Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Loving Thanksgiving

Intro.: There are some who think that Thanksgiving is the best holiday.

  1. Lots of food, family, and fun.

  2. But we don't have the added complications of decorating a tree (yet), buying or wrapping presents.

  3. Dinner is just as good, but only half the work.

  4. It is time to focus on all that we have received – both in the past and especially the past year.

  5. It is a time to thank the people that have contributed to our lives in one way or another. It is also a time to thank God for all that he has done – be it for His salvation or the care and love he has shown to us.

  6. I want to spend some time this morning thinking about this thing we call the “Love of God”.

Read: I John 4:7-12


Trans: For those of us who are a part of the church, there is a connection between Thanksgiving and Love –

Brennan Manning once wrote “I believe that the real difference in the American church is not between conservatives and liberals, fundamentalists and charismatics, or Republicans and Democrats. The real difference is between the aware and the unaware. When somebody is aware of the love that the Father has for Jesus, that person is spontaneously grateful. Cries of thankfulness become the dominant characteristic of the interior life, and the byproduct of gratitude is joy. We’re not joyful and then become grateful—we’re grateful, and that makes us joyful.”1

T.S. In the next few minutes, as we prepare for Thanksgiving I would like to spend time looking at this thing called the love of God.

  1. Their is no reason to believe in God's love, short of the fact that Scriptures tell me so.

    1. I look in the daily news paper and I have no reason to be convinced that we have a loving God:

      1. The number of violent crimes committed in the US is virtually unchanged since 1980. Though the number of murders and robberies has decreased, but all other types of violent crimes has increased.2

      2. Nearly a 1000 US military personnel die each year in the course of doing their duties.3

      3. There are 1.5 million new cancer cases diagnosed each year. Each year almost 600,000 people will die either from that cancer or from complications related to it.4

      4. A casual look at the daily news leaves a great deal of doubt of God's love.

    2. Unless, I turn to the word of God, there is no way I could know of God's love. I can know of God's existence, I can know of God's power. I could even sing of an awesome God – but until I turn to the scriptures, I can know nothing of God's love. It is there that it is revealed.

    3. No one but God could have revealed that to the world.

    4. Scripture tells me “God is love”;
      Scripture tells me “For God so loved the world ...”
      Scripture tells me “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you...”

    5. Though there may be times that I don't feel that love, but God's word never changes.

    6. His love is constant.

  1. A Father's Love5

(Ill.) One of my favorite country songs from the past few years is sung by George Strait - “Love Never Ends”, though it goes by the more common name of “A Father's Love.”:

    1. The problem of course is that each have a different concept of a Father's Love – depending on love, or the lack thereof, was shown to us as children.

    2. For some of us, the image of a father that comes to mind might be a very stern man – with an impossible set of rules, that no one could follow. I wonder if God is like that father?

    3. Or you may have grown up in a home where the rules were always changing – you could never know for sure whether you were obeying the right set of rules on Tuesday, because on Thursday the rules would be changing again. The person growing up in this family could never get it right. I wonder if God is like this?

    4. Then we need to ask the question – how do we really learn about God?

      1. Our parents may or may not have reflected a loving, caring God.

      2. Or do we turn to the media for our spiritual instruction – movies like Bruce Almighty, or TV shows like Joan of Arcadia, or even music like “A Father's Love”

      3. The media only show a glimpse of God – and likely as fractured glimpse at that.

    5. Jesus told us something about God's love, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.” (John 15:9) John, the brother of Jesus tells us more,

      See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be
      called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the
      world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved,
      now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we
      will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him,
      because we will see Him just as He is.
      (1 John 3:1—2, NASB)

    6. But I think Paul says it best, You have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, 'Abba! Father!'“ (Romans 8:15) “Abba” was the way that children would have said “Daddy”.

    (Ill.) Max Lucado tells of a time when he and his daughter Jenna were spending several days in the old city of Jerusalem.

    One afternoon, as we were exiting the Jaffa gate, they found themselves behind an orthodox Jewish family—a father and his three small girls. One of the daughters, perhaps four or five years of age, fell a few steps behind and couldn’t see her father. “Abba!” she called to him. He spotted her and immediately extended his hand.

    When the signal changed, he led her and her sisters through the intersection. In the middle of the street, he reached down and swung her up into his arms and continued their journey.

    Isn’t that what we all need? An abba who will hear when we call? Who will take our hand when we are weak? Who will guide us through the hectic intersections of life? Don’t we all need an abba who will swing us up into his arms and carry us home? We all need a father.

    1. Our relationship to God is to be personal, close, loving. We are God's adopted children I God's adopted children in Christ Jesus, through Him we have become spiritual sons and daughters.



Manning, in “The Dick Staub Interview: Brennan Manning on
Ruthless Trust,” ChristianityToday.com quoted in Larson, C.
B., & Ten Elshof, P. (2008). 1001 illustrations that connect
(31). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

5Blemins, Winfield H. (2011). Creed: Connect to the Basic Essentials of the Historic Christian Faith (460/2261). Colorado Springs: NavPress.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Sherlock Homes: Year One (Volume 1) : A Review

Sherlock Holmes: Year One
Volume 1
Scott Beatty and Daniel Indro

I looked forward to reading this graphic novelization of Sherlock Holmes, but ultimately found myself less than satisfied. The stories were certainly not the same quality as I would expect from a Holmes author, be it Arthur Conan Doyle or otherwise. The title attempts to lay down an early history for Sherlock Holmes and his sidekick, Dr. Watson. It is a collection of six stories originally published as individual issues. At the time of writing, Sherlock is a little known problem solver; Dr. Watson is an employee of London’s Criminology Lab. They have a growing admiration for each other as they stumble through their early cases together.

I did enjoy the artwork, as a whole; though occasionally it did become difficult to track individual characters - I suspect, however, that this may have been a result of reading an electronic copy of the book rather than a printed copy.

The stories introduce us to some of the characters that will become familiar to those who have read Doyle’s original stores: Inspector Lestrade and Irene Adler are good examples.

I expect that the knowledgable Holmes reader would get a great deal from the title. The average reader will enjoy the stories for what they are, stories.

Monday, November 14, 2011

For Calvinism : A Review

One of the things that I have learned as I age is that theology can be as dry as a Calculus text or as attention getting as a well written fictional adventure. Michael Horton's “For Calvinism” easily fits into this latter category.

It was with some trepidation that I first picked up this, the first of two books commissioned by Zondervan, evaluating Calvinism. As an established Arminian trained in a Calvinist seminary, I have been disappointed over the years at both Wesleyan and Calvinist who tend to set straw men to define those who have followed alternative opinion. Michael Horton attempts in this book to clearly state a traditional Calvinist position – he is not defending TUPIP, but a clearly stated version of the Reformed position as articulated by Calvin and his heirs. When he does choose to compare Calvinism to Arminianism, he chooses from both classical theologians (e.g. Richard Watson) and more modern spokesman (e.g. Clark Pinnock).

I found the book readable and enjoyable – even as I disagreed with some of the conclusions to which the author arrives. Regardless of whether the reader comes as a Calvinist, an Arminian, or if the reader is searching, the book is a good introduction to the Reformed faith.

I will look forward to reading the other Zondervan title being published in parallel with Horton' text, Against Calvinism by Roger Olson.

This review is based on an electronic copy of the book provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating an unbiased review.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Nearing Home
Billy Graham

How does a man who has been preaching, in one form or another, for over seventy years, a man who has shared his faith with twelve presidents, a man who is probably more well known than any spiritual leader alive today, still manage to inspire and encourage believers? By writing his memoirs and sharing his life, both as lived in the past and as experienced today, with the world he served.

Billy's writing is true and honest – both as he talks about his losses and his joys. He cannot wait to get home, but he also wants to live what years God gives to him to His glory. And as he writes, he asks the same of us.

As I slowly enter what most would consider elderly (I am sixty), I serve as the pastor/chaplain of a group of men and ladies who are ten to twenty years older than I. Graham provides me with goals for myself and for those I serve. My prayer is that I may be as encouraging as Billy Graham is to his readers when, and if, I reach the age of 93.

This review is based on a free copy
of the book provide by the publisher
for the purpose of creating this review.

Paper Angels

Paper Angels


Jimmy Wayne with Travis Trasher

My wife and I have participated in a number of Christmas based charities: Samaritan's Purse's Operation Christmas Child or Heifer International's Heifer Project. Though we have never participated in Paper Angels, when given the opportunity, the book caught my eye.

The stories of Kevin (a father and entrepreneur) and Thomas (a high school student from a broken home) are interwoven. Though they never meet, the decisions and circumstances of their lives bring changes, possibly eternal changes, to both their lives and to the lives of their families. Thoughout the book we are reminded that how we live our lives is not just about us; but the choices we make can reach far beyond our individual lives. Those choices are about families, friends, and communities – for good or bad.

I have come to enjoy the work of Travis Trasher – this is the third or fourth book that I have read by this author. I was not disappointed. At times the book was a bit slow, but it was well worth reading. It is a good introduction to Travis Trasher and his writing.

This review is based on a
free electronic copy provided by
the publisher for the purpose of this review.