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."


Dave said...

I'm a little curious about your rating for #13 - the communist manifest - and the rating system at large.

Would it make sense to separate out future ratings into you-should-read-this and this-says-something-I-agree-with-in-an-understandable way.

i.e. the argument that you should better understand, in this case, communism than the average communist in order to reason with them?

Something like the communist manifesto might rank quite highly on one category and extremely low on another.

John said...

Good point, David. I'll add an addendum.

Courtney said...

I just want to say that I cried just reading the excerpt from Safely Home. That might just end up on my reading list this year. Great post!

John said...

Thanks for sharing that, Courtney. Alcorn has a few other fictional books out, but I haven't read any of them. He has a book called, "Heaven," which I definitely recommend. He also has out a book that's a take off of CS Lewis' "Screwtape Letters" which I want to check out sometime to.

The Fergie's miss Courtney. Hope you are doing well.