The Tulip Driven Life Podcast

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

CSFF Blog Tour Review- Eye of the Sword

*In conjunction with the CSFF blog tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.*

You can purchase Eye of The Sword here.

Blog Tour Participants:

<a href=""> Julie Bihn</a>
<a href=""> Thomas Fletcher Booher</a>
<a href=""> Keanan Brand</a>
<a href=""> Beckie Burnham</a>
<a href=""> Jackie Castle</a>
<a href=""> Brenda Castro</a>
<a href=""> Jeff Chapman</a>
<a href=""> Christine</a>
<a href=""> Theresa Dunlap</a>
<a href=""> Cynthia Dyer</a>
<a href=""> Victor Gentile</a>
<a href=""> Ryan Heart</a>
<a href=""> Janeen Ippolito</a>
<a href=""> Jason Joyner</a>
<a href=""> Carol Keen</a>
<a href=""> Emileigh Latham</a>
<a href=""> Rebekah Loper</a>
<a href=""> Shannon McDermott</a>
<a href=""> Karen McSpadden</a>
<a href=""> Meagan @ Blooming with Books</a>
<a href=""> Rebecca LuElla Miller</a>
<a href=""> Anna Mittower</a>
<a href=""> Mirriam Neal</a>
<a href=""> Nissa</a>
<a href=""> Faye Oygard</a>
<a href=""> Nathan Reimer</a>
<a href=""> Chawna Schroeder</a>
<a href=""> Kathleen Smith</a>
<a href=""> Donna Swanson</a>
<a href=""> Jessica Thomas</a>
<a href=""> Steve Trower</a>
<a href=""> Shane Werlinger</a>
<a href=""> Phyllis Wheeler</a>


Eye of the Sword by Karyn Henley is a fast paced tale that tries to weave together a multitude of characters and their plot connections to a satisfying conclusion in about 230 pages. The result is that much of the story, and especially the first four chapters, feel hurried along. Having said that, if you are going to try and bite off this much and chew it this quickly, this is about as good as one could do it. 

It seems only the bare minimum was given as far as description of the scenery, the milieu, is concerned. That's okay, but then your story has to be about something else. Sacrificing detail and world development for the sake of  character development can work if the story and characters are strong and you want to keep the action and the pace of the story moving rapidly. This story is about Trevin finding harps to restore the stairway to heaven and finding the king's missing comains, but ultimately, the story is about Trevin finding himself, what he is made of, and his true identity- including who his mother and father are. Trevin and Melaia's love story is fairly typical given the genre and, because so much is crunched into so little page space, I never felt a strong longing for them to be together. In fact, this is one of my biggest complaints with what is actually an interesting, fairly complex story- it needed to be told with more care, more nurturing, more development. Henley tries to bring some things to boil long before they are ready, and then when the story essentially says "this is a tense, boiling point moment," it almost always fell flat, or the tension is described with the cliche, useless "chills shivered up character's spine like a slithering snake, and character's heart pounded into his throat until his head nearly popped off." 

If you are going to tell this story this quickly, you need to set your aims at the appropriate mark. This book is like a very delicious, healthy, savory, microwavable meal that you enjoyed on a stormy Saturday afternoon by yourself because that's what was left in the freezer, and you didn't feel like venturing out to get to that fine restaurant that all your friends went to. The point is, this could have been that high-cuisine-at-a-five-star-restaurant kind of story, if it was about 150 pages longer and Henley developed characters and the storyworld fittingly. If she was capable and willing to venture through the Saturday storm, this could have been a book that everyone would have been talking about, because I think the story itself is that good (by the way, I am not judging this theologically because I do not think Henley means her story, especially the angels, to reflect what Scripture teaches; you can read what she says about angelology here). 

I simply do not think it is possible to try and tell such an epic tale in just 233 pages, not a tale that is written for teens or adults. Children may enjoy this more, but some of the themes would probably not be appropriate. I grant that this is part of a series, but nonetheless, this book advances the series and characters a lot as far as what they learn of themselves and what actually happens, but that is precisely the problem. Could you imagine any one of the Lord of the Rings books written in only 233 pages? Or any of the later Harry Potter books? This is not a book for children, such as The Chronicles of Narnia, but it's length is closer to that than even The Hobbit. 

In the end, I must give Eye of the Sword 2.5 out of 5 stars. Pros for the plot twists and tweaking some things with angels in an interesting way, cons for the lack of really exploring the storyworld and developing the characters to a point where I much cared when they were faced with hardships, struggles, guilt, and romantic desires. 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Comfort of God's Sovereignty Over Evil

Picture taken from this address

There is only one question that you must settle, Christian, if you are to have unconquerable comfort in your life. This comfort depends not on your financial status nor the status of your other affairs and duties in life. It does not even depend upon your health and physical well-being. This comfort never ebbs, it never runs empty or dries up, but is a constant, steady stream that will never cease to flow to you when you most need it. 

The comfort that I am speaking of is the comfort found in the sovereignty of God. Your problem is, if you are anything like me, you have been told much of your life not to believe in the absolute sovereignty of God because it would be most unsettling to have a God who ordains and predestines everything, even sin and sickness and all those who wind up in hell. You have been told this because the one who told you likely believed that God is incapable of predestining all things in such a way that man is responsible for willing and choosing what he or she does. 

In other words, what has been taught by so many for so long is that, for God to be in absolute control over everything and to have planned everything that will happen before it happens,  the only logical conclusion is that whatever happens is solely the responsibility of God and not the choice or responsibility of man. Meaning, if I rob a convenience store, it is ultimately God who is at fault and not me, for I am nothing more than a puppet on a string, a pawn in God's scheme. 

This is a wicked, perverse twisting of the sovereignty of God. When a theologian speaks of God's sovereignty, if he is speaking biblically, what he means is that God controls all things in such a way that man desires what God predestined. In other words, if I choose to rob a convenience store, it is because I desired to do so. God did not implant this desire in my heart, yet He did choose that I would create this desire in my heart. So the one question you must answer for yourself, right here, right now, is this: "Is God capable of predestining all things in such a way that man still chooses of his or her own will/desire to do what God has predestined?" 

Many who are Christians yet reject predestination and the tenets of Calvinism do so because their answer to the above question is a "no." They say, "God cannot predestine something that I freely choose." 

What I believe, and what you should believe based off Scripture, is that man carries out/wills what God predestined man will do, but man carries God's will out not as puppets without a will, but according to their own hearts' desires, according to their own will. I believe Scripture teaches that God can predestine what I will desire and do, and He accomplishes this in such a way that He is willing what I will do as part of His predestining plan and governance over everything, whereas I am morally willing to do either the good or evil, right or wrong. So when I sin, I willed to sin, I morally chose to do that which is evil. And also when I sin, God willed that I would sin as part of His predestined plan and governance over all things, to carry out His goodwill and bring Him glory and His people joy. 

So if I shoot someone, I am doing it according to God's plan, but not because God squeezed my fingers around the trigger. I desired to squeeze my fingers around the trigger and murder that person, and I did so because I desired to be morally evil. God desired for me to squeeze my fingers around the trigger and murder that person, not out of a moral evil within Himself (there is none), but out of a desire to bring about all His holy will, to bring to fruition all of His plan to bring Him glory and His people joy. 

This is shown time and time again in Scripture, but for the sake of brevity I will give just two examples, one from the OT and another from the NT. 

The first is Genesis 50:20. The whole chapter should be read to get the full context, and really the whole of Genesis, but Joseph is responding to his brothers who were repenting for having thrown him into a pit then selling him into slavery for 20 pieces of silver many years before: 

But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.

Here we see that we have, firstly, the brothers meaning to sell their brother into slavery (see Gen. 37). God, however, also meant this to occur, and he meant it for good, to save many people alive and bring about the situation as it was the day, many years later, when Joseph's brothers were before him repenting. So we have a willing by both the brothers and God. And what did both God and Joseph's brothers mean/will/intend? For Joseph to be cast into a pit and then sold into slavery for 20 pieces of silver. We have God willing that Joseph's brothers commit sin, so that many people later could be saved from the famine that was occurring in the land. 

But does God's willing that Joseph's brothers sin mean that God has sinned? Of course not. God is not committing sin, He is not puppeteering here. Rather, God predestined that Joseph's brothers would, of their own desire, hate Joseph and sinfully sell him into slavery. Thus we see that God was sovereign over this event, and meant it for good. This is a very comforting thing, is it not dear Christian? If God had not predestined this, that would mean that their evil, and therefore all evil, would not be under the sovereign control and will of God, but outside of it, and thus outside of Gods' control! And where is the comfort in that? There is none. 

One last example, and I believe you will find this one most persuasive. Here in Acts 4 we have an account where the people understand the sovereignty of God, and then acknowledge that God was in absolute control when Christ was being offered up on the cross. Indeed, they acknowledge that those who betrayed Christ and had the authority to put Him on the cross, along with all who were calling for Him to be crucified, did so because of God's predestined plan: 

24 So when they heard that, they raised their voice to God with one accord and said: “Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them, 25 who by the mouth of Your servant David[b] have said:
‘Why did the nations rage,
And the people plot vain things?
26 The kings of the earth took their stand,
And the rulers were gathered together
Against the Lord and against His Christ.’[c]
27 “For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together 28 to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done.

In the second part of verse 25 the people are quoting David, and the question David asks they then answer in verse 27. Their question is, "Why do people plot out evil? Why were the kings and rulers against the Lord and against Jesus Christ? Why did they crucify Him?" And the answer they give in verse 27 is they were all gathered together against Christ because this is what "Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done."  

Now that is clear as crystal, Christian. God sovereignly ordained that all would turn against Christ so that Christ could go to the cross and die, so that He could be made an atonement for sin to all who trust in Him, thus giving Himself and His Father great glory and making a way of salvation possible. Herod and Pilate and all the people meant it for evil, but God meant it for good. Great good indeed. Their evil meant great good for all who trust in Christ as Lord and Savior. It meant salvation! 

Note in the example taken from Scripture above, the evil of Herod and Pilate and the people were that they wanted Christ, who was innocent, to be crucified. They murdered Jesus. God ordained they would do this, but He Himself did not desire to commit this evil. That wicked moral desire was in the hearts of the people alone, and not God. But God did desire it to bring about the greater good and the greater glorification of His Son and Himself.   

And that is the comfort Christian. The comfort of God's sovereignty is that God is the one controlling and orchestrating all the wicked in this world to work toward the greater good of His glory and His people's delight and joy. This comfort in God's sovereignty never changes because His sovereignty never wavers. It never weakens. It is absolute, total, always. So the highs and lows of life, all are part of God's plan for us, it is all part of God's plan to grow us, and it is all working together for our good and His glory.

A few brief implications of this. This means that your loneliness, your singleness despite having a great yearning to be married, is for your good and His glory, even if this period in your life hurts at this time. It means that after you get married at last and love your spouse and then you have six kids and no money and  don't know where next months rent money is going to come from, that this time in your life is for your good and His glory. This means that after you secure enough money to provide for your spouse and six children, and then immediately your spouse gets cancer, or a child tragically dies, or you have your own cancer or sickness, that this too is part of God's plan to bring Him glory and you ultimate joy, even if you cannot possibly see how at this time. 

This means that Hitler and the Holocaust were not in vain. It was not utter meaninglessness that God had no control over. This means that 9/11 was not for nothing; the planes flying into the twin towers were part of God's sovereign plan, and the hi-jackers of those airplanes were doing what God's hand and God's plan had determined beforehand that they would do. And yet, God is still good, and the hi-jackers are still culpable and responsible morally for their great wickedness and the murder of thousands of Americans. We may have not seen how then, we may not see how now, and we may never see this side of heaven the good that God intended through the great evil of the holocaust, the tragic events of 9/11, of our sickness or loved ones sickness, but make no mistake, what the hi-jackers meant for evil, what Hitler and Stalin meant for evil, God meant for good. The sickness that comes upon ourselves and loved ones serve the good purpose of producing lasting joy in us in the end and great glory to God. And if you do not believe in this, you can take precious little comfort in this fallen world which is so full of sickness, of tragedy and murders, rapings, bombings, and the like. 

Ah yes, there is comfort for the Christian and the Christian alone in this world, even in the midst of great wickedness. The great mystery and beauty is that this comfort is found, not by taking God off the throne when sin, sickness, and tragedy occurs, but by strongly believing that He is firmly planted on His pedestal when it occurs, and that it occurs because He is on His pedestal, bringing about all that He has sovereignly predestined. I close with Romans 8, where we read that everything, even the sin in this world, works together for the Christian's ultimate good: 

28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.

God’s Everlasting Love

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? 33 Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written:
“For Your sake we are killed all day long;
We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”[c]
37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.