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Adult non-fiction, Book Reviews

Proverbs

by Jay E. Adams 1997 / 231 pages I grew up with a set of Calvin's Commentaries at my disposal for my Young People’s essays and while Calvin's thoughts were reliable and insightful, they weren't all that readable. For the longest time I thought that was just the way commentaries were – formal, and formidable. It was only when I came across Jay Adams’ “Christian Counselor’s Commentary” series that I learned otherwise. Adams is solidly Reformed, his insights reliable, and his commentary so enjoyably readable it could be used for personal devotions. The full text of Proverbs is included, which allows readers to take just the one book with them if they want to do a little study at the local coffee shop or park. This portability is a nice bonus. Adams is best known as the "father of biblical counseling." Forty-five years ago he reminded the church that looking after our spiritually weak and wounded is our job, and not simply to be off-loaded to secular psychologists and psychiatrists. Proverbs is a book of particular value to this work; it is in some ways the "owner's manual" for mankind. Adams ably shows how much wisdom – how much love – God has packed into each one of these proverbs. Help can be found here, and helpers equipped. I highly recommend this to elders, and also to anyone who wants a readable, reliable, Reformed commentary. This is available as a purchase in Logos Bible software, but at this point only used copies can be found in print. ...

Assorted

Age

Editor’s note: When Dr. Adams turned 90 this year, his colleague, Donn Arms, was reminded of a prayer Adams had written back in 1978 for a book titled, Prayers for Troubled Times. Adams was nearing 50 at the time, and the prayer is one that may inspire many middle-aged readers to speak something similar to our God. And for younger readers, it offers something to consider: what would an older you wish the younger you had done more of? **** I’m tired. _____As I grow older _____fatigue comes sooner. _____This worn and weary frame _____no longer functions _____as it once did. That I may continue to serve You _____and live the rest of my days _____to their full _____is my prayer. I know, Lord, that I must learn _____to recognize limitations, _____to choose among opportunities, _____to eliminate excess baggage. But that knowledge comes hard. _____I am not wise; _____I need to understand _____much more that I now know _____of the practical application _____of your Word _____to these matters. Forgive me Lord _____for not learning sooner, _____for wasting time _____and dissipating energy _____I now wish I had. _____I see the importance _____of these commodities _____now that I am beginning _____to run short of them. I want to serve You _____to the end, _____not in a lackluster manner, _____nor in weariness of flesh, _____but vivaciously, _____conserving and wisely using _____all my remaining strength __________for Your glory, _______________Amen. This is reprinted with permission from a February 6 post at Nouthetic.org....

Theology

Forgiveness

What a wonderful word! Yet, what does it mean? How do you grant forgiveness; and, for what? As much as Christians talk about forgiveness, you’d think they could tell you all about it. Yet, there is hardly one in a thousand who can give sound, Biblical answers to the questions above. Forgiveness of others is to be modeled on one’s own forgiveness by Christ: “… forgiving one another just as God, in Christ has forgiven you” (Eph. 4:32). Forgiveness must be extended to all who say they repent – even if the offense has been repeated (Cf. Luke 17:3). But it is only to be granted to those who confess wrong-doing, claim to be repentant, and ask forgiveness (Prov. 28:13). In Mk. 11:25, Jesus tells you to forgive those who wronged you when you pray, thereby avoiding bitterness and resentment (Eph. 4:32). But, that is different from granting the wrongdoer forgiveness. You do that only when he repents. Forgiveness of others must reflect god’s forgiveness; He forgave you when you repented. Forgiveness is others-focused Some Christians advise forgiving another whether or not he confesses sin. But they misunderstood forgiveness. They urge this to benefit the one who forgives. Yet, it was for your benefit that God forgave you. Their self-centered concept of forgiveness is unbiblical. God did not forgive you until you repented, admitted you were a sinner, and believed. Indeed, even now, when God dispenses parental forgiveness, He says, “…if you don’t forgive men, then your Father won’t forgive your transgressions” (Matt. 6:15). Some think when Christ prayed from the cross, “Father, forgive them,” He forgave apart from repentance. But Jesus granted no one forgiveness by those words. He was asking God to forgive. Did God answer? Yes. On the day of Pentecost, thousands of those same people were converted, and their sins were forgiven. But, that did not happen apart from the means. Peter called on them to repent and believe in order to receive forgiveness (Cf. Acts 2:38). Pre-emptive forgiveness prevents pursuit Because in forgiving one promises not to bring up the offender’s sin, to him, to others, or to himself, it is not right to forgive before repentance. Jesus requires you to confront an offender (Matt. 18:15ff) in order to bring about reconciliation. If he refuses to listen to you, instead of forgiving him, you must tell one or two others. If he won’t hear them, then you must tell the church. Indeed, apart from repentance, the matter, must be brought up to an increasingly larger number of persons. Why? Through their aid to win the offender. In love, true forgiveness seeks not to relieve the forgiver, but to deliver the offender from his burden of guilt. Out of concern for the other person, the offended party pursues the offender until the matter is settled before God and men. Any bitterness on his part, Jesus said, must be dealt with in prayer. Because forgiveness is a promise not to refer negatively to the offender’s sin any more, it would be utterly inconsistent to forgive an unrepentant person before Church discipline has been successfully used. People who try to be kinder than God, end up becoming cruel to others. The kind thing is not to focus on relief for one’s self, by forgiving others whether they repent or not, but by every Biblical means to win offenders. It may seem unkind to bring matters up again and again when an offender refuses to be reconciled, but you must do so, not to irritate, but to help relieve him of the burden of his sin. To ignore him and focus on one’s self, saying, “feel better since I forgave Bob, even though he didn’t seek forgiveness,” is the epitome of the modern, self-centered psychological heresy. Apologizing is not repenting Seeking forgiveness is not apologizing. There is nothing in the Bible about apologizing – the World’s substitute for forgiveness that doesn’t get the job done. You apologize, and say “I’m Sorry,” but have not admitted your sin. The offended party feels awkward, not knowing how to respond. You are still holding the ball. You asked him to do nothing. But, confess your sin to him saying, “I have asked God to forgive me, and now I’m asking you,” and you pass the ball to the other person. You ask him to bury the matter for good. Jesus commands him to say “yes,” thereby making the promise that God does: “Your sins and you iniquities will I remember against you no more.” That brings the matter to a conclusion. Apologizing does not. Don’t wait! Is there someone to whom you should go ask forgiveness? Has someone sought it from you to whom you said “Once, yes; twice, maybe; three times, no!”? Perhaps there is someone whom you have never confronted about a matter that has brought about an unreconciled condition between you. Are any of these problems outstanding? Then you have business to attend to. Why not settle the matter today? You don’t have to feel like it to forgive. Forgiveness is a promise that you can make and keep, whether you feel like it or not. And, it is easier to forgive another – even when he sins against you seven times a day – when you remember Christ’s great sacrifice for you sins by which He forgave you. And, then too, remember how many times a day He forgives you ever since you have become a believer. One other fact may help. If you have truly forgiven, it isn’t the fifth, or the third; it’s not even the second time. If you have truly buried the matter, truly forgiven – it’s always the first. Dr. Jay Adams is Dean of the Institute for Nouthetic Studies and the author of more than 100 books. This post first appeared on his blog at www.nouthetic.org and is reprinted here with permission....

News

Saturday Selections - Nov 4, 2017

Sing a little louder As we approach Remembrance Day, this powerful nine-minute film serves as a reminder that there are battles to be fought today too. It's about a German church during WWII that liked to sing praises to God. What could be wrong with that? Singing God's praises is good, right? While we all know that evil is a temptation, we need to understand our hearts are so deceitful we can use even good deeds to distract ourselves from doing what God is really calling us to (Luke 10:38-42). Big parts of accepted "Science" aren't scientific From the article: "Evolutionists have frequently criticized creationism as unscientific because of its basic commitment to the doctrine of creation ex nihilo—that is, 'creation out of nothing.' The idea that God simply called the universe into existence by His own power, without using any preexisting materials, is rejected out of hand by evolutionists since this would involve supernatural action, which is unscientific by definition – that is, by their definition. Yet, evolutionary cosmogonists maintain that the universe evolved itself out of nothing!" Martin Luther and Jay Adams Jay Adams has often been called "the Martin Luther of biblical counseling," and in this article the author makes clear why that is such an appropriate comparison. Suicidal trend in Young Adult/Teen fiction In the typical public library, the Teen/Young Adult section will feature novels and nonfiction that promote sexual experimentation, make light of suicide, attacks Christianity, and pushes gender confusion. As this Breakpoint piece also emphasizes, parents need to be aware that Young Adult/Teen books are a spiritual battleground! Wonderful news - extreme poverty has been halved! Overwhelmed by a constant diet of bad news? Then consider this: God is blessing the world in an enormous way that most aren't even aware of. Over the last 20 years, something unprecedented has happened – extreme poverty has been halved. Even as the population continues to grow, the number of people in extreme poverty decreased from 1.7 billion in 1999 to 0.8 billion in  2013. The fatal flaw with Assisted Suicide This video clip highlights the fatal flaw in assisted suicide. Today in Canada, we no longer view death as an enemy to be fought, but a treatment to be offered. And when we start viewing death as mercy, then our "angels of mercy" are going to start pushing death. As Christians, we understand that while we don't need to fear death - Christ has conquered it! - death is still an enemy. It is gross perversion to portray killing as mercy. Every one of us is made in His Image, and precious, and every life is a gift from God....

Religion, Religion - Mormons

Mormons and Masons have their secrets. We don’t.

There’s nothing esoteric about the Christian faith. There is no secret mystery into which you must become initiated in order to be admitted. It’s not like the Gnostic sects where one had to become an initiate for years before he became a full member. Jesus spoke to this issue plainly when He said in John 18:19: "I have spoken openly to the world. I always taught in synagogues, or in the temple court, where all the Jews assemble, and I didn’t teach anything secretly." Christianity isn’t Masonry, or Mormonism, where you take vows “never to reveal and always to conceal” rituals that you are required to perform in a Lodge meeting or in a “temple” ceremony. It has always been completely aboveboard about its beliefs and practices. Indeed, as Jesus said, He always spoke “openly.” If an organization – or pseudo church – has anything worthwhile to offer, let it be open to examination. How can anyone vow to never reveal something before he knows what it is? That is one form of what the Bible calls a rash vow (Prov. 20:25, Eccl. 5:2-7, Judges 11:29-40). It is sinful to make a vow that one doesn’t know whether or not he ought to keep before he knows what it is he is vowing to keep secret. Suppose, after taking a vow, one were to realize that he must expose the error or sinfulness of what he learns – he’d then find himself in an intolerable position. On the one hand, he’d be obligated to expose it; on the other hand he would have vowed not to do so. That is an unacceptable dilemma, one into which one must never allow himself to be inveigled. One more thought – if a group of any sort has something worth becoming a part of, it has no right to conceal it from anyone; but like our Lord said, it is something that should be proclaimed “openly to the world.” If it’s worthwhile, spread it abroad. Why would you selfishly cling to it as private truth? If it’s not something worthwhile, then don’t get into it in the first place. On every score, then, no Christian should ever become involved in a secret society. A fundamental principle of our faith is to preach the message of salvation to all the world. We have nothing to hide. Dr. Jay Adams is Dean of the Institute for Nouthetic Studies and the author of more than 100 books. This post first appeared on his blog at www.nouthetic.org and is reprinted here with permission....

Assorted

What to do when you don't know what to do

On the Institute for Nouthetic Studies blog, Dr. Jay Adams offered up some sound biblical advice on what to do when you don't know what to do. The gist of it? If we think some course of action we are considering might be against God's will, or we aren't really sure whether it is or isn't, then we must not do it. He points readers back to Romans 14:23, and notes that the problem here isn't the act itself – we don't know if it is sinful or not so it might turn out to be perfectly fine – but rather our attitude. "...you would be willing to do something that you thought might be sin — that is a sinful attitude. So even if the act — whatever it is — isn’t sin; your attitude in doing it is sin."   JUST DON'T DO IT... So, the principal here is, if in doubt, just don't do it. That is the way to honor God - inaction until we are sure that what we are about to do isn't sinful. Or as Jay Adams puts it, "whatever isn't done in faith is sin." This is a vital principal for Christians to keep in mind in our increasingly complex world. Today we face ethical dilemmas our grandparents never imagined. Should our floral shop make wedding bouquets for a same-sex "marriage"? How should we weigh the many end-of-life decisions we're being asked to make? Should we consider "snowflake" (embryo) adoptions? What should we think of transplant organs grown in pigs? Is it right or wrong to take advantage of this government program/rebate/tax credit? And then there are questions our grandparents probably were familiar with, and had to wrestle with too. Would God want me to date this girl or guy? Can I take a job if it isn't near any good churches? Should we buy this house or are the payments too high for our income? Lots of questions. And there are answers to many of them. But if we don't know the answer and we are worried that what we are about to do might be sinful then we should not proceed until we clear things up. ...UNTIL YOU CAN PROCEED WITH A CLEAR CONSCIENCE In the meantime, we can look into the problem – often times a dilemma can be resolved with study. We know, for example, that abortion is immoral. But what about those rare situations in which the mother will die if the pregnancy continues? We might not know what to think at first. But when we look deeper we will realize that in these circumstances abortion will be allowed. Why? Because, even as we acknowledge the baby is fully human, when two lives are at risk and we can only save one, then we should act to save that one. But what of the ethical dilemmas in which the line is blurry? What about, for example, a situation in which the mother's life is in danger, but only to a degree? Just how deadly a risk does it need to be before abortion is a moral option? No sharp line can be drawn here. BUT WHAT ABOUT WHEN WE HAVE TO DO SOMETHING? Here is where we have to expand on the principal Jay Adams has presented. Adams is right, God doesn't want us to proceed when we are worried our actions might be sinful. But like much of what God teaches in the Bible, this rule can be taken too far – this rule could lead to incapacitating introspection, where a Christian does nothing because they are so worried that whatever they do might be sinful. Then it is important to remember that in some cases (like considering abortion to save the life of the mother) not acting is also a decision. Sometimes inaction is not an option; our dilemma is between two different actions, and we are uncertain about either. In these circumstances it may be impossible and immoral to defer our decision. All we can do then is manage what biblical study we can in the time we have, pray to God for wisdom, and make the best decision we can. But in situations where inaction is safe/moral, and we are worried that are contemplated action might not be, we shouldn't proceed until we are sure this action is indeed pleasing to God....