Book, , Movie, Music, and Television Reviews

On thinking that God only has one begotten son – the rest of us are children by adoption – and that Jesus is not ashamed to call us brothers…This is pretty long, and it’s worth the read.

Our church is doing "Adoption month."  Yes, an entire month on the topic of adoption - and I had the following story a few months ago...it's great.

 PROOF” by Daniel Montgomery and Timothy Paul Jones - is a reworking of TULIP - I like the book.

“Because I’m Yours”

I never dreamed that taking a child to Disney World could be so difficult – or that such a trip could teach me so much about God’s outrageous grace.


Our middle daughter had been previously adopted by another family.  I [Timothy] am sure this couple had the best of intentions, but they never quite integrated the adopted child into their family of biological children.  After a couple of rough years, they dissolved the adoption and we ended up welcoming an eight-year-old daughter into our home.

For one reason or another, whenever our daughter’s previous family vacationed at Disney World, they took their biological children with them, but they left their adopted daughter behind with a family friend. Usually – at least in the child’s mind, this happened because she did something wrong that precluded her presence on the trip.

And so, by the time we adopted our daughter, she had seen many pictures of Disney World and she had heard about the rides and the characters and the parades.  But when it came to passing through the gates of the Magic Kingdom, she had always been the one left on the outside.  Once I found out about this history, I made plans to take her to Disney World the next time a speaking engagement took our family to the south-eastern United States.

I thought I had mastered the Disney World drill.  I knew from previous experiences that the prospect of seeing cast members in freakishly oversized mouse and duck costumes somehow turns children into squirming bundles of emotional insecurity.  What I didn’t expect was that the prospect of visiting this dreamworld would produce a stream of downright devilish behavior in our newest daughter.  In the month leading up to our trip to the Magic Kingdom, she stole food when a simple request would have gained her  a snack.  She lied when it would have been easier to tell the truth. She whispered insults that were carefully crafted to hurt her older sister as deeply as possible — and as the days on the calendar moved closer to the trip, her mutinies multiplied.

A couple of days before our family headed to Florida, I pulled our daughter into my lap to talk about her latest escapade. :I know what you’re going to do," she stated flatly.  “You’re not going to take me to Disney World, are you?”  The thought actually hadn’t crossed my mind, but her downward spiral suddenly started to make some sense.  She knew she couldn’t earn her way into the Magic Kingdom — she had tried and failed that test several times before — so she was living in a way that placed her as far as possible from the most magical place on earth.

In retrospect, I’m embarrassed to admit that, in that moment, I was tempted to turn her fear to my own advantage.  The easiest response would have been “If you don’t start behaving better, you’re right, we won’t take you”  But by God’s grace, I didn’t.  Instead I asked her, “Is this trip something we’re doing as a family?”

She nodded, brown eyes wide and tear-rimmed.

“Are you part of this family?”

She nodded again.

“Then you’re going with us.  Sure, there may be some consequences to help you remember what’s right and what’s wrong — but you’re part of our family and we’re not leaving you behind.

I’d like to say that her behaviors grew better after that moment.  They didn’t.  Her choices pretty much spiraled out of control at every hotel and every rest stop all the way to Lake Buena Vista.  Still, we headed to Disney World on the day we promised, and it was a typical Disney day.  Overpriced tickets, overpriced meals, and lots of lines, mingled with just enough manufactured magic to consider maybe going again someday.

In our hotel room that evening, a very different child emerged.  She was exhausted, pensive, and a little weepy at times, but her month-long facade of rebellion had faded.  When bedtime rolled around, I prayed with her, held her, and asked, “So, how was your first day at Disney World?”

She closed her eyes and snuggled down into her stuffed unicorn.  After a few moments, she opened her eyes every so slightly.  “Daddy,” she said, “I finally got to go to Disney World.  But it wasn’t because I was good.  It’s because I’m yours.”

It wasn’t because I was good…it’s because I’m yours.

That’s the message of outrageous grace.

Outrageous grace isn’t a favor your can achieve by being good; it’s the gift your receive by being God’s.


Read here for explanation of rating

 

In Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, Eric Metaxas tells Bonhoeffer’s story with passion and theological sophistication, often challenging revisionist accounts that make Bonhoeffer out to be a ‘humanist’ or ethicist for whom religious doctrine was easily disposable. . . . His was a radical obedience to God, a frame of mind widely viewed today with fear and loathing, even among the faithful. In Bonhoeffer, Mr. Metaxas reminds us that there are forms of religion— respectable, domesticated, timid— that may end up doing the devil’s work for him.” ~~~Wall Street Journal

This book is long, but worth it and Metaxas did his research well. He uses letters, sermons, notes and the words of Bonhoeffer to allow him (Bonhoeffer) to tell his own story.

Most people will find the book accessible and easy to read in most places, although in many places, it's difficult emotionally to process.

"Bonhoeffer” sets out to make Bonhoeffer’s life known. I've read critics who say that Metaxas only portrayed his subject in the most positive light – maybe so. But the nuts and bolts of Bonhoeffer's life was positive and if you want to know how he lived and why he died...read this.

I have not read much Bonhoeffer, and have never read a biography. This book made me sit back and ponder many things. - Would I stand firm in the face of adversity? Would I stand firm in the face of somebody else's adversity? Do I live, and would I die, in such a way that “Christ is honored in my body, whether by life or by death?”

I enjoyed the book, and I realize that faith and politics have always intersected, and persecution is always with us – whether “we” are the ones persecuted, or whether we watch another group. The book makes you think; read it book if you want to understand Bonhoeffer and the times and politics in which he lived.

1 Comment

Every once in a while, there is a book that I just cannot finish - it's not worth my time.

This month, it's a fiction book (murder and general mystery book) titled "Liquid Fear."

Even with the plot already laid out, I don't get it.

well, I do get it, but I'm not enjoying it. Others might, it's just not my deal.

For me, Book Fail

I finished "Fierce Women" (by Kimberly Wagner) this past week and was really encouraged to learn from my own past behavior (in my first marriage.)  When a marriage breaks down, there is rarely an "innocent" party - even if it's a bad reaction to a bad situation.

Women (welcome to the human race) have an insecurity (as most human beings) and feel a need to be in control.

Written from a Complementarian viewpoint, Wagner writes from the painful spot of a woman who has been there, done that - and who, as a couple, brought their marriage from a painful union, to a joyful communion.

Teaching that women have a different role in a marriage than their husbands have, the point of the book is to help women recognize that role, how to step out of trying to fill their husband's shoes, and how to gracefully and joyfully submit to the will of God in marriage.

Whether or not you realize it, you are in a battle, and God has placed strengths within you to be used in powerful ways. When you enter the marriage relationship, you are entering the sacred metaphor God designed to explain Himself to a watching world. Marriage is the great mystery, the glorious platform God created to display His love relationship with His bride. This is why marriage is a flashpoint for Satan’s attacks; he seeks to destroy the beauty and effectiveness of God’s model. In light of this, we must strive for the Great Story to be lived out in our marriages.

I hope as you read, you will take moments to pause, ponder, and pray. May you encounter the Lord of Battles within these pages and receive insight and instruction for serving Him as a soft warrior—the Fierce Woman who is empowered by the Spirit and softened by His grace.(1)

Wagner uses examples from her own life, as well as examples from women that she knows or has known, to show how women can use their strength to either help or hurt their marriages.

Being a Complementarian does not exclude a woman to having a pastoral tone to other women, and Wagner excels.  Her "I've done this, don't follow me down that path" plea a wonderful tone to a world of women who are at once frustrated with the state of their marriage, and frustrated with the way they are dealing with it.

With these women as her audience, Wagner is uniquely qualified because she HAS been there.

My "book review template" asks at this point: What does the book promise? What is the problem the book promises to solve?

In the author's words:

I hope as you read, you will take moments to pause, ponder, and pray. May you encounter the Lord of Battles within these pages and receive insight and instruction for serving Him as a soft warrior—the Fierce Woman who is empowered by the Spirit and softened by His grace.(2)
.

And yes, the book delivers.

As a woman who will be entering a marriage covenant in a few months, with Christ at the center, and Complementarianism as the framework, "Fierce Women" is a playbook of how to relate to your husband in a way that is fitting for a woman who loves Christ.

What does "respect" look like?  Submission?  Do I need to be a "doormat?"

This matters because Satan wants nothing more than to strike at the soul of marriage.  If marriage reflects Christ and His bride, turning those roles upside down in a marriage leaves us with a distorted view of Christ and His church.  How should the church submit to Christ - wives should be able to reflect that.

I really like this book.  I printed out a couple of things and put them in my planner.  If you have a power struggle in your marriage and want to be part of the solution, read this book.

If you want to be a Biblically submissive wife, read this book.

If you want to build your husband up, instead of tearing him down, read this book.

I've read a lot of books on how to be a submissive wife.  This book is, at the end of the day, not how to make yourself more submissive, but how to build your husband up, to better help him to be the husband God wants him to be.

~~~

(1)Wagner, Kimberly (2012-08-24). Fierce Women: The Power of a Soft Warrior (True Woman) (pp. 10-12). Moody Publishers. Kindle Edition.

(2)Wagner, Kimberly (2012-08-24). Fierce Women: The Power of a Soft Warrior (True Woman) (p. 12). Moody Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Reading "Surfing For God"

When I was in high school, my best friend's dad smoked a pipe.  Coming from a Baptist family, who were all non-smokers, had only used pipe cleaners in craft projects.  I was waiting for Denise one day, at their dining room table and amused myself with what was available.

Now...imagine the horror that she felt when she discovered that I had made little animals out of all of her dad's pipe cleaners!  Imagine my confusion when told her dad used "pipe cleaners" to...well...clean his pipes!  She was afraid that her dad would be angry at the wrong use of his pipe cleaners.

There was a legitimate use of the pipe cleaners that I didn't quite have the experience to "get."

(this is not a good parallel, but it meant something to me.)

In reading "Surfing for God," the author, Michael John Cusick, related a story:

My friend Danny is passionate about baseball. He is also deeply committed to working on his soul—understanding his brokenness and walking with Jesus to be restored. In 2005 we drove together to the Colorado Rockies’ opening day game. During our drive he shared that he hadn’t missed an opening day game in years.

Through his involvement in a men’s group, he realized that he “needed” to attend opening day the way an alcoholic needs a drink. Danny had recently discovered that opening day numbed the pain of growing up with an absent father because it symbolized the minimal time and attention his father gave him. His legitimate desire for fatherly involvement attached itself to a designer gift—a legitimate good.

But because attendance at opening day was an attempt to protect himself from the pain of his wound, the legitimate good became a counterfeit good. He was turning stones into bread. The game we attended was the first time his heart was free from the need to be there. (1)

It reminds me of something that C.S.Lewis wrote

If Dualism is true, then the bad Power must be a being who likes badness for its own sake. But in reality we have no experience of anyone liking badness just because it is bad... But pleasure, money, power, and safety are all, as far as they go, good things.

The badness consists in pursuing them by the wrong method, or in the wrong way, or too much...I do mean that wickedness, when you examine it, turns out to be the pursuit of some good in the wrong way. You can be good for the mere sake of goodness: you cannot be bad for the mere sake of badness.

Goodness is, so to speak, itself: badness is only spoiled goodness. And there must be something good first before it can be spoiled...In order to be bad he must have good things to want and then to pursue in the wrong way: he must have impulses which were originally good in order to be able to pervert them.(2)

Cusick echoes this:

Every gift from our Designer has a corresponding gift from the deceiver—a “shadow” gift. And you can bet your three hundred ringgits that every deceiver gift is a counterfeit. Satan cannot create anything; he can only take what has been created and twist it against its design. So, we are tempted to overindulge the Designer’s gift of food. We might make a god out of alcohol—turning to it addictively to meet all sorts of inner needs—or maybe we make a god out of not drinking alcohol. We are deceived into believing that deceiver gifts will actually make us flourish.(3)
.

So, something in the sermon on Sunday reminded me of those pipe cleaners, which triggered the memory of this segment of the book.

I had taken a "thing" with a use - a use for which the thing was made, and made something frivolous of it.   I cannot see making animals out of pipe cleaners as "bad" - but it certainly isn't the intended use.

Food isn't bad - God gave us the good gift of food.  But abusing food twists the good gift into a bad use.

God gave us the good gift of sex, with an intended good use.  We can twist that good gift by using it outside of the intended arena.

I've written on "lady porn" - trashy romance novels that twist the good gift of romance into mere fodder for emotional flights of fantasy.  This abuse of a good gift can twist a marriage into a competition of sorts, where the husband feels the need to live up to the "romance" of his wife wanting to be swept off her feet by a "knight in shining armor."

More and more current studies show that women share the porn problem with men.  Women may get different things from porn than men do, but the problem gets shared.  Women twist the good gift of sex and intimacy just as easily as men do.

Cusick wrote:

We begin our journey from slavery to freedom when we expose the counterfeits at the root of our brokenness and admit our thirst for the real thing.(4)

.When a woman uses porn (or lusty romance novels, or food, or anything else) because we thirst for something else...what do we thirst for?

When I feel stressed at work, I do this crazy thing:  I hit the quarter machine.  You know, you put in a quarter and turn the knob and it gives you 11 or 12 Good~n~Plenties.  But I can't just eat them.  I need to line them up...pink and white and pink and white...and I need to eat them in the right order.  When I thirst for order and control, I feel that I can quench that thirst by arranging and eating pink and white candies in the right order.  That's some sort of twisted...

Humans twist all sorts of things, and the point of this post centers on porn, but it doesn't need to...throughout life test all things...do you have the "right use" in mind?  or something else?

 

  1. Cusick, Michael John (2012-06-05). Surfing for God: Discovering the Divine Desire Beneath Sexual Struggle (Kindle Locations 1174-1183). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
  2. Lewis, C.S.  Mere Christianity, Book 2
  3. Cusick, Michael John (2012-06-05). Surfing for God: Discovering the Divine Desire Beneath Sexual Struggle (Kindle Locations 1183-1187). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
  4. Cusick, Michael John (2012-06-05). Surfing for God: Discovering the Divine Desire Beneath Sexual Struggle (Kindle Locations 1195-1196). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

 

I recently started, read, and finished “Another Jesus Calling: How False Christs Are Entering The Church Through Contemplative Prayer” by Warren B. Smith, who wrote the book because he's so concerned about so many Christians reading (and falling into) “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young.

The unusual use of language by the “Jesus” of Jesus Calling was also disturbing. It seemed to run the gamut from “everyday Joe” language to strange word choice, unwarranted flattery, worldly clichés, repetitive phrases, disparaging comments, and not-so-subtle mockery. All in all, Jesus Calling seemed to be an obvious attempt by our spiritual Adversary to get an even further foothold inside the Christian church. While I was surprised that Sarah Young’s devotional had become such a huge best-seller in the Christian marketplace, I was not completely surprised. Deceptive occult/ New Age teachings are swallowing up much of what calls itself Christian these days. In this book , I have done my best to raise some of my questions and concerns. I am sure my conclusions will upset a great many people who are devoted to Jesus Calling. Obviously, what you do with these conclusions is completely up to you. But I couldn’t imagine not bringing what I discovered to your attention. Hopefully, you will consider what I have presented here.(1)

Another Jesus Calling” is “quote-heavy,” drawing from a variety of sources, comparing “Jesus Calling” to New Age sources, as well as “God Calling,” in order to show how New Age beliefs, terminology, and practices have crept into mainstream Christianity.

Smith is uniquely qualified to speak to these comparisons, coming, as he did, out of the New Age movement. Armed with this knowledge, he spots and points out to his readers how the “jesus” of “Jesus Calling” pulls Young's followers toward a false Jesus.

In the prologue, Smith reminds us that Jesus said, "For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before." (Matthew 24: 24-25) With this warning in mind, we can work through “Another Jesus Calling” with a discerning eye, comparing and contrasting Young's jesus with the Jesus of the Bible.

I had previously worked through a bit of “Jesus Calling” and left it knowing that something was wrong there. The jesus of that book was not the Jesus of the Bible, but I had written it off to the longing voice in Young's head. Reading “Another Jesus Calling” makes it clear that it's much, much worse.

It would be a mistake to condemn “Jesus Calling” because Young uses terminology similar (okay, identical) to New Age writers. But many of these terms are very specific: visualization, co-creation, channeling...Smith spots these and more.

As I finished “Another Jesus Calling” I wanted to reach those who “like” “Jesus Calling” and tell them to follow the real Jesus, not the fake jesus of Sarah Young.

You should read “Another Jesus Calling” if you've read “Jesus Calling” (in any of its forms) and felt a little “off.” You should read it if you've contemplated giving “Jesus Calling” to anybody you like.”You should read this book (with an open and discerning eye) if you want to read (or have read0) “Jesus Calling.” You should read this book if you have a friend who wants you to read “Jesus Calling.”

Another Jesus Calling” is a warning bell that is well written, well researched, well qualified to tell us of the problems of (generally) false teachers and (specifically) “Jesus Calling.”

What it all comes down to is this: Do we have a love of the truth or do we just experience what we want to experience and hear what we want to hear? Ultimate truth is not found in channeled messages, “new” revelations, or “new” truth. Ultimate truth— God’s truth and nothing but God’s truth— is explicitly, authoritatively, genuinely, and most amazingly found in the pages of God’s inspired Holy Word.(1)

 

  1. Smith, Warren B. (2013-11-19). Another Jesus Calling (Kindle Locations 216-225). Lighthouse Trails Publishing. Kindle Edition.
  2. Smith, Warren B. (2013-11-19). Another Jesus Calling (Kindle Locations 2100-2102). Lighthouse Trails Publishing. Kindle Edition.

 

 

Cessationism (or not) --> false prophets --> new age --> Sarah Calling --> or not --> end times?

Did you get all that?

In the past I've  read about cessationism vs. continuationism and have come down on...I'm still not sure.  What I am sure of is that the Canon is closed.  I'm sure that Jesus isn't writing any more Scriptures.  I'm sure that modern day prophets are doing it wrong.

That would make them "false prophets" and Jesus said there would be lots of them in the end times.  Not only that, but He said that many would come in His name - even claiming to be Him.

A while ago, I bought "Jesus Calling" by Sarah Young.  The only reason I'd suggest that anybody own it is so that they know what it says, and I'd only suggest reading it if you first read "Another Jesus Calling" by Warren Smith.

The "Jesus" in "Jesus Calling" is so...nice.  It's easy to get sucked into the passivity and neediness of that Jesus.  But the Jesus of Scripture talked about sin, and repentance, and -yes- false teachers.

Sarah Young said that she read Scripture, but that she longed for "more"(1.) - and more is what she got.  She longed for more, but a few days into her book, I longed for "deep."  Her Jesus is so unlike the Jesus of Scripture, that Phil and I started calling the book "Sarah Calling" because the voice in her head is...the voice in her head.

But then I read "Another Jesus Calling" and I'm not sure what to call Young's book.  Warren Smith came out of the New Age movement and he knows what he's talking about.  When he compares "Jesus Calling" to "God Calling" - he knows what he's talking about.  And when he compares both of these to "The Revelation" (Barbara Marx Hubbard) - he knows what he's talking about.

Smith describes a scene from "The Beautiful Side of Evil" (Johanna Michaelsen) and how Michaelsen was given her "spirit guide" - Jesus.  She challenged her jesus at L'Abri, When challenged, this jesus disappeared.

Young also went to L'Abri.

Smith writes:

TWO young women traveled to L’Abri Christian communities run by Francis and Edith Schaeffer with two very different outcomes. Johanna Michaelsen’s visit to L’Abri resulted in the abandonment of her “Jesus” presence when she realized he wasn’t the true Jesus Christ. Yet Sarah Young’s visit to L’Abri resulted in the immediate acceptance of her “Jesus” presence, which she just “knew” was Jesus Christ(2)

False teachers have always been with us.  But Young's "jesus" has inspired her to turn out 15 books - half the size of the New Testament.  In her study Bible, you can read the "jesus" of "Jesus Calling" right next to the "Jesus" of Scripture.

False teachers have always been with us.  But Young has seven titles in the top 50 Christian bestsellers list, and she is consistently in the top 10.  The "Jesus Calling" facebook page has nearly 140,000 followers.

The first time I visited New City Church, I had finished my first look at "Jesus Calling" and wanted nothing more to do with it.  It was this great service, but at the end of it, a woman got up to give her testimony and went on about this great book that changed her outlook!  Yeah..."Jesus Calling."  I almost didn't go back, but Phil challenged me to ask myself if the pastor (or anybody) had known.

Jesus talked about the end times:

For false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall shew signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect. (Mark 13: 22)

How many people have fallen for the jesus of "Jesus Calling?"

How many believe that Jesus needs us more than we need Him?

How many people embrace New Age demonic terminology, beliefs, and practices, all in the name of the jesus of "Jesus Calling?"

There is much error in "jesus Calling" - Smith exposes it.  I want to pass it along.

 

  1. Jesus Calling; Young, Sarah; introduction
  2. Smith, Warren B. (2013-11-19). Another Jesus Calling (Kindle Locations 327-330). Lighthouse Trails Publishing. Kindle Edition.

 

 

I recently read through “Tough Topics” by Sam Storms, who wrote the book in order to answer some of the basic, but hard questions believers ask.

That is my aim in this book: to articulate good theology in order to put worried minds at rest. All of us are familiar with the sorts of problems and questions and doctrinal conundrums that plague the human mind and agitate the human heart, questions like the one lingering in the thinking of Lucy: Will God ever flood the entire earth again?

In my experience these nearly forty years of Christian ministry, I’ve seen countless people worried and angry and fearful and just plain confused when it comes to some of the more perplexing issues that life poses and the Bible provokes,

The book flows easily, and addresses some of the topics that can torment a believer, like “what happens when my baby dies” and “will I enjoy heaven if my loved one goes to hell?”

The book promises to addresses these topics and more, offering to help remove doubt that Christianity could leave us in “limbo” about things that can weigh on our minds. Very shortly after I finished the book, a pastor friend came to me and asked, “what would you tell somebody who had a baby that died?” I answered “I have a book for you...” (he never gave it back...which is why I have a kindle version and -another- paper copy)

Believers struggle with these questions. When I was considering the “reformed” question, I had dinner with a seminary student. One of the first questions I asked was “what about babies who die?” That man did not have an answer that satisfied.

This book offers a primer on the questions we might not want to have asked...

I liked this book and will keep a couple of copies on hand to loan. I will, however, make a note to those I loan it to that Storms is a continuationist, and there are chapters on the “charismatic gifts” that make that clear. I may not agree with him on those chapters, but he does make his view clear in a consistent and lets his readers know how he came to those conclusions;  a good thing.

Bottom line is that this is a good book. I didn't rock my world, but it's a great reference tool, and primer for “tough topics.”

This was today's reading from "Everyday Prayers" - bringing to mind one of today's political hot topics.

(GSSR - "government sactioned same-sex relationship)

When caught between your faith conviction, and what the government says you should honor/do/buy...what do you do?

We hear "love the sinner, hate the sin."  And when the baker loved the sinners, made friends with them, served them baked good on birthdays and other non-wedding events...opted out of baking for a gay wedding, she got sued.

She was hating the sin, while embracing the sinner.  That didn't work.

Christians will increasingly face this challenge, and will increasingly find ways to comply with the law, while remaining true to their convictions...or will buckle to the state, giving up on living out their faith through their businesses.

The same is true for Christians getting married.

When the state gives you permission to marry, but what they're permitting no longer resembles "marriage" - how do Christians respond?

Do they get a "gender neutral" marriage certificate?  Do they opt out of statism?

"Everyday Prayers:

Though your kingdom is “not of this world” (John 18: 36 NIV), your kingdom has broken into this world and one day will utterly transform this world. Because this is true, Jesus, I need you to free me from both extremes of naive passivity and fear-mongering aggression. Very practically, show me what “obeying God and not men” looks like when the claims of your kingdom clash with the values of this world. How do I submit to the authorities for your sake while primarily only bowing my knee and heart to you as my King? (page 96)

I don't know what this will look like.  Will the state allow people of faith to enter into marriage covenants, outside of the state's approval?

In Michigan, a pastor who officiates at a wedding that does not have the state's approval, commits a misdemeanor.  Do we see "civil disobedience" in view here?  Can we see going outside the state's system as "obeying God rather than man?"

it all remains to be seen.