Category Archives: Book Review

Battling Enemies – A Book Review

A couple of months ago our pastor did a sermon series based on Deep & Wide by Andy Stanley. He encouraged the whole congregation to read the book along with the sermon series. I resisted buying it because I knew if I went to Amazon to buy it I would end up with one or more other books in my cart so that I could get the free super saver shipping that comes with spending more than $25.

Then one evening my husband found a towel rack for our kitchen on Amazon and since I have an Amazon account he asked if I could get it for us. Well, of course I had to add something else to the cart for that super saver shipping. So I decided to get Deep & Wide. But once I added it to my cart I still was below $25, which prompted me to look around for another book to buy. I ended up with another Andy Stanley book called Enemies of the Heart.

I have yet to crack the spine on Deep & Wide, but I read Enemies of the Heart cover to cover in less than a week. I found in this small book some truths that I knew but needed to hear again in a new way.

The great thing about Andy Stanley is that his writing style is so readable. The concepts he shares are deep, but he doesn’t use big words and convoluted arguments to convey them. The message of Enemies of the Heart is simple: there are four emotions that if left unchecked will control our lives in a negative way, but God has provided a way to deal with each of these toxic emotions. The four emotions are guilt, anger, greed, and jealousy.

I’m going to share Stanley’s insights in a nutshell, but I strongly encourage you to read the whole book because it is the anecdotes and the scripture references he uses to flesh out these insights that have really helped me to hold onto their truth. So here’s the nutshell version:

  1. Guilt says, “I owe you.” This emotion stems from actions we have taken that have hurt others. The solution is confession, not just to God but to the person we have hurt.
  2. Anger says, “You owe me.” This emotion stems from actions others have taken that have hurt us and the debt we feel they owe us. To solution is forgiveness, which requires that we figure out what the other person has taken from us, and then to make the conscious decision to cancel that debt.
  3. Greed says, “I owe me.” This emotion stems from a fear that we will lose what we have, that our future is uncertain, and a tendency to hang onto our possessions matter what. The solution is generous giving, which ultimately leads to a trust in God to provide our needs.
  4. Jealousy says, “God owes me.” This emotion stems from a belief that if God could provide a nice car, a big house, a great job, etc. for my neighbor, then He could have done the same for me. Jealousy is not a problem with the person who has what we want, it is a problem with God, who has not provided us with what we want. The solution is to celebrate the blessings of others.

All of these enemies of the heart involve debt—and debt must either be repaid or cancelled, or it will always cloud relationships. Sometimes we don’t even realize a debt is owed, so often just identifying the enemy is the first step. Stanley does a great job in this book of getting to the heart of the matter and helping the reader to identify the emotional enemies that are holding them back from enjoying loving and vibrant relationships with family, friends, and God. I would give this book a definite 5 out of 5 stars.

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A Treasure Trove of Quotes

One of my favorite authors of all time is C.S. Lewis. The man was brilliant, his arguments logical, and his imagination astounding. I recently returned a book that I got for Christmas, and in its place got three others. (I should only have gotten one, but my husband is so nice and let me get three when I couldn’t decide). One of the three books I got is The Quotable Lewis. I love it because when I come across a Lewis quote I can use this book to determine what book it is from. It contains 600 pages of quotes from Lewis’ many books, all organized by topic kind of like a dictionary.

I was flipping through this book last night, just reading random quotes. I came across one that I wanted to share.

It is clear that there never was a time when nothing existed; otherwise nothing would exist now. Miracles, ch. 11, pg. 88 (1947).

This is a wonderful example of Lewis’ logical reasoning. How would anything exist now if there was nothing in the first place?

This logical argument doesn’t reach the point of determining what or who it is that always existed, but it does lead one to inquire about it. It makes no logical sense to start any inquiry about our universe from the standpoint of nothing becoming something.

Lewis was a very learned man and a prolific reader and writer. He had read and studied all the great philosophers that came before him as well as his contemporaries. During his early adult life he was an atheist, but eventually came to realize that atheism was not a logically tenable position.

No philosophical theory which I have yet come across is a radical improvement on the words of Genesis, that “in the beginning God made Heaven and Earth.” Miracles, ch. 4, pg. 33 (1947).

I am not nearly as well read as Lewis, but I have to agree.

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Science, Faith, and Reason

Many people believe that there is no room for God in scientific exploration and that belief in God must be based on irrational and unsubstantiated faith. Someone recently said to me:

I have a hard time trying to reconcile your belief in God and your belief in science. The two don’t really mix. I have always been a “prove it to me” person, I know that is why you call it “Faith.”

According to Dictionary.com, science is “systematic knowledge of the physical or material world gained through observation and experimentation.” And the scientific method is “a method of research in which a problem is identified, relevant data are gathered, a hypothesis is formulated from these data, and the hypothesis is empirically tested.”

Although there are certainly scientists who are atheists, there are many well-known scientists who are (or were in the case of those who are deceased) either theists (meaning they believe in a creator God but not necessarily the Christian God) or are Christians. Albert Einstein was a theist. Blaise Pascal was a Christians. Isaac Newton was a monotheist. A New York Times article title Scientists Speak Up on Mix of God and Science reports:

According to a much-discussed survey reported in the journal Nature in 1997, 40 percent of biologists, physicists and mathematicians said they believed in God – and not just a nonspecific transcendental presence but, as the survey put it, a God to whom one may pray “in expectation of receiving an answer.”

The scientific method, applied in an unbiased way, leads to discoveries about our physical and natural world. But it cannot answer the moral questions of life — why we are here, what our purpose in life is, whether a particular human action is right or wrong.

Scientists who are atheists often claim to be unbiased in their pursuit of truth. But none of us is completely unbiased. Everyone views the evidence before them in light of their own experiences and beliefs. If a person believes there is no creator God, then they will view scientific evidence through that lens or bias, and every piece of evidence will support that belief. If, on the other hand, a person believes in a creator God, then they will view scientific evidence through that lens or bias, and every piece of evidence will support that belief.

For example, scientific evidence of DNA has shown that humans have some DNA in common with other creatures. The atheist sees this as evidence that all life evolved from a single celled organism in a regular progression, even though there is no direct evidence that one species gave birth to a different species. The theist, on this other hand, sees this same DNA evidence as supporting the idea of a creator who used similar building blocks in the creation of various basic forms of life.

Science can never prove beyond all doubt the existence or non-existence of God. But science, coupled with reason and philosophical study, can reasonably lead to the conclusion that God does exist and is the creator of all things. In God: The Evidence, scientist Patrick Glynn “demonstrates that faith today is not grounded in ignorance. It is where reason has been leading us all along.”

I admit that my consideration of scientific evidence is filtered through the bias that God exists. Glynn, however, had no such initial bias. He was an atheist for many years, but the scientific evidence and reason led him to a different conclusion.

In my experience, faith and science, bounded together by reason, mix quite well.

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Knowing God’s Love

I have this great daily devotional called Walking with God Day by Day by Martyn Lloyd-Jones. The devotion for each day is excerpted from one of his many books. I’ve never been very good at reading it every day, but whenever I do pick it up God never fails to reveal to me something of His great love and mercy.

I tend to read several devotions in a row right before bed. On one such occasion several weeks ago I read three devotions that covered what Lloyd-Jones called ”ten tests that you can apply to yourself to know for certain that you know the love of God to you.” Walking with God, Nov. 28.

I found great comfort in these ten tests, though even before I read them I knew that God loves me, just as He loves you and all mankind. I decided I wanted to share these ten tests, but with the added thought that even if you find you do not “pass” one or more of the tests, you can still rest assured that God loves you. I believe that coming to the point of being able to pass each of these tests is a process every believer must go through. It is by the sanctification of the indwelling Holy Spirit that we learn what we must to reach the goal of full assurance of God’s love.

The moment we believe in the Lord Jesus as our Savior, we are saved. But God loved us even before that; even before the foundation of the world He loved us. His love never changes; it is only our recognition and understanding of that love that changes over time as He draws us closer to Him.

So here are the ten tests (all from Walking with God, Nov. 28, 29, & 30):

  1. “a loss and absence of the sense that God is against us.”
  2. “a loss of the fear of God, while a sense of awe remains.”
  3. “a feeling and a sense that God is for us and that God loves us.”
  4. “a sense of sins forgiven.”
  5. “a sense of gratitude and thanksgiving to God.”
  6. “an increasing hatred of sin.”
  7. “a desire to please God and to live a good life because of what He has done for us.”
  8. “a desire to know Him better and to draw closer to Him.”
  9. “a conscious regret that our love to Him is so poor, along with a desire to love Him more.”
  10. “a delight in hearing these things and in hearing about Him.”

Remember, do not despair if you feel you can’t pass them all today. “[H]e who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6 (NIV).

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The Things People Will Believe

I am always amazed at the things people will believe and repost on Facebook. Here are just a few examples:

  • Once again the “fact” that the coming month has 5 Fridays, 5 Saturdays, and 5 Sundays, and that this won’t happen again for 823 years, has been going around. The shared post usually says that if you pass it on you will have good luck or come into some money. It’s fairly easy to debunk this claim by looking an online perpetual calendar, which will reveal that any 31 day month that starts on a Friday will have this 5 Friday, 5 Saturday, and 5 Sunday pattern. And yet people keep falling for this.
  • A well-meaning warning has been circulating again of a new “trick” of car-jackers. The story is that the car-jackers put a piece of paper on the back window of a car in a mall parking lot and then lay in wait for the owner. When the owner gets in and starts the car, they notice the piece of paper in their back window, and jump out with the car running to see what it is. The would-be car-jacker then jumps in the car and drives off. There are apparently no reported cases of this actually happening in all the years it has been circulating via email and now on Facebook.
  • During the recent election season a post about how members of Congress do not pay into Social Security and all draw salaries equal to their salaries in office for the rest of their lives regardless of how long they were in Congress. A simple search on www.snopes.com will reveal the truth about the retirement options of members of Congress. And yet people continue to repost this, calling for change.
  • Since it is the Christmas season, the post attributing a long monologue to Ben Stein has been going around. The first few paragraphs are part of a commentary Stein gave on TV several years ago. But then tacked on the end are some blurbs about Madeleine O’Hare, prayer in schools, and several other topics about how our government is anti-Christian, all of which have been circulating in some form or another for years, and are not in any way attributable to Stein. The mere fact that these things have circulated forever should be enough to make anyone be skeptical. And yet people keep reposting it.

It seems that just because something is posted in a nicely formatted box or comes with a picture of a celebrity people are willing to believe and repost without checking the source of the information. People can be so gullible about the stupidest things.

And yet these same people will often refuse to believe the miracles of God. Even though we have eye-witness accounts of many of these miracles—from the shepherds telling of the angels announcing the birth of Jesus to the post-crucifixion appearance of the resurrected Christ to over 500—people refuse to believe. It is unfathomable that the One who created the world and all that is in it would come to us as the child of a virgin, would live His relatively short life mostly in obscurity, then would die a horrible and brutal death, and be raised from the dead to walk again among the living. It is unfathomable—unless one is willing to believe in the miracle of love and grace.

The apostle John summed up the eye-witness accounts of the authors of the New Testament when he wrote: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.”

Some argue that the eye-witness testimony of the New Testament is not reliable because we can’t really know if the Bible as we currently know it is an accurate representation of what was originally written. However, both the quantity and quality of available early manuscripts of the New Testament books, as well as the short time span between the available manuscripts and the events they cover, all point to the reliability of the New Testament. As compared to other accepted writings of ancient philosophers, the New Testament is unparalleled in its reliability. Here is part of a chart from I’m Glad You Asked by Ken Boa and Larry Moody, pg. 93, comparing the New Testament to other writings:

Author Date Written Earliest Copy Time Span Number of Copies Accuracy
Homer ca. 850 B.C. —— —— 643 95%
Plato ca. 380 B.C. ca. A.D. 900 1,300 years 7 Not enough copies to reconstruct original
Aristotle ca. 350 B.C. ca. A.D. 1100 1,400 years 5
Caesar ca. 60 B.C. ca. A.D. 900 950 years 10
Tacitus ca. A.D. 100 ca. A.D. 1100 1,000 years 20
New Testament ca. A.D. 60 ca. A.D. 130 100 years 14,000 99.5%

The Bible makes some incredible claims about Jesus and the means of salvation. But when you check the source of this information, the reliability of its eye-witness accounts, and the internal consistency of the promises of God contained in this wonderful book, it doesn’t require gullibility to believe. It only requires an open mind to believe in miracles.

If you are interested in exploring the reliability of this Good News further, I highly recommend Boa and Moody’s book.

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Courting Controversy; Trusting in Love

Normally on my blog the only really controversial subject I write about is my belief that Jesus is the only way to salvation. It is a subject I feel strongly about and feel led to share about.

There is another controversial subject that I have never written about here, but that has been on my mind a lot lately. In fact having this post rattle around in my head taking up space for the past month is a big part of the reason I took a month off from posting. I have wanted to avoid this subject because no matter how I approaches it, there is bound to be someone who takes offense and reads something into what I’ve written that was not what I intended. It is a subject that is typically “discussed” with sound bites and angry one-liners.

In the end, I’ve decided to write about this subject in terms of my own story as well as adding a bit of a book review in the mix. This controversial subject is abortion.

For much of my life I was strongly pro-choice. I even attended a NARAL rally with my sister in Portland, Oregon many years ago. I was (and still am) a strong proponent of a woman’s right to make decisions regarding her own body, and I believed that making sure a woman could have an abortion any time she chose to was the best way to protect that right.

But then something happened that changed my heart and mind on abortion. My son was five years old at the time and I found out I was pregnant. My husband and I were thrilled because we had been trying to get pregnant with our second child for four years. We were so excited that we told everyone when I was only six-weeks along.

About a week later I started having some spotting so I went to see the nurse practitioner at my doctor’s office. She sent me for an ultrasound. I had never had an ultrasound before except when I was almost nine months along with my son, so I was not really prepared for what I saw. The ultrasound technician pointed out my little baby and his or her heartbeat on the monitor. The baby was very small, but the human shape and the beating heart were unmistakable.

Unfortunately, the ultrasound also revealed that my placenta was tearing away from the uterine wall. I was directed to go home and rest, and I hoped that it would heal and all would be okay. Two days later I had a miscarriage.

In my grief over the loss of this child I cried out to God, but I found comfort in the thought that someday I would meet my little baby in heaven. Suddenly I realized how hypocritical and illogical it was to mourn the loss of this child only seven weeks after his or her conception while simultaneously believing that to abort a child at the same stage of development involved only the mother’s body. I realized that what Dr. Seuss once said through the words of Horton the Elephant was true: “A person’s a person no matter how small.”

Several years later a friend loaned me a book titled Won by Love by Norma McCorvey. It is her autobiography as Jane Roe of Roe v. Wade. She tells the story of how she became the poster child for the pro-choice movement, worked in an abortion clinic, and was ultimately won over by love to the realization that abortion was not a right worth fighting for. Her story is heartbreaking and compelling. In her first-hand recounting of her time working in an abortion clinic, Norma exposes the truth that abortion clinics and doctors were more concerned about their bottom lines than about the health and care of women facing crisis. Her story is worth reading.

Then when my son was in the eighth grade he took a communications class in which he was required to prepare and present several speeches. When the persuasive speech assignment came up, he was randomly assigned the pro-life position on abortion. As he worked on his speech he shared with me the research that he had found in the school’s article database. The research showed that women who have an abortion with their first pregnancy are 30% to 40% more likely to suffer from depression, attempt to or successfully commit suicide, and to get breast cancer than women who brought their first pregnancy to term. I wondered if these risks are shared with women facing this choice by clinics like Planned Parenthood. Based on Norma McCorvey’s story I suspect that they are not.

When all is said and done, I find that I do not advocate for making abortion completely illegal. This would only lead to those who profit from this industry to go underground and abortion would become even more dangerous than it is.

What I do advocate is that when faced with a decision about what to do with an unplanned pregnancy, women should be given all the information necessary to make an informed and logical choice. They should not be led to believe that the only option is to abort their child, because adoption is also a viable option. They should be made aware of the fact that the child inside them is a living being with his or her own heartbeat. They should be informed that having an abortion increases their risk of depression, suicidal tendencies, and breast cancer by as much as 30% to 40%. They should be made aware that the child they are considering aborting may be destined to be a woman who also deserves the right to choose.

But all of the facts, statistics, and rhetoric in the world will never be enough to change a person’s position on this issue. My position was changed by love – by the love I felt for my lost child and the love of God. Norma McCorvey’s position was changed by the love of the folks at Operation Rescue that moved in next door to the abortion clinic she worked at and the love of God. Ultimately it is love that will win the day in the battle for the lives of unborn children who have no voice of their own.

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True Regret Leads to Victory

The other day I was thinking about why Christians sometimes continue to struggle with sinful behavior when Jesus has given us the power to overcome by His Holy Spirit living in us. I pondered writing a blog post about this topic, but wasn’t really sure what to write or what the solution was.

Then I was reading book two of The Chronicles of Brothers by Wendy Alec and came across a statement by Jether, one of the twenty-four elders of heaven (see Revelation 4:4), in response to a question from Gabriel the archangel:

“Michael . . .” [Gabriel] raised his face up to the abandoned west wing, his eyes filled with intense sorrow. “Do you think Lucifer has regret?”

“No,” a soft voice echoed.

Gabriel turned. Jether the Just, imperial angelic monarch and ruler of the twenty-four ancient kings of Yehovah, stood on the gilded steps above them, his silvered hair and beard blowing in the soft zephyrs off the sea. . . .

“If he has regret, Gabriel . . .” Jether walked toward them across the sands, the pearls covering his lime green jeweled slippers as he walked. “. . . it is regret for himself, as he realizes the consequences of his choice . . . of his fall. But true regret . . .” Jether stared upward, north of the two trees of Eden, to the colossal golden, ruby-encrusted door . . . the entrance to the throne room.

True regret is based on repentance—grieving for the sin, not the consequence of sin. The two are quite contradictory. Completely opposed.” Jether’s pale blue eyes blazed with an uncharacteristic fervor. “And they must never be confused.”
Messiah—The First Judgment, pg. 49-50 (emphasis added).

So often I think we do confuse the two. When we regret the consequences of our sin and change our behavior as a result, we think we have repented. But the change in behavior doesn’t stick and we eventually return to our old habits and behavior.

For example, we are gluttonous and overeat, never thinking of those who have little or nothing to eat. As a consequence of our overeating, we gain weight and our clothes don’t fit. We don’t really regret the sin of gluttony, but we regret that our favorite pants won’t button.

So we go on a diet and for a while we change our eating habits. But once we lose weight and get back into those favorite clothes, we go right back to our gluttonous behavior.

It is only when we truly repent and regret the sin of gluttony itself, confessing our sin to God and asking His help to overcome, that permanent change occurs.

There are a number of other examples I could give, and it’s easy to think of the sins of others and how they struggle. It’s harder to look inward and examine whether I have true regret for my own sin. There are definitely sins in my life that God has helped me completely overcome because I have had true regret based on repentance.

Victory over sin is within the Christian’s grasp. True regret and reliance on the Holy Spirit are the answer.

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Be Careful You Don’t Fall

This weekend I was out camping, and one of my favorite things about camping is that it affords me a great deal of reading time. I started a book last week and was able to finish it before we headed home from the camping trip. It is a book I have read before and is the first in a fictional series call The Chronicles of Brothers by Wendy Alec. The first time I read it was many years ago before books two and three of the series were released. I recently purchased books two and three, and am anticipating the release of book four later this year, so I decided it would be a good idea to re-read book one.

The first book in the series is called The Fall of Lucifer. It is the story of how Lucifer, the light-bearer and chief archangel of heaven, God’s first and most beautiful creation, was overcome with jealousy and pride resulting in his expulsion from the presence of almighty God and the heavenly realms. The series title—The Chronicles of Brothers—is based on the three main archangels mentioned in the Bible: Lucifer, Michael, and Gabriel.

There is definitely a Biblical basis to this book, though the author does use a great deal of creativity and imagination in describing the terrain of the First Heaven and the relationships among the various angelic hosts of heaven. The Bible does not tell us of how much Lucifer adored and worshipped Yehovah before his fall and banishment, but such adoration and worship is what the light-bearer was created for. And so Alec’s description of Lucifer’s relationship with God, with the Christ, is well within the realm of Biblical truth.

As I read this book, I kept thinking of a verse from one of Paul’s epistles: “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” 1 Corinthians 10:12 (NIV).

There is a great lesson to be learned from The Fall of Lucifer. He was the highest of the angels of heaven, second only to God himself. He walked in the very presence of God, communed with God, and was privy to the wonders and majesty of all of heaven. He had everything to live for and everything to lose.

And yet Lucifer allowed pride and jealousy over God’s love for man, the creation in God’s own image, to lead to his fall. He allowed iniquity to dwell in his heart and refused to repent. As Alec portrays the story, there were opportunities for Lucifer to repent and God, in His mercy, would have blotted out his iniquity. The prophet Ezekiel recorded God’s description of him:

You were the anointed cherub who covers;
I established you;
You were on the holy mountain of God;
You walked back and forth in the midst of fiery stones.
You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created,
Till iniquity was found in you.
Ezekiel 28:14-15 (NKJV).

It occurs to me that we all must heed the lesson of Lucifer’s fall and the admonition of Paul. We may think we stand firm in the truth and grace of Christ, but we must always be careful that we do not let iniquity dwell in our hearts and cause us to fall. None of us is immune from temptation.

But after his admonishment, Paul provided this encouragement:

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.
1 Corinthians 10:13 (NIV).

Now it’s on to book two in the series: Messiah – The First Judgment.

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Finding the Right Herb for Recipe Friday

I don’t have a recipe for today. Instead, I want to share some information about selecting herbs and spices from an old cookbook I have titled How to Cook with Herbs, Spices & Flavorings by Doris Townsend. I don’t know if I’ve ever actually made one of the recipes in this cookbook, but there is a chart in the front that tells what herbs and spices go best with various foods that I refer to a lot.

This chart includes columns for appetizers, soups and chowders, salads, fish and shellfish, poultry and game, meats, sauces, eggs and cheese, and vegetables. My favorite, and most used, column is the vegetable column. This is the one I want to share today.

I hope this information helps you in your side-dish cooking as much as it helps me.

Basil

Beans
Eggplant
Onions
Peas
Squash
Tomatoes

Bay Leaf

Beets
Carrots
Potatoes
Stewed Tomatoes

Chervil

Beets
Eggplant
Peas
Potatoes
Spinach
Tomatoes

Dillweed

Beans
Beets
Cabbage
Celery
Parsnips
Potatoes

Marjoram

Brussels sprouts
Carrots
Onions
Peas
Spinach
Zucchini

Oregano

Broccoli
Cabbage
Lentils
Mushrooms
Onions
Tomatoes

Parsley

Carrots
Potatoes
Tomatoes

Peppermint

Carrots
Peas
Potatoes
Spinach
Zucchini

Rosemary

Cauliflower
Cucumbers
Mushrooms
Peas
Potatoes
Spinach

Saffron

Vegetables & rice
Squash
Zucchini

Sage

Carrots
Eggplant
Lima beans
Onions
Peas
Tomatoes

Savory

Artichokes
Asparagus
Beans
Lentils
Rice
Sauerkraut

Tarragon

Cauliflower
Celery root
Mushrooms
Potatoes
Spinach
Tomatoes

Thyme

Asparagus
Beans
Beets
Carrots
Onions
Zucchini

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Jesus Is the Reason, and Not Just for the Season

I’m reading a great book called Jesus Manifesto by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola. I bought it probably eight or nine months ago, and it just sat on my bookshelf with all my other not-yet-read books for a long time. Then about a month ago I decided to finally read it. It seemed appropriate for reading during the Advent season because it is all about the supremacy of Christ.

As I read this book, I thought of the apostle John’s warning to the church that the antichrist would deny that Jesus Christ came in the flesh. 1 John 4:1-3 (NIV). In the first century of the church, many people found it hard to believe in the incarnate God. They had no trouble believing in God, but they did have trouble believing in the humanity of Christ.

Today we have the opposite problem. People have no trouble believing that Jesus lived as a human being and walked this earth, but they do have trouble believing that He was God incarnate. The virgin birth is seen as a scientific impossibility, and the possibility of a miracle is discounted. Jesus has become for many just a good example to follow; and they seek to follow Him in their own power.

The problem with this view is that is strips the Christian faith of its real power, which lies solely in the incarnate Christ who died and rose again – literally. The Christian faith at its core is simply and wonderfully Jesus and the power of His Holy Spirit, which He imparts to those who believe.

In Jesus Manifesto, Sweet and Viola successfully argue that it is essential that the church return to a Christ-only mentality. Christ is the center of all things in heaven and earth. Jesus is the reason we believe, and not just for the season of Christmas but for every minute of every day. Jesus asked the question of Peter, “Who do you say that I am?” Matthew 16:15 (NIV). Sweet and Viola argue that this is the question that every generation must answer.

Every revival and restoration in the church has been a rediscovery of some aspect of Christ in the process of answering this critical question. In fact, three features are present in every awakening in the history of the Christian church: (1) rediscovery of the “living Word,” or the Scriptures and its authority; (2) a rediscovery of the living Christ and His supremacy; and (3) a rediscovery of the living Spirit and the Spirit’s gifts and power to manifest Christ in the context of that culture. God has a history of taking seriously people who take the eternal Word seriously. (Jesus Manifesto, pg. xvii).

Throughout the book, Sweet and Viola point out some ways in which the church today fails to take the eternal Word made flesh seriously. This book is not for the faint-hearted who are happy with the status quo. This is a book for those who are willing to be challenged in their concept of church and of Christ. It is for those who are willing to believe in the miraculous and to trust in Christ alone.

The apostles and the first century church taught Christ and Him crucified – nothing more and nothing less. The church today teaches:

  • how to live a good, clean life
  • church multiplication strategies
  • the mark of the beast and end times prophecy
  • the 613 laws of Moses, exhorting them to obey each one of them
  • how to build a movement
  • divine healing
  • how to live by faith
  • how to save the lost
  • Creation versus evolution
  • social justice
    (Jesus Manifesto, pg. 12-13)

The focus of the church today is how we can be like Jesus, how we can help the poor, living good lives, recognize and survive the end times, and defeat the powers of darkness. But often we are taught how to do all of these things without any mention of reliance on His Holy Spirit to do so. The literal indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the hearts and minds of believers is relegated to a back burner, or not considered at all.

There is a pervasive theology of “likeness” — “O God, make me more Christlike” — that cheapens the gospel and depresses the spirit. Christlikeness is too small a dream, to shallow and ambition, for a Christian. The call to Christlikeness is also not “good news.”

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Second, we want a “like-Christ” relationship with God on our terms. But a loving, living relationship with Christ begins on God’s terms. In other words, it begins with the cross, or more precisely, a “dying with Christ.” It begins with a “death” to all those parts of us that are damping and hampering the Spirit’s work and preventing us from being “liberated from the controlling powers of [the] world,”FN the destructive, dehumanizing, controlling forces, like addictions, selfism, consumerism, hedonism, and others.

Third, to be “like Christ” often implies that you don’t really need Christ, since you already have the ideas and teachings of Christ.

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Fourth, as Martin Luther said, if you read the Law, you will see that you can never hope to keep it. Similarly, try to be like Christ, and you will quickly realize you don’t have a prayer of becoming like Him. (Jesus Manifesto, pg. 69-71).

Jesus is not just the “reason for the season.” He is the reason for everything. All things exist by Him, through Him, and for Him. He is the center of all and the only way for you and me to overcome this world. We must not strive to become like Christ. Rather, we must seek Christ dwelling in us and through us, surrendering our lives wholly over to Him who alone is worthy.

Although I still have two chapters to go to finish this book, I would highly recommend it. I also recommend keeping your Bible handy to allow for easy reference to the many Scriptures that the authors rely on to support their argument. I hope and pray that there will be a revival in the church today with a renewed focus on Christ alone as the source of our power to love and live a life pleasing to God.

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