Book Review: The Big Sort

The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America is Tearing Us Apart

My Rating – Put it on your list

Level – Quick, easy read; moderate length (300+)

Summary
With increased mobility, the country to more and more choosing to live in areas of like-minded people. This has the effects both of intensifying our own beliefs and not knowing anyone else with ideas different from ours. This has had profound impacts on our national politics. The book is divided into four parts – The Power of Place, The Silent Revolution, The Way We Live Today, and The Politics of People Who Live Like Us. Each part is broken into three chapters each. There is also a great intro, if you are in a library or can find a book store, it’d be worth your time to go head and read at least this chapter.

My Thoughts
You might think the title is a riff on the largely known book and popular movie, the Big Short; I did, but actually, this book was written almost a year ahead of it. I have no idea if the titles are independent, or if the short was a play on the sort.

The basic premise of the book is that we are in fact living in more and more like communities and that this change is bad for us. We live increasingly with people just like us. That is fairly easy to prove, based on census data, voting data, and surveys. What he spends much of the rest of the book showing, is that this separation leads to negative consequences. For instance, social psychology of groups/tribes (as chapter three is called). Experiments showing people are more likely to have the extreme view than individuals – attempting to show you belong. On scale of 1-10 on how liberal/conservative someone is, the group average may by a six, but when they all get together or have to make a joint decision, that response ends up being an eight.

So, you have this odd case where the decision or policy of the group ends up being further on the spectrum than most of the individual members. Then you end up with the corollary, that you can’t imagine another person have the opposite view, the view that is different from the group. This is exacerbated with the sorting of our communities so that one might not even come into contact with someone of a different political belief.

He also writes on the move in marketing to focusing on tribes. He describes two white women that advertisers had previously seen as the same (age, income, gender, ethnicity), but now targets them differently, mostly based on political views. One particularly interesting chapter to me, he looks at church growth and the focus and the seeker sensitive movement as people try to reflect an audience or attract a specific group. His point with these two chapters is that the sorting into smaller and specific groups is impacting every aspect of our life.

It has even influenced the way we watch TV, there are rarely discussion on anymore, they also have to be combative and argumentative, to draw ratings. Somehow, we take that to be the correct way to act in public. He has a funny reference to ‘your fired’ to show that people would rather watch abrasive personalities than anything constructive. Personally, this is why I’ve stopped watching most sports coverage. I used to watch my shows on ESPN, but they have adopted the model where the yell over each other in disagreement, but I just find that too obnoxious.

Overall, I think Bishop proves his thesis. Clearly, our communities are sorting and (as the book is over 10 years old) we’ve already moved past some of his concerns and things are worse than predicted. It would be really interesting to have a follow-up after the 2020 Census and Presidential Election. The writing is good, the author is a writer and it shows. The writing is quick and often funny. The only issue I have is that it becomes fairly redundant. He will cite a study in one chapter, or even go into it in detail, and then in a later chapter, cite it again and describe it as if we don’t know what it is. The book has the feeling of multiple independent articles compiled together. This is likely more on the editor/publisher than the author, but it does start to feel a bit tedious.

I should caveat this review somewhat with the point that I have a degree in geography and a masters in city planning, so I was very familiar with many of the studies and ideas in this book. Also, as I previously had an academic interest in this topic, it may well not be as popular or interesting to a wider audience. I say you should put this on your list, but that would be if you already have a deep interest in politics, particularly in the idea that we are polarizing ourselves, or popular geography. If not, maybe grab it if you decide you are looking for something about it.

Book Review: Shalom in Psalms

Shalom in Psalms: A Devotional from the Jewish Heart of the Christian Faith

My Rating – If you are looking for something

Level – Longish (about 350 pages)

Summary
The subtitle more or less gets tells you what you need to know about this book. The intent is to be a devotional on the Psalms from Messianic Jews.  However, there are no days (40, 365, etc) or actual dates (a year in the Psalms). It is just a Psalm and then a devotional/commentary that follows which is written by one or two (usually Seif and Blank) of the authors. The goal of the devotional is to get to the Jewish roots and understanding of the Psalms, and to that end, the authors us the Tree of Life version(TLV) of the Bible; for which Sief and Blank are translators.

My Thoughts
The TLV is an interesting version, you can check out their website to read about their driving principles. Some are fairly innocuous, using Yeshua instead of Jesus (or Miriam and Jacob, instead of Mary and James). Though, when you don’t change all names, it leads to the feeling of that guy that studied abroad and now over pronounces the few words he knows. Likewise they use Adonia for LORD/YHWH, and use a few other words such as Shalom, which are somewhat familiar, though others I did not know and they never offered and translation note or explanation. This seems like a major oversight if your goal is to bring this view to those who don’t already know. Looking around their site I could ascertain whether their translation was literal or dynamic equivalent, though I suspect it was the latter. Overall the translation seemed readable and understandable, with the few exceptions of untranslated words.

As for the devotional part, it isn’t quite there. There are two problems (ish), the first one being, that often this worked more as a light commentary than devotional. I know the line can blur, and I actually prefer the commentary type more, but that isn’t always what people are looking for. Not necessarily a problem, but something for which to be aware. The second, much bigger issue is that the book is not broken into any type of daily format. They could have tried to fit it into 365, or picked some other random number (40, 200, etc.), but instead just offered their devotion/commentary after each chapter. So, that means one morning you may read a Psalm that is a few lines with maybe a paragraph of devotion. Then a week or two later, you’ll read Psalm 119 (the longest verse in the Bible, longer than books such as James or Ruth) followed by pages of commentary.

Again, this can work fine as a commentary, but a devotional is really set more for the 5-20 minute a day framework. This really fails as that model, which wouldn’t be such a big deal were it not for the subheading. If you are expecting a 10 minute morning devotional, broken into nice segments, you aren’t going to get it. Depending on the day, I would read two of the Psalms with both devotionals, if they were short (thing the 80’s and 130’s) or for longer ones, sometimes I’d read just the verse, then come back the next day and read the commentary. Overall, I think it worked to something like 200 or so days, which works fine if you have  Lent and/or Advent devotional to though in as well.

Overall, I enjoyed it, but the format should have been different. If you know that going in and plan to work around it, it can work well for a devotional. If you really like the Psalms, or are just looking for something different in a commentary, or especially if you are looking for a Jewish (or at least modern Messianic Jewish) perspective it is worth picking up.

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

Book Review: Five Marks of a Man

Five Marks of a Man

My Rating – Put it on your list

Level – Quick, easy, short

Summary
Just as the title says, the author lays out what he sees as the five distinctions of a man. They are that men – have a vision, take a minority position, are team players, work, and are protectors. The book is broken into sections for each mark, each of which is four to six chapters for a total of 24, plus a ‘how to read this book’, an intro, a conclusion, and finally what he calls an epilogue, but is basically a sales pitch for a camp he runs.

My Thoughts
Writing a book about what it means/is to be a man is problematic. It would be a life goal of mine to write a book for men, but first, I’m not a very good writer, and more important, I think it is basically impossible. Broadly speaking, there are two major errors that, as much as I hate to do this, generally fall on the liberal/conservative spectrum. On the liberal side there is a tendency to downplay or even dismiss the uniqueness of men (this is likely why there are few books from this side), which is neither physically, biologically, or Biblically accurate. On the conservative side you have a the hamming up of things like football, trucks, and Braveheart. While these are all things I enjoy immensely, they having nothing to do Biblical concepts. In reality, that is all marketing.

This book falls, obviously, into the later category. A few examples before I move on to what was good about the book: seemingly the ability to do push ups related to your level of manliness; apparently having a cat is feminine so he makes it clear that not only does he have a dog (which I guess is manly?), but that it is big (extra manly?); camping outdoorsiness also equals manliness (though he isn’t nearly as bad as Eldredge); and most egregiously, the shotgun out on the counter for the guy who wants to date his daughter. Good Lord help the insecurities of these men.

I cannot fathom feeling it necessary to bring my shotgun out when Sprout starts dating. What is the implication? That I want to scare you for some reason? That I will literally kill you? The dating(ish) chapter, in the ‘protector’ section, was so bad that I considered downgrading my rating. He goes on to say that later he took out (for a meal) a guy who wanted to date his second daughter. He talked with the young man about relationship and sex and his daughter, apparently. I find that a little weird, but maybe it is alright, except for one thing, there is no mention what so ever that he had any discussions with his son. Not even a parenthetical, ‘as I told my own son’. Nothing. No indication that he has ever discussed dating with his son. Now, maybe I’m too cynical and as it is a book for men, maybe it is implied that he did, but I don’t think so. That leaves me with two possible explanations, one, overly cliched writing on manliness stereotyped manliness lead him to just not include it in the book. Two, he proved various liberals, atheist, and other antagonistic to Christianity to be correct in that he only cares about the virginity/purity of his daughters and his son can do whatever he wants. This is incredibly problematic and frustrating.

Men, we have to do better than this cliched nonsense. When we do this we look like a bunch of jackasses. There is nothing Biblical about point a gun a teenage boy who wants to date your daughter, it makes you an idiot (check out our governor elect for more info). If you believe in tying sex and marriage together you need to talk to your own son as well as your daughter (her lady brain can handle it, I promise).

No, back to the review. While that particular chapter was garbage, or a terribly failed attempt, I still like the book for one very major reason – the entire premise is that the opposite of a man, is a boy. Yes, the Tome appears to fall victim to many cliches of supposed manliness, but he never contrast the masculine with the feminine. It is a terrible error for us today to think that what it means to be a man is to simply not be a women. With a three year old and two more on the way, I will need to buy a van. Recently, someone told me not to drive one, because women drive them. No, boys drive unnecessary trucks (what I had before my daughter was born), men drive what is best for their families and don’t concern themselves with what boys think they should drive. What women may do has nothing to do with it.

I really appreciate his focus on this aspect, because I think it is true. Now, I don’t think every one of his points lines up perfectly, or maybe some points just need a qualification. For instance, a man might often take a majority opinion, you don’t take minority opinions just because. So, maybe some clarifying language would be nice, if I’m going to pick some nits.

The strength of the book probably comes in the two sections on team players and work. Maybe the former being the best. He really challenges men to show affection to other men, to have close friends, and to connect with community. I believe that is something that is extremely important, especially in our disconnected world today. He shows how (basically after WW1), men stopped loving each other and bought into the lie of the ‘lone wolf’. He has a great point about wolves being pack animals and single ones would likely die quickly. But we believe that being men means being alone, and especially not sharing our lives with other men. This is clearly not even Biblically accurate (he points to David and Paul and the way they wrote about their relationships with other men). I was personally challenged in this section of the book, and I think others will be as well.

Overall, the book is pretty good. Most men will get a good deal of helpful info, though you can probably skip the section on protector, except the finance part. I also believe these books have to be graded on a curve, because they are so hard to pull off. The lazy cliches and over the top stereotypes are just too easy. With that in mind, if you have an interest in working with men or men’s ministry, area man, a husband, a father, or are raising a man it is worth putting on your list.

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

Book Review: Fake or Follower

Fake or Follower

My Rating – Probably not worth your time

Level – Easy, short/moderate in length

Summary
This is another book that is hard to summarize. In her intro, the author tells the story of being confronted with what matters in life due to the death of her mother in law. Of course, on of those things is whether she is a legitimate follower of Jesus. The following 10 chapters really are more of a collection of loosely connected essays than a defense or story arc related to her title or thesis. This is likely more on the editors than it is in on the author.

Her first chapter, Refuse to Fake it, generally follows this idea and has very solid critiques of modern American Christianity. Other chapters criticize our ‘misplaced loves’ and overuse of social media versus actually living in community. Unfortunately, many of the other chapters seems scattered and disconnected, partially because the basis of much of what she wrote seemed to be autobiographical.

My Thoughts
I was torn on how to rate this book, and eventually lowered it as I tried to write out a summary. This is mostly due to the massive gap in theological agreement between us. She appears to be fairly far out on the Charismatic spectrum. In the book she claims to see visions and have dreams sent by God, including receiving direct revelation from God. This is problematic theologically that is beyond the scope of a book review, but it does seem to inform much of her thought in the book.

Another problem I have is her use of Bible ‘translations’. I had thought The Message was on of the worse one to use, but she also uses the The Passion, which I had never heard of. Neither of these are actually translations. The Message at least tries to convey the original thoughts; albeit in dumbed down/’modern’ language. The Passion is similarly a paraphrase, but instead of being written by someone who at least knows Kiona Greek, it comes from someone who claims Jesus came into his room and breathed the spirit on to him and he has ‘downloaded’ his version.

Though, as I said above, I do enjoy many of her points, especially on community and the kind of cultural Christianity that is prevalent in America, the theological implications and issues are too much to ignore. You could likely find most her salient points on her blog, or by other writers who similarly criticize and challenge us. Overall, the book probably isn’t worth your time.

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

Book Review: Grace in the Valley

Grace in the Valley: Awakening to God’s Presence When He Feels Far Away

Rating – If you are looking for something

Level – medium length, reads a little slow

Summary
It is hard to summarize this book as it was not what I thought it would be. I was expecting more of an exposition of Psalm 23. I knew it wasn’t a true commentary, but this was pretty far off from what I had anticipated. The book is kind of a mix of autobiography, sermon, and exposition more or less on Psalm 23, but almost more focused on David, overall.

The book is broken into 11 chapter plus an intro and afterward. Each chapter is titled with what he plans to focus on and then correlates(ish) to a particular section of Psalm 23 (e.g. chapter 2, Does God Recognize You? and the Lord is my shepherd). 

My Thoughts
I’m not entire sure what I think about this book. Overall it was pretty good. There were some valuable insights and the writing style is solid, though he lacks conciseness. I would have preferred more exposition and less autobiographical details. While some related, others seemed shoehorned in. I had a few theological issues with some of the more Pentecostal aspects of his story, but that doesn’t cause the rest of the book to suffer.

The biggest flaw in the book was likely that he failed to meet his subtitle. His central argument is that the valley and green pasture may be the same place. I wasn’t entirely convinced by his argument. Regardless, he doesn’t really address God feeling far away, unless you think that bad things happening and God feeling far are perfectly correlated, instead of each happening independent of each other. Further, I think the book lacked both focuses on grace and the ‘awakening God’s presence.’ Overall, the book was alright, the strength being when he did dig into the Psalm, but he didn’t make that the focus or majority of the book. The content didn’t really match the title/subtitle, which in his defense might have been the editors fault, so it wasn’t quite what I wanted, but it could be worth it, if you are looking for something.

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

Book Review: Faith for This Moment

Faith for This Moment

My Rating – Must read

Level – Quick, easy read

Summary
The premise of the book is that the US has changed, we are now a post-Christian nation, and so the question that we currently face is, what do we do about it? He points to a turning point (this moment) in his life, and one he thinks had a larger effect on the nation. To him, things changed after the Pulse nightclub shooting back in 2016. He specifically mentions an NPR interview with a local Orlando pastor, who has asked ‘how do Evangelicals respond to his crisis when it is clear politically that Evangelicals are anti-gay and pro-gun.’ Apparently the pastor had no answer. I suppose you could quibble with the anti-gay statement, but perception can become reality, a notion only made stronger with the 81% support of (self identified) Evangelicals for President Trump.

After the Intro, where he points out how proudly nonreligious Portland is, McKinley spends his first chapter discussing this moment as well as other broader trends in US culture. The following 12 chapters answer his question of what to do now. He compares modern Christians in America to ancient Jews in Babylon. That is to saw, we are exiles, which means that we will not fit nicely in to current norms of society. He challenges us to embrace this notion and spends a few chapters each on things like giving, Sabbath, vocation, and hospitality which on the one hand will will differentiate us even further, but on the other, are all commands from God for us to follow.

My Thoughts
I was originally going to rate this book a little lower, but as I wrote the summary, it made me realize how potentially important this book could be; if for nothing else than an intro into thinking about ourselves differently. In the age of political Christianity, where a large number of self described conservatives look solely to government for their source of comfort and strength, McKinley challenges the efficacy of these practices. On page 24 he states, ‘from gay marriage to gun control, these efforts have backfired.’ He goes on to point out the ways in which this is true as well as the lasting impact of the ‘Culture Wars.’ He comes back to this in a later chapter and discusses the fact that our efforts have gone here instead of teaching people the Bible and for this reason, ‘people have put down the Bible, and picked up self-help books.’ He doesn’t discuss this idea too much further but the sad fact is that this has had a double impact as self-help and inward, selfish focus have come back around and are now effecting the church more than the Bible.

A final thought I liked as he challenges political Christianity is in his chapter titled ‘Babylon.’ He discusses empires and the power of nations and reminds us that in the Bible the might nations (Babylon, Assyria, Egypt), where never the good guys. Instead, they were used, by God, to punish his people. This should make every Christian, especially those of us who pursue political power for the sake of Christ, to stop and think for a few moments. I think his challenge to Christian norms of political power might alone be worth reading the book, but if not (or if you are already there) the remainder of the book serves as a valuable intro practices that will help us live out our life in exile.

Many Christians haven’t even heard of some of the practices he touches (mentioned above), and certainly only a few really follow them well. Vocation might be the trickiest topic, especially for a generation who’s idea of career has become so converted. There are many other books to dive deeper into this topic if your interest was piqued. His strongest chapters were on hospitality, some Christians probably fail at most, and Sabbath. Really focusing in on Sabbath and rest and separation is cultural norms is an idea regaining prominence recently; I’ve seen few different books dive a little into it.

My only critique, really, is that the intro was too short. As someone born and raised in the South, I would’ve liked to hear a little more about the life of a Christian on the other end of the spectrum, the Pacific Northwest. Overall, I think it is an interesting, if short, book that hits on some big topics, from our interaction with our current moment, the concept of exile, and reforming some of the ancient practices of God’s people. The breadth of ideas and challenge of this book make it a must read.

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

Book Review: Welcome to Adulting


Welcome to Adulting: Navigating Faith, Friendship, Finances, and the Future

My Rating – Put it on your list

Level – Quick, easy read

Summary 
Adulting is a book about approaching young adulthood from a Christian perspective. The book is broken into five sections, Adulting – with a Purpose, Like a  Boss, with Friends, Fearlessly, and Forever; with each section having one to three chapters. The second section hits on topics like money/budgeting and choosing a career, while the third going into Friends, but also repairing relationships and marriage.  The final section is basically a presentation of the gospel.

My Thoughts
I think I might be just outside the age for the target audience for this book. I have been married, had a budget, and work in my career field, all now for more than 10 years. I could have used the career counseling section more like 15-20 years ago, but if I’m honest, I was probably too young/immature then to even listen. I am already a fairly practical guy, so I was already following some of his tips earlier on in life, but I think the one that would have been the most impactful is the chapter on community.

Community versus friendship is an interesting concept. The fact that it is based on intentionality and not affinity is challenging. I am just now coming around to the idea. The first ‘community/small group’ in which I participated, we were basically all the same person. The one I’ve tried to build over the past two years now is quite different, a pretty big range in education and income, and, most challenging, an age range of over 40 years.

The ‘with Purpose’ section of the book really serves as the intro and the strength of the book comes in the practical steps in the next three sections. Section four was unexpected Pokluda touches on worry and recovery (both overcoming addiction and putting issues in your past behind you). The only chapter I felt that was a little week was the final one. He acknowledges as much in his opening paragraphs of the chapter. His goal is to point us to Christ and the focus of eternity, which makes sense as he is a pastor. However, the chapter was just a little too long and didn’t quite flow/match the rest of the book.

I also suspect most people reading it, already know (again, something he acknowledges). He probably felt he couldn’t pass the opportunity, just in case, which is commendable. Overall, I thought it was an interesting book. It is one I would definitely recommend to people just out of college or starting ‘adult’ life, or for any pastors/mentors out there who know people in this group. It is a solid mix of practical and theological/spiritual and is thoroughly Biblical throughout.

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

Book Review: When God’s Ways Make No Sense

When God’s Ways Make No Sense

My Rating – Put it on your list

Level – Easy, relatively short (~230)

Summary
This book is mostly about unanswered prayer. We pray for certain people or events, and sometimes God does not answer that prayer, but instead takes our life (or others) in different directions. To us, that makes no sense. The book tries to answer what we do when this happens.

There are 19 chapters, plus an intro and concluding thoughts. The chapters are grouped together in four parts – When God’s Ways Make No Sense, What Then? Three Stories, Three Answers; When God’s Ways Make No Sense, Tremble! Why? What? How?; When God’s Ways Make No Sense: Trust in God’s Unthwarted Sovereignty; When God’s Ways Make No Sense: Three Parables.

I really dislike the use of the book title in each chapter; it seems really unnecessary and redundant. Part One looks at the three stories of Jonah, Paul, and Habakkuk. Part Four retells Part One with modern day reactions. Part Two takes a look at our two responses, as Crabb sees them, which is to tremble and to trust. Part Three takes a bit of a detour into providence and sovereignty, which is probably necessary in a book about God’s plan, especially when we disagree with it.

 My Thoughts
I wish I could rate this book a 4.5, because I think some of the questions Crabb discusses are necessary for all Christians to seriously consider, but some of his analysis isn’t quite there for me. Much like Yancey’s book on Prayer (my review), it challenges Christians to really be discerning and ask hard questions, but I’m not sure either take you much farther (though, that is a great place to be).

Early in the book, Crabb makes reference to Romans, where Paul discusses sin and how he seems unable to stop sinning. That is an interesting aspect to unanswered prayer that I have never considered. Have lost two friends just last year to addiction, I would have liked to hear more about this. However, that is the last mention of personal sin as far as unanswered prayers. That’s too bad, it is an understandably difficult topic. What makes less sense than prayer to God to be delivered from temptation, only to fail? Instead the book moves mostly to the familiar realm of pain, suffering, and failure. I love this quote, and I think Crabb really hit on how Christians feel if they are being honest:

God I know you are good, but what good are you? In struggles with no answer, or when his ways make no sense, we wonder what good God is for us.

It really sets the tone for the book – the honesty, the struggle, the questions – and I’m glad that a esteemed leader in the Christian community is willing to write about them in this way; and these are clearly issues he is struggling with currently.

Part Two is probably the strength of the book. That is where you have to look honestly at events in your life and how the unfold in ways that are not according to your plan and you have to wonder what God is doing. Likewise, Part Three looks at our response and delves Biblically into what God says about suffering and general pain in our lives. Though, I’m not sure why he felt compelled to make up his own term, unthwarted sovereignty, that is somewhat between a slight misreading of Calvinist sovereignty and open deism. It’s almost more of a rebranding (attempt) of God’s sovereignty; maybe some people will find it helpful in understanding God’s ways.

The only part I didn’t really like was the second of his stories/answer/parable in Parts One and Four, when he discusses Paul. In Part One, he does a little exegesis of the three Biblical narratives of people he things exemplifies ways we respond to God when we don’t like what he is doing. Though they were insightful and Biblically sound, I feel like his point on Paul missed. Or rather, his point was good, but Paul didn’t really show it the way he might have thought. His point is that Paul distorted and denied God’s word. Obviously we do that today, and I suppose you could say that Paul did, but that is all before his conversion. I just don’t think you can make a strong argument about a Christian response from a non-Christian.

Overall, I think it is an interesting and challenging book. I think anyone who has ever wondered why God’s ways often don’t make sense should read this. This is certainly a must read for those who believe, like I once did, that you can’t question God’s ways. Similarly, people who come from a moralistic or health and wealth gospel view of God, need to read this book. However, for those who have moved passed this, you won’t get as much new thought, and definitely no definitive answer. But that is our lot in life, right? We will likely never understand why some things happen. For now, we keep praying, keep reading, and continue to seek understand. If unanswered prayer is one of those questions for you, this is a book to add to your list.

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

Biblical Studies Carnival 150

Welcome to the August 2018 Biblical Studies Carnival.

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Y’all ready to get weird? Or at least a little different, depending on your perspective; that’s the question we ask every Labor Day Weekend here in Atlanta. A smaller crowd than last year when Mrs. MMT and I were downtown in the center of it all, but around 700,000 will be in town this weekend, mostly for DragonCon and the Chic-fil-a Kick off GamRelated imagee (that’s how you get pictures like these), but also for things like another minor football game, a Lynyrd Skynyrd Concert, and LudaFamDay.

So it makes sense then, that it is the same weekend in which I host a Biblical Studies Carnival (my first hosting was Labor Day Weekend two years ago). Most of the people who are involved in the Carnivals are academics, pastors/theologians, and a few prolific writers with at least some education. I am none of those things. By day, I’m a City Planner, but by night, well…, actually, I sleep, but sometimes I try to write about Theology or the Bible, and mostly review books. I recently started a series on Thessalonians if you want to check it out. Especially since the nomination of Trump, I’ve become too caught up in the contrast between political christianity and those Christians who actually read the Bible. So, with the scholars being busy this month due to school being back in session, I’ve added a Politics section.

Well, that’s probably enough ado, let’s get to it.

Old Testament
Want to learn to sing the Hebrew Bible? Bob’s got you covered – check out Psalm 111.

Jim asks us to remember Calvin’s thoughts on Psalm 14:1.

Henry posts what he calls a slightly poetic version of Isaiah 10:1-4a.

New Testament
Phil started a series on Sermon on the Mount. I particularly enjoyed his thoughts on Jesus and the Law, which is something I’ve been interested in.

Jarrett shares some thoughts on the Mystery of the Gospel.

Scott starts a series on Revelation. I like the title of his intro ‘Not Your Father’s Book of Revelation’. My father doesn’t read the Bible, but his generation is certainly the one that emphasized Dispensationalism to my generation, which is moving away from this reading. Additionally, one of the things that moved me away from this reading was discussing with my grandfather, who likewise did not read Revelation this way.

Hal responds to Session’s use of Romans 13.

Rod has ‘Greek for a Week’ cover of Philemon 19, 20, 21, & 22.

Ian discusses why Jesus came to bring division and a sword.

Theology
Brandon asks whether Origen was Athanasian or Arian.

Bernard discusses the trouble with faith.

Tim asks how should we respond to the leading of the spirit.

Jeffery has thoughts on whether God has a plan for my life.

Other
Rob is trying to put together a survey on public domain commentaries. It is an interesting project, and if you’d like to help he is looking for volunteers.

William has a review of a Mesopotamian Prayer.

Nijay has a free open-textbook on Intermediate Biblical Greek.

Christoph has some thoughts on mastering Koine Greek.

Michael asks us if it is a waste of time for seminary students and pastors to learn languages.

David asks about sin in the church.

Book Review
Phil reviews Reading Mark in Context.

RJS finishes posting reviews of The Lost World of Scripture.

Micheal has a quick review of Jesus Followers in the Roman Empire. He also has a great quote regarding a rapture from Gene Green, writing in his commentary on Thessalonians (which was my favorite commentary to consult).

Jim reviews Approaching the Study of Theology.

Jason reviews the Complete Hebrew-Greek Bible.

Politics
Jim points out the irony of Evangelical idolatry.

In beautiful irony, Fox News once showed a pictured of NFL players protesting, except they weren’t, they were kneeling in prayer. Pro football will be back next week and we’ll once again be subjected to endless debate about kneeling during the Anthem. Of course, there is a long history of prayer in football, many people I know learned the Lord’s Prayer from sports. However, we’ll listen as many ‘Evangelicals’ get angry over people kneeling when they ‘aren’t supposed to.’

Check out John’s comments on the White House dinner with Evangelicals.

D.G. reminds us that once Evangelicals didn’t even support Giuliani.

Millennials might not follow the Moral Majority playbook. Anecdotally, I’ve seen this to be the case.

Roger Olsen responds to the question, ‘Is Trump Our Cyrus.’ Remember, when the title of an article ends in a question mark, the answer is almost always no.

George surveys Religion vs. Party.

Excurses
As an American, I thought this was posted in the future. Richard has an interesting look into what he calls a ‘dialogue between biblical scholarship and Religious Education.’

Phil’s book is on sale.

Kevin DeYoung shares a few things he’s learned while working on his PhD.

This book cover made me wonder if anyone has ever seen Karl Barth and Warren Buffet in the same room.

Image result for karl barthImage result for warren buffett

 

That’s it for this month. Hope you enjoyed, even if it was a little different than usual. As a pretend theologian (my occupational hazard is my occupation’s just not around), I’m somewhat like a medieval monk – I like to read, write, and drink beer. Now that I’m down reading and writing for the month, only one thing left to do. Thanks for playing along.

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If you are interested in hosting or know someone who might be interested please contact Phil. Contact info from his post last month –

I am borderline desperate for the rest of the year!  Please contact me via email (plong42@gmail.com), twitter direct message (@plong42) or comment here in this carnival. Whether you are a relatively new blogger or you have hosted a carnival in the past, do not hesitate to contact me. October, November and December are open as of July 1. It is not too early to volunteer for a 2019 carnival.

Borderline is clearly an understatement if I’m hosting again, but  it goes legit again the next month with Jim. Like I said earlier, the carnival is mostly hosted by scholars and students, but there are a few pastors and at least one completely pretend internet theologian that has hosted in the past. If you are interested, hit up Phil and get some more info.

*All pictures, except my beer, stolen from google image search/reddit. Please @ me if they are yours and you want attribution or removal.

Book Review: Prayer – Does it Make Any Difference?

Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference?

My Rating – Put it on your list

Level – Easy read, moderate length

Summary
The title pretty much says it all. The book is about prayer, what is it, what do we do with it, why, and what’s the point? The subtitle isn’t necessarily answered, other than to say, maybe – for us and for God – but also, maybe not. The book is broken into five parts, Keeping Company with God, Unraveling the Mysteries, The Language of Prayer, Prayer Dilemmas, and The Practice of Prayer. Each part is broken down into three to six subparts, for 22 chapters in all.

My Thoughts
I’ve not read a book by Yancey before. I thoroughly enjoyed his writing styles. As a writer and not a pastor, this book doesn’t give you theological insights or pastoral guidance like you might find in Keller, but you get something maybe more personal. Most chapters are fairly short and are usually broken down even further, so you get something almost like blog-post type series of his personal thoughts. Of course, there are many good quotes and insights form other author and theologians, but I think the goal is something more personal. He lays out his struggles, or writes about stories he has heard from others. Yancey is afraid to honestly question the point of prayer.

The strength of the book comes with the first chapter and especially the fourth. In the former, you get the reason for prayer as our main form of communication with God, in the latter, the problems and struggle people face. I was a little disappointed with final chapter as he doesn’t really delve into historical guidelines or lay out any practical steps; though in his defense, I don’t think that was his point. Overall, it is a great personal book on prayer and he points out what many people think and struggle with, something that is all too absent in Christian writing. It probably isn’t the best book if you are seeking a practice of prayer, but if you are just starting to study prayer, it is definitely worth putting on your list.