Wednesday, April 24, 2013


"Whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away" James 4:14 

The truth of this scripture has been washing over me anew this day.  Some dear friends of ours lost a wonderful godly man to a very abrupt and unexpected tragedy.  A godly husband and father, now gone to be with the LordMy thoughts, tears, and prayers have been with them all through the day since finding out, and memories, like silent droplets of rain, gently drench my soul, remembering my own loss, years ago.

These two verses came to my mind immediately, and the tears began to flow as I poured out my heart in prayer, for these brothers and sisters in Christ.

"Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep." Romans 12:15

"Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." Galatians 6:2 

I do not know their pain.  But I kept thinking and praying: this is the day of shock.  It is a day of blur.  This is a time where things get fuzzy, life seems to stop, yet nothing seems real.  You want to wake up, but you really don't.  The sad reality is still there with you for days, but it never really sinks in.  You expect to see their face again, their smiles, their laughter, their jokes.  But it's strangely quiet.   They are strangely not there.  You know in your mind that God is sovereign and has a plan in all this; you know He is good, that your beloved is in a place of no more tears in the presence of our heavenly Father; yet your heart is breaking.  The pain is real, the grief is real, the sorrow is all too acute.  Suddenly, life is very real again, life is really different without them.  You know God is good, but your heart is so wrenched all you can think of is how can life go on without them?

I know, because I had my day of shock.  I had those feelings.  I had that pain, that sorrow.  But it is different for every single person who loses someone they love.  Every relationship is different.  Some lose sisters, some lose husbands, some lose daddy's.  Each one feels a little differently than the rest.

And the absolute worst thing you can ever say to someone suffering the loss of someone they love?  "I know how you feel" or "I understand what you're going through".  No you don't.  No one wants to hear that when the grief is fresh.  YOU never knew what it was like to be her sister.  YOU never knew what it was like to have him as father.  YOU never were married to this exact person.  YOU will never know precisely how it feels to have lost what they lost.  So please, don't ever say this to someone, even if you mean well.

Perhaps I remember the above through the eyes of someone younger, surrounded by immature people.  It has been many years since I have been through a tragic loss of a loved one's life, but I would hope no one would dream of saying they know how someone else feels during a loss.  It is just unfathomable to say such a thing to someone hurting.  I also remember going through such a devastating loss as someone who did not have any true comprehension that God is absolutely sovereign, reigning on His throne, and that nothing happens out of His will and plan for life.  I did not really know that God is good, even in the midst of tragedy, for all I could think of was, "why"?-and it was so unfair.  But it's not unfair.  God is in control, and He was very kind to bless us with that person's life as long as He chose to.  Knowing God is sovereign over all makes a huge difference when going through trials and hardships.  When I went through an entirely different tragedy of sorts (no loss of life), it was amazing to cling to the Lord God and know His mercy, grace, peace, and comfort and knowing He was sovereign and in control, and not one thing happened that He did not first allow.  As Linus from the Peanut's strip commented to Lucy's remark about God's promises being reassuring, "Sound theology has a way of doing that". So...

Everyone is different.  Some people need to have others around to feel loved, and have life and activity all around them.  Some people just want to share every sweet memory they have with anyone who will listen.  Some people need to be alone.  Some people need time to cry, or wrestle through their feelings whatever they may be.  Some people want to laugh.  Some people want a shoulder to cry on.  Some may even want you to cry right there with them.  So be sensitive to each person grieving.  And each person in a family is different.  Some may cry every single night.  Others may cry once.  Each have their way of expressing their sorrow.

Above all, though they are different, everyone needs the same thing: prayer, and the comfort of God.  They all need the saints of Christ to bear their burden, to weep with them, even if it is not physically with them.

So even though you can't know how they feel, you can tell them, "I don't know how you feel or what you are going through, but your sorrow is my sorrow, my prayers are for you." 

And don't forget them in a month or two.  They are living with a new reality.  Next year, remember to give them a hug, send them a card, or a phone call, or text, to say, I love you and remember your loss. 

With my friends, all I could do was lift my tearful prayers up to the throne of grace.  I know the shock, I know it is going to be a slow process of sorrow and then healing.  I know they need the grace, peace, love, and comfort of God more than any other time in their life, right now.  But I do not know how they feel.  But our heavenly Father does.  And oh how sweet it is when He works in His timing to heal the brokenhearted, to comfort those in sorrow, and to give peace that surpasses all understanding when the world around you is chaos.

This life is but a vapor, quickly passing, quickly fading.  You never know when the one you love may not be here the next moment.  Cherish the blessings God has given you this day.  Trust in His unfailing love, and His sovereign plan.  Do not take for granted what you have this day. For who commands his destiny?  Who truly controls his own life?-none.

Remember, He gives grace to His children, yet His children are still sinners, so they need grace from you and I when they lack grace when grieving. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

In Review: One, Two, & Three

Ok, so the title of the book(s) I read was not "One, Two & Three", but rather my meaning is that I have three reviews for this month.  I finished the first one in a couple weeks, the other one over the weekend, and the other was one Samuel and I read together.  March Madness!-of books.  Not Basketball.

The first one is one I had on my list.  The Revolution: A Manifesto, Ron Paul.  The Revolution is associated with Ron Paul and his awakening of many formerly ignorant and/or apathetic American's to the demise of Liberty and the treading on our Constitutional rights.  He wrote this book during his 2008 campaign, and in his preface he said why he wrote it:

      "There is an alternative to national bankruptcy, a bigger police state, trillion-dollar wars, and a government that draws evermore parasitically on the productive energies of the American people.  It's called freedom.  But as we've learned through hard experience, we are not going to hear a word in its favor if out political and media establishments have anything to say about it.
     If we want to live in a free society, we need to break free from these artificial limitations on free debate and start asking serious questions once again.  I am happy that my campaign for the presidency has finally raised some of them.  But this is a long-term project that will persist far into the future.  These ideas cannot be allowed to die, buried beneath the mind-numbing chorus of empty slogans and inanities that constitute official political discourse in America.
     That is why I wrote this book." pp. x-xi

 Also from the preface, one of my favorite lines was penned: "Truth is treason in the empire of lies."  Pure gold.  The further I got into this book, the more my mind screamed, "All the naysayers of Dr. Paul NEED to read this to get a glimpse of how intelligently sound his ideas and policies are!"-as opposed to the popular belief that he is a "kook" or "crazy".  Hardly.  If one can be so narrow minded as to believe what the media establishment frames him to be, and not research his policies, words, and own thoughts, and see for themselves whether he is crazy or not, then I declare them: deluded and blind.  Willful or not.  Dr. Paul is a champion for liberty for all Americans, even those who write him off.

I like the idea of letting the book speak for itself, and sharing a few excerpts of the words to tell their own story.  So I'll continue this trend.  From the chapter "The Foreign Policy of the Founding Fathers":

"This just-war tradition developed in the fourth century with Ambrose and Augustine but grew to maturity with Thomas Aquinas and such Late Scholastics as Francisco de Vitoria and Francisco Suarez... First, there has to be an initial act of aggression, in response to which a just war may be waged.  But there was no act of aggression against the United States.  We are 6,000 miles from Iraq... Second, diplomatic solutions had not been exhausted... Traditional just-war criteria also demand that the initiation of war be undertaken by the proper authority.  Under the U.S. constitution, the proper authority is neither the president nor the United Nations.  It is Congress-but Congress unconstitutionally delegated its decision-making power over war to the president." pp. 23

"How does Israel, with which the United States has long enjoyed a special relationship, fir into this picture?  I see no reason that our friendship with Israel cannot continue.  I favor extending to Israel the same honest friendship that Jefferson and the Founding Fathers urged us to offer all nations... that means I also favor discontinuing foreign aid to governments that are actual or potential enemies of Israel, which taken together receive much more American aid than Israel does.  Giving aid to both sides has understandably made many average Israelis and American Jews conclude that the American government is hypocritically hedging its bets." pp. 34

"Foreign aid is not only immoral, since it involved the forced transfer of wealth..." pp. 34

" As a matter of fact, the Institute for Advances Strategic and Political Studies in Jerusalem argues that, 'Foreign aid is the greatest obstacle to economic freedom in Israel." pp. 35

"The costs of our foreign policy have become so great that they risk bringing the country to bankruptcy." pp 35

"We should let the best measure of our American greatness come from free and peaceful trade with other nations, not from displays of our military might."  pp. 37

The next chapter is "The Constitution":

" 'Our peculiar security is in possession of a written Constitution,' Jefferson advised us.  'Let us not make it a blank paper by construction.' " pp. 45 (For those that think it is a "living document"!)

"The draft is a totalitarian institution that is based on the idea that the government owns you and can dispose of your life as it wishes... Young people are now raw material to be employed by the political class on behalf of whatever fashionable political, military, or social cause catches its fancy.  In a free society, their lives are not the playthings of government."  pp. 55, 58

"The Founding Fathers did not intend for every American neighborhood to be exactly the same-a totalitarian impulse if there ever was one-or that disputes over competing values should be decided by federal judges.  This is the constitutional approach to deciding all issues that are not spelled out explicitly in our
founding document: let neighbors and localities govern themselves." pp 62

And this is the chapter entitled "Economic Freedom":

"By 'legal plunder' Bastiat meant any use of government that enriched one group of people at the expense of another, and which would be illegal if private individuals tried to carry it out themselves." pp. 70

"I cannot finish a discussion of looting without mentioning the income tax... The income tax implies the same thing: government owns you, and graciously allows you to keep whatever percentage of the fruits of your labor it chooses." pp. 78

"We have lost our belief that freedom works, because we no longer have the imagination to conceive of how a free people might solve its problems without introducing threats of violence-which is what government solutions ultimately are."  pp. 85

"HMO's have become corporate bureaucratic middlemen in our healthcare system, driving up costs while degrading the quality of medical care.  In all other industries, technology has nearly always led to lower prices-except in health care, thanks to the managed-care system that has been forced on us." pp. 87
This next chapter is on "Civil Liberties and Personal Freedom":

"Toward the end of 2007, Senator Jeff Sessions declared, 'Some people in this chamber love the Constitution more than they love the safety of this nation.  We should all send President Bush a letter thanking him for protecting us.'  What kind of sheep must politicians take Americas for if the expect us to fall for creepy propaganda like this?" pp. 125 *chuckles*

I will spare you of the entire book via quotations.  But it such a light and easy read, you could finish it in one setting, if you had the time to spare.  Dr. Paul is not perfect, and I do not agree with everything he says.  But for an introduction into the concept of Liberty and the lack in American politics, I highly recommend this book.  Dr. Paul is a man of integrity, who is consistent, and deserves to be respected. 

So I give this book 4 1/2 Stars.  4) being, a really great book, useful to instruct, thought provoking/good entertainment, very challenging, growth as a reader, way more good than bad (I really didn't have any qualms with anything he said in this book), would recommend. Worth reading again.

Book Two:  The Last Disciple Hank HaneGraff, Sigmund Brouwer

This is a fictional novel about the end times.  End times?  Indeed.  Set in AD 65.  By far the best fiction I've read in a while (could also be because I haven't read any fiction in quite a while).  Also, this blows "Left Behind" out of the water.  Yes, I read the entirety of the "Adult Series" of Left Behind AND almost all of the "Kids Series", so I have the right to comparison in full depth.  My only caution about this book would be that it is more for mature Christian readers.  I would not want a young person to read it.  By young, it is relative, there can be extremely mature 16 year olds, and very immature 17 years olds.  But I would not recommend any younger than that simply because some of the sinful nature described in the book is slightly graphic for a *Christian* book.  But let it be said, I've read worse in the so called "Christian fiction", think Karen Kingsbury (and she is pretty mild compared to others).

An excerpt from the Afterword:

"The Last Disciple presents an alternative to the Left Behind understanding of end times events based on a methodology called Exegetical Eschatology (E2)... the plain and proper reading of a biblical passage must always take precedence over a particular eschatological presupposition or paradigm.

For example, the pretribulational rapture model featured in the Left Behind series interprets Revelation 13 in a strictly literal fashion.  Thus, Antichrist dies and resurrects himself physically in order to vindicate
his claim to be god...

In sharp contrast, The Last Disciple series exegetes Revelation 13 in light of the whole of scripture.  Thus, Satan can parody
the work of Christ, through "all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders" (2 Thessalonians 2:9), but cannot literally do what Christ did-namely raise himself from the dead." pp. 393-394

This receives a 4 Star. 4) being, a really great book, useful to instruct, thought provoking/good entertainment, very challenging, growth as a reader, way more good than bad, would recommend. Worth reading again.An enjoyable book to read.

Book Three: Easy Chairs Hard Words, Douglas Wilson.

Remember when I did my review on Luther's Bondage of the will?-and I said I would not recommend it to someone interested in this topic of an enslaved will for the first time?  Well, this is the book I would highly recommend!  This book was written in a conversational style, making it very easy to follow the concepts, ideas, and scripture, without it feeling like a heavy, boring, plodding theological work.  Anywhere from Jr. High level reading, to adult reading.  It is set up as a young man going to a "Calvinist" pastor of the town secretly to ask him some questions about his struggles.  Doug Wilson does an excellent job knocking down all the horrible stereotypes about so called "Calvinists" and instead avoids the term, but rather presents the fictional character, and the reader, with a plethora of scripture to show how scripture interprets scripture, and we never ever throw out the word of God just because it doesn't fit our theology.

Whether you are scared of predestination, election, and the full sovereignty of God, whether it depresses you, whether you hate it and shake you first saying *That's not my God!*, or you already accept God's word on these matters, this is an excellent book to read, or give to a friend.

One thing we really liked about this book was the amount of time and space Scripture took up in this book.  It wasn't a bunch of straw men Doug knocks down, or even a bunch of impersonal opinions of doctrine, but rather a riveting magnified look at scripture side by side, topic by topic, going into the Greek on occasion.

God receives all the glory due his name.

This book gets the gold.  5 Stars.  5) being, found enjoyable, challenging, useful in many ways, would highly recommend with no holding back, over all EXCELLENT book. Need to read again!

So there you have it, my bonus reviews. I enjoyed March and the diversity of the books I was able to consume.  One political, one fictional, one theological. I think this month I may do more than one review as well.  I've already finished one book. (:

Soli Deo Gloria & Sola Scriptura!