Monday, November 16, 2015

The King's Curse - Book Review

King Henry VIII was never a favorite monarch of mine. I really do not believe he reformed the church do to Scriptural conviction, but more out of convenience. He desperately needed an heir and the Catholic Church was in the way. His father's greatest fear was that his line would die out and I am sure that fear was passed on to his children. In the book "The King's Curse", I just hate Henry more. He was a despicable man. The story is told from the view point of Margaret Pole, countess of Salisbury. Her father was the brother of Edward IV. This book is excellent! Philippa Gregory, the author, really captured the constant ebbing and flowing of fear and peace that was the reign of Henry VIII among those that may be a threat to the throne. No body was safe with him, not even his own children. Even though I knew how Margaret died, the book still gripped me and I anxiously waited the ending. This book was a great book and one of my favorites that Ms. Gregory has written. This book is the last in the series of the Cousins' War Series.

To the Christian: The Reformation is in its infancy during this era. The struggle between tradition and Scripture was almost at its boiling point. Margaret Pole is Catholic and I do feel sorry for her because  Henry's "reform" utterly destroys the practices that have been a part of her faith for centuries. It brings homelessness and destitution to the monks and nuns that have spent their lives in cloister. I believe he does these atrocities not in the name of God, but to satiate his power hungry ambition. During this time, Henry burns at the stake William Tyndale, a man that translated the Bible into English, so that all may partake and read Scripture.

There is no explicit content in the book.

You can buy this book here

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Lamentations, Poetic Pain

Lamentations is only 5 chapters long, but the imagery in those chapters is brutal. Restlessness, women boiling and eating their children, bones breaking and flesh rotting, crying so much that bile pours out of his mouth, children dying of hunger, fainting babies and it goes on and on. What despair!! All these consequences because warning after warning came from Jeremiah and the people did not heed! Jeremiah warned the people of Israel to turn from their wicked ways. To stop the idolatry, the prostitution, the filthy and abominable sins they were committing; but they didn't. And because they didn't take Jeremiah seriously it was as if they were not taking God seriously. Lamentations is a small book of graphic imagery of the harvest Israel has reaped. In the middle of the book the prophet does speak of the hope of God's faithfulness and mercy. And eventually it does come, but the present state of Israel is haunting. In the midst of all this horror Jeremiah knows the punishment is just (1:18) and that God is in the right to bring this turmoil on His people.

But even when all seems lost these verses appear to comfort:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are
new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (3:22-23)

For the Lord will not cast off forever, but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion
according to the abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not
afflict from his heart or grieve the children of men (3:31-33

After this moment of reprieve from the devastation Jeremiah again begins to speak of how the people of Israel have behaved and he explains why they suffer so much.

The book ends reminding us who is on the Throne and who truly is in control (5:19). And the last verses hope for restoration.

To the Christian: In the middle of our pain or our trial - regardless if it is the Lord disciplining us or refining us - we do have hope. We also have no other option but to trust His Sovereignty and His wisdom in using our circumstance for our good. He is a good Father. He is merciful. He is compassionate, even if our eyes are swollen from too many tears or if our throat is raw from crying in despair. Child of God, do you not know that He sent His Son to die for you, to pay the debt you could not pay, even though there was nothing in you that pleased Him? We are bound to spend eternity with Him, and these trials will come to an end one day. And there will be no more tears, or cries of despair. None. Death will be swallowed up. We have that hope. And in the end if that is all we have, then it is more than enough.

Monday, November 9, 2015

The Queen's Vow - Book Review

I will admit that I do not know much of Queen Isabella. I knew she was a warrior queen and that her youngest daughter, Catalina married Henry the VIII of England. I also knew that she promoted the Spanish Inquisition and the forced exile of the Jews. She also fought the Moor and expanded her kingdom with the marriage to Ferdinand and through war with the "infidel". So needless to say, I went into this book with my own biases of this queen. When I thought of Isabella of Castile, I thought of a strong powerful monarch in her own right; but after reading this book, I really didn't get that out of her. She seems to have minded Ferdinand and her religious leaders more than what she wanted to. In the book, she really doesn't want to begin the Inquisition, but Ferdinand and Talavera (her confessor) coax her into it. She really doesn't want to force conversion of the Jews, but again she is influenced to do so. She really doesn't want to throw out the Conversos (Jews that have  converted to the Catholic faith) but again she does so against her moral judgement. It's like the author wants you to like her and think of her as a tolerable monarch, but because of circumstances, she had no other choice but to do the dirty work of the Church. I really believe Isabella knew what she was doing to her people and did so in the name of God. I believe she (like all monarchs of that time) thought of herself as anointed by God to do His will and that will was to bring reform, holiness and obedience no matter the cost.  I believe she brought order and fear to her people. 

Unfortunately, in this book, she didn't seem to have too much depth. She seemed more tame that what I had imagined her to be. She seemed more agreeable than strong-willed. She seemed out of her league in war and looked outright stupid in a particular war scene in the book. 

I do not know how historically correct this book is, but my romanticized view of a strong, independent warrior queen was really broken with this book. Isabella's best friend Beatriz and even King Enrique IV's wife, Juana seem to have more spirit that Isabella herself. 

Even the cover of this book is disappointing. Isabella was a blonde with blue eyes - a true Tratamaran, but in the cover of the book she looks more French or Moorish. Overall, I really didn't like the book.

To the Christian: Thankfully, this book leaves a lot to the imagination when it comes to sexual encounters. There are slight references to homosexual pedophilia, but nothing at all vivid. There is adultery and children born out of wedlock. The intimacy between Isabella and Ferdinand is not vulgar or graphic. There are no bad words. 
                                     Reading this book strengthens my belief on how important it is to read the Bible and obey it and to properly interpret it. So much pain could be averted if we just did what it said. Isabella didn't need to force conversion on anyone to win God's favor. God is our Potter and He does with His creation what He wishes. Isabella and the Church tried in vain to do the work of the Holy Spirit. Nowhere in the Bible are people forced to conversion by other people. God does that work and turns a  heart of stone into a heart of flesh. Not one disciple brought harm to his enemy. On the contrary, Jesus showed them to pray for your enemy and do good to those that hurt you. She did a lot in the "name of God", but it wasn't the God of the Bible. While reading the book, I remember thinking, "Where did you get that from Scripture, Isabella"; "no, that's not what that means at all!". Isabella and her Church didn't interpret Scripture correctly and allowed their own biases to twist Scripture. In an age of so much information, we have no excuse to "not know better". 

Monday, October 19, 2015

Jeremiah - The Suffering Prophet

I just finished the book of Jeremiah, and honestly it was difficult to read. Besides the "Jeremiah said,'The Lord said "Thus says the Lord . .. . "'', this book is very despairing. Countless of times Jeremiah warns and exclaims and again warns Israel and Judah to repent, and they refuse to. Several times there is a glimmer of hope that they will obey, but at the end of the day, they follow their own advice and God proceeds in punishing them for their outright unfaithfulness. God sends the Babylonians to capture and besiege their city. The books ends with the King of Israel witnessing the murder of his family and then having his eyes bored out. Jeremiah is taken as a captive and continues to wail and weep for God's people to repent. In Jeremiah's next writings (Lamentations) I have begun to read the poetic pain of this prophet of God.

Reading Jeremiah in large chunks, the infamous verse in 29:11 takes on a new meaning than what it means if it stands alone. The previous 28 chapters God is crushing Israel and Judah. He is punishing them for their blatant disobedience, but despite that He gives them hope that He will eventually prosper them (their descendants).

Jeremiah sounds like Job when he curses the day of his birth. This man is in utter despair because of the sins and lack of repentance of his people . . . .

Am I anything like Jeremiah? Do I weep and pray on my knees for the lost? Do I despair at the sight of so much sin and bring that despair to my Lord? Or do I self-righteously think that they are beyond salvation? Do I weep over my own sin?

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Counter Culture by Davit Platt

When we ask Christians what they think about ending sex trafficking or poverty or the helping the orphans, most will agree that these causes are worth fighting for. Most will voice their opinions about how we as Christians should do something about these things and most will not expect much rebuttal or disagreement. But why does the conversation get a little tense and the lines get a little blurry when those same Christians have a conversation about same sex marriage and/or abortion?

In his book Counter Culture,  David Platt challenges us to be passionate not only for the issues that are popular or where everyone is on the bandwagon, but also for those issues that may ostracize us from our friends and family and maybe even our church.

Mr. Platt starts off the book stating the obvious that we seem to forget when dealing with any sin and that is that we have a problem with a statement like: "There is a God who sustains, owns, defines, rules, and one day will judge you." (pg. 3) The natural man's reaction to this is to be offended by such a statement. Deep down we just want to do what we want and we will collaborate, manipulate, interpret, make excuses, etc just to be our own god and get our own way.

Mr. Platt speaks on all the issues (easy and difficult ones) and lovingly and respectfully explains using God's Word and other information where Christians need to start when dealing with them. Like all the books I have read by him, he uses examples to help the reader understand how important it is for the Christian not to idly stand by as so many evils are happening. At the end of every chapter he guides the reader on what to pray for, where to get more information and what he/she can do start doing something. He also includes eye-opening statistics that made me cringe some times.

Here are some excerpts I highlighted and wanted to share with you:

Regarding abortion he gave this statistic: an estimated 92% of all women who receive a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome choose to terminate their pregnancies.  (pg 67)

Regarding orphan, widow and foster care: "For we are not rescuers giving our lives and families to save orphans and widows in need; instead, we are the rescued whose lives have been transformed at our deepest point of need." (pg 104)

Regarding racism he cited this verse: "From one man (God) made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. Acts 17:26 NIV"

Regarding illegal and legal immigration he says: "The gospel compels us in our culture to decry any and all forms of oppression, exploitation, bigotry, or harassment of immigrants, regardless of their legal status. These are men and women for whom Christ died and their dignity is no greater or lesser than our own." (pg 205)

Regarding religious liberty. David Platt along with other religious leaders of different faiths (Judaism, Islam, Hinduism) signed a document expressing their convictions of religioius liberty. This is what part of the document said. While Mr. Platt strongly disagrees with them, he joined with them to protect our religious freedom. The end of the document these men signed says this:
"We will not . . . bend to any rule purporting to force us to bless immoral sexual partnerships, treat them as marriages or the equivalent, or refrain from proclaiming the truth, as we know it, about morality and immorality and marriage and the family. We will fully and ungrudgingly render to Caesar what is Caesar's. But under no circumstance will we render to Caesar what is God's." (pg. 222)

Regarding religious liberty: Tolerance implies disagreement. I have to disagree with you in order to tolerate you. (pg 225)

Life for the Christian living in the U.S. has changed. Mr. Platt warns: Gone are the days when it was socially beneficial to be in church at the beginning of the week. Gone are the days when it was publicly accepted to follow Christ every other day of the week. Here are the days when holding fast to the gospel, actually believing the Bible, and putting it into practice will mean risking your reputation, sacrificing your social status, disagreeing with your closest family and friends, jeopardizing your economic security and earthly stability, giving away your possessions, leaving behind the accolades of the world, and (depending on where and how God leads you) potentially losing your life. (pg240)

I strongly recommend this book!

We should love our enemies, we should bless those that persecute us, but we should not dilute the truth that ALL OF US are in need of Savior. That ALL have sinned and fall short. That ALL struggle with sins that are heinous to a HOLY God. And that the Gospel IS GOOD NEWS.

Mr. Platt does make an interesting statement towards the end of his book. He speaks about the overflowing amount of Bible knowledge that the U.S. has and how even with so many Bibles, so many seminaries, so many churches, we seem to be more blind and more deaf to the Gospel. He speaks that maybe it is because we need to go OUT of the U.S. and into other countries where the Gospel seed will land on fertile soil. I couldn't help but ask myself if God is allowing us to wallow in our sin and has hardened the hearts of many?

The last sentence of the book is this: He (God) has called you to himself, he has saved you by his Son, he has filled you with his Spirit, he has captured you with his love, and he is compelling you by his Word to counter our culture by proclaiming his Kingdom, not worried about what it will cost you because you are confident that God himself is your great reward. (pg. 254)

There is so much more in this book that I could share! Like every other book of his, I was challenged to do something with my faith. This book will not make you feel good, or will not help someone with  low self-esteems or make you richer. It doesn't give you advice on how to make friends. On the contrary, it challenges you to go against the grain, to counter the culture that has normalized so many things God calls sin.You will lose friends, you will not be popular, you will "lose" money. But what do those things matter, it was never about you (me) anyway.

You can buy this book here

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Book Review - Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi

Pinocchio by C. Collodi

I love old books! I love the way they smell and the way they feel. I love the fonts they used and the color the pages have turned. Everything about old books just brings about a sense of assurance for me, that things can last generations and still bring about strong feelings of wonder and fascination. 

Several years ago my husband and I were at an antique store and found an old copy of Pinocchio. The copy we bought was written in 1914. So being a pretty cherry red book with bold black letters, I placed it among other old books and stared at it for a while. About three days ago, after finishing up a very serious book on culture and the degradation of American Christianity, I decided to take a break from the moribund and picked up Pinocchio and read it. I loved it!

Now, I do love the classic Walt Disney animation, but it pales and is outright tame compared to the revelries found in the book!  I mean, Pinocchio squashes the Cricket in the first couple of chapters! The fairy is a shape-shifter. The Cat gets his paw bit off by Pinocchio. Pinocchio is hung, drowned, burned alive, starved, robbed, humiliated, sent to prison, eaten alive, beaten and so much more! All the animals speak in this book and some give good advice while others cajole and lie. The morals in this book scream at you and you just can't believe how naughty Pinocchio is.

This book would be a fantastic book to read aloud to our children. It speaks on the importance of education, honesty and hard work. And it is outright entertaining. There is not a moment when things get a little boring. Not with Pinocchio. The story coaxes the imagination to come alive in a fantasy where the consequences of idleness, dishonesty, and entitlement have "interesting" repercussions.

Obviously this is an older book and older language is used. There is a term that I probably wouldn't use if I were reading it aloud to my kids, especially the older kids. When Pinocchio is taken away to a place where there is no school and only play. That place is referred to the "Land of Boobies". Clearly, it is not speaking of a woman's breasts, but speaking of a "Land of fools". So I would used "the land of sillies" if I read it aloud.

The book is a little morbid. But I think it is to cause a shock to the reader and imprint Pinocchio's consequences into the reader's mind. In the beginning of the book, Pinocchio sits too close to a fire and his feet are burned off. Also when he turns into a donkey, he is bought by a peasant that is going to skin him and turn his hide into a drum. If that wasn't morbid enough, the peasant ties a large rock to his neck and drowns Pinocchio at sea in order to get his skin. While under water Pinocchio the donkey has his flesh eaten up by fish and as the fish keep eating, they only leave behind Pinocchio (the wooden puppet). Also Pinocchio hides 4 golden coins in his mouth and the Cat and Fox try to pry open his mouth to no avail. They then try to kill him by hanging him in hopes that when he is dead, his mouth will open up thus releasing the coins he is hiding. It is apparent in the book that Pinocchio could have prevented all of these things from happening, if he had just obeyed his father or the good advice given by the Fairy. And that "fear" that is generated from these scenes are meant to be remembered and to then to hopefully steer a bad decision into a good decision.

Although a fantasy, the book speaks a lot of truth regarding behavior and work ethic. Pinocchio continually spends a lot of time wishing he would have made a better decision. People he loves die and suffer because of his bad and selfish decisions. Isn't it so in our own real life?

I recommend this book to anyone looking for a break from serious books. I also recommend it to read aloud to older children.

It didn't take long to read and if I hadn't had seen the animation first, I think it would have been even a more exciting read! Disney (understandably)  left out a lot of parts from the book so it was still entertaining. I giggled and was amazed at what predicaments Pinocchio got himself into. In the end, he does learn his lesson, but at a huge cost to himself and those he loved.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Tozer on Worship and Entertainment - Book Review

This book was put together by James L. Snyder and is a collection of sermons snippets, essays and book excerpts of Tozer's commentary on worship and entertainment in the church.

Almost ever paragraph in this book is quotable. I collect quotes that make me think and I love word play to make a point, and this book is full of them. I want to say this because despite the awesome quotes, the book was almost unbearable to read. It was unbearable only because Tozer would say something awesome on church culture and then you would get to the end of the paragraph and that was it. It was just  a snippet of something he said and Mr. Snyder would move on to the next snippet. It was so frustrating! I wanted an elaboration on what he just said. I wanted some verses to dig up. I wanted his whole thought process and another example. It was like being hungry at a restaurant and having the waiter come bring your meal, eating one bite of it and then having him take it away.

Despite the frustration though, there were great things I got from this book. I couldn't believe how long ago Tozer wrote this, and throughout my reading I wondered what he would have to say now that there seems to be more lights and sounds and "entertainment" techniques used during church service.  So much of what he had to say on this subject can be applied as a warning and a grievance of the condition of the American church today.

I've included some of the best quotes in the book below:

"We can't worship these days because we do not have a high enough opinion of God. God has been reduced, modified, edited, changed and amended until He is not the God Isaiah saw high and lifted up but something else.. .. Worship rises and falls in the church altogether depending on whether the idea of God is low or high"

"The holy art of worship seems to have passed away . . . As a result, we are left to our own devices and forced to make up the lack of spontaneous worship by bringing in countless cheap and tawdry activities to hold the attention of the church people."

"...if your life doesn't worship God, your lips don't worship God either."

"Let us practice the art of Bible meditation. But please don't grab that phrase and go out and form a club - we are organized to death already. Just meditate. Let us just be plain, thoughtful Christians. Let us open our Bibles, spread them out on a chair and meditate on the Word of God. It will open itself to us and the Spirit of God will come and brood over it"

"If you do not know the presence of God in your office, your factory,  your home, then God is not in the church when you attend"

"The presence of God in our midst - ...godly fear - this is largely missing today. You cannot induce it by soft organ music and light streaming... You cannot induce it by any kind or any amount of mumbo-jumbo. What people feel in the presence of that kind of paganism is not the true fear of God. It is just the inducement of a superstitious dread."

"God wants worshipers before workers"

"We begin to grow up when our worship passes from thanksgiving to admiration"

"We cannot afford to let down our Christian standards just to hold the interest of people who want to go to hell and still belong to a church."

There were many more quotes I wanted to include, but I think you get the idea with the couple I have sprinkled here. This is a great book when one is looking for quotes or insights for a sermon or a Bible class on the subject of worship and entertainment. Thankfully, Mr. Snyder provides where each snippet or excerpt is taken from just in case the reader wants to research more. Because of this book, I will have to add more books to my reading list!

As I mature in my faith, the thought of worshiping God forever seems more attractive and desirable.  I love those moments when His awesome splendor and holy majesty leave me speechless. I cannot even come close to imagining feeling that way for eternity. I feel like I would burst!

As American's we have lowered worship to be about us. It isn't. It cannot be. Whether our preference is hymns, contemporary, acapella, lights, no lights. All of it is for naught if we do not look at the words being sung and what we think when we hear those words. Amos 5 warns the false worshiper. The one who doesn't humble himself before God. The one who lives his life without fear of God. In verse 21 in that chapter God says, "I HATE, I despise your religious festivals; your assemblies are a stench to me! And in verse 23 "Away with the noise of your songs!" There is a wrong way to worship God. Anything where He is not center, is not worthy of Him.

You can buy this book here

Monday, January 19, 2015

Exodus - Gods and Kings

When I first saw the trailer of Exodus, my heart was overwhelmed. In the trailer, I saw an enormous wave with water spouts in the background. I held my breath as the wave drew closer and closer to me and it seemed it was about to kill me. The sound of that mighty tidal monster invaded my ears and I knew I had to see this movie! This is my God - awesome, colossal, great, mighty, powerful etc, etc, etc!! This is the God that brought Egypt to its knees and who brought up a man to be used to free His people from bondage! I knew in my heart that this movie was not going to be like the vomit-inducing shame that was Noah. But Jeremiah 17:9 says that the heart is the most deceitful of all! I should have known! I ended up wanting to vomit and what a total loss!

I did know going into the movie that there was going to be some diluting of God and I prepared myself to leave a good size room for artistic interpretation. And I did. I really did. I wanted to like this movie, but in the end I don't recommend it for anyone who loves God's Word. The story of the Exodus is so good in and of itself and I was just prepared for some awesome scenes of God's power. But Mr. Scott utterly destroyed what could of been a phenomenal movie! He splurged 124 million dollars for goodness' sake! You will be disappointed. You will be angry. You will be frustrated. You will be sad. And you will want to vomit!

I am now going to list some of things I hated most of this movie. So if you plan on seeing the movie, please stop reading now.

1. Once you get to this next point in the movie, it all spirals out of control fairly quickly from there. Moses is exiled by Pharaoh and he meets Zipporah, Jethro, his wife and his daughters. Time passes (9 years) and during a bad rainstorm, three sheep start going up the mountain that is called "God's mountain", Moses follows. As the sheep ascend, a mudslide pummels Moses and he is all but submerged in the mess. His face is all that sticks out of the sludge. Close by a small bush ignites in blue flames and out comes GOD . . . . . in the form of an eight year old child with an English accent! I couldn't believe it! My gag-reflex was stimulated! This kid proceeds to speak with Moses and to make it seem deeper, the little boy is playing with these little rocks. The child piles these little rocks into a pyramid and guess how many rocks there are? I will give you one guess........ yes! 10! Gee, I wonder what that means! At first, I thought maybe that the little boy was like a messenger, like an angel, anything else but God, but Mr. Scott leaves no room for doubt. When Moses asks who he is talking to, the music crescendos, the camera moves in closer, it all becomes still and the child opens his mouth and says, "I am". This is where I threw up!

2. For having the sub-title of Gods and Kings, all gods are pretty silent and almost non-existent. There is no show down of my God is better than your god. Moses hardly interacts with Pharaoh and never duels with the priests. God doesn't command Moses to turn the water into blood using his staff. The water turns into blood by crocodiles that attack a boat and the people in it and then turn on each other. All the crocodiles in the Nile tear each other apart, and that's all folks. This bloody mess leads to the frogs leaving the Nile tormenting all. The frogs die and here come the flies. Then the remaining plagues proceed to torment both Egyptian and Hebrew alike. Both Gods seem to just stand back and let " nature" take its course. There is only one time that Moses communicates with Pharaoh before the killing of the firstborn and Moses does so by writing a warning in red paint/blood on the side of a white horse.  No battle of the serpents, no throw down of the priests versus Aaron and Moses, no warnings from Moses, no passion of exclaiming "Let My People Go!!" And no Pharaoh equally as passionate, digging in his heels and having his heart hardened saying ,"no!" The Hebrew God is silent, and the Egyptian gods are mute. And so are their messengers.

3. Moses battles with the decision of God killing the firstborn. Moses argues with God, well the kid who portrays God. Moses looks down and can't believe God is about to kill so many innocents, but God reminds Moses of the evil of the Egyptians and how His people have suffered 400 years of slavery. Vengeance is His! It just doesn't seem so serious coming from a little kid who tries to appear tough. There is so much depth in the Passover. So much meaning and foreshadowing of the ultimate Passover where the blood of the Lamb of God was poured on the wooden Cross, but again Mr. Scott blows it! God is just a fed up kid that's had enough. They killed Hebrew male newborns, so God takes their firstborn sons.

5. The last thing I will mention is the crossing of the Red Sea. Looking at the trailer again, I feel I was fooled. I think Mr. Scott made it appear that the Red Sea splits in the trailer, but in the movie it doesn't. What appears to happen is the tide recedes, ebbs and comes raging back with thunder, dark clouds, wind, water spouts and all. There are no walls of water on both sides, there is no dry ground (the Hebrews actually struggle in some areas of the crossing due to how high the water is in some areas), and there is no staff/rod in this scene. The Bible so specific about these things (Exodus 14:21-22). Also, just to top it off, the massive tide finally comes back while Ramses and Moses are fighting in the "dry"ground. They along with the Egyptian army are swept up my the colossal tide. Miraculously both Ramses and Moses survive.

There are so many other small things that really upset me within this movie, but these are the five that are the worse. This movie is offensive to me as a Christian. This wasn't even Scripture twisting, but out right lies. I do not recommend this movie and I will never see it again.

The only good thing I will say about this movie is that the CG was phenomenal and seeing Egypt in her glory was breathtaking. Other than that, I hated it!