Ancient-Future Time by Robert Webber

Ancient-Future Time by Robert Webber

Ancient-Future Time by Robert Webber

Ancient-Future Time: Forming Spirituality Through the Christian Year by Robert Webber is an excellent introduction into using the Christian Year as a guide for Christian worship practices in the church.

Webber promotes the idea of using the Christian year as a guide for personal spiritual formation. He states (32):

“Consequently, the past and the future converge on the present in such a way that it makes a difference in the worshipers’ experience now.”

Relying on the Christian year would be best for spiritual formation because it would the Christian develop a rhythm that keeps one focused on Christ throughout the year. Webber shows how a Christian develops that rhythm as they focus on Christ in worship during the seasons of the church year. Webber describes these seasons (which he group into two cycles: cycle of light and cycle of life) and discusses their importance in helping the Christian keep a proper spiritual rhythm. These seasons include:

Cycle of Light

Advent – A Time When God Breaks In On Us
Christmas – A Time When Christ Is Birthed Within
Epiphany – A Time to Manifest Christ

Cycle of Life

Lent – A Time to Repent
The Three Great Days – A Time to Die to Sin
Easter – A Time to Be Resurrected
After Pentecost – A Time to Experience God’s Renewing Presence

Both the cycle of light and life reveal a pattern of expectation, fulfillment and proclamation (96). The Three Great Days (known as the Great Triduum) are (1) Maundy Thursday – the day when Jesus celebrated the Last Supper with His disciples, (2) Good Friday – the day when Jesus died on the cross, and (3) Holy Saturday – the day when the disciples had a vigil waiting on Jesus (122-141).

The Sundays between Easter and Pentecost address different themes that help the new Christian integrate into the Christian life within the church, to develop what Webber calls resurrection spirituality (141-158). These themes include (1) Easter Day, (2) Church, (3) Worship, (4) The Good Shepherd, (5) Ministry in the Church, (6) The Spirit, and (7) The Prayer of Jesus. The two most important Sundays after Easter are Ascension Sunday and Pentecost Sunday (158-164).

The time between Advent and Pentecost is called extraordinary time. It is extraordinary because of the supernatural events that happened during this period of the year. The season between Pentecost and Advent (which covers the summer and fall) is called ordinary time. The emphasis during this ordinary time is on Sunday after Sunday worship (166-167). Webber explains the importance of Sunday worship in the chapter about Ordinary Time. He ends by describing the importance of Trinity Sunday, All Saints Day, Thanksgiving Sunday, and The Feast of Christ the King Sunday on the last Sunday before Advent (170-178). Webber states that churches are encouraged to worship and preach a series using lectio continua during ordinary time. Lectio continua is an expository series through a book of the Bible (175).

As a pastor, I found this book a refreshing read. I have recently been challenged to use the lectionary for my own spiritual formation. Following the rhythm of the church year in my personal life has been invigorating. I can see how following the church year can be helpful for churches. One advantage is that following the church year will help the church to celebrate worship with an entire community of churches (Anglican, Episcopal, Lutheran, Reformed, and Catholic). This will help the church be in sync with other churches and broaden their worship perspective. This can help to give the church an appreciation for the entire world-wide church family. Churches tend to be individualistic in the way they approach worship. I like how the church year can help me as a Christian connect with other Christians throughout the world. Even though I don’t agree with other points of theology, I can connect with others through the reading of the same Scriptures on a daily and weekly basis.

Ancient-Future Time is a great book for any Christian to read. For liturgical Christians who are familiar with the church year, this book will be encouraging, For evangelical Christians, this book can give an education and insight into a new way to grow spiritually. I look forward to reading other books in this series by Robert Webber.

Heaven’s Muscle by Bren Hughes

Heaven's Muscle by Bren Hughes

Heaven’s Muscle by Bren Hughes

Heaven’s Muscle by Bren Hughes is a book primarily about the work of the Holy Spirit. He encourages the reader to defy the spirit of religion and embrace the Holy Spirit. Throughout the book he states insightful thoughts about the work of the Holy Spirit.

Hughes begins his book by addressing what he calls the “spirit of religion”. He defines this spirit as legalism which can prevent the Christian from following the Holy Spirit (23). He continues to elaborate on the spirit of religion as a barrier to being empowered by the Holy Spirit. He identifies different spirits which promote religion and prevent a Christian from living the Spirit-filled life. Hughes identifies characteristics of good religion (26).

Next, establishes the biblical basis for the work of the Holy Spirit. Hughes shows how Jesus did His work, not in His own power, but by the power of the Holy Spirit (52-53). Because of the anointing of Jesus at His baptism, Hughes contends that baptism is an important step for the Holy Spirit to do His work (59). Hughes believes that all believers can perform miracles (56). However, the reason we can’t see miracles is because of a spirit of religion which hinders the Holy Spirit (64), Who can be insulted (65).

Hughes then focuses a section his book on challenging the spirit of religion, by depending upon the Holy Spirit. The greatest spiritual gift is love. Love is required for the spiritual gifts to work (68). Hughes makes an excellent argument against the cessation of some spiritual gifts (72). He suggests that you can ask God for spiritual gifts (78).

Hughes makes the strong case that as Christians, we need an awakening from legalism (88). He asserts that some of our human afflictions, from physical ailments to depression, free, and self-criticism are symptoms of demonic activity (89). Hughes continues to address the theme of bad spirits which a Christian can encounter. Hughes makes an interesting distinction between diseases and demon possession – Luke 8, Matthew 8:16, Matthew 10:1, Acts 5:16 (92). Hughes effectively shows explanations from the Old Testament of illnesses which came from demons. Today, we would now attribute to modern mental illness (92).I agree with Hughes in his assessment that freeing a person from the influence of bad spirits can take time. Relapses are possible. Lasting deliverance is not immediate (94).

Hughes continues to make the case in this book that the spirit of religion, (which is legalism) comes from demonic spirits (1 Timothy 4:3) (96). Hughes’ assessment about how to detect the spirit world is Biblically correct, although not trusted by western science (98). Hughes suggests discovering a person’s spiritual pathway. He summarizes the nine spiritual pathways which are discussed in more detail in Sacred Pathways by Gary Thomas (137-139). There are spiritual gift tests and inventories to help a person discover their spiritual gifts. I wonder if there is a similar instrument to help me discover my spiritual pathway? It would be helpful if Hughes would point the reader to a resource to help them find that spiritual pathway.

Hughes continues showing how to deal with negative spirits with the power of the Holy Spirit. He shows how 2 Timothy 1:7 and Micah 3:6-8 teach us that God has given us a spirit of power, love, self-discipline, and faith to fight the spirit of fear (146). There is a purpose to the Holy Spirit’s power. Hughes rightly states that God’s goal is reconciliation. Our work is the work of loving people because loving is what God does (147).

As a Christian learns to take action, to use Heaven’s muscle, Hughes states that it is alright to doubt. He states that doubt is just a form of humility (148). Humility is a quality that every Christian should show when they learn to depend upon the Holy Spirit. For the Christian who wants to learn a thorough understanding of the role of the Holy Spirit, Heaven’s Muscle by Bren Hughes would be an excellent resource.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.

The Esther Blessing by Deborah P. Brunt

The Esther Blessing: The Grace to Reign in Life by Deborah P. Brunt

The Esther Blessing by Deborah P. Brunt

 

The Esther Blessing by Deborah P. Brunt is a study of the book of Esther. The book does not give a complete verse-by-verse study of the book. However, Brunt does a great job showing how grace flows through the book. She spends the first couple of chapters critiquing the traditional interpretations of the book. She shows how King Xerxes and Haman are really narcissists and that Esther is not in a Godly marriage.
After the initial chapters, Brunt shifts the emphasis of her interpretation of the book from how a woman wins a beauty contest to how God uses a woman to save her people. Brunt suggests that the book is about grace. She uses the water cycle (revealed in Ecclesiastes 1:7) as an illustration to suggest that there is also a grace cycle. Graces comes down, then flows out and then flows up. Brunt contends that the book of Esther illustrates this principle. 
As one reads through the book, Brunt shows how Esther receives favor from men and then grace – which she defines as favor from God. Esther uses this favor from the men, and God uses Esther, to save the people of Israel.
Brunt explains that the sin of narcissism is what enslaved the people of Israel in Persia. She identifies Xerxes and Haman as the two main enemies of the Jewish people. She explains a valid way in which Haman may have descended from the Amalekite king Agag who was originally killed by the prophet Samuel. Brunt compares the events in the book of Esther and suggests that a culture of narcissism is just as epidemic today in the United States as it was in the days of Xerxes. In fact, this culture of narcissism has gone virally worldwide. She quotes heavily from the books The Self-Seekers, The Narcissistic Epidemic, and The Mirror Effect: How Celebrity Narcissism Is Seducing America. There may some truth to the challenges that she concludes from these sources. Namely, that a few narcissistic and self-absorbed people can influence an entire nation of people. Haman did it, Hitler did it, and someone could easily do it today. Our culture today is just as easily able to be enslaved by the sin of narcissism as the people of Israel were in the days of Esther. Brunt warns the reader about spiritual schizophrenia – narcissism mixed with compassion and humility in the church. She suggests that this dangerous mixture can prevent God’s people in the church from making an influence like they should.
What is Brunt’s solution to the sin of narcissism? Living and reigning in this life by grace. Mordecai and Esther are our examples to follow.
Another theme which Brunt addresses the how prominent royalty is addressed in the book of Esther. The book of Esther is filled with references to royalty in one way or another. The word royal and related words are used over 250 times in the book of Esther. There is the royalty in the book which is seen (fake royalty) and then there is the royalty which is unseen (true royalty). What is not seen conquers what is seen, and what is not said speaks louder than what is said. God is never mentioned in the book, but one can read that God is working in the unseen realm to accomplish His purposes.
As part of that royal nature, Brunt calls the reader to live out the aforementioned grace cycle. She explains in practical ways how this grace cycle (found in 2 Corinthians 9) can flow from God through you to other people. Grace-flowing down, conducting out, and then flowing back up in praise and thanksgiving to God. I found it interesting how the grace cycle in 2 Corinthians 9:19 parallels the water cycle in Ecclesiastes 1:7. Through the rest of the book, Brunt shows how Esther and Mordecai are examples of this grace cycle which we call can encounter and live out in our lives.  
Overall, I enjoyed reading this book. I discovered some insights which I may be able to share with others in the future. While not an exact commentary on the book of Esther, The Esther Blessing could be used as a resource to supplement the study of the life of Esther. Clearly, the book had insights that would not have not come out had it not been written by a woman. A woman’s perspective was helpful in interpreting some texts in the book of Esther. I would recommend this book to those who want to study the book of Esther and need a guide.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.


In Memory of Leonard Nimoy – Spiritual Life Lessons We Learned From Spock

m4s0n501

 

There are many people who have written about the passing of Leonard Nimoy. I have written before about the origins of his character Mr. Spock‘s Vulcan greeting and gesture. I have also referenced Mr. Spock in a sermon and have written a movie review for the first two Star Trek films, as well as thoughts about theology in the Star Trek films.

Live Long and Prosper

Numbers 6:22-27: How to Be a Blessing to Others

Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)

The Holy Trinity in the Star Trek Trilogy

I agree with the following blogger’s thoughts below and I find it best to pass along his insights about the spiritual lessons we learned from Mr. Spock.

In Memory of Leonard Nimoy – Spiritual Life Lessons We Learned From Spock

I am not ashamed to admit that Star Trek has always been my favorite television show.  My earliest memories of television was watching Star Trek and a few years later when it went into syndication, I became the biggest fan a ten year old boy could be – collecting models, toys, buying every Star Trek […]

https://stevebiddison.wordpress.com/2015/02/28/in-memory-of-leonard-nimoy-spiritual-life-lessons-we-learned-from-spock/

X2: X-Men United (2003)


X2: X-Men United (2003)

 
X2: X-Men United (2003) is a sequel to X-Men (2000). The film picks up right where they last film left off. Wolverine continues his search for clues to his past. In this film, the genocidal Colonel William Stryker tries to use the computer Cerebro to kill every mutant.
The film addresses two themes: manipulation and faith. 
 
Manipulation 
Mystique, impersonates Senator Robert Kelley to get information which helps her free Magneto from prison. Stryker extracts information from Magneto while he is in prison. He also manipulates Professor X to get him to locate every mutant so that he can kill them. 
As humans, we live in a world of manipulation. The Bible is full of stories where people try to manipulate one another. People sin by manipulating one another for selfish reasons. Manipulation never leads to good purposes. Satan manipulated Adam and Eve (Genesis 3). Satan also tried unsuccessfully to manipulate Jesus (Matthew 4). Jacob deceived Isaac. Laban manipulated Jacob. Absalom manipulated his father David. David manipulated Uriah to get his wife Bathsheba.  
Faith
The mutant known as Nightcrawler (known as Kurt Wagner), who tried to assassinate the President presents the ideal way to work with other people. When Storm suggests to deal with people in anger, Nightcrawler, a Catholic, suggests that the way to deal with others is by faith. 
 
As sinful humans, we try to deal with each other in a way that benefits ourselves. This is why so many people manipulate one another. In contrast to this, the Bible teaches us to live by faith. In both the Old and New Testaments, Godly people follow God by faith. They operate by faith (Habakkuk 2:4, Romans 1:17, Hebrews 11). Living by faith means that we don’t live selfishly. Being selfish is evil. Following God requires faith and that includes how we deal with other people.
 
QUESTIONS:
1. In this film, many people are trying to manipulate others to get what they want. The Bible is full of people who try to manipulate others to get what they want. Why is this wrong? 
2. Is it easy for you to manipulate others? Why or why not?
3. Nightcrawler suggests another way to work with people. He says that one should have faith. How is living by faith the opposite of living by manipulation? 
4. Is it easy for you to live by faith? Why or why not?