31 January 2010

Book notes-January 2010

I have seen a few bloggers recently providing brief notes about the books they've read. I find their lists provide me suggestions for new things to read. Plus, Kevin DeYoung commented that it helps him keep track of what he has read. Finally, I have had several people ask for book recommendations.

Here are my January books.

1. Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Don Whitney. In his forward, JI Packer stated that this is a book that she be read three times in succession. I agree. Whitney describes many different spiritual disciplines (e.g., fasting, prayer) rooting them solidly in the Bible, yet also provides practical advice for how to incorporate them. I'll probably read it again next month. 4.5 stars.

2. The Hole in Our Gospel by Rich Stearns. You can read my more extended review here, but briefly Stearns, who is the director of World Vision, issued a stern call for action. He asks us to really dig deep and think about how we are serving the poor. Best book of the year, so far. Not sure it will be dethroned. 5 stars.

3. Vintage Jesus by Mark Driscoll. In his typical style, Driscoll uses his knowledge of contemporary culture and solid theology to talk about Jesus. A worthwhile read. 4 stars.

4. Forgotten God by Francis Chan. Chan's sophomore offering was very good. He discusses the Holy Spirit and how He moves in our lives. He talks about how different churches approach the concept of the Holy Spirit (some flat out ignoring Him, some casting aside orthodoxy in favor of the Spirit only). You can check out more here. 4.5 stars.

5. Discover Your Spiritual Gifts the Network Way by Bruce Bugbee. OK, is this really a book, or just a booklet? It is a mere 65 pages. I decided to include it because I thought it was the best approach to understanding spiritual gifts that I have read. I really liked the inclusion of observer ratings. 4 stars.

6. NoS Diet by Reinhold Engels. This book describes a no-nonsense approach to weight loss. You eat 3 meals per day--no sweets, no snacks, no seconds--except on days that begin with S. Except on days that begin with S (Saturday, Sunday, Special days). I have lost about 20 pounds this year so far following this. Nearly all the information is available on his website. 3.5 stars.

7. An Uninvited Guest by Jeana Floyd. Heather asked me to read this book, which was written by a breast cancer survivor. It helped me to understand Heather's perspective on this journey. 3.5 stars.

8. Chosen by God by RC Sproul. At our small group recently, we got into a discussion about predestination much too late at night. I have always taken a more Calvinistic (rather than Arminian) view of predestination. This book was written by an Arminian turned Calvinist who is now the poster boy for the Reformed view. This book helped me to understand the Calvinist view a little better (and why most Reformed thinkers reject "hyper-Calvinism"). Definitely worth a read. 4 stars.

If you are going to read one book from this list, read The Hole in Our Gospel.

28 January 2010

In retrospect


A dear friend emailed today, reminding me that I have been lackadaisical in providing updates about the status of our family. I feel as though we have been at sea in the midst of a storm. During the roughest patches, it seemed as though my sole responsibility was to make sure our small boat stayed afloat. As the storm clears, my first inclination has been to catch my breath and appreciate the break rather than let the people on solid ground know that our vessel is still aright. But here we go.

Heather is now 3-1/2 months post-diagnosis. Things moved rapidly from diagnosis to mastectomy to chemotherapy. In fact today, she completed her 6th of 8 treatments, so we are on the downhill side. From my perspective, her first treatment was the worst and they have progressively improved such that there are days she feels nearly normal. She is much less prone to fatigue and is almost never nauseous now. She lost her hair, which was trying, but she grows more confident day by day. Having cancer has given us an open platform to share our faith. We pray that this experience allows us to share God's word and that it may take root in those who do not know Him.
Tessa has now been home with us six weeks. As I previously wrote, I have been stunned at God's timing and providence. Tessa came home to us much sooner than she should have. Potential road blocks were cleared with ease, which can only be attributed to the power of prayer. Her adjustment to our family has been remarkable. She consistently sleeps through the night, eats well, and seems to genuinely love all of us. When I enter the house after work, her face exudes joy.

Interestingly, as many of you know, despite its relative rapidity, our adoption journey was somewhat circumlocutious. We initially set out to adopt a large sibling group, then considered state special needs adoption, followed by the pursuit of a healthy African-American infant from Alabama, and eventually settling on adopting a child with Down syndrome. We found a description of Tessa (healthy Ethiopian infant, probable mosaic Down syndrome) on a registry and without any additional knowledge felt compelled to pursue her. Early indicators certainly led us to believe she would have delays and likely DS, but within hours of meeting her, it was reasonably evident that she did not. We did have the birth-to-three program perform and evaluation and she seems to be developmentally on target with no hint of DS. She will likely walk soon, has already learned two signs (more and milk), and has a host of verbal sounds.

Grace and Ian have weathered this storm like champions. Grace is about midway through a program called CLIMB a cancer support program for kids. Ian has also been in tow, mostly because they serve good food like McDonalds.
So, on this cold January afternoon, I turn and retrospect over the past several months. My writing demonstrates that I have experienced have experienced a host of emotions. My emotions today are these:

Gratitude. I am deeply grateful for a God who loves me unconditionally and who allowed me to deepen my trust in Him through these few months. I am grateful for a wife who has handled the double shot of breast cancer and a new baby with amazing grace. On my prayer card for Heather, I wrote Proverbs 31:25 at the top, which says, "Strength and dignity are her clothing, she laughs at the time to come." Although there are days she does not feel particularly strong, or dignified, or confident enough to laugh, I see all of those characteristics in her. I am proud to call her my wife. I am grateful for three children who remain steadfast through this storm, unapologetically loving us and each other.

Peace. Though anxieties over every day life still creep in from time to time, I have felt more at peace. At the beginning, looking ahead to the trials, I felt a strong sense of apprehension. I knew I needed the Father, but I did not know what it might feel like to trust Him over time. Could He really help me overcome the difficulties? He patiently carried me along, reminding me that my trust in Him was well-founded and that no matter the outcome of trials, He will be at my side. Today, that leaves me feeling peaceful and confident in His sovereignty.

Joy. Life, in Christ, appears somehow richer to me now. Both loss through cancer and gain through adoption remind me daily that my joy is found in Christ. No matter how deep I may go or how high I may ascend, Christ is there and He is my joy. May that ever be true.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. -I Thessalonians 5:16-18

25 January 2010

Trust the Architect

I am presently reading The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande, a favorite author of mine. In this book, he talks about the immense complexity of certain tasks, our error rate as humans, and the benefit of using checklists, or a written set of rules to follow.

Gawande writes of contemplating the construction of a high-rise medical complex. "The building, he said, would be 350,000 square feet in size, with three stories underground in addition to the eleven stories above. It would cost $360 million, fully delivered, and require 3,885 tons of steel, thirteen thousand yards of concrete, nineteen air handling units, sixteen elevators, one cooling tower, and one back up emergency generator. The construction workers would have to dig out 100,000 cubic yards of dirt and install 64,000 feet of copper piping, forty seven miles of conduit, and ninety-five miles of electrical wire--enough to reach Maine." (p. 52). On the following page, he posed the question, "So, as I looked up at this whole building that had to stand up straight even in an earthquake, puzzling over how the workers could be sure they were constructing it properly, I realized the question had two components. First, how could they be sure that they had the right knowledge in hand? Second, how could they be sure they were applying the knowledge correctly?" (p. 53).

My immediate thought was, "they would need to trust the architect." The architect would be responsible for having the most complete knowledge of the building site, the building itself, and how it would be constructed. Further, the architect would prepare a set of written documents (i.e., blueprints) that would need to be followed to ensure that the building stood. The workers would need to assume that a) there was an architect and b) that he was trustworthy. Indeed, the workers may have just a vague notion of the final design. If they proceeded without design, the results would be disastrous.

In answer to the second question, the workers could be sure they were applying the knowledge correctly by a) knowing their roles, and b) trying to understand the blueprints and be faithful to them. If an electrician elects to do the work of a plumber, the knowledge may be incorrectly applied. Rather, the electrician should employ his gifts to the project as he has studied and trained for them. Neither the electrician nor the plumber, however, should lose sight of the fact that they are essential parts of the building--it won't get built without them.

Naturally, this is a great metaphor for the Christian life. There is an Architect, he has given us a written plan, we each have roles, and yet, we each are part of the building process.

Job 38:4-7 reads, "Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?" God is our divine architect who laid the foundation of the earth. He understands the whole design, even when we do not.

God also provided us with a set of trustworthy blueprints, the Bible. "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness" (2 Timothy 3:16). Just as a blueprint does not encompass the whole knowledge of an architect, so God's word to us does not capture all of His knowledge; rather, it provides us what we need to know for the work at hand.

We each have our roles. Paul told the Corinthian church, "For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, 'Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,' that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, 'Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,' that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body." (I Corinthians 12: 12-19). God gifts each one of us (you can read more in Romans 12) and I think we need to work to discern our gifts and build upon them. In the same way that the best person to lay bricks is a mason, the most effective teacher has a gift of teaching. We each need to learn our role in the body.

Finally, we are all focused on a common purpose--building. We have been given trustworthy blueprints by the Architect and we each have our roles. Though we may not know what the finished product will look like, the Architect does; the only thing each of us needs to focus on is completing the task he or she was given.

19 January 2010

Roundup-1/21/10

Mark Rogers writes of doing missions when death is on the line.


The kind of Christian who gets offended when a clerk at Target says “happy holidays” rather than “merry Christmas” when checking out, probably won’t consider moving to a city where Christians are gunned down on Christmas Eve or shot at a wedding. Yet that is exactly what needs to happen. Algeria is 99% Muslim and 99% of the ethnic Malay people are Muslim. Their constitution declares that to be a Malay you must be Muslim. If the Malay, or the Algerian, or the Yemeni, or the Moroccan people are going to believe, thousands of believers need to leave their culture and enter these places with the gospel. Those who go must be prepared to be slighted, to be looted, to be hated, and even to be killed.


I have often pondered how I would fare up under such circumstances. Christians around the world die daily for the cause of their faith. In fact, we are told we will be persecuted for our faith, it should not be a surprise to us. As Rogers points out, hearing "happy holidays" is not persecution. May God raise up people to preach his word throughout the globe.

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Michael Patton, in Parchment and Pen, provides an interesting contrast between the story of David and Goliath and the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. David had absolute faith that he would overcome Goliath; the 3 boys did not know the outcome, but trusted God anyway.

Patton writes, "Remember, God has made a lot of promises, but there are also a lot of promises that he has not made. Don’t read promises into Scripture. Try saying this next time Goliath is at your door, “If it be so, God can deliver me, but even if you strike me dead, I will not abandon my faith because I will not place my faith in something God has not promised. You may raise some eyebrows, but you will be representing truth much more faithfully."

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Another interesting Bible memorization website.

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Trevin Wax interacts with a commentator on his blog about proselytism. Basically, if we believe Christianity is objectively the only way to God, we should proselytize.

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John Acuff over at Stuff Christians Like wrote about Caring too much about Failure. He makes several great points, but his recommendations to learn to fail gloriously and "it's not about failure, it's about obedience" really struck a chord.

18 January 2010

Round-up: 1/18/10

Biblical illiteracy was described as a problem on Justin Taylor's blog.

To make a real difference in people’s lives, biblical literacy programs will have to do more than simply encourage believers to memorize a select set of Bible verses. They will have to teach people to speak the language of faith; and while this language is of course grounded in the grammar, vocabulary, and stories of the Bible, living languages are embedded in actual human communities that are constituted by particular habits, values, practices, stories, and exemplars. We don’t memorize languages; we use them and live through them. As Paulo Freire reminded us, literacy enables us to read both the word and the world. Language mediates our reality, expands our horizons, inspires our imagination, and empowers our actions. Literacy therefore isn’t simply about possessing a static ability to read and write; it is a dynamic reality, a never-ending life practice that involves putting those skills to work in reshaping our identity and transforming our world. Biblical literacy programs need to do more than produce informed quoters. They need to produce transformed readers.

We all need to get into God's word. I Peter 3:15 says, "but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you."

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Adrian Warnock presents John Piper's sermon to the Village Church, where Matt Chandler preaches. Matt Chandler, as you may have heard, was recently diagnosed with brain cancer. Chandler has handled this truly graciously. I pray that we do.

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Justin Buzzard, on The Gospel Coalition Blog, writes of Oswald Chambers "4 years of hell on earth."

Friend, the hell you’re walking through right now just might lead to heaven. God has not abandoned you. He’s stripping you of false lovers so that you can know him. You were created to know, love, worship, adore, and enjoy God. Praise him that he loves you enough to not let you settle for anything less than him.

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Thabati Anyabwile also on suffering (seems to be a theme this week):

So, death must be conquered. We must be set free from our fear of it. But neither the conquering of death or courage in its face comes from self-help maneuvers. The grip of death is too strong, our hearts are too weak. To defeat it we must be delivered, rescued, liberated, saved. We need a strong man stronger than all men.

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An article from the New York times documents the folly of living for one's career and salary. What attorneys once thought was a golden ticket is disappearing, leading to greater incidence of depression. Luke 12:13-21 talks about building bigger barns. Their barns are burning.

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Tim Challies engaged in a 3 letter exchange with atheist, Luke Muehlhauser. It is reasonably cordial and well worth the time to read. I always wonder how atheists and Christians can look at the same information and come away with drastically different conclusions.

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Doughnut Upside Down Cake: Any recipe that includes
the phrase, "I simply looked through a classic recipe [for pineapple upside-down cake] and replaced every instance of 'pineapple' with 'doughnut'" must be a good recipe.


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Adrian Warnock on getting back to the book of Acts.

Social gospel cares for poor. Prosperity gospel cares for me. Green gospel cares for the earth. Charismatic gospel cares about tongues. The real gospel has Jesus at the centre.


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A truly pro-life, pro-family church welcomes the disruption of children in the foyer, rejoices at the sight of new faces in children’s church and smiles at the thought of families from different countries and backgrounds joining us in praise to God. Read more here.

Green Worship-insights from House

I enjoy House MD. Despite House's irreverence and specialists working well outside their specialties, the medical mysteries are often enjoyable to consider (right now, I hear them discussing Alien Hand Syndrome behind me). I have also found that they have dealt with moral and faith issues with a modicum of respect, unlike much of Hollywood. Recently, I was watching an episode from season 5 entitled "Saviors." The story line is that there is an environmental extremist who worships the environment. Watch the video below; you will find that there is a sign that reads "What Would Nature Do?"



This was recently addressed by Al Mohler, who wrote a piece entitled "Thinking Green-The New Religion." He discusses the work of Stephen Asma who wrote Green Guilt, a book about how moderns have taken up the banner of environmentalism complete with all of the traditional behaviors and orthodoxy characteristic of traditional religions.

God created in us a heart for worship, though from Old Testament times through the present, there is abundant evidence that people worship the created rather than the creator. God teach us that our true object of worship is You and You alone.

17 January 2010

Book Review-Forgotten God

I started reading Forgotten God by Francis Chan this morning. Last year, Crazy Love by Chan was one of the best books I read. I recommended it to many people. Although I didn't think he could match his first book, Chan's sophomore offering is similarly worthwhile. Readers familiar with Chan's intensity will not be disappointed by this book, which is focused on the Holy Spirit, the third member of the trinity (or as Chan calls Him, "forgotten God").

Chan introduces the topic of the Holy Spirit by noting that many churches downplay the role of the Holy Spirit, while others seem to overemphasize Him. He calls for orthodox, Biblically grounded faith, but also a sensitivity to the power of the Spirit. He rightly points out that many believers today "do not expect the Spirit to act" (p. 31). In fact, he later points out that we often ask for less because we don't expect the spirit to act powerfully. I know that has been true in my life, but the events of the past several months have increasingly convinced me that He is real and powerful in my life. Make no mistake, however, this is no call to the prosperity gospel (thankfully).

I know that I have downplayed the role of the Holy Spirit in my life. This book has helped me to re-examine that. Chan's concluding chapter contains this phrase:
  • As for me, I am tired of talking about what we are going to do. I am sick of talking about helping people, of brainstorming and conferencing about ways we can be radical and make sacrifices. I don't want to merely talk anymore. Life is too short. I don't want to speak about Jesus; I want to know Jesus. I want to be Jesus to people. I don't want to just write about the Holy Spirit; I want to experience His presence in my life in a profound way.
This book is well worth your time to read.

Memorizing in context-learning scripture with your family

"I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you."-Psalm 119:11

Grace and I just finished reading John's Gospel together. As we would finish reading sections, I would ask her what she thought of the section. Often her insights were much deeper and more accurate than I would have thought for a 9 year old. At other times, she expressed confusion. I was most impressed that a school-age child can absorb scriptures in forms other than a cartoonish book. At the same time, I have thought about making Bible memorization meaningful. Despite the fact that she possesses a remarkable memory, she is not particularly motivated to memorize God's word. I think the reasons behind this are two-fold: 1) she does not see the benefit of memorizing individual bits of scripture for memorization's sake and 2) most of the time, she does not actively see me working on memorization because I work on it before she is awake. (Habits are caught, not taught).

So as we move forward in our evening quiet times, I have a plan in mind. Each week, we will work together on memorizing one verse of scripture, reviewing it each night.

Day 1-We will read the verse together. I will ask Grace what she thinks the verse means. Then we will read the verse again several times.

Day 2-I will ask her what she remembers of the verse, and will correct whatever needs to be corrected. Then we will read the verse in context, reading the surrounding chapter. This will help to establish the meaning behind the verse.

Day 3-Today we can start with her quizzing me and she can correct me. We will briefly review the story we discussed the previous day and talk about the meaning of the story in its historic context.

Day 4-Review the scripture again. Talk about the scripture in our current context and how it could apply today.

Day 5-Review the scripture again. Ask her now, after 5 days, what she thinks the verse means.

Days 6 & 7-Review, Review, Review.

I pray that this approach will help both of us to learn scripture more deeply, apply it to our lives, and avoid proof-texting.

15 January 2010

Weekend round up-1/15/10

I read a lot every week and I often come across things that I think are worth sharing. This week, is no different, particularly in light of the current crisis in Haiti. I am going to try to post a "weekend round up" every week covering the posts that I found most useful and enlightening. I hope others can benefit from this as well.

1) Does God Hate Haiti? by Al Mohler--"A faithful Christian cannot accept the claim that God is a bystander in world events. The Bible clearly claims the sovereign rule of God over all his creation, all of the time. We have no right to claim that God was surprised by the earthquake in Haiti, or to allow that God could not have prevented it from happening."

This article has been receiving a lot of praise around the Christian blogosphere. Mohler has handled this subject quite compassionately when other Christian leaders have been much more indelicate.

2) Shaun Groves provides a Compassion International-give Haiti profile pic. I have it put on my facebook.

3) Tim Challies posts about the relevance of Neil Postman's work to the situation in Haiti. "Three days from now we will have moved on. Maybe it will take four or five. But honestly, after the weekend, few of us will ever think of Haiti again. The next news story will come along and Haiti will be relegated to history. But three days from now and a week from now, the situation in Haiti will be far worse than it is today. The devastation will be more complete. The pain will be greater. " I fear this is absolutely true. How many people really think much about the tsunami anymore?

4) Zach Nielsen links to pics of Haiti and the devastation there. May it break our hearts and move us to action.

5) Jared Wilson on laying down your life: "If I’m not prepared to jeopardise a friendship so that I can tell others about Christ, I can be fairly certain I won’t give up my life." There are many other good thoughts here as well.

6) A thousand 9/11's--Justin Taylor cites Charles Krauthammer on Haiti, "We have heard the estimates. If one of the middling estimates of 100,000 dead is true, that would translate on a per capita basis — it would have the societal effect — in the U.S. [as] the loss, the death, of 3 million Americans — in one day! … That is a thousand 9/11s in one day."

If you are on facebook and can't open the links, here is a link to my blog: http://www.docsdining.blogspot.com/

08 January 2010

Book Review-The Hole in our Gospel

Since I already gave away the punchline in my introduction to the book here, herein lies my impressions of the book in hindsight. First, let me say The Hole in Our Gospel is a remarkable and powerful call to authentic Christianity. Richard Stearns paints a compelling picture of the need for Christian charity, asking where it exists in the 21st century American church. It is the anti-prosperity gospel.

He poignantly shares his unwilling journey from corporate CEO to the president of World Vision, a global humanitarian agency and his many struggles along the way. I suspect his struggles mirror those of many of us living comfortably in suburbia. However, this once reluctant recruit issues an effective battle cry to Christians to step up and care for the downtrodden in society. His conception is that the whole gospel "means much more than the personal salvation of individuals. It means a social revolution."

In part 3 of the book, he presents a number of staggering statistics about the state of the world, particularly outside the US. For example:
  • if you make $25,000 per year, you are wealthier than 99% of the population of the world.
  • approximately 25,000 people die each day of hunger.
  • as many as 5 million people die every year of water-related illnesses.
  • in Sierra Leone, 28.2% of all children are dead by age 5.
  • yet, we possess the ability in American churches, if we step up, to deal with the disease, death, and starvation because of our unparalleled resources--we are the "wealthiest church in history".
As I read the book, as an individual, I found myself vacillating between a desire to sell everything and move to Africa and feeling overwhelmed by the sheer enormity of the task we face. Right now, I sit somewhere in the middle. I believe the battle cry Stearns issues needs to be heard by all Christians and that we need to take up the charge. As members of the body of Christ, we need to pray diligently regarding our role. I believe that all of our gifts can be used in this battle, though persistent prayer for how God will use each us is essential. His book certainly evokes a strong emotional response.

I had just a few minor criticisms of his book.
  • On page 230, he talks about the attributes of Christ. He describes Christ as "inviting to members of all faiths," which is certainly true, though I fear this may be interpreted as Christ being accepting of all faiths, which is inconsistent with the Bible. Christ is the only way to salvation.
  • He believes the "heart and soul of the Church of Jesus Christ, the very integrity of our faith and our relevance in the world, hang in the balance" (page 239). I think this places too much emphasis on our role as humans. The battle has already been won, unless I am reading Revelation wrong. God is sovereign.
  • There seems to be a minimization of focus on the poor in the US, which I suppose is a reflection of the mission of World Vision. Yet, there are many poor here as well.
In any case, this may well be one of the most important books I will ever read. I pray for God's revelation to me of what role I play in His body, asking Him to remove the dross of the world and siren song of American capitalism.

03 January 2010

The lived-out Gospel

"Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God."-Bob Pierce, founder of World Vision

Have you ever begun reading a book, wishing you could set it down because you know the effect that it could (or should) have upon your life? Or facing the greater fear, to read the book and not allow it to change you?

This morning, I started reading The Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Stearns, the president of World Vision. Thus far, I have only read the preface and the introduction, though the complacent, sinful side of me already wants to set the book back on the shelf. To put it back where it has been sitting, for several weeks, unconsidered. "Ignorance is bliss," goes the old familiar saying.

Stearns asks the question, "Is our faith about going to church, studying the Bible and avoiding the most serious sins--or does God expect more?" I'll be honest, there are days where the former sounds very appealing. My own comfortable existence. Just God, me, and some dear friends.

However, because I read my Bible, I know that He does expect more of me. Brad and I have been talking recently that although we are saved by grace, through faith and not by works (Ephesians 2:8-9), we are not excused from works. Our work, for Christ, is the evidence of an active faith (James 2:18) and serving others may open the doorway to the Gospel. The Gospel lived out. The Great Commission.

I pray for a soft heart to the message of this book. I pray that God provides me with a practical understanding of how to put into action my desires to fill the hole in the gospel.

Anyone who does not love, does not know God, because God is love. -I John 4:8

01 January 2010

New Year's Introspection

The dawn of a new year inevitably brings about self-reflection. For me, this year is no different. My introspection has meandered through a range of topics, but seems to have taken a rather extended break with regard to authentic Christianity and one's my calling.

A recent interaction with a young man I count as a brother has again brought to a head these thoughts. He is passionate about Jesus and about faith lived out. He has a particular heart for the poor and working with those less fortunate. He is concerned about the complacency of American Christianity toward poverty and he is passionate to live Christ in all.

So, what does this have to do with me? I believe in Jesus Christ with all of my heart. Lately, it seems I think about Him non-stop. I read stories of the apostles giving all for Christ. I read about martyrs, both ancient and contemporary, giving their lives in service to Jesus. I listen to sermons by men like Francis Chan, John Piper, and more recently Paul Washer who passionately call attention to the discrepancy between the gospel and American Christianity.

Then, I look around. I live in a beautiful home in a safe neighborhood. I have an amazing job that pays well. I own 2 cars. I own 3 TVs. I own more than 1 pair of shoes, which on a global scope, marks me as exceedingly wealthy.

I could enumerate the ways in which I feel as though I give of myself, but I am always left with the question, am I giving enough? Am I giving all? Thoughts intrude.

student loans

mortgage
family
breast cancer
responsibilities

How do I reconcile my internal struggle to leave all for the sake of the gospel (Mark 10:29) with my sense of duty to care for the responsibilities that I feel God has entrusted to me (I Timothy 5:8)? How do I deal with the understanding that a well-paying job may be God's way of allowing me to minister to others? If all Christians go to Samaria (e.g., the inner city) or the ends of the earth (e.g., Honduras), who will stay in Judea (e.g., Eau Claire)? If everyone is a missionary, who supports the missionaries?

Where I stop at the end of the day is the same place I always do. Praying for forgiveness for my worldliness. Praying for God's will. Praying for effective witness for those who stay and those who go. Praying that in all things, Christ would be made much of, not in my American or protestant or white worldview, but as the glorified savior of all who would come to Him. Tomorrow, I will again read God's word, praying that this sinful man who wants to know Him desperately can discern His still, small voice amidst the cacophony of my life.