Chris Canuel

“The Book of God”-A review

I just finished reading “The Book of God” by Walter Wangerin Jr. My son and I were walking through the book store, and he picked it up and said, “Look Dad, this book looks cool.” He had no idea what he was talking about, or what the book was about, he’s six, but he was right. The book did look cool. If you don’t know, “The Book of God” is the Bible as a novel. It is advertised as, “The Bible as a single powerful story”. Honestly, I already thought that is what the Bible was, but nevertheless, the title, and the idea sparked my curiosity so I bought it.

I’ve never done a book review before, but I thought it would be a good idea to start posting some stuff on things that I’m reading. First, it will help to inform others, and second, it will help me to reflect on what I’ve read. So here goes.

Initially, I was very unimpressed with the book. It seemed as if the author was merely paraphrasing the Bible, and not really doing much else. He gave physical descriptions of the people, but I didn’t think he went far enough, if this was the Bible as a novel, I thought he should explore emotions, and what might have been going on in the minds of the people a little more. Granted it would be conjecture, and it would be what he(Wangerin) thought might have been going on in their minds, as God interjected in their lives, but I thought it would be interesting, and it would help the reader perhaps identify a little more with those folks they have read about in Scripture.

As the story progressed, Wangerin did go a little more into the feelings and emotions of those he was writing about. He really picked it up as Samuel, Saul, and David came into the story. This is where I began to enjoy the book much more. He gave interesting perspectives and glimpses into what it might have been like to walk in these men’s shoes, or even to have been an onlooker of these events as they transpired. He continued very well through the prophets, and into the New Testament.

I must say though, as much as I was hoping for the author to take some creative license with the Old Testament, and the Patriarchs and Prophets, I would have preferred him to take a little less liberty, and use a little less imagination in the New Testament. In the New Testament I feel he goes a little far in imagining why Judas might have betrayed Jesus, why the crowd might have requested the release of Barrabas over Jesus of Nazareth, and there are a few other instances. I understand this was meant to be a novel, but I still feel he should have stayed a little closer to the text, and what I believe to be the facts laid out for us in the Bible. There are also a few instances where I believe he took some of the events out of sequence…but for the most part he did a decent job of accurately portraying the teachings of Jesus, and the events of His life.

Overall I would say Walter Wangerin did a good job with this book. I did enjoy reading it. I simply wish that he had stayed a little closer to the facts as written in the Bible, but did a little more exploration into the minds and emotions of the people of the Bible. I would recommend this book to folks that have a good knowledge of Scripture, and who were able to separate what is Scriptural and what is not. I would be hesitant to recommend it to someone who is not really familiar with the Bible. Just my opinion. Again though, I do respect what the author did, and overall it is a decent read.

For me personally, the best thing I got out of the book was that in a lot of ways, he did give the people personalities, and helped me to see afresh that the people of the Bible were real people, who had real emotions, real families, and real problems. Sometimes we tend to look at the Bible as just a set of lessons for us to learn, almost like a text book. This attitude I believe stifles Spiritual growth and makes the Bible too wooden and hard to read. I think after reading Wangerin’s work, I will read the Bible somewhat differently, and maybe even get more out of it.

So overall, the book wasn’t perfect, wasn’t great, but it was good. I enjoyed it, and would recommend it to people with the advice to understand that it isn’t Scripture, and it is in many ways a work of fiction. That being said, it might just make you see Scripture in a fresh way, and reignite a hunger and a thirst for God. That isn’t ever a bad thing. If I had to rate “The Book of God” on a scale of 1-10, I’d say it’s a 6.5.


Purchased for a purpose…

I mentioned in one of my recent blogs, “Post with a purpose” that there would be another related post coming soon. I had hoped to write this sooner, but as often happens in my life, it took a little longer than expected. Either way, here it is…

I wrote in my former blog about how all things, including people are created with a purpose in mind, by a creator, to serve their creator’s purposes. I also wrote of what happens when those things and people do not serve the purposes that they are created for. I don’t feel the need to go too deep into those points in this post, so please visit my former post if you want to read further.

In the same way that we as created beings were created with a particular purpose in mind, we also who have been saved by the precious blood of Jesus Christ, have been purchased with a certain purpose in mind. To some that may be an odd choice of words, “purchased”, but that is precisely how the Apostle Paul viewed it. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” Paul here is making the two points that I want to make in this post. One, that we are not our own, we have been bought with the blood of Christ. Two, we were purchased by Christ, for the purpose of glorifying God.

This is a tough concept for many to swallow, even Christians. But the fact is that we are never truly our own. Our world doesn’t like this fact, but it is true. We all like to feel like we are in control, doing our own thing, making ourselves happy, and we really don’t like to answer to anyone. This was the sin that caused the undoing of our first parents, Adam and Eve, and sadly we continue to repeat it daily. The Bible gives us, or at least it is for me, a startling revelation about what we are truly doing when we are following after our own desires and not the desires of God, our creator. Read Ephesians 2. In Verses 1-3, Paul tells us that when we are following after the passions of this world, and the desires of our bodies, and the passions of our flesh, we are really serving Satan (the prince of the power of the air). Think about what he is saying here. When we are not serving God, when we are not serving Christ, we are really serving Satan. Paul refers to those not serving God as “sons of disobedience” and “children of wrath”. Very simply put, you either belong to Christ, or you belong to Satan. There really is no in between.

Thank God Ephesians doesn’t end there, and it goes on to tell us that God is rich in mercy, and loved us, and sent Christ to save us. We have now been reconciled to God, and are now part of His household. What a glorious promise…I encourage everyone to read through Ephesians 2.

So now let me attempt to sum up as quickly as possible, and take a look at a few more bits of Scripture. We as created beings were created with a purpose, to Glorify God. Sin entered the world through Adam and Eve (See Genesis 3) and many since that time, have tried to serve themselves, while in reality they are really serving Satan (Ephesians 2:2). By the grace of God however, we as Christians have been reconciled to Himself, through His Son Jesus Christ. We have been bought at a price, the very blood of Jesus, in order that we might glorify God. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

A couple more passages of Scripture come to my mind as I reflect on what I’ve read and what I’ve written. Read Romans 12. Paul starts off the Chapter with these words, “I appeal to you therefore brothers by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” He goes on in the rest of Romans 12, to show us how that works itself out in our lives. A must read for all who claim the name of Christ.

Another passage that comes to mind is 2 Corinthians 5:15, “and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” Christ died so that we would no longer live for ourselves, or as Ephesians 2 explains further, for Satan, but so that we would live for Him (Christ), the one who died for us, and who was raised from the dead.

I’m going to end here, but think of how Paul, and the other Apostles viewed themselves. Paul in his letters constantly referred to himself as a slave, or a bondservant of Christ. You will find similar language from the other Apostles such as Peter and James as well. They knew whom they belonged to…I hope now, no I pray now, that perhaps, I and you the reader will have a more accurate picture of who we belong to as well. More than anything if we are Christians, if we belong to Christ, I pray that we will live like it. If there is one out there reading this, and they are seeking to serve themselves, and are on that path to destruction while serving Satan, I pray they might seek the grace of God, that he has offered through Christ, and turn to Him right now, and become His child.

God bless.

Today’s Sermon-Gotta Have Faith

Over the past several weeks, we have been looking at the lives of the Old Testament saints and the Patriarchs, and Will has done an awesome job of going through their lives, and introducing them to us in new ways, and helping us to identify with them in ways that maybe we haven’t before. It’s always a great thing for Christians when we can see Scripture, I think especially for Christians, the Old Testament in a fresh way, and from a different perspective. Many of us tend to look at the Old Testament as not being for us, or not really being relevant to our lives. I think Will has done a great job of showing us that that is not the case. All Scripture, all 66 books are for us, to read and to learn from.

So the past several weeks Will has been introducing us to some of the ”big” guys in Scripture, you know like Adam, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and last week Moses. Today though we are going to be focusing in on a slightly more obscure person from the Bible.

Today we are going to be looking at the prophet Elijah and his meeting and his stay with a poor widow. Elijah is of course not an obscure fellow, but I’m not going to focus in on him a whole lot. Will has said he is going to be teaching on him in the upcoming weeks, so I’m going to let Will dive deeper into his life and ministry, but I want us to focus in on this widow and her faith, and how God works, even when we don’t really understand what He’s doing. Hopefully we can learn from this widow and from the pages of Scripture how to have the type of faith God desires us to have.

We are going to be looking in 1 Kings Chapter 17, so if you want you can go ahead and turn there, and while I’m not going to be going into great detail about Elijah and his ministry, I do want to give you a little background into what is going on when Elijah meets this widow, and some of the circumstances surrounding the situation.

During the time period here we will be looking at, the people of God, “Israel”, the twelve tribes, are divided into two Kingdoms. There was Israel to the north, and Judah to the south. At this time, Ahab is the king of Israel. We are told in Scripture that Ahab was an especially evil king. 1 Kings 16:33 it says, “Ahab did more to provoke the Lord, the God of Israel, to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him.” This is a bold statement because when you read the history of these kings, they were some pretty rough dudes, and were immersed in idolatry. But there was something especially evil about Ahab. Ahab took a Phoenician princess named Jezebel to be his wife. Jezebel was a worshiper of Ba’al, who was a Canaanite God who was believed to have authority over rain and fertility. Jezebel not only worshiped Ba’al, but she also led Ahab to do the same. (1 Kings 21:25) If that wasn’t bad enough she even went so far as to murder the prophets of the Lord. (1 Kings 18:3) It seems that Jezebel wasn’t content just to worship Ba’al, but she wanted to wipe out Israel’s worship of their God altogether. Ahab did little or nothing to stop it.

Here is where we pick up our text. As I mentioned earlier, Ba’al was thought to have authority over rain and fertility. God has this really cool habit of taking on these false God’s directly, and displaying His authority. One of the best examples of this is back in Exodus, and each of the plagues God sent upon Egypt. Each of those plagues seemed to have been related to, and directed towards a different Egyptian “deity”. God does something very similar here in 1 Kings 17. God speaks to Ahab through Elijah, and tells Him that He is bringing a drought to the land. God is basically displaying to Ahab that He and He alone is in control of the rain and all of creation for that matter. With the coming famine, God instructs Elijah where to go so that he will be taken care of. That is where we are going to pick up our text.

1 Kings 17

So when we start out our text at the beginning of Chapter 17, we read that God speaks through Elijah to Ahab, telling him that a great drought is coming, and that this drought will only end when He says so. As I said, God is displaying to Ahab, as well as the people of Israel, and all of the worshipers of this false God for that matter, that He alone is in control, of the rain, and that He alone is their provider, and their sustainer. Then God instructs Elijah to go eastward and hide by the brook of Cherith, where he will have water to drink from the brook, and that God Himself will provide food for Elijah by commanding the ravens to bring him bread and meat. Again, God is displaying to Elijah, and all of us today, that He is our provider and sustainer. We are then told that the drought is so bad, that the brook dries up. The Lord then instructs Elijah to go to Zarephath, and to dwell there, because He has commanded a widow to feed him.

I love this exchange between Elijah and the widow. Elijah arrives at the gate, and he saw a widow that was gathering sticks. Elijah then tells her, to bring him some water so that he can drink. The widow agrees and then goes to get it, and then Elijah says, “while you are getting me some water, bring me some bread too.” The widow goes on to explain that she has no bread baked, and that all she has is a handful of flour, and a little bit of oil in a jug. She had planned to gather a few sticks, go in and prepare a little bit of food for her and her son, and then they planned to die. You get the feeling that this widow is basically preparing herself and her son their last meal. Or at least this is what the widow thinks. Elijah says, “Look, don’t be afraid. Go ahead, do what you said you are going to do, fix yourself and your son something to eat. But first, make me a little cake, or a little bit of bread, and bring it to me. Because God says that your jar of flour and your jug of oil will not empty, until the day that He makes it rain.”

Amazingly she obeys. The Bible says that, “she went and did as Elijah said.”(15) It also says that she and her household ate for many days, and the jar of flour, “was not spent, neither did the jug of oil become empty.”

I want us to note a couple of things here. Notice what the widow says in verse 12, “As the Lord YOUR God lives”. This woman was not a worshiper of the God of Israel. She did not know, the one true God. Here, along comes this prophet of the God of Israel, a God she didn’t worship, asking her to bring him some water, and some food. She and her son were almost out of food…Imagine what must have been going through her mind here. I have 3 small children, and a wife. Luckily we aren’t lacking for food, you can look at myself and see that. Some of you here have children, or a spouse, and I think we all at least have someone in our lives that we love and are close to. Imagine all of a sudden, there was a shortage of food. Imagine that you had enough, for maybe one more meal. You were pretty certain that after this meal, there would be no more food. Basically, you were planning to die.

Now imagine, here comes some ragged looking stranger, saying that he was thirsty, and wanted some of your food. You’d look at him and say he was crazy. I’d look at him and say he’s crazy. Can you imagine the thought of you or even worse your loved ones going hungry, so that some stranger can eat? Not many of us are going to jump on that train.

But the Bible tells us that this widow obeyed. Now God had earlier stated that He had commanded the widow to feed Elijah. (9) Apparently this is news to the widow because she seems to have no idea. God doesn’t always, in fact very seldom does he speak to us audibly. But what God does is arrange certain circumstances, and ordains situations, and He enables us to make decisions that are in line with His will. So here we have this widow, that is not a worshiper of the God of Israel, speaking to a prophet of the Lord, and she obeys him. This isn’t normal. This doesn’t make sense. This place, Zarephath, was in the heartland of where this god Ba’al was worshiped. Yet this widow was obeying a prophet of the Lord God of Israel.

Sometimes God’s ways just don’t make sense. This whole situation has a big old “don’t make sense” written all over it. First of all God sends His prophet, into the heart of Ba’al country, to be fed by a widow who doesn’t believe in Him or at least doesn’t worship Him, and who doesn’t have any food. If I didn’t know God was involved here, I would say this was a situation with a high probability of failure. But thank God for the widow, He was involved. And thank God for us in our lives, He is involved.

How many times in our lives have we said, “okay God, this doesn’t make any sense, what are you doing here?” I know I’ve thought that. I think that all the time. You might be going through a situation like that yourself right now. But just because a situation doesn’t make sense to you, doesn’t mean that God isn’t at work. Why does God put us in situations like this? Why does He put us in situations that make absolutely no sense? I think it’s because God wants us to have faith. If everything made perfect sense, and everything was predictable, faith wouldn’t be a necessity. This isn’t a one time occurrence in this passage, but look in 2 Kings 5, when Naaman a commander in the Syrian army, who was a leper was told to go and bathe in the Jordan, and then he would be made clean. Naaman was looking for a miracle cure, and was shocked that he was told to go and bathe in some muddy water. Yet he eventually obeyed, and was in fact cured. Look at John 9, verse 7. Jesus put mud, made with his own spit, on the eyes of a blind man, and then told him to go and wash. These things didn’t make sense, yet it shows us how God works. His ways are not our ways, sometimes they don’t make sense, but when God has commanded something, and we take steps of faith, God blesses that, and we are always glad that we obeyed Him.

So why did this widow obey? I don’t think there was anything particularly convincing in the way Elijah spoke to the widow, or made his requests. I simply think she was at the point to where she saw what she was doing just wasn’t working. She was at the point in her life, and she was in a situation in which she had no hope. She knew with the way things were going she and her son would be dead soon. She told Elijah she and her son were about to eat and then they were going to die. I would say the widow was at a point in her life of absolute brokenness.

Some of us have been at those points in our lives ourselves. Some of us are going through those situations right now, and most all of us, if not certainly all of us will go through situations like that in the future. You know what, God allows those situations to introduce Himself to us, and to show us how awesome He is. He allows those situations to show us our absolute dependence on Him. God uses those situations of brokenness to show us that without Him, we have nothing, and can do nothing. God uses these situations to show us that He alone is our provider and our sustainer, and He wants us to depend on Him. I’m not just talking here about physical needs, but I’m also talking about emotional needs, Spiritual needs, and any kind of need you can think of.

At a church I used to go to, the preacher was speaking one day about a missionary trip he was on. I can’t remember where it was, but I do remember him talking about how poor the people there were. How they lacked so many of the things we take for granted. There wasn’t a lot of food, many places had no electricity, they were poorly dressed, they probably even had worn out shoes with no soles. But there were some folks there that just had an amazing faith. He told the story of one young girl there that he spoke to, that had such faith, and such love for God. The Pastor asked her, where her faith came from. Her answer he said always stuck with him, and since hearing the story, it has stuck with me. She told him, “You realize that God is all you need, when God is all you have.”

I personally think that should be a prayer for us. If we haven’t gotten to the point of brokenness yet, where we realize that God is all we need, I think we should pray for a situation like that. I think we should pray for a situation that completely breaks us, to the point that we realize that God is truly all we need. I think that is where this widow was at.

She was in a seemingly hopeless situation, and she knew that this Ba’al she was worshiping, or probably had worshiped in the past just wasn’t doing it. She had nothing left to loose, so she obeyed Elijah, she obeyed the Word of the Lord. Eventually she was infinitely glad she did.

She was thrilled I’m sure, and grateful I’m sure that she and her son, as well as Elijah had food to eat. But imagine now what must have been going through her mind when her son became sick and died. Here she was, she had obeyed the prophet, she had obeyed the word of the Lord, and everything seemed to be going fine, and then BOOM! Her son is dead. She was angry. She was not only angry with God, but she was also angry with Elijah, this “man of God”. I can understand. She didn’t have an accurate picture of who God was, I mean here she was blaming Elijah for something that she knew came from God, but she did know that somehow, this was from God. She thought that God was somehow punishing her, for her past sins. (18) I don’t know for sure what sins she was talking about, but I tend to think she was talking about her past worship of this false God.
Elijah too seemed to be a bit taken aback by what happened. He took the boy upstairs and “cried to the Lord, “O Lord my God, have you brought calamity even upon the widow with whom I sojourn by killing her son?” (20) Verses 21-22 then tell us that Elijah stretched out over the child, and begged God to restore the child’s life. God did just that, and Elijah brought the child back downstairs and gave the child back to his mother. The widow responds, “Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth.” (24)

If it wasn’t for God’s intervention, and one step of faith by this widow one day when she met the prophet Elijah, both she and her son would have already been dead. Yet God provided for her, physically, by providing her with food and oil, after she took that step of faith. But even more so I believe on this eventful day, God provided for her Spiritually, and I believe she became a believer in the God of Israel, the one true God, and I believe she was saved as a result of what happened when her son died, and God raised him back to life. She received more of a blessing from this one step of faith than she ever could have imagined.

I believe the same thing is, and can be true for all of us. God asks us all to take steps of faith. He first does that for salvation. God reveals Himself to us in all of His awesomeness, as He did to this widow, and He asks us to take a step of faith and believe in Him. Now it isn’t a blind leap of faith, don’t misunderstand me, He has done much to show us who He is, namely in the person of His Son Jesus Christ, through His miracles, and finally in His resurrection from the dead. If any of us haven’t taken that step of faith, I would ask us to reflect and search our hearts, and ask if maybe He is asking us to do that here today. I’m not talking about attempting to live the Christian life by our own power, but I’m talking about have we ever come to the point that we realize we are totally lost without Him. Have we ever realized our complete dependence on Him, and made Him Lord of our lives. That is what I’m talking about.

But even after salvation, God asks us to take steps of faith. I think that is different for all of us. God has ordained all of our lives to glorify Him in different ways. Perhaps it is to take a step of faith and share your faith with your neighbor, your co-worker, or perhaps even your spouse, or your children. Perhaps it’s a change of career, or making some sacrifices so that you can be more financially independent. Perhaps it’s planting a church, like we are trying to do here. I don’t know what your “step of faith” is. But I do know that if God tells you to do something, and you trust Him, and obey Him, He will bless it. And the blessing will be greater than you could ever imagine. I believe we see an excellent example of that here in the life of this widow. She trusted and obeyed even when it didn’t make sense. Remember God’s ways don’t always make sense. We saw an example of that here in this text, but I think we see an even greater example in the birth, life, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Does it make sense that a virgin would become pregnant and give birth to God’s own Son? Does it makes sense that God would take on human flesh and come to earth, and live the life of a poor man, then die so that we could be forgiven for our sins? No, that doesn’t make sense to our tiny finite minds, but that is precisely what God did. Does it make sense that a man who was beaten to near death, then hung on a cross to die, and was then buried, could be raised from the grave? Nope, that doesn’t make sense either, but that is precisely what happened. And all of that was done, ultimately for God’s glory, but also it was done for us. God asks us to take a step of faith, and believe in Him, then live our lives for Him. If we do, the blessings will be even greater than we can imagine. I’m not promising you a new Cadillac, or a big house, or lots of money, like some preachers will. But I am promising you an eternity with the God of the universe. To me that’s much better.

God’s ways don’t always make sense. He is beyond us. But I’m glad for that, because if we could understand all of His ways, He would cease to be God. God does require us to take steps of faith, God does ask us to trust and obey Him, even at those times when it may not make sense. God may break us, but that is not a time to doubt God, or to be angry at God. It is at those times we need to have more faith.

In my studies this past week I came across a passage in the Book of Mark that just grabbed me. I’m going to end the message today with these verses, and a short prayer.

Mark 9:17-27

Jesus told this father “All things are possible for one who believes” The man then cried out, “I believe; help my unbelief.” I wonder how many of us pray, while at the same time we are doubting God, and what He is doing, and can do in our lives. Perhaps our first prayer ought to be for faith, and a change of heart. I think what this man cries out, ought to be our prayer as well…We all at times suffer from a lack of faith, we all at times suffer from unbelief, we all at times doubt God, we all at times doubt what God can do and is doing in us and through us.

So this is my prayer for all of us, “Father, please help our unbelief.”