A Couple of Good Books

A while back I reviewed a book which posited that many books that are not Christian are still good for our spiritual growth (see Recovering the Lost Art of Reading by Leland Ryken and Glenda Faye Mathes). They do this by making us think deeply about the human condition, to learn new things, to develop empathy for other people. So in this post, I thought I’d mention several books I’ve read recently that fit that description.

The Shape of Family by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

In this book tragedy strikes a family when their young son drowns in their swimming pool. Here are some of the questions it made me think about:

*What is a family, and what holds a family together?

*How do spiritual disciplines help us navigate grief and other challenges of life? Can spirituality become too self focused?

*Which is more important — achievement or relationships, honesty or success?

*What happens when we hide or misrepresent who we are or how we feel?

*How do different people react and cope with tragedy?

It also made me understand how a person from a different culture (in this case India) may react differently, and how a child with two cultural heritages may feel isolated and have trouble fitting in.

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

This book can be best characterized as fantasy, not my usual choice, but I liked it. Main character Nora Seed, finds her life rather sad and unfulfilling. In a near death experience, she finds herself in a library where there are many, many books — each one telling the story of her life had she made a different decision somewhere along the line. It made me wonder ….

*What regrets do I have about my life?

*If I had made other choices would my life be better, or just different?

*What makes life worth living?

What good books have you read recently? I’d love to hear about them. Every book we read can teach us something and be an avenue for applying the Christian world view to life.

For more about reading see:

More About Books & Reading

The Art of Mindful Reading by Ella Berthoud– Book Review

Stewardship of My Reading

What is my Worldview?

My husband is doing a series of sermons on having a Christian worldview, and with his permission, I’ll be posting some parts that seem interesting and relevant.  This is the first.

Weltanschauung, it’s a German word that translates into worldview in English.  It refers to how people live their lives and relate to the world around them.  Each of us has a worldview–if we didn’t we would be dead because everyone has to have some way of dealing with the world and some means of understand  what is happening around us.  For example:

How I relate to politics is based on how I perceive the world through the lens of my own personal beliefs about what is good for our nation.  How I relate to my neighbor is affected by how I perceive that person to be.  How I view the opinions of cultural leaders is determined by how I understand what they’re saying or doing based on my deep felt sense of right and wrong.  Each one of us has a basic set of beliefs that operate to direct us in how we behave in the world.  Many Americans have a sense of our nation as filled not with groups of people so much as with individuals, each person seeking his or her own welfare.  We call that individualism and it is an important part of American culture that we find expressed in our movies or in other ways.  That emphasis on the individual may be changing somewhat, but it’s still a pretty potent worldview in our culture.

Right now, I’m going to focus our attention on what we call a Christian or biblical worldview.  How Christians are to perceive and understand the world specifically as followers of the risen Lord.  I’m doing this because social science findings about the views and understandings of Christians with respect to their claimed faith and life are nothing short of horrifying right now.  Indeed, things seem so bad that it makes you wonder how many Christians there actually are, not in the country, but in the Church itself!

To be continued ….

Katelyn’s Question #6

What makes me think my worldview is true/correct?

This is a continuation of the following posts:

Is There a God? If So, What is God Like?– Or Katelyn’s Question #1

Katelyn’s Question #2

Katelyn’s Question #3

Katelyn’s Question #4

Katelyn’s Question #5

I think my worldview is correct because I base it on the Bible.  While there is no way I can ultimately prove that what I believe is true, I have faith that it is.  I have developed my worldview through reading the Bible, attending church and school.  I grew up going to church with my grandfather, who is also my Pastor.

I know what I believe is correct because the Bible has proven to be the true and inspired Word of God.  The universe and the human body are proof that they could only have been created by an intelligent designer.  Christianity and the Bible can answer questions about how to live a life following Jesus.  When I have doubts, I use prayer to talk to God and come to an understanding of who He is and the purpose that He brings to my life.

The point of my faith and why I believe it to be true is not based on facts, but on the experiences I have had.  I know God is real because I have experienced Him working in my life and in the lives of those close to me.  There is no other way to explain the feeling of hope in dark times, or the way my chest feels when worship music plays, none other than the work of the Holy Spirit in my heart.  I have a personal relationship with God, that can not be replaced my any earthly relationship.

The Answer by Randy Pope — Book Review

I was asked to review this book for our Fanning the Flame team.  Here are my conclusions.

In his book, The Answer, Pastor Randy Pope attacks the question that most concerns all humans – “How can I find lasting satisfaction?”

According to Pastor Pope, the answer can be found by unpacking the meaning of three small words: glory, grace and truth.

The Answer: Putting an End to the Search for Life Satisfaction by [Pope, Randy]

Most people are familiar with the word glory when it refers to either the glory of God, or giving glory to God. However, glory also comes from God and is given to those who are prepared to receive it. The essence of this glory is satisfaction. Humankind was designed with full glory, fell from glory and now searches for glory in all the wrong places. The many objects we pursue (career success, popularity, the right spouse, material possessions, etc.) are counterfeits of the real glory and fail to satisfy. Satisfaction comes only when we begin to recognize and renounce these counterfeit glories and place our hope for satisfaction in God alone. On earth, life remains broken and we can never experience full glory. We can be satisfied with Christ, but we cannot be satisfied with life, in and of itself. In death, this changes. When Christ returns and raises us from the dead, we will experience glorification. This will be so wonderful, that as the apostle Paul writes,

The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to compare to the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Romans 8:18

 Glory becomes real to us through the second word– grace. Grace is the favor ascribed to us by what God has done for us. Pastor Pope calls this, “the great swap.” Jesus took upon Himself the sins of His people, and in exchange, gave them perfect righteousness. This doesn’t mean we will stop sinning, but it does mean that God sees us as forgiven. Many people distort the Gospel, creating a religion of performance. This creates the sense that there is something we need to do. The true Gospel teaches that the work is already done—completed with the death of Christ on the cross.

The final word is truth. We will only experience authentic glory to the degree that we embrace God’s absolute truth. Throughout history, Christians have held the belief that God has chosen to reveal His truth to us through His Word. However, today, most people believe that truth is relative. Only 22% of adults believe in absolute moral truth, and the percentage is even lower for those 36 and under. If truth is relative, and a matter of individual preference, there is no foundation for life, no markers to guide us. This leads to depression and a pattern of thinking that reflects a negative view of ourselves, God and the world. The good news is that when false reason encounters the truth, it doesn’t have a chance. Depression can be countered by “thinking on the truth” of God’s Word.

Pastor Pope concludes:

  1. Glory takes us to Christ
  2. Grace takes us to the Cross
  3. Truth takes us to the Word of God

 I think this book would be an excellent resource to explain the basics of the faith to young people and new believers. Pastor Pope includes many diagrams which would be helpful in a classroom setting.

P.S. You can get this as a Kindle book from Amazon for only $1.99!

The Anatomy of Peace by the Arbinger Institute –Book Review

A friend who belongs to another denomination loaned me this book.  Her church is encouraging reading it and having “book club discussions” around it, so I thought I would do a review.

I had mixed feelings as I read through this book.  The conclusions it comes to are certainly good:

  • Treat people as people, not objects
  • Get out of the box of justifying oneself by blaming others, feeling superior to others, or needing to look good to others all the time
  • Build strong relationships with those with whom we have conflicts
  • Teach and communicate, listen and learn
  • Remember you cannot change others until you change yourself
  • Take action to and do the things we feel drawn toward when we are thinking outside of our box of blaming, categorizing people, justifying ourselves, etc.

In following these behaviors, you will gain a heart of peace within yourself and will become peaceful toward others.

The Anatomy of Peace: Resolving the Heart of Conflict by [The Arbinger Institute]

All worthwhile stuff, right?  However, the right conclusions are reached for all the wrong reasons.  According to this book, when we treat others badly, this is an act of self-betrayal — implying that we are basically good people at heart.  WRONG!  We are basically sinful, and I don’t think we can rely upon our inner feelings to tell us what is the right thing to do.  We need God’s word for that.  The book then goes on to say when we betray ourselves, our behavior becomes “crooked.”  Again WRONG!  The correct word would be sinful.  We then need to justify ourselves by blaming, demonizing, etc.. The correct way to fix our “crooked” thinking is instead to  get outside of the box we have made and see people as people, not objects.  WRONG!  We cannot justify ourselves by any psychological maneuver or corrected thinking on our own — we need a Savior.

Conclusion:  I would not use this book, certainly not at my church, because it does not have a saintly worldview (I talked about this in a prior post).  What do others think?  Does the conclusion take precedence over the premises and reasoning?  I’d like to hear some other opinions.  I want to listen and learn.