Book Review: Forgotten God by Francis Chan

Depending on who you talk to, the Holy Spirit is either overly discussed or utterly neglected. Francis Chan would be firmly in the latter group.

“[W]hat if you grew up on a desert island with nothing but the Bible to read? .  . . [Y]ou would be convinced that the Holy Spirit is as essential to a believer’s existence as air is to staying alive,” writes Chan (p. 16). And that’s why Chan wrote Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit—to help believers recapture the necessity of the Holy Spirit to the Christian life.

Running on Fumes

Chan feels that we have lost a robust understanding of the Holy Spirit. We have neglected Him. This neglect has caused us to look and act no differently than our surrounding culture. But this should not be. Chan writes,

If it’s true that the Spirit of God dwells in us and that our bodies are the Holy Spirit’s temple, then shouldn’t there be a huge difference between the person who has the Spirit of God living inside of him or her and the person who does not? (p. 32)

In this assessment, I think Chan is right on. If our lives do not have a marked difference in any way aside from what we do on Sunday morning, perhaps we have some bigger questions to ask ourselves, no? If we were dead but now live, there should be some kind of marked difference in how we live, what we think and how we speak… shouldn’t there?

Absolutely, there should. And it’s only possible by the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. This is a truth that we dare not take for granted and I appreciate Chan highlighting it.

The Spirit’s Work

Chan does a solid job of reminding readers of the person and work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is a Person, a “He,” not an “it.” He is God; eternal & holy; omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent. He has emotions, a mind and a will. He prays for us. He teaches and reminds us of what we we need to know. He applies our salvation to our lives. Chan wants these truths to lead readers “to a deeper relationship with and a greater reverence for the Spirit—that good theology would lead you to right action, genuine love, and true worship” (p. 77).

Chan encourages readers to read John 14-16, to notice “how Christ desires that His disciples have peace and how He comforts His disciples with the truth that they are not left alone” (p. 110). He continues,

Part of His answer to how we are to have peace and be comforted is through the provision of the Holy Spirit, the other Counselor, who He promised would come once He left.

Having read these chapters, I notice that the peace that comes with the Holy Spirit is the fuller knowledge of what it means to be grafted into the vine (cf. John 15:1-11), and it’s the Spirit who does the grafting. The Spirit brings us peace and comfort by giving us the words to act as witnesses to the gospel, even as the Spirit Himself bears witness to Christ (cf. John 15:26-27). Truly, the Spirit’s role is to glorify Jesus and to guide us into truth:

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you. (John 16:13-15)

A Life of Obedience

The heart of Chan’s message is that the Christian life is to be lived in the power of the Holy Spirit, in obedience to Christ, to the glory of the Father. We must not quench His work in our lives, caring more for comfort than for holiness. To walk by the spirit is to live a life that is counter cultural and often antithetical to the world in which we live.

But, it’s one thing to talk about what “walking by the Spirit” can be, and another to show it.

Where Chan best illustrates this is in the wonderful biographical sketches of men and women whose lives have been completely transformed as they’ve sought to obey the Spirit’s leading. These serve as testimonies to the truth that the Christian life is one that glorifies God in extraordinary ways.

A married couple in their 50s, Domingo & Irene, fostered thirty-two children and adopted sixteen. A teenage girl who works multiple jobs all summer to sponsor 14 children. Thomas Yun, who gave up a fortune in the restaurant business to work at a rescue mission because he believed that God was calling him to serve there.

These are the stories that move me and inspire me, probably more so than the rest of the book (no offense to the author).

The Primary Voice

What I find lacking is the relationship between the Holy Spirit and Scripture. Chan writes that Spirit “teaches and reminds us of what we need to know and remember” (p. 74), but I think this needed to be more than a bullet point. God’s written Word is the primary means through which God speaks to His people—it is the Spirit who gives us the ability to understand them. It’s through the hearing of the Word that the Spirit’s primary active role takes place, bringing the spiritually dead to life, sealing them as God’s people and sanctifying them (cf. Eph 1:13), all serving to glorify Jesus.

If Scripture is the primary means by which God speaks, it should probably have a more prominent role in any discussion on the Spirit’s work. I would have really enjoyed seeing Chan address this a little more, in addition to focusing on the “private nudging” of the Spirit (which is where he spends the bulk of his time).

Is the Holy Spirit Forgotten?

In Forgotten God, Francis Chan reminds readers just how much we need the Holy Spirit. “There is no such thing as a real believer who doesn’t have the Holy Spirit, or a real church without the Spirit. It’s just not possible,” writes Chan. Without the Spirit’s active presence in our lives, we cannot live a life of obedience to Christ. The question for you is, is the Holy Spirit forgotten in your life?

Read the book. It’s challenging and there are likely parts you’ll disagree with, but it’s worth investigating.


 

Title: Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit
Author: Francis Chan
Publisher: David Cook

Buy it at: Amazon | Westminster Bookstore

Book Review: Angels by David Jeremiah

 

It’s really cool to believe in angels. It’s definitely cooler to believe in angels than in Jesus.

They’re everywhere today. Cutesy little figurines in the church merch section of the Christian bookstore. TV shows about guardian angels. In movies, angels are the moody romantic lead, the friendly guide, the likeable and smarmy comedic lead… Heck, a couple weeks back, there was even a movie about humanity having to be saved from God’s wrath (brought by a legion of angels, who possess people as though they were demons) by the archangel, Michael, who has rebelled against God and kills the other angels with machine guns!

Then there’s books. I don’t know about you, but generally when I see a book about angels, I get a little nervous. Usually the only ones I see are by folks like Sylvia Browne and other new age spiritualists.

I say all this to give you a picture of the apprehension I faced when I saw the invite to read Angels by Dr. David Jeremiah. Because I’d never read any of his work before, I decided to give it a shot, uncertain of whether or not it would be beneficial or about as sketchy as a book with fold-out end times charts.

I was pleasantly surprised by what I found. Jeremiah’s book offers a refreshing, helpful look at the topic of angels as he takes readers through the Bible to discover who they are, what they do and why it matters.

Babies in Diapers Don’t Wield Fiery Swords

Jeremiah does not present angels as being huggable, friendly creatures, departed loved ones who now have wings or babies in diapers. Instead, he presents us with the Bible’s far more impressive and terrifying view. [Read more…]

Book Review: God the Holy Trinity

Title: God the Holy Trinity: Reflections on Christian Faith and Practice
Author: Timothy George (editor)
Publisher: Baker Academic

“When I was a student at Harvard Divinity School during the 1970s, one of my teachers published a book entitled God the Problem,” writes Timothy George, contributor and editor of God the Holy Trinity, Reflections on Christian Faith and Practice.

“While reveling in obscurity and complexity may be the delight of some theologians, if there has ever been a genuine ‘problem’ in Christian doctrine, then surely it is how the eternal God can be both One and yet Three at the same time” (p. 9).

Yet, this is exactly what all orthodox Christians confess: that God is both One and Three, who has made Himself known as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. While this doctrine is confusing and wrapped in mystery, it is essential to the Christian faith. [Read more…]

Holy Spirit vs. Holy Scripture

I love a good “Aha!” moment, and reading Jim Belcher’s book, Deep Church (read the review here) gave me more than one.

Consider the idea of the “relational hermeneutic.” (For those who are curious, “hermeneutics” is the technical term for the theory and method of how we interpret Scripture.)

As described Belcher describes it, in a relational hermeneutic “nothing is privileged, not even the Bible, over the community in discovering and living out truth. The Bible is just one of the conversation partners” (p. 145). Basically, truth is determined by the people of God, the Bible and the guidance of the Holy Spirit together in community. [Read more…]

Blogging the Psalms: The Perfect Worshiper

Who is the perfect worshiper of the Lord? Who is worthy of standing before Him?

O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent?
Who shall dwell on your holy hill?

He who walks blamelessly and does what is right
and speaks truth in his heart;
who does not slander with his tongue
and does no evil to his neighbor,
nor takes up a reproach against his friend;
in whose eyes a vile person is despised,
but who honors those who fear the Lord;
who swears to his own hurt and does not change;
who does not put out his money at interest
and does not take a bribe against the innocent.
He who does these things shall never be moved.

Psalm 15:1-5

[Read more…]

Book Review: In the Beginning, God

Title: In the Beginning, God
Author: Marva J. Dawn
Publisher: IVP Books

“The Bible is all about God,” writes Marva J. Dawn in the opening paragraph of her latest work, In the Beginning, God. “That might seem an overly obvious point with which to begin a book on character formation, but if we consider the mater seriously, we discover that we often read the Bible imagining it is about ourselves.”

Dawn wants readers to understand the enormous shift in perspective that occurs when we stop asking, “what does this text say about me,” and start, instead, by asking, “What is God doing in this text?”

That is the big idea behind In the Beginning, God. The book primarily is a study of Genesis 1-3 and how their focus on God as the principle transforms our attitude toward faith, Scripture and worship from self-improvement to adoration.

What’s Good

There’s actually quite a bit to like in this book. Dawn’s suggestion of reading the creation account of Genesis 1:1-2:3 as liturgy emphasizing the poetic aspect of the chapter is intriguing. [Read more…]

What Does 2010 Hold in Store?

The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance,
but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.

Proverbs 21:5

I’m not really a “New Years Resolution” guy, but I have to admit, the new year is a great time to reflect on, evaluate and correct patterns of life. And because of that, I have been thinking a lot about what 2010 has in store.

God willing, our second daughter will be born in a couple months. This will be good.

My oldest daughter will hopefully be potty-trained. And this will be very good. (Seriously, the kid can change her own diapers; it’s time to get this show on the road!)

But what do I actually want to see happen this year? What do I want to accomplish?

Some time ago, Donald Whitney offered a number of questions to be asked in prayerful reflection:

  1. What’s one thing you could do this year to increase your enjoyment of God?
  2. What’s the most humanly impossible thing you will ask God to do this year?
  3. What’s the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your family life this year?
  4. In which spiritual discipline do you most want to make progress this year, and what will you do about it?
  5. What is the single biggest time-waster in your life, and what will you do about it this year?
  6. What is the most helpful new way you could strengthen your church?
  7. For whose salvation will you pray most fervently this year?
  8. What’s the most important way you will, by God’s grace, try to make this year different from last year?
  9. What one thing could you do to improve your prayer life this year?
  10. What single thing that you plan to do this year will matter most in ten years? In eternity?

These are some really good questions and are worthy of a lot of thought, careful examination and planning.

I’m hopeful that it’ll be a good year. What about you?

What's the Real Story of Christmas

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more about “What’s the Real Story of Christmas“, posted with vodpod

A thought-provoking short film from St. Helen’s Bishopgate in London on whether or not the Christmas story happened and what it means:

We all know about the real Christmas. Don’t we? Mary and Joseph. Away in a manger. Donkey. 3 wise men and the shepherds. Of course you do. You probably even played a shepherd or a wise man when you were 5.
Now you’re older and it’s all Noel Edmunds, booze, bills and unwanted visits to relatives.

This film brings Christmas back to it’s roots. The real Christmas. Where the manger mings, the baby cries and where a star really shone. The Christmas that is for everyone, everywhere.

HT: Justin Taylor

Oh My God

Oh My God is a documentary that asks the question, “Who is God?”

The filmmaker, Peter Rodger, travelled to 23 different countries around the world just asking this question. In his travels, he didn’t just ask “experts” to explain their concept or understanding of God. He asked normal folks.

And Hugh Jackman.

Check out the trailer:

Jackman’s quote is pretty interesting:

If you put Buddha, Jesus Christ, Socrates, Shakespeare, Arjuna, Krishna together at a dinner table, I couldn’t see them having any argument.

It’s a really nice sentiment, the belief that all religions are fundamentally the same (although I’m not exactly sure how Shakespeare fits into the “religious figure” camp), and therefore, they do not stand in conflict.

It’s a nice idea that we hear a lot. Heck, it’s an argument I threw out a lot back in the day. But as nice as it is, it’s not true. Jesus doesn’t allow for it. What we see in the New Testament is that Jesus debates a lot. He challenges the assumptions of the religious leaders of the day, and even those of His own followers, asking them, “Who do you say I am?”

But that’s what makes the movie intriguing to me; it’s asking, perhaps, the most important question we can ever ask:

Who is God?

It’s a question I’m glad Rodger is asking.

I’m curious if he discovered an answer.

HT: Z

Book Review: Making Sense of the Trinity

making-sense-trinity

The Trinity.

It’s one of the most confusing doctrines in all the Christian faith.

But it’s also among the most crucial.

In Making Sense of the Trinity, Millard Erickson shows readers the relevance of this doctrine, as he answers three crucial questions:

  1. Is the doctrine of the Trinity biblical?
  2. Does the doctrine of the Trinity make sense?
  3. Does the doctrine of the Trinity make any difference?

Is the doctrine of the Trinity biblical?

This is an important question, perhaps the most important.  As Erickson writes in the opening pages, if “this strange-appearing doctrine is taught in the Bible, either explicitly or implicitly, we must accept it, or at least take it very seriously. If, on the other hand, the Bible does not assert such a teaching we may not be required to believe it… There is no virtue in continuing to hold such a difficult doctrine of the trinity if it is not actually taught in the Bible” (p. 17-18).

Erickson lays out the biblical foundation of the doctrine, showing where the doctrine is implicitly taught within the Old and New Testament, looking at support for the unity of God, the deity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (all of whom are referred to in multiple passages as God), and the three-in-oneness of God. And honestly, there’s a lot there. As you look at the Baptismal formula, Jesus repeatedly identifying himself as God by implication throughout the gospel of John and a host of other passages, we’re lead to the inevitable conclusion that the doctrine is, in fact, biblical. Erickson writes,

We may say, then, that when the whole text of Scripture is taken seriously, the doctrine of the Trinity emerges. It teaches clearly that God is one and is unique, that he is the only God that is true and exists. It teaches, either directly or indirectly, that there are three persons who are fully divine, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And it also teaches, indirectly and by implication, that these three are one (p. 42).

Does the doctrine of the Trinity make sense?

With a biblical foundation in place, Erickson asks does the doctrine of the Trinity make sense? Must we, as he puts it, “choose between our Christian commitment and our rationality” in order to believe it? [Read more…]

What Man Intends for Evil, God Intends for Good: Pastor AJ Hamilton

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This isn’t the post I’d planned to write today, but after watching this video, I couldn’t not share this story—Pastor AJ Hamilton’s powerful testimony.

Watch the video above or read the transcript that follows:

I’m AJ Hamilton, I’ve been a pastor here for about three years. And whenever I’m asked what my testimony is, I find I have to tell it in the context of my parents’ testimony. And so I’ll tell you about my mom. I didn’t make it through the first one very well, so I doubt I’ll do it on this one too. [Read more…]

Experiencing a Miracle

miracle

Last weekend during the service at Harvest, we studied Jesus’ miracle of turning water into wine at the wedding in Cana in John 2:1-11. As we studied the passage, we came to an important question:

What is a miracle?

A miracle is a wonder, a movement of God, which no person can do and no person can explain or understand, which reveal, affirm and point to Jesus so that those who witness it would believe in the source of the miracle.

Biblically, every miracle performed by Jesus or by the Apostles throughout the New Testament affirms Jesus’ teaching and reveals Jesus’ identity as God—and comes with the impetus to worship Him accordingly. To believe in Him as God.

Have you ever experienced a miracle?

I have; a few times, actually. Some have been wonderful, others painful; but all have confirmed the truth that Jesus is God.

He wasn’t a liar. He wasn’t a lunatic. He is the Lord (to paraphrase C.S. Lewis). And while I’ve written to some degree about a the miraculous experiences we’ve had over the past year, there’s one thing that immediately comes to mind when I think of miracles; perhaps the greatest miracle that any human can experience:

Salvation [Read more…]

God likes Leaders and Preaching

define-church

Yesterday I started working on a definition of the church. After working through a popular passage that’s gained a popular understanding as being about fellowship, we came to the following partial definition:

A church is a community of disciples who practice church discipline, guided by the teaching of Scripture, under the authority of Jesus Christ.

Because it’s incomplete, let’s take a look at another couple aspects that will flesh out this definition:

Leadership and Preaching.

Leadership is not popular—and yet a lot of people kind of want to be one. A great many of us (including yours truly) have authority issues… unless we’re the folks in authority. There are also other folks who simply refuse to submit to any authority whatsoever; who want a “flat” church where ever opinion is equally valid and valuable and no one can really hold you accountable for any sin.

But did you know God really likes leaders? He likes authority in His Church, shepherding His people into holiness.

And He gave them to us as a gift.

Check out Ephesians 4:11-14: [Read more…]

Sunday Shorts (09/20)

The Gospel-Driven Life 45% off at WTS Books

gospelDLWTS Books is offering Michael Horton’s The Gospel-Driven Life: Being Good News People in a Bad News World at 45% off for the next week and a half. The Gospel-Driven Life is a sequel to Horton’s previous book, Christless Christianity.

From the Publisher’s Description:

In his well-received Christless Christianity Michael Horton offered a prophetic wake-up call for a self-centered American church. With The Gospel-Driven Life he turns from the crisis to the solutions, offering his recommendations for a new reformation in the faith, practice, and witness of contemporary Christianity. This insightful book will guide readers in reorienting their faith and the church’s purpose toward the good news of the gospel. The first six chapters explore that breaking news from heaven, while the rest of the book focuses on the kind of community that the gospel generates and the surprising ways in which God is at work in the world. Here is fresh news for Christians who are burned out on hype and are looking for hope.

You can also read sample pages here.

HT: JT

Darryl Dash Reviews Bruce Wilkinson’s Latest

Darryl Dash, pastor of Richview Baptist Church, posted a review of Bruce Wilkinson’s (The Prayer of Jabez guy) latest book, You Were Born for This: 7 Keys to a Life of Predictable Miracles. From Darryl’s review:

It trivializes miracles. One definition of a miracle – from someone who believes that miracles take place today – is this: “A miracle is a less common kind of God’s activity in which he arouses people’s awe and wonder and bears witness to himself.” Even in Scripture, miracles are not everyday occurrences, and they are more than what Wilkinson describes in this book.

Read the rest at Darryl’s blog.

HT: Z

How Not to Argue for God’s Existence

Kevin DeYoung offers some commentary on a recent Wall Street Journal article titled Man vs. God, wherein Richard Dawkins argues against the existence of God and Karen Armstrong argues for it.

Anyway, the real disappointment is Armstrong’s “defense” of the existence of God. As an orthodox Christian (or orthodox believer of almost any faith) you know you are in trouble when Armstrong’s first line is this: “Richard Dawkins has been right all along, of course—at least in one important respect. Evolution has indeed dealt a blow to the idea of a benign creator, literally conceived.” It only gets worse from there. Armstrong argues that we should really go back to an earlier pre-enlightenment time when “Jewish, Christian, and Muslim thinkers understood that what we call ‘God’ is merely a symbol that points beyond itself to an indescribable transcendence, whose existence cannot be proved but is only intuited by means of spiritual exercises and a compassionate lifestyle that enable us to cultivate new capacities of mind and heart.” Armstrong’s “God” bears no resemblance to the Christian God. He (She? It?) is merely a symbol, an analogy like Tao, Brahman, or Nirvana, to describe the ultimate reality that lay beyond the reach of words.

Armstrong’s religion is not new. She is an advocate of an ahistorical, therapeutic religion that disavows a personal, knowable, objectively real Creator God to whom we must give account. In decrying the baleful effects of scientific rationality on religion, she ends up repeating the same tropes that have been standard fare among liberals since the Enlightenment: the Bible can’t be taken literally; religion is about myth not fact; there is no revelation from God, just man’s attempts to make sense of life’s imponderables.

It’s a great piece. Read the rest at Kevin’s blog.


In Case You Missed It

Religion-SavesThis week I published a series reviewing Religion Saves & Nine Other Misconceptions by Mark Driscoll:

Religion Saves: Introduction

Religion Saves: Birth Control, Sexual Sin & Dating

Religion Saves: Predestination, Grace, and Faith & Works

Religion Saves: Humor, The Emerging Church and The Regulative Principle

Religion Saves: For Your Consideration

There’s a lot of great material in this book, and I did my best to be objective and thorough in my review. I hope you find it profitable and maybe pick up the book yourself.