Friday, October 24, 2014

Reviewing Ravi Zacharias' The Lotus and the Cross

The Purchase: Earlier this month I purchased Ravi ZachariasThe Lotus and the Cross from the Amazon China site, and once again I was pleased with Amazon China's fast and reliable services. The Amazon China site continues to improve their imported book selection, and I was glad to have finally read The Lotus and the Cross. The Lotus and the Cross is a book I purchased as a gift over a decade ago, and it was on my Amazon Wish List for several years. I don't often read fiction, but the story of Jesus having a conversation with Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha) intrigued me.

The Author: Ravi Zacharias is an Indian-born Christian apologist and author who has spoken at top universities such as Harvard and Oxford. I became a fan of Dr. Zacharias soon after moving to China when I read his book, Jesus Among Other Gods. The Lotus and the Cross is a much quicker read at less than 90 pages. It should be noted that there are numerous pages throughout the book containing only one sentence from the story. Dr. Zacharias traveled to India and a few Southeast Asian nations in researching for The Lotus and the Cross.

The Recommendation: Although there are many critics of the book, there are also many who give high praise for The Lotus and the Cross. I enjoyed the book and would recommend it to Christians and those who have a general interest in Buddhism or religion. If you are a devout Buddhist, you might not like Dr. Zacharias' interpretation of Buddhism. Dr. Zacharias covered the basic teachings of Siddhartha Gautama and not the many complex schools of thoughts and ethnic traditions within Buddhism. Although I would have liked the story to have continued, I appreciated Zacharias' epilogue and believe his book can and has provided good food for thought.


Saturday, October 4, 2014

Reviewing Curtis Allen's Does God Listen to Rap?: Christians and the World's Most Controversial Music

I became a fan of rap during my upper elementary years when I sported red parachute pants and wore out a breakdance cassette tape on my Toshiba boom box. You gotta love the 80s. Although I no longer wear pants with zippers all of over them, I still often listen to rap. My rap collection has changed quite a bit over the years. No longer do I listen to what I would now deem as controversial crap, but instead what many would have to respect for great theological depth and creative artistry.

Last year when I saw that Curtis Allen, one of my favorite rappers, released a book about rap, you know I dropped the paper, pronto! Does God Listen to Rap? taught me not only a great deal about how rap music came to be, but about the differences between much of the rap music I listen to today. It really was a fascinating read. Below you can read the chapter contents. Perhaps many would not be interested in this book, but if you have ever enjoyed the music of Lecrae, Trip Lee, or Shai Linne, I highly recommend checking out Does God Listen to Rap? The book is easy-to-read, has received glowing reviews, and points you to the One who gave us music. Peace out.

Let everything that has breath praise the LORD! Praise the LORD! Psalm 150:6
  1. Reformed Rap? The Story Behind This Book
  2. Dirty Roots - The Origins of Rap
  3. Rotten Fruit - The Influence of Rap
  4. The Indictment of Origin - What's Missing from Heaven's Playlist
  5. The Acquittal of Conversion - God is a Redeemer
  6. Rap and the Mission of the Church - Of Similarity and Sin

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Reviewing Keith Mathison's A Reformed Approach to Science and Scripture

How old is the universe? R.C. Sproul, who provides the book's foreword, was asked this question at the 2012 Ligonier Ministries National Conference. Dr. Keith Mathison explores the question and more in this very short book. If you are a believer who has any interest in science, you might enjoy reading A Reformed Approach to Science and Scripture. I do believe some will expect a more in-depth analysis of the topic. Below are the titles and summaries of the seven chapters.
  1. All Truth is God's Truth - A God-centered view of truth
  2. General and Special Revelation - What is the Reformed distinction?
  3. Interpreting General and Special Revelation - An examination of Martin Luther's and John Calvin's responses to new sixteenth century astronomical theories
  4. Luther, Calvin, and Copernicus - How can we learn from the mistakes of others?
  5. Earthly Things and Heavenly Things - The fall's impact on human reasoning
  6. When Science and Scripture Conflict - How should Christians respond?
  7. The Age of the Universe and Genesis 1 - Dr. Sproul's answer

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Reviewing Christie Reenders' Pockets Full of Popcorn

Pockets Full of Popcorn is a cute 20-page children's story that takes place where I live, the great city of Tianjin, China. As you read about a cold winter day adventure of two young girls and their mom, you're provided a glimpse of the unique Tianjin culture. An appropriate "Chinese" font is used throughout the book and Chinese translation is provided on every story page. At the back of the book you're provided additional information about ten aspects of Chinese culture encountered on this fun popcorn outing. A glossary of eight Chinese words used in the story is also provided. These words are found in red throughout the story. The illustrations by Feng Ai Dong are in a folk art style and lend well to the story. Colors are bright, people are smiling, and different scenes of daily life are shown. I recommend this book to those who have children and an interest in Chinese culture. If you have any connection to Tianjin, perhaps this book would be of interest to you as well. I look forward to reading to my son more adventures from Christie in her "Seasons of Living in China" series.


The Names of the Wickersham Kids

Why Grace Noel?

A mini roller coaster in Tianjin
Megan and I had some difficulty agreeing upon what name to select for our first child. We had difficulty agreeing upon the name until I mentioned Grace. I am a trophy of grace. I’ve committed countless sins over the course of my life yet the God of universe is actually going to give me a child to raise up. Wow. That’s grace – a God-given gift that I, a wrath-deserving sinner, don’t deserve. And Noel? It’s a word meaning the birth of Christ. That’s the name of our first, Grace Noel. An interracial couple giving a Chinese nine-month-old names of Latin and French origins. Makes perfect sense to me.




Why Rosalie?

Tianjin Olympic Center Stadium
Our second and oldest child came to our family having already been named Rose. Great name. I’m so thankful I wasn’t introduced to a four-year-old Jezebel or Delilah back in 2006. I like stressing Rose’s name in verses and songs that state how Christ rose from the grave. Megan and I wanted to modify Rose’s name though since she was joining our forever family and becoming an official Wickersham. Sort of a Sarai to Sarah thing. We chose Rosalie since Lee is Megan’s middle name, and in honor of one of Megan’s aunts.



Why Josiah Lee 

King Josiah, King of Judah from approximately 640 to 609 B.C. and an ancestor of the Son of Man, had great influence from an early age. You can read about him in 2 Kings 22-23 and 2 Chronicles 34-35 and learn how he responded to God’s Word honorably by living obediently to God’s commands. King Josiah was a God-fearing leader of religious reform who restored the observance of the Passover, renewed the covenant, repaired the temple, removed witches and mediums from the land, and rediscovered the Book of the Law. I hope our Josiah can not only be like King Josiah, but like the true and better Josiah, Jesus Christ.

So there you have it - Grace Noel, Rosalie, and Josiah. I’m floored our Heavenly Father has chosen me to be the father to these three amazing kiddos. They have been a tremendous blessing to us, and I look forward to seeing how their lives shape out.

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6

Waffle House in Avon, Indiana (June 2014)

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Reviewing R.C. Sproul's Does God Control Everything?

It's a question that is often hotly debated - Does God control everything? If you don't know the answer to this question or if you are unable to defend your answer well, I highly recommend R.C. Sproul's Does God Control Everything? I have strong views concerning this subject matter, and Pastor Sproul's use of Scripture gave me an even greater understanding on several vital doctrines. Reading Does God Control Everything? will help you learn the difference between providence and foreknowledge, God's sovereign ordination, and the doctrine of concurrence. The book's 80 pages is divided into the following five chapters and can be read in no time:
  1. What Is Providence?
  2. God Makes It All Happen
  3. God or Chance?
  4. Is God Responsible for Human Wickedness?
  5. What About Human Freedom? 
If the topics seem difficult or uninteresting, I encourage you to still give this free eBook a chance. Does God Control Everything? is written for the layman, and covers topics that we simply should not ignore.

The LORD has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all. Psalm 103:19

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Reviewing Kevin DeYoung's Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem

Prior to this school year, the past four years were the busiest time in my life. I accepted a new job as a divisional principal, completed an M.Ed. in educational administration, moved to a new school building, moved to a couple new apartment complexes, adopted a third child, and tore my ACL for a second time. I read Kevin DeYoung's Crazy Busy in December when I wasn't feeling crazy busy, and it's the second book by Pastor DeYoung I've read. Once again I wasn't disappointed. I found Pastor DeYoung's award-winning book to be a quick and enjoyable read. Crazy Busy is less than 130 pages and is endorsed by numerous big Christian names, many of whom are authors and musicians that have blessed me. Although Crazy Busy didn't cause me to make radical changes in my life, it did cause me to rethink my priorities in life. I'm happy to say life doesn't feel crazy busy now, and I'm thankful our Father has given me this time to slow down and smell the roses. Below are the ten chapter titles.
  1. Hello, My Name Is Busy
  2. Here, There, and Gone: Three Dangers to Avoid
  3. The Killer P's - Diagnosis #1: You Are Beset with Many Manifestations of Pride
  4. The Terror of Total Obligation - Diagnosis #2: You Are Trying to Do What God Does Not Expect You to Do
  5. Mission Creep - Diagnosis #3: You Can't Serve Others without Setting Priorities
  6. A Cruel Kindergarchy - Diagnosis #4: You Need to Stop Freaking Out about Your Kids
  7. Deep Calls to Deep - Diagnosis #5: You Are Letting the Screen Strangle Your Soul
  8. Rhythm and Blues - Diagnosis #6: You'd Better Rest Yourself before You Wreck Yourself
  9. Embracing the Burdens of Busyness - Diagnosis #7: You Suffer More because You Don't Expect to Suffer at All
  10. The One Thing You Must Do
He must increase, but I must decrease. John 3:30


Crazy Busy - Justin Taylor Interviews Kevin DeYoung from Crossway on Vimeo.

Reviewing R.C. Sproul's Can I Have Joy in My Life?

Contrary to what some pastors teach, we cannot have our best life now. Life will be downright tough at times and that can certainly make it difficult to be the most chipper person in the world. It is possible though to have joy during life's most challenging circumstances. Last year I chose to read R.C. Sproul's Can I Have Joy in My Life? because various struggles in my life were attempting to steal joy from me. Can I Have Joy in My Life? is only 51 pages and consists of the five chapters listed below. Section headings are listed in parentheses.
  1. Don't Worry, Be Joyful (How Can We Rejoice Always?, The Way to Recover Joy)
  2. Counting It All Joy (Looking to the Bright Future, Trusting God Through Calamities)
  3. How Do You Spell Joy? (Elation and Dejection, Rejoicing Even in Losses, The Best Way to Spell Joy)
  4. The Greatest Joy (Guilt and Joy, Confusing Pleasure and Joy)
  5. Fullness of Joy (Life Through the Vine)
Pastor Sproul had a profound impact on me when I first became a believer (and he continues to teach me much) so I had to take advantage of this offer to add another book of his to my library. I'm glad I did. I recommend downloading this free eBook, one of 20 free books in a series from R.C. Sproul. Can I Have Joy in My Life can help you see what joy is and where true joy can be found.

Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2

Monday, September 22, 2014

Reviewing Randy Alcorn's If God is Good: Why Do We Hurt?

Another Randy Alcorn booklet I've recently read is If God is Good: Why Do We Hurt? A few years ago Megan purchased the 500-page version for me, but it continues to be a part of a stack of books I've yet to tackle. I was able to read the 75-page booklet on a recent trip, and if you desire to have a better understanding about the hurts of the world, Randy Alcorn can provide you the answers to this not so fun topic. As in previous books I've read by Mr. Alcorn, you'll find his answers supported with pages of Scripture. Below are the questions Mr. Alcorn, a man who has certainly experienced some suffering, handles with grace and truth. Check it out.

  • Introduction: The Search We All Share
  • How Is Suffering Related to Evil?
  • Where Do Evil and Suffering Come From?
  • What Causes Natural Disasters?
  • What Common Explanations Are Given for Evil and Suffering?
  • Doesn't the Reality of Evil and Suffering Expose God's Limitations?
  • Why Doesn't God Immediately Bring Evil and Suffering to an End?
  • Why Doesn't God Eliminate the Worst Forms of Evil and Suffering?
  • Can We Be Sure That Someday We'll Be Free of Suffering and Evil?
  • How True Are the "Health and Wealth Theology" Claims About Escaping Suffering?
  • Why Hasn't God Made the Reasons for Our Suffering More Clear?
  • Can We Really Trust God to Use Our Suffering for Good?
  • Is Suffering Really Necessary to Build Our Character? 
  • What's the Right Way to Respond to Our Suffering?
  • Since Suffering Is Inevitable, How Can I Prepare for It?
  • Jesus - The Only Answer Bigger Than the Questions

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. Romans 8:18