Book Review

Practicing Life

Much of what we have been studying and encouraging among each other in our little church and even in my own family’s life is the experience of living transformed lives. Using this season to rightly shape how we live in light of the grace of Christ, loving God and neighbor well.

Oh the crush of things that demand you put yourself first and that attempt to hide rather than expose self-righteousness. If ever we could monopolize on wrecked schedules to start something new, this is it.

Into this fray comes a helpful book, The Common Rule: Habits of Purpose for an Age of Distraction by Justin Whitmel Earley. It is primer on suggested habits for the day and for the week that we can take on to clear our head and live uncluttered devotion to Christ.

I found myself served by Whitmel Earley and his suggestions especially around use of technology and always being accessible. Boundaries benefit us and we could all use a regular Sabbath! All throughout the book there is a steady flow of gospel reminder that can anchor any of us as we live in 2020.

I really appreciated that the author is not a pastor with flexible time built into his schedule but a corporate attorney with a demanding workload.

Below are some key quotes from the book and I encourage you to take up and read, set some rule into your life, from the grace of Jesus for his glory!

“We are all living according to a specific regimen of habits, and those habits shape most of our life.”

“In trying to free ourselves from our limitations, we brought the ultimate limitation of death into the world. But Christ turns this human paradigm on its head. The way down is the way up. The way to victory is through surrender. The way to freedom is through submission.”

“We, for our own sake, tried to become limitless, and the world was ruined. Jesus, for our sake, became limited and the world was saved.”

“Only when your habits are constructed to match your worldview do you become someone who doesn’t just know about God and neighbor but someone who actually loves God and neighbor.”

“We desperately need a set of counter-formative practices to become the lovers of God and neighbor we were created to be.”

“Let me tell you what is overwhelming: a default, normal, unexamined American life. That is completely overwhelming. It’s so much to take on, and we all do it simply by not doing anything else instead.”

“The Common Rule is a different way to live. It’s meant to distill your habits, so you do more meaningful things by doing fewer things.”

“The Common Rule is made up of eight habits, four daily and four weekly. The daily habits are ■ kneeling prayer at morning, midday, and bedtime, ■ one meal with others, ■ one hour with phone off, and ■ Scripture before phone. The weekly habits are ■ one hour of conversation with a friend, ■ curate media to four hours, ■ fast from something for twenty-four hours, and ■ sabbath.”

Book Review

Analog Church Maybe Now More Than Ever

Hours each week have been added to my regular work flow all to manage the digital aspects of church life. There is the usual study, and writing of a sermon, but instead of delivering it before a full room of people I love dearly, it is delivered before a camera in an empty room.

If you are like me, you are aching to get back into regular rhythms of gathering as believers, to sing together, takes communion, hug one another. I haven’t encountered many people that would like the church to stay virtual… but alas, our “normal” was driving toward a consumption of spiritual enterprise that advocated for digital, fast, and efficient.

Into that world Jay Kim presented his book, Analog Church: Why We Need Real People, Places, and Things in the Digital Age.

The book is a gift to the church. From the heart of Silicon Valley comes a call to set aside many of the tools that have changed our lives to experience presence, rootedness, and the vibrant humanity of the church.

I picked a funny time to read it, as we have relied on many digital tools to get through this pandemic. But I found Kim’s encouragement to slowness, being present, and confession among people in the place of the church so worthwhile.

Covering our ways of worship and the word, Analog Church presents a way forward, once we can gather again, that I think many of us now aching for personal interaction will be keen to pursue. It is the way of the church and it is good. I did chuckle at Kim’s exhortation about how communion can’t be done virtually (given our lock down status).

Check it out for yourself and enjoy some of the choice quotes from the book below:

“This is our digital world. Even the most important decisions, like the people we choose to enter into meaningful relationships with—maybe even a lifelong commitment—are made with shocking speed.”

“The speed of the digital age has made us impatient. The choices of the digital age have made us shallow. The individualism of the digital age has made us isolated.”

“The church was never meant to be a derivative of the cultural moment but, rather, a disruption of it.”

“The point here is that in order to invite people into analog worship in the digital age, worship leaders and musicians must leverage their skill for something quite different than what we see in the rest of the world of music, where the lights shine brightest on the people in front of the microphones and behind the instruments.”

“The rhythms of our worship gatherings must begin to welcome the wide spectrum of emotions born out of the countlessly unique stories and situations people bring into the room. We must recognize and give voice to joy, mourning, and everything in between when we gather to worship together, acknowledging that God meets us in all of it.”

“There are plenty of affinity group opportunities all around us, but only the church can be a place where even our affinities are set aside to gather around the profoundly good news that God loves us, is with us, and will make all wrong things right someday.”

“Reading the Bible alone in short, bite-sized bits can be a healthy supplemental part of discipleship to Jesus but it must always be paired with an ongoing commitment to engaging Scripture as a whole, diving deeply into its long story, alongside the community of the church.”

“As technology speeds life up to unprecedented levels, people are becoming hurried and frenzied in unprecedented ways. Life is always hectic, and it’s easy to lose the ability to see the long view of history unfolding, both behind and before us.”

Book Review

The Heart of Christ for You

It has been quite the year hasn’t it. None of us could have imagined we would be traversing a global pandemic by staying at home (some of you are cheating I know). And in the midst of the wrecked routines and new normal maybe you have been surprised by some of the things that have helped you get through it all. I know I have.

One of those things for me is the new book from Dane Ortlund on “the heart of Christ for sinners and sufferers.” It’s called “Gentle and Lowly” and I think you need to pick up a copy as soon as you can.

Dane is one of Ray Ortlund Jr.’s sons, and the gospel doesn’t fall far from the tree here. What a gift this whole family is to the kingdom as they proclaim Christ.

In this thoroughly digestible book Ortlund interacts with writings from a collection of Puritans and how they would naw on one verse of Scripture and produce volumes in response. Most reflecting on the heart of Jesus toward his people. Taking his cue then from those writers the author opens the word afresh for us weary souls.

Jesus really is all about you and your sin and suffering are occasions for his love and grace toward you to be stoked. Crazy. Crazy good. This book should be mandatory reading for believers that have doubted God’s love for them, or for anyone desiring to be more acquainted with Christ.

Check some choice quotes below:

“Jesus Christ’s desire that you find rest, that you come in out of the storm, outstrips even your own.” 21

“…the dominant note left ringing in our ears after reading the Gospels, the most vivid and arresting element of the portrait, is the way the Holy Son of God moves toward, touches, heals, embraces, and forgives those who least deserve it yet truly desire it.” 27

“It is not what life brings to us but to whom we belong that determines Christ’s heart of love for us.” 65

“In Jesus Christ, we are given a friend who will always enjoy rather than refuse our presence. This is a companion whose embrace of us does not strengthen or weaken depending on how clean or unclean, how attractive or revolting, how faithful or fickle, we presently are. The friendliness of his heart for us subjectively is as fixed and stable as is the declaration of his justification of us objectively.” 115

“Whom do you perceive him to be, in your sin and your suffering? Who do you think God is – not just on paper but in the kind of person you believe is hearing you when you pray? How does he feel about you? His saving of us is not cool and calculating. It is a matter of yearning – not yearning for the Facebook you, the you that you project to everyone around you. Not the you that you wish you were. Yearning for the real you. The you underneath everything you present to others.” 166

“…it is the sun of Christ’s heart, not the cloud of my sins, that now defines me.” 187

“Christ’s glory is preeminently seen and enjoyed in his love to sinners.” 207

Grab the book for yourself here.