Friday, July 30, 2010

Book Quotes: Was There Really a World-Wide Flood?

From The New Answers Book, Vol. 1:

Was There Really a Noah’s Ark & Flood?
by Ken Ham & Tim Lovett

The account of Noah and the Ark is one of the most widely known events in the history of mankind. Unfortunately, like other Bible accounts, it is often taken as a mere fairy tale.

The Bible, though, is the true history book of the universe, and in that light, the most-asked questions about the Ark and Flood of Noah can be answered with authority and confidence.

How Large Was Noah’s Ark?
The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, its width fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits (Genesis 6:15).

Unlike many whimsical drawings that depict the Ark as some kind of overgrown houseboat (with giraffes sticking out the top), the Ark described in the Bible was a huge vessel. Not until the late 1800s was a ship built that exceeded the capacity of Noah’s Ark.

The dimensions of the Ark are convincing for two reasons: the proportions are like that of a modern cargo ship, and it is about as large as a wooden ship can be built. The cubit gives us a good indication of size.1 With the cubit’s measurement, we know that the Ark must have been at least 450 feet (137 m) long, 75 feet (23 m) wide, and 45 feet (14 m) high. In the Western world, wooden sailing ships never got much longer than about 330 feet (100 m), yet the ancient Greeks built vessels at least this size 2,000 years earlier. China built huge wooden ships in the 1400s that may have been as large as the Ark. The biblical Ark is one of the largest wooden ships of all time—a mid-sized cargo ship by today’s standards.

Read the rest of the article.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Zondervan Atlas of the Bible by Carl G. Rasmussen

book cover

Zondervan Atlas of the Bible,
Revised Edition
by Carl G. Rasmussen

Hardback: 304 pages
Publisher: Zondervan
Released: 2010

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description from Back Cover:
This major revision of the Gold Medallion Award-winning Zondervan NIV Atlas of the Bible is a visual feast that will help you experience the geography and history of Scripture with unprecedented clarity. It represents the most comprehensive Bible atlas ever designed for students, Bible study groups, adult learners, travelers/pilgrims to the lands of the Bible, pastors, teachers, and all lovers of the Bible.

The first section of the Atlas introduces the geographical setting of biblical history—using three–dimensional maps and photographic images to help the lands of the Bible come alive. The next section, arranged historically, begins with Eden and traces the historical progression of the Old and New Testaments. It provides an engaging, accurate, and faithful companion to God’s Word—illuminating the text with over one hundred full-color, multidimensional maps created with the help of Digital Elevation Modeling data. It concludes with chapters on the history of Jerusalem, the disciplines of historical geography, and the most complete and accurate listing and discussion of place-names found in any atlas.

Throughout the Atlas, innovative graphics, chronological charts, and over one hundred specially selected images help illuminate the geographical and historical context of biblical events.

The Zondervan Atlas of the Bible is destined to become a favorite guide to biblical geography for students of the Bible. This accessible and complete resource will assist you as you enter into the world of the Bible as never before.

Zondervan Atlas of the Bible is an excellent Bible atlas that also contains Bible background information. It was full of color photographs of the various regions so the reader could see what they look like (in modern times). There were also some pictures of ruins from various cities in the Bible. There were charts, timelines, and, of course, lots and lots of maps. Most of the maps had a 3D look to show the relative elevation and also showed the locations of cities, rivers, and known ancient international and intra-national roads. The maps in the Historical section also showed the movement of troops or people during the events mentioned in the Bible.

The first part covered elevation, cities, roads, and agricultural information (like what the terrain was like, rainfall, and what crops were grown in the region) for the various regions in Canaan as well as relevant areas of Egypt, Sinai, and Mesopotamia. It also covered how the Biblical feasts aligned with the planting/harvesting cycle for various crops, the months, and the rainy/dry seasons. It explained how the geography influenced Biblical events, which was very enlightening. It made the Bible "come alive." The text was concise and easy to understand. I plan on reading this part again because it had so much useful information.

The second part went through the historical narrative of the Bible, starting with Eden and ending with Revelation. Each historical section had a timeline at the start which showed Biblical events aligned with rulers in Syria/Mesopotamia and Egypt as well as what archaeological period it fell under. The author acknowledged that not everyone will agree with how he lined things up.

The text summarized the various Biblical events related to the maps and tied in archaeological findings (like if city remains were found for that time period or if archaeologists have uncovered non-Biblical records referring to those Biblical cities or kings). He also gave an international view of events by tying in information from Egypt and Mesopotamia records about various battles that affected Canaan/Israel as well.

For those who care, the author has Abraham entering Canaan in 2091 BC, which he says was in the middle of the Middle Bronze I period. He has Jacob and his family entering Egypt in 1876 BC, in Middle Bronze IIA, and during the Egyptian 12th Dynasty. He has the Exodus from Egypt in 1446 BC, during the Late Bronze I period, and during Thutmose III's reign in Egypt. He has Joshua beginning his conquest of Canaan in 1406 BC and near the end of the Late Bronze IIA period. He has Judges occurring during the Iron I period. And then he doesn't refer to the periods anymore.

I side with those who think the evidence strongly supports the scheme of: Joshua's conquest of Canaan brought about the start of Middle Bronze I and the Assyrian conquest of Israel and Babylonian conquest of Judah--and exile of much of their populations during each--explains the lack of population seen in Israel in the Late Bronze periods. So the archaeological tie-ins the author used weren't as useful for me since I had to put them into the context I use. Also, I agree with the group inspired by Immanuel Velikovsky and Donovan Courville that believe the alignment this author used for connecting Mesopotamia and Egyptian kings to the Biblical timeline is also off. So the timelines were useless for me.

Also, the author tried to identify where the Garden of Eden was located on current geography, but he overlooks that a world-wide Flood would have wiped Eden off the map and re-arranged the geography. Trying to locate Eden based on a couple rivers named post-Flood after the Eden ones is futile.

But the maps and the geographical information related to the Biblical events were excellent and very useful to me. Overall, it's an excellent Altas with useful maps, and I learned a lot from it. I'd recommend it to those who want a large set of maps for Biblical events and who would like to learn more about how geography influenced Biblical events.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from pages 18, 20
Although there were many ways to travel from one city to another, travelers tended to follow well-established routes in order to avoid areas that would impede their progress. These areas included swamps, rivers, flooded or muddy terrain, regions that were too sandy or too rocky, places inhabited by hostile tribes or governments, forested regions, and routes that included long, difficult climbs up and down mountains and hills. In addition, long-distance travel over great desert expanses was normally avoided because of the lack of water and the hostility of dangerous tribes.

One of the major international routes ran approximately 1,770 miles from Ur in southern Mesopotamia to Thebes in southern Egypt. Along the way it passed through great urban centers such as Babylon, Mari, Tadmor, Aleppo, Ebla, Damascus, Hazor, and Gaza. It does not appear that this route as a whole had a name, but it was made up of shorter segments that ran from city to city, and in all probability these shorter stretches had special names. For example, the portion of this road that ran eastward from Egypt across northern Sinai into southern Canaan/Philistia was known as the "way of the land of the Philistines" (Exod 13:17 RSV). This name is a typical example of the ancient custom of labeling roads as "the way to/of X" (where X = a geographical place name). Other portions of this major international route certainly also had names, but they are rarely preserved in the historical sources.

Although an "international route" may bring to mind images of concrete and asphalt highways crisscrossing a continent or country, it should be remembered that "roads" in the ancient world were, until late in the Roman period (ca. AD 200) usually unpaved dirt paths. These dirt roads were cleared of stones and kept relatively free of weeds and fallen trees, and in some cases they were graded. In the earliest times the most common mode of transportation was walking, with donkeys used as pack animals. Under these conditions, a caravan normally moved at the rate of 2 or 3 miles per hour. Sometime during the second millennium BC, camels began to be used on the desert paths. These animals, which on average could carry 400 pounds of cargo, eventually began to be used on other routes as well. During early times ox-drawn carts were also used for transporting bulky items, but due to the poor condition of the roads the use of carts and carriages for transporting goods and people over long distances did not come into general use until the roads were upgraded during the Roman period.

An international route brought mixed blessings to the inhabitants of the population centers that lay along it. On the one hand, those centers had immediate access to the goods that the traveling merchants were carrying, and the powerful elite could gain added revenue by imposing tolls and by providing services (food, shelter, protection, etc.) to the caravans. On the other hand, the people traveling in these caravans exposed those centers to new external influences--religious, political, economic, etc.--that were not always welcome. In addition, some of the mighty armies of the great powers of antiquity--the Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans--passed along the same international routes, bringing with them death, destruction, and deportation.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Book Quotes: Is Evolution a Proven Fact?

From The New Answers Book, Vol. 1:

Hasn’t Evolution Been Proven True?
by A. J. Monty White

Anyone who has read Genesis 1–11 realizes that the modern teachings of molecules-to-man evolution are at odds with what God says. So what is the response to evolution from a biblical and scientific perspective? Let’s take a closer look.

Evolutionists often say that evolution simply means “change.” However, in reality it means a certain kind of change. The word is now accepted to mean the change of nonliving chemicals into simple life-forms into more complex life-forms and finally into humans—what might be called from-goo-to- you-via-the-zoo. We are informed that this change occurred over millions of years, and the dominant mechanism that is supposed to have driven it is natural selection coupled with mutations.

Furthermore, the word evolution has also been applied to nonliving things. Almost everything is said to have evolved—the solar system, stars, the universe, as well as social and legal systems. Everything is said to be the product of evolution. However, the three major forms of evolution are

1. Stellar evolution
2. Chemical evolution
3. Biological evolution.

The story of evolution leaves no room for a supernatural Creator. Evolutionary processes are supposed to be purely naturalistic. This means that even the need for a supernatural Creator disappears because it is argued that the natural world can create new and better or more complex creatures by itself. The implication of this is very revealing: evolution means “no God” and if there is no God, then there are no rules—no commandments, no God-given rules which we must obey. We can therefore live our lives as we please, for according to evolutionary philosophy, there is no God to whom we have to give an account. No wonder molecules-to-man evolution is attractive to so many, for it allows them to live as they please. This is called relative morality.

Read the rest of the article.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Book Review: Leonard's Biblical Chronological Chart

book cover

Leonard's Biblical Chronological Chart
by C. W. Leonard

Hardback with fold-out 29" x 34" chart
Publisher: Attic Books
First Released: 2010

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description from Back Cover:
Originally published in circa-1860 and beautifully bound in hardcover form, Leonard’s Biblical Chronological Chart is one of the most concise and helpful reference tools you will ever own!

This faithful reproduction of the 19th century original is a visual wonder and a treasure trove of historical fact, biblical chronology, and Old Testament genealogy. Even the ornate edging contains fascinating details that will help explain some of the most common concepts, cultural facts, and details of measurements and dates as revealed in the Bible.

• Easily folds out to an intricately-detailed 29" x 34" chart

• Contains several engraved maps: the journeys of St. Paul, the area of Canaan, and journeys of the Children of Israel

• Lineage of the family of Jacob, the Kings of Judah, and the Kings of Israel are shown

Leonard’s Biblical Chronological Chart folds up easily and securely to preserve it for generations to come. Enhance your understanding of biblical history with this one-of-a-kind resource!

book cover

Leonard's Biblical Chronological Chart is a useful Bible reference chart that covers a lot of information. It's easy unfold and then correctly fold back together. It's also a nice size that's easy to handle. Some of the text was a little small, though, so you have to be standing right next to it to read it all. Overall, I thought it a useful quick-reference chart for either personal use or for use in classrooms at church.

The information it contained:

The outermost decorative border, on the bottom: Information on Jewish weights, measures, and divisions of time. It covered time as well as Biblical lengths, distances, and money. It gave the Biblical term and the modern equivalent (like a Sabbath Day's journey equals 3/4ths of an English mile).

The outermost decorative border, on the left, top, and right: Information on Jewish sects. The origins and main beliefs of the Sadducees, Pharisees, Scribes/Lawyers, Essenes, and Samaritans.

Inside that was a time-line border ring. The outermost ring gave the dates. Inside that told the event that occurred (Old Testament for the left, top, and right sides; inter-testament period for the bottom-right corner, and New Testament for the bottom). Inside that were the Scripture references for the event. Inside that was information about the books of the Bible--who they're written by, how much history they cover, and/or when they were written.

Some sample dates are: Creation: 4004 B.C. ; Noah and family enters the Ark 2348 B.C.; Confusion of Tongues 2234 B.C. ; Jacob and his family move to Egypt 1706 B.C. ; and Solomon Dedicates the Temple 1003 B.C. No set date is given for Jesus' birth, so the New Testament dates were given only in years after his birth. Jesus is dated as dying 33 years after his birth; Herod murders James the brother of John 44 years after Jesus' birth.

In the top left corner, there's a family tree of the Kings of Judah and when they reigned.

Below that and reaching into the center of the chart is a map showing the voyages of St. Paul with Scripture references.

In the bottom left corner, there's a map of Canaan at about 200 B.C. with the location of the 12 tribes of Israel marked on it.

In the bottom center, there's a family tree of Jacob's family showing his descendants at the time they arrived in Egypt.

In the top right corner, there's a family tree of the Kings of Israel and when they reigned.

Below that on the right, there's a chart showing the periods of Scriptural history (Creation to Deluge, Deluge to the calling of Abraham, etc.) and the number of years they covered.

Below that on the right, there's a list of Scripture references for the miracles of Jesus.

In the bottom right corner, there's a map of the Exodus: the Israelite's journey from Egypt to Canaan. With Scripture references.

If you've seen this chart, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion in the comments.

Monday, July 19, 2010

DVD Review: The Mysterious Islands

DVD cover

The Mysterious Islands

Length: 1 hours 30 minutes
Publisher: Vision Forum Ministries
Aspect: Widescreen version
First Released: 2009

Source: Review copy from New Leaf Publishing Group (who sells it).

Cover Description:
At the far end of the world, there exists a chain of strange islands, steeped in controversy. The Mysterious Islands is the story of one boy and a team of researchers who take an amazing adventure to the heart of the mystery in search of clues that will expose the truth in a centuries-old dispute.

This beautiful documentary was shot at the Galápagos Islands, "ground zero" for Darwinism. It takes viewers deep beneath the ocean waves, among hundreds of white-tip sharks, to the home of salt-sneezing marine iguanas, on top of volcanic craters, and beside giant tortoises that can live to be more than 150 years of age. Seen through the eyes of 16-year-old Joshua Phillips who joins his father and noted researchers like Dr. John Morris, this film answers the question: Is the Galápagos a laboratory for evolution or a testimony to the biblical account of creation?

The Mysterious Islands is a Christian documentary film about the Galápagos Island animals. The primary purpose of this movie seemed to be the lovely animal footage and information about those animals. Some of the featured animals include the giant tortoise, the flightless cormorant, the blue bobo, the marine iguana, finches, and sharks & other sea life. The visuals were lovely. They got some amazing shots of the animals. A small amount of the footage was shaky (on purpose--like in a running scene). The music was also very nice.

I liked that the guide brought his 16-year-old son along as well as a scientist. It was interesting to hear their perspectives as well. Since this was a movie with Christian guides, they gave God the glory for the animals rather than evolution. There was some information interspersed throughout the animal footage that very briefly covered: who was Darwin and where did he get his ideas; what precisely does natural selection do (and not do); what do similar characteristics between animals indicate; does geology really point to an old age for the earth; and some history of how Darwin's ideas have influenced history.

Some of the topics weren't as clearly explained as they could have been, but this was partly because the answers didn't seemed scripted and little time was devoted to each topic. So this movie would be useful in reinforcing information already learned or as a brief introduction to a variety of topics. However, it's not likely that this movie will convince a watcher to accept the guides' viewpoint if the watcher already has set ideas against it.

There are two disks: the main movie DVD and a bonus features DVD. The bonus features included deleted scenes, still photos of animals, and more information on topics like early explorers to the Galápagos and the Galápagos Whaling Controversy.

A 13-year-old girl watched the movie with me. She loves animals, and kept exclaiming over the animal shots. She really enjoyed the movie, and I expect she'll end up watching it again.

If you've watched this DVD, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the DVD in the comments.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Book Quotes: Why "Millions of Years" Matters

From The New Answers Book, Vol. 1:

Why Shouldn’t Christians Accept Millions of Years?
by Terry Mortenson

There is an intensifying controversy in the church all over the world regarding the age of the earth. For the first 18 centuries of church history, the almost universal belief of Christians was that God created the world in six literal days roughly 4,000 years before Christ and destroyed the world with a global Flood at the time of Noah.

But about 200 years ago some scientists developed new theories of earth history, which proposed that the earth and universe are millions of years old. Over the past 200 years Christian leaders have made various attempts to fit the millions of years into the Bible. These include the day-age view, gap theory, local flood view, framework hypothesis, theistic evolution, and progressive creation.
Biblical compromises

A growing number of Christians (now called young-earth creationists), including many scientists, hold to the traditional view, believing it to be the only view that is truly faithful to Scripture and that fits the scientific evidence far better than the reigning old-earth evolutionary theory.

Many Christians say that the age of the earth is an unimportant and divisive side issue that hinders the proclamation of the gospel. But is that really the case?

Read the rest of the article.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Book Review: Living a Life of True Worship

book cover

Living a Life of True Worship
by Kay Arthur, Bob & Diane Vereen

Trade Paperback: 96 pages
Publisher: Waterbrook Press
First Released: 2002

Source: Bought through

Book Description from Back Cover:
How Does One Worship a Holy God?

We all worship someone, something--and our worship takes many forms. But according to God, if our worship is to be true worship it must be His way. God said, "By those who come near Me, I will be treated as holy, and before all the people I will be honored."

How...when...where does man worship God in spirit and in truth? This is what you'll discover for yourself as you study and discuss what God says about all those who would come near to Him.

Living a Life of True Worship is a no homework, 6-week-long Bible study. It's designed for small groups to do together once a week in a 40 minute period. The Bible study pretty much let Scripture speak for itself and explored what the whole Bible taught on the subject. The lessons were about what worship actually is, the tabernacle/Old Testament worship and how Jesus fulfilled that in the New Testament, and then how to apply what we've learned so that--as followers of Jesus--we can worship God "in spirit and in truth."

The study had people read several verses (which were included in the book along with information about the context of the verses), mark/highlight certain words, then answer several questions about what was just read. Insight boxes were included with historical information that helped make a verse or point more understandable. This study also included line drawings of the layout of the tabernacle and its furniture (altars, lamp stand, etc.).

The questions were helpful in focusing attention on all the points that needed to be looked at. In case you missed a point, the "wrap up" section at the end of each week's lesson summarized what was learned that week.

I really enjoyed this study and learned some new things. Overall, I'd highly recommend this Bible study to all Christian believers as it really puts things into perspective.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Week One
The first place the word worship is mentioned in the English Bible is in Genesis 22. Although the word appears only once in that chapter, you can learn some foundational truths about true worship by studying this passage.

Leader: Read aloud Genesis 22:1-10, which you see printed in the sidebar. Have the group say "God" aloud every time He is mentioned. Also have the group...

*draw a triangle around each occurrence of the word God (plus all pronouns that refer to Him).

*mark the word worship with a big W.

Genesis 22:1-10
Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, "Abraham!" And he said, "Here I am." He said, "Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you."

So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him and Isaac his son; and he split wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. On the third day Abraham raised his eyes and saw the place from a distance. Abraham said to his young men, "Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go over there; and we will worship and return to you."

Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son, and he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together. Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, "My father!" And he said, "Here I am, my son." And he said, "Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?" Abraham said, "God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son." So the two of them walked on together.

Then they came to the place of which God had told him; and Abraham built the altar there and arranged the wood, and bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.

INSIGHT: Worship is the Hebrew word shachah ("a" as in "father" and "ch" as in "Christ"). It means to prostrate oneself or to bow down. In the Old Testament, it is the common term used for coming before God in worship to honor Him. The English word means to look at someone's "worth-ship." To worship God is to respect and honor Him for who He is.

*What do you learn from marking the references to God?

*What did God instruct Abraham to do?

Friday, July 9, 2010

Book Quotes: What Did Jesus Say About the Age of the Earth?

From The New Answers Book, Vol. 1:

Did Jesus Say He Created in Six Literal Days?
by Ken Ham

A very important question we must ask is, “What was Jesus’ view of the days of creation? Did He say that He created in six literal days?”

When confronted with such a question, most Christians would automatically go to the New Testament to read the recorded words of Jesus to see if such a statement occurs.

Now, when we search the New Testament Scriptures, we certainly find many interesting statements Jesus made that relate to this issue. Mark 10:6 says, “But from the beginning of the creation, God ‘made them male and female.’” From this passage, we see that Jesus clearly taught that the creation was young, for Adam and Eve existed “from the beginning,” not billions of years after the universe and earth came into existence. Jesus made a similar statement in Mark 13:19 indicating that man’s sufferings started very near the beginning of creation. The parallel phrases of “from the foundation of the world” and “from the blood of Abel” in Luke 11:50–51 also indicate that Jesus placed Abel very close to the beginning of creation, not billions of years after the beginning. His Jewish listeners would have assumed this meaning in Jesus’ words, for the first-century Jewish historian Josephus indicates that the Jews of his day believed that both the first day of creation and Adam’s creation were about 5,000 years before Christ.

Read the rest of this article.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Book Review: The Unshakable Truth

book cover

The Unshakable Truth:
How You Can Experience the 12 Essentials of a Relevant Faith
by Josh McDowell & Sean McDowell

Hardback: 512 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers
Released: June 1, 2010

List Price: $24.99
ISBN-10: 0736928707
ISBN-13: 978-0736928700

Book on Amazon

Source: Special thanks to Karri James of Harvest House Publishers for sending me a review copy. This post is part of the FIRST Wild Card Tour.

Book Description from Book Flap:
Many Christians are unsure about what they believe and why. They may wonder if their faith is meaningful and credible. Because of this, they struggle with passing on a relevant Christianity to their families and friends.

That's why Josh McDowell and his son, Sean, have created this comprehensive yet easy-to-understand handbook. Unpacking 12 biblical truths that define the core of Christian belief, the McDowells help you discover:

*the foundational truths about God, his Word, sin, Christ, the Trinity, the church, and six more that form the bedrock of Christian faith.

*compelling evidence to support these truths.

*how each truth provides relevant answers to the world's most difficult problems and gives a sense of joy and meaning to every true believer

*ways to pass each truth on to your family and the world around you

Biblically grounded, spiritually deep, theologically extensive, and packed with practical examples and real-life stories, The Unshakable Truth is a resource applicable to every aspect of everyday life...a resource you'll turn to again and again.

The Unshakable Truth is part apologetic, part theology, and part Christian Living book. Overall, it's Bible-based, easy to understand, and has a lot of very good information in it. It's pretty thick, but you can read each of the 12 sections (of 4 chapters each) out of order if desired.

The authors took 12 foundational Christian beliefs from the Nicene Creed and then spent four chapters focused on different aspects of each belief. The first chapter's focus was on theology. The second was on apologetics. The third was applying the belief to your life. The fourth was how to pass this truth on to your family.

The 12 beliefs/topics covered were: God Exists; God's Word\The Bible; Original Sin; God Became Human; Christ's Atonement for Sin; Justification Through Faith; Living the Transformed Life; Jesus' Bodily Resurrection; The Trinity; God's Kingdom; The Church; and the Return of Christ.

The 12 areas of apologetics were: Evidence for God's existence, that the Bible is reliable, that sin has consequences, that Jesus was the Messiah, that Jesus was God's perfect sacrifice for our sin, that Christ has the power to save us, of testimonies of transformed lives, that Jesus physically rose from the dead, that the Holy Spirit exists, that Christian teachings have had a positive influence in the world, that God's authentic church still exists, and for life after death.

The appendix contained information on how to hold three celebrations--which were loosely based on Old Testament Feasts of the Lord--as a way to teach your family these truths.

The authors' focused on Protestant theology. When the authors described a point where there was some variation in beliefs among Protestant churches, they would usually very briefly describe the main two variations.

One time that they didn't do this was on page 58, where they only said that some people don't agree with the view of the person quoted. I'd agree with some of the things said in the quote, but I would have argued that we know God exists because there is a beginning to the universe, which is based on operational science. The person quoted argued that we know that God exists because the Big Bang happened. The problem is that the Big Bang model doesn't match what we actually obverse in the present in a number of critical ways and even atheist scientists are abandoning it. And if we base our proof of God on a man-made "historical science" model (as in, a science-related idea on how something occurred in the past, especially something that wasn't directly observed by humans), then our proof of God's existence collapses when the model does.

I don't agree with everything the authors said, either, but this book was excellent in so many ways, especially in the first half. So I'm not trying to discourage anyone from reading it. However, there was some wording that bothered me.

Page 371: "God imparts his divine nature (godly DNA) to us, which enables us to have an intimate relationship with him and reflect his likeness and image before the world around us."

"Godly DNA" could be misunderstood as teaching that we become part-God.

Page 328: "Instead, [Jesus] sent himself in the person of the Holy Spirit so we could become an intimate part of God's relational unity. And the more we participate in the Triune relationship the more we are empowered to live and love and relate like he does." Page 329: "Jesus invites you to join the circle of perfect relationship within the Godhead. The Holy Spirit takes up residence in your life with the intent to create a miraculous oneness like that which exists in the Trinity." Page 424: "God is inviting us into [the Trinity's] perfect circle of relationship."

After how they described the Trinity's internal relationship--which is only possible for God as an all-knowing, all-present, all-powerful, etc., being--this especially caused me some concern. "Join the circle" sounds like they're saying humans can become a part of the Trinity and relate to God as only God can relate to Himself. The Holy Spirit plays a role in enabling us to perfectly relate to God as humans were originally created to relate to Him, but it doesn't make us able to join the Trinity. We aren't God and never can be.

Page 243: "Our purpose in life is to honor our Creator God by living in relationship with him and out of that relationship becoming more and more like him" and "We believe the truth that followers of Christ are meant to live in relationship with God and be transformed into the likeness of Christ, which defines our very purpose for living--to honor and glorify God."

Yes, we do honor and bring glory to God by allowing Him to transform our lives, but this transformation isn't the only way to honor and glorify God nor is transformation into being "more like [our Creator God]"--or even Jesus--a purpose that God originally created mankind for. Adam and Eve were originally created as perfect humans and therefore their nature was exactly what God intended and they perfectly related to God as He intended. No transformation was originally needed. And when all is restored in the new heavens and new earth, our relationship with God will be restored back to the perfect way it was originally created, so no further transformation will be needed. Growth into a deeper knowledge and relationship with God, yes, but transformation, no.

Page 243: "[God] created us to relate to him and enjoy all the blessings that come from being godly."

The Westminster Shorter Catechism says that the chief purpose of man is "to glorify God and enjoy him forever." My studies of the Bible confirm this. So we're to enjoy God, not just the blessings we get from Him or from following Him.

I do recommend this book, but if you're looking for an excellent book that's half the size and has the same purpose, I'd highly recommend In God We Trust by Steve Ham.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

About the Author:
Over 40-plus years, Josh McDowell has spoken to more than 10 million people in 115 countries about the evidence for Christianity and the difference the Christian faith makes in the world. He has authored or coauthored more than 110 books (with more than 51 million copies in print), including such classics as More Than a Carpenter and New Evidence That Demands a Verdict.

Visit the author's website.

Sean McDowell is an educator and a popular speaker at schools, churches, and conferences nationwide. He is the author of Ethix: Being Bold in a Whatever World, the coauthor of Understanding Intelligent Design and Evidence for the Resurrection, and general editor of The Apologetics Study Bible for Students. He is currently pursuing a PhD in apologetics and worldview studies.

Visit the author's website.

Excerpt from Chapter One
What We All Want out of Life

It was a beautiful fall day. The car windows were all rolled down. I (Josh) was in my first year of college, and I was driving some of my friends from campus to downtown. We were laughing and just having a lot of fun. A woman pulled up beside us at the traffic light, rolled down her window, and with a scowl on her face said, “What right do you kids have to be so happy!”

Our Desire for Deep Happiness

Deep down all of us want to be happy. We want to live a satisfying life, a life of joy and contentment. Actually, God wants us to enjoy that as well. Jesus said, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:11 niv). Yet the quest for deep happiness often eludes us. Webster’s dictionary defines happiness as “a pleasurable or satisfying experience.” Happiness is often equated with pleasurable feelings. And of course there’s nothing inherently wrong with pleasurable satisfaction, except in how we pursue it.

Focusing on Self

I (Sean, Josh’s son and co-author) work as an educator. When I ask my students what they want most in their lives, their typical response is “happiness.” I ask them to define happiness, and most of them tell me that happiness is people feeling good and having fun. Many of us would define it that way. If happiness is about a pleasurable feeling or experience of fun, then it should follow that the greater number of fun experiences we have, the happier we become.

But somehow, it doesn’t seem to work out that way. For example, the earning power of the baby boomers increased dramatically over that of any previous generation in history. They have had more money, more leisure time, more access to sports, travel, and entertainment than any society has ever experienced. And yet according to happiness expert Dr. Martin Seligman, baby boomers experienced a tenfold increase in depression over any previous generation. The reason for the depression, Dr. Seligman concludes, was that people began a shift toward a focus on self.

When one’s mission in life is to pursue pleasure, the result is to become “me” focused. And “me”-focused happiness is generally short-lived. Sooner or later, and for most people it is later, when we focus primarily on our own pleasure, our lives tend to become empty, depressed, and void of any real meaning. We come to experience the reality that a self-centered focus doesn’t produce lasting satisfaction, joy, or real happiness. Christian philosopher and apologist J.P. Moreland suggests a conclusion to a self-absorbed life:

If happiness is having an internal feeling of fun or pleasurable satisfaction, and if it is our main goal, where will we place our focus all day long? The focus will be on us, and the result will be a culture of self-absorbed individuals who can’t live for something larger than we are.

Yet this is the current life philosophy that most people have bought into: The individual always comes first, with the number-one virtue being to feel good about yourself. The culture tells you to “be yourself, believe in yourself, express yourself.” That’s why we have YouTube and MySpace. Self, self, self. The prevailing view is that you do what it takes to feel good about yourself because that’s the most important thing in the world. That is the way to find happiness.

To some degree or another most of us have bought into that viewpoint. And it’s easy to understand why. If the goal is happiness, then why shouldn’t we pursue the things that will give us pleasure and thus make us happy?

Focusing on Jesus and His Worldview

Jesus, however, has another view on achieving genuine happiness and joy—one that encompasses a whole different set of priorities. Instead of seeking our happiness first, Jesus tells us to put him and his kingdom first (Matthew 6:33). He says we must die to ourselves; that to find our life we must lose it; essentially, that we must look beyond ourselves and pursue him first. In reading such things, many people wonder how we can expect to be happy if we set aside our quest for what gives us pleasure and follow someone who asks us for our total commitment. As a result, they think Christianity might spoil all their fun.

This is emphatically not the case. Jesus said he was “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6) and our source of genuine happiness. According to Jesus, happiness is not based upon a certain feeling. Instead, it is a sense of contentment, peace, and joy that transcends our circumstances and feelings. When Jesus said that his joy would be in us and our joy would be complete, he was defining the true way to happiness—a happiness that does not fade, but grows and expands into true and lasting joy.

He was saying to focus on him and his way—his view of the world. And by doing this we would understand who we are, and thus we would experience our identity as a person of value and worth. We would realize why we are here, and thus we would experience our purpose and meaning in life. We would know where we are going, and thus we would experience our destiny and mission in a life larger than ourselves.

And in this process we will find we have attained something much bigger and better than the way our culture understands happiness, which is based on the pleasure of the moment. We will find true, deep, satisfying, and lasting joy. It will be a joy that remains intact through all of life, with or without pleasures, through ups and downs, through pains, sorrows, and losses. That is something we all want.

The way to achieve this lasting joy is to buy into Jesus’ idea of life—that is, his worldview. A worldview is what we assume to be true about the basic makeup of our world. A worldview is like a mental map of reality. We believe certain things about ourselves and God and life, and then we interpret our experiences through them. Everyone has a worldview, even though not everyone realizes they have one.

Jesus’ worldview—his view of life—is called a biblical worldview. Embracing a biblical worldview means understanding and living life from God’s perspective. It means understanding what we were meant to know and be and how we were meant to live. This biblical worldview works because it explains the truth about God and about us. That is what Jesus and the whole of Scripture does—it gives us the truth about life and happiness, and the power to live according to the kingdom of God. As J.P.
Moreland says,

This is why truth is so powerful. It allows us to cooperate with reality, whether spiritual or physical, and tap into its power. As we learn to think correctly about God, specific scriptural teachings, the soul, or other important aspects of a Christian worldview, we are placed in touch with God and those realities.

Nothing works right unless it conforms to reality. A plane flies because engineers design its shape to conform to the realities of airflow and gravity. A boat floats because its designers shaped it to conform to the realities of water displacement. Try to fly a boat or float a plane and the results will be disastrous. It’s the same with your life. If you want a significant life, you must run your life in accordance with what it was designed to do. Your life was created to work properly when it conforms to the reality of its purpose. And God has gone to great lengths to show us the reality of our purpose, which is diametrically opposed to how our culture understands happiness. He tells us that when we abandon self-absorption we will find significance. When we seek first His kingdom, all these things will be added unto us (Matthew 6:33). When we find the meaning he intends for our lives, we will gain a deep contentment even in the middle of the pain, loss, and abandonment that characterizes our fallen world. This is why it is vitally important to adopt God’s perspective on life. This, and only this, is the path to genuine happiness and deep, lasting joy.

My (Josh’s) Path

As a teenager, I (Josh) began my quest for happiness down the wrong path. Yet I sincerely wanted the answers to Who am I? Why am I here? Where am I going? So I started searching for answers. I certainly didn’t find answers at home. My father was the town drunk. I grew up watching in fear and horror as my father beat my mother and wreaked havoc at home. I experienced sexual abuse from a man named Wayne, whom my parents hired as a part-time cook and housekeeper. As I got older I eventually told my mother about what Wayne was doing, but she didn’t believe me. I can’t describe to you the pain of abandonment I felt when my mother refused to believe me. Also, growing up I never remember my father saying that he loved me. The only love I ever felt was from a struggling, abused mother who died suddenly when I was a teenager. So my home was not a place to find answers or happiness.

In the small Michigan community in which I grew up, everyone seemed to be into religion, so my search started there. I really got into the church scene. But I must have picked the wrong church, because I felt worse inside the church than I did outside. So I gave up on the church to provide me any answers.

Then I thought that education might have the answers, so I enrolled in a university. I soon became unpopular with my professors because I hounded them with so many questions. But I learned that my professors had just as many problems, frustrations, and unanswered questions as I did.

I remember seeing a student wearing a T-shirt that read, Don’t follow me, I’m lost. That’s how everyone at the university seemed to me. I concluded education wasn’t the answer.

Next, I tried prestige. I thought I could find a noble cause, commit to it, and in the process become well known. So I ran for various student offices. It was great at first. People got to know me and I enjoyed spending the university’s money getting the speakers I wanted. I also liked the idea of spending the students’ money for throwing parties.

But the prestige thing soon wore off. I would wake up on Monday morning, usually with a headache from the night before, dreading the next five days. I endured Monday through Friday just to experience the party nights on the weekend. But every Monday brought the meaningless cycle all over again.

About that time I noticed a small group of people who seemed different from the others. They appeared to know who they were and where they were going. They had a clear set of convictions about what they believed. And what really stood out was that they appeared to be genuinely happy. Their happiness and joy wasn’t like mine, which was dependent on my circumstances. I was happy only when things were going great—when I was having “fun.” But they seemed to possess an inner source of joy that I longed for, and I wondered where it came from.

I befriended these people and tried to figure out what they knew that I didn’t. One day I asked one of these students (a good-looking woman in the group) what made her so different, so happy. She had told me before she hadn’t always been that way but she had changed. So I asked her, “What changed your life?”

Her answer shocked me. She used two words as a solution, two words I never thought I’d hear at the university. She simply said, “Jesus Christ.” I immediately told her I was fed up with religion and the church and was certain it wasn’t a solution. Again, this woman had convictions and she knew what she believed. She shot back and said, “I didn’t say religion, I said Jesus Christ.”

She and her friends went on to explain that a relationship with God through Jesus Christ offered what I would come to know as a biblical worldview. They told me it was Christ and his worldview—seeing everything from a biblical perspective—that would answer all the questions I had. They didn’t offer to walk me through a shallow prayer or get me to go to “church meetings.” What they did was challenge me to intellectually examine the claims of Jesus and to determine, in essence, whether God’s worldview written in Scripture was credible. I accepted their challenge out of pride. I wanted to prove Christianity was a farce.

What I discovered was that I was the farce. My quest for happiness and meaning was found in Christ.

Most people who know my testimony know I set out to disprove Christianity, and they assume I came to Christ through the intellectual route. They think my examination of the evidence of Christ’s deity, his resurrection, and the reliability of Scripture convinced me that God had spoken and that it offered me a worldview that would establish my identity, purpose, and meaning in life—and therefore I trusted in Christ. Truth is, all the evidence I have documented in my books did not bring me into a relationship with Christ. The convincing evidence certainly got my attention, but it was God’s love that drew me to him. I saw love between a group of Jesus-followers who devoted themselves to God and one another. And God demonstrated his love to me through them. Through the power of the Holy Spirit my life was transformed through a relationship with God. I discovered a whole new way of thinking and living that brought pure joy. This new way of thinking and living was possible as God empowered me to live out truth from his perspective—a biblical worldview.

Most Christians believe Jesus’ worldview is what we need to follow, yet we encounter many who seem to have trouble making it work in their lives. Our experience tells us that the following quote represents untold numbers of people:

“I’m a Christian and I want to find real joy. I do believe I can find it in following Christ, but somehow it doesn’t seem to be happening. I do my best to live out my faith. But to be honest, I really don’t know a lot about why I believe what I believe. And when it comes to a biblical worldview, there are so many conflicting claims floating around about what that means, I’m not sure I’m forming the right one. How can I be sure?”

Answering these questions that we find on the lips of so many Christians is our first purpose in writing this handbook. We want to demonstrate a way to experience the happiness and joy that every person desires and that God wants us to have. We also have a second purpose in writing this handbook.

Our Desire to Pass the Faith to the Next Generation

We run across hundreds of Christians who tell us something like this:

“I’m a Christian and want to pass my faith on to my kids. Yet I don’t feel very equipped to do that. But I definitely don’t want to lose my kids to a godless culture. What can I do?”

The fear of the culture capturing our kids is real. This handbook is designed to better ground you in the essentials of the faith in a way that provides a greater understanding of what you believe, why you believe it, and how it brings you a deeper joy in life. That understanding in and of itself will serve as a platform to successfully instill a robust and active Christianity in the lives of the next generation. We know that passing on the faith is a real and vital need. And it doesn’t happen automatically.

Captured by the Culture

Many times we have heard stories similar to the following scenario:

Marsha hugged her son as he prepared to leave. “It’s been nice having you home again, honey,” she said.

“Yeah, Greg,” his father, Mike, echoed. “It really has been good.” He stepped in for a hug. “I miss the weekends as a family, going to church and all. But I assume you’ve found a church home there in the college area by now, haven’t you, son?”

Greg swung his backpack onto his shoulder. “Well, Dad, not really,” he said hesitantly. “Being a freshman is tough, so I’ve been really busy.”

Sarah, Greg’s 16-year-old sister, handed him his duffel bag. “Is college really that hard?”

“Well, I wouldn’t say hard, really. You just keep busy, you know?”

Mike gently gripped Greg’s shoulder. “If you’re too busy to be in church, son, I think you might be too busy.”

“Well,” Greg responded, “your kind of church just isn’t my thing anymore, Dad. I’ve got some friends and we do a group study once a week and that’s enough for me.”

“I’d rather do things with my friends too,” Sarah added. “Church is a bore.”

“Sarah!” Marsha said. “That’s a terrible thing to say!”

“Well, it’s true!” Sarah said.

“She’s right, Mom,” Greg said. “Church just doesn’t cut it for me anymore.”

“Honey, don’t say that.” Marsha touched her son on the arm. “That college isn’t turning you against God, is it?”

“No, Mom,” Greg chuckled, “I’m just rethinking a lot of things. God is still important to me, I just believe some different things from you guys, that’s all.” He adjusted the weight of the backpack. “Hey, I’ve got to get going.”

Greg moved on out the door as Sarah helped him with his things. Marsha and Mike stepped onto the porch and watched their son walk toward the car.

“We’ll be praying for you, son,” Mike called.

“Thanks, Dad,” Greg responded with a chuckle.

Marsha and Mike watched in silence as he backed down the drive and waved to them as he drove away. “I hope we’re not losing our son,” Marsha said.

Mike nodded. “I hope we’re not losing our son and our daughter.” 

If we hear one dominating and recurring theme among the many church leaders and families we come in contact with, it’s the fear that Mike expresses above. There is a deep, abiding fear among Christian parents that their kids, having been raised in a Christian family and having spent their childhood and teenage years in the church, will nonetheless walk away from God.

A Generation Gap

The problem is, this fear is becoming a reality. Presently, within ten years of entering adulthood, most teens professing to be Christians will walk away from the church and put whatever commitment they made to Christ on the shelf. This doesn’t mean all our young people are rejecting God outright and becoming atheists. That’s not the case. It’s that they are adopting beliefs and a worldview that are definitely not “the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints” (Jude 3 nasb). A large portion of young people today would echo Greg’s remark to his dad: “God is still important to me, I just believe some different things than you.” These differences, often referred to as the generation gap, are wider and deeper today than ever before. According to a recent Pew Research Center study, almost 80 percent of adults see a difference between the beliefs and points of view of young people and themselves. Asked to identify where older and younger people differ the most, 47 percent pinpointed the areas of social values and morality.

Consider just some of what today’s Christian young people believe:

23 percent are not assured of the existence of miracles;
33 percent either “definitely” or “maybe” believe in reincarnation;
42 percent are not assured of the existence of evil as an entity;
48 percent believe that many religions are true.
It is difficult to lead a young person to adopt a Christian worldview when nearly one out of two can’t say that Jesus is definitively “the way, the truth, and the life.”

And even when our young people do begin to embrace a Christian worldview they are under intense assault from their high school years and up. According to a 2006 study by professors from Harvard and George Mason Universities, the percentage of agnostics and atheists teaching at American colleges is three times greater than in the general population. More than half of college professors today believe the Bible is “an ancient book of fables, legends, history, and moral precepts.” 

Students are continually told by today’s culture that the Bible is unreliable, that Jesus was no different than any other religious figure, and that anyone who asserts there is an objective truth that shapes a worldview is intolerant and a bigot. It is very hard for young people to stand up against such pressures unless they are fully equipped, as the apostle Peter said, “always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15 nasb). The truth is, few are equipped and ready to face a world that is increasingly hostile to Christianity.

If you have children or work with young people, you know how difficult it can be to get through to them. And it seems at times that all the advantages communication technology has brought us haven’t helped a bit. In fact, the pervasiveness of modern electronic communication may be one of the obstacles we must overcome. In his book Handoff     Dr. Jeff Myers says:

The young people our organization has studied spend between 27 and 33 hours per week using communication technology—gaming, watching television and movies, text messaging, instant messaging, and surfing the internet. In short, they’re overwhelmed with information.

Information overload breaks down a person’s capacity for discernment. For example, C. John Sommerville argued that the 24-hour news cycle actually makes us dumber, not smarter. It presents so much information that we find it impossible to figure out what is truly important.

Then Jeff goes on to say:

With shopping and surfing available 24 hours a day young adults believe they can have whatever they want, whenever they want, however they want, and with whomever they want to have it. Nothing is more than a few clicks away.

Here’s the paradox: when there is nothing more to see or do, there is nothing more to look forward to. It’s easy to see why surveys of young adults pick up high levels of hopelessness, distrust, cynicism, and boredom.

The unceasing access to pleasure and the consequent unhappiness led evangelist Ravi Zacharias to reference G.K. Chesterton in saying that “meaninglessness ultimately comes not from being weary of pain but from being weary of pleasure.”

The task may not be easy, but if ever there was a time to make a concerted effort to instill a biblical worldview into the next generation—a way to think from a biblical perspective—it’s now. Their misconceptions and distorted views of what is important in life and what brings happiness and joy must be addressed. The consequences of failing to tackle this problem head-on are disheartening.

Young people must be led to align their beliefs and behavior with ultimate reality, which means, in essence, to adopt the biblical view of the world as their guiding principle. In The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience, author Ron Sider concludes that people who have a biblical worldview live differently—in ways that are highly significant to the temptations today’s youth face. They are nine times more likely to avoid “adult only” material on the Internet, three times as likely not to use tobacco products, and twice as likely to volunteer to help the poor. What people believe about God, truth, and the world around them (for example, a biblical worldview), makes a tangible difference in the way they live.

Equipping the Mind

Some might think their young people won’t respond positively to addressing their beliefs and challenging them to examine why they believe what they believe. Some think that all today’s kids want is to deal with relationships and what they can experience emotionally. This simply is not the case. In the recent “National Study of Youth and Religion,” thousands of nonreligious teenagers said they were raised to be “religious” but had become “nonreligious.” These teenagers were asked, “Why did you fall away from the faith in which you were raised?” They were given no set of answers to pick from; it was simply an open-ended question. The most common answer—given by 32 percent of the respondents—was intellectual skepticism. That is a very high percentage given the fact that this was an open-ended question. Their answers included such statements as “It didn’t make sense to me”; “Some stuff is too far-fetched for me to believe in”; “I think scientifically there is no real proof”; and “There were too many questions that can’t be answered.” Our kids want answers they can grapple with in their minds as well as in their hearts.

When it comes to spiritual and character formation, Scripture attaches great importance to training the mind. “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world,” Paul states. “But be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2 niv).

All of us want our kids to be equipped in mind, spirit, and character, able to resist the pressures of this increasingly godless culture so that no matter what temptations and opposition they face, they will live lives we can be proud of—lives that are pleasing to God and others. We want our kids to live out a biblical worldview. Yet actually living out a biblical worldview is impossible apart from a transformed relationship through Jesus Christ. Neither our young people nor any of us have the natural inclination or power in our human strength to live out “the way” of Jesus—his worldview. That means each of us and our young people must place our trust in Christ and surrender our lives to him so we all can stand strong with deep convictions for the unshakable truths of God.

This handbook will provide guidance to lead your young people to such a faith in Christ. Because through a transformed relationship with God they “will no longer be like children, forever changing [their] minds about what [they] believe because someone has told [them] something different or because someone has cleverly lied to [them] and made the lie sound like the truth” (Ephesians 4:13-14). You want to teach and mentor and empower them to think and live as “children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which [they] shine like stars in the universe” (Philippians 2:15 niv).

There is probably nothing more rewarding to us (Josh and Sean) than being able to pass the baton of the Christian faith to our children. Jeff Myers said it well in Handoff:

The universe is designed in such a way that passing the baton is the only way I can truly experience blessing, fullness, meaning, satisfaction, and joy in life. I may want to believe that serving myself leads to happiness, but my heart knows better. No matter how much stuff I buy, or what kind of house I live in, or where I travel, life only takes on meaning when I live for something bigger than myself.

Use This Handbook as Your Guide

Some books are designed for you to curl up on a couch with them and enjoy a “good read.” Others are reference texts from which you glean specific information. This book is a handbook. The best way to use it is first to absorb it, and then to engage in a long-term process of applying its content incrementally in your own life and in the lives of your children, grandchildren, youth group, or others to whom you wish to impart the faith.

This book will present the essentials of the biblical worldview by exploring what we have identified as the 12 basic truths of the faith, which are noted in the 12 sections of this work. The next two chapters will give you an overview of these 12 truths, and then the following 48 chapters will delve into each truth thoroughly.

Each foundational truth will be given four chapters. Some chapters will be short and succinct. The first chapter in each section will identify a particular truth and what we as Christians believe about it. The second chapter will examine why you can believe it with confidence. The third chapter in each section will explore how that truth is relevant to your life. The fourth chapter will offer practical ways to live that truth out in the presence of those around you. As you live these truths out more and more in front of your family and friends you will be better equipped to impart them to others.

It is not necessary to read each truth and its chapters in order. There is no problem jumping ahead to a particular truth of interest or to one that applies to an immediate situation in your life. For example, if you are nearing the Easter season you might want to skip to Truth Eight: “Jesus’ Bodily Resurrection.” Or if Christmas is around the corner you might want to go to Truth Four: “God Became Human.” The point is, while each truth of the Christian faith builds off the other, each stands on its own merits. So if a particular time of year makes it more appropriate to address certain truths, or if those around you are raising a certain question that makes focusing on a particular truth more timely, go for it. Eventually, however, we urge you to cover all the truths in this handbook—and to review them more than once.

There is a reason God instructed his people to “repeat [God’s truth] again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home…away on a journey…lying down…getting up” (Deuteronomy 6:7). No matter how young or how old we are, we will never exhaustively understand the depths and riches of God and his truth. The truths of the faith can become fresh and alive to you again each time you go over them. Absorbing them repeatedly can give them deeper relevance because in the process of filling ourselves with knowledge of his truth we are actually deepening our relationship with a relational, infinite God. We would not mislead you—the McDowells, this father-and-son team, do not claim to understand all the deep truths we present here. Nor have we mastered the Christian life. Far from it. It is important that you realize that we too are on a journey of constantly uncovering the richness of God and applying these truths to our daily lives.

Experience an Enriching Celebration with Your Family

The 12 unshakable truths you will discover throughout this handbook are rooted in the Old Testament, even though most of the passages we refer to are in the New Testament. And to help you instill these truths in your family we have adapted three Old Testament Jewish festivals and made them into mealtime celebrations.

For centuries Jewish families have gathered around the dinner table to celebrate those festivals God had ordained for them. Many Christians today are realizing the benefits and richness of these festivals in aiding us to better understand the meaning of God’s plan for each of us. So to help you impart the truths of the faith to your family and friends, you will find in the appendixes to this handbook a Judeo-Christian Feast of Unleavened Bread (Passover), Feast of Harvest (Pentecost), and Feast of Tabernacles. These three mealtime events focus on celebrating the God of relationship, redemption, and restoration, which are all found in the sweeping story from creation to God taking on humanity to Christ’s return. We have provided you detailed instructions on how to plan and execute these mealtime celebrations. Take advantage of them.

The development of these festivals has been greatly aided by the help of Harvey Diamond and his “Pathways to Glory” interactive devotional. Harvey has done a phenomenal job of explaining all the feasts of the Old Testament and their relevance to today and to the Christian life. Visit and click on “Pathways to Glory Relational Devotional.” You will benefit greatly from Harvey’s teachings and insights.

Our Prayer for You

As you begin your journey, we pray that you will come to know God more deeply, understand your place within him and the world more clearly. And above all, we pray that God will empower you more fully to live out your biblical worldview so you can more effectively impart the living truth of Jesus Christ to your family and those around you. We live in a scary world dominated by pain and suffering, sin and heartache, war and death. But we are not to fear the evils of this world. The only one we are to fear is God himself (see Matthew 10:28). We serve a conquering God who is working in you and me to transform the present kingdom of this world into the future kingdom of God. It is an honor to engage in this mission with you. Let the journey of unlocking the unshakable truth of God begin.

Book Trailer:

Friday, July 2, 2010

Book Quotes: Disagreeing with God?

From In God We Trust by Steve Ham (page 193):

...none of us can see any sense in accepting that God is truly God without accepting that He (and not us) is the authority. What really is the point of worshiping a God who is the omniscient Creator and then disagreeing with Him on the basis of some human philosophy?

There are many people, including clergy, who simply don't want to accept God's authority as genuine or complete. Many attempt to take God's authority as a partial view and adopt man's authority when it is more convenient or popular to do so. The questions we need to ask ourselves are: Is God omnipotent or not? Is God omniscient or not? Either God is the authority over everything or He's not at all. When it comes to the acceptance of God's authority, the Bible does not leave a middle ground for humans to pick the subjects they want to be master of.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Book Review: To Those Who Suffer

book cover

To Those Who Suffer:
Understanding God's purpose and pathway through pain
by Sean Nolan

Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: VMI Publishers
Released: May 1, 2010

List Price: $14.99
ISBN-10: 1935265229
ISBN-13: 978-1935265221

Author Website
Book on Amazon

Source: Special thanks to Audra Jennings of The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy. This post is part of the FIRST Wild Card Tour.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
Christians are often taught that God will remove our suffering if we simply keep trusting Him to--that suffering is not a part of God's will for our lives. But what about those that don't have their horrific circumstances removed or reversed? The Lord will not bring a woman's husband of fifty years back from the dead or reattach someone's amputated limbs. Does this mean that these people have no hope? They do, and it doesn't depend on relief from their circumstances.

God has not abandoned you.

If we clearly understand what the Lord's goal is for our lives--that of being conformed into the likeness of His Son--then we will understand the methods that God employs to achieve this. Just as exercising muscles strengthens the physical body, suffering strengthens the spirit because we spend more time seeking and interacting with God. You'll find that seemingly hopeless circumstances can give birth to the most powerful victory and wonderful blessing!

About the Author:
Sean Nolan, twenty-eight, was the youngest elected member of the executive branch of a local Christian political party in Sydney, Australia. Nolan resigned last year, but using his political experience he lobbies on behalf of abused children and consults to national leaders at a federal and state level for the development of Christian care in government.

Having completed his theological studies at Emmaus Bible College, Nolan spent many years in youth ministry before joining Glorious Hope Baptist Church in Sydney as an ordained minister. Working with this eight-year-old church plant that reaches out to the most marginalized in the community, Nolan ministers to those he has a passion for—the deeply suffering—and provides pastoral care to people trapped in extreme cycles of abuse and dependency. As a primary home caregiver for both his parents, the author has an intimate understanding of living with pain and is working to develop resources including social media tools to minister to those who are hurting.

Nolan lives in Sydney, Australia with his parents. He is soon to be married and enjoys rugby, cricket, and sci-fi. To Those Who Suffer is Sean Nolan’s first book.

To Those Who Suffer is a Bible-rooted answer to the question of why a good, all-powerful God would allow suffering. The author wrote specifically to people who are in a situation where their suffering appears hopeless and unending, but this is a good book for anyone who wants to be able to answer this often-asked question.

The author explored suffering caused by others, suffering brought upon yourself by your own actions, physical suffering, and emotional suffering. He quoted the Bible to give answers as to why God allows suffering and how He uses it. He came to many of the same conclusions as Nancy Guthrie of Hearing Jesus Speak into Your Sorrow did, but I liked how Nancy shared her story of sorrow with us so we knew "this is someone who really knows." Sean Nolan also speaks from experience, but he never explained what he'd gone through so the book felt more detached and intellectual to me. Some people may prefer this.

Overall, the author made a lot of good points that are worth reading, and I'd recommend this book to people who struggle with the theological "problem of pain" as well as to those who are currently suffering and feeling hopeless.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter One
The Way of Our Master

“Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin.” 1 PETER 4:1, NIV

God Loves You.

My prayer for you at this point is not that you know that God loves you. All Christians ‘know’ this; my prayer is that you will understand that God loves you. There is a huge difference between knowing about something and understanding it. When I was at college I sold suits for a living. When I started the job all I knew about a suit was what one looked like. However, after four years of selling suits I understood everything there is to understand about a men’s business suit. I had such an understanding of suits that I could tell you what fabric a suit was made out of just by looking at it, or if a garment had been dry-cleaned just by touching the fabric. I found that in my early Christian years I knew of God’s love for me, but I had not known God’s love in a deep and meaningful way. It is not healthy for us to have an academic knowledge of God’s love; we must have a deep personal understanding of God’s love for us.

Sometimes we get so angry and upset with God because we cannot believe that He loves us when He has allowed us to go through so much in our lives. After much anguish, I have realized that my personal frustration with God was a result of my lack of understanding about God’s love for me. The most important thing that anyone can understand is God’s love for him or her. Living the Christian life without an understanding of God’s love is like driving a car without any understanding about how the car operates. I have ‘crashed’ my life many times because of my warped perception of God’s love for me and my misguided unbiblical view of how I thought God should have been manifesting his love in my life. This chapter contains some hard truths about God’s love and I do not encourage you to read it lightly. In it we will discuss misperceptions about God’s love and the true Biblical nature of God’s love for His children.

There is a story from the days of the early church that involves the apostle John. The story says that the apostle John would constantly tell the people in the church that they needed to ‘love one another.’ At first the members of the congregation saw this as good advice, but the apostle persisted in his dispensing of this vital piece of wisdom. The story holds that John would constantly speak about their need to ‘love one another’ in his sermons and that the apostle would constantly instruct the people to ‘love one another’ during their day-to-day interaction with him. This constant repetitious advice made the people wonder why their leader constantly told them to do the same thing over and over again. The people in the church got so perplexed with John’s fixation on their need to ‘love one another’ that they approached him and asked him why he was continually instructing them with the same piece of advice. When confronted with the question of why he was continually telling the people that they needed to ‘love one another’ the apostle John answered by saying: “because that is what the Master

(Jesus) told us!”

The way of our Master was and is the way of love. The Lord Jesus Christ said that the entire Old Testament hangs on the truth of love: Matthew 22:37–40 says, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” The foundational truth of the entire Bible is love; if we fail to understand the love of God then we will never understand any part of God’s Word. No chapter or verse in the entire Bible should be interpreted out of the context of God’s love. This truth extends beyond the Bible and engulfs every aspect of human life. Every moment of every day in our lives, whether it sees us in church on Sunday morning, in a coffee shop with friends, in a hospital bed, or in a pub getting drunk should be viewed in the context of God’s love. Without this foundational truth in the forefront of our minds we will never have the ability to understand God’s working in our lives.

The Lord Jesus understood the integral part that love plays in our understanding of Him and His message for us. Jesus told the religious leaders of His day that they should interpret the entire Old Testament, every sentence and word in light of God’s love. We need to use this truth as a filter for all that happens to us. Everything we do and all that is done to us as well as all that comes to pass in our lives has to be comprehended and understood in relation to God’s love. Every thought that we allow into our minds has to pass through a mental filter that checks and analyzes it in relation to God’s love. If we do not do this then our perspective on what is taking place in our lives will be distorted. We will never be able to understand why God allows such suffering in the world and especially in the lives of those who follow Him. The apostle John understood this truth and tried his hardest to convey it to the Christians around him; we learn this from his writings in the Bible, particularly the book of First John. I believe that the reason why John taught the people about love to the point of frustration was that he knew how desperately they needed to understand it. I am sure that the majority of the people in John’s churches never really understood the power of God’s love for them. If they did then they would have never asked him the question that they did. John, like all great church leaders, understood something that he so desperately wanted the Christians around him to understand. He knew the power of a mind that understands all things in light of God’s love. Through his persistent attempts to pass on an understanding of God’s love, John conveyed the same truth the apostle Paul wrote about in his letter to the church in Ephesus when he divinely penned these words: “that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:17–19).

The love of God needs to be the foundation upon which our entire understanding of life is built. A comprehension of the love of Christ needs to be mixed into all the areas of our lives. If this is not done then we will never be filled with “all the fullness of God.”

Love is an attribute brought to this world by God from heaven. Faith and hope, however, were introduced to mankind by God because of sin. If there were no sin then they would not be needed; love, however, predates sin. Mankind knew of the love of God before sin entered into the world; and the whole purpose of God in the world and individually in our lives is to bring us back into his complete love. This purpose will be completely fulfilled when we arrive home to be with Him in heaven, but while we are on the earth, the Lord is teaching his children a heavenly lesson, that lesson being His love for us.

So many Christians look at Jesus as the all-conquering King of their lives, which He is. However, many fail to recognize that Jesus had another role that He fulfilled while on the earth. Jesus has two roles to play in history, His first appearance on this earth was as the Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world (John 1:29). The second role will be fulfilled when Christ returns as the Lion of God who comes to judge the world (Rev. 5:5). These roles, like the animals that represent them, are very different and they are symbolic of the different ways in which God acts towards His children.

It is said that many Jewish people at the time of Christ thought that there were going to be two Messiahs. The reason for this is that the Old Testament speaks about the coming King in two different ways. Firstly, it refers to Him as the suffering servant of Israel. This is highlighted in the passages of Scripture famously known as the suffering servant passages of Isaiah (42:1–9, 49:1–6, 50:4–11, 52:13–53:121). These passages, particularly 52:13–53:12, have been made famous because of their vivid prophetic description of the ‘suffering servant’ that parallels the account given in the Gospels of the Lord Jesus Christ. Secondly, the Old Testament talks about the coming king as the all-conquering King of Israel who will come to deal with their enemies and bring about a time of great prosperity for the nation (2 Sam. 7:16; Jer. 23:5–6; Zech. 14:5–17, etc.). The point here is that the Jews were right and wrong at the same time. The passages do describe the Messiah (Jesus) in different ways, but they were not describing different people; they were describing the same person in different roles. I have found through my own experiences that Christ can and does act in my life as an all-powerful King. However, these times have been few and far between. One of the hardest lessons I have had to learn is that Jesus has called me many times to follow in His footsteps and to suffer as my Master’s servant. I said above that the way of our Master is the way of love; however, the way of our Master is also the way of suffering.

When Jesus came to earth two thousand years ago, He came for one purpose and one purpose only, to reconcile mankind back to God. This first coming of the Lord to the earth dealt with the spiritual problem of mankind (Matthew 18:11). The return of Christ will see the Lord deal with the final spiritual problems of mankind but also the physical circumstantial ones. What I mean by this is that the primary purpose of the cross was not to remove the suffering from our lives, but to provide a way for people to be redeemed back to God and to give us victory over sin. The Jews wanted their coming Messiah and King to conquer their Roman oppressors and remove all the suffering from their lives. They were imagining a return to the days of King Solomon where silver was as common as wood and the nation and all its inhabitants lived in the lap of luxury. However, the Lord was much more concerned with the problem of sin and the atonement that needed to be made to free Israel and all people from the bondage of sin. This is why the Jews did not recognize Christ; they were looking at Jesus with human expectations of what the Messiah should be and do, whereas God had sent his Son to fulfill the role of the Messiah according to the divine perspective. I cannot speak for you but I can say from my own journey down the road of suffering that I have had this same problem. I thought God is loving, good, and all-powerful therefore He has come into my life to bless me with comfortable circumstances. Only in the last few years have I realized that God’s greatest purpose in my life is to conform me into the image of His Son, not to ensure my personal comfort. God is more interested in my character than He is my comfort!

Like the Jews of Jesus’ day, many of us do not understand the role of God in our lives and the purpose of Jesus’ dying on the cross for our sins. Jesus came to save you and me from our sins, which does not necessarily mean that He has come to save us from suffering. In fact Jesus suffered extensively while He was on earth and the apostles followed in His footsteps. All of the apostles except for John were martyred (and John might as well have been, he suffered so much) and the early church suffered horrendous persecution. The Roman Emperor Nero dipped Christians in hot tar and then put them up on poles. He would then have the poles with the believers attached set alight and he would use these poor saints as human lanterns at his parties. The Lord Jesus came to earth to suffer and his disciples followed him down this path as do many Christians today in countries that persecute believers. It was a hard truth for me to accept when I realized that I am called to serve the all-conquering King but also follow in the footsteps of the great Suffering Servant.

The love of God and the suffering of Christ go hand in hand. God’s love for us cannot be viewed outside of Christ’s suffering for us; God loves us so much that He is allowing us to follow in the footsteps of His Son. If we gladly accept the blessing that comes from following Christ the all conquering King, we must also accept the hardship that is allowed in our lives by Jesus the Suffering Servant. We must always remember that the cross comes before the crown!

In the church today there is a huge misunderstanding of who God is and what His purpose for our lives is. In my early Christian years I viewed God as a divine vending machine. I thought that praying to God is like putting money in a drink machine. I put my prayer in and through that prayer I would be making my selection of what I wanted God to do in my life and then God was obligated to give me what I wanted. So many Christians have ceased praying to God and asking Him for His will to be done as instructed to in the Lord’s prayer (Matthew 6:10; Luke 11:2). Instead we spend most of our prayer life counseling God and instructing Him on how He should be dealing with us in our lives. God does not want our advice; He wants our devotion; one of the most valuable commodities that the Lord values is trust (Proverbs 3:5–6). God wants us to trust Him with our lives; the reason that the Lord wants this of us is that He knows what is best for us. The Lord wants to implement a foundation of love in your life. This may not be easy and it may even be uncomfortable but it is essential for your spiritual growth. When we think of love, many of us conjure up images of roses on Valentine’s Day and long walks on the beach; our view of love has become narrow and distorted by the secular society that we live in. We see on TV people talking about ‘making love’ when in fact they are simply making lust. No one can ‘make love’ because God was and is the creator of love. Our society swaps love for lust and then has no comprehension of what a loving relationship or action is. Lust is Satan’s substitute for God’s love; so many Christians have bought into the lie of Satan that love is a lustful state of euphoria that is comprised of a constant ‘warm fuzzy’ feeling that should never end. This view of love is not the image of love that the Bible portrays. The Biblical view of love is strongly tied up with the area of suffering.

The cross was the most amazing manifestation of God’s love that the world ever has seen and ever will see. We know that the cross is amazing, we sing about it, read about it, and talk about it all the time. When we go to church we are told to be thankful for what the Lord has done on the cross for us, we remember the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ through communion. However, very few Christians understand exactly what took place on the cross; we think we do understand the cross but really we do not. Many people think that the suffering the Lord endured to save us was the physical suffering seen in movies like the Jesus Film and the Passion of the Christ. However, the physical suffering of Christ was just a drop in relation to the ‘ocean of suffering’ that Jesus Christ had to pass through to purchase our salvation. The real suffering that saved us was Christ’s separation from His Father in heaven and the spiritual torture that He endured during the hours of darkness while He was on the cross, when the wrath of God was being poured out upon Him for our sins. People have asked me how Jesus knows about them and I tell them that one reason why He knows all about you is because while He was on the cross He was made aware of all your sin in an intimate way as He suffered on your behalf. We focus on Christ’s physical suffering that He endured on the cross; however, the suffering that caused the Lord Jesus Christ to suffer beyond measure was His spiritual suffering. No one can understand exactly how the Lord suffered spiritually because the only person capable of suffering in this way was the Son of God. Jesus was the only one with the spiritual qualifications needed to fulfill this task and therefore any attempt to analyze His spiritual suffering and understand it would be woefully inadequate. The point that I am making here is that the cross was not only the greatest act of love that the world has ever seen and ever will see; but the cross was also the greatest act of suffering that the world has ever seen and ever will see. God loves you so much that He forsook, renounced, and abandoned His own Son so that He would not have to forsake, renounce, and abandon you. The love of God and the suffering of Christ go hand in hand. It has been said that loving another person is doing what is best for him at any given time. This does not mean that you are constantly being nice to others but it does mean that you should constantly be good to others. There is a big difference between nice people and good people. Nice people are loved by everyone whereas good people get nailed to crosses! Jesus was not always ‘nice’ to people but He was always good to them; there is a big difference. God’s actions in your lives may not always be pleasant or nice; however, they are always loving and good. Just like the cross was not pleasant for Jesus, our suffering is not pleasant for us. The suffering of Christ on the cross was the most productive and loving thing that has ever been done for the human race. Just like our Master’s suffering, our suffering is also the most productive and loving thing that will ever happen in our Christian walk (after our salvation). I realize how stupid and even cruel that statement seems; however, it was true for Jesus and His disciples and it is true for us. I find that in my own life I am happy to accept the part about God the Father allowing Christ to suffer out of love for me. However, I find that I am less willing to accept the part about God allowing me to suffer because He loves me. We need to remember at this point that God allows us to suffer at the expense of our physical lives so we can grow in our spiritual lives. The reason that our good, loving, holy, just and righteous God permits suffering in our lives is that He has a good, loving, holy, just, and righteous purpose for allowing this suffering in our lives, just as He did for Christ. It is not my intention to outline the good, holy, loving, just, and righteous things that God brings about in our lives through suffering and the reason why He cannot use another means to accomplish this. These things will be covered later on; however the point that I want to establish here is that God’s love for us is not made void because He allows us to suffer. God’s love for you is as real as the pain from your suffering. The thing we have to understand is that the suffering God allows in our lives is just as much a part of God’s love for us as the blessing that He brings into our lives. We need to have the perspective that Christ came to free us from our sin not necessarily our suffering. And that there is an amazing, loving, joyous peace to be found even if the Lord does not give us the removal of the painful circumstances that we so desperately seek.