Archives For 40 Books in 2010

Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend.  Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.  ~Groucho Marx

In 2010 I set out to be intentional about what I read.  I set a goal of reading 40 books and made a list of 25 I wanted to read.  Here’s why you should do the same.

  1. Once you are out of school, you have to choose to keeplearning. Without teachers telling you what to read, it is up to you to continue to learn and think.  It’s up to you: read or rot.
  2. You are what your read. Books are a direct injection of new ideas, and a vision for what life can become.  They introduce concepts that TV or your best friend never can.  Without them, you are on your own.
  3. Books are there when you need them. Even the best friend can’t be there all the time, or give you the time and effort needed to help you think through something. One man said “I’ve never known any trouble that an hour’s reading didn’t assuage.”
  4. Well intentioned reading forces you to see other’s point of view. You can’t pay me to listen to partisan radio.  I’ll never know what it’s like to be an African refugee.  But reading can help me understand both.

What’s on your 2011 reading list.  Any suggestions?

The Best Book I Read in 2010

Chris —  December 28, 2010

Of all the 40 books I read in 2010, I have to say that Desire of the Everlasting Hills was the best.  Desire serves as a sort of prequel to Thomas Cahill’s How The Irish Saved Civilization, and somehow surpasses it in scope and depth.

The book begins with a serious question that “the faithful” spend our time avoiding. Reality being that Jesus is the most important figure in Western, perhaps world history, “Did he make a Difference?”

Cahill takes this question on by delving first into the world before Jesus, and then reminisces on his life and works of Jesus and the writers of the New Testament.  Cahill can neither be described as liberal or fundamentalist.  While he gives serious weight to the work source criticism, the study of sources behind the existing cannon, and thereby the evolution of the understanding of Jesus, he also has a clear love and respect for the Bible and it’s authors.  His distance and skepticism makes Desire an approachable read for skeptics and worthwhile for Christ-followers.

Cahill is quick to point out how some forms of Christianity are incongruous with how he reads the scriptures.  Yet, chapter after chapter, I found myself smiling and thinking about how much I love Jesus, Paul, Luke and John, and how grateful I am to be a part of their tradition.

So did Jesus make a difference?  You’ll have to read it to find out.

All the Best Letters Come From Prison

Chris —  December 10, 2010

“A prison cell, in which one waits, hopes – and is completely dependent on the fact that the door of freedom has to be opened from the outside, is not a bad picture of Advent.”

Many people want to stand for something.  We desperately want to believe that we are the type of person who would fight for a cause, suffer for it, or die for it.  For most of us, this leads us to throw in a few buck for a fundraiser or half heartedly attend a rally.

Eric Metaxas’ mammoth biography of Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Prophet, Spy chronicles the life of a man who did what is almost forgotten in the western church: suffered and died for his beliefs. Two things stand out from me from his story:

1.  Bonhoeffer took his faith seriously, in a time when that wasn’t popular.  He was a scholar during the height of the early 20th century war between fundamentalism and the social gospel.  The German scholarly tradition he had inherited had given up belief in the inspiration, miracles, and perhaps even God.  Bonhoeffer stood for a living God and Christ, yet did not get bogged down in the modernist arguments between the two camps.  Instead, he formed communities of praxis, that spend every day in the word, seeking both scholarly and personal understanding. It seems that he was too busy doing “Life Together” to get caught up in the arguments.

2.  Truly believing in Christ will lead you to action.  As Hitler’s National Socialism eclipsed German, Bonhoeffer actively stood against him.  First it was as a scholar, teaching about the danger of a fuhrer and the importance of the jews.  Then it was as a prophet.  While leading ex-pat churches in England, Bonhoeffer called out the Christian leaders who had signed up with Hitler, pointing out the fallacy of their anti-semitic and anti-bible doctrine.  His faith even led him to deceive. He eventually returned to Germany and worked for the German government.  He used his position to continue pastoring and to lead Jews to safety.  This led to his eventual imprisonment and execution.

After reading about the life of Bonhoeffer, it makes me wonder what I believe deeply enough in to fight for or even die.  Do I have a deep enough understanding of my faith to fight for it, when the majority of culture is sponsoring evil?

More than anything, it makes me want to live a great life, be a man, and leave a legacy of faith.

12 Plans for 2010: September Check-In

Chris —  September 1, 2010

At the beginning of each month I’m sharing about some plans I’ve made, with the hope it will hold me accountable.  What are your plans this year?

1. Read the whole Bible. Now stalled out in 2nd Kings.  Got a lot of work to do.

2.  Run a full marathon. Running has been put on hold since my current means of transport is bike.  Enough exercise…believe me.

3. Climb a 14,000′ Mountain. Although I hate to give up on any of my plans this year, I don’t see this as a financial possibility in 2010. :(

4.  Visit somewhere I’ve never been. I’m going to count my week in the mountains of California towards this one.

5.  Find a full-time job. Check!  Finally.  Praise God.

6.  Take at least one graduate course. I was just admitted into Fuller’s MAGL!  I’ll be starting my first class later this month.

7.  Read 40 books. Just devoured Born to Run.  Delicious.

8.  Volunteer at least 1 time a month. Looks like I failed at this, other than my regular responsibilities at my church.

9.  Pay off all debt, except school loans. COMPLETED! I am free of all non-school debts!

10. Share my faith regularly. Some cool stories are coming together.  Hope to share them soon.

11. Begin leading and/or hosting a regular gathering for skeptics and Christians to study the Bible. See #11.

12. Write daily, including journaling, blogging and working on a book. I haven’t done to well at that this month.  However, be on the lookout for a new project you’ll see links for soon.

Why God Doesn’t Talk to You

Chris —  August 20, 2010

Recenly, I knocked out Dallas Willard’s Hearing God and The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence.  Both books deal with communicating with God, and have a lot of insight on the barriers and benefits to it.

Willard suggests that rather than asking the question, “Why doesn’t God talk to me?” we should ask the question “Why should God talk to me?”  As he always does, Willard breaks these mystical concepts into clear relational processes.  We never ask the question, why would a stranger, who I have no interaction with talk to me?  Rather, we will here from God, as we do life with him in the kingdom.

Although I have some struggles with the image of piety that Brother Lawrence projects, he offers an excellent example of how to do life with God.  He spent much of his life in a kitchen.  He would start his time there with prayer, asking God to be with him as he made omelets.  Afterward, he would review his day, what went well, what did not, and share that with God.

Maybe God just wants to be treated like everyone else who is a major part of your life.