Category: Book Review


Radical – Book Review

Title: Radical, Taking back your faith from the American Dream

Author: David Platt, Wikipedia Bio

Topics: Discipleship, Missions, Christian Living

ISBN: 1601422210

Purchase: Amazon.com ($5.33 + Shipping)

My Rating: ★★★★★

Culturally speaking, there is a growing frustration with “church as usual” amongst many Christians today. While it is easy to criticize the church in America, David Platt reminds us that we are part of that church. In his book, Radical, he seeks to raise our awareness of many cultural “blind spots” that we as Christians in the United States tend to miss.

I really like this book. I think that Platt does a fantastic job of humbly addressing the complacency that is present in the church. He doesn’t take an angry tone, but rather addresses the disparities between our cultural definition of what it means to be a Christian and what Jesus said it means to be a Christian. As the title suggests, Platt does call our attention to many Bible passages in which Jesus calls potential followers to literally sell all that they have and to follow Him. When we read accounts of those who are “radical” in their faith, we tend to just say, “The Lord has called me to do something different.” I love Platt’s approach; as he asks two vital questions:

  1. “What if God did call you to live a radical faith?” and,
  2. “What does it look like to live a radical faith?”

I love the fact that he asks both of these questions. So often, we have so many justifications for not doing radical things on our faith that we end up doing nothing but justifying ourselves. But Platt doesn’t just raise our awareness of the issue of inactivity amongst Christians. He seeks to provide direction in what it might look like to be active as a Christian. I love this aspect of the book! His main purpose is not simply to bemoan the state of the church in America. His main purpose is to motivate his reader into action. His book isn’t just a bunch of whining – it is in fact the opposite. Instead of simply bashing the Church in general, he seeks to lift our imaginations and see what we could do as Christians if we all lived radical lives. His true passion, as seen throughout the book, is to see the Church in America recognize its potential to impact the entire world.

Accordingly, he ends the book with a chapter which contains a five-point, one-year-long specific challenges for Christians in general that will help each one find his or her own individual “next step”:

  1. Pray for the entire world. Cultivate a heart for the nations. He suggests the book Operation World as a starting place.
  2. Read the entire Bible. Get used to hearing God speak to you.
  3. Sacrifice one’s money for a specific purpose. To give sacrificially, and personally (not just generally) to others (possibly just one person). To allow a generous heart to grow inside of yourself as you sacrifice that which you own for the benefit of others.
  4. Spend time in another context. Widen your view of the world and others by spending time serving in a place outside of your city, or even outside of your nation. He suggests spending 2%, or roughly one week, serving elsewhere.
  5. Commit your life to a multiplying community. Be a disciple who is both being discipled by others and making disciples. Be connected in your faith to others.

Whether it is your view of discipleship or your view of international missions, this book will make an indelible mark upon the way that you think. There is just too much to write about this book for it all to fit into one blog post. I highly recommend that you go read it!

Advertisements

Tuesdays with Morrie – Book Review

A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.” -Henry Adams

Title:  Tuesdays with Morrie
Author: Mitch Albom, Wikipedia Bio
Topic:  The Meaning of Life
ISBN-10: 0385484518
Purchase: Amazon.com ($3.48 new, $0.01 used)
My Rating:  ★★★★★

—————————————————–

One man. One Class. One Student. Tuesdays with Morrie is not a book, but a life story. A story told from a perspective most people overlook. A      perspective majority of people do not think about until its too late. “Everyone knows they’re going to die, but nobody believes it.” Morrie Schwartz is not most people. In the summer of 1994, he was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease.  This disease is a neurological disorder that usually starts in the legs and works its way up the body.  Eventually, Morrie would be unable to walk, unable to use his arms, unable to feed himself, unable to use the restroom, unable to breathe on his own, and the one he feared the most, unable to speak.   With no known cure, the doctor gave him two years to live. That day, Morrie Schwartz asked himself, “Do I wither up and disappear, or do I make the best of my time left.”

After reading Tuesdays with Morrie, readers will understand that Morrie is not the kind of person who withers up and disappears. He is the type of person who makes death his final project. For his final project, Morrie decided to teach his last class. This class is unlike any class students can take at a school or college. There were no requirements, grades, tests, or rules.  “Although no final exam was given, you were expected to produce one long paper on what was learned. That paper is presented here. The last class of my old professor’s life had only one student. I was the student.” This one student was Mitch Albom, the author of Tuesdays with Morrie. Through this book, readers can experience the last subject Morrie Schwartz ever taught, The Meaning of Life.

If you were to borrow my TWM book today, you would flip through it and see page after page of pink highlights. The lessons and ideas that Morrie shares with Mitch are unforgettable! When attempting to write this review, I could not think of what to put in my post. I had so many thoughts passing through my mind that I could not decide which direction to write in. If I could, I would have typed up all my pink high lights and pasted them here, but that would do no service to readers. Each chapter is full of wisdom, life-lessons, and remarkable stories that everyone can apply to their lives. Within this post, I do want to share one of my favorite quotes from TWM that I often share with others:

 “So many people walk around with a meaningless life. They seem half-asleep, even when they’re busy doing things they think are important. This is because they’re chasing the wrong things. The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.”

Morrie knew his purpose and meaning in life, and through Tuesdays with Morrie, he has helped inspire me to find my purpose for living. If you can, take the time out of your busy schedule to sit down and spend a few hours reading. With only 199 pages, you could finish TWM in under a few days. The timeless knowledge and wisdom that Morrie shares with Mitch will benefit you for the rest of your life. Before reading, I do have a few words of advice, be ready with a highlighter 🙂

 “Tuesdays with Morrie more than just a dying man’s last words. It is an inspirational recount of a man’s life — a man whose passion for the human spirit has continued to live long after his last breath” CNN Book Review

Title: The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People
Author: Stephen R. Covey, Wikipedia Bio
Topic: Personal Leadership
ISBN-10: 9780671708634
Purchase: Half.com ($2.88), Amazon.com ($5.30)
My Rating: ★★★★★

—————————————————–

“We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle

I chose to read 7 Habits because of all the positive reviews it received.  It is a modern classic and I was curious to see what all of the hype was about.  I began reading with the expectation that the book would be excellent.  In my mind, I placed it alongside such works as Jim Collins’ Good to Great, Ken Blanchard’s One Minute Manager, or John Maxwell’s 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership.  I believe it surpassed my expectations!  Below is a quick summary of each of the habits and some of my thoughts:

Habit 1: Be Proactive
Habit 1 is about taking initiative and responsibility.  It’s about living out preventive maintenance and solving problems before they become problems.  In my own experience being able to be proactive and know what someone needs before they do is an invaluable skill and earns a lot of points!  As an engineer or designer, being able to predict problems in the design stage can save millions of dollars in redesign and recalls.

Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind
In your own life, where are you going?  If you are the leader of an organization, where are you taking your followers; what is the vision?  Covey also touches on the difference between leadership and management.  The manager asks, how fast can we cut down this forest?  The leader asks, is this the right forest?   Last he talks about what is at the center of our lives.  Covey writes, “Whatever is at the center of our life will be the source of our security, guidance, wisdom, and power.”  Have the right thing at the center.

Habit 3: Put First Things First
Goethe says, “Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.”  Covey makes a convicting distinction between what is urgent and what is important.  A telephone ringing is urgent, but the person sitting in your office is much more important.  Covey argues that we spend too much time on things that are urgent but not important.  Do we know what is important in our lives?  What would we miss if it was suddenly gone or, what would we regret not doing if our chance has passed?

Habit 4: Think Win-Win
Covey talks about stubbornly seeking to find solutions that are wins for both parties (like Scott Lang).  This solution is often difficult to see at first and requires cooperation from both sides to find.  I envision it as two people writing the problem on a white board and looking at it together instead of arguing with each other across a table. (great complementary book which expands on these principles titled, Difficult Conversations)

Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood
For me this was one of the most easily applied chapters.  It is easy to tell if you are trying to impose understanding on someone else before you have understood them.  This chapter talks about our own stories which we fit all of our experiences into.  Many times other people and their stories do not fit!  I have told many of my friends that his habit is a game changer.  Cliche jargon aside, I do believe that this can have an immediate impact on your relationships.  If you can set your story aside, especially if angry, and seek first to see where the other person is coming from, you’d be amazed at the results.  Update: I have written a blog post dedicated to this chapter here: Listening From a Learning Perspective

Habit 6: Synergize
Synergy means that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  A team’s capability is greater than the capabilities of each team member separately.  I have studied synergy before but this chapter is one of the most profound resources on the topic I have found so far.  When combined with Win/Win it’s an unstoppable combination.  Covey also makes an interesting point about valuing the differences between people.  Covey writes, “The person who is truly effective has the humility and reverence to recognize his own perceptual limitations and to appreciate the rich resources available through interaction with the hearts and minds of other human beings.  That person values the differences because those differences adds to their knowledge, to their understanding of reality.”

Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw
Sharpen the saw is about taking a break once in a while and refueling the tank.  I believe humans were designed to operate like this.  That is why God gave us a sabbath.  Covey encourages taking time to reflect and internalize the happenings of your day/week. 


Myths

Don’t get trapped into thinking that because 7 Habits is popular it isn’t good (that’s Twilight).  It’s popular because it contains things worth knowing.

It is just another “self-help” book and should be avoided.  This is an assumed constraint.  I challenge you to try it yourself and then judge if it’s advice is “useless self-help nonsense.”  Also we all need help, sometimes we’re the only ones who can help ourselves!

The book is not worthy of your time because the ideas are common sense.  Covey makes this point throughout the book; the ideas contained in 7 Habits are principles which weave themselves throughout all of history.  Many of them are common sense, but just because they are simple ideas does not mean they are easily practiced.  It will take anyone many years to become proficient at these habits, we can use all the reminders we can get.

Because you’ve read this review (or any) you understand the principles of 7 Habits!  The book was very dense and I had to resist the urge to write down every sentence.  If you’re interested read the whole book not just spark notes!

For a second opinion on 7 Habits check out the highest rated reader review on Amazon.com.