Marriage–A Helpful New Book!

book marr

When I first picked up this book that professes to address marriage in its foundation, theology, and mission in a changing world and scanned the table of contents I thought—what a hodgepodge. Then, after closing the book at its end I thought—it worked! Somehow a book with 5 editors and dozens of authors came out with a unified, big-picture presentation of the Lord’s intention for marriage.

Section 1 contains four chapters on foundational issues. Looking back to the Trinity and its relation to marriage turns out to be the perfect starting place. Just read and you will see. From there, we look at Jesus in particular and the idea of commitment. Marriage gets such deep spade work here that how its presented in Scripture, the mistake of cohabitation, and the “high calling” of marriage along with the dignity of singleness all are unearthed. All these subjects will reappear later, but you’ll be better prepared because of this foundational view.

Section 2 addresses what it calls “description”. It’s almost like another pass at what Section 1 brought out, now with yet more depth. I have no idea how this section somehow presents theological understanding, addresses current societal derailments, and provides help for the challenges of marriage that all married Christians face at varying levels. Embodiment (you’ll enjoy knowing what that means), both the beauty and design of marriage, the biblical necessity of gender, and help with intimacy show up here.

Section 3 gives four helpful chapters on our brokenness in marriage. Again, there’s counsel on repairing that brokenness and restoring the beauty of marriage with even an in-depth discussion of marriage and divorce in Scripture. Section 4 presents four final chapters on mission and marriage. There’s even encouragement and guidance for churches to assist people with marriage.

As I said before, this book far exceeds my initial expectations. In addition to reading it through, it will serve as an excellent resource for a wide array of subjects that intersect with marriage that can be consulted as needed. It’s an attractive hardback that will bless Christians if it gets the large readership that it deserves.

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.

 

The Storm-Tossed Family by Russell Moore

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This family book will be a blessing to every person whether married or single. It bypasses surface issues at all points and couldn’t masquerade as a self-help book even with the best Madison-Avenue advertising campaign behind it. You might cross something on its pages that would make you want to do “better”, but this book soars in the brokenness of your family. Its Gospel light shines through whether you’ve felt the pain of family or were the perpetrator who inflicted the pain. As is more likely, it instructs when you’ve been part of both. In short, this book succeeds because of where it goes, a place that most Christian family books shop just short of—the foot of the Cross. I can’t be good enough. Spouse, parent, it doesn’t matter; I just can’t. My only hope is at the Cross, the place where I see myself as I am and the place I find redemption.

Besides the awesome material, this book wins as a book on every level.  I’ve read some Russell Moore on blogs, but I must say he impressed me as a writer here. His style was unique and really stood out among family books. Most telling was how he connected with the reader. I felt he was staggering to the Cross with me. He refrained from the allowing the reader to see him as the model husband or the champion father. Like me, he struggles with looking away from the Cross even if he can clearly enunciate why the Cross is the answer.

Moore had me by chapter 2 on “The Cross as Family Crisis”. My excessive underlining shows just how he hit me where I live. He with continued aplomb exposed spiritual warfare in the home, dismantled family idolatry and my using family for my own identity. All the while, he reminded me that the cross tells another story. His chapters on marriage and intimacy were neither trite nor common as he drug us again to the Cross from where we’d be most likely to go kicking and screaming. He stayed true to a conservative, biblically-faithful point of view while not being boxed in by some of its common misapplications too. His discussion of children and parents was equally perceptive and Gospel focused. Even his preview of aging proved I’ll be needing the Cross all the way.

The final chapter on “Free to Be Family” led to misty eyes for me. I’m not sure how to explain how truly wonderful this book is. Get it. You need it whether you know it or not. You need it because having the Cross but leaving it out of your home will mushroom into the most grotesque of errors. This winner is easily a book-of-the-year entry that every believer needs.

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.

Last Call for Liberty by Os Guinness

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I’m not sure how Os Guinness pulled off writing the book of the hour while at the same time giving us one for many generations to come, but in Last Call for Liberty he has done that very thing. He says so much to our generation, yet it will be the words that will be needed in a hundred years. At least if there’s any liberty left to cultivate and protect at that point. What is equally amazing is how he did it. There’s only a little of Trump or Obama, and even less of Republican or Democrat. He would have us stop drowning in the latest election cycle, or even the latest 24-hr news cycle. Our problems are more fundamental than the latest round of lunacy. His perspective spans the horizon. He looks at where we are, how we got here (since the 1960s at least), and where we are going. He holds us accountable to what freedom is and what it is not. He calls on us to embrace anew the precious gift of freedom or our twisting of freedom will be our destruction.

Guinness paints his portrait with the colors of the American Revolution of 1776 and the French Revolution of 1789. That comparison explains so much. I’ve always loved reading about that time period, so I’m a little ashamed I never saw this dichotomy before. How freedom was both approached and defined is why one of those revolutions has held for 200 plus years while the other is a historical footnote. Still, he isn’t giving us a historical survey. No, the problem is that much of America today has switched from 1776 to 1789 in their guiding of our nation. Peril awaits.

That’s not to say that this book is depressing. It’s like a teacher who believes in your intellect and boldly makes a case that assumes your ability to comprehend. He never talks down but sounds like he speaks to peers who will see what he’s saying when they face the logic. He comes across as positive there’s hope and all that’s missing is for us to slow down and carefully analyze the facts.

You will, without doubt, get some of the most perceptive analysis of the trends and events that define us today. He never comes across as shouting “this is wrong” as much as “here’s what’s behind certain behaviors and why they will hurt us all”. He never yells at us for assaulting freedom. It’s more of a proclamation that freedom is one of the greatest things that God has given us and it’s worth hanging on to.

I’m not going to give a chapter-by-chapter overview in this review. Just jump in and you will see things that perhaps you’ve never thought before and that now you see as the natural, unanswerable explanation of our turbulent nation. This book, if ingested by our nation, would revolutionize us all, or at least take us back to the beautiful place we began. Labeling a book as a “must-read” is trite, but read it and see if that isn’t exactly what you’d say.

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.

Demanding Liberty by Brandon O’Brein

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This book is hard for me to categorize. The author, Brandon O’Brien, warns us in the preface that that might be the case, but I had no idea that it would be thus to such a degree. It’s not exactly a biography, though I came to know Isaac Backus much better. It’s not exactly a historical treatise, but I found places where my historical understandings were off. It’s not exactly a political statement, but I wondered if there might be one just below the surface. I found myself asking what this author was up to quite early in the book, though I never was sure I could answer that question. To be sure, I found the book deeply interesting and hard to put down.

If the author desired to only overturn the applecart of our neatly packaged conclusions, this book was a smashing success. If he had some conclusion he wanted to take us to, then not so much. The titles alone of his previous books, Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes and Paul Behaving Badly, had me wondering if he was something of a provocateur. When he admitted that he was a Baptist who had become a Presbyterian and now was writing on a Baptist hero, I wondered if he was something of a rabble-rousing raconteur too. As a Baptist myself, when some of his first comments seemed to overplay the lack of education of the early Baptists, I was sure that it was so. But alas, he was quite fair to the Baptists overall and even seemed to have a real admiration of their dedication and of Backus himself.

He did prove to me that I have been something of a reductionist in how I view the Christian heritage of my country. It was much more of a battle than I carried in my convenient memories, but I retain my amazement at where it landed. On a few occasions, he took that premise a little too far. I’m not convinced that the Jefferson described in the introduction was as anti-religion as he was portrayed, nor do I see the full weight of the parallel of conservative Christians today to their forebears with “a difference between being marginalized and feeling marginalized.” Still, there might be enough truth in it to call for some introspection.

This book held my attention until the last page. I’m still not sure whose side the author is on, or if he even knows. He did, however, ask good questions. My conclusions are ultimately the same, but I would have to admit that my views are a little more nuanced after reading this book.

We are at the point of this review where I’m supposed to give a recommendation. Perhaps if you’ve read this far you already have all the recommendation that I could give you. Clearly, this book influenced me. Maybe you will want to find out if it will have that effect on you.

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.

The Real Facts About the Latest Generation!

blog phoneI’ve heard it in bits and pieces and had already decided that the smartphone was the defining factor of this generation approaching adulthood. Now I came across a substantive article that has hard data behind what it says. The point is not to bash this generation. How could we? Wouldn’t it be more a reflection of we who are as the generation raising them?

The truth is that every generation has its strengths and weaknesses. That translates to the latest generation being better in a few categories, but its problems are of concern and worthy of our attention.

This generation lives with its parents knowing where they are far more than any generation alive today. For that reason, you could say that they are physically safer. They tend to be less motivated to drive and have fewer wrecks. Their average age of the first sexual encounter is actually older than the last several generations – that’s certainly a plus. If you dig through the data in the article, you will see more of this type of positive information.

Strangely enough, some of their biggest problems springs from the same areas. This is the least-interested-in-independence generation we’ve seen. If they have a nice bedroom, in which to lay and be on their smart phones, they are satisfied. The article mentioned several of them have an indention in their bed from lying there on the phone so much. Many of them are not really interested in driving. Does that surprise you as much as me? Many of them are developmentally at least two years behind.

While the rate of teen homicide is down (that’s a plus!), the rate of teen suicide is far higher. Quite frankly, many of them are not happy. The article explained how the ones who are on their smart phones over the average rank much higher on the chart of unhappiness and suicidal feelings.

The article, which was not in a Christian publication, mentioned sports, other activities, and less social media as having great improvement in the data on being happy and not feeling suicidal. Although the article wasn’t Christian in any way, I couldn’t help but notice that those young people very active in what the author called “religious activities”, fared much better as well. I suppose the data will always bear out that the parents who forget God in their home will reap a whirlwind in their children.

Here’s the great article that you will want to ingest slowly: Has Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?

There’s so much more in this article. Read it for yourself. We parents need some deep reflection about whether our homes are just going to be like the average of the world today, or are we going to swim upstream to go after different results. May the Lord help us all in the choppy waters that we Christian parents now navigate.

That Rough Patch Called Transitioning To Adulthood

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I’ve been reminded of late just how tough that period in life where you have to figure out what you’re going to do when you grow up really is. I can remember that in my own life, but it seems so long ago that the memories are in black and white. My oldest, Briley, is at that place where she has to decide, and her brother, Caleb, the meticulous planner, is engulfed in it as well. Sadly, if anything, it’s harder to figure out these days.

An article in National Review by Oren Cass entitled “Teaching to the Rest” highlighted just how tough it is. According to the author, the 3 million recent high school graduates can be divided into approximately five equal categories. The first group didn’t even make it to high school graduation (remember one fifth of 3 million is 600,000!). The second group will pursue no further education. The third group will enroll in college but never graduate. The fourth group will graduate college, but will never work in the field they got their degree in. Only the final group will go through college and work in a field that they studied for. I don’t know about you, but those statistics shock me.

As you can imagine in that particular magazine, the article goes on talking about the political changes that need to be made in our educational system. The author’s ideas were wonderful, but excuse my cynicism in thinking that either the government or teachers unions would give his thoughts the time of day.

He alludes to, and you’ve probably heard it from other quarters as well, that there is a dearth of young people going into trades. In other words, a college education may not be the best case scenario as was universally believed when I graduated high school. Besides the fact that many public universities have lost their way and are so out of the mainstream that they actually steer young people away from success, there’s the issue that you might be financially worse off to go to college. On the one hand, many college students today embark upon their career with a disastrous financial situation because of college debt. A trade could be learned for a fraction of the cost with a similar starting salary but without the oppressive debt.

It grieves me to say this, but even for my children who want to follow my steps into the ministry, the possibility of making a full-time income from it over the course of their whole working lives seems unlikely. The rapid decline of Christianity in our day means that all in ministry may be tentmakers like Paul in the years ahead. That likelihood means even young people considering ministry will need a trade or profession to fall back on. I haven’t lost faith that the Lord can provide what’s needed for our calling, just that He he may actually start calling more to a bi-vocational ministry.

I’m totally sympathetic to my children. The gravity with which they view their choices for the future is commensurate to current events. I never want to be guilty of calling my children to the ministry or any other profession. My wife, Alicia, has already been warning our children of the need to have a trade for some time.

I’ve decided this rough patch of transition into adulthood is tough for parents too. You’d like to make it easier for them. You’d like for them to be able to pick it without reservations and feel perfectly at peace with their choices, but the reality is they go through all kinds of options. You have to balance telling them the ideas they have that probably will not work out well to not being overly controlling and telling them what they have to do with their lives. It’s tough. It’s times like this that I’m so happy that my children know the same Lord that I do. I’ve had times of not knowing the way and being afraid, and had to learn to wait on the Lord.

I guess this post is not really instructional. I really can’t see that I gave any good advice. But I guess I’m just putting in writing a plea to my children to trust the Lord with an acknowledgment that Daddy loves you and has confidence in you. I’m tempted to close my eyes and hide until the Lord grows your faith and leads you through this, but by faith let’s just go through it together.

Dictionary of Christianity and Science

book dictionary cs

When you pick up this attractive hardback “Dictionary of Christianity and Science”, edited by Paul Copan, Tremper Longman, Christopher Reese, and Michael Strauss, your first thought will be to wonder if it can live up to its subtitle “the definitive reference for the intersection of Christian faith and contemporary science”. To my mind, it was a boast that turned out to be true.

That’s not to say, that you will agree with everything you read here. Fully conservative views are well defined, but in the interest of providing a comprehensive resource other views are as well. Since evangelical Christianity is not in full agreement on these subjects, you will discover here are all the opinions out there. If you do either theological or apologetic reading, you have already noticed the debate on its margins with science. In our post-Christian age, this is no time for trite platitudes. This resource helps us understand and intelligently discuss at the very point where so much of modern society is attacking Christianity.

The entries given are of three types. Some are short introductions intended to give an overview. There’s longer entries called essays that attempt to give a larger picture. Finally, some oft-debated subjects are given what they call multiple-view discussions. In these cases, scholars of varying opinions make their strongest case. That type of debate can be most instructive.

The range of topics covered almost anything I could think of regarding faith and science. Whether it was common terminology or less common scholarly jargon, you will find it here. You will find scientific terms, hot button issues of our generation, prominent movements and people, and some things I imagine you’ve never heard of before. There’s various creation/evolution theories, the Flood, fossil records, bioethics, and even climate change from various viewpoints.

I could easily see myself in the future reading an article and coming to an obscure concept or the element of debate I was a little rusty on and grabbing this book to get a grasp of what I was reading. This book has clearly found a niche missing in other Bible dictionaries and encyclopedias. This fine volume succeeded in what it set out to do and I think it’s an all-around winner. I predict it will be the go-to volume of its kind for many years.

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.

God and Tattoos by Allan Dayhoff

Have you ever read a book that was both provocative and somewhat outside your comfort zone, but still opened your eyes? This book by Allan Dayhoff was such a book for me. Tattoos to my mind were gross, ugly, and wrong. While I still am not a fan of tattoos at all, this book chided me for never considering what is going on in the souls of those with tattoos. Why are tattoos exploding in our day? More importantly, what should a Christian see in this trend of people writing on themselves? 

The author did what it never occurred to me to do: ask people why they have tattoos. He asked them what their particular tattoos meant and that opened up a massive flow of information from which some conclusions could be drawn.

He found that some are doing it because it is the “it” thing to do in our generation. In other words, for some it is merely a jump on the cultural trend bandwagon. I suspected this one, but sadly never thought about the other reasons involved. It’s in those other reasons that this book is eye opening. 

It seems as though people are needing empathy and to have meaning. In that they do not have those needs mets, Dayhoff explains that their souls are crying out these needs and writing them on their own skin. People are finding this new way to say who they are. Often, the story on their skins is one of deep pain. Other insights abound.

I met the author and while I could not do all his methods, I saw that he was sincere in sharing his faith. I must warn you too that in some cases he directly quotes his interviewees and that means some really bad language. That arose, no matter what we feel about it, from his approach to write a book that would teach Christians and could be used with non-Christians at the same time. 

It’s probably not a book for everyone, but I found it instructive and fascinating.

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.

Help Me Predict This Election!

I know we can’t get our minds off this election, but I have thought of a diversion. It seems many, especially Christians, are getting angry at each other for not seeing the obvious. That seems to be the viewpoint of both Trump supporters and Never Trumpers. We are accusing each other of awful things for not seeing it as we do. People like me who are having trouble deciding ( to vote for Trump or write-in)  are thought by both sides as just plain dumb. There will be a lot of needed healing and fence mending among Christians after this election is over for sure.

Maybe we should admit that at this late stage not many are going to be persuaded, but we could from all points on the spectrum, make predictions and share our logic. If you’re like me, you’re not feeling too confident in your political pronogstications as the previous few years results have been bewildering on so many levels. Still, let’s take a stab at it!

They are four main possibilities that I will outline and you can predict from there. To help your predictions you might want to glance at 270towin.com to help you decide.

Four Possibilities For The 2016 Election

1. A Big Victory For Hillary Clinton

When I say big, I’m thinking at least by the margin Obama took in the electoral college in 2012. This is the conventional wisdom out there by pundits as so many polls have turned south on Trump.

2. A Narrow Victory For Clinton

It boils down to the battleground states like Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, Iowa, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, etc. Trump will win some, but not quite enough to pull it off.

3. A Narrow Victory For Trump

Again, it’s about those battleground states and Trump is going to gain just enough.

4. A Big Victory For Trump

I’m on record for not being impressed with either candidate, but it is intreaging to consider one possibility that not many are suggesting. Trump support may be highly under reported. That would stem from dishonesty of pollsters as many Trump supporters believe, or from another possibility that is less discussed. If you followed the BREXIT vote recently in England, you know that polls reported until the very day of the vote that Britain’s exit from the EU would be easily defeated. When the results came in, it was easily passed. While you might assume pollster dishonesty in that case ( even though polls that are far from correct lose credibility in the next election), there did seem to be genuine surprise when the results came in. What seems to be the explanation is that apparently because of pressure and political correctness many did not feel comfortable stating how they really felt. When they got all alone behind that voting curtain, they took out their frustrations and voted yes.

There’s a lot of frustrated people in our country. Some might not want the criticism or even the workplace trouble for sharing how they really feel, but alone in that voting booth they will hold nothing back. That will make for many shocks if it happens. It’s a long shot, but in the realm of possibilities I think.

What Do You Predict?

I think the most likely result (that I don’t like either) is that it will fall between # 1 and 2.

I’d love to hear your prediction in the comments below! Maybe I will even tally the results in the days ahead. Don’t give your hoped-for result, but your actual prediction. I can’t wait to hear what everyone say.

Unchanging Witness–A Book For Our Day

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This issue of homosexuality is the roaring issue on the doorstep of Christianity. That the world is embroiled in it is no surprise, but that some corners of Christendom are bowled over by it is.  The biggest shock of all is what is proclaimed to be biblical and historic in Christianity on the subject. That is why this new book by S. Donald Fortson III and Rollin G. Grams is so timely, helpful, and important.

The task these scholars tackle with such aplomb is showing that homosexuality has always been biblically and historically wrong  in our Christian faith. They show in one succinct chapter how the gay movement has proceeded since it embarked upon a political path in the 1960s. Then the next 6 chapters show what all parts of Christianity has believed on the subject since the beginning with plenty of direct historical quotation and analysis. They may provide more than you will feel you need, but you will appreciate their careful labor.

The balance of the book examines the biblical passages mentioning homosexuality. They spend time mentioning every argument presented by pro-homosexual scholars. You see these other scholars have been incredibly unscholarly, careless, and even dishonest. Some may not like all that scholarly interaction, but this is a case where it’s needed appreciated.

A person can say they think homosexuality is acceptable because they choose not to accept the truthfulness of Scripture, but one cannot logically or honestly say the Bible supports homosexuality. These authors have put any Christians who study this subject in a great debt by so ably providing that proof.

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.