Monday, August 06, 2007

Some Books To Read

Ordinarily, I don't use my blog to recommend books simply because that assumes someone really is reading my musings. Since my primary purpose in blogging is to use writing as a tool for organizing my own thoughts, I haven't often considered that what I am writing will fall upon the mind of a reader. But, in the past few months several folks have commented on some things I've written, so I think I will take advantage of the opportunity to suggest that you quit reading this blog and buy some material that is really worthwhile! Also, by beginning to do book reviews now, I won't look quite so self-serving when my book comes out and I tell you about it here. So, in no order of preference, here are 3 books I think you ought to buy and read:

1. Searching For God Knows What, by Donald Miller.

Frankly, Blue Like Jazz left me underwhelmed, and so I really didn't go looking for this offering from the same author. But, my college freshman son Andy started reading Blue Like Jazz, and I decided to catch up on my "Miller-ism" and bought Searching for God Knows What. And, because I began reading with some ambivelence and even a bit of pessimism, the fact that I ended up loving what Miller says and the way he says it must mean that he's even better than most people suggest. I would rank this book up in the Top Ten books I've read in the past 10 years.

As I read this book, I was both amazed, and saddened. I was amazed at how Miller was able to express in words the very sentiments about intimacy with Christ, and the essence of Christian spirituality, that I have long felt. My sadness came as I realized that I should have been trying harder to express these sentiments. But, in any event, I am all the better for having read this book. In fact, I am re-reading it and taking my time. There are so many good facets that it will occupy a place on my desk for a good many weeks.

The bottom line of this book is that Christian spirituality is a relationship with God, who is the only one who can breathe live and purpose and glory into our lives. And unlike some emerging writers who make ridiculous statements and then don't explain them, Miller always correctly qualifies his assertions. For example, after railing against a Christianity that exists merely to keep rules and pigeon hole truth, he explains that rules and truth do matter, and that they have a place. But, they have no place if they push Jesus Christ aside as the esssence of our relationship with God. I really, really liked this book!

2. Quiet Strength, by Tony Dungy

This memoir written by the Super Bowl winning coach of the Indianapolis Colts is not really about football. It is about the character - quiet strength - of a man for whom a relationship with God through the Lord Jesus Christ is no mere wishful add-on. Rather, it is the core of his worldview.

I took this book on the plane as my wife and I flew to Oregon to perform the wedding of a close friend. As we flew, I started sniffing and dabbing my eyes. Cherylyn asked if my allergies were getting to me. "No" I replied, " ... I'm crying!" Yep, of the 301 pages in this book, I bet 200 of them have my tear stains on them. And no, I am not normally a cry-er, though I did cry when Pele said farewell to soccer. This book is simply the outpouring of a heart that has been disciplined by grace and truth, and the clear, and courageous way Coach Dungy tells his story just gets to me.

Most poignant of all is the section detailing the tragedy of suicide which hit the Dungy family. Here there are no cliches or miraclulous endings. Rather, the sovereignty and love of God are brought to the reader in real-life sequences, and the result is that you feel as though you are right there with the family, understanding in a most real and intimate way, that our Heavenly Father is a father in the best of terms, even in the worst of times.

This book is very well written, and doesn't sentimenal-ize either the Dungy family or the Colts' success. If you're looking for the inside story on Peyton Manning, or any of the other stars, you'll be disappointed. The central character in this story if God, and the way He invaades and pervades Coach Dungy's life will make you stop and think, and maybe even cry.

3. The World According To God, by Greg Johnson

Okay, so this is really a theology book, but it is written so well that even those not versed in theological lingo will find it exciting and very helpful. The author communicates the truth about God, and then the truth of God about work, sex, money, and a host of other real life stuff. It is "Christian Worldview meets Monday" and is very much worth owning, reading, and putting into practice.

And now some books NOT to buy:

1. Anything by Brian McLaren. Okay, so you may want to buy and read some of his stuff, but just don't "buy" it. That is, don't be beguiled by his winsome manner. The fact is that, while he may be asking some good and fair questions about the way the church and God are being packaged and sold today, the answers he is giving are simply warmed-over neo-orthodoxy and theological liberalism.

2. Anything by Joel Osteen. You really only need to know one thing here: God did not send Jesus so you could have the "life you've always wanted." He actually sent Jesus so Jesus could have your life ... lock, stock, and barrel. Here's the deal: God did not save us so we could feel good; He saved us so He could look good. And the best part is that, when He looks good in us, we'll feel the best in Him. John Piper said it best: We wil be most satisfied when God is most glorified.

3. Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris' bashing of Christianity: Dawkins - a renowned scientist - and Harris have written "The God Delusion" and "Letters to a Christian Nation" respectively. Both are so full of holes and errors that it is hard to know where to start. I read Harris' "Letters" while standing in Barnes & Noble (yes, it's so skimpy that it will take you all of 20 minutes!) and stopped counting the historical/biblical inaccuracies when I got to 20. These books - and others like them - are so full of hatred toward Christians and the Bible that it is hard to take them seriously.

Instead, wait until the October publication of the new Dinesh D'Souza book: "What's Right With Christianity." I just finished a pre-pub copy sent to me by the author, and it is a simple, yet well-researched and written rebuttal showing that society, and medicine, and science, and many other fields of human endeavor have been greatly enriched by those with a Christian worldview. It is a good read, and hopefully, will provide a counter balance to the out of balance rantings of the enemies of Christendom.

Hope this helps,



At 11:05 PM , Blogger bran_and_shann said...

David, thanks for the thoughts on the books. To be honest with you, I began reading "Searching," and after 3 chapters I was so disinterested that I had to put it down. On the other end of your point of view, I read only one sample chapter of "Blue" and was floored at how right on his sentiments were. Fittingly, however, it was the chapter in which he explains precisely what you appreciated so much in "Searching."

The chapter I read from "Blue" was about going to a summer camp, committing to living the life he'd always wanted in Christ, and losing it within three weeks. As you said on Sunday, Christianity is not about doing things, it's not about checklists, it's about relationship. Obviously, there are things we must do, like loving God and loving neighbor and pursuing the knowledge of God, but these things are worth nothing if not founded with a relationship...a real relationship founded not on principles and thoughts, but on true love...and the experience of the Cross.

Maybe I should give Searching for God Knows What another shot.

And regarding the Harris book...yes, what a terrible piece of literature, if we can even call it that. His marquee argument, with which he relies so heavily when it comes to Atheism and boiling everything down to a supposedly common theme, is "We are all Atheists in regards to Zeus. Why is my Atheism in regards to the God of Judaism, Christianity and Islam any different?" is plain ridiculous. To boot, the things he says in there about stem cell research is just plain wrong. Yet he is EVERYWHERE, making money and fans left and right. It truly makes you want to envy the success of the wicked, but the Lord is not slack regarding his promises...

Anyway, hopefully I can communicate to you through this blog and not get my message sent back to me, or be interrupted by a rude robot woman in the middle of a voice mail message! If you haven't gotten my voicemail yet today, that will make no sense to you.

Have a good one. If you want an excellently made Americano, come on down to the Starbucks off of the Cajalco exit, I'll be there all day.


At 11:43 AM , Blogger bran_and_shann said...

I tried to respond to your email...and it did not go through.
And yes, Miller is a bit too heady for me. I am used to the kind of books where you can read them in one sitting without much thought, like Owen's Mortification and Calvin's Institutes. I should stick to that until I can develop the ability to read material like Miller's!
See you Sunday.

At 9:23 AM , Blogger The Family Beckwith said...

I can't tell you how I can't wait to read "Blue Like Jazz"! (Mike got to it first) Not ony because you recommended it and Mike and I value your opinion, but get this: We've been in sort of a rut lately and that book was a luxury (yes, luxury...we love to read) that was going to have to wait. No big deal. But among a dozen other "little" things, God placed it right in our hands. Literally. Our college pastor, Scott, gave this book to us, not even knowing we were interested in reading it. Just because.

This seems small and coincidental, but Mike and I have seen more little miracles in the last couple of weeks than I have ever seen in my life. It's not until you have the reality of actually leaning on God's hand to be taken care of that you see these things, I think. At least in my case. This book was the icing on the cake and I just had to share.

At 8:55 PM , Blogger Blasjo said...

David, I found your blog while looking for the church website. I will check out the books you recommended.

My husband is on a mission from his senior pastor to "research" how other churches conduct their worship services. We wanted to visit EV Free because it is a growing church and that is where we were married.

Just wanted to let you know that we are still happily married and Dan is a bi-vocational worship pastor at Palm Baptist. Our son, Aaron, is in the Army and will be deployed to Afghanistan in Oct. We are also blessed with an 8 year old daughter.

If you can, email the times for worship service. Thanks.


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