Mobilizing Hope: Faith-Inspired Activism For A Post-Civil Rights Generation by Adam Taylor

One of my most inspiring professors at Seminary was Dr Alan Storkey. Alan was passionate about the injustices of the world and he was active not just by speak out but by getting involved. He wrote a book called The Politics of Jesus in which he argued that Jesus’ ministry was intensely political. Whether you agree or disagree that Jesus’ ministry was political, as Christians we MUST be involved with our society and we must be ACTIVE in the injustices of the world BOTH by speaking out AND by our actions.

Adam Taylor’s book challenges us as believers in Christ to be ACTIVE against injustice. Building on the civil rights movement of the 60’s and the importance that Christian faith was to that movement, Taylor argues that by taking the same ethos and approach the church could have a momentous impact on the injustices of the 21st century and engaging society, politicians and business on behalf of the weak, vulnerable and oppressed.

Taylor is not advocating an all-encompassing social justice campaign. Too often such campaigns become the be all and end all of peoples lives. Social Justice should not be our driving force, but our foundation should be Jesus Christ, our faith, and the gospel. Taylor is arguing for a spiritual holistic approach to engaging the issues of our nation and the world with the truths of Jesus Christ. He writes while we are co-creators and co-celebrants with God in this kingdom building project, we must always remember that ultimately our vision and strength comes from the Lord.

In his book Taylor is calling the Church of Christ to action. How on earth can the Church not be at the front and center for the need for justice? Get inspired and read this book.

Highly Recommended!

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Forgiving As We’ve Been Forgiven: Community Practices For Making Peace by L. Gregory Jones and Celestin Musekura

For most of us, the nature and realm of our ‘forgiving’ others revolves around relatively minor issues – and even then we find it hard to forgive someone the word spoken to us in anger or meanness; or the action which was done against us that hurt our feelings.

Also, we have tended to reduce forgiveness to simply ‘moving on’ from a situation or encounter, rather than confronting and then restoring the relationship.  As the authors say, “The practice of forgiveness calls us to willingly do things with and for one another so that communion can be restored.”

And yet, when we read about other people who have had families butchered and killed by friends, neighbors or even other relatives or who experienced apartheid or genocide and yet have forgiven those who perpetrated such actions against them, we realize that we really have not got a handle on what forgiveness is, especially as those who follow and worship Christ – the one who forgave us the horrendous crime of treason against God.

Forgiving As We Have Been Forgiven will challenge you to re-think and re-evaluate what forgiveness is both as an individual and as a community. Both the authors have been involved with the ‘Reconciliation’ movement and especially Celestin Musekra who had his family killed during the Rwanda genocide.

Forgiveness is not easy. It is a complicated process involving our hearts, minds and actions. But in Christ – as believers in the living God, we have a new identity as a forgiven people who are to practice forgiveness and to recognize God’s image in others, even those who are our enemies.

How did South Africa recover from Apartheid through the The Truth and Reconciliation Commission – how did Rwanda and the Hutu’s and Tutsi’s recover? Community and national forgiveness begins with individuals forgiving each other. This is the call of the book – let us, the forgiven people, be a forgiving people which will effect whole communities and whole nations.

Highly recommended.

The Story of God, the Story of Us: Getting Lost and Found in the Bible by Sean Gladding

People, even long time Christians, can often find the Bible intimidating to tackle. It’s remarkable how many first year seminarians have not actually read the Bible from cover to cover. Of course scripture is inexhaustible with regards to God’s truth and it’s ability to teach and feed us. But probably the chief reason why we should read the scriptures from cover to cover is to gain an ‘overview’ of the biblical narrative – to understand THE grand narrative if you like.

Sean Gladding has produced a remarkable book. Extremely well written, innovative, creative and yet faithful to the theology and structure of scripture, The Story of God, The Story Of Us reads like a novel, and yet it provides the reader with one of the very best ‘overviews’ of the story of God that I have ever read. The beauty of this book is that it is both at the same time entertaining and a potentially valuable teaching tool.

Regardless of whether you have a P’hD, or a degree in theology or no formal training in the Bible; whether you are a pastor or have been a Christian for a long time or you are just starting your journey of faith this book will be a refreshing, exciting, beneficial and enjoyable read.

Highly recommended.

Books Read In October

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Inspiring book. Read my review HERE

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Read review HERE

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Read my review HERE

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C.S. Lewis says that you have not read a book, or begun to understand it until you have read it twice at least. This is true with this book. First time round I thought OK. This time round it’s a WOW book. Massively challenging. Read it!!

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Great book on prayer – read review HERE

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Read my review HERE

Uncommon Decency: Christian Civility in an Uncivil World by Richard Mouw

I can’t remember who said it, but one of my favorite quotes is “The gospel is offensive enough, we do not have to be..” The problem is that too many believers are seen as offensive. We can tend to categorize (or even justify) our “offensiveness” as honesty, or speaking in love.

Richard Mouw’s book challenges this view. In this updated version of his book first published in the early 90’s Uncommon Decency: Christian Civility In An Uncivil World , Mouw argues that Christian’s need to cultivate civility.

Does this preclude Christian’s holding strong convictions? Not at all. Civility does not require that we discard are strong convictions or doctrinal beliefs, but it does mean that we change how we present them and how we act in discussing them.

Does civility mean we have to like everybody? No. But again, it does mean that we must be aware of how we treat others, even those we find hard to get along with or even dislike.

Regardless of who it is we are speaking to; regardless of how we feel about them; regardless of what they believe, we are to treat them, as Mouw powerfully points out, as persons who are created in God’s image who are still within reach of divine mercy.

This is not an easy thing to do. In fact, it is only something which is ‘grace’ empowered, and it is something which we need to work at daily.

Oh how I wish many in the church would read this. Too often we come across as angry and arrogant as well as offensive, both in terms of our witness and in our everyday life. We have the truth. We have the Gospel. Let us begin to present the truths of scripture with love, compassion, with civility and let our loves mirror this even in rush hour traffic, or the crowded mall. The years of Christian experience and service flow from Mouw’s pen in this book, and we should listen to him as an elder of the global Church.

Highly recommended.

Opening To God: Lectio Divina and Life As Prayer by David Benner

David Benner writes “Prayer is living with openness to God. Our life becomes a prayer, and our prayer becomes our life as we begin to live with this openness as the core posture of our hearts” (pg 156).

I wonder how many of us can say that our prayer life is about openness to God. It is so easy to categorize prayer as an ‘act’ that we start and finish at some point in the day. Some of us have longer times of prayer than others but it is almost always seen as a period of time with a beginning and end. For Benner, this is not enough. Prayer is far more than that. In a winsome way Benner encourages us to look afresh at prayer. The heart of the book (chps 3-8) take us through the ‘movements’ of Lectio Divina, an ancient form of prayer using scripture, allowing the words of God to penetrate deep into our spirits. But the first two chapters and the introduction are as good an introduction to what is prayer and how we should prepare for prayer than I have ever read. I challenge you to read this book and not come away from it longing not just to pray more but to live a life of prayer. This book is a great addition to the books available on prayer. The only worry is that there are so many books on prayer that this ‘gem’ might be overlooked. Don’t overlook it.

Highly recommended.

Journey With Jesus: Discovering the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius by Larry Warner

I have been fascinated by Saint Ignatius’ spiritual exercises for some time now. I find it remarkable that these were written between 1522-1524 and became a 200 page booklet for people to follow over a 28-30 day period. I once heard someone I respect immensely say that every Christian should do the Ignatius Spiritual Exercises at least ONCE in their life. I have read books about them and have attempted to do them, but you are advised to attempt the exercises with a spiritual advisor.

Larry Warner has done a wonderful thing with this book, allowing the everyday Christian to go through the exercises on their own. Of course, a spiritual director would be wonderful – and Warner does argue the benefits of having a spiritual director or listener. However, life does not alway allow for such benefits and Warner has skillfully, with incredible clarity and ease of use, produced a piece of work whereby ANYONE can now be exposed to the Spiritual Exercises, easily follow along AND be blessed by doing so.

The first three chapters are all about getting the most out of the exercises, while the rest of the book has been written and laid out so well that all the reader has to do is to carefully and  prayerfully work through the material. This is not a book to be rushed, but to be absorbed – to stop, ponder, reflect and then move on.

If you have never done the Spiritual Exercises, but have always wanted to, then this is the book for you. If you have never done the Spiritual Exercises – then I suggested you do them, at least once – and this is the book for you.

A great devotional work arranged for the modern age.

Highly Recommended.