Active Spirituality: Grace and Effort in the Christian Life – Book Review

Active Spirituality: Grace and Effort in the Christian Life is quite honestly one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. Wonderfully written, and there was so much beautiful theology that drove my heart to worship again and again. The theology was deep and rich, yet it wasn’t above anyone’s head. In this fictional portrayal of the author mentoring a young believer through letters, I think there is a lot here for anyone who loves the things of God to benefit from. Personally, I was encouraged again and again. The struggles this young believer dealt with aren’t limited to new Christians. As I read the letters of encouragement, and sometimes rebuke, to this young man…I too was encouraged in my own walk and spurred on to be faithful in the midst of whatever struggle I was having. I also enjoyed the many references to other works of theology and literature from the great saints past and present. If you’re like me, after reading this book you’ll have an even bigger “to read” pile.

I  can’t recommend this book highly enough.

It’s available for Kindle at just $3.99

Paperback is also available here.

Blogging Through The Bible(Intro):Genesis 1

I want to begin blogging through the bible. This is something that I’ve wanted to do for a long time, and I really hope I can keep it up. I don’t know how fast or slow it will go, but I think it could be a blessing to many, including myself. I don’t make any claims to be a great biblical scholar, but I do spend much time studying the Scriptures and I pray the knowledge I’ve gained and will continue to gain can be of benefit to others and I hope that folks might use this as a springboard to study the Bible for themselves.

One of the goals of my ministry, whether it be preaching or writing, is to help others fall in love with the Bible. Obviously the major goal is to help them fall in love with Jesus, but I think this happens fully, when we fall in love with the Scriptures that speak of Him from beginning to end. Also, it is important to note I don’t intend to pull out every single detail of the Scripture. This would indeed take more than a lifetime. I simply intend to pull out the major points that I see as I go through the Bible myself, and I hope to give this to the reader in bite size and easy to understand chunks.

So, as we begin this journey, I beg you for your prayers. I will need them to stay faithful in this blogging journey. Also, please pray for those who read, that they will be blessed and pointed to Jesus. Also, if you have friends or loved ones who are seeking, send them to the blog. Perhaps God would use this to help them learn more about the Bible, and through that learn about God and what He’s doing in the world. I also ask that you would ask questions if you have them, or even just offer encouragement as you feel lead. Few things inspire like a kind word or to know that people are reading and thinking about what you are saying.

So now that we have the introduction out of the way, let us turn our attention to the Scriptures.

People approach Genesis 1 in many different ways. Obviously, there are those who view it as nothing more than a myth. I don’t really have anything to say to those folks, because nothing I write here will make them see any differently. There are also those who believe Genesis 1 is completely true…these are my people. But even among these folks you will have many differing views as to how we should read Genesis 1, and what we should believe about creation.

Here we have the first major point…Genesis 1 is about creation. That’s the point Moses(the author of Genesis) is trying to make in Genesis 1. Where did everything come from? When Moses penned the book, there were many different creation stories going around. Moses wanted his people to know the truth of their own origins, and the origin of all the created universe. Everything we see (and can’t see) came from God. God spoke all things into existence simply by speaking.

Some want to view Genesis 1 from a scientific point of view, and view the order in which God created things and show how it lines up perfectly with the way we know science “works.” I suppose there are good points to be made here, but I don’t want to dwell here for our current purposes. Others want to talk about the age of the earth, and what exactly is the length of a “day” as it is used here…since in Hebrew the word “yom” that is translated as “day” in the text can either mean 24 hours as we know it, but it can also mean other lengths of time…Unfortunately, we can’t “know” how the word is used here…So, there is room for discussion here.

On this previous issue, hinges the debate of the different issues related to evolution. And the origins of man.

But ultimately, this isn’t the point Moses is making.

Genesis 1 isn’t a science book, nor does it intend to be(nor do I believe it is opposition to science as some erroneously declare)…If we want to boil Genesis 1 down to it’s main points, I believe these are the things we must see:

*God is the creator of all things.

*God created all things from nothing.

*God was already present “In the beginning” therefore God is eternal and has no creator…from eternity past to eternity future God simply “is”…This is certainly one of the most important and foundational truths that we have to get and apply to our lives, “In the beginning God…” Indeed God is the creator and is sovereign over ALL things, and upon this truth everything in Scripture is based…and if more of us could wrap our minds around it, it would truly change everything and  how we view the world.

*Man is the highlight and jewel of God’s creation, for he was “created in the image of God.”

*When God created all things he looked around and said it was “very good”

There are of course other “theological” issues we can address here in Genesis 1…

*The Trinity was present at creation…There is the plurality of the hebrew Word “Elohim” used for God..There is also the fact that in Genesis 1:2, it references the “Spirit of God” hovering over the waters…Then we look to John 1 as he puts Jesus in Genesis 1 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…The Word became flesh.” So, I believe we see the trinity in Genesis 1.

*Also, as I stated, Man was the jewel of creation. He was to rule over the fish, the birds, and the livestock, and over all the earth…We also see that God provided for man everything he needed, Genesis 1:29-30. And, God as I said earlier, created all things “very good.”

We will see in just a bit that, things didn’t stay “very good” but we can’t place the blame for that on God.

Holman New Testament Commentary Set

I was recently fortunate enough to receive this wonderful commentary set from Holman. I’ve talked to folks in the past who have given me mixed reviews on the set. Personally I love them. One of the knocks I’ve heard against the set is that it isn’t academic enough. For me, this is one of the attractions. There is plenty in these book for the experienced Bible student, but it also isn’t above the new learner. Even though I have been studying the Bible for years, I have benefited greatly from this set. In fact as I prepare to teach others, I find it beneficial to look to these books for help in breaking down big truths in ways that anyone can understand.

In my opinion these books would be great for anyone, but especially the Sunday School teacher, or even the new believer looking to gain a better insight into the Scriptures. Currently, I am using these books as a guide as I read through the New Testament again, and I am really enjoying the fresh insights, and illustrations, and applications I’m seeing from these Commentaries as I go through the Scriptures.

One of my favorite things about this set is the price. There is a ton of Biblical knowledge here for a great price. To get your own set simply click here!

In Pursuit of Education: How and why I made my decision

In October of 2004 in his great grace, God saved me. From the moment God saved me, he gave me a seemingly unquenchable thirst for his Word. I have never been able to understand Christians who spend little to no time reading and studying the Bible. The more I studied, the more I wanted to learn, and the more I wanted to teach others what I was learning. In July of 2005, I began to feel an overwhelming desire to teach, shepherd, and minister to God’s people. I suppose this is what most people refer to when they speak of being “called” to the ministry.

I wasn’t really sure what this meant for me, a man who was in his late twenties, working a job that required 72-80 hour work weeks. I knew that for most people, being “called” meant that you then needed to go to school, acquire a few degrees, then going to pastor a church. This seemed near impossible to me. One, there was the job I just mentioned. Secondly, people would think I was crazy. Not only was I a semi new Christian, but I was also very introverted and struggled with a stutter. People would tell me there was no way I was called to preach. Thirdly, I had made terrible financial decisions and acquiring more debt while dropping a pretty well paying job didn’t seem very logical. So, I did what I thought I should and just ignored this overwhelming feeling. I read the Bible as often as I could, read books by great theologians past and present, and tried to educate myself as best as I could. I wasn’t sure what would come of it, as far as ministry went, but I still had the desire to know as much about God as possible. I also sought out every opportunity to share with others what I was learning. Sometimes to their delight, other times, not so much.

In October of 2005 I fell head over heels in love with a pretty redhead and her son. We both knew very quickly we were in love and were engaged exactly three months later on January 1st of 2006. We married, bought a house, and began a family very quickly. Still this feeling of being “called” never really went away. My wife knew about it, but she like me wasn’t really sure what to do about it. Not only did we already have plenty of debt, but we also had a growing family, and were rather short on time.

In God’s providence, he took us to a small church plant and helped us get involved there. I felt a connection with the pastor, and for the first time confided in someone outside of my little circle my desire and feeling of being called to the ministry. Much to my relief he was very supportive, and took me under his wing and mentored me. He gave me the opportunity to teach the children in the church as well as preach several times. He taught me much about theology and introduced me to many great theologians and books. Through this Pastor’s preaching, teaching, mentoring, and encouragement I gained confidence in my calling. I learned how to preach (though that is always a work in progress) and I gained a deeper knowledge of the scriptures. Education was still a desire, but it still seemed like an impossibility. My pastor encouraged me to pursue it, but I suppose I was still fearful and didn’t see how it was possible.

Fast forward a few years, and I was introduced to a mature Godly man who also took me under his wing and encouraged me in my gifts. I was fortunate to serve with him in ministry, and learned much about how to pastor and how to preach by watching his example. He too encouraged me to pursue further education, though again I never did see how it was a possibility.

This blog is already getting longer than I want it to be, and I could give several other details that might give you insight into my journey, but to make a long story short, for 9 years now I have had the desire to pastor and preach God’s word. Through God’s grace I have been given opportunities to do this. Still, as one who lacks formal training the opportunities to be in ministry as a vocation are limited. I’ve also had a desire to pursue formal training, and have been close to taking the leap many times, but I never could make myself follow through.

Recently, this desire has returned in full force. I suppose a big part of it is the fact that I have finally come to the conclusion I am not getting any younger. I’m a couple of months from my 36th birthday. Perhaps I am feeling a bit of  “now or never” syndrome. I discussed with my wife these feelings, and she told me to do the research, figure out what I needed to do, and we would make it work. Her support has been an unbelievable blessing.

So this is what I did. I researched. The ability to do class from home was key. There is no way I can travel for school. Both my wife and I work, we have bills, and we are expecting our sixth child. Travel is not an option. At the same, just like it has always been, finances are an issue. Also, time is an issue. Not just the ability to get the work done, but I don’t really want to be in my 40’s still pursuing an undergrad degree.

I looked into Liberty University. They have a great online program. I know many people who have gone there and done well. I even applied there and was accepted. I was very close to going through with it. However the more I thought about it, I realized that at the pace I’d be able to go I’d be looking at probably six years to attain a bachelor degree. This wasn’t very appealing to me. The main issue however is the fact that even with financial aid, I would be acquiring a ton of debt. This too wasn’t a very appealing prospect. This is all simply to attain a bachelor degree, and unfortunately most churches require at least a Masters degree, and preferably a Master of Divinity, which is at least a three year program. This too piles on more debt.

I looked into Southeastern College/Theological Seminary which is pretty much theological royalty in this area. Chances are if you pastor a Baptist church in North Carolina, this is where you went to school. While being somewhat cheaper than Liberty, they don’t offer the same financial aid, and online they only offer an Associate of Divinity, and several Master Degree programs. Again, we are still faced with the same problems. Time and money.

I investigated many other schools, but almost all of them shared these same issues.

In the course of my research though, I came across a little school in Georgia called Andersonville Theological Seminary. I’d heard of them before, and had thought about asking for more info, but never did go through with it. I did an online search of their programs and the quality of the school. There were mixed results. Some people speak very highly of them, while others dismiss them completely. I did find someone who mentioned that the credits from this school would transfer to other schools. So I sent out emails to every major bible college and seminary that I am even remotely interested in to see whether or not they would indeed accept credits/degrees from Andersonville. Much to my delight, none of the schools I inquired of said they would not consider me or a degree from Andersonville. There were some stipulations with some of the schools, but still I would be considered based upon my abilities to do the coursework. I even found a couple of very reputable schools who said they had no issues whatsoever accepting credits and degrees from Andersonville. This was very encouraging for me. Just as encouraging to me, was the fact that in my research, I found several Andersonville graduates that currently serve as professors and faculty at many bible colleges and seminaries, including some very respected schools, Baptist and otherwise.

After weighing the pros and cons, I decided to take the leap and sign up for classes from Andersonville Theological Seminary. The major benefit is of course cost. I can attain both an Associate and a Bachelor degree at a fraction of the cost for what I could at another school. Also, Andersonville allows me the opportunity to do the course work at my own pace. I can go as fast or as slow as I want to and am able. I figure if I apply myself, I will also be able to attain a Bachelor degree in a fraction of the time it would take me to at one of the other bigger or more traditional schools.

Like I said, the reviews are mixed from what I’ve read online about the programs at Andersonville. Some have even gone so far as to call it a degree mill. Let me say this, I am currently on my third course from Andersonville, and they are most definitely not a degree mill. I have been pleasantly surprised by the courses, as they have challenged me, and I have already learned much. At times, I have even caught myself wishing the classes were a little fluffier so that I could move through the program faster…I’m partially kidding.

I realize the level of coursework I’m doing probably isn’t the same as what I might be doing at Southeastern, or one of the other bigger schools, and I also realize that some people may not take my degree from Andersonville seriously. Some might snicker that I am doing an online preacher college that only uses the King James Bible. I’ve weighed the options and the pros and cons. I’ve sought the counsel of some very mature and Godly friends whom I respect very much. The best advice I received was that I will get out of the school and degree what I put into it. I think this is true. I was recently reading a biography on Isaac Watts, the great hymn writer. I read about how due to his circumstances and his station in life, he wasn’t able to go to the respected schools of his day. He was forced to go to the schools that the elite tended to thumb their noses at. Obviously, the schools Isaac Watts attended aren’t Andersonville Theological Seminary. Obviously I’m not Isaac Watts, but I do see some parallels in our situations.

Therefore, I have decided this is what is best for me and my family at this time. Once I complete my Associate and Bachelor Degree from Andersonville, I hope to enroll at one of the other more “reputable/respected” schools to pursue my Masters Degree and hopefully at some point an M.Div. Who knows where the Lord will take me, but at this time these are my long term educational goals.

Stay tuned, perhaps I will blog more about my educational journey in the future.


Kindle Deals 6/4

A few Kindle deals for today!

Introducing the New Testament by Joe Blair – $0.99

How Do You Know You’re Not Wrong by Paul Copan – $2.99

Preach by Mark Dever – $2.99

Subversive Kingdom by Ed Stetzer – $2.99

Manhood Restored by Eric Mason – $2.99

**In the interest of full transparency, this blog is signed up as an Amazon.Com affiliate. This simply means that if you click one of my links and purchase a book through Amazon, I receive a few pennies. It’s sort of like giving me a tip for scouring the internet to find you these great deals!