Book Review: Active Spirituality

Active Spirituality: A Non-Devotional Guide. Charles R. Swindoll. Word Publishing, 1994.


There’s been a distinct interest in “spirituality” and “spiritual transformation”, as can be seen in the number of books about angels and general occult things. Although, spiritual matters are often things seen as internal and not something that is actively lived. Charles R. Swindoll points this out in his book “Active Spirituality”, his study through the book of Proverbs, and endeavors to describe a spiritual life actively lived.

In each of the 22 chapters, Swindoll focuses on a number of practical qualities that he extracts from the Book of Proverbs. These include obedience, serenity, counsel, controlling your tongue, contentment, diligence, industriousness, financial accountability, and other topics.

This book provides a number of “non-devotional” looks at several of the topics of Proverbs. Swindoll presents these topics in a straight forward way with no fluff, along with some ways to directly put the concepts into action. As he points out in the conclusion of the book for himself, looking at these ways and endeavoring to implement them brings a huge personal growth.

However, most readers may not like the nuts-and-bolts “non-devotional” style. As a result, there is very little that is entertaining about this book for those that may be used to personal stories and experiences over pure Scripture. This preference speaks more to the reader of the book than it does to the author.

Overall, Active Spirituality provides a good overview of the Book of Proverbs. This book holds a wealth of good teachings regarding what a real Christian should be partaking in and living in from a practical real standpoint. Some readers may be turned off, though, by Swindoll practicing what he preaches in terms of how he presents the material.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

Book Cover Image Source: Amazon


Book Review: The Christian Atheist

The Christian Atheist: Believing in God but Living As If He Doesn’t Exist. Craig Groeschel. Zondervan, 2010.


The topic of Christians not living up to Christian ideals as espoused in the Scriptures is a common one to all the blogs I’ve done, and readily visible in most Christians and churches. Craig Groeschel calls this out in “The Christian Atheist”, claiming that most Christians are people who claim Christ but do not live according to the principles set out by Him.

Groschel calls out twelve areas he believes Christians are lacking in:

  • Not really knowing Him
  • Being ashamed of your past
  • Not being sure He loves you
  • Not believing in prayer
  • Not thinking God is fair
  • Not forgiving others
  • Not thinking you can change
  • Worrying all the time
  • Pursuing happiness at any cost
  • Trusting in money
  • Not sharing your faith
  • Not fully supporting church organizations

Craig Groeschel starts with a five-star concept: The idea that people who claim Christianity aren’t acting that differently than the world. Sadly, that’s where any real value of this book ends. The author offers a stream of stories and confessions to the reader, providing either a vacuous or suspect view of them.

Furthermore, Groschel falls right in line with the typical Churchianity of today in how he deals with these topics. The author is a supporter of all the suspect seeker-sensitive doctrines that mar the Church today. He espouses the personal relationship doctrine (a different Gospel), minimizes the importance and effect of sin in the life of the Christian by belittling it as “shame”, and supports the Old Testament tithe.

Groschel consistently favors his personal stories over the truth of Scripture, producing a book that is The Gospel of Groschel. This is in line with much of wayward Christianity, which seeks to meet “felt needs” instead of upholding Godly standards for living. He does provide a Scriptural veneer where he often shops for things that match his views, often pulling things wildly out of context or even providing false views of Christianity in trying to bolster his points. Groschel proves predominantly that he has very little understanding of the Christian faith, and has no business anywhere near Scripture let alone pastoring a church.

Overall, this book was an incredibly disappointing read, given the valuable premise that it starts with.  But Groschel misses that actions come out of the heart (Matthew 15:10-20), and that a heart with an incorrect faith will produce incorrect actions.  While his stories were mildly interesting and entertaining, the majority of the book is empty air, offering only worldly pop-psychology and spiritual junk food.  Unfortunately, Groschel is preaching the very thing that has caused this “atheist” problem to surface.  Beware this book!

Rating: 1 out of 10.

Book Cover Image Source: Amazon

Book Review: Growing True Disciples

Growing True Disciples: New Strategies for Producing Genuine Followers of Christ. George Barna. WaterBrook Press, 2001.

Growing True Disciples

I’ve said much in the course of both of my blogs about the state of Christian discipleship. Church organizations have chased after increasing attendance, giving, programs, and property over chasing after the will of the Lord has laid out through Scripture. George Barna shows the fruit of this process throughout “Growing True Disciples.”

Barna begins by casting a vision for discipleship that is outside the typical church vision – a vision of committed followers of Christ as opposed to simply “members”. He then goes on to explain some of the definitions and framework of discipleship, defining some Scriptural justifications for those things. The author then presents an overview of the current (2001) state of the church. Barna then provides an analysis of how things have gotten to their current state. He then presents a goal of discipleship. The author then presents some findings from studying churches that he deemed were doing good work in discipleship. Finally, Barna presents some models that he distilled out of some of the data for discipleship in churches.

In reading the book, the author presents a fairly decent framework of discipleship. As well, the author is very thorough about presenting the things the churches are doing that he feels is effective, and why they are effective. He presents a lot to think about regarding the topic of discipleship and gives a start on the best ways to accomplish those things.

However, Barna misses the seminal problem that caused all of these things. As I’ve noted in previous reviews of books about discipleship, the issue of what you are discipling them into gets completely missed in the book. Most churches, including many of the ones he’s studied and lauded are about discipling people into the church organization (i.e. the world) as opposed to discipling people into Christ. Goals often stem from what your life is centered upon. Or as Scripture says, we should not expect good fruit out of bad trees (Matthew 7:15-20). This fact is shown time and again as Barna advocates for business processes instead of Scriptural remedies. His avocation of covenant agreements is especially disturbing, in terms of the controls that he would place upon the average believer from men.

Overall, while this book has much value, that value is sullied by not recognizing the core issue of the problem that has plagued those who have been called out from Christ from the beginning. When man gets his hands into things and changes them for his own benefit and his own desires to control others, the entire nature of the tree is changed. Hence the fruit is changed. In my opinion, this book has value for the study presented, which in the last 16 years has without a doubt gotten worse according to my own research. But beyond that, it doesn’t offer much fruit in the way of leading towards a Scriptural model of discipleship.

Rating: 6 out of 10.

Book Cover Image Source: Amazon

Stick A Fork In It . . .

When one speaks of discouragements, they can always point to what they see going on in the world. Perhaps for most that care about the objective standard of Scripture, you can even step into the churches and easily find examples of things where people are astray and need to repent.

Much of my own blogging efforts and those of many others have documented how the churches have perverted the typical objective worship of Jesus in favor of the man-made churches, perverted marriage from something that glorifies God into something that glorifies women, and numerous other things. Naturally with the nature of man, a blind eye gets put to these things because it derives some kind of wicked benefit in the minds of the people to accept sinful things – people are just reminded to “not judge” or “not be prideful” for their own sin they know they have. Then it happens long enough that it becomes tradition, and people don’t even begin to see it who claim Christ. In this day and age, accepting the world into the church is as natural as breathing.

Take a couple of more cases I’m aware of:

  • A leader of a Christian group who has an open homosexual relationship.
  • A wife that’s been getting one of her children a sex-change operation, keeping it secret from her husband.

My circle, as most people’s isn’t that big. But it’s amazing how many blantantly egregious things I’m aware of that are allowed to stand in this day and age, to be seen as acceptable to Christian standards. Paul reminds us of this with a case before the Corinthians:

It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife. And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you. (1 Cor 5:1-2)

and the prescription:

But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat. For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within? But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person. (1 Corinthians 5:11-13)

How many people have been in contact with this and know this and simply don’t care? It’s not so much these things happening that I wanted to address, but the state of the churches in accepting them. Accepting behavior quickly becomes normalizing behavior into tradition, and we have witnessed much of that in our own lifetimes with many things, most notably divorce and remarriage.

One then asks how people can see this stuff as “normal”, and can quickly arrive upon the Personal Jesus as the answer, with the reminder of Romans 1 backing it:

And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; … Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them. (Romans 1:28, 32)

The whole passage is notable, but this is the part I wanted to focus upon. It’s one thing when those of the world do these kinds of things listed in the complete passage with a clear conscience, but another when people who proclaim Christ are exposed to Scripture through reading and church attendance, and still partake in these things (both doing and giving acceptance) with clear consciences before Him.

But in the Personal Jesus, fear towards the Lord isn’t supposed to be a thing. He accepts all of these things. But the objective Jesus has a different story:

For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? (1 Peter 4:17-18)

I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. (2 Timothy 4:1-4)

For those that only not sin, but blaspheme His Name in their sin with calloused hearts of flint, what else shall the Lord do with them if they will not repent? There is always hope for that, but alas the sin seems to be piling higher and higher. May the Lord have mercy on us all in His due course!

The Tyranny of Self-Esteem

(This is a finished post that was in the edit queue of the Society of Phineas. There are a very large number of spots that demand self-linking for further explanation, including a review of the mentioned book but at this point it’s not possible. Hopefully the main point of this post still comes out, even if some of the concepts aren’t readily evident.)

One thing I’ve noted in trying to fix some of my life problems is that a lot of literature points to low self-esteem, leading me to seek a better definition of the issue. Then, add what both DonalGraeme and Deep Strength has written, this post in the old Society of Phineas edit queue seemed good to start with in pushing them out.

When it comes to self-esteem, traditional marriage seems to be a good place to start to illustrate the problems with the idea, because as Deep Strength posts:

There has been many a pastor nowadays who say that “insecurity is a sin” or in other words “a lack of self esteem is a woman’s greatest sin.” After all, insecurity supposedly leads to low self worth. Men, of course, are parroted with the typical sins of pride, lust, greed, and so on. However, the source of women’s’ greatest sin issue is a lack of self esteem generated from insecurity.

Of course, all this is bunk.

All of this has been documented and explained extensively in a very large number of posts in the past, including the entire genesis of these things via traditional marriage and traditional gender roles. These things are illustrated even in literature put out by typical traditional marriage defenders (“The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands” by Dr. Laura Schlessinger, for one instance out of many), for those who have fully taken the red-pill. This diagram illustrates it pictorially.


Insecurity Comes From The Failure of Our Own Expectations
The state of being outside of God is what is common to both cases, and most of us in general. Insecurity is not a temptation, but that indication of being outside of God’s love. In other words, when we step outside of Him and put faith in ourselves and other people, as is done with traditional marriage and gender roles, insecurity is inevitable.

Insecurity comes in a woman when people do not see her as beautiful (“Do these jeans make me look fat?”), when they do not bow down to her wishes and serve her, do not affirm her thoughts and desires, and generally do not treat her as she is used to being treated. She cries that she is not being “honored” or “respected”, and men flock to her with discussion of how to “build confidence in her” – read praise her as the exalted goddess she is. Buoying up a woman in her apostate state of being made equal to God becomes another function of “protecting” her.

Insecurity comes in a man when he does not find usefulness in his life to others, or the approval of others in his life for his efforts. When he can not do things, gain the approval of women, or gain the continued approval of his wife, his life becomes insecure and worthless. He dare not voice his concerns for having more derision heaped upon him for not being a “real man”, who should just shut up and do what he is told. He dare not even express his own wishes or dreams for having them being dashed by his wife, for a “good man” does nothing but his wife’s will. After all, insecurity in men is a good thing in the system of traditional marriage as it keeps him striving on the hamster wheel to serve his goddess and place himself into the role of chattel for the fire.

Inevitably, instead of being content with God’s love, value, and protection, people always seek their own desires. “If only this would happen…” “If only he would…” “If only she would…” “…then I would get what I want and be happy!” Our own expectations always get in the way of God. As the Scriptures say:

What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin; As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. (Romans 3:9-12)

If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. (Colossians 3:1-3)

There is nothing good within ourselves outside of God, and to that end, the proper response to Christ in faith is to die to self so Christ may live (as baptism illustrates). To that effect:

For the true Christian, there is no such thing as self-esteem or self-worth.

Our Value Is In God, Not in Self Or Others
So what of worth? Worth comes in affirmation of Christ in one’s life through living in His truth and seeking His approval alone. If anything it should be Christ-esteem and not self-esteem. It is well noted that God is truth (John 14:6), God’s word is truth that sanctifies us (John 17:17), and that if one lives outside of it, they are not in God’s love for He can never deny Himself (2 Timothy 2:13-14). This is well illustrated by Matthew 7:24-27 – if you are insecure, you are standing in the sand outside of God’s love.

The proper thing to do within the churches is to affirm the true and equal value of each other as creations of Christ instead of reinforcing traditional gender roles. When all become equally loved and equally valuable within the sight of God, and when all are put under the same requirements (for man and woman are nothing different before God), simple insecurity and many other issues fix themselves. Others in the churches can have an important function in this regard, for the Church is supposed to exist to encourage and exhort ALL believers, not reinforce the ways of men and turn all the creations of God into chattel that is only fit for the fire.

A closing meditation on the topic:

Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Your First Days As A Christian

Questions asked about your questions upon first becoming a Christian.

While I have some more work to do in organization before I can post more, I had a project put upon my heart by both my evaluation of the old blog and a couple of incidents that have happened here in person. While I haven’t gotten a formal post completed to replace the prior one, this post will lend a hint as to a direction I aim to take with this blog. Part of that seemed to lend to some good discussion, so I thought I would place this here. My hope is that it does…

Note that since I still have extremely limited time to tend to blog-related issues promptly, that I have set moderation on all comments. Those that know me from the old blog will know that (in the scope of this blog), I will allow just about anything as long as it’s not generally disruptive.

Think back to when you first became a Christian.

1. How prepared were you on the natural “What Now?” question after you opted to follow Christ?

2. Were there any questions you had that were largely unaddressed?

3. Were (are?) there any terms that you regularly heard in the course of a service/study/small group that were largely assumed or unaddressed as to their definitions?