Tag Archives: Book Reviews

Knowing, Cage, and Ezekiel

Tonight, Jenny and I watched a very though provoking movie: Knowing, starring Nicholas Cage. Google it to find out more about the film.

(Now, if you haven’t seen the movie, you might not want to read down – I might give too much away!

As we watched, I was stunned by the thought going into the story. As this apocalypse event unfolds, I saw a mixture of sci-fi with religion. Ezekiel’s OT writings are mixed with the imaginations of the writers and graphic artists — I’m left wondering what the authors are trying to say about their views of the origins of the world, humanity, and the role God plays in the events of the universe.

Here’s what I saw:

  • The angels of the Bible are perhaps a lot like aliens in some sci-fi circles – they’ve come to interact with our planet.
  • The population of the world is the process of alien/angel transportation of “Adams and Eves” to the millions of possible earth-like planets in the universe.
  • Angels interact with certain people. These people are looked at by general society as very crazy, mentally disabled, or deranged.
  • Salvation and the afterlife are still actualities, though the film doesn’t play that out.
  • God isn’t really a relational part of the picture. He’s implied in a way, but if we take certain beings to be more like aliens than angels, then God is not a part of the film.

At that, this would make a great small group conversation piece!

Spiritual Direction | Book Review

I think I have a new favorite author: Henri Nouwen. I am still absorbing some of his deep words and I’m only in the first chapters of his Spiritual Direction.

Here’s what I’m hearing:

We (I) need time to listen, set aside time that helps to listen and focus on God. This is what God uses a lot of the time to transform our souls.

We (I) need the support of Christian community in several kinds of ways. One way is the worshiping side by side, listening with others, always rediscovering our identity as Children of God and people on a mission of love. Another way is through “spiritual friendship” which is kind of like a mentoring in the faith, learning from one another how to express the Way of Truth and Life in everyday life.

Spiritual friendship (or direction) is something Nouwen says is kind of missing these days in contemporary Christianity and he sites this is why we’re having a hard time being expressions of light in the world around us. We’re cluttered and distracted and desperately needing our brothers and sisters to help us pay attention to the things and rhythms of God.

The other big take away from the book was that our lives need focus and spiritual practices/disciplines are tools God provide to help with just that – especially the life of prayer, the life immersed in the Word, and the life immersed in the community of the Word of God.

With this book, I hear how this mindset speaks to small groups and spiritual communities. I think we’re experiencing a call for formation, a focus on inner character with outer expression together. Sometimes I think these things are slighly missing from some small group experiences. Not always…

I’m at the spot that I’ve had to set Spiritual Discipline down and wait for my own copy to come via Amazon. The one I have is a library copy and I NEED to litter the margins.

Spiritual Formation as if the Church Mattered (Growing in Christ through Community) | Book Review

Wilhoit’s approach is very academic feeling, but still very enlightening when I think about Christian Spiritual formation.

The book flows around four relationship experiences: Receiving, Remembering, Responding, Relating. Within each segment, Wilhoit reminds us of God at work in and around the relationships in our lives.

Receiving: we receive the Grace of God which grows faith within us.

Remembering: this is the grounding or the roots to the whole Christian life. Remembering is about the focal piece of our new identity as saved people, saved by the Grace of God through Jesus.

Responding: this is the expression of faith within us. It’s something that is like a blooming into action. It’s fostered and active.

Relating: this is where being-formed people continue to connect with others. This piece is all about seeking spiritually enriching community and opportunities for expressing love to others.

The most helpful pieces from the book were the twelve “Community Spiritual Formation Corollaries:”

  1. “All persons are formed spiritually. It may be in either as positive or negative direction. This formation may involve the cultivation of virtues that promote trust in God ans foster social compassion or may leave persons wary, self-protective, and unable to promote the welfare of society” (p.17).
  2. “Christian spiritual formation: (1) is intentional; (2) is communal; (3) requires our engagement; (4) is accomplished by the Holy Spirit; (5) is for the glory of God and the service of others; and (6) has as its means and end the imitation of Christ” (p.23).
  3. “The gospel is the power of God for the beginning, middle, and end of salvation. It is not merely what we need to proclaim to unbelievers; the gospel also needs to permeate our entire Christian experience” (p.29).
  4. “Christian spiritual formation seeks to foster a joyful apprenticeship in which we learn to live out the great invitations of Jesus, especially those concerning the life of prayer and love” (p.45).
  5. “The fertile field for formation is in a community genuinely aware of the depth of their sin and the reality of their spiritual thirst. True formation requires that the community deeply understands that they cannot cure the sickness of their souls through willpower alone” (p.63).
  6. “Our soul-thirst is powerful, and it makes all of us idolaters. The Bible sees idolatry as a universal problem. Communities have a unique way of embodying a corporate pride that blinds them to forms of idolatry. Also, faith communities can challenge idolatrous practices like racism in ways an isolated Christian seldom will” (p.76).
  7. “Worship filled with prayer and praise and opportunities for confession, repentance, receiving the sacraments, hearing and giving testimonies of God’s activity, and learning/challenge is the most important context of community formation” (p.86).
  8. “‘Be subject to one another our of reverence for Christ’ (Eph. 5:20). Submission, restorative discipline, and accountable spiritual leadership are ancient formative practices that mark healthy formative churches” (p.90).
  9. “Christian spiritual formation should always be more than the teaching ministry of the church, but never less. True formational teaching is compressive, deeply orthodox, healthy, and anointed by the Spirit of God” (p.139).
  10. “True Christian spiritual formation forms Christians with a deep identity and engagement with the church worldwide” (p.156).
  11. “Evangelism is an essential part of spiritual formation. Evangelism, as people are called to faith in Christ, is the initial act of Christian formation. The act of evangelism is a powerful means of formation for the believer who reaches out in love to share the good news” (p.167).
  12. “Conflict has a unique way of forming us. In conflict our natural patterns of defensiveness arise, and in this vulnerable place we can experience much growth as we lean that Jesus’ teachings are so sensible” (p.174).

With these concepts in the front of my imatination at the moment, I wonder what my move is. I’m also wondering what moves God is already in the process of doing in and around me and within the lives of others around me.

As I skim through the book looking over my highlight streaks and notes, I see this line from page 75: “Christian spiritual formation is not primarily about programs or techniques, but it is first and foremost about an approach to life.” That sentence sums up all twelve corollaries and four relationship that this book is all about.

…spiritual formation isn’t a class experience but an approach to life that is about receiving new life from God, remembering this new life’s cause and call, responding to this new life invitation by following Jesus as we’re recieving the ability and faith to do so, and relating with others in this lifestyle and being sent out to relate to all others in need of new life from God through Jesus.