We Cannot Be Silent [Book Review]

The rapid pace of cultural change in recent years has caught many Christians off guard. Marriage has been redefined, erotic liberty is taking precedence over religious liberty, and the “moral majority” is becoming the “maligned minority.” Some Christians have reacted with anger and animosity, causing deep pain and hurt. Others have retreated from culture as much as possible, shielding themselves from those they disagree with. Still others have relinquished the clear teaching of Scripture in order to appease the culture.

None of these responses are helpful or biblical. In his new book We Cannot Be Silent: Speaking Truth to a Culture Redefining Sex, Marriage, and the Very Meaning of Right and Wrong, Dr. Albert Mohler seeks to provide Christians with the worldview framework to respond biblically, boldly, and compassionately to a culture swept up in a sexual revolution.  Read more of this post

My Top 5 Books of 2015

books2015
With 2015 coming to a close, it’s time for a roundup of the top books I’ve read this year. For an overview of all the books I’ve read this year, just click here. Here are quick reviews of the top 5 books I read in 2015:

  1. God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment: A Biblical Theology by Jim Hamilton
    Too often, Christians spend so much time studying individual portions of Scripture that they unconsciously neglect to treat the Bible as a book with a central theme. Approaching Scripture from a macro perspective is called biblical theology. In God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment, Hamilton posits that the theme woven throughout the entire Bible is that God mercifully saves His chosen people through the exercise of His righteous judgment, and in doing so brings glory to Himself. Dr. Hamilton goes book by book through Scripture to demonstrate how it all points to this overarching narrative with the culmination of the narrative being the cross of Christ. The best way to use this book in my opinion is to use this Bible reading plan that will pairs God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgement with a daily Scripture reading. By the end of the year, you’ll have read all the way through both, gaining a deeper appreciation for the Bible itself as well as the indescribable creativity and sovereignty of the Author.

    “Without the Bible’s bad news, its good news will have no meaning.” -Jim Hamilton

  2. Real Christianity by William Wilberforce
    It’s amazing how relevant Wilberforce’s book is for Christians today (in fact, one of the marks of a great writer is the timelessness of their work). In Real Christianity, Wilberforce confronts the dangers of cultural Christianity that claims the name of Christ, but fails to actually follow its doctrines, commands, and precepts. He outlines characteristics of nominal Christians and contrasts their lifestyles and beliefs with those of real Christians, who live their lives in pursuit of holiness. As you read this book, you’ll be convicted to examine your own life to see if you have more in common with the nominal Christian Wilberforce describes or the true Christian described in Scripture.

    “Why is it so hard to get people to study the Scriptures? Common sense tells us what revelation commands: ‘Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God’–‘Search the Scriptures’–‘Be ready to give to every one a reason of the hope that is in you.’ These are the words of the inspired writers, and these injunctions are confirmed by praising those who obey the admonition. And yet, for all that we have the Bible in our houses, we are ignorant of its contents. No wonder that so many Christians know so little about what Christ actually taught; no wonder that they are so mistaken about the faith that they profess.” -William Wilberforce

  3. Good to Great by Jim Collins
    Good to Great offers a lot of solid advice for building a great organization, regardless of size or profit/nonprofit status. While many of the concepts are broad in scope and may need some adjustment based on your organization and industry, Collins and his team point out some key factors that result in a transition from a mediocre company to a great one. The book emphasizes that lasting change often takes time, hard work, and intentionality to achieve, even if it looks like an overnight transformation from the outside.

    “Good is the enemy of great. And that is one of the key reasons why we have so little that becomes great. We don’t have great schools, principally because we have good schools. We don’t have great government, principally because we have good government. Few people attain great lives, in large part because it is just so easy to settle for a good life.” -Jim Collins

  4. How Should We Then Live? by Francis Schaffer
    In How Should We Then Live? Schaeffer does an admirable job of showing the progression of Western thought by showing the impact that worldview has on a culture’s philosophy, art, music, and writing. The main objective of the book is to show the necessity of having a Christocentric foundation in order to live a life that has real meaning and purpose. As Western thought has drifted from that foundation, replacing it with other foundations or removing the foundation all together, culture has tended to decline in general. He ends the book by encouraging people, especially Christians, to actively engage the culture to point out worldview inconsistencies and give a strong defense for the viability of a Christian worldview.

    “There is a flow to history and culture. This flow is rooted and has its wellspring in the thoughts of people. People are unique in the inner life of the mind — what they are in their thought-world determines how they act. This is true of their value systems and it is true of their creativity. It is true of their corporate actions, such as political decisions, and it is true of their personal lives. The results of their thought-world flow through their fingers or from their tongues into the external world.” -Francis Schaeffer

  5. The Sports Gene by David Epstein
    This is an entertaining read for any sports fan. In the Sports Gene, David Epstein travels the world in search of research that shows the factors that set elite athletes apart from the rest of humanity. Along the way, he tackles topics like genetics, training, diet, race, and “nature vs. nurture.” Epstein is honest in the findings he presents and doesn’t shy away from any potential controversy that comes along with some of these more sensitive areas. In the end, Epstein concludes that there is no single “sports gene”, but that athleticism is a complex combination of internal and external factors that contribute to athletic prowess.

Honorable Mentions

I hope that you find these short reviews helpful and that you’ll take the time to read at least one of these books next year. If you’d like to keep up with what I’m reading now and what I’ve read in the past, check out my Goodreads profile. Happy reading!

Have you read any of these books or do have a book that would recommend reading in 2016? Share your thoughts in the Comments below.

-Lawson
Learn It. Love It. Live It.

BONUS: My Top 5 Books of 2013 || My Top 5 Books of 2014

Parables [Book Review]

Storytelling is all the rage these days. Whether in the business world or the church, everyone is being encouraged to tell their story. One of the primary reasons for this trend is that storytelling, when done well, is a highly effective way to package truth in a way that conveys abstract concepts through relatable daily experiences.

In his newest book Parables: The Mysteries of God’s Kingdom Revealed in the Stories Jesus Told, John MacArthur writes about one of history’s master storytellers: Jesus of Nazareth.

Why did Jesus use stories? Early in His ministry, Jesus actually didn’t use parables that often, but as opposition to His message mounted, He made the shift to storytelling. Since parables communicate propositional truth in a narrative format, Jesus could use them to both conceal and reveal truth about Himself and His kingdom. MacArthur explains: “Jesus’ parables had a clear twofold purpose: They hid the truth from self-righteous or self-satisfied people who fancied themselves too sophisticated to learn from Him, while the same parables revealed truth to eager souls with childlike faith–those who were hungering and thirsting for righteousness.”  Read more of this post

Five Years Later

Five Years

Almost five years ago, it happened: I finally worked up the courage to start a blog. Back then, blogging was just hitting the mainstream with the rise of WordPress and Blogger (and to a lesser extent Tumblr and others). My first blog post, “Sometimes 140 Character Isn’t Enough,” set the foundation for the 147 posts (and counting) that have come since. Looking back at some of those first posts is pretty embarrassing, but it also shows how God has molded and shaped me over the past five years.

Back in 2010, I was beginning my final year at John Brown University, serving as the student ministry intern at Harvard Avenue Baptist Church, working part-time for the Arkansas World Trade Center, and making a lot of big plans for what I wanted to do when I graduated that May. Between that first post and this one, I have launched a business, led a college and career ministry, attended several incredible conferences, gone on adventures all over the country, experienced the joys and sorrows in different interpersonal relationships, and a host of other events that have all served as inspirations for the posts on this site.

If you would’ve asked me back in 2010 what life would be like in 2015, my predictions would be quite different from my reality. And you know what? That’s not a bad thing! Looking back, some of the things that were on my agenda would have deprived me of some incredible opportunities. If I would have traveled to Europe or moved out of Siloam immediately, I wouldn’t have gotten to enjoy the rich fellowship with the believers at Harvard Avenue. If I wouldn’t have started AFS, I wouldn’t have gotten to learn about what it takes to bring an idea to fruition or meet some of the inspirational people in Arkansas and around the world that are passionate about improving the world through building innovative businesses.

The examples are endless, but the lesson is the same: God’s plans truly are higher than any plans I could have for myself. I’m not saying don’t set goals or pursue your “five-year plan”, but do so with the realization that God’s plans and yours may not line up… and that’s just fine. When you look back, you’ll see the grace in the way He has sovereignly directed your steps to increase your joy.

-Lawson
Learn It. Love it. Live It.

[image credit: Michael Ruiz on Flickr

The Beauty of Books

Dickson Street Bookshop in Fayetteville, Arkansas. One of my favorite used bookstores and recently featured on Buzzfeed’s list of “17 Bookstores That Will Literally Change Your Life.”

“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.” –Charles William Eliot

One of my guilty pleasures is visiting used bookstores. Given the time, I can, and often do, spend hours browsing the shelves, flipping through pages, and enjoying the unique smell of the aging paper. It’s incredible to look at the volume of volumes knowing that each binding quite literally contains its own unique story. From the folio edition of a classic novel to the in-depth theology book to the paperback version of a business bestseller, each text represents hours of thought and work to communicate an idea.

Why do I enjoy books so much? Primarily because books are such a beautiful and powerful way to convey a message. They have the ability to inspire, educate, and entertain their readers. In the quote above, Eliot captures the role of a books well when he refers to them as the reader’s friend, counselor, and teacher. Understanding each of these characterizations helps to comprehend what makes books so beautiful and unique:  Read more of this post

Six Questions to Ask When Choosing a Job

Job search

Let’s be honest…choosing a job can be a nerve-racking experience. Whether you are a high school student getting a summer job, a college student looking for an internship, a recent college graduate searching for your first position, or an experienced professional taking the next step in your career, a lot hangs in the balance when pursuing a new job opportunity. As someone who recently when through this process myself, I can relate to the difficulty of narrowing down your options and ultimately choosing which direction to go. Rather than letting your emotions take control and paralyze you in indecision, it is best to go take a rational approach to help filter offers and make a decision. In their book “The Gospel at Work: How Working for King Jesus Gives Purpose and Meaning to Our Job,” Greg Gilbert and Sebastian Traeger offer six questions that can help you find, filter, and select a job. They break the questions down into two categories: the “must-haves” and “nice-to-haves.” Here are their questions:  Read more of this post

Rise [Book Review]

“Enjoy yourself while you can.”
“Don’t grow up too fast.”
“You’re too young to make a difference.”

If you’re like me, you’ve heard one of these phrases at some point in your life. Not much is expected of young people, especially in today’s culture of extended adolescence. This is reinforced by peers, parents, media, universities, and cultural in general. Just a few generations ago, many of our grandfathers were fighting wars on foreign soils while today it’s a challenge for young people to get to class or work on time, much less stand up for something they believe in.

Because of the convergence of these two factors, low expectations from others and low motivation for young people, there is a general stereotype that Millennials are apathetic. Of course, the reluctance of young people to make a difference isn’t a new problem. Almost two thousand years ago, Paul wrote to his young friend and mentee Timothy: “let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12). 

To address this persistent problem, Trip Lee wrote Rise: Get Up and Live in God’s Great Story, a companion book to his latest album by the same name. This book is aimed right at young people, challenging them to live a holy life now, instead of waiting until later in life to “get serious about their faith.” Trip writes: “There are great benefits to living for Jesus in the present. Now is the time when we have the most strength. Now is the time when we have the most energy. Now is the time when we can give it everything we have. Now is the time to get up and live.”  Read more of this post

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