Monthly Archives: August 2012

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Ron’s #24: Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons

Before you judge the inclusion of a graphic novel here, know that this is over 400 pages of powerful, unique storytelling that happens to be in the graphic novel format. When it came out in 1985, it was one of the first stories that took a different look at superheroes and comic books. Without Watchmen, there would be no Dark Knight.

The story takes place in an alternate 1985 America, where we won the Vietnam War and Richard Nixon is still president. There are no humans with super powers, only masked crime fighters—adventurers—who help clean up the streets. After the Keene Act, vigilantism is declared illegal, and the heroes retire or go to work with the government. One of these is Edward Blake (the Comedian), whose less-than-honorable ways have made him a successful soldier-for-hire. Another is Dr. Manhattan, the only person with real super powers. Dr. Manhattan works for the U.S. government, and keeps a check on the approaching Soviets by tipping the balance of power in America’s favor.

The story opens with Rorschach, an illegal crime fighter with an heightened sense of justice, searching for answers in the murder of Edward Blake. He uncovers a plot to kill the former adventurers in an attempt to remove Dr. Manhattan, and perhaps to have world-conquering implications.

There are many layers to this excellent story: the comparison to this America to the actual 1985’s America; the story-within-a-story about the Black Freighter; the question on what heroes do when they are done saving the world; and, the most interesting to me, Rorschach’s moral justice versus the other characters. The character is perhaps one of the most compelling characters, both good and depraved in the same man. His mask is Rorschach inkblots, black and white with no place for gray.

If you are interested in the graphic novel format, I’d suggest giving this a go. It is a real page-turner.

Here’s a trailer for the movie version that came out in 2009. It’s a pretty good movie, albeit quite violent.

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David’s #2 Living The Cross Centered Life: Keeping the Gospel the Main Thing By C.J. Mahaney

Are you constantly overwhelmed by the good news of the gospel? Broken by the fact that we all are sinners? Am I in anguish over the fact that when I sin I make myself an enemy of God? That I am desperately in need of God’s Grace and that there is nothing that I could ever do about that? Or do to earn that grace? But that it’s okay, I don’t have to? That God the Father, in order to save us from Himself, sent his son Jesus to earth to take on his wrath for the sake of the whole world? That Jesus, out of immense love for sinners and a desire to do his father’s will, stayed on the cross, knowing what he was about face, complete abandonment and aloneness, a suffering more intense than any pain we will ever face. We should be constantly preoccupied by these truths!

So often we tend towards the perspective that the gospel is the beginning and that once we acknowledge the atoning sacrifice of Christ we can move on to other spiritual things. But the cross is it! It is the gospel. It’s the climax, the central point, and the key. There should be no moving on from here because without it we can have nothing. Without it there is no mediator for prayer or forgiveness. It is the path through which we are justified and continue to be sanctified. The Cross is the reason why we have a savior who can relate to us in times of hurt and suffering. It is through the grace of the cross that we are afforded the faith to believe and the wisdom to understand. It is only through the grace of the cross that we can ever even understand our need for the grace of the cross.

C.J. Mahaney does a wonderful job of making all of this clear. That the cross should constantly be the central focus of our life and the lens through which we see everything. He outlines and reemphasizes the truths that should always be on our hearts and minds while bringing to light several barriers that might be hindering us from an adequately cross centered life. He wraps up with some simple but not necessarily easy ideas to ensure that our focus stays where it should.

It’s a short book but not necessarily a quick read. This isn’t a “self help” book. It is a life focus book and I highly recommend that you read it soon.

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Ron’s #23: Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

I have attempted to read this several times over the past ten years, and I finally made it through. Science fiction has never been one of my interests, so please take this review with that in mind.

Ender Wiggin is a prodigy who is recruited from Earth into an elite battle school for children to find the next battle commander who will lead them to victory against the alien “Buggers.” As a 10-year-old, he is younger then the other children, and is isolated. The adults pulls on the strings in Ender’s life like marionette operators to cause the desired results. I’ll stop the story there in case you do know about the semi-surprise ending. Someone told me about the ending, but it really did not matter.

Overall, it was a mildly interesting story and a good quick read. My main problem from early in the novel is that they had all these little kids arguing and discussing military philosophy as though they were college professors. It all felt so forced and phony. I never could buy that Ender is a child. This is also true with his older siblings, Peter and Valentine. There is a completely ridiculous sub-plot about the two of them assuming false identities and writing a revolutionary doctrine that changed the course of the war. Silly.

I’m probably alone in my opinions, as I know that this is a much-loved book in the sci-fi genre. Sorry to offend anyone, but it just isn’t that good.

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Ron’s #22: Write Like This by Kelly Gallagher

Reading a book or two about teaching is something that is important to me as I keep trying to develop my skills as a teacher. I read another book by Kelly Gallagher a few years ago, so I wanted to read this one. I’m glad I did because it offered many excellent tips in how to help students write better.

His main philosophy stems from these two premises: 1. Teach kids to write in the modes that they will need to write in college and in the real world. 2. Write along with your students.

Gallagher is a seasoned teacher who clearly loves writing and teaching writing. He is a good mentor to have as I try to better equip my students to improve in writing.

Here’s a brief video of Gallagher discussing the book.

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Mark’s #34 – Christian Beliefs: Twenty Basics Every Christian Should Know by Wayne Grudem (2005)

I have long been a fan of Dr. Grudem’s theological insights and explanation of Christian doctrine through his much lengthier Systematic Theology book (published in 1995, 1264 large pages with tiny font).  Since the publication of Systematic Theology, a condensed version of that weighty tome entitled Bible Doctrine has been published (1999, 528 pages). However, for my current purposes, I was looking for a much briefer and broader overview of Christian doctrine as a personal refresher. Christian Beliefs was exactly what I was looking and hoping for (160 pages).

Each of the twenty chapters summarize the key points and verses relating to the core doctrines of the Christian faith.  Grudem writes from a broad evangelical perspective,  with an emphasis on God’s sovereignty (i.e., Reformed perspective).  Though a short book, there were countless Scripture quotations and references, demonstrating Grudem’s high view of the Bible and its authority in the life of the Christian.

Not only was I personally edified by this broad sweep through doctrine, as a pastor, I look forward to  distributing this resource to as many people as I can for their equipping and encouragement.

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