Book Review: “The Day The Revolution Began” by N.T. Wright

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One of the big problems with contemporary evangelical theology, according to N.T. Wright, is that we often have part of the answer but it leads to the wrong conclusions. For example, the theology of the cross comes down to “Jesus died so you could be forgiven and go to heaven.”. As Wright points out that is not what the New Testament teaches, or at least it is not all that the New Testament teaches.

So Wright goes back to Adam and Eve, right through the Old Testament and comes to the conclusion that the main sin that people have to face is idolatry. The people of God were constantly faced with the challenge of staying faithful to the one true God, Yahweh or worshipping the false gods of the nations around.

The problem with idolatry is that it undermines our calling or vocation as human beings. We were created in God’s image so how can we worship another image without damaging ourselves? For Israel, God’s covenant people, to worship other gods meant separation from God and the Land He had given them to live out their calling.

When Jesus comes on the scene, Israel has spent much of its existence either in exile or in subjection to other nations. The prophets knew that the solution they needed was national as well as individual salvation.

The cross then is not about a human sacrifice to appease an angry deity, which is what many christians think of. It is more like the one true representative of humanity (“the Son of Man” as Jesus frequently called Himself) dying for the world. He speaks of the sins of the nation, especially its idolatries, being heaped up and falling on Jesus.

A revolution of love, self-denying and sacrificial love, brings a new rule in the world- the Kingdom of God. This Kingdom, launched by Jesus’ death on the cross, sets us free to see and experience the true God and to follow in His ways.

The death of Jesus on the Cross at 6 pm on Good Friday is the start of the revolution. His resurrection before dawn on Sunday is the first sign that God’s kingdom of life, love and forgiveness is here.

Wright says that the gospel is bigger than “we get to go to heaven” (which is a pagan Platonist ideal). The true gospel message is that the Kingdom is here and God is overturning everything that is based on human idolatry, including relationships, politics, oppression and self-worship. Yes we get to live for ever in the new heavens and the new earth, but the Kingdom is more than that.

It’s hard to justice to a book of this size and scope in a few hundred words, but it is well worth reading. Wright covers deep topics in a way that many people find is easy to read. I think most people would want to read a few pages and mull it over for a few days.

I’ve always felt that the typical atonement theory whereby Jesus takes the punishment for our sins and as a result we go to heaven has a few gaps in it. This book goes a long way to filling the gaps.

 

 

 

Praying Medic: Seeing In The Spirit Made Simple

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Many Christians assent to the reality of miracles, dreams and visions and other supernatural encounters with Jesus. Yet the vast majority rarely move in these things. Often God seems to be at a distance or only understood at the level of the mind.

Part of the reason for this is bad teaching (“The gifts are not for today.”) or bad practice which suggests that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are rarely given and only to a few special “men of God.”

This book written anonymously by a paramedic dispels this notion. Praying Medic prays often with his patients on the way to hospital and sees many of them healed. Often he employs a process he calls “seeing in the spirit” which is visualising what God is doing in the present situation.

This book is really easy to read and simply written. It encourages the reader to step out in faith and to use their “spiritual eyes” as a part of their prayer life. A number of exercises are given to help this process along.

 

 

The City Gate

John Alley has just published another excellent book in his reflections on the continuing  reformation of the church. He has long argued for a relational form of christianity with all of the ministry gifts of Ephesians 4:11 being recognised by congregations.

In this book, John tackles the difficult subject of city eldership. The New Testament description of the church is very different to what we see now. Rather than a dozen or more congregations each claiming to be “the church” in a town or region with each having very little contact with the others, the Bible talks about a single church in one place. That is not a single congregation, but a connection of congregations all seeing themselves as relating to each other and led by a number of elders who have authority over all congregations.

At the moment, most christians experience a hierarchy of connectedness which points away from the local context to a denominational office which may be in a distant city. Leaders are appointed or elected to offices regardless of the equipping of the Holy Spirit. A better way is to have true fellowship with christians across the denominational barriers with God-appointed elders offering guidance and direction to congregations.

This is a radical blueprint that calls the church back to its early roots. It will take time, perhaps several generations, to overcome our denominational history but this is the work of God, not mere men.

Black And White Bible, Black And Blue Wife

Ruth Tucker is one of all too many women who find that home is not a refuge but a place of violence. Married to a controlling husband who abused the Biblical doctrine of submission, she was regularly beaten before finally escaping with her son.

Ruth combines her testimony of her violent marriage with theological reflection about how misreading scripture can give rise to all kinds of evil behaviour that clearly contradicts scripture. She writes clearly and in a way that draws the reader into her story.

This is essential reading for all christians, especially pastors who hold a high value on the Bible and can therefore inadvertently blame the victim in counselling with couples.

 

Book Review: Prayer Shield by C. Peter Wagner

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There are lots of books, great books, about prayer available these days. This is the only one that I have come across that dissects the needs of christian leaders for personal prayer teams and offers help in putting such a team together.

Pastors, and other leaders are often targeted specifically by satan in order to limit their effectiveness or sometimes cause them to fall from leadership altogether. It is well-known that pastors in Western countries are lacking in their personal lives- on average about 22 minutes per day in the U.S. compared to 5 hours or more in China.

Wagner suggests that for a pastor to be effective, s/he  must determine to do two things:

  1. Increase their personal prayer times, aiming for something like an hour per day.
  2. Develop a prayer team consisting of people with various gifts of intercession- he uses the terms I-1, I-2, I-3 to describe people who are at various places of prayer and personal closeness to the leader.

Peppered with examples to illustrate his points, this book is inspiring and easy to read.

Over the last couple of years I have increased my personal prayer times. Now I am inspired to seek out the true intercessors in my church and community and start building a team.

 

 

Book Review: “The Book that Made Your World” by Vishal Mangalwadi

514h5wjy8ql-_sy344_bo1204203200_From his perspective as an Indian academic and a christian, Vishal Mangalwadi looks at the factors that brought modern Western civilisation into being. As he points out, there have been many cultures that have achieved limited progress. Uniquely, the Christian-based (particularly the Protestant-based) cultures of Europe and North America have led to tremendous advances in science, literature, commerce, the rule of law, democracy, and so on.

Mangalwadi convincingly connects the availability of the Bible to quantum leaps in social and material wealth in numerous cultures around the world. He argues that where the Bible is available in people’s own language, it provokes a rise in literacy as people want to be able to read the Scriptures. But more than this, cultures which embrace Biblical values, become more prosperous as honesty and trust promote business. Cultures which believe in the creator pursue knowledge of the world and develop science.

Secularists claim that many of the benefits of modern culture go back to the Enlightenment or to Greek and Roman society. However it is only Biblical values that allow the free flourishing of freedom, of science, of democracy and law. Sadly, as our elites seem determined to cut off the connection of our society with its christian past, it is likely that our culture is headed for rapid decline.

This book is a great read. Mangalwadi’s knowledge of history, cultures and of history is very extensive.  He makes his case with an easy story-telling style and will open readers’ eyes to how we got here and why.

Book Review. “A.D. 30” by Ted Dekker

Ted Dekker at his best!

This is a story of betrayal, violence, shame and honour.

A Bedouin woman, Maviah, finds herself at the mercy of conflicting kings and warriors in the convoluted politics of the Middle East around the year 30 AD.

She meets up with another king, Yeshua (Jesus), who shows her that there is another kingdom that is not of this world- a kingdom of love rather than hate, of forgiveness rather than fear.

It is different to much of Dekker’s writing, but still has his trademark action plots exploring confrontation between good and evil.