The Slaughter Of Civilians


Indiscriminate death, and some discriminate, has been in the news the past few days.

There were the killings in Seattle, where a gunman walked into a building and let bullets fly. Four people died. He then carjacked an SUV, killing the driver. When he was cornered by authorities, he put his gun to his head and killed himself.

That horrible event has been overshadowed by the slaughter of civilians in Syria. Government forces, or terrorist forces supporting the government, stormed into a town at night, going door to door and killing people in their homes. Over half of the victims were children.

In both instances, those who died were in places they believed to be safe, even protected.

One more similar story is on the news. An untold number of babies are being killed for no other reason than that they are of the “wrong” sex. Gendercide, the media has dubbed it–a practice that apparently a number of European countries have outlawed.

For whatever reason, the “in thing” touted by the influencers in our country seems to be whatever Europe is doing. But that’s a topic for another day. Suffice it to say, any number of liberals who would dismiss conversation about “gendercide” on the grounds that it is a conservative-backed concern, apparently are paying attention because the US is lagging behind Europe.

The idea that anyone is even questioning whether or not our government should take a stand against gendercide is astounding. We’re shocked by Syrian militia killing children in their beds, but not shocked by American medical personnel killing babies in theirs? Yes, the mother’s womb is the bed of these helpless infants–the place where they should be most protected, where they ought to be safe to grow to maturity.

When abortion was legalized in America, the feminist movement claimed a fetus was not alive, that it was part of the mother’s body, a bit of tissue. Years later, science has proven indisputably that these babies are in fact alive. Yet the feminist movement clings to the “right” of the woman to give birth, or not, to a baby she has conceived.

There are no moral grounds for this stance, simply legal rights those determined to uphold abortion still cling to. Hence these feminists, in the face of gendercide–which, incidentally, targets baby girls–must now choose, something they’ve insisted they should be allowed to do.

The problem is, either choice undermines who they are. If they take a stand against gendercide, they believe they are opening the door to an end of abortion. But if they stand against those who are trying to bring an end to gendercide, they are opening the door to crimes against women.

For those who believe the Bible, this ought not to be an issue. From the day Cain killed his brother Abel, God has outlawed murder. He also abhorred child sacrifice and condemned all nations, including His chosen people, when they did not care for orphans, widows, the poor, and strangers. In other words, we aren’t to abandon children, we aren’t to sacrifice them, and we aren’t to kill them.

Apparently our government has such a skewered moral compass that we can’t even determine that killing baby girls simply because they are girls is wrong. (See “Gendercide Abortion Ban Fails in the House”).

Published in: on May 31, 2012 at 7:10 pm  Comments (2)  
Tags: , , , , ,

My Take On Cloth And Wineskins


Have you every been bugged by a portion of Scripture? It just doesn’t seem to fit or make sense in light of what you know or in light of the context.

I’ve struggled in this way with a passage in the book of Matthew. Let me give you the context. Jesus began his public ministry and quickly incurred the ire of the Jewish religious leaders because more than once He healed people on the Sabbath. After calling Matthew to be His disciple, He went home with him for dinner. The Pharisees complained about Him eating and drinking with tax-collectors (corrupt government officials) and sinners (those who didn’t keep the Jewish law). Jesus told them to “go and learn what this means: ‘I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT SACRIFICE’…”

Soon after John’s disciples and those of the Pharisees observed a religious fast. John’s disciples asked Jesus why His disciples didn’t fast, too.

Now His answer.

And Jesus said to them, “The attendants of the bridegroom cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.

I get that. So far so good. But He continued:

16 “But no one puts a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for the patch pulls away from the garment, and a worse tear results. 17 Nor do people put new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wineskins burst, and the wine pours out and the wineskins are ruined; but they put new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved.”

Huh?

How did we get from eating with sinners and not keeping a fast to cloth and wineskins?

Well, obviously, as with the previous part of His answer about the bridegroom, Jesus is making an analogy, but what equals what?

I’ve heard sermons on this before–the old is the Law, the new, the New Covenant. Set aside for the moment that those to whom Jesus was talking would not have understood that analogy at all. The idea of the New Covenant was still just that–an idea. Most people had no clue why the Messiah had actually come.

But the real problem I have here is that the new on old in Jesus’s analogies destroys the old. Yet Jesus clearly said in the Sermon on the Mount that He did not come to destroy the Law but to fulfill it.

17 “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. 18 For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.

Of course, Jesus seems to be advocating new wine into new skins. So with what are these two analogous? The wine is Christ’s blood? The skins are the Church?

Maybe that’s too detailed. After all, parables didn’t have one on one correlations, so maybe analogies didn’t either. Except, isn’t that the point of an analogy?

So here’s my new thought, really spurred by a passage in Mark where Jesus elaborates on the problem He had with the Pharisees.

Take a look:

3 (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they carefully wash their hands, thus observing the traditions of the elders; 4 and when they come from the market place, they do not eat unless they cleanse themselves; and there are many other things which they have received in order to observe, such as the washing of cups and pitchers and copper pots.) 5 The Pharisees and the scribes asked Him, “Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat their bread with impure hands?” 6 And He said to them, “Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written:

    ‘This people honors Me with their lips,
    But their heart is far away from Me.
    7 ‘ But in vain do they worship Me,
    Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’

8 Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.” (Mark 7:3-9 – emphasis mine)

So here’s what I’m thinking. What if the old cloth, the old wineskins, stand for God’s true Law? In the verses just prior to these analogies, remember, Jesus told the Pharisees to figure out what Scripture meant when it said God desired compassion rather than sacrifice.

The new patch of cloth, the new wine, then, represent the traditions the Pharisees heaped on top of what God had said. Their add-ons were tearing apart the fabric, bursting the skins, of God’s perfect Law.

So what do you think?

I know this way of looking at these verses flies in the face of the traditional interpretation. Traditional … heh-hem. Maybe that’s not a bad thing because I think it fits the context of the passage and is consistent with what Jesus says about fulfilling God’s law and about the Pharisees’ perversion of it through their tradition.

In the end, I come away more mindful of the need to hold loosely things like worship styles and other extra-Biblical practices. Compassion must not be sacrificed on the altar of tradition.

Published in: on May 30, 2012 at 6:02 pm  Comments (3)  
Tags: , , , , ,

Influence And Good Deeds


Since last Thursday when I wrote the post “Who Do We Follow?” I’ve been mulling over the question what it means to be “in the world but not of it”–a phrase that comes from Jesus’s prayer for His people just before the events leading to His crucifixion:

I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. (John 17:15-16)

This “in but not of” creates a tension that apparently God wants, in large part, it would seem, because He has a job for us to do–that of making disciples.

But how, precisely, are we to be in the world but not of it? How are we to go about letting our light shine?

Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. (Matt. 5:16)

Yesterday I received an email from Publisher’s Weekly that got me to thinking about influence and making a difference in our culture. It seems that a significant number of people in the publishing world have taken it upon themselves to see to it that President Obama is re-elected. Set aside for the moment how appropriate it is for an industry periodical to take this biased stand or for a group of people to presume to speak for the industry at large, the point in question is that these people believe their voices can make a difference. Their voices, their visibility.

I imagine news crews will be out filming authors and publishers marching along the streets of New York waving pro-Obama signs and giving interviews to say how much the US needs this President to stay in office.

My initial reaction is, Wow, they’re right. They’re speaking out and getting the jump on any number of the rest of us who have a different opinion. In politics, the bandwagon effect seems to be so important. Get the “right” people to voice an opinion, and those who believe in, follow, admire, listen to those influential voices will create an echo chamber that spreads the message far and wide.

So why don’t Christians do this, too? Wouldn’t that be the best way to bring people to Christ? Wouldn’t that be the Church engaging the world in the way the world will best listen? Isn’t this, in fact, why so many Christians are on the look-out for celebrity believers? If we can just get the celebrities to speak up for Christ, then surely their followers will do the same.

There definitely is a speaking out component in bring people to Christ. Paul says in Colossians, “We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man so that we may present every man complete in Christ.” In Peter’s first letter, he says in chapter two, “…so that we may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light.”

But is proclamation the “light” that Jesus referred to? In fact, He couples letting our light shine with our good deeds.

Later in 1 Peter 2, the apostle says, “For such is the will of God, that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men” (emphasis mine).

As I see it, this is another line of tension. Yes, we are to be in the world but not of it. And we are also to proclaim Christ and do good.

Do we get to choose one or the other? Can we stand on the street corner and wave Bible verses in front of people as they drive by without doing good? Can we hand out tracts at the beach or leave them at restaurants without doing good?

On the other hand, can we give food for the homeless shelter or volunteer to tutor at the inner city school and not proclaim Christ? Can we make blankets for unwed mothers or work a shift at the thrift shop and not admonish and teach with all wisdom?

Must the two go hand in hand or is there a time to paint buildings for the underprivileged and a separate time to speak of the redemptive work of Christ on the cross? Do the good works allow us to speak because they first silence the ignorance of foolish men?

In the mean time, as we do good deeds, one person at a time, will the publishing industry band together with the political forces to regulate Christianity out of the public forum?

Where is the fight?

If it’s in the heart of man, as Scripture teaches, shouldn’t we focus our efforts there?

Then do we abandon the political arena, the media, and quietly work behind closed doors?

I don’t see easy answers. If we engage the issues in the same way those opposed to a Christian worldview do, then believers are labeled hateful and bigots and hypocrites. If we stay silent, those rejecting Christ speak to the culture anyway and define who we are and what we believe.

If Scripture is true, and I know it to be so, then it seems we are not silencing the ignorance of foolish men with our good deeds. Rather than increasing the rhetoric, perhaps we need to increase doing what is right. Of course, if that’s the answer, then we need to know what the Bible considers “doing right.”

Angel Eyes – A Review


I rarely do reviews apart form blog tours, but from time to time, I make an exception. Angel Eyes is one, and I am so, so happy with that decision. Angel Eyes, officially releasing tomorrow, is the debut novel by Shannon Dittemore.

If you frequent Speculative Faith, Shannon’s name may well sound familiar. Besides being an occasional commenter there, she wrote last Friday’s guest post.

    The Review

The Story. Brielle, short for Gabrielle, is a talented dancer. An opportunity arose for her to study in the city and pursue what she hoped would be her dream job, but tragedy forced her to return to the shelter of her home.

Now, back in the little town where she grew up, she meets Jake, and he helps her to see the world through different eyes. Some of what she sees is glorious, but then there is the sticky black tar of fear. And danger.

OK, I’m keeping it cryptic because I don’t want to spoil the story. The action unfolds like a rose, each petal pushing outward a little at a time until the whole flower is in view. I have no intention of taking your corsage and yanking the petals apart.

Strengths. What isn’t a strength in this book? The language is beautiful, the setting poignantly realistic. The characters are authentic, down to their fears and sacrifices, their motives and heartaches, their hopes and struggles. There is such gentle (the flower image comes to mind again) character development–believable, gradual change that’s revealed through action.

Speaking of action, there’s plenty of it. Some is anchored in the mundane world of the every day, and that is typically teen and interesting. Most of the action, however, involves the interconnection of the here and now with the eternal. I guess you’d have to call this a spiritual warfare book.

That being said, this is one God-glorifying story, consistent with the Bible. It is faithful to Scripture whenever Scripture speaks of such things as you’ll find between the covers of this book.

At the same time, Angel Eyes is imaginative and unpredictable. About the time I thought I knew what the issues were, like Brielle, I found out things weren’t as they appeared to be.

Yes, there is tragedy and sadness and a look at hard things. As both Brielle and Jack acknowledge, sometimes the hero doesn’t make it. But this book faces the hard parts and asks the harder questions. No easy answers here, but thoughtful, truthful ones.

Weaknesses. I don’t really have anything for this section. The worst thing I can say is, the parts from Brielle’s point of view are written in first person, present tense.

Generally I find that voice annoying, and I thought at first this book would be all about teen angst like so many young adult books seem to be these days. It’s sort of the flip side of chick lit–same tense and person but the snarky, flippant tone has been replaced with the cynical, fatalistic tone of youth that has grown up too fast.

In truth the beginning of Angel Eyes had a bit of that tone, but there was more lurking around the edges. In addition there were occasional chapters from other characters’ points of view that gave a different voice. I appreciated the change. And as the story unfolded, Brielle’s voice mirrored her character development. It was masterful. (I told you I didn’t really have anything in “weakness.”)

Recommendation. I hope Frank Peretti endorses Shannon’s next book. He should. She is marvelously contributing to the supernatural/spiritual warfare genre he established with the Darkness books years ago.

Although this book is directed at young adults, all-the-way-grown-up adults can enjoy it just as well. A must read for Christians. I highly recommend Angel Eyes to anyone who loves a good story.

One last thing: keep your eyes on Shannon. I have a feeling you’re going to be hearing a lot about her from now on.

And yes, the publisher provided me with an advance reader’s copy of the book, though I made no agreement to give a favorable review. That was solely my decision.

Published in: on May 28, 2012 at 5:55 pm  Comments (6)  
Tags: , , , ,

CSFF Blog Tour Wrap – Beckon by Tom Pawlik


With school ending and summer creeping in, CSFF squeezed in a blog tour for Beckon by award-winning author Tom Pawlik. The modest tour for this adult speculative thriller included thirty-seven posts from twenty-five bloggers.

Those who posted all three days of the tour are eligible for the CSFF Top Tour Blogger Award for May. Below are the links to the articles of each participant up for the award.

So now the power shifts into the hands of the readers, and it is time to vote (just a little Survivor lingo there, for your entertainment. 😉 ) You have until midnight (Pacific time), Sunday June 10 to review the posts and make your decision.

And while you’re voting, why not click over to “Change and the Books You Read” and vote in that opinion poll as well. You’re participation in both these is greatly appreciated.

Published in: on May 25, 2012 at 6:27 pm  Comments (1)  
Tags: , ,

Who Do We Follow?


I remember the name of the William Morris Chevrolet dealership because the owner does radio spots on the local Christian station. But instead of using his advertisement time to talk about his cars or service or low prices, he gives a devotional, usually something he’s learned from his personal experience.

In the latest one, he said he was writing about following the Word, but accidentally wrote world instead. Then he realized. In reality we do follow one or the other–the Word or the world.

Good insight. More true probably than we even realize.

For instance, the world adopts tolerance as its highest value and suddenly Christians begin to talk about loving homosexuals and those in the inner city and prisoners and unwed mothers.

But doesn’t Scripture admonition God’s children to care for orphans and widows, the poor and the stranger? Didn’t Christ tell us to love our neighbor, our brother, and even our enemy? So why do we rush after the trends of the world when the Bible had it right all along?

If we would faithfully read, preach, obey the Word, we would be showing the world how to live rather than toddling along behind.

There are so many current issues to which Christians are reacting–feminism, homosexuality, welfare, immigration, socialism. For some, “reacting” means resisting and for others, it means imitating–the Christian version of feminism, the Christian version of welfare.

Rather than letting the world pull us here and there, the Church should turn to God’s Word and see what His principles are that we ought to apply.

The same is true for theological issues. Atheists say a god so violent as to command the extermination of a whole race of people is too abhorrent to believe in, so a group of professing Christians band together and re-image God as a kinder, gentler Jesus.

Western culture says Christians are hateful hypocrites, and Christians dutifully follow with Church-bashing books.

The easy answer would seem to be to withdraw from the influence of the world.

The problem is, however, that God gave Christians the task of proclaiming “the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9b). This proclaiming necessitates our involvement with the world. So how do we do it in a way that the world will hear?

Once upon a time there were Rescue Missions and tent meetings and evangelistic crusades and street preachers and door to door evangelism. But somewhere along the line our western culture became too sophisticated for all those. The preaching had to be slick and professional. No one except the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons wanted to go door to door any more. Government welfare and an increase in credit-induced affluence made inner city missions a bit passe.

Essentially the Church followed the world into comfort and ease, rather than taking up our cross daily and following Christ to connect with our culture and proclaim His excellencies.

Not that the old methods needed to be calcified into unbending tradition. But neither should we abandon the principles upon which the old methods were founded.

Jesus told His disciples before sending them off on a short term mission that they were to be wise as serpents and as innocent as doves. And so should we.

We can’t afford to continue making the same mistakes. We need to follow God’s Word, not the world.

And yet it is the world we need to engage.

We mustn’t bury our heads and stay locked away from the world. We tried that because we wanted to keep our children safe, and the world without Godly moral guidelines has become a place where those children, when they are grown, may well face persecution for their faith.

Unless God brings revival.

But will He if we don’t ask Him to? Will He if we continue padding along behind the world, adopting their business models to run our churches, listening to their psychologists to learn how to discipline our children, studying their economists to figure out how to handle our money? As if the Bible doesn’t speak to these issues.

As I think about this, it makes sense that we would follow the world more than we follow the Word, simply because we spend so much more time in the culture than we do with God. And in a sense, we should.

God purposefully left us in the world rather than taking us out, to be with Him. He has a job for us to do here–that proclamation bit He assigned to us.

But what we struggle with, it seems, is allowing our time with God in His Word to inform our actions and attitudes when we are in the world. Instead, the reverse is becoming true–our time in the world is informing our attitudes toward the Word.

William Morris Chevrolet stands out in my mind because their owner decided to do something different. Perhaps that’s the lesson the Church needs to learn. To reach the world, maybe we should be radically, Biblically different rather than walking along behind, adopting the culture’s way of doing things. Maybe in our difference, we can proclaim God’s excellencies and so catch their attention.

CSFF Blog Tour – Beckon by Tom Pawlik, Day 3


An interesting set of posts this month for the CSFF Blog Tour featuring Tom Pawlik’s newest adult speculative suspense, Beckon. There’s been discussion about the characters, Alzheimer disease, immortality, abortion (here on my blog), body count, arachnophobia, reading at night (or not), spelunking, and more. Without a doubt, this book made an impression!

The Story. Jack Kendrick wants to find out what happened to his missing archaeologist father so that he can rehabilitate his legacy. He finds a clue pointing to his dad’s last known destination, an Indian reservation in Wyoming. He talks his best friend Rudy into a road trip and heads west. They learn helpful information from an Indian legend and follow a guide into a cave that leads to a system of tunnels where they encounter horror and death.

Elina Gutierrez is a suspended LAPD cop. When she learns that her cousin is missing, she determines to do whatever it takes to find him. She knows she shouldn’t, but she sets up a one-officer stakeout and follows a van transporting immigrant workers to supposed out-of-state jobs. But rather than going to Nevada as they’d been told, the van leads her into Wyoming.

George Wilcox is at his wit’s end because his beloved wife is dying a horrible death–first losing her memories and her very personality. When he’s contacted by someone in Wyoming promising him a cure, he eagerly–though not without some skepticism–packs Miriam into the car and drives north. To the town of Beckon.

Yes, all three of these story threads weave together in the little backwater town whose nearest neighbors are the N’watu, the people of legend. Something deadly is going on in Beckon. Or is it something miraculous?

Strengths. Author Tom Pawlik is an outstanding writer. His descriptions are vivid, his story concept unique. He’s organized the book into four distinct sections, from three different points of view and in reverse chronological order. It’s not your everyday kind of book!

Mr. Pawlik has also created believable characters, each with a specific need that drives them to act. This in turn creates tension and pushes the story forward. Add in danger and suspense and the story becomes gripping.

As I alluded to in my first-day tour post, the story raises significant questions–ones I believe to be key in our present-day culture. Central is the matter of the value of life. Are there any “throw away” people?

In my mind, this issue of necessity includes life in the womb. Are these little lives less important than the big lives of those outside the womb? Is it moral to sacrifice those little lives for the betterment of big lives?

Mr. Pawlik doesn’t just raise questions–he gives faces, and storylines, to people on both sides. Suddenly the clear-cut answers seem a little murkier.

At this point one of the characters who is a Christian steps up and does something that gives some answers for anyone thinking about the issues. Note, this character does not preach a sermon or even argue the points. She simply does something consistent with the Bible without saying that’s what she’s doing.

Which actually brings me to the next part of the review.

Weaknesses. In many ways, the act of nobility I referred to in the last section would have been perfect as part of the climax. But the story continued for some time after this pivotal event. From my perspective, the big question was answered–whose worldview would win out? The events after that point, then, didn’t carry the same significance, I didn’t think. They were a bit of fluff, if you can call horrific events “fluff.”

The other area of weakness is one I share as a writer–not presenting characters in a way that allows readers to connect with them. Of course Beckon is not a character-driven novel, and readers were pulled along by the tension, the suspense, the conflict between good and evil even if they didn’t feel particularly attached to the characters. It was a thrill ride, an adventure. At times all you could do was hold on tight and see where you ended up.

But …

Part of me thinks the story would be that much stronger if the reader cared more deeply for these people. They seemed believable, surely. They had real wants, serious dilemmas, emotional and spiritual crises to go along with the physical disasters they faced. Readers should have loved them, cheered them on, cared deeply about their choices. If we had, this book would have raced to the top of the Best Book lists, I’m fairly confident.

Recommendation. I’m not inclined to read thriller type books, but after having read Vanish, Mr. Pawlik’s Christy Award winning debut novel, I knew I would read whatever he wrote. Beckon did not dissuade me from that position. Yes, there were horrific events, but there was also hope and help and sacrifice.

I highly recommend Beckon to adults who love the creepy, the bone-chilling, the fear-inspiring, and to readers who want to consider the issues of life and immortality. It’s a good story filled with tension and intrigue and packaged in a unique structure that enhances the reading experience.

Wrap. If you’d like to learn more about Tom Pawlik and his books, visit him at his blog, web site, on Facebook, or follow him on Twitter.

Watch for the tour wrap on Friday right here at A Christian Worldview of Fiction. You’ll have a chance to vote for the May Top Tour Blogger.

And finally, the required disclaimer: in conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, which, I might add, in no way influenced my evaluation of it.

Published in: on May 23, 2012 at 6:03 pm  Comments Off on CSFF Blog Tour – Beckon by Tom Pawlik, Day 3  
Tags: , , , ,

CSFF Blog Tour – Beckon by Tom Pawlik, Day 2


Stephen King lite? Creepy suspense thriller? A story in the tradition of Tuck Everlasting? These and more are the things CSFF Blog Tour participants are saying about Beckon by Tom Pawlik.

But those aren’t quite all the same, are they. So who is right? Is the book too violent or only mildly gruesome?

This book offers a perfect example of how an author and his readers are working in tandem. The author has the responsibility of “speaking” clearly, and the reader then hears what he wants to hear.

Not that the reader intentionally distorts the author’s ideas or vision for his story, but each reader brings his own reading history, his own personal history, and his own set of beliefs to every piece of literature.

As a Christian who believes discernment involves seeing how things in our culture measure against Scripture, I approach what I read with an eye to truth, including spiritual truth. Someone else can pick up the same story with the intent to lose himself for a few hours in the adrenaline pumping thrills of a fast-paced adventure. What each of us “gets out” of the story, then, is bound to be affected by the expectations we brought with us when we turned to page one.

Someone who thinks that Beckon is a mild form of heavy-duty fear-inducing stories most likely has read a good number of Stephen King books, with perhaps a dose of Dean Koontz thrown in for good measure.

On the other hand, another reader more accustom to fairytale style fantasy might find Beckon a dark story filled with tension and suspense that never lets up.

For someone like me who doesn’t enjoy being scared, and thus who rarely reads stories with a high element of fright connected to them, Beckon pushes the envelop of the tolerable.

The point is this. When readers look for recommendations about books, it’s important for them to learn the bent of the individuals passing along their opinions. That’s not to say reviewers can’t be fair. But what frightens one may not frighten another. What touches one may repulse another. What keeps one turning pages as fast as can be might bore another.

It’s the rare book that can bridge the gap of people’s expectations and experiences and find a wide range of readers.

I commented in yesterday’s post that I wouldn’t call Beckon a horror story but that it had horrific moments which I was willing to tolerate. Someone else who loves fast action might tolerate the slower moments that established character. A third someone not interested in faith elements might tolerate the scenes that explore death and the morality of life everlasting.

A book like Beckon seems to be one of those bridge books–one that readers with varied expectations can enjoy. But don’t take my word for it. Read what others on the tour are saying. You can find links to specific articles at the bottom of the Day 1 post.

Before you go, though, take a moment if you would, to participate in a poll about the change in reading habits in the last few years: “Change and the Books You Read.”

Thanks bunches.

Published in: on May 22, 2012 at 5:39 pm  Comments (4)  
Tags: , , ,

CSFF Blog Tour – Beckon by Tom Pawlik, Day 1


I like books that make me think, and this month’s CSFF Blog Tour feature, Tom Pawlik’s recent release, Beckon, did just that. Yes, it was also a good story–especially entertaining for those who like a creepy thrills adventure. I wouldn’t say this book falls into the category of horror, but it has moments that are horrific.

Being as that’s not the type of book I enjoy, I tolerated those parts because there was enough going on that kept me engaged. But more about all that when I do my review later this week. For today I want to discuss an issue. I’m not saying it’s the issue Mr. Pawlik had in mind when he wrote the book, but it’s the issue that jumped out at me.

Unintentionally, to discuss this subject, I may give away plot elements, so consider this a Potential Spoilers Alert.

* * *

When I was growing up, my friends, parents, siblings, and, I’m sure, I as well, parroted an adage that held a lot of truth: two wrongs don’t make a right.

Intentionally or not, Beckon explores this pithy statement. If you can save someone’s life, is it still wrong to do wrong? Might it not be the case that my wrong can cancel out a greater wrong?

In tangent with this topic is the question, is one life more valuable than any other? Is someone who is without family and friends, who is adrift in the world, of less intrinsic value than a leader of a community, than an educated, productive, loved member of a family?

It’s so easy to say, of course, all life is equally valuable. But what if a homeless person had to die to save your wife? Your child? Is it so different from organ transplants if someone else’s “life energy” could provide healing and health to a dying loved one?

One step further, in my mind. Is it really true that all life is equally valuable if we use abortive tissue to develop cures for killer diseases?

Someone may argue that those babies were going to die anyway, so why shouldn’t their tissue be used for good, to save those who would die horrible deaths unless a cure is soon discovered for the disease from which they suffer. In fact, the use of those aborted babies’ tissue gives meaning to their deaths.

But using that same logic, why, then, don’t we “give meaning” to the homeless drifter and carve up his body, doling out his organs to keep “productive members of society” alive?

Society still gets irate at such a thought. Here in SoCal not long ago, a mentally ill homeless man was killed during a confrontation with law enforcement officers. What an uproar! And rightly so, if all life is equally valuable.

That man’s good should not be sacrificed for the sake of someone who happens to live in a house, drive a car, hold a job, and vote. A person is not better because he is better off. Rather, in God’s eyes, life is valuable. He created it. He formed each person in the womb.

It’s not OK for anyone to decide that the life in the womb is less valuable than the life outside the womb–that being too vulnerable to stand up for yourself, to live on your own, makes you less important.

Again, Western society seems to understand that. We go to great links to provide wheelchair access to public places and to give preferential parking to handicapped individuals. We celebrate remarkable feats such as a double limb amputee finishing a marathon or climbing a mountain or disabled individuals participating in the Paralympics. Their lives are valuable, our laws and outpouring of support seem to shout.

Why, then, do we tolerate taking a life to make someone else less burdened or embarrassed? Why do we fertilize eggs and then use the product–the person who results from that union–as nothing more than tissue to do with as we please?

Why aren’t those lives valuable, if, in fact, all life is of equal value?

And yes, Beckon made me think of this subject. What did others reading the story think about? You’ll need to take a look at the articles from the other tour participants (a check mark links to a tour article):

Published in: on May 21, 2012 at 3:30 pm  Comments (5)  
Tags: , , , ,

People of Faith: Corrie ten Boom, Part 4


After leaving the Nazi concentration camp, Corrie spent over thirty years speaking and writing about God’s love and forgiveness.

The conclusion.

What an extraordinary woman, we’re tempted to say. What made her faith so strong that she could endure such cruelty, grief, illness and isolation and still trust God as well as forgive her enemies?

Corrie said clearly that her faith accomplished nothing. It was too weak, too unstable, and sometimes she had a hard time believing when all around people were suffering hateful treatment and dying. She recognized instead that Jesus who promised to be with her always, carried her through those horrific circumstances.

From the age of five when Corrie prayed with her mother and yielded her life to Christ, she looked to Jesus. Her godly parents taught her by example and instruction to trust Him. Their love for God’s Word and commitment to prayer became infectious.

Besides the influence of Corrie’s parents, her sister Betsie proved to be a spiritual mentor, living her life in obedience to God and His Word and challenging Corrie to do the same. Before their arrest, Betsie prayed for the invading German pilots whenever she saw their planes. During her imprisonment she prayed for the German guards who mistreated them. In the months before she died, as she and Corrie prayed, God spoke to her about life after the war. She told Corrie of her vision to tell the German people of God’s love and forgiveness and to open homes for the hurting. Betsie understood that everything in life up to that point had been preparation for the ministry to come.

As God led in miraculous ways, Corrie embraced Betsie’s vision. But she also knew the truth about forgiveness first hand. Life in a concentration camp bred selfishness and a lack of love. Taking the warmest spot for roll call meant someone else would be cold, hoarding vitamins meant someone else would go without. Then there was the temptation to think that the power to help and to heal others’ hearts came from within her rather than from God. When the joy went out of her worship, Corrie faced her sin, confessed it and received God’s forgiveness and renewed fellowship. Later God would teach her to rely on the power of His love in order to forgive, even as she had been forgiven.

In the Beje Corrie had developed the life-time habit of beginning and ending each day with Bible reading and prayer. In prison she inhaled Scripture like one starving. During her concentration camp experiences the Bible was her light and hope. “The blacker the night around us grew,” she wrote in The Hiding Place, “the brighter and truer and more beautiful burned the word of God” (p. 177).

Was Corrie’s “secret,” then? Her upbringing? The godly influences in her life? Her prayer life? Her willingness to listen to and obey God’s Word? Corrie insisted the “secret” was not hers.

To illustrate the point, she wrote in Not I, But Christ about a trip in New Zealand she and a few others took by car. Along the way, they came to a primitive bridge. A man in their group got out to inspect the structure to see if it was strong enough for them to cross.

This man did not inspect our faith in the bridge, he inspected the bridge. So often we are inclined to look at our faith … but we must inspect the Bridge. We must not look at ourselves, but at Jesus. And when we look at Him we know He is strong. (p.53)

When people would approach Corrie and remark about the strength of her faith she similarly answered that Jesus sustained her:

It was His everlasting arms underneath me that carried me through. He was my security.

If I say it was my faith, then you, whenever you have to pass through hardships, can say, ‘I have not Corrie’s faith.’ But when I tell you it was Jesus, then you can trust the same One who has carried me through, will do the same for you (Corrie: The Lives She Touched, p. 153).

Corrie’s world turned especially dark during the Nazi era because the depravity of Man seemed to win out, but the truth is, we all live in a fallen world with sinful people who inevitably sin against us. Some of us may think we haven’t suffered to the same degree as Corrie and thus dismiss the idea that we too need to look to God to give us the ability to forgive. We think, perhaps, we should be capable of handling the “small stuff” or, worse, that we only have to forgive the “big stuff.”

Others of us may have suffered greater trauma than Corrie. Instead of the loving foundation and support of a godly family, we were hurt by those very people God designed to care for us. Perhaps the sin against us was violent or re-occurring over a long period of time.

Do the differing circumstances relegate Corrie’s life message as inapplicable for people in the twenty-first century? Hardly. Corrie did not direct her audiences to look at her or to learn x-number of steps in order to achieve forgiveness—such information might become outdated or irrelevant. Rather, Corrie ten Boom, before the traumatic events of World War II, during its blackness and the ensuing ministry to tell others what she knew to be true about God, and after as she experienced the approach of death, did what any person in any circumstance can do—she looked to Jesus, the Author and Finisher of her faith. She trusted in the One she knew to be the Victor and obeyed.

# # #

Bibliography

Brown, Joan Winmill. Corrie: The Lives She’s Touched. Minneapolis: Special Edition, World Wide Pictures, Fleming H. Revell, 1979.

Rosewell, Pamela. The Five Silent Years of Corrie ten Boom. Zondervan, 1986.

Ten Boom, Corrie, and John and Elizabeth Sherrill. The Hiding Place. Chosen Books, 1984.

Ten Boom, Corrie, and Jamie Burkingham. Tramp for the Lord. Christian Literature Crusade, Fleming H. Revell, 1974.

Ten Boom, Corrie. Not I, But Christ. Thomas Nelson, 1983.

Ten Boom, Corrie. Prison Letters. Fleming H. Revell, 1975.

To read the entire article see Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

Published in: on May 18, 2012 at 5:02 pm  Comments (1)  
Tags: , , , ,
%d bloggers like this: