The Jesus You Can’t Ignore


The Jesus You Can't IgnoreJesus is a popular figure. Even hippies like Jesus, right? Well maybe…

The question is: do they really know who Jesus is, what he is like, what he said, and how he interacted with people? Most people are ok with Jesus when he is gentle, meek, and mild. The problem is, Jesus isn’t always like that. Sometimes Jesus is anything but gentle, in fact he seems at times hard and even offensive. John MacArthur would like to introduce us to this less gentle side of Jesus. The Jesus who confronts and offends. Drawing on the first hand accounts of Jesus’ incarnation as recorded for us in the first four books of the New Testament, MacArthur gives us The Jesus You Can’t Ignore.

We must be careful to remember, as MacArthur often reminds us throughout the work, that Jesus is always loving, and always working toward redemption. It’s just that sometimes love is hard, even harsh. We must also remember that MacArthur’s stated purpose for writing the book is to refute a pervasive error being taught in our day/culture that Christians should always be gentle, understanding, and accepting toward others. MacArthur is not advocating for always being confrontational and condemning, instead he’s arguing for balance based on the example of Jesus.

Anyone who is prepared to pick a fight over every minor difference of opinion is spiritually immature, sinfully belligerent – or worse. Scripture includes this clear command: “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18)

But sometimes – especially when a vitally important biblical truth is under assault; when souls of people are at stake; or (above all) when the gospel message is being mangled by false teachers – sometimes, it is simply wrong to let a contrary opinion be aired without any challenge or correction. ¹ [emphasis in original]

MacArthur’s purpose is to provoke us to:

…pay more careful attention to how Jesus dealt with false teachers, what He thought of religious error, how He defended the truth, whom He commended and whom He condemned – and how little He actually fit the gentle stereotype that is so often imposed on Him today. ²

Accordingly, MacArthur takes the reader on a tour through, primarily, the Gospel According to Luke, highlighting Jesus’ interactions with, comments concerning, and teaching regarding the religious leaders of the day. We see how Jesus continually confronts and condemns the religious elite for their gross hypocrisy.

MacArthur does not encourage us to, in fact he continually reminds us not to, be contentious. What he does is show us from the life of Jesus when it’s wrong to be nice. A lesson Christians in post-modern America desperately need to learn. This book is on my highly recommended list.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Saint Patrick

Saint Patrick - by Jonathan RogersSaint Patrick has always fascinated me. It may be my family’s Irish roots, or simply my enjoyment of the Irish accent, combined with my love of both the church and history. Either way, I’ve always been intrigued by the man whose life we celebrate each year by wearing green, and pinching one another if we don’t, and dying our food green. So when Thomas Nelson introduced their Christian Encounters series and I saw this short biography of Patrick, I jumped at the chance to read and review it.

I’ll be honest. It was somewhat disappointing. The best part of the book is the fact that they included Patrick’s own writings at the end of the book. My problem with the 7 chapter biography written by Jonathan Rogers is two-fold.

First, he approaches the subject assuming everything the Catholic Church would like you to believe about Patrick, and church history in general, is true. He writes as though the Catholic church was then, what it is today, which it wasn’t. He presents Patrick’s conflicts with the churchmen in England, but acts as though Patrick was still part of, and under the authority of, the Roman Church. Other books I’ve read, including The Celtic Way of Evangelism, paint a different picture. Patrick probably acted on his own, without the Pope or anyone else being involved. In fact, Patrick’s story takes place well before the date some scholars give for the Pope’s ascendence to primacy in the Roman Church.

My second issue is based on the author’s lack of solid biblical theology. Or should I say, his endorsement of unbiblical Roman Catholic theology? For instance, he relates a story from Patrick’s writings where Patrick claims to have been under spiritual attack. While being physically pinned to the ground by this spiritual force, Patrick calls out “Helias, Helias.” Patrick relates the story this way.

…not one of my members had any force. But from whence did it come to me, ignorant in the spirit, to call upon ‘Helias’? And meanwhile I saw the sun rising in the sky, and while I was crying out ‘Helias, Helias’ with all my might, lo, the brilliance of the sun fell upon me and immediately shook me free of all the weight; and I believe that I was aided by Christ my Lord, and that his Spirit then was crying out for me… ¹

Rogers states that,

There is a complicated bit of wordplay here. Patrick called on Elijah by his Latin name, Helias. Having summoned Helias though, what he got was helios, the sun, rising and bringing relief from his tortured dream. ²

First problem: Helias isn’t Latin. It’s Greek. So is helios, for that matter. Complicated indeed.

Patrick believed that the Spirit of God helped him pray in this situation. Pray by calling “upon ‘Helias’.” It would appear that Patrick believes the Spirit led him to pray to Elijah for help, in Greek. Rogers concludes,

Christ prayed on Patrick’s behalf; Christ answered the prayer; Christ was the answer to the prayer. Christ is all in all. ³

This sounds good, and contains some truth. But I seriously question whether Christ would, by his Spirit, lead one of his children to pray to Elijah for help, in Greek, and then answer the prayer by causing the sun rise.

My conclusion is that the author is so thoroughly steeped in Roman doctrine that he believes every good prayer is in Latin, and that praying to people, be they saints or prophets, is so acceptable, that even Christ himself would do so. This is simply unbiblical teaching. Prayer should be offered to God alone, as Scripture clearly teaches.

Patrick wasn’t perfect. He’s a saint the same as any true believer is a saint. He was never “sainted” by the Roman Catholic Church. And this biography isn’t really worth the time it takes to read it. Fortunately, it didn’t take that long!

For those interested in the life and ministry of Saint Patrick, I would rather recommend a book I mentioned earlier in this review: The Celtic Way of Evangelism.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Pete Wilson: Plan B

Plan B - by Pete WilsonNo one’s life every goes exactly to plan. We all have unrealized dreams, heartbreak, tragic loss, even suffering. As a Christian who trusts in an all powerful, altogether good God, how do you respond? When your life is falling apart, and all your best laid plans have come unravelled, where is God? If you haven’t already experienced this, Pete Wilson is sure you will before it’s over.

When life goes astray and you’re facing difficulty, pain, depression, loss, or tragedy, that’s what Pete calls a Plan B. I struggled with his use of this term for two reasons. First, Plan B sounds like a backup plan to me, but what he’s talking about isn’t a backup plan, it’s the chaos of life spinning out of control. No one plans to lose their child in an auto accident, for their spouse to cheat on them, or to contract a terminal illness, not even as a backup plan. So how can you call that Plan B? What’s worse, and the second reason I struggle with his use of the term, he repeatedly references the passion of Christ (the actual event, not the movie) as “the ultimate Plan B.” No, this wasn’t a backup plan, it was The Plan!

“this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.” (Acts 2.23 ESV)

“truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.” (Acts 4.27–28 ESV)

See Ephesians 1 for more insight into the plan of God for our salvation, through the shed blood of Christ. God’s plan, from “before the foundation of the world.” (Eph 1:4) It wasn’t Plan B, in the sense of an alternate plan for when Plan A doesn’t work out. It might look that way. It might look like the cross was God’s way of “fixing” something gone horribly wrong. In a way it was. But it was clearly the plan all along. God wasn’t reacting to human sin by coming up with the plan for the cross after the fact. He planned it in advance, because he wanted it to happen. For Jesus, as a man, though, this was a time of great difficulty, pain, sorrow, and suffering. Since this is Pete’s definition of a Plan B, I’ll allow it. I still can’t say I’m happy with that wording though!

If you can move past this redefined use of the term “Plan B,” Pete does have some good wisdom to share. Ultimately though, it’s not the wisdom he shares, but the hope he offers, that make this book worth reading.

When we encounter these terrible circumstances of life, we tend to think God is absent, that he’s abandoned us, or doesn’t care. We assume that God’s love is demonstrated in our circumstances, and that’s just not always the case. We can’t control these times in our life, and we have to trust that God is in control of them, that he is with us. If we judge God’s love and presence in our lives based on our circumstances, then we need to spend some time getting to know Him a bit better.

We must decide if we are going to put our faith in what God does or in who God is. . .our faith must rest on his identity and not necessarily his activity. ¹

Pete admonishes us to worship our Creator, not our circumstances, he exposes possibly idolatry in our lives as we desire the things God can give us more than we desire God himself, he encourages us to seek authentic community with other believers who can say “me too” as we share our pain with each other. He doesn’t offer easy, simplistic answers to difficult questions. He doesn’t have the answers. None of us do. But with a gentle, pastoral hand, Pete guides us to the one place we can find peace amidst the chaos of our Plan B. He guides us to the cross of Jesus, and the hope we have secured for us in eternity through faith in Him.

Instead of an answer, God offers us something better. He offers us a solution. He offers us the cross. ²

I should probably mention that I know Pete. He probably doesn’t remember me, but I attended his church a number of times when it was still a fledging church plant. I went to school with people who were on staff at the church (they’re no longer there), and I met Pete on more than one occasion. A slight familiarity with Pete, his church, and even some of the stories he tells in the book may have given me a bit more empathy than the average reader might have, but no matter who you are, I believe the book will move you, touch your heart, call to mind your own experiences of pain and suffering, and give you hope.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


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Nelson’s Illustrated Guide to Religions

Nelson's Illustrated Guide To ReligionsNelson’s Illustrated Guide To Religions: A Comprehensive Introduction To The Religions of the World is a helpful reference book. It presents the reader with a good introduction to each major religion of the world, including historical background, the current state of the religion today, and the appropriate Christian response to said religion. It’s a bit difficult to just sit down and read though. There are some great things about this book, and some things I might have done differently.

First the things I like about the book. The print quality is excellent. The pages are made of nice paper with attractive color printing for graphics and photos. The book is well put together and feels good in your hands. Each religion is briefly introduced and then the reader is given a section in which the basics of that religion are presented in list form. This is the 101 section of the religion, i.e. Islam 101 in which you are given a brief overview of the five pillars of Islam, their beliefs about Muhammad “The Prophet” and the Qur’an, their sacred writings. Following the 101 section is more detail on each of these topics and more. Historical accuracy is considered, a timeline is presented, various branches of each religion are explored, any major issues related to the religion are discussed, and finally a section is given with what the author feels is the appropriate Christian response to the religion. At the end of each chapter is also a list of books and websites for further reading. Altogether, a very nice presentation is given for each religion, which should educate the reader sufficiently for most purposes.

There are a few things I dislike about the book though. Many of the Christian Cults are not treated as such. The chapter on Jehovah’s Witnesses, for example, does not include the section on an appropriate Christian response. The only reason I can see for this being left out, is that the author groups the cult with other Christian denominations and therefore does not see a need for such a response. The same is true for all the Christian cults such as Mormonism and for the Christian sectarian groups as well. I regard this as an undue level of toleration for heresy. These groups are cults and the true Christian needs to be instructed in how to respond to them, every bit as much as Hinduism.

The one other thing I might have done differently is in the way the book is organized. It’s completely alphabetical. Every major religion is given a full chapter, and these are arranged alphabetically. One chapter is devoted to Christian sectarian groups and they are arranged alphabetically within that chapter. I understand why it was done this way. It makes it easy to find any particular religion you might be looking for. I think I would have done things differently myself. There’s a table of contents and an index to assist with finding the religion of interest. I would have arranged the various religions so that if a reader chose to read strait through the book from cover to cover, as I did, related religions would be grouped together. Reading the chapter on Christian sectarian groups can be confusing because many of them are related to one another having branched and split from each other over the years, yet these are not grouped that way, but instead are arranged alphabetically making it difficult to follow the progression from one group to another. Then the major religions, represented by an entire chapter, are grouped oddly because of this alphabetical arrangement. Your read about Islam, then Jehovah’s Witnesses, then Judaism, then Mormonism, then New Age, Orthodoxy, Protestantism, and then Roman Catholicism. I would have arranged those much differently.

In the end though, this really is a reference book and not one most people are likely to read start to finish. So I can overlook the arrangement issues. I like the overall presentation and treatment. My only concern is the toleration shown to heretical Christian cults. Still, this is a valuable resource for those wishing to education themselves on the historicity and major beliefs of the world’s major religions.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The Living Church

The Living Church: Convictions of a lifelong pastor - by John StottI just finished reading John Stott’s book, The Living Church: Convictions of a Lifelong Pastor. What an excellent read.

As a current church elder, and a potential church planter, thinking through what Church is and should be, how it should look from the inside and the outside, this book was timely and insightful.

Much of what he said resonated strongly with me either because I had experienced the fruit of a church that was operating in the way he described, or more often, because I had experienced the hurt of a church that wasn’t.

I would recommend every Christian read this book, but especially those who are involved in leadership roles with the local church.

Church Planting Plans

Plans move forward toward church planting. We’ll be making a trip to Boston soon with the intent of confirming our sense of call to that particular city. We’re excited and somewhat scared at the same time. It is exciting to be following God’s leading and moving into the center of His will. At the same time, Boston is a long way from home and a very big move for my wife.

If you’re reading this…pray for us.

Michael Franzese: I’ll Make You An Offer You Can’t Refuse

I'll Make You An Offer You Can't Refuse - Michael FranzeseWhatever kind of business or organization you’re running, former Mob Boss, Michael Franzese, has a few tips for you. Based on lessons he learned as a high income earner for the Mob who has now gone strait, Franzese compares and contrasts the philosophies of Machiavelli and Solomon, applying his own experiences to the world of business and organization management.

From Sit Downs to being a Stand Up Guy, Franzese lays the foundation for success. Wondering how a former Mob Boss defines success? Read chapter 11.

Having run my own business for 10 years now, I could definitely resonate with much of the advice Franzese shares. I also wish someone would have given me this book 10 years ago! I wish I had known then how to conduct a Sit Down. I think that’s the best piece of advice in the book.

I also think much of what he shares could/should be applied by leaders in the local church. Learning the art of successful Sit Downs and how to listen, would vastly improve most church’s leadership. I know it has changed the way I’ll conduct myself as a church officer.

If you are in leadership at any organization, read this book. You won’t regret it.

Kings and Prophets

A young David from the NBC show, Kings.On Wednesday nights I’ve been teaching through the Old Testament, one book a week. Last week we were in 1 Samuel looking at the story of king Saul, and the beginning of David’s story. This week we’ll be looking at the story of David’s kingship in 2 Samuel.

So it is with immediate familiarity and much interest, that my wife and I watched the premier episode of NBC’s new series, Kings. The series is based on the stories of Saul and David.

The show obviously has high production values. It was filmed in HD, the sets are elaborate and detailed. The acting is very good. The young man they got to play David is very good. Overall, it was very enjoyable to watch. We watched online at NBC’s website and it streamed flawlessly over our DSL connection without a glitch, full screen on my 17″ MacBook Pro, and looked great.

Since it is based on the biblical account of events in 1 Samuel, I thought I would compare the movie to the actual story. The back story, which they allude to but don’t show, is taken from 1 Samuel 8-14. The first episode is taken from events in chapters 15-17.

They modernized it by placing it in a fictional world similar to our own, complete with advanced technology. Goliath is a tank, not a giant man. David lives on a small farm. Jesse is his mother, not his father. He’s a pianist, not a harpist. The country is called Gilboa, not Israel. The capital is Shiloh, the city Samuel was raised in by Eli the priest, but scripture says nothing about this city being Saul’s capital. Saul is known as Silas, and is shorter than David. Jonathan is Jack and his attack on the enemy didn’t result in victory as it did in scripture, but rather in capture, setting the stage for David to pull off a heroic rescue. Samuel figures in the story as a man of God and the one who swore in king Silas (Saul), but not so much with the anointing thing, butterflies do that.

Such liberties did not bother me, though I must say the whole butterfly thing was a bit weird, butterflies anointing the king, butterfly on the royal flag, “We’re the butterfly kingdom!”

But I digress…

Other liberties they took did bother me.

In scripture, Jonathan is an upright man who befriends David, seeks God’s best not his own, and acts with integrity. Here, the story is quite different. Jack is a closet homosexual who is as evil, scheming, and plotting as is his mother, a character who does not even get a mention in scripture but plays a rather important role in the show. Was there not enough scandal and intrigue in the pages of the biblical story? I wonder why the writers felt compelled to invent such characters. I understand, but don’t approve of, the political correctness and liberal theology that led to the homosexual orientation of the Jonathan character, but I’m surprised they made him a bad guy. I thought they would portray the gay guy as one of the good characters.

More disturbing than the plot liberties though was the subtle infusion of a secular worldview into a program obviously targeted at a Christian viewership. With the biblical basis, the evidences of God in the story, the use of biblical themes sure to grab attention, such as “David slays Goliath,” it seems obvious that the network was hoping to snare the attention, and approval, of a Christian audience. But once they have your attention, they begin to tell you how you aught to think.

Portraying Jonathan as homosexual gave them an opportunity, I’m sure they’ll capitalize on it more than this once, to state that God made him that way. King Silas (Saul) confronts his son’s behavior as something unbecoming of a king and tells him that if he wants to be king someday then he cannot be what God made him, namely a homosexual. The moment goes by quickly, but the message is there. Homosexuality is something you’re born with. God makes you that way. He couldn’t possibly judge you for it as sin if he’s responsible, right?

Secondly, there comes a scene in which the king is preparing breakfast for his family and launches into a discussion of which came first, the chicken or egg. The king makes a royal decree that in the face of “overwhelming evidence in favor of evolutionary theory” we should simply accept that evolution is “one of the tools God uses” and accept that the egg came first since it came from a proto-chicken and resulted in something quite different from the “mother.”

The show is enjoyable to watch, but laden with unChristian ideas being passed off as right thinking to the Christian audience which is obviously the target of such programing.

So my response to the premier episode of Kings? No thanks NBC, I’ll find something more God honoring to do with my time.

Church Planting recommendations?

I have a question for all you church planters out there?

Give me your top book recommendation for someone moving toward church planting.

Here’s the deal. I have a clear call from God to plant a church. I am confident of this call. It has been confirmed to me multiple times over by several means. However, I don’t yet have clarity concerning the location or the timing. I have some inclination of both, but no certainty at this point.

My wife and I are currently in a season of prayer, asking for clarity of call in these two regards. While this is our primary focus right now, we still have lots of other questions rattling around inside our heads.

How do put together your core group?

What’s the best way to but the budget together?

Should I be working a job for the first year or two of the plant? How long?

And many others…

So what book would you recommend to someone in my place?