Building Up the Body of Christ

March 30, 2013
by Dave Ketter

[Re]view: The Sacred Search by Gary Thomas

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I read The Sacred Search by Gary Thomas. I had grown up in the world of I Kissed Dating Goodbye and Boy Meets Girl with some over-macho’d clips from Mark Driscoll thrown in when I got to college. I tried the courtship thing…twice (sorta). It was enough to disillusion me of the dream-world promised with it. Courtship, as such, didn’t seem worth it.

And part of that was realizing that the principle flaw of that approach is over-thinking it. This means that those who are by nature introspective are doomed, and those who aren’t feel lost, and neither is going to be happy with it very easily. So, in the interest of full-disclosure, I requested this book for review because I was looking for some other way that people could deal with the issue of Christian marriage (besides talking to my pastor. He has some great thoughts on this stuff and I wish he’d write a book so other people could benefit from it, but he’s rather busy).

Thomas does a great job with this book in telling people WHY not to marry, and suggesting that our problem in our American evangelical culture is we spend too much time talking about WHO not to marry. That point is money, and I’m glad Thomas spends as much space in the book discussing it as he does, because we need the chance to sit in that mindset for a little while, and realize we’ve been over-thinking it. Thomas also offers several more practical suggestions about thinking things through with your significant other (taking the time to be honest about what you want in a partner, what your priorities are, and where you are hoping to go in five years, ten years, etc.). It’s so easy, as Thomas points out, to let infatuation carry you through the first year and half to two years of your relationship, but when infatuation fades out…what are you left with?

That said, I do think Thomas spends too much effort on dotting his i’s and crossing his t’s when it comes to the moral nature of Christian marriage. While divorce is a very serious issue, I’m not sure that a book about finding someone to marry is the place to address it. I’m also not convinced that’s the place to talk about your views of gender roles in Christian marriage (as an aside, I appreciate that Thomas does say that you need to talk about these things with your girlfriend/boyfriend, because if you don’t agree on what your roles are in marriage, you shouldn’t get married). But in all things, it seems that the moral aspects of Christian marriage and working towards Christian marriage would be helped more by the power of the radical grace of Jesus than by boundaries and “helpful tips to guard yourself.”

Sacred Search is a worthwhile and even helpful read, but remember it isn’t a promise, and it isn’t The Manual for Getting Married. It’s a tool, and for those trying to think outside of the courtship mindset, I would definitely suggest it as your way out.

November 24, 2012
by Dave Ketter

Why I Believe I’m Called to Ordained Ministry

So, I never expected to actually write a defense of why I believe I’m called to ordained ministry (as illustrated by the relatively unimaginative title of this post). Neither did I expect it to be public. The more I talk with folks I know, however, the more I find that this post may actually be necessary– not really for me to defend myself– in order to keep the conversations about calling, ordination and other related things clear. So, without further ado, here’s the list. I’m happy to elaborate on any number of things here, either in conversation or writing.

  1. Jesus called me. I can’t put it any simpler than that. At the core of my sense of calling is an experience with Jesus that has defined me not only as an adopted son of the Father, a co-heir with Christ empowered by the Spirit, but also as someone called to serve all others who share in this redemption. Passages that the Lord has used specifically to speak to me are Jeremiah 1:4-10, Ephesians 4:1-161 Timothy 4, 2 Timothy 4:1-5.
  2. Others confronted me. All the way through my first semester of college, I had a lifetime of running from a call to ministry. Despite the way the Lord had positioned me to be developed in my faith, to be equipped with His Word, and a passionate awareness of what Jesus had done for me, I wanted anything else: lawyer, author, activist, and even seminary professor. Patiently and lovingly, family members, pastors, and other prophetic voices spoke into my life the call that they could see. My resistance was, I thought, well-grounded. Pastors were supposed to be people who loved their brothers and sisters in Christ, to empathize with them in their weakness, and approach the cross together to be renewed by the finished work of Jesus. But the continual challenges from those who had known me most of my life made me desperate for a resolution to the issue. I told the Lord, “Either You change my heart, or shut them up!” Apart from my conversion, this work that the Lord did in my heart at that moment is what I consider to be one of the preeminent miracles of God in my life…my heart had been changed. If the Lord was willing to do that to me, and confirm the words of those around me, how could I resist that anymore? At that critical moment, Pastor Robert Owen confirmed it all for me. Since then, pastors and mentors have continued to confirm with their own prophetic insights, and discipleship (I could write an entire post just with these words).
  3. My passions and gifts don’t fit together anywhere else. Through college, a number of acquaintances picked up that I have an ability to teach– to understand and communicate specific subjects so that people are able to benefit spiritually and grow in their knowledge and love for Jesus. Because of this, they all uniformly suggested I pursue a career in academia and be a professor. But what they rarely picked up on initially was that I didn’t have much of a care (or capacity) for the minutiae of academia: writing syllabi, giving lectures, grading papers and exams, tutoring students, etc. were all things I could do at a level of mediocrity. But I spent more time and had more effect on people in equipping them for their own ministries outside of the subject being taught. Over the years, as uniformly as these acquaintances have suggested a path to academia, they have changed their minds and affirmed my pursuit of ordained ministry– or at least, to not be an academic. My gifts may be primarily developmental and instructive (prophetic and teaching gifts tend to be that way), but my passions for their effects are summarized in the word of one of my heroes in ministry: “So tell them [about Jesus]. Baptize them. Give them communion. Pray that the Holy Spirit will baptize them. Send them to share that news with everybody else.” These tasks, these loves, and these gifts only meet in the context of ordained ministry.”

That’s the shortest that I can summarize it, but it is as honest and open as I can be without writing an extended essay (which I think is unnecessary). I ask for your prayers, your encouragement and challenges as I seek to do what Jesus has called me to.

July 12, 2012
by Dave Ketter

[Re]View: Surfing for God by Michael John Cusick

Michael John Cusick’s Surfing for God: Discovering the Divine Desire Beneath Sexual Desire is a most-needed voice in a Church in America that is torn to pieces by the devastations of pornography, infidelity, sexual abuse and every sort of sexual immorality. Where the dominant spirit of the age has been to urge men to “Buck up. Be honest. Control yourself. You should be ashamed of yourself” without any regard to the Gospel itself, Cusick writes to remind men about the Gospel, and what it means for their sexuality as men, their call to purity, and a life that honors Jesus. He works through what sexual struggle is really about (not sex), why it clings so close to us (we’re broken), what Jesus has to say to us (a lot), and how these all come together for the wholeness that Christ died to bring us with Himself.

Growing up as I did in the evangelical sub-culture, I’m very familiar with books, conferences and websites that urge young Christian men to purity and abstinence outside of marriage. I’ve heard of every accountability method and program to overcome lustful passions available – and I’ve been party to a number of them in one way or another. But Cusick’s judgment on these is right: they aren’t about the Gospel. They make the work of purity a works righteousness. He challenges us to see the idols in our lives, to see the broken places in our lives, the enemies that hold us, and how the work of Jesus resolves all of them. Cusick weaves Scriptural teaching, life experience, and pastoral wisdom together to draw men into a story of redeemed sexuality that is bigger than any individual man: the story of oneness with God. And that’s the story every disciple should be part of. I completely, unreservedly recommend Surfing for God as a must-read for your youth, youth workers, college students, parents and pastors.

June 13, 2012
by Dave Ketter

[Re]view: Empty Promises by Pete Wilson

Idolatry is on a lot of folks’ radar these days. Tim Keller writes and preaches about it. Mark Driscoll rants about it. Now Pete Wilson writes about it– skillfully, I might add. In Empty Promises: The Truth About You, Your Desires, and the Lies You’re Believing, Pastor Pete Wilson looks at some of the deepest outlets for human idolatry: achievement, approval, power, money, legalism, beauty, and ambition. Wilson clearly lays out the universal problem of human idolatry and how our idols fundamentally fail to save, to redeem…fail to fulfill their most basic promises. He concludes by directing us again and again toward the faithfulness of God and the life of true worship.

Wilson, overall, does a fantastic job in this book. It’s an insightful book that helps the reader probe and do an appropriate level of introspection to identify areas of idolatry in their life. He also doesn’t allow the reader to despair about sin or look at their situation as hopeless, but again and again directs the reader toward Jesus’ work in the cross. One thing that would have been helpful, though, is instead of “Religion Lies” as a chapter, to appropriately speak of it as “Legalism Lies.” Religion is a favorite whipping boy in our postmodern era, but it is legalism, not religion or tradition that distracts us from Jesus and what he’s called us to do. Beyond that, this book comes fully-recommended.

June 2, 2012
by Dave Ketter

You Know Nothing, Jon Snow

I’ve been reading George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire lately. It’s a compelling saga…with some graphic content that it could do without, but overall an interesting story with many things that inspire thought, reflection, and generally serve as good art ought to. One of the common refrains that emerges in the life of one of the characters is the taunt and reminder of a captor and friend, “You know nothing, Jon Snow!” While I could probably give a decent essay on how significant that statement is throughout the series, and look at how pivotal it is for the character of Jon Snow, I have to be honest and say that it’s had its own effect on me as a reader. Continue Reading →

March 27, 2012
by Dave Ketter

[Re]view: Healing is a Choice by Steve Arterburn

I was skeptical when I requested Healing is a Choice: 10 Decisions That Will Transform Your Life and 10 Lies That Can Prevent You From Making Them. I’ve grown up in the American Christian milieu that sometimes promises things that seem to go beyond what God promises in Scripture: “If you have enough faith…” or “If you claim it in the name of Jesus…” or even “If you tithe faithfully, are obedient, and confess all your sins…” The other side of the spectrum usually as skeptical of God’s intervention as agnostics and atheists, and relies instead on human knowledge and wisdom. Steven Arterburn goes to neither extreme, but seeks to provide a Biblical understanding of healing that those who are Christians can benefit from.

In this he mostly succeeds. Of the books that would be compared to this book by genre, interest, etc., Arterburn has a tremendous amount of helpful biblical material. He offers hope to Christians who are experiencing physical, emotional, spiritual and relational brokenness that need the restorative power of a God who lovingly intervenes. Sometimes he promises too much. Sometimes he goes off into a psychological wonder-land, but for the most part, the material is helpful, reflective, and beneficial.

March 12, 2012
by Dave Ketter
1 Comment

[Re]view: Proverbs Reconstructed by Gus Dallas

Being in a class this semester on “The Writings”, and having my term paper include an exegesis from Proverbs, I was looking forward to what insights this book might have to offer into the proverbial mindset. The goal of the book, as expressed in the preface is to provide a gateway to understanding and remembering the proverbs in a way that suits the more topic-based orientation our 21st century thinking process.

As it happens, the best part of the book is the preface, where you find a nice summary of contemporary scholarship on Proverbs. It’s generally helpful and sets Proverbs nicely in its ancient near eastern context. Afterword, all the Proverbs are systematically ripped from their original contexts, and organized according to topics that are seemingly organized by every noun Proverbs has to offer (for instance, there’s a section for all occurrences of “bear” in Proverbs). There is no question that Proverbs sometimes reads haphazardly, but there is an organizational logic and integrity to the book, and that unfortunately has not been recognized by Dallas in this work. It would have been better titled “Proverbs Deconstructed.”

Rather than insights into the wisdom literature of Scripture, and how one can skillfully navigate within the created order in the fear of God, we are left with a list of pithy statements that more closely resembles William Bennett’s Book of Virtues than it does the biblical canon. If you want to understand Proverbs, identify a good commentary and work through it slowly, prayerfully, and confidently (Bruce Waltke has produced an excellent commentary on Proverbs).

March 6, 2012
by Dave Ketter

[Re]call: Baptism and Church Commitments

The Gospel Coalition is featuring a “three-day forum” on the topic of baptism and church membership. All involved are convinced that baptism is required in faithful Christian living. In this, they are correct. According to James Hamilton and Michael Horton, however, this even goes so far as to demand that credo-baptists (those who baptize only after a profession of faith) and paedo-baptists (those who baptize both those who profess faith and their children) to exclude one another from full communion. For both, this is expressed as a fundamental matter of obedience to the Lord Jesus. If credo-baptists and paedo-baptists are to maintain their integrity in what they regard as faithfulness (and what they regard as sinfulness), they believe they must treat each other, very lovingly, as schismatic.

But wait! They still believe that can cooperate for the Gospel! That’s not the behavior of schism, right? We can’t recognize their baptisms (or lack of) as valid and can’t allow them to receive the Lord’s Supper together with us, but  we can still be the Church!

Right. No. It doesn’t work like that.

Continue Reading →

March 1, 2012
by Dave Ketter

[Re]view: The Voice NT [Revised]

I first reviewed The Voice New Testament two years ago. When I was offered the opportunity to look at the revised update, I jumped at the chance. With its screenplay format, in-text commentary and clarifying remarks, The Voice provides a fresh reading of the Scriptures in English that convey both the broader theological narrative of Scripture (Messiah as Liberating King, for example) and the unique voices of each of the Scriptural authors (Matthew and Luke are not only different in some content, but also in style, and The Voice conveys that very effectively).

It’s greatest strength is also it’s greatest weakness. While commentary and explanation are present in-text and that makes them unavoidable for the reader, it also requires the reader to be attentive to what is commentary and study note, and what is translation. Special formatting (emboldened and italicized types) is very helpful, and the approach here is similar to ancient manuscripts where scribal notes and comments were more integrated with the Scriptural text itself. My recommendation now is the same as it was two years ago: this is an excellent resource in reading and understanding the Scriptures, but should not be your primary study Bible.

November 26, 2011
by Dave Ketter

[Re]view: Primal by Mark Batterson

“We’ve gotten away from the New Testament pattern.” “I’m tired of human traditions.” “My church just doesn’t feel right to me.” These are words that escape the lips of far too many people in American churches today. They find fault with the liturgies, teachings, and practices that are present, or are noticeably absent, from their churches. What they’re too often unwilling to consider, though, is that the problem isn’t fundamentally with the denomination, tradition, or the leadership as such. The fundamental problem is us. Churches have no soul because we have no soul. In Primal: the Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity, Mark Batterson seeks to address that very thing.

The book is written as an extended exegesis of the Church, the culture, and the work of Jesus through the lens of the Great Commandment. Batterson writes to explore what it would mean for us to love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. The fundamental problem of our slack obedience and bitter squabbling and heated conflicts is not in our methodology, tradition, or leadership but in our own failure to love God for all that He is with all that He has made us. That is our individual and corporate sin, and our response should be thorough repentance and learning to love God.

Batterson writes in a personable, casual style that allows the reader to relate and “talk it through” with him. His own experiences of loving God are insightful, often humourous and always convicting as he challenges the reader to pursue the love of God. His challenge invites us back to knowing God, loving God, and serving God in ways that exceed the norm and resonate with the radical nature of our ancient faith. I would recommend Primal with no reservations whatsoever.