IVP Reader’s Choice Award Winners – InterVarsity Press

RCA18-banner2018 InterVarsity Press Readers’ Choice Awards

The results are in!

2018 Readers’ Choice Winners
IVP Books:

Rethinking Incarceration: Advocating for Justice That Restores
by Dominique DuBois Gilliard
The United States has more people locked up in jails, prisons, and detention centers than any other country in the history of the world. Exploring the history and foundations of mass incarceration, Dominique Gilliard examines Christianity’s role in its evolution and expansion, assessing justice in light of Scripture, and showing how Christians can pursue justice that restores and reconciles.

Life in the Presence of God: Practices for Living in Light of Eternity
by Kenneth Boa
It’s hard to discern God’s presence amid the hubbub of modern life. But experiencing God is not just for the super-spiritual—every Christian can learn to cultivate a greater awareness of God in the everyday. Sharing dozens of practical exercises and disciplines, Ken Boa offers a contemporary guide to practicing the presence of God, revealing how we can deepen our walk with God and abide in his presence.

IVP Academic:

An Explorer’s Guide to Julian of Norwich: Explorer’s Guides
by Veronica Mary Rolf
Julian of Norwich’s Revelations of Divine Love is truly an astounding work: an inspiring example of Christian mysticism, a unique contribution to Christian theology, the first book in English known to have been written by a woman. Veronica Mary Rolf guides us as we read, examining its fourteenth-century context and illuminating our understanding of this enduring work.

IVP Praxis:

Seeing Jesus in East Harlem: What Happens When Churches Show Up and Stay Put
by José Humphreys
Church leaders need to show up, stay put, and see what God is doing in their midst. Pastor José Humphreys recognizes how deeply our faith is tied to our particular stories in our particular places. Combining spiritual formation with activism, vivid narrative with exhortation, and realism with hopefulness, Humphreys offers pastors and church planters a thoughtful look at discipleship in a complex world.

Formatio:

The Path Between Us: An Enneagram Journey to Healthy Relationships
by Suzanne Stabile
How do we understand the motivations and dynamics of the different personality types we see in our intimate partners, our friends, or in our professional lives? This book from Suzanne Stabile on the nine Enneagram types and how they experience relationships will guide readers into deeper insights about themselves, their types, and others’ personalities so that they can have loving, mature, and compassionate relationships.
Honorable Mentions:

Raise Your Voice: Why We Stay Silent and How to Speak Up
by Kathy Khang
It can be hard to speak up when power dynamics keep us silent and marginalized, especially when race, ethnicity, and gender are factors. Activist Kathy Khang roots our voice and identity in the image of God, showing how we can raise our voices for the sake of God’s justice. We are created to speak, and we can both speak up for ourselves and speak out on behalf of others.

Homeland Insecurity: A Hip Hop Missiology for the Post–Civil Rights Context
by Daniel White Hodge
Even though the North American context is changing, most missiological approaches continue under colonialist assumptions. Focusing on the framework of Hip Hop theology, Daniel White Hodge shows us how to radically engage with emerging adult populations, critiquing the impaired missiology of imperialist and white supremacist approaches to modern, urban short-term missions.

Redeemed Sexuality: 12 Sessions for Healing and Transformation in Community
by Andrew A. Boa
Foreword by William M. Struthers
Sexual brokenness permeates our culture and is often a source of fear, shame, or secret sin for emerging adults within the church. But as we experience love, joy, and intimacy with God and others, sexual shame and sin lose their power. Incorporating peer-to-peer leadership, this small group curriculum invites us to seek sexual maturity and discipleship in the context of community.

 

Congratulations to all!

Save 30% on all of the winning books and honorable mentions through January 31, 2019, when you use promo code RCWIN18 when you checkout at IVP’s website.

https://www.ivpress.com/

 

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Win FREE Romans Commentaries – Eerdmans 2018 Advent Calendar (December 18th)

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The folks over at Wm B Eerdmans Publishing Co. have put together an Advent calendar for 2018 and are welcoming all of us to join them in celebrating this special Christmas season.

The opening of today’s Eerdmans’s Advent calendar, reveals that two winners will be chosen to receive two commentaries on Romans: Richard Longenecker’s NIGTC and Douglas Moo’s NICNT.

Enter to win HERE.

The Six Streams of Christian Tradition – Social Justice Stream or Compassionate Life

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This is entry five, in a short new blog series, in which I am exploring the topic of The Six Streams of Christian Tradition. Throughout this series, I will be focusing on one of the six streams, defining it, taking an introspective look into the practice in my own life, and then exploring it’s impact on the church as a whole.

The Compassionate Life

The Compassionate Life, or Social Justice Stream, is the Christian believer’s engagement and dedication to actively show love to the world around them, by being aware of the needs and wants of others (both positive and negative), as well as putting action behind their faith and beliefs by serving and helping the community in multiple capacities. Everything the Christian does, within the pursuit of the Compassionate Life is done out of faith and love toward another. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said: “When God was merciful to us, we learned to be merciful with our brethren…The more we received, the more we were able to give.” (Foster and Smith {Bonhoeffer} 2005, 274).

My personal experience with the Compassionate Life is ashamedly lacking. I enjoy reading about its benefits and actions, yet I rarely put them into practice. One could blame it on my personality, my introversion, or even my lack of knowledge in current events, but it all comes down to my self-focused pursuit of God. I’m not sure if it’s because all my life I’ve heard that I am to have a “personal relationship” with Jesus, that I am mostly only concerned with my own spiritual life; I’m unsure of the roots. Regardless, I am working to curb my selfish pursuit of God, and increase my social awareness. I’ve noticed that selfish desires diminish as the social justice stream is practiced and implemented, as one seeks to display Christ through compassion and concern for others. William Temple, when writing about this very issue, states: “Our standard of value is the way things affect us. Each of us takes our place in the center of our own world. But I am not the center of the world, or the standard of reference between good and bad. I am not, but God is” (Foster and Smith {Temple} 2005, 224). As I center on Christ, I begin to see His very heart for the hurting in the world, and therefore, challenge myself to begin serving and ministering to others with empathy and compassion.

The church could make a large difference in the world around them, if they would increase their practice of the Compassionate Life. Although churches certainly do practice the social justice stream, it’s mainly just a few churches in a region that go all-in with it. James tell us: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world” (James 1:27 NRSV). When the church seeks to care for those in society who do not have a large of voice or influence, they are practicing a Christlike heart and a pure religion. Just as Christ came to set sinners free from the bondage of sin and death, so churches can set free the oppressed from subjugation and maltreatment. A church on the forefront of freeing society from its ills, is a church reflecting the love of Christ Jesus brightly in the community; thereby being the very active hands, feet, and heart of God in the world.

Foster, Richard, & Smith, John Bryan. 2005. Devotional Classics: Selected Readings for Individuals and Groups, Revised and Expanded Edition. San Francisco, CA: HarperCollins Publishers.

 

 

The Six Streams of Christian Tradition – Charismatic Stream or Spirit-Empowered Life

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This is entry four, in a short new blog series, in which I am exploring the topic of The Six Streams of Christian Tradition. Throughout this series, I will be focusing on one of the six streams, defining it, taking an introspective look into the practice in my own life, and then exploring it’s impact on the church as a whole.

The Spirit-Empowered Life

The Spirit-Empowered Life, or the Charismatic Stream, is the emphasis and attention on one’s interactions and connection with the Holy Spirit. The counsel and guidance of the Spirit in one’s life is one of the many blessings of the Christian life, and can assist one in living a full, intimate, disciplined, loving, and ultimately, more united life with God while on earth. The Holy Spirit becomes that which empowers the Christian, drives them, energizes their very spiritual capabilities. Thomas Kelly explains: “What is here urged are internal practices and habits of the mind…secret habits of unceasing orientation of the deeps of our being about the Inward Light, ways of conducting our inward life so that we are perpetually bowed in worship…to such an amazing Inward Life with Him, so that, firmly cleaving to Him, we always look out upon all the world…and react toward men spontaneously and joyously from this Inward Center” (Kelly 1996, 5-6). The Inward Light, the Spirit of God, stimulates and feeds our very souls.

My personal experience with the Spirit-Empowered life has had mixed results. Of all the streams of Christian Spirituality, in this I have seen the least amount of progress. If I were to measure my progress in the charismatic stream simply by the positive spiritual experiences found in the Holy Spirit, I would be limited. However, as I have reflected on my overall spiritual life, I have felt most empowered and most developed after trials, correction, and chastisement. This may not seem typical for some, especially those from a more charismatic background, but I find it so within my tradition. Unfortunately, the Christian tradition I come from is one of the factors that slow my ability to connect with the charismatic stream. My church’s history with the charismatic has resulted in a shying away and near abandonment of the obvious work of the Spirit. Nevertheless, in my personal walk, I have felt, not the Spirit empowering me along the journey, but rather the Spirit correcting, protecting, and guiding me along the path.

The church could see a beneficial difference in the employment of the Spirit-Empowered life. Its practice would allow for the community of Christ to come together strongly under one influence, one inspiration, and one guide; the Holy Spirit. John Woolman said: “people are sincerely devoted to follow Christ, and dwell under the influence of his Holy Spirit…through the spreading influence of Divine love, they feel a care over the flock, and way is opened for maintaining good order in the Society” (Woolman 1998, 63-64). The Holy Spirit brings unity and harmony to the congregation of believers, the church. Paul declares to the church at Ephesus: “You have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1-3 NRSV). When the church comes together in the power of the Spirit, through the practices of the Spirit-Empowered life, a true and powerful unity will exist.

Foster, Richard, & Smith, John Bryan. 2005. Devotional Classics: Selected Readings for Individuals and Groups, Revised and Expanded Edition. San Francisco, CA: HarperCollins Publishers.

 

 

The Six Streams of Christian Tradition – Holiness Stream or Virtuous Life

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This is entry three, in a short new blog series, in which I am exploring the topic of The Six Streams of Christian Tradition. Throughout this series, I will be focusing on one of the six streams, defining it, taking an introspective look into the practice in my own life, and then exploring it’s impact on the church as a whole.

The Virtuous Life

The Virtuous Life, or Holiness Stream, is the process of aligning one’s faith and one’s actions together in a harmonious lifestyle of conviction, love, worship, and discipline. As mentioned in lecture four, this stream of the spiritual life cannot merely be achieved alone, for it is only through the transforming power of God Himself that one grows and develops in this relational divine journey. The relational aspect of one’s relationship with God will begin to infiltrate all aspects of life, resulting in changes in thoughts, aspirations, speech, and behavior. Ultimately, one becomes more Christlike, as they seek more time and devotion to Christ. Gregory of Nyssa said: “The goal of the virtuous life is the very thing we have been seeking, it is time for you, noble friend, to be known by God and to become his friend” (Foster and Smith {Gregory of Nyssa} 2005, 126).

My personal experiences with the Virtuous Life have been up and down. Throughout my Christian life, I have struggled with the overall formation of my heart. I don’t always do what I want and desire to do, falling short in areas that I sought improvement. There have been times in my life when challenges and sin arise, and I crumble or give-in, rather than staying strong. However, through time, and the work of the Holy Spirit, I look back on my Christian life and see continual progress. The virtuous life, doesn’t focus on being perfect, but rather on the development of holiness in one’s life, because of the workings of God. Thomas Kelly explains: “What is here urged are internal practices and habits of the mind…secret habits of unceasing orientation of the deeps of our being about the Inward Light, ways of conducting our inward life so that we are perpetually bowed in worship…to such an amazing Inward Life with Him, so that, firmly cleaving to Him, we always look out upon all the world…and react toward men spontaneously and joyously from this Inward Center” (Kelly 1996, 5-6).

The church could see amazing benefit and a world of difference if most congregations worldwide would seek to pursue holiness and the virtuous life. The body of believers will find reward and benefit in each other’s virtuous lifestyle example. Teresa of Avila said: “It is very important for us to associate with others who are walking in the right way – not only those who are where we are in the journey, but also those who have gone father. Those who have drawn close to God have the ability to bring us closer to him…” (Foster and Smith {Avila} 2005, 165).

The church community will naturally begin to care and lean on other believers to support, encourage, and inspire each other as they travel towards a more Christlike way of living; ultimately influencing and loving each other. With progress and development, this virtuous life of the church will also spread out onto the surrounding community, influencing those outside of Christ to come to Him.

Foster, Richard, & Smith, John Bryan. 2005. Devotional Classics: Selected Readings for Individuals and Groups, Revised and Expanded Edition. San Francisco, CA: HarperCollins Publishers.

 

 

The Six Streams of Christian Tradition – Contemplative Stream or Prayer-Filled Life

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This is entry two, in a short new blog series, in which I am exploring the topic of The Six Streams of Christian Tradition.  Throughout this series, I will be focusing on one of the six streams, defining it, taking an introspective look into the practice in my own life, and then exploring it’s impact on the church as a whole.

The Prayer-Filled Life

The Prayer-Filled Life, or Contemplative Stream, is the alignment of the heart and mind in conversation with God Himself. This stream of the spiritual life has an immense focus on spending time with God, growing in intimacy with Him, and paying attention to the sound and leading of His voice in one’s life. The mind that is able to dwell simply on God’s presence and be silent, attentive, listening, ready; is the mind at prayer and the mind in conversation with God. The gifts and benefits of prayer are immense. Martin Luther said: “No one can believe how powerful prayer is and what it can effect, except those who have learned it by experience. It is important when we have a need to go to God in prayer. I know, whenever I have prayed earnestly, that I have been heard and have obtained more than I prayer for” (Foster and Smith {Luther} 2005, 118).

My personal experience with the Prayer-Filled Life has been an enjoyable journey. Prayer, conversation, and spending time with God come easy once I’m able to find the appropriate time to spend in it. Unfortunately, my biggest hindrance to a fuller contemplative prayer life is my busy schedule. In my pursuit of conversation with the Lord, I desire to never rush through, but instead allow God to lead. The times when my prayer life have suffered the most, were times when I limited my time spent with God, as well as limited my definition of what exactly my prayer time was to become. George Buttrick stated, “Prayer is listening as well as speaking, receiving as well as asking; and its deepest mood is friendship held in reverence” (Foster and Smith {Buttrick} 2005, 91). Allowing my prayer life to be shaped by listening more than speaking, has given me a clearer perspective on my relationship with Christ, and how I choose to interact with Him. I no longer list off needs and wants, but rather begin by greeting the Lord, and seeking an interactive conversation rooted in Scripture, listening, silence, solitude, and speaking.

The church could see a large difference in the devotion, commitment, and faith of it’s members, if they were to pursue a more Prayer-Filled Life. The church is the body of Christ on earth, seeking and following Him. To be the church, is to be Christlike in prayer. Henri Nouwen, when speaking of Jesus’ prayer life, said: “(Jesus) was always listening to the Father, always attentive to his voice, always alert for his directions. Jesus was “all ear.” That is true prayer: being all ear for God. The core of all prayer is indeed listening, obediently standing in the presence of God” (Foster and Smith {Nouwen} 2005, 81).

A church growing closer to God in prayer, would be a church full of faith; strong Christlike believers, growing and deepening individually and collectively in their contemplative prayer life. The difference this type of prayer life could make would be shown in the church’s ability to have a proper heart and attitude in their approach to a conversational relationship with God while attending the company of God Himself. The church with a prayer-connected heart and mind would desire to listen, quietly and openly, receiving God’s direction and leading for themselves, and their surrounding community.

Foster, Richard, & Smith, John Bryan. 2005. Devotional Classics: Selected Readings for Individuals and Groups, Revised and Expanded Edition. San Francisco, CA: HarperCollins Publishers.

 

 

The Six Streams of Christian Tradition – Introduction

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Over the next few days, in a short new blog series, I will be exploring the topic of The Six Streams of Christian Tradition.  I will begin today by simply pointing you to Renovare’s descriptions and definitions, before exploring them myself over the course of the next week.

As written on Renovare’s website:

The Six Streams
A Balanced Vision

Jesus gave us a complete picture of God, and demonstrated how we can experience vitality and fullness in our life with God (Col. 2:9, Jn. 10:10). The historical Church (Christians), despite its divisions and differences, has upheld the core characteristics of Christ’s life through what we now call traditions.

Taken together, these traditions help us envision a balanced spiritual life. They serve as a guide to help us take on the life of Jesus – to become like Jesus ourselves – and as a result to be transformed from the inside out.

Prayer-Filled Life: Our heart’s steady attention on God

The Contemplative Tradition continually draws us into love for God, reminding us that the Christian life is less like a rule book and more like falling in love. It stresses the value of silence, solitude, and prayer as ways we engage with God’s presence, whether we take a silent walk in the early morning, ride the bus to work, wash dishes while the kids nap, or even take a nap ourselves. As Teresa of Avila described, contemplation is “an intimate sharing between friends,” in the time or manner that works best for you and God.

Virtuous Life: Responding with integrity

The Holiness Tradition emphasizes the re-formation of our hearts so that we are able to respond appropriately to the challenges of life. The word “holiness” has some negative connotations today, but the original Greek meaning of the word virtue is simply “to function well.” Virtuous Life is not about rules or judgement, perfectionism, or some kind of merit gained by good deeds. It encourages us to the ultimate goal: not to “get us into heaven, but to get heaven into us.” It is attentiveness to the source of our actions, to the condition and motives of the heart, and taking on new patterns of life that flow naturally from within.

Spirit-Empowered Life: Fueling our lives from the presence and power of God

The Charismatic Tradition focuses on the power of God’s Spirit moving in and through us. Just as a car requires fuel to run, and our bodies require food for survival, so our souls rely upon the Spirit of God for spiritual energy. Through the Spirit, we are able to do more than we could on our own steam, and these abilities not only remind us of God’s presence, but equip us to build up our communities in love.

Compassionate Life: Extending compassion in every sphere of life

The Social Justice Tradition expresses the themes of justice, compassion, and peace. It emphasizes wisdom and lovingkindness to bring relationships into harmony, unity, and balance, even within our relationship to nature. Compassionate Life takes place in all arenas of life, from personal to social to global. As with the other traditions, the actions we take are not the end goal. True compassion is motivated by a genuine heart, is empowered by the love of God, and embraces the possibility of positive change.

Word-Centered Life: Living the life-giving message

The Evangelical Tradition encompasses much more than simply converting people. The evangel – the “good news” – is God’s great message to humanity: that all can be redeemed and restored to its intended design. This is the message embodied in Jesus himself, rooted in the word of God, and ultimately expressed through the lives of those who follow Christ. It is a living tale of grace spoken in and through word and action.

Sacramental Life: Encountering the invisible God in the visible world

The Incarnational Tradition focuses on the relationship between the invisible spirit and physical reality, helping us to see God’s divine presence in the material world in which we live. God manifests himself in his creation, even in the midst of mundane activities, whenever and wherever we acknowledge God.

https://renovare.org/about/ideas/the-six-streams

Bob on Books Best Books of 2018

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It’s the time of the year when numerous publications post their best books of the year. That has been a tradition at Bob on Books as well. A friend I was meeting with the other day described my reading tastes as “eclectic” and I suspect you will find that true of this list. It spans quite a number of categories, and probably leaves out categories you might find on other lists. Many but not all of these works were published in 2018. What qualifies them for this list is that I read and reviewed them in 2018. You will find that I have divided my list into two broad categories: books for general audiences and books primarily for Christian audiences. As always, I’ve included a link to the publisher’s website in the title of the book, and a link to the full review.

First of all, though, my Best Book…

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Halfway Through the Eerdmans 2018 Advent Calendar – A Chance To Win Free Books!

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We’re halfway through!

The folks over at Wm B Eerdmans Publishing Co. have put together an Advent calendar for 2018 and are welcoming all of us to join them in celebrating this special Christmas season.

Each day the Eerdmans calendar reveals a new Advent greeting from an Eerdmans author and/or a chance to win free (audio)books from the publisher!

You can check out the Advent Calendar info at their blog WEBSITE.

Or you can view the Advent Calendar directly HERE.