The Burning of Any Book

I’ve been tempted to write this only as a journal entry. I want to organize my thoughts, but not to take any real risks. But few people read my blog anyway.

I pay very little attention to the media. Too much bias, and too many non-issues blown out of proportion. Normally, anything important enough for me to know about will find me. Lately, I’ve heard a bunch of noise about some apparent kook from a small church in (nowhere) planning to burn a bunch of Korans on 9-11.

Sounds like a silly and pointless stunt to me. Barely worthy of my attention. Had the Facebook posts stopped after the first one, I wouldn’t have noticed.

Continue reading

Book Review: Jesus Manifesto by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola

This book took me a long time to read. That’s partly because I was busy, and mostly because I didn’t like it. But, I felt duty-bound to finish it and post a review, although way too late for the book’s launch.

I got an email from somebody inside Thomas Nelson. This person got my name from somewhere else, and asked if I’d like an advanced copy of the book. I emailed back to say that I would, and I’d be glad to read the book and post a review. This book didn’t come from Thomas Nelson’s BookSneeze program. I thought I was finally becoming important enough to have books come to me. Some bloggers get books unsolicited. I was hoping that some day, that would be me.

The authors of the book are Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola. I don’t think I’ve read anything from either author before. I’m not familiar with them, but I think I’ve heard good things about them.

The subtitle of the book is “Restoring the Supremacy and Sovereignty of Jesus Christ”.

I’m not sure who the audience for this book is. Obviously, there is one. Thomas Nelson wouldn’t publish and distribute and promote a book that isn’t going to sell. So obviously, they expect it to sell.

The premise of the book seems to be “The church almost as a whole has drifted away from the simplicity of the Gospel, and we need to restore everything the church does to just that: just Jesus.” If you’ve read many of my blog posts, you know what I think about that line of reasoning. If we’re going to say “the church has drifted”, that means there was a point in time when the church hadn’t drifted. Read the Book of Acts! The church struggled with these same issues right out of the gate! It’s always battled with this kind of thing. I’m not sure why so many authors think “I’m just the man God needs to right this ship! I can write a book that’ll fix everything”. Sure, Paul and Peter and James and John couldn’t do it. But a 21st century author can do it.

Lest you think I’m putting words in the author’s mouths, let’s look at a few things. On page xx of the introduction is the following:

The Lord Jesus Christ is far beyond what most of us could ever dream or imagine. His greatness, His beauty, and His splendor are unknown to many Christians today (My note: does this imply they were known to Christians at some point in the past, since we’re “getting worse all the time”?)This is why a fresh look at him –a fresh Christology- is so vital. To put it in a sentence: To faithfully represent Jesus in our time requires re-presenting Him. And that’s why we are attempting to write this book.

In the margin, I wrote “But is this new?” I think Solomon would disagree with the authors:

[Ec 1:1] The words of *the Preacher,* the son of David, *king in Jerusalem.

[2] *Vanity* of vanities, says *the Preacher,
*vanity of vanities! *All is vanity.

[3] *What *does man gain by all the toil
at which he toils under the sun?

[4] A generation goes, and a generation comes,
but *the earth remains forever.

[5] *The sun rises, and the sun goes down,
and hastens* to the place where it rises.

[6] *The wind blows to the south
and goes around to the north;
around and around goes the wind,
and on its circuits the wind returns.

[7] All *streams run to the sea,
but the sea is not full;
to the place where the streams flow,
there they flow again.

[8] All things are full of weariness;
a man cannot utter it;
*the eye is not satisfied with seeing,
nor the ear filled with hearing.

[9] *What has been is what will be,
and what has been done is what will be done,
and there is nothing new under the sun
. (ESV)

On page xxii, the authors write: “we believe that the major disease of today’s church is JDD: Jesus Deficit Disorder.” And “But increasingly, the church likes the church, yet they don’t like Jesus.”

On page 14 in chapter 1 is the following:

Both of us have developed the habit of counting the number of times the preachers we hear mention the Lord Jesus. Sadly, in many cases, contemporary preachers and teachers who spend an hour speaking on a subject, mention the Lord just once or twice. Sometimes the number of mentions is zero. Compare that with how many times Paul referred to Christ in the opening chapters of some of his letters:

My wife and another woman were joking about a habit the children have picked up. Ask any child in Sunday school at our church what they learned about, and they’ll reply “Jesus”. It doesn’t matter what the lesson is. In any case, I wrote in the margin around this paragraph that I’d like to know what churches and preachers the authors listen to. I’d like to invite them to listen to a few of Pastor Bill’s sermons and tell me he doesn’t preach the name of Jesus regularly.

I could keep going. Once the introduction is out of the way, the authors spend 8 more chapters breast feeding their audience what the writer of Hebrews called “milk”.

I’m sure both writers are great people. But this book made me angry. The only reason I bothered to finish it is because I told Thomas Nelson’s representative I’d post a review of the book. Books like this seem to have an “Elijah Complex”.

1 KI 19:[14] He said, *“I have been very jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, *thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” [15] And the LORD said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus. And when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael to be king over Syria. [16] *And Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint to be king over Israel, and *Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint to be prophet in your place. [17] And the one who escapes from *the sword of Hazael *shall Jehu put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu *shall Elisha put to death. [18] *Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not *kissed him.”

In other words, “Oh, woe is me! The entire church has strayed away into Purpose Driven and Best Life stuff. We’re the only two left! How can we hope to restore the church?

Almost 2 years ago, I wrote a post called “Christian Heuristics”. In it, I asked why we comment that Jesus Christ is written on every page of the Bible, yet we restrict ourselves to so few pages of the Bible, especially when visitors are present. I wrote the post about the time we started taking the kids to AWANA at the church we’re now with. I sat through the adult class. The elder teaching, who is a good friend of mine now, seemed to make the assumption that as a visitor, I wasn’t saved and spent the entire class reviewing some very basic material.

How can anybody expect to learn and grow (i.e.. discipleship) when our books and sermons are little more than an exposition of “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so”?

My verdict: read Jesus Manifesto if you have no idea who Jesus Christ is. Or read it if you’re one of those people who is well studied, but still gets off reading about how stupid and far behind everybody else is. Some people really enjoy that for some reason.

Otherwise, get out there and meet a few people. Stop assuming that the entire church is apostate. Find a place to serve. Find needs to meet. Find a class to teach, or another way to use your God-given gifts. I’m tired of books that do little more than assume everybody but the authors and their little circle has drifted away from the truth of Jesus, and is either stupid or apostate.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Quick Review of What Is The Gospel by Greg Gilbert

Please forgive any formatting errors. I am trying out WordPress for iPhone. I’ll fix formatting problems later.

I like to read. Occasionally, I’ll go on Amazon to see what Kindle books are available for free. Then I download far more than I could hope to read in one lifetime.

Recently, I discovered a book for free in Kindle format for a limited time called “What Is the Gospel” by Greg Gilbert. I downloaded it, and got around to reading it. It’s part of a 9 Marks series.

First, the positives. The book was well written. It was written very lovingly and should be of use to it’s target market. I hope it is. I have no qualms about the book in that regard.

Now for my thoughts. Take a drive around your neighborhood. Notice all of the churches? There are a lot of churches around. Considering all of the churches around, isn’t it a little embarrassing how many “What Is the Gospel” books have to be written? What is really embarrassing is the number of self-proclaimed Christians who apparently need these books.

At this point, I’m thinking of Paul’s words in Philippians:
Philippians 2:12 (ESV)
[12] Therefore, my beloved, *as you have always *obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,

What I’m thinking of is that we need to take some responsibility for our own growth. We’re not supposed to wait to e spoon fed, or for God to miraculously change us. Yes, I believe that He can, but I’m not so sure that in most cases, He will.

I know many churches are full of well meaning people who simply don’t grow. It can be very frustrating, especially in a smaller church, when a few people are burning out doing all the serving while many just show up to get their tickets punched. At one point in our last church, Christina taught the 2-3 year old class for four consecutive quarters because nobody else would step up to teach. She had more than 10 children in that class, so there were many other parents, but nobody was interested in teaching that class. She got a one quarter break after a solid year, then was right back to it. The church we’re at now had to shut down some children’s activities because of a lack of volunteers.

I must admit, it scares me how many people identify as Christians, compared to the need for books explaining to them the very basic points of what they claim to believe. This is what the writer of Hebrews called milk. Baby food.

A couple of years ago, I worked out a scale for Christian books. I rate them as beginner, intermediate, and advanced. Maybe I should change that to breast milk, mush, and hearty steak. I would rate “What Is the Gospel” as beginner/breast milk. I don’t mean that as a slam against the author. The author is a pastor, and I’m glad he has a heart for God’s flock. I am very thankful for good pastors. I wouldn’t be whatever I am today without a few.

Verdict: read it if you have no idea what the Christian Gospel is, or have no idea how to explain it. Alternately, read it if you want to. Don’t let my cynical opinions talk you out of buying a book. But really, if you’re a Christian you should know this already. You should be looking to grow and get off the milk.

Bezos: Kindle is “Buy Once, Read Everywhere”

I'm happy about this. One massive problem I've had with adopting eBooks, a technology that I'm really excited about, is a fear of "platform lock-in". 

Let me explain. Say you buy an eBook device. It doesn't matter which one. Kindle, iPad, Sony eReader, whatever. Now you can only buy books from a single provider. And if that provider goes out of business, or if your hardware becomes obsolete, you might lose access to your books.

I have an iPhone and a Barnes & Noble nook. I almost never use the nook. I've only gotten free books for it. It was a Christmas present (or an unmentionable solstice cultural observance present for those of you who go into seizures at the mention of Christmas). I'd hoped to be able to read pdf files on the nook, but most of them don't format properly which renders it nearly useless.

Any Barnes & Noble books I buy can be read on my PC and iPhone. But still, Amazon has a better inventory, and often better prices, so when I buy eBooks, I buy them from Amazon.

Also, Sony books can also be read on a PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad, etc. But still, Amazon has a better inventory with better prices.

I'm convinced that the hardware eBooks are read on is a secondary factor. What matters most is content. Who has the best content, at the best price, with the best way to avoid obsolescence? So far, in my observation, the winner is Amazon.

Which is why I was happy to see Jeff Bezos' (founder of Amazon) quote in this blog post. Despite providing their own hardware (Kindle), Amazon is still committed to delivering content (books) as far and wide as possible. Even though I have a competing device, most of my purchased content is for Kindle, which I read on my iPhone and computer.

Book Review: Mystically Wired by Ken Wilson

I haven’t read many books on Prayer. It’s one of the spiritual disciplines that I believe I’m weakest in. Most of the books on Prayer I’ve read are expositions of the “Lord’s Prayer”.

I remember a comment Bob Bly made on the difference between a “what to do” book and a “how to do” book.  For instance, a book that tells you that you should pray, and lists the benefits of prayer, and maybe even tells you stories about other people’s prayers, would fall under a “what to do book”.

I think Mystically Wired is a “how to do” book. It’s different from other books I’ve read on the subject of prayer.

The point to the book is our brains are wired for prayer. Even if we don’t think we’re good at it, we can learn the discipline of prayer by forming new habits. We can rewire the synapses in our brains by forming new habits around the discipline of prayer.

I’ll admit, I was very skeptical in the first chapter. Looking at my notes in the early chapters of the book, you can tell that I was gearing up for a disagreement with the author. He convinced me of his point of view though by the 3rd chapter.

The author discusses current studies about the brain to make his case that we’re Mystically Wired to pray. Much of the information he cites agrees with what I read in This Is Your Brain on Joy by Dr. Earl Henslin. The author shares his own experiences in prayer over the course of his life, as well as several methods he’s used in his prayers. He then includes many practical tips for forming new habits in your prayer life. I will probably incorporate most into mine.

If you’re looking for a practical book on prayer, get this one.

Book Review: Wild At Heart by John Eldredge

John Eldredge updated Wild At Heart for 2010. It was first written in 2001.

I first read the book in 2007. I taught a class on the book at my church for the fall quarter of 2008.

The book is written from a Christian perspective. With his wife, John Eldredge wrote a version of the book for women called Captivating. For non-Christian readers, I don’t believe the book was overly evangelistic. You may find it helpful.

The premise of Wild At Heart is that the church, as it exists today, teaches men that their ultimate aim as Christian men is to be “really nice guys”. Secular society doesn’t do much better, as it seeks to feminize and emasculate men. John Eldredge makes his case that Adam was created in the wilderness, then brought into the Garden, where Eve was taken from his rib. This means that man has something wild in his heart, and he spends his life trying to recapture it. John says that every man has 3 needs:

  1. A Battle to Fight
  2. An Adventure to Live
  3. A Beauty to Rescue

He also says that every man asks the same question: “Do I have what it takes?” Every many also carries a wound, usually inflicted by his father (or the lack of a present father). He often looks to the wrong places for the answer to his question. His mother cannot answer it, nor can his wife. Seeking the answer from these can cause more harm.

He then lays out the enemy, the strategy, the beauty, and the adventure, and urges the reader to write the next chapter.

John Eldredge uses movies and literature for illustrations for his point.

Many reviewers complain that the book is little more than an urge to be over-macho, with its constant references to mountain climbing and horseback riding. John Eldredge claims that is not the point, but some readers can’t get past it. I personally have no urge to climb a mountain or camp or hike through bear-infested woods armed with only a whistle. Every time I think about how cool a Jeep looks, I have to remind myself how horrible they drive. But I found the book helpful in some ways.

I compared the 2010 edition against my original 2001 edition. In the text of the book, there are some minor editing revisions. A few paragraphs have been reworded. I found a few new paragraphs in one section, and a few removed in another. The major changes include the addition of an Epilogue, “The Daily Prayer”, “A Prayer for Sexual Healing”, and the except from “The Way of the Wild Heart” has been replaced with an excerpt for “Fathered By God”. If you have the original edition, you shouldn’t need to buy the new one. I got a review copy from Thomas Nelson, the publisher. If you’d like to get free books in exchange for a review, check out Thomas Nelson’s Book Sneeze.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

INC Magazine: Top Business Books

INC Magazine has a list of the “Top Business Books”. I’ve actually read one of them. You can try to guess which one.

Of all the reading lists I’ve come across, INC’s is one of the least inspiring. I don’t know if it’s because the reviews are so short. They’re way too short to tell you why that particular book would be useful, at least, in my case. Seeing how these books come from 800ceoread, they’re probably for people high up in large organizations.

I have found a few useful reading lists. Joel Spolski put together a list for a software MBA curriculum his company was offering about 5 years ago. I can’t find evidence at this point that this list has been updated. I also recently blogged about the Personal MBA Reading List. A couple of years ago, I wrote a blog post about a Navy Reading List I came across.

I think reading lists are important. When I come across people I respect and admire (and want to be like), I always want to find out what books they’ve read.

Do you follow a reading list? Where do you get your ideas for books to read from?

eReader Race: iPad in the Lead, nook Ahead of Kindle

That was hard to keep straight. According to The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW), Barnes & Noble's nook is beating out Amazon's Kindle, but the iPad is outselling both. Well, good.

I have a nook. I don't have a Kindle or an iPad. I'd like them. I read Kindle books on my iPhone. 

In the grand scheme of things, I don't see any doubt that the iPad has the most elegant user interface (UI). It also has the most function. Not only can you read a book, you can write a blog post ABOUT the book on the same device. Technically, you can do that on an iPhone as well, but it'll be more challenging.

I would say as a runner up in elegance, nook comes in second, although I've never physically touched a Kindle. I've never seen one up close. I've seen plenty of pictures and unboxing videos of them, but never seen one in person. Nook is very streamlined and pleasing to the eye. It would be #1 if the iPad didn't exist.

But when it comes to any kind of eBook reader, content is king. I don't care how cool your iPad or nook is if you can't read anything on it. At the present time, Amazon is the king of content.

I've bought a few Kindle books. I haven't bought any books for nook yet. Both Amazon and B&N offer free eBooks. B&N's don't seem to update very often though. I got my nook on January 15. At the time, B&N offered 2 books for free in a Star Wars fiction series. I downloaded them. Amazon offers those two plus book 3, which has yet to show up on Barnes & Noble. I've seen very little change in Barnes & Noble's selection (at least their free selection). 

What my nook is good for is reading pdf files. I download a lot of free pdf documents and rarely get around to reading them. I haven't found a good (free) way to read pdf documents on my iPhone, and my netbook's battery life is pretty bad (2 hrs). So I put them on my nook. But for books, I typically use Amazon.

I would love to see a universal content. Then you could buy the reader that you want, and buy the content that you want, and join them together. I don't like the current model where the reader you choose will dictate the content you can buy. The latest software update for nook allows web browsing and playing chess. Whoopee! I'd rather be able to read my Kindle content on it.

The Fastest Way To The Top

Most of my life, I’ve tried to take the fastest path I could find to the top. It’s rarely worked well. At times, I’ve felt like an overachiever. At other times, I’ve felt like a total failure.

In November, after I realized that my job was headed south, I bought Rabbi Daniel Lapin’s book “Thou Shall Prosper”. I bought the 1st edition for Kindle and read it on my iPhone. It took months to finish reading. I digested it slowly. I’ve been wanting to find some way to work for myself for a while. I don’t know if this is it or not, or if I still have to learn more. I don’t know.

This isn’t a tangent. I’m bringing two threads together. While I’ve been unemployed, I rediscovered Diablo. I started playing the first version in 1999 or 2000. I used to play a modem game with a guy from work. It was a great stress reliever. After a long day of development testing, I could go home, pop a cold beer, and fire up Diablo. I’d walk through the dungeons slaying monsters and pretending they were Lockheed Martin engineers. Until you’ve had to support them, you won’t understand. I don’t mean the monsters.

Continue reading

Tim Challies is Shutting Down 10 Million Words

In a blog post on April 22, Tim Challies announced that he had to shut down his 10 Million Words project.

The concept of the project was very exciting to me. Tim was going to read every New York Times non-fiction bestselling book in 2010. He was also going to write a review of each. It was a VERY ambitious project. I would love to have done something similar. But, I don’t have the money or the ability to read fast enough to keep up. I envy people who can read a book a day or more, and still comprehend.

Tim hoped to gain an understanding of our times through this project. I enjoyed following along. You can learn a lot about a society and a worldview by which books are popular.

A fascination of mine is to analyze what ideas and philosophies influenced history.

Tim stepped down because of the book he was writing. That’s right, a man who was writing a non-fiction book also somehow found time to read 4-5 books a week on top of his own research. He was also called to serve as an elder in his church. That is quite a time commitment.