Book Review: “Kingdom Come: The Amillennial Alternative” by Sam Storms

The first question on my mind when someone mentions they’ve read a book like Sam Storms’ Kingdom Come: The Amillennial Alternative is “Did it convince you to become an amillennialist?” In this case, the answer is no, it didn’t convert me to amillennialism. But that shouldn’t be held too strongly against the book, as it is still an important and helpful read regardless of whether it convinces you in regard to amillennialism. In Kingdom Come Storms not only does an excellent job of articulating the amillennial position, he deftly speaks to a range of different topics including Bible interpretation and various eschatological issues.

Kingdom Come is a huge book that touches on many topics including hermeneutics, prophecy in Daniel, the Olivet Discourse, premillennialism, the Antichrist, and others. But it circles (sometimes in large circles) around 2 main emphases: dismantling dispensationalism and building up amillennialism. Broadly speaking, popular dispensationalism is a way of understanding scripture, distinguishing itself on two big points: literal Biblical interpretation and the view that God has distinct and different plans for Israel and the Church. Storms spends much of the book explaining, dissecting, and refuting the different aspects of dispensationalism. Storms’ treatment of dispensationalism alone makes Kingdom Come worth reading. It is so thorough and well-presented that I think Storms would be well-served to pull out this material, brush it up, and publish it as a standalone refutation of dispensationalism.

Storms’ other major focus is promoting Amillennialism. Premillennialism holds that the millennium–mentioned explicitly only in Revelation 20–is a literal 1000 year reign of Christ on earth which occurs after His second coming.  Amillennialism sees the millennium as  “the present age of the Church between the first and second comings of Christ” and, therefore, not a literal 1000 years. Storms’ presentation of amillennialism and the argument for it is deep, wide, and thorough. I find it difficult to imagine another book giving a more full and well-rounded explanation and defense of amillennialism than Kingdom Come does. Unfortunately, while I am completely on board with Storms when it comes to laying aside popular dispensationalism, I just can’t quite follow him all the way into amillennialism. I understand how Storms brings together the eschatological puzzle pieces the way he does, but I still find the premillennial case slightly more compelling.

Regardless of your position on Biblical hermeneutics and eschatology, Kingdom Come is a great read which is likely to challenge your viewpoint and expand your understanding in several important areas.

Available from the publisher here.

Available from Amazon here.

Visit Sam Storms online here.

VidAngel Review: Low Cost Filtered Movies

VidAngelI have a confession to make: I love movies. Unfortunately many of the movies I’m interested in seeing have questionable or downright unacceptable content from a Christian perspective. While I probably won’t be accused of being a prude, I have become more conscientious  about what I allow into my (and my kids’) brain. That’s where VidAngel comes in with a handy solution: low cost filtered movies and TV shows. VidAngel‘s cost is so low, in fact, you may want to use their service even if you’re not interested in filtering.

VidAngel allows you to stream movies and TV with custom filters on several different platforms (Roku, AppleTV, Chromecast, Android, Smart TVs, and via the web). The custom filters allow you to remove language (cursing/profanity), sex/nudity/immodesty, violence/blood/gore, alcohol and drug use, and even the remove opening and closing credits.

Filters can be extensive and remove all levels of objectionable content, only remove the most extreme elements, somewhere in between, or apply no filtering at all. What is filtered is up to you.  Here are the filter options for sex/nudity/immodesty, for instance:

VidAngel filter

Each of the lines in the image above is a filter which can be left on or turned off. The lines with a strike through (like “Implied Nudity”) are turned on, so that content will not be seen when the video is streamed. Turning a filter on or off is a simple as a mouse click. Filter settings can be saved as an account default which then filters all the movies you stream, or you can apply filters on a movie-by-movie basis.

Movies and TV episodes are $1.00 for SD or $2.00 for HD if watched within 24 hours. Admittedly VidAngel‘s purchase system felt a little fishy to me initially, but having done it many times now I’m completely comfortable with it.  Apparently it isn’t legal for VidAngel to rent you a filtered movie. But there’s a loophole: once you own a movie you can do whatever you like with it, including having VidAngel stream a filtered version of the movie to you.

The VidAngel purchase page.
A sample VidAngel purchase page.

A “rental” from VidAngel consists of you buying the movie from them for $20.00, streaming your filtered movie within 24 hours, then selling back the movie to VidAngel for $19.00 if you watched the movie in SD or $18.00 if you watched it in HD.  So streaming the filtered movie cost you either $1.00 for SD or $2.00 for HD. VidAngel includes the option to auto-sellback once you’ve finished the video which makes the sellback extremely easy. You can also skip the sellback altogether, keep the movie permanently in your account, and stream the filtered version whenever you like with no further charge (though I’ve never done this myself).

My family has streamed over 20 different movies from VidAngel over several months with virtually no issues. We primarily purchase and stream movies via Roku, though I’ve purchased and streamed them from web browser and beamed them to Chromecast as well. I can’t speak to their customer support as I’ve had no need to contact them about anything so far.  Billing and sellback have always gone off without a hitch.

As for the edits made based on your filter settings, I’d rate them as quite good. They’re easily as good as edited for TV versions of movies, maybe better. When entire scenes are removed (for, say, sexual content)I’m typically not even aware it has happened.  Language edits are not bleeps, but simply cut the sound so there is a moment of silence which is minimally intrusive.

Overall I can heartily recommend VidAngel to anyone who is interested in filtering language, sexual content, or other potentially objectionable material. And at $1.00 per movie for 24 hours VidAngel may be the most cost effective way to watch a movie you aren’t able to watch elsewhere (like Netflix) even if you don’t do any filtering at all.

Try out your first movie or TV show on VidAngel here.

VidAngel Price

Book Review: “The Treasure Principle” by Randy Alcorn

The Treasure Principle by Randy AlcornRandy Alcorn’s The Treasure Principle does not look like a book I would typically read.  It’s a short, small format hardcover (a la The Prayer of Jabez) with a title that conjures prosperity gospel promises of blessings from God in this life. Precisely the sort of book I would usually avoid reading. But I’ve recently had several brushes with Alcorn’s material, appreciated much of what he had to say, and had intended to pick up one of his many books when I had the chance.  It just happened that the first Alcorn book I ran across was The Treasure Principle. And I’m very glad it was.

Despite what the title might lead you to assume, The Treasure Principle is not about gaining treasure in this world. Rather, the book is grounded in Jesus’ words from Matthew 6:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”–Matthew 6:19-21

Alcorn points out that one of our advantages as Christians is we know, one way or another, the end of this life is coming:

As a Christian, you have inside knowledge of an eventual worldwide upheaval caused by Christ’s return. This is the ultimate insider trading tip: Earth’s currency will become worthless when Christ returns – or when you die, whichever comes first. (And either event could happen at any time.)

Because we know this life will come to an end and everything we have will be left behind, Alcorn wisely encourages us to follow the Treasure Principle: “You can’t take it with you–but you can send it on ahead.”

If you feel uncomfortable with the idea that Christians ought to be motivated by Heavenly reward (and not just the love of God), Alcorn reminds the reader that it is Jesus Himself who told us to store up treasure in Heaven. “If it were wrong,” Alcorn writes, “Christ wouldn’t offer it to us as a motivation. Reward is His idea, not ours.”

Alcorn then expands the Treasure Principle into 6 “Treasure Principle Keys”:

1) God owns everything; I’m His money manager.

We are the managers of the assets God has entrusted–not given–to us.

2) My heart always goes where I put God’s money.

Watch what happens when you reallocate your money from temporal things to eternal things.

3) Heaven–the New Earth, not the present one–is my home.

We are citizens of “a better country–a heavenly one”. (Hebrews 11:16)

4) I should live today not for the dot, but for the line.

From the dot–our present life on earth–extends a line that goes on forever, which is eternity in Heaven.

5) Giving is the only antidote to Materialism.

Giving is a joyful surrender to a greater person and a greater agenda. It dethrones me and exalts Him.

6) God prospers me not to raise my standard of living, but to raise my standard of giving.

God gives us more money than we need so we can give–generously.

The Treasure Principle is overflowing with great illustrations and anecdotes supporting Alcorn’s keys. One of the most powerful anecdotes comes from Alcorn’s own life: he has been forced by a multi-million dollar court judgment to live on minimum wage since the early ’90s.  Yet Alcorn views this turn of events as “one of the best things that ever happened” because “God used it to help [him] understand what He means by ‘Everything under Heaven belongs to me’ (Job 41:11).”

The book concludes with “31 Radical, Liberating Questions to Ask God About Your Giving” which give a practical way to move forward with shifting your finances toward storing up treasure in the next life.

If you’ve been a Christian for any amount of time I suspect none of the ideas Alcorn presents will be new or surprising to you. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t read this book.  If you’re like me you often go about your day storing up treasures in this world while paying lip service to the next life, and I found The Treasure Principle to be the “shot in the arm” I needed to push me to the next step of faith in giving.

In The Treasure Principle  Randy Alcorn excels at encouraging the reader to shift their focus off the treasure of this world and on to the next.  I agree with Alcorn when he says in the book:

The fact that you’re reading these words is likely part of God’s plan to change your life–and in turn to change history and eternity.

Never condemning but often convicting, The Treasure Principle is a book every Christian ought to read while conducting a self-evaluation of where their treasure is being stored up. If you take the teachings of this book seriously you won’t be able to walk away unchanged.

Rating: 5/5 stars

Click here to view the book on Amazon.

Book Review: “The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert” by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield

The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely ConvertThe Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert recounts the unlikely story of Rosaria Butterfield’s conversion to Christianity. In the late ’90s, Butterfield was living a contented life as a lesbian professor of English at Syracuse University specializing in “Queer Theory.” Butterfield describes herself at the time as not just a lesbian, but a lesbian activist, who viewed Christians as “bad thinkers” and “bad readers” who “bring the Bible into a conversation to stop the conversation, not deepen it.”

Despite being entrenched in a worldview and lifestyle almost as far as one could be on the opposite end of the spectrum from classical Christianity, Butterfield’s intention to write a a book about the rise of the religious right set her down a path which ultimately led to her conversion to Christianity.  Along with that conversion she ultimately abandoned her lesbianism, feminism, and even her job to become, in her words, just as much of an “out Christian” as she had previously been an “out lesbian.”

But The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert ends up being about much more than just Butterfield’s conversion. I estimate that close to 50% of the book is about her post-conversion life as a member of the Reformed Presbyterian church, her marriage to pastor Kent Butterfield, adoption and foster care, and homeschooling. Most of this is simply Butterfield sharing the facts and events of her life with a light explanation of the Biblical ideals which have driven her in these directions after her conversion.

While I doubt someone in a similar position to Butterfield prior to her conversion would find the book to be a convincing case for converting to Christianity, I would guess that was not Butterfield’s intention in writing it.  Viewed as simply a autobiographical account of how God can work transforming miracles in even the most hardened sinner, I feel The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert is a success. While I disagree with some of her theological positions–the view that church gatherings should only sing Psalms, for example–there are no issues serious enough to deter me from recommending this book to Christians or non-Christians.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Click here to view the book on Amazon.