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Review: A Journey to Victorious Praying 4th August, 2017

Posted by Scotty in Life.
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41Xh8id9hRLI have come to hold certain expectation of books by Moody Publishers: They consistently cling to Scripture, walk systematically through a topic without scrimping on the foundational truths, and are scattered with practical challenges.   A Journey to Victorious Praying: Finding Discipline and Delight in Your Prayer Life lives up to those expectations.

With elegant simplicity Bill Thrasher walks through a number of issues central to the topic of prayer. He lays a solid biblical foundation, while sensitively addressing some more challenging topics like issues that hinder our prayers, or why God doesn’t answer prayer. I am particularly appreciative of his understanding of the role of weakness in prayer.

The book consists of 30 short chapters—which could easily be used as a 1-month, a-chapter-a-day devotional tool. The chapters are split into nine sections:

Section One: The Help of Your Weakness
Section Two: The Help of the Holy Spirit
Section Three: The Help of Companionship
Section Four: The Help of Scripture
Section Five: The Discipline of Prayer
Section Six: The Importance of Prayer
Section Seven: The Help of Fasting
Section Eight: The Waiting of Prayer
Section Nine: The Power of Praise

This book would be a great starting point for exploring the topic of prayer.

Below are a few of my favourite quotes:

When concentrated times of Bible study and Bible teaching such as seminary education are not done in a spirit of prayer, it can be very dangerous spiritually. One can get so used to talking about God that he neglects the habit of talking to God” (p92).

Most of our lives are overextended, and we fail to grasp that if our service does not flow from an abiding relationship with Christ, it is the fruit of our flesh and not the Spirit” (p114).

Many of us continue to make the mistake of trying to compensate for our lack of communion with God with increased social and spiritual activity” (p131)

It is God’s Word that explains to us how to be open, dependent, and responsive to God’s Spirit. Although there is a subjective side of the Christian life, without God’s Word one loses an objective standard. God’s Word is the fuel that keeps the fire of prayer and worship burning in the soul of the person yielded to the Lord” (p226).


Review: Killing Us Softly 3rd March, 2017

Posted by Scotty in Books.
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efremI was glad to get my hands on a copy of Killing Us Softly by Efrem Smith.

Efrem has written a solid yet provocative book about discipleship, and I enjoy the way he goes about it. The premise is straightforward—we are dying. Sin is killing us. In fact, “sin does more than just kill us. It also seeks to kill others through us” (p6). Yet “God is doing the same, but the death he brings us through is in service to the new life he has for us” (p55). We thus have a choice: we become agents of death by partnering with sin, or we allow God to kill us softly and make us agents of His transforming power.

He is honest in expressing the danger we live under as Christians, that even though we have been rescued by God “it’s still possible to participate in upside-down corporate practices” (p20) and thereby damage others. His book is a call to live thinkingly, considering the various ways we partner will fallen systems and ignorantly bring pain to others.

One insightful yet penetrating quote says,

“You can be a very wise Christian and do damage to your household, business, church, or community because you refuse to acknowledge the things in your heart that need to die. We must be willing to allow God to do soul surgery on us” (p76).

#Ouch #SoTrue

Smith balances the tension between personal inner transformation and the call to be involved in public transformation. He draws attention to the “upside-down trinity”—”broken lives, broken relationships, and broken systems and structures” (p27) which work together to damage communities. With this in mind he calls us to allow God to work his transformation in us; but to go on to become agents of transformation in the broken systems we have created. He firmly believes, and argues compellingly that “the Kingdom of God transforms every life, community, and system it enters” (p160). And we are the instruments God wants to use to bring this transformation.

Efrem is a needed voice in a field saturated by white middle class men (myself included!). He gives us pause for thought when he writes,

“Conferences and books focused on planting churches, doing outreach, developing models of discipleship, and engaging justice include inherent assumptions that the reader is part of a priviledged class. It’s as if the poor have nothing to offer when it comes to advancing the Kingdom of God” (p152-3).

Killing Us Softly is a welcome contribution, reminding us that the inner transformation of a disciple is ultimately for the benefit of others. We must take care in our zeal to understand discipleship that we don’t turn it into a white middle class endeavor. Jesus, who himself was born into poverty, chose ordinary unschooled men to launch the church around the world. We’d do well to remember these roots and strive to challenge the systems (the church included) that provide barriers to the Gospel, and to the flourishing of our brothers and sisters.

An easy read.
A simple yet provocative articulation of the Gospel.
And a compelling vision for community transformation.

(I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review)

New Journal Time! 26th December, 2016

Posted by Scotty in Life.
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I love this feeling. The journal I just finished contains entries from Dec 7th 2013–Dec 26th 2016. This new one starts today and should last till 2020!

Previous Journal: Life Arts ENYA 

New Journal: Earthworks A5 Triquetra

Review: Dirty Glory 14th November, 2016

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207_1000Over six years ago I read Red Moon Rising, the story of the 24-7Prayer organization, and it remains one of my favorite books. (You can read my thoughts on it from six years ago). Because of that I was excited to get my hands on Dirty Glory which is part 2 of the story, updating the reader on what God has done in and through 24-Prayer over the last ten-or-so years.

As I expected, I loved Dirty Glory. I was a little disappointed at the start as it seemed a lot more autobiographical of Pete Greig than the earlier book, but I got over that quickly as the book progresses from some key events in Pete’s life and expands to God’s work around the world.

Pete Greig has a wonderful way with words. He has a gift for seeing God at work and tying together many isolated events in a way that leaves you in no doubt that God is moving. It is full of paradoxes that place to glory of God amidst the mess of the world in a way that challenges neat paradigms while exalting Jesus. It makes prayer, and indeed answered prayer, so normative that you thirst for it!

Dirty Glory aso does a good job of showing you the heart and philosophy behind 24-7 Prayer, often through real-life stories of prayer in action more than direct articulation (though there are those parts like pp238-243). 24-7Prayer is an organization that cares about “Prayer, Mission and Justice” believing that true prayer should always catalyze us outward to impact the world, and so the book leaves you hungering for prayer and desiring to make a difference in the world. This is one of those books that inspires faith, calling to something deep within your being. (Even for that reason alone it should be worth the read!)

The book has a few extra resources at the back including a study guide to help mine and apply the contents of the book, and my personal favorite: a UK-English to US-English glossary!

I’ll end with a few of my favorite quotes:

God offers a big, holistic promise of salvation for individuals, societies, economies, and the environment. Whenever God’s people restore the proper ecology of creation by returning humbly to dependency upon their Creator in prayer, his life begins to overpower sin’s destructive influence at every level. The new creation begins to bud and bloom in every sphere of society. Wounded nations are made whole, poisoned creation is renewed, broken economies are repaired, dying cultures are revived, fractured relationships are reconciled (p99).

Economics, politics, the arts, education, and enterprise may well be the tools God uses to heal the land, but the impetus is repentant integrity. Humility is the heavenly algorithm for social transformation. The rusty hinge of human history turns out to be the bended knee (p99)

As a Christian you have received an even greater invitation. The King of Kings requests your presence “at the very seat of government.” He offers you a place on his executive so that you can influence his actions on behalf of the people. It is an unspeakable honor, and yet we are often too busy, or too disbelieving, to accept the invitation. The Bible is clear that our opinions and choices really can shape history, that our prayers really do make a difference in the world (p105).

(I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review)

Review: Discipling as Jesus Discipled 13th November, 2016

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9780802414632Discipling as Jesus Discipled is a Bible Study written by Dann Spader of Sonlife ministries. I was keen to have a look at this after hearing Dann’s story and philosophy of discipleship on the discipleship.org podcast.

The resource is designed to be a 10-week study, with 5 lessons each week. There’s great flexibility with how this could be implemented.

Based in John 17 this study explores the “seven disciplines of a disciplemaker” taken directly from the chapter:

  1. REVEAL: I revealed You to those You gave me
  2. SPEAK: I gave them the words You gave Me
  3. PRAY: I pray for them
  4. PROTECT: I protected them
  5. SENT: I sent them into the world
  6. SANCTIFY: For them I sanctify Myself
  7. SHARE: I have given them the glory You gave Me

What I like?

The study is grounded in Scripture, seeking to inspire disciple making through reflection on the life and ministry of Jesus. Each day looks at the topic through a lens of one of Dann’s stages of Christian maturity (Seekers, Followers, Workers, Mature Disciplers). There are good questions which push the reader beyond finding-the-right-answers. The questions encourage deeper reflection on the Biblical narrative trying to get you to enter into the story.

The material keeps moving from the content to practical implementation. So for example, the SPEAK section looks at Jesus as a man of the Word dependent upon the Spirit, introduces (and requires practice) of devotional Bible study and learning to hear God in Scripture, then sets the expectation of sharing what learned with others. Similarly, the section on PRAYER aims at establishing consistent prayer for those who are sovereignly positioned around you.

What I don’t like?

Dann likes to speak of those you are investing in as “your disciples”: “let’s refer to them as your disciples that God has brought to you… don’t feel uncomfortable calling them your disciples” (p81). I think it’s more appropriate to speak of them as Jesus’ disciples, not mine. As disciples of Jesus we come alongside others in their discipleship to Jesus.

However, this is a minor issue in a robust study. Overall I think this is a great resource to give people a firm grounding in how Jesus trained his discipleship and the implications of this for our investment in the lives of others. Well worth the time investment.

(I received a copy of this book from Moody Publishers in exchange for an honest review)

Review: Culture 11th November, 2016

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I was a bit surprised by this book. I enjoy reading Tozer. He has written some wonderful Christian Classics that are deep, provocative and insightful. I recently read Culture by A.W.Tozer and I’m surprised to say that I was disappointed with this book.

What did I like?

As you’d expect from Tozer, his writing is packed full of Scripture, he affirms God’s Word and our need to guard the Truth. He calls the reader to consider the cost of following Jesus and to accept that living like Christ should mean we experience trouble in the world, since the morality of Christ and morality of the world will always be at odds. He upholds the need for holiness and gives a number of critiques of the church that give pause and invite consideration about the state of our churches.

What didn’t I like?

This book is not for those who are interested in engaging the discussion about Christ and culture and how the church can engage with culture for the sake of the Gospel. From the title and subtitle (and from other Tozer books) I expected the book to contain deep insight into how to live and engage culture as Christians. Instead the chapters were mostly critical and separatist in their approach, rightly encouraging holiness and purity as Christians living in the world, but failing to give any practical help for how to engage the culture around us in a meaningful way. I’ve come to love Tozer for his penetrating insights into the character of God and the heart of man, but this book was more shallow in its discussion and somewhat one-sided in it’s approach.

Who should read it?

Those who are looking to be challenged to be distinct from the world and who are perhaps newer to contemplating the relationship between Christ and Culture.

I’ll finish with a couple of my favorite quotes:

There is an inactivity that, paradoxically, is the highest possible activity…
In the Old Testament, to wait on God meant coming before His presence with expectation and waiting there with physical and mental inactivity… There is a place where the mind quits trying to figure out its own way and throws itself wide open to God. And the shining glory of God comes down into the waiting life and imparts an activity (p101).

One picture of a Christian is a man carrying a cross… The man with a cross no longer controls his destiny; he lost control when he picked up his cross.  That cross immediately became to him an all-absorbing interest, an overwhelming interference. No matter what he may desire to do, there is but one thing he can do; that is, move on toward the place of crucifixion (p148)

(I received a copy of this book from Moody Publishers in exchange for an honest review)

Review: POTSC 27th September, 2016

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“When God writes our lives, there are never mistakes, just movements to bring us closer to Him” (59)

potscI’ve been a fan of People of the Second Chance (POTSC) since it began, having first been introduced to Mike Foster at a church retreat back in 2008/2009. I was excited to see his new book coming out and happy to get my hands on a copy. Here are a few thoughts in response to the book.

  1. Mike Foster’s writing style is really accessible. He in an artist, so has a great way with words, plenty of engaging stories and illustrations, and brings these gifts to bear on some really deep truths surrounding receiving and giving grace.
  2. When I first interacted with his writing, I found his invitation to be radically-gracious-people absolutely compelling. I admire his bravery in sharing his dark side and his clear pastoral heart that want to help people experience grace. This book takes his raw vulnerability a step further.
  3. Foster’s material is enjoyable and deep, but it’s not academic. If you’re looking for a robust and clearly articulated theology of grace, that’s not what this book is for. But if you’re hungry for hope, looking for a real life attempt to put God’s grace into action, and desiring to be an instrument of grace, then this book will scratch those itches!

One of my favourite sections of the book discusses the ways God uses the challenges in our lives to grow and shape us (pp.204+) .

  • Addiction (the power of surrender)
  • Doubt (the power of faith)
  • Emptiness (the power of self-care)
  • Loss (the power of appreciation)
  • Desperation (the power of weakness)
  • Loneliness (the power of engagement)
  • Confusion (the power of creativity)

I’m grateful for Mike Foster and POTSC! May God continue to bless his work.

Review: Failure: The Back Door to Success 9th September, 2016

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Failure-The Back Door to Success.inddI just got done reading Failure: The Back Door to Success by Erwin W. Luther and I can see why there have been over 100,000 copies sold!

In this day and age where people idolise success and quick-fixes to problems, it great to read people wrestling with the theology of mess or failure.  Lutzer writes his book from the conviction that “failure of some kind is common to us all… Successful people are those who apply God’s remedy for failure” (14). For people like me who lived riddled with perfectionism masking a tremendous fear of failure, books like that are so important!

Lutzer’s writing is biblically grounded, concise, logical, and takes some complex themes and presents them simply. He states his case humbly, while providing adequate challenge and practical steps toward godliness. He anticipates the reader’s push-back well, for example, qualifying his theology of failure, “It is not necessary to fail before we succeed, but God often uses our failures to make us more sensitive to our need of Him” (53), drawing attention to the value of these painful seasons.

This is a solid, biblically grounded, and devotionally valuable book! I look forward to reading more from Lutzer!!

(I received this book from Moody Publishers in exchange for an honest review)

Review: GO 6th September, 2016

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Back in January I read Barna’s The State of Discipleship and came across a short article called “Four Reflections on the State of Discipleship.” I thought was a great and insightful piece of writing, and so having no idea who Preston Sprinkle was, I jumped on google. I quickly discovered he was soon to release a book about discipleship  based on the findings of that Barna research project. And so, I put it on my wishlist, and was overly extremely excited when I saw a chance to grab a preview copy.

gocoverLast week I received a copy of Go: Returning Discipleship to the Front Lines of Faith by Preston Sprinkle. And I really liked this book! I flew through it in a couple of days because his writing style is so easy to follow and the content was engaging. Here are a few things I enjoyed about this book:

Firstly, I love reading works by people who have a heart to see more effective discipleship and are theologically insightful. Then when they back up their opinions with facts and figures beyond  anecdotal experience, it’s particularly enjoyable. Preston Sprinkle brings all three to the table.

Secondly, the flow of the book is great, progressing from our personal experience of Jesus, to the importance of relationship, to our missional outworking in this world.

Thirdly, I applaud Sprinkle for the positive way in which he critiques the present discipleship condition, while offering compelling vision for how things could be. The book cycles between humble critique, appropriate challenge, and attractive vision.

I’m glad to add this book to my collection. I’ve read a LOT of books about discipleship and really enjoyed this one.  It may be my new go-to for someone who is looking for a good overview of what effective discipleship can look like, or to help inspire passion for discipleship.

Here are some quotes I enjoyed that show the three layers of discipleship:

Personal: “The Scriptures are clear that grace must be the centrepiece of discipleship. Without a rich understanding of grace, our efforts to become like Christ will fail.” (26)

Relational: “Discipleship can’t happen without relationships. Deep relationships. Authentic relationships. Relationships where people can share their intimate struggles, confess their socially unacceptable sins, and rely on others for spiritual strength.” (42)

Missional: “Discipleship is far more than just mastering morality. It’s even more than thinking critically about tough topics… Biblical discipleship must include mission—embodying and displaying the presence of Christ beyond the four walls of the church.” (113)

I received this book free for an honest review from Tyndale Publisher’s.

Review: Messiology 1st August, 2016

Posted by Scotty in Books, Reviews.
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Messiology_COV.inddI love short, quick, insightful reads, which certainly describes George Verwer’s Messiology. The subtitle beautifully summarises what he tries to get across in the book “The mystery of how God works even when it doesn’t make sense to us.”

Written in the latter stages of a life as a career missionary, communicator, and respected evangelical leadership, Verwer invites people to consider how “God in His patience, mercy, and passion to bring men and women to Himself often does great things in the midst of a mess” (13).

Verwer writes from a place of great humility, revealing many ways he has fallen short over his life, and the various ways God has brought him from a place of critical judgementalism to a pace of greater grace, deeper unity, and a new appreciation of the place of mystery.

In a beautifully simple and humble way, Verwer calls us to trust God with our failures and our differences, to believe that He can work through us and others even when our methods are wrong, and along the way he helpfully draws attention to numerous books that have helped cultivate his heart and understanding in various areas of the Christian life.

And all of that in 127 small pages. This book is a little gem.

(I received this book from Moody Publishers in exchange for an honest review)