November 25, 2010

Richard Stearns, The Hole in Our Gospel

Thanks to Thomas Nelson for the review copy.

I loved this book! And I hope you read it. That's the only way I can start this review. Richard Stearns, the president of World Vision, has written a powerful apologetic for that important Christian ministry, but more than that, he has challenged evangelicalism to espouse a fully orbed gospel of the kingdom.

The book is part testimony and autobiography, with Stearns recounting his own journey from new Christian to successful corporate executive to president of World Vision. And it is a great story, easy to relate to, and well told. I found it easy to relate to Stearns' journey, his excitement for the gospel but also his reluctance to step out of his comfort zone into new territories. His story is written with obvious honesty and candor, and I thin it lays important groundwork for and integrates well with the book's overall message about broadening the way we understand the gospel and our role to spread the gospel to the world.

The core vision of the book is about getting beyond a traditional view of the gospel as an "otherworldly" message of hope for the hereafter to a Jesus-centered kingdom vision about changed lives, spiritually and physically. We are called not only to preach but to also embody the gospel. "This gospel that we have been given—the whole gospel—is God's vision for a new way of living. It inaugurates the reality of God dwelling within us, His followers, no longer in a temple in Jerusalem. . . . God's kingdom was going to begin on earth through the changed lives of His followers, and its hall markes would be forgiveness, love, compassion, justice, and mercy" (276).

Stearns is well aware of the dangers of preaching a "works" righteousness, and he addresses that concern a couple of times in his writing. He is also aware that some may want to read his message as a call away from traditional evangelistic preaching to a social gospel, a charge he anticipates and subverts a number of times as well. In all, I think Stearns has done the church a great service in writing this call to follow Jesus in his kingdom ministry. For if God truly loves the world, aren't we going to do everything in our power to overcome disparity, disease, poverty, and oppression as we do everything we can to overcome spiritual blindness, poverty, and oppression. And, in fact, the two can't and shouldn't be separated. For each side of the gospel fits with the other: a preaching without works of love is only words, and a life of compassionate action is one of the best apologias for the gospel we preach. Highly recommended.

November 24, 2010

Free MP3s on Amazon

I've got to say one of my favorite Black Friday deals in past years from Amazon has been $3 in free MP3 downloads, and they're at it again. They've sent out their code by email, but in case you're not on their email list, here it is: GET3MP3S. Click on one of my two suggestions to the left, a couple of deals I picked up (you won't have to buy one of them, but they'll take you to the MP3 portion of Amazon's site). On the right hand side of the page, there is a green box with two big buttons, "Buy this MP3 . . ." and "Give this album . . ." Click on the text link below those that reads "Redeem a gift card or promotion. Then cut and past the code above into the box. It should credit your account $3, which you can then use to download anything from Amazon's site. That means three totally free .99 MP3s, or three dollars off any album. You'll only have to pay if you spend more than $3, but the first $3 is totally free and without obligation. So pick up a few of your favorite songs.

November 15, 2010

Great Deal on Amazon on Fee's Philippians

I stumbled on this spectacular deal on Amazon while I was browsing the NICNT list, and just had to pass it along. They are currently listing Gordon Fee's wonderful Philippians commentary in the NICNT at 50% off, selling for $22.18. I greatly appreciated his work in this commentary, with both helpful scholarship and warm pastoral insight. Plus his extensive discussion of Philippians 2:6-11 is well done. So pop over and get this one if you don't have it already.

November 02, 2010

Government in Isaiah

On this US election day, a few words from John Oswalt's (excellent) commentary on Isaiah 1-39 in the NICOT series, which I am working my way through in conjunction with a Bible Study Fellowship study on Isaiah this year.

"That pride and arrogance which exalts humanity issues in an adulation of the 'great' men of society. But that very adulation renders them less and less able to lead their people. For just leadership can only come from persons who know their own weaknesses and corruptibility. Furthermore, when such a person knows that he or she is ultimately responsible to God, the task is approached with awe and dedication. But the person who believes, consciously or otherwise, that humanity is ultimate can all too easily accept the glowing things that people say about him or her . . . and the only goal is to keep them saying those things. 'Government' disappears as the leaders pander more and more to the ever-changing whims of a fickle people." (253; on Isaiah 9:12-16)