newthingsold

The wise man is like a householder who brings out of his treasure things both new and old.

Category: Books

The book that reminded me of my fragility.

I was sitting at a table reading earlier today. Specifically, I was reading the book The Pilgrim’s Progress. More specifically, I was reading a paperback edition of the book The Pilgrim’s Progress which was published in 1985.

The same year I was born.

And as I was reading the book the way I normally read books, something unexpected started happening. The front cover started tearing. And you could almost hear the strain of some of the pages.

I’m not hard on my books, this book is just older.

Like I’m getting.

The book and I are the same age.

There’s a meme floating around the interwebs right now that reads: “The number one cause of injury in middle-aged men is believing they are still younger.”

It’s like, I’m starting to hit this place where sometimes doing the things I used to do hurt a little more for a little longer than they used to. And reading that book today reminded me of that.

Do you have any objects in your house that remind you of similar realities about your life?

REVIEW: “The Faithful Spy” by John Hendrix; or, I read a graphic novel.

This is a review of the brilliant graphic novel The Faithful Spy by John Hendrix.

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Let me say from the onset of this review, The Faithful Spy by John Hendrix may be the best graphic novel I have read since Jeff Lemire’s Essex County trilogy There is a chance that my opinion is heavily biased based on the fact that I am a huge fanboy of the writing of Bonhoeffer, and that I am also a sucker for a well-researched work in general. The Faithful Spy brings in these two things quite well, and John Hendrix deserves credit for his work on this project.

While the cover reflects that the graphic novel is about the plot to kill Hitler, the description is a little too simplistic for the contents. A more accurate description would be to a biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s life with reflection on the actions in his life which led him to the point of being involved in the conspiracy to assassinate Hitler and save Germany -as well as all of Europe- from Hitler’s evil reign.

Hendrix includes enough biography of Bonhoeffer to paint a complete picture of the man without digging so deep into analysis as to lose the reader in the minutiae and nuance of Bonhoeffer’s context. Hendrix’s use of contrasting red/black and blue/white hues when moving between whether focusing on the Nazi regime or on Bonhoeffer is an effective color game which provides an artistic, visual dynamic.

I can’t say enough good things about  The Faithful Spy. It is worth the read, and it is certainly worth adding to one’s personal library. I have read Eric Metaxas’s biography on Bonhoeffer, as well as Charles Marsh’s. The work John Hendrix does in The Faithful Spy just goes to show that Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s life is a rich one, filled with complexity because I walked away with new perspective and information I did not have before reading it.

I received my copy of this book for free through the Speakeasy program in exchange for reviewing it. I was not obligated to write a positive review; the opinions expressed are mine.

REVIEW: “A Skeptic’s Guide to Belief” by Ken Crispin

This is a review of the book A Skeptic’s Guide to Belief  by Ken Crispin.

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If I were to describe Ken Crispin’s book A Skeptic’s Guide to Belief in a one-line statement it would sound something like this: Same old ground with a new pair of shoes and binoculars. Crispin, a judge in Australia’s Supreme Court, goes about weighing claims for and against God, life, meaning, religion, and the hereafter. Where the twist comes about is that Crispin presents the arguments with the nuance of an individual who has made a career of presenting dense legal rulings in a manner where the everyman can understand it. This is where A Skeptic’s Guide to Belief really shines.

Crispin lays a groundwork which begins with the need for healthy skepticism and questioning, not taking any position as assumed to be correct. Then he builds on to that the need to understand that fundamentalism of both the theistic and atheistic variety has several severe flaws. From there he goes on to present flaws in the rhetoric coming especially from new atheists such as Dawkins, and why their arguments are no more effective and compelling than those of the believers they try to discredit. Then Crispin goes on to point to flaws in the classic arguments for God’s existence. After having done that, he works towards the conclusion with chapters which seek to resolve the issues left unanswered now that both sides have holes punched in their arguments –How did we get here? What are we to do? Where are we going when it is all over?

This book is a good refresher in apologetics, and its presentation models what civil discourse looks like -something missing in modern culture. What I enjoyed as much if not more than Crispin’s writing were the sources, quotes, and footnotes which create a good reading list in their own right. The chapter I enjoyed most out A Skeptic’s Guide to Belief is the chapter on the afterlife, “Does the Fat Lady Sing at Funerals?” What I appreciated out of this chapter is the anecdotes and “eyewitness accounts” about near-death experiences which Crispin shares, and his critique/analysis/treatment of them.

A Skeptic’s Guide to Belief- Read it for the nuance. Read it for the resources. But if you have read any number of faith-centered apologetics books, don’t expect too many new ideas. Just expect to see them arranged in a new way.

I received my copy of this book for free through Speakeasy in exchange for reviewing it. I was not obligated to write a positive review. The opinions expressed are mine.

I’m not good at writing review titles, but Bob Fabey probably would be.

This is a review of the book NotMyJesus by Bob Fabey.

“When the purpose behind the work of God is lost on his people, their hearts become hardened and fearful.” These words from the conclusion to Bob Fabey’s NotMyJesus encapsulate what seems to be the entire point of his project. What the reader should encounter from this book is one that challenges every idea and conception of the identity of who Jesus was and is. Along the way, Fabey includes enough wit to make an already short book seem even shorter.

NotMyJesus can be divided into three distinct sections:

I. Who does the world at large think Jesus is?

II. Who is Jesus really?

III. If we claim to follow Jesus, what does that really mean and how should we live?

Each one of these sections contains a healthy bit of cultural affirmation and critique -what we seem to be getting right and wrong. In the first part, as Fabey brings out different stereotypes (“Christmas Baby Jesus”, “Northern European Jesus”, “Santa Claus Jesus”, etc.), he points out the parts of each of them that are moreorless right, but that by ignoring the bigger picture and focusing on one attribute, we certainly have an incomplete picture. Fabey doesn’t call for an “either/or” approach, but more of a “yes/and” one.

As Fabey uses the Bible to analyze who Jesus really is, one thought kept coming to my mind: “Neither liberal Christians or Christian fundamentalists will be happy reading this book.” Fabey points out -and I am not doing proper justice to this section, so read the book for yourself- that while Jesus did call people out for sin and he did judge them, he was also loving of them and accepting. Fundamentalists will be upset by a lack of “let them burn” rhetoric, and liberal Christians will be frustrated by the fact that there is an emphasis on Jesus’s judgmental mission.

At the end though, and this is how I want to end this review, it all boils down to love. Fabey breaks apart the second half of Romans 12, as well as the words translated as “love” in the Bible, to present an approach to living which only in a very distorted image, matches how many people who call themselves Christian actually live. This book is a quick read, and I recommend it as a devotional read or a book to consider using for a small group.

I received my copy of this book for free in exchange for reading and reviewing it. The opinions expressed are mine only, and I was not obligated to write a positive review.

Review: “Run the Mile You’re In”

This is a review of the book Run the Mile You’re In by Ryan Hall.

I’m not sure what I was expecting when I picked up Run the Mile You’re In. Based on the description of the book, I wasn’t sure whether to expect a book of insights like Peter Sagal’s The Incomplete Book of Running -part memoir, part book of insights on how to be a good runner; or, a book more like Shaken by Tim Tebow, which is really more of a “here’s how I put things in order” and life/sports is the framework the author uses. If you’re looking for a book on principles to keep in mind for running, stick with Sagal. But if you’re looking for a book of short memoir-anecdotes on faith and making improvements, go with Ryan Hall’s book.

Run the Mile You’re In is divided into 26 chapters, equal to the number of miles in a marathon. In each chapter, Hall shares experiences from his time as a runner (high school, college, and at the professional Olympic level) and lessons he learned along the way. The topics he meditates on in this book range from the importance of having a vision to remembering your identity, and that anything can be worship to moving through the different seasons of life. Each chapter is relatively short, so at approximately seven pages each, this book could serve as a devotional component to a morning Bible reading plan.

I was disappointed in a way, as I was hoping that running advice would play a bigger part in Run the Mile You’re In, instead of it being a backdrop for life lessons, but I’ll survive. In the end, the book is an enjoyable read and I did not find it to be a waste of time. I doubt you will, either.

I received my copy of this book for free through BookLook Bloggers in exchange for reviewing it. I was not obligated to write a positive review; the opinions expressed are mine.

Review: The Maxwell Leadership Bible, NIV

This is a review of the Maxwell Leadership Bible- NIV 3rd edition.

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About a year ago, I had the opportunity to review the updated third edition of the Maxwell Leadership Bible. The edition I reviewed was the NKJV translation. I was impressed with the way they editors had updated the color scheme, some of the language in the notes was tweaked, and new articles and resources were added. I still stand by my thoughts. This third edition, which uses the 2011 NIV translation update, has the same updated content. Rereading and reviewing it again reaffirms my initial impressions.

But I like this one better. First, from a design and mechanics aspect, I like this NIV version better. The burgundy leather gives it a weighty, authoritative appearance. From the outside, it just has a different look from the hardcover edition. It seems well-suited to appear on a desk, or on the bookshelf behind the desk.

The leather cover and sewn binding make its use in reading more convenient than the hardcover too. The leather-cover edition lays flat, whether set on a tabletop or on the readers lap. Even when reading the articles at the end, the pages don’t flip closed. The pages are the same paper as the hardcover, but the softer leather cover makes flipping through pages easier and more convenient, too.

When the updated NIV was released in 2011, I was not a fan. Since then, I have warmed up to it. I will go a step further to say that for the Maxwell Leadership Bible, the NIV seems like a more suitable translation to use. The flow of the wording in the text of the Bible in the NIV seems better matched for John C. Maxwell’s teaching style and the choice of wording used in the articles and features. The NKJV preserves its updated, but-still-formal wording, which is fine. I love the NKJV and have a profound appreciation for it. But the “writing style” of the NIV matches better with Maxwell’s writing style. The two complement each other for a leadership/spiritual growth resource such as this.

If you have the choice between the NKJV hardcover or the NIV leatherbound Maxwell Leadership Bible, 3rd ed., I recommend choosing the NIV. There are many benefits in this one, and not just the reading contents. It’s a comfortable, enjoyable read that will challenge you in many ways as you grow in leadership.

I received my copy of this book for free through the BookLook Bloggers program in exchange for reviewing it. I was not obligated to write a positive review; the opinions expressed are the reviewer’s.

 

Review: “The Lotus and the Rose”

This is a review of the book The Lotus and the Rose by Lama Tsomo and Rev. Matthew Fox.

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I approached The Lotus and the Rose knowing a little bit about Rev. Fox and quite a bit about Christianity. I know nothing about pretty much nothing about Buddhism, and less than that about Lama Tsomo. After going through this book, I am not sure whether that is a benefit or a detriment to my comprehension of the material in the book.

The concept for The Lotus and the Rose is pretty straightforward. Friends religious spiritualists Matthew Fox and Lama Tsomo -Christian and Buddhist, respectively- sat down for a series of conversations in different contexts and settings. The transcripts of their dialogues were collected, arranged by theme, and published as one volume. What jumped out about me, what I appreciated about this book, was how each of the two, Fox and Tsomo, overflow with love for their beliefs and for each other. Their mutual respect and friendship as well as their deep expertise appears evident in the words they speak. The topics they cover are vast, from meditation to transcendence, from spirituality to science, there are few stones Tsomo and Fox do not unturn.

Some of what they discuss does get pretty dense, and if the reader knows little to nothing about either Christianity or Buddhism -as is the case with me and the latter- it can be relatively easy for the eyes to glaze over and the reader to zone out. Especially since I was not familiar with the vocabulary of Buddhism, it was hard for me to follow Tsomo at times. Be prepared for that.

Overall, The Lotus and the Rose is a conversation between two people who model how to learn from each other. That is something that our society needs right now, and if there is one bright spot -regardless of the things either Fox or Tsomo says that I disagree with- in this book, I would say it is that. Prepare for information, insight, and things that make you think. If you feel like your brain is starting to check out, pause, and reengage later. This is not one you want to read passively. Read it with a critical eye prepared to question any and everything on the page.

I received my copy of this book for free in exchange for publishing a review of it it. I was not obligated to post a positive review; the opinions expressed are mine.

Review: “Call Down Lightning”

This is a review of the book Call Down Lightning by Wallace Henley.

In evangelical circles, the topic of revival comes up now and then. It seems to be on Henley’s mind, too. Tracing the historic revival in Wales in 1904, Henley lays out an outline for how revival can happen, and along the way points out how the United States could be setting itself up for religious revival now. Call Down Lightning is informative and interesting, but I felt that it was just okay.

Henley presents a work that is part historical research, party present-day commentary, part biography, and part revival sermon. Henley spends a lot of the book focusing on Evan Roberts, one of the catalysts for the Welsh revivals -Henley does give others credit in a chapter in the later half of the book. Throughout, Henley uses lightning as an analogy to revival, and brings in interesting facts about the natural phenomenon to connect his points.

I picked up this book not knowing anything about the Welsh revival. That was what drew me to the book; I wanted to know a little bit more about church world history. In this short volume, there is plenty of it. It started to feel a little repetitive by the end, though. I felt the book was kind of slow until about Chapter 11. So be prepared to slough through Call Down Lightning. There were times where I found myself having the thought, “I know this guy is passionate about revival happening again; I just wish his writing made me believe it more often.”

Call Down Lightning is an all right read. Be prepared for fun, exciting moments. Also be prepared for a little boredom and wondering when the next chapter starts. But in the end, be prepared to get something out of it.

I received my copy of this book for free through the BookLook Bloggers program in exchange for reviewing it. I was not obligated to post a positive review; the opinions expressed are mine.

I enjoyed this way more than I thought I would; a review of “The Theft of America’s Soul”

This is a review of The Theft of America’s Soul by Phil Robertson.

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I read Phil Robertson’s previous book, Happy, Happy, Happy! during the zenith of the Duck Dynasty craze. That book was okay. Fast forward five years after his second book, UnPHILtered (which I did not read), and now comes The Theft of America’s Soul. Curious to see what Robertson might have to say after the excitement of the Duck Dynasty frenzy has settled, I picked up the book. I read it in under two days; I could have read it in one day but life happens.

Woven together as a book that is one part memoir, one commentary on current events, and one part evangelical Christian apologetics, The Theft of America’s Soul fills in some of the holes in Phil Robertson’s life created in Robertson’s previous two books. But those gaps in Robertson’s story that he fills in are only the starting point, as he uses them as a Bible-centered springboard to critique what he sees as faults in the prevailing mindset of mainstream America. He calls out a need for Christian conviction and taking a stand for truth, as well as the need to stand for morality and unity. Robertson references the race riots in Ferguson, MO, the Harvey Weinstein debacle, the Las Vegas and Texas church shootings, among other events in our very recent U.S. history. But when he discusses them, it does not feel forced or contrived, but easy and conversational, the way Robertson’s tone is throughout the book.

The Theft for America’s Soul does have some parts where the pace seems to slow down. Chapter 6 on virtue, 8 on unity, and 9 on faith in the workplace feel a little repetitive at points. That might simply be because Robertson wants to make sure that his readers haven’t missed the points he is trying to emphasize. But if you’re like me, you catch them the first time.

On the whole, The Theft of America’s Soul is a respectable read. If you are a person of faith, you will undoubtedly feel encouraged and maybe even inspired. If you are not, this book will help you perhaps better understand a person who the media -and maybe even Phil himself- has painted as a backwoods “river rat.” In either case, the potential reader is bound to get something out of this book.

I received my copy of this book for free through the BookLook Bloggers program in exchange for reviewing it. I was not obligated to give it a positive review; the opinions expressed are mine.

Review: Maxwell Leadership Bible, 3rd ed.

This is a review of the Maxwell Leadership Bible, 3rd Edition published by Thomas Nelson.

I am a lifelong student of the Bible, and also an individual who serves in various leadership functions in the church I attend and the school where I teach. One of the easiest ways I have found to develop personally as a leader and Christian is to read books on leadership and books on faith. The Maxwell Leadership Bible is an exceptional blending of the two book types. John C. Maxwell is a noted leader who has spent his entire life teaching leadership principles from a foundation of the Bible. Just reading the notes and articles included in this Bible is enough to know that Maxwell knows his stuff.

The edition that I have uses the New King James Version text as its foundation (Full disclosure: I really like the NKJV!). Then, throughout the text are mixed in short biographies on people of the Bible and who they demonstrate (positively or negatively) leadership traits. Also, the text includes short articles, one-page readings, and margin-inserts connected to leadership principles, as well as to the 21 Qualities of Leaders and the 21 Laws of Leadership, for which John Maxwell is known. There are an impressive amount of additional articles and leadership resources int he back of the Maxwell Leadership Bible, as well as sorted indices for where one can find features on the 21 Qualities and 21 Laws.

I like study Bibles. I like them when the supplementary materials do not distract the reader from the page. The Maxwell Leadership Bible does a good job in its layout to help prevent the reader from feeling distracted or overwhelmed. This edition also takes advantage of the Thomas Nelson Comfort Print font. That’s actually the only big noticeable difference for me between the previous edition and this one. That and the color scheme of the pages. But those two things, though small, make a surprisingly big, positive difference.

Paraphrased, John C. Maxwell writes that no matter what a person does, he or she is a leader in some capacity. The Maxwell Leadership Bible is a quality resource for anyone who identifies with the truth in that statement.

I received my copy of the Maxwell Leadership Bible for free through the BookLook Bloggers program in exchange for reviewing it. I was not obligated to write a positive review; the opinions expressed are mine.