Seven-Mile Miracle by Steven Furtick–Book Review

In this book, author Steven Furtick examines the seven last statements (or “words’) of Jesus from the cross in light of the spiritual journey of every believer. He boils each one down to its’ essential meaning:

*Forgiveness –“Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34

*Salvation–“Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:43

*Relationship–“Woman, here is your son … Here is your mother.” John 19:26-27

*Abandonment–“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46

*Distress–“I am thirsty.” John 19:28

*Triumph–“It is finished.” John 19:30

*Reunion–“Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” Luke 23:46

Seven-Mile Miracle: Journey into the Presence of God Through the Last Words of Jesus by [Steven Furtick]

Each section includes questions for journaling or group discussion. At the end there is a forty-day reading guide with Scripture selections on the death and resurrection of Jesus.

This was an easy read would be a good pick to use as a spiritual exercise during the season of Lent. Since the author is not Lutheran, there were some theological statements I disagreed with, mainly around the issue of “making a decision” to choose Christ. As Lutherans, we believe Christ chooses us.

VERDICT: 3 Stars due to the theological issues.

For more about the death and resurrection of Christ see:

Martin Luther on the Resurrection

Martin Luther on God’s Victory Over Death

The Resurrection is Now

Small Group–Movie Review

This film can be best described as a bit of Christian fluff.  Scott, a documentary film maker, arrives in Georgia with his wife and young daughter.  His backer is hoping to expose Christian hypocrisy, but Scott just wants to discover the truth.  He reluctantly agrees to join the small group program of a local church, secretly filming their meeting and discussions.

The theology presented is definitely not Lutheran (of the ‘make a decision for Christ’ ilk), the church services depicted are mere Christian entertainment (in my opinion) and the plot is predictable.  The men bond over a camping trip (where they behave like ten year old boys), while the women start a yoga studio.  Of course, the deception is discovered to the dismay and disappointment of the group members.  However, in the end, a positive documentary is produced, Scott is baptized, the redneck next door neighbor turns out to be a lovable medic, the prodigal bunny belonging to Scott’s daughter Casey returns, and all is forgiven.

There are a few touching moments involving a mission trip to Guatemala, and the premature birth and death of a child, but other than that, everything is neatly wrapped up and resolved exactly as one would expect.

I have belonged to a number of small groups, and am aware of their transformative potential over time.  However, this movie simply didn’t capture the depth of the experience for me.

In keeping with the theme for this month, I would say the life challenge presented here is betrayal, and the difficulty of forgiving in light of the hurt that brings.

VERDICT:  2 STARS.

For other movie reviews see:

Tolkien–Movie Review

Selma — Movie Review

Son of God — Movie Review

Can We Pick & Choose?

This is a continuation of my husband’s sermon on the Christian worldview.

For the previous posts from his sermon see:

What is my Worldview?

Some Scary Statistics

Predestination?

Decision theology has contributed to our troubles by focusing the theology taught in the Church less on God than it should and more on man.  This feeds the sinful desires of our hearts to be in charge of our lives, both in the world and eternally.  It teaches us to look not to God alone, but to ourselves.

Over the years this has translated into the widespread idea that we can pick and choose what bits of Scripture we want to believe and those which we don’t want to believe or accept as motivators in our lives.  It hits at the very center of our faith by undermining our belief in the sacred Scriptures where God reveals Himself and His plans to us.  So if the words bound together from Genesis to Revelation are not trustworthy and true in their entirety, then just what can we trust and what can we believe?  Instead of clinging to divine revelation, we cling to our own sinful selves, and that is dangerous.  Paul wrote to us, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Christ” and we have changed that phrase to “blessed be me, for I can decide what I believe and what I choose not to believe.”

As you and I go about our life, we must ask ourselves several questions.  First do I know what the Bible teaches about faith and life sufficiently well for it to guide me in all I say and do?  Frankly, I suspect few can say “yes” to that question because they have not taken the time or made the effort to study the Scriptures.  They don’t go to Bible studies or Sunday School, they don’t read their Bibles in a deep way which leads to a firm grasp of its teaching.  We need to understand the whole counsel of God, not just some parts of it.

Second, am I willing to stand out in the world as someone who does not seem to belong here?  We are citizens of another land, where there is no illness, death, or weakness, only joy and peace eternal.  And that should make us seem unusual, maybe even a bit foolish.

The third question we must ask ourselves is what do I have to change in my life so that I an be counted as one who lives the way God wants me to live, who thinks the way God wants me to think, and who is truly a disciple.

Predestination?

This is the third in the series about my husband’s series on having a Christian worldview.

For the first two sections see:

Some Scary Statistics

What is my Worldview?

“Praise be to the God and Father of our LORD Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will- to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.’  Ephesians 1:3-6

The doctrine of predestination or election is spelled out very clearly in these verses.  Indeed, this doctrine is central to Lutheran understanding of how sinners are made right with God, how we, who are by nature sinful and unclean, can be brought into the presence of a holy God in whom there is no imperfection.  In chapter 2 of Ephesians, Paul writes this to us:

“For by grace you have been saved through faith.  And this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God …”

And yet, throughout the history of the Church, there have been those who taught that our salvation depends, not upon God’s sovereign choice, but at least in part, on our own efforts to be saved.  The idea an be seen in the Roman Catholic teaching that we are to do our best, and God will supply the rest.  For example, if a full glass of water represents a place of salvation and I can only, by my efforts fill it half full — God will supply the other half.

While the 16th century Reformers rejected that idea, another form came into being not long afterwards.  We find this error today called “decision theology.”  It says that we must “make a decision for Christ.”  He is offering us salvation, but we have to say yes to the offer.  I’ve heard it described as a man drowning in a swimming pool and God throws a life preserver to him, but the man must grab it in order to be saved.  It’s a nice analogy, but it’s wrong.  We are already dead in the bottom on the water and only by being lifted out of the pool and resusitated  can we be saved.  It’s too late for us to grab onto anything.

Stay tuned for more ….