primal by mark batterson

i have been a fan of mark batterson's since i read in a pit with a lion on a snowy day. that remains one of my favorite all time books. i have followed batterson's ministry, listening to podcast's reading his blog and following him on twitter. i even had the great opportunity to interview on the phone once regarding in a pit with a lion on a snowy day.
primal is his newest book and it touches a topic that every believer needs to hear. the problem is that it is an idea that each christian knows and has just become white noise. batterson is calling us to uncomplicate our faith and strip it away to it's core, it's essence. the soul of christianity, batterson says, is the great commandment - love God with all you heart and love others as you love yourself.
batterson is saying nothing new with this, but it is something that we all need a refresher on. christians are labeled as uncaring, unloving, and uncompassionate. these are the exact opposite of what we are called to be.
a sad instance of this in my life is that one night i had sat down to read primal and my wife said something to me i didn't particularly like, so i responded with a biting comment. i opened up the book and read these words, "but just as you are responsible for your actions, no matter how right or wrong they are, you are responsible for your reactions. and compassion is always the right reaction."
throughout the book batterson offers insightful stories and thoughts. primal is a book that is needed now and one that any believer would do well to read.

How to Choose a Translation for All It's Worth

It seems like there is a new version of the Bible every year. When I was growing up, there were about a half a dozen, but the only major players I knew about were the NIV, KJV, and NASB. Now it seems you could throw together 3-4 different letters and you would come up with an acronym for a Bible version.
I have gone through stages, myself. I was solidly NIV growing up. I went to a school which was KJV only, and I rebelled hard against that. I have heavily favored one or the other translation or version over the years, but it seems that I always land on the NIV, which is my translation of choice now. I appreciate The Message, the ESV, and have always had a fondness for the NASB.
In this book, How to Choose a Translation for All Its Worth, Gordon Fee teams with Mark Strauss and looks at all the ins and outs of various Bible translations. This is the third book in Dr. Fee's "How to...for All Its Worth" Series (Also, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth and How to Read the Bible Book by Book). This book does not only shed light on how to choose a translation for yourself, but also a little into the purpose for using multiple translations and understanding why there are so many different translations.
The authors also delve into different issues that translators face in the translation process - issues of gender and culture - as well as how to word idioms, and metaphors and poetry. The final chapter is quite helpful as the authors classify and review contemporary versions.
This is a book also which can be helpful to read either straight through or bit by bit as you encounter of face new questions in regards to Bible translations. Whether you are trying to find your first Bible or you have a copy of each translation and wish to understand the background of them, this book will be very approachable for you.


Will I Read That Again?

One of my favorite websites is The Simple Dollar. It is primarily a site with sound financial advice, but it also offers a whole host of different ideas on living simply. This is a concept which I have really taken interest in. One suggestion I took from a Simple Dollar post was to go into a room and find items that you have not used in the last 6 months and sell or donate them. Other than digital music and Chicago Cubs memorabilia, the only thing I collect is books. Many times my wife has asked me before I buy a book, "but don't you have a bunch that you haven't read on your shelf?" I used to answer that it was true, but I would get to them all.
I decided that I would scale down my book collection, radically. I sold all books that I could find at the local library, or which are public domain online. Next, I went through and pulled the books which I had read, or partially read, that I would not read again. Finally I went through and honestly asked of books I hadn't yet read, if I would.
Well, I wanted to whittle down to one book shelf and I was able to do so. I took about fifteen boxes over to half-price books and I have saved the rest for the next time i go to Grand Rapids. The Baker Book House buys used books and they are better suited for the ones I have kept.
Anywho, what did I keep and why? I kept all my NIV Application Commentaries for the OT (I have the NT on CD-ROM), many of the books on marriage I have (including all books by Les and Leslie Parrott), as well as many of the parenting books I have picked up over the past few months.
I would be remiss if I rid myself of C.S. Lewis, so I kept every book of his I own, as well Lilith and Phantasies, two books of George MacDonald which greatly inspired Lewis.
I will list some of the books I kept which I have yet to read in a future post, but I wanted to talk about a couple I kept - ones I have read multiple times and will read again multiple times.
  • Leap Over a Wall, by Eugene Peterson. I have talked about this book before on this site, here, and again, I really enjoy this book. I think that anyone would do well to read this, whether you are a pastor, new believer, or somewhere in between.
  • The Jesus Way, by Eugene Peterson. I have actually kept all three of the books from what is promised to be a five volume set. Look for my review of this book on this site, here.
  • Searching for God Knows What, by Donald Miller. I drank this book up when I first read it. Most people talk about Blue Like Jazz, but I found this book to be Mr. Miller's best.
  • Money, Possessions and Eternity, by Randy Alcorn. This book changed my thinking in the realm of finances. I dare you to read this book and not re-evaluate how you look at money and possessions. Check out my review of this book here.
  • The Signature of Jesus, by Brennan Manning. I first read this book in high school. A great read and one that needs more than a blurb regarding it. In the future, I will write up a full review.
  • Knowing God, by J.I. Packer. A classic that many have read, and those who have not, should.


The Sacred Romance

I had written off John Eldredge. Someone whose opinion regarding authors and books I really respected did not think too highly of Mr Eldredge's writings, so that was good enough for me. ( I have since found that many of the authors this respected person did not think much of have become favorite authors of mine, and ones who have helped me a great deal in my journey with Jesus).
Like me, many people have either read Mr Eldredge or have their minds made up about him. I have recently given him a fair approach and have come to really find his writing helpful. In The Sacred Romance, Mr Eldredge, along with his now deceased friend Brent Curtis, look at the Christian life not as a series of principles to live by, but a story to be engaged in. The authors believe that we try to boil Christianity down to 10 steps to discipleship, 7 ways to better prayer, 3 facts to know to get into heaven.
Not that the authors are attempting to throw out doctrine, but that too often, we get caught up in that while forgetting the story we are in. Claiming that books and movies tell no new stories, only retell the story of God and humanity, they illustrate the story of God with movies such as Titanic and Last of the Mohican's.
I have always struggled in trying to get my faith out of my head and into my heart. I grew up in a pastor's home and have had biblical teaching since the womb, practically. Facts about Christianity have never been in short supply for me, but true excitement and joy about my faith were seemingly hard to come by. This was also a struggle as I sought to do more than teach my teens (as a youth pastor) but engage them with God. I wish I was aware of Mr Eldredge then. But I am very glad that although I want my son to know Scripture and hold correct doctrine, I can also pass along a heart-knowledge of God.
I highly recommend this book as well as the other resources available by Mr Eldredge. For more, visit his website, Ransomed Heart


Identity Theft

Mike Breaux is one of the teaching pastors at WillowCreek. In his new book, Identity Theft, Mr Breaux addresses the issue of who we are. Too often, when we are asked to tell who we are we depend on our jobs, our family, our accomplishments and other such things about us. Those things may be true about us, but they do not get at the heart of who we are.
Mr Breaux looks to four areas ( our relationships, our success, our appearance, and our past) in which we look for identity and shows how God can transform our dependence on those areas and reclaim our identity in him. Mr Breaux believes from both personal experience and from Scripture that each of us is looking for one thing - unfailing love - and we look to the four areas (above) for that unfailing love. However, the only source of unfailing love is Jesus and it is only in getting past our relationships, success, past and appearance that we can find that rest in God.
While there are very good thoughts and important ideas within this little book, it does seem like a sermon put into a book. Mr Breaux has a relaxed writing style and uses a variety of both Scripture and personal story to back up and illustrate his point. I see this as a good book to peruse in a bookstore, or borrow from a friend, but not one to purcahse.


every man's battle video

The Every Man's Battle Video study is designed to be an integral part for men when it comes to living a life of sexual integrity. The book, workbook and DVD (all included in the curriculum kit) make a complete resource to help men win the war on sexual temptation - individually and corporately.

This kit is a fantastic resource for every men's ministry to have and use. The authors (Steve Arterburn & Fred Stoeker) quote a stat that 10% of men have no temptation with lust and 10% are sexually deviant. That leaves 80% of all men who vary in their struggle with sexual purity. I do not find myself in either category of 10%, but squarely in the high end of the 80%. I found this material to be incredibly helpful in theory and in practice. I began working through this curriculum a few weeks ago when it first came available and I can honestly say that not a day has gone by where I did not rely on one or more of the principles from this kit to keep my eyes, mind and heart clean and pure.

The premise is that this is a fight that every man faces and that every man can win. It is not something that goes away as you get older, or married. It is a sin that, left unaccounted for, will grow and fester. Mr Arterburn and Mr Stoeker present their material in an easy to understand way and filled with Scripture. They define sexual purity as not receiving sexual gratification from any other source than your wife. That is abnormal to our cultural mindset. Pornography, masturbation, sexual fantasies, extra-marital affairs and sex before marriage are accepted and even considered normal.

God calls us to be holy, to be pure. And if God calls us to this, than it is something that, through his power, we can accomplish. I firmly believe that this material in the Every Man's Battle will help significantly. Check it out for yourself. Below is a trailer from the video series. If you struggle with purity or are involved in a men's ministry, this material will be of great use to you.