Book Reviews From 2017

10 Quotes From “As Kingfishers Catch Fire”

As Kingfishers Catch Fire is a collection of 49 sermons from Eugene Peterson. Check out my full book review by clicking here. Below are a few quotes that caught my attention.

“The Christian life is the lifelong practice of attending to the details of congruence—congruence between ends and means, congruence between what we do and the way we do it, congruence between what is written in Scripture and our living out what is written, congruence between a ship and its prow, congruence between preaching and living, congruence between the sermon and what is lived in both preacher and congregation, the congruence of the Word made flesh in Jesus with what is lived in our flesh.”

“Science and religion are opposites, the way your thumb and forefinger are opposites: if you are going to get a grip on things, you need them both.”

“Friendship is not a way of accomplishing something but a way of being with another in which we become more authentically ourselves.”

“Naming an event a miracle doesn’t mean we can’t understand it. It means we can’t anticipate it. It means we can’t reproduce it. We cannot control it. There is more going on then we can comprehend.”

“There are people today who mistakenly look at those [Ten] Commandments as restrictive, not realizing that for those who first heard them—and for those who hear them still, in faith—they provide for and preserve the values of the free life. The reality and truth of God is protected from commercialization and manipulation. Human life is honored. The dignity of work is protected. Close personal relationships are preserved. Truth is respected. Each of the commands articulates a reality and a value that protects a free life.”

“Aaron made a god, a golden calf. At that moment Aaron quit being their pastor and became their accomplice. There are some people who are always looking for a religion that makes no demands and offers only rewards, a religion that dazzles and entertains, a religion in which there is no waiting and no emptiness. And they can usually find someone like Aaron who will help them make it up, some sort of golden calf religion.”

“Acts of love cannot be canned and then used off the shelf. Every act of love requires creative and personal giving, responding, and serving appropriate to—context specific to—both the person doing the loving and the person being loved.”

“Our habit is to talk about God, not to Him. We love discussing God. The psalms resist these discussions. They are not provided to teach us about God but to train us in responding to Him.”

“The Christian life is not, in the first place, something we do. It consists of the healthy and mature formation of our lives by the Spirit, the Holy Spirit. Christian living goes off the rails badly when it is conceived as a program or routine that we engage in or skills that we master.”

“In prayer we do not act. God does. In prayer we do not develop a technology that sets the gears and pulleys of miracle in motion. We participate in God’s action. ‘Not my will but Yours.’”

As Kingfishers Catch Fire (book review)

Eugene Peterson may be best known for his work on The Message: a paraphrase of the Bible in more modern English. But before he worked on The Message, he was already putting the Bible into modern English in his weekly sermons. As Kingfishers Catch Fire is a collection of 49 of these sermons.

Peterson says, “When I prepare and preach a sermon, I need constant reminding that I am part of a company that has a rich and varied genealogy. I do not start from scratch. I do not make up something new.” These sermons are divided into seven categories, in which Peterson states he is “preaching in the company of Moses, David, Isaiah, Solomon, Peter, Paul, and John.”

To be honest with you, this collection of sermons was a bit of a disappointment to me. I was anticipating sermons that were much more expositional in nature, but instead I read sermons which were Peterson’s poetic thoughts about a passage of Scripture. I found this curious since Peterson himself says in the introduction to this book that “the Christian life is the lifelong practice of attending to the details of congruence…between preaching and living, congruence between the sermon and what is lived in both preacher and congregation” (emphasis mine). And yet I found in these sermons very few details to actually attend to and live out.

If you prefer poetic discussions of Scripture in which you will have to find your own way of applying biblical principles to your life, you will probably enjoy this collection. But if you are looking for a meatier walk through the Bible, these sermons will probably leave you—as they did me—a bit flat.

I am a WaterBrook book reviewer.

That’s What Friends Are For

Take just a minute to get a clear mental picture of your best friend.

Got it?

Now, think of a few adjectives you would use to describe your best friend.

Did you think of words like loyal … trustworthy … honest … loving … faithful … reliable … authentic … funny … patient ….?

What about godly? Would you describe your best friend with that word? After all, if your friend is godly, wouldn’t he or she also be loyal, trustworthy, honest, loving, and so on?

This gives us an idea of how important friendships are to God. If calling someone “godly” sums up the very best attributes of your very best friend, then that means that you can see God in your friend. And hopefully they can see God in you too!

Jesus told His followers that He viewed them as friends. He told them…

  • …how close to God He could bring them (John 14:20)
  • …how much the Heavenly Father loved them because they loved Jesus
  • …how much He was willing to do for them because of His love (John 15:9-13)
  • …how the Holy Spirit would continue to keep them close to God (John 16:12-15)

Eugene Peterson said, “Friendship is not a way of accomplishing something but a way of being with another in which we become more authentically ourselves.”

Your best friend is someone you can be completely real around, right? No games, no masks, just come as you are. And your friend still loves you completely. This is how it is with God as our Best Friend too!

There is nothing you could ever do to make God love you any less, so stop worrying! 

There is nothing you could ever do to make God love you any more, so stop trying!

Friends love us enough to be totally honest with us. That’s why Solomon said, “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy only multiplies kisses” (Proverbs 27:6).

Friends want us to have the very best, and to stay on paths that lead to success. So again Solomon wrote, “As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend” (Proverbs 27:17).

Oswald Chambers tells us, “Friendship with God is faith in action in relation to God and to our fellow men.”

So be assured of God’s friendship with you. Then be God’s friend to those in your life, and allow them to be God’s friend right back to you … THAT’S WHAT REAL FRIENDS ARE FOR!

Bono & Eugene Peterson Discuss The Psalms

Bono & Eugene PetersonThis is a marvelous dialogue between two artists on the beauty and the power in the Psalms.

17 Quotes From “Jesus”

Jesus A TheographyJesus: A Theography is one of those rare books that I gave a “must read” designation (you can read my full review by clicking here). It’s impossible to share with you all of the incredible thoughts that are in this book, but here are 17 of my favorite quotes from Jesus.

Unless otherwise designated, all the quotes are from Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola.

“In Jesus the promise is confirmed, the covenant is renewed, the prophesies are fulfilled, the law is vindicated, salvation is brought near, sacred history has reached its climax, the perfect sacrifice has been offered and accepted, the high priest over the household of God has taken His seat at God’s right hand, the Prophet like Moses has been raised up, the Son of David reigns, the kingdom of God has been inaugurated, the Son of Man has received dominion from the Ancient of Days, the Servant of the Lord has been smitten to death for His people’s transgressions and borne the sins of many, has accomplished the divine purpose, has seen the light after the travail of His soul, and is now exalted and made very high.” —F.F. Bruce

“Jesus is the Logos. He is the Word, or the self-utterance, of God. So when God speaks, it is Christ who is being spoken about. When God breathes, it is Christ who is being imparted. The Spirit of God’s breath (the words ‘Spirit’ and ‘breath’ are the same in both Hebrew and Greek). The Second Testament tells us clearly that the Holy Spirit’s job is to reveal, magnify, and glorify Christ, Thus, because the Bible is inspired, it all speaks of Jesus. Again, Jesus Christ is the subject of all Scripture.” [The authors refer to the two sections of the Bible as the First and Second Testaments, in place of the usual designations of Old and New Testaments]

“Every word of the God-breathed character of Scripture is meaningless if Holy Scripture is not understood as the witness concerning Christ.” —G.C. Berkouwer 

“Your salvation was established, completed, and sealed before creation itself. Your Lord wrapped it up, won it, and came out victorious before anything ever went wrong.”

“What did He finish? He finished the old creation and the Fall. He finished sin. He finished a fallen world system. He finished the enmity of the Law. He finished satan. He finished the flesh. He put you to death and finished you completely. The person you were in Adam was terminated, swallowed up in death. And then He finished His greatest enemy, the child of sin itself, death. If that isn’t enough, He did something else beyond the rest: He raised you up in resurrection and glorified you.

“In Genesis 2:15, God commanded Adam to cultivate and keep the garden. The Hebrew word for cultivate is abad, and the Hebrew word for keep is shamar. These same Hebrew words are used to describe how the priests cared for the tabernacle of Moses. (The tabernacle was a precursor to the temple of Solomon.) The priests were to cultivate (abad) and keep (shamar) the tabernacle. In addition, we are told that God walked in the garden (Hebrew, hawlak) during the cool of the day. God also walked (hawlak) in the midst of the temple. The meaning is clear. The garden was a temple for God. Like the temple, the garden was the joining together of God’s space and man’s space—the intersection of the heavenly realm and the earthly realm. For this reason, Isaiah called it ‘the garden of the Lord,’ and Ezekiel called it ‘the garden of God.’ …Jesus Christ is the reality of the temple. (In the Greek, John 1:14 says Jesus ‘tabernacled among us.’) He is also the reality of the garden. He is the real Tree of Life and a flowing river. In Christ, God’s space and man’s space are joined together.”

“There are 184 verses in the birth narratives of the Second Testament. These 184 verses presuppose or repeat the words of 170 verses from eighteen verses of the First Testament.” 

“Jesus is the three shepherds: the good shepherd, the great shepherd, and the Chief Shepherd. Jesus presented Himself as both sheep and shepherd, the good shepherd who lays down His life for the sheep. …Jesus died on the cross at the ninth hour (about three o’clock in the afternoon) when the Passover lamb would be sacrificed in the temple. Christ, the Paschal Lamb, was slain to atone for the sins of humanity and to open the gate of the true temple that promises God’s salvation for all people.”

“In the Second Testament, as the sacrificial sign of the new covenant, Jesus Himself becomes the sin offering of humanity. In fact, Jesus’ very words on the cross, ‘It is finished!’ (‘Kalah’), are the words used by a priest at the conclusion of the sacrificial offering in the temple. In the ancient days, when the Jewish priest had killed the last lamb of the Passover, he uttered the Hebrew word Kalah, ‘It is finished.’” 

“At His birth, Jesus received the myrrh. At His death, He rejected it. Jesus’ earthly ministry centered on alleviating human suffering. He was the personification of myrrh. In His crucifixion, however, He was bearing the full brunt of human pain, suffering, and agony on the cross. He bore our shame and sorrows. So He rejected the myrrh and the wine that came with it. Jesus took the full dose of suffering for sin on the cross so we wouldn’t have to. And He rejected the myrrh so we would be able to receive it.”

“When in a garden relationship with God, humanity had no need of the Torah, for we had the Tree of Life. The Torah was the Tree of Life reborn, and Jesus was the Torah reborn.”

“We need the whole Jesus. The complete Jesus. Everything He said. Every detail of what He did.” —Eugene Peterson

“The temptation of Jesus was a playback of two episodes in the First Testament. First, it’s a replay of the first temptation in the garden of Eden. John tells us that the three enemies of the Christian are ‘the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.’ Each of these temptations was in play in the temptation of Adam and Eve in the garden:

  • The fruit was ‘good for food’ = the lust of the flesh. 
  • The fruit was ‘pleasant to the eyes’ = the lust of the eyes. 
  • The fruit was ‘desirable to make one wise’ = the pride of life. 

“…The temptations that satan leveled at Jesus in the wilderness struck the same three chords. Here is the ordered presented in Luke 4 (paraphrased):

  • ‘Turn these stones to bread’ = the lust of the flesh. 
  • ‘I will give you the kingdom of the world and their glory’ = the lust of the eyes. 
  • ‘Cast yourself down from here and angels will protect you’ = the pride of life.” 

“The Second Covenant knows the First Covenant: the Second Testament quotes from the First Testament more than 320 times, and that does not include times when biblical writers, searching for the scriptural reference, were reduced to admitting that ‘somewhere’ it reads thus and so.”

“Theology is nothing more than the Holy Spirit making His way through our brains, as the Scriptures make their way through our hearts.” 

“In biblical prophesy, the coming of Jesus is viewed as one event separated by parentheses that stretch from the ascension to His royal appearing at the end of the age. We are now living in the parentheses, wherein we look back to His first coming and anticipate His second coming. Put another way, the kingdom has come and will come. Jesus’ first coming inaugurated the kingdom of God; His second coming will consummate it. So the coming of the Messiah is one event separated by two moments: Bethlehem and the end of the age.”

“As followers of Jesus, we have a task before us. That task is to work for the kingdom. To continue the ministry of Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit… to bear witness to the sovereign lordship of Christ… to embody the message that Jesus is both Lord and Savior, not just of our personal lives but of the entire world. And to find creative ways to manifest that kingdom where we live and travel.” 

Spiritual Sword Play

Pastor, consider these words from C.H. Spurgeon—

We pastors depend entirely upon the Spirit of God to produce actual effect from the gospel, and at this effect we must always aim. We do not stand up in our pulpits to display our skill in spiritual sword play, but we come to actual fighting: our object is to drive the sword of the Spirit through men’s hearts.

In order to effectively drive the sword of the Spirit through men’s hearts we must be well-trained in spiritual warfare. That training takes place in the secret chamber alone with God. Eugene Peterson gives this warning to pastors—

Three pastoral acts—praying, reading Scripture and giving spiritual direction—are so basic, so critical, that they determine the shape of everything else in ministry. Besides being basic, these three acts are quiet and done mostly out of the spotlight of public ministry. Because they do not call attention to themselves, they are so often neglected. …Because almost never does anyone notice whether we do these things or not, and only occasionally does someone ask if we do them, these real acts of ministry suffer widespread neglect.

You cannot give to others what you do not possess yourself!

Pastor, get alone with God. Everyday. Sharpen your sword through private prayer and personal devotion. Everyday!

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