Sunday, June 29, 2014

Review - Vatican II: The Essential Texts

Too often we get our information about people and groups through the grapevine. We hear from someone’s cousin, twice removed. We never go to the source for the information we want. That is why when I study different people, groups, faiths, etc. that I read writing’s from those involved in them.

That is what is so important about the book Vatican II - The Essential Text. Vatican II is an important Catholic Church council that shaped much of what the church is about today. It includes most of the documents that were finalized in Vatican II. From the current liturgy, to the churches view of what constitutes God’s Word, onto how the church is to relate to the world and other faiths.

What is even of more help is the introductions to each section made by Edward P. Hahnenberg. He gives us background on the reason the topic was up for consideration, the process it took to have it finalized, and he even includes those in the church who disagreed with it.

This is a book that I will use often in my studies. It is well written, easy to understand, and important to our understanding of the Roman Catholic Church as it is today.

Disclaimer- I received this book for free from Blogging for Books. All that was required of me is that I review it, positively or negatively, on my site.

Friday, June 27, 2014

My Disgust with Politics

Being home this summer has given me the opportunity to listen to politicians, journalists and others discuss politics more than any other time during the year. It is like this each summer. And each summer I get more disgusted in what I am listening to. I hear one political party talk about how bad the other political party is. The so-called bad party will say something like, “well at least we didn’t do _____,” something they consider to be worse. Journalists fuel the fires on their biased networks and print publications (FOXNews, MSNBC, CNN, NY Times, and all of the major networks and publications are as guilty as the other). Discussions on the street among the common folk is just as vile. Your party is bad, my party is good.

And that is what I believe is the biggest problem with politics today - both political parties are just as bad as the other and they fail to recognize it.

For example, take recess appointments. The Supreme Court unanimously ruled that Obama exceeded his
authority when he made three recess appointments in January 2012. Republicans have praised the ruling. How convenient is it that Republicans have forgotten about Bush’s recess appointments, including John Bolton to the U.N in 2006? Another example could be the filibuster. Democrat’s cry at how often Republicans have used it during Obama’s presidency yet they filibustered many of Bush’s nominees.

The argument that amazes me the most is how Republicans have criticized Obama for taking as many trips on Air Force One as he has for family vacations, etc., yet I remember that Bush flew it to Texas so many times to that I lost count.

In order for this country to turn things around we need to stop the elementary playground stuff like name calling, the nana-nana-boo-boo taunts, and come together to solve the problems of this country. We need put aside personal agendas and come up with solutions on how to get our great country back on the track to prosperity. We need to overlook party lines and see that we are not Republican or Democrat but Americans. We need to be once again the United States of America.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Only Truth

We live in a time where most believe that they can create their own truth. Whatever one believes to be true is true to them. No one’s truth stands over or is truer than another’s. We all can believe whatever we want as long as we don’t say someone else’s truth is wrong. This false belief has even made its way into the church.

So many people have the false notion that anyone can believe whatever truth they want to believe about God and be accepted by Him. Just listen to people talk about heaven and you will get a variety of ways on how to get there, some of which don’t even include resting our faith in God. When pressed on what is the basis of their belief they will give every reason under the sun as validation for their supposed truth.

Fortunately we as Christians have the truth. The truth we trust and believe in isn’t based on someone’s opinion. The truth we trust and believe in doesn’t waver. The truth we trust and believe in isn’t determined by what one feel’s to be right. The truth we trust and believe in is rooted in something deeper and stronger than any in the folly of men’s thoughts. The truth we believe in is found in God’s very Word - the Bible.

In John 17 we read one of the best prayers recorded in Scripture, Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer. This is the final prayer Jesus prays. He is in the garden of Gethsemane, about to arrested, tried and killed for the sins of the world. Obviously then what we read in this prayer is of the utmost importance. He begins by praying for himself, then for his disciples, and ends by praying for the rest of believers.

It is towards the end of the section where He is praying for His disciples that we come upon a great truth about truth when we read these words found in John 17:17, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” A few points I want to make about truth that we find in this short, simple statement from Christ:
  1. There is just one truth. Notice that Christ didn’t say that there are many truths but there is “the truth.” That says that there is one singular truth, not many different truths. We all can’t believe whatever we want and all be correct. That is enough to cause many to gasp. But Christ is clear that there are not many truth’s to believe, just one.
  2. God’s Word is the truth. We can find truth in one place, the Bible. We don’t need any other source to have truth because the Bible is the only truth there is. Not the Quran. Not the Mormon’s Doctrines and Covenants. Not some manifesto written by some so-called prophet. We have the truth when we have God’s Word and we have God’s Word when we have the Bible.
  3. We cannot be used by God without the truth. The word sanctify means to be set apart for use. God wants us to be used by Him. He has a plan for each of us (Ephesians 2:10; Jeremiah 29:11) and those plans flow from His truth, which is His Word. If we try to be used by God, to do works for Him, and we don’t have His Word to guide us we will fail. God’s Word equips us to do every good work God has planned for us to do (2 Timothy 3:16-17). We read in Psalm 119:105 the following, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.When we try to live for God and do not have His Word leading our way we will wonder away from the plans He has for our lives because we are not guided by the truth.
In today’s time this sounds intolerant. People want to believe whatever and not be told otherwise. Unfortunately the church has taken on this idea as well. Please remember Christ’s words in John 17:17, there is no other truth but that which is found in Scripture. To believe that we can create our own truth, to have a truth outside of the Bible is really no truth at all. To be more blunt, to believe that we can have a truth that isn’t found in Scripture is to call Christ a liar.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Review - Basil of Caesarea

I enjoy learning about the early church, her beliefs and those who were instrumental formulating her doctrine and practices. Marvin Jones has written a book about one such person, Basil of Caesarea. Basil was a key figure in helping us understand Scriptural truths like the Trinity (individually and separately), creation, and others. He was engaged in many debates that led to a true understanding of these truths and yet did so in a Godly way. Jones also gives us the history of how Basil came to know Christ, how he lived a simple life and that without applying deep thought to Scripture we are missing out on so much God has for us. Jones also gives us a history lesson on the key figures that were for or against the position Basil held. He writes in a way that takes us back to that time and place and in a way that we all will understand. I appreciate all of that about this book.

My only issue with it is that in the first half of the book you read more about others than Basil. The last half is focused almost solely on his life and theology. While it is important to know all of the central figures and teachings I wished more time had been spent on Basil.

With that said please don’t misunderstand the joy this book gave me. I will turn to it when I am teaching on those issues Basil had to deal with in his life and ministry.

Disclaimer- I received this book for free from Christian Focus through CrossFocused Reviews for this review. All that was required of me is that I review it, positively or negatively, on my site.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Review - Exploring Christian Theology

I haven’t been more torn reading a book as I have reading Exploring Christian Theology by Nathan D. Holsteen and Michael J. Svigel. There were many times when I was the author was diving into some deep theological truth only to be interrupted us with Dr. Seuss. And as the author would being to probe the depth of that theological truth they would move onto another point. So I’m torn, torn between enjoying this book and really enjoying this book. To make myself clear I enjoyed this book, just not as much as I felt I wanted to or should have.

The book is in two parts. The first part, written by Holdsteen, is titled “Created in Christ Jesus: Church, Churches, and the Christian Life.” The topics are wide ranging, encouraging, challenging and interrupted. As I said earlier you will come across your fair share of Dr. Seuss references (amongst other pop-culture references). Holdsteen uses these references as illustrations. Now I appreciate a good illustration it’s just that these didn’t seem to fit. Sure in some way they concerned the topic but they were distracting. Holdsteen writes in a clear way. He makes the topic easy to understand without any reference to Thing One and Thing Two.

The second part is written by Svigel and is titled “When He Returns: Resurrection, Judgment and the Restoration.” To compare it to part one, Svigel uses illustrations concerning his family or experiences. To me these are more impactful and help better clarify the point. Like Holsteen he writes deeply but clearly.

Both authors show all views of controversial topics and leave it to the reader to decide on their view. But as I mentioned earlier I wish they would have taken us deeper into those topics.

What I enjoyed most was how they took us throughout church history on certain topics. I always enjoy seeing how the church in her history has viewed the truths found in Scripture. The shortness of the discussion is an effect of their goal. They are trying to give us a “concise” talk on each of the topics. My frustration with the brevity is in a way good, overall I enjoyed what I was reading and wanted to keep reading their thoughts on those topics.

Disclaimer- I received this book for free from Bethany House for this review. All that was required of me is that I review it, positively or negatively, on my site.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Review - Gospel Assurance and Warnings

You have heard conversion stories of people who said a prayer, signed a card and/or came down to the front during the altar call and believe that they are saved. Yet when you look at their life afterward you question whether that conversion was real. Paul Washer, in his wonderful book Gospel Assurance and Warnings, takes us to Scripture to see how we can know whether we are truly saved. And no it isn’t any of those things I have just mentioned.

What struck me first about this book is how engrossing it is. Washer is addressing a topic that is hard hitting, that makes us reflect on our life as a Christian, and yet I couldn't put it down. I wanted to stay up and keep reading the next assurance of salvation that Scripture promises us. Next, like his book The Gospel Call and True Conversion (my review here); I realized how easy it is to read. He writes with the reader in mind. The last thing that caught my attention is the tone of his writing. He isn’t judgmental in pointing out how many people have a false assurance of salvation. His goal is to get you to see from Scripture that you may not truly be saved all the while he also gives great assurance to those that are truly saved. A fine line to toe and he does it well.

Washer draws his content mainly from I John and Matthew’s gospel. When one takes the time to look deeply in Scripture they will find a wealth of content to strengthen or question the faith that we have. Paul does that for us in this book.

The only book I have read more than once is the Bible. It’s an almost guarantee that I will read this again on a regular basis. I need the assurance that I am God’s child. From time to time I will also need to be convicted and nudged back on the path that leads to God.

Disclaimer- I received this book for free from Reformation Heritage Books through CrossFocused Reviews for this review. All that was required of me is that I review it, positively or negatively, on my site.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Review - Spiritual Warfare

In their book Spiritual Warfare, Brian Borgman and Rob Venture guide us through Ephesians 6:10-20, the famous passage on spiritual warfare. There seems to be two extremes concerning the war all Christians are in. One side says that every spiritual battle needs to have an exorcism performed, rebuking the devil and the like. The other side will say that our battles have nothing to do with those things and isn’t real. In this book you will find a thought out, balanced approach based on a clear exegesis of the Ephesians passage mentioned earlier.

They make it clear that we are in a battle against Satan and that we need to be equipped to fight that war. Fortunately we are not able to fight it on our own. We need help. That help is found in Christ. He equips us with the armor of God. He strengthens us, arms us and guides us in this daily battle. Throughout the book the authors bring us back to that glorious fact. In the first chapter they remind us that Christ is higher and more powerful than any force that comes against us.

What also struck me about the book is how easy it is to read. When “big” words are used they explain them clearly so anyone can understand. Also it is a quick read.

We need books like this today. Even though you can find a plethora of books on spiritual warfare none approach it from a Biblical viewpoint like this.

You can purchase it at Christianbook, Amazon or Reformation Heritage Books.

Disclaimer - I received this resource free from Reformation Heritage Books through CrossFocused Reviews as part of their book review blogger program. All that was required of me is that I review it, positively or negatively, on my site.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Living Out Our Faith as Slaves of Christ, Pt. 6

This is that last post on a short series on being slaves of Christ. Here are the links for part one, two, three, four and five. In the fifth post we looked at the discipline the master gives to his slaves that disobey. And because God loves us and desires us to live holy lives He disciplines us, His slaves, to lead us to repentance. Now we will look at the reward for those slaves who live obediently to God’s Word.

One passage the gives many of us hope when life gets tough is Matthew 25:21 where we read:
His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.”
Notice the word servant? In the Greek it is the word doulos which means slave, not servant. So we should read the passage like this, Well done, good and faithful slave. Christ is speaking to those who identify themselves as His slaves, not His servants. Adds a different dimension, doesn’t it?

Remember we are called as slaves of Christ and only slaves of Christ will reap the benefit mentioned by Him in this passage. We must be completely sold out to Him, completely obedient to Scripture, to enter into this joy Christ is speaking of.

So what is this reward Christ is promising to those who are His slaves. Simply put, it is heaven. How glorious is that! When we live lives as His slave He gives us heaven as our reward. Denying ourselves, taking up our crosses daily and following Him will take us on the narrow road that leads to paradise (Matthew 7:13-14). What a wonderful truth and promise that He gives us. As long as we live as His slaves.

Too often though we live as though we can pick and choose when to serve Christ; when it is convenient. We will pick and choose the parts of the Bible to obey. We have no problem doing the easy things the Bible asks us to do but the hard things, well, that’s a different story. Being His slave is a 24/7/365 responsibility. But the reward is better than we could ever hope or imagine.

I want to end with this - if you don’t live as Christ’s slave, what is stopping you? He will
equip you with all the strength you need to do what He asks. He will give you His Spirit to guide you along the way. He has given you the Bible to be your light in this dark world. And heaven awaits you on the other side. Romans 10:9 says the following:
(I)f you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord (He is your Master, you are His slave) and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
Time is short. Tomorrow is promised to no one. Don’t wait. Respond to His call today and know that when you do and devote yourself to live as His slave you will enter into the joy of your Master when you depart from this world and pass onto the next.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Confronting Others Online

We live in a time where everyone is connected online. Most have Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, Pinterest boards and the like. We are in touch with each other more than ever. Yet we truly converse with people less now than we ever have. And this has created something that I believe has become problematic.

I joined Facebook some 5 years ago. Initially I wasn’t sure if I liked it or not. What won me over was getting in touch with people that I hadn’t heard from in years. It also allowed me to stay in touch with people more regularly. I believe most users feel the same way. We get to see pictures of other’s families. We get to see the joys and struggles others are going through. We get to see the humor and pain in the lives of others. We also share the same about ourselves; all the while never leaving the comfort of our homes.

And this is the root of what I believe is a serious problem amongst users of these social network sights. The problem - taking disputes and disagreements online instead of to the person in private.

If you have been on Facebook for any amount of time you will have someone post/comment to you about a behavior they believe you are doing wrong. They will comment on a post you have made or post to your page directly; people have become so very bold out there in cyber space. The problem is that they took to Facebook before they went to you privately. To put it plainly this is a direct violation of Scripture.

We read in Matthew 18:15 the following from Christ:
If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. (Emphasis added)
The first thing I want to point out is that correcting someone is a command from Christ. He tells us that if we see someone in sin to go to that person and point out the offense. This isn’t a problem on Facebook. So many people will call out people on Facebook for the wrong they are doing. But we must notice something else Christ tells us here and that is we are to go to them privately. Let’s make sure we understand, privately does not mean on the World Wide Web. Privately does not mean to post it on Facebook for all of your and their friends to see. This means that you go to that person and meet with them in private to discuss the issue.

As a side note, most of the “sin” that people confront online is more of a personal preference, which they consider to be sin, when in reality it isn’t. That is what the Pharisees did. And Christ rebuked them for that.

The worst offenders are those who write posts about people(s) but not mention the name(s) of the one(s) they are posting about. Another habit I have seen from people is that they will name a group of people but not the individual names of the people in that group. They will say something like, “well I didn’t use their name so it is ok to post this about them.” Yet by naming or describing the group they make it easy for others to know the specific individuals they are addressing about that sin, so in effect they have called them out by name. If we are honest with ourselves do we really believe that Christ, with His command in Matthew 18:15 to go that person individually, will be ok with that type of confrontation? I believe not.

I also feel like I need to clarify the difference between stating opinions and calling out people in their sins. Stating opinions is a good thing to do, even opinions about sin in general. Matthew 18:15 doesn’t apply to stating opinions. But to say a person or a group is in sin isn’t an opinion, it is calling out sin. And to do that without going to that person first is a violation of Matthew 18:15.

I understand why many of us go to Facebook first - it feels good. Don’t be shocked that I typed that. If you are honest with yourself you will agree. We do it to get things off of our chest. Blow off some steam. It makes us feel better to tell people off. And when we click “post” we feel like we have accomplished something. Yet all that we have actually done is to feed our flesh. And that isn’t a valid Biblical reason to do anything.

So why do we need to go to the person in private instead of on social media? Christ tells us why in the last part of Matthew 18:15 - to win that person back. This means that we have helped them to see the error of their ways, to repent and relationships are restored. This will only happen when we go to them in person, not when we take it online. Going online first normally leads to strife, anger, and broken relationships; the exact opposite of what Christ desires.

As I type this I see the irony of this post. Me saying that it is wrong to post about people without going to them first, yet it seems like I am doing that very thing. Honestly, I am posting this as much for me as for anyone else. Maybe I am confronting myself on social media. I’m sure that if I looked back over the history of my posts I would be guilty of going to social media before I went to people about things in their life they needed to change. I was wrong. I should have taken the time to visit with them in person about the issue. I am posting this not as a way to confront someone or get back at anyone in particular because they have done this to me. My goal with this post is to help us all, me included, to go to others before we go to social media (if even at all). That is the Godly way. That is the way that brings Him glory. That is the way to get the best, and should I say, desired, results.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Review - Why Christ Came

The Christian book market is flooded with devotionals of every kind. Whatever topic or encouragement you are looking for you more than likely can find. In the new devotional by Joel R. Beeke and William Boekestein you will be challenged every day for a month on the glorious topic of the incarnation. The devotional is appropriately called Why Christ Came.

From the first day to the last you will cover almost every reason why Christ as God came to earth in the form of man. This isn't your usual fluff devotional. I felt like I was getting a mini lecture on theology each morning yet written in a way that isn't too academic. Each day’s topic is flooded with Scripture references to validate what they are teaching us.

The best part of this devotional is that you spend 31 days looking deeply into the life of our Savior. You begin your day with your thought’s squarely on the most important person in your life - Christ. Can’t go wrong with that.

You can purchase the book at Christianbook, Amazon or Reformation Heritage Books.

Here is a video trailer for the book.

Disclaimer - I received this resource free from Reformation Heritage Books through CrossFocused Reviews as part of their book review blogger program. All that was required of me is that I review it, positively or negatively, on my site.