Rich Mullins | James Bryan Smith

The cover of James Bryan Smith's An Arrow Pointing to HeavenIt was during my honeymoon that Rich Mullins died. I was driving up I-95 from Florida while Rich was driving southbound on I-35 toward Wichita. A random car accident ended the life of a gifted songwriter and unique follower of Jesus.

Rich was different that most people. Like the prophets, his vision was so consumed with the kingdom of God, he lived an odd life significantly out-of-joint with the principalities and powers of this world. A good example of this is when Amy Grant’s people contacted his people to buy the recording rights to his first big hit, “Sing Your Praise to the Lord”. He agreed right away, not realizing that he would be paid for this—the money didn’t factor in his decision.

In this “Devotional Biography,” James Bryan Smith gives us a close picture of Rich’s life that challenges readers to reevaluate our own lives. Rich Mullins was far from perfect—a point he made often, confessing his own sins openly and (at times) uncomfortably. Far from disqualifying him, this humility and openness is refreshing in an age of carefully-crafted Facebook selfies.

Rich was, truly, An Arrow Pointing to Heaven. We would do well to consider his life, then look up.

—James Bryan Smith, Rich Mullins: An Arrow Pointing to Heaven (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000).

Christian Initiation | Frank D. Macchia

Frank MacchiaMany Pentecostals lessen the power of their focus on Spirit baptism by removing it completely from Christian initiation and identity and making it merely an enhancement of power supplemental to the life of grace.

—Frank D. Macchia, Baptized in the Spirit: A Global Pentecostal Theology, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2006), 152.

Drop Dead Healthy | A. J. Jacobs

The cover of Jacobs' Drop Dead HealthyAtkins. Paleo. Vegan. Wheat Belly. With all the health options on the market (and so little advertising restrictions), how could you possibly choose which way to be healthy? A. J. Jacobs to the rescue! The man who read the Encyclopedia Britannica from cover to cover and who spent a year following all the rules in the Hebrew Bible turns the focus on healthy living.

Jacobs spent two years of his life focusing on various areas of healthy living—from the exercise to meditation, from detoxing to finger fitness. He recounts his experiences in hilarious fashion. Here’s a taste:

I hurt my shoulder the other day. I hurt it while lugging a sheet of drywall out of my apartment. At least that’s what I tell people. Because I don’t want to hear their sass when I tell them the truth. Which is that I hurt my shoulder kayaking. On Wii. (113)

Drop Dead Healthy is a funny entertaining read that might actually teach you something about living healthier.

—A. J. Jacobs, Drop Dead Healthy (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2012).

Ready for Love | Ulrich Luz

Ulrich LuzWhen the deeds of love do not include one’s entire possessions, it is because one’s heart is not ready for love.

—Ulrich Luz, Matthew 1-7, trans. James E. Crouch (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2007), 337.

1 John 4:9-12 | In This Is Love

LightningLightning is a fascinating phenomenon. In an instant, electrostatic discharge super-heats a jagged line of air transforming it into plasma. This process expands the air so quickly that it creates shock waves we call thunder.

I once sat through a violent thunderstorm at the end of a portage (under an overturned Souris River Kevlar canoe). When the lightning was directly overhead, the flash of light and loud crack of thunder coincided. As the storm moved away, the distinct crack became a loud ongoing rumble as the deep bass tones of the storm bounced off the forest fire-scarred hills and cliffs of the Temagami wilderness.

Is it any wonder that Scripture associates God with a thunderstorm?

When he thunders, the waters in the heavens roar;
    he makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth.
He sends lightning with the rain
    and brings out the wind from his storehouses.
—Jeremiah 10:13 (NIV)

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The Lost World of Adam and Eve | John H. Walton

The cover of Walton's The Lost World of Adam and EveEvery once in a while you read a book that forces you to shift your perspective. Walton’s scholarship does precisely that. In The Lost World of Adam and Eve, he picks up and carries forward the work he did in The Lost World of Genesis One.

Walton’s main claim: the creation account of Genesis 1-3 is not a story about material origins—it’s a temple story of functional origins. The ancient Hebrew people who first heard the creation account of Genesis would not have assumed creatio ex nihilo. Instead, they would have read the scripture as a description of God organizing his home with us. (Walton states clearly that there are other passages that support the doctrine of ex nihilo. Genesis 1, however, makes no such claim.)

Walton’s work is meticulously organized with each chapter arguing for a specific proposition. Here are some of the key insights that struck me:

  1. Genesis 2 should be read as a sequel to Genesis 1, not an expansion of the creation of humans on the sixth day. A key factor here is the insight that ‘ādām in Hebrew can be read either as “humans” or as the proper name, “Adam”.
  2. Adam and Eve were specific people chosen by God to expand his rule and reign throughout the world. Walton argues that ancient readers would have assumed there were other humans outside the garden. This explains who Cain might have fled to.
  3. The Serpent in the creation story would have been understood as the chaos creature of non-order. Think of the Rahab figure from Job.
  4. When Adam and Eve capitulated to the serpentine chaos creature, they set themselves up at the centre of creation which allowed disorder to run free in God’s newly ordered world.

If you just read that list and want to argue why he can’t be right, I encourage you to read the book first. Walton is meticulous in his arguments. While he does believe that there is a historical Adam and Eve, he insists that the Bible does not claim that all humans descended from this couple alone.

In the end, Walton notes how essential a proper reading of Genesis 1-3 is for the next generation. We can choose to understand it the way we were raised and stand boldly for our faith in the face of mounting scientific evidence. In an impassioned moment, Walton suggests a better way:

Think, then, of our children and grandchildren. When they come home from college having accepted some scientific understanding about human origins that we do not find persuasive, are we going to denounce them, disinherit them and drive them from the doors of our homes and churches? Or are we going to suggest to them that there may be a way to interpret Scripture faithfully that will allow them to hold on to both science and faith? Can we believe that such a path does not represent a compromise that dilutes the faith but rather one that opens new doors to understanding that the next generation may find essential even though we find ourselves paralyzed on the threshold? (210)

The Lost World of Adam and Eve is an important work that will challenge and inspire believers who are committed to the authority of God’s Word.

—John H. Walton, The Lost World of Adam and Eve (Downer’s Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2015).

Divine Embrace | Frank D. Macchia

Frank MacchiaLike an embrace brings the love signified in it to the experience of the recipient, so baptism and the Eucharist bring the divine embrace to the life of the believers present to receive it.

—Frank D. Macchia, Baptized in the Spirit: A Global Pentecostal Theology, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2006), 71.

1 John 4:7-8 | God is Love

TwinsUlric Collette is a Quebec based photographer who stumbled upon something cool while working with Photoshop. He spliced his face with the face of his son along the line of symmetry. The result was astonishing. It’s a dramatic and interesting way to examine family resemblance. Since then he has taken many more pictures which you can see on his website.

You know the conversation family members inevitably have over a new baby: “Oh, he’s got your eyes,” or “Look, he’s just a mini version of you.” Since children are the genetic product of their two parents, it’s natural to see qualities of both parents in the child. While I find it hard to see this sort of resemblance in a newborn, the traits usually become more obvious as the child grows up.

As Christians, we are adopted into a new family. Normally, you wouldn’t expect to see the traits of a parent in an adopted child. With Christians, however, the image runs deeper. It’s the chief mark of this family resemblance that John explores in 1 John 4:7-8
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