Blue Mountain

Good Morning!

Blue mountain

I love coffee, and last week I was talking to a friend about my favorite coffee, Blue Mountain. It’s one of the best substances in the world. Grown in Papua New Guinea with seeds imported from the Blue Mountains in Jamaica, it is an exquisite blend of flavor and perfection. This is the blend which taught me that coffee doesn’t need cream or sugar to be a fantastic experience. Well, that and the fact that the first time I was in PNG all we had was that weird unrefrigerated boxed milk (was that rice milk? Goat milk?).

At any rate, if you have an extra $70 plus shipping, you ought to buy some Blue Mountain. Best coffee in the world, and they didn’t even have cats poop it out. I guarantee that you’ll enjoy it. Your wallet might not, but you will.

-Daniel

Worth Reading: Thielicke

Hey,

Just a few days ago I finished a killer little book, called A Little Exercise For Young Theologians, by Helmut Thielicke. I would highly recommend it to anyone who goes to Bible school, anyone who identifies as a theologian, anyone involved in Christian teaching. Incredibly insightful, and incredibly convicting.

Thielicke spends 41 short pages highlighting some dangers that young theologians can fall into, and gives wise advice as how to avoid the worst of these dangers. I think it’s the sort of book theologians (especially young ones) should read perennially. Here’s a word from Thielicke that sums up the book well, and should serve as a caution to all us students of theology:

There is a hiatus between the arena of the young theologians’s actual spiritual growth and what he already knows intellectually about this arena. So to speak, he has been fitted, like a country boy, with breeches that are too big, into which he must still grow up in the same way that one who is to be confirmed must also still grow into the long trousers of the Catechism. Meanwhile, they hang loosely around his body, and this ludicrous sight of course is not beautiful. (p. 10)

If you’re a student of theology, I recommend you buy a copy and read it at the beginning of each semester. It’s what I intend to do for the remainder of my schooling.

-Daniel

Worth Reading: Ben Franklin

Hello again,

Remember when I recommended DailyLit? Well, I just finished my first book using that service: The Autobiography of Ben Franklin. I thought I would read it because I had seen it listed in a few “Books Everyone Should Read” lists. It was… interesting.

When Franklin described his early years in the first part of his memoirs, I got the definite sense that I would not have liked him, had I known him. Though it seems he mellowed some toward his later years, I still get the impression that he was one of those people who annoys the daylights out of everybody, only they can’t exactly pinpoint why. Perhaps it’s just me (It’s not).

In the last three sections of his account, however, I really began to see the man’s genius. He had a hand in practically every pie: commerce, religion, politics (on multiple levels), war- he really was quite talented. And he invented electricity, as we all know, so there’s a plus.

It really was interesting to get a glimpse into the mind of the man that shaped so much of our national history and identity. So subscribe to DailyLit or pick up a paper copy of Ben Franklin’s Autobiography- I hope you will enjoy it.

All Time Favs: Christian Living

Another list!

This time I wanted to give a list of the most inspiring Christian living books I’ve read. Of course there are tons of titles in this genre coming out every year, but these are some that have been huge in my joy and progress in the faith. Again, listed in no particular order.

1) Just Do Something, Kevin DeYoung- Growing up, I thought about God’s will for my life constantly. It always seemed such an elusive thing to figure out, and yet so important to know. In this delightful little book, DeYoung gives solid biblical truth mixed with pastoral wisdom and helpful anecdotes to help us know how to think about the will of God. This one is worth keeping copies around to give to people.
2) Red Like Blood, Bob Bevington and Joe Coffee- I know I included this in my other list- it’s just that good. Bevington and Coffee have seen sin up close and personal, and they’ve been overwhelmed with God’s grace. They write from hearts filled with gratitude and heads full of sound doctrine. This is a good book.
3) Taste and See, John Piper- I don’t usually go in for books of meditations, but Piper hits a home run in this one. 140 meditations on everything from rain to adoption to prayer, this is a down-to-earth pastoral approach to seeing and savoring God in all of life.
4) Respectable Sins, Jerry Bridges- Don’t read this book if you value your comfort. Bridges takes a hard look at the sins that we in the West have excused or passed off as quirks, and biblically reveals how awful they are. This is a convicting book to read.
5) Thoughts for Young Men, JC Ryle- I know very little about Ryle, but if this little book is any indication, the guy was incredible. Filled with sound advice and great anecdotes, this short book is an incredibly helpful book for anyone (man or woman, young or old) who aspires to live a Christ-like life.
6) Walking as He Walked, Joel Beeke- I believe this was originally delivered as four sermons, which gives it a unique style. It’s a very short book, and in it Beeke talks about four Christ-like qualities that we must emulate if we are to follow him. So concrete, so good- you should read it.
7) Victory Over the Darkness, Neil T. Anderson- There’s a lot in Anderson’s stuff I don’t agree with, but this book is fantastic. Again and again he hammers home the central point of our identity in Christ, which ought to change everything. This is a book worth reading.
8) Practicing Affirmation, Sam Crabtree- Pastor Sam is such a delight to be around, and this book is filled with practical and pastoral wisdom about affirming others. I didn’t realize how big a deal affirmation was until I read his book. Another short one.
9) The Disciplines of Grace, Jerry Bridges- From his writing, Bridges has two themes he constantly writes about: holiness and grace. This book brings the two together in an amazing way. From the first chapter to the last, this book had me in tears. Definitely worth reading.
10) Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer- This is an absolutely fantastic book about the church, in a real flesh and bones kind of way. Bonhoeffer reminds us that God gave us the church we have, flawed and imperfect as it is, for our good. This was an excellent reminder for me. I highly recommend it.

Well, that’s all for now.

-Daniel

All Time Favs: Pop Non-Fiction

More books!

I’ve been thinking about some of my other favorite books recently, and there’s a particular class of books that comes to mind. I don’t even know if this is officially a genre, or if all of these belong in the same genre, but these are all titles that occupy the “Books I Read When I Want To Know More About Something From Someone Who Writes Very Well” category in my head. So again, listed in no particular order, are some of my favorite “Pop Non-Fiction” books.

1) Blink, Malcolm Gladwell- Gladwell is an engaging and informative writer, and Blink is one of his best works. It explores the power of the sub-concious brain to make decisions and value judgements, drawing on a large body of research and anecdotal evidence. An excellent book.
2) The Shallows, Nicholas Carr- Nick Carr (His friends call him “Nicky”) presents some compelling evidence for the idea that the very technology we use shapes not only how we work, but how we think. Carr argues that all throughout history, technology has come with benefits and drawbacks, and the internet is no different. He also gives a balanced approach for how we should think about the technology we use so as to maximize benefits and limit the negative effects. I highly recommend reading this book side by side with Why Johnny Can’t Preach from my previous post.
3) Stiff, Mary Roach- This is not a book for the faint of heart, but it is nevertheless incredibly informative and thought-provoking, and strangely entertaining. Mary Roach is a talented writer with a strong stomach, and she tackles the science and history of cadavers with compassion and wit, making Stiff a worthwhile and lively read.
4) Born To Run, Christopher McDougall- It doesn’t matter whether you consider yourself a runner or not- this book is so engaging and insightful, you won’t be able to put it down. In Born To Run, McDougall explores the topics of barefoot running, ultra-marathons, the Tarahumara Indians, the anatomy of running, and much more. Great book.
5) Freakonomics, Steven Levitt- This book is just cool. If you like to see strange connections between seemingly random trends, then you’ll love Freakonomics. Levitt writes about everything from real estate to sumo wrestlers in this book, and somehow he makes it all fit together.
6) The Mother Tongue, Bill Bryson- Bryson is such a clever writer, it doesn’t matter what his subject is- he could write a book about C++ and I would read it (Editor’s note: not true. I’m not even sure what C++ is, but it sounds horrible. Why else would someone add two plus signs? Who are they trying to convince?). In this book Bryson digs into the history of English, telling stories and interspersing little nuggets of trivia that will inspire in the reader a newfound love for this strange, eclectic language of ours.

There are plenty of other books that belong in this category, but I don’t see any on my shelves that I want to write about. We’ll talk more later, but this ought to be a good start.

-Daniel

Worth Reading: Flannery’s Short Stories

Now this is just weird. I finished another book yesterday- that makes two for the day, and… yep, three for the year. Yesterday was a good day.

For the last few weeks I’ve been reading Flannery O’Connor’s A Good Man Is Hard To Find And Other Stories, taking a story at a time, because, boy, is she whacked. I don’t mean that her stories aren’t good- they are. Very well written, and very heavy. Not the sort of thing you would want to read to children, most of the time. She has this way of putting her characters through their own private crucible to strip away their (1930’s Southern) comfortable illusions and reveal their true character. 

If you like short stories, like excellent writing, and like to be made to feel and think, then pick up a copy of O’Connor. You’ll enjoy it.

-Daniel

Worth Reading: Spiritual Disciplines

Yes!

I start reading books all the time. Unfortunately, I finish very few. That’s probably why I’ve got this euphoric feeling right now- I just finished Don Whitney’s Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life (You can buy it here). Admittedly, I had to read Whitney for school, but that doesn’t diminish my victory one bit.

Spiritual Disciplines is a fantastic book- I highly recommend it to any Christian serious about growing in godliness. Whitney gives an insightful and pastoral overview of ten key disciplines in the Christian life, chock-full of profound quotes and challenging questions. This book is definitely going onto the bookshelf above my desk (a high honor), to be consulted frequently. It’s 249 pages of conviction and good advice- worth reading!

-Daniel