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Thoughts on the Christian life in a fallen world

Monday, July 23, 2012

God on the streets of Gotham - Paul Asay

What the big screen Batman can teach us about God and ourselves.  The author is Associate Editor at Unplugged, a ministry that provides movie and media reviews from a Christian perspective and is more than qualified to write a book on the subject.  However, I'm not sure this book needed to be written.  I would have rather seen a book based on his special interest, "the unexpected ways faith and media intersect."  rather than on one fictional character.
Besides the obvious analogies of good vs. evil.,  he analyzes each bad guy and how they each relate to the story.  His dad, after becoming a Christian, told him he should have only one hero, Jesus.  In the Introduction he states, "I've written a book about Batman and Jesus.  In it, I often mention them in the same sentence."  I'm not so sure they should be in the same sentence.  He deals mostly with the Batman from the movies, and only briefly mentions my favorite Batman, Adam West, on page 3 while introducing the origins of the character.  Maybe that is one reason this book did not particularly appeal to me.  I think too much credence is given to the current Batman.
" I must reiterate that Batman is not an explicitly Christian Hero."  the author states.  I don't think we will get him confused with Bibleman. There is a lot of dialog from the movies, and sometimes it is a stretch to relate it to Christianity.   He does try to answer the question - Why does Batman continue to fascinate?
All in all, I understand the author's points, but even being a Batman fan way before the movies came out, I still think this particular subject to be better suited to an article rather than an entire book.
I would recommend this book to a Batman fan who was searching as possibly an introduction to Christianity.
This book was provided to me at no cost by Tyndale Publishers.
www.pluggedin.net, www.tyndale.com

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

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Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Mentor Leader - Tony Dungy

Secrets to building people and teams that win consistently. Super Bowl winning Tony Dungy is author of two previous books, Uncommon and Quiet Strength along with Nathan Whitaker.  There is a list of action steps, practical ways to put the ideas presented into practice, along with a Q and A on each chapter.  The author states "Relationships are ultimately what matter - our relationship with God and with other people."  and when it comes down to it that is all that really matters.  Tony mentions many who have mentored him through his playing and coaching career, especially Chuck Noll and his father.
This book is a very enjoyable and readable 9 chapters with titles such as The Mind-set, The Methods, The Maturity and The Measure of a Mentor Leader.  These outline what is needed and expected from a mentor leader.
I have a lot of respect for men like Tony Dungy that are in the public spotlight and so outspoken about their faith.  I enjoy his take on involvement. He states, " It's impossible to lead from a distance.  Without engagement, you can not lead effectively."
Whether you lead a family, company, or Super Bowl winning football team, you will find practical ideas on being an effective leader.
I would recommend this book to those unfamiliar with the author's background, and anyone interested in becoming a leader the right way.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Insider Thought Trading - James Bars

Life transformation through mind renewal - the journey to God. According to the author, this book is based on a true story. He was caught up in a sinful lifestyle but then experienced the grace of God through forgiveness and became a Christian.  I'm not a big fan of parable-type books, I prefer a more direct approach then a vague "Teacher" character leading me through lessons I need to learn.  This book was not at all what I expected. I was expecting a book on how to renew your mind and keep it focused on God and His grace and forgiveness, I just could not relate to the story. Published by Hope of Love Publications-www.hopeoflovepublications.com-the author is a Christian Life Coach.
The Bible is quoted and paraphrased throughout each chapter with an index in the back.
I was glad to find a quote from Martin Luther on page 32, "God created the world out of nothing.  As long as you are not yet nothing, God cannot make something out of you."
Divided into 14 chapters that seem to be semi-related to each other, it seems each chapter could stand on its own as an article.
I do understand the author's motivation in getting his story out, that God can save anyone regardless of what they have done. Perhaps just a straight telling of his story and how he came to Christ may have been more readable.
I have obtained this book free of charge from Bookcrash.

Unstuck - Arnie Cole and Michael Ross

Your life. God's Design. Real Change. A Proven path to a thriving walk with Christ.  This book is filled with stories of people who were saved by God from sinful habits and lifestyles, yet still struggle with sin.  It also reveals the ugly consequences of continuing to live in sin. Some may think once you become a Christian, all struggles are over.  This book confirms that this is not the case.
The authors even share their own personal spiritual journeys and backgrounds.  This book encourages Christians in that no one has it "all together" and we all struggle with sin in our lives.   The authors are CEO and editors at Back to the Bible ministry.
Jim Daly from Focus on the Family calls this book "A blueprint for genuine growth in grace, grounded in the unchanging power of scripture."  There are research charts and an appendix describing the methods using over 70,000 surveys.
This book will help all of us realize that we are not alone in our struggles, we all struggle with the fallen nature of man.  The author states, "Our sin nature and our specific sins are minute-by-minute reminders that our whole race has the same disease."  That disease is called sin.
I would recommend this book to anyone, especially someone who thinks they are the only one that struggles and feels broken and wants to get unstuck.
Related websites are www.unstuck.gotandem.com and www.bethanyhouse.com
I have been provided a complimentary copy of this book by the publisher for review.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

From the Library of C.S. Lewis - James Stuart Bell

Selections from writers who influenced his spiritual journey.  This book is authored by James Stuart Bell, who wrote his masters thesis on C S Lewis and his influences.  The purpose of the book according to the author "Doesn't attempt to "figure out" Mr. Lewis, but to provide a smorgasbord of the content and style of those who have shone forth as messengers of light in his life." A quite a smorgasbord it is of a variety of material from history.  There are selections from Martin Luther, Dante, G.K. Chesterson, Thomas A. Kempis and other well known and not so well known authors.
Lewis is quoted as saying that George MacDonald's Phantastes "baptizes my imagination."
There is a well organized Bibliography and Index that makes it easy to find references. The book is also divided into 18 catagories such as "Impressible Sweetness," "Divine Influence" and "A Particular Joy."
This is a good book to keep for reference and if you find a particular work or author to your liking, to delve into it more.
I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to know more about what influenced C.S. Lewis in his thinking and conversion to Christianity.

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Resignation of Eve - Jim Henderson

What if Adam's Rib is no longer willing to be the church's backbone? From the introduction we learn the purpose of this book. I believe it is something like not to take women for granted or limit them using their gifts.  It imagines what a church would be like if all the women just didn't show up one Sunday. There is Barna Group research polling results and a section called "My Take" at the end of every chapter.  Each chapter is an interview with women and the history they have had with churches that they have visited and been a part of.  There is an appendix on selected Barna group survey data that was conducted in 2010 from 603 women in 48 states.
Of particular interest is a statement on page 265 that states: "What if we provided rules that leveled the playing field and made it easier for women to pursue influence and leadership wherever their talent takes them?"
I Corinthians 14:34-35 are the verses that prompts such a question.

34 Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. 35 If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.

How are we to apply this? In my particular church women are encouraged to use all of their gifts in serving, teaching and ministry. The only exception being not in leadership over a men's ministry or preaching in a worship service.  If you spoke to most of the women in this large church, I do believe very few would think they are limited in using their gifts. 
Although I do not agree with the author on his views, I do believe all of us, male and female, should be encouraged to use our God-given talents for advancement of His kingdom.