The Most Thoughtful Article I’ve Seen On North Korea

This article is important because it illustrates the one thing we are overlooking. At least I was overlooking it. Maybe you were not.

Total war is different than limited war. Let’s just bomb them like we did Iraq won’t bring the happy results it did then. We’ve fought limited wars for so long you’d have to go back to the WWII generation to have any idea.

Whatever we do, and likely there is no perfect option, we must keep this in mind.

Without further ado, here the timely article we all need to consider:

Into the Abyss-the Scenario for the Next Korean War 

The Real Facts About the Latest Generation!

blog phoneI’ve heard it in bits and pieces and had already decided that the smartphone was the defining factor of this generation approaching adulthood. Now I came across a substantive article that has hard data behind what it says. The point is not to bash this generation. How could we? Wouldn’t it be more a reflection of we who are as the generation raising them?

The truth is that every generation has its strengths and weaknesses. That translates to the latest generation being better in a few categories, but its problems are of concern and worthy of our attention.

This generation lives with its parents knowing where they are far more than any generation alive today. For that reason, you could say that they are physically safer. They tend to be less motivated to drive and have fewer wrecks. Their average age of the first sexual encounter is actually older than the last several generations – that’s certainly a plus. If you dig through the data in the article, you will see more of this type of positive information.

Strangely enough, some of their biggest problems springs from the same areas. This is the least-interested-in-independence generation we’ve seen. If they have a nice bedroom, in which to lay and be on their smart phones, they are satisfied. The article mentioned several of them have an indention in their bed from lying there on the phone so much. Many of them are not really interested in driving. Does that surprise you as much as me? Many of them are developmentally at least two years behind.

While the rate of teen homicide is down (that’s a plus!), the rate of teen suicide is far higher. Quite frankly, many of them are not happy. The article explained how the ones who are on their smart phones over the average rank much higher on the chart of unhappiness and suicidal feelings.

The article, which was not in a Christian publication, mentioned sports, other activities, and less social media as having great improvement in the data on being happy and not feeling suicidal. Although the article wasn’t Christian in any way, I couldn’t help but notice that those young people very active in what the author called “religious activities”, fared much better as well. I suppose the data will always bear out that the parents who forget God in their home will reap a whirlwind in their children.

Here’s the great article that you will want to ingest slowly: Has Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?

There’s so much more in this article. Read it for yourself. We parents need some deep reflection about whether our homes are just going to be like the average of the world today, or are we going to swim upstream to go after different results. May the Lord help us all in the choppy waters that we Christian parents now navigate.

Introverts in the Church by Adam McHugh

book introverts

What a wonderful book! As an introvert myself, I’m thrilled to report that introvert Adam McHugh has looked into who we are and explained it perfectly. Only a true introvert could have explained the feelings and perceptions of an introvert with such accuracy. Not only does this book contain what introverts have been waiting a long time to hear, but it’s also a perfect primer for extroverts to understand all of us introverts that they have always been clueless about. As the title suggests, McHugh brings this important discussion into churches. He seeks to guide introverts in “finding our place in an extroverted culture”.

I was hooked by the preface. When he explained that we would have to dig in this subject to the point that it might appear that he was “feeding the impression that we are misanthropic weirdos”, I knew I wanted to hear what he had to say.

He makes a case in the introduction that introverts can thrive in the church. As he will do throughout the entire book, that does not mean that we introverts must deny who we are or act like something we are not. He makes a clear case that local churches today are all geared toward the extroverts. He explains how our culture values extraversion over introversion, though without compelling proof that it should be so. As we said before, he explained so beautifully what life inside an introvert’s head is really like. He clarified how we feel at some social gatherings or settings. He encourages us to quit feeling like we are weird or of less value, and to seek healing from the bad misconceptions that we have lived with.

He explained what introverted spirituality is, and though it’s easily distinguished from the extroverted type, it still has great depth. He explained how we are in community and relationships. We don’t live without community or relationships, but we are different.

Finally the book turns to the subject of leadership and introverts. There is an unsubstantiated belief that only extroverts make good leaders. Fact and history both prove this to be untrue. Some extroverts succeed by being charismatic, dominant, gregarious, or even a superstar, and can even operate a cult of personality. In some cases, the company doesn’t glean anything from the tightness of the followers of these extroverted leaders. In other words, it’s only been about them. He gives wonderful thoughts about how we might lead without yielding the essence of who we are as introverts. He is very practical in how we might be a better leader, as well as thoughts about a subject that most all introverts find difficult: evangelism. He concludes with encouraging us to make sure introverts have a place in our churches.

This book spoke to me. I’m convinced that every Christian introvert ought to read it. Further, it would be quite wonderful if we could talk a few extroverts into reading it with us.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi–2 OTL volumes

Haggai and Zechariah 1-8

David Petersen first gave us Haggai and Zechariah 1-8 in the Old Testament Library (OTL) series. Later, he wrote a follow-up volumes  His two books have been influential and oft-cited volumes for several years now. 

Considered by many as the best critical commentary out there, this book has several features that we of a more conservative persuasion can glean from.

In this volume, Petersen deals first with Haggai and gives it its own Introduction. After some comments about how Haggai relates to the other “Latter Prophets”, he describes the times of the prophet. He really fleshed out that subject well and interacted with several other scholars. In his discussion of the book itself, he reviews the “prose or poetry” debate and went through his beliefs on composition. Though I could not agree with him, he stated his thoughts clearly.  From there he jumped into his commentary itself. It’s quality and design holds up well with the rest of the series.

On page 107, Petersen begins his treatment of Zechariah 1-8. He immediately tells us that he follows “the critical judgment of scholars over the years who have discerned a fundamental division between Zechariah 1-8 and 9-14.” Though there’s conservative scholars who disagree, he sets out and explains well the critical position.

He begins in this case with describing the person of Zechariah. Next, he provides a lengthy section on the book in the same style as he did on Haggai. His viewpoint requires distinguishing what he sees as the different oracles in Zechariah.

Overall, he provides as good a volume as is out there on these Prophets for those who seek a clear critical viewpoint.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Zechariah 9-14 and Malachi 

David Petersen worked another decade before he finished what he began in the earlier Haggai and Zechariah 1-8. Both volumes are in the respected Old Testament Library (OTL) series.

Unlike the earlier volume, he covered both prophets and books in one Introduction. He began by stating that the last 10 chapters of the Old Testament (the chapters he covers) are as difficult as any in the OT. 

He goes into a lengthy discussion of the historical context of these prophets. Though I would disagree on several points, this discussion was fascinating and the most valuable of the entire book. 

Next, he explains why Zechariah had to be chopped up in his view. His arguments don’t hold for this reviewer, but be does write clearly so you can trace his thinking. He is briefer in his discussion of Malachi.

The commentary is in the same style as the earlier volume and for several others in the series for that matter.

This will be my go-to volume if I want to study how the other side of scholarship views these prophets. Again, he writes in a clear words and provides a transparent presentation of what he believes. For what it is, this is an important book.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

2 More IVP New Tesament Commentaries

Here’s two commentaries that you might want to check out:

1. Mark (IVPNT) by Ronald Kernaghan

Kernaghan wrote this volume in the respected IVPNT series that’s aimed at pastors, teachers, and small groups. I’d define this book as a solid work.

He adequately covers the basics in his Introduction to Mark. He begins by explaining why many scholars came to believe in the priority of Mark. In discussing authorship he reminds us that Mark has always traditionally been considered the author until more recent times. He reaches conservative conclusions on audience, date, and place of origin. His conclusions on “the gospel as parable ” are a little more sketchy to my mind.

After an outline, he jumps into the commentary proper that makes up the bulk of the book. Again, the word that comes to mind is “solid”. In every passage he opens with a modern history parallel to what he feels the passage is saying. Some fit better than others, but some readers may love that unique approach. All in all, this volume will be appreciated by its target audience.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

2. John (IVPNT) by Rodney Whitacre 

Whitacre provides one of the longest and most exceptional commentaries in the respected IVPNT series edited by respected scholar Grant Osborne. If you search, I think you’ll find most reviews will agree with my assessment.

The Introduction begins by his confessing the awesomeness of John’s Gospel. He introduces the two views of authorship which are a single author versus multiple authors. He admits complexity and offers three possible explanations for it.  He finally sees the profundity of John as the better explanation. 

He writes well on chronological and other differences with the Synoptics. He lays out the options on date, location, and purposes with equal aplomb. He makes sense of John’s uniqueness and theology and themes. In his allotted space, Whitacre does a great job in the Introduction.

The commentary is ideal for a mid-length commentary and its target audience. This book is a winner.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

The Bully Pulpit by Doris Kearns Goodwin (Presidential Bio. Series)

book bully pulpit

You would have thought the design of this book would have caused it to collapse under its own weight. I mean how could a biography of two presidents along with the most influential journalists of the age possibly work? I mean the word that comes to mind is–unfocused! Believe it or not, Doris Kearns Goodwin pulled it off. Count this as one of the really enjoyable presidential biographies out there.

Having Teddy Roosevelt didn’t hurt its chances of holding interest with his colorful life. I’ve read a few books on him and would summarize him as larger-than-life, principled, but egotistical. His zeal was legendary, but his pride was too. Though he was agreeable to Christian moral principles (perhaps more than several that held the office), he was not a man with faith in anyone other than himself.

My biggest surprise was how likable Taft was. A gentleman that was a perfect candidate for best friend. Not really a Christian, but a fine moral, upstanding man is how I would describe him. Over the course of a deep, yet turbulent friendship, Taft was much the better friend to Roosevelt than the other way around. Goodwin did a great job in bringing their relationship alive.

At first I didn’t enjoy the biography space given to key journalists, though I did grow to appreciate it. They really had an impact on that time period–so much so that I wonder if Roosevelt could have risen as far as he did in another epoch.

Goodwin has turned out an enjoyable read here. I feel like I know both men so much better.

Biblical Theology for Christian Proclaimation: 1-2 Timothy and Titus

book pastorals

 This second release in the Biblical Theology for Christian Proclamation (BTCP) series by B & H Publishing is a home run. Andreas Kostenberger has produced a conservative, thoughtful, and winning commentary on the Pastoral Epistles. I anticipated a good volume based on what he has written and edited on the highly-debated passages of these books in the past, and if anything, this volume exceeds my expectations. You have to love a book that holds to biblical inerrancy, has a complementarian viewpoint, and does not run off the rails with esoteric or pointless scholarly misconceptions.

His Introduction covers much of the typical information that you would find in any substantial commentary on the Pastoral Epistles, which he prefers to call LTT, or Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus. Authorship, date, relation between the three letters, and the roles of Timothy and Titus (he sees them as apostolic delegates rather than pastors). He further discusses canonicity, authenticity (which he fully accepts), chronology, and historical context. He has an interesting section on literary analysis and structure as well.

Still, the commentary proper is what I loved. Even better, he always did his best work in the harder passages. Passages on pastoral qualifications, women in ministry, and household code were handled with aplomb. As is an aim of the series, he beautifully draws out theology too. Can you tell I’m really high on this commentary? I couldn’t imagine not using it in any future study in the Pastoral Epistles.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Micah (OTL) by Smith-Christopher

book micah otl

This commentary on the Book of Micah is one of the latest entries in the Old Testament Library (OTL) series. A reviewer that I respect said he found this book to be “rich”, so I was anxious to dig into it. Daniel L. Smith-Christopher has produced this provocative commentary from the critical side of scholarship and “rich” is a fair assessment. Though I found many points at which I would disagree with the author, it’s the quality of writing that makes me rank this volume highly.

Mr. Smith-Christopher provides an introduction that is longer than some of those I have found this series. After a substantial bibliography, he dives into the introduction saying that he proposes “reading the book of Micah as an ancient Israelite ‘critical populist’, whose attitudes were fueled partially by his location as a ‘lowlander’”. Though at times he stretches the politics too far and reads too much of a modern take on Micah’s day, he does discuss issues that could have been in play in Micah’s day that other scholars overlook. His own background with Quakers and Mennonites, and their corresponding hatred of war, contribute to his outlook. Still, he pulls out insights that we can use in developing our own thoughts.

A strength of this commentary is how well he paints the picture of the historical context of Micah’s day. Those were turbulent times, and he captures how events help guide the struggle. He does well in viewing history internationally, regionally, and locally. His political take is best described as populism. Again, though that is overdone, some elements of what we call populism may have been in play then. These discussions take up the majority of the introduction. He does end with a discussion of the literary observations of the book of Micah including versions of the text, organization of the book including Micah’s coherence, and guiding principles in reading Micah. He summarizes what several other scholars say on those subjects. The last page of the introduction is his warning to remember how trauma affected the people of Micah’s day.

The commentary proper is in the OTL style. That includes a translation with plenty of technical discussion and commentary verse by verse. The textual help is first rate. The commentary soars and lags depending on where you are. In Micah 5:2 he never even mentions the possibility of it being a prophecy of Jesus Christ! In other places like the famous Micah 6:8 he was much more helpful. There are also eight excursuses of unexpected subjects along the way.

I consider this one of the best commentaries to own from the critical camp on the book of Micah. Even where you don’t agree, you will be challenged. I recommend this volume.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Mornings on Horseback by David McCullough (Presidential Bio. Series)

book TR horseback.jpg

Though this book could not be classified as a regular biography, as the story of Teddy Roosevelt ended in this volume before the famous parts even began, it was still a joy to read. David McCullough is easily one of my favorite authors. I’ve read over half of the books he’s written, and he always writes in a style that appeals to me. He often makes his nonfiction works read with the energy of great fiction. Though I would not label this volume my favorite of his books that I’ve read, I still enjoyed it. He painted a vivid portrait of all the foundational elements of Teddy Roosevelt’s life.

Teddy Roosevelt was not really cut from the same cloth as other men who held the office before him. His family was filthy rich. The hardships of the average citizen he could only see vaguely from a distance. I almost find it surprising that he became the rugged man he was with a high society background in New York City as he had.

A few things stand out from this early period of his life. His family adored him. For some reason, everyone in the family decided he was the most important person in their family from a young age. He faced horrific asthmatic attacks, and there was doubt on many occasions that he would even live to adulthood. That desire to live “the strenuous life” flamed up early, even before he had the health to really carry it out. He was able to see much of the world including Europe and the holy land, which was unknown to most Americans in those days.

He revered his father, Theodore Roosevelt, Sr. His father was a kind family man. He really didn’t have to work in the family business as he inherited his fortune, but he was often involved in major philanthropic efforts. He invested time in his family. Teddy Roosevelt’s deep respect of his father at times stressed him as he sought to live out the highest expectations that would please his father. While Teddy was at Harvard, his father died. He suffered greatly with stomach cancer and Teddy was grief stricken that he could not do more to help his father. Still, his father was a moral man and stressed morals to Teddy. To a great degree, Teddy held to those morals. His father also exposed him to Christianity, took him to church, and taught him the Bible. I could not tell from reading this book if Teddy had a personal faith in Jesus Christ, but it certainly impacted the man that he was.

Teddy met and married a beautiful young lady. While he served in the New York State house, his wife became sick in what was expected to be a routine delivery of their first baby. At the same time, his mother became sick. They were all in the same house while Teddy was away. Teddy rushed back, but both died just a couple days apart. As is often the case, tragedy molds a person and makes them more fit for greatness.

I look forward to reading a full biography of Teddy Roosevelt somewhere down the line, but this book is still a worthy read for either presidential biography lovers or McCullough fans. The book ended after Teddy put his life back together after some ranching in North Dakota and married his second wife. I finished the book thinking why didn’t McCullough just finish it. Had he done so, the book would’ve likely have been as great as “John Adams” or “Truman”. All in all, it is still an outstanding volume.

To read other articles in this series, click here.

A Minister’s Obstacles–An Awesome Reprint

book turnbull

I’m excited to see this superb book reprinted. I found an old copy of this book early in my ministry and it made quite an impact on me. It’s crazy that it went out of print. It’s truly one of the great titles on the ministry that has been written. In fact, when I started a series a few years ago on the best books for ministry, I recommended this book. (Read me earlier review here).

The story behind this reprint is touching. Marty Moon fell in love with this book and was saddened to realize that preachers today did not have it available to glean from. He also wanted to give a gift to his pastor, Bill Lytell of Gospel Baptist Church, on the occasion of his 25th anniversary as pastor. On March 5, 2017 Pastor Lytell was presented with a copy of this book reprinted in his honor. Clearly, Mr. Moon saw in Pastor Lytell the great traits exemplified in this book.

Your pastor would likely be blessed by a copy too.

Click here to find on Amazon.