Monday, December 10, 2012

Jesus: a Theography

Jesus:  A Theography by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola

The title itself should be an alert that something is different.  The authors have coined a new word, theography.  Perhaps it will become a new genre in books, but since it is unique enough to apply to just one person, maybe not. 

The book is a long read—requiring more than an afternoon sitting.  At times it was documented well enough to be a scholarly treatise, but at other times it was obvious that the writers were simply story-telling for the masses.  Whichever mode the authors were in, they were challenging old paradigms of concepts concerning the Christ.  While I did not find anything contrary to scripture, they often used their imaginations to stretch our thinking about Jesus.

I must admit that the first half was an analytical time for me weighing the various assertions, but by the time I was 2/3 through the narrative, my mind was often contemplating the fuller meanings suggested by the text.  I found it fascinating to see all the other connections between the two testaments.  While I knew many, there were fresh ideas throughout the book.

This will be one book I will re-read, not only with a high-liter but with a notepad.  It has launched me into new understandings of our great Savior.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Magic Man in the Sky

by Carl Gallups

The culture of the United States has undergone tremendous changes in the past 50 years.  The decade of the sixty’s witnessed the questioning of authority—parents, church, government, etc.  When we look beneath the surface of that rebellion, we find the underlying battle was the rejection of God.  “Intellectuals” led the drive to replace faith with science, and the results have had a devastating effect on culture. 

Carl Gallups lays out the contrasts in this new book and does a remarkable job in identifying the real questions that must be answered.  He also shows that the debate is often skewed so the answers are assumed.  The book begins with a conversation of two college students, and I find the dialogue to be real because I spent several years working on college campuses in the 70’s and similar conversations were going on even then.  The teachings of Francis Schaeffer were of great benefit in defining the responses to the faith challenges.

Obviously, the questions of faith in our generation have been re-engineered by subsequent decades of doubt and confusion.  Carl energetically takes on these questions.  Recognizing that getting the issues correctly framed is the starting point, he does a masterful job in laying out each argument.  Once the groundwork is laid to ask the right question, logic dictates the discourse.  Scientific proof versus faith is the way it is presented.  However, actual scientific proof supports genuine faith.

While this book addresses the science available, it is done written as a lab manual but as a real life story with deep human interest.  It is easy to read, and takes even the difficult arguments from science and renders them in understandable ways.  I highly recommend this book, not only for the teens and college students, but for any adults who have not previously studied these subjects.  We are instructed to “always be ready to give an answer” to any skeptic and this will help prepare you.  (1 Peter 3:15)

Saturday, September 1, 2012

By Faith, Not By Sight

Scott MacIntyre’s story is a contrast to the prevailing philosophies of accepting defeat and settling for being a victim.  This story shows the myriad of complications that often are strewn in our life’s pathway.  Being a good person or coming from a good family are not exemptions from trouble.  Troubles are often the tool that God allows to make us strong.  The MacIntyre family is a great example of how, in working together, every difficulty can become a stepping stone to greatness.

I appreciated the frank admission of struggling with faith.  God knows that we have less than full understanding and assists us in discernment in assessing these challenges.  Faith doesn’t come to us in perfect proportions, and has to be grown—most often is small steps of obedience.    It wasn’t enough for Scott to simply cope with the difficulties he encountered, he determined to overcome and then excel.  This book certainly was a major inspiration to me, and confirms my journey which includes many challenges—different ones from Scott, but big to me.

Faith is described as things which are “not seen” but as this story describes, mature faith becomes sight.  Scott certainly sees what many others with physical eyesight have missed.  Faith refuses to rely on what is seen in the natural world.  I choose to live by faith.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Founder's Key

The Founder’s Key by Larry Arnn

Since we are in the midst of a political year, this book has special meaning.  It is not only an excellent treatise on the founding of our nation, but it serves as a clarion call to return to the principles that guided us to greatness.  As our Declaration of Independence declares, the basic assumptions of all the founding documents were “the laws of nature and of nature’s God.”  Those he identifies as “Progressives” have made a concerted effort not only to abandon that foundation, but to redefine the words to further confuse the issues.

The work is certainly scholarly and is not “preachy” in its content.  Arnn seems to have captured the spirit of the founding gentlemen recognizing both strengths and weaknesses that were acknowledged.  I particularly liked his analysis of the synchronicity between the Declaration of Independence and our Constitution.  Our nation is suffering from self-inflicted wounds that are represented by the departure from the principles expressed in these two documents.

Arnn presents a well-documented thesis that should be recommended reading for every student in America, including college students.  I am glad that the Hillsdale College students have access to this superior teaching.  Supplementing the two founding documents are some of the Federalist papers by James Madison.  Few in America have even read these insightful documents.  We ignore  this book at great peril to the soul of this nation.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Father Hunger

Father Hunger
Douglas Wilson

Since fatherhood has been around since creation, it would seem there wouldn’t be a lot of new things to say about the role of a father.  However, Douglas Wilson not only offers some fresh insights into the problems so prevalent in our generation, he knocks a home run.  In truth, perhaps it’s a grand slam.  It’s a must read for fathers and pastors, as well as counselors.

Having reared four daughters, and now seeing them rear their children, my view on fatherhood has been molded not only by scripture but life experience.  While Wilson does not give us much insight into his personal relationships with his own children (3) and grandchildren (15), he obviously had to try his theories in the crucible of life.

He is able to extrapolate deep principles, and I found his understanding to be extremely invigorating.  It seems God has directed me along many of the same paths, and the extracted truths were affirming.  I believe he has been true to the scriptures.  Correctly describing the conditions both in our country and the church, he offers difficult but real solutions.

One point that was particularly pungent was his section on “Discipline as Gift and Gratitude.”  I have discovered the connection between spirituality and gratitude, and this was significant addition to my understanding.  I am grateful for the wholesome relationship I have with my daughters, even if I stumbled into doing some things correctly.  

Friday, May 11, 2012

Yes, We Can

Our Favorite Sins, by Todd Hunter

We are able to overcome temptation! With God's help, that is.

Todd Hunter addresses an issue that is certainly not new, but too many avoid the question of sin.  At one extreme are those who simply ignore the sins of one’s life and focus on the positive emotions in hopes no one (including God) will notice.  On the other hand, we have those who become obsessed with certain sins (adultery, murder, immodesty, etc.) and ignore these “favorite sins” enumerated in this book.

I find a lot of theological uncertainty in our culture.  Sometimes it is expressed in whether or not overcoming sin is even possible.  Others will contend that we may win some battles.  Myriads have suggested that because of imputed grace we need not concern ourselves with the impartation of holiness.  The failure of many to even address these “favorite sins” is often the result of a theology that admitting sin would be tantamount to moral failure.  Still others refuse to believe that self-discipline and/or development of self-control is our responsibility to co-operate with God and His enabling grace.

The book is neither highly biblical in its approach to overcoming temptation, nor is it practicality with “teeth.”  Nevertheless, I think it adds to helps available to those who need to analyze their lives, and humble seekers will still find significant wisdom in its pages in their quest to walk with God.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Wake Up, America!

It is Dangerous to Be Right When the Government is Wrong
Andrew Napolitano

Judge Napolitano’s basic views are well known because of his role with Fox News.  It doesn’t take long to realize his anti-big government views.  While this book is not a religious book per se, the underlying principles to which Napolitano subscribed are decidedly biblical. 

The Judge’s critics, including compassionate Christians, sometimes decry the position that mitigates the government’s role in social welfare.  But he is correct that it is not the government’s responsibility to dole out to the needy.  That responsibility is clearly delineated in scripture to belong to families and churches.  Government seems to invade any vacuum created when responsible parties abdicate their assignments. 

I continue to see the overreach of all branches of government.  The rapid growth of government over the past few decades is frightening and is a great contributor to the social and economic woes we experience in our current culture.

Our nation is sliding down the slippery slope created by an overspending government.  Those who speak out against the wrongs in our government will increasingly be targeted for censure or destruction.  I have personally witnessed an abusive government multiple times and seeing the trend to become worse.

I strongly recommend this book and hope that Napolitano continues to warn this nation about evils created by an immoral and bloated government.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

I Am a Follower

Leonard Sweet

Leonard has challenged the status quo thinking regarding leadership.  In so doing, he moves us away from the secular thinking of our time and back to the philosophies of scripture.  Using Jesus’ claim that He was the “way, truth, and life” Leonard builds a case for counter culture living.

While many of Sweet’s prior writings have focused on current practices within the church, this book is a significant departure from those theoretical foundations.  I’m not sure if he has experienced some new breakthrough in his understanding of the nature of Christ, but this book affirmed my spirit more than all his other books put together.

I have for a long time had a discomfort with the emphasis on “strengths,” whether in personality traits or in particular talents.  While various methodologies might help someone become “successful” when measured quantitatively, God more often uses our weaknesses to impart grace.  After all, grace is the power that transforms us.

Leonard has truly struck a new (rediscovered old) chord in rephrasing Paul’s injunction, “Follow me as I follow……….”  This book cannot be read lightly, but its alignment with the scriptural message “to follow” is quite convicting.  I trust the church will heed the message and emphasize anew Jesus’ requirement to “follow Him.”

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Sun Stand Still

Sun Stand Still
Steven Furtick

The book Sun Stand Still presents several contrasts to me.  Steven is to be admired for being a man of incredible action, and the results that God has accomplished through him is a powerful testimony to the faith of which he writes. 

His terminology such as the word audacious seems to be borrowed from current business culture, and at times the philosophy seems to mirror it.  Sometimes I had the feeling that I was reading the brashness of youth.  Nevertheless he balanced the boldness of believing with other biblical concepts of discovering God’s will before launching a faith attack.

He also dealt with the issue that God’s does not always give us prosperity and success.  God sometimes uses difficulties to get more glory to Himself.

But the ultimate message that he gives asking Christian to live a life of faith is not only timely, but desperately needed for our time when we encounter so much mundane and faithless lives.  Churches and their constituents too often live only by what they can see and touch, not by faith.  This book will cause you to re-evaluate your FQ (faith quotient)!