Citizen by Rob Peabody


Citizen was a refreshing look at what it means to walk as a follower of Jesus.  Peabody directly confronts the me-centered religion that many modern Americans substitute for authentic Christianity.  Having moved from Texas as a pastor in a mega-church, Peabody ended up in London reaching the lost in a post-Christian culture.

While there were many quotes in the book that gave challenged me, perhaps this is the one that spoke most to me:

Back to our earlier statement: citizens of the Kingdom should be the most risk-taking people on the planet.  Why, you ask?  Because we have absolutely nothing to lose.  Citizen, this is your reality: you died with Jesus and were buried with Him.  You were united with Him in His death, and therefore you have already died, and there is no fear of death for people who have already died.  Death has already been dealt with.  What is the worst that can now happen to you? (p. 98-99)

The book challenges us as followers of Jesus to re-examine what it means to live as members of the Kingdom of God, as citizens from one world who live in this one.  And it’s not an easy challenge to ignore.  Peabody doesn’t simply remind us of what scripture calls us to, he models for us what it means to live that way and shares his experiences with us.  While reading the book I found myself not only challenged to live differently but also longing to meet the challenge; it wasn’t just an intellectual challenge but one that tugged at my heart and I found myself changing how I view my own interactions with people now.

One thing I particularly appreciated about the book was the amount of time Peabody spent reminding me of my identity in Christ and his focus on the community of believers, and his application of these truths to my own life; Peabody makes clear that living as a citizen of heaven is the right (and responsibility) of every believer – not just those in professional ministry.  Over the past year, in particular, I’ve been focused on trying to understand and experience what it is to live in community with other believers – both from my own church and from other churches.  Peabody’s words paralleled, in many ways, what I have been learning this year on these two topics.  Read Peabody’s words, again:

The gospel in no way supports a ‘sacred’ and ‘secular’ distinction.  In fact, the gospel message is exactly the opposite.  Jesus died, and the veil separating the ‘Holy of Holies’ from the common area in the Temple was torn…The gospel is a proclamation that no longer is there a divide between ‘sacred’ and ‘secular’.  Jesus infiltrates all your life and desires to penetrate every sphere in which you are active.  Therefore, Christianity is not simply a set of beliefs to adhere to in order to save your individual soul and escape the world at death or the rapture, but is actually a new way of seeing (and experiencing) everything in the world.

Are we artists, baristas, teachers, electricians, engineers, students, or factory workers who also just happen to be citizens of the Kingdom?  Or are we, first of all, citizens of the Kingdom who happen to serve vocationally in these ways?

Our baseline for living has been changed to a Kingdom baseline.  The gospel and the Father’s Kingdom are now the foundations for the citizen, and all of our other loyalties are to be viewed through this lens.  When this lens is used, we can clearly see that a job as a banker can be just as glorifying to God and just as Kingdom-focused as the life of a missionary out witnessing every day.  For the citizen, it is about who you are and how you live, not about your title or job description.

If that touches your soul, challenges your heart, and draws you in so that you find yourself wanting more, wanting to say, “That’s how I want to live!”, then I would strongly recommend you purchase Citizen and start reading it.  I’m giving this book 5/5 stars.

For the record, I did receive a free copy of the book from the publisher in return for an honest (though not necessarily favorable) review.  For more information on the book, or the ministry of which Peabody is associated, visit http://www.citizenthebook.com/

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Thrive: Live Like You Matter


Written by Lisa Toomey and published by Abingdon Press, Thrive: Live Like You Mean It is a book about living the abundant life Jesus promised in John and that Solomon talked about in Proverbs.

9781426756962

I’ll be honest and say that when I first started reading the book I was a little nervous.  At the outset there were times I felt like I was going to read a classic self-help book that fell more inline with the “name it and claim it” prosperity gospel movement than with Biblical Christianity.  It actually started on the second page when I read the statement, “God wants you to have this amazing life where you live life to the fullest and experience the wonder of human existence through the relationships that you have.”  But as I worked through the book I found my concerns were put to rest.  While there are times I wish Thrive had been more overtly focused on allowing Christ to demonstrate his power through us (particularly in the beginning, when the more generic word “God” was used), as the book progressed I saw more and more of Jesus in it.

The title comes from Proverbs 11:28 when Solomon writes, “Those who trust in their riches will fail, but the righteous will thrive like a green leaf.”  And from there the book focuses on answering the question, “What does it mean to be righteous?”  The answer, we find, is in having good (right) relationships – relationships with God, with others, and even with ourself. The next nine chapters then lay out a very practical, understandable plan to develop right relationships, empowering us to live the righteous life, and thereby thrive as the the scriptures talk about.

As I mentioned, I do wish sometimes Christ would have been more forefront – particularly in the beginning of the book.  One example is found in chapter 2, the chapter on integrity.  The first nine pages of the chapter introduce this idea of letting our “yes be yes”, and it talks about it in the context of relationships.  But it isn’t until 11 pages into the chapter that prayer is specifically talked about in the context of finding guidance – but listed before prayer is finding “wise people, whom you trust, and ask for advice,” then we should gather resources, find help, and read wisdom.  It’s not until the next paragraph we’re told, “Take your questions to God.”  It would seem to me that if having a “right relationship with God is the foundation to righteous living” (a quote that comes about four pages later in the chapter), that it would be the first thing we’re told to do, not the fourth or fifth.  Another example of this would be in chapter six where we read, “Having a relationship with God is a good way to seek out the truth…” (emphasis mine); I would argue (and I think scripture would support me) that having a right relationship with God is the only way to seek out and know truth.  It’s little things like this throughout the book that jumped off the page at me.

So where did I finally become more convinced of the book?  It was the chapter on forgiveness, which I found to be the most profound chapter in the entire book.  Suffice it to say that Lisa clearly pointed to Jesus working in our lives here when she wrote, “We cannot experience the forgiveness of Jesus without having our entire being changed.”  There was literally a change in the book moving forward where Jesus was mentioned more by name – where he was generally absent in the beginning, he was present from about chapter five on (to be fair he was mentioned, but the more generic name “God” was used, one that in our culture can mean many different things).  Later in chapter eight (about hope), it becomes clarified again that we are not doing this alone.  Lisa does a nice job of defining “Hope” in a clear, biblical way that takes it out of the contemporary vernacular where we can “hope for nice weather” on Saturday to having a solid foundation in the creator of the universe to care and provide for us.

Overall, then I’ll give the book a 3.5 our of 5 stars, mainly because I want to see Jesus more front and center – he needs to be explicit, and there needs to be no doubt that living the abundant life Jesus calls us to (the life Solomon says would be an example of thriving) doesn’t always look like we want it to look like; righteousness doesn’t mean people don’t get sick, bills go unpaid, or bad things don’t happen.  Righteousness means that even in the face of these things, we still live the life God has called us to live in Christ, we still practice right relationships with him and others, and we measure “thriving” by a different standard than this world’s standard (the “My ways are not your ways” from Isaiah 55:8).  I think that what I’m saying here was implied in the book, but for me I’d like to see it more explicitly stated.  The book is certainly worth reading (if it weren’t I’d only give it 1 star!), just make sure you are strongly grounded in some of these issues before opening the pages so that you can fully understand it in context.

For the record, I did receive a free copy of the book from the published (Abingdon Press) in exchange for an honest, though not necessarily favorable, review.  I’d also like to once again thank Lisa Toomey, the author, for agreeing to be interviewed by me, which can be read in yesterday’s post.

Book Review: Our Choice by Steven Atwood


Our Choice: A Journey of Life and Faith by Steven Atwood is the story of a teenager in a Christian home confronted with the decision of what to do with an unplanned pregnancy – keep the baby?  Give the baby up for adoption?  Abort?  There are so many choices.

Overall the message of the book is a powerful one – it’s a message of hope, grace,  and redemption – a message we all need to hear.  But overall I found the book lacking in several areas. First, there was the over-use of stereotyping of characters.  The extreme leftist teaches who offer counsel to this teenager, while I know they exist (because I work in the public school system), are an exception rather than the rule.  The book would have you believe, however, that not a single teacher at the school held a genuine concern for either the student or her unborn child.  Then there were the teenagers that jumped from one sexual encounter to the next.  Are teenagers sexually active?  Yes.  Are some as active as the ones described in the book?  Yes.  Are all of them?  No, yet, again, the book would lead you to believe that every teenager is sleeping with multiple partners in a week.   Second, the whole issue of Christians dating non-Christians bothered me.  Believe me, I’m not by any sense suggesting that Christian teens don’t have sex before marriage and suffer serious consequences, but I didn’t understand why the parents of these girls, who seemed to take such an interest in their daughters’ lives, weren’t insisting that they date only Christian boys.  Third, and perhaps the biggest struggle I have with the book in terms of the story, is that the it doesn’t describe life after the baby is born.  Not to minimize the struggles the young girl and her boyfriend experience during the pregnancy, but as difficult as that time was it would have been nothing compared to the impact of what life was like after the baby was born.  Yet it glosses over that part of the story and almost leaves the impression of “happily ever after”.

Finally, there are some major theological misconceptions in the book regarding salvation.  In the chapter “Saved” the book states that one discussion focused on “how Jesus saved everyone from their sins.”  Yet the simple fact, Biblically speaking anyway, is that Jesus did not save everyone from their sins.  Jesus died for the sins of the whole world, but the state the he saved everyone implies a universalism that just isn’t true.  Similarly, the story at one point also states that one character “led the prayer that saved the souls” of another character, yet scripture teaches we are “by grace through faith” not that we are saved by a prayer.  Perhaps this is all semantics, but I believe it’s important semantics because one who doesn’t understand the nature of sin, death, salvation, and live could walk away from reading this story with an incorrect understanding (which could have eternal significance).  Just a couple of sentences after the previous quote one person actually asks the question of herself “How can she save him, too?”  Again, people don’t save people, Jesus saves people.

I honestly can’t imagine that this book would dissuade a young person from becoming sexually active, and neither do I believe it would change one’s beliefs regarding abortion.  As such, and because of all the reasons mentioned above, I can only give this book 1.5/5 stars.

Book Review: Seal of God by Chad Williams


Seal of God chronicles the life of Chad Williams, a Navy Seal who served from 2004-2010 and is now in full-time ministry.  The book is basically Williams’ testimony of how God changed his life.

This was an easy, enjoyable read – a great summer book (I read it in about 6 hours over two days).  The first 2/3’s of the book focus on Williams’ life before Christ got ahold of him, with some extraordinary stories of his life before Christ.  I suppose that was my only criticism of the book: while his transformation was dramatic and incredible, I found myself wondering why I had to read so much to finally find evidence of what God had done in his life.  That’s really the only reason I’m not reviewing this book more highly.  Williams said throughout the book that he was very self-centered and proud of his own accomplishments, and that was clearly echoed in the first 180 pages of the book.  There was a dramatic change after the story of his conversation, but I was just hoping to see that sooner rather than later.

I will report that once the transformation happened in the book it was incredibly dramatic and inspirational.  Perhaps one of the most moving parts to read was when he told the story of the abuse he underwent by others after becoming a Christian – it’s hard to believe behavior like what he chronicled still exists in our country, but I know it does.  It’s also a confirmation that Jesus’ words are true that we will be persecuted for our faith.

In conclusion, I’ll give this book 3/5 stars.  If you’re looking for an inspirational, quick read this summer then check out Seal of God, but don’t be surprised if at times you walk away from it focused more on the author of the book than the Author of Changed Lives.

For the record, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest (though not necessarily favorable) review.