Thursday, April 20, 2017

Devotion 18: A Prophet of God Against the Prophets of God

"See how they say to me,
'Where is the word of the Lord?
Let it come to pass'."
Jeremiah 17:15
New American Bible

A.W. Tozer writes that the prophets of the Old Testament, although different in many ways, all held a common bond: "enforced aloneness."

Here we see Jeremiah - a man forced alone because he is commanded by God to speak for Him to the nation - prophesying against well-known, established, and perhaps beloved leaders and prophets of Israel.

How lonely must he have felt.

What was the nature of Jeremiah's experience of the Divine to have propelled him to be so confident his words - words of condemnation - were God's words?  Whatever the experience, it was enough to compel him to believe that his message of divine anger and retribution against God's own people was, in fact, God's message and to publicly proclaim it at the risk of breaking off all ties of family and friendship.

What an encounter he must have experienced to be so sure that his message was from God, a message of divine judgment, in contradiction to the "divine oracles" of all the other "prophets" of God who proclaimed ease and deliverance.  For Jeremiah, the dreams of the prophets were delusions, but his visions were true divine encounters.  Jeremiah knew that only his message was God's message, which God would bring to pass; that his message was the prophecy that God would fulfill while all other prophetic utterances would fail.

Jeremiah may not have fully realized at first that, because his message alone was God's message, he would be alone in proclaiming it.

Jeremiah was the only prophet with a different message.  All the other prophets spoke in the same way of God's great power to deliver and free the nation of Israel from the cruel oppression of their enemies.  On the contrary, Jeremiah proclaimed the greatness of God to judge and punish His people by means of the cruel oppression of their enemies!

With the whole nation against Jeremiah, how lonely he must have been.  How oftentimes did self-doubt creep in to trip him up and to so stand in his way that he complains to God.  Nevertheless, how oftentimes did he buckle under the burden to carry God's word of judgment and condemnation to the nation when everyone else said something different, things edifying and encouraging.  Where Jeremiah said, "God is against you!", all others insisted, "No!  God is for you!"
"Whenever I speak, I must cry out, violence and outrage is my message; the word of the Lord has brought me derision and reproach all the day" (Jeremiah 20:7 NAB)."
Jeremiah, faithful to his experience of the Divine, prophesies as he is commanded against the established religious leaders, teachers, prophets, and even against kings.  Jeremiah contradicted the whole religious and political hierarchy.  He went publicly against all those whom the common people ran for words of hope and comfort, while turning away from Jeremiah's message of sin and guilt, of judgment and condemnation, of banishment and death!

God's primary intention in speaking words to a prophet is not to convey hope but to proclaim truth.  To the one whom God has truly revealed Himself and His message to give to others, let him not think it would endear him to his own family and friends, or to God's people.  Let that prophet arm himself with the realization that he will be alone.  Let him prepare himself to be whispered against and denounced on every side by all who have convinced everyone that they know God's will better and are better experienced, more mature in the things of God than you are.

You will be alone.

Prayer:  Father, where are the prophets of truth who speak Your words, whether of comfort or doom, of truth?  Reveal your heart towards your people to those seeking to know what it really is you are thinking.  In Jesus' name, amen.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Review: Understanding Islam: An Introduction to the Muslim World

Understanding Islam: An Introduction to the Muslim World Understanding Islam: An Introduction to the Muslim World by Thomas W. Lippman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is my first reading on Islam. This appears to be a very brief introduction to the Islamic history and belief, very objectively written if, perhaps, in some respects a little bit biased; although, there is obvious appreciation and respect for Islam in the author's writing, perhaps, because he was a journalist who "has traveled throughout the Islamic world."

Published in 1990, much has happened between now and then to engender a real distaste for anything Islamic, it being properly understood or not. However, it should be remembered, before this book's publication, there were enough violent events happening in the Muslim world that should have influenced me to read up on the religion of Islam sooner.

In any event, this was a clear and, I felt, objective look into the history and teachings of Islam. I list a few things that caught my attention, which may or may not surprise us.

In the Introduction alone, the author notes:
- All Muslims believe in the same God, yet think and independently towards non-Muslims (x).
- There is no distinction between church and state; Islam is, predominantly, an "arbiter of social behavior" and the source of statecraft (pages x, 70).
- Although Muslims are no more prone to aggression than non-Muslims, however, "if the principles of Islam were followed, every Muslim would treat every other Muslim like a brother; in fact, they have been attacking one another since the founding of the faith" (xi).

Throughout the book, what was prominent in my reading was:
- Although, they are believed to have distorted the revelation received from God and for that were condemned, the roots of Islam are in Judaism and Christianity. (5); and, as a matter of fact, Jew and Christians are to be "accorded special status as 'people of the book'." (120).
- The primary motivating factor in Islam is the fear of God, "fear of the last judgment and of eternal damnation." The author admits that "Islam places less stress upon the love of the Deity as a motivation for piety than does Christianity" (11). Nevertheless, "Koranic revelations spoke of the Jews in harsh terms" (50).
- The Qur'an, as a book dictated by God is, "rather than any person, the earthly manifestation of the divine existence" (57).
- Disputes over what Muhammed taught were immediately disputed after his death (61).
- Most Muslims today are not Arabic and cannot read the language.
- It is an error to say that Arabs warring against their neighbors were purely defensive and that these wars were executed to force conversions to Islam.
- Disputes between Muslims and Arab conquests in war began immediately after the death of Muhammed and filled the next century with turmoil and violence, making peace as elusive then as it is today (61,116). "Muslims still take arms against each other, at least, as often as...against unbelievers" (178).
- Notions of a Caliph to rule over Muslims is nowhere taught in the Qur'an (104).

The author seems to thoroughly, if briefly (only about 185 pages), the history and teachings of Islam. He covers:
- Basic belief and practices.
- Life and death of Muhammed
- Qur'an (Koran) and other writings, e.g. Hadith and Sharia
- Islam and government
- Other schools of islamic thought, e.g. Sunni and Wahhabism, and others.
- It's history and impact today (up to the books publication, 1990).
- Glossary of terms that I found very helpful throughout my reading.

I would recommend a more up-to-date introduction of Islam for those interested, but if you come across this book, it should be helpful in understanding the fundamental beliefs and history and how we have arrived today with situations in the Middle East with the rise of ISIS and Muslim intolerance of Jews and Christians, which may not actually be faithful to the of Qur'an teachings but true to Islamic history.

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Monday, April 17, 2017

Review: Handbook of Revivals

Handbook of Revivals Handbook of Revivals by Henry Clay Fish
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Disappointing. Book seems to have actually been written in 1874. The first chapter was fairly well but, for the most part, the rest of the book was a struggle for me to read through as it seemed written in a way, at least to me, that is too elaborate (flowery?) that did not hold my mind. Nothing like Charles G. Finney's "Revival Lectures."

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Saturday, April 15, 2017

Devotion 17: Collateral Damage

"The Lord who planted you has decreed misfortune for you
because of the evil done by the house of Israel..."
Jeremiah 11:17 (New American Bible)
Read Jeremiah 11-12

Is there an intended double-meaning here?  That is, in the phrase "Lord who planted you," does "you," refer to both the nation Israel and the prophet Jeremiah himself?

If God is also here speaking directly to Jeremiah about Jeremiah, we read that he complains, basically saying, "Lord, I'm obedient!  Why include me is Israel's misfortunes in judgment?" God's answer is, "Are you so afraid, so weak in faith that I will care for you when everything is at peace and I have not yet acted in judgment to bring calamity?  How strong will your faith be when I go through with the judgments decreed against Israel and an enemy invades the land and war erupts?"

In the last day of God's judgment against the nations, Christians must realize they will be spared the judgment against sinners, but not the total effects of it upon the nations.  If in judgment against the rebellious there is a famine, the obedient also will go hungry.  If invaders attack and forcibly remove unbelievers out of their homes, the Christian next door will be the next removed from their's.  

This idea of a "rapture" providing an escape is nothing more than an empty hope, a theology that abandons the reality of our solidarity in the sins of men although we ourselves may be innocent.  Yet, while the sinner is under the direct judgment of God, the Christian must endure collateral damage, that is, the accidental damage that ensues as a result of divine judgment, whether it be (a) that which spills out directly from God's judgment (for example, an enemy invasion), or (b) the resultant response of sinners against being judged by God, or (c) our faithfulness to God in proclaiming the misfortunes of men as divine judgments.

Just look what happened to Jeremiah.  Not only did his own family betray him, plotting evil against him, but we read that he was imprisoned, thrown in a well, and forced into exile with those fleeing out of the Land of Israel.  Jeremiah was not tucked safely away from all the turmoil caused by God judging the nation of Israel for their sins.

Our hope is not in a "rapture" but in Christ whether or not we are delivered from misfortune. The "Day of the Lord" will, apparently, not leave the innocent unaffected; there will be collateral damage when the stars begin to fall and the sky is completely darkened.  To prepare for that time, you must face the question now: If history shows us how the thousands of God's people have suffered fearful and terrible calamities and tragedies, as well as persecutions, what makes us think we will avoid these things now and, especially, in the last days?

Prayer:  Lord Jesus, strengthen us to stand that we may endure to the end.  Be glorified in our standing, in our endurance, and doing good to others to those who sin against You and us. Even when the time comes that we ourselves suffer misfortunes as the outgrowth of Your judgments against evil men, give us strength of will and action to do good to those very men for whom you bring judgment.  In Jesus name.  Amen.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Devotion 16: Angered Through A Broken Heart

"I you loved me...
yet you do all the evil you can."
Jeremiah 2:2; 3:5.
(Read Jeremiah 1-3)

As angry and bitter sounding are the accusations God makes against Israel in chapters two through three of the book of the prophet Jeremiah, nevertheless, it comes from a broken heart.

I am of the personal opinion that atheists deny God, not on the grounds of science or facts as they may claim, but because they had a tragic experience that has left them with a broken and bitter heart.  "If God exists, he is cruel and evil," they would say.  And there may be those who would sympathize with the atheists and see their anger as justified.

We ourselves may manage to use our hurt as an excuse to be cruelly angry towards others.

Yet, just as deeply broken is God's heart that he responds by rejecting his people, refusing to deliver them from the violence of their enemies.

Do we ever give God the same benefit of the doubt we give others who respond angrily because of hurt? Do we ever consider God justified in his anger?  We never seem to acknowledge God's brokenness behind the words of judgment we read in the Bible. Rather than sympathize with God's brokenness, we speedily condemn God as mean, harsh, and even evil.

However, although a man would not take back his wife who committed adultery by prostituting herself, God's broken heart, nevertheless, does not so overcome his love for His people that he would not take them back if they would only return in repentance to their "first love" (Jeremiah 3:12; Revelation 2:4-5a).

Prayer:  Lord, influence us in grace in such a way that our hearts would break with even the thought of breaking your heart.  And, in your anger, lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.  In Jesus name, amen.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Review: The Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit The Holy Spirit by Stanley Hauerwas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A good book on any aspect of Christian theology is one that brings clarity and new insights into what is believed. An even better Christian book is one that challenges assumptions and forces the reader to rethink concepts and values taken for granted.

This is an even better book.

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Sunday, April 2, 2017

Review: Bearing Witness: Stories of Martyrdom and Costly Discipleship

Bearing Witness: Stories of Martyrdom and Costly Discipleship Bearing Witness: Stories of Martyrdom and Costly Discipleship by Charles E. Moore
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Brief, but emotionally moving accounts of persecution and martyrdom from the Biblical account of Stephen's martyr to Anabaptist persecutions and martyrdoms in Nigeria under Boko Haram. Included are five accounts, out of 36 stories, of persecution and martyrdom in the United States from the late 1700's to the mid-1900's.

This book is a good introduction the the reality of Christian suffering and bear witness not only to the depths of cruel violence men will inflict upon others, but the courage that graces those under persecution committed to their Christian faith and, especially in many stories involving Anabaptists, the depth and strength of conviction to non-violence as taught and exemplified by Christ in the Gospels.

I found that the introduction to this book was honest in dealing with the complexity of human nature in the face of persecution and martyrdom. Especially insightful is where we read, "At their best, martyr stories help communities validate their own cultural identity. At their worst, these memories can serve to justify resentment of one group against another and even lead to retribution."

An excellent read that will not only cause you to examine your faith but question the nature of your love for enemies.

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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Review: The Kill Switch

The Kill Switch The Kill Switch by James Rollins
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was much better than the second book in the Tucker Wayne series, "War Hawk," which I reviewed earlier. More action, and not as predictable.|

My only complaint in both his series thus far, is that I wish he would involve Kane, the dog, more in his stories. He seems to involve him more in "War Hawk" then here, but "The Kill Switch" had more action and more twists in the story.

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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 us lay a great chasm none can 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: 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."