The Golden Age of Reading?

Selling books used to be easy. I did it for more than 20 years as a manager of a successful Christian bookstore chain.  It’s hard to imagine now, but there was a time in the not-too-distant past when the bookstore—Christian or secular—was about the only place you could buy a book.

In the secular space, there were chains like Walden Books and B. Dalton Bookseller, a subsidiary of Barnes & Noble. There were also thousands of independent bookstores, including a few that rose to legendary status among serious bibliophiles—such as Powell’s in Portland, Tattered Cover in Denver, Davis-Kidd in Nashville and Oxford’s in Atlanta. In the Christian world, even though the chains were smaller and the independent stores fewer, you could count on almost every community in America having at least one Christian bookstore.

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Cold Case Christianity

Occasionally a book comes along that really excites me. Cold Case Christianity is such a book. In case you haven’t heard of him yet, author J. Warner Wallace is a practicing cold case detective who has one of the fastest growing apologetics podcasts and websites. Cold Case Christianity is Wallace’s first book. But given how insightful it is, I hope it’s not the last!

Wallace was a self-described “angry” atheist until his mid thirties. After visiting Saddleback Church, he decided to use the Forensic Statement Analysis (FSA) to investigate the gospel of Mark. If the FSA works for suspects and witnesses, Wallace thought, why not for the Gospel of Mark? He had become a bona fide expert at judging the veracity of a statement through examining the author’s use of language. Within a month of studying Mark’s Gospel, Wallace concluded it was an eyewitness account of the apostle Peter. This was the beginning of his conversion to Christianity.

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Of Castles and Unicorns

I recently saw a presentation that reconnected me with a secret world. It wasn’t so much the presentation – which was on England and Scotland – as it was the context and feel. I was reminded of a time past, and it is on this time upon which I’m writing to reflect.

There are a few of us who didn’t just read about Narnia, we were transported there. We remember reading the Lord of the Rings during rainy days; or The Cross and the Switchblade; or This Present Darkness; of Churchill and ten Boom. Our hearts lept and we wondered if we could rise to the challenge of life; of hearing God’s call and chasing it when it was heard. This time is contextualized by a strange type of magic, the kind that is surrounded by danger but is wild, epic and romantic. In that time and space, children and adults alike discussed their journey of faith.

Changing Channels: My Last Post

Growing up, we had three network stations and we pre-dated cable, the internet, and social media. Outside of watching Superfriends on Saturday morning and the Little Rascals’ reruns after school, I have very little recollection of television shows before high school. My dad is a sports fanatic, so usually if there was a game on, that’s what we watched.

I remember that it wasn’t really a big deal to change channels because one, you had to get up, walk to the television and actually turn the knob (yes, a knob) and secondly, choices were limited.

Then, suddenly, as I entered middle school, cable television became available and not only was our television on more often, we now had a remote control which meant we could now reward our impatience with a dozen other choices.

Those Other People, Outside the Chosen Ones (Book Review)

(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.

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Welcome to The Way

Now that you’re here, you’re probably asking, “What is The Way?” Is it a book? A bunch of Jesus freaks? Hippies trying to make a comeback after 40 years of wandering?

For starters, The Way is a Bible. But not that type of Bible. The Way started out as a groovy, counter-culture Bible in the early ‘70’s. It wasn’t the straight laced, black-type, burgundy-covered piece of arm candy that you carried to church every Sunday. It was a Bible that, for the first time, offered honest reflections and stories from real people right next to the Bible text.

Millions of teens and twenty-something’s had their copy. Just ask around.

And that’s exactly what The Way is now. Everything’s different inside, but the idea is the same. It’s a place to come in, and a place to go out.

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The bestselling books of all time are stories

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.

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Hear the Voice

David Capes is the Thomas Nelson Research Professor at Houston Baptist University. He is the author of numerous publications and is one of the top scholars and writers for The Voice, a new Bible translation that reads like a story with all of the truth and wisdom of God's Word. To illustrate how The Voice transports the reader into the Bible's narrative, Dr. Capes shows how the Bible's first verse reads in this new dynamic rendering of Scripture compared to a more traditional Bible version.

Here is Genesis 1:1 in the King James Version:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

That is a brilliant, simple, accurate translation of the Hebrew.  As we thought about our intended audience, however, it dawned on us how different the word “heavens” and “earth” are for us today compared to the ancients. 

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The Vision of Literary Apologetics

Why is apologetics, the defense of the Christian faith, important?

In one sense, Christianity needs no defense. God, who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, does not depend for His existence on our belief. However, many people who do not know the living God are separated from Him in part by intellectual obstacles. Removing those obstacles by showing that Christianity indeed makes sense on a rational level is an act of love and care for our neighbor. Defending the faith also builds up a strong foundation for believers. A securely built house has a solid, well-built foundation, so that the vagaries of wind and weather don’t damage it or cause distress to the inhabitants. It’s natural to have questions and doubts - think of the disciples, asking Jesus “increase our faith!” or the man who cries out “Lord, I believe: help my unbelief!” Apologetics helps strengthen the foundations by providing answers to questions and doubts, so that the Christian can grow stronger in his or her faith.

Best Books I Read in 2011

My 2011 recaps ends here, with my list of the best books I read in 2011. I read 42 books, of vast variety–some old, some new, some fiction, mostly nonfiction–many of which were in some way research for the book I am currently writing. About half were for no other purpose than pleasure. Here are my picks for the ones that stood out the most:

10) Did Adam and Eve Really Exist? by C. John Collins: A very thought provoking, biblically informed and fair assessment of a timely and important question. See also this Christianity Today story on the topic of the historical Adam.

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