Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Year End Book Review '08

After years of reading countless books, unaccounted for, I decided this year that I would begin keeping track of the books I read. So, here you will find a list of this years read books, along with a brief review/recommendation, and miscellaneous thoughts.

All the Money in the World: This is a very interesting read. It tells of the people whose names have made it on the Forbes 400 list of richest people. It is separated into three categories, "how they make their money", "how they keep their money", "how they spend their money". I highly recommend this book, as it is very informative, and offers a glimpse into a life that few of us know.

A Daily Guide to Miracles, by Oral Roberts: After watching these preachers on television, I thought I would read their book to have a better understanding of their views and philosophies. They have some good thoughts concerning God. For a person like myself, being raised in the church, not believing in a prosperity gospel, with a small emphasis on miracles, this book gives yet another perspective on God and Christianity. Their are some very good principals, but also some false principals. This book is worth a skim through, to help better understand the prosperity gospel/miracle healing movement.

A Painted House, by John Grisham: An exceptionally written, coming of age story (no law involved). This is the story of a summer (set in the '50's) in the life of a cotton farm family. Although this is an excellent story, I more prefer stories with a conflict that end in a resolution. This story just kind of ends, with nothing to really be resolved, just telling a story about something that happened.

Pagan Christianity, by Frank Viola: I highly recommend this book for anyone involved in a church. Frank Viola [reimaginingchurch blog] goes into great detail describing how the way we do church, the church traditions, is taken, not from the Bible, but from various pagan practices that have been adopted (under false scriptural pretense) into the church. His solution is to do church according to the New Testament, believers meeting together in homes, sharing one anothers needs. I highly recommend this book as it has the power to change your church, and deepen your relationship with God.

Harvest, by Chuck Smith: This is the story of the Calvary Chapel church movement. This book tells the story of several Calvary Chapel pastors, their past, where they came from (the sin that God delivered them from), and how God is using them today. Profiles include Greg Laurie, John Courson, Raul Ries, Jeff Johnson, Skip Heitzig, Mike Macintosh, and more.

Eat Mor Chicken, Inspire More People, by Truett Cathy: What make Chik-fil-a such an exceptional business? The secret is out with this book. Truett Cathy's principals for starting and running his Chik-fil-a restaurants can, and should, be applied to your business, ministry, or personal life. I highly recommend this book for those that want to achieve the next level of success in their work/life.

Get Ready to Grow, by Paul Orjala: An old ('80's?) book on church growth. I read it for entertainment purposes only. Their are many dying churches, whose only strategy for church growth is this one from the '80's. They refuse to change with the times (maybe from ignorance, fear, or stubborness).

You Were Born Rich, by Bob Proctor: A self-help guide on being wealthy and successful. This books have some value, some of the principals are good principals for personal/business growth. However, there is more to life that one needs in order to have true wealth and success, the missing ingredient from these types of books is always, Jesus Christ.

Leadership Secrets of Billy Graham, by Harold Myra: Great book for leaders. This book outlines the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) success, the principals that make Billy Graham a great leader, and how you can lead the same way. This is a must read for leaders in ministry.

The Millionaire Next Door, by Thomas Stanley: Loaded with facts and statistics on wealth (obtaining it, keeping it, investing it, giving it, spending it). This book talks about how the people who are the most wealthy often do not appear to be so, they are typical normal people in a normal neighborhood. The so-called wealthy living in the extravagant house, in the gated community, driving the luxurious automobile, wearing thousand dollar suits, are often not truly wealthy. These type of people spend all they get, while, in order to be truly wealthy (monetary worth), money must be saved and properly invested. Interesting read on the wealthy.

Plague Maker, by Tim Downs: This is a fiction book, some parts based on actual events. The premise of the story is that a Japanese man has created a plague and plans to spread it to kill all Americans. The story incorporates actual events from World War 2, including a bio-chem organization known as Unit 731, and the dropping of the atomic bomb. This is a good fiction/suspense/thriller novel.

This year was also my attempt at writing. I wrote, and self published, my first booklet (available at the right of the screen, or request free download), "Christian Scents". This booklet is based on two sermons I preached, one on the scent of death, the other on the aroma of life.

The scent of death is in reference to the fact that as Christians we are called to die to ourselves, live for God, to reach others. We no longer have a "comfort zone", our hobbies, interests, likes are not our own, our "comfort zone" is whatever is required for us to reach others for Christ.

The aroma of life is from scripture when Paul speaks about the Christian life being a sweet smeeling fragrance. The booklet talks about the significance of fragrance, what it means to us today, and how to achieve a sweet aroma that attracts others to Christ.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Post Preview....

Stand-by for these exciting upcoming posts...

Year End Book Review '08- this will be a brief review/overview of all the books I've read through 2008.

Go'el- I will begin an on-going study of the Go'el (kinsman redeemer), from scripture.

As always, reader input/comments/opinions are welcome.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Just want to say, Merry Christmas! Thank you for your readership.

As you excitedly open your presents this Christmas day, and realize that all you got was socks and cheap cologne, do not fret. Remember, this is not what Christmas is all about.

Don't forget the reason for the season, Jesus Christ, our redemption!

Have a very Merry Christmas!!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Living with the Grinch

This time of year it is not unusual to hear the deep, gravely refrains of Thurl Ravenscroft's, "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch".

On the surface this is just a silly Dr. Seus story and song. However, I think there is more to the story beyond the surface. If we look at it closely we realize that the story of the Grinch is the essence of Christmas. It is a story of redemption.

In the song we have this amazing description of a wicked person. A carnal person, a person consumed with sin and selfishness. We have a word picture of the sinful human condition.

In the movie, we see the people of Whoville overcome their own selfishness, pride, and judgemental attitudes. They reach out to the Grinch, and he is, in a sense, forgiven and redeemed.

This is the story of Christmas. A story of redemption. Without the Christ of Christmas we look like the Grinch (garlic in our soul, hearts full of unwashed socks, souls full of gunk). It is only through Christ and accepting him into our lives that we are redeemed and our lives are cleaned up and we become more appealing than a "seasick crocodile".

Have a Merry Christmas!

Let us not forget the Christ who came to offer us Redemption!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Professional Listening

Listening to the "Calvary Chapel Live" broadcast (from Calvary Chapel Ft. Lauderdale) with pastor Bob Coy, brought up an interesting thought.

As Christians we are surrounded by Christian teaching. We have radio stations, tv stations, live church services to go to. We have access to all this Christian information. Due to this fact, most Christians have become professional listeners.

We can tell you what each preachers teaching style is like, we can tell what their favorite topic to preach on is, we can tell you how long they preach, what words they use the most, whether their more of a topical preacher or an expositor. We are professional listeners.

James 1:22 says this, "But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deluding your own selves."

Christianity requires more than just listening it requires action. It is a wonderful thing to be surrounded by all these sources of Biblical knowledge. This is what we need as Christians, this is how we are exposed to the light of His Word. But, we must not only listen to the information, we must act upon it.

Be more than a professional listener. Take action, be a doer!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Truth Review

I (and a small group) just completed going through a 13 week study on truth. It's called the Truth Project, and was created by Focus on the Family.

The twelve lessons are referred to as tours, and Dr. Del Tackett is our guide on these tours. Dr. Del Tackett, presents this information in an easy to understand way, utilizing visual aids, and other interviews.

Dr. Tackett uses the visual of a temple (a Truth Temple, so to speak). And he very carefully builds this temple starting with the foundation (the first 4 tours), and then putting into place the pillars (the next 4 tours), and finally ending with the top of the temple, the four spheres.

These twelve tours, that make up the Truth Temple, consist of:

Tour 1: Veritology

The focal point for this first hour of discussion is the concept of Truth itself. What is truth? Why is it important? What role does it play in the biblical view of the world, God's purpose for the cosmos, His will for mankind, His plan of salvation, and the way we live our personal lives?

Tour 2: Philosophy & Ethics

In essence, the message of this lesson parallels the precept of Proverbs 23:7 – "As a man thinks in his heart, so is he." The heart of the discussion lies in the thought that there is a formal and vital connection between our ideas about the nature of the world (philosophy) and our understanding of right and wrong behavior (ethics).

Tour 3: Anthropology

We engage in an in-depth examination of biblical and contemporary ideas about the nature of the human race. The focus of the discussion is anthropology: Who is man? Where did he come from? What is the meaning and purpose of his existence?

The answers we bring to these questions have a direct bearing upon our approach to another pressing problem, one of the thorniest and most challenging of all – Why is there evil in the world?

Tour 4: Theology

"Who is God?" Knowing God, he argues, ought to be our passion and our highest goal; for until we look upon His face, we cannot rightly know ourselves or begin to grasp the meaning of our existence in the world.

Tour 5: Science

In the process, we will discover that whereas "the heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows His handiwork" (Psalm 19:1) so that the Creator's "invisible attributes are plainly seen" (Romans 1:20), mankind has nevertheless chosen to ignore the obvious truth, twisting scientific investigation into a vehicle for propagating a godless philosophy of human independence and self-determination.

Tour 6: History

We take a close look at the importance of maintaining a firm grip on the past. In the process, we will see that a proper appreciation of historical context – in other words, our place in God's "larger story" – is fundamental to an accurate understanding of almost every aspect of our lives. History provides us with indispensable insights into the meaning of existence, God's plan and purpose for the ages, man's responsibility toward the Creator, and his duty toward his fellow creatures.

Tour 7: Sociology

Now we turn south to consider some of the amazingly detailed reflections of God's nature inherent in the social order. According to Dr. Tackett, the evidences of the divine imprint that we see in this realm are even more awe-inspiring and more indicative of the heart of the Creator than the marvels of DNA replication or the complexities of the blood-clotting system. But for this very reason they also stand closer to the focal point of the Cosmic Battle.

Tour 8: Unio Mystica

We are now led on a tour of the socialsphere that Dr. Tackett characterizes as the heart and soul of Christianity: the Mystical Union (Latin, Unio Mystica) between God and man. Here, in the most intimate and profoundly mysterious sphere of the "Intimate Three" (family, church, and the God-man relationship), we have the privilege of pondering exactly what it is that Christ has purchased for us at the price of His precious blood shed on the cross for our sins: not simply salvation from hell, but an invitation into the Godhead itself, where we may experience the incomprehensible wonder of oneness with the Creator of the universe.

Tour 9: The State

We now examine the spheres of the state, politics, and law. On this, the ninth of twelve worldview tours to be completed during the course of The Truth Project, we will take a close and careful look at how these spheres are interconnected and how they relate to other aspects of the social realm: family, church, labor, community, and the relationship between God and man. Special attention will be given to the design, structure, and role of the state, its place in God's plan for human society, and the rightful extent and limits of its power. The state, as we will see, has the capacity to exert a tremendous power for good in the affairs of mankind as long as it operates within its proper boundaries; but it also has the potential to become the most horrendously pathological and abusive of all the social spheres if not kept in check.

Tour 10: The American Experiment

We want to take a brief look at the question, "What should God'sminister on earth (Romans 13:4) look like? What is a proper form for this agency that is divinely appointed and commissioned to administer justice, punish evil, and encourage goodness among its citizens or subjects?" We will approach this task by considering the American Experiment.

Tour 11: Labor

We will find that creative labor is a vital element of God's plan for the social realm; that work is not a "curse," as it is often represented today, but an essential element of our humanity; that it is, in fact, rooted in the nature of God Himself, the Original Worker. We will also learn that the structure of this sphere parallels that of the others we have already visited in that it also appears triune in design. And we will begin to see that the importance of work is closely related to our divinely given responsibility to care for the poor.

Tour 12: Community & Involvement

Here, perhaps more than in any other sphere or field of inquiry, we will have an opportunity to draw near to the Creator and learn what it is that has compelled Him to draw near to us. We will find that the God of the Scriptures is in fact the Lord of the lonely, the Savior of the outcast, the Defender of the defenseless, and the Sustainer of all who find themselves in need. Our call is to become like Him by discovering what it means to not only love Him, but to love our neighbor.

This study on all areas of truth in life is essential for any church or believer. This study will open your eyes to the true nature, character, and heart of Christ, who is Truth.

These 12 Tours are all filmed to the highest quality standards. The tours lend themselves, very easily, to open group discussion. There is also a website, in which participants can log in and take advantage of additional resources (outlines, study guides, powerpoint slides), and discuss the content of the tours.

This study cannot be led by just anyone, the study leader must first become "certified" by attending a Focus on the Family, Truth Project, seminar.

You can find more information at The Truth Project.

Also, check out the promotional video below.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Advent Conspiracy

This article taken from Relevant Magazine.

This demonstrate the true meaning of Christmas. As Christians we should be leading the charge to promote what Christmas is really all about.

The Advent Conspiracy

This year, Black Friday—the day after Thanksgiving that traditionally kicks off the season of holiday spending—was especially dark. Early that day, a crowd of bargain hunters trampled an employee to death as they rushed into a New York Wal-Mart at 5 a.m. Three others, including a 28-year-old pregnant woman, also suffered from minor injuries. As reports about the incident continued to surface throughout the day, many were asking, "Is this what Christmas has become?"

If the more than 800 churches worldwide who are participating in Advent Conspiracy are to be believed, the answer to that question is a resounding no. Advent Conspiracy is a movement that started in 2006 as a way to reclaim the Christmas season. "There's been a significant drift from the worship of Jesus," says Greg Holder, the pastor of Windsor Crossing in St. Louis, Mo., and one of the creators of Advent Conspiracy. "We've seen anxiety and frustration consume entire communities as people start believing the lie that celebrating Christmas is about hyper consumerism."

Holder, along with Chris Seay, the pastor of Ecclesia in Houston, Texas and Rick McKinley, pastor of Imago Dei in Portland, Ore., launched Advent Conspiracy as a way to lead their congregations into meaningful worship during Christmastime. They put the focus squarely on worship and service instead of gifts and established four guiding principles: Worship Fully, Spend Less, Give More and Love All.

If the principles "spend less" and "give more" seem contradictory, that's because U.S. culture's understanding of giving is a little off. Consumerism allows people to create the illusion of giving without having to sacrifice anything personal. The three pastors encouraged their congregations to forgo much of their gift buying and spending on commercial items, and instead to give gifts of presence, creativity and time.

It isn't that most gifts are wrong, just misguided. "We're not Scrooges," Holder says. "We're not against gifts. We want people to pull back on giving meaningless gifts."

The money that would’ve been spent on presents was pooled and used to provide clean water for communities in third world countries. According to Jeanne McKinley, Rick McKinley's wife and the director of Advent Conspiracy at Imago Dei, the decision to connect Advent Conspiracy with water was deliberate, contrasting the desperate need for water in many places to the comfortable lifestyles of those in the U.S. "Water is a starting point. It's the most basic need that all of us have," she says. "If we meet that need then we can go forward in relationship with the people receiving clean water."

The first year, five churches participated; by the second year, it spread to include not only hundreds of churches but also high schools, college groups and businesses. Holder considers Advent Conspiracy a common ground where people from all corners of the Christian tradition can meet. "This is a way for the body of Christ to unite,” he says. “It's not just one type of church jumping on board with this. Young, old, liturgical, contemporary, non-denominational, mainline—they're all in. We spend a lot of time talking about our differences, but this is a chance to remind ourselves we are the body of Christ."

One such church, Jacob's Well in Kansas City, Mo., decided to join in 2007. The pastor at Jacob’s Well, Tim Keel, liked that it was a practical extension of the concepts in the book of James, which his congregation studied that fall.

Keel knew his congregation would be willing participants in Advent Conspiracy, but he wasn't prepared for how enthusiastic their response would truly be. As children grasped the core concepts of Advent Conspiracy they asked for money to give to the water collection instead of gifts. Families attended gift-making workshops to learn how to make unique presents for one another. Artists from the Jacob's Well community donated their talents and time to make the season creatively stimulating and truly worshipful.

"I was thinking we'd dig one well," Keel says. "When we had the money to dig four, it was significant. I was surprised by how people took ownership of it, not just as something they were doing in our church, but inviting other people from their lives to participate as well."
As more churches and groups continue to climb on board, Advent Conspiracy will remain decentralized, acting not as an organization but as a resource. It isn't the desire of Advent Conspiracy to dictate how people are celebrating Christmas and donating their money, but to enable congregations to encourage and support each other as they recover the advent season.
"Ultimately, it would be amazing for the Church to stand together and see the water crisis solved because that's how we wanted to spend our Christmas," Jeanne McKinley says. "But for us, the Jesus component is the most important part. Beyond the giving and spending less, more than anything, we want people to engage in worship more fully at Christmas."

Author: Shanna Dipaolo

Monday, December 08, 2008

The Parents' Night Before Christmas


'Twas the night before Christmas when all through the houseI searched for the tools to hand to my spouse.
Instructions were studied and we were inspired,in hopes we could manage"Some Assembly Required."
The children were quiet (not asleep) in their beds,while Dad and I faced the evening with dread:a kitchen, two bikes, Barbie's townhouse to boot!And now, thanks to Grandpa, a train with a toot!
We opened the boxes,my heart skipped a beat--let no parts be missing or parts incomplete!
Too late for last-minute returns or replacement;if we can't get it right, it goes straight to the basement!
When what to my worrying eyes should appear but 50 sheets of directions, concise, but not clear; With each part numbered and every slot named,so if we failed, only we could be blamed.
More rapid than eagles the parts then fell out,all over the carpet they were scattered about.
"Now bolt it! Now twist it! Attach it right there!Slide on the seats, and staple the stair!Hammer the shelves, and nail to the stand.""Honey," said hubby, "you just glued my hand."
And then in a twinkling, I knew for a fact that all the toy dealers had indeed made a pact to keep parents busy all Christmas Eve nightwith "assembly required" till morning's first light.
We spoke not a word, but kept bent at our work,'til our eyes, they went blurry; our fingers all hurt.The coffee went cold; and the night, it wore thin before we attached the last rod and last pin.
Then laying the tools away in the chest,we fell into bed for a well-deserved rest.But I said to my husband just before I passed out,"This will be the best Christmas, without any doubt.
"Tomorrow we'll cheer, let the holiday ring,and not run to the store for one single thing!We did it! We did it! The toys are all set for the perfect, most magical Christmas, I bet!"
Then off to dreamland and sweet reposeI gratefully went, though I suppose there's something to say for those self-deluded-I'd forgotten that BATTERIES are never included!

Friday, December 05, 2008

Like a Virgin

Judges 11:37, "...Let me wander two months through the mountains with my friends and mourn my virginity."
This is the story of the Judge, Jephthah. Jephthat is getting ready to go to battle against the Ammonites, and he makes this vow with the Lord, "...whatever comes out of my house to greet me when I return in piece...will belong to the Lord, and I will offer it as a burnt offering."
Upon Jephthah's return from battle, the first thing out of his house is his daughter. He must hold to his vow so, in despair, he explains the vow, and what must happen, to his daughter. Judges 11:37 is her final request.
Upon reading this passage I was first struck by the fact that Jephthah would have to kill/sacrifice his own daughter, why would God allow that? But, as I studied the passage I became even more intrigued by this passage (Judges 11:37), and the importance of being a virgin in the Old Testament times.
Throughout the O.T. we see many examples of the importance of virginity. We read the story of Tamar being raped by Amnon (her half-brother). After the rape Amnon sends her away. Tamar is more upset by this than anything else. You see it would have been better for her to marry a wicked person like Amnon than to go through life, disgraced, as an unmarried woman who had lost her virginity.
Even in the face of death,the thing Jephthah's daughter was most concerned with was her virginity. In the Israelite culture women "regarded the preservation of virginity until marriage as central to her identity."
As I studied the part of the passage where Jephthah must sacrifice his daughter I found that sacrifice does not mean iminent death. A person could be redeemed with money, or be given to the sanctuary in service to the Lord. Jephthah's daughter would have to remain a virgin for life. She would never be able to be given to a man in marriage.
This was worse than death. To be an unmarried non-virgin, or to never be able to be given in marriage as a virgin.
We've come a long way, today. Now it seems just the opposite, the lack of virginity is central to peoples identity. It's unusual to finish your high school years as a virgin. Most people in our culture form their identity by their sexual habits. How many times? How many people? What kind of situation? etc.,etc.
What a far, far cry from our generation and culture today.