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Edward A. Schroder "Ted Schroder" RSS Feed (Amelia Island, Florida)
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Good Faith: Being a Christian When Society Thinks You're Irrelevant and Extreme
Good Faith: Being a Christian When Society Thinks You're Irrelevant and Extreme
by David Kinnaman
Edition: Hardcover
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars HOW CAN YOU LOVE SOMEONE WHO THINKS YOU ARE BIGOTED?, June 8, 2016
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David Kinnaman & Gabe Lyons have authored GOOD FAITH: Being a Christian when society thinks you’re irrelevant and extreme, because they believe that American culture is becoming hostile to people of faith. There is a tendency for people to think that Christianity is out of step with the times. After conducting surveys with thousands of people they offer practical suggestions as to how to relate to people with different convictions from your own.
They compare the popular morality of self-fulfillment with the Christian belief in self-denial and the consequences for marriage and parenting where self-sacrifice and service are required. They present a model for how Christians can think and act when engaging the culture.
1. When we discover something that we consider wrong we should have the courage to confront it without being judgmental.
2. When there is confusion about key issues in our society we ought to bring clarity to a situation and then compel others to act.
3. When we find something that is good we should celebrate and cultivate it.
4. When we identify something that is missing we should be creative and be catalysts for a new and better way.
There is a good section on true tolerance which is defined as the ability to acknowledge and permit other people’s views. This is sometimes called principled pluralism. They call out what is called “fake tolerance” which is defined as “We will tolerate you as long as your opinion falls within the range of what we deem acceptable.” Divergence from this and you are a bigot! This kind of attitude means that you don’t want to be around anyone who disagrees with you, and you don’t want to allow them the freedom to disagree with you. Freedom of speech has become an issue today. Groupthink wants to prevent anyone with contrary opinions to be heard on college campuses or to be employed. This kind of censorship wants to confine religious convictions to religious institutions and private discourse. Before he became President, then Senator Obama in his “Call to Renewal “ address defended religious convictions in the public square by citing noted American reformers. “So to say that men and women should not inject their ‘personal morality’ into public policy debates is a practical absurdity. Our law is by definition a codification of morality, much of it grounded in the Judeo-Christian tradition.”
Kinnaman and Lyons confront the hot button issues of the sanctity of life, sex, marriage, and race. Good Faith requires Christians to be respectful of those with whom we disagree while remaining faithful to biblical convictions. We must learn to love one another as made in the image of God.
They disagree with the growing number of Americans who believe their feelings should dictate their identity. Christians believe their identity is found in Christ. Philosopher Charles Taylor in The Ethics of Authenticity claims that “We set an overwhelming high value on self-fulfillment, on the idea that each of us should find some way of life that satisfies us and is authentically our own.” This is antithetical to Christianity which believes that life is about glorifying God and fulfilling his purpose.
We glorify God when we love other people no matter what their self-professed identity. We don’t call them names, vilify them or avoid them. I must confess that Good Faith convicted me of bad faith attitudes. Self-denial, or taking up our cross and following Jesus, means going outside my comfort zone to love my neighbor when he or she is very different from me. Can we extend that love in the Church to those who differ from us in their lifestyles, race, and politics? That is the challenge of this book.


The Skeletons in God's Closet: The Mercy of Hell, the Surprise of Judgment, the Hope of Holy War
The Skeletons in God's Closet: The Mercy of Hell, the Surprise of Judgment, the Hope of Holy War
by Joshua Ryan Butler
Edition: Paperback
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars MY BEST READ OF THE YEAR ON TOPICS THAT BOTHER US MOST IF WE ARE HONEST, March 31, 2016
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Do you have questions about Hell, Divine Judgment and the Holy Wars in the Old Testament? How do you reconcile the God of love with the God of wrath? What about all the evil in the world and the suffering of the innocent? These and other questions that you may have about the hard passages in the Bible are comprehensively explored with great wisdom by Joshua Ryan Butler in THE SKELETONS IN GOD’S CLOSET.
This is the best book I have read this year. It is an interesting and compelling read. He writes beautifully with an eye for analogies and imagery. His book is not a defense of literalism but a sensitive reading of the metaphors the biblical writers have used to describe God’s purposes. He believes in the verbal inspiration and authority of the Bible, and does not apologize for any of the biblical material. He does deal with the popular caricatures of biblical teaching. Here is what he has to say in his answer to the question why he thinks the caricatures have become so popular.
“I’ve come to believe there’s a part of us that wants the caricatures to be true. If the caricatures are true, it gives us a reason to write God off: to believe we’re the good guys and he’s the one with issues. We want our independence, so I think there’s a part of us that uses the caricatures to feel justified in our desire for distance, autonomy, and independence from God. So that we can feel justified in our sin.
At the end of the day, we are really the ones – not God – who have constructed the caricatures and given them their validity. But God is good. Better-than-we-can-ask-or-imagine-good. Way better than the caricatures we’ve created. So I think at some level our caricatures are not just something oppressive we need to be freed from, but something constructed we need to repent of, an idol we’ve made that we need to remove our clutching grasp from – in order to receive the redemptive embrace of the God who is gloriously good.”
Butler’s central message and driving theme of his book is that God is good all the time. He seeks to demonstrate that God’s goodness is not contradictory to the topics of hell, judgment and holy war. God is not a sadistic monster who allows people to be tortured by flames for eternity or only lets religious folks into his kingdom or commands the Israelites to kill innocent children in holy war. He defeats the argument that Christians often seem to be given two options: capitulate your faith in the Bible and swoop everyone up in a universal “love is God” type of pop-theology, or bang your Bible on the pulpit and preach about “those people” out there on the other side of the church doors who are on a highway headed to hell. He relates to the pressing issues social issues of today that require us to face up to the suffering of the world. This is a book I want to give to everyone to read.


1916: A Global History
1916: A Global History
by Keith Jeffery
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $21.33
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5.0 out of 5 stars WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED IN A CENTURY?, March 8, 2016
This review is from: 1916: A Global History (Hardcover)
I have just finished reading 1916 A GLOBAL HISTORY by Keith Jeffery, professor of British History at Queen’s University, Belfast, Ireland. He tells the story of the First World War through the global events of 1916 that dramatically altered the fate of many nations. A century later we are still mired in consequences of that fateful war.
He starts in January 1916 with the end of the catastrophic Gallipoli campaign, in which my grandfather participated. While that invasion of Turkey failed it provided a case study for the U.S. Marines as they learned from the mistakes of the Allies in their preparation for the Pacific theater in World War II. It also fueled the rise of Mustafa Kemal as the founder of modern day Turkey. In February and March he recounts the massive struggle for Verdun and the making of Marshal Petain as a French hero. In April there was the Easter Rising in Dublin against English rule and the subsequent poisoning of the relationship between the Irish republicans and the Irish unionists which continues to this day. In May there was the largest naval engagement in history at Jutland which finished the German fleet as an active force. The Russian front was stabilized in June as a tremendous cost of human lives. The murder of Rasputin capped off the year by removing his influence on the Czarina and therefore on the Czar. Russia was spiraling into famine and revolution. In July a major revolt broke out in central Asia, sparked off by the imposition of conscription by the Russian Imperial authorities on a recently colonized Muslim population. The Indian Army marched into Mesopotamia and modern Iraq was eventually born out of the Ottoman Empire. In East Africa the German army held out to the end of the war. The hostilities between the European colonial powers may have caused the death of some 200,000 Africans who served in their forces. Between July and November the Battle of the Somme was fought along a twenty mile stretch near that river. There were 623,000 Allied and 580,000 German casualties. The allies advanced no more than ten miles. It is hard to believe that my grandfather was part of that costly and essentially futile battle. Greece attempted to remain neutral for King Constantine was educated at a Prussian military academy and was married to Kaiser Wilhelm’s sister. However an Allied force took over Salonika to relieve Serbia from Bulgarian attacks. There were twelve battles fought between Italian forces and those of the Central Powers between June 1915 and November 1917. Five were fought in 1916 along the river Asonzo. Mussolini would switch sides in World War II.
Jeffery concludes: “for a variety of reasons, the wounds of the Great War remain unhealed.” The Middle East still seethes with the effects of parceling up the national boundaries by the Allies. “The indefensible political boundaries and conflicting sectional aspirations with which the belligerents of the First World War filled up that space…have left a doleful legacy of bitter antagonists and unrealized ambitions which bedevils the region to this day.” The same could be said for Africa. Russia has never recovered. The U.S.A. found that it could not remain isolated from the rest of the world.
Today, geopolitics contains new threats to our peace and wellbeing. We must learn from the mistakes of the past or else we are condemned to repeat them. It requires steady hands on the helms of our governments to steer clear of the twin dangers of military adventurism on the one hand and diplomatic isolationism on the other.


Notes on the Death of Culture: Essays on Spectacle and Society
Notes on the Death of Culture: Essays on Spectacle and Society
by Mario Vargas Llosa
Edition: Hardcover
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Searing Critique of Modern Culture and its Banality, September 16, 2015
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Mario Vargas Llosa (b.1936) was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2010. He is a Peruvian novelist, politician, journalist and college professor. A classical liberal by conviction he commands great respect in Latin America. His latest book, Notes on the Death of Culture: Essays on Spectacle and Society, is an unsparing criticism of modern and postmodern culture. It is brilliant in its analysis of the disease of banality that pervades most of our media and politics. He helpfully expounds the dangers of Islamic fundamentalism, multiculturalism, pornography, political correctness and the limits of tolerance. A few quotes illustrate his concerns.

“What do we mean by the civilization of the spectacle? The civilization of a world in which pride of place, in terms of scale of values, is given to entertainment, and where having a good time, escaping boredom, is the universal passion. To have this goal in life is perfectly legitimate, of course…. But converting this natural propensity for enjoying oneself into a supreme value has unexpected consequences: it leads to a culture becoming banal, frivolity becoming widespread and, in the field of news coverage, it leads to the spread of irresponsible journalism based on gossip and scandal….systematically and imperceptibly, not being bored, avoiding anything that might be disturbing, worrying or distressing, became for increasing number both at the pinnacle and at the base of the social pyramid, a generational mandate..”

“Stupidity has become the ruling value of postmodern life, and politics is one of its main victims.”

While not a believer, Llosa values religious education as essential for understanding our cultural inheritance.

“To ban entirely all forms of religious education in state schools would be to bring up the new generations with a deficient culture and deprive them of basic tools to understanding their history, their tradition, and enjoy the art, literature and thought of the West. Western culture is imbued with religious ideas, beliefs, images, festivities and customs. To cut out this rich inheritance from the education of the new generations would be to deliver them, bound hand and foot, to the civilization of the spectacle, to frivolity, superficiality, ignorance, gossip and bad taste. A non-sectarian, objective and responsible education, which explains the hegemonic role of Christianity in the creation and evolution of the culture of the West, with all its divisions and secessions, its wars, its historical impact, its achievements, its excesses, its saints, its mystics, its martyrs, and the ways in which all this has had an influence, both good and bad, on history, philosophy, architecture, art and literature, is indispensable if we want to avoid culture degenerating at the rate it is doing and having the world in the future divided between functional illiterates and ignorant and insensitive specialists.”

His final thoughts include the following.

“Never before have we lived in an age so rich in scientific knowledge and technological discoveries; never have we been better equipped to defeat illness, ignorance and poverty, and yet perhaps we have never been so confused about certain basic questions such as what we are doing on this lightless planet of ours, if mere survival is the sole aim that justifies life, if concepts such as spirit, ideals, pleasure, love, solidarity, art, creation, beauty, soul, transcendence still have meaning and, if so, what these meanings might be. The raison d’Ítre of culture was to give an answer to these questions. Today it is exonerated from such responsibility, since we have turned it into something much more superficial and voluble: a form of entertainment or an esoteric and obscurantist game for self-regarding academics and intellectuals who turn their backs on society.”

This is book that would bring a group alive with discussion of current issues.
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Openness Unhindered: Further Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert on Sexual Identity and Union with Christ
Openness Unhindered: Further Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert on Sexual Identity and Union with Christ
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars WELL WRITTEN, KNOWLEDGABLE AND COMPASSIONATE CHALLENGE TO THE CHURCH AND THE LGBT COMMUNITY, September 3, 2015
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Rosario Champagne Butterfield is a former tenured professor of English and women’s studies at Syracuse University who is now the wife of a Reformed Presbyterian pastor. She became a Christian in 1999 after a series of lesbian relationships and a promoter of LGBT causes. She has written two books. The Secrets of an Unlikely Convert is the story of her journey into Christianity. Her second book, Openness Unhindered is subtitled, Further Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert – Sexual Identity – Union with Christ. It is a book which every church leader and every Christian who has questions about this subject, especially in the light of the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling making same sex marriage a civil right, and the media coverage of transgender issues, would profit by reading.
My first response to her book is that it is well written. She is after all a Ph.D. from Ohio State in English and Critical Theory. She knows all the arguments about postmodern interpretations of texts and the use of words to define issues.
My second take away is that she has a very high view of Holy Scripture. After arguing with Scripture and trying to toss its teachings in the trash she capitulated to it.
“I was fighting the idea that the Bible is inspired and inerrant – that is, that its meaning and purpose have a holy and supernatural authority that has protected it over the years of its canonicity, and that it is the repository of truth. How could a smart cookie like me embrace these things? I didn’t even believe in truth. I was a postmodernist. I believed in truth claims. I believed that the reader constructed the text – that a text’s meaning found its power only in the reader’s interpretation of it. As I told my students over and over again, without the reader, a book is just paper and glue. How could this one book lay claim to a birthright and progeny different from all others?”
My third reflection is that when she became a Christian she realized how pride was her worst sin from which she needed to repent. Her identity in Christ became the most important part of her. She had to reject the Romantic illusion that truth is known through your personal experience and your feelings. The belief in sexual orientation creates fictional identities that rob people of their true identity as male and female bearers of the image of God. She argues that we are not oriented or framed by our sexual desires to make us separate species of people.
“Indeed sexual orientation went from a categorical invention to unheralded immortal truth in one hundred years, taking out the concept of being created in God’s image and bearing an eternal soul in its wake. It is now a term embraced uncritically by believers and unbelievers alike. Sexual orientation defines selfhood as the sum-total of our fallen human desires. Through it, we get no glimpse of how the covenant of grace defends our true real identity in Christ, or why, say, biblical marriage is a God-designed creation ordinance and a living reflection of Christ and the church, and not merely a man-made convenience.”
Her LGBT community believed that sexuality was fluid and a social construct. They claimed psychological proof that gender and sexuality were freely chosen and matters of personal expression that could be changed, resisted or shaped as their own individual sense of personal integrity and desire allowed. Conversion to Christ meant that you left everything, including your former lifestyle, and followed Jesus as part of his family, the church (Mark 10:28-30).
Lastly, I was impressed by her compassion and sensitivity to the LGBT community and her recognition of the struggle they have with their feelings and their understanding of their identity. She dialogues with other Christians who feel defined by their sexuality as well as their Christian identity. She champions the need of the church to be a real community which treats everybody by their Christian identity and not by their past sins.
This book is a very helpful treatment of both our redemption in Christ and the manifestation of original sin in our lifestyles and attitudes.


Conservative Heroes: Fourteen Leaders Who Shaped America, from Jefferson to Reagan
Conservative Heroes: Fourteen Leaders Who Shaped America, from Jefferson to Reagan
by Garland S. Tucker III
Edition: Hardcover
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars WHY THE FUNDAMENTAL TRUTHS OF CONSERVATISM ARE MORAL TRUTHS, August 26, 2015
This book illustrates and describes what it means to be an American conservative in the lives and writings of fourteen people. Garland Tucker identifies five concepts of conservative political philosophy. 1. A realistic view of sinful human nature as opposed to the utopian, optimistic view of progressivism. 2. The primary role of government is to establish order and preserve liberty. 3. The scope of government is to be limited, not interventionist. 4. Human rights include property rights. Economic equality is not to be pursued at the expense of others. 5. The social and political life of the country depends on private virtues which are part of the divine order.
Thomas Jefferson and James Madison expounded the view that the Constitution restricts the federal government’s powers. “That government is best which governs least.” Taxation should not take away the bread that is earned by the laborer.
Nathaniel Macon and John Randolph opposed new extensions of federal power and increasing appropriations. Macon wrote: “Almost every bill reported is to take money out of the Treasury. It must be thought by some that a public debt is a public blessing and all who live on the public, no doubt think, the more taxes the better, and that every tax adds to industry; from such I wish to be delivered.”
John C. Calhoun championed moderate taxes, frugality in Government, economy, accountability and a rigid application of the public money to the payment of debt, and to the objects authorized by the Constitution. He was concerned about the despotic power of the majority and the need to preserve liberty for minorities (i.e. the South).
Grover Cleveland promoted economy in moral terms to limit the right of the Government to exact tribute from its citizens. “To raise taxes from the public to cover expenditures in any amount beyond the most basic services amounted to extortion in the name of taxation.” He vetoed bills that would “indulge a benevolent and charitable sentiment through the appropriation of public finds.” He would not allow the government to do what charity could do.
Calvin Coolidge and Andrew Mellon reduced taxes in order to promote general economic growth and to encourage people to work. Coolidge stated: “I want the people of America to be able to work less for the government and more for themselves. I want them to have the rewards of their own industry. This is the chief meaning of freedom.” To Coolidge and Mellon it was immoral for the government to take one penny more from the taxpayer than was absolutely necessary to maintain law and order and provide the most basic services. They felt that the burden of taxation falls hardest on the poor. It is interesting that the same argument you hear today characterizing tax relief as favoring the rich was made in 1926.
Josiah W. Bailey and John W. Davis were two eloquent Southern Democrats who opposed the New Deal and FDR’s attempts to pack the Supreme Court and intervene in the economy. Davis’s personal philosophy was articulated in the American Liberty League he helped to found. “I believe in the right of private property, the sanctity and binding power of contracts; the duty of self-help. I am opposed to confiscatory taxation, wasteful expenditure, socialized industry and a planned economy controlled and directed by government functionaries. I believe these things to be inimical to human liberty and destructive of American ideals.”
Robert A. Taft, Mr. Republican from Ohio, echoed the message of his conservative predecessors. He believed that opportunity and not security was the goal of the American people.
William F. Buckley, Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan make up the last chapter. Their courage, convictions and communication skills wrested the control of the Republican Party from the liberal eastern establishment to form the conservative party of today. In his inaugural address, January 20, 1981, Reagan proclaimed that “In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”
In his epilogue Tucker leaves three thoughts. 1. Ideas have consequences. Conservative philosophy is based on fundamental truths. 2. It is important to study history. To know where we should go, it is essential to know where we have been. Tucker has served us well by reminding us of the history of these men and their times. 3. Graciousness and civility are not outdated political attributes. Quoting Lord Tweedsmuir: “Public life is a worthy ambition. Politics is still the greatest and most honorable adventure.”
In these days when there is so little trust in politicians we need this encouragement.
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The Buried Giant: A novel
The Buried Giant: A novel
by Kazuo Ishiguro
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $11.71
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Fable of Life as a Dangerous Journey Toward Death and the Virtues of Remembering and Forgetting, June 23, 2015
Kazuo Ishiguro in The Buried Giant has written a novel that is reminiscent of Tolkien’s The Hobbit. It is the journey of Axl and Beatrice, two elderly Briton’s, to find their son, whom they can hardly remember due to a mist that afflicts post-Arthurian Britain. The mist of forgetfulness is an enchantment that emanates from a dragon left by Merlin to keep the peace between the Britons and the Saxons. A theme of the novel is the comparison of the virtue of remembering painful things versus forgetting them. It is personified in the characters of the Saxon warrior Wistan and the last of King Arthur’s knights, Sir Gawain. The former wishes to slay the dragon and seek revenge on the Britons who slew Saxon women and children, and the latter who defends the dragon for breaking the cycle of retribution.
Axl has forgotten that he was an emissary of peace in his youth and that he confronted Arthur during the wars. Their son turns out to have died in a plague and their journey is toward their own deaths. The mist of forgetfulness may be the loss of memory that comes with aging. The Buried Giant may be a symbol of Death.
They encounter on their journey demonic beasts, pixies, ogres, good and bad monks. Their love for each other keeps them going and is rewarded by their reaching the shore where a boatman will take them to the island (Elysium?) if the bond between them is pure. The boatman’s duty is to question all who wish to cross to the island to see if their most cherished memories reveal what truly lies in their hearts. “When travelers speak of their most cherished memories it’s impossible for them to disguise the truth.”
This is a fable of life which is presented as a dangerous journey toward death accompanied by those who would help you and those who would harm you. While God and Christ are mentioned the power of the Gospel to forgive, guide and protect is not. Central to the Gospel is the belief that Christ “destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light” (2 Timothy 1:10). “Behold I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind” (Isaiah 65:17).


The Road to Character
The Road to Character
by David Brooks
Edition: Hardcover
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Gospel of Humility as Opposed to Self-Promotion as a Key to True Success in Life, May 30, 2015
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This review is from: The Road to Character (Hardcover)
Writer and commentator David Brooks in his latest book, The Road to Character, has addressed the shift in our society from a culture of humility to the culture of what he calls the Big Me, from a culture that encouraged people to think humbly of themselves to a culture that encouraged people to see themselves as the center of the universe.
The message is: “You are special. Trust yourself…. Movies from Pixar and Disney are constantly telling children how wonderful they are. Commencement speeches are larded with the same clichés: Follow your passion. Don’t accept limits. Chart your own course….. This is the gospel of self-trust.” (p.7)
Through the lives of great men and women: Frances Perkins, Dorothy Day, President Eisenhower, General Marshall, George Eliot, Samuel Johnson, St. Augustine, Philip Randolph, Johnny Unitas and others, he examines the virtues they embodied.
He makes the case for countering the forces that encourage the Big Me, the self-love promoted by psychologist Carl Rogers, and the self-promotion fostered by the social media. He calls into question the idea that each of us is wonderful inside and the competitive pressure on the climb toward success.
“The meritocratic system wants you to be big about yourself – to puff yourself, to be completely sure about yourself, to believe that you deserve a lot and to get what you think you deserve (so long as it is good). The meritocracy wants you to assert and advertise yourself. It wants you to display and exaggerate your achievements. The achievement machine rewards you if you can demonstrate superiority – if with a thousand little gestures, conversational types, and styles of dress you can demonstrate that you are a bit smarter, hipper, more accomplished, sophisticated, famous, plugged in, and fashion-forward than the people around you.” (p.253)
He develops fifteen proposals for a Humility Code to answer the important questions: “Toward what should I orient my life? Who am I and what is my nature? How do I mold my nature to make it gradually better day by day? What virtues are the most important to cultivate and what weaknesses should I fear the most? How can I raise my children with a true sense of who they are and a practical set of ideas about how to travel the long road to character?” (p.261)
Jesus said it long ago: “The greatest among you will be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:11,12) The way to abundant life is through sacrificial service, not self-promotion. That is also the definition of love – the love of Christ.


Life after Death: A New Approach to the Last Things
Life after Death: A New Approach to the Last Things
by Anthony C. Thiselton
Edition: Paperback
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential Reading for All Mortals, April 23, 2015
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Written after the author in his seventies was brought back to life after a near-fatal stroke, this book is thorough, personal and extremely helpful as a theological exploration of the Christian understanding of the Last Things. I learned many new interpretations of the biblical material. His weaving of the personal, pastoral, biblical and philosophical is well done.


Rejoicing in Lament: Wrestling with Incurable Cancer and Life in Christ
Rejoicing in Lament: Wrestling with Incurable Cancer and Life in Christ
by J. Todd Billings
Edition: Paperback
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Honest and Courageous Review of Suffering, March 15, 2015
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What do you do when you or a loved one are diagnosed with incurable cancer? It is bad enough to have to face cancer at any age, but what if you or they are young? J. Todd Billings was thirty nine years old when he was told that he had a cancer of the bone marrow, multiple myeloma. Two years later after enduring a bone marrow transplant and chemo-therapy (which he will be on the rest of his life), he has written a record of his reflections on his illness, Rejoicing in Lament: Wrestling with Incurable Cancer & Life in Christ. He is uniquely qualified because he teaches Reformed Theology at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Michigan and has an earned doctorate in theology from Harvard University.
He begins and ends his moving testimony with the Question and Answer 1 of the Heidelberg Catechism: “What is your only comfort in life and in death? That I am not my own, but that I belong – in body and soul, in life and in death – to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.”
He began to chronicle his experience and reflections on Carepages, a blog site for those who want to update family and friends as they struggle with illness, and includes some of them in his text. One of his biggest concerns was the effect his illness and premature death would have on his two young children.
He embraces the Psalms as companions for his journey, especially the laments. “The Psalms have been my daily companion for years, but since the diagnosis, they have taken on special power.”
He sorts through his many questions using as a resources the book of Job, and explores the problem of evil, and the limits of human wisdom. Many of his fellow Christians did not know what to do when he expressed sorrow or loss or talk about death. We do praise and thanksgiving better than lament and grief. The prayer support of his church was welcome but he had a problem with people praying for ‘complete healing’ or a ‘cure’ when he knows that his cancer is incurable. The oncologist had insisted that it may go into remission but “it will come back.” He believes in healing but is also aware of God working through the medical team. There is a helpful section on how we should pray for healing. We don’t need all the details of the medical condition and treatment to pray effectively. We are not instructing God what to do. The path of true salvation is through the Cross. We should not seek to bypass the Cross to come to Glory.
He explores the two dangerous extremes: Fatalism and Deism (that the World is not in the Hands of God) and the distinction between the active and permissive will of God. This discussion of the doctrine of Providence is precious since it is in the context, not of abstract theorizing but of his personal experience.
Doubt and depression are also dealt with honestly as he faces the reality of death and dying. He criticizes the trend on modern worship to distraction and diversion from death and dying. “Praise bands and songs of triumph seem designed in form and content to distract worshippers from life’s more difficult realities.”
The wishes of friends that they he do well and look better, and “When will you be back to your old life?” set him back with their denial of the reality of his condition. He was not feeling better each day. He sometimes felt worse. He would never return to his old life.
This is a serious book but it is not depressing because it is infused with the Gospel hope and the love of Christ. This man may have his life cut short by cancer (they give him ten years!!!) but already he has used his affliction to bless others through this memoir and theological meditation on suffering.


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