Friday, October 7, 2016

Reviewing C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity

Born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in 1898, Clive Staples (C.S.) Lewis wrote more than 30 books, several of which are classics of children's fantasy literature and Christian apologetics. You'll find C.S. Lewis on the lists of greatest 20th century writers, and rarely will you not find Mere Christianity at or near the top of the most influential Christian book lists. I read the theological classic as part of a book study soon after moving to China back in 2003. Mere Christianity is less than 200 pages and is divided into four books:

1. Right and Wrong as a Clue to the Meaning of the Universe (five chapters focused on the law of human nature)
2. What Christians Believe (1942 - five chapters that include rival conceptions of God)
3. Christian Behaviour (1943 - twelve chapters covering topics such as marriage, forgiveness, hope, and faith)
4. Beyond Personality: Or First Steps in the Doctrine of the Trinity (1944 - eleven chapters comprising of time, the cost of following Christ, and more)

The books were originally given as a series of BBC radio broadcasts during World War II in which C.S. Lewis provides much-needed answers to complex questions for both believers and nonbelievers. If you have any interest in learning about the fundamentals of the Christian worldview, it is explained in a sensible and logical manner in Mere Christianity. Some, such as the late Chuck Colson, have stated the book was instrumental in helping them know Christ. If you have an interest in apologetics or you consider yourself to be an intelligent skeptic, I recommend checking out Lewis' Mere Christianity. It is a significant piece of work that have impacted many.

For a more in depth look at Mere Christianity, check out this outline provided by the C.S. Lewis Society of California.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Reviewing Eric Liddell's The Disciplines of the Christian Life

Nearly seven years ago I read an outstanding biography about Eric Liddell, the Olympic gold medalist whose life story inspired the 1981 "Best Picture," Chariots of Fire. I found Liddell's story to be of great interest since he served in my former home of Tianjin, China during the first half of the 20th century. When christianaudio made The Disciplines of the Christian Life available for free four years ago, I quickly downloaded it. I started listening to the book this year as part of my morning devotions, and it took no time to complete it.

Eric Liddell wrote The Disciplines of the Christian Life to help Christians grow in Christ through daily Bible study and prayer. Below you'll find the foundational topics showing that Liddell starts with discipleship. He gives a Bible reading plan with a recommended reading for each day of the year with the readings organized into 12 chapters for each month of the year. Knowledge is not just given, but practical ways to live to God's glory. The Disciplines of the Christian Life is simple and straightforward, but should stir up some emotion. Prior to hearing Liddell's thoughts, Herbert S. Long provides us information concerning how the book came about.

A Word by Herbert S. Long 15:30
Preface 30:56

Part Two: A Year of Discipleship:

  1. January: God the Nature of God 8:40
  2. February: The Life of Jesus 5:55
  3. March: The Life of Jesus Continued: The Cross 10:40
  4. April: God's Moral Law - The Law and Sin 9:56 
  5. May: The Character of Jesus - Jesus Our Example 7:56
  6. June: The Kingdom of God - The Kingdom of Heaven 9:15
  7. July: God is Love 9:40
  8. August: The Life of Paul - The Act of the Apostles 5:54
  9. September: The Epistle to the the Romans - Paul's Gospel - The Face of Christ, A Face for the World 11:25
  10. October: The Holy Spirit 10:12
  11. November: Victory, Victory Over Temptation 9:07
  12. December: The Fellowship, The Church 8:17

Part Three: The Disciple and the Church 2:21

  • Baptism - The Symbol 4:00 
  • The Communion of the Lord's Supper 11:58
  • The Three Great Festivals of the Church - Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving 6:29

If you're wanting to hear from a servant of strong convictions who ran for Jesus, I recommend The Disciplines of the Christian Life. The paperback is only 160 pages should you choose to read it.

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. 2 Timothy 4:6-8

Reviewing Jonathan Edwards' Sinners In The Hands Of An Angry God

275 years ago Jonathan Edwards preached what many consider to be the greatest sermon ever preached by a sinning saint. Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God was preached to a Connecticut congregation during the summer of 1741, and it uses somber language that is often not found in today's sermons. Words like devouring flames, pit of Hell, sentence of condemnation, vessels of wrath, extreme torments, angry God, and infinite misery are used. I'm guessing these words aren't amongst your favorite, but Jesus used them and the Spirit guided Jonathan Edwards to preach them calmly so that lives were transformed.

Jonathan Edwards starts the sermon with four points regarding the suffering to which the Israelites faced. Then Edwards states ten points showing how only God's sovereign joy keeps people from perishing. The third and final part of Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God uses Scripture to prove his points and plead with those listening to trust in the only One who can save them.

It's a shame that many are afraid to discuss what Jesus saves us from and are critical of Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. I'm thankful that Jonathan Edwards, a former president of Princeton University, boldly preached what truly is a message of love and hope. The detailed descriptions of man's sinful state and the misery of Hell helped bring spiritual awakening to the lost. If you desire to better understand what it means to be a true follower and know His forgiveness, I recommend reading this important piece of the Great Awakening. If you're interested in reading more classic sermons by Jonathan Edwards and other great theologians, click here.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Moving From Tianjin to Evansville

In a few weeks our lives will radically change. The Wickershams will be leaving the Middle Kingdom and moving to Southern Indiana. I've accepted a great position as the middle school assistant principal at Evansville Christian School. We are sad that we're having to say goodbye to the TIS community, but we know this is only temporary for those who believe.

Why the move? We feel led to be closer to our Hoosier family members and desire for our children to better understand where their parents once lived. We're unsure when we'll come back to the country I've called home for 13 years (19 for Megan), but we are confident we have not seen the last of China. China is a part of us, and we have eternity to make some trips back.

Below are three ways you can lift us up during this time of transition.

1. We're lookin' to rent an affordable home near where I'll work.
2. We want to find a gospel-centered church where we can connect with people.
3. Pray that Megan and the kiddos make a friend or two and feel a sense of community.

Xie xie.

Commit your work to the LORD, and your plans will be established Proverbs 16:3

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

"Name That Chip!": Spring Edition

In the latest edition of "Name That Chip!", we tried three unique flavas: Cucumber, Lime, and Finger Licking Braised Pork. I've seen these flavors for some time, but I never really had the urge to try them. Below is what world famous food critics Rose and Grace thought about the chips.

Cucumber: They are sort of plain. I personally don’t like them.
Lime: They taste kind of like a lemon, but salty and good.
Finger Licking Braised Pork: They are very salty and personally my favorite between the three chips.

Cucumber: I thought they were okay. They are definitely better than the yogurt flavored chips we had back in December. Three stars.
Lime: These chips were just okay too. They were limey so I didn't like them too much. Two stars.
Finger Licking Braised Pork: They were delicious!!!!! I give them 5 stars. They taste like any other kind of meat flavor. Delicious!!!!!

So there you have it. It sounds like fruit and veggie flavored chips can't compete with meat flavored chips. I have to agree.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Reviewing dc Talk and VOMs' Jesus Freaks

Jesus Freaks is a book that I've recommended to my sixth graders for many years. The nearly 400 page book was published in 1999 and was reprinted two years ago. A second volume was published in 2002. Although Jesus Freaks has a low readability and is targeted to American teenagers, new adult believers might want to consider using the Gold Medallion-nominated book as a devotional. Perhaps some will consider the topic of persecuted Christians as an odd choice for a devotional; however, I believe reading the historical accounts of those who have been martyred can be powerfully encouraging.

Jesus Freaks starts with introductions from the members of dc Talk, a super popular Christian band in the 90s. An introduction from the former director of the Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) is also provided. Approximately 150 personal testimonies and moving quotes were taken from VOM archives and dozens of profiles of martyred figures are presented. Reading these summaries of Christian persecutions can show us how easy we often have it and stir us to unashamedly live out our faith. We need more books that tell young people how hard life can be, but that we have a life-giving Savior that provides all our needs.

40 pages of Jesus Freaks is dedicated to explaining where persecution is taking place today - restricted nations as wells as hostile areas. Each country has a brief prayer request and another four pages explains what we can do. The thick paperback ends with endnotes, a list of resources about martyrs, alphabetical and chronological indexes, and information about dc Talk and VOM. If you're looking for a book for teens that contains gripping stories of truth with Scripture sprinkled throughout (several versions are quoted), I recommend Jesus Freaks. 

Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Matthew 5:11

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Igniter Media Easter Videos

This week I have been teaching about what happened 2,000 years - Passion Week. Tomorrow we will not have school since it's Good Friday so today I'll show a few Easter videos from Igniter Media. I highly recommend taking a few minutes and checking out the videos below. He is good.

And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, "Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, when he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise." Luke 24:5-7

An Easter Message: Facebook Style

Doubt Has Long Been Part of Easter

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Happy Patrick of Ireland Day V

Today is March 17th so that means it's St. Patrick's Day. Like most Americans, I grew up not ever knowing who St. Patrick was and why we celebrate the Feast of St. Patrick. I just made sure I always wore something green on March 17th so I wouldn't get pinched. Odd. If you're interested in learning about this great man of God, click one of the links below or watch the short video. Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Patrick: Missionary to Ireland by George Grant (Ligonier Ministries)

Patrick of Ireland by Reid Monaghan

Remember St. Patrick by David Mathis (desiringGod)

St. Patrick Knew All About Human Trafficking by Clint Humfrey (National Post)

The Life and Mission of St. Patrick by the Crossway Staff

Who Was St. Patrick? by Kevin DeYoung (The Gospel Coalition)

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Reviewing The Early Reader's Bible

The Early Reader's Bible was a Bible we bought for Rose for her 6th birthday. Zondervan advertises the Bible for those who are 4-8 or in preschool up to third grade; however, I wouldn't recommend the Bible for seven or eight year olds who have strong reading skills.

Here are some of the many great features about the Bible:
  • The 525 page Bible isn't big (6 x 7 inches or 16 x 18 centimeters) so little ones won't have trouble carrying it. 
  • The pictures are colorful and are found throughout the book.
  • The pictures of the crucifixion and people complaining or crying are age-appropriate. 
  • The title of the 64 stories are big and bold and are based on standard American public school word lists. 
  • A list of the stories, 250 basic words, and 230 new words are found in the back of the book.
  • No more than five new words are used in any story, and usually a smaller number is used. Words as simple as bread and paper and less common names such as Jairus and Onesimus are found on the new word list. 
  • Each story ends with a "something to ask" section and a "something to do" section. Questions include: 
    1. How did God make the bad water become good water?
    2. Who did the shepherds see?
    3. How can you show Jesus that you love Him?
    4. What can you do for a friend when he hurts?
What do I not like?

Despite the criticisms, I still think this Bible can help children know the Son of Man. I recommend having your child add some color (don't forget the freckles) to a few of the people and adding a NIrV Bible verse each time a story is read.

Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6

Monday, February 8, 2016

"Name That Chip!": Chinese New Year Edition

This evening I hopped on my mountain bike to make a chip and liquid refreshment run. Almost everything was closed since it's the first day of the Chinese New Year, but the local 7-Eleven had their doors open. I found a few chip flavas that we had never consumed so I spent the big bucks in order for us to play another game of "Name That Chip!". Prior to watching Woodlawn (which I highly recommend), I introduced mi familia to three new chip flavas: lemon chicken, green tea, and bacon sausage. Megan was the first to figure out the Lay's lemon chicken flava. Chalk it up to her culinary expertise. The Lay's green tea chips were straight up nasty, but somehow Rose was eventually able to decipher the green tea nastiness. I like green tea, but my recent green tea exploration has been quite disappointing. The bacon sausage Pringles were a hit, and Rose was able to taste the crispy, salty, and delicious. I was really surprised to see this flava in the store and hope China will make more porklicious products. Go China. Despite the funkiness of the green tea chips, the lemon chicken and bacon sausage chips made this edition of "Name That Chip!" an enjoyable experience. Xin Nian Kuai le!

Lay's green tea chips are just wrong.
Bacon sausage Pringles make Josiah and me so happy.
China isn't afraid to try new chip flavas. Some are yum while others taste like scum.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Adoption Books I've Reviewed

Because I have three kiddos adopted from China (Tianjin, Henan Province, and Hubei Province), I've read and reviewed more than a dozen books about adoption. Most of these books are for children; however, parents who've adopted or those who have a heart for orphans could certainly benefit from reading the books. If that happens to be you, check out the links below.

Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. James 1:27