Thursday, July 28, 2016

What's Darwin got to do with it?

A friendly conversation about Evolution
by Robert C. Newman & John L. Wiester
146 pages / 2000

A graphic novel about evolution vs. intelligent design? Now that's got my attention!

The plot here revolves around an upcoming forum put on by Professor Teller, a Darwinist who believes evolution is a "Fact! Fact! Fact!" Of course forums involve speakers from two different sides, so Intelligent Design proponent Professor Questor steps in to offer up another perspective.

One of the first points Professor Questor makes is how important it is to define terms in this debate. Evolution is often defined simply as "change over time" and if that was all there was to it, even creationists would agree that evolution happens. (After all, we believe that all the dog species – the vast array of them – came from just a couple or so types on Noah's Ark. We certainly believe change can happen over time!) The actual debate is over the limits and direction of this change over time, so when we debate evolution, the disagreement is over whether molecules can, over millions of years, evolve into Man.

But in defining her terms, Professor Questor also makes it clear she is not a creationist. She doesn't attack creationists, but in distancing herself from them, it does leave the impression that creationism isn't quite as...legitimate as Intelligent Design. But that's a minor quibble in a wonderful book.

Other issues and topics the two professors discuss include:
  • Is there room in science for any supernatural explanations? And if we rule out supernatural explanations at the start, then is it any wonder we don't find evidence for God in our scientific explanations?
  • Are Peppered Moths, a "proof" of evolution?
  • Are the changing beak sizes of "Darwin's finches" really evidence for evolution?
  • Why do so many creatures have similar (homologous) body structures if we aren't all descended from a common ancestor?  
  • What is the real role of mutation? Can it do all that evolutionists say it does?
  • Is "bad" design evidence of evolution? (And is it actually bad?)
This might seem like the discussion could get quite dry and dusty, but the authors bring in all sorts of analogies and illustrations to keep things hopping. For example, Dr. Watson and Sherlock Holmes make a couple of appearances, and mutation and natural selection are personified as two superheroes (with less than effective superpowers) Mutaman and Selecta. And there's lots more!

The result is a very fun book which is also highly educational. It would be a great resource for any high school science class to go through because it touches on a lot of the big issues, and it does so with wit and impressive clarity - pictures are used here to boil down pretty complex concepts into only a few pages or a few panels. And for any comic-loving teen, this would make a wonderful present, expanding and stretching them, without overly taxing them.

You can pick up a copy at by clicking here or at here.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

They say we are infidels

On the run from ISIS with persecuted Christians in the Middle East
by Mindy Belz
2016 / 307 pages

This is a book ripped right out of the headlines. If you want to understand what's going on in the Middle East right now then this is a great book to start with.

Mindy Belz is a reporter for the Christian (and leaning in a Reformed direction) news magazine WORLD, and she has visited the Middle East repeatedly over the last dozen some years. This is an account of those many trips, and the stories of the Christians she met, and how their lives were impacted by the US invasion of Iraq. It wasn't just Iraqi Christians that were impacted. Belz outlines how all of the Middle East was, and continues to be, impacted by the US activities in the area.

For example, after taking out Saddam in 2003, the US made the decision to also fire anyone with Ba'athist ties. The Ba'ath Party was Saddam's political party, so this seemed to make sense. The problem was, being a member of the Ba'ath party was a basic requirement for most important positions. So in this one move the US basically required that anyone and everyone involved in the former political infrastructure of the country be booted out. So all the military personal, the policemen, mayors, etc....all gone. And with them went the country's stability. Policing the entire country was a task beyond the US's ability. They had to restrict themselves to instead securing certain areas. But those outside those areas were left to fend for themselves.

The US also, in taking down Saddam, replaced a dictatorship that, while certainly not friendly to Christians, at least offered some limited protection to them. Belz shows how, after the invasion, Iraq's Christians were hopeful, and making all sorts of plans. But it soon became clear that their situation was worse than it had been under Saddam. The country adopted an officially Islamic constitution, and Christians outside of the areas where the US reigned were faced with increasingly hostile persecution. Church leaders started getting murdered. Church buildings were blown up.

And then ISIS came and it all got so much worse.

The point of Belz' book is not to try to blame the US for all of the Middle East's problems. The villains are the Islamic terrorists like ISIS and their many supporters and sympathizers.

But it does become apparent, in reading one accounts after another, that for Iraq's Christians, the US invasion did not lead to any improvements for them. They continue to flee the country in droves, and whereas there was once a small Jewish company in Iraq, they may well be all gone now.

This is an eye-opening book by a Christian author who is certainly not anti-American. But her account show that George Bush's aim of spreading democracy across the Middle East was and is a naive one. Democracy can only flourish when a country cares enough about protecting its minorities that the majority will even offer up their own lives to protect the persecuted. That is not happening in the Middle East, or at least, not in the numbers needed.

I should add that Belz also addresses what is happening in Syria and surrounding countries too. Iraq is the main focus, but not the only one.

While this is an incredibly eye-opening story, I did find it took effort to work through – this is no light read. But if you want to know what our persecuted brothers and sisters in the Middle East are having to put up with, then your should grab a copy of They say we are infidels. You can pick one up at by clicking here or at here.

Thursday, July 14, 2016


by Lecrae Moore
212 pages / 2016

Though you can't judge a book by its cover, some books definitely have the kind of "curb appeal" that makes them worth investigating. Unashamed is one of those books. Eric Metaxas, Andy Crouch, and Nancy Pearcey, the authors of some pretty acclaimed Christian non-fiction themselves, laud Lecrae's work (both his music and his memoir) for its beauty and its boldness.

Of course, that's all marketing – sincere, no doubt, but still marketing. What really pops out at you from the back cover is the pull-quote from the book: "If you live for people's acceptance, you'll die from their rejection" – an insight Lecrae has spent most of his 30+ years learning.

Like most of us, Lecrae spent (and still spends, like most of us) much of his life craving acceptance. Several kinds of heartbreak molded that ultimately vain quest into the shape it has taken in his life. First, while he was still very young, he and his mother were abandoned by his abusive father. Second, he was also abused verbally and physically by the other adult males in his extended family. Finally, he was sexually abused by his babysitter.

All these factors meant that not only was Lecrae desperately seeking others' approval, but he was finding it in dangerous and damaging ways. Being involved in the gangsta lifestyle gave him male approval, but from exactly the wrong kind of leader and role model, as well as giving him easy access to drugs that he used to dull the trauma of an abused childhood. Womanizing meant that he could recreate the distorted connection between power and pleasure that his earlier sexual abuse had hard-wired into his brain.

Even after Lecrae became a Christian, he still sought to earn acceptance, this time from God. He became a legalist, frantically trying to make up for the sin in his life with service to God, even seeking persecution by shoving the gospel in people's faces without real love for or relationship with them. Of course, legalism leads to hypocrisy, and Lecrae's life soon became dualistic, living with one foot in the world and one foot on the way out of the kingdom of God. As he puts it, "I saw my connection with God as a contractual relationship, rather than a covenantal relationship." His contrast of the two is, at first, a little iffy: "All contracts have terms, but covenants don't. They last forever." It would be more accurate to say that covenants, unlike contracts, are all-encompassing, demanding total commitment; however, his last statement regarding the contrast is a good way to counteract the danger of covenantal arrogance that both ancient Israel and modern Christians (especially Reformed Christians?) fall prey to: "In a covenantal relationship, you're only concerned with loving the other party as much as you can."

By God's grace, Lecrae began to finally understand that grace, and his hip-hop music paralleled his life in his transition from contractual legalism (leading to preachy condemnation) to understanding and response to God's covenantal love in Christ – reflected in honest, unashamed admission of his own sins and weaknesses. This outreach to both Christians and non-Christians was also prompted by his reading of Francis Schaeffer and Andy Crouch, who call Christians to do more than merely condemn, critique, consume, or copy culture - but instead to begin creating culture.

While creating music that reaches out to a fallen world and working with others in the music business whose artistry does not stem from a love for Christ, Lecrae faces the challenges of what 1 John 2:16 calls "the desires of the flesh" (lust and sex), "the desires of the eyes" (love of luxury), and "the pride of life" (the desire for people's acceptance). His revelation of these dangers in his life, and how he copes with them, is a good reminder that we need to worry more about worldly culture – advertising, social media, movies, music – than about worldly people. You can't minister to culture; you can only resist or conform – but you can minister to people. When your interaction with the people of the world around you is truly ministry motivated by your response to the gospel of salvation, then, Lecrae makes clear, like the apostle Paul, you have nothing to be ashamed of: "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation, to the Jew first and also to the Greek" (Romans 1:16).

If you believe that Lecrae's book can give you a good glimpse of what it means, personally and culturally, for Christians to be Unashamed, you can get it at here and here.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

i am n

Inspiring Stories of Christians Facing Islamic Extremists
by the Voice of the Martyrs
293 pages / 2016

This was a very different and much better book than I thought it would be. I was anticipating something hard to endure: story after story of Christians getting beat up, beheaded, or jailed. I started reading only because I knew the topic was important. As the front cover puts it, we must "not let our brothers and sisters suffer in silence, nor...let them serve alone."

So I started reading out of a feeling of duty.

However, I kept reading because I am n is encouraging, and challenging, and just too awe-inducing to put down.


It was encouraging to see what God is up to in the  Islamic East, even in the midst of severe persecution. As one story details, before 1983 Christianity was almost unknown in Algeria. There were "no Christian bookstores, no indigenous churches, and virtually no access to Bibles." But then a few Christian tourists invited the locals to play a soccer game. The invitation was declined because the local team's best player was sick. These Christians then asked if they could come pray over the young man, and they were allowed to do so. The next day the young man was fully recovered and able to play in the soccer game. News of his healing quickly got around, and these tourists, while not missionaries, were very happy to answer the many questions that came their way. While they eventually had to go back home, the gospel news they shared stayed behind.
"I felt that the stories they told were not just stories, but real," recalled Hassan. "It made we want to leave everything and follow Jesus." Hassan and other Algerians began turning to the God of the Bible. The "soccer miracle" is credited with initiating an explosion of faith in a country where Christianity was once rare.
With the growth in numbers also came a growth in persecution – it is not easy to be a Christian in Algeria. But what a wonder to hear about how God can gather a people for Himself using even a soccer game.

There are many other encouraging stories throughout. In chapter 43 we learn about Alejandro, from the Philippines, who was "a cold-blooded killer, a terrorist for Allah" before turning to God and becoming a pastor. And as remarkable a turnaround as his life is, God wasn't done with the amazing.
"During the final evening of [a bible] conference, Alejandro conversed deeply with an attendee grieving the lost of relatives – a pastor, his wife, and children – who had been killed by Muslim militants several months earlier. Only God could bring together a former Muslim murderer of Christians to comfort and pray for believers who were suffering at the hands of Islamic extremists.

Now, it was challenging to read story after story of Christians who lost everything: their businesses, their homes, their friends, their family connections, even their own lives, or those of their children or spouses. They gave this all up because they understood that what they were losing paled in comparison to what they have in Jesus their Lord.

In a section of the book titled " JOY" we meet Jon, a Malaysian Christian, who was able to laugh as he was beaten, expressing the joy he felt "for the honor he was feeling. 'I was okay with being beaten,' he recall. 'They beat Jesus too.'"

Then, in the next chapter there is Musa, a North African who was able, for a long time, to be a quiet Christian. He wasn't sure what he would do if he was confronted about God. But then the moment came: one of his coworkers wanted to know why he didn't take a break with them to go do their prayers.
"Musa realized. This is it. This was the moment he had to decide if he was for Christ or against him. A phony or the real deal. All in or all out. After a long pause, he looked his friend in the eye. 'Prayer,' he began, 'is an intimate conversation with God, and it should be done all the time, in my heart, rather than at specific times using the same phrases and postures.'" 
This is a world away, but a situation we can understand. We have co-workers too, who ask us questions. But the stakes aren't nearly so high for us. Musa knew he faced the loss of his job, and even the loss of his family just by making it known he follows Jesus. But still he professed his Lord.


Why then am I so slow to speak the name of my Savior? Why don't we profess God's name loudly and constantly? This is the challenge that I am n throws at western Christians. We have so much, and we risk so little. Why are we so quiet? What do these persecuted Christians understand about God that we still don't?

They know that God is all. While we can get distracted by the abundance around us, they often times have nothing but God. And they know He is more than enough!


When it comes to cautions, I can think of some minor quibbles. Mention is made of how The Jesus Film was used as an evangelistic tool. Visually depicting Jesus, and having an actor portray Him is not something we would ever do. But we know that God can use even bent sticks to draw straight lines.

At another point a new convert refers to himself as becoming a "son" (rather than brother) of Christ. But we should expect new converts to have some misunderstandings.

Finally, there are many descriptions of persecution, but none are graphic.


I am n is a book to delight in, pray over and pass along to others. The 300 pages are broken down into 54 chapters with 48 of the accounts from the present day, and another half dozen from the pages of Church history. The short accounts make this a very easy read, and while many atrocities are described, it is always done delicately, so this may be appropriate for children as young as 10.

The front cover subtitle has made this a controversial book. It reads "Inspiring Stories of Christians Facing Islamic Extremists." Yes, most of the persecution Christians face around the world is at the hand of Muslim radicals. That is not a fact that many want to acknowledge, but when we ignore it, we do so at the expense of the Christians suffering at their hands. No, not all Muslims are violent and no one is saying they are. No one is calling on us to hate Muslims. This is, in fact, a book full of Muslims who have been brought to God through the love of their Christian neighbors and family. So yes, this is an account of the Muslim persecution of Christians, but it is also an account of how that persecution should best be met: by loving our enemies and praying for those who persecute the body of Christ." (Matt. 5:44).

I am heading out to an abortion protest in a couple days, and after reading this, I am not nearly so intimidated as I might have been. It is indeed an honor to face persecution for the sake of God.

You can pick up a copy at by clicking here or here.