Musings on Christianity 32

Musings on Christianity 32

Why Aren’t There Miracles?

That question has a connotation that might not be accurate. I, for one, don’t think we have a lack of miracles in the world; we have a lack of faith. If one were to credit every improbable act to luck, then there wouldn’t be any identification criteria for miracle. If one defined a miracle as something not possible, then one is expecting God to break the rules of the universe he created. He can, and He did, but with a purpose.

So first I’d like to talk about the epic, obvious miracles we discuss in the Bible: The plagues of Moses, the parting of the red sea, the sun staying in the sky, and the resurrection of Christ. Those mind-blowing, obvious-to-everyone miracles were signs, endorsements of sorts to those God was working through. The gospel has been given to us. The word is there for us to read and see. The time of prophets is at an end. With no prophets to endorse, there simply isn’t need for those sorts of miracles.

That answer seems simple and short because it is. Again, I point to all those who were around for those miracles. Every wondrous, nature-breaking miracle one might point to was directly attached to a chosen tool of God for His purpose in working His will.

What happens though is that people want to state that since an ocean hasn’t turned to blood or a sea hasn’t parted, we can conclude God has left us or that God doesn’t exist because we have no miracles (spoken of as evidence) to point to.

Readers, the lack of some unscheduled eclipse or galactic shift in the universe is only evidence of the lack of prophets, which we, of course, will have because once God’s own Son came down, anyone else would be ridiculous in comparison. Once God’s own Son returns, He will be with us to rule and guide us.

However, none of that really means God’s hand isn’t visible in these days. Indeed, everything that happens is by the permission or action of God. The evil things that man and the devil bring, God turns to His good. The wondrous things that bring us joy and gladness are by God’s sovereign hand. Even things that are worthy of sadness and trembling could be God working His justice on the wicked. Which is which? How should I know? What I do know is the the God who created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1) is in control.

But the absence of signs and wonders shouldn’t come as a surprise to the elect. Jesus Himself was challenged to perform a wonder of that sort, and He rebuked the people saying no sign would be given (Matthew 12:39). If Christ said no sign would be given, why would anyone keep looking for a sign? Think of the logic flow. If Christ is indeed the Son of God (as Christians like me believe), then there won’t be signs and wonders because He said there wouldn’t be. If Christ were not the Son of God, wouldn’t some wonder or sign have happened by now to discredit His words? This, in fact, is further evidence of Christ’s rightful place at God’s right hand because as He has said, it has been. 

That doesn’t mean Jesus didn’t do some amazing things. Again, Matthew 12:39 needs a bit of explanation. The Pharisees wanted an epic sign. They wanted a heavenly sign. They wanted the sun to go down at noon or the sky to turn red. They wanted a creation-event level sign. This is because they wanted to reject the many healings and even resurrections Christ performed.

Isn’t that a bit like what we’re doing now? If we deny the existence of wonders (even if lesser  than the creation week or the works of Moses), how are we any different than the same hard-hearted men who crucified Christ?

Earlier in this book, I talked about the miracle dog. Sure, some could say that those events were a simple pleasant alignment of a series of unlikely events. If you insist on not seeing providence, I’m not going to convince you of otherwise. However, I’d like to remind you just how amazing life seems to me. I pray, and God answers. I need, and God provides. I sin, and God disciplines. This pattern holds in so many aspect of my life.

I look at the answered prayers in my life, and I can’t help but see God’s grace and power at work. The only world-changing event I pray for is Christ’s return. It will happen, perhaps or perhaps not in my lifetime, but when it does, it will be the beginning of Christ’s rule, and the world will be as it should. However, those other prayers, small and maybe a bit short-sighted, are still lovingly, gracefully answered.

I have a wife, and my heart had just truly started to believe it wouldn’t be. I have children, too. I have a home. I truly have a blessed life, and every part of it is a gift from God. Could He take it away in an instant? Absolutely, and it would be His right. But an honest prayer life and love of God yields many blessings, the most important of which are yet to come, but some of which are here on this Earth.

Does that mean every unanswered prayer is a sign God doesn’t love you? No! I prayed for a wife and children for decades. Sometimes, the blessings are held back for the right time. Again, the sequence of events may seem pleasantly random, but I just don’t buy it. Even God’s elect suffer. God’s own Son suffered, so I would strongly speak against any who say, “Well if you’re suffering, God must not love you.”

But when those seasons end, there are so many beautiful, wondrous blessings.

So no, I don’t expect the moon to explode or the sky to turn green. I don’t expect the stars to reshape themselves into the face of the virgin Mary. I don’t expect any of those things, but I look at my pastor, five years diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, preaching the word of God boldly, and I see God’s grace and power. I look at my cousin, told she’d likely not survive bearing a child hold her beautiful newborn son, and I see God’s grace and power. I look at this virus and fear, and I see God’s sovereignty and power.

Those attributes of God are always there and working. The real question is when are you going to open your eyes and see?

For our panel: Is there a bigger distinction between miracles and blessings than I imply above? What are some blessings or moments in your life that gave you comfort and faith? Has something happened to you that you would call a miracle? What was it? What are some other reasons a person shouldn’t consider him-or-herself “forsaken” just because they may be suffering in the moment?

Book Review: The Creation Answers Book by Don Batten

Book Review: The Creation Answers Book by Don Batten

CoverWhile searching for an apologetics book, I found myself talking to one of the deacons at my church. He happily gave me this book. It absolutely addresses the questions that I was looking for information on.

This book uses geology and other science to defend the historical Biblical narrative.

For obvious reasons, this book will be highly disputed (and perhaps even mocked) by the general community. My response is that like any form of information, it should be read and evaluated for the information it provides. The reader is more than welcome to come to whatever conclusions he wants, but the information in this book is certainly interesting.

The book is outlined by a series of questions like “Does God Exist?” “Six Days” What about the Gap Theory?” and “What About Carbon Dating?”

For someone like me this was an important book to read. I won’t pretend that I’ve studied science more than someone with a degree, but I would at least say that science is a hobby of mine, and I have a very scientific mind. I always seek to understand, and that’s not unholy.

The thing is, schools do a lot to teach theories. But the truth (even science will admit) is that these are only theories. These theories are commonly held and widely believed, but that’s not actually different than any commonly held and widely believed theory. The difficulties Christians might find in proving the Biblical record are only (at most) as difficult as proving several problems that currently plague the scientific, non-believing community.

I read this for the same reason I read science books, to gain information. Of course, as a Christian, I have my opinions, and I invite anyone to read this book and consider its contents.

For me though, this book gave me more targeted things to investigate. The Bible is the only book I intend to believe at face value. Yes, that creates a bias, but that bias is only reflectively different than one who refuses to believe anything the Bible says, which is inadvisable given how much archeology, geology, and historical documentation proves several parts of the Bible and none of those same sciences can disprove any one element of the Bible. Noting a bias is one way to defend against it. This book covers the bias issue as well.

Noting a bias is how one can be objective. If one is aware what they want, they can look more deeply for confirmation. Ignoring a bias is what causes one to simply seek confirmation without ensuring the evidence supports it.

So, if you’re curious as to the creationist view of things, I invite you to give this book a try.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Musings on Christianity 27

Musings on Christianity 27

You Find What You Seek; Your Focus is Your Destination

Keep your eyes on the road. Keep your eye on the ball. Look before you leap.

How many statements do we have out there that reveal the same simple truth? More importantly, why do we need to keep remind ourselves? Even as I type this, more and more come to mind.

While some people take those statements and apply them to businesses or weight loss or scholastic goals, people still sometimes seem determined to focus on the distractions.

If you indeed obtain what you focus on, why focus on fear? If you find what you seek, then one who fears the loss of his possessions or status will inevitably find those things. I’ve always been a driven individual. I have a very limited list of things I focus on. In truth, we should only focus on one thing:

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you (Matthew 6:33).”

If one studies that segment (and a few others) more deeply, they all say the same thing. Keep your focus on God.

A God-focused individual may not appear very different in some respects. For instance, God commands us to be submissive and obedient. This means a God-focused individual will be diligent at work and hard working. He’ll be quick to do as he’s instructed. But there will be some differences. A God-focused man won’t participate in the water-cooler talk. A God-focused man won’t be quick to lose his temper or insist on his own way.

I won’t claim to be God-focused. That’s part of the reason I’m writing this. I currently state I have to work to be God-focused. I aspire to be God-focused. I think about God a lot, but I’d be lying if I said he was the focus of my every thought, and that is the problem. 

If I were to console myself, I’d say that when I truly realize I’m not focused on Him, I reorient myself. I just wish I didn’t have to stop course correcting so frequently in the day.

But what does it truly mean to be God-focused? Does a God-focused person just read the Bible all day and pray? Prayer isn’t the formal activity people make it out to be. Sure, I think every person should spend some time of each day kneeling in prayer, but that’s not the only way to do it. Prayer isn’t a posture or position of body; prayer is a mindset, and that mindset is what it means to be God focused.

First, a God-focused individual must passionately study God. A writer such as myself passionately reads and writes. A musician passionately studies his or her instrument. The key to being God-focused above all else is to passionately study God. The way we do this is reading the Bible.

For those who proclaim to be of the faith, consider this: How often do you read the Bible? If you’re a mechanic, you open a manual for a car pretty often. Journalists have to open the AP Style Book each time they proofread their work. A construction man will have to study the schematics for a building. So again, how often do you study the Bible?

If you’re expecting me to give you a “required” amount of study, I’m going to disappoint you. Salvation isn’t a checklist of deeds, it’s a gift of grace from God. What I will say is that if you only read the Bible when someone makes you, I can’t say I’d call you God-focused. A man who hates his job can still go to work. He’s not focused on his work; he’s focused on his status, appearance, or financial well being.

The heart speaks truth.

This is why studying God’s word is the first step. You can’t do what God wants if you don’t know what He wants. You can’t be focused on God if you don’t even know what things God wants you to fix your thoughts on. There’s a verse in the Bible where he literally tells you what to fix your thoughts on (Philippians 4:8). That list isn’t exclusive, but it is instructive.

Just sitting here thinking about things, I know I’m supposed to be loving (Mark 12:31 among others). I’m supposed to be wise (Proverbs). I know I’m supposed to be slow to anger (Numbers 14:18).

Ultimately, I’m supposed to be perfect (Matthew 5:48). The problem is that my sinful flesh makes that impossible. So how do I strive to do that? I focus and study God’s word, using it to guide my actions.

So the second thing a God-focused person must do is apply what he or she learns from the Bible. As one studies the Bible, one must apply the principles and obey the commands the Bible gives. The more one works at doing this, the more one finds ones self living a God-focused life.

I think that’s the battle. Sometimes it feels like every moment of every day is a battle between what I know the Bible tells me I should do and what I do. Like Paul, I too often find myself doing what I don’t want to do. I want to be a more patient man. I want to be a man who’s slow to speak, but my mouth flies open far too much, and I still don’t have a lick of patience. 

Working to improve is an example of being God-focused. Catching yourself doing something against the teachings of the Bible and adjusting your behavior is a great way to glorify God. I’m quite happy when I do this. I’d just prefer not to have to fix my thinking.

This is discipline. We discipline our actions and behavior according to God’s instruction, and the more we discipline ourselves, the more our thoughts will stay fixed on God.

The third thing a God-focused person must do is have a constant mindset of prayer. Again, we’re not telling you to kneel and pray every second of every day. I pray when one of my sons is acting up, and I know I should respond with patience and a calm demeanor rather than raise my voice. I don’t do it physically; I just think, “God, help me to lead my son to you.”

When there’s a disagreement at work, and I feel the old, prideful person I used to be start to get indignant, I think, “God, help me to be patient and kind. Help me to not insist on my own way.” 

Those are statements from 1 Corinthians 13.

When one incorporates scripture into prayer, it’s stronger. It shows your supplications are a request to do as God wants rather than a demand for God to do what you want. God is loving and generous. He gives such wonderful things to his children (Matthew 7:11). However, He’s not the servant; we are.

We use prayer to lament to God. We use prayer to praise God. We use prayer to offer supplications to God. We use prayer to seek God’s wisdom and will.

We are supposed to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). This speaks to a mindset far more than it does a posture. However, one should be constantly comparing ones actions from a Biblical mindset and thinking about God throughout ones life.

That might take someone as legalistic as myself right back to a mindset of, “Then I should just read the Bible and pray all the time!”

Well if prayer is just focusing on God, then a God-focused person will do this instinctively.

It doesn’t mean everyone should strictly grow up to be a pastor. That’d be a fine life occupation indeed, but God didn’t have all 12 tribes of Israel become priests. God wants doctors and lawyers. God wants teachers and farmers. God, in his wisdom, knows what His people need, and He uses people to provide. God provides leaders and artists. God used people to write His spirit-driven words.

This means we need to study our profession. This means we need to do our jobs, whatever they are. Three months ago, who gave a second thought to a grocery store employee? Now we see how critical those people are. How about food service workers? How long will it be now before you throw a fit at a guy who prepared your food? You see, God raises the meek to humble the prideful (Matthew 23:12). 

  

A misguided person will focus too much on the works. However, if works aren’t what lead to salvation, that what you’re doing isn’t actually what matters. What matters is why. Why are you doing it? How is what you’re doing glorifying God? The doctor performing surgery because it will make him enough to buy a car I can’t spell the name of is lost. The doctor next to him performing surgery because he knows God has called him care for the ill has it right.

The teacher working on a lesson plan because that is what will help him earn a promotion is lost. The teacher next to him working because he knows God has chosen him to teach his little children has it right. 

There is another benefit to this.

You see, a God-focused person isn’t anxious. What does it profit a man to fear the loss of money or food? Will worry grow crops? Will concern in itself keep an illness from infecting you?

This fear-focused person isn’t doing anything for God. In truth, such a person is showing a lack of faith. And what does acting out of fear truly do?

A germophobe might never get sick, but he never gets to experience some of the wonderful things God has given him.

Again, this doesn’t mean, “Do what you want.”  That’s not God-focused. It simply means, do what God wants, trusting He will provide and care for you. He will.

Don’t be afraid for your life. I promise, you’ll die one day. But the saved will live again.

Don’t be afraid of poverty. You were born with nothing, and you can’t take any of your money or possessions with you after you die.

Instead, hold fast to God. He is enduring and everlasting. He will give you what you need.

This is a perfect time to fix your thoughts on God. This is a perfect time to look at your life and ask yourself if you’re really serving Him. This is a perfect time to glorify Him by being generous when others seek to horde for their own comfort. This is a perfect time to glorify Him by being grateful for what you have, even if it’s not that much.

Whatever you do, do it to honor Him.

For our panel: Even as teachers and preachers of the word, would you claim that God occupies your every thought and action? How do you reorient yourself if/when you realize you’re not focused on God in a certain moment? Is going to church “enough” Bible study? Is there more one should do to be God-focused? What verses are good to go to, to help one focus on God?

Musings on Christianity 24

Musings on Christianity 24

Why Read The Bible?

In my time growing as a Christian, one of the things that took me longer than most to understand was the value of reading the Bible. I’m not even sure why when I consider my personality. In the Navy, I hated the idea of people telling me what they thought. I had several people say, “That’s not the way to do it,” or “That’s against policy!” I always wondered, “Where are they getting all these rules?”

I don’t know that every person who ever corrected me or yelled at me (not that it happened a metric ton in the Navy) or even talked to me about policy was ignorant about it or not, but one day someone sat me down to show me what I’d done wrong. Instead of yelling or barking about ephemeral concepts, he printed the actual Navy policy in question. He let me read it. There wasn’t a debate. There was no yelling. There was no overly-long lecture or self-elevating speech. It was policy, and allowing me to read it made it about what the regulation said. I loved it. It was simple and true with no bias toward emotion or personal preference.

From that day, I always wanted to look at the policy. At my current job, I periodically read my unit’s information guide because I really do want to do what is right. That’s always been a guiding principle of mine, and so I grew to love the law. Why then, did I never read the Bible?

Please don’t misunderstand. There were several times and periods of my life where I read the Bible. What I didn’t do was read and study it daily or read it all the way through even once.

One day, while talking to one of my protégées in the Navy, I told her how important it was for one to always read the policy. For some reason, that was the moment I realized I was avoiding the source. I was angry at “organized religion.” I was angry at “Bible thumpers.” Now I realize a great deal of those “Bible thumpers” hadn’t read the Bible (at least not all the way through). They’d shout at people whatever scripture they thought was relevant, but they did it from the mindset of convincing others to do what they want rather than focus on what God wants.

We see this all the time. We see it in people who falsely claim that people of color are cursed (they’re not). We see it in people who falsely claim that people of different nationalities are lesser (they’re not). Those people love picking one verse out of context and running with it.

But the Bible is one book with sixty-six parts. If you don’t study and see how they go together and interact, your doctrine will be wrong. That doesn’t mean a person can’t study for certain things. This very book is a Biblical research project, and that’s what led to this particular chapter. You see, those who would degrade the word of the Bible probably do so because they encountered several of the people who abused it (like those above).

It was hard for me to believe the Bible was the word of God. (Wasn’t it written by men?) It was hard for me to believe the historicity of the Bible. (How could the things in the Bible be true?) What convinced me? Sure enough, I actually decided to sit down and read the whole thing. I had questions, but I didn’t declare those questions inconsistency and put it down. Rather than let my questions become reasons to stop reading and growing, I let my questions drive me to seek answers. Rather than check history, archeology, and science (real science driven by fact and not “commonly believed” bias), I checked those things against the Bible, and thus far, the Bible has won every time.

Even in the most easily recognized areas of dispute (you’re saying the world was created in six days? What about … ) the very things people use to dispute the word of God are not provable by the very science they claim debunk the Bible. The theories of the universe and evolution (and other long-held beliefs called “science”) are at-best theories that scientists are seeking to prove. The best of those scientists are objectively seeking truth based on that hypotheses, understanding that a hypotheses is just that. The worst of them have the same dogmatic rigidness they accuse a Christians of having, believing without real evidence or even the scientific desire to seek consistent evidence on the subject.

While I believe I have a scientific mind, I don’t have the scientific knowledge to prove anything, nor will I try. What I will say though is even a casual investigation into man’s biggest questions from the Bible are only (at-best) as challenging as the same “proofs” scientists have been striving to find.

If I were more scientific, the remainder of this chapter would be used to help secure one’s faith by using scientific evidence to prove the validity of the Biblical record. (Or even prove the truth of it. Truth and validity aren’t the same thing.)

That science is being conducted, and the information is out there. I’m studying it as we speak. I’m just not as versed as I’d like to be, and any effort I make in that vein will only cause more skepticism. 

Instead, I want to use my time in this chapter to tell you what reading the Bible has done for me.

Reading the Bible keeps me centered. I’m a passionate man. I’m a man of high emotion and drive. I’m also one who believes in doing what is right. I’m not without error by any means. I get distracted at work. I can be argumentative. But when I see someone doing something I know is wrong, I can be pretty unloving about how I point it out. I hope I’ve grown in this, and the people who know me have said this is true. But I was pretty thunderous in my rebuke of people who “weren’t doing it right.” I was also pretty hypocritical, pointing out the wrongs of others without any regard to my own transgressions. 

Reading the Bible puts my mind on God and his commands and how a person should live. It gives me balance between love and truth. It gives me humility when I want to be prideful. It gives me patience when I want to be hasty. It gives me discipline when I want to be wrong.

Reading the Bible gives me knowledge. A few years ago when I had so many questions, I could use those questions to excuse what I wanted to do or avoid things I knew I should be doing.  A good portion of the Bible (the epistles), are all about guiding young believers in their walk and helping them grow. The answers are there if you read and seek. Reading the Bible (go figure, in the same way you’d read any book) gives me scope. I see how things come together. I better understand doctrines that used to elude me.

Reading the Bible gives me confidence in my faith. That same period I had questions, I also used those questions to feed my doubt about Christianity. Reading the Bible removes that doubt. Do you worry that there are inconsistencies in the Bible? Don’t, while there are parts that don’t match exactly, the Bible is amazingly consistent from Old to New Testament.  Most of the reasons things don’t line up exactly have more to do with the intended audience of the work than errors in factual reporting.

This is something I teach my students. A journalist writing a story for Navy News Stand is going to format a story very differently than if he were writing it for the Yuma Daily Sun. The facts are in there. Some are left out because they matter less to one reader than another. Some are emphasized because they’re more important to one audience than another. But there is no one verse of the Bible that directly contradicts another. Only a passive scan of the Bible with the intent to find discrepancies (rather than a thorough reading with the intent to find truth, in this case to learn what it really says and why) would find evidence. However, that evidence of discrepancies never holds up against a careful reading of all the context and other accounts.

I’ve come to learn this by reading the Bible carefully. I had doubts. I may have even started my first full read through of the Bible expecting to find discrepancies and inconsistencies. They just aren’t there.

Reading the Bible fills my spirit. My human heart is prideful, arrogant, resentful, and unkind. Do I reflect those qualities more than say … a maniac? No, but just because I’m not as evil as one man doesn’t remove those characteristics from my flesh. My flesh is weak, but my spirit is so very willing to grow, and it is the overcoming of those fleshly desires that glorifies God. Reading the Bible strengthens my spirit. It arms me with the tools I need to be loving in my rebuke and humble in my mindset. I need this so much. The more I read, the easier it is to recognize when I’m thinking with a self-centered mind. (I think. I want. I believe.) The more I read, the more readily I think with a god-centered mind. (What does God say? What does God want me to do? How are my actions glorifying Him? How am I bearing Him fruit?)

There are other books that speak about the historicity, validity, and truth of the Bible, and the panel is more than welcome to contribute to those subjects. But a communication teacher who has only read the Bible all the way through one time probably isn’t going to convince anyone of those things. But a guy who reads twenty-thirty five books a year talking about what reading this book does for him? That’s probably a bit more effective. If you haven’t tried it, try it. Even if you just read it for the sake of reading anything, you’ll see how the whole story comes together in a beautiful and comforting way.

For our panel: What are some other reasons to read the Bible? Did you have any doubts in your walk in the faith? How did reading the Bible remove those doubts? Was there a particular portion of the Bible that was harder for you to believe or help others believe? How did you use the Bible to learn the truth, or how did you find certainty?

Book Review: Twelve Unlikely Heroes by John MacArthur

Book Review: Twelve Unlikely Heroes by John MacArthur
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Image taken from book’s Goodreads page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Twelve Unlikely Heroes by John MacArthur is another book in the vein of Twelve Ordinary Men.

This story talks about 12 heroes from the Bible, but they may not all be the heroes you’re thinking of.

This didn’t have the staying power or resonance that 12 Ordinary Men had on me, but it was nice to read. Most of the stories show how people pass from fear to faith, so people who are struggling with spiritual issues of courage would certainly benefit from reading it.

The book also does a great job of showing how it is God who equips men who can then serve Him to do His will.

I think what I liked most about this book was the insight it gave regarding God’s grace and patience when calling people to action. This book talks about a few judges (from the book of Judges), and each of them had moments of extreme doubt. Honest, humble prayer always yielded results. That is an encouraging thought.

John-MacArthur-Primary-2I don’t know if there are more books from MacArthur of this sort, but I still think Ordinary Heroes was the strongest of the batch. However, this book is still a nice look into characters of the Bible. It lets us study those characters and glean insights about how God works (or can work) in our lives.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review: 9 Common Lies Christians Believe by Shane Pruitt

Book Review: 9 Common Lies Christians Believe by Shane Pruitt
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The cover of this book was taken from its Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

9 Common Lies Christians Believe and Why God’s Truth Is Infinitely Better is a book that takes nine phrases and explains why they are misperceptions. However, this book doesn’t stop there. Like the title, if you  just say, “9 Common Lies Christians Believe,” the reader doesn’t really understand the purpose of the book. The book takes those lies and shows how the truth is indeed better.

This book really had an impact on me. You see, some of these phrases are ones I’ve used and even sought for comfort, and they weren’t effective. Many of them (in my opinion) are just to the left or right of the truth, but to seek these things and not scripture can leave a person unfulfilled and even disenfranchised because they have only a partial understanding on what it is to be Christian, and the lack of a complete truth becomes an effective lie that works against the faith.

Shane Pruitt does an amazing job of breaking down each phrase and clarifying it with solid theological information if not direct Biblical reference, which might be the only gripe I have on this book.  It’s been about three months since I finished the book, so I can’t be sure, but I don’t recall any scriptural reference, which I think would have multiplied the effectiveness of the premise.

I don’t want to take from Pruitt’s book, so I’ll only tease a few phrases he looks into:  Follow your heart. God just wants me to be happy. God doesn’t give more than you can handle.

Shane.jpg
This image of Mr. Pruitt was taken from his website for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine. 

I’ve used almost all nine of the phrases in the book (I think). And this book helped me see in a different light. Some of these things I have come to learn through my own walk in life, but this book validated a lot of those evolved ideas. Others I realize what I meant, but what I meant (connotation) was vastly different than what I said (denotation).

I think this book is something I’d recommend to anyone new in the faith or someone who is interested in becoming a Christian.  Obviously, the best book to read is The Bible. This book does provide some pretty good context to a lot of things many Christians say or even think.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Sonnets For My Savior 30

Sonnets For My Savior 30

The Body

Where is the body you worked so hard to bury?

What happened to the guards you set to watch the grave?

Rejoice believers and be merry,

Look, there is no body in the cave!

Man has found the tomb of Tutankhamun.

Indeed the body John the Baptist lay in Syria.

But where is the body of the Son of Man?

The truth is those who would deny him lack the most basic criteria.

Some have claimed he was stolen in the night.

Doubters say the body was concealed.

Couldn’t Rome and the Pharisees find a body with all their power and might?

Instead the Faith grew with no body revealed.

If emperors and armies sought the body and could not see,

the only logical reason is that He is risen! He is risen indeed!


 

Lazarus

Lazarus sleeps while his sisters cry.

They send word, but the time has not come.

They fear Lazarus is doomed to die,

but this trail is for the will of God to be done.

Four days, Lazarus slept.

Jesus arrived, already knowing what had occurred.

He looked upon the sisters and wept,

but what happened next, would change all who saw and heard.

“Come out!” the Lord had said after they’d rolled the stone away,

and out Lazarus came, strips of linen around his hands and feet.

Many saw and believed that day,

From then on, the hypocrites plotted, blind in their conceit.

They never thought to ask themselves the meaning of the event,

that the world could look and see that Jesus was truly, truly God sent.


 

Reason For Suffering

True, some people suffer for the sins they commit.

The wickedness of the wicked is upon himself.

Relief is there for those who turn to Christ and submit,

but only death waits for those who relies on themself.

There are also those who suffer so that God may be glorified.

Observe Job and see how he endured.

Be patient and trust God will provide,

Do not turn to sin for comfort, but hear these words and be reassured.

Still those who are truly blessed are those who suffer simply for his sake.

Blessed are those who are persecuted and reviled!

For the Kingdom of Heaven awaits!

Rejoice, for your rewards have been gathered and piled!

For whatever reason one thinks he may suffer,

Seek Christ; trust in him and no other.


 

To Control Ourselves

Some seek to use the Word to lift themselves up.

They use scripture to justify their own goals.

They have no interest in drinking from their own cup.

In seeking to condemn others, they only risk their own souls.

Some seek to use the Word to do as they wish.

They only seek the words that validate their own desire.

They treat the word like some sort of buffet dish,

but this path only leads to fire.

The saints are called to judge each other.

God judges those outside.

But consider also before you call out your brother,

what sins of your own are you trying to hide?

When we pull our Bibles from the shelves,

we should use it first to control ourselves.


 

The Greatest

He who would be first should be last.

Those who would be greatest should serve.

Let man’s pride be left in the past.

For we’ve already received more than we deserve.

Seek to be the servant of all.

Welcome the little children in his name.

Listen to hear His glorious call,

rather than seek your own fame.

A servant is not greater than his master.

A messenger is not greater than the one who sent it.

To serve the self is the path to disaster.

But blessed are those who serve and submit.

Care for the children and welcome them;

those who do receive Christ and the Father who sent him.


 

The Greatest Power

There is only the one creator.

He who made all.

There are none who can do more,

And all power is His to call.

No burning star,

Can shine as bright.

No crashing wave

Can match His might.

Other powers desire

What tiny spark he gives

But none can match the fire

Of the eternal God for which we live.

No other power can compare

Against the Lord, our God, who made the sea, land, and air.


 

Hold Me

Hold me tightly, Lord, in your mighty hands.

I know none can take me from you.

Your might is greater than anyone understands.

Whatever comes, You can carry me through.

Grip me more tightly, Lord, that I might be nearer

Nearer to you every day.

As You carry me, my eyes become clearer.

As I am with You, I see a better way.

Hold me, Lord, and let me take my rest in Your grace

Because I have none of my own.

I have no hope if I plead my own case;

I am forgiven through Christ alone.

Hold me tightly, Lord, that I might feel you with me.

Your embrace is comfort; Your love sets me free.

Book Review: The (NIV) Bible

Book Review: The (NIV) Bible

NIVGreetings all,

This review has been long in coming. It was easily my favorite book of 2018 (for a number of reasons)So a real in-depth review of this book is simply not possible. There are numerous versions with commentaries for each book. So I took some time to think about what I could offer that I haven’t already said.  So here’s what I came up with:

Why the Bible? As I’ve said, this book changed my life. I see and think differently.  My coworkers have noticed. People who hang out with my family notice. The more I try to read and understand how to live Biblically, the better I feel, and the more blessed I feel. Despite some low lows in 2018, I had a source of comfort, support, and wisdom.

Favorite Books:  My favorite book of the Bible is actually Job. Why? Because that guy suffered. That guy had everything, lost everything, and gained even more. His story gives me context to my life. His behavior during his trial gives me perspective on how I’m supposed to act during my trials. It’s not a “fun” book of the Bible or even very comforting. But it is edifying. It gives me perspective that I don’t think I would see the Bible, Christ, salvation, or suffering the same way without it. A close second is Romans.  I’m not sure which of my old blog posts I went into detail on that, but I did. I’m sure if you search Romans, M.L.S. Weech, you could see an in-depth perspective on why that book means so much to me. The short version is that I find that book to be the most comforting book in the Bible. That’s probably different for anyone (my wife seeks the Psalms for comfort for instance), but that’s my vote.

Leviticus
Image taken from the Covenant Community Church website. This image is not an endorsement or condemnation of CCC or its doctrine. I simply wanted an image for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine. 

Books I Struggled With the Most: I’m currently reading 1 Chronicles. I’m starting to put together what it’s doing. But I’m at a complete loss in this book. Yes, that makes it harder to enjoy. Also, it’s repetitive. Now, I’m certain there is a wisdom and there are many secrets to glean from this book and many others. One idea I’m playing with is a study of Christ through his genealogy. 1 Chronicles makes that sort of study possible. Some may argue Matthew or Luke, and they’re not wrong per say, but Matthew skipped a number of  generations to simplify memorization. 1 Chronicles lets me fill in the blanks. I also struggled with Leviticus. I understood what it was setting up a bit more, but it was a lot of direct information.

Bible StudySo I close this with another attempt to explain why I think reading the Bible is such a worthy endeavor. First it is my personal opinion (I’m unaware what my church thinks on the subject), that simply reading the Bible with an open mind is honestly one of the best things one can do if they are interested in salvation. Now, let’s assume you’re not saved and have no interest in being saved. Very well.

This book is still the richest single collection of narratives, poems, and historical information one can hope to find. Let’s get the tangental comment of historical out of the way. First, not even a scientific atheist would argue the existence of a historical Jesus. Debate the other aspects if you wish, but no one denies it. Even still, that’s not actually what I mean. I’m referring to the Epistles, which are actual letters written by actual, historical people to actual, historical readers in archeologically verified locations. Letters from Paul, James, Peter, and John are like finding an old World War I person’s journal or letters to home. This is my basis for the term historical information. Sure, one can read a thousand books on a thousand locations, but the Bible provides one book about dozens of locations.

So whether for spiritual purposes or educational, reading the Bible is a pursuit most worthy.

I hope you’ll choose to try it. If you have questions on where to read or why, I’d be happy to offer you my thoughts.

Thanks for reading,

V/R
Matt

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Right Thinking in a World Gone Wrong by John MacArthur

Book Review: Right Thinking in a World Gone Wrong by John MacArthur

Right Thinking in a World Gone Wrong: A Biblical Response to Today’s Most Controversial Issues by John MacArthur is a book that offers Biblical perspective on a great number of issues. It was compiled by MacArthur and the leadership team at Grace Community Church, according to the book’s Goodreads page. I read this because I truly desire to have a Biblical mindset in all I do.

This book was honestly hard to read. This has nothing to do with grammar or structure. It’s hard to read in some places because of the blunt nature of the story. It doesn’t belittle or demean in any way (at least not from my perspective), but it doesn’t leave any room for doubt on what the Bible says about a great number of things.

John-MacArthur-Primary-2
Image of John MacArthur taken from his website for review purposes.

I honestly intend to read this again not that I’ve had some time to do more Bible study and prayer. There’s a natural instinct people have when they hear any religious leader speak on what might be earthly sensitivities. Some of the information on this book challenged me. 

To be clear, while I have a great amount of respect for Dr. MacArthur, his books are not a replacement for Scripture or doctrine.  I don’t think he’d ever want them to be. As hard as it may have been to face some of the subjects this book covered, I think any person should at the very least search his or her own heart and question the motives for their beliefs. I’d take it one step further and say that I’d like to read this book and then reference the associated (or attributed) Scripture for further understanding.

I find myself bucking at some of the stances, but that might be a result of the hardness that’s in my heart. Some of these stances are ones with which I agree fully, but that might only be out of self validation.  I feel another read-through with intense study on the associated Scripture is the best way to seek truth.

This book isn’t for people who are only curious or passingly interested in Christianity. A stance this strong on issues this hotly contested is a mirror that challenged my reflection. My perspective is that faith is something people grow in. I’m in a different place in my walk than others. The problem is, this is an argument commonly given by self-proclaimed believers who say words but don’t grow in the faith and aren’t becoming more sanctified.

As I type this, I think about the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:1-23). Hardened hearts aren’t going read this story and find anything but frustration. Hearts enamored by the things of this world will be choked off from any wisdom one might glean from these words.

Truthfully, the only singular authority in the Bible is God. Men study it to learn His meaning for His word. A book like this for me forces a person to seek that Word and let it change his heart for the better.

What I know this book does is provide information, a stance, and a Biblical platform to guide these. I don’t have any metrics, but I would hypothesize this book has to be among Dr. MacArthur’s most contested. The truth is in the Bible, and I hope to reflect on those passages and pray on their wisdom.

Thanks for reading,

V/R
Matt

Sonnets For My Savior 25

Sonnets For My Savior 25

The Word

Sit and discuss the Word.

Read every chapter and verse.

Reflect on what you heard.

However, the meanings of the Word are not diverse.

Too many seek what they desire

rather than what the Word means.

Do not lead yourself astray and conspire

to alter the Word to fit your own routines.

Read to discover the author’s intent.

Do not look on the truth with fear.

For the Word is truly Heaven sent,

and the wise consider its literal meaning dear.

Do not sully the Word with your own interpretation,

for that is the path to heretical deception.


 

Why Come

Why do you come to Him?

Was it because he filled your bellies?

Do you think he’ll cater to your whim?

What you feel in your heart, he sees.

He can provide sustenance.

He can heal our illnesses.

Yet we should seek Him for repentance.

We should act as His witnesses.

Indeed he came to serve,

but serve as a ransom.

That service was already more than we deserve,

for the gift of His grace is handsome.

Indeed people call to Jesus for a great many things,

but the first thing we should seek is the salvation he brings.


 

Moses the Witness

Moses saw Him, but not then.

He was the scepter who rose from Israel.

Though Moses knew not when,

he knew Jesus would come to save his people.

Moses told the people God would raise another like him from among them.

He said, “It is to him you shall listen.”

But when Jesus came and spoke to them,

they did not listen to a word that was spoken.

They claimed to obey the law,

but they refused to come to Him.

Despite every miracle they saw,

they chose instead to cling to sin.

Whoa to those who ignored Moses’s testimony,

for it is written, “For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me.”


 

Bad Leaven

They replaced the word

with their own traditions.

They did what they preferred

forsaking the Lord’s commissions.

These men strained out a gnat

but ate the whole camel.

They knew exactly where their hearts were at,

but they chose pretense while being hypocritical. 

Their teachings and actions were done for the sake of men.

Their desire was to be praised by others.

Their eyes had drifted down from the Lord in Heaven,

allowing people to dishonor their fathers and mothers.

Leaven like this should always be rejected

lest the paths of those who eat of it be misdirected.


 

Anything

With faith as small as a mustard seed,

mountains can be moved.

Through faith, we receive all we need,

and, through faith, all obstacles can be removed.

Trust in the Lord, for he is faithful.

Trust in the Lord, for he is generous.

Don’t let time lead you to think Him forgetful;

for his timing is perfect, and his deeds are wondrous.

Faith can heal the sick.

Faith can protect us in dangerous situations.

True faith stays through thin or thick.

Faith can turn people into nations.

Our greatest reward shines like the sun,

for those who have faith in Christ, receive His salvation.


 

Grace

His grace is sufficient for all.

It is the way we are justified.

Blessed are those who hear His call,

for all who are justified are also glorified.

It is good for grace to strengthen our hearts.

For we are saved by grace and not by works.

Christ is the one who, to each, imparts,

the grace that brings light like sparks.

His grace is a gift

we do not deserve.

Yet His grace can lift,

all who are called to serve.

We are free from the oppression of sin

because of the grace we received from Him.


 

Approach With Humility

They came to bring Elijah to account,

One captain with fifty men.

They thought their number was a large amount,

but fire came down and consumed all of them.

Again another captain came,

and again, they made demands.

Again, fire did rain,

and consumed each and every man.

Finally came a third,

and he fell to his knees.

This captain feared what had already occurred,

so he approached Elijah with fear and unease.

So do not approach the Lord and expect to impress with your power or ability,

instead approach him always with the utmost respect and humility.