The Law Of Rewards

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Posted by Seth

In The Law Of Rewards, Randy Alcorn shows that actions we perform here on earth will play a major role in how we will live in the next life. He poses the question, ”Why would people keep money for themselves on earth to get the things that they desire, when they can help others and their church financially to invest in that prized possession that will be even better in heaven?”

After giving an example of a couple who came to his office wanting to know if they should give their money to the church and missions, or use it to build their dream house, Dr. Alcorn asks the question, ”Who would want to divert kingdom funds to build a dream house if they understood that either it will leave them or they will leave it? Instead, why not use your resources to send building materials to the Carpenter, our Bridegroom, who this very moment is building our dream house in heaven?”

He also answers the following questions:

Since God is our Father, not our employer, can we really earn eternal rewards? Wouldn’t that be putting God in our debt?

What are we missing if we do not give, especially to the needy?

How can pastors teach their congregations the art of joyful giving?

Is it always wrong to let others know how much we give financially to the Lord’s work? If we say anything at all about what God is teaching us about our giving, does that mean we will lose our rewards?

Once I’ve decided to give, how do I decide where to contribute money? How can I be sure that the money I am giving will be used with integrity?

Are we rewarded in heaven for leaving money to Christian ministries when we die?

This book centers around the fact that we cannot take our treasures with us to heaven, but we can send them on ahead to be there waiting for us when we arrive. The Law of Rewards is an easy read, and a great way to spend your time. I would recommend it for every Christian.

Amusing Ourselves to Death

amusingourselvestodeath

Posted by Shelbi

“Everything in our background has prepared us to know and resist a prison when the gates begin to close around us. We take arms against such a sea of troubles, buttressed by the spirit of Milton, Voltaire, Jefferson…But what if there are no cries of anguish to be heard? Who is prepared to take arms against a sea of amusements? To whom do we complain, and when, and in what tone of voice, when serious culture dissolves into giggles? What is the antidote to a culture’s being drained by laughter?”

Amusing Ourselves to Death was written in 1985, but reading it is like reading something published yesterday. Before the internet or cell phones, Neil Postman (who died in 2003) wrote this powerful book as a warning against…television.

“The problem is not that television presents us with entertaining subject matter, but that all subject matter is presented as entertaining.” -Chap. 6

When George Orwell wrote the book 1984 in the 1940’s, he prophesied oppressive government that would conceal truth and hide information. When Aldous Huxley wrote Brave New World in 1931, he predicted the opposite: “There would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one.” Instead of being deceived about the real state of things, which Orwell feared, people would be given so much trivial information so quickly that important things would drown in a sea of irrelevance. Instead of being held captive kicking and screaming, they would love their oppression and adore what undoes their ability to think.

As the author states in the preface to Amusing Ourselves to Death, “This book is about the possibility that Huxley, not Orwell, was right.”

Exploring and analyzing not only television but also the “Age of Show Business” in general, this book shows how completely our culture has been taken in by the lies “entertainment is the highest good” and “we exist solely to be amused”.

I especially liked chapter 9, called “Reach Out and Elect Someone”, which is about how politicians put themselves forward as sources of amusement to better their chances of being elected; and also chapter 7, which is titled “Now…This”.

There is no murder so brutal, no earthquake so devastating, no political blunder so costly–for that matter, no ball score so tantalizing or weather report so threatening–that it cannot be erased from our minds by a newscaster saying, “Now…this.” The newscaster means that you have thought long enough on the previous matter (approximately 45 seconds), that you must not be morbidly preoccupied with it (let us say, for 90 seconds), and that you must now give your attention to another fragment of news or a commercial. -Chap. 7

Amusing Ourselves to Death alerts us to the real danger of this state of affairs, and offers helpful suggestions as to how not only resist the current “media onslaught”, but also recognize the ways we’re unconsciously letting media shape our lives.

Twelve Extraordinary Women

twelvewomenPosted by Savannah

John MacArthur’s Twelve Extraordinary Women is a sequel to his book Twelve Ordinary Men. In his first book, he studied the lives of Jesus’ twelve disciples, dedicating a chapter to each. In Twelve Extraordinary Women, he chose twelve women who were critical in the story of redemption.  Some of the women he chose you would expect to find in such a book, such as Eve, Mary the mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and Sarah the wife of Abraham.  Others, like Rahab the harlot, Anna the prophetess, or Lydia, the woman who opened her home to Paul, are surprisingly present.  Even though some of these women seem insignificant, many of them risked their lives, or at least their reputations for the sake of the gospel.  I’ve decided to share what I learned about my favorite woman in this book, Anna. She was one  of the more “insignificant” ones, so I found her more interesting, and learned a lot.

Anna is mentioned once in the whole Bible, and then there are only three verses that talk about her. The passage from Luke 2 reads:

Now there was one, Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel of the tribe of Asher.  She was of great age, and had lived with a husband seven years from her virginity, and this woman was a widow of about eighty-four years, who did not depart from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day.  And coming in that instant she gave thanks to the Lord, and spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem.

The fact that Anna was a prophetess does not mean that she could predict the future.  It doesn’t even mean that she received special revelation from God.   Prophetess simply means that Anna was a woman who faithfully proclaimed the Word of God to everyone; all the time. Any preacher, or any person at all could be called a prophet if they continually spoke the Word of God like Anna did.  The text also mentions that Anna “did not depart from the temple”.  Perhaps the temple officials had given Anna one of the small chambers in the temple, that were used occasionally by priests when they saw her faithfulness and devotion.   Whatever the case might have been,  the text seems to literally mean that Anna lived in the temple grounds. She also had been a widow for many, many years.  Apparently she had been living in the temple for a long time fasting and praying.  What could Anna have been praying about?  She no doubt prayed about many things, but perhaps one of her main subjects of her prayer was for the soon coming of the Messiah. In verse 38 of Luke 2 Anna comes along just as Simeon is pronouncing a blessing on Christ and His parents.  She “gave thanks to the Lord and spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem”.  Anna’s prayers immediately turned to thanksgiving to God for answering her, and she spoke of Christ to everyone.  Anna’s passion for the Lord and her love for Him is something we all should aspire to.

I really enjoyed reading this book and I would definitely recommend it to anyone wanting to learn more about the extraordinary women of the Bible.

 

The Lie: Evolution

the lie

Posted by Shelbi

“If Genesis cannot be taken literally, there is no foundation for Christian doctrine–therefore, Christian doctrine no longer has meaning.”- The Lie: Evolution, pg. 157

I’ve read several books by Christian creation scientists, all dedicated to refuting evolution (and showing how truly laughable it really is), while providing impressive amounts of scientific evidence for the fact that God created the universe about 6,000 years ago. I expected that Ken Ham’s “The Lie: Evolution” would be the same type of book, but it turned out to be something much better.

Subtitled “Genesis–The Key to Defending Your Faith”, Mr. Ham’s book does not go into the controversy over whether scientific evidence supports creation or evolution, but instead focuses solely on why this issue is so important, and what is happening to all the cultures of the world that have accepted evolution.

“The creation/evolution issue (is God Creator?) is the crux of the problems in our society today. It is the fundamental issue with which Christians must come to grips. This…is where the battle really rages.” -pg. 29

After making his compelling case that evolution is a religion, not science, the author moves on to the crumbling foundations of Christianity, showing how disbelieving Genesis 1:1 destroys the credibility of the rest of the Bible. In the chapter called “The Evils of Evolution”, he gives example after example of how morals cannot be preserved in a world that has rejected the truths of Genesis. The chapter “Evangelism in a Pagan World” contains a lot of practical advice on how to share the gospel with an unbeliever, specifically showing how the average person has no interest in the things of God until his confidence in evolution is shaken. My favorite chapter, “Twenty Reasons Why Evolution and Genesis Don’t Mix”, is a wonderful tool to use when talking with someone who claims to be a theistic evolutionist. Of course, an atheistic evolutionist doesn’t care how much evolution contradicts the Bible, but a theistic evolutionist (someone who believes God used evolution to create the world) will be forced to come to terms with the fact that there is no way to reconcile the two– you have to choose between them. Here are a few of my favorite excerpts from this chapter:

#1: No Death Before Adam’s Fall

“Evolution says death plus struggle brought man into existence; the Bible says man’s actions led to sin, which led to death. These two are totally contradictory.” -pg. 150

#5: Creation is Finished

“Modern evolutionary theory accepts that evolution is still going on (therefore, man must still be evolving!), so if a Christian accepts evolution he has to accept that God is still using evolution today. Thus, He is still creating. But God tells us He finished His work of creating. This is a real dilemma for the theistic evolutionist.”- pg. 154

#14: Evolution and Genesis Have a Different Sequence

“The basic tenets of evolution totally conflict with the order in Genesis. For instance, Genesis teaches that God created fruit trees before fish–plants on day three, fish on day five. Evolution teaches that fish came before fruit trees…. The Bible teaches that the earth was first created covered with water: evolutionary teaching is that the earth first began as a hot molten blob. There is no way that the order of events according to evolution and Genesis can be reconciled.” -pg. 160

#17: Adam Was Not Primitive

Those who believe in evolution speculate that as man evolved he first had to learn to grunt, then he had to learn to write. He had to use stone tools and learn about farming before he could develop what is called “advanced technology”. However, the Bible tells us Adam was not primitive, but a highly developed individual…Adam could obviously speak…he had a complex language (Gen. 2:20).”

Again, I’d like to point out that this is not a “scientific” book— there is little to no discussion over whether science points to evolution or to creation. This book is written to Christians, with a strong emphasis on the need for the church to defend Genesis intelligently and articulately, realizing the extreme damage evolution is doing to our society.

However, I would like to recommend several books written by Christian creation scientists that deal with the evidence for creation vs. evolution. My favorite is The Evolution of a Creationist by Dr. Jobe Martin, which chronicles the author’s journey from a committed teacher of evolution to a committed teacher of creation, and all the overwhelming evidence that caused him to (unwillingly at first) change his mind. Another good one is Refuting Evolution by Dr. Jonathan Sarfati, as is Darwin’s Black Box by Michael Behe. Darwin’s Black Box is especially interesting because the author does not claim to be a Christian and admits that he does not know how the world was created or who created it (he seems to favor aliens as the most likely candidates!) but after studying the design of the universe, he confesses that he finds evolution absurd in the highest degree and shares all the reasons that brought him to this conclusion.

The Lie: Evolution has become my favorite book on the subject, though, and I hope you will find it just as intriguing!

Stepping Heavenward

Stepping-Heavenward

Posted by Bambi

I feel a little silly reviewing this book for two reasons:

#1 Most people have already read it.

#2 I’m sorta embarrassed that I’m not one of them.

I can remember reading portions of Stepping Heavenward in the past, as well as good meaty quotes that seem to turn up here and there among other author’s books.  (Elisabeth Elliot quotes Elizabeth Prentiss in some of her works, for example.)  I can also remember reading it aloud to my daughters when they were younger, but for some reason or another we never finished it.  Up until last week I had never read Stepping Heavenward from cover to cover.

This book has earned a place in my top five favorite books I’ve ever read.  It’s an amazing read and if you are like me and have somehow missed it, I truly hope to persuade you to get yourself a copy asap. (Although I’m a “real book” kinda gal myself, you can read it or download it to a Kindle for free here.)

Stepping Heavenward, written in 1869 by the hymn writer Elizabeth Prentiss, begins as a young woman named Katherine starts a journal on her 16th birthday. The year is 1831. Selfishness and rebellion are common throughout Katherine’s first journal entries even though she tries her best to “be good” and “do more to please mother”.  Each time Katherine resolves to please God and others, she fails.  Sometimes she has a mild disgust with herself for these faults, other times she is calloused and more self-focused then ever.  Throughout it all, her faithful mother continues to pray for and exhort her daughter.

The journal continues to chronicle the events of Katherine’s life but more importantly, her relationship to God and her deeper understanding of Him year by year.  Katherine is no stranger to daily disappointments and well as misery and sufferings.  Her disappointments begin soon after she begins married life, as within days of living as a couple, her husband requires her to undertake the care of his elderly father and mean-spirited sister when they come to live with the newlyweds.  The two make Katherine miserable day in and day out and she must learn to live with them and eventually, to love them as God would have her to.

To me personally, the motherhood aspect of the book was tremendously encouraging and re-fueled my eternal perspective in bearing and training up children. One of the most famous quotes from the book I will put here, but with a bit more background.  See, Katherine’s health was ill-affected each time she gave birth.  With each baby she grew more frail and money was scarce, yet she rejoiced with each child the Lord gave her, even as those around her didn’t understand her joyful acceptance of children. Her sister-in-law attempted to discourage her:

…She says I shall now have one mouth the more to fill and two feet the more to shoe, more disturbed nights, more laborious days, and less leisure or visiting, reading, music, and drawing.

Well!  This is one side of the story, to be sure, but I look at the other.  Here is a sweet, fragrant mouth to kiss; here are two more feet to make music with their pattering about my nursery.  Here is a soul to train for God; and the body in which it dwells is worthy all it will cost, since it is the abode of a kingly tenant.  I may see less of friends, but I have gained one dearer than them all, to whom, while I minister in Christ’s name, I make a willing sacrifice of what little leisure for my own recreation my other darlings had left me.  Yes, my precious baby, you are welcome to your mother’s heart, welcome to her time, her strength, her health, her tenderest cares, to her lifelong prayers! Oh, how rich I am, how truly, how wondrously blest!

Stepping Heavenward spanned Katherine’s life from the teen years to a woman with grown children.  For this reason, every woman who reads it will see herself in Katherine no matter what season of life she is in.  More than that, you will identify with her continuous struggle with pride, selfishness, rebellion and lack of trust in God’s sovereignty and when you close the book you will be stirred to love God more.

More passionately

More consistently

More thankfully

I could write a book about this book.  I think it should be on every Christian’s shelf and be re-read yearly.  Yes, it has affected me. I feel that I understand God more, understand His love for me more,  understand His instruments of teaching me through disappointments and afflictions….because of the words of Elizabeth Prentiss.  Consequently, I will never sing this hymn of hers, the same again.

Culture Shift

culture shift

Posted by Seth

Are you prepared to address the most important cultural issues of your time?
Culture Shift addresses many such issues, some of which are:

  • Christian faith and politics.
  • The supreme court and religion.
  • The truth about terrorism.
  • Christian parents and public schools.
  • The abortion debate.
  • Christian response to global tragedies.
  •  And many more!

If you want to understand the culture in which we live, this is the book to read.

This book will make you wish that we lived in a culture that glorified God with all its heart, soul, mind and strength.

Part of the back of this back of this book says, “The world in which you live is in the midst of a major cultural transformation one leading to a widespread lack of faith , an increase in moral relativism , and a rejection of absolute truth . How are we to remain faithful followers of Christ as we live in this ever-shifting culture? How should about-and respond to-the crucial moral questions of our day? How can we stand up for the truth?”

One of the best books I have ever read, this book will keep your attention!

Ashamed of the Gospel

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Posted by Kevin

This book ranks somewhere in the bottom half of my top ten all time favorites. In terms of shaping my understanding of how the church is to unashamedly proclaim the gospel in the midst of our ‘seeker sensitive,’ contemporary church culture, it ranks first. Now in its 3rd edition, John MacArthur’s Ashamed of the Gospel continues to challenge pastors to fulfill their God-given calling by unashamedly preaching the word of God in the context of the local church. In a day when there is no end as to how pastors are taught to build their churches using this ministry or that one, Ashamed of the Gospel powerfully sets forth the God ordained means of true church growth and preservation: a man called and gifted of God, proclaiming the word of God in the power of the Spirit of God. No gimmicks required.

Here’s a small taste to whet your appetite:

“Evangelicals everywhere are frantically seeking new techniques and new forms of entertainment to attract people. Whether a method is biblical or not scarcely seems to matter to the average church leader—or church goer—today. Does it work? That is the new test of legitimacy. And so raw pragmatism has become the driving force in much of the professing church. When Charles Spurgeon warned about those who ‘would like to unite church and stage, cards and prayer, dancing and sacraments,’ he was belittled as an alarmist. But Spurgeon’s prophecy has been fulfilled before our eyes. Proclaiming the gospel message of redemption for sinners and teaching the Word for the maturing and holiness of believers should be the heart of every church’s ministry. If the world looks at the church and sees an entertainment center or country club, we’re sending the wrong message. If Christians view the church as an amusement parlor, the church will die. “ 3rd edition, pages 82, 83.

Having first read the book more than ten years ago, I try to read through it every couple of years to remind me of these things.

I have greatly benefited from the speaking and writing ministry of John MacArthur through the years, and while there are certainly points where I find myself at odds with his stated doctrinal positions, I heartily recommend this book as a stirring reminder to pastors of how to go about the privileged calling of preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ, and for Christians in churches everywhere to expect no less.