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The Screwtape Letters

21 Oct

C. S. Lewis was one of the greatest Christian apologists of our age.  An Oxford Don and confirmed atheist, he came to Christ through a slow and thoughtful conversion process.  His works have changed the way that believers approach the defense of their faith, but they’ve also played a profound role in the spiritual development of Christians worldwide.  Perhaps one of his best known is a volume known as “The Screwtape Letters”.

Dedicated to his good friend, J. R. R. Tolkien, this work of fiction follows the misplaced efforts of a young apprentice demon (Screwtape) as he attempts to beguile and mislead a new believer.  Exploring issues ranging from relationships to church to philosophy, the book provides a deep and insightful look into the dangers which await those who have chosen to walk the path of Christ as well as the victory available to us through the Holy Spirit.

This week, we’re featuring the dramatized version of this classic work.  “The Screwtape Letters” by Focus on the Family Radio Theatre features the amazing voice talent of Andy Serkis (Gollum from “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy directed by Peter Jackson) as Screwtape along with a full cast of quirky characters.  At a running time of four hours, it’s a drama you’ll want to listen to again and again!

“The Screwtape Letters” is available in a 5 disk set for $28.58 and constitutes an investment well worth making!

Extreme Devotion

30 Sep

Following Christ demands sacrifice… and not just the sacrifice of our sinful desires.  For many Christians today, following Jesus means the loss of their property, families, freedom, and even their lives.  Walking such a path is a challenge and one that those of us in the “west” too often fail to understand.  With freedoms unrestricted, we encounter little resistance to the practice of our beliefs and are often paralyzed when we do.  Can we do better?

If that’s a challenge you long to take up, then “Extreme Devotion” is the book for you!  In 366 daily readings, you’ll hear the stories of those who have put Biblical principles in action, risking their all for the sake of Christ.  You’ll listen as brothers and sisters around the world relate the tales of their fears and failures, trials and triumphs.  You’ll walk with them as they encounter those hostile to their faith and demonstrate the love of Jesus in even the most difficult of circumstances.  And, more importantly, you’ll be encouraged to develop the same type of faith that has helped each of them to survive the challenges that confront them on a daily basis.

Each day’s devotion consists of a Scripture reading, a story, and a challenge that will help you to deepen your own relationships both with God and with others.  You’ll be encouraged to make commitments and take the steps of faith that will strengthen your testimony.  And you’ll be inspired to apply those principles as you make a difference in the lives of those around you – reflecting the light of Christ in an ever darkening world.

It’s a journey worth taking and it’s one you’ll be glad you didn’t miss!

Extreme Devotion” is produced by The Voice of the Martyrs and is available for $13.05 in softcover.

Kingdom of the Cults

16 Sep

Cult.  It’s a word we don’t like to use today.  It conjures images of secret ceremonies and strange behaviors of unquestioning deference to authority and deviant acts.  To suggest that someone is a member of a “cult” is tantamount to calling them a “freak” or a “weirdo”… and it certainly doesn’t help our ability to effectively share the Gospel!

So why feature a book on cults?  The answer is simple: while we may not enjoy using the word, it’s still important for Christians to understand the differences which exist between traditional Christianity and those religions which pose as “Christian” while denying the fundamental teachings of the faith.  The truth is, not all cults lean towards the occult.  Indeed, many “cult” members are quite normal both in their beliefs and practices.  What makes them a danger is the way in which they twist the requirements for Salvation from the simple faith taught in the Bible into legalistic systems.  Sadly, it’s not always easy to discern where or how such twists have taken place and that’s why, this week, we’re featuring the revised edition of Walter Martin’s classic “Kingdom of the Cults, The”.

Using Scripture as the measuring rod, Martin and Zacharias take readers through the tenants of each variation to see how they measure up to the Gospel presented by Jesus and His apostles.  You’ll enjoy the clear way in which both authors highlight the differences between the faiths and open up insights into potential evangelism opportunities. You’ll be introduced to the unique cultures of each cult and gain useful insights into the way members of these unique organizations think and act.  Read cover-to-cover or used simply as a reference, this in-depth guide will provide you with information on the history and teachings of the most prominent cults of our day.

Kingdom of the Cults, The” was produced by Bethany House Publishers and is available for $22.24 from www.Amazon.com.

Encountering the World of Islam

29 Jul

What does it mean to be a follower of Islam? The question is a simple one, but the answers are not. According to the Pew Research Center, there are over 1.6 billion Muslims in the world today – that’s nearly ¼ of the world’s entire population! Spread out across six continents, these faithful seek each day to become more wholly submitted to the will of Allah, but what this looks like can vary tremendously from one sect to another. That’s why Keith E. Swartley’s textbook, “Encountering the World of Islam” was one of my first stops as I began seeking a deeper understanding of a faith so different from my own.

Designed to provide Christians with an introduction to the development and expression of Muslim belief, “Encountering the World of Islam” takes an in depth look at the origins, theology, and culture which surround this historic faith. In eleven carefully planned lessons, readers will learn what it means to be a Muslim, what the faith looks like in daily life, and how they can most effectively communicate their own faith with their Islamic friends. Supplemental readings introduced students to the world of Muslim missions (and some of the difficult questions which surround the topic) while practical activities help readers to better understand the culture which surrounds one of our world’s biggest religions. Join in the online community and you’ll receive an even more enlightening introduction!

Re-released in updated form by IVP Books in 2012, “Encountering the World of Islam” is available for $27.12 in paperback and makes an excellent introduction for everyone from the casual observer to the mission-minded believer!

How to Talk about Jesus without Freaking Out

22 Jul

A Hollywood producer, Karen Covell was used to speaking her mind on just about everything… except, that is, her faith.  For some reason, opening her mouth to explain why she trusted in Christ left her feeling weak-kneed.  Why was it that she had such difficulty expressing the one thing that mattered most?

Evangelism can be challengeing – especially for those of us who weren’t gifted with Billy Graham’s charisma.  Put us on the spot and we freeze.  We know we should say something, but what? Even if we do know what, how can we be sure we’ve said all of the “important” stuff?  And what do we do if the conversation turns hostile?  The answers to these questions may be simpler than we think.

In How to Talk About Jesus (Without Freaking Out), Karen, her husband Jim (a composer) and friend Victorya (an agent) draw upon their own experiences to teach readers a simple, relational way to talk about Christ without feeling awkward.  Like most things in Hollywood, the technique is based upon the concept of story-telling: the story of the person in front of you, your personal story, and the story of God and His love for humanity.  It’s about learning to give a testimony – in a way that clearly and honestly demonstrates the work of Christ in you.

Packed full of helpful hints and tips on everything from addressing personal fears to answering deep theological questions, How to Talk About Jesus (Without Freaking Out) provides readers with a variety of effective techniques that will be comfortable for any personality type.  It’s a great introduction to evangelism for everyone whether they’re new to the faith or an old hand!

Re-released by Thrilling LIfe Publishers in 2013, How to Talk About Jesus (Without Freaking Out) is available for $16.14 in paperback.

Mormonism 101: Examining the Religion of the Latter-day Saints

15 Jul

What makes Mormonism different from traditional Christianity?  Do the differences matter?  And if so, how can a traditional Christian believer most effectively explain those differences to their LDS friends? An enlightening journey through basic Mormon theology, Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson’s volume, Mormonism 101: Examining the Religion of the Latter-day Saints, is an honest and well-researched volume designed to help answer these questions!

McKeever and Johnson take their readers on an informative and enlightening journey through LDS history as seen through Mormon eyes.  Utilizing accepted Scripture and the teachings of the LDS church’s apostles and prophets they add scope to the Christian’s understanding of what their Mormon friends mean when they talk about concepts like “grace”, “salvation”, and “eternal life”.  Carefully comparing and contrasting LDS and traditional Christian views on subjects as varied as the nature of God and humanity, scripture, salvation, temple ordinances, and revelation, they provide believers with a basis for dialogue.  Then, through a series of “Witnessing Tips” placed after each chapter, McKeever and Johnson help their readers better understand how to apply the information they’ve learned in real-life situations: sharing the differences while demonstrating both love and respect.

A great primer for those interested in better understanding the LDS faith and effectively sharing their own, Mormonism 101: Examining the Religion of the Latter-day Saints is available in paperback for $19.80 or on Kindle for $12.10.

Witnessing to Jews: Practical ways to relate the love of Jesus

8 Jul

Sharing your Christian faith can be difficult – especially when the people with whom you are sharing come from a different cultural background.  Things said and done out of love or concern can take on new meaning; appearing too weak or informal to have any impact or being too blunt or aggressive to warrant being heard.  Only when we take the time to understand the cultures of those with whom we share will we experience the type of Christ-reflecting relationships that have the power to transform lives.  And this is where Moishe and Ceil Rosen’s Witnessing to Jews: Practical Ways to Relate the Love of Jesus can help.

Messianic Jews Moishe and his wife begin their volume with a list of myths that frequently prevent Christians from attempting to share their faith.  From confronting fear and insecurity on the part of believers to addressing the level of knowledge possessed by Jews, themselves, the Rosen’s help Christians to understand the practical side of what it means to be Jewish and how they can make a difference in the lives of their Jewish friends.

While many of their tips are practical for any form of evangelism (like the “Witness on the Way” or WOW technique which advocates practical, action-based evangelism), much of the information contained in this volume is culture-specific.  Throughout the volume, you’ll be introduced to the stories of Jews who have embraced Jesus as their Messiah.  Drawing from their experiences, you’ll learn how to avoid accidentally giving (or taking) offense during a dialogue.  You’ll receive an introduction to arguing your faith from the Old Testament (books broadly accepted by the Jewish community) as well as detailed instructions for answering common Jewish objections to Jesus.  Then, see the lessons in action through sample conversations.  If you’re anything like me, by the end, you’ll feel well-prepared to put your best foot forward when it comes to boldly sharing your faith with God’s chosen people!

Published in 1998 by Purple Pomegranate Productions, Witnessing to Jews: Practical Ways to Relate the Love of Jesus is an excellent guide for everyone looking to more effectively share their faith cross-culturally with their Jewish friends!  Witnessing to Jews: Practical Ways to Relate the Love of Jesus is available in paperback for $13.43 through amazon.com.

Under the Overpass

1 Jul

Are you really the Christian you say you are?  It’s a question that echoed over and over in Mike Yankoski’s brain as he sat in a pew that Sunday morning, pondering the difference between his comfortable life as a Christian college student and the uncomfortable existence faced by many of America’s homeless.  While he wasn’t “in the grip of rampant sin”, it was clear that what he said he believed wasn’t always mirrored through his actions… especially when those actions were likely to land him in unpleasant circumstances.  His attitude was one of hypocrisy at its finest and that wasn’t what he wanted his faith to be.

After prayerful consideration (and consultation with friends and family), Mike elected to put his faith to the test.  Hitchhiking from Denver to SanDiego, he and his friend, Sam, would experience homelessness first-hand – living on the streets or in shelters and getting by on the good (and not so good) graces of others.  They would spend sleepless nights in the cold and the rain without adequate clothing or shelter, experience genuine hunger, and share the love of Christ in the most unexpected places and with the most unexpected people.

Mike shares freely about the entire experience in his book, Under the Overpass: A Journey of Faith on the Streets of America, an eye-opening, first-person account of homeless life.  Throughout its pages, you’ll be exposed to a wide variety of factors which lead people to life on the streets and get a clearer picture of how our words and actions can help (or hurt) those whom Christ has called us to love.  You’ll also get some practical ideas for ways that you can make a difference in the lives of the homeless in your community!

At 224 pages, this book is a quick and engaging read as well as an excellent resource for youth and adults who desire to deepen their understanding of the impact their faith can have upon the lives of those in need.  Under the Overpass: A Journey of Faith on the Streets of Americawas published in 2005 by Multnomah Publishers and is available for $12.98 in paperback.

Restricted Nations

24 Jun

Most of us in the western world have little idea what it’s like to live in a place where our faith cannot openly be expressed.  We meet undisturbed for worship, read our Bibles on park benches, and even share the Gospel openly on our sidewalks… and all without repercussions.  Yet for many believers around the world, this is more dream than reality.

It’s for this reason that I’ve become rather fond of “Restricted Nations”, a series of small, easy-to-read guides produced by Voice of the Martyrs (VOM).  At around 100 pages, each volume highlights the history of the Christian church in a single country.  From the first missionaries to modern political difficulties, you’ll hear the stories of those who were willing to sacrifice everything for the sake of the good news that God loves sinners.  You’ll discover the truth behind the claim that “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church” and uncover new ways in which you can make a difference both through prayer and active intervention.

The set currently covers China, Iran, India, Pakistan, North Korea, Sudan, Indonesia, Colombia, Vietnam and Eritrea, but is constantly growing. Each volume may be purchased individually ($7 apiece) or as a set featuring the 8 original volumes for $35.00 + shipping and handling at https://secure.persecution.com/p-4725-restricted-nations-set-of-8.aspx  It’s a small investment and well worth every penny!

Norman Geisler’s “Systematic Theology”

17 Jun

“What should I read next?”  The question was pitched to me by a young friend whose interest in apologetics had recently blossomed into a passion which seemed to consume most of his out of school hours.  It was clear that he already had a solid understanding of the basics (he’d read the Bible through several times while still in High School), so I felt compelled to give him something a bit meatier: Norman Geisler’s Systematic Theology.

What do I like about these books?  Quite simply that they were written for people who ask hard questions.  Unlike many other systematic theologies, Geisler takes the time to present multiple views on each of the topics addressed and carefully analyzes both the strengths and weaknesses of commonly held Christian beliefs.  Using both the Bible and a good dose of logic, his goal appears to be to help readers learn to think for themselves rather than to simply regurgitate a few answers they learned in a Bible class.  This earns him five stars, in my book.

I’m also a huge fan of his detail-intensive style.  Breaking down each concept into its minutest parts, he turns complex principles into easy to understand concepts – making deep theology accessible to anyone willing to invest a little time in a good read.  Whether discussing the nature of sin or the reliability of the Bible, these volumes are sure to be a resource that you’ll return to again and again!

All four volumes of Norman Geisler’s Systematic Theology(published by Bethany House Publishers) may be purchased individually (around $35 each) or as a set for $189.99.  It’s a bit of a hefty up-front investment, but one which you certainly won’t regret!

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