Monday, February 28, 2011

Battle of the Bulge: So close but yet so far




I really wanted to lose 50 pounds by this week. I fell short. I lost 47 total, and 3 pounds for the week. So disappointing. But I will keep on pressing on.

It has been a discouraging couple of weeks on about every level. Maybe that has some part in my lackluster results. I am hoping at some point I have a breakthrough and a silver lining. We will see.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Facsimile Foods



In our quest to lose weight we have changed our diet in a number of ways. Kind of.

The truth is, we eat a lot of the same kinds of foods, with healthier replacements. Is this healthy? Is it not? Should we learn to graze on garbanzo beans and cabbage? Or is the way we are approaching things a good idea?

We eat facsimile foods. What do I mean by that? I mean we eat food that taste a lot like bad foods, but are better for us. Let me give you some examples of our substitutions. We switched from:



Gatorade to G2
From red meat based products to turkey based substitutes (sausage, burger, chili etc.)
From white bread to wheat bread to whole grain low cal wheat bread
From white tortillas to whole wheat tortillas
From enriched pasta to whole wheat pasta
From white rice to brown rice
From cheese to fat free or reduced fat cheese
From eggs to healthier imitation eggs (though this switch is not complete)

Instead of changing patterns of behavior, which some would recommend, we have simply modified existing habits to make things healthier. This is by doing things similar to the following:

  • Exclusive use of skim milk in food in prep
  • Removal of butter from food prep if at all possible
  • Very limited use of oil in food prep. No-Calorie cooking spray instead.
  • Healthy Request Soups instead of less expensive soups that are saltier and higher calorie soups and canned food
  • Very little food that is take from a box or can and put in oven or over stove



  • Limiting our options when we eat out. Since being on the diet, we eat Subway and Applebees when we eat out (Weight Watchers Menu). We may add Olive Garden at some point. But there has not been any Buffalo Wild Wings or China Buffet visits
  • When we can take it no more, we occasionally order a pizza and go to Mexican. When we do this we limit our portions extensively.
  • Modify our unhealthy snacks with better alternatives. Almost all our ice cream treats are weight watchers prepared. We eat the low cal lowfat popcorn instead of getting a bag of chips or a candy bar.

At times I congratuate myself. After all I have lost 44 pounds, and Jennifer has lost 18. But at times I think we are not really making an extreme enough change in life style. But I am not sure if I would try if we had to make the extreme change... wat do you think?

Life-Ready Woman by Shaunti Feldhahn and Robert Lewis Book Review and Book Giveaway

Two copies of this book will be given away to two people who leave a comment on this blog saying who they are and why they want the book. If there are more than two people that want this book, it will be given away through a random drawing.



Life Ready Woman: Thriving in A Do-It All World

By Shaunti Feldhahn and Robert Lewis

B&H Publishing Group

Reviewed by Clint Walker



I am a guy. I was not super-excited to read about becoming a "Life-Ready Woman". But I had read The Male Factor by Shaunti Feldhahn, and thought the book was insightful and intelligent. In The Male Factor Shaunti Felhahn acts as a sort of translator for women to help them understand how men think in the workplace, and how the male-dominated coorperate culture functions. To me it was an enjoyable read because it advocated both for women to be sucessful in the workplace, and it also recognized that men and women have different gifts and strengths to bring to the table in the workplace. The Male Factor was open-minded, research-driven, and pro-woman. I found the Life-Ready Woman to be the opposite.


Despite my criticism, there is much that is positive to say about Life Ready Woman. It is written out of a dynamic partnership between the dynamic author that focuses on woman's issues named Shaunti Feldhahn and Robert Lewis, who is a pastor-at-large at Fellowship Bible Church and the founder of a men's ministry called "Men's Fraternity". Lewis wrote a book called The New Eve at one point, and this book rewrite of that book in many ways. Feldhahn does a good job of taking Lewis' general principles, and giving them a feminine twist that bears her stamp. About the time Feldhahn published this book she also signed on with MomLife Today, which appears to be an arm of FamilyLife. Both Lewis' church and Dennis Rainey's FamilyLife ministry are based in Little Rock, Arkansas.

The book is well-structured and well-written. The first half of the book has to do with the genral principles about womanhood that the book is based on. The second half of the book addresses specific issues of women's life in more detail. It is an accessable book. Some of the statistics that are shared are interesting. The book is conversational in tone, and with the emphasis of inserting Feldhahn's voice, the text reads like it is speaking woman to woman.

What I object to in the book, and why I cannot recommend it, is that the book endorses a narrow-view, complimentarian view of what every woman's purpose is, while at the same time attempting to be supportive of professional women. Shaunti says "You may be able to do everything, just not all at once", and I agree with her. But when Lewis and Feldhahn start to argue that EVERY woman's purpose is to marry, have children, and then make a difference in the world IN THAT ORDER, I have to disagree. When the book implies that women who are childless are inherently unfulfilled and unhappy, I have problems with that. And when it implies that a father who takes responsiblity for caring for his child is reversing God's plan for the traditional family, and that the ideal world was the 1950s world, I just get angry. The book seems to make universal statements about issues that vary from woman to woman, and family to family.

Having said this, I know many of my friends may enjoy this book, and many people reading it will find it an encouragement. I am also aware that many believers are more conservative than I am on marriage and family concerns. I don't find Lewis and Feldhahn's words harmful, until they are universalized. There are many people who are faithfully following Jesus and who are called to live the methodology that Lewis and Feldhahn prescribe. But it is not for everybody, and this book implies that they have the answer for every family and every woman. I am sure it will find a wide audience. Maybe part of that wide audience will be someone reading this blog. If so, I have a wonderful book giveaway for you to participate in between now and the end of Feb 2011.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Sermon on 2/20.....On Temptation from Proverbs 7

Temptation

1 My son, keep my words,
And treasure my commands within you.
2 Keep my commands and live,
And my law as the apple of your eye.
3 Bind them on your fingers;
Write them on the tablet of your heart.
4 Say to wisdom, “You are my sister,”
And call understanding your nearest kin,
5 That they may keep you from the immoral woman,
From the seductress who flatters with her words.
6 For at the window of my house
I looked through my lattice,
7 And saw among the simple,
I perceived among the youths,
A young man devoid of understanding,
8 Passing along the street near her corner;
And he took the path to her house
9 In the twilight, in the evening,
In the black and dark night.
10 And there a woman met him,
With the attire of a harlot, and a crafty heart.
11 She was loud and rebellious,
Her feet would not stay at home.
12 At times she was outside, at times in the open square,
Lurking at every corner.
13 So she caught him and kissed him;
With an impudent face she said to him:
14 “ I have peace offerings with me;
Today I have paid my vows.
15 So I came out to meet you,
Diligently to seek your face,
And I have found you.
16 I have spread my bed with tapestry,
Colored coverings of Egyptian linen.
17 I have perfumed my bed
With myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon.
18 Come, let us take our fill of love until morning;
Let us delight ourselves with love.
19 For my husband is not at home;
He has gone on a long journey;
20 He has taken a bag of money with him,
And will come home on the appointed day.”
21 With her enticing speech she caused him to yield,
With her flattering lips she seduced him.
22 Immediately he went after her, as an ox goes to the slaughter,
Or as a fool to the correction of the stocks,[a]
23 Till an arrow struck his liver.
As a bird hastens to the snare,
He did not know it would cost his life.
24 Now therefore, listen to me, my children;
Pay attention to the words of my mouth:
25 Do not let your heart turn aside to her ways,
Do not stray into her paths;
26 For she has cast down many wounded,
And all who were slain by her were strong men.
27 Her house is the way to hell,[b]
Descending to the chambers of death

Sermon

I almost never prepare a sermon with any single person in mind. I think that, for a variety of reasons, creating a sermon directed at one or two people is spiritually abusive. I had a friend when I was in high school who attended a Pentecostal church where people would prophecy. My friend had a reputation of getting into a little bit of trouble from time to time. All of the sudden the pastor or one of the elders would stand up in this church of 30-40 people and say….”The Lord is telling me that there is a young man in this church, not yet an adult, with an injured ankle, that God wants to repent of the life of sin he is living right now”. His brother would laugh. My friend would not go to church for a number of years after that. So I generally don’t target specific persons when I preach. Also, if you are ever tempted to do that, you end up with everyone showing up that Sunday but the one person you want to hear your message.

Having said that, this Sunday, I do have two certain kinds of people targeted with this message this morning. Not so much because I have chosen to focus on them, but because the Scripture passage we are looking at focuses on these two groups of people. But since I have chosen this passage, I probably also need to take responsibility for the focus on these two groups of people.
One group of people this passage targets are people who are going to face temptation in the future. We will talk a lot about sexual temptation this morning, but the principles you can learn in this short little passage can apply to a myriad of kinds of temptations. You need to know what temptation looks like, and ways to avoid it, so that you can effectively defend yourself. God’s Word says of the devil and his intent to destroy that he is “like a lion, seeking whom he may devour”. I don’t want you to be destroyed and devoured by your sin. Neither does God. One way to protect yourself against temptation is to discover how to steer clear of it in the first place. I hope this message helps you with that. And if I did not warn you when there was danger ahead, well that would be selfish and unloving.

The other group of people I want to talk are those that want to reach out and help those who are struggling. Each of us knows people in our lives who are crestfallen, wandering about, who seem to have life happen to them instead of living their lives with confidence and passion. They seem to struggle, often times, because they have not learned the principles we have before us this morning. I want to equip you to support your friends or family through God’s holy word.
What I am not interested in doing this morning is beating anyone up, nor does that seem to be the intent of God in this passage. If you have succumbed to temptation, sexual or otherwise, you know it. You know you have made a mess of things. You know you have sinned. You don’t need me beating you over the head with the Bible. If you are in that place, I hope you find a way to listen to and say, “You know, after I heard this, I have seen where I have messed up, and I want to try something different. I want to try things the way God’s word tells me to.”

But mostly, this passage is focused on trying to reach you before you fall to temptation. It is like a big street sign that says, “DANGER AHEAD!”

Proverbs 7 begins with some wise words. It begins with the words of a father to his son. They are also words of the Heavenly Father to his children.

When we look at the first seven verses we can begin to understand some basic principles in preparing to face temptation. These points are also in your outline.

1. You can prepare to face temptation by Knowing God’s Word

Verse 1 tells us to keep God’s words. Verse 3 tells us to bind them on our fingers and write them on the tablet of our heart. In the case of the son in the story, these words of wisdom come from his father. For the believer, they come through the Word of God.

When I was younger, I heard that Billy Graham read the Proverbs, and that he read the chapter of Proverbs corresponding to the day of the month. I decided to do that as a teenager, and that was my primary Bible reading for a few years in late junior high and early high school.
One of the interesting things when you read the Proverbs or anything in Scripture is how you will read something in Scripture one moment, and it will come to mind the next. For instance, you will read something about how a soft word turns away wrath, but grievous words stir up anger (Proverbs 15:1). Then you will have a circumstance in the next day or two to choose to say hostile words, or words that are gentler in a difficult situation.

This specifically deals with temptation. Knowing what the word says about what temptation is like will help you avoid it.

Perhaps this will be helpful for you. When a person wants to learn to detect counterfeit money, they don’t spend most of their time looking at counterfeits. Instead they spend most of their time looking at genuine currency. Then when the fake comes along, they know something is off about the funny money. Something doesn’t seem like the real thing.

When you know God’s word, and you find yourself in a potentially tempting situation, something inside you will say, “This is wrong, this is off, not good.”Listen to that.

2. You can prepare to face temptation by Living God’s Word

There are a lot of people who know the Word, but never put it into practice. Proverbs 7:2 talks about not just knowing the Words, but keeping the commandments.

It is easier to say NO to temptation when you have a habit of saying YES to God in so many other situations. When you have already said yes to loving your wife as yourself, and loving your kids and caring for them as your greatest treasure and greatest gift, for instance you will have a more joyful family life. Although there will be struggles. When temptation comes to stray from that situation your commitment to keeping the YES’s of God will equip you with the passion and discipline to say NO to the temptations set before you.

3. You can prepare to face temptation by Treasuring and Loving God’s Word

Proverbs 7:1 says we are to treasure the commands. 7:2 says the law should be the apple of our eyes. 7:4 says to make wisdom our sister.

This making wisdom a sister is an interesting term. Because calling one another brother and sister was a term of endearment between lovers. So what this passage is leading toward is this: fall in love with God’s Word.

It is easy to know God’s word. And to apply God’s word. But what keeps you growing, what keeps you strong morally and spiritually, is to truly love God’s word. To want to learn more of it. To seek out more of what it is saying and what it means to you.

4. You can prepare to face temptation by Seeking Out Wisdom and Understanding

Knowing God’s Word is important. Having the wisdom and understanding to know how to live out that knowledge and when to apply that knowledge is also very important. You don’t want to be the kind of person that, as my friend Shawn says, “Does not have the common sense God gave lettuce”.

I had a friend in college. His name was Mark. You may have remembered me sharing about him before. He was training to be a youth pastor. He was trying to be sexually abstinent until marriage. He often failed. Then he came up to us guys who he talked about his personal life on a daily basis with, and he said, “You know what, I came to a conclusion. It is a lot easier not to sleep with a person if you do not lie in bed naked with them.” Mark had knowledge and enthusiasm. He needed to seek out some wisdom. So do we all.

5. You can prepare to face temptation by Knowing the Voice of the Lord

Verse 24 says, “Listen….pay attention to the words of my mouth”. You need to be able to hear the Lord when he is speaking to you.

The Lord speaks to us most clearly through his word. But the Lord speaks to us in our day to day lives. Sometimes through our conscience. Sometimes through our memory. Sometimes through circumstances.

I remember one time where I was feeling particularly tempted to turn away from some commitments I had made to the Lord. No joke, every radio station I changed it to had some reference to the Lord or wisdom. Rock station “My Own Prison” by Creed. Classic rock station “Cats in the Cradle”. Contemporary Christian station, “What if I stumble”. Sometimes…when you are a little thick headed like me God hits you over the head to get your attention.

But if you are used to listening to God, letting him guide your decisions, letting him speak to your heart, listening to your conscience, you will hear God speaking to you, throwing up all sorts of warning flares when you are about to stumble into a tempting situation. You just need to listen.

Having laid the groundwork in the first four verses in preparing the young man to face temptation, the father tells a story to illustrate his point. Just as a side note, if you really want to communicate something to someone, paint a picture. Let them see what you are saying and not just hear it. And a lot of times if you paint a picture in someone’s mind you also help them feel what you are saying as well.

The story is about a young man who is simple. In Proverbs the word “simple” means naïve and unwise. It means in this passage is the opposite of one who has prepared by knowing the law and having wisdom. This person is, like the passage says later on, like an ox going to the slaughter.

The story begins with him walking down the street. It is getting close to dark. People of good reputation are in their homes. Seedier characters are starting to find their way to the streets. He does not seem to be aware of his surroundings. He is simply wandering around, looking for nothing in particular. He happens to be in the place where the seductress, the immoral woman, is at. And she is seeking someone to enjoy the night with. This brings me to the first of our points in how to overcome temptation.



1. We can overcome temptation by not being at the wrong place at the wrong time
Jennifer and I have been on a diet since New Years. We have both lost a little weight. We are
using Weight Watchers. Weight Watchers requires us to have a certain amount of discipline in avoiding temptation through not being at the wrong place at the wrong time.

For instance, and this may seems small, but we often eat before we go grocery shopping. We find when we do we don’t buy as much that is bad for us, and when we do we are eager to buy what is on our list and be done with it.

We also avoid certain restaurants and businesses entirely, because we know we will not eat healthy if we go there, and it will be harder to manage our portions. For instance, any restaurant that has the word “all you can eat” or “buffet”, even if inexpensive, is definitely out of consideration when we have a date.

I also, in many situations, avoid being alone as a minister with a woman. I don’t worry about this if the person is significantly older than I am, or in life situations where it cannot be avoided. But, most of the time, I try to not be alone with a woman who is not related to me. This is both to protect my reputation and avoid temptation.

Back to the story. As we see this woman coming along, she intercepts him in the streets. It appears she is dressed provocatively. But very little is said about her appearance. A lot is said about her words. It is what she says that does all the damage. This teaches us a number of things.

2. We can overcome temptation by knowing who to listen to.

The author of Proverbs pleads with the reader to listen to his voice. To listen to his father’s voice. To listen to God’s voice.

The immoral woman, whose way leads ultimately to misery and death, also uses her voice and her tools of persuasion. She pretends to care about him. She pretends to be familiar with him even though she does not really know him. She appeals to all his senses. But she has only bad things in mind for him.

We need to know who to listen to. In this life you will have all sorts of people asking you or trying to convince you to do all sorts of different things. You are going to have to decide who you are going to listen to. God or the crowd. The wisdom of your parents, or the other kids at school. The people who tell you how to get rich quick, or the people that tell you how to be wise with your money. Knowing who to listen to makes all the difference in your life, and how happy you will be.

3. We can overcome temptation by NOT being guided by our glands or self-esteem needs instead of our minds

As I said before, the seductive woman here talks a good game. She does a couple of things to entice our simple, stupid man. First, she appeals to all of his senses. She talks about the Egyptian cotton, the food she has, the way the room she will take him to will smell. She lets him know he will feel nice things, she says nice words.

She appeals to his desire to feel special. She uses the personal “you” three times. I have sought “you”. I want “you”. I want to see “your” face. I wanted to find “you”.

If we are going to overcome temptation, we are going to have to use our minds to discipline our appetites and instinct. Escaping sin does not come naturally. Ask Adam and Eve. If we don’t use our mind to discipline our glands and our instincts we are going to have all sorts of problems. And, we are going to have to deal with our self-worth issues. Because if we have places in our life where we are insecure, where we have not dealt with our self-esteem issues, those are going to be the places we are weak to temptation and to be taken advantage of.

4. We can overcome temptation by guarding against our tendency to rationalize or excuse sin
The woman says that she has made her “peace offerings”. She is saying that she has done the right thing. She has gone to church. She has prayed. She has put some money in the offering plate. So, because she has done the right thing she has built up enough favor with God, and by proxy he has too, so that they can have a night of fun without having to worry about feeling guilty for doing the wrong thing.

We can do all sorts of things to justify our sinful behavior.

“I have worked hard. I deserve this.”

“I am not feeling good. Giving into temptation will make me feel better, and after all God wants me to be happy, right?”

“I do the right thing all the time. Certainly God wouldn’t begrudge me having a little fun.”

You know the excuses you make. It is so easy to rationalize and justify doing something wrong. Just because you have a good excuse or a good story does not make doing wrong any more right. You might be able to fool yourself for a moment. You are not fooling anyone else.

5. We can overcome temptation by remembering that temporary pleasures often bring long-term consequences
The woman goes on to describe how pleasureful the evening will be. She tries to convince him, through talking about her husband being gone, that there will be no consequences for his actions. She may be telling the truth about the pleasures of the night. They may have a very sensual, exciting, pleasureful time. But she is wrong in implying that it will just be a little fun and the whole thing will be over. One night of bad behavior can have consequences for the rest of your life.

Our culture often tries to convince us that we can avoid long-term consequences. The truth is it only takes one mistake to alter the course of the rest of your life.

You only have to drive drunk once to kill someone. You only have to sleep with someone once to destroy a family, or get a disease that you will never be cured from. You only have to lose your temper once, and you can be in prison for years. You only need to make one bad purchase, and you can be in crippling debt for years. You only have to take meth or crack once, and you can be hooked for life. Surrendering to temptation will always cost you more than you want to pay, and promise less than it can deliver.

6. We can overcome temptation by knowing that your choices today determine your paths for tomorrow
The word “path” is used over and over again in this passage, as is the word “way” and street. She finds him on the “path”. He is walking down the “street”. He follows her as an “ox goes to the slaughter”. We are to avoid her “ways” because her house is the “way to hell”. We are told not to “stray into her paths”.

This is said because often our choices today become our paths for tomorrow. An alcoholic does not set out to be a drunk. He makes one choice, which leads to another, which leads to a habit. The same is true of sexual temptation here. Or of any temptation. Our choices today become our habits tomorrow. And our sin habits destroy us. One little bit at a time.

Each day we have a myriad of choices. Each of them have consequences. Jesus told us in life we are given a choice between two Masters. We cannot serve both of them. We must choose. One master offers a narrow path that leads to life, and life eternal. One master offers a broad and easy path that leads to death and judgment.

I hope and pray you will choose the way of Jesus. And when you fail, or if you failed. I hope you know that God is eager for you to turn to him, repent, and start anew. Amen

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Review of Within My Heart by Shari Fox


Within My Heart
By Tamera Alexander
Bethany House Publishers
Reviewed by Shari Fox

Within My Heart, by Tamera Alexander and published by Bethany House quickly gained my attention when I realized it was set in the Colorado Rockies. This sweet novel contains intrigue, love, biblical principles as well grace and mercy. Rachel Boyd is a widow with 2 small boys who is trying to keep her husband’s dream of a successful cattle ranch alive. She has closed her heart to love, and is determined to set herself apart from one particular physician of the town of Timber Ridge, Dr. Rand Brookston. As the story begins with the prologue, we see a civil war cemetery caretaker tying strings to the hands of dead soldiers with a bell attached…just in case they may still be alive.

This books was a great read as it kept the reader interested with characters whose fears were their greatest enemies. Overcoming fears with the help of God is a never-ending lesson in which even in a fictional story can draw readers to a personal relationship with God. Ms. Alexander, in her book does just that. As Rachel lives the death of her husband again through the death of Lyda’s husband, Ben, she realizes that Dr. Brookston has as well and he reassures her that they will walk this path together…she helping him with his fear of darkness and hers of love. We see this reassurance on page 337, “I will I could make you understand what I’m feeling.” “I think I do understand, Rachel.” “I know you’re afraid of opening your heart again, of losing someone…like you lost Thomas. And while I know life doesn’t hold any guarantees, I’ve also learned that there’s no joy in this life without pain.” A heartfelt story about loss, love, forgiveness and grace.

With this prologue, the reader is drawn immediately into the story and who she is talking about, but we don’t find out until almost the end of the novel. This writing tactic is a big draw to the book itself as we get to know the characters and their fears. The author relates to the reader in that she focuses on various fears of the characters: Rachel’s fear of opening her heart again to the love of a good man and Dr. Brookston of the fear of closed-in spaces. Also, minor characters’ fears of losing someone they love, in this case the General Store owners, Ben & Lyda Mullins who lost their two children in a blizzard and of Charlie and his fear of his past which keeps him from getting close to a woman.

Minor characters include Rachel’s children who are struggling with their father’s death in different ways. These boys wend their way into the reader’s heart as their story plays out. Charlie has a lot to offer this novel, but we really don’t see who he is and the grace that is offered him until the end…another good reason to continue reading this story. Having lived in Colorado my entire life, the vivid pictures Ms. Alexander paints in the pages of this book do make you feel the cold winds of a Colorado winter and the dry, arid winds of a summer spent in the high country.

The biblical principles of this book come from the writer’s own faith experiences with her mother. The principle of forgiveness, of self and of others is a big draw to this novel. The grace extended to the various characters gives the reader hope and points to Christ in subtle ways. As Rachel and Dr. Brookston get closer, God’s grace abounds and her heart is softened and opening up for love…and forgiveness. On page 249 - 250, we see her closed heart beginning to open when she is alone with Dr. Brookston after having assisted him in surgery, and she is vulnerable. “She shook her head, hearing the tenderness in his voice. She cared for him more than she should, more than she’d allowed herself to admit before this moment. But the thought of opening more of her life to him, of opening her heart, set something trembling deep inside her. She feared, once it started, she wouldn’t be able to stop it. ‘Look at me,’ he whispered. ‘Please…’ She shook her head again. ‘I…I can’t.’ ‘sure you can.’ His hand covered hers clasped tightly in her lap, and gently, patiently, he wove his fingers so warm and sure and purposeful, between hers. ‘You were looking at me easily enough just a minute ago.’ His hand tightened around hers. ‘You’re shaking.’ He brought her hand to his lips and kissed it. Rachel drew in a breath. He turned her hand over and kissed her open palm--once, twice--and she forgot how to breathe. Didn’t he know what he was doing to her? Couldn’t he tell? Gathering her wounded resolve, she finally did as he asked and looked at him--then wished she hadn’t. his unguarded desire roused her own, and the woman inside her ached for him. Nor for a man, any man, but for him. And not only in the way of a woman with a man, but in the way that two halves made a whole, as God intended.”

Tamera Alexander wrote this book, I believe to help her see the reason God does what He does in our everyday lives, whether it be tragedy, redemption, forgiveness, grace, mercy…whatever, God is about walking every step of every day with His children. Ms. Alexander’s way with characters, plot, intrigue as well as the very human side of a story is what makes this book a really good read. Her subtle glimpse into God’s character through the characters in this novel show how she has transcended into a literary gem that will endear this series to the reader.

I would wholeheartedly recommend this book as a good, Christian historical fiction novel. The characters were interesting and believable in their respective lives and the plot was believable and kept your attention throughout the book. Because of the placement of this novel, the Maroon Bells area of the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, I see the believability of the Hot Springs Resort being built. The historical point of view is correct and I love the fact that she incorporates these characters into this novel, yet still keeps the humbleness and wholesomeness of the small-town Timber Ridge characters.

The opportunity for me to read and review this novel brings me to recommend this author to other readers. I have a library full of Christian fiction, both historical and non-historical and have been reading this type of novel for 25 years. Tamera Alexander is a great author that sees and feels the hearts of her characters and thoroughly develops her plot with intrigue and suspense, love and mercy, grace and forgiveness.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided in exchange for an honest review.


Welcome to our newest reviewer at Friar Tuck's--Shari Baublits. Thanks Shari!!!


End of Secularism Book Review and Giveaway



Generally I don't re-post books that I review on other websites here at Friar Tuck's, but today is the exception. I review books for two webistes. One of them is Christian Book Previews, which has a stellar layout and always offers good books for me to read.

The End of Secularism is a good book, and several groups of people have already made good use of it, including some Intelligent Design advocates. If you want this free book you need to do three things.

1. Post a link to this post on your facebook or twitter account

2. Write a post on your blog or a note on your facebook account about your beliefs about the place of religion in the public and political arenas. Try and again include a link of some sort

3. Leave a comment on this blog saying you want to enter the giveaway. Leave links of your blog post if possible.

HERE IS THE REVIEW:

The End of Secularism
By Hunter Baker
Published by Crossway Books
Reviewed by Clint Walker

The old proverb is, “There are two things you don’t discuss at dinner—politics and religion”. The idea being that both religion and politics are divisive subjects that lead to disagreements even among the closest of friends and family. Hunter Baker, in his work The End of Secularism attempts to take on both issues, and their relationship with one another. Baker attempts to argue against the attitude that religion and politics need to be separated, and in favor of a Christian worldview that believes that faith belongs as a powerful, outspoken force in the public square.

The End of Secularism is a through book. The Introduction is essential reading for understanding the text, and for understanding the author. In it the author gives a first-hand narrative of how he came to his thesis in his personal journey. The first third of the book covers the history of bringing one’s personal faith into the public square. It discusses the ancient church and the Reformation, as well as the French Revolution. Baker spends the most time; however, discussing the way that faith and politics have related to one another in the public square in the United States of America.

Baker believes that as America has developed we have developed an ethos that relegates religion to private and personal space, and politics and science to the public sphere. Thus, religion is one’s “personal business” and part of one’s “personal life”, but as a culture we find it difficult when people bring their faith in the public sphere, especially in matters of medicine, the academy, and public policy. This clear delineation Baker refers to as secularism—because our public lives need to be lived without deference and reference to our religious convictions and commitments. He says of secularists as he grew up, “Expressions of public faith offended them they way that pornography offended certain other people (p. 11).”

Baker is generous with the secularists. He believes that much of the way our culture deals with religion and politics has to do with somewhat good intentions. For the most part, after years of arguing about religion in public, secularist society has chosen to push faith to person’s personal lives out of a desire for peace. Also, secularism, in light of such arguments, pushed religion to the private sphere of living as a way of honoring its importance without making it a matter of public policy. This has not been entirely bad for religion either. Christian evangelicalism gained strength in this environment that focused on faith as a “personal decision for Christ”.

The End of Secularism as a title is, of course, a double meaning. Baker believes that the end goal of secularism is to marginalize matters of faith, and the author believes in our current environment religious faith cannot be left out of the public discourse. Thus secularism is being exposed by the author as a poor idea, and an idea that is coming to an end. Do you agree? Read and find out!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Book Giveaway Week Starts Tomorrow....Stay Tuned for Details!!!


This is book giveaway week here at Friar Tuck's Fleeting Thoughts. We will be giving away at five books in four giveaways this week. Pay attention and you can curb your book buying addiction with some freebie books.

The books that are going to be given away are:

The End of Secularism--A book that discusses the place of religion in the public sphere. From a professor at Houston Baptist University.

The Lord's Prayer Pack--A book on the Lord's Prayer, as well as a Bible Study from Willow Creek Resources.

Generous Orthodoxy--A book that discusses the importance of justice and mercy from one of the leading figures in the "New Reformed" movement.

Life Ready WomanThe title is self-explanitory, This book comes with a review from me. This is from Shaunti Feldhahn. You can find her info HERE

Battle of the Bulge: A Correction and A Confession

I went to weigh in again last week. I thought I had lost 3 pounds. I have a correction. I lost 5 pounds. There is an easy explanation to this, but it will include a confession.

The truth is I weighed two months before I started the diet. I then subtracted two pounds for my starting weight because I like round numbers, and because I did not want to admit that I weighed more than my starting weight. So my starting weight was not exact. When I count the amount of weight I have lost since my highest weight. That means I lost 5 pounds, for a total of 44 pounds in 7 weeks. I would really like to lose 6 next week, and then I would be at 50 in two months.

I am worried about a plateu coming soon. But so far, I am doing an adequate job of slow and steady weight loss.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Parenting Posts: Life Lessons from Karis to Us


One of the things that is interesting about parenting a child that is 8 months than one that is 3 months is that many of the lessons Karis is learning now we have to learn over and over again as wel get older. These lessons include:

Living within Limits

Karis, as I write, is frustrated. She is frustrated because she cannot grab three things she wants and hold them all at once. She is also frustrated because two things do not fit in her mouth. When she only has two things to hold, she gets frustrated that they are not both in her right hand.

Karis, like all of us, wants everything she wants and she wants it all at once. She gets frustrated when everything does not easily fit into her hand. She wants it to work. She wants someone to fix it. But nobody is going to fix the fact that she has limitations. It is something we all have to learn.

She also has to learn that all of her desires are not meant with instant gratification. This is an important lesson to learn as young as possible. Otherwise she will grow up with an attitude that everything comes easy, and she deserves everything she wants as soon as she wants it.

Life is Be About Learning

One of the fun things to watch about infants is that they are always learning something new. Just a few minutes ago Karis was scratching the Ottoman. She was scratching it because it made a new sound. And when she has discovered a new sound she wanted to hear it again and again.

It seems everyday she is learning something new. And she is excited to learn it. She has learned how to make her little doggie her aunt gave her to sing. She has learned to stand up at her little table. And you can see that she enjoys learning so much.

So many of us are afraid to learn and to grow. We like the worlds we created. I think we need to learn from Karis and be a little bit more teachable each day, each week, each month, and each year of our lives.

How are you learning? How are you choosing to grow?

Still Marching Forward



This week I continued to lose weight. I lost 4 pounds. We went to lunch and Walmart in La Junta for a few supplies. Jennifer suggested, since I was going to need to run a couple of errands in Pueblo on Monday, that I should weigh in a day early. That is what I did. And although I was wearing layers and heavier church clothes, I still lost those four pounds.

Right now I want to lose more weight faster, but am feeling good about a pace of around 4 pounds a week. Perhaps when I get better when I start exercising more. We will see.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sermon on I Corinthians 13




I Corinthians 13


1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned,[a] but have not love, it profits me nothing.

4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

8 Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.

11 When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.

13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.




SERMON

I used to wear black on Valentine’s Day. I did.

I told my wife this. “Why?” she said, “that is just weird.”

“Well, the first year, it was a group of us guys that had a group we called the losers club. We were freshmen in college. We had the theme, “There ain’t a woman we can’t scare!” We would see each other on campus and we would put a big “L” on our foreheads. Our secret little nerdy society. Since none of us had a shot in the world in having a date we decided to all dress in black, go to the basement of the student union, and goof off. We might have even played a game of RISK that night”, I replied
“My sophomore year my fiancé broke up with me on Valentine’s Day,” I went on, “And the next year I got dumped on the week of Valentine’s Day.”

“You got dumped on Valentine’s Day?” Jennifer said, “that is kind of cold.”

It was. And it was my tradition from that point on, because I did not really have someone I was in a relationship with for several years at that time, that I would wear black on Valentine’s Day.

Might also be one of the reasons I developed a strong interest in Johnny Cash in my 20s. The man in black.




I don’t know about you, but I was always eager to get Valentine’s when I was a little kid, but stingy in giving them. I would pour over which Valentine’s to give to what person, because I did not want to give any one person the wrong impression. You give too nice a Valentine to some girl, and that girl might think you like her when you really don’t. Or she might know you like her, and make a big scene about how she does not really like you. High pressure stuff this Valentine’s day.




For some of us, the high pressure can last into adulthood. For many couples, it is a special time every year to express their devotion to one another. I read in the paper how J.H. McCuistion always has doted on Marybeth McCuistion on Valentine’s Day, and it over fifty years has not forgot to make the day special. At first, I want to say, “Good job, J.H.” This is quickly followed by, “Thanks a lot J.H, for making any of us who ever fail on Valentine’s Day look bad.”





My wife always tells me that Valentine’s Day is a Hallmark holiday designed to make vendors more money, so I don’t need to do anything for her. I always do a little something, which always at one point includes an electronic dancing and singing animal that professes my love that I picked up at Walgreens. My personal favorite is the dalmation that is dressed as a fireman and sings, “Fiiiiireeee..bow bow bow….”
As I said earlier, we as a nation talk a lot about love. We love our new pick-up truck and we love our favorite flavor of ice cream (mine happens to be Tin Roof Sundae). We love the way someone laughs, we love the last good movie we watched. We say we love lots of different things.


In our culture, we often think of love as some sort of sentiment. As an experience that makes us feel full of joy and appreciation.


In our culture, we often make the idea of love something that is about us. Making us feel good. Making us feel appreciated. Making us feel adored. So, then people describe themselves as “falling in love” when they discover a romantic interest, and then later say they “fell out of love” when that romantic interest becomes tired or boring, and the novelty of their presence wears off.


Our culture gets love so wrong. Love is not a sentiment. It is not a feeling. It is not something you just fall into, the way you fall after missing a step and stumble down the stairs. It is not something you fall out of, the way you might fall off a parade float on Missouri Day if you got the lawn chair you were sitting on a little close to the edge of the trailer and you hit a bump and went flying. It is not even something that is really about you and getting your needs met.


In fact, love is the opposite of it being all about you. It is not about you. Love is an action word. It is something you should give more than receive. Love is a choice to care about someone more than yourself. It is not a wave you ride, like a surfer coming into shore. It is a decision you make and then act upon.


A cursory reading of the book of Corinthians lets you know that it was a struggling church. They were getting just about everything wrong. They turned the Lord’s Supper into a kegger. A prominent man in the church is sleeping with his father’s life, and the church is tolerating the behavior. They are not even sure if they believe in the death and resurrection of Christ it appears!


When we get to I Corinthians 13, the Apostle Paul is discussing with the church a problem they were having with the exercise of spiritual gifts. I appears that several people in the church were making the receiving and exercise of spiritual gifts all about them. One person would believe that they had the gift of prophecy, and eagerly announce their gift and flaunt their abilities before the church. Another would say they had the gift of healing, and attempt to impress everyone with their gift. Another would say God had given them the gift of supernatural insight, and would begin to force his “insights” into every situation. Another would say he spoke in tongues more than others, and that these tongues were a badge of spiritual honor. Church became a spiritual beauty pagent, a competition between them to demonstrate whose gifts and skills that were given to build up the church are most valuable to it. Paul has a message to the Corinthian church. He is very direct. Corinthians, he says, it is not about you-your gifts, your status, your goodness.
After correcting them about any certain hierarchy of gifts, the apostle Paul wants them to be aware of the virtue that must infuse all that they do as Christians and as a church. And that virtue is love. He says to the Corinthians, in effect, it is not about you, it is all about love.

I Corinthians 13 starts by talking about how everything else is inferior to love. You can all sorts of great and wonderful things, but if those wonderful things are not accompanied by love they do not matter much. He wants them to know that spiritual formation begins with character transformation.

You can understand all Scripture and proclaim God’s Word perfectly to the whole world. If you don’t have love, it does not amount to a hill of beans. You can have enough faith to look at Pike’s Peak, and tell it to move south 20 miles, and the mountain obeys. You can be that powerful in your spiritual walk, but if you are unloving and self-centered, it won’t matter for much of anything. You be the richest person in the world, and then give all your money away to the poorest of the poor. But if you do all this, and you don’t have love in your heart, it is a completely hopeless and worthless gesture.

Husbands, you can provide a beautiful home for your wife. You can be the most handsome man on the planet. You can work your fingers to the bone to support your family. You can buy her the perfect present every Valentine’s Day. You can go to every chick flick she wants you to go to, and cry at all the appropriate parts. You can compliment her every day. You can sit by her side and hold her hands every time she is sick. But, if you do not love her, if you do all these things in some strange sense of obligation and duty, you are just wasting your time.

Wives you can cook a perfect meal for your husband every night, you can give birth to children who grow up to find the cure for cancer, and you can be the sexiest woman alive, but if you are selfish and don’t love your man with all your heart, all of the hoops you jump through are not going to mean a thing.

Parents, you kids can have all the right clothes in the perfect home. You can know what your children think before they think it, and have all the right words, but if you don’t truly love them, all those things to be a “good parent” are not going to matter.

So, what is love then?

Let us look at verses 4-7, and simply take each of these descriptions of love step by step.

Love suffers long—Some more contemporary versions use the word “patient”. Long suffering is a better explanation of the word here. Note that in our culture we think love makes us feel lighter, happier. Scripture says true love begins with the willingness to suffer for those you love.

Love is kind—pretty self explanitory

Love does not parade itself—Again another good expansion of the word in the New King James Version. Love is not about saying “look at me!” Look how loving I am. In more contemporary translation will be translated “boast”. This is an easy one to stumble on. Some of us do something loving for someone and want everybody to notice. We say or act like, “Hey look at me, my dear wife, look at the wonderful thing I have done for YOU. Aren’t I so LOVING. The Bible says at that point you are not being loving, you are being selfish and self-promoting.

Love is not puffed up—The literal meaning of the word that is often translated proud. The word picture behind the word is someone who is walking around with their chest out and their nose in the air. Ego leads us to do things to make ourselves feel proud. For people to take notice. God says that love is humble, serving in ways that people hardly notice. It is not proud.

Love does not behave rudely—This word for rude is interesting. It most literally means unpresentable. It speaks specifically most often of a person who is in defiance of social and moral standards, resulting in embarrassment, disgrace or shame. It is often used in relation to sexual misconduct that brings shame on one’s spouse, family or church, but it is not used for this exclusively for this. A person who loves does not bring shame, embarassment, or ridicule on their family because of their lack of character.

Our culture tells us our personal lives and personal behavior are our business. The truth is everything we do has an effect on the people around us. And we can often do things and say that what we are doing is personal, when it has far reaching impacts on our parents, our spouse, our children, our friends. When we don’t take other people in consideration before we do something immoral or shameful, we are being completely uncaring and unloving.

Love does not seek its own—It is not self-centered or self-seeking. Love is the opposite. It puts the object of love first. Hate is not the opposite of love. Selfishness is.

Love is not provoked—Pretty straight forward. Love is not retaliatory or reactionary. It thinks about what is most loving. It does not demand its rights.

Love does not think evil—This is an awkward statement in the New King james Version. The NIV gets it better. It says, “keeps no record of wrongs”. In other words, when you love someone you do not dwell on all of the things that they have done wrong. You have grace. You forgive if you love. You don’t have this big list of the things someone has done wrong that you use to manipulate them or punish them whenever you do not get your way.

So often we do this. We say we love someone, but the minute they slip up we remind them of everything they have ever done wrong in their entire life. We keep a laundry list of sins about a person, and we never let it go. A person who does this is choosing NOT TO LOVE as God commanded.

Love does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth—This is another interesting word choice in the original language. It is interesting because the word for iniquity here relates closely to injustice. Furthermore, injustice is contrasted with truth. So, what this part of the passage is saying is that love finds joy when it is able to find ways for people to get treated fairly, equally, to have equal opportunity and be able to overcome. When we stand for injustice, when we remain silent in face of that kind of evil, we are choosing to be BOTH dishonest and unloving.

Love bears all things—a positive way of describing the willingness to go through hard things in order to love. And a commitment to not only suffer in order to love in the past, but a willingness to love the same way in the future.
Love believes all things—Love trusts those it loves. It looks forward to the future with a trust which knows that in that love will overcome.

Love hopes all things—It always looks to someone, and sees there potential, their ability, what God is going to do with them

Love endures all things—Again a loving person has made a commitment to love. A person who loves a church or a person does not just love them when it is easy. They continue to love when it is hard.

Love never fails—We think of love as sentimental, soft, cuddly. Love is instead tough, tenacious, and always victorious.

Then this passage goes on to describe our human efforts as incomplete. If we do good thing, but we do them without love, we will find that what we have put our focus on has no eternal value.

If we choose to live in love, we will be like a child. We will have to grow. We will have to put away childish things. And we will have to look toward Christ, who is the described as that which is perfect.

You want to be mature, Paul says, learn to love. Immaturity is self-centered. As we grow we learn to love. We learn to be others-centered. True Biblical love is a sign of maturity. My Karis is the most beautiful thing in the world, but she is also completely self-centered. When she wants something she cries. If she is interested in something she grabs it. She doesn’t consider how it will effect other people. Nor should she. She is 8 months old.

But if you are still as self-centered, inconsiderate, and unempathetic as Karis when you are 20, 30 or 40, you are a childish selfish jerk. God wants us to grow up in Christ. And growing up in Christ is growing in the kind of love that Christ shared and demonstrated for us.

You want to be strong in Christ? Choose to love?

You want to live a life that matters? Love.

Want to make an eternal impact in the world? Love.

You want to prove your strength as a man, as a husband, as a father? Then choose to truly love. Love courageously. Choose to put others above yourself, even when it hurts. Love sacrificially. Choose to put aside your selfish agenda to serve your family, your friends your church.

You want to be the kind of woman God wants you to be? Love with endurance. Choose not to just act lovingly when you feel like it, but choose to truly be kind and fair even when you don’t want to. Choose to see the best in your friends, your husband, and your children instead of looking to find fault. Treasure the people God has given you in your life, instead of longing for something better. Your love will make your world better, your life better, everything better.

Above all though, if you want to have a life that matters, live a life full of the love that Jesus demonstrated. A life full of love. A life full of compassion. A life that had love that changed people and healed people.

If you want to have a life that matters, if you want to have a life that is triumphant and victorious model your life after the love of Jesus. A love that was not afraid to leave the comforts of heaven to dwell with men and women like you and I. A love that was willing to be patient and bear with people like you and I as he taught and led us. A love that was so sacrificial that Jesus laid down his life in an act of complete suffering and agony. A love that found victory through suffering, and was able to heal others through his wounds. Trust in that love, live in that love, and God will reward you, God will bless you, and God will allow you to have a life that has eternal impact. Amen.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Book Review of Love Is a Flame


Love is a Flame
Compiled by James Stuart Bell
Bethany House Publishers
Reviewed by Clint Walker
Love is A Flame, the moment you recieve it, is different than you expect. Although not a bad book, it will be helpful for you to read a review before you purchase the book on false pretenses.
When I chose to review this book, I chose the book because it had Gary Chapman's name at the top. Gary Chapman has written many books on love. Most well known of his books is the book The Five Love Languages. Little did I know that the large name where the author's name should be was actually the person who wrote the forward, not the person who wrote or compiled the book. Actually, the book has very little to do with Gary Chapman. Instead it is a compilation of how people have worked their way through marriage for the long term.
This book, if I were to summarize it, is Chicken Soup for the Married Soul. It is all about how committed love between two people can overcome all sorts of obstacles. The stories are compiled by James Stuart Bell. Each chapter is about 2-5 and written by real people who share their true life stories of love. Nearly each story has a challenge that the couple had to overcome, and a brief narrative about how they got through it. The stories can be read at once, or slowly for a little inspiration over time. They might even be good for a couple to read together and then discuss.
I think this book is a good book for the right person. I will probably give it as a gift to a married woman in my church, or as an "extra" gift for someone getting married. I would not recommend it to someone who does not read romance novels.


This book was given to me for free in exchange for an honest review

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Ranking the presidents



Right now I am watching a documentary on television on Ronald Reagan. Reagan would have been 100 this month if he was still alive. I have also seen suggestions/artistic renditions that would place Reagan on the Mount Rushmore monument.

This has gotten me to thinking a little bit. First, I don't think Rushmore is rendition of our four best presidents as it is. Usually Washington and Lincoln are rated in the top4. They deserve it. I think if Theodore Roosevelt was not on the Mount, he would not even show up in the top 10. And Jefferson's presidency is in my top 10, because of westward expansion alone. The rest of his presidency is mediocre.

My top 5 presidents are:

1. Abraham Lincoln--saved the union during the civil war

2. George Washington--saved the country from falling apart before it started

3. Franklin Roosevelt--saved the country during the great depression

4. Ronald Reagan--defeated communism

5. Lyndon Johnson--defeated segregation, promoted civil rights

Quite an ecclectic bunch.

Who are your top 5

Here is another video of the baby playing on the floor. Such a fun age right now.

This is Karis playing on the floor this morning. So fun!

Monday, February 07, 2011

Battle of the Bulge


My mother in law was correct in her comment. This is the picture of the battle of the bulge. I will give you a choice of books next time we visit Kris, and will get your book out in the mail to you.
This week I lost two pounds. Now there are two ways to look at this. I could say I had a bad week because other weeks I have lost a lot more weight. Or, I could say that losing two pounds is still progress and be happy that I am still making progress. I choose the later over the former as an attitude this week.
I have lost a total of 35 pounds in one month and two days. That is not bad progress. Do I wish it would work faster? Yes I do. Will that happen? Maybe yes, maybe no. As long as I am making progress toward my short term goal (8 lbs a month) and my long term goals (which include a number of things including a couple of different weight goals), then I will keep my chin up.
I still need to push harder toward my exercise goals, and that will accelerate some more loss. As will working harder not to save up as much food for the supper meal, but eat more evenly through the day. And, while I have gotten my Ruby Red/Code Red addiction under control, I have not sworn either off completely.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Best Of the Bloggies.....

Some blog posts that caught my eye:

Commentary on the high quanity of memoirs published and produced these days by Scot McKnight

On being a strong small church by Dennis Bickers

On Lists by Mark Rambo

Shawn's foray into local politics

Stan notices a change in Obama's hairstyle

Amy's world tour