Category: Reviews

How to Be Free from Bitterness

At some point in our lives, we’re all either trying hard to forgive or counseling someone who is struggling to forgive. The result of unforgiveness? Bitterness.

Bitterness damages our relationships with others, and with God. Not to mention that bitterness makes those in its wake pretty miserable.

What does carrying the burden of bitterness say about one who has been forgiven of ALL their sin?

There is a short and excellent book entitled How to Be Free from Bitterness by Jim Wilson that I want to share with you. While you could spend a few $$ for a pretty version at Amazon or Canon Press, the text of the book is now available free online at:

http://www.mountzion.org/fgb/Summer03/FgbS5-03.html

Do you have a friend that only talks to you about how they have been wronged? Maybe you could gently share this book with them after reading it yourself.

Remember… as we think of having a clean slate and starting over at the beginning of this new year, we can make resolutions to diet, stay organized, read to our kids, be more disciplined with our free time, and so on and so forth. But, these things only produce a behavioral change. A change of heart will change your life from the inside out. You can quote me on that ;-)

You Made Me Sin

Hooray for cooler weather!

“Red alert. Put the kettle on!”

Instead of my usual coffee (which can be spiced up by mixing a dash of cinnamon with the grounds before brewing – thanks to my friend Sarah for this tip!), I made a steamy mug of Stash’s Double Spice Chai Black Tea. The flavor of the tea made me want to bake some biscotti! (My own not-so-secret recipe is posted here in the NGoYR archives.)

In my In-Box this morning was a note from Carolyn McCulley. Even though I am happily married, it is important to me to understand and build relationships with women of all ages and stages of life. McCulley, who is unmarried, has a wonderful way of encouraging single (and married!) women in the Lord. She works with Sovereign Grace Ministries and authored “Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye:Trusting God with a Hope Deferred.”

I had asked her opinion of Debbie Maken’s book “Getting Serious About Getting Married: Rethinking the Gift of Singleness.” The Canon Press bookstore now carries title, and Nancy’s Wilson’s review can be found here. McCulley is now penning some thoughts on book to be posted on her blog, Solo Femininity. I look forward to reading her review.

Boundless, a Focus on the Family webzine for the college and career crowd, recently published an article by McCulley entitled, “You Made Me Sin”.

It’s easy sin by holding others in contempt, running them down (disobeying Ephesians 4:29) and by justifying yourself by saying that it’s not your fault, because the person deserved your tongue lashing. (James 1:19-20 comes to mind here.)

I love this article because in it, McCulley gets to the heart of this sort of blame shifting, citing Dr. David Powlison’s analogy of the sponge.

Continue reading

Spring Breeze

I’m sure I’m going to embarrass myself in this post, but here it goes.

On my last trip to Tokyo, I was coming through Shimbashi station when I ran into a group of people getting ready to play some instruments, so I stopped to listen. The lead instrument looked like a recorder, and there was a girl on violin, guitarist, and a guy sitting on the drum he was playing.

The music was enchanting… it reminded me of the folk music from the wedding scene in Braveheart. I stuck around for their entire three-song performance, and when they were done, I grabbed the cd they were selling.

Looking at the cd now, I can’t read a thing. The album is called “春風ウキウキ” (Spring Breeze Float Float), and the band is called “風絃流し”, which I think translates to something like “Wind Currents”. Of course, I have no idea how it’s pronounced.

Anyway, here are two samples, Bloom and Wonderland. Let me know what you think!

Didgeridoo and Tyler Too

I’m a sucker for street performers.

When Bob, Billy and I were down in Australia, we ran into two guys with two didgeridoos and a drum machine performing near Darling Harbour. The sound they produced was incredible, so I picked up a CD for $20 Aussie. The album was even better. Here’s samples of two of their songs, Forest Phunk and Yulara.

They’re called The Web.

In a few days, I’ll post some music from some street musicians I saw in Shimbashi station in Tokyo.

UPDATE: Sorry… should have looked up the spelling for “didgeridoo”.

Diner Dash

misc/dinerdash_logo Yahoo Games has a new game called “Diner Dash” – of which I am addicted to after only an hour of game play. Tom was playing it during a chat, and after I asked what he was doing (could hear constant clicking in the background), he told me about DD.

In the game, you are a waitress named Flo. You have to keep up with customers, getting bonus points for seating guests on their matching seat color. You run from customers to the kitchen, trying to keep up with orders. I’ve only gotten to the first part of the game, where Tom now owns two restaurants, one being a Tikki bar.

Be warned – once you start playing, it’s hard to stop. Enjoy!

Star Wars and Immortality

Finally saw the newest Star Wars film, and I was pretty pleased with it. While the dialog was stilted (that’s being kind), the visual effects were amazing, and I thought Christensen did a good job in his descent into Darth Vader.

SPOILERS FOLLOW!!!

Death stands out in this film as a major theme more than any other film. At the end of the last movie, Anakin and Padmé are married in a secret ceremony, violating the Jedi code forbidding a Jedi from forming bonds with others. After Padmé tells Anakin that she is pregnant, he begins to have nightmares about his wife’s death, similar to the nightmares he had about his mother before she died. The nightmares show Padmé in pain, and dying while giving birth.

Anakin is petrified by the thought of losing his beloved wife, and goes to Yoda for advice. Yoda begins to pontificate with the normal Zen garbage about how death is simply a natural part of life, and chastises Anakin for forming a bond with another person so strong that their death would be that painful to him. Anakin doesn’t like the answer he’s received from the Jedi Master, and rightly so.

As humans whom God created immortal, death is not as natural as birth. Despite the existence of these characters in a fictional world, they resemble humans created in God’s image, and as such, understand the unnaturalness of death. Despite even Yoda’s Zen stoicism, he was saddened by the death of Padmé. Even the Jedi Master couldn’t mask that moment of hypocrisy.

Darth Sidious, however, knew the just desire of Anakin to have his wife live forever, and him Anakin with the promise of being able to save Padmé’s life. It was this desire (along with his rejection of both the philosophy of Yoda, and the vengeful hypocrisy of Mace Windu) that lured him to the Dark Side.

My point is that Yoda is wrong. There is nothing wrong about Anakin’s desire for his wife to live. Death is unnatural, and no amount of meditation is going to rid us of our natural hatred for it. This is one of the amazing promises that God has given us… the promise of a resurrection, and eternal life. St. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:54:

So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”

God grants us immortality though the death of His son… as “Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:20). This is the hope that we have in this life and the next.

I’m not making any attempt to Christianize Star Wars… but I am making an attempt to humanize Anakin Skywalker. His desire for immortality is a desire we all share… and one which God has granted to those who believe.

Sink Reflections – Chapter 2

misc/sink Chapter2: Let’s Talk about CHAOS and Clutter
I think the acronym Cilley uses, and the fact that it spells a word meaning what happens as a result of clutter is just fabulous:

Can’t Have Anyone Over Syndrome

“Is your perfectionism one of the main reasons for clutter and chaos in your life and home?”

The first instinct of those of us who suffer from perfection paralysis is to say, “I like my perfectionism! I can handle everything! Hey, who is this FlyLady anyway??” Continue reading

Sink Reflections – Chapter 1

misc/sink I am really enjoying the book Sink Reflections by Marla Cilley, founder of FlyLady.net

A few thoughts that stood out from the first chapter:

“Your home did not get dirty in a day and it is not going to get clean overnight”

“It all starts with a shiny sink.”

Baby steps!

The “Shiny sink” philosophy is that if your sink is shining before you go to bed each night, it will greet you in the morning and cause you to smile. Continue reading

Handbook of Scripture to Grow On

From my Amazon page.

Handbook of Scriptures to Grow On is an indispensable book for Christian parents. It is a thin book, just a little over 150 pages, of verses topically arranged by everyday character and behavioral issues.

The beauty of scripture is that, as we teach our children, we grow with them. Knowing what God says about various issues helps to mold our parenting and to teach us to embrace the same verses for our own living. The best way to teach our children is to set an example in our own lives. The verses are helpful and worth memorizing together.

As an aside, because it is so easy to find pertinent verses, this is a perfect book to grab while you’re taking a moment to collect your thoughts before going to speak to your child about a discipline issue. It will give you confidence to speak to them from a godly perspective, and not just as another human being (“because *I* said so”). You can show them the actual verse about why what they did was wrong, and why it is offensive to God – not just to you. With this knowledge, you can appeal to their spirituality (and even open the door to discussion) and you can lead them to confess their specific sin and renew their relationship with the Lord AND with you.

The only problem I have with the book is that the references are in the New International Version, and I prefer the NASB or KKJV. Still, you can take the reference and quickly look up the verse in your preferred translation.

The Great Awakening, and the Infant Casualties

I am currently half-way through Lewis Bevens Schenck’s “The Presbyterian Doctrine of Children in the Covenant”. So far, it’s been a very good read. The book was first published in 1940, and originated as Dr. Schenck’s doctoral dissertation. Even though it’s been revised to be more readable, it does plod through a lot of historical examples. Since the goal of the book is to discuss the history of infant baptism in the Reformed Church, though, a reader should expect to flip through page after page of historical citations.

In my opinion, though, the strength of the book does not rest in the positive examples of infant baptism (which are very good), but in the harsh criticism of the American Reformed church since the early 18th century. The second chapter of the book entitled, “The Development of Revivalism” is an eye-opening exposé of the development of revivalism in the Reformed Churches in America, and, more importantly, it’s novelty in those Reformed Churches, and how revivalism violates many of the Reformed doctrines it claims to be preaching.

As I see it, one of the major problems in the Church today, Reformed or otherwise, is the failure to see the growth of the covenant children into Christian adulthood. Thankfully, most modern Presbyterians do not consider their children to be little heathens in their home. We do have our children baptized, understanding that God has given these children the gift of being born in the covenant, and as such, really are different from the children of unbelievers. However, do we really believe this to be true?

Continue reading

Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence

A gang of us went to see Innocence last night, and, well, I wasn’t too impressed. The visual imagery was incredible, and the story was pretty involved, but as with any Mamoru Oshii movie, the story gets bogged down in a bunch of existentialist mumbo-jumbo. Of course, you can’t really expect much more from a Japanese movie, but it seems that the writer decided to rehash a conversation with himself on the nature of consciousness in the middle of the movie. Sadly, it’s a conversation we’ve heard before.

Personally, I don’t really mind the existential questions, but all the questions are the same questions that were asked in Ghost in the Shell, and Avalon. Ghost in the Shell and Innocence both display the struggle the writer has with the nature of consciousness. Both movies take place is a society at least 50 years in the future. This society has become so technically advanced that cybernetics has become commonplace. During both movies, the characters ponder how much of their biological selves they can replace with artificial components before they cease to be human.

The main character of the first movie, Motoko Kusanagi, has none of her biological self left, and is full of self-doubt. These doubts are compounded when an artificial intellegence begins to crack into robots (in the context of the movie, robots are different from cybernetic people because they lack a “ghost”, or real human soul.)

From a heathen perspective, such self-doubt is absolutely justified. A perspective that rejects God must also reject the divine author of their souls. Without the scriptures to tell us that “we have a soul that can never die”, we must consider our consciousness to arise from the biological functions of our brain. As Christians, though, we know that our soul exists apart from the physical workings of our bodies, and we know that our souls will exist after our physical bodies stop working. The heathen has no such assurance, yet they struggle to come to grips with that belief.

In Romans 1:18-31, the Apostle Paul tells us that nature gives clear evidence, even to the unbeliever, that the Triune God of the Bible exists. One of the nature evidences that the unbelieve must acknowledge is that our minds exist apart our physical bodies. As much as the unbeliever would love to believe that our minds are illusions created by us, we all know (believer and unbeliever) that this is not the case. This struggle is what the cybernetic characters in Ghost in the Shell are dealing with everyday. The cannot live with the idea that their conscience disappears when their bodily functions cease.

While the sequel is beautifully executed and illustrated, in my mind, it really didn’t add anything to the philosophical discussion. Of course, it didn’t need to add anything if they wanted to focus on the plot, but so much time was spent in philosophical dialog, and ignoring the plot, that it really didn’t keep my interest. The world created in Ghost in the Shell is an amazing place, and I was disappointed that the writers insisted on rehashing old ideas, rather than explore other questions that would be raised in this society.

Drinking With Calvin and Luther by Jim West

If you have ever gone to a good brewery or pub, you may know that for a small fee, the bartenders will be happy to pull into a small glass a sample of whatever they have on tap. After you find the taste you’re craving, waiting to the bartender to bring you a full pint can be very frustrating, but you know it’s a wait that will be well rewarded.

When I first heard that Rev. Jim West was expanding his book, Drinking with Calvin and Luther, I was filled with anticipation. Although the original could hardly be called a “book” (it was little more than a pamphlet), the new and improved version is a much more stout 216 pages of imbibing throughout the history of the Church. I highly recommend the book as an enjoyable journey through a history modern Pharisees have tried to erase from our memories.

The author is clear in his preface that his goal is not to offer a Biblical exegesis of the use of alcohol in Scripture, nor is he attempting to exegetically refute the modern Christian prohibitionist. For that task, West cites “masterful” books like Ken Gentry’s God Gave Wine. Instead, West’s goal is to offer an overview of the everyday lives of not only Calvin and Luther, but of Hus, Knox, Zwingli, Rutherford, Cromwell, Wesley, Whitefield, and Spurgeon.

The only weakness that I see in the book is that there are no footnotes or endnotes that give references. While I can understand the author’s desire to keep the size of book to a minimum, I think that a book that makes so many historical citations should at least have endnotes.

West’s point is perfectly summarized late in the book when he reminds the reader why we do not drink as pagans. He writes, “Recall that while the unbeliever drinks to forget, the Christian drinks to remember. Christ commanded us, ‘This do in remembrance of me.’ God has not called us to be hogs or to wallow in the same mire as hogs. God has called us to ‘drink it [wine] in the courts of my holiness.’”