51gL8xxuZOL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_SX240_SY320_CR,0,0,240,320_SH20_OU01_Miraculous by Kevin Belmonte. Thomas Nelson Publishers. 330pp.

Kevin Belmonte is a visiting author at Gordon College and has written on William Wilberforce (being the lead historical consultant for the movie Amazing Grace), G.K. Chesterton, D.L. Moody, and John Bunyan.

In this work, Belmonte offers the church a service by way of the back door. By the title of the book I thought I was going to be reading an encyclopedia of miracles throughout history (after all, look at the subtitle!). You know someone receiving his sight in New Delhi, a limb regrown in Buenos Aires, a bumper crop of vegetables in rural Africa in the midst of a two-year drought. But he threw me for a loop when he started with the Bible. Imagine that. Of all places, he starts with the Bible. Not only this, but he begins by the fiat lux in the opening of Genesis. He pauses to make his reader consider the amazing miracle that Creation is. It is easy to breeze through the day and want something that is extra-ordinary and be blind to the fact that leaves are amazing. Belmonte starts with that wonder and lets it sink in. He moves on through the biblical narrative, highlighting the varied accounts of miracles in it: Noah & the Flood, Abraham & the friendship of God, Moses & the Exodus, Elisha’s stupendous feats, the Incarnation, Jesus’ Miracles, the Resurrection, Paul’s Conversion.

Okay, that was only cursory right? Unfortunately, we still have not let the miraculous amaze us. Instead of being blind to General Revelation in the world, we have been blind to Special Revelation in Scripture. Too often have these accounts been taken for granted. Belmonte does all of us a service by hitting the slow motion button and making us deal with the miracle of Scripture itself.

The next stage of Belmonte’s work takes us into the lives of men and women who experienced the miraculous. Yet what is astounding about these accounts is how ordinary they seem. He tells us of Perpetua who gave testimony to Christ in the midst of the bloodthirsty coliseum. Why not tell us about the hagiographies of Thecla or Polycarp or Ignatius? It seems that Belmonte wants us to be astounded by the sheer fact that it is a miracle that someone does not deny Christ in the face of certain death. This is reiterated in his account of Augustine. Sure, the Bishop of Hippo heard the children’s voices telling him to pick up the Bible and read, but Belmonte seems to highlight to utterly ordinary occurrences in Augustine’s life–namely, that his conversion came through a book and not from a great, penetrating light.

Martin Luther’s chapter brings the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper into the realm of the miraculous (p.146). Gilbert Burnet’s life highlights the immensity of God making his dwelling with us through the power of his Spirit. While Jonathan Edwards’ chapter speaks of the strange happenings in New England, it was Edwards’ parsing of the strange by the clarity of Scripture that helps us think rightly about the extraordinary. That is, people are constantly looking for verification of God’s involvement in the world–expecting cats to talk or dogs to drive a car or babies to feed themselves. Fact of the matter is that you and I are swimming in the miraculous. We just haven’t trained our eyes to see.

In light of that, Belmonte aptly has a chapter dedicated to Dr. Clyde Kilby. This chapter alone will make you have new eyes. Going through Kilby’s ten resolutions made my heart swell with joy and a desire to commune with God through the ordinarily miraculous world I live in.

I enjoyed and marked up my copy of Belmonte’s work. At times he can be a little tedious with details that don’t move the thesis along. However, these excursions are just as enjoyable as the main point of the book. They humanize and help give a holistic picture to the models he gives. The author’s sheer breadth of reading is admirable and encourages me to read widely and voraciously.

RECOMMENDATION: I would recommend this as an after dinner reading with the family. The chapters are easily digestible and give food for thought and discussion. I give the book a 4/5 stars due to the excursions that (although enjoyable at times) made the book a little laborious.

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<300: Anything You Want - Derek Sivers

I came across Derek Sivers (@sivers) through Tim Ferriss’ podcast. Very rarely do I get hooked on someone from an interview, but the way which Derek answered questions and his life story made me pause. I had to get more of his thoughts into my thoughts. A man who donates the majority of his company for the benefit of others got me. My interactions with him have been refreshing and I am so thankful that he is accessible and really seeks to help others.

Here’s his book, Anything You Want, in less than 300 words. Best $11 I’ve spent this year!

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Be yourself. Stop kowtowing to the perceived expectations of others. There is no easy way to grow in life. It takes work and focus. Most growth happens through failure, so get ready for it.

It is easy to get overwhelmed in the sea of multi-million dollar marketing. Instead of setting your goal to make more money, seek to serve more people. In serving, money follows. If you want to have enough, want less. Stop focusing on being bigger and better. Oftentimes purposefully being deaf to the siren call of more frees you to remain true to your purpose.

In having such laser focus in your dreams, you will disappoint a lot of people. If you seek to be everyone’s Messiah, you will fail them and yourself.

At root, the call to serve others requires you to do the hard work of knowing yourself. Know your likes and dislikes. Choose what you like to do and stop saying the ugly stuff that you are swamped in is just part of owning your own business. You can delegate. And you ought to delegate. Don’t abdicate. Be involved. Set parameters for those you empower before you almost get fired by them!

People are not commodities to be traded. Pinching pennies is punching your customers in the face, give a full refund. Period. Stop justifying greed with survival verbiage. Take the bruises, not those you seek to serve.

Stop all your strategy. Do. Take one step toward your goal rather mapping out the whole path. Inevitably, your path will be re-directed. If you plan out every step you will veritably be disappointed, stifled, and probably stop. Failure is part of the journey. You can’t mitigate it. Expect bad things to happen and embrace them as part of your personal growth.

Sam Crabtree

I have been converting my file life from paper into e-format (for another post!). While scanning the documents, I came across a treasure trove of articles by Sam Crabtree–Executive Pastor at Bethlehem Baptist.

While at Bethlehem, I remember the short but poignant interactions I had with Sam. He is a man after God’s own heart. Upon requesting a coffee with him, I remember him telling me that his job was to work in the obscure things in order to free up Pastor John for what he is gifted at. I remember being astounded and confounded as a green pastoral candidate. Didn’t Sam want to be known and quoted and re-tweeted? His desire to serve marked me forever. I have been since struggling to aim at serving and not renown. May God grant me such a heart and service and willingness to live in the obscure places for the glory of God’s name and not my own.

All that to say I just subscribed to Sam’s blog and would highly encourage you to do the same. Short and pithy, just like Sam (metaphorically, not literally).

Sam Crabtree’s Blog

BOOK REVIEW: Father Hunger

Father Hunger
Doug Wilson

I just finished Doug Wilson’s book on fathering with a friend of mine. We walked through a chapter each week–with the exception of a couple chapters (more on that below).

Wilson argues that we need to understand the fatherhood of God before we understand our roles as earthly fathers. He writes, “Perhaps our world is as broken as it is because our understanding of fatherhood was shattered first” (2). Further, the anemia we see in our culture today, even among professing Christians, is because of a rampant atheism when it comes to fathering. Sons have rebelled against their Father. As a result, our affection for our Father cools and we are left to our own interpretation of the world–right and wrong.

In light of Scripture and God’s fatherhood, men are primarily called to provide and protect. “Men don’t carry things because they happen to have broad shoulders. They have broad shoulders because God created them to carry things” (10). Pithy statements like this are replete in Father Hunger. Wilson provokes and challenges. Sometimes he provokes, it seems, for the sake of being provocative.

For example, must we really repent for the sins of our father–in an actual sense, not metaphorical, mind you (17)? Should National Geographic really be lumped in with trying to propagate a denial of the Creator (136)? Sure, a bald affirmation of macro-evolution denies the Maker (Rom 1), but is it most helpful to generalize so much? After all, their photo shots are exquisite and unknowingly, at times, exalt the Creator by offering them for us to witness. Is it most helpful to characterize the feminist movement as a bald attack on fatherhood? I think nuance could be helpful here in gaining a hearing. I doubt, after all, that all feminists are seeking to dethrone men because they desire to be on the throne. Could it be that they are reacting against actual despots in their own lives?

For all these question marks in the margin of my copy, there are many more exclamation points. Wilson’s final chapters–“Some Father Mechanics,” ch. 13, particularly–was exceptional. I believe this chapter alone merits the price of the book. It would benefit every church to have their leadership (male and female) read this chapter and answer the questions at the end of the chapter.

2/5 stars.