Friday, December 31, 2010

Best Books I Read in 2010

1. A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken (1977)
A book very hard to put down. It is the true account of a man's love for his wife before and after her death. But it's really about how he gets to the point where he can call her death "a severe mercy." It also tells of the couple's friendship with C.S. Lewis and thankfully contains a handful of letters he wrote them over the years, all of which are goldmines of truth.

2. Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman (1985)
The introduction alone is worth the price of the book. From what I've heard, it is or at least should be the anchor in all advertising classrooms since it's been published. Postman looks at the history of technology and comes to the conclusion (even in 1985) that we are only doing things for their entertainment value, and that this is killing us. How much more is that statement true today? Everyone who is remotely interested in social media and technology should read this book. Actually, everyone who USES technology in the slightest should read this book.

3. The Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer (1978)
An amazing look at the attributes of God.

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (1844)
For some reason, I've put off this book for a while. I love the latest movie adaptation (with Jim Caviezel) and finally decided to read the book. The first half is pretty similar to the movie and the last half is completely different, but even better in my opinion. It's a captivating read that doesn't take as long as you might think by looking at it. Definitely worth the hype of being a classic.

5. Jack: A life of C.S. Lewis by George Sayer (2005)
I had wanted to read this for a while, and then had to for my seminary class this summer. It was well worth the 464 pages. Looking at all the biographies of Lewis, most would say this is the best and most comprehensive one (I've also heard good things about The Narnain). It is written through the eyes of a man named George Sayer who befriended Lewis at Oxford. He does a great job of not only giving the reader a look into the events that shaped Lewis in his childhood, but he also gets into the mind of who Jack (what all his close friends called him) really was, what made him tick. Excellent biography about an amazing man.

6. The Man Who Was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton (1908)
My first introduction to Chesterton was Orthodoxy a few years back. I eventually came to love his style and wit (though it took a second reading to get there). In this latest book, the style is still intact as he cleverly conveys a story about a group of detectives, anarchists and spies. It is a very fun and quick read. It also contains an amazing line, " man should leave in the universe anything of which he is afraid."

7. Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell (2008)
I couldn't make it through The Tipping Point. This book, however, kept me captivated throughout. Gladwell basically presents true life scenarios of different people as he seeks to understand why certain people succeed and why some don't. It's a sociological study that is riveting.

8. The Pressure's Off by Larry Crabb (2004)
Crabb explains how we no longer have to live according to the old covenant of "do this and live" or "do this and be cursed." Subtly, many of us live our lives in such a way hoping to receive God's blessing because of our behavior or using God to make our lives work. This creates huge amounts of pressure and is not living in light of the gospel. When I read this book, God was doing a huge work in my heart, uncovering ways I had believed these lies. Crabb does an excellent job of pointing us to Christ and what he has accomplished for us so that we may live in freedom and grow in our sanctification.

9. The Search for God and Guinness by Stephen Mansfield (2009)
Really fun read about the history of the Guinness family and their famous beer. The Guinness company was an incredibly philanthropic company that did much for the city of Dublin and the world.

10. Doctrines of Grace by Phil Ryken and J.M. Boice (2009)
One of the best treatments of Calvinism that I have ever read. The authors do a great job at showing the biblical basis for the doctrines of grace, as well as fairly handling the difficult verses that seem to build a case for the other side. They also give a great history lesson about how Calvinism has lead to much flourishing and how Arminianism typically leads to pietism which leads to liberalism which ultimately leads to atheism. Strong words, but they give some great evidence that is hard to argue with.

Honorable Mentions: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (Foer), Counterfeit Gods (Keller), Lord of the Flies (Golding)

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

My Favorite Albums of 2010

1. Sigh No More - Mumford & Sons
2. Go - Jonsi
3. The Suburbs - Arcade Fire
4. Rehab - Lecrae
5. Contra - Vampire Weekend
6. All We Grow - S. Carey
7. The Age of Adz - Sufjan Stevens
8. Heaven & Earth - Phil Wickham
9. Treats - Sleigh Bells
10. The Medicine - John Mark McMillan

And here's Paste's Top 50 of 2010.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Favorite Concerts of 2010

1. Jonsi - October 31 at the Tabernacle
It was THE most beautiful concert experience of my life. Simply stunning.

2. Mumford & Sons - November 7 at Buckhead Theater
Absolutely love their album. This show unleashed their energy found on the album. I've never been to a concert with that much crowd participation and energy. One of the most fun concerts I've ever been to.

3. Sufjan Stevens - November 6 at the Tabernacle
I saw him in 2006 and loved it but wasn't too sure how I would enjoy this one, because I wasn't exactly digging his new album. I'm glad I decided to go. He is so creative and he made the album come alive for me.

4. Arcade Fire - August 11 at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater
My first time seeing the band "you have to see in concert." Like with Sufjan, I preferred their earlier stuff, but the concert help me really get into their album. They play with a ton of energy and look like they're having a blast. This one might have been higher if it would have been a smaller venue and I was closer to the action.

5. John Mayer - September 8 at Lakewood Amphitheatre
Probably the eighth time I've seen Mayer. Not his best, but still pretty dang good. I love that he loves and is extremely good at playing the guitar.

6. Avett Brothers - September 10 at Chastain Amphitheater
First time seeing these guys. They are crazy energetic on stage, so that was fun. Great to sing along to the many songs I knew. It was also my first time at Chastain and I was NOT a fan of the crowd. Most people around me seemed disinterested, so that hurt the overall concert experience.

7. Over the Rhine - March 8 at Eddie's Attic
Second time to see them play in this venue. The first was maybe a slightly better show, but I love the sweet melodies of Karen (the lead singer).

8. William Fitzsimmons - July 23 at Smith's Olde Bar
Glad I finally got to see him. He's funny and his songs are good to hear live. His songs put you in a very chill mood (because they're all pretty depressing) and make you want to contemplate life.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Learning How to Think Critically

Nancy Pearcey recently wrote a good little article entitled How Critical Thinking Saves Faith. She looks at many students who leave their faith once they get to college because they were never taught how to think critically about it. She stresses the importance of students having a safe place to work through doubts while in high school.

Here a few paragraphs from the article:
Instead of addressing teens’ questions, most church youth groups focus on fun and food. The goal seems to be to create emotional attachment using loud music, silly skits, slapstick games -- and pizza. But the force of sheer emotional experience will not equip teens to address the ideas they will encounter when they leave home and face the world on their own.

A study in Britain found that non-religious parents have a near 100 percent chance of passing on their views to their children, whereas religious parents have only about a 50/50 chance of passing on their views.

Clearly, teaching young people to engage critically with secular worldviews is no longer an option. It is a necessary survival skill.
Read the whole article here


Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas as the end of redemptive history

John Piper (1981):
Creation out of nothing was an awesome event. Imagine what the angelic spirits must have felt when the universe, material reality of which they had never imagined, was brought forth out of nothing by the command of God.

The fall was an awful event, shaking the entire creation.

The exodus was an amazing display of God’s power and love.

The giving of the law, the wilderness provisions, the conquering of Canaan, the prosperity of the monarchy—all these acts of God in redemptive history were very great and wonderful. Each one was a very significant bend in the river of redemptive history, bringing it ever and ever closer to the ocean of God’s final kingdom.

But we trivialize Christmas, the incarnation, if we treat it as just another bend on the way to the end. It is the end of redemptive history.

And I think the analogy of the river helps us see how.

Picture the river as redemptive history flowing toward the ocean which is the final kingdom of God, full of glory and righteousness and peace. At the end of the river the ocean presses up into the river with its salt water. Therefore, at the mouth of the river there is a mingling of fresh water and salt water. One might say that the kingdom of God has pressed its way back up into the river of time a short way. It has surprised the travelers and taken them off guard. They can smell the salt water. They can taste the salt water. The sea gulls circle the deck. The end has come upon them.

Christmas is not another bend in the river. It is the arrival of the salt water of the kingdom of God which has backed up into the river of history. With the coming of Christmas, the ocean of the age to come has reached backward up the stream of history to welcome us, to wake us up to what is coming, to lure us on into the deep.

Christmas is not another bend in the river of history. It is the end of the river. Let down your dipper and taste of Jesus Christ, his birth and life and death and resurrection. Taste and see if the age to come has not arrived, if the kingdom has not come upon us. Does it not make your eyes sparkle?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Truth about Santa

Mark Driscoll recently wrote an article in the Washington Post entitled "What we tell our kids about Santa". It's a very interesting read as he highlights some of the facts about the real Saint Nicholas. He talks about his generosity and how he even defended the deity of Christ at the famous Council of Nicaea in 325.

Mark basically says there are three ways to deal with Santa story. We can reject it. We can accept it. Or we can redeem it. You can probably guess which one he goes with. Here's his summary:
In sum, Saint Nick was a wonderful man who loved and served Jesus faithfully. So, we gladly include him in our Christmas traditions to remind us of what it looks like for someone to live a life of devotion to Jesus as God. Our kids thank us for being both honest and fun, which we think is what Jesus wants.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Ultimate Outrage of the Universe

John Piper describes what sin really is:
The glory of God is not honored.
The holiness of God is not reverenced.
The greatness of God is not admired.
The power of God is not praised.
The truth of God is not sought.
The wisdom of God is not esteemed.
The beauty of God is not treasured.
The goodness of God is not savored.
The faithfulness of God is not trusted.
The promises of God are not relied upon.
The commandments of God are not obeyed.
The justice of God is not respected.
The wrath of God is not feared.
The grace of God is not cherished.
The presence of God is not prized.
The person of God is not loved.

The infinite, all-glorious Creator of the universe, by whom and for whom all things exist (Rom. 11:36) – who holds every person's life in being at every moment (Acts 17:25) – is disregarded, disbelieved, disobeyed, and dishonored by everybody in the world. That is the ultimate outrage of the universe.
From his sermon, The Greatest Thing in the World (9-2-01)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Presuming upon "Open Doors"

There is a recent news story about a young guy who works with the railroad being called by the New York Jets to play in some upcoming games. His salary would be ten times what he is currently making. But, he decided not to play. Why the heck not??

The author of this blog gives some great insight into the decision. At one point he says:
We live in a day-and-age when even Christians presume that every open door is a door opened by God. If it’s ‘good’ it must be from God...but that’s pragmatism at best.
I thought that was very convicting. It's easy to think that way, that every good and comfortable thing must be an open door from God. If your job sucks then God must want you to get a new one, right? Well, maybe not.

The blogger then cites a very applicable passage in Hebrews 11:
By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharoah's daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than all the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.
Comfort, financial or otherwise, does not always equal God's desire/will for our lives. His main desire for us is to know and treasure Him above everything else. And I would submit the more comfort and financial stability we have in our lives, or the more we chase certain dreams, the harder it is to do that. Just a thought.

Go here to read the whole story.