Saturday, August 29, 2015

Vinnie's Diner, by Jennifer Allee

Jennifer Allee gives us another wonderful story that is heart warming and so very real to true life. In our story a young woman, Alexandria, is in a terrible car accident. She is rescued by a man named Vinnie, who pulls her out of the car and walks her across the road to his dinner. When they reach the diner Allie is in for the surprise of her life.

Allie is a trivia buff and she had been on her way to a Trivia Context in Las Vegas when she had her accident. When she gets to the diner she is taken back by the people that are in the diner. They all seem to resemble people from history, famous people whom she knows because of her studies of trivia. But why are they here.

Then there is Vinnie, he is warm, caring, gentle and such a Good Samaritan. He has taken care with Allie to pull her to safety and now brought her to his diner so that she can have something to drink, sit and relax and regain her strength.

But really what is all this? Bottom line is that Allie is in a place where all the people there have died and shouldn't be anywhere near Allie or this diner. So, why are they here? That is the question of the story.

Allie is facing a test, a test about her faith in God and how she has viewed him poorly because of the bad things that have happened in her life.

This book is one of those stories of a person who meets Jesus and comes to terms with her life's turmoils and struggles and discovers that she has to make a decision. Will she accept God for who He is or will she choose to ignore him and let her life spiral down to the depths of hell?

The story is well written, the characters are developed superbly and the plot is so interesting that you won't just read and enjoy, but you will stop and contemplate the truths that are being expressed. You will find yourself examining your beliefs in God and why it should make a difference in your life.

I believe that this book would be best to be read as part of a book club so that you can sit and talk about the story line, the truths detailed and how they are affecting you.

What a wonderful book.


Monday, August 24, 2015

Why Trust the Bible, by Greg Gilbert (a 9 Marks Book)

First of all I would like to thank Net Galley and the Publisher for making an Advance Reader Copy of this book available to me. You can Pre-order the book on Amazon, it releases on October 15, 2015.

Once again the 9 Marks Book series delivers to us a simple, well explained and easily readable book on a subject that many church members need to read, understand and then be able to use the information in discussion with their family, friends and colleagues.

While there are many well written Theological Books on the Subject of the Bibles Authenticity, this little book provides a great tool for the layperson who does not have the desire to wade through a 500 page text on trusting the Bible. This short 9 Marks Book gives them the proper tool to read, digest and use as a reference with people they are talking with.

The book is easy to give to an individual you are sharing with or with a Book Club at church whom you would like to dialogue about the subject of the Bible and why we can trust that what we have in our hands is a worthy and reliable translation of the original texts.

I have enjoyed every 9 Marks book but this one really struck home. In a time and age where people mock the Bible, laugh at those who believe it and live by it or just flat out dismiss it as non authoritative or reliable text we get a great apologetic book by Greg Gilbert. He is very knowledgeable and could write a much more in depth theological treatment of the subject but he knows that what the church truly needs today is a book that everyone can read and understand.

I’m sure that his hope is that this book will ignite in the layperson a desire to know even more about the authenticity of the Bible, but better yet that it will ignite in the layperson a desire to share these truths with those who think the Bible is out dated and not reliable.

Thank you Greg for giving us a tool to add to our pouch for when we go out to do battle with a world that mocks us and dismisses our claims about the Bible.


Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Potters Lady, by Judith Miller

An enjoyable read of the continuation of Rose McKay's life. She has now finished at the Art School and Mrs. Fisk has wished her well and sent her on her way. She did win the highest award possible for a Senior at the school. But that didn't offset the struggles she had taking abuse from the other students because she was a "poor Irish girl."

Her brother Ewan has come to escort her home, but first they are going to stop in Grafton, West Virginia, where he is going to look at two businesses that are for sale. One is a brick yard and the other is a pottery. Ewan is familiar with brick yards as he has helped his late Uncle run the brick yard in their home town. But his Aunt doesn't take a shine to him and has dismissed him after his uncles death. The pottery is a fine business, but not one that Ewan is comfortable with. BUT, it is one that Rose would be able to help out in because of the artistry that goes onto the plates, cups, vases, etc.

Rose helps convince the family to try their hand at the pottery business. Her Grandmother is willing to spend the money to help buy it, but she gives Rose the task of helping Ewan make it successful.

The business is good, but Ewan keeps loosing bid after bid on contracts from distributors. He can't figure out where he is going wrong. But loosing bids is what happens. Rose has great ideas and wants to help, but she also is puzzled by loosing bids.

Not to mention that she is being courted by Joshua Harkness, the owner of a pottery in a different town. Then there is Rylan, the assistant to the owner of the pottery. He is smart, talented, loyal to a fault and handsome. But while he thinks Rose is beautiful he knows that she is more suited to marry a rich man like Joshua, rather than him, a blue collar worker.

Bottom line, love is in the air, but who is in love with who. Business is also in the air, but why does Ewan keep loosing out on bids? A pottery contest is also in the air and Rose should be able to win, but a late entry seeks to displace her.

All in all this is a short story and possibly the main point of the story is that Rose, Ewan and Rylan all are solid believers in Jesus Christ, and they are believers in prayer. The story revolves around their trust in God. Their trust in Biblical truths and prayer. I think that Judith Miller does a great job of bringing a real life situation to bear on how it intersects with a Christians walk with Christ.

Great lessons and solid writing make this a book that you could use for your Church's book club.


Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Autopsy of a Deceased Church, by Thom Rainer

I have unfortunately had the sad privilege of observing several church plants not survive. I also have seen two churches have to close their doors and sell their buildings. None of these were churches that I served at, but they were within our district when I served on the District Board. The two churches that had to close their doors and sell their buildings feel under my responsibility. It was heart wrenching.

Just recently I met with the board and congregation of a small church that was seeking to try and find a pastor. They courted our church plant as a possible merger, but then decided it wasn't for them. The differences in church style were to much. This church has plenty of cash on hand, a building in very good repair and paid for but no full-time or part-time pastor. They are now down to less than twenty people. It is only a matter of time before they close their doors and sell.

So, this book was one of interest for me. I wanted to read what Thom Rainer thought about churches that had died. This is a very short read but probably one of the most fact filled and direct little books that I have ever read.

Thom looks at 14 churches that died. He found twelve similarities in the churches and he dissects those similarities in this book. I found his points correct and almost uncannily familiar to what I had experienced. His most direct observation was that all of these dying churches did not think they had a problem and did not think that they would die. They were in denial of their illness.

Probably the main point I found was that each of these churches had become inward focused. They stopped looking outside their walls to see their communities and to meet those communities needs. Instead they were more concerned with staying warm and comfortable in their own little world, well fed and satisfied with life. They forgot the Great Commission. They forgot the marching orders that Jesus gave His church after His death.

May we never forget those orders. At the end of this booklet after he has dissected what caused the death of these churches Thom gives several suggestions for diagnosis of your church and then remedies to help your church regain it's health and not find that they have a fatal disease.

May you find the truths of what you need to help your church not succumb to a fatal illness

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Replant: How a Dying Church can GROW again, by Mark Devine and Darrin Patrick

Mark DeVine writes a very intriguing account of how a dying Baptist Church in the Kansas City area turned to the Lord for direction in how to keep this 150 year old church alive and start it growing again. Was it to bring in a new pastor? Was it to merge with another church in the area? Or maybe was it time to call it quits and close the doors?

Mark was teaching Theology at a local Seminary when he became the part-time preaching pastor at this church. His first thought was that the church had the viability to continue and to start growing again, but that it would take a God thing to make that happen. So he started to pray.

After a couple of years he approached the church leadership about merging with another church. They agreed and sought out a partner. Four different churches were interested. But after a long process and a vote to merge the other church selected in the process ran aground with some problems of their own and the merger did not happen.

Demoralized the church basically hunkered down again but kept praying for God to bring a good solution. They didn't want the history or ministry of the church to die. That is when Mark started conversations with Darrin Patrick about The Journey in St. Louis taking over a church in Kansas City. With some prayer and direction from God that happened. A small dying church of 80 people within a year had grown into a growing church of 600 people. How does that happen without killing off the old congregation? Well, that is the topic of the book.

Read and see what God can do when a people of God are willing to let go and let God do His thing.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Why Christian Faith Still Makes Sense, by C. Stephen Evans

I appreciated this book by C. Stephen Evans, a Professor from Baylor University. As a Philosopher I at first was apprehensive to read his book. I have not appreciated the work of Philosophers in the past and have often found their work hard to digest and understand, they tend to be a bit lofty and wordy.

But C. Stephen Evans does a great job of writing in words that every layman will understand and be able to digest. He makes very good logical conclusions based on the evidence that he has studied and gathered together for his work.

His main task in writing this book is to talk about “The New Atheism,” as it is being developed in our culture today. Here are the main tenants of his book in his own words;

            “I take it that the major complaint (though not the only one) of the New Atheists about religion is that faith is intellectually baseless. In this book I try to give a clear case that belief in Christian faith still makes sense and thus answer that criticism.” He further states, “So the book answers a major charge of the New Atheists make not by responding to their specific complaints but by showing how a thoughtful Christian might ‘give a reason for the hope’ that faith embodies.”

I believe that he develops his topic well, he addresses many things that we as Christians are facing in our world today and helps develop answers that we can use in talking with friends who doubt Christianity. I took a long time to work through the book, not because it was difficult, but because I was outlining each chapter and framing my own conclusions and arguments (arguments in the good sense) that I could use with those who are living in this modern world of the New Atheism.

I recommend this book to Pastors and lay people alike. I believe that it will become a major book to help us work through how to talk and build relationships with those who are out in the culture today stating that Christianity is archaic and thus dying.

This book makes me almost want to go back to school and study Philosophy, but alas I am a bit to old for that, but not to old to learn something new from a great writer such as C. Stephen Evans.

Friday, August 7, 2015

One Year Later

We are coming up on the one year anniversary of the confrontation between Michael Brown and Officer Wilson. The result of that confrontation was the death of Michael Brown, severe civil unrest and the eventual resignation of Officer Wilson.

What else has happened?

Here are the positives;

1. There has been a hard look at Police Procedures and the need for body camera’s as well as dash cameras.

2. The civil court in Ferguson has been re-vamped and the judge replaced with one that will conduct the affairs of the court in a more non-prejudicial method.

3. The Police Chief of Ferguson has stepped down and the department will go through a revamping under a new Chief.

4. A citizen’s review committee has been put in place to look at any future conflicts between Police and the Public.

Here are the negatives;

1. There is still distrust between the African American Community and the Police Department

2. There is still not a coalition of African American and Anglo Churches coming together for good dialogue and goal setting for giving the community the healing that it needs.

3. Some businesses are still not rebuilt and others have gone out of business because of the lack of customers in lieu of the unrest last summer.

4. There is still a major issue with the personnel racial mix of the police department not mimicking the racial mix of the community.

5. The economy of the City of Ferguson is still facing major hurdles, as people are still “frightened” to come to Ferguson to shop or dine.

6. The Media is still not giving positive coverage to Ferguson and to the efforts of the community to rebuild. They still seem to focus only on the negative in the community.

What concerns me the most as we come up on the anniversary is that there are major plans underway by several groups to stage protests in memory of Michael Brown this next weekend. These protests are designed to disrupt commerce and to also push the police and Ferguson Government into a reactionary mode rather than a protect and serve mode.

I believe that this might be a recipe for a repeat of last years civil unrest. It is also a shame that some of the event organizers are actually inviting “paid civil unrest protestors” to come into the City of Ferguson to supplement their efforts. My question, “Who is paying them and why do they feel they are needed?

So, here are some thoughts about positive actions for the weekend.

1. A peaceful march with signs to allow the community to vent some of their still pent up frustrations with the civic authorities.

2. A call to prayer by the major African American and Anglo Churches in the community.

3. A jobs fair to help people find employment to help alleviate the growing unemployment rate.

4. A push by the Civic authorities to have a booth at the job fair with applications and signing bonuses for African American, Latino and Asian citizens to join the Police Department and help bring more balance to racial mix of the department. There should be a set goal that the community knows about the percentage mix the department is trying to achieve.

5. A community wide work day to help fix, paint, clean and spruce up businesses that were damaged in last years unrest.

6. A candle light vigil with African American and Anglo Pastors taking turns praying, giving short devotionals and mingling with the people of Ferguson

Let us remember the tragic events of last summer, but remember them in a way that will bring healing, unity and new friendships among the people of the community and their civil servants.