Archive for the ‘Book Review’ Category

Porn-Again Christian by Mark Driscoll – A Review

September 19, 2011 1 comment

Porn-Again Christian…the title tells you just about everything you need to know about the content of this small but effective e-book produced by Mark Driscoll, founding Pastor of Mars Hill Church Seattle.

“Sure, the naked people you like looking at are hot…but so is hell.”

If you are at all familiar with Driscoll, you know that he does not shy away from truth and rarely holds back in how he presents it. In the case of this book, which takes head-on the issues and biblical teaching around pornography, masturbation and prostitution, I think his blunt approach is exactly what is needed. Part of his approach is due to his church demographic which is full of 20-30 year old men, many who are not married, and women of the same age with a high percentage of abuse in their past. He preaches old-school morals and gender roles to a sexually experienced, modern social group…and it works.

In the book he does a good job correcting a lot of misguided thought about women who are involved in making pornography. Many men rationalize their habit by saying the women want to be there, are having fun and are getting paid. Mark tells the story of a women he knows who was in the industry primarily because she was repeatedly sexually abused as a child which distorted her view of herself and lead her into a life of increased levels of promiscuity. The prostitution, magazine pictures and pornographic movies are a reminder of a past life that thankfully ended when she met Jesus. But Mark says something that really made me think.

“…I couldn’t help but wonder if there were men from my church out renting her videos to take home and masturbate to without knowing that she would be sitting in church next to them and singing songs to Jesus the following Sunday.”

A point Driscoll wants to make clear is that lust is an issue of the heart.

“Sexual sins are not “out there” in the media, strip club, or gal with lowrise jeans and hi-rise thong. Truly, the problem is “in you.” It is from the sinfulness of your heart that lust and sin proceed like sewage from a culvert. This is the painful, unvarnished truth.”

“Sinful sexual practices includes the sins of the mind where men amass a harem rivaling Solomon’s but only in their imaginations.”

One of the things I appreciate most in this book is the consistent discussion about how a man’s involvement with porn influences everyone around him, especially his wife. His counsel for men is to draw closer to their wives and to commit their eyes to her alone.

“The act of lusting after the unclothed body of a woman is not a sin. The issue is which woman’s unclothed body you are lusting after. If she is your bride, then you are simply making the Song of Songs sing again to God’s glory and your joy. If she is not your bride, then you are simply sinning.”

“Eve may or may not have been beautiful, but to Adam she was glorious because she was all he had ever known. Practically, he had no standard of beauty to compare his bride to-she was his only standard of beauty.”

“Proverbs 5:18-19 says, “Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts full you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love.” If a man fills his mind with images of other women’s breasts, he will never be satisfied with his wife’s and thereby diminish her confidence and his marriage.”

Mark also outlines the prevalence of masturbation in today’s society but you might be surprised to read that he does not condemn it in all situations. There is a practical question/answer section where he responds to the most common questions he is asked on the topic.

He gives the following stats relating to men who admit to masturbating once a week or more from the Janus Report on Sexual Behavior and Sex in America:

Single Men – 48%
Married Men – 44%
Divorced Men – 64%

I found it interesting that the percentage between single and married men was not that different. That tells me that men carry this iniquity with them into marriage and must be in-part to blame for the high divorce rates we see in our nation. After all, without complete fidelity and trust in a marriage it will be hard for it to survive. Jesus made it clear that every married man who watches pornography is committing adultery. (Matt 5:27-28)

One of the more powerful parts of the book is a transcript of an interview between James Dobson and serial killer Ted Bundy only hours before he was executed. Bundy makes the link between his progressions from soft-porn to harder versions until even those would not satisfy his need, making the comparison to a drug, and his transition into real-life physical violence. He also says that all of the men he was in prison with had similar experiences with porn. Bundy made telling statements of warning that first, there are others like him out there and second, that if we are not careful our children will be exposed to the same “drug” that led him down his path to death.

To close the book, Mark hands the pen to Justin Holcomb for a sobering description of prostitution and sex trafficking. This is pointed to men in the military who are tempted, while deployed, to pay for sex. It is however something we should all be aware of. Over the last 12 pages, Justin goes into great detail describing the sex trade industry, how large it really is, how girls and women are forced into it and how profitable it is for those involved (except the women).

The goal of the entire book is to get us men to wake up to our own issues and deal with them through the empowering grace of God. In addition to that, Mark and Justin want men to look at women not as objects or tools to be used but rather as beautiful creations of God who should be valued, honored and protected. I could not agree more.

At the end of the book is a call to action:

“Prostitution and sex trafficking are not women’s problems or up to them to solve. Men are the perpetrators and women are the victims. Men are the problem. Sex trafficking is a men’s issue involving men of all ages and socioeconomic, racial, and ethnic backgrounds. Men are not only perpetrators or possible offenders, but also empowered bystanders who can confront abusive peers. Don’t remain silent.”

This is a book that every man should read even if you have never had an issue with lust, pornography or masturbation. Parents, please read it first before you give it to your children because some of the content may not be appropriate for your child depending on age and maturity level.

You can download Porn-Again Christian here for free.

To find out how you can get involved in the fight against sex trafficking please visit the following organizations.

The A21 Campaign

Sower of Seeds – Project Red Light Rescue




Letters of Faith in Times of War

July 31, 2011 Leave a comment

Every once in a while you pick up a book that transforms your attitude and perspective on a subject. Grace Under Fire: Letters of Faith in Times of War did that for me. I’ve never considered myself to be overly patriotic. Now that does not mean that I do not love my country and am ungrateful for those who have fought to give me the freedoms I enjoy every day. On the contrary, I do…I just don’t get too emotional about it nor do I traditionally make a big deal out of holidays like Memorial Day or Veterans’ Day.

That is going to change and largely due to this book that I stumbled upon while visiting the library with my daughter. Grace Under Fire is a unique collection of letters written during the major wars in US history. There are letters representing the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, World War I and II, the Korean War, Vietnam, the Gulf War and the first few years after September, 11th of the War On Terrorism.

What is unique about these letters is that in them the writers all addressed the different thoughts and feelings one gets when they are faced with extreme situations and death on a daily basis. This gives us not only a glimpse into the world of hardships each generation of soldier faced but we also get to see how the war affected their family at home.

Many of the letters express regret or apprehension toward taking the life of another man even if they are the enemy. Others are wonderfully written expressions of love and strengthened devotion in the face of extreme temptation to stray from a spouse. To me, the most touching were letters from Chaplains or nurses who wrote to family back home on behalf of a dead soldier they had come into contact. They contained words of comfort and assurance that their son died courageously and that his life was not lost in vain.

As is often the case in times of war, many questioned the existence of God due to the atrocities they witnessed. I loved the conclusion they came to:

“I don’t know whether God goes forth with armies but I do know that His is in lots of our men or they would not do what they do.”
“He is in the Operating Room guiding the hands of the surgeons. He is in the will of the sergeants helping organize a blood drive as only they can. He is in the hearts of the soldiers who immediately rolled up their sleeves to give what they had to save a dying brother whom they don’t even know.”

They chose to look at the goodness of God when it would have been so easy to just blame all the bad things on Him as so many do today. We could learn a lot from these men and woman.

This book has drastically changed my passion for and interest in the lives of our service men and women that defend us each and every day. They live unique and thankless lives that few of us will ever understand. I found myself getting very emotional as I learned about the fears they faced and the friends they lost. I think everyone who has even the slightest interest in biographies or history needs to pick-up this book.

If you have war letters that you think others could benefit from or you are not sure what to do with them, please contact The Legacy Project. It is an organization that collects these letters to keep this amazing part of our history from being lost. Grace Under Fire is just one of the books that has been made from this compilation of letters.

“And so I bid you adieu. Christians never say goodbye. Sooner or later we all meet again.” – Corporal William Kiessel November 13, 1943 written while waiting for a pending invasion.

Categories: Book Review

I Love Mormons – by David L. Rowe

May 23, 2011 2 comments

I don’t often feel the need to give my 2 cents (which is about all this is worth) about a book but I guess there is always a time and a place for everything. On my latest trip to Half-Price Books, which have become more and more frequent, a book called “I Love Mormons” caught my eye.

There are a growing number of books dedicated to the discussion of the many facets of Mormonism. Some are great, while others tend to be the same recycled material. There is something different about this book and its approach to Mormonism. Instead of taking the hard-line, doctrinal approach, it focuses 90% of its pages on the LDS culture which is the driving force behind its teachings, how they are put into practice and the subsequent impact on members lives. In short…it is woven into EVERYTHING.

The book’s premise is simple. Due to the influence of the LDS church in every part of the believer’s life, opening their eyes to the truth of the Bible and how Mormonism contradicts it is better done once certain nuances of how they think and act are understood. He proposes “A new way to share Christ with Latter-day Saints” as the sub-title reads. Let’s take a closer look at his proposed way of evangelizing to them.

One of the reoccurring themes Rowe talks about is the LDS Persecution Complex. This is the tendency for Mormons to see most (if not all) questions about their belief system and way of living as an attack. The origin of this deeply ingrained perspective has its roots in the very early days of the church’s existence. LDS history often teaches that the early Latter-day Saints (as they will call themselves) were heavily persecuted by those living around them. It is a common belief that these persecutions were un-provoked, and some were. But a closer, more thorough look at the historical accounts show that the Mormons were not the innocent victims being portrayed today. Some examples of this are briefly outlined in chapter 3.

If someone begins to talk with members of the LDS church about their beliefs, it will not take long before you see them pull the persecution card. In many ways, it is a method of protection designed to discredit any information that comes from outside the church that is not “faith-promoting”. This can be subjective and will be triggered without intent or warning. This understanding is important to his approach because once you are seen through this lens; the chance of being able to effectively reach-out to that person will be almost non-existent. I did this as a Mormon and have recently experienced it from the other side as well.

As a result of this inclination to shut-down any real conversation once an “attack” is perceived, Rowe suggests that direct questions about doctrine are better kept in our hip pocket until there is more relational trust. I would agree with that based on my own personal experience.

He tells a number of stories of people he has interacted with that ring true to me as a former Mormon. The stories dealt with the different potential reasons Mormons might be inclined to distance themselves from the LDS church. These include a deeper hunger for God, deal-breaking inconsistencies with either doctrine or history and besetting burdens.

Allow me to speak about this last reason. LDS doctrine teaches a type of “conditional grace”, a grace that is extended to a person only after they complete certain tasks or demonstrate their continued devotion. When combined with a list of “must-do” rules, the byproduct of this errant teaching of God’s grace is a weight that no one can or should carry. Though they may not admit it, many of your LDS friends and family are weighed down by this very thing. The story of Janet demonstrates this. After years of faithful service in the church she told her husband:

 “I can‘t do it anymore. I can’t lift it. My load is just too heavy. I can’t do all the things I’m supposed to.” She goes on to list the responsibilities she feels obligated to juggle and then says, “I’m just not perfect – I’m never going to be perfect, and I just can’t pretend anymore that I am. I’ve finally admitted to myself that I can’t make it to the Celestial Kingdom, so why should I break my back trying?”

This kind of weariness is common and was actually the first reason I stepped away from Mormonism. My heart breaks for people experiencing this. The true grace Jesus offers escapes them but only because they have been presented with a false grace that in no way demonstrates the love and mercy God has for them. Unconditional grace is what every LDS person needs to see and understand.

One of my favorite quotes in the book that I think highlights his plea for Christians to cultivate real relationship with Mormons is when he says, “Let’s carefully observe what particular way God seems to be at work in a person’s life and think that way as we relate to him or her.” It is by partnering with God in what he is already doing that we can show the LDS in our lives the grace, freedom and rest found in Jesus.

The end of the book highlights another need that I experienced as I worked my way out of Mormonism and into Christianity…a welcomed place to land. Understanding the issues most LDS face once out, he identifies areas in which the local Christian church can improve on to make the transition as easy as possible. He also includes a glossary of commonly used LDS terms to help you understand “Mormonese”.

While the end of the book can come across as advocating a “soft” approach when discussing doctrine (which I tend to disagree with) I think this book is a must-read for anyone who has someone close to them in the LDS church but is struggling trying to understand and relate to them. Having spent 30 years in the LDS church I can say that they way he presents Mormons is accurate and is full of great insight into how they think and act. Combining the wisdom found in “I Love Mormons” with a basic understanding of LDS doctrine will go a long way in helping you effectively share the truth of the gospel with those who are in need of it most.

Categories: Book Review, Grace, Mormonism