Book Review: Shane Claiborne “The Irresistible Revolution”

15 04 2013
"The Irresistible Revolution" By: Shane Claiborne

“The Irresistible Revolution” By: Shane Claiborne

What a truly moving, inspiring, spirit lifting, fire starting work this is.  Whew!  Sounds pretty good doesn’t it?! Well, it is!

Claiborne’s book, The Irresistible Revolution, is somewhat of a biography/memoir/theological discourse/prophetic literature that will move the reader to action if they have a pulse.  Shane is as humble a servant of Christ as I have seen and truly lives by what he preaches.  In this book you will journey with Shane to India where he spends the summer working with Mother Teresa  in Calcutta, among the poorest of the poor, living in a leper colony.  You will join him in his struggle with the church and its many faults and how he comes to grips with it.  You will join him on a years internship at one of the biggest Mega-churches in the world, Willow Creek.  Claiborne then tries to discern where God is calling him next and how he can best follow Jesus and his teachings.  He decides with several other friends to open The Simple Way,  a house in downtown Philadelphia where they live among the hungry, the poor, and the homeless.  He shares of times that he slept on the sidewalks or in the parks in solidarity with the homeless.  He shares of many marches and protests that he has been a part of fighting for the poor and the hungry. He shares of being arrested for sleeping with and feeding the poor in a park in Philadelphia.  You will join him on a trip to Bagdad, Iraq just before the bombings of the Second Gulf War, in which he is peacefully protesting the use of violence.  He tells about hearing the bombs dropping around them and then visiting the hospitals and seeing the wounded children and innocent who were “collateral damage” and apologizing to them for his country’s actions.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg of what Shane shares.

Even if you disagree with his stance on particular issues, it is very difficult not to take Shane and his faith seriously.  He is authentic and genuine.  He is also humble and does not present a ‘Holier than thou’ persona.  He is simply trying to live his life how Jesus lived his and how Jesus calls each of us to live.  Shane’s stories are simply him trying his hardest to love his neighbor, stand with the poor, the oppressed, the impoverished, and to love his enemies.

I found myself often saying, “YES! YES! Exactly!! Why doesn’t anybody else get this?!” And then the next page I’d be screaming, “NO!!!” because  I would feel the guilt and condemnation in my own heart of just picking and choosing to follow Jesus in ways that are easy or beneficial to me.

You will find yourself rejoicing in Claiborne’s work.

You will also feel very uncomfortable and convicted by Claiborne’s work.

Above all, Shane has a vision for the church and its role in the world today that is true to the Gospel and what Jesus has called us to do as his followers.  His vision is about as far away from what society and American culture tell us is our purpose in life, but so far, I’ve been extremely disappointed in what Society has taught and told us… and think maybe, just maybe, God’s way is the better way…

I fully recommend this book!!  Prepare for your heart to be opened and for your life to be changed if you read this book.

A link to buy the book if you wish: http://www.amazon.com/Irresistible-Revolution-Living-Ordinary-Radical/dp/0310266300/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1366045631&sr=1-3&keywords=shane+claiborne

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Remembering Dietrich Bonhoeffer

9 04 2013
bonhoeffer-ins1

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, theologian, died 1945

Today, the church commemorates one of the most influencial theologians, pastors, martyrs in my life, Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  Bonhoeffer was a pastor, a teacher, and one the leaders of the Confessing Church in Germany.  The Confessing Church was a church body that broke away from the National German Lutheran Church when the Nazis Regime took control.  They would not allow Hitler to dictate how the Gospel would be preached nor would they pledge allegiance to anyone other than God.  Later, Bonhoeffer was arrested for his involvement in an assassination attempt on Hitler.  He spent over 2 years in prison and concentration camps and was hanged April 9, 1945.

His most common works are The Cost of Discipleship, Life Together, Ethics, and Letters and Papers From Prison.  I took a religious ethics course on Dietrich Bonhoeffer in college and it had a profound impact on my faith.  His book, Life Together, should be required reading for every church council and his book, The Cost of Discipleship, should be required reading for every professed follower of Christ.

I would like to leave you with my favorite written work of Bonhoeffer’s.  It is a poem that he wrote while in prison towards the end of his life.  He is questioning his identity, his personhood, his authenticity.  People call him incredible, and amazing, and inspirational, and the light of Christ, but he feels in his heart that he is somebody different.

I think that, while he wrote this in such an extreme condition and his context is not ours, we can still relate to these words.  We still feel this pull of being both Saint and Sinner.  We still feel in our hearts the brokenness, loneliness, fear, and terror of life and death.  And yet we can trust in the promise that we are God’s.  That our identity is in God.  No matter what we think or what others tell us, we are children of God and God loves us.

WHO AM I?

Who am I?  They often tell me
I would step from my cell’s confinement
calmly, cheerfully, firmly,
like a squire from his country-house.

Who am I?  They often tell me
I would talk to my warders
freely and friendly and clearly,
as though it were mine to command.

Who am I?  They also tell me
I would bear the days of misfortune
equably, smilingly, proudly,
like one accustomed to win.

Am I then really all that which other men tell of?
Or am I only what I know of myself,
restless and longing and sick, like a bird in a cage,
struggling for breath, as though hands were compressing my throat,
yearning for colours, for flowers, for the voices of birds,
thirsting for words of kindness, for neighbourliness,
trembling with anger at despotisms and petty humiliation,
tossing in expectation of great events,
powerlessly trembling for friends at an infinite distance,
weary and empty at praying, at thinking, at making,
faint, and ready to say farewell to it all?

Who am I?  This or the other?
Am I on person today, and tomorrow another?
Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others,
and before myself a contemptibly woebegone weakling?
Or is something within me still like a beaten army,
fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?

Who am I?  They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.
Whoever I am, thou knowest, O God, I am thine.

– Dietrich Bonhoeffer Letters and Papers From Prison





Doubts…

8 04 2013
The Incredulity of Saint Thomas by Caravaggio

The Incredulity of Saint Thomas by Caravaggio

In light of the Gospel reading yesterday, the text that has been dubbed throughout history as “The Doubting Thomas” text, I decided to lay out a few of my own thoughts on the topic of doubt.  For the most part these are my thoughts and my opinions, but they have been shaped, of course, by my education, my study of scripture, and my own relationship and experience  with God.  A special shout out goes to Paul Tillich and his book, Dynamics of Faith.  Without reading this book, I probably would not have been able to reconcile my personal thoughts and beliefs with my calling to be a pastor.

You see, I had many questions.  I had many doubts.  About God.  About Faith.  About organized religion.  About Jesus.  About creation. About life.  About death.  About evil.  About suffering and pain.  Just to name a few…

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Book Review: “What We Talk About When We Talk About God” Rob Bell

3 04 2013

imagesI anxiously waited for Rob Bell’s new book, What We Talk About When We Talk About God, to be released and was excited when I had finally ordered it from Amazon.  Of course, it arrived Holy Week, which means not a lot got read until after Easter Sunday.  I must say it was worth the wait, worth the anxiety, worth the excitement, and the anticipation.

If the reader can get passed Bell’s fragmented, irregular writing style, if the reader can get passed some of the cheesiness when Bell seems to be cracking a joke to himself as an aside, and if the reader can look beyond the seemingly disjointedness of the writing (all of which actually appeals to many readers) and make it to the end of the book, I believe they will be enriched and fed.

I have long awaited a book that could talk about the complexities of the Universe, from a large scale perspective to the smallest aspects of this creation that God has made, in a language that the non-physicists, the non-chemists, the person without a single ‘scientific’ bone in their body can read and understand.  I believe Bell has done this in this work and specifically in the chapter “Open.”  Long have we needed someone to tell the multitudes that no longer do science and God have to be mortal enemies, that in fact, science compliments God’s work incredibly well and that in fact science can be a means of proclamation that, frankly, has never been tapped, at least until I read this work, and I believe Bell has just scratched the surface here.  I remember sitting in, what I thought would be an easy class, Astronomy at college and hearing about the complexities and intricacies and the mysteries that still abound in the Universe and thinking, “My faith has not been shattered in the least, but in fact, my faith has been strengthened!”  God’s creation is incredible and I am just amazed by the number of Christ followers who are against science and evolution and Big Bang Theory because they think that the God might be disproved or denounced by science, when in fact I found the exact opposite as have many other scientists, by the way.  I think God can handle science and its questions just fine.  But I digress…My apologies to Rob for going off on a tangent in his book review 🙂

Regardless of your preconceived notions of Rob Bell, his theology, whether he is a heretic or not, whether Love Wins or not, this is a book that will cause you to question how we speak about God, how we think about God, and maybe how we should be pulled forward by God into a new way of thinking.  Bell’s story telling, intriguing questions, and open approach make What We Talk About When We Talk About God a book that both non-pastors and pastors can read, that both scientists and non-scientists can read, that Christians and non-Christians can read, and still put pushed and pulled into a new way of thinking about God.

That, by the way, is growing in faith.

You can purchase Rob Bell’s book here:  http://www.amazon.com/What-Talk-About-When-God/dp/0062049666/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1365005186&sr=1-1&keywords=rob+bell





Does God have a sense of humor or what?

30 05 2012

So, yesterday I wrote a long post about how perhaps the K.I.S.S. method isn’t the best way to go and we shouldn’t be worried about embracing complexity, mystery, and complicated questions as Christians when dealing with God.  I still stand by my what I said; however, I was called into question during my devotionals today.

Every morning I read through a daily devotion and right now I am reading through one based off of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s writings.  The title of today’s was: Simplicity of the Good News.  The quote that they centered the devotion around was out of Bonhoeffer’s book, The Cost of Discipleship:

“It will always be true that the wisest course for the disciple is always to abide solely by the word of God in all simplicity.”

Haha! 🙂 Pretty funny, right?!  I do admit that we human beings have no problem over complicating just about anything and everything and simplifying things can be very beneficial to our lives and our faith.  I suppose there is good and bad about both.  We shouldn’t try to over-simplify our faith and God.  At the same time we shouldn’t get in our own way by overcomplicating matters either.

What do you think, K.I.S.S. or complicate?





KISS It? Naw!!!

29 05 2012

In preparing for Holy Trinity Sunday coming up, I was sadly reminded of a long struggle that we seem to be up against.

For the last couple decades or so, the church as a whole and pastors all over decided that in order to reach more people they had to abide by the K.I.S.S. principle.  Most of you, I’m sure, know what this is: “Keep it simple stupid.”  While not totally PC, it does get the point across and for many aspects of our lives this is a good, simple rule to live by.  We human beings have a way of complicating just about anything, so a little more simplicity in life couldn’t hurt.

Well, leaders in the church as a whole, denominational and non-denominational, decided that this was appropriate and necessary moving forward in the church.  We had lost touch with the people.  We were way over their heads.  We couldn’t connect with them anymore.  We couldn’t expect them to understand the Gospel if they couldn’t understand any of the words coming out of our mouths. (Quick side note: notice all the ‘we’/ ‘they’ language…maybe the problem lies more in that distinction and separation than the words coming out of our mouth, but more on that later)  So out with Perichoresis, out with Prolepsis, out with Soteriology, out with Justification, out with Sanctification. Now, don’t ask me to define all these words 🙂

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Where to start…With Thanksgiving

26 05 2012

Jessica, my spouse, recommended that I read One Thousand Gifts immediately after she finished it.  I am now beginning to understand why.

This is one of those books that you begin to read and you’re like, “Okay, yup, um hmm, I agree with that, sure…” and so on.  Its principle is very simple: be thankful for everything in life because God gave it to you.  Voskamp starts from the perspective that everything in life is a gift from God.  Now this isn’t new or ground breaking, right?  Most of us would admit that we should be thankful for everything from our food, our homes, our relationships, to our very life.

Where she begins to break new ground, or at least bring a new perspective on things for me, is when she admits that those of us who buy into this perception of ‘thanks for all things living’ do it with blanket statements.  We give thanks to God for all things all the time.  Not that we give thanks for all things when they happen or when we think of it.  We literally say, “Thank you God for everything.”  The question is, “Do we mean it?  Do we live it?  Do we emit thanksgiving and praise for everything?”  I think most of us, definitely including myself here, would say, “No.”  I say it because I know I should, because I know it’s the way I should be, but it isn’t how I live my life.  I don’t show my thanks to my family, friends, and certainly not to God for everything that is done for me.  I keep living selfishly for myself, then try to tell myself that what I have received I gained out of my own will and doing.

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