Thursday, June 1, 2017

A Review of Books on the Reformation


OCT 17 WILL BE THE FIVE HUNDREDTH ANNIVERSARY of the Protestant Reformation. Here are some books for fun Summer reading. There are too many to settle for one. 

Brand Luther, by Andrew Pettegree was a delightful read. In 1517, at the age of 34, Luther began publishing. Although Gutenberg’s printing press was sixty years old at this time, no one had figured out how to make money with it. Most printers were going bankrupt. 

Along came Martin Luther. The subtitle says it all. How an unheralded monk turned his small town into a center of publishing, made himself the most famous man in Europe—and started the Protestant Reformation.  Pettegree concludes that Luther was a communications genius. What was his secret? He broke the rules by printing in German. 

Before Luther all publishing was in Latin, the language of scholarship. Because the common man didn’t read or speak Latin, books sold poorly, and publishers didn't make money. Luther did something different. He bypassed the academic world, and wrote for the common man. He published in German, and within 24 months he was the most widely read author in Europe. Luther was history’s first best-selling author.

The sheer volume of his writings astonishes the modern reader. Today, his published works fill 80 volumes, and this he accomplished, not with a word processor, but with quill and ink. Brand Luther is informative, and motivational. I highly recommend.

For a good biography of Luther's life  I recommend Here I Stand by Yale Reformation scholar, Roland Bainton. Published over fifty years ago, this classic has sold in the millions. For anyone wanting to understand Luther and the Reformation Bainton is the place to start. Written in an engaging, easy to read style, this book is highly accessible by the non-academic.

To understand the century in which Luther lived, read A World Lit Only By Fire by esteemed historian, William. The subtitle is The Medieval mind and the Renaissance, a Portrait of an Age. Manchester is a world class story teller writing about daily life in the time of Luther and the Reformation. People lived, acted, and thought very differently, and until this is taken into account, it is difficult to understand the Reformers. It was an age of witches, knights, the Spanish Inquisition, Magellan, the divine right of kings, sexual immorality, burning at the stake, drawing and quartering, the Black Plague, dreadful ignorance, and short, brutish lives. Because Manchester details the cruelty and immorality of the era, I only recommend this book for adults. 

Last, skipping to the 18th century, everyone should read Amazing Grace by Eric Metaxas, the story of William Wilberforce. Converted in his early 20s, Wilberforce, who was only five feet tall, served as a member of Parliament for over forty years. Despite his diminutive size, he possessed a very large gift of oratory. According to one observer, as he began speaking I thought, “what a shrimp,” but by the time he finished I realized I "this man is a whale."

Wilberforce joined the “Clapham Fellowship” a band of Christian brothers and sisters devoted to ending the British slave trade and reforming the moral temper of the British people. He persevered until the job was done, and it took fifty years. You will learn about the horrors of the slave trade, John Newton, Wilberforce’ mentor, life in 18th century England, and what a man who perseveres, despite numerous obstacles, can accomplish. 

Amazing Grace will also encourage those working to end abortion in the Western World, which also requires Wilberforce's steely-perseverance and long term perspective. 




Friday, May 26, 2017

Francis Asbury: American Saint (Book Review)


EVERY GENERATION PRODUCES a forgotten character that is foundational to the experience of later generations. Such was Francis Asbury
(1744-1816). The great Methodist biographer, Abel Stephens, wrote, "No one man has done more for Christianity in the western hemisphere" than Francis Asbury.

A student of George Marsden, historian John Wigger, in his book, American Saint: Francis Asbury and the Methodists, contends that Asbury is the most important American Christian that no one knows anything about today.

Historians call the nineteenth century the Methodist Century. The reason is simple. Under Asbury's leadership the Methodists grew from 300 souls, when he arrived in 1771, to about 200,000 members and 3 million attendees by the time of his death in 1816. Thirty years after his death, Methodists occupied one out of three church buildings in America.

This influence was not due to Asbury's pulpit eloquence. He was not a good preacher. It was due to the power of his example. He was a servant of massive proportions. Riding 5,000 miles per year on horseback, never taking more than $65 salary per year, he was an apostle of the Christian religion. In other words, he was a modern Paul. He trained and disbursed circuit riders throughout the U.S. during its westward expansion. They traveled circuits of remote home-churches, preaching and pastoring on the way. Eventually they became local churches. The hardships Asbury endured to accomplish this task were remarkable.
Traveling conditions were always difficult in the backcountry, and Georgia was no exception. He preached nearly every day while riding about 30 miles a day. “Frequently we have not more than six hours’ sleep; our horses are weary, and the houses are so crowded, that at night our rest is much disturbed,” he complained on March 4, after preaching near the banks of the Ogeechee River. “Jesus is not always in our dwellings; and where he is not, a pole cabin is not very agreeable.” (Pg. 187).
He was fruitful. As the nation expanded West the Methodists did also, riding on the backs of Asbury's fiercely loyal, dedicated, band of itinerants. These men were well-suited for frontier life. Long after Asbury's death they were still imitating his example. While the Presbyterians, Anglicans, and Congregationalists rooted themselves in their East coast congregations, sent their young men to seminary, and lived the genteel life, Asbury's boys were taming the western frontier. This despite the fact that most of them had little formal education.

I was personally challenged by this book in several ways. First, by the example of Asbury's single-minded dedication and holiness. Second, Asbury's willingness to risk all by sending very young men (19-22) into full time ministry challenged me. We would not do this today. Are we missing something? Third, I was challenged by Asbury's willingness to overlook the necessity of formal education. He believed in formal education, and so should we, but he was unwilling to see it as a necessary precedent to ministry, and so should we.

Asbury had weaknesses. He tended toward asceticism. He could be impatient. In addition, although he and his men were crystal clear on the gospel, as a group, they were not theologically oriented. In succeeding generations this proved to be a significant limitation.

Nevertheless, I heartily recommend this book. I profited greatly from it. You will also. The author concludes,
Asbury wasn’t an intellectual, charismatic performer or autocrat, but his understanding of what it meant to be pious, connected, culturally aware, and effectively organized redefined religious leadership in America (pg. 13). 


Saturday, February 11, 2017

What's wrong with Social Media?


IN HIS BOOK, The Road to Character, David Brooks nails whats wrong with social media. “Social media encourages a broadcasting personality. Our natural bent is to seek social approval and fear exclusion. Social networking technology allows us to spend our time engaged in a hypercompetitive struggle for attention, for victories in the currency of “likes.” People are given more occasions to be self-promoters, to embrace the characteristics of celebrity, to manage their own image, to Snapchat out their selfies in ways that they hope will impress and please the world. This technology creates a culture in which people turn into little brand managers, using Facebook, Twitter, text messages, and Instagram to create a falsely upbeat, slightly overexuberant, external self that can be famous first in a small sphere and then, with luck, in a large one. The manager of this “self” measures success by the flow of responses it gets. The social media maven spends his or her time creating a self-caricature, a much happier and more photogenic version of real life. People subtly start comparing themselves to other people’s highlight reels, and of course they feel inferior.”


Brooks, David. The Road to Character (Kindle Locations 4819-4826). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Over Fifty Percent of California on Welfare

The following Statistics came from an individual named Hap Gotzian in Spokane, WA. 

 Rather amazing California statistics January 02, 2017
 California

CA. stats are:

Hispanic............ 14,990,000 million
Caucasian..........14,920,000
Asian.................  5,736.098
Black .................  2,552,858
Am Indian..............  648,172

Note, Hispanics outnumber Caucasians. But, another interesting statistic is this:

34% of the nations 67,980,000 million people who receive welfare live in California,
and California has only 12% of the entire U.S. population [Fed stats].

This means: 
23,113,200 million welfare recipients live in California.
39,487,345 million people total live in California. [more welfare recipients than workers]
According to your stats, Clinton beat Trump in CA by 2,708,893, so you could say she didn't do that well in California!

  We hear a cacophony of blaring and bleating from the media and the Hillary gaggle that she won the popular vote and therefore she should be president. 
65,124,828 to 62,652,263 or 48.2% to 46.3% with the remaining 5.5% going to the other candidates.

But here are the facts:
Trump led in the total popular vote for all states……. except California.
Hillary won California 5,860,714 to Trump’s 3,151,821.  61.6% to 33.1% exclusive of the other candidates.  [a margin of 2,708,893]
Thus, California gave Hillary the popular vote for all states as claimed by the Democrats and their media stooges.
But, deduct her California vote from her national vote, leaving her with 59,264,114, and deduct Trump’s California vote from his national total,leaving him with 59,500,442.
So, in effect, Hillary was elected president of California and Trump was elected president of the rest of the country.

This exemplifies the wisdom of the Electoral College, to prevent the vote of any one populace state from overriding the vote of the others.  Trump’s Campaign Manager, Kellyanne Conway, whose expertise is polling, saw this early on and devised her strategy of “6 pathways to the White House”.  This meant ignoring California, with its huge Democrat majority, and going after the states that would give him the necessary Electoral votes to win, FL, NC, MI, PA, OH, and WI.  It worked and our country Will Be Secure - after January 20, 2017.


One other tidbit: California is one of 11 “welfare states” where there are more people living off the government dole than there are working for a living. A perfect example of those who vote for a living. Since they have some time on their hands they are the ones who have time to “protest,” (in other words riot)!

Friday, December 30, 2016

Ten Favorite Books of 2016


I READ NUMEROUS books this year, but here are my favorites. I trust you might read at least some of these.  

Reform and Conflict, Rudolph Heinze. Oct 17 2017, marks the 500th anniversary of the start of the Reformation. Here is a very well written, accessible, one-volume history of the Reformation. If you have always wanted to understand the Reformation, but don't, this is the book to read.

How Christianity Changed the World, by Alvin Schmidt. The author asks the question, what would the world have been like if Jesus had never come to earth? The author then traces the effect of Christianity on politics, sexual morality, literature, science, and a host of other disciplines. You will be amazed at the impact of Christ and his kingdom. You will finish knowing why the Christian West has dominated world history for 2,000 years.

Brand Luther, by Andrew Pettegree is a fun look at Martin Luther’s impact on the world of printing and books. Sounds boring, but it isn’t. A stimulating read.
 
God and Guinness, by Stephen Mansfield recounts the 300 year legacy of the amazing Guinness brewing family who sent platoons of Calvinist missionaries throughout the world and have greatly impacted English and Irish society. If you love beer and history, this book is for you…

The Life of Martyn Lloyd-Jones by Ian Murray is a treasure. Although I read his longer two volume bio twenty years ago, I wept as I finished this book. It is hard to understand the history of the 20th century evangelical church without a thorough understanding of the life of MLJ, and this is the best place to get it.

Truman by David McCullough is a first-class read. It doesn’t hurt that he won the Pulitzer prize for this volume. Although Harry Truman was a farmer into his mid-thirties, had little formal education, and never wanted to be president, but he was one of the best in modern history. There are some election similarities with Donald Trump.

The Last Lion by William Manchester is another wonderful read. All of Manchester’s bios are wonderful reads. Although long, this one is worth the investment. In the process of covering Churchill’s life, Manchester also gives the reader a tour de ’force of WWII. Churchill was the man of the century, and these three volumes explains why. You will love it.

Amazing Grace by Eric Metaxas is as good, maybe better, than his bio of Bonhoeffer. What higher praise is there? 

God’s Greater Glory by Bruce Ware discusses the importance of balancing the immanence and transcendence of God. It sounds heady. The ideas are deep, but Dr. Ware writes in a down to earth, engaging way. If you want to savor the greatness of God this is the book to read.
 
Jonathan Edwards on the Christian Life by Dane Ortland is one volume  in a series about different Christians leaders and their approach to the Christian life, but in my view this is the best. Ortland loves Edwards and his writing communicates it. I love this book, I love its subject, I love the depth of piety articulated,  and I love the author’s own passion for Jonathan Edwards on the Christian Life.

The Forgotten Fear by A. N. Martin is a good book on a neglected subject, the fear of God. If the fear of God is an enigma to you give this volume a try. 

Subverted by Sue Browder is the personal testimony of a feminist author who worked directly for Helen Girly Brown, wrote salacious articles for Cosmopolitan in the 1960s, and witnessed the founding of modern feminism. It is her memoir and confession after a  late-life conversion to Christianity. The book contains a lot of information on the
early feminists, and what motivated them. It is a fascinating history of the early days of the feminist movement and helps the reader understand how we got where we are.  

Killing The Rising Sun, by Bill O’Reilly is a must read. It is not for no reason that it is number one on the NY Times best seller list for hardback non-fiction. The 71 years that have separated us from the end of WWII has produced cultural amnesia. We have forgotten the horrors of war, what our forefathers suffered to preserve our freedoms, and why Harry Truman’s decision to use the Atomic bomb against Japan was the only logical choice at the time. O’Reilly and Dugard take us back. They help us remember. They drop us into the last year of WWII providing must-needed historical context. Can’t recommend this book enough!


Monday, December 5, 2016


HAVE YOU EVER WONDERED what dying to self means? Here is the best definition that I have seen. I am not sure who wrote it, but based on the content, he or she probably wouldn't want us to know. It would not be "dying to self."

1. When you are forgotten or neglected or purposely ignored and you don’t sting and hurt with the insult or the oversight, but your heart is happy being counted worthy to suffer with Christ; that is dying to self.
2. When your good is evil spoken of, when your wishes are crossed, your advice disregarded, your opinions ridiculed and you refused to let  anger rise in your heart or even to defend yourself, but take it all in patient, loving silence; that is dying to self.
3. When you lovingly and patiently bear any disorder, any irregularity and unpunctuality or any annoyance and you can stand face to face with waste, folly, extravagance, and spiritual insensibility and endure it as Jesus endured it; that is dying to self.
4. When you are content with any food, any offering and raiment, any climate and society, any solitude, any interruption, by the will of God; that is dying to self.”
5. When you never care to refer to yourself in conversation or to record your own good words or itch after commendation, when you can truly love to be unknown, that is dying to self.
6. When you can see your brother prosper and have his needs met and can honestly rejoice with him in spirit and feel no envy nor question God, while your own needs are far greater and in desperate circumstances; that is dying to self.
7. When you receive correction and reproof from one of less stature than yourself and can humbly submit inwardly aw well as outwardly, finding no rebellion or resentment, wise enough within your heart; that is dying to self.” 



Thursday, October 13, 2016

Politics: Idealism or Realism?


THE UPCOMING ELECTION is a first in American history. Both candidates are deplorable. The result is that many don't know who to vote for, while others are just dropping out of the political process altogether. 

Although neither Hillary or Trump are attractive alternatives, I believe Trump is the best alternative. Here is why.  The two candidates represent vastly different platforms. The contrasts between the Democratic and Republican platforms couldn’t be more black and white. It is the platform that I am voting for, not the candidate. Therefore, I am voting Republican. 


I can do this despite Trumps disgusting treatment of women. Why? I don’t expect too much from him or politics. I accept that the political system is fallen. It is run by sinners. Its head is the “Prince of This World.” We are not a Christian nation.

I am thankful for the freedoms that we have enjoyed. I am thankful for the prosperity that we have enjoyed. However, I expect very little from politics. Unless Jesus Christ is running for President the choice is always the lesser of two evils. Government cannot save. It will not save. Our hope is not in Civil Government.

Yes, a good political system can make life better. For 250 years we have enjoyed the best political system in history. It was good because our culture accepted biblical morality as its standard, but since the sixties that standard has slowly disappeared. Now it is almost completely gone. We cannot expect prosperity and freedom from a secular worldview. We can only expect oppression, abuse, and a diminishment of national wealth. That is where we are at. I have painfully accepted this.

We used to fear the tyranny of kings, but we have discovered that the tyranny of the majority is almost as bad. In both cases sinners are ruling. Democracy, like all human political systems,  has been tried and found wanting. This means that a better candidate will not fix America. The electorate, not the President, is the problem. We are an immoral, godless people. Only an outpouring of the Holy Spirit can fix our political disease. That should be our prayer. That should be our focal point.

I honor and respect the many Christian leaders who refuse to vote for Trump. In my view they are hopelessly idealistic about politics, our responsibility towards it,  and the way our government really work. A vote for anyone but Trump is a vote for the Democratic Platform. That will mean an acceleration of abortion, and possibly infanticide. It will mean increased socialism. It will mean the loss of our religious freedoms through Supreme Court activism. It will mean the increasing oppression of Christians and Christian institutions. It will mean an ever-burgeoning national debt, which will lead to the reduction of our military might, and possible world chaos.  It will mean more racial strife, and more inner city chaos. It will mean open borders. The list goes on and on.

We are at a great turning point. If Hillary wins she will most likely be in office for eight years. By that time America as we have known it will be flushed, and I don’t think it will be retrievable. That is why I will hold my nose and vote for Donald Trump. I am not a political idealist. I am a political realist.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Lesser of Two Evils


OUR VIEW OF CIVIL GOVERNMENT will have a major impact on our attitude toward the upcoming elections. Our culture is at a great fork in the road. The Democratic fork will take us to more national debt, greater burdens on business, less personal freedom, and an expansion of the “sexual revolution.” By contrast, the Republican fork will take our culture towards a reduction in our national debt (or a least a halt in its increase), less burden on  business, more personal freedom, retention of our religious freedom, and a greater emphasis on personal responsibility.

The stakes have never been so high. Nevertheless, it is important that we entertain biblical expectations for civil government. My concern is that some Believers expect too much. Civil government is fallen. It is under the influence of “the Prince of this World.” Therefore, this side of the resurrection, Civil Government cannot produce utopia. Ultimately, our only hope is the Kingdom of God. It is not Civil Government. In  the words of scholar, Robert Culver, “A Christian view of civil government must…hold to the fact that human society is a society of fallen beings under the just judgment of God. The perfection of society cannot be either promised or attained, and it is not the purpose of Civil Government to do so.” (Toward a Biblical View of Civil Government, pg. 18).  

Nevertheless, Civil Government has an important role to play in the modern world. Because of our fallen state, some form of Civil Government is necessary. Without it life would be utter anarchy.

These truths liberate us from slavery to the “ideal candidate syndrome.” Except for Christ, there is no ideal candidate. Every candidate is fallen. Yes, some candidates are better than others, but sin has corrupted every candidate. We should vote for the best candidate considering the current political climate. We want a choice between moral, honest candidates, saturated in integrity. However, we are more apt to be forced to choose between candidates that are mutually dishonest or immoral, and this should not surprise us. We believe in sin. We believe in the Fall. We believe that "the whole world lies in the power of the Evil One" (1 Jn 5:19). We are not voting for someone to run the church.

For these reasons I will feel free to vote for Donald Trump. Do I think he is a great candidate? No! I would prefer almost every other Republican candidate that he ran against. However, he is the lesser of two evils, and given my low expectations for Civil Government I am OK with that. I would vote for a third party but that would be a vote for Hillary. And, because my expectations for Civil Government are realistic, not  idealistic, I am free to choose the lesser of two evils.  

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Test Yourself: Are You Growing in Humility?


IN HIS NEW BOOK, J.I. Packer on the Christian life, Sam Storms relates a test that Packer uses to analyze his level of humility. Apply it to yourself and see where you stand.

"Am I able to joyfully perform tasks in my church that have little or no visibility? Do I regularly credit others for their labor? Can I value and enjoy people who are not normally considered respectable? Are my thoughts toward the difficult people in my life infused with grace? Do I give my spouse first choice of TV channel, room temperature or vacation? Are my prayers usually on behalf of other people? Is it relatively easy for me to give my time or my money— and tell no one about it? Do I see every opportunity not as an earned right but as a gift from God? Do I cut short thoughts of comparing myself favorably with others? Do I honor others with my thoughts, words and actions? To the extent that we can honestly say yes to questions like these, we are beginning to learn humility toward others— and so to conquer the sin of pride."

Storms, Sam. Packer on the Christian Life: Knowing God in Christ, Walking by the Spirit (Theologians on the Christian Life) (p. 80). Crossway. Kindle Edition. 

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Arrogance Unchecked


A FEW WEEKS BACK I was privileged to tour the British Museum in London. As many jokingly know half of ancient Egypt is on display there.  I came across this quote on a plaque. It was written by Pharaoh Ramses II in the 13th century BC. Many scholars believe that he was the Pharaoh that drove Moses out of Egypt. It was a prayer to his own statue. The arrogance and self-absorption is quite remarkable. As I read it I couldn't help but think that, but for the grace of God, this would be both myself and everyone reading this.

“O image of mine, may you endure for the sake of my name, that everyone may love you, that people may stretch out their arms to me, bearing rich bouquets. May there be given to you libations and incense from the leftovers of your Lord (Osiris), when my spirit come speedily, that he may receive food offerings with you…O statue of mine you are before the Lords of the Sacred Territory (The gods of the Abydos necropolis). May you be a memorial for my name in the house of the lords of Tawer. You are here for me as a shelter. You are my true form.”[1] 

Those of us who are Christians should pray that God will keep us humble, that in his mercy we would enable us to daily subdue the sin of pride which so quickly and frequently erupts. 


[1] A prayer by Ramses II (13th century  BC) to his image on a limestone tablet.