Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Going Postal Over Culture?

Mark Driscoll has a good article on Christians and culture called, "Why Christians Go Postal Over Facebook, Jay-Z, Yoga, Avatar, and Culture in General."

He writes...
I’m not advocating either a permissive or a restrictive approach to debatable cultural issues. Rather, I am encouraging Christians to involve themselves in culture not merely for the purpose of entertainment but primarily for the purpose of education. As a missionary, you will need to watch television shows and movies, listen to music, read books, peruse magazines, attend events, join organizations, surf websites, and befriend people that you might not like to better understand people whom Jesus loves.
 He offers a helpful taxonomy for dealing with culture:

·     Receive – There are things in culture that are part of God’s common grace to all people that a Christian can simply receive. This is why, for example, I am typing on a Mac and am going to post this blog on the Internet without searching for an expressly Christian computer or communication format.

·     Reject – There are things in culture that are sinful and not beneficial. One example is pornography, which has no redeeming value and must be rejected by a Christian.

·     Redeem – There are things in culture that are not bad in and of themselves, but can be used in a sinful manner and therefore need to be redeemed by God’s people. An example that has resulted in a great deal of media attention is sexual pleasure. God made our bodies for, among other purposes, sexual pleasure. And, although many have sinned sexually, as Christians we should redeem this great gift and all its joys in the context of marriage.

Check it out here.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Subversive Manger Scene

Pretty clever commentary on our culture, IMHO.

[HT:  Reclaiming the Mission]

Back in the saddle?

Attention my dear five friends of this blog: 

I have been away for a while, really for a good half a year.   Why?

*  I've stopped blogging in order to focus on launching New City Church.  
*  I've stopped blogging in order to redefine (for myself) why I want to blog. 
*  I've stopped blogging in order to refrain from making snarky comments about US politics (not that there is anything wrong with that--I've just needed to check myself & motives for doing so).

So, what now?  

*  The church is launched and we're having a blast watching God work.   Not that there is not more work for us to do, but I feel like this blog is no longer a distraction.
*  Why do I want to blog?  Mainly just to reference stuff that I may want to remember, to keep up writing, and to share things with you--my faithful five friends (which may be even fewer now that I haven't posted anything in forever.  
*  I really have to refrain from political comments.   I'm neither Democrat or Republican (generally--snarky comment coming--I think the Dems are driving the car off the cliff at 85mph while the Republicans are content to drive it off at 65mph).   I'm generally conservative, but don't think our Republic comes anywhere near what was originally envisioned by the Signers of the US Constitution.   Plus, I'm living in Canada now, and Canadians are pretty snarky about US & Canadian politics.  

So yeah, I'm back in the saddle. 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Sports & Existential Despair

The folks over at the Onion have outdone themselves on this one.   Pretty funny.  And yes, it will show up in an illustration for a sermon or a seminar.  You can count on it.

[HT: Sean McDowell]

Friday, November 5, 2010

On Reading Less

Wise words from John Piper...
I [do not] want to give the impression that I think there is virtue in reading many books. In fact one of my greatest complaints in seminary was that professors trained students in bad habits of superficial reading because they assigned too many books. I agree with Spurgeon: “A student will find that his mental constitution is more affected by one book thoroughly mastered than by twenty books which he has merely skimmed, lapping at them.” God save us from the allurement of “keeping up with Pastor Jones” by superficial skimming. Forget about “keeping up.” It only feeds pride and breeds spiritual barrenness. Instead devote yourself to boring in and going deep. There is so much soul-refreshing, heart-deepening, mind-enlarging truth to be had from great books!
 I love books, and I read a lot of them.   But I also try to have several that I'm going deep into.  The ones I go deep into are usually the ones I've read quickly through, and desire to master.  For example, I've read and have re-read taking notes along the way Wright's The Mission of God, Piper's When I Don't Desire God, and am currently going deep with William Lane Craig's On Guard as well as re-reading and listening to Piper's The Pleasures of God.

Not all books are created equally.   This is a good reminder from Piper.   

[HT:  Z]

Friday, August 6, 2010

Tripp on the "Nowism of the Gospel"

This is a good, short little article that is well worth thinking upon.  What difference does the gospel of Jesus Christ make now in my life?  Tripp explains.
1.  Grace will decimate what you think of you, while it gives you a security of identity you've never had.

2.  Grace will expose your deepest sins of heart, while it covers every failure with the blood of Jesus.

3.  Grace will make you face how weak you are, while it blesses you with power beyond your ability to calculate.

4.  Grace will take control out of your hands, while it blesses you with the care of One whose plan is unshakable and perfect in every way.
Check it out here. 

Friday, July 2, 2010

Moore: "Abba Changes Everything"

Here's a great article on Adoption by Russell Moore.
The creepiest sound I have ever heard was nothing at all. My wife, Maria, and I stood in the hallway of an orphanage somewhere in the former Soviet Union, on the first of two trips required for our petition to adopt. Orphanage staff led us down a hallway to greet the two 1-year-olds we hoped would become our sons. The horror wasn't the squalor and the stench, although we at times stifled the urge to vomit and weep. The horror was the quiet of it all. The place was more silent than a funeral home by night.
I stopped and pulled on Maria's elbow. "Why is it so quiet? The place is filled with babies." Both of us compared the stillness with the buzz and punctuated squeals that came from our church nursery back home. Here, if we listened carefully enough, we could hear babies rocking themselves back and forth, the crib slats gently bumping against the walls. These children did not cry, because infants eventually learn to stop crying if no one ever responds to their calls for food, for comfort, for love. No one ever responded to these children. So they stopped.
The silence continued as we entered the boys' room. Little Sergei (now Timothy) smiled at us, dancing up and down while holding the side of his crib. Little Maxim (now Benjamin) stood straight at attention, regal and czar-like. But neither boy made a sound. We read them books filled with words they couldn't understand, about saying goodnight to the moon and cows jumping over the same. But there were no cries, no squeals, no groans. Every day we left at the appointed time in the same way we had entered: in silence.
On the last day of the trip, Maria and I arrived at the moment we had dreaded since the minute we received our adoption referral. We had to tell the boys goodbye, as by law we had to return to the United States and wait for the legal paperwork to be completed before returning to pick them up for good. After hugging and kissing them, we walked out into the quiet hallway as Maria shook with tears.
And that's when we heard the scream.
Little Maxim fell back in his crib and let out a guttural yell. It seemed he knew, maybe for the first time, that he would be heard. On some primal level, he knew he had a father and mother now. I will never forget how the hairs on my arms stood up as I heard the yell. I was struck, maybe for the first time, by the force of the Abba cry passages in the New Testament, ones I had memorized in Vacation Bible School. And I was surprised by how little I had gotten it until now.
It's well worth checking out & contemplating.

[HT:  Justin Taylor]

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Grace Network of Canada

Here is a video of our Grace Network for church planting in Canada taken from a recent retreat.  In it, you will hear from some of my fellow church planters & pastors in Canada who are working on the front lines.  ~ 10 min.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Book Log: May 2010

45.  Beyond Smells & Bells:  The Wonder & Power of Christian Liturgy.  6 out of 10 stars.

I hate it when you have high expectations for a book and then it just crashes & burns.   That's how I felt with this book by the managing editor of Christianity Today.  I must admit, I fell for the title.  But, as my Grandpa used to say, that paper will hold still and let you put anything on it you want.

Don't get me wrong.  I'm a liturgical kind of guy--when it is done right & well.  But I was hoping for a book to be able to give people that gives a biblical rationale for the different parts of the worship service.  But I was disappointed.  This book was at best a feel good explanation that probably satisfies very surface questions of what does the liturgy does for me.  There were a couple of good quotes, such as...
"The liturgy lives out a story in a story-deprived world...By participating in the liturgy, we're doing more than 'attending a service.'  We are entering a story--a story in which we also play a role.  We are the people who have indeed been gathered.  We ar ethe people who share in Go's very life.  We are sent forth to proclaim God's story and to invite peole into the grand story." 

46.  When Helping Hurts:  How To Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor...And Yourself.  8.5 stars out of 10. 

This book is an excellent resource that would serve people well on a number of levels:  short term & long term missions, mercy & social justice ministries, as well as Christians who desire to make a dent in the issues of poverty that surround us.

The contribution this book makes is in its understanding of the creation & fall grids through which we should view the issue of poverty.  Building on the work of Bryant Myers, Walking with the Poor, the authors concur:
"Poverty is the result of relationships that do not work, that are not just, that are not for life, that are not harmonious or enjoyable.  Poverty is the absence of shalom in all its meanings."  
Basically, the book rightfully contends that poverty is much more than the lack of economic resources.  Economic, social, political & religious systems are broken.  The Gospel address all of these, and seeks to heal humans in each of these realms.  The book addresses the god-complexes of the Western rich as well as the shame & feelings of inferiority that the poor carry with them.  The book is well worth the read for any Christian that wants to help and have their help really help. 

47.  Around the World in Eighty Days, by Jules Verne.  7 out of 10 stars.

I read this book to the family after meals and we had a good time following the adventures of the cool Mr. Phileas Fogg, his servant Passaportout, and their perils around the world.   I must say, even though I consider myself fairly educated, I don't think I have read a book in my whole adult life that contained so much new vocabulary for me.  I take comfort in the fact that my brilliant and educated wife didn't know what half these words meant.  It's hard to fathom how my son, Jason, read this book when he was 10.

At any rate, we had an enjoyable time, and even though we knew Mr. Phileas Fogg was going to make it around the world in 80 days, we were still surprised and delighted with how the story ended.  If you are going to read through this book, keep a dictionary close by!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Churchless Christianity?

Here's a great article by Kevin DeYoung called, "The Glory of Plodding."

He starts out,
It’s sexy among young people — my generation — to talk about ditching institutional religion and starting a revolution of real Christ-followers living in real community without the confines of church. Besides being unbiblical, such notions of churchless Christianity are unrealistic. It’s immaturity actually, like the newly engaged couple who think romance preserves the marriage, when the couple celebrating their golden anniversary know it’s the institution of marriage that preserves the romance. Without the God-given habit of corporate worship and the God-given mandate of corporate accountability, we will not prove faithful over the long haul.
Then he poses the question:
With all due respect, what’s harder: to be an idolized rock star who travels around the world touting good causes and chiding governments for their lack of foreign aid, or to be a line worker at GM with four kids and a mortgage, who tithes to his church, sings in the choir every week, serves on the school board, and supports a Christian relief agency and a few missionaries from his disposable income? 
 He concludes by contending,
Don’t give up on the church. The New Testament knows nothing of churchless Christianity. The invisible church is for invisible Christians. The visible church is for you and me.
The whole article is well worth reading & pondering.  And applying.

Friday, May 7, 2010

To Justin & Kathryn

Hey Justin & Kate,

Now that you all are parents, you have to get into the parenting mode.  Important decisions have to be made.  Discipline, diapers, &  of course, transportation. 

I know, I know:  Jaycie is small and your vehicle is sufficient for your needs, but you WILL give in one day and buy a mini-van.  It is a humbling day in your life, but it doesn't have to be humiliating.

Here's a little song dedication to help you readjust your self-image to your new role as parents.  Who says you have to be uncool?  

Just remember the "Swagger Wagon."

I can see you & Justin singing the song already.

Peace out,

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

I'm a proud Uncle!!!

Congrats to my kid-sister, Kathryn, & her husband Justin on the birth of Jaycie Grace.  She was born on Monday, 5-3.10, at 9:20pm.  She is 20.5 inches long & weighs 9 lbs 13 oz. 

"Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD,
the fruit of the womb a reward."
~ Psalm 127:3

Monday, May 3, 2010

Reading List: April 2010

36. The Dante Club.  6 stars out of 10.

I really wanted to like this book, but it just didn't get there.  It even had an endorsement from Dan Brown which suckered me into reading it.

It's the story of a group of scholars--Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Oliver Wendell Holmes, James Russell Lowell, and J.T. Fields--who are translating Dante's Inferno into English for the first time.  There are powers that be at Harvard who don't want it to be published in English.  But when some murders appear that could only have arisen from an intimate knowledge of the sufferings in The Inferno, the scholars track down clues to prevent more deaths.  

It had lots of potential, but the book tried too hard.  It had a couple of more exciting parts to it, but for the most part, it just dragged.  It could have been about a third shorter & would have been a lot better. 
"We all revolve around God with larger or lesser orbits, I suppose, Wendell, sometimes one half of us is in the light, sometimes the other.  Some people always seem to be in the shadow....."

37.    1 Corinthians, by the Apostle Paul.

This is one of two letters that Paul wrote to an amazing gifted & amazingly twisted church in 1st century Corinth.
"For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God."

38.  "Revelation," by Flannery O'Connor.  10 out of 10 stars.

This is my favorite story by my favorite southern author.  I recently reread it for about the 4th or 5th time, and it simply gets better with every reading.  I told my wife that this might be the perfect short story.

Ruby Turpin gets a surprising "revelation" from a college girl who throws a book--aptly titled Human Development, at her in a doctor's waiting room.  The girl grew irate after listening to the jolly but self-righteous Mrs. Turpin talk about herself & condescendingly about others.
"Her gaze locked with Mrs. Turpin's.  'Go back to hell where you came from, you old wart hog,' she whispered."
The rest of the story deals with Mrs. Turpin's "revelation" & her anger at God.
" 'What do you send me a message like that for?' she said in a low fierce voice, barely above a whisper but with the force of a shout in its concentrated fury.  'How am I a hog and me both?  How am I saved and from hell too?'"
A-gruntin and a-rootin and a-groanin.

She unexpectedly gets one more revelation, and was graced to hear "the voices of souls climbing upward into the starry field and shouting hallelujah."

This is no cheesey Christian fiction stuff that is so prevalent today.  O'Connor was a Roman Catholic writer writing in the Christ-haunted protestant south back in the 1st half of the 20th century.  Good stuff.  Go get it & read it.

On a side note, one's reading pleasure from O'Connor will be enhanced if one reads along with it Baylor Professor Ralph Wood's excellent work, Flannery O'Connor & the Christ-haunted South which I am doing as I'm making my way through her works.

39.  "Parker's Back," by Flannery O'Connor.  9 out of 10 stars.

This is another favorite story of mine.  O.E. Parker meets the ugly (speaking more to the inside) Sarah Ruth.  They have nothing in common.  He's a regular ol' guy, lost as he can be both in relation to God & in life.  She's a stuck-up, self-righteous, Scripture quoting, people-hating Christian (I know, an oxymoron).  They end up married.  And nothing good can come of that.

When Parker was 14, he saw a man at a fair whose body was covered in tattooed from head to foot.  O'Connor narrates,
"Until he saw the man at the fair, it did not enter his head that there was anything out of the ordinary about the fact that he existed.  Even then it did not enter his head, but a peculiar unease settled in him."
One day, while driving a tractor, he runs into a tree & it bursts into flame.  Parker shouts, "God above!" as he falls out of the tractor.  His conversion experience sends him immediately on a search for a tattoo that will impress his wife.  He settles on getting a picture of Jesus tattooed on his back--the only place where he has any blank canvas left.

He goes home to show his wife, takes off his shirt & makes her look at it.
"Don't you know who it is?" he cried in anguish.
"No, who is it?" Sarah Ruth said.  It ain't anybody I know."
"It's him," Parker said.  
"Him who?"
"God!" Parker cried.
"God?  God don't look like that!"
I'll leave the rest to you, but there are so many layers to this story, from the significance to their names, to his longing for communion, to the emptiness of self-righteous religion.

Again, go & read it. 

40.  1, 2, 3, John & Jude.

Great *little* letters at the end of the Old Testament.  The letters of John were written by the Apostle who also wrote the Gospel bearing his name plus the book of Revelation.  John writes,
"Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life."
Jude, the brother of James writes this short letter urging, among other things, that we "contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints."

41.  Total Church:  A Radical Reshaping around Gospel & Community, by Steve Timmons.  8 out of 10 stars.

This is a good book that connects gospel communities ("the church") with Jesus' mission in this world.  There is so much good stuff to say, but let me just point out on a chapter on evangelism in which he ties in the importance of the church.  Here's a diagram illustrating the connection:

Here's a couple of videos explaining more if you're interested.

42.  Job.  This ancient, classic text tells of a man named Job who wrestled with a lot of junk that happened to him.  He lost his family, his children, & most of his wealth.  The bulk of the book is a dialog with Job & his friends, who implicated him for suffering for the guilt of his sin.  Job was guilty of accusing God of wrong & being more worried about clearing his own name.  In the end, God blesses him more than ever.  In the meantime, Job (& we) learn much about the mysterious ways of God.

"For I know that my Redeemer lives,
and at the last he will stand upon the earth.
And after my skin has been thus destroyed,
yet in my flesh I shall see God,
whom I shall see for myself,
and my eyes shall behold, and not another."

43.  Acts, by Luke.  Acts is the second volume of Luke's work on Christ, the first of which was the Gospel according to Luke in which he describes all that Jesus began to do and teach.  Acts is about the continuing work & teaching of Christ through His Church.  In this book, we see the birth of the early church, the preaching of Peter, and the conversion & ministry of Paul.  My favorite chapter is number 17 in which Paul speaks to the Epicurean & Stoic philosophers in Athens.  My favorite verse comes from ch. 20:
"But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God."

44.  Unpacking Forgiveness, by Chris Brauns.  9 stars out of 10. 

An excellent book on forgiveness.  Brauns avoids the trap that says we should forgive others so that we will feel better.  Christians should always be ready to forgive, and to offer forgiveness, but we forgive others based on their confession of wrongdoing, just as God forgives us in Christ.  Filled with real-life stories & examples, this book is an excellent resource & guide.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Chester on getting to know your neighborhood...

Tim Chester is asking some good missional questions in order to understand your neighborhood:
Where are the missional spaces (places and activities where you meet people)?
Where do they experience community?
Are their existing social networks with which we can engage or do we need to find ways of creating community within a neighbourhood?
Where should you be to have missional opportunities?

When are the missional moments?
What are the rhythms of your neighbourhood?
How do people organise their time?
What cultural experiences and celebration do people value? How might these be used as bridges to the gospel?
When should you be available to have missional opportunities?

What are peoples’ fears, hopes and hurts?
What ‘gospel’ stories are told in the neighbourhood? What gives people identity (creation)? How do they account for what what’s wrong with the world (fall)? What’s the solution (redemption)? What are their hopes (consummation)?
What are the barriers beliefs or assumptions cause people to dismiss the gospel?
What sins will the gospel first confront and heal for these people?
In what ways are people self-righteous?
What is the good news for people in this neighbourhood?
What will church look like for people in this neighbourhood?

Trying patiently to go at His pace....

Good words from Piper...just what I needed today:
"Impatience is a form of unbelief.  It's what we begin to feel when we start to doubt the wisdom of God's timing or the goodness of God's guidance.  It springs up in our hearts when our plan is interrupted or shattered.  It may be prompted by a long wait in a checkout line or a sudden blow that knocks out half our dreams.  The opposite of impatience is not a glib denial of loss.  It's a deepening, ripening, peaceful willingness to wait for God in the unplanned place of obedience--to wait in his place, and go at his pace."
Future Grace, 171.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

I need to start my days like this...

From Pastor Scotty Smith's blog:
Most gracious Father, I dare not take on today's agenda without immersing my heart in the extraordinary good news and supply of the gospel.  For I already feel a busy cluttered-spirit rearing its ugly head inside of me... wrangling over everything I need to get done and everyone I need to see.  The control-meister in me is plotting orphan-like strategies just to make it through today.  In short, I really need the gospel today. 
Read the rest here.  

Monday, April 5, 2010

Addendum to "Am I Sick If I Like Stuff Like This?"

This is an addendum to my post, "Am I Sick If I Like Stuff Like This?"

I think Godawa is doing exactly what Flannery O'Connor does in her fiction.  She writes,
"The novelist with Christian concerns will find in modern life distortions which are repugnant to him, and his problem will be to make these appear as distortions to an audience which is used to seeing them as natural; and he may well be forced to take ever more violent means to get his vision across to this hostile audience.... [Y]ou have to make your vision apparent by shock -- to the hard of hearing you shout, and for the almost-blind you draw large and startling figures."
[qtd. in Flannery O'Connor & the Christ-Haunted South]

Vintage Chesterton

I've been reading Ralph Wood's biography / analysis of Flannery O'Connor, called, Flannery O'Connor & the Christ-Haunted South, and I came across this quote from GK Chesterton.
"If there were no God, there would be no atheists."
Pretty true if you stop to think about it.
Vintage Chesterton.

[Btw, the book on O'Connor is excellent, and I would commend it and all things O'Connor to my friends of literature and for anyone who has come into contact with Christianity in the south in the West.]

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happy Easter

From NT Wright's Following Jesus:
Without Easter, Calvary was just another political execution of a failed Messiah.

Without Easter, the world is trapped between the shoulder shrug of the cynic, the fantasy of the escapist, and the tanks of the the tyrant.

Without Easter, there is no reason to suppose that good will triumph over evil, that love will win over hatred, that life will win over death.

But with Easter we have hope; because hope depends on love; and love has become human and has died, and is no alive for evermore, and holds the keys of Death and Hades. It is because of him that we know--we don't just hope, we know--that God will wipe away all tears from all eyes.

And in that knowledge we find ourselves to be Sunday people, called to live in a world of Fridays.

In that knowledge we know ourselves to be Easter people, called to minister to a world full of Calvary's. In that knowledge we find that the hand that dries our tears passes the cloth on to us, and bids us to follow him, to go to dry one another's tears.

The Lamb calls us to follow him wherever he goes; into the dark places of the world, the dark places of our hearts, the places where tears blot out the sunlight....and he bids us shine his morning light into the darkness, and share his ministry of wiping away the tears.

And as we worship, and adore, and follow the lamb, we join, already, in the song of Revelation 5.11-14, the song that one day the trees and the mountains and the whales and the waterfalls--the whole world, reborn on Easter morning--will sing with us:

Worthy is the Lamb that was slain...
to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength
and honour and glory and blessing!

To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honour and glory and power
forever and ever, Amen."

Saturday, April 3, 2010

It's just, "So long...until our paths cross again."

On Thursday we said Goodbye to our dear friends, the Doud's.  We already miss them.  It feels weird to be here without them.  We keep telling ourselves that they are just on vacation and will be back in a few weeks.

Click here to read my wife's blog post on saying goodbye.

We're going to miss the Doud's.  Shawn, you've been a great friend & brother to me, and you are one of a handful of people that I know are truly in my corner & have my back. 

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Reading Log: March 2010

23.  The Cellist of Sarejevo, by Steven Galloway.  My wife recommended this fictional work by a Canadian author after she had read it in her book club.  This character driven novel is a good read as you get to know what it would have been like to have lived through in the terror of the siege of Sarejevo.  The author had a talent for painting pictures.  For example, you could just say, "A bomb exploded killing everyone within its radius." Or you could say,
"It screamed downward, splitting air and sky without effort.  A target expanded in size, brought into focus by time and velocity.  There was a moment before impact that was the last instant of things as they were.  Then the visible world exploded."
Pretty cool, eh?  Evidently the author liked it as well b/c he repeated it two more times in the first chapter.

I also like this line:
"It is impossible to tell which version of a lie is the truth."
I give it 7.5 stars out of 10.  A good read, but I'll probably never pick it up again.

24.  James.  This book written by the brother of the Lord Jesus Christ is packed full of practical directives for a faithful life.  I've taught through this book multiple times from large groups to small groups so I'm very familiar with it.  While in Peru, one of our former seminary professors, Dr. Knox Chamblin, came and did a spiritual life conference for us and did sort of a biblical theology of James and helped me see even more gold that I was blind to previously.  Dig in & enjoy.  Hear & do.
"Be doers of the word, and not hearers only deceiving yourselves.  For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror.  For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.  But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing." 

25.  1 & 2 Peter.  These two letters written by the Apostle Peter & member of Jesus' inner circle of friends are pure gold.  I had the privilege of teaching through 1 Peter over the course of a year with the students at Texas A&M.  Really, you could dive in anywhere and marinate in soul-edifying & stretching truths.
  • " were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not withh perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot" (1, ch. 1:18-19).
  • "For Christ suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God" (1, ch. 3:18).
  • "But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells" (2, ch. 3:13).

27.  Just Walk Across the Room:  Simple Steps Pointing People to Faith, by Bill Hybels.  7 out of 10 stars.  This is a book by the pastor of Willow Creek Church in which he does a good job of trying to get ordinary Christians to initiate spiritual conversations with ordinary people.  Much of what he teaches here is based on his opening premise that Jesus left his comfort zone to reach us and we should do the same.
"...even the most 'Christlike' Christians on the planet will be totally ineffective unless they get near people who are living far from God....If you're attempting to do the work of evangelism and your life is stuffed with believers, you'll find yourself out of work pretty quickly."  
He develops the approach of "Living in 3D":
When effective walk-across-the-room people interact with others in their world, they 
  • Develop friendships--by engaging in the lives of people around them;
  • Discover stories--before sharing their own story and God's redemptive story
  • Discern steps--by following the Holy Spirit's direction. 
28.  Proverbs.  Proverbs is one of the wisdom books of the Old Testament.  Every time I read through this book, I realize how unwise I am and how much more time I need to soak in its wisdom.
  • "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction" (1:7). 
  • "Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him." (30:5)

29.  Undefiled:  Redemption from Sexual Sin, Restoration for Broken Relationships, by Harry Schaumburg.  8 stars out of 10.

Dr. Schaumburg pioneered writing on this topic from a Christian perspective with his work, False Intimacy.  This follow up book focused on where the problem needs to be addressed:  the heart.  While not mentioning any books by name, he took jabs at approaches that amount to behavior (& thus 'sin') management and don't deal with the core of the problem.
"We can't manage lust simply by diverting the eyes....We must understand the proper cause and effect for real change.  Start at the beginning and don't put the proverbial cart before the horse:  Sin in our lives causes the enslavement of what is popularly called a sexual addiction.  In other words, disease or sexual addiction does not cause lust, adultery, or any form of sexual immorality.  You and I sin because we are sinners.  A sexual sinner is dealing with the bondage that comes from what's inside--the sinful nature.  The will is in bondage to sin.  Therefore, we inevitably and naturally sin."
Because Schaumburg starts in the right place, he can apply the only remedy for change:  The Gospel of Jesus Christ.  This book was good and I'll undoubtedly refer back to it, but I think the gold standard book, the one I don't need to write b/c it has already been written, is Joshua Harris' Not Even A Hint (whose title has been unfortunately changed to Sex is not the Problem (Lust is).)

30.  The Praying Life:  Connecting with God in a Distracting World, by Paul Miller.  9.5 stars out of 10.

This is by far the most helpful book on prayer out there.  Just get it and read it.  I am already planning on reading this again, and I'm giving copies away to people.   One of my friends said that this was not only the best book on prayer that he had read, but it was the best book on the Christian life that he has read.

Drawing from the Scriptures and what God has taught him, Paul Miller calls us to enter into a praying life as a child relates to & trusts in his father.  Almost every page has a memorable quote.  Most helpful to me were his chapters on "Understanding Cynicism" and "Following Jesus out of Cynicism."
"Cynicism is the air we breathe, and it is suffocating our hearts.  Unless we become disciples of Jesus, this present evil age will deaden and then destroy our prayer lives, not to mention our souls."

"Both the child and the cynic walk through the valley of the shadow of death.  The cynic focuses on the darkness; the child focuses on the Shepherd."
One more quote:
"Sometimes when we say 'God is silent,' what's really going on is that he hasn't told the story the way we wanted it told.  He will be silent when we want him to fill in the blanks of the story we are creating.  But with his own stories, the ones we live in, he is seldom silent."

Trust me.  You need this book.  Make it your companion in life.

31.  Organic Outreach for Ordinary People:  Sharing Good News Naturally, by Kevin Harney. 9 stars out of 10.  This is a great book for people who are wanting to be more intentional about reaching out to others with the Gospel.  We are going to use this book with our launch team for our new church plant here in Calgary.
"Evangelism is not a spectator sport.  We are all called to get into the game.  God invites every follower of Jesus to get off the sidelines and onto the field."
Stuffed with good advice, this book teaches how to raise one's temperature for outreach, to pray for people, to live incarnationally among those who do not yet know Christ, and to engage in spiritual conversations.

He begins the book by stating that everyone is engaging in evangelism, that is, they are telling family & friends things they are excited about.  This really sunk in for me in a new way at a recent dinner party with friends and people were talking about favorite television shows, movies, & books that they liked, why they liked them, and were commending them to others.  This is essentially what Christians are called to do with others.  And this book is a good tool to help us do that.  Highly recommended.

32.  1 Corinthians, by the Apostle Paul.  Great book in the New Testament that was Paul's letter to a very messed up, struggling first century group of Christians living in Corinth.  Paul addresses all sorts of issues, from divisiveness to immorality to abuse of the Lord's Supper.
"For the Word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God" (1:18).

33.  Joshua.  This OT book picks up with the death of Moses having occurred and his successor Joshua picking up the mantle.  Joshua leads the Israelites into Canaan to take possession of the Promised Land.
"Thus, the Lord gave to Israel all the land that he swore to give to their fathers....Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass" (24.43, 45)

34.  The Reason for God:  Belief in an Age of Skepticism, by Tim Keller.  9.5 stars out of 10.  I finally made it through this book, and I was delighted with it.  This is an excellent work by Pastor Tim Keller giving both a defense of belief in Christianity and a challenge for skeptics to stop doubting everything but their skepticism.  Keller rightly shows how every doubt rests on another (blindly accepted) belief.
"All doubts, however skeptical and cynical they seem to be, are really a set of alternative beliefs."
Even a statement like, "I feel no need of God in my life," is an alternative belief system. "The speaker is betting his or her life that no God exists who would hold you accountable for your beliefs and behavior if you didn't feel the need for him."

Keller address a number of common defeater beliefs, that is, beliefs that our culture holds that automatically rules out any consideration of Christianity.   This book is written fairly, and I'd have no problem handing this book to any skeptic or any person who wants to think deeply on these issues. 

35.  Hebrews.  This NT book is simply about the Superiority of the Lord Jesus Christ over every other option.  It was written to Hebrew Christians living in Rome who were tempted to ditch the faith, no doubt in light of rising and heated persecution.  This book is a call to persevere b/c, as Peter says elsewhere, Jesus has the words of eternal life.  Where else can we go?

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Singin' da blues...

Singing the blues these days?  Check out a few videos here....

The first is from a guy named Blind Willie Johnson (1897-1945), whom my friend Barrett F turned me onto.  Blind Willie was a blind preacher & musician who lived in Hearne, TX, just outside of Aggieland (he was, I'm sure, an Aggie!).  Here is a video (recreated obviously but the music is original), called "Trouble Soon Be Over":

The second is a cover by Canadian Bruce Cockburn of another song by Blind Willie called "What is the Soul of a Man?".

Blind Willie is a great blues musician.  Cockburn makes me want to be able to play the blues!  Just for the record, I'm almost pretty much convinced that the blues are the modern day equivalent of lament psalms in the OT.  Maybe we could put a few of them to the blues?

Here's a few more songs on the WWW of Blind Willie.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Is God Silent?

I've been reading Paul Miller's excellent book, A Praying Life:  Connecting with God in a Distracting World, which is stuffed with great insights & quotes.  Here's just one of them....
"Sometimes when we say 'God is silent,' what's really going on is that he hasn't told the story the way we wanted it told.  He will be silent when we want him to fill in the blanks of the story we are creating.  But with his own stories, the ones we live in, he is seldom silent."  
I'm almost finished with this book (& give it top scores), but this book is not finished with me. A friend of mine said that this is not simply the best book on prayer out there, but one of the best books on the Christian life. I have to concur.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

March Madness

Okay, this is how it's going down...

Jason's picks: to enlarge

Jason's Elite Eight
Kentucky, Marquette, Texas A&M (whoop!), Villanova, Kansas, Georgetown, Syracuse, & Kansas St.

Jason's Final Four:
Kansas, Kansas State, Villanova, Kentucky

Jason's Championship Game:
Kansas vs. Kentucky

Jason's National Champion:  

My picks:   click to enlarge

My Elite Eight:
Kentucky, West Virginia, Duke, Baylor, Kansas, Georgetown, Syracuse, & K-State

My Final Four:
Kansas, Kentucky, Syracuse, Duke

My Championship Game:
Kansas vs. Duke

My National Champion:

Let the games begin!!!

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Click here to learn more.

Doud on "An Inconvenient Faith"

My friend, Shawn, has a great post on an 'inconvenient faith.'
"Christianity, properly understood and practiced, is an inconvenient faith. It puts a squeeze on life as it’s currently practiced in North America. In talking with people about the Christian lifestyle employed in Acts chapter 2 of the New Testament the question is: Is this minimum church or maximum church?....
"...To steal a line of thought from former Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin: You can’t have the Church Jesus wants with the participation levels that our cultural Christianity allows. Something’s gotta give."
 Read the whole thing here.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Rage Against God

Just added The Rage Against God to my wish list:

From JT's blog:
Christopher Hitchens’s brother, Peter, has a new book coming out from Zondervan on May 1: The Rage Against God: How Atheism Led Me to Faith. I haven’t yet seen the book, but here’s a little preview:

Monday, March 15, 2010

Am I Sick If I Like Stuff Like This?

Is morality relative?  Well, let's test out that little theory, shall we?  

Brian Godawa, author of Hollywood Worldviews, is working on a new film called "Cruel Logic."  In it, Albert Fish, a brilliant university professor, kidnaps distinguished professors to have a little debate with them.  Specifically he challenges professsor as to their theories of morality.  This time, he captures a professor of socio-biology who insists that we are biologically determined beings. IOW, our behavior is determined by our genes. There is no such thing as right or wrong.  Just behavior. 

No absolutes.  No guilt.  No remorse. 

The question is, can the good professor live with his beliefs.  "Have you really ever lived out your theory, or are you content writing your papers inside your ivory tower torturing your captive audience of students with your intellectual posturing?"

Fish's offer:  “Give me one valid reason why I should not kill you, and I will let you go.”

WARNING:  This would be classified under the horror genre.  Video is not appropriate for kids. 

Friedrich "God is dead" Nietzsche would be proud. He'd say, "Now--at last--we starting to really debate the issues."

[DISCLAIMER: It should go without saying, but as a Christian I would disavow violence. That's b/c my worldview informs my morality. I'm just thankful that most people who embrace biological determinism, atheism, relativism, etc., don't live according to their worldview, but continually borrow capital from Christianity even as they are working hard to suppress it. But what happens when society buys into this teaching hook, line, & sinker?]

Thankful that Grace is taking my breath away today....

I came across this quote today and liked it.
"Grace is getting what we do not deserve.  It is exorbitant, senseless, staggering.  Grace takes our breath away and leaves us gasping in stunned amazement....  It is one thing to acknowledge the theological reality that God is gracious.  It is another thing altogether to personally receive that grace and breath it into your soul each day.  " 
~ Kevin G. Harney , Organic Outreach
Living by the grace of God today.  Without it, I die & cynicism wins.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Questions churches should be asking (but probably aren't)...

Timmy Brister asks the following great diagnostic questions to himself.  Here are a few of them...
1.  If our church would cease to exist in our city, would it be noticed and missed?

3.  If the only possible means of connecting with unbelievers were through the missionary living of our church members, how much would we grow? (I ask this because the early church did not have signs, websites, ads, marketing, etc.)
4.  What are the subcultures within the church?  Do they attract or detract from the centrality of the gospel and mission of the church?

6.  What are we allowing to be our measuring stick of church health? (attendance vs. discipleship; seating capacity vs. sending capacity; gospel growth, training on mission, etc.)
7.  Are the priorities of our church in line with the priorities of Christ’s kingdom?
8.  If our members had 60 seconds to explain to an unbeliever what our church is like, what would you want them to say?  How many do you think are saying that?
9.  If the invisible kingdom of God became visible in our city, what would that look like?

12.  Are the people we are reaching more religious or pagan?
13.  What can we learn about our evangelism practices by the kind of people are being reached with the gospel?

15.  What percentage of our growth is conversion growth (vs. transfer growth)?

20. If money and space were not an issue, what is one thing we ought to dream for God to do in our midst where it is impossible for anyone to get the credit except for the omnipotent hand of God?

Read the whole list here.   There are some other great thoughts/ questions by others in the comments.  

[HT: Z: JT]

Designed to run...

In January, I read Born to Run which for a lot of folks like me has drawn attention to the way we've been taught--or not taught--to run.  Here's a video talking about barefoot running.  Heads up:  the video talks about the amazing ability to outrun quadrupeds that we somehow had the ability to evolve.  Words still out on what we did until we developed this ability, but I digress... 

I've been running some on the treadmill (mind you, I live in Calgary and don't want to try this in the snow) and can tell a big difference.  Shin splints don't come so easily anymore and I'd recommend you give it a try.  [Disclaimer:  I'm not a doctor nor do I play one on tv.]

[ht: z]

On prayer...

From Pastor Scotty Smith's blog:
Jesus, there’s no way I’m going to engage with Paul’s admonition to devote myself to prayer if I’m not increasingly aware of your devotion to me in the gospel.
Read his whole prayer here.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Well, this explains a lot....

Filed under "Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid."
You might want to sit down before you read this...
Considering that most of the 14,000 students who completed the exam (7,000 seniors and 7,000 freshmen) scored an F on the portion of the test covering basic American history and institutions, not only will they be repeating history, but with test scores like that, they’ll be repeating history class, as well....

In 2007, ISI administered a 60-question test to 14,000 students at 50 colleges nationwide. The questions were designed to measure the students’ aptitude in four areas: basic American history, government, foreign affairs, and economics. In a companion study, in 2008 ISI administered a shorter exam (33 questions) to a random sample of 2,508 Americans without a college degree in order to have a standard level against which the impact of a college education on a threshold level of familiarity with basic American institutions could be determined.

Here are a few frightening figures certain to keep you up at night:

  • 71% of Americans failed the civics knowledge test;
  • 51% of Americans could not name the three branches of government;
  • The average score for college seniors on the civics knowledge test was 54.2% (an “F” by any standard);
  • The average student’s test score improved only 3.8 points from freshman to senior year;
  • Freshmen at Cornell, Yale, Princeton, and Duke scored better than seniors on the civics knowledge test.
  • 79% of elected officials that took the civics knowledge quiz did not know the Bill of Rights expressly prohibits the government from establishing a religion.
  • 30% of office holders did not know that “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” are the inalienable rights referred to in the Declaration of Independence.
  • 27% of politicians could not name even one right or freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment.
  • 43% did not know the purpose of the Electoral College.
  • 39% of lawmakers believe the power of declaring war belongs to the president.
  • The average score for college professors who took the civics knowledge quiz was 55%.
Are you surprised considering that the US Gov't funds education on these very things in the way of public education?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

When Demand for the Scriptures Outstrips Supply

Filed under "Aslan is on the Move"
Here's an interesting report about the demand for Bibles....
The Bible Society has reported a growing demand for copies of the Bible in China where an estimated 500,000 people converted to Christianity in 2009 alone.

Although some four million Bibles were printed and distributed across China last year, the rapid growth of the church year on year means that demand for Bibles is now outstripping supply, according to the Bible Society.
Would that this were the case around the world, that the church was growing so fast that demand for Bibles was outstretching supply.  Alas, one day....

 I remember Richard Pratt at an RUF training event stating that he believed the next 'center' of Christianity was going to be China.  He may very well be right. 


Sunday, February 28, 2010

Book Log: February 2010

Here's my list of books I finished in February.   A couple of notes:  I'm changing the rating system from 5 stars to 10 stars.  Why?  Because I feel it gives me more flexibility.  An illusion?  Probably.  Secondly, I'm not going to rate Scripture.  It's understood on this blog that it's off the charts. Lastly, I'm going to add a snippet from most books that I appreciated.

11.  Safely Home, by Randy Alcorn.
8.5 out of 10 stars.  I started reading this to the kids back in TX, and we finally finished it.  Alcorn does a great job with a story of persecution in present day China.  Spoiler:  I cried when martyr Li Quan entered heaven.  Alcorn portrays the hosts of heaven & the Li family as anxiously awaiting his immanent entrance into heaven.
They [Li Quan & his guardian angel, Jadorel] passed through the between-world and came to a portal, with faces looking out at them.  Quan heard voices, some Chinese, some English, and at least a dozen other languages that he was somehow able to understand.

"He's coming," shouted someone on the other side.  "Li Quan is coming, and Jadorel carries him."  [This is where I lost it while reading it out loud to the family.  Now understand, we had grown to love Li Quan, and watched him through his imprisonment, starvation, & beatings.]

12.  2 Timothy, by the Apostle Paul.  Paul is in prison and here writes his 2nd letter to his young protege encouraging him to be bold in the faith, to have strength in Christ, & to preach the Gospel in season & out.  So many good quotes here, but this one is one of my favorites:
"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith...The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom.  To him be the glory forever and ever.  Amen."  (4:7, 18)

13.  The Communist Manifesto, by Karl Marx & Friedrich Engles.  5 our of 10 stars.
The only reason this didn't receive a rating of 1 star is b/c of it's historical significance.  Communism is responsible for more deaths in the 20th century than any other philosophy of life.  It's listed as #1 in another book I'm currently reading, 10 Books That Screwed Up The World.  I agree.  Communism is an inherently atheistic approach to life and oppression.  It fundamentally misreads human nature & the will to power, not to mention capitalism.  Most telling quote: 
"Abolish the family!  Even the most radical flare up at this infamous proposal of the communists." 
On a side note, a quote I came across in Kingdom Culture (see below) is appropriate here:  "We have nothing to fear from those who do not believe in God; we have much to fear from those who do not believe in sin" (Chris Hedges). 

Addendum:  After consulting with my friend, David (see comments), I adjusted the rating from 2 to 5.  It's always good to read something like this which has had a profound impact on humanity, even only if it is to understand better how to defeat it.  Note:  generally, the ratings are my subjective impressions on how much I liked the book.  Hence the original rating of 2 for Marx & Engles.  Another system of rating could have it much higher, such as the 10 books that screwed up the world.

14.  Lamentations, by Jeremiah.  Great little book nestled in the OT after the Book of Jeremiah.  Lamentations details the after-shock of OT Israel after they were carried off into exile as an act of justice (b/c she had become more sinful than the surrounding nations) & mercy (God had to put an end to her wickedness, child-sacrifice, sexual perversions, murder, etc).  Favorite line:
But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
"The Lord is my portion," says my soul,
"therefore I will have hope in him."  (3:21-24)
 2nd favorite line:
For the Lord will not cast off forever,
but, though he cause grief,
he will have compassion
according to the abundance of his steafast love;
for he does not willingly afflict
or grieve the children of men.

15.  Black Hawk Down, by Mark Bowden.
9 out of 10 stars.  A very well told story of 'the longest sustained firefight involving American troops since the Vietnam War.'  Many people had never heard of Samolia until CNN carried video of the bodies of US troops being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu. My favorite quote from the book:
"[Captain] Steele gave the unapologetic impression that he could break you with his bare hands if it weren't for his strict devotion to Jesus...." 

16.  Titus, by the Apostle Paul.  Paul's letter to his 'child in the faith,' Titus, whom he left in Crete to establish the church there by appointing elders.  So much of this text has to do with God's people being marked by good deeds--not in order to earn salvation, but to display the salvation received already by faith.  Favorite line:
"The grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works" (2.11-14).

17.  Philemon, by the Apostle Paul. Paul wrote this letter to his friend, Philemon, pleading for Philemon's runaway slave, Onesimus, who evidently became a Christian under Paul's ministry while he was in prison.  Paul sends Onesimus back to Philemon encouraging the latter to receive "him as you would receive me." My favorite line is subversive of an institution at its most powerful for those with eyes to see it.
"For this perhaps is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave, as a beloved brother" (vs. 15-16).  

18.  Kingdom Culture:  Growing the Missional Church, by Phil Wagler.  8 of of 10 stars.
This is an excellent book for doing what the subtitle suggests:  growing the missional church, a theme that is very much in line with my heart.  It was good to see him saying the very things I've been saying:
  • No One Gets Left Behind
  • Our Leaders Lead
  • I am a Disciple of Jesus & I Contribute
  • We Exist for the World Our Lord Came to Save
This will be a trusted resource to go back to over and over again as we go about our business of church planting in Calgary. 

19.  The GOD i Don't Understand:  Reflections on Tough Questions of Faith, by Christopher Wright.  10 out of 10 stars.
I can't say enough good things about this book.  Ever since reading his book, The Mission of God (which has had as big an impact on me as any book I've read), I've had a man-crush on Christopher Wright.  I'm even reading through his commentary on Deuteronomy.  In this book (The GOD i Don't Understand), Wright deals with three questions:  (1)  What about evil and suffering; (2) What about the Canaanites?; & (3) What about the Cross?  I give this book 10 stars b/c I had to put the book down at numerous places having been moved to worship the GOD i don't understand. 

20.  Acts, by St. Luke. This is Luke's record of the Acts of Jesus Christ, Part II.  Part I was the Gospel that bears his name, and Acts is a continuation of the story of Christ's mission that he continues through his church.  There's so much that is good & instructive in this book.  My favorite chapter is Acts 17 where Paul is preaching the Gospel in Athens.  My favorite verse though comes from 20:24 where Paul says,
"But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God." 

21.  Tactics:  A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions, by Greg Koukl.
9 out of 10 stars.  An excellent book by the founder & president of Stand to Reason, an apologetics ministry that seeks to equip believers to share & defend the faith.  This book is a 'must-read' for any Christian who wants to speak intelligently to others about the Gospel.  There is so much practical advice & tactics that I couldn't possibly distill it here.  Just get it, read it, digest it.  You'll be a better equipped disciple if you do.  Favorite quote:
"The most important gauge of our success will not be our numbers or even our impact, but our fidelity to our Savior...Push yourself beyond your comfort zone."

22.  The Golden Booklet of the True Christian Life, by John Calvin.
7.5 out of 10 stars.  This book is a almost a collection of proverbs by Calvin arranged by topics.  Good solid counsel & nuggets of wisdom.  7.5 stars b/c it just didn't read well, but the content was good.
"A true Christian will not ascribe any prosperity to his own diligence, industry, or good fortune, but he will acknowledge that God is the author of it."  

23.  The Logic of Evangelism, by William Abraham.  8 out of 10 stars.
I recently read a blog by an evangelist who said that his church had passed out over 3 million tracts in his city, but saw no noticeable difference in attendance in their church.  This only confirmed to me that so much of evangelism is simply off base, and doesn't take into account a changed life here & now (note:  I'm sure some people were genuinely converted with the tracts--I'm not dogging tracts at all).  But when you read the NT, there was really no such thing as coming to Christ that was not at the same time coming to be a part of the people of God marked out by baptism.  Abraham seeks to address this issue by stating that "we should construe evangelism as primarily initiation into the kingdom of God."  He argues that 'coming to Christ' should entail understanding the rule of his kingdom since he is a king, as well as entrance into the church through the sacrament of baptism.
"What is important is to combat the isolation of evangelism from the full ministry of the church and to rescue it from the shallow anthropocentrism and individualism into which it has tumbled in the last two centuries." 
 Though I definitely do not agree with everything written in this book (why do I even feel the need to qualify my comments?), there is much here that is spot on.  Favorite quote:
"In the end, the kingdom will come; in the meantime let us prepare the world to receive its Lord & Savior."