Category Archives: Books

Books: Alexander Hamilton, by Ron Chernow

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I am writing very brief summaries with some additional comments for some books I’ve read or listened to over the past year.  I would love to hear from others about these books or similar books.  Please comment.

Alexander Hamilton, by Ron Chernow

This is a great book.  Apparently this is the book behind the current Broadway play called Hamilton.   I don’t care if I never see the play, it is unlikely that I ever will, but I am really glad to have experienced this book.  I’m quite sure the book is at least one hundred times better than the play.  The play is probably, I’m guessing, enjoyable in an utterly different way.   Chernow excels in telling the story.  He informs us of Hamilton’s life, experiences, beliefs, accomplishments, failures and sins all in a way that causes us to feel that we know him.

Having previously read biographies of many of the founders, as well as Revolutionary War and Early American history books, I felt fairly well-informed about Americas founding.  However, Hamilton helped me understand some things in a new or different way.   For one thing, I have always been  a small government, keep power with the states, kind of guy.   I still am, but Hamilton helped me see that America would be a radically different thing had it not been for the Federalism initiated by Hamilton.  No one can possibly know what America would be, but it wouldn’t be what it is today; and that might be both good and bad.

There are some great leadership lessons as well as basic life lessons to be learned through Hamilton.   Alexander Hamilton may have been one of the most gifted of the founding fathers, but he never had anything handed to him.   He was born into poverty, was on his own as a teenager, worked hard, took calculated risks, believed in God, worked to end slavery, and fought for what he believed.  He was a sinner who had affairs and died in a duel.   Chernow deals with all this and more.

If you want to understand American history, you should read Alexander Hamilton

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Books:Abraham Lincoln, by Carl Sandburg.

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Abraham Lincoln, by Carl Sandburg.

This is an old classic on the life of Lincoln.  It is a tome. I had heard about this book (originally a multi-volume set) but never read it.  Now I am listening to it on Audible and have 15 hours left of the 42 hours of narration.   Sandburg includes massive amounts of detail from the lives of secondary characters.  He often detours to discuss topics like the life history of a sea-captain or the history of a newspaper in Chicago.   Listening or reading can be tedious, but it does have the effect of immersing one’s mind into the world of Lincoln and therefore into the world of an extremely important part of America’s history.

There is no direct spiritual content for the Christian in this book.    I think well-rounded Christians should be aware of history and consciously observe God’s moving among nations.  However, this is probably not the best book on the Civil War, or Lincoln, for someone who is not an avid reader of history.  I would suggest “Team of Rivals”, by Doris Kearns Goodwin.

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Books: 1776, by David McCullough

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1776, by David McCullough.

I really like McCullough’s books.  1776 is one of his shorter books and I found it very enjoyable.  The book covers many events of the American revolution during the year 1776.  Much of the story is told with George Washington as the central character but other major characters are emphasized as well.

McCullough’s purpose is not to show the providential hand of God in America’s founding, but if you already believe that God was active in the orchestration of events, this book will definitely reinforce your belief.  All Americans and Christians in particular will do well to immerse themselves in American history.

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Another quote from Lucarini

One more quote from Dan Lucarini in Why I left the Contemporary Christian Music Movement.

He says that the following response is unlikely to change a convinced CCM proponent, but I think what he says is interesting.

The following comes from page 96.

When someone says, ‘Show me where the Bible says that rock music is evil’, you could reply: ‘Show me where the bible says that…

  • ‘…God is pleased you chose the same music style as Madonna, Hootie and the Blowfish, and the Dave Matthews Band.’
  • ‘…you should vigorously defend the favourite music style of this world.’
  • ‘…it’s OK to use the same music style as the sex and drug culture.’
  • ‘…God waived that “abstain from all appearance of evil” clause just for you.’

This type of arguing might prove effective with some people.  I prefer the more thorough method of research and presentation of truth such as that set forth in  John Makujina’s book Measuring the Music, and others.

I guess when your dealing with someone who’s only defense for their music choice is, “Where does the Bible say I can’t?”, the aforementioned approach might be the only one to be heard.

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Why I Left the Contemporary Christian Music Movement

I just finished reading the little book by Dan Lucarini bearing the full title of:  Confessions of a Former Worship Leader:  Why I left the Contemporary Christian Music Movement.

This book was initially published in 2002 and I read it shortly after it became popular.   I’ve read quite a few books about the “music wars” since then but none as simple and easy to grasp.  This book is by no means the end all for those debating or struggling over the issue or CCM (Contemporary Christian Music), however it is an excellent starting point.

Lucarini writes biographicly of his personal experience in CCM and how he finally decided to leave it.  He was a self-proclaimed “Rock-n-Roll” rebel who got saved at age 23 and soon after saw the wisdom in forsaking the Rock culture for Christ.   However, within a few years he was leading worship in a church and he along with other musicians began to push the music towards the rock style.  He details how this happened slowly and how he and others justified their choices and convinced themselves that they were the spiritual ones while the “Traditionals”, as he calls them, were legalists and Pharisees.

Arguments are made against CMM from both logical and Biblical sides and these are mostly valid, but other books handle that more persuasively.  (Lucarini teamed with John Blanchard to write Can We Rock the Gospel in 2006 and then in 2010 came out with It’s Not About the Music: A Journey into Worship.) The strength of this book is the personal and insider side of the story.

I would recommend this book to anyone interested in studying the issue of music in the church.  It is a particularly good starting place for those new to the discussion.

I’ll leave only a few samples from the book:

Dangers of misplaced passion

If you put hot-blooded males and females into a passionate rock music group, there will be strong temptation for sexual sins.  CCM styles facilitate an atmosphere where female’s innate desire to have emotional intimacy with a man can easily be achieved.  The problem is, most of the time that man is not her husband. (p71)

Lucarini quotes Tozer.  I love that this quote comes from 1959.

A.W. Tozer was blunt in his assessment of this pseudo intimacy:

Much of the singing in certain types of meetings has in it more of romance than it has of the Holy Ghost.  Both words and music are designed to rouse libidinous [lewd; full of lust].  Christ is courted with a familiarity that reveals a total ignorance of Who He is.  It is not the reverent intimacy of the adoring saint but the impudent familiarity of the carnal lover. (p.73)

Finally, I think this chart contrasting traditional and contemporary worship is interesting.

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Contending for the Faith

I just finished reading Contending for the Faith, by Fred Moritz.   I read this book years ago but decided to reread it in preparation for a sermon series I’m working on.  The book delivers a defense of the biblical doctrine of separation and militant battle against false teaching from the book of Jude.   I’m not doing a review of the book, but I am posting two things from the book which have been edifying to me.

First is a poem quoted at the beginning of a chapter.

Hammer away ye rebel bands

Your hammers break, God’s Anvil stands.

Last eve I paused beside the blacksmith’s door,
And heard the anvil ring the vesper chime;
Then looking in, I saw upon the floor
Old Hammers worn with beating years of time.
“How many anvils have you had,” said I,
“To wear and batter all these hammers so?”
“Just one,” said he, and then with twinkling eye,
“The anvil wears the hammer out, you know.”
“And so,”  I thought, “The Anvil of God’s Word
For ages skeptics blows have beat upon,
Yet, though the noise of falling blows was heard,
The Anvil is unharmed, the hammers gone.”
–John Clifford in John R. Rice, ed., Poems That Speak, Quoted in Fred Moritz, Contending for the Faith, p.97
Second is a quote from the conclusion of the book (p.162,163).
After giving an illustration about pruning a plant in order to make it grow better, Moritz says this,
We may need to closely examine and severely prune the “bush” of our Fundamentalist movement.  If we are committed to excellence, we will always look for ways to improve our walk with God, ministries, and methods.  Pruning will invigorate our ministries.
Pruning, however, does not attack the plant at the roots to dig it up or destroy its life.  It seeks to produce vigorous growth.  Yet that very destructive tendency appears within the ranks of Fundamentalism.  Many men were saved, called to ministry, and trained because of the sacrificial leadership and selfless work of Fundamentalist preachers.  Yet now they seem to concentrate solely on the flaws in the men and the movement that nurtured them…Such action borders on treason.
We can all find flaws to avoid in men, even in those who are our heroes.  Let us feel free to objectively examine ourselves and our movement.  Let us use our influence to improve Fundamentalism’s testimony in this evil day.  Let us prune the plant and cut back the dead wood.  But let us remember that the plant of Fundamentalism grows in a rich, fertile, biblical soil.  Let us never desert the ranks for compromise.

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Sex as a substitute for Christ?

From the book, Sex and the Supremacy of Christ,

…one of the main reasons the world and the church are awash in lust and pornography (by both men and women – 30 percent of Internet pornography is now viewed by women) is that our lives are intellectually and emotionally disconnected from the infinite, soul-staggering grandeur for which we were made.  Inside and outside the church Western culture is drowning in a sea of triviality, pettiness, banality, and silliness.  Television is trivial.  Radio is trivial.  Conversation is trivial.  Education is trivial.  Christian books are trivial. Worship styles are trivial.  It is inevitable that the human heart, which was made to be staggered with the supremacy of Christ, but instead is drowning in a sea of banal entertainment, will reach for the best natural buzz that life can give: sex.  (p.44)

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