The Last Patriot…


I took time this Thanksgiving break to continue through Brad Thor’s Scott Harveth Series.  I just wrapped up part seven (titled The Last Patriot)


My ranking (to date) of Thor’s books…. 

  1. Takedown
  2. The Last Patriot
  3. The First Commandment
  4. State of the Union:   
  5. The Lions of Lucerne 
  6. Blowback 
  7. Path of the Assassin
As you can see, this was one of my favorites.  The main reason I enjoyed this installment so much was because it was largely a departure from previous works.  Much more mystery and intrigue.  Almost reminding me of a Dan Brown novel.  But like the DaVinci Code, I was a bit uncomfortable with the author’s creative license regarding historical fiction (a writer cannot depend on a reader to discern what is proposed fact and what actually faction).  That being said, Thor does what Brown inexcusably refuses to do – and that is, in his postscript, explain a bit of where he speculates and even chooses to fabricate).  I find this especially crucial when an author is dealing with the origins or beliefs of any world religion.   
 
I can’t wait to read part eight some time before Christmas . . . . 
The Last Patriot…

Wrapped in Red…



I really don’t care much for Christmas music.   But I am doing my very best to create (and) celebrate my own family tradition.  Over the past few years, I have brought home new music for my wife for the day that we decorate our tree.  So here are the albums that we have purchased in years past…  

Like I mentioned in a previous post, I also buy singles throughout the Christmas season in order to supplement the collection.  For the record, we now have over 400 songs (that is 24 hours worth of Holiday cheer).  Not bad for a guy who dislikes the genre altogether.
Any personal favorites that you have on your list that we should consider adding to ours?
Wrapped in Red…

On the Move…

 
There are two types of individuals:  Those who are early and those who are late.  One will inevitably marry the other.  
While dating the woman who would eventually become my wife, I would typically arrive to an event fifteen minutes early.  Jana, on the other hand, would show up fifteen minutes after the fact.  During the pursuit of another, we have this uncanny ability to look past these perceived imperfections.  But after the vows are made and the commitments are binding, such habits are perceived incompatible and become the source of endless and heated “discussions”.  
Is there anything worse than having to wait for someone?  Only if you are waiting at the wrong location.  Imagine being at a coffee shop for five minutes past the agreed upon time.  Understandable and forgivable.  Ten minutes?  Inconvenient and possibly inconsiderate.  But fifteen entire minutes?  Time to text.  But then you discover your friend has been there all along . . . just in a different place. 
Maybe this would explain why God can seem absent?  Or at least inactive?   Could it be that we are “meeting” in the wrong place or at least waiting for the wrong result? 
The Bible reads, “First this: God created the Heavens and Earth—all you see, all you don’t see. Earth was a soup of nothingness, a bottomless emptiness, an inky blackness. God’s Spirit brooded like a bird above the watery abyss” (Genesis 1:1-2, The Message).
Since the beginning of time, The Holy Spirit has been on the move.  Orientated towards action.  It was the world that was lifeless, passive, and empty. 
God transformed the earth before the earth had time to ask or act.  The Spirit prepared the way for the Word to create.  
So it should be with the church.  The Spirit of Christ is alive and active in the world around us.  Preparing hearts and minds to respond and receive good news.  God loves people more than we do.  But he also loves them before we do.  So instead of waiting for our Heavenly Father to do something great, maybe we should search for where he is already doing greater things.  My hunch is that he is where we would least expect him to be (or where we would least want to be) and where he is needed the most.  He can be found amongst the lifeless, the passive, and the empty – bringing life, grace, and peace.  He is preparing the way for his Word to be showed and shared by the church.  
After fourteen years, my wife and I have almost figured it out.  Sure, there are times I am a bit impatience as I stand by the door or sit in the van.  She has those moments where she doesn’t plan the way that she should.  But more often than not, we get where we need to go and arrive around the time that we should.  

 

I pray the same can be said for the church as she follows the Spirit’s lead.  
On the Move…

The Good and Beautiful Life…


I would recommend James Bryan Smith’s A Good and Beautiful LifeI was provided a copy through a special release directly from the publisher for the purpose of an online review. You can purchase a copy on Amazon or directly from Inter-Varsity Press.  
My favorite quote was when the author suggested, “The Beatitudes, far from being a new set of virtues that further divide the religious haves and have nots, are words of hope and healing to those who have been marginalized.” 
Smith reminds us of who God looks out for within his Kingdom.  These individuals are not blessed because they find themselves in these situations but because they find themselves in Christ.  
And so I must ask myself . . . is our church a blessing to the same types of people?  Am I blessing to the poor in spirit, the grieving, the meek, those hungering and thirsting for righteousness, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and those who are being persecuted.  If not, then how might I claim to be about the Father’s business?
 
This book is the second in a three part series.  I am going to have to read them in their entirety and I quite certainly see some from Blue Bridge Church utilize them in a group study. 
Official Book Description
“I have never met a person whose goal was to ruin his or her life. We all want to be happy, and we want it all of the time.”
So begins James Bryan Smith in The Good and Beautiful Life. The problem is, he tells us, we have bought into false notions of happiness and success. These self-centered decisions lead us further into the vices that cause ruin: anger, lust, lying, worry and judging. Eventually we find ourselves living a beautifully packaged life of self-destruction.
Following the Sermon on the Mount, this follow-up to The Good and Beautiful God guides us to look behind these character flaws and to replace our false beliefs with Jesus’ narratives about life in the kingdom of God. The twenty-seven books of the New Testament are largely a commentary on the Old Testament, and each part of the Bible is a signpost to Jesus. Once this is properly understood, everything changes, including our own identities.
Official Author Biography
James Bryan Smith (M.Div., Yale University Divinity School, D.Min., Fuller Seminary) is a theology professor at Friends University in Wichita, Kansas, and a writer and speaker in the area of Christian spiritual formation. He also serves as the director of the Apprentice Institute for Christian Spiritual Formation at Friends University.
A founding member of Richard J. Foster’s spiritual renewal ministry, Renovaré Smith is an ordained United Methodist Church minister and has served in various capacities in local churches. Smith is also the editor of A Spiritual Formation Workbook, Devotional Classics (with Richard Foster), Embracing the Love of God, Rich Mullins: An Arrow Pointing to Heaven and Room of Marvels.
The Good and Beautiful Life…

Jesus: A Theography…



I would highly recommend Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola’s Jesus: A Theography (a sequel to Jesus Manifesto).  I was provided a copy through a special release directly from the authors (yet another reason that Sweet is one of my favorite authors) and the publisher for review purposes. You can purchase a copy on Amazon or directly from Thomas Nelson.  

My favorite quote was when the authors suggested, “As followers of Jesus, we have a task before us. That task is to work for the kingdom. To continue the ministry of Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit… to bear witness to the sovereign lordship of Christ… to embody the message that Jesus is both Lord and Savior, not just of our personal lives but of the entire world. And to find creative ways to manifest that kingdom where we live and travel.” 

 
Sweet and Viola remind us that God’s Word reveals the Word in the Flesh.  That the gospel is found in a Person.  We, as his followers, are to proclaim that his Kingdom is here.  This is to be an invitation for others to join us on this mission.  


Official Book Description

The twenty-seven books of the New Testament are largely a commentary on the Old Testament, and each part of the Bible is a signpost to Jesus. Once this is properly understood, everything changes, including our own identities.

In this work you will discover a Jesus who is larger, more glorious, and more challenging than most of us have ever imagined.

Biographies of Jesus generally have been written by those trying to investigate the historical Jesus with little attention given to the grand narrative of Scripture. On the flip side, those interested in tracing the theology of Scripture are typically disinterested in historical Jesus studies. These two approaches have yet to converge . . . until now.

Written for the average reader as well as for scholars, Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola (authors of “Jesus Manifesto”) rehearse the greatest story ever told in a fresh and invigorating way. Whether you are a seasoned Christian, a new believer, or someone who is intrigued by Jesus, this book unveils the discoveries of a lifetime, transforming the tired and familiar way we have read the Bible into an electrifying journey of rediscovering Christ.


Official Author Biographies
Leonard I. Sweet is an author, preacher, scholar, and ordained United Methodist clergyman currently serving as the E. Stanley Jones Professor of Evangelism at Drew Theological School, in Madison, New Jersey; and a Visiting Distinguished Professor at George Fox University in Portland, Oregon.
 
Frank Viola has helped thousands of people around the world to deepen their relationship with Jesus Christ and enter into a more vibrant and authentic experience of church. He has written many books on these themes, including From Eternity to Here, Revise Us Again, Reimagining Church, Finding Organic Church, Jesus: A Theographyand Jesus Manifesto. Viola has also written articles for or has been interviewed by TIME,Christianity TodayCharismaLIFE TodayMinistry TodayCBNRelevantThe Christian PostOutreach Magazine, Out of Ur, and many others. His blog, frankviola.org, is rated as one of the top 10 most popular Christian blogs today.
Jesus: A Theography…

The 4 Disciplines of Execution…

 

I recently had a conversation with Terry Gurno (one of my church planting coaches) concerning goal-setting.  He recommended that I pick up a copy of The 4 Disciplines of ExecutionI am both grateful and overwhelmed with the information contained in this book.  
One of the most convicting sections was when the authors spoke of follow-through (or the lack-thereof).  They suggest, “Clear, simple goals don’t mean much if nobody takes them seriously. The failure to follow through is widespread in business, and a major cause of poor execution. How many meetings have you attended where people left without firm conclusions about who would do what and when? Everybody may have agreed the ideas were good, but since nobody was named accountable for results, it doesn’t get done. Other things come up that seem more important or people decided it wasn’t such a good idea after all. Maybe they even felt that way during the meeting, but didn’t speak up” (71).   
Does this describe a worship gathering at the average church?  We share information but do we seek transformation?  In what ways do we measure growth?  What does this say about what we value?  How we define community and discipleship?  

 

A challenging read. 
The 4 Disciplines of Execution…