Approaching the Atonement: The Reconciling Work of Christ

Back in April, when I decided that it was time to return to blogging, I figured the best way to start was to reach for a book for review. My eyes traveled across my bookshelf and fell upon the word “atonement.” I’m sure this was due to the fact that we had just celebrated Easter. Even so, the minimalist cover and the theological nature of the book easily sucked me in, and I knew that this had to be the next book for the Heart Man Blog. This month’s book is Approaching the Atonement: The Reconciling Work of Christ by Oliver Crisp, published by InterVarsity Press in February 2020. Crisp seeks to give his reader an understanding of one of the most important doctrines of the Christian faith. For as long as people have had faith in Jesus, they have argued about how it is that Jesus’ death actually means salvation for humanity.

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Tending Soul, Mind, and Body: The Art and Science of Spiritual Formation

Something that I have been giving a lot of thought to has been spiritual formation. I’m sure some of that has to do with my education, but when, honestly, was the last time you considered your spiritual life? This month’s book, Tending Soul, Mind, and Body: The Art and Science of Spiritual Formation, published by InterVarsity Press in October 2019, seeks to open the eyes of pastors and laypeople to consider taking care of one’s spirit/soul. This book is a published version of reflections and presentations made during the 2018 Center for Pastor Theologians conference. Topics in this book reflect the fields of theological anthropology, spiritual formation, and psychology and how they can be used to look at the person as a whole; not merely physical, mental, and spiritual health.

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Oh No! I Messed Up

We often hear how important it is to develop spiritual disciplines. These include fasting, Bible study, prayer, and many more. We are told that the importance of these disciplines is develop ourselves in Christlikeness; so we can be the people God created us to be. Yet, we’re human and therefore, imperfect. What does this mean for our spiritual disciplines? It means that we will mess up. We may set out to prayer, every morning, at 5am (before anyone else in the house is up), for 15 minutes. We are able to accomplish this task for awhile, but one day you wake up and its 7am. Oh No! You messed up but what do you do now? Below are some ideas that I have for you to remember when this happens.

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Where Do I Go From Here?

When I started this blog in 2013, I had the single goal of trying to keep my biblical studies skills sharp, as I had just finished a degree and didn’t want it to fall by the wayside. I had a serious hunger to stay in the Word and study it every day. Then something happened. I simply quit blogging. Then in 2018, I decided to login and start writing again. The last few months of 2019, I had to take another short break as it was my final semester of my second degree. I always intended to return and my break has certainly taken longer than anticipated. Yet I can’t help but as myself why?

I enjoy the process of reading and writing, both on biblical studies and theology. However, I think my format has gotten me down. It feels like too much work to stick within the predetermined format setting specific themes and only writing about them. Plus, I haven’t been able to find the niche that allows me create a community. It feels like shouting into the void. At the beginning of this blog, I was ok with that, but now I want people to talk to. Maybe that’s too self serving, I don’t know.

I’ve ben having a hard time coming back, not because I don’t want to, but because it doesn’t seem to be worth anything. If I am going to spend my time doing anything, I want it to be something that is beneficial to the work of God, and not useless babble. Maybe you value the stuff I’ve been writing, and maybe you don’t. Either way, I’d greatly appreciate some content suggests to help me guide this blog insomething that is beneficial to the Church and not just a way for me to get my thoughts out. Do you have any suggestions. Comment below and let’s make something together.

Transhumanism and the Image of God: Today’s Technology and the Future of Christian Discipleship

If you have been paying attention to the Heart Man Book Reviews, you will remember that I read a book on the use of modern technology and a book about fostering online education. Admittedly, this field has been of interest to me ever since I read The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr. So I couldn’t help myself when InterVarsity Press released Transhumanism and the Image of God: Today’s Technology and the Future of Christian Discipleship by Jacob Shatzer. Shatzer has a PhD from Marquette University and is an ordained Baptist pastor. This book was released in April of 2019 and is incredibly important in our world as we live with increasing usage of technology. Shatzer argues that digital technology trains us, little by little, in transhumanist philosophy, allowing us to one day accept it completely. He asks the simple question of whether this is an appropriate formation for Christians or if we should be cautious about trying to adopt new digital technologies.

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Becoming an Ordinary Mystic: Spirituality for the Rest of Us

Just like last year, we will start this year with a book that helps us to fulfill our New Year’s resolutions. Many people say that they want to pursue having a closer relationship with God in the New Year. However, many people also have no clue how to do that. They often resolve to goals of praying more or reading their Bibles more. While these can push us in the right direction, do these practices truly push us to have a deeper relationship with God? Enter Becoming an Ordinary Mystic: Spirituality for the Rest of Us by Albert Haase. Haase is an experienced Fransican friar with experience as a missionary in mainland China and as a spiritual director. This month’s book was released by IVP in August of 2019, and it shows us that spirituality is not something attained by the spiritual elite, but is accessible for all of us.

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What to do When You Disagree with the Sermon

Have you ever been sitting in a church service, hear something from the pastor and think, “I’m not sure that’s right”? What do you do? If you are are visiting or “church shopping,” the solution seems pretty easy. However, this same problem can still arise from your regular pastor. Below are a few suggestions that I find helpful when this issue occurs

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The Book of Ezekiel: Ezekiel 12

This week, as we continue our study of Ezekiel, we get to see God confront the society of His people. He keeps proclaiming that destruction is coming, while knowing that the people do not believe Him. Sometimes this can be true for us as well. Ezekiel performs as he always does, knowing that the people will not understand.

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Modern Technology and the Human Future: A Christian Appraisal

Ever since the discovery of fire, technology has had some impact upon our society. Sometime it can be good, like the wheel, or bad, like the nuclear bomb. Technology has been made to make incredible advancements in our world, like life saving treatments for disease, while also being produced to end even more lives than it saves. The first book for this month is called Modern Technology and the Human Future: A Christian Appraisal by Craig M Gay, published by InterVarsity Press in December of 2018. In this book, Gay looks at the current environment of mondern technology and asks, “Is this good for us?” By looking at the worldview that comes with modern technology, Gay argues that it is incompatiable with orthodox Christian theology.

“it has been observed that for every additional hour of television beyond the recommended limit a child watches at age twenty-nine months, the odds increase the the child will be more detached and unengaged as a fourth-grade student”

Like other critics of technology, Gay is concerned that the modern advancement of technology is actually diminishing humanity as persons. One of the most significant places he points to is our ability to “outsource” our thinking to machines. Machines are not trained to look at every nuance like the human mind does, they are simply meant to find the most logical and efficient solution. Because of this, humanity checks itself out of the process of thinking altogether. Our modern workplaces have even changed to show this happening. When at first computers were used to help us at our jobs, there are now entire workforces who’s job it is to input data into a computer so it can work with the data. This leads towards having a more unskilled workforce, as most people are merely inputting data or relying on machines to do the work for them. Referenceing Nicholas Carr’s book The Glass Cage, Gay points to it being “determined that human pilots, having become so used to computer control, [have] basically forgotten how to fly their aircraft.”

“We’re going to need to begin to imagine what the implications of biblical religion are for the development and use of modern technology and then to begin to live out of these implications.”

The crux of the argument, for Gay, is that technology is asking us to live more and more outside of ourselves. We no longer think for ourselves and we no longer have face-to-face interactions with our social circles. Our lives are being transformed to be lived in “cyberspace.” Gay says that this does not work for orthodox Christian theology. He argues that we must recognize that God made us to be material beings, living in a material plane of existence, and interacting with other material beings. He says that God makes this point obvious in that He became human flesh, but even beyond that, Jesus’ physical body was resurrected. Our material being has importance in the plan of God.

“Apparently people can live quite happily on bread alone, so it has turned out, as long as they are comfortable, healthy, suitably entertained, and distracted from asking troublesome religious questions.”

As someone who works in a technological field professionally, and adds to the over abundance of content by writing a blog, I am honestly unsure how I feel about Gay’s commentary. He makes a strong argument that, at the very leasts, Christians ought to be careful about what technology they choose to employ. We must continue to recognize that people are created human beings and not representations of data. We can track statistics, web traffic, and behavior patterns as much as we like, but this never tells us a thing about our neighbor down the street. God created us to be people in community, not connected over social media. Personally, there are aspects of modern technology that I still really love. I am able to maintain a 22 year old relationship with a friend that has lived across the country for 10 years. I am employable based on my skills, that would not exist if it were not for modern technology. But there needs to be some level of discipline involved in our use of technology. We are not made to “feed the server,” but are made to be in communion with people and with God.

I recommend this book for no other reason than that it makes you think. It exposes potential idolatry in our lives by asking if modern technology is good for us. I enjoyed the read and have already passed it on to others. Pick yourself up a copy today and join the conversation about our use of technology.

The Book of Ezekiel: Ezekiel 11

Editorial note: I apologize that I have not kept up very well with my schedule during the last couple of months. Unfortunately life keeps getting in the way and I have not been able to plan and write like I want to. I have allowed this to keep me from writing anyway, which is a disservice to anyone who actually reads this blog. Here lately I have been talking a lot about spiritual practices, and this seems to be an area that I am lacking development. I will re-double my efforts to write reliably, but any prayers for me would be greatly appreciated.

As we have seen in the past couple of chapter, Ezekiel experiences several visions in his ministry to the people. In this chapter, Ezekiel is prophesying directly to the people. He still sees visions, but here he is declaring the words of God that have been given to him to say. Unfortunately, this is not a good message for the people, however, there is a slight bit of hope given. God never wants to abandon His people, but sometimes they make Him do it.

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