Category Archives: Faith

The Wisdom of the Elderly and the Culture of Death

“A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.”

In September my congregation celebrated the 90th birthday of Elder Emeritus Mr. Sehon. He had turned ninety years old, and has been married for over 70 years. He isn’t in quite the shape he was likely in when he was my age: He sometimes struggles to stay awake during the sermons, and even spills his coffee sometimes. He doesn’t get around very well anymore, and can’t drive himself to Church.

Recently, on the Lord’s Day, I got to see his face when the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper was brought to him and his wife. His face lit up, as if Jesus Christ was meeting him there. He then gently handed a piece of the bread and a cup of wine to his wife. Even after over 70 years of marriage he holds her hand during the service.

He was an elder in another congregation for many years prior to ending up in my congregation. With this in mind, and out of respect for him and his service to the Church as a whole, the session made him Elder Emeritus.

Because he is unable to drive, one of the elders gives him a ride to Church every week. How I wish I was privy to the conversations they have before and after the Lord’s Day service. The influence he has on this elder isn’t readily apparent, but I am sure it is considerable. I can’t begin to imagine how Mr. Sehon has influenced me indirectly through the elders and the other members of our congregation.

Unfortunately, many people who are younger than our Elder Emeritus would rather enter into death than to continue in this life where they could be a positive influence to the young, leaving behind a legacy.

On “The Briefing” Thursday Dr. Albert Mohler read a story about a 65 year old woman who said she prefers euthanasia over continuing in this life if she can no longer attend the theater, or if she becomes unable to get around on her own. Is life worth so little to her that she would prefer hers end rather than to give up some of her personal autonomy with the need to rely on others? What legacy is she leaving behind letting the wisdom she should have accrued over the years perish with her rather than passing it on to the younger generations? What this says of her opinion of the Law of God, which forbids suicide is a matter for another time. I’ll just leave a reference to Westminster Larger Catechism questions 134 through 136 here for that.

As I listened to Dr. Mohler my thoughts drifted to our Elder Emeritus, imagining if he and the other elderly in our congregation were to decide they would rather perish than to encourage us with God’s grace and the wisdom He has given them. How much wisdom would be lost? How many avoidable mistakes would we as individuals make because we didn’t receive from those who have gone before us? How much of our sanctification are we missing out on? Is avoiding that loss of personal autonomy worth it neglecting the benefits the elderly can provide to us? Obviously, I don’t think so. I’ll close with question 129 from the Westminster Larger Catechism, on the subject of positive use of the 5th Commandment.

Q. 129. What is required of superiors towards their inferiors?
A. It is required of superiors, according to that power they receive from God, and that relation wherein they stand, to love, pray for, and bless their inferiors; to instruct, counsel, and admonish them; countenancing, commending, and rewarding such as do well; and discountenancing, reproving, and chastising such as do ill; protecting, and providing for them all things necessary for soul and body: and by grave, wise, holy, and exemplary carriage, to procure glory to God, honor to themselves, and so to preserve that authority which God hath put upon them.

Adopting the Greek Way of Life

This excerpt is from 2nd Maccabees 4, a historical intertestamental apocryphal book. That is, it isn’t part of the Old or New Testament, and it is not Scripture. But, it is a mostly accurate history of part of the intertestamental period.

This passage stuck out to me, as it sounds like the seeker driven / purpose driven churches. Adopting “the Greek way of life” and turning away from the things God has commanded. Exchanging the worship of God Most High for things that please the world, and the wordly within their churches. Rather than the faith once for all delivered to the saints, preaching life changing messages of moralism, works, and practical life tips for living well. Or, in the case of many of the seeker-driven churches, especially during the summer, showing movie clips that exhibit worldly wisdom or entertainment rather than God’s Word.

7 When Seleucus died and Antiochus, who was called Epiphanes, succeeded to the kingdom, Jason the brother of Onias obtained the high priesthood by corruption, 8 promising the king at an interview three hundred sixty talents of silver, and from another source of revenue eighty talents. 9 In addition to this he promised to pay one hundred fifty more if permission were given to establish by his authority a gymnasium and a body of youth for it, and to enroll the people of Jerusalem as citizens of Antioch. 10 When the king assented and Jason came to office, he at once shifted his compatriots over to the Greek way of life.

11 He set aside the existing royal concessions to the Jews, secured through John the father of Eupolemus, who went on the mission to establish friendship and alliance with the Romans; and he destroyed the lawful ways of living and introduced new customs contrary to the law. 12 He took delight in establishing a gymnasium right under the citadel, and he induced the noblest of the young men to wear the Greek hat. 13 There was such an extreme of Hellenization and increase in the adoption of foreign ways because of the surpassing wickedness of Jason, who was ungodly and no true high priest, 14 that the priests were no longer intent upon their service at the altar. Despising the sanctuary and neglecting the sacrifices, they hurried to take part in the unlawful proceedings in the wrestling arena after the signal for the discus-throwing, 15 disdaining the honors prized by their ancestors and putting the highest value upon Greek forms of prestige. 16 For this reason heavy disaster overtook them, and those whose ways of living they admired and wished to imitate completely became their enemies and punished them. 17 It is no light thing to show irreverence to the divine laws — a fact that later events will make clear.

Just as this passage ends, the same will be true of those who exchange God’s word and commands for the world’s desires. Exchanging the Law and Gospel for entertainment and life tips. God will have the last word. It is no light thing to show irreverence to God’s laws — a fact that later events will make abundantly clear. Jesus is coming back, and He will judge  the quick and the dead, the false part of the visible Church will face judgment. Repent and believe the Gospel.

How doth it appear that the Scriptures are the Word of God?

Q. 4. How doth it appear that the Scriptures are of the Word of God?

A. The Scriptures manifest themselves to be the Word of God, by their majesty and purity; by the consent of all the parts, and the scope of the whole, which is to give all glory to God; by their light and power to convince and convert sinners, to comfort and build up believers unto salvation: but the Spirit of God bearing witness by and with the Scriptures in the heart of man, is alone able fully to persuade it that they are the very word of God. – Westminster Larger Catechism

I’m reading through Johannes G. Vos’ commentary on the Westminster Larger Catechism. His thoughts on this aspect of question four seem especially relevant. I know many believe the Bible to be errant, or at least fallible when it comes to some things, but that it contains truth when it comes to things regarding salvation. I agree with Doctor Vos, if we can’t trust all of the Bible then we can’t trust any of it.

We believe that the Scriptures are entirely free from errors, not because we find no apparent errors in the Bible, for it cannot be denied that a few apparent errors have been pointed out in the Bible, but because the Bible itself claims to be free from errors. Our belief about the Scriptures must not be an inference from facts of our own experience, but a formulation of the teachings of the Scriptures themselves about themselves. If we find some apparent errors in the Bible, that is a matter of our own experience as finders. But if we observe that the Bible represents itself as being free from errors, that is an observation concerning the teaching of the Bible. We must accept the Bible’s teaching about hell and other matters. The fact is that the Bible teaches that the Bible is inerrant. Even though we may have some unsolved problems concerning apparent errors in the Bible, still these problems do not justify setting aside the Bible’s teaching about itself, unless it can be proved that the Bible really contains errors, and that they exist in the genuine text of the Hebrew or Greek original. If that could be proved, the trustworthiness of the Bible as a teach of truth on all subjects would thereby be destroyed. If we are to trust the Bible in what it says about God and man, sin and salvation, we must also trust the Bible in what it says about its own infallibility. –  The Westminster Larger Catechism: A Commentary by Johannes G. Vos, edited by G.I. Williamson. pg 13 commentary on Westminster Larger Catechism Question 4

 

Truth Personified in First Esdras

Read this today and thought it was worth sharing. Which is strongest: wine, the king, or women?

One note, 1st Esdras is part of the Apocrypha, it is not Scripture, that said, it is interesting to read and much of it points to Christ.

[1 Esdras 3]
Return and restoration under Darius and Zerubbabel; The three young bodyguards in the court of Darius; The contest planned

1 Now King Darius gave a great banquet for all that were under him, all that were born in his house, and all the nobles of Media and Persia, 2 and all the satraps and generals and governors that were under him in the hundred twenty-seven satrapies from India to Ethiopia. 3 They ate and drank, and when they were satisfied they went away, and King Darius went to his bedroom; he went to sleep, but woke up again.

4 Then the three young men of the bodyguard, who kept guard over the person of the king, said to one another, 5 “Let each of us state what one thing is strongest; and to the one whose statement seems wisest, King Darius will give rich gifts and great honors of victory. 6 He shall be clothed in purple, and drink from gold cups, and sleep on a gold bed, and have a chariot with gold bridles, and a turban of fine linen, and a necklace around his neck; 7 and because of his wisdom he shall sit next to Darius and shall be called Kinsman of Darius.”

8 Then each wrote his own statement, and they sealed them and put them under the pillow of King Darius, 9 and said, “When the king wakes, they will give him the writing; and to the one whose statement the king and the three nobles of Persia judge to be wisest the victory shall be given according to what is written.” 10 The first wrote, “Wine is strongest.” 11 The second wrote, “The king is strongest.” 12 The third wrote, “Women are strongest, but above all things truth is victor.”

13 When the king awoke, they took the writing and gave it to him, and he read it. 14 Then he sent and summoned all the nobles of Persia and Media and the satraps and generals and governors and prefects, 15 and he took his seat in the council chamber, and the writing was read in their presence. 16 He said, “Call the young men, and they shall explain their statements.” So they were summoned, and came in. 17 They said to them, “Explain to us what you have written.”

In praise of the strength of wine

Then the first, who had spoken of the strength of wine, began and said: 18 “Gentlemen, how is wine the strongest? It leads astray the minds of all who drink it. 19 It makes equal the mind of the king and the orphan, of the slave and the free, of the poor and the rich. 20 It turns every thought to feasting and mirth, and forgets all sorrow and debt. 21 It makes all hearts feel rich, forgets kings and satraps, and makes everyone talk in millions. 22 When people drink they forget to be friendly with friends and kindred, and before long they draw their swords. 23 And when they recover from the wine, they do not remember what they have done. 24 Gentlemen, is not wine the strongest, since it forces people to do these things?” When he had said this, he stopped speaking.

[1 Esdras 4]
In praise of the strength of kings

1 Then the second, who had spoken of the strength of the king, began to speak: 2 “Gentlemen, are not men strongest, who rule over land and sea and all that is in them? 3 But the king is stronger; he is their lord and master, and whatever he says to them they obey. 4 If he tells them to make war on one another, they do it; and if he sends them out against the enemy, they go, and conquer mountains, walls, and towers. 5 They kill and are killed, and do not disobey the king’s command; if they win the victory, they bring everything to the king — whatever spoil they take and everything else. 6 Likewise those who do not serve in the army or make war but till the soil; whenever they sow and reap, they bring some to the king; and they compel one another to pay taxes to the king. 7 And yet he is only one man! If he tells them to kill, they kill; if he tells them to release, they release; 8 if he tells them to attack, they attack; if he tells them to lay waste, they lay waste; if he tells them to build, they build; 9 if he tells them to cut down, they cut down; if he tells them to plant, they plant. 10 All his people and his armies obey him. Furthermore, he reclines, he eats and drinks and sleeps, 11 but they keep watch around him, and no one may go away to attend to his own affairs, nor do they disobey him. 12 Gentlemen, why is not the king the strongest, since he is to be obeyed in this fashion?” And he stopped speaking.

In praise of the strength of women

13 Then the third, who had spoken of women and truth (and this was Zerubbabel), began to speak: 14 “Gentlemen, is not the king great, and are not men many, and is not wine strong? Who is it, then, that rules them, or has the mastery over them? Is it not women? 15 Women gave birth to the king and to every people that rules over sea and land. 16 From women they came; and women brought up the very men who plant the vineyards from which comes wine. 17 Women make men’s clothes; they bring men glory; men cannot exist without women. 18 If men gather gold and silver or any other beautiful thing, and then see a woman lovely in appearance and beauty, 19 they let all those things go, and gape at her, and with open mouths stare at her, and all prefer her to gold or silver or any other beautiful thing. 20 A man leaves his own father, who brought him up, and his own country, and clings to his wife. 21 With his wife he ends his days, with no thought of his father or his mother or his country. 22 Therefore you must realize that women rule over you!

“Do you not labor and toil, and bring everything and give it to women? 23 A man takes his sword, and goes out to travel and rob and steal and to sail the sea and rivers; 24 he faces lions, and he walks in darkness, and when he steals and robs and plunders, he brings it back to the woman he loves. 25 A man loves his wife more than his father or his mother. 26 Many men have lost their minds because of women, and have become slaves because of them. 27 Many have perished, or stumbled, or sinned because of women. 28 And now do you not believe me?

“Is not the king great in his power? Do not all lands fear to touch him? 29 Yet I have seen him with Apame, the king’s concubine, the daughter of the illustrious Bartacus; she would sit at the king’s right hand 30 and take the crown from the king’s head and put it on her own, and slap the king with her left hand. 31 At this the king would gaze at her with mouth agape. If she smiles at him, he laughs; if she loses her temper with him, he flatters her, so that she may be reconciled to him. 32 Gentlemen, why are not women strong, since they do such things?”

In praise of the strength of truth

33 Then the king and the nobles looked at one another; and he began to speak about truth: 34 “Gentlemen, are not women strong? The earth is vast, and heaven is high, and the sun is swift in its course, for it makes the circuit of the heavens and returns to its place in one day. 35 Is not the one who does these things great? But truth is great, and stronger than all things. 36 The whole earth calls upon truth, and heaven blesses it. All God’s works quake and tremble, and with him there is nothing unrighteous. 37 Wine is unrighteous, the king is unrighteous, women are unrighteous, all human beings are unrighteous, all their works are unrighteous, and all such things. There is no truth in them and in their unrighteousness they will perish. 38 But truth endures and is strong forever, and lives and prevails forever and ever. 39 With it there is no partiality or preference, but it does what is righteous instead of anything that is unrighteous or wicked. Everyone approves its deeds, 40 and there is nothing unrighteous in its judgment. To it belongs the strength and the kingship and the power and the majesty of all the ages. Blessed be the God of truth!” 41 When he stopped speaking, all the people shouted and said, “Great is truth, and strongest of all!”

1st Esdras 3-4 taken from the New Revised Standard Version

Grace based tipping?

This is an old post from my previous Xanga account (which at the time of this writing will be shutting down in a few weeks most likely.) It was brought to mind while listening to an episode of Freakonomics radio. (I am not endorsing Freakonomics, but the episode was interesting, and offers good tips for waitstaff who want better tips.)

Now, on to the retro post.

 

Tip jar

Dollarish featured a post about tipping. Tipping is something that always seems to get to me. So, I thought I would talk about it.

The post talked about reasons for leaving a poor tip: lousy service, expensive food, not having enough money, etc.

First, I’ll approach the second two, which are really the same issue. If you don’t have the money to pay for the food and for the service, then don’t eat out. If you feel the food is too expensive then eat somewhere that isn’t expensive. If you are shorting the waitress because you can’t afford the food, or because you decided the food is overpriced, then you’re making yourself look like a fool. It’s not her fault you can’t afford to, or are too cheap to eat there. Don’t punish them for your issues.

Now, in regards to the lousy service, I don’t tip based on service or at least not fully. God gives me grace not based on who I am or what I’ve done, but despite of both. I don’t deserve any of what He has done for me, and He has given to me generously. And I try to keep this in mind when tipping my waiter.I tip a waitress a minimum of $3, even if I only had a glass of tea and no food, it’s not her fault that I didn’t order a meal. I go with that minimum of $3, or if it is more expensive I tip a minimum of 20-25% of the total regardless of the service. If the waitress does a good job than I give more, but, never less.

Sadly, from my experience, most Christians tip very poorly, and tip based off of things either beyond the waiter’s control (You know Sunday lunch is incredibly busy in most places right?) or based on the waiter’s works. We are given grace despite of our works, we should treat the waitress with that same grace. If we choose to tip poorly it makes us look unloving and even cruel. We aren’t any better than the people who are waiting on us. “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”

How do you tip? What do you think about tipping based off of grace? If you have been a waiter/waitress, what impression do you get of a person based on their tips?

J. Gresham Machen on the Department of Education

I came across this on the Center for Reformed Theology and Apologetics website. (Reformed.org) It is a really good read regarding the federal department of education, which Dr. Machen opposed. He gives his reasons for opposing it, along with addressing questions from some of the politicians who were in favor of it. Had the government listened to Dr. Machen I think public schools, and this country as a whole, would be in much better shape today.

If you haven’t already, I would encourage you to read my short post from yesterday and download a free copy of Dr. Machen’s book “Christianity and Liberalism.”

Testimony before the House & Senate Committees on the Proposed Department of Education (1926)

J. Gresham Machen (1881-1937)


Dr. J. Gresham Machen
Dr. J. Gresham Machen

The following is a transcript of the proceedings of the Senate Committee on Education and Labor, and the House Committee on Education, February 25, 1926, Congress of the United States, Washington D.C. Continue reading J. Gresham Machen on the Department of Education

Christianity and Liberalism

Dr. J. Gresham Machen
Dr. J. Gresham Machen

Liberalism, in the sense of the liberal movement in the Christian church in the 1800s, which still continues today as can be seen herehere, and in the emergent movement, is a poison in the visible Christian church. I say the visible church, as there comes a point where liberals deny Christ, deny the Trinity, the resurrection, the virgin birth of Christ, the deity of Christ, deny penal substitutionary atonement, or deny something else that invalidates the Gospel in the minds of those who believe it, and as such can no longer be considered to be Christian at all.

It is a sickness, a cancer, that spreads, among some that would lead them to turn away from the truth about God’s word, denying its inerrancy, and eventually denying its power and truth. It is unfortunately, also fueled somewhat by the public school system.

In the early 1900s, John Gresham Machen, combated what was then modern liberalism, with his book “Christianity and Liberalism.” One of his points in that amazing book, which I will link to a free copy of at the bottom of this post, was that Liberal Christianity is not Christianity at all. Instead, it is a new religion that seeks to corrupt the Christian church.

While Machen didn’t put an end to it, he dealt a significant blow to it for quite some time. I think the two world wars, and the bloodiest century of all time, may have played a role in curbing it as well. It seems that liberalism isn’t compatible with the real world, or how broken and fallen the real world is. Unfortunately, in our time of mostly peace in the United States, at least as far as the average citizen observes, the cancer began to grow back, and we have the post modern emergents. It is nothing new, different faces for the same old heresies. Tony Jones, Doug Pagitt, Rob Bell, Brian McLaren, and Greg Boyd being among the leaders of the new post-modern liberals emergents.

What they all have in common starts with a denial of the truth of Scripture. It starts with denying things that “no one can really know for sure,” and “things that don’t really matter all that much,” and moves on to denying the deity of Christ, the reality of hell, and Jesus being the only way to God.

Like all heresies, they are defeated by generations that came before us, but they grow back with slight mutations and must be defeated again by another generation of Christians.

Thankfully, history, and God’s providence are on our side.

That book, Christianity and Liberalism, is as powerful and relevant today as it was in 1923 when it was first published. The book is no longer under copyright as the copyright has expired. So, please feel free to download a free copy today, and to distribute it as much as you are able to. Please, for your own benefit, and the benefit of the Christian church as a whole, read it. (epub | pdf)

To read the book, I suggest Aldiko, MoonReader, or Nook for Android. Calibre works for Windows. I know there are apps for iOS, but sadly, I don’t know which to recommend, maybe Nook app for it as well?


I originally posted this on my Xanga last year. Initially I wrote this as a response to the two posts linked to at the beginning. Today I was considering removing the links, but as they serve as an example of modern liberalism, I have decided to leave them in. I haven’t had dialog with the two men since that time and I don’t know where they stand today. If you feel lead, prayer for them is appreciated.

It is well with my soul

Horatio SpaffordHoratio Spafford was a well known and well to do lawyer, real estate investor, and church elder in 1860s Chicago, he was also good friends with famed preacher D.L. Moody. In 1870 him and his wife lost their only son to scarlet fever, he was four at the time. One year later in 1871 every one of his properties he had invested in along Lake Michigan in Chicago were destroyed by the “Great Chicago Fire”

After all of the stress of losing a son, and then losing all of his investments he decided to take his wife and four daughters to Europe to join his good friend D.L. Moody in sharing the Gospel. Not having planes back then they had to take a boat. They traveled from Chicago to New York to board a boat, the “Ville de Havre.” 

The family was ready to go, but, at the last minute a real estate deal that Horatio was involved in had to be handled. This forced him to return to Chicago. So, to avoid ruining the family vacation, he sent on his wife and four daughters ahead saying he would catch up with them soon.Nine days later, in Chicago, Horatio received a telegram from his wife who was now in Wales. The telegram read, “saved alone.”

spafford - telegram 1

On November 2nd, 1873 the “Ville de Havre” had collided with the “Lochearn”, an English boat. It took the boat only 12 minutes to sink, killing 226 of it’s passengers including Horatio and Anna’s four daughters. Anna Spafford had stood bravely on the deck, with her daughters Annie, Maggie, Bessie and Tanetta clinging desperately to her. Her last memory had been of her baby being torn violently from her arms by the force of the waters. Anna was only saved from the fate of her daughters by a plank which floated beneath her unconscious body and propped her up.

Ville de HavreWhen the survivors of the wreck had been rescued, Mrs. Spafford’s first reaction was one of complete despair. Then she heard a voice speak to her, “You were spared for a purpose.” And she immediately recalled the words of a friend, “It’s easy to be grateful and good when you have so much, but take care that you are not a fair-weather friend to God.”

Upon hearing the news Horatio immediately boarded a boat out of New York to meet his wife in Europe. Upon reaching the place where the “Ville de Havre” had sunk the captain called him to the deck. A careful reckoning has been made”, he said, “and I believe we are now passing the place where the de Havre was wrecked. The water is three miles deep.”

Upon visiting the place where his daughter’s had met their watery death Horatio wrote a poem. A poem that we now know as the classic hymn, “It Is Well With My Soul.” He based the poem loosely off of a passage in 2nd Kings chapter 4. A story of a woman who had lost her only son.

In the midst of great sorrow, terrible agony, and the loss of all of his children and riches Horatio wrote this beautiful and classic hymn:

<Audio from Together for the Gospel men singing this hymn. (YouTube)>

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

It is well, with my soul,It is well
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Horatio’s hope wasn’t with the present, he looked past the pain and anguish he must have felt and instead trusted that the God He trusted in, the God who’s grace He was originally going to Europe to preach, would hold him and give him peace.

After this tragedy the Spaffords had three more children, one boy, Horatio Goertner, Bertha Herges, and Grace. Again, Horatio would lose his only son to illness. Horatio Goertner died of pneumonia at the age of 4. After the loss of his son Horatio and family moved to Jerusalem where they would live doing philanthropic work until Horatio died of Malaria in 1888.

Barabbas

I wrote this a few years ago, but a Twitter discussion reminded me of it. Enjoy!

barabbas

Today, I, Jesus bar Abbas (more commonly known as Barabbas, as to not be confused with another man by the name of Jesus), was supposed to be crucified.

You see, I was what many would refer to as a terrorist. I didn’t mean to start as a terrorist however. I saw the evils that the Roman rulers had inflicted upon my people, and I had to resist. I considered myself a freedom fighter. My group and I started out by killing select Roman government leaders and officials. When the Romans reacted by killing my people, that is the Jews, the Pharisees turned against my group of revolutionaries. They were turning in my men, and I had to do something! We only had a small group to begin with, and I couldn’t lose more, we couldn’t fight off the Romans with what we had, let alone losing more men! So, at that point we killed a few of the Pharisees who were turning in my men. I didn’t want to kill my own people, but, I thought I was left without a choice.

After losing a few of my better men either because of their death to Roman soldiers, crucifixion by the Roman government, or for them leaving over their “moral issues” I had to recruit more men. These new men didn’t hold to the same high standards as we had held to in the past. So, my group now consisted of the rag tags of society. Now not only did we kill Romans, but we often robbed Jews as well. Some of them would fight back, and we’d have to kill them. Some of the men even took to raping of the Roman women, and on a few occasion even the Jewish women.

On one occasion we set out to rob a guy, one of those temple workers, and it turned out to be the son of Caiaphas, the high priest! The priests had mostly left us alone, seemingly in ways even supporting our cause, until this happened. We didn’t know who he was when we set out to rob him, but he fought back and I killed him in the struggle. We didn’t realize who it was until after I had killed him. This infuriated Caiaphas. He then used his influence with Governor Pilate to have my men attacked by a legion of Roman soldiers. That was the end of my failed revolution. They came upon us with amazing force horribly outnumbering us, we never stood a chance. They did take a few of us alive, the leadership that is. It seems killing us wasn’t enough for them, we had to be put through the brutality of the cross. The cross is far worse than anything I had ever done to anyone I had killed. The thought of facing it sickened me.

I was tried and found guilty, rightfully so. I sat in prison for two months just waiting for that horrible day to come.

When the appointed time for my crucifixion came, there was a man, Jesus of Nazareth, who claimed to be the “King of the Jews.” He even claimed to be God! He was to be executed on the same day as I.

He didn’t seem to be an “insurrectionist” as I was, he didn’t even look capable of violence. I had heard that when he was captured he didn’t even try to fight back. I had heard rumors, even in prison, that this man could heal people and that he was one of the rabbinic teachers, and a few even said he was the Son of God. If he were the son of God why did he let himself get captured? He mustn’t be that spectacular to get himself captured. He did have quite the following though.

That day was Passover, and the Roman government had always allowed the Jews to set one prisoner free just prior to his execution. I knew it wouldn’t be me, I was hated. I had killed so many people, mostly Roman, but many Jewish as well. And Caiaphas, the high priest, would see to it that I wasn’t even given a chance to be set free. It would certainly be this “Jesus” that they would set free, he was harmless. They would just beat him a bit, and set him free. He wouldn’t have to crucified like I would be.

When it was time for the people to choose who they would set free I heard a large crowd, much bigger than any other time I had had ever seen. They were chanting “Crucify him!” over and over again. At about this time some of the soldiers brought me out from the prison and to where the governor was speaking in front of the crowd.

The man they were chanting about was this Jesus of Nazareth. It seemed to me that he was innocent of all crimes but they wanted him dead for some reason. And that’s when Pilate had the soldiers present me in front of the crowd. He gave the people the choice between setting me free, or setting this Jesus free.

I knew what the answer would be, there is no way they would let me go after all that I had done. But it did seem that Pilate really wanted to let him go. When he presented us I knew what the choice would be. I would be taken to die, while the Nazarene would be set free.

But, to my surprise they kept shouting “crucify him! crucify him!”.

Then Pilate got the crowd to quiet down he asked them, “Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?”

I’ll never forget what happened next, the priests got the crowd chanting my name, Barabbas. They were going to set me free and crucify the Nazarene. Pilate asked them again, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And again the crowd yelled my name.

With that Pilate signaled for the soldiers to release me. I immediately ran off into the crowd, and kept on going until I couldn’t see the crowd anymore not wanting Pilate to change his mind. As I was running I heard him shout “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” The crowds response sickened me, “Let him be crucified.” As I was running that’s all I heard from them.

The Jesus, the Nazarene, the one they say is “King of the Jews” never did argue or fight back from what I saw and have heard. He just took it, he didn’t argue at his trial, and he didn’t argue when the people chose to set me free. When they chose me to be set free he made eye contact with me, and it looked like for a second he was happy. As if he was happy to see me set free, pardoned of all of my crimes. It’s as if he wanted to die so I could be set free.

Later on I met with some of his followers, they have some wild claims. They claim that even during his crucifixion he was forgiving people for what they were doing to him. Most people when they are being crucified will try to get what little revenge they can, they’ll cuss at, spit, and even pee, on the people below them. Jesus didn’t do this, he forgave the people! How could he do this? How could he die on the cross that was meant for me and forgive the people who were doing it to him? This man was innocent, and he died for the crimes I was guilty of, the crimes that I should have been crucified for.

The other claim his followers make is that 3 days later his tomb was empty, and that he walked, talked, and ate with them after. He eventually went to Heaven, and is said to be coming back again some day. I now look forward to that day, when I can finally thank him for saving me from the punishment that I deserved and giving his life for mine.

The Conviction to Lead by Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr.

Book Cover: The Conviction to Lead by Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr.I don’t expect this will be something I’ll do often, as my book reviews tend to go on my other, less personal, blog. However, the author of the book, Dr. Mohler, gave me an autographed pre-release copy of the book. So, with that in mind, I will be posting my review here first, and then at my other blog in a day or so.

Leadership is a genre I tend to stay away from. Typically, I would expect leadership books to be shallow, self-centered, and a waste of time. Even more so in the genre of leadership books that are written by Christians, as most leadership has a secular business model in mind, rather than leadership within the Church or a Christian organization. So, what do you do when a man you highly respect writes a book on leadership, gives you a free copy and autographs it? You read it, learn from it, and review it, of course.

Dr. Mohler set out to make his leadership book different from others in the genre, not only to be different, but to change the way we view leadership. He wants to change things, so we view leadership as “leading with belief and conviction.”

This book is written with the concern that far too much of what passes for leadership today is mere management. Without convictions you might be able to manage, but you cannot really lead.

He focuses mostly on convictions, where they come from, what they must be, and where they lead us. Without convictions, leadership is merely management. From there, Mohler talks about the characteristics one must develop if they want to lead well. Some of those characteristics being keeping up with the happenings in the world and communicating to the world. He includes some practical tips as on how to do this, how to read, what to read, etc. along with deeper aspects, such as developing character, and how to speak with passion and conviction. The book ends talking about time, patience, endurance, death, and legacy. Without patience, one won’t endure, and their convictions will die with them, rather than leaving a legacy that shapes the organization for years to come.

Despite not being a genre I have much interest in, I enjoyed the book. It is broken into 25 small chapters, each one covering a particular topic. The format makes for a quick read, and should make it easy to go back and reread portions as a reminder to reinforce what one has learned.

Another aspect I enjoyed was when Dr. Mohler shared stories of how he learned to lead, and his leadership experiences at Southern Seminary.

From what I’ve seen, many leadership books are from questionable pastors who’s beliefs are soft, often times it is questionable if these self proclaimed leaders are even believers. Although knowledgeable about business leadership, they don’t seem to live a life that reflects the teachings of our Lord and Savior, much less lead those around them in a biblical manner.

It is one thing to write a book about leadership, it is another to be a successful Christian leader who is shaping our world today, and then document how he got there and how he leads. Dr. Mohler, is a credible source, known for his convictions, and with the experience that comes from leading one of the biggest and most influential seminaries in the nation. With this reputation, his book which documents how he leads, and why it works, is a must read.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone looking to pastor a church or to run a Christian or other charitable organization. I’m not in any of those categories, but I did enjoy the book, and I feel I did learn from it. I’m also grateful to Southern Seminary and Dr. Mohler for giving me the book, autographing it,  and more importantly, for their work in spreading the Gospel and doing so in a clear manner, out of their deep-rooted conviction and love.

* – To clarify, I was given the book in a drawing at the potential student lunch, it was not given to me in exchange for me reviewing it, or for giving a positive review.

My mostly chapter by chapter commentary on GoodReads

Other books I’ve posted on GoodReads