On Wednesday, I had the chance to once again run into former governor and presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. Governor Huckabee was in town promoting his new book, Dear Chandler, Dear Scarlett: A Grandfather’s Thoughts on Faith, Family, and the Things That Matter Most. The line moved pretty quickly even though the Fox News host was quite chatty… Anyway here are a few pictures:
Free E-Book Alert – The Cheesehead Devotional: Daily Meditations for Green Bay Packers, Their Fans, and NFL Football Fanatics
Ok, so this book looks kind of dumb to me, and I doubt if there is anything of theological depth to it (though to be honest I have never read it or even opened to page 1, I’m just not a sports fan at all) – yet because my wife is a huge Packers fan, I feel obligated to tell you about this free e-book devotional. Here’s product description:
“The Cheesehead Devotional is a great adventure for those who may not pick up a Bible for guidance.” ~ Sara White, wife of the late Reggie White
“I have always believed the Packers were religion in these parts. The Cheesehead Devotional brings that spiritual message to life.” ~ Wayne Larrivee, American sportscaster and current play-by-play announcer for the Green Bay Packers
“I am certain you will love this little book. Judy has captured the true heart of a Christian Packer fan!” ~ Rev, Arni Jacobson
1 Chronicles 16:7-36 – Memories FROM THE PLAYBOOK: Remember His marvelous works which He has done, His wonders and the judgments of His mouth. 1 Chronicles 16:12
1962. The last time the Green Bay Packers started a season 10-0. That winning streak ended on Thanksgiving Day against the Detroit Lions. At halftime, the Lions were ahead 23-0 and won the game 26-14. Bart Starr and Vince Lombardi were no longer undefeated.
That day was a terrific day for the Lions, who had been in second place behind the Packers. It was like the Lion’s Super Bowl. Jerry Kramer, Packers’ starting right guard in 1962, said, “They ought to give them a ring or something for it, have a holiday or something because it’s a highlight in their history.” Bart Starr, famed quarterback for the Packers, got sacked eleven times. The Packers earned only 122 yards of offense. Lions’ Linebacker Joe Schmidt said his team, at that time, was out to prove to the world they were as good as or better than Green Bay. The Lions finished the season 11-3, while the Packers were 14-1.
The comparisons to that 1962 season were everywhere preceding the 2011 Thanksgiving Day game. The Lions hoped to repeat history.
However, the Packers shut down Lions receiver Calvin Johnson, the man who turned many Lions games into victories with his superior play. Even missing three injured starters, the Packer defense showed one of their best games. Ryan Pickett tipped a pass from Lions Quarterback Matt Stafford. Linebacker Clay Matthews made a great grab for an interception. The Packers won 27-15, almost an exact flip-flop of the 1962 score.
Historical reruns can make for a great conversation and story. However, in our minds and spirits, they can sometimes be more detrimental than good. It is so easy to fall into the mindset that because a situation went a certain way once, it more than likely will go that way again. It can be a defeatist mentality if the event was negative and can be an unsupported hope if one simply assumes history will repeat itself in the positive events.
The Bible warns us against this type of thinking when it tells us to forget what lies behind and press on to what is ahead. We are told to remember the good things God has done and put our faith in Him, not in repeating history by fate. Faith and fate are not the same. Faith has eyes that look ahead, hearts that believe God’s promises, minds that make right choices, feet that diligently move forward in obedience, and hands that work hard.
History is great for reminiscing, enjoying, and making future plans, but trusting fate will leave you in the dust, while faith in God will take you to new heights.
EXTRA POINT: God, I put my trust and faith in You no matter what has or has not happened in my past. I expect great things ahead, because You are a marvelous God.
Download the book here.
I was just alerted to yet another free e-book made available by the fine folks at amazon. I can’t say I am familiar with the author but the title alone has sparked my interest and, of course, it is free! Here’s the book description:
It’s a timeless question: If God is good, why do bad things happen? We pray for blessing, but we feel cursed. Following Christ seems to make life harder, not easier–then why should we continue?
Using the book of Job, Mark Tabb searches for the answers to these questions and others that relate. Encounter an honest discussion of suffering and find real-world comfort and strength for the trials you face.
Download the book here.
I’m excited to tell you about a new free eBook for Advent from Desiring God. It’s calledGood News of Great Joy, organized specifically for this Advent, 2012.
Advent is just around the corner. It starts the fourth Sunday before Christmas — this year, that’s December 2 — and is a season of preparation for Christmas Day.
The team here at Desiring God did a deep dive into our thirty-plus-year reservoir of sermons and articles, and selected brief devotional readings for each day of Advent. Our hope is that God would use these readings to deepen and sweeten your adoration of Jesus this Advent.
These daily devotionals correspond to the daily readings in our devotional app Solid Joys, which is available for free download in the iTunes store. If you find short daily reflections like these helpful, we’d hope you’ll keep using Solid Joys once Advent is done.
Our prayer is that this new eBook might help you keep Jesus as the center and greatest treasure of your Advent season. The candles and candies have their place, but we want to make sure that in all the Christmas rush and hubbub we adore Jesus above all.
December is an important time for us at Desiring God. We give most of what we have away for free. This is possible because lots of thankful people help us make that happen. It would make us really glad if you would pray about how you might be involved in supporting our mission as this year comes to a close.
For Christ and his kingdom,
and David Mathis, Executive Editor
Of course, top of the list is C. S. Lewis’s Narnia series.
The Spirit Flyer Series, by John Bibee (There are 4 more books, but these are the ones we read aloud together when our boys were younger)
The Archives of Anthropos series, by John White
The 100 Cupboards Trilogy, by N.D. Wilson
The Dragon King Trilogy, by Stephen Lawhead
I haven’t read all the books written by Stephen Lawhead, but I’ve liked every one I’ve read, and most of them would be good choices for boys as well.
Chiveis Trilogy, by Bryan M. Litfin. You might want to check out my review of audiobook edition of The Sword.
The Pendragon Cycle, by Stephen Lawhead
This week on the podcast we welcomed Darrell Dow, creator of the Stuff Fundies Like blog. In this broadcast, Darrell shares with us about his personal journey of how he navigated his way out of a legalistic religion to embrace a new world of grace and forgiveness often overlooked in some camps of fundamentalism. Like many who read this blog and listen to this podcast, it is a story that I can more than sympathize with. This is just one reason why Darrell has found such a large audience. We can all look back and recall our own experiences as Darrell draws from his own and that of the hundreds of others who he has connected with over these past few years.
A midst all of the satire found on the Stuff Fundies Like blog lay some important issues that move far beyond the mere not wanting to abide by strict standards of music and dress. This leads us to our main topic of conversation, Darrell’s new book: Fundamental Flaws: Seven Things Independent Fundamental Baptists Get Wrong (And How to Fix Them). This book features seven issues many of us former fundamentalists can identify with. Yet, as Darrell mentions on the program, this book can serve as a tool to help explain to people why we left this world and also leave the reader with a few linger thoughts to ponder.
Title: What is the Mission of the Church?
Author: Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert
Publishing Year: 2011
My Rating: 5 out of 5 (1 meaning I hated the book, 5 meaning I loved the book)
Maybe you are like me and read Radical by David Platt and got all hyped up on the idea of selling everything and giving it all to build wells in Africa. Not that there’s anything wrong with that… But, is that the true mission of the church? Should social justice be incorporated into our understanding of what it means to fulfill the Great Commission? What is the mission of the Church? In my opinion, Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert do a great job of tackling this issue with heart-filled compassion and Scripture-filled argumentation.
According to DeYoung and Gilbert, “The mission of the church is to go into the world and make disciples by declaring the gospel of Jesus Christ in the power of the Spirit and gathering these disciples into churches, that they might worship the Lord and obey his commands now and in eternity to the glory of God the Father.” (pages 67-68) They make the case that the basic mission of the church is found in the Great Commission. While ministries of mercy and social justice are legitimate areas of concern (and action) for the church, is not the main task given to us by God. (Pages 45-48 give five reasons as to why the church should focus on this command and chapter 3 builds an excellent case using the basic outlaying of redemptive history leading to an overall worldview on the matter).
Chapter 5 gives us the needed reminder that the Kingdom of God is not built by men with good intentions but will be built by Christ Himself. This relieves us of the pressure and actually may result in more works of mercy and generosity. Pastor Gilbert explains this idea with experiences he once observed:
I (Greg) spent a few years ministering in Washington, DC, and one of the things I noticed there—something that surprised me, in fact—is how often college graduates would come to town thinking they were going to change the world, only to spend three or four years banging their heads against the wall of this present evil age, and finally leave town jaded and discouraged and convinced that it was all hopeless. I think a good deal of that discouragement could have been avoided if they had just come into those jobs with a Bible-informed realism about the age we are all living in. Then they could have worked hard to accomplish good in the world, rejoiced when victories were won, and yet not been crushed when it turned out that they could not, in fact, fix the world. That would have given them both the motivation to do good and the flinty determination to work even through the strong and persistent opposition of the powers of this world.” (page 145)
Chapter 6 explores several passages used to promote a church-wide crusade for social justice. Among these passages are: Leviticus 19:9–18, Leviticus 25 (the year of Jubilee), Isaiah 1, Isaiah 58, Jeremiah 22, Amos 5, Micah 6:8, Matthew 25:31–46, Luke 10:25–37, Luke 16:19–31, 2 Corinthians 8–9, and James 1, 2, 5. Basically the premise they pose in each of these passages is that the church’s first responsibility is to see to the needs of the poor within its own congregation. The church is not tasked with righting every social wrong or even to minister to the needs to of the entire community – yet individual members of the church are encouraged to address these issues as they are able.
I found chapter 7 to be the most interesting as the authors pose “Seven Modest Proposals on Social Justice.” (page 192) Of these seven, three stood out among the rest as especially enlightening and helpful. First, there was proposal number 3 – “Accept the Complexities of Determining a Biblical Theology of Wealth, Poverty, and Material Possessions.” (page 196) In this section, the authors wrestle with differing but related concepts concerning a Biblical idea of wealth:
“On the one hand, riches are a blessing from God (as seen in the patriarchs, the Mosaic covenant, Proverbs, and the accounts of the kings in Kings–Chronicles). But on the other hand, there is almost nothing that puts you in more spiritual danger than money (“It is hard for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven” is how Jesus put it). On the one hand, Jesus and the prophets had very little positive to say about the rich and sympathized more with the poor. On the other hand, God put the first man and woman in a paradise of plenty, and the vision of the new heavens and the new earth is a vision of opulence, feasting, and prosperity.” (pages 196-197).
Wealth as a positive blessing from God seems to be overlooked today. Instead, we are often made to feel guilty over our possessions even if we got them through moral means and hard work.
Proposal number five is “Appropriate the Concept of Moral Proximity.” (page 203) This concept is defined by the authors –
“The principle of moral proximity is pretty straightforward, but it is often overlooked: The closer the need, the greater the moral obligation to help. Moral proximity does not refer to geography, though that can be part of the equation. Moral proximity refers to how connected we are to someone by virtue of familiarity, kinship, space, or time.” (page 203).
They got to explain it further –
“You can see where this is going. The closer the moral proximity, the greater the moral obligation. That is, if a church in Whoville gets struck by lightning and burns down, Greg’s church in Kentucky could help them out, but the obligation is much less than if a church down the street in Louisville goes up in smoke. Likewise, if a man in Lansing loses his job, Kevin could send him a check, but if his brother-in-law on the other side of the world is out of work, he has more of an obligation to help. This doesn’t mean we can be uncaring to everyone but our friends, close relatives, and people next door, but it means that what we ought to do in one situation is what we may do in another. Moral proximity makes obedience possible by reminding us that before Paul said “let us do good to everyone,” he said, “So then, as we have opportunity” (Gal. 6:10).” (page 203)
Finally, proposal six (“Connect Good Intentions with Sound Economics”) gives us an important lesson in economics.
Consequently, the rich do not have to get rich at the expense of the poor. Christians often worry about the growing gap between the haves and the have-nots, but a growing gap does not necessarily mean a growing problem. In the last few decades, both in the United States and around the world, the rich have gotten richer, but the poor have gotten richer too. By one estimate, from 1970 to 2006 poverty fell by 86 percent in South Asia, 73 percent in Latin America, 39 percent in the Middle East, and 20 percent in Africa. Although there is still dire suffering, the overall global trend has been good for the past several decades. The percentage of the world population living in absolute poverty (less than $1 a day) went from 26.8 percent in 1970 to 5.4 percent in 2006.
Because wealth can be created, it is misleading to always speak of wealthy countries (or individuals) “controlling” a certain percentage of wealth or “taking” a certain amount of health-care dollars, as if the rich people raided the cookie jar first and left nothing for the poor people. The biggest consumers of goods and resources are also the most productive creators of jobs and wealth.
Along the same lines, one of the geniuses of capitalism is that it discourages hoarding. This is not to suggest that people are less given to avarice now than they have always been. But whereas in the ancient world the greedy miser might store up excess grain for himself and nobody else (see Luke 12), today the wealthy invest their riches in stocks, or pour their resources into a start-up company, or at least put their money in the bank, which will in turn lend the money to others. There’s little incentive to hide a billion dollars under your mattress or to do nothing with your grain except build bigger barns in which to hoard it. But there is every incentive to put that money to work back in the economy. Even when the wealthy spend their money on things that might offend middle-class sensibilities, their conspicuous consumption is nevertheless providing jobs for the yacht maker, the high-end clothing designer, and the Hummer dealership, not to mention the builder, the landscaper, and the pool maintenance man. (pages 207-208)
In my opinion, the epilogue is what ties this entire book together. This conclusion features a fictional conversation between two characters. The first is a preacher’s kid sick of traditional church and now in the midst of a new church plant that he hopes will change the way church is done and in doing so will change the world around him both spiritually and physically. The second character is an older, more traditional pastor who dispenses the wisdom he has gleaned from decades of ministry experience. The younger pastor seeks out the advice of the older pastor and what ensues is a beautiful presentation of the major ideas already presented in this book. This leaves you with an entertaining and memorable way to once again drive home their thoughts. What a way to end such a deep, theological tome!
I have to admit, I still find myself wrestling through this issue of how committed the church ought to social justice. While I have not come to a final conclusion, this book has served as an excellent guide to the complexities of this issue. I’m sure where I finally land on this will have been due to the influence of this book. I highly recommend it as you too grapple with this issue.
Disclaimer: This book was provided by the publisher for review. I was under no obligation to offer a favorable review.
Title: Black Like Me
Author: John Howard Griffin
Publishing Year: 2010 (50 year anniversary)
My Rating: 4 out of 5 (1 meaning I hated the book, 5 meaning I loved the book)
Black Like Me is the story of John Howard Griffin, a writer who concerned about the plight of African Americans in the late 1950’s. While pondering this complex issue, Griffin concluded that the only way to truly understand the difficulties blacks were facing was to become one himself and view this problem though an entirely different perspective. After taking medication and applying some touch up materials, John Howard Griffin entered into the civil rights struggle as an African American.
At first, Griffin’s experiment seemed a bit troubling to me. As he spoke about “entering into the world of the Negro” he seemed a bit detached. It almost sounded like Jane Goddall talking about “entering into the world of the gorilla.” Yet, after awhile I concluded that may have just been the case. Even as a sympathetic white person, the oppression of African Americans was so great that it was entering into a entirely different world. This seemed much greater than merely walking in another man’s shoes.
As the story unfolded I began to wonder if the effect of this book would be limited by its age. In other words, this all took place during a time now long since gone. Over fifty years has passed since this experiment took place. Not have “whites only” signs vanished from our culture, but we have the first black President currently occupying the White House. Yet, that fear would be proven wrong by about pages 40-46. The basic theme of these pages centered on the question of why blacks can’t simply raise themselves out of the poverty to which they find themselves confined. I have to admit, I’ve asked myself this question in this past. In our free enterprise system, there is nothing stopping the diligent working looking to get ahead. Now this is an issue that is still being discussed today. Why are so many African Americans stuck in ghettos and poor housing areas when they have everything needed to pull themselves out of it. Why do so many drop out of school? Why do so many not have a job a resort to illegal activities in order to make their living? From my perspective it seems simple. Yet, had I been born into this situation myself, perhaps the questions would be different. Why bother with education if the schools are poorly funded and there was no guarantee that it would lead to future employment? How can I get a job and make an honest day’s pay if I walk into the interview already handicapped by my background and without the guarantee that I will even receive the same pay everyone around me gets? Though times have certainly changed and things have certainly gotten better, some basic issues still have not been addressed or understood.
I was surprised at how relevant this book from 1959 would be. For example, another question I’ve often wondered is why so many African Americans see racism everywhere around them. It almost seems like paranoia. Yet, the reality is, after a race has been enslaved and oppressed for hundreds of years, this type of behavior would be difficult to let go of because of its past (and perhaps present) justification. It is hard for me to relate to a people whose basic human rights were taken away only because of the color of their skin. When you consider conditions in Alabama and Mississippi, no wonder why so many still look over their shoulder. If I were kidnapped and eventually released, a mere apology from my captor and a promise to do better would not stop the nightmares that may plague my sleep from that point forward. A basic human trust has been broken and will not be repaired just because time passes by.
What I also struck me was the account of hitchhiking through Alabama. As cars would stop, only at night, drivers were obsessed with the sexual activities of the black they picked up. They would automatically assume the worst behavior in each African American they met. It was assumed. This caused me to consider my own preconceived ideas. How many times have I assumed that most (not all – as if that were any less of a stereotype) lived in a thug-like atmosphere filled with hip-hop, loud talking and vulgar speech. When you assume the worst about people, the assumption often becomes the perceived truth regardless of its validity.
Another shocking conclusion that I found while reading through this book was this shocking realization: the very racists found within these pages were not klansmen dawned in white hoods. There were “normal” people. Had I been living within this context, these people could have been my neighbors, friends, fellow-church members, family, or even my own self. The depravity of man will always shine through given the right opportunity.
The final thought I walked away with came the morning after I finished this book. I was viewing a typical morning news program as the anchors debated the merits of President Obama’s proposed Buffet Rule which would force millionaires and billionaires to pay “their fare share” or at least give 30% of their income over to the government. As a conservative I stand firmly against such an idea I deem to be socialist. One of the talking head on the broadcast referred to this as class warfare. That is when it hit me. Here we have an African American President talking about social justice and income equality. After having read this book, it struck me for the first time as to why these issues are so important to liberals and why modern civil rights leaders find themselves in that camp so often. After hundreds of years of oppression, it is any wonder they are looking for equality from a government and culture that had denied them even the opportunity for advancement? While I still find myself opposed to such policies, I can at least see why this is a sensitive issue that reaches far beyond the over-simplification that those on my side of the political equation may want to acknowledge.