Monday, March 27, 2017

Devotion 15: He Comes With Vindication

"Here is your God,
He comes with vindication;
With divine recompense
He comes to save you."

Isaiah 35:4b (NAB)

As terrible as it may sound, as self-centered and selfish it may be appear, the Bible tells believers to consider the end of the wicked, of those who reject faith in Christ, and see how it contrasts with the end of the righteous, those who trust in Christ and walk in His way.

The second coming of Christ will necessarily involve two things in connection with the saints:
1.  They will be vindicated before the sinner.
2.  They will be rewarded with salvation.

Whether I am alive or my flesh eaten up by worms when the Lord Jesus finally appears on the earth, this is certain: the sinners will know that I was right about Christ being the Savior and they were wrong to reject him.

There are two things the sinner will know when Christ appears:
1.  They will see that Christ is real and alive, just as I said.
2.  They will see me next to Christ while between them and us is a great chasm they cannot cross.

There is no delight in the recognition of these truths as revealed in the Bible.  But each will be responsible for the eternity they step into when the soul leaves the body or when Christ returns to make all things new. 

Monday, March 6, 2017

Review: 1984

1984 1984 by George Orwell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I finally read this after having it sit on my bookcase for 10 years or so, and I read it since that was the #1 book being sold at Amazon, mostly due to Trump's election as President; and I can understand why.

Written in 1949, this is a futuristic world where the government is in absolute control of information, from it's flow to what that information actually entails. The government controls the news, even to the point being able to change past news events according to what they want the people to know or not know.

For example, the world consists of three countries: Oceania, Eastasia, and Eurasia. If the government wants to say that they are at war with Eastasia, they disseminate that information. However, should they change their mind and want the people to know that they are warring with Eurasia and not Eastasia, they will correct all past news reports to reflect that they had always been at war with one and not the other. The truth would never be found out because all past news is destroyed and all that exists is the news as it has been changed.

The government sets out to control not just the dissemination information but the way the people think and, primarily, to think as the government tells them to think and whenever their is a self-contradiction, there really is no self-contradiction. If the government says 2 + 2 = 5, then 2 + 2 = 5, no questions asked.

This is called doublethink, that is, to hold simultaneously two contrary opinions as true with the full knowledge that they are contrary but, nevertheless, to believe it with the belief that the illogical is logical while, at the same time, knowing it is not but dismissing such knowledge; it is consciously knowing truth while being unconscious to what is truth.

Is that confusing? Yes. it is called "doublethink." Something that, apparently, Trump may be unconsciously practicing.

This is a book that should be read, in my opinion, especially during the Trump's presidency in order to understand the dangers inherent in believing someone, without question, who speaks and tweets falsehoods practically everyday and, especially, who rails against the news media for passing "fake news."

Read the book. It reflects a dark utopia.

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Devotion 14: Repugnant Grace

On their Facebook page, someone wrote "Liars!"  And underneath was a picture of a women with the caption, "Jesus would hold women's hands to support them during their abortion: abortionist."

I thought, on the one hand, God is angered by such sins so how could he hold the hands of the women having an abortion and, also, of those performing it?  Yet, on the other hand, God loves all men and women, not as righteous but as sinners.  Doesn't the Bible read, "for God so loved the world"?

But, then I was startled to think that while I agree God's Only Son would not support having an abortion, however, he did more than just hold their hand:  He died for them on a Cross while they were having the abortion!

I thought, on the one hand, God is angered by such sins so how could he hold the hands of one having and those performing an abortion; yet, on the other hand, God loves all men and women as sinners.  Doesn't the Bible read, "for God so loved the world"?

Right after reading that FB post, I opened my Bible for my daily morning reading, and the first verse that I came to was...

"But you spare all things, because they are yours..."
Wisdom 11:26 (NAB)

I am finding that this show of God's mercy is spite of such evil acts is repugnant, to be loving the ungodly - even me! - while they were still sinning, committing the most odious crimes against God's holiness and Law.  God's love, demonstrated on the Cross is a disgraceful and discreditable action, a scandal.  I realized how repugnant is the free and sovereign grace of God to our moral sense of justice, our sense of right and wrong.

God sees the horrendous evils being committed and, yet - is this going to far with what the Bible teaches us about divine grace? - He demonstrates His own love by sending His Son to die for sinners even while they are still sinning!

Perhaps our mind rebels against such love.  Perhaps we do not understand how to emulate that love in our own lives and hinder the Spirit's demonstration by a perception of our own righteousness that excludes others who are still yet sinning, distancing ourselves from them.  We forget that, although we may be saved and walking in obedience, nevertheless, we all still possesses the same fallen condition: "therefore, let him who stands take heed lest he fall" (1 Corinthians 10:12).

Perhaps only a repugnant grace can free the sinner from his sins.  And we, as Christians, should know.  Such a repugnant grace freed us.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Review: The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol 2

The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol 2 The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol 2 by Alexander Roberts
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A good volume that consists of the early church leader's in defense of the Christian faith and the repudiation of pagan religious belief and Greek philosophy through the use of Scripture and Greek philosophy. It is interesting that the Christian writers used the word and Greek concept of "gnostic"/"gnosis" when making a distinction between the true gnostic or gnosis who were the Christians and the Scriptures, in opposition to the false gnostic or gnosis who were the pagans with their pagan beliefs.

The early fathers in this volume made use predominantly of the philosophic concepts used in their day to teach and explain Christian teachings in order to portray the latter as being beyond human concepts but not beyond reason. They also emphasized conduct appropriate to Christian faith. Apparently, without necessarily excluding faith, they made repentance and corresponding conduct essential to possessing salvation and spoke little of faith (apparently, it may have been assumed as reflected in repentance and right living?). It would be hard to find the Calvinist concept of salvation by "faith alone" in the these writings.

I must admit, I did skip of few pages finding them either redundant or uninteresting, for example, pages 253-291 of the "Instructor." The topics entitled were things like, "On the Use of Ointments and Crowns," "On Sleep," "On True Beauty," etc. I was finding subjects read before these to be boring so I decided to skip the rest, at least, until I got the the topic of "Religion in Ordinary Life," "Going to Church," "Out of Church," and further more interesting subjects I thought relevant even for today.

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Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Devotion 13: the Divine Omnipotence

In Mercy is God's Power Displayed

"But you have mercy on all
Because you can do all things"
Wisdom 11:23

It is interesting that an apocryphal book in the Catholic edition of the Bible understands (better than what is taught in Calvinism) the relation between God's omnipotence and His wrath -- there is none!

However, it is between God's omnipotence and mercy that we see a connection the text in the Wisdom of Solomon shows us:  God seeks to reveal His mercy to sinful men precisely because he is all-powerful.  God's display of mercy - His profound ability "to overlook the sins of men [in the hopes] that they repent" - expresses his omnipotence.

It was never God's intention to use wrath in order to display His glory and majesty, His attribute of omnipotence (Ezekiel 18:23,32; 2 Peter 3:9).  Rather, through extending mercy to sinners is the awesome majesty of the divine power revealed.

Just consider the Cross.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Devotion 12: Be Not Satisfied!

Although the Presence of Christ in us today is a marvelous thing and we are to be joyful and content in our present circumstances, especially if we allow the visible and tangible manifestation of Christ be revealed via the ministry and gifts of the Spirit in the Church, nevertheless, the Bible encourages us not to be satisfied with our present state of separation from the full and absolute Presence of God in Christ. "...without my flesh I shall see God; whom I myself shall behold, and whom my eyes shall see and not another. My heart is faith within me" (Job 19:26b-27). "One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to meditate in His temple...When Thou didst say, Seek my face, my heart said to Thee, Thy face, O Lord, I shall seek (Psalm 27:4,8). "As the deer pants for the water brooks, So my soul pants for Thee, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; when shall I come and appear before God?" (Psalm 42:1-2). "Whom have I in heaven but Thee? And besides Thee, I desire nothing on earth" (Psalm 73:25). "...we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord" (2 Corinthians 5:8). "Come, Lord Jesus" (Revelation 2:20c). "Father of Jesus, love's reward! What rapture will it be, Prostrate before Thy throne to lie, And gaze and gaze on Thee."*

*Poem by Frederick Faber quoted in, "The Pursuit of God," by A.W. Tozer, p.40.

Devotion 11: Everthing to be Revealed

"...the day of the Lord will come...and the earth and everything done on it will be revealed."
2 Peter 3:10
New American Bible

All men, on the last day, will receive hindsight and experience regret when all they have done in life - intentions included - are exposed to them.  It is then that men will finally know for certain that (a) all that he was doing was, while he was doing it, being evaluated by a supreme Judge, and (b) in all that he was doing - the good and the bad - he was not entirely unseen as he may have thought when doing it.

There are men today who dismiss the right of God and others to judge their intentions and actions and beliefs. These men, while admitting they may not be morally perfect, nevertheless, think of themselves as beyond the bounds of another's right to cast moral judgments (unless it is of affirmation) against their actions or lifestyle. They feel themselves free to do as they please without any hinderances or contraints applied by another's moral judgments.

However, soon, as we draw nearer to the last days, these men, in hindsight accompanied with deep regret as every second of their life is exposed to them, will earnestly wish they had not refused faith in Christ and His divine right to call them to judgment.

"The last word, when all is heard:  Fear God and keep his commandments for this is man's all; because God will  bring to judgment every word and work, with all its hidden qualities, whether good or bad."
Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 (NAB)

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Review: Rescuing Jesus: How People of Color, Women, and Queer Christians are Reclaiming Evangelicalism

Rescuing Jesus: How People of Color, Women, and Queer Christians are Reclaiming Evangelicalism Rescuing Jesus: How People of Color, Women, and Queer Christians are Reclaiming Evangelicalism by Deborah Jian Lee
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I give this book 3 stars for two reasons (1) it made me more aware of conservative evangelicalisms attitude, as a whole, as perceived by the liberal, progressive Christian culture, and (2) it has made me more sympathetic to the concerns of progressive liberal Christians.

That doesn't mean I agree with the views held by the author - there are many theological positions the author takes of which to strongly object without apology - but it does mean I appreciate her perspective and, more importantly, the insights provided regarding the church's attitude she perceives (not altogether unjustified) within white conservative evangelicals towards people of color, women, and queer "christians."

As I read it, this book seems to explicitly challenge conservative evangelicals (particularly white) to hear the other side - the liberal, progressive evangelical - and to acquiesce to it's position accepting them as genuine Christians and, therefore, opening the doors of their churches to their participation in the Christian community. The author seems to suggest that this is what is happening in any case and, sooner or later, a change that the conservative evangelicals must embrace if they are to be spiritually and culturally relevant.

Whatever position you hold, whether you are progressive or conservative (but especially the latter) this is a book that should be read, in particular, by conservative evangelical pastors; and not necessarily to persuade a change of mind as to one's theological, Biblical, and cultural views but more to gain a better understanding of how the attitude and actions of the conservative white evangelical community has affected others and to gain a more sympathetic ear to the complaints of Christian liberal progressives.

This may be a book that annoys those who are already firmly and uncompromisingly settled with a theological or cultural attitude that resists change or, at least, seeking understanding. If your one of those kind of evangelical conservative Christians, then I hope you will allow yourself, at least, this once to be annoyed and read this book.

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Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Review: War Hawk

War Hawk War Hawk by James Rollins
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Perhaps because I have two Shepherds (see pics), I give it 3 stars. I wouldn't say it was a page-turner, but it was an enjoyable read and the interaction between dog and owner was interesting, although it seemed the a bit fantastic. But in Rollins "Author's Notes" at the end (p.505), he shared that Armed Service expert veterinarians and dog handlers confirmed that "not only are such action [depicted in Rollins' book] plausible, if anything these dogs could do much more"!

An interesting aspect of this book is that Rollins delves into a variety of issues - his characters suffer from PTSD, the "mathematical genius" Alan Turing and it's possible uses in drone warfare, and corporations starting wars. Actually, there is much going on and perhaps that is what keeps one engaged in reading.

Like I said, it's not exactly a page-turner, but it is an enjoyable read, especially if you're a dog-lover.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Devotion 10: Perfecting Holiness

Devotion 10: Perfecting Holiness

"...beloved, let us cleanse ourselves
from every defilement of flesh and spirit,
making holiness perfect in the fear of God.”

2 Corinthians 7:1

I thought that being holy was being perfect. How can holiness be made perfect and how do we make it perfect?

By fearing God.

Obedience without the fear of God is really either self-centeredness or self-righteousness.

If holiness is setting ourselves apart to implicit and faithful obedience to the will and way of God, then it must be accompanied with:

(A)  a proper consciousness and acknowledgement in faith that God is the Judge of all our intentions and actions (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14; Hebrews 11:6).

(b)  the worship of God in Christ alone, and no other. We are to love God and others but we are to worship God and God alone.  God in Christ is not merely to be number one on a long list of names of those to worship and direct our prayers. He is to be the only name on that list.

(c) the aim to glorify Him and Him alone on earth. In other words, in contemporary parlance, we are to aim to make God look good before others. All our intentions and actions are to reflect the presence of God in Christ on the earth even as Jesus walked the earth over two thousand years ago. If one is to see Jesus, He can only be seen in you.

To follow God with such an attitude of faith is to fear God and thereby live a life of increasing holiness (Hebrews 11:7; 1 Peter 1:17; 2 Peter 1:5-9).

"And if ye call on the Father...pass the time of your sojourning here in fear."

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Review: The Grace of God

The Grace of God The Grace of God by Samuelj. Mikolaski
My rating: 0 of 5 stars

This was an insightful read of a brief survey on the doctrine of grace in the Bible. He covers grace as taught in Eastern Orthodox and catholic traditions, it's teaching in the Old and New Testaments, it's key feature, it's significance in the Gospel message, and what it looks like or the actions divine grace has taken and takes "in Christ."

Mikolaski gives a clear, concise, and illuminating understanding of what divine grace is and it's relation to the Christian life. Interesting enough, at times he sounds Calvinistic and in other places Arminian while, still in a few other places, he shadows the Pentecostal/Charismatic, which means any minister tradition can apply and quote the wisdom of his writing here to their doctrinal a practical teachings and beliefs on grace.

Just reading this book is hard to pin him down (but I suspect he is Reformed), but his writing is thoroughly erudite, faithfully Biblical, and unashamedly Christian.

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Monday, January 23, 2017

Devotion 9: In Whom God Delights

Devotion 9: Those in Whom God Delights

"You are not a god who delights in evil”
Psalm 5:5a

If we think saying we’re "Christian" will win God's favor while, at the same time, we live as we please, participating in acts that not only are injurious to ourselves and others, but also dishonor God, we just might come to a big disappointment in the end.

God delights neither in evil nor in a wicked person regardless of their political stance, their devotion to the "American" ideals, their own claims to being or acting “righteous.”  God’s not concerned what one’s voting record looks like, whether they voted Republican or Democrat, whether they voted for "righteousness" sake either to stop abortion or obtain civil rights for the LBGTQ community.

To call one’s self a "Christian" makes no matter if they're in a place of disobedience or possess a self-righteous mind.  Wearing the "conservative" or "liberal" button on one’s lapel does not help gain God's favor, nor does it forfeit God's favor. To be a conservative is no less or more a claim to be Christian than to be a liberal, and vice-versa.  God delights in neither a political party or ideal.

God delights in the person whose moral character reflects that of His Son, Jesus Christ.

For whom you voted may impress fellow ideologues but it does not impress God. For whom you voted may built up your own self-esteem but it counts for nothing regarding how God esteems you. God is not impressed when you pray to Him as a Democrat or Republican. That you protest against this or that or defend this or that political person or point of view is not how God determines who is following Him or wins His favor.

It is following Christ that God determines who is following Him. One can be in the right, yet not be a follower of Christ. It is not whether you are in the right but whether you are walking in the right that delights God.

It is the righteous who are blessed. And righteousness is not a matter of loving God first and loving others second, as some are taught; but it is loving God and man simultaneously. And it is in loving God and our fellow man in a manner that deems them to be more important than ourselves that one is loving God with all one's heart, strength, soul, and mind.

It is those who walk with a clear conscience before God, whose actions towards others, even their enemies, are blameless before God and their fellow-man.

God's aim is not to make America great but, if anything, to make the people of America - black and white, native-american and immigrant, Gentile and Jew - holy.

"For you, Lord, bless the righteous"

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Devotion 8: God, My Only Good

Devotion: Psalm 13:6

"I trust in your faithfulness. Grant my heart joy in your help, that I may sing..."
 (New American Bible)

The Bible is not afraid to risk tarnishing God's reputation and character by exposing the depths of disappointment and estrangement from God one may go through at one time or another, to one degree or another. Nevertheless, it is in that depth of despair that one ought not abandon faith in God as the only hope to the answer for which he cries out in his trouble, pain, and sorrow.

The NAB subtitles the psalm as a "Prayer in Time of Illness" but there is no indication in the psalm itself just what exactly is the problem except, perhaps, to hint someone is acting against him (v.5).

In any case, whatever the problem, the grief the psalmist experiences does not prevent him from believing God is good ("I trust in your faithfulness," v.6a) and expecting God to deliver and restore his good fortune (Grant my heart joy in your help," v.6b).

In all this grief, the psalmist's aim to receive the answer to his urgent prayer is not merely deliverance, but the opportunity to give to evidence to the unbelievers that God is good: "That I may sing of the Lord, how Good our God has been to me!"

" are my only good." Psalm 6:2

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Devotion 7: Faith Nags and Pulls

Devotion: Psalm 63:1-4

"...I body soul thirsts...
I look to see your power and your glory."

The Christ-follower possesses the deep-seated awareness that there is a missing element in his faith that nags and pulls on him, almost like the way a leash pulls the dog to it's owner. It is the intense desire for the actual Presence of Christ, the constant longing to hear audibly His Voice, the thirsty demand to stand before the reality of his Person, to see, hear, feel, and touch the One who has captured his heart.

There is no greater desire within the Christian than this, all that he does is done in the ebspectstion of it culminating in the fulfillment of this Desire, that Desire wherein all other desires are caught up and absorbed in; that ardent longing for Him who has been gone too long to return, to rule, to cease all wars, to banish all pain, to release us from every hurt, to make the enemy take flight, to banish Leviathan forever, and to make right all that is wrong in this world.

The heart's constant embrace is to sing, "Come, Lord Jesus! Come!"

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Devotion 6: Repentance

Devotion: Mark 6:12

"They went out and preached that men should repent."

The purpose of repentance is to make himself fit to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, that when the it arrives, one is not put out (Revelation 22:15).

It is God's desire that men inhabit and rule in His Kingdom; men are to be co-rulers with Christ of all the Created Order. However, the success of Heaven's peaceable rule is not guaranteed if men enter the Kingdom who have not today repented, if they do not today - now! - prepare their heart and life for the culture of Heaven.

A person will enter the final destiny for which he now lives, their future destiny is marked out for them today whether they have lived as friends of this earthly system against God or in protest against it. The set of the heart and the lifestyle embraced today will determine the world one will rise to inherit at his death. 

Therefore, today repent precisely because there is a Kingdom of Heaven that will soon arrive, breaking forth in divine power like the lightening that, in a split second, cuts in half oak trees down to the roots. When that Kingdom comes, it will not in any way tolerate wicked men. The guards standing at the Gates of the Kingdom of Heaven will take into consideration the state of the heart and it will frisk the life before allowing anyone to enter in.

If the heart and life surveyed has not been lived according to the revelation of God in Christ on earth today, it will certainly not be admitted into the Kingdom of Heaven tomorrow.

Devotion 5: Peace Ruling

Devotion:  Colossians 3:15

"And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts..."

 (Read Colossians 3:12-17)

It is not the inward peace of the individual with reference to one's own self for his own personal advantage that Paul exhorts to peace; but, it is the inward peace that one has towards others, free of all bitterness and evil-thinking, primarily and especially with reference to fellow believers.

One's personal peace is contingent upon having peace towards and with others, fulfilling Jesus' prayer that we be one (John 17).

Monday, January 16, 2017

Devotion 4: A Thin Line

Devotion: Epheasians 5:2

"...and walk in love, as also the Christ did love us…"
(Young's Literal Translation)

That is, it is a thin line between supporting someone in their sin that results in a need and supporting someone in their need as a result of their sin.  It might be hard for you or an outsider to distinguish whether or not what you do supports the sin or supports the sinner.

I guess what is most important for us as Christians is to "let all your things be done in love."  If love is at the bottom of all you do, regardless of how it looks and what is the the end result, it seems you can't go wrong; for "walking in love" is being like Christ.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Devotion 3: Perfecting Holiness

Devotion 3: Perfecting Holiness

"...beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of flesh and spirit,

making holiness perfect in the fear of God."

2 Corinthians 7:1

I thought that being holy was being perfect. How can holiness be made perfect and how do we make it perfect?
By fearing God.
Obedience without the fear of God is really either self-centeredness or self-righteousness.
If holiness is setting ourselves apart to implicit and faithful obedience to the will and way of God, then it must be accompanied:
(a) with a proper consciousness and acknowledgement in faith that God is the Judge of all our intentions and actions (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14; Hebrews 11:6).
(b) with the worship of God in Christ alone, and no other. We are to love God and other but we are to worship God and God alone. God in Christ is not merely to be number one on a long list of names of those to worship and direct our prayers. He is to be the only name on that list.
(c) with the aim to glorify Him and Him alone on earth. In other words, in contemporary parlance, make God look good before others. All our intentions and actions are to reflect the presence of God in Christ on the earth even as Jesus walked the earth over two thousand years ago. If one is to see Jesus, He can only be seen in you.
To follow God with such an attitude of faith is to fear God and thereby live a life in increasing holiness (Hebrews 11:7; 1 Peter 1:17; 2 Peter 1:5-9).
"And if ye call on the Father...pass the time of your sojourning here in fear."

Monday, November 28, 2016

Review: Fasting: A Centre for Pentecostal Theology Short Introduction

Fasting: A Centre for Pentecostal Theology Short Introduction Fasting: A Centre for Pentecostal Theology Short Introduction by Lee Roy Martin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A 184 page introduction to the practice of fasting from the Pentecostal perspective. Martin discusses every Biblical text dealing briefly yet insightfully with fasting. He also delves into fasting in Church history outside Pentecostalism, in the Pentecostal tradition, and offers a theology and guidelines for fasting.

What may come across reading Martin's "Fasting" is the realization that the Bible gives greater importance to fasting, more than we may have otherwise thought, as, not only a tool for spiritual growth, but a necessary practice for maintaining healthy fellowship with God.

If one seeks to look for where to begin learning about fasting, Martinmas provided the first step in it's study. But even if you have read other books on the subject, I recommend reading this one, also if only because he seems to thoroughly, if briefly, every Biblical text on or related to fasting.

Martin also provides a lengthy Bibliography, covering 10 pages (counting from and back) for further study.

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Monday, November 21, 2016

Review: The Gospel in Tolstoy: Selections from His Short Stories, Spiritual Writings & Novels

The Gospel in Tolstoy: Selections from His Short Stories, Spiritual Writings & Novels The Gospel in Tolstoy: Selections from His Short Stories, Spiritual Writings & Novels by Leo Tolstoy
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is one book that will challenge all your notion of what it really means to be a Christian. You may not agree with the moral teaching imbedded in each of the stories LeBlanc selected, but they will captivate your mind and move you to earnestly think about what being a Christian means personally to you.

From the very brief "Biographical Sketch," we see that Tolstoy was apparently a tragic figure who, in spite of much success, was "plagued with suicidal thoughts" until he took a "look beyond his own circle" and "noticed that the peasants, despite their poverty, had an instinctive sense of life's purpose. Their faith in God and simple labor propelled them to live. And then it dawned on him: he too only lived at those times he believed in God. It was a decisive conversion experience, after which never left him" (p.xiii-xiv).

However, he left the Church when it ordered praying for the utter destruction of Russia's enemies "with sword and bombshell." Tolstoy outspoken pacifism influenced men like Gandhi, Shaw, MLK, Jr. He made sacrifices giving up his wealth, profits, property, and even breaking with his family that would throw him and his wife into constant battle. He renounced all of his publication rights and signed all his property to wife and children.

The writing selected reveal a man who saw the sharp inconsistency of the teachings of Christ and the way Christians believed and lived. It seems many of the stories are of persons seeking for a purposeful and happy life but failing until they come to realize that "To know God and to live come to one and the same thing. God is life" (p.43).

This is not a book for the Christian who is too lazy to seek for why God put him where he is, or for one too enamored with his own self and possessions to care for others, too attached to his own theologically moral and ethical, and, yes, even his political presuppositions...but, wait! No, maybe that is just the person who should read this book...the lazy, the self-absorbed, the purposeless, the know-it-all, the seeker.

I believe these selections of Tolstoy by LeBlanc will keep you thinking and thinking, struggling to come to some satisfying conclusion on just want it means for you to to live the genuine Christian life and how much are you willing to pay to live it.

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Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Review: One Lord One Spirit One Body

One Lord One Spirit One Body One Lord One Spirit One Body by Vinson Synan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Please note: The author of this book is Peter Hocken and not Vinson Synan. Synan is referenced in the back cover only as recommending the book.

In spite of it's publication date of 1987, Hocken's book is still very relevant for today, especially in the time of attacks made against Pentecostal and Charismatic communities and the deep divides between the Charismatics and non-Charismatics on theological grounds, even between the Protestant and Catholic, and between the Protestant churches themselves. This is certainly a book that needs to read and taken seriously. Hocken calls for unity - ecumenism -on the basis of the Charismatic experience of the Holy Spirit falling upon the various traditional Christian denominations with endowments of the charismata, an experience once thought unique to Pentecostal churches.

The first section examines the history of the charismatic movement, although not in depth, by introducing particular individuals from different Christian traditions and denomination and sharing their experience of the baptism of the Spirit; he also briefly discusses the Asuza Street Pentecostal revival of 1906, it's spread into various denominational renewals, and the character and meaning of the charismatic revival.

The second section, Hocken seeks to help us understand what exactly is the Charismatic renewal and it's development and significance within the traditional churches. His counsel on how the different Christian traditions and denominations my approach unity with their various doctrinal emphasis - although core beliefs are the same - is both enlightening and practical, having as fundamental the experience of the Holy Spirit in bestowing the Pentecostal gifts.

Written by a Catholic who was baptized in the Holy Spirit, it is written in the spirit of of yearning for the unity of God's people to be a reality and, therefore, Hocken "has tackled the difficult problem of ecumenical relations" ( The last sentence in his introduction reads that the neither the Pentecostals nor the charismatics can "realize its God -given potential without the other." And, although this may be a book directed specifically to the Pentecostal and Charismatic community, I feel it is a book that requires reading for even those who see these communities as dubious, at best, or demonic, at worst in order to get a more truthful perspective regarding the character and purpose of this Holy Spirit renewal that began in America 1906 in a limited fashion and expanded to the traditional churches without bias, somewhat hidden in the 1950's but exploding out for all to see in the 1960's, which continues even today if perhaps in a more subdued fashion.

It is required reading for all because Christ calls the believers in every place all over the world to unity, making it's actualization a prayer to the Father, "that they may be one, even as you and I are one; that they may be one in us" (John 17).

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Monday, September 5, 2016

Review: Beowulf

Beowulf Beowulf by Unknown
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Not being a scholar on such poems as "Beowulf" and having read it for the first time, I find it was beautifully written and in such a way as you can almost see the poetic imagery in front of your eyes. From the first words of the prologue - "Hear me!" - one may be caught in the trap of, regardless of the poems length of 3182 lines (no fear, only 99 pages), finishing the book in one day.

There is adventure, suspense, anticipation, blood, revenge, fantasy, death, mourning, villains, faith in God, glorious heroes, dreadful monsters, all elements of what makes a great story combined in one. There are moments that you can almost feel the character's emotions, for example, in Wiglaf's failed attempt to revive Beowulf from death and his resignation to the Christian God's will:

"...He was sitting
Near Beowulf's body, warily sprinkling
Water in the dead man's face, trying
To stir him. He could not. No one could have kept
Life in their lord's body, or turned
Aside the Lord's will: world
And men and all move as He orders,
And always have, and always will."

(lines 2853-2859)

For those not familiar and new to reading this kind of poetry, as I am, there is provided a helpful introduction, an informative afterword, and a glossary of names and a diagram of the genealogy of characters mentioned.

I encourage reading the classics. After reading this one, you will know why it is called a classic, and that it has been a classic for centuries.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Review: The Glory and the Shame

The Glory and the Shame The Glory and the Shame by Peter Hocken
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Although written 22 years ago, it still seems to reflect present circumstances in the Christian community as a whole, especially in America.  Hocken briefly considers the challenges and impact - negative as well as positive - brought about by the advent of the Holy Spirit in the Pentecostal and Charismatic movement since the beginning of the 20th century up to the time of the books writing, on Christian theology and in the various Christian communities.  Hocken not only takes into account the Catholic charismatic movement but also, to a large extent, the Messianic Jewish movement and the importance of Israel's role as a nation in relation to the larger Pentecostal/Charismatic experience.  He engages history by suggesting that "[a]ny sovereign outpouring of the divine blessing is necessarily unexpected" (p.16), and, therefore, discusses significant acts of God's intervention as "surprises," starting with the book of Acts before jumping into the Spirit's "invasion" of Asuza in the opening years of the 20th century.

His writing is clear and Biblically based, which forms a coherent theological and historical overview of the Pentecostal/Charismatic experience.  His goal is to encourage unity among all the differing Christian parties, including with Jewish believers.  In chapter 23, Hocken offers a very positive, practical, and meaningful way - perhaps overlooked by most all of us - to incorporate the Pentecostal/Charismatic experience with the more traditional believing communities, e.g. Catholic church and the more established Protestant denominations.

It is apparent that Hocken conceives the work of the Spirit as the glory and the disunity among believers, overall and without neglecting it's varied sins, as the shame.

With the recent sharp and divisive controversy regarding the "fire" of the Holy Spirit, this is a book that every Christian pastor, Pentecostal/Charismatic and cessationist, needs to read and use as a framework for discussion within their own respective church leaders and congregations and, of course, among themselves, from every denomination and congregation, formal and informal, traditional and "hip-hop," old and new.  For the surprise invasion of the Holy Spirit is "oriented towards the preparation of God's people as one renewed and restored Church for the return of Jesus" (p.193).
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Sunday, August 7, 2016

Devotion 2: Where is Samuel's God?

"the Lord was with him,
not permitting any word of his to be without effect”
1 Samuel 3:19 (New American Bible)

Samuel is a prime example of someone who became intimately familiar with the God of Israel by virtue of experiencing God's manifestation of Himself to him.

Samuel's words to the people were not merely words of a motivational speaker or one who was able to give wise advice, needed comfort, or timely encouragement - as excellent these things may be - but he spoke with words that were accompanied with divine power.  Words in and of themselves have no desired effect to move people or change circumstances; words of themselves cannot produce intended results.  Divine power is needed to run with the words we speak and to produce what our words have spoken.

God answered Samuel's prayers and what Samuel spoke to the people, God did it!

The people recognized that the Lord was with Samuel, not because he was a good preacher and not merely because his words encouraged or comforted others even if for a temporary time without really resolving the specific issue, but because they saw and experienced for themselves the visible and tangible effects of what he spoke.  As Paul, so Samuel could say, "My message and my proclamation were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with the demonstration of the Spirit's power" (1 Corinthians 4:5).

"...Samuel cried out to the Lord...and the Lord answered him."  1 Samuel 7:9

We claim to be in a greater age of the manifestation of the Kingdom of heaven, yet we can't even seem to compete with an Old testament prophet.  We have may preachers proclaiming and promises being made - how many time have you heard, "You believe in the Lord and I guarantee you" this thing or that thing? - but…

We seem to fall far short in effectiveness.

I remember seeing a person pray on the streets of New York City for a man to be raised out of his wheel-chair, and then the praying man walked away leaving the paralytic in his wheelchair.  I will say, ashamedly, that praying man was braver than I was at the time to pray out loud in the streets.  Nevertheless, the man was not healed.  How many times have I prayed for the sick to be healed, the dead to be raised, for God to show himself?  Few, admittedly; and nothing much to show for it.

How will people know that God is Immanuel - "God with us" - if my words and prayers produce nothing.

How can we convince the world that Christ died to raise us to new life if we show that God cannot even heal the sick?

For all the good preachers with great sermons, for all the churches we see dotting the landscape with praying congregations, with all the sermons preached, promises given, and professions of having faith, we lack terribly the power to back up what we say.

I don't say these things to be critical but, in examination of my own life in Christ, this lack is just too easily evident.  For all my faith in the Lord, my life and what I read in the Gospels do not harmonize.

Although, I should really speak only for myself, I think my criticism of the Church at large, at least, in America is valid.  

Tozer says, "If Christianity is ever to survive, God had better work miracles.  Every advancement of God in every country since the early church has been a miracle."  ---  "Voice of a Prophet," p.100.

Where is Samuel's God?

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Romans 7 Continued: In Conversation

I had a email exchange with someone a little while ago regarding his opposition to my opinion at a Bible study that the Christian can overcome sin in this life, even until their death.
This person countered in response to an email I sent him that, “You will note that [in Romans 7:24] Paul states ‘wretched man that...I am.’ That is a present tense verb, 'I am.' It means that Paul is referring to himself in the present, not the past. In order to be referring to his past one of two things must be true, Paul mistakenly used the wrong verb tense (should have used “I was”) or Paul wrote this part years prior to his letter to the Romans and before becoming a Christian and then added it to his letter. The problem with the latter assumption is that before becoming a Christian, Paul viewed his righteousness as “blameless” before he was a Christian. (Philippians 3:6).”
Since he was not open to a different view, I decided not to answer; but if I did, my response would be as follows:

(A) If Rom 7:24 reflects Paul’s present state as a Christian, let us see, for example, some verses where else the present tense is used also in relation to Paul’s spiritual condition at the time of writing this epistle:
  • 1. “I am unspiritual, sold into slavery to sin.”
  • 2. “…sin lives in me…”
  • 3. “…I want to do good, but I cannot…”
  • 4. “…I do the very evil I do not want!”
  • 5. “…captive to the law of sin…”
If Romans 7 is understood as Paul’s experience as a believer, he admits he is in a struggle with sin but also further admits he losses that struggle consistently and always and, therefore, is habitually committing sin; sin always overcomes him. That is the only way to understand it in view of the whole context. As such, the interpretation of the text being demanded is that, as a Christian, the life we can hope to live is no less sinful and worse than the unregenerate or reprobate.
To claim Romans 7 is Paul’s experience as he wrote the epistle is to neglect the fact that the apostle is not discussing obedience to God and righteousness obtained on the basis of faith but on the basis of Torah. The whole point of v.24, contextually considered, is that Paul sees no way of escaping the divine disapproval and judgment through obedience to the Torah; only Christ can deliver him from this merry-go-round of death as depicted in the chapter.
Unless there is the suggestion that the believer is obligated to obey the Torah, Rom 7 has nothing to do with the Christian life because it is not depicting a person under grace trying to obey God, but a person under Torah trying to be obey God and thus win his approval. 
As such, the objection that, “Paul mistakenly used the wrong verb tense" or "wrote this part [of v.24] years prior to his letter to the Romans,” is baseless.
(B) Regarding his mention of Philippians 3:6, first, Paul is referring to a different type of blamelessness; it is the righteous that makes one blameless that comes by the Torah and the righteousness obtained through faith by grace. Note, this righteousness is described as “having confidence in the flesh” (v.4b, NIV; cf. Rom 9:30-10:4).
And, second, although he claims being blameless, however true as far as the Torah is concerned, the apostle admits such righteousness under Torah does not gain God’s approval and, therefore, he denounces both the righteousness and blamelessness thus obtained.Yet, point in fact, there are places where Paul does admit to being blameless on the basis of grace (e.g. 1 Thessalonians 2:10; Acts 23:1, 24:16).
Also, and perhaps surprisingly, Luke’s Gospel claims the blamelessness of certain persons even before Christ was born, and it seems apparent that such a judgment of their character was true.
(C) I will add mention about 1 Timothy 1:15-16 (another verse brought up in our email exchange) where we read Paul’s admission to being not only a sinner but the “chief of sinners” since the argument here is that the apostle is admitting he is a sinner.
To use 1 Timothy 1:15-16 as evidence that Rom 7 depicts the Christian life is to totally misunderstand Paul’s intent. It can be legitimately argued by the context that the apostle is not talking about his experience as a believer at the time he wrote the epistle but, primarily, his sinful condition before his conversion.
1. The context of the verse itself is with reference to Christ as being the Savior of sinners by means of his atoning sacrifice. Its reference seems clearly to be to men as sinners before their conversion.
2. Note the context refers to a past event: “Even though I was once (“before,” Strong’s #4386; πρότερος proteros)…I was shown mercy…” (v.13, NIV); "the grace of our Lord was...abundant" (v.14, NASB); “I was shown mercy…as an example” (v.16, NIV, cp.NET). These verses, as translated, allude to a past event, which clearly points to the time he was persecuting the Church.
3. NT Greek language resources and commentaries I have all refer to Paul as pointing to his past when he claims to be the “worst of sinners,” although they admit he is not excluding his present condition as a sinner, even if forgiven:
  • Linguistic & Exegetical Key to the Greek NT: “Pres. ‘I am,’ not, ‘I was.’ The sinner remains a sinner even if forgiven; the past is always there as a stimulus to deeper penitence and service” (489).
  • Word Pictures, Robertson: “He had sad memories of those days” (4:564).- UBS Handbook: Timothy & Titus: “The focus here is not on Paul’s moral lapses or immoral conduct but on his rejection of Christ…and the greatness of Christ’s act of bestowing on him new life…” (34).
  • Expositions, Maclaren: “We carry with us ever the fact of past transgression…” (15:331).
  • Expositor’s Bible: “Paul felt that of all sinners he was ‘the worst’…because he had persecuted Christ’s followers…” (11:355).
The point I touch on here is that regardless of whatever position one takes with respect to Paul's spiritual condition at the time he wrote 1 Timothy, the context here respecting his statement as being a sinner and the “chief of sinners” rests on his past condition, not on his present experience and actions, and has no reference to any sins (if any) committed either as a believer since his conversion or when he wrote this letter. As such, his admission to being a sinner, even the “chief of sinners,” is not because he is in the present habit of committing sins - doing what he wants to omit doing or omitting what he wants done (Rom 7) - as a believer.
Any use of 1 Timothy 1:15-16 to defend the view that Romans 7 depicts Paul is referring to his experience as a believer is unwarranted.