Book Review: Disciple


Disciple
By Bill Clem

Summary:
Pastor Bill Clem of Mars Hill Church writes a work on defining a disciple of Jesus Christ, an ultimately disappointing book that is far too American and seldom convicting. While there are brilliant sections strewn throughout, the book is neither groundbreaking nor wholly biblical. A missed opportunity for a much needed discussion.

Weaknesses:
Despite my best efforts and Bill Clem’s best intentions, this is the definition of disciple that I gleaned from his work:

A disciple is someone who looks like Jesus and joins a small group community.

Of course, I doubt this is Clem’s goal. Yet the book is so American that I could never see it working in an urban or third world context. With an almost abstract, self-help style, Clem writes in largely conceptual strokes about mind-molding and relational-sharing, but hardly ever touches on the Great Commission to Go and to Make.

It might be unfair that I expected a book like Radical. David Platt’s seminal work on discipleship felt much closer to the biblical reality of carrying the cross, denying the flesh, and giving your all for Christ. When I read a book about disciples, I expect urgency and adventure, not megachurch-style small groups isolated in an upper-class neighborhood.

While Clem gives a nod to the work of Dietrich Bonhoeffer — the great anti-Nazi preacher who authored The Cost of Discipleship and was hung for plotting against Hitler — in Clem’s work there was never any sense of risk or rejoicing. He instead makes discipleship appear like a nagging grandmother’s task of checklisting spiritual progress and attending church to copy the “stoic” personality of Jesus.

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Movies That Christians Should Watch: Apollo 13


Apollo 13 (1995)
Universal Pictures

Summary:
**Some spoilers ahead.**

Three men are sent into space by NASA in 1970 when the space industry begins to lose its luster, and suddenly an expedition to the moon becomes a rescue mission back to earth. The journey is cut short when faulty equipment explodes and these three men, with the resourcefulness of the control center on the ground, use everything at their disposal to make it safely home.

Starring Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, Bill Paxton, Ed Harris, and Gary Sinise. Directed by Ron Howard.

Questionable Content:
Intense scenes of distress and anxiety in a spaceshuttle, plenty of well-deserved yelling, some coarse language, and a woman taking a shower loses her wedding ring (no nudity).

Why You Should See It:
The indelible words of Astronaut Jim Lovell are embedded in our culture: Houston, we have a problem. The problem is more or less a mechanical failure that would hardly make sense to ordinary laymen, but the film slows down to present these historic trials piece by agonizing piece: leaking oxygen, low battery, rising CO2 levels, freezing temperatures, possible heat damage and disintegration, and a horrifying scene where the broken shuttle must make a perfectly timed burst for 39 seconds in one direction.

We know they survived in the true story, but it doesn’t make the movie any less tense. The flight director Gene Kranz, played by a brilliant Ed Harris in the best performance of the movie, passionately breaks down each problem with the crew like a math puzzle: except the stakes are human lives. Hope drives them to relentless measures. No one sleeps. You’ll never hear “insurmountable odds” quite the same way again.

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Book Review: Generous Justice


Generous Justice
by Timothy Keller

Summary:
Christians have some dirty words burned in their collective conscience that conjure up liberal danger: psychology, anthropomorphic, emergent, and of course, social justice. Dr. Timothy Keller unpacks the Christian duty to do justice in the world, including the reasons, motive, how-to, pitfalls, and results. It’s a daunting task that Dr. Keller tackles as easily as the alphabet. In both idealistic and realistic sweeps, the book paints a picture of restoration that the Gospel demands from every follower of Christ. It is a sensitive work without being preachy, an honest look that is not naive. Your safety zone will be challenged.

Strengths:
At some point in recent church history, it was deemed that social justice was a liberal cause void of eternal purpose. We can’t change the world, it was said, so let’s focus on ourselves. There was a prevalent fear that soup kitchens and thrift stores were replacing evangelism, that at the cost of the Gospel we were building temporary houses. It’s a valid fear, but Dr. Keller dispels the notion that both concerns must be exclusive. It is the outworking of our faith through justice that would call others to Jesus’ grace. It is also Jesus’ grace that compels us to do justice.

It sounds simple until we face the dizzying factors of our generation: every social disadvantage feeds into each other until entire groups are fundamentally crippled. Poverty affects literacy which affects job opportunities which leads to crime which ripples through city structures which keeps collapsing in on itself in a vicious cycle. It’s easy to throw our hands up and stick to preaching and teaching. But as Dr. Keller shows over and over, God cares a great deal for the poor, the orphan, the widow, the immigrant, the disadvantaged. Biblically, not caring for them is the same as injustice. Dr. Keller paves a familiar yet convicting groundwork on why and how we should go about real justice. Asides from the moral discussion, he also provides practical steps that will get you to your feet rolling up your sleeves.

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