Category Archives: Books

Noise

As I’ve written on my blog before, I’m an introvert. It’s something I’ve come to terms with and something I’ve struggled to understand my entire life. For a majority of my life I didn’t realize there was such a thing as an “introvert” or an “extrovert” personality type and that they were actually the way God created us. Growing up I saw all of the people who were the “life of the party” type of people and thought there was something wrong with me. I’ve always enjoyed solitude and easily get stressed out in the noise and crowds.

I know people have often thought of me as aloof and somewhat arrogant. I don’t enjoy making “small talk” and in fact find it really boring. I have a hard time chatting about the weather and similar things. However, I’ve always enjoyed deeper conversation and when I’m paired off with someone of similar interests as mine I tend to dominate the conversation because I enjoy talking about certain subjects so much.

In other words, because I’ve never been a “life of the party” type of person; I’ve been told much of my life that I’m anti-social. To some extent this is true because social situations give me anxiety, but when in smaller more intimate conversational settings I enjoy myself, which is far from “anti-social”. I just never will be the guy dancing on a table at an office party.

I recently finished reading a book by the name of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. The book is an in-depth look at the differences between introverts and extroverts and focuses on the traits of extroverts. The writer, Susan Cain, describes in-depth what she calles the “Secret Power of Introverts”. The quietness of an introvert allows for creativity, thoughtfulness, and introspection. Most, but not all, of the worlds greatest minds were introverts. People who literally changed the world. People like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein, Martin Luther, and the like were all introverts.

Quite interestingly, the book has a section dedicated entirely to extrovertism in the American church and it’s effect on mainstream Evangelicalism. Susan Cain, in my understanding, is from a Jewish background and isn’t a professing Christian. Of all places she chose to use as an example of an American church that idolizes extrovertism, she chose Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church in Southern California.

In the section of the book mentioned above, Susan Cain met with a man who was a Presbyterian minister for an interview at Saddleback. They attended a service there in order to get the look and feel of what a service was like at Saddleback church. The basic gist of the interview centered around how “extrovertism” has gripped the popular American Evangelical church culture and how church services of quiet contemplation, prayer, and scripture reading are no longer a part of most of the American church.

 In order to draw the multitudes into the American Evangelical church of today there has to be plenty of excitement and programs to keep people interested in attending church. Saddleback church and Rick Warren with his Purpose Driven Life method of doing church has arguably had the largest impact on the latest church culture of “extrovert” idealism.

 As I said earlier, I’m an introvert. I enjoy reading and quiet. Although I’ve struggled with thinking there was something wrong with me all of my life, I now no longer do. I’ve come to understand there’s a place for solitude, prayer, and Bible study in God’s church.

However, for many years I attended an Assemblies of God church that had fully implemented Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life “seeker sensitive” church growth model. As time went on, I was considered “odd” and was cast aside. I enjoyed Sunday School. It was cancelled. I enjoyed Sunday night services. They were cancelled. I enjoyed Wednesday night Bible study service. It was cancelled. Once a month prayer rallies were cancelled in lieu of bi-yearly “praise rallies”.

In other words, all of the things than an “introvert” would enjoy about church, things like learning, Bible study, close relationships with a tight-knit group, suddenly vanished. In their place came large social events and activities designed to “pump” the congregation and build excitement with the church. Things to cause “seekers” to want to come to church. Programs to make it fun for the kids but little in the way of teaching them the Word.

I now know that God created me with the gifts he gave me. I know that I am a member of the Body of Christ. I may not be a hand or a mouth in His body, but I am a member nevertheless. I also know there are many others like me (my oldest daughter, for instance) who have become weary of the “rah rah rah” of the American church. We worship God with all of our minds, bodies, and strengths. We love to serve behind the scenes without much fanfare. We long to share insights into God’s word with others. We want to give without others knowing.

Today’s American churches make very little room for this. Much of the American Evangelical churches are geared more like high school pep rallies where the “cheerleaders” and the “band” are worshiped. The quiet and the contemplative and the faithful are increasingly moved aside for the new, the excited, and the vocal. The quiet ones are now looked at with suspicion as having some sort of spiritual issue because they aren’t “on fire for the Lord”.

I know this is the way it is, because I lived it for 2 years while looking for a home church. My family and I visited many churches across many denominations and to find one that actually was centrally on the Word, prayer, and music with sound doctrine was virtually impossible to find. And there are over 60 churches within a few miles of my home…….Hey, I live in Texas, you know.

Next Sunday, look around. Has your church become a social club? Is there room within the congregation for the quiet among you to serve and worship? Is there a balance between “excitement” and “reverence, awe, and solitude” before the Lord as a congregation or is it all “celebration. all the time”. Is your fellowship actually a true “body” of Christ that makes way for all parts or are only the “mouths” esteemed?

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It’s All In The Execution

When I was in 11th grade, I had an American history teacher that was, for lack of a better word,  “liberal”. As he taught, he always felt the need to interject his viewpoint on whether he agreed with what was being taught or not.

There was a time once when he expressed his opinion on the death penalty in Texas, and of course he disagreed with it. I stood up and argued, rather heatedly, with him in front of the class. It went on for quite a while. I wasn’t going to let that one slip by.

I had been a good student, rarely ever getting less than an A on assignments. But when my final grade came out in the summer, I was given a 70. Barely passing. While I can’t prove it, I certainly feel my little hissy over the death penalty hindered my grade.

I was always a proponent of the death penalty and at times even joked about being the one who would gladly “flip the switch”.

My views have changed somewhat. I don’t know exactly what God’s mind is on the death penalty (in light of the New Testament, of course). I’m still a little unsure whether a person who is guilty deserves to die for taking the life of another. After all, the Apostle Paul would have been sentenced to die in the state of Texas. 

I do know, as I’ve written here before, that we are not to put an innocent man to death. At all. Ever. It’s now my opinion that any system that would allow it needs to be abolished.

And most of all, how dare any Christian support wholeheartedly any system of justice that would allow an innocent man to be put to death and then shrug your shoulders and say “Oh well, you can’t be perfect all the time”.

I just finished reading the book titled “An Autobiography of an Execution” written by David R. Dow. He’s a death penalty lawyer in Houston, Texas writing about his experiences representing over one hundred people convicted of the death penalty in Texas.

While the book is largely David Dow’s viewpoint, it doesn’t take hardly any research to know much of what he is saying happens in every death penalty case. The sad point is, it ought to turn your stomach. His account of inept attorneys, indifferent judges, an electorate that is largely ignorant of the death penalty process (of which I was one), and just the system in general ought to get the attention of everyone, but especially Christians.

After reading The Innocent Man by John Grisham (a non-fiction account of several innocent people on death row in Oklahoma) and now this one by David Dow, and considering most of all the words of God……

6 “Do not deny justice to your poor people in their lawsuits. 7 Have nothing to do with a false charge and do not put an innocent or honest person to death, for I will not acquit the guilty.8 “Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds those who see and twists the words of the righteous. (Exodus 23:6-8 NIV)

We need to take a long hard look at just what justice is. What God says justice is. You see, whether it makes you uncomfortable or not, God loves everyone the same, even murderers. And in our thirst for revenge I do know that at the very least God said that we had better see that even a murderer receives justice.

Give both books a read. It just might change you forever.

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Did God REALLY say?

An interesting article here about the current interest in vampires.

Obviously, my position is that we “no longer have anything to do with the deeds of darkness” (God said it, not me), but take a look at the article and decide for yourselves because you probably won’t listen to me anyway.

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Christian America?…….Oh really?

“As american evangelicals, we are far too comfortable with the idea that we, like the ancient Romans, are a special people uniquely called to do God’s work in the world. We forget that Jesus turned to fishermen, not politicians, when He began His ministry; we forget that He empowered the twelve disciples with the Holy Spirit, not political charisma, to build His church……Yes, our founding fathers invoked God’s name in nearly everything they wrote. But America has also been a four hundred-year laboratory experiment in living out the humanistic values of the modern age.” (Michael Babcock, Unchristian America, pg xiv)

One of the first things the Lord delivered me from when I was saved was my addiction to the political talk shows. You can slice it however you want to, and quote the Bible in any matter you choose, but Jesus and the disciples never lobbied the Roman government for legal change. Ever.

The book Unchristian America deals with the false belief that America was founded as a Christian nation. It, of course, was not. Although there were certainly those who came for religious freedom, most came to get rich. No matter who they had to exploit. Those are not Christian values, they are humanistic values. The same values we are under even today in America.

If you are one who holds firmly to the belief that this nation was founded as a Christain nation, read the book. I strongly suggest you understand the history of this nation a little more in light of the Bible before digging your heals in regarding this belief.

America was never ours to lose. The sooner we Christians realize this, the sooner we can get down to the business of preaching the true gospel.

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This Jesus Will Be The Death of Me

I recently joined Facebook. I’ve fought the good fight, but I finally gave in.

I guess I found the term “social networking” a little odd for something you do without having to face people. But I noticed my e-mails from people I know had dropped to zero. I asked my wife why and she told me everyone was on Facebook.

So I quoted a famous philosopher by the name of Jed Clampett and exclaimed “Whoo Doggy”. Then I joined Facebook.

While signing up for Facebook, one of the things you can post on your profile is your religious and political views. I’ve noticed that in the political views part that most of the people I know on Facebook either say “Republican” or nothing at all.

It ain’t healthy in an evangelical church to declare that you’re a Democrat. You might have the deacons grab you and try to re-baptize you repeatedly until you “convert” and declare Rush Limbaugh as your personal lord and savior and receive Shawn Hannity as your new “holy spirit”.

Anyway, it got me to thinking about why I have such as difficult time reconciling my faith with politics. I know that if there is one thing that the “religious right” has tried to do is just that. Meld politics and faith.

Just to get the record straight, though, I can’t vote Democrat as a rule. Abortion is murder and anyone that will support state sponsored murder will never get my vote. Ever. Far too many Democrats support abortion and unless I know for a fact they will take a stand against it, I can’t support them.

But that puts me in an interesting spot. Most of my fellow evangelical right wing Republicans support the death penalty. Oh, I used to. In fact there was a time in my life I probably would have flipped the switch myself. But not now. Far too many people have been found innocent since DNA has been used. I can’t support something that could kill even one innocent person.

As of 1989, there’s been 247 people freed from prison with DNA. Although I’ve had a hard time finding the exact amount that’s been freed from death row, it seems to be around 17. Remember, that’s just the ones that have been exhonerated by DNA and just since 1989. There is no telling how many innocent people we’ve executed or how many are rotting in prison.

Although I don’t have the numbers, it could be argued that far too many of these people were minorities or the poor that were run roughshod over by an overzealous system eager to earn any conviction.

Lives ruined, families broken up, millions of dollars spent, fear, and things that can’t even be mentioned on a Christian blog have happened to the wrongly accused. Yeah, that’s the kind of justice Jesus spoke of.

I recommend that any of my fellow Christian Right Wing Republican Death Penalty Supporters read/listen to John Grisham’s book, The Innocent Man. If you are still a die-hard death penalty supporter after that, I would consider doing some carpet time with God and seeking his mind on it. I was on the fence long before I listened to this book. But afterward I am thoroughly against the death penalty.

You see, God said

6 “Do not deny justice to your poor people in their lawsuits. 7 Have nothing to do with a false charge and do not put an innocent or honest person to death, for I will not acquit the guilty.8 “Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds those who see and twists the words of the righteous. (Exodus 23:6-8 NIV)

We wave our signs, we scream and sit outside abortion clinics, we stick stickers to our mini-vans because of the innocent life killed because of abortions, but us Christians don’t even give a second thought to flipping a switch on a young black man who was bullied into confessing at 4:30am to a murder he didn’t commit after he was deprived of sleep, water, bathroom, and rest.

God doesn’t see innocence the way we see innocence. We are born into sin. None of us are innocent. Steal a piece of gum, kill someone, both are a violation of God’s law and none of will be found innocent without the forgiveness of Christ.

God doesn’t give us an option on this. Read the verse above, It means DO NOT. Until we can be assured that we aren’t putting ANY innocent man to death we stop doing it. Period. Because God said so.

So to all you who use the following math formula, Christian=Republican=Conservative=Death Penalty, to determine a person’s salvation: I sure am glad Paul of the New Testament didn’t “get what he deserved”.

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Finding “The Shack” Book Useful

I am frankly tired of all the talk about the book “The Shack” being of no use in a Christian’s life.

Frankly I find “The Shack” to be quite useful.

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