Book Review

Letting the Gospel Work Out Practicalities

Gospel centrality, keeping the good news of Jesus at the center of faith, is vitally important to me. So much so that when I find myself in settings that diminish the gospel in the Christian life (think legalistic, political, or hobby-horse environs) I get itchy. The balm for a number of years for me has been the steady and gospel-drenched writing of Jared C. Wilson.

His work has helped me in many ways and the longer in the tooth I become the more I rejoice at the words jumping off the page reminding me of who I am in Christ. But is there more to gospel-centeredness than justification? Can it actually inform life and ministry in practical ways.

Wilson’s latest is the articulation of what it means for pastoral ministry to be “Gospel Driven.” This volume follows his Gospel Driven Church which was a creative journey of gospel awakening in an imaginary, but oh too familiar church. He pressed the case for ditching pragmatism and the seeker model and hopefully many were convinced.

With Gospel Driven Ministry Wilson gets down to brass tacts and walks the reader through ministry shaped by the gospel. There is much worthwhile here and while I think men embarking on the pastoral preparation will benefit most from these chapters, even after more than a decade of ministry I found the insights helpful and acting as an invitation to step up my game, from the basis of my identity in Christ that is!

Chapters cover who the pastor is, how we worship, practicalities of preaching, loving the congregation, leading, standing firm, and living for others to see. Some moments felt like I was in class again, but Wilson writes with a winsome and genuine voice that can be heeded.

He also packs the book with rich suggestions for further reading that any minister will find appealing. All throughout there is a sense of earned humility. Through years in the trenches Jared speaks. He can be trusted.

Of all the practical insights throughout however, the final chapter, the chapter on dying is worth twice the price of the book. Wilson bears his soul and savors the gospel. A model of embracing Christ for all of life. I commend it to you.

Gospel Driven Ministry will help those in the pastorate and those praying about it. And it will do so with the grace you have come to expect from a man committed to gospel centrality whether it is popular or not.

As Jared says, “When you have tasted and seen that the Lord is good and it has ruined you for everything else, you are ready. By his grace, then, brothers, you are ready to pastor when weakness and fear and trembling actually make sense to you.”

Find a copy on Amazon or at Barnes & Noble.

Book Review

The Wisdom Pyramid

In The Wisdom Pyramid, Brett McCracken has given us an attainable way of pursuing wisdom and it is high time we follow a map like this. Our lives are inundated with information and frankly much worthless distraction. But how do we make sense of it all and how can we, as followers of Christ, make wisdom our norm and truth our treasure? Check what you consume.

McCracken follows the model of the old food pyramid to give guidance on where we can go for wisdom and how much each block should make up of our diet. Bible, church, nature, books, beauty, and social media.

This book is engaging and will nudge you to the better way of wisdom. Something we all need!

Find the book on Amazon and at Barnes and Noble or your local bookseller.

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.”