Friday, November 27, 2009

Taking Pictures With Santa

Every year at the Christmas bazaar that is hosted by the school where I work, my girls look forward to having their pictures taken with Santa Claus. Well, not every year. Grace was not very excited to see Santa when she was a one year old despite the fact that I told her Santa was really my friend, Mr. Prescott. Obviously she wasn't having it. It makes a good memory. Merry Christmas everyone!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Books I Read in October

Our Adoption in Christ: What It Means for Us and for Orphans by Dan Cruver and Jason Kovacs - Our Adoption in Christ is a short, but an all-important e-book that is available for free at http://www.togetherforadoption.org. I highly recommend this gospel-centered book for all Christians. The book was written to equip believers theologically in the areas of orphan care and earthly adoption. The authors believe that an accurate theological understanding in these areas will produce strong action towards the worldwide orphan crisis. You may not be called to adopt one of the 145 million orphans in the world today (nearly 90 million in Asia), but pray about how God would want you to serve orphans - praying for them regularly, fostering, sponsoring, and/or visiting orphans, educating others about orphans, donating money and supplies to orphanages, etc. If the gospel truly is the main thing in your life, God has called you to have a heart for the fatherless. Before God spoke the universe into existence, God planned to adopt us as sons through Jesus Christ. This is a God thing so we must help create a culture of orphan care and adoption.

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved." Ephesians 1:3-6.

The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer - Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German Lutheran pastor and theologian who was caught in the planning of assassinating Adolf Hitler. Bonhoeffer was executed by the Gestapo by being hung at the Flossenburg Concentration Camp in 1945. He wrote The Cost of Discipleship almost 70 years ago at an age not much younger than I am. Megan read this book back in her Wheaton days, and I thought I should read it since it is considered by many to be one of the most important Christian books ever written. I zipped through Bonhoeffer's Life Together a few years ago, but I was not as motivated to complete The Cost of Discipleship. The Cost of Discipleship is an exposition of what it means to truly follow Christ, and it is not exactly light reading. The book provides us the true meaning of grace, gives an interpretation of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), and explains what is required of followers of Christ.

"Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves... the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, communion without confession... Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ... Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock.... It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life."

Just Courage: God's Great Expedition for the Restless Christian by Gary A. Haugen -I spent over three hours listening to this free audiobook from christianaudio.com and learned a great deal about the horrors of slavery and sexual exploitation that exist in many third world countries. Additionally, I learned a lot about Gary Haugen's organization, International Justice Mission, a Christian human rights agency that fights these and other forms of violent oppression while attempting to rekindle the social engagement of evangelical Christians. Just Courage reminded me a little of another audiobook that I recently listened to - Francis Chan's Crazy Love.* Both books have a message of breaking free from the comforts of the status quo and having an authentic faith that confronts the sins of the world with solid, even far-reaching, solutions. I find the significant amount of daily time that ICM spends in corporate prayer to be commendable, but I strongly disagree with some of the theology of the various people mentioned in the book or endorsing the book. Despite that, Just Courage reminded that I must not just believe the words of Isaiah 1:17, but that I must be a courageous doer of the Word. "learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow's cause."

* After writing this book review, Christianity Today posted an article about Francis Chan called Crazy Passion. Through the article I found out that Chan donates much of his book royalties (which total about half a million dollars) primarily to organizations like Haugen's International Justice Mission.

Books I Read in September

Spectacular Sins: And Their Global Purpose in the Glory of Christ by John Piper - Once again, I was not disappointed by Pastor Piper. This small book by Dr. Piper should be read by any of us who wonder why there is so much suffering in the world. It is a question I have often been asked by students and others. I believe reading Spectacular Sins will not only provide you the theologically correct answers, but can also give a sense of peace in knowing that our sovereign God has the entire universe in absolute complete control. The book concludes very appropriately with a powerful prayer. "As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good..." Genesis 50:20

The Mark of the Christian by Francis Schaeffer - The Mark of the Christian was written almost 40 years ago and has less than 40 pages. Despite the thinness of his book, Pastor Schaeffer presents a critical message that many people who profess to be Christians need to hear. As stated in John 13:33-35, love must be the distinguishing mark of all Christians. He who fails to love has not been truly changed by the gospel message.

The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith by Tim Keller - Although I have listened to Tim Keller speak and have watched him in interviews, The Prodigal God is the first book I have read from the Presbyterian pastor. It was a gift from from my place of employment - something they do for the teachers at the start of every year. Xie xie admin team. Once I complete a few other books on my reading list, I hope to borrow Keller's The Reason for God from a colleague later in the school year. The Prodigal God is a small book that helped me see the Parable of the Lost Son in a new light. Although I recommend this gospel-centered book to others, I cannot justify the $19.95 list price for such a quick read. I suggest saving your money by finding a comfy chair at your local Barnes and Noble and reading the book in a couple of hours.


Reviewing Russell Moores' Adopted For Life: The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families and Churches

Adopted For Life: The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families and Churches by Russell D. Moore - Megan gave me this book as an anniversary gift last month after she learned I had placed it on my Amazon Wish List a few months ago. Dr. Moore is the dean of the School of Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville and the father of two adopted boys from Russia. His book, Adopted For Life, has been strongly endorsed by many Godly men whose sites I regularly visit. These men include Tim Challies, Chuck Colson, John MacArthur, and Albert Mohler.

As the father of two girls who are not part Japanese and white bread like I am, it is important for me to learn more about the adoption of children. Moore's book is not simply about adoption though. It is also a book about the gospel. That makes Adopted For Life unlike other books Megan and I have read about adoption. Although this book might be more appealing to certain kinds of people such as the couple who are thinking about adopting or the high schooler who is trying to figure what does it mean to be adopted, others would most definitely benefit from reading Adopted For Life. The nine chapter book starts off more theological and finishes giving more practical applications, however the entire book weaves the gospel doctrine of adoption. I highly recommend the book to all people who have been adopted into God's heavenly family.

"Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world." James 1:27