Friday, June 29, 2012

Book Review: Worldliness: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World

C. J. Mahaney, ed. Worldliness: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2008.

The pastors at Sovereign Grace Ministries have collaborated on this excellent little book on how to (and how not to) live in a fallen world. The topics are very practical and the counsel is thoroughly biblical. The book includes discussion questions in the back, making it quite useful for both private and group study.

After a typically excellent foreword by John Piper, Mahaney opens the discussion with a good definition of the problem of worldliness.

Craig Cabanis next considers the problems presented by media, particularly films and television. Included in his chapter are good questions I can ask myself as I seek to evaluate my watching habits.

Bob Kauflin follows up with a chapter on music that avoids the shallow this beat is evil analysis that so often shows up in examinations of music. It’s a thoughtful consideration of the content, context, and culture-setting aspect of what we listen to.

Dave Harvey has a chapter on “my stuff” that questions modern consumerism and materialism, and includes practical suggestions for escaping the snare of materialism. 

C. J. Mahaney comes next with a chapter on clothing and dress, particularly focused on modesty as a reflection of the heart of a godly woman. The book also includes two helpful appendices on issues of modesty. This material alone is worth the price of the book, and should be considered by every woman who desires to honor Christ and to serve her brothers in Christ.

The final chapter is my favorite: Jeff Purswell’s piece on How to Love the World. He develops the chapter in terms that modern postmoderns can identify with, by explaining the grand story (meta-narrative) of redemption, and then proposing that we have three tasks in our calling to love the world as obedient servants of Christ: enjoying the world, engaging the world, and evangelizing the world. He includes practical suggestions as to how we can accomplish these three tasks. 

Purswell poses and answers the final question in a memorable one-page summary at the end of the book.
“How are you and I to view our existence in this world? Through the prism of Christ’s saving work on the cross. The cross transforms all the categories of our lives. It answers the central questions of the human predicament” [170]. 

Purswell then lists four specific aspects of the cross that impact how we view the world. But I’m not going to spoil them for you. You’ll have to read the book.

In summary, this is an excellent, popularly-accessible book that addresses a vital question for the believer: how can I be in the world, but not of it?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

New Review for Outlander

Finally! Someone has written a new review of Outlander Chronicles: Phoenix, and posted it on Amazon.

Okay, time for the disclaimer: he's a good friend of mine, Dr. John Marshall. He has a PhD in History, and teaches at Eastern University in Philly. His specialty is Western intellectual history.

I am honored that he reviewed my book, and doubly honored by what he had to say about it:

This is a well paced voyage into a future devastated by biological warfare. The survivors are divided between those who seek to retain a moral code and thereby rebuild civilization, and those who don't. Combining thought-provoking dialogue and brisk action, this book is a must-read for anyone who wants a peak into what the world could become if the west's moral force continues to erode.”
Many thanks, John!

Saturday, June 16, 2012


We're talking about gardens, by the way, not airplanes. My garden is on autopilot, which means whatever God has programmed those green things to do, via their plant DNA, they are doing. And I like what they are doing.

Did not think my lettuce would grow, but, here it is.

Sharp eyes will spot two snakes. They are for public consumption; the public being squirrels and birds. Moderately successful deception. Normally they just scare me.

And, likewise, I did not think my sugar peas would grow, but here they are. Not quite sure what to do with them, but they have begun to produce pods. Amazing. Truly, these plants are on God's autopilot.

Doris's roses are between blooming cycles right now, but there is one blossom out. So fragrant I could smell it from eight feet away.

And my lillies continue to produce.

Can't wait for my tomatoes. Can taste 'em already.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Creative Writing update

Thought I'd provide an update on my writing efforts (aka works in progress).

Psalm 90: A Prayer of Moses the man of God. 
I've been working on re-assembling my sabbatical project into 13 study sessions of roughly equal length, so that it is suitable for a Sunday School quarter. It has proven to be more difficult than I first imagined. I am presently working on Session 11, which will take me through verse 15 (of 17) when it is complete.I hope to finish the structural part of the re-write in the next three weeks. Then it will go into final editing. Still have not done the cover design. Realistically, it will be early fall before it is published (by Doorway Press, of course).

Outlander Chronicles: Icarus
The only thing I am actively doing for the second book of the Outlander series is research and plot formation. I recently completed reading The Industrial Revolutionaries by Gavin Weightman in order to get a notion of what the Phoenix folks will be up against as they seek to resurrect technology. I will continue to do reading research, but will not do any significant writing until the Falcon series is published. I'd say we are at least three years, maybe four, out before serious writing on this project resumes. However, I enjoy the characters in this series and can't wait to involve them in their next trials and challenges. I will give you a hint of what is coming: familiarize yourself with the myth of Icarus, and it will give you an idea of from where the troubles of the Phoenix group will come.

Falcon Down
I'm really excited about this first book of what will be four in the Falcon series. I am within shoutin' distance of one-quarter of my word count for the first book (planned word count is 80,000 - I am currently at 17,000+). I have a complete, three-part novel of 200,000 words, unpublished, that will be carved into three books, and which will comprise the final three books of the four-book Falcon series. Falcon Down is functioning as a prequel.

The series is set in the Cold War era in 1986, and is a military/espionage thriller with lots of action and plot twists. The first and fourth books take place largely in the Soviet Union, the second and third are concentrated in Alaska. There is a great deal of research going into the project, down to such trival matters as the tail numbers on the aircraft I am using, or the construction of aircraft fuel-level senders. To be sure, you the reader are not subjected to such mind-wearying details; I am just ensuring that the tale, the plot and subplots, and the action are as authentic as possible.

I'd love to imagine that Falcon Down would be done in time for Christmas, but I think that's a little optimistic, probably by about six months. So lets say, June of 2013.

And what about Outlander Chronicles: Phoenix? How is it faring in the market?
It's selling, veeery slowly. I think I've given away more than I've sold at this point, but that's to be expected. An advertising piece for the book is being stuffed in the convention bags for the Christian Home Educators of Ohio conference that will be held June 21st-23rd in Akron. We hope to get a bump in sales from that. We had an excellent book-signing at Bread of Life bookstore here in Greenville in March, as well as a good author-interview on JoyFM at the end of February. But marketing is not my forte, and until I do better in this area sales will remain sluggish. We've gotten a lot of very positive reader comments. To this point, we've gotten no big-name reviews.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Book Review: Creation Regained

Wolters, Albert M. Creation Regained: Biblical Basics for a Reformational Worldview. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985.

   Wolters advocates building a worldview founded upon the three categories of Creation, Fall, and Redemption. All of reality can considered under one or more of those three rubrics. He concludes that Creation consists of creative acts in three realms, (1) the creation of the physical cosmos, (2) the creation of natural laws, (3) the creation of norms, or normal behavior within the various spheres of the creation. The Fall has corrupted creation in its three parts. Redemption redeems, not just man, but all of creation.

    Wolters then advocates that the Christian’s role is to promote redemption in all three of the realms of creation. He proposes doing this by looking at the world through the grid of “structure” and “direction”. Structure has to do with analyzing something to see what part of it is part of the original good creation. What part of it is creational? Direction has to do with trajectory, discerning how the Fall (or Redemption since the Fall) is influencing it.

    Wolters firmly believes that it is the job of the Christian not to wholly reject any portion of the creation, but to rather bring redemptive direction back to it, ie, to redeem it.

    His categories and analysis are fascinating and very provocative. Of particular note is his argument that there are “norms” in creation, norms which have been perverted and warped by the Fall. There are also a few weaknesses to the book: it really does not engage the cataclysmic destruction of the earth and world systems contained in Revelation. His eschatological view appears to be probably post-millennial or a-millennial; hence, in his viewpoint the kingdom just continues to advance. His view of spiritual gifts is a little weak (what part of miraculous healing, for example, is creational?). At a few points he contradicts himself (no one human institution is above another; but government creates laws to regulate business).

But these are minor issues; on the whole the book is excellent in providing a path to form the right questions (this is how Wolters puts it) to properly analyze modern cultural issues. I recommend it highly. At just 97 pages its probably the best-in-class short book on worldview out there.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Classic Prayers of Scripture

[The list has been expanded to include prayer testimonies]

The most beautiful, powerful prayers are those we find in Scripture, those which are inspired by the Holy Spirit Himself. They contain language and theology that we should imitate in our own prayer lives.

Some are so intimate between persons of the Godhead, such as John 17 (containing the prayer of God the Son to God the Father), that they amount to inter-Trinitarian conversation which we cannot emulate in our own prayer lives, yet do they make for rich meditation.

Some of the classic prayers, such as the cry of dereliction (“My God, my God! Why have you forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46), are so unique in redemptive history that we can not imitate them in our own prayer lives. There are other prayers in which the individual expresses the sense of abandonment (such as Psalm 88) that are more appropriate for you and I.

Some of the prayers noted here preserve none of the original language; merely the fact of the prayer is noted in the midst of the circumstance. Nehemiah’s prayer (Nehemiah 2:4), which comes when king Artaxerxes puts him on the spot, is a classic example of launching a “God, help me!” prayer when there is not time for anything more.

In any case, I am offering this forum in an attempt to improve my own prayer life by considering and meditating on the prayers we see in Scripture. I invite you to share your own favorite prayers found in the Bible. Provide the reference, and a few lines about what makes the prayer so meaningful to you. You can do that with comments, or you can email them to me. I’ll add your selections to the mix. I’ll act as an editor; I trust you won’t be offended by that. You are also welcome to add your thoughts to prayers someone else (including me) has already referenced.

By the way, I'll leave a link to this post somewhere on the top of my blog, entitled “Classic Prayers of Scripture,” so it will always be easy to locate.

While the purpose of this post is primarily for folks at BFC, anyone who reads this blog can participate. The ground rules are that the prayers must be from one of the sixty-six canonical books of the Bible. Great prayers of history and prayers from the Apocrypha will not be included.

I've included just enough to get started, and will add several of my own favorites each week, as well as any that you send to me.