10 Artists to Stop Boycotting Christian Contemporary Music For (Just in Case You Were)

A week ago I offered my criticism of Christian Contemporary Music (CCM) and as many have observed, basically critiqued the sorts of songs that get airplay on Christian radio. This week, it is my pleasure to shine a light on some of the good, the true and the beautiful  in the CCM industry. Despite what some people have thought from my post, I am not a hater. I have listened to CCM all my life and I still go back in my catalogue to revisit songs and artists that are important to me and I am not ashamed of  (and a few guilty pleasures). But before I give you my list, I need to say something about my criteria for chosing Christian artists:

  • Christian Contemporary Music is not a genre but a marketing category. There are Christians making beautiful music in every genre, but CCM involves Christians making music for Christians. Some of the Christian artists below eschew the name ‘Christian artist’ but they write Christian lyrics and appeal to a generally Christian audience.
  • Once upon a time, the Christian music scene was centered in Nashville with several record labels that were there. Nashville is still very important, but with the ubiquity of  iTunes and online music, independent musicians from all over are making great music. Independent artists have revolutionized the industry. Much of the ‘Christian music’  which hits high rotation on my playlist are friends and acquaintances: Andrea Tisher, Ordinary Time, Tom Wuest, Peter Lagrand, Brian Moss, Koa Siu and  Ahna Phillips. I have not included them in this list but if you want music which is honest, raw, beautiful, good, deep follow these links.
  • An important question you need to ask when you survey the CCM industry and my pasty list below is, “Where the black people at?” Remember CCM is a marketing category.  Christian Artists who are African Americans are generally marketed as Gospel artists which is another genre with a storied tradition. The lines are not always distinct (artists like Mandisa, Israel Houghton, Mary Mary, Kirk Franklin, etc. have wide appeal)but generally CCM is a white industry marketed to white people (i.e. white people generally grace the cover of CCM magazine). This doesn’t make it all  bad, but it does mean that in  profile of  artists below I’m only looking at a  small slice of Christian artists. If there are not some Gospel artists in your playlist you are missing out on some of the best music anywhere.
  • I have chosen to not profile any Christian Hip Hop artists for one simple reason: I don’t like what I see and hear. I think there is some great hip hop being made by Christians which is conscience raising and socially engaged, but generally this isn’t the type of stuff I see in the Christian hip hop scene.  I am willing to be educated on this point, but please don’t just tell me how much you like Lecrae or liked Gospel Gangstaz back in the day. Give me something current, beautiful and life altering.
  • I focused on artists currently working whom I appreciate. There are legends that I have not named here but without a doubt embody what is good in CCM. This is by no means exhaustive.

So without further ad0, let me give you my 10:

  1. Derek Webb– Founding member of Caedmon’s Call, singer, songwriter and self-described-agitator Derek Webb is one of the artists I think offering a prophetic challenge to both Christians and the wider culture. Consider his strong words about the judgmentalism which often characterizes Christian public discourse in What Matters More:  
  2. Gungor– Michael Gungor makes beautiful music. He and his group Gungor wed creativity, artistry and lyrical depth. Check out Ghosts Upon the Earth if you want a well constructed worship  experience (Michael shares vocals with his wife Lisa).  This song however, is a favorite in our house (the kids love it and love this video): 
  3. Sara Groves-Sara writes  thoughtful and vulnerable music.  I read an interview with her where she was talking about technology, Albert Borgman’s ‘focal practices,’ Eugene Peterson. The thoughtfulness she brings to her songwriting means that you get a lot of substance. She also is not afraid to be honest about her own struggles. I love that there is an artist at the center of the CCM  creating songs with insight and honesty.  Here is Sara performing Obsolete
  4. John Mark McMillan– My favorite John Mark McMillan songs touch heartache, pain and anger  but also compel you to trust God more. Think of his How He Loves (also covered by the David Crowder Band). This is a song written after a painful experience (the loss of a friend) and his own personal grief and angst but it  compels you to trust the love of God.  Here is John with his poignant song, Murdered Son
  5. Christa Wells– In my earlier post I bemoaned the lack of lament in Christian music. Christa  is the exception in that she’s written some of the most gutwrenchingly honest lyrics in Christian music (including Natalie Grant’s hit Held).  I love  How Emptiness Sings
  6. Phil Keaggy– For what is now decades anytime somebody criticizes the CCM industry for its lack of artistry and musicianship somebody brings up Phil Keaggy. Keaggy is recognized across the  music industry as one of the world’s greatest guitarists. Releasing bothvocal and insturmental albums, Keaggy has also lent his amazing guitar work and songwriting to many artists in the industry.  Here he is playing Salvation Army Band (worth watching just to see him play):
  7. Sandra McCracken– Derek Webb’s wife is fabulous folk infested artist  and songwriter writing hymns and songs which are both beautiful and sensitive. Can’t say enough good things about her, Can’t Help Myself.  
  8. Stuart Townend– Together With Keith and Kristyn Getty, Stuart Townend stands at the forefront of the New Hymns movement. You know him as  for modern hymns (with Getty)  like In Christ Alone, How Deep the Father’s Love for Us, and Beautiful Savior .  For decades the criticism sometimes leveled at contemporary worship music is that it is too subjective and not meaty enough. Townend’s response was not to join the throng of critics but  to write new hymns which have deepened the worship of churches across the globe (despite a few problematic lyrics). Here is Townend singing Come People of the Risen King
  9. Switchfoot likely hates that I put them on my list of Christian artists (I hate myself for including them) with their crossover success. But they got their start at Sparrow records and write from a overt Christian perspective. I remember being impressed with them early on when I  went through a stage bemoaning the vacuity of many Christian lyricists (I’ve never fully recovered). I  ran head long into Sooner or Later (Soren’s Song), a song which  references Soren Kierkegaard and wrestles with faith and doubt. They get my undying love for introducing their audience to the prophetic voice of John Perkins in Sound (John M. Perkins Blues)
  10. Brian Houston– I discovered this artist 10 years ago because he was the opening act at a Delirious concert I went to. Hailing from Belfast and always hovering on the cusp of greatness, Brian writes music that can be classified variously as folk, folk rock, blues, rock, roots. His most recent album is the Gospel-ly infused Shelter (available on iTunes) and is worth purchasing. Check him out online (you  won’t find him in your Christian book store). Note if you do a web search for him, you will invariably get a lot of hits for Sydney pastor Brian Houston. That Brian Houston does not get so high a recommendation from me. Here is a video of Brian (the musician not the pastor) performing Jesus Again: 
There are several artists I would add to the list, but I only promised 10. Feel free to share with me your favorites or offer your rebuttal!

On planting a garden and wondering what will grow

I’m planting a garden. Well not quite, but I have dug out a bed and spent the weekend weeding the front plots (still more weeds to go, I’m afraid). On Monday I went with my oldest daughter and got seeds from the hardware store. And today I’m planting seeds in seedling trays.

The sun that was here on the weekend has disappeared and the ground is wet and muddy. My front lawn is over tall and when it dries out a little I’ll be out mowing. Despite having lived in the North West for a few years I’m not a big fan of rain. I like the green and growth but hate the wet and cold (yes Midwesterners I get cold in much warmer weather than you go swimming in). I am hoping a garden will change my perspective. I love Luci Shaw’s short but pogninant poem Forecast:

planting seeds
changes my feelings
about rain

And so I set to work planting seeds: lettuce, beans, zucchini, cucumber, tomatoes, peas, herbs. I don’t have much of a green thumb. Actually I have an unexperienced thumb. Sure I’ve pulled weeds and helped friends in their gardens(even worked for a landscaper one summer) but I have never had a garden of my own. I am excited about what new growth comes with planting.seedling trays

In other ways, I am trying to attend to what God might be planting in me. If you know my story, this past year has been hard. Never in my life have I had difficulty getting a job. Yet here I am with education and skill and a pretty good work ethic and no gainful employment. Most of the posts on this blog are upbeat and I have used this year to further my education and develop personally. But a week does not go by, where I don’t sit down feeling paralyzed by anxiety. Three kids and a wife and not much cash is frightening. I feel inadequate, useless and scared that I can’t provide better for my family. My wife has a great part time job, but that is are only income. In the midst of this, God has provided for us and cared for us in incredible ways and this has been a season of me learning to trust. Still I long for satisfying work and the ability to breathe easy.

By training and calling what I really want to do is ministry. Not getting a job as a pastor at every single church I have applied for has deflated my confidence and been an occasion for self doubt. Am I doing what I should be doing if I can’t even get a job? Living in sleepy suburbia has also been challenging. I believe in incarnational ministry and you plop me down in a city, any city, and I know how to love my neighbors. I would connect with homeless people and people on the margins; my ministry experience is urban and I know how to engage a a city creatively. Here, I barely know my neighbors and don’t know how to break through the fences suburbanites put up. Nobody wants to sit and talk, and my attempts at meaningfully connecting feel awkward. But for better or worse, I am in this place and I wonder: What is God doing? What is he growing this season?

And so I plant a garden and become rooted to place while I wait, wondering what will grow in the yard and in me.

What’s in a Word?: the problem with “Leadership Development.”

I’ve been in the market for a ministry job I have had lots of opportunities to read job descriptions from various churches. Curiously the language of discipleship has all but disappeared from many of the pastoral jobs. Instead, churches talk a lot about ‘leadership development.’ If these were the same thing then there is no harm in new nomenclature. But while ‘leadership development’ and ‘discipleship,’ may look similar they operate from very different conceptual frameworks.

Before you dismiss this as your typical Gen-X Christian rant against leader-driven seeker-sensitive church (why can’t I be nice like kids these days?) let me just say I have read my fair share of leadership literature, listened to talks, gone to workshops and have taken copious notes of ‘leadership’ presentations. I believe in leadership and I certainly want leaders to develop. Personally, I will continue to read and look for ways to develop my own leadership and if you are a leader, I hope you do too.

But the problem with leadership development, is if that’s all you got, you are elitist. When we talk about discipleship, we are talking about followers being formed in the way of the Master. We are helping people follow Jesus with their whole lives. Discipleship is walking with people through their lives and it can look very ordinary and mundane. It also is where the hard work of life transformation happens. Discipleship describes the process of helping people grow in character and in faith in Jesus.

Conversely, when you talk about leadership development our fundamental aim is to help people become better masters not better followers. When we emphasize leadership, we help people be better managers, shrewd and effective. We teach them ‘best practices’ and bottom lines. We challenge people to take entrepreneurial risks and expand their influence.

Everybody wants to lead and no one wants to follow, so discipleship has fallen on hard times. It has none of the glitz of ‘leadership development’ which promises that if you master a set of skills and increase your aptitude you can impact larger groups of people and organizations.

At best, leadership development is a part of discipleship. Clearly we want disciples who will lead others into more of what Jesus has for them. The problem is that leadership has become the whole enchilada. But the problem isn’t just that we lost the language of discipleship, we were confused about discipleship even before our leadership fetish. The discipleship machine which shaped me as a young Christian, told me I should invest in ‘discipling’ (not an actual verb) those that were FAT: Faithful, Available, Teachable (not sure of the origin of this acronym because it is fairly widespead. I know I’ve read it in something Howard Hendricks wrote, but I’m not sure if it’s original to him). Makes sense right? Invest in those who offer you the biggest pay off. Isn’t that what Jesus did?

No. Jesus didn’t do that. He did the exact opposite:

  • The disciples were unfaithful. When adversity came they were scattered like sheep without a shepherd. At Jesus’ arrest the disciples turned and ran.
  • The disciples were unavailable. Jesus did not go pick up some day labors who were waiting for something to come their way. He told a group of fishermen to leave their nets and follow him. He told Levi the tax collector to follow him as he sat at his desk. He took an otherwise engaged group of guys and had them leave their life behind.
  • The disciples were unteachable. Can anyone seriously argue that these guys were teachable? They were arrogant, proud, obstinate and they just didn’t get it. Think of the number of times that Jesus has to drill the idea of humility or service into these guys. They did not learn well or easily.

If the disciples could ever be described as Faithful, Available and Teachable it was because the Master helped them cultivate those virtues in them (with a good dose of the Holy Spirit’s work!).

And it is the same with me. Long before I was a developing leader, or an elite disciple, I was unfaithful, unavailable and unteachable. That I am actively pursuing God’s call on my life today is because people invested in me when I didn’t merit or deserve it. I thought I knew everything, and was pretty resistant to people’s attempts to help me grow in Christ. Lucky for me I had a few friends and key mentors who invested in me before I was leadership material. If they didn’t, I wouldn’t be here.

The kind of discipleship which turns lives around is what are churches need, not just bigger and better leaders.

…and I am a Material Girl (an examination of the sin of Avarice)

Contrary to 1980’s era pop culture and politics, Greed is not good. As one of the big baddies known as the Seven Deadly Sins Greed is a vice which threatens to poison our souls.

This is a sin that is universally condemned but is all over our consumer society. You see Avarice in investment firms that profited from subprime loans and in those who took the loans and were living beyond their means. Avarice drives shopping seasons,corporate greed, casinos and get rich quick schemes. If we are honest, we also know the ways Avarice has grabbed on to our hearts and caused us to want ‘just a little bit more.’ And Greed poisons everything we do and touch. Once upon a time there was a follower of Jesus who began skimming money from the treasury but when Avarice had poisoned his soul he sold his Lord for thirty more coins. Extreme I know, but we recognize the impulse in our own heart, and we recoil.

Avarice is the inordinate love of worldly wealth–the love of money and all that money can buy. When you and I see someone who is totally in the grips of this sin we rightly bemoan their sad estate. The problem is that it is in the water and our whole culture drives us to prioritize wealth. It promises it will buy us security, happiness, novelty, pleasure. And when I taste the fruits of the money tree and am dissatisfied, I reach for more, thinking the problem is ‘I just can’t get enough. No, I just can’t get enough.

When we greedily grab for the gold, we over-value temporal wealth but undervalue heavenly riches.S. McDuck We place a premium on our personal happiness but ignore everybody else. We amass wealth without a care for those who have nothing.

The sad thing is that when we read over the last paragraph, we think of other people’s Greed. But where has Greed grabbed hold of you? What are the things that if you thought you had, you would be happy? A new iPad? A car? A house? A bigger paycheck (or a paycheck)? None of these things are bad, in and of themselves, but when you reach for stuff to fulfill an inner need, Avarice sets up residence in your heart. And grows.

Counter Practices

The way to counter the vice of Avarice is to develop counter practices which reign in your inner Trump. The Christian tradition suggests two such practices. Try these on: Simplicity and generosity.

Simplicity is means singleness of purpose. To borrow Kierkegaard’s phrase, “Purity of heart is to will one thing.” A passionate pursuit of God’s Kingdom excludes the pursuit of other, lesser goods. We decide to go without so that we can pursue God more. When we feel the pull of riches and wealth, we amass for ourselves less, so that we can learn to love God more. This is a counter cultural discipline in one sense, but we also have seen the way our greedy consumption of the world’s resources has contributed to environmental problems and global poverty. By choosing to cultivate simplicity and countering Greed, we are saying we choose to no longer greedily consume and amass resources solely for our own gain.

Generosity (the counter virtue to Greed) trains us to give what we have for the good of others. This is why Christians tithe to their churches, not to make pastors rich but to loosen the grip of finances on our soul and set us free. Giving sets us free from the tyranny of Avarice. It frees us to love others and not just care for our own miserly selves.

May this season of Lent mark a shift for us, from consumption to compassion. As we walk the road to the cross, may we learn from Jesus who did not amass worldly wealth but poured out his life for us all.

Sloth is a deadly sin?

After several days of stalling, here are my reflections on the sin of Sloth. I think this is one of the most misunderstood and underestimated of the big seven. Sloth
Despite its status as a ‘Deadly Sin’ we don’t often think of Sloth as particularly deadly. Image is everything and when the sins got together and chose mascots, Sloth chose the sweetest, cuddliest one it could find. it is hard not to think of it as innocuous. How can something like this be deadly? When did a sloth kill anyone? It just doesn’t happen.



In 1986 Harper Magazine published a series of ads about each of the deadly sins. This is the ad that ran for Sloth:

We just don’t believe that Sloth is sin, or think that if its sin it really isn’t that bad. I mean aren’t we entitled to a little rest and relaxation? Certainly all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy! But is this what Sloth is about? There is much more to Sloth than simply traversing the Protestant Work Ethic!

From Acedia to Sloth

Part of our confusion about Sloth, is that even within the Christian tradition it has undergone a sort of metamorphosis. One of the original eight thoughts (or passions) of Evagrius, it was originally called Acedia and referred to a a restless boredom that makes ordinary tasks seem too dull to bear (Bondi, To Love as God Loves, 74). In the West, Acedia was systemized as the Capital Sin of Sloth and the emphasis gradually shifted from internal struggle to exterior practice (Norris, Acedia & Me, 21). Acedia became Sloth, and Sloth was identified as merely laziness.

The difference between the two is significant. With “Sloth” the emphasis is on our inaction; with “Acedia” the emphasis was on an internal disposition irregardless of action or inaction. While the ideas are distinct, there is clearly overlap. Kathleen Norris says that Sloth and Acedia exist in a symbiotic relationship to one another (Sloth is Acedia‘s handmaiden, Acedia & Me, 12)

Getting to the Bottom of Acedia

The word Acedia, literally means ‘lack of care,’ which for me conjures up my father’s ‘you got potential’ lectures aimed at my under-achieving adolescence. “You could be at the top of your class, but your problem is you just don’t care.” I can quote the entire lecture verbatim and will one day pull it out of my parenting arsenal and against my will, thrust it on my own children. I hated that lecture and it wasn’t always fair; nevertheless my father’s point is a good one, when we care about something we diligently attend to it.

But spiritual writers were not concerned simply with are lack of diligence and apathy in general; rather they wanted us to attend to where laziness and lack of care have affected our relationship with God. For example, a workaholic businesswoman who crowds her schedule and time with activities and interests can still be guilty of Acedia by failing to cultivate her prayer life and attend to her own spiritual growth. The man who doesn’t go to church with his family but instead putzes at home is slothful regardless of how hard-working he is in his vocation. There is laziness and then there is laziness of the soul.

Basically Sloth is resistance to soul work. We resist the transformations that Love demands of us and instead opt for an easy existence and simply go with the flow. We perceive struggle ahead and rather than press forward we meander through our monotonous existence. Evagrius called Acedia the noon-day demon because it named the struggle desert monks had in staying committed to prayer in the heat of the desert sun. They were sleepy, their minds wandered and they had a hard time keeping their minds and hearts on God in prayer. The demonic temptation was to just let their commitment to God slide. It is precisely this failure to attend to one’s spiritual health that makes Sloth deadly.

Alternative Practices

If Acedia is an attitude of boredom and apathy and Sloth names laziness and inactivity, how do we conquer these tendencies in ourselves? The Desert and Monastic tradition suggests three practices designed to rein in our laziness, inattention, and listlessness. (The list below owes much to Kathleen Norris in Acedia & Me).

    • Hard work. Seems obvious that the way to conquer laziness is by not being lazy and working hard. This is what the writer of Proverbs means when he advises the lazybones (sluggard) to look at ants (because as long as they aren’t doing anything, might as well find an anthill). Something about hard work frees us from our inner apathy, and allows us to press fully into joy of the Lord. If we stew on it, or fail to act, inertia carries us into further apathy and inaction; when we work, Acedia loses its stronghold.
    • Stability. St. Benedict in his rule suggested a vow of stability in which monks committed to a particular place and didn’t wander from monastery to monastery. In a transient culture this is a value seldom practiced by sorely needed if we are to grow to spiritual maturity. When we fall victim to Acedia–that listless boredom and lack of commitment in the spiritual life–are tendency may be to run somewhere more fun or at least less monotonous. However, our growth often demands that we ‘stay in our cell’ and face ourselves. By committing to a place, you commit to community, to a way of life, and your practices. You decide to work through your issues and not bolt for the door.
    • A Rule of Life. Another way to break the bondage of sloth and Acedia is through a ‘rule of life.’ A rule of life is a pattern of spiritual disciplines and commitments which provide structure and direction for your spiritual life. Communities often follow a rule, like the Benedictine Rule I mentioned above. People may also opt to write their own personal rule. I have lived under a rule when I lived in community in my twenties, doing an urban ministry program called Mission Year. Rather than finding the rules and regulations laid out for me restrictive, I found that they enabled me to stay on task and keep my priorities in place so that I could love God and others more effectively. This week I am working on a personal rule of life (I may share it here later, if I have the guts). Consider this practice, it may be worthwhile in conquering your inner sloth.

The fruit of pressing through Sloth is that we enter more fully into the joy of the Lord and experience more of his love and freedom.

May God break the power of Sloth in our hearts as we walk this Lenten journey together. But first look how cute this one is:

Calvin Seeks Pure Joy: A Book Review of ‘The Joy of Calvinism’

Joy of Calvinism We all know the stereotypes of the cranky Calvinist who is serious, doctrinaire and fervent but lacks joy. I think of the Danish sect portrayed in Babette’s Feast with their sour faces, scandalized by a good meal. But is this a fair portrayal of Calvinism? Author Greg Forster claims it is not. He argues in The Joy of Calvinism that not only do Calvinists have joy but that “if you want to understand the command to rejoice at all times, and still more if you want to obey it, of all the places you might start looking for help with the problem, the best place to start is Calvinism.(14)” And so he wrote this book as a sort of lay exposition of Calvinist doctrine to draw attention to the joy of Calvinism, especially as it relates to soteriology (salvation).

[Personal Note: At the interest of self disclosure, I read this book as a non-Calvinist but I am not an anti-Calvinist. My own spiritual formation has been shaped, in part, by my reading Calvinists and Reformed authors and I regard many Calvinist theologians warmly. Certain passages of Calvin’s Institutes bring me to my knees and I hear within his prose pure worship. But there are other voices that have formed me and I don’t feel like I can buy into the Calvinist system completely. Rather than saying I am a non-Calvinist, it makes sense to say that while others boast that they are five-point-Calvinists, I am at best a .5 Calvinist. It is part of my Evangelical heritage, but not necessarily where I theologically locate myself. Back to my review.]

Forster thinks Calvinists have not presented their own theology in winsome ways, often focusing on the things they don’t believe, rather than stating positively what they do believe. He observes:

It sometimes feels like Calvinists invoke the five points, then apologize for invoking the five points, and then explain how the five points don’t really mean what they seem to mean and aren’t really saying what they seem to be saying. This can’t possibly be the best way to introduce people to what we believe.(16)

So this book promises to get beyond TULIP (a modern summary of Calvinism), formulas and technicalities to what is positively wonderful about Calvinist beliefs. So after a brief detour addressing ‘five points about Calvinism’ and trying to correct many misconceptions (i.e. Calvinists have free will, aren’t saved against their will, are wholly defiled but not ‘totally depraved,’ do not deny God’s love for the lost, or concerned only with God’s sovereignty) most of the book is dedicated to presenting a positive account of what Calvinists believe. Forster divides his chapters into<
four headings, each addressing an aspect of God’s love: God loves you personally, unconditionally,irresistibly, and unbreakably.

By framing Calvinist doctrine in terms of God’s Love, Forster is able to draw out some of the pastoral implications of Calvinist dogma and show where Calvinists have drawn comfort from their core beliefs. That God loves us personally, is the positive implications of the doctrine of limited atonement/election. Forster claims that to say that God loves humanity is to abstract God’s love because real love is personal and involves doing concrete things for concrete individuals (48). To say that God loves unconditionally is to say that God’s choice of the elect resides solely in his own character and love and not on any of our techniques or our own character. To say that the love of God is irresistible means that when we experience God’s good work and love we cannot help but give ourselves over to him in wonder and devotion because of his goodness to him. To say that God’s love is unbreakable means that we trust that God will continue to preserve us and keep us on the path of salvation. All of this taken together, causes and sustains the joy of the convinced Calvinist.

Despite the merits of this book I think Foster occasionally comes across as uppity. He repeatedly diverges from his ‘positive presentation’ of Calvinism to show up other Christian traditions and I don’t think he always characterizes them well. For example, he argues that Calvinism alone places the hope of salvation squarely on the cross of Christ, but other Christian traditions set up a ‘salvation system.’ Roman Catholics are saved through the Church and the sacraments, Lutherans likewise trust the sacraments as ‘means of Grace,’ Arminians lay there hope solely on the moment of decision(53-54). Forster is quick to dismiss these other traditions for putting hope for salvation in something else besides Christ’s substitutionary atonement, but his quick dismissal betrays a low view of sacraments, ecclesiology and human freedom. He is also rather flippant in his characterization of each tradition. It would have been better if he presented the positive aspects of Calvinism without resorting to an apologetic and an ‘over and against’ posture.

I also disagree with his sole focus on soteriology. Calvinists’ sometimes focus narrowly on a theology of the atonement which looks at the cross and resurrection only but fails to place Christ’s redeeming work with little regard to the wider Biblical story. A focus on salvation is not wrong, per se. It just isn’t wright. I personally need a theology which is richer than one atonement model. I need to hear how Jesus fulfills the hopes of Israel, blesses the nations and brings his Kingdom rule to the earth. I get more joy out of stories than I do out of propositions.

I thought this book offered a good summary statement of Calvinist belief from someone inside their ranks. I think Forster did a good job of framing Calvinism as a theology of God’s love. Yet, in exploring the ‘joyful life’ from a Calvinist expression, I think J.I. Packer’s Knowing God or even John Piper’s Desiring God is a more helpful exploration of the theme. I would recommend this book to Calvinist friends seeking a better grasp of their own tradition and theological contribution.

Thank you to Crossway for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for review. This is my fair and honest review.

Lenten Prayers from Walter Brueggemann

The following two prayers are excerpted from a collection of Walter Brueggemann’s prayers Awed to Heaven Rooted in Earth (153-4). Brueggemann  is brilliant at exposing our complicity in systems of injustice (both in his scholarship and prayers). May these prayers guide us in this season of repentance:

Loss is Indeed Our Gain

The Pushing and Shoving in the world is endless.

      We are pushed and shoved.

      And we do our share of pushing and shoving

           in our great anxiety.

     And in the middle of that

           you have set down your beloved suffering son

           who was like a sheep led to slaughter

            who opened not his mouth.

     We seem not able,

     so we ask you to create space in our life

     where we may ponder his suffering

     and your summons for us to suffer with him,

     suspecting that suffering is the only way to newness.

So we pray for your church in these Lenten days,

     when we are driven to denial —

           not to notice the suffering, 

           not to engage it,

           not to acknowledge it.

So be that way of truth among us

       that we should not deceive ourselves

That we shall see that loss is indeed our gain.

We give you thanks for that mystery from which we live.


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Revise our taking

You, You giver!

You have given light and life to the world;

You have given freedom from Pharaoh to your people Israel;

You have given your only Son for the sake of the world;

You have given yourself to us;

You have given and forgiven,

                 and you remember our sins no more. 

And we, in response, are takers:

       We take eagerly what you give us;

       we take from our neighbors near at hand as is acceptable;

       we take from our unseen neighbors greedily and acquisitively;

       we take from our weak neighbors thoutlessly;

       we take all that we can lay our hands on.

It dawns on us that our taking does not match your giving.

In this Lenten season revise our taking,

               that it may be grateful and disciplined

              even as you give in was generous and overwhelming.