Thursday, December 30, 2010

Spectacular Sins

Spectacular Sins: And Their Global Purpose in the Glory of ChristI just started another one of the books that I received for Christmas.  This one is titled Spectacular Sins and it is also by John Piper.

I didn't know what to expect when I started the book.  The full title should have clued me in... "Spectacular Sins and their Global Purpose in the Glory of Christ", but I still wasn't sure what this book was going to be about.  Joni Eareckson Tada wrote this about the book (from the back of the book):
"When it comes to holocausts and other horrors, most of us assume God has his hands tied and his back to the wall.  But John Piper paints a different picture from the pages of Scripture that will strengthen your heart, bolster your faith, and deepen your understanding of the 'largeness' of God's sovereignty."
I have finished the first three chapters of this book, and I am having a hard time keeping myself from blogging the entire thing.  I believe it is an important book in what it is saying.  I believe that it will have an impact in my life and ministry as it is unfolding the powerful words of God into my mind and my heart.  As John Piper says in this book,
"Paul's antidote for wimpy Christians is weighty doctrine.  In Paul's mind, the most massive truths are meant for producing radical lives of obedience.  That's why I say the main point of this book is not information for your head, but application to your life."
That is what I am experiencing in this book, weighty truths.  They are being preached to me through scripture by a pastor... a pastor who feels he has a job to do.
"As a pastor, I do not think it is my job to entertain you during the last days.  It is not my calling to help you have chipper feelings while the whole creation groans.  My job is to put the kind of ballast in the belly of your boat so that when these waves crash against your life, you will not capsize but make it to the harbor of heaven -- battered and wounded, but full of faith and joy."
I agree, but most of the Christians that I know... many times including myself... are mostly interested in being comfortable.  So much so we want to be comfortable that we will do most anything to achieve that comfort.  And I am not just talking about building comfortable environments for ourselves, including big TVs and comfortable chairs and couches and finding new ways to entertain ourselves... NO, I am talking about Christians who will do anything... ANYTHING to avoid hardship, tragedy, suffering, heartache, etc.

Christians ordering their lives around avoidance of these difficulties.  Christians that will determine who and how they will serve to keep even the thought of sickness and death away from their doorstep.  Christians that have come to believe that God can be manipulated; that if they do and say the right things, God will not allow suffering in their lives.

I know I run the risk of over-quoting, but I want to include one more quote:
"I am writing this book to build a vision of God into our lives that will not let us down in the worst of times.  I mean really bad times.  Horrific times.  Who is prepared to meet the Agony that is coming?
"Our worship services and our preaching too often pamper us.  They coddle.  I am not opposed to friends helping us with the daily frustrations that make us unhappy.  There is plenty of proverbial wisdom in the Bible to warrant this.  It is good.  Love does this.  I need this help.  I want it.  There is a time for everything under heaven, even pampering.  But surely the preaching of God's word must aim for more than this."
I believe that hard times are coming for me and ... I hate to say it ... for you too.

At least one person just screamed and ran away from the computer.  "No, no, I can't think that.  IF I think it, God will hear me and realize that I am now prepared for suffering.  Since God won't allow me to endure anything that I can't handle, I must now convince God that I can't handle ___________ !"

I am forcing myself to stop quoting this book.  It is good.  Get it.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Gadarene

Image from
I just finished my first Christmas book.  It is called The Gadarene and it is a graphic novel based on an original poem by John Piper.

It was a really interesting book.  It is obviously fictional, but based on the encounter between the demon possessed man and Jesus.  This is the story that is found in the books of Matthew, Mark and Luke (clink this link to read all three gospel accounts).

I enjoyed the writing style and the artwork of this book.  I would recommend this to all interested.  I would also recommend this to teens and pre-teens.  Piper adds in a back-story that fills in the gaps of how a person might have ended up in a situation like this which adds an element of currentness (is that a word?) and made the idea of a demon-possessed man more understandable.

Here is a trailer for the book if you care to know a little more about it:

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The House of Mourning

"It is better to go to the house of mourning
than to go to the house of feasting,"
 (Ecclesiastes 7:2 ESV)

In the last two weeks I have come across this passage of scripture without intending to.  The first time was during a movie called, The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry.  It is a Christian movie that my wife found on Netflix.  Here is a bit about it from the movie's website:

Best buddies Dustin (Jansen Panettiere), Albert (Frankie Ryan Manriquez), and Mark (Allen Isaacson) are twelve year old boys looking forward to a summer of fun in 1970.  When Dustin mows the lawn of seventy-five year old Jonathan Sperry (Gavin MacLeod), a man he has seen at church, a unique friendship develops.
What happens the rest of this summer is something Dustin and his friends will never forget!
The movie is not being released on DVD until May 4th.  It was a really good movie, but I am only mentioning it because one of the characters, Mr. Sperry, uses this passage in a teaching moment with the neighborhood boys.

The second time I encountered this verse was on Tuesday.  I had dedicated myself to trying to read some of Spurgeon's sermons over Christmas break.  The next sermon on the list was using this passage.  Spurgeon asks the question though, is it really possible to say that the house of mourning is better than the house of feasting?  Sure, there are those sinful houses of feasting that leave a person empty and the house of mourning would be better than that.  But what about those good houses of feasting?  Those joy-filled family feasts that my mind rests so easily upon around this time of the year.  Or those times when my soul is feasting upon the joy that comes from the felt presence of the Lord.  Is the house of mourning really better than those?

The Preacher, referring to King Solomon, tells us why this house of mourning is better:

"...for this is the end of all mankind,
and the living will lay it to heart."
 (Ecclesiastes 7:2 ESV)
Do you see his reasons?  This is the end of all mankind, and if the living will really take it to heart, there will be a much greater benefit than you might find in even the best of the houses of feasting.

I am reminded of this again today as my brother-in-law and his family head out to the funeral services of his grandmother.  From all accounts she was a woman of great faith.  We are praying today that God will use this house of mourning in the lives of the family.  Maybe they will take it to heart.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas Movie 2010

My wife loves to start traditions.  In 2004 she came up with the idea of going to the theater each Christmas season to watch a movie.  This tradition stuck, so each year we plan a Christmas Movie Day; complete with eating out, getting snacks, picking the perfect movie, and going to said movie.  Here is a list of the Christmas Movie Days we have had as a family each year since 2004.

This year the movie that we are picking out is The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawntreader.  As a child, this was my favorite of the Narnia books.  I loved the different little islands that they traveled to and the imaginative nature (thanks to C.S. Lewis) of the residents of each of these islands.  I have read a few decent reviews of this particular movie, so I am already looking forward to it.

I mention all of this because TODAY is Christmas Movie Day 2010!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Scandalous: Review

Scandalous: The Cross and Resurrection of Jesus (Re:Lit)Scandalous is a book by one of my favorite authors and speakers, D.A. Carson.  I own this book in print and I also just finished listening to it via Christian Audio.

I really enjoyed this book.  I feel that D.A. Carson always brings to essential elements to the table that work together at drawing me into the topics that he is discussing.  The first element is his deeper understanding of scripture.  Now, I want you to know that I use the word "deeper" purposely.  You see, it isn't that he has a deep understanding of scripture, it is that he has an understanding of scripture that is always a step deeper than where I am at, and it is always driving me deeper into the Word.

The book itself is about the truly scandalous nature of the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus.  The two chapters that had the most impact on me were the first chapter, dealing with the deep ironies of the cross as told in the book of Matthew.  The other chapter that I really enjoyed was the chapter dealing with the scandalous actions of Christ in association with the death and resurrection of Lazarus.

It was an excellent book and I really enjoyed the audio version.  The voice talent even reminded me a little of D.A. Carson's speaking style.   Swing on by Christian Audio to check out this book.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Chrome OS

About a week ago I applied for the Chrome OS Pilot Program.  This is the program where they send you their new Chrome Laptop... the Cr-48... and you have to agree to use it and send them feedback.

This sounded like my kind of thing.  Get a free laptop.  Agree to get on the web.  Tell people what you think.

Well.  Guess What?  I GOT ONE!

It came in the mail today.  They didn't even send me an e-mail telling me that I had been selected!  I just got a free laptop!  And it is Google's!  This is what I am using right now to blog!

If anyone wants to know about the Chrome OS laptop... Send your questions here and I will tell you.  So far it is really cool.

The King Raven Trilogy: Review

King Raven Trilogy Box SetI am two thirds of the way through the King Raven Trilogy. This is a series by one of my favorite modern authors, Stephen R. Lawhead. In this trilogy, Lawhead tells the story of Robin Hood, but he doesn't tell this story the way one would expect.

Though there are many familiar names in this series, such as Friar Tuck, Will Scarlet, Little John, and Merrian, there are other names that are slightly different, such as the lead character, who is named, Rhi Bran y Hud. The location has also been moved to Wales instead of the familiar Sherwood Forest and Nottingham.

In the epilogue of the first book, titled Hood, Lawhead does an excellent job of explaining his reasons for these changes. It seems to me that his goal, as with the Pendragon Cycle, is to tell the story with such historical accuracy that the reader walks away believing that IF the story were true... this is the way it surely would have happened. This also means that I walk away with a better understanding of history. Especially in books like Patrick, Son of Ireland and Byzantium.

One of the main reasons that I enjoy Lawhead's books is that he writes with a Biblical Worldview. Though I don't think that I would entirely agree with his theology... in his stories there is a God. Jesus is the Christ. God is active in this world and in the affairs of men. Sin has consequences, even in the lives of the heroes. And the heroes are not self-reliant, they call upon Christ in times of trouble, and they learn to wait on Him. These are good things to include in a story.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sexual Detox

Sexual Detox: A Guide for Guys Who Are Sick of PornI finished listening to Christian Audio's release of Sexual Detox by Tim Challies a couple of weeks ago, so I would like to take a moment to recommend this book to everyone that comes by this blog.

The subtitle to the book is "A Guide for Guys Who Are Sick of Porn".  So one might think that this book will only be beneficial to someone who is or has struggled with porn, but I want to recommend it, not just to those guys, but like I said, to everyone who comes by this review.  I really believe that this book would also be beneficial to the wives, friends, parents, pastors, etc. of those who have struggled.  I say this for two reasons:  One, this book offers a very accurate view of one who is struggling with porn and everything else that might go along with it.  Two, the "detox" part is also a detoxification of all of the sexual philosophies that are taught in the media today, the scope of which includes much more than porn.

In the book Tim Challies does an excellent job of reorienting the reader to a Biblical view of sex. God created sex.  It was His idea!  He has also given restrictions and guidelines, but these are for our good and ultimately for our highest enjoyment of sex!  (I never thought I would type that phrase in a book review...)

This book was read by the author, which I always feel adds an extra element to the reading of the book.  I love audio books, mostly because it gives me something valuable and useful to do during my morning commute, but I really love it when the author read the book.  It makes it feel more like someone is sitting there with you, sharing something that God has laid on their heart.

Go by Christian Audio and download a copy of this book.