The Vending Machine Approach

Vending Machine

Have you ever thought of God as a vending machine? Oh, this may not have been your conscious thought at the time, it wasn’t with me, but you believed if you behaved in a certain way the Lord would bless you with a trouble-free life or reward your service in some way. The money goes into the machine and out comes the blessing you desire or perhaps think you deserve.

That was me as a young pastor. Although I truly loved the Lord at the time, I possessed a faulty view of what it meant to walk with Him.

I expected God to bless me because of my behavior and when that did not happen I spiraled deep into despair in the midst of extreme adversity. Yes, the events in my life would have caused much distress without my faulty view of God, but my “good behavior in and blessings out” approach to walking with the Lord led to so much additional pain at the time as well as a loss of hope in my future.

As I studied the lives of several Bad guys of the Bible, I found that King Saul of ancient Israel approached God in precisely the same way. To my dismay, I discovered I was like him in many ways.

This is why I wrote Shipwrecked! There is so much insight we can gain from looking at where King Saul and other bad guys of the Bible went astray.

I also saw the danger of relying on religious behavior versus trusting God and His character. It did not end well for Saul who thought his sacrifice would deliver Israel from the Philistines rather than the God he was disobeying at the time.

This is why I wrote Shipwrecked! There is so much insight we can gain from looking at where King Saul and other bad guys of the Bible went astray. They dealt with the same emotions we feel and through their negative examples teach us the importance of not letting those feelings dictate our thoughts and actions and thereby shipwreck our lives.

For us as New Testament saints, they remind us of applying the Gospel to our everyday lives ever mindful of all the Lord has done for us in completely and forever obliterating all our many sins.

Shipwrecked! is available on Amazon.com and on the Bold Vision Books website. You can also order the book through your local Barnes and Noble book store.

A sample from my book Shipwrecked! can be found on the “Shipwrecked!” page of my blog, now titled Our Journey Home.

Please stay tuned as several exciting upgrades are on the way for my website during the next month.

Write a Review and Win

Bible pic

It’s contest time and the prize is the beautiful new thin line NIV Bible in the picture above.

You may have expected that a vacation in the Caribbean, or perhaps a trip to Hawaii, or even a week-long stay in beautiful North Liberty, Iowa would go to the winner. However, this prize is more in keeping with an author’s income.

How do I enter the contest? You enter by simply writing a review of my first book, Shipwrecked! Learning From The Bible Bad Guys, on Amazon.com. If you have already placed such a review on Amazon don’t worry, you are already entered to win the grand prize.

How do I win? After 25 reviews of my book appear on Amazon, I will determine the winner by drawing one number between one and twenty-five. The lucky reviewer whose review matches the number will win.

Rules:

1) All family members, friends, fellow bloggers, bad guys, and pirates are eligible to participate. If you can write, you are eligible for the big prize.

2) A positive review of my book is not necessary, but helpful of course. The judges are considering a consolation prize for the most favorable review, but have not yet reached a decision out of concern that it might put undue pressure on reviewers of Shipwrecked!

3) You will need to put your name on your review if you want to win (or tell me in some other way, such as by e-mail, which review belongs to you).

4) The decision of the judges in regard to the drawing will be final.

You already have a nice Bible, you say? Well, then enter for the joy of winning and give away the Bible to someone else.

So, go to Amazon.com and write your review. It’s as simple as that! 🙂

 

3 POWERFUL REASONS TO LOVE THE BAD GUYS OF THE BIBLE

Ruthie B Pic Forwarned
Picture and article by Ruth Brentner

Everyone loves good guys. Who isn’t inspired by the life of Daniel, Joseph, Jonathan or the beloved apostle John? While their good examples show us better, higher paths, sometimes a bad example is just as revealing as a good one.

Enter the Bible bad guys.

Here’s why I love them:

1. Bad guys serve as warning signs.

Life is complex and difficult to navigate, that’s for sure. It demands warning signs simply because there are pitfalls everywhere. No one plans to shipwreck their faith, fracture their family, or wound their own soul, but sometimes these things overtake us without the advantage of an honest-to-goodness negative example. I say bring on the bad guys. They’ve left behind treasures for us in their flotsam and jetsam.

2. Bad guys expose and unmask the bad guy I deal with every day, my flesh.

That bully is an imposter and a master of deception. He relentlessly tries to get me to think that he’s my true identity instead of who I am in Christ. He knows how to make himself look good and sound good (he’s religious). He’s a justifier, a compromiser, and a manipulator. I like knowing exactly what I’m dealing with so I can, well…deal with it.

3. Bad guys help me understand that a shipwrecked life is never the result of a single bad decision but a process.

The dramas played out in these characters reveal telltale patterns like:

    • Results oriented thinking
    • Running ahead of the Lord
    • Counterfeit piety
    • Wrong priorities and focus
    • Trusting our own devotion
    • Obsessive thinking
    • Pretenses of devotion
    • Taking matters into our own hands
    • The mishandling of our wounds
    • Living for the moment
    • Religious behavior

I need strong bad examples as well as the good ones to finish well.

Like many I suppose, I learned an awful lot the hard way, but thank God, it isn’t always meant to be that way. There are times I learn well from a really bad example. As I examine the lives of Bible bad guys through the lens of the Gospel, the finished work of Christ, I become better equipped to avoid pitfalls and to safely navigate the storms of life.

To all you Bible bad guys, thank you. You give me hope.

—————————————-

Get your copy of Shipwrecked! Learning From The Bible Bad Guys at: Amazon.com

 

Shipwrecked! – Book Review by Terry James

Shipwrecked front cover final

Shipwrecked! Learning from the Bible Bad Guys: A Book Review written by Terry James

Have you ever thought, If I could just do that over again? Or thought, Wish I had made a different decision way back then…

I have done so many times over my many decades of life. It’s a common human trait to lament some of the mistakes we’ve made. But, of course, wishing makes no difference. It changes nothing. If is for children, as the lyrics to Roger Whittaker’s song goes.

To avoid having to constantly look back at our lives and say, “If only…” the avoidance must be accomplished through preventative action. We must prepare in some fashion so that we make wise decisions as they come in order to avoid looking back and having to say “If only…”.

Jonathan Brentner has given us a book that offers such wisdom—how to avoid the pitfalls of life that cause us to look back and have to say “If only…”.

The author has pulled the points of wisdom from the greatest of all works authored by the Greatest of all Authors. I’m referring, of course, to the Holy Bible, dictated to human writers by the Lord, Himself. One simply cannot go wrong under such direction.

Thus, Jonathan’s is a book that I can wholeheartedly recommend.

But I also think it is one of the truly unique concepts I’ve come across for helping us avoid the pitfalls of life as described above.

Shipwrecked!: Learning from the Bible Bad Guys is a title perfectly describing that unique concept. The author uses the mistakes made by some of biblical history’s most notorious rebels against God’s prescription for living.

He expertly weaves the narrative to present us with a colorful tapestry of how we shouldn’t conduct our lives. The reverse way of life to that conducted by the Bible’s “bad guys”—the correct way—as we proceed through our given years, thus is almost supernaturally, I think, etched into the reader’s realization.

As I say, Jonathan Brentner, a former pastor, has composed a unique and effective volume for how to avoid many pitfalls into which we are prone to plunge and, of course, later regret.

The emphasis is different in each case the author presents. A key theme of the book, however, always involves encouraging the reader to learn from the mistakes of the characters. Exhortation is geared toward encouraging us to apply Bible precepts rather than give into negative emotions and sinful desires.

A few examples of Brentner’s Bible “bad guys” and their choosing the wrong way are demonstrated in the following.   

  • With Saul, we learn the importance of trusting God rather than religious behavior. In the second chapter, the author contrasts Saul’s behavior with that of Saul’s son Jonathan to show differing results that come from seeking to glorify God rather than self.
  • Absalom was truly a ticking time bomb. His anger and bitterness toward his dad after Amnon raped Absalon’s sister, Tamar, festered inside him for many years. With Absalom, Brentner stresses the importance of dealing with anger quickly before it turns into a root of bitterness and affects those around us.
  • With King Asa, Brentner explores the danger of forgetfulness in the matter of the importance of remembering all that God has done for us. As Christians who have been believers from an early age, it’s so easy to forget the wonder of the cross and all the answered prayers over the years.
  • Cain shows us how one can be close to the Lord and not really know Him. In this chapter, Jonathan Brentner emphasizes the Gospel. Cain was not an atheist; he could never deny God’s existence. He even had arguments with him. But still, he never came to truly know the Lord or trust Him.
  • John Mark shows us that failure does not have to be the final chapter in our lives. The author says he loved writing this chapter because of how it illustrates that God gives us chances after our failures. Despite the young man’s initial failure that led Paul to reject him, John Mark later became someone useful to the apostle and was used mightily by the Lord later in life.

These and many, many more illustrations make this a book that will enhance anyone’s life who applies these Bible truths to his or her spiritual heart.

The author says his desire in the book is to draw people away from merely relying upon worldly principles and religious behavior. He wishes to, instead, point them toward a true and vital walk with the Lord.

Jonathan writes, “Although I was truly a believer at the time, as a young pastor I treated God as though He was a vending machine. If I behaved a certain way, the Lord, I thought, would respond accordingly. Such was a recipe for disaster when my life went far off the tracks.”

He writes further, “My hope is that my book will help believers deal with emotions and desires when their lives turn out differently than how they imagined. Rather than give in to the negative emotions and desires, I prayerfully hope to draw them to the Gospel, God’s love for them, and their hope for eternity.”

In summary, he writes,” I also pray that many will come to know the Lord as their Savior as a result of reading Shipwrecked!”

Shipwrecked! Learning from the Bible Bad Guys

Author: Jonathan C. Brentner

Publisher: Bold Vision Books

ISBN: 0978946708-20-5

To order: Go to Amazon.com


 

4 Strategies for Waiting

black-and-white-woman-girl-sitting

The idea for my book, Shipwrecked! Learning From The Bible Bad Guys, started with my study of the life of King Saul. I could see several of my faults in his life, particularly as I read about his unwillingness to wait for Samuel at a critical time during his reign.

From this wayward king, I discovered a strategy for waiting amidst the faulty reasons he gave to Samuel for his disobedience. If we can avoid the places where his thinking went awry,  it helps us wait for whatever we hope will happen soon, but doesn’t. We have all been there.

I believe if there is one shared experience among followers of Christ, it is that of waiting. He often makes us wait for:

  • The right person to come along to marry
  • The job we desire
  • The money to pay all our bills
  • Healing to get over the flu or a sinus infection
  • His intervention in a crisis we face
  • A slow driver to finally get out of the passing lane (perhaps of lesser importance)

I am sure you can add several other things to the above list. In an era where answers come so quickly via our computers and smartphones, it’s especially difficult when God does not immediately remedy our dilemmas.

So, what do we do when the Lord makes us wait, particularly in painful situations?

In my book, I provide 4 strategies for waiting that helped me immensely during my lengthy time of waiting years ago. I could develop each tactic here, but that would make this post far too long.

So, the best way to communicate them to you is through my book, through an invitation to speak, or both.

 

Three Fatal Dangers of Living for The Moment

10_Esau_Jacob_1024_JPEG with acknowledgment

What comes to your mind when you think of Esau? You likely picture a rugged red-haired hunter selling his birthright to his brother Jacob for some stew.

The story began rather innocently. Esau, tired from a long day of hunting, came home experiencing what he later described as life-threatening hunger (Gen. 25:32). Once he smelled Jacob’s lentil stew, Esau demanded that his brother give him some.

Jacob, sensing his brother’s desperation, took advantage of him by requesting that Esau sell his birthright to him in return for the stew. Esau, focused solely on the need of the moment, willingly gave up his most prized possession for a cup of the soup.

Esau, focused solely on the need of the moment, willingly gave up his most prized possession for a cup of the soup.

Hebrews 12:16 says this about Esau, “See that no one . . . is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son” (NIV). The word “godless” denotes someone who lives for temporal and material matters with no regard for God or anything of spiritual value.

What are the dangers of living solely for the moment?

1. The Danger of Seeking Immediate Satisfaction

I wonder what made Esau’s hunger so intense on the day he sold his birthright. It’s difficult to imagine he was actually as close to death as he claimed. Why couldn’t he have waited for someone else to cook for him? Was Jacob really that great of a cook?

I don’t doubt Esau’s weariness or intense need to eat something. While perhaps not the most satisfying choice to him at the time, he could have refused Jacob’s birthright deal and sought other alternatives for supper. Why the urgency to immediately satisfy his hunger?

Desire by itself is not bad or sinful. Imagine never experiencing hunger or desiring good food. While that might be great for weight control, it would have fatal consequences.

It’s when we value the immediate satisfaction of a desire above all else, including the Lord, that we make foolish choices. Esau’s decision to sell his birthright was reckless; he put his immediate need above all other considerations.

Like Esau, it’s tempting to believe our desires must be fulfilled right away. Such a frame of mind frequently leads to sin as well as to unwelcome consequences.

2. The Danger of Ignoring Eternity

Second Corinthians 4:17-18 says, “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” Does this verse not describe Esau’s fatal way of thinking who only thought of what he could see?

Esau valued the fleeting realities of this life over eternal values that he could not recognize. As a result, despite his later acquisition of much wealth and great power, we regard him as a failure today, one deemed “godless” by the writer of Hebrews.

Esau epitomizes those who live without an eternal perspective. He made decisions based on what he could see. The great promises God made to Esau’s grandfather Abraham represented something in the distant future with no bearing on his current life. As a result, he lived with little thought of the future or of what truly mattered.

We do not know what Abraham might have taught his descendants regarding eternity or the future resurrection. Hebrews 11:13-19 tells us that the old patriarch believed in both God’s ability to raise the dead and in “city” beyond this life. Abraham possessed an eternal perspective; he saw far beyond the need of the moment.

We can assume he passed on a vision of eternity to Isaac and perhaps also to Jacob and Esau, who would have been teenagers when Abraham died. He certainly handed down a perspective much different than the shortsightedness of Esau who thought only of this life thereby earning the scriptural designation as “godless.”

3. The Danger of Elevating Wealth above Eternity

When Jacob and Esau later reconciled, I believe Esau’s gracious attitude toward his brother resulted from the riches and fame he had gained in the intervening years. During the twenty years the brothers remained apart, Esau obtained all the material blessings, power, and worldwide recognition he desired. He approached Jacob with four hundred men, a sign of both considerable wealth and influence (Gen. 32:6).

Esau’s vast possessions and power caused him to forget about what truly mattered, the Lord and life after death.

Esau reminds me of the Lord’s parable about the rich fool in Luke 12:16-21. At the end of a bountiful harvest, the rich man vainly reflects on his wealth. Thinking his wealth came as the result of his own efforts, he boasts of the vastness of his fortune and security for the future. He focused solely on his efforts securing his future in this life with no thought of God or where he will spend eternity.

For the man in Jesus’ story, death came that very night. For Esau, the end did not come as quickly, yet the end result was the same. He eventually died, and his great wealth and power vanished. The question Jesus asked in Mark 8:36 seems pertinent in Esau’s case, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” I wonder if Jesus was thinking of Esau when he asked this question.

From a worldly perspective, some might argue Esau was anything but a failure. In addition to his success in acquiring livestock, riches, and power, the ancient nation of Edom descended from him. What did he lose by missing out on his father’s blessing? Jacob became the father of the nation of Israel, and Esau the forefather of the nation of Edom. Humanly speaking, their outcomes seem similar.

Scripture, however, views their lives quite differently. The writer of Hebrews praises the faith of Jacob (Heb. 11:21) but says Esau was “godless” (Heb. 12:16, NIV). Jacob’s name appears in the hall of fame for faith while God’s Word designates Esau as both “godless” and “immoral.”

Which evaluation would you prefer?

Note: If you are interested in reading more about Esau and other bad guys like him, my book, Shipwrecked! Learning From The Bible Bad Guys is available on Amazon.com. Like Esau, the other characters teach us much about the necessity of living with a Gospel-centered worldview and hope for what lies ahead in eternity (Rom. 15:4).

 

Why the Bible Bad Guys?

Saul and Samuel
King Saul explains his disobedience to the prophet Samuel.

Several years ago, I discovered I could learn a lot from some of the shadier characters of the Bible. It was not that their examples were so stellar, most failed miserably. However, I have gleaned much from their bad examples over the years.

You may be wondering what in the world we can learn from such misfits and failures. How can they possibly help us in our walk with the Lord?

I’m glad you asked. To help you answer this question, I have picked a few of the characters as examples of what we might possibly learn.

1. King Saul – I learned the most from King Saul. His reasoning (AKA excuses) in 1 Samuel 13 for disobeying God gives us several clues as to where his thinking went awry. After looking at several of his excuses we see that in the end he trusted the sacrifice rather than God Himself.

How do we avoid the trap of elevating our religious behavior above our trust in God? It’s not easy especially when God makes us wait and wait and wait. Yes, I have certainly been there! King Saul helps us formulate a strategy for waiting, especially when we find ourselves in tough spots.

2. Esau – Esau sold his most prized possession for a bowl of soup. What was he thinking? Trading in a birthright for stew likely seems quite foreign to most of us, however, it’s easy to copy Esau’s approach to life in other ways. How do we avoid Esau’s egregious shortsightedness? Is there a way to avoid the urgency of the moment?

What about eternity?

3. Absalom – This guy must have been extraordinarily handsome for the Bible to make such a big deal of his appearance. Unfortunately, his anger left him hanging in the end, so to speak.

What caused the intense resentment that led to Absalom’s downfall? How does the Gospel help us deal with such growing bitterness, the type that eventually destroyed Absalom?

4. Joab – Joab is the most celebrated military general in the Old Testament. Yet, he possessed a character flaw: he was a cold-blooded killer. Okay, you are right, it was much more serious than a flaw in his personality.

I doubt anyone reading my book is likely to stick a sword into someone’s belly, but at times we all feel the frustration of dealing with someone who gets in the way of something we very much desire. A careful look at Joab helps us apply the message of James 4:1-4 to our lives. We do not have to kill someone to follow the errant path of Joab. We can cause serious harm to those around us in other ways.

That is why the lessons we learn from Joab are so important!

5. John Mark – This guy shows us failure does not have to be the last chapter in our lives (although it is the last chapter in my book). How does the story of John Mark encourage us to persevere even when we think we have blown it, failed, run our life into the ditch? Okay, I think you get the point. John Mark shows the mercy of God in giving us multiple second chances.

If you are willing to travel down some of the back roads of Scripture and dive into the lives of some of its more shady characters, my book Shipwrecked! Learning From The Bible Bad Guys is available on Amazon.com.

 

 

Shipwrecked!

Shipwrecked front cover final

The Bible bad guys in Shipwrecked! teach us about our walk with the Lord. We learn where their thinking went awry, which led to disastrous decisions. They looked to the things of this life to bring them satisfaction.

In keeping with an emphasis on knowing God, I conclude each chapter in the book with a “Walking with God” section. The purpose of these concluding paragraphs is to focus on what each character teaches us about walking with the Lord through all the ups and downs of life.

When life does not go as planned, relying on a memorized list of what to do (or not do) rarely helps us. Instead, it’s our walk with God that gets us through those times. Although what he sends our way remains unpredictable, his character never changes. Even in the darkest times, we can know he dearly loves us and will provide the strength we need for whatever we face.

Shipwrecked! stresses bringing the Gospel into everyday frustrations and setbacks!

This book is now available on Amazon.com

Shipwrecked!

Shipwrecked Cover

The above picture is what my first book will look like when Bold Vision Books publishes it sometime this spring, possibly as early as March.

Shipwrecked! is about learning from the mistakes of several Bible bad guys.

Life rarely goes as we expect. That’s why it’s so important that we learn to walk with the Lord and trust our loving heavenly Father before things go awry. Life caught several of our Bible bad guys “off guard” and instead of looking to God in faith, they turned away from Him and made terrible decisions. As we examine their lives, we learn how we can avoid their errant choices.

The last character in the book is John Mark. From him we learn that failure does not have to be the last chapter in our lives. John Mark overcame an early failure in ministry to be greatly used of God.

So that the readers of Shipwrecked! can easily find me, I am going to start using my name rather than “Eternity Versus the Moment” for my blog. The e-mails you receive from this blog will appear to come from me once this change is in place.

But don’t worry, while you may see a few posts about these Bible bad guys in the coming weeks, the emphasis of my blog will remain focused on eternity and our amazing and joyous hope of spending eternity with our Savior! We will be forever young!

I am excited about Shipwrecked! It’s my prayer that many will grow in their walk with the Lord as a result of reading this book and that several others will come to saving faith in Jesus.

Thank you all for your support and for following my blog!

Maranatha!!!