Posts Tagged ‘Religion and Spirituality’

Why should I even go to church? This seems to be a popular question nowadays. There are so many critiques of the church that lead to this question, some warranted  and some not. The church is full of hypocrites is a complaint that is not new. I would not disagree with this comment, but I don’t see this leading to avoidance of church. If we avoided every place that was full of hypocrites, we would need to quit our jobs, avoid shopping and restaurants, and pretty much anything that involves people. We would end up living in a cave, isolated from the world while trying to deny our own hypocritical behavior. The church is flawed, but so are you and I. In the end, Christ died for believers and for His bride, the church. He saves a people, the church, who are flawed. The church does itself damage when portraying itself as anything other than flawed. We are a gathering of sinners, who have been bought by the blood of Christ. We are not known by our perfection, but by the love we have for one another (John 13:35). A flawed sinful people who love and forgive one another are contrary to the world.

The church is outdated, boring and unneeded. I can be a Christian without church. The church is just a man made institution. This is just a few excuses from a list that would be a mile long. All essentially ignore Hebrews 10:25 which tells us not to forsake gathering together. I think one of the problems is how many Christians view the church. The church has become a building we come to once a week. By many Christians, the church is no longer viewed as a local body of those saved by Christ, who disciple, love, care and sacrifice for one another. Church has become little more than a religious club to many. We join clubs based on the benefits and enjoyment that they bring us. I think many unfortunately view the church in the same way. What we see as a result are people who want to be a part of the club for the benefits, without having to assume any leadership or responsibilities. When the benefits are not as expected, they leave church behind. Or when some other club (church) offers better “benefits”, they jump ship to that church. If this is your view of the church, then it is very possible for you to see church and irrelevant and unnecessary. However, when we view the church from a proper perspective, it is vital and necessary in our Christian lives.

As you have probably figured, I am extremely concerned by the lack of importance of the church portrayed by many in the church. How can we hate or even view indifferently that which Christ died for – His bride? Being invested into a local church will never be easy, and many times will be messy. However, Christ has placed us together to care for one another. Jesus gave us the mission to go and make disciples of all nations. That can not be done alone, it can only be accomplished together with the church local and universal. They is only a limited amount of discipleship that we can get on our own or through online materials. There is an investment that takes place in each others daily lives, that can not be replicated by audio or video resources. My hope and prayer is to see a new generation of believers who see the church for what it is. When we begin to love the church the way Jesus loves the church, everything changes. We are no longer looking for our benefits, but are looking at how we may benefit others. The sacrifice of our time and resources is done joyfully. We have a desire to be around other believers on days other than Sunday. All the excuses go away, and we can’t believe that we ever lived apart from other believers. The church becomes a family bonded by the blood of Christ. I know because the excuses were once mine too.

Advertisements

Counterfeit Gospels is a look at the true Gospel in a world of false alternatives. Wax portrays the Gospel as a three-legged stool that collapses with any one element missing. He lists the three legs as the Gospel story, the Gospel announcement and the Gospel community. While I fully agree that the Gospel story and announcement are essential parts, I still came away not fully convinced of the points made about the Gospel community. I fully agree that Gospel community is a vital part of the Christian life, but I am not sure it is part of the Gospel itself. I still found this book very helpful even with the few points that I may disagree with.

What I found to be especially helpful was the focus on counterfeit gospels that are present today. Wax not only points out the counterfeits in this book, but he also shows why these counterfeits are attractive to us. So many of these counterfeits are present in our churches today. This book effectively counters the counterfeits. I also found it helpful to realize that the Gospel announcement of the life, death and resurrection of Christ is vital to be told in the context of the Gospel story. In a country where we can no longer assume a general knowledge of Christ, we must tell the story of creation, the fall and our sinful state before God. The Gospel announcement is not good news without the Gospel story. This is a book that I definitely would recommend.

“I received a copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this
review.”

Torn is a book that talks about trusting God when life is hard. The book is split into two sections – trusting in God when torn & how to put the pieces back together. If we are honest, it is many times hard to trust in God when it feels as if He is not with us. The book reminds us that God is with us even in those times when it seems as if everything is falling apart. While our circumstances change, God’s character doesn’t. We can take comfort in being able to come to a God who is always there and never changing. When trying to put the pieces back together, Wilhite reminds of the importance of sharing our struggles with others.

For me most of the book was a helpful reminder of things I know, but seem to forget. However, the last chapter on learning to forgive was very helpful to me. It was one of those moments where God really used this chapter to show me an area that I needed to work on. I had just read in Matthew where it talks of leaving your sacrifice at the alter and leaving  to make amends with someone who has something against you. I picked up this book and the very next words were on what I had just read in Scripture. God used this to make me realize that I needed to forgive and not hold on to bitterness. I have had to left go of bitterness towards a biological father who left me behind and an ex-wife who I felt wronged me. I had held on to these things without ever realizing it. This chapter was a great help and guide for me. I would recommend this book.

I received this book free for review from Multnomah Books.

The Scroll follows the journey of Dr. David Chambers, a biblical archaeologist who agrees to on last dig. Chambers has lost his faith and his fiancee. Now he is called out of recent retirement for one last dig, only to be faced with his former faith and former fiancee. In the face of opposition for this dig, he must once again turn to these former things that he has left behind. While uncovering some of the greatest biblical finds ever, he also recovers a faith that is of greater value than any treasure.

I thought this novel was well written and interesting from beginning to end. The authors did an excellent job of including biblical history into this book. At times, I really felt taken back into the time of temple worship. The imagery and use of biblical text was great to read. So many times Christian novels have no visible trace of Christianity at all. That was not the case with this book. The faith of Dr. Chambers in this book is a central theme that is integral to the story. There were several times that I needed to put this book down, but couldn’t because the story was so intriguing at that point. There were actually times that I needed to pull out my bible to look up sections of scripture that were used. I actually learned biblical history from this novel. It has not been very often that I have found a novel that has accomplished that. This is definitely a novel that I would recommend.

 

I received this book free for review from Waterbrook Press.

Out of a Far Country is a modern day version of the prodigal son with some new twists. Christopher Yuan is a young dental student, who someday is expected to join his fathers dental practice. However, he is secretly living another life exploring his homosexual desires. When Christopher is found out by his parents, he is left with the choice of his family or his homosexual lifestyle. Christopher dives fully into his new lifestyle, a lifestyle characterized by parties, drugs and sex. Through it all, God is in control as He begins to draw members of this family one by one to Himself.

This book is well written with alternating chapters being written by Christopher and Angela ( Christopher’s mother ). This story was very fascinating to me as it starts with the typical gay son being kicked out of the family. However, this story takes many dramatic turns as God changes hearts of stone to flesh. Just when it seemed like Christopher could go no lower, a new low would occur in his life. Yet through it all a devoted mother was always there for her son. This book really reminded me that Christians need to love those living with homosexual desires. To see how much God changes Christopher from the beginning of the book to the end is truly inspiring. It never gets old seeing the grace of God overcome the grip of sin on a life. And on the flip side God shows his sovereignty by using Christopher’s choices to draw Angela, a former atheist.I would highly recommend this book to all. There were times that I had to stop reading due to the emotions that were stirred by this book. As Christians, freedom from sin should be something none of us take for granted.

I received this book free for review from Waterbrook Press.

The Story of the Bible: The Fascinating History of Its Writing, Translation & Effect on Civilization by Larry Stone is a look at the bible from its writing through modern day translations. The book gives an overview of the effects the bible has had on the world since its writing. It provides a fascinating look at the history of the bible in the early church, the middle ages, the Reformation, the foundation of the United States and much more.

This book was visually very impressive with pull out sheets that correspond with the text being read. It contains samples of early codices to samples of translations to new languages. For a history nerd such as myself, this book was pure gold. While not diving too deeply into any one topic, it provides an amazingly thorough look at the history of the most important book ever written. It is a reminder to those of us who have religious freedom the price that many paid with their lives for the translation and dispersing of the bible. Having the bible in our own language is something that most of us take for granted. I no longer take that for granted thanks to this book. The final chapter is a look at the agencies trying to translate the bible into new languages today. It is also a reminder that the work of taking God’s Word to the ends of the earth is a task still before us today. I would definitely recommend this book to all.

The Goodness of God: Assurance of Purpose in the Midst of Suffering by Randy Alcorn is a book that tackles the issue of evil and suffering head on. The book goes through the origins of evil and suffering, while also doing such things as looking at how different worldviews few evil and suffering. It ends with a chapter on what we can do in the midst of suffering. This book is full of things that resonate with the world we live in today. One of those things was a chapter dealing with recovering  a biblical view of health, wealth and prosperity. With the popularity of pastors preaching a health, wealth and prosperity gospel, this chapter gives a refreshing look at what the bible really has to say about the topic. An unbiblical view of health and wealth many times ends up leading to an incorrect view of God. I also really enjoyed this book because it is written in a way that anyone can understand. Whether a new believer or a mature christian, this book is easily understood and helpful to all. Randy Alcorn has truly done a great job of writing a book that should appeal to both the deep bible student and the casual book reader. I never imagined that I would be able to come away from a book on evil and suffering with joy, but I did. I would recommend all to read this book to prepare for suffering that will come in their life. Even in the midst of suffering, this book should provide understanding and comfort.

 

“I received this book for free from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review”