Friday, August 30, 2013

Football or Ministry?

In honor of football season starting last night, I wanted to share this video explaining why Chris Norman said no to the NFL so he could go to seminary.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Bible Reading Plan (September)

Over the years, I have successfully and unsuccessfully used many different Bible reading plans. I have read through the Bible in a year. I have read through the Bible in 90 days (which I found to be easier than the year plan and I hope to do it again soon). I have taken a few months and simply read a Proverb and a few Psalms a day. There are literally dozens of effective Bible reading plans out there that are designed to help a person read the Word of God. But the one that I tend to come back to often and the one that I tend to suggest to first time Bible readers is simply to pick a portion of the Bible and read it every day for a month. Yes, it is to read the same thing about 30 straight times. The idea behind this plan is to help someone dig deep into a certain portion of the Bible.

Before my senior year of high school was when the Lord really grabbed hold of my heart. It was that summer that I began to have a hunger to read and study God's Word. It was then that someone challenged me to begin with the book of Philippians and read it through everyday for a month. I did it. I loved it. Then I moved on to the book of Colossians and did it for a month. And then I picked the gospel of John and read the first five chapters everyday for a month and kept going.

I realize that on the surface, it seems very repetitive. It seems like it would become boring because you have read it 20 days in a row. But the Bible is inexhaustible. There are things that you will learn each day. When this plan is committed to with prayer, I believe a person will be surprised at how God will open their eyes to understand a depth of His Word they previously believed was not possible.

I want to get back to this plan.

I know that my life tends to operate more efficiently when I am on a tighter schedule. I am more productive. And while I spend lots of time each day in the Word of God, I tend to grow at slower paces when I am not working on a reading plan. That is just how I operate. And so for the month of September I am going to pick a book of the Bible and read it everyday for a month. For many reasons, I have wanted to study in a bit more depth the book of James. That's my selection.

Will you join me?

Every Friday this month I plan on posting some thoughts of what God is doing in my heart based upon my reading of His Word. I'd sure love to hear from you as well. I'd love to hear what God is doing through your reading. I'd love to engage you as you study His Word. If you are not on a reading plan, let me encourage you to pick a book of the Bible and do the same thing and then come on by and post some thoughts each Friday.

My goal is that God would open my eyes to understand His truth in deeper ways so that I might be able to relate more Christlike to those around me.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Worship Focus: Only You by David Crowder Band

Music stirs my heart. People are moved to worship by a variety of means. For some, they can walk on the beach as the sun rises and be moved to a new level or worship. For others, it is being out in the woods all alone and the serenity moves them to worship God. Still others, it is reading a good book that lifts high the name of Jesus. I can resonate with all of these, but there is something in me that resonates when I am alone with a good worship song. I am normally moved to a deeper level of worship of my great God and savior Jesus Christ.

I have shared many worship songs often on this blog that have moved me. But today I want to start something that will only enhance those songs I post. I want to talk a bit about the song and why it resonates with my heart. I want to begin with a song that was released by David Crowder about 10 years ago called "Only You."

Take my heart, I lay it down
At the feet of you whose crowned
Take my life, I'm letting go
I lift it up to You who's throned.

And I will worship You, Lord
Only You, Lord
And I will bow down before You
Only You Lord

Take my fret, take my fear
All I have, I'm leaving here
Be all my hopes, be all my dreams
Be all my delights, be my everything

As I listen to this song, my heart is moved to a deeper level of resolve as I am committing my heart to the Lord. I desire my heart to have only one affection. I want Him to be all of my hopes, dreams, delights . . . my everything. I am laying everything else down to Him who is on the throne.

I need to sing a song like this from time to time to remind me of the singular devotion that He desires of me. I need to sing a song like this because if I am honest with myself, I don't always worship Him alone. I get caught up worshipping so many other people and things in my life that a song like this convicts me. As I sing it, I am moved to repent of my idolatry. I guess I sing this song as a prayer, that this is what my life would become.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A Miley Cyrus Round-Up

Unless you have not turned on your TV or computer in the past day, you probably have heard that Miley Cyrus (formerly & forever Hannah Montana) did some pretty raunchy things at an MTV awards show the other night. My guess is that you have heard. And I am sure you have read a blog or article about what happened. Everyone seems to be weighing in on this episode. They are everywhere. Christian and Non-Christian. I logged onto Facebook and was shocked to see just about every other article in my newsfeed was advice on what to do about this situation. What do we say to our daughters? What is this saying about our culture? How should we respond? I have read several of them and am posting three of them that do a good job of articulating the state of our culture and how we can respond. You should note, the first one is from a Non-Christian source who had a problem with what Miley did on stage. Maybe that tells us something.

"Today the country is infuriated that a pop star, who made a hit song about being a vulgar, drug addled floozy, had the audacity to go on stage and act like a vulgar, drug addled floozy while performing the song about being a vulgar, drug addled floozy."

I Weep for Miley by Trevin Wax
"Picking up a sub sandwich today, I saw a news report on CNN about Miley Cyrus' performance at last night's VMA's. I was shocked, then sickened, then saddened. For the rest of the day, I wondered: 'What kind of people are we? What kind of culture have we created? What do we want our children to be?' No more wondering. Tonight I weep."

Sorry, Miley by Brant
"I'd like to apologize to Miley Cyrus on behalf of All Adults . . . Adults are supposed to protect young people. Adults are supposed to refuse to treat young people like little gods, put them on pedestals, and parade them on stages. But adults do it, anyways, and our culture is just dumb, and just numb, enough to act like it's perfectly normal. Turns out, as we've always known, celebrity messes with people's heads, particularly the young."

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Morning After: Relating Like Jesus

About a month after I arrived at Cornerstone Bible Church, I met a man and his family who came to visit our church. It wasn't long until Ken Crabb and I had established a dear friendship as they started attending our church and later became members. It wasn't long until I became aware that Ken is the son of Dr. Larry Crabb, a popular Bible teacher. Since then, I have had the opportunity to meet Larry on several informal occasions and have really enjoyed getting to know him on a personal level. Yesterday I had the opportunity to turn my pulpit over to him, to hear a word from the Lord through Him. I was overjoyed.

His message was insightful and helpful as we think of what it means to relate like Jesus Christ. He tried to get us to think about what it would look to relate to others like Jesus in any circumstance of life or in any condition of our soul. He took as the foundation of his message, the worst time in Jesus' life and applied how he poured out love and care even while He was hanging on the cross. Many are okay to relate like Jesus and pour out of themselves when things are going well in their life, but what would it look like to do that at your worst? In order to help us understand this, he took the Seven Sayings of Jesus while He hung on the cross as the starting point of what it means to relate well with others.

I do not have time to go into all the detail of what he shared, but let me just point out one thought he had. Most likely, the first words of Jesus on the cross were "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34). It is well documented that Jesus said (present progressive tense) this repeatedly. Could it have been that he repeatedly was saying this as they were nailing Him to the cross? Could it have been that as He hung there and they were dividing out his clothes, He was constantly asking the Father to forgive these men for this horrific crime? I'm fairly sure this is not the response of most of us when bad things happen to us, let alone in the mundane things of life.

What would it look like for you to commit yourself to the well-being of another at any cost of yourself? Could you pour out and serve selflessly for others, not in your best times, but in your worst? Would that change your marriage? Would that change your friendships? Would it change the way you parent?
"By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers." (1 John 3:16)
There is so much more that I could say about this sermon. His background material was extremely helpful in understanding the three hours of darkness in correlation to these seven statements. I am very thankful that he was able and willing to preach for me. If you want to listen to the sermon, you can go HERE (usually posted by Tuesday night).

Friday, August 23, 2013

Duck Dynasty is a Hit

In case you have not heard, there is a show on TV about some guys who invented the modern day duck calls. Yes, I know you know. Everyone knows. But why are they such a hit? Laura Ingrahamm of Foxnews has her thoughts on why this show is such a hit. I completely agree.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Getting Older

I have spent the past few days in Indiana with my parents to help my father through knee replacement surgery. My dad will turn 71 this coming December, and while I have known he is not the man he used to be, nothing magnifies that like a surgery like this. It seems like only yesterday that he was teaching me how to climb ladders and build things. Now, he can hardly walk (and that is not only because of a new knee). He is frail. As I sat in the room with him yesterday, my mind kept coming back to Solomon's words of old age:
"Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, 'I have no pleasure in them'; before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars are darkened and the clouds return after the rain, in the day when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men are bent, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those who look through the windows are dimmed, and the doors on the street are shut--when the sound of the grinding is low, and the one rises up at the sound of a bird, and all the daughters of song are brought low--they are afraid also of what is high, and the terrors are in the way; the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper drags itself along, and the desire fails, because the man is going to his eternal home, and the mourners go about the streets -- before the silver cord is snapped, or the golden bowl is broken, or the pitcher is shattered at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern, and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher; all is vanity" (Ecclesiastes 12:1-8).
His argument is to use the time in your life when you are younger to establish a habit of remembering your Creator because in your old age, it gets more difficult. Recall God's presence daily, live in a relationship with Him, seek to discover the greatness and glory of God while you are still young . . . before it is too late. All of these statements are metaphors for the deterioration of the body due to old age. 

When Solomon refers to the sun, moon, & stars, he is referring to the eyes growing dim. The keepers of the house is a metaphor for your hands which might end up shaking some day. The strong men are the muscles which will not work the way they used to work. The grinders are your teeth, which do not chew the way they used to. Those that look out the window is another reference to your eyes which become more and more dim the older you become.

And then there are your ears. The doors on the street are shut, meaning you cannot hear what is going on around you. But the ears begin to play a cruel joke on you. For while you cannot hear during the day, you wake up early in the morning because of the slightest sounds, like a bird chirping.

When you grow older, you are not as tough as you used to be. The almond tree is probably a reference to your hair becoming white, losing its normal color. When he mentions the grasshopper dragging along, he has in mind that when you get older, you begin to shuffle along as you walk.

On and on Solomon goes talking about the effects of old age. His point is that you should remember your Creator while you have time. I have witnessed the effects of old age in my father the past few days. It is very likely I saw a picture of my future, which makes me want to make the most of my time now before I get older and the silver cord is snapped. This has been good for me.

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Morning After: Don't Waste Your School Year

As I am between teaching series at our church, I took the time yesterday to encourage the students and parents to not waste this upcoming school year. I understand that the beginning of school can be filled with many different types of emotions. For some, it is a joyous time. For others, it is filled with anxiety. Still, there are others that have fear or even flat out dread. For me, I have hope. I have hope that this next nine months can be used for the glory of God and the good of others.

It was my desire to help my kids and others to think of this next school year with one thought in their mind: Avoid Complaining! Yep, that's right. If there is one thing that will destroy your school year; if there is one thing that will destroy any witness you have for Christ; if there is one thing that will make you lose opportunities . . . it is complaining.

In Philippians 2:14, the Apostle Paul gives a very all-inclusive command for Christians: "Do all things without grumbling or disputing." I have written about this subject before, but it is worth reminding ourselves. If you are a Christian, one thing you are called to is to not complain. We are not to grumble. We are not to dispute (argue). There does not seem to be any exceptions here. Paul does not say that we are not to complain unless you get the worst teaching in school or your child has twice as much homework as last year. The calling is to not complain.

But why? There has to be a good reason, doesn't there? Towards the end of my sermon, I tried to show three reasons why we should not complain.

First, if you avoid complaining, you show evidences of saving faith. Let's be clear. Salvation is not based upon how much or how little complaining you do in your lifetime. It is only based upon your faith in the finished work of Jesus. A person could go the rest of their life and never complain again and still be destined for eternity apart from Christ because they have never come to trust Him for the forgiveness of their sins. But what I am saying is that a changed life follows behind the faith. Things will change when you have come to know Jesus.

Even in this text, Paul tells the Philippians to work out their salvation with fear and trembling. And he could have given numerous examples of what that might look like in a person's life, but he only gives one. Avoid complaining.

Second, if you avoid complaining you show trust in God your Father. Complaining is ultimately saying that you do not like the situation you find yourself in. As a Christian, we know that God controls all the situations. To complain is to stand against our Father in heaven who we have been told cares deeply for us. Do you believe that your Father in heaven cares for you? Do you believe He loves you? Do you believe He understands your current situation in life? Then why complain about it?

Third, if you avoid complaining, you shine bright in a dark world. In vs. 15, Paul argues that the main reason why we should not complain is that it allows us to shine brighter in a crooked and twisted generation, which is filled with a bunch of complainers. What would happen if 250 people in your community made a conscious effort to not complain any longer? Do you think it would make a difference in your community? Paul says you would all begin to shine like lights.

I really do desire for our families to have a great year at school. I want them to learn a lot. I want them to grow in their friendships. I wan them to have lots of fun. But above all, I want them to be the witness Jesus sent them to be, all for His glory and our good. The way to help make that happen is to Avoid Complaining!

If you want to listen to the sermon or read my notes, you can find them HERE (audio usually posted by Tuesday night).

Friday, August 16, 2013

Helpful Illustration on Free Will

It does not matter which theological persuasion you come from, you have a view on Free Will. It is a term that has received much debate over the years. Are you free to choose whatever you want or not? Are there some limitations in what we are free to choose? If we are not free, does that mean everyone is simply a robot programmed from the beginning of what will happen?

As I was studying this week for my sermon, there was an extensive quote that I came across from James Montgomery Boice. It is a quote that said much more than what I wanted to say in my sermon this week. In fact, I'm not even addressing this topic in my message. But this quote was very helpful as he gives helpful illustrations to explain this concept of Free Will. 
"We will never understand the doctrine of god's working to form a person's will until we realize that apart from the work of God in his or her heart through Jesus Christ a person does not have free will where spiritual realities are concerned. I know that someone will want to reply, 'What! Do you mean to tell me that I cannot do anything I want to?' My answer is, 'Yes, you cannot.' You have free will to decide certain things, but you do not have free will to decide all things. You can decide whether you will go to work on Monday morning or pretend you are sick. You can order turkey over roast beef at a restaurant. But you cannot exercise your free will in anything that involves your physical, intellectual, or spiritual capabilities. By your own free will you cannot decide that you are going to have a 50 percent higher I.Q. than you do or that you will have a gift for dealing with quantum mechanics. You do not have free will to make a billion dollars. You do not have free will to run the 100-yard dash in eight seconds. You do not have free will in anything intellectual or physical. 
More significantly, just as you do not have free will intellectually or physically, so you do not have free will spiritually. You cannot choose God. Adam had free will, but he lost it. And all people since are without it until it is recreated in them by the Holy Spirit. Let me give you an illustration. It is as if a person were standing on the edge of a muddy pit with slippery sides. As long as he is on the edge he has free will; he can either stay on the bank or jump in. But if he decides to jump in, then his free will is lost as far as getting out of the pit is concerned. He has free will to walk around on the bottom or to sit down. He has free will to try to scramble up the side or to accept his plight philosophically. He has free will to cry for help or to be silent, to be angry or complacent. But he does not have free will to be again on the edge of the embankment. 
This is what happened in Adam and Eve. They were created on the edge of the pit. God said, 'You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die' (Gen. 2:16-17). This was a test case, and Adam and Eve had free will to obey or to disobey the commandment. When they disobeyed it they fell away from God. They lost the free will to choose God, and they proved it by running away from God when God came to see them in the garden. 
Since Adam and Eve, all people are born with the same inability to choose him. Some are complacent; some are angry. Some are silent and philosophical. Some are resigned; some are anxious. But all are unable to come to God. No one does come to God until God reaches down by grace into the mud pit of human sin and impotence and lifts him up and places him again on the bank and says, 'This is the way; walk in it.' 
This is what God does in salvation. The Bible says, 'There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God' (Rom. 3:10-11). The Bible says we are born again 'not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God' (John 1:13). Jesus said, 'No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him' (John 6:44). 
We must face this truth. Even if every generation of mankind and every city and village on earth had a John the Baptist to point to Jesus Christ and to call us to him, apart from the supernatural work of God in human hearts no one would come. If God rearranged the stars of heaven to spell out, 'Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved,' no one would believe. If God sent his angels with the sound of a celestial trumpet to call us to repentance, no one would repent. If you have come to God, it is only because God has first entered your life by his Holy Spirit to quicken your will, to open your eyes to his truth, and to draw you irresistibly to himself. It is only after this that you are able to choose the path that he sets before you." (Boice, Philippians, 144-145). 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Discerning Your Preacher's Sermons

After I posted thoughts yesterday by another blogger on the dangerous ministries of Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyer, I have had many interesting conversations. One was very encouraging. As we were talking in the office this morning about it, one of our staff said, "But Thad, I should be examining everything anyone says with the Word of God." Yes, that's the point. We are all called to take what anyone says about God and filter that through a grid of God's Word. This reminded me of something I wrote in my book, Helping Johnny Listen
"Do typical church attendees ever think that their churches, their pastors, their teachers can ever teach something that is untrue? Probably most do not, yet they should consider this. Our preachers are only human. That is why we need to make certain we listen alertly" (70).
Do you think your preacher could speak untruth? Do you think your pastor could be wrong? Do you think it could be possible that the person teaching at your church could at some point speak untruth?

My point in this is not to create skeptics. It is not to create a hostility towards preachers. But it is to create a desire to take what is taught and compare it with Scripture. And if something just does not seem right, I would highly encourage you with a spirit of humility, to approach your preacher. The way you approach them will speak volumes about your heart before God. But so will their response. The way your preacher or pastor responds will really tell you how he views the Word of God and truth. And so listen well and approach graciously. 

Let me offer one warning at this point. My experience tells me that most Christians do not listen with a discerning ear until they have some unresolved issue with their pastor. When there is conflict, they are very quick to listen and discern and "look for" something to make an issue with their pastor. Let me warn you to not listen in that way. If there is something between you and your pastor, go talk to them, seeking unity. 

The goal is not for you to find error in your pastor. The goal is God's glory as we seek His truth with each other that impacts the way we respond to each other. Our goal is Christlikeness, not arrogance that we are right and they are wrong. Don't forget that!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Prosperity Gospel

Last night as I was watching my kids soccer practice, I picked up my phone and took a few minutes to scroll through Facebook. As I did, one of my friends had posted a link to a blog by Rick Henderson entitled, "Why I Called Out Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyer." That intrigued me so I clicked on the link. What I found was a very helpful article detailing why he labels both Osteen and Meyer as part of the prosperity gospel movement. He opens the article by saying:
"I have been preaching for 20 years. Yesterday I did something that I have never done before in a sermon. I publicly called out false teachers and named them by name. I said, 'If you listen to Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyer, if you take what they teach seriously, it will not be good for you. It will be detrimental to your long-term growth as a follower of Jesus.'"
What I appreciated most by this article is his research and thoughts concerning Meyer. The ship has sailed on labeling Osteen a false teacher, but I have come in contact with lots and lots of Christians that appreciate the teaching ministry of Joyce Meyer. He does a masterful job articulating the false beliefs she holds on some of the core issues of Jesus and what took place on the cross. She gets the cross wrong, meaning, she gets salvation wrong. His conclusions on Joyce Meyer are stinging:
"What I wrote and linked in the first section should have been enough to completely remove her from our sphere of trust. Her doctrine is horrific. Her hermeneutics are horrible. She is a woman who seems to have an unrestrained love for money and applause. Her finances are questionable at best. Her example is questionable at best. Her impact on desperate people here, as well as churches and pastors around the globe is wildly destructive. I lament with you a sense of loss if she was a teacher you trusted. I lament that someone who is so wrong has so much influence with so many. I do not regret, however, pointing to her as a false teacher and as one who should be rejected."
I would highly encourage you to read the entire article and watch the example videos. You can find it HERE.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Where Do We Go From Here? by Erwin Lutzer

Last year, I started what might just become a new tradition at our church. After we took the summer off of our Sunday School classes, I gathered all the adults for a short 3-week study on a current cultural issue. Last year, I addressed the topic of how a Christian should respond to the Same-Sex Marriage debate. This year, I am going to address a wider topic: How to be Christian in an increasingly non-Christian nation. As I have been reading many blogs and articles on this topic, there has been one book that has helped more than others. 

Where Do We Go From Here? by Erwin W. Lutzer is a book that details appropriate steps the Christian should take in this current cultural crisis. His words are helpful and challenging. I found myself, as I was reading this very short book, wishing I had the gifts to apply the truth of God to cultural events like he does. It is very well defined. 

Lutzer begins by giving several reasons why we should be concerned. Our nation is in a moral spiral and we no longer should claim to be a nation based on godly principles. If you are over the age of 40, that can be a tough pill to swallow. But I think we all know it is true. 

The bulk of the book contains five unshakable pillars that we should hold onto during this time. Because the book is so short (52 small pages), I do not want to share all of his points in the hopes that you will purchase the book. But let me just give one that seems obvious: God Still Reigns. I hope we still believe that as a church. I hope we believe that no matter how the future landscape of our nation looks, God is still on His throne. The texts of Scripture are numerous on this subject (Romans 13:1, Psalm 2:4, etc...). Yet many people respond to this moral crisis as if things have taken God by surprise. No, He knows and is over all of it. Lutzer says,
"Knowing this, we do not have to run and hide. We can embrace our present circumstances; we can pray for those who are in authority and we can depend on God for the wisdom we need to make a difference in the here and now. We were called for this moment, and therefore we must remember that the task ahead of us is never as great as the Power behind us" (28-29).
If the subject of being a Christian in an every increasing godless society interests you (or concerns you), read this book. I hope it helps.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Wednesday Mornings

I love Wednesday mornings. My regular routine is to lock myself in my office on Wednesday mornings, pouring over the text I plan to preach on Sunday. I read and read the text. I pray over the text. I write down observations of the text. I try to determine the meaning the author had when he wrote these verses. I consult commentaries on this particular text. I try to immerse myself into the meaning and detail of the particular passage of Scripture. It is one of my favorite times of the week. It is my goal to get 3-4 hours of uninterrupted study of the Bible.

There are other things I do in the preparation for my Sunday message. I have detailed the process of how I write a sermon in much more detail if you are interested. But Wednesday mornings is study text morning. I love it. 

I'm not sure what you are doing this morning, but if you think of it, could you pray for me as I interact with Ephesians 3:20-21. And while you are at it, pray for your preacher as he prepares this week for the message he will preach on Sunday. Pray that he will understand the text of Scripture he will be preaching on. Pray for clarity. Pray for immersion into the text. Thanks.
"Not to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen." (Ephesians 3:20-21)

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Gospel According to Les Miserables by Selena Sarns

I was in my third year of college when some friends invited me to go to a musical called Les Miserables. Having never heard of it before, I was a little bit apprehensive. But from beginning to end, I was enthralled with the story of Jean Valjean. I'll never forget witnessing the spiritual transformation of this man and noticing the spiritual overtones of redemption throughout the musical.

It is many years later and I have now seen the musical production a handful of times. Each time being as good as the first. My love for this story was the reason why I wanted to read The Gospel According to Les Miserables by Selena Sarns. It is a book that is broken down into 30 very short devotionals. Each devotional has a short description of some aspect of the story and then a bridge to the spiritual. Here is one example:
"In Les Miserables, many character traits are exemplified through the lives of the individual lives being cast. However, the one trait that is a show of true devotion and love is that of one giving their own life for another. The young Eponine, a waif of a girl and daughter of the evil Thenardiers, is hopelessly in love with someone she can never be with. Marius, the dashing office under Napoleon's command, has his heart set on another. His is a heard of goodness and compassion towards the girl who was part of a plot to entrap him by her wicked father, but he has no romantic intents towards the young girl. Eponine realized that she is in love with someone who will never reciprocated the same feelings, yet she does something that fully demonstrates her devotion to Marius. When an opportunity arises for someone to cause harm to the young colonel, she places herself in harm's way for him. She takes a bullet that is meant for Marius, and gives up her own life so that he might live. It is not until her dying breath that Marius fully realizes Eponine's feelings for him and what she has given for his life. 
Jesus did the same thing for the world. He left the glory of Heaven to come to earth and shed his blood on the Cross of Calvary for each one of us. Jesus was willing to die, so that mankind had hte opportunity to escape the final end for their sin. When each person accepts HIs ultimate show of love, they gain a gift--eternal life. That same show of love is a demonstration towards Christians for how they should be willing to sacrifice for others. Most of the time, the thing asked to be sacrificed is not as intense as sacrificing one's life. It may be small things of time and money; however, it may be larger ways of showing love towards another."
As I thought about reviewing this book, two things came to mind. The first, which is the more critical issue, is that Sarns did a good job with articulating the gospel. It may seem obvious that the gospel is included in a book called The Gospel According to . . .", but I have been shocked before. Sarns talks about the substitutionary atonement of Jesus dying in the place for sinners. While I would differ with her on some of the ways the gospel is presented (this gets into a reformed conversation that isn't the point of this review), I was appreciative that sin, Jesus, the cross, faith alone were mentioned repeatedly.

But with this positive comes a negative. Much of what was written just seems forced. Hopefully that short illustration above proved the point. The spiritual bridge feels mechanical. The writing style is not exactly literary prose.

I have read many books that were really well written and were void of the gospel. This one has the gospel but is not well written. That might seem like a negative. But I will tell you, if you are going to miss on one, I prefer it this one instead of the first. If you are looking for some additional insights into the story of Les Miserables to see some of the spiritual overtones, this book might help. If you are looking for something to change your perspective, I'd look elsewhere.

I received a copy of The Gospel According to Les Miserables by Selena Sarns from The Bible People for review.

Monday, August 5, 2013

The Morning After: Our All-Knowing God (Psalm 139)

God knows everything about everything!

That was the main thought that I tried to drive home from Psalm 139 on Sunday. In theology, this is called Omniscience, meaning God is all-knowing. He doesn't have to think or calculate, He just knows. On some levels, that can make someone not relatable. But David's argument in this well-known Psalm is that this big, all-knowing God is relationally connected with those that He knows. God knows everything about everything in my life and is very personally involved in my life. 

There are three reasons David gives to prove his point that God knows everything about everything.

First, He Sees Everything (vs. 1-6)
There is no place where anyone can run to get away from the all-seeing eye of God. He sees everything. He can even see into the mind, reading the thoughts of men. Because of this, He is acquainted with everything we do. He knows us better than the FBI knows us. He knows us more intimately than anyone else in this life. He knows more about our Google searches than Google does. As the author of Hebrews makes clear, there is no creature that is hidden from God's sight (4:13).

Based upon this fact, there could be many reactions. The most probably reaction is that people could try to run from the eye of God. They are scared that He can see everything, so they try to get to a place where they are alone. This leads to David's second reasons why God knows everything about everything. 

Second, He Is Everywhere (vs. 7-12)
With God, there is no privacy. We may try to run from His presence, only to find out that where we run to, He is already there. There is no plane that can take us high enough to get away from His presence. We cannot dig a hole deep enough to get out of his presence. There is no horizon we can cross to get away from Him. There is no ocean deep enough to run. And finally, there is no darkness that is too dark for God to see. There is no cave to hide in that will allow you to escape the eye of God.

Third, He Is Involved With Every Detail of Our Creation (vs. 13-16)
God knows everything about us because He is a very detailed Creator. David illustrates the fact that God is everywhere by showing how God is in the secret place of the womb, intricately forming the inward parts of the baby. I am fairly sure when David wrote this, he had no conception of abortion. But I'm also aware than it is impossible for us to read this section without thinking of this horror. God is involved in the details of the creation of the baby from the moment of conception. That is the biblical evidence.

God's great knowledge of all things should elicit a response. It did from David. In the final verses, David asks God to do painful surgery in his life. Based upon the fact that he knows God knows, he welcomes God to exercise His all-knowing eye upon his life. Many people want to hide from God's presence, but David is welcoming it. 

God knows everything about everything. That's the point of this text. If you want to listen to the message or read my notes, you can find it HERE.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Fearless by Eric Blehm

Most people I know enjoy good stories. We like the story of the guy who suffered through incredible odds and ended up achieving. We love the story of the the man or woman who overcame incredible odds to win. I believe many in our culture today are looking for heroes. They are looking for people they can turn to for hope, strength, and courage. After reading the life account of Adam Brown, I think he was one of those men.

Eric Blehm has chronicled the life of Adam Brown in his book, Fearless. The subtitle explains the point of this book: "The Undaunted Courage and Ultimate Sacrifice of Navy SEAL Team SIX Operator Adam Brown." Let me say from the outset that I really enjoyed this book. The penmanship was superb, but only outmatched by the life it described. I really could not put this book down.
"One of Adam Brown's final wishes, written by hand on his CACO form, was that his spiritual testimony--his complete story--be told, including 'my life before I met Jesus Christ and Kelley.' You can appreciate now just how fearless Adam had been when he requested others to share that dark period from his past. Even in death, he selflessly and publicly risked tainting his own legacy sot hat others might be inspired to seek faith and overcome their own struggles" (251). 
That is what this book was all about. Yes, it was mostly about how he was a fearless man as he worked his way up to the most elite squad of military, SEAL Team SIX. But Blehm did not shy away from showing the dark years of his life. [I don't want to give too much away, so I won't expand on what the dark years were in his life]. After those dark years, it did seem that Brown did come to know Jesus. The gospel message of Jesus did seem to be a priority for him as he continued to fight the past demons and the demands of the military.

Considering I have not read much of the Navy SEALS, I found the information into his training very insightful. The thing that impressed me the most was how he passed the SEAL Team SIX training while being impaired. [Once again, read the book to find out what happened]. As the book progressed, I knew that the way he died would be described. But once I was there, it was still difficult to read. His life was so real to me through the written word that I wished there was some way to save him. He was that sort of man.

There is no doubt after reading this book that Adam Brown was a real soldier, one that makes me proud to be an American. But I think he would never have called himself a hero. He would have said that he was just doing his job. He would have been quick to pass the "hero" badge to Jesus, the author and perfecter of his faith. If you are looking for a great story of a man who became all he could be (I know it's not a Navy slogan, sorry), then Fearless is for you. It's really good. Below is a short video about the book that might encourage you to read it as well.

Warning: I do feel the need to put one warning in this review. There is some language in this book that might be offensive to some people. It is not pervasive, but it does exist.

I received a copy of Fearless by Eric Blehm from WaterBrook Press for review