Reading over break

As I’m now signed-in back at good ‘ole BJU, Christmas break is officially over. Work at ITS starts tomorrow and classes start Thursday. However, Christmas Break was not without profit. In addition to completing a 2000 piece puzzle, installing Windows 7 in VMware Fusion (twice, due to some issues), besting family member’s scores in Wii Fit, and helping my brother beat Mario Bros. Wii, I was able to get in some reading I’d been wanting to do. (Although I did do all of the things in the above list, their degree of profitability varies ūüėõ ) But anyway, back to reading. ¬†Below is a list a books in the order I read them with some comments.

Worldliness: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World

(171 pages + appendices) (Amazon Link)
Edited by C. J. Mahaney, with chapters written by Craig Cabaniss, Bob Kauflin, Dave Harvey, and Jeff Purswell

Worldliness cover imageI enjoyed this little book. Mahaney and the other contributors use the illustration of the Jefferson Bible to make the point that Christians are often guilty of mentally if not literally clipping out parts of the Bible that deal with the sin of worldliness. ¬†Worldliness is viewed as non-conformity to an outside set of a rules and restrictions, rather than a heart issue of putting the things we love above Jesus Christ. ¬†Thus, as long we match up with our “checklist,” we ignore passages that deal with worldliness, mentally clipping them out of our Bible. Throughout the book, the authors present hard questions to practical issues of worldliness (media, music, stuff, clothes) that force one to re-evaluate his decisions in light of his love for Christ. Mahaney correctly makes the point that this self-centered heart attitude can not be defeated by self-effort, but only by the power of Christ, which was demonstrated on the cross. ¬†The book includes a short study guide in the back which makes it helpful for a small group or discipleship study.

Ivanhoe

(Project Gutenberg Link)
Sir Walter Scott

This is a classic work of fiction loosely based on historical events following the King’s Crusade. ¬†One of my favorite books. This was a re-read, but enjoyable nonetheless, as there are always things in a book of this length that you don’t pick up on the first time. ¬†If you’ve only seen a movie or read an abridged version (i.e. the Wishbone version does not count ūüėõ ), I highly recommend you spend the time to read the full, unabridged version. ¬†Another note about this book: I read this using the Stanza app for my iPod touch. Highly impressed with this free app. ¬†As the parent company is now owned by Amazon, hopefully both this app and the Kindle app will only get better.

The Shack

(256 pages) (Amazon Link)
Wm. Paul Young

The Shack book coverThis book has been ably reviewed by others (Dan Olinger, Tim Challies, etc.) and I won’t be saying anything they haven’t.¬†I was initially skeptical whether or not it would be worth my time to read this book, but I found the reading more profitable than I anticipated.¬†Obviously the book is well-written. Obviously there are theological errors with the book. ¬†Primary being the rather one-sided presentation of the “goodness” of God (love, forgiveness, patience, etc.) almost the exclusion of his “greatness” (holiness, justice, glory, etc.). ¬†The author would argue that it was not his point to present a full picture of God and the character in the book (Mack) needed the emphasis on God’s goodness rather than his greatness. Perhaps. However, this is the inherent problem with creating a picture of God. Any picture we create will fall short because He is incomprehensible. ¬†This might be excusable, except for that fact that by creating a false image of God, we violate the 2nd commandment. C.S. Lewis says something helpful in regard to this issue, but I’m too lazy to go look it up¬†in The Screwtape Letters (Letter 4) in relation to prayer. Screwtape (head demon) tells his nephew (lesser demon) that when humans pray they pray to a composite object they call God composed of “ridiculous ingredients.” ¬†Screwtape is ok with this type of prayer as long as human prayers are never directed “not to what I think Thou art but to what Thou knowest Thyself to be.” In other words, we need to be aware that any picture we create of God, even in our minds is most likely, if not certainly, inaccurate. ¬†Overall, the book is helpful in making you think about your own preconceptions of God which quite probably are also false and thus also violations of the 2nd commandment. ¬†This book may also be helpful on two other fronts. 1) Point of contact with many unbelievers who have read it and have questions (My mom had such an opportunity for a conversation the other week.) 2) Helpful to you in ministering to the “Mack’s” in your life by getting an idea of their false conception of God and how it needs to be biblically corrected

Wayback

(320 pages) (Amazon Link)
Sam Batterman

Wayback book coverThis was an excellent example of Christian historical science-fiction, for lack of a better term. Quick summary: A well-funded U.S. thinktank finds out about a Nazi secret-weapons program that attempted to create a method to travel back in time. The group succeeds where the Nazis failed. However, after failed attempts to reach 100,000 B.C., a team of specialists in various fields decides to make a trip to 2,300 B.C., just before the biblical Noah’s flood. What they find and document, if revealed to the public, would radically change widely accepted theories about world history. ¬†However, a terrorist organization has also discovered the existence of this time machine and plan to use it for their own nefarious purposes. Batterman has done an excellent job of making a believable rendition of young-earth, world-wide flood, biblical history. ¬†This is due in part to help from the scientists at Answers in Genesis. ¬†I have a few small quibbles (mostly due to my own geeky views of time-travel and the ability to change history), but overall this is an excellent book. One of the characters in the book (an intially skeptical atheist) does raise an interesting question about time-travel from a biblical perspective, in relation to what time-travel and the ability to document important biblical events does to faith. ¬†In other words, say for example it were truly possible for a individual to travel back to say, A.D. 30 and take photographs and video of the resurrection of Christ or even bring back a piece of the real burial shroud, thus establishing it as a historical fact beyond doubt by anyone, what would that do to faith? ¬†Obviously there is more to salvation that faith in a historical event, but I look forward to seeing how this and other issues are dealt with in any future books. (Aside: Finally something put out by a Microsoft employee that’s enjoyable! jk :) )

Christ-Centered Worship: Letting the Gospel Shape our Practice

(307 pages including appendix) (Amazon Link)
Bryan Chapell

Christ-Centered Worship book coverHaving greatly enjoyed and profited from Christ-Centered Preaching, also by Bryan Chapell, I’ve been looking forward to reading this book. ¬†Chapell did not disappoint. His goal in this book is to help ministry leaders re-align their worship services around the themes of gospel. ¬†He begins by a historical survey of orders of worship or liturgies from Medieval times, through the Reformation, up to the present day. ¬†He demonstrates how all of these, as well as several biblical examples of worship are ordered in respect to the gospel. ¬†He traces the themes of Adoration, Confession, Assurance, Thanksgiving, Petition and Intercession, Instruction, Communion/Fellowship, and Charge and Blessing through each of these examples of worship and shows how they relate. For example, Adoration – recognition of the greatness of God – leads to an accurate view of our own sinfulness which in results in Confession; because God is always ready to forgive those who have contritely confessed their sin we have Assurance of his grace and pardon which should cause us to respond with Thanksgiving, and so on… He discusses the importance and relation of each of these themes to the gospel. ¬†He also includes various examples of different ways each of these themes could be communicated through a service (choir, congregational singing, prayer, preaching, offering, etc.). ¬†In the back some resources are listed to help with locating suitable means to express these themes. ¬†I think this book is a great complement to Gary Reimer’s book, The Glory Due His Name: What God says about worship. ¬†While Reimers focuses on the elements of worship God requires (Preparation, Praise, Prayer, Presentation, and Preaching), Chapell shows how each of these elements can be used to communicate the gospel God desires. Another one of Chapell’s goal is to show how a biblical, gospel centered approach to worship avoids many of “worship wars” prevalent in churches today, often caused by a desire to hold to traditional practices or implement modern ones. ¬†Although I would not agree with all of the applications Chapell draws, and I doubt he would expect me to, there is much in this book that is very helpful.

Anyone else read anything interesting or helpful recently you’d care to comment on? ¬†You know where to do it.

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6 Comments

Sam BattermanJanuary 13th, 2010 at 7:06 am

Hi Andy – thanks for the nice review of Wayback.

[Reply]

andyJanuary 14th, 2010 at 9:20 pm

@Sam Batterman, You’re welcome, it was a great read. Looking forward to your next book.

[Reply]

Steve240January 13th, 2010 at 8:31 am

You might find the following blogs of interest about C.J. Mahaney and the group he leads, Sovereign Grace Ministries:

sgmsurvivors[dot]com
sgmrefuge[dot]com

They tell another side. Hope this helps.

[Reply]

andyJanuary 14th, 2010 at 9:58 pm

@Steve240, I’m not a full-out supporter of Mahaney or SGM in any way. Being a fundamentalist, I have my own set of issues with their ministry. However, I did find this and some other resources they have put out helpful.

[Reply]

Steve240January 14th, 2010 at 10:55 pm

andy

I undestand. I just want to make people aware of the blogs.

[Reply]

Alisa Hope WagnerJanuary 15th, 2010 at 1:59 pm

Thanks for the book reviews! I just did a review on Wayback on my blog also. It is amazing!!! I’ll have to check out these other books!

[Reply]

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