Monday, October 9, 2017

Enjoying God - R. C. Sproul

R.C. Sproul's book, Enjoying God: Finding Hope in the Attributes of God is meant to draw the Christian's attention to the greatness of the God we serve.  How awesome, powerful and yet how loving and merciful He is toward His own.  As Sproul points out,  "Worship is the duty of every creature.  But any kind of worship is not enough, God commands us to worship in a proper manner."  And part of that worship is knowing God accurately.

Sadly, there were many things in this book that bothered me about this book.  First, I had thought that it was going to focus more on the attributes of God and how those affect how we live.  But, it didn't go into that as much as I thought it would.  I felt like it focused too much on questions like, "Does God's immutability, His unchangeableness, mean that He doesn't move around?" Or, "Can God limit His power?"  "If God did something bad would it really be bad?" I guess I just thought the book would focus more on God's attributes as presented in the Bible and how we live in light of them rather than on superfluous questions.  It just seems as though it would be more edifying if it didn't delve into those types of questions, they do not build one's faith or one's hope.

And then Sproul made some surprising and very unnecessary statements.  When discussing Christ's ability to not know something, like the day or the hour of His return, Sproul makes the statement, "I doubt if the human Jesus knew that the earth was round." Where did that come from? How is that biblical? Why does His not knowing the day or the hour make one think that He didn't know the shape of the earth He created?

And here's another one that took me off guard: speaking of Mary's response to Gabriel's news that she would give birth to the Messiah he says, "This response of the mother of God may be the most profound…"  I would be very wary of using the term "mother of God' to refer to Mary.   For one thing, it can give the impression that Mary was Christ's mother from eternity, and she was not;  Or it can elevate her in people's minds to the status of a 'goddess', which she was not, she was a sinful human being.   And for another, it disregards the Trinity.  Yes, yes, I know that God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are One, and "in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily"(Col 2:9) but biblically we still need to differentiate between them at times.  God the Father sent His Son into the world to be born of a woman (Galatians 4:4).  That statement is just too dangerous to use, in my opinion, and it's not a biblical term and it's not a necessary term. 

There were good things in this book, but not enough for me to want to recommend it. 


Many thanks to the folks at Baker Books Bloggers for sending me a free review copy of this book! (My review did not have to be favorable)


Monday, October 2, 2017

CSB Reader's Bible

The CSB Reader's Bible is designed to make it easy to sit down and just read each individual book. It is more along the lines of how it would have been read by the early Christians whose Bibles (or sections of the Bible/individual letters) were not divided into chapters and verses until many, many years after the Apostles had died. The text of this "Reader's Bible" is in a single column, like a regular book, instead being placed in two columns.  It has no chapter numbers and no verse numbers.  

This edition is a nice looking grey cloth over board volume, and includes an attached ribbon marker.  The font is a nice size and seems about the size of a regular book's font and is a very readable edition. I do want to note that the pages are very thin and quite flimsy, much like, or exactly like, a regular Bible's pages. I think that the edition would be nicer if the pages were the same thickness as a regular book's.  But perhaps they would have to divide it into several volumes if they did that, and it might be heavier as well.  This one still works very well.

The only real problem I have with this Reader's edition is that, though they do remove the chapter numbers, they leave the chapter breaks and make the first letter of each 'chapter' large (and colored blue). To me that rather defeats the point of removing the chapter numbers.  I don't necessarily mind chapter breaks in the narrative portions, and other portions that require it to make reading easier, though I do wish they would leave them out altogether in the Epistles/letters.  I do wish that they had taken advantage of the reader oriented design and completely revamp the chapter breaks to make the text flow more smoothly than a regular Bible's which have (at least to my mind) some unnatural chapter breaks that disrupt the flow of thought.  For example, here is how a portion of Malachi reads:

"I will have compassion on them as a man has compassion on his son who serves him.  So you will again see the difference between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him.

 CHAPTER BREAK  

For look, the day is coming, burning like a furnace, when all the arrogant and everyone who commits wickedness will become stubble."

Or as another example, in Acts, where Stephen is brought before the Sanhedrin:  "And all who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at him and saw that his face was like the face on an Angel.

CHAPTER BREAK

'Are these things true?' the high priest asked.  'Brothers and fathers,' he replied, 'listen…."

They could have omitted the chapter breaks, kept the text together and these texts would read much better without interruption. 

But all in all, this is a very nice Reader's Bible.  I really like the idea of going closer to how the text was originally laid out.  It is nice having other Bible editions around without the extra numbering and unnecessary dividing of the text. Again, I am not against chapters and verses, but editions like this truly do make the Bible more 'readable', as it were, and helps one to remember that "context is king".  Rather than viewing the Bible as little chunks of numbered statements that can be divorced from their context, it lends more to one seeing the text as an inspired whole. 


Many thanks to the folks at B&H/Lifeway for sending me a free review copy of this book. (My review did not have to be favorable)

You may purchase this book are Amazon.com and Christianbook.com

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Stepping Heavenward by Elizabeth Prentiss

Stepping Heavenward


Stepping Heavenward by Elizabeth Prentiss is one of my favorite works of Christian fiction.  Written in the 1800s, it is still very interesting and relevant to people in our current day and very readable. Prentiss tells the story using the format of a diary written by a woman named Katherine, who records her life struggles, from young womanhood through much of her married life.  She gives the events of various days (sometimes skipping days, months or even years, but giving updates along the way), and writes down many of her inmost thoughts, questions and struggles with sin.  She has questions about her salvation and whether or not she is being sanctified.  God brings along many different people to teach her and to help her recognize that He really is working in her and making her more Christ like. God also brings along many different trials to grow her spiritually. 

There are several interesting dialogues with others that are recounted by Katy, I give a couple of samples here:

Here she is speaking to one of her spiritual mentors, Dr Cabot:

 "'There is one thing more that troubles me,' I said.  'Most persons know the exact moment when they begin real Christian lives.  But I do not know of any such time in my history.  This causes me many uneasy moments.' 
[Dr Cabot]'You are wrong in thinking that most persons have this advantage over you.  I believe that the children of Christian parents, who have been judiciously trained, rarely can point to any day or hour when they began to live this new life.  The question is not, do you remember, my child, when you entered this world, and how!  It is simply this, are you now alive and an inhabitant thereof?'"

In this next excerpt Katy has just had a former friend, Amelia, die, her husband, a doctor, attended her last moments on earth:

"'What do you think,'  I asked, 'about her last days on earth?  Was there really any preparation for death?'
'These scenes are very painful,' he returned.  'Of course there is but one real preparation for Christian dying, and that tis Christian living……..I do not now recall a single instance where a worldly Christian died a happy, joyful death, in all my practice.'
[Kate]…..'Well, in one sense it makes no difference whether they die happily or not.  The question is do they die in the Lord?'
'[her husband]It may make no vital difference to them, but we must not forget that God is honored or dishonored by the way a Christian dies, as well as by the way in which he lives…..I can tell you, my darling, that standing, as I so often do, by dying beds, this whole subject has become one of great magnitude to my mind.  And it gives me positive personal pain to see heirs of the eternal kingdom, made such by the ignominious death of their Lord, go shrinking and weeping to the full possession of their inheritance.'"

There are several thought provoking dialogues like the above. And many little statements that are intriguing as well, a few of which I give here:

"You can will to prefer a religion of principle to one of mere feeling; in other words, to obey the will of God when no comfortable glow of emotion accompanies your obedience."

"It is repining that dishonors God, not grief."

"People ask me how it happens that my children are all so promptly obedient and so happy.  As if it chanced that some parents have such children, or chanced that some have not! I am afraid it is only too true, as someone has remarked, that this is the age of obedient parents!' What then will be the future of their children? How can they yield to God who have never been taught to yield to human authority…?"

A year after her oldest child died she writes:
"It is a year ago this day that the brightest sunshine faded out of our lives, and our beautiful boy was taken from us.  I have been tempted to spend this anniversary in bitter tears and lamentations.  For oh, this sorrow is not healed by time!  I feel it more and more.  But I begged God when I first awoke this morning not to let me so dishonor and grieve Him.  I may suffer, I must suffer, He means it, He wills it, but let it be without repining, without gloomy despondency.  The world is full of sorrow; it is not I alone who taste its bitter draughts, nor have I the only right to a sad countenance.  Oh, for patience to bear on, cost what it may!"

Now, there were statements and things that I didn't agree with, such as Kate thinking that her little children do not need to learn that they are sinners until they get older, though they do need to learn about Christ.  That doesn't make a lot of biblical , or even common, sense to me.  Wasn't that one of the most important things about Christ? That he came to die for the sins of His people? Or when she indicates that when we die, we leave our bodies forever.  I don't know if she believed in the resurrection of  our physical bodies?  Things like that bothered me.

But overall, I still really liked the book and found it quite spiritually edifying.  Kate grows in the Faith, becomes more patient toward others, learns to not trust her own judgement, learns to trust God more and more, learns that whatever trials He ordains for her to face are lovingly ordained to make her more Christ like.  The book is very well written and really keeps the attention, or at least it kept mine! 

Now, I must say something about this particular edition that I am reviewing, published by Ichthus Publications. The cover is pretty, the format of the text inside the book is very nicely laid out and readable.  But….this edition needs to be proofread.  There are typos ALL OVER this edition, periods and commas out of place or missing, and sentences that were practically unintelligible.  Here's a sample:

"In the first place, Helen would be perfectly if she had the care of father in his present. She is too young to have such responsibility….She is one of those little tender, soft souls one could crush fingers."

I don't think I've ever had to rate a book based on numerous typos and missing words. But I'll have to do that with this one.  I feel really bad having to do this, but I need to rate this edition at only three stars.  Normally I would rate this book at five stars, but this is not a good edition of Stepping Heavenward.  I love the book, I just don't like this edition.  If they would fix the typos it would be great!




Thanks to the folks at Ichthus Publications for sending me a free review copy of this book (My review did not have to be favorable).

Rating of Prentiss' book: Five Stars *****
Rating of this edition:  Three Stars ***

Thursday, September 14, 2017

So Close to Home by Michael J. Tougias and Alison O'Leary

So Close to Home by Michael J. Tougias and Alison O'Leary is a riveting account of the amazing, providential survival and reunion of a family after the ship they are travelling on was torpedoed by a German submarine. 

In 1942, the Downs Family, consisting of Ray and Ina Downs and two of their children, Lucille and Sonny Downs (their oldest son Terry was already in the U.S.), were making their way back to the United States from an eleven month stay in Columbia where Ray had taken a job with the United Fruit Company.  They began their journey home on a ship called the Heredia.

Their trip home was drastically interrupted. The night before they were to land at New Orleans, two torpedoes hit the ship.  The Downs' almost make it out onto the deck of this ship together but are separated by a lurch of the ship causing a surge of water to engulf them.  Ray is washed back inside the ship, while Ina, Lucille and Sonny are swept to various places on the decks and in the water, all find themselves separated from the rest of their family.

Ray is reunited with Sonny after a short while, Lucille is helped by the Second Mate of the Heredia while Ina struggles to survive on her own.  They all have encounters with sharks and suffer from long exposure to the elements.  All of them have to deal with their fears for each other, wondering whether the rest of their family is still alive and they all try to keep their composure during their ordeal.  Even little Sonny tries to be tough like his dad and succeeds in not breaking down.  The Downs' family ends up happily reunited, all of them amazed and grateful that they survived. 

Heavily intermixed with the story of the Downs family story are the accounts of several U-boat Captains and their crews, including that of the Captain of the U-boat that sank the Heredia.  The authors interweave these accounts by jumping off many  incidents in the Downs' story to lead into history and facts about German submarines, their crews and other ships they sank.  I found it very interesting that, unlike the Japanese, many German Submarine Captains were kind and friendly to survivors of ships that they sank.   The most amazing one is probably the account of the sinking of the ship called the Laconia which carried many civilians.  The Captain of the U-boat who sunk her surfaced and took on many survivors, helped any injured, and ended up obtaining help from other German U-boats who also took on survivors and all of them towed several lifeboats in their wake and helped to repair lifeboats.

I'm going give a couple of negative comments here: First, I just want to note that book had some foul language, but it is easy enough to scribble out and to skip over (I've been reading it out-loud to some of my siblings).  Sometimes I don't want to know what people said exactly the way it was said, even if it is actually history.

Second, I was saddened to find that, though Ray and Ina Downs' seemed to be professing Christians, they ended up divorcing later in life. If they hadn't been Christians I wouldn't have thought much of it.  But they were professing Christians, and as such they could have shown the kind of unconditional love toward each other that God showed toward them. That was not a good example of a Christian marriage, that they loved each other conditionally rather than unconditionally.  It is quite disheartening to think that they had the stamina to survive a ship's sinking, almost being drowned or eaten by sharks and yet they didn't have the stamina to choose to keep loving each other despite each other's flaws and keep their marriage covenant.  Perhaps I am getting too preachy here, but that was just really sad to find out. 

But all in all, I liked the book.   It was a very fascinating account of the sinking of the Heredia with lots of background history and information interwoven throughout the book.  It was very surprising to find how much German U-boat activity was happening in the Gulf of Mexico.  I had no idea that U-boats came SO close to the U.S.!  Looking at the map just inside the front cover of the book one can get a picture of just how close they got.  Some U-boats even gave potential German saboteurs a lift to our shores!  I learned quite a bit of extra World War II history.

Many thanks to the folks at Pegasus Books for sending me a free review copy of this book (My review did not have to be favorable)!

This book may be purchased at Amazon.com and also on other retail sites





Thursday, August 31, 2017

Steal Away Home - By Matt Carter and Aaron Ivey

Steal Away Home: Charles Spurgeon & Thomas Johnson - Unlikely Friends on the Passage to Freedom by Matt Carter and Aaron Ivey, is a novel that tells of a friendship between those two men.  One was a pastor who became quite famous, and yet had a lot of troubles in his life, and the other a former slave who became a preacher and then a Missionary to Africa.  This book is an attempt to imagine their lives leading up to their ultimate meeting and friendship.  Various chapters deal with either the perspective of Spurgeon or that of Thomas in a particular year.  The time advances through the chapters, showing the growing perspective of the men individually.

I really wanted to like this book, but sadly I didn't.  First, , as I was reading this book I kept running across parts where the thought kept nagging me that something about the depiction wasn't right.  I went and looked at some other books I have on Spurgeon and realized the thought was generally correct.  The authors don't seem very concerned about getting the history right. 

I'll give a couple of examples:  First, when Spurgeon's wife, Susannah, heard Spurgeon preach and  laid eyes on Spurgeon  for the first time, the book describes Susannah as struggling with conviction, focused upon a spiritual question provoked by Charles' sermon.  But in real life Susannah herself says, "Alas, for my vain and foolish heart! I was not spiritually minded enough to understand his earnest presentation of the Gospel and his powerful pleading with sinners", rather she remembers that his odd attire attracted most of her attention and caused her some amusement.  The portrayal afterward when they met at dinner seemed odd as well, Spurgeon and Susannah are depicted as flirting with each other, even though they were only just meeting each other! I never understood that to be the case.  Another inaccuracy in the book is that Susannah is present in the building at the time of the Surrey Gardens Music Hall disaster and Spurgeon runs to her immediately after attempting to conclude the message.  In reality Susannah was not there, she was at home having not yet recovered from childbirth.  I understand that this is a work of fiction, but I understood that it was going to be building around the historical facts, not changing them.  This just seemed like an attempt to make the events romantic, when they were not.

Second, I didn't like that Charles and Susannah are portrayed together in bed.  Nothing really indecent is described there but I feel really uncomfortable with that type of thing.  The conversations that this book depicts them having in bed could have been had in the living room during the day.  There was also at least one description of Spurgeon touching his wife that make me feel uncomfortable, it seemed slightly sensual.  Maybe I'm just too picky, but I don't need to picture them caressing each other in order to realize that they loved each other.  I don't understand why this needs to be depicted? 

And then, ironically, some  of Spurgeon's struggle with depression is depicted in a depressing way.  Spurgeon is shown to struggle with various fears,  fear about his wife dying, about himself dying with no one to mourn him, fearing that too many people need him, feeling that no one needs him, and he has struggles with the "why" of his and his wife's sufferings.  Things like that.  He finally finds peace late in the book when Thomas talks to him, but that doesn't make much sense. I don't understand that what Thomas told him was different from what he had already been contemplating himself, in real life and in the book.  And I really didn't think that Spurgeon's almost despairing "why?" was in keeping with his character.

I never thought that Spurgeon lived through a good portion of his life doubting the sanctifying purpose of God in suffering. From what I've read, he seemed to understand it most of his life as a Christian! And I always thought that good deal of his sadness and depression stemmed from his grief for others.  That he mourning for the souls of people and their not caring for God rather than fearing that they did not care about him.  That he mourned for the state of the church and the indifference of so called Christians to getting the Gospel right and Biblical doctrine right.  I also remember his grieving that he didn't preach adequately. In a way, a lot of Spurgeon's sorrows seemed to me to be godly sorrow, rather than worldly sorrow.  But perhaps I misunderstood Spurgeon's depression in my readings of biographies about him, or perhaps I just don't remember correctly.

But the way they have him deal with his depression (or not deal with it) also bothered me.  One spot talks about him using nature:  "Whether it was a starry night on the patio, a morning in the garden, an afternoon with bees, or a week in the countryside with a friend, Charles did his best to surround himself with things that felt natural, real, and truthful.  Because when a person wars against depression, and tries with all their might to push away the haunting darkness……that person pays very close attention to the things that illuminate truth.  Like sunshine after a weeklong shower, truth is wonderfully bright to a depressed heart."  That didn't make biblical sense to me.  That the things which are seen illuminate truth and, by implication, provoke faith?  Doesn't that contradict what Hebrews 11:1 says about faith? And other Biblical passages as well? Truth is found by hearing the Word of God, and faith comes by that Word, not by staring at nature or finding things to stir up one's emotions or feelings.

The portrayal of the two wives, Spurgeon's wife and Johnson's wife, gave me an impression that the wives were the spiritual leaders of the families.  I know in Spurgeon's family that wasn't the case in real life. Spurgeon was his "wifey's" spiritual leader.  That change grated at me, but maybe I just read it the wrong way.  And then Spurgeon seemed too, how shall I describe it?  Too flighty? Too mystical?  He didn't seem as grounded in the truth of God's Word as the real Spurgeon was.

The book didn't talk about the DownGrade controversy, or Susannah's book fund for pastors who were struggling financially. Facts like those would have been interesting to have delved into and contemplated. Showing Spurgeon's fight to keep to the truths of the Bible rather than give in and promote the doctrines of men. Instead the book just seemed to desperately be trying to interweave Johnson and Spurgeon's lives more than they probably actually were.  Even at the very end, they portray Susannah softly singing "Steal Away" to Spurgeon as he is dying.  Maybe she did, though I don't remember it.  I remember having read in a biography that the song that was sung close to the time Spurgeon died was "Emmanuel's Land", which, as nice as Steal Away is, has a lot more biblical concepts than the latter. 


 I have focused on the book's portrayal of Spurgeon and his wife because I don't know much about Thomas Johnson. But, knowing how they portrayed the Spurgeons, I'm not sure I'd completely trust the portrayal of Johnson or his wife either.  I am very disappointed.  The book was well written, I just didn't find this Spurgeon to be the Spurgeon I read about in the biographies.  Historical Fact is more fascinating than historical fiction, and the individual facts of history were all ordained of God, so we can't make them any better!  The facts God ordained, events, people, times, how much people met, how little they met…etc, are all perfect! Work with those!  I really wish that the authors of this novel had grounded their fiction more solidly in the facts God ordained rather than amending them to fit some other story line they wanted to run with. 

Many Thanks to the folks at B&H Publishers for the free review copy of this book (My review did not have to be favorable)!

My Rating:  1 out of 5 Stars
*

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Deal or Duel: An Alexander Hamilton Card Game

Deal or Duel: An Alexander Hamilton card game, is a game that utilizes historical characters from the early history of the United States and also utilizes events of that time to influence play. This game is very unique, at least in my experience of playing games.  I don't believe I've ever played a game before that included dueling and going to debtors prison. Nor, have I ever played one with historical figures who, in the process of playing a game, could be affected by events like Alexander Hamilton leveling the playing field for his pursuit of the office of Secretary of State and thus specific Face Cards in various players possession are lost.  This game has many historical figures (the Face Cards),  including Alexander Hamilton, Marie Antoinette, George Washington, Aaron Burr, and there was also figures whom we did not know of, which is where the biographical summaries on the back of the cards come in handy. 

 I tried it out with a couple of my sisters, it started out slow and then the pace quickened as we caught on and started having more fun.  There are two ways for a player to "declare victory", either by collecting 1000$ (Federalist Method) or by eliminating all of your opponents Face Cards and having at least one left yourself (Democratic-Republican method).

This game is educational in a rather warped, but amusing, way.  You get to learn about events in American history, but not necessarily learn about them in order. You get to learn about dueling (not sure how that knowledge will come in handy) and make historical characters, most of whom never dueled in real life, duel each other.  The Hamilton Cards, one played at the beginning of each round, really make the game.  They change things up by having random events happen, refilling the treasury, changing the value of certain cards, eliminating particular Face Cards, making holders of certain cards play taxes…etc. 

My sisters and I had a lot of fun once we got going.  We laughed quite a bit, had our characters participate in many duels, made each other pay money by saving each other's life, getting one another jobs, or another such thing based on whatever cards we had in our hand.  We also lamented, all while being amused, when we found that we could randomly lose certain characters.  The time passed very quickly.  The whole concept of the game is very amusing.  We ended the game with a duel between Phyllis Wheatley and, I believe it was Thomas Mifflin she dueled!  Mifflin won.

It was fun, but I need to warn people that the game is rather complicated, we had to study the rules for a while and keep referring to them trying to clarify things.  And not everything was made clear.  For instance, at one point some of us only had "Duel Cards" and yet all of our remaining characters were in debtors prison and so we didn't know what to do.  We scanned the rules but didn't find anything.  Do we redeem our Face Cards out of prison and make them fight a duel? What if we didn't want to pull our people out of prison and challenge someone to a duel?  Do we have to do it? Sometimes we just decided that we could discard one of our Duel Cards and draw another Action Card.  But we weren't sure that that was the right way to play, and many times we just ended up with another Duel Card.  We ended up making it so that we could 'spend' a card on our turn, and yet have nothing be accomplished.  As an example, instead of using one of my Duel Cards (there being no one I could challenge who was outside prison), I would use a card that said "Receive $30 from the treasury to help cover your safe passage home from Paris", despite there not being any money I the treasury.  I wouldn't get any money for the card, but I had no other card to use as I only had cards related to dueling. It would be nice to know what to do if you don't have any cards to play. I recommend that the game makers update the instructions.*

But all in all, it was a rather fun game.  We're planning on potentially playing it with three of our other sisters and seeing what a six player game is like.


I received a free review copy of this game from the Blogging For Books book review program and my review did not have to be favorable)

My Rating:  5 out of 5 Stars
*****

This game may be purchased at Amazon (Among other places)

* We cleared up the: what to do if you only have duel cards but everyone who can duel is in Prison:  There is a spot in the directions we didn't notice that says that you must have at least one Face Card always in your roster(out side of the prison) - so there will always be someone to duel.  But what if all the dueling spaces are taken up and you only have duel cards? That is still in question.



Monday, August 28, 2017

The Whole Bible Story - by Dr. William H. Marty

The Whole Bible Story: Everything that Happens in the Bible in Plain English by Dr. William H. Marty is a book that endeavors to give you a summarized version of the narrative history in the Bible.  The book starts from the book of Genesis and goes all the way to Paul's captivity at the end of Acts. 

I didn't particularly like this book.  First of all, It isn't the whole story, it is merely a summary of the history given in the Bible.   Much, or rather most, of the recorded dialogue is missing and it is not the most accurate summary of Biblical history.  For instance, in the account of Abraham pleading with the Lord not to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, the account omits God's graciousness in assenting to Abraham's repeated request gradually reducing the number of righteous people in the city required to spare it. It just says, "Abraham knew Lot and his family will still living in Sodom, so he pleaded with the Lord to spare at least ten people.  The Lord graciously agreed."  Abraham pleaded that the CITY would not be destroyed if ten righteous people were found in it.  There were not even ten righteous people in the city and so the Lord destroyed the city.  The book accurately goes on to point out that He spared Lot, his wife and daughters. But four people were dragged out of the city before it was destroyed, not ten.  And Lot's wife looked back and was destroyed, so that brings it down to three.  The quotation above does not give an accurate description of the dialogue between Abraham and the Lord.

As another example, in speaking of when Jesus ignored the extrabiblical restrictions the religious leaders  set up in relation to the Sabbath it says, "Because Jesus was more concerned about people than rules, he disregarded their Sabbath restrictions."  This is a grossly misleading statement. I hope that Marty didn't mean that the way it sounds.  Christ was not against rules, He was against misapplying them and misinterpreting the law of God.  If Christ were more concerned about people than about rules then nobody would be in danger of facing eternal condemnation for breaking God's law. But Christ was very concerned about rules, God's Rules.  Jesus Christ came to fulfill God's law in the way it was supposed to be fulfilled, and to show us what obeying God looks like and what God's rules mean.  Christ said, "Think not that I came to destroy the law or the prophets: I came not to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass away from the law, till all things be accomplished. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven."(Mat 5:17-19)

To add to that,  there were translations that are not accurate and misleading partial quotations.  When Christ rebukes Peter by saying, "But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art a stumbling-block unto me: for thou mindest not the things of God, but the things of men. "(Mat 16:23 ASV)  This book changes it to, "Get away from me, Peter, ' he ordered.  'Though you don't realize it, you are setting a satanic trap for me…"  That sure takes away a lot of the seriousness and the shock of the statement.

Another part the book states, "'Of all who have ever lived, none is greater than John,' said Jesus."  And…….? They left out what He said after that! "For I say unto you, Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist: but he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he."(Luk 7:28 KJV) Kind of changes the whole statement, doesn't it? 

My dislike of the book began before I even read it, I looked at the back cover which says that "The events of the Bible are exiting, tender, and at times awe-inspiring, but often the story can get lost among the laws, genealogies, poetry, and instructions."  Those things are an ESSENTIAL part of the "story"!!!!  And God is the One who ordained that they be a part of His Holy book.  Who are we to consider them as being hindrances to understanding what God has given us to learn in His Word? And this overlooks the fact that learning what God says of Himself and learning His commands are just as important, if not more, than even the narrative history! 

Things like the above make me strongly hesitate to recommend this book.

Thanks to Baker Books blogger program for sending me a free review copy of this book (a favorable review was not required)

Rating: 1 out of 5 Stars
*





Tuesday, August 22, 2017

For Brotherhood & Duty - By Brian R. McEnany

It is fascinating to look back on history and zoom in as it were on the earth to see what God had ordained to happen in a particular country, during a particular time period.  And to focus in on it even further and see what He had planned for individuals. 

For Brotherhood & Duty: The Civil War History of the West Point Class of 1862 by Brian R. McEnany is a very interesting look at a group of some of the young men affected by the Civil War.  They came together in 1858 from north and south of the United States to study at West Point, expecting to serve in the same U. S. military when they graduated.  The secession of many Southern States and the U.S. government advocating military action to subdue those states changed things.  Some of the cadets ended up leaving West Point to join the Confederate states, others took the required oath to be faithful to the Union. 

The author uses West Point Graduate (1862)Tully McCrea's story as a sort of springboard for the others.  After being wounded during the war, McCrea went back to West Point as an instructor while he recovered.  This book imagines what it may have been like for him to look back to his life as a cadet and also his life during the war.  Each chapter begins with a bit of fictionalized imagining of McCrea's daily life as an instructor, events during the day lead up to him having a flashback, as it were, of his and his classmates history. 

This book follows these men from their entrance into West Point, their years of study and discipline up until the events leading up to the Civil War caused friction and division, resolve in many cadets to fight for the union, and in a few others to fight for the rights of the Confederacy.  Then you are led through the war and various battles, observing the actions of various individuals, from this particular West Point class, through the war itself.  I particularly liked that the author uses many excerpts from the men's own accounts of daily events and battles so that you can 'hear things' in their own words, getting an eye-witness' perspective

There were several little tidbits of history that I found quite fascinating. Like the fact that the West Point Campgrounds, which every year were named after a well-known person, had, shortly before the Civil War, been named after Robert E. Lee and also Jefferson Davis. Also, the class of 1862 had instructors who became famous later on in the war, including Edward P. Alexander and John F. Reynolds.  It was intriguing to find that, because of the unique events of the time, the oath that West point cadets took e was changed, twice, to make it clear that they were swearing alliance to the union over the individual states, "I will maintain and defend the sovereignty of the United States, paramount to any and all allegiance, sovereignty, or fealty I may owe to any State…" , and then changed again to be even more strict.  The new oath(s) overrode any particular questions as to which was to have the paramount loyalty, the union, or one's home state.

The Cadets did not all serve in the same part of the military, they were scattered around the U.S. military and the Confederate military. Some took part in battles that others were not involved in, some served closely with fellow classmates, some fought against fellow classmates, some were wounded and some were killed.  The men participated in many famous battles, including Antietam, Fredericksburg, and of course, Gettysburg.  All the way to Appomattox.  There are battle maps and pictures throughout that really help to visualize things.  At the end of the book is a helpful compilation of individual summarized biographies, and pictures, of the Class of 1862.

I learned a lot from this is very interesting and very well-written book. I would recommend it to anyone interested in the Civil War, or history in general. 


Many thanks to the folks at the University Press of Kentucky for sending me a free review copy (my review did not have to be favorable)!

My rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
*****

This book may be purchased at Amazon

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Jesus' Terrible Financial Advice - by John Thornton

This book, Jesus' Terrible Financial Advice, was in a list of books available for review in the book reviewing program of which I'm a member.   The description of this book caught my attention.  It was described as not being the book that the author, John Thornton, intended to write.  He wanted to write about how his family had gotten to a debt free state and wanted to back it up with biblical principles.  But then He went to the Bible to study the topic and found that Jesus' teachings on money shocked him, they really seemed like irresponsible teachings, teachings that didn't seem like the type of instructions that God would give wise stewards to follow.  He put off writing the book for a long time.   I was intrigued by this information and so I requested the book. 

Thornton later decided to dive in and write the book with this perspective,  "If my theology disagrees with God, one of us is wrong, and it's not Him."    Thornton directs us to think about why Christ came to the earth in the first place, "to glorify His Father".  And all of Jesus' teachings, including his teachings on money, stem from this purpose. God does not need money to get things done, and we Christians do not need money either because God supplies all our needs, and he does not need money to do that.

 Thornton makes it clear that being rich does not make you an evil person, nor does being poor make you a good person.  Money is not bad in and of itself, but it does have potential to become an idol when we look to it for peace, security and help.  Poor people can do this just as much as rich people.  The love of money is deceiving, it promises that money can supply all our needs, directing our focus to it rather than to God.  And many also may be deceived by thinking that the Lord's work cannot get done without money (look at all of the Christian ministries out there begging for money!). God can supply our needs however He wants, with or without money. 

Being a wise steward does not mean building up earthly treasure, but building up a heavenly treasure.   "Imagine if you were playing Monopoly, and you were offered the chance to trade in your pink fivers for real ones.  Or better yet, trade the yellow $100 Monopoly bills in for Benjamins.  You'd go straight to the bank and make the exchange.  And  you wouldn't ask how many of the Monopoly bills you could keep.  You'd trade in every last one."  The author demonstrates from the Bible that this is the perspective of a believer.  We are after real treasure, not fake treasure.  A believer doesn't care about storing up treasures on this earth, but storing up treasures in Heaven.  A believer doesn't care about gaining worldly acclaim, but commendation from His Father in Heaven.  A believer's goal is to glorify the Father, to do His will.  And Christ tells us how this is to be done, "Jesus explains how we can make the most of the lives He has given us…"  Many of the means by which Christ says we can glorify the Father are shocking to us, such as letting people sue you and giving them more than they demand of you, by giving to everyone who asks, by letting yourself be wronged financially, even by a brother in Christ, or rather, especially by a brother in Christ. There are some questions about how we are to implement the 'giving to everyone who asks you', and I think that Thornton addresses them pretty well by pointing out that it may be clarified by other biblical truths. 

In this book we are reminded that God wants us to run our whole race, the beginning and end of it, at full speed. This, among other things, involves being wise stewards of everything God has given us, including our use of any money He has allowed us to have.  We look to our Master to give us the standards for how we are to use His property and money, He defines what good stewardship looks like.  And we should not look on our growing old as permission to use God's gifts to us however we want. The thought should not even cross our mind that we will ever reach an age where we will be able to retire from being good stewards of the Lord's gifts. We should not look to slow down as we get old, and enjoy our earthly life, our goal should still be to serve the Father with all the strength He gives us, grasping any opportunity He gives us to serve Him and invest in eternal things.  Thornton laments that some older Christians do not desire to end their spiritual race at full speed, and yet hypocritically ,"We condemn our brother who squanders his early years, all the time longing to squander our later ones."


All in all, I think that this is an excellent book, pointing us back to the Lord as our Master, and reminding us that we are to live a life of faith.  We must trust that God really is infinitely wiser than we are, even when we think that His commands are not humanly logical.  As Thornton says, "God has a better plan for our lives than we do", God knows best whether or not our earthly richness or poorness will bring the most glory to Himself.  And we Christians desire to be content with His sovereign placement of us in this earthly life.  


Many thanks to MoodyPublishers for sending me a free review copy of this book (My review did not have to be favorable)

My rating:  5 out of 5 stars

*****


This book may be purchased at (among other places), Christian Book Distributors and Amazon





Saturday, August 5, 2017

Quote of the Day

I am consistently struck during my travels how a bond is immediately created with other believers, regardless of the cultural, ethnic, and linguistic differences between us.    In many respects, this bond is stronger than the biological bonds that exist between father and son, or mother and daughter.  In face, Jesus plainly says that his advent will break such biological bonds, and if we are not willing to forsake these natural relationships when necessary, we have no business seeking a supernatural relationship with Christ.    

- Victor Kuligin


Quote from his book:


See more quotes on my quote collection blog:  https://snickerdoodlesquotes.blogspot.com/

Friday, August 4, 2017

Quote of the Day

Freedom from sin is only granted to Christians.  Paul's statement in 1 Corinthians 10:13 tells  believers that they have not been seized by any temptation that cannot be overcome.  He is not talking to non-Christians, who Paul establishes elsewhere are controlled by the sinful flesh and cannot do anything spiritually pleasing to God (Rom. 8:7-8)...."...walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh..."(Gal 5:16-17).  Again, this command is to Christians.  Unbelievers cannot "walk by the Spirit."  However, believers walking by the Spirit have the ability  to "not gratify the desires of the flesh ."  If this is true, that no temptation has ever come across a Christian that is not common to all, and that sin is nothing more than a Christian yielding to his fleshly desires, then how can addiction as commonly understood (i.e., uncontrollable urges and impulses) actually exist for believers?
......Granted, sin can certainly feel irresistible, but perhaps it feels that way because we capitulate to it far too readily.  We have not built up the essential perseverance to repel it.  We have repeatedly said yes, and like muscles that have atrophied from disuse, our spirit has become weak because we have not exercised the fortitude to resist temptation as we ought.

- Victor Kuligin

Quote from his book:


See more quotes on my quote collection blog:  https://snickerdoodlesquotes.blogspot.com/

Monday, July 24, 2017

Evidence For the Rapture: A Biblical Case For Pretribulationism

(This is my full review - most of the other sites I posted an edited version as the full review could not be posted due to size limits) 
Evidence For the Rapture: A Biblical Case For Pretribulationism - General Editor John Hart is a compilation of several essays by several men in defense of the pretrib rapture.

I wanted to read this book primarily because it is a topic that our church is examining at the moment (we're in Matthew 24). We've been wrestling with the concept of the rapture and are actually leaning strongly in a Post-tribulational direction. My dad, a pastor has held a pretrib rapture stance for all of his life, until recently, and he wants to make sure that there is no compelling exegetical argument that he has not heard defending a pretrib rapture (and he's heard many arguments for it). I saw that this book was available for me to choose in the reviewing program I'm a part of and so I snatched it up.
Each chapter of the book deals with various arguments for a pretrib rapture, dealing with texts like 1 and 2nd Thessalonians, Matthew 24, and Revelation, and topics like the Day of the Lord and the separation of the church and Israel. Having read the arguments in this book I haven't been convinced that we need to stop heading in the direction of a posttrib rapture. I'll give some of my reasoning below:

One of the first arguments given is the "imminence" of the return of Christ. We are told in God's Word that no one knows the day or the hour, not even the Son, but only the Father. (Mat 24:36) We are told that His coming will be like a thief in the night (Matt 24:43-44). The author of this particular chapter, dealing with Matthew 24, Robert L. Thomas, argues that verses like these (and others) indicate that this particular coming of Christ will be without any warning. As to the verses in Matthew 24 that seem to indicate that there will be signs to be looked for that will be indicators of His returning to the earth in a short time (Matt24:33), Thomas explains that he believes that certain parts of Matthew 24 (like 24:4-28) are dealing with the time WITHIN Daniel's 70th week, and are speaking of one being able to realize the nearness of His return to earth (parable of the fig tree "then ye see all these things, know ye that he is nigh") in the 2nd Coming. Other parts (after vs. 36) are dealing with the BEGINNING of the 70th week of Daniel, which in Thomas' view, also includes Christ's return to gather up His church in the rapture, has NO signs, could begin at any moment, and is inaugurated by the snatching away of the church from the earth. "…the beginning of the week will catch everyone by surprise."

But I am not seeing, in the text, how one can, all while keeping the context in tact, separate the coming of the Son of Man into two comings or two "phases" of one coming, as one of the writers put it. And I don't see any warrant for seeing one of the 'comings' as only a partial return to earth. The text of Matthew 24 seems to indicate that Christ is speaking about one coming of Christ, and that this coming of Christ will be a return to the earth. It also indicates there will be certain signs that "He is near" and yet we do not "know the day or the hour". When you think about it, even at the time when the signs of His nearness are seen we will still not necessarily know the day or the hour of His return. Yes the Abomination of Desolation marks the middle of the week, but we are given two countdowns at the end of Daniel, both of which seem to count down from the time the abomination of desolation is set up (Daniel 12:11-12). If we say that Christ is returning immediately at the end of the three and a half years, do we count down from the very hour and minute that the Abomination is set up? Or are we counting days in general? Perhaps Christ will come at midnight at the beginning of the day immediately following 3 1/2 years. Or perhaps he will come at noon on that day. And what time are we using? If we are in America at the time that this happens then Israel is in a different time zone than we are. So, do we calculate from the time it is set up in our time? What calendar are we using? Jewish,Gregorian,babylonian?(assuming there will be such a thing at the time).

The essay writers point out that Christ uses the example of a thief breaking into a house, and that He also says that it will be as in the days of Noah. But It seems that those illustrations are more for demonstrating what it will be like for the unbelievers, those who are not watching. We know that believers (whom we presume will be watching) will not necessarily be overtaken by that day as a thief (1st Thess 5:4), though it will overtake the unbelievers like one. As to the days of Noah, yes unbelievers were ignorant of the day and the hour of the flood and were in the midst of daily activity when it came but a friend recently pointed out to me that Noah ended up knowing the day of the flood before hand. He was told when it would happen seven days before (Gen 7:4). He did not necessarily know the hour, but he knew the day and was told what to do before that day (go in to the ark).

This book contains some rather fascinating arguments, some that I had never thought of before. One such argument, by George A. Gunn, uses John 14:1-3: "Let not your heart be troubled: believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I come again, and will receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also." (Joh 14:1-3) Gunn essentially makes a case that there must be a pretrib rapture as this prophecy cannot happen at the 2nd coming because at that time Christ will be returning to the earth, not to the dwelling places He prepared for Christians in His Father's house, and it is presumed that Christ will return to the earth to bring Christians to those dwelling places in the Father's house, which is in Heaven. "Since the destination points to a venue in heaven, not earth, the promise cannot point to a postribulation rapture and is most consistent with a pretribulation rapture." I do not see that this section of Scripture negates a pretrib rapture. I'll give one plausible reason at this moment: what about the New Jerusalem that apparently comes down from Heaven onto the earth? What if the mansions/dwelling places for Christians are in that City? Then Christ could prepare a place for us, come back to earth in the 2nd Coming and bring the New Jerusalem to earth as well.

One of the most recurring arguments pretribulatonists use, included in the arguments in this book, is that the church must not experience the wrath of God. One of the verses used for this position is 1 Th 5:9: "For God appointed us not unto wrath, but unto the obtaining of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ". One of the essay writers, Kevin D. Zuber, uses 1 Thessolonians 5 to argue that since we are not appointed to wrath and since we are not of the "realm of darkness" that unbelievers are in and are children of the light(see 1 Th 5:4-5), therefore we will be raptured out of the world before the wrath of the Lord is dealt out upon the earth. Here are some of his statements: "Since the rapture will take all living saints to be with the Lord at the same time that the day of the Lord commences, no believer need fear that he will be found in the day of the Lord." "...neither they nor any saint will enter the day of the Lord". "Since believers are nonparticipants in the realm of darkness, they have 'the promise of non-participation in "the day of the Lord"".


I do not see that that is what Paul was getting at. Paul tells the Thessalonians ""For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. When they are saying, Peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall in no wise escape. "(1Th 5:2-3) This sudden destruction comes upon UNBELIEVERS (those of the darkness) as a thief in the night. "But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief: for ye are all sons of light, and sons of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness; so then let us not sleep, as do the rest, but let us watch and be sober."(1Th 5:4-6) It doesn't even look as though Paul is even hinting that they would not go through the tribulation. He tells them that they are not in darkness, and that therefore the day shouldn't come as a surprise to the believers, but it doesn't say that God will remove them from the earth at that time. Believers will not be those saying, "peace and safety", and they will have things to watch for, such as the Abomination of desolation, and must be very careful not to apostatize from the faith (at that time there will be many extremely good deceivers leading people astray - Matt 24:23-24). If they are in Jerusalem, at the time that it is set u,p then they will obey Christ's command to flee to the mountains. If they are anywhere else, then perhaps they will hide as well, but no matter where they are in the world, they will not take the mark of the beast. To unbelievers living at that time these events will be "sudden destruction; and they shall in no wise escape", but to believers living at this time these horrible things are apparently signs of coming redemption for them, and are not "sudden destruction":


"But when these things begin to come to pass, look up, and lift up your heads; because your redemption draweth nigh. And he spake to them a parable: Behold the fig tree, and all the trees: when they now shoot forth, ye see it and know of your own selves that the summer is now nigh. Even so ye also, when ye see these things coming to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh. (Luk 21:28-31) 

 "even so ye also, when ye see all these things, know ye that he is nigh, even at the doors." (Mat 24:33)
When Paul tells the Thessalonians that they are not destined for wrath but for salvation through Christ, we know that this is talking about our soul's salvation from the eternal wrath of God, not the temporary wrath that He will pour out upon the earth at the end. Zuber argues that Christians will not be on the earth during the temporary wrath of God upon the world. But we know that this is not the case. It looks as though perhaps millions (or more) of believers (apparently not just Jewish Christians) will be on the earth during that time (Rev 7:9-14, Rev 6:9-11,Rev 12:17, Dan 7:21-27). There will be Christian martyrs during the tribulation, but this does not mean that those martyred are experiencing God's wrath, but rather the wrath of Satan. If one holds to the view that only those who are in darkness are the ones that live through the tribulation then they would need to believe that those who become believers once the tribulation begins are among those who are "appointed unto wrath"! Are the so-called "tribulation saints" living in darkness rather than the light? Are the 144,000 Jewish believers "appointed unto wrath" and "living in darkness"? I do not see how one can biblically hold that view.


Related to this is the last essay in this book, by Michael Rydelnik, dealing with the distinction between the church and Israel, and because of this distinction how the church must be gone by the time the tribulation begins because God will be refocusing His attention on Israel. He says that "The distinction between the church and Israel should yield a belief that the rapture of the church will take place before the tribulation of the end of days (a pretribulation rapture)." Also, "It is 'a time of trouble for Jacob' (suggesting that the church will have already been removed)." But we also know that it will be a time of trouble for multitudes of Gentile believers, "After these things I saw, and behold, A GREAT MULTITUDE, WHICH NO MAN COULD NUMBER, out of EVERY nation and of ALL tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, arrayed in white robes, and palms in their hands….he said to me, These are they that come out of the great tribulation, and they washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. (Rev 7:9, 14 emphasis added, ). One could also make the case that the saints spoken of in Daniel, who are persecuted by the Antichrist, include Gentile believers (Daniel 7:21-27;see also Rev 13:7, 17:6) That's a HUGE amount of believing Gentiles, which seems to indicate that, though the tribulation will be a time of trouble for Israel, this does not necessitate the church being absent during this time.

Another of the arguments given in this book is that," Paul routinely described the church ,or the body of Christ, as consisting of all people from all nations on equal footing as join heirs in one new man or spiritual organism….(quotes Galatians 3:28: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female…. " and Eph 2:14) "…Thus national barriers or boundaries no longer positionally divide believers from one another in the church age. Today, the preeminent servant of God is no longer national, ethnic Israel but rather the church, or the body of Christ, consisting of believers in Jesus from all nations…." the argument goes on making the case that the book of Revelation tells of "a time when national barriers will once again be erected as God will again use national Israel as His special instrument to bless the world…the Pauline concept of the church as a body with no national barriers is also absent from this time period."

When I look at those passages I do not see that it says that God broke down ethnicities, but rather that He included Gentiles, as Gentiles, in the people of God, thus making salvation by grace through faith and available to all people, breaking the wall of hostility between the Jews, who had the God-given law and ordinances to set them apart from the nations/Gentiles. This fits with passages like Acts 15, where the Apostle Peter is dealing with Jews who insist that Gentiles must keep the law of Moses in order to be saved, "And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, "Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will." (Act 15:7-11)

Yes, in Christ there is no Jew, Greek, male or female, but this apparently does not mean that there are no Jews, Greeks, Males or females in the church, nor does it mean that they cannot have distinct roles. If this is what being in the church means then females would be allowed to be pastors and to hold authority over men because gender barriers would be broken down, as well as ethnic barriers. If gender has no relevance in the church then passages like 1 Tim 2:11-15 and Eph 5:22 contradict Galatians 3:28.

It would seem then that the Gentiles and Jews have been brought together in one body, all while staying Jews and Gentiles in the process. The Jews are saved as Jews and the Gentiles as Gentiles. This fits with what the Scripture tells us of the church,

"But now in Christ Jesus ye that once were far off are made nigh in the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who made both one, and brake down the middle wall of partition, having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; that he might create in himself of the two one new man, so making peace; and might reconcile them both in one body unto God through the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: and he came and preached peace to you that were far off, and peace to them that were nigh: for through him we both have our access in one Spirit unto the Father. So then ye are no more strangers and sojourners, but ye are fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God, being built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the chief corner stone; in whom each several building, fitly framed together, groweth into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom ye also are builded together for a habitation of God in the Spirit. (Eph 2:13-22)

"This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel." (Eph 3:6)

Israel appears to exist even during the "times of the Gentiles", and the so-called church age. Paul speaks about how "he is a Jew who is one inwardly" (Romans 2:29), not merely with the outward qualifications but with the inward "circumcision" of the heart(but still with those outward qualifications). If there are no Jews in the church then why did Paul use the term? Yes we have verses like "For they are not all Israel, that are of Israel…" (Rom 9:6), but, and I know most pretrib folks would agree with me in this, members of Israel to whom God has chosen to show mercy, they are Israel (Romans 11:7). God did not cast off all of Israel, Paul himself pointed out that he himself was an Israelite and that there was, even at that time, a remnant of Israel who believed (Romans 11:5). The believing remnant of Israel, then and now, is the "the Israel of God" in Galatians 6:16, and, here is where I differ from pretrib rapture people, the "Israel of God" is apparently a part of the church. God is the God of both Jews and Gentiles, not by taking away their ethnic identity but by saving both by faith, thus making it possible to save Jews and Gentiles as Jews and Gentiles. The church is not a body of indistinguishable parts, but a body made up of many parts with different functions (1Cor 12:14-21).

And this fits the picture of the bride of the Lamb, in Revelation 21, "And there came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls, who were laden with the seven last plagues; and he spake with me, saying, Come hither, I will show thee the bride, the wife of the Lamb. And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God" (vs 9-10) This city has twelve gates with the names of the twelve tribes of Israel and the wall of the city has 12 foundations with the names of the 12 Apostles of the Lamb (see vs. 12-14).

I do not see that it is biblical to believe that God will set up the "wall of enmity" between Jews and Gentiles again in the future, nor to think that that believing Gentiles of that time will be made "strangers and aliens" yet again. Rather it appears more biblical to believe that any believing Gentile at that time will still have "access in one Spirit", with the Jews, to "the Father"(Eph 2:13-22). They will still be reconciled to God together, as Jews and Gentiles, "in one body through the cross(vs 16)". This body will still be "built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone"(Eph 2:20). I repeat: that fits with the picture of the bride of the Lamb pictured in Revelation 21: 9-14 which includes the twelve sons of Israel.

I am still a premilennialist who has strong dispensational leanings, I still believe that God has a plan for Israel, that they will repent when Christ comes again and that He will give them the promised earthly land of Israel in the future and that Christ will reign over them for a thousand years on this earth. But I think that it is biblical to believe that even that this saved Israel of the future will be a part of Christ's body, the church. The Israel of God is a separate entity from Gentiles who are chosen of God, but they are 'separate' and yet in one body, the church. 
In other words, I believe that it is biblically consistent to think that the church will be on the earth during the tribulation, and that living believers will be gathered up/raptured with the resurrected saints when Christ comes again to the earth at the end of the tribulation. 
I thought that the writers of this book did a good job at defending their points, they made sense, they just didn't make enough biblical sense to me, for reasons like the ones given above. I just wasn't convinced. But It was a very interesting and intriguing read, I would recommend it to anyone wanting to study the pre-trib rapture position.

Many thanks to the folks at MoodyNewsroom for sending me a free review copy of this book! (My review did not have to be favorable)

This book may be purchased at (among other websites):  Amazon and Christian Book Distributors