Sunday, December 30, 2012

Reviewing Ted Kluck's The Reason For Sports: A Christian Fanifesto

I gifted my father-in-law The Reason For Sports a couple of years, and I wish I would have read it then. The Reason For Sports was on Amazon Wish List for over three years, but I did not purchase it for myself until seeing it for less than 2 bucks a week ago. Yes, I can be cheap. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, and there were a few reasons for that...

A. The book was a break from my typical reading. I found The Reason For Sports to be an entertaining read as well as one causing me to think.
B. I share some things in common with Mr. Kluck: We're former residents of the Hoosier state, thirty-somethings with declining athletic abilities, and reformed.

The Reason For Sports has twelve short chapters that cover a range of topics such as athletes publicly confessing sin, steroid use, showboating, and racism. Some of the athletes that are written about more in-depth include Mike Tyson, Ricky Williams, Tony Dungy, and Muhammad Ali. Boxing and American football tend to be the sports most often discussed in this book. I never competed in those sports and only catch sports headlines today, but I think many Christians will like this book even if they do not follow much of the American sports scene. Sports are a huge part of our culture that often come up in our conversations. Unfortunately, we often fail to have a Christ-centered perspective about sports, but The Reason For Sports can help us view sports in the way God intended. So even if you live outside of the States, haven't watched a football game for years, or your body takes a year to recover from soccer games, I highly recommend The Reason For Sports.

* The Reason For Sports is not the first book written by Ted Kluck I have read. I have also read Why We're Not Emergent and Hello, I Love You: Adventures in Adoptive Fatherhood. I highly recommend these books as well.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Reviewing R.C. Sproul's The Priest With Dirty Clothes

When I finished reading The Priest with Dirty Clothes, my seven-year-old daughter asked if I have other books like that. I think that is a clear indicator that she was a fan of this book. My daughter Rose who is in the fourth grade said this was a good book and that she enjoyed the whole storyline. After going over the 12-question study guide at the end of the book, we decided to check out other picture books at the Ligonier Ministries site written by Dr. Sproul. We definitely plan to read more of his books in the near future.

Dr. Sproul dedicates The Priest with Dirty Clothes to his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Before he begins the story, there is a letter to the parents explaining the purpose of the book. The Priest with Dirty Clothes is based on one of Dr. Sproul's favorite passages from the Bible, Zechariah 3:1-5, and it is recommended that the passage is read with children prior to reading the story. The story starts off with a brother and sister coming home extremely muddy, and a grandfather telling them a story after they get cleaned up. The grandfather tells his grandchildren of a priest who got his special clothes muddy. Because of this, the priest was not permitted to preach before the king and was told to preach the next week with clean clothes. Unfortunately, the priest's clothes were permanently stained so he went to the prince to get help. The prince told the priest to go to the king with his dirty clothes and to trust that the prince would take care of everything. The priest was confused as to how his clothes would get cleaned, but he did as the prince instructed. When the priest came before the king with muddy clothes, an evil magician and others shouted at the priest. At this time the prince walked into the room and presented the priest with the prince's beautiful clothes. The priest put on the new clothes, and the prince put on the priest's dirty clothes. The priest was now allowed to stand before the king. He would go on to deliver his best sermon and would continue preaching about the prince and wearing the prince's clothes. The story concludes with the grandfather explaining how Christ washes our dirty hearts and creates clean ones - how Christ took our sin and gave us His righteousness.

It has been a blessing to have read a couple of Dr. Sproul's modern classics, Chosen by God and The Holiness of God. These books helped me to better understand predestination and God's holy nature significantly. In The Priest with Dirty Clothes, Dr. Sproul helps children (and adults) better understand another all-important topic, the imputation of Christ's righteousness. Although imputation is a weighty topic, The Priest with Dirty Clothes is not told in a manner that is above the heads of lower or upper elementary students. The plot is easy to follow, the words are age-appropriate, and the pictures are colorful and fun. The book has all of the elements needed to keep the attention of today's millennials. I have read a number of books to my girls over the years, and you are not going to find too many children's books that are as captivating while explaining themes of such crucial importance. My daughters and I heartily give Dr. Sproul's book, The Priest with Dirty Clothes, our Wickersham stamp of approval.

Although I will receive a free copy of this Reformation Trust publishing title as compensation for this review, a positive book review is not required.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Lay's Cheese Lobster Chips Are Da' Bomb Diggity!

Here in China, I have consumed some potato chips by Lay's that you probably won't find at your local grocery store. This includes blueberry, Italian red meat, lemon tea, and cucumber. This past week I came across a flavor new to me - cheese lobster. What's the verdict? I bought a second bag. What do they taste like? Think cheese plus lobster. Ah yeah! Cheese lobster chips are da' bomb diggity!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Reviewing Ken Sande's and Kevin Johnson's Resolving Everyday Conflict

As a husband with an ISTJ personality married to a Godly woman with an ENFP personality, we do not always see eye to eye. As a middle school principal at an international school, part of my job is to help resolve conflict with foreign and national teachers, parents, and students. As a saint who must battle a sinful side that can be quite prideful, easily angered, and super selfish, you can say I have some issues. These are the reasons Sande & Johnson's book appealed to me. Even if you are single, have a blue-collar position, or others consider you to be humble, gentle, and generous, I do not see how this book cannot benefit you. Everyone has conflict and needs to know how to resolve it. Ken Sande has served as a Christian mediator for three decades and was once an engineer and lawyer. He understands challenging circumstances and how to make peace.

Resolving Everyday Conflict consists of eight chapters of nearly 130 pages...

Chapter 1: The Nature of Conflict
Chapter 2: The Hope of the Gospel
Chapter 3: Escaping, Attacking, or Peacemaking
Chapter 4: G1 - Glorify God
Chapter 5: G2 - Get the Log Out
Chapter 6: G3 - Gently Restore
Chapter 7: G4 - Go and Be Reconciled
Chapter 8: Overcome Evil with Good

A Going Deeper section points you to Sande's popular book, The Peacemaker, as well as his website that provides a variety of peacemaking resources. The Peacemaker is nearly 200 pages longer than Resolving Everyday Conflict and is endorsed by J.I. Packer, John Piper, and Chuck Colson. An appendix includes several questions for reflection and discussion that coincides with each chapter. Resolving Everyday Conflict is a good book supported by Scripture that I believe you will find to be very applicable in day-to-day life. I recommend it without any reservations.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Reviewing Dave Kraft's Leaders Who Last

I own this book in audio format, and the 150-page can be listened to in just over three hours. The 12 chapters are neatly divided into three parts: Foundations, Formation, and Fruitfulness. Part one consists of the Leader's Power, Purpose, Passion, Priorities, and Pacing. Part two covers the Leader's Calling, Gifts, Character, and Growth. The last part is about the Leader's Vision, Influence, and Legacy. 

I learned of Dave Kraft and his book through the Resurgence site, and Kraft's book title immediately caught my eye. Mr. Kraft has a resume that more than qualifies him to write a book called Leaders Who Last. If you are looking for an author who is a successful CEO of a large multinational company who writes books based on surveys and studies, look elsewhere. However, if you are looking for an author who has been involved in full-time Christian ministry leadership and has been faithfully married to the same woman for more years than I have been alive, this is your book. 

Leaders Who Last reminds us that the Christian life is more like a marathon and not a 100-meter dash. I personally think life is more like a decathlon, but that argument is for another blog post. Based on Kraft's personal experiences and convictions, he tells us how to finish the race and finish it well. This includes having a deep relationship with Jesus Christ, building a network of friends who will be real with and keep you accountable, and making significant contributions using the gifts God has given you. Although Leaders Who Last is geared for church leaders, I found it very applicable to my job as a principal. Some questions that are addressed include: 

1. What is a leader? 
2. Who do future leaders look like compared to past leaders? 
3. What are the key ingredients to Christian leadership?

Leaders Who Last is an easy-to-read book that contains various life illustrations, quotes, and Scripture. If you are a Christian and have any position where you leading others or might be leading others, I recommend Kraft's book. Life's race can be tough and most will drop out, but for those who are rooted in the grace of Jesus Christ, we will cross the finish line with gold medals around our necks.

Reviewing John Piper's John Calvin and His Passion for the Majesty of God

I received this book in audio format, and the 60 pages can be completed in approximately one hour. Although I do not advertise this greatly, it should not take long for others to see that I have many of the same theological understandings as John Calvin. This book by John Piper, my favorite author, consists of seven short chapters. The titles of the chapters include...

Chapter 1: God Is Who He Is
Chapter 2: A Passion for the Glory of God in Christ
Chapter 3: Mastered by the Majesty and Word of God
Chapter 4: Ministry Made by the Majesty of the Word
Chapter 5: Marriage to Idelette
Chapter 6: Constant Trials
Chapter 7: Constancy in Expounding the Word of God

Pastor Piper starts off John Calvin, unlike many biographies I have read. Instead of being told how John Calvin's life began in France, Piper points us to the centrality and supremacy of God. This was Calvin's passion - to magnify our Sovereign Lord. It is not until the third chapter that we read about Calvin's birth and rebirth. In other chapters, we read about the constant challenges Calvin faced, the works he produced, and his dedication to expository preaching. A four-page foreword written by Professor Gerald Bray of Beeson Divinity School and an appendix entitled Calvin's Barbaric World: The Case of Michael Servetus are also included. I believe Piper does a wonderful job of not glorifying Calvin but giving glory to God. In the appendix, you can read about what many consider to be Calvin's greatest shortcoming, his condemnation of Servetus. If you are wanting a basic overview of one the great reformers of the faith, I recommend Piper's John Calvin and His Passion for the Majesty of God.

Reviewing Paul Chappell's Leaders Who Make a Difference: Leadership Lessons from Three Great Bible Leaders

Leaders Who Make a Difference attracted me for three reasons:

1. I enjoy reading biographies of biblical figures.
2. I desire to be a leader who makes a difference for the glory of God.
3. It was a free download on Amazon. :-)

In his book, Pastor Paul W. Chappell looks at the lives of three men from the Old Testament:

1. Joshua: A leader who had vision
2. Nehemiah: A leader who brought revival
3. Joseph: A leader who finished well

Leaders Who Make a Difference contains nine chapters as well as a short introduction and conclusion. Chapters 1-3 focus on Joshua and are entitled Vision is Developed through Preparation, Vision is Mobilized through a Plan, and Vision is Realized through Provision. Chapters 4-6 are about Nehemiah and are entitled Revival is Initiated by Supplication, Revival is Possible through Synergy, and Revival is Continued through Stamina. That last three chapters of Leaders Who Make a Difference center on one of my Old Testament heroes, Joseph. These final chapters are called Finishing Well Begins with Faith, Finishing Well is Accomplished through Faithfulness, and Finishing Well Requires Forgiveness.

It is important to note that Pastor Chappell started the West Coast Baptist College in Lancaster, California, and he pastors one of the largest Baptist churches in America. West Coast Baptist College is unashamedly unaccredited and uses only the King James Bible. All of the verses in Leaders Who Make a Difference are KJV so a few of the verses might be slightly challenging to understand for those who are not familiar with the English spoken 400 years ago. I wasn't aware of Pastor Chappell's background when I started reading his book, and as I progressed through his book I could see I have some secondary theological differences from him. As a Reformed Baptist, some of my understandings of God's sovereignty, sin, suffering, and supplication differ from Pastor Chappell, and this stood out to me in his statements throughout his book. Because of these differences, I don't intend to read his books again; however, I strongly believe Pastor Chappell has blessed many people and will continue to do so. 

Reviewing Tim Keller's The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness: The Path to True Christian Joy

I downloaded this book onto my school-purchased iPhone for several reasons:

1. Tim Keller - I enjoyed reading The Prodigal God, watching The Gospel of Life, and listening to numerous sermon clips and interviews of his.
2. The Subtitle - Sometimes I struggle to find joy in tasks that God has required me to do, but I want to rejoice always.
3. Cost - The book was under a buck through Amazon so I couldn't pass it up.

The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness consists of four short chapters, and I was able to finish the book on a bus ride home from work. Chapter one is called The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness, chapter two is entitled The Natural Condition Of The Human Ego, chapter three is The Transformed View Of Self, and the final chapter is How To Get That Transformed View Of Self.

Chapter one opens up with two immensely important questions:

1. "What are the marks of a heart that has been radically changed by the grace of God?"
2. "If we trust in Christ, what should our hearts be like?"

In The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness, Pastor Keller focuses on a section of Paul's first letter to the Corinthians: 1 Cor. 3:21-4:7. In this passage, we are shown that the church in Corinth is divided due to pride and boasting. Like the Corinthians, we often look at ourselves too highly. This is something I have done all too frequently and something I continue to battle. Additionally, many people are on the other side of the spectrum and feel they suffer from a low self-esteem. We help people to combat this by telling them they are somebody; however, this is totally the wrong approach. We cannot build ourselves up by meeting our own standards or society's standards. This doesn't work. Apart from Christ, we will never be satisfied with ourselves. Our ego always desires more, and we get hurt in the process. We constantly desire to accomplish more in order to feel like we're somebody important. God expects us to deny ourselves and look to Him. God is to be our audience, not the world. We must seek to bring attention to our Awesome God and not to ourselves. The only way we can do this is by looking to the finished work of Christ on the cross. It is He who declares us innocent so we can live this life full of joy and be prepared for a life of pure joy in Heaven.

If you are looking for a quick read that is biblically sound, I recommend Keller's book to you. Pastor Keller preaches to a few thousand intellectuals in Manhattan every Sunday yet his book can be understood by those new to the faith. The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness does not use complex theological terms, and deep thoughts and discussions should result from reading the book. Although I still struggle to find joy in some daily tasks, reading Keller's book is a great reminder of how I should be thinking. At the back of the book, you will find a few thoughts and questions for reflection, endnotes, and a list of Keller's books.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Summer Fishin' With My Girls II

It looks like another fish was hungry for some bluegill. At least this guy has a sweet war wound.
My brother caught this massive redear sunfish yesterday
at Eagle Creek. We were unable to pull in the big ones.
This was the second catfish I caught this summer. They be mega ugly, but great eats.
This is a gorgeous longear sunfish that I caught at Lake Monroe. It's hard to believe he's not livin' in tropical waters.
Grace caught a nice sized catfish a day after Rose's big
catch. This was as close as Grace would get to the fish.
Rose caught her first catfish a couple of weeks ago. Before Rose could pull the guy 
onto the deck, her line snapped and the guy fell smack dab in the mud. The drought 
actually helped make sure this fish didn't get away. I got quite dirty saving the guy's 
life, and the girls were more than amused. 

Today Grace caught her first largemouth bass. He's certainly not the biggest guy in 
the world, but we'll take it. Grace was a little scared to hold him, but the new 
fishing gloves gave her some confidence. 

I love catchin' humongous bluegill like this one. He gave me massive fight.

A couple of weeks ago Grace was trying to get the courage to touch this bass. I've caught several this summer 
on a black jitterbug. Unfortunately Indiana grass is currently lookin' super sad.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Summer Fishin' With My Girls

I woke up Grace and Rose at 6 a.m. so we could go fishin' before heading off for the
 church service. It didn't hurt that grandpa bought the girls new poles.

Both Rose and Grace caught a few fish in the morning and evening. I asked Megan to 
join us, but she decided to read a novel instead. At least Megan listens to our fish
 tales when we come home. :-)
This guy snapped my line the first time I caught him, but I was able to reel him in the second time and retrieve 
my first hook. I was happy, and Grace was quite excited for me. She thinks I'm the greatest fisherman in the
world. :-)
Just before callin' it a night, I caught this catfish. Apparently these fish snap a lot of lines because she had someone 
else's hook in her mouth.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Gettin' New Wheels in Tianjin

Grace had a nice hole in her rear tire so we took her bike to a local bike repairman. You can see our apartment 
complex in the background.

Rose and Grace watch intently at the fine work provided by the repairman.
Grace is likin' her tuned up wheels on this beautiful spring day.
Rose was a happy camper when I purchased her a folding bike for 240 RMB ($38 USD) at a nearby market. 
Hopefully the bike won't get ripped off anytime soon.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Daddy Date: Burger King - Tianjin, China

I told Rose and Grace that during spring break we would go to a brand spankin' new
mall called the Joy City Mall. The purpose of the trip had nothing to do with shopping,
 and had everything to do with chowing down  at Hanbao Wang - Burger King.
Here is Grace salivating over a hot and lightly salted BK french fry. She's likin' the 
new french fry recipe.  

This Double Whopper made me a happy man.

You can see that Burger King has put Rose in a very merry mood. The world would be a much better place if BK 
was on every street corner.

It's two thumbs up for Burger King. Thank you Joy City Mall for the joy you helped bring to our lives!

Five Palm Sundays Ago

Megan shot this video of Rose and Grace gettin' crazy with their palm branches five years ago. Rose had been in our family for just over four months, and Grace was adopted only six months prior to Rose making us a family of four. This morning I watched the video with the girls, and it brought giant smiles to our faces. God is good.


So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!" John 12:13

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Happy Patrick of Ireland Day II

I posted this last year, but since it is March 17th, I thought a reposting was appropriate.

Like most Americans, I grew up not ever knowing who St. Patrick was. I just made sure I always wore green on March 17th so I wouldn't get pinched. Weird. I highly recommend clicking on the links below and learning about this great man of God.

Who Was St. Patrick? by Kevin DeYoung

Patrick of Ireland by Reid Monaghan

Daddy Date: The Magnetic Capital Videogame Arcade - Tianjin, China

Today Megan and Rose went to the fabric market so Grace and I rode to a nearby videogame arcade. There are
 actually a couple arcades within walking distance, but the environments are not as kid-friendly. The bike trailer 
was a Christmas gift for the girls, and it turns a lot of heads around here. You do not see too many six-year-olds 
pedaling on the streets of TJ.
We've stopped here a couple of times to play games over the years. You pay a little money for a bunch of
 tokens that allow you to play a million games. It's much cheaper to visit arcades here than it is in the States. 
Grace only wanted to play this drum game once. It was givin' her arms a workout that wasn't fun, but 
my mighty pythons didn't have any problemos drumming away.
Grace scored five points in this basketball game. Shewas hesitant to play because 
she didn't  think she would score any baskets, but my girl got game! 

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Daddy Date: Golden Hans - Tianjin, China

Last Saturday Megan went to Tianjin's new IKEA, and today she went antique 
shopping. That meant Rose, Grace, and I had another daddy's date. We decided 
to go to a restaurant Megan does not care for much - a chaincalled Golden Hans.
The girls and I really like this restaurant. It's a churrascaria (Brazilian steakhouse), but they also function as a 
"German" brewery. Our waiter chuckledwhen I chose not to order any brewskis. I chose to get some Coke, 
instant coffee, and warm milk. Rose and Grace approved. 
The waiters wear cool cowboy hats and bring around lots of meat on bigsticks. 
It is a good thing we aren't vegetarians.
Grace is enjoying some ox tongue. I chose to skip the taste buds, but I did hunker down on some pig heart. 
The girls thought it was too spicy.  
These are fried pumpkin cakes and they are lip-smackin' good. Unfortunately my Chinese readin' skillz are pathetic 
so I'm not sure what the cake says. If I had to guess, it might say, "Put me in your mouth 'cause I b so tasty." 
Here is the menu of 20 items that the cowboys bring to your tables. It includes prawn, garlic belly pork, black 
pepper sausage, lamb's leg, Mongolian style mutton, chicken wings, and more. In addition to this, there is a 
buffet that you can visit repeatedly if you desire to be a glutton. What's the cost? 103 RMB ($16.32 USD) for
 the three of us. You can eat for a lot cheaper in this neck of the woods, but it was a daddy's date. We had fun.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Daddy Date: Harvest Coffeehouse - Tianjin, China

A local coffeehouse recently moved locations so we decided to check out their new facilities. Their 
menu has changed some and has become friendlier to the Chinese college student. The three 
of us enjoyed chicken sandwiches with fries, but Rose and Grace thought the ice cream was the best part.

I was really excited about the chocolate ice cream.

I was not happy when all of my ice cream was gone.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Daddy Date: Maky Bakery - Tianjin, China

Before heading back to school for the start of the second semester, I told Rose and Grace that I would
 take them on a daddy date. We decided to walk to a nearby mall and eat at Maky Bakery.
The girls selected some kind of bread that had a hot dog and mayo on it. I am not a fan of mystery meat, but you 
can see that Rose and Grace werevery happy. There are some items I enjoy here although Megan would not
mind if she never set foot in the place.

Of course the girls love the giant cakes. They probably look a lot better than they taste. Cakes here 
have approved tremendously over the years, but they still tend to be less sweet than in America.
I am all about the sugar.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Just Being Myself: TIS Spirit Week

I typically do not get dressed up for Spirit Week, but this year I decided to go all out on Animal Day. 
Unfortunately this pic does not show my deadly stinger and black cowboy boots that I wrapped with 
yellow tape. I was able to get more than a few laughs from others by buzzing around and telling
corny bee jokes. What did the principal say to the naughty bee? Bee-hive yourself! My fellow animal 
friends are TIS 8th graders who come from Japan, Taiwan, Korea, and America.
This picture was taken at last year's Spirit Week. Mr. Prescott, Mr.
Kennedy, and I went with the Johnny Cash look for Color Day. 

Saturday, January 28, 2012

When Do You Read The Good Book?

I like this short and simple video. I'm sure some will be critical of it for showing what it appears to be only affluent people living in a Western country, but I think there is much to be commended here. The message is far from preachy, but it presents a powerful message - get in the Book!

"All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness," 2 Timothy 3:16

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The New School Building

In a few days, the second semester of the school year starts in a brand-spankin' new school building. We have been provided an amazing facility and that will be used to bless many. It has been a lot of work to move all of our dongxi (stuff) into the new building, but I am lookin' forward to seein' the developments that will take place here in the coming years.

I was unable to capture a decent shot due to the lighting; however, I'm likin' these 
blocks in the ECC lobby. I am quite the fan of one of the kids on the block.

Perhaps Grace and I will be able to ride together on real bikes on the streets of Tianjin one day. 
Grace is in her new kindergarten class.

Megan is doin' some decoratin' in her new art classroom. It also serves as a Chinese language classroom.
The middle school classrooms have TIS blue on the accent walls,
but I'm likin' the burnt orange in Rose's 3rd grade classroom.

This is my new office. It is quite a bit larger than my last office. I have a door that leads 
to a large patio that could be used to grill some brats. Do you smell what the Wick is cookin'?