Monday, May 20, 2013

The Evangelist's Hymn

If you do evangelism Biblically -- without pretense, manipulation, or 'persuasive words of wisdom', but simply preaching Jesus Christ and Him crucified -- you have already discovered how dependent we are on God.  We speak, but only He can make the words penetrate and stick.

This hymn by Frances Havergal is a prayer, a cry, for God to do that!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Can You Tell the Greatest Story?

Christians' confidence is in a God who has revealed Himself in writing.  A shockingly high percentage of the world (and even the US) is functionally illiterate.  (If you're not sure what 'functionally illiterate' means, you probably are.)  This crimps transmission of the message of the Bible from person to person, culture to culture, and generation to generation. 

In recent years Bible storying has become a widely used tool for bridging this education gap.  The Bible contains a large number of stories which contain valuable embedded theological truths.  In storying, people are trained to accurately retell and pass on stories from the Bible, and ask questions to help listeners see the important truths.  Illiterate people are often better at this than literate ones.

My parents and I attended a storying training course in 2011, and it was one of the most enjoyable and intense classes I have ever taken.  In keeping with their goal of helping illiterate people, the training was conducted entirely orally; no notetaking was allowed!  But far from being "dumbed down", the training actually pushed and expanded the known capacities of our brains.  It was a fight to keep our heads above the waters of information, but somehow we all did, and it was beautiful to see believers of varying strengths help each other to finish.  Perhaps the greatest pleasure was the hours of feasting on Scriptures with other brothers and sisters as we heard, learned, told, and taught the great stories of the Bible. 

A word of caution.  Storying, like any tool, can be misused.  (I touched on some of these possible ways in a blog post here.)  We tend to overuse and overemphasize the tools we like or understand.  The storying skills I learned have greatly helped me in both personal Bible study, as well as Bible teaching and evangelism.  But they're not the only skills I use. 

From May 31 to June 2, the same course that we took in 2011 is coming back to my community.  I hope to attend at least part of it.  If you live in the Verde Valley, I strongly recommend you attend.  If you live elsewhere, keep your eyes open for a course in your area.  To my knowledge, the organization that is providing this training, Simply the Story, is the best of the many storying organizations out there.

Download brochure here and the registration form here.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Joni and Ken: An Untold Love Story

Most "love stories" in print are actually "lust stories".  Not Joni and Ken.

Quadriplegic since age 17, Joni Tada is famous around the world as an author, singer, painter, speaker, radio and TV host, and advocate for the handicapped.  She holds six honorary doctorates.  Her husband Ken is famous as... well, Joni's husband.  Marriage is always tough, but the marriage of a severely disabled and incredibly popular, gifted woman to a pretty much ordinary guy is bound to have extra challenges.  Ken and Joni open up in this book with remarkable transparency about how their marriage eroded, and about how God intervened to reconnect them better even than they started. 

The writing is delicious.  Joni is a good author in her own right, but it seems that Larry Libby gave the work some extra touches that make it read almost like a novel.  The skillful use of flashbacks, third-person perspective, and simply exquisite flashes of English keep this book stuck in your hands.  For example, where an average author might have said, "The weather was gorgeous", they write, "It was one of those days when a person could reflect on the multiple millions of people crowded into Southern California and say, 'I get it.'" 

My only concern with the book is that Ken credits John Eldredge's Wild at Heart with helping their marriage.  The problems in Eldredge's theology of masculinity have been well documented by others.  I'm thankful that Ken received help from Eldredge, but I wish it had been from a more biblical source, such as Stuart Scott's The Exemplary Husband or even Doug Wilson's Father Hunger.

But still, the book is well worth reading; an encouraging glimpse into how Jesus' power to sustain a marriage is greater than all the combined forces of hell, cosmos, and flesh to tear it apart.  Watch the trailer too

Note: I received this book for free from in exchange for writing a review. My review was not required to be positive.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Christian Mysticism: Oxymoron?

I have long been perplexed trying to sift through the good and bad of "mystical" Christian practices such as contemplative prayer.  Recently Proclamation Magazine ran an article about it that is so in depth and insightful that I wanted to share it with you.  Even if you don't consider yourself mystical, you have probably in some ways already been influenced by mysticism.  (It is a natural bent for all human hearts.)  Click below to read the article.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Call to Worship: The Sands of Time are Sinking

This hymn should make you long for heaven.  Anne Cousin wrote it after reading Samuel Rutherford's dying words.  Interestingly, there are 19 verses!  Most hymnals only include 4 or 5.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Better is a Neighbor Who is Near

Last week the car battery died.  Thankfully, it died at home, in the carport.  Also thankfully, I didn't have to be anywhere immediately.  Eventually I got the idea to put out a note on to see if anyone had a battery charger (thinking that perhaps I could charge it up enough to start once).

In case you haven't heard of it before, is a free social networking site for neighbors.  It's simple, and a great way to meet neighbors and stay abreast of what's happening in your immediate vicinity.   On Nextdoor, neighbors share community events, recommendations, items for sale/free, crime/safety concerns, ideas about how to make our neighborhood better, and more.

Within minutes I had two offers of battery chargers, an offer of a ride to town, and an offer of a new battery that I could borrow.  I took the last option, borrowed the battery (the neighbor even gave me a ride home so I wouldn't have to carry the battery by foot), and used it to get to AutoZone where I bought a new one.

If there is a NextDoor community set up for your neighborhood, I would encourage you to join.  It's free, and doesn't take long.  If there is not one set up yet, I encourage you to become a neighborhood "founder".  Being a founder does take some time initially but it's a great way to serve your neighborhood.  And, if you use this referral link to found your NextDoor neighborhood, you and I will both get a $50 Starbucks card.  (I don't drink coffee and I think Starbucks is way too pricey.  But I digress.)

Not sold yet?  Check out the video below!