Friday, July 25, 2014

Falcon Strike!

Time is running out . . .
Vanished. Eight western scientists and an Israeli military officer have disappeared without a trace, victims of a ruthless Soviet espionage program. USAF Major Jacob “Falcon” Kelly is the only American who knows where they are and why they've been taken.
Imprisoned. Suspected of treason by American intelligence, Kelly’s claims are dismissed and he is jailed by his own government. He finds himself in a deadly race to prove his innocence before Soviet assassins can shut his mouth—permanently.
Outwitted.  Entangled in a high-stakes game of intrigue with Soviet military intelligence, American operatives are duped by a masterful disinformation campaign in which Kelly is a pawn. As his captors play right into the hands of the enemy, Kelly knows the window to stage a daring rescue operation and thwart the Soviet endgame is rapidly closing.
The exciting conclusion to the Falcon Series, Falcon Strike will captivate readers as nonstop action and intrigue transport them on a thrilling adventure spanning the frozen coasts of Alaska, the suburbs of northern Virginia, and the snowy taiga of Siberia.

Available December 1st!

C. S. Lewis, the radical

I never realized what a radical C. S. Lewis was until reading his essays in God in the Dock. One of Lewis’s great concerns was the rise of the modern, technocratic welfare state. Lewis warned that the purpose of government is to protect individual liberties, not to transform society or to provide for its citizens. When a population forgets that limited role of government it is headed inevitably for tyranny.

Lewis writes, “. . . classical political theory, with its Stoical, Christian, and juristic key-conceptions (natural law, the value of the individual, the rights of man), has died. The modern State exists not to protect our rights but to do us good or make us good—anyway, to do something to us or to make us something. Hence the new name ‘leaders’ for those who were once ‘rulers’. We are less their subjects than their wards, pupils, or domestic animals. There is nothing left of which we can say to them, ‘Mind your own business.’ Our whole lives are their business.” [from the essay, Is Progress Possible? in God in the Dock, 314]

Lewis published this in 1958. Apparently we weren’t listening.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Observations from the Bible on Fear, Part 3

2 Timothy 1:7-8 (NASB) For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, or of me His prisoner; but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God,

Fear doesn’t come from God. Rather, God offers in place of fear, power, love, and “a sound mind.” Why does Paul say “a sound mind” (KJV), or “self-discipline” (NIV), or “discipline” (NASB)? Paul uses these terms because fear militates against sound, disciplined thinking: fear expands itself irrationally when we give place to it.
This is an important point and one that recurs as you read the Bible’s passages on fear. Fear feeds itself, even to the point where we perversely begin to fear fear itself. But what God provides is a spirit of love (the most important key to conquering fear outright) and power (in His power we are not helpless but can chose to exercise faith in His goodness and sovereign control), and discipline. Discipline enables us to control the wild flights of fancy in our minds (2 Corinthians 10:5), so that we are not carried away with gusts of fear (as the spies were in Numbers 13-14). To yield to these imaginations is to give way to panic.
Paul has a real bell-ringer in 2 Timothy 1:8 in our battle against fear and panic. Notice that Paul did not advise Timothy to combat his fears by backing off his ministry. Paul didn’t give his young coworker a pass because Timothy was afraid. Rather, in verse 8 Paul says, “join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God.” Paul did not protect Timothy from suffering; he invited Timothy to embrace suffering with him for the sake of the gospel.
We are not accustomed to think of fear in terms of moral responsibility. But there is a significant moral component to our fears when we allow them to interrupt the responsibilities and ministries to which God has called us.
God desires that we confront our fears by not allowing them to turn us aside from our obligations. Rather than giving in to fear and retreating, we are invited by God to step out onto the edge and labor together with Him. It is uncomfortable—to be sure—but “God hath not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Observations from the Bible on Fear, Part 2

Numbers 13-14 contains a remarkable story of the experience of the children of Israel at Kadesh. They have arrived at Kadesh at the southern border of Canaan, and are ready to enter the Promised Land. Moses sends spies into Canaan with the responsibility of bringing back a report on the land, the people, the fortifications, and so on.

Numbers 13:25-29 (NASB): When they returned from spying out the land, at the end of forty days, they proceeded to come to Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation of the sons of Israel in the wilderness of Paran, at Kadesh; and they brought back word to them and to all the congregation and showed them the fruit of the land. Thus they told him, and said, “We went in to the land where you sent us; and it certainly does flow with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. Nevertheless, the people who live in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large; and moreover, we saw the descendants of Anak there. Amalek is living in the land of the Negev and the Hittites and the Jebusites and the Amorites are living in the hill country, and the Canaanites are living by the sea and by the side of the Jordan.”

There’s nothing wrong with the report so far; if you carefully examine what Moses asked them to do (13:17-20), the report indicates that they were quite thorough. The perceptions of the faithful and the perceptions of the fearful regarding the land were in agreement—so far. The majority report of Numbers 13:27-29 is not disputed by anyone.

It is in the reaction to the report that the trouble lies. Caleb tries to calm the people but to no avail. Fear began spreading among the children of Israel, and as is almost always the case, fear brings a distortion of reality.

Numbers 13:30-33 (NASB): Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, “We should by all means go up and take possession of it, for we shall surely overcome it.” But the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are too strong for us.” So they gave out to the sons of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, “The land through which we have gone, in spying it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants; and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great size. “There also we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak are part of the Nephilim); and we became like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.”

Once the fearful had given way to their fears, the difficulties became distorted and magnified (vs 32-33). Yielding to their fear fueled it, and they wound up being dominated by it. Their fears became self-fulfilling.

Numbers 14:1-4 (NASB): Then all the congregation lifted up their voices and cried, and the people wept that night. And all the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron; and the whole congregation said to them, “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! “And why is the Lord bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become plunder; would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?” So they said to one another, “Let us appoint a leader and return to Egypt.”

Their fears also moved them to attack the character and purposes of God (why is the Lord bringing us into this land to fall by the sword?). Their fears led them to distorted memories of the “good old days” in Egypt when they were in hard servitude (would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?).

Finally, what is most significant for our purposes is that, because they chose to follow their fear rather than their faith, God gave them over to their fears. Their fears became self-fulfilling in a tragic way. They feared falling by the sword of the Canaanites, their children becoming plunder.

And so they did fall, but by the hand of God Himself, not the Canaanites. They wandered for forty years until every last one over the age of twenty (at the time of the rebellion) died, except for the two faithful ones—Joshua and Caleb. Everyone else died.

The irony is that God faithfully brought their children—whom they feared would become plunder—into the Promised Land. Their children—who walked in faith, not fear—became under the hand of God an invincible military juggernaut, conquering kings and cities and alliances by the power of God. No one was able to stand before them (other than Ai, and that defeat was due to sin).

There are some important observations about fear we can draw from this text.
  • Fear can distort reality.
  • Fear feeds on itself.
  • Fear can become self-fulfilling.
  • Our fears can accuse God of either being inadequate to protect us, or of having evil motives. Sinful fear is ultimately a slander on the character of God.
  • When we choose to live by our fears instead of our faith, God may give us over to them.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

C. S. Lewis and Old Books

I'm reading through a book of C. S. Lewis essays, called "God in the Dock." Today's essay was from Lewis' introduction to a new translation of Athanasius' fourth-century work,  "The Incarnation of the Word of God."

Anyway, Lewis is making a case for reading the old books, the books of the past that history has shown to have weight and heft. One of Lewis' points is that modern authors, even when they disagree with one another, share in common a huge set of assumptions--some of which are bound to be wrong. As moderns reading modern books, we too will be blind to the wrongness of those assumptions--since we ourselves share them. The only way we have to extricate ourselves, Lewis claims, is to read books of the past--not that they are error-free, but that they are operating on a different set of assumptions than those of the modern age. I'll let Lewis speak for himself:

"None of us can fully escape this blindness, but we shall certainly increase it, and weaken our guard against it, if we read only modern books. Where they are true they will give us truths which we half knew already. Where they are false they will aggravate the error with which we are already dangerously ill. The only palliative is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books. Not, of course, that there is any magic about the past. People were no cleverer then than they are now; they made as many mistakes as we. But not the same mistakes. They will not flatter us in the errors we are already committing; and their own errors, being now open and palpable, will not endanger us. Two heads are better than one, not because either is infallible, but because they are unlikely to go wrong in the same direction" [202].