Book Closing: There are a few books out there that should be read annually. ”The Cost of Discipleship” is one of those books. This, Bonhoeffer’s most p...moreBook Closing: There are a few books out there that should be read annually. ”The Cost of Discipleship” is one of those books. This, Bonhoeffer’s most popular work, walks through what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ through exploring the Sermon on the Mount and a few topics of central to Christianity such as what it means for us to be saints and what the Body of Christ is.
Bonhoeffer, a Lutheran pastor living in the times of Hitler, shows that the life of a Christian disciple is not a life of ease - but rather one that suffers for the sake of one’s neighbor because Christ suffered for the Christian and a life that is never full of one’s self, because Christ emptied Himself.
Bonhoeffer’s picture of Christian discipleship, however, it one that sometimes seems foreign when compared with today’s pictures of discipleship. There is little glitz and glamour, but a lot of personal responsibility and humility. There is little individualism, but a lot of corporate identity in Christ.
If you’re looking for something that is a little “different” and a little challenging to guide you in your Christian walk, pick up “Cost of Discipleship”. After reading it, I’m sure you’ll agree it’s a change that you need to embrace every year.(less)
Book Closing: One of the things that Chuck Palahniuk is a master at doing through his books is giving you what filmmakers call "the willful suspension...moreBook Closing: One of the things that Chuck Palahniuk is a master at doing through his books is giving you what filmmakers call "the willful suspension of disbelief". Most of those filmmakers will use that willful suspension as a prerequisite for allowing the movie to affect you - Palahniuk, however, makes it a part of the effect of his book. You close the book to put it down and have dinner or grab a cup of coffee and wonder - does time really exist in the way I think it does? is there a massive epidemic just on the verge of exploding into the population? is our socio-economic system just a more subtle way of doing the violence we used to do through racism?
Rant, a story told through soundbites, is part biography and part journalism. The book is written through short, paragraph long snippets from the people that knew the protagonist (of sorts), an anti-hero named Rant Casey. Like watching the nightly news, you'll see different (and sometimes differing) opinions on one thing that happened.
All of this makes it a phenomenal study in what we think "reality" really is, and how we come to the idea of "reality" through the stories that we tell. It brings up the question of if we can tell a story that is a lie and make it reality simply through telling the story well enough.
As a Christian reader, there's a lot to work with in Rant that comes along side faith and helps you to arrive at new questions, even if at sometimes those questions seem to be at first quasi-heretical. That's a normal Palahniuk trait, I've found. While he doesn't make anything too obvious, there is certainly an understanding of faith in Palahniuk's being and writing.
I certainly recommend Rant. It's a fun ride, especially after you get used to the "soundbite" writing. Enjoy!
Book Opening: While I’m not an official member of “The Cult,” Chuck Palahniuk’s fan club, do consider myself a fan. I started off reading “Choke”, and got hooked ever since I read it. There’s something about Chuck’s writing style - the playful experimentation of taboo subjects and undulating plot - that makes for an enjoyable read.
Opening up to the first page of Rant, I find that it is an “oral biography” of one Buster Casey, who “may or may not be the most efficient serial killer of our age.”
There is probably no better summer reading than “Treasure Island”. The name itself brings you to a place where you’re imagining the salty sea air, the...moreThere is probably no better summer reading than “Treasure Island”. The name itself brings you to a place where you’re imagining the salty sea air, the treacherous nobility of the pirates of the Hispaniola, and the cunning of the cook-turned captain, Long John Silver.
I bought my edition at a garage sale and it still has the name of a certain “Darryl Forest” who read the book at least once before me. Who knows how many dreams of adventure and life on the sea it brought Darryl for the price of a mere 75 cents in 1971? Some forty years later, I uncovered this treasure buried like Flint’s doubloons in a dusty pile of paperbacks.
If you haven’t read it yet, this is the perfect time to find and open up your own copy - that is if you have the guts to sail with Jim Hawkins to Treasure Island.(less)
Book Opening: Every month I get together with a bunch of Lutheran clergy types from churches around here. We call it "circuit". The idea is that we're...moreBook Opening: Every month I get together with a bunch of Lutheran clergy types from churches around here. We call it "circuit". The idea is that we're getting together for mutual consolation, support, and even learning.
I remember hearing stories from older pastors about how they would get together at these circuits and present papers they had been working on and/or translating the Bible out of the original languages. That, sadly, doesn't happen much anymore. Most circuits look like support groups with zero accountability. Yeah, it's that great.
So I presented an idea to my circuit to begin to heal our meetings and make them better experiences for the brotherhood of the collar. Step one, let's start reading stuff together.
So we're reading "The Prodigal God" and seeing where it goes from there. Here we go!(less)
Francis Chan’s bestseller, Crazy Love, was a bit of a disappointment for me. Like many other books that I’ve heard hyped up in mainstream evangelicali...moreFrancis Chan’s bestseller, Crazy Love, was a bit of a disappointment for me. Like many other books that I’ve heard hyped up in mainstream evangelicalism, I found the basic ideas of the book to be somewhat rudimentary and a little cliche.
Still, there were a few bright points to the book, and it wasn’t a complete wash.
The basic premise of the book is summed up in the Hebrew metaphor of the heart. Ancient Hebrews considered the heart not to be necessarily the seat of human emotion (as post-Victorian Europeans and Americans might), but rather the seat of human decisions.
Francis is telling us that to love God means to make decisions in our life based on God’s will.
It’s a challenging point, and he excels in making it challenging. Francis encourages you to dream big, not small. He attacks the “lukewarm” who rely on some misguided nominal and false sense of Christianity. He provides a “cloud of witnesses” of modern day Christians who live out the sanctification of the Holy Spirit. He encourages you to live day by day, giving all you can, being obsessed with living life as a Spirit-guided Christian.
Yet, noticeably lacking from this treatment of Christianity is Jesus - at least Jesus presented as a redeemer and Savior. Little time is spent on the “crazy love” that God has shown us in the cross, and that….well….it’s just crazy.
My favorite explanation of the Lutheran concept of “Law and Gospel” is “Disturbing the Comfortable and Comforting the Disturbed.” (Lex and Terry Radio Show by-line). Francis succeeds in disturbing the comfortable, but not in comforting the disturbed and giving the empowerment to do that which God has set before us. To me, that means that the job is only half-done.(less)
Book Closing: When I have to tell people what makes Lutheran theology distinctive, I usually start with some form of an explanation of Luther's "Theol...moreBook Closing: When I have to tell people what makes Lutheran theology distinctive, I usually start with some form of an explanation of Luther's "Theology of the Cross" from the Hiedelberg Disputation. That may make me a theological nerd, but at least I'm a nerd that agrees with Dennis Ngien's dissertation here.
The Suffering of God is a dissertation-turned-book, which means that it's not light reading, but that it does drive deep into the marrow of the topic. The topic itself is how the theology of the cross really drives the theological subtopics of things like soteriology (theology of salvation), Trinity, and Christology (theology of the Messiah).
Ngien does this in an interesting way for books on the theology of the cross in that he doesn't spend much time explaining the anthropology of the theology of the cross (in other words, how the theology of the cross is seen in humans), but rather by spending all of his time but a little explaining how the theology of the cross explains who God is. Most books on the subject approach the subject from the anthropological light, which is helpful, but it is also helpful to focus on God's self-revelation which is always for humans, but not always having humans as the subject of the verb.
I recommend The Suffering of God especially for theologians who can get past some theological language and basic understanding of Luther's work, and who can at least power through the little bits of Latin and German that appear in the text. Also, just a nota bene, although the book is officially 289 pages long, everything after 173 is notes and index.
Book Opening: Much of what is written about Luther's "Theology of the Cross" is written in terms of anthropology and better understanding the status of man before God, his Savior. However, it appears here that Dennis Ngien is more interested in the subject of the "Theology of the Cross" from the direction of the One who was put on the cross rather than those for whom He died for.
This revised dissertation aims to set forth ideas about the nature and effect of divine suffering in order to better understand human suffering in the light of the cross.
Focusing on the suffering of God may well help to explain the difference in a "Theology of Glory" (the opposite of Luther's "Theology of the Cross") by way of showing that if God can and does suffer - then that has implications for those who take up their own cross and follow Him. This would be in sharp distinction from a theology that would overstate the "power" of God and subsequently overstate the "power" of the Christian.
Another revised dissertation. :-/ Looking forward to my brain swimming some more. Here we go! (less)
The subtitle of this book “How finding your passion changes everything”, basically explains what the book is about. In this book, Sir Robinson methodi...moreThe subtitle of this book “How finding your passion changes everything”, basically explains what the book is about. In this book, Sir Robinson methodically tries to convince you that we are paying attention to the wrong things in terms of what we view as success.
We view “success” as something that is perhaps different than what we should, and our talk about success has in many ways brought us the most unsuccessful endeavors of our history. Sir Robinson argues wholeheartedly for educational transformation away from standardization and “pragmatism” towards individuality and creativity.
A delight in the book are the several stories about the effect of our current education systems upon creative people who resisted the educational system and became successes on their own. These stories give the anecdotal evidence to what Robinson is proposing.
It’s an interesting, but not surprising, read. It sets out straightforwardly to convince you that education and life without creativity is worthless, and that we’ve been changing our lives to embrace more of the worthlessness. After a while of reading this book, you will be hard pressed not to think back to your own education and look forward to the education of kids being born today, daydreaming of how their experience might be different.(less)
As someone who naturally works with younger Christian leaders (I'm a (college) campus minister), this book wasn't all that surprising. The basic premi...moreAs someone who naturally works with younger Christian leaders (I'm a (college) campus minister), this book wasn't all that surprising. The basic premise is that older leaders should allow themselves to be in relationships with younger people. This premise is predicated on the ideas that a.) older leaders have things to learn from younger people - like how to use facebook, and b.) that the exchange is a win-win for everyone in the relationship.
If you already believe that these things are true, then you're probably not going to be blown away by the book. Still, there are a few helpful ideas when it comes to understanding the "Millenial" psychological disposition. (less)
Book Opening: I’m opening this book with a political science graduate student here at FSU named Matt. Matt and I have talked about all sorts of differ...moreBook Opening: I’m opening this book with a political science graduate student here at FSU named Matt. Matt and I have talked about all sorts of different things in the past - from the Resurrection to the nature of evil to pornography to basic Christianity. He’s a great discussion partner to have for a book, and this is right up his alley - being about the development of the mixing of political and theological rhetoric. The introduction to the book makes it seem like it’s going to be a little like drinking water from a firehose. The author, Greg Foster, even says that every page is about a decade’s worth of historical development of theology and politics. He also makes a big deal about the concept of natural vs. revealed law, and it will be interesting to see where he takes that.
Should be fun….it will also take me a while to read this because we normally read a chapter, discuss, read a chapter, discuss. So expect to see this on my reading list for a while.(less)
Over all, a really great book on some of the basics of investing. The only slow points are when he gets into talking beyond the basics - but this has...moreOver all, a really great book on some of the basics of investing. The only slow points are when he gets into talking beyond the basics - but this has some good tools in. Definitely recommend it.(less)
Book Closing: Having been a PJ O'Rourke fan for a while, I can't say that "Driving Like Crazy" is his absolute best work, but if you've never read PJ...moreBook Closing: Having been a PJ O'Rourke fan for a while, I can't say that "Driving Like Crazy" is his absolute best work, but if you've never read PJ before, it gives you a great dose of his hard hitting, laugh-out-loud-while-reading-silently prose. This time, PJ is centering his views about aging and the way that our world is changing by following the vehicles he has driven throughout his career as a foreign correspondent and basically gonzo journalist for organizations like Car & Driver to Rolling Stone.
If you're looking for a good book that will make you think a little existentially the next time you're talking cars, pick it up. I liked it.(less)