Empire’s End by Jerry B. Jenkins – Mixed Feelings

Empires End

In years past I had read and enjoyed Jerry B. Jenkins bestselling novels.  That’s why I was eager to read his newest book Empire’s End which is a fictional account of the Apostle Paul.

The preamble starts shortly after Saul’s road to Damascus conversion when a Roman general is receiving orders to find the traitor who has now joined the ranks of the opposition called The Way who are believers in Jesus Christ the promised Jewish Messiah.

The story is presented as a memoir of Saint Paul the Apostle.  He tells of his intense persecution of Christians, his sudden and blinding conversion and the days that followed in Damascus.  The story then moves into the three years that Paul spent in Arabia and his return to Damascus, his journey to Jerusalem and return home to Tarsus.

The memoir is really where the fiction begins because there are no details in scripture on what happened to Paul during his three years in Arabia, or his journey there and back.

In Empire’s End, Jerry Jenkins, postulates about a miraculous journey Paul made to Arabia, how he was instructed by the Lord during those three years, and relationships he formed with other believers which include family members of the church’s first martyr Stephen.  I think the first thing to remember when reading this book, its fiction with quite a lot of scripture interspersed which represents the Lord teaching to the Apostle Paul.

I feel a bit divided about this book.  What I appreciated is that it helped me to see Paul and the early church members as real people who endured much suffering and persecution for their faith.  While I found the fictional account of Paul interesting, I kept reminding myself that this wasn’t a biography, its fiction.  Scripture is silent about the details of Paul’s years in Arabia and there doesn’t appear to be extra biblical information available about this time in Paul’s life.

I was concerned by what I believe is an error on page 12.  The first sentence of the page reads, “Or would they revere Peter’s brother James, or the other James among them – one of the brothers of Jesus?”

Page 12 Empires End Cropped

The Apostle Peter’s brother was Andrew, not James.

After I saw this seeming error I was on guard as I continued to read.  I wanted to make sure that Scripture was not taken out of context or inaccurate.

I would have appreciated a note from the author letting readers know that this is a fictional account of the Apostle Paul.  I think that would be especially important fact for a new believer or unbeliever reading this book.

If this fiction book wasn’t about the prolific, well-known and beloved Apostle Paul, I think I would have enjoyed it more.  Instead I was concerned that the book be true and accurate to Scripture.

If you enjoy Christian fiction or historical fiction you may enjoy Empire’s End by Jerry B. Jenkins.  He’s a good writer and the characters are interesting.

I would like to thank the Icon Media Group and Worthy Publishing Group for the opportunity read Empire’s End in exchange for an honest review.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

Are You Kidding Me – Bad Theology Does Not Bring Comfort

Recently I read a quote by Henry Scott Holland that was shared and meant to bring comfort to the family and friends following the death of their loved one.

As I read it, I was shocked at the incredibly bad theology written by a Regius Professor of Divinity from the University of Oxford.  It’s filled with lies that come from the pit of hell.

Death is nothing at all.  It does not count.  I have only slipped away into the next room.  Nothing has happened.  Everything remains exactly as it was.  I am I, and you are you, and the old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged.  Whatever we were to each other, that we are still.  Call me by the old familiar name.  Speak of me in the easy way which you always used.  Put no difference into your tone.  Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.  Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes that we enjoyed together.  Play, smile, think of me, pray for me.  Let my name be ever the household word that it always was.  Let it be spoken without an effort, without the ghost of a shadow upon it.  Life means all that it ever meant.  It is the same as it ever was.  There is absolute and unbroken continuity.  What is this death but a negligible accident?  Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?  I am but waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near, just round the corner.  All is well.  Nothing is hurt; nothing is lost.  One brief moment and all will be as it was before.  How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting when we meet again!

First and foremost, only those people who have repented of their sin and confessed Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior have the assurance of heaven.  Only those family and friends who have done the same will have the hope of heaven and the promise that they will one day see their loved one again in heaven.

All human beings will continue to exist after death.  Some in heaven because they have been saved by grace through faith, not of themselves, but it was a gift of God lest we boast.  Tragically far too many will find themselves in hell after living a life of rejecting God or thinking they will enter heaven based on their own good works.

All is not well for the loved one who died without Christ.  They are hurting very much and will continue to do so eternity.

Death is huge…it is a confirmation of Genesis 3 when sin entered the world and the consequences that all humanity will face entered in- death!

Anyone who has lost a loved one to death knows it is something huge.  Death brings to a close any chance of salvation through Jesus Christ.  Men are appointed to death once and then they will face judgment.  For those who are in Christ they are absent from the body, present with the Lord.  For those who did not receive Christ they are awaiting judgment and face eternity in hell.

Following death our relationships change forever, even for those who grieve with hope in Christ.  Ask a mother who lost a child, or a husband who lost his wife.  There is grief and at times our sorrow may be overwhelming.  It’s not wrong to feel sorrow in the face of death.  Our relationships will change after we die.  What our relationships are today is not what they will be or remain once we die.  For those who know Christ and are in heaven, relationships will continue, but they will be different.

Praise God for the wonderful memories you may have of a loved one who has died.  Those memories are a gift from God.  You may weep, grieve and feel sorrow and that’s okay because you have experienced a great loss.  The Lord desires to comfort you in your sorrow.  Lord willing, you will once again you will find joy and happiness, but that doesn’t mean you won’t have an ache in your heart when you remember your loved one who has died.  Life does go on, but you can’t help but think of all the things your loved one will not be there to see.

In his writing Mr. Holland erred when he said, “pray for me.”  I can assure you that you do not need to pray for person who has already died.  If they are a Christian they are in heaven with the Lord – absent from the body, present with the Lord.  If they are an unbeliever, they are awaiting judgment and hell.  Your prayers will not change their eternal destiny one iota once a person dies.  Save your prayers for the living, for the family and friends who are grieving the loss of a loved one.

The thing that troubles me the most about this writing by Henry Scott Holland is that he did not share the Gospel message of salvation through Christ alone.  He gave the illusion that death is nothing, when in fact the knowledge that we will all die ought to grab our attention and cause us to ask where will I go when I die.

Except for the Christian who is alive when the rapture occurs, we will all die…Christians and unbelievers alike.  However, our destinies are different.

For the person who has repented of their sin and believed on the Lord Jesus Christ they will be in heaven forever.  A place of no more sorrow, sickness, death, tears or sin.  For the unbeliever they are facing judgment and an eternity in hell forever.  It’s a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth, punishment and eternal torment.

If I really thought that death was nothing I would have no reason to share the Gospel message.  I wouldn’t need to.  But death is indeed something huge…it’s a game changer and people’s eternal destiny is fixed once they die.  Until then, we need to share the Gospel message of salvation in Christ alone

I can’t help but believe that satan is quite pleased with Mr. Holland’s writing.  It’s puts people minds at ease and comforts troubled emotions that people may feel in the wake of someone’s death.  It does nothing to warn about the reality of hell and makes death seem like it’s nothing significant.

Henry Scott Holland is very wrong indeed.  Bad theology brings no lasting comfort in the face of death.

A great resource to better understand about death and our eternal destiny is Hell’s Best Kept Secret by Ray Comfort.  Click on the link below to read this book.

Hell’s Best Kept Secret – Ray Comfort

Summer Bible Reading

Bible Heart Sepia

This summer I’m trying to slow down in my daily Bible reading.  Rather than reading through a chapter or two without taking the time to reflect on the passage, I’m reading a smaller number of verses and reflecting on what I see.  What I see about God the Father, Christ Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit.  What I see about truth, right and wrong, sin, repentance, obedience, forgiveness, love and so much more.

In today’s passage from Mark 4:35-41 here are some things I saw and reflected on.

Jesus humanity…being fully human He gets tired and falls asleep.  Jesus divinity when He rebukes the wind and the waves and they obey Him.  Jesus is fully God and fully Man.  I see His authority over nature.  That got me to thinking, the winds and waves obey Christ, but what about me?  Do I obey Him?  In all honesty no I don’t always obey Him, at least not like I should.  In those times when I don’t obey Him I see His mercy and patience, not dealing with me as I deserve.  In the midst of the storms of life when I am being tossed about do I trust God?  Do I run to Him?  Am I fearful?  Do I accuse Him of not caring?  Do I try to get through it on my own strength?  When He rebukes me do I listen?  Do I have a fear and reverence of God?  While I would like to say I do, but I confess I don’t always.  Certainly not in the measure that God deserves.  That’s not good, nor is it pleasing or honoring to God.  It’s not an encouragement to fellow believers, nor a good example to unbelievers.  Do I know with absolute confidence that God can do the impossible?  When I have a storm of emotions going on within me Jesus can calm the storm.  He can say, “Peace, be still.”  Will I listen?  Will I get my eyes on the Lord and not the storm?  Will I trust where He leads, even when it means going into a storm?  Jesus is caring and compassionate.  He cares even when I feel like He doesn’t.  He is able, well able to handle the things that concern me today, tomorrow and always.  Will I choose to trust Him and bring to Him the storms and troubles that concern me?  Will I choose to praise Christ Jesus and thank Him at all times, not only when things are going well?  If Jesus’ disciples feared Him, the ones that saw Him up close and personal and lived with Him for three years, shouldn’t I fear Him too?

What are some of the truths you see in this passage from Mark 4:35-41?

Wind and Wave Obey Jesus
35 On the same day, when evening had come, He said to them, “Let us cross over to the other side.” 36 Now when they had left the multitude, they took Him along in the boat as He was. And other little boats were also with Him. 37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling. 38 But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?”

39 Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. 40 But He said to them, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” 41 And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!”

The Dreaded Colonoscopy Day

This was something that I had managed to put off for 6 years past the recommended time of age 50.  Yes…today was the dreaded colonoscopy day!  If it weren’t for a persistent husband and doctor, I hoped to go to the grave without experiencing it.

My anxiety level and dread were high and were somewhat abated by the fact I had a doctor I felt comfortable with and I knew my husband would be there for me…which he was.  Thank you Chris!

In my anxiety I searched a lot of websites to read up on what people experienced so that I would have an idea on what I was facing.  Of course everyone’s experience is different, so I took what I read with a grain of salt.  There were some pretty entertaining blog posts about colonoscopies, if that can be considered entertaining.

The worst part of the whole thing was drinking that wretched swill called Suprep.  It’s downright nasty.  Something invented by a wicked ugly person who should be slapped.  Even though I experienced the unlovely effects, they were expected.  Why in the world can’t some develop a colonoscopy prep that tastes good?  If they did, they would make a mint and retire early.  The yucky syrupy was made even more intolerable by adding 10 ounces of water to extend my experience of the disgusting taste.  Uhhhhhhhhhh!

Then I had the expected effects…which all things considered are not too bad.  If you’ve ever had a bad case of the stomach flu…you’ve been there.  I was on the frequent flyer program with my toilet.  Stay close by and for goodness sake don’t go anywhere during that time.  Once the Suprep had done its job I was feeling better, albeit a little weaker.

But as I dozed off for the night…I knew what’s coming in the morning.  Round two of Suprep, made even worse because I knew how awful the stuff tastes.  The first time I tried using a straw to bypass my taste buds…didn’t work for me.  I tried using cold water but no matter which way you slice it…it’s nauseating.  Literally nauseating!  If you can keep it down you are doing good.

The two additional 16 ounce glasses of water are hard to get down.  I felt waterlogged.  Thankfully once the medicine kicked in my tummy was feeling better.

Learn from my mistake and schedule your colonoscopy early in the day.  I scheduled my appointment for 12:30 pm.  Not good!  That made it about 40 hours of drinking clear fluids, eating some lemon Jell-O with some wretched Suprep and massive amounts of water thrown in.  But I’ve got to say the clear fluids and Jell-O make the ugly part easier as does eating light the day before.

Though I was feeling a bit tired and nervous, the colonoscopy itself was easy.  Today I met my met new best friend…the anesthesiologist!  Thanks to him I remember nothing of my colonoscopy time!

The place I went, Lone Star Endoscopy Center, was great as was Dr. Karen Steffer.  The people at the center and my doctor were very nice and make an unpleasant test not so bad.  Now if only they could do something about the Suprep!

The good thing about being adopted is that I don’t have information to put down for family medical history.  My standard answer is Unknown/Adopted.  The bad part is I don’t have a clue what’s floating around in my gene pool.

Thankfully today’s test came up clear, no polyps or concerns were found.  I got a clean bill of colon health.  Thank You Lord!  I got a ten year pass before the next colonoscopy.  I am in prayer that the rapture of the church will come long before then.