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Discipleship, A.W. Tozer 13th August, 2018

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This book of collected insights on Discipleship by Tozer is a compilation of 13 of Tozer’s writings on discipleship, covering topics like the marks of discipleship, holiness, the importance of deeds, what it means to take up your cross, etc.

The book was exactly what I hoped for: typical Tozer! In it he tackles the foundational elements of following Jesus, with depth of insight and a continual challenge to wholehearted discipleship.

Tozer is unwilling to allow for a pursuit of Jesus that fails to produce fruit. He clearly demonstrates that those who follow Jesus give themselves fully to Him. The result is an increased capacity to love, zeal for holiness, distaste for the ways of the world, desire to be in deep Christian community, and an inner compulsion to share one’s faith experience.

Tozer should never be ready quickly! Read slowly and  prayerfully this book will challenge even the most mature saint to pursue Jesus with greater abandon.

Here are a few of my favourite quotes:

Long ago I came to the conclusion that if Jesus Christ is not controlling all of me, the chances are very good that He is not controlling any of me” (p23).

To accept Christ in anything life a saving relationship is to have an attachment to the person of Christ that is revolutionary, complete, and exclusive” (44).

Contrary to what professing Christians like to think, many of God’s people are not wiling to walk in perfect agreement with Him, and this may explain why so many believers do not have the power of the Spirit, the peace of the Spirit, and benefits that the Spirit of God brings” (p71).

There are qualities of God that can never be explained to the intellect and can only be known by the heart, the innermost being” (122).

For reasons known to God, however, there seems to be no necessary connection between our speaking and our doing; and here lies one of the deadliest snares in the religious life. I am afraid we modern Christians are long on talk and short on conduct.” (125).

Every day is another day of spiritual preparation, another day of testing and discipline with our heavenly destination in mind” (139).


Review: Ready or Not 31st March, 2018

Posted by Scotty in Life.
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61ZJaCwz1cLLet me start by saying that if you’re a twenty-something, I highly recommend this book!! (Though, as is often the case with a book like this, the true value of the book is in its exercises)

I’m always on the look out for books that aid people in their discipleship. Having spent the majority of my ministry years investing in Young Adults, I get particularly excited about resources that help those in their twentysomethings make sense of life, which is why I was excited to get my hands on Ready or Not: Leaning into Life in Our Twenties by Drew Moser & Jess Fankhauser. (You can find Drew & Jess over at: understandyourcalling.com/)

The book addresses the question, “What are my twenties for anyway?” and guides you in examining your life for indications of where God has been and work and what that reveals about your future.

Ready or Not is a beautifully practical book that takes a comprehensive look at vocation in its many dimensions. It’s nine chapters are: Vocation, God & Us, Past & Present, Dimensions & Rhythms, Spirituality, Work, Family, Church, Community. Each chapter ends with exercises and discussion questions to help engage the content of the chapter. The exercises call you to examine and reflect on each arena of life digging in to the ways God has been at work preparing you for your unique work.

One of the gifts of the book is that the exercises have a wider relevance that twentysomethings. Due to the focus on vocation these exercises will benefit people in all stages of life! I reckon this is a book that a person could return to every four to five years for reevaluation and deeper reflection on God’s work.

The exercises cover a range of topics, and you’ll get out of them what you put in. To give a further picture of the breadth of the content covered, some of the exercises tackle:

  • Conducting an audit of how you spend your time.
  • Reflecting on a selection of names and attributes of God
  • Taking (suggested) personality tests, taking time to reflect on and integrate the results, with an eye to what they reveal about your calling
  • Evaluating current spiritual practices, and creating a plan for healthy spiritual rhythms.
  • Examining our current job/role, its fit and our attitude toward our work.
  • Creating an expanded family tree—they encourage us to consider “family” as wider than just blood!—and considering our contribution to our “family”
  • Reflecting on your church involvement, spiritual heritage, and church preferences.
  • Researching the rhythms and needs of your community.

Though a simple read through the book would be beneficial, the true value of a book like this is in doing the exercises. I firmly believe that taking the time to prayerfully engage the exercises and discuss your findings will be a transformational experience.

I’m glad to have a resource like this available.

I’ll end with a quotes from each chapter that resonated with me (to give insight into the content of the chapters):

Chapter 1: Vocation 
“The richness of vocation is that it requires hearts and lives attuned and responsive to God in all dimensions of life” (8).

Chapter 2: God & Us
“If the things you do are normative to you but distinctive to others, pay attention. You’re getting a glimpse of who God created you to be (30).

Chapter 3: Past & Present
“An intentional, guided reflection of your past should help inform, clarify, and refine your calling” (47).

Chapter 4: Dimensions & Rhythms
“Rhythms can imprison you through mindless repetition. They can become ruts in your heart, mind, body, and soul. But when done well, rhythms can also nourish you” (71).

Chapter 5: Spirituality
“Contemplation is a radically simple yet perpetually elusive spiritual practice. It is the practice of focusing one’s life on God in the here and now” (86).

Chapter 6: Work
“Go where you’re sent, stay where you’re put, give what you’ve got, do so until you’re done” (111, building on Jill Briscoe).

Chapter 7: Family
“Your twenties are a time when you can draw a wider circle of family, when you have expectations but hold them loosely, knowing that families form and grow in many wonderful ways” (139).

Chapter 8: Church
“Church is more properly experienced through the lens of investment, not consumption” (153).

Chapter 9: Community
“Being a neighbor is something entirely different from merely having neighbors. Being a neighbor requires action, responsibility, care” (181).

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

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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

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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

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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)