Friday, March 28, 2014

Timely Tips for our Trek Toward the Stars

Canadian Tom Cochrane wrote and Rascal Flatts famously sang that, Life's like a road that you travel on” (Life Is a Highway).

Beloved American poet Robert Frost stated that, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— / I took the one less traveled by, / And that has made all the difference.

John Bunyan dedicated an entire classic book to the life-journey of a man named Christian in The Pilgrim's Progress.

In Matthew 7, Jesus clearly alluded that faith is a walk by teaching that, at the beginning of our sojourn, we should, “Enter by the narrow gate....For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”

Through song, poem, allegorical novel, and scripture, we learn that life is a journey, a progress toward a desired destination, an adventure. Or, as Eugene Peterson might call it, “a long obedience in the same direction.”

Now, in The Road We Must Travel: A Personal Guide for Your Journey (Worthy Publishing), Peterson and 11 other writers in 18 pithy chapters offer useful tips for successfully navigating the path God lays out for us, His followers.

The articles have appeared previously in various print and online publications of the media ministry, Christianity Today, such as Leadership Journal and PreachingToday.com.

The book is mapped into five sections, each opening with unifying introductions imbued with travel imagery.

Topics covered include the importance of self-assessment, being properly equipped, avoiding potholes of contamination, recovering from wrecks, working through conflicts with fellow travelers, getting proper rest and tune-ups, mentoring those new to the journey, and how to properly read our map (aka the Bible) spiritually.

Knowing our path can be muddy, full of rocks, pockmarked with potholes, making the trek feel like an exhausting slog, a favorite, thought-provoking quote (“If you do not go to your grave in confusion, you will not go to your grave trusting. Explanations are a substitute for trust.”) comes from Tullian Tchividjian’s rumination on Job and suffering.

Tchividjian reminds us that, while the inevitable rust of grief will try to grind us to a standstill, grace is the grease and hope the fuel that ultimately propels us forward.

The book feels primarily geared toward senior pastors and others in professional ministry positions. However, lay ministers and other servers of Christ should not be deterred from discovering real value in the guidance and sound wisdom offered. After all, as fellow believers, we are all wending the same path.

This is an excellent and accessible “travel” guide for any Christian that can be read cover-to-cover or consulted as needed.I recommend it for your spiritual glove compartment or backpack to enjoy and reference when taking a break from your travels. There’s good, encouraging stuff here.

One nitpicky point is that a collection such as this usually includes brief bios of the contributors and this one, oddly, does not. While many of the writers are well-known, not all are. So, below, for your convenience, I’ve assembled brief bios for each (the number in parentheses indicates how many chapters the writer has contributed).
  • Gordon MacDonald (4) - Author, speaker, and teacher.
  • Mark Buchanan (3) - Associate Professor of Pastoral Theology at the Ambrose Seminary in Calgary, Alberta.
  • Bill Hybels (2) - Founding and senior pastor of Willow Creek Community Church.
  • Nathan Conrad (as told to Matt Woodley) (1) – Nathan is a pastor at Naperville (Illinois) Presbyterian Church. Matt is the Managing Editor for PreachingToday.com and pastor of Compassion Ministries at Church of the Resurrection in Wheaton, Illinois.
  • Francis Chan (1) - Author, pastor, and Founder and Chancellor of Eternity Bible College.
  • Eugene Peterson (1) - Professor Emeritus of Spiritual Theology at Regent College and writer of The Message.
  • Steve May (1) - Speaker, author, and missionary living in Knoxville, Tennessee.
  • Tullian Tchividjian (1) - Senior pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church.
  • Ruth Haley Brown (1) - Adjunct Professor of Spiritual Formation at Northern Seminary and founder of the Transforming Center.
  • Skye Jethani (1) - Managing editor of Leadership Journal.
  • Mark Labberton (1) - President and Lloyd John Ogilvie Professor of Preaching School of Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary.
  • Donald Sunukjian (1) - Professor of Christian Ministry and Leadership, Homiletics at the Talbot School of Theology of Biola University.

NOTE: To comply with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255): I selected this book to review and received it free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.


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What books have you read that have been particularly helpful to your Christian walk?

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