Christmas : A Day of Birth and Death

Today is Christmas. It is a day of birth. The gospel writer Luke speaks of it. “10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” This is  very important. It marks the entry into this world the One whom the prophets of old had spoken. It marks the entry into this world the One who would lay aside all claims of royalty and live as a servant to all. It marks the entry into this world the One who would make the journey from the manger to the cross securing for fallen man his redemption and forgiveness. This is reason to celebrate. If no Christmas, there is no Easter. If no Easter, there is no hope. It is no secret that this is my favorite time of the year. I look forward to this season more than any other. This season brings with it a sense of amazement and child-like wonder. The carols, family gatherings, gift giving, and the sense of good will on behalf of and toward our fellow man only add to the enjoyment of the true reason for this season. To God I am thankful for this day of birth for it brings a reason to believe and One in whom to believe.

Today is a day of death as well. I lost my dad on December 25th, 2012 after a brief six-month battle with lung cancer. It still doesn’t seem real. I remember the events of that day clearly. We were spending Christmas vacation with Terri’s parents in Tallahassee, Florida. Dad was in a nursing home in Tifton, Georgia, about two hours away. We had seen him the day before and knew his conditioning was worsening quickly. We received a call from my step-mother around 6:00am that if we wanted to see him we needed to do so. We made the trip to Tifton. The Hospice nurse was in the room and shared with us what we could expect over the next few hours. I have sat with many, many families as the same information was shared. I must admit, it was very different being on the other side of the conversation. I had the privilege of being in the room alone with my dad when he took his last breath. To have been there to do so, I am very thankful.

My relationship with my dad was better the last ten years than it was the previous thirty. As I shared at his funeral, my dad battled many personal demons that at time led to turmoil and distance. My dad was a Christian. He came to know the Jesus as his Savior through a faith-based alcohol treatment program at the rescue mission where he was living. For this I am thankful. I miss my dad terribly. There are many things I would love to share with him. I would give anything to be able to join him at the Waffle House (his favorite restaurant) and talk over a cup of coffee. One day. Two profound events. Countless emotions. I am thankful that the baby born in the manger is now the Prince of Peace. More than ever, the words of Isaiah 26:3 ring true, “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You. Because he trusts in You”.

Book Review : Is God a Moral Monster?

moralmonsterIn his book, The God Delusion, outspoken atheist Richard Dawkins, writes:

“The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction; jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully”.

Others, like Dawkins, claim that the God of the Old Testament is unfair, jealous, and narcissistic. As a result, they refuse to accept, or are at least unwilling to consider, the reality of a loving God. Some have difficulty with the thought of a Creator desiring to be involved with His created. Others may have difficulty believing in and praying to a God they cannot see. In his new book, “Is God a Moral Monster; Making Sense of the Old Testament God” Paul Copan takes on the challenges put forward by many God-deniers and skeptics. Copan begins by highlighting what is called “New Atheism”. Although atheism has been around for centuries, it has often been passive and not really having a prominent voice. New Atheism is more aggressive, vocal, and in a sense, evangelistic with some proponents actually proselytizing. Throughout his book, Copan regularly refers to the four major voices of New Atheism today: Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchins. It was Dawkins who referred to God as a “moral monster”. Copan tackles the major issues these men have with the God of the Old Testament by turning their own arguments back on them.

Copan’s book is written in four parts. In Part One, Neo-Atheism, Copan responds to the objections of the New Atheists by quoting their own words and using scripture to refute the objections. In Part Two, Copan asks the question, “Is God a Gracious Master or a Moral Monster?” Copan begins to address such issues as the jealousy of God, allegations of “child abuse”, God’s rage, the fallacy of child sacrifices, and the true reason for sacrifices. In Part Three, Life in the Ancient Near East and Israel, he paints a clear picture of what life was like in the days that the Bible was written. Copan shows how the customs of ancient Israel and surrounding nations affect our reading of the Bible. It is here that he author introduces the reader to many of the codified laws of other Near East countries. Put into its proper historical context, Copan demonstrates how the Mosaic Law in fact was an improvement over the laws of that day. This improvement resulted in a regulated slavery, an increase in women’s rights, and less severe criminal punishments. Copan deals with the principle of “an eye for an eye” here beautifully. Lastly, Copan does not shy away from the difficult passages. Copan deals with the New Atheists claims that God is partial in His judgment, a woman hater, a supporter of polygamy, an endorser of slavery, and an ethnic cleanser. He calls into question the New Atheists support of what Copan calls the “is-ought” argument. They believe that just because a law is in narration it is an automatic endorsement by God. He points out that many of the individual laws are what he calls “case law”. The laws that begin with such language as “if a man…” or “if two men…” are examples of this case law. The laws allow for a worst-case scenario in the event such action took place instead of granting license to commit such an act. He also points out the instances where the law had a limited application. These laws, as Copan suggests, were never to be universally binding on all people (only Israel) and were not be permanent. In part Four, Sharpening the Moral Focus, he brings the focus to the New Testament and shows how goodness and morality are the results of the results of a loving and law-giving God.

To prove his case, Copan utilizes certain tools with precision. First, Copan uses the Bible itself to place New Atheists arguments in their proper context. He also uses the Hebrew language masterfully to pull the reader back to the time of the Bible’s writing. Copan also uses their words as a framework for his defense. He also highlights the customs of other Near East nations and their laws to show where the Mosaic Law is situated, again in its proper context. Copan, in a very convincing manner, places the Old Testament law where it needs to be. He says that the law given to the Israelites falls within what he calls “the redemptive movement of scripture”. This means that the Bible, which is God’s story, from the very beginning is moving from a perfect creation that, through sin and disobedience, fell and needed a redeemer. These laws constitute the middle of the story and are not the ideal but were necessary to move God’s people toward their Savior.

“Is God a Moral Monster” is a great work. It is well researched and not an over-scholarly work. As an apologetics work, it is a home run. For the believer, it reinforces God’s ultimate plan of redemption. For the skeptic or searcher, it lays out an argument for a loving and covenant keeping God in a most convincing way. I have a better appreciation and love for God as a result of studying this work. This book soundly burns the atheist’s straw man argument for a petty, jealous, woman-hating, and xenophobic God to the ground.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Baker Books as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Review : Nearing Home

I recently finished Billy Graham’s new book, “Nearing Home; Life, Faith, and Finishing Well”. Billy Graham has been one of my favorite preachers, authors, and examples for many, many years. “Nearing Home”, in my opinion, was primarily written for, and directed toward, older adults. This is not a book of theology. In it you will not find the major doctrines of the Bible discussed and debated. Instead, it is a book of wisdom, advice, and encouragement written by a man who is staring the effects of old age squarely in the face. He writes with grace. It is this same grace that has marked his life as a servant of God, and it is the same grace that enables him to deal with poor health and other life-changing decisions. “Nearing Home” deals with the subject of aging, while practically dealing with subjects such as wills, retirement, and finances. Graham reminds the reader that our God-given purpose is not over until life itself is over.

 “Nearing Home” helps the reader learn how to take hold of God’s will for your life, lean on God when loved ones are lost, navigate life-changing transitions, and biblically deal with fear. The book falls into ten chapters. It does not have the standard feel and structure. Instead, this book takes on a conversational format;  mingled with scripture and personal stories.  This is a simple read written by a man who has given his life to the single purpose of honoring God and leading others to do the same. He encourages and inspires the reader to face the uncertain future with the certainly of Jesus Christ. A quote that inspired me is this one: “The most eloquent prayer is the prayer through hands that heal and bless. The highest form of worship is the worship of unselfish Christian service. The greatest form of praise is the sound of consecrated feet seeking out the lost and helpless.”  “Nearing Home” is well worth your time.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


Worth Repeating

“There never was another Who caused all creation to be ransacked in pursuit of words appropriate to convey to human hearts and minds His glorious pre-eminence. There never was another Who was a human child and also a divine Son; Who was wounded by Satan and Who, at the same time crushed Satan; Who was appointed the Savior of men, yet was crucified by men; Who was Judge of men; yet was led as a felon from one tribunal to another.

There never was another Who died and was buried and yet lived; Who saved others and Himself could not save; Who had no sin in Him, yet all sin on Him; Who was the King of Glory, yet wore no crown but a crown of thorns; Who, in the glory He had with God before the world was, had the angelic hails of heaven and yet, on earth, gave Himself to the murderous nails of men!

There never was another Who was the Prince of life, yet died on Calvary; Who was as old as His heavenly Father and ages older than His earthly mother. There never was another Who was the victim of a Roman cross and victor at a Jewish grave.

There never was another Who poured all seas, all lakes, all rivers out of the crystal chalices of eternity, yet on a cross said with a mouth hot like a parched desert that cries for rain, ‘I thirst’”.

R. G. Lee, speaking of Jesus Christ

Worth Repeating

“The great truths which the apostles declared were that Christ had risen from the dead, and that only through repentance from sin, and faith in Him, could men hope for salvation. This doctrine they asserted with one voice, everywhere, not only under the greatest discouragements, but in the face of the most appalling terrors that can be presented to the mind of man.

Their master had recently perished as a malefactor, by the sentence of public tribunal. His religion sought to overthrow the religions of the whole world. The laws of every country were against the teachings of His disciples. The interests and passions of all the rulers and great men in the world were against them. The fashion of the world was against them.

Propagating this new faith, even in the most inoffensive and peaceful manner, they could expect nothing but contempt, opposition, revilings, bitter persecutions, stripes, imprisonments, torments, and cruel deaths. Yet this faith they zealously did propagate; and all these miseries they endured undismayed, nay, rejoicing.

As one after another was put to a miserable death, the survivors only prosecuted their work with increased vigor and resolution. The annals of military warfare afford scarcely an example of the like heroic constancy, patience, and unblenching courage. They had every possible motive to review carefully the grounds of their faith, and the evidences of the great facts and truths which they asserted and these motives were pressed upon their attention with the most melancholy and terrific frequency. It was therefore impossible that they could have persisted in affirming the truths they have narrated, had not Jesus actually risen from the dead, and had they not known this fact as certainly as they knew any other fact.”


Dr. Simon Greenleaf, Harvard Royall Professor of Law from A Treatise on the Law of Evidence

Book Review : Why God Won’t Go Away; Is the New Atheism Running on Empty?

I have just finished Alister McGrath’s new book, “Why God Won’t Go Away; Is The New Atheism Running on Empty?” In this book, scholar, historian, and theologian McGrath introduces the reader to a group of anti-theists known as “New Atheists”. New Atheism is defined as “an enthusiastic advocation of atheism and a scathing criticism of both religious belief and cultural respect for religion.” McGrath identifies two kinds of atheism. The first is Apathetic Atheism. This group takes the position that says “I don’t believe in God”. They feel no real need to defend their beliefs and have no serious heartburn with organized religion and faith. The second group is known as Committed Atheists. This group takes the position that says “God does not exist”. They have reasons for their beliefs and possess a desire to make those reasons known to all. New Atheism falls in this second category, but goes farther. They do not tolerate religion and believe that apathetic and committed atheists are “cowards”. New Atheism is aggressive and, as McGrath says, “militant” in nature. He says, “The New Atheists make rationality one of its core defining characteristics and emphatically and aggressively denies that any alternative view can be regarded as rational.”

Why God Won’t Go Away is divided into three sections. In the first section, he introduces the reader to the four leading voices of the New Atheism: Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and Christopher Hitchens. He also lists their recent works and how they have contributed to this movement. In the second part, McGrath focuses on and unpacks the core themes of violence, reason, and science. It is here that he exposes the flaws in the New Atheism movement. Thirdly, McGrath explores the question, “Where does the New Atheism go from here?” It is here that he chronicles the decent of New Atheism from the mainstream and how it is losing traction with its original and sympathetic audience.

I really appreciate McGrath’s method of writing in this book. He was kind and fair while giving a solid rebuttal to New Atheism. He has chosen to take the high road in his explanation and handling of this movement. This makes the book work. “Why God Won’t Go Away” is well written, researched, and presented. He has succeeded in pointing out the internal problems of New Atheism and their reluctance to have an open mind. McGrath’s subtitle asks the question, “Is New Atheism Running on Empty?” I believe he has answered that in the positive. I highly recommend this book.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from NavPress Publishers as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Worth Repeating

” Christianity tells people to repent and promises them forgiveness. It therefore has nothing (as far as I know) to say to people who do know that they have anything to repent of and who do not feel that they need forgiveness. It is after you have realized that there is a real Moral Law, and a Power behind that law, and that you have broken that law and put yourself wrong with that Power – it is after all this, and not a moment sooner, that Christianity begins to talk.”

C.S. Lewis

Book Review : ReChruch, Healing Your Way Back to the People of God

 Everyone has heard of it. Many have experienced it. Some have even walked away because of it. What is it? I am talking about Christians being wounded and hurt by other Christians at church. In his book ReChurch: Healing Your Way Back to the People of God, Stephen Mansfield deals with this personal issue from the perspective of one who has been through the hurt. ReChurch is written to the person who has been hurt and wounded and how they should perceive and deal with the hurt. Mansfield writes very matter-of-factly about this recovery.

Mansfield declares from the beginning of the book that he wants to be the “coach” that helps the reader understand the hurt in order to be productive in the future. ReChurch is a powerful tool for the wounded believer. Mansfield handles a very serious subject with an appropriate dose of humor. Chapter five, “The Throne Room of Your Mind” is worth the price of the book. ReChurch is an easy read and will not disappoint.  If you are struggling with a church hurt or know someone who is, this book is for you.

A Leadership Lesson From Days Gone By

I enjoy history. My areas of interest are the Civil War, military conflicts, and presidential history; including presidential speeches. Every speech that a president gives speaks to their individual style of leadership. Although presidents rarely write their own speeches, their passions and desires come through loud and clear. For example, President Reagan’s speech where he called for Russian president Gorbachev to “tear down this wall”, relates to us a passion for freedom and liberty for everyone. President Franklin Roosevelt’s speech after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in which he called December 7th, “a day that will live in infamy”, reveals a want to lead the nation through a tragic and costly attack on its shores. In another speech, President Roosevelt addressed the nation after the invasion of the Allied Forces at Normandy in June 1944. What is unique about this speech is that it is actually a prayer. Here it is:

My Fellow Americans:

Last night, when I spoke with you about the fall of Rome, I knew at that moment that troops of the United States and our Allies were crossing the Channel in another and greater operation. It has come to pass with success thus far.

And so, in this poignant hour, I ask you to join with me in prayer:

Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity.

Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith.

They will need Thy blessings. Their road will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong. He may hurl back our forces. Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again; and we know that by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph.

They will be sore tried, by night and by day, without rest — until the victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise and flame. Men’s souls will be shaken with the violences of war.

For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and goodwill among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home.

Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom.

And for us at home — fathers, mothers, children, wives, sisters, and brothers of brave men overseas, whose thoughts and prayers are ever with them — help us, Almighty God, to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in Thee in this hour of great sacrifice.

Many people have urged that I call the nation into a single day of special prayer. But because the road is long and the desire is great, I ask that our people devote themselves in a continuance of prayer. As we rise to each new day, and again when each day is spent, let words of prayer be on our lips, invoking Thy help to our efforts.

Give us strength, too — strength in our daily tasks, to redouble the contributions we make in the physical and the material support of our armed forces.

And let our hearts be stout, to wait out the long travail, to bear sorrows that may come, to impart our courage unto our sons wheresoever they may be.

And, O Lord, give us faith. Give us faith in Thee; faith in our sons; faith in each other; faith in our united crusade. Let not the keeness of our spirit ever be dulled. Let not the impacts of temporary events, of temporal matters of but fleeting moment — let not these deter us in our unconquerable purpose.

With Thy blessing, we shall prevail over the unholy forces of our enemy. Help us to conquer the apostles of greed and racial arrogances. Lead us to the saving of our country, and with our sister nations into a world unity that will spell a sure peace — a peace invulnerable to the schemings of unworthy men. And a peace that will let all of men live in freedom, reaping the just rewards of their honest toil.

Thy will be done, Almighty God.


Franklin D. Roosevelt – June 6, 1944


Things sure have changed. I believe the time has passed where we will see a presidential speech like this one. I hope that I am wrong. We have heard past presidents, in times of struggle, disaster, mourning, and in times of war, say that we should as a nation pray. What we haven’t seen is a president leading the nation in prayer. This prayer was delivered by President Roosevelt in what he like to call “fireside chats”. Imagine sitting around the fireplace or in the living room as a family gathered around the radio. Imagine one of these families having a son in the military fighting overseas. Then, over the radio, the president takes time to offer a prayer on behalf of those serving and for the families at home waiting. How comforting would that be? Rather than just saying he had faith in God, he demonstrated it before the nation.

It is my prayer that we would see days like this again. I desire to see the leaders of our cities, states, and our nation exercise the faith they profess to have. President Roosevelt’s speech serves as notice to leaders today. The lesson: Never allow your position or status, or the fear of losing it, prevent you from exercising your moral convictions.

Worth Repeating

“Faith today is treated as something that only should make us different, not that actually does or can make us different. In reality we vainly struggle against the evils of the world, waiting to die and go to heaven. Somehow we’ve gotten the idea that the essence of faith is entirely a mental and inward thing.”

Dallas Willard