Category Archives: Reviews

ISIL is not Islamic?

Short post; ISIS is indeed Islamic.  They are Muslims, and they believe they are serving their god Allah, and interpreting the Koran correctly.  They are not secular, they are not just perpetrating a civil war.  Unfortunately that means our own President is lying to us when he said last night, “Now let’s make two things clear: ISIL is not “Islamic.” No religion condones the killing of innocents, and the vast majority of ISIL’s victims have been Muslim. And ISIL is certainly not a state. It was formerly al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Iraq, and has taken advantage of sectarian strife and Syria’s civil war to gain territory on both sides of the Iraq-Syrian border. It is recognized by no government, nor the people it subjugates. ISIL is a terrorist organization, pure and simple. And it has no vision other than the slaughter of all who stand in its way.”

Let me be clear, and you can go do the research; ISIS is serving a vision, and while slaughter is a part of it, it is not the whole of it.  They believe they are doing a service for god, and they believe in a religious end times that they can help bring about, as well as a mandate for military jihad.  That our own President misleads the American people on this very important point is incredibly disturbing.  Make no mistake, ISIS wants to bring their religion to the US and Israel.  Please wake up, and if you are already awake, pray.  ISIS is indeed Islamic, they are indeed Muslim.

 

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Book Review; Kisses From Katie

I mentioned in a recent post that I would be review this book soon, and here it is!  The full title is Kisses from Kate: A Story of Relentless Love and Redemption by Katie J. Davis, and Beth Clark.  The story is written from Katie’s perspective and Katie is a very interesting sister in Christ.  Katie traveled to Uganda on a short-term mission trip that changed her, and her family’s lives forever.  That short-term trip turned into what is shaping up to be a lifelong adventure.

Falling in love with the people there, and seeing the poverty, disease, and suffering first hand, Katie felt called to return to Uganda… and now she has 13 adopted Ugandan daughters, and is the founder of a really neat charity; Amazima Ministries.  Obviously the book is an account of how all of this went down with the focus being on Jesus and His call on our lives, whatever that call may be.

First, let me say that I loved the book, loved the story, and it is very readable.  I would highly suggest this book to Christian high school students.  All believers would enjoy this account, but I single out students of that age because I feel it would open their hearts to possibilities.  Having said that, this is also the book that prompted me to post an article I titled “Two Left Feet.”  The danger is that those that read Kisses from Katie will either take away legalism, and/or the idea that we all have to go to Uganda and adopt orphans.  Katie is very clear in her book that isn’t the case, but it is not stated in as clear of a manner as I embrace, hence my article.

I admit, the story amazes me, esp. because of Katie’s age (starts at 17/18) and this is from a person who believes that children and adolescents are capable of moving mountains under certain circumstances, and that hard work should not be denied them.  The only thing about this book that may bother certain readers is the sometimes heart-wrenchingly accurate descriptions of the aforesaid poverty, disease, and suffering.  This is definitely a book that helps redefine priorities and does so in a manner that is so refreshingly straightforward with good storytelling and very little “preaching.”  I give it the Scribbler honor of being one of those books I plan to read again.

Get it, read it, give it to a teen, you won’t regret it.

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Filed under Apologetics, Christianity, Ministries, Of Interest, Reviews, Uncategorized

A New Mitford Book!

Happy Easter to me and all Mitford fans!  I just discovered that Jan Karon is taking us back to Mitford in her new book, “Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good.”  It’s set to be published on Sept. 2, 2014! For those of you who have never had the pleasure of traveling to Mitford, here is my review of the series; The Mitford Series…  Please feel free to join several fans that comment on that particular article, esp. if you have any questions about theses lovely books.

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Book Reviews; The Duggar Collection

I am going to review all 3 major titles in what I call “The Duggar Collection.”  They include; The Duggars: 20 and Counting!, A Love That Multiplies, and Growing Up Duggar. The first two in the list were both written by Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, the last was written by Jill, Jinger, Jessa, and Jana Duggar.  If you’ve ever read my review of Do Hard Things, this review will be similar.

First, some background.  I do watch the television series about this family on TLC; 19 Kids and Counting so I was already familiar with the Duggars and there were no earth-shattering revelations for long-time watchers of the show contained in the books.  If you like the show, you’ll like the books, if you like to mock the show (or the family) you’ll mock the books.  While the Duggars’ particular brand of Christianity isn’t my brand, I still respect their morals, commitment to family, financial position, etc… so I did enjoy all three books.

Second, if you want to cut the list down, I can help do that for you.  If you want a book about the parenting principles and the life stories of Jim Bob and Michelle, read A Love that Multiplies.  It covers very similar ground as the first book, but it is more recent and contains the story of Josie.  If you want a book about relationships and courting from the perspective of 4 young ladies, along with stories of the Duggar clan, then read Growing Up Duggar.

The good; the Duggars are a breath of fresh air in this modern world when it comes to parenting.  They care about their kids (yes, all of them), and have committed their time and energy to making sure their family is taken care of and brought up within a caring and loving environment.  The books give the reader a window into their philosophies, which they obviously ground in scripture the way they interpret it. They include their perspectives on debt, modesty, parenting, homeschooling, morals, business, courting, etc…  If you are interested in these topics presented with Christianity mixed in to all of them, then you’d probably enjoy the books even if you disagree.

I think that large families, as long as they are self-supporting, are awesome.  I’m amazed that some people hate the Duggars simply because there are so many of them.  They don’t take government support, they all seem bright and healthy, intelligent, interesting, etc… Whether a couple has no children, or 19, it is their choice and they can be a strong and happy family.

The girls’ book particularly was interesting to me, because I’m always curious of what the “next generation” thinks about all this.  They tackle the area of relationships, and do so in a generally thorough (yet sometimes detail-lacking) manner.  Their discussion on courting, parental relationships, and sibling relationships was informative, and again, refreshing.

The not-so-good; although the Duggars deny that they are a part of “The Quiverfull Movement” in Christianity, it is hard not to see the connection.  Why such a large family?  Because they believe that it is God and God alone Who determines the number of kids that a couple are blessed with, and this means no contraception allowed.  So, what’s wrong with that?  This particular movement tends to draw Legalists in by the boatload, and to judge others who don’t follow the same philosophy.  Happily, I can say that I don’t pick up a lot of judgmentalism from the Duggars, who overtly say that they teach that their way is not the way for everyone when it comes to having kids.  They simply stand by their own convictions and cite scriptures that they feel back up their POV.

Another not-so-good aspect to the family is that they “follow” or “read” materials and philosophies of some individuals in Christendom that are questionable in their theology, and perhaps even in their private lives.  Bill Gothard is one such example.  Anytime there is a strong teaching of different gender roles, one must be extraordinarily careful and be on the look out for sexual misconduct.  I’m one that believes in different roles for the genders in certain areas, and I’m also one of the biggest skeptics when it comes to a philosophy that uses words like “sweet;” think sweet, be sweet, keep sweet, as applied to females. Ugh. FLDS anyone?  Sex abuse anyone?  Bill Gothard has had sexual misconduct allegations following him around for awhile now, and we have to be sure we look on someone as being innocent until proven guilty.  However when talking of certain philosophies there is a great chance in some of them for women and girls to be abused.

Thankfully, I see no sign of that from the Duggar clan.  I don’t believe in condemning someone because of the people they read, but I include this type of information in my review because I want to make it clear that it is is a red flag for my readers if they decide to delve into the Duggars’ books.  Know that many of the ways they interpret certain scriptures are not the way that I, or even a majority, of Christians interpret them, and many of their resources listed are impacted heavily by those like Gothard and those in the Quiverfull movement.

In short, I liked all 3 books, though there was repeating information in each.  I have learned a lot about large families and also how certain scripture are interpreted by those from this perspective.  I truly appreciate the information they presented on raising kids, morality, and their faith. While everything seems to be going well right now for this family and the kids, there is always a chance that things could change, such as if we see one or more of the kids joining more mainstream Christian churches and “rebelling,” then we could see a different side to all of this. In fact, statistically, we’d expect to see some Duggar descendent choose their own path, as God guides the individual.

The danger in some of the teachings they push are just that, which is the danger of demanding everyone be a foot, or all be an arm in the Body of Christ; “Cookie-cutter Chrisitians” in other words.  We also must be sure that we are not relying on good works or conformity to save us, but rather on Christ for it by grace we are saved through faith.  It is a good thing to rely on God to guide us and convict us, and at the same time to make sure we are truly understanding scripture as it is meant to be understood.  So, just make sure you are firmly grounded in scripture and in faith when reading books on other beliefs within Christianity (such as the Duggars have); test all things and hold to that which is good and true.

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The Fast and the Furious Series Review

This is going to be the first time for some of you to read one of my more “secular” posts, but as always I believe you can often find the sacred in the secular.  I admit it, I’m a Fast and Furious fan.  I fell in love with the first movie when it came out, and have followed it ever since.

If you find cussing, violence, and scantily clad women offensive, or if you’ve been led away from those things, avoid these movies.  So, why am I writing this review?  Because I believe most people are missing the main point and feature of the movies in this series.  I also believe that Vin Diesel is trying, in his own way, to get people to realize several key themes.

First, that the world is now connected in ways that it never has been in the past.  Culture is bleeding over political borders, and with it the good and the bad.  Crime, and crime bosses can now go global.  They can do so digitally or physically, and this is one lesson that we all need to learn in a very real way.  Two examples spring to mind; the recent reports of Chinese hackers invading US systems, and the violence on our Southern border.  We all now owe it to our society to start thinking more and more globally, and our news organizations will hopefully wake up and begin providing us with global coverage.

Of course, there are good things coming from this blending of cultures as well.  New styles, new food, new friends, new conversations to have.  And I think that this connects to Vin’s other main theme in these movies; faith and family.

The latest F&F installment, Fast and Furious 6 kinds slaps you upside the head with it, but apparently many reviewers are missing the point.  Faith and family.  Each installment in the main series always has a moment or two of Dom’s running rule; when you sit down to eat, whoever eats first (or tries to) has to say grace.  Some do it with more learning and style, and some try their best.  Dom’s cross also becomes a continuing plot device.

This lesson wasn’t something that was full-force in the first movie; Dom cared more for his own feeling of freedom than for his team, but that quickly changed as one-by-one his family was either hurt, or killed.  Over the course of the series we’ve seen Dom’s family grow, and with it, his loyalty.

Family.  This is where the “sacred” comes in.  This string of movies does a very good job of showing how those people that are not directly related to us can become our family.  In fact, each person that is a born again believer in Jesus is our family.  How often do we really truly see that in our church communities?  It’s rare.  If we truly wake up to what Jesus is telling us, we should help and protect our fellow believers, because they ARE our family.  They are not “like” family they are true family.

I believe this series does a superb job showing us this, in a secular sense of course… annnddd, you really do have to sit through a bunch of racing scenes to get there, but I do believe Vin Diesel is purposefully communicating that idea of family across all borders; language, culture, background, etc… And, yes, Vin isn’t technically a writer, but I hear him and Paul Walker have input into the series, especially when it comes to things the fans demand.

What else do I love about the series?  I love the cars.  I love the humor.  I love the way it self-deprecates.  I love the characters, and their interplay.  There is also ideas such as self-control and forgiveness taught throughout.  The series has become a huge blockbuster and the special effects are there to prove it, but at the heart of it, this series is still about family.  Sure, there are now over-the-top explosions, and cheesy physics defying crashes, but the film never takes itself to seriously on that score.

These movies are definitely not for everyone, but I can’t wait til the 7th installment!

Oh, and if you are interested, here’s the watch order if you’d like to see the whole series chronologically and, Han’s first appearance was not in the F&F series, but in a movie called “Better Luck Tomorrow” it would come before Los Bandoleros):

  • The Fast and the Furious
  • Turbo-Charged Prelude {short}
  • 2 Fast 2 Furious
  • Los Bandoleros {short}
  • Fast & Furious
  • Fast Five
  • Fast & Furious 6
  • The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift

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Filed under Musings, Of Interest, Reviews, Sacred Secular

Ministry Review; World Vision

Sponsoring a child in need.  Many times that conjures up old commercials from the 80’s begging for funds… that turned out to be lining the pockets of a few of the people in charge, with no money going to the children.  Also, the old model was based upon the idea that Western outsiders knew best how to help a community rather than the community itself knowing what they need.

Gratefully those days are gone for the most part.  If you wish to sponsor a child there are now an array of charitable organizations that have tossed out the old model, in favor of a new sustainable grassroots model.  Also, with watchdog groups constantly checking on these charities it is far less likely that someone is simply pocketing the money.

One such organization is World Vision International.  Each country that is  a part of WV, has their own website; so for example World Vision US is:  www.worldvision.org  This website is a hub that you can use to get news, learn about the organization, sponsor a child, browse their catalog and send gifts such as goats, chickens, microfinance a loan, etc…  World Vision used to catch a bit of flak for advertising as though your money went directly to the sponsored child, but now they have made it much clearer that your money goes to the child’s community, and not just to the child itself.

Each child that is sponsored is assured to be a part of the programs for education, schooling, etc… and you can send extra gifts to the child’s family or community.  This system tends to work better, since the whole community is involved and less jealousy is likely to occur.  Also, the grassroots touch is that each community gives feedback as to what is needed, and what would most help.  Sustainability is one of the main goals of World Vision and they work to make a perpetual change.

Why do I call this a ministry?  Because they are indeed a Christian organization.  This does not mean that they push or proselytize.  Their belief is that they live out part of Jesus’ message by helping those that need a bit of encouragement or a leg up.  There are some areas in the world where Christianity can be taught, they can hand out Bibles, etc… but there are also some areas where Christianity, it active proselytizing, is not allowed.  They still serve those communities, hoping to make an impact for Jesus based on love and action.

The pros of this ministry; it connects you with an individual child, it is a large organization, so can make a big impact.  They have disaster response that is second to none.  They are so well known, so they are also watch to make sure there is no fraud.

Some cons; each country has its own people in charge (which is good too), but this makes it hard to police and constantly insure no one is conning the system, and that funds are being well used.  (However, the organization does indeed run checks, and takes any reports of problems seriously.)  For us more conservative minded Christians, there is a bit of unease when the “social gospel” is focused on, instead of the more salvational message of Jesus, but that is the purpose of this organization.

I don’t usually like to talk about charitable acts, but yes, we’ve just started sponsoring 2 World Vision children, and I’d love to share my experiences on here, and can wait to start writing letters and sending small trinkets along to them via mail.  If you have any questions, I’ll try to answer them, or point you to a phone number or webpage.  If you have any WV stories to share, I’d love to see them in the “comments” section here.

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Filed under Apologetics, Christianity, Conversion, Health, Ministries, Of Interest, Reviews

Book Review; Rob Bell’s “Love Wins”

Ooookkaayy… this should be interesting.  So, my philosophy is not to comment on something either glowingly or negatively unless I’ve read or watched it myself, especially if it is of a controversial nature.  It seemed like everywhere I turned in Christendom people were discussing this book, or warning others not to discuss the book…so I knew I had to read it and review it.  I have to be clear; this is my introduction to Bell.  I have no former gripe or praise for him, no angle to work for or against him.

Hopefully, I’m going to do something a little bit different in this review, as other reviews have already rightly attacked the factual flaws in Bell’s work.  If you want that style of review,  you can get one here: God is Still Holy and What you Learned in Sunday School is Still True: A Review of  “Love Wins.” I don’t agree with everything in the review, but it gives a good overview of many of Bell’s problems.

No, I want to approach this a bit differently and talk about implications.  First, let me say…I can’t believe this book, Love Wins, was actually published…I mean, I get why.  It’s going to make a ton of money, but it’s content is illogical, and its style is unpolished.  I’m really struggling with this review because I can’t believe that people would change their view on God, Heaven, or Hell based on this book.  The “gotcha” questions Bell proposes in the first bit of the book are easily answered by anyone versed in Apologetics, not just well-versed, just versed.  They are “milk” type questions…and are eerily reminiscent of the list of “questions” found on fundamentalist atheist websites.

For example, Bell asks, “What saves someone?”  I answer, and the Bible answers; Grace through Faith.  Bell asks, “Well, isn’t faith an action, and hence a work.”  I answer; No, something can be an action without being a work.  The Israelites were not allowed to work on Sabbath, were they allowed to think?  Sure.  Were they allowed to love?  Sure.  Where they allowed to trust (that’s faith)? Sure.  So, the big answer to all Bell’s rhetorical style questions is; we make it in by grace through faith, and faith is not a work.  QED.

So, moving on, what do I mean that I want to approach this review by implications?  I mean, what are the implications IF Bell’s thesis is right?  The implication of Bell’s thesis is that God is a monster…in fact He’d be the very monster Bell decries.  Bell clearly says that love can’t be forced, but the logical implication (reading Bell) is that it can be.  In the end, says Bell, everyone will succumb to God’s love and turn to God willingly.  That is a logical contradiction.  To be free will there must be true choice, but in this case, just by looking at Bell’s title; Love Wins, one can see there isn’t.

“Love wins.”  I didn’t know love was in a competition.  I didn’t know it was out to beat me.  But, I guess I was wrong.  Bell feels that God will so smufficate a person with love, they WILL respond and turn to Him either in this life in the next.  I resent the implication.  I resent his maligning of God’s character and God’s love.  God is not a rapist, nor is He a brainwasher.  Bell’s thesis is creepy in the extreme.  If you want to debate Hell, fine.  Annihilation vs. punishment, fine. Universalism, fine.  I even love to discuss the possibility CS Lewis raises that Hell is locked on the inside. But by claiming that God “wears you down” over long periods of time til you cave…why would anyone think that is acceptable from a Holy Loving God?

Bell’s implication is that God is neither Holy nor really Loving in any true sense, nor Just; He’s just interested in making sure every human being can be put on some Heavenly tally sheet.  Bell’s implication is also that evangelism is pointless, and so is suffering in this life.  What I mean by that is that everything winds up the same for everyone given enough time in the life to come.  A rapist that rejects love and God in this life gets an infinite series of chances to accept God’s gift of salvation, and in fact, will indeed come to accept it because nothing can stand up to God’s love.  We call that brainwashing.  A brainwashed individual is not acting under free will.  Jesus suffered when He observed that He had tried and tried to get through to the Jewish people, but “they would not.”  Why so upset if they were all going to be A-OK through all eternity?

Now, I completely understand someone being frustrated by evangelists trying to scare the crap out of someone to get them to believe in a loving God.  Fortunately I wasn’t raised that way.  For me, it has ALWAYS been about love and choice; true love and true freedom in choice.  I trust God to be just while still believing that Hell is real.  If we want to talk about Him giving every human an equal and fair chance at Heaven, I’m there.  If you want to point out that God doesn’t send anyone to Hell, that they choose it, I’m there.  If you want to point out the Devil is not in charge in Hell, and that it may not be all physical torture and pitchforks, I’m there.  But I draw the line at clearly maligning God, Our Father’s, character.

Briefly; other problems.  Horrible hermeneutics, flawed logic, sloppy writing, and whoever set up the actual book format…well, they shouldn’t win any prizes.  Plus, Bell dances around any reference to eternal contempt for some alongside eternal life for others, and ignores bulk passages that clearly indicate that faith in Christ is required to enter Heaven, that we die and then the judgment happens, etc… Not to mention he tries to describe Heaven, and it’s implications…he should’ve left that to Alcorn’s book “Heaven.”

I love books that make readers consider things from a new angle…this wasn’t one of them.  I’ve read another book recently that I guess I should’ve reviewed instead; “If Grace is True: Why God will save every person” by Gulley and Mulholland.  I didn’t agree with them either, esp. since they deny Christ’s sacrifice was necessary; however, their book was set up logically enough to review in a succinct way.  I feel Bell is theologically and intellectually dishonest, either unconsciously or on purpose.  He seems to be the type trying to “out moral” God…it just won’t work, and this isn’t the reference I’d turn to if I were to try.

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