On a Mission from God: a dvd/book review

My introduction to Ray Vander Laan came through the  men’s group at my church. They have watched a number of his Holy Land tour DVDs. The blend of on-location-footage, connecting culture and geography to the biblical text, and Vander Laan’s expository style makes for a rich study experience. Israel’s Mission is volume 13 in his ‘That the World May Know’ series. These videos span twenty years of tours. Vander Laan is noticably grayer and occasionally shows his age, though his passion and energy show no signs of diminishing. He walks at the same determined pace and preaches with the same passion, but his reflections have deepened.

The production of Israel’s Mission is far superior to its predecessors. The graphics and maps are more eye-popping, the cutaways to tour members more natural, and the video more seamless. The earlier installments are hokey by comparison.

But that all is aesthetics, what about content? In five sessions Vander Laan explores the mission of God’s people–in the Old and New Testament. He examines Abraham’s role as the Patriarch of his family and his role of caring for the house of the Father (Beth Ab) and his hospitality to three strangers. He explores the call of Israel at Sinai to be a kingdom of priests, Jesus’ exhortation for us to seek the lost, and the parable of the lost son. In each session Vander Laan  prompts us to take up our role in participating in God’s mission in the world.

The accompanying discovery guide has notes from the DVD presentation, discussion questions and five days of personal study sessions for digging deeper. This study is well put together and will enlarge your vision of God’s mission in the world. I give this series five stars.

Note: I received this book and DVD from LitFuse and Zondervan in exchange for my honest review

On a Mission from God: a dvd/book review

My introduction to Ray Vander Laan came through the  men’s group at my church. They have watched a number of his Holy Land tour DVDs. The blend of on-location-footage, connecting culture and geography to the biblical text, and Vander Laan’s expository style makes for a rich study experience. Israel’s Mission is volume 13 in his ‘That the World May Know’ series. These videos span twenty years of tours. Vander Laan is noticably grayer and occasionally shows his age, though his passion and energy show no signs of diminishing. He walks at the same determined pace and preaches with the same passion, but his reflections have deepened.

The production of Israel’s Mission is far superior to its predecessors. The graphics and maps are more eye-popping, the cutaways to tour members more natural, and the video more seamless. The earlier installments are hokey by comparison.

But that all is aesthetics, what about content? In five sessions Vander Laan explores the mission of God’s people–in the Old and New Testament. He examines Abraham’s role as the Patriarch of his family and his role of caring for the house of the Father (Beth Ab) and his hospitality to three strangers. He explores the call of Israel at Sinai to be a kingdom of priests, Jesus’ exhortation for us to seek the lost, and the parable of the lost son. In each session Vander Laan  prompts us to take up our role in participating in God’s mission in the world.

The accompanying discovery guide has notes from the DVD presentation, discussion questions and five days of personal study sessions for digging deeper. This study is well put together and will enlarge your vision of God’s mission in the world. I give this series five stars.

Note: I received this book and DVD from LitFuse and Zondervan in exchange for my honest review

Living Witness: a DVD/Study review

When I was in college, I was part of a Christian fellowship which was intentional about sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with our campus. However, very few of us were your typical evangelists. We didn’t do open air preaching or hold up Bible verses at sporting events. If anything, we had a certain shyness in sharing our faith with our friends. And so our group leader had us watch a video of Rebecca Manley Pippert on sharing our faith conversationally (the video was based on her book Out of the Saltshaker. Pippert shared her own journey and stories of how she learned to share her faith in personal, winsome ways. We were all challenged to be more intentional about our witness.

Fast forward a few years, Pippert is still preaching what she practices with a brand new DVD series designed to introduce  to ‘joyful newness of life with Jesus Christ.’ Live: Your Life with Jesus Christ is the first of a series of DVD curriculum designed to help seekers and new believers press into truths of Christianity and the wonders of the Christian life.

Live has five sessions which work well for a small group Bible study. The videos have an introduction, a presentation by Pippert on the session theme, and testimonies from a variety of people on how they came to faith. The corresponding handbook has a suggested framework on how to use the video in conjunction with a small group Bible study session (described in its pages).

The five sessions take us through the following:  (1)”How do I know it’s true?” examines why we can reasonably trust that Jesus did rise from the dead, and the implications of that belief for our life,  (2) “What is the Good News?,” (3) “Is [the Christian Faith] Worth it?,” (4) “A Time for a Commitment” and (5) “New Life in Christ.”  The individual themes are each tied directly to a particular scripture and Pippert shares what has been helpful to her in her own journey towards faith.

I appreciated the DVD and the handbook for these studies. Part of my joy in watching these is knowing that Pippert remains both a faithful witness, and someone who helps others be more faithful in their witness. The Good Book Company, which publishes Christianity Explored, produces this video. The videos are done well but are ‘talking head’ videos of Pippert sitting down discussing the theme. The testimonies are also ‘talking head’ shots with minimal editing. I think that these videos are golden as far as content, but that they suffer a little for their production value. I wish the makers of this video, had more experience with and respect for the medium. Still I give it four stars, because I think that it can and will be used fruitfully in small groups. I may even suggest it for my context.

Thank you to Cross-focused Reviews and the Good book company for supplying me with a review copy in exchange for this review.

Common Practice: a book review

I continue to be challenged and inspired by the New Monastic movement.  I live in a sleepy suburb  isolated from my Christian community, but the challenge of  Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove and Shane Claiborne  stirs me to delve deeper into intentional community and invest in a particular place.  In The Awakening of Hope: Why We Practice a Common FaithJohnathan Wilson-Hartgrove explores the habits which shape convictions and sustain God’s people. The accompanying six-session DVD and discussion guide explores each of the themes in the book from a different angle. In the review below I will discuss the book first, then the DVD and the discussion guide.

Wilson-Hartgrove  has culled together a set of Christian practices into a type of catechism intended to inspire hope, conversation and action.  He shares inspirational stories and also delves into the reason behind each practice.  He focuses on the convictions that ‘undergird a way of life that makes witness possible (15).’  This book discusses these practices:

  • Why We Eat Together
  • Why We Fast
  • Why We Make Promises
  • Why it Matters Where We Live
  • Why We Live Together
  • Why We Would Rather Die Than Kill
  • Why We Share the Good News

Wilson-Hartgrove shares personal examples (and those of friends) which illustrate the meaning of each practice. In his reflections he challenges us to greater community, radical hospitality and identification with Christ’s suffering, a consistent Pro-Life ethic, and integrity in Christian witness. The chapters are short, easy reads, but they offer some significant challenges.

I really appreciate Wislon-Hartgrove’s writing. I like how he thoughtfully draws together theological and biblical reflection, church history and lived experience.   He is a thoughtful writer and has thought and lived deeply each of these practices.  But he manages to share his deep insights into the Christian life and his experience without sounding arrogant or self aggrandizing. There is humility in his prose and while I am awed by his theological insights, street smarts and wholehearted commitment, I never feel like reading his books is like ‘going to one of the experts.’  He is a smart man, but there is humility and grace here too.

In the accompanying DVD Wilson-Hartgrove and his co-conspirator Shane Claiborne bring together material which complements (but does not reproduce the book). The six sessions discuss each of the practices in Wilson-Hartgrove’s book (Eating together and Fasting, are discussed together).   Each of the sessions has an example of what people are doing. There are several inspiring interviews. On the Eating/Fasting session, much of the video portion focuses on an interview of Chris Haw of Camden, NJ and what his community is doing with urban farming. In subsequent sessions there is an interview with Jean Vanier (Why We Make Promises), Civil Rights leader Ann Atwater (Why it Matters Where We Live), Ethan’s Mom Dayna (Why We Would Rather Die Than Kill–this is a story worth hearing in its entirety) and Reverd William Barber (Why We Share Good News).  In the section on ‘Why We Live Together, Shane and Jonathan both share about their lives in their respective communities. Each of these voices adds color and depth to the topic.

In the discussion guide for the DVD (located at the back of the book) there are questions on the DVD presentation and chances to delve deeper into Scripture and tradition by examining Bible passages and quotations from church history. And of course, there are challenges you to live out the practice.  Intentional communities and small groups will be able to use this book profitably to spur one another on in faithful living.

So get this book and accompanying DVD and find a group to discuss it with. Yes, you could just get the book and read it yourself, but you will have done it all wrong. This is the sort of book that is meant to spark deeper conversation. It gets five stars from me. ★★★★★

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.