Year: 2015

5 Standout Books on the Incarnation

Although I didn’t grow up observing Advent, we instituted the tradition at City Life when we planted the church in 2008. Year after year, I marvel at depth, promise, wonder, complexity of the notion that God would become a baby. It is, as Kierkegaard said, “an absurd idea, the strangest of all happenings.” Over the years I’ve tried to look at this strangest of all happenings from various perspectives: biblical, theological, philosophical, skeptical, and literary. My wonder grows year by year. Here are a five standout books from five categories I’ve found especially helpful:

Biblical

The God Who Became Human, Graham Cole

Theological

The Man Christ Jesus, Bruce Ware

Philosophical

Philosophical Fragments, Soren Kierkegaard

Skeptical

Christ Actually: The Son of God for a Secular Age, James Carroll

Literary

On Fairy Stories, J. R. R. Tolkien (free)

My Best Books of the Summer (2015)

Here are some of my best books from the summer:

MOST ENTERTAINING FICTION

Ready Player One, Ernest Cline

BEST LITERATURE

Notre-Dame de Paris, Victor Hugo

BEST SHORT STORIES

Men Without Women, Ernest Hemingway

MOST UNUSUAL SCI-FI

A tie between:

Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess & Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel

MOST PROFOUND

Faith Beyond Reason: A Kierkegaardian Account, C. Stephen Evans & Philosophical Fragments, Soren Kierkegaard

BEST CHARACTER FORMATION

The Road to Character, David Brooks

MOST SPIRITUALLY FORMATIVE

Sermons on the Mount, Martin-Lloyd Jones

BEST ACADEMIC on CULTURE

The Slain God, Larsen

BEST ON APOLOGETICS/EVANGELISM

Fool’s Talk, Os Guinness

 

 

 

Reading as Resistance

I couldn’t have done it without him. A lot was going on at the time, difficulty in work, rumors circulating, and personal trial, but he helped me through it. Under his influence, I slowed down in a demanding season.

One particular afternoon is dyed into my memory. I drove to my local coffeeshop and got the usual, cappuccino. The expresso is rich and smooth. Some coffeeshops use too much milk and water down the espresso but not here. It takes time to make so I take time to enjoy it.

I displaced swirling anxieties like a cannonball in a pool on a hot summer day. Plopping down in a chair in the warm sun, I opened The Old Man and the Sea. It was an act of resistance. I was fighting a big fish and Hemingway’s’ prose helped me surrender. It was an invitation that couldn’t be turned down.

Reading, sustained page turning not bouncing through click bait, is an act of resistance. It focuses a hurried, technologically charged mind. Page by page we say no to the speed of productivity. Thought by thought we learn to resist efficient ideology. Slowly we evolve, chapter by chapter, from consumer to pupil.

Ernest Hemingway taught me to observe. In order to observe, I have to be still. In being observantly still, I uncover some of the richer texture to life, the experiences and people right in front of me, the scents curling up from a hot sandwich, the crunch of lays potato chips, the vapid look of a stranger’s face, the plea for attention in a child’s cry, the realism of food-encrusted dishes waiting for a wash.

Life deserves a better look.

Thank you, Ernest Hemingway, for taking me to school in such a delightful way. Oh, and happy birthday (July 21, 1899 – July 2, 1961).

Is it Inauthentic to Read the Bible & Pray When We Don’t Feel Like It?

Is reading the Bible or praying when you don’t feel like it kind of fake? Shouldn’t we wait till we have true feelings to be close to God? Shouldn’t it be authentic?

Values Trump Feelings

Consider what would happen if we applied the same logic to everything else in life. If I only stayed true to my wife when I felt like it, I would have blown our marriage by now. In fact, we often do things we don’t feel like doing: going to work, disciplining our kids, or having a difficult conversation with a spouse or friend. Why do we do these things? Because, in those instances, we have a value greater than our feelings. Our value trumps the feeling. This is also true in Christianity. We may not feel like praying or reading the Bible, but that shouldn’t lead to abandoning Scripture reading, meditation, and prayer. Why? Because we possess a value greater than feelings. That value is worship. We believe worshipping God–knowing him, enjoying him, receiving and applying his wisdom to our life–is more important than anything else.

What Is Authenticity?

But isn’t it inauthentic to pray and read the Bible when if you don’t feel it? If I read the Bible or pray, particularly I don’t feel like it, isn’t that just fake? Well, would you say that about the police officer who puts himself in the line of fire when he’d rather be at home with his family, or the mom who patiently corrects her children when she actually feels like screaming and pulling her hair out? Would you charge a friend with inauthenticity because they sat down to confront a friend about their alcoholism when they didn’t feel like it? Authenticity can’t be measured by feelings alone. What, then, determines authenticity?

Authenticity depends on what you want to be true to. It’s relative. It isn’t inherently noble. What determines the nobility of our authenticity is the thing we trying to be true to.

If you want to be true to your company or personal work ethic, you’ll go to work whether you feel like it or not. If you want to be true to friendship, then you’ll have the hard conversation with your friend. If you want to be true to Jesus Christ, you’ll talk to him, and listen to his Word, whether you “want” to or not. Worship trumps feelings. Worship is Spirit and truth, not truth and feeling (John 4:24). This side of heaven, our feelings will come and go, but with the Spirit’s help we can be faithful and true till heaven reaches us. If you are a Christian, then you’ve said the overarching value of your life is the worship of God, the Father, Son and Spirit.

Truly Authentic

Reading the Bible and praying, then, is actually one of the most authentic things you can do because it reminds you that you are more than your feelings; you are Christ’s. You believe Christ has given you a more authentic way of living, in and with him, more than anything else can offer. Reading the Scriptures then, reminds us of the truth, helps us live in line with our true Self in Christ. The person who lives this way will, over time, discover deeper joys, develop sturdier character, and become more authentic (not less). Why is this? Because Scripture and prayer bring you near to the overarching truth of your life over and over again. They form worship.