Monday, June 29, 2009
Friday, June 26, 2009
According to Dr. Earl Henslin, this is not science fiction, but a medical reality. In his book, This Is Your Brain on Joy, Dr. Henslin discusses the diagnoses that are made possible through a brain imaging technique called SPECT imaging as introduced to him by his friend, Dr. Daniel Amen. Dr. Henslin gives a brief overview of the five main areas of the brain (“Mood Centers”) that control a person’s emotions. With the help of SPECT imaging, he also shows what each area looks like both in a well-balanced brain and in a brain that is not so well-balanced. He provides helpful tips in recognizing problematic symptoms of each Mood Center and gives a list of aids to assist in regaining the proper balance. These aids include eating a proper diet, getting lots of exercise, reading books, listening to music and even watching movies.
On a medical level, this book is rather fascinating in its descriptions of the varying “Mood Centers” of the brain. Using simple terms and nicknames for the more complex medical names, Dr. Henslin describes how each area controls certain moods. He also shows what the brain and subsequent mood would be if each area were damaged or out of balance. The aids at the end of each chapter are very helpful in learning to control or adjust each of the mood centers. Beyond the medical aspects, I found the book lacking in depth. Much of the book comes across as an infomercial for Dr. Amen’s products such as his research, his SPECT scanning technology or the medicinal supplements available through Dr. Amen’s web site and clinic.
For a book supposedly written from a Christian perspective, there seemed very little solid Biblical application in the underlying overall philosophy. One of the points that jumped out at me was found in the following statement: “Only God knows, see, and can judge how many of our errors are due to our free wills and how many are due to our faulty hardwiring. Let me repeat this: only God knows how much of our wrongdoing is the result of pure rebellion or evil intent and how much is cause by brain imbalances” (p.8). The author seems to be suggesting that some of our wrongdoing is simply not our fault, but rather the fault of a scientific imbalance. In other words, it’s out of our control. If we can figure out how to “re-wire” our brains, we will naturally choose good things instead of evil. This theme of using self-medicating remedies to fix our sorrow is repeated throughout the book.
A second concern, and perhaps the most important, is that the pursuit of happiness is seen as the ultimate end, that is, pursuit of happiness for the sake of happiness itself. For instance, on p. 45, Dr. Henslin, in noting that happiness is most often gained in a community setting, quips “It really does take a village to make us happy….It’s no wonder that many consider AA [Alcoholics Anonymous] the world’s largest church. More real church is probably happening in many of these meetings of honest people in rented office spaces than in some of our greatest and most beautiful cathedrals.” If we define “church” as a gathering of people to have a good time and feel happy about ourselves for happiness’ sake or even for community’s sake, than perhaps this might be true. But if church is defined as the visible gathering of the invisible church to worship God and to feed our spiritual bodies with the meat of God’s Word while at the same time fellowshipping with one another, then AA couldn’t be further from any resemblance of real church.
In the last chapter, Henslin attempts to bring Scripture back into the picture, but once again misses the mark. Henslin says, “Toward the end of this heartfelt thank-you [Paul’s epistle to the Philippians], the aging apostle wrote, ‘I have learned the secret…’ The secret to what? Inquiring minds want to know. ‘The secret,’ Paul writes, ‘of being content’ (4:12).” From this point, Henslin launches into his arguments for why being content helps us to be happier and he almost gets it right. Unfortunately, he takes Paul’s letter and almost completely ignores the gospel presented there, focusing only on how we can make ourselves be happier. Instead of the gospel being the foundation for our joy, it is viewed simply as a tool to help us along in achieving personal joy.
This is Your Brain on Joy is a good book for discovering a small part of the medical side of the brain’s operations and how we can influence our own moods. But aside from this and the suggestions for improving your mood (which, quite honestly, can probably be found in almost any self-help book of every sort), the book misses the mark of where our true and lasting joy can be found – in the person and work of Jesus Christ for the sake of the glory of God. 3/5 stars
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
“You coming home, Papi?”
The other day she called but this time, the question was a little different: “You coming home right now, Papi?”
Since it was only before lunchtime, I told her that I would be coming home, not right now but soon. Apparently, she didn’t quite understand this part. Sarah told me later that at lunchtime, Natalie prayed, “Dear Jesus, thank you that Papi coming home right now!”
Even though Natalie didn’t quite get the timing of my return, she nonetheless was excited about it and looking forward to my return. When Sarah told me about Natalie’s prayer, I was reminded of how we should be looking forward to Christ’s return. We don’t know when Christ is returning, but he has told us “Surely I am coming soon.”. With the apostle John, our prayer should be “Come Lord Jesus!” Rev.22:20
Monday, June 22, 2009
Friday, June 19, 2009
Basing his book primarily on Deut.6:4-9, Baucham encourages Christian families to accept the responsibility that is theirs in raising children. We shouldn’t be satisfied in teaching our children how to accomplish things in school, sports, society, etc, but rather to instill the faith of the gospel in them through active, purposeful parenting and biblical discipleship. The responsibility of discipleship rests with the parents and should include instruction in such things as maintaining a biblical worldview. As Baucham states, “Teaching our children to think biblically in these five basic areas [our view of God, man, truth, knowledge and ethics] will go a long way toward establishing a foundation for biblical thinking in their lives” (pp.76-77).
While overall the book has many good, insightful things to say, the chapters focusing more on the family unit as a family (as opposed to the family unit as a part of a church) were quite good. The chapter on creating and maintaining a family worship time in the home is especially good and perhaps worth the price of the book by itself. In it, he discusses the need for a family worship time and gives the following seven very practical and sound steps to establishing this worship time (pp.139-142):
- Family worship must be born of conviction.
- Family worship begins with the head of the household.
- Family worship must be scheduled.
- Family worship must be simple.
- Family worship must be natural.
- Family worship must be mandatory.
- Family worship must be participatory.
- Family worship honors God.
- Family worship will draw your family closer to God.
- Family worship will draw your family closer to one another.
- Family worship will lay a foundation for multigenerational faithfulness.
- Family worship will expose spiritual weaknesses in your home.
- Family worship will serve as a training ground for smaller children.
- Family worship will make corporate worship more meaningful.
The second thing I appreciated in this chapter was what he said about family worship laying a foundation for faithfulness in future generations. His statement that “Children who grow up in homes that had daily family worship will see it as the norm” (p.144) rung true for me. I can still very distinctly remember our family devotions we had while I was growing up. As each child was able, we would take turns reading the Bible, reading a little Bible story geared towards children, and praying for missionaries. The impact of this family tradition will perhaps never be fully known, but I am forever grateful for my parents teaching me the importance of family devotions.
Beyond this chapter, the author had some good things to say regarding the interactions within the family, the importance of the father leading in the home, and the vast importance of teaching children the Bible. Unfortunately, I found much of the book to be long on illustrations & sage platitudes but short on Biblical explanations or defense. For example, on pages 159-161, he discusses the need for men to prioritize our families, but he fills almost the entire two-page section with his illustration, devoting only one single, small paragraph to basically saying “Don’t sacrifice your family on the altar of prosperity.” He encourages men to ask the tough questions, but doesn’t give guidance as to what those questions are. Much of the book follows this style of being wide in its scope of topic, but quite narrow in defending the author’s stance.
Further, I found much of the book echoing the style of many an evangelist I’ve heard that would use illustration after illustration to back up his point or soapbox issue, but not going into Scripture to defend it. Even when he states, for instance on p.161 regarding the question, “Should Mom work outside of the home?” that we should first “seek to understand what the Bible teaches on the matter,” nowhere in the following 5-page section does he even bring what the Bible says into the equation. The one time he does quote Scripture, it is seemingly in support of women doing what they must do to be a Proverbs 31 woman, even working outside the home.
Perhaps the area where he misses the mark on a greater level is when he discusses the family in the context of the church, mainly in the last two chapters. He is very correct when he states his case that the current situation in American churches is incredibly bleak when it comes to what our children are learning. His question, “What role does the church play in the process [of discipling children]” is exactly the question we must ask ourselves. He focuses much of his effort in arguing against the current approach to family ministry and specifically youth ministry. However, in arguing against the current approach, he throws the baby out with the bath water, so to speak, in rejecting the segregated approach entirely. The three problems of the current approach he lists aren’t very well argued from Scripture, if at all. In discussing the first problem, that there is no clear biblical mandate for the current [i.e., segregated] approach, he doesn’t present an argument at all, but rather spends the section seemingly excusing those who do follow the segregated approach. In fact, as he correctly points out, Scripture doesn’t mention anything one way or the other on the topic. (Arguments for or against the regulatory principle is a whole other topic entirely!)
The second problem as he sees it, that the current approach may actually work against the biblical model, is a good argument. But here again, this same problem could be applied to any approach used. Any approach may work against the biblical model, but that doesn’t mean that it will. His argument from Titus 2 regarding older women teaching the younger assumes that this teaching is done in the context of a Sunday School class. His question, “How can the older women instruct the younger women if everyone is in a Sunday School class with people within nine months of their own age?” is a bit of a straw man argument. Further, the same question can be reworded “How can older women teach the younger women if they are not meeting together in a setting conducive specifically for this purpose?” Here again, he fails to draw upon Scriptural support to argue against the segregated approach.
Ironically, in the last chapter and perhaps without meaning to, he twice contradicts everything he said about the segregated approach being wrong. Up to this point, he has made statements such as “We do not divide families into component parts….We see the church as a family of families” (p.191); or “Another distinctive of the family-integrated church is its insistence on the integration of all ages in virtually all of its activities.” (p.193) But then on page 197, he begins an illustration of something that happened at a Father’s Council meeting, a monthly meeting just for men! The purposes of these meetings are for “fellowship, prayer, vision casting, church business, etc.” How can a church who supposedly includes the entire family in everything justify such meetings? Perhaps it is because they see the importance of a “segregated” time for men to learn how to lead. But this then begs the question, “If a segregated approach is unbiblical, where do they get the biblical support for such meetings?” and secondly, “Why are these types of meetings deemed wise, but yet meetings of older and younger women are not, or even youth meetings?” The second contradictory example is found on p.209 where, in discussing the fact that many homeschool families are not evangelical, he recommends that a church start a Sunday School specifically geared toward homeschoolers. This does not line up with what he espoused earlier regarding the segregated approach.
Overall, there are many things in the book that need to be said and said repeatedly and loudly. Unless we as Christians in general wake up to the reality that our children are not learning of God through either our direct teaching nor by indirect example through our lives, what hope do we have of their continuing in the Christian faith? I would recommend this book (with some reservation) since there are several things that can be learned from the book, especially in the area of family worship, which I thought was the best chapter in the book. However, unless our teaching and beliefs are lined up solidly with Scriptural support, we are simply following another fad or method, no matter how great it sounds.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
This coming Friday, look for my review of Voddie Baucham's Family Driven Faith. As a small preview of the book, here is an excerpt from the dust jacket: "Family Driven Faith equips Christian parents with the tools they need to raise children biblically in a post-Christian, anti-family society....This bold new book is an urgent call to parents--and the church--to return to biblical discipleship in and through the home."
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Twice per year (and only for a limited time), christianaudio offers all our titles and most of our other publisher's titles for the incredibly low price of $9.49, which is a huge savings of 30 to 70% off our already discounted digital prices! However, this year's sale is a little different (and even better) than in year's past! Instead of $9.49, we've decided to sweeten the offer just a little and lower the sale price to save you even more! Starting now until July 3rd, most digital downloads on our site are only $7.49 each!
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Listen Enjoy Think Grow
Monday, June 15, 2009
Weak and wounded sinner
Lost and left to die
O, raise your head, for love is passing by
Come to Jesus
Come to Jesus
Come to Jesus and live!
Now your burden's lifted
And carried far away
And precious blood has washed away the stain, so
Sing to Jesus
Sing to Jesus
Sing to Jesus and live!
And like a newborn baby
Don't be afraid to crawl
And remember when you walk
Sometimes we fall...so
Fall on Jesus
Fall on Jesus
Fall on Jesus and live!
Sometimes the way is lonely
And steep and filled with pain
So if your sky is dark and pours the rain, then
Cry to Jesus
Cry to Jesus
Cry to Jesus and live!
O, and when the love spills over
And music fills the night
And when you can't contain your joy inside, then
Dance for Jesus
Dance for Jesus
Dance for Jesus and live!
And with your final heartbeat
Kiss the world goodbye
Then go in peace, and laugh on Glory's side, and
Fly to Jesus
Fly to Jesus
Fly to Jesus and live
Thursday, June 11, 2009
The story is set in Italy where the U.S. government has decided to hide Backman until they deem an appropriate time to leak his whereabouts to foreign nations in order to see who kills him first. I thought perhaps this was going to turn into a story of how Backman kept having to hide from either the U.S. government or foreign governments. Instead, way too much of the book is spent on Backman learning Italian or eating some lovely Italian delicacy or visiting some wonderful Italian architecture. The pace does pick up when the time actually comes for Backman to run, but even that doesn’t make up for the rest of the book. The professional, government-paid assassins sent to whack him are seemingly a side note, even though the whole premise of the book is that Backman is hiding from them and is supposed to be on the run.
It’s evident, as Grisham points out in his author’s note, that he greatly admires the Italian culture. I’m sure quite a bit of research went into describing the various Italian cultural tidbits. But reading how to greet one another in Italian over and over again is not the stuff a person usually wants to read in a Grisham book. Overall, it was slow and disappointing.
Thursday, June 4, 2009
Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief, by James M. McPherson
I Am America (And So Can You!), by Stephen Colbert
Last Flag Down: The Epic Journey of the Last Confederate Warship, by John Baldwin & Ron Powers
Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, by Donald S. Whitney
A Voyage Long and Strange: Rediscovering the
This is Your Brain on Joy, by Dr. Earl Henslin (review still in process for Thomas Nelson)
Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War, by Tony Horwitz
Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War, by Nathaniel Philbrick
Truman, by David McCullough.
Since I’m already on #12, I thought why not go for 24 books in a year. Here’s a list of books that I’m wanting to read.
His Excellency: George Washington, by Joseph J. Ellis
Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, by Doris
Finding an Unseen God: Reflections of a Former Atheist, by Alicia Britt Chole (reviewing for Bethany House)
Family Driven Faith: Doing What it Takes to Raise Sons and Daughters Who Walk With God, by Voddie T. Baucham, Jr.
Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places, by Eugene Peterson
God’s Passion for His Glory, by John Piper and Jonathan Edwards
The Cross of Christ, by John Stott
Outrageous Mercy: Rediscover the Radical Nature of Christianity, by William P. Farley
Tortured for Christ, by Richard Wurmbrand
Almost a Miracle: The American Victory in the War of
The Summer of 1787: The Men Who Invented the Constitution, by David O. Stewart
Some of these I'm hoping to review, so stay tuned. Here's to a bookwormish remainder of the year!
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
Which brings me to today’s topic of stretching, embellishing or otherwise distorting the facts surrounding that mythical period of our nation’s founding. In particular, I want to look at a widely circulated and oft quoted piece regarding the fates of those men who signed the Declaration of Independence (DoI) in 1776. Here are a few of the “facts” generally stated as follows:
• Five signers were captured by the British as traitors and tortured before they died.
• Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned
• Two lost their sons serving in the Revolutionary Army, another had two sons captured.
• Nine of the 56 fought and died from wounds or hardships of the Revolutionary War
• Francis Lewis had his home and properties destroyed. The enemy jailed his wife and she died within a few months.
• John Hart was driven from his wife’s bedside as she was dying. Their 13 children fled for their lives. His fields and his gristmill were laid to waste. For more than a year, he lived in forests and caves, returning to find his wife dead and his children vanished. A few weeks later, he died from exhaustion and a broken heart.
The difficulty I have with such “facts” is that they are presented in a context of each one having undergone these hardships as a direct result of their signing the DoI. But as we’ll see, the true facts prove otherwise. (Courtesy of Snopes and other sources)
#1: Five signers were captured by the British as traitors and tortured before they died.
Right off the bat, this statement starts off with a verifiable truth (5 signers were indeed captured) but quickly goes downhill on the steep slope of fabrication. Four (Walton, Heyward, Middleton and Rutledge) were not captured as traitors or for their involvement in the signing of the DoI, but were taken as prisoners of war due to their military involvement. Richard Stockton was the only once captured specifically because of his involvement in signing, but he was also the only one of the 56 signers who violated the pledge to support the DoI. He was granted release only after recanting his signature and swearing allegiance to King George III. The four who were captured as prisoners of war were not tortured, but were given the same ill treatment given to all prisoners of war. They were later released.
#2: Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned
Taken at face value, this is a true statement. However, the implication that they were targeted as a result of their signing the DoI is false. A common part of warfare during this period was the seizure or destruction of personal property by both sides of the war. It’s also worth noting at this point that, at the time of the signing in 1776, the war had been going on for over a year.
#3: Two lost their sons serving in the Revolutionary Army, another had two sons captured
Abraham Clark had two sons captured and imprisoned. Only one signer had a son die in the Army: John Witherspoon’s eldest son was killed in the Battle of Germantown.
#4: Nine of the 56 fought and died from wounds or hardships of the Revolutionary War
Here, too, we see an embellishment of fact. Nine of the signers did indeed die during the time of the War, but none of them died from wounds or hardships inflicted on them by the British. Several did not even take part in the war. Button Gwinnett was the only one who died from wounds, but these were as a result of a duel against a fellow officer.
#5: Francis Lewis had his home and properties destroyed. The enemy jailed his wife and she died within a few months.
Francis Lewis’s wife ignored an order to evacuate Long Island and as a result was captured by the British. However, she was later exchanged for wives of British officials captured by the Americans. She lived for a few more years (not months) after her capture and died (most probably due to the hardships she faced as a prisoner) in 1779. One note in this particular case is that Lewis and his family was indeed targeted for his role in signing the DoI.
#6: John Hart was driven from his wife’s bedside as she was dying. Their 13 children fled for their lives. His fields and his gristmill were laid to waste. For more than a year, he lived in forests and caves, returning to find his wife dead and his children vanished. A few weeks later, he died from exhaustion and a broken heart.
Hart’s wife Deborah was practically bedridden with sickness, probably due to the hardships incurred by the Hessians destroying their property earlier in 1776 (some accounts list their property as only being damaged, not destroyed.) Hart was on his way home from his duties as Speaker of the New Jersey Assembly on the day Deborah died on Oct. 8, 1776. It was not until later in the year that Hart was forced to go into hiding. Further, he was twice re-elected as Speaker as well as served numerous other offices before dying of kidney stones in May 1779, two and a half years (not a few weeks) after the death of his wife.
There are others, but these are ones that I want to highlight. The signers of the DoI fought long and hard over the issue of independence. When at last it was passed, those signing knew the risks they were taking in officially breaking away from what was then one of, if not THE most powerful empire in the world. As Benjamin Franklin quipped, “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.” They also knew they were founders of something monumental. However, we tend to overdramatize these men’s lives as well as the price they paid, almost to the point of deifying them and making them martyrs of a quasi-religious nature. The true accounts of these men’s lives are so much more fascinating than these blurbs (and others) really tell. Further, we don't see the struggles that they faced, either on a personal level or on the national level (such as the decision to almost completely sidestep the issue of slavery.) With such accounts as the ones above, we lose the human elements experienced, the uncertainties faced, the herculean decisions made and both the physical & intellectual battles fought. Don’t settle for “sound-bite media” when the full story is so much more worth the time to read.
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
Christ Plays in Ten-Thousand Places
by Eugene H. Peterson
Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places reunites spirituality and theology in a cultural context where these two vital facets of Christian faith have been rent asunder. Lamenting the vacuous, often pagan nature of contemporary American spirituality, Eugene Peterson here firmly grounds spirituality once more in Trinitarian theology and offers a clear, practical statement of what it means to actually live out the Christian life. Writing in the conversational style that he is well known for, Peterson boldly sweeps out the misunderstandings that clutter conversations on spiritual theology and refurnishes the subject only with what is essential. As Peterson shows, spiritual theology, in order to be at once biblical and meaningful, must remain sensitive to ordinary life, present the Christian gospel, follow the narrative of Scripture, and be rooted in the “fear of the Lord” — in short, spiritual theology must be about God and not about us. The foundational book in a five-volume series on spiritual theology emerging from Peterson’s pen, Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places provides the conceptual and directional help we all need to live the Christian gospel well and maturely in the conditions that prevail in the church and world today.
Enter discount code: JUN2009.