Hebrews 12:1-2

"..let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith..." - Hebrews 12:1-2

Saturday, April 17, 2010

66 Love Letters - Book Review

In his book "66 Love Letters", Dr. Larry Crabb sets out to read through each book of the Bible, searching in them for examples of how God is showing His love to us through the text. This is a great goal and one that I was interested to see the outcome of. While Dr. Crabb does indeed work his way through each book, I found his conversational style of presenting his findings to be bothersome and a bit contrived.

While I had hoped for a book that provided a brief, high level synopsis of the common thread of God's Love that is found in each book of the Bible, I feel as if I was given the task of reading someone's creative writing assignment. To his credit, the author does provide a small sort of overview of how the theme of God's love does exist in each "letter", but it is often overshadowed by his tendency to be a bit dramatic in his dialogue. I can appreciate what he was attempting to do with this style of writing, but for me it just fell short of what I feel this book could have been if he had merely written in a standard presentation style.

I will admit that from the very outset, beginning with the Prologue, I did not think I would enjoy this book. As a matter of fact, if I hadn't agreed to write a review of this book for the company, I would have put it down shortly after picking it up. But I pressed on and finished reading a decent portion of the book, so that I could give it an informed review. Within the first few chapters, the reader is very familiar with what is to be the structure of the entire book, with each chapter having some personal "dialogue" between the author and God and the discovered threads of Love being sprinkled throughout that conversation.

I will not say that this book is poorly written, but I feel as if the actual messages found in the Bible are somewhat relegated to playing second fiddle to Dr. Crabb's ongoing personal story. I found some of the "conversation" to be a little disturbing, as God does not seem to be as interested in revealing His love to the author as He wants to make sure the author continues reading His Book through to the end. It is perhaps this ongoing theme throughout the book that turned me off most. It is fairly easy to see that the author is teasing his audience in each chapter, trying to force them to reading the entire book in order to get "the message".

I find it hard to believe that this book would be useful as a teaching aid, let alone as a stand alone study, as the author suggests at the beginning. In fact, it is suggested that a small group read through and discuss one chapter of this book a week for their study time. That would mean that a group of people would be using this "study guide" for well over a year, which I do not feel is justified by the content, warranted by the style and appropriate for any such endeavor. This leads me to think that perhaps the author too highlyof his own work and places too much importance on it.

Overall, I was not impressed, challenged or even enjoying the content of this book. Perhaps it will be well received by others, but I can't ever see myself recommending or reading this work ever again.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Where Do Creative Ideas Come From?

Elizabeth Gilbert at TED: Reassigning Creativity's Origins

My favorite portions:
(8:00 through 11:00) - "And then the Renaissance came and we had this big idea, and the big idea was ‘let’s put the individual human being at the center of the universe’, above all gods and mysteries, and there’s no more room for mystical creatures who take dictation from the divine. And it’s the beginning of rational humanism, and people started to believe that creativity came completely from the self of the individual.”...

And I got to tell you, I think that was a huge error. You know, I think that allowing somebody, one mere person, to believe that he or she is the vessel, the font and the essence and the source of all divine, creative, unknowable eternal mystery is just a smidge too much responsibility to put on one fragile human psyche. It’s like asking someone to swallow the sun. It just completely warps and distorts egos and it creates all these unmanageable expectations about performance...
And if this is true, and I think that it is true, then the question becomes ‘What now?’.

Maybe go back to some more ancient understanding about the relationship between humans and the creative mystery... But the question that I kind of want to pose is, you know, ‘Why not?’. Why not think about it this way? Because it makes as much sense as anything else I have ever heard in terms of explaining the utter maddening capriciousness of the creative process.

(12:00) - You know, even I have had work or ideas come through me from a source that I honestly cannot identify. And what is that thing?

(17:00) – And maybe nobody will ever chant God’s name again as he spins, and what is he then to do with the rest of his life? This is hard. This is one of the most painful reconciliations to make in a creative life. But maybe it doesn’t have to be quite so full of anguish. If you never happened to believe, in the first place, that the most extraordinary aspects of your being came from you, but maybe if you just believed that they were on loan to you, from some unimaginable source for some exquisite portion of your life to be passed along when you’re finished, with somebody else. And you know, if we start to think about it this way, it starts to change everything.
I haven't read a thing she has written, but it sounds like this lady is wrestling with the idea that God is the source of all creativity. Perhaps she has learned this, or is learning this, and is using this platform to begin a conversation with fellow creatives about the source of her creativity.

Creativity is Imitation. Indeed.

(HT: Jon Acuff)

REALMnotes - Prayer #2 (How We Pray) 13APR10

Debunking Prayer Misconceptions
- It is not for our reputation
- It is not for others to see and hear
- It is not vain repetition
- It is not to spread gossip
- It does not require certain words or phrases
- It does not have to said at certain times

How do we pray?
- Privately (secretly) (Matt 6:5-8)
- In small groups (Acts 1:14)
- Publicly (examples of Christ praying publicly are present throughout the New Testament)

What do we pray for?
- We don’t pray for selfish gain (James 4:3)
- We pray for God’s Will to be accomplished (1 John 5:14 and Acts 4:29-31)
    o The Holy Spirit translates our prayers (Romans 8:26)
    o God knows the condition and motivation of our hearts (Romans 8:27)

The Lord’s Prayer is a model (Matthew 6:9-13)
- Correct Recipient
- Respectful
- Humble
- Thankful
- Earnest
- Honest
When we pray with pure hearts, seeking the Will of God, we are actively interacting with every member of the Triune God.
- Jesus provides the access
- The Holy Spirit provides a translation
- God the Father listens to the heart

Small Group Handout

What kind of things do you find yourself praying about most often?

Prayer Journal Update
Looking back at your requests from last week, have any of those prayers been answered?

Don’t spend too much time talking about what the group can pray for…
Get to it.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Does Universal Morality Exist?

Sam Harris at the TED conference: Science Can Answer Moral Questions

I found this talk quite interesting. I had literally no idea who Sam Harris is while watching this video, but I have since learned that he is an avowed atheist who has written some fairly popular books critical of Christian faith. While I would fully disagree with his false opinion that there is no God, I do agree with quite a bit of what he said in this talk.

It sounded to me a lot like this scientist/philosopher was imploring the educated people in the room to finally admit that there is such a thing as absolute morality, which in my mind is a reflection of the fact that there is absolute truth. Perhaps in his endeavors to convince fellow scientists to begin expressing their beliefs in firm statements of truth, Mr. Harris will be granted the understanding that these universal moral truths have an Author who created the universe in which they exist.

This article nicely captured these points from the talk:
We should not feel constrained to assert what we think is an objective truth — that such behavior is wrong — for fear that it will be taken as subjective meddling or demagoguery, Harris argued. There is a moral imperative not to hold one’s tongue but rather to speak out.
We can no longer respect and tolerate vast differences of opinion of what constitutes basic humanity any more than we can take seriously different opinions about how disease spreads or what it takes to make buildings and airplanes safe, Harris insisted.
(HT: Abraham Piper)