Christian Living

Book Review - Death by Living

Image of Death by Living: Life Is Meant to Be Spent
by N. D. Wilson
Thomas Nelson 2013
Hardcover 208

“Glory is sacrifice, glory is exhaustion, glory is having nothing left to give. Almost. It is death by living.”

In 2009 N.D. Wilson wrote a genre defying book titled Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl: Wide-Eyed Wonder in God’s Spoken Whirl, in which he wrote about how life could be viewed and told by sitting in the famous carnival and circus ride a tilt-a-whirl. I imagine for most readers it was a book which was the first of its kind. No doubt, as readers considered their experiences in a tilt-a-whirl ride, Wilson accomplished his goal. It was fast paced, hard to put down, hard to follow at times, but rewarding to those who could finish it.

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God Is Enough: An Interview with the Author of "Confessions of a Transformed Heart"

Mark and Nancy Sheppard began missionary service in the nation of Liberia, but God had an agenda of personal transformation neither of them expected. Nancy has written about that experience in her recent book, Confessions of a Transformed Heart. We asked Nancy to tell us a bit about her experience in Africa and her aims in writing the book.

What led you to Ivory Coast and work among the refugees?

After a wonderful first term of ministry in Liberia (1986-89), we were in the States for our one-year home assignment when the Liberian Civil War began. We hoped very much that it would end quickly and we would be able to resume the life and ministries we loved. Sadly, it dragged on and on. In 1991 we returned to Africa, this time to Liberia’s neighboring country, the Ivory Coast, where we began to minister among the Liberian war refugees.

After the missionaries evacuated from Liberia, Baptist Mid-Missions made a policy that no families with children still in the home could live inside Liberia. We had three young children at the time. It was our strong desire to continue work among the Liberians that caused us to make the decision to enter refugee work in the Ivory Coast rather than begin work among an entirely different people group.

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Fulfilling Our Calling

The phenomenon of “cultural Christianity” is not a new one. The label “carnal Christian” has been bandied about regularly in literature and in the blogosphere. Christians of every theological stripe know “carnal” or “cultural” Christians.

Pick whichever label you like best, or even invent your own—you know these people.

They claim repentance from sin and salvation through Christ alone. They come to church more or less regularly…sort of! They sit more or less attentively in the pews and may even tithe faithfully. They go through the motions. And yet…there is no discernible joy of Christ in their lives. There is no growth. To borrow a phrase from Paul Tripp, there is a “gospel gap” in their lives. Their Facebook pages abound with worldliness; perhaps you’ve even secretly hidden them from your news feed! Their children walk and talk like everybody else. There is no concept of separation, holiness or imitation of God in their lives. They are indistinguishable from normal, everyday, unsaved “good people.”

These folks are legion. Some are undoubtedly saved, others are undoubtedly not. I’m not interested in debating that issue right now. What is significant is that too many Christians have little conception of who Christ is, what they were saved from and what their calling as Christians is. We’ll look at what Paul had to say on this very matter.

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Summer Days

You might have noticed that I haven’t written a post lately. This has been due, in large part, to the fact that I’m steadily (frantically?) working on a manuscript that’s due in six weeks. Like any good writer, I’ve successfully managed to make my work expand to fit precisely the amount of time I have to do it. It’s a gift really.

The second thing that has kept me busy is summer vacation. Two weeks ago my kids embarked on those “104 days of summer vacation” and we’ve been relishing every minute of them. Minor league baseball, visits to the art museum, a weekend at the lake, and books and books and books for the reading program at the library—all accompanied by extra snacks and ice pops. Even when the weather has been less than cooperative—as it has routinely been this rainy June—they’ve learned the joy of splashing in puddles and when all else fails, of a Star Wars or Narnia marathon. Also, today just happens to be the birthday of a little blue-eyed boy who owns a piece of my heart and can make me melt with his ever-so slightly crooked smile. In preparation, I’ve been busy making, per his request, “a dragon cake.” After all, you only turn seven once.

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The Allure of Scandal

Everybody loves a scandal, it seems—evangelicals and fundamentalists included. When news of some alleged or actual misdeed hits the Web, traffic soars and discussions heat up. Emotions (or affections, for purists) run the gamut from shock and disappointment, to outrage, to barely-disguised glee.

What just about nobody seems to feel is what’s needed most: caution—no, outright fear.

Christians should regard scandal as a kind of femme fatale, as dangerous as it is attractive. (Proverbs 7 comes to mind.) We ought to approach every scandal suspiciously, expecting that some kind of trap is hidden there waiting to ensnare us. We should be all the more alert when the scandal seems to call for an obvious response. That’s the seduction at work. The eyes are batting and the perfume is wafting. Probably wisest to walk (or maybe run) away.

Watching for missteps

By “scandal” I mean a report of about someone misstepping. Though the English “scandal” doesn’t precisely match the biblical Greek terms σκάνδαλον (skandalon, e.g., Matt. 13:41) and σκανδαλίζω (skandalizo, e.g., 1 Cor. 8:13), it shares with them the idea that some misstep has occurred or may have occurred.

In August two scandals—by this definition—gained much attention here at SharperIron (as well as elsewhere). One concerned sexual immorality on the part of a Baptist leader who was much admired by one segment of Baptist fundamentalism and about equally despised by another segment (along with many who are neither Baptist nor fundamentalist).

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The Zealots (Part 2)

Read Part 1

There were two political choices facing the Jewish person in Judea under Roman rule—submit or rebel. Those choices were personified by two groups or sects that were active during the period—the Herodians and the Zealots. This is not to say that every Jew belonged to one or the other of these “fraternities.” They each actually had very few “members” as such. But the Herodians and the Zealots exemplified the extreme ways in which conquered peoples have always reacted to foreign rulers. Who were these Jewish sectaries and how did they themselves respond to Jesus’ unique message of salvation?

The Herodians are mentioned only twice in the Gospels, once in Galilee (Mark 3:6) and once in Jerusalem (Mark 12:13, Matthew 22:16). In each of these occurrences they are associated with the Pharisees in their opposition to Jesus. While they may have agreed with the Pharisees in their religious views, they must have been distinguished from them in their political beliefs. The Pharisees tended to be rather non-political, more concerned about the Mosaic and Oral law and its application to their daily lives. On the other hand, the Herodians, by their very name, must have been active supporters of Roman rule. The Emperor Augustus was wise enough to know that a subject people could be kept under control better if they were ruled immediately by a “puppet ruler” from the people themselves. Therefore, he appointed Herod who was of nominal Jewish background as a descendant of forced converts to the Jewish faith. Herod, his sons, and their sons ruled over the Jewish people for over a century. This rule, however, was exercised by the permission and blessing of Rome. The Herodian dynasty represented Roman rule to the people. Those who actively supported Roman domination of Judea manifested that support by devotion to Rome’s puppets, the Herods. Hence they were known as Herodians.

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