Already Gone by Ken Ham and Britt Beemer


Already Gone

A friend dropped this book off at my desk a while back and I finally had time to read it. This book is worth your time. Don’t stop, go get the book and read it this week. OK?

The subtitle of the book is this: Why your kids will quit church and what you can do to stop it. Is that provocative enough for you? The scary part is that they are correct! In my circles, kids are less likely to stop going to church; they are more likely to migrate from very conservative churches to more standard evangelical churches. So I’ve been asking the question: why is this generation leaving conservative churches. Ham and Beemer ask a more fundamental question: why is this generation leaving church?

The answer is the same: a lack of relevancy in modern churches. And by relevancy, I don’t mean “cool,” but rather “useful for life.” Ham and Beemer have done a series of studies on twenty-somethings who attended evangelical and conservative churches as children and now rarely if ever attend church. (Beemer is a professional pollster and has real-world experience creating legit polls and evaluating the data.)

The results might surprise you; they ought to shock you. Most of these young adults have a good view of the Bible and evangelical theology; they’ve left because the perceive the church to be less than useless to their lives. The book begins by attacking Sunday School as the main culprit. I disagree with that assessment (though I do think we screw up by teaching Bible “stories”). Sunday School may have implementation problems, but Sunday School is just a manifestation of a larger issue. Really the problem is twofold. First, there is a lack of spirituality amongst Christians. Second, there is a refusal to utilize logic and critical thinking skills.

To the first point, may Christians set their spiritual lives on autopilot and refuse to rock the boat. This shallow approach to Christian living teaches the young that the Bible is a great morality tale and is sorta useful as a guideline to life. Ham makes an interesting point at the end of the book. It is insufficient to read your Bible each day. You must study it and more importantly you must think about it. I’ve noticed that the times that I am called on to teach are the times that my walk is deepest. Before I teach a Sunday School class, I spend 10+ hours in preparation with most of that time thinking through the meaning and purpose of the text. So yeah, I think he’s right on that point and that this case can be made from the Psalmist as well. (By the way, in Psalm 15:2, we find that the righteous man “speaks the truth in his heart.” I recommend you spend time thinking about the ramifications of that point.)

How many Christians do you know that look down on those who smoke, drink, have sex outside of marriage and sniffle about that great sinner? How many of those Christians lie, cheat, play politics for position in the church or generally whine or snap at people? Which is worse: worrying or stealing? Matthew 6 implies that worrying is the defining characteristic of unbelievers…. Kids see this hypocrisy and recognize that while the people might be nice/good people, they aren’t trustworthy role models.

To the second point, failure to utilize logic and critical thinking skills leaves children with unresolved dichotomies. A friend once told me that though he grew up in a good home and in good churches, he assumed evolution was true. This was not because his parents or church taught him it was true, but because it was what he learned non-stop in school. It was not until college when someone detailed the scientific case for creation that he realized the fallacy of evolution. So here was a child who believed that God created in six days and that evolution was true. He kept that as an unresolved dichotomy for years.

The surveys taken by Beemer discovered that many kids (starting in upper elementary school) begin developing these dichotomies. Often authorities tell them: the Bible says it, I believe it, and that settles it for me. That’s no answer! That’s blind faith and we have a reasonable faith. Give the kids a reason to believe. Unfortunately, we seldom do that. Kids want to know the pros/cons of smoking or drinking, they want to know why premarital sex is bad, they want to know why their parents believe the Bible is true, they want to know how they can trust the Bible to be error-free and what inspiration means. They want to know! They need to know why they should base their belief in this book that their friends tell them is useless for anything more than moral guidance. Tell them! and don’t tell them that this is what the church or pastor or someone else believes. Don’t tell them that you said they should believe it and never question it again. Have honest open and forthright discussions. Ensure that your answers are grounded in logical thinking.

I remember a fight (or four) I had with a friend growing up. I was taught not to do things like attend the theater or listen to “bad” music. I look back on these fights/debates today with chagrin. My reasons were simply parrotings of illogical statements. My friend was pointing out all the myriads of holes in the arguments I had used. So don’t tell me that kids won’t see through stupid arguments. They do. And when you tell them that they should believe something or not do something and back it up with illogical fluff, don’t be surprised when they ignore you. You let them down and you gave them no reason to believe you.

Pat answers won’t cut it.

I’ve been arguing for some years now that my generation is leaving our churches because they don’t get answers. (If you spend any time in very conservative churches, you’ll discover that they this makes me unpopular….) The truth is, this survey confirms that idea and reveals that the problem is much greater than I had imagined. What are you doing about it? I know where I need to work personally.

Thanksgiving

This site is about book reviews. And only book reviews. But, as I own this site, I get to make exceptions on the (very) rare circumstances that I want to do so. Deal with it…. :-p

So, I was thinking about all the things for which I am thankful. It is two days till Thanksgiving after all. Now, I could compile a list of things for which I am thankful and post it here online, but I won’t, because I am paranoid about security. Let’s just say, that God has done many wonderful things for me this year.

There is one thing that I will share with you. Romans 8:1 states, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.”

Let’s step back and take a big view of Romans:

    Chapter 1: Man rejects God and God’s standards; these standards are required to enter Heaven
    Chapters 2-3: Men attempt to achieve God’s standards in their own way
    Chapter 4-5: The only way to meet God’s standards is to repent of your sinful actions and trust in the work of Christ to save you. You can’t do it on your own. A Christian is one who chose God’s way.
    Chapter 6: The process by which a Christian attempts to reach and maintain God’s perfect standards (clearly not accomplished in this mortal body…). This is the goal for daily living.
    Chapter 7: The struggles by which Christians try and fail to maintain God’s high requirements. Paul, the author of this book, expresses great frustration at his inability to maintain this perfect standard. This is our failure to maintain that goal.
    Chapter 8: The assistance needed to reach that goal and overcome failure.

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.

Often as a Christian I fail to live up to God’s standard. OK, most of the day I actively fail to measure up. That becomes frustrating to say the least. God expects better and yet I, like Paul described in chapter 7, fail miserably. Failure breeds depression, frustration and a desire to give up.

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.

This simple statement grants great reassurance. God isn’t judging Believers over their failures. He has forgiven those failures already. (That’s not a license to sin. In Chapter 6, Paul soundly rebukes that concept.) Rather this is the ability to step past my failures and try again. Romans 8:4ff argues that those who follow Christ “Set their minds on the things of the Spirit.” In other words, they choose to think about Godly things. Further, we learn a few verse later that those who walk according to the Spirit “through the Spirit put to death the deeds of the body.”

So victory comes through knowing that I am forgiven, actively focusing on things that honor God, and relying on the power of Spirit to say no to sin. That’s a formula that I’m not doing so well at, but I am starting to understand and grasp the ramifications of that first piece.

What am I thankful for this year? There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.

You?

Management: Meeting and Exceeding Customer Expectations, 9th ed. by Warren R. Plunkett, Raymond F. Attner, Gemmy S. Allen


Management: Meeting and Exceeding Customer Expectations

I had to use this textbook for a principles of management class. Bought it for the term, sold it at a profit, and will be buying another copy for the next management class of my own volition. My expectations for textbooks, especially business ones, are pretty low. This one met,and actually exceeded those as a textbook. Its well worth it for either a beginning class (ie, required textbook, so you’re going to buy it regardless of what I say), or or a high level class requiring case studies (yes, I said that: I’m voluntarily buying the thing next term). The telecourse guide is helpful, the website blah, the videos double blah.

THE GOOD: It covers every imaginable phrase, concept, and topic within the realm of basic management. Every word you could possibly need for a degree is covered in here with encyclopedic precision. Every theory gets its own table or illustration or graph. The student may get very little on the reality of business (memos, financial statements, and other real-life applications are not the point here), but the theories are solidly packed in: this may be boring, but its what you need for an intro business class. And lets face it, the book is designed to be an encyclopedia for future classes. One extremely useful insert: the case study that fronts every chapter, usually on some well known brand. Each chapter then refers back to that company in all its examples. This really drives the plethora of words home, and helps keep all those facts straight. Also, the book comes with a telecourse guide that can be useful to review for a multiple choice test: itself-tests were invaluable.

THE BAD: The book doesn’t stop with a plethora of words (which we do need): it goes on to a plethora of media. This book comes with a telecourse guide, website, and videos. While I always take notes for my own memory benefit, read the telecourse guide before exams and you’re good. Works for the test, not for remembering anything later (again, as an 01 class, where the point is to teach you these words for long-term use in other classes, this is a bad thing). In addition to the telecourse guide, the book offers a website with more tests (the answer key is screwy), and a series of videos to go with the chapter readings. Said videos had little redeeming value, being poorly done, formulaic, unrealistic, and teaching nothing new while pratting on about this or that wonderful brand, The videos were also over two hours a week of time. Taken together, this is waaay too much time to be spending on one class. Its just over the top.

Also, it has these politically correct inserts every so often about ethics and including women and the environment and all that jazz. These inserts are boring and entirely irrelevant to real life or the theories. I’ll happily overlook thsoe for the quality explanations and definitions, let alone the really good case studies.

THE LOWDOWN: All in all, great book. If you’re taking a higher level class and need some help with terms or case studies, its well worth the investment. I’ll be taking my own advice on this one in the next term. for the record. The telecourse guide is worth buying if you don’t want to take notes, and as a review in print of the tests. The website, skip. The videos, skip. The book, buy on Amazon (about $30 used international edition).

Chicken Soup for the Mothers Soul


Chicken Soup for the Mother's Soul

Contents: This book is a collection of short stories composed by four authors from readers who have sent them in, or just stories they have found.

The stories are in ten different sections “On Love,” “A Mother’s Guiding Hand,” “A Mother’s Courage,” “On Motherhood,” “Becoming a Mother,” “Special Moments,” “Miracles,” “Letting Go,” “A Grandmothers Love,” and “Thank You Mom.” (As you may have noticed, this book is directed toward women, but men will like it too, I think)

I love this book, it was a great read. The stories are so inspiring and funny, a few are sad, but inspiring at the same time. It makes you look at your mother, and grandmother, in an entirely new fashion.

One story in particular concerns grandmothers, and how they seem to have all the time in the world for their grandchildren. They don’t brush them away, or skip pages when reading a book, and are willing to read the same book repeatedly. That made me look at the way I treat my four-year-old cousin in an entirely new way. I have been trying to make sure that taking a few minutes to read a book does not become a frustration in my busy day, but a time to teach and spend time with him.

Most of these stories include something happening that shows the child just how much their mother loves them. This, I think, brings out the point that underlines all these stories; you must spend time with your children if you want a lasting relationship. One mother sent love notes with each of her children, every single day, without fail, even when they grew older and said they did not need them. All her children took that little action of love with them for the rest of their lives.

You only have one life to live, so live it in a way that brings glory to God and joy to others.

The Heart of Female Same-Sex Attraction: A Comprehensive Counseling Resource by Janelle Hallman


The Heart of Female Same-Sex Attraction: A Comprehensive Counseling Resource

Note: Not sure if this properly published last week; so here it is again. Matt Gardenghi

Sadly, many assume that a woman who has same-sex attraction is easy to peg—easy to spot. They assume that this type of woman is “ugly,” “bra-burning,” and “man hating.” In The Heart of Female Same-Sex Attraction: A Comprehensive Counseling Resource, Janelle Hallman argues that there are many more women than just those conceived stereotypes struggling with same-sex attraction. After years of counseling women with SSA, Hallman has written a book that explores the causation, different expressions, and methods of counseling women with SSA.

The Heart is divided up into two parts, “The Building Blocks: Understanding Their Stories” and “The Work of Restoration: Leading Them Home.” The first section explores causation, the therapist or counselor relationship, codependency issues, and contributing social and familial issues. The second section weaves together stories of Hallman’s clients with practical applications of “how to” help women who find themselves with SSA.

Hallman begins by destroying the idea of the stereotypical radical lesbian. In her prologue she discusses the beginning of her interest in helping these women. While in a women’s Bible study, she saw two women confess that they had “crossed the typical physical and emotional boundaries of friendship” (p. 11). Apparently, these women were not “that type,” and yet they had fallen to this behavior. With this impetus, Hallman discovered that “every woman with SSA is unique . . . in how she experiences her same-sex attraction” (p. 23). Contrary to what the stereotype may be, Hallman’s clients range from 25-50, single and married, parents and grandparents. These women struggling with same-sex attraction will often express it in ways that do not always include physical activity. At times their SSA will be manifest in relationships that are emotionally dependent and destructive in their introspection.

Unlike men who deal with homosexuality, women’s expressions of SSA rarely have a root in physical attachment, but are more enmeshed in the realm of emotional dependency and satisfaction. “The relationship is about connection” (p. 106). The web of varying SSA behavior seems ultimately to be attached to the events of the woman’s past, including but not limited to childhood experiences. Hallman cites numerous experiences with her clients as well as other scientific studies that lead her to this assertion. When a woman looks to “another woman . . . to survive or adapt to unresolved childhood deficits and traumas, she can inadvertently become extremely emotionally dependent on her friend and block or negate her own autonomous growth and healing process” (p. 100). A harmful childhood is not the only contributing factor to SSA, but one of many. The message throughout The Heart is that female same-sex attraction must be confronted as one peels an onion—slowly and deliberately breaking through the layers.

In the book’s second section of practical applications, Hallman presents four steps for the counselor or therapist to lead the client through. She reminds the reader that it often takes months, if not years for women to see lasting and meaningful change in this area. There isn’t an “SSA switch” that can be flipped. Change comes through the transformation and renewing of the woman’s mind. The four suggested steps include: Formation, Transformation, Integration, and Consolidation and Maturity. Hallman spends several chapters on each explaining how the counselor can walk the client through this laborious and rewarding process.

Because women are so relationally oriented, Hallman urges the counselor or therapist to be unconditionally accepting of the woman herself. Some readers may be uncomfortable with this perspective or see it as “too soft on sin.” She, however, argues that for the counselor to succeed in challenging, and assisting in changed behavior, the counselor must provide a warm and welcoming environment so that the first stage of healing, Formation, can be reached (p. 118). These hesitant readers would do well to remember what Christ did in dealing with another woman caught up in sexual sin; He focused on the nature of who she was, not the mere act of her sin (John 8).

Perhaps due to our permissive society, the evilness of our hearts, or pervasive abuse, there seems to be growing amount of women dealing with same-sex attraction. I have known several women who would self-identify as lesbians. But I have known more women who engage in destructive, “canabalistic” female friendships that ended in pain and heartache (p. 105). Some of these women were single and some were married; all of them considered themselves Christians. Yet, they engaged in inappropriate emotional relationships, turning their friend into an idol (p. 101); someone who they hoped would give them a reason for being. It was because of these women that I wanted to read this book. Anyone who is in a counseling position, be it a man or woman, would benefit from this book including Sunday school teachers, Bible study leaders, pastors, and counselors.

In the end there is hope. A woman can walk through this “lengthy process in which she reclaims, piece by piece, her heart and her soul, which have been deposited or housed in the other woman. She must salvage the threads of her true self and reknit them around new perceptions, impressions and beliefs that arise out of a corrective experience of love, support and acceptance” (p. 114). A love ultimately found in God, not another person.

The Elements of Style, by William Strunk and E.B. White


Elements of Style

Originally written by William Strunk, once an English professor at Cornel University, “The Elements of Style” was later revised by E.B White. The latter took an English course from professor Strunk thirty-eight years before he revised tis small book.

The authors tell you the basics of proper writing, the do’s and don’ts, as well as some tips to on clarity and how to keep your writing constant. I particularly enjoyed the author’s style. Whenever they instructed the reader in certain areas, such as the do’s and don’ts, it was always followed by a written example. In my case, in order for my to learn best, I need an example to go on, otherwise I tend to forget part of the lesson. Also, they explained the reason some words were better than others, for clarity and conciseness.

The authors exhort their readers to be consistent in the use of their words; like if you have a character that has a Scottish accent, be sure to be consistent in that persons speech. If he says a word one way, do not write it another way the next time he says it.

Another example of inconsistency, is when two or more characters are speaking with one another and you do not clarify who is speaking. Such inconsistency can confuse the reader, and make him or her read back several paragraphs to find who is speaking. (I have had to do this in a few books I read, it was quite annoying.)

One more admirable aspect of this small book, is that it is small. I don’t know about you, but I can read a lot of little books on writing; if its long it tends to get tiring. This small book keeps itself humorous, instructive and concise.

Seeing my growing interest in writing, my mother gave this book to me to read for school. I found it very enlightening, and saw my writing improving every time I sat down to write. The two authors do an excellent job of instructing the reader on the elements of style; I did not find it at all boring. In fact it was quite amazing to read what they had to say, and all in a short ninety-five pages.

I highly recommend this book to any and all students who write for school, or aspiring authors.

Love, Liberty and Christian Conscience by Randy Jaeggli


Love, Liberty, and Christian Conscience

I grabbed this short (58 page) work because this is an issue that frames many of the struggles and divisions within American Christian society. For the amount of content, this should be a little cheaper (ahem, Suzette…), but still worth buying (even on impulse like I did).

For the record, I believe that few Christians are properly balanced on this difficult issue. Generally, two sides exist: those who proclaim (like Charles Swindoll) that no one may ever lay specific rules of conduct on a believer except where Scripture explicitly prohibits or demands certain actions. And then it is occasionally debatable…. Then there is the other side that argues for strict adherence to standards and codes of conduct that were common and culturally acceptable in the 1940’s and ’50’s. Any deviation is termed backsliding and a Christian is viewed as “sinful.”

I should probably moderate those statements a bit. I actually think that there are only a few people who hold to either extreme, they are just vocal and everyone around them generally espouses the same view publicly even if they hold a differing view in practice. This problem arises from many areas and Randy Jaeggli does a fantastic job of sidestepping the various causes as these “causes” really only lead to finger pointing. One side claims the other intolerant. The other shoots back that they are remaining “faithful” to the word of God. Who’s right? Well, at that point neither, but for different reasons.

Jaeggli begins by explaining the nature of the controversy and the redefinition of legalism. For the record, a legalist believes that their works will save them or at least incur favor with God. For some reason, those who wish more freedom to do whatever they please have redefined legalists as those who would place restrictions upon others.

Jaeggli then focuses on the role of conscience in the believer’s life. The conscience is not bad; rather, Paul exclaimed that the conscience was good and necessary (repeatedly…). Further, Jaeggli, beginning with a tremendous discussion of Genesis 3, traces the explicit and implicit teaching of the conscience throughout scripture. One point that he makes very coherently is this: a conscience is trained through the regular communication with God and the study of His word.

Finally, Jaeggli ends by proving that liberty and freedom require restrictions. In the US, freedom to own requires an injunction against theft. Freedom of speech has a corresponding injunction that prohibits the gagging of dissenters. For a freedom to exist, some form of restriction must also exist to protect and control the freedom; else, instead of orderliness we would have anarchy.

As a Christian you need to read this book. Come on, it’s only 58 pages and sells for $10 or so. It is a great foundation stone for this controversial and important topic. (The book is a great foundation, but it really was just that, there is so much more to this issue than what was covered in these few pages.) There are some other questions that I have.

* What do we do when two Christians have consciences that disagree?
* In 1 Corinthians 4:1-5 (esp. 5), Paul writes that only the judgment of Christ matters. He ignores the judgments of other believers and non-believers. In fact, Paul goes so far as to say that judgments of believers should wait until the final judgment.
* How do we reconcile that with Paul’s judgment of sin in the Corinthian church? And with Christ’s command that we judge the fruit of people in Matthew 7?

I would postulate these answers, and I would enjoy hearing your responses.

* To the first question, we seek the needs of our brother first: see Philippians 2.
* With regards to the second and third questions, I notice that Christ told us not to judge unless we have properly cleaned our own life. We would be judged within the same manner that we judged others. Therefore, don’t rebuke someone for whining a bit when you whine and gripe incessantly. You get the idea.

Following that, Christ’s command to judge fruits was within the context of false teachers. Taking that to apply to everyone might be stretching it. Mind you, I am NOT saying that you can’t apply it to everyone, but one should moderate it with 1 Corinthians 4.

I would argue that we reconcile Paul’s actions and teaching this way: believers must rebuke other believers who are in clear violation of the explicit teaching of Scripture. For everything else, which are extrapolations and applications of biblical teaching, we don’t judge. How do I know that your definition of long hair on a guy is the correct interpretation? How do I know that mine is correct? How does one clearly define modesty? What one guy considers modest on a woman another guy considers immodest. So who is correct?

Here is my current understanding of this morass of entangling stuff. I will educate my conscience in the Word by studying the Bible and seeking to honor the Lord in all that I do. I won’t worry about other people who do things a little differently unless the Bible clearly and explicitly defines it as sin.

What do you think? And by all means, lets have plenty of believers weigh in on this one. You don’t have to agree with me to have a worthwhile opinion.