Thursday, November 19, 2015

How Should Christians Vote- a book review


This little book of three chapters packs a powerful message. The author’s voice is direct and effectively communicates his convictions that Christians’greater concern in voting is about how and not who.” Unless God and his revealed word is the overarching influencer and rationale over how our electoral decisions are made as believers, than we cannot expect God to be the overarching influencer in our nation.” p. 8.  

All governing systems are under God’s rule because he set them in place; individual, family, church and civil. I like how Tony hits hard on civil government being in a supportive role of family and church instead of trying to replace them. “Civil government should provide a safety net specifically and intentionally designed to produce self-sufficiency and not long-term dependency.” p. 18. Civil government promotes freedom by setting clear boundaries and carrying out the consequences when the boundaries are broken. It protects and promotes freedom by resisting evil and maintaining a just society.

Voting according to the principles of God and His kingdom is essential, especially when a nation has failed in it’s governing. It becomes critical for Christians to study and know God’s word and to study and know the candidates and how their values line up with God’s kingdom values. It’s not about being Republican or Democrat, but voting for the candidate that most closely represents God’s values. 

Tony does a great job of acknowledging that Christians are not all at the same level of maturity and will not all prioritize voting issues similarly. But we can all be united in purpose by moving towards the goal of functioning according to God’s kingdom agenda. Our consciences differ as we are all in different places in the sanctification process; the process of allowing the Scriptures to educate us in how to follow God’s ways. 

There is excellent teaching in the book about refraining from judging each other according to Romans 14: 2-4, 10, 12.  I would highly recommend the book just for harvesting the wisdom Tony shares about Christian unity and diversity in this section.

God has called his people to make their decisions by his word and not the words of men. Tony believes God values life, justice, and protecting personal freedom and responsibility. God is for whatever enhances heterosexual marriage and the family structure. He would uphold the belief that the church should be free from government intrusion and respected for its role in being the conscience of society. Christians are to promote God’s kingdom values and stand in the gap without giving full allegiance to any one party.  Tony draws from his experience in sports to illustrate our role as likened to a referee, not taking sides in a game, but calling the players to “truth”  according to the rule book.

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Book Review-Happiness by Randy Alcorn

Randy Alcorn has written a very thorough and comprehensive study on happiness.  He believes lasting happiness comes by believing in the God who created us, accepting God’s gift of redemption through Jesus Christ and by embracing a Biblical worldview. To substantiate his study, Randy goes back centuries and millennia rather than months or decades to quote Christian theologians and gather information from those who lived before us, many living in very difficult times and places. This lends relevance to Randy’s goal of bringing balance to Christians by correcting --  through Scripture and Christian history-- deep-seated misconceptions about happiness.

This is not a book for light reading.  It isn’t difficult to understand, but the amount of material to plow through and the repetition of subject matter made it quite a feat to finish. The book is laid out in four sections: our compelling quest for happiness, the happiness of God, the Bible’s actual words for happiness and understanding and experiencing happiness in God.

We each have a God given desire for happiness. Seeking happiness is natural and good. Right living furthers happiness, which many secular conclusions support. Jesus is the happiness that satisfies the longing.  The Westminster Shorter Catechism, written in 1646 answers the question, “What is the chief end or man?” with, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.”  Other seventeenth-century writers like Puritan writer Baxter and William Law speak of the joy and happiness found in Christian living. 

Randy contrasts the message about joy and happiness that he uncovered in writings like these pre- twentieth –century Christians, with more modern spiritual leaders. The author quotes Oswald Chambers. “Joy should not be confused with happiness.  In fact, it is an insult to Jesus Christ to use the word happiness in connection with Him…Joy is not happiness; there is no mention in the Bible of happiness for a Christian, but there is plenty said about joy.” This is the misconception Randy rigorously sets out to correct throughout the book.

In making a case for God’s happiness revealed in Scripture, the author finds the Greek word interpreted in most translations of the Bible as “blessed”, to mean “happy”. This is how the original translators in the 1300-1600s would have understood the word, but gradually, the meaning of the word, when attached to God, evolved into portraying dignity or honor rather than happiness. We are happy when we ascribe happiness to God and Jesus; this conclusion is drawn from many verses sited in the second section of the book as well as quotes from long ago scholars and modern theologians who are recognizing the effect of erroneously devaluing God’s happiness.

Biblical words for happiness are defined, scrutinized, and cited in the ten chapters of the third section. The writing here is textbook worthy, exhaustive and exhausting to read. I dutifully plowed through the findings and concluded that it is good to know the Scriptures are full of happiness, and if I ever need to reference the fact, this will be a good resource. 

The book concludes with ways to cultivate happiness personally. Happiness is our choice and it is produced when we make wise choices such as keeping from sin, learning self-control, and devoting ourselves to the happiness of others.  Happy people celebrate, meditate on God’s Word, keep Christ central and live in gratitude. Eternal happiness is promised to God’s people. There are two appendixes after the last chapter that give further study of Biblical words that define happiness and almost 30 pages of reference notes.

I appreciate the enormous amount of research that went into writing this book and believe Randy accomplishes his purpose of proving that God is full of happiness and intends for his people to know the same happiness in their daily lives. There were times while reading the book that I felt a sense of gladness and release to celebrate more fully my relationship to the God who created us to enjoy him and our life together.

I received this book from Tyndale publishers in exchange for my honest review.