Thursday, June 30, 2016

Doing it right the first time means reading the instructions (& that email!) carefully

I’m convinced that our economy would strengthen significantly if only everyone just paid closer attention to instructions. Or at least did what we have agreed to do or are supposed to do in the normal course of our jobs and lives. Especially as it relates to customer service.

So much time, money, and effort could be saved if people just read their emails carefully!

Have you ever emailed someone and asked them a few questions, then they replied vaguely answering one and ignoring the rest?

Or have you ever made arrangements for a trip and worked patiently with someone to get the details just right, and when you arrive at your destination no one there had a clue you were coming?

Or you try to help someone with a computer issue and they keep doing what you tell them not to do?

And then there are people who go in for minor surgery on their left leg and the surgeon cuts off their right one! Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but I’m sure you get my point.

Today I spent a good bit of time working out the details on the cover of my forthcoming book with the publisher. They had done one design I wasn’t happy with, so I had my own designer develop a better cover.

I worked with him carefully, going back and forth over a few weeks to get everything just right, from the art to the text. We submitted everything to the publisher and then today I got their proofs.

The art was fine, but the text was their old, error-plagued text! They didn’t bother to proof their own re-work against what we had submitted. It took about four rounds of corrections before they got it right, each time they failed to compare what they were doing against what we had sent them.

On Christmas morning a lot of kids wake up to amazing playsets that were assembled by their parents the night before. Yet after just a short time of play the toys begin to fall apart. Why? Either the parents didn’t follow the instructions, skipped a step or two, or just got too tired to do it right.

Not paying close attention to emails, instructions, guidelines, and the like may not seem like a big deal. Until it is. Usually we get our wakeup call when it effects us directly. When it all hits the fan and the pain cuts deep, we wonder, “Why me?!”

The reality is that we are too often the why behind the what of our problems.

For those of us who claim the title of Christian, we’ve got the Bible to provide us with wisdom and more to keep us on the right path. Yet, so often, we treat it like that Christmas toy for our tots, only dipping into it at the last minute, and then just skimming. When our lives hit big bumps we panic, having nothing solid to cling to.

Paul put it simply and clearly, saying, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17, ESV).

Of course, if we don’t read it, we’ll profit nothing and be incomplete.

In construction, we would admonish each other to “Measure twice, cut once.” In business, the adage was, “Once and done.” It means paying attention and taking the time to get all your proverbial ducks in a row before executing on an project.

This is invaluable advice when dealing with others, and priceless when it comes to our spiritual journey. If we want to live more fulfilled Christian lives, then the first step is to read and follow the instructions our Creator has provided us.

When things require assembly, the instructions are there for a reason. Like a map that leads to a treasure, to gain the reward, we need to carefully navigate the directions.

Do you know where your Bible is?


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Have you had experiences involving having to repeat yourself to someone? Or have you been the one who didn’t read the email carefully? What happened? How did you resolve the situation? Are you able to maintain your cool in these kinds of situations? Has anything truly serious gone wrong as a result of you or someone else not following instructions carefully? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Choosing to pursue the mystery of grace

When I was a kid some of the guys and me were playing ball. We were having a good time until someone got hit with a ball and let fly a cuss word. In the fundamentalist circles in which I ran, this was not acceptable.

He apologized but we all shook our heads as we imagined the ground opening and him descending into hell. Then went back to playing ball, staying a little distance from our foul-mouthed friend and keeping an eye on the sky in case of a lightning bolt.

After the game I vaguely remember a cursory discussion about how we have access to grace and could find immediate mercy after committing a sin such as a letting a random cuss word slip in the heat of a hurt moment.

I sort of believed that. But I also harbored the fear of falling from grace, losing my religion.

The preaching we heard in our church often warned against slipping, falling, letting go, backsliding, and losing our salvation.

The general idea was that you could commit an intentional sin, like stealing a candy bar. Or an unintentional sin, like swearing in anger. And if you didn’t seek immediate forgiveness and mercy and died in some macabre random accident you’d go to hell because you were “unrepentant.”

Your faith would be forfeited by your foolishness.

Some of my pre-teen theologian friends even posited it was possible to have a “bad” dream while you were asleep and wake up vulnerable to the flames of hell.

A common refrain to justify this attitude was the scripture that declares “the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man” (Genesis 6:3, KJV).

As many sermons I heard regularly outlined, sinning was easy and there were a multitude of pitfalls just outside the church doors waiting to suck us down. In other words, the “world” was mottled with spiritual tar pits of disaster. Invisible tar pits to boot!

Based on the amount of guilt that line of reasoning generated in me, I knew I must be falling into all of them even as I tried not to. After all, we were being admonished to reconfess our faith in Christ at every service. This meant at a minimum twice on Sunday and once on Wednesday evening. The rest of the time we were on our own.

Some things when it came to sinning I got, like when I lied to my parents or sassed them, or thought about girls in a way I wasn’t supposed to (and there seemed to be no way to think about them that wasn’t a bad way), or when I listened to rock ‘n’ roll, or when I had “ought” (or is it “aught”?) in my heart against someone who had bullied me at school, or when I felt a pang of jealousy when one of my friends got the toy I coveted, or when I didn’t show appreciation for the gift I received which was something I specifically said I didn’t want, or when I wouldn’t eat Brussels sprouts, or when I took pride in something I had accomplished, or when I insisted on wearing jeans to church, or when I basically got out of bed in the morning.

Okay, maybe I really didn’t get it all of  the time. Some of these “sins” always had me scratching my head. Like that thing about “ought.”

I’ve never confessed this to anyone, but there was a good spell of my childhood when I feared I was certainly the antichrist, or at least one of his close associates. After all, my little head reasoned, if I was so bad all the time (based on the feedback we got in children’s church and youth camp) then, well, what else could I be? Obviously not good.

Fortunately, in the midst of this I did learn some real positives about faith, developed a love for Scripture, and had a God-given desire to read and study on my own. In other words, God elected to give me just enough holy rebelliousness allowing me to quietly burrow through the dross of misinterpretations down to the gold in His Word.

One of the essential things I learned was the importance of understanding scripture in context. This helped me see that Genesis 6:3 (see above) really had little or nothing to do with my personal faith and relationship with Christ. It certainly had no bearing on whether or not my faith could be severed from me against my will.

A better passage is Romans 8:38-39 which securely states, “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord,” (ESV).

I still believe that it could be possible to “lose” your salvation, but not like a set of misplaced keys or the life savings stashed away and later accidentally given to Goodwill. I don’t believe God forces us into heaven or hell but rather that there is some degree of choice on our part determining where we end up.

(And now my Reformed friends are going to take me out back behind the theological shed for a spiritual tanning. Pray they are gentle!)

Anyway, as I was saying, if such a loss can happen, it can only happen through a determined, willful, arduous, persistent walking away and denying; a sustained, dogged intention to turn against God and embrace evil. It boils down to us making a choice to either conform or not conform to our God-designed purpose. When the break actually occurs, I don’t know.

What I do know is that grace abounds in my pursuit of Christ as I choose daily to allow Him to live in and through me, even imperfectly.

I also believe when we are choosing to live for Christ and walking in the mystery of His mercy, an occasional lapse, intentional or otherwise, doesn’t disqualify us from God’s grace. In other words, even when someone gets hit with a ball and lets fly a cuss word, heaven will still be open to them while the ground beneath them will remain closed.

The bottom line is this: choose daily to walk with God and everything else will fall into place. Grace wins.


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Where do you stand? Once saved always saved? Predestined? Arminian? Reformed? Something else? Please share your thoughts and reasons why you stand where you stand in the comments!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Not all “good” ideas are really *good* ideas


A few days ago I ran over to the nearby grocery store and started to park in a convenient spot near the entrance. I’ve parked there many times, but can no longer do so!

I was surprised to see the spot marked as “Reserved” but not, as one might expect, for the disabled. Rather the spot -- actually two spots -- were marked for “Associate of the Year” and “Associate of the Month.”

Granting prime parking spots as a way to reward employees -- or, to use the lingo of the day, “associate” -- is nothing new. Many places I’ve worked did so. But all of these places were offices, not retail stores.

Frankly, I think the idea as implemented by the grocery store does more harm than good. While a couple of employees are happy, many more customers will not be.

This is a perfect example of a “good” idea not really being a good idea. While it makes great sense for an office to offer such a perk because it doesn’t inconvenience their customers, it’s a mistake for a retail business to do so.

I’ve worked in retail. The rule of thumb when it comes to employee parking is to park as far away from the entrances as possible. In other words, park where customers don’t want to. It’s an idea that may annoy a few employees but makes perfect business sense.

The goal is to leave the more convenient spaces for customers. After all, you don’t want to discourage shoppers from visiting your store because all of the convenient parking spaces are taken up by employees!

Sure, the grocery store is only giving up two spots, but they are two very prime spots. Not far away are available spots that would work  as rewards but without greatly inconveniencing customers.

Besides, what does a grocery employee need to do to win one of these spots, especially for an entire year? Is he or she voted on by their peers? Do the customers have any say? In fact, if there is no customer input, then is such a recognition even valid?

Ultimately, I don’t really care. I just want to be able to park close to the door, run in, get my groceries, and go. This employee recognition effort is bad for business.

To discover more examples of “good” ideas that weren’t, all you need to do is watch an episode of “America’s Funniest Videos.” Or read the local paper where you’ll find stories such as the woman who was locked out of her house and so set it on fire and called the fire department. She figured they’d come and let her in. You can guess the rest of the story.

I once worked for a now defunct for-profit university where someone had the “great” idea to recruit students from local homeless shelters. Those putting this idea out there were motivated by wanting to help those who needed help. The problem was that the particular way they chose to try to help was ethically dubious, practically infeasible, and legally questionable.

And then there’s poor Peter who, during the transfiguration of Jesus and the appearance of Moses and Elijah says, “Hey! This is great! Let’s build some memorial shelters for everyone.” I’m sure in hindsight even Peter recognized that his suggestion was not really such a good idea after all.

The point? It’s important to think through every “good” idea and consider the not-so-good aspects. To recognize that a good idea in one context isn’t so hot in another context. A lot of bad choices would be avoided if forethought was given to the potential consequences.

Jesus offered two cautions when it comes to “good” ideas and their ultimate merit: First, consider the costs ahead of time (Luke 14:28-32) and; Second, don’t build on sand (Matthew 7:24-27).

By the way, the two spots opposite the ones for rewarding employees are reserved for expectant mothers. That’s actually a good idea that works.



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What do you think about the reserved spots? Have you ever had a “great” idea, acted on it, and had it turn out not so great? What was it and what happened? When is it worth taking a risk on a “good” idea even if the potential outcomes may not turn out well? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

What is "The Gospel"?


I really want to know >> How do *you* define “The Gospel”?

We hear the term “gospel” regularly. Churches claim to be “full gospel churches.” We are exhorted to share “the gospel.” We are told “the gospel” is the answer for our lives. We claim to believe “the gospel” and live our lives according to “the gospel.” Yet many reject “the gospel” and ridicule “the gospel.”

But, what exactly *is* “the gospel”?

When you hear the term, or use the term, or even reject the term, what do you think? What do you mean? What are you rejecting? What are you accepting? What are you believing? What are you sharing?

Seriously, I’m curious to know how you define “the gospel.” So, please, take a few minutes and in the comments below, share your brief definition of “the gospel.” Try to be succinct, but share what you really think.

I’m not looking for a single right answer. I just want to know what you think "the gospel" is...

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Just because you act less than civil doesn’t make you or them an a**hole

Originally posted April 3, 2012;
reposted here with minor edits.

I was raised in an environment where swearing was not welcome. My parents did not swear – as far as I know. People who came into our home did not swear, or, if they did, they were told in no uncertain terms to not.

As a result, I, generally, do not swear and am uncomfortable around people who do.

I especially dislike obscenity being used to describe someone’s character. For instance, referring to someone as an a**hole, d**k, and so on.

It’s more than heartbreaking to hear this kind of foul language used as a dehumanizing attack on another person, whether they are a believer or not.

It’s wrong for unbelievers and hellishly wrong for those who call themselves Christ followers.

Attacking them is attacking God

When we insult another person, whether they are Christians or not, we are insulting the image of God in which we all were created.

Genesis declares clearly, “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”

While sin mars, blurs, and distorts this God-ness inherent in all people, it is not negated. As a result, especially for Christians who embrace their Creator and claim to have Christ living in them via the Holy Spirit, being respectful toward everyone is an inherent expectation.

Being valued as a God-created person is practically a divine right. To disparage another’s character in a dehumanizing way is to insult the Creator who made them.

We are what we speak

The Bible is very clear that foul, obscenity-laced language is not acceptable for those who call themselves Christians, that we are what we speak:
  • Matthew 12:36-37, NIV: “But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”
     
  • Matthew 15:18-20, NIV: But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man 'unclean.' For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what make a man 'unclean'; but eating with unwashed hands does not make him 'unclean.'"
     
  • Luke 6:45, NIV: “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.”
     
  • Ephesians 4:29, NIV: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
     
  • Ephesians 5:1-5, NIV: “Be imitators of God.... among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity,.... Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place.... For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a man is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.”
     
  • Colossians 3:8, NIV: “But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.”
     
All body parts are holy

In 1 Corinthians 12, the Apostle Paul offers an amazing metaphor to help us better understand Christian community in the context of a living body:
  1. The body is one unit, made up of many parts: “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ” (1 Cor. 12:12, NIV).
     
  2. The parts are assigned their role by God: “But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be” (1 Cor. 12:18, NIV).
     
  3. All parts of the body are honorable and important: “But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other” (1 Cor. 12: 24b-25, NIV).
     
  4. If one part suffers, all parts suffer: “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it” (1 Cor. 12:26, NIV).
     
  5. All believers are part of the Body: “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it” (1 Cor. 12:27, NIV).
     
As a kid, when we heard sermons on this passage, we would giggle and titter as we wondered about how butts and other intimate body parts, male and female, fit into this metaphor. Surely, we thought, the anus (aka a**hole) did not deserve the same respect as other parts of the body, whether physical or spiritual.

We were wrong.

God knew exactly what he was doing when he made us. Without a properly functioning anus, life would not be as tolerable. Just ask anyone who has to use a colostomy bag.

Murder by words

Jesus puts the matter of name-calling bluntly into the context of murder saying,
“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell” (Matthew 5:21-22, NIV).

If you think just avoiding obscene slurs lets you off the hook when slandering someone, think again. The word “raca” implies that a person is senseless or empty headed. Basically, it’s the same as calling someone an idiot, jerk, dumb-head, and so forth.

In Jesus’ statement, twice he makes it clear that Christians (aka brothers, or siblings, in the Lord) are not to call other Christians names. He then goes further, and broadens this to “anyone.”

Love your enemies & shut your mouth

So, the bottom-line is this.
  • No foul or obscene language is acceptable coming from a Christian (or anyone else).
     
  • Calling people names is to insult the image of God inherent in all people and is an attempt to dehumanize them.
     
  • We are called to imitate God by unconditionally loving our enemies, and others, in both deed and word.
Thinking of others or calling them such things as stupid, a**holes, jerks, and so on means we are not living up to God’s expectations of us. It makes us less than attractive and damages the Kingdom of God.

While people – like you and me – behave badly from time to time, no one deserves to be labeled an a**hole. Period.



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We are in a particularly volatile Presidential election year. Tempers are flaring over just about any issue you can imagine. As Christians, how should be participate in these dialogues and discussions? Do we damage our testimony of faith by standing by when others are insulted? Or worse, join in the insults? What is a better response? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

Friday, June 10, 2016

Cracked mirrors & original sin, or, When things go wrong no matter what

Sometimes, in spite of our golden intentions, things just go awry. Frankly, it’s really annoying when this happens. Take for instance yesterday.

The replacement glass piece for our car’s broken passenger side mirror came. It cost about $45. A seriously absurd amount for what it is.

The repair should have been a cinch. The old, broken piece came off easily enough and would snap back easily enough. But then I tried doing the same with the new, unbroken replacement part.

Krraackkk! Or at least I think that’s how they’d spell the sound effect in a comic strip. But there was really nothing comical, to me, about what happened.

The part didn’t reattach as easily as expected. I pressed on it. Then pressed a little harder. And then pressed what was apparently a little too hard. The glass shattered. $45, as they say, down the tubes, up in smoke. Poof!

So, here we are. (And I’m wondering how Romans 8:28 comes into play here. Or even Philippians 4:13.)

The original mirror is broken. The replacement part is broken. And we’re out $45. It’s all wrong even though no one did anything wrong. Not really.

Some will say, “Yes you did! You were wrong to press so hard!” But how was I to know what was too hard? And I really wasn’t pressing all that hard, but was just trying to get the bottom part to snap in as it was supposed to.

Some will say, “Maybe that really wasn’t the right replacement part.” That’s a possibility, except that all of the available information clearly pointed to it being the right part. If it wasn’t, then someone lied, misrepresented the facts,  I misread, or some combination thereof.

Some will say, “You just didn’t do it right.” Possibly. But, there were no clear instructions included with the part. All I had to go on were a couple of YouTube videos related to similar parts, looking at how the mirror on the other side seemed to be attached, and my own experience of taking the old mirror off and putting it back on. It seemed simple. It should have been simple.

We could go on and on trying to discern fault and assigning blame. Like we do in life.

Someone screws up and we are fast to name names and point fingers. If it’s us who screws up, we try to dodge fault while stewing in our shame. All in all it’s a zero sum game. Especially when all the available rules were followed and all the known information was acted upon.

Such is life on this broken planet.

We mess up this and that because Adam and Eve did. After The Fall, we’re all klutzes, prone to sin. We’re born that way.

When it comes to the flaw of The Fall, intellect, wisdom, skill, personality, wit, beauty, or any other positive trait is meaningless. Even detailed instructions miss the mark.

Sooner or later, figuratively speaking, we will break the glass. (If you’re unsure, this is a euphemism for “sin.”)

Even Paul in his well known lament acknowledges this frustrating reality: “For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate” (Romans 7:14-15, ESV).

Our best efforts to do good fail us because, well, we’re naturally born screw-ups. Or, as Paul put it, we are plagued with weakness as he was.

In 2 Corinthians 1, Paul characterizes his struggle as it applied to a specific issue, his “thorn in the flesh.” Frankly, the persistent impact of original sin (aka The Fall) seems a pretty big thorn we all deal with daily.

But why did Paul claim to struggle with his specific issue? In his own words, to keep from becoming conceited in his faith. (Okay, there’s the Romans 8:28 application.)

Still, just as all creation groans under the weight of our fallenness [aka screwed-upness], Paul wanted release from this thorn. Instead, he was pointed to a better solution: “But [the Lord] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’”

Finally, after all the accusing voices are silenced, including our own, we are left standing amidst the metaphorical shattered glass with only one recourse.

Grace.

With Paul, we can declare, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my [screwed-upness], so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with [being screwed up and suffering] insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am [screwed up], then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 1:9-10, ESV [changes mine]).

As for the broken car mirror? I guess we’ll be calling the dealership. (Ah, there’s the Philippians 4:13 application. Not what I expected, but it works. So we may as well toss Romans 5:2-5 into the mix for good measure.)

It’s all grace.




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How do you apply the verse, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13) to your life? How do you experience and struggle against the reality of original sin? Are you quick to turn to grace or not? If not, why not? Does this blog post resonate with your experience? Why or why not? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

Thursday, June 9, 2016

The Going Out (A short story)

This story first appeared
in the July/August 1981 issue
of ARKENSTONE magazine.

The door began to open slowly. But not so slow as to be melodramatic, like in spook stories. No, not that kind of slowly. But, rather, it was an odd, foreboding slowness. An omen of something unusual, maybe even sinister, to come.

It was not one of the familiar openings he knew well. It wasn't the opening of coming home from being away. The glad, relieved bursting in. Neither was it the quick, jerky, haphazard opening of a child coming in from play. Yelling for his mother, hoping for cookies and milk before supper. Nor was it the hesitant, opening-closing, lingering of his daughter back from a date. Remembering one more vital piece of sharing to whisper, and wanting one more one last kiss. It was none of these familiar openings.

He had seen the door open an endless succession of times and knew its timber language. Sitting in his chair, smoking his pipe, reading the paper or glancing at the TV, the door was always in sight. At the slightest sound of opening, he would look toward the door, alert to the details of opening. The movement of the knob and the way the light danced around its turning. It was a stylish brass fixture recently replacing the worn one and fit incongruously in the d├ęcor of his memories. A vague annoyance implying age, emphasizing the past's distance. Then there was the final opening, the enlarging of the space between the jamb and the door, a revelation of entrance just before the coming in. Followed always with a quick, solid closing. Mustn't let too much inside out, or outside in, he always thought, amused. As if the mistake would be volatile, or the loss deadly.

Between the going outs and coming ins, he had often sat for hours, now accumulated into years, just thinking and remembering, always aware of, often staring at, mediating on the door. He marveled at the simple beauty of the grain and the sheen of the natural finish. Even as a child he had been fascinated by the grainwork of doors, how one half seemed the mirror image of the other. A wooden Rorschach. Sometimes the patterns would take on frightening personalities that would worm into his boyish dreams. He was no longer frightened. Just fascinated by the intricate and graceful network of lines and shades and texture. He did not know what type of wood it was. He had known, but had forgotten. And it really didn't matter. This was a door of wood. An entrance. An exit. Security. Beautiful and functional.

And now it was opening unlike any opening he'd ever observed. There had been no forewarning sound of coming up to the door. He had merely sensed something, or thought he had sensed something, and on impulse glanced at the knob. And then, feeling it move, he had to stare intently, concentrating on the knob and the area immediately behind the knob to see it moving. He still wasn't sure it did turn. But it had to have turned for now the door was opening. Very oddly. But it was opening. He felt no anxiety or fear. Only curiosity. It was a game of guessing now. Prediction and probabilities. It had been a long while, but he had played the game before....




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What do you think has happened at the end of the story? Where did Ed go?Please share your thoughts in the comments.


And please go vote for the cover you like best for my forthcoming novel, "The Hungering Dark: Awakening."
http://bit.ly/1VNkCK2


Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Help me select the cover for my new novel! VOTE NOW!

**VOTE** for a cover you can believe in and that will make my novel great anon!

This is an election you can feel good about. Help me narrow my choices as we move into the final steps of the publishing process. Your vote and comments are really important to me!

Please share your thoughts and "Like" your favorite cover here > https://www.facebook.com/StephenRClarkWriter/posts/1726422897615526

Or feel free to use the comments section of this post.

Do you like d01, d02, d03, or d04? Please pick one and share your thoughts about why you like it the best.


Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Stake burnings, door nailings, river drownings & how Protestantism got its start (Brief review)

Have you ever wanted to take a tour around Europe, visiting the Wittenberg Church where Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door? Seeing the locations on the Limmat River where Christians drowned Anabaptists over doctrinal differences? Standing on the site where the Catholic Church burned John Hus at the stake for heresy?

But, because of lack of funds, fear of terrorism bringing down your plane, or other unspoken reasons, you’ve never been able to do it?

Well, now you can, sort of , and from the comfort and relative safety of your own home.

Rescuing the Gospel: The Story and Significance of the Reformation (Baker) by Erwin W. Lutzer is, essentially, a 200 page illustrated narrative offering a tour through the Holy Roman Empire back in the day of the rise of Protestantism.

While the book centers on Martin Luther and his escapades, plenty of pre- and post-Luther context is included, offering a good in-a-nutshell survey of the rocky and tumultuous times surrounding the break from Rome’s (aka Catholic Church) grip on Christian faith and practice through the rise of Calvinsim.

Yes, there will be a case made in the book in favor of modern Reformed theology. Which should neither be surprising nor -- and most importantly for those of us Arminian-leaning folks -- annoying. It’s easy to just skip over these parts.

Overall, this is a great little book. It’s well written, beautifully designed, and chockfull of illustrations and photos. It has a subtle gift-book-like feel to it yet the content is solid and informative.

And it really is like taking a tour.

Lutzer, who has led tours through the region, opens the book writing, “Thank you for joining me on this important journey. We’ll visit Wittenberg, Worms, Erfurt, Geneva, and Zurich. We’ll walk through cathedrals, listen to a sermon in a town square, and meet some people whose intellect and courage shook the world. We’ll listen to a story of courage and cowardice, of betrayal and faith. When we are finished, we’ll understand ourselves -- and our society -- much better. Best of all, new appreciation for the one message that can actually change the world will burn within us.”

From Albert of Brandenburg to Zwingli of Zurich, Lutzer offers a cogent sweeping presentation that will give anyone who self-identifies as a Protestant an excellent grounding in the founding of their faith.


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NOTE: To comply with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255): I selected these books to review and received them free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.




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Does this sound like a book you would be interested in reading? Why or why not? What’s the best book you’ve ever encountered dealing with Christian history? Do you think it’s important for Christians to understand how the church has changed since the times of Jesus and the Disciples? Why or why not? Sound off in the comments!


Monday, June 6, 2016

Exhausted (#Poetry Monday*)

The pine cones
lying in the street

just behind the car
make it look

as if it pooped.
How bizarre!







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* Its PoMo! To learn about PoMo (POetry MOnday), click here. Nothing to see here but a little poetic humor. There is a pun here as well. Do you see it?

This poem is included in this collection: