Books

Book?????

Well our visitors have gone. We, that is Kate, myself, `Eowyn, and Emma, drove them to Nairobi yesterday evening. We then said our goodbyes and stayed over night at the Hampton House, which is a Baptist guest house. (Not that we are Baptist, just we like their guest house.)

As I was bathing this morning, the thought occurred to me that I should channel my imagination for something positive. Usually when bathing I just think about movies, books, dragons, knights, wizards, monsters, you know cool stuff like that. However this morning I thought why not think about something that I can actually put to use.

So I thought about the book I have been planning to write for years now. Which now that I type this is kind of scary.

It’s public now. I’ve gone and said that I am going to write a book. Sigh. There goes my game playing time.

I need to go and help change a flat tire, then we will drive back to Nakuru.


When Corporations Rule the World

Just finished David C. Korten’s When Corporations Rule the World. I agree with what Archbishop Desmond M. Tutu had to say about the book:

“This is a ‘must-read’ book—a searing indictment of an unjust international economic order, not by a wild-eyed idealistic left-winger, but by a sober scion of the establishment with impeccable credentials. If left me devastated but also very hopeful. Something can be done to create a more just economic order.”

This is only the second book I have read about globalization, the other being Thomas L. Friedman’s The Lexus and the Olive Tree, and the first book I have read where economics was the principal topic.

Living in Kenya I see each and everyday the result of the quest for more and more money. The rich truly keep on getting richer, while the poor keep on getting poorer.

This book should be read by everyone.

johnny's head new

 

 

 

 

 

Johnny Brooks, who is now reading Righteous by Lauren Sandler


The Myth of a Christian Nation

Finished reading The Myth of a Christian Nation by Gregory A. Boyd a few days back. I need to say thanks to my friend and fellow team mate Babu Lonnie for loaning me the book.

Essentially the premise of the book is that when we seek to fuse the Kingdom of God with the kingdom of the world we end up with something that Jesus never intended. God's kingdom and the world's kingdoms are not compatible. They cannot go hand in hand, we live in both but we belong to one or the other. Jesus was not interested in politics when he lived in first century Palestine, and he is still not interested in politics.

He goes through some American history, effectively proving that America is not a Christian nation and has never been a Christian nation. Well, actually he proves that no nation can be Christian. By seeking to preserve your own self interest you prove that you are not a Christian nation.

He is repetitive, but it feels right in his book. If you are convinced that God loves America more than any other nation out there, this book may irritate you. If you think we need to take America back for God, then this book will definitely anger you. Yet it is a message you need to hear and consider.

Jesus said, "My Kingdom is not of this world." We, that is those of us who follow Jesus, should start living like our allegiance is not to a political/ethnic/or religious version of this worlds kingdom.

 

The Myth of a Christian Nation 

 

 

 

 

 

Johnny Brooks, who is thankful that he can read.


Making Sense of Church

Theooze.com was a web site that helped me to discover that I was not alone in my thinking that something was changing in the church. I discovered it at a time in my life when I felt all alone in a sea of conservative evangelical voices. I was the fish swimming against the tide, and getting more and more depressed each day that went by.

Spencer Burke's www.theooze.com helped me find other people swimming against the stream as well. I wasn't much of a contributor, but I read voraciously on the message boards. Anytime new articles came out I downloaded them at home, at work, wherever I could find a quite spot to read.

Now to be honest I no longer need The Ooze, and I never embraced the Emerging Church, or whatever it is called. Of all the methods of doing church, as opposed to just being the Church, I most identify with those that call themselves Emergent/Emerging. The books that they produce I read, and find much to help me in my journey. I just don't need another system to replace the one God worked so hard to get out of me.

Spencer Burke's book Making Sense of Church is a look at some thoughts from the message boards of www.theooze.com. I enjoyed it. One of the things I like most about it is the new metaphors, or the suggestion that we need new metaphors to describe our faith.

I am particularly interested in the shift from warrior to gardener metaphor. The idea that we should be careful and patient gardeners in the Kingdom, instead of conquerors appeals to me. Especially in our world today.

Spencer ends the book by encouraging the reader to think of a metaphor for his/her life. First thing that came to my mind was a sperm whale. Like the sperm whale I drink in tons of ocean in order to filter out the nutritious plankton. I read from all kinds of traditions and faiths. Just to clean whatever knowledge or insight into God that I can. I talk to people from all walks of life, for the same reason. I am a filter that takes everything in, and then spits out the excess.

 

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Johnny Brooks, who is thinking the whale metaphor could be used to describe him in more ways than one.


The Spirit Of The Disciplines

Sometime back I read Richard Foster's The Celebration of Discipline. I was impressed, and learned much about the spiritual disciplines. However I didn't really take it to heart, as is clearly evident by the lack of impact the disciplines are having on my life.

Dallas Willard has perhaps changed that with his book The Spirit Of The Disciplines. This book is less about the individual disciplines and more a theological/Biblical foundation for practicing them.

I am not going to restate his argument here, but I am sure you will see some of them in future blog posts. I was impressed with the idea that our bodies are the key to a spiritual life, and don't have to be a hindrance. Essentially that is the purpose of the disciplines, to train our bodies to be the type of bodies that Jesus wants them to be and that He can use in this life.

I had been taught that I was a spirit who had a body and a soul. Willard seems to argue that we are all three, and that we can not be complete without any part. Meaning that our bodies are essential for worship, work, and well everything else.

He explains how the disciplines went wrong in history, and how to avoid it in the future. However what really fascinated me, and unfortunately he did not spend much time on it, is his eschatological view. That would be his idea of the future. Basically he stated that followers of Christ living a disciplined life should be found in all aspects of life.

That is they should be in government, business, health care, education, everywhere. Then they can influence the power structures of the world, and bring about the type of life that will please God.

Or something like that anyway. This was my first time reading the book, and I could be reading incorrectly.

Only time will tell if I actually incorporate some of the disciplines into my life. I know which ones I should practice, but my years in religion are holding me back. Religion programmed me to such an extent that I now fear failure in spiritual issues. I hope God will continue to deliver me.

 

Johnny Brooks and The Spirit of the Disciplines

 

 

 

 

 

 

Johnny Brooks, who has been thinking that beard length should perhaps be a test of spirituality. And yes I am still   in my pajamas.


Rapture Ready!

If you have Christian art hanging in your house, own Christian music CDs, go to Passion plays, believe Creation science is actually science, and think that plastic crosses are cool, then this book is for you.

"Adventures in the parallel universe of Christian pop culture" When I read that from the front cover of the book, I was hooked. I just knew this book had to be a cool read.

Daniel Radosh, author, is a humanist Jew, or something like that, who immerses himself in various aspects of Christian pop culture over a one year period of time. He visits passion plays (not that easy for a Jew,) Christian book stores (not that easy for anyone,) music festivals, creation museums, and professional Christian wrestling.

Yes, you heard right, professional Christian Wrestling. Things have gone too far when we have to have our own fake wrestlers.

I really enjoyed the book. There was a time in my life when I thought that slapping the Christian label on something actually made it holy. Thankfully God has delivered me from that mind set, but I still know many folks who think that way.

He is honest about his feelings throughout the book, and finds good things to admire about evangelicals. Which admittedly is something I find hard to do sometimes.

I felt angry alongside him at the narrow-minded Christians at Corner Stone Music Festival who told him his children were mere objects to him because he and his wife used IVF to conceive. I was frustrated alongside him at the close minded creationists. I was also alarmed at the amount of violent language found throughout the evangelical world. I also appreciated the faith he encountered on his journey. I was surprised at people's willingness to communicate with a liberal journalist, and amused at people's responses to his Jewishness.

All in all a pleasant read.

johnny's head new

 

 

 

Johnny Brooks

Missionary to Nakuru, Kenya. Co-founder of A Future and a Hope, a home for girls.


Pagan Christianity

During my recent trip to the U.S.A. I read Frank Viola and George Barna's Pagan Christianity. They explore the roots of our church practices in the book. Essentially they explain where every single part of the meetings that take place on Sundays comes from. And I mean every little itty bitty part of that meeting is explained in the book.

It can become tedious reading at times, and it is not even a scholarly tome. There are times in the book when the information being imparted, feels like well, information being imparted, which is not all that entertaining or exciting to read. The research seems solid enough, and I have read much of it elsewhere. They have included extensive foot notes, so further reading is made easier.

It is amazing when you research some of the practices that many Christians hold to be sacred and Biblical, only to find out that they are not Biblical. In fact most of all the common practices going on on Sunday mornings around the world come from pagan backgrounds.

Now it seems to me that Frank Viola and George Barna assume that since the roots are pagan, then they must be bad. Certainly God cannot use what we do if pagan's first did it? To be honest that sentiment is not overtly expressed in the book, but it is easy to draw that conclusion from reading it. I believe and my experience in life, is that God can use anything, even if it has pagan roots, to accomplish his will. However I do appreciate learning the roots of the things I grew up practicing.

There is a sequel to this book, that I have not yet read, called something like Reimagining Church, or something similar to that. Which I am assuming is Frank and George's grand plan how to fix things. I am not so sure we need a grand plan from either of them, but who knows maybe it will work? I just wish we all could assume Jesus knows how to build His church, and leave it to Him.

Pagan Christianity seems to imply that practicing our faith the way the first church did is the right way to go. We should meet in each other's homes, have no hierarchy, or paid clergy, and etc etc. The way I feel is that certainly the first group of believers practiced many good things, and we should incorporate the themes in our lives now. However we cannot copy what they did, mainly because we are not first century folks. Our context is different.

Pagan Christianity is a worthwhile read, especially if you are convinced the Christian religion is Biblical and that your particular tradition is following the scriptures in all that you do.

johnny's-head Johnny Brooks

Missionary to Nakuru, Kenya. Co-founder of A Future and a Hope, a home for girls.


HIV Hope: for the Nations

It has been awhile since I reviewed a book on the blog. No I have not slackened in my reading, just been rereading Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. That story is too emotional for me to be able to properly put down in words.

However I have finally finished reading Duane Crumb's book, HIV Hope for the Nations. Duane came to Nakuru a few months back and conducted a seminar for us on HIV prevention. The seminar was great, one of our more successful meetings in my opinion, I came away with more knowledge and ideas about how to communicate the need to avoid infection with HIV.

While he was here Duane gave me his book to read, which was great since I love reading books. Having attended the seminar the book served as a great refresher course for me. Essentially it contains the same material he covered in the meeting. If you are looking for science, this book is not for you. Duane knows his stuff, but the book is more of an argument that we should teach HIV prevention from a positive standpoint, instead of negative or fear based point of view.

I agree with that assessment. I mean if you want me to change a behavior or avoid something then show me the benefits of change or avoidance. Don't just talk about how it will kill me, show me a better way to live. Good book for those in the field of HIV education, and those living in communities hard hit by this virus.

One complaint I have is that he does not provide references. Many studies, polls, and much science is mentioned or alluded to in the book without any reference back to those studies. Personally I suspect some, and it would do me good to see the references.

Duane's heart is to motivate people to avoid infection with HIV and do away with stigma associated with someone who is HIV positive. In my book that is a good heart.

johnny's-head Johnny Brooks

Missionary to Nakuru, Kenya. Co-founder of A Future and a Hope, a home for girls.

 

By the way this is the last book I have to read, no more sitting on my desk. There is an Amazon wish list in the column to the right, just incase you want to feed my habit.


Ekklesia

The house church movement is something that fascinates me, especially given my feelings towards the institutional church. So when I heard about some house church guys that would send me a free book I signed up immediately. However if this group is a picture of house church life, then it is not for me. I was looking for freedom, but they served up rules (traditions) that "must" be followed, at least if you want to be a "biblical" church. Personally I would rather be Godly than Biblical.

The book is a collection of articles written by a few men and put together by Steve Atkerson. Despite the number of contributors the book is coherent and they all seem to be on the same page with their thoughts. You can tell that this group has some genuine unity, which for someone who is used to disunity that togetherness was refreshing.

The book seems to be intended to convince the reader to do things the way the authors do things. They cover all kinds of things like; meeting in homes as opposed to cathedrals, communion (Lords Supper) as a full meal eaten each week, meeting on Sunday, leadership by consensus, and other such type things.

I knew the book would be difficult for me from the back cover. They ask this question on the back cover; Did God leave us instructions on how to do church? Then it is answered with; We believe He did. Since I believe that I am the church, and every one who chooses to follow Jesus is as well, I don't have to do it. I am it, so no matter what I am doing I am church. Now that compels me to do things that God would approve of, or at least it should motivate me, admittedly I fail from time to time.

Anyway the idea that God left some kind of commands about meeting together just doesn't sit well with me. Which brings me to the other difference between the writers of this book and myself, and that would be how we view the Bible. They seem to view the Bible as a collection of rules, laws, or traditions that we must follow, and if we don't God is not pleased with us. Whereas I view the Bible as a story that I must find my place in. I see the Bible as inspired, but not inerrant. I look to the Bible for comfort, direction, and a starting place for knowing my God, not as the ultimate answer to everything.

This difference in thinking doesn't bother me all that much, but I get the feeling that it would bother the authors of this book. I could easily fellowship with these brothers, but I am not convinced that they could easily fellowship with someone who thinks so differently then they do.

Thanks Steve, and other guys, for sending me the book. Despite my differing approach I get the feeling that we are striving for the same thing, to follow God with all our hearts and please him with our lives.

johnny's-head Johnny Brooks

Missionary to Nakuru, Kenya. Co-founder of A Future and a Hope, a home for girls.


A One Time Deal?

So I am reading this book called Ekklesia by Steve Atkerson. The book is concerned with the House Church Movement, and even though I am not interested in joining or starting a House Church it holds some interest for me. I can already tell after chapter one that the book will be a difficult read. One of the things I like about the house church guys or organic church guys is that on the surface they seem to have a distaste for religion. From Steve's first chapter I can already tell he loves religion. (That is if we define religion as a set of rules or in Steve's case traditions, designed to please God, a system, or a man/woman.)

However he made one statement that really blew me away. Somewhere towards the end of chapter one he is listing some apostolic traditions that should still be practiced by the church today, but before giving the list he gives an example of something that is optional.

Of course his optional example would be the most difficult thing to emulate in the book of Acts. We are speaking of the communal lifestyle that the first believers lived, and I am sure encouraged. Steve claims it was a one time event for that specific church, but I disagree.

Perhaps the format is unique to that church, but we should still be living as community. I am not speaking of unity on some doctrines or supposed apostolic tradition, but real communal living. Community is not attending a meeting with some people on Sunday, whether that is in a house or in a cathedral. Community is like the bar in the T.V. show Cheers, a place where everybody knows your name. (Which of course implies more than just a casual acquaintance.) We should, and in fact I think it is central to Kingdom life, be caring for one another.

A one time deal? I think not. Today right now if you are a believer in Jesus Christ you should be carrying your brother and sister. Your carrying may not be selling your field and giving the money to the widows, but nonetheless you should be carrying someone else's cross.

johnny's-head Johnny Brooks

Missionary to Nakuru, Kenya. Co-founder of A Future and a Hope, a home for girls.