Book Review: A Different Kind of Happiness

A Different Kind of Happiness: Discovering the Joy That Comes from Sacrificial Love

Rating – Put it on you list

Level – Easy, moderate in length

Summary
First of all, do not be thrown off by the cover/title. This is not a fluffy self-helpy type book. Instead Dr. Crabb challenges the readers to love like Jesus, but not the usual Sunday School love you hear about in church. He lays out true sacrificial love and all that it entails; and maybe the best part, he asks, doing you even want to try?

The book is broken in to two main parts, with a third part, that’s really mostly a conclusion/summary. The first part is the idea of happiness. Crabb says there are two kind, first thing happiness and second thing. Firs thing, better known as joy, though he uses them interchangeably, is happiness IN Christ. Second thing happiness is the happiness of pretty much everything else – family, money, health, etc.

The second part consists of an introduction what he calls Spiritual Theology, followed by the seven questions to ask and answer of this theology. The questions are:

  • Who is God?
  • What is God up to?
  • Who are we?
  • What’s gone wrong?
  • What has God done about our problem?
  • How is the Spirit working to implement the Divine Solution to our human problem?
  • How can we cooperate with the Spirit’s work?

He wraps up with some concluding thoughts and presents the question(s) he was hoping this book would ask. Finally, he spends a little time trying to answer that question.

My Thoughts
This book was surprising challenging. I say challenging, I guess I’m basing that on the cover. I had never read anything from Dr. Crabb before. Then all of sudden this summer, he was everywhere to me. First as I have been looking into Christian & Biblical Counseling, his name comes up often. Then I met with the community group pastor of my church who bases some of his small group leader training on ‘Inside Out’, Crabb’s most famous book. About that time, Baker Book’s email to people whom want to receive review copies had this book. So, despite the cover, I gave it a try. Continue reading

Read This, Not That – Disciplines

This is my first post in my new series, go read the intro.

Read This, Not That

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Disciplines of a Godly Man     VERSUS    Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life

My Review – Godly Man                     |     Must Read                |     $9.52     |     232 pages +50

My Review – Spiritual Disciplines  |     Put it on the list     |     $9.65     |     304 pages

Ease of reading
Well, I guess first off I should point out that the books aren’t exactly rivals. Godly Man is, like the title says, for men. Due to this focus, there are things men should do, whereas Spiritual Disciplines are for all, but all explicitly Biblical disciplines for Christian practice. This means that they do take different perspectives. However, there is a great deal of overlap (hence the comparison) such as – reading the Bible, stewardship/giving, learning, serving/ministry, prayer, worship, and evangelism.

Where they differ are in chapters like Fatherhood, Marriage, Friendship, and Work for Godly Man, and Fasting, Silence & Solitude, and Journaling for Spiritual Disciplines. These difference are one of the reasons I rate chose Godly Man as the better option. Though all disciplines in each book are both Biblical and practical, I find Godly Man to be more helpful in practice. It gives much more guidance for men and their day-to-day lives.

The other reason I recommend Godly Man is the way it is written. This includes its actual layout and divisions, but mostly his style of writing. Hughes’ writing is much more personal and pastoral in nature. An older man who was leading a Bible study I was a part of earlier this year commented that finishing the Spiritual Disciplines book is a discipline in and of itself. This reason alone is strong enough for me to say pick up this book first. People who don’t often read, or are completely disinclined to read, likely will not make it through Spiritual Disciplines. Alternatively, anyone can make it through Godly Man. It is written more clearly, while also being shorter, yet broken into more chapters (17 disciplines compared to 10).

For those inclined to read and that are just starting to get interested in disciplines, Spiritual Disciplines is still worth the read, especially with some of the disciplines lost in American Christianity but common of the ancient and global church. Spiritual Disciplines, in this sense, can been seen as something like a “Disciplines 201” book.

Book Review: Disciplines of a Godly Man

Disciplines of a Godly Man – R. Kent Hughes

My Rating – Must Read

Level – Fairly easy read, moderate length

Summary
As the title implies, this is a book about disciplines for men who are trying to live a ‘Godly’ life. After the introduction Hughes goes into the 17 disciplines he has identified as needed for men. He breaks these into four broad categories –

Relationships – which he identifies as the disciplines of purity, marriage, fatherhood, and friendship. He uses the story of David to illustrate the importance of purity. Originally written in 1991 and revised in 2001, there is the noticeable lack of discussion of internet porn. It seems almost funny (naive?) that he would warn about magazines like Playboy, which doesn’t even have nudity anymore. The chapters on marriage and fatherhood are about what you’d expect, though I think he does a good job of warning fathers not to be too harsh in punishment; something often quite lacking in the Christian world. He finishes this section with a chapter on friendship. This was a challenging chapter and a topic I think is often overlooked.

Soul – mind, devotion, prayer, and worship. Mind, encourages us to watch out mental intake. He points out the statistics of the amount of TV people watch on a daily basis as compared to the relatively small amount spent reading. He isn’t opposed to TV, just points out that for the most part, it is there just to kill time, and recommends different things to read instead – Scripture and Christian literature. Devotion, he breaks down into meditation (on the word), confession, and adoration. Prayer and worship are also as you’d expect, worship being specifically about importance of corporate worship.

Character – integrity, tongue, work, and perseverance. Being a man of integrity and clean speech are fairly typical, but the work aspect is unique. I found it especially telling that he would put a chapter on the importance of working in the character section of the book, and after reading the chapter and his arguments, one I fully agree with. The chapter on perseverance was also a new idea to me. His general point is that things aren’t easy, and it takes time to accomplish things, and often it is hard just to keep going. This chapter is a short, but helpful, call to focus on what God has laid out for you and to continue on the path.

Ministry – church, leadership, giving, witness, and ministry. Again, chapters like being involved in church, giving money, and witnessing (evangelism) are typical and as expected. Leadership is another short chapter that bring a different perspective, but something that is important for men especially. We are all called to be leadership in one aspect or another, work, family, the church, etc. He rounds out the section on ministry with a chapter about, well, ministry. By this he means the importance of actually doing something. Be involved, be willing to be uncomfortable, to be challenged, and to fail, if all for the glory of Christ.

Finally, there is a short epilogue with a concluding argument for the importance of Godly discipline and the correct response to grace God has given us. The book is then packed with another 50 pages or so of ‘resources’ including the hilariously dated ‘Bible on Audiocassette’, which, honestly, I’m surprised made it into the updated version (the word is so old that my spell-checker is telling me I have it spelled incorrectly). There are also Bible reading plans (including M’Cheyne, which I recommend), helpful Proverbs regarding speech, hymns, choruses, and praise Psalms. As a reading nerd, the most interesting resource to me was his reading survey. He asks a number of well known evangelicals questions regarding their favorite books. This in itself is probably worth the price of the book, and I should probably make it it’s own post.

Last note on the book, the cover clearly states that there is a complete study guide. This is not what you are probably expecting (unless there was a shipping error and I didn’t receive some sort of stand alone guide), as there isn’t a dedicated ‘study guide’ section. Instead, at the end of each chapter, are some thoughts and discussion questions.

My Thoughts
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. Written very well in general, it especially pastoral in practice and effect. The typical disciplines you see (not a negative, they are always written about because they clearly Biblical and obviously important) written about are handled well, but the strength of this books comes from some of the other chapters that tackles things you don’t always see, such as friendship and work.

I’d say this is probably the best book on disciplines I’ve read so far. One major down side is that, obviously, it is mostly geared to men. Some chapters are universal disciplines, but are written about from man’s perspective, and some chapters are specifically for men. That being said, if you have a father, a son, a husband, or really just any man, this book is a must read on the disciplines that God expects of you.

 

Read This, Not That

I’m excited to launch a new series called “Read This, Not That”– the purpose of which is to help people with finite time and money decide which books would be best for them.

From my teenage years through my late 20’s, I subscribed to Men’s Health magazine. One of its more popular regular features was called “Eat This, Not That,” which compared the same meal from two different places and told you which one you should eat, and which one you should not. The column featured everything from a burger and fries to a variety of salads.

Now, Men’s Health used actual, measurable metrics such as total calories, fat and protein content to support why one meal was good while another was bad. That’s not quite what I will be getting at – however, if a book is bad and I think you should avoid it, I will say so. In fact, both books I compare might actually be good, but not everyone has the time, money, or inclination to read multiple books on one topic (and have a life). I guess that’s what I’m here for.

While I will attempt some metrics (cost, number of pages, and a made-up scale of readability), for the most part, my choice will be purely subjective. Whereas the “not that” in the Men’s Health series often meant you should avoid it, that will in no way be what it means in my series.

Hopefully, you will find it helpful in selecting from all the books out there, even if my analysis makes you think you should actually go with the ‘not that’ book. I’ll kick off next week with a post on discipline.

 

Book Review: The Blue Zones

The Blue Zones – Dan Buettner

*Please ignore the Dr. Oz endorsement on the cover. The book is a really interesting look at lifestyle and does not offer magic pills or tonics to purchase.

My Rating – Must Read

Level – Easy read, medium length, but reads quickly

Summary
Blue zones, so named because while researching the first one, a blue circle was drawn around they area under discussion, are areas in the world where people live the longest. Not only do they live longer, but live better as centenarians (100 year olds) then many people much younger do in other parts of the world.

The book takes us through the four blue zones, and shares interviews, history, diets and other fact about the life of the people who live there. The four blue zones are – Sardinia, Okinawa, Loma Linda (California) and Costa Rica. They have since discovered another one in Greece.

The final chapter gives the tips they found in common in all the blue zones so that you can create your own ‘blue zone.’

  • Move Naturally – Everyone studied for the book was extremely active. They walked miles a day, gardened, etc. His point is no one has to run marathons or become powerlifter, you just need to move often.
  • Hara Hachi Bu – A phrase said by the Okinawans before every meal reminding them to eat until they feel 80% full. Calorie restriction has been shown to be very important in longevity.
  • Plant Slant – With the exception of the Adventist in Loma Linda, no one was a vegetarian. However, they all ate meet rarely, anything from once a week to only a few times a year.
  • Grapes of Life – Wine. It plays a big role for the Sardinians and the Okinawans drink Sake, but the others consumed no alcohol. Either way, studies have shown a drink or two a day, especially of wine is beneficial to your health.
  • Purpose Now – Having a sense of purpose, or a reason to get up in the morning, something that drives you.
  • Down Shift – taking time to relax, meditate or slow down and enjoy life.
  • Belong –To a community, but a part of something bigger than yourself. Religious communities, regardless of which one, have been shown to help people live longer.
  • Loved Ones First – Relatedly, take time to cultivate relationships and spend time with friends and family. Prioritizing social life is something we really fail at in America.
  • Right Tribe – People who share common goals and healthy lifestyle. Many studies have shown that who you hang out with has a huge impact on your lifestyle. Have an obese friend increases your chances of becoming overweight. Seek people who have the same above traits in mind.

My Thoughts
Things like this are utterly fascinating to me. Both of my granddads are currently 91 years old and show only a few signs of stopping. Much of their life has included most of the traits. Modern America has us moving further and further away from these things. We eat lots of cheap, processed food. We don’t spend much time with friends or family. We do not rest often. We don’t move.

I’m currently writing this at my desk, I spend far too many hours a day sitting at a desk and wondering how I can move. Adopting as much of the Blue Zone lifestyle will not only help you to live longer, but the time you do spend will be better and healthier.

Bible Reading Plans

A while ago I wrote about the need for a Study Bible. Now, I want to point out briefly the value in a reading plan for your Bible study. Have you ever tried to read the Bible? As in, all of it. Goodness it is long. Most people crack open Genesis and probably quit before you even get to Abraham. My parents’ church is encouraging them to read the whole Bible this year. It is a good goal, but it is pursued wrongly.

My dad was telling me about trying to power through. When we were at the beach in August, he was even trying to ‘get ahead’. Couple things about that – first and foremost, that is not meditation on the scripture. Second, it becomes rote and pointless. Especially if you do not enjoy it. He would say things like, it’s just so hard to get through all the genealogies, and measure, and rules; no one is going to remember, and they don’t matter anyway.

So, I would never recommend someone read it through from beginning to end; you really do get bogged down. The furthest I ever completed was using the Chronological Bible. It tries to mix things up when stories overlap (like the Gospels) and just seemed like a neat idea, and something a little different. It starts off with Job (the idea being that it was probably written before Genesis was written), then goes into the Pentateuch. I believe I made it a few chapters into Exodus.

You have to be honest with yourself about the difficulty of reading some of the OT books. Three to five chapters(20-30 minutes) a day for almost two weeks in Leviticus is tough. The solution is to use a plan that takes chapters from different parts of Scripture. There are a few ways to do this:

ESV Daily Reading Bible: Through the Bible in 365 Days, based on the popular M’Cheyne Bible Reading Plan  – This is the plan I have been using for about two months. I have this Bible, because I don’t like looking up the different verses, because I’m lazy. I want to be able to open it to the day and just read. Also, I was able to get it in patent leather, that nice smooth Bible you see that is usually cheap (mine was $12). I’m a sucker for it, I’ll by any book if I can get it in patent leather.

Anyway, this plan gives you chapters (usually one a day, but can be two-three, if they are short enough) from two books of the OT, one from the NT and one from Psalms. Following this plan, you’ll read the OT once a year, and the NT & Psalms twice a year. I really, really like this plan, I like reading from four difference sections; it really helps to keep it interesting and not feeling like you are bogged down. For those whom don’t want to by it, you can find it pretty much anywhere online, such as here.

Related to M’Cheyne plan is this – The One Year Bible: The entire English Standard Version arranged in 365 daily readings. It gives you one OT, NT, Proverbs, and Psalms everyday. It is a bit shorter, as you will not read the NT twice in a year. This is a good alternative, and I might have bought it, but when I originally looked, I think I missed that you get a verse from Proverbs and Psalms everyday and instead thought you just went through two parallel sections, OT and NT. Also, it only comes in paper or hardcover, not patent leather.

Another great option that mixes things up, but is a little slower (whole Bible in two years) is the The Book of Common Prayer (if you want this cool hipster version) daily office (readings). Now, with these you have the plans listed and then you have to search through and find the verses. I haven’t found any Bible options that are set up like this to be a daily read based on the calendar. It can also be found online.

It’s kind of cool that the BCP and the M’Cheyne have been used for hundreds of years. Not sure how popular the latter is, but the former is used by Anglicans all around the world. So, you will be reading the same verses ever days as thousands of others.

There are many other plans out there, but I think ones that hit multiple selections will make it much more likely you will follow-through. I suppose I will let you know ad the end of 2017. I personally like the Bible plans, like the One Year Bible, that break the Bibles into days, with the verses for that day. Maybe you are thriftyer and can just order a card, or book-mark, or pamphlet, or maybe a little too thrifty and print one out a work. Alternatively, if you bought a good Study Bible like I told you to, there will be reading plans in the back. Finally, for you tech savvy kids out there, it’s all online. You can follow the links above, and you’ll get the verses of the day right there.

Good luck if you try it. It really is important to try to read as much as possible in the Word and I think these plans are the best way to do it. Americans are illiterate when it comes to the Bible, though we supposedly hold it in high regard, calling it the inspired word of God (about 60% according to the most recent Pew poll). I’m part of the problem. Here I am, a Pretend Theologian and I haven’t read the whole Bible. There are probably books of the Bible from which haven’t even read a verse. Start looking around now, find a plan you like and in 2017, read the whole Bible.

Book Review: Trout Bum

Trout Bum – John Gierach

My Rating – Put it on the list (if you are a fishermen; if not, pass)

Level – Short, easy, requires some familiarity with fly fishing.

Summary
It is hard to summarize this book. Basically it’s just a guy writing a few short essays/stories, roughly grouped together in broad categories. It is a pre-internet blog, edited and published, roughly 30 years ago. Categories include things like: Bass Pond, Fly Collection, Cane Rods, Adams Hatch, etc.

My Thoughts
Gierach is an entertaining writer, who tells good stories and does so humorously. As a writer, he is essentially a full time fisherman/fly-tier and therefor seemingly has more good stories than I feel I will have in a lifetime. Anyone who has spent at least a moderate amount of time fly-fishing will enjoy this book, especially as he gives the types of people to avoid a fishing trip with or how to make the best camp coffee. If you’ve never fished or don’t intend to again, I’m not sure why you bought this book, but I doubt you’ll like it. Any other fishermen, fly-tiers, maybe even just people who great enjoy the outdoors and like well written, funny stories, this is a book you should put on your list.

August Biblical Studies Carnival

When Phil first contacted me about hosting a Biblical Studies Carnival, I expected him to ask for a credit card number or tell me about his friend, a Nigerian prince. I hadn’t come across a Carnival yet, though I had seen (and even followed) most of the blogs/posts that were featured in the series. After checking it out, I became excited to host.I still have no idea what I'm doing.

While most hosts are professors or PhD students, I’m more of a pretend theologian. I’m also someone who’s closer to a book reviewer than a BiblioBlogger. And so this Carnival might be a bit different than what you’re used to reading.

If you are interested in hosting, almost all of 2017 is open, simply contact Phil. Check out last month’s carnival, and look for the upcoming hosts:

 

Biblical Studies
James offers some short thoughts on the problems with YEC.

If you like Young Earth, there’s great fun for you at Noah’s Ark.jesus-dinosaur1

Related, Peter Enns on getting the Noah Story correct.

Craig asks why Genesis 36 is about Esau.

Bob explains his thoughts on reviewing the ‘raw data’ of the Old Testament. He also shot me one just under the wire look at Isaiah 38.

Cluade Mariottini writes that Judges 19 might be one of the most misunderstood verses in the Bible.

Interesting article about the Chinese church and interpreting the Old Testament. Beware, this is a wall of text.

Phil gives us an intro into 4 Ezra, look also for his write-ups on the seven visions of Ezra.

Jeff thinks that maybe Jesus was a rude dinner guest.

Reasons why 1 Timothy is not so simple to translate.

Ethics in Mathew, James, 1 Peter.

R. Scott Clark provides commentary on 1 Peter 5:1-5.

Peter Gurry with some thoughts on the textual variances in Revelation 2:13.

The Bible is not a book of promises.

RJS say literal reading, please, depending on what you mean by literal.

Will Brown has some info on the Apocalypse of Adam, which I didn’t even know was a thing.

Church History/Historical Theology/Theology
St. Patrick had mixed manuscripts based on his use of the Great Commission.

Reflections by Ken offers short bios, with sweet infographics, on Luther, Calvin, and Irenaeus.
How Hell Started
Beck has a few thoughts on the origins of Hell.

Matt Emerson notes an issue with the Vincentian Rule and Christ descending into Hell.

 

Book Reviews
Phil reviews Engaging the Septuagint.

Jennifer reviews the Cultural Background Study Bible, concluding that it is a great resource for people lacking in historical/ANE Worldview knowledge.

Scott McKnight reviews The Charity: A place for the Poor in the Biblical Traditions.

Michael C. Thompson reviews Pax Romona: War, Peace, and Conquest in the Roman World.

Chris Stump interviews the author/reviews Earth Science: God’s World, Our Home. (Yep, that’s a textbook. I’ve added a review of a middle school textbook to the Carnival.)

Pete Enns reviews The Early History of God: Yahweh and the Other Deities in Ancient Israel.

Lindsay reviews Progressive Covenantalism.

Jill Firth reviews the Book of Genesis from the Bible in Medieval Tradition series.

John reviews Finding God in the Waves: How I lost My Faith and Found it Again Through Science. Great quote from the article-

But this book will not appeal to most orthodox believers. It is not a simplistic de-conversion/conversion story—the spiritual equivalence of boy loses girl, boy gets girl back. It’s a lot messier than that—more like boy gets girl back…but discovers he’s also got an STD.

Not quite a book review, more of a preview of an upcoming book on Augustine.

Also not quite a book review, but the author guest-posting about his book Q in Matthew.

I guess I can shamelessly plug my review of the second edition of Four Views on Hell.

Calvin reviews a book by Servetus.

Misc
Karl Barth was not a fan of the Olympics, or sports in general, it seems.

American JesusMcKnight on what Grudem should have said.

Some new research out from LifeWay has some surprising results.

A new card game, The Cannon, is coming soon, in case you need to have fewer friends.

Finally, a fellow Atlien reminds us of the importance of a well-worn Bible.

 

Alright, that concludes the August 2016 Biblical Studies Carnival. Casual Friday KevinHopefully, I didn’t veer too far off track or ruin anything (as occasionally happens when I get involved). It was certainly an interesting task to host one of these. I found many really cool articles (sorry, I couldn’t post them all) and discovered great sites that I had never come across. Sorry if I misspelled your name or misrepresented your articles. All errors are those of my editor. Thank you so much to those who sent me articles to post. Thanks for playing along.

Reminder if you’d like to host anytime in 2017, contact Phil (twitter or email – plong42@gmail.com). It is an interesting challenge. Do it. I know there are more BiblioBloggers out there.