Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Quran burning and the Gospel

Is it Christian to burn another religion's holy book all in the name of claiming to show that the other religion is false? That's the question we must ask ourselves as we look at the example of Terry Jones, that "pastor" in Florida that deemed it fit to burn a Qur'an while serving as the "pastor" of a local church called the World "Outreach" Center. Would Jesus or Paul have burned a Qur'an? Muslims are clearly outraged, but the only place we've seen this outrage is Afghanistan. The deaths are not justifiable, but I can understand their outrage. As well, Jones apparently thinks it's okay to protest a mosque in the name of Jesus Christ as well. Of course, the government did deny him his free speech rights, which is equally as wrong, but where is Jones' Christlikness in all of this?

Monday, April 18, 2011

[Book Review] "Max on Life" by Max Lucado

Note: This book was free from BookSneeze in exchange for an honest review.

This is the first non-children's Max Lucado book I have read. I've seen the Hermie movies, read the Punchinello books, and have seen The Christmas Child, but have never read one of the regular Lucado books. With that being said, I was quite impressed. This is Lucado as a pastor and Bible teacher, but mostly in a pastor role as he answers people's questions that have been submitted to him over the years. This is one of those books that you might wish every pastor to write and publish at some point just because it gets to the point. It really is an excellent book, despite some minor disagreements with some of his answers, but I'll explain those in a moment. Let us look at the topics covered, then a few sample questions, and where I may have a few disagreements.


  1. Hope: God, Grace, and "Why am I here?"
  2. Hurt: Conflicts, Calamities, and "Why me?"
  3. Help: Prayer, Scripture, and "Why church?"
  4. Him/Her: Sex, Romance, and "Any chance of a second chance?"
  5. Home: Diapers, Disagreements, and "Any hope for prodigals?"
  6. Haves/Have-Nots: Work, Money, and "Where's the lifeline?"
  7. Hereafter: Cemetaries, Heaven, Hell, and "Who goes where?"
  8. Addendum: The Write Stuff (note: this addendum is advice to aspiring writers
I did not have much problem with his answers to most of the questions in the above categories theologically. They are all one-page, sometimes two-page questions and answers, 172 of them to be exact. In fact, there's a lot that is helpful. On page 29 on prayer, he says, "If he [God] says no to our requests, it is because his glory matters more than our preferences." On page 113 on worship, he says, "The essence of worship is simply this: giving God the honor he deserves. To worship is to applaud the greatness of God." With all the hoopla about the eternality of Hell these days, Lucado says on page 226, "Much perishes in hell. Hope perishes. Happiness perishes. But the body and soul of the God-deniers dwell forever there."

I do wish that there could be more elaboration on some of what Lucado has said in some of the answers. At other times, I felt he was being a bit dodgy on his answers or a bit too careful. For example, for elaboration, I would like a clarification on where he stands on abortion. On page 62, he says, "Other than cases where abortion saves the life of the mother, we must protect the child." Obviously, he is pro-life, except in one particular case. But what exactly is that case? I do know that such cases would include the egg being implanted outside the womb. I know someone that this happened to, and they almost died. Excuses for abortion by the pro-abortion crowd are wide, and they could just as easily seize on this.

On prayer changing the mind of God, he writes on pages 77-78 about a story where his daughter was persistent in something that changed his mind and that we can change the mind of God. He uses the example of Moses pleading to God to not destroy the people and God "changes his mind" in Exodus 32:14. Yet, the Hebrew word used in that passage is the same word for repenting and has different connotations elsewhere in scripture. Taken at face value, particularly in the English, one might see God changing his mind. In Numbers 23:19, we see that God is not a man, that he should repent. Comfort is used in Genesis 5:29. So, does God change his mind or not? Yes, but only according to his will. Look above at what I quoted from Lucado on page 29.

With regards to election, he writes on pages 220-221, that both God and man do the choosing to get to heaven (my summary). How does that work? God chooses those who have accepted Christ as Savior. While that is true, it is rather simplistic and Lucado uses John 3:16 as one proof text of this as well as 2 Peter 3:9. In other instances, Lucado simply puts most burden on man for choosing to be saved. There is also the instance where he is asked about what happens to those who have never heard on pages 222-223. While I believe that there will be people from every people group in heaven as Revelation 7:9 entails, I don't think Lucado's answer satisfies how they will be there. In short, he offers up a form of universalism in his answer in saying that people will believe in a Savior they have not yet met. Granted, all people are without excuse according to Romans 1, due to God's invisible attributes being seen in all of creation, yet faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. How shall they hear without a preacher? (Romans 10:14-17)

Overall, I think this book is an excellent resource for anyone, particularly the young in the faith Christian who may have questions still about their faith. It's not a book to grow your faith. It's too simplistic for that. It's not a book to draw deep theological truths from, though there a few. It will encourage you, at times, however. For more theological stuff, I'd recommend, John Piper, D. A. Carson, R. C. Sproul, Tim Keller, or Jerry Bridges. For Systematic Theology, there's Wayne Grudem.  If you read this book, enjoy it, but as with most books written by men, compare it to scripture and know what you believe from scripture, not based on the doctrines of man.

Monday, April 11, 2011

[Book Review] "The Final Summit" by Andy Andrews

Note: This book was received free as part of Booksneeze's book review programs in exchange for a review.
"The Final Summit" by Andy Andrews is a self-help/motivational book written as a novel. It is part of a series of books, but has been written in such a way that it can be read alone. I'm always skeptical of self-help books as too often they seek answers beyond what the Bible offers. In this case, my point is proven at times. Theologian, Andy Andrews is not. There is quite some bad theology in this book at times, that Andrews would have done better to not even bring into the discussion, but I'll bring that up later in the review.

The premise of the book is built around a very wealthy man (David Ponder) in Texas who has been bankrupt at least once in life, but quickly rebounded to become very wealthy again. He lives at the top of a skyscraper he had built in Dallas. We never find out what kind of business he runs, but only that he has employed seven principles learned from time traveling to meet people like Anne Frank, Abraham Lincoln, and others. At this point, he is in his 70's and wondering what to do with the rest of his life. His wife has died and he is now alone. Suddenly, the angel Gabriel appears and starts talking to him about this final summit that is being gathered. Please note that this is not where I'm referencing the bad theology. This is just part of the story line.

The gist of this final summit is that humanity is on the brink of being destroyed unless the travelers in this summit can come up with a simple 2 word phrase that will help humanity get back on it's feet again. Ponder is whisked away to some huge boardroom with arena seating in the sky where he is to facilitate the discussion. The travelers who are to take part in this discussion include people like Benjamin Franklin, Winston Churchill, Joan of Arc, King David, King Solomon, Albert Einstein, and other well-known figures from throughout history. The point is to use their collective wisdom to come up with this solution while the hourglass is winding down.

There is sort of a bit of humor here as we see figures going head to head over different issues or listening to each other's life stories to figure out what the 2 words might be. The travelers continue to fail in finding the answer. Thankfully, this book is not billed as a Christian book, or I might be worried about the lack of Bible consulting, even though they are supposedly in Heaven with a few Biblical figures (and writers) in their midst. Here is where some of the problems lie and where I generally have problems with self-help books. God is our ultimate helper, yet, here He wants to destroy humanity unless this group of "wise" people can come up with a 2 word answer that God already knows.

A few problematic areas for me. 1) Gabriel is having the travelers rely on their own strength and their own wisdom to figure out how to solve humanities' problems. 2) The cast of characters assembled seems problematic in that many of them were questionable Christians at best, and some not Christians at all, at least not during their lifetime. John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein are a few of the ones I'm referring to. Their works seemed to have overridden their beliefs, though at one point Benjamin Franklin tells Ponder not to mention hell because some of them barely squeaked into Heaven and don't want to reminded of where they almost went. 3) God has already promised to destroy the earth at Jesus' second coming as the final destruction. All else that happens is just the continued problems of sin. 4) At one point, they are talking about building character and they are asking if adversity builds character, to which King David quickly replies, "NO". This last part is especially problematic in that all throughout scripture we do see that adversity does build character. Using a Biblical figure to say that adversity does not build character is practically heretical. Hebrews 11 and 12 show us that God uses circumstances and allows adversity in our lives to grow us and strengthen us to Godliness. When I used to work for Target, one of the security investigators once told me when I was talking about making mistakes to never think of them as mistakes, but to think of them as lessons learned. I don't know if she was a Christian, but I have never forgotten that. King David, of all people, should know that and I believe that the adversity in his life, whether self-inflicted or inflicted by others did build his character.

Problematic theological areas aside, this book was an enjoyable read. You want to keep reading to find out their answer, which I will not reveal here so that you can enjoy the book as well, should you decide to read it. Obviously, the book should not be read for any value in theological content. We can take principles from it and apply them to our lives. Each of the 2 word answers the travelers come up are helpful in our Christian life, but we should examine the Scriptures for the ultimate help from God as well as reliance on the Holy Spirit. If you do read this book, or have read this book, let me know your thoughts.

Friday, April 8, 2011

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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

[Book Review] "The Chasm" by Randy Alcorn

Disclaimer: I received this book free from Multnomah Waterbrook's Blogging for Books program.
Author Randy Alcorn takes us on a journey through our own lives through the eyes of Nick Seagrave in an allegorical fashion. "The Chasm" is a sequel of sorts to "Edge of Eternity" but can be read alone. In this book, we follow Seagrave as he is led by a character named "Joshua" to see all of his sin laid out before him via the gray paths, all of which seem to lead to the great chasm which keeps him from crossing over to the great city of Charis. There is one road which truly leads to Charis called the red road, but repeatedly, Seagrave is kept from it, as he observes a cosmic battle and nearly dies in the middle of it.
Seagrave finally ends up on the red road at the edge of the chasm and witnesses the death of the Savior in which he takes part. He is offered a chance at salvation, which involves the Woodsman (Christ) carrying him over the chasm on the tree bridging the gap. Seagrave is finally on the road to Charis.
If you've ever read "The Pilgrim's Progress" by John Bunyan or "The Great Divorce" by C. S. Lewis, this book might seem familiar. Alcorn's "Edge of Eternity" is an expanded version of this. While graphic at times, I think the book shows how important it is for us to see our sin and confess it to God. We all, like sheep, have gone astray. Seagrave's life had fallen apart and now he is offered a chance at eternal life. 
Alcorn does a great job at pointing out that there is nothing that one can do to be saved. One must trust in the Savior, but we cannot make that step ourselves. Christ must offer it to us and has offered it to us. It is there for us to take. The questions at the end of the book are great for personal reflection on what you have read. For the Christian who might be doubting their faith, for the mature believer to reflect back on their faith, or for the seeker, this book offers it all and will change your heart.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Free Audiobook of the Month - "The Hiding Place" by Corrie Ten Boom

Most of us have heard about how Corrie Ten Boom's family hid Jews from the Nazis during World War II. Now you can download and listen to the story for free during the month of April. is making "The Hiding Place" free during the month of April. Download here.