Friday, July 31, 2009

The River Nile

Is it ever right to break the law? Should we ever dare risk our lives and freedom to save lives?

I don't approve of the extreme tactics of people who blow up abortion clinics and/or kill abortionists, but should we do more than we do? If Jesus were walking and living on the earth today as He did in Bible times, what would He do about the abortion issue? I cannot imagine that He would just figure it was a woman's right.

Kenny Blair has written a short, but thought-provoking about some fictional characters who go above and beyond the normal actions of pro-life Christians.

The main character of the book, Julie, a senior in high school, decides to visit the orphanage where she came from before her parents adopted her. As she keeps going back, she discovers a
strange connection between the Catholic-run orphanage, and the abortion clinic next door.
When she poses as a pregnant teenager, why does the abortion doctor try to convince her to not abort, and then tell her they only abort on the third trimester.
Digging further into the orphanage and abortion clinic, she discovers that the two are definitely connected, and she discovers that this connection affects her in a way she never dreamed of, and it may just shake her pro-choice arguments like she never dreamed.
This book is short, ninety-six pages, but the author uses those pages to show the tragedy of abortion, and that we all need to do more about this issue.

Win a Box of Books

Here is a chance to win a whole box of books - go to this author's site, join her Yahoo group - must have a yahoo email address or id to join- then enter the contest. If you enter, put my name in as who referred you, and I can be entered again: http://www.camytang.com/contest.html

Another free book

They have 5 free copies of a fiction book over at the Fiction Addict blog. Check it out and enter: http://fictionaddict.com/

And don't forget to enter my for my drawing: http://thoughtsofasojourner.blogspot.com/2009/07/justice-gameand-free-book.html

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Only The First Time..lyrics and video

I put a video I made of family pictures on here yesterday, but this is actually my first attempt at making one. I wanted to make a video for one of my favorite songs, "It's Only The First Time." I ran out of pictures that I wanted, so I threw in some of my personal pictures of the ocean and lighthouses. Check it out if you have time - it really is a great song, though the video is pretty amatuer.

It's Only The First Time Lyrics

There’s a secret sin that you live with
And it’s tearing you apart
You’ve prayed and prayed, but now you’re ashamed
To ask God to cleanse your heart
But even though you’ve fallen again
When you kneel before Him

Chorus:
It’s only the first time
He’s forgotten the last time
The moment you pray, His grace takes away
The stain of your sin
Just know that in God’s eyes
It’s only the first time
He’s already there to hear your prayer
And forgive you again.

If the Savior says we must forgive
Time and time again
Then how much more will our Lord
Forgive us when we sin
His love is so strong, so wide and so deep
He longs for you to believe





Free....A Reminder

Just a reminder that I am giving away a certificate for a free copy of an awesome Christan fiction book, The Justice Game. Drwaing will be on Monday, August 3. To enter, go to this post and comment:http://thoughtsofasojourner.blogspot.com/2009/07/justice-gameand-free-book.html

So far, I think there are about six or seven entries.

Revisiting The Shack

I unintentionally got into a debate on the book The Shack today. I went back and read my review of it, and had forgotten how really bad of an opinion I had had of the book. Since I am doing more book reviews now, thought I would post the review again, and add something to it.

On Christianbook.com (CBD), there have been 1376 reviews of the book by customers so far. For CBD, that many reviews is about unheard of. A lot are positive 5-star reviews, but there are enough negative reviews that it has an overall rating of 3.5 stars.

It is amazing so many people who call themselves Christians can overlook the bad and rave about how wonderful the book is. I feel so strongly about the book that I don't think CBD or any Christian bookstore should sell it, but evidently money talks, and as long as it's a big seller, who cares if it has heresy in it.

Anyway, here is my humble opinion again, and below it, some comments from the site of CBD. I personally appreciate comment #5 a lot.



Well, I have finally done it. I have read the "life-changing" book that everyone is raving about. Surprisingly, I have to say the book had some good in it, but don't think I would recommend it to anyone. I promised a review, so here it is. I will try not to be too long or wordy, and to make my ideas as brief as possible.



A brief synopsis: Mack, the main character, loses his youngest daughter, Missy, in a kidnapping by a man whose victims are never found, just proof that he has killed them. Proof of her death is found in an abandoned shack. A few years after the incident, Mack received a note in his mailbox from Someone called "Papa" that He wants to meet him in the shack.

First the bad. :-) God is represented by a poor-grammar speaking black woman named Elouisa. God is referred to interchangeably as He or She. In the Bible, God never takes on the form of a woman, and always refers to Himself in masculine pronouns, so I take issue with this. There are people who don't want to call God He, mainly brainless feminists, and there is even a gender-neutral Bible, but when God always refers to Himself as masculine, I don't think we should mess with that.

Mack is also surprised that God has a "questionable sense of humor" - the author's words. This comment is made after God says to Mack "don't stand there gawkin' with your mouth open like your pants are full!"

Next up: The Holy Spirit is portrayed as a somewhat flighty Asian woman named Sarayu. Again, this rubbed me the wrong way- no I am not anti-woman, but God has His reasons for portraying Himself as masculine, not feminine.

Jesus was portrayed surprisingly as male, and somewhat like you would expect Jesus to be like, though the author carried that a bit too far also: Rough type, country bumpkin, even clumsy - would the Son of God be clumsy? What really bothered me about the Jesus in the book, the author portrayed Him as 100% human while on earth, and even in the book as 100% human. In the book, Mack was told that Jesus had no power except what He drew from God - just like we would have had to do. I totally disagree - if Jesus is God, then He had His own power.


The human part was portrayed so strongly, that at one point, Jesus drops a bowl of food, breaks the bowl, and makes a mess. God and the Holy Spirit laugh uproariously and comment "you humans are so clumsy!"


Another thing I didn't agree with: God, as the black woman of course, had scars on His/Her wrists also. Not exactly Biblical. Jesus hung on the cross, God the Father did not.


The author gives the idea that since we are under grace, we don't have to obey the rules anymore, cited especially in reference to the 10 commandments.


In my opinion, and in my friend Kimmy's (we have been emailing back and forth now that we both have read it) - the author bashes the church, quite a bit, and even knocks the idea of being a Christian - does say afterward that we are to become children of God.



Another weird thing: Mack goes into a cave, and there is a woman names Sophia talks to him. Not sure what the author's deal is with God as a woman, but this woman is an aspect, or something along that line, of the Holy Spirit.



Outside of bad theology, there are a few occasions of cursing in the book, which you may agree with me or not, does not belong in a Christian book, especially when the main character is talking to God. A couple uses of the "d-word", and a use of "son of a b....".



Overall, I don't feel the book was that well-written, and was not the riveting page turner that it has been hailed as. I read it in a few settings, as opposed to one setting for a really good book of that size.



I did say I had some good to say about it. The author did come across pretty well of why God lets us suffer. He also brought out a new idea to me: that when we are struggling with issues of God loving us, and feeling He is out to hurt us, and things along that line, we are judging Him.



This book has raving review everywhere you go, with the exception of a few sane people. I would not buy this book. I would not recommend it to anyone. I definitely don't think anyone not firmly grounded in their theology and relationship with God should read it - it could confuse some people and lead them wrong.



If I could sum up in one idea why I don't like the book, it is that the author humanizes all 3 parts of the Trinity, and goes way to far in doing so. God is way beyond our understanding. He wouldn't have poor grammar, He wouldn't have questionable humor. I believe the author treated the whole idea and character of God with irreverence in the book, and I found it offensive.



So, is the book heresy, or life-changing? I have to say it leans all too much toward at least being Biblically and theologically incorrect. The idea of the book was good, and were several things done differently in the book, I would have loved it and highly recommended it. It is sad that so many Christians are raving about the book, and overlooking its many flaws.


And now, the opinions of some others:

1) The Shack was well written, creative, and to a small degree, enjoyable and engaging. However, the book clearly distorts the character and nature of God. I was also uncomfortable with the manifestations of God the Father and God the Holy Spirit as women, and found this book overall to be touchy-feely and predictable. The story in The Shack basically removes God's perfect holiness righteousness and justice from His Essence. It also removes the eternal fact that sin is an offense to God that needs to be judged. God cannot just ignore sin and let people in the back door of heaven as this book seems to imply. The story also gives the false impression that if one chooses to not have faith alone in Christ alone, that God won't put them in the Lake of Fire, which according to the Bible is not true. In short, The Shack does not properly depict or explain the Biblical description of the Triune God or what it means to have a true relationship with Him through faith alone in Christ alone.


2) I agree with all of the 0 star reviews. This book is full of HERESY. For it to get 5 stars from people that consider themselves Christians is beyond me. For true hope and direction seek the Bible.


3)A great fictional novel but in no way biblically correct. There is no way I would recommend this book to anyone wanting to draw closer to God or to learn more about Him.


4)Unscriptural and misleading. Unfortunately, I think this book will lead many weak Christians and non-Christians astray.


5)As a new believer, I really struggle to understand why so many "strong" Christians think this is such a good book. What exactly is the good part? I had to force my way through this book. And I only did so so that I would be able to argue against it. How can so many people be so blind?



6)New Age, "all paths lead to God" garbage. About the only time in my life I have ripped up a book in disgust.

7)NEW AGE concepts!! More like the devil's version of the Pilgrim's Progress. Not recommended for those who are not grounded in the Holy Bible. There are way too many errors to list here. This author should be shaking in his boots!! Please read the Wikipedia on this author. It'll help to get some insight before making him into a hero. I feel very sad for his wife!!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

My video

Here is a video I put together of family pictures, with the song "Thank-you Lord, For Your Blessings On Me" as the music track.


video

Thread of Hope

This song has been on my mind lately, one of my all-time favorites. These days, it does seem like I am "hanging on by a thread." Just hope the knot at the end holds!

Thread of Hope

THE WOMAN NEEDED HEALING OF THAT DREADED DISEASE
HER MONEY BROUGHT PHYSICIANS
BUT ONLY JESUS COULD BRING RELIEF
AND THOUGH HER LAST THREAD OF HOPE
IT WAS WORN DOWN TO A STRAND
HER HEART HELD ONTO FAITH
TILL SHE COULD TOUCH HIM WITH HER HAND.

CHORUS

CAUSE WHEN YOUR HANGING BY A THREAD
STILL YOU CAN CLIMB LIFE'S MOUNTAIN
THOUGH THE CLIFFS ARE ROUGH AND RAGGED
YOU CAN COPE
IF YOU SHOULD SLIP AND REACH ROPE'S END
YOU'LL FIND THE HIM OF HIS GARMENT
SO DON'T LET GO OF THAT LAST THREAD OF HOPE

II

IS THAT YOU HANGING ONTO A FRAYED AND FRAGILE FAITH
AND ARE YOU CLINGING TO THE ROCKS
ABOVE A CANYON OF DISMAY
REACH OUT FOR THE LIFELINE IT WILL NEVER BREAK IN TWO
HOLD FAST DON'T LOSE HEART
FOR ONCE AGAIN GOD WILL PULL YOU THROUGH.


Another giveaway

Here is a chance on another blog to win a free book - they are giving away two copies, so chances are twice as good: http://residentialaliens.blogspot.com/2009/07/giving-away-offworld-by-robin-parrish.html

And there is still time to enter to win a free book on my blog post from Monday

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Win this.............

Found the certifcate for the free book I am giving away, courtesy of either Tyndale Publishers, or the author - his publicist sent it to me, so not sure - anyway, it wasn't lost - I just wasn't sure where it was. See previous blog to enter to win this certificate for a free copy of The Justice Game, by Randy Singer

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Justice Game.....And a Free Book

Finally, I get to review The Justice Game. This post has a few different parts. First off, my actual review, then an excerpt from the book itself, and then a Q&A with the author, Randy Singer. Ending the post is the video they made for readers to vote on the outcome of the fictional case: In favor of MD Firearms, or in favor of Blake Crawford, the young widower.

And also, a chance to win a copy of this book, so make sure you comment.

My review of The Justice Game

The young woman lay with the life draining out of her. Her killer is dead, killed by the SWAT team. The gun had been purchased in a straw purchase, where a second party buys a gun for someone who cannot legally buy one.

The husband of the victim is suing. Not the killer - he is dead. Not the gun store, who illegally sold the gun. He is suing the gun manufacturer, MD Firearms, claiming they knew about the store selling guns illegally. The outcome of this case could influence the Second Amendment - our right to bear arms.

The author did something unique for this book. He made a video about this fictional case, and visitors to his website could vote which way the verdict should go. Against the gun manufacturer, or in favor of them.

Mr. Singer did an awesome job of presenting both sides. I liked both lawyers. I felt sympathetic for the young widower, who lost not only his wife, but the baby she was carrying in her womb. Yet, to rule in his favor seemed a strike against the right of Americans to bear arms. To own a gun for protection, to hunt.

The further I got into the book, the tougher the verdict got to call, and it also became tougher to know which verdict I wanted. I voted in favor of the gun manufacturer, but would they win, and did I want them to?

And everything wasn’t going well for either lawyer. The young pretty Kelly Starling had done something she wasn’t proud of a few years ago. The handsome, magnetic Jason Noble, lawyer for the gun manufacturer, had done something he still regretted. They thought their secrets were safe, until the blackmail emails started coming. Emails to affect the outcome of the jurors picked, the witness selection, and the very outcome of the trial.

I have read several of Randy Singer’s books, but this one tops them all. The book had an unexpected and exciting end, and though the message came through in a subtle way, the reader got the message that covering up sin never works. It will come out in the end.

So, who won? Blake Crawford, the young man whose life was torn apart, all because of an illegal gun sale? Or MD Gun Manufacturers, who may have known, or not known, about the store illegally selling guns. Want to know? Read the book. And it may surprise you what verdict that you want as the outcome.
Excerpt from the book:

"Jason moved back in front of the jury box. “Larry Jamison is not here today. He caused all of this heartbreak and chaos and loss. But he is not here. Why? Because the SWAT team took him out before he could kill other innocent victims in his vile rage. They used a standard issue Colt CAR-15 to do it. And you won’t see that gun being introduced into evidence in a lawsuit against its maker. It’s a military assault weapon, every bit as deadly as the MD-11—no doubt about that. But it was used to protect innocent life, not take it.”


Jason walked over to his counsel table and stood behind the chair he had been sitting in. “There’s an empty chair at the defense counsel table. Until now, I’ve been sitting here. But I’ve decided I’m not going to sit here anymore. Why? Because this is the number one chair at the defense counsel table, and the person sitting in this chair ought to be a lawyer for Larry Jamison. He’s the one who pulled the trigger.”

Next, Jason leaned over and asked Case McAllister to move down a seat, freeing up the second chair at the defense table. “This chair,” Jason said, “ought to belong to Jarrod Beeson. Right now, he’s a little busy, spending twelve months behind bars for participating in a gunrunning operation. He bought the gun for Larry Jamison, knowing that Jamison couldn’t purchase it on his own. In fact, Beeson bought more than twenty guns from Peninsula Arms and turned right around and sold many of them to criminals.”

Jason stood there for a moment, his hands on the chair in front of him. “This is Beeson’s seat.”

There was only one chair left at the counsel table, the seat now occupied by Case McAllister.
Behind the table were several other leather chairs for legal assistants and others helping the lawyers. Jason took two of those chairs and moved them parallel to the counsel table but several feet away, on the opposite side of the table from the jury. He asked Case McAllister to move into one of those seats.

For the rest of trial, Jason and Case would be sitting there, with no table to put their notes on. It would be awkward but it would be a lasting visual reminder of his opening statement.

But Kelly Starling was on her feet. “Judge, I object to this . . . whatever it is. It’s certainly not an opening statement; it’s more like musical chairs.”

“It’s unusual,” Jason said, “I admit. But I’m not aware of any rule that says we’ve got to sit at the table instead of next to the table.”

“Let’s get on with it,” Garrison said. “Objection overruled.”

“This last chair,” Jason continued, “the last one actually at the table, is for Peninsula Arms. They engaged in numerous straw sales. They have actually been cited three times by the ATF. And they sold this gun to Jarrod Beeson knowing that he would in turn sell it to somebody else who wasn’t a legal purchaser. Yet you won’t hear from the store’s owner or the clerks; they’re all taking the Fifth Amendment.”

Jason surveyed the table and walked back to the jury. “There are only two reasons the plaintiffs are trying to put my client at that table. The first is because my client has money—”

“Objection!”

“Sustained. Watch yourself, Mr. Noble.”

“The second is because my client sold guns to Peninsula Arms even though they allegedly knew the gun dealer had sold some guns illegally. But let me ask you a question. When you buy a car, do you expect the car dealer or car manufacturer to check your driving record and refuse to sell you a car if you’ve got a few speeding tickets? No. You expect the government to suspend your license if you’ve got too many tickets to be driving. But if the government allows you to drive, and you’ve got a valid license, you expect the car dealer to sell you a vehicle. Ford’s job is to sell cars, not police the roads.

“In the same way, it is the responsibility of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms—we commonly refer to them as the ATF—it is the ATF’s job to police the gun stores. It is MD Firearms’s job to manufacture guns—good guns, guns that work as advertised—and then sell those guns to any licensed firearm dealer.”

Jason pointed to the defense table. “I asked you to watch that gun,” he said. “Did you notice that the gun hasn’t moved? It’s not an animate object with a conscience and a sense of good and evil. That gun is simply an object. It can be used for good, like the SWAT team used their guns, or evil, the way Jamison used this particular gun.

“Jamison pulled the trigger. Beeson supplied the black market. Peninsula Arms sold guns illegally. And MD Firearms? All they did was manufacture a lawful product that worked as advertised and then sell it to a licensed firearm dealer operating with the blessing of the federal government.
“Use the left side of your brain, and ask yourself this simple question: Other than the fact that my client has money, why is MD Firearms even sitting in this courtroom?”"

The author of The Justice Games, Randy Singer, is a lawyer, and writes in the style of John Grisham, only with no cursing in his books. Below, a Q&A with the author (not my questions):

Q&A with Randy Singer
1. Randy, you bring a unique perspective to your writing because you are also an attorney
and a pastor. How do you juggle these three things and still have a life?


"It helps that I love doing all three. It also helps that, while they’re all very different, they
draw on common skill sets. For example, principles of powerful story-telling are
important for a pastor, lawyer and (obviously) writer. I’m a little ADHD and like being able
to go from one thing to another. I tell people it’s like crop rotation—keeps things fresh.
And, to be honest, writing is more like relaxation for me than a job. It gives me a break
from the pressures of the other “real life” jobs and lets me go into a world where I get to
control things! (Can we say “God complex” here?)


But none of that really answers your question. Three things help me juggle. One, I try to
stay focused on the big stuff. It’s not that I do the little stuff second, I try not to do the
little stuff at all. Second, I stay focused on what I can do well and let others worry about
the stuff that is out of my control. In other words, I’m a master at delegation (think Tom
Sawyer and the white picket fence). And third, I’ve learned to get comfortable with the
fact that I will always have stuff in each of these areas that does not get done. As long as
the ball is moving forward, I’ve got to be satisfied with that.


As for the part about having a life—I would have to object to that question on the
grounds that it assumes facts not in evidence
But seriously--I thank God that, in His grace, He allows me to do three separate things
that I love doing so much. My prayer is that I might bring glory to Him in three different
ways as I minister in each of these areas. (And yes, being a lawyer is a ministry.)"

2. In all your novels, you often address a particular topic. How did you decide to address
gun control in The Justice Game?


"I like to write about moral issues that have no easy answer. On the issue of gun control,
there are some pretty strong emotions on both sides. And people have typically trenched
in—spouting off rehearsed arguments rather than trying to understand each other. But
when you frame the issue in the context of a story, you can sometimes by-pass the
automatic intellectual defenses and speak straight to the heart. I tried to create
compelling characters on both sides of the story to help readers sort through the types of
honest arguments that people of good faith make and then decide for themselves.


But on a larger scale, the issue of gun control is not really the focus of The Justice
Game. The more important issues raised are these: (1) In America, can you “game” the
criminal justice system? I have proposed a hypothetical system in The Justice Game
that could do just that. (2) Can the main characters in the novel escape their past sins
(and secrets) or will they let themselves remain captive to them? I once heard Rick
Warren say that courage comes when you have nothing left to hide. That’s a concept I
explore in The Justice Game."


3. As an attorney, you served as lead counsel in a school shooting case in Virginia. What
happened and what impact did the case have?


This is from the author’s note at the beginning of the book:
On December 16, 1988, a fifteen-year-old student named Nicholas Elliot took a
Cobray semiautomatic handgun to Atlantic Shores Christian School and opened fire. He
shot and killed a teacher named Karen Farley and wounded an assistant principal, then
burst into a trailer where a Bible class was meeting. When he attempted to open fire on
the students huddled in the back corner of the trailer, the gun jammed. The Bible
teacher, Hutch Matteson, tackled Elliot and prevented the kind of tragedy that hit
Columbine High School in Colorado several years later.


Atlantic Shores was the school where my wife taught. It was the school my kids
attended (though they were not there that day).


And when I learned that Elliot had purchased the gun illegally from a gun store in Isle
of Wight County through a transaction referred to as a “straw purchase transaction,” I
represented the family of Karen Farley in an unprecedented lawsuit against the gun
store.


The verdict shocked everyone.

"In terms of the impact this real case had on my writing—it made the writing of the book
both harder and easier. Harder because we lost a friend in the Atlantic Shores shooting
and it was difficult to relive the emotions of the shooting and subsequent case. Easier
because authors should write what they know best. I didn’t have to imagine what the
feelings of the attorneys would be as they tried this case of national importance on an
issue with such raw emotions. I had walked in those shoes. From that perspective, this
book might be the most realistic book I’ve written."


4. You had your readers determine the verdict in the court case at the center of the book.
Why did you decide to go this route?


"Two reasons. First, I thought it would be fun to create an interactive experience for
readers. We put together a fake newscast with snippets of the closing arguments—just
enough to inform readers about the case and let them vote. Second, I was trying to be
balanced on this issue of gun control. What better way to demonstrate balance than to
let the readers decide the verdict? Oh yeah, and third (if it’s not too late to add a third),
the book ends up being about much more than just the verdict in the gun case. I knew
that the ending would work out fine whichever way the verdict came out."


5. This spring marked ten years since the shooting at Columbine. How do you think that
tragedy impacted today’s gun laws?


"I think Columbine had a greater impact on school security than it did on our nation’s gun
laws. I can’t trace a single national change in gun laws to the tragedy at Columbine.
Even here in Virginia following the shootings at Virginia Tech, there was little that
resulted from that tragedy in terms of additional gun control. In each case, the argument
can be made that no matter what gun laws you have in place, the criminals will still be
able to get their hands on guns. Restrictive laws only make it harder for law abiding
citizens."


6. This is an issue that people feel very strongly about, one way or the other. Why do you
think it is such an emotional issue for people?


"Guns are powerful symbols of individual freedom and the right to protect oneself. Gun
enthusiasts tend to be distrustful of government (for good reason) and see the right to
bear arms as a bastion (pardon the pun) against governmental intrusions on individual
rights. They also believe that it is ultimately up to them, not the government, to keep
themselves secure in their own home. Take away their guns, and you’ve taken away
their ability to defend themselves. On the other side, many people who believe in gun
control have seen or been a part of needless tragedies where easy access to guns has
proven deadly. Years ago, high school students might get in a fist fight and one or the
other would end up with a bloody nose. Now, gangs use guns to settle scores—resulting
in pointless homicides. Gun control advocates would argue that a gun should be at least
as hard to get as a driver’s license.


Protecting your home, self-defense, the slaughter of young men in the inner city—these
are emotional issues, all centered around the gun control debate."


7. How has the church typically viewed the issue of gun control versus gun rights?

"Which church? White evangelical churches tend to be pro-gun. They typically emphasize
the individual rights of citizens to protect themselves and safeguard themselves from a
tyrannical government. African-American churches, especially those in the inner city, are
typically in favor of more restrictions on firearms. This is because their families feel the
brunt of gun violence."


8. What do you see happening in the national gun debate going forward?

"Not much movement on either side. President Obama has been the best thing for gun
store owners since the invention of the revolver. Fear that Obama might push for greater
restrictions on gun usage has generated record sales in most stores. But the fact of the
matter is that President Obama hasn’t shown much stomach for a fight on this issue. On
the judicial side, the Supreme Court recently recognized that the Second Amendment
guarantees the right to bear arms for individuals, not just militias as some gun control
advocates had previously claimed. (There is some dispute over whether this just applies
to the federal government or also the states). But the Court also said that the right was
subject to reasonable regulation and control. You could hear the “Hallelujahs!” from
attorneys everywhere since this virtually guaranteed a case-by-case fight over what
regulations might be reasonable. So in summary, I think we’ve reached a stalemate on
the gun control debate with the exception of these legal skirmishes over the details of
attempts by cities and states to regulate the right to bear arms.


9. Since we’ve been discussing a heavy topic, we need something lighthearted to close out
this interview. What’s your best lawyer joke?


"It’s not actually my best, but it’s pretty quick.
They’ve started using lawyers instead of rats in laboratory experiments for three
reasons: (1) there are more of them; (2) the scientists would sometimes get attached to
the rats; and (3) there were some things the lab rats just wouldn’t do."


I have to give away, a certificate for a free copy of the book and a signed bookplate. The certificate should be redeemable at any Christian bookstore. If not, it can be redeemed through Tyndale Publishers.

To enter, simply comment on this post/review. Just say you want to enter, the book sounds great - whatever. I will put all the entries in a hat and will pick a winner a week from today, August 3. No entries will be accepted after midnight on August 2. Anyone is eligible. You don't have to know me, like me, or love me. :-)

And lastly, if you would like to watch the video they made to have people view and render a verdict on the fictional case in this book, it is below. Or you can visit the website of Randy Singer and view it, and more information about this excellent author.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Free book

Tomorrow, I will be posting a review of a book as part of a blog tour, The Justice Game. A blog tour means over the period of a few days, several people post reviews about the book, and then are usually linked from one site.

For this book, I have a certificate good for a free copy of the book at any Christian bookstore, or redeemable through Tyndale Publishers. So, at some point this week, check out the blog post on "The Justice Game", and comment on the post. Anyone who comments will be entered to win the certificate - and the book is really good. I promise.

Plenty of time

Our Sunday School lesson today was on the end times. Pretty interesting - and scary stuff. I know we have heard for years that Jesus could come back at any time, but I truly feel it will be in my lifetime.

There has never been the technology and nuclear warfare available as there is at this time. Years ago, we had no idea how they would bring about the mark of the beast and some of those other things talked about in the Bible, but we can see it today. The technology is here. Now.

I am far from a fan of Barrack Obama, and believe he is the worst thing that could happen to this country. Some think he is the Antichrist, I really don't think he is, but it has shown me how easily the Antichrist will be accepted and thrown into power. All Obama had to do was promise "hope and change" and people thronged after him. It didn't matter that he had terrorists as buddies, that he promised energy costs would skyrocket if he got in - all that mattered was that "hope and change."

Now, more than ever, we need to be ready. I was talking to someone recently who is most likely not ready to meet God, by his own admission. He admits he needs to get right with God, and that he will. I asked him what he was waiting for, and he said "Christmas." I think he was kidding. Regardless, I shot him an email this morning that asked "what if Jesus returns, or you die before Christmas?"

Whether Jesus' return is today, or a thousand years from now, we all need to be ready. Time goes so fast. There are things I thought I'd have a handle on by age thirty. Here I am at forty, and I still don't have a handle on them, and I wonder where on earth did time go?

We cannot dilly dally and assume that if we aren't right with God, that we can do it tomorrow. For one thing, tomorrow may never come. For another, time goes so fast, that next thing we know, we will be at the end of life, still planning on getting right with God, "tomorrow."

There is a song I heard a lot growing up that talks about that. To be honest, I never liked the song. Could be, because I was down spiritually more than I was up, and the song made me think. It is true though. All too many people think they have plenty of time, but time is passing too fast, and none of us have as much time as we think we do.

Plenty of Time

Verse 1
I got up on Sunday morning went to the church at ten
I listened to the words I'd heard time and time again
The preacher spoke of sinful lives, it seems he spoke of mine
But I was young, I had plenty of time


Verse 2
I walked on down life's pathway living as I wished to live
How to beat the other fellow how to get what life could give
Making money isn't sinful having fun is not a crime
So I'll just wait I've got plenty of time



(Chorus)
Plenty of time to decide where I'm bound, to eternal darkness or to heaven's grounds
I'm just a young man not yet in my prime, so I'll just wait I've got plenty of time


Verse 3
Before I knew what happened, life seems had passed away
And millions stood before God's throne, for it was judgement day
Now eternal darkness beckons, and the name it calls is mine
But I thought that I had plenty of time



Chorus 2
Eternity waits, I've got plenty of time
To think of all the days that Christ could have been mine
Now my chance is over, earth's days have left behind
And now I've got nothing but plenty of time

Saturday, July 25, 2009

God Has Never Failed Me......


I don't read much fiction, which may be a bad thing, who knows? But today I have actually read three non-fiction books - hey, it has been a boring day, and I read fast. First up was Disappointment With God by Phillip Yancey, a book a friend bought me saying I needed to read it - he needs to read it himself! Then I read the book about the buzzards circling by Stan Toler, and liked it so well, that I read the other book I was given to review: God Has Never Failed Me, But He's Sure Scared Me To Death A Few Times.


Again, this book was written to encourage, and encourage it does. The author addresses the issues of stress, depression, and faith. He gives ways to avoid stress and ways to know that you are stressed - most of them meant to be amusing.

This book is also full of amusing stories and anecdotes, some of which made me laugh out loud. In one of the chapters dealing with stress, he tells the story of a friend who simply tried to fix a leaky faucet, and what an amusing mess that turned out to be.


There are poems, more hymn lyrics, and stories of what people have gone through to show we don't really have it all that bad. Though very similar in style to his other book, this book does address different issues. It made me decide to try harder and to somehow not let depression and stress get the best of me.


Like its sequel, this book has some amusing chapter and section titles such as: "Humor Keeps Getting In The Way of My Depression" and "I've Gone to look for myself. If I return before I get back, ask me to wait."

I close with a quote from the book that I really liked: "I try to keep up with the Joneses, but every time I catch up, they refinance!"


If you are stressed, depressed, or just need a good "pick-me-up," check this book out, and its sequel, The Buzzards Are Circling, but God's Not Finished With Me Yet. You will find them both helpful and encouraging. I know that I did.

The Buzzards Are Circling

I just read one of the best encouragement-type books that I have read in a long time: The Buzzards Are Circling, But God's Not Done With Me Yet." I admit, the title caught my eye because of my last name - pronounced the same, spelled with one less "z". but the book also sounded like something I'd like to read, so here I sit, having just finished it.

Written by Stan Toler, a Nazarene minister, the book is a humorous look at what to do when the "buzzards are circling" - when life is hitting us hard from every side. With chapter titles like When your world crumbles, you don't have to be one of the crumbs, When the fountain of youth has rusted, and I Know I'm Lost, but the scenery is spectacular, he gets his point across, and makes you think.


Drawing on the experiences of Paul, Jonah, and Peter, personal stories, and stories about others, he shows that no matter how hard life gets, we need to trust God, and that God is there, even when everything is going wrong.

The book is full of amusing and though-provoking stories, and he even addresses pity parties - something we are all guilty of. One quote that stood out to me, as it hit me between the eyes was: "sometimes we feel abandoned:.....alone, abandoned. "why me, Lord?" we inquire. But often, Heaven is silent - not because there isn't any concern up there, but because we make such loud groaning noises down here, that we cannot hear the still small voice of assurance". Ouch!

Or: "You can trust the Lord too little, but you can never trust Him too much."

Also full of Scripture, principles for life, and even some hymn lyrics, I found this book very encouraging. Yes, it is humorous, but the book is a great reminder that God is in control, and that He does care about us. Even when the buzzards are circling.

If you need cheered up, if you feel like nothing in life is going your way, read this book. Of course, God & His Word are where we should go first, but books like this one can be a big help also. Check out Stan Toler's books - you won't be disappointed.

Fiction blog

I found a cool blog through a book review left on Amazon.com. They review all kinds of fiction, and have regular giveaways. Right now, they have a contest for two books to be given out. Entries must be in by the 26th of July, drawing on the 27th. Check it out: FictionAddict.com

Satan's Plan

A friend of mine sent this to me. I have heard the story before, but it is worth passing on:


"George Thomas, a pastor in a small New England town, came to church one Easter Sunday morning carrying a rusty, bent, old bird cage, and set it by the pulpit. Eyebrows were raised and, as if in response, Pastor Thomas began to speak.

"I was walking through town yesterday when I saw a young boy coming toward me swinging this bird cage. On the bottom of the cage were three little wild birds, shivering with cold and fright. I stopped the boy and asked, "What do you have there, son?"

"Just some old birds," came the reply.

"What are you going to do with them?" I asked.

"Take 'em home and have fun with 'em," he answered. "I'm gonna tease 'em and pull out their feathers to make 'em fight. I'm gonna have a real good time."

"But you'll get tired of those birds sooner or later. What will you do then?"

"Oh, I got some cats," said the little boy. "They like birds. I'll let the cats have them."

The pastor was silent for a moment. "How much do you want for those birds, son?"

"Huh? Why, you don't want those birds, mister. They're just plain old field birds. They don't sing and they ain't even pretty!"

"How much?" the pastor asked again.

The boy sized up the pastor as if he were crazy and said, "I'll take ten dollars!"

The pastor reached in his pocket and took out a ten dollar bill and placed it in the boy's hand. In a flash, the boy was gone. The pastor picked up the cage and gently carried it to the end of the alley where there was a tree and a grassy spot. Setting the cage down, he opened the door, and by softly tapping the bars persuaded the birds out, setting them free.

Well, that explained the empty bird cage on the pulpit, and then the pastor began to tell this story. One day, Satan and Jesus were having a conversation. Satan had just come from the Garden of Eden, and he was gloating and boasting. "Yes, sir, I just caught the world full of people down there. Set me a trap by using bait I knew they couldn't resist. Got them all!"

"What are you going to do with them?" Jesus asked.

Satan replied, "Oh, I'm going to have fun! I'll teach them how to marry and divorce each other, how to hate and abuse each other, how to drink and smoke and curse. I'll teach them how to invent guns and bombs and kill each other. I'm really going to have fun!"

"And what will you do when you get done with them?" Jesus asked.

"Oh, I'll kill 'em," Satan glared proudly.

"How much do you want for them?" Jesus asked.

"Oh, you don't want those people. They are no good. Why, you'll take them and they'll just hate you. They'll spit on you, curse you and kill you. You don't want those people!"

"How much?" Jesus asked again. Satan looked at Jesus and sneered, "All your blood, tears and your life." Jesus said, "DONE!" Then He paid the price.

The pastor then picked up the cage, opened the door and walked from the pulpit."

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Heart of Worship

I have been thinking a lot lately about people's dissatisfaction with their church. Church splits, unhappiness with the pastor. People feeling left out and alone in a church full of people. As I have been talking to someone lately about it, I have told him over and over if we would really focus on worshipping God when we go to church, everything else wouldn't matter so much.

I do listen to a few different styles of music, with Southern Gospel being my favorite, but a few years back, Phillips, Craig, and Dean released their first Praise & Worship CD. I was working in a Christian Bookstore at the time, and heard the CD played a lot over the store's music system, and liked it enough to buy it. One song really stood out to me. "The Heart of Worship." Nice melody, and good message. For if we truly got back to the heart of worship is all about, everything else would fade away.

If you have never heard it, the story is rather interesting of how the song got written. Check it out:

"The song dates back to the late 1990s, born from a period of apathy within Matt’s home church, Soul Survivor, in Watford, England. Despite the country’s overall contribution to the current worship revival, Redman’s congregation was struggling to find meaning in its musical outpouring at the time.

“There was a dynamic missing, so the pastor did a pretty brave thing,” he recalls. “He decided to get rid of the sound system and band for a season, and we gathered together with just our voices. His point was that we’d lost our way in worship, and the way to get back to the heart would be to strip everything away.”

Reminding his church family to be producers in worship, not just consumers, the pastor, Mike Pilavachi, asked, “When you come through the doors on a Sunday, what are you bringing as your offering to God?”

Matt says the question initially led to some embarrassing silence, but eventually people broke into a cappella songs and heartfelt prayers, encountering God in a fresh way.

“Before long, we reintroduced the musicians and sound system, as we’d gained a new perspective that worship is all about Jesus, and He commands a response in the depths of our souls no matter what the circumstance and setting. ‘The Heart of Worship’ simply describes what occurred.”

When the music fades, all is stripped away, and I simply come / Longing just to bring something that’s of worth that will bless your heart… / I’m coming back to the heart of worship, and it’s all about You, Jesus

Redman remembers writing the song quickly in his bedroom soon after the church’s journey together, with no grand intentions, by any means, for it to become an international anthem. He viewed the words simply as his personal, subjective response to what he was learning about worship.

But when Matt shared “The Heart of Worship” with Pilavachi, the pastor suggested making a few small adjustments to the lyrics so any member of the church could relate to it as well.

Amazed by how God has since taken the song around the world for His purposes, the songwriter smiles in regard to his own lack of foresight. “It nearly didn’t go any further than my bedroom. But I love that…”

The trademark tune soon became the title track for Matt Redman’s 1999 album, The Heart of Worship. The recording process was consistent with the artist’s sensitive approach to being in the studio.

“We decided to not get all complicated, and just let the song ‘breathe.’ We’re always trying to create more of a church atmosphere in the studio rather than just a technical musical gathering. Something happens when the people of God gather together and play out the praises of God in the presence of God. Hopefully something of that passion and purpose transcends beyond that studio room onto the recordings themselves.”

Following Matt’s original release, which featured a guest vocal appearance by Martin Smith, lead singer of Delirious, “The Heart of Worship” became a new standard of the modern worship music movement, sung by fellow artists, choirs, and church families alike. Among the ever-rising number of reinterpretations, Redman is especially fond of Michael W. Smith’s from his 2001 classic, Worship.

“I honestly like them all,” he admits. “It’s a great encouragement when people take the songs and run with them. Perhaps my favorite is Michael’s— maybe because it’s a live version and therefore really captures and conveys the heart of the song’s theme.”

Even more encouraging, he says, is when other pastors get in touch to let Matt know how God has used the song to take their congregations through a situation similar to the one his church experienced.

As teachable as “The Heart of Worship” has become, Matt Redman continues to learn about true worship and will journey further into that heart in summer 2004 with a new album, Facedown.

“It’s such a biblical posture in worship that speaks of reverence. If you look through the Bible, there’s a whole host of people who faced up to the glory of God and found themselves facedown in worship. So the album weaves through a theme of reverence, wonder, and mystery in worship, things I feel we really need to grasp more of in our worship expressions. I know that I do!”"

The Heart of Worship (lyrics)

When the music fades
And all is stripped away
And I simply come
Longing just to bring
Something that's of worth
That will bless your heart

I'll bring You more than a song
For a song in itself
Is not what You have required
You search much deeper within
Through the ways things appear
You're looking into my heart

I'm coming back to the heart of worship
And it's all about You
All about You, Jesus
I'm sorry Lord for the thing I've made it
When it's all about You
It's all about You Jesus

King of endless worth
No one could express
How much You deserve
Though I'm weak and poor
All I have is Yours
Every single breath

I'll bring You more than just a song
For a song in itself
Is not what You have required
You search much deeper within
Through the way things appear
You're looking into my heart

I'm coming back to the heart of worship
And it's all about You
All about You, Jesus
I'm sorry Lord for the thing I've made it
When it's all about You
It's all about You Jesus

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Tool Master

There was a little song we sang when I was a kid, went something like this...."The devil is a sly old fox, I'd like to take him and put him in a box, lock the box and throw away the key, for all the tricks he's played on me....."

I know there are differing opinions and beliefs on keeping salvation. There are those who believe that once you repent and become a Christian, you can never fall from grace and miss Heaven. Then there are those - like me - who believe that you can fall from grace, and walk away/give up and miss Heaven in the end. As someone said to me once, as long as you live daily doing your best to serve God and please Him, that's all that matters.

I do have to question the other belief. If once saved, you can never fall, then why does Satan spend so much time fighting Christians? And believe me, he does. I have heard the explanation that he wants to render us useless, so we won't be a fruitful Christian. Maybe. I am not out to knock those who believe that way, but I am more convinced that we can fall back into sin and miss Heaven - the devil is a destroyer, and he wants to destroy us. So, what I say following this, is based on my belief that we can fall from grace and miss Heaven.

I heard the following story several years ago: Satan was having a garage sale. On display stood many large, shiny, complicated tools. Each was labeled with a tag such as: MURDER, ADULTERY, HATE, STRIFE, etc. Yet in one corner sat a tiny, dull, simple tool with a very high price attached. When asked why that worn out tool was so expensive, Satan replied smugly, "That one is called DISCOURAGEMENT. I can use that one on everybody."

Now of course Satan isn't going to sell his "tools", but it does illustrate the point that has been on my mind lately. Actually, a couple of points. The first, Satan doesn't always tempt us with the big sins: sexual sins, murder, stealing. Many of us could never be swayed by those. So for many of us, he unleashes the smaller tools. Discouragement, depression, bitterness. That brings me to the main thought I have had lately, and it isn't some major new thought.

Satan doesn't care how he takes people down, as long as they go down. If he can get people to kill, commit sexual sins, steal - the more horrendous the sin, the happier he is. Yet, if it just takes discouragement and a spirit of discontent to cause us to lose sight of God, sit back, and feel sorry for ourselves, he is happy. He knows that can cause us to give up on God and end up as far from where we should be as if we actually took a gun and killed someone.

I have struggled with the big things in life. At times the load has gotten so heavy, that I wished I could die, and all too many times I have fallen under that load, and let the devil have his way. Yet, also many times I have been so discouraged, God seemed to not care, that I lost my focus and gave up. Do you think the devil cared which tactic worked on me? Not at all.

He really does have a large toolbox of tools to use on us. And sometimes all it takes is his getting just a slight foothold. A seed of discontent or bitterness. Just a few bad days of discouragement, and he knows we are on our way down.

I have a friend who is extremely discouraged and down. He knows he needs to get back on board with God, but he is so discouraged, he seems content to just look at the bad in life. I can relate. I have been there, and more often than not, feel like just throwing up my hands, sit back, and let life bowl me over again.

One day we will all stand at the judgment bar. We will face God the Judge, and on that day, it will not matter why we denied Him, gave up on Him - it won't matter if we were an axe murderer here on earth, or if discouragement led us away from serving Him. I for one, want to make it. It isn't always easy - often times it is harder than anyone looking on would have a clue - yet I am tired of standing by and letting the devil try the tools of his trade out on me.

Well, I have kind of rattled on. Hope what I said made sense. :-)

What's Wrong With Christians?

A friend of mine sent me a link to this blog post (Generation Cedar). Will copy and paste here, short, but worth reading, and I think she is right on:

"We are creatures of control. Beings given to making lists, planning ahead, and anticipating the future. I think we were made that way, and those things have their place. But we make a mistake when we too carefully plan our “life list”…

The title asks, “What’s wrong with Christians?”

If you ask most Christians to make a list of priorities, they would start with “God” as number 1. “You gotta put God first“…sounds right. But it’s not. God can’t be compartmentalized…who do we think we are?

God must consume–encompass, our list. In fact, the list must really be His…only scribbled in pencil with our hand, ready with eraser.

When we were redeemed, we were given a new nature, and were commanded to continually crucify the old one. That old one that wants to remain in control….to clutch our list tightly to our breast, and raise a fist if the order gets rearranged or disregarded all together. But we still struggle so, don’t we, with “Your ways are not my ways, nor are your thoughts My thoughts…”?

We don’t live “God-consumed lives”, where every bullet-point is surrendered to His will and purpose. We still fidget to fit God around our agenda, neatly tucked in the right places and smoothed out of the way of others.

But once we do–if ever we get there, surely it is the sweetest place of peace and joy one ever lived. Just to know that “all is well” even if it’s not. That I no longer have to wring my hands over this decision or that, because every ounce of myself is wholly given to only one thing…“In Him, I live and move and have my being…” Acts 17:28" by Kelly, Generation Cedar
blog

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Medium Makes The Church

I just read an interesting article I got in an email from Focus On the Family. Written by Meredith Whitmore, it examines the changes in our church services and worship methods as compared to years ago. I found it insighful, so I am passing it on:

"When I was teaching British literature, on the first day of each freshman class I'd write a line of the poem Beowulf in Old English:

Grendles guðcræft gumum undyrne.

Then I'd smile sweetly at my 40 or so students and say, "If you can't read this, then you'll probably fail the final. You might want to rearrange your class schedule."

Their expressions were really funny. Of course, I'd soon feel sympathy, confess my game and then flesh out an illustration of how the English language and its literature have changed over the centuries. After they stopped hating me, we had a great semester.

It's not just language and writing that have changed. Most social and spiritual constructs have, too, including churches and the way we worship.

You and I would probably be just as stunned as those students were if we suddenly found ourselves in Jonathan Edwards' congregation, listening to "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God." This 1741 sermon has been touted as one of the world's greatest. But to many 21st century minds it can sound perplexing and even abusive.

Reflection vs. Formula
It's more than a little interesting to compare contemporary Christian books such as The Purpose Driven Life with the works of Edwards and his predecessors. I'm not criticizing Rick Warren or authors like him. But I do want to establish the typically massive difference in style, tone, vocabulary, intricacy of thought and even theology—between them and the older pieces.

Styles change, certainly. But such differences are deeper than mere preference. They seem to indicate that our very thought processes and concentration levels have changed over the centuries—and drastically over the past 50 years.

With today's American sermons usually clocking in at 30 minutes or less, how would modern churchgoers fare in Edwards' day of three-hour-or-longer services? (Or Nehemiah's and Ezra's day-long readings of biblical law?) And what accounts for our shift from theologically dense hymns and liturgies to more emotionally based praise choruses? How about worship services that include dance and even painting? Though Jesus captivated listeners for hours on hillsides sans microphone, backup singers and video screens, the prevailing fear among pastors now is that their churches—buoyed by hilarious skits, rock bands and audiovisual effects—will still be thought of as dull.

So what's caused these intellectual and spiritual shifts? Any number of sociological and technological factors, to be certain. But the biggest culprit is likely media; churches are competing with television, movies, cell phones, video games, concerts and the Internet for people's attention.

This isn't a positive thing.

The Internet vs. Everyone
For years, numerous scholars, including communications theorists Marshall McLuhan and Daniel Boorstin, Oxford University synaptic pharmacologist Susan Greenfield, and pastor and media commentator Shane Hipps, have warned that media alter the way we think, not just what we think.

McLuhan, who died in 1980, went so far as to say, "The medium is the message." Based on his social research and observations, he believed that, when compared to the manner in which content is presented, content itself "has about as much importance as the stenciling on the casing of an atomic bomb." That is, the way a message is delivered affects us more than the message does.

For example, if the Internet had an advisory label, it might read, "Warning: attention deficit and shallow thinking ahead." That's because the sheer volume of information that's always at the ready causes most Web users to skim, and not truly read. They bounce from thought to thought, site to site, preferring JPEGs, MPEGs and bullet points over in-depth analysis. The crisis in this is, as Tufts University psychologist Maryanne Wolf says, "We are not only what we read. We are how we read." She warns that when we use the Internet we become "mere decoders of information," and not deep interpreters of facts, achieving knowledge through mental connections and understanding.

"[The Internet] creates a permanent puberty of the mind," Hipps, a Mennonite pastor and author of Flickering Pixels: How Technology Shapes Your Faith, told Christianity Today. "We get locked in so much information, and the inability to sort that information meaningfully limits our capacity to understand. The last stage of knowledge is wisdom. But we are miles from wisdom because the Internet encourages the opposite of what creates wisdom—stillness, time and inefficient things like suffering. On the Internet, there is no such thing as waiting; there is no such thing as stillness."

Superficial reading nearly always leads to superficial thinking. And we have increasingly become a society that does not read so much as browse. Though the Internet moves vast amounts of facts to our fingertips, it doesn't teach us to analyze them and create a comprehensive thought—so we often confuse facts with wisdom and understanding. It's as Boorstin prophesied in the 20th century, well before Wikipedia wiped out encyclopaedias, "Technology is so much fun, but we can drown in our technology. The fog of information can drive out knowledge."

Logic vs. Images
Because of the printing press's mass production of reading materials, the modern world was word-based—and therefore analytical since language processing occurs in the logic-oriented left hemisphere of the brain. The postmodern world is increasingly image-based because of television, movies, advertising and the Internet. With reading and the written word's impact and appeal slowly declining—and don't think for a second that Facebook and Twitter are keeping them alive—thought processes are shifting from the reason-oriented left hemisphere to the much more emotive right.

While we need both to fully experience and interact with God and the world around us, it looks as if future generations—fed by unrelenting onscreen images—will be primarily right-brained, gathering meaning chiefly from intuition, feelings and dialogue. These qualities are critical, yes, but with a weakened ability to think critically, we're left with a society that's poorly equipped to understand itself or its Creator. One that reacts rather than responds to life.



Media vs. the Church
Now apply all of this to Christianity and the church.

The Bible is the most intricate and vital book we have—and if our ability to ponder and process its complexities is deteriorating because of media, then so is our ability to learn from God. Because His Word is so multifaceted, we need the ability to dive comprehensively into its beginning, middle and end and stay there for a while, not merely skimming the surface, as we do on the Web or a BlackBerry. It's frightening but probable that as our attention spans are continuously shortened and the distractions of various media compete for our concentration, that our reading styles are changing enough to cause us to, as Hipps says, "lose touch with Scripture"—whether we realize it or not.

Destroy the computer, then, I say. Turn off everything and resume reading St. Augustine by candlelight, right? Well, no. We can't escape technology, nor would we want to entirely because we do benefit from it as well. But isn't it our responsibility to become discerning, well-informed, disciplined users of media who evaluate their effects on us, the body of Christ and our nation?

Most definitely.

In his book Understanding Media, McLuhan prophetically wrote of those who unthinkingly interact with media: "Everybody experiences far more than he understands. Yet it is experience, rather than understanding, that influences behavior." So in our experience-driven culture, where feelings and simple impressions seem to reign over logical, well-reasoned and researched thought, it wouldn't hurt any of us to monitor and dissect our media interaction. When we prayerfully and continuously reconsider the Internet and a host of other technologies, therein lies our path to better thinking, reading and worship—online and off.

Then maybe epic poetry and 18th century sermons wouldn't be quite as intimidating."

Friday, July 17, 2009

What Bothers Me Most About Christianity

OK, I admit it. I read too much fiction, and not enough non-fiction. Given a choice on books to review, this one stuck out to me. "What Bothers Me Most About Christianity, Honest Reflections From An Open-Minded Christ Follower." I have done some fiction reviews, but not too many non-fiction, but this is a book I would want to plug anyway.


The title intrigued me, for a couple of reasons. We all have questions, but all too many of us bury them, afraid that someone will un-Christianize us if we voice them. And I was intrigued that a Christian would actually write the book.


The author, Ed Grungor examines nine things that bother him about Christianity, devoting a chapter a piece to each question. He does it in a very thoughtful and careful way, and though he gets his point across, he leaves you with the certainty that God does know what He is doing, and that Christianity is not just the best way - it is the only way.

The book opens with a brief explanation of the book. His reasons for writing it, and his fears - fear that people will think he is against Christianity. Then he dives into the messy issues:

· A Hide-and-Seek God

· An Unreasonable Faith

· An Evil World

· A Lone Savior

· The Science-Faith Smack down

· An All-Too-Human Church

· An Old Testament “Bully”

· A Misuse of Scripture

· A Torturous Hell

He covered some of my questions. As he said, faith is messy, and the answers aren't easy. One chapter that I identified most, was the first. "A Hide and Seek God." This is personal, but I have struggled with God being so invisible. It would be easier to trust Him, to love Him if we could see Him, or if He spoke audibly.....but as he pointed out, if we could see Him, then we wouldn't need faith to trust Him.

The whole book was good, and he really does an excellent job of addressing each question.

The book ends with an interview with the author, and some discussion questions. I think it would make a great group study book, or for any individual who has questions in some of these areas. Your questions may not be completely answered, but you will walk away better understanding why God works as He does.

And The Winner Is.........

I was actually a bit late in pulling a name for the two books I am giving away. I was in my "author"mode and wrote until after midnight, and totally forgot to do it, so I did it first thing this morning. I wrote the names on pieces of paper, put them into a hat, shook the hat, closed my eyes. and picked a name. Judy is the winner. :-) I will find a way to get her books to her.

Speaking of Judy, if you like deals and try to be frugal, check out her blog - click on her name above - she is really into saving money and has a blog with links to deals, coupons, etc.

Next up, om July 28 (I think - around that date) I will finally review "The Justice Game" by Randy Singer, and will do a similar giveaway, only it will be for a certificate to get a free copy of the book. They mailed me the certificate......kind of to my surprise. Figured I would give them the name and address of who won and they would mail it. Anyway, it should be redeemable at any Christian bookstore, but if not, it can be mailed into Tyndale Publishers. And believe me, it is an awesome book, well worth reading.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

A New Author and A Giveaway

OK, as promised, I will draw a name at the end of the day for two books, so anyone can still enter. Just look up my July 2 blog post.

There is a new author on the block. Yours truly. I had a vague idea for a book that I wished someone would write about. The vague idea has become a bit more concrete lately. I was telling my best friend, Steven about it, and he said I should write it myself. I scoffed at the idea. He argued against every reason I brought up, so I finally decided to give it a shot. I have no idea if it will get anywhere, but I have already written more than I thought I could. Just not sure I can do a full length book.

The book is fiction, and I honestly don't think there is anything close to the main plot out there anywhere. If there is, I sure haven't run into it, and it would be in a Christian book. Whether or not it will ever be an actual book, I am enjoying the experience. This may sound incredibly dumb, but I have found myself crying as I wrote. Yeah, that does sound dumb. :-)

I started yesterday, and now have 28 pages typed, normal word processor page size. Not sure what that is in book pages. One problem I have, is things happen too fast, and I need to somehow slow the book down without adding boring stuff. Oh well, will see where it takes me. Just don't be looking for books by me in the bookstores any time soon. :-)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Drawings

In more days, I will be doing my giveaway for 2 books, my "trial run" so I can see how it goes, as I will be giving away a gift certificate for a book I will be reviewing later this month. I got the gift certificate in the mail today - any Christian bookstore should honor it for a copy of "Justice Game", the new Randy Singer novel - that review & drawing will be around July 28. If the winner cannot find a store to honor the certificate, it can be sent to Tyndale Publishers instead.

Link to the drawing I am doing, which will be at the end of the day on Thursday:
http://thoughtsofasojourner.blogspot.com/2009/07/free-books-trial-run.html

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Jason Crabb, Debut


For several years, Jason sang with his family as part of the Crabb Family. The group disbanded a couple of years ago, and split off into solo and other group ministries.
Jason, the oldest boy, went solo, and though he has done a couple of CDs since then, including a Christmas CD, this is his first for a major label to be distributed nationally, and a very impressive debut CD.
To be honest, at times Jason has more or less screamed and strained his voice, so I wasn't sure how he would do solo, but I am impressed.
The CD starts out with the best song on the disc, in my humble opinion: Somebody Like Me. Upbeat, great vocals, and the message that we need to reach out to the undesirables who may cross our path.
Following in order of appearance, and also quality of song, is Walk On Water. Neat song. Points out that we all have messed up at some point, but we can make it right. That the path we take, the steps we take, that is who we are, and you don't have to walk on water - it is how you walk on land that matters. How true.
Daystar has been recorded by several groups - either the Gaither Vocal Band or Cathedrals did it first, to my knowledge. It is an awesome song, and Jason brought in the Gaither Vocal Band to sing back-up vocals on this song, and he pulled it off very well. Definitely among the top songs on the CD.
The uptempo song Worth It All reminds us that no matter how rough the journey is, it will be worth it all when we get to Heaven. Another song with great lyrics and enjoyable to listen to.
I Will Love You is a pretty song trying to verbalize our love for God, and promising to love Him with others, or all alone. A keeper, and helps to remind us that we do owe God our love.
One of the greatest Southern Gospel songs done in recent years by any group, is Through The Fire. Written by "Daddy Crabb", and featuring Jason, the family recorded the song several times, including once with the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir. I am partial to the original recording, but this version stands out on its own also. And the message of the song bears repeating - God doesn't promise an easy road, but He will be with us as we go through the fire.
Hope For Me Yet is the first of two romantic songs on the CD. A cool song, even though it doesn't relate to me..... :-) - gist of the song is that there is hope for the person because of loving the other person. Nice tune and lyrics.
Though it bears the same title of the familiar song known for years, One Day At A Time has a similar message, but totally different song. Reminds us again that we have to trust God and He will help us make it one day at a time. Great song.
The tenth song is different. I won't say I don't like it, it is just different. Ellsworth paints a sad picture of an elderly woman who has hit the stage in her life where her mind is going. She can't remember tomorrow what she did yesterday, but ask her about Ellsworth, Texas, 1948, and she remembers.
The slow No Love Lost has the message we all need to hear. That no matter how far we go, no matter what we do, God will never stop loving us. Very pleasing to the ear, and excellent lyrics.
Ending out the 12-song CD is another romantic song, Forever's End. Giving the idea of a relationship in trouble, it asks the other to meet them at "Forever's End" to try again. Neat idea.
Overall, this is a great CD, and one I will listen to often. Even if you don't like Southern Gospel, you may like it too.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Through The Fire

One thing I love about Southern Gospel, is I think more than any other music genre, they have a lot of encouraging songs. This one, by the Crabb Family, "Through The Fire" ranks among my favorite ones that have encouraged me over the years. In this version below in the video, they are joined by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir. The song isn't your typical Southern Gospel song, so check it out.


So many times I've questioned certain circumstances
Or things I could not understand
Many times in trials, weakness blurs my vision
And my frustration gets so out of hand
Its then I am reminded I've never been forsaken
I've never had to stand the test alone
As I look at all the victories
The spirit rises up in me
And its through the fire my weakness is made strong

Chorus:
He never promised that the cross would not get heavy
And the hill would not be hard to climb
He never offered our victories without fighting
But He said help would always come in time
Just remember when your standing in the valley of decision
And the adversary says give in
Just hold on, our Lord will show up
And He will take you through the fire again

Bridge:
I know within myself that I would surely perish
But if I trust the hand of God, He'll shield the flames again, again

Somebody Like Me

In case someone missed it, I am doing a giveaway of two books - details on July 2 post. Ten more days.

Ran across this song a few months ago, and it makes me think every time I hear it. Don't think there is a youtube video of it, but here are the lyrics. They speak their own message:

Somebody Like Me


The congregation parted like the Red Sea
When that old drunk stumbled in,
Down the aisle and took a seat
Right in the middle of “Amazing Grace”
He could feel the judgment they were passing
Thought to himself “ain’t that just like a bunch of Baptists”
I’d rather be on the street, than in this place”
With tears on his face

You’d think somebody
Would put their arm around him
You’d think somebody
Would hit a knee
Pull him in, say a prayer
That’s what I’m taking ‘bout right there
You’d think somebody
Would practice what they’re preaching
Wonder who that somebody might be
Probably somebody like me

Well he’s got problems
Nobody wants a part of
When he got up and stepped out
Nobody stood up
They don’t want to make a scene
So they let him walk out of there
Without a prayer

You’d think somebody
Would do something different
You’d think somebody
Would go against the grain
Be the one to run him down
Bring him back and turn him around
You’d think somebody
Would want to make a difference
Wonder who that somebody might be
Probably somebody like me