Sunday, March 24, 2013

Accidental Pharisees by Larry Osborne

           For those who have been believers in Jesus Christ and have been a part of a structured church for any length of time, it can be very easy to quickly assess how spirituality is measured and who's at the top of the 'pecking order', whether written rules for the system exist or even if they don't. One of the dangers in entering any such church system is that we can accidentally impose our definition of what it means to be 'spirtual' on everyone else around us, and thereby become a modern day Pharisee. And this is only a small part of what author Larry Osborne addresses in his book, Accidental Pharisees.
           Larry Osborne is the Pastor of North Coast Church in San Diego, California. He is a seasoned Pastor, author and church leader. And, as he openly confesses throughout the book, he has been guilty at times of being an accidental Pharisee. However, the book offers hope for those who are caught in the same traps he experienced, and it gives vital illustrations of the behavior so prevalent in many Christians that lend to fostering this faith debilitating condition.
           When you first hear the title and recognize the subject matter, you might be tempted to think "good, a lot of people need to hear this". However, after reading through only a few pages, you will be more inclined to muse "wow, I really need to hear this". Because,  the author goes beyond the mere modern conceptions of a Pharisee's behavior and examines the attitudes so prevalent in all of us that can threaten our relationship with God and others when not properly kept in check.
           The book has 7 different sections, each addressing one of the areas where we can unintentionally move toward Pharisee like behavior. Addressing issues such as pride, exclusivity, legalism and idolizing the past, Pastor Larry works at exploring not only the ways can exhibit these tendencies, but also the scriptural proof texts used to support them, in addition to the verses typically avoided by those who practice these positions.
           I particularly enjoyed the chapter on Joseph of Arimathea, the disciple nobody wants to be. It explores our definitions of what we think is acceptable, verses what God thinks is acceptable. And I have to admit that although I was looking forward to reading this book, I had to go 'ouch' at several parts of it...which can making reading somewhat uncomfortable. Nonetheless, I was able to finish the book rather quickly and I found it to be an important addition to my 'glad I read that' list.
              This book was given to me complimentary as a part of the book review program for bloggers at . I debated whether or not to give it 5 stars or just 4. I mean, after all, I was convicted at times and I thought books were supposed to be just for pleasure, not for study, personal application (did I mention the discussion questions at the end of each chapter?) and growth. Isn't that just for everybody else? No, I decided to give the book a 5 star rating, because if you're anything ike the rest of us, you may discover by reading it that there are areas you too can adjust to become more like Jesus and less like an accidental Pharisee.

Monday, March 18, 2013

God's Not Dead


                  Rice Broocks is no stranger to the controversial questions that arise from skeptics when the Christian faith is discussed in the various parts of the globe where he has ministered. As a seasoned Pastor, church planter, author and leader, he has been challenged to address a variety of "hot button topics" which continually arise from those who have unanswered inquiries about God, creation, faith and the proof surrounding these bedrocks of Christian doctrine. And, one of the ways he has developed that directly confronts these issues for those who are curious is his newest book, entitled "God's Not Dead - Evidence For God In An Age Of Uncertainty".
                  While the book can be considered primarily a tool to answer the questions of atheists, agnostics and skeptics, it is also designed in a way that can equip the saints to do the works of the ministry. One of those works can surely be considered going into all the world and preaching the Gospel to every creature. Undoubtedly, many of the topics he discusses in this manual will be those that believers everyewhere will confront when attempting to share a Christ-centered faith with those who believe otherwise.
                  The book is divided into ten chapters, each somewhat building upon the topic previously discussed in the prior chapter. Ranging from subjects such as "Good and Evil are no Illusions" to "Lie has Meaning and Purpose", there is a wide array of topics that are covered, which leads to a fuller understanding of the foundational beliefs of Christian faith. He attempts to address the most commonly heard issues of opposition and succeeds in his task.
                  The book and the topics discussed are vital to equip any believer to share their faith and to challenge non-Christians to examine more carefully the answers they assume they will receive when asking questions that are designed to thwart the faith of some. However, this book may not be easy for everyone to read. I, for one, am not very scientific in my natural inclination or understanding, so I found the chapters which addressed evolution based arguments and scientific discoveries to be less easy to finish. Yet, I am more familiar and comfortable with the truths surrounding the scriptures themselves, along with Jesus death, burial and resurrection, and this made those chapters simpler to digest and to grow from their material.
                 This book was given to me complimentary as a part of the book review program for bloggers at . If you are one who likes to study the subject known as 'apologetics' or if you are one who feels as though you have no answers when you find yourself in dialogue with an atheist or agnostic, than this may be a good choice for you to read. But, even if you don't fall into those categories, any believer can learn, grow more and strengthen their faith by reading this book, to face the onslaught of attacks that often confront Christians who endeavor to fulfill the great commission and to make disciples of all nations.