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Within the transparent frame of relevance is a picture that can be sustained only by the Divine.  He who moves, and breathes, and holds all things together.  It cannot be to anyone’s astonishment then when Christ graces His joint heirs with small sights of heaven.  Silent whispers that all is well.  To quote the great Spurgeon who was used mightily by God to proclaim the glory of God, “The cause is safe.  The King is on His throne!”

It was one of these moments that graced my friend.  She is Penny, for all intents and purposes.  She had been searching for grace, seeking for God when He spoke to her through another woman of high intellect.

Penny was reading a magazine when she noticed a book titled “A Thousand Gifts” by Ann Voskamp.  Penny was inspired by the insight alluded to in this book and wanted to read more.

The story of how she obtained it is a small gift in and of itself.  But that’s not my story.

She showed the book to me and I glanced at the cover.  I am not sure of this has come across in my writing as of yet but I tend to be a snobby reader.  I dismissed “The Shack” for its reviews.  I have refused and mocked “Chicken Soup for the Soul” due to its “feel good message.”  I have looked down on J. K. Rowling for her use of the name “Light putter outer in the first of her famous novels, the first being for young readers.  I am cavalier in my reading habits at times.  I have probably hurt many with my careless critiques.

What I saw in the cover was a weak, sentimental, poorly thought out book based on drivel and emotions.  I saw the blue sky and thought weak.  I saw the birds nest and thought fragile.  I saw “inspirational” all over it, filled with white puffy clouds, rainbows, and bunny rabbits.”

Yet, because I trusted Penny, because I knew her reading habits were not to be dismissed, I opened to a random page of the book.  There before me read a quote by none other than C.S. Lewis.  I lifted my brow and looked farther.  There was a quote by Tolkien.  Two men I admired for their person and their writing were here in the same book by this Canadian woman of whom I have never heard of before.

Not sure how to feel about the book now, I glanced down at her writing.  Mrs. Voskamp slowly wrapped me within her writing with words that flowed and sentences that breathed.  Her writing was exquisite and her prose beautiful.  Her imagery was captivating and her wisdom silencing.  I almost could see Selah after every paragraph.

I was expecting fluffy rabbits and saw instead what Christ could inspire, the beauty He could bring about.  The joy inside the words are not dependant on events but mere thankfulness of Christ, who He is, and What He has done.  My Pastor summed it up quite nicely, “For every thought of yourself, think ten times upon Christ.”

Look back at my writings and you will see that this is something that resonated with me profoundly.  In the darkness of my mind, joy had become a foreign entity.  It is only just recently that I have been relearning what it is to be “happy”.  Emotions have been finding their resting place ransacked and rifled through in my life.  They are just learning to settle.  And now comes a woman who shows me a book where the Author eloquently and succinctly writes that “We are not to base our faith in Christ, our Joy, our happiness on events or others.  We are to look unto Christ and base those things we search for most upon Him.”  How amazing is that?!  In a world where calamity and death are about every turn we can turn away from that and in our pain be thankful for Christ!

It hearkens back to “Desiring God” by John Piper (though her words are more beautiful than his).

This is something I feel my parents have been trying to drive home my whole life.  They have tried to raise me in God and only now are some of their lessons becoming reality in my life.  So, sorry Mom.  I was listening but I finally get it.

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I don’t think anyone out there has really derided me for what I read or how often I do so.  There has been the inevitable “Wow, you read?  I just don’t have time for that.” Then I hear the popular “I’ve only read one book in my life,” or the variation “I didn’t even read the books in high school.”  And then I have heard “reading is pointless.  The only book you should read is the bible.”

If you don’t like reading, this is fine.  In fact, this probably means you have more of an interactive lifestyle, leading you to interact with more people (ever try reading with your friends?  Boring.)  But I do have to admit, the sin nature in me (pride, wanting to be right ALL the time, the search for ultimate knowledge), bristles at those statements.  “How can one not read?  How can one only read the Bible?”  This is not for selfless reasons.  Purely selfish in intent.

So I’ll knock that right out by stating this is not what this is.  I feel like enough time has passed since hearing this for this to be a post designed to glorify God, not glorify me.  So with this said, what is reading to me?

 

Growing up, there was not a lot of money and there were a lot of us.  So Disney was a guy who made cartoons and six flags were what those crazy neighbors decorated their houses with.  Our TV had two dials (not sure why) but there were only a couple channels it could get.  The houses we grew up in were mostly located on a busy street, making our experience of outside the back yard.  We did the parks, the boardwalks (love Jersey boardwalks before “The Jersey Shore” (Do I have to do that trademark thing or pay royalties for using that?)), the malls, and everywhere else you could go without using money.  They were good times.  But my favorite place growing up was the library.  One, I love the smell of old books.  ‘nuff said.  Two, I really enjoyed having all the options to choose from, all the ideas in one place, all the stories gathered together.

So, due to that environment, from watching my Mom steal minutes away in her non-fiction books between caring for us and the house, and watching Dad relax with a pulp fiction book with yellowed pages (why yellow?), I took to the written word easily.  I read whatever I could.  In fact, while other kids were banned from video games and TV for punishment, I wasn’t allowed to read.  Yeah, I’m a nerd.  I would get so desperate during those times that I would read the backs of cereal boxes, the warnings on cleaning solutions on the table, and the small print on medicine canisters.  Did you know that whenever you somehow got chemicals in your eyes, you would first want to flush your eyes out then contact your doctor?  I feel like that would be a natural response up to the “calling your doctor” bit.  Hopefully you had someone with enough sense and sight to, not call your doctor, but to drive your butt to the Emergency Room.

But I’m going off on a tangent.  Point is, I read a lot.  It got so bad that when I ran out of my books to read, I read my sister’s books.  Read all of Little House on the Prarie…Ok, those were mine.

 

Tangent

One of my greatest disillusionments growing up was realizing that Laura Ingalls Wilder never actually wrote her books and they weren’t always historically accurate (they were written by her daughter Rose Wilder Lane who was a columnist or some such thing).

My second disillusionment was finding out Charlotte Church had morphed into a pop star, leaving her classical work behind…but that’s another post (please no.)

 

Back on Track

I love reading.  Always have, always will.  Even when my eye sight will go, I will have lived long enough for them to install artificial ocular implants (hopefully not in the form of Levar Burton’s VISOR (another royalty fee owed?)).  My favorite book that my sister lent me was Anne of Green Gables.  Loved it.  I actually loved it so much, I used my man card as a book mark.  Yeah.

Anyway, I devoured books from William Bennet’s collections, to animal stories, to pioneer stories, to ancient historical fiction, to sci fi to mysteries.  It took me a day to get through the abridged and condensed Great Illustrated Classics.  They had the hardcovers and the soft covers.  I could get the soft covers for a dollar each at…a store that doesn’t exist any more and I can’t remember the name of (my one chance to escape having to pay royalties and I blow it).  My favorite was The Count of Monte Cristo and The Hound of the Baskervilles.  When I grew up I actually read both in the completed form.  The count was rough, took me several months to complete.

With all of this reading though, I read little of the actual bible.  Oh, I devoured this one bible story book that we had but that was about it.  I could tell you about Old Testament dudes that a lot of people don’t even know existed.  But when it came to that guy Paul or Peter, not so much.  And I would feel guilty but not enough to actually pick up the bible.

My non-fiction reading was non-existent.  I feel as if there were a handful of biographies and non-fiction up to my first year of college.  Of course, during high school, I got a lot of my theology from studying apologetics which probably isn’t the best way to form a theological foundation but it happened.

Now, in my young adult years, I am taking back the opportunity and reading some heavier stuff.  John Piper, J.I. Packer, David Platt, C.S. Lewis, Josh Harris, Francis Chan to list some of them…most of them…all of them.  I’m working on it.  I’m waiting for the day when I can jump into Jon Edwards, John Owen, and John Calvin.  The three Johns.  I am finding that it is a different beast, reading for information than for mere story.  And I’m finding my memory needs some help.  So I’m going through more with a pen marking in the margins as I read.

 

Where am I Going With This?

 

As I come across people, there are those who read and those who don’t, as I stated before.  Here is my argument.  As a Christian, as a follower of Christ, one must become a reader.  I’m not saying always have a book on hand or an e-reader.  But we all must become, to one degree or another, a reader in our own way.

We are given the inspired word of God as a way to know and commune with the Creator of the universe.  Those who read it incorrectly go off and form cults.  Those who don’t read it are not going to grow spiritually as we cannot be always spoon fed.

Then there are books about the bible.  Those who read it incorrectly are well advised to read these books so as to correct and inform their thinking.  I am not taking away from one of the offices of the Holy Spirit in helping us discern the scriptures for ourselves.  But I am saying that there are a million helpful texts out there (Fee and Stuart come to mind in “How to read the Bible for all it’s worth”).

Then there are secular books.  I feel it’s important to read these at times in order to see man for who he is.  Also, I have heard it said before, God has not given Christians the market on truth.  You can find it outside of the Christian bubble…sometimes in a more potent form.  Stephen King and Lovecraft come to mind.

 

Reading is part of the Christian faith.  Its part of our walk.  So try it.  It cant hurt.  And there’s always books on tape.  Their fun, especially if it’s a good voice actor.  I don’t think I really ever read a “Borrower” book, just listened to them on tape.  On a walkman.  Wow I’m old.

 

Peace,

Bill

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True Gamer?

In my running to and fro, I have come to realize that the amount of time I invest in video games on a daily basis, let a long a weekly basis, has diminished quite drastically.  This is due to several changes in my schedule, life, and mindset.  More on this.

Previous to this change, I have unabashedly and unwaveringly referred to myself as a gamer.  Never having attained hardcore status (I never even made it through all of FF8), I still ran the gambit in the different genres (RTS, RPG, Strategy, Action, Adventure, etc) with the exception of sports (if your going to play football, go outside).

Now, with a finality that makes my skin crawl, I am hanging up my controllers for a season.  I am powering down my system.  I am putting the game back into its case.

I am no longer a Gamer.

I have been looking at more blogs recently, as I have the time to, and realize one major factor.  They are all designed with a single topical purpose.  A glance at my blog will tell people I have missed that.  I am all over the place.  A look at my tags will show this as well.  Yet, as I have stated before, and have held to, the purpose of this blog was an introductory one.  I knew nothing about blogging.  Nothing about choosing a cool name other than my initials.  I see some common threads throughout this blog and I have a couple ideas where to take them.  But more on that later as well.

I have been finding that I am becoming more and more hungry for the word of God.  Its interesting.  I used to read a small devotional during breakfast and that was it.  Now I’m listening to sermons by  Matt Chandler in my spare time and reading books by John Piper and J.I. Packer.  I am learning so much about who God is, who we are in God, and what we are to do with that. Yet I found myself forgetting the very things I was learning.  I had even taught on Romans chapter 8 and I still forgot to keep my eyes on Christ and think of things above Colossians 3:1,2.  So I am learning still.  But I am seeing fruit in my life and that excites me.  Praise be to God.

Which brings me to my last point.  Ted Dekker.  I used to love reading his works.  His books were full of action and good plot lines.  He even had an interesting character with my name.  The other day, I checked his newer book out of the library, “Immanuel’s veins” and started to read it.  Around the third page in, I put the book down.  I always knew his writing wasn’t the best.  I always gave him the benefit of the doubt that maybe he would get better.  I was wrong.  He has actually gotten worse.  Now, like I said, I have been reading some hefty books lately so I’m not sure that his writing has become worse or that I see it for the low quality writing it is.

Ight.  Peace

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Hell’s Bell

Yes, I am joining the million Born Again Christians who is speaking out against Rob Bell’s new book.  Love Wins.  I watched his NOOMA videos in youth group back in ’03, ’04 and remember thinking that it was interesting, a little off sounding but they were ok.  Then I remember reading his book, “Velvet Elvis” and, though I cannot remember why, I know I did not like it.  His writing is very easy to understand but his views are very watery, vapory, and ethereal.  There was no real ground for them and they did not stand up to simple Bible truth.  This being said, I was slightly surprised when I read a sample (not worth the $10 yet due to the fact that I will only give it another paragraph or so of thought.)

Rob Bell is not a Calvinist in any of the points whatsoever.  I will not touch that as some brilliant men are not as well.  What I am concerned about is the fact that he seems to lump humanity all under God’s Mercy which in fact the Bible clearly states we are not all under God’s mercy.  Secondly, he seems to take all the sovereignty from God in several paragraphs.

Later, I hear he claims hell is not a real place, or something to that effect.  A question he does raise is very relevant though.  He queries whether or not Heaven is the ultimate goal of our witnessing.  I have personally struggled through this, without reaching a conclusion as of yet.

All said and done, though, in searching through what others have said about this, I enjoyed a tweet from @JamieReckless “Why is everyone so shocked that “pastors” like Rob Bell,Joel Osteen,& Jay Bakker are teaching a user friendly gospel?Our Bible tells us this”.  Very true.  He teaches what everyone wants to hear and people like him for it.  OK.  I’m done.

P.S. One more thing: What does Rob Bell believe?

and the follow up with the interviewer, Martin Bashir: Interview by Paul Edwards with Martin Bashir

Edit 4/9/11

Here is a site with a nice timeline of whats going on with Rob Bell in his heretical ravings.

Chronology of Bell’s Hell

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     One.  There is a free concert tomorrow put on by Tenth Avenue North, one of the few good christian bands out there in Ocean Grove.  free concert.  To someone with a newly acquired car payment, this is amazing.  how many times will this happen when a good christian band plays for free?  Never really.  This is New Jersey, land of a bar on every corner and a club on every boardwalk.  Why am I not jumping up and down for joy?  Because, several weeks back, I signed a paper for an evangelistic group at church saying that every Tuesday I would be faithful and committed to being there for a couple of hours.  Thus, I get to watch people go to the concert and not go myself.  In all honesty, I’ll get over it.  There are more important things in life and really, I’m sure there might be someone God will put in my path tomorrow that needs to hear the Gospel that would never get to hear it if I was moshing to Tenth Avenue North.

     Two.  I have just finished a book b Josh Harris called Dug Down Deep.  I believe I’ve mentioned it before.  It has been such an encouragement because I have felt that for too long faith in america has been shifting towards an experiential element per say than a truth based one.  “But it feels right”.  Yes.  But one also has to have firm doctrine to back up one’s beliefs.  And Josh does this simply but eloquently, with several experiences to help him along, persuading me that experience is definitly part of life.  Sometimes I’m in my head too much to realize this.

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     I am going to NYC this weekend to see a stage production of C. S. Lewis’ “Screwtape Letters”.  I am pumped.  C. S. Lewis has always been somewhat of a literary hero of mine.  I even read a biography of him (I know, I don’t read a lot of non fiction, nevermind biographies so this was a feat for me).

     I am also in the middle of a pretty good book, Joshua Harris’ “Dug Down Deep”.  What?  Yes, the guy who hates dating.  But this is a book about theology, a shift from his previous work on purity and such.  It’s a good beginner book on doctrine and theology in the Biblical sense.  He hits the major theological points: God’s sovereignty, the Holy Spirit, Veracity of the Bible, as well as other main topics.  It strips away Christianity based on an experiental view and gets into the truth of what scripture teaches.  I would recomend it to new believers who are starting to make thier way into the study of scripture.

     New York City and onward.  Dinner after the play.  Should be fun.

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