"The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt" by Edmund Morris
This book was the first in a three book series which completely chronicles the life of Roosevelt from birth to death. The first book deals with Roosevelt's birth to his rise to the presidency when he became the youngest president ever in the history of the United States. Roosevelt was extremely well learned and well traveled as a kid. He was also surprisingly well taught in many aspects, especially in history, biology, and literature. He loved nature and adventure and sat out to cure his own body of asthma and other frailties through diet, weight lifting, exercise, and more.
Roosevelt had an incredible knack for leadership. From his first position in the New York legislature to his initially thought lackluster position of Assistant Secretary of the Navy in DC, Roosevelt would go above and beyond to enact his principles and convictions. In the NY legislature, he fought the "machine" which controlled the city through backhanded political connections and mob activity. As Civil Service Commissioner, he would become known, as he is today, as the most active Commissioner America has ever seen. He traveled far and wide to dispose of crooked postmasters and the like. Upon returning to New York City, his home city, as Police Commissioner, he was said to have made New York the "driest" town in America when he enacted and enforced the prohibition of alcohol on Sunday's. He was keen to knowing how to play to his audience and garner support where necessary to see his measures pass and continue. He broke down barriers that had existed for years in the city and corralled and eliminated corruption everywhere he could. In the famous CBS sitcom, "Blue Bloods (one of my favorite!), you will notice a picture of Roosevelt in "Frank Reagan's" office. Roosevelt left the Commissioner job however after about 2 years and accepted the position of Assistant Secretary to the Navy under the McKinley Administration. He was able to take advantage of the poor health and energy of the Secretary of the Navy, and accomplish more than any other assistant in the history of the country. He was responsible for lobbying for the Spanish-American War in which he would resign his position and famously lead and fight with his group of "Rough Riders." Roosevelt also was responsible for the beginning build up of the US Navy with new ships being built. Even though it wasn't in his power to do so, he also ordered ships and his well placed general to prepare for war with the Spanish in the Philippines. He himself returned from the war a national hero for his bravery and leadership in overtaking San Juan hill which ultimately led to the defeat of the Spanish in Cuba. It wasn't long after that Roosevelt was named the Vice Presidential nominee for McKinley's re-election bid. The book ends with Roosevelt on a family trip to the Adirondacks in New York when a ranger came to inform him of McKinley's death due to an assassination attempt. Roosevelt became president on the spot.
In between all of his fighting and positions, Roosevelt traveled the world and especially the western expansion of the United States. He was a big believer in Manifest Destiny and actually built a house in North Dakota and set up a ranch. He ended up becoming a deputy sheriff in the western land and fell in love with the scenery, animals, and nature. It is for Roosevelt who would ultimately be responsible for the wildlife conservation acts, nationals parks, hunting and fishing regulations, and more as he sought to protect, enjoy, and use the gift that God gave to mankind.
This was my favorite book I've read in some time if you can't tell. There's two more to go!
"Divine Order in the Church" by Dr. French L. Arrington
"Letters to a Young Pastor" by Calvin Miller
"The Explicit Gospel" by Matt Chandler
Chandler divides the book up from what he calls a "ground" perspective and an "air" perspective. The Gospel on the ground is a look at the Gospel message from our individual world views or in other words how the Gospel affects us individually and our local churches and living. The Gospel in the air deals with the Gospel message worldwide, missions, social issues, and more. Chandler rightly points out that many churches have lost the balance in these two realms and what has resulted is an arrogance and infighting about who really is holy and who is really doing the Kingdom work. Chandler suggests that individuals and churches who concentrate almost completely "on the ground" works towards holiness, right living, and community salvation and impact while ignoring missions, social issues across the country, and realizing the Gospel interpretation is far bigger than our own cultural spheres. Those churches who concentrate almost solely on the Gospel "in the air" tend to prop up their righteousness and holiness based on their mission work, homeless ministry, well digging, child sponsorship, and disaster aid. In the process standards of holiness and so forth take a back seat at the pleasure of doing good works and thus thereby attaining a greater relationship or audience with God. Chandler points out the fallacies in both of these thought processes. He delves into a great study of Solomon and Ecclesiastes in pointing out the fallacies of thinking we have achieved anything great or have become over enlightened compared to others.
I will be reading this again I can guarantee you. It's extremely deep but I believe Chandler is right on target with his commentary and exegesis. Amazing book!
"The Firstborn Advantage" by Dr. Kevin Leman
Leman describes me and many other firstborns to a tee. I've learned to understand me better than I ever have. For example, the differences in me and my wife are as large as the Grand Canyon. She has friends and friends and more friends. I can almost count on two hands how many best and close friends I've had throughout my whole life. And when I do, I find that most are older than me with the exception of a few that are younger. Leman suggests that most firstborns are this way because as the firstborn, we grow up learning to relate to our parents who are obviously adults while our siblings grow up learning to relate to their firstborn sibling and their parents. Leman deals with the character traits that tend to follow firstborns such as usually being very organized, accountable, and responsible. After all, it is the firstborn who typically becomes the most used babysitter for the family. The firstborn child's accomplishments tend to be magnified more so than subsequent siblings. As Leman says, if the firstborn eats dog food, the parents go crazy. If the last born eats dog food, it's gross and funny, but they know the kid will be fine.
Most every US president has been a firstborn. Most firstborns want leadership positions as they have been groomed most of their life to be that in one way or another. In fact according to Leman, the majority of all doctors, lawyers, politicians, pastors, and teachers are all firstborn or only children. Leman writes that many firstborns can be more introverted than extroverted and typically has a weakness in common communication. Firstborns can often be so goal-oriented that they can be perceived as cold-hearted and arrogant as it pertains to other people and their cares.
Leman spells out the strengths and weaknesses of the firstborn personality and I have to admit that he pegged me to a tee. It was almost creepy to read his examples and dialogue and immediately remember times almost identical in my own life. So if you're a firstborn or if you're married to a firstborn or if you're having trouble with your firstborn, go get this book. I found it on sale at Lifeway Christian Bookstores for $6. It's a steal!
"Pentecostal Preaching" by Dr. Ray H. Hughes
"Heaven is Now" by Andrew FArley
I will say there are some great moments in the book. Farley does a tremendous job in a few of his chapters of talking about the grace of God, Christ's love, and Christ's sacrifice. I can say that my once very narrow view of salvation and grace has morphed through the last several years, but I am still very adamant about the relational covenant of Christ and holy living. That certainly hasn't and won't change. As I've talked to other pastors and friends from different denominations, I've certainly been exposed to many doctrines and theologies concerning salvation. I've learned that "once saved, always saved" means different things to different people. To many who believe in "once saved, always saved," they will say that if an individual falls into habitual or grave sin after having supposedly been saved, that that individual in fact never was really saved to begin with. The premise of this belief is that Christ saves us and keeps us by His grace and due to our love for Him and His inner workings in us, we grow in our relationship with Him and as a result produce fruit, righteous living, and good works. This view has lots of similarities to the view of backsliding or falling from grace. This view of eternal security doesn't deny the ability to fall from grace, but it simply suggests that a person who does was never saved thus the continuation of the power of sin in his/her life. I can certainly dialogue in that regard.
It's with Farley's stance that I can't even begin to dialogue. In this book, he suggests a salvation that can never be undone. The individual has no power to walk away from it. In short, the believer has lost freedom to choose his own destiny. Once saved, a person could be instrumental in turning countless individuals away from Christ through his living, and still be saved. In this book's premise, a person could be saved, go on sinning, even heinously, and still be just as saved. HOGWASH! The book is almost damning to the notion of God's perfect will for our life and the teachings of Christ. Farley explains away Jesus' teachings of the "Lord's Prayer" in which we confess our trespasses and the notion of committing adultery by simply lusting after a man or woman, by saying those were pre-covenant teachings. Farley takes a verse out of context in Hebrews stating that the will of a person is not enacted unless they've died and applies this to the works, teachings, and living of Christ. In Farley's view, everything Christ taught before He died was connected to the old law and as such needs to be considered as such. This regulates the red letters of Christ to mere commentary on the Mosaic Law. This is almost blasphemy! Farley goes on to state that there is no need to pray for God's will in our lives as it pertains to making decisions as God's will in our lives is only to be with Jesus. As great and gummy beary as that sounds, that notion completely ignores Joshua's call, Psalms 139, Jeremiah's call, and the call of John the Baptist. He tells the story of someone he knew who was struggling with which job to take between three that had been offered in different cities. He tells the man that it doesn't matter that Jesus will be wherever he chooses. And while that has some level of truth in it, this is completely dangerous teaching. The notion that God doesn't care where we move, what job we take, what church I would pastor, the person I would marry is preposterous. Psalms 139 states that all the days of our life are written in His book before we ever were born. How is it then that God doesn't care if the man goes to Dallas, Amarillo, or Abilene?
Probably the worst part of this book is that at the end of every chapter, Farley writes a make believe letter from Jesus to the reader about this notion. Here supposedly Jesus states in no certain language that we can do whatever we want and it's okay by Him. He loves us and forgave us forever.
I have to say, I am glad I read this because it gave me some insight on what I consider to be a blasphemous doctrine when taken to this extreme and has also given me insight and understanding in why some believe this way. Having read this book and Chandler's book in the same month is humorous in itself. Chandler paints God out to be the Supreme Creator and God of all things. Farley paints Jesus out to be a confused, law teaching, weakling capable of dying once for all but incapable of giving us victory of sin and the flesh. To think that in Farley's opinion a good portion of Jesus' three and a half years of ministry is insignificant to Christian living is pathetic. One almost gets the idea that the Apostle Paul's ministry was greater than Christ's considering Paul came after the death of Jesus.
I don't know what else to say . . . Theodore Roosevelt anyone?