Review: No More Dragons – Jim Burgen

20140522-210305-75785698.jpgThis book’s central metaphor Is borrowed from the scene from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader where Aslan removes the dragon scales from Eustace and heals him. Jim Burgen paints a picture of what Jesus can do in the lives of Christians who are willing to let Jesus radically transform their hearts.

Burgen does a great job of weaving in stories from his life, his own process of being undragoned, as well as events from his ministry experience where he has seen Jesus bring healing to hurting people. The real strength if Burgen’s writing is that he is not trying to be the expert on righteousness, he just wants to help people find the wonderful and amazing life of freedom that Jesus has to offer.

Burgen essentially points out that everyone has dragon like tendencies. The only way to free ourselves is to let Jesus undragon us. If you are carrying hurts from past relationships or experiences with God or church people you would benefit by reading this book. If you are struggling with your own sins and don’t know where to find freedom, this book can help you find healing with its constant reminder that Jesus has both truth and grace.

No More Dragons is a book that I would recommend to ministry leaders to get a glimpse of what their ministry could look like if they helped their church share the truth and grace that Jesus talked about. I would recommend it to Christians who are holding on to things that they know they need to give to Jesus. I would also recommend it to people who want to believe that Jesus and his followers have something to offer the hurts of this world.

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disclosure: I received this book for free as part of the booklookbloggers.com program. My review is my honest opinion about the book and I’m not just trying to be nice. If you are interested in joining the program click here
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Missional Spirituality (Review)

Missional is a buzzword in the North American Church.  It’s a buzzword with a lot of ambiguity.  What does it mean to be missional?  What is a missional church?  What is a missional follower of Jesus?  These are all questions that church leaders are asking.  And there are many resources that are trying to provide some clarity to these questions.

Missional Spirituality (Paperback, Kindle) by Roger Helland and Leonard Hjalmarson is one of these many books.  Unlike many of the other texts that I’ve been reading on the subject.  Missional Spirituality builds its foundation on Jesus response to the question, “What is the greatest commandment?”  Jesus’ reply to this question is, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.  The second is like it, love your neighbor as yourself.”

From this response Helland and Hjalmarson begin to investigate what it means to love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.  They focus on practices that help believers grow in their love for the Lord in all four of these arenas.  This is important as it helps people build faith and knowledge about God and move them into living the mission of God.  The authors then go into examining what it means to love your neighbor as yourself.

Missional Spirituality is by no means a ground breaking revolutionary text on what the church should be doing to be more “missional”.  However, it is a helpful text for church leaders and non-church leaders to begin to figure out what it means to live in God’s mission of grace and saving the world.

God In A Brothel

Part of my responsibilities at Creekside is to learn how Creekside can engaging in meeting the needs of our community and of the world (Serving and Missions).  I have been overwhelmed by the amount of attention that has been given to human trafficking.  So overwhelmed that I didn’t really have the courage to investigate how to help.  I’m ashamed of that fact.  It’s so easy to see all the big issues in the world and feel like you can’t do anything about it.

I have been personally challenged lately as a follower of Jesus to be doing the things that Jesus said he was all about.  Particularly I have been drawn to Luke 4 where Jesus declares what he is going to do at the outset of his ministry:

14 Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. 15 He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.

16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

I’ve been challenged by the notion of proclaiming freedom to the prisoner and setting the oppressed free.  Human Trafficking is modern slavery.  Much of this trafficking is in the sex trade.  Being challenged with this information I decided to finally begin to do some research into how to rescue people from this oppression.  So I ordered God in A Brothel by Daniel Walker.

In this book Walker tells of his own journey in rescuing people from the sex trade.  This book challenges the assumption that one person can’t make a difference.  While I would not recommend that people address this issue the way Walker does, I would recommend that people read this book because it will open your eyes to just how devastating this issue truly is.  Walker is far from perfect but he

It could also be easy to say that Human Trafficking is not an issue in America, but it is.  This is an issue that the church cannot afford to ignore.  I am being challenged in how to help Creekside address this issue and how to set people free.  We have been engaged in building homes which helps give families security and changes their future.  We have begun partnering with WorldVision and their Clean Water Fund, another of the major issues facing the world is the availability of clean water.  Now is the time to set people free and to give those who are stuck in the devastating sex trade hope.

 

God Is Near: Some things I’ve been reading

From Henri Nouwen, The Living Reminder: Service and Prayer in Memory of Jesus Christ

We have inherited a story which needs to be told in such a way that the many painful wounds about which we hear day after day can be liberated from their isolation and be revealed as part of God’s relationship with us.  Healing means revealing that our human wounds are most intimately connected with the suffering of God himself.  To be a living memory of Jesus Christ, therefore, means to reveal the connections between our small sufferings and the great story of God’s suffering in Jesus Christ, between our little life and the great life of God with us.

I love this.  God know our suffering, because he too suffered.  We don’t have to sit in isolation over our pain.  You are not alone!  God’s not done writing your story!

From David Benner, The Gift of Being Yourself (41-42)

The omnipresent God whose name is immanuel is not distant but nearer to us than we can imagine. God is not alien to the circumstances of our lives but comes to us in them.  Our Challenge is to unmask the Divine in the natural and name the presence of God in our lives.

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Richard Rohr Reminds us that “we cannot attain the presence of God.  We’re already totally in the presence of God.  What’s absent is awareness.”  This is the core of the spiritual journey — learning to discern the presence of God, to see what really is.

Even if you’ve left God, he hasn’t left you.  Even if you doubt him, God doesn’t doubt you.  My hope as a pastor is that I can help people realize that God is in the ordinary, the extraordinary, the painful, and the joyous experiences of their life, and everywhere in between.  God is there.  My prayer is that the Holy Spirit will help us to be more aware of what God is up to and his presence in our lives every day.

 

On The Cross

Another quote from Miroslav Wolf in “Free of Charge”:

On the cross, God is not setting up the terms of a contract that humans need to fulfill in order to get what they want. Neither is God saying on the cross, “I died for you, now you’ve got to do what I tell you.” Instead on the cross God’s own self is given for the sins of humanity.

God’s goods are not for sale; you can’t buy them with money or good deeds.  God doesn’t make deals. God gives.

Nouwen on Leadership and Theological Reflection

Without solid theological reflection, future leaders will be little more than pseudo-psychologists, pseudo-sociologist, pseudo social workers.  They will think of themselves as enablers, facilitators, role models, father or mother figures, big brothers or big sisters, and so on, and thus join the countless men and women who make a living by trying to help their fellow human beings cope with the stresses and strains of everyday living.

But that has little to do with Christian leadership because the Christian leader things, speaks, and acts in the name of Jesus, who came to free humanity form the power of death and open the way to eternal life.  To be such a leader, it is essential to be able to discern from moment to moment how God acts in human history and how the personal, communal, national and international events that occur during our lives can make us more and more sensitive to the ways in which we are led to the cross and through the cross to the resurrection.

The task of Christian leaders isn not to make a little contribution to the solution of the pains and tribulations of their time, but to identify and announce the ways in which Jesus is leading God’s people out of slavery, through the desert to the new land of Freedom.

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THe Christian leaders of the future have to be theologians, persons who know the heart of God and are trained — through prayer, study, and careful analysis — to manifest the divine event of God’s saving work in the midst of many seemingly random events of their time.

Theological reflection is reflecting on the painful and joyful realities of every day with the mind of Jesus and thereby raising human consciousness to the knowledge of God’s guidance.

Henri Nowen In The Name of Jesus: Reflections of Christian Leadership. New York: The Crossroad Publishing Co, 1989. pp 86-88

Radical by David Platt

Would you be willing to give your whole life to the pursuit of following Christ?  It’s easy to say yes to this at church or at summer camp, or even over a cup of coffee with a fellow Christian.  The only way to know if you actually would is to follow Jesus wherever he leads.  This kind of living is a radical departure from the american dream, and for Christians it’s exactly what Jesus has called us to do.

In his book Radical, David Platt challenges readers to consider their life and their faith and to ask themselves if they are truly willing to follow Jesus all the way.  To let go of American comforts and security, and to follow after the security in knowing that we are doing God’s will.

As I was reading this book I was challenged and felt uncomfortable.  Let’s face it, I like the American dream.  I’m a pastor and its still hard for me to be willing to say that I’m going to give up everything and follow Christ.  But the truth is I must be willing to give up everything when called to do so.  I’m a pastor and this is something that I need to be reminded about.

Throughout the text Platt doesn’t just say, you should do this, you should do that, he gives examples of how he went and has given much of his time, energy and resources to spreading the gospel.  It’s much more than just a good idea to Platt it’s his lifestyle.  Platt also shares examples from his church of people who have gone, taking great risk for the gospel in exchange for the reward of knowing that they are following after Jesus.

This book has been a great reminder to me that I need to re-prioritize things in my life.  I need to be true to my calling, and I’m pursuing that, but there are many things that I can do with out.  This has also challenged me as a pastor to look at the church I serve in and start to ask, what can we do to help people go and serve.  What can we do without as a church for the sake of the mission of the gospel?

Platt conludes the book with the challenge to give a year of your life to the Radical Experiment.  This is what I know about experiments like this.  If you commit to focus a year of your life to go to another context, to sacrifice your own resources, to pray and to read, you will definitely see the value of world missions and you will want to be a part of advancing the gospel to the ends of the earth.

Read Radical, and tell me you are not challenged.

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Disclaimer: I did receive a free copy of this book from Multnomah publishers.  Disclaimer on the disclaimer: I actually liked it, if I didn’t I would have written that in the review.