Archive for November, 2012

Organic Outreach For Families
By Kevin & Sherry Harney
Zondervan
A Review By Matthew Boutilier

The concept of organic outreach is based on the conviction that we can share the love, grace, and message of Jesus in ways that feel natural for us, regardless of our personality type, life experience, or skill set, and we can learn to connect with the people around us right where they are.”

If you are like me, you live with a certain level of guilt due to the fact that you aren’t being the Gospel influence in your community the way that you know that should be. Ever wonder how to really make a lasting impact on your neighborhood, your family, where you work, or where you go to school? Feel discouraged that you aren’t really making the impact that you know you should be? Kinda shrink down in your seat as people in your small group are sharing about someone they led to the Lord at work as a result of their witness and influence? This book is for you!

Granted as zealous followers of Jesus Christ who have been so dramatically impacted by the life-changing, heart-transforming, soul-saving Gospel we should have a passion to spread that to those he comes in contact with, right? Then, why don’t we do it? Or, at least, do it more often? We can come up with a whole lot of excuses (I know I just did in writing that last sentence), but God really isn’t interested in our excuses. He is interested in our obedience. And, I appreciate this element of the book that the Harney’s bring out is that they aren’t interested in the reader’s following a program to the letter and implementing it and, viola, instant evangelical success! No, their desire is instead to share how families can just merely be available to share the Gospel.

By being available, I mean that in our hectic, chaotic, “Me-focused” routines, we normally don’t make time to be available. And, what is even more tragic is that we are unintentionally teaching that to our children as a lasting legacy to the next generation. So, the Harney’s took Jesus’ commandment to heart regarding being witnesses to their world. What is so amazing about what they share is their intentionality in slowing down and making themselves available to their neighbors.

The Harney’s share that as believers we should be a lighthouse and an emergency room to our communities. This idea of being a lighthouse and an emergency room is worthy of pause. A safe haven for others. People desperately need to see that having a relationship with Christ actually makes a difference in our lives. It’s not like belonging to a country club or the Mason’s. It’s not something that you “do.” Being available and providing a place for others who are hurting will really make an impact on people. One of the examples that really struck me was this one. Another individual made it a point to reach out to their neighbors by merely just sitting in their front yard. Emphasis on “front.” Normally, we spend our time in the back yard. Yet, this couple focused on their front yard because that is where people in their neighborhood would walk by and they were more available to strike up conversations with them.

Another noteworthy component of the book is their inclusion of testimonials. Their three sons shared real life testimonials of how living in their parents home where this point of view was faithfully lived out influenced and impacted them. It isn’t included for some selfish motivations or to seek applause, but I believe it is included to give the reader an opportunity to see just how fruitful this can be not only to those whom we are witnessing to, but also to our families whom we are training to be the next generation of Gospel-proclaimers. It’s a partnership with our children. Our kids must see us love our neighbors.

What I really took away from this book was the conclusion that it is doable. I didn’t walk away from it with a sick sense of guilt that the author was attempting to sway me that I wasn’t doing my duty; shame on me. No, I received the impression that the authors really had a passion for reaching their neighbors with the Gospel and that they wanted others to join them in impacting their neighbors.

Here is a short 2:30 video of Kevin Harney giving a synopsis of the book and how he hopes it will impact and influence others as they desire to be a lighthouse and island of refuge for their neighbors and community.

Kevin Harney description video

I would like to extend my gratitude to Cross-Focused Media for the free copy of the book for me to offer this unbiased, balanced review as well as Zondervan Publishing.

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Accidental Pharisees
By Larry Osborne
Zondervan Publishers
A Review By Matthew Boutilier

Spiritual arrogance is not a back-of-the-line sin, it’s a front-of-the-line sin. So much so that sometimes I think of it as an occupational hazard of zealous faith, serious discipleship, and biblical scholarship.”

Zealous? Passionate? Intentional? How do you measure up? Better yet, how does the guy sitting in the pew next to you measure up?

Ever look in the mirror? Sure you have. Perhaps thousands of times. Like what you see? Really? Honestly? Larry Osborne in his toe-stepping, punch in the face treatise of the life of an accidental Pharisee will have you doing a double-take in the mirror tomorrow morning (perhaps right now). I guarantee you will notice a few more wrinkles and warts. Evaluation. To be perfectly honest and frank, we are never truly honest and frank, are we? We like what we see because we generally love ourselves. Yet, that really isn’t wrong, per se. I believe that to even be Scriptural. We read in Ephesians 5:29 where Paul says that a person does not hate his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it. We need a biblical definition of the word “love.” In other words, we need to “love” our bodies in the sense that we recognize our body as the temple of the Holy Spirit and we should desire to be a good steward of the resources that God has blessed us with and honor our bodies and never neglect them. Yet, at the same time, we are not to set up ourselves as idols; love in that sense. What Osborne is driving home is not this sort of self-love. No, what he is driving home is this “brood of vipers” (Jesus’ wording, not mine–see Matthew 23:33). What is so interesting is that Jesus during His earthly ministry was the most critical and harsh with the religious leaders of the day because they were supposed to know better. They were supposedly experts in the Torah. And, yes, the Torah is filled with God’s grace, love, and mercy (see Exodus 14, 15; Joshua 2).

Osborne asks us if we have a list. You know, the list that gives us a detailed evaluation of those who are less-than-spiritual than we are? That list is usually comprised with those who do not share the same areas of giftedness that we do. So, we make sport of them for not being as “spiritual” as we are, because if they were, surely they would recognize the need to be doing more than they are in our area of giftedness!

There were some areas where I thought, “Ok, where is Osborne going with this? How is going to steer the cart back on the topic at hand?” Yet, once the wheels were rolling, I began to catch up with his thought-processes. It certainly wasn’t him, it was me. Osborne has that knack. He has that keen ability to draw you into the story and to develop that rapport with you so that you don’t dismiss his discipline, rather, you welcome it. You get the feeling that he isn’t chiding you as a person who has it all together, but as a fellow struggler who is attempting to pull you out of the ditch. For that I am thankful. No use reading about not being a Pharisee by another Pharisee!

There were many areas that I found myself nodding in agreement, and, to quite frank, laughing uncontrollably! I was convicted by many areas where I found myself looking down my Pharisaical nose at those who did not somehow “measure up” to my standards of spiritual maturity. It gave me a healthy reminder that I need to be much more gracious, compassionate, and patient with my brothers and sisters. Indeed, I need to be the beneficiary of that sort of gentleness myself more often than I realize.

One point of contention that I would have with Osborne is that there are points where plays the grace card a little too loosely for my comfort. He mentions that God is a God of grace and love (which I certainly whole-heartedly agree with). For example, in developing an illustration of his point regarding how God is a God of grace and what Jesus requires to be a disciple of His Osborne remarks with the following illustration. He says that Jesus knowingly chose Peter with the complete understanding that he would later deny him. He went out of His way to reach out to doubting Thomas. And, he continues by stating that Jesus promises a lighter, not a heavier load for His disciples to carry. True, very true. But, we also need to read the rest of the story. I agree Jesus does in fact provide us with a lighter load. The Pharisees of the day (and our day as well) pride themselves on the fact that they load their adherents with heavier burdens. For whatever reason, it makes a person more spiritual if they appear to be bearing those burdens (and the heavier, the better) on their own and people witness it. But, my point is, yes, Peter denied Christ. In fact, he did so three times. Just as Jesus told him earlier. Ironically, Peter denied that as well! Thomas. The most famous skeptic in biblical history. Jesus restored him as well. But, when we look back at the story of Peter, in particular, we notice that this isn’t it. Jesus isn’t finished with Peter yet. Jesus didn’t just leave Peter where he was. Following the life-transforming, Spirit-empowering experience that occurred at Pentecost, Peter was literally a changed man (Acts 2). In fact he was martyred for his faith.

Overall, I believe Osborne gives a well-balanced, very helpful instruction in this much-needed area of spiritual arrogance. I believe that this was an ideal environment and platter in which to have it served as well. Osborne comes across as a down-to-earth fellow hiker who has come across a dark, jagged path you are approaching. He offers some good alternate routes as well as sound, biblical counsel to keep you from running down the wrong trail. It sure has sharpened my eyes. Hope it sharpens yours too…

Take a minute or two to check out the interview with Larry Osborne here:

Or, to check out the official trailer for the book here:

I would like to extend my gratitude to Cross-Focused Media for the free copy of the book for me to offer this unbiased, balanced review as well as Zondervan Publishing.

Christ and The Desert Tabernacle
By J.V. Fesko
EP Books
A Review By Matthew Boutilier

There is a lot of depth of meaning to the old cliche, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” I would surmise it say that even mental pictures that a good author can paint can be even more so. Ever wonder why so much ink is spilled describing the Tabernacle in the Old Testament? Why so much attention to detail is given to the furniture within? What about the priestly garb? Do any of these things have any bearing on our relationship to the Lord today? If so, what? These questions and many more that we may have failed to come up with, Fesko brings out in his small treatise on the significance of the Tabernacle…as a visible representation of the heavenly Tabernacle.

Fesko goes the distance in describing for us the intricate details laid out regarding the structure of the physical tabernacle as well as its furnishings. He then describes the garments of the priests. He then goes on to help the reader understand the significance and symbolism behind each. He reminds us that these details were not insignificant, but that there is in fact a profound reason for each intimate detail. They are to help bring to focus that God is in the camp! God is with us! God is a holy God. I believe Fesko does a great job most of the time as he ties in the Old Testament with the New Testament. He helps to remind us of the fact that the Old Testametn priesthood and the Tabernacle are in fact types that are to recall Christ, yet, there are of course significant differences. For example, yes, the Aaronic priesthood serve to represent sinful man before a holy God. But, being that the priests, although called out by God, still were very limited in that they were still in fact man. Jesus Christ, on the other hand, the Perfect High Priest, was not limited by this. Jesus, was of course 100% man, yet without sin, was also 100% God. Whereas the Aaronic priests had to continually prepare and offer up sin offerings for the people he represented a well as himself in order to meet God and represent the people. Jesus by His perfect, once-for-all sacrifice on the Cross to offer redemption for the world, only needed to perform this once. It was perfect; complete. God the Father was completely satisfied (propitiated) by this obedient, voluntary act of grace. Not only did Christ not need to offer a sacrifice for His own sins as the priests needed to because He was without sin, but His sacrifice actually brought about true forgiveness of sins. And with that, whereby a believer is free from the guilt of sin, one is also imputed the righteousness of Christ, the Perfect High Priest and has the potential of living a life which is pleasing to God. Fesko gives us the picture then of the holy garments that were to be worn by the priests of this holiness; of this righteousness.

Another key strength of the book would be the fact of how Fesko gives us some understanding of the figures of speech in which the biblical writers use during this point in history. Such as, “being clothed in righteousness.” We can gain a deeper, more lucid understanding of what this may involve once we recognize what the priestly garments were to represent. When we observe New Testament writers utilizing this figure of speech and we have an understanding of this background, it makes the passages much more meaningful and imprints a deep, profound picture into our memory banks.

Another major strength of the book that I need to point out is this one. Even though there may some points that are stretched a little thin, Fesko does everything to point all things to Christ. I believe that this is a key area that is missing from our pulpits today. We focus on unmet needs, emotional battles, financial struggles, parenting issues, but we fail to offer people the cure for the disease. In fact, too often, we fail to properly diagnose the disease. I believe many of us could take a cue from this aspect of the book.

One of the major weaknesses of the book would be that there are some swooping conclusions that the author makes as he attempts to reconcile the symbolism of what he is describing without the necessary support from Scripture, or even a logical argumentation. I believe that is quite necessary especially in light of the terms he is defining for us in the book. Although Fesko does come up with some relatively logical conclusions regarding the “whys” and connecting the dots in his applaudable attempts to explain how the Tabernacle and the intricate details of its construction point to a typological tie in with Christ, there are times in which he seems to be a little too overzealous in his labors to force square pegs in round holes.

With that said, I also feel as though there are other descriptions by which the author does a great job helping us to see the logical meaning in which the original authors of Scripture were attempting to illustrate for us. A good example would be in contrasting the major differences between the Aaronic priesthood and the priesthood of Christ as he utilized Hebrews 5:1-3 as a foundation to support the better and more complete priesthood of Christ.

Overall, I believe this could prove to be a good resource to encourage us to recognize the major points and purposes of Scripture: pointing us to Christ. Taking a leisurely tour of the Tabernacle and the intricate details that the Lord gave regarding its construction, the dedication of the priests, and even the attire they were to wear, as well as the sacrifices, incense, and the Sabbath, forces one to pause to reflect with humble gratitude and thanksgiving as to how this mirrors the heavenly Tabernacle and most importantly, the great High Priest and the perfect sacrifice that He offered on our behalf.
I would like to thank Cross-Focused Media and EP Books for providing me with a free copy of the book for an unbiased review.