Monday, February 28, 2011

Sermons February 27

Morning audio link: Galatians 2:1-3

Evening audio link: Acts 15

Click "Launch Jukebox" and it should play.

If that's not working click here and play the ones you want to hear. "Amen" the good ones!

Also, there should be a display on the right-hand side of this blog showing 3 sermons where you can play them directly from here.

Morning:

Then after an interval of fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along also. It was because of a revelation that I went up; and I submitted to them the gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but I did so in private to those who were of reputation, for fear that I might be running, or had run, in vain. But not even Titus, who was with me, though he was a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised. ” (Galatians 2:1–3, NAS)

Facts:

The Acts conference in Acts 15 is what Paul is referring to here.

There were some basic questions that needed answered: for people forgiven by the grace of God, how much of the Law were they bound by?

The Acts discussions ended with these conclusions: the whole law does not apply, especially to Gentiles. There were a few issues given as commands: don’t eat blood, food sacrificed to idols and abstain from sexual immorality. These instructions were simple, practical, and valid.

What wasn’t mandated was circumcision. Now, a little background: Genesis 17 shows circumcision as the outward sign of the covenant God made with Abraham. Exodus 12 shows us that participating in the Passover was only allowed for those who had undergone circumcision (male members of a family had, at least).

This action was the gateway into Jewish life. It was not considered an option. It was done for baby boys at 8 days of age, and for any other males when they tried to enter Jewish life.

At the time, it was a big deal. It remains such within Jewish circles, though not so much outside of them. What had really elevated circumcision in Jewish life was that the Greeks/Romans didn’t do it.

Circumcision had been the command of God to the Jewish people going back to Abraham. 2000 years at this point. It had been an internal, almost privately Jewish practice until about 300 years before the time of the church. Then, as Greek practices and culture took root, it became evident that there was a cultural clash. Some Jews began to not circumcise to fit in, others even had the procedure ‘reversed.’ Thus circumcision grew in importance. By this time, there has begun an insistence by some that to become a Christian, one first had to be a Jew, so those who were coming to Christ were being told by a group of teachers called “Judaizers” that they had to be circumcised first.

One thing to note: this grew out of the changing perception of circumcision: from a shared, private devotional act towards God into a public demonstration of Jewish-ness. While our Christian faith has publicly demonstrable components, we do this not to please others or to show off ourselves, rather we do to please God and show forth His glory.

The overall debate boils down to this question:

How righteous must a person be before God? How righteous before God’s grace is enough?

The answer given to Paul is what we see recounted here: Titus is acceptable without going through the steps of becoming Jewish.

The principle is not that the Law is bad or useless---only that the Law cannot make you a Christian

Only the Spirit of God can do that.

The apostles met, prayed, considered and discussed and came to this conclusion:

After there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brethren, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles would hear the word of the gospel and believe. “And God, who knows the heart, testified to them giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us; and He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith. “Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? “But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are.” ” (Acts 15:7–11, NAS)

Now that we have settled what they decided, what about us?

Realistically, there’s not too many people roaming Arkansas insisting that you must be circumcised to be saved.

Yet we do have our own public signs of holiness we want to see—

Can she be saved if she has a nose ring? Can he!?!?! Oh, they’ll take it out when they’re saved.

Saved people never touch alcohol, tobacco, whatever---

How can you be depressed? You must not really be saved!

Here is what truly matters: obedience to Christ.

It does not matter whether we’re rich or poor, whether we are religious or not.

Our outside view of other people’s lives does not give us the ability to determine who will be saved and who will not. Rather it is the power of the spirit of God to save all who are called by his grace.

We must avoid the mistake of turning the Gospel of Jesus Christ from the work of God’s grace into behavior modification. While the gospel results in certain actions those actions do not replace the change of heart those actions do not replace the work of the spirit of God in your heart. Those actions rather are the fruit of the change from God has made in our lives.

We must guard in our church and in our lives against allowing rules to overcome relationships.

  1. Cannot replace our relationship with God
  2. Cannot replace our relationships with each other
    1. With our spouses
    2. With our children
    3. With our parents
    4. With our church family
  3. Cannot replace our relationships with the world
    1. With the lost
    2. With the culture
    3. With the government

The question forced to answer today is simply this “have I accepted God’s grace?” have you come to God recognizing that only his grace is enough for you? We must make certain that we have not come without expecting to be rewarded for ourselves when we have nothing to offer.

So the question today is really and truly all about you and whether you’ve come to God on your own or through the blood of Jesus Christ.

Let’s pray.

Evening:

Tonight I want to us to look back at acts chapter 15. This is the story of the council in Jerusalem that Paul talked about in Galatians two.

We looked a little at this in the morning, mainly in context of what in meant for salvation.

Tonight, though, I want us to consider what this may hold for us in terms of solving problems in a church.

Let’s set the stage here with some basic understanding:

1. Christianity was, initially, viewed as the next step of Judaism

2. As that started to change, with Gentiles being added to the church, this led to some difficulties

a. Gentiles did not hold to all of the cultural laws of the Jews

b. There were questions of how everyone should behave

3. The church then had to solve the problem of division.

a. Imagine the challenge of something so simple as a meal---

b. Times of worship

4. What did they do?

a. Gathered the leaders of the church

b. This is a little different than the last major problem

i. Acts 6->appointment of deacons to address complaints and practical issues

ii. Acts 15->questions of theology

iii. Acts 6 lends itself to understanding that we all vote to solve problems

iv. Acts 15 shows us that matters of truth are not decided by majority vote.

5. What should we do?

a. Work together on practical matters

b. Consult others that understand the truth

c. Then, however, Stand, alone if necessary, on matters of the truth

6. Then, be public with our understanding of truth.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Completely Useless

At the moment, the oven in my house isn't working. There's power to it, the lights work, and the controls act like they're doing something.

Yet when you turn it on, it does----nothing. No heat. You can't cook in it. Sure, the lights come on, the timer works, and the "preheat timer" even counts down and tells you the oven should be ready. There's not enough heat from the lights to warm your hands.

Neither can I put milk in the oven to keep it cool. I can't make ice cream in it or coffee, it won't feed the cats or open the garage door. Why won't it do those things?

Not because it's broken, but because it's an oven! Ovens aren't for those other tasks.

So here's the deal: since the oven won't cook and it's not designed for any other purpose than the making of hot stuff, it's now completely useless.

It's not beyond hope of usefulness---I'm fairly certain I know what's wrong with it and that an appliance repair person can fix it. Once its fatal flaw has been corrected, it will serve a vital task for our family once again.

Until then, though, it's not made for anything else and can't do what it's made for doing. So, all I see is something blocking cabinet space.

The same could be said of me some days. There are certain things I was made for, things that I am capable of, the purposes God created me for accomplishing. Such things as proclaiming the truth of God's Word, loving my family, and teaching. I'm not made for other things, like singing, dancing, and athletic stuff.

Yet there are times that I allow other issues to break me and make me unable to do what I'm made for. At that point, I'm as useless as my oven.

What to do? Fix the problem. Sometimes, it's a self-fix. Usually, it's a fix that requires professional help. In my case, it requires self-discipline to be spending time in God's Word seeking only for myself. I'm a pastor and a seminary student, so I spend a lot of time in the Word seeking school knowledge or church knowledge, and miss what I need for me.

And then I start to grind to a halt. I see the things I can't do, that I wasn't made for, and get a little more irritated, a little more frustrated.

I need to come back, let the Word correct what's broken, and get back to work.

Doug

Monday, February 21, 2011

Feb 20 Sermons

I've got a morning outline and audio from morning and night. I am trying a new audio host, so there may be a minor glitch while I work that out. If you want to listen and can't, let me know either via email or comment, and I'll see what's wrong and try to fix it.

Morning audio link here (Click the "Headphone" icon to listen)

Evening audio link here (Click the "Headphone" icon to listen)

(other note: if you really like it, click the "Amen" button. That will let me know you like it!)

I was still unknown by sight to the churches of Judea which were in Christ; but only, they kept hearing, “He who once persecuted us is now preaching the faith which he once tried to destroy.” And they were glorifying God because of me. ” (Galatians 1:22–24, NAS)

I want us to look at 2 people today. The first is the Apostle Paul, so as we come to the text, let’s see what Paul’s been saying:

I. Paul has described his background---

a. Religious

b. Yet sinful

c. Rejecting God Almighty

II. Paul has described his salvation—

a. Called through His grace

b. The Son revealed in Him

c. //refer to Paul’s experience: how did he meet Christ?

III. Paul describes his life since salvation\

a. Personal seeking of understanding

b. Learning from others

c. Spreading the Word

IV. Paul has not:

a. Sought his own glory

b. Sought to draw attention to himself

c. Did not seek to clear his name

d. Did not embellish his evil

e. Did not hid his evil

V. Paul has simply focused on this: They were glorifying God because of him

So who else do we need to look at today?

Who else? You. Me. This is not a day for “I wish _____________ had been there, they needed that sermon.” This is about you:

I. What is your background?

a. Just the facts

b. Simple and short

II. When did you meet with God?

a. How did He call you through His grace?

b. How did you meet Christ?

III. Who have you been since then?

a. How have you grown?

b. What is God doing in you?

c. You may not remember what life was like before---you should, however, be able to see that you are growing

IV. What you cannot do:

a. Seek your own glory

b. Draw attention to yourself

c. Spend more time on sin and Satan than on God

d. Embellish your pre-Christian life

e. Cloak your pre-Christian life

V. How will God be glorified in your story?

a. You’ve got to tell it!

b. I challenge you to go home and write it down

c. Yes, today.

What if you don’t have one?

What’s missing?

Are you missing growth? Have you been away from God’s people and need to recommit yourself to follow Christ as part of His body on earth?

Are you missing helping others see God’s glory? What do you need to do?

Are you missing the first meeting? If you have never come face to face with the grace of God, then today is that day for you. It is not simply that you’ve been here and now you can go home and go on with life: today is your day to meet with God, to encounter His grace.

Friday, February 18, 2011

You're a SINNER!

Question 24

What is sin?
Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, any law of God, given as a rule to the reasonable creature. (1 John 3:4, Gal. 3:10,12)

The above quote is from the Westminster Larger Catechism (see citation below), which is one of the standard formulations of Protestant Christianity.

It's good stuff, from question 1 to question, well, I'm not even sure. I've not read the whole thing in a long time, I can't remember how many questions there are.

This one, though, caught my attention and I wanted to share it.

We have this habit, especially in American Christianity, to pick certain sins to dislike. There are some that get the gloss-over, some that get the "oh my" treatment, and others that we rank as, well, pretty rank.

For example, we Baptists find alcohol consumption and gambling as awful, but downplay critical attitudes and pride. Methodists have rightly seen ignoring social problems as sinful, yet allow many moral issues to slide. We could spend hours delineating some of these issues, but the point I want to make is that doing so is a complete waste of time.

It's important for us to remember that one sin is no worse than another. That no person is less a sinner than another. Whether as nice as Mother Theresa or Gandhi or as evil as (insert your favorite evil person here. I like to use politicians, but I'll refrain from naming names) we are all sinners. When Billy Graham passes away, he'll answer to the same God and find himself short of the same standard that the most recent executed murdered will find himself short of attaining.

God's perfect holiness. Sin is anyway we fail to obey the law of God and the law is not just a list of "Don't do this's" it's also a set of positive expectations. Even if you never do a don't there's a do that you'll miss.

As such, we all need forgiveness and cleansing. And we all need to accept that the Blood of Christ is enough for us, but also was needed for us. That my sin wasn't easier to forgive than yours nor yours easier than mine.

That doesn't mean we don't look out for each other and try to help ourselves and our fellow Believers to escape sin, but we do so humbly and patiently. We do so allowing for much understanding of individual conscience and personal faith. And we do so knowing we may need the help next week.

Doug


The Westminster Larger Catechism : With Scripture Proofs. (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1996).

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Changing Times

Virginia, Commonwealth of (1668), enacted:
    The 27th of August appointed for a day of humiliation, fasting, and prayer, to implore God’s mercy: if any person by found upon that day gaming, drinking, or working (works of necessity excepted), upon presentment by church-wardens and proof, he shall be fined one hundred pounds of tobacco.

 

The times, they do change, don't they? After all, now possessing one hundred pounds of tobacco gets you all kinds of grief!

It causes one to wonder: what aspects of life have I so adopted as true that will cause people in future times to think I was more fit for the lunatic house than real life?

This is what happens to us when we so exalt a portion of life beyond its necessary value. At the time, for whatever reason, 27 August was set as a day to stop everything else. I'm sure diligent historical work could uncover the reason, but I've got stuff to do today.

The point being that we need to be very careful determining not only that days are important for religious reasons but then enforcing on others not only the day but our own view of what they should do on it. I'm very much in favor of reduced work on Sundays, church attendance, taking the day to focus on Christ. Yet does it fall to me to demand you spend the day the same as I do?

Should I demand you not watch the Daytona 500 this weekend? Certainly not! For one, the National Anthem will be better performed than the last mega-sporting event. (MARTINA MCBRIDE!!)  For two, that's between you, your family, and God. If He's ok with it, who am I to interfere?

Now, for those of us that have voluntarily associated ourselves with a church family and committed to be a member of that body, we know that puts responsibilities on us for every day of the week, including Sundays and holidays. However, I'm not going to chase you down for it.

Besides, what would I gain? 100 pounds of tobacco?

The laws of man and the fines of man make precious little sense sometimes. Better to recognize the law of God and surrender to it, accepting that it wasn't a mere fine we needed but death, and that the Lord Jesus Christ took it for us.

Doug


William J. Federer, Great Quotations : A Collection of Passages, Phrases, and Quotations Influencing Early and Modern World History Referenced According to Their Sources in Literature, Memoirs, Letters, Governmental Documents, Speeches, Charters, Court Decisions and Constitutions (St. Louis, MO: AmeriSearch, 2001).

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

BookTuesday: The Global Warming Deception

The Global-Warming Deception: How a Secret Elite Plans to Bankrupt America and Steal Your Freedom

The next installment in "BookTuesday" is Grant Jeffrey's The Global Warming Deception. Published by WaterBrook Press, and they've got some more details on the book here. Also, they sent me a free copy in exchange for the review.

A few things to establish when it comes to this book: Grant Jeffery is not a science expert, he's a Scripture expert. Specifically, Biblical prophecy, but it's hard to specialize in one part of Scripture without knowing a lot of it. As such, he's not offering deep science here. The scientific analysis is adequate, but not buried in layers of jargon.

That being said, I think it's one of the strengths of this book. While there are complex scientific issues at hand, Jeffrey has done a good job bringing the jargon down to an understandable level. He explains some of the science, explains why he feels certain parts matter and other parts don't matter as much.

Also, he does an excellent job highlighting the ways in which proponents of anthropogenic global warming (AGW) have behaved less like scientists and more like salesmen. It's not that salesmen are bad, it's just that salesmen aren't out for truth, just to sell, and in Jeffrey's view many AGW-proponent scientists are the same way.

This book, though, for all of the information about global warming, is not really about global warming. Grant Jeffrey isn't a scientist, as I pointed out above. He's a preacher, and a well-known one for his teaching and preaching related to Bible prophecy and the end-times.

This book is really about those issues. Jeffrey raises the questions of one-world government, universal religion, and major changes in religious freedom. He uses Scripture to highlight his concerns, and points as much to his concerns about globalism and socialism as he does to science.

That's not to say it's a bad book. It's really a good one for a Christian, even if you're not convinced of Jeffrey's take on eschatology. However, it limits the book's appeal. Someone who has no concern whatsoever for the Bible will likely not get past the first two chapters. This also limits the use of this book in discussion with AGW proponents, as it will be readily dismissed as more religious than scientific.

Ultimately, that's Jeffery's point about the global warming movement: that it's more religious than scientific. It's probable that he's right, but it's also likely he'll convince no one new of that with this work.

 

Doug

Monday, February 14, 2011

No more ignorance

“Let us remove the ignorance and darkness that spreads like a mist over our sight, and let us get a vision of the true God.” –Clement of Alexandria (source at the end)

Clement was a 2nd-3rd Century theologian and philosopher, and I'm fairly certain that his particular Alexandria was the one in Egypt. That's actually one of the hardest parts of history for me, thanks to Alexander the Great: way too many Alexandrias. And thanks to AtG's Hellenization efforts (spreading Greek language and culture) too many Philadelphias! Philadelphia meaning "City of Brotherly Love" in Koine Greek, there's dozens of those too. It's a stretch, but it seems that every major city in the Mediterranean region, except Rome and Athens, had those names at one point.

Enough ranting about conquerors and such. Let's look at Clement's statement.

Remove the ignorance and darkness: While originally, Clement is addressing shifting from paganism to a faith that views the One True God, I see his words as valid for us today in the Church. Why? We've developed a troubling tendency to ignorance and darkness.

1. We are ignorant of the world around us: our society in general is mired in a mediocrity of education. There are teachers that try, students that try, and parents that try. Unfortunately, we've allowed students who claim the name of Christ to accept it, rather than honoring Christ with their minds. The end result? Ignorance. We must not continue in that.

Special note to my fellow homeschoolers: YES! Homeschooling is often more effective than government schooling. HOWEVER: making that choice is only the first step in a good direction. YOU are RESPONSIBLE to construct, administer, and expect excellence from your students. End of story: the standard is not "better than (fill-in-the-blank)."  As Christian homeschoolers, the standard is "Fully honoring Christ with our efforts." Anything less is sin.

2. We have allowed ignorance to be a hallmark of our churches. Yes, we have. How? Where to start? We've allowed youth ministries to run for years without the Bible. We eat donuts and drink coffee and call it Bible Study. We hope that in a 20-minute sermon the preacher will give us everything we need. Ask the average church leader in a Southern Baptist Church for a brief outline of Scripture. Ask about church history. And don't get me started on misspelling things for advertising efforts. Really? Praise. Kids. Youth.

We celebrate ignorance when we start saying "I don't need doctrine, I just need Jesus." Sure, it sounds good on Twitter, but what does it mean? Too often, it means that we ignorantly blunder through our faith without any consideration of what we're talking about.

Special note to my fellow pastors: Guess what? If you want your church members to be ignorant because, hey, they've got you, then you are not mature enough for the pulpit. Resign. This week. Grow up. Come back. Moreover, if you think you are the only source they have to overcome ignorance, you're too arrogant for the pulpit. Resign. McDonald's is hiring. If you humbly think that you are there to help, to be a personally available teacher of the Word, you're in the right place. Now, do we all have days that we're not fit? Sure. But if you're whole attitude is that, get out.

 

Those are just 2 thoughts on this. What to do? The first is easier to address than the second.

We need to seek God, even just a snapshot of who He is, what Majesty and Glory and Splendor really are like when they are nouns of Him and not mere adjectives of the earthly.

We need to be in the Word of God. We need to seek Him above all other things.

In turn, we need to allow that passion for the One who became less for us to drive us to become more for Him. We ought to be more than ignorant. As the mists clear, we'll see Him. Science shows His handiwork, history His providence, music His beauty, math His wisdom, and language His grace, His willingness to communicate with us.

None of us will master these things, but we ought not neglect being the best we can with the abilities God has given us.

Doug

Mark Galli and Ted Olsen, 131 Christians Everyone Should Know (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 52.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sermon outline February 13

Sorry for no audio. The person responsible for recording it screwed up the recording. And yes, that would be me.

“For you have heard of my former manner of life in Judaism, how I used to persecute the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it; and I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my countrymen, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions. But when God, who had set me apart even from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, was pleased to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood, ” (Galatians 1:13–16, NAS)
Forgivable History:

  1. Prior beliefs:
    1. Apparently Scriptural:
      1. Paul acknowledged the Old Testament and all the Jewish Law
      2. Paul was zealous for the Law
    2. We come from various spiritual backgrounds
      1. Non-Christian
        1. Muslim
        2. Jewish
        3. Atheist
        4. Buddhist
        5. Hindu
        6. Cults
      2. Christian (though sometimes just in name)
        1. Catholic
        2. Methodists
        3. Protestants
        4. Baptists
    3. We have often come from these backgrounds having thought we were pleasing God within them
    4. Or we have had no interest in pleasing God anyway
  2. Prior Behaviors
    1. Improper
      1. Immoral
      2. Unethical
      3. Whatever we chose
    2. Proper
      1. Moral
      2. Ethical
      3. Attempting to live a standard—whether based on misunderstood godliness or human efforts
    3. Either way: our lives were based in ourselves
  3. We were called through His grace:
    1. First, unto salvation:
      1. We all need it: without faith, it is impossible to please God (Heb 11:6)
      2. That faith is a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8-9)
      3. So, we have not pleased Him, and we are His enemies
    2. Second, unto unity of service
      1. Notice the reference to Saul’s persecution of the “Church” of God, not the ‘churches’ like he addressed the letter to:
      2. We as God’s people should be unified in our service of God together
    3. Third, unto solitary mission:
      1. That the Son of God be revealed in us
      2. In our love
      3. In our action
      4. In our faith
  4. Transition to invitation time
    1. Surrender
    2. Prayer
    3. Share

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Pastor as Spiritual Trainer

I think I've mentioned before that our family owns a Nintendo Wii, and that one of our primary uses for it is for exercise. We've got a "game" entitled EA Active, which is a fitness program. It includes a virtual personal trainer.

You know what a personal trainer is, right? It's a person that designs your workouts, directs your workouts, corrects when necessary and encourages when possible. In fact, often it seems that the personal trainer is the one who takes the abuse so I can get better physically. It's why I'm glad there's not a real person hearing my threats when I'm doing the lunge jumps or squat-and-holds or whatever else.

Now, if I lived near a gym or fitness club, I could pay monthly for the privilege of such fun. I'd be given a regular attendance schedule, pay specific fees, and have access to the equipment necessary and the expertise I need. There would be specific times that someone with knowledge and skill would work with me, either in a group or one-on-one to help me accomplish my goals.

Next example: I'm also a seminary student. I'm paying for the joy of having someone criticize every word I write, every thought I share, every aspect of what I do. It's annoying. I'd like to remind my professors that I, the tuition-paying student, make their job possible. (Actually, with MABTS, I make like 10% of their job possible. Very generous donors underwrite the rest. Thank you, donors!) What do I get for providing their job? Correction, rebuke, instruction.

Now, I'm sure you're seeing where this is headed. You read the title, right?

Pastors, our work is similar to the personal trainer and the seminary professor. We have the time to hone our Biblical knowledge, prepare its presentation, and demonstrate in many ways how to live it out. We are charged with being the trainers of our congregations. Not to be the only one that does anything, nor to be the "professional Christian" so that others don't have to.

We're supposed to be the one who has enough of a grasp on Scripture and walking with Christ that we're able to impart that to other Christians and help them find what works best. Just as a personal trainer can help both a marathon runner and a tennis player find specific exercises to strengthen their individual skills, so we should help different people find what they need. Not every seminary student is a Biblical languages genius, so the professors have to find ways to get the information into our thick skulls.

Guess what, though?

I exercise alone so that not even my wife hears my anger at my virtual trainer. I mutter under my breath about professors sometimes. The work to make me better doesn't always bring out my best in the moment.

Pastor, your work to help the church be better isn't always going to bring out people's best. They're going to criticize, complain, and fuss. It goes with the territory. If you called Dr. Brawner and told him "Doug doesn't seem to like you" he'd let you know he's there to teach me, not be my friend (by the way, I think I'd like him if I met him. It's a distance class.) My physical trainer isn't there to be liked. Sometimes, my best effort comes to prove the trainers and professors wrong, prove that I can do what they think I cannot.

Pastor, you're there, we're here to strengthen the church for the work of the ministry. We're not always going to be liked. The evaluation comes not in our popularity but in whether or not the church becomes what God has called her to become.

Now, this shouldn't have to be said, but it's also not our job to seek being disliked. You know the clich├ęs: catch more flies with honey than vinegar and so on. (Church members are not flies.) Encouragement goes so much farther than the beat down does. It's our responsibility to be positive forces and not negative ones. Got it? Good. The goal here is to remind us that we are standing up and we will take criticism. Get over it and get on with it.

Doug

Friday, February 11, 2011

To the NFL and NFLPA

On behalf of we, the football fans of the United States, I'd like to express a few quick comments to you both. This will be brief, as you need to get your tails right back in the same room, sign the piece of paper, take the off-season, and then get ready for football this fall.

To the owners:

1. We fans know why players are paid those insanely huge salaries: you pay them. Guess what our bosses do when personnel costs are too big a piece of the pie? They cut salaries and cut people. They act like they are in charge, because they are. They don't hire new people at twice the salary of existing people either.

2. We fans know why you pay rookies so much. No, we don't. We don't actually understand why you pay an untested person so much more than experienced people. Most of you have other businesses. Do you approve that in those businesses?

3. That your revenues are so high annoys us. How much does it cost the average family to actually attend football games? How much did you get for moving the Monday Night Football games off of broadcast TV and onto Cable/Satellite that not everyone can afford?

4. How much do you pay the part-time workers that actually make the games happen? Field crews and such? Not nearly enough, I'd guess. You're so busy spending millions for a rookie that won't play well that your ticket-takers are making minimum wage.

5. Manage your team like a business, but realize that you're supposed to be running it to please your customers and your customers are us, the fans of your team. Not Fox, CBS, ESPN, NBC. They are vehicles to deliver your product to your customers.

For the NFLPA:

1. Keep in mind that some of your players make more in one year than most of us make in lifetime. The "shortened career so we need more money" argument doesn't hold a lot of water to us fans. The rookie minimum is somewhere around 10 times what I make in a year. That's the minimum. This year's 'Rookie of the Year' has a contract guaranteeing him $50 million.

1a. And can the "dangerous" talk. Really? How about the Postal Service folks that had to drive on dangerous roads? Coast Guardsmen rescuing boaters? School teachers? And don't get started on workers in steel mills and meat packing plants---your jobs are not any more dangerous than many people's work. You have team doctors to help you get healthy rather than worker's comp reps out to keep you from filing a claim.

2. We hear you whining about clubs forcing players to "toe the club line" and remember stories of athletes getting too drunk or too high and doing things that are at the least morally reprehensible and more likely criminal. Then they don't get prosecuted because they're rich and famous. Guess what? We want the players to "toe the line." Actually, we want them way off of it. We kind of expect coaches to be allowed to bench players that don't follow instructions because (ready for this?) the coach is in charge of the team. Not the players.

3. We fully sympathize that there are retired players that need better support. How about publicizing that your proposal reserves a respectable percentage of revenue for them? Something in the 25% or better range? Or is it just lip service?

4. You want to fuss about player safety, but then you do not want effective player conduct policies. Do you not realize that a solid night of drugs and alcohol are more likely to cause brain damage than a single concussion?

5. Nice of you to show up at other unions' activities, as if you really care. How about announcing that you'll take a 1-year deal to ensure the season happens so that all those stadium workers don't lose their jobs while you fight with the owners? You know, a few hot dogs for the masses while you fat cats fight for steaks?

6. One last note: keep in mind, while some players' only chance of a college education came from their football scholarship, they should have taken advantage of that and have a degree. At which point, there are a myriad of career possibilities. Quit acting like all these players could do is play football.

To you both:

1. How long have you known the CBA was about to expire? And why have you been so slow to negotiate it? We see that both of you have held out, and we know it's about money.

2. In truth, we don't really care about 16 games or 18 games. What we don't want are 4 pre-season games hyped as if they are important and ticket sold as if they were important so that we can watch the third-stringers fight it out. Call them scrimmages and have them on Tuesdays without cameras. Have 2 real preseason games that feature more than 1 series by the top players. Keep the season 16 games and go on.

3. We will, certainly, forgive in time that you two have colluded together to mess up the next season. We're like that, us Americans. It's evidenced by the fact that we still vote for Republicans and Democrats, that MLB didn't go bust as they should have post-1995, and that we will tune back in.

However, we're watching you. We're learning, again, that our heroes and role models are not best picked from your ranks. If a hero is going to wear a uniform, it needs to feature rank, name, branch of service, type of service. They need to come from folks who have a rookie pay scale and a boot camp or a training academy where they learn to work as a team, follow necessary orders, and do their job no matter what. Our heroes should be those who fight for freedom, not for one more yard.

Sports can give us inspiration and happiness. In fact, that's what you're best at doing. If you take that away, we'll notice.

Doug

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Jury Duty (Again)

I just thought I'd put the warning out that I have been summoned for Jury Duty next week, for a trial that could last a month.

Of course, I'm just as likely to be dismissed from the case. It's a lawsuit regarding BayerCropScience and an action they took which damaged the Arkansas Rice market a few years ago. Given my close friendship with several Arkansas Rice farmers and the fact that I have heard their side of the story and believe them, I won't exactly be impartial.

Then there's the other issue I have with this case. If you're like Ann Hibbard and have never been summoned for jury duty, you haven't seen the 'Preliminary Juror Questionnaire." A letter comes along with a form, and you are told to return the form, filled out completely, or go to jail. The questions are basic: name, address, employer, whether or not you have criminal charges pending. (I thought about listing "Criminal charge for failing to return Juror Questionnaire Pending")

Where this system then turns intrusive is this: your questionnaire is then provided to the parties in the case. That's right, your name, address, employment situation are all provided to the parties involved. That means that if you're a juror on a murder trial, the (alleged) murderer has your home address.

In this case, it means that one party or the other has begun digging into the background on the people in the jury pool. How do I know?

Blog stats. About a week after the juror questionnaire was mailed in, my blogs started being visited by "JurySync, LLC" which is a company that provides consulting services that "Connect lawyers with Jurors." They were featured at a convention focused on defending mega-corporations from lawsuits as helpful in guiding jury research.

Their IP address has been a consistent hit on my blog, the church's website, and my family's blog, about every week since that day.

This makes me uncomfortable. Not that they have developed my public information---if I really minded that, I shouldn't have a blog. Rather, it bothers me that our legal system encourages this type of behavior.

Let's just run it down as a list of how our jury trial system works:

1. An American citizen registers to exercise a fundamental right: voting.

2. That registration is used to populate the 'potential jurors' list.

3. When that citizen's name is pulled from the list, they are then told, under threat of force, that they have to submit personal information to the court.

4. The court system turns this coerced information over to all sides in the court case. This includes criminals and major corporations that are at risk of losing millions of dollars, based on the citizen's decision making.

5. The sides of the case with the information then begin to investigate the citizen.

6. Again, under threat of force, the citizen is then mandated to appear in court, answer more questions publicly about his/her personal feelings and beliefs.

7. Unless the citizen works for a company that can spare them, their work and life are in the balance pending how long the case takes.

8. Oh, and the judge won't allow the jurors to have their cell phones, even though criminal defendants have sat in court and used theirs during case breaks.

In all, while the jury system is necessary, somehow this doesn't work out as quite fair, does it?

First of all, shaping the jury to be favorable to one side or the other: the idea is that 12 people hear the evidence and vote on it rather than 1 judge deciding. They should be 12 citizens, at random, nothing more, nothing less.

Second, investigating jurors: jury selection should not involve giving private information about jurors to the parties. Especially since there is little acknowledgement to jurors that they are being investigated by the parties and since the information is gathered under the threat of force of the state.

Third, can we not find a way to take the need for juries, match that up with the need for unemployment payments and let people live their lives? If these cases drag out, there will be farmers that can't get crops planted on time, because they're stuck in court. I'll miss several school deadlines because I'll be on this trial.

I am all for giving fair trials, especially for individuals that are accused of crimes, but my observation last year was that all of those trials could have taken half the time if there hadn't been the monotonous repetition and if the lawyers had come to court to try the case and not delay it.

As to this one, it's actually simple, although they plan to take a month at it: a corporation released/allowed to release a genetically modified seed that destroyed the marketability of the crop. Said corporation did not notify farmers they had done this. Genetically modified crops got mixed in with normal crops. Therefore, major markets refused to buy any rice grown around here and some people went bankrupt and some barely didn't go bankrupt. Corporation denies responsibility. Farmers sue. Farmers are right on this one. It takes an hour to cover the specifics.

It would take BayerCropScience 5 minutes to apologize and 10 minutes to figure damages and cut the checks. Instead, they're wasting my time, the court's time, and hiring people to investigate me. I am not happy.

And, for the record, I am not unbiased, either.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Book Review: The Brotherhood

What do you get when an author that has sold more than 60 million books decides it's time to hit the streets with a novel about police work?

The Brotherhood (Precinct 11)

You get Jerry B. Jenkins' new novel from Tyndale, The Brotherhood. Now, many people are familiar with Jenkins' name from his involvement with the blockbuster Left Behind series, but if that turns you against him for whatever reason, this novel may, perhaps, change your mind.

The Brotherhood is a novel set with the Chicago Police Department, and it covers a few of the early years of Boone Drake's career as an officer. The book follows Drake from a rookie on the force, through personal tragedy, and onto a promotion to work with a special unit. As you read it, you'll see a man that has all he wants, and loses most of it. In the process he has to determine what goals are important and what methods are allowed to reach them. There's a bit of action, a bit of romance, and not a few moments of personal soul-searching. It is, after all, a book with a message.

Personally, I enjoyed this book more than I expected. In all honesty, some of Jenkins' former work I had found too predictable and too heavily religious for a novelist. As a preacher, I've often found that when novelists try to preach, they neither preach well nor provide a good read. Jenkins does a good job balancing the two here. While some readers might prefer a more 'gritty' read that provides details of violence and the more intimate romance, this book leaves those out. I liked that.

As a novel, the work is good, but a strength that comes out is the presentation of life and the opportunity to learn from it. One lesson I saw was the need for community. Drake suffers personal tragedy and tries to wall himself off alone in the midst of it. That just doesn't work for him, and I can see my own tendency to do that. It won't work for me either.

The author is, as I said, Jerry B. Jenkins. Here's what he looks like so if you see him in Wal-Mart,  you can try to get him to autograph your copy: image

Your copy of what? Of The Brotherhood, of course. Silly. Tyndale House Publishers, who so graciously gave me a copy of the book will be glad to give one lucky reader of this blog their own copy as well! It works like this: you leave a comment here on this blog sometime between now and Wednesday, February 16 at midnight CST. I'll then, on Thursday morning, February 17, pick one commenter at random. I'll email you for your address and send you a certificate to get The Brotherhood for free. If you do something really nice, like post a Tweet or Facebook link to this page, I'll give you a double entry. Just tell me in your comment that you have done so.

Got it? I got a book for free, but had to write a review afterwards. You might get a book if you write a comment before hand.

Doug

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A Packer Fan

So, the joke fell flat Sunday night about being a Packer fan and holding up one of J.I. Packer's books, but it's true. I am a Packer fan. Knowing God is one of the better books I've ever read.

And I'm reading another one of his, entitled Growing in Christ. I came across this paragraph today as I was reading about how we face death, and how the Christian ought not to fear death:

John Preston, the Puritan, knew this. When he lay dying, they asked him if he feared death, now it was so close. “No,” whispered Preston; “I shall change my place, but I shall not change my company.”

I'm challenged by this. I see, looking back, that the times I am most fearless at exploring new places and things are when I am with people I know and love. If you give Ann and I the opportunity, we'll go anywhere and try nearly anything (except probably bungee jumping.)

Why?

Because the setting isn't important to me. The company is. We have lived in big cities, suburbs, and now a really small town. Home is where we are if we are there together.

Yet I look at Preston's statement and am convicted. Am I walking faithfully enough with Christ that I will not fear death, not because I know it will be alright or because I have the images of streets of gold and glassy seas and pearly gates, but because whatever is there doesn't matter. Who is there matters. That I will not change my company when I change locations.

That I will stay in the presence of Jesus will be enough.

This challenges me to live in His presence enough now that it's not terrifying then. And that's going to take some serious contemplation and growth.

Doug


J. I. Packer, Growing in Christ (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 1996), 54-56.

Growing in Christ

Monday, February 7, 2011

Sermons

There aren't sermon outlines, but there is audio. So, here you go:

Morning Sermon Audio Link

“For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. ” (Galatians 1:11–12, NAS)

Evening Sermon Audio Link

“For the choir director. A Psalm of the sons of Korah, set to Alamoth. A Song. God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change And though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; Though its waters roar and foam, Though the mountains quake at its swelling pride.Selah. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, The holy dwelling places of the Most High. God is in the midst of her, she will not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns. The nations made an uproar, the kingdoms tottered; He raised His voice, the earth melted. The Lord of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our stronghold.Selah. Come, behold the works of the Lord, Who has wrought desolations in the earth. He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two; He burns the chariots with fire. “Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” The Lord of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our stronghold.Selah. ” (Psalm 46, NAS)

And now, a message from our sponsors: Ok, not our sponsors. So far, though, this was one of my favorites on the Superbowl last night.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

No more democracy!

““You shall not follow the masses in doing evil, nor shall you testify in a dispute so as to turn aside after a multitude in order to pervert justice; ” (Exodus 23:2, NAS)

Growing up, my father was no slacker when it came to using classic parental psychology. Especially the phrase "If everyone else jumped off a bridge, would you?" in response to a plea of "everyone's doing it!" Then he would extol the virtues of disregarding the crowd when the crowd was, well, stupid.

I think I've said before that Dad is getting smarter the older I get. I'll say it again. Here's even a case where he was presenting Scripture. He was contextualizing it and providing dynamic translation (buzz words for my seminary friends Smile), but still presenting God's Word to his children like a good patriarch.

Dad's wisdom and the Scripture at hand both speak into some of our current problems in America. For years, we Christians have appealed to our moral values as being "the majority" view. We continue to do so as we attempt to prevent the perversion of marriage and the family, protect the unborn, and defend our freedom of speech.

Yet do we really want to win those arguments based on the "majority" viewpoint? Would we submit to the "majority" if that view came to support, say, cat sacrifice? (Well, bad example. I would, perhaps.) 

What we need to be is right. Not in the majority. Not in the minority. Right. And not in the definition of "as opposed to left." Rather, we need to seek what is immovably correct and stand at that point. No matter how popular or unpopular.

And I think we need to stop appealing to the x% of Americans agree with us argument as we try and stand for truth. That's our best argument? Are we sure we want to be approved based on majority agreement?

We've reached a point as Christians in this country, which has a Judeo-Christian ethical foundation to its laws but is not a "Christian Country," where we cannot keep seeking approval. We can no longer assume on or expect that our values will be shared by the majority. It's actually time to stop trying and start proclaiming the Gospel. We've got the time and energy to either fight the politics or preach the truth.

It's time to stop taking votes and polls and do that which is right.

Doug

Friday, February 4, 2011

FEAR!

There are more things, Lucilius, that frighten us than injure us, and we suffer more in imagination than in reality. —SENECA, Epistulae ad Lucilium

Before you get worried, I'm not going to give you the history details of who Lucilius was (some Roman) or even much about Seneca, so this shouldn't be excessively boring. Background on Seneca is that he was a Roman Stoic philosopher and teacher, was the tutor to Nero, and was 'forced to commit suicide' for conspiring to dispose of Nero.

Let's focus on the quote instead. Is he right? I think he is. One thing that modern medical science has discovered for us is that stress is a dangerous thing. Stress will kill you, will make you old, will wear you out.

To modern medicine, Seneca says "Well, yes, I told you so." He's warning Lucilius in his letter that we should be careful imagining dangers. Think about it in your own life. Is it that your job is really so terrible or that you fear losing it? I've seen some research that shows that job satisfaction dips in high unemployment but job loyalty soars! Then, in good years, job satisfaction rises but loyalty dips, although many people still stay at the same job. Why? Because our satisfaction dips with the fear we'll lose the job, whether we do well or not.

The same thing is often true in our personal lives. Fear, anxiety cause more relationship issues than, I think, anything else. I see this is pastoral counseling, I see it in married couples, parents, pre-marital situations. We react to our fears and destroy our relationships.

We see it economically: there's a fear that the situation in Egypt will affect oil, so oil prices go up, so other prices go up, so we have economic damage. We see it in government: we fear what will happen in the long-run with the health care legislation, we fear what will happen without.

Fear will paralyze us. Seneca was right. Observation shows him to be right. There's someone else that shows he was right too:

““So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. ” (Matthew 6:34, NAS)

Those would be the words of Christ. (By the way, it's beyond unlikely that Seneca and Jesus influence each other. They were contemporaries that were too many miles apart.)

There's a reason we're commanded not to worry. It's hard. I find myself worrying about trying not to worry! Yet it's wise. Focus on what you can do, beat the anxieties back and do what you see in front of you.

Make your house payment this month, and hope the thing sells. Show up for jury duty and hope to get dismissed. Go shop and hope the snow's not too bad.

Otherwise, fears will overtake you before real disaster, and then what will you do?

 

Inc Merriam-Webster, The Merriam-Webster Dictionary of Quotations. (Springfield, Mass.: Merriam-Webster, 1992), 23.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Why we don't evangelize anymore

In my daily Bible reading, which I'm a bit behind in, I was reading Matthew 20:1-16 today. It's the parable of the laborers in the vineyard. (Reftagger should bring up the text for you, but I'll paste it at the end for anyone that needs it.) Essentially, the parable relates that a master hired people to work in his vineyard at different times throughout the day and at the end of the day paid them all the same.

As it starts with a "The kingdom of heaven is like…" statement, we've long interpreted this as a description of heaven and the idea that it doesn't matter when in life (or, essentially, how close to death) one comes to Christ for salvation, all those who accept God's grace get the same benefit.

When you read the parable, though, there's a little more in it. The Lord Jesus Christ speaks of bitterness from the early-day workers that they aren't getting more perks than the late-day folks. The picture is that they're angry that a whole life of service isn't being treated better than a short time span.

This brought to mind a question for today: Is this why we as American Christians don't evangelize very much? Really, if you think about it, Evangelical Christianity in America often spends more time trying to convince people to act Christian rather than be Christian. The short term for that is "Culture Wars" but that's another day.

Moving on, a trend that I've noticed is a move of "raising the bar" for entrance to the Kingdom of God. For example, we profess that the Gospel is the simple message that Christ died in our place, and rose from the dead. If we will surrender our lives to Him, He will save us from the death we deserve and we'll go to the presence of God in death instead of to Hell.

Yet then we start to expand it: if you don't accept this theological proposition or that one, you didn't really accept the Gospel. I see it from my Calvinist and non-Calvinist brethren over whether an irresistible grace and unconditional election was necessary or not necessary. I see it between old-earth and young-earth folks over 6-days. I see it between inerrantists and not-inerrantists, that if you don't accept the whole Bible, you can't be saved.

And I think we do this to raise the bar, because we don't want people coming to the Kingdom after us but getting the same reward. It doesn't seem fair, really, does it? So we make it harder. Sure, for kids and teens we'll simplify it down (for them, we make the Kingdom so simple that when they hit real discipleship, they crumble, but that's another post, too) to the core, but for adults?

Adults had better come thoroughly prepared theologically. And so, we don't evangelize because we aren't prepared ourselves for the questions involved and because, really, we don't want people that haven't worked all day to get the same reward as us.

We Christians need to get over ourselves and our pursuit of our own glory. We need to learn to accept that God is not willing that any should perish---and that includes those who will spend more of their earthly time out of the kingdom than in it.

So let's get to work. Not on raising the bar beyond its Biblical level nor lowering it beneath that, but right where it belongs as we strive to make disciples.

Doug

 

 

““For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. “When he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius for the day, he sent them into his vineyard. “And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the market place; and to those he said, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.’ And so they went. “Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did the same thing. “And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why have you been standing here idle all day long?’ “They said to him, ‘Because no one hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’ “When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last group to the first.’ “When those hired about the eleventh hour came, each one received a denarius. “When those hired first came, they thought that they would receive more; but each of them also received a denarius. “When they received it, they grumbled at the landowner, saying, ‘These last men have worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the scorching heat of the day.’ “But he answered and said to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius? ‘Take what is yours and go, but I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. ‘Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous?’ “So the last shall be first, and the first last.” ” (Matthew 20:1–16, NAS)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Unwinnable people

He [Oliver Cromwell] said: “I see there is a people risen, that I cannot win either with gifts, honors, offices or places; but all other sects and people I can.

While many of us only vaguely remember all the details of Oliver Cromwell, the English Civil War, and anything else that happened in the 1600s, I saw this quote and thought it was worth bringing up anyway. Just to provide context, the mid-1600s saw a civil war in England between those loyal to the King and supporters of democracy. For a time, the rebels won and placed Oliver Cromwell as the Protector of the Realm, but they eventually were driven from power. (That's, um, so simplified it's scary. The Wikipedia article seems fair enough, and there are several books on the subject.)

Cromwell intended to win loyalty and supporters the same way the monarchy had: by rewarding men with material wealth, temporal power, and fancy titles. It worked for many.

Except, apparently, one group. The quote above is from George Fox, founder of the Quakers. No, not the oat company, the religious group called the Society of Friends. Among the religious changes in the 17th Century, the Friends were probably the most radical group that didn't turn into raving lunatics. They abandoned all of the pomp and formality of the Church and sought to be plain, simple, and always honest.

This caused them no end of grief from the powers-that-be in England. The monarchy disliked their lack of "respect" to the king, the people weren't sure what to make of them, and their pacifism was often mistaken for treason and cowardice.

Yet that one sentence testimony from Cromwell is worth noting. No matter what he offered, Cromwell could not sway the Quakers to his side. They chose to follow only what they believed God had instructed them to do. In some ways, this meant supporting the monarchy and in others supporting the revolution, but in all ways this mean keeping their commitments.

Whatever else could be said of the theology held by the Society of Friends or their practices, I should at least learn from this. What price can buy my loyalty? I struggle with that question. I hold certain principles to be very important, but what would I trade them for? Offices, titles, lands, and money?

This is something we need to consider, all of us. If you can imagine a price you would "sell-out" for, even if it's an insane number, then you're for sale, it's just a matter of negotiation.

My integrity and commitment should belong so wholly to the Lord Jesus Christ that it's not even mine to sell or trade. If you're a follower of Christ, the same is true of you. We need to be people that are committed to that, no matter who takes over the realm.

 

William J. Federer, Great Quotations : A Collection of Passages, Phrases, and Quotations Influencing Early and Modern World History Referenced According to Their Sources in Literature, Memoirs, Letters, Governmental Documents, Speeches, Charters, Court Decisions and Constitutions (St. Louis, MO: AmeriSearch, 2001).

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Book Review and Giveaway: Always True

 

Ann and I are both reviewing the same book today, so hop over to her website to see her opinion as well. The book is Always True by James MacDonald. The book is published by Moody Publishers and is available online from various retailers.

Always True: God's 5 Promises for When Life is Hard

MacDonald states that his purpose in writing this book is to reflect on five promises that he sees God making in Scripture to every believer no matter their age, culture, or location. This is an ambitious goal for a book, especially one of only 150 pages. How well does Dr. MacDonald achieve his goal?

First of all, he provides a small amount of the background of his life that produced this book. While there are more details in his other book, Life is Hard, the short summary is enough to help the reader see that this is not the work of an academic. Instead, this is the outpouring of a life that went through darkness, frustration and even despair.

This brings a basic level of credibility to the work. Rather than reading this and hearing the voice of a preacher that is above or outside of suffering, the reader is able to see that MacDonald has experienced needing to be reminded of the truths he’s presenting. So, for the one who needs to know this is a practical book, you can find it here.

Second, though, MacDonald is writing from the viewpoint of one who strongly believes the Bible. He does this by supporting his premises through plentiful Bible references. The work in supporting his views of God’s promises through Scripture is well done. Also, MacDonald has used references from more literal English translations, rather than having to use paraphrases that help stretch the Bible’s words to meet his opinions. This is definitely a strength of this work.

Finally, MacDonald has packaged all of this in a well-condensed work. Above, I mentioned that this is only 150 pages. The truth is, some of those pages are single paragraph introductions and all of the pages have decently wide margins. That alone is a plus for note-takers, but overall this book is usable as a quick read. While there is a depth present that will take a slow pondering to grasp, the book is also accessible to the person who wakes up tomorrow in a crisis and needs the “life support” of God’s promises to hold them together.

In all, I would recommend this book without any reservations.

Actually, along those lines, I have a copy of Always True to give to someone. As mentioned above, Ann and I are both reviewing this book, and we’ve got one (1) copy to give to someone. How are we going to determine who to give it to? Here’s the deal: make a comment on this review, and I’ll enter your name in the hat. Make a comment on her review and she’ll put your name in the same hat. Your comment can be here or on the Facebook link to this blog post. It will have to be a comment that helps us know who you are so we can contact you and send the book. We’ll draw Wednesday, February 9th, 2011, so your comment has to register before then.

Peace in a time of Pandemic

This is not one of those hyper-spiritual posts, where I claim that because of Jesus I have peace even in the midst of the COVID pandemic. Tr...