Books I read in 2015

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In 2015 I read fewer books than 2014 but I definitely grew as a reader.  I always thought that reading more was how you grew as a reader but it’s not true it’s reading better books. It’s reading books that are beyond you that grow you as a reader.  Mortimer Adler says this about reading books –

“Too often, we use that phrase (well-read) to mean the quantity rather than the quality of reading. A person who has read widely but not well deserves to be pitied rather than praised.”

I have been someone who has read widely but not well. This year I began to change that. I hope to continue to do so in each successive year.

I love what Mortimer Adler says about good books at the end of his book on how to read books. He says:

“A good book does reward you for trying to read it. The best books reward you most of all. The reward, of course, is of two kinds. First, there is the improvement in your reading skill that occurs when you successfully tackle a good, difficult work. Second – and this in the long run is much more important – a good book can teach you about the world and about yourself. You learn more than how to read better; you also learn more about life. You become wiser. Not just more knowledgeable-books that provide nothing but information can produce that result. But wiser, in the sense that you are more deeply aware of the great and enduring truths of human life….These are matters about which you cannot think too much or too well. The greats books can help you to think better about the, because they were written by men and women who thought better than other people about them.”

This was always my problem I was reading books to become more knowledgeable but that knowledge was limited because it addressed only a specific problem. When you read better books. When you read the books that your favorite authors, favorite author, favorite author wrote you see things differently. You no longer have knowledge about a topic you see more deeply, you enter the conversation rather than catch the highlights, because you see the border picture you see the whole argument not simply parts of it.

Here are the books I read in 2015.

1. Platform by Michael Hyatt
2. The Martian – Andy Weir
3. Expositional Preaching – David Helm
4. The Lion The Which and the Wardrobe – C. S. Lewis.
5. A Tale of Three Kings – Gene Edwards
6. Out of the Silent Planet – C.S. Lewis
7. Creativity, Inc. By Ed Catmull
8. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone – by J. K. Rowling
9. The Tale of Despereaux by Katie DiCamillo
10. Show Them Jesus by Jack Klumpenhower
11. Culture Making by Andy Crouch
12. John Newton: From disgrace to amazing grace by Jonathan Aitkin
13. The Prodigal Church by Jared Wilson
14. What does the Bible really teach about homosexuality? By Kevin DeYoung
15. The Things Of Earth. by Joe Rigney
16. The Horse and His Boy by CS Lewis
17. True Spirituality – Francis Schaeffer
18. Hand in Hand by Randy Alcorn
19. The Republic by Plato
20. Finding Truth by Nancy Pearcy
21. Preaching by Timothy Keller
22. A Free People’s Suicide by Oz Guinness
23. The Book Thief – Markus Zusak
24. Harry Potter And The Chamber of Secrets – J. K. Rowling
25. Judges For You – Tim Keller
26. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
27. Prince Caspian by CS Lewis
28. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling
29. Poetics by Aristotle
30. Theogony by Hesiod
31. How to Read a Book Mortimer J Adler
32. The Survivor – Vince Flynn
33. Prometheus Bound – Aeschylus
34. Oedipus The King – Sophocles
35. Hippolytus – Euripides
36. Apology – Plato
37. Clouds – Arisophanes
38. The Bacchae – Euripides

Looking for beta testers

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This time of the year parents should be looking for ways to keep their kids safe. During Christmas kids get more devices that are connected to the internet than any other time during the year. There are several options for you to do this. If you don’t do anything presently you need to. Our kids are connected to the net through video games systems, iPad, tablets, and the list goes on and on. If it has a screen it connects to the web and if it connects to the web you need a proactive strategy to protect your kids.

A friend of mine has developed some software to help keep kids safe online it is to the point where he is looking for beta testers. We need around 25 parents of kids 10 and under. We will take the first 25 families that fit that criteria.

Here is the info from the guy who created the software.

I would like to invite about 25 parents, free access to the beta, and lifetime free access to the product after beta.
-Each parent can create profiles for as many of their children as they like.  Age 10 and under would be ideal
-They should be open to providing feedback on what was easy/hard to use
-They should be willing to share and tag a few links or apps that they have found appropriate for topic and age-range
-The social links between parents will initially be based on email addresses, so they must be willing for that single piece of information to be shared among the beta group.  No information about the children is ever shared.

What you need to do to join the beta testing group is fill out this form and if you qualify you will be contacted with further details.

Christmas hope no matter how dark the darkness

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Christmas is a paradoxical holiday it is filled with such joy and at the same time reminds us of great losses. When studying the other night, I came across a message by Tim Keller that talks about how the light of Christmas dispels the shadow of death. I found it convicting and encouraging. I hope that each of you who feel overwhelmed this Christmas can find your hope in the light the gospel provides. We have much to be hopeful for and rejoice about. We celebrate at Christmas how Jesus came close.

“As silent as snow falling, he came in. And when no one was looking into the darkness, he came.” – Sally Lloyd-Jones

Just before Bonhoeffer was executed, he wrote this to a friend: “Death is the supreme festival on the road to freedom.”

“Death used to be an executioner, but because of the gospel, Jesus has made death just a gardener. All death can do is plant me in his love and make me come up in ways I’ve never been before.” George Herbert

What is Bonhoeffer saying? What is that? A light dawned on Bonhoeffer. In spite of the fact that there was darkness all around him, the shadow of the fear of death, because he believed Jesus Christ was from that other world, born into this world, Jesus Christ died on the cross to pay the debt the human race owed to justice, so when we died believing in him we can have no fear of anything we have done somehow stymying us or drawing us down so we don’t have to be afraid of death in any way, what did that mean?

Because Bonhoeffer wasn’t afraid of death, he wasn’t afraid of anything. Because Bonhoeffer was afraid of death, he didn’t care about comfort. He didn’t care about affluence. He didn’t care about power or pleasure or sex or money. He didn’t care. That’s why his people said, “You have it made. You can be a successful professor out here away from Germany. You don’t have to go back in there.”

He didn’t want to not go back. Why not? The shadow of death did not fall on him. He lived in a dark world, but because he believed in Jesus, a light dawned. Because Jesus was born in a manger, that means this world is not all there is.

If you let the knowledge of what Jesus Christ is and has done dawn in your life like Bonhoeffer, you can walk around in any part of the world, any century, any situation without fear.

Bonhoeffer is the exact opposite of the kind of person western Civilization according to Ernest Becker is producing. He wasn’t obsessed with romance and love. He wasn’t obsessed with money. He wasn’t being driven to be successful. There was nothing frantic about him. Because he wasn’t afraid of death, he wasn’t afraid of anything. Christmas means fear no darkness. Christmas means fear not. The angels are always showing up in all the Christmas stories saying, “Fear not, Mary. Fear not, Zechariah. Fear not. Fear no darkness.”

Powerful profound truths to ponder this Christmas season. Thank you, Tim Keller. May the light of Christmas dispel the shadow of death in your life. May the hope and joy of Advent fill your heart as you seek him!

Parents don’t miss Christmas

Have spiritual conversations with your kids

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I am a huge fan of C. S. Lewis in general and the Narnia series in particular. I read through the Naria series with each of my kids and have stumbled onto something by accident that Lewis did on purpose. Lewis used the imaginary world of Narnia to tell us about the world we live in. He was so brilliant because his imaginary world creates context for things that are hard for kids (and adults for that matter) to grapple with.

Lewis through his series talks about greed, God’s sovereignty, Heaven, Redemption and many more topics. Each of these is difficult because young kids are such concrete thinkers so abstract ideas are difficult to convey. Lewis through the world that he made for us in Narnia gives us what we as parents are so desperately looking for, concrete metaphors for abstract realities.

One of the more profound illustrations of this is found in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. Here is what Lewis says

“The White Witch?” said Edmund; “who’s she?”

“She is a perfectly terrible person,” said Lucy. “She calls herself the Queen of Narnia thought she has no right to be queen at all, and all the Fauns and Dryands and Naiads and Dwarfs and Animals—at least all the good ones—simply hate her. And she can turn people into stone and do all kinds of horrible things. And she has made a magic so that it is always winter in Narnia—always winter, but it never gets to Christmas. And she drives about on a sledge, drawn by reindeer, with her wand in her hand and a crown on her head.”

Living in upstate New York, where last winter it didn’t get above 32 degrees for over 9 weeks straight, this illustration hits home. To suffer through a perpetual winter without the joy, hope and life that Christmas brings would be unbearable. I can’t think of a better illustration for life without the advent of Christ. Our life without the joy and hope that Christ brings is cold, lifeless and hopeless. So parents this Christmas use Lewis’ particularly vivid illustration of what life is like without Christ to bring to life the true meaning of Christmas for your kids. To think of life without Christmas for any child is utterly unthinkable. To think of life without Christ should be equally unthinkable.

Merry Christmas.

What makes Taylor Swift so amazing

Why more pop stars should follow her example

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Do I think Taylor Swift is the best singer out there? Do I think Taylor Swift is the greatest songwriter? No. What I so appreciate about Taylor Swift is she gets that she is a role model and she takes it seriously. She doesn’t just use her fan base and their parents to get what she wants most. She gets that she has been given a huge responsibility and she takes that trust very seriously.

In a seemingly unending stream of Disney, pop stars overdoing their sex appeal to shed the Disney moniker thinking somehow that being seen as wholesome is a death-blow to their career. So they drag all their fans generally young girls through their smutty transformation with them. They care more about their success than those who made their success possible.

Love what Taylor says on the subject of her being a role model.
“I definitely think about a million people when I’m getting dressed in the morning. (It) would be really easy to say, ‘You know, I’m 21 now. I do what I want. You raise your kids.’ But that’s not the truth of it. The truth of it is that every singer out there with songs on the radio is raising the next generation.”

Such a powerful statement even more powerful when you understand that Taylor gets her fame. “Every singer out there with songs on the radio is raising the next generation.” Talk about partnering with parents. If more pop stars understood this it would be easier to raise the next generation. Thank you, Taylor Swift, for taking your fame seriously.