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Monthly Archives: October 2018

A novel ripped from daily headlines

Book Review: Chosen People: A Novel, by Robert Whitlow

A courageous mother dies protecting her four-year-old daughter during a terrorist attack near the Western Wall in Jerusalem. Her grief-stricken husband hires a young Jewish lawyer to pursue justice on his behalf. So begins the plot of Chosen People: A Novel. It reads as if it were taken from the daily headlines of a major newspaper.

Jakob Brodsky, a secular Russian Jewish lawyer, calls on a larger legal firm in Atlanta to assist him in pursuing a lawsuit under the US Anti-Terrorism laws. There he meets with Hana Abboud, a Christian Arab Israeli lawyer trained at Hebrew University. After prayer and seeking God’s direction, Hana takes the point in the investigation and brings in a third member for their team, an Arab investigator named Daud Hasan, who is based in Israel. The action shifts from the streets of Atlanta to the alleys of Jerusalem. Together, the team tries to decipher hidden motives, risk pain and death, all in the search for truth and justice.

The book is well written and fascinating. The story pulls you in from the first page and doesn’t let go until the final page. The characters are believable. You get an honest picture of a Christ follower struggling to discern and follow God’s will and how to live out one’s faith in a challenging environment. You gain a broader picture of how Arabs and Jews view their heritage in the Promised Land and how a Christ follower can live in both worlds. The story provides insight into the challenges of bringing terrorists to justice. The book also includes discussion questions that could be used in a personal or small group study.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

 
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Posted by on October 30, 2018 in Books

 
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What are you praying for?

 
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Posted by on October 29, 2018 in Prayer, Quotes

 

VJ Day: Victory at Jericho

Joshua 6 gives us heartburn. The fact that God commanded Israel to destroy the city and inhabitants of Jericho doesn’t fit our concept of a loving, merciful God.

We like the fact that Jesus is the “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). But we struggle with Jesus’ statement, “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34). We like the statement given to the shepherds at Jesus’ birth, “Peace on earth, good will toward men” (Luke 2:14). We stumble over Paul’s instruction to “Put on the whole armor of God” (Ephesians 6:11). We are comfortable with the command to “love one another” (John 13:34). We are uncomfortable with the command to “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you” (Colossians 3:5).

We wrestle with the fact that peace only comes through struggle. Israel could only enjoy peace in the Promised Land after they won the battle to conquer that land. The conquering of Jericho demonstrates that if we want to experience victory, we must center our lives on God, namely, that we must believe his promises and obey his commands. We have to trust God by faith and follow his instructions. Only then can we be victorious.

God promised the victory (Joshua 6:1-5). Having heard what God did at the Red Sea, Jordan River, and other places, the people of Canaan were already intimidated. They closed up the city of Jericho as tight as a drum.

In 5:13-15, Joshua encountered the commander of the army of the Lord. This warrior was none other than God himself. He guaranteed the victory and gave Joshua specific commands as how to bring it about. Rather than follow a clever, military tactic, the strategy was the Lord’s. They were to proceed around the city once a day. First came the soldiers, then seven priests carrying seven rams’ horns or shofars, then came the Ark of the Covenant, and finally the rearguard. The Ark, signifying the presence of God, was in the center, dominating everything.

During the first six days, they were to proceed around the city once a day. The only noise permitted was the playing of the trumpets. On the seventh day they were to maintain silence until Joshua gave the command to SHOUT! on the seventh pass. Only then would the walls collapse and city would be attacked in every quarter at the same time.

Seven is the number of completion or perfection – seven priests, seven trumpets, seven days of marching, seven times around the city on the seventh day. If Israel obeyed God’s instructions, he would accomplish a complete victory.

Silver trumpets were used by the priests to announce marches and calls to battle. The ram’s horn, or shofar, was used primarily for celebrations or to proclaim God’s presence. On this march, the priests didn’t use the silver trumpets because they were not declaring war on Jericho. Instead, they used the ram’s horn to celebrate God’s triumph in the new land.

Victory comes when we center our lives on God and believe his promises (6-16, 20). Joshua shared the Lord’s plan with the priests and the people. It was important that the Ark be in its proper place, for it signified that the people were centered and dependent on God’s presence for victory.

When we accept God’s plan, we invite God’s presence, and that guarantees victory. We discover the formula for success in their actions. Faith + Patience = Victory. They demonstrated faith by trusting God’s plan, as outrageous and strange as it appeared. They needed patience as they paraded silently day after day. On the seventh day, God kept his promise and delivered the city in their hands.

It is through faith and patience that God’s people inherit what he has promised. God is never in a hurry. He knows what he is doing, and his timing is never off.

Victory comes when we obey God’s instructions (17-19, 21-27). God gave Israel four specific commands. (A) They were to devote the entire city to God (17-19). This follows the principle of worshipping God with the firstfruits. (B) They were to rescue Rahab and her family (22-25). They were to keep their promise to Rahab for protecting the spies (ch.2). (C) They were to destroy every living thing (21). (D) They were to burn the city (24). In destroying the city of Jericho, God was removing a cancer from the land and protecting Israel from future temptation (Deuteronomy 20:16-18).

While we might struggle with how Jericho’s destruction fits with our concept of a merciful God, we have to understand that God had been incredibly patient. In Genesis 15:16, God promised Abraham that he would bring judgment when the evil of the land was complete. From Abraham to Joseph is a period of 100-200 years. From Joseph to Moses is another 400 years. From the Exodus to the crossing of the Jordan River is 40 years. From the crossing of the Jordan River to the conquering of Jericho is 17 days. Do the math and you discover that God has given Jericho and Canaan over 500+ years to repent! He has been incredibly patient.

God will not tolerate any compromise with sin in the lives of his people. He will not share my life if there are rival gods in my heart. He will not permit me to compromise with the enemy.

To fully enjoy the victory God provides, we must center our lives on God, believe his promises, and obey his commands.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on October 28, 2018. It is part of a series of messages on the book of Joshua. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

Why Dale Earnhardt Jr retired from racing

Book Review: Racing to the Finish: My Story, by Dale Earnhardt Jr. with Ryan McGee

Not many professional athletes walk away from their sport in the prime of their careers. Still fewer can explain why they made that decision and have their fans respect them for it.

Beginning in 2012, NASCAR star Dale Earnhardt Jr began suffering the effects of concussions from hard crashes on the race track. While he was concerned about the impact and aftereffects, he hid his symptoms from those closest to him. It finally got to a point where he could no longer hide and went public with his struggles. That led to him taking part of the year off from racing in 2016 and finally retiring from the sport at the end of the 2017 race season.

In his book, Racing to the Finish: My Story, Dale Jr opens up about the physical and emotional struggles, the debilitating symptoms, and his diligent attempts at rehab and recovery. He shares about his frustration with the slow process of recovery and gives credit to those who stood by him and helped him get back on the track and to finish his career on his own terms.

If you are a fan of NASCAR and part of Junior Nation, you will find the book interesting and informative. That being said, the book tends to get repetitive after a while as you read through the author’s recollections of the final years of his career.

As an aside, I’m not sure why the book was published by Thomas Nelson. There is no mention of faith in the book. There is only one brief mention of Dale’s wife, Amy, praying for him at one point. That doesn’t detract from the book, but it does raise questions.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

 
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Posted by on October 27, 2018 in Books, NASCAR

 

Don’t divorce the New Testament from the Old Testament

Author and pastor Andy Stanley has written a new book entitled, Irresistible: Reclaiming the New that Jesus Unleashed for the World. While I have not read the book myself, I have heard people talking about it. As I understand it, the premise of the book is that we need to “unhitch” the New Testament from the Old Testament. In Stanley’s view, the Old Testament is too difficult to understand and keeps people from coming to church and the faith.

Here are two recent reviews that argue against Andy Stanley’s viewpoint.

Why We Can’t Unhitch from the Old Testament

The Irresistible Connection Between the Old and New Testament

 

 
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Posted by on October 26, 2018 in Books, The Gospel Coalition, Theology

 
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We are in a spiritual battle

 
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Posted by on October 25, 2018 in Quotes, Spiritual warfare

 

Misplaced priorities

Does church attendance get squeezed out of your busy schedule? Are your weekends so full you just don’t have time to get involved in a church? Do you find yourself bothered when the preacher goes too long and church creeps beyond 60 minutes?

Our monthly elders & wives Bible study is discussing the minor prophet of Haggai this week. In the opening six verses, God chides the nation of Israel and her leaders for having misplaced priorities. They were focused on building their own personal houses while the temple project was stalled and unfinished. It seems they were more concerned about personal comfort than honoring God. They were consumed with addressing personal needs rather than reestablishing corporate worship.

As I read through the passage, it got me to wondering. How many families skip worship on Sunday morning because their children have a soccer game? How often does cheerleading practice crowd out church attendance? How many times does a camping trip or a visit to the cabin become more important than joining the family of God in worship? How often does sleeping in on Sunday morning take precedence over studying the Scriptures? How often do we neglect God and make leisure activities a much higher priority?

In previous years, people built their schedules around worshipping God on Sunday. Now, people consider themselves regular attenders if they attend church once a month. Twice a month is nearing perfection.

It seems that not much has changed in 2,500 years. The message of Haggai is as much needed today as when it was first delivered.

 
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Posted by on October 24, 2018 in Church, Scripture