Friday, April 17, 2015

"Manhunt" by James L. Swanson: A Review

One of my favorite hobbies and subjects of study is the Presidents of the United States. Near the top of my favorite Presidents is obviously Abraham Lincoln (who in America doesn't like Lincoln?). In light of the sesquicentennial anniversary of his death, I am reposting the following review regarding the fascinating and historical account of John Wilkes Booth's in James L. Swanson's book Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer (P.S.).

Swanson offers a thorough account of this fascinating story full of detail.  This is not boring history, but a riveting tale of how the world's most notorious criminal of his day was captured. I find Booth to be an interesting man engulfed in his acting career who was constantly in performance even when running for his life. Booth was a man of the stage and was rarely out of character even to his last moments in life.

What is most interesting about the manhunt is how surprised he was that his goals were not fulfilled.  Booth considered Lincoln to be a tyrant and believed that if he were to assassinate the tyrant and others in his administration, the war for Southern independence would continue and the South would win. But none of that took place. Instead, Booth read in the nations newspapers that he had become the villain and the most hated man while Lincoln was awarded sainthood in the eyes of the public even in the South.

But Swanson makes this interesting suggestion at the end of the story. Perhaps Booth didn't completely loose everything after all. Ford's Theater, the site of the infamous assassination, was eventually turned into a tourist attraction and millions of Americans visit the site each year. What is interesting is that though the site is a place of remembrance of the last moments of Lincoln's life, the site has almost become a place more about Booth than Lincoln. Swanson points out that the tourist can trace the steps of Booth and see original memorabilia from Booth and his race against the federal manhunters.  So though Booth didn't revive the South, his name does go on in memory as the actor had hoped it would.

This is a fascinating book and for any history or presidential buffs, I highly recommend it. It is books like this that remind me that non-fiction told well is better than fiction. History regards real people and in this case, Booth's actions against the Lincoln administration changed American history. By pulling the trigger, Booth may have made the recovery in the South much more difficult than it would have been if the "tyrant" in the White House had lived. Swanson is a great writer and a great historian who tells one of the most fascinating tales in American history. I highly recommend this book.

This book was provided by the Harper Perennial Publishers for the purpose of this review.

For more on Lincoln:
Reviews - "Abraham Lincoln, A Man of Faith and Courage"
Reviews - "The Story of Abraham Lincoln"
Reviews - "Lincoln's Advocate"

All Around the Web - April 17, 2015

Rod Dreher - Political Straight Talk About Religious Liberty

Justin Taylor - The Day Lincoln Was Shot: A Visual FAQ

Eric Metaxas - The Shifting Definition of Religious Freedom

Denny Burk - Why can’t a father marry his adult son? A mother her adult daughter?

Preachers and Preaching - How to Respond to Sermon Feedback

Thursday, April 16, 2015

This is Who We Are: What a Baptist Is and Believes - God's Purpose of Grace

At this point, the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 has discussed God, man, salvation, other central theological issues.  We now turn to God’s work in salvation and our security.  Many today continue to debate and despair over the question of assurance.  What assurance do we have that right now that we are still  reconciled with God, called into His kingdom, and adopted as His child?  Am I still saved?  Have I squandered my salvation?  What assurance do I have?

The despair over the uncertainty of one’s salvation can be devastating.  And it is at this point that one of the Baptist distinctives come to our aid: the perseverance of the saints.  The BF&M 2000 reads:
Election is the gracious purpose of God, according to which He regenerates, justifies, sanctifies, and glorifies sinners. It is consistent with the free agency of man, and comprehends all the means in connection with the end. It is the glorious display of God's sovereign goodness, and is infinitely wise, holy, and unchangeable. It excludes boasting and promotes humility.

All true believers endure to the end. Those whom God has accepted in Christ, and sanctified by His Spirit, will never fall away from the state of grace, but shall persevere to the end. Believers may fall into sin through neglect and temptation, whereby they grieve the Spirit, impair their graces and comforts, and bring reproach on the cause of Christ and temporal judgments on themselves; yet they shall be kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation. [1]
So what assurance do true believers have that we are still in the loving arms of the Father?  One word: God.  That is the argument put forward above.  Salvation is not the work of man, but of God. God is the One who put on flesh; God, in the Person of the Son, bore our sins as our atoning substitute; God satisfied His own wrath, redeemed a people, and saves souls for His own glory. Man plays no role in any of it. All our “righteousness” is like filthy rags. Even the most noble of works is tainted with sin.

This means that our security is determined by God.  And being that God makes no mistakes (He is perfect and cannot lie), never changes (He is Immutable), and His wrath is fully and completely satisfied for the repentant due to the saving work of Christ on the cross, believers – true believers – cannot and will not lose their salvation.  This is the point in the first paragraph.  It is God – and God alone – who regenerates, justifies, sanctifies, and glorifies sinners. Sinners cannot accomplish such work; only God can.

However, this does not mean that salvation is a get-out-of-hell-free-card. It is more than fire insurance.  It involves more than saying a prayer, walking an aisle, and getting baptized.  No, salvation is much bigger than that.

Salvation regenerates us - changing us from the inside out. Though none of us are what we ought to be yet (praise God) we are not what we once were.  The reason is because God is working in our lives.  That which God begins, God will accomplish.  Making us more like Him is one of God’s greatest works.

This is what is meant in the second paragraph:  All true believers endure to the end. Those whom God has accepted in Christ, and sanctified by His Spirit, will never fall away from the state of grace but shall persevere to the end.  This is the wonderful doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints. Words like “eternal security” or “once saved always saved,” though true, are misleading. It implies that persons can “accept Jesus” superficially and still continue to live in sin.  Perseverance of the Saints implies that true believers – saints – will live godly lives that reflects their Savior and will persevere to the end in obedience to their saving Father. Everyday is another opportunity for believers to be more like Christ.

Certainly Christians sin, but not with glee. Our goal is to be more like Christ, not less like Him.  Believers will persevere to the end with this ultimate goal. Though we have not attained such glorification yet, we look forward to the day that we do.

This all comes down to where we began.  Do we have assurance of our salvation?  Every religion in the world offers an emphatic no. The reason is because they are built on what man does, instead of what God has done. If God is the author and finisher of our faith, then rest knowing that you are safe in the arms of God trusting in the saving work of Christ. But assurance works both ways. Trust in yourself and in your self-righteousness and I can assure you that you are lost and will remain so. Salvation is of God, not of man and so long as you strive for grace you will never achieve it. Instead, come to the cross in full humility, and embrace the gospel. Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!

[1]  See Gen 12:1-3; Ex 19:5-8; 1 Sam 8:4-7,19-22; Isa 5:1-7; Jer 31:31ff.; Matt 16:18-19; 21:28-45; 24:22,31; 25:34; Luke 1:68-79; 2:29-32; 19:41-44; 24:44-48; John 1:12-14; 3:16; 5:24; 6:44-45,65; 10:27-29; 15:16; 17:6,12,17-18; Acts 20:32; Rom 5:9-10; 8:28-39; 10:12-15; 11:5-7,26-36; 1 Cor 1:1-2; 15:24-28; Eph 1:4-23; 2:1-10; 3:1-11; Col 1:12-14; 2 Th 2:13-14; 2 Tim 1:12; 2:10,19; Heb 11:39–12:2; Jam 1:12; 1 Pet 1:2-5,13; 2:4-10; 1 John 1:7-9; 2:19; 3:2.

This is Who We Are: What a Baptist Is and Believes - Introduction
This is Who We Are: What a Baptist Is and Believes - Scripture
This is Who We Are: What a Baptist Is and Believes - God 
This is Who We Are  What a Baptist Is and Believes - God the Father
This is Who We Are:  What a Baptist Is and Believes - God the Son
This is Who We Are:  What a Baptist Is and Believes - God the Spirit 
This is Who We Are: What a Baptist Is and Believes - Man
This is Who We Are: What a Baptist Is and Believes - Salvation
This is Who We Are:  What a Baptist Is and Believes -  God's Purpose of Grace 

All Around the Web - April 16, 2015

The Porch - America’s Greatest “Right”: Sex Without Consequences

Pastors Today - Debunking Ministry Myths

Thom Rainer - Four Reasons the Pastor Should Hire Other Church Staff

Practical Shepherding - How do I encourage my pastor?

Doug Wilson - Surveying the Text/Revelation | Wilson is a Preterist.

The Gospel Coalition - Martyn Lloyd-Jones: A Reading Guide

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

From Lewis's Pen: Between Aslan's Paws

From The Last Battle:
Tirian bent his head to hear something that Jill was trying to whisper in his ear. "What do you think is really inside the stable?" she said. "Who knows?" said Tirian. "Two Calormenes with drawn swords, as likely as not, one on each side of the door." "You don't think," said Jill, "it might be . . . you know . . . that horrid thing we saw?" "Tash himself?" whispered Tirian. "There's no knowing. But courage, child: we are all between the paws of the true Aslan." (ch. 10, page 121)