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Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category

At first glance it may seem strange that I am writing a review on a physical Health book, but lately I have been getting very interested in exercise and fitness.  About a year ago I was in LA and watched a promo for P90X, a home fitness program.  I was blown away by the transformations that people went through over the course of 90 days and I decided to start.  Thus, in Jan. 2010 I started and it was very exciting.  After a month of following the program I felt stronger and healthier, but then I got injured doing one of the exercises.  So I ended up being unable to complete the program.

Then after switching back to working out at the gym I have not been able to find a satisfactory program like P90x.  But recently I got a copy of Bill Phillips book Body-for-Life which has impacted over 2 million people in positive transformations of health and fitness.  As I looked at the pictures of people who were on the verse of obesity to their muscular transformation I decided to read the book.

I was amazed at how simple Bill’s method of fitness is.  He describes the need to be efficient by decreasing time, but having focused times of high intensity.  The fitness schedule is three days of lifting weights and three days of cardio between them.  The weight lifting can be completed in about 46 min. while the cardio can be done in 20 min.  The book also describes a simple plan for eating as well.

Overall I was very impressed with book and have already heard many great things from others about the program.  I really like the way that this program is accessible to all ranges of age, fitness level, and gender.  This differs from P90x which seems geared towards more intermediate level or advanced level fitness people.

One of the things that I did not agree with was his overemphasis on re-imaging oneself.  I do not believe that transforming one’s body is the end all to have self-confidence.  He seems to oversimplify the complexity of one’s mental health to the physical body.  Though I do believe that Body-for-Life is a great program for health and fitness I would not hold it as the “end all” to fix all of one’s problems.

Overall I believe that this program can be done by anyone and is a great way to feel good and get in shape.  I believe that we can start to feel healthier and have more energy if we heed the advice of this book and start spending a little bit of time during the week to exercise.  So I’ve decide to try this 12 week program for myself next week.  I’m looking forward to feeling healthier and having more energy!

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The issue of beauty is central to Christian spirituality.  To take it one step further, it is central to being alive.  What exactly is beauty?  It seems easy to recognize what is beautiful, but hard to define it.  Sunsets, a Mozart concerto, a beautiful bed of flowers on an open field, and many other things would be seen as beautiful.  Some words that can be connected with beauty are awe-filled, fascinating, lovely, thrilling, and wonderful.  Ultimately, they are the things that we can see, hear and feel that inspire us and touch our hearts.

Yet, with the rise of sensual over-stimulation through media, entertainment, advertising, and the internet has caused us to become numb to what is truly beautiful.  Thus we have become apathetic and unmoved by the beauty that surrounds us.  Thomas Dubay in his groundbreaking book on the theology of beauty writes, “To respond to reality and to appreciate it are normal; not to respond is abnormal.  It seems fair to say that a person blind and deaf to beauty, uninterested in anything noble in literature, science, philosophy, religion, and the arts, focused on sense pleasures alone (licit or illicit), is not only unattractive to others, but most likely incapable of genuine love and delight” (Evidential power of beauty, pg. 73).

If lifelessness and boredom characterizes our lives, what are we to do to begin to feel again?  How are we to truly appreciate beauty and thus be alive?  There are two specific ways that can help develop our sensitivity to beauty again.

1.  Minimize sense pleasures in our lives – The constant noise and stimulus that fills our lives through the dramatic rise of technology has inculcated us to experiencing the beauty that surrounds us on a daily basis.  Thus, to begin to appreciate beauty we have to minimize the exposure to the sense pleasures around us.  This will help us to slow down long enough to be able to hear the whispers of beauty that are in our daily lives.

2.  Be a learner – If you are one who is not immediately drawn to classical music, art, or literature and classify them as boring, before you throw this piece of advice out the window stop yourself and contemplate whether you are the one who is actually boring.  Be willing to take the posture of being a learner and actually sit under some of these works of art or nature and allow yourself to hear and see what they are saying.  Do not be so quick to pride and aloofness that you miss out on the opportunity to experience beauty, which ultimately comes from God.

The Evidential Power of Beauty - Where Science and Theology Meet

These are just two small ways to cultivate the journey of being truly alive in appreciation for beauty.  As Dubay says, “God made us for , “a joy so glorious that it cannot be described” (1 Pet. 1:8)”” (Evidential, pg. 18).  Therefore, let us all decrease sense pleasures and increase humility to sit before the beauty that surrounds us.  For just as God was able to appreciate his creation and call it “good” (Gen. 1), let us also, who are created in his image, deem what is beautiful around us, “good.”

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Here is a little something something I wrote after reading a chapter from Wild at Heart:

I am in a battle for the heart: a battle for my own heart to be set ablaze with love.  I am also in a battle for the hearts of my generation to be set from all the chains that weigh them down.  That their hearts would truly find themselves in God.  Lastly, I am in a battle for the Lord’s heart.  The longing of his heart is to show compassion on his people, that Israel would be saved, for his plan for the world to come to fruition, and for to be fully destroyed.

I am truly in a real battle.  Not with bullets or swords, but with the power of prayer, love, and the word of God.  This is for the sake of real people’s hearts and the fate of the world.  I am in a battle for the heart.

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I just decided to read Wild at Heart for the fourth time.  One would expect that after reading it so many times it would be boring or repetitious.  But every reading something new comes up.  The first chapter of John Eldredge’s book lays out three core longings in the masculine soul: the battle to fight, the adventure to live, and the beauty to rescue.  The one that was getting stirred in my heart was the adventure to live. When I read the book I began to think of the times as a boy where I loved to hike and explore our backyard.  It was my domain where I could just be free.  Searching for some “ancient artifacts” or going on a safari were some of the imaginings of a boy’s heart.

As I’ve grown older I realize that those longings for adventure are still very present.  I still want to explore and chart into the unknown.  Though my daily routine is great, I have lost a sense of adventure in my life.  Therefore, I decided that I needed to regularly go out into the “wild.”  I needed to be out in nature where I can get muddied or fend for my survival.  I need to know that “I have what it takes” in the world out there.  Through this process I really feel like God is fathering me in a very special way.  I see his hand in my life as he is encouraging me to live the adventure.  Though it may be scary I know that it is worth it.

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Last week on my night off, I decided to find a new book to read and I saw Healing the Masculine Soul by Gordon Dalby on my roommate’s shelf.  I picked it and and it was so riveting that I finished it in five days.  I was particularly gripped by the challenge to not “feminize” Jesus and God like much of the Western church has done.  Many times, the virtues that are highlighted by the church are humility, meekness, compassion, which are all good things, but more naturally inclined for women.  But the masculine traits of strength, integrity, willingness to fight on behalf of others are not highlighted as much in the church.  And honestly, I do not want to be known as “a nice guy,” but as one who is strong and has the courage to be like the Lion of the tribe of Judah and roar.  To not be afraid of difficulties and challenges that characterize this present evil age and to be an agent of God’s kingdom on the earth.

masculinesoul

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Recently I read a book by NT Wright about a recent archeological find in the Gospel of Judas.  This “gospel” has been of great interest to the scholarly world, especially those who are interested in redefining Jesus.  It is supposedly written by Judas Iscariot and depicts him in a heroic manner because he was only obeying Jesus’ command to betray him.  This writing along Judas and the Gospel of Jesuswith many other “hidden gospels” seek to reinterpret Jesus and Christianity in a different manner than the one presented in the closed canon (bible).  A modern example of this eagerness to change the historical picture of Jesus is found in the overwhelming response to the Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown.  Thus a few questions arise: is there any validity to different claims of Jesus as found in the Da Vinci Code and the Gnostic Gospels?  Can we trust that what the bible says about Jesus is true?  Are there other archeological finds that should be included in the canon?  How can we determine whether these “hidden” writings vs. the writings in the bible are true?

In an attempt to answer these very important questions, I first acknowledge that I am only beginning on this journey and humbly present my thoughts based on the book I read by NT Wright, Judas and the Gospel of Jesus: Have we missed something about Christianity? (more…)

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ntwrightRecently, I read a book by NT Wright called Simply Christian.  It is what the title suggests: an exposition on what it means to be a Christian.  Some have deemed it on and even above the level of the CS Lewis’ Mere Christianity.  In the book, Wright explains that there are four core longings in the human heart: justice, spirituality, relationships, and beauty.  We find ourselves groping for solutions to the problems of injustice that we see all around us.  We long for connection with a god or higher power.  We also earnestly desire deep fulfilling relationships and the longing to be fascinated and to see “echoes” of the divine through nature, art, music, etc.  Yet, many of these longings never seem to be accomplished as new governmental programs are implemented, new boyfriends and friends are formed, our location shifts to another city, etc. (more…)

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