Archives For Praxis

 

May Christ Increase.

 
A Review of 
 

40 Days of Decrease:
A Different Kind of Hunger.
A Different Kind of Fast.

Alicia Britt Chole

Paperback: Thomas Nelson, 2016
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]
 
Reviewed by Debbie Philpott

 

The more there is of us, the less there is of God!—Eugene Peterson

 

“What are you giving up for Lent?”

According to Morgan Lee at Christianity Today, a 2015 OpenBible.info twitter poll of more than 400,000 respondents (with serious and cynical tweets) cited “school, chocolate, Twitter itself, alcohol, and social networking as the top five fasts for Lent”[i]  And when categorizing all tweets in hierarchical order according to the seven most deadly sins, the following list resulted:

  • Gluttony (fast food, sweets, chips, coffee)
  • Greed (shopping)
  • Sloth (sleep)
  • Wrath (being mean, swearing)
  • Envy (complaining)
  • Pride (cell phone, selfies)[ii]

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God Dwelling in the Commonplace

A Review of

Playdates with God: Having Childlike Faith in A Grownup World
Laura Boggess

Paperback: Leafwood, 2014.
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]

 
Reviewed by Zena Neds-Fox.

 
Laura Boggess starts her spiritual memoir Playdates with God with one of the most resonant spiritual dilemmas.  Sehnsucht – a German word best translated as nostalgia or a deep longing for a far-off home.  Or as CS Lewis puts it, “our best havings are wantings.”  The blue flower – the desiring of some lasting, perfect thing to fulfill us.  The hum in each person that reminds them, whether or not they want reminding, that they were made for more.  That propulsion towards God is the journey Boggess takes us on; how she recognized it, how she entertained it, and what it has taught her, going down the roads it lead her to.
 
Playdates is quite readable, and though Boggess cites philosophical sources as her inspirations, she writes in an uncomplicated way that makes walking with God seem as plain as everyday potatoes.  She’s a simple girl, admittedly so. When trying to locate what it is that will satisfy her soul, she lands at falling in love and all the giddy feelings that come along with it.  She sets out to fall in love with her creator, over and over again, through a series of, as she calls them, playdates.

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Aligning Beliefs and Practice

A Feature Review of

THE ANSWER TO BAD RELIGION IS NOT NO RELIGION: A Guide to Good Religion for Seekers, Skeptics, and Believers.   
Martin Thielen

Paperback: WJK Books, 2014.
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]
 
Reviewed by Bob Cornwall

*** This review originally appeared on the reviewer’s blog and is reprinted here with permission.
 
It’s no secret – fewer people are going to church than they used to.  Many give the bad state of religion as their reason for staying away.  People seem to have noticed that there is a lot of hypocrisy among Christians.  They’re too politicized, angry, exclusive, dogmatic, and self-righteous.  They’re simply not pleasant to be around.  So why spend your Sunday’s around such people.  Instead, we can be spiritual without the trappings of religion.  I can understand the sentiment – I’ve known these kinds of people.  I’ve even been counted among them a few times in my life.    But just because some religion is bad, doesn’t mean we have to totally give up on religion!
 
Martin Thielen, a United Methodist Pastor serving in Tennessee, and a former Southern Baptist pastor, doesn’t think that we have to give up on religion completely, because some representatives of the faith are not all that attractive.  In other words, he’s asking people to give the church a second look.
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Unlearning and Relearning
 
A Feature Review of

The Missional Quest: Becoming a Church of the Long Run

Lance Ford and Brad Brisco

Paperback: IVP Books, 2013
Buy now: [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]

 
Reviewed by Scott Emery
 
There is a movement afoot. It has been brewing within many circles of the American church and has recently come to a tipping point that can no longer be ignored. It is due largely to a story I have heard over and over again from both local pastors and from ones across the country. Things within their church have either stalled out, radically declined, or have been discontinued altogether. The Siamese twin to these predicaments is the utter confusion, bitterness, and/or personal exhaustion found by many along this journey. Unfortunately for some, it has been too overwhelming, which results in the dismemberment of many local churches around the country.

 

Stirrings typically begin as whispers between friends over coffee wondering what might be next. Potential solutions to these ecclesiological problems bounce around as similar stories are shared and commonalities come out from the dark. Within these conversations, authors, books, and conferences get thrown around as leaders and laity alike begin to push into the unknown future of the church. Quite a bit has changed, yet one thing seems to remain the same: our preoccupation with ideas with little to no actual action.
 
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“Experimental Dojo-following

A review of
Practicing the Way of Jesus:
Life Together in the Kingdom of Love

by Mark Scandrette.

Reviewed by Jasmine Wilson.

  

Practicing the Kingdom - Mark ScandrettePracticing the Way of Jesus:
Life Together in the Kingdom of Love
.
by Mark Scandrette.
Paperback: Likewise Books / IVP, 2011.
Buy now: [ ChristianBooks.com ]

“Practicing the way of Jesus begins with having an imagination for life in the kingdom of love, desiring that life, and then taking steps to live into that reality through tangible changes in our minds and bodies” (67). Mark Scandrette has found a method of making those tangible changes both in his life and in the lives of others through a method he calls “experimenting.” He defines an experiment as a practical act of obedience to Jesus that is creative and part of the process of finding out what pleases God (30), and ultimately, a sign of our journey as disciples of Jesus. The experiments should be embodied practices and communal—not just abstract ideas that you think about by yourself, but instead practical changes you and your friends make in your lives, such as being a vegetarian (either for a short period of time or for the rest of your life), giving away half your possessions, or finding someone in the sex industry and giving them the dignity of hearing their story.

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A Brief Review of

Down We Go:
Living Into the Wild Ways of Jesus
.
Kathy Escobar.
Paperback: Civitas Press, 2011.
Buy now:
[ Amazon – Paperback ]
[ Amazon – Kindle ]

Reviewed by Warren Hicks.

Kathy Escobar, co-pastor of The Refuge, a missional church community in the Denver area offers here a primer (I know, it’s an old fashioned word) about how communities of faith can engage in practices that replicate the “downward mobility” that Jesus modeled in his life and ministry.   This volume is part spiritual autobiography, part journal of a real community of faith and part clarion call to individuals and communities that are trying to really follow Jesus. The author cut her pastoral teeth as a woman in the decidedly male world of an evangelical megachurch, but as many of us do after a time in ministry, she struggled with the disconnect between God’s work in the world, the cost of discipleship and the structures and organizational policies and politics that seem sometimes to be in opposition to one another.

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An excerpt from

Living Without Enemies:
Being Present in the Midst of Violence

(Resources for Reconciliation Series)
Samuel Wells and Marcia Owen.
Paperback: IVP Books, 2011.
Buy now:  [ ChristianBook.com ]


 

The Book that Evangelicals Need
To Be Reading Today
(Besides the Bible, of course)”

A review of
Radical Together:
Unleashing the People of God for the Purpose of God

by David Platt
.

Review by Chris Smith.


Radical Together - David PlattRadical Together:
Unleashing the People of God
for the Purpose of God

David Platt
.
Paperback: Multnomah, 2011.
Buy Now:
[ ChristianBook.com ]
[ Amazon – Kindle ]

David Platt is an evangelical; he is the pastor of the Church at Brook Hills, a mega-church in Birmingham, Alabama, and he speaks and thinks in evangelical language.  He is also the author of the recent New York Times bestseller Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream.  Even in the title of this work, we start to get a sense that there’s something about Platt that does not quite fit the stereotypical mold of evangelicalism.  When I reviewed Radical about a year ago, I found that Platt had a keen sense of some of major cultural pitfalls – particularly wealth and power – that await evangelical Christians.  Although he did a superb job of exposing these temptations, I felt like the solutions he proposed left a great deal to be desired.  Specifically, he seemed to minimize the role of the church, and to rely instead on a sort of heroic individualism.

Thus, you can imagine my surprise when I heard the news that he would be releasing a follow-up book that specifically emphasized the place of the church.  This new book, Radical Together: Unleashing the People of God for the Purpose of God, does a superb job at addressing the concerns that I expressed about Platt’s ecclesiology in my review of Radical.  In the book’s introduction, for instance, he sets the pace for the book by emphasizing the role of the church in God’s work in the world:

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“Embracing the Depths of Life

A review of
Veneer: Living Deeply in a Surface Society

by Timothy Willard and Jason Locy.

Review by Sarah Winfrey.


VENEER - Willard/ LocyVeneer: Living Deeply in a Surface Society
by Timothy Willard and Jason Locy.

Hardback: Zondervan, 2011.
Buy now: [ ChristianBook.com ]
[ Amazon – Kindle ]

If you listen to the voices of our culture, there’s nothing better than feeling good about yourself, and it doesn’t much matter what you have to do to get there. Whether you buy something (or many somethings), make yourself into a celebrity (even if just a small-time one), or take medication, it’s all worthwhile if you feel good about yourself and your life. As Christians, we’ve even welcomed these ideas into our churches and our homes. After all, doesn’t Jesus want us to be happy, healthy, and to thrive during our time on earth?

The problem with putting so much emphasis on happiness, though, is that we come to value certain aspects of life more than others. If it looks good and it makes us feel good, we begin to automatically welcome it. Unfortunately, this means that we welcome, without question, many things that we might otherwise eschew. It also means that we change how we look and how we come off to others, eventually embracing a picture of reality that’s far from true.

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Probing The Church-Kingdom Relationship.
A Reflection on Two Recently Published
Perspectives on This Relationship and its Meaning

By Chris Smith


Right Here, Right Now - Hirsch, FordRight Here, Right Now:
Everyday Mission for Everyday People
.
Alan Hirsch and Lance Ford.

Paperback:
Baker Books, 2011.


Buy now: [ ChristianBook.com ]


[ Read my review here… ]

and

One.Life - Scot McKnightOne.Life:
Jesus Calls, We Follow
.
Scot McKnight.
Paperback:
Zondervan, 2011.

Buy now:  [ ChristianBook.com ]


[ Read an excerpt of this book here… ]

What is the nature of the Kingdom of God – God’s reign here on Earth and throughout creation – and how does that relate to the local church community?  These two concepts have both been crucial to our understanding here at Englewood Christian Church of what it means to follow Jesus, so it is not surprising that this question kept racing through my mind as I read parts of two excellent new books: Scot McKnight’s One.Life: Jesus Calls, We Follow and Right Here, Right Now: Everyday Mission for Everyday People by Alan Hirsch and Lance Ford (Note: the passage from this second book that got me pondering the above question was from Alan Hirsch’s concluding chapter, so I will refer him alone when referencing this book).  I have a deep appreciation for the work of both Scot McKnight and Alan Hirsch, and I have read a number books of by each author over the last decade; thus, it grabbed my attention when they made statements that seemed– at least on the surface of things – to bein complete opposition.  What I’d like to do here is to survey the passages where the authors make the pertinent statements about kingdom and church, as well as part of a recent interview I did with Scot McKnight where I asked him to elaborate on his statement in One.Life, and then to try to unpack the logic and context of both statements and explore the image they cast together of the relationship of kingdom and church.  In my review of Right Here, Right Now last week, I briefly summarized these two positions in this way: Alan Hirsch is making the appeal that we need to loosen up the correlation between kingdom and church, while Scot McKnight is calling for a stronger correlation between kingdom and church.

Consider the passages that got me thinking, beginning with Alan Hirsch’s:

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