Wednesday, December 31, 2014

book review--Valor's Worth


Since I gave a review to the first book in this series (not counting the prequel) that was kind of middling, it seemed fair to give a review of this book. A lot of things I groused about in the earlier book are fixed here, and the result is full-bodied, satisfying fantasy novel, well worth the read.

Rather then feeling hurried, I was able to enjoy the story developing, the characters being fleshed out, the little conflicts that lead up to the final conflict. Along with original character, new ones (or in one case one that was briefly mentioned in the previous book) are brought in and fit in, and it's all a fairly cohesive whole.

So, consider this a recommendation.

the truth behind and beyond dystopia

A few years ago, I spent a lot of time driving. To help with that, I would get some audio books from a library. I got to listen to audio book versions of the Dune novels, along with several of Asimov's Foundation books. More recently, I've taken an interest in the Warhammer 40K books, reading several of them.

Those are a few examples of dystopian stories. Yes, I think even Foundation was dystopian, even though I doubt that was Asimov's intention. Outside of not finding the appeal of those stories, not to mention the arrogance of the ideas behind the Foundation, there was simply the extreme cyclical view of history, such that the fall and rise of the space empire has to follow a certain pattern based on one man's researches and conjectures, and that everything must to done to insure that this pattern is not interrupted in any way. That's pretty dystopian, in my mind.

Dystopian fiction has been fairly popular. I suppose my first exposure to it was the old movie Logan's Run, though my interest at that young age had more to do with robots and lasers than in a deep and dark future world. But whether it's a dark future of the Alien movies, or a dark present or near future in which zombies rule the world, it's all dystopian.

So, what does it all mean?

“Certain new theologians dispute original sin, which is the only part of Christian theology which can really be proved. Some followers of the Reverend R.J.Campbell, in their almost too fastidious spirituality, admit divine sinlessness, which they cannot see even in their dreams. But they essentially deny human sin, which they can see in the street.” Chesterton, G. K. Orthodoxy (p. 7). Kindle Edition. While I suppose there might be dispute over whether original sin and the Fall are the only part that can really be proven, I think it's fairly clear that original sin and the Fall are as evident as Chesterton points out. We don't have to look far to see it, we don't even have to look in the streets. We need only look in a mirror.

This fact is all around us, and in us. And I'd say that it's in dystopian fiction (and utopian, too), whether or not that's the intent of the authors of those books.

We know that technological progress has not equated into progress as people. The fictional cave man with a club may have been able to only knock a few people over the head with his club, but the far too real modern terrorist can do so much more damage with a machine gun or vest bomb, and we can only imagine with dread what such a person might do with nuclear or biological weapons. We develop technologies for spreading moving images, and we use them to show off and celebrate our debaucheries and perversions.

What do I think is the truth behind these dystopian stories? Simply that we know that, left to ourselves, we cannot create utopia. Our attempts at utopia will not pan out, but will turn on us, and become something closer to a nightmare than anything we might dream of. We will be no less xenophobic in the 40,000s than we were in the 1940s. Our rulers will be just as despotic in the far future, as they have been in our far and near past. The best laid plans of mice and men will turn into well laid traps for mice and men.

Because, in the end, we know we are hopeless. We cannot change our own selves, let alone anyone else. We cannot make our own selves better, let alone anyone else. We are not improving as a race.

We know the truth of original sin. We cannot help ourselves, save ourselves, make ourselves clean.

If that was where the story ended, then let us rush blindly into the night, or rage against the coming of the night, both would be equally hopeless gestures.

But the truth is, that's not where the story ends. There is truth in that story, but if we stop with just that story, we will be left with hopelessness.

“But while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Mankind is not the hero of mankind's story, and when we try to be, we can't find anything but dystopia. But where our works of righteous are no better than the vilest of rags, Christ's sacrificial death for our sins has made us clean. Where our sins are like a mountain, Christ's death has won forgiveness for us. Where our technology and intelligence and creativity have made our futures only more precarious, Christ's death has given those who believe in Him a real future.

There is truth in dystopia, but there is a greater truth beyond dystopia. Where we by our own efforts would only create hell on earth, Christ has promised us new heavens and a new earth.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

shifters: manipulations available for free

Shifters: Manipulations

My story is available at Amazon for free for a few days, and you may consider this an invite to take a look at it, and let me know what you think.

Thanks, and I do hope you enjoy it.

Note: The free offer has now expired. To those who got a copy of the book, thanks, and again, I hope you enjoy it.

book review—Divine Summons by Rebecca P Minor

a bit disappointing

Things I liked:

The author does well at creating characters. Vinyanel, Veranna, and Majestrin are interesting characters, and the way they grate at each other and look after each other throughout the story is different than what is typical in these kinds of stories.

Things I didn't like:

The story felt rushed, and things happened that could have been better explained. For example, we learn early on that elves and dragons don't like each other, such that the dragon Majestrin does not at first accompany Vinyanel into the elven lands, but without any explanation the next time Vinyanel meets Majestrin is somewhere in elven lands, and little is made of it.

The way perspective was done was bothersome, too. Much of the book is from Vinyanel's first-person view, where Vinyanel is essentially telling the story, but there are times when the perspective changes characters, and then it goes to third-person.

And I was uncomfortable with how divine power is shown and used by the characters. For example, at one point Veranna says to Vinyanel "If there are to be any Miracles channeled on this mission, Young Windrider, they shall come through you." The idea of miracles being channeled through someone seems to be a pretty big departure from how God performed miracles in the Bible, and at least seems something more like how The Force is used in Star Wars. But God is not like The Force at all.

One part particularly irked me. Vinyanel finally has enough of Veranna's cryptic words and interferences, and tells her so. She's earned it, she's been a pain to him throughout the story, and his rebuke of her is sound, but for some reason he's treated like the one who did something wrong. I hardly see why Veranna, who's shown no small amount of pride at her position as some kind of prophetess, should not be subject to a well-earned rebuke when she needs it.


I recently read Beyond Price: a short story (The Windrider Canticles Book 1), a kind of prequel novella for this story, and thought it was pretty good, so I came to this story with some high expectations. Sadly, I was a bit disappointed. To repeat something I wrote earlier in the review, the story felt rushed, almost as if there were some need to jump from one action scene to another without much info about life in between. I would have liked, for example, to see how Vinyanel honored and mourned for his comrades who died in the first part of the book, an escape from some enemies. I might even have liked to know more about why they were doing what they were doing at that time, and why it went bad and so many lost their lives. I would have liked to know more about what Veranna was trying to teach Vinyanel. I would have liked to see more of the normal lives of these characters. I would have liked to see more of Veranna's difficulties as a half-elf in an elven city, which are touched on once but only very briefly. After "Beyond Price", I would have liked to see how Veranna became the prophetess she is in this story, what her training was, and how she was even accepted, given her mixed heritage.

It's not an awful book, there was certainly enough to keep my interest as a reader, but I guess I was still hoping for more.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

book review—Spark by J.B. North

fairly good

Things I liked:

The overall story held together pretty well, I didn't notice any big discrepancies or contradictions. The idea of people changing forms into either real or mythical animals was an interesting one, and handled pretty well. The fantasy world was well-imagined. Ivy was a good protagonist, fairly sympathetic but also not so perfect as to be unbelievable. A lot happens, there are a few twists and turns, and overall the story kept my interest.

Things I didn't like:

The book could have used a more thorough editing and proofreading. There were some things that could have been better explained, such as the places the students went to in the tents—were they real places, places in their minds? That might better explain why Ivy succeeded at firing a bow on her first attempt at it in one of those worlds, while struggling to learn to do so in real life. The God talk was handled clumsily, we get little hint of anything religious in Ivy's life yet she ends up praying to some Lord at a couple of points late in the book.


I pretty well enjoyed this book. There are lots of good things here, but a few problems, too. Perhaps some things will be explained in later books of the series. I wait expectantly for the next book.

Friday, November 7, 2014

my newest foray into literature

A couple of years ago, I put toe into the literary world, kinda, sorta, in a really small sense. Today, I go in a bit more deeply

Shifters Book 1: Manipulations

I don't want to say too much about it at the moment, don't want to spoil anything :-). But I guess I'm a bit giddy over finally having this one up and available. Though I may not be the best judge of my own kinds of works like this, I think this one is pretty substantive, kinda funny in spots, very intense in others, and overall pretty good.

So, check out the page, and maybe read a copy of it. Any feedback, whether you think it's good or if you think it's not so good, would be welcomed.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

book review—The Global War on Christians by John L Allen Jr


Blogging for Books provided this book to me for free in exchange for an honest review.

This isn't a book one necessarily enjoys. What the author writes about is sobering, disturbing, yet important. Though many US churchgoers might say that they know that there are places in the world where Christians suffer persecution, it is kept at a psychological distance, something “over there”. It isn't something believers in the US have much experience with.

But there may also be another reason why these accounts of suffering for Christ are kept at a distance. Where do accounts of people losing everything they have, even their own lives, fit into a religion whose biggest concern is having your best life now? In a theology that tries to spin the Christian life into one of constant adventure and fulfillment, do accounts of persecution promise too much adventure, or the wrong kind of adventure? What do accounts of people being social outcasts because of their Christian faith do to the popular teaching that God wants to help you to fulfill your dreams, land your dream job, have a great sex life?

It would be good for those whose regular diet of Christian reading is a steady feasting on the feel-good, shallow, it's all about me types of book so popular nowadays to read a book like this one, to provide a kind of balance to what they have been reading, and to get a glimpse of the cost many people pay for their faith.

Though I think this is a good book, I cannot completely agree with the author on everything.

Some of what he wrote about an “ecumenism of the martyrs” seemed off to me. Are we suppose to think that beliefs and creeds are unimportant, simply because people of various beliefs and even different religions have suffered persecutions? Though I appreciate that the author makes references to those persecutions from many different Christian faiths, are we suppose to pretend that the Reformation didn't happen because Catholic and non-Catholic believers suffer persecutions?

While I would agree that no one should be persecuted because of their religious beliefs, that is a far thing from necessarily endorsing anyone's religious beliefs, and I must kick against the notion that an ecumenical endorsement is necessary. The author mentions Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, the Iranian pastor whose imprisonment has become a cause celebre in many church circles. I would agree that Pastor Youcef should not be in prison simply because of his religious beliefs, and that Iran is wrong to imprison him for his religious beliefs. But the book also notes that Pastor Youcef has a Oneness view of God, and rejects the biblical teaching on the Trinity. Is it possible to support Pastor Youcef's freedom from unjust imprisonment, yet still say that his beliefs are aberrant or even heretical?

So, while I would recommend this book, and pretty strongly too, understand that my recommendation is not an endorsement for everything the author suggests.

Friday, October 31, 2014

worship of uncertainty

It would be fair to make a cautionary statement here--I think there is a tendency to proclaim certainty about things that are less-than-fully-supported biblically. In my last few years of school, I attended a school affiliated with a "Fundamental, Independent, KJV-only" type of church. They were very certain about many things--women should not wear pants (trousers, to you in the UK), rock music in any form is evil, going to the cinema to see movies is evil (though maybe watching videos was ok--this was a few years before DVDs). Christians don't drink, smoke, or chew, and don't hang out with those who do (unless one is witnessing to them, which wouldn't technically be hanging out).

In truth, many of their prohibitions had little biblical support. They would say that rock music is the world's music, rooted in rebellion. Some would say that the beat of rock music is too heavy, that the heavy rhythm is carnal and sensual. The problem is, these are arbitrary categories--where does the Bible say anything about any kind of "world's music"? Where does the Bible prohibit music with a heavy rhythm? The Bible does prohibit a man to wear feminine things and vice-versa, but what does that mean? In the times of the New Testament, the normal clothing of men and women were very similar. Why are pants or trousers strictly men's clothing? What about in colder climates, where women wear trouser-like pieces of clothing? What about cultures where women's clothing may include something similar to trousers? On the other hand, should men not wear kilts, because they are too much like skirts?

I could go on, I suppose, but maybe I've made my point--we need to be careful of forbidding things about which the Bible does not explicitly forbid.

Saying that, while acknowledging that grace may be wise in some things where clear commands and limits are not given, the worship of uncertainty as many postmoderns practice is like being eaten by the dragon while avoiding the whirlpool. The Bible makes many things very plain, and these things are not up for dispute. In the Ten Commandments, things like theft and murder and lying and adultery are shown to be wrong. Worshiping other gods is wrong. Any sexual act between anyone other than a man and woman married to each other is called sin.

We did not make the rules, we were not given the power to veto or remake the rules, and we violate the rules at our own peril. And finally, if we go up against the One who made the rules, we may be sure only of certain defeat and punishment.

There is room for flexibility in many things, but there are things hard and fast, things about which there cannot be compromise. To say that we must doubt those things, doubt that God has forbidden us to do those things, is to echo the words of the serpent, “Did God really say?”

En Passant: a work of not-so-popular theology (Kindle Locations 477-496).

Monday, October 13, 2014

well, there goes hope

Right when one might have had hope concerning this coming election, the Evangelical purveyors of superstitious hyper-spiritual practices have gone and ripped it from us.

Intercessors Set up 'David's Tent' For 24/7 Worship Outside White House

I remember they did this last year, before the presidential election. Yeah, how'd that work out, folks?

One of the sure signs that these NAR types are false prophets and teachers can be found simply in this, that when they prophecy and proclaim something, the opposite happens. I remember Lou Engle writing this,  "Standing on that basketball court, with the U.S. Supreme court beneath the feet of Jesus and my feet, I declared, "From this day forward there will only be pro-life judges." Well, that didn't happen.

And now, there's this kind of stuff, again. These 24-7 kinds of places have become very popular in some circles, such the IHOP and YWAM crowds, not to mention the group that calls themselves 24-7 Prayer. And it's all hyper-spiritual busywork, all based on a superstitious view that if they do this, God will do something.

Hog and wash.

"David's Tent" is some kind of big cause celebre among these NAR Dominionists. They think there 24-7 music fests will have something to do with making "David's Tent" a reality, even though that's not what the Bible teaches.

Anyway, having any kind of hope in the current political situation is rather a difficult thing even on the best of days, but knowing that thus bunch is out there doing their schtick of false praise and worship just took hope right out the room. Please, folks, just stop, you've already done quite enough damage.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

book review—Dark Biology by Bonnie Doran

not awful, not great

I want to deal with this book in two aspects—the story, and the theology.

The story: It turned out to be more of a romance than a suspense or thriller type of book. While some things written about the International Space Station were interesting, the focus was usually put on the romance triangle, and it was just kinda so-so. Hildi was an ok character, though I thought she treated Dan rather badly. And why Dan still wanted to be with her after, for example, leaving him stranded on a beach, I don't understand. And for Frank, he got to play the role of the guy who kept messing things up and making bad situations even worse.

The parallel story of Hildi's parents, and the people around them, could have had a bit more punch. There was certainly enough material with them to make up its own book, but while it has some moving moments, it never really gets to much depth.

Chet was the most interesting character, but also in some ways the most iffy. Would it really be that easy for a disgruntled CDC employee to get into an infectious disease lab, hid a vial, and get out? Especially on the spur of the moment? And the book said the he checked the vial's label to make sure that it wasn't anything seriously bad, the book called it H1N2, but he later sees the label again and sees that it actually is a serious bug, something called H4N6. This mistake, though, is not explained, especially since he made sure to check the vial when he selected it as the one to sneak out.

Theology: For a story riddled with ministers, prayer, and other things Christian, it seemed like the Gospel itself was like the proverbial bush that people beat all around, but never quite get into. Let me give an example.

One character, Hildi's father, who has just learned that he is about to die, says, “I've done these seminars to atone for my sins.” While the friend comforting him starts out by saying “Do you believe Jesus' sacrifice was sufficient for everything you've done, past, present, and future?”, his words then turn into some kind of a motivational speech about all the good the guy had done, with the last thought from that minister in this section of the book was “Maybe his life had counted after all”.

This was an excellent place for the Gospel to be told to this man who was having some doubts so close to death, and while something like a “Gospel nugget” (HT Fighting for the Faith) was given, the man was quickly pushed past that to look at his own works. I doubt the author meant it this way, but that does come off as something like work-righteousness, especially just after the man had said that he was trying to do good works to atone for his sins. But out good works do not save us, our works of righteousness are no better than filthy rags, and we sure can't use them to atone for our sins. The righteousness God gives us through Christ is not earned by works of the law, but is given through faith in Jesus Christ. That is mentioned, true, but I wish it had been dwelt on more, instead of jumping to the “You've changed the world” type of motivational jargon.

This is the kind of book that might have benefited from being longer, so that things could have been explained better and the overall story would not have felt so hurried. As it is, it's only a so-so book to me, something that I neither liked overly much, nor disliked.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

a bit of kibitzing

I haven't done anything like this for a while, and I'm actually anticipating it a little. So, onward and upward!

Weeping Jeremiahs” is a blog that's been brought to my attention, for good or ill, mostly ill. I don't know anything about whomever write it, or even if “Jeremiahs” is telling us there's more than one person contributing bad poetry to the site. Anyway, this one example is certainly interesting.
The Values of the Lamb
Ah, the language of values. Not morals, not ethics, but values. But, let's be glad that this person knows so much about what Jesus values, right?
“I do not share your values, America:
Well, all right-y, then. Let's give Weepy Jerry credit for coming on strong, bringing the heat.

Now, first, let's note a few things. First, tie this in with the title of this poem, The Values of the Lamb, and note that this person puts these words in quotes, and writes in the first person, I. In other words, Weepy Jerry is claiming that Jesus is the one saying these words.

Wow, that's quite the claim. Take a look at this passage. “Deuteronomy 18: 18– 20: 18 “I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. 19 “It shall come about that whoever will not listen to My words which he shall speak in My name, I Myself will require it of him. 20 “But the prophet who speaks a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.””

First, HT to Michael Beasley and his book, The Fallible Prophets of New Calvinism, an excellent resource for the biblical view of prophecy, such as the verses above, which were in his book.

So, claiming to be speaking for God is not a trite thing. Saying “Thus sayeth the Lord”, even if one doesn't use that phrase, was a matter of life or death in the Old Testament. True, we may be glad that in this New Covenant we wouldn't kill a false prophet, but we shouldn't pretend that false prophecy is not a serious issue. And in claiming that the words of this poem are the words of Jesus, Weepy Jerry is putting him/her/themselves in the place of a prophet.

So, noting that, let's go on.
I value love more
than I value independence
Well, that's interesting. Are love and independence mutually exclusive? Are they bitter enemies, such that we cannot have one if we have the other? Personally, I don't see the conflict, and more than that, I think there are many ways in which love and independence go hand in hand. Even if we look at things on a national level, which country sounds more loving—the independence people have in the US, or the micro-control people suffer in North Korea? I think I'll take the independence we have in the US, thanks.
I value charity more
than I value profit.
So, when did charity and profit become mutually exclusive? You know, you work day in and day out, and when payday comes you get the wages you've worked for, and what is wrong with that? How that is anti-charity? In fact, how are any of us suppose to do much of anything charitable without earning anything?

Is work wrong? Is it wrong to want to earn the money you need to pay your bills, get groceries, and maybe afford a few extras? I guess we can assume that Weepy Jerry has at least one computer, or all the Weepy Jerries have their own computers, so it seems like they have some means. How were they able to afford to get computers? And wireless access? And a home?

Charitable giving is fine and dandy, if it is done wisely. I'm quite fine with charity, but I don't see how charity is suppose to be opposed to making a profit.

I value the native people
you uprooted and oppressed.
Ah, now it's cheap guilt trip time. Yeah, America, you ain't been perfect.

True, God does love native people, whatever that might mean, wherever that might be. He also loves the people that replaced them, and the people who replaced those people. After all, how many square inches of this world can really be said to be in the ownership of whatever people first claimed them?

I assume that at least one of the Weepy Jerries is white, because this person obviously relishes wallowing in his/her white guilt. As a white man myself, I think I'll pass. I know very well that the US has a lot of really ugly things in our past, something true of any nation, something true even of those native people.

How do I know that? Simple. Those native people were like us—fallen, sinful, corrupt, and even their attempts at works of righteousness were no better than filthy rags. They were just like me, because I was and am like that. I am a sinner, I am still fallen, even as I am forgiven and made clean in Christ. I think it is the Lutherans, and maybe the Reformed, who have a saying that we Christians are simultaneously just and sinner.

So, yes, God loves native people, God loves those who took their place, God loves all peoples. And He showed that love in this, that while we were sinners, Christ died for us.

I value your enemies
as much as I value you
No problem there, but what is this person really saying? I think this next verse may show this person's hand.
I value peacemaking
and nonviolence
Yep, typical leftie cowardice and self-righteousness, right there on full display.

Notice the lack of a contrast here—no “I value X over Y”, but “I value X and Y”. As you might expect, I think this is a bit of an either-or, more so than this person's other attempts at contrasts.

For example, why does peacemaking equal nonviolence? I've had some exposure to leftie rhetoric about these things, and, frankly, it's full of contradictions.

Maybe one would think about Jesus' words in what we call The Sermon on the Mount, where He said, “Blessed are the peacemakers”. All well and good, but does that mean pacifists? Does that mean nonviolence? I think that could be debated. First, by much of the Old Testament, where God often tells His people to go to war, and even seems to indicate that King David got into moral trouble with Bathsheba because he was not at war at a time when kings went to war. Warrior images are also often used for God. And there is no contrast between God the Father and Jesus. One isn't the thunder-god who just wants to do a lot of smiting while the other is the meek and quiet one who's pulled off an Occupy Heaven type of takeover. No, there is no conflict between the Father and the Son. Jesus completely approved of everything in the Old Testament, and the Father completely approved of everything Jesus said and did.

To put it another way, the same God who told Yeshua to lead the people of Israel into a conquest of The Promised Land is the same Yeshua who said that peacemakers are blessed, and He will be the same Yeshua who will return as a king and a conqueror, as Revelation tells us as do other prophet passages.

Proverbs, an Old Testament book, often speaks against violent people. Of course, these violent people were not like King David, or Joshua, or Moses, or Gideon, or any of David's mighty men. Rather, these violent men were murderers, bandits, robbers, ambushers, people who shed the blood of the innocent.

In a human sense, the policeman who stops a murderer or a robber is a peacemaker, even if he uses his weapon and even does so lethally. A soldier fight his country's enemies is a peacemaker. Of course, there are complications—it could be seriously questioned how much of a peacemaker a soldier in Nazi Germany was, and an ISIS terrorist is obviously not a peacemaker at all. Hamas terrorists lobbying thousands of mortars and rockets into Israel are not peacemakers, no matter how much they try to disguise themselves in false concern for the Palestinian people. And there are corrupt police officers, sadly. But by and large, police officers and soldiers do far more peacemaking than leftist radical activists.

I value freedom from sin more
than I value political freedom

Oh, my, how hyper-spiritual. I guess that might work as a cover for leftist attempts to curtail political freedom.

I value your salvation more
than I value your nation.
Ok, so, who is this person now talking to? I thought this person was address the US as a whole, but now it's changed somewhat.

And, again, it's hyper-spiritual. It's a common ploy among those on the left, and sadly even those on the right.
Do not confuse your values with Mine!”
Oh, and now we have “Mine” capitalized, another sign that Weepy Jerry is claiming that these words are form Jesus. So, are we suppose to put this little poem into the Bible? Maybe make it part of the Psalms, or at least a New Testament version of the Psalms?

Sorry, I can't do that.

One wonders if Weepy Jerry is actually taking his or her or their own advise? After all, they are claiming that their own values are the values of Jesus, but are they not then confusing their values for His? I think this little poem shows that they are, and pretty badly, too.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014


"But the law is not the end of it. It is, rather, to prepare us for something else. We need the law, we need it to break us, to smash our pride, to show us how helpless we are, so that we can be ready to receive the message of The Gospel."

What is this message? That Christ, the Son of God, born of a virgin, lived the sinless life that we cannot live. Jesus the Christ, the Messiah, was crucified for our sins, the sacrifice for our atonement and redemption, as this passage said. He rose from the dead, and ascended to the right hand of the Father. And now we, through repentance for our sins and faith in Christ, may be made clean of our sins and receive eternal life."

Behold this man! Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world! As it it written, God has shown us his love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us, so that we can have this righteousness spoken of in this passage.


Monday, September 22, 2014

book review—Be The Message by Kerry and Chris Shook

wrong message

Blogging for Books provided this book to me for free in exchange for an honest review.

Although one can find an occasional good bit of stuff in this book, overall it goes off the rails right off the bat, and probably no where more so than in it's basic premise. At one point, for example, they write “Jesus is the Word. The message—the gospel—is the person of Jesus”. Fair enough. They even make the very good point about the Bible, that “It's His (Jesus') story from beginning to end”. If they had stayed on that point, going more into that, this book would have been so much better.

Sadly, they don't. Using some convoluted illogic, they write this: “Jesus is the Word. The Word is the Gospel. Christ, the Word, lives in you, Translation. You are the gospel...Friend, you are I are the gospel.” Sorry, but that is not true, it is not what the Bible teaches. We are witnesses, messengers, ministers, but we are not the message, and to make the messenger the message is to change the message.

The Gospel is Christ crucified for our sins, not anything we do. It would be one thing if the authors were to encourage us to good works, that's would be very good. But it's wrong to try to say that our attempts at good works are the Gospel, because they aren't.

But when one buys into this “My life is the gospel” stuff, one inevitable result is the need to keep up the performance, to do more and more, such that everyday things become denigrated. “Like you, little of what we do is just about us. It's about our families, our friends, our church. But with all of that, we are still strapped for time...But here's the problem when have no time and we have no margin in life, we will generally choose not to get involved in things God is calling us to do...Our life message will be set aside, and we'll hop in the car to pick up more groceries.” Huh? So, being taking care of one's family and friends and church is not something God is calling us to do? Getting groceries is such a measly thing that God has nothing to do with it?

Reading things like that in books like this, one could wonder why, when Paul wrote to believers on they were to act, he tells them to do rather mundane things—husbands are to love their wives, wives are to submit to their husbands, children are to obey their parents, fathers are to not provoke their children to anger, believers are to live quietly and to do their work.

But when “My life if the gospel”, then such mundane things are not enough. One has to listen for “divine whispers”, which the Bible says nothing about. One has to be concerned about “making a difference”, whatever that means. “Doing something new, something outside of your personal space, is a key step in being the message...It means putting yourself out there in your local community so that your life message can be seen.” In other words, putting yourself on display, being an advertisement, making people see what a good person you are so that they can see how your life is the gospel. To sum it up in one word, Performance.

In “Christless Christianity”, Michael Horton writes something that seems very pointed, in light of the Shooks' book. “But hypocrisy is especially generated when the church points to itself and to our own "changed lives" in the promotional materials. Maybe non-Christians would have less relish in pointing out our failures if we testified in word and deed to our need and God's gift for sinners like us. If we identified the visibility of the church with the scene of sinners gathered by grace to confess their sins and their faith in Christ, receiving him with open hands, instead of with our busy efforts to be the gospel, we would at least beat non-Christian critics to the punch.” (pp. 118-119).

In short, “Be The Message” is wrong from the get-go. We are not the message, and we should be glad of that. Christ and His sacrifice for our sins is the message, the Gospel. However important our good works may be, they are not the gospel.


If, as a child, you lied or stole, you violated the law. If you disobeyed your parents, you violated the law. If you were selfish and greedy for something another child had, you violated the law. What works would be enough to make up for such violations? Where has God given a formula that says what things you must do to blot out those sins from your record? Even if you sacrifice a vast herd of cattle and flock of sheep, can doing that make you clean?

This must be understood--all works we consider righteous are nothing more than the vilest of rags. Our best efforts literally stink to high Heaven. We are all guilty, and we cannot make ourselves innocent, we cannot make ourselves clean But where we cannot help ourselves, God has already helped us. God has sent His Son, Christ has sacrificed Himself for our sins. Through repentance and faith in Christ, we can find forgiveness of sins. Salvation is an act of grace from God, not a wage we can earn from Him.
En Passant

Thursday, September 18, 2014

unworthy servants

If we can see that we are really worthless servants, that our attempts at righteousness are no better than the vilest of rags, that none of us do good, yet God still loves us, still cares for us, still sent Jesus to die for us, still provides a way of salvation for us, even still provides for all our needs, then we can stop our useless striving to impress Him with our works, and by faith simply believe. It is then that we can see how great the Father's love is for us, not because we can manipulate Him as children can manipulate their human fathers, but because we can't, yet He loves us anyway, and cares for those that are His. We can stop trying to bargain with him, and instead be grateful to Him for the blessings He has given us. We can ask Him to bless us, and know that if He in His wisdom considers it good, He will do so, and if He does not bless us in the way we would like, then We can trust His goodness and wisdom, that He knows what is best for us.

More to the Story

Friday, August 29, 2014

the joy of the killjoys

I'm not the biggest social media follower, but yes I do spend a bit of time on it. It's interesting, in its own ways.

Anyway, as most people who frequent social media to any degree that the word “frequent” might be used, one of the latest rages is the Ice Bucket Challenge, which seems to consist of people having buckets or tubs or any other kind of container filled with water onto them, which somehow is suppose to involved charitable giving to an certain organization doing research involving a certain disease.

Ok, so, all well can good. I'm all for trying to find cures for diseases, in this case ALS or, as it's more popularly called, Lou Gehrig Disease. It's an ugly disease, very debilitating. It would be good if it were cured.

But, yes, the Ice Bucket Challenge itself is rapidly reaching the point of annoyance. Not to fear, it'll soon exhaust it's 15 days of fame, and then something else will take its place.

Now, legitimate criticism can be leveled against this challenge. Perhaps the most legitimate one is that the organization that is the focal point of the charitable giving regarding this gag is one that engages in or encourages embryonic stem cell research. To put it bluntly, they say it's ok to kill George and use his remains in order to find a cure for Geoff. Of course, it's quite all right for people to want to find a cure for Geoff, but many of us do think that it is going too far to insist that George's life should be sacrificed in order to find that cure.

This is a real concern in regards to the challenge and the charity. Sadly, this kind of thing also attracts another kind of persons. I will call them “killjoys”.

Here is an example of what they do. There an image I've seen on social media over the past few days. I can't remember the specific info on it, but it went something like this, “Only a thousand or so people die every year from ALS, but ten times that many, or more, die each year from lack of water”. Another image I've seen shows one picture of a group of people getting water dumped on them, with a message under it something like “in America”, while right below this a picture of a child, I could guess an African child, getting sip of water from some kind of small container, and under that photo a message which went something like “Other places in the world”.

I consider these kinds of images to be “cheap guilt trips”. It's not that their information may not be accurate, but that they are created in order to make people feel guilty for no good reason.

How to explain what I mean? Let's try this. Let's say that a person who posted these kinds of images was really serious about them. How would that person continue to act? Would that person not drink any more water each day as he or she would need to? Seems like a good idea for them. Would that person go down to the nearest public swimming pool, and demand they stop wasting water for the simple enjoyment of people going to the pool? Reasonable. Would that person try to organize protests at water parks? Would that person go into conniptions when he or she saw a bunch of five-year-olds in flimsy plastic pools? Would that person demand that people stop going to Niagara Falls, because that magnificent sight is actually little more than a waste of water?

We have reasons to doubt that they will act in such ways, because they are not truly serious about their protestations. Heck, I've not even noticed them even providing information on charitable works that could provide those people who need it with water, or help them dig for wells so they can have access to water. No, they seem content simply to try to make people feel guilty because they dumped a bucket of water on themselves or someone else.

They are, to put it simplest, killjoys. They are the wet blankets tossed on the campfire. They try to make the campers feel guilty, because somewhere in the world are people who are suffering from a lack of warmth. They may be correct, there likely are people who are suffering and even dying because they have no access to fire and warmth. That is a bad thing. But the campers roasting marshmallows at their own fire are not the reasons those others are suffering.

Like I tried to point out a few paragraphs ago, I think there are good reasons for not participating in this trend. But feeling guilty about dumping water on oneself is not one of them. Now, if you really are concerned about people not having access to water, good for you, that is a real and legitimate concern. Let me provide you with a way you can be of help to them, should you so choose.

Samaritan's Purse Water,Sanitation, and Hygiene

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

book review—The Future of Us by Julia Loren and others

moon pie prophets
I got a copy of this book when the publisher offered it for free.

The title of this review is taken from a gathering of prophets the author mentions at one point in the book, in what is called the Blue Moon Conference. She calls these people the Blue Moon Prophets, but I think a much more apt and accurate name for them would be the Moon Pie Prophets, and this book does an excellent job of showing why that name would be so fitting.

For example, the first chapter is some kind of an attempt to explain, or explain away, the horrendous inaccuracy rates of so many of these kinds of prophets. "Some of the people I know had predictive dreams or visions that were accurate. Others were not." (p. 18). True prophets of God do not have inaccurate dreams and visions. In fact, one of the signs the Bible gives that we can know that a prophet is not from God is that what they prophesy does not take place. "No matter how long we have walked with God, we can still be deceived by our own soul or deceived by the enemy. No one is immune." (p. 19). This statement alone should put paid to any notion that these people are real prophets of God. Would Elijah or Isaiah or any other real prophet have resorted to such a lame excuse?

"Later, Terry claims that Gabriel visited him again and gave him an actual date for the Vancouver to Seattle devastating quake. That date has passed without incident." (p. 22). Umm...assuming this guy was really visited by some kind of angel-like being, then we now know that it was not really Gabriel, because that angel's prophetic message didn't happen. That angelic being, assuming there really was such a vision, was obviously playing for the other side. "Many prophets also speak about a horribly destructive earthquake demolishing Los Angeles." (p. 25). Yeah, that's so common, it's almost a meme.

Then, there is the rather disturbing rhetoric showing that this author has caved to the climate change scare-tactics. "The Blue Moon Prophets may just be seeing what is ahead if we do not repent, turn from our dependence on fossil fuels and our self-focused materialism, and change our ways." (p. 36). "According to journalist and author Mark Hertsgaard, climate change and global warming are largely to blame for the increase and destructive potential in super storms around the world." (p. 36). It's pretty clear that a lot of the climate change data was skewed and cooked, and that "climate change" is a political tool. One that I guess this author is quite willing to use.

Once you realize that these prophetic words are about as solid as the marshmallow filling in a Moon Pie, you can pretty much put this book own, or read it for the entertainment value. You might find it amusing, for example, when Shawn Bolz claims God led him the false prophet Bob "I prophesied falsely hundreds of times" Jones. Sorry, but God didn't lead this man to a false prophet who was also guilty of sexual misconduct.

So, there you have it. These prophets are completely untrustworthy, their prediction are about as likely to be accurate as the nearest Tarot card dealer and palm reader. You'll know about as much about the future by gazing into a crystal ball as by gazing into this book. These false prophets are just like Moon Pies--flimsy, squishy, not very solid, may taste good to some people but offering little to no real nutritional value.

What works would I recommend? First, regarding these false prophets, I'd recommend Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship by John MacArthur, as his book details the kinds of unbiblical things these kinds of false prophets say and teach, along with Christianity In Crisis: The 21st Century: The 21st Century by Hank Hanegraaff. Concerning how serious and unbiblical this hit-or-miss attitude is concerning prophecy, I'd heartily recommend The Fallible Prophets of New Calvinism: An Analysis, Critique, and Exhortation Concerning the Contemporary Doctrine of "Fallible Prophecy" by Michael Beasley, an excellent book about this issue. All of these books are order of magnitude superior to the drivel in Loren's book.
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Monday, August 4, 2014

very compelling perspective

I think this is a very compelling video, by someone who has to live some of the day-to-day reality that people not very far away from her want her and her people dead. Highly recommended viewing.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

book review—Heart Wide Open by Shellie Rushing Tomlinson


Blogging for Books provided this book to me for free in exchange for an honest review.

Maybe the best and worst thing I can say about this book is that it is very scattershot. There are some good things in it. “God put His love on eternal display by sending Jesus to save us, not because of our merit but in spite of our sin.” Very true, very well put, I could not agree more. But when she then goes on in the next sentence to say “He initiates the love affair with us”, pardon me for cringing. Love affair? The author does know, I would assume, what kinds of things such language refers to, and what kinds of imagery it may well bring up to readers? Is it really wise to speak of God's love for us in the language of illicit, extra-marital, sinful acts?

Two things about it seemed more than a little off to me. One was the emphasis the author constantly makes to experiences. “If I were to be honest, the faith I was experiencing wasn't satisfying my deepest longings at all.” What is that suppose to mean? Did Christ die to “satisfy my deepest longings”? My greatest concrete need was for the forgiveness of my sins, which is why Christ died.

All those times I heard Jesus say, “Come unto Me,” I thought He was inviting me to confirm my eternal destiny, when in reality I was hearing my Redeemer calling me to experience His presence.” Experience His presence? What does that mean? Liver-shivers? An emotional moment? Trying to hear some kind of inner voice? That kind of thinking can lead to some very dangerous places.

The other thing that seems off to me is, I would suspect, a result of the first. There are times when the author displays a very trite view of things. “He (Jesus) isn't just the door to heaven at the end of our journey on earth; He is the door to enjoying our journey on earth, to knowing God and living daily with Him.” “Far from being a party pooper, our Father wants to see us enjoy our lives and make merry.”

Reading things like that puts me in mind of what little I know of the various kinds of sufferings and persecutions Christians in many other nations suffer. One can read about some of those things at the Voice of the Martyrs website. For example, they say that there are 30,000 Christians in prisons in North Korea. There is an account on the website from early 2014, of 78 people killed in Pakistan when two suicide bombers attacked a church gathering. There is another account of a young Christian woman in Somalia who was drug from her house by armed men and killed.

Seen in the light of the kinds of things believers have suffered, both now and over the past 2,000 or so years, this message of “God wants you to enjoy life”, which is so very popular, comes off as being at best trite, and I'm trying hard to not view it as outright insulting.

It's possible to read this book and find some good stuff in it, I've certainly read much worse. But this is an extremely shallow and trite book, and there are things taught in it that have little to no connection to whatever biblical passage the author is referencing. Overall, it's simply another in a long, sad collection of “feel-good theology” that far too many people seem to want their eyes and ears tickled with. Despite some good moments in it, I simply cannot recommend it.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

is there no shame?

So, yesterday, I'm cruising the internet, doing a bit of this of that, when a link over at Charisma Mag caught my eye. It was for something called Dominion Camp Meeting.

Now, if you've been coming here for a while, you may have seen that I will occasion voice an opinion about Dominionisms (I think they stink). So, with that being a bit of a source of curiosity to me, I clicked on the link.

Dominion Camp Meeting is something put on by Rod Parsley. The site is incredibly uninformative, containing mostly rah-rah rhetoric that kinda like cotton candy--all fluff and little substance. Still, the so-called Prayer Form page was most informative, in it's own way.

Prayer Form

Please understand, I don't link to this page to in any way encourage anyone to go there and give this charlatan money.

In the upper right corner of the page, there is a video of Parsley speaking to us viewers. It's not even really much about the camp meeting itself, though it does get some mention.

In the video, he claims...

God sent me with a divine mandate to get you dreaming again.

This kind of rhetoric is very common nowadays. Dreams are the current big selling point, claims that God wants to help you fulfill your dreams are the main message coming from far too many churches. It is, to put it blunt, one of the most popular false gospels being proclaimed today.

But Parsley's just getting started.

Proof of desire is in the pursuit. This is the time to act, this is the time to move, this is the time when we understand that our faith, to operate in faith, required a response.
Oh, a response? Well, what might that be?

Let me encourage you to take a step of faith toward God, toward your dream, your dream, by sowing a seed that God has already placed in your hand. 
And the last part of that statement is accompanied in the video by footage of someone filling out a check. Yeah, now you know what's going on. Why?

Because the realization of every dream begins with a simply step of faith and obedience toward God. 
Really? I guess people who don't believe in God don't get their dreams fulfilled, because they can't take steps of faith toward God?

Your seed is the only influence you have over tomorrow. Your tomorrow different than today, a seed is the mechanism of the deliverance.
So, don't worry about studying or getting job training or anything like that, those have no influence over tomorrow. No, only giving a lot of money to someone like Parsley will change your tomorrow. And, yes, it will change your tomorrow. It'll make you a lot broker.

So, right now, as an act of your personal faith toward God, I want to challenge you to sow a seed with a purposeful expression of the number 14, that God's opening the door to your dreams again. Maybe that seed's $30.14, $50.14, or $114, whatever it is, make sure that 14 is in there, it'll build your faith. 
I am so tempted to fill out the online giving form on that page for $.14, just to see if that would fit within his "whatever it is". I have my doubts that it would be considered acceptable to him, though, and I doubt the teaching set that comes with a generous donation is worth that $.14 anyway.

Listening to Parsley is a study in inducing nausea, though he does have a most revealing story about something he claims former charlatan Oral Roberts said to him.

Let me put this bluntly--what Parsley is saying here is blasphemy of the worst sorts. Nothing of what he says is biblical at all. Giving him $30.14 will do nothing to build your faith, it will only build his bank account and shrink yours. This is a scam, a fraud, and it is a shame to the church that charlatans like Parsley are in any way tolerated by the church.

Last year, there was the Strange Fire Conference, which got a lot of charismatics riled up. But are they riled up over this blasphemous camp meeting? Why not? Why are people like Michael Brown not getting on their soap boxes over Rod Parsley's blasphemous rhetoric? I found out about this camp meeting from an ad at Charisma Mag, why are they allowing such rot to be advertised on their site?

Can a church that tolerates people like Parsley really be expected to stand firm when the world comes knocking, demanding that their pet sins be tolerated, too?

Saturday, June 21, 2014

what is Destiny Image doing, putting out this book?

A while ago, I did something crazy, and joined Destiny Image's book review club, or whatever it was at that time. Hey, if I'm going to read NAR junk and put reviews of it on Amazon, it may as well be for free. I've tried to be fair and my reviews, and some have even had a slight positive side to them, but overall...yeah, garbage.

Anyway, DI did change things recently, and now they simply offer e-books for free or on sale on Amazon, and send e-mail notices about them.

So, a few days ago, I got one of the e-mails. There was a bit of an ad for a book they will release soon. What got my attention about this ad was the quote from someone whom I guess had read the book, and liked it. Here's that quote and the person who is credited for it.

"This book may just save Christianity from us Christians"--Frank Schaeffer.

I don't do it much, for reasons of health, but I know that I have opined about Schaeffer a few times here. For example, Schaeffer is the one who gave us such gems as "...BEHOLD REPUBLICANS WILL NOW OWN EVERY CHILD KILLED BY A GUN". Please note, I did not add the all-caps, that was Schaeffer's doing. Or, these paragraphs...

The terror unleashed on Norway - and the terror now unleashed by the Tea Party through Congress as it holds our economy hostage to extremist "economic" theories that want to destroy our ability to function -- is the sort of white, Christian; far right terror America can expect more of.

Call this the ultimate "Tea Party" type "answer" to secularism, modernity, and above all our hated government. Call this the Christian Brotherhood. From far right congress people, to far right gun-toting terror in Norway and here at home, our own Western version of the Taliban is on the rise.

Foreigners, visitors from another planet and Americans living in a bubble of reasonable or educated people might not know this but the reality is that the debt ceiling confrontation is by, for and the result of America's evangelical Christian control of the Republican Party.
 Please note, yes, I have linked to my own articles above. You can find links to the sources for those quotes on that page, but, frankly (pun intended), I have little desire to stomach any more of Frank Schaeffer's hate-filled nonsense then I must, and so will not link to his words any more than I must.

So, Destiny Image is proudly putting a blurb of this man's words in an ad for a giveaway for this book, Undiluted, by someone names Benjamin Corey. Take a good look at the book's cover, and you'll see that there are a few words in praise of the book at the bottom of the page, by one Brian McLaren. Yep, the same man who has pretty much denied every cardinal doctrine of Christianity.

Now, since the book's page has the author's website, I made a quick little visit, and was certainly not surprised by what I saw, given Schaeffer's and McLaren's words of praise. Basically, it's a blog in favor of progressive --ianity (that may be my new word for it, as there is basically no Christ in it at all).

So, in other words, Destiny Image is proudly promoting a book put out by someone on the far left. Yeah, let that sink in.

If you want to find basically any book on bad Charismatic theology, Destiny Image is your source. So, don't (repeat: DON'T) be surprised at Destiny Image and charismania going to the left. This isn't the first time I've seen this in charismatic writers, and why should it be a surprise? Consider that both charismatics and progressives put much more emphasis on hearing a supposed voice of God inside themselves, over what is actually taught in the Bible. Since both get their guidances from the same source, why should a meeting of their minds not happen?

Saturday, June 14, 2014

book review—The Power of Uncommon Unity by Joey Letourneau

fairy tale theology

I got a copy of this book when the publisher offered it for free.

This book is far too long. If someone had made him to cut out all the needless repetitions, this book may well have been about half it's current size.

I hardly know where to begin in properly critiquing the unholy mess that is this book.

First, I seriously think that this author has never read the Bible. Oh, he has his pet verses he hauls out ad nauseam, thinking they prove his points when they actually don't. But any hint of a serious study of what the Bible teaches is missing in the book, and his conclusions have little if anything to do with what any passage says.

For example, his mangling of the story of Jacob in this book is enough to disqualify him from any pretense of being a Christian minister. “Jacob received the blessing from his father, Isaac, and became a renewed person.” (p. 8). Where does the account of Jacob tricking his father tell us that he became a renewed person? It ain't there. “Jacob was about to leave to begin blazing the trail that was alive within him when his father, Isaac, blessed him again:” (p. 9). This is laughable! Jacob left because Esau was making plans to kill him for his trickery. And blazing the trail that was alive with him? What kind of nonsense rhetoric is that! “But we see that Jacob arrives at Bethel and he is at rest. He is not striving to prove himself or create significance.” (p. 11). It was night! Jacob was sleeping, what most people do at night! This guy's attempts to read his ideas into Jacob's life are so pathetic, that they cross over into the comedic!

Oh, and what he does to the account of Jesus raises Lazarus is, if anything, even worse. “Lazarus was wearing grave clothes, probably could have been considered unclean and in need of some help before he could go forward in life. Even Martha, who so eagerly waited for the miracle she wanted, couldn’t help but focus on the stench of death.” (p. 49). When Martha spoke about the smell, it was when her brother was still dead. “Rather, Jesus called out the life in Lazarus knowing that death would be left behind as Lazarus began to live forward. Jesus spoke to the potential of life within him, “Lazarus, come forth!” (John 11: 43).” (p. 50). What??? There was no life in Lazarus! He was DEAD!!! He had been DEAD for a few days! Lazarus didn't begin to live forward (whatever that means), he was brought back to life. There was no potential of life in him, Jesus himself made a dead man alive again.

Shall I go on? He tries to say that we have to be “shaken”, because of something that happened to a small group of people in the account in Acts 4. That is never taught in Scripture. “How many of us are waiting to be lifted into the same palace of our calling as Joseph was? That palace is waiting for you too, but it might not be where you thought it would be.” (p. 66). The account of Joseph is not intended to tell us that we all have some kind of real or metaphorical palace just waiting for us, any more than the account of Moses tells us we have to leave the palace and go into the wilderness.

This guy's main idea is unity. That's all well and good, but for all of his words in this too-long book, we get very little notion of what that unity is to be built around. And Christian unity is built around certain things. Read the epistles, and you'll see that those who tried to come into the churches and teach against sound doctrine, for example saying that Gentile Christians needed to put themselves under the Mosaic law, or that Christ had already returned, or attempted to add any works to salvation, were decried in the harshest terms. The early church was hardly a big tent.

But this guy's rhetoric is postmodern. “Unity in the Spirit is a seemingly misaligned alignment held together by the One who celebrates our diversity and created us to come together not in spite of, but because of our differences.” (from the Introduction). What diversity are you talking about? “The Father’s Blessing changes this; it embraces the differences in our lives and releases us to approve and empower the differences in others.” (p. 6). What differences are you talking about?

This isn't just a nitpicky set of questions. One of this author's other books, Revolutionary Freedom, has a positive review in it from Shane Claiborne, who is a part of the Emergent Church, someone way far to the left on theological and social issues. Any “unity” that welcomes someone like Claiborne is not Christian unity. The author favorably quotes Bill Johnson in this book. Any “unity” that welcomes Bill Johnson is not Christian unity. The author writes of the nonsense that happened in Toronto as if it were from God, which is wasn't. Any “unity” that says that is not Christian unity.

In the end, this book is more fairy tale than theology. As I've shown in a few examples, this guy doesn't tell us what the Bible says, he creates his own ideas and adds a little seasoning of biblical verses to make it seem like biblical teaching. His rhetoric about some special generation reveals him to be an NAR dominionist, but one with a postmodern twist. It's not the first time I've noticed the young NAR types sliding to the left, and it's not surprising, given that both the NAR and progressive theology are build on foundations of extra-biblical thought and whatever feels nice.

very interesting comparison

Charismatic teaching is breeding spiritual havoc

This man spoke at last year's Strange Fire Conference, and spoke well about the kinds of lunacy taking place in far too many churches in Africa. In this post, he makes some very good points about how, if the charismatics are going to focus on secondary things, then it is any wonder that the people will react as they do.

For instance, there is the view that God still speaks to us independent of the Bible. Drink this milk for a number of years and you will soon be attributing to God the inner voices coming from your fallen self. 
This is so common as to be accepted almost without thought by those who are not in charismatic circles. Teachings about "God's still small voice" are everywhere, and none of it is biblical, because the Bible doesn't teach us to strain to hear any kind of quiet, inner voice.

Perhaps his most interesting statements, though, come when he compares charismatic reactions to the lunacy that happens in charismatic circles to how some people in Islam speak of their religion.

There is a creepy similarity between this phenomenon and what is happening in Islam. There seems to be a fear by many people to state that Islam is the cause of the current mayhem in the world.
He goes on to note that, just as the actions of Muslims, even Muslim terrorists, may be indicative of something in Islam itself causing those actions, so too might the lunacy in charismatic circles be caused by teachings and practices in charismatic churches.

I've given a very little bit of this man's blog post, and recommend that you go and read it yourself. Very thought provoking.

Monday, May 26, 2014

heroes and buffoons

I'm not one who does heroes well. I figure people are like myself--fallen, sinful, doing even the best of works for suspect reasons. I'm not trying to denigrate anyone, for example military people who go into dangerous situations, or firemen and other types of rescue people. There is much to admire in them.

Perhaps I shall make an exception to my skepticism of heroes with these five men, whose names I don't know, nor much of anything else about them. Christian martyrs are people we can admire, and whose courage we can seek to emulate. And these are only a small representation of such Christians, in North Korea and in many other places, who do not deny Christ when threatened by pain or death. I'm giving only a bit of the account on the linked page.


In November 1996, the 25 were brought to the road construction site. Four concentric rectangular rows of spectators were assembled to watch the execution. Interviewee 17 was in the first row. The five leaders to be executed - the pastor, two assistant pastors, and two elders - were bound hand and foot and made to lie down in front of a steamroller. This steamroller was a large construction vehicle imported from Japan with a heavy, huge, and wide steel roller mounted on the front to crush and level the roadway prior to pouring concrete. The other twenty persons were held just to the side. The condemned were accused of being Kiddokyo (Protestant Christian) spies and conspiring to engage in subversive activities. Nevertheless, they were told, “If you abandon religion and serve only Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, you will not be killed.” None of the five said a word. Some of the fellow parishioners assembled to watch the execution cried, screamed out, or fainted when the skulls made a popping sound as they were crushed beneath the steamroller.
Why have this disturbing account? Several reasons. Because it happened, because similar things have happened and are happening, and very likely will happen in the future. Because accounts like this help me stay strong in this increasingly darkening place.

But one of my main reasons is to show the buffoonery of too much of what passes for preaching and teaching in places that dare to call themselves churches.

Take a trip over to this site, The Museum of Idolatry, and take a look at what far too many places that call themselves churches are doing. There is perhaps no nicer word for it than "buffoonery". The church is acting the fool, hoping that will make the world like it more.

And, of course, in acting the fool, they have lost the foolishness of preaching, and instead preach foolishness. I've listened to several of their sermons, via Fighting for the Faith, and what they preach is simply not in the Bible. It might have a few out of context Bible verses attached, but anyone who bothers to actually look at what the biblical passage really says would find that the Bible is being severely misused by these people.

What these places that call themselves churches teach is such shallow, buffoonish things as how to improve your sex life, how to make your dreams fulfilled, how to have your best life now. They tell their people how to lose weight, how to get their finances in order, how to change the world. They have wrestling matches, circuses, motorcycle jumping, and many of kinds of entertainment in their churches.

Many make the boast that they are places were "No perfect people are allowed". Apparently not, because Jesus long ago left their buildings.

One of the worst outcomes to this is that their churches are basically filled with cowards. They want a cushy, easy life, and think that the easy of their lives, or the fullness of their bank accounts, means they and God have a good thing going.

I have my suspicions that, should these relevance-driven church leader be put in a similar position as those North Korean churchmen, they would be all too ready to do abandon their beliefs. Heck, most of them can't stand against the current attempts to legalize sexual immorality, and that's hardly serious persecution.

Remember these five men, who did not love their lives even to death. Remember them, and discard the teachers who only tell you what you want to hear.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

movie review--Godzilla (2014)

good, but lacks some things

I remember looking for news on any new Godzilla movies several years ago, and finding a bit of this, or that, or something else, but not much of anything that seemed really solid, or that I hoped was solid. For example, one thing I found mentioned that the man behind the comically bad Godzilla vs Hedorah (The Smog Monster) was going to make the next movie. If I remember right, it would be set in the South American rain forest, would involve a Hedorah-like polluting monster which Godzilla would battle, and Godzilla would get the beat down put on him but would be saved by a bunch of kids praying to him, I guess because in this movie the big guy would be some kind of rain forest guardian spirit or something.

Yeah, it was something like that. Glad that one didn't happen.

The previews and build-up to this Godzilla gave me some hope that this would be a good movie. The people behind it seemed to be taking it seriously, not relying on the kinds of cheap humor and gimmicks that wrecked the '98 Godzilla takes Manhattan movie. And I have to give them credit for largely succeeding.

By and large, most of the pitfalls of the '98 movie are avoided. The story has it share of clich├ęs, but overall plays things pretty straight. Godzilla in this movie is big and tough, the MUTOs are good "bad guys" who appear angular, insectile, and alien. The human drama is predictable but not badly so.

Still, the movie lacked something.

I think it could best be summed up in the scenes building up to the big reveal of Godzilla himself. He's followed one of the MUTOs to Hawaii, both have come on land, and have just started to face each other. We've had some good views of the MUTO, and now we get finally see the big hero himself, and he is impressive! He crouches, and the roar he gives is enough like the old Godzilla roar to be recognizable, but still very different, too. This is what we have been waiting for, it's time to some major kaiju fighting!

Then...we cut away, and the only things we see of this fight are on a newscast the son of the movie's two man protagonists is watching, a couple of brief seconds.

Even in the last part of the movie, beginning with the much-anticipated halo jump, the movie focuses more on the soldier's attempts to reacquire, failure to disarm, and then move the nuclear device as far from the city as possible, then it does on the monsters fighting. We get some good scenes of Godzilla putting the beat down on the giant female MUTO, then the two MUTOs double-teaming him and getting the upper hand, before the tables are turned and, in pretty spectacular fashion, Godzilla takes care of both of his kaiju enemies.

But all of that still feels secondary to what the soldiers are doing, instead of the other way around. The final giant monster fight is good, but it's far too brief, and never really seems to be the main source of drama for the movie. Recovering and removing the bomb is the main source of drama and tension, not whether Godzilla will win or not.

So, in my opinion, this movie is good, but not as good as I wished it had been. There's so much good in this movie, that it seems nit-picky to focus on the bad, but the bad is there, and even if it doesn't spoil the movie overall, it still takes away from it just a bit, just enough.

I hope this movie signals the start of a new series of Godzilla movies. That would be very good. After seeing what they did to Godzilla in this movie, I can't help but anticipate what they might do with some of the other regulars, like Mothra, Rodan, Ghidorah, Anguires, or Gigan.

book review—Dark Eden by Chris Beckett

somewhat interesting, but a bit of a slog

I received a free copy of this book from Blogging for Books.

I want to give this author some credit for an interesting idea. The closest things I can compare it to are classic stories like Robinson Crusoe and The Swiss Family Robinson, and maybe the more recent movie Castaway, though it's very different in setting and tone from those.

Maybe that's one of my main hang-ups with this story, too.

For me, the first several chapters were a bit of a slog. I found it difficult to feel much of anything except annoyance at any of the characters. Everyone's interest seemed to solely focused on sleeping, eating, and having sex (called “slipping” in this book). Family structures are nonexistent, the consequences of which show up in the large number of people with various kinds of genetic deformities.

It does get better towards the middle and end, though not much outside of location has changed for the main group of characters. I thought the chapters being essentially written or narrated by different characters provide some points of interest, for example in how different characters viewed the same events or even each other.

One of the big problem I had was with the planet itself. Perhaps I am only showing my ignorance concerning how such a planet might really be, but if it's either a free-floating rock not orbiting any star, or doesn't rotate on an axis so that one side is always in night, then I'd think that such a place would be almost as cold as the vacuum of space, and humans could be unable to live there, especially in such a primitive fashion.

Another problem with the story could to traced to one of the big differences it has from works like Robinson Crusoe and The Swiss Family Robinson. It's been many years since I've read either of those books, but I do remember that they were books solidly rooted in the Christian view of things, thus the characters sought to improve their lots and had some idea of how to do it.

For example, in his book Orthodoxy, Chesterton wrote “Crusoe is a man on a small rock with a few comforts just snatched from the sea: the best thing in the book is simply the list of things saved from the wreck. The greatest of poems is an inventory. Every kitchen tool becomes ideal because Crusoe might have dropped it in the sea.” Orthodoxy (p. 56). Some of the better scenes in Castaway are when the stranded character opens up boxes to find out what's in them, and to find ways to make use of those things in his current situation.

In Dark Eden, though, the few things they have from Earth are kept locked away, taken out and shown only at special occasions, more useless to them than museum pieces. There is a lot of talk about things people had and did on Earth, but that's about where it begins and ends. There's more to admire in The Professor on Gilligan's Island making a contraption out of coconuts, bamboo, and one of Ginger's hairpins then the sad community in this book.

I can't say that I really like this book, though I didn't come away disliking it all that much, either. Some of the talk about slipping (sex) got a bit much for me, though the overall casual sexual practices (and the results) were most uncomfortable. Still, there is a good story there, but for me, I'm not sure it's worth slogging into again.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

good book on sale

Spiritual Anorexia

I did a review of this book a few weeks ago, and there was a recent comment there saying the book was going to be on sale for a few days, I think about a week or so starting today. And since it's a pretty good book, I'd suggest getting a copy of it. There's a lot of good things in it.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

book review—Girl at the End of the World by Elizabeth Esther

preview of things to come?

I received a free copy of this book from Waterbrook Multnomah's Blogging for Books program.

For me, the first few chapters were the weakest. Some of the author's attempts at humor came off as needlessly crude, and why the editors allowed the F-word to be retained at one point, especially in such a pointless way, is not easily understood, as it comes off as a gratuitous attempt to be shocking and offensive.

And there were times it seemed I was being asked to feel outrage at things I couldn't understand. Why should I be against homeowners setting up standards of dress and conduct for those who stay in their house? Am I suppose to think it wrong that parents are concerned about how their high-school aged daughter is dressing, the types of friends she has, the boys she's noticing? Am I suppose to think it ridiculous that a church teaches its youth to resist sexual temptations?

And am I allowed to notice a bit of irony that this publisher, Convergent, puts out this book, which seems to be very critical of a form of “community living” as the author's parents practiced it, but also has books written by at least one person involved in New Monasticism? Do NM communities that say you have to pool all the money you earn into a common purse, maybe have a small bit of money given to you for your own personal spending money, and may even determine if you may move away to pursue career aims, seem less oppressive than anything mentioned in this book?

The middle part of the book, until just before the end, was the strongest part. The attempts at crude humor are mostly set aside, and real serious issues with her grandparent's church are brought to the fore, and how they are affecting her and her own family. The double standards inherent in a cult of personality are shown, and those who dare to ask reasonable questions are told to not ask about such things. I doubt any reader would think the author and her husband wrong to leave that network of churches.

And some of her observations on the culture, in and out of the church, are rather pointed, too.

I think there are a few reasons this book may well be worth reading and taking the events recorded in it seriously. I think what the author went through is a lot like what many others are going through, and will go through in the not-too-distant future.

One reason is because the church the author got out of is not very unlike too many other churches today. It is becoming plain that too many megachurches are simply cults of personality. The vision-casting church leader has replaced the pastor who shepherds the flock of God, and in some cases the words of this vision-casting church leader have replaced the Bible. And it is becoming plain that there are double standards in such churches.

Similar to that is how obviously disqualified people are made into leaders in the churches. Do I need to mention names like Todd Bentley and Bob Jones, the prophet? And those are only two names among far too many.

To put it in so many words, in far too many ways the church as a whole is simply a disaster waiting to happen, as occurred with the church this author's grandparents started.

A 3 to 3.5 rating for this book is about the best and worst I can give it. I think it would be worth reading, though I don't have complete agreement with the author in everything she wrote.

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Gospel is for Christians, Too

There were times when I'd wonder why I would attend church services, since very often the services I'd go to did not have much of anything to say to me. When the preacher gave a sermon about the Gospel, it wasn't directed at someone like myself who was already a Christian. Such a sermon was directed at the people in the congregation who might not have been Christians, or perhaps at the Christian who may have drifted and backslidden. When an altar call was given, and the half-dozen or so slow verses were being sung, it was understood that the altar was open only for those two groups of people.

There is certainly a place for preaching to those who are not redeemed, and a very important place, too. But if those are the only people to whom the message is directed, then are the Christians at the service just spectators? Are they there only because they should be? Is the Gospel only for those other people, but not for us who believe?

In the past few years, having been influenced by some people among Lutheran and Reformed churches, and attending an Anglican church, it's been a great relief and blessing to learn that the Gospel is also for me, too.

I am a Christian, but I have also sinned. I have been selfish and self-centered. I have been covetous. I have been angry without good cause, I have said things I should not have said, I have not said things I should have said. Even when I've done things that I would like to think are good works, I must acknowledge the truth of the Bible's statement that all of my works of righteousness are as filthy rags, that they are as soiled and polluted by my sins as a baby's soiled diaper.

In the services at the church I now attend, there is a time when we pray a prayer of confession, where we confess that we have sinned against God in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and not done. We confess that we have neither loved God with all our hearts, nor our neighbors as ourselves. A bit later in the service, we will celebrate the Lord's Supper.

The Christian guy who's put in 40+ hours the past week, the Christian woman who was waiting tables the evening before, the Christian parents who struggled to get the kids ready for church that morning, the Christian high school student who's struggling with all the things such a student goes through, all of these normal, average Christians, we all need to be reminded that Christ died for us, so that our sins can be forgiven. This isn't to excuse our sins, but to remind us that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the chief”. While we should be growing in grace and doing the good works God has given us to do, the Gospel reminds us that the Christian life is not about what we do, but about what Christ did for us.

The Gospel is an important message for the unredeemed, that is true, but it is just as important for the Christian, too.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

book review—Just Jesus by Walter Wink

just the jesus he made up

I received a free copy of this book from Waterbrook Multnomah's Blogging for Books program.

This book is a mix of personal stories and some theological musings. I'll leave the personal stories alone, for what that's worth, because the theological musing are enough to show that the author's views are far from orthodox.

On page 162, the author says about himself, “Interpreting Scripture is what I do best, and most”. It would be closer to the truth to say that it is what he does worst, and least. He does not interpret Scripture; rather, he reads into it what he wants, or twists and contorts things to fit his own views.

For example, on pp. 99-112, there is a chapter (it seems to have been an excerpt from another of his books) about the vision in Ezekiel 1. This is what he says about that vision on p. 102, “And this is the revelation: God is HUMAN”, “But Ezekiel is not beholding a figure of speech. This is really what God is: HUMAN” (capitalizations in the book). Yeah, that's not in the biblical text at all. That's not interpreting Scripture, that's butchering the meaning.

Regarding what the Bible teaches about Jesus' return, he writes, “This heavenly “son of the man” is a long, long way from the Galilean teacher who renounced violence in the name of a nonviolent God”. Apparently, this author doesn't like the notion of Christ returning as a king and conqueror, because it doesn't go with the jesus he made up himself. So, what the Bible teaches about Jesus' return, the rebellion it will be met with and all that, needs to be jettisoned. That's not interpreting Scripture, that's butchering it.

His Jesus is a caricature. He states on p. 167 that he does not believe in the historical reality of Jesus' ascension. For him, Jesus is some kind of archeype of human beings ascending to some kind of higher state, of us not-quite-humans (whatever that may mean) reaching human-ness.

Pp. 152-156 is his attempt to say that homosexuality is now ok, that we should disregard what the Bible plainly teaches about it (and even he acknowledges “Where the Bible mentions homsexual behavior at all, it clearly condemns it”, p. 154). His position is this, “The Bible has no sexual ethic.” Not sure where in the Bible he got the notion that the Bible permitted prostitution, p. 154, he offers no support for such a claim.

To put it succinctly, this author's theological musings add up to this; the elevation of mankind and the denigration of God. With a large dose of political correctness.

While I received a review copy of this book from Waterbrook Multnomah, it was published by Image Catholic Books. I'm not sure what the connection is between those two, but I must question the wisdom of any Christian publisher putting out this book. The views of God, of Jesus, and of Scripture in this book are aberrant and heretical. This author was clearly outside of the faith, and no Christian publishing company should be a part of promoting and spreading this work.