Sunday, March 22, 2015

Needing A Cup of Water


What comes to mind when you hear that word?

I admit that it is so easy to take water for granted or see it as a chore to drink the suggested eight glasses of water (if you do this as part of a healthy lifestyle). Water is more essential to our survival than even food. Studies show that we can go for up to forty days without food, but we cannot go for more than three days without water. But did you know that for much of the world, obtaining water, or at least clean water, is hard or impossible?

So many of them can only obtain dirty, contaminated water which will cause them to get terrible diseases. This is one huge reason that many children in developing countries do not live past around age five.

For so many in countries on the continents of Asia or Africa, obtaining clean water is a dream.

But we can make a difference. And if we are followers of Jesus, the Master holds out a gracious promise if we do our part to bring clean water to those who are destitute. He says, "And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward" (Matthew 10:42, NIV). You have an opportunity to make a difference.

Visit here.

The above photos are provided courtesy of Gospel For Asia.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Our One Great Act of Fidelity by Ronald Rolheiser

The best-selling author of another title, THE HOLY LONGING, has also written this book. As a specialist in the field of systematic theology and religion, he also owns a column in THE CATHOLIC HERALD. AS a Roman Catholic, OUR ONE GREAT ACT OF FIDELITY is written from a solidly Roman Catholic perspective and tradition, while he is aware of the different perspectives of other Christian denominations. This fast-paced book focuses on what is called either The Lord's Supper, Holy Communion, Mass or the Eucharist. This is the act of commemorating the death of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, by discerning His Body and Blood through bread and wine. This author uses his knowledge of traditions and stories to illustrate what the Eucharist is, what it is all about, how we should relate to the Eucharist and respond to it in every area of our lives. This book includes three famous sermons by others on the Eucharist and a few pages of notes and references.

This book is much what I expected. I'm not a Roman Catholic and never plan to become one. But I know Roman Catholics, have read other Catholic literature and I know about what Roman Catholics believe. So I was not surprised that Rolheiser wrote about the Eucharist from his Catholic tradition. As a person from a Protestant tradition which does not observe the Eucharist daily, I was not aware of all that daily Mass (as Catholics often call the Eucharist) means to those who observe it at that level, and that it is intended to be central to every area of life. In Scripture we are not given a rule about how often, as followers of Jesus, we are to observe this Sacrament. We ARE given firm guidelines that when we observe this Sacrament, we must discern Jesus' Body and Blood in this Sacrament, be repentant and contrite in heart of all known sin, and examine ourselves and our spiritual conditions before we come and partake of this Sacrament. I liked the fast reading and that it was easy to read. I did not see much in this book that discusses some of the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church which are in conflict with Scripture and which I cannot agree with; these teachings include the Immaculate Conception of Jesus' human mother Mary, her co-operative role in the salvation of sinners, the Canonization of saints, and reciting the Rosary. I did not see in this book this author's theology of salvation though he indeed mentions Christ. He includes a chapter on the Eucharist as "God's physical embrace" and while this is appealing to one who often wants a God with "skin on," I wonder if this comes close to making a "golden calf" out of this Sacrament. In the tradition I grew up in, we believed that the Eucharist is both bread and wine and, when consecrated, ALSO becomes Jesus' Body and Blood in and under these emblems. In the Roman Catholic tradition, when consecrated, bread and wine actually become Christ's Body and Blood and this is called transubstantiation. That is, if I am understanding this correctly. I grew up believing that Roman Catholicism was just another Christian denomination, but I have encountered and heard of increasing numbers of people, still very much in the Christian community, who call themselves "former Catholics." I did not see much personal information in this book about the author himself, except how much the Eucharist means to him. Perhaps this is because he did not want to book to be about him and I respect that.

Recommendations for this book? As this is a solidly Roman Catholic book with a narrow focus, I can recommend it only for the obvious targeted audience. That is all Roman Catholics, including nominal Roman Catholics. I see no point in recommending this book to anyone else, except to those who may be curious about what Catholics believe about the Eucharist and why.

I received this book free of charge from Blogging For Books in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to give a positive review of this book.

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Monday, March 9, 2015

An Open Letter To ISIS

Hello, any ISIS member, recruit or supporter who may have "stumbled" on this post:

You did not come to this post by accident though it may seem like it. You may have come online because, as an ISIS member, you may be looking for someone to recruit to your cause. You may have come online as an at-risk person or supporter who may be just doing your "thing" online. I'm not sure how it works when ISIS works when they recruit people, but I think I may have an idea of how the process might work. You may respond to someone who acts like they really care about you, are to be trusted implicitly, and they lure you with glowing promises like, "I can give you a better life than what you know now," "You will be joining us in a worthy cause; don't you want to change the world?" or "We really care about and understand you; join us!" Whatever category you belong in, you need to reconsider what you are doing, because it is to your destruction and that of others.

This is a matter of life and death.

Tell me, what need does killing everyone who does not agree with you or offends you meet? I'm told that your holy book, the Koran, tells you that "suicide bombings" and killings of your offenders and "traitors" is the ticket to Heaven, and that you are doing a good thing. I "get" that you may have been indoctrinated into this way of thinking from your early childhood. And I know that thinking patterns laid down since your formative years are very resistant to change. In other words, in many cases, your way of life may be all you have ever known. But does it need to stay that way?

I know that the government of my country see military involvement as the answer to conquering the very real threat that you pose. Yes, all government leaders see is that the people under them and for whom they are responsible, are i danger from you ad they must protect them. Hence, military involvement!

Whether you are an ISIS member, supporter or a person at-risk of ISIS recruitment, there is a better way to channel your zeal for a cause that is worth giving all that you have and are for.

I'm sure that many of you are aware of the 21 Coptic Egyptian followers of Jesus who were shown, on video, right before they were beheaded by ISIS members. I do not know if you have ever wondered at Who they follow and why they could be heard calling on Him as they were being beheaded, and called themselves "people of the cross."
You may believe that you are fighting for the right cause. But have you ever thought how causing bloodshed to innocent people and grief and ruined lives to their families and many other people, can be noble in any sense? Or that you are going to make it to Heaven as "martyrs"? What if you are wrong about both of these things?

I know that your holy book, the Koran, teaches that Jesus is a Prophet. He is that, but He is much more than that. He is the Son of God and He died on a cross for the sins of the world and then returned to life, so that we can know freedom from the penalty and the power of sin and inhumanity to man. I'm praying that He will reveal Himself to you and reveal to you that if you follow Him, you will channel your zeal into a cause far more noble and that will assure you Heaven.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Jesus Swagger by Jarrid Wilson

This fast-paced book is a mixture of how-to, why-to and motivational writing. The title is meant to attract attention. The book is a wake-up call to end what the author calls "poser Christianity" in our local churches, which is not Christianity at all. It is time to end just claiming to believe in Jesus and to actually and completely follow him. This author uses many subheadings throughout his book, making it very easy to read and follow in a literary sense. His introduction and the first chapter provide a blistering description of the problem and includes questions meant for our self-evaluation in our role in it. The rest of the book provides principles to prod us to end our complicity in our part of the problem and shows us how to be part of the solution. Some footnotes are provided at the end of this book.

This book proved incredibly easy to read. I read it it only a few sittings. But it is not emotionally easy to read! Painfully conscious of the areas in my life which are not what I know God wants them to be, I found myself convicted of them in this book. I was thinking especially of the area of social anxiety, where the author includes a segment where he admonishes the reader to make it a lifestyle of practicing love for others by socially engaging with the casual people we encounter daily, including strangers. That was an "ouchie" for me. I'm a person who has never gone out of my way to talk with strangers, even though my rational mind tells me that being outgoing and loving people in this way is a God-honoring thing and would even improve my social life. Also, the author includes a chapter on fear, and I was convicted when he declares that cultivating fear of God (in the sense of reverential awe for Him) will drive out all other fears and he backs this up by including quotes from sources, including the Scriptures. It just left me thinking: If I fear God, then why do I fear these other things? He seems to address all the areas in which I struggle most and so this book hit where it hurt. I would have been totally discouraged and turned off by this book if this author did not include enough Gospel and grace messages about the power of grace to forgive us and then empower us to live as we should. This author avoids any topics that divide the Christian community, keeping the focus solidly on our crying need to live without "poser Christianity" and to be light to the culture. I got the sense that this whole book is just a vastly amplified version of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount for modern-day followers of Jesus.

Who do I recommend this book for? It is obviously directed to all people in the realm of the organized Christian Church in the West, especially in America. This author is clearly on a mission to shatter the lukewarmness, apathy and complacency of many in Christendom who attend worship services but who do not embrace Jesus as the center of their lives. He calls out people who use Jesus as a means to an end, whether fire insurance from Hell or personal happiness, but who do not bow to His Lordship in their lives. I recommend this book to all Pastors, especially to the many who water down the Gospel and make services "seeker-friendly" and give ear-tickling messages for the entertainment of the hearers. I recommend this book for every person who attends worship services and who fill positions of church leadership. If you are one of the many in Christendom, the institutionalized Church, you will be profoundly challenged to answer the call to "take up your cross, deny yourself, and follow Jesus." You will take yourself out of the ranks of those many who will hear Jesus' terrifying words on Judgment Day, "I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!"

I received this book free of charge from Booklook Bloggers in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to give a positive review of this b

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Divine Applause by Jeff Anderson

This is a how to book about how to experience the God of the Bible. The author is a speaker and writer with Crown Accounting Ministries, a Christian financial nonprofit. He uses numerous anecdotal stories of experiences from his own life and that of his family, to illustrate his points. He also uses Bible stories to illustrate his points. This author's mission, through this book, is to show readers how to connect with the invisible God of the Bible in ways that are unmistakable. He discusses the three spiritual disciplines of prayer, giving, and fasting and shows from his own life, how they have helped him "connect with God and sense His divine applause." Part 1 of this book lays the foundation for his vision for this book. Part 2 lays out the principles for how to live so as to be "noticed by God" and to experience His "divine applause." Part 3 basically recaps his vision for the book and tries to inspire the reader to his or her own experience with God. Because this book is light on theology and research, there are no footnotes or end notes as sources didn't need to be cited.

The author of this book was unfamiliar to me before I read this book. This is his first book that I have ever read. The title fits this book's content pretty well. I expected the book to have elements of mysticism because of the topic, which is experiencing the invisible God of the Bible. I found it to be light on theology and heavy on personal experience. I found myself being a little annoyed by the author's sharing of his experiences with fasting, even of his fasts which have lasted up to 40 days. He had stressed that prayer, giving and fasting were designed by God to be "secret" so we can have "secrets with Him alone." As this author shared about some of his experiences with fasting, I found myself thinking: His fasting is not secret now! I know that a number of Christian authors will describe their fasting experiences; that is not uncommon. I thought it was rather hypocritical of this author to critique many Christians' practice of posting and publicly sharing of their experiences with prayer, giving or fasting on social networks--while he publicly shares about his fasting through this book. What is the difference anyway? I found myself thinking. He shares how in his ministry among poor people, he would challenge some of them to give, even of the very little that he knew that they had. While I know that giving by the most destitute is highly commended in the Bible, I was rather annoyed that the author would tell those with very little to give of the little they had. Isn't giving supposed to be voluntary, not something we do because we are challenged to do it? It is only near the end of this book that the author discusses the reader's need to live a blameless life in order to experience this "divine applause." I know that those who discuss giving and the Christian tend to get rather defensive about their right to do so, and that we in the Christian community tend to get testy about the subject whether we believe the tithe is binding for Christians today or not. Yes, we are to pray, give and fast in secret and the author does make a case for how doing these in secret enables us to be rewarded with "divine applause" and God's pleasure.

Do I recommend this book? Frankly, I'm not sure. It does not contain outright error and false teaching that leads readers astray. I do not recommend it for non-Christians. It is clearly meant for those who are "already in and who are Christians already. In reading all the material about fasting, prayer and giving and believing this material applies to them, non-Christians who are trusting in their own goodness to save them should stay away from this book. For the application of its principles to their lives will confirm many non-Christians who trust in their goodness to save them, in their legalism. I can recommend it to Christians who are neglecting these spiritual disciplines and need a refresher, including Pastors and others in Christian leadership.

I received this book free of charge from Blogging For Books, in exchange for my honest review of this book. I was not required to give a positive review of this book.

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