A good book on doubt

My blogging friend Talbot Davis sent me a copy of his new book, The Shadow of a Doubt, recently. In honor of a regular feature on his blog, I’d like to share my Top Five Things I Like About This Book.

5. It engages an important pastoral topic in a faithful way. The book is based on a sermon series Davis preached at Good Shepherd Church on the topic of doubt. This is an important topic, but one I’ve heard handled in unproductive ways in the past. Davis acknowledges doubt — including his own — without praising it. In five sermons, he tackles important questions about doubt and makes relevant connections to people’s lives.

4. It displays Davis’ skill as a preacher. The book chapters are edited versions of Davis’ sermons, which makes this a bit of a sermon anthology for preachers such as myself who are still mastering their craft. Davis is a big fan of Andy Stanley’s one-point preaching style. If you’ve ever read Stanley’s book on preaching and wanted to see how such sermons look in actual practice, this book is a great resource. It also demonstrates Davis’ wonderful use of language and deep engagement with the biblical texts. Which brings me to ….

3. It is biblical. Each chapter takes a close look at a key text. This is not a book collecting what secular authorities say about the topic of doubt. It is a book that brings our questions to the Bible and lets the Bible shape our answers.

2. It would be perfect for a small group. Each sermon is followed by well-crafted questions designed to promote small-group conversation, devotional activities, a prayer, and some scripture readings for the week ahead. This would be an easy and interesting five-week small-group curriculum.

1. My copy is autographed. I’m sure if you asked, you could get an autograph, too. I understand Davis will be signing books at the upcoming New Room Conference.

I recommend the book, especially as a resource for small group ministry. At 112 pages and $9.99, it is well worth the price.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I was provided with a free (autographed) copy of the book and asked to write about it. I was only too happy to do that for a pastor who has a vital ministry in the United Methodist Church.

10 Things I Wish Everyone Knew About Arminianism – OnFaith

http://www.faithstreet.com/onfaith/2015/08/25/10-things-i-wish-everyone-knew-about-arminianism/37648

“Many self-styled Arminians view the problem of sin as merely the problem of guilt (to be forgiven), and not as a severe malady involving deadness, blindness, and rebellion. For these Arminians the gospel message can be made effective simply by a winsome presentation that appeals skillfully to reason and goodwill.”

Do Christians sin?

John Meunier:

A post from a few years ago on a question that is still with us

Originally posted on John Meunier:

A letter to the editor in the latest edition of The Interpreter raises an old but an important issue.

I agree that, in the eyes of God, one sin is not worse than another. I don’t agree with the statement, “We are all sinners.” (Letters, March/April) The term “sinning Christian” is a misnomer. If Christ doesn’t save us from our sins, then his sacrifice on the cross was useless.

Among the early Methodists the question of whether a Christian could sin was an important one. John Wesley wrote about it often. It is one of the many issues where careful reading of Wesley shows a nuanced understanding of sin and the work of grace. Let’s look at some of what he wrote.

The keystone Scripture for Wesley was 1 John 3, specifically verse 9: “Those who have been born of God do not sin” (NRSV). He wrestled most explicitly with…

View original 229 more words

Sign of spittle and grace

I had someone ask me recently how they should talk to an atheist who insists on saying things meant to provoke or insult.

My initial response was something like this: You are asking me what to say when that person says something insulting to faith or about your belief. How about, “I love you”?

I knew that was easier to offer as advice than to do, but I went on to say that I have always found it interesting how strongly some people feel compelled to react to the presence of faith around them. Based on my own pre-Christian experiences, I believe that in many cases the person is reacting defensively against the grace of God. Acting out in anger might just be the sign that God is getting a foothold and they are lashing out to try to drive grace away.

Paul writes in Romans 8 about the groaning of creation as it awaits the liberation from death and decay. Commenting on this passage, John Wesley’s Notes on the New Testament observe the following:

Upright heathens are by no means to be excluded from this earnest expectation: nay, perhaps something of it may at some times be found even in the vainest of men; who (although in the hurry of life they mistake vanity for liberty, and partly stifle, partly dissemble, their groans, yet) in their sober, quiet, sleepless, afflicted hours, pour forth many sighs in the ear of God.

Some of our sighs to God can look a lot spitting in God’s face.

It is not easy to be on the receiving end of these things, but I do think Christians should view vocal atheism as a sign of God’s grace at work stirring up souls.

Many atheists, of course, would reject what I just wrote. I understand that. I was once among their tribe. Part of being a Christian, though, is learning to tell the story of the world around us in terms of grace and God’s activity.

So maybe in addition to suggesting that my friend say “I love you” in the face of atheist insults, I should have added “God loves you, too.”

What We All Agree On, and What We (Probably) Don’t, In this Sanctification Debate | TGC

http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2014/05/13/what-we-all-agree-on-and-what-we-probably-dont-in-this-sanctification-debate/

We Wesleyan Methodists don’t agree on point four in the list of things that the Reformed Gospel Coalition puts forth. We believe there is a kind of perfection offered in this life, although not one free of failures and mistakes.

We have answers to the 15 questions they don’t agree on as well.

If I get some time, I would like to write in this some more.

What I see us sharing with The Gospel Coalition is an emphasis on grace and a pastoral concern about the twin dangers of legalism and antinomianism.

Chuck, the committee, and your church

I’ve enjoyed many of the Chuck Knows Church videos.

This new web series on church revitalization called “The Committee” looks like a good one and a possible resource for churches looking to have a discussion about their own future.