Friday, February 26, 2010

Book Quotes: Angels

From Angels by Dr. David Jeremiah (page 61):

Suppose you received a letter today from a favorite friend who's far away. What would you do with it first? Would you stare at the stationary for hours, to analyze and admire it? Would you obtain a chemical analysis of the ink, to learn exactly what it's made of? Would you investigate where the paper came from, and how it was woven and cut?

No--paper and ink are simply the means of your friend's communication. What you're interested in is your friend and your friend's message. The paper and ink fully serve their intended purpose by simply bringing that personal message to you.

The same logic applies in our approach to angels. Angels are just a means of communication from the God who communicates. Through what angels say and do, God personally expresses his friendship to us and his fatherhood and so much more. What's important is the message angels bring--not the messengers themselves.

To a Deeper Love for Christ
Remember, however, that angels are always one-way messengers. They are God's messengers to us, and never our messengers to God. No one in Scripture ever prays to an angel, and neither should we. They are not go-betweens or mediators between us and heaven.

They are not mediators because there is Another who already fulfills that role--and praise God for that! "For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (1 Timothy 2:5). Christ's mediation brings us what any mediation of angels could never begin to accomplish: the freedom and eternal salvation of our souls. "Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance--now that he has died as a ransom to set them free" (Hebrews 9:15).

That's why in the New Testament the mention of angels is so completely dominated by a focus on the excellence of Christ in every way.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Book Review: The Feasts of the Lord

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The Feasts of the Lord
by Kevin Howard and Marvin Rosenthal

Hardback: 224 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
First Released: 1997

Source: Bought from Books-A-Million.

Back Cover Description:
Israel's feasts are infinitely more important than just a series of cultural observances. These feasts are appointed by the Lord, and they are owned by the Lord. He calls them "my feasts." Together they form God's prophetic calendar, outlining the work of history's most important person...Jesus, the Messiah. As such, few themes are more timely or rewarding for God's people today.

The Feasts of the Lord covers all aspects of the biblical feasts--historical background, biblical observance, and prophetic significance. Yet, this book is not just another reference book on the feasts. It is written from the Hebrew Christian viewpoint, helping you to see the feasts through Jewish eyes.

The words of the Savior, His messianic claims, and Bible prophecy will all take on a rich, new relevance for you against the exciting backdrop of The Feasts of the Lord.

The Feasts of the Lord is an excellent and enlightening resource for Christians and Messianic Jews. It's written by a man who grew up in a conservative Jewish home and a minister who is deeply involved with the Jewish people. Both authors are Christians and show in this book how the Messiah has and will fulfill the seven Feasts of the Lord.

They explained the history of and Biblical commands given for each feast, what additional traditions were added to the feast and why, how the feast is celebrated in modern times, and how the Messiah has fulfilled or will fulfill the feast. (The information on the future fulfillment does, of course, require some speculation that might not turn out to be 100% correct, but it was interesting.)

The authors gave an overview of the Spring and Fall Feasts, then explained how the Jewish religious calendar works (including how they count days and months). Then they covered the Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of First Fruits, the Feast of Weeks, the Feast of Temples, the Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Tabernacles. In the next section, they described other Jewish holidays: Tisha B'Av, Hanukkah (the Feast of Dedication), Purim, and the Jubilee Year.

The book had many lovely, full-color inserts that illustrated the feast being observed, the layout of the temple so the descriptions of how the feasts were carried out in temple times could be easily followed, calendar information about when the feasts are observed, and so on.

The book was very, very interesting, enlightening, and easy to understand. I'd highly recommend it to all Christians, especially those interested in the Jewish background of the Bible as a means of better understanding some events in the Bible.

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
Men the world over observe holidays. There is not a nation anywhere, even among the most primitive of peoples, that does not have its unique days of special celebration. Holidays are often in memory of significant political events; sometimes they commemorate the birth dates of national heroes; and frequently, holidays are simply designed to observe religious beliefs and superstitions. Worldwide, thousands of holidays are observed annually.

In marked contrast, the eternal God instituted only seven holidays. And while it is not inappropriate for men to establish days of special celebration, their significance cannot be compared with the importance of the seven holidays instituted by God. These seven holidays are discussed throughout the Bible, in both the Old and New Testaments. However, only in one place, the twenty-third chapter of Leviticus, are all seven holidays listed in chronological sequence.

These seven holidays are called "the feasts of the Lord." That expression indicates that these holidays are God's holidays--they belong to Him--in contrast to man's holidays. There are, quite literally, "the feasts of the LORD" (Lev. 23:4). And only on His terms and at His invitation can men participate in them and enter into their benefits.

The Hebrew word translated "feasts" means appointed times. The idea is that the sequence and timing of each of these feasts have been carefully orchestrated by God himself. Each is part of a comprehensive whole. Collectively, they tell a story. These feasts are also called "holy convocations"; that is, they are intended to be times of meeting between God and man for "holy purposes." Since these seven feasts of the Lord are "appointed times" for "holy purposes," they carry with them great sacredness and solemnity.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Book Quote: Character of God

From Dug Down Deep by Joshua Harris (pages 47-48):

I was in Austin, Texas, listening to John Piper preach at Louie Giglio's Passion conference in 1998....

Then Piper asked what the basic riddle of the universe really is. Is it the question, why is there suffering in the world? No, said Piper, not for the person with a biblical mind-set. The question for this God-centered person is, why is there any goodness for a sinner like me? How can God--a holy and righteous God--pass over the sins of man? Why doesn't he wipe us out?

I was ashamed to admit the question never kept me up at night. I had a small view of God's holiness and righteousness and an inflated view of my worth and value.

Piper continued to press the question, how can God be good and forgive sinners? He used the hypothetical illustration of a failed attempt by terrorists to destroy the White House and kill the president. If the terrorists are brought to trial and the judge forgives them, gives them a vacation, and sends them on their way, what will other nations assume about this judge? They'll think he is crazy or has been bought off. Or at least assume he has no respect for the law.

So it is with God's glory, Piper explained. If God passed over sin and brought no punishment, what else could we assume about his character except that he was less than perfect?

Then Piper pointed to the Cross. On Calvary, God displayed his justice and his love. He was glorified in the death of his Son...."Do you love the Cross because it makes much of you?" he asked. "Or do you love it because it enables you to enjoy an eternity of making much of God?"

I left Austin with an unsettling thought that has never left me. If I love the Cross only for what it does for me, I will have reduced it to a monument to myself. But the greatest glory of the Cross is what it tells me about God. A God of justice and mercy. A God who loved helpless sinners like me so much that he came to die so we could be free to know and worship him for eternity.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

And the winner is...

It's time to announce the winner of The Ultimate Proof of Creation by Dr. Jason Lisle. Using a random number generator and numbering the entrants in the order I received them, the winner is:


Congratulations! I'll be contacting you for your address.

For those who didn't win, you can always buy a copy of this book from Books-A-Million (see the sidebar for instructions on getting a ChristFocus Book Club discount on your order), AiG, or your favorite bookstore.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Book Review: The Joseph Road

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The Joseph Road
by Jerry White

Trade Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: NavPress Publishers
First Released: 2010

Source: I received this book free as a review copy from NavPress Publishers.

Book Description from Publisher Website:
The biblical story of Joseph offers us a powerful lesson: Our true destiny is decided not by the depth of our troubles but by pursuing the will of God in the midst of them.

Joseph’s life is a winding tale of hard choices, sad tragedies, and God's loving protection. Out of the ashes of disaster, God enabled Joseph to grow in character and maturity as he rescued Egypt, forgave those who had hurt him, and saved a deeply flawed family that grew into a great nation.

Let author Jerry White show you how the "Joseph Plan” can reveal your own true destiny as you learn more about the character of God

The Joseph Road is a good, basic Christian Living book. It's an easy read: easy to follow and easy to understand. It had basic (but good) insights for those whose lives aren't working out as expected but who want to walk in a God-honoring way through it all.

The author looked to Scripture as our guide (specifically at the account of Joseph found in Genesis, but he also quoted other parts of the Bible). He used Scripture, some Bible background information, and reasonable supposition of what Joseph went through emotionally to describe what Joseph went through and how he reacted. He then showed how to apply what we learned to our lives today.

I was initially concerned that there seemed to be a slant toward “people can do what’s right if they decide they want to,” yet most people I know struggle to consistently do so. I was happy that later parts of the book pointed out that we need God at work in our lives in order to be consistent in our walk with Him.

Overall, I’d recommend this as a basic book with good guidance about how to act when people act unfairly toward you, when people betray you, and when things just don’t work out as expected.

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
Do you remember when you dreamed those impossible dreams? To be a baseball star, a model, a fireman, an astronaut, or a pilot? To be rich, to be famous? When did those dreams die?

For most of us, we saw them fade as the reality of life began to set in. This is sad, for dreams can keep us going, give us hope, and propel us to great achievements.

Joseph--this young teen, this privileged son of Jacob--had a dream. A real one, not just some random thought. And in those days, most people put a great deal of credence in dreams.

Afterward, Joseph did what any immature young man would do in the same situation: He told his brothers.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Book Quotes: Delight in God

From Diving into God's Words: A discovery of Psalm 119 by Alex McFarland (pages 12):

God's Law is not a burden; it is a mercy and a protection for us. God's instructions are not to make us unhappy; on the contrary, when followed, God's laws provide the ultimate joy and conditions for our success. If you find yourself struggling with obedience and asking, "Why does God want me to do that?" remember that He has provided the Law for your well-being. God has reached out to us with commands because He loves us.

From page 13:

God doesn't need us to accomplish His work. In fact, He is all-sufficient. However, He allows us to participate in His ways because it eventually brings His children joy and maturity.

From page 102-103:

In a goal-oriented, success-obsessed culture, it is tempting even for Christians to express our goals in those terms....In other words, even in the Christian world, we measure our worth based on performance rather than our identity in Christ. Keep in mind, however, that what we do for Jesus will eventually pass away. Who we are is what matters to God....

No matter how well intentioned we are when we select our performance goals, it is important to remember that the One who spoke the universe into existence from nothingness doesn't really need anything we can do for Him. God wants us to love Him, to enjoy Him (take our complete satisfaction in Him and nothing else), and to glorify Him.

But the world, our own flesh, and the Devil conspire to get us to forget these simple goals. That's why leaning daily on the Words of God is so important.

Monday, February 8, 2010

And the winner is...

It's time to announce the winner of Angels by Dr. David Jeremiah. Using a random number generator and numbering the entrants in the order I received them, the winner is:

Tina Reynolds

Congratulations! I'll be contacting you for your address.

For those who didn't win, you can always buy a copy of this book from Books-A-Million (see the sidebar for instructions of getting a ChristFocus Book Club discount on your order) or your favorite bookstore.

Giveaway: The Ultimate Proof of Creation

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I'm giving away a new copy of The Ultimate Proof of Creation by Dr. Jason Lisle. It's an excellent book for Christians who want to share their faith with skeptics and for those who want a firmer foundation for their own.

This book is the ChristFocus Book Club March/April 2010 discussion book, and I'll post the discussion post for it on March 1, 2010.

Read my review to learn more about the book.

This contest is for USA and Canada residents only.

If you've never won a free book from ChristFocus Book Club, enter the giveaway by either:

On Twitter, send me a tweet saying "Hi @christfocus. Please enter me in the giveaway for "The Ultimate Proof of Creation" by Dr. Jason Lisle."


Leave a comment on this post asking to be entered in the giveaway and also leave some way for me to contact you if you win.

If you've won a free book from ChristFocus Book Club before, I'd ask that you don't enter the contest for this book if you aren't at least halfway finished with the book you won. Sorry to be so picky. I just really want to see these books read and talked about.

I'll randomly select the winner at noon (central time) on Feb. 18, 2010 and list them on this blog. I'll inform the winner and ask for their shipping address. If the winner hasn't responded within four days of notification, a new winner will be selected.

I hope everyone has fun with this, and I look forward to hearing what everyone thinks of this book!

Book Review: What To Do When You Don't Know What To Do

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What To Do When You Don't Know What To Do:
8 Principles for Finding God's Way
by Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend

Hardback: 140 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Released: 2006, 2009

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Back Cover Description:
It's like being in the desert.

When you face an especially difficult problem in your life--a bad habit, a nagging depression, or a career fallout--you often feel like you're stranded with no landmarks to guide you. Whatever the difficulty, when you reach the end of your rope, it can be hard not to panic.

But according to Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend, the end of your rope can be the best place to be. Because when you reach the end of your own strength and call on God, that's when he makes a way, not out of your problem, but through. It is in those moments you are ready to experience God like never before.

In What To Do When You Don't Know What To Do, Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend share eight proven, practical, and doable strategies for finding God's way through your problem. Most importantly, they offer encouragement that no matter how bleak things look right now, God can and will make a way in your life.

What To Do When You Don't Know What To Do was a quick, easy read with practical advice that was easy to understand. The book was aimed at those who "don't know what to do" about their problems anymore. The advice started with God, was God-focused, and was based on Scripture. However, the book didn't dig very deep into Scripture, hardly mentioned Jesus, and didn’t mention the Holy Spirit at all--probably to broaden the audience.

The book gave eight general principles that built upon each other and which applied to all tough situations. The authors explained what they meant (in practical terms), how to carry them out, and gave real-life examples.

At the end, there was a bonus section which covered specific categories of "tough situations": discouragement and depression; bad habits and addictions; and sex and intimacy problems. In it, the authors became more specific in their advice on how to identify the specific problem and what to do to get headed out of it. They gave some very useful advice in these sections.

It's a good, basic book. If you're not sure what to do next or how God can help you get through your problems, and you're looking for a short read, then this book will help.

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
Principle 1: Begin Your Journey with God

It almost sounds like some kind of advertising slogan, but this little play on words really says it: "God will make a way" begins with God. It's not your belief that makes a way; it's God who makes a way. Your faith is the vital step you take to connect with God, the way-maker. But without God, all the faith you can possibly muster won't get you anywhere. So our first principle for finding God's way is to begin your journey with God.

The story of Abraham in the Bible is a good example. When God called him to leave his homeland, Abraham had no idea where he was headed. But he believed God knew where he was headed, so he packed up and left. He did not believe in belief; he believed in a God who knew exactly where Abraham was going and who was able to lead him there.

So when we talk about faith, trust, and belief to carry you through your trials and troubles, we mean it in a very specific way. We're not talking about warm religious feelings or an exercise in positive thinking. Faith is grounded in a relationship with God, a real Person who knows the way for you and promises to lead you on it.

We Are Designed for Dependence
Some people argue that relying on God is a weakness, that God is a crutch for those who can't make it on their own. The fact that you need God so desperately in your life is not a weakness any more than your need for air or for food is a weakness. God created us to reach outside ourselves to find the things we need. We were designed for dependence on him. The term "self-made person" is a huge oxymoron. No one is self-made. The psalmist writes, "It is [God] who has made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture" (Psalm 100:3).

We did not create ourselves to begin with, nor were we designed to find our own way in life. Rather, God wired us to depend on him. When you exercise faith in him, you are doing the one thing you can do to accomplish superhuman feats: You are reaching beyond your own human strength and knowledge and tapping into God's infinite strength and knowledge.

God Provides What You Need
What do you do in a difficult or painful situation when you don't know what to do? The sad truth is that many people do one of two things. First, they repeat what didn't work before. They try harder to make a relationship work, to succeed in a career, or to overcome a difficult personal problem, pattern, or habit. Chronic dieters, for example, convince themselves that "this time it will work." The victim in an abusive relationship reconciles after another fight or separation, thinking this time the partner will change.

This approach reflects a popular definition of insanity: Doing the same thing again, but expecting different results. If you have done everything you know to do without success, trying again with your own limited knowledge and strength is not the answer.

The second common response to a hopeless situation is to stop trying all together.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Book Quotes: Healing Our Deadliest Disease--Sin

From Hearing Jesus Speak into Your Sorrow by Nancy Guthrie (p. 27):

...we know that every person who was physically healed by Jesus during his earthly ministry eventually died. At some point their bodies gave out when some other sickness or simply old age overruled the earlier miracles.

and from page 29:

[Jesus] came and he healed in order to show us there's a deeper sickness than physical blindness, paralysis, or fever that he has the power to heal.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Giveaway: Angels

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WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group has provided me with a copy of Angels by Dr. David Jeremiah to give away to my readers. Read my review to learn more about the book.

This contest is for USA and Canada residents only.

You can enter the giveaway by either:

On Twitter, send me a tweet saying "Hi @christfocus. Please enter me to win "Angels" by Dr. David Jeremiah. Another of his books is ________." (You need to fill in the name of another book by this author. Hint: Look here.)


You can leave a comment to this post asking to be entered and giving the name of another book by this author. Please also leave some way for me to contact you or follow this blog so you can see the winner announcement.

I'll randomly select the winner at noon (central time) on Feb. 8, 2010 and list them on this blog. I'll inform the winner and ask for their shipping address. If the winner hasn't responded within four days of notification, a new winner will be selected.

I hope everyone has fun with this, and I look forward to hearing what everyone thinks of this book!

Book Review: Angels

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by Dr. David Jeremiah

Trade Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Multnomah
First Released: 1996, 2006

Book Info Page on Publisher Website

Source: Review copy from the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.

Back Cover Description:
People have long been fascinated by stories of angel sightings, yet many contemporary beliefs about angels are based on misconception and myth rather than solid, biblical truth.

As he's done so brilliantly for decades, respected Bible teacher Dr. David Jeremiah uses Scripture to unveil the remarkable truth about these agents of heaven and their role in our world and our lives.

What are angels? What is their role in God's plan? Are they present? Do they appear? Do they give us personal insight about our work and our worship?

In this broad and thorough survey of Scripture, Dr. Jeremiah clearly and simply separates fact from fiction as it relates to angels. His enlightening findings are supported with illustrations and insights from prominent teachers, such as Billy Graham, Corrie ten Boom, C. S. Lewis, and more.

Dr. Jeremiah's down-to-earth style guides readers around the hype about angels and directly into the "substance of things unseen!"

This book explored what the Bible says about angels. It was written in an easy-to-follow, somewhat casual writing style. However, the font was small and light, making the book difficult to read.

When Dr. Jeremiah concentrated on what Scripture had to say about angels, the book was excellent...though he did identify a few beings in the Bible as angels that I'm not convinced are angels (like he assumed that "the elders" in Revelations were angels, which not everyone agrees with).

Apparently that wasn't enough material to fill up the book, so he included a lot of speculation about angels. I was rarely convinced by his ideas (especially in chapter 12 and parts of chapters 6, 7, and 13), though usually there wasn't anything I could point to in the Bible that directly disproved it. I appreciated that Dr. Jeremiah was careful to point out when he was speculating versus what came directly from the Bible.

When Dr. Jeremiah was paraphrasing a passage from the Bible about an angel encounter, he would often change the wording of what happened to something I didn't think was quite accurate. The shorter passages stayed pretty true to the Scripture, but I'd highly recommend that you look up the longer passages or ones you don't recognize to see what the Bible really said.

I'd recommend this book to anyone who is fascinated by angels but who isn't familiar with what the Bible says on the subject or who wants to know everything the Bible has to say about angels.

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 Four
In the Bible, our English word "angel" translates the Hebrew word mal'ak in the Old Testament and the Greek word angelos in the New. The core meaning of both those words is messenger. That's the essence of who and what angels are. They are couriers for Someone other than themselves. They're Someone else's ambassadors, Someone else's agents. They represent only him, and never themselves. They are channels to carry only his information. They speak and act according to his instructions and they bear his authority.

The next time you read a Scripture passage about them, try substituting the word messenger for angel to get a good feel for this crucial aspect of their essence. Apart from God, angels can do nothing and are nothing. Their very food and drink is to do his will and accomplish his work. And God's will and work for angels is to communicate his messages, both by what they say and what they do.

They are his messengers. When they give us strength or enlightenment, it is God's strength or enlightenment that they impart. Their encouragement is God's encouragement. Their guidance is God's guidance. Their protection is God's protection. When they bring comfort, it is God's comfort they offer. And when they bring wrath, it is God's wrath they inflict.

That's why the right understanding of angels must go back to God's character. God himself is a communicator. Word is one of his right and proper names: "In the beginning was the Word...and the Word was God" (John 1:1). God "reveals his thoughts to man," the prophet Amos says (Amos 4:13). God makes himself known.

Read chapter one.