Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Popes Against the Jews - by David I. Kertzer

Kertzer's book The Popes Against the Jewsdocumented the Vatican's role in the rise of modern European antisemitism. Kertzer documented (through the Vatican's own archives) that the Catholic church systematically oppressed the Jews through the same means as Hitler's Third Reich, only short of mass extermination. Walled ghettos, compulsory yellow identification badges, accusations of ritual murder and vampirism, blame for all social ills, and racial execution - all originated with the Papal states and were continued by Rome through the 19th century and even into the early 20th century.

Kertzer's main point is that the Vatican's 1998 document claiming the church was not complicit in antisemitism is more of a cover-up than a willingness to come to terms with the church's actual behavior.

Well researched. Well written.

Whew! Glad to have my Holocaust reading out of the way for 2006!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Five People You Meet In Heaven - by Mitch Albom

I really liked Tuesdays with Morrie. So I assumed I'd like Mitch Albom's book The Five People You Meet in Heaven. But I didn't. I wonder how many other people made the same assumption.

But now that I look at it, the assumption seems silly. Tuesdays was a personal experience documentary based on real interviews. The 5 Peoplewas just a weird little novella.

I'm pretty open-minded. So the fact that the afterlife theology is totally wrong is the least of the things that bothered me. It just seemed so scattered and random.

So, are the five people I meet in heaven the same sort that our hero met? - a person I accidentally killed, a person who saved my life, somebody telling me stuff about my dad, my one true love, and a person I couldn't save? Or are the five people the ones who teach me that all life is interconnected, that life is about deterministic sacrifice, that we have to forgive, something else, and bla bla bla?

And then he has to sit around and wait to be somebody's next person (so maybe it should be the six people you meet in heaven).

I don't feel that this book was as earth-shattering (or even as mildly interesting) as the hype about it should indicate.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

The Power of Team Leadership - by George Barna

The Power of Team Leadership: Achieving Success Through Shared Responsibility (Barna Reports)is a must-read for those transitioning to ministry teams

I like George Barna. I like the fact that he's able to get down and dirty with all of the empirical evidence he gathers from his surveys. And I like the fact that he can then step back to show the reader the big picture of what he's really talking about.

This book is no exception. In it, Barna starts out by analyzing why ministry isn't getting done in the local church. He has facts, figures, and percentages. Then he moves on to tell us about churches that are getting ministry done. It turns out that they have moved away from solo (superstar) leadership and into team-based ministry.

When I opened the book to read it, I was a little surprised to see underlined passages and stars and question marks in the margins. And then I realized...these are MY pencil markings. Apparently, I read the book back in 2001 or 2002, before I was even seriously thinking about changing my church over from solo-leadership to team-based ministry.

But as I read, I thought, "I know this stuff..." I guess I have been sub-consciously implementing Cornerstone's ministry teams according to the principles and practices outlined in this book! Last year, Cornerstone started transitioning to ministry teams with the help of the Ministry Advantage Pastor's Coaching System. Our transition has gone very well so far (not to imply that the transition is over or perfect).

This book is exactly what I needed to read right now. And I think I will be using a couple of the chapters as reference material for the next few months as we formalize communications processes and do more intentional leadership training. There's also a chapter on Team Territory Land Mines. I suppose it would be helpful to memorize that one.

I know this book should probably get most of the credit (since I had read it before), but I really did feel quite gratified to read that Cornerstone's team transition is on track with what Barna suggests and predicts. Huzzah!

P.S. The word "qualitative" on page 15 (point 3), should read "quantitative."

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

The Art of the Start - by Guy Kawasaki

Thanks to Marty for the recommendation

A little over a week ago, I wrote an entry about the books I intend to read for 2005. Almost immediately, I received a recommendation from Marty, stating only "Try The Art of the Startby Guy Kawasaki." After a little online research (on I decided this is definitely a book I wanted to get my hands on.

Three nights ago I was at a Barnes & Noble in Topeka, and I decided to buy the book. $26.95. Ouch!

It was worth every penny! Guy used to be the Evangelist for the Macintosh department of Apple *. And when it comes to entrepreneurship, this man knows what he's talking about.

The book leads the reader step by step through design, implementation, pitching, funding, and a host of other necessary processes. Guy also includes mini-assignments, reality checks, and FAQs to get to the real heart of what's important and what's wasting your time and money. And an amazing quantity of the book was directly transferrable to starting new churches or other not-for-profits.

After reading the book, I believe there is no exaggeration in the subtitle: "The Time-Tested, Battle-Hardened Guide for Anyone Starting Anything".

While this book doesn't actually fulfill one of my (self-imposed) 2005 reading requirements (I was looking for Entrepreneur Biographies), it has certainly added value to my life, and will serve as the perfect reference foundation for the rest of this year's entrepreneurship reading.

Thanks again, Marty!

*Note of Disclosure: I own two Macs and I love them.

The Pursuit of God - by A. W. Tozer

The Pursuit of God
An Amazing Devotional Classic

This is one of those books that I decided I should read because, well ... I own it ... and I guess I should be nurturing my relationship with God ... and it claims to be a devotional classic. So I put it on my Books to Read in 2005 list to support my roles and goals for this current year.

And I picked it up and started reading. And there were so many amazing insights in it, I decided that I needed a pencil so I could do some underlining. And then I thought, "Man! I should do a sermon series on this stuff! This is amazing!" And then I remembered that I am doing devotional reading, and that I'm supposed to be applying this stuff to my own life, not looking for ways to apply it to others. But I still want to order copies for a few close friends...

The book is clear, quick, logical, simple, and profound. I really felt as if God Himself was speaking through the pages to me. And then I read the back of the book. It says; "During a train trip from Chicago to Texas in the late 1940s, A. W. Tozer began to write The Pursuit of God. He wrote all night, the words coming to him as fast as he could put them down. When the train pulled into McAllen, the rough draft was done."

The book starts out on the premise that all of us (who are reading this book) have souls that are hungering and thirsting after a true relationship with God. It then goes on to real discipleship issues: uncompromising obedience, radically removing evil from our lives, prayer, hearing God's voice, restoring the creature-creator relationship, meekness and rest, etc.

And I think it was Tozer's understanding of hearing God's voice (not a literal physical voice, necessarily) that really resonated (no pun intended) with what I am seeking most in my relationship with God. In the end, Tozer brings us to the "Sacrament of Living" (chapter 10), where he talks about integrated living, with no separation between the sacred and the secular. While I believe he took the concept to an extreme, non-Biblical conclusion, the idea of a truly holy, integrated life is certainly what God is calling me to. And this concept will lead perfectly into my next Devotional Classic, The Practice of the Presence of God.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Books for 2005

What will I read this year?

Before going into 2005, I was able to spend some serious retreat time with some fellow pastors going through the Focusing Leaders material from CRM. It was really amazing and invigorating. Among other things, I defined some of my big picture roles and goals for 2005. Included in some of those goals are books that I need to read.

Here are some of them:

1 Book on Family Christianity
Adventist Home - by Ellen G. White (compilation)

6 Devotional Classics
The Pursuit of God - by A. W. Tozer
Steps to Christ - by Ellen G. White
Practicing the Presence of God - by Brother Lawrence
(And 3 others not yet chosen. If you have suggestions, leave a comment.)

3 Biographies of Entrepreneurs
(No titles chosen yet. Please feel free to suggest some.)

1 Book on Learning Styles
(Title not yet chosen. Again, feel free to suggest one.)

1 Book on Rhetoric and Persuasion
(Title not yet chosen. Any suggestions?)

1 Book on Christian Education
Education - by Ellen G. White

6 Books on Team Leadership
The Power of Team Leadership - by George Barna
Doing Church as a Team - by Wayne Cordeiro
The 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork - by John C. Maxwell
(3 other titles not yet chosen. Feel free to suggest.)

There they are. I'm certain I will be reading others, but I really need to get through the ones on this list. As you can see, I haven't chosen all of the titles yet. Please feel free to let me know your suggestions for these categories.

Thanks. And have a blessed 2005!

Friday, December 10, 2004

Recent Reads

In which the blogger confesses to reading without reporting

Recently, I have read a number of books. This list may be incomplete, but here it stands. It can do no other. So help it, God.

Random Acts of Grace - by Paul and Nicole Johnson

Boundaries - by Henry Cloud

Ordering Your Private World - by Gordon MacDonald

Prayer - by Ellen G. White

Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them - by Al Franken

A Wrinkle in Time - by Madeleine L'Engle

The Witches - by Roald Dahl

Angels and Demons - by Dan Brown

My Name is Asher Lev - by Chaim Potok

The Gift of Asher Lev - by Chaim Potok

Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling - by Ross King

The Practical Princess (and other liberating fairy tales) - by Jay Williams

Ticket to Ride - by Larry Kane

[unnamed self help book] - by [anonymous author]
...which, by the way, was a big help.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Tell It to the World - by C. Mervyn Maxwell, PhD

The story of how the Adventist church started, developed, and became what it is today

C. Mervyn Maxwell's Tell It to the World is an excellent popular history of the Great Advent Movement. Starting with the story of the Great Awakening and the Millerite movement, Maxwell takes us step by step through the Great Disappointment of 1844, an understanding of the heavenly sanctuary, Ellen White's first visions, Sabbath, church organization, the publishing work, education, missions, reorganization, all the way down to the 1980s.

All of the Maxwells were great story tellers, and C. Mervyn is no exception. This book is peppered with great stories of miraculous providence and divine guidance. A couple of parts are a little dull. And some are a bit over-simplified or over-dramatized, but it's a great book. And Maxwell's specialty is history, so he backs up his stories with documented references.

If you really want to gain a good understanding of what Adventists believe, why they believe it, and the culture that made it all happen, this is the book to read.

Naughty Heart, Clean Heart - By Susan Davis

Mary had a naughty heart and didn't know what to do...

By far THE BEST systematic treatment I have ever read on the subjects of righteousness by faith, substitutionary atonement, justification, sanctification, grace, authentic Christian living, prayer, and witnessing is written for 6-year-olds.

Published in the 70s, this children's book by Susan Davis follows the story of Mary, a little girl who had a naughty heart. No matter how hard she tried to be good, she just couldn't do it. So she did the only thing she could think of; she asked Jesus for a new heart. And you know what? He gave it to her. He traded his clean, perfect heart for her naughty one.

The book continues by dealing with the problem of sin, struggling with sinful desires, and Christ's perfect life. It culminates with Mary's friend Tommy choosing a clean heart for himself.

The book contains a foreword for parents and songs to teach your kids as they go through the story. I do this story over 9 weeks every couple of years with K-3rd graders in our local Christian school. It makes a big difference in their lives. I also find that it makes a big difference in my life. After each reading, I am better able to explain the gospel in simple and relevant terms.

Add this book to your list. But don't get your hopes up. It's out of print. At LNFbooks , you can put yourself on a waiting list for the next used one they get in. I'd give you mine, but the spine is torn and I have to read it every once in a while.

Christ and His Righteousness - by E. J. Waggoner

How to live a holy life by taking Christ's gift of righteousness

In his book, Christ and His Righteousness, E. J. Waggoner explores the Biblical evidence for righteousness by faith. What this book lacks in length, it makes up for in depth. Some pages will give you as many as 10 Bible verses you're expected to look up yourself (if you really want to follow his arguments in that kind of detail). Christ and His Righteousness is a treasure trove of God's love, mercy, forgiveness, grace, acceptance, and justice. But it may be a little thick for 21st Century readers to cut through (as it is written in a 19th Century scholarly style).

What I like about a Biblically-based, balanced picture of righteousness by faith is that teaches about grace while upholding the law. It shows that it is impossible for us to earn righteousness, and that it is a gift from God. At the same time it shows us how to be holy by living a God-empowered life.

Anyone dealing with law vs. grace issues should read this book. Anyone interested in living a holy life through God's strength should read this book. You can order it from