Monday, October 20, 2014

Book Review of the Way of Grace by Glandion Carney



The Way of Grace
by Glandion Carney with Marjean Brooks
ISBN 978-0-8308-3594-2
IVP Formatio
Reviewed by Clint Walker

Have you ever felt like you could not do the things that you used to do, or wanted to do? Have you ever felt like you life was out of your control, and wondered where God was in the midst of that struggle and pain? Have you ever struggled to find God's presence in the midst of persistent pain, disease, or other challenges? If you have, than you will relate to Glandion Carney, and his journey of faith that he shares in The Way of Grace.

This book is a spiritual autobiography and reflection on what it is like to experience God, and find deeper faith while facing Parkinson's disease. Carney centers his story around the experience of God's grace. Throughout the book he shares his physical, emotional and spiritual struggles, and how he finds God to be more and more faithful even as his body falls apart. The book is raw and confessional, with Carney sharing some deeply personal struggles and giving his readers some insight into some not-so-pretty parts of his thought life. It also has a lot of depth, drawing inspiration from saints that lived both decades and centuries ago.

This book is easy to relate to and easy to read. It is also beautiful. As one reads Glandion's words and testimony, one is prompted to remember and be thankful for the grace in our lives as well

Book Review of JOHN: THE GOSPEL OF WISDOM by Michael Card




John: The Gospel of Wisdom
by Michael Card
ISBN
IVP Books
Reviewed by Clint Walker

Michael Card has been a master story teller in his music for decades. He has focused much of his music ministry toward singing the story of God for the ages--with a special focus on the gospels. So, when Card continues his Biblical Imagination commentary series, and focuses on John--who focuses on lengthy narrative--readers like you and I should pay attention to what he hears and what he has to teach us.

As I opened the book, I was impressed that Card not only understands the narrative arc of the gospel of John and the stories within the story, he also deftly handles some of the more subtle theological themes and fields some of the more challenging questions that the gospel of John presents.

This specific commentary could work both as a devotional for many, as well as a commentary series for those teaching and preaching the Bible. It is deep in understanding, and yet accessible to most. I will return to this resource again and again.


Book Review of Coffee with Jesus by David Wiklie



Coffee with Jesus 
ISBN 978-0-8308-3662-8
IVP Books
Reviewed by Clint Walker

A few decades back I became familiar with a magazine that I came to love. It was called the Wittenburg Door, which was later shortened to The Door. It was a witty book full of sarcasm and wit from a Christian perspective. After a while, the magazine was bought by a group that had an ax to grind against televangelists. While I shared their antipathy for television preachers, I felt that the quality slowly declined in their magazine after the sale.

About a year or two ago, I discovered  Coffee with Jesus and its regular appearances on Facebook. I grew to love this wonderful mix of humor and exhortation as well.  The premise of the comic strip is that Jesus has regular encounters with ordinary folks at a local coffee shop. Most of the characters are close to middle-class and white. Satan also makes an appearance, as does a preacher in his collar from time to time.

Jesus clearly exhibits love and acceptance in these comics, but often "calls 'em as he sees em'". He does not avoid challenging the hypocrisy of folks in his sphere of influence. He also does not play the game of giving "church answers" to questions his friends come to him with. He is smart, witty, painfully honest, and compassionate. And, as you listen to him talk to others, he makes you smile.

This book is arranged topically. This allows the reader to search by issues or seasons of the year. I am tempted to scan copies of this book, and use specific strips in PowerPoint presentations for worship from time to time. The messages are that challenging and thought provoking. But, I am not sure what Jesus might say to me the next time we got together for coffee. :)

Friday, October 17, 2014

Book Review of the Accidental Revolutionary by Jerome Dean Mahaffey



The Accidental Revolutionary
by Jerome Dean Mahaffey
ISBN 978-160258391-7
Baylor University Press
Reviewed by Clint Walker

This book was released several years ago. And, a few years after receiving it, I am just getting down to posting a review of The Accidental Revolutionary by Jerome Dean Mahaffey. Let that not color your impression of this fine book or the reviewer however. The book is not really time-sensitive. And the thoughtful material takes some time to read, digest, and consider.

To make a long story short, Mahaffey's thesis is that George Whitfield's preaching and teaching helped galvanize and form the United States of America, and what he taught gave them philosophical underpinnings and theological justification for the revolt that would come in the colonies just a few years after his death.

Whitefield was unique. He was a Calvinist, and a revivalist. He was admired by the deist Benjamin Franklin, and had along and complicated relationship with John Wesley and his friends. He was born in England, but he died here in America, and his unique and dramatic preaching style was best received in the States.

From early on, Whitefield ordered his life and ministry as he felt led by the Spirit, even if that chafed against his peers and ecclesiastical authority. He took church meetings out of buildings and would speak in outdoor settings (which caused no little uproar, especially in England). He preached without notes. He went more where he wanted to go than where he was directed to go. He was led to faith by the Wesleys, but then adopted some theological beliefs that were not very compatible with them.

Certain ideas began to develop in his preaching and his conversations with folks, especially Americans. He gave people permission, through his preaching, to question authority. And his preaching began to plant the seeds that military revolt was justified in order to experience the freedom that God called his people to live in.

As the Declaration of Independence was written and the Revolution fought, people often felt they were fighting, in some sense, a holy war. Whitefield gave the colonists the theological groundwork to come to these conclusions. That is why some proclaim, "No Whitefield, no revolution" (ix)

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Quick Hits about the Kiss of Grace by Michael Frost at Sentralized 2014









THE TALK

Living by the Kiss of Grace


  • The kiss of grace insists that we must be present in the moment
    • Must be present in the moment
    • Must avoid the temptations of fear and laziness
    • Must understand NOW is the only time to respond to him
    • You did not meet Jesus 20 years ago, you are meeting him TODAY, NOW
  • The kiss of grace insists that we must throw all our faith on the goodness and the grace of God
    • Trust in the fundamental truth that Jesus loves you
    • Grace tells us that we are accepted by God just the way we are
  • The kiss of grace insists that we live with gratitude
    • The best motivator for mission is gratitude
    • "No one will remember me, no one will remember you, but we have been kissed by the grace of God, and that is enough

Quick Hits from Bob Roberts presentation at Sentralized 2014




THE TALK

Bob Roberts is a pastor of a megachurch in Dallas. He has had a suprisingly effective ministry with Muslims around the world. In DFW 40 percent of residents are born in non-English speaking countries(this does not include the high numbers of East Indian folks). There are 500,000 Muslims in the Metroplex.

He talked about being a witness in the public square.

"We Christians don't like the public square because we don't know how to be normal when we live in the public square"

Tips

  1. Respect authority
  2. Practice civility
  3. Stay calm under pressure
"The World is Open, We are Not"


Quick Hits from Caesar Kalinowski's presentation Sentralized 2014


Caesar Kalinowski

THE TALK


  1. Don't believe the do=be lies anymore.
  2. Understand that the mission is God's not yours
  3. Be filled with the Spirit
"We treat the Holy Spirit as the weird uncle of the Trinity"
"The point of the cross is to be filled with the Spirit"

What does the Spirit do?

helps, reminds, convicts of sin, leads, counsels, reveals, proclaims Jesus, knows the heart of the Father, advocates, guides. THESE THINGS ARE HIS RESPONSIBILITY, NOT MINE.

Ask "What's next Lord"

Instead of trying to figure out the Master plan, trust the Master who has the plan

Quick Hits from Brad Brisco's presentation at Sentralized 2014



THE TALK

I don't have the best notes on Brad's presentation, in part because much of his talk is also summarized in his book THE MISSIONAL QUEST.

But here is what I have

"There are no unsacred places, there are only sacred places and desecrated places"--Wendell Berry

He referenced Oldenburg--Great, good place

And he talked about three places where we experience life

First places--Home. Our missional practice there is neighboring.  We should offer Biblical hospitality. This is different from entertaining. Hospitality speaks of the LOVE of the stranger. In order to do this we need to have margin in our lives, because "relationships happen in the margins"

Second places--Work

Third place--Where we hang out. Our missional task in these places is twofold
1.  Identify and engage third places
2. Create third places
3. Support and defend third places


Insights from Christena Cleveland at Sentralized 2014


I Peter tells people not to be meddlers. In that context, meddling refers to trying to get non-Christians to be forced to live by Christian standards

The movement of transformation of communities and societies moves in this way:
Incarnation
Reputation
Conversation
Confrontation
Transformation



Kim Hammond's Sentness workshop and Sentralized 2014



THE TALK

We need to ask, are we a selling church or a sending church?

No one talks about postmodern stuff because we are now already there

How do we make the transition from selling to sending?


  • Begin to know the language of the people you want to reach
  • Understand their culture
  • Put yourself in proximity to people outside the church
We need to stop selling to people and start sending people. 10 percent are non-adopters. 10 percent are early adopters. Eighty percent of people in our church are waiting to be trained and sent

We need to share life with people. We are friendly but we don't love each other very much. diatribio--for skin to rub through skin because one is in close enough proximity

TAKE HOME
There is no real mission without proximity to those you are trying to reach


Starfish and Spiders and Church Movements Ori Brafman and Neil Cole at Sentralized 2014

How does one do starfish innovation in a spider organization?

  • Another question: how does one become an adaptive leader
  • Adaptive leaders should
    • Remember: Good artists copy, great artists steal
    • Create emotional bonds via networks
    • Repurpose ideas
In order to create a culture for starfish innovation one should...
    • Invite unusual suspects to the table
    • Create white space
    • Give circles specific models to solve
    • Shed spotlight on success
    • Change context and start again
(Cole)
Multiplication happens from micro to macro
    • start by reproducing disciples
    • then reproduce leaders
    • then reproduce churches....
Instead of joining a movement of God for people we try to create a movement of people for God

Concentric circles in multiplication
2-3-- life change
12-15--connect
25-75--place to train and equip
120-150--a tribe
300-500--a community that can set a culture


Quick Hits from the Missional Agenda for the Neighborhood Workshop by Michael Frost at Sentralized 2014



---Missional is more and different from recruitment to our brand of mission or ministry

--It is alerting everyone to the fact that YAHWEH reigns
How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, "Your God reigns!"--Isaiah 52:7

  • The mountains were places of idol worship
  • This was in Babylon
  • God says, "It is beautiful to proclaim my salvation THERE"
God's reign is utter, total and complete. Even it sometimes appears to be fitful, partial and mysterious.

If the only thing our neighbors know about the reign of God is what they see in you, what would that look like?

Would there be wholeness/shalom
Would it be relational
Would people see reconciliation
Would they see fear and laziness
Would they see justice and equality
Would they see beauty


Quotes from Nathan and Richard Foster's Presentation of Nathan's Making of an Ordinary Saint



"Love is a far greater motivator than guilt"--Nathan

"Virtue and vice are both deeply ingrained habits"--Richard

"We are learning to enjoy God--RELAX"--Richard

"Distraction is the great enemy of the soul today"

Those who have the wind of the Holy Spirit move forward--even in sleep"--Brother Lawrence


Quick Hits from Sentralized 2014--Neil Cole



THE TALK

The church we are accustomed to was born in a previous era and will never be repeated, and the training you have received has not prepare you for what you are about to experience.

Change is the order of the day

How are things different:

            • Credentials loose relevancy in a day
            • Education must be constant
            • A leader is no longer a bridge to the future
            • Resources cannot be banked--everything is unsure
            • Strategic decisions are not planned, but done in the moment
            • Expertise is no longer a currency because change is so fast
            • Traditions are irrelevant

This means we need multiplication growth instead of addition growth

How would you respond if 100 came to Christ in day in your ministry
Or 1000 in a week? Would you be equipped? 

Mulitiplication growth is necessary to reach a growing population with the gospel

This means we need to shed dependency and release control
Be less invested in the "stuff" of church


One of my favorite moments from Apprentice 2014



On Friday morning at the conference I went to last week, I went into the classroom where there was a presentation from Richard and Nathan Foster, based on Nathan's new book. There were two seats available at the front of the room. I sat in one next to a sweet little old lady. We got in a conversation. She asked where I was from. I said I was from Hot Springs, SD. She said, "Oh we were just there!" She recounted how in the last few weeks they had been through town, stayed at the Sundowner Best Western Hotel, got a bite to eat at the Subway, and then spent the rest of the next day visiting Mount Rushmore and Wind Cave National Park, like she and her husband did when she was first married.

Our conversation ranged all over the place. I showed her pictures of my wife and family, which she loved. She talked about her love for the 700 Club. Then she said her family was with her. Her name was Carolynn. Her husband was Richard Foster, and her son was Nathan Foster. They were the presenters today. Her grandkids, she said, were to my left, as was her daughter in law and her kids.

She asked me if I had read any of her son and husband's books. I said I had purchased Nathan's new book, and read several of Richard's books. Buy Nathan's other book, she said, "Because, you know, the grandkids need new shoes."

(I have been tempted to buy the book. But it is about a father and son reconnecting relationally. And since my father seems to have no desire to have a meaningful relationship with me or the kids, I think it would just piss me off)

We talked about weight loss, diet, and she and my wife being breast cancer survivors. It was one of the highlights of the trip. I almost asked her to autograph her son's book, but I am not into that autograph stuff (I think it leans toward celebrity worship).

I spent most of the week in Dallas at Sentralized trying to find ways to be social with folks at the conference, and although some folks were friendly, I found it to be a very cliquey event with a lot of insider culture and a clear lack of openness to other folks that did not seem to be invested in their "tribe". Almost like a denominational conference, only focused on a different organization and the practice of ministry. There were notable exceptions, but that is a general gist of how things felt.

Then I get to this new conference. And someone seeks me out, instead of me having to be friendly. And the person that I met and had one of the best conversations about life, faith, and family with just happened to also be the mother and wife of two of the presenters.

Quick Hits from Alan Hirsch--Sentralized 2014



THE TALK

The talk began by discussing "What does it mean to be a movement"?

Examples of movements were shared. They included:
The Ancient Celts
The Reformation Era Moravians
The Wesleyan movement

Mark of a movement #1--
Embracing the call to REPENT

  • In order to learn, we need to unlearn
  • Must embrace the need to begin again



Mark of a movement #2--
(my shorthand here) PRIESTHOOD OF ALL BELIEVERS
  • Every believer is a church planter
  • Everyone is the seed of a movement
  • Every believer has the potential for church in them
  • Every cell has the DNA of the body of Christ in it
Movement killers in the church

1.  Non-discipleship of the church (what Dallas Willard calls the Great Omission)
  • You can do more wit 12 disciples than 1200 consumers of religion
  • Christianity without discipleship is a discipleship without Christ
  • If you don't want to hang out with Jesus now, what are you going to do with eternal life
  • Problem: The Catholic attempts to institutionalize grace through sacramental theology
  • Church needs to be always reforming
2.  The clergy-laity divide
  • Creates dependency
3.  We lead too much with service
4.  By supressing the agency of women

"The greatest truths are remembered not discovered or invented"

THE TAKEAWAY

The pastor-centered model of ministry will not work if the church is to reach the world today. The Spirit's work is too big to be managed or contained by one executive.



Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Book Review of Psalms for Everyone Part 1 by John Goldingay


Psalms for Everyone, Part 1

Psalms for Everyone: Part 1
by John Goldingay
ISBN 978-0-664-23383-9
Westminster John Knox Press
Reviewed by Clint Walker

I have become quite attached to the New Testament for Everyone by NT Wright. After all, who can argue with having a resource where someone as strong of a thinker as Tom Wright being able to explain the Bible, passage by passage, in a way that just about anyone could understand?

So, when we got to the Old Testament, and the For Everyone series was being authored by someone I had hardly heard of, I was suspicious. Would the high quality of the commentary series continue? Would it be worth investing in slowly adding to my collection of commentaries by bringing in the OT part of this series as well.

So, I found a way to get this book to review. And, as I looked through it, I have to say that I am pleasantly surprised by John Goldingay's work. The commentary does a great job at putting the passage into perspective, sharing its context, and some of the important literary strategies that the Psalmist is using. I think Goldingay might do a little bit better job at relating the truths of Scripture to everyday experience, especially in this study on the Psalms.

I am going to keep collecting these as I can, and add them to my collection of the "For Everyone" Series. I think you will be blessed by doing the same.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

The Difference Between Loving Your Neighbor and Being An Entitlement Program

In nearly every town I have served in, the ministers band together to help those who are in need. In Belgrade, Fowler and Hot Springs, this was a more informal network. In Colorado Springs, the downtown churches formed a ministry called Ecumenical Social Ministries, and referred folks to that agency as a clearing house for benevolent help.

I am currently the pastor of a federated church, and a president of a local ministerial association. We have a voucher system, and vendors that have billing agreements with us throughout town. We oversee the ministry of the food bank, which serves hundreds of people a month. You would think this would be a very satisfying ministry. Helping people n need. Feeding the hungry. Helping people keep their lights on. Sometimes i is. Most of the time it is not, however, very rewarding work. And, for the last several months, I have even began to question the value of my participation in this work.

The reason I get frustrated with the benevolent work we do with the ministerial association is that it has become less of an opportunity to connect with, love, and support neighbors in need, and more of an entitlement program.

This is how it works. People come in to my office. They want help. They do what they need to do and say what they need to say to get it. Since it is institutionalized, they feel they have a right to the money within the limits that are set for each person. If they do not get help, then folks, yell, scream and try to bully myself or others to get it. People approach the funds as a community chest, and believe they have the right to it whenever they want it. You want a handout? Call pastor Clint, and feel free to call 24-7! Uggh.

This system gets frustrating because, to be honest, a lot of the voucher distribution gets dumped on me. Pastors send people in need to my office when they can handle needs themselves. The police, despite being told not to, refer people to the parsonage phone late into the evening. Many people say thank you. Others do not.

Some people come in, get  help, and move on thankful for a little assistance to get them through a crisis. Others use the system regularly, but also work pretty hard not to abuse it. They need help once or twice a year, but they have limited income and live close to edge and need an honest hand-up. Sometimes I get to visit and pray with these folks. I don't mind these opportunities.

Others, however, seem to budget for help so they can spend money on other things. They work the system. They know when they have a right to ask for help, and they come and get it, and then they move on. Many of these folks not even appreciative. They attack if they don't get what they want. Several seek food vouchers so they can spend their cash on booze. Others come and get help for the kids, only to be found selling scripts in the local HUD housing.

The whole voucher system, despite whatever you may do to visit with people, comes across at best as clinical and at worst as paternalistic. It is better than not being networked, but I don't feel like I am relating to people as much as I am an agent dispensing help I am obligated to give.

The problem solver in me then asks myself, how could we change this system? How could things be different? I don't necessarily have an answer to this. What I want is to be able to make a difference. I want to not feel obligated or taken advantage of. I want to love my neighbor, not service them with an entitlement program.

Anyway, something I am thinking about.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Lost In Suburbia



More later about some insights from Sentralized and my hotel room retreat. But for now, a little bit of insight into the drama that resides in the mind of Clint Walker...

Someday, I will have a normal trip. You know, a trip where no mechanical work needs to be done, where nothing is left behind, where I do not lose anything, and am able to simply relax. My trip to Dallas this week, however, was not one of them.

The first day of my trip started out rather smoothly. I made good time while I was driving. I got a Muppets t-shirt at the Loveland Casual Male Big and Tall. I might have even made it a little early....until I ran into a traffic jam about 10 miles north of the tollway.

The tollway, once I got to it, freaked me out. You see, I am a little old school. I am used to a tollway that has toll booths. This one did not. You just drive through and they find your licence plate and bill you. I began to wonder as I drove if there was a sinister plot, or if I was just way behind in my experience of toll roads. 
So, I then arrive at the airport parking. And instead of getting a paper ticket to leave in my car the unmanned gate takes my credit card and then tells me to use the same card on the way out when I leave. Apparently it will figure out when I get back.

Running behind because of the traffic jam, and set off kilter with the whole tollway/parking advances in technology I hustle to get through ticketing and get through the gate. I don't get my carry on bags tagged, and I make my way through security, down to the train, and through the airway to A-28. I talk to the people at the gate about getting a refund on part of my tickets, because I paid double for extra space, and that can be refunded if the flight is not full. I set my stuff down. Somehow, at some point, I left one of the bags I was supposed to bring with me. That bag was my CPAP machine.

It is not until I get off the plane in Dallas that I realize my CPAP is not with me. So, despite my frantic maneuverings all week, I have to sleep without assistance. This is a difficult challenge for me. I have lost a lot of weight since I first got diagnosed with my machine. It was my ten year anniversary with my CPAP machine, and I have rarely slept without it. 

Being without a CPAP creates two problems. First, I don't sleep as well, which makes me less alert, more anxious, and less able to learn at a learning event. Second, I have an emotional and psychological attachment to my machine. I am convinced that any day without it I am taking my life into my own hands, and could die in my sleep. I get jittery and anxious thinking about sleeping without my CPAP machine. For five days I will have to do without it.

I rented a car from E-Z rental for 5 days, and pay as much in taxes as I did for the car. I learned that I loved the Toyota Camry. 

Once I got to hotel, the attendant's first words was, "come talk to us in the morning, and we can get you a new room tomorrow." 

"Why?", I asked.

"Most folks don't like to be in the room next to the front desk and vending machines," he said.

So I went and opened the door.to the room. My nose was assaulted with this odor that smelled a little like urine or cleaner, or both. The room was falling apart. Here are a few of the pictures:





While driving home from a meal, I got lost in yet another tech center/industrial park. These places are so creepy. They are big corporate buildings that are ghost towns at night. I am convinced that these places are full of creepy people hiding in bushes, and the evil spirits of the business elite middle management. At any moment there is going to be some guy with a fetish for overweight pastors jump out from behind somewhere and attack my car so he can have his way with me. Gladly I find my way home.

On my way home from Dallas to Denver, our arrival is delayed for nearly two hours as we circle around in the sky seeking to avoid the thunderstorm that is sitting over the city. A baby vomits two rows up, and a gal behind me is having a nervous breakdown because of the turbulence. We eventually get to the ground.

My bags arrive just fine. Thank God!

I go to the airport lost and found. They told me they had found my CPAP machine. As I get to the booth, the lady says she has given away the machine to someone else, and she has his machine. She will mail it to me overnight tomorrow and I will get it Wednesday. GREAT.

So I go and get my car. I get out on the road. And, while answering my phone I miss my turn. So, I get off at the next exit to turn around. Only...I cannot turn around. And, I need gas. So I wander and wander and wander, seeking a gas station and a way back to the freeway. All I find is miles and miles and miles of 300,000-500,0000 in suburban hell. I am lost in suburbs. I hate the suburbs. I keep driving and driving and driving. I am on the verge of a nervous breakdown. I tell myself I am going to run out of gas in the middle of suburban hell where there are only rich, white people who drive hybrids and talk about how smart Glenn Beck is. "NOOOO. Lord, help me," I pray, "I don't want to die out here in the wretched evil suburbs driving and driving and never finding a gas station.

I finally find a shopping center. I am somewhere out in north Broomfield, directly south of Littleton. How did that happen? I fill up the car and watch suburbans and German sedans go by, with an occasional pick up truck. A nice gentleman gets me directions to the freeway.

I drove the rest of way home in a driving rainstorm. Winds were at least 40 m.p.h. and there is standing water on the road. I listened to a book called The President's Club. I got home at 2.am. Got to sleep at 3 a.m., and got up at 7 a.m. with the girls. Eventually I was able to get the back up CPAP to work. Praise God. 

I wonder what is in store for me next week

Monday, September 29, 2014

Quick Hits from Efrem Smith's presentation at Sentralized 2014



THE TALK

Efrem Smith is another speaker that I am familiar with from the speaking circuit of my days as a youth pastor and his days on the Youth Specialties circuit. He had always been beloved. And has had a highly notable ministry career.

Smith shared from Revelation 7, and spoke of the multitudes that made it through the Great Tribulation. It was a fascinating talk.

He talked about how "Jesus did not come to earth in the package of the privileged."

Then he shared about how missional living must be grounded in a faith that suffering is redemptive, and that God calls us to be standing with those who are disenfranchised, hurt,and suffering in order to be a part of God's work of redemption.

He said that when we need to "join those in tribulation in order to experience the kingdom of God'

Another popular quote from that talk "A people who are detached from their heritage is an idolatrous people"

TAKE HOME

Suffering with those forgotten and suffering in our backyard, and not just across the world, is central to what it means to be a part of a missional church.