Review: His Majesty’s Dragon

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The world of dragons is largely unknown to those outside of its ranks, but when naval Captain Will Laurence captures a vessel with a dragon egg that’s about to hatch, everything changes.

Once the dragon is hatched, we begin to follow his extraordinary growth as he explores the world and learns about the Napoleonic Wars.

His Majesty’s Dragon takes place in Great Britain and follows the Napoleon’s conquest of the world as it unfolds. As you might expect from the title, this dragon ends up being a special one that adds a new quality to the British fighting forces and provides potential for turning the tide in the war.

I’m struggled to think how historical fantasy could bring us back to an ancient time, while also displaying the wrongs done at that time in real history by uplifting the lowly and bringing down the lofty. Naomi Novik succeeds where my imagination failed. She shows that woman should be valued equally to men, and does it without removing the stigma attached to women in that age. In this series, we see women as captains of dragons, calling the shots, and bringing a fierceness to combat that history deemed was man’s job.

This book inspires the imagination, revitalizes your love for history, and brings you something epic in a tiny package. It also gets you to think about moral concepts like honor, decency, and the like. The whole book and series are written through a old British filter, and respect and honor play big parts. I found myself challenged by the portals of these virtues and wondering if I’m living up to them properly.

I do mark this down for just a tad bit of inconsistency on the writer’s part. It’s easy to overlook, but there’s one or two details that are said one way early in the book and said the opposite way toward the end. None of these detract from the fun and adventure of the book or the series, and I find myself heartily recommending it.

Overall I give this book 4 stars.

Up Next: Throne of Jade by Naomi Novik

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Review: Dracula

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Dracula, the old classic vampire book. As part of my goal of reading twelve classics this year, I chose this one as what I hoped would be an exciting adventure story about vampires. I have been wanting to read a vampire story for awhile as I find the idea of superpowers is the every day world intriguing. But, much like Frankenstein, I was woefully disappointed.

The book Dracula is very different than any of the movies I’ve seen. It’s a much slower progression of events. There’s lot of times where the characters sit around and think or simply watch events unfold. There’s very little surprise in this book. It moves so slow that every event that occurs feels telegraphed from several chapters prior.

Modern movies and television don’t do well with characters sitting around – there must be action – but this is not how real life works, and it was refreshing to see the characters embrace their intellects.

What I don’t like is Van Helsing. In movies like the Blade trilogy, he’s a boss and knows what’s up. In this book he monologues for hours and doesn’t say anything new. Most of what he says is: “Here’s what happened (which you know cause you where there)” or “You won’t believe me, so we’ll talk later.” And he comes off like a pompous prick.

Often times when stories have been around for a long time and told over and over, there is a power creep where the villains become more terrifying over time. Interestingly in this case, vampires have actually become weaker in modern stories. Bram’s vampires could squeeze in through the smallest cracks, turn into other creatures, control wolves, and so much more. Bram’s vampires are pretty unstoppable.

I’m thankful for this book as it made vampire stories become popular and interesting, but I’m very glad this style of writing is dead.

Overall I give this book 2 stars.

Up Next: His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik

Review: 3 Books on Forgiveness

A little while back I spent a week reading through three different pamphlets on forgiveness. Each of them had their own strengths and weaknesses and I wanted to review them together to help highlight the pros and cons of each one.

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Forgive!

As the Lord Forgave You
by Patrick H. Morison

Patrick’s treaties on forgiveness is a good foundation. He teaches what forgiveness means, our call to do it, and the very important point that we should not take revenge into our own hands. He touches on how we must love our enemies and be kind to them no matter how we treat them.

But for all the good this book addresses, the opening story seems to be about an abusive man who is unrepentant – that is he asks for forgiveness but never changes. And Patrick calls for forgiveness immediately. This approach to the topic appears to ignore Luke 17:3 which states, “Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.” In fact, he never addresses this passage at all in the book, and that is a bit concerning. He urges us to forgive no matter what, but this passage implies that forgiveness is for those that have repented.

There’s more than one way to understand that verse, so there are various ways to come out on it. Whichever one you take though, you have to address this verse. If someone is actively punching you in the face and asking for forgiveness at the same time, should you give it? It doesn’t seem their repentance is genuine, not does it seem that there will be any alleviation to their sin if you grant it.

Because of this oversight in the book, I’ve marked it down 2 stars. I don’t think there’s anything overtly unbiblical in the text, but it lends itself to being abused by those who aren’t truly repentant – and that is very concerning! Abusers should not be given more power to confuse.

Overall I give this book 3 stars.

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Forgiven People Forgive

A Biblical Response to Forgiveness
by Jeff Miller

Jeff Miller really makes the phrase, “Forgiven People Forgive” stick with you. He points out that forgiveness is something we can’t grant naturally. It’s something we can only truly give when we’ve experienced it. When you know that the sins you committed, and were forged into nails and pounded in the the soft flesh of the son of God, nailing him to a tree. When you know that each swing of the hammer was produced by the weight of your sin, holding him in agony to the splintery wood. When you know that your sin was taken upon him in your place and he’s forgiven you for every crime, sin, and harmful thought you’ve ever committed and will commit, then you know what freedom is like. And to hold back that freedom from others, is something you’ll be incapable of doing.

Sure you still have to decide to exercise the act of forgiveness every-time it’s asked of you, but doing so is a pure delight, because you know what joy it is to experience the lifting burden of the immense weight of sin. You rejoice to see others freed from the iron weight of their guilt and shame. You rejoice to see them happy before the grand throne of our nail scarred Lord.

Forgiven People Forgive will help shape your understanding or when and how to forgive

Overall I give this book 4 stars.

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Freedom Through Forgiveness

by Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

The best thing about this booklet is that it forces you do dig into scripture and wrestle with what is said. It’s not about the authors interpretation of Scripture it’s about what’s actually there. You can’t argue with her saying she’s reading it wrong, she leaves you to stare at Scripture be laid bare before it.

I love that this book provides you with a grading rubric for your practical application of forgiveness and that the questions and format serve as a great test for yourself later in life when you want to look back at how you’ve grown or you need to remind yourself afresh of the purpose and meaning of forgiveness.

Of these three books, this one was the clear winner for me. See more from Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth at Revive Our Hearts.

Overall I give this book 4 stars.

Up Next: Dracula by Bram Stoker

Agreement Is Not Unity

Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. (Matthew 12:25)

Early in our relationship, Steph and I passionately disagreed about many things. We disagreed about silly things like the best board games and the best foods. And we disagreed about important things like: is Jesus God? When we got married many of our disagreements remained. (Though not about who Jesus is, thankfully Steph came to faith early in our relationship!)

Frequently we hear a sentiment among Christians that we should live in unity. After all, Paul calls us to to be united in mind and thought (1 Corinthians 1:9-10). He says that the purpose of pastors and teachers is to help us attain unity in faith and knowledge (Ephesians 4:11-13). And, in marriage we’re told we are one flesh. When it comes to our disagreements, how do we live in unity? Can we live in unity while disagreeing on important things?

We know that the goal of marriage is to be united in Christ (Ephesians 5:31) – striving continually to grow in our walks with God while graciously encouraging our spouse to do the same. Men and women have different commands from the Lord to accomplish this. Men are called to love their wives as Christ loves the church. Women are called to submit to and respect their husbands. The differences don’t stop at the commands to husband and wife – each person is different, with a unique background, set of experiences, and preferences. We are called to be united in those, too; even more so between spouses.

Since we have great differences between one another and a divine call for unity, I want to take some time diving into this paradox and see what God is teaching us here. Let’s look at what it means to be unified.

Disagreement is Part of the Process

In this world, perfect unity always involves disagreement.

If you and your spouse agree fully on everything, something is wrong. One or both of you is lying to the other. In this life, there are trials and tribulations of all kinds, and among them is the struggle for unity. We are told “blessed are the peacemakers” specifically because conflict is a part of life (Matthew 5:9).

Looking at the passages above you may think that Paul is advocating for agreeing in all circumstances. But that’s not what he says elsewhere. In Romans 14 Paul argues again for unity but gives specific examples of disagreements.

First he talks about disagreeing over eating meat sacrificed to idols. Back in Paul’s day the cheap meat was leftovers of what had been sacrificed to idols. Those who said Believers shouldn’t eat it firmly believed that consuming it was taking part in the idolatrous worship of false gods. This is hard for us to wrap our heads around today, but it’s a sobering thought. They believed that your walk with God was in jeopardy for eating this tainted meat. Paul points out it’s ok to eat this meat (1 Corinthians 8) and this is not worth quarreling over (Romans 14:1).

For all of the seriousness and eternal weight to idol worship, Paul tells us that disagreeing on if eating idol meat is acceptable or not should not disrupt the unity of the body of Christ. So why do we allow petty disputes to disrupt our marriages? Why do we let our trivial opinions (like if the toilet seat should be left up or how to push toothpaste out of a tube) affect our emotions? Why do we get angry when things don’t go our way?

Perhaps one more example of Biblical disagreement will help bring answers to these questions. Remember Jesus’s prayer in the garden? Jesus was distraught over the Father’s plan for Him to die. He disagreed with the plan when he said “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me,” but he showed his desired to submit and have unity when he said “Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39).

These examples show us that unity is a decision born out of disagreement. Unity is agreeing to move forward with a plan you don’t agree with. It is humbling yourself before another and thinking of them as more worthy than yourself (Philippians 2:5-8).

Marital Unity is a Sacrifice

Unity is giving up your desires for the sake of something better.

Men, this means as a leader you will need to give up your plans to go hang out with the guys so that you can do something more meaningful and hang out with your wife. It means learning her hobbies so that you can have intelligent conversations with her about the things she’s passionate about. It means listening to your wife and recognizing that God has given her a unique perspective and she can see things you can’t. It means setting aside what you want or think might be best and following the advice of your wife.

Women, unity means submitting to your husband even when you know he’s wrong. It means not saying “I told you so” even when you did. It means honoring his decisions and following his plans even when you know they’ll fail. It doesn’t mean, following them blindly or without objection. You are called to be his helper and tell him when you think his plan is subpar… If Jesus can say that to the Father, you too can say that to your husband. But, in your disagreement, remember – Jesus still walked toward that cross.

Spouses, unity requires your sacrifice. Not because you’re wrong. Not because your plan isn’t good. Not because your plan won’t be enjoyable. No, unity requires your sacrifice because it enables God’s greater plans to unfold in your life.

Marital Unity Takes Time

Steph and I disagree about a lot of things. We disagree on politics, we disagree on how best to clean the house, we disagree on how to prepare the kitchen for cooking. The list goes on and on. But if you know us, those disagreements do not (normally) show through. We’ve spent long hours debating important theological truths, politics, and mundane/boring life things. In debating these things, both of us have been able to adjust and improve our reasoning and positions on a great many topics. Sometimes one of us is able to sway the other to their side fully, other times one or both of us takes a few steps toward the other, and still others we both remain unmoved.

It has been a long process of wrestling intellectually, spiritually, and emotionally with each other, and by God’s grace I pray it will continue to be a long process of struggle and growth. Because through those difficulties, our love for God, and the work of the cross, we are able to live in unity through all of our disagreements. We both sacrifice some of our passions to keep us on the same page and moving forward toward the day when our Lord returns. We both strive to put Jesus at the forefront and set aside our preferences in light of bigger and better things.

Unity requires our sacrifice because it displays for all to see the perfect work of Jesus. Unity provides a platform for the Gospel to our kids, our family, our friends, and our neighbors. Unity is what we need for our marriage to truly glorify God and be worth celebrating.

What about you? Are your preferences really worth disunity?

This article was originally published on Celebrate Marriage on 7-9-2019.

Review: A Theology of Biblical Counseling

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I was at a counseling conference last fall and saw this book. I picked it up and flipped through the pages. I stopped at chapter four: Biblical Counseling and a Theology of God started reading the story of Jenny. Jenny’s story was tragic, she was sexually abused by multiple family members and no one would come to her aid. She felt as though there was no one safe and no one loving. Some of her friends also raped her and she found herself sinking into despair and depression and began cutting and contemplating suicide.

Jenny’s tragic story was gripping, and I was curious to see what it was doing placed in a chapter about the theology of God. As the chapter unfolded Heath Lambert unveiled the truths he and some other Christian women taught her through the Bible and their counseling. He pointed out the character of God and helped her see that while tragedy had come to define her life, who God is provided a hope and comfort through those unimaginably hard times.

I was hooked by the story and the clear teaching on how doctrine encourages our direct action in response to it. I purchased the book and went home and started reading it.

The first half or so of the book continued to blow me away at each turn. Heath works through many deep doctrines and shows how they relate to various types of counseling cases. It’s encouraging to hear the story of how the counselees took biblical truth and turned their lives around.

Reading this book helped me understand better the nuance in many of these cases and how the doctrinal solution that worked in his cases may not work in others. Each case is unique, and you have to dig down deep and really understand where the counselee is at in order to best help them. Someone struggling in sin may be doing so because they don’t think God is good, so they get what they think is good for themselves. Or they might struggle because they don’t think God is powerful enough to provide good things for them, so they take what they feel they are due. Or a hundred other possibilities. Counselors must ask good questions and learn what is at the heart of their counselee.

A few quotes

Sometimes counselors will confront sin earlier in one counseling context and later in another. pg 151

Just because sin is present in front of you in counseling, doesn’t mean that that sin is related to the reason for the counseling. And even when it is, the counselee may not yet be ready to hear it. Therefore, the counselor must be patient, compassionate, and discerning as to when and how sin must be confronted.

What does concern me is when believers in Christ behave as though secular counseling approaches have something indispensable to offer the counseling process, when these approaches do not even understand or acknowledge the most fundamental reality of what it means to be a human being. pg 191

Heath Lambert has no problem with using the research and techniques developed by secular counselors. But when those techniques and research contradict what the Bible tells about human nature, sin, and nature of God there is cause for alarm. Therefore, the counselor must be cautious in adopting anything from secular sources. Their research and techniques should be carefully sifted and examined through the lens of Scripture and anything unBiblical should be abandoned.

It is entirely possible that secular techniques do work, but are still unacceptable practices. For example, many techniques that have been historically used to correct homosexual behavior involved assigning straight porn for them to view. This correction has worked in some people, but it has the side effect of trapping them in a sinful addiction.

Biblical counselors will address problems that are both physical and spiritual. It is a simplistic denial of a complex biblical teaching to insist that counseling problems could only be physical or spiritual. pg 201

I addressed this somewhat in my article Is Brain Chemistry a Misnomer? There is often a belief that our problems are only physical. If we take a pill it’ll change our mood by balancing out our brain chemistry. This is a simplistic reduction of how humans beings operate. Science continues to show us how little truth there is in it. Conversely, many people accuse Biblical counselors of reducing counseling to just spiritual issues. This is also not true and not what the Bible teaches. We are complex beings and that needs to be considered when dealing with our issues.

The Christian life is a life of continual faith and repentance because it is a life of continual turning from sin to depend on Christ. Conversion does not mark the only instance of faith and repentance in the life of the believer, but the first. pg 287

Counseling is often about pointing people to where they have sinned and showing them the need to repent and get right with God and their fellow humans. We were not made perfect when we became Christians, and we must continually work hard to rely on Jesus and grow into His image.

Final Thoughts

This book is a great read for helping understand how counseling got to where it is today. It’s a great starting place for understanding how to counsel Biblically. I wish he had spent more time tying his cases together to the points of doctrine he was covering as it would make the work much more useful. Because he didn’t, I do have to take away one star from  my rating.

Overall I give this book 4 stars.

Up Next: I review three pamphlets on forgiveness.

Review: What Did You Expect?

What did you Expect? by Paul David Tripp

Everyone’s marriage morphs into something they didn’t intend it to be. At some point you need something sturdier than romance. You need something deeper than shared interests and mutual attraction. You need changed expectations, you need radical commitments, and, most importantly, you need grace.

If you’re reading this, I bet there are things in your marriage you did not expect. There are tensions, disagreements, and disappointments in your marriage. How do I know this? Because you’re spouse isn’t perfect, and neither are you. You are a sinner married to a sinner.

Most marriages don’t become a disappointment overnight. It happens through the slow process of erosion. It happens in daily decisions to put priorities on the wrong things. This book was written to help you identify and correct those decisions. It is designed to help you see where your priorities have shifted away from that which is good.

Why it’s good

Troubled marriages are repaired vertically before they are ever repaired horizontally.

This book is good because Paul Tripp gets real. He shares his own story along with the stories of several couples he’s counseled. He shows where they failed and how you can make better choices.

The practical examples make it easy to latch on to what Paul is saying and think through how our own lives mirror that situation. Tripp has a great way of repetitively repeating the same point over and over while making it seem new and different and friendly. This repetition helps make that truth stick with you, so you can bring it to mind whenever you need it.

More importantly, this book is good because Tripp keeps the focus on God: you’ll never fully repair an earthly relationship if your heavenly relationship is broken.

Why it’s good for marriage

A marriage of love, unity, and understanding is not rooted in romance; it is rooted in worship.

Your marriage isn’t about you. Your marriage is about worship. The sooner you realize that and act accordingly, the better off you’ll be and the more you’ll be able to find peace and joy – even in chaos and hurt.

In this book, Paul Tripp tells it like it is. He points out your faults and failures. That may seem daunting… but in pointing out how you have failed, he gives you a tangible way to begin to restore your broken marriage. Far too often we focus on how others have failed and how they’ve hurt us. That focus is short sighted. We can’t change other people, but we can change ourselves, and this book will help you do that.

How to read it

Grab the study guide and begin reading the book. Each section of the study guide is 1-2 chapters. Read the chapters and find the characters you identify with, Paul will use Scripture to point out exactly where you need to change. Answer the study guide questions and come together with your spouse once a week to discuss what you learned and what you’re planning to change about yourself.

Dive in and let the word of God and Paul Tripp’s personal writing style work on you. This book will change the way you look at your marriage and each other. Buy a copy HERE and dig in.

This article was originally published on Celebrate Marriage on 6-10-2019.

Recipe: Chamobalm Tea

A few years back I was trying to find solutions for an ongoing stomach ailment and began experimenting with tea. We had just started a small tea garden in our backyard, consisting of Lavender, Chamomile, Lemon Balm, Spearmint, and a twelve pack starter of teas we found online. Since I knew that various herbs and teas have been known to help with a wide assortment of ailments historically and we were now growing some, looked into what benefits ours might have.

One great resource in my research was the book Homegrown Tea by Cassie Liversidge. There’s a wealth of information in this book, and if you’re interested in concocting your own teas and tinctures, I highly recommend it.

Here’s some of what I found:

Chamomile ~ Known antispasmodic causing it to help with indigestion, stomach pain, upset stomachs, and painful gas. Known for calming and is a light sedative. Reduces stress and anxiety symptoms. Also helps with hay fever.

Lavender ~ Known for calming and relaxing properties, making it good for dealing with insomnia. Reduces stress and anxiety symptoms. Known to help with coughing, colds, and stomach problems. Also used as an antiseptic.

Lemon Balm ~ Helps with indigestion and bloating. Believed to help memory, uplift spirits, and combat symptoms of depression. It’s an antiviral and antibacterial. Contains vitamin C.

Mint ~ Good for mild fevers. Especially good with digestion. Good for headaches and relaxation.

You’ll note that all four of these ingredients are good for digestion and most are calming. I set to work to create a tasty tea with these ingredients and found that no matter how little lavender I put in the tea, I didn’t like it. So that ingredient was dropped pretty quickly. A few more tests and I created a tea that had a pretty immediate calming effect and instantly helped reduce/eliminated my stomach pain. The effects of this do not last as long as probiotics pills, but are much quicker to act. Additionally, regularly drinking it does have more long lasting effects than doing it as a one time cure.

Bonus: this tea tastes delicious!

I’ve made this herbal tea for quite a few people now, and the general consensus is that it’s quite good. My wife and I are big fans of it and have been known to drink a mug before bed several nights in a row. This is a great bedtime tea as most of the ingredients are calming and help prepare your body and mind for sleep.

Chamobalm Tea

1 Mint leaf
2 Chamomile flowers (with stem)*
4 Lemon Balm leaves

Put the ingredients into a tea bag and pour boiling water over as per normal. Steep for at least 1 minute to release flavors, but tea bag can be left in water indefinitely as it cannot be over-steeped.

*I’ve found that commercially available chamomile does not come with the stem. But when you grow it at home, it’s super easy to keep. The stem adds a nice earthy flavor that really grounds the whole combination together. It’s still good without it, but definitely improved with it.

Review: Edgedancer

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The Stormlight Archive is one of my favorite series and this is book 2.5 within the series. I’ve previously reviewed The Way of Kings and The Words of Radiance.

Edgedancer is about a minor character that shows up in The Words of Radiance, Lift. In the big books that Sanderson writes, there are interludes that follow some character that we otherwise haven’t seen yet. This is the first time he develops one of those characters a bit more.

In the postscript to the book, Sanderson explains that there are some characters whose motivations greatly change from what we’ve seen before and there was a continuity issue with just jumping from book two to book three. This short story (only 300 pages, 60 of which are a repeat of the interlude in book 2) allowed him to fix that continuity issue for the readers.

The story itself is interesting and gives some great insight into the greater world and what’s going on behind the scenes. I enjoyed these aspects and the continually growing world and the intriguing magic system. I did not, however, enjoy Lift. She’s childish and doesn’t care about anything. An astute reader will tell me I’m wrong and point out that her motivations were revealed toward the end of the book, but that doesn’t change the fact that she’s childish and immature. She avoids responsibility as much as possible.

There are definitely some key things that are developed in this story that make sense of interludes from the previous books. So if you’re a fan of the series, I do recommend reading it.

Overall, I give this book 3 stars.

Up Next: A Theology of Biblical Counseling by Heath Lambert

Review: The Heart of Domestic Abuse

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Abuse in the church never stays hidden. The truth always comes out, and when it does it’s devastating. We’ve heard countless stories of Catholic priests sexually abusing children, celebrity Christians abusing multiple women (see: Josh Duggar), and so many more heart breaking stories.

For every story we’ve heard, there are countless more that have never been released to the public. The statistics say that one in four or five marriages has domestic abuse happening in it, and we’ve learned that those stats don’t change inside the church.

Contrary to common belief, abuse isn’t always sexual or violent. It can be manipulative, controlling, and perfectly legal. Chris talks about a guy who keep track of if his wife left the house by chalking her tires, then he’d use that to start conversations “did you go anywhere today?” There’s nothing illegal about it, but it’s controlling and stifling to her growth and life. Oppressors will stay within the law so long as they can get what they want by those means.

This is the insidiousness of abuse. It obeys the law.

Another man who would leave all the cabinet doors open in the kitchen when he was upset with his wife. On the surface, this sounds like ordinary marital forgetfulness, but in the past he would get physically violent after leaving the cabinet doors open. So she’d come home, see the cabinets open and get hysterical in fear. She couldn’t tell anyone that he threatened her, because who would believe that leaving the cabinets open was a threat?

This is the insidiousness of abuse. It hides in plain sight.

In the church, these men become spiritual oppressors using scripture to assert control over their wives and demanding whatever they want. They also seek out powerful friendships (like pastors and community leaders) so that if their wife every says anything, she has nowhere to turn to.

This is the insidiousness of abuse. It controls and manipulates.

With abuse so common in our culture and in our churches, what hope is there for transformative change? What hope is there for men to start reflecting the love of Jesus for the first time?

Review: The Heart of Domestic Abuse

When Chris Moles first started researching this topic, there was barely any information out there. As he puts it, it call fit in one box. He began to look for anything he could get his hands on to help change men’s hearts and protect women and children from harm.

With this book, Chris Moles dives into the deep end. He tears apart the unbiblical answers Christians often use to respond to abuse situations. He encourages the church to work with law enforcement and court orders to protect the flock and fulfill the commands of Scripture (Romans 13:1-2). Too often church leaders have avoided the law and made things far worse.

Moles examines the secular approaches to domestic abuse and how they fail to make lasting change. Many of them are only aiming to get rid of the violent and controlling tendencies, with no concern to what they are replaced with. The problem being, they may remove this issue in the marriage only to replace it with gambling, adultery, or some other damaging sin.

The Heart of Domestic Abuse works out the Biblical answer to this hard topic. Chris Moles, breaks down each issue into understandable components and uses real life stories to make them understandable. He points out that the problem with angry men is not women refusing to be submissive, but sinful, pride filled hearts of men not submitting to God.

He points to Scripture to show that the role of a husband is to lift up and support his wife like the male cheerleaders who launch the girls in the air so they can perform flips and tricks. They watch with anticipation as the come back down, sliding into place to catch them safely. That’s how Jesus supported us! He taught the disciples, and sent them out on practice runs (Mark 6:7-13). He empowered them to do amazing things! Godly men should be doing the same.

To learn more about this topic and how to address it Biblically, read on his blog: PeaceWorks or listen to his podcast: The PeaceWorks Podcast.

Overall I give this book 5 stars. This topic is long overdue to be addressed by the church, and we need to root out this sin from among us. Christians should be leading the charge to remove this sin, not languishing behind the world in it.

Up Next: Edgedancer by Brandon Sanderson

Defining Justice in an Unjust World

Justice is the act of providing right consequences to one’s actions. Our first thoughts for how this happens is with a Judge (or Justice) – whose sole job is to hear cases and determine what happened and what the correct level of penalty for any legal infractions should be. No matter how great the mind of the judge and how full the evidence provided to them, injustices still happen. Innocent people still find themselves paying fines, imprisoned, or even on death row (see: The Innocence List).

On the other side of it, there are some crimes where worldly justice never seems to be adequate or equally measured out. Rapists walk away without even a day in jail (see this USA Today article). Murderers walk free. And justice is meted out differently dependent on social status, political power, gender, and race.

Injustice is a very real part of our world, and a very difficult truth to grapple with. The truth is that when innocent people are convicted friends and family abandon them. Even if they’re eventually exonerated they often find that their loved ones have lingering doubts about the whole ordeal. The truth is that when the guilty go free, their victims weep and fear for their safety. The truth is that when the innocent are punished, it hurts us all.

The truth is that justice is rarely just.

Scripture tells us that few people understand justice (Proverbs 28:5), but it’s still so disheartening to see. Living in this world so full of injustice, there are times when we’re tempted to give up on justice and take things into our own hands. As tempting as this is, we must not give in! The world screams of injustices wherever we look, but there is hope for a better way.

Today I want to look at these four kinds of justice that are demonstrated in the Bible and how they can help us interact with our world. By examining these four different justices it will help enrich our understanding how things ought to be and how we can help correct the injustices around us. Each of these types of justice is both distinct and separate from the others and yet they are intricately woven together.

Eternal Justice

This is the justice God metes out at the white throne (Revelations 20:11-15). This is God’s divine justice on mankind. At the end of days, God will look at each of our lives and determine if we have lived righteously and perfectly or if we have sinned. His Justice will be imparted based on our actions and our thoughts (Matthew 5:21-30 & Romans 2:15-16). All of us guilty of sin, will be sentenced to hell. Only those who have been washed in the blood of Christ will be granted grace and freedom from the just penalty for our cosmic treason against God.

God’s Eternal Justice reigns over all (Psalm 9:7), and in it He declares “vengeance is mine, I will repay” (Deuteronomy 32:35). Because God knows everything (1 John 3:20), only He is perfectly capable of rendering true justice. “He does no injustice; every morning he shows forth his justice; each dawn he does not fail” (Zephaniah 3:5).

I’ve seen some Christians stop here on their definition of Biblical justice. They reason that only God can execute justice perfectly, only His justice is true. There’s some truth to that statement just as only God can love perfectly – however we are still called to love (Matthew 5:44; Ephesians 4:1-3; Colossians 3:14). And just as we are called to love (when only God can truly love), the Bible speaks of justice being done by others even though those others cannot execute it perfectly (Isaiah 1:17, Micah 6:8). As imperfect sinners, we’re still called to obedience to God’s commands (1 John 2:3).

Biblical justice is both eternal and temporary. It is eternal in that God doles it out with consequences that stretch on forever. And it is temporary in that the choices you make in this world will also have consequences. God’s eternal justice should cause us to really reflect on our choices and choose to align ourselves with His mercy.

How does it interact with the others?

All other forms of justice point to God’s justice. All other forms of justice are a mere shadow of eternal, divine justice. These shadows create in us a desire for complete justice. Every attempt to respond rightly to someone’s sins is an attempt to show them that they sinned and have hurt God. All worldly forms of justice are a pale reflection of a pure and perfect God. Divine justice stands apart from the rest by being the perfect response to our sin and injustices.

As C.S. Lewis said: “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” Our growing desire for perfect justice causes us to point our eyes toward heaven and long for something more.

Judicial Justice

Judicial justice is the first kind of temporal justice. It reigns over all kinds of areas: parking violations, domestic violence, and murder. If you kill someone, the government will get involved and seek to punish you. They’ll attempt to weigh out the facts of the crime and assign the proper consequence. Did you premeditate the murder or was it an accidental death? Did you torture them for months on end or was their death painless and quick? The facts of the case may be gruesome, but the more they point at your actions being evil the worse the punishment will become. And the more they point at it being an accident, the more lenient the penalty will be.

This kind of justice is ordained by God for earthly kingdoms to wield (Romans 13:1-7 & 2 Peter 2:13-15). We see this kind of justice referenced in passages like 1 Kings 3:28 when King Solomon takes the throne and in Exodus 23:2 when we’re commanded not to lie and pervert governmental justice. This kind of justice is all over Scripture (2 Samuel 8:15; 2 Chronicles 9:8; Proverbs 29:4; Ecclesiastes 5:8;  & Isaiah 1:23).

For the most part, we as Christians today don’t question this kind of justice. Even those that argue that only God can do justice will acknowledge that we should obey our governing authorities. In my estimation, there isn’t much reason to elaborate on this point – if you break the law the police nab you and a judge will rule attempting to bring justice to the situation.

How does it interact with the others?

Judicial Justice stands apart from the next two, because it has more permanent and lasting punishments. Judicial Justice is the only form of justice that allows for imprisonment and capital punishment. Judicial Justice attempts to take on the most serious of sins and remove the offenders from society to protect the rest of us.

Ecclesiastical Justice

If you break the law, the government goes after you, but there is so much more that you can do wrong that isn’t illegal. For instance, it’s illegal to beat someone up, but it’s not illegal to antagonize them to the point where they feel physically attacked. Chris Moles uses the term “Crazy Making” to refer to husbands who haven’t technically broken any laws but act in a way that drives their wife literally crazy. They question what she does and lie and deceive to make her begin to question what really happened. Their actions cause her to question reality. While it’s extremely rude to make someone completely uncertain about what happened to them, it is not illegal.

In these hard situations, where the law provides no protections, Ecclesiastical Justice steps in. This is justice that the church bears out through church discipline on unrepentant people (Matthew 18:15-20; 1 Corinthians 5; and 2 Thessalonians 3:14). This seems to be the kind Jesus accused the Pharisees of lacking (Matthew 23:23 & Luke 11:42).

The church aims to purify the body of Christ so that the world would see it and be inspired. Too often we fail as churches to be that pure, instead we sinfully opt to hide people from Judicial Justice. The church was never meant to be a refuge from the consequences of sin. When the church learns that someone has broken the law (ex. money laundering, molestation, rape, murder, et cetera), the church should escalate the situation by involving the appropriate government bodies.

Ecclesiastical Justice can work alongside Judicial Justice to point the offender to Jesus and perfect restoration. I’ve seen cases where the offender committed a crime, but the government has opted not to pursue it because it would be too challenging to convict. In cases like this, Ecclesiastical Justice is very important. The church is able to walk with offender and victim to find a path of repentance and hopefully restoration. Even if the government did choose to pursue conviction and punishment, the church can still walk with both the offender and the victim in ways the government can’t. They can offer help, support, and hope to the hurting victim. They can offer Biblical wisdom and truth to the offender – helping them to see the full extent of the damage their sin has caused.

When Ecclesiastical Justice is done correctly, we get a glimpse into the heart of the sinner. Do they want to be right with God or do they want to gratify the desires of their flesh?

I have had the opportunity to see discipline work well, breaking a hard man’s heart and spurring in him a desire to behave in a manner that glorifies God and uplifts his fellow man. And I know of church disciplines where the man being confronted with his sin didn’t show a broken and contrite spirit, and he left the church to pursue his own self gratification. In both types of scenarios, the church is better off. In both scenarios, the victim is better off, because it removes the lingering doubts of what will happen and frees her up to work on personal healing.

How does it interact with the others?

When done rightly, Ecclesiastical Justice steps in before Judicial Justice and protects the hurting and oppressed. It demands purity from Believers and points them to the Word of God on how they ought to be living. In that way, Ecclesiastical Justice aims to mirror Eternal Justice much more closely than Judicial Justice.

General Justice

When we use only the three types of justice outlined above there are passages of Scripture that are very hard to understand. Consider the following:

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)

What kind of justice is the LORD asking you to participate in? You cannot enact Eternal Justice. You are likely not involved in the church or governmental bodies to enact those kinds of justice either. What remains for the common man to do?

This last form of justice, General Justice, is executed by the people (you and I) to right the wrongs of those around us. This is the justice we’re called to enact for the hurting and oppressed (James 1:27). This is what we do when we fight against abortion and domestic oppression. These are not things that would historically get people kicked out of churches (Ecclesiastical Justice), but the people of God have still been called to look after those who are oppressed for the sake of the Gospel and the building up of believers.

In 1840 an Italian priest, Luigi Taparelli D’Azeglio, renamed this justice as “Social Justice” and called for its return to the church (see: Social Justice: Not What You Think It Is & The FAQs: What Christians Should Know About Social Justice). The term “Social Justice” has been adopted by many liberal thinkers in all religions and philosophies and the meaning of it has changed from what was originally intended. Because of this, there has been a lot of misconstrued meaning in what “Social Justice” (General Justice) means and where it gets its Biblical roots. So I want to take a moment and talk about some of the things General Justice is and is not, to fully clarify what the Bible preaches.

General Justice…

  1.   is a call to compassionate action. We are to look after the orphans and widows in their distress (Isaiah 1:17, 23; Jeremiah 22:3; & James 1:27). We are to plead the widow’s cause. This means we need to know her plight (what are her struggles and how can we help?). Our compassion overflows to her because God’s love overflows to us. We spend time with her and get to know her and her family. We bring her struggles up on her behalf so that she can continue to attend to her needs since her time as a single mom is more precious and limited than our own.
  2.   is a call to protect. We are to protect the weak and helpless (Isaiah 10:1-2 & Jeremiah 5:28). When the rules we have in place unfairly target the helpless, we are to step up and protect them (Proverbs 31:8). Isaiah condemn laws that unfairly target the poor and hurting and steal from them what is right for them to have. As God’s people, we are called to stand up for them – just as the good Samaritan did (Luke 10:25-37).
  3.   seeks truth. Justice can never be done without honestly looking for the truth (Jeremiah 5:1). It requires us to be discerning, ask good questions, reflect on the matter diligently, and seek the Lord in prayer. Only with the truth can a right consequence be found for the actions or inactions of the offender. Seeking truth means working to find the source of their plight – whether that’s being wronged by another or the normal consequences of their own actions.
  4.   is a call to righteousness. If we want to live out justice for those around us, we cannot be sinning against those people (Proverbs 17:23 & Jeremiah 22:3). We cannot treat them rightly today and be stealing from them tomorrow. Justice requires consistent godly behavior.
  5.   is a call to love. Hosea 12:6 is God’s plea with His people to return to Him. He begs them to hold fast to love, justice, and to wait for God. Justice and love are connected in the same way that parental discipline and love are connected. Without love, justice and discipline are often abusive and poisonous (Amos 6:12). An example of this poisonous behavior is the father who comes home and beats his kids for not doing their chores timely. Their misdeeds may have warranted discipline, but they didn’t warrant blood and bruises. With love, justice and discipline are the means by which we help others grow in their walk with God. A response lacking in love can taint the child and give them scars that are deeper than the flesh.
  6.   is impartial. This is pretty obvious, as we said earlier injustice is common and is often rendered on incomplete information, and sometimes it’s rendered on biased opinions. In Proverbs 18:5 we are told that justice should not show partiality to the wicked or the righteous. The call here seems to be that those we think well or ill of still need a fair shake before justice can be properly administered.
  7. is humble. Those that seek to do justice are called to be humble enough to confess their sins to one another (James 5:16). Believers are called to humble admit when they are wrong, and have sinned against each other and thereby seek justice for their own sins.
  8.   is an action God blesses us for taking (Psalm 146:5-7).

General Justice is a call to keep our eyes off ourselves and onto the plights of others. It’s a call to befriend those in need and help them where they’re at. It’s a call to love them more than we love ourselves.

We are called to look out for those who have been wronged and to step in for them when they can’t step in for themselves. This may mean taking time off work and going with them to court and helping them through the hurdles of the court system. It may mean opening up your pantry and giving them food. Whatever it means, it certainly means sacrifice.

General Justice is not…

  1.   about revenge. General Justice is not about taking matters into our own hands. We must remember that Eternal Justice will reign and God knows better than us. Revenge belongs to the Lord (Leviticus 19:18 & Hebrews 10:30).
  2.   about overthrowing the government. We care called to submit to the governing authorities (Romans 13:1-7). While some have co-opted “Social Justice” as a means to remake the government in our image, this is not the call of the Bible. General Justice is not the same thing as what Marx talked about in socialism and the rising up on the working class. That said, as we saw above General Justice does call for us to protect the helpless and that does mean getting involved in government. This is most clearly seen today when Christians speak up about abortion and vote to put an end to it. Abortion is an attack on the weakest of all humans and those most incapable of defending themselves. It is an act of compassion, love, and righteousness to stand up for them and plead their cause to all who will listen.
  3.   about forced redistribution of wealth. It is right for believers to give of themselves to help others. This is clearly seen in Acts (2:45 & 4:32-5:11), but this kind of giving was entirely voluntary. And it’s important that it remains so today. Our ability to give freely of ourselves is commanded by justice and tested by our free will. If we are forced to give our things up, our heart response is no longer required and we are no longer being crafted into the likeness of His image in the process. And beyond that, we have the simple Biblical call to not steal – which is exactly what socialism calls for.

How does it interact with the others?

General Justice is the first temporal justice to be enacted. It is incumbent on the people to point out to the authorities abuses of power, corruptions, and other such violations of the law and morality. It is the job of you and I to see that our neighbor has sinned and go to them to correct them in private, and if that fails to escalate it to the church. And it is our job to turn in violators of the law to the government for the law to deal with them accordingly. Our justice kick-starts the process.

Unfortunately, we as Believers often fail to live up to this call, and when we do the church often adopts it as a cause of theirs. This is seen in Acts 6:1-7 when there was a failure to properly distribute food to a sect of widows and the apostles appointed seven people to lead a new ministry to oversee this distribution and make sure the widows were well looked after. While this kind of solution works (and works well) it does not mean that is how things ought to be. We need to live up to our calling as Believers and do what God has asked us to do.

When it comes to Eternal Justice, our justice is a dim reflection of what’s to come. A reminder that God is near and the Perfect will render justice impartially and completely.

Final Thoughts

Justice is the act of providing right consequences to one’s actions. There is a fourfold Biblical call to justice. Justice begins with us and escalates depending on the nature of the sin that has been committed. All forms of temporal justice serve to point us to God’s Eternal Justice. They point mankind to the perfection we find in the Lord and serve to drive our eyes to someone greater than us.

In our pursuit of justice, we must never forget grace and forgiveness, gifts God has freely given us. We are called to treat others as we would have them treat us, and when we’re honest we know we want an endless supply of grace and forgiveness. These are tools God has given us to be used alongside justice (not in replacement of it). Grace is what allows us to see the innocent being condemned and forgiveness is what allows us to free the hearts of the guilty. When used properly we are best able to provide true justice (Ezekiel 18:8).

It is my hope that this article on justice helps shed light on what God wants you to do with your life. The Bible is not just a book of facts… it is a book designed to motivate you to grow and change and pursue Christ with your every breath.

With that knowledge, where is God telling you that you need to step up and protect the helpless? Where do you need to work to find the truth and fight for the cause of the widow?

Where do you need to live out justice?

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