Expose’ on Teen Sex & Dating (Free Kindle & Nook)

A couple of weeks ago I was able to meet a few people deep in the trenches of ministry with teenagers while attending a meeting for TH1NK, the student line of books from NavPress. Andy Braner was one of those passionate servant leaders. In addition to being a writer, Andy runs Camp Kivu, an intensely focused time of outdoor adventure designed to instill a passionate Christian worldview in teenagers. Andy has devoted his life to next-generation discipleship.

His new book “An Expose on Teen Sex and Dating: What’s Really Going On and How to Talk About It” (NavPress) is intended to give parents and youth workers a glimpse behind closed doors, so to speak. Download a free copy to your Kindle or Nook this week only (ends May 22). As a parent of three little girls and former youth pastor, I’d say this is a must read – or at least check it out. I haven’t finished it yet, (I’m reading it in bits on my phone’s Kindle App) but I appreciate the urgency of Braner’s straightforward approach AND that from page one he does two things:

1. He admits that there is no specific biblical model for dating, because dating didn’t exist! He then proceeds to speak to biblical truths that are present, primarily that God is sovereign over every tiny detail of our lives – this is the central reality even in dating.

2. He humorously confesses that he’s not going to “Kiss Dating Goodbye” as the only or best God-honoring solution for young Christian teenagers… and neither are most teenagers!

This isn’t just his personal musing either. Two years of research went into this book (In addition to the daily interaction already mentioned). So grab your free copy on Kindle or Nook and spread the word while it’s still free to other parents and youth workers (feel free to purchase physical copies of the book too). This is a conversation that we need to be equipped to recognize and address from a biblical perspective – whether or not anyone agrees with every point in this book (or any Christian book, for that matter) is not the primary issue. The great thing is that Andy is seeking to open the eyes of our generation to what is happening in the next generation and how to guide young men and women through this ever-present issue in a way that honors Christ. (It’s a conversation, that quite frankly, parents and churches just aren’t very good at having).

Thoughts? Comments? Other recommendations? @JRMaxfield

Freebies: Matt Jackson & Catalyst (no relation)

There are so many great free resources up for grabs right now that I thought I’d share a few…

The Healer from Matt Jackson on Vimeo.

First, this is seriously good (and gets better with each track – the last two being flat-out incredible). Birmingham’s own Matt Jackson is giving away downloads of his new EP (and you can pre-order the vinyl). Further evidence that great things are happening in the world of Christian songwriting. Think Indie-Rock meets Southern-Gospel (complete with horn section as the killer album art suggests). Not only is this quality songwriting, it was mixed by Grammy-winner Darrell Thorp (If you’ve heard the last several albums from Paul McCartney, Beck, Radiohead, or Thom Yorke, then you’re familiar with his work… yeah, he’s the real deal.) Musically, this album sounds nothing like any of those (that would be impossible), but the quality is that caliber. So go get Matt Jackson’s new EP and spread the word at iammattjackson.com

Also, Catalyst is giving away tons of free stuff just for signing up for info about Catalyst in Atlanta (October 5-7), including ebooks (Veneer, Gracenomics, more), music (Thad Cokrell, Seryn, Gungor, John Mark McMillan, Aaron Ivey, Aaron Keys, Lecrae, Sleeping at Last… more), and their “best of” from past speakers (Andy Stanley, Bill Hybels, Don Miller, John Maxwell, more)… too much to name, but some stuff worth checking out… seriously it’s a ton of stuff. And if you’ve never been to a Catalyst leadership event… it’s quite an experience. Think about it.

Yep. It’s a Book About Books (Besides the Bible)

Read any good books lately? Something you’d call a must for someone’s summer reading list, vacation book, or bucket list reading? Besides the Bible is a new book making its case for the 100 most significant books shaping Christian culture. Sure, you have classic Christian masterpieces like Dante’s Inferno, but it’s not just “Christian” books – it’s everything from Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree to The Road by Cormac McCarthy. I’m intrigued. And this is a time I really wished my comments were working… I’d love to know what everyone is reading/recommends.

Click here for the official site or check it further (and maybe pick it up) at Amazon.

Radical Together: THE GOAL IS CHRIST

This is worth spending our lives on. This goal. This God.

David’s second book is about to release:
Radical Together: Unleashing the People of God for the Purpose of God

For anyone who has misunderstood or worried that others might misunderstand where David / Radical is “coming from,” (you can read my own confession and watch the video for the first book here) watch this video from Taylor Robinson @ SixFootFive Productions. I think this should not only clear up any confusion, but hopefully stir up your passion to see disciples made of all nations. (And speaking of, be on the look out for some great stuff from DMI/disciple-making international… more on that soon.)

The Mission Book

I came across this site today built by my friends at DC for The Upstream Collective. Very simple idea: Create a website (that looks awesome) where people can share brief stories as missionaries and/or people living on mission to spread the gospel. Once enough stories have been collected, produce an eBook… The Mission Book.

A couple of heavyweights whose books on missional and house church planting movements helped shape my view of ministry, Alan Hirsch and Ed Stetzer, kick off the story time. Just pick a book from the virtual shelf or use the arrows to move to the next story. Great use of technology to gather information for the sake of transformation. I hope this site is a great encouragement to disciple-makers around the world… and that the stories keep spreading (to spread the glory of Christ in every nation).

So whatever you do. Do it for the sake of the gospel. Use your gifts and sphere of influence to make disciples and encourage other disciple-makers.

Click the image below to jump over to their site and start reading…

Get it Together… Piper v. Bell’s Ill Communication

GET IT FOR FREE – DOWNLOAD THE AUDIOBOOK.

Jesus: The Only Way to God (Must you hear the gospel to be saved?) is available as a free download from ChristianAudio.com through the end of the month. This bonus download from John Piper is an explicit response to the Love Wins controversy (we won’t rehash that again).

The audiobook is in addition to the month’s free audiobook download: R.C. Sproul’s classic: The Holiness of God. If you’re into audiobooks (perfect for commutes to work or travel) then I’d recommend staying on top of the monthly offering from Christian Audio – the past several months have included: John Piper’s Don’t Waste Your Life, Let the Nations Be Glad and Jerry Bridges’ The Pursuit of Holiness. You can also grab sermons and other freebies (not to mention just about everything for purchase too) – I recently picked up Tim Keller’s The Reason for God lectures from The Veritas Forum (another great resource to check out).

 

Helluva Brouhaha: Devil’s Advocate or Ally?

This week’s controversy over Rob Bell’s latest “teaching” has caused a virtual firestorm. No, not a new nooma video. A promo video for his forthcoming book: Love Wins. Before jumping on the heresy bandwagon without having even read the book (though let’s be honest, he does seem to be pretty clear about where he is going with this book) I want to pray that he is playing devil’s advocate and giving voice to the apparent paradox of a loving God and the reality of judgment in hell. My hope is that by stirring up such controversy that people both inside and outside of the faith will seek out the truth… hopefully in what Bell has to say (that he says the Bible has to say) about the true message of love, salvation through faith in Christ, the gracious character of God, and the reality of eternity. Perhaps, he’s willing to take the heat temporarily in order to open new eyes (and old eyes) to the reality of eternity… Lets hope. And either way, let’s seize this opportunity to springboard from this hot topic (no pun intended) into the Good News of an orthodox gospel. Let’s share the love of Christ, found in His life, death and resurrection, glorifying God and saving man from himself (not from God).

Ironically, I’ve been talking to my dad lately about our own increased awareness and sense of urgency concerning the reality of hell. He just finished teaching a series in his church. I’ve been working on a post for another blog (that post may or may not ever see the light of day now that it could seem reactionary) concerning the apparent lack of belief in the reality of hell among the church in America – if the gravity of eternal judgment gripped us as Christ-followers, it would radically change our lives. Not only our personal view of holiness, but our sense of urgency in taking the gospel to all nations – people both near and far – should be given the urgent priority it deserves. Im’ not talking hellfire and brimstone, scaring people into surrender. Not wanting to go to hell is not the same as following Christ in faith… it is still selfish ultimately. But we can square the holy judgment and, yes, wrath of God as part of what makes His grace such good news!  They are all good and loving, ultimately.

At the very least, it’s a great reminder of the power of words, questions, and what we communicate without coming right out and “saying” anything… And we are all accountable for every word that comes from our mouth, blog, book, video… you get the idea.

His official Vimeo account is embedded below:

LOVE WINS. from Rob Bell on Vimeo.

Book Review: Jungle Warfare

I picked this book up, being at a point in my life (like many people) where the future is uncertain as to what direction my career path will take. I also have a burden for the lack of Christian ethics in today’s business world… Cunningham does focus pretty narrowly on sales (as the title promises) as opposed to business in general, but most principles are applicable to any competitive field.

Here’s the gist: “Christopher A. Cunningham has taken a prized family gift: his grandfather’s WWII Basic Field Manual on Jungle Warfare, and adapted its rules of engagement to fit the basic needs of the Christian sales person who is on the front lines of business every day.” The book is a 22 day devotional, each day opening with an excerpt from the WWII manual, Scripture, and then a short devotion followed by a suggested prayer and a few journal questions for reflection and application. Great format – short, simple, thoughtful.

Strength: Cunningham uses tons of scripture, more than a typical devotional. I also appreciated that this book did NOT have a “prosperity” slant to it. Cunningham did not encourage people to seek favor with God in order to be “blessed” with success in sales. The emphasis was on developing Christ-like character, learning to see your business life as a major opportunity to live out your faith while being tested on many levels.

Weakness: The jungle warfare metaphor often seemed forced, the manual excerpts were simply a novel hook but often irrelevant, barely alluded to/explained. Also, the layers of metaphor often were a bit much – jungle warfare compared to sales and/or life in general, seen through a biblical lens, using scriptures that may also use metaphor or imagery. It wasn’t until day 8 that I felt there was a great synergy between those layers.

*Also, day 11 accidentally (I hope) says that “God CREATED Jesus and had a no-fail plan to share Him” (80) before time began and the that “He carefully selected Jesus, whose loyalty and integrity are unquestioned!” (81). Cunningham is a salesman, not a theologian, and this is an example of forcing the language of the metaphor in a way that Thomas Nelson should have caught as the publisher. Nowhere else does Cunningham show bad Christology. Some other statements were oversimplified or too matter-of-fact, like his 4 criteria for your prayers being in God’s will (51) or the correlation between belief and health (68) but not bad theology, so to speak; so this was an unfortunate scar on an otherwise OK book.

Overall, I appreciated it, but wasn’t blown away. It was an average book that was right on target with its intent but could have had better execution.

I review for BookSneeze

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

My Radical Confession

WARNING: Radical living can easily get off track and run away from you if you’re not careful! Like a freight train… both figuratively and literally… everything in our lives was rattled. (I’ll explain in a minute.)

Radical by David Platt from Taylor Robinson on Vimeo.

This draft has been hanging out for a month now. To be honest, I wasn’t quite sure how to confess the inner struggle I wrestled during a time of transition in our lives. I knew the point I wanted to share but wasn’t sure exactly how to share it. If by chance anyone happened upon this post, my hope was that it would be a reminder and encouragement of a very obvious and simple truth…

My wife and I, along with several close friends, had been on a personal journey over the past several years. It began with a look at how we “did church” and soon everything in our lives was being reexamined in light of Scripture. We were learning to take greater and greater steps of faith and sacrifice in order to follow Christ in obedience. We called it “Normal” because it was the life God originally designed for His people. David Platt’s book and our new church family calls this being “Radical” because it appears to be extreme even by the standards of contemporary American Christianity. (same point basically, opposite play on words.) For us, “normal” began as a retreat for our student ministry, then another and another and it began to take on a new life redefining our ministry and our lives according to God’s Word, living in a way that took God at His Word. I’ll save those details for another time; my point is not to feel justified, in fact that is the very struggle!

I’m truly grateful to have been a part of the creation of the small group bible study for David Platt’s first book: Radical: Taking Back Your Faith From The American Dream. But here’s the crazy thing: I was going insane with wondering if my family and I “looked” Radical enough! As we sold our home the same month the book released, we had been praying about where God wanted us to move in order to love our neighbors and make room for the family we believe he had called us to have. (We had outgrown our garden home as our third daughter arrived and believed that adoption was a part of the picture someday as well.) Our plans changed from the area with great schools closer to my office to an area where we felt God wanted us for some reason.

But I was almost frustrated with God. If I was willing to move anywhere, foregoing the “smart” move up the suburban ladder, why did we feel drawn to another suburb? Why not somewhere of more obvious need? (Like the inner city area where many families from the church were moving.) Then I began to feel guilty about moving to a bigger house – not huge, just a full size home instead of a garden home. I began to run through the list of things like the housing market crash, and things for this particular area like less-preferable schools, higher crime rate, diverse income levels, and proximity to trains making the house so affordable. I felt like I needed to explain to the world, namely my friends, coworkers, family members, and church members that I wasn’t a hypocrite! I still loved Jesus and was still Radical even though I just bought a bigger house… Our move was in obedience and faith. It was in steps to use our home as a ministry point among our neighbors and growing family. I had been completely at peace with a decision made with much prayer, but was suddenly second-guessing it all, completely riddled with guilt, because of a concern for not setting a good enough example of being Radical. I didn’t want the American Dream! Was I getting sucked in unknowingly? Or was the irony that it was easy to become prideful in appearing to be Radical instead? Was my pride not in my possessions but in my sacrifices? Was anything bigger or more comfortable selfish, no matter what? (Do you see the mental struggle and faith-crisis?) I don’t think I was alone in this…

My eyes were bloodshot from worry and sleepless nights adjusting to freight trains howling like ghostly stampedes of midnight cattle knocking down the gates of hell. I rocked thoughtfully in a chair on the front porch of my house that literally has a picket fence when it hit me….

I hadn’t been spending real time in God’s Word lately. I was drained spiritually. I had recently been so caught up in steps of faith and obedience and sacrifice that I had lost the motivation behind them. This is exactly the opposite of what a life of faith (and David’s book, Radical) is all about. I had been doing my daily readings through the Bible (part of the Radical Experiment) but it was more to check it off the list. I was burnt out from work and the pace of life lately. We wholeheartedly believe in living sacrificially and intentionally to make the most of the gospel, but if we’re not spending quality time in Scripture, we begin to strive for those same goals now with human strength and ambition.

When not rooted in time in God’s Word, the motivation becomes less about passion and more about guilt or obligation. Obviously. But this is my confession. As a Christ-follower (and ironically as a writer for the Radical Bible Study), my life had hit a dry spot and I had run out of steam… I unknowingly had jumped tracks and was driven by guilt and the appearance (maybe even pride) of being Radical.

Some have even challenged or attacked Radical for setting people up for legalism or an unsustainable lifestyle. This is an easy excuse to dismiss the challenging truth within the book, but it is simply not true. It is, however, an easy trap to fall into when we slip in our own weakness, relying on our own strength. The book isn’t wrong. The lifestyle isn’t wrong. The motivation simply has to be passion for God’s glory. Passion has to be nurtured. (Radical even says all of this explicitly, that’s why this is my own embarrassing confession!)

If I’m going to follow Christ for the glory of God among all people, I have to be spending time with Him. Obviously.

If I want to live in the middle of His will, I can’t question whether or not it is extreme enough or not, I simply have to be obedient and intentional in surrendering each day to be used for His glory. Obviously.

God help me stay in your Word and in walk in your will. No matter what the cost or how it looks to anyone else. Help me hold everything with open hands and give without second guessing. Help me walk without wavering or stumbling. Help me trust you completely and joyfully. Stir up passion and drown out guilt and pride. I want to make much of you with my life.

Book Review: The Flowering Cross

Right before Easter I read The Flowering Cross by Beth Ryan to my daughters (4 and 2 years old). They loved the book, easily identifying with the little girl in the story. When Katie (the main character) was encouraged to love her neighbor (Papa Jack), an old man experienced the wonder of child-like faith and encountered the beauty of a risen Savior. It’s hard to beat that message, right?

As a parent, I loved the teachable moments/suggested spiritual truths to discuss with your child (Faith Imprint) although I would recommend highlighting different points over several reads since there are so many. Second, I loved the overall theme of the book. My daughters were provided a clear example of how to love people who may not seem lovable. So, as a way to spend quality time instilling biblical truth in your children, this book is wonderful. However, as a story, it reads very choppy and is more about loving your neighbor than about Easter. Honestly, there were moments when I thought I had skipped some pages. Beth Ryan’s The Flowering Cross is written so that each page presents a spiritual truth. Again, this enables great teachable moments (which are most valuable) but not a smooth read from page to page as a story (which young children won’t mind).

OVERALL: GREAT TEACHABLE MOMENTS, CHOPPY READ

I review for BookSneeze Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as  part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”