Friday, August 31, 2012

Upon the End of August

The time has come for the monthly recount of all my popular posts, both during the month of August and for the life of the blog. Note that August was HT's most successful month! (Thanks to book reviews) Have some happy reading times! If you've already read these articles, let me know your thoughts in the comments section.

Month of August Posts
Aug 10, 2012, 5 comments
Aug 23, 2012, 2 comments
Aug 14, 2012

All-Time Posts
Jul 26, 2012, 6 comments
Dec 20, 2011, 1 comment
Aug 10, 2012, 5 comments

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Are We Happy Yet?

The text of a Text makes my day

Below is a spiritual thought on the uniqueness of man as an individual from my old Sunday School teacher. Always remember that your Spiritual Journey is different from any other. Remember that you are fearfully & wonderfully made. God knows you well, loves you completely & will see you through to the end.

In life, there will always be people who try to squeeze you into their mold; people who try to pressure you into being what they want you to be. They may mean well. But the problem is that they aren't your creator. They didn't breathe life into you. They didn't equip you, empower you or anoint you; Almighty God did! If you're going to be all that God created you to be, you can't focus on what everybody else thinks. If you change with every criticism, trying to win the favor of others, then you'll go through life being manipulated and letting people squeeze you into their box. You have to realize that you can't keep every person happy. You can't make everyone like you. You'll never win over all of your critics.
Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments!

More Reading

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Every Day I'm Shufflin'

This blog post is dedicated to visualizing my most popular post, Athletes with Shuffling Feet.

Find the interactive version here!
Why is this post so popular? Perhaps it's because people feel that it takes all of their effort just to have a little faith. Perhaps it's because we all feel like we hold back pieces of ourselves from God. Perhaps it's because we feel like failures & need to be reminded that we are not finished products yet--we are still in the process of perfection.

So shuffle on. We will struggle until we "shuffle off this mortal coil" onto an eternal one.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Blue Like Jazz: Book Review

The Book

Title: Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious thoughts on Christian spirituality
Author: Donald Miller

This book was initially recommended to me in High School. I read it then, considered it a good read that provoked several thoughts & thought I agreed with some of it while disagreeing with other parts. Overall, I could see why a lot of people liked it, but never felt my life should be based on it. It was simply a good read, but not worthy of being placed on my "Re-read Annually" list.

I read it a second time as I began college. I just finished re-reading it now as I am in the middle of Grad school. This time was different, however. I was challenged to re-read the text with several questions in mind. These questions were designed to re-frame my perception of the book. They certainly have.

Technical Merit

Don Miller is one of my favorite authors when it comes to technical merit. You know this if you read my review of his most recent work: A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. Miller writes with the flourish of a poet, the honesty of a child & drops a revelation like a sonic boom. He gains 5 out of my make-shift 5 star rating for wordsmiths.

(Granted, his stream-of-consciousness style has been known to frustrate people, so if you disagree I completely understand. Perhaps this is just a style that really resonates with me & my own mental processes.)


BLJ follows Don's spiritual journey with snippets from his childhood, adolescent, collegiate & adult experiences. Note that his life experiences are real-world interactions that show how God's love pursued him. His experiences & the people he interacted with are diverse &--at times--unruly/unholy, yet God used those experiences to teach Don that He moves in the world that is outside of the typical white, anglo-saxon, protestant, Republican one he grew up in.

Don Miller describes the ugliness of the human condition according to his own testimony--he looks inside his heart for the ugliness & looks to God for the cure. At the core of his message, he states that we are broken people who need help. He reinforces that the wages of sin is death, & Christ--motivated from His own love for each individual in this world--died in our place. In addition, this substitution can be applied to anyone who believes. We then must serve our God out of gratitude & reciprocal love for him. In essence, Christian spirituality hinges on two things: Repentance & Loving Jesus.

My Takeaway

One thing I have always said, & continue to say: this is a testimony. I have heard many men get up & say they were murderers before coming to Christ or womanizers or major drug dealers. I have heard many testimonies that included time in a prison cell. I have never heard them say: In order to be saved, you have to experience this too. Don is the same, he in no way says that you have to experience God the way he did. If anything, he says you need to listen to him in your own language.

Honestly, I thought I disagreed with the book a lot more before I read it this third time. I realize now that Miller is arguing for a Christianity that returns to the spirit in which it was founded--free from politics & attempts to legislate morality. His argument about our use of love is especially convicting. Notice that we value people, invest in people & relationships are bankrupt. By using an economic metaphor for love, we subconsciously treat it like a pay for service program. I give you love if you render X. We should love, not as a reward for good behavior, but because God is love & God motivates us. At one point, Don says, "This was the way God loved me. God had never withheld love to teach me a lesson." A Christian should love as God loves.

One final point. People tend to get confused with Don's insistence on using the term Christian Spirituality rather than Christianity. As mentioned in the previous paragraph, what Don intends to do is distance real Christianity from politicized Christianity. In essence, it mirrors the book on Evangelicalism I reviewed a few weeks ago, where the authors tried to separate that movement from racism, homophobia, republicanism, etc. In addition, Don tries to describe the wonder & awesomeness of God. Sometimes Christians try to compartmentalize & "reduce God to math" so we can pretend that we have all the answers. Unfortunately, God is greater than that. Don echoes some C. S. Lewis as he argues that the Creator must be both outside of & much greater than the creation. That is the very definition of mysticism.

At the end of all this, I recommend the book to anyone who is grounded in their faith. I also recommend this to sheltered Christians who need a dose of reality. Obviously, there is a level of maturity that is a prerequisite to all reading, that is the only barrier that I place on my recommendation.

More Reading

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years
Everything You Know About Evangelicals is Wrong
Mere Christianity

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The All-Sufficiency of Christ: Book Review

A Plymouth Brethren Classic!

The Book

Title: The All-Sufficiency of Christ
Author: C. H. Mackintosh

I came across this title in a pile of books that were being donated to the nether world. I saw the beautiful book & recognized the author, so I snapped it up. This title, as it turns out, is a classic title in the Plymouth Brethren assemblies. I grew up hearing these arguments & ideas propagated & reinforced. In fact, most lay persons in the assemblies will be just as familiar with this title as I was--despite never actually reading it.

Technical Merit

I give this book 2 of 5 stars for technical merit. Mackintosh tends to recycle the same arguments from one chapter to the next. I suspect, however, (though I have not been able to confirm) that these chapters were originally composed as pamphlets that were intended to stand alone & circulate. This would explain the overlap in arguments & redundancy in explanation. This would also be consistent with historical trends in Restorationist (The Plymouth Brethren fall into this historical time-period) literature.

The author also followed the trend of the day with regard to his style. There is no flowery language (aside from the Elizabethan English: thee & thou) in this text. As a direct consequence, Mackintosh does not use illustration to back his points. While he certainly does not need to illustrate in order to get his point across, it is a technical tool that could have been used to clarify & drive his points home.


The main point of this book/collection is that the believer needs only Christ. As such, Mackintosh argues for the highest Christology possible. Since Christ is all-sufficient, we need not hearken to the traditions of: men, religion or higher criticism, only Christ as revealed in scripture. A high Christology is central to Christianity. If Christ was anything other than God incarnate, we have no hope at all.

The largest claim this work has to fame is the argument for the believer's salvation from the Penalty of Sin, the Power of Sin & (ultimately) the Presence of Sin. Therefore, the true believer stands justly before God through the atoning work of Christ. They are no longer subject to the Romans 3.23 "wages of sin." In addition, they are freed from the compulsion to sin: "the believer need not sin." Victory can be found in Christ. Ultimately, the believer will be redeemed from this corruptible world & saved from the very presence of sin. This hermeneutic, taken as a whole, combats both Pelagianism & Antinomianism.

A fascinating point made in the work refers to the importance of the Resurrection as it relates to the atonement. When Christ took on Sin (the noun, not the verb) while dying on the cross, His work is sufficient for all generations. All my sins were in the future from Calvary, yet they were all present from God's perspective (since God is outside of time). Further, the Lord Jesus is seated on the right hand of God. We know that nothing that is marked with Sin can enter God's presence. This can only mean that Christ, who became Sin for us dealt with it so thoroughly that it has been eradicated. Sin is a non-issue for the Divine. We need only rest on His finished work & reap the benefits of Jesus' sacrifice.

I heartily recommend this book to any seasoned Christian. Some elements in the work may be slightly misleading & condemnatory, which may lead novices to erroneous conclusions. While a hard copy may be elusive, digital copies are readily available.

More Reading

Notes on 1 Peter 2
Bubble Boy Faces the Real World

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

I Am the Other 9


"Make thankfulness your sacrifice to God," --Psalm 50.14 NLT

Last night I came home 

To a sight that I noticed but did not think too much of. I saw the President of my neighborhood community flat on his stomach, digging a hole. This is not uncommon because my dumpy little community does things on the cheap. They fix rooftops themselves, they re-did the stairs, the "grounds crew" is sub-par, etc...

However, when I entered my home, walked the dogs, returned & tried to wash my hands, I noticed the problem--no water.

The men we digging in order to repair a busted pipe. This lack of water immediately cramped our style. No hand-washing. No tap water to drink. No workout because there may be no shower. You realize the little conveniences of modernity only when they go missing. (Modernity loosely used here, knowing that the ancient Greeks & Romans even had running water in their homes, but not me last night!)

We ate supper & settled into watching Blue Like Jazz, which just came out on DVD last week. During the movie, my wife noted that they were getting louder outside. Her exact quote was, "There are 10 Cubans outside yelling at a pipe!" I thought they were having a normal discussion with the pipe, but I digress on cultural stereotypes.

About 30 minutes into the movie there came a knock, knock on my door. Sure enough, it was a loud Cuban, letting me know that the water should be on soon. I said thanks,  proceeded to test it. No water yet. In fact, there would be no water for the next 20 minutes. Knock, knock. This time the president was at my door, all dirty & apologetic. He asked if I had water yet, I said no. He poceeded to explain what happened.


The tree was too heavy for the PVC pipeline that carried our water. The PVC cracked & needed to be replaced, which he did. Allegedly, our line was still having problems after he filled the hole in. Our home, our next-door neighbor & the downstairs neighbor were the only homes with no water. It was too late for him to get back in there to fix the problem. We were going to be without water all night.

That means one flush per toilet for the night (3 toilets to satisfy your curiosity). No shower. 2 episodes of Brushing My Teeth Without Water. My wife & I were distraught. And, like any good member of the Millennial generation, we took to Twitter & Facebook to let the world know how frustrated we were.

"I Like Running Water"

It was intended as a complaint in an ironic, mordant manner. While true, what I was getting at was the fact that I have none & am pissed about it. Bam! Tweet your heart out, suckers. I refreshed the page so I can view my acerbic tweet in all it's glory & what do I find?

"The things you take for granted someone else is praying for."

That will humble you. It humbled me. How self-absorbed was I? Here I am. With a full belly. With powerful electricity running in my walls. Electricity to power my television. Electricity to power my  Blu-Ray Player. Electricity to power my Air Conditioning. And I'm complaining about water?

What about people who travel miles upon miles for what would amount to half a day's ration of water? What about people who are enduring oppressive famines that have no water for crops? I can run to the grocery store and grab water--or just melt my ice.

People are praying for water, no matter how it comes. I am concerned with convenience.

Jesus dealt with ungrateful people

He dealt with lepers in Luke 17. He healed 10 of them. They had no more spots! They were integrated into society again. What a blessing! What incredible healing. The lepers were given a second chance to live their first life.

Only one of the 10 returned to Jesus to give thanks. Scripture honors this man for his gratitude--he doesn't even become a follower of Jesus per se! Jesus' inquiry about the other 9 haunts me today. Where are they?

I am here, Lord. Thank you for your blessings. I'm sorry that I took them for granted.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Righteousness in Rome - Outline from Brower


I have published a few outlines to the book of Romans on this blog. One may begin to consider me a collector of sorts. (Hint, look for my "Topics" widget on the side & click on "Romans") Jonathan Brower offered up another outline yesterday. It consists of a titled section & a key verse. The overall topic of the book of Romans is: Righteousness.

Without further ado...

Here's the outline

Romans 1-3: Man needs Righteousness
          Key = Romans 3.9

Romans 4-5:  Justification Offered
          Key = Romans 5:17-21

Romans 6-8: Living Out the Righteousness of God
          Key = Romans 8.1-4

Romans 9-11: Israel & God's Righteousness
          Key = Romans 10.1-4

Romans 12-16: What Righteousness Looks Like in Real Life
          Key = Romans 14.17

More Reading

Like I said, I have written several overviews / outlines of the book of Romans. Here is a sampling of other posts you may find interesting:
Romans Road for the Believer (Wheeler)
Romans Read Through
Peter Aceti - Romans

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Victory for the Home Team (Brower)

What's up with that?

Jonathan Brower asked me to review his message delivered on June 24 at Bible Truth Chapel. To be honest, I don't normally review messages that I listen to online, but when directly asked to do so I concede. I set aside time this morning to listen on my iPhone & I am glad I did. You can find it here:

What is an Idol?

An idol is anything that impedes your relationship with the Lord. All too often, we find ourselves giving up ground to the enemy which has already been claimed by Christ's finished work. We should be victorious people, but we get lost in the blessings we live in. God's will can be simple: he wills that you lead a godly, spiritual life.

The Spiritual Life

If someone who is not endowed with the Holy Spirit can do it, then it is not spiritual! Too often, we confuse activity with spirituality. Any unsaved heathen can come to Church when the doors are open, but what happens while you're there? More importantly, what happens when you get home? A lot of the problems with the priesthood in 1 Samuel start with a lack of spirituality at home! That permissiveness at home permeated the sanctuary.

May we be found faithful to our Savior and wake up from the stupor we find ourselves in. If we have no victory in life, we cannot blame God or the Devil (who has already been defeated); we can only blame ourselves.


No, this was not my typical summary of the #BTSermon style. This was more a reaction after listening to the podcast. Please make time to listen to the actual message to gain a more scriptural perspective on these topics.

More Reading

Defeatism in the Church
Athletes with Shuffling Feet
Hope to Carry On

Friday, August 10, 2012

A Grief Observed: Book Review

The Book

Title: A Grief Observed
Author: C. S. Lewis

For my birthday I received Barnes & Noble gift cards. Rather than spending them on some DVD/Blu Ray or some newfangled book, I decided to purchase a boxed set of C. S. Lewis' classic works. True, the set comes with a couple works I have already read & love (Mere Christianity & Screwtape Letters), but it also contains works that I have been longing to read for a while & never got around to. This title is the first that I have had a chance to dive into since purchase.

Technical Merit

The author is C. S. Lewis, who is a credentialed literary critic & masterful writer. I have probably not done his merits justice, but suffice it to say that I cannot give him any less than a 5 out of 5 for technical merit. It feels wrong for someone of my non-stature to critique his pedigree. Yet, my two cents stand. He brilliantly weaves humor into a book whose subject is grief. He is a master of illustration--making the abstract appear concrete as ever. Read Lewis for Theology. Read Lewis for pleasure.

A Grief Observed is a short piece, even by C. S. Lewis' standards. His works are always marked by their brevity. My edition consisted of 79 wide-margin pages & 1.5 spacing between lines. I was able to read it in a day & a half. You should read it too.

My Review

Lewis strikes a vulnerable tone in this book which is markedly different than the other works I have read from him. He is not the scientist, peering at his subject through a cold microscope. Lewis is, literally, a widower who is at once analyzing & experiencing his own grief at the loss of his dear wife. I came away from this reading with a new perspective on both marriage & God's testing. I expect that when I re-read this book after more life-experiences, I should realize some new aspects of this work that may be applicable then.

Due to the nature of Lewis' grief, he delves a bit into marriage & the relationship between man & woman. He talks of the union as a process which naturally flows from Courtship to Marriage to Bereavement. About bereavement, he states that it is "a universal and integral part of our experience of love." If there was a time when you were not in wedlock, there will then be a time when you will no longer be in wedlock. You should enjoy & appreciate the unique aspects of the season you are currently living in, for it is not guaranteed to last.

About God testing man; we talk a lot about God sending us a test. We cite passages about God never tempting us, but testing us for a time. We also talk about how tribulation will bring about patience, endurance & culminate in hope. However, we rarely ever flesh out what we mean. In one quote, C. S. Lewis accomplishes this: "God has not been trying an experiment on my faith or love in order to find out their quality. He knew it already. It was I who didn't." With that we realize that God sends us tests not that He may grade us, but that we may grade ourselves! We find, like his illustration states, that we have been building a house of cards that is easy to flatten. The sooner we are flattened, the sooner we can rebuild on a better foundation.

More Reading

Craig Fritchey & the 7 Cs
Mere Christianity: A Must Read for the Thinking Man
...The Life That I Now Live...

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Everything you know about Evangelicals is wrong: Book Review

The Book

Title: Everything You Know About Evangelicals is Wrong: Well, Almost Everything
Author(s): Steve Wilkens; Don Thorsen

This is another salvaged book from a Borders Bookstore (Bon)fire sale. I picked it up at a cheap-o price thinking it might be a nice little read someday. It sat on my shelf for nigh unto a year until I decided to pick it up for real. It turned out to be a nice 2-day read. It is jam-packed with information that makes sense to the reader.

Technical Merit

Stylistically, I give this book 4.2 out of 5 stars. It is beautifully written! It is difficult to weave Theology with humor, but the authors achieve a remarkable balance between the two. They always remind us that Theology must be freed from the theoretical realm & applied to the real world.

Throughout the book, the authors write in first person to show when they are writing from their own experience. There are a couple chapters where the authors explicitly state that they are arguing their own position on the topic at hand because they have more experience in that area. I find that to be an honest way to go about writing on this topic which turns out to be a very broad umbrella.


The authors undertake the enormous task of defining that division of Christianity that identifies themselves as "Evangelical." What does that term mean? Who is allowed to call themselves evangelical? And, somewhat more importantly, when the world hears that demarcation, what characteristics immediately pop into their minds?

The book takes the reader on a survey of the Church history, religious dogma, creeds, social revolutions & tent revivals that helped shape the world-view that is evangelicalism. It seeks to explain why we have so many denominations that seek to describe themselves as "Evangelical-(dash)-Fill in the blank."

You will quickly find out by looking at the table of contents that the authors take a negative approach to this topic--they seek to define Evangelicalism by what it is not. They argue that Evangelicals are not all: mean, stupid, dogmatic, waiting for the rapture, anti-evolutionists, inerrantists, rich Americans, Calvinists, Republicans, racist, sexist & homophobic. Granted, some Evangelicals can be described in those terms, but these terms are a caricature that is imposed on the whole & only reinforced by a fringe minority of real persons. In other words, while some people consider a specific stance on these elements to be a litmus test for the Evangelical (sometimes even a prerequisite for the believer), it is clear that they should not be main components of a functional definition of the movement.

My Takeaway

It appears that the authors are not arguing for Evangelicalism as a denominational distinctive, rather as a paradigm through which particular Christians view the world. By arguing against a narrow definition of the term, they effectively pitch a tent that includes most of Christendom. Invariably, Evangelicals will protest this ecumenism, which only affirms the diversity of this group.

I enjoyed the survey of Christendom that this book conducts. While the authors strive to accurately & fairly describe the positions held by all Christians on each of these points, the information offered in the chapters are by no means comprehensive. The result is a nice base of reference without being overwhelming. I expect to refer back to individual chapters when considering these topics in the future.

More Reading

Till Kingdom Come: A #BTSermon
Origins & Distinctives of the Plymouth Brethren
Salus Populi Suprema Lex

Monday, August 6, 2012

Romans Road for the Believer: a #BTSermon from Thomas Wheeler

Thomas Wheeler discusses the book of Romans

Thomas Wheeler conducted a 5-part discussion on the book of Romans. I was only able to take notes on the Wednesday night presentation, so that is what follows.

When Plans go Awry

We Plan, God Plans

When considering God's will, it is important to know that God is not opposed to you planning out your steps per se. However, it is always important to know that changing the course of your life is God's prerogative--He can & will change your circumstances to accomplish His goals. Accomplishing His goals should be the highest priority of the believer.


Think Again!

Sometimes we feel that when our plans don't work out, we were clearly going against God's will. That may be the case (see: Jonah). It is possible that we were directly rebelling against the will of God. However, things are not always so clear-cut. Perhaps God wants you to learn from a failed exploit. He might want to show you how to depend on Him through a trial. Sometimes we interpret our life events in binary terms--things are either entirely positive or they are entirely negative. This mode of thought is not Biblical. Sometimes God uses negatives to bring about a positive. Sometimes positive experiences are only physically positive while actually being spiritual negatives.

Dodge, Duck, Dip, Dive & ...Dodge

Flaming Darts

How severely does God punish people for past sins? We know there may be physical repercussions for sinful deeds, but how many of them qualify as direct discipline from the Divine arm of deity? Actually, God is not in the business of keeping a record of wrongs. The only punishment that God metes out is a final one for sin. Other consequences are physical results of a fallen wold. The Devil is actually the accuser of the brethren. He is the one who keeps a list of wrongs & recites them into our ears. He is the one who tries to keep us under bondage through the following mechanism:

The Oppressor


Satan wants you to wilt & remain crippled by your guilt. He has no other weapon but your past sin. Why? Because your character is perfect if you are in Christ! The Lord Jesus has cleansed you & He should be your prince of peace. Satan uses guilt (false guilt) to lower the effectiveness of your Christian life. He whispers your shortcomings into your ear. He uses legalism to hinder growth & Christian liberty. Beware when feeling guilty. It must be examined for what it really is. Have your done wrong? If so, has it been confessed? If so, you are forgiven--move on. If the answer is no, you have done no wrong, ignore the Devil's accusation. Carry on.

More Reading

Chickfila & Muppets. Two things I Love
There's the Beef
The Veggie of Choice for Tasteless People
Emancipation to Christ's Yoke
Christopher M. Jimenez. Powered by Blogger.

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