Saturday, December 31, 2011

My 2011 Reading List-What's Yours?

Books I've read in 2011 (in no particular order):

  • The Ezekiel Option, The Copper Scrolls, The Twelth Imam, The Tehran Initiative-Joel Rosenberg
  • The Ambition-Lee Strobel
  • Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy-Eric Metaxas
  • The Pursuit of God-A.W. Tozer
  • Crime & Punishment-Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  • The Rising Tide, The Steel Wave, Nothing Less Than Victory-Jeff Shaara (started series in 2010, finished 2011)
  • Uncle Tom's Cabin-Harriet Beacher Stowe
  • God's Story, Your Story-Max Lucado
  • Election 2012: The Story Begins-Real Clear Politics
  • The Story of the Scrolls-Geza Vermes
  • Son of Hamas-Mosab Yousef
  • No Better Place To Die-Robert Murphy
I got an Amazon Kindle this summer, and I've really enjoyed having it.  A lot of the books I've read were free or nearly free.  Probably the books that had the most impact on me this year were The Pursuit of God and the Bonhoeffer book.  I plan to reread Pursuit in 2012 (something I seldom do).  It's just not a book that you can run through once and get everything.  "Bonhoeffer" is an amazing story of a pastor who made the ultimate sacrifice in his opposition to Hitler and Nazi Germany.  When other pastors caved in to Nazi control of state churches, Bonhoeffer actually worked as a spy against Hitler, and would pay for it with his life.

I also enjoyed reading "Uncle Tom's Cabin"-a book I've always meant to read but never had until this year.  It may be one of the most influential works of fiction written in the English language.  I also enjoyed the Joel Rosenberg books.  He has definitely grown as a writer since his first book, "The Last Jihad."  His two latest books, "The Twelth Imam" & "The Tehran Initiative" really give you an insight into the mind of the radical Islamist and what we could be facing from Iran.  Though they're fiction, the news about Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons this year show that these could be chillingly prophetic books.  "Crime & Punishment" was one of the last books I read this year.  This is one of the free books that I downloaded on my Kindle.  Doestevsky really makes you think.  It was interested to get a view of Russian culture during the time of the American Civil War.  Jeff Shaara is very good.  I've read most of his books and they are great historical fiction.  This was a series on World War II.  Each chapter is from the viewpoint of a different participant-on both sides of the war.

How about you?  What books have you read this year?  I'd love to hear from you!


Friday, October 7, 2011

A Man of A Different Spirit!

I've been looking at the lives of two incredible men of God. Both were Jewish, both were influential in their culture, and both of them lived their lives in times of great transition in the world. Though they lived hundreds of years apart and both lived thousands of years removed from our culture, I believe they can speak into our lives today.  Today I'd like to look at an incredible man named Caleb, who was truly A Man of a Different Spirit!

Caleb-Act 1
Numbers 13 introduces us to a 40 year old Israeli named Caleb. He's lived through some pretty amazing times already. A couple of years before, he and the rest of the Israelites had been delivered from 400 years of bondage in Egypt by God through the hand of Moses. They'd seen the Red Sea split open, their Egyptian enemies crushed, and the giving of the Mosaic law by the fiery hand of God at Mt. Sinai. Now they are about to enter into the land of Canaan-a land that had been promised to them by God hundreds of years before. One catch-their were some really nasty characters in Canaan! Affectionately called the Canaanites (imagine that!), they were idol worshipers, had walled cities, and were roughly about as tall as Lebron James. Caleb is a member of an elite Israeli Special Ops Unit made up of one man from each of the 12 tribes (Maybe we'll call them Seal Team 12!). They are sent by Moses not to see if they can take the land, but rather as a sort of ancient reconnaissance team to find out the best way to neutralize the Canaanites.

Well, long story short, when these guys see the size of the Canaanites, they get seriously cold feet. All but two of them come back saying, "Yeah, the land is everything we've ever dreamed, but (and isn't there always a "but")  there is no way we can take it." However, there was a minority report. Caleb and his buddy Joshua saw the same giants in the land, but their faith was greater than the size of the Canaanites. He spoke against the Whiny Baby Ten and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it." (Num. 13: 30)  However, the people, quaking in their sandals, accepted the majority report and decided to make like a tree and leave.  Caleb and Joshua pleaded with their brethren to not bail out of God's plan but to go up in God's strength.  Unfortunately, the people would have none of it.  In fact, they actually picked up stones to stone the two spies!  Talk about some unpopular leaders!

The people had had their say, but then God had his say.  And, believe me, it was not what the Israelites wanted to hear!  God sided with the two men of courage against everybody else.  As a matter of fact, Moses (who had also stood with Caleb and Joshua) had to do some serious negotiating with God to keep Him from nuking the whole nation!  God consigns the entire nation to wander in the wilderness for forty years until all the men forty and older had died.  The exceptions were to be---you guessed it-Joshua and Caleb.  Numbers 14:24 is a refrigerator verse.  Here God tells the people what he thinks about Caleb--
"But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it."

Caleb-Act II
The forty years have passed, the old crew has gone out and the new crew has come in.  A nation of migrants has gone into Canaan and cleaned the clocks of a nation of giants.  Ever heard of the walls of Jericho?  They're history now.  And today a nation of a million or so Israelites has only two old men.  Yep, our old buddies, Joshua and Caleb.  Joshua was given the unenviable task of following in Moses' footsteps as Commander In Chief, and (with God's help) he fills that role with grace and grit.  Caleb?  Well, we haven't heard from him in awhile.  We catch up with him in Joshua 14.  He's 85 now and as strong as he was at 40.  He's still got that "can do" spirit.  Instead of retirement, he's ready for a new challenge.  Moses had promised him a portion of Israel and he's come to claim it.  Think maybe he'll take a condo on the Sea of Galilee?  Maybe a spot by the Jericho Country Club?  Nope.  !et's peak in on Joshua 14:12-

"Now give me this hill country that the LORD promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the LORD helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.”

Caleb has his pick of the litter, and he chooses the rocky hills of Hebron where the giant Anakites live.  Yep, there's a few Canaanites left in the land, and 85-year-old Caleb wants to knock their heads together!  This is one old hombre whose doesn't have retirement on his radar!  Oh, and guess what?  Joshua 15:14 tells us he did exactly what he promised he'd do.  Those pesky Anakites were assigned to the ash heap of history!

What does the story of this ancient Israeli have to do with our lives here in 21st century America? I think this over 3000-year-old story has something to say to us today.  Let's draw some lessons from Caleb's life:
  1. Caleb was a man of a different spirit.  Caleb was not a go-with-the-flow kind of guy.  When virtually everyone around him had the wrong answer, he stuck stubbornly to God's right answer no matter what others thought.  His wholehearted devotion to God contrasted starkly with the wishy-washy religion of his peers.  Sound familiar?  Even in Christian circles today, spiritual toughness is a rarely found trait.  We want a boatload of feel-good religion, but aren't willing to spend much time in God's word and in prayer to find out what God wants for our lives.  And it shows.  I'm afraid most Christians today would buy in to the majority report of fear and "can't do" than the minority report of "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."  
  2. Caleb was a tenacious man.  We know this because he stuck it out in the wilderness with his unfaithful companions without losing his faith.  After 45 years, not only was he as physically as strong as he was at forty, but his spiritual abs were pretty amazing as well.  What about you?  Would you be willing to toil it out in anonymity for almost half a century, tenaciously holding to your faith no matter what the world, the flesh, and the devil throw at you? 
  3. Caleb didn't have any quit in him even at the end.   Instead of looking for retirement, Eighty-five year old Caleb is ready to take on the Hebron Mob.  We somehow have bought in to this notion in our society that birthday sixty-five buys us a ticket to Easy Street.  Not Caleb.  He's two decades past that milestone and still itching to serve the Lord in any way he can.  I'd love to have half the spiritual grit in my gizzard that this old geezer had!

Want to read more?  Here's links to some of my more popular posts:
Lincoln & Obama-Two Views of Welfare
TR on Lincoln-The Great Statesman
A Christmas Story-Put It On My Account
Reflections On 30 Years of Marriage-Part 1

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day Tribute

Following is a Memorial Day Tribute that I posted. Thank God for our brave men and women who defend our nation's freedom!

My Letter to President Obama-Concerning Israel

My first blog post is a copy of the letter I sent today to President Obama on one of the subjects I feel most strongly about:

May 30, 2011

Dear President Obama:

I’m writing to express my concern and support for Israel.  While times are dangerous around the world, Israel’s situation is especially perilous.  She is surrounded by nations that repeatedly and publicly call for her destruction.  When she tries to defend herself from security threats, she is harshly and unfairly criticized by the international media and foreign governments.

I would like to make some comments on your May 19 speech in which you stated,

“We believe the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states.”  

  1. As Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu publicly stated to you, the 1967 borders are completely indefensible.    Going back to these borders would ensure the destruction of Israel, as her enemies long to see.  This would also mean the re-partitioning of the Holy City of Jerusalem, which you have vowed yourself can never happen.
  2. As long as Hamas is allied with the Palestinian Authority, there can be no peace with Israel.  How can you demand that Israel make peace with an entity that is sworn to her destruction?  This is tantamount to the U.S. making peace with Al Qaeda!  
  3. Mr. Netanyahu stood before our Congress and few days ago and eloquently spoke of the impossibility of peace with the Palestinians at this present time. Though he has courageously stated that he would accept a Palestinian state, his counterpart refuses to do so.  As he stated in his speech,  “ It is time for President Abbas to stand before his people and say: ‘I will accept a Jewish state...”  Until this happens, there can never be peace between Israelis and Palestinians.  

In summary, the beginning point of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority must not be the 1967 borders, but should be the renunciation of the terrorist organization Hamas by PA and the public acknowledgement of Israel by President Abbas.  

Mr. President, as a American and as a Christian,  I stand unequivocally with the state of Israel and affirm the historic relationship between Israel and the U.S.  I believe the Jewish people of Israel have a right to live within secure, recognized, and peaceful borders.  I affirm her right to protect her citizens.  I recognize her capital in Jerusalem, where she ensures the rights of all faiths in the Holy City.  

As my president, I ask that you hear my voice and the voices of millions of pro-Israel Americans.


Wayne Nall
104040 Mill St.
Cynthiana, IN 47612

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