Book Review: How the Nations Rage by Jonathan Leeman

_225_350_Book.2558.coverI’m not drawn to conversations about politics and governmental affairs. I’d also consider myself a passivest when it comes to these matters as well. However, over the past year or so this has somewhat changed with the current political climate in our country. Jonathan Leeman’s book, How the Nations Rage, helped me think through how I should and should not engage in these political matters. This book provided me with many things to think through as I set out to hopefully be a humble follower of Christ that can wisely dialogue in the public square.

Overall I enjoyed reading this book. There isn’t anything negative I can really say about it. With that being the case, let me share a few things found within this book I really liked.

First, there is a great chapter on the Bible and politics (chapter 4). It seems that some people view the Bible as a political handbook in how to run a country while others claim the Bible contains nothing about politics. However, Leeman argues there is a balanced approach we can take instead of picking sides. He rightly claims that the Bible contains absolute truths that we cannot let go off no matter the political climate we find ourselves in. These absolutes are things like covenants, commissions, and commands. However, when it comes to things ideologies, constitutions, parties, candidates, and policies we should hold those loosely and seek out wisdom in making decisions in those areas. Leeman says, “When it comes to thinking about politics, the Bible is less like a book of case law and more like a constitution. A constitution does not provide a country with the rules of daily life. It provides the rules for making the rules” (page 79).

Second, there is a great section on the purpose of government. Why does government exist? Does the Bible support it? About midway through the book Leeman gives a short summary of the purpose of government from a Biblical perspective. I found this section to be one of the most helpful in the entire book. I know the Bible talks about government and that there is good use for it but I never really formed a great defense of the purpose behind it all.

Third, the local church is elevated throughout this book. What I absolutely loved about this book was how the local church was constantly elevated and kept at the center. Almost everything Leeman says in this book ties itself back to the local church. The church is where good, God honoring politics should take place. Leeman says, “Our political instincts should develop by living inside the loving and difficult relationships that comprise the church. You might even say our political thinking should be pastoral” (page 133). In addition to making points like the one above, Leeman makes a habit of using his own local church experience to share examples of what it looks like to practice good politics within the local church. These examples help the reader understand how they too can live out good politics within their own local body of believers.

I’d encourage anyone who desires to get a better grip on being a political engaged Christian to read this book. It’s balanced, thought-provoking, and will help you understand how to better being a follower of Christ who lovingly engages the world of politics.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from BookLook Bloggers.

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Talking with God Teaching Series

Talking With God Title SlideCommunication is vital in any relationship including a Christian’s own relationship with God. Helping people understand how God communicates to us and we to Him is so important. That’s why we took two weeks in our middle school ministry to talk about just that – how to talk to God. The idea behind this short series is very simple. We wanted to our students to understand that God speaks to us through the Bible and we have the privilege of speaking to Him through prayer. The first week we talked about Bible reading. We looked at what the Bible is and a very practical tools we can use to read it better. The second week we talked about prayer. Much like the talk on the Bible, we looked at what prayer is and how we can pray better following the example Jesus gave in Matthew 6.

I wrote the talk for the first week and our two-year intern Allen Williams wrote the talk for the second week. We wanted to make this short series available to others to use in their own ministry context. As stated above, these talks were originally written for a middle school audience but can be tweaked to fit in almost any context. Click the link below to get both teaching manuscripts as well as the graphics for this series. There is also a “Bible Study Plans and Methods” handout that you can share to go along with the first talk in this series.

Talking with God Teaching Series

Books I’ve Read Recently

173481762God and the Transgender Debate by Andrew Walker. The transgender issue is a popular one in our culture right now. It’s not only a highly debated topic among people but is also becoming a normal part of our culture. From things like gender-nuetral bathrooms to more and more people adopting the transgender lifestyle and the necessary changes that takes. This issue isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. To be fair, this isn’t a topic I’m very familiar with and so far I haven’t done a lot of reading on it. That’s the reason I picked up this book and gave it a read. In this helpful book, Walker helps the reader understand what God says through His Word about the issue of gender identity. Before he dives into any Scripture he does a great job at setting up the book with a few helpful chapters on remembering that Jesus loved people (and we should too regardless of where they stand on this issue), tracing history to see how we got to where we are in our culture, and also defining the terms that go along with gender identity and associated issues. After all this Walker walks through the Biblical narrative of creation, fall, and redemption to show how being transgender and pursuing such doesn’t fit within God’s original design. He writes from an evangelical position that believes the Bible is God’s inspired Word and carries ultimate authority so his conclusion may not be the same as others who do not hold to this same view of the Bible. He ends the book with a few practical chapters on things like how should the church should respond, how parents should respond, and how Christians in general should respond. This was a very helpful book and I’d encourage anyone who wants to understand this issue better to read it.

41mEUKP5ywL._SX348_BO1,204,203,200_United by Trilla Newbell. I recently came to two conclusion – I don’t read enough books written by women and I don’t read enough books written by people of color. In an effort to change that I picked this book up after my wife read it and spoke very highly of it. This little book is both a personal story as well as practical guide to pursuing racial unity within the body of Christ. In her own words, Newbell says this near the beginning of her book: “I’ll share about the beauty of diversity that can be on display to a broken world. We will look at my life as a black female and how God fulfilled a desire of my heart through friendships. I will encourage you to know the benefits of being united in Christ both practically and relationship and the mutual growth acquired through fellowshipping with those different from you” (page 20). I really enjoyed reading your own story as well as learning from many of the practical points she brought up throughout the book. I’d encourage anyone (especially those of us who are white) to read this book and pursue racial diversity in our churches.

31bKcx1VYwL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Pursuing Health in an Anxious Age by Bob Cutillo. This is one of those books I started reading and was tempted to put down and not finish. Part of it was because the content was a bit different than I expected and what the content did present didn’t seem relevant to me. However, I’m a big fan of finishing books and making myself read outside my comfort zone. I’m glad I did because it turned out to be an excellent book. In this book Cutillo dives into modern health care and how we as a society are viewing and going about our health. He rightly points out we have become somewhat obsessive over it and with new technology are tempted to think we are in control of our health. Throughout this book Cutillo points to the Gospel as the only answer in this life as well as the benefit of modern heath care when used properly. Two sections of this book really stand out to me as highlights. First, there is a few chapters on death. In those chapters Cutillo does a great job at showing us how we as Christians should face death. It’s part of life and we should embrace it as such while clinging to our hope in Christ. Secondly, there is a chapter on health being a community thing. In this chapter we see that proper health and health care can be found and facilitated within a community of people who love and acre for one another. As believers, this community is the church and we should be loving and caring for one another.

Another book I read recently that I chose not to review was Love Does by Bob Goff.

Bible Study Plans and Methods

aaron-burden-113284-unsplashRecently we began a new series in our middle school ministry called “Talking with God.” The whole purpose of this series is to help students understand how they can communicate with God and grow in their relationship with Him. For the first week of the series we talked about how God communicates to us through the Bible. We wanted to help students understand not only what the Bible is but also how they can go about reading and studying it consistently. You can watch that entire talk here.

To help them get started in this we created a short handout with various Bible reading plans and methods. It’s not exhaustive but includes a few ideas to get them going in the right direction. We wanted to make this handout available to others so feel free to click the link below and use the handout yourself or in your own ministry context as you help others get into God’s Word.

Bible Study Plans and Methods

Two Prayers for Parents Found in Judges

matheus-ferrero-159633-unsplashParents should be praying for their children. But what actually should parents be praying for? There could be a lot of answers to that question but I want to draw your attention to at least two things parents should be praying for in regards to their children. We see these two things in chapter 13 of the book of Judges.

Chapter 13 of the book of Judges introduces us to a man named Manoah. In verse 2 we find out Manoah’s wife is barren and they have no children. Starting in verse 3 we see that their situation is about to change when an angel appears to them and informs them that they are going to have a child. Later in the chapter we see this come to pass and the boy is named Samson. You can read about Samon’s life in Judges 14-16.

What we find tucked in the middle of chapter 13 though are two prayers that Manoah prays in regards to his son Samson. I want to show you those two prayers and encourage you to pray these same two things for your children as well.

The first one is found in verse 8, which says, “Then Manoah prayed to the Lord and said, “O, Lord, please let the man of God whom you sent come again to us and teach us what we are to do with the child who will be born.” The first thing Manoah prayed for was God’s guidance in parenting his child. Our children are given to us by God and if we were all honest we would admit we have no clue what we are doing with these kids He has given us. The good news is the One who gave us our children desires to help and guide us in the journey of parenting them. Parenting books are great. Talking to other parents is helpful. However, nothing is as good as going to God and asking for His help when it comes to parenting our children. Manoah desires the Lord to teach him and his wife how they should parent this son and this should be the desire of our hearts as well.

The next thing Manoah prayed for in regards to his son is found in verse 12, which says, “And Manoah said, “Now when your words come true, what is to be the child’s manner of life, and what is his mission?” The second thing Manoah prayed for came in the form of a question, which was: What is my child’s mission in life? This is by far one of the most important questions we need to ask God when it comes to our children. More importantly, we must ask this question correctly. The correct way to ask this question is this – God, what is YOUR mission for my child? It’s not about what I think their mission should be. It’s not about what will get them into the right college or career. It’s not about what will help them make the most money. Our desire should be to understand what God’s mission is for their lives. As parents, we must strive to help our children encounter God’s mission for their lives and then support that mission at all cost.

What things are you praying for when it comes to your children? Why not pray the two things mentioned above  as well. Pray for God’s guidance in parenting them as well as asking God what His mission is for their lives.