Truthfully, I expected a theological discussion on same-sex attraction when I opened this book. I was disappointed several pages into the first chapter. Then, I realized what Ron Citlau was doing. He was not writing a theological book. He was writing a pastoral one. Deep in the recesses of the book, one can find plenty of theology. But, at the forefront, one finds hope, understanding, and an appeal for Christian life change.
If you are wanting a theological treatise on same-sex attraction, look someplace else. But, if you want to know how to Biblically help someone through same-sex issues, or if you are struggling with your own sexual sin (same-sex or otherwise), pick up this book.
Citlau speaks to the hearts of his readers, urging them to act like the Bible is true, to apply the Gospel to their lives, to seize their identity in Christ, and to glorify God by growing in His clearly defined gender gifts.
I received this book in exchange for an honest review.
Andy Crouch writes another home-run; this time, arm-in-arm with Barna Research. In The Tech-Wise Family, Crouch explains his family’s journey to not be controlled by technology. With Barna’s statistics coloring most pages, Crouch’s principles are shown to be important and relevant for our time.
Unfortunately, many Christians have not thought about a theology of technology. Technology affects every area of our life now, but this effect is not neutral to us. Crouch transparently shares his family’s struggles to have a house which glorified God and built character in spite of technology. In the face of what could be viewed as legalistic standards, Crouch brings in grace, choosing to emphasize principles rather than rules. He acknowledges that everyone will have their own rules, while trying to keep the principles, and that everyone will break their own rules.
While reading this book, I wonder how teens would respond to Crouch’s system. I appreciate that his teenage daughter wrote the forward. She shared honestly her struggles with the rules, but also what she appreciated about them. Though this forward is not technically part of the book, I would propose it is the best part of the book.
I recieved this book in exchange for an honest review.
Sissy Goff, David Thomas ,and Melissa Trevathan masterfully lay out 12 milestones for children to reach in way that parents can easily understand. The chapters are split into easy sections: introducing the milestone, explaining stumbling blocks and building blocks for boys, explaining stumbling blocks and building blocks for girls, and finally providing some practical tips to intentionally teach the milestone within the home.
Picking up the book for the first time, I was worried that it might be a slow psychological book. But, I was pleasantly surprised. The authors are engaging, scattering the deep material with anecdotes and humorous stories. They bring in plenty of Scripture to provide a theological backing for their convictions.
I would definitely recommend this book to young and old parents alike. I received this book in exchange for an honest review.
Kenneth Richard Samples has a passion. He wants to exalt Jesus Christ above any other religious figure. He is committed to the idea that Jesus is the only true way of salvation. Therefore, he dismisses any other belief system, even “Christian” systems that allow for salvation apart from explicit belief in Christ. Samples has done a masterful job explaining his view.
This book is not an easy read. Samples wanted to prove his idea. He loads the book with facts, explanations, detailed explanations on logic, and more charts than are necessary. Consequently, this book took me 3 months to read, while I worked, traveled, and took care of an infant.
I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to have a better understanding of Krishna, Buddha, Confucius, and Mohammad. Samples explains their personal and religious histories very well. I also appreciate the addition at the end of each section explaining how to dialogue with a follower of those individuals for the purpose of evangelism.
I have two critiques. First, Samples does not interact with religious experts within the other religions. All of his quotes are from Christian experts of the other religions. I believe his book would be stronger if he included non-Christian experts. Second, at the end of the book, Samples discusses pluralism and universalism, contrasting them with exclusivism. While he has a good handle on pluralism and universalism, he pushes inclusivism to the side, erroneously tying this belief with universalism. He makes a broad statement that inclusivism is bad, but does not explain why. He then broadens exclusivism to include many beliefs inclusivists have.
Both these critiques are minor. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who wants to dive deeper into world religions.
I was given this book in exchange for an honest review.
John Perkins has a winsome style of writing. He writes from his experiences and his culture. Consequently, many “proper” writers will cringe at some moments. However, his authenticity does not detract from his message. It merely amplifies it for those who are willing to listen.
Perkins is dreaming. Unfortunately, life wakes him up from this dream, day after day. But, life never stops him from dreaming. He has been dreaming ever since he woke up on a jail floor, hurting from a brutal beating, just because he was black. He has been dreaming ever since his brother was shot, because he was black.
What is he dreaming?
He is dreaming about a society where Christians start living their Christianity. He firmly believes that the Gospel is a message of reconciliation. Jesus came and lived in our mess in order that he might reconcile us with God. We, as followers of Christ, need to follow his example, by having an incarnational ministry. We are surrounded by hurting people of all stages of life, of all cultures, but of one race. We need to follow Christ into the hurt around us, seeking to bring reconciliation to those who are estranged from each other, and ultimately to bring reconciliation with God.
Perkins drives this dream home with compelling stories of his past, filled with hurts he has experienced and with healing he has seen. He calls his readers to rise above the emotional hurts of racial conflict, painting a theological picture of the justice of God, tiny hints of what eternity will be like.
Because of his past, Perkins is able to speak hard truths to all cultures and all colors. We all have areas where we should swallow our pride, admit we were wrong, and work towards reconciliation for the glory of God and the furtherance of the Gospel.
I was given this book in exchange for an honest review.
They say that nothing is sure in this world, except death and taxes. Well, currently, I am starting my taxes, so naturally my mind drifts to death. I hope that I do not die from the pain of taxes. I do not know anyone who has, but there is always a first. Just in case, I should make sure everything is in order, if only as an excuse to delay my taxes.
I invite you to join me in this.
Funeral planning should be like voting in Chicago. Early and often. We never know when the unfortunate event is going to happen, so, for the sake of our loved ones, we should have our will and our funeral plans up to date. This way, they can grieve without the pressure of hurried planning.
There are many things to consider as one plans his funeral. The big decision is what one wants done with his body: cremation or burial. Cremation is gaining popularity in recent years because it cuts costs and saves room. But, there is still some controversy around it. Many Christians are uncomfortable with this act. Some go so far as to insist that it is unbiblical, and could affect one’s eternal state, as in Heaven or Hell. Is this true?
Before I continue, I must establish some common ground. Whether one is cremated or buried, one’s body is just a body that will turn to dust either way.
So, with that said, what does the Bible say about cremation?
Frankly, not much.
Starting with the Old Testament and the Law, God did not give any commandments about correct burial. However, he did give burning as punishment for sexual sin, as found in Leviticus 20:14; 21:9. Those who committed certain sexual sins, such as prostitution and marrying both a mother and a daughter were to be burned alive. Not the most pleasant of punishments, and not really applicable to our discussion of cremation.
In the story of Israel coming into the Promised Land, we have the first mention of cremation. As Israel conquered the land of Canaan, certain cities, like Jericho, were to be totally destroyed. The Israelites were not to keep any souvenir. If anyone did keep something, the item kept and the body of the keeper were to be burned, both as a punishment and as a symbol of purifying the nation of Israel of the sin. Fire is a frequently used physical symbol for purification. When God commanded this, I am sure that no one wanted this punishment to actually happen. However, a man named Achan got greedy and kept some of the treasure of Jericho for himself. He was consequently stoned to death and his body was burned.
In 1 Samuel 31, the men of Jabesh-Gilead took the bones of Saul and his sons and burned them. They probably did this to protect Saul’s body from being desecrated by the Philitines. In 2 Kings 23, Josiah burned human bones on the high place altars to desecrate them and ensure that no worship would be done on them again. In Amos 6, people in a city under siege would be burning the bodies of the dead, a normal practice to stop the spread of disease in a close area.
None of these passages condemn the practice of cremation, nor do they condemn the body of the one cremated to eternal punishment. In the instance of Achan, he was condemned before he was stoned. Cremation had no effect on his eternal state.
The only passage that might speak to God’s view on the practice of cremation is Amos 2:1. Moab was punished because they burned the body of Edom’s king. However, the Moabites did this during a raid into Edom. They opened up the graves of the royalty and burned the bodies. This was not a simple cremation. This was an act against the dignity of Edom and the dignity of those who had died. Moab was not punished because of cremation, but because of their slanderous act against the image of God.
That all said, the Israelites had very strong opinions about burial. They believed in the dignity of the body. This is seen in how they would carefully bury all the dead that they could, either in above-ground tombs, or in deep graves. Why? Because each body should be treated with respect as the image of God, because they wanted the bodies to rest peacefully with their fathers, and because one day each body would be resurrected.
The early Christians, being converted Jews, carried this practice with them. In 1 Corinthians 6, Paul writes that our bodies are the temple of God. Many people point to this verse as proof for burial being the “Christian way”. We should treat the body with respect, right? However, Paul’s context is sexual sin. Be careful of how you unite physically with sin, for God dwells in you. This verse does not refer to a dead body. Does God dwell in the dead?
The Bottom Line
What happens to a dead body? Well, as I began this discussion, whether a body is burned or buried, or any other method of disposing, the body ultimately decomposes and turns to dust, as God said in Genesis 3, “For dust you are and to dust you will return.” At death one’s spirit leaves the body, to be with God and await the resurrection, and the body decays. Why would God dwell in this dead body, if the spirit is with him, awaiting the resurrection?
This resurrection will be an amazing thing. All bodies, from all times, through all modes of death and decay, will be resurrected. The Bible is clear that no method of death or disposal will inhibit God from resurrecting each body. 1 Corinthians 15:42-43 states, “So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.” Our physical body is perishable, and as such, will perish. However, when God raises our body, from whatever state of decay, he will transform it into a spiritual body which will not decay.
Revelation 20 refers to this glorious day of resurrection. “And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done.” Each person, no matter how they died, no matter how their body decayed, will stand before the judgment seat of God. They will be judged according to their works. However, the reason they will enter Heaven or Hell is based upon whether their name is in the Book of Life, whether they trusted in Christ alone for their salvation. The reason for their death, the disposal of their body, does not matter in that day.
Have you trusted in Christ alone. If you are planning for a funeral, I hope you have. That is the most important preparation you can do for the end of life.
Well, I need to get back to my taxes. Happy funeral planning!
The heart of America has been bleeding since 1776. Though the Declaration of Independence promised the equality of mankind, that promise has not fully been realized. All humanity in the United States have felt like they are not equal, or in the language of popular culture, that their lives do not matter. How do we solve this problem?
Wayne Gordon and John Perkins bring a unique and refreshing perspective to the heated emotions and rhetoric in the past year. While admitting that both sides in the Black Lives Matter debate are right and both sides are wrong, they call the Church to step up and be a force of reconciliation. Christ showed us how to love, as only He can. We need to use this love to break down the barriers of difference and seek to understand, to empathize, and to unify with all people, no matter the race, socioeconomic condition, or gender.
If you are part of the Black Lives Matter movement, or if you are cynical about the movement, read this book to gain a perspective you may not have. Allow it to challenge you and to spur you to be like Christ.
I received a free copy of this book for review.
Recently I had the privilege of reading Shalom in Psalms, a psalm-by-psalm devotional from a Messianic Jewish perspective. This was a fascinating and enlightening read.
All poetry is tied to the culture in which it is written. The Psalms are no exception. The imagery throughout the Psalms is based upon a Hebrew culture and worldview. To understand each psalm more fully, one needs to understand the culture and worldview of the writer. Jeffrey Seif, Glenn Blank, and Paul Wilbur, from their Messianic Jewish perspective, bring a fresh light to each psalm, exploring the culture and worldview of the original writers. They also weave a narrative of Shalom, peace, throughout the book, tying concepts presented by the writers of the Psalms with the true giver of peace, Yeshua, Jesus.
One drawback of the devotional is their use of Messianic Jewish titles of God and Jesus. Those who are not used to reading Hebrew names for God will need to learn them fast, or they will quickly get confused on who is referred to.
I received a free copy of this book for review.
We live in a society that is accelerating away from God. Each generation, from the Greatest Generation to the most recent, is becoming more atheistic in its beliefs and practices. In order to fulfill the Great Commission, we cannot use the same strategies that were used in the Greatest Generation to reach the most recent generation, Generation Z.
James Every White does an excellent job exploring the culture of Generation Z, and he provides good insight in how we as the church need to rethink our strategy in reaching this generation. This includes becoming the church again and rekindling our prophetic voice. This is definitely a good resource for anyone who has a heart for this newest generation.
I received a free copy of this book for review.
At this time of year, every four years, the president submits his Cabinet appointments to Congress for approval. This is an important tradition. The Cabinet was designed to be the president’s advisors. They were not to make his decisions or his laws, but they were to provide the president with wisdom in their areas of expertise. Very important roles. The Congress has the job of making sure each cabinet member will provide good advice and will uphold the Constitution. Also important.
President-Elect Trump has submitted his cabinet picks to Congress as the 44 presidents before him did. He has done his best to pick a cabinet that will provide him good recommendations for the four years ahead. I commend him for his and his team’s efforts, though I don’t necessarily agree with all of his choices.
Picking a group of advisors is important, as I have repeated. We all need to surround ourselves with wise people, men and women, who will help us make good decisions. Without a community around us, we are bound to make bad choices. Proverbs makes this quite clear:
Plans fail for lack of counsel,
but with many advisers they succeed. (Proverbs 15:22)
For lack of guidance a nation falls,
but victory is won through many advisers. (Proverbs 11:14)
Surely you need guidance to wage war,
and victory is won through many advisers. (Proverbs 24:6)
However, it is not enough to have many people whispering in our ear, we need to make sure those people are wise and will speak truth, even when it hurts.
Kings take pleasure in honest lips;
they value the one who speaks what is right. (Proverbs 16:13)
Once we have surrounded ourselves with these truth-tellers, we need to listen to them, even when we don’t want to.
King Rehoboam learned this lesson the hard way, by having his kingdom disintegrate because of his decisions. In 1 Kings 12, we read:
Rehoboam went to Shechem, for all Israel had gone there to make him king…. The whole assembly of Israel went to Rehoboam and said to him: “Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but now lighten the harsh labor and the heavy yoke he put on us, and we will serve you.”
Rehoboam answered, “Go away for three days and then come back to me.” So the people went away.
Then King Rehoboam consulted the elders who had served his father Solomon during his lifetime. “How would you advise me to answer these people?” he asked.
They replied, “If today you will be a servant to these people and serve them and give them a favorable answer, they will always be your servants.”
But Rehoboam rejected the advice the elders gave him and consulted the young men who had grown up with him and were serving him. He asked them, “What is your advice? How should we answer these people who say to me, ‘Lighten the yoke your father put on us’?”
The young men who had grown up with him replied, “These people have said to you, ‘Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but make our yoke lighter.’ Now tell them, ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s waist. My father laid on you a heavy yoke; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions.’ ”
You can guess what happened next. The people of Israel were not happy. The majority of the kingdom split off and appointed a new king. Rehoboam was left with a meager one-fifth of his original nation.
Rehoboam had some wise advisors. However, he did not listen to them. Instead, he listened to men who were not wise but who gave him the answer he wanted. We all have this tendency.
Mr. Trump, take care to choose men who will tell you the truth, even when it hurts. And, when they do, listen to them. Do not make the same mistake as Rehoboam.