The Dust of Death

41sXdCyz+jL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_Can one decade or generation have as much affect on a culture or nation as the 1960’s?

Os Guinness wrote his book, The Dust of Death: The Sixties Counterculture and How it Changed America, just after living through the counter-cultural revolution of the 1960’s. Guinness charts with a socio-philosophical bent the journey of a generation, from the erosion of Christianity to the failure of the counterculture to provide an effective alternative to faith. The author calls for another “way” for the Western world, one of which combines conviction with compassion and deep spirituality.

Guinness himself writes an adequate description of his book in the Preface on the 1960’s,

“What we were witnessing … was the gradual disillusionment of a generation, even of a culture. Ideals had grown so distant they were barely distinguishable from illusions. Meaning had become a mirage. Eager minds, soaring beyond facts to a super-freedom of fantasy, had plunged earthwards. Even resolute action, which seemed to have rolled the stone almost to the top of the hill, paused for breath only to watch the stone roll backwards…. Beneath the efforts of a generation lay dust. Subsequent events and a closer inquiry, far from contradicting this suspicion, have served only to confirm it. The examination of this suspicion and the charting of an alternative is the burden of this book.”

Although the book was written about a decade that dates back almost 50 years now, the content is still current as we are continuing to live out the consequences of the sixties.

The book has several themes it unfolds such as: humanism, authority issues, violence, drugs, eastern religions and the occult. I would have liked if the book explored more on the themes of the sexual revolution, rise of postmodernism and the spirit of entitlement that also came out of the sixties.

REFLECTIONS

The influence of humanistic philosophy.

Humanism is just one facet of the Western culture,

“Western culture has been marked by a distinct slowing of momentum, or more accurately, by a decline in purposefulness and an increase in cultural introspection. The convergence of three cultural trends has created this vacuum in thought and effective action…the erosion of the Christian basis of Western culture…the failure of optimistic humanism…the failure of the sixties’ counterculture.” p.18

Humanism has it’s roots into a cultural change 500 years ago,

“The legacy of the Renaissance is humanism, then the contribution of the Enlightenment is paganism.” p.21

Humanism is an idea, but it fails in reality.

“Optimistic humanism appeals to the highest of human aspirations, but it ignores the full reality of human aberrations.” p.32

A utopian mindset.

The Western culture has moved to a utopian mindset that tries to adopt anything,

“When people cease to believe in God, they do not believe in nothing; they believe in anything. Cheapness and confusion will be the religious climate of the next years…faddish faith can be as dangerous as false faith.” p.67

Authority Issues.

One can look at the sixties and say that is was a time of rebellion against authority. Yet it was a populous shifting the authoritative hat,

“A revolution is certainly the most authoritarian thing there is; it is the art whereby one part of the population imposes its will on the other part…without authoritarian means no revolution would be successful.” p.148

Violence breeds more violence.

The chapter on violence was the most disturbing, but also the most revealing chapter of the book. What was shocking was to embrace the fact that America had a violent beginning,

“A resort to violence as the American way of life. From the killing of the red people and the enslaving of the black people down to the assassinations, such violence is a reoccurring theme. The only time excepted was the fifty years after the Civil War.” pp.168-169

This has made violence one of our marks,

“When they begin by viewing violence as ‘normal’ they soon slide into viewing it a ‘necessary’ and then as ‘legitimate’.” p.158

As you look at the nonsensical violence that happens in American and the West it is plain to see how this mindset plays out. Violence is frighteningly accepted in media and movies. Look at the school shootings and massacres that happen. It is breed out of this acceptance of violence. As Guinness states how younger generations are taught,

“The school authority does not represent order so much as repression, as it is a system where the boys are taught to ‘fight’ in sports, army training, and the Chapel religion fight the good fight of faith. Thus the eventual violence in response is justified. It is not crisis but catharsis, an assertion and discovery of freedom from repression.” p.157

A statement from John McCain’s lasts statement to the nation,

“We are citizens of the world’s greatest republic, a nation of ideals, not blood and soil. We are blessed and are a blessing to humanity when we uphold and advance those ideals at home and in the world. We have helped liberate more people from tyranny and poverty than ever before in history. We have acquired great wealth and power in the process. We weaken our greatness when we confuse our patriotism with tribal rivalries that have sown resentment and hatred and violence in all the corners of the globe. We weaken it when we hide behind walls, rather than tear them down, when we doubt the power of our ideals, rather than trust them to be the great force for change they have always been.”

Guinness sees no justification for violence,

“For the Christian, a single human being made in the image of God is unique. Therefore violence can never be justified. Its pragmatic usefulness cannot be calculated in terms of individual lives, whether by a murder or by scenario scientists plating strategies of future wars in terms of mega-deaths. Violence has a dark record. It corrupts the best of ends and brutalizes the bravest ideals.” p.178

However, Guinness does believe there is a justification for “force”,

“Provided that there is a legitimate basis for its use and a vigilant precaution against its overreaction in practice, a qualified use of force is not only necessary but justifiable. Within Christian framework there is the possibility of truth, justice, and authority that are not arbitrary, relativistic, or mystifying. Thus an important distinction between force and violence is possible. Force, on the one hand, is the controlling discipline of truth, justice and authority in action. Violence, on the other hand, can come from one of three directions—from the maintenance of authority without a legitimate basis, from the contravention of a legitimate authority, or from the injustice of a legitimate overreacting as it deals with opposition or violation. Overreaction in the name of truth too easily becomes the ugly horror of violence once again.” p.180

“Provided that there is no compliance with the violent and no condoning of the violence, a qualified understanding of violence is both necessary and justifiable. To a limited extent violence is effective in unmasking hypocrisy, liberating the oppressed, and judging the oppressor.” p.183

Experimentalism.

Experience often minimizes God,

“Meaning is no longer what God means about himself to human beings, but rather what human beings mean as they search for God and express themselves in human terms.” p.318

We live in a culture that maximizing experiences,

“If the intellect cannot handle God, who is known only in encounter or crisis, then truth—in other words, the grounds for trustworthiness—is totally subjective, outside the area of conceptual knowledge or words. The depth of trust depends on the depth of the experience…In a day of spiritual counterfeits and confusion, there is no way to know whether what we are experiencing is God, an “angel of light,” an acid trip or a theologian’s hoax.” pp.340-341

Our church culture has also watered down truth,

“The net effect of all these movements—liberalism, extreme fundamentalism, ecumenism, Pentecostalism—has been to devalue truth, blur the uniqueness of the Christian faith, and leave historic Christian faith shorn of its greatest strength—its claim to be true.” p.321

The need for falsification or testing our faith is necessary,

“For the Christian the validity of the principle of falsification is welcomed as a genuine test of the integrity of faith.” p.341

At the end of the day Christians believe the Book is from God,

“The Christian faith is not even true because the Bible says so, but rather because God who is the ultimate screen of truth has said so.” p.343

“The Christian view of the universe stresses two points of fundamental importance—its reality and its rationality, both stemming from who God is and the nature of his creative work.” p.346

“Serious attention to the Christian view shows its sensitive understanding of human aspirations—by virtue of their creation in the image of God—balanced by a realistic recognition of their alienation.” p.348

In conclusion, Guinness reflects on the failure of optimistic humanism and the counterculture,

“After the erosion of Christian culture, post-Christian people have turned from the truth of God. But they still twist uncomfortably, holding what they need of truth to be human beings while denying what they dislike of truth in favour of their own chosen premises. Some search for social justice but to their shame exchange the Galilean carpenter for the bourgeois scribbler in the British Museum. Some seek for escape from suffering but miss the Man of Sorrows and follow shadowy avatars to the Nirvanic no man’s land; others, looking for an exit from it all, miss the clarion call to freedom, “I am the Way, I am the Truth, and I am the Life” stumble along a road that leads nowhere, dusty with death. Often, the logic of modern premises is hellish. But then ultimately Hell is nothing less than the truth known too late.” p.358

“The sixties was supremely a generation of talkers an travelers. An epitaph for the counterculture might well read: When all is said and done, much more will have been said than done.” p.360

Another Way—the Third Way.

What is need is a Third Race,

“What is needed is nothing short of reformation and revival in the church, a rediscovery of the truth of God by his people and a renewal of the life of God within his people.” p.362

“The Christian life is not just difficult; it is impossible. But it is exactly here than humanism leaves off and the Christian faith begins. That is also why only this uniquely ‘impossible’ faith—with a God who is, with an incarnation what is earthy and historical, with a salvation that is at cross-purposes with human nature, with a resurrection that blasts apart the finality of death—is able to provide an alternative to the sifting, settling dust of death and through a new birth open the way to new life.” p.367

There is an offer of a Third Way which “holds the promise of realism without despair, involvement without frustration, hope without romanticism.” p.19

 Guinness calls prophetically for “a third way”. The basis and the subsequent life-style outworking of the Christian position is wholly different than the other two groupings (optimistic humanism and counterculture). With humanism floundering on the rocks of its own faulty basis and the counterculture suffering with severe loss of idealism. Christians at this point in history have a unique opportunity to step into the gap.

“Such a Third Way will not be easy. It will be lonely. Sometimes Christians must have the courage to stand with the Establishment, speaking boldly to the radicals and pointing out the destructive and counterproductive nature of their violence. At other times they will stand with cobelligerents with the radicals in their outrage and just demands for redress.” p.189

“The Christian stands back and affirms the higher way.” p.188

The third way is a clear call to radical Christian discipleship and the need for Christians to live out the reality of the Kingdom of God. It calls for Christians to develop a biblical world-view and to act into society rather than react as so often has been the case.

“Deep and long-lasting change is not brought about by revolution but by reconciliation and reconstruction.” p.191

PERSONAL RESPONSE

Os Guinness is a thinker.  His book causes you to think. He was really taken an era, a culture, and boiled down it’s fallacies. It is helpful to take a step back and consider the forest as Guinness does rather than continuing to smell the flowers.

The book helps you to grasp the thinking or mindset of a culture, a people who have forsaken God. It is as if you step into their mind and process decisions with them. This is  the cultural mindset I grew up in.

As I read through the book I felt a bit of shame and anger at the decisions my parents and grandparents generation had made. I realize they aren’t entirely to blame. They were following the course of their parents and grandparents too. However, the book wasn’t simply a critic of went wrong, it offers a hope to get right. The Third Way. This is the way I want to live which is really against the grain of culture, but that can bring a culture away from its inevitable demise or destruction. There is hope for light, rather than doom and gloom.

Conclusion

The Dust of Death is a well-written and weighty. One should read it several times to soak it in. A quick peek is not recommended. Guinness packs a massive amount of cultural information and philosophical critique in this work. Those with limited background in philosophy, culture analysis, and theology might find it boring and abstruse. But those who can appreciate philosophy and social analysis will benefit. One who wants to understand the impact of 1960s culture on the modern world-view should read this work.

The Dust of Death is a must read for anyone who wishes to be aware of what is happening around him and gives a basis for the church (i.e. the people of God) to be in the world what God has called them to be.  This book has great impact on those who serve in today’s world such as pastors, teachers, professors, leaders, and missionaries. The book helps you to know how to reach people birthed out of the sixties, a decade that still has rippled affects on today’s world.

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Spurgeon’s Sorrows

Is sorrow bad?  How does God use sorrow or depression?  What does the Bible have to say about sorrow?

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http://a.co/5IdWTpw

In his book, Spurgeon’s Sorrows, by Zach Eswine, he colorfully aims to offer realistic hope for those who are suffering from depression. It traces the life of Charles Spurgeon and his own struggle with sorrow and depression. It might be unknown to many that Spurgeon struggled for much of his life with depression. The author digs into his writings, sermons and teachings and the Scripture to form a practical understanding of sorrow.

The book is divided into three parts:

  • Part 1 – Trying to Understand Depression.
  • Part 2 – Learning how to help those who suffer from depression.
  • Part 3 Learning to Daily Cope with Depression.

Reflections

Sorrow is allowed by God and at times comes from the heart of God. Therefore, it has its good purpose. As the author concludes the book by saying,

“Sorrows are caused by ugly things. But Jesus adopts them as it were. He brings them into His own counsel. The One who loves even enemies puts our sorrows on probation. He gives them His own heart and provision and house. Living with Him they reform and take on His purposes to promote His intentions. In Him, they reverse and thwart foul tidings.” (Kindle Locations 1847-1849).

The author dives into the life of Spurgeon and the Scriptures to help us understand one who suffered sorrow. The author adequately and sufficient dissects Spurgeon’s life and the Scripture to offer one who is walking through a season of sorrow hope.

In my opinion, here were some helpful tidbits and quotes from the book.

Sadness is not laziness nor sin.

“Contrary to what some people tell us, sadness is neither a sign of laziness nor a sin; neither negative thinking nor weakness. On the contrary, when we find ourselves impatient with sadness, we reveal our preference for folly, our resistance to wisdom, and our disregard for depth and proportion.” (Kindle Locations 274-276).

Sadness doesn’t always have a cure.

“In this fallen world, sadness is an act of sanity, our tears the testimony of the sane.” (Kindle Locations 283-284)

“Conversion to Jesus isn’t heaven, but its foretaste. This side of heaven, grace secures us but doesn’t cure us.” (Kindle Locations 382-383)

The grace of Jesus is our greatest medicine.

“It is Christ and not the absence of depression that saves us. So, we declare this truth. Our sense of God’s absence does not mean that He is so. Though our bodily gloom allows us no feeling of His tender touch, He holds on to us still. Our feelings of Him do not save us. He does. Our hope therefore, does not reside in our ability to preserve a good mood but in His ability to bear us up.” (Kindle Locations 392-395)

We are weak.

“The mind can descend far lower than the body, for in it there are bottomless pits. The flesh can bear only a certain number of wounds and no more, but the soul can bleed in ten thousand ways, and die over and over again each hour.” (Kindle Locations 218-220)

God has not deserted us.

“We plead not ourselves, but the promises of Jesus; not our strengths but His; our weaknesses yes, but His mercies. Our way of fighting is to hide behind Jesus who fights for us. Our hope is not the absence of our regret, or misery or doubt or lament, but the presence of Jesus.” (Kindle Locations 578-580)

Find Scriptural language to describe your sorrow.

God is gracious to give us language for sorrow. The author dips into the metaphors of the Psalms to find language for sorrow. For example,

  • Psalm 88 – ‘depths of the pit’, ‘trouble’, ‘regions dark and deep’ ‘overwhelm me with all your waves’
  • Psalm 69:15 – ‘flood sweep over me’, ‘deep swallow me up’

“Even Charles’ sermon titles began to utilize the metaphors that Scripture offers for the sorrowing; titles such as “the frail leaf” (Job. 13:25)16 , the “wounded spirit” (Prov. 18:14, kjv), the “fainting soul” (Ps. 42:6)17 , and “the bruised reed” (Isa. 42:1-3). Jesus is “the man of sorrows” (Isa. 53:3). He does not quit us amid the agony of a fleshly thorn (2 Cor. 12:7).” (Kindle Locations 864-867)

Understanding sorrow helps us to understand the sorrowful.

“we should feel more for the prisoner if we knew more about the prison.” (Kindle Locations 952-954)

Jesus’ sorrow offers hope.

Jesus himself is the man of sorrows. Spurgeon agrees,

“The sympathy of Jesus is the next most precious thing to his sacrifice.” (Kindle Location 1092) Also the author says, “To feel in our being that the God to whom we cry has Himself suffered as we do enables us to feel that we are not alone and that God is not cruel.” (Kindle Locations 1114-1115).

“To feel in our being that the God to whom we cry has Himself suffered as we do enables us to feel that we are not alone and that God is not cruel.” (Kindle Locations 1114-1115).

The promises of God fuel our hope.

“The promise isn’t a bare word, but the word of God.” (Kindle Locations 1292-1293) Again, “Promises aren’t magic. They resemble love letters more than incantations, statements of truth more than immunity passes. They often forge, not a pathway for escape from life, but an enablement to endure what assails us.” (Kindle Locations 1321-1322) (also see Psalm 138:7; 73:26; 145:14)

Good comes from sorrow.

“I am sure that I have run more swiftly with a lame leg than I ever did with a sound one. I am certain that I have seen more in the dark than ever I saw in the light, – more stars, most certainly, – more things in heaven if fewer things on earth. The anvil, the fire, and the hammer, are the making of us; we do not get fashioned much by anything else. That heavy hammer falling on us helps to shape us; therefore let affliction and trouble and trial come.” (Kindle Locations 1796-1799).

“I am sure that I have run more swiftly with a lame leg than I ever did with a sound one. I am certain that I have seen more in the dark than ever I saw in the light, – more stars, most certainly, – more things in heaven if fewer things on earth. The anvil, the fire, and the hammer, are the making of us; we do not get fashioned much by anything else. That heavy hammer falling on us helps to shape us; therefore let affliction and trouble and trial come.” (Kindle Locations 1796-1799).

The chapter that I would like to see expanded or further explained is chapter 10 on Natural Helps. The author dabs into laughter, retreats, medicines, stimulants and teachings. While there is not one thing there that is meant to be the cure-all, there are a myriad of helps available to try. They aren’t meant to stand alone, but dependent on grace of Jesus.

Chapter 11 on suicide did not leave any stone unturned. It was a difficult topic to address, but a necessary one. Most authors would skip over the subject, yet the desire to die often comes with sorrow and depression. Even some of characters in the Bible expressed this. In the end, we are meant to choose life. I am glad the author touch on this topic and brought with it so much hope.

Personal Response

First, the book helped me understand a struggle my wife has had from time to time, even during our marriage. My wife has had seasons of depression that sometimes come without warning or cause. This book helped me understand that sometimes the causes to sorrow or depression aren’t so obvious nor the cure so plain. In the past, I’ve tried to understand my wife in order to fix or find a solution for her, but that hasn’t always been helpful or what she has needed. She’s more often needed a friend who seeks to understand or an encouragement from God’s precious promises.

Second, the book has helped me understand my own seasons of sorrow.  Even recently, I’ve been a season that has required endurance and trust in the promises of God. These were difficult seasons and I had looked at them in a new light, as I’ve read in this book. I gain a lot of hope in “the Man of Sorrows” and his grace that is sufficient for all seasons. As I look back, I see God’s goodness. This helps as I move ahead.

Third, the book reminded me to be more sympathetic and understanding to those who are suffering from sorrow or depression. Using the example of Jesus and others from Scripture it is clear that there is a purpose and example to follow. God offers real hope as he walks with those living within seasons of sorrow.

Conclusion

The book is an easy yet hard read. It is easy because the chapters are short and well illustrated. It is hard because of the content. If you are one acquainted with sorrows it may rub some old scars, but may offer some deep healing in the process.

I strongly recommend this book to any pastor or counselor who works closely with people. I also recommend this book to one who have walked through the valley or one who is walking with a friend through the valley. My wife and I read this book together. She says it is one of the best and most hopeful books on depression from a Christian she’s read. The book doesn’t give claim to having all the answers, but it does help one to get into the mind of a sufferer and the mind of God when suffering.

the good God

good God

“How can you believe in three gods?”  asks my Muslim neighbor.  It’s then that I come face to face with a common misunderstanding about God as I understand him.

Recently, I was given the book, The Good God (Michael Reeves, Paternoster, UK, 2012) from a pastor friend in London, England.  It is a small book.  And after a brief thumbing, it appeared to be packed with theology and quotes from church fathers.  I shrugged it off as another colorless treatise on the Trinity.  However, as I began to delve into the pages they began to delve into me.  I gained a fresh veneration and love for my God in a book I’d dub as both practical and devotional.  The fog surrounding the Trinity vanished and what appeared was God’s incomparable beauty and love.

The thrust of the book is that God is love because God is Trinity.  It goes on to say that if God was not Father he would not be loving.  “It is only when you grasp what it means for God to be a Trinity that you really sense the beauty, the overflowing kindness, the heart-grabbing loveliness of God.” (vii)  The love between the persons of God help one to understand the triune God better.

What was God doing before creation?

A Christians understanding of God is built on the Son who reveals him (4). God as Father helps you to know how he loves.  If you don’t start with Jesus the Son, you end up with a different God who is not Father.  Richard the Scot said, “If God was just one person, he could not be intrinsically loving, since for all eternity (before creation) he would have had nobody to love…being triune, God is a sharing God, a God who loves to include. His love is not for keeping but for spreading.” (14-15)  Luther said, “Only when God is known as a loving Father is he known aright.” (60) And John Owen said, “God is our most loving Father…The greatest unkindness you can do to him is to refuse to believe that he loves you.” (77)

Over the past few years, I have observed a culture of a single-person god among Muslims in North Africa.  I can echo Reeves observations when he says,

“Oneness for the single-person God would mean sameness. Alone for eternity without any beside him, why would he value others and their differences? Think how it works out for Allah: under his influence, the once-diverse cultures of Nigeria, Persia and Indonesia are made deliberately and increasingly, the same. Islam presents a complete way of life for individuals, nations, and cultures, binding them into one way of praying, one way of marrying, buying, fighting, relating—even, some would say, one way of eating and dressing.  Oneness for the triune God means unity. As the Father is absolutely one with his Son, and yet is not his Son, so Jesus prays that believers might be one, but not that they might all be the same.  Created male and female, in the image of God, and with many other good differences between us, we come together valuing the way the triune God has made us each unique.” (84; also see 1 Corinthians 12:4,17-20)

Single-person gods—having spent eternity alone—are inevitably self-centered beings.  If this is the kind of god one worships, they become like what they worship.  “If God is not triune it gets even worse: for if God is not triune, it becomes difficult, not only to account for the goodness of creation (as we have seen), but also to account for the existence of evil within it.” (39)  Thus how God the Father loves the Son helps one to understand how God loves creation, hates evil, and his love does something about it.

What is God’s work in salvation?

It is because God is triune that the cross is such good news.  Friedrich Nietzsche boldly said, “God is dead.”  By this he meant that belief in God is simply no longer viable and faith is no longer needed.  However, Reeves adds “‘God is dead’ is where true faith begins. For, on the cross, Christ the Glory puts to death all false ideas of God; and as he cries out to his Father and offers himself up by the Spirit (Hebrews 9:14), breathing out his last, he reveals a God beyond our dreams.” (105)  At the cross we see a God who is infinitely better: unconditionally loving, darkness hating, tremendously glorious.

Since God is a lover from before creation (of his Son), he created humans to be lovers too.  Created to love God, we turn to love ourselves and anything but God.  This is when sin entered the world.  Naturally, man is bent in on himself and takes hellish delight in his own supposed independence.  However, God as the supreme lover atones for sin himself via the Son. God gives himself.  What single-person god would do this? Especially when you think of the reckless and storied lives of the Greeks and Romans.

“Strip down God and make him lean and you must strip down his salvation and make it mean.  Instead of a life bursting with love, joy, and fellowship, all you will be left with is the watery gruel of religion. Instead of a loving Father, a distant potentate; instead of fellowship, contract. No security in the beloved Son, no heart-change, no joy in God could that spirit bring.” (82)

Without the Son, God cannot truly be a Father.  If God is alone, he is not truly loving. Thus he has no fellowship to share with us, no Son to bring us close, no Spirit through whom we might know him.

Reeves says, “My new life began when the Spirit first opened my eyes (light) and won my heart (heat) to Christ… And as he stirs me to think ever more on Christ, he makes me more and more God-like: less self-obsessed and more Christ-obsessed.” (73)  Again, we become like what we worship.

When I go and share the knowledge of God’s great love with others I reflect something very important about who God is.  I share the missional, generous, image of God.  As Reeves continues, “The mission (of God) comes from overflow of love, from the uncontainable enjoyment of fellowship (with himself and others).” (86) Who is to love?  What is my example to be loving to others?  It is found in God as Father.

I would highly recommend this book to a new believer, seminary student, small group, and missionary to Muslims.  It is a book that fosters love for God and greater appreciation for his love for us.  This truly speaks more to my Muslim neighbors than a powerful apologetic.  As I think of God as Father and relish in the love of the Son and the life with the Spirit, it sincerely affects my love for my neighbor.  My only caution is for those who desire a beefy book with slam-dunk comments to defeat opponents of the Trinity, it’s not that kind of book.  Neither is it an exhaustive book on the Trinity.  It is sufficient enough to give a good defense why God is triune.  It satisfies ones longing to know and love God better.

Note: The book also goes by the title Delighting in the Trinity for those who live on the US side of the pond.

bringing the gospel home (book review)

I ordered this book out of curiosity.

Sharing the gospel with family is tough!

First, I have unsaved family members that I really desire to share the gospel with, but direly fall short of doing regularly. I really love and care for them and want to see them in heaven someday too. This is a book on evangelism that hits close to home.

Second, there are not many books out there on the subject of evangelize friends and family, but never have I read one quite like this. I am certainly surprised by what I am reading. It is not your ordinary book on evangelism with step my step or play by play approaches for witnessing to different kinds of people. It is not methodological or programmatic. It is simply a book about the gospel and it’s ramifications on me and my family. The illustrations are refreshingly honest and easy to relate to. I heavily recommend it to anyone interested in sharing Christ with their loved ones (which should be everyone).

Third, the book has a beautiful explanation of the gospel. Although I wished the book explained the gospel clearer the implications of the gospel could not have been more clearer. That is the beef of the book. And it is good to eat!

The chapters flow is unexpected, but once immersed you quickly see how they flow in a biblical and natural sort of way:

Chapter 1: FAMILY, a beatitude and yet a burden. All here in this chapter is a theology of the family from the Scripture. THe theology of the family includes two opposing angles; God and Satan. Both have their strategy and purpose for your family. It is good to understand both since one strategy is established before time the other is to destroy what’s always been. And there is hope to redeem what’s been destroy.

Chapter 2: GRACE, Amazing and yet breaking. A very important chapter on putting yourself on the same plain as your family in need of grace, rather than letting pride put you above them. Grace is one of the most neglected components when sharing the gospel, but one of the key components to understanding the gospel.

Chapter 3: TRUTH, liberating and yet narrow. In Acts 17, Paul is communicating with intelligent and religious people. People who are proud and think they’ve nailed the meaning of truth. That is until Paul introduces them to the gospel of truth. Some mocked, but some believed. Is that a familiar response in your family? In a truth starved world we need to understand where it went wrong and rightly meet it with the gospel. That’s where this chapter begins.

Since gospel truth has substance, we should think deeply about it. Since it draws lines, we should stand boldly in it. Since it illuminates all of life, we should celebrate its fullness. Since it prompts a response, we should ask for one. Since it’s easy to get wrong, we should reflect carefully about how to communicate it. (102-103)

Chapter 4: LOVE, always craved and yet seldom conveyed. Love is a mysterious and romanticized word. Defining love can be hard, but the Bible makes it easy. Learning to love your family with a gospel-love will help them see the initiative and sacrifice of Christ in action. This chapter helps you not only with the content of the gospel message but your context of sharing it.

Chapter 5: HUMILITY, divinely modeled and yet difficult to find. I can extend grace, truth and love to my family, but humility? Are you serious? Yes. And so is Jesus. He had humble holiness. This chapter helps you not only dish your pride and eat humility, but serves up Christ on a silver platter.

Humility us to see ourselves as God sees us in Christ–hopelessly sinful but graciously saved, rebellious yet redeemed, incapable of producing any righteousness on our own yet empowered to do all that God calls us to, appropriately bold yet taking no credit for the basis of that boldness. (136, Titus 3:3-8)

Chapter 6: TIME, freeing and yet fleeting. What time you ask? With eternity as our deadline we feel the pressure to dump the gospel on those we love and press them for a decision like life insurance agents. Sometimes the simple yet so heavy truths of the gospel need time to settle and marinate. This chapter helps us not to rush, but let God do His work in His time.

The God who calls us to live in time lives outside of time. We feel the burden of deadlines, but He never does. We grow impatient, while He knows nothing of that weakness. (155) Witnessing to family takes wisdom…and all that takes time.

Chapter 7: ETERNITY, comforting and yet terrifying. 100% of the people reading this will die. That truth can either cause your jaw to drop or draw you into unfathomable joy. Death is not the end only the beginning. This chapter touches on lives reality while giving you hope in the gospel as you share it with those you love the remainder of their days.

The distinct nature of the finished work of the gospel delivers people from fear, denial, and false hope. When we point people to Christ, we show them a way that takes the sting out of death, thus making it something to anticipate instead of dread. As Dietrich Bonheoffer once preached, “Death is grace, the greatest gift of grace that God gives to people who believe in Him.” (182; John 3:16-18)

Two dominant world views vie for our affections: One sees this life as all there is. The other sees life as preparation for the next. One thinks only in terms of the temporal. The other values the temporal because it sees it in light of the eternal. The first way does all that it can to avoid thinking about death. The other faces death squarely. The first speaks only of people “living in our hearts” after they die. The other envisions Revelation 7:9-10. (205-206)

how to stay christian in college

How to Stay Christian in College
Author(s): J. Budziszewski
Publisher: Navpress
Price: NO LONGER FREE
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Going away to college can be exciting, scary, wild, or all of the above. And don’t think Christian colleges are always a failsafe alternative. As students trade home life for dorm life, they leave behind their church, their friends, their families–their major networks of support. What should they expect when they arrive on campus?
How to Stay Christian in College is an interactive guide that lets students know what to expect and reassures them that they can attend school and still maintain their faith. Filled with anecdotes, resources, and much more, it prepares, equips, and encourages high school and college students to meet the challenge of living out their faith at school. It examines different worldviews and myths that students encounter at college, giving them the tools they need to meet the challenges ahead.

Get more FREE Kindle E-Books or low-priced E-Books at gospelebooks.net

free books for dudes [dads]

We all love free books. Happy fathers day, dudes! Enjoy these free books compliments of some great ministries. Just click on the pictures to download your free books:

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Hell, Rob Bell, and reviews of the book Love Wins

There has been much stir over Rob Bell’s new book Love Wins: A Book about Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived. Bell will tell you he does not want to be labeled a universalist [check out Bell’s interview’s with MSNBC and Relevant], however his book seriously and dangerously advances the cause of universalism from a popular and influential level.

Yesterday, I perused Love Wins at a local bookstore because I was unsure I wanted to buy it. To say it simply, Bell promotes an unbiblical picture of a God without wrath and a skewed portray of His love and justice. He gives unclear indication that man needs salvation from God’s wrath now, nor faith in Jesus Christ in this life to have salvation in eternal life. Bell states his beliefs in heaven, hell, judgment, the cross, and salvation, but takes a quasi-philosophical approach rather than biblical approach to Jesus’ teaching on the subjects.

Bell historically likes to ask questions and create discussions, but again leaves you unsatisfied with answers and in this book leaves you with more questions about God, salvation, and His understanding of the authority of God’s Word. I am not one to bash people particularly other pastors, however, as a pastor it is my obligation to protect Christ’s church from potential false teaching that could distract His sheep. Rather than writing another review, I thought I’d pass along some great reviews already circling around from faithful followers of Christ and intricate exegetes of God’s Word.

Great Reviews of Rob Bell’s, Love Wins:

Great article on Hell:

Great Books on Hell:

the goodness of God

The Goodness of God

A book review of The Goodness of God by Randy Alcorn

Why is there pain and suffering in the world? Why would a good God allow such evil to transpire on His watch? These are difficult questions that have drawn people to God or repelled them from Him. These difficult questions have even sifted out Christians from among the ranks, “Evil and suffering have a way of exposing our inadequate theology. When affliction comes, a weak nominal Christian often discovers that his faith doesn’t account for it or prepare him for it.” [5]

In his book, The Goodness of God, Randy Alcorn practically, personally and biblically addresses common misunderstandings about why a good and sovereign would allow or permit suffering and evil to affect His creation. He points out the flawed thinking of many world views [i.e. relativism, buddhism, pantheism, atheism, dualism, open theism, gnosticism, etc.] that seek to diminish and deactivate God’s goodness in the face of pain and suffering in the world. Here are some of the questions covered in the book that aim to give you assurance in the midst of suffering.

If God is really good why is their evil?

Evil cannot exist without the good it opposes. It’s not so much the removal of good as it is the corruption of good. As metal does not need rust, but rust needs metal, so good doesn’t need evil, but evil needs good [10]. From the beginning God intended the permission of evil, but to turn it on its head and show His highest good in the midst of it. The ugliness of evil demonstrates the beauty of God’s goodness.

If God is good why all the suffering and pain?

Evil is the source of suffering. Suffering would not exist if there were no evil. With the Fall of man came suffering and pain as a righteous consequence man’s sinful disobedience. God allows and permits suffering and pain as part of His divine plan. Though God is not the causer of evil, but he is the author of the story that includes it [15].

If God is good why doesn’t he deal with evil?

He will. No evil will ever go unpunished [61]. Where is the justice? Sometimes God’s delay in our finite mind and time frame seems unjust, but “God delays justice not to make our lives miserable, but to make our lives possible.” [62] God’s delay is actually good, it allows for His grace to give us time to turn back to Him.

“Grace isn’t about God lowering His standards. It’s about God fulfilling those standards through the substitutionary suffering of Jesus Christ. Grace never ignores or violates truth. Grace gave what truth demanded: the ultimate sacrifice for our wickedness.” [24]

The problem is, “we want selective justice, not true justice. We cry out for justice when we really want vindication and special treatment–relief from injustice done against us, without being judged for injustices done by us. Since God is just, he cannot always give us the justice we want without also giving us the justice we deserve.” [62-62]

Our problem is further amplified because “we are utterly unqualified to assess how often we sin and how bad our sins are. Sin mean nothing to those who are riddled with it.” [85]

If God is good what is the purpose of evil?

Evil is never good, yet God can use any evil to accomplish good and sovereign purposes [34]. We would much rather have suffering and pain disappear and go away. However, is for our good and God’s working in us. What glorifies God is good for us [103],

“Suffering exposes idols in our lives. It uncovers our trust in God-substitutes and declare our need to transfer our trust to the only One who can bear its weight. We imagine God as our genie who comes to do our bidding. Suffering wakes us up to the fact that we serve Him, not He us.” [100]

In conclusion, there are more biblically satisfying answers to the questions above, which I did not mention along with encouraging and challenging stories of many who have walked through the fires of suffering and pain, but came through refined.

My only beef with the book is that it is too short. There is a practical solution. Get the bigger book. The Goodness of God is a snapshot of the panoramic taken from Randy Alcorn’s bigger treatise on the goodness of God in, If God is Good: Faith in the Midst of Suffering and Evil (2009, Eternal Perspective Ministries). The appetizer is a tasty teaser that makes you hunger for the main course.

danger of modern day CPM’s

Danger of Modern Day CPM’s
This is a review of Reaching and Teaching, by M. David Sills

CPM’s is the current wave of getting the gospel quickly into unreached communities. What is a CPM? CPM stands for: Church Planting Movement. Ideally the concept is an incredible vision with the multiplication of Christ’s church blooming where they have never been planted. The idea behind a CPM is to plant a church that plant churches that plant more churches. Thus you have a movement of churches being planted.

However, in the modern missions era speed to get the gospel out is the goal rather than making sure believers really get the gospel. M. David Sills in his book, Reaching and Teaching adds, “Global Christianity is growing in such a way that truth is considered to be that which works; pragmatism rules in the absence of propositional truth.” [29]

Missionaries are more into wrestling with which level of contextualization they are comfortable with and the best way they can orally speak the stories of Scripture [don’t get me wrong these are not horrible issues to wrestle]. All the while they are wavering from what really matters in the mission: the gospel, in all its gruesome and gorgeous culture-transcending glory.

About 10-years ago, I was involved in a church planting apprenticeship in the Western Cape of South Africa. There I observed a church planting movement 25+ years in the making. That is a long time, according to modern CPM’s. In the Cape there were multiple churches in multiple locations working together to get the gospel spread throughout their region. The planter was committed to these people for life [i.e. multiple generations]. Not only were churches being planted, but pastors were being trained and discipleship was happening within the churches at a healthy rate. Sills echoes,

“When the church growth outstrips your trained leadership, you are in trouble; weak and dysfunctional churches abound. [24] If we are not training national believers to believe biblically solid Christian doctrine and to interpret the Word of God correctly, the day will soon come when those who represent Christ in this world will be preaching a gospel that Jesus never gave.” [29]

What is essential before a church is capable of being autonomous? Or the leadership is fully trained? Here is where opinions differ. Let’s side with the Puritan view of ministry, “The basic qualification of personal godliness and giftedness coupled with single-minded learning in the interpretation of the Scripture; a spirit of prayerfulness; a deep care for the people of God; and the ability to unfold the mysteries of the gospel in a manner which reached into men’s hearts and touched their consciences–and all set within context of a prayerful dependence on the Lord.” [169] The Puritan’s planted solid churches, which still have remnants today.

Here is a solid CPM vision that I recently took note of while in  North Africa, an unreached climate:

“The team recognizes that, for the health of the church, at some point it will be necessary for the team to disengage from the church-planting process.  Recognizing that other missions may still be in progress, the team will remove itself from any participation it has within the church. When the following are present in the church, the team will disengage: first, there is at least a 3rd generation church (the 1st church has planted a 2nd church, and the 2nd church has planted a 3rd one). Second, the churches contain all the key elements of church as defined by the team.”

The key word above is generation. The key to gospel ministry and leaving a CPM is to be sure the people get the gospel, are growing in grace, and are engaging others with the gospel. The gospel is what transforms lives, reinforces righteous living, and marks true church planting movements. The urgency to get the gospel out to unreached people is great, but it must be packaged with generational reaching and reaching. There is a danger in using Speed as the best option to get the gospel to the unreached; rather patient discipleship over generation[s] making sure the gospel sinks below the surface of a communities culture.

Book Reviewed: M. David Sills, Reaching and Teaching, Moody Publishers, Chicago, IL. 2010.

I would highly recommend this book to new missionaries or seasoned missionaries considering new methods.

marks of the messenger

This week I read through the book Marks of the Messenger by J. Mack Stiles. It is a concise book that’s not easy to put down. I highly recommend this book to any teacher, youth leader, missionary, church leader, or follower of Christ desiring to live a gospel-centered life. I am seriously considering the possibility of having our children’s ministry leadership read the book this coming year as we share the gospel with our community and core families.

A messenger is marked by his character–the character of Christ. Jesus asks His followers to be so concerned about what I am doing, but more about who I am becoming. people of faith [18]. Jesus is not. The greatest obstacle to healthy evangelism is pragmatism: “doing evangelism” before we ever think who we are meant to be as evangelists [19].

Living a gospel-centered life is God’s expectation for His followers. “The gospel,” in modern language, means, “Breaking News!” And the news is good news, because there was bad news before [27]. As Timothy Keller often says, “The gospel is not the ABC’s of the Christian faith, it is the A-Z’s.” The cross of Christ and the gospel message that streams from the cross is the river that rage my entire life. People need to see their sin in all its horror, not so they are motivated to “clean up their act,” but so they fall at the feet of Jesus knowing that He is their only hope [31].

Have you heard people say that Christianity is a crutch? They’re far too optimistic. We don’t need a crutch; we need spiritual defibrillators [27].

One of the greatest dangers is to assume those passing in the church hall, sitting in the pew next to you, or your small group companion understands the gospel. We must ask the hard questions, probe deeper, and see if the gospel is really taking root in peoples lives. Stiles, in his book, mentions Kevin Roose, a Brown University student going undercover at Liberty University all the while other students assuming he is a follower never asking him about his faith. A follower to many Christian is–one who goes to church, prays and says they believe in God–nothing more than moralism and cultural adaption. The gospel goes deeper than that. It changes the core of a man. At least that is what God intends for the gospel to do.

The challenge for healthy evangelism is to stop trying to clean people up through rules rather than bring them to the cross [44].

The imperative of the church and its followers is to display the glory of Christ as it shares the gospel. The church does not exist to make me happy; it demonstrates the truth of Christ to a watching world [103]. The church is the gospel made visible [Mark Dever, The Church, 767].

What is the gospel? Check out these posts about the gospel:

gospel gumbo

lies we believe about following Christ

5 terrifying truths about Christianity

plan G

what’s IT?

book review: radical

I have been reading the book Radical by David Platt it is an excellent book that answers the question, why following Christ means being so radical?

This is one book I wish I had written myself, but that you need to dig into yourself.

Followership is radical. We are not talking about Christian jihad or political-far-right, but being a follower in a passive and putrid American society is risky. Jesus calls us to a lifestyle that is active and living, and revolving around Himself. The cost of committing to Christ is radical and means I must abandon all my American dreams for him. Jesus asked me to leave behind security, money, a life of ease and even those that I love the most to be His follower. That sounds radical. That is exactly what this book is about.

Followership is more than believing in Jesus, it is also obeying Him. Jesus wants to change me and culture from the inside out, not from the outside in. I am ready to take The Radical Experiment. To find out more about this one-year journey to authentic followership you will have to just read the book.

“Are you willing to obey the orders of Christ? Are you willing to be like Him? Are you willing to risk your life to go to great need and to great danger–whether it’s in the inner cities around you, the difficult neighbor across the street, the disease-ridden communities in Africa, or the hostile regions in the Middle East? Are we willing to fundamentally alter our understanding of Christianity from a luxury-liner approach that seeks more comforts in the world to a troop-carrier approach that forsakes comforts in the world to accomplish an eternally significant task and achieve an eternally satisfying reward?” [p.171]

David Platt, Radical, Waterbrook Multnomah, Colorado Springs, CO. 2010.