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Thoughts on the Christian life in a fallen world

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A Curious Man - Neal Thompson

The strange and brilliant life of Robert "Believe it or not" Ripley.  Originally hired by William Randolph Hearst to select curiosities from around the world, Ripley provided escapism and entertainment during the pre-television era with his cartoons and radio shows.  It was said that "By celebrating weirdness, he made it mainstream."
Ripley grew up in Santa Ana, Ca, and not suprisingly did not fit in at school.  The two events tht scarred his childhood would be the death of his father, and surviving the great San Francisco earthquake.  Although the name Ripley is now associated with bizzare and unusual people and events, it was not always so.  Some may not know that he once published a sketch titled "America has no national anthem," encouraging Congress to endorse the Star Spangled Banner as such.  The Hearst Publishing Company would credit Ripley for this achievement.  He was so popular at the time that he headlined the National Automobile Show of 1931, and was preceded by none other than Hubert Hoover.  His income soared to $350,000 per year, a vast sum in a time when many Americans were still dealing with the Depression and many unemployed.  By 1932, he had traveled to 147 countries, more traveling than most people had ever done.  His favorite country was China, and he was one of the first civilians to travel to Argentina by seaplane.  Despite all his business success, his personal life was not so happy.
Divorce and too much alcohol took it's toll.  Some recall how difficult he was to work with and for. His television show began in 1949 and and lasted only 13 episodes, mostly due to his bad attitude.  It is a shame that a person with so much talent for entertaining and curiosity, would leave a legacy of broken relationships and alcoholism.  Ripley died of a massive heart attack at the age of 59.
There is a Ripley's Believe It or Not App that can access videos, images, and audio through the Oddscan feature.  Also at nealthompson.com/books/curiousman.
The author has written other biographies, and for magazines. Published by Three Rivers Press.
I have been provided with a complimentary copy in exchage for this review.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

A Beautiful Defeat - Kevin Malarkey

Find true freedom and purpose in total surrender to God.  Before beginning a writing and speaking career, the author owned a Christian psychotherapy practice, and has many years experience talking to people about the need for surrender to God in their lives.  He starts out the book expressing how many of us feel.  We would "rather have a root canal without anesthetic than get real and reveal my struggles."  But only by being authentic and dying to self can we receive true freedom in Christ.  These subjects are usually not brought up in the latest "Christian" bestseller. In a chapter titled, Prepare for Your Mission, the author encourages all of us to make Jesus our king and not just a consultant or consort.
  He states, "Jesus is the King.  He's not our consort or consultant to see us through the lives we make for ourselves."
He encourages us to "Define your mission and wear your armor." It is a struggle against the world, the devil, and the flesh.  Through personal stories and honest repentance, the author shares on a personal basis how God has worked in his life.  At the end of each chapter is a step to a surrendered life, and action step, and a prayer.  Some of the most powerful passages come in the chapter titled Where Our struggles really come from, where he states, "We'd better find something more reliable to base our understanding on than how we may be feeling in any given moment." and " Chose to believe God instead of your feelings." So many of us need to hear these words, because a lot of the world's reality, even for Christians, is how we are feeling at the moment.
The book can be summed up as this in Chapter 3, "The fact is that we must defeat the inclination of our flesh, This is what I call a beautiful defeat."
There is am appendix titled Ten steps to a surrendered life, which include an action step and prayer for each chapter, and an appendix titled, Ten Bible verses on Surrender and Dying to self.  This book was easy to read, and will keep your attention through the 10 chapters.
There are not that many authors today that are willing to write a book on surrender and dying to self, and this book is one of the few I have read recently.  I would recommend this book to anyone who is struggling with this world, and the flesh, and desires to live a God pleasing life, which should be any Christian today.
Published by Nelson Books, an imprint of Thomas Nelson.
I have received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for this review.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

C.S. Lewis and Mere Christianity - Paul McCusker

The Crisis that created a classic.  The crisis being WW II and the classic being Mere Christianity.
This is more than just a "book about a book."  It presents the real life background and context of the writings of C.S. Lewis, and Mere Christianity in particular, although this book is not mentioned until halfway through the book itself.  His influences, friends, and experiences all lead to him writing about certain subjects.  A lot of this book will appeal to history buffs, a personal account of WW I and WW II, how families and particularly those in England were effected.  You will learn the context of not only Mere Christianity, how it came to be written, but also books such as The Problem of Pain, and The Screwtape Letters.  There is a Bibliography of works by Lewis, Collected Letters, and The BBC and the world of Lewis for further reading.  Pictures in the middle of the book of the events and people remind us that he is speaking of actual events, and it brings the events to life.  The context, timing, and background in which he was writing is very important to understand.  Indeed, the experiences which Lewis had in his personal life, enabled him to write what he did, and reading about the context it makes more sense.
One feature of the book that is quite helpful is that when a term or person is mentioned, there is a short explanation in a shaded area of the word or person.  Example of luftwaffe or Eric Fenn from the BBC.  Many people were supportive of Lewis and his writing and the new media of radio talks. This was the beginnings of the published book we know know as Mere Christianity.
The author is a expert on Lewis, having scripted many of his works for the Focus on the Family Radio Theater.  He has also compiled the exhaustive notes for the Screwtape Letters: The Annotated Edition.
I would recommend this book for any serious student of history and/or of C S Lewis and how he came to write some of his most famous works.  I believe it is one of the most readable of the recent Biographies of him, and will hold the reader's interest.
Published by Focus on the Family.  I have been provided with a complimentary copy in exchange for this review.

Monday, July 7, 2014

NIV Integrated Study Bible -

A New Chronological approach for exploring scripture.  Many of us have read the NIV version of the Bible for a while now, but have not seen it in this format.  You will realize for example that I Chronicles 16:7-22 is very similar to Psalm 105:1-22.  This puts it all in a historical perspective.  You may be familiar with a Harmony of the Gospels, in which the Gospels of the New Testament are presented in columns when they are referencing the same event.  But it is quite interesting to see the entire Old Testament in the same format.  Another example is II Kings 20:1-5 and II Chronicles 32:24-26, and Isaiah 38:1-5, all of which describe Hezekiah's illness and repentance from different perspectives.  This Bible is divided into 7 historical sections. It may seem odd not to see the books of the Bible in their "traditional" order, but it does put the events in an historical perspective.
The Editor is John R. Kohlenber III, who has been the author or co-editor of more than four dozen Biblical reference books, and the author is obviously God.  An index is included with page numbers to look up specific verses, that may not be where you would typically find them.
I look forward to referencing this Bible and finding parallel passages of scripture that would support one another.  I believe it to be a valuable resource and reference.
This Bible is published by Zondervan.  I have received a complimentary copy in exchange for this review.