Book Review

Review: Adopted for Life

I should maybe call this a sort-of review, because it is pretty much unabashed in its praise.  I know there is supposed to be criticism as part of any book review, but I got my copy for free. So I can't even complain about the price. Adopted for Life: The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families and Churches by Russell Moore is, without question, the best book I have ever read on adoption. It is the only book I have ever read on adoption so maybe I should offer some other praise.  Adopted for Life is one of the best books I have ever read about parenting.  (In case you are wondering, the best book about parenting is Shepherding a Child's Heart)

I read this book in audiobook format.  That means that I was driving, or mowing the yard, or cleaning the house as I listened to it.  I obviously didn’t take notes while listening so this is not as complete a review as I would normally write.

The thesis of Adopted for Life is that physical adoption is a picture of the doctrine of adoption.  The book is an encouragement for every Christian and every church to be involved in adoption either by supporting those who seek to adopt or by adopting.  Moore would say that adoption is ultimately an issue of evangelism.

The book is, however, not entirely about theology.  Much of the book is dedicated to the practical issues that are bound to come up in adoption.  Moore has two adopted boys and he draws heavily from his experience with the adoption process and with raising adopted children.  He is open about his own feelings in every area of the adoption process.  I obviously have not been though the adoption process but I can not think of an issue that he does not cover.

I read the book because my brother and his wife are beginning the adoption process.  I will recommend it to them and to my parents, and to anyone in their church.  This book has my highest endorsement.  I have nothing but praise for Adopted for Life.

Book Review: 131 Christians Everyone Should Know

131 Christians Everyone Should Know is a compilation of biographies from the editors of Christian History Magazine, with a brief foreword by JI Packer. I sometimes have the opportunity to teach history.  I try to tell stories whenever possible, rather than to simply relate facts.  This is a lesson I learned from the best lecturer I have ever had for a class, Dr. David Hogg.  History is much more than simply events, but consists of the people that participate in those events.  That is the concept of this book.  It contains, interestingly enough, 131 brief biographies (most about 3 pages long) of Christians divided into categories based on why they are historically significant.

This label, “Christian,” is pretty broadly given by evangelical standards, but all of these people would call themselves Christians and all are historically significant.  The biographies are well-written and many will spur you on to a desire to read more about the subject.

I am giving this book my highest recommendation.  It is well-written, educational, and interesting.  It is perfect to have around for when you only have a few minutes to read.  Go get it.

Book Review: Your Jesus is Too Safe

Jared C. Wilson is a pastor in Nashville Tennessee.  He has written Your Jesus Is Too Safe: Outgrowing a Drive-Thru, Feel-Good Savior, in his words, as a reminder of the original message of Jesus.  It is an excellent and complete explanation of Christology.   The book is divided into 12 chapters, each dealing with a different aspect or attribute of Jesus. The necessity of this book in postmodern America seems obvious.  Because Christians, or even churches have chosen to pick and choose the characteristics or attributes of Jesus that seem most appealing to them, this book is a reminder that Jesus is all these things.   For example, some churches choose only to view Jesus as the provision and ignore the fact that He is also king.   The message of Your Jesus is too Safe is that those aspects of His character cannot be overlooked.

I will give my highest recommendation to the chapter on Jesus the judge.  This aspect of who Christ is has been so badly distorted or ignored that this chapter is necessary.  This chapter is so fair and complete in its discussion of the topic it is probably the best work I have ever read on the topic.  I wish I had written it.  It was also a good decision on Wilson’s part to follow up the excellent chapter on Jesus as judge with the chapter on Jesus as redeemer.

The footnotes in the book are brilliant.  I am always annoyed when books have endnotes rather than footnotes.  But it would have been a crime to do that with this book.  Fortunately they are kept as footnotes and are used masterfully.   At one point the footnotes included a link to this.

Also, it seems that Wilson’s voice comes through in this book strongly.  It is humorous and enjoyable while dealing with very serious subject matter.  That is something I try to do as I write, but I am only marginally as successful as Wilson.

It is not a scholarly work on Christology, if that is what you are looking for, there are better sources.  It is, however, thorough and accurate.  I would recommend it to anybody in my church.  I just wouldn’t recommend it for my CBC students trying to write a paper.

Am I Well Read?

I am in the habit of writing brief book reviews for this blog.  (But you already know that.)  I don’t review every book I read, just the ones for which I think my review will be useful to my readers, or books that I think are important. I spent most of the summer reading Anna Karenina.  I would read one or two chapters per night as I went to bed.  The version I read was 870 pages, so you can see why it took all summer.  I don’t really know how to review a fiction book, plus the book is 132 years old.  My review would make no difference at this point.  But I thought I might explain what made me chose it to read.

Some time ago the note at the end of this post started floating around Facebook with the BBC 100 book list.  I had only read 18 of those 100 books, so I thought I’d expand my horizons and read some of them.   Also, Tolstoy is often quoted by Philip Yancey, one of my favorite authors.  The fact that it is an Oprah Book Club selection is a pretty big strike against it in my eyes, but it is a classic, so I had to just ignore the Oprah connection.

But the real clincher for my choice is very sophisticated.  It was available at my local used bookstore for $4.  (That is how I chose a substantial portion of the books I read.)

My thoughts on the book are these.  It is almost 900 pages with probably 25 regular characters.  Nearly every one of the 25 characters goes by 3 names.  For example one of the main characters goes by Levin, Kostya, and Konstantin Dmitrievitch.  This was very confusing for me at times.  Otherwise it is so incredibly massive that it is hard not to admire.  That’s really all you are getting for a review.

Here is the book list from Facebook:

1) Look at the list and put an 'x' after those you have read. 2) Add a '+' to the ones you LOVE. 3) Star (*) those you plan on reading. 4) Add a # if you've at least seen the movie 5) Tally your total at the bottom.

How many have you read?

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen 2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR x+# 3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte x 4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling # 5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee *# 6 The Bible x 7 Wuthering Heights 8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell x+ 9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullma 10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens x 11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott 12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy 13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller x 14 Complete Works of Shakespeare (Really? Has anyone done this?) 15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier 16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien x 17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks 18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger 19 The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger 20 Middlemarch - George Eliot 21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchel # 22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald x 23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens 24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy x 25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams # 26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh 27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky (I have read the Brothers Karamazov) 28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck 29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll 30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame 31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy x 32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens x 33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis x 34 Emma - Jane Austen 35 Persuasion - Jane Austen 36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis x# (This is on here twice) 37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini 38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres 39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden 40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne 41 Animal Farm - George Orwell x 42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown# 43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez 44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving 45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins 46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery 47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy 48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood 49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding x # 50 Atonement - Ian McEwan 51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel 52 Dune - Frank Herbert 53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons 54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen 55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth 56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon 57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens x 58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley x 59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon 60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez 61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck 62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov 63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt 64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold 65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas 66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac 67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy x 68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding 69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie 70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville 71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens 72 Dracula - Bram Stoker 73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett 74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson 75 Ulysses - James Joyce 76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath 77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome 78 Germinal - Emile Zola 79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray 80 Possession - AS Byatt 81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens x (# about 10 versions) 82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell 83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker 84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro 85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert 86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry 87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White x # 88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven (Why would this book be on this list?) 89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle 90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton 91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad x 92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery 93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks 94 Watership Down - Richard Adams 95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy 96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute 97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas # 98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare x 99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl # 100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo x+

Totals: Read it x - 23 Loved it + - 3 Plan to read * - 2 (I guess I'm pretty lame) Seen movie # - 12

This list in the Facebook note has been altered pretty substantially from the BBC list.  And Just in case you are wondering, I have only read 14 of the actual list.  (Though to be fair, Harry Potter takes up like 5 places on that list)  What would be your list of 10 fiction books everyone should read?

Book Review: Do Hard Things

Last week I read Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations.  It is the best book I've read this year. I went to Lifeway with 2 books in mind.  One wasn't there, the other was either not in stock or misplaced.  I had read a review from Dr. Reid of Do Hard Things earlier in the day, and I wanted something to read, so I picked it up.  Then I didn't put it down.  The book is incredibly easy to read.  It took less than 4 hours and I was just reading leisurely.

Do Hard Things is written by Alex and Brett Harris.  They are brothers of Joshua Harris who wrote I Kissed Dating Goodbye.  They are also the creators of the Rebeloution.  A Blog for youth about battling low expectations.

The thesis of the book is simple.  Our culture has created a myth of adolescence (a term I believe they stole from Dr. David Black) that has lowered expectation for  teenagers to the point that they can be praised for doing nothing except staying out of trouble.  Do Hard Things urges teenagers to rebel against low expectations and "do hard things."

There are 5 specific types of hard things they address in the book.

  1. Things that are outside your comfort zone.
  2. Things that go beyond what is expected or required.
  3. Things that are too big to accomplish alone.
  4. Things that don't earn an immediate payoff.
  5. Things that challenge the cultural norm.

The book offers example after example of teenagers who have bucked this trend and done hard things.

It would be hard for me to express just how much I agree with this book. It is great in premise and in execution.  After running it by my pastor I may give copies of this book to all the parents of my youth.  I highly recommend it to anyone, youth or adult.

I have been saying for years that I am going to write a book called "Football is Hard"  in which I will investigate why parents of church kids are willing to allow them to spend 20 hours a week at football practice and expect them to work hard to be the third string offensive lineman, but they will not require their students to bring their Bible to church.  In other words, why is it okay for sports to be hard, but  not church?  I actually believe that the problem is more with parents than students, and this book illustrates that.  Parents, expect your kids to do hard things.  Read this book then pass it along to other parents.  Your kids already get it.

One last word.  Alex & Brett Harris are not the only ones who understand this.  The people at Student Leadership University get it.  I believe that there is a rising tide toward bucking the trend of low expectations.  Join the rebeloution.

Book Review: Chasing Daylight

Chasing Daylight: Seize the Power of Every Moment was written by Erwin McManus the pastor of Mosaic church in Los Angeles.  Before reading this book, my only familiarity with McManus was that I saw him speak at the SBC pastor's conference in 2006.  And now that I think of it, I believe I saw the profile of his church done by NAMB on TV on a snowed out Sunday morning. The reason for choosing to read this book is that it is on a few of my friends' Facebook lists as favorite book.  Also it was the theme of the Annie Armstrong offering for 2008, and it is similar to the book Wild Goose Chase which I recently wrote a review of.  It has been sitting in my queue of books to read since March (during the AAEO).

The main idea of Chasing Daylight is that Christians have been called to actually do something.  Most of us sit around doing nothing waiting to hear God tell us what to do, but God would have us doing something.

I found this book to be very engaging.  I wrote in the margins (my way of interacting with the book) numerous times in agreement and occasionally in befuddlement.  I would not put it in the class with my very favorite books, but there is no question that I heard the voice of God as I read it.  And it was a great reminder that we are to be doing something for God.  One thing is for certain, we only have a limited amount of time and how we use that time determines our effectiveness.

McManus reminds us that we are the products of our choices.  He then points out some of the problems of the western variety of Christianity.  The main problem is that we hide behind piety and make that an excuse for doing nothing for God.  He says "I am convinced that the great tragedy is not the sins we commit but the life we fail to live." (p. 36)  In other words, we use our comfort at our own level of righteousness as if it were a great accomplishment for God.  He also has a word of warning about materialism.  I will just say that he is exactly right about our stuff owning us.  Also that we must lay aside everything that comes between us and God, even if we think those things are "blessings" from God.

I was particularly struck by a an application he makes from Luke 14:15-24.  I have always viewed this passage as being about salvation only.  But he relates it to opportunity.  He would say that if we do not do the ministry that God has given us while we can, God will use someone else.

One of the weaknesses of this book is common in a lot of recent Christian books.  It is the use of the word "community" to replace the word "church".  I think I'll write a post about that later on.  Maybe it's just a personal issue, but it bothers me.

Also in the weakness category is the "Perils of Ayden" sections used between chapters.  These short vignettes of some fictional story did nothing to make the book clearer or better.  They were confusing and written in a nearly unreadable font.  (Seriously, that font is a major fail.  I was hoping I could link to the preview of these sections, but they are not there.)  Maybe I'm just too left-brained to get it, but I was somewhat befuddled.  Fortunately these sections didn't harm the book or its message.

I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone who is searching for how to know God's will for his or her life.  I would put it ahead of Wild Goose Chase by an order of magnitude and say it is worth the short time it takes to read.