Flotsam & Jetsam (2/7)

The Elk That Got Away – Okay, talk about a hunting experience that got close up and personal.

Something We Can All Agree On – Kevin DeYoung writes, “Why can’t all the professing Christians in the world look past their differences and just get along? Because some of those differences are irreconcilable. Most significantly and most foundationally, the three main branches of Christianity in this country–Roman Catholic, Liberal Protestant, and Evangelical Protestant–do not agree on the locus of authority. We don’t answer the question, “What is our final authority?” in the same way.”

Do You Think I Could Be A Writer? – Answer: Do you like sentences?

Prayer Journal – This one’s for the ladies, but the men should pay attention too…

Rapture: May 21, 2011 – Gary Demar over at the AV blog says, “Predictions of the rapture are no new thing as the image to the left shows. In spite of the failure of his 1994 rapture prediction, Harold Camping is predicting May 21, 2011 as the date the rapture will take place. American Vision is so confident that Camping is wrong, we are holding our National Prophecy Conference just a few weeks after his predicted rapture date…”

National Archives Experience – Wow. Just wow. This is too cool.

“Books, not authors, decide when they want
to be written.” ~ Lloyd Alexander

Book Review: Deception

I usually avoid modern Christian fiction, simply because most of it tends to be brain-deadening fluff with little or no spiritual substance. Thankfully, however, there are exceptions. And Randy Alcorn’s crime thriller Deception is one of them.

Oliver Chandler is a veteran homicide detective whose rule of thumb is: “Things are often not what they appear.” He’s seen more than he’d care to admit, done more than he’d care to admit. But when he’s called to investigate the grisly murder of a well-known professor
at Portland State University, he finds himself going places he never expected – or wanted – to go.

As he digs deeper, Chandler becomes increasingly certain that the killer is someone in his own department. And that’s not even the worst of it; because whenever he tries to remember where he was during the time of the murder, his mind draws a complete blank.

Joined by journalist Clarence Abernathy and their friend Jake Woods, Chandler continues the investigation, determined to unearth the truth, no matter how ugly it is. And the farther in they go, the deadlier the game becomes.

Deception is part of a “series” of thrillers (the other two being Dominion and Deadline), but it can be read independently. It has a lightning-fast pace, yet never feels rushed or skimpy. There’s actually something to chew on, something to think about. Alcorn manages to incorporate solid, biblical themes into the story without making them feel tacked on. Meaty reflections about God, justice, sin, and redemption all flow naturally from the characters and from the plot. They never feel pretentious or out of place. And that, in and of itself, is an excellent achievement, if you ask me.

The story is completely engrossing, with multifarious twists and turns; and best of all, there’s a gritty realism to it that makes it thoroughly believable. Alcorn must have done his homework. Plenty of it. Because not only does the story feel real, so do the characters involved. No cardboard, one-dimensional heroes and cheesy villains here. Each person is multi-faceted, interesting, and unique. Particularly Ollie Chandler. He’s a troubled man, angry at God and himself, struggling with the idea that there’s any real meaning in life. His philosophy is simple: there is no justice, there’s just us. The reader can feel his grief and hardened cynicism, and yet rejoice as his eyes are gradually opened to the truth of the gospel. He’s someone you can genuinely sympathize with, and genuinely root for.

Another thing that makes Chandler such a great character is his unflagging (and often grim) sense of humor. Years of active duty with Portland Homicide has given him an tough, no-nonsense nature, but he still retains a funny bone. As he casually observes on one occasion, “Messin’ with me is like wearin’ cheese underwear down rat alley.” In other words, not too smart.

Deception is a crime thriller, folks, which means it’s definitely a book I’d only recommend for very mature readers. Though he never resorts to language or sexuality, Alcorn tackles some extremely dark and edgy subject matter related to the seedy underworld. There are numerous references to drugs and immoral behavior, as well as detailed descriptions of bloody crime scenes. And the violence, while never gratuitous, is pervasive and often brutal.

So, if you’re in search of an above-averege suspense story that is edifying to both mind and soul, read this one. It’s one of your best options, without a doubt. I’ve gone through it twice now, and it was just as exciting and satisfying the second time around.

Something Worth Believing

I was standing in line at the check-out of a Dollar Tree, preparing to purchase a selection of treats for movie night, when I overheard the young couple behind me talking. You won’t blame me for listening in, because in the first place, they were rather loud, and in the second place, when you’re standing in line, there really isn’t much else you can do.

They were boyfriend and girlfriend (or at least, so I gathered from their conversation); both in their late teens, maybe early twenties. Just met up recently. And as they talked, this is what I heard, amid a colorful smattering of four-letter words…

Initially, the two of them were trying to come up with a convincing lie to tell the boy’s mother. If they pulled it off, he would be able to mess around at his girlfriend’s house without his mom’s knowledge. “I’ll tell her I’m just gonna be pickin’ up some s@%# at your house, then we can hang out for awhile.”

Not good. Not good at all.

Then the young lady’s conversation turned apocalyptic. “You know, in the next twenty years, they say there won’t be enough food to feed everybody, and the government will start killing people off.” Then she added in grim resignation, “But I ain’t worried. What happens happens, I guess.” The boy answered emphatically that as soon as he found out they were going to die, he’d start smoking weed. He must have been given a dirty look by his girlfriend, because he followed it up with, “What? You don’t think it’s legit?”

*sigh*

In conclusion to this facet of the conversation, the girl said, “There’s a lotta conspiracy theories out there. But how d’you know which one to believe?” The reply from her boyfriend was turse: “Yeah. What can you believe?” And he walked out of the store to smoke and make a phone-call.

It was sad. Very sad.

Without the light of the gospel, man stumbles around blindly, searching for something to grab hold of. And his fingers keep slipping. Because there is no firm handhold apart from Christ. Money, drugs, pleasure, self – all will ultimately crumble when weight is put upon them. None of them deserve one’s trust, one’s faith, one’s confidence. They will all prove treacherous in the end.

But that’s not the end of the story.

When God, in His abundant mercy and grace, brings wretched, undeserving man to his knees in utter brokenness over his sin, and then reveals the importance of Christ’s atoning death on the cross… then, and only then, does man have something to grab hold of. Or rather, he has Someone to grab hold of him. And that Someone will never let go.

“…so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 5:21

Now that’s something worth believing.

Flotsam & Jetsam (2/3)

Schaffer at 99 – Dr. George grant lists his favorite books by Francis Schaffer, and shares briefly how each one impacted his life.

Parody Time – “Some call it ‘Contemporary’… others call it ‘Relevant’… we call it ‘Contemporvant’.” Watch the video, and then read Bob Kauflin’s insightful commentary.

Who Made Thee? – I can honestly say that I’ve seldom encountered a nature poem as beautiful as this one. It’s superb, absolutely superb. Like my Mom said, “It makes me want to learn to write poetry, too.”

In Honor of Groundhog Day – Persis answers the question that all of us struggle with at some point in our lives: “How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?”

Raise the Stakes – Writer Seth Godin offers some timely advice about texting (or using any kind of social network) while working. He says, “… if you sit for an hour and do exactly nothing, not one thing, you’ll be ashamed of yourself. But if you waste that hour updating, pinging, being pinged and crunching, well, hey, at least you stayed in touch.”

Noteworthy – Check out the brand new testimonial page at J.C. Ryle Quotes. It’s neat to read the quotes about how and why Ryle’s writings are such a blessing.

Man Up – Challies hits the nail on the head once again: “Dad had high expectations of me, but reasonable, biblical ones. He wanted me to be active and proactive in service to others; he wanted me to be looking for opportunities to serve and for opportunities to serve as a man serves…”

Playing Chikin [Caution: Mature] – Well, it was bound to happen sooner or later: Christian-owned food chain Chick-fil-A (which I love, by the way) is getting flak from… guess who?

The Accidental Entertainers – You know, I’ve never really considered Grimm’s fairy tales to be “entertaining”; at least, not in the usual sense of the word.

A Phrase to Retire – One word: Amen.

“A coward can fight any battle he’s sure of winning; but give me the man who has the pluck to fight when he’s sure of losing. That’s my way, sir; and there are many victories worse than a defeat.” ~ George Eliot