Here are some highlights from books I’ve recently read or am currently reading…
And if you want to read some from my last collection, click here.
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Peterson, Eugene H. A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society. Commemorative Edition. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books: An Imprint of InterVarsity Press, 2019. (First edition 1980)
I previously included quotes from this terrific book, but I’m still reading it—slowly. As a society, we are obsessed with the immediate and new technologies have only intensified our quest for the quick fix. Peterson’s time-tested prescription for discipleship remains the same—and it happens to be one of my favorite descriptions of what it means to follow Jesus—a long obedience in the same direction.
Robert Browning’s fine line on aspiration, “A man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?” has been distorted to “Reach for the skies and grab everything that isn’t nailed down.” Ambition is aspiration gone crazy. Aspiration is the channeled, creative energy that moves us to growth in Christ, shaping goals in the Spirit. Ambition takes these same energies for growth and development and uses them to make something tawdry and cheap, sweatily knocking together a Babel when we could be vacationing in Eden.
Christian faith is not neurotic dependency but childlike trust. Our Lord gave us the picture of the child as a model for Christian faith (Mk 10:14–16) not because of the child’s helplessness but because of the child’s willingness to be led, to be taught, to be blessed.
For God does not want us neurotically dependent on him but willingly trustful in him. And so he weans us. The period of infancy will not be sentimentally extended beyond what is necessary. The time of weaning is very often noisy and marked by misunderstandings: I no longer feel like I did when I was first a Christian. Does that mean I am no longer a Christian? Has God abandoned me? Have I done something terribly wrong?
The answer is, neither. God hasn’t abandoned you and you haven’t done anything wrong. You are being weaned. The apron strings have been cut. You are free to come to God or not come to him. You are, in a sense, on your own with an open invitation to listen and receive and enjoy our Lord.
John R. W. Stott, The Cross of Christ (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2006), 159.
At the cross, Stott finds the majesty and love of God disclosed, as well as the sin and bondage of the world exposed. Written with great warmth and insight, Stott’s work is the product of a uniquely gifted pastor, scholar, and Christian statesman.
For the essence of sin is man substituting himself for God, while the essence of salvation is God substituting himself for man. Man asserts himself against God and puts himself where only God deserves to be; God sacrifices himself for man and puts himself where only man deserves to be. Man claims prerogatives that belong to God alone; God accepts penalties that belong to man alone.
Roy Moran, Refraction, Spent Matches: Igniting the Signal Fire for the Spiritually Dissatisfied (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2015).
Spent Matches explores the possibility that a few small paradigm shifts within the church might make the difference between extinction and effectiveness. In fact, taking a clue from the automobile industry, the church might be able to not only halt the rapid decay in attendance but also become an effective tool in achieving Jesus’ final command. Spent Matches explores how the church can find synergy between two seemingly competing thoughts: an invitation to come and a command to go.
Jesus didn’t call us to be communicators, He called us to be disciple-makers.
From day one we were very clear: we don’t feed people; we teach them to feed themselves.
Since our [ministry strategy] causes us to start where those who don’t have a family relationship with God are, we use their music and their life issues as a starting point. We navigate back to the biblical truth from there. It is our hope that Sundays will start a discussion, not deliver a conclusion.
Jesus’ command to Peter in John 21 “feed my sheep” is more akin to “show them,” “help them discover how,” or “teach them to feed themselves” than it is to the picture we have today. We create enormous dependencies when we imply that we will feed people. The church world rocked the day Bill Hybels said, “We made a mistake.” It wasn’t a repudiation of the Seeker Movement, but it was an admission that every church should have had the guts to make. Willow Creek taught people to depend on the church for their primary spiritual growth and wasn’t able to deliver on that promise. No church is.
Eugene H. Peterson, Eat This Book: A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006).
Eat This Book challenges us to read the Bible on its own terms, as God’s revelation, and to live its teachings as we read them.
Engage with God’s Word
Reading is an immense gift, but only if the words are assimilated, taken into the soul—eaten, chewed, gnawed, received in unhurried delight. Words of men and women long dead, or separated by miles and/or years, come off the page and enter our lives freshly and precisely, conveying truth and beauty and goodness, words that God’s Spirit has used and uses to breathe life into our souls.
QUESTION (leave a comment below)
Do you have any quotes or highlights to share from what you’ve been reading or listening to or thinking about?