Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Ancient Path by John Michael Talbot



This book is co-written by John Michael Talbot and Mike Aquilina. John Michael Talbot is the best-selling author of THE LESSONS OF ST. FRANCIS, a spiritual classic. Talbot is one of the contemporary Christian music artists who founded this form of music. He has sold millions of copies of his records and has won Dove and Grammy Awards. He often tours. He has founded the Brothers and Sisters of Charity, a monastic community. His co-author, Mike Aquilina, appears often on EWTN and has written books such as ANGELS OF GOD and THE FATHERS OF THE CHURCH. THE ANCIENT PATH begins with a foreword about the purpose of this book, which is written through Image, a Roman Catholic publishing company, written by Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington. The authors begin this book with a preface. Most of the chapters discuss the Roman Catholic Church Fathers and include stories of how they have, from Talbot's childhood to present, affected his Catholic faith journey. He also includes principles from Catholic teachings. The final chapter focuses on the Virgin Mary and is short, like the foreword and preface are. The authors end with a timeline of events deemed significant in Roman Catholic history. This book ends with notes from each chapter that involve outside research.

I thought that this book's author would discuss Church Fathers such as Charles Spurgeon, John Wesley, Dwight Moody, and others. Yes, Augustine is mentioned. The authors discuss the Catholic Church Fathers, most who I am not familiar with as I'm not from a Catholic background. I had once been a fan of early contemporary Christian music and I often heard John Michael Talbot's songs on the air. He had been called a "troubadour for Christ." I have not heard his songs in for many years but I remember that these songs were thoughtful and reverent. I was surprised that he had once been in the "Jesus Movement" and had left it to join the Roman Catholic Church. This book is easy to read and understand, even if you are not a Roman Catholic, which I'm not. But Roman Catholics seem to be his target readership. From a literary standpoint, the primary author, Talbot, does a great job of merging the effect of the Catholic Church Fathers on Talbot with stories of his own faith story, both as a member of the Jesus Movement and then as a Roman Catholic. But not being Catholic, I have a very different understanding of what the Eucharist means from what it means to Talbot, the primary author. It is clear that he does read Scripture and quotes from it in this book. Also, he affirms Jesus' Deity and humanity. So he seems to remain influenced by sound teaching handed down to him in the Jesus Movement that concern Who Jesus is. Talbot spoke of his devotion to the "ascetic life" and to a life of charity. In my opinion, the author is an example of how individual Roman Catholics can stay in a legalistic religion and trust in Christ alone for their salvation. As a non-Catholic, I read all the Catholic principles and teachings with respect and understanding, even without a mental "Amen!" to them.

I recommend this book to those who are fans of John Michael Talbot, his writings or his music. I recommend this book to anyone who is curious about what Roman Catholics believe and what motivates them. I recommend this book to those who are interested in the Roman Catholic Church Fathers. But I'm aware that many people may find this book, being a Roman Catholic book, as triggering. This book is obviously not for those who have been abused by priests or nuns as children. I recommend this book to any Christian, as long as they check its Roman Catholic teachings and principles with that of Scripture.

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

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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Should We Be Alarmed at What is Going On In the World?



Violent terrorists behead, rape, crucify, and barbarically murder everyone who disagrees with them.

Weather disasters seem to increase, leading some to speculate about global warming and others to talk about God's judgment.

Children murder children and do so at younger and younger ages.

Increasingly, public school students are forbidden any kind of expression of Christian faith.

It is now considered "hate speech" to call homosexuality a sin.

It seems more popular to "come out" as having a same-sex orientation than it is to "come out" as serious about following Jesus Christ.

In more and more public settings, students and others are compelled to say or do nothing to offend Muslims.

Things like abortion and sex outside of marriage are considered morally okay.

The Problem

We can continue with examples like this. Whenever I have visited public schools because of an event or meeting on my daughter, I have noticed that there is nothing that could be construed as moral or religious in the literature or anywhere in hall ways or classrooms. The same holds true in any public building. Yet these very same public facilities discourage any expression that deviates from political correctness. That includes even moral or religious expression. Yes, we in the West ought to be very grateful that we are not suffering the severe, physical persecution, oppression, violence, even death, that Christians and other religious minorities so often suffer in closed countries and hostile areas all over the world. Yet we have our enemies that we cannot see or feel, but that are just as real and that prove just as devastating to individuals, marriages, and society in general. I refer to things like consumerism, materialism, traditionalism, humanism, relativism, individualism, and secularism. Internalizing things like this affect how we see the world, each other and ourselves. And they affect the way we see and relate to Almighty God.

An Example

There is one specific example. It is the evolution and changes in how much of our culture, including in much of the Church in the West, have come to see homosexuality. Now I know that many, many people love to point out that "Jesus Christ "said nothing" about homosexuality. Yet there were many other sins that He never mentioned by name, such as pedophilia, domestic violence, child abuse, drug abuse, human trafficking, and so on. Yet we never would argue that Jesus condones those acts! Homosexuality is mentioned in other parts of the New Testament. In 1 Corinthians 6: 9, we read "Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders (emphasis mine)... will inherit the Kingdom of God." (NIV). The first chapter of the Epistle of Romans tells us that the acceptance of homosexuality, among other acts, signals God's judgment on a culture. "Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion" (Romans 1:26-27, NIV). Now I know that people with same sex orientations are now considered as a protected minority group, and homosexuality an "alternative lifestyle." Also accepted as normal, and even good, are abortion and sex outside of marriage "as long as we love each other." The acceptance of things once considered immoral and called sins in the Bible, is the result of something called relativism. Relativism is the idea that there are no absolute right and wrong, only what we want to define as our own morality. It is a slippery slope, as anything can, like marriage and the family, be redefined. In the meantime, as we seek to maintain political correctness, much of the rest of the world outside the West fight physical enemies like war, violence, hunger, extreme poverty, oppression, and religious persecution. There is a profound disconnect between how they see things and how we see them.

Is There Anything To the End Times Predictions?

As many people in the Christian community survey the current social and moral climate, they declare that we are living in "the end times." They take note of the increase in terrorism against religious minorities, especially Christians. They take note of how we have redefined marriage and the family and have made abortion a "reproductive right" of women and rather than a matter of protecting the unborn. They see morality constantly sliding downhill in the West, even as persecution in the rest of the world waxes worse and worse and threatens to come to our shores. The Bible does tell us that in the Last days, evil people will "wax worse and worse." This seems to be happening. But in every age, people have believed that they were living "in the end times." I do not think that we can declare with certainty that we are living in the Last times. We should be concerned about these things because we should be concerned about people, but I don't think we can say we are indeed living in the end times. Remember that it is said: "But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3: 8-9, NIV).

Are you one of those whom God is waiting for?

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Divided by Bill Delvaux


This book falls in Thomas Nelson Refraction series books, just as is a book that I had reviewed, months ago, for this blogspot. This collection of books stated mission is to offer Biblical solutions to topics that were once taboo or ignored. This book begins with an introduction. It is arranged in three parts. Part One provides an analysis of the problem, with examples from the author's life and from the lives of people whom he knows. Part Two continues with how to deal with the problem, again using examples from the author's life and from the lives of those whom he knows. Part Three concludes with the resolution of the problem, once more using examples from the author's life and from the lives of others. He ends with a conclusion, with an appendix of suggestions for application of the principles in this book, followed by a couple of pages of endnotes. This author has served as a Pastor and a high school Bible teacher. Currently, he serves as retreat speaker and a small group coach.

I chose this book because of the concept of the disconnect between what we know in our heads and appreciate in our hearts. As I read this book, I did not expect this author to link head knowledge of truth with what he calls inauthenticity of one's life. But that makes sense. As he provides many examples from his own life and from the lives of people he knows, I found myself wondering how attempting such level of transparent sharing of our deep needs would sell in many of our churches. We have been conned into thinking that people with deep needs need to be referred to professionals for "extra support," when the Bible calls us in the Christian community to "Confess our sins to each other and pray for each other, so that you may be healed." (James 5:16). The sad truth is that such sharing is discouraged in local church fellowships. At least in my experience, the sharing of deep needs is exceedingly rare, so that you can attend any local church fellowship, encounter many people even week after week, without anyone getting to know you or you them. The deepest sharing of needs that is typically done in these settings concerns illness, loss of loved ones by natural causes, and maybe unemployment. It is leadership in local congregations who set the tone for how deep we can go in small group settings. Aside from this issue, this author is very honest about his own life and past, setting an example. And he admits that he still struggles so he cannot be faulted for the self-righteousness that I see in so many Christian writings. Yet the focus on feelings gives the reader the idea that our feelings can be used as a measurement for our level of growth in the Christian life. The emphasis of the book is on our experiences. This is not surprising, as this author cites Sarah Young, author of JESUS CALLING, in his preface. He credits her as an influence on his writing. In the focus on seeking a "deeper walk with Jesus," we do indeed see that sin affects us at a far deeper level than we care to know. This author claims that sin is to blame for the great disconnect between our head knowledge and our heart knowledge and he uses the "great divide" as the metaphor of our fallen sinful condition. This book seems to be directed to Christians who are more mature in the faith and are able to detect more subtle sin in their lives. Many Christian teachers may think this book is too "therapeutic" in approach to be Biblically sound, including those who call themselves Nouthetic Counselors. It isn't a balanced approach to the Christian life but focuses on our relationship with God. As with any book that claims to represent God, check what this author says with the inspired Word of God.

I recommend this book for Pastors and their families, as this book was written by a Pastor who makes very personal confessions about his life and his past. It should be read by those in church leadership, including church Board Members and Small Group Co-ordinators, who set the tone for small groups and how deep we can go in "building community" in our small groups and carrying out the command to the Christian community to mutually love each other as Christ loves us. I recommend this book for anyone who is interested in the deeper life of the heart. I would like to see a youth version of this book, as many youth like to discuss these issues.

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

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Suicide, Mental Illness & Depression: How Should We respond?



If you have been listening to the news at all, you have some knowledge of the horrific plane crash that killed some 150 people last week. Not one person survived that awful crash. Many, many lives have forever altered, including hundreds of families. Yes, three Americans were also killed in this crash. We have been learning that this crash was no accident and that the responsible party was the co-pilot. He had deliberately crashed this plane.

The Responsible Co-pilot and Mental Illness

In these past few days, as the investigation of the co-pilot in that plane crash has begun, the media has let out more ad more details of the pilot's situation. First of all, he was said to have had a history of "metal health issues" though he seemed likable and pleasant to those who knew him. He was quoted as saying that "I have depression." He would not report his mental health issues, fearing stigma, fearing that he would lose his pilot's license. You may very well think: He would rather risk the lives of 149 people plus his own, rather than stigmatizing himself through self-disclosure? While his attitude and his lie of omission may indeed have been deceptive, why is it that he would have felt the "need" to lie by omission in the first place? He was said to be "unfit to fly." I understand that the FAA had lifted the stigma of mental illness, allowing pilots with a history of mental illness to fly (correct me if I am wrong). Yes, I agree the piloting a plane, with multiple human lives in your hands, is an awesome responsibility. It is a privilege, not a right. He should not even have been put in that position. Clearly we do not want to deny people with depression or a history of mental illness the right to participate in life and to be full citizens and to reach their full potential. But we do not want to put the lives of the public at risk, either. This is much like seizures and driving or eyesight and driving, both which can keep one from driving for purely safety reasons. We may never know all which actually happened in that awful plane crash and what was in that co-pilot's mind or going on in his life. But what a sad, sad waste of human lives and all the permanently altered lives of many families, including his own! What was it all for?

The Faces of Mental Illness and Suicide

Many of us are aware of depression, mental illness and suicide. We just do not talk about these issues in casual conversation and they are subjects that we may speak about in hushed tones. What would cause a co-pilot to protect his pilot license above many human lives, including his own? Last year, I followed a case of a missing mom with two young children. It was not long before her body was found. The death was ruled as a suicide. That troubled me and still troubles me to this day, as this mom had two small children. Her family was not questioning the ruling or challenging law enforcement to re-open their quickly closed investigation, and see if this mom's death may have been a homicide. This mom's case still bothers me. I think many of us are aware of the sad statistic of (how may? fourteen a day?) veterans who end their lives by suicide. I have been visiting a certain website that contains many webpages for those dealing with various mental illnesses. Yes, there are those who deny the existence of mental illness and call it other things, and hold that it is man-made and a brainchild of modern pop psychology. I agree that too often, psychiatric medications may be over-prescribed and these medications may cover up deeper problems that should be addressed through working through issues with a counselor or pastor. But mental illness and depression are not imaginary or man-made and keeping the stigma going through silence, will not solve this problem. It will not keep people like co-pilots from flying when they should not. It will just go underground.

Are Mental Illness and Suicide Matters of Character and Faith?

I read many Christian articles and books. Mental illness and depression are divisive subjects in the Christian community. Some Christian circles see depression and suicide as viable physical illnesses of the mind that should be treated as illnesses. There are other Christians circles that believe that depression and mental illness are matters of faith and character, and should be treated as moral wrongs rather than as illnesses. I agree that some things that we typically call mental illness are not. Should we call overeaters "mentally ill"? I think not. Should we call people who take longer than a month to grieve "mentally ill"? I think not. Should we call children who are disruptive and rebellious "oppositionally defiant"? I wonder about that. Should we call pedophiles "mentally ill" people and treat their lust for children as illness? Hmmmm. It has been estimated that fifty percent of us would be classified as mentally ill, under the current DSM, if we took psychological testing. It is true that the Bible knows nothing of mental illnesses, but the Bible was written before modern science findings, certainly before behavioral science. Does everyone with atypical or extreme personalities have "personality disorders"? We have to admit that psychology is an inexact science and based on subjective observation of behavior, making it vulnerable to criticism by cynics and critics.

How We can Be Part of the Solution

There is no excuse for that co-pilot lying, by omission, about his mental health. Still, reduction of the stigma of depression of mental illness may have identified him so he would have disclosed his situation and have never been able to fly and end the lives of 150 people, including himself. I hate it when these type of stories make headlines, though I know they have to do so, to protect the public and raise awareness. But we can all help and be part of the solution. We can educate ourselves about mental illness, depression, and suicide. We can support nonprofits like Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which serves suicidal people in much of the developed world. We can volunteer for a suicide hotline. We can reach out to people in our lives who may be depressed or suicidal. And if we have faced depression, mental illness, or depression in our lives, we can share our stories. And we can reach out to the Lifeline whose number was presented at the above banner, or refer other people in crisis to it.

This banner is provided by The Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which you can find here.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Needing A Cup of Water



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.

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