Baptism: Answers to Common Questions by Guy M. Richard: A Solid and Encouraging Introduction to a Complicated Topic

Baptism: Answers to Common QuestionsBaptism: Answers to Common Questions

by Guy M. Richard


eARC, 129 pg.
Reformation Trust Publishing, 2019
Read: February 3, 2019

It’s been awhile since I’ve read a book on baptism — it’s been awhile since I’ve seen a new one published, too (but maybe I stopped paying attention), so when I saw this on NetGalley, I had to take a chance. I’m very glad I did. Richard discusses in his introduction that questions about this sacrament are some of the most frequently asked to Presbyterian (and, I assume, Reformed) pastors. Sadly, they’re usually asked when pastors can’t give the kind of answers they should — at least based on his experience.

He begins looking at the meaning of Baptism — both the Greek terms translated as “baptism” and the sacrament. He does so very well, covering all the bases. Following that he moves to the method of baptism — how should the water be applied? Once he’s finished with these matters he moves into the more complicated question — who should be baptised? He begins with the “household” baptisms in the New Testament before turning to the objections and arguments of Baptist and baptistic brothers. He not only examines and explains them fairly well, he responds to them in an irenic manner, but not giving an inch to them.

The conclusion, “What Can We Take Away from All This” is just fantastic. Richard’s meditations on how our baptisms should shape our lives and our faith, to build our faith and give us assurance. It’s easily worth half of whatever you pay for the book, and maybe more.

This is probably not a book that will convince any detractors. It may not be enough to convince the earnest seeker. But it will explain the basics for each topic considered. It will demonstrate the systematic and biblical basis for Richard’s positions exists and they aren’t mere tradition. These are outlines to be filled in with further reflection, reading and research by the reader.

Along those lines, each chapter could really use a “For Further Reading” to help the reader get deeper into the topics covered — or one at the end of the book. But I do think as each chapter is so topic-focused, it’d be very helpful. As good as each chapter is, they are just an overview. Not every reader is going to want to go deeper into, say, the mode/method of baptism but they might want to spend more time on the meaning of Baptism, or his response to Baptist interpretations of Jeremiah 31. For example, I think I agree with his differing from Murray on the former — but I’d like to read more about that, if it’s possible.

Richard’s tone throughout is gracious, kind, yet unbending. It’s not easy to putt off in print, especially on a topic like Baptism. There were many times he could’ve gone for the jugular, rhetorically speaking. He never did, trusting that the arguments would carry the day. And, in my not so humble opinion, he’s right to trust that.

Gracious, encouraging, thorough and easy to read — this introduction to “the waters that divide” Christians is just what you want in a book on this topic. But more than those, it’s deeply biblical in nature. Richard’s focus in bringing the light of the canon to this topic, and he succeeds there. I strongly encourage you to read it.

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Reformation Trust Publishing via NetGalley in exchange for this post — thanks to both for this.

—–

4 Stars

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Fahrenbruary Repost: Not Talking Italics by Russell Day: This Short Story contains enough entertainment value to carry a novel.

One of the best short stories I can remember in the last few years — had so much fun with this one. Just revisiting this via this repost brought a smile to my face.

Not Talking ItalicsNot Talking Italics

by Russell Day
Series: Doc Slidesmith

Kindle Edition
2018, Fahrenheit Press
Read: May 7, 2018
In a couple of months, I’ll be taking part in a book tour for Russell Day’s debut novel, Needle Song, and I’m really looking forward to that (and am having a hard time not reading it now). But today, we’re going to look at a short story featuring the protagonist of the book, Dr. James Slidesmith. A little something to whet our collective appetites.

I know very little about Slidesmith after reading this short story, and I can’t wait to find out more. Here’s what I do know — 1. He has a PhD in Psychology, and is touchy about those who don’t consider him to be a “real” doctor; 2. He owns and runs a tattoo parlor/shop; 3. he plays poker; 4. He’s very smart; 5. He has the gift of gab.

All five of these are important, but in this short story, that last one is essential. Everything in this is dialogue — no dialogue tags, no narrative, no descriptive passages — just characters talking. Which will involve all that other stuff, but that’s not how the story is told. It takes place in a police interrogation room — you’ve got a Detective Constable, a Detective Sergeant and Dr. Slidesmith talking about an incident at a poker game earlier that night. Things got nasty and two men died, given the small number of people at the game, the Police are looking to quickly identify the killer(s) and wrap this up quickly.

But first they’ve got to get past the silver-tongued Slidesmith. That won’t be easy. He offers a detailed explanation of the night’s events — including doing some educating on Texas Hold-’em, the ins and outs of betting in the game (and how to manipulate betting). There are a couple of characters that we only learn about from questions and answers in the interrogation, and I feel like I ahve a pretty good handle on them, without seeing them speak for themselves. That’s a nice move.

As it’s just dialogue — and well-written dialogue, at that — this is a fast, breezy read (so fast, you might miss a thing or two the first time through). It’s not so much a book that you read, it’s one you hear with your eyes. I’m not certain that makes a lot of sense, but it’s the best way I can put it. These are fast-moving conversations, they have a certain rhythm, a certain feel — and you just want to keep reading more and more of it. This could’ve been twice as long and I don’t think my attention would’ve wavered an iota. Imagine your favorite scene written by Aaron Sorkin, then imagine it changing into an interrogation in a British Police Station — that’s what this story is.

This is good stuff, my friends — better than good. There’s an extent to which the reveal seems “oh, sure, I should’ve seen that coming” — and it wouldn’t surprise me if many readers get there before Day wants you to (I was not one of them) — but it’s so satisfying, so well-executed, I can’t imagine a soul complaining about it. If Needle Song is anything like this, I’m going to have to go down to the superlative store this weekend to stock up before I write anything about it.

Stop whatever you’re doing — including reading this — and click the links at the top of the page to go get this story. You’re welcome.

—–

5 Stars

Fahrenbruary Repost: The Accidental Detective by Michael RN Jones: A fast-paced and fun modern Holmes

The Accidental DetectiveThe Accidental Detective

by Michael RN Jones
Series: The Victor Locke Chronicles, #1

Kindle Edition, 252 pg.
Fahrenheit Press, 2017
Read: March 23 – 30, 2017

I have this section of my Kindle, a corner area, where I put Fahrenheit Press titles to gather dust after I buy them (I imagine the drive like a big patch of land — I know that’s not how things work, but I like it). Only Jo Perry and Charles Kriel have managed to avoid that area (Duncan MacMaster’s Hack never ended up there, because FP gave it to me to read — his other book, however . . . ). There are a handful of books there, and on adjacent plots, that I was going to actually read in January of this year, but well, that didn’t work. Maybe by July? (feel free to pause for laughter here).

I bring this up because The Accidental Detective was purchased on release and placed their next to the other titles and was only FP’s releasing of HER: The 1st Victor Locke Story back in March that got me to read this one so quickly. I didn’t realize at the time that HER was the first story in this collection, I thought it was more of a prequel to this novel. Whoops. Still, HER was a fun story and I had to find out more about Victor Locke and his buddy, Dr. Doyle quickly, so I was able to rescue this from FP corner.

Essentially, this is a short story collection — or a very episodic novel, depending how you want to look at it — about a convicted hacker and his formerly court-mandated psychologist solving mysteries. The stories are very much in the updating-Sherlock Holmes vein. Basically, the stories are a Sherlock-like update featuring a Holmes (Locke) with a demeanor more akin to Elementary‘s Holmes while living a Mr. Robot lifestyle (at least early Season One Mr. Robot — look, don’t go examining these comparisons too far, all right?). Some of the ways that the Locke stories are updates of/tributes to/etc. the Holmes canon are obvious, some are subtle, and some are blatant — and all work wonderfully. I’ve read most of the Holmes stories and all the novels at least once, but I’m not an expert by any means; still, I’m familiar enough to catch most of them without work. I laughed hard at this version of Mycroft in his first appearance.

All that’s background — now to the book itself, HER kicks off the collection with Locke (and his not-sidekick Doyle) being drafted into working for the FBI. The story doesn’t end the way the FBI agents would like, but it seems to give Locke the idea that he could do more of this detecting thing. Unofficially, of course. So he goes looking for further opportunities like this. Most of his work is for friends and acquaintances from his neighborhood, but he does get pulled into doing some work for the police.

Locke’s personality pretty much demands that he will have conflict with whatever authority/official-types he encounters, but, like every good Sherlock, most will recognize his talents and let him get away with it. Doyle is more than a sidekick and chronicler of his adventures, but he’s no Joan Watson. Yet. I don’t think Brown will leave him in his current role. Doyle is brilliant, he’s a great observer of people and things, he thinks and talks fast and doesn’t suffer fools gladly (unless he likes them). This doesn’t mean that he won’t have a blind spot or two, that he can’t use some help from others occasionally, either. He usually knows when he needs the help, too.

Few of the stories result in any public success — Locke gets the solution, but sometimes he can’t do anything with it, or has to keep it under wraps. I love this — it’s be so easy to make him some publicity-seeking type. Or someone who doesn’t seek it, but gets it nonetheless. But Jones lets his hero have public failures pretty regularly, keeping him as a struggling detective, not a superstar of deduction.

Fast-paced, clever, charming, funny, clever, and I should repeat clever. I thoroughly enjoyed these stories and gobbled them up pretty quickly. I know Volume 2 is on the way, and it won’t end up in the dusty and ignored FP corner. You should go grab this one if you’re a fan of Holmes or any of his modern incarnations. Even if you’re not a fan of Holmes, you might find yourself changing your mind after reading Jones’ take on the character.

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3.5 Stars

GUEST POST: Action! by Anmol Singh

Sing was kind enough to give me some excerpts from his book to share, this is 4 of 4. I don’t think anyone would take me seriously if I gave my take on this book, if anyone’s going to convince you to read this book, it’s going to be Singh himself, so I’m going to let him — make sure you read them all!

Are you acquiring the patience, self-discipline, and knowledge we’ve talked about in previous blogs? Those qualities are critically important to your success But the truth is, all the self-discipline, knowledge, and patience in the world won’t get you to the finish line. Only action can do that. Are you ready for action?

It’s such a simple concept. And yet people resist taking action on even the smallest of things. Why? Mainly, it’s the Fear Factor. Fear of what, you ask? Think about how many of these fears are getting in the way of your success every single day.

Fear of:

  • Looking bad in the eyes of others
  • Being rejected
  • Making an irreparable mistake
  • Creating even bigger problems
  • And above all, fear of failure

The fear of failure is the #1 cause of failure. Think about that for a moment. You have a goal. But you never get started working toward that goal because you are so afraid you’ll never make it. It’s easier to do nothing. Well, guess what? You failed before you even started!

(If any of these ideas sound like concepts you’d like to explore further, you’ll find an in-depth discussion in my new book, Prepping for Success, available on Amazon on (date).

Here’s the big takeaway: your inbred fear of failure demonstrates itself in your life every single day. It’s called overthinking or “analysis paralysis.” Do you notice that you continually have difficulty making the decisions that will move you toward the success you seek? You’re getting bogged down in the swamp of decision fatigue. It’s exhausting to keep researching, analyzing, and thinking and never arriving at a conclusion. Not only does this decision fatigue inhibit your ability to clearly assess your career and business decisions, it also makes you more likely to sink into bad personal habits, like eating unhealthy foods, skipping the gym, and scanning Facebook or the Internet news feed rather than working on a pet project or learning a new skill. In other words, over-analyzing a decision makes it much more difficult to make high-quality, long-term choices later on.

If you know that analysis paralysis, overthinking your decisions, is an issue for you, consider the impact this tendency is having on your overall success and happiness.

  • Overthinking impairs your performance. You’re putting too much time and energy into analysis. There’s no room left for action.
  • Overthinking stifles creativity. Creativity demands freedom. If you’re stuck in analysis, you’re not free.
  • Overthinkers are less happy. Of course they are. When you consider the lack of creativity, the information overload, the poor performance we’ve described, it’s not a happy picture for the compulsive analyzer.

People think it’s intelligence that separates the successful from the unsuccessful. However, that is not the case. Action is what separates them, and this is easy to prove. Let’s pretend I have an IQ of 100. Can anyone have 10 times my IQ ? History has shown the highest ever recorded IQ to be around the 240 range. So that proves it’s impossible for anyone to have ten times my IQ or even five times. So how do some people achieve ten times the success that others have? How do some people make ten times as much money as others? One simple reason: the leaders of this world, the successful people of this world TAKE ACTION ! Are you ready?

This was an excerpt from the Book Prepping For Success: 10 Keys for Making it in Life by Anmol Singh, Learn more about the book and get a Copy at www.Preppingforsuccess.com/book

GUEST POST: Life-Long Learning by Anmol Singh

Sing was kind enough to give me some excerpts from his book to share, this is 3 of 4. I don’t think anyone would take me seriously if I gave my take on this book, if anyone’s going to convince you to read this book, it’s going to be Singh himself, so I’m going to let him — make sure you read them all!

Invest in yourself. That’s what you are doing when you make knowledge acquisition a top priority in your life. There’s a billboard-size sign hanging in the workout room at my local gym. It says: “Never Stop Moving.” We should all have a similar sign hanging somewhere, even if it’s just in our minds: “Never Stop Learning.”

(Want to explore this topic in specific detail? We’ll show you how in Chapter 3 of my upcoming book, Prepping for Success).

As you consider your own lifelong learning status, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Am I curious and anxious to explore new territory?
  2. How do I find out what I need to know?
  3. How do I organize information?
  4. Do I understand the recurring patterns and themes in my life?
  5. Am I a creative problem-solver?

For now, let’s focus on Question #1. Real learning demands a certain curiosity. How curious are you, really? If you want to enhance your level of curiosity, spend a lunch hour or two visiting a neighborhood playground. There’s nothing more curious than a child. How come the slide is crooked? Can I make the swing go higher? Why is the tree losing its leaves?

Somewhere along the line, that unfettered curiosity was bred out of us. Maybe there is a point where we think it’s not grown up or cool to ask questions. That point of view is totally out of sync with lifelong learning. Start now to get your curiosity back. Find a spot in your calendar right now and plan a visit to a neighborhood playground or the children’s reading room at your local library.

Then start asking questions. People like it when you question them. Most people love to share what they know. They feel flattered that you would bother to ask. So ask away. And listen to the answers.

Questioning is the first of seven qualities that you need to cultivate in order to become a successful lifelong learner. The second is to crave knowledge. In order to acquire knowledge, you have to want it more than you want other things. Your learning must take priority over Sunday night football, or a weekend of golf (unless golf is what you crave to learn, of course.)

Third, you must practice. Richard Branson, founder of Virgin America, still works to perfect his listening skills. “Listen more than you talk,” he advises. Bill Gates practiced his perseverance skills when others said he couldn’t do it and he founded Microsoft when he was barely 20. Steve Jobs practiced daily creativity and took Apple public when he was 25.

(If you really want to make progress on the path of lifelong learning, you’ll want to know the other four qualities. Find them in my new book, Prepping for Success)

Once you get started on the knowledge path, you will find resources everywhere. There are blogs, books, webinars, community college courses—the list goes on. As you begin to implement your plan, commit at least one hour every day to studying, listening to CDs or podcasts, writing down your ideas.

In addition to the time you spend with yourself, which is important, reach out. Network with groups in your profession. Attend Chamber of Commerce meetings and look for online meetups. Find someone who has done what you want to do and ask them to mentor you.

Wherever you are in life right now, you can get where you want to go if you are willing to invest in yourself. Invest in your health, your relationships, and your education. Believe in yourself because you are worth it.

This was an excerpt from the Book Prepping For Success: 10 Keys for Making it in Life by Anmol Singh, Learn more about the book and get a Copy at www.Preppingforsuccess.com/book

GUEST POST: Self-Discipline by Anmol Singh

Sing was kind enough to give me some excerpts from his book to share, this is 2 of 4. I don’t think anyone would take me seriously if I gave my take on this book, if anyone’s going to convince you to read this book, it’s going to be Singh himself, so I’m going to let him — make sure you read them all!

Self-discipline. Sounds hard. Boring. Takes forever. Maybe all of the above are true on occasion. But self-discipline is one of the necessary keys to your success in life. So what exactly is it and how do we acquire it?

Speaker/comedian Andy Andrews defines it like this: “Self-discipline is the ability to make yourself do something you don’t necessarily want to do, to get a result you would really like to have.” So it is, in every sense of the word, an inside job. Nobody can do it for you or to you. Rather, it is a combination of commitment and hard work, often over a long period of time, to get where you want to go. It all starts with your ability control your thoughts and actions through discipline. This means managing your thoughts, your behavior, your personal habits, and your emotions. You must keep all of them in check. Does that make you into some kind of unfeeling robot? No, definitely not.

Your self-discipline starts when you learn how to create a personalized set of habits that will enable you to keep moving ahead when the going gets rough. Is it easy? No. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it and everyone would be ragingly successful. As you look around you, you are well aware that’s not happening.

Consider this contrast: in one month, 2,800 people searched the Internet for “self-discipline.” More than 200,000 searched for “fun.” So most people would rather have fun, that quick hit of instant gratification, than go through the lengthy and sometimes painful process of controlling their thoughts and actions and sticking to a job until it is complete. Because after all, isn’t it easier on a cold, dark morning to hit that snooze button and catch an extra hour of sleep that to roll out of bed, make a cup of coffee, and do some inspirational reading? The choice is yours.

Most successful people are long-range planners. Consider these contrasts.

  • Short term: grab that beautiful outfit on sale at your favorite boutique. Long term: pay off your credit card debt.
  • Short term: grab a cigarette to help you relax. Long term: breathe deeply and get healthy.
  • Short term: join the office gang for happy hour after work. Long term: save a few bucks and fatten your savings account.

You get the picture. And you probably know which actions you would be most likely to take.

Whether or not you choose to develop self-discipline is strictly up to you. But before you decide on your next move, consider what NOT having it could be costing you. Listed below are just a few areas of your life where having self-discipline brings success and not having it leads to discomfort, unhappiness, and possibly outright failure.

Self-discipline means looking at the various aspects of your life and quitting activities or habits in those areas that are producing unhappiness and outright dysfunction. Consider how you are functioning in each of these areas of your life right now.

  • Finances
  • Physical health
  • Mental health
  • Important relationships
  • Job and career
  • Spiritual life

It’s entirely possible that you are functioning at peak performance in some places and not in others. For example, many people are so focused on their job, their career, building a business, producing an income—that they are neglecting their health and their important relationships. Right now you can choose to bring things into better balance. You can see the areas where you need to change and begin to develop habits that will bring your whole life picture into clear focus.

The secret to successful change and habit-building is to begin with micro-changes. Let’s say you know your work is consuming the majority of your energy and you’re neglecting your significant other. A micro-change might be to sit down together for a glass of wine one evening a week. Devote all your attention to the other person. Don’t discuss your work, or theirs. And here’s the REAL secret: be consistent. If you’ve promised yourself to do this once a week, do it no matter what. Don’t do it once or twice and then go back to your old ways. That is not habit forming!

An organized life is a disciplined life. Do one small thing each day to improve your personal and business environment, your health, your relationships. That’s all it takes. Before long, you will have become a self-disciplined success.

This was an excerpt from the Book Prepping For Success: 10 Keys for Making it in Life by Anmol Singh, Learn more about the book and get a Copy at www.Preppingforsuccess.com/book

GUEST POST: Patience: Are You a Turtle or a Rabbit? by Anmol Singh

Sing was kind enough to give me some excerpts from his book to share, this is 1 of 4. I don’t think anyone would take me seriously if I gave my take on this book, if anyone’s going to convince you to read this book, it’s going to be Singh himself, so I’m going to let him — make sure you read them all!

Remember the famous race between the tortoise and the hare? The tortoise didn’t care who saw him plodding along, a little road dust clinging to his feet. He was making progress every minute. The hare, on the other hand, relied on the flash and the speed that the tortoise lacked. He sprinted down the path and then felt so confident in winning the race that he stopped for a nap. And when he woke up—oops! The tortoise was crossing the finish line.

And the moral of the story? The race does not always go to the swift. Sometimes it goes to the patient, the plodder. What’s your PQ (Patience Quotient)? Would you rather be flashy or persistent? Which one offers the greatest benefit? Let’s take a closer look.

A related word to patience that’s common in today’s vocabulary is GRIT. The definition boils down mainly to words like “courageously persistent, brave, plucky, showing resolution and fortitude.” GRIT is also described by an acronym that stands for Growth, Resilience, Instinct, and Tenacity. Bestselling books have been written about GRIT. College campuses hold seminars for beginning students to teach them how to acquire and apply GRIT in their studies and careers. There are GRIT boot camps and GRIT support groups. In order to reach your goals, you must have patience; you must have GRIT.

Unfortunately, too many management seminars and self-help course today ignore grit completely. They teach the fallacy of needing Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C. Just by approaching your goals that way, you are subconsciously admitting that Plan A might not work. Something might go wrong, so you should not waste time trying to fix it. Instead, plan in advance to change course. No grit to that strategy, is there?

Here’s a better plan: call on your grit and devote 100% of your energy to Plan A and not even 1% to Plan B. The only time you should move into Plan B is when you have done EVERYTHING you can about Plan A, and you know from your experience that it will not work. According to some experts, grit is the ability to dig deep within ourselves and do whatever it takes — including sacrifice, struggle, and suffer — to achieve our highest goals.  That is a Plan A strategy all the way. That is grit.

We now know WHAT it is. The big question is: HOW do we go about acquiring it? Here’s the good news: grit and patience can be learned. Of course, it doesn’t just happen. You don’t wake up some sunny day and find you have a lifetime supply of patience at your fingertips.

Try this experiment to build your grit capacity: once a week, schedule a Day of Patience. The keyword for this day is FOCUS. Focus on the now, each moment, one instant at a time. Boring client on the phone? Listen and take notes. Pick up on key points of the conversation you can repeat back to her. For one entire day, don’t look forward or back. Live in the moment. Savor it.

Have you ever been to a wine tasting? At a formal tasting, you are presented with five or six different glasses accompanied by five or six different kinds of wine. The sommelier tells you a few things about each wine. Then, slowly, he pours a small amount in your glass. First, you put your nose deep into the glass and inhale. What do you smell? Flowers? Fruit? The scent of soil? You swirl the wine around in your glass. You notice the color and clarity. Then very slowly you take a small sip. You hold it in your mouth and savor the taste. That is the key word: savor. The wine not just something to drink. It has a past, a story, a process all its own. Producing a premium bottle of wine takes years and infinite patience. But the reward is sensational.

Savor your life. Live it with patience and grit. Because the reward is worth it every second of waiting.

This was an excerpt from the Book Prepping For Success: 10 Keys for Making it in Life by Anmol Singh, Learn more about the book and get a Copy at www.Preppingforsuccess.com/book