Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Reviewing Tim Challies' The Next Story

When I initially heard about Tim Challies’ newest book, The Next Story: Life and Faith After the Digital Explosion, I had no desire to read it. That is saying something significant considering I am on his site almost every day. I found his first book, The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment, to be an enjoyable and beneficial read, but a book focused on technology simply did not spark my interest. Interestingly enough, a colleague who did not know I was a fan of Challies.com recommended The Next Story to me, and after receiving a free audiobook and hardback, I am thankful to have listened to and read Mr. Challies' latest work. The Next Story is far more than a book about technology. This is a book about using technology in a God-glorifying way and a history lesson of how we often have not done that.

Part one of The Next Story covers three chapters focusing on God's intended use of technology, the relationship between humans and technology, and a digital history. Part two covers six chapters and is more practical. The topics of communication, mediation/identity, distractions, information, truth/authority, visibility, and privacy are emphasized here. These are important topics that we should critically examine. We are constantly in front of screens sending emails, watching Youtube videos, blogging about life, uploading pictures, updating our Facebook statuses, surfing articles, and more, and this is having an impact on us. Mr. Challies addresses all of these topics in 200 pages (or nine hours of audio) with the use of Scripture. The Next Story contains much-needed counsel to help us to discipline our use of technology.

Reading The Next Story has made me really reevaluate not only how I use technology, but how I communicate and spend time with others. I serve as a principal at an international school where I am constantly checking and answering emails. I have had my head buried in my iPhone or MacBook Pro far too often, and this has unfortunately carried over to my home. The overwhelming majority of us probably need to visit fewer websites, not look at our inbox so often, and turn off all the dings and chimes on our smartphones. I have made some changes in my life in an effort to prevent technology from owning me, but more improvements will need to be made.

I plan on reading portions of The Next Story again this summer, but at a slower pace and sharing what I have learned with the administrators and teachers I work with. I also want the middle school students at TIS to not only use computers to access information on the Net and complete their assignments but to do so in a spiritually discerning way. The Next Story is a book that will help us in that quest. I have nothing but praise for this book. If endorsements mean anything to you, it should be noted that a number of prominent people including Bryan Chapell, President of Covenant Seminary, Michael Horton, Editor-in-Chief of Modern Reformation magazine, and Justin Taylor, Managing Editor of the ESV Study Bible, have only good words for The Next Story. I highly recommend checking it out.

Disclaimer: Zondervan sent me a free copy of this book in exchange for my review. A positive review was not required.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Some Recent Articles About Books IV

Where to Find the Best Prices for Books by Tim Challies - Perhaps we should not always be buying from Amazon.

The World's Most Inspiring Bookstores by Megan Cytron, Trazzler - Check out the pics in the slideshow. Europe has some stunning bookstores.

100 Must-Read Books: The Essential Man’s Library by Jason Lankow, Ross Crooks, Joshua Ritchie, and Brett McKay - This article is three years old, but I just came across it today. I am not so sure about the list, but the website looks interesting.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Reviewing John Piper's Jesus: The Only Way to God

Although I do not know John Piper, he has made a significant impact in my life. Pastor Piper is the author of more than forty books, and Jesus: The Only Way to God is one of over a dozen books of his I have read. It was published less than one year ago and can combat much of the junk that is printed today. The 123 pager is divided into seven chapters (plus an introduction, conclusion, and a Desiring God resource page) and completing it will take you about the same time it takes to watch a movie. If you believe in relativism (There is no absolute truth), universalism (All people will go to Heaven), or annihilationism (When a person dies, they no longer exists), prepare to be challenged. Jesus: The Only Way to God is solid theological teaching that makes no qualms about who Jesus is. Jesus is the Son of God who became sin for us. His work on the cross is what saves us. One must place their faith in Him or they will be eternally tormented in Hell when they pass from this world. Only Jesus gives us access to God. Only Jesus gives us eternal life in Heaven. We are to live for Him because He died for us. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6).

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Reviewing R.C. Sproul's The Holiness of God

R.C. Sproul, the founder of Ligonier Ministries, says that The Holiness of God is what he recommends first when people ask him what Ligonier book they should use to help them grow. Jerry Bridges, author of The Pursuit of Holiness, says, "Every Christian who is serious about his or her growth needs to read The Holiness of God." I say that I should have read (or listened to the nine-hour audiobook) The Holiness of God years ago. This 240-page work was first published by Tyndale House in 1985 and is considered a modern classic on the subject of God's holy character. You will find KJV, NKJV, NASB, and NIV Bible verses throughout the 11 chapters. Some of the chapter titles include The Holy Grail, The Insanity of Luther, God in the Hands of Angry Sinners, War and Peace with a Holy God, and Holy Justice. In these 11 chapters, Sproul gives us the proper perspective on God's awesome holiness. He reminds us that God is to be feared and revered and not treated simply as our buddy. Each chapter begins with a quote, and a few questions are provided at the end of each chapter. If you read Sproul's foundational piece, hopefully, you will develop a stronger hunger to be holy like God. 

Monday, May 9, 2011

Reviewing Greg Lucas' Wrestling with an Angel: A Story of Love, Disability, and The Lesson of Grace

I purchased Wrestling with an Angel as a Mother's Day gift from CruciformPress, but this short book (108 pages) would make an excellent Father's Day gift as well. Wrestling with an Angel is the grace-filled story of Greg (and Kim) Lucas and their oldest son Jake. Through Jake's serious disabilities, a radical heart transformation occurs in the young lives of Greg and Kim. The countless heart-wrenching challenges the Lucas family faced caring for Jake during the first 17 years of his life bring beautiful opportunities to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I found Wrestling with an Angel to be an inspiring read and one that I did not put down until it was completed. The ten chapters can be finished in no time, but they will cause you to spend more time reflecting on the amazing love of God and give you the desire to tell others about it. A Matthew Henry commentary of John 9:1-3 and two John Newton (the author of Amazing Grace) letters about endurance from suffering are provided on the last eight pages. I cannot recommend this book enough.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Reviewing Oswald Sanders' Spiritual Leadership

I was assigned to read Spiritual Leadership as part of one of my CIU summer classes, and I am so thankful that it was required reading. Outside of the Good Book, I do not recall a book speaking me to so much and causing me to reflect and share what I read. Had I read this book prior to this year, I believe I would simply think it is a good book. However, due to my position in life now, much of this book really provided me relevant insights and Godly wisdom that I was not ready to hear in years past.

Dr. John Oswald Sanders was an OMF (China Inland Mission) general director in the 1950's and 1960's and penned more than forty Christian living books. His book, Spiritual Leadership, receives high marks by some of today's great spiritual leaders like Chuck Colson and John MacArthur. The book was originally written in 1967, and I read the 1994 version that was updated by Moody Bible Institute. A newer version was printed four years ago which uses language that is less likely to confuse the younger generation. 750,000 copies of this 190 pager have sold over the years, and Bible verses (primarily NIV) are scattered throughout the 22 chapters. Each chapter begins with at least one Bible verse, and notes have been added to the text to identify the people whom Sanders cites.

Chapter topics include searching for leaders, insights on leadership from Paul and Peter, prayer, time, reading, improving leaders, responsibilities, tests, delegation, Nehemiah, and more. Study questions, an Index of Scripture, and an Index of Persons are found on the last 20+ pages. I found Chapter 15, The Cost of Leadership, to be the most meaningful chapter. Sanders tells us in this chapter that leaders will take up their cross and be lonely, tired, criticized, rejected, pressured, confused, and their family will also pay a price. Spiritual Leadership is not fun reading, but reading it points me to the cross. If you are in a position of leadership or if you think you might be one day, I highly recommend Sanders' Christian leadership classic. I will definitely be recommending it to others.

"Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long." Psalm 25:5