Over the past year, a lot has changed in my life. I'm working pretty much non-stop, and as such things have been piling up that have been taking precedence over this blog.
I've enjoyed writing in these pages, but I just don't think I can keep up with a regular schedule writing anymore. Rather than stopping the blog, I think I'm just going to let it evolve from a personal blog into a public one. I've invited my mother-in-law to start writing some book reviews here, and I'm going to start soliciting Guest Bloggers for articles to post in these pages.
I'll keep writing articles and book reviews as time allows, but probably not nearly as often as I used to. God's path is always unexpected and adventurous. I can't wait to see where He leads me and Manifest Blog in the future.
Wednesday, July 18, 2012
When the term “Christian” was first coined in Antioch, it was a term of derision. These “little Christs” were creating such an upheaval by promoting things like being good and loving that the ancient world decided the best course of action was to kill them. Since then the term “Christian” has had its ups and downs, sometimes it was the status quo, and sometimes like today it has born negative connotations.
However the name has been viewed one thing is certain, being a true follower of Jesus Christ has always born a stigma that led to persecution no matter what society His followers lived in; sometimes persecution came even by those bearing the name “Christian”.
The stigma of bearing Christ’s name is the topic of R.T. Kendall’s book “Unashamed to Bear His Name”.
Kendall points out that the Gospel itself is offensive, so anyone who claims that it’s true and lives accordingly must be by association offensive. The Gospel says, we’re naturally evil—opposed to God. We can do nothing good. People tend to have a problem with being called evil, never mind the good news inherit in God’s promise to forgive and transform us in all righteousness; they just don’t want to admit to being evil in the first place.
However, Kendall also points out that a lot of Christian circles are offensive unnecessarily. If the Gospel offends someone, so be it. But there’s no point in being purposively offensive like some groups out there. The Westboro Baptist folks come to mind in this area: God judges, not us.
The thing that really floored me is that Kendall is by all accounts a charismatic Calvinist. I didn’t even know such people existed. It was awesome reading, and a different perspective on most things than I’ve ever encountered. A lot of his beliefs mirrored my own; for example, miracles without a presentation or the Gospel don’t accomplish much. You can read what I wrote about the subject in Healing and God's Heart.
Kendal goes so far as to say that you can recognize a true charismatic revival by whether the Gospel is shared or not, and he points to the recent Lakeland revival as an example of a fraudulent revival. Considering what came to light about the leadership there, I’d say he is probably right.
I can’t say this book will be for everybody. In fact, I’m sure most who read it will find it offensive because in love he critiques conservatives and charismatics for being offensive for every reason but the Gospel, but I loved it, and I think Jesus words in Matthew 11:6 “"And blessed is he who does not take offense at Me” applies very well to the words of Truth in Kendall’s book.
I was provided a copy of this book from the publisher for review. All opinions are my own.
Friday, July 13, 2012
Brian Hadin is the founder of the Audio Bible, a daily podcast where he reads through the Bible every year. There are somewhere around 40 million listeners across the globe that tune into his broadcast.
His new book Passages is part chronicle of how he started and who benefitted from his podcast, and part lesson on why reading the Bible is important.
And while I think what he’s doing is a great thing, I don’t agree with his reasoning about why reading the Bible is important. I really wanted to like this book because I think this is a great ministry, but without a correct view of the Bible and its purpose, I think scripture becomes dangerously misleading.
Why is reading the Bible important?
Perhaps the most famous scriptures used to emphasize reading the Bible are 2 Timothy 3:16: “All scripture is God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training,” 2 Peter 1:20-21: “But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God,” and 1 Corinthians 2:13 “This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words.”
I want to say first off that I think these scriptures are absolutely true. The scriptures are inspired by God and completely true. I’m going to add a big “BUT” here that some people aren’t going to like. But the scriptures are not God; they’re not even a good substitute for God.
Jesus tells exactly what the purpose of the scriptures are when He says, “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)
And this is where Passages falls short. I don’t think it’s purposely. I would even say Hardin would completely agree with what I’m saying, but he never says so in the book, and that paints a disastrous picture of the Bible. For example he says things like “Wouldn’t it be comforting to have just one friend who actually knew what was going on, who would always tell the truth and not be afraid to tell it like it is? . . . We do have such a comrade—the Bible”, “hope is one of the great blessings that the scriptures give us”, and even goes so far as using scripture and Jesus interchangeably in his lesson on the vine and the branches when he says “this is our fate [spiritual death] if we remain disconnected from the lifeblood of Scripture.”
Listen, God is our friend who is always true, and it’s His Holy Spirit that leads us into all Truth. Sometimes He uses the Bible, sometimes it’s a fellow Christian, sometimes it’s just the Holy Spirit speaking to our heart, and sometimes He splits the sky and speaks in thunder, but it’s always, always God. God is the one who not only gives us hope; He is our hope. Jesus is the only vine you have to worry about being separated from. Some day you may find yourself in a distant country, in prison, never to see a Bible again. If the Bile is where you think life resides, you’re not going to make it. Get it?
Understand I’m not undermining scripture’s authority or denying Sola Scriptura here. Scripture is important in leading us to Christ, helping us to test the spirits and our hearts, rebuking false doctrines, teaching, training and all that, but without the Holy Spirit interpreting, it’s just a book, and a dangerous book at that if anyone but the Holy Spirit is doing the interpreting, which is exactly what Peter is talking about in 2 Peter 1:20.
Ultimately it comes down to this. One day we all will stand face to face with God. If you’re claim to relationship with Him is that you read the scriptures daily, don’t be surprised when He says, “Then why didn’t you come to Me? I never knew you.”
Obviously Hardin’s book stirred me up a bit. And I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt in saying I don’t think he intended the book to come across the way it does, but at the same time, coming to Jesus is what the Bible is all about, and I don’t see how anyone can read it in its entirety, year after year, and not get the major theme of the book.
So while there is some great stuff in Passages about community and plans for Bible study, overall I can’t recommend the book.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review. All opinions are my own.
Wednesday, July 11, 2012
Patrick Morley’s Man Alive is a book more or less about accountability groups, an topic that raised the hackles on my neck at first because of personal experience, but it turned out to be a good read, and if men’s groups were more like Morley’s example, I might be more inclined to participate. Let me explain:
Shortly after I first came to Christ, I was invited to join what’s known in Christian circles as an “accountability group”. I was told that this is what Christian guys needed to keep them on the straight and narrow, so I went with a friend of mine. Turns out the phrase “accountability group” is just a euphemism for a “group therapy session” based on a combination of psychology and self-help methods with a little scripture thrown in to make it seem like it was biblical and not based on Freudian methodology.
The rules were as follows:
Do not judge.
Pray for each others’ difficulties.
The most frequent scriptures that were used to justify the group were
Iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17)
Bear one another's burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2)
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another. (Hebrews 10:24-25)
And this all seems well and good, but the thing I noticed was that week after week these guys all kept coming back with the same problems. Nothing was changing. And if you said something like, “man you need to stop;” there was an immediate reminder of the “don’t judge” rule.
The problem I soon discovered was that none of the scriptures used were read in context. For example that verse in Hebrews goes on to say, “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.” (Hebrews 10:26-27)
I wish I had known more then. I wish I had read “Man Alive” then because Morley introduces some practical ideas to turn the Psychology-based and mostly worthless idea of an “accountability group” into genuine Christian brotherhood. Here’s an example:
“One man with a pornography problem told his small group that he couldn’t take it anymore and was going to bail. They said, ‘No you’re not’ . . . They showed up on his doorstop, seized his computer, cleaned off the porn, and installed filtering software.” (p. 29)
Now that’s more than group therapy; that’s bearing your brother’s burdens and gently guiding them back to Jesus.
Thankfully this was an early example in the book; otherwise I might not have finished it because of my early experiences, but Morley goes on to describe how brotherhood through Christ fills a need in a man’s life that most don’t know, or don’t want to admit, is there. I found myself getting excited and even emotional at times from the stories of lives changed.
I highly recommend this book, and I am looking forward to how God uses it my life and the lives of my Christian brothers in the weeks and months to come.
The publisher provided a free copy of this book for review. All opinions are my own.
Tuesday, July 10, 2012
In our last Relationship Tuesdays, we looked at the aspect of love of God as Father through obedience, and how obedience to His commands is a recognition of His not only knowing but desiring what is best for us.
Today we are going to look at demonstrating our love for God as our bridegroom or husband, which is another metaphor that God uses to describe His relationship with us throughout the Old and New Testament:
“For your Maker is your husband--the LORD Almighty is his name--the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth.” Isaiah 54:5
“As a young man marries a maiden, so will your sons marry you; as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.” Isaiah 62:5
“Then John's disciples came and asked him, "How is it that we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?"
Jesus answered, "How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.” Matthew 9:14
And these are just a few examples. The entire theme of the book of Hosea is God as bridegroom, and how upset/jealous He gets when His people go after idols. And idols are not just dead images and statues that get set up and worshipped; idols are anything that takes any of your love away from God. He wants you to love Him with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. (Read more about this idea in Flee From Idolatry)
God basically equates anything less than loving Him with everything as adultery.
So if we are supposed to see ourselves as the wife of God, we need to look at how a wife ought to behave toward her husband:
Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Ephesians 5:22
Our role as the church/wife of Christ is one of submission.
Submission shows love because it’s not a forced obedience; submission is willful/selfless obedience. Loving wives choose not to strive against their husbands and submit to their authority. Loving people choose not to strive against God and submit to His authority, just as Jesus submitted to the Father when He said, “not my will, but yours be done." (Luke 22:42) Wives choose to love their husbands not just more than they love other men but instead of loving other men. Likewise God wants us to love Him not just more than all other options, but instead of all other options. So we choose to trust and obey God, just as a wife chooses to trust and obey her husband.
Next time we’ll be looking at Obeying our King.
Wednesday, July 4, 2012
What follows is a review of the NIV Boys Bible, but I’d like to take a moment to talk about the NIV in general if I may.
The NIV bible is one of the most prolific translations out there right now, and while it’s had its share of controversy over the politically correct changes that were made in the most recent editions, those making the charges against it make the mistake of forgetting the entire purpose of scripture that Jesus lays out in John 5:39:
“Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.”
It’s all about coming to Jesus, not about the Bible or the translation of the Bible that leads you there. My first Bible after coming to Christ was an NIV, and it’s still my preferred Bible even though it’s falling to pieces. Of course at this point, I’ve read through and use all the different versions. I even used the KJV above for the Bible Nazis out there. My point is that while there is only one way to the Father, Jesus Christ, I’ve heard countless testimonies of the different ways people have come to know Jesus, including by reading the NIV Bible.
That said, the NIV Boys Bible for younger boys is a fantastic way to get boys engaged with the Bible, and seeking Jesus.
It has several different commentaries throughout that help to engage the young male reader:
Book Introductions: A quick look at the author, setting, and background of each book.
What’s the Big Deal?: Find out who’s who, what’s what, and how they connect to God.
Makin’ It Real: What does this part of the Bible mean for you today?
Check It Out: Fun facts and trivia from the life and times of the Old and New Testament.
Words to Live By: Key memory verses
And finally my all time favorite:
Grossology: If it oozes, bleeds, smells, or makes your spine tingle, it’s in the Bible. God didn’t avoid the messy parts of life. He left them in, so get ready to squirm.
All in all I thought the NIV Boys Bible is a great tool for the young reader. The only downside to the edition is the bulk of it. In an age of cell phones and tablets, I’m not sure that a hard-back Bible that’s two inches thick is going to be all that popular with the younger crowd.
Just my thoughts.
I received this book free from the publisher. All opinions are my own.
P.S. This book is included in the current giveaway, so if you want a copy make sure to see below and enter:a Rafflecopter giveaway
Tuesday, July 3, 2012
In our last Relationship Tuesdays, we talked about how Jesus wants us to demonstrate our love for Him through Obeying God and came to the conclusion that you’re basically lying if you say, “I love Jesus” or “I love God”, but you’re not doing what He said to do.
Why does obedience mean so much to God? I think if we look at the metaphors of how God sees our relationship, we can start to get a good idea of why obedience is so important.
Let’s start with the metaphor of Father:
One of the big ten commandments in the Bible is “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.” Exodus 20:12 Paul says that part of “honor” means obedience: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” Ephesians 6:1
I wrote about this topic sometime back as it relates to our physical parents, namely that there are no qualifiers in this statement; scripture does not say honor and obey your parents unless fill in the reason . It just says: honor and obey in the Lord, which means the only reason to withhold obedience is if it means sinning against God. You can read more in the post titled: How to Honor Your Parents.
The point of the matter though is that God is our heavenly Father, and our earthly parents are just a reflection of Him.
Within that paradigm, consider that our parents have our best interest in mind when they are giving commands. They may be misguided or selfish at times, but who of us isn’t. Ultimately, they really do want what’s best for us. Likewise, God wants what’s best for us. The difference is He’s never misguided. He always knows what’s actually best.
Jesus puts it like this: “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” Matthew 7:9-11
Scripture repeatedly tells that God’s commands are best for us:
This is what the LORD says--your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: "I am the LORD your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go. If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your righteousness like the waves of the sea. Isaiah 48:17
Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands always, so that it might go well with them and their children forever! Deuteronomy 5:29
Walk in all the way that the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess. Deuteronomy 5:33
Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained, But happy is he who keeps the law. Proverbs 29:18
The list can go on and on.
Conversely, much like when we refuse to honor our earthly father and mother, when we refuse to honor and obey our heavenly Father, things will not go well for us.
See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you listen to the commandments of the LORD your God, which I am commanding you today. And the curse, if you do not listen to the commandments of the LORD your God, but turn aside from the way which I am commanding you today. Deuteronomy 11:26-28
And what’s the whole reason for this blessing and cursing from God when it comes to obedience?
When all these blessings and curses I have set before you come upon you and you take them to heart wherever the LORD your God disperses you among the nations, and when you and your children return to the LORD your God and obey him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I command you today, then the LORD your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you. Deuteronomy 30:1-3
The blessings and the cursings are all about restoring relationship with God, which is the whole point of this series: Relationship with God. He rewards our obedience and disciplines our disobedience all in an effort to bring us closer to Him and by proxy what is good for us.
What an amazing Father we have! And when we obey Him, then we are in essence saying, "I love you, Daddy! Thank you for watching out for me and helping me. I couldn't make it without you." So why wouldn't we obey Him?
Next week we’ll look at Obeying Our Bridegroom.