Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Searching for a Real Faith: Review of Clear Winter Nights

Last year on this date, I posted a review of this book on Below is the text from that review. An earlier, more personal, version of the article can be found on Following review are some quotes from the book I had posted to Facebook while in the process of reading the book.

Believable novel examines a millennial's crisis of faith 
Clear Winter Nights: A Journey into Truth, Doubt, and What Comes After is one of those rare books which examine Christianity in a thoughtful way. It is a bit different in that it is touted as “Theology in Story,” and is about a young man who has a crisis of faith.

Examining theology through novel is not exactly a… well… novel approach. But doing it well without being cheesy is difficult. Trevin Wax is up to the challenge. His attention to detail gives the reader the impression he is present, watching the events as a semi-omniscient fly on the wall. And, while not being afraid to tackle some deep issues, Wax is also not afraid to let the reader come to his own conclusions. Nor does he attempt to tie everything up in a tidy bow at the end of the story. The characters feel real, and the story is believable.

The book follows a few days in the life of Chris, who is on the verge of marriage and becoming a leader in a new church being planted. However, Chris’s doubts, exacerbated by revelations about his father, cause him to break the engagement as he reexamines his faith. He ends up visiting his grandfather, Gil, an retired preacher who is recovering from a stroke, and his honesty about his doubts sparks a lengthy conversation over a few days.

The book has much to say to millennials who are wondering about their faith, and to those in older generations who are seeing the church change. There is a paragraph in the book which meaningful to parents and grandparents of millennials, and hopefully many who read it, from every generation, will take it to heart. Near the end of their time together those few days, Gil says to his grandson (p. 129),

I’m proud of the young man you are becoming. You’ve come face to face with some devastating sin and hypocrisy. You’re asking big questions and wrestling with important things, and there’s no shame in that. You want to own your faith, not satisfied to go through the motions of a faith you’ve inherited. That’s admirable, if you ask me.

For millennials who may be reading this review, know that many in older generations admire you when you honestly wrestle with the truth. Keep being real.

Quotes from Clear Winter Nights:
“Truth is not a formula… Truth is a Person.”
“No Christian who truly understands grace can feel superior to anyone else. Grace shatters any sense of superiority.”
“A Christian is not defined by the sins of the past or the struggles of the present but by the vision of the future.”
“The world says, ‘Be true to yourself.’ King Jesus says, ‘Be true to your future self.’”
“The true rebellion is in the heart of the Christian who follows King Jesus by swimming upstream against the current of the world.”
“Don’t trust in your strength, because there is such a thing as pride. Don’t despair in your weakness, because there is such a thing as forgiveness.”
“Authenticity isn’t accepting your sins. It’s admitting your sins and then being true to the person King Jesus has declared you to be.”

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Remembering the Ashley Madison Scandal: The Consequences of Sin

Last year, the country was rocked by the Ashley Madison scandal. On this date in 2015, I posted the following article on Since the powers that be have decided to pull the plug on that website and remove the content from the internet, I am re-posting the article here.

Ashley Madison cheaters include local officials: your sin will find you out

The internet is awash will news about the hack on Ashley Madison, the website whose mantra is "Life is short. Have an affair." Recently it was revealed the hack uncovered hundreds of federal employees used government computers to access their paid accounts at the website for cheaters. This raises concerns those in sensitive positions might be blackmailed, potentially compromising government secrets.

The list revealed by the hack includes military email addresses, which the Pentagon is said to be looking into. Adultery is potentially a court-marshable offense. White House and Homeland Security computers were also used to access the website.

Local media is reporting the hack has also implicated a local official and some non-elected workers. The South Bend Tribune reports a South Bend Clerk used a government computer to access the site, and email addresses linked to the city of Mishawaka were also used. Investigations into the matter are being conducted by both cities. WSBT reports email addresses from some Indiana law-enforcement agencies, including The State Police and the Attorney General's office, were also involved.
Earlier this week, it was discovered Josh Duggar of TLC's 19 Kids and Counting fame was among the myriads of account users on the Ashley Madison site. On the Duggar family website, Josh released a statement, which reads:

I have been the biggest hypocrite ever. While espousing faith and family values, I have been unfaithful to my wife. I am so ashamed of the double life that I have been living and am grieved for the hurt, pain and disgrace my sin has caused my wife and family, and most of all Jesus and all those who profess faith in Him. I have brought hurt and a reproach to my family, close friends and the fans of our show with my actions. The last few years, while publicly stating I was fighting against immorality in our country I was hiding my own personal failures. As I am learning the hard way, we have the freedom to choose our actions, but we do not get to choose our consequences. I deeply regret all the hurt I have caused so many by being such a bad example. I humbly ask for your forgiveness. Please pray for my precious wife Anna and our family during this time.

There is a verse of scripture which may come to mind when Christians hear about names being revealed in this scandal. The last phrase of Numbers 32:23 (KJJV) reads, " sure your sin will find you out." However, this often misquoted verse does not say, "people will find out about your sin." There are many things which will never be revealed until judgement day—"the day when God judges people’s secrets." (Romans 2:16 NIV) The context is when the children of Israel are about to invade the promised land. The two and a half tribes were tempted to remain beyond the Jordan river and not help their brothers take the land. But God tells them that would be sin, and sooner or later they would have to face the consequences of that sin. The verse is not talking about someone finding out about the sin, but the consequences they would face. (Some might call that karma.)

Sometimes the best thing that can happen to us is that our sin is revealed. If the statements by Jared Fogle's lawyer can be taken at face value, the revelation of child porn on his computer could be the beginning of the healing of his soul. It is easy to go on letting our secrets gradually destroy us when nobody knows. Family and friends may be kept from the hurt for a time, but the hidden sin gradually eats you alive and twists your spirit. Hopefully this huge scandal will lead to many getting their lives back on track. That should be our hope and prayer.