Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Apocalypse Code by Hank Hanegraaff

This is the first in a series of book reviews concerning the end times prophecies of the Bible. For the second post you can go here.







 While glancing down the wall on my face book page a post from a friend caught my eye. He was expounding on the prophecies of the Bible concerning the end times. According to him Biblical prophecy that described Christ’s return to earth and His final judgment on the world had been fulfilled 2000 years ago with the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. This was my introduction to preterism.

Because I had never heard of this interpretation of Biblical prophecy and yet possess a deep, personal interest in end time prophecy I embarked on my own research of the different positions concerning the prophecies of the return of Jesus Christ in Old Testament books, such as Daniel, Isaiah and the New Testament, specifically Jesus’ own words in the Olivet Discourse and finally in the book of Revelation.

The first thing I did was dig out a book I had bought a year or so ago and had at the bottom of my TBR pile. It is by Hank Hanegraaff, also known as “The Bible Answer Man” to those of us who listen to Christian radio. The book is titled, The Apocalypse Code and is written primarily as a response to the dispensationalist viewpoint of end time scripture.

Because Dispensationalism is probably the most common viewpoint of the contemporary Christian church (Protestant or Catholic) I found this surprising and was interested to learn what Hanegraaff’s own stance was and how he substantiated it as well as how he would refute the Dispensationalist one.

For those who don’t know, Dispensationalism is the viewpoint that the Church will be raptured from the earth in the first phase of Christ’s second coming. This will be followed by a seven-year tribulation under the Antichrist followed by Christ’s second coming in which Christ and his saints will rule a thousand years in peace before the final judgment of the world.

Most of Hanegraaff’s book involves disputing this viewpoint in favor of partial preterism (though he doesn’t explicitly call his viewpoint such).

There are two types of preterism: partial and full or hyper- preterism. Preterists holds to the view that the eschatological events prophesied in Scripture have already taken place. Partial preterists fall safely on the side of Orthodox Christian doctrine because they still believe in the bodily return of Jesus Christ, the bodily resurrection of the dead, and that the final resolution of sin is still in the future. Full preterists presume ALL prophecy, including the second coming of Christ and the resurrection of Christians, has been fulfilled. Hanegraaff himself clearly labels this latter belief as heretical.

While I don’t feel qualified to dispute or agree with many of the points Hanegraaff makes, I found this book had much to recommend it. Even though too much of his language is inflammatory and reactionary against Hal Lindsey and Timothy LaHaye (author of the Left Behind series) there is still a lot of good exegetical teaching that I valued.

For one, his discourse on how to interpret the Bible (is the passage to be taken literally? Metaphorically? Figuratively? What is the cultural context? Who is the intended audience? Etc.) was clear and methodical and as good a defense in understanding scripture as any I’ve ever read.

While I never considered Christ speaking specifically against the Pharisees and the judgment against the priesthood in his Olivet Discourse, I now understand that He was prophesying the eminent destruction of Jerusalem and the temple that effectively ended the priesthood, tribal identity (since the genealogy records were kept in the temple) and the animal sacrifices.

What I would have liked more on was discussion on the end times yet to come. He hardly mentions it at all and if it weren’t for a passing mention of his belief in Christ’s ultimate return I would have been left wondering where he stood on that doctrine since he asserts the seven year tribulation and the beast refers to the persecution of Christians under the Roman Emperor Nero’s reign.

Anyone interested in different viewpoints of end time prophecy and scripture study would benefit from this book. I am also reading another book that goes step by step through the book of Revelation accompanied by each end time view point: Preterism, Dispensationalism, Historical, and Futuristic. I will review this book when I’ve finished it.


For more information:




Opposing viewpoints:





Thursday, April 19, 2012

Unashamed to Bear His Name: Embracing the Stigma of Being a Christian by R.T. Kendall



    Tradition has it that St. Francis bore the stigmata of Christ on his body.  Stigmata refers to the marks on Jesus’ hands, feet and side of His crucifixion.  This became a sign of special favor or holiness in the Catholic Church.  In actuality, stigmata has a very different meaning.  The original meaning means stigma and it is why Christ’s crucifixion marks were called, “stigmata.”  Stigma is to carry shame.  The cross was a shame.  It was the most inhumane, humiliating, shameful death reserved for the worst of criminals.  Jesus took this shame, this stigma, upon Himself to save a sin sick world from eternal death. 

   In Unashamed to Bear His Name: Embracing the Stigma of Being a Christian, the author, R.T. Kendall, restores the original meaning back to its proper place.  The fact of the matter is, in today’s society being a Christian does carry a stigma.  The media has done a great job stigmatizing Christianity with shows that make Christians out to be idiots at best, judgemental busybodies in the middle, and raving lunatical zealots, “murdering in the name of God” at the other end of the spectrum.

   But I won’t blame the media for producing that attitude in the average person.  Every person is responsible for thinking for themselves (and what they give an audience to).  Be that as it may, in modern thinking, there is a general negative attitude, a stigma, to being a Christian.  The book has fifteen chapters and each chapter discusses a different stigma Christians bear.  He shows how the Old Testament, the Gospel, bearing Christ’s name are all offensive to our post modern culture that specializes in deconstructing everything to the point that their only solid conclusion is that it’s impossible to know anything.  Well they believe it’s possible to know one thing:  Christianity is false, Christians are na├»ve or delusional, and many are bad people trying to hurt the rest of the world with their narrow-minded thinking.

     Other chapters talk of the stigma of No Vindication (having your name cleared from a false accusation); the stigma of the Holy Spirit-here Kendall points to certain Christians that balk at visible signs of the Holy Spirit working in people’s lives if it gets outside their personal  walls that delineate Spiritual manifestation. His final chapter is about living outside the camp.  In Judaic law unclean people such as lepers or people who had committed certain crimes or in any way were unclean had to live outside the camp of Israel (when they were still a nomadic nation) He shows how many Christian denominations began “outside the camp”:  The Wesley brother’s were kicked out of the Episcopal church, thus beginning the Methodist church.  Martin Luther was kicked out of the Catholic Church which eventually led to the Lutheran denomination and so on.

      Kendall includes his own testimony by telling us about his strict, legalistic upbringing in a certain denomination and the stigma he had to endure from family and friends when he left that church because of his personal convictions.  He became pastor of Westminister Chapel in London for many years where he had to break traditionalist thinking and carrying the “stigma” of reaching people in old fashioned street preaching and changing the demographics of this venerable church. 
    
     Christians of all denominations will be edified by Kendall’s admonishments and encouragements when he reveals how bearing Christ’s stigma is not a cause for feeling defeated but for rejoicing in sharing the sufferings of our Savior and will feel renewed strength to pick up their own cross and follow Him.

I received this book for free from Baker Publishers.



Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Chosen by Chaim Potok







 The Chosen by Chaim Potok has been on my TBR pile for a very long time and I am so glad I finally read it. I was going to wait until my son read it and have him write a review but I decided that there’s no harm in both of us writing one since it will be a while before he’ll be able to read it and write his review. And then I’m going to read this wonderful book again. I’m sure there’s a lot I didn’t catch this first time.

For the first fifteen years of our lives, Danny and I lived within five blocks of each other and neither of us knew of the other’s existence.

So states the first paragraph of the book, The Chosen, by Chaim Potok. It’s spoken by the protagonist Reuven Malter. It’s through Reuven’s eyes that we experience the story. It’s a pregnant sentence. Are Reuven and Danny going to be fast friends? Life long rivals? Ardent enemies?

At first it seems the last option is going to describe their relationship. Danny Saunders and Reuven meet during a ball game. Each is Jewish, each goes to yeshivas (Hebrew parochial schools) and that’s where the similarities end. While Reuven and his family are Orthodox Jews (for information on Orthodox Jews go here), Danny is Hasidic. (For information on Hasidic Jews go here) The ball game is more than a friendly rivalry. The Hasid are out to prove much more than their superior ball playing skills.

Burn in Hell you apikorsim! The Hasidic team shouts at Rueven and his team mates. Potok never explains what this word actually is but from the context I assume it’s some sort of term for an apostate.

Danny is as determined to prove Hasidic superiority as much as the rest of his team mates and when his turn to bat comes up he purposely slams the ball into the pitcher, Rueven’s, face. Rueven ends up in the hospital for several days.

As unlikely as it would seem, this is the start of a close and –if I may use the word again- ardent friendship. Danny and Reuven become close friends much to the consternation to the Hasidic community. The major reason for this is because Danny’s father, Rabbi Reb Saunders is the founder of their Hasidic community and Danny is expected to follow in his footsteps.

Not being Jewish, I found the contrasts between the two different Jewish sects to be fascinating. Potok includes much history of the origins of the Hasidic groups as well as the Jewish immigrants and how they ended up in America.

The time period is during WWII and Potok also gives us a special insight into how the war was viewed by contemporaries, specifically the Jews living in Brooklyn, and the horror that ensued as Hitler’s “final solution” became public knowledge.

As I read, for the first time in my life it hit me what people’s reaction to it all must have been. For so many years we’ve known what Hitler did, which doesn’t make it any less horrible, but I never considered the shock that people must have experienced as it first came to light. It’s almost too horrific to contemplate. I doubt anyone outside Germany imagined such a thing in their wildest dreams.

The other discovery that surprised me was the possibility that any Jew would be against a Jewish state. According to Potok, the Hasid were fervently against it. Or to be specific they were against a secular Jewish state. They believed (probably still believe) that the true Israel nation will be ushered in by the Messiah.

Who are these people? Who are these people? He shouted in Yiddish, and the words went through me like knives. “Apikorsim! Goyim! Ben Gurion and his goyim will build! When Messiah comes, we will have Ertz Yistoel, a Holy Land, not a land contaminated by Jewish goyim! (pg. 187)

We cannot wait for God. If there is an answer, we must make it ourselves….. Six million of our people have been slaughtered; he (Reuven’s father) went on quietly. It is inconceivable. It will have meaning only if we give it meaning. We cannot wait for God…(pg. 182)

Potok shows the opposing views of Hasid and Orthodox Judaism through the fathers of Danny and Reuven. Both dedicated Jews, both dedicated to studying the Talmud, but both arriving at different conclusions as to the existence and purpose of the Jewish people.

As interesting and informative as that all is, what makes this story poignant and worthy of its place in the annals of good literature, is the human dynamic. Danny and Reuven’s relationship with each other and with their fathers’.

What especially impressed me was the careful responsibility each father took to raise their sons up in they way they believed they should go. Such care, time and energy was given to this-even though each man used strikingly different methods to accomplish their goals. Do fathers like this still exist or are they merely a relic of a bygone era?

One thing that, as a Christian, particularly interested me was how much time was given to studying the Talmud. The Talmud is two thousand years of commentary by various rabbis throughout the ages given to explaining the Torah. It amazed me to see how dedicated the Jewish scholars were to studying the Talmud but no time mentioned of studying the Torah, which is the actual word of God. Why so much time to what men say about what God says rather than reading what God has to say for Himself?

The Chosen is a gripping, powerful novel that had me coming back again and again to see how Danny and Reuven’s lives were going to turn out. The suspense of each chapter propels the reader to its powerful, moving conclusion. I highly recommend this classic to everyone.




Wednesday, April 11, 2012

On Blog Tour: Meet Bryan Cohen, author of The Post-College Guide to Happiness

Today I have a guest on my blog. Bryan Cohen is doing a blog tour to introduce readers to his latest book The Post-College Guide to Happiness.  I needed this book about twenty years ago but I hope many of you out there will benefit.  Without further ado, welcome Bryan Cohen!



Bryan Cohen here, guest poster and author, promoting my new book http://www.amazon.com/Post-College-Guide-Happiness-Bryan-Cohen/dp/1466434139http://www.amazon.com/Post-College-Guide-Happiness-Bryan-Cohen/dp/1466434139">The Post-College Guide to Happiness for The Happiness Blog Tour. I'm giving away free digital review copies of the book and doing a giveaway for paperback copies, audio copies and even a Kindle Fire! Read on and check out the info below the post.

"Happiness is like a butterfly; the more you chase it, the more it will elude you, but if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder."
- Henry David Thoreau

What to Chase

This quote by Thoreau is a particularly famous one when it comes to happiness. It's amazing in its imagery and its simplicity. There's only one problem. It isn't exactly clear about what other things you should turn your attention toward. Many think that money will bring them happiness. Others think it's an awesome social life or having the most youthful, attractive body. A great deal of folks who turn their attention toward those pursuits, end up less with a butterfly of happiness and more with a monkey of regret and disappointment.

Here are some things that you should focus your attention on if you want to be happier. Gratitude is a big one. Be happy for the things you have instead of being upset about the things you don't have. People worry that by focusing only on what they have, they will be doomed to stay at the same level the rest of their lives. That's why you pair up gratitude with goals. Come up with some daily, weekly and monthly goals that are geared toward reaching a higher purpose. I found that my higher purpose was connected to inspiration and writing. Yours might be to help people with cancer or to become a professional dancer. Push toward a worthy goal and happiness will be much more likely to knock on your door.

In your relationships, focus more on "loving" than "being loved." Be appreciative and helpful of your partner and don't expect things to be immediately given back in return. We live in a world in which entitlement has gone a little bit crazy. People used to have to work 60 hour work weeks on average and those who didn't work didn't have the convenience of many of the things we have to do. This entitlement has worked its way into relationships. If we don't get what we think we need right away, we label that as our partner not loving us anymore. Put your energy into actively loving the person you're with instead of expecting something in return for everything you do. Love isn't a game, it takes work and if done right, can lead to some major happiness.

Lastly, take time for silence and meditation. Concentrate on getting away from all the gadgets and gizmos that this world has to offer and allow yourself to think. How will you know what will truly make you happy unless you get away from the media and Facebook and your phone? The best time to get an answer to the question, "What will fulfill me?" is when you are in complete silence.

Be grateful. Create goals. Choose a purpose. Actively love your partner. Cherish silence. These five aspects of life to concentrate on will help that butterfly of happiness to be your companion always.

--

Bryan Cohen is giving away 61 paperback and audio copies of The Post-College Guide to Happiness and a Kindle Fire between now and May 7th, 2012 on The Happiness Blog Tour. All entrants receive a free digital review copy of The Post-College Guide to Happiness. Bryan hopes to give away at least 1,000 copies during the blog tour. To enter, post a comment with your e-mail address or send an e-mail to postcollegehappiness (at) gmail.com. Bryan will draw the names at the end of the tour. Entries will be counted through Sunday, May 6th.

Bryan Cohen is a writer, actor and comedian from Dresher, Pennsylvania. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2005 with degrees in English and Dramatic Art and a minor in Creative Writing. He has written nine books including http://www.amazon.com/000-Creative-Writing-Prompts-ebook/dp/B0044DEL7C">1,000 Creative Writing Prompts: Ideas for Blogs, Scripts, Stories and More, http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004SOYV4K">500Writing Prompts for Kids: First Grade through Fifth Grade, 
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004VWPONQ">Writer on the Side: How to Write Your Book Around Your 9 to 5 Job and his new book, 


Chttp://www.amazon.com/dp/B007BIFYNC">1,000 Character Writing Prompts: Villains, Heroes and Hams for Scripts, Stories and More. His website http://www.build-creative-writing-ideas.comhttp://www.build-creative-writing-ideas.com">Build Creative Writing Ideas helps over 25,000 visitors a month to push past writer's block and stay motivated.

Feel free to follow along with the tour at http://www.build-creative-writing-ideas.comhttp://www.build-creative-writing-ideas.com/happiness-blog-tour.html">The Happiness Blog Tour Hub Page or on the book's http://www.facebook.com/ThePostCollegeGuideToHappinesshttp://www.facebook.com/ThePostCollegeGuideToHappiness">Facebook Page.



Kindle




Kindle


Sunday, April 8, 2012

What’s Next? Navigating Transitions to Make the Rest of Your Life Count by H. Norman Wright






Three older adults-another couple and I- sat around a table at Starbucks, talking and laughing. While we’ve been friends for decades, through the years our getting together had become less frequent.
We spent some time catching up, then after a while I asked, “what would you say are your dreams and plans for the next twenty years?”
Silence.
(From the Introduction)

H. Norman Wright has written a book for people going through transitions in their life. He discusses the different seasons of parenting, including the season that comes after you’ve become used to the empty nest and a child moves back in with you. He asserts that growing older and after retirement is a time to rejoice, not settle down and wait for your body to deteriorate. What about, as in his case, your spouse dies? What if you’ve gone through a divorce? Remarriage? How does one blend two families?

Each chapter discusses the challenges with each scenario along with strategies to proactively deal with them. Wright provides godly insight to many situations that people deal with today that require one to change direction and move on. He gives clear cut methods to keep one out of the pit of depression and living in the past and joyfully engaging life’s next chapter.

At the end of the book are discussion questions for each chapter. I recommend this book for anyone needing positive encouragement in taking up the mantle to the next chapter in their life and charging ahead with enthusiasm.





Or buy on Kindle for 10.26:






I received this book for free from Bethany House
Additional links:



Sunday, April 1, 2012

Two books by Sol Stein







Some of you know that I am finishing up writing my own book.  In the meantime I am researching everything I can on the writing and publishing process.  The following is the first of several reviews about the books I've been reading on this topic.

I bought this book because of another blog’s review of it. Here are my own thoughts on the quality and ultimate benefit this book would provide aspiring writers.

Sol Stein has been in the writing and publishing business for several years. He has personally edited many books that have gone on to be successfully published, including his own. What Stein attempts to provide in this book are lessons on how to effectively write a book, fiction or non fiction, and make it publish-ready.

In the first several chapters Stein explains how to create interest for the reader. How do you get a reader to continue reading your book? You make characters that are so interesting that the reader wants to keep finding out about them. You make a story that is broken down in sentences that make the reader want to read the next sentence and paragraphs that propels the reader to the next paragraph, next chapter, perhaps to the next book. Stein lists, according to him, effective strategies that accomplish all this. If you doubt him, he will remind you-throughout the book- that he is a hugely successful editor and novelist in his own right and name drop all over the place to verify his credentials.

I suppose that sounds a little sarcastic. I’ll admit that, while I found reading these chapters instructive and I plan to practically apply the general lessons to be had from them, I didn’t care for the examples he provided which seemed pretty much centered around sex and violence. That is not the type of literature I ever intend to write. Surely there’s a way to maintain reader interest without using those hackneyed formulas.

The other problem I had was that he used excerpts of his own books as models of the right way to grab a reader’s attention. Frankly, I wasn’t impressed with his writing. It seemed a little too self- conscious with its choice of vocabulary and in how it described action.

I will say that I found the remaining chapters, which deal with editing, how to keep sentences fast paced, cutting out all the unnecessary details (Liposuctioning Flab, chapter 21) and how to revise to be invaluable. At the back of his book he provides several websites on where to receive instruction and lessons. Some of these are his own classes but he offers them free if you mention that you bought this book.

So while I have a certain amount of criticism for Sol Stein on Writing, I still recommend it as one of-what should be- SEVERAL resources an aspiring writer should read and apply to his writing skills.




Sol Stein also has a reference book called: Sol Stein’s Reference book For Writers. Part 1: Writing; Part 2: Publishing. In each sections he lists in an A-Z format terms that writers need to know to inform themselves of the ends and outs of writing and publishing. Here are a few examples:

Action: an action in fiction is a forward movement of the story that doesn’t necessarily involve physical activity. In fiction a surprising or strongly worded or decisive thought can be an action….

Immediate Scene: In fiction, the action in a scene can be viewed by the reader. If the writer follows the injunction “Show, don’t’ tell” he will have created an immediate scene. On test: If you could film the scene, it is immediate…..

Editing: New writers sometimes confuse edition with copyediting (see Copyediting). To edit is to check, correct, improve, amend, polish, modify, revise, reword, rewrite, redraft, condense, cut, and abridge… an editor is not a writer…but a reader of other people’s writings, a reviser with specific aims ranging from questioning and correcting inaccuracies to improving the vocabulary or the rhythm of the drafted words…

Related links:
Sol Stein's website

Writing Classes

Daily Writings