As Kingfishers Catch Fire by Eugene Peterson

“Sixty years ago I found myself distracted,” Peterson writes. “A chasm had developed between the way I was preaching from the pulpit and my deepest convictions on what it meant to be a pastor.”

This was the beginning of Peterson’s journey to live, preach, and teach a life of congruence; no more separation between Sunday religion and daily living.

As Kingfishers Catch Fire is a collection of forty-nine sermons Peterson first preached at Christ Our King Presbyterian Church during nearly 30 years as their pastor (1962 – 1991). The sermons are divided into seven groups of seven.

  • Preaching in the company of Moses (Law)
  • Preaching in the company of David (Psalms)
  • Preaching in the company of Isaiah (Prophets)
  • Preaching in the company of Solomon (Wisdom Literature)
  • Preaching in the company of Peter (Gospels)
  • Preaching in the company of Paul (Epistles)
  • Preaching in the company of John (Johannine Literature)

The result is a collection of sermons or teachings that brings God’s Word into our daily lives to inform how we should, and by God’s grace can, live.

There is no doubt that Peterson is an excellence writer. His familiarity with the Bible is evident. He is a masterful storyteller. He paints pictures of everyday life lived in a real world on a canvas of God’s Word.

I would recommend this book primarily to pastors and preachers. Even though it is a book of sermons, it will probably challenge you personally more than it will become a mine for material. As always, the book should be read prayerfully and thoughtfully.

*I received a free review copy from bloggingforbooks.com in exchange for my personal, unbiased review.

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Going Deep: Book Review

“The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people.” – Richard Foster

Teaching and training are, and always had been, important keys to revival. However, these important aspects are often overlooked or given a back seat to the charismatic sermon or new program. Why? Because teaching and training are difficult and time-consuming. It takes hours of hard work and dedication; not to mention patience.

“Disciples [deep people] are not manufactured wholesale. They are produced on by one, because someone has taken the pains to discipline, to instruct, and enlighten, to nurture and train one that is younger.” – Oswald Chambers

When we look at the ministry of Jesus Christ on this earth, we see that Jesus method was teaching and training. For many months, the Lords’s disciples watched Him, listened to Him, and tried to emulate Him. It took time and effort and a handful of failures, but eventually the Word, the Gospel, the message of Jesus, and the power of the Holy Spirit finally reached the core of their souls, and were changed to change the world.

In Going Deep, Gordon MacDonald explores how the Church might go about developing deep people today. This book is a follow-up to his story of a New England congregation struggling with unity, Who Stole My Church. In this sequel, the author picks the story back up, focusing this time on cultivation: how to develop new generations of deepening people who will rise to positions of influence in and beyond their congregation and do it in ways that fit the changing realities of our time.

In his celebrated style, Gordon transports the reader to a fictional setting, telling a story that is full of lessons in leadership. He identifies modern challenges to developing people of depth and offers timeless insight on how to cultivate spiritual maturity and exhibit life-altering faith.

I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in fulfilling 2 Timothy 2:2. “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.”

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.combook review bloggers program. 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: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Thoughts on Hamlet’s Blackberry

Take the crowd with you!

That seems to be one of the goals of our hyper-connected lives. Our thinking is increasingly outward as we retreat from “the few and the near”* and immerse ourselves in the “many and the far.”* The changes that have occurred in society and in the individual as a result of the Social Revolution are truly life altering; for better or for worse. With these changes, new questions arise. “The [ultimate] question is whether the hyper-connected life is taking us where we want to go.”*

In his book, Hamlet’s Blackberry, William Powers uncovers two issues which every person involved in education of any kind (from parents to professors) must consider. The first issue is one of depth. We have never had more options for depth. “Everything that happens to us all day long, every sight and sound, every personal encounter, every thought that crosses our minds is a candidate for depth.”* The problem is that depth takes time. Depth requires us to look inward, rather than outward. Depth requires focused thought. All of these require disconnecting from the constant stimulation of a hyper-connected life. As educators, it is imperative that we utilize these wonderful new technologies to encourage depth rather than shallow busyness if meaningful learning is to take place.

The second issue concerns how people learn. It is fascinating to watch the unfolding of a post-literate society.** With Gutenburg’s invention of the printing press, learning was drastically changed as people began to think in a linear, objective manner which fostered individualism. However, “mass electronic media work on us in a different way from print, those technologies were creating a new person whose mind was less linear and individualistic, more group-oriented.”* The most advanced societies are quickly reverting to become oral-learning cultures. The question for educators of every kind is, How will we adjust our means and methods to educate in a post-literate world?

I would encourage every educator, especially those involved in teaching the Word of God to consider these two issues. Although, you may have to disconnect for a while! I highly recommend Hamlet’s Blackberry for more reading on these and other issues that arise as a result of our ever-increasing connectivity.

*Quotes taken from Hamlet’s Blackberry by William Powers
**A society that prefers to learn through oral and visual means rather than through reading and writing.

Walls and Gatekeepers

In ancient China the people wanted security against the barbaric hordes to the north, so they built the great wall.  It was so high they believed no one could climb over it and so thick nothing could break it down.  They settled back to enjoy their security.  During the first hundred years of the wall’s existence, China was invaded three times.  Not once did the barbaric hordes break down the wall or climb over it.  Each time they bribed a gatekeeper and then marched right through the gates.  The Chinese were so busy relying on walls of stone they forgot to teach integrity to their children. (Developing the Leader Within You – John Maxwell)

Photo by Joe.China

Walls are only as strong as their gates.  Gates are only as strong as their keepers.

Walls serve a significant purpose, but they are useless if the gatekeepers don’t understand and uphold their purpose.

Build strong walls but don’t forget to teach people why the walls are important!

One Generation From Extinction

Former President Ronald Reagan on Freedom:  “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.”

There is quite a bit packed into those three sentences!  Each generation enjoys the fruits of the generation preceding them, yet each generation must determine the value of that fruit and the cost of its seed if it is to last.  This is not just true of freedom, it is also true of the Truth.

Photo by psychbird

Just like freedom, Truth is always one generation from extinction!  (Caveat: Truth will prevail and God will always have a Church, I am applying this to a particular group whether that be church, family, etc.) 

There were 10 generation from Adam to Noah (Genesis 5).  However, there was only 1 living generation separating the two!  Noah’s father, Lamech, would have been 58 when Adam died.  It is very likely that Noah’s father spent time with the man who walked in the garden with God.  Afterall, Adam was his Great, Great, Great, Great, Great, Great Grandfather.  Yet one (living) generation later, Noah is the only man found righteous in God’s eyes!

Judges 2:7,10  “And the people served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great works of the LORD, that he did for Israel… and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the LORD, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel.”

This is another startling example!  The generation of elders had witnessed all the miracles.  They were there when God made passage through the Jordan River.  They were there when the Jericho walls came crashing down.  They were there when Joshua prayed and the sun stood still.  But the generation after them did not personally know of these great miracles, let alone the God who did them.

We must diligently pass this Truth on to the next generation! (Deut. 6)

Christianity vs Truth! What?

There is a troubling trend in Christianity today.  Sometimes it is blatantly and brazenly professed and sometimes it comes incognito, made to look like worship.  It is a belief that truth cannot be known.  We can’t really understand anything about Scripture or about God.  As I mentioned some preach (I hesitate to call what they do preaching) this from their platforms whether it be sermons, books, or blogs.  And others try to pass it off as worship, “God is so great and wonderful!  We can’t possibly understand or even really know Him!”

Wait a second!  Christianity is ALL ABOUT TRUTH!  Truth is knowable.  In fact, God WANTS us to KNOW.  That is the purpose of His Word.  Scripture is the measure, the standard, and the TRUTH.  It is God’s all-sufficient, complete, and unchangeable guide and gift for His people.  And while it is true that we cannot fully comprehend God, for His ways are higher than our ways, there is a lot that we CAN know.  He has revealed it to us through His Word.  Yet knowledge of the Bible ranks pretty low, even among “born again” believers.  The preaching and teaching of Bible Truths is disappearing from many churches and is being replaced by entertaining speeches.  The love of God’s Word is waning in the hearts of His people.

There are many that believe that the authority of God functions separately from written Scripture.  They believe that Scripture cannot be fully authoritative at the level of its functioning in the life of the Church today.  There is a dismissal of the importance of doctrine and the assumption that it is neither central, nor important in the lives of the post-modern day Christian.  As a result, we have a lot of murmuring and complaining about Truth, and a lot of shouting and rejoicing about many other subjects.  The Christian Church is distracted!

We have to get back to Bible Teaching and Bible Preaching.  People, our pastors should not have to worry about us getting bored or anxious to leave when they begin teaching us Biblical Truths.  We need to encourage them to teach to us and preach to us, like never before, the Truth of God’s Word.

We need to embrace God’s Word, embrace God’s Truth, and embrace the One at the center of its message.

Without Truth, there is no Christianity!

For more on this, I suggest David Well’s The Courage to be Protestant  from which most of these thoughts were inspired.

What Do You Have To Say About Truth?  Don’t Lie!