August 10, 2009
Jared Wilson's book, Your Jesus Is Too Safe, shows us exactly what kind of Jesus the Bible presents, and what kind of Jesus the early Church worshiped. The kind of Jesus that the apostles died for.
When I first heard about this book, I figured that Jared was going to skewer common misconceptions of Jesus. He does, but that's pretty much over with in the introduction to the book. Instead, Jared takes the high road and shows readers exactly who Jesus really was, how that image contrasts with our contemporary ideas of Jesus, and what it means for us today - how it should impact our daily lives and our walk with Him.
This is the kind of book that could easily turn into a heavily theological treatise, with lots of references to Greek grammar. In other words, it could turn into a book that you'd only read if your professor required it. Thankfully, that didn't happen. Your Jesus Is Too Safe is a book that can be read by anyone - I could see this being used as the fuel for a series at any church Bible study or book club. The writing style is familiar and conversational -- my wife had trouble believing I was reading a theology book because of how often I was laughing (make sure you read the footnotes!). But just because it's easy to read doesn't mean that it's theologically light. There's are outstanding discussions of the nature of the atonement, the deity of Christ, the humanity of Christ, etc., all presented in a way that the concepts can be easily understood, along with the implications for our daily lives.
This is a book that I've been eagerly waiting for, just because I'm familiar with Jared's writing and knew that it would be a good book. After reading it, I'm even more eager for more people to read it, because one of the problems I see in contemporary Christianity is that we're worshiping a watered-down Jesus. We see only some aspects of Jesus - the parts that don't really have an impact on our daily lives, the parts that invite us to hang out and be homies. We ignore the aspects of Jesus that call us to repentance, that expect obedience from us, that call us into service for the kingdom of God. Those are Jesus, too. The point of Your Jesus Is Too Safe is to call the church to the worship of all of Jesus, even the parts that make us uncomfortable or call us to action. When that happens, I think that we'll see a true revival in our churches.
But hey, don't take my word for it. This post is just one part of a blog tour that's been put together for this book. It's going on all week this week, and you can find links to other reviews of Your Jesus Is Too Safe right here.
February 10, 2008
I really do enjoy this series. I got the third book to review, and grabbed the fourth when it was offered. Then I found the first two in the series in a single volume (actually, my wife found them and got them for me last year to read at the beach). The characterization is quite good, even though Maisie Dobbs seems almost to be a walking anachronism because of her progressive attitudes. Winspear does an incredible amount of research on these books; even the attitudes of the people ring absolutely true to life.
If you enjoy mysteries, or if you enjoy novels set in 1930s England, you should look into the Maisie Dobbs series. I got started just out of curiosity, but they are on my "must read" list now.
February 05, 2008
In the beginning, you have Benjamin Harris and his Publick Occurrences both Foreign and Domestic (1690). Four pages long, poor formatting, little space between stories -- no headlines. And the first edition was also the last -- Harris' writing was so inflammatory that the colonial government in Boston shut him down. Harris is the forefather of many bloggers who seek to increase readership (and subscribers) by being as outlandish as possible (coughDrudgecough). Unfortunately, there was no freedom of the press back then.
But if Harris was the Drudge of the early colonial period, then John Campbell and his Boston News Letter was the cat blog. Long lasting just because of it's inoffensiveness, Campbell's effort was also excruciatingly dull, and typically included reports of each shipment that came into Boston Harbor.
January 28, 2008
I had a few problems with the book, though, and part of that is probably due to the size. It seemed at times that Cunningham was trying to say that demonimationalism is wrong and divisive, and that we should work to make denominations a thing of the past. In fact, he does say that denominational leaders should work to resolve the differences between denominations, and not let denominational squabbles interfere with cooperation among Christians. But at the same time, Cunningham also says that we have to teach the truth to people who do not believe the truth.
I don't know of any denominational divides that are over things that people think are not important truths. I'm not talking about things like Bible translations or music styles -- I'm talking about church structure, authority structures within the church, proper candidates for baptism, etc. These are all important issues, but they are issues that will not be resolved any time soon. We can cooperate with each other as long as we don't have to compromise on our doctrinal standards, and we should be doing that. But it seems to me that Cunningham is taking both sides of the issue here -- we have to get over our doctrinal divisions, but we also have to teach other Christians the truth. There's some conflict there, and I'm not sure that Cunningham resolves it in this book.
The book is easy to read, though it seemed to go off on tangents at times that reminded me of a few of my own sermons (and some blog posts, too). Some minor grammatical issues stood out for me (LOTS of commas that were in wrong places), but I don't nit-pick about that. On the whole, the book is an interesting perspective on the Christian Unity issue, but one that unfortunately falls short of providing answers.
January 20, 2008
The premise of the book seems to be that part of North American (everything east of the Mississippi, judging from the cover art) broke off from the main continent. This landmass is much closer to Europe than the New World was, and thus is discovered and colonized much quicker (1451).
January 13, 2008
It was interesting looking around the internet and reading some of the responses to this book -- especially the negative ones. It's easy, I suppose, to go negative on a book that takes a new approach to something. It's easier than, say, actually admitting that you might be doing something wrong, or looking at something in the wrong way.
On Tuesday, I mentioned a negative review of this book. Well, it wasn't really a review, since I seriously doubt that the folks at Berean Call actually took time to read the book. And they'd probably take great pride in the fact that they haven't read it.
And that's a shame, because when you actually sit down and read the book, you understand where Nowak is coming from. You start to see what Christians can learn from looking around us, at people who don't serve God, and yet are doing tremendous things.
December 22, 2007
I really think, as I wrote at Blogcritics back in November, that the real value of the book is for Christians, especially Christian leaders. Frank was thrust into a role that he really wasn't cut out for -- he was the heir apparent to his father's ministry. It didn't matter that he enjoyed art, and was a skilled painter and movie maker; he was called to carry on the family business.
Unfortunately, it seems he was called by humans, not by God. And when you enter a ministry without the calling of God on your life, you will not succeed. It seems that now Frank has found his true 'calling' in life; unfortunately, he lost his faith in the process.
November 17, 2007
Basic plot line goes like this -- there's a tablet that was found in the 1920s that is an almost verbatim copy of major parts of Genesis. BUT it's 500 years older than the Genesis accounts, and it claims to have been written by Ishmael. AND it repeats the claim that Jews have been making for thousands of years -- that Palestine belongs to them, not the Arabs.
So you can see that a modern rediscovery of this tablet would cause some serious commotion -- and that's where the book begins. The tablet's been found, and the Middle East is about to explode in a ball of fire.
That's the simple plot. The book is nowhere near that simple. Tied in with the basic plot is the CIA's search for a terrorist, Abu Nazer. Nobody knows who he is, or where he is. But the CIA's getting close. And he's somehow involved with the tablet and it's re-discovery.
Every time you meet a character in this book, you start to wonder who they really are, and what they're really after. That's how complicated things get in this book. The Identity Factor is one of the best spy/thriller novels I've read in a while, just for that reason. Too often, you know exactly what's going on a quarter of the way through the book, and that makes wading through the rest a real challenge. But in The Identity Factor, you're really not sure until the final chapter what actually is going on, and who is who. And yet Turner does this without it seeming contrived.
The Identity Factor is a fast-paced book that you're going to have a hard time putting down. I highly recommend it.
August 05, 2007
June 13, 2007
I just finished a book that I'm going to be doing some blogging about next week -- Devices of the Soul by Steve Talbott. I got this one from O'Reilly, which surprised me a bit. The book is about the dangers of too much technology, and that doesn't seem like something O'Reilly (a tech book company) would publish. But the book is outstanding. Talbott's thesis is that there needs to be a balanced approach to the use of technology in everyday life -- and we don't really have that. Along the way, he makes some interesting points about life in general that should make theists in general stand up and cheer -- even though he stops a bit short of using the word God. More about that later on -- keep checking the blog, or subscribe to the RSS feed!
I just got an Advanced Uncorrected Proof copy of Empires, Wars, and Battles by T.C.F. Hopkins. I reviewed Hopkins' Confrontation at Lepanto for Blogcritics back in September, and really enjoyed it, so I'm looking forward to this latest book.
I'm also reading Simple Church by Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger. I think this book should be sent to every pastor in America -- it's that good, and that important. We're trying to program our way to growth, and we're forgetting that the church has a purpose beyond just getting bigger and bigger -- we're called to make disciples. If our programs aren't directed at doing that one thing, we're wasting our time. And that's the point to this book. I'm almost done -- expect a bigger review here in the near future.
I'm going to have a bit more time to blog soon, but I'll talk more about that when the time comes.
February 17, 2007
4167 David T. Wayne "aka The 'JollyBlogger'" (Glen Burnie, MD United States)
Reviews written: 46
I am a father of three and husband of one and I pastor Glen Burnie Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Glen Burnie, MD. I am an avid reader of theology and fiction. My particular theological interests are in the area of eschatology and sanctification, or whatever theological topic I happen to be wrestling with on a particular day. I also happen to enjoy the study of apologetics and am a confirmed ... more
Now I've written 81 reviews, and he's got 46, so he must be a better reviewer than I am. Or maybe he just reads things more people are curious about -- I tend to get a lot of computer titles. I need to review more fiction -- which I will be doing next week, right here! I finished the latest Jasper Fforde book, The Fourth Bear, and I'll be reviewing it next week -- probably Wednesday.
And I'll get that one on Amazon, and maybe I can overtake the JollyBlogger.
February 04, 2007
Dr. Burke's premise is that there are a lot of people claiming miracles where they don't exist. He doesn't say that God doesn't do miracles today -- he is simply saying that a lot of what we think are miracles are not. The problem lies in how we define a miracle.
C.S. Lewis defined miracles as "... an interference with Nature by supernatural power." Dr. Burke goes a bit further, agreeing with John MacArthur's definition of a miracle as "an extraordinary event wrought by God through human agency, an event that cannot be explained by natural forces." For the purposes of the discussion in this book, with the types of miracle claims Burke is examining, MacArthur's definition serves the purpose better than Lewis'. Burke is attempting to examine specific miracles of healing, especially as manifested among faith-healing televangelists like Benny Hinn.
Many people have examined the faith-healing phenomenon before. The value in a book such as this is that the faith healers are being examined not by an agnostic or an atheist, but by a Christian. The goal is not to debunk belief in God, but to show that the "miracles" wrought by faith healers do not fit the definition -- they are explainable by natural forces, when they are verifiable at all.
The most fascinating part of the book for me was the discussion of the psychological aspects of healing, especially when connected with faith healers. We tend to forget that we've been designed by the ultimate Designer, and He has equipped us with the ability to heal ourselves in many, many cases. Dr. Burke presents a very persuasive case that many people who experience miraculous healings have, in fact, simply allowed their bodies to do what God designed them to do.
Word of faith folks will not like this book -- Burke skewers their "name it, claim it" theology quite well, giving examples of people whose faith is never in doubt but who did not receive the expected physical healing. He reminds us of faith healers who apparently didn't have enough faith to be healed themselves, because they died of heart disease, cancer, etc. And we're reminded that Christ's miracles were done with one purpose -- to give glorify God. Too often, modern miracles are done to glorify the man. That, in and of itself, should be a warning sign to discerning Christians.
Dr. Burke has done the Christian community a valuable service with this book, and the series that it's a part of, An MD Examines. The books are very easy to read, but contain important information that all Christians should have.
August 17, 2006
When I heard that Stephen Langston's EP was an "alternative Christian" release, I had something specific in mind. Relient K, perhaps, or something in the Tooth and Nail tradition. Alternative as a genre is pretty well defined.
But stylistically, Langston has more of a Michael Card meets Glass Harp sound. You can hear the classic rock influences throughout the CD, especially in "Behind The Scenes," which only makes sense as Langston lists Grand Funk Railroad, Cream, and the Beatles among his early influences. So where is the "alternative Christian" sound?
Langston is striving to provide an alternative to popular Christian music in general Â— a genre that has become as over-commercialized as its secular counterpart. At a time when popular Christian music seems to be revisiting the "If you like Motley Crue, you'll like Stryper" days, Stephen Langston is creating music, not copying someone else's style. While you can certainly hear his influences, the way he puts those influences to work is completely unique.
And then there are the lyrics. Back in the day, you could measure how "Christian" a song was by tracking it's JPM (Jesus Per Minute). The more often Jesus was mentioned, the more Christian the song was supposed to be. But Langston's lyrics are much more spiritually mature Â— there's no preaching, and you won't be knocked over the head by a Bible when you listen.
But you can tell that it's Christian music. Lyrics like "Yeah the force of water is a powerful thing/A symbol of the power and the force of the King ... So dip me in the water Â— Cleanse me in the water" from "It's A Powerful Thing" are pretty clearly Christian, but there's no bumper sticker sloganeering here. This is a faith that's meant to be lived, and shared, not plastered on the back end of your Ford.
At a time when so much of what passes for Christian music is incredibly shallow lyrically (and usually theologically as well) and derivative musically, Stephen Langston is a breath of fresh air. Singer/songwriters like him are reclaiming the heritage of Christian music, and providing a great alternative to cookie-cutter music in the process.
July 20, 2006
- The Message of the Old Testament by Mark Dever. This is a huge book, but I'm looking forward to digging in.
- Triumphant Christianity by Martin Lloyd-Jones. Part 5 of his "Studies in the Book of Acts" series. Now I just have to buy the other four!!
- Numbers: God's Presence in the Wilderness by Iain M. Duguid. Part of the "Preaching the Word" series -- which I also will probably have to have.
- No One Like Him: The Doctrine of God by John S. Feinberg. Another huge book, but this one looks like it will be fascinating.
Since I've been on a somewhat enforced absence from Southern (you kinda need money to go to school there, you know!), my theological reading has been a bit lax. I've read a lot of computer/web design books (thanks to the folks at O'Reilly really liking my reviews) and some mystery (Maisie Dobbs especially). I have never actually stopped reading, but my reading list hasn't been what you would call intellectually challenging -- even though the books I've been reading have been awesome. I'm looking forward to digging into some more scholarly fare, secure in the knowledge that I have Season 3 of Superman: The Animated Series on DVD to review.
July 06, 2006
Why Christians Don't Vote For Democrats should be read by every Democratic strategist. Richard Miller is giving them the keys -- he's telling them exactly what they need to change to get the support of evangelical Christians. He's telling them why, for the most part, evangelical Christians don't vote for Democrats. There's no venom -- how could there be, when two of Miller's own daughters are registered Democrats?
This is not a long book -- it's really not hard to show why evangelicals are not voting for Democrats. But the material is presented in a way that a Democrat could read it and, rather than being offended, realize the gulf that separates them from evangelicals.
Miller makes a lot of statements in the book, though, that I would have liked to have seen expanded. We read that "secular Democrats" want to lower the age of consent, don't believe that the teachings of Jesus or Moses have any value, don't want Christians to be able to afford to send their kids to Christian schools, etc. I would have liked to have seen these generalities detailed a bit more -- specific quotes from specific Democratic leaders, for example. A Christian Democrat reading this would of course say "No I don't." Specific examples would have been a welcome addition to the book in these cases.
Miller's purpose in writing this books seems to have been to make people think -- both Democrats and Republicans. He's achieved that goal; there's a lot of material presented in the book that should make people think. As I said, he's provided Democratic leadership with a rough guide to gaining the trust of evangelical Christian voters, if they will read it and listen.
Why Christians Don't Vote For Democrats by Richard Miller, published by Xulon Press. 4 out of 5 stars.
May 29, 2006
May 22, 2006
Thankfully, that is not the case with this book. Charles Buffington III has written this book as a guide to managing your finances with a goal in mind -- and the goal is to use the wealth you get to help others. Wealth is not an end unto itself -- it is a means to an end. The book is really, first and foremost, about stewardship: putting the resources that you have been entrusted with to the best use possible not just for yourself, but for others.
Buffington recognizes that for the average American, debt is a huge problem. In fact, debt has a power to enslave people -- we are stuck in jobs we hate because we have bills to pay. How many of us have ever sat back and said "If I just had these bills paid off, I would..." But unlike so many other writers, he also recognizes that some debt is not avoidable. He breaks debt down into two categories -- constructive debt and toxic debt. Constructive debt is your home mortgage, or your business loan. Toxic debt is the payments on that new plasma TV, or the even bigger car. Constructive debt should be minimized; toxic debt should be avoided.
So many of these "get out of debt and stay that way" books have a very preachy tone. Reading many of them, I feel like I'm in college again, and my father is lecturing me about using and abusing credit. In He Said It! I Did It!, we learn with Buffington, from his father. Each chapter begins with a conversation with Charles Buffington II, where we get an overview of what the chapter is going to teach us. This makes it a lot easier to read -- we know that the author isn't a know it all, because he had to learn these lessons, too, just as we are.
Many of the lessons in the book are common sense: stay out of debt, live below your means, save, invest, etc. We all know that we should do those things. Where the book becomes most valuable is in its example. We see someone who, just like most of us, has heard the lessons but not lived them. He's in the same boat we're in. But he applies these lessons, and ends up better off. He's able to do things for people because he's got the means to do it. He sets a goal, and achieves it by applying the lessons his father teaches him. And those lessons are lessons his father also learned the hard way, so we have two people with whom we can identify. That encouragement, that knowing that these things really do work, is where the book is the most valuable.
May 02, 2006
April 21, 2006
One - like I could get more than a dozen Christians to actually listen to me, much less do what I want them to. Two - the book's good.
The premise: there is a secret society -- similar to the legendary Grail Knights -- tasked with protecting the True Cross, on which Christ was crucified. They have infiltrated every part of the Church all over the world, protecting the fragments of the Cross that have been strewn all over Christendom, with one goal: To bring them all back together, under their control.
The book begins with a series of robberies, and a mysterious corpse. Pieces of the True Cross are being stolen, and the corpse is one of the thieves. He bears intricate body art -- ritual scarification, the result of his induction into the mysterious group known as the Staurofilakes -- the protectors of the Cross.
Vatican paleographer Ottavia Salina is called on to help investigate the crimes, and bring the Staurofilakes back into fellowship with the Catholic Church - by force, if need be. Accompanied by a member of the Swiss Guard and an atheistic professor, she begins her investigation. Aided by clues provided by Dante's Divine Comedy, they move closer and closer to the mysterious group - even as they receive the very same ritual scars as the dead thief.
There is a growing sub-genre of religious fiction - the skeptical, gnostic-based thriller novel. The Da Vinci Code is, of course, the most famous example of this genre, and is responsible for its popularity today. The Da Vinci Code, though, was originally published in 2003, though -- The Last Cato was originally published in 2001, in Spanish. So this is not an example of an author jumping on the bandwagon. It's a wonderfully written story, with healthy doses of skepticism toward religion. The skepticism is not heavy-handed -- in most cases, it's mentioned in passing, with no 'proselytizing' as Dan Brown tends toward in his book. Readers would be well-advised to get a copy of The Divine Comedy as a reference as they read this book, but the important passages are quoted in the book, so that's not essential. You'll never read Dante the same way again, I can promise you that.
Characterization in the book isn't overt or heavy-handed, but by the end you feel like you really know these three people. You sympathize with Ottavia's struggles and her anguish over the direction her life seems to be taking her. By the end, you're pondering the irony in her statement that "Life doesn't drag you along if you don't let it."
One minor quibble with the book, or actually the translation. Latin names are often mishandled, it seems. Eusebius is left Eusebio, for example, almost as if the Spanish name had been left alone, rather than being translated to the proper Latin name. A minor detail, at best, but it did grate on the church historian in me to see familiar names rendered incorrectly.
One reason I would start a protest over the book is that the result of such action seems clear - people will read the book to see what all the fuss is about. And this is a book that deserves to be read. And it didn't borrow anything from Holy Blood, Holy Grail. That in itself deserves high praise indeed. I didn't read The Da Vinci Code, but if this is the type of book publishers are picking up because of Dan Brown's success, then we owe him thanks. Just remember that the book was written two years before Brown's book, and you'll enjoy it even more.
April 14, 2006
Thankfully, I found the book to be neither. How to Be Your Own Publicist finds a great middle-ground between people who just want to get attention for their cause/business/writing/blog and people who are getting ready to head up the PR department in their own small business. The book is easilly accessible for those with no marketing background, with plenty of meat for people with more experience.
The most valuable part of the book for me were the sections on creating press kits and writing press releases. I'm looking at moving my podcasting beyond just a hobby, and I learned a lot that I can use to promote both my podcasts and myself as a podcaster. I'll be making use of those ideas in the very near future. There are also valuable sections on getting yourself recognized as an "expert" in your field -- leading to radio and TV interviews where you can let people know about your product/service/company. Hatchigan also covers what not to do, including the infamous "soup to nuts" speeches where you overload your audience with too much information. She also cautions budding publicity hounds to use "publicity stunts" with great care -- don't let the stunt overshadow what you're trying to promote. This reminds me of commercials that I see all the time -- witty, memorable skits that leave you humming the tune but wondering what they were trying to sell.
Knowing how to attract attention to your business -- or your blog, or your podcast -- is important. Being able to create not only an impression, but also a memory -- and a good one -- is also important. How to Be Your Own Publicist shows you how to do both.
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