Sunday, February 28, 2010

Review: "Kaleidoscope" by Patsy Clairmont

Leave it to Patsy Clairmont to create a book with a cover as cute as she is, a length as tiny as she is, and chapters as short as she is.

Beautiful cover and all, Kaleidoscope fails to connect. Chapters, each based on a single verse from Proverbs, come across as devotional stories. While one or two chapters may hit individual readers hard, most readers will have to either dig deep or read only one chapter per day/week and truly commit to thinking as hard as Winnie the Pooh to get something out of this book.

Mind you, the stories Clairmont tells are delightfully funny, but that doesn’t compensate for lack of depth in the Word. I have yet to read a book by a Women of Faith Speaker that truly dives into God’s Word. Some pointless questions and a few verses to reflect on after each chapter are the closest Clairmont comes to covering readers with the water of the Word of God.

On the bright side, she does bring some clear understanding to a few confusing proverbs, but, as lovely as its cover is, Kaleidoscope does not “find inspiring reflections of the divine that bring clarity to our world.”

*Quote from the book jacket’s description.

Book Summary:

Acclaimed author and Women of Faith speaker Patsy Clairmont causes womens' hearts to leap and their hopes to lift in this quirky, straight-to-the point look at the Proverbs.
Understanding the Christian life and the Bible can be a daunting task. But maybe God didn't mean it to be so hard. In Kaleidoscope of Proverbs, Patsy Clairmont pieces together some powerful messages from God and reveals new facets of beauty, inspiration, and instruction. Written for busy women, Patsy offers brief, powerful chapters that address the key aspects of their lives, hearts, and relationships.
In the Proverbs, God gives us small gems of hope and truth, and in Kaleidoscope of Proverbs, Patsy Clairmont unveils them for readers with her trademark humor and insightful teaching.

* I received a free copy of this book from in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Problem of Emotional Conversions

Biblical Salvation
Evangelist John Nordstrom
AAA Ministries:  Gospel Sowing to Anyone, Anywhere, Anytime

Biblical salvation becomes a reality when three components of the human body become interactively engaged: The mind, the heart, and the will (Romans 6:17). The gospel sower initiates the process of regeneration by delivering the doctrine of salvation into the prospect's intellect. The sower who dares pass beyond his jurisdiction and tries to also manipulate the heart, goes too far. The heart’s inner sanctum, is reserved for God alone. Truth delivered by the sower becomes a hammer in the hand of God, breaking down the fortified walls of the heart (Jeremiah 23:29). The final outcome is man’s will yielding to God’s will. True salvation takes place in the heart, not the intellect. It takes place after God has done his convicting work and not without it. God is the soul winner, not man (1 Corinthians 3:7).

There is nothing a gospel sower can do to cause the prospect to mean business with God.  The sower must focus on giving a correct gospel in an understandable way. The rest is up to God and the individual. When they die, their sincerity is between them and God.

I agree with much in the letter, but not with all. It draws a picture of intellect, heart, and will, to the exclusion of the spirit. This picture shows God pounding on the heart and the will, but ignores God giving life to the spirit and understanding to the intellect. Any Calvinist would offer tons of Scripture references that tear the letter to shreds.  (By the way, in interest of full disclosure, I triangulate somewhere above and between Arminians on my far left and Calvinists on my not-so-far right.)

Before I go on, I should point out that, while God ultimately wins souls, God delegates the privilege and duty of engaging in soul winning to believers. Somewhere, the Old Testament says, "he that wins souls is wise." Soul winning is a partnership between God and his ambassadors -- us. True soul winners give the glory to God and will one day cast their bejeweled crowns before His feet; yet it is God who places those jewels in their crowns and calls them soul winners. Therefore, I'm not following the false modesty of abandoning the term.

People sometimes claim to have had a head conversion without a heart conversion. The letter says that True salvation takes place in the heart, not the intellect.  This is false.  Both the intellect and the heart must be involved -- and the spirit, too. More often, I think, people have heart conversions without head conversions (especially in Charismatic circles). Perhaps legalistic sects such as Catholicism have will conversions without either head or heart conversions. (I'm not sure we should isolate "the will" as a separate function like intellect and heart. I think of it more as a verb -- to will -- resulting from the majority vote of the intellect, the heart, and the spirit.) The letter implies that people can even have head, heart, and will conversions based on the gospel and the emotional appeal of the soul winner, but accomplished without the work of the Spirit. Examples might include Judas in the gospels and Simon the Sorcerer in Acts.

The letter does not imply that an emotional appeal excludes the work of the Spirit. It is possible for God to quicken the sinner's spirit even if the gospel presenter includes an emotional appeal.

What a frustrating idea, that a fraction of those converted through emotional appeals are saved, and the rest are not. Between the intrusion of the world into the church and its saturation with unconverted souls, it becomes no wonder that "Christians" stand so undifferentiated from their neighbors. I must think, however, that all those false conversions represent a great lessening of coals upon those souls' heads and a great preservation of the societies in which they live.

On the other hand, might there be people who whose decision or act of will as a result of emotional appeal lead to greater things? Could the gospel with a God-prepared spirit result in an authentic conversion that lacks devotional energy because the soul winner left the person to cross the threshold alone? If we all did all things because we had the right information and the work of the Spirit upon our spirits, when would we need exhortation, encouragement, and provocation? Why would Paul and John have included such emotional appeals in their epistles? I conclude that the soul winner needs wisdom, caution, and balance (as do we all), since scriptures do not preclude the use of emotional appeal along with the preaching of the gospel.

What disadvantages do we find in false conversions? One is that false converts besmear the name of Christ when they stumble or fall away. The banner held high by remaining true converts ought to restore Christ's honor, but that brings us to the real danger. When false converts wander off, they discourage us. We feel betrayed because we put more trust in each other than we do in God. Sometimes, after times of failure, we question our own conversions because we know that things like what we did have also led to the revelation of others' false conversions. It hurts, especially when you were the person who "led them to the Lord." You wonder what you did wrong when, in truth, false conversions happen regardless of the soul winners' methods.

So we look for reasons why. In some churches that use strong emotional appeals, it's easy to blame the emotional appeal. We might conclude that all emotional appeals are wrong because the work on the heart and the will belong to God. That's an unreasonable extreme. Banning the emotional appeals makes about as much sense as banning the teaching of the gospel. After all, head-without-heart conversions are just as doomed as are heart-without-head conversions; and when false converts fall away, it hurts us just as much either way. What comes next, ban both the attempt to make the gospel plain and the attempt to appeal to the heart?

The first half of the answer lies in the wisdom to find appropriate proportions of intellectual and emotional appeals. At the same time, I'd like to acknowledge that God makes us with unique capacities. Some personalities have no capacity for emotional appeal, and it would be a mistake to force them to conduct altar calls with two dozens verses of Just as I Am at every service. Other personalities have little capacity for intellectual appeal. Let each man serve according to his gifts without rejecting others' gifts.

The second half lies in a wise response when false converts fall away. Some "false" converts are weak or misled believers who will later return, or they are believers whom God will call home prematurely for the preservation of their souls. A soul winner who judges such converts "false" takes on needless disappointment. Our disappointment indicates trust due God but misplaced in man and, even worse, in ourselves. Aside from sanctions prescribed by the Bible, we should leave judgment to God who alone sees our hearts.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Review: Nelson's Complete Book of Bible Maps and Charts

"Nelson's Complete Book of Bible Maps and Charts" makes a great resource for any person with a desire for a deeper study of God's Word. The book, complete with maps, photos, and outlines, would make a great textbook for most Bible courses, especially classes that overview either the Old Testament or Old Testament or classes that focus on the geography of the Bible.

While the reference book doesn't include as much geographic background as it could, it does exactly what it's title promise: It delivers easy-to-understand maps and charts. Each chapter covers a specific book of the Bible and includes resources such as outlines of the book, maps of geographical locations in the book, and information on the author, date, themes, and literary structure of the book. Depending on the book being covered, the chapter may include more details on the book, as well.

The majority of the material appears in the Old Testament sections, so, the book could use some more extensive coverage on New Testament books. Then again, the shorter the book covered, the shorter the coverage. That makes enough sense. Still, while "Nelson's Complete Book of Bible Maps and Charts" provides plenty of simple material that lays the Bible out clearly, it's not a deep theological explanation of books. Its book introductions could come right out of a teen's study Bible. Ultimately, the book makes a great companion for a Bible class or the study of the Bible, but doesn't stand completely on its own. It has its use, but it is much like a lot of other sources on the market.

I received a free copy of this book from in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Unemployment's Real Scope and Its Denied Contributing Causes

Despite improvement in unemployment rate, America’s workforce remains ill-prepared to compete with the world

Julian L. Alssid 
Posted on Workforce Developments web site by Bronwyn Mauldin on February 08, 2010

The unemployment rate fell below 10 percent in January to 9.7 percent. While this is positive news and a sign the stimulus may be kicking in, the mismatch between employer needs and the education and skills of much of the workforce remains.  (Click on the link above for the whole article.)

Starting with the media-friendly, official unemployment rate trend draws a false picture because its salient point is a decline, whereas we are left in the dark regarding the real trend that includes the discouraged and the underemployed.  Although Julian Alssid explains that the published rate is not the real rate, he fails to identify the trend of the "real" rate.

Tangent notes:
  • I suspect that the "discouraged" include those who are not really discouraged, but rather have fallen under the radar because they have depleted their UIB.  I wonder, does it include black market employment such as undocumented of illegal immigrants?  And does it exclude full-time students?
  • The trend of the unemployment rate also misleads if it includes growth in government.  A true stimulus must stimulate the economy as reflected by private employment.  Growth in government, such as hiring people to man new bureaucracies and to take the census, can mask the effects of stimulus legislation with false indicators of success.  Alssid's speculation that a declining unemployment rate is, therefore, unjustified.
I also suspect that we're missing a significant factor that contributes to the vocational education gap: the balkanization of our population.  Two major in-your-face groups live in my area.  Many in the urban Black subculture suffer an entitlement mentality and a set of fears (some legitimate, some self-prophetic) that encourage division and discouragement.  The resulting dialects and counter-cultural behavior (such as wearing the fashions of violent gangs) cause further isolation, friction, and hindrance to vocational success.

On the government's side, we continue to emphasize divisive affirmative action when we ought to moved on toward voluntary (not forced) integration and reconciliation.  (As one unintended consequence, White males not otherwise inclined to racism can easily react to being shoved aside in favor of those "less qualified" often react with bitterness and discouragement.)  Such attitudes and divisiveness can form insurmountable hindrances to gaining the knowledge and skill needed for success.

The other hard-to-miss subculture (actually, a group of subcultures) consists of a mixture of legal, illegal, temporary, and loophole immigrants (e.g., the "anchor baby" phenomenon), isolated by language barriers and many of the same problems that hold back the urban Black subculture.  Most legal immigrants commit to integrating into the culture at large.  They provide valuable contributions to our country.  Many, especially those who come via non-legal ways, however, make no such commitment.  Fear of immigration police, intention to return home, familial roles, and for Latinos, ancestral claim to the American Southwest, reinforce social barriers that isolate them from better education and vocational success.

Since the recent collapse of the lending and housing bubbles, news about current immigration trends has become scarce; but before that, the trend was rapidly upward.  The trade-offs between the benefits of having a diverse population and the cost, in divisiveness, self-imposed repression, and resultant social costs such as crime and dependency on the tax-payer, of providing incentives and protection for illegal immigration point to major flaws in the political left's platform.

The majority culture deserves much blame.  Parents lay the foundation for education with their examples, their values, and the quality of learning environment that they provide for their children.  Government usurps too much responsibility and too many parents willingly surrender it.  The mechanisms range from government's role as an enabler of broken homes to its hostility toward parental involvement and traditional values.  Ironically, our culture takes blame upon itself that it ought to address to the people and subcultures that exacerbate the problems.  (That is, we deserve blame because we excuse self-defeating behavior by blaming ourselves too much.)

We need to identify the true scope of unemployment and set aside our fears (for example, my fear of being called a racist for what I've said here) of identifying the causes.  We won't make substantial and permanent progress until we face the problem honestly and determine to move beyond our sympathies and resentments.