and Ginny Owens are long-time recording artists who tour the country using
their gift of song to point people to the Transcendent. As songwriters, they
are well versed in crafting melodies that help us connect to a powerful,
loving, and all-too mysterious God. Their work with words has led them to write
a book together: Transcending Mysteries: Who is God and What
Does He Want From Us?
published by Thomas Nelson, is a deeply personal discovery of God through the
pages of the Old Testament. Many of us – Greer and Owens included – struggle
with the Old Testament text and the God we find (or think we find) in it. In
the earliest pages they confess, “We fell in love with Jesus then had to figure
out what to do with God.” And as you will see in the interview below, the
authors discovered that when we embrace the struggle and venture into the
unknown we will discover beautiful things about God and ourselves.
(a review of chapter 13 for A Theology of Luke and Acts by Darrell Bock in the Zondervan series ‘A Biblical Theology of the New Testament)
Reviewing a theology text can be tricky as people come with different filters and lenses through which their own world makes sense. With that said, Bock’s volume serves to help the reader connect the big dots when reading the Biblical texts of Luke and Acts. Why is this important? Because in our world of tweets and sound bites, we can lose sight of some pretty important ideas in an ocean of details.
The second reason Bock’s volume is important is not just that it connects the dots, but that it does in two of the New Testament’s most pivotal books. The gospel of Luke, with the Christmas narratives, the parables of the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son, and the Crucifixion account stands as one of the most quoted and referenced books in the Bible as well as world history. Think about the impact of the Good Samaritan which has even influenced the passing of laws mandating that first responders stop at the scene of an accident. And think about how many times a parent has rehearsed the story of the Prodigal Son, praying that their wayward child would return. Bock, in chapter 13, takes on an amazing subject entitled, “Gentiles and Nations in the Gospel of Luke”. In other words, it’s Luke’s account of ‘those other people’ who are not Jews and who are not chosen.
I dreamed last night that a friend I have been praying for
finally became interested in Christianity. He asked me, “What’s the best book I
can read to understand Christianity?” I was puzzled. At first, I thought, Mere Christianity, only to realize that Mere Christianity is better suited for a
new Christian or someone who needs to become more serious about their faith.
Then I was troubled. I didn’t have an answer.
My friend had asked me the question because he had recently
heard me pray. While I was praying, he realized how much Jesus means to me and desired
to believe—but wasn’t convinced yet—that there could be more to life. I
assumed, in my dream, that the prayer made him realize that I actually believed
that I was having a conversation with God: not just that I was petitioning, but
that someone on the other side heard me, listened, and spoke back.
I've always been fascinating with Top 10 lists, especially when they involve books. I suppose that comes from being around books all my life: selling them, writing them and now publishing them. Just this week I ran across a Top 10 book list that made me stop and reflect on what makes a book a bestseller. Thanks to a post from Justin Taylor, I found a graphic showing the Top 10 books over the last 50 years (If you can't quite read the graph, click here for a closer look). It's a fascinating and instructive list for one very simple reason: 8 of the Top 10 books are stories.
Number one, of course, is the Bible, the greatest Story of all (and the bestselling book, not just in the last 50 years, but for all time and by a wide margin), followed by Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, The Alchemist, The Da Vinci Code, The Twilight Saga, Gone With the Wind, and The Diary of Anne Frank. The only exceptions are Quotations from Chairman Mao (otherwise known as The Little Red Book), and Think and Grow Rich (one of the bestselling "self-improvement" books of all time).And if you throw out Quotations from Chairman Mao, mainly because it's probably required reading in Chairman Mao's home country, you're left with just one book in the Top 10 most popular books of the last 50 years that isn't a story.
When Oprah Winfrey was doing her talk show, she became
famous for giving scores of things away. She gave away cars, trips, trinkets,
and even counseling sessions with Dr. Phil. On several shows, she highlighted
her favorite things and they were all something material, something that could
be given away.
Since this is a blog about ideas and how we express
ideas, I thought I’d share some of my favorite things this week in no
particular order. Some of them will be quotes, some references or allusions to
idea-makers, but all of them will hopefully entertain, enlighten, and even
brighten your day. Of course, these are my favorite things, not necessarily
yours, nonetheless, welcome to a little bit of my world.
1—"In the end, coming to faith remains for all a
sense of homecoming, of picking up the threads of a lost life, of responding to
a bell that had long been ringing, of taking a place at a table that had long
been vacant." Malcolm Muggeridge wrote
the previous sentence and let me recommend his work. In many respects, the way
he has articulated his faith journey, which took him around the world, is still
something I return to often. He is imminently quotable and I just finished his
autobiographical works entitled Chronicles
of Wasted Time, which made me lose track of time, which is the sign of good
2—John Lynch on
Grace—I am not sure anyone articulates the message of grace better and I believe
if we understood, grasped, and experienced more of the truth of this brief
message, we’d all change. This idea understood and expressed effectively will
change us all.
See the brief video here:
3—The Influence of Francis Schaeffer Did Francis Schaeffer get everything
absolutely right? No. He’s human and he’d be the first to admit it. But, for
me, his example and his legacy has been remarkably impactful. Perhaps, this is
just one of the better anecdotes: A Life of Humility - Blog by Randy Alcorn. If you’re convinced after that anecdote to read more
check out True Spirituality and/or No Little People (they are not the most
famous of Schaeffer’s works, but again, these are my favorites).
4—‘Oh my Heart,’ by REM—My favorite band
just released their best work since Automatic
for the People. I have the CD virtually memorized by now and this song
captures my own memory of being in New
Orleans after Katrina, my love of music, and the ache in my own heart for
people I want to see more than I get to. This video comes with a bonus intro
from Michael Stipe about what happens when art suddenly clicks. See it here:
Nolan films I am a Batman fan and
have been all my life. When I was very young (less than 7 years young), I went
to an auto show with my uncle and sat in the Batmobile and I was hooked; so
when Christopher Nolan took over the helm, it was manna from heaven (Tim Burton
was great, but Joel Schumacher’s version(s) made me cringe and get angry). In
addition to the Batman films, though, Nolan has also done Memento, Insomnia, and Inception.
Dark Knight Rises is currently filming, they added Anne Hathaway (strike up
some heavenly choir) and others to the mix. Anyone want to have a Nolan film
festival? I am willing to host if you bring the snacks and drinks?
So, we’ll see how this goes. Again, these are some, not
all, of my favorite things. Feel free to check them out.
It’s been almost a year since Hipster Christianity,
my first book, was released. Thank you to all those read it, responded
to it, engaged it and supported me throughout the process of it. HC was
a thrilling, humbling, once-in-a-lifetime experience. You only write
your first book once, after all. I’m thrilled with the conversations it
started, and I thank God for giving me the opportunity to contribute to
such an important ongoing discussion, both in the writing of the book
and in the subsequent interviews, dialogues, lectures, and speaking
engagements I’ve been blessed to participate in.
Let me play my cards up front with you, there are a host of 'intelligence' quotients today. I have read books in the past year that deal with our relational intelligence, our right brain, left brain, and our central intelligence (agency that is), but I do believe that one of the more pressing concerns in our globalizing world is whether or not we are culturally intelligent. For some people, being culturally intelligent will be based more on information than experience. Others of you will have traveled widely and therefore, you will have your own perspective. All of us need to understand that neither our culture nor our view of culture is necessarily at the center of anything (other than our own minds).
Author and Scholar David Livermore introduces his book on the subject in this short clip.
Reading is an experience. It involves all your senses. Where you read, when you read, why you read is all part of the context that makes reading meaningful. So the idea of reading books digitally, isn’t simply a cost issue. It requires each of us to rethink how, when, where and why we read in light of this new medium.
As we rethink these various factors, you have to ask ourselves a few questions:
What are you losing by reading digitally and, conversely, what are you gaining?
How will it affect your reading patterns? Will it cause you to read more or will it decrease the amount you tend to read?
Will eReading change what you read? Will you read more fiction or will you tend to focus our eReading on work/study/etc?
Will eReading change where you read? Will you read more because the books are more portable?
Will eBooks help you make better use of resource materials such as cook books, how-to books, Bible commentaries and studies, etc?
It's been a good year of good readings. I'm not one to create lists but here it goes. The following books are in no particular order; just those that I have read over this past year and wanted to pass along to you.
2. Good News About Injustice: A Witness of Courage in a Hurting World by Gary A. Huagen - Haugen speaks with authority over injustice through the three parts of his book: Part I: Taking up the Challenge, Part 2: Hope Amid Despair: God's Four Affirmations About Justice and Part 3: Real-World Tools for Rescuing the Oppressed. Haugen not only presents the problem of evil in today's world but he also offers practical suggestions on how the every day Christian can participate in God's mission of justice.
At this past weekend’s Desiring God National Conference, Sam Storms and Justin Taylor introduced a book that was written in secret, in honor of a man, as a means to proclaim the fame of God’s name. This book, For the Fame of God’s Name: Essays in Honor of John Piper, was well conceived and well received, as would be fitting for a man and a community of people who are enraptured by the supremacy of God in all things and the fame of His glorious name among the nations.
This book will age like a fine painting, one that rivets the eyes as it honors the beauty of the subject, but one with such a glory that the spirit is lifted up towards reflection upon Higher Things. And I suspect Piper would have it no other way. It is undoubtedly the providence of God that delivered a book of honor during a time of well-publicized sabbatical in the public ministry of a man who is battling pride, the kind of pride that festers at the feet of a world renowned minister intent on proclaiming the glory and fame of God’s name. What tension must Piper feel in the affirmation of his identity as a man, and a pastor, and a writer, in balance with his desire to see the name of God magnified in all of his life, and at war with the self-glorifying pride that plagues his own heart.