Reset: Living a Grace-Paced LIfe in a Burnout Culture (2017)

resetDavid Murray, Reset: Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Burnout Culture. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2017, 208 pp. $10.86

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to step into the ring with Sugar Ray Leonard or Ray “Boom Boom Mancini? David Murray may be a self-described soccer player but in his most recent book, Reset: Living a Grace Paced Life in a Burnout Culture, the pastor/theologian puts on the boxing gloves and dishes out a series of blows. The unsuspecting reader would expect these “jabs” to result in pain and dejection. But nothing could be further from the truth.

Each “punch” in Murray’s book is unleashed with a motivation of biblical instruction and grace. While the “jabs” may sting initially, thoughtful readers will come to terms with the author’s overall strategy, which is to encourage Christian men to slow down and drink in the pure waters of free grace.

Murray identifies the latent legalist that resides in every follower of Christ, that part that desires credit for a job well done, points for faithfulness in ministry, or adulation for efforts expended in the kingdom of God. The solution, of course, is grace.

Grace runs through of the remaining chapters that focus on everything from leading with humility in the home and the local church to practical things like spiritual disciplines, time management, diet, and exercise.

Several features captured my attention and as a result moved my affections.

Biblical

First, and foremost, Murray’s work is biblical. Anyone familiar with his ministry will not be shocked by this revelation. The wisdom of sacred Scripture saturates the principles presented and drives an agenda that is uniquely God-centered.

Transparent

The author does not write from an ivory tower. Rather, he walks with fellow pilgrims as a man who struggles with indwelling sin and faces daily challenges that require carefully formulated and biblical responses. Murray’s transparency is one of the great strengths of the books and will no doubt convince his readers to follow his lead.

Practical

Third, Reset is practical. Murray offers a host of timeless principles that encourage robust Christian living and not only help recalibrate weary soldiers but also revitalize the most burned out Christian leaders.

Gospel-Centered and Grace-Saturated

Finally, Rest is God-centered. I poured over this book in one day and was encouraged and uplifted. Yes, at times I felt the sting of the “punch.” But each blow that Murray delivers is laced with grace and seasoned with the love and wisdom of a seasoned shepherd.

There is so much to commend here. My hope is that many men will be built up and emboldened to continue the Christian race with passion, power, and conviction.

12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You – Tony Reinke

iphoneTony Reinke, 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You, Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2017, 224 pp. $11.51

12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You is the title of Tony Reinke’s latest book. Anyone who owns a smartphone understands the power and productivity of such a device. But along with these gains come several shortcomings that Reinke addresses in his book.

After initially reviewing the table of contents, I automatically assumed that Reinke would encourage users to ditch their smartphones. The author writes, “Our joy in God is at stake. In our vanity, we feed on digital junk food, and our palates are reprogrammed and our affections atrophy.” But Reinke is merely alerting his readers to the implicit dangers of smartphones. Like anything else, a smartphone may be used for the glory of God or may be used for evil purposes.

Much of the book is devoted to surfacing idols of the heart and making necessary adjustments. For instance, the author challenges his readers to carefully evaluate every tweet and post online:

  • Will this ultimately glorify God?
  • Will this stir or muffle healthy affections for Christ?
  • Will this merely document that I know something that others don’t?
  • Will this misrepresent me or is it authentic?
  • Will this potentially breed jealousy in others?
  • Will this fortify unity or stir up unnecessary division?
  • Will this build up or tear down?
  • Will this heap guilt or relieve it?
  • Will this fuel lust for sin or warn against it?
  • Will this overpromise and instill false hopes in others?

The heart must be ruthlessly and relentlessly evaluated or the smartphone may render a given user a fool. Unfortunately, this clever device has made idolatrous inroads into the hearts of many people and the result is nothing less than tragic: “Submission to a created thing, such as a smartphone, is idolatry when that created tool or device determines the ends of our lives.”

Reinke encourages careful contemplation as well as disciplined restraint:

“So as Christians, we push back our phones in the morning – in order to protect our solitude so that we can know God and so that we can reflect him as his children. And we push back our phones during the day – in order to build authentic eye-to-eye trust with the people in our lives and in order to be sharpened by hard relationships …”

In the final analysis, Reinke neither condemns or condones smartphone use: “It is just as idolatrous to blaspheme a phone as it is to worship a phone,” writes the author. “The solution is for us to wisely enjoy the smartphone – imaginatively, transcendentally, as something that should deepen wonder.”

At the end of the day, we face a two-fold challenge in the digital world. Reinke asks readers to consider:

  1. On the external front: Are we safeguarding ourselves and practicing smartphone self-denial?
  2. On the internal front: Are we simultaneously seeking to satisfy our hearts with divine glory that is, for now, largely invisible?

I was personally moved and challenged by Reinke’s book and commend it to others to read and absorb.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

THE FAITH OF JOSEPH: PITS AND PINNACLES – Part 1

In 1859, Charles Darwin published his work, On the Origin of Species.  Before his book was released, Christian thinkers like Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield maintained the Christian faith alone formed the only coherent and satisfying worldview.

Darwin promoted what we might refer to as the uniformity of natural causes in a closed system.  With a few strokes a pen, his worldview eliminated God and his invisible hand of Providence in the public square.  Wherever Darwin’s worldview gained a foothold, randomness reigned.

Whenever God is removed or marginalized in culture, it is important to admit three monumental consequences.  First, there is no basis for knowledge.  Second, there is no basis for morality.  And third, there is no basis for meaning.  It is no wonder that so many people turn to idols in order to satisfy the deepest longing of their hearts.  Instead of living a life of faith that relies upon Christ, who is the all-sufficient fountain, they turn to leaky idols; idols that Jeremiah refers to as “broken cisterns that can hold no water” (Jer. 2:13).

Joseph was a man who consciously turned away from idolatry.  He was a man of faith.  His worldview was diametrically opposed to what we find in Darwin.  God was at the center of his life and thinking which helped shape a robust life of faith.  Exactly what enabled Joseph to be such a man?  In order to answer this important question, notice three important pillars in the next three posts.  First, the drama.  Here, we will survey the story from Genesis 31 – 50 and highlight the God-centered faith of Joseph.  Second, notice the doctrine.  We will vividly see that a strong theological framework contributed to Joseph’s life of faith.  Finally, we will look at the direct application, which will demonstrate the importance of having a right view of God.

THE DRAMA

The drama begins to unfold in Genesis 31 when Joseph’s dad, Jacob moves his family from Haran to Canaan when he is six years old.  The story concludes with Joseph’s death at the ripe old age of 110.  What we see in Joseph’s life is a series of pits and pinnacles – times of adversity and times of prosperity.  Our task: How did Joseph respond to the highs and lows of his life?

Pits

In Genesis 37, we find Joseph who is about seventeen years of age working his father’s land with his brothers.  Jacob had a propensity to play favorites and loved Joseph more than his other brothers (Gen. 37:4) which made his brothers furious.  They hated Joseph!

The narrative in Genesis 37:25-28 describe a terrible episode in the life of Joseph.  His brothers grow so jealous that they decide to dump him in a pit.  The Midianite traders notice Joseph in the pit and sell him into slavery for twenty shekels of silver and Joseph finds himself in Egypt.

Pinnacle

In Genesis 39, Joseph moves from the pit to the pinnacle:

Now Joseph had been brought down to Egypt, and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard, an Egyptian, had bought him from the Ishmaelites who had brought him down there. The Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, and he was in the house of his Egyptian master. His master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord caused all that he did to succeed in his hands. So Joseph found favor in his sight and attended him, and he made him overseer of his house and put him in charge of all that he had. ” (Genesis 39:1–4, ESV)

So Joseph, wins the heart of Pharaoh (which is a miracle in and of itself) and he rises to a prominent leadership position in Egypt.  Joseph makes his ascent to the pinnacle.

Pits

The pinnacle, however, is short-lived.  In Genesis 39:6-14, Potiphar’s wife tries to seduce Joseph.  His response in verse 9 is a God-centered response: “How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” He makes the right decision.  Joseph’s response honors the Lord.  But the story is far from over:

But one day, when he went into the house to do his work and none of the men of the house was there in the house, she caught him by his garment, saying, “Lie with me.” But he left his garment in her hand and fled and got out of the house. And as soon as she saw that he had left his garment in her hand and had fled out of the house, she called to the men of her household and said to them, “See, he has brought among us a Hebrew to laugh at us. He came in to me to lie with me, and I cried out with a loud voice. And as soon as he heard that I lifted up my voice and cried out, he left his garment beside me and fled and got out of the house.” Then she laid up his garment by her until his master came home, and she told him the same story, saying, “The Hebrew servant, whom you have brought among us, came in to me to laugh at me. But as soon as I lifted up my voice and cried, he left his garment beside me and fled out of the house.” ” (Genesis 39:11–18, ESV)

Joseph is betrayed again, this time by Potiphar’s wife.  He is unjustly thrown into prison. But Providentially,  he again rises to a position of authority.  Joseph is called upon to interpret the dreams of a cupbearer and the chief baker.  The dreams come to pass in such a way that the chief baker is hanged and the cupbearer is restored to his previous position with Pharaoh (Gen. 39:20-22).

One would think that the cupbearer would put a good word in for Joseph.  But verse 23 tells us the opposite: “Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him.”  However, all is not lost.  Pharaoh begins to have troubling dreams that his cronies cannot interpret.  All of the sudden, the chief cupbearer has a quick burst of memory.  He refers Joseph to Pharaoh who is released from prison and immediately interprets Pharoah’s dreams.

Pinnacle

Joseph returns to Pharaoh’s court and rises again to a prominent leadership position.  He is given governing authority over the land of Egypt (Gen. 41:41).  Pharaoh even goes so far to say to Joseph, “I am Pharoah, and without your consent no one shall lift up hand or foot in all the land of Egypt” (v. 44).  Again, Joseph ascends from the pit to the pinnacle.

The plot thickens when Jacob decides to send his sons to Egypt in order to purchase grain.  The Scripture tells us that Joseph recognized his brothers as he sat in a position of authority.  But his brothers did not recognize him (Gen. 42:7-8).

Stop for a moment and ask, “How would I respond to a group of treasonous brothers?”  Would you use your authority to punish these men?  Would you kick them out of the country?  Would you send them to the gallows?  Notice Joseph’s amazing response:

But Judah said to him, “The man solemnly warned us, saying, ‘You shall not see my face unless your brother is with you.’ If you will send our brother with us, we will go down and buy you food. But if you will not send him, we will not go down, for the man said to us, ‘You shall not see my face, unless your brother is with you.’ ” ” (Genesis 43:3–5, ESV)

In the final encounter, Joseph once again demonstrates an astounding faith in God.  His brothers have figured out what they’re up against.  They seem certain that the outcome will result in punishment at best.  But look at how Joseph responds to these betraying brothers:

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. ” (Genesis 50:20, ESV)

Now try to get in the shoes of Joseph.  All of his troubles begin with his wicked brothers.  They threw him in the pit which led to a life of slavery, which led to more betrayal and acts of wickedness.  There is a sense in which all of his adversity could be logically connected to his brothers.  Yet he refuses to hold their sin against them.  He refuses to play the blame game.  He refuses to punish them.  What does he do?  Joseph acknowledges their wicked act which they freely committed.  But he admits, “God meant it for good, to bring about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today?”

Joseph responded to betrayal, false accusation, and free acts of wickedness with a gigantic heart of God-centered faith!  But the next question is an important one.  How did he do it?  What enabled Joseph to respond rightly?  What prompted Joseph to respond in a God-glorifying way?  What is the secret to his faith?  The answer:  Joseph understood the divine perspective; a theological perspective that under-girded his actions and attitudes.  It is this theological perspective that will be the focus of our next post.

 

THE WALK: Steps for New and Renewed Followers of Jesus – Stephen Smallman (2009)

When I coached tennis in college I placed a tremendous amount of stress on fundamentals.  My players were filled with chagrin when I told them to leave their racquets at home.  The reason: We would devote ourselves to fundamentals of good tennis before we ever stepped onto the court.

Understanding the fundamentals are important in any endeavor including the Christian life.    Stephen Smallman concentrates on the fundamentals of Christianity in his book, The Walk.

PART ONE: THE BASICS

In part one, Smallman generally defines a disciple as “one who is devoted to learning the ways and following the example of a teacher or master.”  However, he specifically states, “A disciple of Jesus is one who has heard the call of Jesus and has responded by repenting, believing the gospel, and following Jesus.”  He rightly describes true conversion as “faith and repentance” (or two sides of the same coin).

The author boldly promotes the notion that there is “no distinction between a disciple and a Christian.”  How often have you heard someone say, “My buddy is a Christian but he is not yet a disciple.”  Or, “My uncle has not made Jesus, lord of his life.”  Smallman repudiates these erroneous beliefs with clear, gracious language and biblical arguments.

The big story of Scripture is explained, namely, Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Consummation.  Additionally, the author includes a helpful discussion on the authority of Scripture and the importance it plays in the life of a disciple.

PART TWO: DISCIPLESHIP THROUGH THE GOSPEL

Part two includes four important components of discipleship:

  • Know the gospel itself
  • Know how you came to believe the gospel
  • Know the benefits of believing the gospel, i.e. doctrine
  • Live a life that flows from the gospel, i.e. gospel obedience

PART THREE: FOLLOWING JESUS ON HIS MISSION

The book concludes with a practical section on disciples making disciples.  The author continues to drive home the point concerning discipleship, that is, “The call to salvation is also a call to follow Jesus as his disciple … Discipleship involves a total surrender to become ‘living sacrifices’ … Following Jesus on his mission also means that his disciples are now participating in the plan of God to bring all nations into the light of the gospel.”

Justin Taylor rightly remarks, “Stephen Smallman has given us a great gift with this book.”  The book is written with new believers in mind.  It is simple without being simplistic.  It is relentless in its presentation of the gospel.  All the arguments are linked to the cross of Christ.

This book includes helpful and practical assignments at the end of each chapter.  Use The Walk with new believers and those in need of renewal.  It is sure to be a valuable discipleship tool for years to come.

4 stars