The Doc File

The online journal of Luke Dockery

Being the Bigger Person

Being the Bigger Person

“Being the bigger person” is a common enough expression, but it is a fairly uncommon practice in society as a whole (just pay attention to presidential campaigns!):

  • It means that if you have an ongoing feud with someone, you are the one who breaks the cycle of mistreatment and seeks the good of the other party.
  • It means that when you get in a fight or argument with someone, you apologize first.
  • It means that if someone hurts you or wrongs you in some way, you initiate the process of forgiveness even if they don’t ask it from you.
  • It means that when someone says something bad about you, you brush it off and don’t respond in kind.

Honestly, it is hard to be the bigger person. It takes a lot of maturity and self-control. In my years in ministry, I have found myself in multiple circumstances where I know that I’m in the right and someone else is in the wrong and I want nothing more than to respond to that other person in such a way that they will come to realize just exactly how right I am and how wrong they are!

And that’s when the bigger person thing comes into play.

Here’s the thing I eventually realized: if I want to follow Jesus Christ, I never get to not be the bigger person.

The teachings of Scripture are clear on this enough on this: love your enemy…turn the other cheek…forgive one another…as far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men…the list goes on and on.

The longer that I am a Christian, the more convinced I am that this is at the heart of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.

Always strive to be the bigger person.

Book Review: Fables Don’t Leave Footprints

71wrVZDrdJLLast week, a friend from college sent me a copy of a new book that his mother had written on biblical archaeology. I told him I would be happy to read it, but honestly, I had no idea what to expect.

The book, Fables Don’t Leave Footprints, by Jan Sessions, turned out to be a very pleasant surprise. The book is well-researched, and provides an excellent first step for beginners into the world of biblical archaeology. Early on in the book, Sessions states: “[Christians] go through life believing the Bible is true but are generally unaware of the vast array of outside-the-Bible evidences that verify the Bible as ‘real history’” (16). Sessions became aware of that evidence through her studies of archaeology, and wants to share it with her readers.

Here are some of the strengths of this book, and a reason why I think it is an excellent resource for the average Christian-in-the-pews who is interested in the evidence for the historical reliability of the biblical witness:

First, the book is incredibly readable. The book is only 198 pages total (including footnotes), with excellent pictures and charts that illustrate the archaeological discoveries that the author describes. Furthermore, the chapters are short, which keeps the pace of the book moving along.

Second, the book is really attractive. A lot of times when people self-publish books, they frankly do not look very good. That is not the case here. I am picky about things like typography, page layout, and graphic design, but the work on this book was very nice.

Third, and most importantly, Fables does a great job of introducing the reader to a variety of different types of archaeological discoveries which bolster the historicity of the biblical accounts. I want to emphasize the word introducing: this is not a scholarly book, and it does not attempt to enter into technical archaeological debate. But it does introduce you to some of those issues, and also provides footnotes for the reader who wishes to study further.

If you are a Christian who is already aware of archaeological discoveries that are relevant to Scripture, then Fables might not teach you a lot of new information, but it is a helpful review of the vast array of important discoveries that have been made. And if your exposure to biblical archaeology is minimal, then the book could very well be a real eye-opener.

Reading and Walking in 2015

Reading and Walking MapOne of my somewhat unusual practices is that I walk laps around the auditorium in the church building while reading for school, or in sermon or lesson preparation, studying Greek or Hebrew vocabulary words, or talking or texting on my phone. I started this back in April 2013, and although I admit that it probably looks a little weird when you see me doing it, it is something I enjoy because the exercise is good for me and it also helps me to better focus on what I am reading/studying.

Each lap around the auditorium is approximately 74 yards. In 2013 I walked a total of 5,608 laps, which amounts to a total distance of 235.8 miles. As I mentioned in my report at the start of 2014, that is basically the equivalent of traveling from Fayetteville, Arkansas to Kansas City, Missouri on foot. In 2014, I walked a total of 10,497 laps, or 441.4 miles, which got me from Kansas City, Missouri to the outskirts of Joliet, Illinois.

In 2015, I didn’t make it quite as far as I did the previous year, but I came close:

Total Laps in 2014: 9,774

Distance per Lap: approximately 74 yards

Total Distance: 411.0 miles

So, in 2013 I walked from Fayetteville, Arkansas to Kansas City, Missouri, and in 2014, I headed toward Chicago, Illinois and almost got there, stopping just short of Joliet. In 2015, I made it through Chicago, and continued walking on to Cleveland, Ohio (see map above).

I wasn’t too disappointed that my 2015 total was less than my 2014 total, because in 2015, I started working out in the mornings 3-4 times per week, which meant that I was often tired in the office and not as interested in walking. I was actually pleasantly surprised that I got as close to my 2014 total as I did. Still, my goal for 2016 is to pass the 10,000 lap milestone again.

Reading in 2015

private-librarySomewhat ironically, right after writing a post about my intention to write more on my blog in 2016, I learned that my blog had become infected with malware and then the process of removing it took a few weeks. All of that means that it is now late January, and I have some catching up to do.

It has become a tradition on The Doc File at the beginning of each year for me to share a list of the books I read in the previous calendar year. Without further ado, here was my reading list for 2015:

  1. Take Route, by Philip Jenkins
  2. Dust and Shadow: An Account of the Ripper Killings, by Lindsay Faye
  3. The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical, by Shane Claiborne
  4. Scarred Faith, by Josh Ross
  5. Sons of Dust: The Roots of Biblical Manliness, by Chris Clevenger
  6. Gorky Park, by Martin Cruz Smith
  7. The Lunch Ladies: Cultivating an Actsmosphere, by Philip Jenkins
  8. Intergenerational Christian Formation: Bringing the Whole Church Together in Ministry, Community and Worship, by Holly Catterton Allen and Christine Lawton Ross
  9. A Parent’s Guide to Understanding Social Media: Helping Your Teenager Navigate Life Online, by Mark Oestreicher and Adam McLane
  10. Torn Asunder: The Civil War and the 1906 Division of the Disciples, by Ben Brewster
  11. Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine, and the Murder of a President, by Candice Millard
  12. I Died Last Night, by John Orr
  13. Women in the Church, by Everett Ferguson
  14. Megan’s Secrets: What My Mentally Disabled Daughter Taught Me About Life, by Mike Cope
  15. Family Ministry Field Guide: How Your Church Can Equip Parents To Make Disciples, by Timothy Paul Jones
  16. “If A Man Dies Will He Live Again?” A Study of Eternal Life, by Bobby Deason
  17. Primer on Biblical Methods, by Corrine L. Carvalho
  18. The One Minute Manager, by Kenneth Blanchard and Spencer Johnson
  19. Justification Reconsidered: Rethinking a Pauline Theme, by Stephen Westerholm
  20. Writing on the Tablet of the Human Heart, by David Carr*
  21. God’s Word in Human Words: An Evangelical Appropriation of Critical Biblical Scholarship, by Kenton L. Sparks
  22. Introduction to the Hebrew Bible, Second Edition, by John J. Collins
  23. These People Should be Dead, by Scott Bond
  24. More Than A Conquerer: The Ups and Downs of a Christian Manic Depressive, by Tom Kelton
  25. The Worldly Church, by C. Leonard Allen, Richard T. Hughes, and Michael R. Weed
  26. Bringing Heaven to Earth: You Don’t Have to Wait for Eternity to Live the Good News, by Josh Ross and Jonathan Storment
  27. A Week in the Life of Corinth, by Ben Witherington III
  28. Am I Ready to Be Baptized?, by Kyle Butt & John Farber
  29. First Corinthians: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching, by Richard B. Hays
  30. 1 Corinthians: Baker Exegetical Commentary of the New Testament, by David E. Garland
  31. Conflict & Community in Corinth: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on 1 and 2 Corinthians, by Ben Witherington III
  32. 2 Corinthians: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture (The New American Commentary), by David E. Garland
  33. The Pouting Preacher, by Michael Whitworth
  34. Alabama Moon, by Watt Key
  35. Renewing God’s People: A Concise History of Churches of Christ, by Gary Holloway & Douglas A. Foster
  36. Hurt 2.0: Inside the World of Today’s Teenagers, by Chap Clark
  37. Before I Go: Notes from Older Preachers, edited by Jeff and Dale Jenkins
  38. Five Minutes With God, by Rusty Hills
  39. Living & Longing for the Lord, by Michael Whitworth
  40. Leaving Behind Left Behind: The False Fear of the Rapture and the True Hope of the Return of Christ, by Omar Rikabi
  41. When Mountains Won’t Move: How to Survive a Struggling Faith, by Jacob Hawk
  42. 5 Discipleship Principles I Live By, by Neil Reynolds
  43. Beautiful, by Abbé Utter
  44. From Mule Back to Super Jet with the Gospel, by Marshall Keeble
  45. Good News of Great Joy: Daily Readings for Advent, by John Piper
  46. Gorky Park, by Martin Cruz Smith
  47. The Complete Calvin and Hobbes Book Four, by Bill Watterson
  48. Restoring New Testament Christianity, by Adron Doran

A few major observations before I talk about a couple of specific books.

In some ways, I was disappointed with my reading in 2015:

  • My total number of books dropped from 56 to 48. Ultimately, the point of reading is for learning and enjoyment rather than reading as many books as possible, but I do like to compete with myself and was a little disappointed at how my total number of books dropped. The reasons for this were understandable though. First, I read several books (commentaries, Old Testament introduction texts) that were several hundred pages long and each equivalent to 3-4 regular books. Second, I did a ton of reading of articles this year for grad school classes, and that reading is not reflected in the list above. Finally, I spent significant portions of 2015 involved in two large writing projects and two large editing projects, and those efforts (also not reflected above) took a lot of the time that would typically go to my reading.
  • I didn’t read much in 2015 that really blew me away. There were several books that I thought were interesting, or useful, or contained some good information, but not much that I thought was just outstanding.

As is typical for me, a lot of books that I read were related to the fields of Bible study, theology, and ministry. My favorite book of 2015 was probably Megan’s Secrets: What My Mentally Disabled Daughter Taught Me About Lifeby Mike Cope. Mike writes as a minister from Churches of Christ and shares his experiences as the parent of a special needs child and the lessons he learned from her all-too-brief life. As the parents of a beautiful, incredible special needs daughter myself, this book hit close to home for me, and in fact, it took me about 2 1/2 years to summon up the courage to read it. I basically cried through the entire thing, but I thought it was beautiful, poignant, and important.

Another great book I read this past year was The Lunch Ladies: Cultivating an Actsmosphere, by Philip Jenkins. Though the book is primarily geared toward youth ministry, the principles apply to ministry and the work of the church in general. Succinctly put, in Lunch Ladies, Philip describes the culture of neglect that existed within the youth ministry at the church where he serves and how they went about changing that to a culture where everyone is cared for and where everyone belongs. This is the best book on youth ministry I read this year, and it has implications far beyond youth ministry; we are in the process of implementing a lot of these ideas in our youth ministry at Farmington. If you are involved in youth ministry in any way (minister, deacon, shepherd, parent, whatever), small groups ministry, or church involvement, I would highly recommend this work.

In Churches of Christ, the vigorous discussion over the role of women in the church continues on, and earlier in the year I read Women in the Church by Everett Ferguson. Ferguson’s scholarship is impeccable, and in addition to his careful exegesis of biblical texts, also brings his wealth knowledge on the practices of the early Christian church to the discussion. Perhaps most important was Ferguson’s tone and perspective, in which he frames the entire discussion by first focusing on all the ways women did serve in the early church and how vital they are to the work of the church today, before moving on to other areas in which the biblical text and early church practice limit the role of women in specific areas. Again, this is another book that I would highly recommend.

Additionally, I did read a few commentaries and works on specific New Testament books this past year which are worth mentioning.

I have written about Michael Whitworth’s books before, and have recommended them because the way he excels at balancing readability with good study and research. This year I read Living & Longing for the Lord, which is a study of 1-2 Thessalonians, and it was great. Michael is a friend of mine, and I have been blessed by his books over the last few years. I think The Derision of Heaven, Michael’s book on the the Book of Daniel, is still my favorite, but Living & Longing for the Lord might come in second place.

I took a grad school class on 1-2 Corinthians and read literally thousands of pages related to those epistles. A Week in the Life of Corinth by Ben Witherington III is a charming little book which gives the reader a good grasp of the cultural context of first century Corinth. First Corinthians: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching by Richard B. Hays, was enjoyable because of its focus on bringing points out of the text that are specifically relevant for teaching and preaching in the modern church. Conflict & Community in Corinth: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on 1 and 2 Corinthians by Ben Witherington III was interesting because it explored 1-2 Corinthians through the lens of ancient rhetoric, and brought a lot of historical background information into the discussion. For those interested in better understanding 1-2 Corinthians, all of these are helpful resources in my opinion.

That was my year in reading in 2015!

For comparison’s sake if you are interested, you can see my reading lists from previous years:

I have already started reading some good stuff in 2016, and I have a large number of books on my “To-Read” shelf that I am hoping to get to. What are some of the best books you read this past year?

*Books that I did not read in their entirety, but read significant portions of.

2015 Blog Review, and Looking Ahead to 2016

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As one year ends and the next begins, it is a natural time for reflection. I am a believer in New Year’s Resolutions in all areas of my life, and that includes the writing I do here on my blog. So today I offer a brief recap of 2015 on The Doc File, as well as some tentative plans and goals for 2016.

Although blog traffic is not the most important thing in the world, I do share my writings in hope that they will be beneficial to others, so I do keep some track of how many people are stopping by. I actually had quite a few visitors in 2015, despite the fact that I did a very poor job of posting regularly. That traffic largely stemmed from one post, which I actually wrote back in 2014 but went viral this summer. Here were the top 5 most popular posts in 2015:

  1. Myths about Homosexuality, America, and the Kingdom of God, October 2, 2014
  2. Bruce Jenner and the Multi-Faceted Transgender Discussion, June 4, 2015
  3. Grace, Law, and Salvation: What “Legalism” Does Not Mean, August 6, 2015
  4. The Perfect Church, March 31, 2014
  5. Suffering and God’s Knowledge of the Future, February 9, 2015

A couple of observations from this lists of top post: first, it is not particularly surprising to me that the top two most-read posts in 2015 were directly related to hot-button cultural issues. I do not like writing posts in reaction to current events, but clearly, people like to read that sort of thing. It is nice to see that people also like to read about theology and doctrine, however (see posts 3 and 5), because I enjoy writing about that more. I’m sure that there will continue to be a mix of that moving forward.

Second, it is interesting that two of the top five posts were actually written last year. That goes to show that things don’t have to be written recently to resonate with people, and in the future, I will try to do a better job of sharing some of my relatively older posts that people might have missed previously but would still enjoy reading.

Also looking back, I was disappointed by how little blogging I did in 2015. Going back to when this blog began the summer of 2006, my post totals by year are as follows:

  • 2006:15
  • 2007: 102
  • 2008: 100
  • 2009: 67
  • 2010: 34
  • 2011: 35
  • 2012: 103
  • 2013: 74
  • 2014: 69
  • 2015: 26

If one thing is clear, it is that I have been a very inconsistent blogger over the years! I can chart some of the ebb and flow of my post frequency with developments in my life over the last decade (starting grad school, determining to use my blog as a ministry outlet, starting an additional blog at a different location, etc.) Obviously, I have lacked discipline from year to year in making regular blogging a priority. To be completely honest, trying to balance regular blogging with ministry and grad school requirements has been very challenging for me, and I simply haven’t figured out how to do it on a consistent basis. I take some solace in the fact that I don’t know of many other people who I think do a good job of consistently blogging well while also tackling grad school and doing good ministry work, but I am still determined to do better in 2016.

Moving forward, here are some things to expect in the new year:

  • I want to do a better job sharing quotations from books that I find to be especially significant. I do quite a bit of reading and research, and this is one simple way for others to benefit somewhat from that (it will also help with more consistent blogging).
  • Brief reviews from books that I read, especially those that I think are worth recommending to others.
  • I am interested in the history of the American Restoration Movement as a hobby, and intend to blog about Restoration history and theology more. I don’t expect these to be particularly popular posts, but hey, it’s my blog! 😉
  • I’ll continue to write some periodic posts in the A Theological View of Suffering series. It is an important topic, and I’ve got more to say.
  • Considering that I am a youth minister, I don’t write all that much about youth ministry. I plan to do that more often this year.

I want to close by thanking everyone who reads The Doc File for doing so. It is always amazing to me and very humbling when I travel somewhere and meet someone who tells me that they enjoy reading my blog. My blog serves as a space for me to work out my thoughts on given issues, but I share it publicly so others can benefit from it. Thanks so much to those who read and are a constant source of encouragement to me.

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