Pages

4.28.2016

"The Most Excellent Way to Lead", by Perry Noble (book review)


Countless books abound on the topic of leadership.  Many are good, and some are ok.  But still others are great, and well worth the time to take in all the wisdom they contain.  “The Most Excellent Way to Lead” is one of the great ones, in my opinion.

Using personal, humorous anecdotes, Perry Noble wittily and winsomely constructs what could have been another bland leadership primer into something far more enjoyable.  The leadership principles contained within Noble’s book are based on what is often referred to as the Bible’s “Love Chapter”: First Corinthians 13. Each theme within that passage (love is patient, love is kind, etc.) serves as the springboard for each of this book’s chapters.  The premise is that leadership must be based on love, and love is given various descriptors in the Bible. Therefore, lead out of love for people.

LIKES: 

1) I appreciated the many challenges Noble presented throughout the book.  I often reflected on my own life as I read, thinking, “I don’t do that very well.” Or “I need to be more mindful of this.”  While I was reading this book, I also happened to attend a one-day leadership workshop with a few men from the church to which I belong.  Some similar comments from within the workshop experience coincided with the principles Noble raised to the forefront of my thoughts.  This was a positive experience because both contexts served to drive the points home that needed my attention as a person and as a leader.

2) The statement that MOST impacted me from the entire book is this: “The way we think about other people is the launching pad for how we lead with our actions” (p.151).  As an informal leader, I often struggle with this because I easily grow impatient with people.  I have high expectations for myself, as well as high expectations for those on the team under my care.  I have the tendency to automatically think pessimistically in certain situations, rather than giving others the benefit of the doubt.  When I think that way, I react (even overreact) in a way that is not always effective.  I have been reminded to straighten myself up because, as Noble wrote in the introduction, “…the best leaders don’t have titles, but they do have a voice people want to listen to” (p. xiii).   Rather than negative, I must consciously double my efforts to insure my voice is winsome instead.

Overall, I was very pleased with this book.  It’s one I’ll keep on my bookshelf for future reference, reminder, and encouragement.  So my following comments must be weighed within the context of understanding that I truly liked this book, but have just a couple beefs with it.

DISLIKES: 

1) While I understand this book was not intended to be a theological treatise, I was disappointed that Noble, in one part especially, reduced Jesus to simply having been “the best leader ever”.  Now, to be fair, Noble included a section at the end of the book regarding what sin and salvation truly are, and there was a spattering of the gospel throughout the book.  However, Noble cited Jesus’s willingness to “lay down his life” for his people (p.93 and all of chapter 7), but then skipped the TRUE meaning behind that biblical statement within the chapter itself, and instead exchanged it for a mere leadership principle.  It was a good time for him to lay out the gospel message, rather than glossing over it.  As if we are on the same level as Jesus, Noble equated us as leaders as being called to “serve and sacrifice” just as Jesus did.  While Jesus was indeed a leader on earth, he’s so much more than that!  We cannot – at the expense of who Jesus is in all his glory – neglect the fact that he is the Savior of all sinners who would come to him in repentance.  I’m not suggesting that anyone who writes a leadership book should never refer to Jesus, but to cite passages from the Bible and not explain the gospel is dangerous.

2) Noble wrote of a conversation he once had with a friend, who offered: “Words don’t have meanings; people have meanings” (p.2).  While I understand what the friend – and, in turn, Noble – meant by the phrase (lead by loving people within their contexts and situations), I fear leadership principles can become cute little phrases that we insert into daily planners if we’re not careful.  This simple phrase doesn’t really make sense, when one looks at it a little closer.  After all, aren’t words and their meanings the entire reason Noble wrote the book in the first place?  He’s trying to convince us WITH WORDS that these leadership principles work.  Ironically, aren’t words and their meanings the reasons why his friend was able to SAY “words don’t have meanings”?  Whenever reading any book, we as readers need to be careful not to swallow every clever phrase without actually chewing on it first, because words – in fact – DO have meaning.  Otherwise, we wouldn’t be reading the book.

RATING: I give “The Most Excellent Way to Lead” 4 stars out of 5.  It was very well done, and it’s one you ought to consider reading for your edification or leadership book club.

DISCLAIMER: I received this book free of charge from the Tyndale Blog Network.  All opinions are mine, and I was not obligated to write a positive review for this book.

4.07.2016

"Man Myth Messiah", by Rice Broocks (book review)

"Man Myth Messiah" is the second book by the author of "God's Not Dead", Rice Broocks.  Broocks’s intent is to provide a defense for the historicity of Messiah Jesus.  The book consists of 10 chapters broken up according to the various topics, and is 250 pages long.

“Man Myth Messiah” is an OK book – from an apologetics perspective.  I liked it, and I think Broocks had many worthwhile ideas.  Broocks is definitely correct in writing, "When it comes to Jesus Christ, there has definitely been a higher standard, unreasonably high at times, for establishing the facts surrounding His life, works, and words" (p.9).  And this thought serves as the main premise of the entire book.  He provided some basic facts that help readers understand how historical evidence is scrutinized and weighed: (1)multiple independent witnesses and (2)sources that originated shortly after the events being described.

SHORTCOMINGS:

Overall, I think this book fell short of providing any real meat, especially when compared to scholarly apologetic works.  There were a few instances where a topic would be introduced and followed up with very short, shallow support.  For instance, page 29 began the presentation of facts that Jesus was indeed crucified.  Broocks wrote, "Not only do all four gospels report it, but virtually all early church writings are filled with references to this event.  On top of this evidence..." (p.30).  But the following evidence of support consisted of three brief paragraphs that merely introduced Josephus, Tacitus, and Lucian – three non-Christian historians – rather than detailing to any significant depth any of their writings.

Other areas of weak support came on page 54, when Broocks explained that the gospels were written a shorter time after Jesus's life than was Alexander the Great's biography, and that more gospel manuscripts survived than did many other ancient writings, such as the Iliad.  That was just about the depth of coverage, which spanned just a little over one full page.

In both instances, I would have preferred that Broocks provide more researched information supporting his arguments.  After all, most readers do not have the time (or maybe even interest) to conduct our own research of these claims, so we rely on well-documented research to be conducted for us.  Instead, issues like the ones mentioned came across to me as a simple, “Take my word for it…there’s more out there.”  I don’t find that sufficient, to be honest.

ON THE MARK:

What I TRULY like about Broocks's writing is that while he may be a little too surface level regarding apologetics (at least in this book, anyway), he is a clear presenter of the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Broocks clearly explains that we are sinners in need of a savior, and that that Savior is none other than the Messiah, Jesus Christ.  Chapters 4 and 5 are wonderfully written, dealing well with the Crucifixion and the Resurrection, and their theological implications.

RATING / RECOMMENDATION:  Someone looking for an in-depth, academic book providing support for   the historicity of Jesus will not find it in this book.  It might be a good introductory book for someone just beginning to dig into apologetics, as I think the intent was to write a basic primer, rather than a doctoral dissertation.


I give "Man Myth Messiah" just 2 ½ stars out of 5.  It wasn’t my favorite, yet it wasn’t my least favorite.  Instead, it was simply a let-down.

DISCLAIMER: I received this book free of charge from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for my unbiased review of it.  All opinions are mine, and I was not required to submit a positive review.

3.02.2016

Darwinism: Unto Ages Past



I happened upon a small baggie of cheese-flavored, alphabet crackers in my lunch bag.  When I poured out its contents, I was surprised to read the phrase, “UNTO AGES PAST”.  Right there before me was this simple -- yet complex -- message.

But who wrote it?  And how did the letters, which were all approximately the same sizes, ever become imprinted on those little 1-inch square crackers? Not only did the phrase contain three words, each consisting of four letters, but the crackers’ edges were all neatly aligned, too.  Even the edges looked similar with apparently the same edge designs and dimensions. 

Just as the edges were neatly aligned, so were the words, which were approximately evenly spaced one above another, and slightly offset in a simple pattern.  While their alignment was peculiar, I also noticed these three words fit neatly within the 11-inch width of an 8½”x11” sheet of white paper.

I was stunned!  After all, these crackers were NOT in my lunch bag yesterday, since I ate ALL of my lunch 24 hours ago without a crumb to spare.  What an entirely too-short amount of time for these items to all line up into a perfect -- albeit simple -- phrase!  Maybe I could imagine these arrangements happening if about 30-million years had passed since I last ate lunch from this same bag.  But that wasn’t the case!

What if I told you I didn’t pack these crackers in my bag, but that they simply appeared there, rattling around inside this small, clear, plastic zipper-top baggie?  Would you believe me if I told you they never existed prior to me seeing them?  Would you believe me if I told you the bag's zipper-seal even sealed itself? 
Of course you wouldn't, because we all know that intelligence doesn't come from non-intelligence, or that something comes from nothing.  I must stop being foolish. We know all these events could not happen the way described above.  It is impossible.  Reason tells us that I (or someone else) would have had to arrange these events, and that they did not just appear that way.

Yet, something akin to this is what we’ve been (and are being) taught duped to believe by educators -- that the matter we see today has organized itself by chance processes of Darwinian evolution. Not only are they suggesting matter has organized itself from chaos, but they even suggest matter simply appeared out of nowhere, as though nothing can create something.

Right now you’re reading a simple blog post containing not just images of letters on a screen, but letters that are organized into intelligible words, which, in-turn, are organized into sentences, paragraphs, and relatively complete thoughts.  It’s not likely that any intelligent person would ever suggest these words appeared on your screen in a coherent form simply by the random processes of time plus chance.  If we know unequivocally that an intelligent mind organized these thoughts and words into meaningful statements, why would we expect unintelligent natural laws to do so within the scope of an even more complex universe?

Richard Dawkins, a proponent of Darwinism, once wrote, “There is enough information capacity in a single human cell to store the Encyclopedia Britannica, all 30 volumes of it, three or four times over.” [1]  A single cell...30 volumes of information (at least).  That’s a ton of information, and is extremely complex -- much more complex than my cheesy alphabet crackers.  But he wants you to believe that is possible without intelligent intervention.

Said another way, “The amount of information that could be stored in a pinhead’s volume of DNA is equivalent to a pile of paperback books 500 times as tall as the distance from earth to the moon, each with a different, yet specific content.” [2]

So why do Darwinists suggest that all we see, touch, and taste are products of time plus matter plus chance, yet at the same time write off as fools those who would suggest a simple cheesy-alphabet-cracker message or blog post could happen accidentally and randomly?  We wouldn’t dare suggest one page or one volume of the Encyclopedia Britannica -- let alone 30 volumes of it three or four times over -- as being produced by chance and time! Somehow, modern society has been feeding on the goo that Darwinists have been feeding it.

Evidence points to an intelligent mind behind all that we see.  I don't have faith to be a Darwinist.

Citations:
[1] Dawkins, Richard, “The Blind Watchmaker”, pp.115-116.
[2] Gitt, W, "Dazzling Design in Miniature," Creation Ex Nihilo, Dec. 1997-Feb. 1998, p.6, as quoted from http://www.wayoflife.org/index_files/the_living_cell.html

2.23.2016

Evangelism and Tracts:

While sipping on a cold pop and reading a good book as my son played in a restaurant's play area, a well-intending lady slipped a gospel tract on my table and quietly walked away. I attempted to engage her in conversation, but she acted as though she wasn't interested. So I let it go (for the time) and resumed my reading.

As we were about to leave, I walked the tract back over to woman and explained why I did not want to keep it. Rather than recount each and every word exchanged between us here, I would like to use this space to give a few helpful hints regarding how to (and how not to) share the gospel of Jesus Christ with someone.  So, in short, our conversation is the springboard for these suggestions.

1) First and foremost, if you are going to use tract as a means of evangelism, do so carefully.  Do not use them as a crutch to do all your work.  Put in some preparation for how you will explain the gospel, as well as formulate some general conversation-starting questions.  Tracts CAN be handy tools -- if used carefully.  Do not simply "slip" one onto someone's table, hoping they will look at it and not you.  If you hope someone will engage the message, then be prepared to engage the person in conversation.

2) Be confident about what you have to share.  You are sharing the most important, life-saving news anyone can ever hear.  So why be bashful about it?  The worst they can say to you is, "Go away, I'm not interested."  So be it.  Leave the seed for someone else to water...but be confident, not sheepish.

3) Do not simply "leave" a tract on a table or bathroom sink, hoping someone will stumble upon it.  It is impersonal, and will likely be consigned to the trash can by many.  If you're lacking courage to engage people (see #2), then maybe you could learn from others who are good at personal interaction.  
4) If you plan to evangelize someone, great!  However, remember to do so when you have time, and be respectful of the other person's time, as well.  If you're in a rush and the other person really wants to engage with you and the gospel message, it looks bad when you say, "Well, I've got to get going now" after 39 seconds of interaction.  First, it appears like you really don't care about the person enough to stick it out with them, and second, it appears that you may actually be afraid of deeper conversation. On the other hand, if the person you hoped to engage does not want to engage, respect their wishes.  Otherwise, it comes off like badgering, and that may shut down any future conversations that person may have been interested in entertaining.

5) If the person you're engaging professes to be a believer, you have a few choices.  First, you can let them have the tract and you can encourage him to share it with someone else in an engaging conversation.  Or, you can keep the tract and encourage him anyway.  Or, you can pray with him to be strong, courageous, faithful, etc.

Conclusion: These are simply my opinions based on observations throughout life.  Have you any thoughts, opinions, or experiences (good or bad) on the matter?  

Now, therefore, go into all the world and preach the good news!

2.10.2016

Our Need for a Substitute

The prophet, Hosea, spoke to the nation of Israel at a time when sin and rebellion against God was in full-swing.  Various kings led the people into idolatry, child sacrifice to false deities, and other debauched acts.  When Hosea arrived on scene to prophesy to the people, Israel was about to be judged for its sin -- via exile to Babylon.

Hosea's words in 8:13 are significant: "I will hold my people accountable for their sins, and I will punish them."  While this passage is directed to Israel (and not you, me, America, etc.), it is, in fact, indicative of God's heart.  Make no mistake: whether this is about someone else in another time and context, God hates sin -- mine, yours, all of it!  Sin will be punished, and people will be held accountable by God Himself.

This ought to inspire us to ask the question: "Then who can escape God's wrath?"  We have all sinned (Romans 3:23), and therefore we are all deserving of the judgment of God.  So who can escape it?  The answer is plain and simple: NOBODY

That is -- unless there is another plan; a substitute.  Unless someone who does NOT deserve to be punished for sin intervenes in judgment in our place, and takes upon him- or herself self our punishment, then we surely stand our just desserts for sin.  This was the eager expectation and hope of the Old Covenant saints, those who hoped for a once-and-for-all redeemer -- Someone who would save them from their sin.

Enter: Jesus Christ.  The cross is what WE deserve, yet it's what Jesus suffered -- IN OUR PLACE.  Sin is held accountable for you and for me on the Cross of Jesus Christ, our once-and-for-all Redeemer.  Forgiveness of sin simply requires our faith to be placed on Jesus, and Jesus alone as our substitute.  "For salvation is found in none other than Jesus Christ; there is no other name under heaven given to us by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).

12.07.2015

"Parables", by Dr. John MacArthur (book review)


"Parables: The Mysteries of God's Kingdom Revealed Through the Stories Jesus Told" is the new release by the always straight-forward, clear teaching of Dr. John MacArthur.  Of all his books, this one is BY FAR the his very best!  Hands-down, no doubt about it.

PREMISEThe premise of the book is that Jesus taught in parables for two reasons: (1) "to illustrate the truth [objective] truth for those who were willing to receive it", and (2) "to obscure the truth from those who hated it anyway"(Appendix, p.191).  Those who would truly listen, would seek to know the objective truth Jesus taught, while the obscuring of truth was (a) "an act of mercy, because the more truth [unbelievers] heard and spurned, the worse it would be for them in the final judgment", and (b) "a sign of judgment against [unbelievers], sealing their own stubborn unbelief by removing the light of truth from them" (Appendix, p.197).

THE ASSAULT AGAINST TRUTH: We live in a time when truth is subject to subjectivity; our society seems to eschew painting truth into a corner, so to speak.  As Dr. MacArthur writes about our post-modern society, "Do we really even need to analyze Scripture, categorize truth, and attempt to understand biblical doctrine in any kind of logical fashion -- or is it okay just to appreciate the stories and embellish them with our own plot twists and real-life endings?" (Appendix, p.195).

READING/STUDY METHOD: When I read "Parables", I always read it with an open Bible next to me.  I trust Dr. MacArthur's teaching, and his is trustworthy to not twist the Scriptures' meaning.  However, we still must be diligent to check any author's propositions against Scripture.  But I also had the Bible open so I could make contextual or detail notes in the margins.  I experienced a large number of "a-ha!" moments as a result of studying the parables along with Dr. MacArthur's book, rather than simply reading it for a joy-read or book review.

FAVORITE CHAPTER:  It is very difficult to pinpoint a specific chapter that I liked above all the others, for they all contained deep insight.  But when leafing through the pages after finishing the book, I must say that chapter 5 "A Lesson About Neighborly Love", regarding the parable of the Good Samaritan from Luke 10:30-37, seemed to have the most profound impact on me.  I have often seen this as merely a lesson about doing good to others in need; and while it is that at a minimum, there is so much more to it.  I don't have time or space to write about all that Dr. MacArthur wrote in the chapter, but I boiled it down to this: The parable of the Good Samaritan paints a microcosmic picture of God's mercy toward us sinners.  WE are the despised, unworthy soul in need of rescue, but Christ showed compassion while we were STILL unworthy, unrighteous sinners.  To those who would trust in him, Jesus in effect says, "Charge it to my account", just as the Samaritan did.

RECOMMENDATIONBy now, it probably should come as no surprise that I give "Parables" 5 stars out of 5...and I'd give it more if BookLook Bloggers allowed it.  This book will remain on my shelf for future Bible study and teaching opportunities, and I highly recommend it to you!

DISCLAIMER:  I received this book free of charge from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for my unbiased review of it.  All opinions are mine, and I was not forced to provide a positive review...nor was I forced to SAY I was not forced to provide a positive review.

11.18.2015

The Rise and Fall of Kings:

Many years of life are not required to realize that we live in a sin-sickened world.  Eventually, we all fall ill, watch loved-ones die, read of tragic events in the news, and witness various calamities and atrocities.  With our hearts and minds focused on the wrong perspective, life events can allow great fear to settle into our hearts.  But focused rightly, we can find comfort and hope from within the darkness that plagues even our days.

Would you please take just a couple minutes to read First Kings chapter 1?  It has such invaluable treasures waiting to be unearthed.

Summarizing the chapter briefly, King David is about to die, and two half-brothers are vying for his throne: Adonijah and Solomon.  We first see Adonijah setting himself up, convincing a small handful of men of nobility to support his cause.  He throws himself a celebration as a way of making the announcement to the kingdom of his new kingly reign.

But, in another room, a mother and a prophet of God (who is close to King David), remind the king that her son, Solomon, is the rightful heir.  After their short, but pointed, conversation with him King David officially declares Solomon as the heir to his throne.

Points of encouragement:


1) One man (Adonijah) had only the support of a small few in his attempts to establish his reign.  Adonijah's "reign" was not established in any official capacity, but by his own meager attempts.

2) The other man (Solomon) had his reign firmly established by true authority - he had the word of the king and the blessing of God, the King of kings.

3) Nations rise and fall according to God's will and command, for He rules and reigns sovereign over all that He made.  No king, prince, president, or any other authority has EVER risen to power without the express authority of God; nor will it ever happen today or in the future.  No amount of self-proclamation will ever seat a ruler on an earthly "throne"; only those who have been established by God (see Romans 13) will enjoy the brief privilege.

4) As we watch evil leaders rise and fall throughout history, it may be discouraging to some to think God authorizes evil empires.  Make no mistake, history has revealed that God PERMITS the righteous and the wicked to temporarily rule -- both yesterday and today.  But take heart, no empire rises a moment sooner than God allows it to rise.  It shows up on the scene when God, and God alone, says it's time.  Likewise, no kingdom will EVER last a fraction of a second longer than God permits.  Not. One. Second!  Kings, presidents, and princes fall when the Creator says.

5) Given comments 1 through 4, be encouraged that none of what we are witnessing or experiencing today takes God by surprise.  We may not understand the ins-and-outs of the unfolding of events, nor may we have our deepest questions answered.  GOD IS SOVEREIGN OVER ALL!