Category Archives: Discipleship

THE TEARS WERE NOT EXPECTED

Late last night, I was overcome with grief. The tears were not expected.

It is impossible to digest properly all that happened yesterday. As I write in my forthcoming book Stuck in the Present, we need the longer view of history for that, so I am heeding my own counsel.

Stuck in the Present: David George Moore: 9781684264605: Amazon.com: Books

Over the years, I have heard warnings to not take the American experiment in democracy for granted. It is sturdy in one sense, but still fragile. I remember hearing that each generation of Americans must commit to it. I thought it was good to issue such a warning but was never too worried. No longer.

Have things been this bad before in America? An argument can certainly be made for that and the antebellum period is the one historians typically mention.

Are our cluster of present problems unique to the more modern period of American history? Again, I think the 1960s offers another example of serious strife and deep division.

My deepest sadness, however, is not over our country’s present chaos and strife.

My deepest sadness is over the state of the Christian faith in America.

For many decades I have witnessed Christians who are apathetic about knowing God’s Word, loving one’s enemies, an unwillingness to suffer for Christ in the most modest of ways, prayerlessness, and much more. 

Most Christians are poorly prepared for times of crisis. We love the church programs that meet our insatiable desires. We adore our celebrity pastors. We are biblically and historically illiterate, but more than willing to offer our superficial opinions on the most vexing issues of the day.  

This sad state of affairs is due to a lack of making long-term discipleship and serious grounding in the Christian faith our priorities. These simply do not take place in many churches (or parachurches for that matter). We have sown the wind and are reaping the whirlwind. We should not be surprised where we find ourselves.

Things are not going to be any better by avoiding these realities. Things also might not be any better if we face these realities but at least we will have been faithful.

I pray for God’s mercy, but I do not find myself too sanguine. My lack of “optimism” is not because the culture is so bad. Rather, it is because many of us Americans claiming the name of Christ have become dull of hearing.

God’s Word makes it clear that Christians can lose their influence (Mt. 5:13; Rev. 2:4,5). We are kidding ourselves if we think this is not happening right now.

All of us who claim the name of Christ need to ponder and consider Peter’s dire warning:

Indeed, none of you should suffer as a murderer or thief or wrongdoer, or even as a meddler. But if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but glorify God that you bear that name. For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who disobey the gospel of God?… (I Peter 4:15-17)

I added this in the reply link, but will also add it here:

Again, to underscore the biggest point of the post: Yes, shock over the events of yesterday, but I am much more worried about the state of Christianity in America. And my concerns go way back before Trump or any other politician.

We must look at ourselves!

 

 

ON THE ROAD WITH SAINT AUGUSTINE

In lieu of a typical book review, as is my habit from time to time, allow me to mention half a dozen things I greatly appreciated about this book.  It will definitely make the list for my “Favorite Books of the Year.”

This is the seventh book I’ve read by Smith.  All of them made me think in fresh and provocative ways.  How (Not) to be Secular was my favorite. It now comes in a close second to Smith’s latest.  On the Road with Saint Augustine is now my favorite.  

So here are a half dozen things I appreciated about this book:

*There is elegant writing combined with keen insights.  It is no surprise that On the Road with Saint Augustine received a coveted starred review by Publishers Weekly.

*It makes a compelling case for why Augustine is the ideal travel partner as we make our way through life.  For me, both Augustine and Bunyan (there are others) have been indispenable to have as my vagabond friends.

*There is a thick realism in this book (take note Joel Osteen), but Smith always keeps this tethered to a compelling hope.

*Smith has a good nose for the telling quote or captivating illustration.  HIs wide-reading across various disciplines showcases the brilliance of Augustine.

*In my own teaching, and especially in my ministry of discipleship with men, this is the kind of book that I can use as a gateway of sorts to the riches of Christian history.

*I’ve always found that great books help me clarify important issues.  My marginalia reflects this reality in On the Road with Saint Augustine.  For example, in the chapter on friendship, Smith’s interaction with Heidegger resulted in my marginal comment of “Molds are everywhere, so it is impossible to break out of every single mold.”  In other words, autonomous individuals don’t exist because they can’t exist.

Whenever the time comes that sales begin to dwindle for this book, I would recommend Brazos making booklets out of some chapters.  For example, the chapter on freedom is one I would love to give to any thoughtful person, irrespective of whether they are a Christian. 

 

REMEMBER DEATH!

There is much I could say about this book, but I will keep my comments brief.

I typically read about sixty books each year.  These are close reads with underlining and marginalia.  I peruse hundreds of other books, but that is not reading.  There is no doubt that this will easily make my Favorite Reads of 2019.

Remember Death is one of those books that I will use in my teaching, discipleship with men, and gladly recommend far and wide.  It is beautifully written, consistently insightful, and thoroughly biblical.

I know it sounds strange to say that this is a book to savor, but it is.  We must face our mortality with ruthless honesty, all the utter horror and ugliness.  By doing so, we will find, as the author says so well, the incredible promises found in a relationship with Jesus.

Crossway is to be commended for publishing such a terrific piece of work!

HOW TO TALK TO ONE ANOTHER

Theologians are generally leery, even disdainful (usually in quiet, socially accepted ways!) of “lay” people. And so-called “lay” people tend to return the favor. There are many reasons for this, and Keith Johnson helps unpack them for us.

Johnson’s book is desperately needed since the animus between professional theologians and the church is acute and does not seem to be getting any better.

The author provides a good historical sketch of how theology moved away from the church and found itself in the academy. This offers perspective for how we ought to proceed in understanding the challenge of wedding theology to the church.

Johnson writes with a gracious touch but makes clear how we all need to make amends for our less than Christlike behavior.

THREE RELATIONSHIPS

The apostle Paul said many provocative things. These things were not simply provocative. More importantly, there were true. For example, Paul said that we ought to “follow Christ as he did” and in Philippians Paul writes, “The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”

We know Paul valued relationships. From his earliest days as a Christian Paul benefited greatly from mentors like Ananias and Barnabas, later peer relationships like Silas were a huge blessing, and then Paul built into the lives of many people like Timothy, his “true son in the faith.”

Paul says if we do what he did the “God of peace will be with us.” What a promise!

How should these relationships inform our own convictions?

DISCIPLESHIP

One of the maxims I developed years ago goes like this: As the number of leadership books increases, the number of available leaders decreases.  It’s a cheeky way of saying that principles and techniques don’t usually transfer to the real thing.  The same could be said for discipleship books.

I’ve been involved in discipling men for about forty years now.  I have also been the beneficiary of being discipled.  I’ve certainly read a number of discipleship books…plenty for a lifetime.

So when Zondervan sent me a (unsolicited) copy of The Disciple Maker’s Handbook I came pretty close to setting it aside.  I decided to give it a read. I’m glad I did. 

Harrington and Patrick do a terrific job of both offering practical instruction while peppering the book with thoughtful insights on discipleship.  This is an accessible book that novices to ministries of discipleship will find most helpful.  This kind of accessibility many times means something leans towards the superficial, but thankfully it is not the case with this book. 

One of the many strengths of this book are the various exhortations and insights on being intentional when it comes to discipleship ministries.