Sunday, 29 November 2015

John, NIV Application Commentary- Gary Burge

I've had the John, NIV Application Commentary on my shelf for several years and finally decided it was time to crack it open.
There are a couple of positives, above all it was very readable like reading a biography rather than reading a commentary. Also I found as Burge comes from a different theological perspective than me he would approach the text from a different angle which threw new and helpful insights my way. I especially liked his take on Jesus challenging the rulers of the Jews, he urged us to read the challenge assuming that we are always on the side of Jesus. We need to let the challenge stand in its own right, let Jesus challenge us when we take a side that is opposing Him as we sometimes do, or assuming that Jesus is on our side as a matter of course when this isn't always the case.However for me
the negatives far out way the positives, it reads like a biography in places because it is a biography I have learn't far more about Gary Burge than I expected or wanted too. Also Gary Burge places more emphasis on spirituality than truth, (where John's gospel sees them as connected) so Burge can share stories about people being affected by Roman Catholic mystics.
  The final chapter dealing with Peter's restoration on the beach led Burge to share "our need" to go to a Franciscan monestry on the shore of Galilee  so we can see a statue of  Peter with Jesus on the beach to help us understand the meaning of the passage. I thought I was reading a commentary on John to help me understand the text. I'd give this one a miss if I were you! as readable but much more helpful is Bruce Milne's John in the Let the Bible Speak series, its compact but its all text. 

God Bless
Stephen <><

Friday, 6 November 2015

The Secret Thoughts of An Unlikely Convert

What can I say about this book? I've been impressed with Rosaria Champagne Butterfield since I first heard her speak to the culture and heard something of her testimony. Rosaria would agree we are all unlikely converts and this is where the book most touched me. You see Rosaria found a response from a Christian Pastor that shocked her, it shouldn't have it should be our normal response but sadly it isn't. Whilst researching a book she was going to write as a leftist feminist lesbian on the Christian right, she published a small article. She was getting hate mail from Christians and fan mail from non-Christians, then she got a letter from an elderly Presbyterian minister which fit in neither of these categories and she didn't know what to do with it. She kept reading it and reading it, this led to phone calls and a relationship. More importantly she developed a genuine relationship with him and his wife. They accepted her and loved her and gently challenged her assumptions leading to a change in her life. She rightly says her conversion was a train wreck. She walks us through this and we feel the sting of her betraying her former community which she loved and where she was loved.

As a middle class very educated woman with a very different lifestyle to my own working class background we  have little in common aside from the fact we are both first generation believers. In the book she outlines the clash of culture that many of us first generation believers experience when we enter the Christian community, which often times is a safe little bubble protected from the real world. This is a great shame we have been called out of darkness not to hide in a bubble but to proclaim Christ to a hurting world. Rosaria found and still finds some aspects of the Christian culture a struggle and very different to biblical Christianity. She tells us at one point a Christian lady is horrified and very uncomfortable with Rosaria's past, she points out that people like this are comfortable with Rahab and Mary Magdalene (Mary Magdalene clearly has a past but nothing is said of it, just that demons were caste out) in the pages of scripture but are not willing to see messed up people in church. This is the rub we are all messed up people we shouldn't think too highly of ourselves.  

Rosaria married a trainee pastor and they ministered (served) college students and then extended their family by adoption. Even this led to a deep intake of breath as she faced at times a backlash from Christians who were offended by the colour of her family.

My admiration for her and her family has grown through the reading of this book, at one point it is clear that she and her husband Kent have a lot on their plate through trying to reach out, she said "we are not inconvenienced by inconvenience" .

 Since finishing the book yesterday,  I want to work on my prejudices which aren't the same as the ones she encountered but nonetheless are very real and I am challenged to pray that I will not be "inconvenienced by inconvenience" but take it in my stride as ministry opportunities.

God Bless
Stephen <><