Friday, April 29, 2011

Book Review: Radical

I just finished reading Radical by David Platt and I thought it was a great book. If I had to sum it up in one word, that word would be "challenging".

David subtitled the book, Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream, so that was a good hint at what he was going to cover in this book. He jumps right with a question that has stuck with me; if Jesus were to walk into your church on any given Sunday, would he recognize it as the movement He started? Platt makes some pretty big criticisms of the church today and how we may have the concept of church upside down to what was started 2000 years ago. He looks at how we have adapted church programs to grow much like the businesses we run and often times the church leaves out the Holy Spirit and manages to run and grow a successful church, but something feels missing. Platt recognizes that he is making a broad generalization about the church in America, but at the same time it is good to take a look at why we do church the way we do it.
Platt also looks closer at the American dream of bigger is better and how we have applied that to church. There is some irony here in that fact that Platt is the pastor of a mega church and this book made it to the NY Bestseller list, the book became so popular that you can find it on the self in Wal-Mart (I wonder what David thinks about that...). Platt recognizes that fact, he tells several stories of different mission trips he has been on to impoverished countries where people are living on less than $2 per day, only to be back in his church preaching that Sunday in a multi-million dollar facility and walk out into the parking lot to see a sea go vehicles worth millions. All of this makes him question if we are spending our money the way Jesus would want us to.
Platt not only questions how we spend our money but also how we spend our time. He unpacks Jesus commandment for us to make disciples of the world and challenges the church to get out of their comfort zone and go out into the world.
In the end, I really liked this book because not only did Platt raise a lot of challenging questions, but Platt leaves the reader with a challenge. He challenges the with one year, 5 point challenge.
1. Pray for the world
2. Read through the Word
3. Sacrifice money for a specific purpose
4. Spend time in another context
5. Commit to multiplying community
Not only does he lay out these 5 challenges, but he provides resources to achieve these challenges. He asks challenging questions but then provides plenty of explanation and resources to help answer those questions in your own life.
I would highly recommend this book!

Monday, April 25, 2011

New Tattoo

For my 30th birthday, I asked for money for a new tattoo! I had been thinking about this idea for a few years now. I already have a tattoo on my chest. It is a portrait of Christ with a crown of thorns and it covers my heart...symbolizing the Christ guards my heart.
My idea for this tattoo was an olive tree, that would almost intertwine with my tattoo on my chest and wrap around my shoulder. Here is a picture for the olive tree outlined (I took this picture in the mirror, so it is a reverse image).
...and here is the tree with color!

Here you can see how the two tattoo interact with each other. To me, it symbolizing that through Christ's death, we are given new life. The tree is dead on the front and then as it wraps around my arm, the green or new life appears! The olive tree is also symbolic, the olive tree is used in the Bible to symbolize God's children, as Christians we are grafted into God's family!

Budha, my tattoo artist and myself after the color and shading session!
Budha did a fantastic job with this tattoo, I was very impressed with him and his shop. I would highly recommend him to anyone in the future! His shop is Iron Heart Tattoo, right up the street in Beaverdale!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Book Review: Average Joe

I just finished reading Average Joe by Troy Meeder and thought it was a good book. Subtitled God’s Extraordinary Calling to Ordinary Men, Troy unpacks what it means to be a so called Average Joe and how God uses Average Joe’s to change the world.

Troy starts the book at the beginning, looking back to childhood and the hopes and dreams boys have. Boys’ dreams are big dreams, dreams of being an astronaut, a fire fighter or a football player. Yet we are not all star athletes or pilots, so what happened? Well, life happens and we seem to get caught up in the small things in life and forget what is truly important.

Section 2 of the book looks at some examples of Average Joe’s that have been in Troy’s life and how God has used them in big ways. He unpacks the importance of mentors and having friends you can trust. With each story he shares what he learned and what we can learn about ourselves and who God is and how God is at work.

Section 3 finishes up with some stories from Troy’s life and lessons that he has learned along the way. He digs into his own story, triumphs he has had, mistakes he has made, and through all of it, shows us how Christ has been at work in his heart.

All in all, I thought this was a good book and I would recommend it to anyone to read. Troy knows what it means to be a man after God’s heart and it shows through this book. He opens up his heart and shares what most men would be uncomfortable sharing and he is able to do this because Troy knows his value in Christ. I really resonated with Troy when he said “My concern is that we often forsake the ver best things in life for the pursuit of the seemingly good things.” He continually calls men love; love God, love your family, love your friends, love your enemies, love your neighbor. Troy says at the end of the book, “If you understand nothing else within the pages of this book, understand this: Jesus Christ is the Rock of our salvation. He is the one and only son of God. He is the only way to eternal life. Life begins at the Rock, at the Cross.”

Friday, April 15, 2011

Book Review: I Am Not but I Know I AM

I just finished reading Louie Giglio’s book “I Am Not but I Know I AM” and I thought it was a great book. The back of the book sums it up like this: “If you see life as your own one-act play and history as your story, you could be in for a rude awakening when the curtain finally closes on your tiny tale and you discover that life wasn't all about you after all. The real story of life is God – I AM – the main character and true star of time and eternity. He is at center stage in all of Creation, and He wants you to know Him by name. Knowing I AM means celebrating your smallness in light of His greatness. Embrace the true meaning of life as you learn to work and rest in His power, spending your life for what lasts forever, the unending glory that is God’s alone.” Louie starts out the book with a couple of great personal stories that bring to light how big God really is and how small we truly are in this world. He then jumps to the story of Moses and the burning bush. Moses meets God and God gives him a better story to live, God invites Moses into God’s story and gives him a role to play. Moses asks God His name so he can tell the Israelites who sent him, and God responds with “I AM who I AM. Tell them I AM sent me to you.” Louie then goes on to explain that if God is I AM, then that means that we all are “I am not”. He unpacks just how big God is and how small are and yet God loves us and knows each one of us! Giglio does a great job of moving from the Old Testament story of Moses to the New Testament and how Jesus fulfills the name “I AM”. Giglio looks at the role of John the Baptist and how John really started the movement of baptism and yet when Jesus appeared on the scene, John didn't try and keep the spotlight on himself, he gladly pointed to Jesus saying in John 3.30 “He must become greater; I must become less.” Giglio also looks at the Sabbath and how the Sabbath is meant to take in God’s creation and worship God for all that he has done for us. All in all, I thought this was a great book. It is a good reminder to me that I am playing a role in God’s story. As Donald Miller puts it, I am a tree in a story about a forest and the story of the forest is way better than the story about the tree! God’s story started long before I was around and will continue long after I am gone, but for now we are all called to join with Him in His story…and that is awesome!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Running with Alan Webb

The Drake Relays are right around the corner and that brings track & fields finest athletes to Iowa. One of those such athletes is Alan Webb, he holds the American record in the mile at 3.46. He was in town Tuesday to promote the Grand Blue Mile and the runners who run over the lunch hour downtown got a chance to run with him. I gave a big thumbs up to be in the background of a photo with him, Rob Best took matters into his own hands... ...and we got a group SCRC photo with Alan Webb!
And we were off to run a loop around Gray's Lake.
This event brought the finest out of the wood work, Cindy Elsbernd, Martin Popp, Ryan Elsbernd and Joe Aulwes, just to name a few...
On the way back, Greg and Joe got to pick Webb's brain and ask him about his training.
After the run, he stuck around to snap some photos, I am all smiles standing next to an American record holder!
Webb noticed my new tattoo and pointed it out to his wife, Webb is wanting to get some ink done in the future!
It was a great event and a great way for some local runners to rub elbows with one of America's finest runner! He will be back in town April 26th competing in the Grand Blue Mile, be sure to come out and show your support!

Book Review: A Million Miles in a Thousand Years

I just finished reading Donald Miller’s book A Million Miles in A Thousand Years and it was fantastic. The back of the book says this: “After writing a successful memoir, Donald Miller’s life stalled. During what should have been the height of his success, he found himself unwilling to get out of bed, avoiding responsibility, even questioning the meaning of life. But when two movie producers proposed turning his memoir into a movie, he found himself launched into a new story filled with risk, possibility, beauty, and meaning.” That pretty much sums it up. Miller talks about how his life stalled out after the success of his book Blue Like Jazz. Then Steve and Ben, two movie producers, contacted Miller and wanted to turn his book into a movie. As they are starting to write the screen play, they are essentially re-writing Don’s life, making it a “better story”. Miller starts to wonder, if I can write a better story, how can I live a better story? I really like how Don digs into what it means to live a better story and how we can live a better story too. He boils it down to a simple definition: A story is about a character who wants something and overcomes conflict to get it, that is the basic structure of a good story. He goes on to unpack the different parts of this definition and how God is calling us to play a role in His story too! One chapter called, A Tree in a Story about a Forest, really made the clear for me. Don talks about the book of Job in the Bible. It is supposedly the oldest book in the Bible and it is a book about suffering. Don says, “it reads as though God is saying to the world, ‘Before we get started, there’s this one thing I have to tell you. Things are going to get bad’” Several things bad happen to Job and in the end God basically tells Job, “I know what I am doing, and this whole thing isn’t about you.” It is as though we are trees in a story about a forest, and the story of the tree is good but the story of the forest is better. Miller also talks about how a good story is memorable. Our lives are filled with stories that we aren’t going to remember. Miller challenges the read to start planning to make our stories memorable. It is going to take effort, we won’t remember sitting on the couch and watching the news or a sitcom, but we may remember watching a sunset with our spouse. Miller then talks about some very memorable stories in his life. All in all, I really enjoyed this book. I think Donald Miller is a great story teller and he has inspired me to start making my life a better story. This was a great read and a fast read, I would highly recommend it!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Book Review: Sabbath

I just finished reading Dan Allender's book "Sabbath" and it is fantastic. One of eight books in the Ancient Practices series, this book digs into the different myths about this "day of rest". Allender builds a case for "a day of delight" by looking at this day as a festival that celebrates God's re-creative and redemptive love, he does this by using four components: sensual glory and beauty, ritual, communal feasting and playfulness. This book really opened my eyes to what the Sabbath is and what it could be in my life. The Sabbath is more that just a day off of work, it is a day to delight with God in his creation and to renew our spirits to His great love! Allender breaks his book down into three parts: Sabbath Pillars, Sabbath Purpose and Sabbath Performance. Part 1: Sabbath Pillars: The book starts out with Allender unpacking, what he calls, the Sabbath Pillars, which are sensual glory and beauty, ritual, communal feasting and playfulness. He does a great job of explaining the history of the Sabbath and the meaning of the Sabbath. He addresses each of the four components and explains how they each serve a role in the Sabbath. Part 2: Sabbath Purpose: This part of the book digs deeper into the purpose of the Sabbath and what emotions that Sabbath brings about. Part 3: Sabbath Performance: This part of the book explains the different ways the Sabbath can look and how it can play out in our lives. This book is packed full of great wisdom, Allender shares from his own experience of observing the Sabbath. He does a great job of explaining the importance but also with that, what obstacles will pop up along the way. Allender really opened my eyes to this ancient practice and I am thankful for his insight. As with these ancient practices, it will take practice, but I am looking forward to becoming more intentional in my observation of the Sabbath.