Sep 23, 2009

A Review of If God Is Good by Randy Alcorn

My latest book to read and review was If God is Good: Faith in the Midst of Suffering and Evil by Randy Alcorn. I was really looking forward to this book because I have always admired Alcorn's work. He's always biblically and theologically sound while at the same time dealing with real questions that real people ask. This book was no exception.

This is a summary of the book from the publisher:
"Every one of us will experience suffering. Many of us are experiencing it now. As we have seen in recent years, evil is real in our world, present and close to each one of us.In such difficult times, suffering and evil beg questions about God--Why would an all-good and all-powerful God create a world full of evil and suffering? And then, how can there be a God if suffering and evil exist?
These are ancient questions, but also modern ones as well. Atheists such as Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and even former believers like Bart Ehrman answer the question simply: The existence of suffering and evil proves there is no God.

In this captivating new book, best-selling author Randy Alcorn challenges the logic of disbelief, and brings a fresh, realistic, and thoroughly biblical insight to the issues these important questions raise.

Alcorn offers insights from his conversations with men and women whose lives have been torn apart by suffering, and yet whose faith in God burns brighter than ever. He reveals the big picture of who God is and what God is doing in the world–now and forever. And he equips you to share your faith more clearly and genuinely in this world of pain and fear.

As he did in his best-selling book, Heaven, Randy Alcorn delves deep into a profound subject, and through compelling stories, provocative questions and answers, and keen biblical understanding, he brings assurance and hope to all."
This book is a huge volume - 494 pages. However, the chapters are short enough to be read and digested in one sitting. They are also comprehensive, covering just about any topic or question someone might raise about the questions of evil and suffering. Alcorn has done his homework on this topic. The reader can tell that these are questions that are important to the author. He wants to present a biblically sound answer to the questions that rock the faith of believers and present real challenges to the faith of unbelievers. Alcorn is also honest enough in his presentation to show that the lack of real faith in unbelievers actually helps to increase their frustration with God on this topic. His purpose in this book is not only to show what Scripture has to say about evil and suffering, but to show that the Christian faith presents the best defense of these issues and the only real basis for hope in the midst of the pain. He does not try to be a public defender for God. He allows God's word to speak for itself.

Alcorn's book is the best I have ever seen on this sticky subject. Most of the books I have seen either present a mushy defense that is heavily weighted on a loving God or read like theological defense with about as much readability as a the congressional tax code with little compassion for the deep questions and pain that people experience. Alcorn uses a lot of relevant stories of suffering and how those who experienced them found real hope in the Christian faith. This book should be on every pastor's shelf and should be the basis for a relevant sermon series on this topic for his flock.

You can see the book here:

Sep 22, 2009

Monday Morning Clarity

Seems like the Monday morning clarity is hard to get going on Monday recently. Yesterday (Monday) I spent all day in Alabaster packing up stuff to prepare for the movers that will come soon and take it all away. So, no blogging yesterday, but a lot of time for personal thought as I was driving.

Housing Update: We have a contract on our house in Alabaster and were supposed to close this Friday, Sept 25. However, their is a delay and it looks like closing is pushed back to next week. Which...affects the closing on the house we are trying to buy here. We have not been able to set a firm closing date b/c of the uncertainty on our house in Alabaster. All said, hopefully we will close on both houses next week and can begin moving into our new house in early October.

Now on to other thoughts:
  • Great Sunday morning at Sixth Street. The crowd was still a little smaller than I had hoped. I think some of the college football games are affecting attendance - especially the late night Auburn games. However, the atmosphere of those here was great. Good job by the praise team and choir. I appreciated Adam's lead-in to "From the Inside Out" and Whitney Patterson did an awesome job on the vocals.
  • I preached Sunday morning on the Parable of the Ten Virgins and being prepared for the coming Kingdom. The main takeaway was "What gets me into church isn't what necessarily gets me into the kingdom." Felt a lot of freedom in the message.
  • We'll be wrapping up the "Kindoms Collide" series this weekend and I am working on the next sermon series. Hope to have it mapped out by the end of the week, but with all the closing stuff on the houses, no promises.
  • Sunday night was a great time of fellowship and food at the Family Life Meeting. Baptists and covered dishes go hand-in-hand. I also told everyone that I am convinced that the Greek word for "chicken" is somewhere in the Acts 2 passage on the church. I've never seen so many combinations of chicken dishes.
  • At the Family Life Meeting, I introduced to the church what I felt like should be our Core Values for Sixth Street. I have received good reviews so far and lots of positive comments about the future. I am convinced as we focus on the Word and develop a missional strategy to make disciples, God will bless Sixth Street. Lots of work to do between now and the end of the year.
  • I'm really looking forward to the church's kickoff of AWANA beginning Oct 21. Our church needs to have a program to help disciple children and reach families. I am glad for the volunteers that have stepped up to the plate.
  • I am digging my weekly disciple group with two guys from the church. It's great to meet with other guys to talk about being better followers of Jesus. The success or failure of the church will be how well we can reach men and disciple them.

Gonna put a post up tomorrow about a review of If God is Good by Randy Alcorn. It's a great read.

Sep 17, 2009

Gearing Up for the Postseason

Pardon the diversion from anything mildly constructive to the Kingdom of God and allow me one of my many divulgences into my love for sports. I watched last night's Red Sox/Angels game last night on ESPN. I commented to my wife that with Paul Byrd pitching, I actually figured this might be a loss last night, but it turned out to be one of the more exciting games of the year for the Sox and a reminder that it's almost playoff time. Seems like every year the Red Sox begin the playoffs with the Angels. I hope for much of the same outcome as the past few years. I believe I would put the Red Sox potential pitching lineup of Beckett, Lester, Dice K, and a combination of Bucholz and Wakefied up against anybody. The Sox bullpen of strong, young arms topped off with Wagner and Papelbon should be a great advantage for them too. Being 6.5 up in the Wild Card with 18 to go is a good feeling.

On a side note, before some circumstances prevented out plans from becoming a reality, my brother and I were planning on being in Boston with our wives this week and would have been at the last 2 games at Fewway. Would have been great ones!

Go Red Sox!

Sep 15, 2009

Al Mohler and the Future of the SBC

I watched this video online a few weeks ago and thought it was a timely, prophetic message. Dr. Mohler is one of the prominent voices in the SBC. I think that the leadership of our convention would do well to listen and heed this message. It's a little long, but well worth the watch.

Monday Morning Clarity

I didn't get to post my Monday Morning observations last week from sheer business and yesterday I was knocked out in the bed with fever and coughing. Seems like I may be dealing with some flu symptoms. Anyway, here are a few thoughts about this past weekend at Sixth Street:
  • I've started a disciple group with two of the guys from the church on Friday mornings. I believe that most churches have missed out on the benefit of intentional, peer discipling. I am using Greg Ogden's Discipleship Essentials and some of his thoughts in his book Transforming Discipleship. I hope to have at least one triad disciple group that I am personally involved in at all times.
  • I took my first trip to Jordan-Hare Stadium over the weekend for the MSU/Auburn game. While I was disappointed at the outcome, the game atmosphere was great and the Auburn fans showed a lot of class. I also had to give a "War Eagle" out to the church which was met with a small round of applause.
  • I really struggled with my focus and delivery during this last week's sermon. Probably because I was feeling ill and my voice was really straining. Hope it was communicated clearly.
  • We were blessed to have a wonderful young lady, Baylie Kizziah, share in song on Sunday night. She has a great voice and stage presence for a high school student. We need to get her on stage more often.
  • I'm thankful for the tech team at Sixth Street led by Angela Mullins. She and her team work very hard and with limited resources to bring this church into the 21st century with media technology. I know even greater things are in the future in that area.
  • I'm meeting tonight for my first meeting with my church council to present to them my first draft of the Core Values I think we should adopt as a church.

Sep 6, 2009

Go Dawgs! Mullen Era Begins!

I didn't get to go to the game at Scott Field yesterday, but I was anxiously barking and rooting on my Bulldogs from my living room here in Alexander City. Unfortunately, I don't get ESPNU on my cable station and for some reason ESPN didn't put it on the pay-per-view on the Gameplan so I didn't get to watch the game. I followed the score on the Gamplan. Thank you also for Twitter and Brad Locke's updates from the game.

From what I could tell, MSU's offense took a little to get going but pulled away in the late first half and in the second half. Chris Relf appeared to be the star of the offense. He appeared to manage the game well and made some good decisions. Chad Bumphis showed the speed and promise that has had Bulldog fans drooling since he committed in February. I also heard that Robert Elliott had a great game with several great plays called back for penalties. Remember too that the offense scored 45 points without arguably our best player, Anthony Dixon. It was the first time the Dawgs scored 45 points since 2002. It was a welcome relief from an offensive drought that has lasted way too long.

The defense continued to be the strong point of the team. I'm glad to see Jamar Chaney back on the field and his leadership. Charles Mitchell is also a great player who will make lots of plays this year.

This week we travel to the Plains at Auburn who is also coming off their first game under new head coach Gene Chizik. I am looking forward to a great game with two teams trying to open up the offense against two great SEC defenses. And, thanks to a great church member here at Sixth Street, I am going to the game! Look for me with my Maroon and cowbell hanging out the window! Go Dawgs!

Sep 3, 2009

Colege Football Is Here!

It's time for that mind-numbing, rabid-fan-following, tailgating, experience known every year as College Football. I live in the South and if you don't live in the South, you have no idea of the power and cult-following of southern college football. Worse yet, I live in Alabama where the spiritual environment of church on Sunday morning is created in Bryant-Denny and Jordan-Hare on Saturday nights. Even worse, I am a MS State fan living in Alabama where lately I have been exposed to year-after-year of futility while watching the other teams in the SEC compete for BCS bowls and National Championships.

However, today is the day that we all look forward to. Today, everyone is undefeated. Today, everyone has promise to be better than last year. Today, is about hope and fun and the promise of a new season.

On a personal note, as a MS State fan, we are pumped about the potential of the program under new coach Dan Mullen. Mullen has excited the Bulldog base with his enthusiasm and creativity. The last few years have been an offensive nightmare while our defense has usually been one of the best in the conference. However, the defensive talent was overshadowed and worn down by excessive "three and outs" and turnovers that create short fields. Mullen's Bulldogs may not lead the SEC in offense this year, but we are all expecting significant improvements. We hope to be more competitive in games and average more than 15 points per game (last in the SEC). Here's to you Coach Dan! To you and the Bulldogs I say "Go Dawgs!"

The experience of college football is here! Despite a recession, the swine flu, and a disappointing season of 24, all is right again with the world. Now excuse me. I need to go put another coat on my cowbell...