My Late Top 10 Look Ahead for 2013

At the Crossroads

At the Crossroads

I purposely tried to take a break with my blog over Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s, but now I’m also having a hard time getting back in the groove of writing again. Habits are like that, you get into a routine, then drop it for a time and boom, it’s gone. I sat at my favorite crossroad recently (above) thinking back at 2012 and ahead to 2013, hoping for sun and warms from the winter sky.

New Year’s resolutions to me always seemed like the impulse buy at the checkout line, so I don’t set resolutions for myself, I try to look at goals for the year. Some small and easy, some near impossible. I started off 2013 by reading and finishing Love Does: Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World by Bob Geoff. This ended up being an incredible way to start off the new year, and is really now my word or phrase I want to live in for 2013, Does.

For years (maybe decades now) I have had a constant internal battle between faith and works, legalism and action, intellectualism and doing. Eventually, a while back actually, I came to the ultimate conclusion that it isn’t a battle for one or the other, but for one AND the other. It’s pretty hard to read the book of James and come to any other conclusion, but being a “doer” sometimes takes some work and effort. Sometimes, doing is “not doing.” For 2013 my goals have as many DO NOT do as it does TO DO.

My Top Ten List for 2013

1. Spend Less Time on Social Networking Sites
My goal really is to try to ditch Facebook in 2013. I’m about as sick of Facebook and all it has to offer but there are still a few people that only operate on Facebook, and they are the reason I haven’t left yet. I have some great relationships developed through social sites, but they are largely time suckers.

2. To Not Take Any Seminary Classes in 2013
Late in 2012 I conferred my first seminary master degree, a Master of Arts in Theology. This was to be the first in a line of “continuing education” in the formal faith setting. But it also comes with a price, and that price has overtaken my extremely strong desire to want to actively be in seminary classes. Mostly it has to do with time. Time it takes to read books I’m actively reading for church compared to books for classes. Time away from Deborah and things we want to do together this year, and my ability to be 100% fully engaged in my ministry work each day. As much as I love seminary work, it’s very hard to be fully engaged in people’s lives while having to spend every spare second studying when it’s a personal choice not a career choice.

Scott Fillmer's Master of Arts in Theology

Scott Fillmer’s Master of Arts in Theology

3. Write Shorter Blogs Posts More Frequently (this one doesn’t count)
This has been a goal of mine since I started my blog. The key to this for most bloggers is to give up on the perfectionist in you and just post. I use to think if it couldn’t be perfect I really don’t want to do it, now I’m more in the mindset of how much doesn’t ever get done that could be done because it can’t be perfect. Doing, not thinking about doing.

4. To Not Wear Socks
This one sounds easy, but is really going to be the hardest one, near impossible, for me after 40+ years of tradition. There are a lot of metaphorical and spiritual reasons for this one but I’ll let those hang for now.

5. Be a Doer of the Word Not Just a Theology Debater
This is my word of the year, so I kind of already theorized on this one (see what I did there), but this is also going to be one of my biggest challenges of 2013. The challenge being how to find those places to engage where I can be the most effective. One of those areas being my staff position at the church. For me, can I make my position as a “business administrator” one that engages others in love and discipleship.

Cornerstone and East Alabama Food Bank Food Drop 2013

Cornerstone and East Alabama Food Bank Food Drop 2013

6. Not To Read the Entire Bible Cover to Cover
I love this one, and it is going to be very freeing. I am going to finish my current canonical reading I started in June, then I’ll focus on a few specific books. I have probably read cover to cover now about 10 times over the last 15-20 years, but I won’t in 2013. Being a very systematic thinker I am still going to read the greatest set of books ever written, but instead of cover to cover, I’m going deep with a few specific books.

The ESV Bible, a Moleskine Journal, and a Diet Coke

The ESV Bible, a Moleskine Journal, and a Diet Coke

7. Read, Read, Read
I lost track of how many books I read in 2012, it was something like 30 or so. The last book I read in 2012 was Sacrilege: Finding Life in the Unorthodox Ways of Jesus, and the first book I read in 2013 was Love Does (above). Both excellent books. In 2013 I’m going to continue to refine my reading process by reading those specific books that take my faith deeper. Books like Creature of the Word, When Helping Hurts, Lit! A Christian Guide to Reading Books, Jesus A Theography, and a classic here and there like Leaves of Grass or The Hobbit.

8. To Not Forsake Spending High Quality Time With Deborah
This has always been a high priority for both of us, but that’s only because we make it a priority. The hardest thing about this is my ability to say no to good things, good people, and yes to Deb.

Deborah at IHOP for Breakfast

Deborah at IHOP for Breakfast

9. Take an Entire Week of Vacation All At Once
I (we) have never done this ever. For most of our married life Deb and I have owned our own business and when you own your own business you don’t get to take “vacation.” This year is our 20th wedding anniversary and celebrating 20 years of marriage deserves at least a week at the beach.

Sun Setting Over the Gulf of Mexico

Sun Setting Over the Gulf of Mexico

10. Love People for Who They Are and Right Where They Are
This is not a new one for me but also not an easy one. This is an ongoing, continuous, and gradually adjusted ability given to me by grace, only provided by Christ. And it is also how he loves me. To do this you have to drop every judgmental fiber in your being, and just love.

Project 365 [Day 291] Words for Love

Project 365 [Day 291] Words for Love

I have plenty more in my mind but those are the randomly chosen ten for this post.

5 Books Worth Laboring Over on this Labor Day

Deborah and Her Pancakes at IHop in Auburn

Deborah and Her Pancakes at IHop in Auburn

It was a nice lazy rainy Labor Day in Auburn today. For some reason it seems to rain on Labor Day. I would only know this because last year I noted it was a rainy Labor Day due to Tropical Storm Lee. This year Hurricane Isaac is long gone but we did have a nice storm front come through, giving us some much needed rain for the second half of the day. I thought it would be great to start off this Labor Day holiday with a big stack of pancakes and then labor over one of the many books I’m trying to read right now. Deborah and I were able to get the pancakes today, but I never got to the reading part, instead opting to redesign my blog.

I don’t know about you, but I tend to labor over books. I thought by now reading would come easy, or easier, but I still have to force myself to read. I know this is in part due to the multi-tasking, sound-bite culture I’m a part of, but I know reading is of the utmost importance. Even Paul said as much himself (2 Timothy 4:13).

It probably takes me 2-3 times as long to read a book, but I do get through them. Each book I finish changes me, even if ever so slightly, but I am, at least in part, a compilation of every book I have ever read. On my currently being labored over reading list is The Cost of Discipleship by Bonhoeffer, East of Eden by John Steinbeck, and The Explicit Gospel by Matt Chandler. Call it some tech form of ADHD or something, but I like to bounce around from book to book. I’ll leave those three for another day.

Below are five books well worth your time, and these five books I’m laboring over myself. I have read cover to cover the first book on my list, but the rest I am slowly and methodically laboring over page by page.

5 Books Worth Reading on Labor Day or Any Day

  • How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren
    If you are reading a book right now, and haven’t read this classic book, just put down all other books and read this one first. This is truly the book of books, one of the best books I have read to date, mainly because it provides great instruction on how to better understand what you are reading. For my full critique of this book, see the review here.
  • 25 Books Every Christian Must Read by Renovaré
    Ok, so this book is like a whole list of it’s own, but if you are looking for a fantastic starting point for some of the greatest books ever written, this is a great place to start. This book is #37 on my bucket list, not this book, but all the books in this book. Most are epic volumes, like Calvin’s Institutes and Augustine’s City of God, but they are classics for a reason.
  • The Life and Diary of David Brainerd by David Brainerd and edited by Jonathan Edwards
    Not the easiest book on the list to read, but a real incredible look at the life of a believer and missionary. Brainerd’s diary shows how someone tried to understand how to serve a sovereign God while fighting depression and illness.
  • The Life of God in the Soul of Man by Henry Scougal
    This was a total unknown to me until I read it through some footnote in some book, which might have been #5 below, at this point I don’t remember. This book is just an overpowering book. John Wesley said that of all the definitions of Christianity that he had encountered, the best was that of a Scotsman who lived in the 17th-century. He said: “Christianity is the life of God in the soul of man.” It’s a short read, and an easier book to read, but one of unending depth that requires time to digest.
  • God’s Passion for His Glory : Living the Vision of Jonathan Edwards by John Piper and Jonathan Edwards
    This book, the only one on the list that isn’t currently available on Kindle (although it was when I bought it in 2011), is two books in one. In the essay The End for Which God Created the World, the great theologian Jonathan Edwards proclaimed that God’s ultimate end is the manifestation of his glory in the highest happiness of his creatures. John Piper adds as a Part One to this essay in the form of a fantastic biography on Edwards, one that makes the Edwards essay easier to understand.

How To Read the Bible For All Its Worth Book Review Critique

How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth Book Review Critique

This review below is a summary of the full review (you can read the full review here or go to my Writing Section under “reviews”) for a book called How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth. This particular book has been on my list to read for quite some time now, but I was finally forced to read it for my current Hermeneutics class. If you don’t want to read the book all the way through cover to cover, there is some good reference information contained in the first few chapters and the appendix, which contains good info about many commentaries.

The need for a hermeneutical book such as How to Read the Bible is a testament to the greatness of Scripture itself because “either you understand perfectly everything the author has to say or you do not. If you do, you may have gained information, but you could not have increased your understanding,” and that is what the authors here intended to facilitate.[1]  The strength of How to Read the Bible comes from the overall guide and tone, in general terms, given to the reader, and the methodical details presented in each section or chapter.  This guideline, while far from being a step-by-step process to Biblical understanding, does give the reader general principles to better understanding the Biblical literature, and how the Biblical authors intended their writing to be understood.  This was achieved in a manner that can be easily understood by readers of all levels, and yet provided enough depth to maintain the attention of those readers quite familiar with hermeneutics.

Unfortunately, the book’s weakness, which cannot be understated, comes from the author’s discussion on translations, and their overall choice of the TNIV to underline their text.  Readers today, in 2012, have the benefit of almost a decade of scrutiny towards the TNIV, which the authors did not have when revising How to Read the Bible in 2003.  One would hope their scholarly opinions might have changed somewhat since the publication date.  Any revised edition to the text in the future should include a completely rewritten section on translations, or the authors could leave more of their personal opinions to the side, allowing the reader to decide on their own which translation is best given the information in the book.  This suggestion would follow the author’s own statements when they stress the importance of finding a text where the authors “discuss all the possible meanings, evaluate them, and give reasons for his or her own choice.”[2]  This was attempted, just not executed as well as one would have hoped for.

Overall, How to Read the Bible For All Its Worth is, and will be, an excellent source for beginning a study in hermeneutics.  The text is not an end all of hermeneutical material, but well worth the investment in time to complete.  Any student, laymen, or individual interested in understanding Scripture to its fullest possibility will benefit from the work of Fee and Stuart.  This review and critique examined the manner in which the authors achieved the task of being obedient to the Biblical texts through teaching a hermeneutical process, and for the most part, the authors accomplished this task admirably.


[1] Mortimer J. Adler, Charles Van Doren. How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading. 2nd Edition. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster, Inc., 1972.

[2] Fee, Gordon D., and Douglas Stuart. How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth. 3rd Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003.

Longest Book Title Ever?

This is quite possibly the longest book title ever.

“The book, An Humble Attempt to Promote an Explicit Agreement and Visible Union of God’s People thro’s the World, in Extraordinary Prayer, for the Revival of Religion, and the Advancement of Christ’s Kingdom on Earth, Pursuant to Scripture Promise and Prophecies Concerning the Last Time, [was] completed by September 1747” by Jonathan Edwards.

Edwards was such a prolific writer and he often had very long titles.  So what’s in a title? Is it important?  The 21st century title has to be short, packed full of keywords able to be searched by Google and Amazon, which can be easily found in the digital world of media overload.  What is your favorite long title?

5 Great Thought Provoking Daily Devotionals for the New Year

I started looking around for a new daily devotional for 2012, and I ended up coming across too many. I came across some really good ones I haven’t read yet, but now have always had all intentions to read. This list, to some, may be a little too high church for them, but the wisdom put forth into these devotionals is pretty amazing, written by some pretty amazingly committed Believers.

I will state the obvious that none of these below will take the place of reading the inspired Word, the wisdom placed into God’s own book far outweighs any of the books below, so if there is only time in the day to read one book, for only a short period of time, make it the Bible instead of any of these books below, and I’m sure each of the authors below would agree with that. With that said, the best online Bible reading plans are located on YouVersion, so check those out as well.

The list below is all linked over to the Kindle version on Amazon, but each has a corresponding paper version. I just gave up on trying to have books shipped, the availability, and usually lower cost, of Kindle books just far outweighs the hassle of paper now, to me, for the most part anyway (see Printed Books vs iPad or Kindle eBooks and the Future of Books from back in March, or this I wrote back in 2009).

  1. The Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers
  2. I decided to choose the “updated version” of this classical devotion since it is better annotated on the Kindle version at this point than the “traditional” version (first published in 1935). I think there is a lot of value in the original language of the traditional version, but having read neither in full, I decided to go with one that has a little easier language to start. Oswald Chambers was gifted with extracting the essence of biblical principles and condensing them into potent, thought-provoking, and life-changing devotions.

    They don’t take a lot of time to read, but they can infuse you with the timeless truths of the Bible. In this edition of My Utmost for His Highest, you get updated-language daily devotionals that have become an enduring favorite because Oswald Chambers used his spiritual gifts so wisely and generously. Compiled from lectures given at the Bible Training College in London, to nightly talks in an Egyptian YMCA during World War I, My Utmost for His Highest will lend a powerful spiritual dimension to your walk with God. (some excerpts via Amazon)

  3. Disciplines, a Daily Book of Devotional by The Upper Room
  4. The Upper Room is a publication that is, in part, produced by the United Methodist Church. The Upper Room is a global ministry, which is technically interdenominational, dedicated to supporting the spiritual formation of Christians seeking to know and experience God more fully. While they now produce far more than The Upper Room devotional, this devotional publication has stood the test of time more so than many other devotionals. For more information about their ministry you can visit them at upperroom.org.

  5. A Year with C. S. Lewis by C. S. Lewis
  6. This devotional is a fascinating find to me. It is a publication that C.S. Lewis never put together himself, but editors have taken pieces of his writings to place them in one daily reader. This book of daily readings, culled from C.S. Lewis’s major nonfiction writings like The Screwtape Letters, Mere Christianity, Miracles and A Grief Observed, might be called the thinking Christian’s devotional: it is deeper and meatier than most other devotionals on the market.

    With 366 entries (including one for Leap Year) that are typically one or two paragraphs each, Klein has managed to distill some of the most memorable passages from Lewis’s famous corpus. Interestingly, she includes a bit of Lewis trivia for each day of the year, and often pairs the reading with the biographical information: for example, we learn that on March 21, 1957, Lewis married Joy Davidman Gresham, and the entry for that day is about their marriage. Three separate indices list the sources by book, by day and by selection title or theme. (some excerpts via Amazon)

  7. I Want to Live These Days with You: A Year of Daily Devotions by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
  8. This is the classical Bonhoeffer daily reader. Bonhoeffer put together this set of devotionals upon the closing of his seminary, Finkenwalde, when it was declared illegal and closed by the German Gestapo. The treatise contains Bonhoeffer’s thoughts about the nature of Christian community based on the common life that he and his seminarians experienced at the seminary and in the “Brother’s House” there. Bonhoeffer completed the writing of Life Together in 1938. Prayerbook of the Bible is a classic of Christian spirituality. In this theological interpretation of the Psalms, Bonhoeffer describes the moods of an individual’s relationship with God and also the turns of love and heartbreak, of joy and sorrow, that are themselves the Christian community’s path to God. (some excerpts above are from Amazon)

  9. Life Together and Prayerbook of the Bible (Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works) by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

This collection of inspirational writings from Dietrich Bonhoeffer is drawn from his many works and presented here as a series of daily meditations to last throughout the year. Organized under monthly themes, these prayers, sermons, meditations, letters, and notes offer readers a new glimpse at how Bonhoeffer understood the meaning of faith and discipleship. Featuring selections from classic works such as The Cost of Discipleship and Letters and Papers from Prison, this set of writings follows the church year, making it ideal for year-long devotional use by readers seeking to be challenged and enlightened by Bonhoeffer’s call to find God at the center of their lives. (some excerpts via Amazon)

I guess this is where it gets really high church, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot of value in this book. This book, especially this highly annotated copy on Kindle, provides everything from daily prayers to events on the Christian calendar. The Kindle TOC (table of contents) in this book is so extensive, making it quite an impressive Kindle book, and it’s price can’t be beat at only $2.99.

This is the Episcopal version of the Catholic Missal (which is absent on Amazon Kindle in the same version as above), and the book that the Episcopal Church uses in its services. I have only recently been introduced to this book, and it has an amazing amount of wisdom. This Kindle version contains both versions from 1979 and 1789, which contains The Book of Common Prayer, Administration of the Sacraments, Other Rites, Ceremonies of the Church, and The Psalter or Psalms of David. Worth the read no matter what your denomination.

Reminder Why Christians Shouldn’t Habitually Judge Others

Matthew 7 is the classical section that all non-Christians pull out every time they feel they are being “judged” by others, especially other people who claim to be living as a Christian. But of course Matthew 7 was not written to say that judgements should never be made, only that as Christians, we shouldn’t be “habitually critical or condemnatory of a speck of sawdust in a brother’s eye” (BKC, Matthew 7:1-6), and of course it does specifically say “brothers”, so this is flip flopping beliefs and faith in judgement. Not only does it say we should be restraint in our judgement but it is speaking about other believers, not other people in general.

Anyway, I came across this passage from “The Desert Fathers: Sayings of the Early Christian Monks“, which came from the book “25 Books Every Christian Should Read” by Renovare. I just loved how this Desert Father put it to his fellow believers.

A brother at Scetis committed a fault. A council was called to which Abba Moses was invited, but he refused to go to it. Then the priest sent someone to say to him, ‘Come, for everyone is waiting for you.’ So he got up and went. He took a leaking jug, filled it with water and carried it with him.

The others came out to meet him and said to him, ‘What is this, Father?’ The old man said to them, ‘My sins run out behind me, and I do not see them, and today I am coming to judge the errors of another.’ When they heard that they said no more to the brother but forgave him. [1]

I just love that. Such a great reminder of what Matthew 7 is really talking about, with great context into viewing our own sin and need for the forgiving grace that God provides.


[1] Renovare (2011). 25 Books Every Christian Should Read (Kindle Locations 839-843). HarperOne. Kindle Edition.

5 Reasons Why You Can't Ignore Facebook Anymore

I have always loved this clip from Friends where Chandler goes in and tries to “quit the gym” Everyone who has ever joined a gym like Gold’s Gym or President’s knows… it’s impossible to quit the gym, but today, it’s even harder to ignore Facebook than it is to quit the gym.

This week I started reading Tim Challies new book called The Next Story: Life and Faith after the Digital Explosion, which talks about how to balance our faith with the explosion of technology. Challies makes a great point to say right off, completely removing ourselves from all forms of technology is not what we are called to do, or as Challies puts it “there is no biblical reason to utterly separate ourselves from them“, but we must be disciplined and discerning.

We cannot run away from digital technology—mobile phones and computers and the Internet and television are likely to be with us in one form or another for some time. Nor would we necessarily want to run away from them. Certainly, not all technology is harmful or dangerous. Is there a way, then, to live virtuously, immersed in this strange new digital reality?

Today, Facebook has made it far more difficult to get away from than it ever was years ago, and I have tried for years to stay far far away from Facebook. The short of it is, if you are in business, work for a non-profit organization, or are part of any organized group at all, it’s almost impossible for you not to have a presence on Facebook. And if you don’t, your organization, peers, co-workers, and friends, do, and they will be exchanging ideas, planing meetings, and discussing the overall day to day business of the “group” whether you are there or not.

It’s not that you personally have to be in the know on every single piece of information that goes on in your organization, but where meetings and information use to be exchanged face to face, they now can (and are) easily take place between private Facebook groups and even the new Facebook messaging system. If you are not on Facebook, you are out of the loop at this point. They may not be a big deal to you at all, but it’s more than finding out who went where on vacation, it’s impacting the world within your sphere of influence.

Reasons You Can’t Ignore Facebook Anymore

  1. Facebook is Where EVERYONE Connects Now
  2. This is basically everything Facebook has going for them in a nut shell, with 600 million people on Facebook, there is no other single organization that has more people connected and has a bigger area of influence. Yes there are far more than 600 million people in the world, but that is the single largest collection of people in one single organized area, and Facebook really hasn’t scratched the surface yet of what they can do, especially in China.

    Facebook has been embraced collectively by people and groups all across the world that never agree about anything, everyone from churches to commercial organizations, to government entities, to even the Vatican.

  3. You’re Kids Are or Will Be on Facebook
  4. Even if you don’t let your kids on Facebook yet, eventually they are going to go to college or get a job, and chances are they will end on Facebook, mainly because that’s where all their friends are. You don’t have to use Facebook to spy on your children but not knowing how it works or what Facebook is all about leaves you on the outside looking in. There are a thousand other things that go along with this but I’ll leave those points to someone who knows more about the subject at hand.

  5. It’s a Buy-in Method for Group Communications
  6. Your church, non-profit, charity, company, softball team, any group of like minded people can and will meet on Facebook. I have spent several years trying to find a better communications method that didn’t include Facebook and, while there were many great options, buy in was difficult outside of Facebook. No one wants to learn a new system and keep up with something new when they are already on Facebook.

  7. Someone Else Will Speak For Your Organization
  8. This is one of the biggest reasons to me. If you are not on Facebook as a company or organization, you are leaving a huge void that is going to be filled by someone, and probably not someone your organization has invested hours and hours in, like yourself, developing that organizational DNA. Eventually someone will make the “abc group” that represents your organization, and everyone on Facebook will join in and develop your presence for you. This is never a good idea. Your organizations has probably spent an enormous amount of time and energy into developing a specific marketing and organizational plan, why leave your business to the untrained masses where they can run wild with your image or passions, especially when it’s free?

  9. There Will Never Again Be a World Without Facebook
  10. We are not going to wake up one day in a world before Facebook. It is best to learn and understand how Facebook functions and use it to our advantage than to ignore the single largest organization of people on the planet. This is an organization that started in February of 2004. It isn’t even 10 years old yet and it has 600 million users! It’s not a fad, it’s not a passing gimmick, it’s a privately held company, estimated to be worth over $50 billion.

    I spent years trying to just ignore the Facebook monster, but in the end, it goes back to my first point, it’s where everyone is. I have thought about pulling the Facebook plug and deleting my account many times but there are many people I communicate with on a weekly basis that only communicate through Facebook. Some people are ok with just not communicating, but if part of your job includes “communication” of any kind, I don’t see how you operate without Facebook, even if it’s just a user ID.

So there it is, my Facebook rundown. This really only scratches the surface of what is Facebook. I can’t imagine the influence Facebook with have in another 5 years when they have 2-3 billion users. As with all technology, there are things about Facebook that aren’t cool, and aspects that enable great connectivity with other people. Learn how to use Facebook, understand the privacy issues that go along with being on Facebook, but don’t ignore Facebook because you don’t understand it.

Best Response Yet to Bell vs Piper Debate from Christianaudio.com

I hesitate to even do a blog post at this point about Rob Bell’s book Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, it’s been beaten to death on the Internet so much it’s beyond beating a dead horse, but… I feel obligated. I finished Love Wins last night and while I am gathering my thoughts, trying to figure out how to write a review for this book, my sister sent me an email reminding me that christianaudio.com was giving away a bonus free audiobook this month, by John Piper called Jesus: The Only Way to God. Every month they give away one free audiobook, but 3 days ago, on March 21st, they decided to give away a second free audiobook for the month of March.

Ironically, my sister knew basically nothing about the debate that has been raging on the Internet for weeks now (yes, I guess it’s true, not everyone has time for this stuff), and although I had received the email from christianaudio.com, I hadn’t read the email until I received hers. To my surprise, the email was probably the best response I have read, to date, about the whole John Piper  and Rob Bell discussion.

For those like my sister, the brief of the debate is something like this.

John Piper put out this tweet (archived screenshot here), about The Gospel Coalition thinking Bell might be a Universalist, then Challies, who also has a cool new book coming out, but was someone who actually had read the book, seemed to confirm this, and Aaron confirmed that, but what he [Piper] actually meant to say was he [Bell] was having a McLaren Moment, then we all tweeted, facebooked, and blogged about the whole thing, making Bell’s publisher HarperCollins ecstatic beyond words because we all just sold and promoted Bell’s book way better than they ever could (except a few of my friends like bslash who took the high road and were totally convinced there really wasn’t a book called Love Wins published at all but thought everyone was talking about Think) where Rob Bell then did the Oprah Winfrey talk show circuit backpedaling and saying his book was not actually universalism in disguise and there might actually be a Hell, but he wasn’t sure, and Tim Schraeder took dictation at the live event.

All this should die down soon, although I will add to all the garbage on the Internet with my own very short review of Love Wins in a few days because, at this point, I have read the book, and did this post, so at this point I don’t see any moral high ground left to stand on.

In the mean time, this is what the email said:

Hello Scott!

The last several weeks have generated significant amounts of discussion and debate regarding the release of Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived by Rob Bell.

While there are many great resources available on christianaudio that discuss this topic, none is more timely or informative than Jesus: The Only Way to God by John Piper. This powerful & short audiobook illustrates clear biblical doctrines of salvation, the gospel, faith, and hell, and is imperative for thinking rightly about the eternal purposes of God.

This free download expires on March 31st at midnight PDT!

Blessings!
christianaudio
Listen Enjoy Think Grow

If nothing else, what a great response to the debate by christianaudio.com. If you are not familair with this group, they give away a free book every month, each month it is something different and they usually offer the author’s other books at 50% off (or something like $4.95 per audiobook) during that month. This month it is The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul and narrated by Grover Gardner. It’s free, just go to http://christianaudio.com/free, only 7 days left before they go to the next free audiobook.

Printed Books vs iPad or Kindle eBooks and the Future of Books

I love having this conversation with my paper book loving friends, maybe because I am always in the minority when it comes to eBooks over paper books with the IRL friends. Even if you don’t read my post below, go read this comical view of the debate from TheNextWeb called Product Review: Will ‘Paper’ Replace E-Readers?. This is a great look at the debate, which is sure to rage on for years, but digital is gaining ground every day. Amazon even announced last year that Kindle eBooks started outselling paper books, but that’s old news now (see also What Amazon Didn’t Say About eBooks by CNET). I even wrote this: Amazon Kindle 2 iPhone App and the Future of Books? almost two years ago now when the Kindle 2 came out, it’s interesting to see how eBooks have changed since that post.

I do think that the physical paper printing of books will always be with us as long as we have trees left to use. There is value in each platform, but it is hard to deny the future of books is in a digital form, just like analog LP’s made way for MP3’s. There are many today who still swear by vinyl records, saying the sound quality surpasses a Compact Disc (which from what I understand, it does), but LP’s are now a niche in the digital world of music.

The history of an LP is far far less in time than the historical life span of the printed book by some two thousand years or so, so it may take a long long time before we see paper books reduced to the level of vinyl records. Good or bad though, it seems inevitable at some future date that eBooks will far outsell and be the preferred platform to read a book. This two lists below is an extremely small snapshot, it could easily have been a list of 20 plus, but for sake of being long-winded, here are a few.

The Pros About eBook and eReaders

  1. Price :: It’s almost always cheaper
  2. It is almost always the case that eBooks are cheaper than paper copies, sometimes drastically cheaper. This is just the realities of the manufacturing process. Paper is expensive, uses natural resources, and you are taking a digital original (I am guessing no author writes by hand, but all use a computer to write) making it into paper. An eBook you don’t have that conversion.

    There are still publishers that just don’t get it, or are overly greedy. I would love to see one give a side by side comparison of profit margins for an eBook over a paper copy that has to make its way into the distribution network. An eBook is overwhelmingly cheaper to produce and distribute than a paper copy, so “most” publishers pass that savings along to their customers. If the eBook is close to the same price, it shouldn’t be. DRM is always trying to rear its ugly head as well.

  3. Weight :: No matter how many books, they all weigh the same
  4. I can carry 10 books, or 100 books on my iPad 2 and their combined weight is still going to be 1.33 pounds (601 g). This is a bigger deal, at least to me, than it sounds. If I am going on a trip, especially on a plane, I can literally take as many books as I can possibly read, that just isn’t physically possible with paper.

  5. Features :: instant searching, highlights, bookmarks, notes, and more
  6. This in an incredible feature of owning an eBook. You have instant access to search all aspects of the book, your notes, highlights, and you even have instant access to a dictionary, Wikipedia search, or even a google search on a selected area (try searching the bible for one single word or phrase by paper). Amazon takes this one step farther and offers all highlights, notes, and bookmarks for each book on your Amazon account at http://kindle.amazon.com/. From there you can access everything associated with each kindle book.

The Pros About Paper Books

  1. The Physical Smell and Feel of Paper?
  2. This seems to be the biggest hang up with those who love paper books, you can’t get that musty smell of the paper and ink with an iPad. I know this smell well. Deb and I owned our own book business for several years (see We are No Longer Selling Books as Amazon Marketplace Sellers) and we had a house filled to the brim with tens of thousands of books. It is a smell that lingers with you for a long time. Personally, I love the smell of solder and computer boards in the morning, but it’s true, you don’t get that connection with nature without the paper.

  3. Paper is Art :: it is created only when reading is complete
  4. I understand this one too, but I would think a hand written copy by a scribe would be more art than a bulk made printing press, but yes, you the reader make the book into art as you read the book. If you highlight, underline, scribble, you are free range on the book and when the book is finished, you have a new “work of art” unlike anyone else. Of course if you are one who never highlights or makes notes (and if you are, I don’t get that either), then the book is not art, but just the same book that still sits on a Barnes & Noble shelf.

  5. Comfort Factor
  6. For some it’s just the comfort, like that of an old slipper. A book, by definition, is paper. If it’s digital, call it an eBook, not a book. Some say it just isn’t the same to curl up with your iPad eBook in front of a warm fire and drift off into the greater beyond of reading. I will say on this point that there is a distraction factor with a digital device that is totally removed by a paper book. Your paper book won’t pop up with a Tweet  or news alert while you are in the middle of a deep chapter, and this adds to the comfort level.

Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream by David Platt

After months of looking at “Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream” by David Platt, i finally decided i had to go ahead and read this book. Having read and studied several books and/or articles that discuss the concepts and failings of what we call the “American Dream”, I already had my own opinion about the topic, but still think it’s a worthy topic today. Radical ended up not really being focused so much on the American Dream as it was to focus away from the concept.

Whether we acknowledge it or not we are probably influenced by this concept in one way or another, and much of the time it tends to be a self-focused concept, how do I maximize my 401k, get that house, car, computer, whatever. Radical attempted to remove that self-focused concept and replace it with a global evangelistic focus that Jesus calls for in Matthew 28.

The book is a compilation of a sermon series given by the pastor of The Church at Brook Hills, Dr. David Platt, after he returned from several international missional type trips a few years ago. i have read a few other reviews that have also suggested listening to the complete sermon series in addition to reading the book. Many have said it takes the book even deeper, so eventually I hope to listen to those as well. After a longer introduction period of a few chapters, Platt goes through seven truths, which are the premise for the text and lead to Platt’s conclusion, and eventually to his call to action. The truth statements come from this evaluating proclamation…

If people are dying and going to hell without ever even knowing there is a gospel, then we clearly have no time to waste our lives on an American dream.

The Seven Truth’s of Radical:

  • TRUTH 1 : All People Have Knowledge of God
  • TRUTH 2 : All People Reject God
  • TRUTH 3 : All People are Guilty Before God
  • TRUTH 4 : All People are Condemned for Rejecting God
  • TRUTH 5 : God Has Made a Way of Salvation For the Lost
  • TRUTH 6 : People Cannot Come to God Apart From Faith in Christ
  • TRUTH 7 : Christ Commands the Church to Make the Gospel Known to All Peoples

With each explained in detail, Radical proceeds into the final call to action with, what I read as the ultimate conclusion of the text.

…that means there is only one potential breakdown in this progression [of truths] —when servants of God do not preach the gospel to all peoples

This leads into Platt’s call to action. A one year plan, in five steps (or points), that intend to bring the believer into closer alignment to the truths in the Gospel message instead of continuing on a path towards the elusive American Dream.

Concluding Critique About Radical

For those with an evangelical background Radical will be a hard but familiar call to constantly evaluate our lives against the truths of the Gospel. Not only does it cause us to examine our lives more closely but it gives specific, tangible examples (or points) which are easy to evaluate, like reading the bible completely in one year (either you did or you didn’t).

Some may see this as works, or a process or program, but I don’t believe that is Platt’s message to believers at all. The Gospel is a call to live a radical life unlike that of the world, and Radical confirms this. It isn’t about a program to do this or that, it is about a life changed, and living a lifestyle for God not for self.

For those with a more liberal theology, or those who view some sermons as annoying guilt trips, Radical will probably be seen more as another radical pastor calling on people to give up all their worldly possessions, give them to the “poor” and go somewhere overseas to spread Christianity (which actually is in the bible too, but no doubt some will find it annoying to say the least). While they will appreciate the social consciousness aspect to Radical’s call, some will see it as an “evils of riches” guilt trip.

It is not a book that is going to answer all the questions, but it will stretch the believer into thinking beyond ourselves and the small boxes we tent to live in, especially here in the United States. Some questions that came to mind were:

  • How much is enough?
  • What can we live without for the sake of the Gospel?
  • Where do we spend our time and is it worth our time?
  • What do we see in ourselves when examining our life against scripture?
  • What will we do with the five action items in Radical?

It is always interesting to see if a book stands the test of time. One way I look at the effectiveness of a book is how well does the author make their arguments, and will the book survive the initial pop culture publication. In other words, does the author make convincing enough arguments to make the book either (1) entertaining, (2) does it make you change or examine the way you think, or (3) does it even change your actions and how you live. In short, does the book shape you in some way or form.

Since I rarely read books for their entertainment value, I hope for one of the latter points, and that is where Radical lands. It made me think, it changed the way I do a few things, and it caused me to take a hard look at my long term calling. I would highly recommend Radical to anyone who has a teachable spirit and is willing to take a new look at old ways of doing Christianity beyond Sunday morning.