growth Press, 2017). No stranger to negative thinking himself, Mellinger shares what he’s learned through his life and ministry and draws from a host of reliable and helpful sources to cover this subject from almost every angle.
I imagine if I were to find a book on this topic in a typical Christian bookstore, the concept of having positive self-esteem might surface. That or a simple 8 steps to conquer this problem for good. Mellinger doesn’t frame the matter so simply. He gives a big picture and a theological worldview through which to look at introspection, rather than a simple prescription for a happier life. And concerning self-esteem, he resists the urge to give in to the cultural pull to affirm yourself. A sample of some of his takeaways on this point will help:
"Psalm 139:14 does not say, 'I feel good about myself, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.' It says, 'I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.' The focus is on God. The praise is directed to God, and the idol of self has been displaced." (p. 38)
"Those with high self-image enjoy the praise they receive and think, I am awesome. Those with low self-image often want to receive praise they are not receiving and think, I am worthless. but through the idol-destroying power of the gospel, 'I am awesome' and 'I am worthless” give way to 'Lord, I will praise you.'" (p. 39)
As the above excerpt illustrates, the book is clear and easy to read. The illustrations are poignant and pertinent, and they get your attention: Dobby the house elf even makes an appearance. The author is well read on this topic and acquaints the reader with numerous resources, recommending some books and quoting from classic Christian authors: C.S. Lewis, Charles Spurgeon, D.M. Lloyd-Jones, Richard Sibbes, John Calvin, G.K. Chesterton, and many more.
The strategy put forth is not to avoid introspection altogether, but to think less of self and more of Christ. He does call for repentance when sinful motives are found, but he also warns against letting false guilt consume you. We are sinful and fallen, but he reminds us of how often Paul praised God for the evidences of God’s grace in the people he wrote to: we too must learn to see grace “in the mirror” (p. 97).
The book is not a theological treatise, don’t get me wrong. It is incredibly helpful and practical. Mellinger shares realistic scenarios and walks through likely reactions from introverts and others. He often draws from his own experience with introspection and how others helped him.
I can’t help but quote from his concluding chapter. This is really good:
"The Christian life is a life of radical extra-spection. For every look to ourselves, we should be taking ten looks to Christ. And every time we look at ourselves, what we see should lead us back to Christ. Any sin we find should drive us to the work of Christ for us. And any good we find in ourselves should reveal the work of Christ in us and through us. Any weakness we find should lead us to the power of Christ toward us." (p. 155)
I can’t think of a better resource to give to those who struggle with doubts or the tendency to second-guess and over-analyze decisions and motives. This resource is filled with Gospel goodness and solid enough to help those in a variety of situations. It is a book one might want to give away to special people in your life who are tender but perhaps too often weighed down with care.
Disclaimer: This book was provided by the publisher. I was under no obligation to offer a favorable review....more
Spring is in the air. The days are getting longer. Green grass and the hint of leaves on the trees — and is that a flower blooming already?
With the seSpring is in the air. The days are getting longer. Green grass and the hint of leaves on the trees — and is that a flower blooming already?
With the season comes one special holiday: Easter. This is the time that Western culture dedicates to the special remembrance of bunnies and Easter eggs, candies and chocolates — oh, and jelly beans. But once upon a time, we used to remember the real meaning of Easter.
Jesus Christ, his betrayal and mournful death on Good Friday, followed by the brightness of Resurrection Sunday. “He is risen! He is risen indeed!” once sounded on many lips. Sadly the only time we have for Christ now is a documentary or two rehashing old denials of the empty tomb. A religious expert and scholar spins a witty yarn about how gullible people were back in the dark ages. We enlightened people don’t need a Risen savior now. The empty tomb was a mistake, and Jesus’ corpse must have lain somewhere else – forsaken and neglected until years later, imaginations ran wild…
It is to this sad modern state of affairs, that Christians in the West are called to minister. We are to upend the malaise and awaken the sleepy populace with the wonder of the Risen Son of God.
A new book from New Reformation Publications, and the 1517 Legacy Project, aims to help us in this daunting task. In The Resurrection Fact: Responding to Modern Critics, John J. Bombaro and Adam S. Francisco bring together an intriguing mix of Lutheran churchmen, theologians, and experts in philosophy and legal practice to tackle modern criticism of the resurrection head on.
The centrality of the resurrection for Christian faith and practice is underscored, even as attempts to downplay the importance of the bodily resurrection are countered. Specific arguments by Bart Ehrman, John Dominic Crossan, Michael Martin, Robert Price, Dale Allison, Gerd Lüdemann and others are addressed and several lists of additional resources are shared with the reader. The result is an accessible introduction to the debate surrounding the resurrection.
At times the book is a bit repetitive: several of the contributors treat us to the same explanation of David Hume’s influence behind the bias toward antisupernaturalism so prevalent today. Occasionally, there seemed to be an over-dependence on secondary sources and a tendency to summarize rather than quote the arguments of the critic being addressed. There was even a wholesale borrowing of significant parts of N.T. Wright’s research on the resurrection, particularly evident in the chapter by Jonathan Mumme in his critique of Dale Allison. Wright’s work (specifically his book The Resurrection of the Son of God, Christian Origins and the Question of God, vol. 3, Fortress Press, 2003) is credited and pertinent to the discussion for sure, but perhaps overly relied on in the space of one chapter. Wright is second only to C.S. Lewis in the number of references found in the book’s index.
Quibbles aside, this is a sound book with a wealth of information and excellent references for further research. Many readers may encounter this book without much exposure to the arguments being raised against the historicity of Christ’s bodily resurrection. This book will educate and equip the reader to stand firm in an age of unbelief. Another helpful theme throughout the book is the idea of myth not being simplistically dismissed as the opposite of rational fact. To the contrary, Christianity is both myth and fact. This idea expounded by C.S. Lewis, Tolkien and Chesterton, can be helpful in responding to attempts to classify Christianity as just a myth, no different from other ancient belief systems.
Disclaimer: This book was provided by New Reformation Publications for review. I was under no obligation to offer a favorable review....more
Lauren Green is a religion correspondent for Fox News, and also an accomplished pianist and former Miss Minnesota. She shares lessons from her faith jLauren Green is a religion correspondent for Fox News, and also an accomplished pianist and former Miss Minnesota. She shares lessons from her faith journey in her new book Lighthouse Faith.
The book is a compilation of thoughts and reflections on life and spirituality and includes insights from some of the many scientists and religious leaders that she has interviewed over the years. She compares the Christian life to a lighthouse but switches metaphors often in her intriguing book. She finds spiritual power in places and poignant metaphors, and leads us from a quiet cottage, to a rocky shore and on to a vineyard and then into a musical analysis of none other than Handel’s Messiah.
The book does go in circles but the reflections and thoughts shared are honest, heart-warming and rooted in a simple Christian faith. Green attends Redeemer Presbyterian Church pastored by Tim Keller as she notes in her acknowledgements and throughout the book, but her roots are in an AME church and her work brings her in touch with Christians of all stripes.
I was not moved by some of her observations. She finds the cross in the Pythagorean theorem (4 right angles = a cross in the middle) — and so to her, every building that stands, does so by power of the cross. Even in blood some of the molecules have a shape of the cross in them, she observes. She also leans on biblical numerology and makes tenuous connections. Perhaps even more troubling is her attempt to read motives into tragic events and look for a deeper meaning.
That said, her meditations make for interesting reading and no great damage is done. The eye of faith stands behind her work and many will benefit from her simple approach and sometimes deeply personal life-lessons.
Disclaimer: This book was provided by the publisher. The reviewer was under no obligation to offer a positive review....more
The title of one of John Piper’s latest books is direct and confrontational, yet inviting at the same time: just like the man John Piper himself. LiviThe title of one of John Piper’s latest books is direct and confrontational, yet inviting at the same time: just like the man John Piper himself. Living in the Light: Money, Sex and Power (The Good Book Company, 2016) comes with a similarly direct yet inviting sub-title: “Making the most of three dangerous opportunities.” The book lives up to its title. It is both warning and invitation, in short it is John Piper challenging us to live to God’s glory in these three areas.
Piper explains that these three areas in themselves are not evil, they are God’s gifts to us. He defines them as follows:
"* Power is a capacity to pursue what you value. * Money is a cultural symbol that can be exchanged in pursuit of what you value. * Sex is one of the pleasures that people value, and the pursuit of it." (Living in the Light, p. 20)
He then looks to Romans 1 and the “great exchange” whereby man in his fallen state turns created things to idols and refuses to worship God. In our fallen state, we pursue sex and other things as means to their own ends – as a worship of self or other created things in opposition to God. Money is a status symbol, and power is self-exaltation. They represent real danger and Piper spares no punches in warning and unpacking the biblical warnings related to the unfettered pursuit of money, sex or power.
In contrast to the worldly way of using these things, redemption puts God in the proper place. Piper uses the analogy of the sun and planets. When the sun is in the proper place, the planets of money, sex and power line up in their proper spheres and complement our lives in ways God intended. When we bring one of those planets into a central place, life is out of order and God is spurned.
Piper does a good job explaining why and how each of these elements are properly to be enjoyed:
"Money exists so that it will be plain by the way we use it that God is more to be desired than money. Sex exists so that it will be plain that God is more to be desired than sex. And power exists so that it will be plain that admiring and dependeing on his power is more to be desired than exalting our own."
In all of this, Piper displays his pastoral burden to rein in Western Christians who are so pulled away from the centrality of the Son, by the gravity of the competing planets: money, sex and power. Yet at times he is too God-focused and too strong in his formulations. As in the quote above, I think sex is more than just something to be partaken of in light of God being better than sex. Same with money. God “richly provides us with everything to enjoy” (1 Tim. 6:17) and Piper’s arguments sometimes seem to downplay the goodness of earthy pleasures. (For a great complement to Piper’s call desire God chiefly, look at Joe Rigney’s The Things of Earth: Treasuring God by Enjoying His Gifts, Crossway, 2014).
This quibble aside, this book is a clear and passionate call to live for Christ in today’s sex-crazed and money-obsessed culture. We could all do with a dose of John Piper challenging us to a more Godward focus in this day and age! I highly recommend this short book. It would make for a great small group or Sunday School resource, although it does not come with discussion questions.
Disclaimer: This book was provided by The Good Book Company. I was under no obligation to offer a favorable review....more