Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Wisdom Hunter

The introduction to this book intrigued me. When I hear that simply writing a book gets you fired, I want to know more. Wisdom Hunter by Randall Arthur is a novel from 1991, so don't expect high-tech conspiracy or stolen identities, but that doesn't keep this from being a page turner.

Jason Faircloth is a pastor and a dad. It appears he's failing at both. Oh, perhaps not on the outside, but whoever said the outside appearance was important? While the plot seems a bit obvious from the start, it takes off quickly, taking unexpected turns throughout the story.

The best part, making this a must read for any fathers doubling as pastors, come in the journal that Jason Faircloth records throughout teh second half of the book. This stuff will preach. I would also consider making this required reading for all church leadership, so that everyone starts, and ends, on the same page.

To purchase this book, visit
This book was provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Misusing God, part 2

With Halloween coming this week, there have been way too many horror films to be seen. Call me old, but I left scary movies behind about 10 years ago. My real problem with these films is that the stupid characters always run the wrong way. Always. I suppose if they were smart, then we wouldn't have such horror in these films. But then perhaps it would be a decent movie.

I shared recently that people often misuse God by running to Him only when they are in trouble. But it got me thinking that there are good reasons to run to God.

First, back in Numbers 35:6-29, we see God giving the Israelites Cities of Refuge. These were designated cities that someone could run to if they accidentally killed someone. God defines accidentally, and places some guidelines around it. The innocent could run in this direction to avoid being killed for the sake of revenge.

Reading this made me realize that the Church has been a sanctuary like this down through the centuries, sometimes misused, but oftentimes not. These are not bad, as God is the Giver of second chances.

The Church is meant to be a city of refuge for those seeking new life. Unfortunately, for many reasons that I won't take space and time for here, we keep people away. They no longer see Church as a sanctuary. We need to come back to a proper place of worship and service to God. For those running away from God, it makes for a very scary movie.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Shadow Goverment

Ok, so here's what you need to do; dig a large hole, put everything you think you need in the large hole. Then find a large rock and put it over the hole, with yourself in there, ready to live out the rest of your days.

That was my first thought upon reading Shadow Government by Grant R. Jeffrey. If you're skeptical of conspiracy theories, like I am, but you believe that they do exist, like I do, then this will be an enjoyable read.

Grant unloads everything in the first couple of chapters, clearly letting you know where he stands. I do like his purpose stated just nine pages in.
The message of prophecy is not one of doom and gloom, as some critics have suggested. Rather, Jesus commanded His followers to respond with joyful anticipation when they begin to see the fulfillment of these prophecies.

The author is clearly unwilling to allow his readers be surprised by any fulfillment. From the people gaining power behind the scenes to the newest weapons of mass destruction, this book reads like the background to Armageddon 2: The Devil Strikes Back. To ensure that readers don't get lost in a bunch of footnotes, they are all neatly located at the back of the book.

For anyone out there who wants to add some sight to their faith, this is a good read. For anyone wanting to teach on how Revelation could actually happen, this is a good find. For every other conspiracy theorist out there, including those who want to know what really happened to Elvis, this is a good read.

To purchase this book, visit
This book was provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Misusing God

I don't want to give a whole history lesson here, but God's people in the Old Testament were somewhat messed up. You might think it would have been different between the transitioning of two of their greatest kings, David and Solomon. But this family, and the surrounding characters, was almost like watching Jerry Springer's All-Stars.

For instance, at the same time David was anointing Solomon to become king (in 1 Kings 1), another of David's sons, Adonijah, was throwing himself a party to be king. When Adonijah heard that Solomon was anointed in his place, he instantly feared for his life. So he went and grabbed the horns of the Altar of God. After talking with Solomon, Adonijah goes homes with his head attached.

At least until 1 Kings 2. Here Solomon finds just cause to have Adonijah killed, along with some other less-than-faithful officials. This is when Joab, an army commander who was less-than-faithful himself, heard that there was some house cleaning going on. So he decides to go grab the horns of this Altar as well. This doesn't work out so well as he is killed right there.

Two different guys, both doing wrong things to men, and both hoping that God would save them from the consequences. Do we make the same mistake of trying to use God to protect us when we do wrong to one another? I think we do.

For example, when we confront others in unloving ways, and insist on our right to do so, that is grabbing on to the horns of the Altar. When we use God’s Word to try to conform others to our home-grown standard of living, that is us hiding behind the curtain of the Holiest Place. When we refuse compromise with our brother because we refuse to see how God could work that way, we are closing our eyes to the difficulty we are creating.

I believe we should run to God and depend on Him. But when we do so irresponsibly, we create for ourselves a false sense of security. In the same way that God should not be used as a weapon against others, He should not be used as a wall of defense that keeps us unaccountable to our brothers and sisters.

Be sure when you grab and hold on to God, it is with one hand. That way you can hold the hand of your brother with your free hand.

God's Will And

Final words say a lot about us. Though everything we say should have meaning and not be wasted, I think we often consider our last words and we want them to make an impact. So, if I have the opportunity, here will be my last words to my son.

"Keep your eyes on God. I have tried to model this for you. Remember that it's not about you or me and that what we do, we do for God. Always do the right thing for the right reason. Stay focused on God and you will never walk alone...
And if you've seen anyone mocking me or doing me wrong, make sure to make them pay after I'm dead."

The last part may seem to be a tad absurd, but I'll just be following the example left to us by King David. In my life, I've been known to make jokes at inappropriate moments. So I really admire David here. You can read it in 1 Kings 2:1-9. You have to respect a guy who takes one last moment to stick it to his enemies.

Not that we would officially advocate what David does here, we often live this way. We don't simply pray for God's will to be done. We pray for God's will and. We ask for God to do what He wants in our lives AND what we want. The problem, of course, is that sometimes what we want is not what God wants.

What we want is for God to be glorified AND for all the details in our lives to come together. We want for people to be saved AND to come to our church. We want God's promised blessings of Heaven AND some good stuff here on Earth.

God's Will not always God's will at all.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Gag Me

Let's face it, we all have those people in our lives that drive us nuts. Oh, we may try to be nice on the outside, but on the inside we are banging our head against a wall. And most of the time we figure everything is fine, as long as we don't say anything.

But then someone comes along who starts talking about how freeing forgiveness can be. Here's a good example as we pick up Jesus mid-teaching; "Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.' For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins." (Matthew 6:12-15).

And though we agree with all of these spiritually, physically it makes us want to gag.

My son has the weakest gag reflex of anyone I have ever seen. He'll shove 5 bites into his mouth and then I will see this look and I will just hand him a napkin or escort him to a garbage can, because I know what's going to happen. He gags and all that was once in his mouth is now, well, not. He is getting better at pacing himself through meals, but...

When he is sick it is a different story. When a child, and by child I mean a normal child who is not my son, gets sick, you give them medicine. They may not like it, but it makes them better. When I was a child, it was like they were trying to see how bad medicine could taste. I would be sick with pneumonia and my parents would hand me something resembling puke, in smell, taste, and texture. We should hand it to the pharmacies now, because these days they make medicine that tastes fruity or they make these melt-aways, so kids won't even have to chew their medicine. It should be a win-win, right?

Enter my son's gag reflex. Oh, and he doesn't like fruit. It's so bad that two nights ago when he had a high fever and I was holding the medicine, he threw up. I was HOLDING the medicine. A day and a half later, he remains sick.

It's the same way with forgiveness. Like a much needed medicine that we refuse to take, we remain sick. Simply because we refuse to offer, or accept, forgiveness. It makes me sick.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Can't Get Closer Than This

Despite the fact that it is far fetched and not connected with reality, a movie I really liked is Face Off. Made in 1997, starring John Travolta and Nicholas Cage, it involves the fairy-tale procedure of an agent switching faces with a criminal in order to solve a case. Of course, mayhem ensues, but a great line occurs when John Travolta, playing the agent, says, "I will become him." There's an agent willing to go to great lengths to solve a case, even though it could cost him everything.

Sounds a bit like God, doesn't it? He spends a few thousand years trying to explain to the Israelites that this whole world is about Him. He makes covenants with them, blesses them, and generally loves them. But, like blockheads, they don't get it.

So God does the unthinkable and becomes one of us. Forget all the details of a virgin birth and other miracles that Jesus would perform, this is God entering His own world and becoming like His creation. He spends 3 years trying to explain to us that it's all about Him. And if you think God becoming man is amazing, read the part where man kills God.

The ultimate slap in the face as man tells God 'we don't want you here' is met with more of God. But what more could God possibly give? How much closer can He get to us?

Enter the Holy Spirit. It could have been enough to have God communicating to us through prophets. It should have been enough when God decided to walk this Earth. But now God has decided to live within each one of us. "And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit" (Ephesians 2:22).

If we are the kind of creatures that act differently when someone important is around (and we are), then this should be motivation to live differently all the time. "Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you?" (1 Corinthians 3:16)

Simply put, God can't get any closer than this.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Father Knows Best

The challenge was set before me and, like any man, I could not face failure. Bragging rights for weeks would ride on this one performance. The challenge? Get all 3 of my children dressed and fed and off to school on time, without any help from mom. The alarm clock was like a starting pistol and I was off.

To be honest, I am not sure the children were on my side in this. The girls kept asking questions like; does this match? and where is my jewelry at? Then my youngest daughter threw a big curve ball when she asked for piggy tails in her hair. We were moving along at a good pace. Breakfast was eaten, teeth were brushed, clothes were put on, and even a cartoon was watched.

You would think this kind of victory would instill confidence within the children towards me. But then my kids saw a piece of plastic, broken off from something in our house. While no one seemed to care where it came from, my youngest daughter, again (I'm sure) working against me, asked, "Is it dangerous? Maybe we should call mom to see if it is dangerous?"

Maybe we should call mom? I do not have a sweater-vest full of hair on my chest and no one would accuse me of being Mr. Fix-it. But I have taken it as one of my responsibilities in life to watch out for and protect my children. I've smashed ants, kissed boo-boos, and protected them on a daily basis, even from themselves. Why would they look past their father in the face of danger?

Then again, why do I? When questions come and life is difficult, why do I problem solve and seek advice from others before I even think of praying? My Father has taken care of every one of my needs. He has saved me from every dangerous situation I have put myself in. He has promised to love me and take care of all my needs. I don't need to ask anyone else if something is dangerous. My Father knows best. God even told us this in Proverbs 3:5-6.

I reminded my children that I know when danger is around and that I will always protect them. "We don't need to call mom," I said confidently. Then we left for school, on time. And my daughter went to school with piggy tails in her hair. Our Father knows more than we think.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

God's Gravity

Craig Borlase has written a book that at first caught my attention because of teh upside-down cover. I know; I'm a simpleton. He writes about how we are naturally drawn to ourselves but need to practice gravitating towards God.

We have this way of focusing too much on ourselves. This is a point I repeatedly have to remind myself of and one of which I am constantly talking to others about. So I knew I would like Craig's point of view. He writes, "We make our world too small, our horizons too limited, our sun too pale." Beautiful.

He goes on to describe how our lives are too small, too safe, and too vain. Me, me, me, me. It's the song we sing about ourselves, as loudly as we can to as many as we possibly can. Craig weaves Biblical narratives, applying them to our sophisticated, modern lives. The plus is that he then spends part two of his book making some pratical applications.

The applications are about what we wear, how we use stuff, and how it affects our planet. Who hasn't heard all of this in our increasingly eco-friendly world? Perhaps nobody, but Craig does a good job of including facts with real people, showing us the small (and large) changes we can make that will make a difference in someone else's life.

And if there is one thing most people have in common, it is this. We want to know we have made an impact on somebody. Anybody. It just might be someone we have never met.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Pray it Forward

Prayer time around my house is not always what you might expect to happen in a pastor's home. Prayers range from thanking God for the food we eat to thanking God the little ones are in bed. But it gets really interesting when our 3-year old prays. This was last night's exercise in calling upon the Holy One;
"Thank you God for my friend Lauren that she have a brother Landon. Thank you for Ty-Ty not biting me. Thank you (pause to look around the room)for my barbies and my books, thank you 4,6,7, Chicken Little, Amen." I simply pray silently and patiently as my penitent daughter talks to Jesus.

Her older brother is slightly better, even though I at first did not see why. Whenever he would pray, he would begin every sentence with Thank You. It did not matter if he was praising or requesting. 'Thank you for this day.' 'Thank you for this food.' 'Thank you for the Christmas gifts I'll get in 3 months.'

Because prayer is such a holy thing, I have never corrected my son's grammar while he prays. I just laughed and noted to my wife how he would thank God for things that have not, or may not, happen.

But then it hit me. This is the way Jesus spoke and prayed. In John 11:41-42, just before Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, He said, "Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me."

Even better was one of Jesus' final cries. While on the cross, He cried out, "It is finished." For anyone watching, it might appear that Jesus was simply talking about His life. But as confusing as it might be, He was declaring victory. He had accomplished what He came to do, and though we are still living within the battle, we can know, with confidence, that this battle is over. It is finished.

I think my son is right to pray, thanking God for what He is going to do, not just what He has already done. In God's eyes, and in the eyes of those who pray with faith, like my son, it is already finished.