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  • HOW YOU CAN LOVE BOTH GOD AND SCIENCE: REVIEW OF THE ADAM QUEST

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Book Reviews

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    Rosette nebula reprocessed

    There are scientific books that claim to have all the answers and there are theological works that try to define the mysteries of God with great clarity.  Rare are the books that combine an accessible entry point for a layperson into the realms of both science and faith.  Tim Stafford’s “The Adam Quest” is one of those rare finds.  The Adam Quest

    Stafford’s work is a compilation of interviews from many great scientific minds into one intriguing book that wrestles with the questions of human origins and faith.  Stafford compiles interviews from three camps within the Christian scientific community: young earth creationists, intelligent design creationists, and evolutionary creationists.  Drawing on their lifework, the scientists lay out a case for their beliefs with vigor and humility.

    One of the strongest points to this book is that Stafford lets the scientists speak for themselves, drawing out strengths and weaknesses from their professed beliefs.  While the author addresses his own beliefs in the conclusion section to the book, he does a decent job of staying out of the arguments within each chapter.  The research and thought of each scientist comes out more often than the opinion of Stafford.

    With the exception of the author’s conclusion, the body of the book lets the reader decide where they stand on the issue.  The evidence given by each scientist (and one theologian) leaves the reader with a lot to think about in a good way.  The book does not tell you what to believe, instead it confronts the reader to think through their position.

    I have been searching for a layperson’s book on science and faith for a while that is both intriguing and also accessible.  I do think I have found the right book.

    This book fills a much needed hole that brings together three large views within American Christianity and it is handled with much charity and grace.  This book would be ideal as a gift to others who are wrestling with this topic because it demonstrates that one can be faithful to God’s Word and also be rooted in science.  I recommend this book to those who want a diverse sketch of how Christians with the scientific community thrive in their faith.

    Have you read any good books on this topic?

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    Photo: Adam Evans via Compfight

    Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

  • HEWITT AT HIS BEST: A REVIEW OF “THE HAPPIEST LIFE”

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Book Reviews, Culture

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    A Trooper in the air

    For fans of Hugh Hewitt, this book will come across as Hewitt at his best.  Wisdom ranging from Thucydides to the “Fetching Mrs. Hewitt” is sprinkled throughout his practical-philosophical book “The Happiest Life.”  Hewitt spends half of the book articulating seven gifts (encouragement, energy, enthusiasm, empathy, good humor, graciousness, and gratitude) that can be bestowed through seven relationships (parents, spouses, family members, friends, teachers, coworkers, and church members).  The latter cluster of seven relationships are further unpacked through the second part of the book.  Full of wisdom and wit, the book is engaging a portion of the time.

    Hewitt’s work is a very whimsical read and his graciousness came through page after page.  However, this whimsy was quickly displaced with a repetitive narration of his personal stories and name dropping.  The gifts he delineated are worth the price of the book; however, I found the second half of the book to be rather dull.

    Hewitt wove together anecdotes and personal stories quite well; I walked away with a better understanding of him as a person.  However, as mentioned above, this big strength is also one of the major detriments to his work.  It seemed as if he would namedrop liberally, inserting conversations and relationships throughout his work.  While there are some helpful illustrations among the relationships, I found it to be nearly unbearable the further I went in the book.

    I did find Hewitt’s use of the classics to be quite refreshing and his use of thinkers across the spectrum was a nice surprise.  My guess is that if you enjoy western philosophy and the Judeo-Christian tradition, then you will also enjoy portions of this book.  With the exception of the repetitive name dropping, this book is nice to skim through and dive down deep into certain gifts he raised.

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    Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

    Photo: Kristina Alexanderson via Compfight

  • THE REASON FOR MY HOPE: A BOOK REVIEW

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Book Reviews, Theology

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    St. Peter's, Partick

    America’s elder evangelist has penned a wonderful book on the hope of salvation.  In “The Reason For My Hope,” Billy Graham marvelously uses stories to communicate the gospel to anyone who picks up this book.  As would be expected of a longtime evangelist, Graham’s work is easily accessible, as he takes us from why we might need redemption to how we can embrace this free gift.  He masterfully confronts ideologies and philosophies that might stop people from embracing Christ in a direct yet winsome manner. Billy Graham

    Reading this book, I was amazed at the communication skills of Graham.  He weaves story after story into his prose to help illustrate our need for Jesus.  You could tell that he has been an evangelist for quite some time, because this talent is quite effective!

    However, one of the points that personally made me cautious about this book is his constant use of “soul.”  I found that it was not careful enough and that this repetition provides a dualistic view of our soul/body.  While I am certain Graham does not embrace the ancient belief of Gnosticism (or Platonism), I fear that readers could easily pick up the dualism that the body is bad and the spirit is good.

    Overall, this is a wonderful, easy to digest book.  Graham’s storytelling narrative and his ability of capturing the story of redemption make this book well worth the read.  While I might have chosen different phrases or wording to describe certain thing, it is nonetheless a worthwhile book to consider.  With my caution against an indirect Platonism mentioned above, I would recommend you consider his piercing questions.

    Photo: Charles Clegg via Compfight

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    Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com® book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

  • A REVIEW OF SECRETS OF DYNAMIC COMMUNICATIONS

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Book Reviews

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    Stage Fright [EXPLORE]

    There are few fears that strike such terror into the hearts of people everywhere as clowns and public speaking.  “Secrets of Dynamic Communication” by Ken Davis will help with the latter; you’re on your own with the clowns.

    Ever since my college graduation, I have been involved in vocations that have placed a large emphasis on public speaking.  My roles in politics and in the ministry have both nudged me into the spotlight on several occasions.  Let me tell you this, I wish that I had a book like this years ago!

    Davis offers up his highly acclaimed SCORRE Conference in book form to readers, providing the step by step process of how to become a better speaker.  His process breaks down like this,

    Subject—Select a broad topic like faith, marketing, or scuba diving

    Central Theme—Narrow it down to a single aspect of the subject, like the dangers of scuba diving or pitfalls of marketing

    Objective—Craft a concise sentence that forces you to remain on topic like “Every person can learn to scuba dive by following these steps.

    Rationale—These brief points will become the content of the message

    Resources—Use powerful on-point illustrations, stories, and jokes.

    Evaluate—Critique yourself both before and after speech in order to become a better speaker.

    This book is effective because of Davis’ constant call to keep things concise and to the point.  The call for on topic speeches spills over into practical steps such as the need to cut out a humorous yet irrelevant story.  The call to trim the fat off the talk and become focused on the objective statement is also very powerful.  We all can recall the unbearable rambling talk that hit ten unrelated points and can remember how painful this unfocused speech was to sit through (I remember several of my own speeches in that category!).  Davis will help you stay on point.

    If you want to excel and become more engaging, get this book.  It has already helped me in speech preparations and his structure can be adapted for your own purposes.  You too can become an effective communicator.

    Photo Will Marlow via Compfight

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    Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com® book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

  • A REVIEW OF ERIC METAXAS’ SEVEN MEN AND THE SECRET OF THEIR GREATNESS

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Book Reviews

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    Do you think we'll find the droids? 

    What makes a man?

    There has been a lot of ink spilt over that very question lately within Christian circles.  There have been books, blog posts, and conferences centered on this question.  Eric Metaxas grappled with this same question in his excellent book Seven Men and the Secret of their Greatness and comes away with a concise answer- strong, sacrificial love.

    To help demonstrate his points, Metaxas decided to tell stories about great men.  In Seven Men, he highlighted the lives of George Washington, William Wilberforce, Eric Liddell, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Jackie Robinson, Pope John Paul II, and Charles W. Colson.  Metaxas’ storytelling skills are on high display in this book and he really could not get any better.  Metaxas has a nice way of weaving together the narrative with life lessons that can be extracted from the situation.  He could inform his readers without becoming too preachy.

    Site

    Metaxas provided a much needed framework over the questions of masculinity within Christian circles.  He advocated the need to identify manliness not with macho men who repair their own cars, but with men who loved sacrificially.  He advocated that true manhood comes from sacrificial love and protecting the weak.  After delineating what manliness looks like, Metaxas then provided seven examples of what this looks like.  Using some familiar and some not so familiar, Metaxas provided a strong description of masculinity steeped in sacrificial love.

    One of the aspects that I particularly enjoyed in his work is that he treated each character with a quality biography while also drawing out worthwhile character traits to admire.  I walked away understanding each figure in his book a little bit better and have even picked up several new personal heroes.  A great read for men and women alike!

    Photo: Kristina Alexanderson via Compfight

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    Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com® <http://BookSneeze.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
  • LOVE DOES!

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Book Reviews

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    I'll Give You All I Can...

    I finally read a book I’ve been meaning to go through for some time.  I’ve wanted to read Love Does ever since I went to Donald Miller’s Storyline conference a couple of years ago and heard about Bob Goff.  Let me tell you, this book was such a lively and unique read.  My recommendation is to go out and get Love Does by Bob today.

    Throughout the book, I was constantly reminded that love is not a theory, it’s not something you can quantify or theoriticize (let’s make that a word).  If we can talk about love and can write about it, then I’m afraid we just don’t know what love is, for knowing what love is requires action.

    Bob Goff would consistently affirm that love does.Love Does

    Love doesn’t just stop at thinking or planning for it, love takes action.  Love is not safe.  When we choose to move from the theory of love to actually loving someone, then we can see how costly love truly is.  Love is filled with vulnerability, risk taking, and it shatters our world.  When we choose to love others, we move from looking in to looking out at the world, actively engaging it.

    What I really appreciated from Love Does is the constant reminder that love, well, that love does. Love just doesn’t think or can be read about in a textbook.  Love actually gets skin into the game and is a lived experience.  Paul wrote to Corinth about this lived out love:

    Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

    Whimsy is another big theme in this book.  Love does memorable acts and it brings joy to other people.  Love goes with people on adventures and it invites others onto a path centered  on an incredible life amid ordinary times.  Love brings whimsy, it brings new adventures that are meant to be shared with others.

    For me, I’m going to go on more adventures, even in the ordinary times, even if I cannot fly to London on a spur the moment trip for high tea with my daughter.  Instead, we’ll have other adventures that aren’t as far away but are just as fun.

    Love takes risks and is meant for all.  Love does not stop at warm thoughts and fuzzy feelings.  Love takes action, makes life interesting and more incredible.  

    Love does because that’s how love rolls.

  • A REVIEW ON LOVE WINS

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Book Reviews, Theology

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    Well I did it, I finally read the controversial Rob Bell book Love Wins.  Let me just say that it is a quick read that is both refreshing and slippery.  Wait, what?

    Love Wins is a book that made me feel very pleased and very uneasy at the same time.  Rob Bell, in his trademark style, approached this work like he was talking to a small group.  It was very personal and made you think through the salvific matters that have been so prevalent in American Evangelicalism. images (1)

    To me, it seemed like Bell’s work was meant for those people who are skeptical of church, maybe they were hurt by it.  They might have had a bad run in with a militant fundamentalist or perhaps they were weirded out by the older blue-haired ladies.  If you doubt, this book could be for you.

    The portion that received the most focus, his take on salvation, hell, and the “afterlife” (as most people think about it), is handled in a conversational way like the rest of his book.  I did appreciate the fact that he did not handle the subject flippantly, but he did seem to be pretty light on it.  It’s tough to say he went all the way into universalism, since his other chapters are centered around coming to Christ.  The argument here is muddled at best, and it flirts with the suburbs of universalism.  This hell chapter was tough to work through though.  For me, I felt like I was left with more questions than answers.  Perhaps that’s what he was looking for, letting his readers sit in the tension of the topic.

    The part that’s worth the cost of the book is the discussion on how we often time shape God in our own minds.  We make him out to be Santa Claus or (pardon my French) a total douche.  We make him to be a wizard of sorts or an abusive father.  I’ve written previously that I pictured him at one point as Gandalf in the Sky, and that had ramifications on my faith.  I suspect that Bell is trying to change our view of God, helping those who might be a little jaded with God himself.

    God is good, and the story that is told starting from the great creation poem of Genesis 1 offers a whole life.  He offers a story that redeems our broken ones.  He takes the hurt (both emotional and physical) and transforms it somehow.

    He takes your story and puts it within a grander story.  He offers a chance at life, and life abundant.

    This book is still worth reading, because it helps those of us who might be uneasy with those people on the street corner with the “turn or burn” signs.  Don’t take it lightly though, think through it.  If you have any questions, I’ll be happy to walk through them with you.  Perhaps you can find out in the end if love wins.

    Have you read Love Wins?  What’s your take on it?

  • ESCAPE AVERAGE AND BE AWESOME!

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Book Reviews, Growth, Story

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    What do you fear?

    Do you fear commitment? How about spiders? Perhaps it’s failure? I can tell you what I fear, I fear starting.

    Start by Jon Acuff

    If you have ever had a dream, some unfulfilled vision, then my friends, Jon Acuff’s book START might be up your alley. If you have ever wanted to do something exceptional, but find that sometimes life is either too demanding or your dream scares the heck out of you, then you should consider picking this book up.

    START is written by the incredibly funny Jon Acuff. Not only is he on Dave Ramsey’s team, but he also has a pair of blogs that are on my must-read list. Stuff Christians Like is a great satire website dedicated to poking fun at Christians. His main blog helps people focus on living a better story by starting on their dreams now.

    Acuff’s book breaks down the journey of average to awesome in several steps:

    • Learning
    • Editing
    • Mastering
    • Harvesting
    • Guiding

    These areas all flow together and are all connected. Once you start, you must learn as much as you can, begin to edit that learning down until you begin to master it. Once you have planted the seeds though, it is time to reap the harvest of hardwork you put into your dream. Harvesting then leads into guiding, where you help others through the cycle.

    START is about going after your dreams. It’s about not settling for less than average. It’s about starting out small, and working your tail off on your big dream. It’s about not wasting the gift of life, so START today on your dreams.

    Why should you START now?

    Because starting is the only thing you can control. You don’t know when you’ll hit the finish line, heck, you don’t even know when you’ll turn from amateur to pro. All you can do now is START. Why not do it today? Be brave and try it, even if you feel like you might fail. START today, live with purpose today. After all, now is all you are guaranteed to have.

    Make no mistake about it though; going after your dreams will be tough. Let’s not get delusional and think that all will be well. But take heart, for stories without dragons are boring and every great hero needs a villain. START is about confronting that tough road and overcoming it.

    Perhaps the villain in your story is the endless rejection letters you have received from editors. Know that fear will always be a chief villain in your story. Your archenemy though can be conquered. As Acuff would remind me in his book, “a dream that you don’t fight for isn’t a dream- it’s a nap.”

    Pick up the book and give awesome a chance. START today and be awesome!

  • WHAT DO WE TALK ABOUT WHEN WE TALK ABOUT GOD?

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Theology

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    Seminary has finally come to an end for me, which means that I am now able to read whatever I want.  But with great power, comes great responsibility to read through the book list I’ve compiled.  So I decided to take a dive into the books of the popular and controversial Rob Bell (who now lives in Orange County!).

    In his latest book, What We Talk About When We Talk About God, Bell takes up a pastoral perspective to the faith.  Being in seminary for the past couple of years, I have tried to maintain the balance between cultivating both a personal and scholarly touch to my faith.  I was always fearful of being that guy in that one class who goes on this long monologue about the importance of some theoretical point to a hypothetical question that has no roots in our daily lives.  Bell’s book confronts this in a lot of helpful ways.  

    He wanted to address the questions that he often received as a former pastor, those doubts that would stop someone from putting their hope in God.  In his easy to read, conversational manner, Bell tried to ease the minds of his readers that God does not have to be left behind in a modern world, like an Oldsmobile.  He is not a relic from another era.  God is not anti-science, as some rabid fundamentalists and Atheists might portray him to be.  As humans though, we have the space to doubt and believe, holding BOTH of those two in tension.  

    After laying down the case for being open to God and then giving permission to doubt, Bell moves into the main points of his book on faith:  

    God is with us.

    God is for us.

    God is ahead of us.

    I’ve written on each of those topics previously, but the main point of this is to move you into action.  To move you into a community, where you have permission to doubt.  Where you have permission to wrestle with God.  I recommend this particular book to those who might be questioning God, it really is an excellent, quick read.  Let me know what you think!


    (I have not read his other popular/controversial book Love Wins.  That will be the topic later on this blog)

  • BOOK REVIEW: ALTAR EGO BY CRAIG GROESCHEL

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Book Reviews, Growth, Story

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    “You are not yet who you are supposed to be.”

    Phew!  What a relief.  

    Are you stuck with labels given to you justly or unjustly?  Perhaps you have been called a loser, loner, liar, or loon.  Well, I have something to tell you: Craig Groeschel has some good news for you!  God knows who you are, and he sees past those labels.  God sees them, and then transforms them, he makes something new.  God uses prostitutes, he uses liars, he uses murderers, and he uses cowards.  He uses broken people in a broken world, and he gives them an Altar Ego.  An identity that is rooted in Christ.

    Craig constantly raises the point that “without Christ as the center of your life, there’s something terribly wrong.  But with Christ, you are God’s masterpiece.”  This is the key to developing an altar ego, a life that is made new.  By giving our life to God as a sacrifice (hence altar, not alter), we are directed into a new territory.  We are given new values- patience, integrity, honor, and gratitude.  Once new values have been established (though not perfectly followed, see beginning quote), we are then moved to boldly following Jesus through our actions, prayers, words, and obedience.  

    Altar Ego was very well done.  This was my first time reading a book by Groeschel, and I must say that I was pleasantly surprised.  I was worried that this might veer into a self-help book, but Groeschel was very faithful to the biblical texts.  It is readily accessible and digestible.

    I took my time reading this book, each chapter really could be used as a daily reading.  It is very encouraging, especially to those who might be upset about their spiritual lives.  Cultivating an altar ego, instead of a two-faced alter ego, is where we can truly become alive.  For those who are in Christ, our new lives are with him.  You and I can be who God made us to be, through being in Christ.  

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    Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the r BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program.
    I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. 
    I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255s