Friday, May 29, 2009


Turn to ACTS chapter 2 and look with me at all the reasons why the Church started during the worst possible time.

Verse 1: Just fifty days had passed since the crucifixion of Jesus. Jerusalem was still incensed with the episode and were in no way sympathetic to Jesus or His disciples.

Verse 5: The crowd was made up of devout Jews who were of no mind or intention to change their religious views.

Verse 13: Many thought that Peter and the disciples were drunk. They openly mocked them. This was an hostile crowd. You know what an hostile crowd is like right? Angry, shouting, pushing, skirmishing.

Verse 17: Peter starts to proselitize. He starts preaching the prophets. How often have you spoken the truth to someone and they accuse you of "preaching"? Well, what else are we supposed to do? It is by the foolishness of preaching that the gospel is proclaimed.

Furthermore, it is by the foolishness of preaching in the face of conditions that most other people (dare say, Christians) would say, "This just isn't the right opportunity to share the gospel." More often, you probably hear it said this way during a nice quiet prayer meeting, "I'm going to see such and such a person. They are very negative to the things of the Lord. But I just feel so burdened to witness to them. Please pray that God will give me the right opportunity."

Now suppose that Peter and the disciples felt that way on the day of Pentecost. If anyone had the right to assess the situation as a bad opportunity (read no opportunity at all) it would have been them. They could have just retreated back to the upper room and prayed about it. But they realized something that most of us are not willing to believe.

We don't wait for opportunities. We are the opportunity.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Agents 5 : Larry 0

Yesterday was my first ever writer's conference. Here's some highlights:

There were three sessions. The first one was "The Fire in Fiction" presented by Mr. Don Maass. I attended this session hoping to get excited again about my historical fiction project sitting on the shelf. Besides being an excellent teacher (I wish I had more than one hour - but I will buy the book), Mr. Maass is also a local NY literary agent. The class was great and my head was overloaded with ideas.

The other two sessions I attended were not nearly what I expected. But that's the breaks you get when you attend any conference. You decide what sessions to attend based upon very short blurbs in the bulletin. What sounds good on paper may not be so good live and in person. Oh well.

The big event of the day was the opportunity to pitch my manuscript, "Christian Mythology" to a whole bunch of literary agents. The desire of course was to hook at least one. Nearly 70 agents were on hand. I pitched to five. Given that there were about 500 other attendees, five pitches was a great number.

Unfortunately, I struck out with all five. But it was a good game. I learned that my manuscript really needs to be pitched to literary agents who specialize in the Christian marketplace. None of the five I saw yesterday were specialists. Another lesson learned similar to picking sessions above. Although an agent bio states they are interested in religion/spirituality non-fiction, they're really not interested in my particular genre. That's good to know. The agent/client relationship is built on trust and shared enthusiasm for the book. So all five were very honest about that. Some provided additional helpful ideas while others just said "no thanks".

There is a Christian Writer's conference coming up in August. Perhaps they will have agents there. The flyer I received in the mail was not specific. If not, they I will go back to using the indirect method of pitching via e-mail. In the meantime, I am still waiting to hear from Ligonier Ministries. They are reviewing my proposal right now.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

BEA Writer's Conference

Tomorrow is the BEA (Book Expo America) Writer's Conference in New York City. This will be my first such conference. I will have the opportunity to attend three learning sessions, hear two keynote speakers, and then participate in a "agent slam". Please pray that an agent and I "slam" well together and my manuscript(s) is accepted for representation.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Book Review - Believing God; Chapter 5 - Children are a Heritage, Psalm 127

This chapter really begins when Sproul states, "Another great mystery is that people sometimes have a harder time accepting biblical promises of blessing than they do biblical promises of cursing." Until that point, and with the exception of his insertion of stuff about legalism and antinomianism, the chapter didn't get to the point. Had he started with the subsection "A Series of Small Steps" followed by that quote, things would have been crystal clear in this otherwise beautiful and powerful chapter.

Sproul spoke more as a prophet here than a theologian. He says so immediately before the quote above when he says, "If you need someone to stand firm on a hard truth, I’m always willing to volunteer." And from there, he takes right off into the hard truth which in this case is also somewhat subtle. But it is a beautiful truth and I can't think of any other way to describe it.

But before I get to the beautiful part, let me get back to the "mystery" quote above. Why do we have a harder time accepting the blessing rather than the cursing? Well, you could go back to my other reviews for that answer but I think it bears repeating here because it is the subtle piece of this chapter and it is critically important to understand.

Sproul's explanation of the mystery bears some additional information. It is indeed all about the devil and his enticement of the flesh. Once again, it all goes back to the Garden and original sin, that old man that is still with us. We simply want to be god at all costs.

How many times have you heard someone answer the question, "If you were God, what would you do?" with something like, "I'd wipe them all out/kill them all/call down fire from heaven/remove them from the face of the earth/show no mercy and send them straight to hell"? Too many. And we all laugh and say, "That's why we're not God. He shows mercy." You don't have to look too deeply to understand this. The kind of god we want to be is the same that the devil is right now. He wants us on his mission to kill, destroy, and take as many people as possible to hell with him in the end. That is the nature of the old man in us. It is the reason that sinners so easily accept the notion of evolution, a process that is based on destruction (read "survival of the fittest").

So when the concept of birth control (and even abortion) comes up, watch out for the flesh. It will immediately come up with the same answers, logical and righteous as they sound, as Sproul provides in this chapter. And these answers are not beautiful. They are wicked.

But the answer of the Spirit and the righteous is just as the God wrote in Psalm 127. Children are a blessing (not a burden). This truth is humbling.

He goes on with a powerful example that almost got him in trouble when discussing the Christian's involvement with the culture. But he really nailed it with the blessing of children "by affirming not that children need protection in our homes but that they are a protection in our homes." And furthermore, "Rather than seeking to raise up godly seed so that they can clean up the broader culture, we must understand that our children are the culture, that to sanctify them is the goal, the end for which we exist."

He then asks the question, "What might happen if we believed this?" Indeed speculation is endless. Here again a warning is valuable. He is talking about weapons and arrows and warfare. It is good to remember at this point that the weapons of our warefare are not carnal (II Corinthians 10:4-6, Ephesians 6:10-20). I remind my children all the time at the dinner table, "Put your armor on."

Sproul pointed out in the beginning of the chapter that God sovereignly opens and closes the womb. This truth is a worthwhile study in the Word. I have only heard one other man of God speak this truth in my lifetime. Bill Gothard does an excellent job of expository teaching on this subject of child-bearing, conception, and rearing. It is a beautiful thing.

My prayer is that my little children walk in the truth (III John 1:4), that they walk in the Spirit, worship in the beauty of holiness, and know that they are One with God the Father through His Son Jesus Christ. This is at the price of His life's blood atonement. That alone put to death that god in us who wills death upon all others, including our very own children. We must believe God that they are a blessing and repent of the wicked belief that they are a burden.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Book Review - Believing God Chapter 4 - Wisdom for the Asking: James 1:5

Thankfully there are no "ism"s in this chapter. That makes it much easier to read. But there is a reader hook in here that I did not like. The author writes, "Our inability to believe the promises of God may grow out of our prior inability to believe in the power of prayer. We will look at other promises related to prayer in the coming chapters, but for now, let us consider the question we have all wrestled with since we were children—why do I receive some things I ask for in prayer but not others?" The hook is a reference to better stuff in later chapters. If it's important now, then get into it now. Why don't we believe in the power of prayer?

You'd think the Bible would have recorded numerous questions the apostles posed to Jesus while He was with them on earth. Surpisingly, there are few. One of them was posed more as a request in Luke 11:1b, "...Lord, teach us to pray...." More rightly, teach us HOW to pray. We tend to learn prayer more as rote phrases, WHAT to pray. I have posted many blogs regarding this subject, all stemming from the excellent teaching of Adrian Rogers on Romans 11:36-12:2 and the daily meditations of Oswald Chambers, particularly like today's "My Utmost for His Highest". I encourage you to go back to there references before proceeding with the remainder of "Believing God".

Upon salvation, wisdom was the principle thing I prayed for. One of the first answers to that prayer was a lesson that many others follow. The book of Proverbs was written by the wisest man, Solomon. With God dictating, Solomon penned His wisdom into thirty-one chapters, each conveniently read on a corresponding day of the week for a given month. I have done this diligently for nearly thirty years of my Christian life. Am I wiser for it? Indeed. For my mind at the day of salvation was put into Jesus' hands a ruined waste. It needed not only spiritual renewal and transformation, it also needed physical rebuilding. God indeed answered (and continues to answer) that prayer.

Sproul enters into an interesting supposition in this chapter that bears further exploration. He writes, "We are not yet like Him, however. We are still sinners and still doubters. That may be why we (happily?) cling to what follows as our tool for reducing this promise down to something manageable." (First I must violently oppose his statement that we are still sinners. Saints are not sinners. We still have the sin nature, but through Jesus, and the life we now live in the flesh by His faith, we are free from sin and its power over us. Again I point you to previous blogs to get the full up on this topic.) "Promise reduction" is an interesting phrase he introduces. I see this happen all the time whether in church or business or in casual circumstance. We can read simple words on a medium and even as we read them aloud to someone else, completely different words come out of our mouths. Our eyes and minds "see" one thing, but then our minds (smart as we are) translate/reduce/deduce certain words and out comes our own version. This happened to a colleague of mine just yesterday.

We were presenting a very important briefing. In this case, the words on the chart should have been read word for word, just as they were intentionally written with a very specific meaning. But instead, he paraphrased, and out came something totally different that was just plain incorrect. It sounded good. Most folks in the audience did not catch the error.

So it is with us Christians. Along with our multitude of Bible translations, we actively reduce the Word of God through teaching, conversation, and prayer, sometimes to the point that what comes out of our mouths is just plain incorrect. Now perhaps that does not seem to bad to you. After all, we can be corrected if we or someone else catches the error. That's a good thing. But when such accountability is lacking (II Timothy 3:16) then Satan has an inroad to allow the word to be corrupted and believed. This ultimately is sin for what we have done is added to or taken away from God's Holy Word (Revelation 22:18-19, Proverbs 30:5-6). Observe this process as God describes it in James 1:14-15. Where accountability lacks, lust may enter. When lust enters, Satan comes with it to corrupt. He'll tempt us to get into this "reducing" state. If we succumb, then the fruit of our words have multiplied in the ears of our listeners. If our Words are not holy (the Word of God), then it is possible that they are wicked. Sin has born its fruit of unbelief (or belief in a lie).

So how do we know the truth and remain free? The author allows God to answer that from James 3:13-18. But to recognize truth, we must be walking in the truth. We must be walking in Jesus, His holiness and righteousness. We must not allow sin to stain our minds or twist our tongues. This is a great discipline, and one that God teaches us well through the examples of Paul. The author points out strongly that failure to walk in such a manner quickly lends us to "every evil thing" as found in James 3:16.

Sproul concludes this profound, worthwhile chapter well when he states, "We learn that it exists for God's glory." The "it" here referred to this earth. But indeed it is so much more. We Christians exist for His glory. We are the manifestation of the light of Jesus. Here is a staggering statement/prayer of Jesus that I often quote from John 17:22, "And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one."

I have until now focused on the "One" aspect of His prayer. But look again at the first part of His statement. Jesus gave us His glory. Do you believe it? Do you see it? Read Luke 11:34, "The light of the body is the eye: therefore when thine eye is single, thy whole body also is full of light; but when thine eye is evil, thy body also is full of darkness."

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Believing God - Chapter 3 - Confession, Forgiveness, and Cleansing I John 1:9

Do you know what a Pelagian is? Neither did I until I read this chapter. However, I disagree with Mr. Sproul that we are ALL Pelagians. It is also difficult to identify myself with Augustine save in theological arguments. However, this book was not written as a theological argument, but rather is a text to help Christians to believe God. Therefore, our sole identification must always be drawn to Jesus Christ.

The conclusion drawn from the association to Pelagius is that we Christians are perfect and able to perfectly obey the commands of God. He says, "Pelagius thought otherwise, arguing that God could command, morally speaking, only that which we have the ability to do. He declared that God would be unjust if He commanded us to do
something we aren’t able to do. Based on this reasoning, Pelagius argued that
we have the capacity in ourselves to keep even God’s command that we must
be perfect, that we must obey the whole of His law. Pelagius denied the doctrine of original sin. He held that Adam’s sin affected Adam only, and that all men born after him have it in themselves to obey God perfectly. Pelagius’ view eventually was roundly condemned as heresy by the church, but he still continues to haunt us."

Again, I soundly disagree with this generalization. It may be true that some Christians suffer from this belief. Sproul's conclusion of the matter later on leads me to believe their is a better generalization applicable to Christians regarding their unbelief of Gods forgiveness and cleansing.

He got it half right when he described Pelagius' denial of the doctrine of original sin. Had he gone on to describe just what that sin is, and its effect in the lives of all mankind (including Christians), he would have concluded a better argument.

That SIN was described in Genesis 3:4-6, "And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat."

Eve willingly, freely choose to turn her back on the LORD God to herself, that she might be like god. Ever since, with that nature upon us, we all turn from God. Only He can turn us back. Only He, by the atoning death, burial, and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ, can save us from that SIN. Post salvation, the only reason we have any hope at all, any reason to believe that we are forgiven, cleansed, and free from sin is because God commands us to repent. We are able to repent. We are able to turn from that nature that tells us, "I am god", just as the Thessalonians were in I Thessalonians 1:9.

Because we still have the nature to turn to our own selves as god, we are not struggling with believing that we can earn God's favor. When a Christian allows that "dead man" of sin, his whole being is focused upon himself, seeking self-favor, self-satisfaction, self-glorification. The problem is, that "dead man" is indeed dead and cannot give what we want. But without repentence, we continue to struggle with ourselves for this gratification. Sproul skirts around this point but never comes out and says it. I think it is critical to understanding what he is saying. And what he is saying is very important.

We must indeed KNOW that we are forgiven, clean, and free. We must experience that freedom in Christ. When we reckon ourselves dead indeed to sin and alive unto God through Christ Jesus, we must do more than simply give mental ascent to the fact. We must LIVE it experientially. Sproul says powerfully, "Even if we aren’t convinced that after conversion we ought to be able to keep the law, we do tend to diminish the reality of the sin that remains in our lives." This is the warning. Do NOT diminish that remainder of sin. It is just as powerful and deadly as always. It will kill you no matter how small you think it is. And listen to this:

Just when you think it is small enough for you to handle, realize that you have just turned again to yourself, your god, and the futile belief that you can forgive, cleanse, and set yourself free from this little thing.

The rest of the chapter provides many excellent Biblical examples of experience. Like these men and women, we know that there will be times when we turn from God and do not believe Him. When the Holy Spirit speaks and checks, listen to His Words. To obey, turn to God. Repent. Seize the moment of mental ascent and act in obedience by faith. Do the thing God says to do. Believe He can. Believe He gave you just the right amount of faith to believe and do the thing. Turn it to experience before your eyes. If you do not, your mind will always, always, always, deceive you to turn back to your own dead god.

God says at the end of the book of I John, "Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen." This is the conclusion of the matter regarding I John 1:9. Stay away from your dead god. I find it most effective to allow the Holy Spirit to convict me not only of this ultimate deed, but also of those things that would draw me to it. "Lead us not into temptation...."

Monday, May 4, 2009

Believing God - Chapter 2 Our Heavenly Father Loves Us

R. C. Sproul, Jr. and other prominent godly men like him tend to struggle with a familiar problem. How do we handle the praise of men? We cannot deny the gifts, accomplishments, or works of such people. We are called to do them. God says in Matthew 5:16, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." Further in Ephesians 2:10 He says, "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." The people of Sproul's circle are most learned of the Scriptures. As such, they are to use them according to II Timothy 3:16-17, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works."

Thus is the beginning of this chapter rightly handled as the author relates the story of a rather difficult introduction. Our praise is not of men, but of God. Not of our good works that we are called to, but to the glory of God. Indeed we are gifted, accomplished, and full of good works. But all is for naught if we exclude God.

And that is precisely what gets us into trouble as this chapter explores the love of God. How quickly we forget it when our eyes are upon anything else, anyone else than God. I was reminded of that this morning by the Holy Spirit. While I was not guilty of shedding praise and worship on another, I was guilty of omission of God over a period of a few days.

Outwardly there was nothing wrong going on. Nothing at least that anyone could point to. But there were two things missing. One external and one internal. Externally missing were the good works. They were missing not because they didn't get on my calendar, but because of the internal situation.

The end of my confession and prayer this morning was to know of God what good works to do today, at the very moment. He gladly answered. Just before that part was a cry for God to show me those internal things, those hidden things that keep me from Him. These are things that in outward expression seem perfectly normal to me, my family, and the world. No one would question them. But God does.

The query went something like this: What internal "television" is in your mind that distracts you from fully paying attention to Me" Just as the TV can distract me from listening to my wife or anyone else for that matter, there are little conversations and live-action pictures going on in my mind that distract me from God. I personally cannot listen to and participate in two conversations at once so one of them has to be ignored (though I give a pretty good outward impression of accomplishing both).

When I turn inward, I listen to my own thoughts, follow my own ways. Yes, God says, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts." (Isaiah 55:8-9)

So God asked me, "What is your desire?" I said, "I hunger and thirst for righteousness. My desire is to see you." Psalm 27:4 comes to mind, "One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in his temple." "I want to be One with you right now, just as Jesus says we are."

And immediately it was so, upon the name of Jesus and the boldness to enter God's presence through Jesus' blood. And then I knew the love of God.

Here is where the truth of Sproul's words of this chapter ring clearest. He says, "Perhaps the soundest escape route is to affirm the obvious. God’s character is such that He cannot ultimately love that which is unlovely. And we, in ourselves, are decidedly unlovely. Christ, however, is altogether lovely. Thus, what He loves in us, that we might be called His children, is Christ in us. So when the text says He loves us, it really means He loves His Son. Once again, it’s all true. But what is likewise true is that we are in union with His Son. Our union with Him is not a mere legal fiction, but has a reality grounded in reality. It is so real that not only are we allowed to be called His children, but as John tells us in the very next verse, “Beloved, we are God’s children now” (1 John 3:2a, emphasis added). God our Father really loves us because He really loves Him, and we are really in union with Him. Our calling then, for the rest of our lives, and on into eternity, is to seek to get our hearts and our minds around this staggering reality that, if we are in Christ, then the God of all the universe actually, truly, really, emotionally loves us, and loves us as His children."

He goes on to describe a variety of terms to help us understand the essence of God's love. He writes of adoption, covenants, and inheritance. These are all outward evidences of God's love for us. We need to pay attention to them. But we must never let go of the internal reality of the basis of that love as just described above. Should we do so, we end up back at the beginning of the chapter. Our eyes are on the external, the praise of men and the works of men.

God's love for us is hidden in the life of Jesus Christ in us. Jesus prayed to His Father in John 17 that we all may be One with Him and the Father just as the two of them are. God HAS to answer that prayer. As Sproul says in conclusion, ours is simply to believe the reality that "...what will delight us into eternity, is God
Himself. He is His greatest possession, and as His heirs we will inherit Him."