Monday, May 21, 2018

God’s Design Law of Love Changes One’s Major Tenets

The God-Shaped Heart: How Correctly Understanding God’s Love Transfoms Us Author: Timothy R. Jennings, MD
Publisher:Baker Books, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2017


In some respects, this is the sequel to the author’s The God-Shaped Brain: How Changing Your View of God Transforms Your Life, which dealt with our brains, anatomy, and God. This time, he shows how our being wired to love is a result of our being created in God’s image – and thus, love gives us a great insight into God’s character, His true identity, and His plans for mankind. Once again, most interesting reading.
His opening premise is that Christianity has been marred, nay, seriously injured, by its focus on fear and punishment of those who don’t buy into it, lock, stock, and barrel. And just like his previous book, Jennings’ arguments and claims are based on solid interpretations of Scripture and supported with counselling examples from his counselling practice. You will find both most stimulating.
No one would argue with Jennings when he postulates that there is power in love. But if so, he asks, where is it?  What’s obstructing it in the lives of Christians? And thus, begins the pilgrimage to find out.
His journey leads him to contest that “the most distressing problem in Christianity is distorted ideas about God.” And to investigate this idea, he takes us to the “heart” – not that physical organ which pumps blood throughout the body, but rather “one’s core self, the inmost secret self, the place where one’s true desires, affections, longings, beliefs, and identity reside – the core elements of one’s individuality. It is our character, composed of all those elements, that make us the individuals we are.” And it is the brain that is the platform on which that ‘heart’ (our character) operates.
Decisions are made by the ‘mind’ which depends on the information it receives from the brain.  And then based on that, Jennings has us consider spiritual warfare from a different perspective.
For me, the highlight of the book is the author’s identification, explanation, and demonstration of the “Seven Levels of Moral Decision-Making”.  This is worth the price of the book itself. Master that and you can then start to consider what level people you know, including yourself, operate at. You’ll be very surprised.  He explains why rules and laws are no longer necessary when living at level five and above.
He does a great job of identifying a multitude of theological positions held by many segments of the Christian Body which we have interpreted and held too, in a way, which communicates the “infection of imposed law, with its false ideas that God is the problem that needs fixing.”
Of course, taking such ideas (that God’s ‘design law’ is all about ‘love’) to their ultimate conclusions, requires readers to challenge its application to some very controversial subjects.  Jennings beats us to the draw and voluntarily does that himself.  He deals with topics such as justice, hell, spousal abuse, worship, divorce, baptism, and more. He saves a lot of his disdain about how church leadership today has morphed into being protectors of the institution, rather doing what they can to help lead people to salvation. (That’s a most interesting and challenging chapter.) In another chapter, he explains how we might utilize the truth about God in our thinking with respect to homosexuality, complete with some very clearly described scientific explanations.
He provides some good advice as to why those of us in the church as well as non-believers are so willing to believe the various lies about God. He then identifies some of the ways to overcome that.
In his concluding chapter, Jennings addresses the issue of God’s judgment. It’s a most informative treatise of the subject. And in his Appendix A, he gives us a “Summary of God’s Design Laws”.
The book challenges our own thinking, attitude, and thus, behavior towards those in our personal relationships, in our church, in the Body, and the world as a whole. It deals with the present as well as the future. Like me, you may not always agree, one hundred percent with where Dr. Jennings ends up on some issues. Still, you will find the book most helpful in informing you of alternatives. And it just make you more like Jesus and perhaps even more useful to Him. 
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·     Ken B. Godevenos, President, Accord Resolutions Services Inc., Toronto, Ontario, May 21, 2018, www.accordconsulting.com

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Sunday, May 06, 2018

Be Prepared To Be Profoundly Challenged

The God-Shaped Brain: How Changing Your View of God Transforms Your Life
Author: Timothy R. Jennings, MD
Publisher: IVP Books, Downers Grove, Illinois, 2013


Be Prepared To Be Profoundly Challenged
Any book that connects our brains, anatomy, and God automatically gets my attention. Such was the case with Timothy Jennings’ The God-Shaped Brain: How Changing Your View of God Transforms Your Life. The author’s credentials are impressive: board-certified psychiatrist, master psychopharmacologist, lecturer, international speaker and author. He is a Christian and voted one of America’s Top Psychiatrists by the Consumers’ Research Council of America in 2008, 2010, and 2011.
I was ready to learn and learn I did. Jennings sets out to show us how our beliefs change us mentally, physically and spiritually.
Early in the book, he shares an incredible technique for gaining insight into the relationship between the creation of “inanimate nature” or a time before humanity, and Love. That got me hooked.
In chapter 2, he compares Watson, IBM’s supercomputer synthetic creation that in 2011 beat the top two all-time Jeopardywinners, to the human brain. Some fascinating data is provided.
Jennings introduces us to fear and its origin, and ties that in with “believed lies” and then “broken love”. For those that like to gain some ‘medical’ knowledge, he does not disappoint. He shows us how we cannot ‘think’ clearly when we are ‘guilt-ridden’, and then reminds us that “We are not born guilty; we are born terminal.”
The book helped me to better understand some people that I know and love. Using science, he helps us understand, as an example, how “a child born to a high-stress mother will have a brain less capable of calming itself and turning off the alarm circuitry (when faced with danger that eventually subsides).
Chapter 4 deals with our Freedom to Love. In it, Jennings shows us that if we violate liberty, we damage, and eventually destroy, love.
Some readers may be tempted, as I was, to part ways with him when it comes to some of his theology, but I assure you that if you hang in there, you’ll see that he’s not that outrageous at all – but rather, someone who has given a lot of thought and study (in Scripture and in research) to support almost all of his contentions. One such idea is that “to God, death is when the intelligent being is eternally destroyed.”
The author provides some good answers to the question, “What is God doing?” and gives us three ways God intercedes in the world and in each of us today.  You’ll find them on page 82 of his book and they’re well worth the cost of buying it.
Because of God’s interceding, Jennings says, two antagonistic principles are at war on planet Earth – love and survival of the fittest. In chapter 6, he tells us how we engage in that battle, and has one of the best approaches I have ever read to those who feel they’re just too “bad” to be worthy of God’s love.  His real counselling examples are very telling and very easily applicable to people we may know in our own lives.
The book is filled with great quotes and some of Jennings’ own adages, like “Insight does not equal change.”You’ll need to read the book to figure out how that plays into what he’s trying to get across. Jennings points us to the many lies many of us may have learned right in our own churches.  And he does it very well.
In one story, in dealing with a woman who feels badly about her sin, claiming she had “a choice when it comes to sin”, Jennings replies, “Not without Jesus. Not without the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. In our own human strength, we don’t have a choice. We are born into sin . . . a terminal condition that, if not cured, will result in death.” Each time, Jennings tells us how the various counselling cases ended. He doesn’t leave us hanging.
He also tackles the accusation of “How can a loving God be sending people to hell?” And he does it the best I’ve read or heard.  Again, well worth buying the book just to get this answer or to be able to respond to your friends who ask the same question.
And Jennings does not stop there.  He takes on the issue of “faith and miracles” responding to those who argue that miracles (e.g. of healing) are dependent on a person’s faith.  Read the book. Find out what Jennings considers “genuine faith” to really be.  The answer is something I’ve always maintained, but never ever able to formulate so well.
The author has an uncanny way of utilizing many great illustrations that we can all identify with to explain God’s love for us and how death enters the equation. He looks to history to explain how Constantine’s conversion and military successes resulted in the imposing of laws which gradually infected Christianity. As a result, he writes, “Christians lost sight of God’s (natural) law of love (a major theme of his book) and instead accepted an imposed law by a powerful potentate.” Ultimately, this negatively impacted our understanding of God.
The last part of his book addresses how we can “Embrace the Goodness of God”. Jennings reminds us that “biblical justice is delivering the oppressed, not punishing the oppressor!” And with that, he takes us into a great discussion on two views of punishment, namely utilitarianism and retributivism. He certainly made me reconsider some ideas that I hold near and dear.  He very carefully explains, with considerable success, why “an eye for an eye” is not what God expects today. He also answers very extensively the question many ask, “If a crackhead broke into my house and was threatening my wife and daughter, and I had a gun, should I shoot him?” You’ll be surprised at his answer. I’m still reeling from it.
Before concluding his book, Jennings takes on the issue of why Christ may not have returned yet. Again, his answer caught me off guard – but he may very well be right. And finally, he addresses the issue of “hell” and what that may really be. In his mind, it may have more to do with our ‘brains’ than with our ‘bodies’ and, in my view, his Bible research goes a long way to support his thinking.
In his addendum, the doctor provides us with 17 practical actions we can take to have “a healthy brain andrelationship with God.
I found Timothy Jennings to be an accomplished author and medical/human scientist, as well as a serious student of God’s Word. His ability to bring these strengths together is a great asset to his readers.  Highly recommended.
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·     Ken B. Godevenos, President, Accord Resolutions Services Inc., Toronto, Ontario, May 6, 2018, www.accordconsulting.com

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Saturday, April 14, 2018

Yes, Let Me Say It -- Some are held to higher standards.

Understanding Why Priests Could Eat a Portion of Some Offerings, But Not Others

Leviticus 6:14-23:
14 ‘Now this is the law of the grain offering: the sons of Aaron shall present it before the Lord in front of the altar. 15 Then one of them shall lift up from it a handful of the fine flour of the grain offering, [a]with its oil and all the incense that is on the grain offering, and he shall offer it up in smoke on the altar, a soothing aroma, as its memorial offering to the Lord. 16 What is left of it Aaron and his sons are to eat. It shall be eaten as unleavened cakes in a holy place; they are to eat it in the court of the tent of meeting. 17 It shall not be baked with leaven. I have given it as their share from My offerings by fire; it is most holy, like the sin offering and the guilt offering. 18 Every male among the sons of Aaron may eat it; it is a permanent ordinance throughout your generations, from the offerings by fire to the Lord. Whoever touches them will become consecrated.’”
19 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 20 “This is the offering which Aaron and his sons are to present to the Lord on the day when he is anointed; the tenth of an ephah of fine flour as a [b]regular grain offering, half of it in the morning and half of it in the evening. 21 It shall be prepared with oil on a griddle. When it is well stirred, you shall bring it. You shall present the grain offering in baked pieces as a soothing aroma to the Lord. 22 The anointed priest who will be in his place [c]among his sons shall [d]offer it. By a permanent ordinance it shall be entirely offered up in smoke to the Lord. 23 So every grain offering of the priest shall be burned entirely. It shall not be eaten.”

Thoughts on the Passage
In this section, we first learn about the law of the grain offering. A portion of the grain belonged to the priests so that they and their family ate it as a holy gift. There was also a particular grain offering that was part of the anointing and the consecration ceremony for a priest and it was not to be eaten, but rather wholly burned before the Lord.
(Although referred to as a grain offering, the offering described here is also labeled a Meat Offering.)
Matthew Henry says, the priests got the greatest part of this offering as their compensation for all their work and efforts.
Again, the priests and their families were to eat unleavened – what was offered to God must have no leaven in it, and the priests must have it as the altar had it – to maintain sincerity and truth.
Verse 16 tells us it must be eaten in the court of the tabernacle (the holy place). Henry tells us it was a great crime to carry any of it out of the court.
The actual words of verse 18 are, “Every male among the sons of Aaron may eat it. . ..” But does that translate to no female members of the priest families may eat it as Henry suggests? Again, the answer must be ‘yes’ since it had to be eaten in the holy-place and if I remember correctly, that was only for the priests themselves.  And furthermore, those eating it became consecrated or holy (vs. 18).
In this section in verses 19-23, we read of the priestly “consecration meat-offering” offered for the priest themselves and of which no part of it was to be eaten and all of it was to be burnt. Henry tells us that the Jewish writers say “that by this law every priest, on the day he first entered upon his ministry, was bound to offer this meat-offering.” He goes on, “the high priest was bound to offer it every day of his life.”
What are we to take away from this section?  Perhaps it is the fact that God has advanced some to be above others in certain aspects of the work or in power.  But those so appointed are to understand that He expects more from them than from others – yes, let me say it – He holds them to higher standards.  Henry says “the meat-offering of the priest was to be baked as it were to be eaten, and yet it must be wholly burnt. Though the priest that ministered was to be paid for serving the people, yet there was no reason that he should be paid for serving the high priest.” Priests were to take pleasure in serving him “pro bono”.
Finally, there is some great significance in the fact that while the priests could eat a portion of the offerings made on behalf of the people, they could not eat any of those offerings made on behalf of the priests.  Why? Henry says because in the former case, the sins of the people were typically transferred to the priests (signified by their eating of their offerings). Likewise, the sins of the priests must be typically transferred to the altar, and it was the altar that had to ‘eat up’ all those offerings.  No one, priests and non-priests alike, could be comforted or have any hope of forgiveness if we were to bear our own iniquities.

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Tuesday, April 03, 2018

A Most Informative Book on Past, Present, & Future Medical Advances

Physician: How Science Transformed the Art of Medicine
Author: Rajeev Kurapati, MD
Publisher: River Grove Press, Austin, TX, 2018

                                                                     


A Most Informative Book on Past, Present, & Future Medical Advances
I have always been fascinated by the medical profession. Perhaps it was that my parents always considered “doctors” to be like gods, never to be challenged or disobeyed in any way. Or perhaps it was that had I done better in the pure sciences, I would have headed down that route. And thus, I came to review numerous books on Medicine, and most recently, Dr. Rajeev’s Kurapati’s Physician: How Science Transformed the Art of Medicine.
Usually I save my recommendations for the end of my review but in this case, I want to tell you up front: This book should be required reading for a) anyone training to be a professional that involves “medicine”, b) anyone already so involved, and c) anyone that goes to a doctor when they need to. Having said that, here’s the ‘why’ behind that.
The book is a most informative journey through the history of ‘medicine’ with the purpose of giving us a well-constructed, and to a certain extent, a most enlightening and even entertaining, chronicle of how we got to what the medical profession is today.  It then takes us beyond that to where we are most likely to be tomorrow and beyond.
The journey starts with how medicine was being practiced by the ‘ancients’ and the adventure begins. While Kurapati teaches us a lot about the evolution of the profession, he takes care to share with as much about the practitioners themselves, and to a certain extent, us, the people they practice on. He hints at what each one feels and thinks, why, and the impact those feelings and thoughts have on all of us.  I love the oh-so-honest paragraph on death that states,
The doctor, disregarding the true feeling of his or her patient, carries on the routine by prescribing more medications and offering more tests – despite being well aware of the inevitable. And the visitors insist on treating him as if he were merely sick instead of dying. The entire act of dying becomes a charade, each party delicately dancing around the truth at hand. The person who is sick can see through the act as visits start to feel more like obligations as opposed to support.
The author shares both the successes and the shortcomings of medicine and doctors (e.g. how often they disagree on a diagnosis). Early in the book he deals thoroughly with a doctor’s inability to answer the patient’s “Why is this happening to ME?” question. In an interesting interview with a very experienced hospital chaplain, we are introduced to the striking idea that healing can sometimes occur without a cure or even be found in death.  From there he takes us into the early practitioners – the “philosophers” and then “priest-physicians” and ultimately, how the two professions separated.
The book is filled with dozens of fascinating facts including how the Rx symbol ended up being used by doctors; the questioning of long-accepted theories (e.g. such as those of Galen); the most interesting ‘politically correct’ discovery of the stethoscope; the air purification of surgery rooms; the requirement of pre-testing of drugs; the average improvement of life expectancy per year over the last 200 years; and more.
One theme in the book is clearly the impact of religion on medicine (really how it slowed its progress) before mathematics and other sciences took over as the lead influencers. There’s also a great explanation of how doctors learn to stay calm (perhaps too much so) in the midst of a storm as well as be involved and detached at the same time. Accounts like the one of the evolution of CPR and defibrillation machines are fascinating.
The use of unique quotations in the book is worth the price you’ll pay and will give you lots to think about.  Here is a small sampling: “Life is. . . the totality of functions which resists death.” (Xavier Bichat); “Medicine, no doubt, has helped us a lot to cure so many diseases, but death still remains an incurable one!” (Mahek Bassi).
Kurapati shows us how our perception of death has changed, moving from a natural process to something preventable. But does a doctor’s role as a healer end the moment it is determined that there is no chance of a cure?
The author also gets into the impact that statistics, rising costs, and the involvement of third-party insurers play in the practice of medicine.
The book gave me a much greater appreciation of what my own physician has to consider each and every time someone like me walks into her office. (That could be up to 40 times each day she works.)  Also, the sections on EMR (electronic medical records) and “medical surgical robots” are eye-openers.
The book ends with a section for Kurapati’s fellow and future colleagues which provides us (the patients) with a heads up on what to expect and maybe, demand.
In summary, circle back to my ‘recommendation’ at the start of the review. Clearly, this is the most informative book on the history and future of medical advances I have come across.  Congratulations to Rajeev.


·      Ken B. Godevenos, President, Accord Resolutions Services Inc., Toronto, Ontario, April 3, 2017, www.accordconsulting.com

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