Book Review: “To The Wall” by Mark van Straaten

July 25, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Book Reviews, Old Testament 

To The Wall: A Journey In Missional Prayer by Mark van Straaten

Not Religious, Not Ceremonial
But Prayer In Action

Mark van Straaten, the author of To The Wall, is a friend of mine. Our paths crossed a few years back at a pivotal point in my spiritual journey. I had finally caught on to the fact that God wasn’t restricted to using only Baptists and some of His “other” servants could be quite effective and very decent people. The story of how I got to that transformation is too long to tell here, and really isn’t the point, but my next step following that realization was to venture out and make contact.

At the time, Mark happened to be one of the more prominent non-Baptist pastors in my area so I decided to ask him to join me for a cup of coffee. He agreed and for me it was a friendship from the start. His ministry was thriving when we first met and it’s still going strong today.

Since Mark is a friend, and someone I respect a lot, you might wonder how I could possibly be objective in a review of any book he writes. Well, it’s easy. Let me explain before I get to the book.

Over the years I’ve sat in many pastors’ meetings with Mark, and without fail, when discussions gravitated to topics more easily confused than explained, Mark demonstrated the uncanny ability, not to make a point or even make a good point but to put his finger on the one point that clarified the issue. He didn’t necessarily answer the question or solve the problem, he just put things in perspective. That’s useful since it is very difficult to do anything constructive with confusion.

Therefore, when I heard Mark had written a book, I wanted a copy. I knew he would make a point worth reading.

Now the book. Read more

Christmas Story: “Waaait For It . . .”

December 19, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Christmas, Giving, Old Testament 

Waiting isn't necessarily wasteful

Christmas Is Associated With
Giving, Receiving And Waiting

 

For some, Christmas never seems to get here soon enough and the closer it gets the worse the waiting becomes.

The tree goes up several weeks before and the presents start collecting at the base. All the bright wrapping says “guess what I am?” or “ha ha, you have to wait!” and there’s not much you can do to solve the mystery other than cheat, which no one would do at Christmas time, right?

And that’s not all.

There are also surprise gifts, the ones that can’t be easily wrapped – bicycles, trampolines, large stuffed animals, a car in the driveway, etc. Each person knows what they want – and everyone else knows too – but there is no evidence at all, not even a comment slip, to give it away.

So, we wait.

But really, when you think about it, we have it nice. We only have to wait one year for Christmas and even though the anticipation grows the closer it gets, the smell of Christmas keeps us upbeat, so the waiting is tolerable. In some cases it’s fun.

The First Christmas Was Long In Coming

But what about the first Christmas? The one the Old Testament folks knew was coming, even had clues was near, but didn’t know it was there until after the fact. Read more

The Ten Commandments – Brief But Brilliant!

December 8, 2011 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Answering an Atheist, Old Testament 


 

Why are the Ten Commandments so shallow/narrow? Why do the commandments say nothing about children’s rights, the internet or offer great insights about math?

 

I found the above question a little amusing. It came originally from an Agnostic/Atheist type (Agath) and is very different to what you would expect. Agaths usually oppose restrictive laws and here one is asking for more. Doesn’t make sense!

But that’s not the only weak point in this question. Three areas of concern are mentioned: Children’s rights, mathematics and the internet. And the complaint is, God failed to regulate these issues.

Well, I agree and disagree. Read more

How Did God Speak To Moses’ Mother, Jochebed?

May 10, 2011 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: God Speaks, Old Testament 

Mention the name “Jochebed” and most people give you a blank look. But refer to Moses’ Mother and the light comes on.

Everyone knows the story of Moses. He features prominently in Exodus through Deuteronomy and, in fact, wrote all four books. There is little question that he edited the Book of Genesis also – with God’s guidance, of course.

There is also little question that Jochebed should get a lot of credit for everything Moses did.

Of the many unusual things about the life of Moses, the one that is rarely mentioned is the fact that the Bible covers his complete bio from birth to death. Very few have that distinction: Samson, Samuel, John the Baptist and Jesus to name a few. It is also interesting that the lives of these people are accompanied by miracles, at least at birth.

Unlike the others, however, Moses’ conception wasn’t miraculous. His survival immediately following birth was.

Pharaoh, the reigning monarch when Moses was born, decreed that all male born Israelites be sacrificed to the Nile. Not only did Moses survive that decree he was also protected in the safest possible place, the palace of Pharaoh.

It was a miracle, yes, but not in the normal sense of the word. This miracle required a large dose of human activity by someone with a lot of courage, tenacity and ingenuity.

Enter Jochebed, a little known figure otherwise, but one that will forever be associated with the miraculous survival of Moses. The question is, did God speak to this woman and if so, how?

The story unfolds like this: Read more

Judgments On Divorce – 1 Corinthians 7

May 3, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Divorce, Family, Old Testament 

The Bible is often treated like a list of inflexible laws, meaning every statement is applied as if it is a hard fast rule, no variation allowed. Those who take this approach use the remarks of Jesus to reinforce the idea:

Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. 18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. 19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:17-19

A quick reading might give the impression that Jesus endorses the “rule book” approach but a few verses later He said things that would challenge this idea. He actually moved a few legal goal posts.

  • Not murdering someone is a good rule to follow but avoiding getting angry with them is even better, 5:21-22.
  • Not sleeping with a woman, other than your wife, is a good rule to follow but not entertaining the idea is even better, 5:27-28.
  • Not committing the sins to which you are vulnerable is noteworthy but avoiding the situations which tempt you to commit those sins is even better, 5:29-30.
  • Taking no more than an “eye’s” worth of penalty for an “eye’s” worth of offense is a good rule to follow but taking less is even better, 5:38-39.
  • Not taking revenge on your enemies is a good rule to follow but actively loving them is even better, 5:43-44.

Obviously, Jesus saw the law as restrictive not prescriptive. It was designed to limit the expression of our human tendencies and prevent us from going too far in our zeal for justice. And His remarks change our perspective entirely.

Not only should our lust for revenge be limited by the law it should be replaced by love and taking that approach helps us focus on being more like God. Jesus clearly made that point.

That you may be the children of your Father which is in heaven, 5:45.

Loving your enemies instead of hating them is the God-like thing to do and one purpose of the law was to help us learn this approach. It was designed primarily to inhibit our natural responses to sinful tendencies and offenses. It provides boundaries not step by step instructions. The law is a guidebook not a rule book.* Read more

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