Book Review : Unashamed To Bear His Name

Prior to reading Unashamed To Bear His Name; Embracing The Stigma of Being a Christian, I had never heard of former pastor and author R.T. Kendall. The premise of his new book is to better understand the stigma and shame that comes from being a Christ-follower and learn to appreciate and embrace the negativity that comes from being a Christian in the modern era. Kendall uses the Greek definition of scandal and stigma to give the reader a proper word picture by which to frame how we are called to live as Christians. “Scandal” in the original language means to be caught in a trap or snare. Today, scandal refers to that which offer the moral sensibilities. “Stigma” in the original language meant marked with a reproach. Kendall’s use of the these words show that being a Christian is offensive to many and that we are marked people today.

Kendall begins the book with a brief history of his early life, including his 25 years as pastor of Westminster Chapel in London. The following chapters explain why the gospel of Christ is so offensive to many. He writes, “What is so offensive about the Christian faith can be briefly summed up: Jesus Christ is the only way to God and faith in the blood that He shed on the cross fits a person for heaven when they die”. Kendall uses the lives of the Old Testament saints such as Noah, David, Joseph, and others to show how far back this stigma has applied. Chapters nine and ten, “The Reason the Jews Missed Their Messiah” and “The Stigma of No Vindication” are the best in the book. Kendall then goes on to point out how scandalous the ministry and work of the Holy Spirit is in the world today.

I cannot agree theologically with everything Kendall wrote. That being said, I enjoyed and appreciated the way Kendall puts for the gospel and our proper response to it. I can recommend this book with great enthusiasm. Kendall’s quote from the beginning of the book gives a proper summation. He writes, “I write this book basically for one reason: that you will be unashamed to accept the scandal that arises from following Jesus Christ. More than that, you should become willing to embrace that scandal, to take it with both hands and rejoice in the privilege that you are a part of the greatest enterprise on the planet – namely, to be associated with the name Jesus Christ.”

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 : God Forsaken

“God Forsaken; Bad Things Happen. Is There a God Who Cares? Yes. Here’s Proof.” is Dinesh D’Souza’s new book. As the title suggests, there is a portion of the population who feel this way. They feel as though God has abandoned them. They feel as though God does not care and even may be “out to get them”. D’Souza tackles what is arguably the most often-asked and most difficult question of our day to answer. How is it that God can be so good and at the same time allow evil and suffering in the world He created? He sets out to answer this question using a modern and scientific approach. D’Souza gives three purposes for writing this book. First, to “answer the atheist argument that evil and suffering in the world somehow contradict the idea of a God who is both omnipotent and good.” Second, to “convince both unbelievers and believers that there is a reason and purpose for evil and suffering”. Third, to “specifically address Christians who are suffering.”

D’Souza writes from the vantage point of a debater, who through the years has debated many of the leading atheists of the day. For the most part, this book is written to address their own positions as it relates to the omnipotence of God and human suffering. In Chapter three, “Limits of Theodicy”, D’Souza defines theodicy as the “task of reconciling divine omnipotence and goodness with the existence and extent of evil and suffering in the world.” He says that for centuries Christian authors and thinkers have been active in this practice and have offered many different theories of vindication for God. D’Souza believe the standard and usual answers are no longer sufficient.

God Forsaken meticulously lays out the reasons why an omnipotent God may allow evil and suffering in this world. Such reasons are that He may have a morally sufficient reason to allow it, there may be a greater good to be revealed through the evil and suffering, some evil is necessary for humans to exist, and much evil caused at the hands of humans themselves and not by God. These are simply stated here, but D’Souza defends these positions in great detail throughout his work. This book is not an easy read. It is written from a scientific approach, which at times is a hindrance. There is also very little scripture references throughout. Chapters five and six, covering God’s sovereignty and man’s free choice will likely frustrate the Calvinist readers and bring out the “straw man” arguments. I found the target audience to be a bit confusing. Is it a book for Christian apologists geared toward atheists, or is it book for Christian apologists to encourage other apologists? In spite of this ambiguity, this book will be well worth your time.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Tyndale House 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.”

On the Death of Osama bin Laden

I am troubled today. Deep down inside I am troubled and trying to find a place of balance. I am not sure how to process all that I am seeing.  The main news item over the last two days has been the death of known terrorist leader Osama bin Laden. Each newscast has given more and more information, more and more detail of the military operation that led to his death. Once bin Laden was identified as the mastermind of the terrorist attacks on America in September of 2001, our military has been searching for him in order to hold him accountable for his unspeakable acts of violence. Persistence paid off, bin Laden was found, and justice was carried out on behalf of the American people. There is a great sense of relief on the minds and faces of Americans as a result. This is most clearly seen in the police, first responder, and firefighting communities, along with the families of those fallen on that September day. Television news programs have been running this news story over and over and over, each one with a different twist. There have been images of people cheering in the streets on Sunday night and early Monday morning, even in front of the White House. There have been images released of President Obama and his military leaders watching live Sunday’s raid on Bin Laden’s compound. There have been images of the actual scene released of the room in which bin Laden was killed.  The US is celebrating the death of Osama bin Laden. I believe some of this celebration is rightly placed. After all, he is believed to be responsible for the death of over 3000 American on 9/11 and other attacks around the world on Americans. The US is at war with terrorists like Osama bin Laden who would seek to do harm to Americans, and the values America holds so dearly. We go to great lengths to protect and defend those values and hold accountable anyone who would threaten them. I understand this belief and resolve very clearly. I understand that the actions taken by our government in this case were necessary to further protect American life and liberty. I am former US Marine and Gulf War veteran. I enlisted in the military to serve and protect the United States from threats just like Osama bin Laden. I understand the military side of what has happened.

Let me say a few things first. I am not a fan of Osama bin Laden. Not in the least. I am not a fan of terrorists who shed innocent blood in the name of religion. I am a proud American who would want to live nowhere else in the world. I am a Christian and believe that God is sovereign over the events and actions of His creation. I also believe that God will judge all men and women fairly according to His righteousness. Having said all of this, some questions come to mind.

1. What is the watching world seeing and thinking as we celebrate bin Laden’s death in the fashion that some are? Will the world see this as the US seeking justice, or merely wanting revenge?

2. Will our witness and ability to share the gospel of Jesus Christ around the world be hindered by our public celebrations? Is it possible that when we as Western Christians present the gospel to those in the east, they will simply, and only, remember our celebration?

3. Will our missionaries serving in predominantly Muslim regions of the world have a now tougher time in breaking down the walls of religion that place such a high value on martyrdom and death? Will the threat of physical harm be greater to our missionaries now? This is my greatest fear.

4. Is the excitement and celebration over the death of another human being, regardless of their crimes and actions against humanity, contradictory to the Christian message of love and humility?

5. How far should we push our excitement and celebration in light of what God’s Word has revealed to us?

Proverbs 24:17 reminds us Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, And do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles.Justice should always be pursued in the economy of God. Judgment and revenge however, belong to God. As Christians, we celebrate life. We celebrate the life that Jesus Christ gives to us. A basic mission of all Christ-followers is to be active in showing those who are locked into darkness that there is a way out, that there is a light. That light is Jesus Christ. Ezekiel 33:11 says  “Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways”.  Everyone of us are guilty before God and are condemned because of our sin. It is only because of the amazing grace of God that we have had our sin and judgment atoned for. Did bin Laden deserve death for his actions and crimes, I believe so. But so do you and I and everyone else in the world for our sin. The only difference is the grace of God. He allowed us to pass from death unto life. I believe that bin Laden is in a real place called Hell today. The reason is not because of the terrorist attacks of 9/11.  It is because, as best as I can understand, he refused acknowledge the one true God and His son Jesus Christ as the only source of forgiveness and pardon from the sin that separates us from God. His death represents one more individual who died outside of the sphere of God’s grace. For me personally, that is kind of hard to celebrate.

Katrina : It Does Not Seem Like Five Years

Five years ago today, Hurricane Katrina slammed the coastlines of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, with the most severe damage occurring in the city of New Orleans. This storm literally drowned a city. The effects of this hurricane were, and still are, monumental. Katrina displaced thousands and thousands of people from what they knew as home. Families lost loved ones, billions of dollars in property damages were suffered, the sense of peace and security that everyone enjoyed was stripped away, and tragically a sense of trust in our government was lost by many. Katrina is believed to believed to be the most destructive and costly natural disaster to have ever taken place on US soil. In just a few hours, the lives of millions of people were permanently changed forever. I was living in Perry, Florida during this time. Being a Florida native, hurricanes were nothing new. However, I as well as many more had never seen anything like Katrina. I can remember being glued to FOX News watching these events unfold. Most Americans were hanging on every news update. I was amazed, saddened, and angry all at the same time. I remember asking “How does an entire city find itself underwater?” I can remember asking “How will the residents of New Orleans and the other states that were affected even begin the clean-up process? I remember asking “Can enough relief aid reach these victims?” I remember asking “How long until the sense of normalcy returns?”

There is still much work to do along the Gulf Coast. As God’s people, we need to continue to pray  for both the residents of this region as they continue to put their lives back together, and the relief workers who are still giving their time in the rebuild effort. In August 2005, Casting Crowns released a song that was, and is, a reminder of the sovereignty of God. That song was Praise You in the Storm. It is a reminder that even when I don’t understand it or can’t see it, the will and purposes of God go forward. We are reminded that as we rest in the fact that God’s guiding hand is upon the events of life, I am to praise Him. Praise Him in the good, and the bad. Praise Him in the positive, and the negative. Praise Him in sickness, and in health. Praise Him in victory, and in defeat. It is true that music has a way of taking you back to a place in time. It has a way confirming the truths that God wants to teach us. It has the capacity to touch our hearts like no written word can. I believe this song will be forever linked to this tragedy. Below is a video of the scenes of five years ago, set to the words of this gripping song. Take time and listen to the words as you pray for, remember, and reflect upon those who were touched by this tragedy. May we all pray that God would spare us from any such future tragedy.

 

Worth Repeating

” There is power in the very voice of God, and through God’s creative voice, we can see the magnitude of His power. The voice that spoke at Creation was the same one that said, ‘Snake, you are cursed’. This voice later called to Moses from a burning bush, then chiseled in stone the commandments for all humans to obey. Later, the same voice announced, ‘This is My beloved Son’ (Matt 3:17) forever identifying Jesus as the one whom worship is due. And it is the voice of God that will one day declare, ‘Time is no more.'”

Vernon Whaley, Called to Worship

FIFS : Exodus 14:19-20

“19. And the Angel of God, who went before the camp of Israel, moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud went from before them and stood behind them.  20.  So it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel. Thus it was a cloud and darkness to the one, and it gave light by night to the other, so that the one did not come near the other all that night. “

Israel was on the run. They had been freed from the bondage of the Egyptians, They were now being pursued by the Egyptian army as a result of Pharaoh changing his mind about the release. The nation of Israel finds themselves between a rock and a hard place. Before them, the Red Sea. Behind them, the army of Egypt. The angel of God moved from their front in a guiding capacity to behind them in a guarding capacity.

This scenario plays out in the lives of God’s people today. There are times when God’s people find themselves between a rock and a hard place. It could be the demands of an employer set against personal convictions. It could be financial needs set against a desire to spend more time with family. At the Red Sea, Israel was waiting on rescue. However, during the wait, there was the reassuring presence of God. While wait on God’s rescue from the rocks and hard places, in that interim, there is One who holds, comforts, and calms us.

FIFS : Isaiah 14:24

“The Lord of Hosts has sworn: As I have planned, so it will be; as I have purposed it, so it will happen.”

There is an tremendous amount that I don’t understand. I don’t understand why some people get sick and others do not. I don’t understand why some who are sick are healed, and others are not. I don’t understand how someone can observe creation and at least not consider there is a Creator. I don’t fully understand why bad things happen to good people and that evil always seem to prosper. I don’t understand how God purposed and planend for my life long before I was born.

It is at times when I lack understanding that I am pushed into a deeper trust of God’s sovereignty. I trust His absolute reign and rule over my life and the events of this world. Isaiah wrote that the very plans that God has made and sure and He will bring to pass that which He desires. It is humbling to think that we can have a place and a part in God’s history (for history really is His story). Henry Blackaby wrote, ‘When God chooses a person for His purpose, all of eternity will be shaped by His decision.’  In the times that I don’t fully understand God’s healing, or why evil seems to prosper, I have come to understand one thing. It’s not what I don’t know that matters, it is who I know that matters.