Thursday, May 28, 2020

What I Read and Watched in May

We started the month with a re-watch of Hidden Figures, which was just as good the second time around. In general I have very little patience for Hallmark movies, but I enjoy their mysteries when I get a chance. So I was happy to find Roux the Day and Three Bedrooms, One Corpse, which were good, clean (yet forgettable) fun. BUT Fixer-Upper Mystery: Concrete Evidence was the most suspenseful HM movie I've ever watched. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I was delighted to see that hard-to-find author, O. Douglas, (who wrote Penny Plain, a vintage favorite) had more titles available for Kindle and immediately bought six of them. I re-read Penny Plain before tackling its sequel, Priorsford. Sadly, Priorsford did not meet my expectations.

My other reads for the month were theological: The Power of the Blood of Jesus by Andrew Murray (reviewed here) and Grace, Faith and Holiness, a theology textbook that I've been reading for months. (review here)

My absolute favorite of the month was L.M. Montgomery's  Emily of New Moon, which I'll be reviewing soon.

I discovered several free books this month: 365 Meditations from George McDonald's Fiction, Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life by William Law (Christian classic, 1729), and The Last Man by Mary Shelley (possibly the first post-apocalyptic novel, 1826) I can't vouch for any of these titles, but thought if you are reading this blog, you might have similar tastes in books.


Friday, May 22, 2020

Evangelism as Exiles by Elliot Clark

As biblical values crumble in our surrounding society, how should Christians respond? The natural reaction is fear, but Elliot Clark writes, Instead of whining and feeling sorry for ourselves because the culture is becoming unrecognizable, Christians should align their vision with that of first-century Christians. If opposition mounts to the place where it can be rightly called persecution, we are called to follow the apostles, who left the Sanhedrin rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering for the disgrace of the name. (Acts 5:41)

In Evangelism as Exiles: Life on Mission as Strangers in Our Own Land, Clark walks the reader through the book of 1 Peter which teaches that suffering and social exclusion are actually the most normal thing in the world…. The Christian in exile is called to embrace the shame and social humiliation that come as a package deal with the cross. We’re to be first and foremost God-pleasers and not man-pleasers.

In Chapter Five he writes about an aspect of Christian living that is often ignored in modern circles – the need for holy lives. Holiness is not only the result of conversion, it’s also an embodied argument in support of the gospel’s veracity. Gospel declaration is linked to life transformation. But in America Christians think the gospel is more credible to others when they see us as most like them. We’ve come to believe that God is most glorified and people are most evangelized when the church is either hip and trendy or when it’s struggling, broken and weakNow is not the time for us to try to make the Christian message fit into the world’s mold. We should keep Christianity weird. And in so doing, we just might reach our neighbors. (!)

As hopes diminish and fears increase, as opponents rise to power and our cultural influence fades, as we become outcasts and even refugees – it’s then, at this very moment, that the church will have an incredible opportunity for the gospel. (This is also one of Rod Dreher's main points in The Benedict Option.) 

Clark offers a lot of food for thought in these pages. Most books about evangelism tend to say, “Do it this way and you’ll have success.” I appreciated Clark’s approach because his own experiences as a missionary in a Muslim country taught him there is no “one-size-fits-all” method. My only quibble is that he emphasizes witnessing out of fear (awe) of God and fear of the other’s eternal damnation. I prefer LOVE as motivation because it overcomes the other fears that Clark so eloquently describes in his book.


Friday, May 15, 2020

The Power of the Blood of Jesus by Andrew Murray

Of my top ten Christian classics, three titles are by Andrew Murray so I was prepared to enjoy The Power of the Blood of Jesus. Still, it was more theologically dense than some of his other books. 

One of Murray’s most helpful insights was on the holiness of God. We often think only of its negative aspect, i.e., that He hates sin. But Murray points out that the positive side of His holiness is that He is good, loves goodness and wants to make us good (holy). Holiness, as we wrongfully understand it, is the priggish keeping of rules. But to Murray Holiness is a disposition in entire agreement with that of God, which chooses in all things to will as God wills. It is nothing more than oneness with God, effected by intimacy with Him.   

Chapter 8 had a helpful explanation of Christ’s words in John 6:53 (“Drink my blood”). It’s hard enough to wrap our modern sensibilities around the idea of being “washed in the blood,” but the admonition to drink it is mind-boggling. Murray simplifies the idea by using water as an example. Water cleanses outwardly, but to be life-giving, it must be imbibed. Without drinking the blood of the Son of God – i.e., without hearty appropriation of it – eternal life cannot be obtained. Not only must the blood do something for us by placing us in a new relationship with God (forgiveness), but it must also do something in us (cleansing), entirely renewing us within.

He who “drinks” the blood of Jesus, receives Christ’s eternal, abundant life into himself. Only as we allow Him to fill us with Himself can we live the Christian life. This is the resounding theme of all of Murray’s books - the fruitfulness of a life completely surrendered to Christ.

If you are new to Murray, I would suggest either Humility (free for Kindle) or The True Vine to introduce you to these important ideas. But if you are ready for something a little meatier, The Power of the Blood of Jesus (free at the moment) will certainly stretch your thinking.  


Friday, May 1, 2020

What I Read and Watched in April

Though I'm still in a stress-induced brain fog, I managed to read several classics this month. I tried to listen to an audio version of Bambi, but disliked it so much that I gave it up halfway through (review here). My Antonia by Willa Cather, on the other hand, was an excellent audio book. Another book that was surprisingly good was The Best-Loved Poems of Jacqueline Kennedy-Onassis. I read a few poems a day and found consolation in their beauty. Persuasion by Jane Austen was a perfect comfort read.

My Christian non-fiction for the month was Affliction by Edith Schaeffer, which was a solid, sensible look at suffering. (reviewed here) There's never any fluff with Edith Schaeffer.

My biggest disappointment was Rose Daughter by Robin McKinley (reviewed here) because I loved her book, Beauty, so much.

As far as movies go, I watched Across the Pacific with Humphrey Bogart and Mary Astor because I had heard the banter was witty. It was filmed in 1942 and Japanese stereotypes are rampant, but the repartee between the protagonists was perfect. I also watched the 1971 BBC version of Persuasion after reading the book. The hairstyles and dress were dated, but I thought the actress who played Anne was lovely. She was beautiful but had lost the bloom of youth (just as Anne is described in the novel).

We watched the first season of VidAngel's series on the life of Christ called The Chosen. My husband and I are such biblical purists that we thought we'd hate it. But it was actually very well done and we enjoyed it. I liked the series, but I LOVED the pilot, The Shepherd, which is available on YouTube.

Did you have a favorite book or movie this month?