Food for thought

“We spend so much energy wishing we were someone else.  Don’t waste your time on that.  Christ has completed the work for us.  We are his and he is ours, and in him we rest in triune love.  Why waste time thinking we are not sufficient and being jealous over those we think are sufficient?  We have already seen that no one is sufficient but Christ, and in him we are brought into union with the Father. That’s enough. What can you add to perfect love?

“The guy who slugs it out at work every day displays the kingdom when he is living for the love of the King.  He is faithful, loves his wife, leads his home, adores his kids and admits when he fails.  You and I will never hear about him, he will never be famous, and some of us would look at his job and think it is not a place you could live with passion.  But Jesus has become the object of his desire, and by the grace of Christ he displays the kingdom of peace, mercy, kindness, faithfulness, joy, and purity in every detail of his life.  He won’t preach a sermon on Sunday, but he will leave a legacy in his home and his workplace, where he did what God made him to do for the love of the King.”

(A Kingdom Called Desire: Confronted By the Love of a Risen King, by Rick McKinley, pp.124-125)

Book Review – The Greater Journey

Ever since I picked up John Adams, I have been an avid fan of David McCullough.  His biography of Harry Truman is perhaps the best one I’ve ever read.  McCullough has a knack for taking people or things that perhaps have escaped the popular limelight (such as the Panama Canal or the Brooklyn Bridge) and writes a completely captivating history of them.  You do not simply read a McCullough book, you experience it.

When I first heard that McCullough was penning a new work focusing on the impact that Parisian life had on Americans of the 19th century, I was quite excited to say the least.  And when I was offered the chance to do a pre-release review of The Greater Journey, I was thrilled and jumped at the opportunity.  McCullough did not disappoint.

The Greater Journey varies in focus from his other works.  While the majority of his previous books have focused on political and engineering aspects of American history, The Greater Journey instead highlights many of the artistic influences of American history (Adams, Jefferson and Franklin get barely a mention).  Although working with a large cast of characters such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Mary Cassatt, Louis Moreau Gottschalk and Harriet Beecher Stowe, McCullough spotlights a few in more detail.  Although Samuel F. B. Morse is more widely known for inventing the telegraph, McCullough spends more time discussing Morse’s artistic work in the Louvre.  Augustus Saint-Gaudens, sculptor of such memorials as the Farragut, Sherman and Robert Gould Shaw Memorials, was greatly influenced by his time in Paris.  Of particular interest to me was the account of Elihu Washburne’s efforts during the Franco-Prussian War to protect French, American and German citizens.  With each of these and others, McCullough writes of how their time in Paris influenced their artistic abilities or, as was the case with Charles Sumner, their political/humanitarian views.

When I first heard of the subject matter of the book, I wasn’t sure it would be as interesting as McCullough’s other works that dealt with more sweeping changes such as 1776.  But while watching an interview of McCullough about the book, he made a statement that convinced me otherwise.  He said “History is much more than just politics and generals.  History is about life.  History is human.  And music, art, literature, poetry, theatre, science, the whole realm of the human spirit is all part of history.”

As captivating and readable as his other books, The Greater Journey offers a unique glimpse of the more cultural side of American history and the huge role Paris life played in shaping this culture. (5/5 stars)

The Wealth of Nations – FINISHED!

Events in the year 1776 were to be ones that changed the political face of the world for the rest of history. The fledgling United States of America was embroiled in its fight for independence from the British Empire, what was perhaps at that time the greatest power in the world. In July, the Declaration of Independence, authored principally by Thomas Jefferson was adopted by the United States, officially announcing its independence from the British Empire.

There was another document published that year, albeit one that was not quite as important and monumental as the Declaration of Independence. On March 9, 1776 Adam Smith published what was to become one of the greatest works in the field of economics and would help to change both the political and economic understanding of nations from that time on. The Wealth of Nations is “widely considered to be the first modern work in the field of economics…and the first comprehensive defense of free market policies.” (Wikipedia)

I am very pleased to announce that I have finally finished recording an unabridged audio version of Adam Smith’s seminal work.  This is perhaps one of the longest personal projects I’ve ever undertaken and I’m very glad to have it finally completed.  As far as I can tell, this is the only unabridged, human-read FREE version of this book you’ll find anywhere.

I started the project over 3 years ago, in January 2008.  To put that into perspective, Sarah was 7 months pregnant with Ben when I began this recording.  I used three different microphones (in increasing levels of quality) to record more than 370,000 words.  Total finished recording time is just over 36 hours.  Taking an average time on recording, proofing and editing at about 3 minutes for every 1 minute of finished recording comes out to about 108 hours total of time spent recording the book.

In between recording the five books that make up The Wealth of Nations, I made some other recordings, including John Bunyan’s autobiography Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners and John Owen’s excellent book, The Mortification of Sin, both of which can also be downloaded for free.  What’s next?  Well, definitely something smaller, that’s for sure.  I’m considering working on C.H. Spurgeon’s Lectures To My Students, but haven’t quite decided yet.

If you enjoy audio books and would like to listen to what is continually listed in the top 100 books of all time, follow this link to download the free, unabridged audiobook of The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith. I hope you enjoy listening as much as I enjoyed reading.

Book Review – Always True

In Always True, James MacDonald writes of how the Christian can have faith in God even in the most trying of difficulties.  He encourages the believer to “hang on” to God’s promises, showing how God always keeps his promises.  Each chapter is packed with Scripture verses, made even more noticeable in bolded font.  You can’t go two pages without your eyes being drawn to the bolded verse.  MacDonald uncovers five different promises of God that are “always true:”

1.       God is always with me (I will not fear)
2.       God is always in control (I will not doubt)
3.       God is always good (I will not despair)
4.       God is always watching (I will not falter)
5.       God is always victorious (I will not fail)

“God is always watching” – this promise was especially insightful.  Usually when we talk about God watching us, it’s in the context of making sure we are behaving.  But as MacDonald points out, God watches us because we are precious in his sight, similar to how parents lovingly watch their children.  And we are watched and loved not because we are valuable but because we are valued.

In his introduction, MacDonald pinpoints the struggle in the Christian walk – that of “holding on” while waiting for the fulfillment of God’s promises.  He says “Today I believe; tomorrow (or at some point in the future) I receive.  The distance between today and tomorrow is called walking by faith.  The hard part is in the waiting between the promise and the answer.” (p.20)

Preceding each promise chapter is a chapter on the “Theology of a Promise” that focuses on God’s nature as it relates to His promises.  These are heavier on the theological side, but no less important.  It gives us a glimpse into the nature of God and why it is we can trust in his promises.  The last Theology of a Promise was the best.  In it, MacDonald shares how all of God’s promises are experienced in Jesus Christ.  “God has made no provision for you to live the Christian life on your own.  The Christian life is Christ in you, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27)….Jesus Christ is the Christian life.  It’s not me acting like Jesus….It’s not you trying to please the Lord, or to thank Him, or impress Him, or even trying to imitate Him.  The core of this truth is: It’s Christ in me by His Spirit.” (pp.130-131)

The only minor drawback I might have with this book is that it doesn’t seem to be written to those currently suffering some trial.  While the theological truths are certainly there, I did not get a sense of compassion, a sense of “weeping with those who weep.”  The book came across as heavy on the theology of the promises of God but light on empathy.  I’m not sure I would give it to someone who, for example, had just lost a child.

That being said, MacDonald does an excellent job of pointing out how God’s very nature is one of promising and fulfilling those promises.  When all else fails, God’s promises are indeed Always True.

(Thanks to Moody Publishers for providing a review copy of this book)

Great quote by Augustine

Certainly we can never give thanks to Him enough for the fact that we live, that we behold the heavens and earth, and that we possess the mind and reason by which we seek to know Him Who created all these things.  But more than this: when we were burdened and overwhelmed with sins, turned away from the contemplation of His light and blinded by the love of darkness, that is of iniquity, he did not wholly desert us.  Rather, He sent to us His own Word, Who is His only Son, so that, by His birth and suffering in the flesh which He assumed for our sakes, we might know how highly God prized man; and so that, love being shed abroad in our hearts through His Spirit, and all our trials being thereby overcome, we might come into eternal rest and the ineffable sweetness of contemplating Him.  What hearts, what tongues, can claim that they are sufficient to give thanks to Him for all this? (Augustine, City of God)

Free Audiobook – Adopted for Life

While ChristianAudio.com has given away some great audiobooks over the past couple of years, I am more excited about this month’s free audiobook than any of the others.  From now until February 28, 2011 you can get Russell D. Moore’s book Adopted for Life in audiobook absolutely free.  This book, in my opinion, is perhaps THE best book on adoption I’ve ever read (and I’ve read quite a few!).  Moore covers both physical adoption (having adopted two sons himself) and spiritual adoption (our adoption in Christ).  I cannot recommend this book highly enough.  If you’re thinking about adoption, read this book. If you MIGHT be thinking about adoption, read this book. If you’ve ever adopted, read this book. If you want to know more about adoption, read this book.  Here is the book description from ChristianAudio.

The gospel of Jesus Christ—the good news that through Jesus we have been adopted as sons and daughters into God’s family—means that Christians ought to be at the forefront of the adoption of orphans in North America and around the world.

Moore does not shy away from this call in Adopted for Life, a popular-level, practical manifesto for Christians to adopt children and to help equip other Christian families to do the same. He shows that adoption is not just about couples who want children—or who want more children. It is about an entire culture within the church, a culture that sees adoption as part of the Great Commission mandate and as a sign of the gospel itself.

 

Free Audiobook of the Month

ChristianAudio’s free audiobook for the month of January is Jerry Bridge’s classic, The Pursuit of Holiness.

“Be holy, for I am holy,” commands God to His people. But holiness is something that is often missed in the Christian’s daily life. According to Jerry Bridges, that’s because we’re not exactly sure what our part in holiness is. In The Pursuit of Holiness, he helps us see clearly just what we should rely on God to do-and what we should accept responsibility for ourselves. Whether you’re continuing your pursuit of holiness or just beginning, the principles and guidelines in The Pursuit of Holiness will challenge you to obey God’s command of holiness. (from the christianaudio website)