New post…first in long time

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Regret-Free Living – a book review

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About the book

Regret-Free Living takes the focus from what was and what might have been and shines a bright light onto the path of what is and what is to be. Christian counselor Stephen Arterburn speaks honestly and forthrightly about what it takes to build strong, healthy relationships. Drawing on his own positive and negative experiences, he offers specific steps to rid yourself of relationship regrets, open your heart to healing, and move forward in love.

Arterburn’s practical counsel shows you how to recognize the signs and qualities of both happy and unhappy relationships, admit guilt and accept responsibility, find and give forgiveness, set boundaries, love and give out of fullness, and much more.

This is your invitation to, with God’s help, rid yourself of relationship regrets and begin building healthy, guilt-free relationships. Will you accept it? The choice is yours.

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About the Author

Stephen Arterburn is founder and chairman of New Life Ministries and host of the nationally syndicated New Life Live! daily radio broadcast. A nationally known speaker, he’s been featured on Oprah, USA Today, US News & World Report, the New York Times and many other media outlets. Steve founded the Women of Faith conferences and is a bestselling author of more than 70 books including the multi-million selling EVERY MAN’S BATTLE series. Steve and his family live in Laguna Beach, California. Visit http://www.newlife.com


My Review

Very practical. Very understandable. I’m sure this will prove to be a helpful book to many, especially those within the target audience: those who have made bad decisions, most pointedly, in their relationships, and need some good advice to help them dig their way out.

I found this book very easy to read, a trend that seems to be more and more popular in self-help/relational living/counseling books for the everyday person. the chapters are well-titled; you can look at each in the table of contents and have a pretty good idea what that chapter will be about. Within each chapter are helpful descriptions of the areas of concern and the steps to take to deal with that area.

If I have any reservations about this book, they would be two-fold. First, as I began to read, I had a hard time knowing who the target audience would be, other than “just about everybody who has regrets.” I felt like more like a listener to the radio program Arterburn has, and that each day is self-contained, and not necessarily connected to the previous.

Second, and this is a concern I always bring to the table whenever I read a “therapeutic” type book, is this: Does this book have me laying it down and looking to my Savior, Jesus Christ, for everything it’s just suggested? I have to admit, I just never sensed this to be the case here. Don’t get me wrong. Arterburn frequently directs us to look to God for help and forgiveness. Yet I couldn’t help but wonder how much better it could have been had the cross of Jesus Christ been far more central. Coming to Christ, knowing what the cross has accomplished, preaching the gospel to myself everyday is the only true way of living daily life in all its facets without regret.


Regret-free Living may be purchased here: Bethany House Publishers.


Disclaimer

This book was provided for review purposes only by Bethany House Publishers.


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I Am Unworthy

Now, I realize that this post’s title would be something a lot of my regular readers would heartily agree with. However, After watching this video of Al Mohler’s personal library, I walk into my very humble little space of study at Cornerstone EFC and am humbled even more. I could wallow in self-pity merely out of the grandeur of Mohler’s digs. I could be saturated with envy over the sheer numbers of books, let alone the beauty of how it’s all arranged. Or I could find myself despairing because I will never have that many books, never read that many books, nor having read them, be able to, at a moment’s notice, have someone grab a random book off any shelf and give you a several sentence synopsis of that book (Mohler did this in one of Together for the Gospel’s earlier videos a couple of years ago).

No, I’m unworthy because the books I have at present are a sign of God’s grace. Had Christ not died on the cross for me, had God the Father not chosen me before the foundation of the world to be one of His adopted children, had not the Holy Spirit re-birthed me spiritually, giving me a heart of flesh instead of the crusty old heart of stone I once had, I would not only not have the books I have, I wouldn’t have read them nor understood any of them. So, yes, I’m unworthy and yet, but by God’s good grace & mercy, I have my books. Most of them have proven very helpful. I’d thought of creating a short video of my library, but what’s the point of a three second video?

Let me know what you think of Mohler’s place.

Al Mohler – Study Video from Together for the Gospel (T4G) on Vimeo.


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Sunday’s Hymn

This past Lord’s Day we sang a song right out of the Scottish Psalter, 1650. It was actually in our hymnal, but the tune was from that Psalter. I was thrilled about this. I wish we’d do more psalms from the psalter… and try them a capella. That’s how the Scots would have done it.

Bless the Lord, O My Soul

Words: Scottish Psalter, 1650
Music: Hugh Wilson, 1764-1824

O thou my soul, bless God the Lord
And all that in me is
Be stirred up His holy name
To magnify and bless.

Bless, O my soul, the Lord thy God,
And not forgetful be
Of all His gracious benefits
He hath bestowed on thee:

All thine iniquities who doth
Most graciously forgive,
Who thy diseases and and pains
Doth heal, and thee relieve:

Who doth redeem thy life, that thou
To death may not go down,
Who thee with loving kindess doth
and tender mercies crown

Who with abundance of good things
Doth satisfy thy mouth;
So that, even as the eagle's age,
Renewed is thy youth.

This is the hymn tune, “Martyrdom,” to which we sang this marvelous psalm:

Martyrdom (also, “Alas, And Did My Savior Bleed?”


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Spiritual Maturity: The Road to Wonderland – a book review

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About the Book –

For decades, Chafer’s He That is Spiritual guided the Christian in spiritual growth, but it remains out of reach for many modern believers who struggle with the 1918 text or no longer have the general Bible knowledge that the book assumes.

Now, Spiritual Maturity: The Road to Wonderland brings those same critical lessons prefaced by quotes and illustrations from Lewis Carroll’s timeless tales. Interwoven throughout the text is Christine, a fictional character, whose life and questions mirror those of today’s reader.

We need to be sure we are walking in the direction and in the manner God would choose. And on any journey, a map-correctly understood-can be enormously helpful. Thankfully, God has provided us one. Designed for individual or classroom use.

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About the Author –

Bruce Baker is Senior Pastor of Jenison Bible Church, Hudsonville, MI. Before he entered the ministry he served in the Navy for over 11 years. He then moved on to work at a Christian television station as an engineer. It was during this he felt the call of God to enter the ministry. He enrolled at Calvary Bible College graduating with a BS in Christian Ministries. He continued on to Calvary Theological Seminary, where he graduated with a Master’s of Divinity (Pastoral Studies) degree with highest honors. He is currently pursuing his PhD at Baptist Bible Seminary.

Before accepting the call to his current church, he was Senior Pastor of Open Door Bible Church in Belton, MO, and Adjunct Professor of Bible and Theology at Calvary Bible College.

Pastor Baker has no hobbies because his life is one pathetic cycle of trying to complete overdue projects while accepting new ones. He seldom sleeps. He has been acquitted of all charges for which he as ever been indicted.

He is the author of numerous journal and magazine articles, and a contributing author to the book Progressive Dispensationalism. Spiritual Maturity is his first full-length book. Pastor Baker and his wife, Bonnie, have been married 27 years and have three grown children. They are praying that their married children get a clue, get down to business and give them grandchildren before they die.

Sample from the book –

Of all my memories, though, it is the hours we spent in the car, with Dad as the pilot and me as the navigator, that I remember most. Before we left, Dad provided a quick education on how to read a map. I remember his instruction on the importance of knowing where we were, where we were going, and how we were going to get there. “If we keep our eye on those three things on the map,” Dad explained, “we won’t get lost.”

It felt very grown-up to be entrusted with such an important responsibility. As we clicked off the miles, I kept my finger on that maze of colored lines, solemnly announcing the next town we should see or how far it was to the next rest area.

It sounds so simple now, but knowing where we are, where we want to be, and how to get there is still essential for any journey. Yet, it is this basic information, particularly in the realm of a spiritual journey (a journey that seeks and requires spiritual truth), that sometimes seems the hardest to find. It is clear (or at least it should be to anyone who has even a casual understanding of the Bible) that God wants us to grow spiritually-but how is that accomplished? What is the goal? How do we determine how far along we are now? How do we know when we have arrived? This assumes, of course, that one can arrive (and by the way, what exactly does “arriving” mean?). Why is it that some people seem to intuitively understand God’s will when others of us seem to struggle so much?

This book isn’t intended to be our map. Only God’s inspired Word can fulfill that function. Instead, this book is meant to help us discover, by reading the map, where we are now, where God wants us to go, and how we get there.


My Review –

I wrote a couple of weeks ago that I was reading this book and enjoying it a great deal. I’ve completed the book and did enjoy it, but there was a huge bump in the road of this journey (to use Baker’s own analogy) and I hit my head on the ceiling of the car so hard, it took a bit for the swelling to go down. More on that later.

Baker is seeking to help us read the “map” of God’s Word in order to get to the destination “Spiritual Maturity.” He readily admits that we’ll never arrive until God the Father sends Christ the Son to bring us to our final rest in His presence. However, on the way there, we need help and encouragement and this is what he seeks to offer.

He does so using three means: 1) a “story” of a Christian woman whose faith has been rocked hard, and thus starts her journey of recognition and realization that she was so spiritually immature at first and has great need to grow; 2) short excerpts from Lewis Carroll’s tale, Alice in Wonderland, by which Baker sets the stage for each chapter; and 3) each chapter which seeks to help us recognize where we are, where we need to go, and how to start taking the steps necessary to make the journey toward spiritual maturity.

The story, I think, adds some touch of realism to the direct teaching mode of the various chapters. Entitled, “Living in Canaan,” the author follows a portion of the life of Christine, a believer who learns that the path to maturity can be very harsh, very grueling, yet very rewarding also. Segments of this story occur over seven different places, each showing the progress and trials of the maturing process. I found this part of the book helpful, kind of like a mini-novel in the middle of a “technical book” on Christian living.

Using some of the old line art drawing templates and snippets from Carroll’s classic, Baker introduces each chapter and seeks to make us think about life as a follower of Christ. He does not attempt to spiritualize Alice and her adventures. Thank goodness for that. Yet each piece does help you realize where he might be headed with each chapter. For instance, there is the classic dialogue between Alice and the Cheshire Cat:

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to walk from here?”

“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.

“I don’t much care where,” said Alice.

“Then it doesn’t matter which way you walk,” said the Cat.

From there, Baker’s chapter helps us understand that there is a destination in our Christian life, that there is direction and purpose. We don’t just wander through this world until we get to heaven. I enjoyed these little forays a great deal.

Overall, I found this book a good read, full of good reminders of things I’ve learned in the past and need prodding on once in a while in order to stay the course. I think just about any Christian, from relatively new believer to a more experienced Christian would find this helpful. I could recommend it to anyone from my congregation with only one proviso: skip chapters 5, 6 & 7, then be careful with chapters 8 & 9. Before and after this major section, you’ll be fine. Baker is right in introducing the “Jabberwock” here, but for reasons that I strongly disagreed with.

I should have seen it coming, when a partial description of the book informs me that Baker is seeking to put Lewis Sperry Chafer’s He That Is Spiritual on a lower, more accessible shelf for Christian’s, alarms should have gone off. Chafer, and hence, Baker, takes a passage from 1 Corinthians 2.14–3.3 and makes this the cornerstone of their understanding for spiritual maturity. That’s fine, except they introduce a teaching that, I’m convinced undermines the very process they hope to enhance: “the carnal Christian.” I’ll need to post more on this through the course of the next two weeks, but suffice it for now that this is a dangerous teaching. I believe it opens the “antinomian door” for far too many “professing, but unbelieving” people of faith. That is to say, it allows for a person to say, “Yes, I’m a Christian” and then never mature, never move off “Square One” and basically live an unconverted life, yet still enter heaven.

I realize Baker is seeking to loving and graciously “push” these “carnal” people toward greater maturity. And through the beginning and remainder of his book, he does a fine job of that. However, I disagree with this teaching so much, it did make the final portion of the book a far greater chore to read than I initially thought. I usually try to exercise discernment whenever I read, but this was a “cardio workout” like I haven’t had in a while.

Again, I’m favorable to this book. It could actually have been written without chapters 5-9 and still have been coherent and very helpful. If you’d like to purchase this book, you may do so through Grace Acres Press. Just make sure you put a binder around those middle chapters and then continue on.


This book was provided for review purposes by Grace Acres Press.


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Still Wandering… And Wondering on Wednesday

Justin Taylor (via Jeff Brewer via Vimeo via like who knows, ya know?) ran this today:

Typography from Ronnie Bruce on Vimeo.

(Via .)

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Apparent and real importance

Apparent and real importance « Of First Importance: “Real importance is one thing, apparent importance another. The events which move the world are not always those which men think most noteworthy. The men who most deeply influence their fellows are not those of whom everybody is talking. The currents of thought and feeling which will shape the future are not those which are welcomed by the organs and interpreters of current opinion.

When Christ appeared, the palace of the Caesar seemed to be more likely to govern the destinies of mankind than the manger of Bethlehem. No, brethren, depend on it, the apparent is not always, or even generally, the real.”

—H. P. Liddon, Christmastide at St. Paul’s (London, 1889), 101-102.”

(Via Of First Importance.)

Watching the headlines the past few days has certainly proven this. I’m going to post five of the leading headlines over at Yahoo! News and you tell me which is of real importance and which might only be apparent:

1. First Lady Gets a New “Do”

2. What Clothes to Keep

3. Conan & Leno’s Late Night Wars Heat Up

4. Credit Card Companies Taking Big Cut Through Haiti Donations

5. Haiti Earthquake Woes

Yahoo, if you’re not familiar with it, gives a list of some of the top stories in the news in an encapsulated form. These are five of the top 23.

Yesterday, I was directed over to The Big Picture once again for the second day’s photos from Haiti. Even with the pictures, it is difficult to get the mind to grasp the nearly complete devastation of such a vast area. There is much that can be done. There are many very worthy agencies to which you can use to send donations (Samaritan’s Purse, the EFCA, Sovereign Grace Ministries, the list goes on and on). The EFCA had a church plant near Port-au-Prince, but no word has been received from Absolan Joseph, the church planter there.

May God have mercy.