Shipwrecked! – Book Review by Terry James

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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


 

Three Fatal Dangers of Living for The Moment

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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).

 

Shipwrecked!

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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

A Trust that Cannot Be Broken

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What causes you to trust the words of another person? Your answer no doubt includes the previous trustworthiness of that individual. Has he or she told the truth in the past? Does he or she have experience or expertise in what they are saying to you? Many considerations go into believing the assertions of someone you know even if you are not conscious of them.

Because Jesus rose from the dead just as He said He would do, we know we can have absolute confidence in His words. We know His claims are true because of His resurrection. It follows that what He says about Scripture is of utmost importance and of necessity must be true. If Jesus is God as He claimed, how could He possibly be wrong in His opinion of the Old Testament?

Because Jesus rose from the dead just as He said He would do, we know we can have absolute confidence in all His claims.

Previously, we looked at Jesus assertions regarding the validity of Genesis. Now we will expand that assessment to the entire Old Testament.

“If You Believed Moses, You Would Believe Me”

Jesus always spoke with the utmost reverence for Scripture, which in His day consisted of what we know today as the Old Testament. He frequently quoted from it and repeatedly referred to its words as something that must be fulfilled (Matt. 22:29; 26:54; Luke 33:37; John 13:18). He criticized the religious people of His day for not knowing it, “But Jesus answered them, ‘You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God’” (Matt. 22:29).

Jesus confirmed the authority of Scripture. In John 5:39-40 He said this to the Jews who by this time were seeking to kill Him, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” A little later he added this, “For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me” (John 5:46).

The tremendous respect of the Jewish religious leaders for Scripture was correct, but they did not fully believe what they read. If they had, they would have recognized Jesus as their long awaited Messiah.

 “Scripture Cannot be Broken”

In John 10:35 Jesus said this, “. . . and Scripture cannot be broken.” With these words, Jesus asserts that the words of the Old Testament are absolutely reliable and accurate. They cannot be found lacking in any way. They stand firm; they cannot be twisted to mean something else or neglected as having no value for us.

In Matthew 5:18 Jesus made this strong statement about the Law, which in His day could refer to the entire Old Testament as well as well as just to its first five books, “For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” Scripture will more than pass the test of time; it will endure forever. Everything written on its pages must be fulfilled. Jesus regarded the Law as unbreakable truth that would stand forever.

This is bad news for us. If we cannot be loosed from the demands of the Law, we are in deep trouble. The good news, however, is that Jesus came to fulfill the Law (Matt. 5:17). He lived the morally perfect life we could never live and fulfilled all the other demands of the Law as well. He was the perfect sacrifice for our sins to which all the sacrifices in the Law pointed. He took our place on the cross bearing the punishment of the Law for our sins.

No one else has ever claimed to do that for us. No one else could ever do that for us!

Because the Old Testament is God’s Word and as such “cannot be broken,” Jesus needed to fulfill its demands in our place, which He did. This is why Christ is the only way to eternal life as He claimed in John 14:6. Only He fulfilled all the demands of the Law in our place. No one else has ever claimed to do that for us. No one else could ever do that for us!

“Everything Written about Me . . . Must Be fulfilled”

One of my favorite stories in the Bible is that of Jesus talking with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus shortly after His resurrection. I would love to know all the details of that conversation, but we are left with just a summary, “And he said to them, ‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:25-27).

It’s no wonder the hearts of the two listening burned within them as He spoke (24:32). What an amazing time it must have been to listen to Jesus spend perhaps an hour or two explaining how all of the Old Testament looked forward to His coming.

That evening, as He appeared to the rest of His disciples, He spoke these words, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled” (Luke 24:44). Now we understand a little bit more about His respect for the Old Testament; it all spoke of Him. As such it tells us much about both His first and second coming!

To Sum Up

Just as with the book of Genesis, Jesus regarded the entire Old Testament as the authoritative Word of God. As such, it’s accuracy in its original manuscripts cannot be broken; it stands forever as the inerrant Word of God. Why am I so confident in Jesus’ evaluation of the Old Testament, you might ask?

First, I know the character and trustworthiness of my Savior. If He as the most loving and self-sacrificing person who had ever lived verifies the integrity and accuracy of the Old Testament, whom am I to question it? Secondly, Jesus said “whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). Jesus did not come as an opposing view to the God of the Old Testament. He came to fully reveal Him to us. He is the Word of the everlasting God made flesh.  Thirdly, Jesus accurately predicted the timing of His resurrection from the dead. Has anyone else ever done that? I can trust His words.

Lastly, Jesus is my Savior. What does it say about my future hope if He as someone who claimed to be God was wrong about something as critical as Scripture or about anything for that matter? I trust his ability to take me from this life to forever.

Do you trust Jesus enough to agree with Him regarding the words of Scripture?