This is a list of the books I read in 2016. All the reviews were written in 2016 and are archived on this site in (roughly) the order I read them in.
- The Clockwork Universe: Isaac Newton, the Royal Society, and the Birth of the Modern World, Edward DolnickJanuary 14, 20202016Edward Dolnick succeeds in his attempt to illustrate the history of the greatest minds of the 16th century: namely, Galileo, Kepler, Newton, and Lebnitz. What ensues is an incredible look into the assumptions of some of the greatest minds ever. Speaking of assumptions, there are just a lot of those in terms of what intellectual level people in general held prior to the Enlightenment. We call this time period in Europe the “Dark Ages” because, as bad historians tell it, men were consumed with sorcery and not scientific principles. Therefore, nothing ever good came out of the Dark Ages right? This book does much to correct those assumptions. Another interesting tidbit I’ve seen float around the internet is that these men did not have Christian convictions. As we shall see, this too is ludicrous. The Royal Society was a gathering of scientists who met to show off their inventions. Much like painters and artists from this time period, scientists were sponsored by a patron who would pay them wages to basically entertain them with experiments and the like. Newton and others formed a society where great men of science could come together and share information about what they had discovered and to show off too. Dolnick looks not only at the scientific achievements of these men, but also at the society at large. Many things have changed about our culture since then so to put this into perspective, Dolnick takes several chapters setting the stage, as it were. For example, all men at this time believed God was real. This is not an assumption but rather a fact. The atheist was not prevalent in the 16th century. Newton himself, as Dolnick puts it, would have rather read his Bible than work on science. That challenges the second great assumption that people hold about Newton. I’ve seen first hand the accusations that Newton was not bound by Christian convictions, but this really isn’t true. Newton understood that God had created the world and that his mission in science was to understand how the world worked. The title of the book, “Clockwork Universe,” is an idea that the universe works like a mechanical clock, bound together through some kind of force. Newton believed this force was God. Dolnick also discusses the relationship between these men. For example, a lot of what is credited to Newton actually came from Liebnitz. In those days, discoveries were carefully protected, sometimes by a secret language. What is evident in this book however, is that it builds to Newton’s law of gravity. Each discovery is a conjecture that is partially right until at the end of the book (spoiler alert. Just kidding), Newton comes up with his famous theory of gravity. This is an interesting book and it’s not too out of the range for even the novice scientist....
- January 14, 20202016Abraham Lincoln is considered one of the greatest, if not the greatest, Presidents in the history of the United States. For my Civil War class, I had to read this book. While some biographies of Lincoln stretch hundreds of pages, the goal of this particular book was not an exhaustive look at Lincoln’s life, but rather a short glimpse at his thoughts and motivations. Dr. Guelzo mentions that there is very little evidence from Lincoln, as he did not keep a diary as most people did in that day. Therefore, the evidence that we do have come in the form of letters and speeches. This complicates things and makes Lincoln a controversial figure in some respects. Nonetheless, this little book is packed with pertinent information. For one, I thought it was interesting to see Lincoln’s motivation behind the slavery issue. Dr. Guelzo says that Lincoln got a job early in his life that took him up the Mississippi River to New Orleans. There, he would have seen all the travesties and ugliness of slavery first hand. I also thought it was interesting that Lincoln never had formal education beyond what little grade school he finished. He was a farmer, and when he wanted to become a lawyer, he read books on law and passed the bar. Which leads to the next point which is very interesting as well: leaders ARE readers. Lincoln was scolded for not doing work and instead, reading. He was a vociferous reader and those who diminish this skill need to take a hard look at those who are successful in history. Also of note was Lincoln’s debates again Stephen Douglas. Douglas, at the time, was one of the greatest politicians of his day. Lincoln debated Douglas and while he lost the nomination, he did put himself out there as a successful orator. When the Presidential race pinned Democrat candidate Douglas against the newly formed Republican party candidate Lincoln, Lincoln won. Lincoln then led the United States through the most bloody war the nation has ever seen: the Civil War. Lincoln was an able Commander in Chief and sought, at first, to hold the Union together. It is unclear whether he thought that emancipation was the most pressing issue at this juncture. My personal thoughts make me want to believe that Lincoln first needed the Union to be unified before addressing the emancipation issue; Lincoln’s lack of action is sometimes taken as a sign that he did not care about emancipation, but I find the evidence for this lacking. Through a terrible eastern campaign, Lincoln weathered equally terrible Generals, including one George McClellan who was a pro-slavery Democrat fighting for the Union. When General Grant took Vicksburg, he was put in charge of the Army of the Potomac and, with the help of General William Sherman, eventually crushed General Lee to end the Civil War. As most know, Lincoln was tragically killed soon after. Lincoln is a complicated President. He was able to hold on to the ultimate goal of keeping the Union together. But his complacency with emancipation somewhat tarnishes his legacy. This may or may not be an adequate analysis. But it’s called a very short introduction for a reason. I definitely recommend this book for someone who wants to cut their teeth on the basics of the Civil War....
- Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Blinders to Better Understand the Bible, E. Randolph Richards and Brandon O’BrienOctober 9, 20192016One of the most helpful classes I have ever taken was in hermeneutics. What I see, essentially every day, is people looking at scripture and taking it away something that isn’t biblical. The art of interpreting scripture should be a priority for Christians, and when I saw this book, I couldn’t help but see what it was about and if it resonated with what I had learned it my hermeneutics class. Essentially.. it did. I remember reading something a while ago on how different cultures look at Jesus. In America, Jesus is a blond haired, blue eyed saint when depicted in popular culture. In Korea though, Jesus is small-eyed and petite. The conclusion, then, is that different cultures adapt Jesus to their particular culture. And whether we see it or not, we do this with the interpretation of scripture as well. Authors Randolph (Randy) Richards and Brandon O’Brien sought to find out what cultural oddities we inscribe onto our interpretation of the bible in order to understand better our bent. What they discovered could potentially be life-changing in the way you read scripture. The book begins with a chapter entitled “Coming to Terms with Our Cultural Blinders” which essentially states that we all bring a cultural bias to scripture. In fact, every culture reads the Bible differently. What we have to come to “terms” with is that we have a bias at all. Part one is called “Above the Surface” and the authors deal with mores, race and ethnicity, and language. I thought the mores (pronounced “Moor-ayes”) chapter was really quite interesting. Several decades ago, you wouldn’t be caught dead playing cards in the South. In the same time period, drinking alcohol in California was social suicide for Christians. So throughout time, different behaviors are forbidden by Christian culture but they are not expressly forbidden in the Bible. Understanding this helps us look at passages in the Bible with greater clarity when trying to understand whether certain behaviors are acceptable or not for Christians. Part two is called “Just Below the Surface”. The authors deal with individualism and collectivism, honor/shame, and time. I thought the most interesting chapter here was the individualist versus collectivist. Americans are individualistic by nature. We may be connected with a community but we do something wrong, we take responsibility for it because we feel guilty. In collectivist cultures, people are convicted of wrongs because the culture looks down upon them for their wrong-doings. Collectivist cultures can also explain why things like family conversions in the Bible were legitimate. Part three is called “Deep Below the Surface” which was some of the most interesting chapters of the book. They deal with rules and relationships, virtue and vice, and finding the center of God’s will. Virtue and vice I thought was intriguing: our culture has certain vices that are deemed unacceptable that aren’t necessarily biblical, and virtues that are acceptable but not necessarily biblical. For example, we think saving money is a virtue that all Christians should employ because, after all, are you not being wise with the money God has given you? But there is absolutely no biblical precedent for this. On the other hand, we think that giving to the poor is enabling them to be dependent upon people for their well-being, and yet there is a wealth of biblical precedent for this. Another one that actually really bugs me is the idea that our bodies are a temple and we should eat healthy and exercise. This is a common virtue in our culture. However, when you get beneath the surface, this is contextually dishonest to interpret this passage this way. And it’s very Western as well. One of the most interesting passages of the book was when Randy was a missionary in Indonesia and was hosting other missionaries. On the menu for the evening was cooked rat! One girl, when told hours later, lost her lunch. But it just goes to show that if our Western idea of “healthy” is righteous behavior, what about all the other countries whose culture says it’s ok for them to eat rat? Are they in sin? Well, no.. It’s just a cultural phenomenon that we project onto the Bible in order for us to live our a cultural virtue. As you can see, the Western mindset can be more hurtful than helpful in interpretation. But in the same way, this is a lesson for all cultures: there is no “one” culture that is better than another at interpreting the Bible. The point I take away from the book is we need to know how we misinterpret the Bible and how our bias affect our interpretation of it. And for that reason, I would recommend it if you are interested in getting to know your cultural bias when reading the Bible....
- January 14, 20202016This book is essentially about epidemics. How did Pokemon Go become a phenomena literally overnight? How does advertising spark exponential rise in sales? Why do certain ideas stick and others don’t? This is the first part of the book. Gladwell examines several different reasons why ideas are spread. He makes it akin to a virus: a virus, like the common cold, infects a community. It starts with just one person until soon many people have it. But ideas are not like the cold. They have to be communicated in a way that disseminates the information. In this, Gladwell introduces three personas: the connectors, mavens, and salesmen. Connectors are people who have a vast array of acquaintances. They know a lot of people and they are generally well versed in their lives. These people are important in the scheme of dissemination because they are like the patient 0 of ideas: they spread ideas to their many acquaintances, who then spread the idea to others in a fashion that can sometimes be alarming. Mavens are people who just know information about anything. Gladwell talks about a man who recommended a restaurant to him in the LA area. He went and tried it. Mavens often know a little bit of everything about anything. Salesmen are the people who convince you to get behind a certain position. These three archetypes are the ways that information is spread and how epidemics are created. But an idea that isn’t good won’t become an epidemic. There has to be a way for the idea to stick in people’s minds. It has to be memorable. Gladwell uses Blue’s Clues to illustrate this. What makes Blue’s Clues so fascinating is that the same episode of the show is run five days a week. Why? Because children are not like adults who can remember things from yesterday with ease. Instead, they need constant repetition. Blue’s Clues understood this. In addition, Blue’s Clues wanted a certain interaction with the children. If you’ve ever seen the show, it’s hard to watch as an adult when the host of the show, Steve, asks the children a question and waits for what seems like an eternity for the children at home to shout out the answer. The show was a hit with kids for the reason that it was sticky enough to grab the attention of children. There are other really interesting anecdotes Gladwell brings up. The crime problem in New York City in the 80’s was some of the worst in the cities history. Suddenly, without warning, it plummeted. The administration in New York did little things to clean up the city. For example, one of the biggest problems on the subway system was graffiti. The city came up with a plan that no subway car was to leave the station with graffiti on it. Even if folks did vandalize the cars, they would be painted over before leaving. This small change of cleaning up the city in small ways lead to a big impact on the city as a whole. And that’s really the point of the book. There are little changes that we can make that will lead to big, good, consequences. And it’s a really interesting theory. I really enjoyed reading this book and I’m looking forward to reading more of Malcolm Gladwell’s works....
- Operation Thunderbolt: Flight 139 and the Raid on Entebbe Airport, the Most Audacious Hostage Rescue Mission in History, Saul DavidJanuary 14, 20202016It is actually fortune that I write this post today, because July 3rd 2016 marks the 40th anniversary of Operation Thunderbolt. In late June 1976, a group of terrorists that were part of a splinter off of the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization) called the PFLP (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine) hijacked an Air France plane in Athens bound for France. They took all the people on the plane hostages and coerced the pilot and the aircrew with bombs, grenades, and small arms weapons to land the plane in Libya. The plane was full of Israeli’s as well as many other nationalities. After refueling in Libya, the plane went on to Uganda, where the hostages were trotted off the plane at Entebbe Airport into the old airport terminal and were held captive. The terrorists demanded that Israel release over 50 Palestinian terrorists in Israel’s captivity. The government of Israel was, then, in a bind: bow to terrorist pressures and release the prisoners in exchange for the hostages or not to give into terrorist pressures and risk the lives of the hostages. The situation was made even more complicated because Ugandan President, Idi Amin, was covertly aiding the terrorists by giving them Ugandan troops and other resources to fuel their hate against Israel. Israel balked at the proposition by the terrorists, but refused to give up on the hostages. Many lessons were learned at Entebbe, but it’s important to remember that 1976 was not 2016: meaning, a military operation had never been carried out to rescue hostages before and therefore even the idea was uncharted waters. But Israel has never been shy about taking drastic measures during a crisis (as I read about in another one of Dr. Mohler’s suggested readings in 2014 about the Six Days War, where small Israel launched a preemptive strike against their enemies instead of waiting to be attacked; this unprecedented military strike actually knocked out the Jordanian and Egyptian Air Forces before they even knew what hit them, which you can read about more in my review of Steven Pressfield’s book, “At the Lion’s Gate” here). Plans began to come in about utilizing Israel’s special forces unit, aptly named “The Unit”, to commit to a rescue operation. On July 3rd, 1976, the Unit carried out the audacious plan to rescue the hostages. They did so with precision, speed, and ruthlessness. In total, they were in Uganda for just about an hour and a half and lost only 6 lives; one of which was current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s brother, Yoni Netanyahu. What Operation Thunderbolt did for Western relations with terrorists was to demonstrate that the first solution was not always to capitulate. The Israelis showed that dealing with terrorists actually fueled their campaign: if they could simply hijack a plane and then get what they wanted, they would keep utilizing that course of action. On the contrary, if they knew that military units would come for them to kill them and release hostages, then they would be much less inclined to hijack airplanes. In fact, after Operation Thunderbolt, the amount of terrorist hijackings went dramatically down. It also fueled interest in special military units in Western democracies. For example, the Army’s Delta Force was began to respond to terrorists threats in light of Israel’s success in Operation Thunderbolt. Much of the book focuses on the prisoners and their living conditions in captivity, governmental procedures and planning, and military jargon about the structure of the raid. The actual raid is only covered in about 2 chapters time. I thought it was a little anti-climatic for how long the book is. But nonetheless: this is a page turner. And although I knew all along that they were successful in their mission, I couldn’t stop reading. The twists and turns will make you double check that it is indeed a non-fiction book. One annoying part of the book is that all the times are in GMT instead of local times. I understand the author was trying to help by having that base line, but when you say something like “0300 GMT” you infer that that is the middle of the night, when in fact it could be in the middle of the afternoon. I wish he just stated “local time” instead of using GMT, but that’s a minor inconvenience....
- October 10, 20192016This short little book is packed full of information about the humanity of Christ, as seen in the title. It may be short, but it certainly is edifying and very informative into the person Jesus. The book begins with an explanation of just what the “emptying” of Christ was. This means that Dr. Ware exposits a section of Philippians 2, which says, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” The implications of this are huge and some have gotten it totally wrong. The kenosis was a theory that Jesus empty the entirety of His divine nature, which must be rejected and is not what this passage is teaching. Rather, Jesus retained His divinity but in certain circumstances, He chose not to exercise it. This is crucial when understanding the humanity of Christ. Next, the proceeding chapters speak about the humanity of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. When we think of Jesus’ divine nature, we understand that He was 100% God and 100% man. The divine nature obviously needed nothing: He didn’t need to grow in wisdom in HIs divine nature because the divine is already perfect. But the man.. this is a different story. Chapter 2 speaks on how the Holy Spirit empowered the man, Jesus Christ. Chapter 3 talks about how the Spirit empowered Him to grow in wisdom. Likewise, chapter 4 speaks on how Jesus grew in faith by the power of the Holy Spirit. You sense a theme here? Chapter 5 is about temptation. This was a very interesting chapter. Because Hebrews 4:15 says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” But you may say, “Well yea, but Jesus had His divine side so He couldn’t really have been tempted because there was no possibility the divine nature would LET him sin.” You see the problem. Dr. Ware uses this illustration that is very helpful: imagine you are a swimmer who is training for a long swim. As you are training, you begin to get better and better until the day of the race. As a precaution, you ask a boat to row beside just in case the unlikely scenario of you drowning occurs. As the race begins, you swim and swim under your own power while the boat cruises along next to you, just in case anything takes a wrong direction. This is like the temptation of Christ. He grew in faith, grew in wisdom in His humanity by the Spirit. While the Spirit empowered Him, He was able to say no to temptation in His full humanity. But His divine side wouldn’t let Him sin. This erases some the tension there is in the temptation of Christ. Chapter 6 talks about how in recent years, liberal scholars have tried to argue that Jesus could have been a woman. This argument extends from the NIV’s controversial decision to make some of the pronouns used for Jesus as neutral, which would give the possibility that Jesus could have been a man or a woman. Dr. Ware utilizes 12 arguments to say that Jesus must be a man. Chapter 7 is the substitution of Christ. One interesting point that he makes is people sometimes ask why the second Adam just couldn’t have been empowered by the Spirit to not sin and die for our sins. So, take away the divinity of the second Adam. Dr. Ware says that the punishment for sin is eternal, so only an eternal agent can be a proper substitution which is an interesting thought. Lastly, Chapter 8 focuses on the Raised, Reigning, and Return of Christ. Like I said.. Packed with information. What is helpful about. Dr. Ware’s book too is that he includes an application section at the end of each chapter with discussion questions. This would be particularly helpful in the event you wanted to work through it as a group or in a Bible study. Great, short book that will challenge you....
- January 14, 20202016Early in my Christian life, I remember reading and hearing about this man, Augustine. Who he was, what he did, and why everyone was talking about him was beyond me. But as I read more and grew in my faith, I kept hearing his name and investigated him for myself. Some really early observations I made was he was definitely important. Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestants all claim Augustine as critical to their faith groups. I read about Augustine’s famous “Confessions” and “City of God.” When reading about the Reformers, I learned that they used his texts as a basis for the refrain of that movement, “Justification by faith alone.” There is little doubt that without Augustine, the Reformation might not have happened. His influence stretches from the 5th century to the present. Studying him, therefore, is well worth the time. Some of the basic things to know about Augustine is that he was not a Christian in his youth. Augustine’s “Confessions” was really one of the first biographies as we understand them today. Augustine recounts in that work how he enjoyed sinning. He illustrates this by recounting a story about a pear tree: he and some of his friends stole pears out of a pear tree and fed them to pigs. While this seems harmless, it demonstrates how evil Augustine was. There was nothing beneficial about feeding the pears to the pigs; it was an act of pure rebellion. And while this might seem extreme, after all it was just a harmless prank, it shows how contrite Augustine had become over the littlest offense to a Holy God. He soon become a well read man who also had a raging libido. While professor of rhetoric in the Roman Empire, he had an illegitimate child and a mistress. He struggled with sexual immorality and it was one of the big reasons he could not convert to Christianity. But one day he heard a refrain, “Pick up and read, pick up and read” from a small child. What was in front of him was a scroll of the book of Romans. He read Romans 13:13-14 which reads, “Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” And with this, he became a Christian, repenting of his sin and changing his life forever. Quickly he became renown in Christian circles. He soon took a job as Bishop in the church at Hippo. Here he would stay for his life. He came into contact with many controversies. One section of the book, Dr. Chadwick spends an entire chapter about the Arian heresy and Augustine’s view of the trinity. Another chapter, Dr. Chadwick spends that time looking at the Pelegian controversy. When the Roman Empire fell, many of the pagans blamed the Christians for ruining the society they had built. Many of the Christians blamed the pagans for corrupting society. In this controversy, Augustine wrote his famous “City of God” in which he states that God is sovereign over everything and that nations rise and fall according to His will. Augustine is an intriguing figure in Church history. He also is very important and worthy to study. Dr. Chadwick was, and still is, considered one of the greatest conservative historians of the 20th century. His work on Augustine solidifies this legacy. It is a short book but a necessary one....
- October 9, 20192016This is a shorter book but it’s packed with lots of material. John Walton’s work reminds me a lot of what Michael Hesier tries to do in the Unseen Realm: strip away your Western, preconceived notions about Genesis 1 in order to understand what the hearers of this material would have understood it as. And the conclusions he reaches are really interesting.. Ever since the Industrial Revolution, the rise of Darwinism, and Rationalism, both Christians and non-Christians have been obsessed with material origins, or, how the physical world came into being. So it is no wonder that when we look at Genesis 1 as Christians in our culture, we see this as God creating the material world. The problem is, that’s not how the ancient peoples would have seen Genesis 1! Dr. Walton discusses the idea of the Hebrew word “bara” which we would translate “to create from nothing.” We see this word in Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (emphasis mine). So we automatically assume that this means God created the material world out of nothing. However, the ancient peoples whom this was written to would have had a different interpretation of all the things that God created. Because creation to them did not mean bringing into existence that which was not there, but the creation of purpose to things. That’s why Genesis 1 seems so awkward at times. For example, in verse 3, God “creates” light. But it verse 5, he separates light from darkness. The key fact that we do not perceive is that God is not creating something out of nothing here, but rather God is purposing His creation for a specific function. In this instance, he is purposing light and day to establish time. Genesis 1 is God’s work in establishing function for His creation, not exactly the creation of it. Dr. Walton makes an interesting corollary to this which will help in deciphering the difference between creating and function: imagine a college campus that has been made, that has classrooms set up, that has administrative offices, that has cafeterias and parks and the works. But no students. Everything is prepared for the students to come and make the campus a vibrant community that all college campuses are, but it is incomplete without the students. So this is true with Genesis 1: everything is setup to function in a particular way and the culminating day is when man and woman, the things in which the creation was specifically set up for, arrive and are called “very good.” So you can see how this worldview would be dramatically different than the one in which we impose on scripture. Dr. Walton speaks at length about intelligent design and science. For science, they look at the world and try to understand why things are the way they are by observation and tests, hypothesis’ etc. Christians, ever since Darwin’s “Origin of Species”, have been at seemingly odds with science. Intelligent Design theorists (much like the Ken Ham’s of the world with his intelligent design museum) do so much to say that the bible contains within it all the answers that scientists have been looking for on the question of origins, and this is a well intentioned pursuit. They feel threatened by evolutionists and their attempts to discredit Christianity. But the problem comes when trying to examine the bible from a Western worldview that ceases to explain the purpose of Genesis 1: teleology, or the study of purpose. This is something I’ve been saying for quite some time now in fact: that the purpose of Genesis 1 is theological, not scientific. And despite attempts made by Intelligent Design theorists that ascribe a literal reading of Genesis 1, what they’ve failed to account for is the cultural background in which Genesis 1 was written. All this to say is that Dr. Walton’s book does not advocate theistic evolution, but he certainly does not think it would be impossible. Some fundamentalists Christians will cringe at this, but he certainly does have a point. Trying to fit Genesis 1 into a box that blatantly says science is wrong isn’t exactly helpful for either side. And the debate to try to get intelligent design in schools makes scientists cringe because it’s not really about material origins. It’s about purpose and theology. Dr. Walton has some suggestions as to what can be done to come to a compromise and I really like where he goes with this. Just notice that there isn’t enough space here to flesh out all the details of the book, and if you are truly interested in more, I would highly suggest reading it. He makes some pretty convincing arguments....
- October 10, 20192016Since reading Michael Lewis’, “The Big Short,” I’ve been intrigued by his writing style and the world of investments and Wall Street. He mentions Liar’s Poker in The Big Short, and I couldn’t help pick up this book. Liar’s is about Michael Lewis’ own journey into investment banking. He began as an art history major before transitioning into a job at Salomon Brothers which is an investment bank. He described sitting through the introductory course that the firm gave to new traders. A type of intern. After he got accepted by the firm, he transitioned into a new trader, called a “geek.” The transition from “geek” to being called “Michael” required he make good trades and be successful in the business. Then, the top echelon of traders were called “big swinging dick” which Lewis became shortly after he was called Michael. Eventually, Salomon Brothers was bought out by Citigroup and Lewis left. I still don’t understand a lot of the subtleties of investment banking and Wall Street. But something that seems to be a corollary between books of this type are the topic of greed. The Bible explicitly states that the love of money is the root of all evils. You can see a pattern time and time again of the mistakes investment bankers make by trying to outplay the system and who ultimately gets burned is the shareholders; not the traders. Another theme that runs through this book is what Lewis states at the beginning of The Big Short. It’s wasn’t to help people get into investment banking (which is how a lot of people took it when they first read it), it was to demonstrate that you should do what you want to do in life. Investment banking is a life full of long hours and make it or break it trades. It must be nerve wracking, playing with millions and sometimes billions of dollars. I know I would never want to do that. So I like this theme because successful is in the eye of the beholder: for some, it’s about making a lot of money and never having want with anything. Some it’s having a two car garage with a wife and two kids and a boat. I think success is much different than material possessions, and I think that’s an important lesson....
- January 14, 20202016Last year I read Greg Harris’ “The Glory and the Darkness” and loved it. I stumbled upon a free audio book version and what I thought was Darkness, but turned out to be this book (an easy mistake I feel like; they both have the word glory in it, give me a break). But I was not disappointed. Dr. Harris has given us a beautiful glimpse into why even those who are close to Christ suffer. The book’s premise lies within what was happening in Dr. Harris’ life prior to this writing. He describes a simple story of his daughter taking candy that was rightfully his; she expected him to give it back to her but he wanted to teach her a lesson in stealing and taking what doesn’t belong to you. That expectation is something we think God may do for us: we give to Him our struggles and expect Him to give us right back and answer. It doesn’t always work like this however. Dr. Harris experienced this first hand when he lost both of his baby twins from complications during birth. Months later, he was getting out of bed when he fell flat on his face. After consulting doctors, he was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis that left him in excruciating pain for months. The question he asked himself was why do sufferings occur to those, even those, who walk with Him? That question prompted a beautiful discourse on suffering in the Christian life. If there was one central theme throughout this book, it would be the idea that suffering comes before glory. I love chapter 2 which is entitled, “the Cup.” Here Dr. Harris sets the scene of Jesus in Matthew 20 being asked if the “brothers of Zebedee” could sit at Jesus’ right and left hand in glory. Jesus responds: “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” He said to them, “You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” Jesus’ cup was the full wrath of God on Him for the sins of the entirety of mankind; obviously they were not prepared to drink this cup. But there would be a cup for both John and Peter to drink that would leave a bad taste in their mouth. But even after this event, there is a refining process that God graciously puts us through for our benefit. One of my most favorite quotes from this book is this one from this chapter: We should also realize we do not know or understand what we ask anymore than James or John did. A refining process occurs that makes us fit to receive the deeper blessings of God. Yet our prayers focus mostly on the removal of the very elements that God uses to bring us to the point of blessing. Is it any wonder why Paul would say we do not know or understand how to pray as we should in Romans 8:26? We pray for greatness and blessing from God and then for relief from the divine procedure that accomplishes this. On top of this, we usually blame God for unanswered prayer while all at the same time he is in the process of answering what we glibly bring before Him… It is human nature to turn away from the cup placed before us and not want to partake in it. I’ve read that over and over and over for a couple days because of how powerful it is. Often times we pray to God a request and in order to grant that, there is a refining process we go through and yet we pray to God to take away that refining process. What is clear from reading this book is that that process is good for us; it grows us, strengthens us, makes us more mature and holy. It’s never fun to lose a child or to be debilitated by a disease, but we know that there is glory beyond this physical world for those who persevere and who place their hope and security in God. There is much more I can say about this particular book, but suffice it to say that if you read this, your entire outlook on suffering will change. I think this is the best treatise on suffering that I have ever read (although JFR disagrees, I’ll have to check out the Piper book) and I would caution you: read this only if you want your view on suffering to be radically altered ! (And I’ll just put this out there so we don’t have to discuss it in the comments: yes, the cover is really ugly)...
Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine
The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate
I Dare You Not to Bore Me With the Bible
Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Blinders to Better Understand the Bible
God’s Greater Glory: The Exalted God Of Scripture And The Christian Faith
Rising Sun: The Decline and Fall of the Japanese Empire, 1936-1945
We Cannot Be Silent: Speaking Truth to a Culture Redefining Sex, Marriage, and the Very Meaning of Right and Wrong
A Confederacy of Dunces, John Toole (2016)
How Should We Then Live: The Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture (2016)
The Man Christ Jesus: Theological Reflections on the Humanity of Christ
PsychoBabble: The Failure of Modern Psychology–and the Biblical Alternative
Telling the Truth: Evangelizing Postmoderns
The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine
The Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron
Dear Leader: Poet, Spy, Escapee – A Look Inside North Korea
Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity (2016)
SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome
The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris
The Cup and the Glory: Lessons on Suffering and the Glory of God
Western Civilization II
The Republic of Pirates: Being the True and Surprising Story of the Caribbean Pirates and the Man Who Brought Them Down
Living in God’s Two Kingdoms: A Biblical Vision for Christianity and Culture
Gangsterismo: The United States, Cuba, and the Mafia, 1933 to 1966
Scripture Alone: Exploring the Bible’s Accuracy, Authority, and Authenticity
Dynasty: The Rise and Fall of the House of Caesar
Philosophy in Seven Sentences: A Small Introduction to a Vast Topic
Operation Thunderbolt: Flight 139 and the Raid on Entebbe Airport, the Most Audacious Hostage Rescue Mission in History
In the Name of Rome: The Men Who Won the Roman Empire
The Oxford History of the French Revolution
Five Presidents: My Extraordinary Journey with Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and Ford
The Whig Interpretation of History
Apostles of Disunion: Southern Secession Commissioners and the Causes of the Civil War
The Mathews Men: Seven Brothers and the War Against Hitler’s U-boats
Lincoln: A Very Short Introduction
Why Study History?: Reflecting on the Importance of the Past
This Great Struggle: America’s Civil War
1920: The Year that Made the Decade Roar
Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution
Rough Riders: Theodore Roosevelt, His Cowboy Regiment, and the Immortal Charge Up San Juan Hill
A Little History of Philosophy
Elephant Company: The Inspiring Story of an Unlikely Hero and the Animals Who Helped Him Save Lives in World War II
The Clockwork Universe: Isaac Newton, the Royal Society, and the Birth of the Modern World
The Crusades: The Authoritative History of the War for the Holy Land
Visions of Vocation: Common Grace for the Common Good
Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking
The Darkness and the Glory: His Cup and the Glory from Gethsemane to the Ascension (2016)
The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference
David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2016)
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2016)
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2016)
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2016)
Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World