Category Archives: Musings

Primal?

Book Review. Primal: A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity by Mark Batterson.

There seems to be surge of Christian books about getting back to the basic roots of faith without using words like “getting back to the basics of the faith”. I guess titles like Primal (or Radical) seem more interesting and sell better to today’s reader.

That snipe aside, Primal was more of a disappointment than I expected. Yes, the author makes some good points and builds the book on a great premise– the great commandment – which he labels the “primal” commandment,

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength (Mark 12:30)

He also builds his case with some scripture references, and more than a few good stories, anecdotes, and illustrations that, more often than not, become the foundation of the message, than the Scripture itself. Many of these stories recount the experience of the author. I know I’m in a minority here, but books like this tend to be fluffy and tasty, but provide little long-lasting sustenance. The concept is good, but, for me, it came up just a bit short. Primal is an interesting read, but not quite a primer on basic faith that would truly impact one long term.

It is also surprising that a book about a quest for the lost soul of Christianity, there would be little talk of true salvation, repentance, the cross, and the sovereign grace of God which provokes Godly living.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Blogging for Books. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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Need More to Survive

SerengetiBook Review: Surviving Your Serengeti – 7 Skills to Master Business and Life by Stefan Swanepoel.

Along the lines of Patrick Lencioni, Stefan Swanepoel attempts to bring clarity to business, management, and life by drawing out a fable or story that provides a metaphor upon which to hang insights about life principles. In this attempt the story is built around seven animals of the African plains – each of which is assumed to bring wisdom to our “survival” in life circumstances.

I wanted to like this book but found myself frustrated by the thin story line and the contrived circumstances. Gary Smalley did a more effective job with his assessment tool built around Lion-Otter-Beaver-Golden Retriever metaphors in that it makes sense and he provides means of assessment rather than mostly subjective conjecture. And while the author does supply “7 skills to master business and life” he barely develops them in any useful manner. The reader could skim the titles and have most of the gist of the book, though there are a few interesting insights into the African animals that might be missed.

NY Times best seller on the cover? I’m not sure how that could happen since the book was just released. I’d truly recommend Lencioni’s works as a better read and use of funds. It’s not a bad book, just a bit thin on real help or guidance for a real world.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.


Not That Big a Jolt

Book Review: Jolt: Get the Jump on A World That’s Constantly Changing by Phil Cooke.

On the one hand I want to endorse this book. On the other hand, I feel it falls a bit short of being the book that I’d recommend to a Christian wrestling with change. Jolt is not a bad book overall. There are some great quotes and solid principles that can be implemented. Cooke is obviously successful, and has some excellent thoughts on what it takes to adapt to a changing world, yet this book is more a collection of somewhat related essays, uneven in quality,  designed to motivate more than truly equip. As someone in the midst of significant change, I was a bit encouraged, but I can’t say I was “jolted”.

I appreciated a number of his thoughts:

  • Recognition that there are some things that can’t be changed.
  • Ignoring reality is not a wise strategy.
  • A discussion of the power of perception.
  • The encouragement to stop letting fear control our choices.
  • Change is inevitable and often difficult, but as Kathleen Norris writes “disconnecting from change does not recapture the past. It loses the future.”

I was bothered by two assumptions:

  • Cooke tends toward the mechanistic view of life and change; i.e., “Make the right choices, take the right steps and you will succeed.” From a humanistic stance this might be somewhat understandable, but to leave God out of the worldview mix is a somewhat odd for a Christian book on change (at least that used to be odd). His suggestions are generally helpful, but as a Christian in the midst of significant change I would hope for something a bit more biblically sturdy, with the understanding that sometimes (usually) Christian living is not about tips and techniques for success, but struggle and frustration that develops character.  There is a chapter on the power of faith, but the object of faith seems somewhat ambiguous.
  • Everyone is special if they want to be and that we all can be successful, creative, and significant. I’ve written about this before – not everyone is “special”. Some of us are just ordinary or average. And that is OK.

So. Jolt is not a bad book. You might find it helpful, but I found it to be more of a mild bump.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.


Normalizing Sin

Russell Moore nailed a significant, but subtle, issue in his post today. I think that it is worthy of much deeper reflection – especially the way we tend to “normalize” pride and diminish genuine Christian humility. His post is an excerpt from a new book. These two paragraphs called me out:

Most of us know that pride and status-hunger are character flaws, but we rarely see the satanism of pride in our own situations. Part of that is because of how fallen humanity normalizes pride. We grow accustomed to thinking of self-exaltation, at least to some manageable degree, as a “normal” part of leadership and drive.

In Christian ministry self-promotion and egotism are rewarded because the more a Christian crows about his superior prayer life or his cutting-edge research or his ability to grow churches or movements, the more an audience tends to believe it. Genuine Christian humility, by contrast, often seems mousy or non-assertive by contrast. When so many leaders are proud, it becomes very difficult for the Spirit-convicted psyche to discern, “Am I prideful, or am I a leader?”


Thoughts for Preachers

Random thoughts that made me think:

  • A pastor who shall remain un-named said, that “each Sunday the minister stands up and interrupts what the people have come to do … he better have something from God to say.”
  • Preaching is the starting place for effective church ministry. “Super-pastor-preachers” in large churches usually have effective staff teams to move beyond merely motivating people to training people. One problem we have today is that too many average size church try to model or imitate the Super-pastor church model and discipleship gets lost. (may be from Bill Hull).
  • Powerful ministry involves personal sacrifice. That sacrifice might be a sacrifice of a passionate life that compels others to serve as followers of Christ rather than sit as spectators of Christ.
  • Pastors and leaders must keep the vision – who we are, what we are going to do, and why we are doing it – in front of those they lead. Work without a compelling vision leads to drudgery.

 


Reminder–Perfect Timing

1st Day of Spring - 2011 (2)Perfect timing! Our first daffodil on the first day of spring brings a timely reminder of God’s promise.

Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you. – Luke 12:27–31 (ESV)

Or, maybe Eugene Peterson’s take in The Message, on the corollary passage in Matthew, makes a sharper point:

            “Has anyone by fussing in front of the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? All this time and money wasted on fashion—do you think it makes that much difference? Instead of looking at the fashions, walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp or shop, but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them.
            “If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.
            “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes. – Matthew 6:27-34


The Future

"The future is like a Japanese game show. You have no idea what’s going on!” Tracy Jordan on 30 Rock.

Some days that is exactly how it feels – even to a Christian who is supposed to have it all together. At least as Christians we have the knowledge of who it is that holds the future and he is not a Japanese game show host.

For those who’ve never seen a Japanese game show, YouTube has quite a collection.