Book Review

Reading List 2008

I accomplished a goal of mine and read an average of 2 books per month in 08. The ones on the left are the better ones

Here is the list and a few brief words about each.  This list is in the order of the books in the photo.  The books that are not pictured are at the end.  There's some good ones there that you should not ignore.

  1. Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations - Alex & Brett Harris.  This was the best book I read this year.  I reviewed it here.
  2. Reason in the Balance - Phillip Johnson.  Excellent book.  It is slightly outdated and it isn't as good as Darwin on Trial.  But it is definitely worth your time.
  3. Chasing Daylight: Seize the Power of Every Moment - Erwin Raphael McManus.  I reviewed this book here.
  4. Done. - Cary Schmidt.  This is really a long-form religious tract.  But it is really great.  I may give it out in the future.
  5. Truth Decay: Defending Christianity Against the Challenges of Postmodernism- Douglas Groothuis.  A good book offering context to the gospel.
  6. Baptists and the Bible - Russ Bush.  I read this because Dr. Bush died this year, and it is clearly a classic.  Easily the most important book of the conservative resurgence in the SBC, it is very academic and not for the weak.
  7. The Problem of Evil - Chuck Colson.  Nothing special here.  But not bad
  8. The Case for a Creator - Lee Strobel.  Exactly like all the other "Case For" books.  If you liked them, you'd like this.
  9. Rumors of Another World: What on Earth Are We Missing? - Philip Yancey.  Yancey wrote one of my top 10 books ever so I find myself reading him regularly.  But I honestly cannot even remember what this book was about.  Though it was better than the next book on this list, it was nothing special.
  10. Reaching for the Invisible God - Philip Yancey.  See above.
  11. Wild Goose Chase: Reclaim the Adventure of Pursuing God - Mark Batterson.  I reviewed this book here.
  12. Orthodoxy: The Annotated Edition - G.K. Chesterton.  Nobody in the history of literature has been more clever than Chesterton.  This is a good book but a bit inaccessible.
  13. Brothers! Calling Men into Vital Relationships- Jeff Gorsuch.  We read this for a small group Bible study at my church.  It's pretty good for that purpose.
  14. Right Thinking - Bill Hull.  My official review...meh
  15. Radically Unchurched: Who They Are-How to Reach Them - Alvin Reid.  This book was good, but not as good as Raising the Bar.
  16. Sinful Silence: When Christians Neglect Their Civic Duty - Ken Connor.  I got this book free at the SBC.  It was interesting but I did not buy into its thesis.  If you want to know more, ask me in the comments.
  17. A Christian Manifesto - Francis Schaeffer.  Usually Schaeffer ages well, but this book felt oddly dated.
  18. Night - Elie Wiesel.  I read this in high school.  It is haunting, fascinating and great.  Read it in one afternoon.
  19. The Princess Bride - William Goldman.  Another reread, this book is laugh-out-loud hilarious.  better than the movie which is also great.
  20. Brave New World (P.S.) - Aldous Huxley.  I read this because it is a cliché.  It is similar to 1984, but not as good.
  21. Prince Caspian (Narnia) - C.S. Lewis.  I read this when I heard the movie was coming out.  it took 2 hours 15 minutes to read, the movie was 2:36 or something.--->Here through 27 are freebies I read to get through my bookcase<---
  22. Building Your Spiritual Resume (Developing A Testimony That Will Outlast You) - Johnny Hunt.  this is a free book I got during my seminary days.  I read a bunch of those this year.  Hunt's testimony is entertaining.  Otherwise the book was pretty dull.
  23. Lasting Investments - Kent Humphreys.  Another free book contains a great ministry idea.  I probably would recommend this book to my pastor friends.
  24. How to Get Promoted - Michael Fletcher.  This book appeared on my door as a gift from a local charismatic church.  It was okay but I would not buy it.  If you are interested in workplace success, I'd recommend virtually anything by John Maxwell over this book.
  25. Drawing the Net: 30 Practical Principles for Leading Others to Christ Publicly and Personally - OS Hawkins
  26. Good News For Great days 2 - OS Hawkins
  27. The Pastor’s Primer - O.S. Hawkins----->These are not in the picture<---
  28. unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity… and Why It Matters - David Kinnaman.  This is the second best book I read this year.  It should be at the left of the photo above but I loaned it out.  For a further review ask me in the comments.  Seriously an excellent book.
  29. The Final Quest - Rick Joyner.  I borrowed and read this book because every charismatic person I know thinks this book is excellent.  I did not really like it, but it wasn't terrible.  The problem is that it was sort of boring, but it was meant as a devotional.
  30. 3:16: The Numbers of Hope - Max Lucado.  Like every other Lucado book...fluffy, devotional, and interesting.
  31. Ender's Game - Orson Scott Card.  I actually listened to this as an audiobook.  (Checked out from the Cumberland County library)  It was utterly fascinating from start to finish.  I absolutely loved this book.  Maybe it was just well-done on audio, but I would put it third from the left if I had a physical book.

Feel free to share your list in the comments.

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.

Book Review: Wild Goose Chase

A while back Adam sent me a free copy of Wild Goose Chase by Mark Batterson.  Since Adam thought the book important enough to give away, I though I would respect that and write a review it for you all.  I just finished it last night so I'll review it while it's fresh on my mind

I'll start by saying that I've never heard of Mark Batterson before I got this book in the mail.  He is the pastor of National Community Church and he also wrote In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day.

The thesis of Wild Goose Chase is that Christians (in the West, I assume) are not followers of the Holy Spirit, but rather we have told the Spirit to follow us. Therefore, we are bored in our Christianity. He then suggests six “cages” that limit, and keep Christians from following the Holy Spirit. The cages are responsibility, routine, assumptions, guilt failure and fear. The balance of the book is discussions of each cage, why it limits, and how to escape from the cage so that we feel free to be fully devoted followers of Christ.

About the title - the best way to explain that is just to quote from the first paragraph of the book:

The Celtic Christians had a name for the Holy Spirit that has always intrigued me. They called him An Geadh-Glas, or ‘the Wild Goose.’… The name hints at the mysterious nature of the Holy Spirit. Much like a wild goose, the Spirit of God cannot be tracked or tamed. An element of danger, and an air of unpredictability surround Him. And while the name may sound sacrilegious at first earshot, I cannot think of a better description of what it’s like to follow the Spirit’s leading through life than Wild Goose chase.

That’s the explanation, and throughout the balance of the book I don’t think he ever refers to the Holy Spirit again – only the Wild Goose. For me it was quite distracting. I believe with the explanation over, he defined his title and could simply call the Holy Spirit the Holy Spirit.

As far as the content of the book I would describe it as good. (How's that for vocabulary skills) For me it was nothing revolutionary but I believe he is on to a lot of truth and has probably rightly diagnosed the major woes of Western Christianity. I particularly agreed with the following quote from the chapter on the cage of routine. “If you’re in a spiritual slump, let me give you a prescription: Go on a mission trip. There is no better or sure way of coming out of the cage of routine.” (pg.50)

I was also very intrigued by his thoughts of vision as a cure for sin. He puts it this way.  "The way you stop sinning is by getting a God-sized vision that consumes all your time and energy." (pg 160-1)

I wrote approximately 10 notes throughout the margins of the book. (I do that to interact with the book.) Most of the notes were agreement or that I found a point interesting. That’s about once every 18 pages. Quite a lot less than I interacted with say Simple Church, but more than I often write.

If you find yourself bored in your Christianity or if you believe that you are particularly trapped in one of the cages I would recommend this book. It is easy to read, probably about a 3 hour book, clear and interesting.  It would be worth your time.