Book Write-Up: The Character of God, by Jonathan G. East

Jonathan G. East. The Character of God: In His Own Words. WestBow, 2018. See here to buy the book.

In Exodus 34:6-7, God declares God’s attributes to Moses: “The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation” (KJV).

In The Character of God, Jonathan East goes through each of these attributes of God, in an attempt to discern God’s character.

Some thoughts about the book:

A. An asset to the book is that it is heavy on Scripture. East looks throughout the Bible to illustrate the meaning of God’s attributes, and the importance of God’s people imitating them.

B. The book is slender. It is only 22 pages on my mobi. After my first reading, I thought it was thin on content. I went through it a second time, though, and appreciated it more, due to its Scriptural content. East could have made his points more effectively, perhaps in a more sustained or prolonged way. Stories could have enhanced it.

C. The book does not get that much into difficult theological issues, but it did make a couple of intriguing points. First, East said that forgiveness means removing sin, but the sin has to go somewhere after it is removed. For East, the sin is placed on Jesus Christ. That raises a good question: where does the Hebrew Bible think that the sin goes after it is removed? In Leviticus 16, it is placed on the Azazel goat, who is taken to the wilderness, away from the Israelite camp. Isaiah 53:12 affirms that the Suffering Servant bears people’s sins. In Micah 7:19, Israel’s sins are taken to the bottom of the sea. The authors of the Hebrew Bible may not have consistently held that sin had to be placed on somebody for Israel to be forgiven—-sometimes they did think that, but sometimes that is not explicit. But, in these cases, they still thought that the sin had to go somewhere: it did not simply vanish. And yet, Isaiah 44:22 does depict Israel’s sin vanishing, as God likens it to a mist and promises to blot it out!

D. East attempts to reconcile biblical statements that each individual will be punished for his or her own sins, not the sins of parents, with statements about God visiting sin onto the third and fourth generations. East falls back on the conventional explanation that God does not punish the third and fourth generations for ancestral sins, yet they still suffer the consequences of ancestral sins. East appeals to biblical examples of this. And yet, the biblical passage itself suggests that God himself visits the sins on the third and fourth generation. The closest East gets to explaining this is to say that God permits the third and fourth generations to suffer the consequences of ancestral sins.

E. I cannot say that I learned anything earth-shakingly new from this book, but it inspired thoughts and questions, as I share in (C.). It amplifies my appreciation of God’s mercy and goodness, demonstrating that such a conception of God is indeed biblical. It is also well-written, in terms of prose.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through BookLook Bloggers. My review is honest.

 

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Church Write-Up: Vocation, the Greatest Commandment, Love

Here are some items from this morning’s church activities.

A. The pastor told some of his personal story. After he received a master’s degree in history, he was wondering where to go from there. His dad suggested that he send his resume to two-hundred fortune 500 companies; he did so, and he received back two hundred rejections! He interviewed to work at a historical society, and that interview did not go well. He was frustrated with God, but he then thought that it would be a good idea to go into campus ministry. That way, he could mentor people who, like him, were lost. But, looking at the patterns of his life, he noticed that God continually called him to serve in urban and suburban ministries, so that is what he pursued. The pastor’s text was I Kings 19:1-15. Elijah was discouraged and frustrated with God, but God instructed him to fulfill his calling by doing the sorts of things that prophets do: appointing a king, and ensuring that the word of God was still proclaimed (in Elijah’s case, through a replacement). The pastor also told us that God is with us in our Elijah-like pits.

The sermon makes me think about the subject of vocation. It is good when people find their calling, when that is placed before them in neon lights for them to see. Many are not so fortunate, though. They may find themselves working lackluster jobs, the jobs out there do not accord with their passions, or they cannot find their niche. Often, when it comes to identifying one’s niche or spiritual gifts, the process can look rather artificial: I sort of like this, so maybe I will sort of enjoy serving in such-and-such a capacity.

I recently read this by Ryan Hauge:

“God’s will is found in the place where your passion and the world’s need collide.”

It’s actually much simpler and more freeing than this…God’s will and his pleasure are completely found in Jesus and those that are “in Him” are free to simply live their lives, most often in the mundane trivialities (in things we’re not particularly passionate about), with full confidence that we are doing God’s will and serving our neighbor’s needs.

What the pastor said this morning overlapped with some of that: we go into our everyday lives, as God is with us.

B. The Sunday school class talked about the passages in which Jesus addressed an inquiry about what the greatest commandment is. Those would be Matthew 22:35-40, Mark 12:28-41, and Luke 10:25-37. In the first two passages, the inquirer asks Jesus what the great, or greatest, commandment is. In Luke 10:25, however, the lawyer asks what he must do to inherit eternal life. Are the two questions related? The teacher suggested that the questions are complementary: the lawyer was asking what commandments he should focus on, if he wants to inherit eternal life. The teacher was asking if Jesus’s hearers were satisfied with Jesus’s answer—-love God and love neighbor. Some in the class suggested that the Pharisees may have found Jesus’s response to be simplistic, for they felt that people needed to do a vast number of rules to please God and receive eternal life. Maybe, but at least one Jewish authority, the one in the story, is asking Jesus what the greatest commandment is. He was not thinking, “Well, you have to obey all of the laws to receive eternal life,” for, otherwise, he may not have asked his question. He must have figured that some laws take priority over others, even if all of the laws were important.

Jesus responds that there are two commandments: love God with your entire being, and love your neighbor as yourself. But if you love God with your entire being, is there room for you to love your neighbor? The teacher said that the two commandments are actually one commandment: we love God, in part, by loving our neighbors. The second commandment, love of neighbor, is the completion of the first one, love of God.

Someone in the class argued that the love Jesus promotes in the Parable of the Good Samaritan is self-sacrificing. The priest and the Levite did not help the injured man because they did not want to disqualify themselves from their religious duties. The Samaritan, by contrast, used his own time, money, and resources to help the injured man. The teacher seemed to be replying that love is not necessarily self-sacrificing, per se, as if it only exists if a person gives something up, but love goes towards others even if they do not reciprocate. The Samaritan could have been bitter about how Jews treated Samaritans and chosen not to help the injured Jew, but he chose instead to help.

The teacher said that the lawyer’s question of “Who is my neighbor?” was the wrong question, for he should have asked how he can be a neighbor to anyone with whom he comes into contact. That is tough. I doubt anyone pours love on everyone with whom he or she comes into contact. I question whether that is even possible. Plus, did Jesus even address that question about how to be a neighbor? Maybe, in a sense. The Samaritan showed love by having mercy towards someone in need and helping that person out. How that informs the way that I should treat everyone with whom I come into contact is a difficult question. It would be easy for me to say, “Well, the next time I see an injured person on the road, I will take care of him.” Or at least I hope I would.

I’ll stop here.

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Requiem for a Lightweight: the Mayor Pete Factor — CounterPunch.org

My first sounding, at least from the political echo chamber, of the South Bend mayor came a few months ago, when my wife announced over breakfast that some of her sisters liked the cut of his jib. 2,555 more words

via Requiem for a Lightweight: the Mayor Pete Factor — CounterPunch.org

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Not Hopeful

Clarissa's Blog

Every time I start feeling hopeful about Bernie, he goes and does something idiotic. This time, he completely fell apart over the Trump rally:

“We have a president who is a racist, who is a sexist, who is a homophobe, who is a xenophobe and he is a religious bigot.”

First of all, Trump is religious like I’m a ballerina. And this vapid name-calling shows impotence and convinces nobody but those who are already in.

There were a lot of people at that rally, and even Fox reported that they were overwhelmingly interested in one issue on which Trump was not delivering: immigration. Bernie needs to lay off the SJW-speak and go back to “open borders are a Koch brothers project.”

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The Trump Rally

Clarissa's Blog

Trump had a huge crowd at his announcement rally. People lined up since the day before, waiting for a chance to get in. Totally reminded me of how we queued for plastic mixing bowls back in USSR.

Can you imagine anybody waiting outside all night to hear Joe Biden speak? I fall asleep twenty seconds into anything he’s got to say.

Bernie could do it, though. He could bring out the crowds. Enthusiasm is important. Bernie is passionate, so he can summon enthusiasm.

Warren excites only eggheads. Do you know anybody without a degree who’s passionate about her? I don’t see it. Bernie, though, is definitely somebody with a chance. Right? And I totally see him holding his own Inna debate with Trump.

Plus, Bernie is an honorable guy. That’s important in this particular setup. He’s not a war-monger.

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Book Write-Up: Emotional Intelligence, by Diane Weston

Diane Weston. Emotional Intelligence: Why EQ Is the Secret Ingredient to Connect with Others and Make Everyday Life Easier. 2019.

Diane Weston is a PR specialist at a Fortune 500 company. She is an introvert, sharing tips she has learned about how introverts can shed their shy exteriors and succeed in an extroverted world. She has studied the topic of communications, both informally and also formally.

This book, as the title indicates, is about Emotional Intelligence: getting in touch with one’s own emotions and the emotions of others. What are you feeling right now, and why do you think you are feeling that way? What is somebody else feeling right now, and how can you tell? What is more, how can you respond to what the other person is feeling?

Speaking for myself, I found this book to be worthwhile to read. The book offers a lot of what could be considered common sense, but I found myself hungry for what Weston had to say. I read a book by Gary Chapman a while back and one time attended a church seminar on handling conflict, and I found them to be shallow, very basic, and disappointing. My reaction to Weston’s book is much more positive.

I tend to be a reactive person, reacting without much thought, so Weston’s discussion on getting in touch with one’s feelings is helpful to me. Weston’s book is also helpful because it systematically explains why certain things are important: why, for example, eye contact can help a person guess what another person is feeling. Weston does not tell a  lot of personal anecdotes: I cannot recall any in this book. But, in her own way, she paints a picture of what she is talking about. She conveys an empathetic tone of meeting people where they are and helping them get out of the pit they are in.

Sometime in the future, I may read her other book on small talk. This is an issue with which I have long struggled, though I am a little better now at it than I used to be. I tried reading Deb Fine’s book on it over a year ago, and I found it difficult to read because it was a laundry list of questions to ask other people. That may be helpful, but it is also boring to read. I also recognized myself in some of the socially deficient types of people Fine was discussing: the FBI informant, who sounds nosy and peppers people with questions. Fine’s book was disappointing, though, because it did not walk people through how they can display a genuine interest in other people without coming across as FBI informants. Diane Weston’s book may do that better.

I received a complimentary copy of Emotional Intelligence from the author. My review is honest.

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How to Get Your Readers to Pay Attention

The Art of Blogging

What if I were to tell you there’s a fantastic way to get your readers to pay attention

One that you could use to great effect. One. Just one.

One simple word.

Curios to know what it is?

Read on.

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