Monday, October 31, 2011

Leave the Lights On

Happy Anne Frank Day!  October 31 is the day we celebrate the life and death of Anne Frank by turning out all the lights and hiding in a room writing in our diaries with flashlights.  Whenever there’s a knock at the door, we quickly cover our little lights and are absolutely silent lest the Gestapo at the door discover we’re in hiding. 

Rap, rap, rap goes the knocking, coupled with the less than idle threats yelled out in unison: “Trick or Treat”, which roughly translates in German, “Give up your Jews, or we’ll toilet paper your house.”

Huddling closer together and shivering in fear, we pray silently until they go away.

This is how many Christians spend their Halloweens, or they go to some kind of Fall/Harvest Festival put on by their local church.  In fact, Anne Frank Day is how I’ve spent every Halloween since I’ve come to Christ.  The mock holiday is the joke/tradition my wife and her family have for Satan’s little costume party, which to date we’ve adopted in our own family.

But today in church as the announcement for the Fall Festival came up, I was struck by how odd it was that a missional church would walk away from such an amazing opportunity, then convicted that I would walk away from such an amazing opportunity.  I mean how often is it that the world comes to our door asking for a gift?

And as Christians, we have the best gift there is in Jesus Christ, but we turn the lights off.  Then the conviction really turned up a notch when the Holy Spirit brought the following words of Christ to heart:

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.  Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.  (Matthew 5:14-16)


So here’s what I propose. Let’s look at this pagan holiday, not as an evil to be avoided, but as an opportunity to share the Gospel.  Let’s get some tracts to give out with our candy.  Let’s get some guts to speak to our visitors about the God who sees through every mask we put on, yet still loves us enough to offer us forgiveness and redemption through the death and resurrection of His son, Jesus Christ.  Let’s give them Jesus; he’s the best treat they’ll ever get anyway.

If you’ll stand on the hill with me, I invite you to not turn out your lights this Halloween, neither on your doorstep nor on your life.

P.S.  There is actually an Anne Frank Day on June 12th every year.  If you want to celebrate it hiding under your bed with your diaries and a flashlight, feel free.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Mountains of Blessing

If you’re in the construction business, you may have heard of Robert Gilmore LeTourneau.    He was known as the “dean of earth moving”.  He invented more than 299 earth moving machines, including bulldozers, portable cranes, the electric wheel, and even portable oil platforms for offshore drilling.  He may have been one of the most prolific inventers of the 20th century, and if you live in house, shop at a grocery store, or buy gasoline, you have been profoundly affected by the work of LeTourneau.

And if you think this is impressive, hold onto your seat.  LeTourneau gave away 90% of his income for the glory of God. Yes, you read that correctly—90%.  The man tithed in reverse.  He kept 10% and gave God 90%.   And he’s not the only person I know of who lives this way. 

In fact there are quite a few.  And most of them will say, it wasn’t easy to give 90% at first, in fact times were hard for a long time, but the blessings started mounting, and I couldn’t give them away fast enough.  


Read the answer in this weeks Proverbs and Wisdom article.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Christian Zombie Killers Handbook: Slaying the Living Dead Within

Yes, the zombie theme continues.  For new readers, here’s a quick recap.  I hate zombies, used to watch zombie movies B.C., came to Christ, and now don’t like them at all.  I had a zombie nightmare in which God spoke to me very clearly, which you can read about in the post titled: I Hate Zombies.   Then a publisher sent me a book in the mail called The Zombie Church; you can read my review in the post titled: Zombie Church.  And now another publisher has sent me a book for review called The Christian Zombie Killers Handbook by Jeff Kinley.

Kinley’s basic premise is that lurking deep within all of us is a flesh-eating zombie that thinks it’s alive, but it is dead in its sins, and the only way to oust the zombie and become truly alive is through Jesus Christ.  Every other chapter reads like a systematic theology treatise, if that treatise was playing at the local grindhouse with back-to-back zombie apocalypses on the big screen.

And there’s not much to criticize within these chapters (maybe in the eschatology department, but it’s not worth knocking the book over.)

That said, the other chapters in the book that aren’t dealing with theology are not as good, nor are the graphic images of the undead.  These chapters and images revolve around a science fiction story about . . . zombies (what did you think I was going to say puppies?). 

Here’s a taste of one of the sci-fi bits: “The raging redhead resumed feasting on Kyle’s arm, but was distracted by the scent of more flesh outside . . .” (p. 177). 

I really hate zombies.  I know God is teaching me a lesson about being dead in our transgressions and sharing life with undead sinners that don’t know Christ using the zombie metaphor, but seriously, I don’t need these kinds of images running through my head.  Once I figured out the rhythm of the book, I started skipping these narrative bits and just reading the theological premises.  It made for a much better read.  And if it weren’t for the “story” part, I would probably recommend the book, but since half of it is equivalent to watching a horror movie complete with gore and guts, I can’t.

If you’re into that sort of thing, you can buy the book for $10.87.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Most Wonderful Thing About Heaven

If you do a Google search on heaven, you’ll get thousands, maybe millions, of different depictions of what heaven looks like, what we’ll do there, and who will go there. 

Mark Twain once wrote a story called “Captain Stormfield's Visit to Heaven” in which Captain Stormfield steers off course on his way to heaven chasing comets and ends up at the wrong gate, where an alien race with seven heads and one foot were entering their heaven. 

When Stormfield finally gets to human heaven, they issue him a harp and wings, and he goes and sits on a cloud and sings for a couple of days then gets tired of it all and dumps his wings and harp in a big pile where others had left theirs.  They all got tired of standing around singing all day and went to find something to do.

While Mark Twain’s writing is probably the last place I’d steer anyone looking to have a deeper relationship with Christ, especially since he pokes fun at believers in the story calling this depiction of heaven the “biblical picture”, he does make a good point.  Sitting on a cloud with wings strumming a harp all day is not a good way to spend a day much less eternity.

Luckily no one ever accused Mr. Twain of a being a biblical scholar.  The revelation of heaven in the Bible sounds much, much different.  Here’s one example: “There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him; they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads.” (Revelations 22:4)

The curse is gone—no death, work will be easy and enjoyable for men; there will be no pain in childbirth or discord in marriage for women (if these things even exist in the resurrection).  We’ll get to serve God and the Lamb forever.   But the most wonderful, most spectacular, most longed for thing about eternity . . .

We’ll get to see His face and not die!

That’s what I’m excited about.  The other stuff is good, but to see God face-to-face, to know Him and be known by Him face-to-face, no more long-distance chats, no more dark glass between us, but to be like Him because I can see Him clearly for the first time, that’s what I’m looking forward to most of all.

What else is there that is worthy of looking forward to?

Friday, October 21, 2011

8 Ways to Invest Your Blessings

Jesus came to give us life more abundant, and when we believe on Him and walk in His ways, we receive blessings beyond anything we can ask or imagine.  And who doesn’t love blessings? 

But once you have your blessings, what do you do with them? 

This is the benchmark that divides the wheat from the tares in the church.  It’s the first thing Jesus plans on bringing up when we stand before Him: “here’s what you did with what I gave you . . .”

And so we don’t end up like the wicked servant who buries his talent, head over to Proverbs and Wisdom to read my latest article with 8 Ways to Invest Your Blessings.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Zombie Church: Breathing Life Back into the Body of Christ

Since I’ve become a Christian, I really don’t like zombies.  I used to watch zombie flicks all the time, but they gave me nightmares, and after coming to Christ, I’ve stopped watching horror movies altogether.  But not long ago, I had another zombie nightmare in which God spoke to me very clearly; you can read about it in the post titled: I Hate Zombies.

Anyway after having this dream, I received an email from Kregel Publications inviting me to review a new book called Zombie Church by Tyler Edwards.  Was it sent from God?  After reading the book, I’d say most likely. 

Zombie Church is all about those in the church who claim to be alive in Christ, but act like they’re dead in the world.  It’s a pretty glaringly obvious disconnect that everyone but those who are in this position seems to notice.  The world definitely seems to notice with phrases like “Dear God, please save me from your followers” gaining in popularity among unbelievers.  I think Tyler puts the bullet in the head so to speak in comparing those living in this disconnect to Zombies.

Overall  Edward’s diagnosis of the issues facing the western church was perfect, and his treatment plan of turning to Jesus is the only way to stop the zombie threat.

My one disagreement is the severity of the issue.  Jesus didn’t call people living in this limbo of not quite dead, not quite alive, as sick.  He called them lukewarm, and He said that He would vomit them out of His mouth.  Lukewarmness isn't a sickness; it's a death sentence. The zombies Edwards describes are tares among the wheat that are headed for cremation.  In the Return of the Living Dead, a flick he doesn’t reference, that’s the only way to really stop the zombies.  Is there hope?  Yes.  If Jesus can raise the dead, He can certainly restore the undead.  

But this is the only point where Edwards pulls his punches, everything else is severely convicting, so be forewarned.  Overall, I definitely recommend the book whether you’re a horror movie fan or not.


Tyler Edwards is the lead pastor at Cornerstone Christian Church in Joplin, Missouri, where he works to help people learn how to live like Jesus, love like Jesus, and look like Jesus—so they carry out the mission of Jesus to the world. He graduated from Ozark Christian College with bachelor’s degrees in both Biblical Literature and Christian Ministry. He has written articles for Lookout Magazine, spoken at various campus ministry events in Missouri, and served overseas in Mbale, Uganda.

Tyler loves cheesy horror films. He is particularly fond of movies like Dawn of the Dead, The Signal, and 28 Days Later, where zombies run wild and threaten to infect an entire town. Connect with Tyler on Facebook.

A creative, entertaining approach to resurrecting the undead church. There is something missing in the church today. Stuck in a rut of routines and rituals, the church is caught up in doing what it is “supposed to do” but is lacking the true essence of what it is supposed to provide: life. Real faith--and a real relationship with Jesus--is not about playing by the rules, attending services, and praying before meals. Real faith is more than religion.

Believing there is a way to breathe life back into the church, Tyler Edwards adopts a contemporary and entertaining metaphor--zombies--to highlight and challenge the problematic attitude of today’s believers.

Written for the discouraged, disenfranchised, and anyone unsatisfied with their same-old church routine, Zombie Church challenges readers to turn away from hollow religious practices, which characterize “zombie Christianity,” and turn toward a radical relationship with Jesus.

While other books have addressed legalism in the church, this is the only book that effectively capitalizes on a popular entertainment genre in order to diagnose and correct the problem. Realizing that even his own church is part of that problem, Edwards has written an accessible and often humorous book that will help believers change the Spirit-draining (or life-draining) habits that stop them from achieving a full, fulfilling life in Christ.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Amen is the End

Have you ever stopped to wonder why we always end our prayers with “In Jesus’ name, amen?” The phrase has become this trite little farewell to God after prayer that I doubt many of us have given much thought.  It’s like saying goodbye after we get off the phone. 

“Uh God, I gotta go.  Dinner is getting cold.  
In Jesus’ name, amen.” Click.

Jesus said, “if you ask anything in my name, I will do it” (John 14:14), so we ask everything in His name.  “Bless our food”, “Bless my dog”, “Bless grandma”, “Bless the president”, etcetera, all in Jesus’ name. 

Yet do we ever stop to think about the name we’re whipping out like a no-limit credit card on 

Are we so quick to forget that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father? (Philippians 2:10-11)

Where is the respect due our Lord in using His name so arbitrarily?  I’m not saying not to ask in the name of Jesus, just don’t throw it out in vain without a second thought about who’s name you're using.

And as far as the “Amen” goes, if you’ve done a word-study on “amen” or have ever heard a sermon on it before, you probably already know it means “truly, surely, or it is so.”  But have you ever looked at the word in context?  It never comes after “In the name of Jesus” at the end of a prayer.  The word is sometimes used as an agreement, but it is almost exclusively found after blessing or praising God, like in the Lord’s Prayer: “For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” (Matthew 6:13

This use of the word is something I just discovered while writing this post, which is very different then what I intended to write, and in discovering this use of the word, it seems very nearly blasphemous to say it after blessing our food, our dog, our grandmas, even our president.  In fact in Revelation, Jesus says, “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says this . . .” (Revelation 3:14).

He calls Himself “the Amen”, which shouldn’t be that shocking since He calls Himself “the Truth” in John 14:6, but it’s like the double whammy of using the Lord’s name in vain at the end of our trite little prayers.  Amen isn’t the end of a prayer; the “Amen” is the End, as in the “Beginning and the End.”

Here’s what I propose.  Let’s stop praying like the God we speak to isn’t real and doesn’t care how we talk to Him, and let’s start praying with fear and trembling, awe and respect, and most of all love for Jesus Christ and the Father who loved us enough to send His Son.

To God Almighty be all glory and honor forever and ever, Amen.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Discipline or Desperation?

I recently listened to an interview with Paul Miller called the Doctrine of Prayer.  His position on prayer is that prayer should increasingly come from a point of desperation rather than discipline.

He clarifies what he means by desperation: “it is an increasing acknowledgement that we cannot do this life alone.”  But he doesn’t really say what he means by discipline.  I assume he’s talking about some denominational practices of using prayer books and rhythmic prayer.

I can’t disagree with the need to pray in our moments of desperation, but I don’t think God intended us to be in desperation so that we would pray.  When you read about some of the most powerful examples of prayerful people in the Bible, they didn’t always pray in desperation.  There were four other reasons for prayer that I can think of right off the top of my head:  praise, friendship, discipline, and kinship. 

Here’s some scriptural evidence for these reasons for prayer:

David prayed in praise:  “I will bless the LORD at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.” (Psalm 34:1)

Moses prayed in friendship: “Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend.” (Exodus 33:11)

Daniel prayed with discipline: “Now when Daniel knew that the document was signed, he entered his house (now in his roof chamber he had windows open toward Jerusalem); and he continued kneeling on his knees three times a day, praying and giving thanks before his God, as he had been doing previously.” (Daniel 6:10)

Jesus prayed in kinship: “Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, ‘Father . . .’” (John 17:1)

God refers to Himself in a lot of earthly paradigms so that we can understand our relationship with Him: Lord, Friend, Father, Bridegroom.  Think of these relationships with people in your life.  Do you only talk to your boss, your friends, your family, or your spouse when you’re in trouble?  Do you set aside time for them?  Do you have topics that you like to talk about with them?  Do your conversations tend to repeat themselves?  These are signs of comfortable relationship.

Another paradigm God reveals Himself in is savior, and when we’re desperate, He should be the only one we turn to, but talking to Him includes so much more than salvation, just as it does with anyone that we have relationship with. 

Prayer is as much about listening as it is about speaking. Prayer entails conversing with God about every topic.  Prayer includes involving God in the rhythms of your life at every level.   

Pray without ceasing.  (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

Friday, October 14, 2011

What is Abundant Life?

The computer’s bright glare was mesmerizing, and I could not for the life of me think of anything to write for this week’s article about life more abundant over at Proverbs and Wisdom.  So, I shut down my computer and began to pray to the source of all inspiration, God Almighty. 

As I prayed, I fell asleep and began to dream, and in my dream God gave me an inkling of what abundant life really means. 

I encourage you to read the article at Proverbs and Wisdom to discover more.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Not By Works

How many times must I be reminded that salvation is by grace alone and not by works?

It seems like every time I dare to suggest that following Christ involves things like feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, housing the homeless, preaching the Gospel, or giving away everything for the sake of Christ, someone is gracious enough to remind me that we’re not saved by these works, we’re saved by grace.

Thank you.  I appreciate the reminder.  Sometimes I forget.

(Warning: Rant Alert – Be prepared for mild to moderate lambasting in the remainder of the article)

Deep breath . . . NO DUH!!!

Listen, I gave to charity one time before I knew Christ.  I dropped $5.00 in a Red Cross umbrella at a Target after Hurricane Katrina, and on the drive home afterwards, I stopped at a Taco Bell and was ticked that I didn’t have enough cash to get dessert because of my moment of weak generosity.  I didn’t help my friends, I didn’t love my family, I most certainly never associated with someone beneath my social circle, and I collected stuff to the point that there literally wasn’t room to walk in some of the rooms of my house. 

When I was saved by God’s grace, I sold everything, gave it all away, and now live solely for the sake of Christ and loving others.

Works didn’t save me.  God’s grace saved me, but He saved me into a life of working for Him. 

I’ll tell you what: you “show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.  You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?”  (James 2:18-20)

If you’re quick to throw out that verse about being saved by grace and not works anytime the topic comes up because you don’t want to give up anything for Christ, you’re a lazy servant at best.  Do you know what happens to lazy servants? 

Jesus says this to them:

You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow and gather where I scattered no seed. Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest. Therefore take away the talent from him, and give it to the one who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has, more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away. Throw out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 25:26-30)

You can’t work you’re way to heaven, but you can't sit around on your grace all day and hope to get there either.  This is not an either/or thing.  If you don’t have works, you don’t have any evidence of God's grace.  You certainly don't love Jesus.  Because when you love Him, you're compelled to love others.  And love is demonstrated in works.  So repent and get right with God. 

Yikes!  Did I really say it?  You betcha!  Somebody has to. 

For the record, I’m not claiming to be the guy with ten talents.  Most likely, I’m the guy with one, but you better believe I’m going to give a proper account and hand in two when the Master returns.  Not because I want to boast, but because I love Him so much.  If I can give Him three, four, or more, I will.  I’ll give Him everything because He’s worthy.

Will you?

(End of Rant: My apologies to my regular readers.  This post stems from frustrating conversations in other arenas, but everyone needs to vent sometimes.)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Break Me

A few days ago, I had the privilege of having a brief conversation with Cindy Gibbs via email about a new song that she has just released called "Break Me."  It's a song about God's love for a broken and contrite heart, and our corresponding need to be healed and reshaped by the Potter's hands.

She pointed me to Dr. Michael Milton's website where he had written an incredible article about the song and our underlying need for God in our brokenness.  This is good theology.

I've reprinted the article below with permission, as well as a link to Cindy Gibb's music. I encourage anyone who reads these pages to take this message to heart.  God Bless!

Let the Broken Cry Out: A Devotional on Psalm 34

Bad theology leads to heartache. Heartache led to good theology applied, brings healing. My friend and long time backing vocalist in music I have recorded, Cindy Gibbs, has written a song that reminds me of this whole matter. Cindy calls it, “Break Me.” In her song she speaks of a smile that hides the pain. But then her lyrics leads us to see the freedom that comes to the one in the song as her openness to God’s grace and His atonement on the cross leads to freedom and joy. 

That is good theology. In fact, that is just plain old good Bible! I hope she releases that song soon. But the early composition that I saw got me to thinking.

There are bad ideas circulating today that somehow the believer should be living a life that is immune from the ordinary pains and sorrows of life. Those ideas come from many places but not the Bible. The mask that Cindy writes about is something we all identify with, and yet it is not what the Bible reveals as truth. In Psalm 34, such as, David openly speaks of his own pain and sorrow. Yet out of this brokenness and tragedy, which he endured with the hostility from those who sought his life, the sweet Psalmist of Israel wrote:

 “I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.”

 Oh how I love that. For there are many things in my life for which I should be ashamed. My own sins, others’ sins, and the sometimes-faithful-sometimes-not pattern of following the Lord in this old world leaves me feeling less than the model Christian! But the truth is, any radiance, any beauty and any good thing comes from Christ Jesus. Yet it all begins with a cry for help. That is when the radiance begins to break forth:

 “This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles” (Psalm 34.6). 

Your invitation today is not to buckle up and do better. Your challenge is not to hope for the best and go on. Your greatest test is not to see how well you can do. Your invitation is to simply cry out to the Lord and bring your burdens to Him. Let Him paint the canvas of your life in a new color, a crimson color, that covers you with atoning pardon and sealing grace. Your invitation is to smile again because there is One, who despite your pain, still says to people like David, people like you and me,

 “Come unto Me all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

 It all begins with being broken enough to cry out. It all begins with singing, “break me.” From there, Christ’s healing begins to flow.

© 2011 Michael A. Milton, all rights reserved


Monday, October 10, 2011

An Arsonist in a Flammable World

There’s fire in His eyes, and I’m not using some cheap cliché either.  There is literally fire in His eyes.  The Arsonist’s gaze turns my way, and I can tell He’s looking to light the match in me too.  It won’t take much; I can feel these dry bones aching to combust.

Still, I resist.  I am afraid.  I turn to run, but where can I go.  He’s everywhere I look.  His fire calls to me; it beckons: “Come and die that you might truly live.”

“I am alive,” I retort, but it’s a lie.  I’m not even sure what “life” is, but I know I haven’t got one.

I am alone yet surrounded by others fleeing the flame. It’s hard to tell where we’re running in the darkness, but we can’t stop lest we be consumed. Some have surrendered to His fire, and from the depths of the inferno, they plead with us who run: “Turn back! Turn back!  That’s the road to destruction. Turn back!”

I laugh.  How can I not?  They’ve given up everything to the Arsonist, and they have the audacity to lecture me for running?  I call them names.  I tell them to put out the flames.  I tell them to run with me, with us.  We can outrun the fire in His eyes. It’s easy, way more easy than confronting Him.

I don’t know how it happens exactly. I’m sure if I look back at the path I’ve taken it would make sense, but somehow I . . .

I fall.

Lying on the ground, I know I’m broken.  There’s no coming back from this one.  I’ve done too much damage.  I look up and see two feet like molten bronze in front of me.  It’s the Arsonist.  He’s finally caught up with me. 

“I’ve never left you,” He says. His voice is like leaves in the breeze.  He reaches down and pulls me to my feet.  And for the first time, I pause and look deep into the fire in His eyes. 

It’s love.  Burning.  Passionate.  Zealous. Obsessive. Love.

The fire burns for me. 

It burns in me. 

I’m baptized in it. 

And then the water comes.  It’s alive, pouring out of the Arsonist like a flood, but it doesn’t douse the flames; it fans them.  Suddenly, I’m ablaze in love.  I can’t contain it; it’s bubbling over like a volcano ready to blow.

The Arsonist turns me toward the runners, and I’m horrified by what I see.  The runners are dry, hollow, just kindling ready to spark.  They’re running toward a chasm of flame, but it’s not the same as the Arsonist’s.  It’s dark.  Flame without light, without love.  He points toward them, and tears fall from the fire in His eyes as He says, “Go, tell them to turn back to Me.”

So, I go.  I tell them about Jesus.  I tell them how He wants to set their world on fire, so they don’t burn it down.  Some turn. Others do not.  And my tears mingle with the Arsonist’s.  Oh how I wish they could know the heights and depths of the flames of His love.

For our God is a consuming fire. (Hebrews 12:29)

Saturday, October 8, 2011

102 Posts Giveaway

Congratulations Jason Hess!  You are the winner!

Entry Period Begins:  September 24, 2011
Entry Period Ends:    October 7, 2011

Since I’ve been writing this blog over the past four years, I have posted 102 times.  Maybe I should have put together this giveaway for post number 100, but the God’s Glory Alone post reflected why I’m writing this blog, not a promotional giveaway.

And because I’m writing this blog for God’s glory alone, I’m going to give away the three most life-changing, point-you-to-God books I’ve read recently: You Were Born For This, Not a Fan, and Erasing Hell. (I’m actually buying a copy of Not a Fan for the giveaway because my wife is reading ours right now, but I think it’s the best of the three, so I want to include it.)

To enter the giveaway, click the Giveaways tab in the menu, read the rules, and fill out the form. I’ve included snippets from my reviews of the three books below: if you want to read the whole reviews, just follow the links:

Does hell exist?  Are biblical references to it just metaphoric?  And if it does exist, what are the implications for our everyday life?

Francis Chan addresses these issues in his new book: Erasing Hell.  He co-wrote the book with Dr. Preston Sprinkle (best name ever!)  I love Francis Chan’s writing mostly because of the zeal that He has for God, not just in the things he says, but in the way that he lives his life.  He is not afraid to live out the things he teaches; in fact I dare say, he is afraid not to . . . Read More

Bruce Wilkinson, the author of the bestselling book The Prayer of Jabez, presents a follow up to that book all about miracles.

When the publisher sent me the book and I first read the description, I braced myself for a super-charismatic-fire-from-heaven how-to book all about how to make God do crazy miraculous things in your life just by knowing the right spiritual buttons to push.  But I was pleasantly surprised, and somewhat relieved, to find that this is not what Wilkinson is encouraging in You Were Born For This . . . Read More

Jesus isn’t interested in having fans and fan clubs; He wants truly committed followers who will give everything for His sake. That’s the message of Kyle Idleman’s new book: Not a Fan.

Idleman writes one of the most serious books about what it means to follow Christ I think I’ve ever read.  In fact, much like Jesus, the author doesn’t pull his punches and cuts to the heart of the matter.  In following Christ, there are no “halfways”, “most of the times”, or “excepts”.  It’s all or nothing . . . Read More

The Family Illustrated Bible

New Leaf’s recent republication of DK’s The Children’s Bible is visually stunning.  It has tons of original artwork, and there are some great little “factoid” pages about Biblical times and the effects that God’s people had on other cultures.

But there are a lot of negatives about the book as well.

Jesus said, “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.”  (John 5:39-40)

Any Bible translation or paraphrase Bible that doesn’t point to Jesus as the way, Truth, and the life isn’t worth picking up.  Unfortunately there is enough secular influence left over from its previous incarnation in this version to make these stories seem more like fables of bygone days rather than an introduction to the Living Christ.   Just one example of this would be the inclusion of the Gospel of Thomas in the discussion of gospels written by Christ’s disciples, which has been ruled a Gnostic heresy from its inception.

There are two children’s Bibles I would recommend instead of this one The Children’s Bible by Golden Books (if you can get past the blond Jesus) and The Picture Bible by Iva Hoth and Andre Le Blanc.  These are both much better options.

Overall, I was a little disappointed.  I’ve really been enjoying New Leaf’s books lately, and while this one had excellent production quality, it was lacking in power and Christ-focus.

I don’t think I’ll be giving this one to my son anytime soon. 

I received this book from the publisher for review.  All opinions are my own.  

Friday, October 7, 2011

8 Reasons Christians Are Like Salt

Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.” (Matthew 5:13

In the life more abundant that Christ came to bring, how do Christians take on the characteristics of salt? 

Read the 8 reasons over at Proverbs and Wisdom in my article this week . . .

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Betrayal of a Mighty Man

The other day I was rereading 2 Samuel, and noticed something in the story of David and Bathsheba that I have overlooked time and time again, something I haven’t heard anyone mention in telling this story ever before.

After David sees Bathsheba bathing on the rooftop, he calls a servant over and inquires about the woman, and the servant replies, "Is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?" (2 Samuel 11:3)

These are not the only times Eliam and Uriah’s names come up.  They are also listed in 2 Samuel 23: “These are the names of the mighty men whom David had . . . Eliam the son of Ahithophel the Gilonite (vs. 34) . . . and Uriah the Hittite (vs. 39).”

Bathsheba’s father and husband were part of the group of 37 mighty men that followed David for years while Saul pursued him.  The mighty men were infamous for their exploits of valor and their incredible love and allegiance to David, before and during his reign.  The idea that David didn’t know who Bathsheba was is hard to believe.  She was the wife and daughter of men in his inner circle.  It’s not inconceivable that he watched her grow up and maybe even attended Uriah’s wedding feast.

When I read this and realized the implications of what David did, sleeping with Bathsheba and then killing a close friend and loyal compatriot to cover it up, I started to cry.  For some reason it took the story out of the realm of history and made it very real. 

Yet despite all of that, God used Solomon, David and Bathsheba’s second son, to continue the kingly line and build the temple. And it was through Solomon’s line that Jesus Christ was born.  If not for David’s sin, there would have been no savior.

Surely if God can work David’s horrible betrayal for good, He can work the hardship in your life for good as well.  

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Employment Or Empowerment?

Awhile back my pastor made a statement in one of his sermons: “I may be called to be a pastor, but you are all called to be ministers of Jesus Christ.”  It’s a call to reach outside the doors of the church, and present the Gospel in word and deed to those in need.  It’s a call to motivate the church, and I don’t mean just my home church, but the whole body of Christ to do more.

But it’s not an easy task.  Few are willing to serve in their church, and those who already serve feel like they’re already doing too much (it’s true in most cases).  They certainly couldn’t add anything outside of church too.  Those who refuse to serve in the church usually don’t have the heart to serve outside it either.  

Honestly though, I think we’re looking at the problem all wrong.  We’re looking for workers when we ought to be looking for family.

Workers can work hard or be lazy dependent on personality.  The family of God is invested in His kingdom.  They don’t work for accolades, they don’t work in locations, and they don’t even work for others; they work for their Father and His good pleasure.

The Bible says, “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” (Romans 8:14) and “to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God; who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13)

Children of God are led by the Spirit to do the will of God.  I think our goal in churches ought not to be creating new programs or projects that require workers rather it ought to be always pushing, pulling, dragging others to God so that they might be empowered by Him to be a child of God.  When God is their focus, the Spirit will lead them in the work they ought to do and empower them to do it.  Then we ought to encourage them, support them, and pray for them in that work, just as they should do the same for their brothers and sisters.

Let’s empower believers rather than employ them.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Sin's Blue Light Special

When I was a kid, my mom used to take me to Kmart a lot.  Kmart was the Walmart before Walmart, and I think there are still a few floating around these days.  Anyway, they used to have this bit where someone would shout over the intercom: “Attention Kmart shoppers there’s a blue light special in aisle 10,” and then a blue police light would start flashing in that location.  

Everyone in the store would drop whatever they were doing and rush over to see what the blue light had to offer. The deals were never that great, but the blue light lured in millions and suckered them into buying all kinds of junk they didn’t need.   Actually they reminded me a lot of those blue bug zappers people hang in their backyards. 

You would think the bugs would learn after watching their mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, cousins, and friends “go into the light.”  You’d think they would say, “Nope it’s not for me, thanks anyway”.  But there’s something about that sweet sky-blue glow that whispers to them, “Come, come see what I have for you.”

What the bugs find isn’t some cheap kitchen utensil they don’t need; it’s death.

There’s another blue light special out there trying to lure us in, and it’s called sin.  It’s offering us cheap thrills, momentary satisfaction, false dreams, and the delusion of happiness.  On our own, we're like the bugs, powerless to say "no."  And when we step into the irresistible, iridescent glow of its beautiful blue light, ZAP!

"For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power." (1 Cor 15:56)

But hope is not lost. There is a light infinitely greater than the blue light special.  There is a light that makes the sun seem dim in comparison.  There is a light far more attractive in every way.  His name is Jesus Christ, the light of the world.

When Christ walked into the midst of sin’s blue light special, guiltless without debt, He tasted the sting of death and spit it back out again.   He rose up, fulfilled the law, unplugged the cursed blue light, and threw out all the junk you never needed anyway and replaced it with the only necessity there is, Himself.

That’s why all those who call on His name can say, “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? . . . Thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor 15:55, 57).

Attention Kmart shoppers, will you let Jesus unplug sin’s blue light special in your life?  Choose Christ, and live.  

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Earthen Vessels

Why do our bodies matter to our faith? 

“We are earthen vessels that have been given the extraordinary privilege of and honor of bearing the love of God Himself in our eyes, our toes, and all the other members that make us up.  That which was regarded as worthless has become the temple.  The body is a beautiful ruin, a tragic glory.  It has been stained and broken by the burden of sin, but purchased by the blood of Jesus and made new through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.” (p. 229)

This is the beautiful prose found in the summary of Matthew Lee Anderson’s new book Earthen Vessels.  It’s beautiful not just because of the fine literary construction but because of the beautiful Truth it conveys. 

Anderson’s book explores the beauty of the body, this image of clay, and the disregard it’s been given in Christian circles throughout history and why the Bible teaches a different story.  Life on either side of eternity is embodied.  And while we struggle with sins of the flesh, we ought not forget that though corruptible today, this flesh will be raised up incorruptible one day.  We also would be wise to remember that our bodies are not our own.  They were made by the Potter’s hand, and they are the Temple of the Holy Spirit.  They ought to be treated as God wills and not in ways we think is best.

On the more critical side of things, I did find Anderson’s book a bit highbrow.  I think its place would be more at home on an Academic reading list in seminary than as a $15.00 choice at the local Christian bookstore.  If I had to wager, I’d say this is a Master’s of Divinity Thesis or a Theological PhD dissertation that made it to publication.

There are a lot of deep Truths to be uncovered for the diligent reader, but unless you’re into grueling hours of late night study with looming final exams, I’d take a pass on Earthen Vessels.

I received this book from Bethany House Publishing for review.  All opinions are my own.

Buy it now for $10.19


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