Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Book: The Art of Work by @jeffgoins

book

(Click the image to get more information about the book in pre-sale and bonuses available for it.)

In the modern American Christian world, there are two major schools of thought about finding your life’s work. Both views have their proponents and books, and both have positives to commend them to you. The first view is that one needs to absolutely only ever obey God. The other view is that one needs to “find yourself” and go with the flow of the universe. This latter view is often Christianized by attaching random Bible verses.

It’s also so much fluffy nonsense.

The other view, of only obeying God, is a no-brainer. If you are a Christian, then you have made that your life’s goal: obey God in all ways and all things. One is then back to the original question: what do I do with my life? How do we find those things that we best glorify God by doing?

Into that conversation comes The Art of Work by Jeff Goins. Goins acknowledges the need to find personal fulfillment in work, but bases it not in self-satisfaction but in becoming what God meant you to become, doing what you were meant to do.

A note is due here about the idea of “work” for the purposes of this book. It’s not just about where you punch a time clock. It’s about all the things we do—both for profit and for living. Goins presents some ideas here about how to help those two things mesh.

Goins challenges the reader to examine just how they are energized in living life. He presents several ways to work through shifting life to a more fulfilling view. It all starts with the core: determine that what you want in life is not the same as what everyone else wants. Lean into those desires, not into the template of wealth or self-actualization that the world imprints for you.

Is this work perfect? Of course not. For the most part, the imperfections are opportunities for the reader. Goins has chosen examples and testimonies that highlight the extremes that are possible in this world, both depths to rise from and heights to soar to. That many of us may not achieve as much should be balanced by the reality that most of us are not near as low, either. Further, if he spelled out exactly what you should do, you would live his dream and not yours. Seems like that misses the point, doesn’t it?

All told, Goins makes excellent points in The Art of Work. Further, he uses Biblical events and passages without doing violence to their context. It’s not a Sunday School book—this is not a Bible study work, it’s a personal development book. But it is worth your time.

Disclaimer? Not really. I’ve met the author, and he’s a nice guy. Of course, I’ve met other people whose books I don’t like, so meeting me doesn’t guarantee a good review. This is worth your time.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Book: 40 Questions about Creation and Evolution

Book Blitz gets deeply theological.

40 Questions about Creation and Evolutions by Kenneth KeathleyWhen it comes to the debate about the origin of humanity or the origin of the universe, one has two basic options. You can start with a belief in a supernatural possible origin, or you can start without one. If you start with a belief that there is no possible supernatural origin, then that’s where your search ends. The universe is what it is, it happened how it happened, and we’re done here.

If you start with a belief in the possibility of the supernatural, then you have further ideas to examine. For example, one must determine which supernatural accounting should be considered. One must determine how the supernatural interacts with the scientifically observed and tested. These are the questions that feed into Kregel Academic’s 40 Questions about Creation and Evolution.

The first observation on this work is that the authors are theology and Old Testament professors. This demonstrates that the work is aimed at answering questions based in the Bible account of the origin of the universe and humanity. I think the work would benefit from adding an author whose expertise is science, but the authors have well-researched and cited scientific issues where appropriate.

The second observation is that this is not really a book about science at all. It is more appropriately considered a book about whether or not the Biblical account can be interpreted in various ways. Is the “day-age” theory tenable based on the text? What of “intelligent design”? How much is “Darwinism” science and how much is it religious/philosophical? These are the questions treated here.

The third observation is that in the times where this book treats with science, it does attempt to present even-handed evidences. For example, geological examples are presented that defy easy explanation in the typical young-earth viewpoint as well as those that support that viewpoint. Overall, the science conclusion appears to come back to an undecided viewpoint. The authors promote the idea that science cannot give a fully conclusive answer and that one must find it in examining the Biblical account.

Where does this fit into the typical reading program? It’s a pretty serious read. 400 pages of theology, Biblical Studies, and science. Fortunately, it does include footnotes :) but overall, you’re not going to read this for fun on the weekends. (Unless your nerd-level is as high as mine.) However, for those trying to wrestle with how Christian Scripture and the origin of the world work together, this is worth your time. It’s also worth it for anyone preparing an in-depth study on Genesis 1 and 2.

Free book in exchange for the review.

In the Future: Luke 21

In Summary:

Luke 21 opens with what is probably the most famous of all Jesus’ teaching on giving. This is the story of the Widow’s Mite, where a widow gives her small amount at the Temple. She is contrasted with the religiously self-important, who give greater gross amounts, but do it for the publicity. Additionally, she has put a larger percentage of her resources—without divine support, she will be in great need. The important folks? These gave from what they did not need.

After observing the giving at the Temple, Jesus goes on to speak of the end of time. His return will come after a great deal of chaos and destruction. One challenge in using this chapter to foretell a specific date—or even era—is that two major events are intermingled here. The return of Christ and the end of the ages is the major one, but secondarily included is the destruction of Jerusalem, likely at the hands of the Romans. (Or, perhaps, the destruction of Jerusalem at the end of time. You get the challenge.)

As always, the main issue in “end of the age” timing is the imminence of the return of Christ. It’s clear enough that it could be almost any time. Be obedient. Be ready.

In Focus:

Rather than putting a few verses under focus today, let us consider the context of this entire chapter. Many times we have heard sermons about giving based on the Widow’s Mite. I will acknowledge the virtue of giving with regard only for the glory of God. Those who give without regard to the opinions of others or their own comfort are more often blessed than those who focus on logic in giving.

Looking at the context, have you ever considered how the whole section is connected? Jesus begins to teach about the impending doom and transition to eternity after seeing the Widow and her giving. This tells us that, whether we like it or not, the events observed and the teaching given are related. Jesus did not see the Widow and say “Well, changing the subject…”

If these are connected, then what is the connection? The connection is this: why hold on to material wealth in light of eternity? And why give to build buildings, even the Temple, what will be destroyed?

In Practice:

Where is the practical look of this going? You might think it’s heading to “mail a check to your church!” Or even more likely, “Mail a check to your pastor!” (Or pastor-blogger! Address is available…)

That’s not the direction I want to head. If you are a Christian, you have a responsibility to honor God and support the work of the Kingdom through the church you are a part of. That’s not what is in view here—Jewish Law commanded the giving to support daily existence of synagogues and teachers. While that command is subsumed under grace, we still bear that responsibility for the church today. The giving in view was the extra giving, the giving for something greater and extra.

Instead, I would challenge us all to consider this: in light of eternity, what good is any of our spending? This includes how your local church spends its money. Are we spending it on matters that carry through? On growing fruit? On honoring God?

Or is it all going to stuff that will go away? That big, beautiful church building? Guess what? It’s doomed. Fancy car for your pastor? Destroyed. Copies of the Word of God for the multitudes? That carries forward, for the Word of the Lord endures forever. Hungry fed? That’s worth it.

Are there needs for administrative or helpful tools like buildings or employees…sure. But keep it perspective. If the Widow is going to give her Mite, then she shouldn’t be doing it just to build a building that’s destined for destruction. Let it go to something of value.

In Nerdiness: 

Luke 21:24 speaks of “the time of the Gentiles.” When are those? Some would suggest that this was the Roman domination until the modern nation of Israel. Others suggest that the “time of the Gentiles” continues even now, as Jerusalem continues to be ruled not by the Jewish people but in all sorts of chaos.

The reality? We don’t know for certain, but I would suggest that the “time of the Gentiles” continues in Jerusalem to this day. I’m not the perfect interpreter of prophecy, but I think there remains a future restoration of Jerusalem. In the long run, there will be a time when Jerusalem will not have to consider the opinions of Gentiles. But that is not yet.


Could it be soon? It could. Which is why the ultimate eschatological plan is always the same: be ready. The Lord is coming soon.