Book Review

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EveryMorning

Wednesday, May 31st, 2017

There has always been a dichotomy of thought. Should a person’s Quiet Time (QT) be in the morning or is it okay to have it in the evening? Middle of the day? To be honest I have always been a “have it in the morning kind of guy.” Not because that is the only right time, but it is the time that I am sharpest and most aware. I usually find myself busy in the afternoon so it is easy to push it aside. By the time night rolls around my philosophy is night time is good for one thing…sleeping.

Sometime in March I was perusing a Christian bookstore when I ran across a devotional by Paul David Tripp called New Morning Mercies. It is subtitled A Daily Gospel Devotional. I decided I needed something to liven up my morning QT so I bought it. After the first devotion, March 19th, I was hooked. By the end of the first week I had begun to think of other guys I would love to involve in this. How could I do that? So I bought 3 other copies and gave them away to 3 guys. (I later added a fourth). Then started an “email club” where each day we send our thoughts via email to the group of 5. Comments can be made on each other’s thoughts. It has been a super exciting adventure! I’m looking now to maybe adding another group (5 is as big as I want it to be) and would love to have a women’s group get started as well.

The devotions are solid. Real solid. No fluff. No prosperity garbage. Just solid gospel devotional. Lots on GRACE! (My favorite topic). Real challenging spiritually, mentally, and emotionally. Each devotional takes about 5-10 minutes to read (I underline also) and includes a Scripture at the end for reference. My plan is to go through this once then the second time through use the daily Scripture for my QT. I have yet to run into a boring morning mercy. And trust me, it is aptly titled: New Morning Mercies. These devotionals have got my brain wired.

Tripp started out by tweeting three tweets a day. They were so popular that he was asked/encouraged to expand on them and do a devotional based on them. This book is that expansion.

I am partial to the gift edition. It is a hardback in a slipcase. It also comes cheaper in paperback.  Here is the edition I like.

New Morning Mercies (Gift Edition): A Daily Gospel Devotional

I think you ought to give this a good, long, honest, hard look. You will be really pleasantly surprised. If not, send me the book. I will put it to good use. 🙂  And by the way: I would not be opposed to having an online email with some of you if you find that appealing.

GraceEffect

Sunday, September 25th, 2016

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Several weeks ago I published a review of the book “Hitch” by Larry Alex Taunton. In that book he mentioned an encounter between Hitch and his internationally adopted (Ukraine) daughter, Sasha. After reading of that friendly encounter and Hitch’s reaction to her, I thought I wanted to read the book based on the adoption. The name of that book is The Grace Effect and this is my review.

I know several families who have adopted internationally. Several of you have done so. My brother has. Several from the church have. An acquaintance from the Y has just adopted 5 siblings from Bulgaria. (UGH!) Larry’s wife and their three sons all wanted to adopt Sasha after a mission trip where they fell in love with her. Until the point of adoption Larry had never met her. He was on board with it though and once he saw her there was never any doubt. Little did they know the hoops they would have to jump through to make it happen. Ukraine is a country from the old Soviet Union. It may say “Free” but old habits die hard. I cannot even begin to write down all they were put through-emotionally, physically, financially (and every other “ly”) in the year it took them to adopt her while in Ukraine! 

It was an emotional roller-coaster for them. I have to admit it was for me as well just reading the book! This was far more than just reading a book about the horrors of international adoption. It was also a book about the false promises of socialism; the emptiness of communism; the soul-destroying influence of unbelief; and, in short, what the atheistic worldview would give us without Christianity-something cold, pitiless, and graceless.

I’m glad I read this book even though I really had no idea what to expect. It was eye-opening on so many fronts. I’d suggest you find this book and read it also. You will thank me for suggesting it.

Hitch

Sunday, August 14th, 2016

There are some posts a blogger feels somewhat intimidated writing. This is one of them. I don’t consider myself an intellectual by any stretch of the imagination. But I recently read a book which was not only a stimulating and captivating read, it stretched me some.

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The book is subtitled The Restless Soul of the World’s Most Notorious Atheist. Very few books do what this one did: have me wanting to keep reading even though I had things to do. Larry Alex Taunton has done a superb job of bringing to light the many different thoughts of “Hitch” as he was known.

Don’t read this book looking for a powerful conversion experience. Don’t read this book by going to the end of it to see if there was a death-bed confession. I wish there was. Instead, read this book to see what made “Hitch” tick and how a friendship with Mr. Taunton (his exact opposite in almost every area) developed into a mutual admiration and give-and-take relationship.

You will read of Hitch’s obstinance. You will read of his “earthy” life, his disregard for his body and health. You will read of his selfishness. You will also read of the two road trips Hitch and Larry took where they studied the Gospel of John and where Hitch made some phenomenal comments. You will read how Hitch had “two books”: a public book and a private book. The public: the one people saw on stage and in his writing. The private: the one which seriously questioned his atheism (but couldn’t pull the trigger due to his pride). You will read of his views toward some of his colleagues (know as “The Four Horsemen”). You will also read what Hitch thought of the religious hucksters -both those he saw on TV and those who tried to use him as a notch on their belt trying to convert him. You will also see a man whose esophageal cancer took him down, but not without a fight. You will see how he respected men who believed what they said (like Larry). You will also read a very probing final chapter where Larry considers Hitch’s final days.

This is not a “deep” book. But it is one I learned from. It is also one I recommend to anyone who thinks they know it all. I give this book 5 stars.

Cults

Monday, July 4th, 2016

After David’s adultery with Bathsheba, the confrontation by Nathan the prophet, and his subsequent repentance, David wrote Psalm 51. In 51:13 he wrote: “Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.”  It appears Psalm 32, my sermon for this past Sunday, is a follow-up to Psalm 51 showing David kept his vow.

David did an admirable thing. He took his life-lesson and taught it to others.

My friend, Dan Erickson, has taken his life-experiences and is using them to teach others. Long story very short: Dan was taken to a farm by his parents, which ended up being nothing but a cult. So when Dan writes about a cult and its devastating effect upon a person, he is not just blowing smoke. He writes from experience.

I applaud that. Greatly. Not many would take their horrible life experiences and use them to move beyond the horror let alone to teach others. Dan does that. But he doesn’t do it from a pulpit per se. He doesn’t go around the country speaking in mega-arenas working for some anti-cult ministry (not saying those are bad or wrong).

He chose to tell his story through fiction- a cult trilogy to be exact. The three books are titled

A Train Called Forgiveness– the “early years” of his history with a cult seen through the eyes of 27-year old Andy Burden. Andy is a victim of the nasty treatment of the cult and suffers from an undiagnosed case of paranoid schizophrenia. Dan deftly takes the reader through Andy’s life-weaving his current struggles with his past.

At the Crossing of Justice and Mercy. Three decades after Andy had forgiven his enemy/leader of the cult, Peter Smith, he finds out Peter faked his own death and is alive and continuing the same old junk he pulled on Andy and others. What will he do if he finds Peter? He does but it would wrong of me to give an answer because that would be a spoiler.

The Track of Redemption– the finale as he finds out Peter is still alive but in a wheelchair {Spoiler alert: after he had left him for dead}. But Peter meets the mysterious J in prison and begins to make amends to all he hurt. That included Andy, whom he had already put out a “hit” for.  “Track” is the final installment and has some twists and turns I was not expecting. The approach Dan took some getting used to at first but I totally understand why he did. Literary-wise this is the best written one of the three. (Practice makes better). In my mind, a very fitting conclusion to the trilogy. Besides the following caveat I did have one other question: there was a “flavor” of Universalism to me. I may be wrong and would welcome correction if so.

One caveat: There was some rough language in the first two and I even noted it in the books’ inside covers. However, the language was so rough in the final installment I cannot put it in the church library and will have a limited audience I would even suggest it to.  I am not a prude and I understand many people talk with profanity spewing out, but this book was a bit much. A d**n or a h**l I can tolerate, but this used far more graphic words-words I do not say nor feel comfortable exposing young minds to. Given that, this is definitely for adults. If you choose to read this trilogy then please be aware of that caveat.

All three are entertaining reads. Just be aware of my warning.

Dying

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016

We don’t much like to talk about dying. I know whenever I used to bring up the subject a certain person to whom I have been married to for 43 years didn’t want to talk or think about it. Unfortunately, sometimes reality bites.

I have lived 63 years now and been in the ministry over 40 of them and can honestly say I have seen my share of death and dying. Countless funerals (I wish I had kept a record). A mother. A grandfather & grandmother. A mother and father-in-law. A sister-in-law. Friends. Colleagues. Followers of Christ. Non-followers of Him. I have done “whole” families (mother, father, uncle and aunt, brother and sister).

I’d like to think I know about dying. But then again…I haven’t died so I can really say that. I’ve seen what cancer can do; what lingering illnesses can do; what sudden heart attacks can do; etc. But I can’t say I really know about dying.

Several months ago I read a blog which mentioned a book, When Breath Become Air, by Paul Kalanithi. It sounded interesting so I bought it. I finished reading it today (Wednesday). At the age of 36, on the verge of completing a decade’s worth of training as a neurosurgeon, Paul was diagnosed with terminal cancer. This book is his story. It is not all about cancer. He tells about his life, his questions, his focus on neurosurgery all to give us his perspective on his cancer. I’d like to write that Paul beat his cancer…but I can’t. In March of 2015 he took his last breath. This book is his story (with a last chapter help from his wife, Lucy). It was published posthumously-a dying wish he wanted to hear as a promise.

It was not a “religious” book where he spouted off Bible verse after Bible verse. It wasn’t a name-it-claim-it book where he spoke positive confession and was healed. It is honest (with a few graphic words by others). It is filled with stories of people he “ran into” in his practice. He did talk about being raised as a Christian, then sojourned to ironclad atheism, and then found his way back to the faith of his childhood. Actually, his discussion of faith and science on pages 167-173 is almost worth the price of the book alone. I found myself sneaking small amounts of time to read with a bigger chunk last night and then again this morning. His story “haunted” me. I had tears in my eyes when his wife told of his death and his fight to live.

My suggestion: get the book. Read it for yourself, then let me know your thoughts.

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Reviews

Tuesday, June 7th, 2016

Occasionally I will post a book review. After two fairly “heavy” posts, I decided a diversion was necessary. So I’m going to post three reviews at a time. One I read over a period of several weeks. One I read while on vacation. And one I read awhile ago but needed to wait for the right time.

First up: the one I read over a period of several weeks. The Comeback by Louie Giglio

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Most Christ-followers in today’s generation know who Louis Giglio is. Passion Conference. Chris Tomlin. Matt Redman. Passion City Church in Atlanta. Best known for years as the founder/leader of Passion Conferences and the music which followed, Louie is also a pastor and author. The Comeback is his latest. It is filled with stories of people who had second chances in life. I found it helpful and encouraging to read. Not a lot of depth in biblical teaching but there was enough to find my book marked up pretty well. If you are looking for a book with excellent stories and some good (but sometimes trite) teaching, you won’t go wrong taking some time reading this. There is a corresponding Study Guide/DVD series which goes along with it for use with a small group.

One I read while on vacation: The Trail by Ed Underwood

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I loved this book! It is not your typical sit-right-down-and-underline-while-taking-notes type of book. Ed writes it as a parable of a possible real life adventure. Wanting to know God’s will seems to be at the top of many Christ-follower’s lives. Ed writes this as an engaging story while teaching eight principles for illuminating the path ahead. It is not mere pablum or trite “Christianese.” Even though I am currently not seeking God’s will about any kind of professional change, the principles apply to all areas of life. Ed has written several other books which I highly recommend and this one is no exception.

The one I read awhile ago: Note the Quote by Floyd Samons

If I have a blogger to name whom I have come to know and love over the years it would be Floyd. We have personally corresponded with each other through the years. I have found him to be the genuine article. He blogs here. His writing is always fun and engaging. Sometimes surprising. Always with a point. This short book contains various quotes from his blogs over the years. Quotes on Wisdom, Inspiration, Reflection, and some Lighter ones are included. As I read it I checked those which I particularly liked. I plan to review it from time to time. It is a self-published book of 47 pages and you can get it from him directly. Go to his blog and follow directions. 🙂

That’s enough for now. I’ll return with more books at various time. So…what are you reading that you think I ought to latch on to?

Lions

Tuesday, March 15th, 2016

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I do not know what it is like to lose a daughter. I have never experienced the horror that Levi and his wife, Jennie, went through a few short days before Christmas in 2012. After finishing his Christmas sermon (which he would preach 9 times) on a Thursday, Levi and family planned a Friday Family Day. Thursday night their five-year old Lenya suffered an asthma attack which took her life. I simply cannot imagine what it would be like to have that happen and STILL preach those services. To preach those services with the medical personnel and EMS people in attendance because they “saw” something in the trauma that night (Levi also followed his wife’s prompting to invite them).

This book is part of autobiographical as he details their emotions. It also part “here are the lessons we are learning.” What it is NOT is a pie-in-the-sky-everything-is-hunky-dory- book. If you are looking for that go to the health/wealth garbage of you-know-who. If you get disappointed because “men of the cloth” are normal, cry, get angry, and question events, then you won’t to read this either.

Levi does none of that. He is honest. He is vulnerable. He is a daddy who still misses his daughter. He is a daddy who still visits her graveside. But he is also a daddy who has had to move on…and as he has moved on he is taking the lessons he has learned and is still learning and leaving them with his readers. And I’m convinced the way God has blessed his ministry in Montana and elsewhere is testimony to his ability to trust God through this most difficult time.

I plan to use a soon-to-be-published post to share some of the wisdom/thoughts from the book. But until that happens…I cannot tell you how quickly you need to go out and get this book! Did I say…like yesterday? You will cry. You will chuckle. You will underline. YOU WILL LEARN how to handle tough times.

By the way: have you ordered or bought it yet? 🙂

MessyGrace

Wednesday, January 6th, 2016

First, I apologize for this post being a bit longer than my normal ones. Just warning you…. 🙂

When I first came to OVCF I carried with me a strong desire to be a church of No Perfect People Allowed. Not only was I ready to do church differently after serving at a very traditional church (I loved the people though), I was also greatly influenced by John Burke’s book, No Perfect People Allowed (which I devoured twice and led in some small groups). I’m veteran enough now to know copying someone’s methods won’t work, but the ideology was something which resonated in my spirit. Fortunately, the folks here were ready to jump on board with me.

In all honesty, neither I, nor they knew exactly what that would mean. No one does. It certainly means more than the way a person is dressed or whether he/she is OCD. It is about creating a come-as-you-are culture in the church. The scenarios are numerous and I would actually encourage you to pick up Burke’s book (as well as Unshockable Love). The reality of this type of church culture is an “open door” policy, some of what you have no clue what you are getting into.

Enter….

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Caleb is a pastor now. He was also raised by LGBT parents. His father and mother divorced, his mother had her lover/wife, and years later he learned his father was also gay. He marched in gay pride parades as a youngster, and experienced the hatred and bitterness of some Christians toward his family.

But then Caleb surprised everyone by becoming a Christ-follower. Maligned, but never disowned by his parents, Caleb stood firm in his convictions. He loves his parents; loved his mother’s wife (now deceased); and continues to have dialogue with his (now converted) celibate parents.

The purpose of his book is to show that Jesus’ command to love your neighbor does not have a clause which says, “Except for ______________” That exception is, as you can guess, for the LGBT people.  I liked the way Caleb interspersed his personal story with stories of people he met along the way (both straight and gay) and how they impacted his life. What I really like is Caleb doesn’t give blanket, easy solutions to the issue. You know where he stands on the morality of homosexuality, but never once do you find a condemnatory tone.

Grace, by its very definition is Messy.

Right after reading Caleb’s book, I read another one.

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Out of a Far Country by Christopher Yuan and his mother, Angela Yuan, is a book you also need to read.  Raised by Chinese parents (atheist), Christopher eventually adopted the gay lifestyle and lived full-bore as a gay man. His hatred for all things “God” is real. His mother’s unexpected conversion spurred that hatred even more. But eventually praying parents (after some time his father also converted to Christ) who continued to love him; a drug-addled existence; getting caught and imprisoned for selling drugs;  being diagnosed as HIV+, led to his conversion. Today Christopher teaches as an adjunct professor at Moody and also travels speaking on homosexuality and the church’s response (as his health allows). Yeah, there was no miracle “cure” for his HIV+ status. This is Christopher’s story and reads quickly. There is no lambasting over the homosexual issue. Christoper, like Caleb, sees them as people in need of a life-perserver (Jesus) who offers what so many are looking for.

My suggestion is you get your copies of both of these books. I believe it will open your eyes and heart to a whole new approach toward those in the gay lifestyle. And while you are at it, check out Matt & Laurie’s site Hole in My Heart here. They are both open and honest about their struggles (Laurie with SSA and Matt with porn).

Well…you have my thoughts. Time for you to act. Let me know what you are thinking.

Stones

Wednesday, April 8th, 2015

I HATE LEGALISM!!

Back in January I wrote this post about a book that radically changed my life. I know of one person who took the challenge to read the books and he reviewed them (but I can’t find it so help me out Daniel) .  Note: See Daniel’s comment for his link to WH. Anyway, in that post I mentioned the author of Wisdom Hunter and several other books (Randall Arthur) had also written one called 46 Stones. I know book reviews are not the most popular or welcomed kind of posts, but I finished the book today and wanted to tell you about it.

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46 Stones is subtitled Letting Go of Hurtful Notions, Tendencies, and Beliefs in the Evangelical Church. That is a long title to give a book but it is aptly subtitled. Randy takes 46 thoughts/teachings/dogma which “dog” the church and the teachings of Jesus. Many of them deal with legalism, public enemy #1 to Randy and many others like him (I will include myself to a certain extent).

Each chapter is short, no more than 3-4 pages. I actually read it during my Encounter Time in the morning. I wanted to get a “feel” for the book because my plan is to make my way through it a second time now-underlining and writing my thoughts about each stone in my Moleskine journal. To make it even more interesting, at the end of the 46th Stone, Randy includes his “story” of Wisdom Hunter-where he came from and how he came to write WH. He had told me much of the story but it was still fascinating to see it again.

This book will stand alone from the other four but one of two things will happen: you will either want to read WH first; or you will want to read it after reading 46 Stones. Take your pick. 🙂

As for me? I can’t wait to get back to reading and commenting in my journal. I hope some of you will join me.

Reader

Sunday, March 29th, 2015

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Since I wasn’t sure what my weekend would bring, I thought I would write about something I am using and have been using for close to a year now: the ESV Reader’s Bible.

If you read the Bible at all, or are at least somewhat familiar with it, you know it is filled with chapters, divisions, verse numbers, often notations, and a host of other things (i.e. helps which turn into distractions). This Bible is different. When I first saw this I wondered about the wisdom of a Bible like this…and whether I would ever use it. But one day last year I decided to buy it…as quirky as it seemed.

I CANNOT TELL YOU HOW MUCH I HAVE ENJOYED USING IT!

Late last summer I embarked on a journey. I began reading Galatians through Colossians in preparation for my 2015 sermon series on Freedom. Along with that I continued my practice of reading the Psalms and also Proverbs (every other month). My most trying leg of the journey though has been to read the whole Old Testament no matter how long it took. To date, that leg has me in I Kings 10. Yeah…long journey. 🙂

But I have thoroughly enjoyed just reading the Bible. No verses. No chapter headings. No notes to be distracted by. Just reading it like a novel. It doesn’t work as a study Bible. Nor will you want to take it to worship to use as the pastor preaches. But to just read the Bible like a novel? This is it!

I’d like to suggest you invest in one. I know of only one style (check out the link above for more information). I honestly believe your Bible reading will be enriched by it and you will find the Bible coming alive. Oh…be careful though: it just might change your life! 🙂