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Celebrating The Glory of Advent

It seems every year I struggle to select a devotional booklet for Advent that is both thoughtful, reverent, practical and allows me to catch a glimpse of the glory of the incarnation. This year I discovered a ministry tool that accomplished all of these goals and more. It is titled,  The Grand Miracle: Daily Reflections For The Season of Advent based on the writings of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Dorothy L. Sayers, George MacDonald, G.K. Chesterton, Charles Williams, Owen Barfield and Joy Davidman, (2019, Christian History Institute).

Each days devotion reading has an evocative photograph, Scriptural text, Quote from an Inklings, full devotional from an author associated with the Marion Wade Center on the campus of Wheaton College in Illinois and a written prayer.

To say I have been impressed with the content of this small booklet is a major understatement. my wife and I have used it every evening of Advent and every reading has been excellent and filled our preparation for Christmas with JOY! I was so impressed I purchased 50 copies of the devotional for use in our small congregation as well as university students! The cost is small (around $2.99 for a single copy) and less as volume discounts are applied. The devotional can also be read online at: http://www.ChristianHistoryInstitute.org

I fully intend to keep a copy of this great personal devotional and ministry tool close at hand  for the rest of 2019 and into Christmas’s to come!!!

Small Steps: Great Change!

Someone has said the only thing that stays the same is the constant of change. Sometimes the need for change is intentional and positive other times not, but discovering the science of how people change has been a boon to my understanding of how change works in my personal life and I have the book ONE SMALL STEP CAN CHANGE YOUR LIFE:The Kaizen Way by Robert Mauer, Ph.D. (Workman Publishing, 2004) to thank.

The book begins with the history of Japanese corporations and the business lessons they learned rebuilding after World War 2, It is founded on the saying, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step”  Leo Tzu (p. 4) and built on existing “Training Within Industries ” management philosophies. Chapter two explores the science of change and the necessity for most people to overcome the frighting nature of change as well as fear of failure. It diagrams out something like this:

Large goal–fear–Access to brain cortex restricted–failure        compared to

Small goal–fear bypassed–brain cortex engaged–success   (p.26)

What I found especially shocking was the incredibly tiny steps required in small goals, in fact many of the illustrations of small goals and steps were so infinitesimal that they were almost humorous…which perhaps is part of the point.

The rest of the book explains and  illustrates the need to:

Ask Small Questions, Think small thoughts,take small actions and solve small problems. Many of these concepts I had tried over the years and found them to be helpful I just did not have the language, context or science to explain why …until now.

Especial  helpful were the specific  “Exercises” including sample scripts suggested throughout the book mt favorite is found on pages 114-118 titled, “What Will Be Your First Small Step?

At less than 180 pages the book is very accessible, fast to read and easy to apply. It has been one of the most interesting and helpful self-help book I have read in years. I recommend you give it a chance when you are ready for intentional positive change!

 

 

Review of Mere Christianity By C.S. Lewis

This review in an expanded form appears in the Fall edition of the Colorado Christian University publication BOOKS AND CULTURE. I encourage you to check out that fine publication for additional informative book reviews.

Mere Christianity

By C.S. Lewis

Reviewed by Dr. Kevin Turner

 

It would be hard to overestimate the impact of C.S. Lewis and his books on Christianity in the 20th and 21st centuries.  His more than 30 published works have been translated into over 30 languages and his variety of literary genres include children’s literature, autobiography, science fiction, apologetics, as well as literary and Biblical studies. These works have sold millions of copies and remain in print more than 50 years after his death.

During World War II, C.S. Lewis delivered a series of three talks over BBC radio to encourage the weary nation of Great Britain during the most challenging days of the blitz. These broadcasts were well received at the time and were quickly released in 3 separate books between 1943 and 1945. The books were combined in 1952 and entitled Mere Christianity. Since 2001, more than 3.5 million copies have been sold which clearly demonstrates the timeless relevance of this apologetic classic.

The book is divided into five sections. The first is the preface where Lewis explains the title and purpose of the book. He writes that the drive behind this work is “to explain and defend the beliefs that have been common to nearly all Christians at all times,” (1). To this end, Lewis submitted the manuscript to Anglican, Methodist, Presbyterian and Roman Catholic clergy who agreed the book presented a “common Christianity” (2). The preface is also where Lewis explains the famous metaphor of Mere Christianity as “like a hall out of which doors open into several rooms” which represent various Christian traditions to be selected but with the stipulation to always “be kind to those who have chosen different doors as well as those who are still in the hall.”(3)

Book one focuses on “Right and wrong as to the meaning of the Universe”. In clear and easily understandable stories and illustrations, Lewis explores the reality that all cultures have rules or standards of what constitutes decent behavior. In addition to presenting his case, Lewis presupposes questions that the reader may be asking and answers them like the issue of changing applications of morality or the argument of social conventions through education. The end result is that chapters 1-5 present a poignant argument for the need of a transcendent God who is the ultimate law giver as well as the solution to the problem of broken laws.

“I have been asked to tell you what Christians believe and I am going to begin by telling you one thing that Christians do not believe….that all other religions are simply wrong all through” (4). These words introduce Book Two which is entitled “What Christians Believe”. Atheism and Deism are explored and found to be too simple and “After all, real things are not simple” (5). Chapter 3: The Shocking Alterative contains the oft quoted ground breaking statement, “You must make your choice. Either this man (Jesus) was and is the Son of God: or else a madman or worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit on Him and kill Him as a demon or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not have any such patronizing nonsenses about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” (6)

Having laid a credible case for Christin belief and calling to a faith commitment the outflowing of those theological ideas move toward Christian Behavior which is Lewis’ topic in Book Three. The topics selected for exploration could not be timelier for our present cultural tensions and struggles. Chapters include discussions on sexual morality, Christian marriage, forgiveness, and pride—which Lewis calls ‘The Great Sin.’  Also explained are the cardinal timeless virtues such as charity, and hope, as well as an expanded exploration of faith. The section concludes with a reaffirmation that faith in Jesus is not just about behavior modification or shame. He writes, “Christianity seems at first to be all about morality, all about duties and rules and guilt and virtues, yet it leads on out of all that, into something beyond” (7).

The doctrine of the Trinity is the subject of Book Four: “Beyond Personality”. The discussion is built on the metaphor of Theology as a map which is useful because it is practical, based on much more than a personal experience, and specific, not merely vague.  This section is filled with golden nuggets of wisdom that have appeared in classroom lectures and sermons since the book was published. Some of these nuggets include, “The Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God” (8)—as a nod to the Church Father St. Athanasius of Alexandria (c. 296-373)— and “Men are mirrors or carriers of Christ to other men, sometimes unconscious carriers”(9). The book closes with these profound words, “Look for yourself and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him and with Him everything else thrown in” (10) which recalls to the reader’s mind Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:33.

Mere Christianity is significantly more than a collection of witty and memorable thoughts on Christian doctrine and behavior; the impact that it has had on its’ readers is profound. This fact is demonstrated by the way that reading it challenged the thinking of a man like Chuck Colson resulting in his conversion to Christ as well as my own children when I read it to them while they were growing up. This is a book for all time, to be read and reread as a conversation with an old and trusted friend. If you have not read Mere Christianity yet, I urge you to run, not walk, to your local library or bookstore and get a copy immediately. If you have read the book, dust off your copy and renew your acquaintance with the most significant Christian writer from the 20th century.

Footnotes:

  1. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Macmillan, 1952. P. 6
  2. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Macmillan, 1952. P. 8
  3. P. 12
  4. P.43
  5. P. 46
  6. P. 56
  7. P. 130
  8. P. 154

Getting Beyond Potential To Experience Success and Significance!

John C. Maxwell who has trained more than 5 million people on the topics explores basic principles of success and significance in his recent book, 3 Things Successful People Do: The Road Map That Will Change your life (Nelson Books, 2016). Utilizing the traditional Maxwell recipe for effective communication the book begins with research on the definition of success (p.2) as well as the common misconceptions about success. John then summarizes his working definition “Knowing Your Purpose In Life, growing to Reach your Maximum Potential and sowing Seeds That Benefit Others” (P. 11).

The rest of the book is divided into three sections of three chapters each centered around the theme of each part of the definition of success. In addition to the great stories, personal illustrations from his own life and family John concludes each chapter with thoughtful and penetrating questions to reflect upon and answer with some chapters including worksheets. The temptation of course is to read right through the book, which is entertaining and motivating and skip the hard work of the personal application sections but the true value is found in the time consuming effort required to personalize the material. But when that happens John becomes more than just the author of the book but a personal coach through the printed page.

Like most Maxwell books the material is well presented, personable, interesting and applicable for a wide variety of starting points from the readers perspective. I recommend reading this book either as a refresher or as a start to the journey of clearly identifying your personal mission statement and first steps to fulfilling all God has for  your life. It is also a valuable resource for young leaders just starting out in their vocational journey.

 

Insights For Young Leaders

Developing young leaders is a crucial task and having the tools necessary to help with the task is essential for any one in ministry. LEADERSHIP INSIGHTS For Emerging Leaders and Those Investing In Them  by Steve Moore (2002, Top Flight Leadership) is a very valuable tool in the process.

Each of the 24 individual topics is divided into 3 sections beginning with Spiritual Formation then moving to Ministry Formation and concluding with Strategic (Leadership) Formation. The chapters are designed to be used as an “on-demand workshop” (p.11) with an almost leadership conference in a book feel. The chapters follow a similar layout beginning with a thought provoking like the start of Chapter 3 Failure and Vicarious Learning “Failure is the drastic surgery God sometimes has to use to cut the stubborn nerve of self sufficiency in a leaders life”  Tom Marshall (p.31). Content is the focus for several pages and concludes with a Working It Out section with ideas for application and reflection. I found every chapter helpful but of special attention and impact were chapter 13 Historical Mentoring: How to Benefit From Biographies, Chapter 15 Reading Right: How To Get The Most From A Book and my favorite, Chapter 14 Lessons On Communication From D.L. Moody.

While these articles/chapters were written with young leaders aged 20-30 (p.10)I found the content valuable for review as an older leader as well. This is book worth buying, worth reading and worth using in the mentoring process with young developing leaders for the next generation!

Student Evangelism

The Student Volunteer Movement for Foreign Missions is an exciting chapter in the history of missions. In a short but significant research project titled, THE CREATION OF A STUDENT MOVEMENT TO EVANGELIZE THE WORLD by Timothy C. Wallstrom (William Carey International University Press, 1980) the stories of John R. Mott, Robert E. Speer and Robert P. Wilder are woven together to present the background of how 2000 college students committed their lives to serve the Great Commission from 1891 through 1920.

Familiar organizations like the YMCA and Mt Hermon along with names like Dwight L. Moody make the narrative come alive and deepen an understanding of the impact they had on the current reality of short term missions in the 21st century. Less than 100 pages this history makes no claims of being exhaustive but does include analysis of lessons learned from the movement in hindsight. Of special interest was the section on the “Spiritual Characteristics (pp. 56-58) which explored “three emphases-dependence on the infallible Scripture, on prayer and on the power of the Holy Spirit” (p.58)

This is not a light reading experience but well worth the time and effort to work through the density of the material if the subject matter is of interest. Well Worth a spot on your missions shelf!

Listening To The Walt Disney Story

I recently came across a two CD audio biography on Walt Disney titled FASCINATING WALT DISNEY:Hear How Walt’s Dreams Came Through, written and narrated  by Stephen Schochet for Tales From Hollywood, in 1998.

As a life long fan of all things Disney from my childhood it was tremendously interesting to hear the story of Walt’s early life as well as leadership principles Walt employed in working through years of disappointment and set backs. The quotes from Walt about the  development of Mickey Mouse through out Walt’s life was amazing. Part One explored Walt as the Artist and the formative experiences in his youth that formed his perspectives and dreams for his future. Part Two was titled The Entrepreneur and dealt with Walt’s later business dealing  with his brother Roy and his role in the Disney Studio strike and the building of the theme parks. Of special interest was the background on the movies like Pinocchio, Sleeping Beauty and Dumbo and their lack of initial box office success and the role of television in building brand interest and promote re-releases of the films. I loved the story of Jungle Book which was the last movie Walt personally influenced from start to finish.

I loved listening to and learning from Walt’s story, pick up a copy of this audio presentation and I know you will as well!!