November 24, 2015

J. I. Packer: An Evangelical Life by Leland Ryken - Book Review

I freely admit that I don't normally have the endurance for listening to audio books that take more than 5 or 6 hours to listen to.  It isn't that I don't like to listen, but my audio book listening times are usually limited to my commute to and from work. Listening to a lengthy audio book in 15 minute segments tends to feel wearisome, but I found with J. I. Packer: An Evangelical Life by Leland Ryken that I was creating times to continue listening. About 1/3 of the way through the book, I found that I didn't want it to stop. I genuinely felt like I was getting to know J. I. Packer, so I wanted to know more of his story.

I wouldn't relate listening to this book like watching a movie. The first part of the book did tell his story, but it wasn't action-packed suspense. What kept me going was the character of this man. In many ways I began to relate to his decisions and understand why he might be doing what he was doing.

I especially appreciated Leland Ryken's approach to breaking up the biography the way he did. As I mentioned, he started by giving an overview of his life, but then he went the extra mile to attempt to reveal more of Packer's character by examining several areas of his life. There were portions that explored Packer as a Preacher and Packer as an author. There was also the examination of the many controversial topics that were an ongoing part of Packer's life as a public figure. Before I listened to this book, I didn't realize that Packer was an Anglican, but by the time I was done I found myself appreciating his ongoing efforts to bring doctrinal reformation to the church. He described himself as a crusader, and I can see and appreciate that fact.

This book was read by David Cochran Heath, who always does an outstanding job. If you are interested in learning more about J. I. Packer, then I would highly recommend this book.

This book will also be important to me because this is the book I was listening to as I decided that I wanted to be a full-time Pastor. (I have been a part-time Pastor and a part-time Teacher for the last 6 years.)

November 17, 2015

Shuffle Growth is the Plague of Danville Churches

Despite the fall in overall church attendance, only one in six regular churchgoers thinks the church he or she attends is declining in numbers. Two-fifths think their church is growing. Perhaps some people are in denial about falling church numbers. But it may also be that many churches are growing but mainly through transfer growth. A declining number of Christians are consolidating into growing churches. It is still possible to grow a church by offering a better church experience than other churches. Whatever the merit of this, it is vital for us to realize that this is not evangelistic growth. It is possible to plant a church and see it grow without doing mission. "People can be attracted to a church by what it offers," says Jim Peterson, "but ... increase of this sort isn't church growth at all. It's just a reshuffling of the same fifty two cards."
~Everyday Church by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis

November 14, 2015

Zentangle Class at Georgetown

I am part of an after school program called Project Success. I participate on Tuesday and Thursday each week at the school where I teach. One of the activities that I am introducing to the kids in the program is called Zentangle.

I discovered Zentangle about a year ago, and have grown to love it. I guess you could call it a hobby, but it is more of an outlet. I am not into the whole "zen" thing, but I do find this art form to be very relaxing.

One of the Project Success leaders has seen some of my Tangles, and decided to get some Zentangle supplies for the program. I was really pumped about the prospect, but sort of worried at the same time. Teens in after school programs aren't always the most calm and relaxing group to be around. And when you want to share something that, by nature, is calm and relaxing with a group of people that are the opposite of calm and relaxing, there is a certain level of anxiety that begins to arise.

Well, two days ago I had my first Zentangle class. I can't emphasize enough how pleasantly surprised I was. I started out time by saying that Zentangle was something that I loved, and I was asking them to show some respect for that fact. Then, after briefly discussing the "zen" aspect of the art, I said, "You know. I like to joke around and be sarcastic as much as the next guy, but do you ever just get tired of it? It wears me out. Every comment has to be a comeback. Everything you hear, might have a different meaning. If you open up too much, somebody is going to give you a hard time, and try to make it OK by saying they were just joking. Well... sometimes I just want to have a normal conversation with somebody.... So, lets try this: When you come to my room for Zentangle, let's leave the sarcasm at the door."

One of the kids immediately said, "Don't even bring it down the hall."

I couldn't believe how well they all responded to this. The rest of the time we were in there, they were all positive and encouraging to each other. As I instructed them on some basic designs and on the process, there was a genuinely calm and peaceful feel to the room. Even the most sarcastic of the kids was polite and... well... real. It was great. I think that for the time we were in there, they felt safe.

two of my tangles that resulted from our time in the class

I am not a true Certified Zentangle Teacher (CZT), but I do enjoy the art. I know that those kids are looking forward to the next session. When I start getting some samples of their tangles, I will start posting them here.

I don't think that I have ever done this before, but if you wanted to help support these kids, we need some artist tiles, some more Zentangle pens, and I would love to be able to get each one of them their own Zentangle Kit.

There is a basic kit that would work great for these guys. It is the Sakura 50010 9-Piece Zentangle Clamshell Pencil Set .

Here is a link to some for about Studio Series Artist's Tiles: White (75 pack) $5.

If I have any rich friends out there... you could consider sponsoring me to become a Certified Zentangle Instructor... but that is crazy expensive!

November 13, 2015

Horton and The Who

One of my students kept asking me to draw them a picture of Horton. I have put her off for almost a year... oops... but last week was her birthday, so I finally complied and sketched her a picture of Horton and The Who...

November 3, 2015

The Wonder Working God by Jared Wilson -- Book Review

Thanks to Christian Audio's Reviewers Program, I was able to just finish listening to The Wonder-Working God: Seeing the Glory of Jesus in His Miracles by Jared Wilson. This book was also read by the author, which I always prefer.

In The Wonder Working God, Jared Wilson has gathered together descriptions and expositions of the miracles of Jesus. At first, I believed that the miracles were grouped according to their similarity of the miraculous occurrence. But just now, as I am typing this review, I have realized that the grouping goal was according to how the miracle revealed the Miraculous Jesus. Obviously there are similarities to the types of miracles that are grouped together in the chapters, but the author has done an amazing job at pulling back the details of the miracle and the comments and conversations around the miracle to show that each of these miracles was not simply about showing that Jesus could do stuff, but showing how Jesus is truly glorious in every way.

Even though the Wonder Working God is not simply a commentary on the miracles of Jesus, it could still be a wonderful tool to use in a study of these miracles. And as I listened to the book, I started to realize that each chapter reads more like an excellently crafted sermon than an exegetical commentary. As you read/listen, the gospel message is clearly there, but not in a forced way... in an expository way...  The way a good preacher will pull back the words of Scripture to reveal Jesus. Jared Wilson has definitely done an amazing job of Preaching Christ.

I highly recommend this book.