Thursday, December 31, 2009

Books I Read in December

Gum, Geckos, and God: A Family's Adventure in Space, Time, and Faith by James S. Spiegel - This was one of four books I bought from http://www.bookdepository.com/ for Megan this Christmas. If you live overseas, I highly recommend their site  - free international shipping folks. Professor Spiegel teaches philosophy at Taylor University where my in-laws graduated from. The 250 pages are a fun and simple read, but topics of the utmost importance are covered. Some of the questions that Spiegel's kids ask him include: Why do some people not believe in God? Why is it hard to be good? Who gets to go to Heaven? It is not uncommon for me to start a book and finish it months later, but Gum, Geckos, and God was a book that I knocked out in a few days. Earlier portions of it made me laugh out loud while later chapters made me really reflect on my own spiritual journey. I even read some of the conversations that Spiegel had with his children to my own girls.

The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment by Tim Challies - I was very happy to receive this book from my in-laws last month as a birthday gift. Once again, xie xie Fred and Carol. Tim Challies is my favorite blogger, and I usually visit his site every day. His first book, The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment, was written two years ago and has been endorsed by many of Christian leaders whom I respect a great deal. A couple of those men include Pastor John MacArthur and Albert Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment is a 200-page book that consists of ten chapters, an appendix of discernment resources, study guide, and Scripture index. Tim Challies tells us how to devote ourselves to developing biblical discernment. His book is extremely relevant and a clear examination of an all-important topic that needs to be addressed more.

What's the Difference?: Manhood and Womanhood Defined According to the Bible by John Piper -  I decided to read What's the Difference? primarily because I want a better understanding of what God says about myself and my wife. Like most married men, I want a stronger marriage. This short book is actually one of the chapters from a much larger book called Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. Pastor Piper believes in complementarianism which is the theological view that because men and women are different genders, we are designed for different (complementary) roles and responsibilities. We are of the same worth before God, but we do not share the same authority and responsibilities in church and family. The Bible teaches that I am to lovingly lead, protect and provide for my wife and girls and that my beautiful and intelligent wife is to help me in my role. If you find that archaic, you need to read this short book to complement your reading of the Book. What's the Difference? is the seventh Piper book I have completed, and I hope to complete books #8 (This Momentary Marriage) and #9 (The Future of Justification) next month.

Ephesians 5:22-32

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Books I Read in November

Why We're Not Emergent (By Two Guys Who Should Be) by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck - A teacher in the middle school Bible department loaned me this book earlier in the school year. Why We're Not Emergent is a critical examination of the emerging church. Regardless of what camp you fall in, I highly recommend this easy to understand book that covers a somewhat fluid topic. I thought reading about the popular unorthodox views of the emerging church movement might make the conservative in me scream, but the writing styles of DeYoung and Kluck are a nice balance of the worlds of academia and entertainment. The crux of this book is that Christians must know the Truth. A proper understanding of what the Bible truly says is centered on the gospel - the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus is not just our buddy and a nice moral teacher; He is the Lion of the tribe of Judah (Revelation 5:5), the judge of the living and the dead (Acts 10:42) and our great God and Savior (Titus 2:13). It is essential that we dive deep into the Word in order to have a biblical understanding of doctrines such as salvation by faith alone, the substitutionary atonement at the cross and the sovereignty of God. Having a solid biblical worldview will us to reach out to the weary and burdened with God's love in word and deed with grace and truth.

The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis - For a few years I tossed around the idea of reading this children's fantasy novel and finally took the plunge after hearing a speaker at our fellowship talk about it last month. Fiction is not my cup of tea, but if there is anyone who could give me a taste for it, C.S. Lewis would be the one. Several years ago I read Lewis' classic, Mere Christianity, and I have had a growing interest in reading his fictional piece, The Screwtape Letters. I decided to read roughly a chapter a night to my girls who have seen both the BBC and Disney versions of the movie. It was a little difficult for Grace, my four-year-old, to always follow the story, but Rose, my seven-year-old, enjoyed hearing about the secret land beyond the wardrobe. Upon completion of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, both Rose and Grace have expressed on one more than one occasion their disappointment that I am not continuing on with Prince Caspian: The Return to Narnia, the second of seven books in The Chronicles of Narnia series. Although I do not plan on reading more fiction anytime soon, I think there is a good possibility we will continue these adventures in the land of Narnia one day.

Humility: True Greatness by C.J. Mahaney - God has done an amazing work in the life of C.J. Mahaney. Mahaney is a man who understands humility, and a man who has taught me much about the cross of Christ. I highly, highly recommend watching his testimony on YouTube. Humility is the third Mahaney book I have read, and one that I just received earlier in the month. Xie xie Fred and Carol! I have had serious problems in the area of humility so I thought this fast read (a small book with less than 180 pages) could help me in the battle with my old nature. I found the last chapter, A Legacy of Greatness, to be particularly meaningful. Humility is a book that is easy to understand and contains a God-glorifying message.

"Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you." James 4:10

A Reader's Review of The Shack by Tim Challies - The Shack is a very popular book amongst Christians and non-Christians, but I am one of many believers who find this New York Times best seller to be very unbiblical. I have read and watched a number of reviews of The Shack (Chuck Colson, Mark Driscoll, and Albert Mohler are other conservative evangelicals who have criticized The Shack), and Challies' free e-booklet continues the trend of showing me that what William P. Young writes in his book is dangerous and wrong. I realize my words here could offend and possibly surprise some, but I would encourage you to at least glance at Challies' 17-page review.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Taking Pictures With Santa

Every year at the Christmas bazaar that is hosted by the school where I work, my girls look forward to having their pictures taken with Santa Claus. Well, not every year. Grace was not very excited to see Santa when she was a one year old despite the fact that I told her Santa was really my friend, Mr. Prescott. Obviously, she wasn't having it. It makes a good memory. Merry Christmas everyone!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Books I Read in October

Our Adoption in Christ: What It Means for Us and for Orphans by Dan Cruver and Jason Kovacs - Our Adoption in Christ is a short, but an all-important e-book that is available for free at http://www.togetherforadoption.org. I highly recommend this gospel-centered book for all Christians. The book was written to equip believers theologically in the areas of orphan care and earthly adoption. The authors believe that an accurate theological understanding of these areas will produce strong action towards the worldwide orphan crisis. You may not be called to adopt one of the 145 million orphans in the world today (nearly 90 million in Asia), but pray about how God would want you to serve orphans - praying for them regularly, fostering, sponsoring, and/or visiting orphans, educating others about orphans, donating money and supplies to orphanages, etc. If the gospel truly is the main thing in your life, God has called you to have a heart for the fatherless. Before God spoke the universe into existence, God planned to adopt us as sons through Jesus Christ. This is a God thing so we must help create a culture of orphan care and adoption.

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved." Ephesians 1:3-6.

The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer - Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German Lutheran pastor and theologian who was caught in the planning of assassinating Adolf Hitler. Bonhoeffer was executed by the Gestapo by being hung at the Flossenburg Concentration Camp in 1945. He wrote The Cost of Discipleship almost 70 years ago at an age not much younger than I am. Megan read this book back in her Wheaton days, and I thought I should read it since it is considered by many to be one of the most important Christian books ever written. I zipped through Bonhoeffer's Life Together a few years ago, but I was not as motivated to complete The Cost of Discipleship. The Cost of Discipleship is an exposition of what it means to truly follow Christ, and it is not exactly light reading. The book provides us the true meaning of grace, gives an interpretation of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), and explains what is required of followers of Christ.

"Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves... the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, communion without confession... Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ... Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock... It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life."

Just Courage: God's Great Expedition for the Restless Christian by Gary A. Haugen -I spent over three hours listening to this free audiobook from christianaudio.com and learned a great deal about the horrors of slavery and sexual exploitation that exist in many third world countries. Additionally, I learned a lot about Gary Haugen's organization, International Justice Mission, a Christian human rights agency that fights these and other forms of violent oppression while attempting to rekindle the social engagement of evangelical Christians. Just Courage reminded me a little of another audiobook that I recently listened to - Francis Chan's Crazy Love.* Both books have a message of breaking free from the comforts of the status quo and having an authentic faith that confronts the sins of the world with solid, even far-reaching, solutions. I find the significant amount of daily time that ICM spends in corporate prayer to be commendable, but I strongly disagree with some of the theology of the various people mentioned in the book or endorsing the book. Despite that, Just Courage reminded that I must not just believe the words of Isaiah 1:17, but that I must be a courageous doer of the Word. "learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow's cause."

* After writing this book review, Christianity Today posted an article about Francis Chan called Crazy Passion. Through the article, I found out that Chan donates much of his book royalties (which total about half a million dollars) primarily to organizations like Haugen's International Justice Mission.

Books I Read in September

Spectacular Sins: And Their Global Purpose in the Glory of Christ by John Piper - Once again, I was not disappointed by Pastor Piper. This small book by Dr. Piper should be read by any of us who wonder why there is so much suffering in the world. It is a question I have often been asked by students and others. I believe reading Spectacular Sins will not only provide you the theologically correct answers but can also give a sense of peace in knowing that our sovereign God has the entire universe in absolute complete control. The book concludes very appropriately with a powerful prayer. "As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good..." Genesis 50:20

The Mark of the Christian by Francis Schaeffer - The Mark of the Christian was written almost 40 years ago and has less than 40 pages. Despite the thinness of his book, Pastor Schaeffer presents a critical message that many people who profess to be Christians need to hear. As stated in John 13:33-35, love must be the distinguishing mark of all Christians. He who fails to love has not been truly changed by the gospel message.

The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith by Tim Keller - Although I have listened to Tim Keller speak and have watched him in interviews, The Prodigal God is the first book I have read from the Presbyterian pastor. It was a gift from my place of employment - something they do for the teachers at the start of every year. Xie xie admin team. Once I complete a few other books on my reading list, I hope to borrow Keller's The Reason for God from a colleague later in the school year. The Prodigal God is a small book that helped me see the Parable of the Lost Son in a new light. Although I recommend this gospel-centered book to others, I cannot justify the $19.95 list price for such a quick read. I suggest saving your money by finding a comfy chair at your local Barnes and Noble and reading the book in a couple of hours.


Reviewing Russell Moores' Adopted For Life: The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families and Churches

Adopted For Life: The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families and Churches by Russell D. Moore - Megan gave me this book as an anniversary gift last month after she learned I had placed it on my Amazon Wish List a few months ago. Dr. Moore is the dean of the School of Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville and the father of two adopted boys from Russia. His book, Adopted For Life, has been strongly endorsed by many Godly men whose sites I regularly visit. These men include Tim Challies, Chuck Colson, John MacArthur, and Albert Mohler.

As the father of two girls who are not part Japanese and white bread like I am, it is important for me to learn more about the adoption of children. Moore's book is not simply about adoption though. It is also a book about the gospel. That makes Adopted For Life, unlike other books Megan and I have read about adoption. Although this book might be more appealing to certain kinds of people such as the couple who are thinking about adopting or the high schooler who is trying to figure what does it mean to be adopted, others would most definitely benefit from reading Adopted For Life. The nine-chapter book starts off more theological and finishes giving more practical applications; however, the entire book weaves the gospel doctrine of adoption. I highly recommend the book to all people who have been adopted into God's heavenly family.

"Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world." James 1:27