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I'm addicted to books. According to Umberto Eco I am building an anti-library, meaning I own way more books than I have read. I love good fiction, literature, theology, Biblical studies, philosophy, children's books, and lots more.

Currently reading

Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God
Danae Yankoski, Francis Chan
The Kingdom New Testament: A Contemporary Translation
N.T. Wright
The Theology of John Wesley: Holy Love and the Shape of Grace
Kenneth J. Collins
Progress: 244/331 pages
House of Leaves
Mark Z. Danielewski
Progress: 50/662 pages
The Hound of the Baskervilles (with Illustrations by Sidney Paget)
Sidney Paget, Arthur Conan Doyle
Progress: 35 %
The Dead Zone
Stephen King
Progress: 52/402 pages
J.C. Ryle
Help! I'm a Small Church Youth Worker: Achieving Big-Time Success in a Non-Mega Ministry
Rich Grassel
Progress: 57/115 pages
How God Became King: The Forgotten Story of the Gospels
N.T. Wright
Progress: 69 %
The Hound of the Baskervilles
Arthur Conan Doyle

Notes From The Tilt-A-Whirl: Wide-Eyed Wonder in God's Spoken World

Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl: Wide-Eyed Wonder in God's Spoken World - N.D. Wilson I have to admit that I started off slightly annoyed with this book. Perhaps it was because the stupid US Postal Service torqued the package in such a way as to rip an inch long gash in my book half way down the spine. No fault of Wilson's that. Perhaps I didn't get the vibe of the book right away because it came around the time my second daughter was born and I wasn't quite in the right mood. Whatever, it grew on me quickly.

Imagine that you are conversing with a philosophically minded well-read poet with a British sense of humor and enough confidence in his faith to think irreverent thoughts with the ultimate goal of holy reverence. Imagine a Christian book that uses occasional "off-color" language and references songs like "The Bad Touch" by the Bloodhound Gang. Imagine that a writer could take you on a tilt-a-whirl ride through the seasons, describing each as he lives it in order to reflect on what kind of world this really is. Imagine that and you might just imagine this book.

In many ways N.D. Wilson seems like a kindred spirit (though I don't pretend to have his talent or knack for wordplay). I guess it's his sense of humor, his understated or flippant comments in which you better know what he's referencing because he's sure as heck isn't going to tell you. I love the fact that he is able to tackle topics that normally get treated with dust dry prose and copious footnote with style and panache. I mean, when was the last time you read a Christian book and thought: "Wow. This is really artistic. This is well-crafted!"

I loved it and highly recommend it!

The Old Curiosity Shop

The Old Curiosity Shop - Charles Dickens Review pending discussion. 3 1/2 stars really.

Give Them Christ: Preaching His Incarnation, Crucifixion, Resurrection, Ascension and Return

Give Them Christ - Stephen Seamands Excellent resource. For my full review, go to http://www.christian-intellect.blogspot.com/2013/10/what-should-we-preach-give-them-christ.html?m=1
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft - Stephen King I started this book several years ago and quit. Not because it wasn't good. No, no, but because I was afraid of book spoilers. In the process of writing on his craft (writing) King discussed certain books, how he developed their plots and characters, and some of the events within them. I find all of this fascinating once I have read a book but hats knowing anything ahead of time. After several years I decided to finish the book anyway. I mean live a little, Nick! And so I have and I'm glad I did.
I love most things King. As a matter of fact, Mr. King could probably read me his grocery list and hold my interest. The man just has a way of telling story. If you are interested in writing, then I highly recommend this book to you.

The Life of Flavius Josephus

The Life of Flavius Josephus - Josephus, William Whiston As a Biblical scholar and historian you have to read the primary sources. I have always wanted to engage Josephus for myself but felt daunted by the task. Don't be daunted--it's not that hard. However, it was difficult to keep my momentum going when the little sections started blurring together. First I led some soldiers to Sepphoris and then we went to Tiberius and then Justus was treacherous so I fought him. The men of Galilee love me...then they listened to Jonathan and rebelled against me. I have a man crush on Vespasian.

It was interesting to see Jewish idioms outside of the Bible and villages in the Galilee that never appear in the Bible at all. The title itself may mislead modern readers because this is mainly an account of Josephus' military campaigns and peace keeping ventures. As he mentions at one point, he is trying to counter what another historian has written about these events and about Josephus' actions.

Important for a scholar but not the most enjoyable read.

Owl Moon

Owl Moon - Jane Yolen A simple story of a rite of passage. Between Yolen's descriptions and Schoenherr's illustrations it's easy to feel like you are there on a farm on a snowy moonlit night looking for owls. Cute book to read with kids.

Purpose Driven Youth Ministry: 9 Essential Foundations for Healthy Growth

Purpose Driven Youth Ministry: 9 Essential Foundations for Healthy Growth (Youth Specialties) - Doug Fields When my senior pastor told me to order a copy of this book and read it, I wasn't very hopeful. Actually, I was nearly predisposed that this book would be crap. "Why?" you ask. Well, because in my mind, and the minds of many of my friends, the Purpose Drive brand has become synonymous with self-help, fluff, market driven Christianity. "Concoct a purpose statement of your own choosing and market the heck out of it and you will succeed." Not my thing. Rather than read "practical" books that seem to be the fodder most youth ministers, I love to read Biblical studies and deep theology or just plain old good quality fiction.

Grudgingly, I began to read PDYM, keeping an eye out for heresy. Now that I'm finished with it I cannot vouch for the rest of the Purpose Driven material, but Doug Fields has done a fine job of presenting a program for discipleship driven youth ministry. Over the pass few months I have struggled to adapt to the role of youth pastor. Fields offered me sound Biblical advice on a number of issues that has proved quite helpful.

The nine purposes are:

1. Power of God: helping passionate leaders with pure hearts to rely on God (no heresy here).
2. Purpose: Knowing why your youth ministry exists, writing it out, and putting leadership behind it (Here Fields is careful to stay focused on looking to the Bible).
3. Potential Audience: Identifying your students and their receptivity to your purposes (Basically, he asks you to assess your students' spiritual maturity and church involvement so you better know how to teach them...no real problems here).
4. Programs: Creating programs to fulfill the purposes and reach the potential audiences ["Programs are intended to influence students(not just stir up activity); essentially, Fields encourages reader to know the reason for each program. When I assessed most of the programs in the youth ministry when I arrived, they center on one thing--fun. What about discipleship, evangelism, true biblical fellowship, worship, or ministry? These are the things I'm now trying to keep in mind when my Youth Committee is trying to schedule parties and trips and dinners].
5. Process: Showing how you intend to move your audience toward spiritual maturity (another way of saying that discipleship doesn't happen accidentally).
6. Planned Values: Identifying the beliefs and styles that will help support the purposes (What are the leader's expectations for how the ministry needs to reflect it's purpose. Let's face it. Every church has values. Some are latent and some are explicit. Takes a look at how to communicate those values to the kids and the servants in your ministry).
7. Parents: Teaming up with the family for a stronger youth ministry.
8. Participating Leaders: Knowing how to bring others on board to help fulfill the purposes (Looks at how to select people to help in the ministry and how to keep them accountable).
9. Perseverance: Knowing how to stay focused, remain fresh--and stay alive!

Fields does use his Saddleback experience to describe his points (some people have complained that he is trying to lift up Saddleback as the model to clone), but he is quick to say that he is just offering up what he has done as an illustration and often says that churches should do what works best for them. Presently, my youth group is around 20 kids, so many of the examples do not directly apply. However, there is plenty of help here for smaller churches too. There was a bit of market driven approach in a few chapters, but not nearly as much as I would have suspected.

Pretty good stuff all in all.

The Faith Of Jesus Christ

The Faith of Jesus Christ: The Narrative Substructure of Galatians 3:1-4:11 (The Biblical Resource Series) - Richard B. Hays Insightful. Tedious. Helpful. Frustrating.
Hays makes a compelling case for he subjective genative use of pistis tou Iesou Christou in Galatians (the faith of Jesus Christ) as opposed to the objective genative (faith in Jesus Christ). I found his work with narrative analysis interesting, which is good since he spent a lot of time on it. I am glad that he incorporated an appendix in this second edition and that he clarified he issues at stake.

However, I must say this book is not for everyone. I struggled through the first hundred pages or so and was often frustrated that his supporting quotes were often in French or German and left untranslated. He also cites passages of the NT in Greek (luckily I knew enough to get by). As someone else had pointed out, it was written as a doctoral thesis and it still reads like one. I was hoping that the fact that it has become so popular would warrent translations in the footnotes but alas it hasn't yet.

On Grace and Free Will

On Grace and Free Will - Augustine of Hippo This is a great book for understanding the foundations of a Reformed view of free will. I am not Reformed (at least not in terms of TULIP) I am Weslyan-Arminian in my soterology. That being said, Uncle Augie is about 90% compatible with that point of view. He certainly combats the hated Pelagian heresy well. I will try to give this theological classic the treatment it deserves, but for now let me just say that it is a book that Christians should think through even if we disagree on some of it in the end.

WHO IS JESUS (Crucial Questions (Reformation Trust))

Who Is Jesus? - R.C. Sproul Dear Dr. Sproul,

I just finished your e-book "Who Is Jesus?" Thanks for the free book. I did enjoy it and get some new insights from it, but I must say that I am slightly confused on whom your target audience is. In many places it seemed like you were writing to those outside the faith who were wanting to know Who Jesus Is? You gave long theological explanations for certain aspects of Jesus' life and ministry that would be best suited to outsiders or beginners in the Christian faith. Certainly, it was not in depth enough (or footnoted enough) to be targeting theology students. Nor did it seem totally geared towards helping Christians explain their faith to non-Christians. However, you couldn't have been addressing the average person either. I noticed that you used loads of Latin theological and philosophical terms throughout your book--nearly on every page--but not in a way that always explained what they mean. So you must be assuming that your readers will have some type of higher education like yourself. However, in my opinion, the book is too brief to be for seminary students. My guess is that you just write and talk over people's heads and hope they can catch up. It does come across as insider language and pretty snobby though. Since I knew what you meant by most of those terms, I guess that means I'm in the club. That being said, I wish you had given me more new information. As a theological/philosophical insider I have already read most of these ideas elsewhere where they were treated more thoroughly. I am a sucker for a series, though, and I have down loaded all 14 e-books in the collection. I'll get back with you on those.

All the best,

Nick Jones


2BR02B - Kurt Vonnegut Not exactly heart warming, but I enjoyed it the way I always enjoy laughing at alternative future stories' portrayal of a "perfect world" that totally sucks.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn - Mark Twain I should be shot...but not for the reason Mr. Twain laid out in the preface but for the main reason that I ain't gone and read it till now. And me an English major and all too.
But that ain't here nor there now cause a body cain't go on worrying about what's done. This book was all right with me. Plenty of pranks and adventure to be had. I must say that Mr. Twain must not have realized that his book was gonna be sitch a hit or he would not have used such vulgar language for African Americans. I dasn't say more on this subject, but just know that he didn't mean no harm by it.
All in all, I would say it was mighty fine.
Slaughterhouse-Five - Kurt Vonnegut 3.5 stars really. I liked it, but I didn't love it. I guess I'm still trying to figure out what happened. So it goes.
A Murder, a Mystery, and a Marriage - Mark Twain;Roy Blount Jr. I had never heard of this story before and evidently no one else had either until recently. The first half of this short volume is the story proper while the second half is an afterword about Twain's. obsession with this "blindfold" novelette and his politics and some other things as well. It was enjoyable in all its parts. Fans of Twain must read. 3.5 stars rounded up to 4.

Tess of the D'Urbervilles

Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy Oh, dear dear Tessy! What can I say? You come from a family of lazy idiots. Perhaps that was your first problem. But I get ahead of myself.
Let me start with the fact that this book is so complex for me that I feel that I must view it through several lenses at once: literary, psychological, theological, and personal.

1. Literary: This book was a beautiful painting of rural English country life at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. Pastoral life became accessible for me in a way that no book has ever made it. The plot itself wound on in an interesting way. The villains were complex and the heroine/victim was sympathetic (maybe just pathetic...I'm not sure). The prose was highly readable and boosted my vocabulary satisfactorily (reconnoitre, modicum, revived my love of "whilst", etc., etc.) All in all 4.5 stars.

2. Psychological: As I have been watching more than my fair share of TV crime drama lately, I couldn't help but look at this book through this lens. Clearly, Tess is highly susceptible to being manipulated and battered. Dear ol mom and dad set her up for it from her earliest childhood. Mom postpones chores until the last minute and then acts as if she is so ladened with responsibility that she couldn't possibly bare the load alone. Dad constantly trying to justify laziness and conning Tess into taking up the slack. She didn't have much of a chance when master manipulator Alec D'Urberville comes on the scene. Angel Clare lording his power over her with the hot and cold technique, holding out the proverbial carrot of hope. So, by the end of the book, which plays out like an episode of Snapped, it's no wonder that poor Tessy has a psychological brake with reality. The problem is that Tess is nice and pretty and self-indulgently self-loathing. Rather than get mad at being victimized, she owns it and wishes she were dead. She states as much, so often that I was nearly inclined to see her put out of her misery. "Oh, the angst of living! *sigh* Why aren't I dead yet?" Aside from her stubborn--even prideful--tendency to choose the hard row to hoe or the stupid decision, there wasn't much to Tess. Her thoughts and beliefs were even borrowed from Angel. In a word, this book made me ANGRY. Angry at her parents. Angry at Alec. Angry at Angel and his freaking high horse hypocrisy. And ultimately angry at Tess for being such a door mat. No real likable people in this book. One star (enjoyment)/4 stars (complex & interesting)=2 stars.

3. Theological: Hardy makes it pretty clear that he does not believe in Christianity or God or the afterlife. He takes it far enough as to be preachy. I hated this element of the book. One star.

4. Personally: Finally, I liked many elements of the book. The language, the descriptions of rural life, and the plot points were all great. But I did not really enjoy this book. I told my wife that if I could become a literary assassin, I would go into this book and kill off several of the characters early on and save us all a bunch of trouble and heartache. It was all so maddening. In the end I was happy to see it finished. 2 stars.

Average of all lenses=3 stars, but I doubt I will ever read this again.

Great Lent: A School of Repentance

Great Lent:  A School of Repentance - Alexander Schmemann When I grabbed this for free off of amazon, I didn't realize that it was a pamphlet version of Schmemann's longer work of the same name. This version was a very quick read and was educational in regards to how Orthodox Christians celebrate Lent; however, it was too brief in the areas that interested me most for me to rate it higher. For instance, I really liked the final section called "How Can We Keep Great Lent?" which explained an orthodox understanding of fasting compared to a Roman Catholic one, prayer, spiritual reading, and changing your life during that time, but that was over in four or five Kindle sized pages. I am sure the longer version of this book is much better.