Costi Hinn, Zondervan, 2019, 224 pages, 3 of 5 stars
Summary: an autobiography of Benny Hinn’s nephew and how he finally left the prosperity gospel and found Christ.
You want a history of the prosperity gospel (PG) in America? Read Bowler. A theological treatise against the PG movement? Read Strange Fire. But suppose you have a buddy at work with anointing oil in his cubicle and bumper stickers flashing Isaiah 53:5 (“with his wounds we are healed”). He loves TBN. He reads everything Crefloe Dollar and Joyce Meyer put out. He’ll never pick up a hardcover by Justin Peters or Johnny Mac.
This might be the book to give him. Sometimes stories that put you in the moment (“I carried cash–a lot of cash”, p. 57) can be more convincing than assertions. Benny Hinn is perhaps the world’s most well-known prosperity evangelist. Benny grooming his nephew to be his successor, only for Costi to abandon this teaching and move to orthodox Christianity would be like the brother of the infamous atheist Christopher Hitchens coming to faith in Christ. This happened by the way. God has a sense of humor. Continue reading
Samuel Waje Kunhiyop, Hippo Books, 2012, 250 pages, 3 of 5 stars
Summary: a simplified and abridged theology covering the major themes of systematics and applied to African life today
Samuel Waje Kunhiyop (SWK) wants to be true to Scripture and writes African Christian Theology (ACT) in an effort to take the African situation seriously. This is a thoughtful yet rare contribution to the African church and deserves to be read carefully.
Strengths: (1) ACT interprets theology contextually. Why an African Theology? SWK is correct that “Scripture is always interpreted within a context” (p. xiii). Thus, John MacArthur’s Biblical Doctrine written in 21st century America gives significant attention to doctrines like cessationism and gender roles when John Calvin’s Institutes does neither because it was written in 16th century France. SWK scratches where the African itches. He doesn’t waste time on proofs for God’s existence since rare is the African atheist. Continue reading
Matt Perman, Zondervan, 2018, 288 pages, 3 of 5 stars
Summary: it’s not enough to protect your time. You must protect your focus.
“The Preciousness of Time” by Jonathan Edwards is the best teaching I’ve read on time management because of its theological rigor. From a productivity standpoint, however, Unstuck was more profitable. Matt Perman, a Christian that blogs at Whats Best Next, provides ten principles for maximum productivity. But his greatest contribution is the importance of focus–no easy thing in our preoccupied world.
The secret to effectiveness is concentration, which is focusing on one priority for an extended time.
Concentration gets more done better. The goal is “deep work”, a state of high concentration. It is a kind of super power that most people cannot perform because it has so many obstacles. The formula is: time spent x intensity of focus = high quality of work produced. Effective people are able to concentrate (doing one thing at a time) for long periods on the most important things. This takes a lot of practice.
Pros: Perman has spent decades crafting excellent habits of time management. I didn’t want to forget his advice, so I consolidated his book into my own mnemonic device: F-O-C-U-S. (1) Fight distractions. These are the biggest obstacles to deep work because it kills flow. It’s crucial to finish one job at a time because incomplete tasks dominate our attention (“I still have to get this done”) and depletes energy (“I’m so stressed”). Personally, eliminating distractions during deep work includes seclusion, having no access to my phone, closing email and Evernote, doing online reading after the work day, no “work” post 5:30 pm, and no phone checks until after breakfast.
(2) Order the day according to priorities. There’s a difference between responsibilities (duties) and priorities (chief duties). It is vital to give our best, longest and most skilled time to priorities. It’s not a priority if it doesn’t take high concentration. (3) Complete the task. Start and complete one job at a time. Bach and Handel composed one major work at a time. Rare freaks like Mozart that could do multiple works simultaneously are not the model.
(4) Use large chunks of time to accomplish deep work. Two small chunks of 2 hours are must less effective than one chunk of 4 hours. (5) Stop work when the day is over. End your day at a specific time so you can recharge. You’ll be less effective during the day if you tell yourself you can get tasks done late at night.
Cons: Perman is a Christian and Southern Seminary grad (MDiv in two years) that used to serve on staff at Desiring God. I wish he had used more Scripture in the book. Unstuck has a little too much business/CEO feel for my taste. But I never read books from that genre, so it probably was good for me.
Conclusion: Perman succeeds in convincing the reader to habitually prioritize his day and focus on important tasks for long periods of time. Read chapter 13 if you only have time for one. Chapters 1, 11-12, and 16 were helpful too.
- “The more distracted we are, the more shallow our reflections; the shorter our reflections, the more trivial they are likely to be.”
- “If there is a ‘secret’ of effectiveness, it is concentration. Effective [people] do first things first and they do one thing at a time.” – Peter Drucker
- “Only the confidence that you’re done with work until the next day can convince your brain to downshift to the level where it can begin to recharge for the next day.”
- “The ability to concentrate intensely is a skill that must be trained.” Cal Newport
John MacArthur, Thomas Nelson, 2005, 143 pages, 3 of 5 stars
Summary: a list and explanation of fifty-two key passages every Christian should memorize
John MacArthur wanted to encourage his congregation to memorize more Scripture. He chose 52 passages that reflected ten main themes–the heart of the Bible. The 2-3 page explanations on each passage are theologically rich and easy to understand.
Pros: (1) This is a great book to give new Christians at their baptism. As they begin their Christian walk, these pages will encourage them to memorize and understand the Bible’s foundational passages.
(2) The book fits well into a one-year course. Our little African church is memorizing one passage for each week of the year.
James Anderson, Crossway, 2014, 112 pages, 3 of 5 stars
Summary: an interactive storyline designed to help the reader identify and clarify their worldview and its implications.
Don’t read this little paperback from cover to cover. Follow the “Choose Your Own Adventure” plot to help you discover the consequences to your worldview (e.g. atheism, polytheism, pantheism, etc.) and other big questions (“Does God exist?” “Is there more than one true religion?”).
Pros: (1) Creative. The book is short. But it must have taken considerable thought to piece it together. (2) This is a nice, little title to give the unbeliever in the cubicle next to you. The size won’t intimidate him and it will make him think. (3) This is a good refresher on apologetic terms like Nihilism (what does that word mean again?) and Deism (“a halfway house on the road from Theism to Atheism”). (4) This is a good refresher on apologetic arguments, like why the problem of evil is harder for the atheist than the Christian. (5) His six-page intro on worldviews was excellent.
Cons: (1) Anderson tries to be unbiased but is sometimes timid (“some worldviews…walk with a pronounced limp”) or feeble (“the Christian worldview has a lot going for it”). Actually, all other worldviews are dead wrong! (2) The “end of the trail” on the Christian worldview was weak. If I traveled this far, at least give me a taste of Whitefield.
Quotables: “Worldviews are like [brains]: everyone has one and we can’t live without them, but not everyone knows that he has one.” (12)
John MacArthur, Thomas Nelson, 2010, 225 pp. 3 of 5 stars
What is the most unforgivable notion in today’s world? Slavery is good.
In Slave, John MacArthur explores the paradox that people never stop being slaves. Pre-conversion, we are slaves to sin. Post-conversion, we are slaves to Christ. “Although you used to be slaves of sin…you became enslaved to righteousness” (Rom. 6:17-18, HCSB). Continue reading