Why Honor Is Key | Influence Podcast


“The stories of honor contained in the Word of God start from the first verses in Genesis and continue to the last words in Revelation.” So writes Rich Wilkerson Sr. in his new book, I Choose Honor.

In this episode of the Influence Podcast, George P. Wood, Influence magazine’s executive editor, talks to Wilkerson about why honor is the key to relationships, faith, and life.

Rich Wilkerson Sr. senior pastor of Trinity Church in Miami, Florida, and founder of Peacemakers, a Christian, nonprofit social services organization. His book, I Choose Honor, is just out from Charisma House.

P.S. This podcast is cross-posted from InfluenceMagazine.com with permission.

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Thinking Christianly about American History | Influence Podcast


“Christians believe the kingdom of God is our ultimate commitment, and we should confuse no temporal nation with that kingdom,” writes evangelical historian Thomas S. Kidd in his new, two-volume history of the United States. “But we are also thankful for the ways God has moved in American history, redeeming untold millions of people and building his church in each generation.”

In this episode of the Influence Podcast, Influence magazine Executive Editor George P. Wood talks to Thomas S. Kidd about how to think Christianly about American history. Kidd is distinguished professor of history, James Vardaman Endowed Professor of History, and associate director of the Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. A noted scholar of colonial America, he is author most recently of American History, a two-volume textbook just published by B&H Academic.

P.S. This podcast is cross-posted from InfluenceMagazine.com with permission.

Embracing Contemplation | Book Review


If Christian book publishing trends are any indication, contemplative spirituality is a hot topic among Christian readers — hot in the dual sense that it arouses intense interest as well as intense opposition. Proponents claim it is an ancient Christian practice capable of deepening a person’s love for God and neighbor. Opponents counterclaim that it is biblically subpar, smacks of medieval Catholicism, and opens the door to New Age mysticism.

In Embracing Contemplation, John H. Coe and Kyle C. Strobel assemble a team of theologians to assess the appropriateness of contemplative spirituality for evangelical Christians. These various authors examine the Bible, church history, and the writings of contemporary authors and arrive at a measured appraisal of contemplative spirituality. Coe and Strobel conclude: “contemplation and the contemplative life is fundamental to the maturing Christian life.”

This approval of contemplation should not be interpreted as a blanket approval of everything that calls itself “contemplative spirituality,” of course. In his chapter, “The Controversy Over Contemplation and Contemplative Prayer,” Coe identifies forms of contemplative spirituality that are “sub-Christian.” Similarly, in “A Distinctively Christian Contemplation,” Glen G. Scorgie differentiates authentically Christian contemplation from what is found in other religions.

Because contemplative spirituality is often seen as a Catholic practice, several authors show how Protestant Reformers and well-known evangelicals practiced a gospel-based form of contemplation. This includes three “Johns” whose evangelical credentials are not in dispute: John Calvin, John Wesley, and Jonathan Edwards. See Ashley Cockworth’s “Sabbatical Contemplation?” for Calvin and Tom Schwanda’s “To Gaze on the Beauty of the Lord” for Wesley and Edwards. Of particular interest to Pentecostal readers is Simon Chan’s chapter, “Contemplative Prayer in the Evangelical and Pentecostal Traditions.”

Throughout the book, the authors do a good job of placing evangelical theological commitments at the forefront of the conversation about contemplative spirituality. What is consistent with those commitments is allowed; what isn’t is discarded. This measured approach is better than a knee-jerk rejection or simplistic embrace of what passes for contemplative spirituality today.

Book Reviewed
John H. Coe and Kyle C. Strobel, eds., Embracing Contemplation: Reclaiming a Christian Spiritual Practice (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2019).

P.S. If you liked my review, please click “Helpful” on my Amazon review page.

P.P.S. This review is cross-posted from InfluenceMagazine.com with permission. It appeared in the May-June 2019 issue of Influencemagazine.

P.P.P.S. I interviewed John Coe and Kyle Strobel in Episode 175 of the Influence Podcast, which you can listen to below:

How the Church Can Serve the City | Influence Podcast


On the Day of Pentecost, the first Christians preached the gospel of Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. Soon after, they also organized ministries to help the poor. This combination of evangelism and compassion is a biblical hallmark of Spirit-filled ministry. It’s also a template for action today.

In this episode of the Influence Podcast, George P. Wood, executive editor of Influencemagazine, interviews Dave Donaldson and Wendell Vinson about how the local church can serve the city through compassionate ministry.

Dave Donaldson and Wendell Vinson are editors of CityServe: Your Guide to Church-Based Compassion, just published by Salubris Resources. Donaldson is co-founder and chairman for CityServe International, whose visionis “to see the local church fulfill its calling to be a stronger catalyst for healthier communities and the restoration of broken lives.” Vinson is also co-founder of CityServe and pastor of Canyon Hills Church in Bakersfield, California.

I Choose Honor | Book Review


The dictionary definition of honor is “to regard or treat (someone) with admiration and respect.” In I Choose Honor, Rich Wilkerson starts with this definition but goes on to show that the biblical conception of honor is more far-reaching. He also shows that honor is a pervasive biblical theme: “The stories of honor contained in the Word of God start from the verses in Genesis and continue to the last words in Revelation.” Along the way, he demonstrates how to honor family members, God’s creation, the poor and outcast, and God himself (through worship.” He then discusses how to create circles of honor, practice honor within relationships, honor the Holy Spirit, and practice honor day-to-day. For me personally, the chapters on honoring God’s creation and the poor and outcast were the most thought-provoking.

Book Reviewed
Rich Wilkerson, I Choose Honor: The Key to Reltationships, Faith, and Life (Lake Mary, FL: Charisma House, 2019).

P.S. If you liked my review, please click “Helpful” on my Amazon review page.

My 569th Amazon Review on My 5/69 Birthday


Today is my birthday. By happy coincidence, I have published my 569th review on Amazon—5/69, 569th, get it? For my birthday, could you help me on my #NerdGoal to be Amazon’s #1 Reviewer and like some of the reviews I’ve posted this year? That would be the best present ever!
• Hesh Kestin, The Siege of Tel Aviv, https://amzn.to/2LCB3vQ.
• Jeff Wise, The Taking of MH370, https://amzn.to/2V1zSFu.
• Kadi Cole, Developing Female Leaders, https://amzn.to/2vG3fD6.
• Robert Louis Wilken, Liberty in the Things of God, https://amzn.to/2VBNImn.
• Matt Brown, Truth Plus Love, https://amzn.to/2XDbBat.
• John Coe and Kyle Strobel, Embracing Contemplation, https://amzn.to/2VlQMU9.
• Arthur C. Brooks, Love Your Enemies, https://amzn.to/2KFPfn5.
• Amy Artman, The Miracle Lady, https://amzn.to/2YyIsPa.
• Victoria Selman, Nothing to Lose, https://amzn.to/2U1s4Yx.
• Dean Inserra, The Unsaved Christian, https://amzn.to/2HGkj3V.
• Kerri Rawson, A Serial Killer’s Daugher, https://amzn.to/2EHVbWn.
• Kara Powell and Steven Argue, Growing With, https://amzn.to/2VFf2MV.
• Edward William Fudge, The Fire That Consumes, https://amzn.to/2VEseSb.
• Preston Sprinkle, ed., Four Views on Hell, https://amzn.to/2tEkNyu.
• Justin Whitmel Earley, The Common Rule, https://amzn.to/2SSfsCH.
• Steven D. Smith, Pagans and Christians in the City, https://amzn.to/2DVjq38.
• John C. Maxwell, Leadershift, https://amzn.to/2TD2OUr.
• Rod Loy, Help! I’m in Charge, https://amzn.to/2Rzz5Oj.
• Joel and Nina Schmidgall, Praying Circles Around Your Marriage, https://amzn.to/2GcFucS.
• Tony Dungy, The SOUL of a Team, https://amzn.to/2Sd4yqS.
• Joseph Pearce, Solzhenitsyn: A Soul in Exile, https://amzn.to/2G8HBxM.
• Nicholas Wolterstorff, In This World of Wonders, https://amzn.to/2B75Bhq.
• Peter J. Williams, Can We Trust the Gospels? https://amzn.to/2Dz3kgv.
• Jemar Tisby, The Color of Compromise, https://amzn.to/2AWI0jk.
• Victoria Selman, Blood for Blood, https://amzn.to/2VGUTqn.
• Rob Ketterling, Fix It! https://amzn.to/2FegW26.
• Leland Ryken, The Soul in Paraphrase, https://amzn.to/2LMxqzD.

The Siege of Tel Aviv | Book Review


Since its founding on May 14, 1948, the State of Israel has fought three wars whose outcome arguably was existential: the War of Independence (1948–1949), the Six Day War (1967), and the Yom Kippur War (1973).

In The Siege of Tel Aviv, Hesh Kestin imagines a point in the near future where Iran leads Arab armies in a genocidal war against Israel…and wins. So quick and total is the Persian-Arab victory over Israel that six million Jews flee to the only major Israeli city still under Jewish control, Tel Aviv, making it a ghetto. Meanwhile, the U.S. and the U.N. watch and wait, not wanting to interrupt the flow of oil from the Middle East.

But the Israelis take a page from the fighters of the Warsaw Ghetto and begin to fight back, led by the unlikely duo of an Israeli capitalist and a Russian Jewish mobster. Other memorable characters in the story include a cross-dressing ace pilot in the Israel Air Force, a Bedouin Israeli Defense Force scout and a Christian Arab barber who remain loyal to Israel, three joy-riding Marine F/A-18 pilots who save the day at crucial moment, and a six-ship flotilla of “Amazing Grace”-singing Christian fundamentalists on a humanitarian mission to feed the besieged city.

The Siege of Tel Aviv is a page-turner whose premise is frighteningly plausible. The problem is that the book’s happy ending isn’t. In the aftermath of the Yom Kippur War, which Israel nearly lost, Israel realized that its victory in the Six Day War had falsely led it to conclude that the Arabs would never fight it again because of its humiliating loss. In Hebrew, this false conclusion is known as the kontzeptziya.

What worries me about The Siege of Tel Aviv is that Israel’s comeback is too easy, the instance of a new kontzeptziya, that Israel’s will-to-live is sufficient to overcome overwhelming odds against it. Given its victories in 1949, 1967, and 1973, I can understand the basis for this. Israel has survived; it will survive. The problem with this novel’s execution of that will to survive is that the victory is just too easy. SPOILER ALERT: One doesn’t just liberate the entire Kuwaiti Air Force or steal hundreds of Jordanian tanks as quickly and painlessly as the rejuvenated IDF does.

Moreover, it seems to me that there are a number of false notes in Kestin’s portrayal of Christian fundamentalists and the Southern Republican U.S. president. Neither talk nor think the way Kestin portrays them. At least not the Christians, and as a Christian minister, I speak with some experience here.

So, a three-star review from me. The book was enjoyable as I read it, but after I read it, the too-easy victory and character false notes sounded too loudly to ignore. That said, Steve King—to whom the book is dedicated—likes it, saying it is “scarier than anything [he] ever wrote.” So, weigh that in the balance with my review.

A final note: The first edition of this book was published by Dzanc Books, who had published a previous novel by Kestin. Activists accused the book of being Islamophobic, so under pressure, Dzanc pulped it. Kestin then released it in a self-published second edition, which is what I reviewed. Is the book Islamophobic? I didn’t think so, and neither does Commentary magazine. You’ll have to read the book to make up your own mind.

Book Reviewed
Hesh Kestin, The Siege of Tel Aviv, 2nded. (Shoeshine Press, 2019).

P.S. If you liked my review, please click “Helpful” on my Amazon review page.