Books I read on holidays…

 

Jesus Wants to Save Christians, Rob Bell & Dan Golden, Zondervan, 2008

Incredibly rich understanding of the Biblical narrative, Bell & Golden’s manifesto for followers of Jesus is an incredibly stimulating read.

If you’ve ever wondered about the calling of Christians and the church in the 21st century, you have to read this book.

It made me dream about meeting the challenge of implementing and anticipating the new heavens and the new earth in the here and now.

Every church leader needs to read this book. I bought copies for RCRC’s leadership and ministry teams

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I have read a few books on sexual intimacy over the years, and Lehman’s “Sheet Music” is one of the best. There are no embarrassing euphemisms, and no ‘cringe factors’ that I can remember.

This a great resource for couples who want to share a deeper and warmer sexual intimacy. Also great for couple preparing for marriage.

——— ½

 

 

 

11 opens up a raft of relationships any person will do well to cultivate. No one possesses all wisdom and foresight, and I think we all know that truth comes best in a team setting.

Len Sweet is a great wordsmith, an insightful critic of culture and a wise interpreter of Scripture. His book helped me see a little more of what’s going on in my life. He made me ask whether my team and close friends are having a wholesome impact on my life.

I wondered, though, whether 11 critical relationships was a few too many? I am not sure I can have close relationships with that many people effectively.

I also was looking for a sharp, purposeful angle in the book, and apart from acknowledging these relationships will help you cross the finish line well, I struggled to maintain forward momentum. Could be my issue, I guess. But I suppose I would have benefitted from a more purposeful development of the material.

——— ½

 

The account of the events surrounding the death of Cameron Doomadgee on Palm Island on November 19, 2004

Chloe Hooper walked with Andrew Boe through the trial of Chris Hurley. We hear the cries of Doomadgee’s family, we sense the fear of Hurley, we gasp in disbelief at the inequity. Most of all we ache with the sheer hopelessness of the case. Prejudice. Indifference. Seemingly intractable problems. I was disgusted by the history of my own State (Queensland) and the sort of bungling and apparent corruption which has made justice, in this case, almost an impossibility.

I started inquisitive and interested. I finished angry and broken.

All Australians need to be more aware of the oppression that is happening even in this day. Queenslanders, we should all read this book, and at least learn something as Hooper lifts the lid on our own history, past and present (see Chapter 1, The Island, p.7 ff)

———— ½

 

A gift from Leonie, The Time We Have Taken is an ambulatory study of several suburban characters in the 1960’s. We see how they interrelate, how they love and fall out of love, how they live and die.

Carroll develops his characters with great depth and warmth. We’re drawn into the naiveté and intricacy of Australian homes, hearts, and proclivities.

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 The story of how a Jewish Haggadah from the 16th century was discovered and conserved. We are taken into the lives of various people associated with the Haggadah.

You will read sub-stories and adventures from the Yugoslavian Partisans, Jewish communities in Spain, and the infamous Spanish Inquisition.

Brookes’ research brings great texture, and the diverse nature of her characters makes this consuming reading. No wonder this author has been honoured with a Pulitzer.

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While not a terribly recent title (2004) I thought this would be good to decompress and get me into holiday mode. Wrong. Having read a number of Jodi Picoult’s titles, I found James’ style irritating. She takes great care developing the back story in the first chapters – stacks of detail there. But I found myself saying “I’m up to page 115 and there hasn’t even been a murder yet!”

I thought her vocab was a little forced in places: transmogrification is a great word, but how much does vocab like that add to engagement and reader value? I thought it was a bit of a pose in places.

But as one person said to me a few days ago, “It’s still not bad for an old woman with a black handbag…”. Enough said.

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New Year’s Revolutions

Welcome to 2009

It may be nineteen days late, but I’ve been on leave for the last three weeks, so this is the first chance I’ve had to express some thoughts and prayers I have been working through for the two months. I have called these ‘New Year’s Revolutions’, because most of them I just want to keep rolling around, returning, reforming and reframing with greater focus.

So here’s what I am looking at

  1. I want a more prophetic and challenging ministry. That means I want to listen to what’s going on in my life, the lives of people around me, the culture in which I live, and hold that up to God’s call to be a people implementing and anticipating new creation. I want to speak to and expose our blind spots and the complacencies of my own culture. I want this to be decisive, incisive and breathed by the Spirit. Please understand: I do not want to suggest that we are all slacking off. The truth is, there are lots of people at RCRC who are great servants in great ministry. But we do have a tendency to favour what like and want, rather than true needs around us. I 2009 I would love to see that change
  2. I want to see more spiritual passion. I could be wrong, but sometimes I sense that we’re wary about a rich expression of following Jesus in life and worship. Whether it’s a lavish gift, some outward expression of heartfelt joy, or a rich sense of community and acceptance when the community of Jesus followers gather. For this reason, I think it would be good to ask a few questions of ourselves:
    1. Is my celebration of God as expressive as my celebration of great exam results or the victory of the team I love? Which one is better? Which gives me more hope?
    2. Is my welcoming of Jesus followers on Sunday as warm, expressive and heartfelt as the meeting of a best friend I have not seen for a long time? Does our expression of community say something about the wonderful transformation Jesus has brought and is bringing?
    3. Is God really the centre of my celebration on Sunday? How could I give better expression of this with his new community?
  3. I want to lead and preach toward full commitment and Christ centeredness. We all know perfection only comes when Jesus returns so I’m not thinking of dividing us into business class Christians and the economy variety: some Christians who have ‘made it’ and others who haven’t. But let me ask you – and let me keep asking you:
    1. Are you in top spiritual condition? Where do you rate yourself on a scale of 1-10 where 1 is ‘not at all Christ centred’, and 10 is ‘as Christ centred as I think I can be’. Let’s say you give yourself a 6/10. Do you think God is satisfied with that? If not, what do you have to do to move up a notch? What attitudes have to change? What do you need to put to death? What needs to come alive?
    2. Is RCRC in top spiritual condition? What needs to change? What do we need to do more, and what should we be doing less?
    3. Are you in a context where you are being stretched theologically? Where your desire to know God and serve him is really being deepened? Are you seeking greater opportunity to grow? Have you made a goal to nurture your faith significantly in 2009? Have you signed up for Foundations? (watch this space)
  4. I want to see RCRC truly embrace a healthy outward focus. We’ve talked a lot about this: serving our community, being salt and light, being an agent of hope for Redlands. Now we have take it to the next level. I know we are all busy. Me too. I probably can’t do more things than what I am doing at present, so I need to think of the following:
    1. What can I drop or do differently? Letting something go doesn’t mean I no longer agree with it, or that it’s become bad. It may just mean that as I change and meet new opportunities being a good steward means I need to do things differently
    2. What will I do to specifically serve the outward mission of the church? Jesus has given his transforming love to me minute by minute – so how will I implement something of his transformation in my life? You may not be Mother Theresa, but here are 10 suggestions (as distinct from commandments) to start you on your way:
      1. visit some lonely people
      2. cook a meal for the single mum a few doors away
      3. ring/email school chaplains to let them know I’m praying for them
      4. offer to mentor a child at a local school
      5. get involved in something like the Matthew Stanley Foundation or the Melanoma Awareness Foundation – two causes that have been too close to home for many
      6. help Meals on Wheels
      7. pray for the Missional Communities group at RCRC
      8. send regular encouragement to those involved in RE teaching
      9. support RCRC specifically engaged in evangelism ministry
      10. just pray daily for my church to move from ‘in here’ to ‘out there’. Pray for Ministry Team people like Dan Neville, Geoff Hughes and Rod McWilliams as they seek to lead us into this

And then, a wish: I would love to see some healthy creative ministry develop, specifically for powerful communication at Sunday services. I am not talking about ‘skits’ so much, as well produced, well presented, dramatic presentations that support, add texture, and harmonise with what preachers like me present. These can be so powerful!

I wouldn’t mind betting that there are a few people in the RCRC family who could run with this – speak to me! What a great way to use your talents and gifts to bring God’s message of grace and hope to people!

Friends, I know this year will have its share of challenges. We all, by God’s grace, need to pull together and in the same direction. Ours is the rich privilege of taking the blessings God has so richly poured out on us, and using them to bless those who have no hope, or power, or love. God has blessed us with life in Jesus, and this year we get to celebrate it afresh with one another.

What we need to understand it that the purpose of that life and blessing is to carry it to the community around us, so that the world may know there is a God who is transforming His world through His Son, Jesus.

Shalom,

Dave