Monthly Archives: December 2010

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Ron’s Top Picks of 2010

A few people asked which is my favorite book of the year. The easy answer to that is, “I don’t know.” I like different books for different reasons. Here are a few of the winners in my mind:

Top Five

1. The Shallows by Nicholas Carr This was the book that affected me the most this year, mainly by pointing out how much time I spend/waste on the computer. After reading this book, I made some drastic changes, ones that I continue to put into practice today to limit my Internet use. It DOES affect us in how we think and focus. There are some critics (including one on this very site) who quickly scoff at Carr’s premise, and foolishly blame it on Carr’s aging process. Silly. In the words of Shakespeare, thou “protesth too much.”            [read my review]

2. Adopted for Life by Russell Moore I cannot understand the impact this book had on my view of adoption, and on us beginning the pursuit. It is not only about protecting to orphans and widows, but also how we are those orphans and widows that need protecting. Whether or not you are a Christian, this is a good look at what Christianity teaches about what the gospel is.  [read my review]

3. Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey This is easily one of the best books that I’ve read in how to develop a Christian mind. Pearcey is direct, demanding, and entertaining. This is a must-read for every Christian. Her follow-up, Saving Leonardo, will certainly be on my 2011 list. [read my review]

4. Radical by David Platt I see that Mark picked this as one of his best as well. I liked this best out of the other like-minded books on this subject. This book made me examine what I am doing and/or what I could do to live out the gospel. I hope that reading this continues to yield much fruit in the years to come. Thanks, Buddy, for recommending this.  [read my review]

5. Columbine by Dave Cullen I still find myself thinking about how well this book filled in so many gaps of the event in 1999. Some say that they would rather not have the gaps filled in, but I thought that this account is an important addition to a pivotal day in modern American history. It shows the darkness that lies in men’s hearts, and the light that shines around them. [read my review]

Top Reviewed

While they may not be on my list of top books, I did like writing about these.

1. Candide by Voltaire As I prepared to teach this book to students, I wanted to think on the problem of pain that Voltaire satirizes in the book. Writing this helped me to see the worldview clearer. [read my review]

2. Home Sweet Rome by Scott and Kimberly Hahn I enjoyed addressing the concerns about Catholic theology in this lengthy review. I posted this on Amazon, and I have received many critical attacks (some from non-native English speakers) on my faulty knowledge of “The Church.” Go to the book an Amazon to see the fun.  [read my review]

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A Graphical Look at My 52 Reviews

Using Wordle.net, I pasted all my reviews into a document to see them graphicly. This site makes frequently used words larger than others.

Before you think me vain, my name “Ron” is in here because it was in each of the 52 titles.

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Mark’s 2010 52 Books Year End Review

Here’s a quick recap of insights and highlights of my 2010 52 book journey:

  • This is the first time in my life where I’ve tried to read 52 books in one year.
  • I am not a fast reader… perhaps average, perhaps slower than average.
  • I realized I needed to cut two things out of my life to get this done – video games (Madden) and excessive internet surfing (along with most television and movies)
  • I would not have finished if it were not for Ron Coia persevering with me.
  • The new Kindle is an amazing piece of technology that I’m grateful for.
  • I discovered I really enjoy reading some of the classics – especially the free ones on Kindle.
  • Books that grabbed and held my attention I could finish in two or three days… others took months.
  • As a pastor and leader, I believe there are few activities as beneficial to my professional development as reading.
  • Next year I want to read a couple of the Christian Classics (i.e., Augustine, Luther, Puritans, etc.)

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Here are my favorite books of 2010:

  1. Radical: Taking Back Your Faith From the American Dream
  2. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption
  3. Switch: How to Change Things When Change is hard
  4. The Sword: A Novel (Chiveis Trilogy)
  5. Horse Soldiers: The Extraordinary Story of a Band of U.S. Soldiers Who Rode to Victory in Afghanistan
  6. Who Made God: A Search For A Theory of Everything
  7. War
  8. Uncle Tom’s Cabin
  9. Fahrenheit 451

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Finally, Here’s a breakdown by percentageof the types of books I read in 2010:

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Mark’s #52 – Trusting God: Even When Life Hurts by Jerry Bridges (240 pages)

God in His love always wills what is best for us.  In His wisdom he always knows what is best, and in His sovereignty He has the power to bring it about.

As my last book of 2010, I decided to read Jerry Bridges classic book about trusting God in the midst of pain and suffering. Trusting God is a solid book for people to read – and not just when they’re in the midst of suffering.  In fact, the best time to read this book and meditate upon its truths is when you aren’t necessarily in the grip of suffering.

Jerry spends the first half of the book establishing the absolute sovereignty of God over all of Creation.  Here he shows that God has, “designed His external purpose so that his glory and our good are inextricably bound together.”   Without this understanding of God’s sovereignty, one is left to grasp and wonder if God is really in control of their lives.  Or they come to ill-fated conclusions such as Rabbi Kushner’s book When Bad Things Happen to Good People, where he argues that God is good, he’s just not powerful enough to stop all the bad in the world.

Having an a biblical understanding of God’s sovereignty is not sufficient for truly trusting God.  One must also know that God is both infinitely wise and perfectly loving as well.  Here, once again, Bridges does a great job of demonstrating from the Bible these essential truths.

The remainder of the book deals with some of the practical application from all this in your life and mine.  Jerry discusses how we can personally experience God’s love, how we can embrace who God has made us to be, how we can grow through adversity, how we should give thanks continually, and how we should willfully choose to trust God in the face of adversity.

In conclusion, all of us will go through adversity on this side of eternity.  Furthermore, we’ll be surrounded by loved ones, friends, co-workers, and even strangers who will be  in the midst of suffering.  Let me encourage you to prepare your mind and spirit now for those times, so that you will either be comforted as you trust God, or you will have the right answers from God’s word to offer hope to others in their time of need.

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Mark’s #51 – What is the Gospel by Greg Gilbert (128 pages)

Since I am a Christian Pastor, you might be wondering why I would read a book called What is the Gospel. After all, shouldn’t that be a no-brainer question for a ‘professional’ Christian?  It should, but it isn’t.  If you were to ask ten pastors the question, “what is the gospel?”, you might get five or six different answers which lead to fundamentally different understandings and applications for the Christian life.

I read this book for two reasons: First, in my line of work, if there is any subject that one should be crystal-clear about it, it is the essences of the good news I am called to proclaim.  Therefore, it is always good for me (and any Christian for that matter) to return to the absolute basics of our faith and be reminded once again of the glory of the gospel and my charge to articulate it clearly, biblically, and faithfully.  Second, I read this book because, as a pastor, I am always looking for good resources to put in peoples hands to either help them understand God or encourage them in their walk with Him – which this short book will do a great job.

Author Greg Gilbert is part of a wonderful ministry called 9marks.  Their goal is to help equip church leaders with biblical resources and understanding, so that their churches display the glory of God.

In this book, Greg first addresses the problem I’ve already mentioned.  In today’s church culture, there seems to be a lot of confusion about the one thing we should all know, be unified on, and proclaim as Christians. Next, he sets out to show demonstrate the absolute fundamentals of the gospel.  Briefly put here they are:

  1. God is the righteous Creator of all things, He therefore has authority over all things, and will righteously hold all people accountable.
  2. Man is in a state of sin and rebellion against God, and all of humanity is therefore spiritually dead and separated from God as a result.
  3. Jesus Christ is the Savior. As one who is truly God and truly man, he came to live the perfect life no one else could ever live, to pay the penalty for our sin through his substitutionary atoning death on a cross, and demonstrating his authority and victory through his resurrection from the dead.
  4. That ‘Good News’ only becomes good news to us personally when we respond with faith (wholehearted trust in Christ and his work on our behalf) and repentance (turning from our sinful ways with God’s help).

In the final chapters of the book, Greg goes on to talk about the Kingdom of God, the importance of the cross being a point of continual focus for the Christian, and the power of the Gospel in our lives, our churches and our world.

Go buy a box of these books and hand them out to everyone you know.

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