The Theology of the Book of Revelation by Richard BauckhamThere are many different interpretive models for the book of Revelation. Some approach it as though it were a code to be deciphered, matching ancient images with present figures in an attempt to unlock the secrets of the last days. Others see it as a uniquely Christian history with little or nothing to say to believers today. As we seek to understand this fascinating and oftentimes befuddling book, perhaps we should interpret it in basically the same way we interpret every other book of the Bible. That is to say, maybe the key to unlocking Revelation’s secrets is to simply ask, “What did this mean to the people to whom it was originally written?”

In his book The Theology of the Book of Revelation, Richard Bauckham takes this basic exegetical approach, and manages to make sense of, and draw compelling meaning from, John’s Apocalypse. Bauckham starts where most Christian exegetes start with any other biblical book by asking, “What sort of book is this?” The answer, he discerns, is that “Revelation seems to be an apocalyptic prophecy in the form of a circular letter to seven churches in the Roman province of Asia.” (2)

John’s work is a prophetic apocalypse in that it communicates a disclosure of a transcendent perspective on this world. It is prophetic in the way it addresses a concrete historical situation – that of Christians in the Roman province of Asia towards the end of the first century AD – and brings to its readers a prophetic word of God, enabling them to discern the divine purpose in their situation and respond to their situation in a way appropriate to this purpose.
In other words, the book of Revelation is John’s attempt to speak into the lives of real Christians in a real place by giving them a heavenly perspective on their temporal challenges. “Life looks overwhelming from your perspective,” he says, in essence, “but I want to show you your life and your circumstances from God’s perspective.” Revelation is, at heart, a pastoral work. It is a call to abandon the idols of the Roman Empire and the futility of its warmongering ways, and to instead worship the true God and lay hold of the victory of the “lamb who was slain.”

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momentmakerCarlos Whittaker’s life is full of hilarious, awkward, and powerful moments. Whether it’s a bird feasting on his children’s just-released flock of pet butterflies, buying a round of drinks for a returning troop of soldiers, or humiliating a girl by being too romantic, Carlos Whittaker lives his life in the moment. He is a man who was born with an innate ability to seize every moment and draw every last drop of life out of it, and in his new book Moment Maker, he wants to show you how you can live this way, too.

Whittaker identifies three types of moments in life: created moments, received moments, and rescued moments. Created moments are those special events in life that we make for others – birthday parties and romantic dates, for examples. Received moments are those times in life when things just happen, almost out of the blue. Rescued moments are what happen when your plans go awry and you’re faced with the choice to double down on the moment or just cash out. The common element of the three types of moments are that they push us beyond the boundaries of our self-centeredness and into the lives and hearts of others.

Being a moment maker is about living for others on purpose. It’s about pursuing the happiness and well-being of those around you, whether they are family, friends, or strangers. Moment makers imagine possibilities in life that the rest of us don’t see. They open their eyes to those around them, living according to the schedule of love rather than their daily calendars.

With often-funny and always-engaging stories, Whittaker invites the reader to wake up to the possibilities of a life full of created, received, and rescued moments. This book is particularly challenging for introverts like myself who would much rather enjoy the comfort of a quiet room and a good book than take the risk of moment making for the sake of others. Not all of us will be able to live life the way Carlos lives his, but we can all stand to be more invested, and more interested, in the happiness and well-being of others.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

 

In his book The God First Life, Stovall Weems, pastor of Celebration Church in Orlando, wants you to uncomplicate your life by doing it God’s way. Working from the familiar passage of Matthew 6:33, Stovall writes that God will provide all the things we need in life, but he has to remain first in our lives, “regardless of my questions or regardless of whether I understood something or how I felt about it.” (17) When we put God first, we get a new family, a new life, and new freedom. The life we instinctively want and pursue, he argues, is only available through “God-first living.” (20) 


A life of anxiety is never an issue of unmet need but always an issue of disordered priorities. -Stovall Weems, 22

Stovall uses the three “new” promises – a new family, a new life, and new freedom – to organize the book. Our new family is God’s family, into which we are adopted by faith in Jesus Christ, and with whom we are called to do life together. This new family is vital because “community is where God shapes us into the image of Christ.” (63) Our new life is the life in the Spirit, empowered by God himself to do more and become more than we ever thought possible. This new life is also a life of worship, prayer, and service. Finally, the new freedom we have is the grace we enjoy from being set free from sin. We are free from the sins of our past and empowered to live for God in the present. Putting God first, walking out the powerful promise of Matthew 6:33, is the key to all of this. Stovall concludes, “you will find that a world where you are not at the center is a world where happiness and blessing can be experienced – God’s way.” (154)

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In his latest book, Futureville, author Skye Jethani argues that the way we envision the future deeply affects how we live in the present. Our lives are guided by our eschatology – the way we view the end of things and the (if there will be one) new beginning. Using the 1939 World’s Fair as the controlling metaphor, Jethani guides the reader through several different ways of viewing the future, and how those visions of the future (eschatologies) direct and shape our lives in the present.

There are, he argues, three general ways we envision the future coming about. He calls them Evolution, Evacuation, and Resurrection. Evolution is the belief in the inevitability of human progress to create an ever-improving world. This view, popular in the 19th and 20th centuries, is girded by the innovation of science and the capacity of human reason. It is championed by “Change the World” propaganda. In many ways, the Church has embraced the Evolution view in its many “crusades” and willingness to influence political power for Christian ends. The trouble with this worldview, however, is that it turns our culture into a battlefield. “With more power, we tell ourselves, we can muscle our agenda into existence and force others to submit to our vision of the future.” (58)

Evacuation is the belief that the whole world is going to be destroyed, and it’s the Christian’s job to get as many people into the escape pods of salvation as possible before the fire reigns down from heaven. Evacuation is about escape. “Central to evacuation is the belief that believers will be entirely spared from the pain and suffering awaiting the rest of humanity.” (64) In this view, Christians evangelize out of safe pockets of purity, where everything they consume carries a “Christian” label. This inevitably leads to a culture of disengagement and self-centeredness, where everything becomes about the safety and purity of the isolated community of faith.

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The-Contemplative-Pastor-Peterson-Eugene-H-9780802801142Unbusy.

Subversive.

Apocalyptic.

These are the adjectives that ought to describe the pastor, according to Eugene Peterson. Though written in 1989, The Contemplative Pastor is just as, if not more, relevant to today’s church culture. The pastors we honor in American evangelicalism often do little or no pastoral work. They are high-achievers, brands unto themselves. They are CEOs of ever-expanding religious empires. They are busy. They tackle problems head-on. They have neither the time nor the patience to plow the fields of the hearts of their congregation.

The pastor should not be busy. “The word busy is the symptom not of commitment but of betrayal. It is not devotion but defection. The adjective busy set as a modifier to pastor should sound to our ears like adulterous to characterize a wife or embezzling to describe a banker. It is an outrageous scandal, a blasphemous affront.” We often search for significance in busyness. If I am busy, then I am important. But this is vanity, argues Peterson. Instead, the pastor should be unbusy enough to do three things: pray, preach, and listen. “The question I put to myself is not “How many people have you spoken to about Christ this week?” but “How many people have you listened to in Christ this week?”

The pastor should not use blunt force, but rather use the subversive methods of the kingdom of God. Jesus, after all, was the subversive par excellence. He preached in parables, which “aren’t illustrations that make things easier; they make things harder by requiring the exercise of our imaginations, which if we aren’t careful becomes the exercise of our faith.” The kingdom which is grown is more permanent and powerful than the kingdom which is imposed. “God does not impose his reality from without; he grows flowers and fruit from within.”


The way the gospel is conveyed is as much a part of the kingdom as the truth presented. -Peterson
The Contemplative Pastor is must-reading for all who are pursuing the ministry. My fear is that many young pastors, especially church planters, are motivated not by the needs of the kingdom but by the needs of their own egos. Peterson is a douse of cold water to a drunken narcissist. The work of the pastor is gloriously ordinary, but we have stars in our eyes. We long for crowds and lights and buzz, but the pastor receives something far better – ordinary people who struggle to believe, to be faithful, and to attend church even twice a month. This is not the job for superstars, but it is perfectly suited for the unbusy, apocalyptic subversive.

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