Archives For scripture

Review: Lit! by Tony Reinke

By Nate LaClaire —  November 8, 2011 — 2 Comments

In Lit!: A Christian Guide to Reading Books, former journalist Tony Reinke offers a theology for reading as well as practical suggestions for reading. Using scripture and a great deal of additional research, Reinke provides Christians with a deep, multifaceted look at the topic of reading.

Pastor C. J. Mahaney’s foreword does a thorough job at setting up the book by describing the important part that reading has played in his life and Christian walk. Reinke then begins the book by explaining what the title of the book (Lit!) represents: while short for “literature,” it also reminds us that “the glow of God’s creative power is all around us” (pg. 16) and, most importantly, emphasizes the fact that Christian readers are illuminated by the light of the gospel (2 Cor. 4:4). Therefore, says Reinke, we see God’s truth in all literature. The author then dives into the topic, covering everything from the biblical foundation for reading, to the benefits of reading non-Christian books, to Reinke’s own formula for determining what he reads, to finding time to read. He ends the book with a look at the five marks of a healthy reader.

If you’ve read my blog before, you probably have already determined that this book covers a topic that is near and dear to my heart. I love to read, although I go through periods where I fail to set aside proper time to do so. I found the theological portion of the book enlightening. Reinke makes many excellent points for why to read a wide variety of literature and how our faith relates to our reading. I also found the practical portion of the book incredibly helpful. His tips on reading fiction, reading non-fiction, choosing books, setting aside time to read, taking notes, and many other topics are very useful.

I urge you to read this book whether you enjoy reading or not. If you don’t enjoy reading, perhaps it will help you to find enjoyment in the practice and to grow in your faith as a result of it. If you already enjoy reading, I think you’ll walk away from the experience ready to grow your love of reading and with a new appreciation for the importance of it. I know I did.

“For Him to increase in my ministry, I had to decrease in my waistline.”

That, in a nutshell, describes comedian Scott Davis’ motivation for losing 132 pounds. In If My Body is a Temple, Then I Was a Megachurch: My journey of losing 132 pounds with no exercise!, Davis describes his journey to a healthy weight using a good-sized helping of humor. The author uses scripture to show that losing weight is about more than just one’s physical condition – it is about the spiritual condition as well. The humor keeps it light-hearted while the scripture and personal stories of his struggles add weight to the book.

This is a great memoir, but it is much more than that: while not a diet book, it is an encouraging look at why and how Christians who struggle with obesity can and should take control and reach a state of health. Davis makes it clear that this is not easy, but he shows that it is doable if we rely on God and the people He has put in place to help us.

My only negative comment about the book is this: at times, the book feels like an infomercial for Quick Weight Loss Centers of Atlanta. It’s easy to get annoyed by the references to one weight-loss facility and lose the greater message of the book. However, it sounds like they have an innovative program and I can see why he would spend so much time talking about it.

Despite this, the book is well worth your time if you struggle with obesity or even have just a little extra weight that you can’t seem to lose. In fact, I think that pretty much anyone could benefit from the book because so much of it has as much to do with spiritual health as physical health.

The audiobook is read by the author and is very well-read and well-produced. I highly recommend it.

What would life be like if the only emotion we were capable of feeling was fear? In Forbidden, authors Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee describe a future society that believes it has evolved from the chaos of experiencing multiple emotions. As the story unfolds, we learn, with the book’s hero, that the reality is much darker: a previous world ruler used a virus to change the citizens’ DNA in order to give him more control by allowing only fear to be experienced. Fortunately, a group of people has been tasked these 480 years with protecting the truth in preparation for the realization of a prophecy.

I loved this book. It caught my attention within the first couple of pages and didn’t let go until the end (actually, it still hasn’t – I can’t wait until the next book in the series, Mortal, due out in 2012, is released). Prepare to be riveted. The fast-paced story includes a number of twists and turns that leave the reader wondering what surprise is coming up next. The characters are well-developed and the rich history behind the story is delivered in such a way that the reader isn’t bored by the experience. It was interesting to see the authors’ idea of how one might react to feeling emotion for the first time.  The only thing that I didn’t like about the story is how graphic some of the descriptions are. The “extremeness” of some of the violence left me wishing I had seen it coming and skipped over the description. Still, many readers will probably love that about the book – it’s a matter of taste.

The book certainly has spiritual application. Many times I found myself drawing parallels between scripture and the story. I wouldn’t call it an allegory, but I think that there are many morals to be drawn from the story and some aspects might be allegorical.

If you like mystery, suspense, and science fiction and don’t mind a bit of gore, I urge you to read this book. When you do, let me know your thoughts by commenting below.

Do you have a secret? Something that you’ve kept in the dark and hope never sees the light of day? Each of us has at least one, but author and pastor Aaron Stern says that secrets can destroy us. In What’s Your Secret?, Stern explores the topic of confession. Using scripture, personal stories, and stories from others, he leads readers on a path toward the joy that is only found in living as God intended, free from secrets and complete in His forgiveness.

This is an excellent book. Unlike popular self-help books on the topic, What’s Your Secret? doesn’t claim to give a simple solution. The book begins by guiding you through the process of confession (to God and others) and discusses what real confession is all about. It then proceeds to introduce readers to what it looks like to live out in the open. Chapters cover “unpacking” your baggage, making things right, and many other topics related to healing and living life free from secrets. Along the way, the author has provided anonymous confessions that he has collected, reminding us that we’re not alone – the secrets that we think are so terrible and unique are close to, if not identical to, those of others.

What’s Your Secret? is encouraging, insightful, motivational, uplifting, and inspiring. If that seems like hyperbole, it’s not. If it seems like I picked up a thesaurus and copied every word under a single heading, well, I didn’t, but maybe I am being repetitious. It’s intentional. You have to read this book. Aaron Stern wants you to live in freedom. God wants you to live in freedom. The road will be difficult, but with this book as a guide, you can do it.

The audiobook is read by the author, which I often enjoy. This case was no different. Hearing the author’s words in his own voice adds authenticity to the reading. The recording and production quality were also very good.

Book trailer:

In Think: The Life of Mind and the Love of God, bestselling author and pastor John Piper aims to encourage and help Christians to think. He argues that “thinking is indispensable on the path to passion for God” and uses scripture to debunk and bring to light the dangers of the anti-intellectualism movement in the church. At the same time, he makes it clear that using human intellect alone is also not scriptural. He also addresses relativism, showing the dangers of this line of thinking and how to safeguard against it.

I found this book insightful. Like all of Piper’s works, it is incredibly deep and will, at least for me, require repeated listening before I will glean all of its insight. Piper’s approach is fresh and full of scriptural basis and he is careful to explain that either extreme in this debate is dangerous.

I listened to the audiobook edition from christianaudio and found the recording quality excellent. Wayne Shepherd read the book clearly and used proper inflection, keeping the reading interesting.

I urge you to read or listen to this book if you want to learn how to grow closer to God.

“Should I trust the advice of my non-Christian parents?”

“If I’m not called to be a minister, can my life count for Christ?”

“How do I teach my children humility without harming their self-esteem?”

“How do I know if I’m in love?”

These, in a nutshell, are just a few of the 171 questions that pastor and best-selling author Max Lucado answers in his most recent book, Max On Life: Answers and Insights to Your Most Important Questions. Unwaveringly using the Bible as foundation, Max provides answers to questions that have been asked of him via letters, emails, and even on Dunkin Donuts napkins over his 25 years of writing and ministry, adding illustrations from his life when applicable. Scripture and topical indexes are provided, allowing one to use the book as a reference.

I found this book encouraging and enlightening. I love reading Max Lucado’s writing and listening to and watching his messages and this book didn’t disappoint. With his signature conversational style he delivers at times profound insights and at other times gentle reminders. He doesn’t shy away from taking a harsh tone when it is needed, but delivers most of his answers in the encouraging tone for which he is known and loved. I urge you to read this book from cover to cover because it is too good to just leave on your bookshelf to be used as reference, but I also encourage you to keep it on your shelf after its first reading to be used in times of need.

Firestarters

By Nate LaClaire —  November 7, 2010 — 2 Comments

I’ve thought a lot about my blog recently and the need for either maintaining it, shutting it down, or fundamentally changing it. A thought came to me this morning and I’ve decided to follow through. I want to be posting something every week. I have lots of ideas, but lately I can’t seem to turn them into posts of substance. I have been tweeting and posting things on Facebook with much more regularity than I’ve been posting to my blog because of the difference between expectations for blogs and those for Facebook and Twitter. I don’t want to turn my blog into essentially a Twitter stream or Facebook wall, but am thinking that some short “thoughts” are bloggable (blog-able?) and might spark discussion or at least get others thinking. So, I’m introducing a new category to my blog: Firestarters. Firestarters will be short posts that either relate something that sparked my attention recently or something that I think might spark your attention. I still want to be writing more substantial posts as well, but those needn’t come every week.

Now, I should give you fair warning: in case you haven’t noticed, I have varied interests. Firestarters might relate to faith, music, politics, programming, health, reading, food, or just about anything else. You might not care about some new programming language, a “beautiful” code structure that someone showed me, a musical motive, a Latin phrase, a piece of scripture, or the benefits of bee pollen. That’s okay. I am and someone else out there must be. Who knows, one of my computer-hating acquaintances might become a programmer after seeing a gorgeous line of Groovy. :-) Firestarters are about getting me and you thinking. “Catalyst” might be too lofty a word, but maybe not in some cases.

Thanks for reading. I hope you’ll stick around for this experiment.

By the way, I have a book review and an audiobook review in the works as well. Stay tuned!

We are a generation of consumers, independent and critical. We attend church, but we don’t want to settle down and truly invest ourselves. We’re not into commitment — we only want to date the church. Is this what God wants for us?

In Stop Dating the Church!: Fall in Love with the Family of God, bestselling author Joshua Harris says no, God’s purpose for Christians involves a deep commitment to a local church. This commitment involves far more than showing up on Sunday to sing, chat, and listen to a sermon. Josh says that in order for us to have the kind of relationship with a local church that God intended, we must first see the Church (universal church) as God sees it.

This is the third book by Josh Harris that I’ve read. One of my favorite things about his books is that his writing style is so conversational and unassuming. I feel when I pick up one of his books as if I’ve sat down with a friend for a cup of coffee and encouragement sprinkled with confession. He uses a variety of examples, but many of them come from his own life – his own shortcomings and mistakes. And yet, his books are always grounded in scripture and demonstrate a satisfaction in Christ that many only secretly dream of.

In Stop Dating the Church!, Josh breaks down the arguments for church dating and explains why God desires that we have the close relationships with other Christians found only in a local church. Like with any commandment of God, there are real, tangible benefits to obedience. Commitment to a local church takes effort, but the benefits far outweigh that effort. Unfortunately, many of us are too committed outside of the church to have a real relationship with the other members of our local body.

In the book, Josh offers real advice on how to commit to the church and what commitment looks like. He also discusses choosing a church, including what things are a matter of taste and what things are vital to a healthy church family – and, by extension, a healthy Christian. He then talks about how to make the most of Sunday, including the church service and the rest of the day.

I highly recommend that you read this book, whether or not you think you might qualify as a church dater. I found the book convicting, but also encouraging and insightful. It’s helped me to look at my own relationship with my church in a new light and I am looking forward to applying more of Josh’s suggestions.

One word of caution: I am linking above to the print edition of Stop Dating the Church!. The book’s content is fantastic, and what I’ve seen of the print edition’s quality is excellent, but I read the Kindle edition and was very disappointed in the production quality of that edition. It appears that they took the print edition, converted it to the Kindle format, and posted it without any proofreading. There are numerous cases where words that needed to be broken across lines in the print edition are still hyphenated in the Kindle edition, or where characters that apparently didn’t convert properly are either missing or display strangely in the Kindle edition. Having read this one Kindle edition from Multnomah Books, I would be hesitant to buy another Kindle edition from the publisher. By the way, if you’re from Multnomah and are looking for someone to do Kindle conversions, feel free to get in touch. :-)

Proverbs 3:1-6

By Nate LaClaire —  July 27, 2008 — 1 Comment

My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you prosperity. Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man. Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. (NIV)