You, Your Family, and the Internet–Book Review

images   How would you like a sensible, balanced book on the internet for you and your family? This slender volume by David Clark and published by Day One fills a real need. It doesn’t just slam the evils of the internet, but shares its good in light of the fact that it is here to stay. His premise is that the internet is a part of our lives that can neither be ignored nor underestimated. It has the potential for such good and for such bad.

I especially enjoyed the chapter that explained what the internet really is, how it started, and how it grew into what it is today. It was particularly enlightening to me, as for some reason, I knew so little about it.

The author did a good job explaining how social media has changed the way we relate to each other. Most revealing was how teenagers look at things now so differently than previous generations because of it. It’s almost redefined what “friend” even means.

As you might expect he has one chapter on pornography, its dangers, the needed filters, and how that it is all about money. He warns that all including children will likely see such images at some point and he gives balanced advise on protecting yourself and your family.

The chapter on “If It’s Free, Then You Are The Product” is eyeopening! I’ve always wondered how the internet was free. This lays out that it makes people money that I am on the internet. This doesn’t make me decide that I must get off the computer, but it helps me be a little less likely to be used.

He gives sound counsel on games and gambling and closes the book with “Five Principles To Learn From” and “Five Principles To Run With”, and for my money they are spot on. As I said before, he is balanced and I recommend this book to individuals and families everywhere.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

You might like to watch this trailer:

Trailer

Ruth, From Bitter to Sweet–Book Review

downloadWould you like a really suggestive commentary on the Book of Ruth? Then you simply must pick up “Ruth: From Bitter To Sweet” by John Currid and published by EP Books in the helpful Welwyn Commentary Series. I had heard good things on his Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy, but somehow had never gotten around to picking them up. So I was excited to get this volume on Ruth. I wasn’t disappointed.

The book is especially helpful for the pastor or Bible teacher though it is written in an accessible manner that could benefit anyone. The 4 chapters of Ruth are covered in 12 chapters here that would pretty much be divided along the lines one might want to preach.

It is not as much a typological commentary as many of the popular volumes on Ruth are, and though I personally do see real typology in Ruth myself, this volume is a worthy aid in working through Ruth. He still writes much of Christ and gives much help on the narrative itself.  He works out details, gives exceptionally good help on word meanings without being overly technical, and has nice illustrations from Scripture and history that really brings the text alive.

I have all the well-known volumes on Ruth and am glad to let this book take a prominent place beside them. I think I need to get those other volumes by Mr. Currid too.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Missional Moves by Wegner and Macruder–A Book Review

missional moves

“15 tectonic shifts that transform churches, communities, and the world” reads the subtitle of this book that gives insight into modern-day church planting and missions. The authors both serve at the Granger Community Church in Granger, Indiana and write about what they are part of in this volume published by Zondervan.

Missional Moves are the changes people, churches, and community make to work together. Many of the things described in this book are how these three can work together with the church being the center of it all. The book gets really heavy in later chapters  on details of one church’s methods of carrying this out, but it is good to know. As a pastor of a more traditional church, I enjoyed getting insight into a large ministry. Not that I could feel comfortable with everything they did, I could weigh things item by item. Some ideas are worthwhile to any of us.

Part 1 (Paradigm Shift) is by far the best part of the book in that it gives us the big picture issues involved.  I felt I saw the best what they were saying in chapter one on “from saved souls to saved wholes.”  Their description of our taking a minimalist approach to the Gospel by often reducing our presentation to accepting Jesus so we can avoid Hell. We so little talk about all the Lord can do in lives. That was an eye-opening discussion.

My only criticism of the book is that at times it seemed to criticize traditional missions and missionaries. While our just sending money might not make us as personally attached to missions as we should be, we cannot discount the tremendous sacrifice and work many missionaries have done. I think it doesn’t have to be an either/or proposition. Still, their methods have potential worthy of consideration.

The authors have the task of balancing this new missional approach with the attractional method used for so long. As a traditional pastor, I don’t have that problem, but I am glad to better understand what is going on today and learn what I can from it. So, I recommend this book.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 . 

Dress Standards and a Change For The Reagans

After months of prayer and study, we have reached a different conclusion on an issue that is big in some circles. After reflecting on the issue, I’m amazed that it is so big. The issue is whether a Christian lady must only wear skirts or not. The issue of clothing is, of course, broader than that, but the explosive issue is skirts versus pants. (To my readers who wonder what in the world I am talking about, this issue is big in the Independent Baptist world as well as some other Christian groups. While you read my disagreeing with some in this blog post just remember that I am disagreeing with friends and not fighting enemies.)

Our position now can be stated in 2 simple points:

1. The Bible demands modesty.

We have always believed this to be true. We believe that we have lost focus on this subject by taking ourselves away from the issue and reorienting on clothing styles. The idea is that a style of an article of clothing defines modesty more than the covering itself. For example, a skirt could be more immodest than a pair of pants by being too short, or even if longer, by carelessly sitting, etc. We maintain that the issue is not showing the private areas of the body. Despite what has been preached and taught, any honest, godly man can tell you that the issue is not along a simple divide of pants versus skirts, but along the divide of revealing versus not revealing. There are women in skirts that a godly man must quickly turn while his eyes away from while there are very attractive women in pants that he doesn’t have to turn his eyes away from. The issue isn’t pants versus skirts but modesty versus immodesty. One incites lust of men who want to do right and the other does not.

2. The Bible does not teach that pants would be wrong on a woman.

There is no Bible passage that states this idea. There are places where some wonderful people believe an inference is made and I will discuss these items later. Still, there simply is no passage that expressly teaches it.

There are many arguments given and many feel they can conclude “no pants” from principles of the Bible. I’d like to carefully discuss some of the most common ones, ones that I have thought deeply about as I tried to determine exactly what the Lord was really asking of us.

1. This violates the Biblical prohibition of cross dressing.

Deuteronomy 22:5 is always given as the key verse that would prohibit a woman from wearing pants because it would be man’s apparel. Whatever that verse means, it couldn’t really mean what it is often said to mean here. In fact, those sincere people who use the verse this way forget that they might wear the same t-shirt or socks as their spouse. Logically, you can’t pick and choose if the verse means what some say. I would think that would refer to what is obviously for one sex. I’d worry about the man who wore a pink, frilly shirt! Some would argue that pants are that distinctly male, but most would disagree with you.

Have you ever looked carefully at pictures of clothing from Bible times in any Bible dictionary or encyclopedia? Look at this picture:

Biblical dress-1

Do you notice anything? Just how different is the clothing for male and female? Many cite Aaron’s “breeches”, but they were under his robe-like garment and weren’t that noticeable. At least you would have to admit that the difference between male and female dress in Bible times is not as large as the difference between pants and skirts now? Skirts are fine, but can they be demanded when the difference required is greater than that when the cited Scripture was given? The verse likely refers to battle apparel, but in any event, it can’t be pushed farther than the context allows.

2. Pants are a giving in to modern culture.

It is true that 70 years ago all women wore skirts only. It is also true that our culture changed. Perhaps it would be fair to say that those who first changed were making a statement that ladies today are not necessarily making. It was not culturally acceptable then. What I am afraid we fail to see is that culture is the last line of consideration for the Christian after the issue of covering our nakedness is addressed. For example, walk up and tell some burly Scottish guy in his kilt that he looks feminine or girly and as you pick yourself back up off the ground, you will probably realize he was all man and a cultural issue was involved.

Why won’t you wear the outfit of the people in the above picture from Bible times to church, or even Wal-mart? Because you know that people would roll their eyes at you. In other words, it isn’t socially acceptable. And if some measure of changing with culture within the confines of modesty is wrong, how are the church dresses of today acceptable? They don’t look like those worn in the 1800s. Dresses went to the floor then and the sight of even the ankle was a scandal. You how the 1950s became the standard for all time. That more or less is the look of most who hold the stricter position today. It is an attractive look, but can it honestly be said to be the God-given standard for today? I don’t feel there is any way I could honestly hold that position.

It is true that there are things acceptable in our culture today that are unacceptable to the Christian. But we dodge that error by our first line of defense: modesty. Modesty means I particularly cover the private or sexual parts of my body so as not to enflame others with lust. It means drawing the wrong kind of attention. To put it simply, there are 2 factors that determine what we wear: 1) modesty, and 2) culture.

3. To start wearing pants is a move to the left and therefore wrong.

There is no Scripture on it being a sin to move to the left. Actually, the only thing the Bible teaches is that you adjust to the Biblical position no matter if you need to go right or left to do it. That really is an argument for appearances. What we are all called to do is figure out what the Lord is saying to the best of our ability and adjust accordingly.

4. Ladies should not wear pants in order to take the highest road.

It is an assumption to say it is the highest road. Is it a higher road to wear a button-up shirt over a polo shirt? Is it a higher road to have a land line instead of a cell phone? How do you know that is true? In any event, I so support anyone who feels they need to not wear pants for the Lord. But in fairness, let’s support those who do not feel that way equally. If there are no clear Biblical guidelines then it must be along the lines of Romans 14:6 (“He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks.”)

A Plea For Consistency

Is pants- versus- skirts the big issue in the Biblical idea of modesty? Do we do the issue justice to reduce it to one area? Men, do you turn your head from every woman in pants? Or just from those who are flaunting their bodies? That really proves the point, doesn’t it?

Are pants worldly and a leaving of “the old paths”? Why do we pick this one modern development? Didn’t some think the same thing at other times about automobiles, or makeup, or jewelry, or cell phones, or electricity? Can’t you imagine some Christian years ago lamenting the shameful worldliness of bringing indoor plumbing into your home? Why would someone else get the privilege of picking and choosing such things for me?

Do you really believe that pants are a form of homosexual cross-dressing? Really? For every woman you know who wears pants? Are there not some women you admire as Christians who wear pants? Does, then, a lesbian putting on a skirt make her straight? Doesn’t this show how far adrift we are in our thinking? Cross-dressing? Where’s the outrage for issues the Bible takes care to often discuss on the level of what we see here? Is pride or anger a lesser issue than pants when you read the entire Bible? Then why are these issues not getting at least equal publicity with the pants issue?

Is the entire issue of avoiding lust on women’s shoulders? Does the man, who is truly a visual creature, not have some of the responsibility? If a lady wears something she shouldn’t, is he off the hook for wherever his mind goes? Let’s get real—does every pair of pants give men problems? If it does, could maybe he have a problem? Can a man not lust after a woman in a skirt? Even if a woman is immodestly dressed, is a man still not 100% responsible before God to keep his thoughts pure? On the other hand, does this not mean that there could be something called modest pants?

Finally, isn’t it true that there is no “thou shalt not wear pants” command? Isn’t it true that the Scriptures used are not as clear as some say? Isn’t it true that many of the arguments used are not Biblical, but are philosophical at best? Isn’t it true that where the Bible doesn’t clearly speak it is each Christian’s responsibility to seek the Lord? Do we, then, have a right to be upset if a brother or sister in Christ doesn’t arrive at our same conclusion?

Speaking for me and my family, these things settle it for us.

 

I really feel that women in the Independent Baptist world really fall into three categories:

1. Those who have a personal conviction to not wear pants.

To those in this category, we love and respect you. No one should back away from what he or she believes to be true—that is the beauty of soul liberty. We will never treat you any differently or look down on you. We are firm believers in every person following the Lord’s leading personally. Let us all do this very thing.

2. Those who hold no such conviction and feel free to wear pants.

That is where we are. We would appreciate you allowing us the same grace to follow the Lord.

3. Those who only wear skirts but do not personally have a conviction.

It’s sad these ladies must make choices because of pressure. They just don’t want to infuriate their pastor or their family and are living by others’ choices now. In some cases, they do it for a husband who just doesn’t want the family criticized. 

In any event, dear friends and family you now know where we stand. We know the risk we are taking. We know how we Independent Baptists are so quick to “separate.” We know how quickly a person can be written off completely.  This is a personal life issue for us. I have never made this an issue in my ministry and have no ministry changes I must make. I have never preached on this issue, so this is just a family issue. By the way, the idea of not causing others to be offended can be taken too far—I believe no one would feel compelled to sell their Toyota because someone was offended it was foreign made. 

This issue has been so blown out of proportion!

Since writing this article, I have started a series called Independent Baptist Truth Revolution. Find all posts here.   

NOTE: As the years have past since I wrote this article, it’s mazing how little an issue it is now to us. That is the place you will finally get to as well!

Books That Encourage When Life Is Tough

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Every so often there is a certain kind of book that I simply must read. Books that encourage, inspire, and get my head back on straight. I’m not the only one who has it difficult at times. I’m not the only one who suffers obstacles in my service of Christ either.

In recent days, a good friend of our family asked me about books she might read in the coming year to encourage her in her walk of faith. Then a college friend of my wife wrote asking about books that might help someone she loved who had faced hardship while trying to serve the Lord. I’d like to recommend 5 books that have meant the very most to me in this way. They all are true stories of what happened in especially tough times, times that make my bad times look a little puny. These books help get my head back on straight and remind me of what a wonderful Savior I serve. Here in random order:

1. Evidence Not Seen by Darlene Deibler Rose

Ms. Rose was serving the Lord as a newlywed missionary in New Guinea when the Japanese invaded. Her and her husband were taken to different POW camps and finally she lost contact of what happened to him. Her sufferings were horrific, but her faith was incredible. There were moments where turning on a God you couldn’t figure out for the moment would have been so easy and tempting, but she choose the path of following God when the results weren’t too positive. The warden of the POW camp was as awful as the worst villain in any novel. Wait to you read what happened to him! Powerful!

2. When Iron Gates Yield by Geoffrey T. Bull

Mr. Bull was in China serving as a missionary when the Communists moved in. Things were going so well and then it all fell apart. He found himself incarcerated and down at times. He is real in what he felt and tells us so, yet we find His God is real. The Lord made Himself known in ways large and small. When one need would be met, another would quickly arise. Any old book by Mr. Bull will be worth your while. If you are as blessed by Mr. Bull as I am, you can also look for Tibetan Tales. That was the time before the Communists took over and he was a young man working in the fascinating area of Tibet.

3. Shadow Of Death by Lilli Schultze

A family tries to escape Europe as the Nazis took over. The Lord brought them through step by step, terror by terror. This family faced one of life’s greatest trials–seeing your family in danger and not having the power to stop it. The way they consistently turned to the Lord is extraordinary!

4. Green Leaf In Drought Time by Isobel Kuhn

 Mrs. Kuhn, a missionary herself tells the story of the Arthur Mathews family as they faced difficult missionary work and then had to flee China. The story is that it was literally one frustrating obstacle after another.  At times it seemed that the Lord had deserted them. They kept on trusting though they had feelings as we all would. The title is taken from Jeremiah 17:8. One of the best! Kuhn is a great writer. Look also for her biography By Searching which is also well worth your time reading.

5. The Autobiography of John Paton

Perhaps the best biography I’ve ever read! It is hard to fathom following the Lord with all he faced among the cannibals in the South Seas Islands. He had a thousand opportunities to quit serving the Lord and never did. When he had to guard the grave of his wife to keep the natives from digging up her body to eat it, you feel like quitting for him. He was betrayed often, his work collapsed over and over, and good results were elusive for such a long time. Finally, he perseveres to see the Lord honor him. Your faith will soar reading this book! Probably any biography of him would be good.

Look for a beautiful hardback edition published by Vision Forum (and now out of print) and re-titled Missionary Patriarch: The True Story Of John G. Paton that sold for around $20 (I saw cheaper used copies online). It would make a nice present or a family keepsake.

We need these type of books.

Obstacles are part of life. Frustrations abound in the Christian life. You and I are not alone. One thing I’ve definitely learned over the years of reading these books is that everyone who really served God in a meaningful way suffered hardship, often great hardship. Instead of thinking that God is just picking on me, I should realize that He is picking me out for something special.

Let’s read, remember, and press on to the finish line.

(Some of these books are in print, but also look on used book sites. Search Amazon, Ebay, and Christian Book Distributors. Happy hunting.)

Happy Anniversary Baby!

309205_10151120253620764_466567975_n14 years with the best woman you could imagine! That’s 7 + 7 or double perfection. Since I am so imperfect, you have had to be triple perfect to work it all out. I am a blessed man!

I have been thinking of this permanent anniversary message for a week or so. (For those reading this, I promise to leave the too private parts out).

I’m in a reflective mode as we hit 14 years. It’s been a great journey so far. 10 years of you walking and 4 not, but 14 of you smiling. And it’s all been good even if it is different.

I’m so glad you are you. I wouldn’t trade what you can do for what you can’t.  You may not be a Martha Stewart in housework (just like I’m the world’s worst handyman), but you make our home beautiful, gorgeously decorated, and happy. We are all addicted to you. You are always fun.

You are somewhat of a celebrity. I’m fine with that as long as I get to be the president of the fan club. For all the inspiration you give others, you give me more. For all the people who like to hear what you have to say, I’m the one who hangs on your every word. I can’t help but think of that line we heard in the movie Runaway Bride : ” I wake you up every morning because I just can’t wait to hear what you have to say”. That’s me.

You are the whole package of what I need: companionship, love, romance, and help. People would never guess (or maybe they would) how I depend on you. Your fingerprints are on everything I do and those things are better because of it. You might forget a house chore, but you’ll design whatever I need so beautifully or have a fresh idea. I wouldn’t have it any other way! And you still catch my eye everyday…oops, I promised not to talk about that stuff. You have made me a better man. My love has grown to gratefulness too.

You are not exactly superwoman, but you are pretty close. Your legs don’t have bionic power by any means, but you always get to the place where needed and you still sprint through my heart. In losses you have just become stronger. Where I have been weaker, you did your best work to be strong for me.

Thanks for 14 years. I thank the Lord for it too–every year, every day, every moment. I am begging Him for every one He’ll give me in the future too. So, you’re stuck. I’m here to stay. Accept your trial and bear it!

I love you girl. I’m 14 years into the dream and I don’t ever want to wake up! Happy Anniversary Baby!

I AM…by Iain Campbell

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Here’s a book to help us explore the famous “I AM” sayings in the Gospel of John. It’s “I AM…” by Iain Campbell and published by EP (Evangelical Press). He studies the seven key I AM statements. This is a worthwhile study as these statements hold at least part of the key to understanding John’s Gospel.

Mr. Campbell is sensitive to the uniqueness of John among the Gospels. Bible students are aware that John covers often such different events than the Synoptic Gospels. Part of that uniqueness are these “I AM” statements. They are rich and worthy of study.

Mr. Campbell shows us what applied preaching within the context should look like. He gives us many helpful pointers than suggest thought in our own study, teaching, or preaching. He makes much of Jesus on every page.

For example, when discussing Jesus as the Shepherd he says: “If we are in his flock we have every assurance that nothing will harm us, either in this world or in the world to come. Nothing out of hell will harm us–nothing at all, because his eye is on his flock.” That is good stuff!

Or how about on the “I am the resurrection” statement his confronting us with having a Bethany kind of home. That’s one good, legitimate application I had never thought of. There are many more of these kinds of pointers.

EP Books are known for these kinds of books and I recommend them. Whether for personal devotions, an example of good preaching, or help with your own study of the “I AM” statements, this book by Mr. Campbell offers real help!

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 . 

Dangerous Calling–A Book I Needed In The Ministry!

I knew the ministry was tough. Figured that out the hard way. I still love it and want to do it the rest of my life. I thank God for it, but it’s tough. This book (Dangerous Calling by Paul David Tripp) was like the ultimate gut check for me. Funny thing was that unlike what I’ve been tempted to think so many other times, the culprit of my pain was me. The biggest source of my failures? You guessed it–me.

There is hope in this, however, because in a world of things I can’t change, with Christ’s help, I can change me.

Before I tell the themes that spoke to me in this book, I must stop and thank Mr. Tripp for his transparency. Some authors throw in a watered-down criticism of themselves that is really just to show you how wonderful they are in their realness. That is simply not the case here. He takes chapter one to tell where he was at one time in his ministry. Frankly, he was an unspiritual jerk. He held little back in the telling of the story.

Why is that so helpful? Because in some details I could see myself. He spoke of how his “inner lawyer” always came out to defend him. He acknowledged that he was more or less deceived. Am I the only one who finds his discernment runs at such a lower level when the subject is me?

He takes us to task for letting the ministry define our identity. Before I am Jimmy the pastor, or Jimmy the blog writer, I am Jimmy the man. That Christian with varying levels of spirituality, that man utterly needy of Christ, that is who I am. I need to shed the illusions of grandeur where the ministry has elevated me to think something beyond who I really am.

He said: “No one is more influential in your life than you are, because no one talks to you more than you do.” I assure you I am quite the chatterbox in this area. My mind never stops! In all that talking he says “you preach to yourself an anti-gospel of your own righteousness, power, and wisdom, or you preach to yourself the true gospel of deep spiritual need and sufficient grace.” He says we quit thinking of ourselves as a needy child of God and see ourselves as the PASTOR! As if there were some special category! Later in the book he says of we in the ministry: “We are still a mess.” He talks about the fact that we are still in the middle of our sanctification. We know this is true of Mr. Tripp and Mr. Jimmy Reagan. I’m in the middle of my sanctification and still have such a way to go. What about you my pastor friends and acquaintances?

He tackles other issues. My equating my Bible knowledge with spiritual maturity. Ouch! Or how about confusing numbers with success and then riding that roller coaster? He talks about how we think we have arrived and listen to no one. He talks about the ministry overtaking my personal devotions and worship of God, and about how I will lose my awe of my Almighty God. I can walk among the treasures of the Word of God and prepare sermons and never see the sparkle of the gold.

He explains that when I go this way I am in danger of things that I would never want to do. I start separating my private and public self. I can preach against something and turn around and do it–of course anyone could do it, but my problem might be how blind I can be to how serious it is. I can too become completely ensnared by the fear of man. I preach, I speak, I lead just to gain the praise of those who haven’t figured out how wonderful I am yet. Sadly, I no longer act for the approval of One.

All of this will lead to living for self-glory. In that all of us deal with pride, this is a real and present danger. This becomes the gasoline the Enemy throws on the fire of my life to burn up what I could do for the One Whom I love, the One Who gave His all for me.

There’s more. Don’t think I gave you a good enough rundown that you don’t need this book. I need this book. I suspect all of us in the ministry desperately need this book. I’ll recommend it too for pastor’s wives to understand their husbands, and, in that your husband’s call has become yours, you ladies too could fall victim to your own hearts as well. Church members, learn here how to pray for your pastor, learn how to love him, but bring him back down to earth. You might want to give him this book as a gift saying you just heard other pastors saying it helped and blessed them. (That’s true, you heard it from this pastor).

I thank the Lord for this book, for what it means to me, and pray I allow the Holy Spirit to use it on me in the days ahead.