Book Review: The Imperfect Disciple

The Imperfect Disciple: Grace for People Who Can’t Get Their Act Together

My Rate – Must Read

Level – Fairly easy, short to moderate length.

Summary
A book about how to be a disciple written by someone who apparently isn’t very good at it. As usual, I don’t have a very good summary of what this book is about. The best summary of the books is right there as the subtitle – grace for people who can’t get their act together. I don’t know how to add to that. There are 10 chapters (20ish pages each) with a short introduction and even shorter conclusion.

My Thoughts
This is what a book about discipleship should be. This might be the best book I’ve read this year, certainly the best ‘Christian’ book of the year, probably the best in a while. I was given a copy of this book to review, but I may actually go buy a few more to hand out. So, what makes it so good? Was there anything revolutionary in this book for me? Honestly, no. There was almost nothing new and different for me, other than a growing jealously of his writing style.

Why would I want more copies of this book then? Because it is the best book to give out to people who ‘try’ hard to be ‘good’. I resonated deeply with his background, in the fundamentalist/moralistic sects of the baptist world. It probably took me until my 20’s to really understand Grace and the Gospel. To his subtitle, I already know I don’t have together and never will, and understand that this is the need for grace. However, there are so many people who don’t yet know this. Wilson is a master at saying what needs to be said in a way that will be heard by those who need to hear. He writes with the obliviously well worn heart of a pastor who has seen people burn themselves out or tear themselves down.

Buy this book for a new believer. Buy this book for the old believer you know who is always trying to ‘be’ better and is confused as to why they can’t. Buy this book if you disciple anyone, or lead any small group. Buy this book if you work with youth or college students. Buy this book for anyone new to the Biblical concept of Grace. Finally, go ahead and get if for yourself. It is a fun, enlightening read. I just pulled up amazon and it is less than $9. Admit it to yourself, that is less than you spent last time you went to one of those weight your ice cream places.

I rarely ever hold pages, or underline/make notes in non-academic books (things other than commentaries or systematics), but I just flipped back through this and found 15 dogeared pages. Maybe the most surprising is how broad they are, everything from what it means to be a disciple with examples from Isaiah, to issues with American Christianity and consumerism, to depression and struggling with your faith, and coincidentally to me as I am studying this right now – some good teaching from the Sermon on the Mount.

This book really is a go to book for what it means to be a disciple and a must read for anyone interested in the topic of being a follower of Jesus. The depth of the theology and pastoral messaging was incredible, while at the same time the book was funny and honest. He writes the way a non-pretend theologian blogger would write if he were to write a book.

* I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Music Friday – Broken Bones

I haven’t done it in a while, so here is another Wolves at the Gate song, from their latest CD Types & Shadows. I’m torn on the videos for this whole CD. I like that they decided to put all the words up, because the words in these songs are incredible. On the other hand, with the exception of ‘The Fountain’, all of the videos look like ice cream and sprinkles.

Check out the words, though, I really like the line here where he says

“Don’t be nervous to face the truth that you’re not fine, you never were,
So don’t be frightened to see the Light when you open up your eyes”

Book Review: Mile Marker Zero

Mile Marker Zero: The Moveable Feast of Key West — William McKeen

My Rating – Put It On The List

Level – Short to moderate in length, but reads longer, easy to moderate read

Summary
I’m torn on the summary. It can be summed up in a basic sentence, or it would take a whole page to do justice to the craziness of this book. essentially, it is about Key West, way back when. When Key West wasn’t a tourist trap, when it was the wild west of modern America. This is post landbarron, like Flager, and celebrity, like Hemingway, but pre-over commercialization. There were as-yet unknown writers like Corcoran, McGuane, and Buffet. Hunter S. Thompson among others makes an appearance.

All to say, if you grew up with the legends of the Conch Republic, read this book, if you’ve never heard the stories of the way things were, it will either be dull or incredibly fascinating.

My Thoughts
So, I did grow up the stories of Key West, especially from my dad, who visited more often in his lost years. In fact, we took a pilgrimage, driving the 800+ plus miles from Atlanta, when I was maybe 12 or so. In a somewhat odd coincidence my dad actually grew up next to where Vaughn Cochran, proprietor of the Black Fly and secondary character in these Key West chronicles, spent his summers. Actually, it was my dad who loaned me this book.

Anyway, this book is a lot of fun. If you’ve spent time in Mallory Square or read the autobiographies of Jimmy Buffett or Hunter S. Thompson, you’ll get a lot out of this. It is all the craziness you’d expect and then some. Plus, some somewhat odd and data funny parts, like the little crew down there getting members only jackets with fake name to wear as the walked around getting drunk and partying.

There is a just an interesting mix of writers, musicians, and artist, you have to wonder why it never really got the popularity of some of the other historical places for such people. Maybe because it was at the bottom of the country, inhabited by nomadic Southerners so forgotten than the US Army once accidentally invaded the island; but probably mostly the commercialization tha followed. Ironically, Buffet’s own Parrot Head/Margaritaville and Cheeseburger in Paradise stores are currently part of the problem, a victim of his success.

 

Book Review: The Christian Life

The Christian LIfe: A Doctrinal Introduction

Rating – Must Read

Level – Quick, easy read

Summary
The subtitle of this book is really illustrative of what this book is about. It is an introduction to doctrine for Christians, more specifically reformed theology. This is probably the best intro book I’ve ever read. You won’t get the full intro that you’d need to tackle Systematic Theology, there is no doctrine of church, sacrament, eschatology, etc., but his chapters on man, sin, grace, election/adoption, justification, and christian living are possibly unmatched in their accessibility to the average Christian.

I’d highly recommend this book for anyone looking to understand more about doctrine, to go above a Sunday School level, and it may even work as a gateway book into deeper study of theology. Ferguson was a theologian and professor, but this book is written by a pastor first and foremost and can easily be read by any Christian at any level of education and knowledge.

My Thoughts
If I’ve somehow been unclear, I’m really high on this book. Clocking in under 200 pages but with 18 chapters, anyone can hope in and out of the different doctrinal chapters with ease. As I mentioned above, this is a great intro for anyone looking to expand their knowledge. It is also a great reminder to pastor and theologians of the basics of doctrine. A way to bring those who greater knowledge back down to a simpler level, a more concise study of what others need to know.

This is written almost as a series of sermons and could be a great book for a Bible study or community group looking for something to read. For pastors and elders in the church, this should be the go to suggested reading for anyone inquiring about doctrine. Overall, it is a must read for every Christian.

Book Review: Katharine and Martin Luther

Katharina and Martin Luther: The Radical Marriage of a Runaway Nun and a Renegade Monk

Rating –  If you have time

Level – Easy read, short to medium length

Summary
For the most part the book is about the marriage of Katharina and Marin Luther. The first few chapters look at the two of them individually, then their life together, culminating in the death of Martin. The book is at its best, not necessarily discussion their marriage, but when getting into the minutia of life in the early modern period. The book is at it’s worst when the author seems surprised by the fact that life was hard for women 500 years ago.

If you are looking for an interesting book about the marriage between a former monk and former nun, this is probably not it. There are interesting insights, but it is far from a good history, there is a good bit of editorializing and comparing them to marriages of today. There is a little bit about the famous Table Talks and their life together mentoring and growing the next generation of reformers, but not nearly enough. In my view, this should be the centerpiece of a book about their marriage. It truly was revolutionary, but the author instead focuses her surprise on the fact that Martin loved and respected Katharina despite believing the Bible to the the Work of God.

My Thoughts
It should be pretty clear from above that I was a little disappointed in this book. The author goes in and out of interesting historical facts to discussing her shock that someone could read the Bible, believe it, especially as it pertains to the so-called ‘roles of marriage’ and then still love their wife. She starts with a good history of the issues women face, and they are shocking and substantial, but she doesn’t seem to be able to separate them from their place in history and our current time. She anachronistically puts modern views into the history of the early modern period.

Katharina and Martin hosted dignitaries, students, pastors, and leading intellectuals of the time from across Germany and other parts of Europe. She really misses out in this book by not getting into more of those conversations and how they related to each other. She also comes off a bit patronizing, unintentionally, to Katharina. She takes minor quips and solid comebacks and conflates them into great iconoclastic events.

Overall the book seems a bit jumbled, shifting focus too often. There is far too many uses of phrases like, ‘one wonders’ and ‘it’s not hard to guess’ for my liking. To be fair, in her defense, she never claims to be a historian or that this book is a definitive biography of historical discussion on their marriage. Her near unending shock that there are many letters retained from possibly the most famous and impactful European in church history greatly outnumber his wife’s letters in a time when most women (or people for that matter) could not even read, gets old quickly.  I guess if you happen across this book at a good price it could be worth while, but over all, it is probably not worth your time.

*I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. See more here.