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/

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: Jesus, My Father, The CIA, and Me by Ian Morgan Cron


I have to say I was very excited to read this book.  Ian Cron wrote a book I reviewed earlier in the year entitled Chasing Francis, and I enjoyed his style thoroughly – I even gave the book a good review.  But the further I got into this book the more disappointed I became.

Perhaps it was my expectation from the title, but with “Jesus” as the first word I thought Jesus would play a bigger role in the book.  But I was sadly mistaken.  The book focused on the life of Ian as he grew up with an alcoholic father.  This is a story many people relate to and many books are written about, though what sets it apart for Ian is that his father works on-and-off for the CIA.  But Jesus?  He figures as a minor role in the story at best (let’s be honest – after reading the book I think his Nanny may have had a bigger influence on him that Christ), quite different than what I expected.

The writing was whimsical and I found myself laughing so hard in spots I cried, and if I was reading just any old autobiography of any person who was not claiming to be a Christian and who didn’t include the word “Jesus” in the title I would have given this book 5/5 stars – it was that enjoyable to read.  But I was looking for more spiritual insight, more discussion regarding how Ian found Christ and how that experience changed – neigh, transformed – his life.  But what I experienced were some passing references to Christ.  It gave me a greater understanding of what it must have been like to live with an alcoholic, spy father, but it in no way drew me closer to the cross.

So, regrettably, I have to give this book only 1/5 stars.

Book Review: While the World Watched by Carolyn Maull McKinstry


While the World Watched tells the story of the 1963 church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama that acted as a spark to ignite the Civil Rights movement.  It is a gripping story of one of the teenage survivors of the bombing who lost four of her friends.  Through the book she traces her journey as a black woman of the South in from the 1960s to the the present day.  The overall theme of the book is the power of love and forgiveness over hate and death.  It’s one of those rare books I had a hard time putting down (even when I was having trouble staying away because of the late hour at which I often read it!)

One of my favorite parts of the entire book was that throughout the chapters were excerpts of speeches by civil rights activists such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and even President Kennedy.  At the end of the book was a brief appendix with actual Jim Crow Laws listed.  I’ll say that much of what was in the book was new to me.  Over my years in education I often commented to my history teachers and professors that we don’t teach recent history in school – I was always lucky to get to WWII, yet alone anything post-WWII in school.  So while I obviously know of the Civil Rights movement and am familiar with many of the figures of it, this was the first time I read in detail anything about it.  For a white man who grew up in the North it gave me a much better appreciation for the struggle faced by black Americans over the last half-century.

I would give the book five out of five stars, but there were times I struggled with following the storyline because it didn’t always tell it chronologically – and so at times I had to go back and re-read a few pages because I got confused when the timeline switched.  That minor frustration, though, (and it was minor) is my only complaint.  I’ll give it a solid 4.5/5 stars.

I received this book free from Tyndale Publishers as part of their Blogger Review 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 Commision’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”