Sunday, February 28, 2010

Book Log: February 2010

Here's my list of books I finished in February.   A couple of notes:  I'm changing the rating system from 5 stars to 10 stars.  Why?  Because I feel it gives me more flexibility.  An illusion?  Probably.  Secondly, I'm not going to rate Scripture.  It's understood on this blog that it's off the charts. Lastly, I'm going to add a snippet from most books that I appreciated.

11.  Safely Home, by Randy Alcorn.
8.5 out of 10 stars.  I started reading this to the kids back in TX, and we finally finished it.  Alcorn does a great job with a story of persecution in present day China.  Spoiler:  I cried when martyr Li Quan entered heaven.  Alcorn portrays the hosts of heaven & the Li family as anxiously awaiting his immanent entrance into heaven.
They [Li Quan & his guardian angel, Jadorel] passed through the between-world and came to a portal, with faces looking out at them.  Quan heard voices, some Chinese, some English, and at least a dozen other languages that he was somehow able to understand.

"He's coming," shouted someone on the other side.  "Li Quan is coming, and Jadorel carries him."  [This is where I lost it while reading it out loud to the family.  Now understand, we had grown to love Li Quan, and watched him through his imprisonment, starvation, & beatings.]

12.  2 Timothy, by the Apostle Paul.  Paul is in prison and here writes his 2nd letter to his young protege encouraging him to be bold in the faith, to have strength in Christ, & to preach the Gospel in season & out.  So many good quotes here, but this one is one of my favorites:
"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith...The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom.  To him be the glory forever and ever.  Amen."  (4:7, 18)

13.  The Communist Manifesto, by Karl Marx & Friedrich Engles.  5 our of 10 stars.
The only reason this didn't receive a rating of 1 star is b/c of it's historical significance.  Communism is responsible for more deaths in the 20th century than any other philosophy of life.  It's listed as #1 in another book I'm currently reading, 10 Books That Screwed Up The World.  I agree.  Communism is an inherently atheistic approach to life and oppression.  It fundamentally misreads human nature & the will to power, not to mention capitalism.  Most telling quote: 
"Abolish the family!  Even the most radical flare up at this infamous proposal of the communists." 
On a side note, a quote I came across in Kingdom Culture (see below) is appropriate here:  "We have nothing to fear from those who do not believe in God; we have much to fear from those who do not believe in sin" (Chris Hedges). 

Addendum:  After consulting with my friend, David (see comments), I adjusted the rating from 2 to 5.  It's always good to read something like this which has had a profound impact on humanity, even only if it is to understand better how to defeat it.  Note:  generally, the ratings are my subjective impressions on how much I liked the book.  Hence the original rating of 2 for Marx & Engles.  Another system of rating could have it much higher, such as the 10 books that screwed up the world.

14.  Lamentations, by Jeremiah.  Great little book nestled in the OT after the Book of Jeremiah.  Lamentations details the after-shock of OT Israel after they were carried off into exile as an act of justice (b/c she had become more sinful than the surrounding nations) & mercy (God had to put an end to her wickedness, child-sacrifice, sexual perversions, murder, etc).  Favorite line:
But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
"The Lord is my portion," says my soul,
"therefore I will have hope in him."  (3:21-24)
 2nd favorite line:
For the Lord will not cast off forever,
but, though he cause grief,
he will have compassion
according to the abundance of his steafast love;
for he does not willingly afflict
or grieve the children of men.

15.  Black Hawk Down, by Mark Bowden.
9 out of 10 stars.  A very well told story of 'the longest sustained firefight involving American troops since the Vietnam War.'  Many people had never heard of Samolia until CNN carried video of the bodies of US troops being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu. My favorite quote from the book:
"[Captain] Steele gave the unapologetic impression that he could break you with his bare hands if it weren't for his strict devotion to Jesus...." 

16.  Titus, by the Apostle Paul.  Paul's letter to his 'child in the faith,' Titus, whom he left in Crete to establish the church there by appointing elders.  So much of this text has to do with God's people being marked by good deeds--not in order to earn salvation, but to display the salvation received already by faith.  Favorite line:
"The grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works" (2.11-14).

17.  Philemon, by the Apostle Paul. Paul wrote this letter to his friend, Philemon, pleading for Philemon's runaway slave, Onesimus, who evidently became a Christian under Paul's ministry while he was in prison.  Paul sends Onesimus back to Philemon encouraging the latter to receive "him as you would receive me." My favorite line is subversive of an institution at its most powerful for those with eyes to see it.
"For this perhaps is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave, as a beloved brother" (vs. 15-16).  

18.  Kingdom Culture:  Growing the Missional Church, by Phil Wagler.  8 of of 10 stars.
This is an excellent book for doing what the subtitle suggests:  growing the missional church, a theme that is very much in line with my heart.  It was good to see him saying the very things I've been saying:
  • No One Gets Left Behind
  • Our Leaders Lead
  • I am a Disciple of Jesus & I Contribute
  • We Exist for the World Our Lord Came to Save
This will be a trusted resource to go back to over and over again as we go about our business of church planting in Calgary. 

19.  The GOD i Don't Understand:  Reflections on Tough Questions of Faith, by Christopher Wright.  10 out of 10 stars.
I can't say enough good things about this book.  Ever since reading his book, The Mission of God (which has had as big an impact on me as any book I've read), I've had a man-crush on Christopher Wright.  I'm even reading through his commentary on Deuteronomy.  In this book (The GOD i Don't Understand), Wright deals with three questions:  (1)  What about evil and suffering; (2) What about the Canaanites?; & (3) What about the Cross?  I give this book 10 stars b/c I had to put the book down at numerous places having been moved to worship the GOD i don't understand. 

20.  Acts, by St. Luke. This is Luke's record of the Acts of Jesus Christ, Part II.  Part I was the Gospel that bears his name, and Acts is a continuation of the story of Christ's mission that he continues through his church.  There's so much that is good & instructive in this book.  My favorite chapter is Acts 17 where Paul is preaching the Gospel in Athens.  My favorite verse though comes from 20:24 where Paul says,
"But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God." 

21.  Tactics:  A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions, by Greg Koukl.
9 out of 10 stars.  An excellent book by the founder & president of Stand to Reason, an apologetics ministry that seeks to equip believers to share & defend the faith.  This book is a 'must-read' for any Christian who wants to speak intelligently to others about the Gospel.  There is so much practical advice & tactics that I couldn't possibly distill it here.  Just get it, read it, digest it.  You'll be a better equipped disciple if you do.  Favorite quote:
"The most important gauge of our success will not be our numbers or even our impact, but our fidelity to our Savior...Push yourself beyond your comfort zone."

22.  The Golden Booklet of the True Christian Life, by John Calvin.
7.5 out of 10 stars.  This book is a almost a collection of proverbs by Calvin arranged by topics.  Good solid counsel & nuggets of wisdom.  7.5 stars b/c it just didn't read well, but the content was good.
"A true Christian will not ascribe any prosperity to his own diligence, industry, or good fortune, but he will acknowledge that God is the author of it."  

23.  The Logic of Evangelism, by William Abraham.  8 out of 10 stars.
I recently read a blog by an evangelist who said that his church had passed out over 3 million tracts in his city, but saw no noticeable difference in attendance in their church.  This only confirmed to me that so much of evangelism is simply off base, and doesn't take into account a changed life here & now (note:  I'm sure some people were genuinely converted with the tracts--I'm not dogging tracts at all).  But when you read the NT, there was really no such thing as coming to Christ that was not at the same time coming to be a part of the people of God marked out by baptism.  Abraham seeks to address this issue by stating that "we should construe evangelism as primarily initiation into the kingdom of God."  He argues that 'coming to Christ' should entail understanding the rule of his kingdom since he is a king, as well as entrance into the church through the sacrament of baptism.
"What is important is to combat the isolation of evangelism from the full ministry of the church and to rescue it from the shallow anthropocentrism and individualism into which it has tumbled in the last two centuries." 
 Though I definitely do not agree with everything written in this book (why do I even feel the need to qualify my comments?), there is much here that is spot on.  Favorite quote:
"In the end, the kingdom will come; in the meantime let us prepare the world to receive its Lord & Savior."

Friday, February 26, 2010

God's Amnesia

I've been reading through Christopher Wright's book, The GOD i Don't Understand." I have been led to worship & tears again & again. In reading his chapter, "The Cross--How?" I came across this section that was water for my thirsty soul:
We may have no control over what other people think of us, but that need not destroy the proper sense of dignity and self-respect that comes from know the affirmation of God himself...

...the same person, alone with God and the memories of the past, can quite properly feel the most acute inner shame and disgrace. It is not, however, a destructive or crushing emotion. Rather it is the core fuel for genuine repentance and humility and for the joy and peace that flow from that source alone. When I remember my sins I know that God does not. From his side they are buried in the depths of the sea, covered by the atoning blood of Jesus Christ, never again to be raised to the surface and held against me. And it is only in the awareness of that liberating truth that I can(or even ought) to remember them. For this is not the memory that generates fresh accusation and guilt--that is the work of Satan the accuser. Satan's stinging jolts of memory need to be taken straight to the cross and to our ascended High Priest, for
When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see him there
Who made an end of all my sin.
No, this is the memory that generates gratitude out of disgrace, celebration out of shame. It is the memory which marvels at the length and breadth and depth of God's rescuing love that has brought me from what I once was, or might easily have beome, to where I am now, as a child of his grace....

...That is why I said that, of all the things that lead me to speak of the God I don't understand, the cross is top of the list.
Sink your teeth into these promises...
  • Hebrews 10:17, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” 
  • Isaiah 43:25, "I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins."
  • Hebrews 8:12, "For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.”
  • Psalm 103:12, "As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us."
  • Micah 7:19, "You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea."
Do you believe that?  How I am thankful for the amnesia of an omniscient God!

Church planting from scratch is a lot like shaking your booty, I think

You may have seen this video before. I recently came across it again with commentary on leadership.

This basically sums up our endeavors in church planting from scratch. Feels like shaking your booty. Will it catch on? I'm willing to be the fool for Christ. Come, Holy Spirit. (& perhaps, Lord have mercy.)

Will we have any followers? Does anyone want to join the dance? We'll find out soon. Upcoming informational deserts in April for any & all who want to find out more about New City Church.

April 14th & 28th

Click here for more details.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Rap: Austrian vs. Keynesian Economics

My friend, James, posted this video breaking down the differences between the Austrian and Keynesian schools of economics. I too, James, thrown my hat in with Hayek. Shawn, I expect to see Burk singing this along with Nan the next time we get together!

Can you guess whose econ theory is ruling the world right now?

Around the Web

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Atheist vs. Unitarian minister on what is a true Christian

Stand to Reason notes this interesting interaction in an interview in the Portland Monthly, where fire-breathing jihadist* atheist, Christopher Hitchens, responds to a question by a unitarian minister who considers herself a 'liberal Christian', and schools her: 
Maryiln Sewell: The religion you cite in your book is generally the fundamentalist faith of various kinds. I’m a liberal Christian, and I don’t take the stories from the scripture literally. I don’t believe in the doctrine of atonement (that Jesus died for our sins, for example). Do you make and [sic] distinction between fundamentalist faith and liberal religion?

Christopher Hitchens: I would say that if you don’t believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ and Messiah, and that he rose again from the dead and by his sacrifice our sins are forgiven, you’re really not in any meaningful sense a Christian.
Game. Set. Match.  Though I must admit, its tough to know who to root for in this situation.

Btw, did he just unwittingly evangelize her???

[*the term 'jihadist atheist' is the term David Berlinski uses in his book, The Devil's Delusion:  Atheism & It's Scientific Pretensions, to describe the new atheists--zealots who are hell-bent (excuse the pun) on converting everyone to their very narrow & dogmatic beliefs.  I'm only about half-way through this book by a self-described 'secular Jew,' but so far I like it and would recommend it.]

Book Log: January 2010

1.  Born To Run:  A Hidden Tribe, Super Athletes, And the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen, Christopher McDougall.  4 out of 5 Stars.  Great read about a lost tribe of ultramarathoners that the author discovered after asking the question, Why does my foot hurt when I run.  Riveting with unforgettable characters; humorous (in the sad sort of way) chapter on evolution, & great incentive to run!

2.  The Lotus & the Cross:  Jesus Talks With Buddha, Ravi Zacharius. 3.5 out of 5 Stars.  Fun little read of an imaginative conversation that highlights well what Jesus has to offer & why Buddhism is ultimately bankrupt.  Left me wanting more, but the design of the book is for a short conversation.

3.  The One Thing You Can't Do In Heaven, Mark Cahill. 3 out of 5 Stars.  A book mostly about the author's experiences in sharing the Gospel with others--some amazing like with his former teammate Charles Barkley & Michael Jordan, along with an attempt to teach along the way.  Not very well written, IMHO, but a rah-rah book nevertheless. 

4.  Lone Survivor, by Marcus Luttrell.  4.5 stars out of 5.  Fascinating read written by the lone survivor of a group of Navy Seals in Afghanistan.  Fun to read about Navy Seal training, sad to read about the doom sealed by their fear of crucifixion by the liberal media in the USA, & riveting to hear about their gunfight with Taliban being outnumbered by at least 35-1.

5.  Questioning Evangelism, by Randy Newman.  4.5 stars out of 5.  Great read about the art of asking questions when engaging people about the Gospel of Jesus Christ.   Newman insists that Christians need three skills:  declaring, defending & dialoguing the Gospel. 

6.  The Gospel of Matthew, by Matthew.  5 stars out of 5.  Eyewitness account of the life of the Lord Jesus Christ and the inauguration of the Kingdom of Heaven that He proclaimed and ushered in with His life, death, & resurrection. 

7.  Romans, by Paul the Apostle.  5 stars out of 5.  This is Paul's great work detailing for us the revelation of the righteousness of God in how through the work of Christ, God is able to demonstrate His Justice while at the same time being able to justify those who place their trust in Christ. 

8.  1 Timothy, by Paul the Apostle.  5 stars out of 5.  Paul's pastoral letter to his son in the faith, Timothy, in which he calls Timothy to fight the good fight of the faith entrusting to him the teachings that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. 

9.   The Externally-Focused Church, by Rick Rusaw & Eric Swanson.  4 stars out of 5.  The title sums up the book in which they stress that we are not social workers but kingdom builders.  They insist that Christians cannot really grow if they are not involved in service & mission to the communities in which God has placed them.

10.  Heaven is a Place on Earth:  Why Everything You Do Matters To God, by Michael Wittmer.  4 stars out of 5.  Good worldview book about Creation, Fall, Redemption & Restoration of all things in Christ.  The part on Redemption emphasized the cosmic scope of Christ's work almost to the neglect of the personal aspects of redemption (~ 2 pgs.).  Other than that, it is a great read with many memorable quotes.