Raising Passionate Jesus Followers?

A review by Stuart Brogden

There are times when I wonder if anything good can come from Zondervan. Raising Passionate Jesus Followers, by Phil and Diane Comer, did not allay that concern. After reviewing the table of contents (lots of short chapters) I made a bee-line for Appendix B – Leading Your Child to Christ, to find out, first off, if the gospel was properly presented. Sigh. For one thing, this entire book is filled with new-age talk about “sharing Jesus” and “model” Jesus. Amidst some good counsel, Read the Scriptures to them (your children) regularly!” there is a common yet sad misunderstanding of Scripture in the next sentence: “Read John 3: to them and talk about how much God loves them.” (page 284) On the next page, we are told, “After modeling for your kids what it looks like to follow Jesus; and praying and talking to them about making a decision to follow the way of Jesus; when you feel the time is right, be bold and ask them if they would like to receive Jesus as their Savior and Lord!” Praying and talking to your kids about the gospel is the right thing to do. Asking them if they would like to receive Jesus is part and parcel of the false gospel of man’s free will, couched in terms of following Jesus without the gospel being presented.

Throughout this book we find behavior, followers of Jesus, but I don’t recall once having seen the death to sin and resurrection to new life in Christ by grace through faith being discussed. This aligns perfectly, however, with the perspective that behavior modification can result in a “follower.” Still in this revealing appendix, we find this (page 286):

One Sunday afternoon after church, we were driving to a friend’s house for lunch. Our oldest son, John Mark, who was just four-and-a-half years old at the time, was in the car with us. He’s just heard a clear presentation of the good news in his children’s call at church and, as we were driving, he blurted out: “I want to give my life to Jesus right now!”

We pulled the car over nest to a strip mall on a busy boulevard and led him in a prayer to receive Jesus as his Savior and Lord. Right there, in that moment, he was saved!

Later on (same page) we’re told, “You want your child to remember the life-changing decision they (sic) made, so talk about the place, the time, the night and who was there when they (sic) gave their (sic) life to the Lord. Anything to help them remember their decision as they grow older.” I don’t find any of this in Scripture! I see the saints being encouraged to keep their focus on Christ, trusting in Him – not a decision we made – to keep us until He returns. If you have to remember what you did, your confidence that you are right with God will rest on yourself rather than on the One Who saves sinners.

There is some good parenting counsel scattered throughout this book, but the work is built on the faulty foundation of decisional regeneration, a hat-tip to God’s sovereignty, and a lack of biblical clarity.

A quick review, starting with the introductory A Note to Parents, wherein we see this worldly view of the love for God we are to have (page 16): “The Jesus we wanted out kids to fall in love with is the One who …” Falling love is a Greco-Roman view of love, you are helpless, it happened to you. The biblical view of love is that it is a deliberate act of the person in response to having first been loved by God. We don’t fall in love with Jesus; we love Him because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).

Chapter 4 introduces us The Great Shema, and we learn that “Jesus loves your children. He longs to bring them close, to redeem them and make them his own. … God is inviting you to join Him” (page 35), He longs for a loving relationship with each of us” (page 39). Again we see a Jesus who wants to redeem sinners but is apparently unable to do so without our help. In chapter 8 we are told our goal is “to raise sons and daughters who are passionate Jesus followers. By “passionate Jesus followers” we mean kids who grow up to truly love and walk with the Lord” (page 53). By making a goal focused on results rather than on personal faithfulness, the authors are setting their readers up for a crushing sense of failure. We cannot produce Christians – God alone does that. We are to be faithful witnesses of Him by the proper teaching of His Word. If that is our goal, we can rest a bit easier, for God will enable and equip us to do this, as His instructions are to make disciples by teaching them all He has commanded. We teach; God calls people out of spiritual death into the glorious light of His kingdom.

Throughout much of this book, the authors talk about managing the box – the area (physically and psychologically) that our kids occupy. As they grow and mature, the box gets bigger. This is something I personally agree with vigorously, as we are to train our children to take responsibility for their decisions and the scope of those choices which with they can live increases as they mature.

Near the end of the book, advice for parents of adult children is given. Much of it reflects humanistic psychology, wrapped up in personal piety. “Bless your grown children by believing in them … they need our approval and affirmation” (page 263). I would hope parents would bless their adult Christian children by reminding of God’s faithfulness, not puffing them up as if they were something they are. This may be what the authors intended by the last sentence in this section: “Remember, He who began a good work in your children right in your very own home, will carry it on to completion.” Nothing in this chapter up to this point indicates whether the adult children being spoken of are “passionate Jesus followers” or not. And the authors do not once – as far as I noticed – call Christians by that name. Consistently they talk about people who follow Jesus, as if the Bible did not use that term (specifically in 1 Pet 3:16 and 4:16).

When we try to provide Christian parenting counsel, we must be true to the Word of God. Trying to be relevant to our culture and compromising the bare truth found in Scripture will end up leading people astray, not closer to God’s truth.

Faithful Finance?

A review by Stuart Brogden

One thing sadly lacking for many people in today’s culture – knowledge and discipline for sound financial planning and practice. This book by Emily G. Stroud promises itself as a Bible-based guide to “10 secrets to move from fearful insecurity to confident control.” These “secrets” are examined in the 10 chapters. 

While the book does provide competent but basic counsel on myriad issues across the financial spectrum, it is woefully lacking in being sound in the way the author uses Scripture and recommends certain people. Not many should be teachers; this book would be much better if Mrs. Stroud had focused on financial issues and left theology out of it.

The introduction gives the reader high hopes, as our author tells us money doesn’t give us peace but is merely a tool, there is hope in Christ, God blesses people differently, and we can learn to use money wisely and have a more peaceful and fruitful life. In chapter 1, we read, “Most important, we all need a biblical foundation to understand the importance of putting our knowledge into action. (page 20)” This chapter is devoted to the idea that one needs a professional to worry about out money as we won’t. Several of the concepts described herein are basic and do not require a professional: budgeting, charitable giving, short-term savings. Others are well served by having another provide counsel: insurance, investments, mortgages, retirement planning. It’s a sad reality that so many in this rich country retire with not much more than the coerced plan known as Social Security.

Chapter 2 is titled Cash is King (or Queen) and provides solid counsel on monthly budgeting and short-term savings. If one has no idea how to begin financial disciplines and wants to begin, this chapter is a valuable resource. The next chapter is on giving and here our author shows why she should have avoided bringing her religious views into the book. When she mentions tithing, there’s no question in her mind whether or not it’s a New Covenant practice – only whether one should tithe on gross or net income and whether splitting your tithe between your church and another ministry is robbing God (page 55). She quotes “Mother Teresa” on page 54 with nothing to indicate this wretch was serving demons. Half of page 57 is filled up by a quote from Rick Warren, blabbing about how good it feels to be generous. This pastor (so-called) bases his theology on human phycology, leading many down the path to his theological therapeutic deism he calls Christianity. And on the following page she says people ought to “consider automating their charitable giving and tithing by setting up automatic transfers from your checking account or debit card each month. Then expect God to show up. Wait and see if the rest of your bills still get paid.”

Saints – giving is to be an act of worship, not some trite activity reduced to a bill that is to be paid, as mindlessly as possible.

The end of this chapter brings a challenge to “be the change this world needs” with an exhortation to “remember the wise words of Malachi,” as she then quotes Malachi 3:10 (page 60). Sigh. I’ve heard it said that one’s theology affects the balance of one’s life. This was in observation of how Woodrow Wilson was attracted to world government by Darby’s system of theology. Chapter 10, God Will Provide, ends with Jeremiah 29:11 with no context or application. It hangs there as if anyone can directly appropriate that as a personal promise from God.

Emily Stroud needs to leave her confused theology out of her work if she wants to of good service to all people. There is good, basic financial planning advice in this book. If the reader needs to begin taking responsibility for his money, this book can be very useful. Do not look to it for counsel from God’s Word, as she has shown she needs to learn much before she can be trusted in this arena.

Is a collapse coming?

I consider the subject of economics to be as fascinating as watching paint dry or watching a round of golf, but recently I’ve taken notice of an economic storm brewing on the horizon of our nation that is getting very little attention and very few seem to be talking about, even though it will affect every single American and the way we live.

You simply cannot pay off trillions of dollars in debt by printing more money without drastic ramifications, and these ramifications could very well be the collapse of the American dollar resulting in this nation plummeting into Third-world status overnight.

Here are just a few of the headlines I’ve taken from the Drudge Report over the past month; headlines that are often glossed over because we’ve  been distracted with the Casey Anthony murder trial, the war in Iraq, American Idol, and our sports:

Dollar losing global reserve status

China: USA’s Already Defaulting

China Warns on Risks of Dollar Holdings...

PAPER: Global order fractures as US power declines...

Carville: 2012 could be 'very rough'; Civil unrest 'imminently possible'...

PAPER: USA has record $61.6 TRILLION in unfunded obligations; $534,000 per household...

Daily economic briefings disappear from Obama's White House schedule...

REPORT: Gold headed for $5K an ounce...

Housing Crisis Now Worse Than Great Depression...

IMF cuts U.S. growth forecast, warns of crisis...

Trades reveal China shift from dollar

There’s no doubt that we are on the brink of total economic collapse, but this collapse can be brought on even faster if China or OPEC stops accepting the American dollar as the global reserve, or if we suffer another terrorist attack like 9/11, or if a devastating earthquake hits a major metropolitan area like Seattle, San Francisco, or Los Angeles. When the dollar finally loses its status in the global market we will see the end of our American way of life virtually overnight.

As Christians, our hope and trust is not in politics, economics, money, might, armies, presidents, or kings, but with our nation facing inevitable financial collapse it may be wise and prudent for us to prepare to be able to take care of our families, friends, neighbors, and even strangers if/when this event takes place. If a foreign entity moves in after our collapse, will we be ready to face the possible outlawing of Christianity and the fierce persecution that could come with it?

We need to be prepared to boldly proclaim the gospel to a mass of people who will be dumbfounded at what just took place; a nation of people who never thought they’d see empty grocery store shelves and never imagined that clean drinking water would ever stop flowing from their taps.

An event such as the total collapse of the U.S. economy will cause many to turn away from the false idols that have consumed their lives for so long, but will you and I be ready to point them to the One who can reconcile them to God, or will we be too preoccupied with finding food and water?

We must not keep our head in the sand and expect that our way of life will continue, it simply can’t. Democracies have a shelf-life, and God will not allow us to continue as a nation in our current ways forever. 

Here are just a few videos (there are many more out there) to help you better understand what is likely about to happen. You can do more research for yourself via the internet, and I encourage you to do so.

A dramatization of what could happen very soon in this nation:

How quickly we can run out of food:

More information on our precarious economy in light of Japan’s economic status:

Go to the ant, O sluggard, Observe her ways and be wise, Which, having no chief, Officer or ruler, Prepares her food in the summer And gathers her provision in the harvest. Proverbs 6:6-8