Book Review: Counter Culture by David Platt

41O76wsT0VL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Recently I finished reading David Platt’s new book Counter Culture. I’ve always enjoyed reading Platt’s books and found this one to be my personal favorite. It’s a timely book that speaks about major issues we are facing today as a church and as a culture.

In this book, Platt urges and shows how we as Christians must be counter cultural when it comes to the various issues that are in our world today. The issues Platt hits in this book are poverty, abortion, orphans and widows, sex slavery, marriage, sexual morality, ethnicity, and religious liberty. Platt dedicates a whole chapter to each one of these issues. Within these issues other topics that show up are same-sex marriage, immigration, persecution, and more. Platt bookends these issues with a chapter on how the Gospel is the great offense and calls us to be counter cultural. Then he ends the book with an urgent plea to not loose sight of the unreached world around us. Instead of going into detail about what Platt says about these issues (I’ll let you discover that on your own when you read the book) I want to share five things I really liked about this book. These are just a few of the many reasons I believe this is a “must read” for Christians today.

Boldness and humility. Throughout this book Platt balances boldness and humility well. There isn’t a page in this book that doesn’t have one or more bold statements that calls the reader out of complacency and indifference on these important issues. However, Platt’s boldness is balanced by a deep humility. Throughout the book Platt shares how he hasn’t always responded to these issues in the way God expects. He also shares how he doesn’t have all the answers and is seeking answers alongside the reader. Platt’s boldness for the Gospel and his deep humility is clearly seen throughout this book.

Gospel-Centered. If you have ever read anything about or by Platt you know he is a very Gospel-centered leader, writer, and person. It would be easy for anyone to write a book about social issues like these and do so in a way that isn’t Gospel-centered. However, Platt realizes and shares how the only real answer to these issues is the Gospel. That doesn’t mean he ignores the practical and gives us a pass to not take action, in fact, Platt shows us how the Gospel fuels action and demands we live counter culturally as well as doing something about these vital issues. Platt shows how the Gospel is the foundation and key to addressing and fixing these social issues. He also shows how the Gospel itself transforms Christians and how they see and act towards these issues.

Practical. Platt not only tackles these issues with a large dose of Bible and theology, but also shares a lot of practical things the reader can do in response to these issues. At the end of each chapter, Platt shares a list of things the reader can do in response to that particular issue. There is also a helpful website for this book that has more resources on each issue and more.

Focuses on the local church. The call to live counter culturally and respond to these issues is something that is not just given to the individual Christian, but to the church as a whole. The entire body of Christ has been called to counter culture and to respond in a way that God expects when it comes to these social issues. Platt keeps the local church at the center of how we should respond to these issues. He calls the Christian to partner with their local church in doing something about these issues. I believe that’s the way God wants it. God doesn’t want “lone ranger” Christians working their tails off alone against these issues. He wants Christians to work together as a church to counter culture and through the Gospel make a difference in the world around them.

Timely chapters for the American Christian on racism, homosexuality, and religious freedom. I’m not suggesting these issues don’t exists elsewhere in the world or that they are not timely for other countries, but I do believe these are very timely chapters for Christians in America. Our country is facing racial issues, a redefinition of marriage, and freedom of religion becoming less of a reality. Platt takes these issues head on and shows how the Gospel ascends race and breaks down the racial walls. He shows how homosexuality is wrong and against God’s design for marriage. He shows how religious freedom should be given but how we much approach such an issue. These chapters are needed for American Christians today.

As you can probably tell I really liked this book and would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to understand more about these issues as well as how to respond in a God-honoring way. It’s a powerful book that packs a much needed punch.

How Do Christians Respond to Tragedy

How do Christians Respond to Tragedy?The tragedy that happened last week in Newtown, Connecticut was a reminder to Christians everywhere that they live in a fallen, broken, evil world. Innocent elementary students getting shot is not right, in fact, it’s down right evil. We are torn between compassion for the families effected and anger for the person who is responsible for this senseless act. But it’s a reminder that the world is not how it should be, it is fallen and broken because of one word-sin. It would be easy to get into a theological conversation and explain the effects of the fall and try to explain how it has and is messing up our world, but that’s not my intention here. My goal in this post is to share a few thoughts on how Christians practically should respond to tragedy whether it’s tragedy in their life personally or in the world around them.

Mourn. We should never try to avoid our first response to tragedy which is to mourn. Christians must not think mourning is “not spiritual,” but should embrace a season of mourning because it’s a natural emotional response. In fact, our Savior when He was on earth mourned. In John 11:35 it says that Jesus wept over the death of Lazarus. Not only did our Savior mourn, but Scripture tells Christians to weep with those who weep. So when tragedy hits, don’t be afraid to mourn and when tragedy hits someone else, mourn with them.

Don’t try to have all the answers. I’m guilty of this myself. As the events of last weeks shooting in Newtown unfolded, you saw tons of tweets and Facebook status that either had a “clever Christian saying” or someone trying to explain why things like this happen. The most honest and respectful thing you can do when tragedy strikes is to humbly mourn and reach out to the One who does have all the answers and that is God. Whether you’re the one facing the tragedy personally or are a spectator watching tragedy unfold in someone else’s life, don’t try to “fix” it or make it seem better with right answers. We are all sinners who live in a fallen world, cry out to Jesus.

Trust God’s Sovereignty. I want to be careful here because I could very well fall into the trap of trying to have all the right answers. But I do know that God is sovereign, even when it doesn’t seem like it. Let’s be honest, it’s hard to believe and understand that God is sovereign, totally in control, when something as evil and senseless happens, like it did  last week in Newtown. But somehow He is. This is why I cringe when people say, “Where was God when these shootings happened” or “If we put God back in school this might have not happened.” Christians, God didn’t go anywhere and just because the Ten Commandments don’t hang on the wall of our school doesn’t mean God isn’t in the schools. In fact, God is everywhere and there is nothing we can do that can change that. Check out Psalm 139:7-8. In his book Radical, David Platt says, “We can rest confident in the fact that nothing will happen to us in this world apart from the gracious will of a sovereign God. Nothing.” How does this work when we hear about innocent children getting shot and tragedy hits homes? I don’t know, but we Christians cannot allow this fallen world to make them forget that our God is sovereign.

Hope in Christ and the good news of the Gospel! Suffering and tragedy are a part of this world. But as Christians, it should remind us that our hope is in Christ and the Gospel reminds us that God is in the process of reconciling His creation back to Himself and one day it will be complete. He will come and make all things right! I saw this tweet on the day of the shootings that reminds Christians of this truth. The tweet said, “Come Lord Jesus. End this thing and make all things new.” Our hope is not in “getting God back into our schools” or having new gun laws, but our hope is in Christ and one day He will return and make all things right.

I don’t claim to have the perfect plan for responding to tragedy and I know it’s easy to write these things when I’m not the one facing the tragedy personally. My prayer is God will give me the strength to respond to tragedy, whether in my life or in the life of someone else, in way that is true to His Word and honors Him.

Here are a few links that I have come across in the past week that add to these thoughts:
Steven Furtick talks about the Churches role in tragedy
How to Respond to the Horrors of a Broken World by Ed Stetzer
NBC’s time of reflection (not Christian-based, but is applicable).
Joey Newton’s first hand account is a very good read on this event.

Kiddie Pool Christianity

If you look around the Christian world today you will notice one thing, there are far too many shallow Christians. Before we point our fingers at others, if we are all honest with ourselves we would have to admit that we ourselves are shallow, kiddie pool Christians. This is a problem I struggle with more than I would like to admit and I see it as a huge problem in our Christian world today. I was reminded about this problem both in my life and the life of others the past few days as I was reading a chapter in the book What is a Healthy Church Member by Thabiti Anyabwile. In this book, the author talks about characteristics of a healthy church member. This book goes a long with Nine Marks of a Healthy Church by Mark Dever. One of the last chapters in What is a Healthy Church Member the author talks about a healthy church member, or better yet a healthy Christian, is a growing Christian. We become shallow, kiddie pool Christians when we stop growing. We need to understand that God is clear in His Word that Christians are supposed to be growing individuals in their walk with Him (Hebrews 5:11-13; 6:1; Philippians 3:12-14). Thabiti Anyabwile says, “it is normal for Christians to grow, to work for growth, and to expect increasing spiritual maturity.” He also goes on to say that our spiritual growth is not really accomplished by us, it is God working through the Holy Spirit in us, but we have the privilege to strive and pursue spiritual growth as God works in us. Christians who are growing are normal and expected by God, but Christians who are not growing are becoming more and more popular in our Christian world. As I have been thinking about this, three main things have stood out that as Christians we must see properly in order to see spiritual growth in our lives. There are numerous things that we as Christians can do to promote growth in our lives, but these three things are just some major themes I have seen in my life and the lives of Christians around me. These three things can get us out of the kiddie pool and into the deep waters of spiritual growth and maturity.

See Church as a community. Far too many Christians see church as a building and a place. No where in the Bible does it talk about church being a place or a building. What the Bible does say is church is a community. Does that community meet a specific times and maybe at a specific place? YES! But that does not mean the church is the place or building, it means that the church is the people. I have met so many Christians who define their Christianity by what they do on Sundays. Your Christianity is more defined by what you do Monday thru Saturday. Why do Christians see church as just a building or where we go on Sundays? I would suggest it is because we have sectioned God off to a specific time and place of our lives and also because our culture is now so man centered the church is just another “activity” or “place to be.” The atmosphere of our churches is becoming so man-centered and entertainment-oriented that the saints now must be amused and not amazed,” says Donald Llewellyn Roberts. We need to get back to what the early church in Acts saw, the church is not a place, but a community. We were saved and put into a community, the body of Christ, and we have the privilege to take part in the local communities of believers around us. When we see church as a weekly event and not a constant community we are in danger of being in the kiddie pool of Christianity.

See prayer as a constant part of our lives. In our culture, it is rare to see someone without a cell phone. Most of us carry our cell phones everywhere and if they are not in our hands and we are texting or they are to our ear and we are talking they might be in our pocket or purse where we can get to them within an arms reach. Prayer should be like that. Prayer should be a constant companion for all of us as Christians. The Bible is clear that prayer needs to be a constant part of our lives (Romans 12:12; Colossians 4:2, 12). When we do not see prayer as a constant part of our lives we are in danger of being in the kiddie pool of Christianity.

See the Christian life as an intentional pursuit. Many of us go through life and just “profess” to be Christians, but that profession never really shows in our life. We look exactly like the unsaved people around us and the only different about is we call ourselves “Christians.” The Christian life is a pursuit, not a label. Yes, as we pursue Christ and His Kingdom we will carry the label as Christians, but our Christianity is found in the pursuit not the label. I talked about this same idea in an earlier post called Intentional Christian Living so check it out and get a better understanding of this last idea. When we see our Christianity as a label and not a pursuit we are in danger of being in the kiddie pool of Christianity.

Recommended reading on this subject: What is a Healthy Church Member by Thabiti Anyabwile, Radical by David Platt, Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges, and Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper.