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Sunday, June 21, 2009

sabbatical fruit - week 7 - vacation time

I called this post "vacation time" because time seems to elapse differently when one is on vacation (sometimes slower, sometimes faster!) and our family spent the week on vacation at Hilton Head Island, SC. We had a beautiful week and lots of great family time, which was a blessing all in itself.

Here's a big plug for not working on vacation (even if the work is sabbatical work!)

So, while there is not specific sabbatical fruit to talk about, I can talk about some vacation fruit. Our family are all big readers and each of us took a stack of books to read. Elizabeth set the record, getting through TEN of her 100 pg. "Babysitter's Club Little Sister" books.

I read two books that were excellent, and would recommend each one heartily. I'll include a short summary below.

Unfashionable - by Tullian Tchividjian

Tullian is a Presbyterian (EPC) pastor in Florida and is the grandson of Billy Graham (or perhaps more notably for Good Shepherd folks, the grand nephew of Melvin Graham!). I read Tullian's blog regularly and have corresponded with him briefly. He is doing wonderful ministry and has perceptive and biblical commentary on his blog. His new book is part autobiography and part pastoral exhortation to Christians. He gets right at that balance I've been preaching about and thinking so hard about this summer - being engaged with the culture around us without becoming swept away by it (or mimicking it with a Christian sub-culture). Tullian's title metaphor is apt - we are not to hide away in enclaves nor get out to impress the culture with our "fashionableness" - but get out there and look noticebly different - unfashionable... even foolish? - as we bear the imprint of Christ to the world around us. The book is set up with short chapters and study questions for each and would be ideal for class or small group setting as well as for personal study.

The Reason for God - by Timothy Keller

Tim Keller is the pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Manhattan. Using examples and insights from his own ministry, Keller presents a very readable and engaging set of arguments against atheism and for belief in God through Jesus Christ. His pastoral and personal tone and qualities shine through. Let's put it this way - if I were an athiest or had been "burned by organized religion," I would want to talk to Tim Keller. He's been there, listens very well to those with questions, and offers thoughtful and non-pushy perspectives on some of the toughest questions of faith. If you struggle with the deep questions or know someone who has been put off of faith because of such questions, I'd recommend this book to you (not to just pass of to them, but to you). Or read it first and share bits and pieces and invite some conversation. This is also a book that might work well in a class or small group setting.

In addition to the broad purpose and content of the book, I would share two quotes that resonated personally with me. The first has to do with the character and style of Keller and worship life at Redeemer. It reminded me of myself and Good Shepherd - at least what I would aspire to!

To those who might visit Redeemer looking for the "dancing bears and other gimmics," Keller refers to some "downtown art types" who, having attended Redeemer for some time, described it as follows:

One person said that the difference between Redeemer and other churches was profound, and lay in "irony, charity, and humility." They said Redeemer lacked the pompous and highly sentimental language they found emotionally manipulative in other churches. Instead, Redeemer people addressed others with gentle, self-deprecating irony. Not only that, but beliefs were held here in charity and with humility, making Manhattanites feel included and welcomed, even if they disagreed with some of Redeemer's beliefs. Most of all, they said, teaching and communication at Redeemer was intelligent and nuanced, showing sensitivity where they were sensitive. (43-44)
The second quote has to do with teaching about God's grace. Keller shares one woman's response to his preaching after coming from thinking God accepts us only if we are good enough to a point of understanding grace.
If I was saved by my good works then there would be a limit to what God could ask of me or put me through. I would be like a taxpayer with "rights" - I would have done my duty and now I would deserve a certain quality of life. But if I am a sinner saved by sheer grace - then there's nothing God cannot ask of me. (183)
Keller goes on to compare the relationship with God to that of marriage. This is the comparison I have tried to make in defining true worship: to worship God is to give God all we are and all we have, with all we've got! (cf. Deuteronomy 6!) This is such a key teaching in all of Scripture!

Finally, we visited Lake Forest Presbyterian Church (EPC) today. The pastor there, Mike Moses, is a friend of mine and a childhood friend of Heather's. Mike planted the church in 1998 and moved from a YMCA location to the present location on Gilead Road in Huntersville in 2006. The church is now over 1000 members with three Sunday morning services. Today they were concluding VBS week and the service was full of life and joy! There was a kids hip-hop dance troup, a middle-school worship band, and Mike preached on godly parenting and fatherhood, reminding us of the importance of loving physical touch, quality time with our children, and the power of speaking blessing into their lives. One of the great blessings to me during sabbatical has been the opportunity to listen to great preachers like Mike and worship side by side with my family.

If anyone is reading these, please keep me in prayer as I draw toward the end of the sabbatical. I still yearn to complete some of my own music recording, a short book on worship, and to reach a target weight. And I have a long way to go on each of those! Having said that, I am very excited to get back to Good Shepherd and re-engage in the work to which God has called me!

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