Category Archives: Books

“The Starting Five”

Later this month I will be self-publishing an e-book through Amazon Kindle… Lord willing. The title of the book is The Starting Five: Discovering the Five Doctrines that Anchor the Christian Life. A 31-day devotional, this book will be especially helpful for new Christians who are looking to establish a strong foundation for their Christian life. But I believe it will be a good resource for established Christians as well, reminding us all of foundational truths. More details forthcoming.

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Book Recommend: “unPHILtered: the Way I See It” by Phil Robertson with Mark Schlabach

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A couple of years before Duck Dynasty I came across an ESPN.com article about a family in Louisiana that loved to duck hunt and was making a killing at making duck calls. I was impressed with what I read. Then I came across a few videos online of Phil and Jase speaking in churches. Then I was really impressed. Finally, the hit TV show came on and I fell in love with this down-to-earth, salt-of-the-earth family of rednecks. unPHILtered is exactly what the title says: Phil telling it as it is, no filter, and I don’t know if I can argue against the man on anything he says in the book.

I imagine the average city slicker would take a look at Phil and think…

“He’s a backward anti-intellect.” – He may be backward, but he’s sharp as a tack and has an earned master’s degree. He’s not anti-intellect.

“He’s a homophobe.” – He’s not. Unless your definition of a homophobe is someone who does not enthusiastically endorse the homosexual lifestyle.

“He’s a racist.” – He’s clearly not.

What he is… a man who was radically transformed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ; a man who loves his God, his family, his neighbors, and all people.

He’s also a man of the outdoors. He has no use for a cell phone. He’d rather be in the woods or on the water than using technology.

He’s wise. It’s clear he has excelled not only in business and in social relationships, but he has excelled as a husband and father. And he’s done it through hard work and good people skills.

This country, and this world, would be a lot better off if they applied the PHILosophy of life of the Duck Commander.

NOTE: I highly recommend you read his autobiography, Happy Happy Happy: My Life and Legacy as the Duck Commander first, then read unPHILtered.

Recommended Reading: Encounters with Jesus by Timothy Keller

Tim Keller Encounters

The more I watch Keller, the more I listen to Keller, and the more I read Keller, the bigger I fan I become of him and, more importantly, a more grateful follower of Jesus I become. In many ways, Keller is a modern C. S. Lewis, able to powerfully communicate the truths of Christianity in a way that engages the culture.This particular volume is an edited collection of talks he gave in two settings: the first half of the book was a series of talks he gave about Jesus to believers and unbelievers at Oxford University in England. The second half of the book is a series he delivered to the Harvard Club in Manhattan, New York. But lest you think this book is for Mensa (genius level intelligence) types only,  I’m not Mensa material and I found it very straightforward and accessible. Like the teaching of Jesus Himself, it has depth and profundity, but yet is simple enough for a child to understand.

This book is highly recommended for believer and unbeliever alike.  ****5 stars

Book Review: “Jesus is _________________.” by Judah Smith

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I’ll be honest. There are four reasons why I wasn’t expecting much out of this book: (1) The title and subtitle. The blank in the title kind of scared me. Does this mean he is going to promote Jesus as whatever you want/need Him to be? And the subtitle? “Find a New Way to Be Human”? I don’t think people need a find a new way to be human; I think people need to be saved! (2) I looked at Judah’s picture on the back and googled his name and saw a couple of other pictures of him and my first impression is that he was one of those “cool” hipster pastors who spent more time contemplating his wardrobe than meditating on God’s truths. (3) Foreword by Bubba Watson, 2012 Masters Champion. I prefer “Foreword by J. I. Packer” if that tells you anything. I tend to roll my eyes at a pro athlete endorsing a book on Christology. (4) Based on the above, and probably throw in a little bit of my impression of the colorful design of the book, and I was fully expecting something shallow and surface-level.

I was wrong. I was completely caught off guard by the power of this book. Sure, there were times when I wished Smith would have provided a little more theological precision and clarity, especially regarding the depravity of man. But that didn’t keep me from drinking in the fresh and clear ways in which Smith communicated the love and grace of God. 1st John 4:16 says, “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.” In this book, Judah Smith has certainly helped train my eye on God’s love for me.

If you are someone who wasn’t ever loved well, or if you were raised in an environment which was legalistic and rigid, filled with rules, or if you simply struggle to believe that God could truly love someone who has sinned so much, I urge you to get this book and soak in it’s refreshing message. Here are some examples of Gospel-centered statements that can help liberate you to enjoy God’s love:

“Even in our darkest moments of sin and self-centeredness, God still loves us.” – p. 46

“Our righteousness doesn’t depend on our present performance but on Jesus’s finished performance.” – p. 68

“God isn’t just willing to forgive sinners – he is passionate about it.” – p. 73

“God is just as pleased with us as he is with his Son.” – p. 76

“If we have faith in Jesus and his work on the cross, then we are as righteous right now as we ever need to be. We can’t add to it, and we can’t take away from it.” – p. 101

These are just a few of the many gems found in “Jesus is ___________.”

BTW, I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

January Reading Summary

Here are the books I read in January along with some thoughts regarding each:

Portrait of Integrity: The Life of Ray C. Stedman by Mark S. Mitchell – In this short bio, Mark Mitchell covers the basics of Stedman’s background and life of ministry. Verdict: so-so.

Johann Sebastian Bach by Rick Marschall (e-book) –  Rick Marschall presents Bach as a true believer who dedicated his immense musical genius to the glory of God. Caution: A little bit heavy on musical terms; although I’m no longer a musician, I have a background of musical training and still struggled with a lot of the musical jargon. Verdict: pretty good.

Every Bush is Burning by Brandon Clements (e-book) – Interesting novel; Clements breaks the barrier between author and reader with the writer speaking directly to the reader throughout the story…the theology behind this novel is clearly young, restless, and reformed. Verdict: pretty good.

A Habitual Sight of Him: The Christ-Centered Piety of Thomas Goodwin, edited by Joel W. Beeke and Mark Jones) – I’ve been hoping to increase my reading of the Puritans and this short book looked like a good devotional tool as well. There were some great insights, but over all it was surprisingly dull and hum drum. Verdict: disappointing.

Family Worship by Joel R. Beeke – This little volume packs a powerful punch of conviction regarding the neglected practice of family-based worship. I finished it with a new resolve to do better, by God’s grace. Beeke backs up his ideas and assertions with explicit and implicit teaching of Scripture. Verdict: very good.

Developing a Healthy Prayer Life by James W. Beeke and Joel R. Beeke – I used this devotionally after my daily Bible reading. The 31 meditations are about 3 pages each and were warm, instructive, challenging, and comforting. Perhaps the best compliment is that at the close of each chapter I usually went straight to prayer. I hope to read through this little gem again someday in the same fashion. Verdict: great.

What about you? What have you read lately?