Romans 12:21

Well, my assignments and reading for school have pretty much kept me from posting anything new the past few weeks. Also, the past week or two has been pretty this:qabsyvj

We’ve had the crud run through everyone in the house. That’s always fun when I have a new job, Mrs. MMT has a new job, Sprout is potty training, and I’m taking these courses. Oh yeah, and at some point, we’d like to have a life. Oh, also, as I mentioned in my reading challenge, I had requested a number of book from Baker, well, I received three in the mail this week. Good stuff.

I’m kind of freaking out about the amount of stuff I have going on. Then again, when my head stops being a lead balloon, things may not seem so bad. Anyway, that means no book review this week, also, the post is a day late. So, I’m just going to double dip. One of my assignments was to write up a few short thoughts on a verse that has particular meaning to me, so this is what I cam up with –

Be not overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. – Romans 12:21

This is a verse that has been important to me for about the last 10-15 years. There are two parts that get to me. The first part, ‘be not overcome’ addresses a number of circumstances. If you watch the news a great deal, or get involved with ministries to the destitute, sex-trafficking, or refugees, you can feel overwhelmed. I sometimes see so much evil in the world that I just want to stop. I want to withdraw and avoid everything, and it becomes easy to feel like it is just too much, so why bother? I really likely the simple, direct, indicative, ‘be not overcome’.

The second part, ‘overcome evil with good,’ is sort of a launching point to many other aspects of the Bible. It makes me think of other verses, such as: turn the other cheek; the darkness fears the light; if God is for us, who can be against us; pray for your enemies; and basically the entirety of Revelation. There is almost a feeling for triumph with this part of the verse. You know that, long-term, in the end, Good will overcome and evil will be vanquished.

There is a lot of encouragement in the verse. To the first part, it says to me that if we are command not to be overcome, then it is within our ability (or that God will give us the ability) to overcome. That is very freeing, you know that when bad things happen, you will not always be overwhelmed, and eventually, goodness prevails. And it’s that second part that is probably the most encouraging. As I mentioned above, the end is already decided, the outcome is not in doubt; evil will be overcome by good.

It is a great reminder of the sovereignty of God. It give you hope and strength to get through whatever trails you may face. My wife and I actually put this verse up on a chalk board by the door not too long ago. We were part of a church plant that died. There were internal issues that actually lead to a church trial and eventually the defrocking of the pastor as well as the church being removed from the denomination. It was a frustrating and discouraging time for us, so this was a reminder that all we can do is what God has commanded is right, and we know that in the end, all will be restored.

2017 Reading Challenge

As I mentioned in my review of my 2016 challenge, I’m not planning on reading as many books this year. There are a few reasons for this, one, as of last week, I have started a new job that has roughly tripled my commute. Another reason is that I am starting some course work from CCEF, before entering completely into a new master’s program with Westminster. Taking classes means specific reading requirements, but also lots of writing, so I cannot devote as much time to reading. Finally, as I plowed through more and more books last year, I ended up writing less and less. So, with what little time I have between taking classes, a new job, and a toddler, I’d like to focus a little more writing.

Anyway, to the books. I’m laying out my challenge a little differently this year. Last year, I basically just say, hey, I’m going to read a bunch of books. This year I’m listing a number of specific books, and then some categories for the remaining few.

The first group are two books that I am reading daily, one is a devotional, My Utmost for His Highest, and the other is the Bible. I’ve mentioned the M’Cheyne plan before, so I’m putting it to the test this year.

Next group, novels. If I ever finish War and Peace, I’d like to check out three other novels – Hyperion, Lolita, and Brave New World. I also have read a few books through the Kindle First thing, so, call it maybe two more from that category.

The third group is my Christiany stuff, of which there are only three. I know, that’s not many for a blog with Theologian in the title, but bear with me, more Christian life/thought type books will come out in other categories. The specific three I’d like to hit are Five Views of Biblical Inerrancy (from the great Counterpoints series), Boice’s exposition on the Sermon on the Mount, and the classic, The Plan of Salvation.

Next up, non-fiction. Again, only four of these, though it does include one ‘big-book’, Capital in the Twenty-First Century (funny side note on this, Kindle can tell if you’ve finished a book or not and obviously if you’ve downloaded a book. So, the year this book came out, it was the most downloaded non-fiction, and the least read/finished, percentage-wise, of any book). Another good one I’ve I wanted to read for a while, Misbehaving (about Behavioral Economics). Sprout just turned two, so obviously it’s about time for me to obsess over her education, so I have Einstein Never Used Flash Cards on the list. Rounding out the non-fiction list is an autobiography from Jimmy Carter – A Full Life, Reflections at Ninety – which is just a cool title. I’ll also add a stretch goal here, if I’m doing well come, say, November, I’ll through in Gödel, Escher and Bach, another big book, so we will see.

Probably the biggest category, books I need to read for school. So far this include, Marriage Matters, Hold Me Tight, The Christian Life, and Systems Theory in Action. I’ve already read two others for these classes. This is the list for just two courses. Now, in the summer, I’ll take one or two more courses, but none in the fall, so this list will grow by probably three to seven.

Finally, my review copy books. So far, there are three on my list – The Christian Lover, Pillars of Grace, and The End of Protestantism. The first two are from Reformation Trust Publishing, which has been pretty easy to use. The last one is from Netgalley, which I’m not entirely sure that I like. I’ve reviewed a few from there, but I’ve also skipped a number of them, and they’ve been taken off my list or my ability to read them is gone. Not really their fault, since I didn’t review them. However, I think I just like working with the publishers directly. I’ve requested three more from Baker, and Crossway just emailed me the other day to say I need to go pick up another one. This will round out whatever is left in my goal of 24, and any that comes after that.

So there you go, I’ve specifically called out 19 of my 24 book goal (I guess 20 of my 25 stretch, if that works) with the final five being a mix of school and review copy books. Hopefully, it will go well and maybe I can move it up to 30 in the fall, however that will probably be my max, so I can focus on other things. Of course, this is likely to be a very crazy year, so it’s possible that I won’t even hit my goal.

You can stay updated at my Goodreads page, or wait for an update that will come probably sometime in the summer.

New Direction

As many of you probably know, I have been considering seminary for quite some time. My issue was always, what would I do with a degree, especially the MDiv? People who know me personally know that I would make a pretty poor pastor, and I would be quite bad at preaching. That generally led me to look at some of the other master’s programs, especially from RTS. Well, over the past couple months, I’ve actually been looking into counseling. At first, I was looking locally, at places like Richmont and Mercer, but also found some good programs online, such as the counseling degrees offered by Southern, Midwestern, and Westminster. I was especially keen on Westminster, as I thought it offered one of the best mixes of theology and Bible studies, with counseling coursework. Also, they were launching a new online program that starts this fall.

So, I applied. I didn’t get in for the fall, though I guess I’m technically waitlisted, but I am in for the next time the start matriculation, which will be, at latest, fall of ’18; I’ll know for sure in July. One thing I can do right now is take courses at CCEF that will transfer in when I start the full program. So, I did that, too. As of Jan 18, I will be taking two courses, Dynamics of Biblical Change (basically the intro to Biblical Counseling), and Marriage Counseling.

I am not entirely sure what I am doing with this. A few months ago, I was fully planning on making a career change. However, I’ve recently started a new job. As that plays out, I will see if what I needed was a job change, and not a career change. That would mean this would be more for just some sort of ministry, though I don’t know what form that will take.

Anyway, so that is an update of where I am and what you can expect from this blog over the next few months. I will continue to do book review and to be pretend theologian, but there will also likely be heavy doses of counseling related writings.

Review of My 2016 Reading Challenge

I had never heard of the reading challenge until about February of 2016. I set out a goal of 30 books, which I thought was pretty ambitious. I basically had the idea that I would be able to do 2.5 book a year. Well, that really got me going, and back in the reading heavily, as by the end of the year I had read 51 books, and about 850 pages of War and Peace. That is 15,607 pages, but who’s counting?

The biggest book I attempted was obviously War and Peace, but the biggest I completed was The American President: From Teddy Roosevelt to Bill Clinton, with a meaty 886 page count. The smallest was Meditations , at 99 pages long. I read everything from novels, to history, personal writings/thoughts, daily devotionals to heavy theological tomes. I’d say the challenge plays an interesting aspect in it all. On the one hand, you are, in fact, challenging yourself. This can push you towards things that are a little tougher, like Reformed Dogmatics Volume 2, or long, long books, like War and Peace (Vintage Classics).

On the other hand, there is a bit of a feeling like you are just powering through. Yes, powering through can make you finish a book you started that you might otherwise have discarded, but it can almost give you the feeling of reading for school. You are reading to finish the book, not because you are necessarily interested in it. It effects some of your choice, too. The three largest books I completed had page counts of 685, 704, and 886; plus War and Peace has over 1,300. This makes shorter books seem more appealing, simply because it will help add to your book count. Though, in my defense, my average book was 289 pages.

Anyway, it can be a fun way to challenge yourself, but this year I will put less on the Challenge. Probably the biggest difference going forward will be to lay out a number of books first. So, not just say 24 books, but say this book, that book, and then 10 more, or something to that affect. I won’t know completely what will be on the list, as I hope to receive more review copies. This year, I received 13 review copies, so that is kind of cool. I also already have about five or six that I need to review. More on that later. See below for my challenge list and check out my book review page for all the books for which I have written reviews.

J.K.’s bookshelf: 2016-challenge

Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life
liked it

My Rating –Put it on the ListLevel – Not very readable, seems longer than it is

Summary
The book is exactly what you think it is based on the title. He jumps straight in with the first chapter explaining what he thinks (based on scrip…

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2016-challenge
The Millionaire Next Door
it was ok
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2016-challenge
Do More Better: A Practical Guide to Productivity
really liked it
It is really difficult to write a summary that doesn’t just rip off the table of contents. Basically, he explains the system that works for him. This includes a mission statement (he calls this a productivity catechism), then finding thi…
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2016-challenge
A History of the World in 6 Glasses
really liked it
First of all, it isn’t a history of each individual beverage, though there is plenty of that, but a history of the world (as the title indicates) viewed through the lens of what (and why) people were drinking at the time. The drinks and …
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2016-challenge
Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God's Will
it was amazing
Many people search for God’s will, but American Evangelicals, especially Millennials, have made it an art form. He claims that doing this ‘leads us to no where’ and calls us ‘directionally challenged’ (these are names of the chapters in …
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2016-challenge
How to Read Genesis
it was amazing

My Rating – Must ReadLevel – Easy, short

Summary
This book is exactly what the title says it is a guidebook to understanding and reading Genesis. Longman explains what the book (Genesis) is, who wrote it, whom it was written to as wel…

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2016-challenge
Four Views on the Historical Adam
really liked it

My Rating – Put it on Your ListLevel – Somewhat technical, requires a higher level knowledge of Genesis and some theology, somewhat short, but at times reads longer than it is.

Summary
This book is exactly what the title says, though …

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2016-challenge
Pirate Latitudes
really liked it

My Rating –If You are Looking for SomethingLevel – Easy & quick, medium length

Summary
It’s about pirates. If you are like me, what more do you need? Actually, it’s technically not about pirates, it’s about privateers and they are ver…

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2016-challenge
The Church: The Gospel Made Visible
it was ok

My Rating –If You are Looking for Something – about Baptist view of church, Probably Not Worth Your Time – if you are already familiar with Baptist viewsLevel – short, easy read

Summary
This book could basically be a few sections in…

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2016-challenge
Meditations
did not like it

My Rating – PassLevel – Short, writing can be long and choppy, knowledge of history and philosophy would be helpful

Summary
Basically random thoughts from a guy who thought he was going to die. Most ideas are a reflection of the tim…

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2016-challenge
The Mighty Weakness of John Knox
liked it

My Rating – If You are Looking for SomethingLevel – Short, easy

Summary
It’s difficult to write a summary of a biography. The book itself is a biography of the life of John Knox. To hit some high points: Knox was friends with John Cal…

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2016-challenge
How Would Jesus Vote?: Politics, the Bible, and Loving Your Neighbor
it was amazing

My Rating – Must ReadLevel – Fairly Easy, moderate in length

Summary
The book seeks to look at broad topics in American politics and see what we can determine about them from the Bible. Bock does this mostly by listing verses and how …

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2016-challenge
Crime and Punishment
really liked it

My Rating –Put it on the ListLevel – Tough, dense, fairly long

Summary
Rodion (Rody) Románovich Raskolnikov is a poor college student in St. Petersburg who decides to murder an old pawnbroker with an ax so that he can rob her. Things …

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2016-challenge
The Unwavering Resolve of Jonathan Edwards
really liked it

My Rating – Put it on the listLevel – Easy, Medium length

Summary
The first chapter is a short biographical stretch of the man many consider to be the greatest American Theologian of all time. The rest of the chapters are devoted to E…

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2016-challenge
The Lathe of Heaven
it was amazing

My Rating – Must ReadLevel – Moderate read, short

Summary
Sometime in the future a man is caught using someone else’s pharmacy card for access to sleeping pills. He is evaluated and sent to a psychologist and sleep specialist to whom …

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2016-challenge
The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who've Lived the Longest
it was amazing

My Rating – Must ReadLevel – 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 peo…

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2016-challenge
The Billion Dollar Spy: A True Story of Cold War Espionage and Betrayal
it was amazing

My Rating – Must ReadLevel – Easy, fast read; medium length

Summary
The story, broadly, is about the CIA field office in Moscow and its operations. Under different CIA directors and even field office directors, their focuses change or…

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2016-challenge
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
it was amazing

My Rating – Must ReadLevel – Easy, quick read

Summary
The book is broken up into two main parts, C.V. and What Writing is, Toolbox, and On Writing, plus a longish post-script chapter, which is followed by two more short post-post-scri…

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2016-challenge
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
liked it

My Rating – If You Are Looking for SomethingLevel – Quick, easy read

Summary
Arthur Dent is trying to stop bulldozers from demolishing his house when his friend Ford Perfect stops by and convinces him to go to the pub instead. Perfect…

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2016-challenge
Seeking Refuge: On the Shores of the Global Refugee Crisis
really liked it

My Rating – Put it on your listLevel – short, easy. A quick read, but I’m also going to add compelling, especially as you read the personal stories.

My Thoughts/Summary Mix
This is an important and timely book. I think two overarching…

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2016-challenge
Thinking, Fast and Slow
really liked it

My Rating – Put it on your listLevel – moderate to difficult read, it is well written but some of the concept are tough, fairly long, but ready a little quicker then the 400+ pages

Summary
Broadly speaking, this book is about thinking…

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2016-challenge
Mile Marker Zero
really liked it
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2016-challenge
The Year without a Purchase: One Family's Quest to Stop Shopping and Start Connecting
liked it

My Rating – Put it on the List – if you struggle with spending/consumerism, Probably Not Worth Your Time – if you don’tLevel – Short, easy.

Summary
Title pretty much sums it up. Dannemiller comes to a realization that he and his wife…

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2016-challenge
Trout Bum
really liked it

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/stor…

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2016-challenge and to-read
What Christians Ought to Believe: An Introduction to Christian Doctrine Through the Apostles' Creed
it was amazing

My Rating – Must ReadLevel – Medium length, fairly easy and does not require more than a basic knowledge of the Bible or Theology.

Summary
The book is essentially an exposition of The Apostles’ Creed. That is, he goes line by line and…

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2016-challenge
The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life
liked it

My Rating – If you are looking for somethingLevel – Choppy read, short but reads longer than it is

Summary
First of all, if you’ve been recommend this book by a friend or pastor and they tell it is written by a guy named Guinness, no …

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2016-challenge
The Letter of James
really liked it
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2016-challenge
Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God's Plan for the World
really liked it

My Rating – Put it on your listLevel – Easy read, medium length

Summary
This is another book that is hard to summarize with just repeating the title or copy/pasting the table of contents. I guess the title isn’t super clear, it comes …

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2016-challenge
Don't Waste Your Life
liked it
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2016-challenge
Disciplines of a Godly Man
it was amazing

My Rating – Must ReadLevel – 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…

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2016-challenge
Four Views on Hell: Second Edition
really liked it

My Rating -Put it on the listLevel – Medium length, get’s mildly technical, but overall fairly easy.

Summary
As the title say, the book argues four thoughts on hell. Well, really it is three views of hell, and another who goes on a ta…

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2016-challenge
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
really liked it

My Rating – Put it on your listLevel – His style makes it moderate, but the book covers topics like biology, physics, philosophy, anthropology, economics, and of course, history. So, not everyone will be able to jump right into this bo…

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2016-challenge
One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America
really liked it

My rating – Put it on your listLevel – easy, a little wordy, medium length but reads quickly

Summary
The title might be a bit of a misnomer. People expecting this book to be about whether or not America was founded as a Christian nati…

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2016-challenge
A Different Kind of Happiness: Discovering the Joy That Comes from Sacrificial Love
really liked it

Rating – Put it on you listLevel – 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…

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2016-challenge
The Pursuit of God
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2016-challenge
Speaking of Homosexuality: Discussing the Issues with Kindness and Clarity
it was amazing

Rating – Must ReadLevel – Medium length, reads quickly and easily

Summary
The book, as the title indicates, is about homosexuality in the church and the world today. Dallas covers a large swath of the topic, from how to talk to people…

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2016-challenge
Light In August
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2016-challenge


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