Discovering the Lead Codices: The Book of Seven Seals and the Secret Teachings of Jesus
Everyone’s heard of the Dead Sea Scrolls, long-lost religious artifacts that changed our interpretations of language, religion, and history, but have you heard of the Jordan lead codices? Probably not, and that’s a travesty, because whether they’re the genuine article or well-made forgeries, they may very well rival the Dead Sea Scrolls in terms of historical resonance and value as a topic of debate.
Discovering the Lead Codices details the uncovering of a series of metallic symbol-inscribed plates that offers hints to a drastically different life of Jesus and those who carried on in his name. Actually, it’s really two books, one that chronicles the tangled, contradictory, and complex history of early Christianity, and the other a retelling of the sordid dealings the Elkingtons encountered trying to bring the codices to light.
While the historical side is engaging, if confusing – the who’s who of tribes and groups in those times quickly becomes borderline incoherent – the modern-day story is jumbled and lacks focus, trapped amidst shifty dealers, government intervention, and political maneuvering that becomes a bit tedious. (And while it serves to highlight the trials the Elkingtons endured, it can make for a frustrating read.)
David Elkington, Jennifer Elkington
My Little Book of Zoroastrian Prayers With Fun Activities
Rebecca Cann’s book, with illustrations by Nassim Azadi, is written for Zoroastrian children. Zoroastrianism is an ancient religion founded by the Persian prophet Zoroaster. Belief in a supreme deity and a cosmic contest between good and evil are at the center of Zoroastrianism. The first part of the book is a prayer book, and includes shortened and simplified versions of more than forty prayers from the Avesta, the religion’s sacred book. The rest is part catechism and part activity book.
Many of the activities involve reading songs and prayers that are not included in the first part of the book. Zoroastrian prayers were never meant to be easily understood by the uninitiated, so this book might be improved by children’s versions of the referenced prayers.
What Cann does very well is show the child how the tenets of this ancient religion can help them make wise choices. She notes that Zarathustra rejected the use of haoma, a plant used as a drug in his time, as it adversely affected people’s behavior. More broadly, she notes that prayer alone does not please God. Many times she refers to the triad of good thoughts, good words, and good deeds. Even a child can see that one leads to the other, and if our good thoughts and good words are not followed by good deeds, we have not done all we can to please God, our families, and others. As a catechism, this is more than just a question-and-answer method of teaching religious doctrine. People have choices, and it is possible to learn from the bad choices and start making good choices.
Although the book is written for Zoroastrian kids, I see it as valuable to anyone willing to look beyond the imagined points of contention between the world’s religions and see the points of agreement. Near the end of the book, Cann invites the child to read the creation stories of other religions. It’s no stretch of the imagination to suggest non-Zoroastrians could find something here that resonates with their own faith.
Marriage of the Lamb
J. Gordon Powell is inspired to convey an urgent message about life with Christ and companionship with God. His book is a detailed and researched description of the current errors in thinking that drive much of Christian worship. He is passionately concerned that believers understand that, though they may think they are on a path to everlasting life, they are, in fact, practicing a religion based on more than a thousand years of deliberate deception.
Powell’s teaching confirms that God created heaven, earth, and man, and that, according to God’s plan, Jesus was born of a virgin, taught people about the Kingdom of God, was crucified, died, rose again, and His disciples kept His work alive for about 300 years.
The problem that Powell describes in great detail, is the way that the Roman Emperor Constantine merged Christianity with paganism. Powell teaches that this merging was a deception inspired by Satan, and the deception thrives in Christian communities today. Powell offers concrete examples of the original, true, and proper Christian relationship with God as contrasted with the deceptive, false, alien, improper one.
One of the most concrete (and improper) changes made in the time of Constantine was the transition of the central place of worship from the home to the basilicas, which were, at that time, pagan temples. There was an imposition of religious leaders as God’s necessary representatives and mediators. Also, the festivals celebrated by the community of Christians were replaced by pagan festivals. Powell teaches that the proper Christian festivals for celebration are Spring Festival of Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits, and Pentecost. Fall celebrations should include Feast of Trumpets, Wedding of the Church, and the Festival in Tabernacles. Improper (or alien) religious festivals established by Constantine’s merger of Christianity with paganism, include the transfer of holiday celebrations to seasons of fertility: The pagans celebrated the conception of their fertility goddess, at the spring equinox, and this became the celebration of Easter. Similarly, the pagans used the winter equinox, around December 25, to celebrate the birth, death, and resurrection of their god, Baal. This became the Christmas celebration of Jesus’ birth. Powell teaches that these traditional holiday celebrations are not part of proper Christian practices and should be discontinued by those who understand the full nature of Satan’s deception.
Alongside the corruption of the true church by Constantine, there is a simultaneous continuation of the pure Christian line through the Order of Melchizedek. This Order is untainted from the time of Noah and carries the true faith and covenant with God, and it is available to us through repentance, or turning away from false worship.
Powell joins many other Christian historians with his teachings on the blending of early Christian and pagan traditions. He is not alone in his observations and concerns that organized church-based religions often alter Christ’s message of service, humility, and loving sacrifice.
Mr. Powell’s book would benefit from further editing so that the central ideas emerge with more clarity and order. Additionally, the subtext about capture by aliens may lead some readers to avoid the work as more science fiction than theology. But Powell has some interesting and thoughtful points to make for those interested in Christianity, its history, and its relevance to daily, as well as to everlasting, life. Particularly suitable for Christians who are focused on the end times, the rapture, and how best to prepare, Powell offers a passionate and thoroughly researched treatise.
Why there must be a God and why it matters – the simplest, objection-proof argument
There are many questions that lead the answerer right back in a circular pattern to the beginning of the question. One such question is “Which came first… the chicken or the egg?” Another is the one posed by scientists, philosophers, and theologians since time began: “How did the universe come into existence when “something” cannot originate from “nothing?”
In the book, Why There Must Be A God, and Why It Matters, author A.K. Bradshow tackles the age-old question with a type of logic that is laced with metaphysical and spiritual reasoning. To support the argument that there must be a God, Bradshaw lists seven objections to the idea of there being a “something” that is, in effect, God. There are those who believe that there is an unseen, unknowable, unscientifically provable, yet intellectually superior, being that created the heavens and the earth and all living things within it. There are others who believe that the universe, and all that is within it, occurred by happenstance. There are those who believe that it is safer to err on the side of caution and choose to believe in God “just in case.” Others choose not to believe and who presume it is absurd to even care about the issue one way or another. So many possibilities, so little time. However, with each good-faith effort at persuasion regarding each of the seven objections to a “god,” Bradshaw makes a valiant and persuasive argument in favor of a “something,” whom some might refer to as “God.”
In support of his argument, he quotes many scientific thinkers, and utilizes examples to illustrate his line of reasoning. He notes the scientific inability to prove or disprove feelings, to quantify the sense of “taste,” or to disprove the health benefits for those who meditate or “connect” through prayer. Ultimately, those who do not believe in God may not agree with Bradshaw’s hypotheses, but the logic and reasoning offered in the book is certainly tasty food for thought.
Looking into the Revelation
History could be littered with all kinds of end-time prophecies, but the book of the Revelation has occupied a prominent place in the literature of Christian eschatology, a book that has often posed a challenge of interpretation to both lay Christians and Theologians, perhaps because of the symbolism of the language and the somewhat graphic images it evokes, baffling the finest minds throughout the ages. It’s no wonder this book has been the subject of much controversy among Church scholars and Theologians, but in Looking into the Revelation, Dr. Boyd Gray does a brilliant job by showing an indisputable parallel between the end-time prophecies in this apocalyptic book and the turmoil of a time that seems to be fulfilling the said prophecies — the time we are living in!
The author brings more than thirty years of experience in studying and preaching the word of God, and it is interesting to know that he had developed a very keen interest in end-times literature early on before his active years of ministry. Readers will find his style a bit unusual and the language evocative and laced with biblical diction and images, which could be indicative of the author’s affinity with the Christian Scriptures. In an ebullient, yet authoritative voice, the author demonstrates the direct link between the message of the book of the revelation and the turmoil of the world we live in, and, commenting succinctly on each of the key passages of the book, he discusses themes such as death, resurrection, the final judgment, Antichrist, punishment, mercy, and immortality.
Dr. Gray writes with the confidence of someone who speaks from a deep experience and a transforming encounter with the living word. An authority in Christian Scriptures, he unveils the hidden meanings in the cryptic passages of the book and ushers readers into a world of meaning, tracing a path towards conversion and authenticity in answering the call to be Christians. This is one of the reference books that will definitely serve as a good companion for preachers and those who minister to the word of God, and, most importantly, it is the clarion call to men and women of this age to reflect on the realities that punctuate their lives.
Beyond Tyranny & Narcissism: Jesus Incarnates Leadership; Why do we fail to follow
Why can’t people just do what Jesus would do? Why do so many leaders in America exhibit unfettered desire for power and adulation; tyranny, and narcissism? And what can be done about it?
Williams and McKibben define the problem as abuse of power, and they have an idea for another way. Not just an idea: a guidebook. These authors ardently believe that leaders must understand not only that happiness cannot be bought and that consumerism poisons the soul, but that change demands programs and people, not just talk.”
For this, the authors turn to historic Christianity: “A great undiscovered wealth and traditional teachings of the Christian Church is found in Eastern Christianity.” The faith and practice formulated during the first millennia of Christianity is distinct in orientation from Western Christianity. Fascinating detail.
This book is a toolkit: Chapter headings map the terrain: “What is Leadership, Why Does it Matter?” “Historic Christian Leadership: Not Inborn but Developed,” and “Leadership and Organizational Stewardship.” There is also a valuable glossary that includes new ways to define leadership, management, stewardship, and empowerment. Finally, eighteen illustrations, flow charts, and other diagrams help communicate their concepts. The book’s organization assists the reader as the authors connect standard leadership advice (i.e., the need for clear vision statements, to their Christ-centered leadership model (how is God’s vision of the Kingdom imbued in your leadership?).
Benjamin Williams has a Masters in Theology and has many years of experience in Christian ministry and works as Director for Strategic Accounts for Welch Allen. Michael McKibben has served in various Christian leadership roles and has written other practical guides for Christian leaders.
This book is thoroughly researched and well organized in presentation. However, it is not an easy book to read. Readers can expect to be challenged as the authors present both details of theology and the complex mechanics required to enact and embody effective leadership. The nexus between theology and leadership is truly well drawn, so the reader who applies the effort will not be disappointed. For those who genuinely want to change their style and believe that Christ is the model, this book provides the chance to reap significant leadership transformation.