Thursday, December 26, 2013

Wick's 2013 Highlights

2013 consisted of some huge ups as well as something not so fun in February. Check out past highlights at the following links: 201020112012.

January - We add Josiah to the Wickersham clan on the 20th. That makes three Chinese kids with a 9.5-year gap between the youngest and oldest. God is awesome.

February - I tear my ACL in my right knee while playing soccer with middle school students. This is tear #2 (Tear #1 occurred in my left knee while coaching high school students in 1997).

March - I set up Instagram and Twitter accounts all on my own accord. I'm just a few years late.

April - I complete my third and final Indiana Wesleyan University (IWU) class and have only three summer classes to take at Columbia International University (CIU).

May - The Wickershams move to an apartment complex closer to TIS. I'm extremely happy about our new home in the peaceful setting.

June - Megan and the kiddos visit me at CIU for the first time. I'm pleasantly surprised at how much Megan enjoyed small town southern life.

July - I complete a M.Ed. in Educational Administration at CIU. I never thought I would earn a master's degree, especially one in education.

August - The Wickershams participate in the Color Run 5K in Beijing. My knee was a little achy, but I finished the race.

September - I increase my coaching responsibilities and coach 30 lady eaglet soccer players, two of which are Rose and Grace. I'm so thankful that my daughters actually want me to coach them.

October - I attend a standards-based assessment summit at the American International School of Guangzhou, China and earn a graduate credit through the State University of New York.

November - A surprise bacon sundae birthday party is thrown by Megan for my 40th. It appears we have a tradition, but I'm not sure how Megan will be able to surprise me if I reach the big 41.

December - I get the privilege to speak at my secretary's wedding and get a little choked up in the process. His permanent covenant-keeping love for us is overwhelming.


Wick's 2012 Highlights

There is no typo in the title. The past day I reflected on the past two years. You can check out past Wickersham highlights here: 2010 & 2011.

January - The TIS community moves into a brand new school building that contains 75 classrooms, our first gym, tennis courts, and much, much more. We definitely don't deserve this.

February - Carol, Megan's mother, is diagnosed with cancer and is given this special opportunity to witness to others the truth and glory of Him.

March - Megan flies to Indiana and surprises her mom. I play Mr. Mom for 1.5 weeks.

April - I take the girls on a special daddy's date to a newly opened Burger King in a western-style mall. It just tastes better.

May - After more than a two-year break, I'm thrilled to see Megan blogging again at http://meganwickersham.wordpress.com/. I like Megan's writing style and envy her creative flair.

June - I complete my first grad class through Indiana Wesleyan University (IWU). Taking classes through IWU enabled me to complete an M.Ed. in three years.

July - We see our first picture of Josiah Lee Fuzi Wickersham on Megan's 39th birthday. I can't believe I'm going to have a boy.

August - In addition to my duties as a middle school principal and PE department supervisor, I add Good Book Head of Department to my plate.

September - Megan and I attend an admin retreat in Xiamen (southeast China). The warmer temperatures appeal to my inner islander.

October - I plan to attend education conferences next month in Malaysia and Thailand. One is a secular leadership conference and the other conference is for Christian educators.

November - Megan throws a surprise bacon sundae birthday party for me. Everything tastes better with bacon.

December - I start a research class through IWU that results in a 60-page action research report. That was a little work.




Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Lay's Fun Wasabi Shrimp Flavor Chips & Spicy Green Peppercorn Fish Flavor Chips Are Da' Bomb Diggity!

Although I'm fine w/ being a meat-and-potatoes guy, the TCK in me also doesn't mind a little adventure in my dining experiences. Yesterday I picked up a flavor of Lay's chips that makes sense to my Hoosier and Japanese makeup - fun wasabi shrimp flavor. I like how this flavor is described as fun. A few months ago I picked up a bag of Lay's spicy green peppercorn fish flavor chips. These chips weren't described as fun, but I found them to be just as fun as the Lay's fun wasabi shrimp flavor chips. Perhaps they are even more fun. They have a dead fish floating on the cover of the bag, and I think that definitely puts them in the fun category. Although shrimp and corn fish flavor chips may not sound appealing to you, I have bought both flavors multiple times. The bags state the date of minimum durability is nine months, but this isn't a concern for me since they get eaten up within minutes after I purchase them. You betcha I can't eat just one.

 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Reviewing James MacDonald's When Life is Hard

I received James MacDonald's book, When Life is Hard, a few years ago when Pastor MacDonald was a council member of the Gospel Coalition. Christian books about overcoming adversity appeal to me so I was thankful to receive this book as a Christmas gift. Unfortunately, I never found When Life is Hard to be very engaging and only recently finished this 200 pager. I think I would have enjoyed the book more had I read it several years ago when I was at a different stage in life. Perhaps it would have been better for me to read the book with others and to write down my answers to the questions Pastor MacDonald posed. I found nothing in Pastor MacDonald's book that caused me to raise any eyebrows although I would not simply say that God allows painful, difficult things to happen. A few of the positives in his book include having key words and phrases bolded or in italics, the use of Scripture (ESV, NASB, and NKJV translations) throughout the book, and how nicely the book is organized. Some of the ways Pastor MacDonald speaks truth include:

Glimpses of God: At the beginning of every chapter a theme verse is examined, word by word.
From God's Heart to Mine: At the end of each chapter are a couple of verses or a short Scripture passage to memorize.
Mining for Gold: Each chapter includes a set of personal questions designed to help you reflect on and implement what God is showing you about trials in your life.
Come Forth as God: The final chapter looks at the sixteen key lessons covered in the book and summarizes them.

I am sure many people have made better sense of pain and suffering from reading When Life is Hard, and I think more will be blessed in the years to come by Pastor MacDonald's stories of hope. I appreciate hearing messages that don't gloss over the fact that life is hard at times, but there is One who can help you through the hard times.


Saturday, November 16, 2013

Reviewing Greg Laurie's How To Live Forever

Whenever we listen to sermons as a family, I typically find a recent sermon preached by Greg Laurie. His sermons are biblically based and preached in a manner that can help all of us better understand the Chief Cornerstone. I found Greg Laurie's booklet, How to Live Forever, like his sermons. How to Live Forever presents the gospel message in 27 pages. Below are the titles of the ten short chapters.

1. The Quest
2. Would You Sell Your Soul to End the Frustration?
3. Yet We Are Made in God's Image
4. The "S" Word - Sin
5. Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up?
6. Why Did He Do It?
7. A Bleak Alternative
8. What Do I Have to Do?
9. How to Know God
10. Now What?

Since this booklet was written in 1999, some of the statistics and pop culture references (e.g., Back to the Future, Gianni Versace) are dated, but this is really of little importance. Scripture is found throughout the booklet in NLT, NKJV, and NIV (1984) translations, and Pastor Laurie handles unpopular topics such as the cross and Hell in a way that can engage people from various backgrounds. There were a couple of times when I read something that I would have worded differently or perhaps stressed something from another standpoint. Despite this, I believe How to Live Forever has definitely been used to feed souls and will continue to do so in the years to come.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Reviewing Paul Miller's A Praying Life: Connecting With God in a Distracting World

Paul Miller's book, A Praying Life, was published four years ago and has sat on our Chinese bookshelf for much of that time. Recently though I was motivated to complete the book prior to a focused day of prayer. I desire to be more than someone who dispenses popcorn prayers, says grace before family meals, and provides nicely worded vertical requests at organized gatherings. I desire to be a prayer warrior who prays without ceasing; however, I permit so much to distract me from constantly communicating with my Heavenly Father. Unfortunately, my sick heart prefers reading and talking about prayer with other sick people instead of praising the Great Physician. Fortunately, Miller's book supplied not only sound theology but practical advice to help me better understand how I can go about better communing with my Creator.

A Praying Life consists of five sections divided into 32 compact chapters. The chapters are largely composed of personal family stories that show Miller struggles with sin like all of us. The chapters also show we have a great God who always answers prayer perfectly. We may not always like or understand God's answers, but we can trust that our Sovereign Lord knows what He is doing. I am thankful for Miller's use of Scripture throughout his book as well as the sprinkling of informative diagrams.

Miller's book is endorsed by a few authors who I have greatly benefited from (Tim KellerKen Sande, and Paul David Tripp). Within the book, you will find Miller quoting a wide range of people who have different thoughts on prayer (St. Augustine, C.S. Lewis, Thomas Merton, Nancy Pearcey, John Piper, N.T. Wright, Philip Yancey, Ravi Zacharias). Although I strongly disagree with some of the theological viewpoints of some of these people, I was not disturbed by anything I read in Miller's book. Also provided in the 280-page book are a foreword by David Powlison, a short introduction, some acknowledgments, more than six pages of notes, and advertisements for a few other resources from Miller. Below are the titles of the sections of the book.

Section 1: Learning to Pray Like a Child
Section 2: Learning to Trust Again
Section 3: Learning to Ask Your Father
Section 4: Living in Your Father's Story
Section 5: Praying in Real Life

I recommend checking out Miller's book if you are feeling spiritually dry and want to supplement your time in the Word. As a result of reading A Praying Life, I decided to use a prayer list again - a practice I stopped a few years ago. This time around I'll use my ever-changing list in hopes that it will enable me to have a more fruitful praying life. Please do not hesitate to lift me up or ask me how I am doing. I always can use the accountability.

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Romans 12:12

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Reviewing Kenneth S. Coley's The Helmsman: Leading with Courage and Wisdom

I was fortunate to be able to purchase The Helmsman at an ACSI conference in Thailand this past fall. It was required reading for one of my last M.Ed. classes at Columbia International University. The Helmsman is a 250-page book with five sections consisting of 12 chapters, and it is a book for Christian principals or those who will become principals one day. The titles of the sections and chapters are:

I. Perspectives and Personas
    1. Biblical Perspective - What are specific ways administrative tasks are performed differently in Christian schools as opposed to non-Christian schools?
    2. Historical Perspective - Is our school effective? Am I an effective principal?
II. The Helmsman as Administrator: 1 Corinthians 12:28
    3. Designing Your School's Philosophy - Is Christ the foundation of every aspect of our school programs?
    4. Establishing Your School's Governance - Is Scripture being used to develop and maintain the governance of our school?
    5. Curriculum Leadership - What do our units teach us about God, humankind, creation, moral order, or purpose?
III. The Helmsman as Builder: Nehemiah 1-13
    6. Community Builder and Transformational Leader - What weaknesses do we need to improve upon in our school?
    7. Six Forces of Leadership and Leadership by Outrage - What are my strengths and weaknesses as a leader, and what needs to change?
IV. The Helmsman as Builder of the Body: Ephesians 4:11-16
    8. Supervision of Instruction - Is the supervision of teachers being differentiated?
    9. Leadership Development - Is Jesus the supreme example of leadership development in our school?
V. The Helmsman as Steward: 1 Corinthians 4:1-2
  10. Finance and Facilities - Are biblical practices being conducted to generate funds?
  11. Legal Issues - Are we doing anything that would defame the name of Christ?
  12. Shore Leave - Is now a time when you need to consider stepping away from the demands of your position?

Although I have served as a middle school principal for three years, Dr. Coley taught me new information and gave me ideas that I will further reflect on. I clearly see why this book was a part of my educational administration course. It is a solid book that has blessed me, and I am sure will bless many others.

                         

Monday, March 18, 2013

Reviewing Tom Rath & Barry Conchie's Strengths Based Leadership: Great Leaders, Teams, and Why People Follow

I received Strengths Based Leadership prior to a workshop I attended with other ISC principals. Although the book is over 260 pages long, 135 pages of the book are descriptions of the 34 StrengthsFinder themes, 20 pages concern the research behind the book, and nearly ten pages are references. Strengths Based Leadership identifies three keys to being a more effective leader:

1. Knowing your strengths and investing in others' strengths
2. Getting people with the right strengths on your bus
3. Understanding and meeting the four basic needs of those who look for you to lead them

The book is organized in three parts. Part one is called Investing in Your Strengths, part two, the longest part, is entitled Maximizing Your Team, and part three is about understanding why people follow. Short introductions and conclusions are also included. In part two of Strengths Based Leadership, Rath and Conchie introduce us to four leaders who illustrate each of the four domains of leadership strength. Those four domains are executing, influencing, relationship building, and strategic thinking. The leaders introduced include Wendy Kopp, Founder and CEO of Teach For America (executing), Simon Cooper, President of the Ritz-Carlton (influencing), Mervyn Davies, Chairman of Standard Chartered Bank (relationship building), and Brad Anderson, Chief Executive Officer of Best Buy (strategic thinking). I didn't think highlighting Brad Anderson was best since Best Buy's market isn't as strong as it once was; however, Strengths Based Leadership was written in 2008 and Brad Anderson retired over four years ago.

The 34 StrengthsFinder themes are grouped into the four domains of leadership strength based on a statistical factor analysis and a clinical evaluation by Gallup's top scientists. I have bought into the strengths based philosophies and clearly see how certain people are better suited for certain positions. I think the best aspect of this book is having access to the StrengthsFinder 2.0 Assessment. Apparently this is unavailable on the Kindle edition. After inputing your unique access code online to take the assessment, you receive a personalized strengths-based leadership guide.

I have shared my assessment with several other people, and we have found it to be fairly accurate. According to the assessment, I am strongest in the strategic thinking domain (input, intellection, and learner) and weakest in the influencing domain (helping your team reach a much broader audience). My assessment also stated I'm strong in the achiever (a great deal of stamina and work hard) and connectedness (faith in the links between all things) themes. Those who have shared their assessments with me have also stated that they largely agree with their assessment outcomes.

I am glad I was gifted with this book because it has enabled me to better understand myself and shown me the importance of placing people in the right jobs. I do not see myself promoting strengths based assessments and discussions in the near future, but I now consider people's strengths far more than ever. Strengths Based Leadership is a simple read with much of it being material that can be skimmed, but new insights can be gained from reading the book.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Reviewing Mez McConnell's Is There Anybody Out There?: A Journey From Despair To Hope

After listening to Pastor McConnell's testimony several months ago and seeing his autobiography for three bucks, I dropped the Washingtons for this incredible account of how the Father radically transforms people's lives. Is There Anybody Out There? is not your typical Christian story, and there is very little reference to God in the first half of the book. Pastor McConnell had an extremely troubling upbringing that led to a life behind bars yet God got a hold of Him and changed him forever. Pastor McConnell hails from the UK and uses slang when he writes of his younger years so some of his language might be slightly unfamiliar to American readers. Initially, the first-person point of view is written in a very direct and choppy manner much like what we might expect from someone who is living a life of disorder. After Pastor McConnell becomes a Christian, he continues to write honestly, but we also read how he lives boldly in a new way. This book is a reminder that a Christian is not only one whom Christ has saved, but one whom Christ has regenerated. I highly recommend this book for both believers and skeptics.

to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen. Romans 16:27

Reviewing John MacArthur's Found: God's Will

Although I have listened to my share of Dr. MacArthur's sermons and have frequented his Grace to You site for the answers to various questions, this is the first time I have read one of Dr. MacArthur's books. The 75-page Kindle version of Found can easily be read in no time, and it is solid material that is thoroughly supported by Scripture. Dr. MacArthur's seven-chapter book does not use complex theological language, but it does contain profound truths in words that any layperson can understand. Found is organized in the following manner:

1. Is God a Cosmic Killjoy? - The will of God is clearly revealed in His Holy Word.
2. The Crucial First Step - God wants people to be saved.
3. The Fizzies Principle - We must be filled with the Spirit.
4. The Priority of Purity - Be sanctified (pursue holiness).
5. Silencing the Critics - Submit to the Lord and submit to others in the Lord.
6. Facing the Flak - Suffer for Jesus.
7. You're It - If you are the right you, you can follow your desires and you will do His will.

If you want to better understand God's will for you, it is not as complicated as many people make it out to be. Dr. MacArthur helps us understand that in a succinct and straightforward way. I wholeheartedly give Found my Wickersham stamp of approval.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Reviewing Brian J. Walsh's & J. Richard Middleton's The Transforming Vision: Shaping a Christian Worldview


The Transforming Vision was a book I was assigned to read for a Cedarville University education class I took several years ago. It is divided into four parts and consists of twelve chapters:

Part 1: What are Worldviews?
Chapter 1: Worldview and Culture
Chapter 2: Analyzing Worldviews
Part 2: The Biblical Worldview
Chapter 3: Based on Creation
Chapter 4: Acknowledging the Fall
Chapter 5: Transformed by Redemption 
Part 3: The Modern Worldview 
Chapter 6: The Problem of Dualism 
Chapter 7: The Development of Dualism 
Chapter 8: The Rise of the Secular Worldview 
Chapter 9: The Gods of Our Age
Part 4: The Biblical Worldview in Action
Chapter 10: A Christian Cultural Response
Chapter 11: Worldview and Scholarship
Chapter 12: Toward a Christian Philosophical Framework

The premise of this 215-page book is that society is a wreck and only through a Christian worldview can it truly be transformed. Dr. Walsh and Dr. Middleton desire to see every facet of life transformed - families, schools, businesses, governments, and more. They explain how the Christian worldview is the key to that transformation.

The Transforming Vision is a good book that is well-documented and biblically sound, but it reads very much like a college textbook. It is not a challenging read, but it definitely requires some reflection. I have read a few books pertaining to the topic of worldviews, and The Transforming Vision is not at the top of my list of most enjoyable worldview reads. I recommend Chuck Colson's How Now Shall We Live? for something that is both engaging and thought-provoking. James Sire's The Universe Next Door provides a better overview of major non-Christian worldviews. Although I have recommended reading other worldview books, I did benefit from reading The Transforming Vision and believe it will continue to bless many others.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Reviewing Glen Schultz's Kingdom Education: God's Plan For Educating Future Generations

I was given Kingdom Education by a fellow administrator a couple of years ago, but I just finished the 180-page book. It is required reading for one of my M.Ed. classes I'm taking in a few months. This 16 chapter book is divided into five "Kingdom Education" sections:

1. Its Definition, Purpose, and Result
2. The Role of the Home
3. The Role of the Church
4. The Role of the School
5. The Future

Dr. Schultz's main message is that parents must ensure that their children receive an education that is biblically based. The local church must work with parents and teachers so that every child has the opportunity to receive an education that is Christ-centered. Some of what Dr. Schultz shares about public schools will likely be a surprise to many, and opinions will definitely be formed.

I believe Dr. Schultz's book has a good message. It is loaded with Scripture, and it is evident that Dr. Schultz desires the best for young people. I do think more practical solutions as to how to make Christian education a possibility for everyone would make this book even better. Church buildings definitely need to be more than a Sunday and Wednesday meeting place as Dr. Schultz stated, but much needs to change about our thinking in order for all young people to have the opportunity to receive a Christian education. Getting a Christian education is expensive, and there are many who simply cannot afford it. What can we do to make Christian schooling affordable to all? There are many Christian schools that are lacking creativity and a challenging curriculum. How can we better engage our minds and be producers instead of imitators?

I would have also liked for Dr. Schultz to write his book with a more international mindset and provide more information concerning some of the statistics he used and statements he said about America's youth. I do not want these minor criticisms to come across as if Kingdom Education is not worth reading. I am thankful to have read the book and feel Kingdom Education is an excellent book for Christians to discuss if they have anything to do with teaching today's youth. If you are a parent struggling with the schooling issue, I recommend checking out John MacArthur's Grace To You site and gotquestions.org.


Reviewing Dave Harvey's When Sinners Say "I Do": Discovering the Power of the Gospel for Marriage


I placed When Sinners Say “I Do” on my Amazon Wish List after reading a Tim Challies’ review in which he stated this is perhaps the best marriage book he has ever read. I had no excuse to purchase the Kindle book once I saw it under $2. It was released in the summer of 2007 and consists of less than two hundred pages. When Sinners Say “I Do” is organized in the following manner:

Chapter 1: What Really Matters in Marriage
Chapter 2: Waking Up With the Worst of Sinners
Chapter 3: The Fog of War and the Law of Sin
Chapter 4: Taking it Out for a Spin
Chapter 5: Mercy Triumphs Over Judgment
Chapter 6: Forgiveness, Full and Free
Chapter 7: The Surgeon, the Scalpel, and the Spouse in Sin
Chapter 8: Stubborn Grace
Chapter 9: Concerning Sex
Chapter 10: When Sinners Say Goodbye

The author, Pastor Dave Harvey, has written a few books, has served in pastoral ministry for over 25 years, and has been married for more than 30 years. Harvey writes candidly in When Sinners Say “I Do” that the problem in marriages is our sinful hearts; however, he doesn’t stop there. He also points us to the beautiful solution, the Good News of Jesus Christ. When Sinners Say “I Do” can be easily understood to those new to the faith yet strike straight at the heart of those who have been walking faithfully with the Lord for many years. Humor is tastefully sprinkled throughout this biblical book. I found chapter eight to be particularly insightful and used much of it for a devotional I led on encouragement. The chapter on sex was done in good taste. I’m thankful to have finally read When Sinners Say “I Do”, and I wholeheartedly recommend it to any Christian regardless of whether you have recently gotten engaged or you have been married for a good number of years.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Reviewing Ted Kluck's Hello, I Love You: Adventures in Adoptive Fatherhood

Although Hello, I Love You was written more than two years ago, I wasn't aware of it until a couple of weeks ago. In a few weeks my wife and I will be adopting our third child from China so reading Mr. Kluck's book during the Christmas break was perfect timing. Hello, I Love You is quite different from other adoption books I've read. This 190-pager is written by a Christian thirty-something guy who speaks quite candidly about the challenges of international adoption, infertility, communication, the church, and more. It's both humorous and raw.

The 11 chapters are divided into two parts. Part 1 is entitled Tristan which is the name of the first child the Klucks adopted from Ukraine. Part 2 is entitled Dima which is the name of the second child the Klucks adopted Ukraine. Mr. Kluck is quite frank about not always enjoying the way things operate in the Ukraine, and I could see some Ukrainians being offended; however, Mr. Kluck has good things to say about the Ukraine as well. Adopting children is not always a smooth process, and that is certainly the case here. Reading about Kluck's two international adoptions made me extremely thankful for not having to face their trials. It was also good to read that Mr. Kluck is fully aware that complaining is sinful, and that he understands that his wife has been so patient with him. I can more than relate to these things.

If you are looking for a book that talks about how everything about adopting children is beautiful, this is not the book for you. If you are interested in reading what international adoptions can be like and feel like, especially if you're a man, I recommend Hello, I Love You. Although I was disappointed not to read about the completion of a third adoption, I know the story has not ended.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Reviewing Stephen Altrogge's Create: Stop Making Excuses and Start Making Stuff

Stephen Altrogge blogs over at www.theblazingcenter.com, and I frequent his site regularly. I have enjoyed listening to his music as well. Create is the first book I have read of Mr. Altrogge's, and like his blog, Create is packed with wit and truth. Since the book is only 43 pages long and written in a conversational manner, reading it will probably take you very little time.

Create is not only designed for art majors like my wife, but it's also designed for people like me who think concretely and enjoy predictability. It doesn't matter what your profession is, this book can bless you. Create is designed to help you see that all of us have creative abilities. People not only create magnificent paintings and sculptures, but we create professional documents, delicious meals, fun presentations, and inviting homes. A big part of this book is to encourage you to get off your butt and start creating. Mr. Altrogge does this in an encouraging way and not like a crazy drill sergeant. Create is written from a biblical perspective so you'll find Scripture references throughout the book.

A minor criticism of the book is I felt Mr. Altrogge became a little repetitive in an attempt to motivate us to start creating. He does quote a couple authors who have views that greatly differ from the reformed faith; however, much can be learned from them. Overall, I think Create can be a very good read for people who lack some confidence and need a little push. It also serves as a good reminder that we have been given abilities to make creative contributions that can bless others and give God all of the glory.

Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. Romans 12:6-8


Thursday, January 3, 2013

Reviewing David Gregory's Night With A Perfect Stranger: The Conversation That Changes Everything

Several years ago a friend gifted me with David Gregory's bestseller, Dinner with a Perfect Stranger. I enjoyed the book so much that I read the sequel, A Day with a Perfect Stranger. I rarely read fiction, but since I liked Gregory's first two books in the series (and because the book was only a few bucks), I downloaded this third book. Part of the reason the Perfect Stranger series has appealed to me is that they have been a break from the typical reading I do.

The basic premise of Night with a Perfect Stranger is a businessman, Nick, has a second face-to-face encounter with Jesus. Although Nick grew in his faith after meeting Jesus at an Italian restaurant six years ago, he had not been growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus in recent years. Things changed for Nick after he got into another conflict with his dad and while driving home, Nick's U-Haul truck runs out of gas. Jesus shows up with a gas can and hops in the truck. It sounds pretty cheesy, but Gregory did enough to keep me intrigued.

As far as the theology in Night with a Perfect Stranger, there were some statements in the second half of the book that were a little confusing and could use some clarification. Some examples include sin doesn't matter as far as God's love, we are brought into the heart of the Godhead to be one with them, being a part of Jesus, and everyone is an expression of Christ. I am sure there will be some thinking I am overanalyzing what many consider to be a light read. Despite what kind of work one categorizes Night with a Perfect Stranger as a crucial subject matter has been written about so I believe we should properly reflect upon it.

I did initially enjoy reading Night with a Perfect Stranger, but after several chapters of this 12 chapter book (144 pages), I realized I had lost that lovin' feelin'. Along with some of Gregory's unique wording, I feel if I hadn't read the first two books in the series than I would have different thoughts about Night with a Perfect Stranger. A lot of Amazon reviewers gave Night with a Perfect Stranger favorable views, but it should be noted that it appears that many of them did not read the first two books. A Night with a Perfect Stranger's familiar formula was fine, but I do not see myself picking up another book like this anytime soon.

Below is a book trailer with some groovy music and footage.



Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Reviewing Francis Chan and Preston Sprinkle's Erasing Hell: what God said about eternity, and the things we made up

It is my strong preference to read, talk, and think about Heaven, but it is essential that we also know about Hell. I want to have a proper understanding of Hell for a host of reasons. I read about it regularly in the Good Book, people often talk about it unbiblically, I teach about it occasionally, and Jesus has saved His people from it eternally. I want others to know what it means to call Jesus the Savior of the world, therefore, I need to learn about Hell. Erasing Hell helped with that.

Erasing Hell is the third Francis Chan book I have read. Like thousands of others, I have greatly benefited from reading his books as well as listening to his sermons. Francis Chan can make challenging topics more understandable, and he has a knack for getting people from both ends of the spectrum to listen. Preston Sprinkle is new to me, but I think he's alright since he rolls with Chan.

Erasing Hell did not get my juices flowin' like some of Chan's other books (Crazy Love and Forgotten God), but the book is solid. Erasing Hell came largely in response to Rob Bell's Love Wins, and Chan and Sprinkle respectfully refute some of Bell's unorthodox teachings. Regardless of whether you are a fan of Bell's teachings, Chan and Sprinkle provide a profitable book about a not so easy topic. You may not always agree with what Chan and Sprinkle say, but they speak humbly and in a manner that can appeal to both seasoned and beginning theologians. Below is how the book is organized as well as a book trailer.

Preface
Introduction
Chapter 1: Does Everyone Go to Heaven?
Chapter 2: Has Hell Changed? Or Have We?
Chapter 3: What Jesus Actually Said about Hell
Chapter 4: What Jesus' Followers Said about Hell
Chapter 5: What Does This Have to Do with me?
Chapter 6: "What If God ...?"
Chapter 7: Don't Be Overwhelmed
Appendix: Frequently Asked Questions
Bibliography
About the Author
About the Coauthor
Sample Chapter from Forgotten God

Reviewing David Murray's Christians Get Depressed Too: Hope and Help for Depressed People

Although I have never suffered from depression, like you, I interact with people who are or have been depressed. Since that is the case, I felt reading a short biblically-based book (128 pages) about depression was something I should do. Christians Get Depressed Too is written by Dr. Murray, an Old Testament and theology professor at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary. I have greatly benefited from Dr. Murray's HeadHeartHand blog as well as his resources, How Sermons Work and God's Technology, and now I can add Christians Get Depressed Too to that list. Christians Get Depressed Too is organized in the following manner:

Preface
Acknowledgments
Chapter 1: The Crisis
Chapter 2: The Complexity
Chapter 3: The Condition
Chapter 4: The Causes
Chapter 5: The Cures
Chapter 6: The Caregivers
Appendix: On the Sufficiency of Scripture: Salvation, Sanctification, and Spectacles

Dr. Murray provides a very compassionate view of depression. We must understand that people from all walks of life can and do suffer from depression and at varying degrees. Everyone's mental, physical, or spiritual state must be examined carefully. This includes Christians. Dr. Murray may not be a doctor or psychologist, but the contents of this book are supported by those who are. Dr. Murray has had to communicate with a countless number of depressed people, and he offers practical advice and encouragement. If you are wanting books about depression that are more in depth, the last chapter contains a list of recommendations. If you are depressed, prone to depression, or know of someone that suffers from depression, I believe Dr. Murray's book can provide you some useful information and perhaps a level of comfort.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. 2 Corinthians 1:3-5