Saturday, January 26, 2019

"The Quiet Roar" by Randall Arthur Will Wake You

Several weeks ago, I received in the mail a signed copy of Quiet Roar from bestselling author Randall Authur.

I've never met Randall, nor had I ever read any other book by Mr. Arthur, including the well-reviewed Wisdom Hunter.  I assumed the author sent me a copy of Quiet Roar to consider writing something about it on my blog.

I set the book aside. However, on Christmas Day, I picked it up Quiet Roar and began reading it.

I didn't put it down until I finished. 

Then I gave it to Rachelle and said, "Here, read this. I want your opinion when you're done. I'm thinking about writing a review on my blog." 

I took my wife to Las Vegas to see Celine Dion for her birthday and she read Quiet Roar on the way there and on the return trip. 

After Rachelle read it (she too couldn't put it down), my wife looked at me and said, "Wade, the author has done Christianity a service. He has taken what you write about in theological terms and put it in a gripping narrative that makes one understand how silly it is to frame ministry around gender rather than giftings." 

My wife is correct. Randall Arthur has hit a home run. 

With keen insight into multi-faceted issues this modern world faces, from genitalia mutilation among Muslim tribes in Africa to Islamic terrorism around the world; from southern Baptist traditions of human origin rather than based on biblical principles; to subtle prejudices in Christian churches that need confronting, Randall Arthur has done a huge service for Christianity.

He has the unique ability to heal wounds through a quiet roar.

Especially those wounds in the hearts and minds of gifted women in Christ's Kingdom.

Ladies, don't miss out on reading this book for encouragement. 

Men, especially evangelical pastors, you ought to read this book for some biblical, practical, personal correction on your views about women. 

You won't put it down. 

It's that good. 

Sunday, January 13, 2019

When Politics Trumps Your Love, Your Soul Suffers

We're living in a day when people seem willing to sacrifice friendships for the sake of politics. Polarization is the norm. "Unite with me in politics, or I'll separate from you in friendship" becomes the mantra of many.

George E. Demacopoulos of Fordham University opines, “Most of us allow political allegiances to predetermine the moral calculus that we perform individually.”  Politics is the easy path. We find a problem, blame someone else, and nothing gets done.

But for disciples of Christ, we must refuse to take the easy road. 

Love should trump our politics every day. There used to be a day when placing friendship and love before politics was the norm in America, for both Christians and non-Christians.

I remember those days. When I first began to vote at the age of 18, I had the pleasure to cast my first Presidential ballot for Ronald Reagan. I watched as the new Republican President of the United States formed a friendship with Tip O'Neal, the Democratic Speaker of the House.

Listen to essayist Stefan Kleinhenze describe the Reagan/O'Neal friendship of the early 1980s.
"(They) were opposites politically–yet they never allowed that to define their relationship. One time Reagan confronted O’Neill about some nasty things said in the newspaper, and O’Neil replied with: “That’s just politics, after 6 o’clock we’re buddies–we’re friends.” And that’s exactly what they were–frequently going out after work and simply having a beer together, and after Ronald Reagan was shot, the first person to come and visit him was Tip O’Neill. Reagan took it, that when things would get a little heated in some of their meetings, he would visibly set his watch to 6 o’clock, as a frolicsome reminder of their true identity in friendship.
The Christian life is to love. Mark Dayton, the governor of Minnesota, was once giving a speech to both state legislatures, when he suddenly collapsed. As he falls, the entire room of opposing opinions and beliefs stand up in unison out of concern for their fellow man, and those who were close, rush to catch him before he hits the ground. It’s a simple story, but a profound testament to the nature of humanity–that we are created to love. It is in the love of one another that we draw near to God, and it is in the love of one another that we find our political party. We should absolutely welcome politics, but never at the expense of our neighbor–because our opinions, discussions, and debates won’t be there to catch us when we fall. My brothers and sisters in Christ, the course of history has arrived at our hour, it is time we ask ourselves: is it 6 o’clock yet?"
I'm setting my watch.

How about you?

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Voltaire, "A Bloody Religion", and Life vs. Death

Voltaire once criticized Christianity as a “bloody religion."

The French philosopher felt Christians placed too much emphasis on blood, particularly the bloody death of its founder, Jesus Christ. 

Many, like Voltaire, who read or hear the word "blood" only think of the red internal liquid of the human body. And thus, Christianity is called "a bloody religion."

Those who deem Christianity "bloody" misunderstand the significance of blood. In the Bible, blood is used as a synonym for life, and the loss of blood as a synonym for death. 

For example:
"For life... is in the blood" (Leviticus 17:11)
"Without the shedding of blood (ie, loss of life), there is no forgiveness of sins" (Hebrews 9:22).
In the Old Covenant, the blood of the sacrificial animals played a prominent role in Jewish worship. 

From the priest dipping his fingers into the blood and sprinkling it on the ground and the altar to the various instructions for the use of the blood according to the kind of sacrifice being offered, blood was a predominant theme. 

However, there was no magic in the blood of the sacrificial animals, and there is no magic in the blood of Jesus Christ

The blood represents life, and the loss of blood represents death.

When Christians sing songs like Nothing But the Blood, or Are You Washed in the Blood?  or Oh, the Blood of Jesus, and There Is Power In the Blood, the thought processes of the worshipper often wrongly move toward the red liquid plasma in the body of Christ. 

We should be considering the death of Jesus Christ, not the red blood cells of our Savior. The shedding of Christ's blood is simply a synonym for His death. God, in His love for us, sent His Son to die in our place. 

It is not the actual blood of Jesus that saves us, it is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ - conquering death for sinners - that saves us from the punishment of sin, which is death.
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried,that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. (I Corinthians 15:3).
Christ died willingly (voluntary). No man took His life, He laid it down for us (John 10:18). 

Christ died and took the punishment for sin (penal). The word penal, as in 'the penal system,' means "punishment" for offenders. 
"God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus." (Romans 3:25-28). 
Christ died as a Substitute for us, the real sinners (substitutionary). 
"For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." (II Corinthians 5:21). 
God punished the Son He loves with death so that He might remove the punishment of death for those who love His Son. He gives to those who embrace Christ the free gift of eternal life (Romans 6:23). 

Because the emphasis in Scripture is on God providing His Son to die for sinners, salvation from God's punishment is called "salvation by grace."

Sinners who believe in Christ "gain approval with God by faith" (Hebrews 11:39). 

Accountability to the Creator

Ultimately, the problem skeptics have with Christianity is the idea that God holds people accountable for their sins--or maybe to drill down even further--that there is even such a thing as sin.

 Yet, it is clear from logic and the logos (the Word) that God, that the righteous Judge of the universe, punishes those who hate Him and harm others with death. 

What kind of judge would He be if He didn't?

Yet, God's punishment is not arbitrary or capricious. He is holy and righteous in all His actions. The punishment will always match the crime. 

This is why Scripture declares that the sentence pronounced by God for sinners varies according to one's sin (Matthew 10:15), but the end of all sinners is ultimately a death (Proverbs 14:12), called "the second death" (Revelation 21:8) because it is different from the first death in that there is no resurrection - it is a final punishment. 

John Stott came to the conviction that the judgment of God for sinners is always temporal and the ultimate punishment from God for sinners is eternal (eternal death). Stott believed God righteously judges sinners according to their sins, meting out sentences of judgment in various degrees and lengths, but in the end, every sinner experiences the second death. 

I am convinced that Scripture teaches eternal punishment (death), not eternal punishing (torment). The punishment is eternal; the punishing is temporal. There is a difference. 

On the other hand, all the riches of God's grace are the possession of every believer in Christ. 

Christ died for our sins. He rose for our justification. 

All the rewards of Christ are ours because of His active obedience (His life) and His passive obedience (His death). 

As those who trust in the work of Christ, we become co-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17). 

So the next time you sing about the blood, reflect on what it is that you are actually singing. The emphasis in Scripture is not on the red corpuscles in the body of Jesus as if they possess some magical powers...

The blood of Jesus Christ is His death.

Are you thankful for the gift of eternal life? Give thanks to Him who conquered the sentence of death in your place by His resurrection from the dead, and know that one day, the First Fruits of Resurrection (Jesus the Anointed One) will raise His people to life eternal. 

Those outside of Christ will be raised, judged, and die a second time. 

Thursday, January 03, 2019

The Difference in History and Hysteria Isn't Much: 5 Good Reasons to Ignore The Trump Prophecies

At the recommendation of a friend, I just finished reading The Trump Prophecies: The Astonishing True Story of the Man Who Saw Tomorrow...And What He Says Is Coming Next.

I marvel at the number of evangelical Christians who seem to think this book is prophetical, biblical, or even logical.

The Trump Prophecies is a book about an alleged vision given to retired firefighter Mark Taylor when he was deathly ill in April 2011. Mr. Taylor says the "Holy Spirit revealed" to him that Donald Trump would be President of the United States before Trump even "announced he was running for President."

This alleged "prophecy" later fell into the hands of charismatic authors, Don and Mary Colbert, and God "used this new team of passionate individuals to lead the nation into a fervent prayer chain that would accomplish one of the most incredible miracles our country has ever seen." (Their words, not mine).

I find it startling the number of evangelicals who think God cares more about he who sits in the Oval Office than He who reigns over the eternal Kingdom.

Most American evangelicals struggle with myopia. We blur the little "k" of our nation and personal prosperity with the big "K" of Christ and the principles of grace.  It seems to me God is more concerned that His people live committed to careful allegiance for the big "K" than He is that His people live comfortable with captive attention on the little "k."

As an evangelical, I find it remarkable that some Christians deem American economic and national prosperity more important than "every spiritual blessing in Christ" (Ephesians 1:13). As a historian, I find it sophomoric and puerile to equate Donald Trump to Persian King Cyrus. As an American who cares about my country, I find it distasteful to act as if a vote for Donald Trump is a vote for God.

Before you criticize these words, understand that I voted for Trump, and I very well may vote for him again. I'm not anti-Trump. What I am is anti-anything that exalts Trump, American politics, and America's future over the real Triumphant One, Kingdom principles, and eternity.

Empires rise and empires fall. Countries come and countries go. Leaders are established and leaders are removed. People are born and people shall die.

The Kingdom of Christ alone shall stand.

5 Good Reasons to Ignore the Trump Prophecies

The authors give five reasons why The Trump Prophecies should be read by Americans. I will give their five reasons and then briefly unwind them to show why the book should be ignored.

*"If you read the book and will learn How the Lord can and will use anyone regardless of education, background, or health to communicate His message to the Church of Christ." 
1. Of course God can use anyone to communicate His message. The problem with The Trump Prophecies is the message. The message we all need to hear is one about Christ and what He says about how to live our lives. You won't get that message in The Trump Prophecies.
*If you read the book you'll learn what led to the miracle of the 2016 election, the role of we the people for the will of God in the future, and what the Body of Christ needs to do to keep His blessing on our nation."
2. Doing something to "keep His blessing on our nation" isn't grace or mercy; it is merit and works. Anyone who "works" for the blessings of God will always ultimately fail (ask Israel). If one really wants the blessings of God, trust the Good News He gives us through the Person, work, and teachings of Jesus Christ. The power of a gracious God from within transforms individuals, societies, and only ultimately nations.
*If you read this book you'll learn how the enemy has utilized techniques of distraction to keep the Body's focus off of God and onto internal, demoralizing disputes and how this can be overcome.
3. That's a nice way of saying, "If you disagree with us, you're the enemy." Sorry, that's the methodology of spiritual abuse, and those who use such methods should always be ignored, no matter what they say. 
*If you read this book you will be given insight into the astounding, world-altering changes in our US government that Mark sees on the horizon. 
4. Even if a retired firefighter could tell me what was on the horizon of the US government, why should I care? I have enough on my plate listening to the reigning King of kings telling me how to live my life. In short, I'm a citizen of a country not built with human hands, and to the King of that eternal Kingdom I owe my allegience. 
*If you read this book you'll receive the positive message of hope and encouragement that points to fresh methods of spreading the Gospel to the lost.
5. Of all the reasons given, this is the worst. I've never met a drug addict, a prisoner, a businessman busted for stealing, a career woman caught up in an affair, a married couple in the midst of a divorce, a politican who failed to get elected, a pastor arrested for a secret sin, or anyone else harmed or hurting by poor choices in this life who is encouraged by the election of a President. 
The only hope for mankind lies within the Good News, which is not news you'll find in the newspaper or book, but the Good News which God reveals in His Word.

That is sufficient for me.

Christ and what He accomplished is a fact of history. Unfortunately, it only takes a few vowels to change history into hysteria, both politically and personally.