A Weighty Book on a Weighty Subject

Cover for The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind by Mark Noll, originally published in 1994 by Wm. B. Eerdmans, now available in several formats, including audio. (If you follow the link and purchase the book I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.)

“The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind.” So begins this monumental work by the well-respected theologian and historian Mark Noll. The rest of the book is simply amplification of that one statement. Whatever your interest in Christianity, the Bible, science and the Bible, or why some churches are so fixated on the “end times,” you will find the answers in this book. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

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I Need Structure!

brick wall herringbone patternFor the past three years I’ve been involved with an organization that promotes Bible study and faith around the world, Bible Study Fellowship International. The procedures that BSF follows were originally developed by its founder, A. Wetherell Johnson, who had been a missionary to China for many years. She was asked to start a Bible study for a group of women in California, and the organization spread from there.

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Are You Optimistic or Hopeful? Which One Is Better?

building girders framework

If you follow me on my personal Facebook page (which doesn’t have much of anything personal about me, confusingly enough, since I started it in order to post political articles back during the election), you’ll know that I’m a YUGE fan of a conservative columnist over at National Review named Jonah Goldberg. (Music fans may know that one of Bach’s most famous compositions is a set of pieces called the “Goldberg Variations.” An early ancestor of the estimable Jonah? Maybe so.)

Anyway, this Goldberg has, like everyone else in the known universe and beyond who has anything to do with any kind of media, started a podcast, called The Remnant. The second episode, once you get past some rather sophomoric attempts at humor, has an interview with Yuval Levin, a name I’m sort of familiar with because Levin is a contributor to NR, whose website I check many imes a day. (If you’re a friend of mine through my aforementioned personal FB page you’ll know

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Yet Another Book about Personality Types

Reading People: How Seeing the World through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything by Anne Bogel, available in several formats, published Sept. 2017. Link is to the Amazon page; I mistakenly said in an earlier post that I could not include direct Amazon links in my reviews. Anne also has a very popular website, Modern Mrs. Darcy, which deals with, well, how to be a modern Elizabeth Bennet.

So last week’s book pick was the new Gretchen Rubin opus on her Four Tendencies framework; I hope you’ve read it by now. It is really, really good. I promise. And this week’s book was brought to my attention by Gretchen’s interview with its author, Anne Bogel. I am very sorry that I didn’t get in on the pre-order bonus that would have allowed me to get the audiobook and the paperback versions together for the price of one. Since I had an Audible.com credit available I used that, but I wish I’d just bought the paperback or Kindle version.

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One Milestone Passed

So today was the last regular class for Bible Study Fellowship, and we sat around in our circle and discussed the Gospel of John for the last time. I have always loved the final chapter of John, when Jesus appears to His disciples as they’ve been out fishing, tells them where to cast their nets, and invites them to come eat, cooking fish over the fire He’s built on the beach. I’ve just looked up the Sea of Tiberias and found the lovely painting pictured here by the French painter James Tissot. (By the way, I’d always assumed that the fish that ended up getting grilled was one of those caught by the disciples, but the wording of the actual text makes clear that Jesus had brought it along: “ When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.” [John 21:9 NIV]}

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The Only Source of True Love

Sun shining behind a cloud in a blue skyI John 4:19 in the Christian New Testament says, “We, though, are going to love—love and be loved. First we were loved, now we love. He loved us first.” (The Message)

The note on this verse from the Zondervan NIV Study Bible: “All love comes ultimately from God; genuine love is never self-generated by His creatures.”

So you can’t really “scare up” love. It is true that we humans tend to feel kindly toward those whom we treat kindly and vicious towards those whom we treat viciously. But where does the impulse to do the kind deeds come from? (The source of the impulse towards viciousness is all too clear.) Why do you want to love that person in the first place?

I was reminded as I was writing this post of the beautiful old hymn “The Sands of Time Are Sinking.” Here’s the second verse, which helps answer the above question:

O Christ, He is the fountain, the deep, sweet well of love!
The streams of earth I’ve tasted more deep I’ll drink above:
There to an ocean fullness His mercy doth expand,
And glory, glory dwelleth in Immanuel’s land.

Are You Bearing an Unnecessary Forgiveness Burden?

Cow struggling to pull a cart loaded with sacks For some reason I’ve been thinking lately about the whole concept of forgiveness, and I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s a lot of inaccurate info out there on it. (Astounding, I know.) How does this apply to happiness, you ask? Forgiveness, rightly understood, is a key component. It is impossible to be happy if you’re walking around stewing about something somebody did to you.

You also can’t be happy if you’re carrying around load of guilt because you’re trying to forgive a wrong in the wrong way.

So let’s take a look at three correctives to these forgiveness mistakes:

 1. You can’t forgive on the behalf of someone else.

Remember way, way back when the “Access Hollywood” tapes surfaced, with a ten-years-younger Donald Trump bragging about assaulting women?

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Three Partially-Read Books

stack of 3 books beside sunflowers

Sounds like a ringing endorsement, doesn’t it? But I do recommend the ideas in all three books, and if you take a look at one or all of them you may find that you want to finish it/them. I feel sometimes that certain books make their main point in the introduction and then the rest of the book is just amplification that goes on too long, and that’s my opinion of two of these selections. The third one is really excellent all the way through (or at least as far through as I got) and so meaty that I couldn’t listen to too much of it at once, Then my checkout expired. I do plan at some point to go back to it and finish.Here they are in alphabetical order. The Moore book is the “meaty” one. They’re all available as audiobooks at my library.

Layers of Adversity Overcome

Cover of Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand, available in several formats through many outlets. Visit the author’s website at laurahillenbrandbooks.com/.

I mentioned this book earlier this summer in a post about John McCain, but I don’t see that I’ve ever featured it in a blog post of its own. If I have, so be it–it’s worth another one. I’m not much of a crier, but I broke down and sobbed at the climax, which isn’t what you’d think.

First a little bit about Laura Hillenbrand, whom I believe I discussed very briefly in my own book. She should have a book all to herself; her article in The New Yorker Magazine, “A Sudden Illness,” tells the story of how she has struggled for years with a disorder apparently brought on by a severe case of food poisoning.

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Are You Philip or Andrew?

Wood carving of Jesus Feeding the 5000The Bible is far more than just a storybook, a collection of moralistic tales. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t fascinating lessons to be learned, along with the vastly more important doctrinal issues.

So, as I’ve said about five million times, I belong to a wonderful Bible study organization, Bible Study Fellowship International.

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