100 Books in a year (round 3) 

I love to read. I’m pretty busy and focused on ministry and other projects but I am able to knock out about 2 non-fiction books a week. Usually I’m reading at various points in a half dozen different books but end up finishing a few books each week. 

I have done this and recorded the journey a couple of times here on the blog and so I thought it would be fun to do again. I’ll create a page near the end of September to mark a definitive starting and ending point. I’ll post the titles of the books I’ve read and thier page count as well as a simple star system (1-5). To let you know what I thought of the book. If I post a review on here I’ll share the link. 

Many of the books I read are “foils” in that I purposefully read books from an opposing view point. If I post on one of these books I will simply put the word “foil” in parenthesis beside it so you will know that I don’t fully believe or endorse that book. Regardless of if I agree with the author, I will still rate the book on the star system according to the quality of writing and the quality of arguments… So a “foil” book might get a 5 star rating if the author took on the actual arguments on an issue instead of raising and creating “straw men” arguments or diverting our attention from the real issue.

At this time my interests are pretty heavy in theology, philosophy, American history, business, economics, leadership, parenting, and obviously Christianity. I do read a little fiction but I do prefer non-fiction.

What books would you recommend for the list? 

Do Tattoos Matter?

“Is God against tattoos/ body modification?” The question came to me simply enough last year when one of my students came in and shared an experience they had at another church. The youth pastor got up and started railing against tats… This particular teenager felt a little uneasy because they had several family members with tats. So I took some time and we explored what the Bible really does say about tats and body modification.

There are many reasons to not get a tattoo, but the bible doesn’t provide us with God’s explicit thoughts on the subject (It’s not the 11th commandment). The word tattoo is mentioned one time in the whole Bible. In the context it means “to write on yourself.” So if you did that in middle school with a pen then I’m pretty sure you’ve already broken this commandment … but let’s take a serious look at the verse about “tattoos” and use this as an exercise in understanding how to read the Bible in context.

“You shall not eat any flesh with the blood in it. You shall not interpret omens or tell fortunes. You shall not round off the hair on your temples or mar the edges of your beard. You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoo yourselves: I am the LORD. (Leviticus 19:26-28 ESV)

It is important to understand that the book of Leviticus was written to the nation of Israel and was written with the priests especially in mind. The gist of the whole book is to not look like the pagan cultures around. It is for a specific group of people that lived at a specific time in history. We can learn a lot from it, but we do so at a distance. We are not traveling through the desert about the enter the promised land that is full of pagan people who do these things.

The command prohibits cutting your body for the dead and marking yourself like the people around them were doing. The idea is that when someone died, evil spirits would be around, so you would disfigure yourself so as not to be recognized by the evil spirit. The tattoo stuff implies that you are getting inked with the name of a false god or demon… all of these commands are in the context of how people worship idols and fake gods…. So if you were planning on getting a lotus flower tat to honor the Hindu god Shiva… then I’d say God isn’t pleased with your tat (and that’s really just common sense… based on the first and second commandments). In the book of Revelation we see something similar with the Mark of the Beast (Revelation 13:16-17), to get THAT tat you are permanently marking your body saying that, “I belong to Satan.” So God’s definitely against that… but in those cases I think your bigger problem is your heart that that is living in rebellion to God, not the ink in your skin.

This command in Leviticus doesn’t forbid EVERY kind of cutting and tattoo, only those that are in service to false gods. Because this verse alone doesn’t forbid all tattoos/ body modification, etc. some people appeal to the New Testament where the Apostle Paul tells the church in Corinth that their bodies are the “Temple of the Living God” (1 Cor. 3:17, 1 Cor. 6:19, 2 Cor. 6:16). The logic follows that if your body is the temple of God, then you shouldn’t mark it up with tattoos (or any body-modification for that matter). The problem is that none of those passages actually say anything like that. In context they say, “God doesn’t need a temple like pagan God’s because you’re the temple.” “Don’t sleep around because if effects you more than you think.” And “Don’t worship false idols, it’s absurd to put an idol in the temple to the one true God.” … Nothing about body modification/ tattoo’s, stitches, heart surgery, stints, pacemakers, braces, fillings, etc…. “Your body is a temple” is perhaps one of the most misunderstood and misquoted passages of scripture. Seldom do I ever hear it quoted in context, most often it is used to beat someone up.

I actually have it on good authority that God is pro body modification. Every little Jewish boy around 8 days old got a permanent cut called circumcision. The difference was that this cut (body modification) was at the hands of someone else and it was to honor God (not an idol). The first big argument in the church was actually whether or not the church was supposed to force new converts to get this cut. In fact some people were going around saying, “you’re not a real Christian unless you have this painful body modifying cut done.” Check it out for yourself in Acts 15.

But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” And after Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about this question. So, being sent on their way by the church, they passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, describing in detail the conversion of the Gentiles, and brought great joy to all the brothers. When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they declared all that God had done with them. But some believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees rose up and said, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to order them to keep the law of Moses.”
(Acts 15:1-5 ESV)

Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God, but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood. For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues.”(Acts 15:19-21 ESV)

So do you see what is going on here? Someone is going around saying that unless you get the permanent mark on your body, you cannot be saved! (Sounds like a twisted parallel to the message my student heard, “you can’t have a tat and be saved”).  Indeed somebody else stands up and points back to the law of Moses (the law of Moses included the first 5 books of the Old Testament, including the book of Leviticus). The council makes a distinction here and says rather than forcing them to keep all of our customs and laws (which were peculiar to them as a nation), we are going to separate the national law from the moral law… The only thing we ask of someone who converts to Christianity is that they act morally.

This is very important by the way because someone one day is going to take something obscure out of the Old Testament Jewish rituals (which I think all foreshadow Jesus and are worth understanding) and say, “Why do you eat shellfish when they are unclean, or do you wear clothes made out of two types of fabric, etc when the bible says you shouldn’t.” The answer is easy and simple… because I’m not a Jew. God doesn’t require us to do that. Acts 15 tells the story.

I think in the same freedom afforded you to eat bacon affords you the freedom to get a tattoo provided you don’t get one as an act of worship to a false god or idol. I think you would need to ask yourself the question, “Does this honor God?”

For the record. I don’t have tats. I don’t plan on getting any. I don’t want my kids to have them (until they are out on their own and they can make their own decisions)… but all for extra biblical reasons and as a point of personal preference.  Read carefully, I have not made a case for why you should get a tattoo, only that what you have on your skin does not indicate what has or has not happened in your heart. The real body modification that needs to take place for all of us is in the heart (Deut. 30:6, Romans 2:29).

Philippians 3:9-11 (Devotional Thought)

and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith– that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:9-11 ESV)

We live in a day and age that tries to redefine the word faith. Some folks use the word faith to mean to believe in something that is not true. So that when they say that if you have enough faith, something that is not true now, will be true later. You kind of “wish” it into existence. For example an individual may be sick or have a physical handicap and these folks will say that if you just have enough “faith” you will get better. This is NOT what the bible teaches when it talks about faith.

Other people try to make the word faith something more like blindly accepting something to be true without checking the facts or thinking about what your doing. They think of faith as something like an assumption. This is also NOT what the bible teaches about faith.

Still other people think of faith more like a feeling. They would say that it doesn’t matter what it true, it matters how you feel and so they would say that faith is a feeling you have when you pray or at a worship service or something like that. Again, this is NOT what the bible teaches us about faith.

The kind of faith found in the Bible can be described as a belief that moves you to action. Or maybe put more simply, “Active trust.” So when you have faith you believe something based on good evidence and then act on it. Like ridding on a school bus. You look carefully to see which bus has the markings that is supposed to take you to your bus stop. You also look for your bus driver and maybe the other kids you know who are on your bus. When you see all of these things coming together on one bus you get on the bus, in good faith, because this bus will take you to your bus stop.

Paul says that real righteousness (being good in God’s eyes) comes from faith. We know that Jesus paid the penalty for our sins on the cross, was buried and rose again from the dead and then we act in faith by asking God to forgive us of our sin and for Jesus to be Lord (leader) of our lives. Where we act to embrace what Jesus has done is where faith is… its like knowing that’s your bus number, your bus driver, and all the people with whom you ride the bus , you still need to get on the bus in order for it to take you to your bus stop. Just knowing it was the right bus isn’t enough. In the same way saving faith requires us to not just know these things about Jesus but to act on them.

Have you done that? Have you responded to God and asked him to forgive you of your sins and asked JESUS to be the Lord (Leader) of your life? YOU can do that right now. Tell someone if you do.

Paul is so confident that he has been made right with God through what Jesus has done that he is willing to die for his faith in Christ. He knows that just like Jesus was raised from the dead, so he too will be raised from the dead one day as well. He doesn’t know when He’ll die, or what method, that’s why he says “by any means possible” but he’s confident of one thing, He will be raised from the dead in the resurrection.

The Skeletons in God’s Closet: The Mercy of Hell, The Surprise of Judgment, The Hope of Holy War (Review)

The Skeleton in God's closet I’m a fan of The Skeletons in God’s Closet: The Mercy of Hell, the Surprise of Judgment, the Hope of Holy War, Joshua Ryan Butler does a fantastic job of leading the reader on a journey exploring three of the controversial doctrines of the Bible. Butler writes to open up a dialogue with contemporary culture and it’s broadly popular misunderstanding of these key doctrines. His writing style is engaging, witty, humble and personable. He has a way of inviting his readers to investigate their own biases, what the bible really says, and how people have understood or misunderstood these doctrines in the past. This is a well written book that could easily have been turned into a shorter three book series. (You get your money’s worth).

Once you understand Butler aims his book at a postmodern mindset it comes into focus. There were a few moments where I pondered, “Why is he going here?” and “What is he about to say?” because he came seemingly close to a different understanding of a doctrinal issue. Thankfully at each point he clarifies his understanding and leads the reader to a biblical appreciation for the doctrine in question.

Over all I thought this was a great book. The author has a brilliant writing style that at times is very poetic. I purchased my copy from amazon.com who has it on sale right now for $12.84 in paperback.

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A Brief Theology Disaster: thinking biblically in the wake of tragedy

By nature a disaster indicates a world in which death and suffering are predominant. A world very different that the one described by God as “very good” in Genesis 1:31. A world in which disaster often occurs is a world in desperate need of a savior. When victims cannot alleviate their suffering, they must look beyond themselves to an outside source to deliver them from suffering and set the world right as it once was. This is actually the testimony of the Bible: Jesus Christ has come to save those who cannot save themselves.

disaster relief

A proper understanding of disaster will take into account the issue of sin. The Apostle Paul reminds readers in the book of Romans that, “just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” (Romans 5:12, ESV). The Apostle Paul indicates in Romans eight that even all of creation groans under the curse of sin. The sin of Adam was so great because precisely through one sin the whole world fell to sin. Adam opened the door for disaster to come into the world and now those presently alive find that the world is not always “very good” as indicated by God in Genesis 1:31.

At this point many people blame God for the condition of the world and make charges that if God were good or loving that He would at the very least prevent disaster from happening. However, such allegations view to lightly the scandal of sin and the holiness of God. The scandal of sin places the trigger for disaster squarely in the hands Adam and through Adam all mankind. While some disasters may be seen as punishment for sin, not all disasters are. Indeed many disasters are the mere product of living in a fallen world. Directly or indirectly, the sin of Adam in particular and the sins of mankind in general have caused the current condition of the world. To levy the argument that the love of God ought to compel him to prevent disaster is an attempt to un-ring the bell of sin.[1]

Yet, this is the very thing that God promises! This is the very story of the Bible! Where man is unable to relieve the suffering introduced into the world through sin and death; Jesus Christ stepped out of heaven and in to space and time, lived a sinless life, embraced death through obedience to God and rose again from the dead conquering death and promising to return ushering a new heaven and a new earth. In essence God has promised to rid the world of sin and suffering.

This leaves Christians in an interesting place spreading the gospel message of salvation through Jesus Christ. This proclamation should not be silenced in the wake of disaster, but proclaimed all the more. In the wake of disaster Christians have the opportunity to act out on a small scale what Christ has done for us on a large scale.

Christians are called to regard the image of God in each individual, boldly declaring every individual to be of a special worth (Genesis 1:27). While domesticated animals may be of a specific worth to their owners, all human life is valuable to God. It was to man that God gave the right and privilege to subdue the world and rule over it (Genesis 1:28).

Christians should also call into account the calling of the church, noting that Christ has commissioned his church to go and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19-20). Indeed part of being a disciple is being a fisher of men (Matthew 4:19). Jesus often modeled a ministry of provision and preaching. That is while he was preaching he was also healing, multiplying loaves and fishes, etc. In essence Jesus was meeting physical needs as a way of demonstrating the authenticity of his message. This should challenge believers today to share the good news of Jesus in the midst of disaster while pointing to Christ as the ultimate means of salvation.

[1] Thought this isn’t a quote, I do owe my thoughts on this an article I read … John Garvey, “Is God Responsible,” Commonweal 132, no.2 (Jan 2005), 10-11.

Sex, Tatoos and Resurection (A Theology of the Body)

I was challenged and inspired by my pastor’s sermon last year. While dealing with the issues of the heart he also took time to address body posture in worship.  We often as Western thinkers have a tendency to set up a false dichotomy between body and soul. (As if our soul were just a mere part of us or though our body were just an extension of who we really are.)

We tend to gloss over the way scripture speaks of the body opting instead to think of our bodies as “earth suits” instead of an indivisible aspect of who we are. However, from Genesis to Revelation we are reminded that we are very much physical beings with bodies that interact in a physical world. We are made from the dust as physical beings and that will forever impact how we interact. And “forever” is not an exageration. The gospel demands a physical body. Jesus was born of a virgin, crucified for our sins, buried, raised from the dead, ascended into Heaven, and now sits at the right hand of the father making intercession for us.  We believe in a bodily resurrection.  Disembodied souls aren’t a Christian notion.

Our bodies were given us to enjoy and celebrate God’s creation. That’s why we get to enjoy eating apples and the gift of sex inside of marriage. Our bodies were given to us to worship God… Posturing our bodies in worship is a natural expression of who we are and who we were made to be.   Indeed without posturing ourselves to God we can miss the full benefits of corporate or private worship. Before you get upset, please understand that kneeling has been understood as a right response to God for ages and so has raising your hands. It’s not a new thing, it’s actually a very old thing.

I think we miss intimacy with God when we fail to worship him fully with our bodies. But that is so much more than just raising your hands to your favorite Christian anthem. Worship with your body also involves discipline like making sure you’re well rested on Saturday night before Sunday’s service. It means withholding food for short periods of time as a fast to submit my will to God. It involves the taste and sensory experience of the bread and wine for the Lord’s supper.

Listed below are a few resources that have helped develop my  theology of the body.

A Handy Reference to the Life, Thought and Writings of C.S. Lewis

A-Z I was in the fourth or fifth grade when the world of Narnia was first introduced to me. My teacher began to read the chronicles to the class and I was mesmerized. She would close out each chapter and I ached to know what would happen next. Something happened in me that year and I found myself immersed in the next book of the series. I had become a C. S. Lewis fan. Years later in College I would be introduced to his other works  such as The Four Loves, God in the Dock and Mere Christianity. I can’t explain what it is about Lewis’ life and writing that I like so much, other than they have helped me make sense of the world.  You can imagine my delight when I found out that Colin Duriez produced an encyclopedia of Lewis’ life, thought and writings.

The A-Z of C S Lewis: A Complete Guide to His Life, Thoughts and Writings is without a doubt an accessible treasure chest of information about C.S. Lewis and his writing. I’ve enjoyed looking through this book and remembering key characters and passages I had almost forgotten and then finding some new ones from works I haven’t read yet (but will soon!).  It has become a second awakening for me in regards to Lewis and his writings; a reminder that I have not exhausted the joy that his reading brings to me. I think it’s a fantastic book and a great addition to any library, especially to those who would consider themselves a fan. I can’t recommend it enough.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Litfuse as part of their Blog Tour. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

101 Books in a Year

A couple of years ago I set out on an ambitious adventure to read 100 books in one year. I exceeded my page goal but came up about 18 books shy by the dead-line. At the time I was finishing up my master’s degree. This year I am unencumbered by school work (I’m not writing papers) and I wanted to challenge myself to again read 100 books in a year.

101 Books? You may be thinking, “Hey the title says 101 books?” I know. In addition to reading 100 regular books I want to continue my tradition of reading the Bible all the way through at least once this year. (The Bible is actually a collection of 66 books, but for my purposes here I’ll count it as one). At the bottom of my book list I’ll keep a tab of the 66 books of the Bible and how many times I’ve read each book since the start date (some shorter books I’ll have read dozens of times before the end of the year… For example I read the book of James about 46 times this summer). This is the first time I’ve measured my scripture reading against my other reading.

What kind of books? I’ll be reading all sorts of books according to my interests. I’ve decided this year to limit my fiction intake and make an intentional shift to read more science, nature, history, business, and economics books in addition to a heavy lean towards theology.

Why November? Obviously starting in November may seem a bit out of the norm, but in analyzing my reading patterns I came to realize that I read more when the daylight hours are shorter. I hope to pass the 50 book mark in March and provide myself with a comfortable lead going into summer.

Why Blog about it? I wanted to blog about it for two reasons. One, for accountability. I want others to know my goals and feel some pressure to meet them. The second reason is to provide a forum for interaction. I’m hoping you’ll provide me with solid leads on good books, encouragement and a challenge (I know some of you read incredibly more than 100 books a year).

What have you read so far? I’ll be keeping a list of books I’m reading, have read, and the scripture I’ve read on the page marked 101 books (current). I’ll be updating it weekly. Feel free to provide your comments and recommendations. I’m looking forward to the journey.

Is Sunday Morning for Discipleship or Evangelism?

When a pastor stands in the pulpit to presents a message a lot of work has gone into preparation of the sermon.  He stands for one brief moment to draw our attention to the very Word of God.  He stands there as a messenger.  God has spoken and we should hear and respond to God in an appropriate way.


So during the weeks and months leading up to a message the pastor is engaged in reading, understanding, praying over and discerning the actual text of the sermon.  He might employ his training the Greek or Hebrew language to help pull out the meaning of a text.  He will do a study in geography and historical context when necessary.  In short, He will do as much research as necessary to determine that he accurately opens up God’s Word before us.

A pastor, however, will also study the culture in which he presents the message.  It is not enough to know the Truth… the Truth must also be applied.  Application can be summed up as How someone should properly respond to the message. The application will take on nuances according to the culture in which the pastor is presenting the message. Will there be hearer’s present who are post-modern thinkers?  Will there be audience members struggling with finances? How does the average hearer treat their children? What percentage of the congregation is single?  How many profess a relationship with Jesus Christ?  How many came just because it is Mother’s Day?  How many came because of special circumstances in their lives?  All these and more are questions a pastor may ask when preparing a sermon. (To know the right kind of questions to ask about culture in sermon preparation a pastor will spend a great deal of time during the week with people; both those inside the church and those outside the church).

Now comes the million dollar question:  Will the pastor tailor the message for insiders (the people who are there week to week)? or will he prep the message for outsiders (the people who may be present for the very first time)?  In essence will he be discipleship oriented or evangelistic?

I think we have convinced ourselves that the pastor can’t preach one sermon that is equally as relevant to both major types of people in the audience. The reason is a faulty paradigm that has entered into the Christian sub-culture. Many have rightly pictured the gospel as necessary for salvation, but have failed to also picture the gospel as necessary for sanctification (growth in Christ).  In essence, we are saved by grace, but work “on our own” after salvation to be more like Christ. While few would blatantly claim this to be true, it is non-the-less a prevalent thought in the way many practice and preach Christianity.

The outworking of such thought is an unfortunate side-stepping of the gospel in favor of a “moral of the story.”  In essence, the sermon becomes more like a fable than a message.  The scriptures are read with a deep desire to get straight to some sort of application like, “you shouldn’t lust” or “give to the poor.”  While there are many lessons to be learned from examples given us in scripture, we set people up for failure when we divorce the “moral” from the gospel message (in fact the outworking of this thought is legalism).

You see the gospel is actually everywhere in the Bible (The Old Testament included)!  Yet often we moralize the message and call it “meat.”  Don’t get me wrong.  The morals are there, but they aren’t there to show us how to live as much as how much we don’t live like we should.  The analogy to “face your giants” is actually just an expose on how you don’t face your giant like you should or the call to “get out of the boat” reveals that you are still in the boat.

So just because there is a moral to the story doesn’t mean that you can live up to it apart from Christ.  That is why believers need the gospel every sermon as much as unbelievers.  We tend to forget that Jesus left heaven for us and that the only way we will ever be able to fulfill the moral to the story is by faith in the only one who has ever perfectly fulfilled the moral of the story.  The truth is that no matter how hard you try you don’t have the power to conquire lust, greed, unforgiveness or any other sin in your life.  The moral just reflects how you have failed and even if you set out to achieve the moral you have to admit that you are starting from a position of failure.  You haven’t had the faith to face your giants in the past, how could you face them now with 3 easy points from the life of David?  This is self-help and it isn’t Biblical.  The gospel (and the Biblical message) is about God-help.  You can’t face your giants until you understand the one who stood in your place and faced the only real giant that could ever really kill you!  The gospel message is the only way that you will ever be able to have victory in your life.  It is the hope of “Christ in you” that gives you any kind of chance to actually overcome the sin in your life.

You can’t fight the sin in your life without the gospel. Don’t pretend that you have out grown it.  We need the gospel every day.  It is good for a pastor to sound more like an evangelist than an in-depth Bible teacher,  he maybe proclaiming what mature believers as well as unbelievers need to hear. If you think that you have moved beyond a need to hear the gospel in every sermon, you may want to reevaluate your motives… are you like those mentioned in I Corinthians 3 and 1 Timothy 1? The gospel continues to be good news long after we have first believed in Christ and it is what separates the Christian message from religion and other fables.

Finally A Way Forward in Authentically Expressing the Gospel Through Social Action

In order to keep this post brief I am using a few theological words to express my understanding of the root issue.  Much like doctors conversing over a particular condition of a patient would use medical terms in discussing the issue with one another.  To get a more sensible break out of my thought process without the theological back story (like a doctor talking to a patient) skip to the second gray block quote below… 

Encounter God in the City: Onramps to Personal And Community Transformation by Randy White is the book I have been looking to read for over a year now.  I didn’t know that this was the book I needed, but I am very grateful now that I have found it.  Randy does an excellent job of carrying the balance of how to express the gospel through social action.

For far too long I’ve been reading authors who have heavily influenced by peculiar reading of the Sermon on the Mount.  Not that such a reading is without warrant or precedent in Christian history, however many of the authors who are proposing a “Sermon on the Mount” hermeneutic are living in a reactionary state against a type of rigid premillennial fundamentalism that has taught that the world is getting worse, causing followers to withdraw influence from the market place and create a separatist movement complete with its own knock-off “Christian” music sub culture.  In essence they claim that rather than engaging the world with the gospel, many churches have effectually created fortresses to protect the Christian sub-culture from the world.  The allegation is that our churches have become islands in the community rather than a shaping force… I understand the problem and often agree with their assessment of where we are (or at least where we were headed). When we focus so exclusively on gospel content that we forget to express the gospel, there is a problem.

But where many of these authors and my friends who follow them go wrong is that they throw stones at the institution and forge a reactionary trail that is full of expression, but not always “gospel” expression.

In general its a juvenile reaction to finding out that you were taught a different position or way of thinking.  Rather than cautiously moving forward assessing the new information in light of your current beliefs, you abandon your previously held beliefs and focus on the “new truth” with a nearly exclusive focus.  Think of the young man who comes back from college a Calvinist.  Suddenly Calvinism is all he knows and without guidance he is likely to become a hyper-Calvinist and forget evangelism because of his angst against a pastor or teacher who didn’t cover Romans 9 in Bible study.  The same thing is now happening with the social aspect of the gospel.  There is a social aspect to sharing the gospel.  But we haven’t been teaching about it in many mainline churches and now the reaction is to jettison the doctrinal aspects of the gospel in favor of pure social action… Its a juvenile over-reaction to a faltering world view…

Are you a Forward or Backward Thinker? More on this issue Here.

With “mission” emerging (no pun intended) as one of the predominant way to proclaim this new sense of expressing the gospel through social action this leads to the questions… What makes “mission” Christian? Essentially, at what point does social concern translate into gospel message?

Many have used words like “mission” and “incarnational” unfairly to mean work amongst the poor or less fortunate.  Lets be clear the mission is to make disciples (Matthew 18).  The incarnation was about God becoming man and walking among “sinners” many of whom were poor, many of whom were not.  The ultimate goal is the glory of God (Philippians 2).

We miss the mark when we replace the word “poor” for “sin.” (Though poverty is an issue in its own right, it is not the central issue, but rather the expression of the root issue of sin.)  I know that many times and in most places people are bound in poverty by oppression (the sins of others).   I know the world groans under the curse and oppressive poverty can be understood as the mark of sin on the world, but the issue remains… removing poverty does not remove sin.  Feeding a man or teaching a man to feed himself are worthwhile goals (and even maybe gospel oriented goals), but they are not the end.  To be called mission or missional we must be reconciling men to God by pointing to the work of Jesus on the cross otherwise the faith we are trying so hard to evidence by our deeds is no faith at all (Matthew 7:22-23… and that’s in the Sermon on the Mount).

Randy White expresses an awesome way forward in reaching our cities with the gospel.  He understands that incarnational isn’t just about getting your hands dirty, but sitting with sinners for the sake of demonstrating and authentically sharing the gospel.  I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in urban ministry.  The retail price is $15.00 (Paperback), I got my copy for $10.20 at  Amazon.com.  I gave it five stars.

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