Welcome to the Weekend Roundup! – News & Views – 11/16/19

I somehow missed the brouhaha several weeks ago over John MacArthur (photo left) advising errant teacher, Beth Moore (photo right), to “Go home.” Lauren and Becca at Tulips & Honey brought me up to speed regarding the controversy (see here). Hipster, seeker-friendly, mega-church evangelicalism is so open to the false teaching propagated by Moore and the other TBNers. Among her other aberrant teachings, Beth Moore embraces Roman Catholicism with its false gospel as a Christian entity.

Rapper Kanye West’s conversion (genuine or not) has been joyously reported on by Christian media sources and bloggers. However, tomorrow Kanye will be appearing with Joel Osteen on the platform of Osteen’s Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas. That’s disturbing news. Millions of Kanye’s fans who are curious about the rapper’s conversion, whether genuine or not, will be deceived into thinking that Osteen’s “Live Your Best Life Now” prosperity false gospel is Christianity.

Several weeks ago, Italian journalist, Eugenio Scalfari, reported that, in private conversation, his friend, pope Francis, denied Jesus Christ’s divinity. Now, Scalfari states that Francis also denied Christ’s physical resurrection. If you know anything about liberal Jesuitism, none of this is surprising.

Catholics believe…er, well, they’re suppose to believe…that their priests actually transform bread wafers into Jesus Christ (i.e. transubstantiation). Surplus Jesus wafers are then locked up in a tabernacle near the altar to be worshiped until they’re distributed to shut-ins, etc. Catholics are sorely grieved when Jesus wafers are “desecrated” as happened at this Texas church where thieves stole the tabernacle. Catholics worship the temporal/physical but are blind to the spiritual truth of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone.

Conservative and traditionalist Catholics continue to fume over pope Francis’ accommodation of Pachamama fertility goddess idols at the recent Amazon synod at the Vatican. But what was their reaction when their beloved “saint” pope John Paul II kissed a Quran (photo below) at an inter-religious meeting in 1999?

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It’s quite ironic that the bishop sent by the Vatican to investigate Buffalo’s bishop, Richard Malone, for abuse cover-up, has now himself been accused of sexually abusing a former altar boy! The abuse problem is deep in the bone marrow of Catholicism’s mandatory clerical celibacy.

In the interview with arch-conservative cardinal, James Burke, and in his follow-up commentary, Catholic journalist, Ross Douthat, wrings his hands over the impossible Catch-22 dilemma for conservative Catholics: What to do when the current alleged “Vicar of Christ” is a doctrine-bending heretic?

Where’s the beef? In Buffalo it’s at Schwabl’s!

About seven weeks ago, I published a post about our road trip to Buffalo to eat at a restaurant featured on Guy Fieri’s cable TV show, “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.”  That experience didn’t turn out anywhere near as well as expected (see here). As we disappointedly began our drive home to Rochester, we passed Schwabl’s on Center Road. Ah, Schwabl’s! THAT’S where we should have gone. We have eaten at Schwabl’s maybe ten times over the past fifteen years and its my wife’s FAVORITE restaurant, bar none.

After our disappointing experience, my wife was absolutely jonesing for some Schwabl’s, so a couple of Sundays ago she twisted my arm to make the 60-minute trek after church. It was a cold, rainy, and windy day in Western New York and a treacherous drive to Buffalo along the New York State Thruway, but we made it to Schwabl’s in one piece.

Schwabl’s doesn’t have an extensive menu. It’s known for its roast beef and when people visit Schwabl’s they generally go there for the “beef on weck;” sliced roast beef on a salted kümmelweck roll (photo below), a Buffalo favorite.

As we settled into our chairs and defrosted, my wife and I purveyed our menus. I usually order the beef on weck, but the salt and carbs didn’t appeal to me that day, so I ordered the roast beef plate; sliced roast beef (medium rare for me), and my sides were cole slaw and french fries topped with gravy. Not to be outdone, my wife (never a cheap date) ordered the fried shrimp and scallops plate AND ALSO a full plate of sliced roast beef!

The roast beef at Schwabl’s is indescribably good. It almost melts in your mouth. With my wife’s itch finally scratched, we contentedly drove back to Rochester. If you ever get to Buffalo, Schwabl’s is a MUST.

Home

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Above: Most of Schwabl’s customers order the beef on weck

Thank you, Lord, for enjoyable food and for all of your many blessings! Temporal blessings pale in comparison to salvation in Jesus Christ and spiritual blessings.

Throwback Thursday: Popular and influential evangelical, Joni Eareckson Tada, endorses ecumenical “First Things”

Welcome to this week’s edition of “Throwback Thursday.” For today’s installment, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on October 8th, 2015 and has been revised.

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I used to have a 25-minute drive to work each morning back when I was employed and while I was in my car I really enjoyed listening to a local Christian radio station. Oh, it was a blessing to hear about the Lord at the start of every day! One of the scheduled messages broadcast each morning was a 5-minute clip from Joni Eareckson Tada. I’m sure many of you have heard of her. Joni, a quadriplegic, provides daily messages of hope and encouragement for Christians who are struggling with challenges of all kinds.

However, one morning, my ears perked up when Joni cited “First Things” monthly journal as an excellent publication and strongly encouraged her listeners to check it out. Well, “First Things” was started by influential Catholic priest, Richard John Neuhaus, in 1990. It describes itself as an “inter-denominational, inter-religious, ecumenical” journal featuring the writings of a broad spectrum of “Christians” (Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant) and Jews. All of the declarations issued by Chuck Colson’s and Neuhaus’s ecumenical “Evangelicals and Catholics Together” project were initially published in “First Things.”

The ecumenical spirit of “First Things” mirrors the teaching of Roman Catholicism, which says all can be saved if they “seek the truth and do the will of God.”

“Since Christ died for all, and since all men are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partakers, in a way known to God, of the Paschal mystery. Every man who is ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and of his Church, but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it, can be saved. It may be supposed that such persons would have desired Baptism explicitly if they had known its necessity.” – Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1260.

The Catholic hierarchy once taught that only Catholics could be saved, but, because they believe in salvation-by-merit, it was entirely predictable that they would eventually recognize all other works-righteousness religious systems – Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, etc. – as legitimate pathways to God. Making the already-broad path even wider, Pope Francis has said EVEN ATHEISTS will be saved if they follow their conscience and pursue “righteousness.”

“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone.” – Mark 10:18

But genuine believers are well aware that God’s Word clearly proclaims that salvation is ONLY by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. There is NO other way. Bible verses which state that salvation is only by accepting Jesus Christ as Savior can be found here.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ has nothing in common with the works-righteousness false gospel of Roman Catholicism and the ecumenism of “First Things.”

So why would a high-profile evangelical Christian, like Joni Eareckson Tada, irresponsibly recommend “First Things” and its ecumenical message to her unwary and trusting listeners? What goes through her head? Does she believe the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone or not? Respected Reformed theologian, Carl Trueman, also inexplicably lends his support to the wide-is-the-way mission of “First Things” as one of the journal’s regular contributors. The postmodern heresies of pluralism and relative truth continue to spread like cancer and more and more evangelicals ignore Biblical doctrine and succumb to accommodation, cooperation, and compromise.

The Rochester Mafia Wars: The A-Team vs. the B-Team???

The Rochester Mob Wars
By Blair T. Kenny
Blair Publishing, 2017, 208 pp.

3 Stars

A few weeks ago, I published a post about the former boss of the Rochester Mafia, Frank Valenti (see here). Writing that post further stoked my curiosity, prompting me to check our local library system for more information on the Rochester Mafia crime syndicate and I found this book, “The Rochester Mob Wars.” The title refers to the internecine “squabbling” between the two factions of the Rochester Mafia during the 1970s and 80s. The warring factions were dubbed the “A-Team” and the “B-Team” by the police and media and we Rochesterians had a lot of trouble keeping it all straight.

Here’s a brief summary: Frank Valenti had seized control of the Rochester Mafia in 1964. But his underlings eventually decided that Frank was skimming too much off the top and forced him to “retire” in 1972. The new boss, Samuel “Red” Russotti, and his lieutenants were later arrested and sentenced to lengthy prison terms in 1973 on murder charges. Russotti appointed Thomas Didio as the acting boss in the interim. Didio was thought to be more brawn than brains and Russotti counted on manipulating his stand-in from his prison cell. But Didio had a mind of his own and regularly ignored Russotti’s instructions. Much of the disloyalty stemmed from the fact that Didio and his close comrades were still faithful to the ousted Valenti.

In 1977, Russotti’s supporters met with Didio and a few of his lieutenants at the Blue Gardenia Restaurant and told the acting boss he was “all done” and gave him a thorough beating just to make sure there were no misunderstandings. In early-1978, Russotti and his lieutenants, Rene Piccarreto and Salvatore “Sammy G” Gingello were released from prison after it was discovered the Rochester police had manufactured evidence leading to their convictions. Russotti was back in Rochester, but the local mob was divided. Didio and his followers (the B-Team) declared war on the Russotti faction (the A-Team), with the support of the Valenti brothers, Frank and Stan (Stan had been the Don of the Rochester mob in the 1950s). At stake were the many lucrative gambling joints in the city. In April 1978, Gingello was murdered by the B-Team and in retaliation, Didio was killed by the A-Team in July. What followed was an all-out war between the two factions in the streets of Rochester, including numerous murders, shootings, and bombings. Of course, the Rochester police weren’t standing still through all of this. In 1980, the B-Team leaders were convicted and sent to jail for various crimes, followed by the A-Team leadership in 1984. In 1988, the remaining A-Team leaders were sent up the river and the Mafia was effectively eliminated in Rochester.

This book is self-published and the author is clearly not professional writer. He would have greatly benefited from a skilled editor. At times, the information is not presented chronologically and is often redundant. With those criticism’s aside, Kenny deserves kudos for digging up all of this information from old Rochester newspapers. Like most Rochesterians, I could not explain who constituted the A-Team or the B-Team and the details of what they were fighting about, but after reading this book it’s all pretty clear to me now.

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Above: A Google Earth satellite view of the sprawling former hilltop estate of Constenze “Stan” Valenti (1926-2001) at 6714 State Road 96, Victor, New York. Stan Valenti was kingpin of the Rochester Mafia in the late 1950s. His brother, Frank, eventually became “Boss” of the local Mafia operations from 1964 to 1972, but Stan remained a powerful and respected figure in the Rochester mob.
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Above: A sign at the bottom of Stan Valenti’s former hilltop estate discourages curiosity seekers and unwelcome visitors.
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Personal trivia: The house above, located on Tarrington Road in Rochester, was once home to Vincent J. Rallo, an insurance broker and member of the Rochester Mafia. In March 1981, Rallo pled guilty to two counts of arson and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors as part of the Federal Witness Protection Program. His testimony was key to the investigation of the A-Team bosses, leading to their arrests and convictions in 1984. Following his testimony, Rallo and his family disappeared. My parents’ house where I grew up was immediately behind the Rallo house on the next street over.

Okay, that’s enough jabbering! Somebody get on the phone and order the pizza!

Truth from Arkansas! Sunday sermon series, #5

It’s Tuesday, my friends, which means two new sermons from the brethren down in Arkansas. First, we have have Pastor Roger Copeland at Northern Hills Baptist Church in Texarkana, exhorting believers to mature in their faith instead of never advancing beyond the baby Christian stage.

Next is a sermon by Pastor Cody Andrews at Holly Springs Missionary Baptist Church in Star City encouraging believers to let their salvation-in-Christ light shine bright instead of hiding it under a basket.

Pastor Roger Copeland – It’s Time to Grow Up

 

Pastor Cody Andrews – Be a Light

UPDATE: 2019 Leaf Campaign

It was an exhausting weekend of working on the leaves, my friends, but I’m beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Prior to this past weekend, I had hauled a total of 27 tarp-loads of leaves to the curb since October 25th. But the leaves continue to drop from our oak tress. I woke up Saturday morning to a layer of leaves coating our backyard (photo above) and got to work. I collected all of the leaves in the backyard into piles using my trusty Husqvarna 350BT Leafblower and then raked the piles onto the tarp. I ended up dragging 9 tarps of leaves from the backyard to the front curb on Saturday. With snow predicted for today, Monday, I needed to continue working on leaves yesterday, Sunday. I climbed up on the roof and blew off the leaves and cleaned out the gutters and then gave the back and front yards another going over and ended up dragging 4 more tarps to the curb.

Overall status? After 2.5 weeks, the halfway-point of the 5-week leaf campaign, I’ve hauled a total of 40 tarps of leaves to the front curb. From past experience, I can expect to haul 10+ more tarps to the curb, but snow may complicate matters.

Sidenote: Every Fall, I remind my lovely wife not to expect much out of me from the last week of October until the first week of December because I will be preoccupied, or rather, CONSUMED, with gathering up all of the leaves in the yard. My wife always objects to this and wonders if I am taking the wrong approach. Every year she suggests that I should wait until the last week of November-first week of December when all of the leaves have come down before I get started. This approach seems much more logical to her rather than going out there twice or three times a week with my leaf blower and gathering the scattered leaves into piles and dragging them to the curb. She believes I am being redundant and wasting time and energy, which could be better spent working on her to-do list. But my wife’s plan has two MAJOR flaws, which I point out to her every year:

  • If I waited until all the leaves fell, I would be hauling 50+ tarp-loads of leaves to the curb in a single week/weekend rather than spacing them out over the five week period. Raking a pile of leaves onto a tarp and then dragging it from the backyard to the front curb is physically exhausting work. Dragging 10 tarp-loads on a single Saturday absolutely wipes me out. I could not imagine trying to deal with 50+ tarp-loads in one week/weekend.
  • As we get into late-November, early-December, snow increasingly becomes a factor. If I waited until all the leaves fell, there’s a very real possibility I would not be able to collect them because of the snow.

This arduous leaf campaign brings to mind many Bible passages regarding work/toil, procrastination, and following a wrong plan that seems wise to some.

 

Welcome to the Weekend Roundup! – News & Views – 11/9/19

The brouhaha over the “Pachamama incident” at the recent Amazon Synod at the Vatican continues to divide progressive and conservative Catholics although I really don’t understand why conservative Catholics are so incensed. The syncretism of paganism and Catholicism can be traced all the way back to the days of Emperor Constantine (see “Constantine versus Christ: The Triumph of Ideology” by Alistair Kee, among other books).

I try very hard not to comment on politics in my posts, but President Trump’s appointment this week of “televangelist,” Paula White, to an official position in the administration is obviously meant to please the president’s “evangelical” supporters. But what Paula White preaches is the false prosperity gospel and not the Gospel of grace.

Guy Fawkes Night was celebrated in the U.K. this past Tuesday, November 5th to commemorate the foiling of the infamous Gunpowder Plot of 1605. Fawkes and his fellow Catholic conspirators planned to blow up the British Parliament with barrels of gunpowder as part of an effort to reestablish Roman Catholic dominance over the country. However, the plot was uncovered and Fawkes and the other Catholic saboteurs were executed. I doubt few of this week’s celebrants were aware of the history of the English Reformation. Rather, the evening was just an excuse to gather together, tip a few pints, and watch a bonfire. Interestingly, English colonists brought Guy Fawkes Night to America and renamed it “Pope Night,” but General George Washington put an end to the festivities during the American Revolutionary War in deference to the struggling new nation’s French-Catholic allies.

For my first couple of years as an altar boy, the Catholic mass liturgy was said in Latin. I had to learn to phonetically mouth the Latin responses without one iota of understanding of what they meant. Few in the pews understood the words either. Dumb? Certainly, but tradition, once in place, isn’t easily changed without a fight. The Second Vatican Council finally did change the mass liturgy from Latin to the vernacular and conservative Catholics have been kicking and screaming ever since. But whether the mass is said in Latin or English doesn’t change the fact that the ritual propagates the anti-Biblical doctrines of the alleged transformation of Jesus Christ into bread wafers and wine, the perpetual sacrifice of Christ, and the supposed conferral of sin-cleansing grace upon the congregants.

The vast majority of Roman Catholics are nominal members and generally don’t adhere to their church’s rules or understand and believe in its doctrines. Other recent surveys have revealed few Catholics attend obligatory Sunday mass, few believe in “transubstantiation,” the alleged changing of Jesus into bread wafers and wine, and hardly any go to mandatory annual confession. I imagine many Catholics who cohabitate attempt to justify their behavior with the rationale, “Well, at least I don’t abuse altar boys like the priests and bishops.”

We pray that Kanye West genuinely repented of his sin and accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior by faith alone.

Billboard makes whimsy of eternity

Every Wednesday, I must drive into downtown Rochester for a “career transition” training class. A couple of weeks ago, I was driving along Interstate 490 West into the city when I noticed the new billboard pictured above near the intersection of Winton Road and East Avenue.

Yikes!

I’m sure this advertisement evokes a chuckle from the tens of thousands of unbelieving commuters who pass by every day. But salvation is no joking matter. Your life could end today.

“Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.” – Proverbs 27:1

“Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” – 2 Corinthians 6:2

Before I accepted Christ, I struggled with the idea of all of the things that I would have to “give up” in order to be a Christian. Boy, did I have a misconception. Jesus Christ came to save sinners, not the morally self-righteous. Acknowledge your helplessness and inability to live a moral life, turn from your rebellion against God, and trust in Jesus Christ as Savior by faith alone. The Lord will then help you to live a life that’s pleasing to Him.

What can compare to eternal salvation in Jesus Christ? Treasuring the temporal pleasures of this world over eternal life in Jesus Christ is irrational insanity. Who would choose a single, discarded, maggot-infested corn husk for their meal over a thirty-day, sumptuous banquet feast? Does not compute.

Friends, I don’t get all flustered and outraged over a billboard such as this. Unbelievers do what unbelievers do. Perhaps this billboard is valuable because at least it will get people thinking about their souls and eternal judgement. However, your salvation is nothing to joke about. Every soul is either going to Heaven or Hell and only those who have trusted in Jesus Christ as Savior by faith alone are going to Heaven. What’s going to happen to you after you die? Accept Jesus Christ as your Savior!

Throwback Thursday: Whatever happened to St. Christopher medals?

Welcome to this week’s edition of “Throwback Thursday.” For today’s installment, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on October 2nd, 2015 and has been revised.

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Does anyone remember St. Christopher medals? Ho, boy! They were EXTREMELY popular within Catholicism when I was a young boy back in the 1960s. Well, Catholic tradition has it that Christopher was a 3rd-century Christian living in Palestine who served God by helping people ford a dangerously swift river. One day, a young boy needed help getting to the other side of the river so Christopher hoisted the lad up on his shoulder and carried him across. But Christopher staggered because the boy was so inexplicably heavy! Well, it was alleged that the child was actually the incarnate Jesus Christ who was so heavy because he was weighted down with the cares of the entire world! The legend of Christopher spread far and wide throughout the church.

Christopher was never formally canonized as a saint (the Roman church didn’t officially canonize its first saint until 993 AD), but was presumed to be one because of his longstanding popularity. He was designated by the church as the patron saint of travelers and millions of Catholics wore St. Christopher medals that had been blessed by their priest as protection in their daily commutes or on trips. Catholics were told they would never die in a travel accident if they wore a St. Christopher medal.

However, in 1969 the Catholic church reviewed and reorganized its liturgical calendar. Feast days of saints who were determined to have been largely based on myth and legend, like Christopher, were quietly removed from the calendar. Although Christopher is still considered to be a saint by Rome, he has been demoted to third-string and, except for a few traditionalist die-hards, his protective medal has become a memento of a bygone era.

The Catholic church likes to present itself as the unchanging foundation of spiritual truth but even a casual study of church history reveals the fallacy of that claim. What about the millions of Catholics who prayed to St. Christopher for safe travel prior to his demotion? Did wearing a “blessed” St. Christopher talisman actually protect people from being injured or killed in travel accidents? Did any Catholics die in travel accidents while wearing St. Christopher medals? I think we all know the answer to that question.

Friends, Catholicism’s veneration of “saints” and trust in sacramental rabbits’ feet are rooted in Roman paganism. Nowhere in the Bible does a follower of God pray to anyone other than God. Nowhere in the Bible does a believer wear a “good luck” talisman. In pandering to its heathen “converts,” Catholicism became a mixture of apostate Christianity and pagan superstition.

Praise the Lord for freeing me from the chains and superstition of Roman Catholicism and saving me by His grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone!

Martyn Lloyd-Jones preaches on the Sermon on the Mount

Studies in the Sermon on the Mount
By D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1984, 585 pp.

5 Stars

When I returned to the Lord in 2014 after a very long prodigal “season,” He graciously led me to some solid Bible teaching and preaching from the likes of John MacArthur, R.C. Sproul, and Paul Washer. He also led me to a formidable pastor of a couple of generations ago, Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981). The Welsh-English medical doctor-turned-pastor gained notoriety for his passionate, Holy Spirit-filled preaching and for his non-accommodating, non-compromising stand upon God’s Word despite the rising tide of theological liberalism and ecumenism throughout the U.K. I read a couple of biographies of Lloyd-Jones and was so blessed. I excitedly bought this book, Lloyd-Jones’ fifty-nine consecutive sermons on the Sermon on the Mount, expecting to be doubly-blessed.

Gospel Christians, unsaved quasi-christians, and even many secularists are familiar with Jesus’s famous Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1 though 7:29). Many cite it as one of the greatest discourses on morality. Hindu Mahatma Gandhi once said that the Sermon on the Mount was the greatest teaching that has ever been given. Numerous people who don’t believe Jesus was God the Son will grant that He was a “great teacher” based upon His Sermon on the Mount. But Jesus delivered this sermon to believers, instructing them how to live their lives. It is not a general morality guideline for all of humankind. The Bible testifies that no one was able to successfully obey the Mosaic Law (Acts 15:10), how much less Jesus’ instructions in the Sermon of the Mount, which are even more exacting in that they appraise our hearts as well as outward behaviors. While the sermon ultimately reveals our inability and our absolute need of the Savior, they are not merely empty exhortations. We have God’s Word and the indwelling Holy Spirit and we are to increasingly put on the mind of Christ and follow Him in obedience.

Lloyd-Jones exegetes the entire sermon, verse-by-verse, in 585 pages. The applications to Christian living (and exhortations and admonishments) are inspiring and challenging. I’m not about to detail or even summarize Lloyd-Jones’ lengthy and detailed commentary. Suffice to say that those who praise Jesus as a “great teacher” and moralizer view the Sermon on the Mount strictly in terms of the secular/temporal when Jesus was addressing both the temporal and spiritual. As an example, in Matthew 5:9 Jesus states, “Blessed are the peacemakers,” and the unsaved like Gandhi assume that He was referring to the United Nations or some such like. But in Biblical context, Jesus was referring to believers who sow the seed of the Good News! Gospel of reconciliation with God through faith in Jesus Christ. Elsewhere, Jesus states, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword…” (Matthew 10:34-39). Being born-again in Jesus Christ will bring discord and division with unsaved friends and family members. So the “peace” Jesus had in mind was not a temporal peace, but spiritual peace via reconciliation with God through Him. Unbeliever Gandhi had missed the ultimate meaning of Jesus’ teaching.

I had to do some deep digging into my Amazon account history to verify when exactly I ordered this book and I’m ashamed to say it was back in September 2016. Friends, I never sit on a book this long. When I began reading “Studies” in 2016, I told friends that it was like eating Triple Chocolate Cake; rich and dense beyond description. While it was delightful, it was also very challenging personally. Upon reaching the halfway point after one year of sporadic reading, I petered out and the book sat on my nightstand for two years. When I was laid off from my job in September and my head was spinning, I picked up “Studies” again and as God would have it, the next several chapters were on anxiety (Matthew 6:25-34).

Yes, this book was a “heavy lifting” spiritual workout, but also a tremendous blessing.