Monthly Archives: May 2013

Coffee with Calvin

Personally, I was not too impressed with this book. I was expecting something a little different than what I read. However, someone else might think this book is one of the better devotional books on John Calvin one can read. I say that to inform you do not let this review keep you from reading the book for yourself because even though it is not one I will pick up often, does not mean it will be the same for you.

When I first noticed this book, along with the title, I truly thought it was going to be a compilation of writings by Calvin himself with maybe a little commentary here and there by the editor/author. What I found was little snippets of writings by Calvin, followed by longer commentaries from the author himself. This style is not necessarily bad, it is just not what I was expecting or hoping for. I was looking forward to reading a book that was a compilation of thoughts from Calvin which I could then take and contemplate them for a while and allow God’s Spirit to lead me to the truth of the statement. Instead, the author takes this upon himself to inform the reader what John Calvin was meaning when he wrote the different portions herein mentioned. Once again, this does not mean this book is not written well, it is just not what I was looking or hoping for.

With that said I do not want to only write negatively about this book because from the beginning of the book, you can see that Donald McKim has the best intentions, understands Calvin and brings worthwhile insight. McKim is not bringing any pride to this book nor does he believe that his insight is better than Calvin’s own words. In fact, he is rather humble in his writing and expresses hope that this book will “enhance our theological understandings and our piety” to use McKim’s own words. Through that statement, the reader can rest assured the author is not trying to make himself more important than John Calvin himself. Rather, he sees the value in Calvin’s writings and wants to help those who might not have been exposed to his work get that exposure in hopes that it will challenge and enrich their spiritual lives.

Either way, even though this book was not one of my favorites, it is still a book that could be worth your time and investment. For those of you who have not had much exposure to Calvin’s works, this might be a good starting point for you to whet your appetite for his works. For those of you who have studied Calvin extensively, this book might be good for you to see another’s perspective and understanding of what Calvin wrote. However, if you want a devotional book mostly made up of Calvin’s writing by themselves, then this book is not for you.

Thank you for taking the time to read this review and I am thankful to Westminster John Knox Press for providing this copy for me to review.


7 Men and the Secret of Their Greatness by Eric Metaxas

 

Until recently, I had only heard of Eric Metaxas, never read anything by him. I am glad I took the chance to read this book. After just the first two men mentioned in this book, I found myself extremely challenged in how I live my life. Eric Metaxas does a great job helping the reader truly get to know the men he covers and see into their lives. After reading this book, I feel I have a better understanding of who these 7 men were and what it is that pushed them. Eric’s writing style is easy to read and comprehend which will appeal to all varieties of readers.

From the very beginning, Eric draws readers in with a challenge of how the idea of manhood has become confusing to so many. The idea behind this book is to answer two “vitally important questions: First, what is a man? And second, what makes a man great?” These questions would serve well in any environment where the topic of manhood is discussed. As I have gone through life, and now sit at the age of 31, I can see how the idea of being a man has changed as culture has changed. No longer does being a man involve treating women with respect, being a man of integrity or character and other such virtues. What it means to be a man today seems to be more about what a man can achieve, or in some ways, conquer; this can be anything from women to travels and basically anything else people want it to mean. It is sad to look at and even sadder to see young kids trying to emulate these men who are anything but men. It used to be that men looked out more for others and being a man meant that you stood up for others. Whereas now, it seems being a man is more about what is in it for me.

The 7 men in this book will challenge and inspire you. The book 7 Men is one I highly recommend for any man or woman to read. This world needs men who will actually stand up and be men. Men who will take a stand for what is right because it is right, not what is right because of what it will do for them. Throughout this book, I found myself challenged time and again to take an introspective look at my life, am I living with a purpose in mind? Am I living for others? Am I taking a stand for what is right, even at great cost to myself? If not, why?

Do not let the size of this review lead you into thinking this book is not worth it. It is the exact opposite. This book is worth your time. Thank you for taking the time to read this review and I pray that you will seriously consider reading this book.


Covington…Here we come!!

Well, since my last post not related to a book review there has been a pretty big change in the life of thetoddlynn. My wife and I, and our daughter too, will be moving to Covington, VA where I have accepted the position of youth pastor at Temple Baptist Church. My new ministry will begin June 1st which means my time at Journey will end on May 31st. Marcie and I have had so many memories at Journey and while we are sad that we are leaving and will miss everyone so much, we are also looking forward to this new opportunity.

From the very beginning of this process, God has been clear that this is the next step He wanted us to take. Having lived in Covington for 8 years of my life from 1989 through 1997, I never expected God would lead me back there. When I first heard that a church in Covington would be looking for a youth pastor, my initial response was “no way!” Maybe with a little more emphasis though. However, as I prayed about it and sought after God’s leading, it became obvious I should send in my résumé for consideration. After sending it in, Marcie and I continually committed it to prayer and asked God to make it crystal clear what He wanted us to do. We were hesitant because of the ministry that we had at Journey and how we had built some strong relationships with the youth and did not want to leave that. However, the more we prayed, the more God kept opening the door and leading us towards Covington. Through this whole process God has constantly shown Himself to Marcie and me in numerous ways to encourage and comfort us that this was His leading, and not our own.

Marcie and I have had numerous conversations regarding what God might want for us in the future. I would try to encourage her that with the heart God has given us for students, we needed to be ready to go anywhere and do anything. In my pride, I really thought God was using me to help prepare my wife for some kind of move whereas; God was actually preparing my heart. As I said before, I never saw myself moving back to Covington. I constantly challenge the youth at Journey to be willing to step out of their comfort zone and share the love of God with those students they come in contact with each and every day in school. It is so easy to be passive in our relationship with God when God calls us to be intentional.

Intentional.

That word has been on my mind constantly in the last couple months. What do I want to be remembered for when people look back on my life? When I look back at my life, what do I want to see? How do I want people to say I lived? How do I want to live each and every day?

With intention, intentionally. Not just letting life pass me by but living intentionally. Being intentional with my wife. Being intentional with my daughter. Being intentional with the ministry God has given me. Living intentionally and sharing the Gospel intentionally with my words and with how I live.

The first way God has chosen to help me live intentionally is to follow Him intentionally to Covington, VA where I will get the awesome opportunity to pour into students of all ages, from elementary kids to college students.

One verse that has stood out to me through this whole process, one that I have tried to live my life by is Acts 20:24:

But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the Gospel of the grace of God.

This is the ministry that God has given my wife and I. This is the course that He has laid out for us. We are excited about this new chapter about to begin but at the same time, sad the chapter we are in is about to come to a close. I am very thankful for social media and text messaging so we will still be able to keep in touch with the youth we have poured our lives into the last 2 ½ years. These last couple years really helped bring Marcie and I to the point we are at right now and it’s been amazing to look back and see God’s constant provision and direction in our lives. Even though it might not have come in the way we would have wanted, it has come in a way that has lead us to lean more heavily on God and learn to trust Him with every area of our lives. He is in control. God never promises us an easy life but He has promised to go with us every step of the way.

The other verse that has been laid on my heart is Matthew 28:19-20 which the way we have translated it says “Therefore, Go and make disciples of all nations…” The word so often translated in our Bibles as “go” really means “as you are going.” It has the understanding with it that as we are living our lives, be making disciples. Wherever God places you in life, wherever He leads you, make disciples. As we begin this transition, we go with that command, to make disciples in Covington, VA. So Covington, ready or not, here we come!!!

I pray this little recap of our lives challenges you. Not because we are great people of God but because we are people trying to serve a great God.

It’s all about the Gospel.


First-Time Dad by John Fuller

Whenever I read a book, I like to read something written by someone who understands and knows the topic they are writing about; and not just book knowledge, but an experiential knowledge. If I read a book on how to live by faith, I want to read a book written by someone who has gone through a hard time where their faith is what brought them through. If I read a book on marriage, I want to read something written by someone who has actually been married, not just studied it. I do not believe I am alone in this feeling either. I do not believe anyone would want to read a book on any topic written by someone who does not truly know and understand the field of which they are writing. In First-Time Dad, John Fuller knows what he is talking about and not just through reading books about parenting or doing research and watching families interact. He is writing from the perspective of having children of his own, 6 of them to be exact. For me, when I see a parenting book written by someone who has 6 kids, I know this author will have some good advice and tips to follow.

When I received this book, I was really looking forward to digging into it to see what kind of advice John Fuller would present. I have a 2 ½ year old daughter and she brings so much joy to our lives. I could not imagine life without her now. But, along with that, being a parent was quite the shock and change in lifestyle. John does a great job helping prepare fathers for this change. Much research has been done and shown that the position of father is one of the most important when it comes to how children grow up and mature. Children who grow up without the constant presence of a father have been shown to have a harder time in life than those who grow up with a father who is active and present in their lives. This affects both boys and girls. This fact was another reason I was eager to read this book because as a father myself, I want to learn from those who have been there and done that. I want to learn from their mistakes and glean from their successes in ways that will help guide me in my fathering. John Fuller in First-Time Dad does not disappoint.

John presents many different sides of being a father from the joy that comes from discovering your wife is pregnant to the responsibilities that come from now having to take care of and provide for one more person in the home. This little person is someone who will look up to you for a long time and who will be a part of your life forever. Your son or daughter needs a father who will invest in them and help guide them through their lives. They will need someone to be strong for them at times and other times someone who will cry with them. Every child longs for that relationship with their father and when it is absent from their lives, it will show itself in various ways. As you survey the culture, you see this on display almost anywhere you look. The power a father has in the life of his son or daughter should be constantly on a father’s mind. It is hard to do but to be the father that you can be, it is a necessity. I have struggled at times in only 2 ½ years but I am striving to make adjustments and improvements wherever I can.

First Time Dad is written in a way that is easy to follow and keeps you interested from page to page. John shares stories from his own experiences as well as stories from other parents he has had the opportunity to interact with throughout his time at Focus on the Family. He is not shy about helping fathers understand the changes that are to come in that he helps a new dad understand more about how a baby will affect their family. He writes on how to love your wife and guard
your marriage because that is the most important relationship your child will be exposed to. Time and again we see that when marriages involving children fall apart, the children involved in that relationship often fall apart as well. It is disheartening to see. Many marriages with children that fall apart do so because the marriage was not guarded and the mother and father drifted apart instead of drawing on each other even more. Two other important parts of this book is a chapter on the differences between boys and girls and one on the important part father’s play in the spiritual formation of a child’s heart. Fuller brings this book to a close with a chapter on just how fast life goes once you have a child. I can definitely relate with this part in that it seems like just yesterday, we were bringing our daughter home from the hospital and now she is full of life and singing and dancing and running around endlessly on a seemingly non-stop sugar rush.

I would highly recommend First-Time Dad for any first time dad who might want to go into fatherhood with their eyes opened. I would also recommend this book for any father who already has a child or two but notices some areas that could use some improvement. This book is one that I will go back to many times as a father. So for all you dads out there, let’s remember the importance of the position we hold in our homes and families and be the dads we need to be. One step that might help you could be picking up this book.

Thanks for taking the time to read this review. If any of you dads who read this have any stories of successes or failures you would want to share, please feel free to do so.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Moody Press in exchange for this review.