Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Multiple Visits Recommended

Current post at Christian Book Classics tells about a George Barna poll. He checked with pastors to see which books were most influential in their lives.

Coming tomorrow is an interview with Phillip Yancey.

Coming on Thursday is Josh McDowell's most recommended books.

If you haven't bookmarked this page, you should. If you haven't bookmarked Christian Book Classics, you should.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Dark Chocolate - Instead of Cough Medicine

Buy stock in Hershey's!! Every day there's another article (science at its best) telling us how great dark chocolate is for your health. Now here is yet another article that suggest dark chocolate is better than Vicks for curing your cough. Tastes better tooo.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Deadline by Randy Alcorn

Who knew? This simple little story is well written enough that had it not been “Christian” it would probably have been picked up by a solid publisher. Deadline is a very good piece of fiction. You’ll like the characters, although I think men will like the characters better than women. You’ll be intrigued by the story line. You’ll want to know who did it? (Or is that dunnit?) You won’t want this book to end.

But then there’s this twist. Any other fine Christian or secular fiction will see the story from the point of view of the author, the protagonist, another character in the story, or the narrator. In this case you get that normal part, but thrown in for free, you get another view from . . . scroll down for the answer : ) Heaven.

Randy begins to show his spots in this early mystery novel. His great interest in Heaven shows up through many of his books, culminating in his recent release of HEAVEN. But here we are part of the ongoing drama in heaven as those over there watch the drama that’s going on over here. This unique effect is much fun for a while, but I have to admit to being more interested in the doings on terra firma after a while than I was regarding the heavenly response. Don’t know if that has any deeper meaning. I’ll be interested to hear if others had that reaction.

Deadline is a great Read. Wonderful intro for this reader into the worlds of Randy Alcorn.

The Ishbane Conspiracy

Once again, cousin Michelle and I were talking about Randy Alcorn. She mentioned that two more of her friends were going on and on about Safely Home. They both felt, as Michelle did, that it was the best, or one of the best, Christian books they had ever read.

Then she remarked on the depth of understanding of Chinese culture and the point of view of members of the underground home churches he would need to have in order to make the books so believable. I responded that somehow Alcorn had done the same thing with his insights into inner city black culture with Dominion. However, it didn’t occur to me until now that he also managed to write The Ishbane Conspiracy with real sensitivity to the teens and twenties suburbanites he portrays here.

There life is turned upside down and the Devil and his demons are looking for ways to exploit the weaknesses that arise out of the crisis. You will absolutely squirm in your seat if you are 16 years or older as you imagine yourself trying to deal with the circumstances these characters face. You will squirm even more if you are the parents of someone that age, knowing that your kids are dealing with these issues all the time.

I’m sorry to be such a non-critical critic, but its hard to imagine anyone not enjoying The Ishbane Conspiracy.

10 reasons not to kill Bush

Those who know me well know that I am very political. However, this particular blog is not designed to be just one more political rant. But from time-to-time there are things going on that are just too hard to pass up. France voting against the European Constitution is extremely interesting, but I think others will do a fine job of covering it.

This article, as you'll see, was worth passing along.

(U-WIRE) EUGENE, Ore. -- Recently in Georgia, the president gave a speech only to have someone chuck a hand grenade at him. Lucky for all,

Randy Alcorn recap

Randy is the best-selling author of 20 books (over one million in print), including the novels DEADLINE, DOMINION, LORD FOULGRIN'S LETTERS, The ISHBANE CONSPIRACY, THE EDGE OF ETERNITY, and the 2002 Gold Medallion winner SAFELY HOME. His ten nonfiction works include MONEY, POSSESSIONS AND ETERNITY, PROLIFE ANSWERS TO PROCHOICE ARGUMENTS, IN LIGHT OF ETERNITY, THE TREASURE PRINCIPLE, THE GRACE & TRUTH PARADOX, THE PURITY PRINCIPLE, and THE LAW OF REWARDS. His two latest books are WHY PROLIFE? and HEAVEN: Resurrected Living on the New Earth.

The items show in bold are reviewed already and can be found on this site. I will review ISHBANE and DEADLINE tomorrow. I have not read the others, so they will have to wait for another day. However, I will try to find some credible existing reviews for those books and link them here tomorrow also.

The Case for a Creator by Lee Strobel

If you have read The Case for Christ or The Case for Faith, also by Strobel, then you would expect excellence in his newest work, as well. I have not yet read this book, but this review will do until I can get to it.

If you haven't read the aforementioned books, read them first. They are outstanding. Reviews coming in a couple of weeks. Have to finish all of Alcorn by tomorrow per my promise.

Friday, May 27, 2005

My New Pet

My New Pet
Originally uploaded by Randy Kirk.
I want to adopt one, but I may have to wait a while. He (or she) is the first ever bred in captivity. 'Kintana' is an aye-aye, an arboreal nocturnal lemur, Daubentonia madagascariensis, a native to Madagascar.

Use the comment section to suggest names.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Dominion by Randy Alcorn

Credibility keeps me from claiming that this is the best of Randy Alcorn. Somehow I may have already said that about Edge of Eternity and Almost Home. But in keeping with the rest of his body of work, this one is completely different than anything else and just plain fantastic.

Dominion is a mystery first , and you will be on the edge of your seat waiting to find out whodunnit and why. Then it is about relationships, as Clarence Abernathy, an Oregon columnist and suburban middle-class black, finds himself involved in a world of inner-city gangs, violence and and drugs. But finally it is about how an educated black man views himself and the black and white world around him.

I live in a racially mixed (mostly black) neighborhood. My neighbor (black) across the street once told me: “I know that some white people I meet would rather kiss their dog on the mouth than shake my hand.” Alcorn has somehow been able to convey that kind of understanding about the black experience. If I interview Randy Alcorn someday, my first question will be how he knows these things. I am reasonably qualified to say that he is accurate in his depiction.

Be prepared, if you aren’t black, to get new understanding of your black friends and associates. Be prepared, if you are black, to maybe see through a mirror more clearly.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

explain this

explain this
Originally uploaded by Randy Kirk.
My friend Tom Nichols, not my daughter's father-in-law by the exact same name, sent me this photo. He happens to be in the insurance industry. Not sure if he worked on this claim.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Escaping The Matrix by Gregory A. Boyd & Al Larson

Escaping The Matrix
Originally uploaded by Randy Kirk.
Morpheus: "What is real? How do you define real? If your talking about what you can feel, what you can smell, what you can taste and see, then "real" is simply the electrical signals interpreted by your brain. This is the world you know." Escaping the Matrix p. 27

Gregory Boyd and Al Larson have totally bought in to the Matrix paradigm. They believe that it explains everything, and that it does so in a way that is also in agreement with the Bible. "For as he thinks within himself, so he is." Proverbs 23:7 At times in the first few chapters of the book, you may feel like you are in a first year philosophy class discussing the meaning of "be" for 10 weeks. Plato, Socrates, Sartre, Hume, Kierkegaard, and so many others have taken a shot at defining reality. So will our generation be famous for Andy and Larry Wachowski's view of what is real and what is only in our mind.

I actually found the first portion of the book, the part about philosophy, science of the mind and brain, and its theological counterparts to be quite interesting and sometimes very compelling. "Every mental image and every internal voice that disagrees with the fact that we are full of God's love, joy, and peace is part of the Matrix." (p. 20) Our experiences, the culture, our peers, and even our predispositions and chemistry conspire with the Devil to keep us in the Matrix.

Assuming that one agrees that the "world" is not as it seems, and that the "truth" is something that we must seek through Christ by altering our impressions of what we believe, then how do we do that. The transitional concepts advanced by Boyd and Larson also make sense to this reviewer. "Its all about the content of our faith. The information we consciously believe is not nearly as important to the quality of our lives as the faith we hold as a substantial reality in our minds. . .
We are transformed by the renewing of our minds and transformed by our faith . . . . We don't create who we are by thinking a certain way; that is what pop psychology tries to do. Instead we are simply aligning our minds with truth to experience who we really are in Christ." (p. 128-9)

My problems arise with the second half of this work. When it comes time to apply the theory, the methods they have created don't fit into my matrix at all.

First there is the question of theology. The method for Escaping the Matrix requires a person to remember certain past experiences that might have caused them to believe the lies of the Matrix today and thereby experience emotional, spiritual, or even mental problems because of the experience. So far it fits within standard practice in the world of psychology, and I think Jesus would be ok with us reflecting back on our own sinful behavior and also circumstances that might cause us to feel ill will towards others. However, now we are told to freeze the memory or play it like a movie, to alter the picture in our memory by making it black and white instead of color or really small. I don't want to trivialize the complexity of the work of these men, but this is the short version of what they want us to do.

While we are attempting to alter these "incorrect" ideas from our past, examples are presented of counseling sessions that have the counselor working through these experiences with the patient. With or without the visualization elements, we are back to standard fare in most psychiatrists office. I don't find the visualization idea, or the working through idea in scripture, nor do the authors make any real effort to give scriptural backing for these two elements.

At least as troubling, there is no data with regard to how their own patients have done with this approach. Do half do better one week later? 70%? Have other counselors been able to get good results? How are the patients doing one year later? Without this data, it is very hard to contemplate using the approach.

Finally, this book is written with the clear idea of its being a self help book. I would highly recommend against anyone trying this at home. Professionals screw this up all the time. I am a firm believer in Neil Anderson's Bondage Breaker approach to moving folks out of the Matrix. He has tons of date on the effectiveness of his Biblically supported method. However, I am very careful to suggest that those who could use a round of spiritual cleansing find a competent counselor to walk them through it.

This book, while very well written, is not written for the masses. I suspect many college level readers will have some difficulty understanding where the authors want to go with Escaping the Matrix. There is substantial use of terms of craft that are not defined fully for those not advanced in psychology or theology.

In summary, those with special interest in philosophy, psychology, or counseling will find the book interesting, useful, and well worth the read. Be careful regarding the "new methods" offered. Don't try "Escaping the Matrix" without Morpheus to help you.

Baker Books provided this copy of Escaping the Matrix: Getting Your Mind Free to Experience Real Life in Christ as a gift through Mind & Media for the purpose of doing a review.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Dr. Dobson's Favorite Authors

If you haven't visited here recently or ever, Dr. Dobson of Focus on the Family has now listed his favorite authors in the Christian world. Also find Chuck Colson, Randy Alcorn, and Rick Warren with lists of favorite books.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Global Warming News from "Junk Science"

Here is an article that nicely summarizes the wrong headedness of the global warming nonsense. I don't care if President Bush has gotten on the bandwagon. The science is wrong. I wish the folks at Junk Science much success with their new Global Thermometer.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Lord Foulgrin’s Letters by Randy Alcorn

It is either an endearing quality or a slight irritant, but up ‘till today I’m not sure which. Randy Alcorn likes to piggy back some of his books onto other great writing in the Christian World. My favorite book of the 90’s was his Edge of Eternity. It was an allegory of the Pilgrim’s Progress type. Sure it was better than Pilgrim’s Progress, but it was still obviously built on that idea.

It is one thing to out write John Bunyan; quite another to go after C.S. Lewis. But Lord Foulgrin’s letters and the sequel, The Ishbane Conspiracy, are too similar not to notice The Screwtape Letters comparison.

Alcorn takes a different approach, but it is still about letters written by the a high ranking demon, Foulgrin, to his protégé’ as Foulgrin attempts to train and guide his disciple, Squaltaint. The letters fall between chapters where the human characters are living their lives unaware of the devilry taking place in another realm.

An interesting aspect of Foulgrin and Ishbane is that some of the characters are young people. Alcorn proves capable of using that voice in a way that sounds authentic. It became a transitional book for my then 14-year-old son to start enjoying adult Christian materials.

Lord Foulgrin’s Letters are very funny one minute, and very serious the next. One failing of the book is that it is full of inside politics with references to people and groups that many readers wouldn’t get. However, those who listen to Christian radio or who are active in parachurch activities will enjoy these elements.

Like screwtape, the goal is to show the reader how demons deceive both the saved and unsaved. Like Peretti’s early novels, we also get a glimpse at just how close the spirit world interacts with us. As C.S. Lewis is reported to have said: The two biggest mistakes Christians make are giving the Devil too much credit, and not given him credit enough.

If you haven’t tried Randy Alcorn yet, Lord Foulgrin’s Letters is a fine place to start.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Breast Cancer - Abortion Link

There is no doubt in my mind after 100+ hours of research on this subject over the years. Aborting the first child increases the risk of pre-menopausal breast cancer by at least 30%. As this article points out, the chances for women under the age of 18 or over the age of 30 who abort their first child may increase their chances of contracting breast cancer by 100%.

For a short, comprehensive look at the studies and the history of this issue, including recent court cases that have gone in favor of women claiming the should have been warned, but weren't, see this article.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Dark Chocolate Lowers Blood Pressure and Helps to Control Diabetes

Here's a study you'll be glad to agree with. And if you'd like a practical guide for how you can eat dark chocolate daily and potentially lose weight also, see my
chocolate diet.

Abortion Creates Risk for Future Births

New study shows almost 40% increase in chances for very early (less than 33 weeks) births after an induced abortion. How will abortion groups spin this? Also see previous posts on how Sex Kills

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

C.S. Lewis on Heaven

Here is a nice post on C.S. Lewis's view of Heaven. I like this blog, too. Should add it to the favorites.

Also a hat tip to Catez at Allthings2all for pointing me to that spot. Her blog has been on the favorites list for awhile now.

Blink Before Changing Lanes

I admit to anyone who asks: I’m lazy. My Dad said I was lazy, and he was right. I spent seven years in college so that I wouldn’t have to work hard. When I started my career I promised myself that I would never work on another car, wash another car, wash another dish, shine another shoe, or mow, weed or trim another lawn. I’ve been somewhat successful in this. I have washed a few cars, do the dishes fairly often, and that’s it. So, in case you missed it . . . I’m lazy!

I don’t like to raise my left hand up and move the blinker unless I absolutely have to. I didn’t way I was emotionally mature, just lazy. My beautiful, talented, and very wise wife, Pam, decided that it was her duty to correct this behavior. She would tell me that I should blink. I would explain that there was no one behind me for miles. She would say it was the law. I would let her know that I was also going 75 in a 65. Other times Pam would tell me that it was rude not to blink. I said that I always blinked when someone needed to know I was changing lanes.

Well that wasn’t quite right, she said. How about on a congested freeway. No, that was different I retorted. If I blink to change lanes in that situation, the other cars will fill in my carefully espied spot. Sometimes, these discussions would not end well. : ) or : /

Anyway, one day she told me that when I changed lanes without blinking, she was not alerted to my plan to change lanes, and therefore it was disconcerting to her when I did so. You know what? That changed everything. From that day to this, I try very hard to remember to blink when I change lanes with her in the car. Its not because I’m such a great husband, but because her comfort was much more important to me than the law. And while the subject was “what I should do,” my pride got in the way. File this one under: Great methods for marital communication I wish I could remember all the time.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Safely Home by Randy Alcorn

Yes, this is the headquarters for the Randy Alcorn fan club. Yes, of course I like him because we share the same given name. Yes, there will soon be an end to all the Randy Alcorn adulation. I’m going to try and finish reviewing all of his works in the next couple of weeks. Then it will be on to the Ted Dekker fan club.

This past Saturday my wife and oldest daughter held a baby shower for my younger daughter. Its true Grandchild #3 will be coming along June 20 or so. Azlan will be his name for all of you Lion, Witch, and Wardrobe fans. Anyway, I digress. My wife’s cousin, Michelle, loves to read and sometimes even likes what I like. However, to this date she isn’t quite as enamored with Alcorn as I am. Of course, her given name isn’t Randy.

To the point. She had just completed Safely Home and was so knocked out by it that she was recommending it to all her friends. So for the 3 or 4 of you who haven’t been blessed by his other work, this one is so far different as to make one wonder if it was done by a different author.

The setting is China, today. Two college chums, one an American business tycoon, and the other a Chinese intellectual have occasion to cross paths many years later. The result is high drama, intrigue, and a sword to the heart of any thinking Christian. You come away feeling much like you do after reading Foxe’s Book of Martyrs - I’m not really a Christian after all.

The research needed to accurately predict what is happening in the underground church in China must have been staggering. You get the benefit by learning while enjoying a great story. Historical fiction is one of my favorite Genres. Even though set in the present, it has that kind of feel. I’d love to get feedback from others on this book. Safely Home is widely available.

Monday, May 09, 2005

The Treasure Principle by Randy Alcorn

When I was a young businessman, just starting out, I was driven to succeed. I wanted the big house with the pillars in front and the bowling alley in the basement. I wanted a Jaguar, the trips to foreign lands, and the home entertainment center worth $10,000 or more. The way to get there was to work hard and smart. I read the books that told you how to get there, and I did all the things they said to do. The good news - I gained a measure of that kind of success.

Then I found myself back in church after a 15 year interruption. Those things I had not yet notched on my gun didn’t seem as important. Preachers kept asking the question: On your death bed, what will seem important in retrospect. The awards, titles, and bank account, or the relationships, good deeds, and righteous behavior.

But there was tricky part for me. How does motivation (a built in part of our human condition) work when we are concentrating on the Christian life. Randy Alcorn suggests that there is no change in human nature or even in the requirement to become motivated, just in the goals. The Bible shows us over and over again how we are going to benefit if we seek the very real and concrete treasures that await us in heaven. God shows us that based on our actions on earth we will either gain or “suffer loss” in heaven.

Of course, God’s use of our motivational nature to get us working hard for heavenly rewards also results in earthly benefits. When we seek the right ends on earth, the blessings flow. They may be financial or they may take on lots of other forms, but they flow nevertheless, and that is our promise from God.

In his usual very readable form, Randy Alcorn explains all the ways we gain or lose based on our decisions. Check out the Treasure Principle for a really good read.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Robert's Great Shot

Robert's Great Shot
Originally uploaded by Randy Kirk.
We took hundreds of pictures on our trip, but our 8 year-old got the best of the trip. California Condor

Living On $500 a Day

A very wise person suggested that we rich Americans should establish a maximum budget that we would be happy with . . . then give the rest to Jesus. You might be surprised how little that amount is. Years ago I tried to figure out what it would cost per day per person to travel full time. The following daily budget is for two people traveling together and staying in one room.

1. Accommodations at nice motel or condo Average $125.
2. Food - All meals out, but only extravagant two times per week. $60
3. Transportation - Rental car or airplane, but not airplane every day. $70
4. Entertainment of some kind every day - Average $35
5. Clothes, laundry, personal, hairdo’s etc. $30
6. Cell phone, web services, etc. $5
7. Health and Life Insurance $30
8. Gifts $10

That totals $365 per day or about $10,000 per month. If this was all earned income, you would need to earn about $14,000 to have this as after tax income. If you tithe on the gross, you would need to make about $15,500. $500 per day.

So, assuming you can live at a much smaller amount by owning a home and a car or two, eating meals that you prepare and such, this should be the most you would ever need to earn. It is a lot, but for those who are in pursuit of large incomes, it could be one way of determining a cap. Any other “needs” above this list would be for jewelry, extravagance, or investments.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Global Warming Caused by Clean Air

Global Warming? Clean Air? How are they connected? Bet you missed this one. It was only up on Drudge for one day. It seems that we may be experiencing global warming in the last 20 years because we have cleaned up our air, thus allowing more sunlight to get to earth. Hmmm. Guess we need to get rid of those catalytic converters.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

New Fiction Links

If you like good Christian fiction, or if you would like to write some good Christian Fiction, and maybe, just maybe get published, here are a few sites that can help.


Focus On Fiction

Christian Fiction Reviewer

Faith in Fiction

The Faith in Fiction site is really interesting for aspiring writers. Christian Writers is a community of such which will also provide ideas for getting your works in print. The other two have reviews and interviews for various fiction genre. Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Randy Alcorn List of Favorite Books

Randy Alcorn is writing some of the very best fiction and non fiction books in the Christian world today. Visit Christian Book Classics for a list of Alcorn's all timers. You might find it inspiring. I'm still looking for your ideas for the list and folks to review classics.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Best Christian Books Ever

Here is my first list. It comes from Stacy Oliver at Christian Book Previews. If you haven't been to her site, it is a great one to "bookmark." Add your own in the comments below. Also, I need folks to review these classics.

Tozer's "Knowledge of the Holy"
Bridge's "Pursuit of Holiness"
Piper's "Desiring God"
______ "Let the Nation's Be Glad"
______"Supremacy of God in Preaching"
MacArthur's "The Gospel According to Jesus"
Gary Friesen's "Decision Making and the Will of God"
Oswald Sanders "Spiritual Leadership"
Richard Foster "Celebration of Discipline"
Whitney's "Disciplines of the Christian Life"
Philip Yancey's "Where is God When it Hurts"
Martin's "Kingdom of the Cults"
Packer's "Knowing God"
McDowell's "Evidence that Demands a Verdict"
_______" More than a Carpenter"
Lewis's "Mere Christianity"
Paul Little's "Know Why You Believe"
__________ "Know What You Believe"
Howard Hendrick's "Living by the Book"
Arthur Pink's "Attributes of God"

We'll have at least one more list tomorrow.

Greatest Books

Here is my first list. It comes from Stacy Oliver at Christian Book Previews. If you haven't been to her site, it is a great one to "bookmark." Add your own in the comments below. Also, I need folks to review these classics.

Tozer's "Knowledge of the Holy"
Bridge's "Pursuit of Holiness"
Piper's "Desiring God"
______ "Let the Nation's Be Glad"
______"Supremacy of God in Preaching"
MacArthur's "The Gospel According to Jesus"
Gary Friesen's "Decision Making and the Will of God"
Oswald Sanders "Spiritual Leadership"
Richard Foster "Celebration of Discipline"
Whitney's "Disciplines of the Christian Life"
Philip Yancey's "Where is God When it Hurts"
Martin's "Kingdom of the Cults"
Packer's "Knowing God"
McDowell's "Evidence that Demands a Verdict"
_______" More than a Carpenter"
Lewis's "Mere Christianity"
Paul Little's "Know Why You Believe"
__________ "Know What You Believe"
Howard Hendrick's "Living by the Book"
Arthur Pink's "Attributes of God"

We'll have at least one more list tomorrow.