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My Review of The Shack

    1) He’s a really good player.
    2) He needs to work on his free throws.
    3) It’s too bad he and Kobe couldn’t get along better.

Related post: Okay, here are some real reviews on The Shack

The Christianity Today 2009 Book Awards

It’s that time of year again. The Christianity Today 2009 Book Awards are in. Here are the top books arranged by category.

  • Apologetics/Evangelism – The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism; Timothy Keller (Penguin/Dutton)
  • Biblical Studies – Stories with Intent: A Comprehensive Guide to the Parables of Jesus; Klyne R. Snodgrass (Eerdmans)
  • Christianity and Culture – Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling; Andy Crouch (InterVarsity)
  • Christian Living – Reconciling All Things: A Christian Vision for Justice, Peace and Healing; Emmanuel Katongole, Chris Rice (InterVarsity)
  • The Church/ Pastoral Leadership – Why We’re Not Emergent (By Two Guys Who Should Be); Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck (Moody)
  • Fiction – Home: A Novel; Marilynne Robinson (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux)
  • History/Biography – Bill Bright and Campus Crusade for Christ: The Renewal of Evangelicalism in Postwar America; John G. Turner (University of North Carolina)
  • Missions/Global Affairs – Transforming Worldviews: An Anthropological Understanding of How People Change; Paul G. Hiebert (Baker Academic)
  • Spirituality – The Acedia & Me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer’s Life; Kathleen Norris (Penguin/Riverhead)
  • Theology/Ethics – People and Place: A Covenant Ecclesiology; Michael S. Horton (Westminster John Knox)

Awards of Merit

  • Apologetics/Evangelism – To the Jew First The Case for Jewish Evangelism in Scripture and History; Darrell L. Bock and Mitch Glaser, Editors (Kregel Academic and Professional)
  • Biblical Studies – Dictionary of the Old Testament: Wisdom, Poetry and Writings; Tremper Longman III and Peter Enns, Editors (IVP Academic)
  • Christianity and Culture – Making the Best of It: Following Christ in the Real World; John G. Stackhouse Jr. (Oxford)
  • Christian Living – Being Well When We’re Ill: Wholeness and Hope in Spite of Infirmity; Marva J. Dawn (Augsburg Fortress)
  • The Church/Pastoral Leadership (tie) –
    • Who Stole My Church?: What to Do When the Church You Love Tries to Enter the 21st Century; Gordon MacDonald (Thomas Nelson)
    • Ancient-Future Worship: Proclaiming and Enacting God’s Narrative; Robert E. Webber (Baker)
  • Fiction – The Almost True Story of Ryan Fisher; Rob Stennett (Zondervan)
  • History/Biography – God and Race in American Politics: A Short History; Mark A. Noll (Princeton)
  • Missions/Global Affairs – African Pentecostalism: An Introduction; Ogbu Kalu (Oxford)
  • Spirituality – Tell It Slant: A Conversation on the Language of Jesus in His Stories and Prayers; Eugene H. Peterson (Eerdmans)
  • Theology/Ethics – Surprised By Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church; N. T. Wright (HarperOne)

Did you have a favorite Christian book that you read this past year? Tell us about it in the comments section.

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Bush Reads Too Much

Poor George Bush can’t seem to catch a break with the New York Times. The Times ran a positive article today on Barack Obama’s reading habits and decided to include a negative paragraph on George Bush for contrast. The problem is that Bush is a voracious reader who apparently reads more than Obama. So how do you turn this into a criticism of the President? Bush reads too much! He races through his books while Obama reads more thoughtfully.

Mr. Obama tends to take a magpie approach to reading — ruminating upon writers’ ideas and picking and choosing those that flesh out his vision of the world or open promising new avenues of inquiry. His predecessor, George W. Bush, in contrast, tended to race through books in competitions with Karl Rove (who recently boasted that he beat the president by reading 110 books to Mr. Bush’s 95 in 2006), or passionately embrace an author’s thesis as an idée fixe.

I am glad that George Bush and Barack Obama are both readers. I am sorry the Times chose to criticize Bush for his reading, especially on this his last day of office. Why not lift them both up as great examples for continued learning through reading?

7 Great Books to Read at Christmas

One of the ways I like preparing for Christmas during the Advent season is to read books relating to Christmas and the incarnation. Here are seven of my favorites.

In the Fullness of Time: A Historian Looks at Christmas, Easter, and the Early Church - By: Paul L. Maier

In the Fullness of Time: A Historian Looks at Christmas, Easter, and the Early Church, by Paul L. Maier. Pastor and historian Paul Maier looks at the historical and cultural backgrounds surrounding Christmas, Easter and the Christians of the early church. This is a gorgeous book full of maps, photos and many fascinating facts.

 

Great Sermons on the Birth, Death, and Resurrection of Christ, edited by Wilbur M. Smith

Great Sermons on the Birth, Death, and Resurrection of Christ, edited by Wilbur M. Smith. This is a great collection of sermons. The first volume contains 15 Christmas sermons by 10 different preachers, including messages by Charles Spurgeon, Joseph Parker, Martin Luther, G. Campbell Morgan, Harold Ockenga, and more. (Currently out of print but can be purchased used.)

 

God With Us: The Miracle of Christmas, by John MacArthur

God With Us: The Miracle of Christmas, by John MacArthur. We have used this as an advent devotional with our children in the past. MacArthur provides brief, informative chapters on Old Testament prophecy, Jesus’ ancestry, the Virgin Birth, Joseph and Mary, the Wise Men, and other Christmas themes. Various sidebars throughout the book explain the origins of common Christmas traditions.

 

The Risk of Birth, edited by Luci Shaw

The Risk of Birth, edited by Luci Shaw. This is a wonderful and thought-provoking collection of poems exploring Christ’s birth and the implications of the incarnation. Shaw presents some of her own works along with poems by C.S. Lewis, Madeleine L’Engle, Eugene Warren, and others. (Currently out of print but can be purchased used.)

 

Proclaiming the Christmas Gospel, edited by John D. Witvliet and David Vroege

Proclaiming the Christmas Gospel: Ancient Sermons and Hymns for Contemporary Christian Inspiration, edited by John D. Witvliet and David Vroege. This collection of 13 Christmas sermons spans nearly 1100 years. Included are messages from Augustine, Jerome, Gregory the Great, John Wycliffe, Thomas à Kempis, and more. This is a great way to dig into some of the sermons of the past dealing with Christmas.

 

The Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis | 7-Volume Set

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis.   This is a great book to read any time of the year, but especially at Christmas. “Always winter, but never Christmas” — that is, until Aslan comes along! Lewis’ ability to capture rich, Christian insight in narrative form is unmatched. Read it with your kids or just enjoy it for yourself.

 

Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus - Edited by Nancy Guthrie

Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus: Experiencing the Peace and Promise of Christmas, edited by Nancy Guthrie. This is new for me this year, but I am already enjoying it. The book contains Christmas reflections from 22 different writers. There are classic theologians from the past such as Whitefield, Calvin and Edwards, as well as contemporary writers such as Keller, Piper, Alcorn, MacArthur, Schaeffer, Sproul, and Joni Eareckson Tada.

Do you have suggestions for books to read at Christmas? Feel free to share them in the comments section.

Witherington on Reimagining Church

Ben Witherington posted a mammoth four-part review of Frank Viola’s Reimagining Church and then invited Frank to respond. The links are below.

Ben’s review:

Frank’s response:

Closing words from Ben and Frank:

Ben has some strong critiques of Frank’s book and doesn’t pull any punches, yet the conversation remains respectful throughout. It is nice to see two Christians treating each other with civility and grace even when they disagree with each other — especially on the internet of all places!

Related post: Ben Witherington critiques Pagan Christianity

Your Life Story in Six Words

Can you tell your life story in six words? Inspired by Ernest Hemingway’s famous six-word short story (“For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”), that’s what SMITH magazine editors Larry Smith and Rachel Fershleiser asked their online readers in 2006. They have now collected a number of these six-word autobiographies and published them in the book, Not Quite What I Was Planning (notice the number of words in the title).

Here are some examples from the book:

Brought it to a boil, often. (Mario Batali, chef)
Couldn’t cope, so I wrote songs. (Aimee Mann, singer, songwriter)
Maybe you had to be there. (Roy Blount Jr., humorist)
Cursed with cancer. Blessed by friends. (9 year old Hannah Davies)
Struggled with how the mind works. (Steven J. Pinker, psychologist)
Nobody cared, then they did. Why? (Chuck Klosterman, journalist)
Well, I thought it was funny. (Stephen Colbert, comedian)
Revenge is living well, without you. (Joyce Carol Oates, author)
Woke up. Went back to sleep. (Anonymous)
No wife. No kids. No problems. (Rip Riley)
I still make coffee for two. (Zak Nelson)
Yes, you can edit this biography. (Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia founder)

Here was my first attempt: “God, family, church; Bible, music, books.” Not very creative, too much of a list, but it does capture the main influences in my life.

Next I tried this one: “Met Christ; married Rose; had boys.” This one is more event-oriented. It does capture the three primary events in my life, but it still seemed too cut and dry.

So I finally decided on this: “New creation in Christ – everything changes.” This one is based on my life verse and pretty much sums it all up for me. Christ entered my life and changed everything. Everything good I have in my life I owe to him. He is still changing me day by day, and one day I will stand complete in his presence. It doesn’t get much better than that.

How about you? Feel free to share your six-word autobiography in the comments section. And if you are really brave, you can also submit it to SMITH magazine for the next edition of their book. (I did! You can find it here: Six-Word Memoir by Ray Fowler)

MY LIFE VERSE:  “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Pastor’s Library for Sale

Pastor Jack Hamilton died earlier this summer, and his library is now up for sale. It is some library. The bidding starts at $295,000 if you are interested!

HT: David Heddle at He Lives

Archaeology Handbook: The Key Finds

Insight's Archaeology Handbook: The Key Finds and Why They Matter Chuck Swindoll’s Insight for Living ministry presents Insight’s Archaeology Handbook: The Key Finds and Why They Matter. This 120-page handbook highlights the top ten archaeological discoveries relating to the Bible. Complete with photographs, the book covers the Temple Mount, Hezekiah’s Tunnel, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Merneptah Stele, the Tel Dan Inscription, the Sea of Galilee boat and more. You can view a video about the book here.

HT: BiblePlaces Blog

Tim Keller and Darth Vader

I received Tim Keller’s The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism last night as a late birthday present. I have read many good reviews of this book which provides reasons for faith in God and have been looking forward to reading it. I got a kick out of the opening quote in the book, as did my boys — who are big Star Wars fans themselves.

I find your lack of faith—disturbing. (Darth Vader)

     

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April Book Sale at Westminster

I just got the Westminster Bookstore April eNewsletter, and they have some great books on sale. Here are four titles worth checking out. (And no, I am not sharing this list just because my birthday is in two weeks.)

The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism (Hardcover), by Tim Keller; List Price: $24.95; Westminster Bookstore: $13.72 – 45% Off

Why is there suffering in the world? How could a loving God send people to Hell? Why isn’t Christianity more inclusive? Shouldn’t the Christian God be a god of love? How can one religion be “right” and the rest “wrong”? Why have so many wars been fought in the name of God? These are just a few of the questions even ardent believers wrestle with today. In this book, Tim Keller uses literature, philosophy, real-life conversations and reasoning, and even pop culture to explain how faith in a Christian God is a soundly rational belief, held by thoughtful people of intellectual integrity with a deep compassion for those who truly want to know the truth.

The Courage to Be Protestant: Truth-lovers, Marketers, and Emergents in the Postmodern World (Hardcover), by David F. Wells; List Price: $25.00; Westminster Bookstore: $16.00 – 36% Off

Wells argues that the historic, classical evangelicalism is one marked by doctrinal seriousness, as opposed to the new movements of the marketing church and the emergent church. He energetically confronts the marketing communities and what he terms their “sermons-from-a-barstool and parking lots and apres-worship Starbucks stands.” He also takes issue with the most popular evangelical movement in recent years – the emergent church. Emergents are postmodern and postconservative and postfoundational, embracing a less absolute, understanding of the authority of Scripture than Wells maintains is required.

Christ and Culture Revisited (Hardcover), by D. A. Carson; List Price: $24.00; Westminster Bookstore: $15.84 – 34% Off

Called to live in the world, but not to be of it, Christians must maintain a balancing act that becomes more precarious the further our culture departs from its Judeo-Christian roots. How should members of the church interact with such a culture, especially as deeply enmeshed as most of us have become?

D. A. Carson applies his masterful touch to this problem. He begins by exploring the classic typology of H. Richard Niebuhr and his five options for understanding culture. Carson proposes that these disparate options are in reality one still larger vision. Using the Bible’s own story line and the categories of biblical theology, he attempts to work out what that unifying vision is.

In My Place Condemned He Stood: Celebrating the Glory of the Atonement (Paperback), by J. I. Packer and Mark Dever; List Price: $16.99; Westminster Bookstore: $11.21 – 34% Off

Combines three classic articles by Packer—””The Heart of the Gospel”; his Tyndale Biblical Theology Lecture, “What Did the Cross Achieve”; and his introductory essay to John Owen’s The Death of Death in the Death of Christ—with Dever’s recent article, “Nothing but the Blood.” An important anthology that reaffirms the classic doctrine of substitutionary atonement and counters the ongoing attacks against it.

The Intellectual Devotional

I thought this looked pretty interesting:

The Intellectual Devotional is … a collection of 365 lessons that will inspire and invigorate the reader every day of the year. Each nugget of wisdom is drawn from one of seven fields of knowledge: History, Literature, Philosophy, Mathematics & Science, Religion, Visual Arts, and Music.

I would prefer to call this a Daily Reader rather than a Devotional. Still, the concept is neat, and this looks like a great resource for strengthening your knowledge in a variety of fields.

The book presents information from a different discipline for each day of the week. Here are the links to the bibliographies for each section:

HT: Fire and Knowledge

The Christianity Today 2008 Book Awards

The Christianity Today 2008 Book Awards are in. Here are the top books arranged by category.

  • Apologetics/Evangelism – There Is A God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind; Antony Flew with Roy Abraham Varghese (HarperOne)
  • Biblical Studies – The Jesus Legend: A Case for the Historical Reliability of the Synoptic Jesus Tradition; Paul Rhodes Eddy and Gregory A. Boyd (Baker Academic)
  • Christianity and Culture – Faith in the Halls of Power: How Evangelicals Joined the American Elite; D. Michael Lindsay (Oxford)
  • Christian Living – Caring for Mother: A Daughter’s Long Goodbye; Virginia Stem Owens (Westminster John Knox)
  • The Church/ Pastoral Leadership – The Call to Joy and Pain: Embracing Suffering in Your Ministry; Ajith Fernando (Crossway)
  • Fiction – Quaker Summer; Lisa Samson (Thomas Nelson)
  • History/Biography – A Secular Age; Charles Taylor (Belknap)
  • Missions/Global Affairs – Disciples of All Nations: Pillars of World Christianity; Lamin O. Sanneh (Oxford)
  • Spirituality – The Jesus Way: A Conversation on the Ways That Jesus Is the Way; Eugene H. Peterson (Eerdmans)
  • Theology/Ethics – Resounding Truth: Christian Wisdom in the World of Music; Jeremy S. Begbie (Baker Academic)

Awards of Merit

  • Apologetics/Evangelism – Questions to All Your Answers: A Journey from Folk Religion to Examined Faith; Roger E. Olson (Zondervan)
  • Biblical Studies – Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament; G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson (Baker Academic)
  • Christianity and Culture – Amish Grace: How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy; Donald B. Kraybill, Steven M. Nolt, and David L Weaverzercher (Jossey-Bass)
  • Christian Living (tie) –
    • Ain’t Too Proud to Beg: Living Through the Lord’s Prayer; Telford Work (Eerdmans)
    • Gracism: The Art of Inclusion; David A. Anderson (Intervarsity)
  • The Church/Pastoral Leadership – The Dangerous Act of Worship: Living God’s Call to Justice; Mark Labberton (Intervarsity)
  • Fiction – Home to Holly Springs; Jan Karon (Viking)
  • History/Biography – The Great Awakening: The Roots of Evangelical Christianity in Colonial America; Thomas S. Kidd (Yale)
  • Missions/Global Affairs – Theology in the Context of World Christianity: How the Global Church Is Influencing the Way We Think About and Discuss Theology; Timothy C. Tennent (Zondervan)
  • Spirituality – Kingdom Triangle: Recover the Christian Mind, Renovate the Soul, Restore the Spirit’s Power; J. P. Moreland (Zondervan)
  • Theology/Ethics – Discovering God: The Origins of the Great Religions and the Evolution of Belief; Rodney Stark (HarperOne)

Did you have a favorite Christian book that you read this past year? Tell us about it in the comments section.

HT: Between Two Worlds

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