Monday, September 4, 2017

Book Review: Ancient Rome, The Rise and Fall of an Empire

Great book. I'd known bits and pieces of the history of the Roman Empire, but this book gave me a much fuller picture. If the Pax Romana quelled wars in the greater Mediterranean region, the Romans themselves enjoyed very little of it. There was such a struggle for power between the emperors, the wannabes, the generals, that the internal history of Rome seems to be a history of assassination, rebellion, and revolution.

Baker demonstrated that one of the chief causes of turbulence--something that the political powers and usurpers cynically used to their advantage--was the disparity of income between the senatorial class and the plebs. At first I wondered if he was simply importing modern frustrations into an ancient history. But he soon proved his point by his frequent quotation of first sources.

Well-worth reading. Baker's writing is crisp, at times dryly humorous, well-paced, always engaging and heavily documented. Highly, highly recommended.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Local newspaper publishes a story on my books

The Early Bird, a local Greenville newspaper, published a story by Susan Hartley on my books. Here's a big thank you, as the works of independent authors rarely get much attention. You can read the article here.


Sunday, July 9, 2017

Transitions

For the benefit of my friends, family, and readers who do not attend Bible Fellowship Church, I’d like to explain a recent leadership transition at BFC.

On July 1 Pastor Scott Gruber was promoted to the position of Senior Pastor at my request. Our church uses a multiple-elder model, and one of the functions of the Board is to identify that elder who will serve as the Senior, or Lead Elder.

I have occupied that position for almost fifteen years, and for the last several have felt that it was time to move Pastor Scott into that position. He’s well qualified, is an excellent preacher, and has an eye for planning and vision. Our church will flourish under his preaching and leadership.

My duties will now fall primarily in the area of counseling, teaching and Christian Education. I will preach when Pastor Scott needs a break or goes on vacation. Pastor Scott and I would like to broaden the counseling opportunities and resources we can offer to the community, and I’ll be taking the lead in that.

For the last three years or so I have been letting the congregation know that this transition was approaching, preparing them by speaking of it frequently as I preach. I am gratified that the shift has gone smoothly and has been well accepted by the BFC congregation.

When pastoral leadership changes, it often generates questions.
  • Who initiated this? I did. No one else even suggested it or intimated it. No one is pushing me out of BFC. From start to finish it was at my initiative and I led the process.
  • Why did you do it? Because I believe BFC is ready for the change and in fact needs the change to move forward. From my perspective, it is the culmination of 2 Timothy 2:2 in my ministry: “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2).
  • Are you retiring? No.
  • Where will you and Doris go? Nowhere. We’re staying right here and continuing to serve BFC as an elder.
  • Will it be difficult for you to accept Pastor Scott’s leadership? No. For the last three years or so I’ve been letting him make a lot of the decisions. I’ve been intentionally moving him into more leadership roles. I’ve enjoyed and been fed by his preaching.
  • Will it be difficult for Pastor Scott to assume leadership if you remain at BFC? No, I don’t think so. Pastor Scott and I have talked about this. We work together very well and he knows that I respect him and his abilities highly. If you find me telling you, “Well, let’s check with Pastor Scott on this,” it’s my way of gently reminding you that he’s now leading BFC.
I look forward to continuing to serve at BFC. We have no plans to go elsewhere. I will be excited to see the new blessings the Lord brings to our church through Pastor Scott’s leadership! In my opinion, this is how you do a pastoral transition the right way, and I'm thankful the Lord has blessed the process.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Are you stuck in the cosmic machine?

Have you ever felt that life was essentially unjust? That you were being ground to dust between the gears of a cosmic machine that was deaf to your cries of pain? Are you approaching a point at which your only shred of control in a personal world spinning out of control is to rebel against life itself, to hate life?

Oddly enough, you might come to this conclusion whether you are immersed in pleasure or drowning in suffering, soaked in sin or walking in righteousness. The world’s wisest fool (Solomon), and the world’s most righteous sinner (Job) both came to the same conclusion: they hated life.

King Solomon is described in Ecclesiastes chapters one and two as a man with such immense wealth that Bill Gates looks impoverished by comparison. In his own words, Solomon withheld no pleasure from himself: All that my eyes desired I did not refuse them. I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure . . . (Eccl 2:10). Solomon pursued meaning in accomplishments, buildings, agriculture, sex, alcohol, various pleasures, fame, wealth, wisdom and knowledge—in other words, in virtually every arena of human endeavor. To top it all off, he had power untold as the king of Israel’s golden age. And what did it all produce? Despair. In his own words: So I hated life. . . (Eccl 2:17).

Job is described as a wealthy man, the greatest of all the men in the east (Job 1:3). God’s own valuation of His servant is remarkable: Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil (Job 1:8). And yet when great suffering descended upon Job, his steps faltered and he expresses despair very similar to Solomon’s: I loathe my own life; (Job 10:1).

What gives? How is it these two very different men with very different experiences wind up in despair expressed in very similar ways?

In essence, Solomon was living “under the sun.” In other words he was not denying God’s existence but was denying that God makes a difference. The fact that God exists was to Solomon irrelevant to life in a fallen world. God was to Solomon a transcendent distant judge who would render final verdicts, but not an immanent Shepherd who cares for our souls. Life was a cosmic machine in which it doesn’t really matter what we do, because all that we accomplish would be left to the one who follows us, and who knows whether that one will be wise or foolish? God was there, Solomon acknowledged, but his goodness was in question.

Job was utterly convinced of God’s sovereignty: “With Him are wisdom and might; To Him belong counsel and understanding. Behold, He tears down, and it cannot be rebuilt; He imprisons a man, and there can be no release. Behold, He restrains the waters, and they dry up; And He sends them out, and they inundate the earth” (Job 12:13–15).

But he had lost confidence in God’s goodness. Job felt that God was being unjust, “What did I do to deserve this?” How then can I answer Him, And choose my words before Him? For though I were right, I could not answer; I would have to implore the mercy of my judge. If I called and He answered me, I could not believe that He was listening to my voice. For He bruises me with a tempest And multiplies my wounds without cause. He will not allow me to get my breath, But saturates me with bitterness. If it is a matter of power, behold, He is the strong one! And if it is a matter of justice, who can summon Him? Though I am righteous, my mouth will condemn me; Though I am guiltless, He will declare me guilty. I am guiltless; I do not take notice of myself; I despise my life. It is all one; therefore I say,He destroys the guiltless and the wicked’ (Job 9:14–22).

The similarity between the wise fool and the righteous sinner that led them both to despair in such different circumstances lies in the fact that they had lost touch with the nearness of God, the immanent care of God, the love of God, the overwhelming goodness of God. Solomon couldn’t see it because he was living as if the existence of God bore little significance to life other than ultimate judgment. Job couldn’t see it because he assumed his suffering was unjust: he had no category in his theology of suffering that would encompass suffering not because of personal sin but for the glory of God (a theology that waited upon the coming of Christ). Indeed, the challenges Job hurls at God are answered in Christ: Have You eyes of flesh? Or do You see as a man sees? Are Your days as the days of a mortal, Or Your years as man’s years, That You should seek for my guilt And search after my sin? According to Your knowledge I am indeed not guilty, Yet there is no deliverance from Your hand (Job 10:4–7). Christ indeed was not guilty, yet there was no deliverance for Him because redemption for Solomon, Job, you and I was hinging upon the death of the sinless Lamb of God.

There was a time that David was caught up in despair too, as he relates in Psalm 73: But as for me, my feet came close to stumbling, My steps had almost slipped. For I was envious of the arrogant As I saw the prosperity of the wicked (Psalm 73:2–3). But after working through his anger, bitterness, and his sneaking suspicion that God was unjust, David comes to a conclusion that is helpful for you and I when we feel hopelessly and helplessly tied to the rails of God’s sovereignty: Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. For, behold, those who are far from You will perish; You have destroyed all those who are unfaithful to You. But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord God my refuge, That I may tell of all Your works (Psalm 73:25–28).

If you know Christ, you are not stuck in a cosmic machine. Rather, you are an actor on the stage of a cosmic contest in which God’s righteous judgment is being vindicated, and His mercy and grace are being revealed. The most fundamental piece of your faith to cling to when life is tumbling down around your ears is also the simplest piece of theology: God is good. You are good and do good; Teach me Your statutes (Psalm 119:68).

His infinite worth is best proclaimed by those who are satisfied in Him, even in times of great suffering. Your life is not devoid of meaning, as Solomon thought, nor is it empty or futile. Because of Christ, all that you do, all that you suffer, all that you attempt in Christ’s name has significance, whether or not you see the result in this life. That's part of what it means to walk by faith.

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord. (1 Corinthians 15:58)

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Are your politics and your faith at war with each other?

Although there is much in the article outlining Tim Farron’s withdrawal from political life I would want to disagree with, it certainly exposes a modern-day truth: there is tension between contemporary political liberalism and Christianity. Here is the salient paragraph:

Tim Farron just resigned as leader of the U.K.’s Liberal Democratic party, and his statement explaining why should enter the history books: “To be a political leader — especially of a progressive, liberal party in 2017 — and to live as a committed Christian, to hold faithfully to the Bible’s teaching, has felt impossible for me,” Farron said.
The religious left will invoke Scripture when it appears to support their chosen pieties (such as social justice) and will condemn Scripture when it affronts their moral choices (chiefly revolving around sex). In other words, their invocation of Scripture is wholly opportunistic.

Setting aside the even greater and more fundamental problem for the religious left (regarding the identity, nature, and character of God Himself), there is a massive problem for the religious left as they seek to hitch their faith to their politics, a problem that has immediate and far reaching political implications. And that problem is the nature of man.

Three definitive biblical propositions expose the tension for the religious left. First, man is created in the image of God (a proposition having huge implications on how human life is treated, abortion, euthanasia, personal liberties, etc.). Second, man is by nature a hopelessly corrupt sinner—a violator of God’s law (a proposition which reaches into the foundations of political/economic systems and determines whether they will, or will not, result in human flourishing). Third, man is a morally responsible creature that must be held accountable for his choices in this life, and will be held accountable by God for his choices when this life ends (a proposition touching on civil and criminal law, social justice, and far more).

All three of these most basic biblical assertions are rejected out of hand by the philosophic underpinnings of leftist politics. For the thoughtful religious liberal this causes tension, a cognitive dissonance that will hopefully reach a crescendo demanding a personal reevaluation, as it has apparently done with Farron.

How do religious liberals handle the tension? Some are simply unaware of either the foundations of their politics or their faith, or both. Some choose to look the other way, pretending not to see the problem. For others, I suppose, their politics are more ultimate than their faith. But some, those who are committed to their faith, will awaken to the problem—and do something about it.

We all live with some degree of cognitive dissonance. I personally find Christ-less conservatism far more stinky than political liberalism. This short essay is not a sales job for conservatism, nor a screed against liberalism. What it is, is a challenge. Are the foundations of the political system you support irreconcilably opposed to the foundations of the faith you profess? 

It’s a question worth asking.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Looking for some Summertime Reading?

Are you looking for some fun summertime reading?

Would you like some action-packed page-turners that don’t require you to wash the filth out of your brain when you’re done with ‘em? Maybe something with a little more substance than your average pulp fiction? Let me suggest a few ideas. . .

MILITARY/ESPIONAGE THRILLER: The Falcon Trilogy: Falcon Down, Falcon Rising, Falcon Strike.

Major Jacob “Falcon” Kelly is shot down by the Soviet Union and captured in a hi-tech kidnapping during the Cold War. He is the chief test pilot for a new, super-secret F16 weapons package, and the Soviets intend to interrogate him to learn its secrets. They’ve detained him at a secret GRU facility in Siberia, but whether or not they’ll be able to hold on to him is another matter. He has some skills of which they are unaware.

K irkus Reviews said:
“Cobb has clearly done his research on multiple counts and, like Tom Clancy or Dale Brown, masterly intertwines military technology and behavior into a tightly plotted narrative in which every development follows logically and smoothly from what came before. This deft touch extends to the characters . . . .”


















POLITICAL THRILLER: The Candidate:
Henry Marshall is a principled Christian conservative blogger who is convinced that both major parties have abandoned the Constitution. His intention is to be nothing more than a political gadfly, but his friends won’t allow him to stay on the sidelines, and his enemies don’t intend to allow him to live.

Journalist and author TJ Martinell said:
“Penned before the 2016 election cycle and the Trump phenomenon, The Candidate is a political thriller that unwittingly earns a place within the alternative history genre for its exploration of how far a man can go armed only with a message – and how far those within the establishment will go to stop him. . . . [M]any of the aspects of the plot seem prophetic, rather than slightly fanciful.
A pastor by trade, Cobb’s writing reflects extensive background knowledge of mainstream media, political strategy, the military, and of course constitutional history; each chapter begins either with a Bible verse or a passage from the Federalist Papers. The technical preciseness gives vital story subplots a sense of authenticity and realism.”

POST-APOCALYPTIC ACTION/ADVENTURE: Outlander Chronicles: Phoenix.
The year is 2120, but life in the USA—and around the globe—has been reduced to primitive survival. Eighty years earlier, a biological weapon of mass destruction caused a global smallpox pandemic, leaving only eight million survivors scattered around the entire globe. Jacen Chester, living near the ruins of Philadelphia, PA, decides that there must be more to life than mere survival. He determines to restart civilization and culture. He is aided by a mysterious stranger, and opposed by murderous groups. [I am currently working on Book 2]




NON-FICTION DEVOTIONAL STUDY: A Prayer of Moses.
Psalm 90 is studied paying particular attention to the backdrop of the remarkable life of its author, Moses. Two themes in the psalm create a dramatic tension: divine wrath and grace. Jesus Christ is shown to be the necessary answer to Moses’ prayer. Suitable for groups or individuals.





All the books above can be purchased in print or Kindle format on Amazon, or can be ordered at your local bookstore. You can order signed print copies from me at www.doorwaypress.com. They are also available at the Greenville Public Library for checkout.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Book Review: Searching for Adam: Genesis and the Truth about Man's Origin


This book explores a hot-button topic that should be a lot hotter than it is in some circles.

The question is: Was Adam an actual historical person? Was he indeed the first human, as Genesis indicates?

 This is not a peripheral issue and much theology, perhaps most of theology, hinges upon the answer. The book documents—with names and clear-as-a-bell quotes—the fact that when you turn loose of a historical Adam, some scholars will begin to turn loose of substitutionary atonement. Why? No Adam, no fall, no original sin, hence no sin nature, no need for atonement.

Mortenson employs an impressive array of fifteen legitimate scholars to bring a mighty challenge against any flavor of evolution, theistic evolution, or old-earth creationism. Heavily documented and using their opponents own statements and findings, Mortenson and colleagues demonstrate that there is a good case to be made, from science no less, that Adam was specially created, fully human, and having no ancestors. The case for an “evolved Adam” which Biologos builds largely upon genetics, is in fact both faulty and even shoddy when the actual data is examined. One of the great contributions of Mortenson's book is puncturing the illusion that the science is settled. Searching for Adam exposes the fact that a good deal of the science is considered to be controversial (and not settled) even among evolutionists themselves.

Beginning with an examination of the text of the opening chapters of Genesis, the book makes a solid case for the traditional, orthodox interpretation of the creation story. The New Testament is also mined for its perspective regarding the historical Adam. The authors then review how Adam has been regarded across the history of theology, including the recent departures from belief. A chapter is devoted to discussing when Adam was created.

Another chapter examines John Walton’s popular book, The Lost World of Adam and Eve and gives it a devastating critique. A chapter is devoted to examining the implications of Adam being made in the image of God if there was no historical Adam.

Except for the last chapter, the remaining chapters move from the textual and theological issues to the scientific ones, dealing with the fossil record, genetics, anatomy, and anthropology. A particularly fascinating chapter deals with ten skeletal issues that all have to be in place to support walking upright. The author makes the point that unless all ten changes happen simultaneously, their net effect on the creature would hurt not help survivability. Another great chapter considers the fact that for ancient man to have built the structures he did would require immense intelligence rather than a primitive mind.

The authors carefully document the role that Darwinism has played in eugenics and man’s brutal quest to selectively eliminate what were considered “inferior” human specimens. Some of the worst totalitarian societies in history are shown to have built their fundamental principles on Darwinian evolution. This is all carefully documented from original sources. The point is that there are wide-ranging societal implications when a Darwinian viewpoint reigns in a society.

In the final chapter, Mortenson exposes the obvious effect Darwinism is having on modern evangelical scholars. He makes a tight case for the assertion that many modern scholars are not being governed by the text in their interpretation of Genesis, but by the questionable claims of scientists that often have more to do with the scientists’ own philosophical commitments than with science itself.

Bottom line: this is an excellent book, highly recommended. If you have been wrestling with the early chapters of Genesis and how to understand them, read Searching for Adam before you make up your mind.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

The Day In Between

The priests quietly prepared the temple for the morning sacrifice. The silver trumpets sounded, signaling the sunrise and the beginning of the daily ordinances of worship. It was the Sabbath, the calm after yesterday’s storm.

Yesterday was Passover and Jerusalem had been a noisy, busy place, half the people crowding toward the massive temple gates, Passover lambs in hand, even while a Roman execution entertained the other half. It had been chaotic. The Galilean Jews had celebrated Passover two days before in accordance with the calendar observed by the northern Jews, an anomaly tolerated by the priests as it spread the sacrifices over two days, making the celebration easier to manage.

But yesterday. Oh, what a day! The Galilean carpenter had been condemned to the cross, not a week after entering the city to noisy acclaim. And what a week it was. He’d taught daily in the temple, silenced the priests with his answers and riddles, and condemned the corruption of the religious system. Some wondered if he was Messiah. Others thought he was a cheap pretender. It no longer mattered, however, because the Romans had crucified him yesterday. Whatever the Galilean movement was, everyone thought it was over
.
The Garden where He lay was deathly silent. The guard was in place, the seal unbroken. The disciples were nowhere to be found—some said they were in hiding, others that they had fled towards Galilee. A rumor was circulating that He would rise—but it was just a rumor. But some were saying, wait until the third day and then we will know if it’s true.

The priests, on whom the lot had fallen to trim the lamps in the Holy Place, entered the sanctuary and began their duties quietly, until one gasped. They looked at the offender who’d broken the holy silence. With terror in his eyes, he was pointing to the curtain. Turning to look they saw that the great veil was torn and they could see directly into the Most Holy Place, dimly illuminated by the lamplight reflecting off the golden walls. The Mercy Seat was clearly visible.

One fell on his face, overcome by terror. Most of the others fled. One fell to his knees, lifting his hands and face toward heaven, his mouth filled with praise. He’d been listening to the Galilean, and now he finally understood. The final Passover Lamb had been slain—yesterday—on the cross. The Way to Elohim was now open.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

What's the best part of being an author?

Well, for me there are multiple “best parts” about writing, especially writing fiction. I enjoy getting to indulge the world of my imagination and doing my best to turn it into a temporary facsimile of reality for my readers. I want to write scenes that make the reader laugh out loud in the library, and tales so gripping they miss their bedtimes. I enjoy constructing dialogs, events, tragedies, successes, failures, and joys for my characters. My own viewpoints and biblical principles often come through the mouths and lives of the characters I create—hopefully without becoming preachy.

The research is fun, too. I don’t know how other authors do it, but my research is very targeted, and generally (though not always) tied to the Internet. Whether it is searching for the tail number of a particular F-16, or a realistic Russian name, or what day of the week a certain date in the future is, or discovering what indigenous peoples live on St. Lawrence Island in the Bering Sea, or what sort of prairie grasses grow in Iowa, I enjoy hunting for that one piece of information I can drop into a sentence to make the story as authentic and realistic as possible. After all the military and weapons research, and the FBI, CIA, NSA, KGB, and GRU research I did for the Falcon trilogy, I’d be surprised if I’m not on some sort of NSA or CIA watchlist. The result is that nearly every detail of a C. H. Cobb novel actually exists—every road, every restaurant, every description of a weapon, or a location, or a historical event. I can usually count the details that I invent out of whole cloth in any given book on one hand.

Sometimes when I need a particular ambiance for the whole story, my research is more general. For The Candidate I read books on presidential campaigns, The Federalist Papers, and a host of governmental, academic, and journalist reports, and legal decisions, on aspects of the U.S. government, Constitution, education policy, etc. For the Falcon trilogy, to get some background on the secretive GRU, I read Inside the Aquarium, The Making of a Top Soviet Spy, by Victor Suvorov (a pseudonym). I also read a number of books on the US Navy SEALS.

I enjoy writing with an agenda—seeking to explode ill-conceived myths and constructs of the modern day and the progressive cultural scene. I write with a self-conscious underlying platform of a biblical Christian worldview. Although my stories do have Christian characters, I object to some of the contemporary Christian fiction in which the believers are all good folks, the unbelievers are all dishonest, and someone always gets saved. That simply does not correspond with reality, or the believer’s pedigree shown in 1 Corinthians 1:26-29 or Paul’s self disclosure in Romans 7 or 1 Timothy 1:15.

I prefer making unbelievers my protagonist heroes and presenting non-Christians as flourishing under Common Grace, with sins and all. The believers in my stories stumble, fall, succeed, fail, and sin, just as we experience in real life. Painting on a canvas that more closely approximates reality as everyone experiences it means that the reader can connect with the problems, as well as with the wise characters who come alongside in the story to help and shed light on a situation.

The goal of my writing is to cause the unbelieving reader to start asking difficult questions of his own worldview, and to put him on a trail of breadcrumbs that might one day lead to the Gospel.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Editor of the Babylon Bee stung in early morning raid

Muleshoe, TX – In a stunning pre-dawn raid, a strike team composed of EPA and FDA agents arrested Calvin Johns, editor of the Babylon Bee. He was charged with butchering sacred cows without a license and was taken into custody. A federal judge refused to set bail, indicating Johns had not displayed the slightest remorse.

“Johns has been butchering sacred cows for several years,” the lead agent for the FDA claimed. “He’s left carcasses all over the place. It’s a health risk. When you witness the heartbreak and disillusionment experienced by the poor owners of those sacred cows, it’s a wonder that Justice does not charge him with hate crimes.”

Millennials Michael Servetus and his wife Arminy were standing over their deceased bovine, weeping, but agreed to comment on the arrest. “It’s about time someone arrested that guy. He’s so cruel! We loved our sacred cow. We worshiped our sacred cow,” Servetus said, dabbing at his eyes with a tissue. Mrs. Servetus interrupted, “No, not worshiped, Michael. Venerated. We venerated our cow. There is a difference.”

“Oh, right. We venerated Bossie.” The couple refused further comment and got into their vehicle, intending to shop for another sacred cow.

The EPA agent at the scene was disgusted. “This is another Love Canal. There’s doctrine rotting all over the place. The smell is awful. At the very least, Johns could have cleaned up his mess. Instead, he just left the guts of sacred cows right where they lay, for all to see. It’s ugly, you know?”

PETA was reportedly filing an amicus brief with the court, asking the prosecutor to press for the death penalty. “Sacred cows have just as much right to life as any human,” the spokeswoman said. “Johns is setting a terrible precedent here. Not only is there the problem of all these poor butchered cows, but we are also concerned that people could start abandoning their cows. Those poor cows could starve to death without proper attention. Johns is clearly bovinophobic. The planet would be better off without him.”

Unnamed sources claimed that Johns was pressing for a plea bargain, in which he would agree to stop slaughtering cows so long as he could gore oxen. Prosecutors are refusing to comment.