Book Review

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#NeurosurgeonWisdom#BookReview

Friday, July 10th, 2020

I’m not preaching this Sunday. It is the first Sunday since September that I have had off. We will be heading to Ohio for our grandson’s baseball game, coming back home Saturday and attending church elsewhere with some friends. So I thought I would take this spot, when I normally talk about my sermon, to do a book review. I welcome you to join me as I do that.

If you are like me, there have been times when doubts arise. Truthfully, I have never doubted who Jesus is. I have never doubted the divinity of Jesus or the truth that he was fully God and fully man. I have major issues with so-called Bible teachers like Bill Johnson, Todd White and others of that ilk who presume to know the deeper things and can’t even get it right that Jesus did not need to be born again. (And yes, BJ said he did. It’s on YouTube).  So, it isn’t the questions like the resurrection or the life of Jesus or even the miracles found in the Bible (Noah and the flood, for example, or Jonah and the big fish).

The doubt I’m talking about is the struggle between faith and doubt, the things we think we know that often cause the most trouble. The doubts which arise when prayers are not answered as we think they should be. The doubts that arise when we look around and see the injustice and war and slaughter of babies or the lives of young people or even young adults being taken away by cancer.

Those are the kinds of doubts W. Lee Warren, MD writes about in his new book I’ve Seen the End of You. What a phenomenal read!! Dr. Warren is a neurosurgeon (primarily brain) who is also an inventor (related to his brain surgery), an Iraq War veteran, and now a writer. He is also a blogger and a podcaster.  His first book, No Place to Hide -which I have not read but will- is about his Iraq experience, the PTSD which followed, as well as other fallout from that experience.  This book is about faith, doubt and the things we think we know.

I was captivated by it. When I first looked at it my thought was “What did I get myself into? He is going to be way above my head.” Not so. Dr. Warren’s style is what I will call conversational, filled with stories from his practice (primarily his work with Gioblastoma) and how his life was affected by his interaction with his patients. And just as he is dealing with the death of his patients (GBM has a 100% death rate), he loses his son. His faith is sorely tested. He asks a lot of questions; finds no easy answers; works his way through his emotions and feelings about God and life; and admits to his struggles-even to this day.  Dr Warren is real and transparent. I would love to meet him someday (but not for his specialty).

I can’t say enough about this book. You won’t find one negative comment from me. But you will find a rousing endorsement. I have already offered it to a nurse to read while on her vacation.  I had neck surgery back in 2010 (yeah it was from a bike wreck caused by a dog), and the neurosurgeon was a Christ-follower. I would give a copy of this book to him if I ever needed to see him again. (I just might anyway).  Please go out and buy this book. Read it first. Then give it to someone else to read.

 

By the way, there are some powerful quotes I might use at another time.  If  you read them you will find them too. 🙂

#/DreamBig#GoodRead

Tuesday, July 7th, 2020

Every once in awhile (not very often) I will look in the mirror or say to myself, “I wish I was younger.”  After 22 miles on a hot, humid and hilly day in the saddle this past Saturday, I got off my bike completely spent and found myself saying, “I wish I was younger.” (Yeah, I didn’t get any sympathy from my wife either).  When I cut my grass (I walk it) and my back, legs and knees are sore when I’m done, I wish I was younger.  When I look at what used to be Mr. America type muscles (cough! cough! That’s a joke son. I say. I say. That’s a joke) and see that I can no longer get the size I used to (especially since I don’t use steroids), I will say, “I wish I was younger.” When I make my way to bed between 9-9:30 so I can get up at 3:30 and it is still light out, Jo and I will sometimes say, “We’re pathetic.” (Translate: we didn’t do this when we were younger).  When I used to memorize a good part, if not all, of my sermon and now have trouble with the title, I will say, “I remember when I was younger.” 🙂

Just recently I finished a book only I didn’t wait until I was finished to say, “I wish I was younger.” I was saying it all along.  I have loved reading Bob Goff’s books- Love Does and Everyone Always. They were gems to read.  Going on that I picked up his newest book, Dream Big. He didn’t disappoint. His engaging and out-of-the-corner-of-his-mouth way of speaking and writing make me chuckle. It also had me underlining. I took notes. Each chapter began with a short pithy statement that alone was worth the price of the book. It read quickly. It is not filled with deep theological truth that makes you stop and chew on it for days.  That is not his style. But you cannot go away from any one chapter not thinking. His stories capture you. His honesty and transparency are refreshing.  Bob has the ability to laugh at himself and also to be serious about the passions which drive him.

But I wish I was younger.  If I was in my 20s or 30s or even 40s this would be a book I would read over and over, probably once a year. But at age 67 I’m near the end of my dreaming big stage. Not that I’m done dreaming or hoping or wanting to serve, but I WISH I WAS YOUNGER! I’m giving this book to my daughter, Tami, to read. She’s only 45 and has dreams. I want her to pursue them, especially since teaching kindergarten kids in school is no longer what it once was. Masks on kids? Seriously? Social distancing kindergarten kids? Seriously? “Pursue your dreams Tami.” And you who might be reading this: pursue your dreams. Especially if you are young and still have time to dream big.

Yeah…if I was only younger. My suggestion: go out and buy this for someone you love and care about. Read it with them and challenge them. Mentor them to pursue their God-given passions.  Let me leave you with just three quick quotes from his book:

Live on the edge of yikes. (p.155)

I love that!! Here is another:

Be where your feet are. (p.127)

That is an old South saying. And one more:

Don’t act like you got it all figured out. Nobody wants to give that person extra time.  Instead, be humble, self-aware, and punishingly truthful. (p.15)

There are more…way more. Enough to fill two journal pages.  Get the book for yourself and read it.

Dream Big: Know What You Want, Why You Want It, and What You’re Going to Do About It

#MonsterQuote#HearIt!!#Review

Wednesday, February 19th, 2020

I just finished reading a really interesting book called A War of Loves by David Bennett.  It is subtitled The Unexpected Story of a Gay Activist Discovering Jesus. 

Question: What would it mean for an atheist gay activist to become a Christian?

Good question. No…great question. One David answers fully. At 14, he came out to his parents. At 19, he encountered Jesus Christ. At this moment his life changed forever. But…and this is key…that change did not happen overnight.  This book is his journey…and a well-traveled and documented journey it is. Throughout the 250+ pages of this book you will ride the highs and lows with him. You will tear up (your eyes); you will want to tear him up due to some of his actions and reactions (to the Bible when his mother read it to him after his moment of salvation, for example).  You will travel with him to France and his native Australia as he seeks God and more education. You will identify with his sin struggles (not necessarily his homosexuality, but sin that lingers).  And you will find your heart and mind stretched as he “fleshes” out his beliefs and his faith.

Some might wonder why I am recommending this book, and for those who don’t know, why I am reading so much on this topic and have more in my cue).  The little town of Spencer has a very active, and at times militant, PRIDE group led by a young man (as in according to my age) who was raised in the local Nazarene church but now identifies as an atheist. And yes, that breaks my heart. I want to know how to reach him with Jesus.

This did not start out to be a book review nor an endorsement…although it has turned out to be both. I wrote down several quotes in my Moleskine and want to share just one of them. I plan to use the others in future posts.

If we come to Scripture with our minds made up, expecting to hear from it an echo of our own thoughts and never the thunderclap of God’s, then indeed he will not speak to us and we shall only be confirmed in our own prejudices. We must allow the Word of God to confront us, disturb our security, to undermine our complacency and to overthrow our patterns of thought and behavior.  John Stott- quoted on page 123

What Mr. Stott says is true. No matter the topic or thought. We should not come to God’s Word with our minds made up or with preconceived ideas and then look for proof. No….we read and allow its words to become our standard. To quote Bennett: “God does not discriminate, but He calls believers of all kinds to a standard.” (quote from p.242)

I’d like to recommend you read this book, not for fodder, but for a better understanding of the “gay” mindset if we are ever to reach them with our friendship and with the Gospel. You will also deeply appreciate his two appendices.

A War of Loves: The Unexpected Story of a Gay Activist Discovering Jesus

#Atheism#Confrontation#BadRep

Sunday, November 24th, 2019

In one of my posts last week I reviewed two books dealing with abuse. You can read that here. Bookending those two books were two books of similar vein on a subject, but approaching it from different perspectives.  I had this first book and then read the two on abuse, but I needed to get away from that subject for a bit so I read the book which is my second review.  I’m now reading a totally different book because I like variety as well as needing a more biblical study.  So here are my reviews of the two books.

My first is Confronting Christianity by Rebecca McLaughlin.

Confronting Christianity: 12 Hard Questions for the World's Largest Religion

Rebecca was not raised in “Christian” America, but in the UK. Her Christianity was not handed to her on a silver-plated American Christianity platter (my words not hers). But trust me when I say she is nobody’s lackey.  This woman is smart and knows her stuff. Her book is subtitled 12 Hard Questions for the World’s Largest Religion and she delivers the goods. I wondered if I would be overwhelmed by the sheer “brain power” she brings to the table. I am happy to say Rebecca has done an excellent job of making it so that even we who are not deep thinkers can understand her writing. This book is so good I have given one copy to my small group leader, one to a searching college student, and have another copy for someone I love. Here are just a few of the questions she asks and answers (masterfully I believe) :

  • How Can You Say There’s Only One True Faith?
  • Doesn’t Religion Cause Violence?
  • How Can You Take the Bible Literally?
  • Hasn’t Science Disproved Christianity?
  • Isn’t Christianity Homophobic? {Note: Rebecca admits to her former struggle with SSA so she writes from an “insider’s” viewpoint.}
  • How Can a Loving God Allow So Much Suffering?

That’s just half the questions. This is one of my nominees for “Book of the Year” (as if I have any say).  I love Rebecca’s writing style and her attention to the answers. Never harsh but always engaging. I do believe you will benefit from this book.

I followed Rebecca’s book with another that intrigued me: Why I Still Believe by Mary Jo Sharp (MJ). 

Why I Still Believe: A Former Atheist’s Reckoning with the Bad Reputation Christians Give a Good God

Her book is subtitled “A Former Atheist’s reckoning with the bad reputation Christians give a good God.” The book is aptly titled. MJ came from a non-religious home and chose atheism, but eventually came to know Jesus as her Savior. (You can read the book’s introduction for her story).  How she stayed with Jesus and the church is a miracle in itself (in my book anyway). The day she came to church with her husband to declare her choice to follow Christ, the pastor’s wife did not welcome her or congratulate her but to tell her she needed to wear a different dress-one that showed less cleavage. She doesn’t say whether it did or not, but I would have probably turned around and walked out. Eventually, she and her husband found themselves involved in ministry full-time (he was a worship leader). Meanwhile, she is struggling with Christians who are giving God and the church a bad name. One heart-breaking example (and one which made my blood boil) came when she brought a friend who was an atheist-seeker to church and he was literally blown off and embarrassed by the self-righteous teacher and the pastor of the church (who publicly humiliated him) because he dared ask a question which challenged their way of thinking. From her own awkwardness of defending her belief in the resurrection with a co-worker (she is a music teacher in a public school); to learning about Islam (a great discussion and info on Islam is included) from her dear friend, the late Nabeel Qureshi; to her confidence in apologetics, she never loses sight of her purpose: how annoying and “turn-off-ish” many Christians can be. I’d have to say it is a good thing she had a pretty solid faith and a good husband who helped her stay grounded. 

MJ’s book was different from Rebecca’s in that it took on issues facing the church within, whereas Rebecca’s focused more on questions from without. MJ’s book read easily also. And she gave some great answers along the way in a very clear style.

I would highly recommend both of these books be part of your reading list. If you know of someone who is struggling with their faith or have questions about hypocrisy within the church, have them read these.

#HardReads#Abuse#Essential#Review

Wednesday, November 20th, 2019

I haven’t been on here much lately. There are various reasons but they are legitimate. Least I think so. 🙂 First, there is that thing called “work.” You know…that thing that helps pay the bills; gets me up in the morning; has me traveling to multiple hospitals. You know…non-essential stuff.

Then (and this may not seem legitimate to you but is to me) I have been doing a copious amount of reading. Aside from my regular sermon prep time and my at-home Quiet Time, I have been a “reading fool” of late. I have started some books and laid them aside because another has taken precedence or is more relevant at the time.  This review is going to be of two of the three powerful and impactful books I have read recently. The reason is they are along the same subject line. Another review will follow on the third book, which is completely opposite of these two. I read it for that very reason.

My first review is on a book I simply had trouble putting down. It was one of those sad, “I hate to read this book” book, but it was also contemporary because of its recent news coverage and its topic.  What Is a Girl Worth? by Rachel Denhollander is a non-fiction account of her coming to grips with the United States Gymnastics Association (USGA) and her abuse at the hands of the gymnastics sports doctor, Larry Nasser.

What Is a Girl Worth?: My Story of Breaking the Silence and Exposing the Truth about Larry Nassar and USA Gymnastics (Hardcover)

Rachel was working her hardest to become a world-class gymnast when physical issues led her to a sports doctor who was recommended by many others- Dr. Larry Nasser. The abuse began immediately but it took awhile for her to realize what was happening. Strange thing: her mother was in the room and Dr. Nasser did it in such a way to hide it from her so that she had no idea what was happening. Rachel was the first to speak up against Dr. Nasser’s abuse. Rachel became the trickle which became a waterfall which became a hurricane with gale force winds that eventually exposed Dr. Nassar and those complicit with him.

This was a hard book to read and I wept as I read some of it. Be prepared to be convicted; alerted; informed; and even a tad bit angry as you read her story. Stonewalling. Denial. Cover up. Finally justice for Rachel and countless other young girl gymnasts. Rachel is a Christ-follower and makes that known almost immediately. It even comes out in her presentation at Nasser’s trial. She also helps the reader understand why the “wheels of justice turn slowly.”

The other book was a bit different. More clinical and technical and far more biblical. Not that Rachel’s wasn’t but it wasn’t the same type of book. Not Forsaken by Jennifer Michelle Greenberg is her story of life after abuse.

Not Forsaken: A Story of Life After Abuse: How Faith Brought One Woman From Victim to Survivor

This abuse was (in many eyes) much more hideous. The abuser was her father, a man who studied and taught the Bible in church but was totally different at home. Her mother helped cover it up. Jennifer’s abuse was mental, physical, and at times sexual. This is her tale of coming to grips with it all. Her book is different from Rachel’s book in that Jennifer’s book analyzes and shows how the abuse from her father clouded everything-her relationships with men, especially her husband, and her relationship with God. Like I said, far more technical in that she spends a lot of time helping the reader understand her mental state and spiritual struggle as she came to grips with her father’s abuse.

I would highly recommend both books.  I still have one more book to read along the same lines called Becoming a Church that Cares Well for The Abused by Brad Hambrick (General Editor), which also includes material from Rachel. But after reading these two books I had to take a break. That is where my next review comes into play.  If you choose to read these two books, bring a Kleenex and check your anger at the door.

#ReadThis

Tuesday, May 14th, 2019

We are so different…she and I.

I’m white. She is not.

I’m a man. She is not.

I’m tall. She is not.

I have no hair. She has tons of it. 🙂

I like rock music. I’m guessing she does not.

I’m a lifetime heterosexual. She was a lesbian.

I write for fun. She writes for her livelihood.

But one thing we have in common. We both believe in the power of redemption that comes from the Cross of Jesus Christ and His sacrificial death on that cross.

Gay Girl, Good God: The Story of Who I Was, and Who God Has Always Been

I have to admit my first thought about reading this book since its release several months ago was I don’t want to read or hear of another “I-was-born-this-way-so-don’t-ask-me-to-change” book.  But after reading review after review I decided to take the plunge and buy it. Then I had to read it after a few weeks on my shelf. (In fairness, I was reading another book at the time).

I. AM. SO. GLAD. I. READ. THIS. BOOK!! I would highly recommend it to everyone. JHP’s way of saying things shows her “wordsmith” talents. I don’t need to be a fan of her style of poetry or music to like the way she says things in this book. Straight-forward.  Non-compromising in her stance. Honest in her discussion of her past (molestation, abuse, drug use and lesbianism). I was impressed when on page 37 she said, “It is important to note that sexual abuse is not what made me gay. Nor did fatherlessness. They only exaggerated and helped direct the path for what was already there-which is sin.”  No blame. No “I was born gay.” Just a note at the bottom of the page stating sin was the culprit. Thank you JHP for that truth.

I tire of those who hate gays. No…make that I distance myself from them. I don’t hate gays; I just don’t believe their lifestyle choice is biblical. I firmly believe same sex action is sin. But hating the person is not Christ-like nor is it ever going to reach someone with the message of the love of Christ.  Just the exact opposite.  Our little community has a very vocal homosexual community. It boasts of having one of the best attended PRIDE festivals in the state, maybe the country. Tolerance they ask for only goes so far until you disagree with them. Recent vandalism against their property was uncalled for. But they are still people. Still people like thousands of others in our community and around the world who need Jesus.  Thanks to JHP’s book, I not only have a better attitude toward them, but I also have a book I can put in their inquiring minds and hands that will show them Jesus’ love.

My plan is to include some of her quotes in another post since this one has already gone on so long. I’d like to think you will look forward to that post. 🙂

I’d highly suggest you buy and read this book. Then pray for opportunities to pass it along or to put it into practice.

QuietRoar

Tuesday, January 1st, 2019

A Quiet Roar: Sometimes Disruption Is Overdue

Over the years I have read a ton-and I mean a ton!- of books. As you might imagine, most are of the non-fiction type. After all, my work as a pastor requires I read, read, and read some more.

But every once in awhile I come across a fiction book that grips me and won’t let me go. Back in 1994 I read the very first book by Randall Arthur called Wisdom Hunter (WH). I read it one year later on a personal fasting retreat and wept through most of it because it was like looking into a mirror-seeing what I didn’t like-but wanting so badly to be what I read. WH was the final nail in my coffin of legalism. The follow up to that book was titled Betrayal, and once again I was filleted. Jason Faircloth, the pastor from WH made a very pointed appearance in Betrayal and once again pointed out the dangers of legalism. In between Mr. Arthur wrote Jordan’s Crossing, another Jason Faircloth book, only this time dealing with Jordan’s emptiness caused by liberalism. The final installment (or so I thought) was Forgotten Road, a novel dealing with the emptiness of the health/wealth (un)gospel. Jason made an appearance in that book as well.

Imagine my surprise and excitement when Randall Arthur’s publishing company announced a new novel! Man, I jumped on that like bugs on a night light. As it was I was #102 of 120 signed copies. I gotta tell ya! If you read no other novel this coming year, please please please read Quiet Roar. The main character is like a female version of Jason Faircloth. Take a hot topic (female pastors…which I am saying neither yay or nay to here); add in a lot of small town church drama; a mysterious woman; and even more mysterious benefactor; a dash of contemporary culture and world events (Muslims, the church not staying so “white”, and some other events); and I kid you not, you have a recipe for a lot of sleepless nights (or at least staying up past your normal bed time).  Right now it is only available from Amazon on Kindle. HOWEVER, you can purchase it directly from Randall’s website.  I personally know Randy and he is the real deal.

May I also suggest reading Wisdom Hunter and Betrayal (since renamed Brotherhood of Betrayal) as companion volumes? You can find all his other books on Amazon as well as his website. I GUARANTEE your life and faith will no longer be the same.

Think

Sunday, July 8th, 2018

Paul says in Philippians 4:8- “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think on these things.”

Over the past week or so I have been reading God of Tomorrow, Caleb Kaltenbach’s new book.  A normal review will give the pros and cons , good points and bad points, and whether it is worth your while to read it.  I’m going to take a different approach in this post. I want to highlight several of his included quotes and thoughts. Then let you decide at the end if it is a book you want to invest your time in.

God of Tomorrow: How to Overcome the Fears of Today and Renew Your Hope for the Future

First, an explanation. Caleb’s book’s premise is focused around hope for tomorrow being the solution to the fears of today. He analyzes the culture pretty well and what should be the Christ-follower’s approach to the people who are the culture. Change is inevitable. It is how we react to that change which gives us our approach to people.  (My comments appear after)

“Combativeness without compassion is always going to be counterproductive.”  We need to have our beliefs but we don’t have to cram them down someone’s throat nor do we need to be militant.

“Our differences with people should drive us to them, not from them.” This is sure opposite of our “hunker down” attitude.

“Our fear is no match for the unlimited power and uncontested reign of God.  When will we learn this? Instead of fearing change, let’s hold to our beliefs but not shy away in fear.

“Hope reminds us that our best days are ahead, not behind us.”  And I might add not right now either. No apologies to Joel for that.

“Out-of-place people always have a place with God.”  I seem to remember someone telling a story about going to the highways and bi-ways to bring people into a meal. Hmmmm.  Maybe this would change our approach toward “unlovely” and “unacceptable, despicable” people we often have.

There are plenty more and I plan to use them during the next week as I post some thoughts. But the coup de grace for me was this one:

When people look at your (my) life, it should be so easy for them to see Jesus in how you (I) treat them, love them, and share truth with them. (p.201)

What do you think of those quotes? Think you might get this book?

 

Suicide

Wednesday, April 4th, 2018

Warning. Spoiler Alert. This is not going to be a fun post to read. Or write for that matter.  This is not a fun subject, a joking matter, or something to be taken lightly. Everyone of us has probably, in some way, been touched by suicide. Either we are survivors of it (those left behind) or we know someone who has threatened suicide or someone who died of suicide.  As a pastor I would love to say it has never touched a church I have pastored or affected someone in the church. I could give you statistics but that would belabor it.  Because I am a pastor, and because I want to reach out to the survivors, I felt a definite need to “read up” on it. I feel God definitely led me to a book called Grieving a Suicide by Albert Y. Hsu. A few months after his wedding, Dr. Hsu’s father took his life. No doubt depression played a major part in his father’s actions after a major stroke three months earlier.

What makes this book so helpful is his personal involvement in it. It is not a clinical “this-is-what-is-wrong-with-people” approach. Nor is it a book which condemns people to hell who take their life (I won’t do that either). What I especially liked about the book is it can be read and understood by the common person. Like me. I have no visions of grandeur about my intelligence. I like things simple. Dr. Hsu does that. He doesn’t back down from the hard questions but neither does he get heavy-handed. The ones who won’t like this book are those looking for proof of condemnation. If you are one of those, go looking at the comics. I prefer not to cross swords or paths with you.

Here is one example of down-to-earth teaching: there is some discussion about the use of terms-committed suicide vs  completed suicide. I have always use the former but there is someone in the church who uses the latter. His thoughts? Survivor’s react against the former saying it sounds criminal. I’ll grant that now. The latter, he says, “sounds like a laudatory accomplishment…It comes across as somewhat clinical and cold.” (p.169)  His suggestion? “My dad died from suicide” or “my dad took his own life.”  He also recoils against describing suicide as “successful.” (p.170).

I simply cannot recommend this book enough. It is also interspersed with excellent and informative items like “Warning Signs of Suicide”; “Facts About Suicide”; and others. It is helpful if you are a survivor and are looking for help, and it is helpful if you want to help someone. Check out the right sidebar of my blog for more information on the book.

Grieving a Suicide: A Loved One's Search for Comfort, Answers, and Hope

Devotional

Thursday, November 30th, 2017

Product Details

I know what you are going to say (least I think I might): “You really like that Paul David Tripp don’t you?” The answer would be “Yes.” I have recommended several books by him here on my blog: New Morning Mercies, a 365 day daily devotion; and Whiter Than Snow, a devotion on sin and mercy. I read and reread one a week. I’ve read several others by PDT and have not been disappointed by any. His Dangerous Calling may be the best book on Pastoral Ministry I have ever read (get your pastor a copy) and Awe is a phenomenal book on recapturing awe for God.  My latest has been the one highlighted, Come Let Us Adore Him.

I wanted something different this year for Christmas (Advent if you prefer). When I saw this book I confess I went on his track record. I was not disappointed! I did something unique (I think). I bought it in October so I read 2 chapters a morning so I could go through it by the end of the month. During this month (November) I have taken one day (read December 1 on November 1, etc) each morning. Starting December 1 I will read it again for the third time. Each time I highlighted something different. For some books one time through is enough. Not for this one! There is so much meat in each day’s devotional I have this sneaking suspicion even three times through won’t be enough (but I will stop at 3 until next Christmas). To make it even more interesting each chapter ends with Scripture to follow up with and also a what-to-do-if-you-have-children suggestion.

I know it may be getting late for you to get a copy of this book and make use of it, but I don’t think it is.  I’d suggest ordering this book and “get with this program” during the month of December. I believe it will make your Christmas season “pop” a little bit more.