How to Have a Good Life in a Messy World: Ancient Wisdom for Modern Living

How to Have a Good Life in a Messy World: Ancient Wisdom for Modern Living 

How to Have a Good Life in a Messy World: Ancient Wisdom for Modern Living

How to Have a Good Life in a Messy World: Ancient Wisdom for Modern Living by [Black, Willard]

by Willard Black. Self-published (willard@opendoorlibraries.org). 194 pages.

The book is about “a good life and the principles that, if followed, enable us to achieve such a life. This is not a scholarly exposition of Ecclesiastes, nor is it a text-by-text Bible study. It’s about real-life topics that people want to talk about as they simply read Ecclesiastes.” P. 2

How to Have a Good Life in a Messy World is my effort to share the insights I have gained from traveling, living, and teaching in various parts of the world—and from my own experiences of personal loss and personal fulfillment along the journey. Like you, dear reader, I’ve seen a lot and been through a lot. It’s time for me, in some measure, to sum it all up.” P. 3

Mr. Black draws out topics from passages in Ecclesiastes and develops them from his experience. Topics discussed include timing, life’s downsides, life’s basics, work, pleasure, helping the oppressed, knowing what can’t be changed in life, diversifying generosity, youth, old age, and centering one’s life on God.

How to Have a Good Life is well-written and interesting. Advice will be found on what foods are acceptable and what should be avoided when traveling in other countries (p.42) and what kind of comments should be avoided in other countries. Mr. Black shares his first-hand observations of the fall of communism in Czechoslovakia (pp. 114-118) and the fall of the Berlin Wall (pp. 127-129). Mr. Black suggests that husbands and wives with children should fly on separate planes (p. 143). The reader will find many more insights in the pages of this engaging book.

 

 

God’s Word of Truth: Believing, Understanding, and Responding to the Biible

God’s Word of Truth is available in the Russian language. It has not been published in English. Below is a comment about the book by Sergei Golovin who encouraged me to finish the work and was in charge of getting it published in Russian..

“Being deeply rooted in the God’s word, books by Dr. Lynn Gardner in Russian translation became very effective instruments for spreading the teaching of Christ in post-communist context of former Soviet Union countries. Those nations were deprived of the biblical truth for several generations and comprehension of it is pretty fragmented and incomplete there quite often. Shortage of proper Apologetics often results superficial and easy shakable beliefs, shortage of Exegetics produces unclear understanding of the Scripture, shortage of guidance in its application to one’s life restrains growth in Christ. That is why I was very glad to find out several years ago about the book God’s Word of Truth Dr. Gardner plan to write with an integral approach to all three aspects of learning the Bible: why, how and what for.”

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, A Review

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity by Nabeel Qureshi (Zondervan, 2014), 287 pages.

Product Details

Summary of the book:

Coming from a committed Muslim family, the author tells of the personal struggles he experienced that resulted from his acceptance of Christianity as the true path to God.

His father served in the American navy and Nabeel attended American schools. He felt like a person without a country as his Muslim faith made it difficult for him to fit in and have friends.

The first section of the book explains many terms relating to Muslim beliefs and practices. Being passionate about his faith, he defended and promoted Islam.

Nabeel states a key difference between Muslim countries and America, “The people from Eastern Islamic cultures generally assess truth through lines of authority, not individual reasoning.” (79) “Islamic cultures tend to establish people of high status as authorities, whereas the authority in Western culture is reason itself. . . .Positional authority yields a society that determines right and wrong based on honor and shame. . . . Rational authority creates a society that determines right and wrong based on innocence and guilt.” (108) He said the second-generation Western Muslims “wrestle with the honor-shame principle that tells us, ‘It’s okay as long as you don’t get caught.’ If there is no dishonor, it is not wrong.” (109)

He said Muslim immigrant children have been taught that people in the West are Christian, promiscuous, and enemies of Islam. Islamic parents try to keep them from being “Americanized.” Conflicts arise when these young people see Americans who do not fit this pattern and when they learn to think critically and continue affirming their family’s adherence to Islam.

As he defended and promoted Islam, and since he denied postmodernism’s relativism, he concluded that both Islam and Christianity could not both be true. He wrote, “To me, it was self-evident that truth exists. If truth doesn’t exist, then it would be true that truth doesn’t exist, and once again we arrive at truth.” (83)

At college, Nabeel developed a friendship with David who believed Christianity was true as strongly as Nabeel believed Islam was true. They had in common that they both believed in the existence of God.

In his efforts to convert David, Nabeel stated his reasons why Christianity was not true. According to the Quran, Jesus was a prophet and to consider him God incarnate would condemn a person to hell. It also denies that Jesus claimed to be God and that he died on the cross. Much of what Muslims believe and practice is based on the hadith (Mohammad’s words and actions recorded in traditions). He asked his parents why some hadith were considered more accurate than others. He also had been taught that the Bible had been changed over time, but the text of the Quran had not been changed.

Western Muslims are taught Islam is a religion of peace and are “taught that Muhammad fought only defensive battles and that violent verses in the Quran refer to specific, defensive contexts. Jihad is here defined as primarily a peaceful endeavor, an internal struggle against one’s baser desires.” (116)

In the East, Muslims are taught that Islam is superior to all religions of the world and Allah seeks to see it established and dominant throughout the world. Jihad is seen as a physical struggle against the enemies of Islam. (116)

In his intense investigation seeking to verify Islam and refute Christianity, he visited with and read the works of both Muslim and Christian scholars. One by one he found that evidence did not support his objections to the Bible, Christ, and Christianity. He also found that evidence showed that Muhammad did engage in offensive battles, that Muslim armies used captive women sexually which behavior the Quran supported, and that the Quran had been changed.

After being intellectually convinced that evidence supported the truth of Christianity and also that evidence did not support his defense of Islam, Nabeel still had a titanic struggle in his soul. He did not want to hurt his parents. He did not want to lose his family. He said, “Of course, following Jesus meant that I would immediately be sacrificing the friendships and social connections that they have built from childhood. It could mean being rejected by one’s parents, siblings, spouse, and children.” (251) As he contemplated accepting Christ, “I was beset with hidden guilt. How could I destroy this family? What was I about to do?” (275)

Nabeel prayed earnestly that Allah or Jesus would answer his prayer through dreams or visions or some way would show him the truth. “I had full faith that God—whether Allah or Jesus, whether the God of the Quran or the God of the Bible—would answer the prayers of my heart.” (255)

As he began his second year of medical school Nabeel began to mourn the impending loss he would face by following Jesus. He opened his Quran “looking for verses of comfort.” “There was nothing for me. It depicted a god of conditional concern, one who would not love me if I did not perform to my utmost in pleasing him, one who seemed to take joy in sending his enemies into the hellfire. It did not speak to the broken nature of man, let alone directly to the broken man in need of God’s love. It was a book of laws, written for the seventh century.” (275)

He said, “Looking for a living word, I put the Quran down and picked up the Bible. . . . My heart was filled with a new joy, the joy of meeting God Himself. . . .I read my Bible relentlessly, living on each word.” (276-277) On August 24, 2005, he submitted his life to Jesus Christ the Lord of heaven and earth. (278)

Upon learning that he had become a Christian, his parents were devastated and tried to dissuade him. His father, “who stood tallest in my life,” said, “Nabeel, this day, I feel as if my backbone has been ripped out from inside me.” (280) With tears in her eyes and deep sadness in her heart, his mother told her son, “Why have you betrayed me, Billoo?” (281) However, his family live has never been the same as before, his parents still love him, and he remained a part of the family.

Nabeel chose to suffer loss that he might gain the indescribable riches of knowing Christ.

My response:

Being interested in apologetics, I wanted to understand more clearly the arguments Muslims use against Christianity and the reasons and evidences that convinced Nabeel that Christianity was, in fact, true. The book was helpful in both respects.

In the book, you will engage a brilliant Muslim who loves truth more than tradition and comfort. This gripping biography of an honest search for truth will inform your mind and touch your heart.

Note: In 2016 Nabeel Qureshi was diagnosed with an aggressive stomach cancer. In his website he stated: “The clinical prognosis is quite grim, nonetheless we are going to pursue healing aggressively, both medical and miraculous, relying on God and the fact that He is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.”

Tenacious–A Book Review

Product Details

Tenacious; How God Used a Terminal Diagnosis to Turn a Family and a Football Team into Champions by Jeremy and Jennifer Williams with Rob Suggs (Thomas Nelson, 2013) 270 pages.

Tenacious tells the true story of a family that faced the challenges of having a son with Spinal Bifida and the father with ALS 9Lou Gehrig’s Disease).

Jeremy was small for a football player but he played with a driving passion and earned a scholarship at Memphis State. He filled for an injured player in his first game and started for the remainder of his four-year career.

Jeremy and Jennifer Bolles began dating their senior year in high school. They waited for marriage until just before his senior year in college (1993).

After graduation, he worked as an assistant football coach for a few years. Then he became head coach at Greenville, Georgia, about sixty miles from Atlanta. He inherited a lackadaisical and undisciplined football team and a school with little school spirit. By motivation, weight training, and discipline he led the team with a 1-9 first-year record to 10-0 season record in his final year (2010). Jeremy was named National High School Football Coach of the year.

Jeremy did not push his faith on anybody, but he lived it consistently. His life influenced others for Christ. Christian faith sustained the Williams in their highs and lows while dealing with a handicapped son and Jeremy’s debilitating condition with his ALS.

The Extreme Home Makeover blessed the family with a beautiful handicapped-accessible home. The community helped the family in many ways.

Tenacious is a football story, a love story, and a story of tenacious faith in the face of incredible adversity.

 

Stainless Steal Hearts

 

Product Details

Stainless Steal Hearts by Harry Kraus (Crossway Books, 1994) 430 pages.

Dr. Kraus is a missionary surgeon serving with Africa Inland Mission in Kenya. He writes novels usually dealing with medical themes.

Harry Kraus weaves the stories of several individuals in this novel. A couple unsuccessful in attempts to deal with infertility, an abortionist and a leading surgeon team together for illegal research on live aborted fetuses, a college girl pregnant by a man running for governor who presses her to get an abortions, and a surgical resident and his girlfriend who learn of the doctors’ illegal research and of the governor candidate’s infidelity. This fiction book illustrates how sin results in a “tangled web.”

I do not often read fiction. I have read three or four of Kraus’ novels and find them informative on medical issues.

Molina by Bengie Molina–A Review

Molina: The Story of the Father Who Raised an Unlikely Baseball Dynasty by Bengie Molina with Joan Ryan (Simon and Schuster, 2015), 255 pages.

 An autobiography of Bengie Molina, the oldest son of Pai and Mai. Their home was a small town in Puerto Rico. The family produced three sons (Bengie, Jose, and Yadier) who were major league catchers who each won two World Series championships. The book honors his father, Pai, for coaching them to learn the game, and his mother, Mai, who managed the home.

Pai was a talented baseball player and an effective trainer of ball players. He taught one skill at a time. He taught respect for everyone involved in the game. He never became a major league player and near the end of the book Benji reveals the reason.

 

Bengie writes “My baptism and communion were pretty much the extent of my church experience. My parents weren’t even married in a church. Church weddings cost too much. As a child, on the few occasions I found myself in the Vega Alta church, I didn’t feel that God would live in such a place. The door was thick and heavy, and when it closed behind me, I imagined being sealed inside an enormous crypt, cut off from everything alive.”

I was disappointed Pai practiced and taught his boys that baseball was his religion. I also found it disappointing that Benji began a relationship with another woman while he was still married.

I enjoyed the many stories about the Molina family and baseball. I have followed Yadier Molina and the St. Louis Cardinals since 2004. While the book has little about Yadier, I was glad to learn about the Molina family and the culture of their community.

If These Walls Could Talk: St. Louis Cardinals, Stan McNeal–A Review

Product Details

If These Walls Could Talk: St. Louis Cardinals, Stories from the St. Louis Cardinals Dugout, Locker Room, and Press Box, Stan McNeal (Triumph Books, 2015), 217 pages.

McNeal records personal stories and information about Cardinals in the 2014, 2013, 2012, and 2011 seasons and some Cardinal legends. In these four seasons, the Cardinals averaged 99 wins per season including winning a World Series, two National League pennants, and reaching four National League Championship Series. The Cardinals transitioned from Hall of Fame manager, Tony La Russia to Mike Matheny and lost the future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols, yet they continued their winning ways. The closing chapter features stories about Cardinal greats, including Bob Gibson, Red Schoendienst, and Stan Musial.

Cardinal fans who followed the Cardinals during this “Golden Age” in their history will enjoy this book. It is a great book to read when you have only a few minutes since the stories are only two or three pages. The book helps the reader see the players as persons, not just baseball celebrities. The readable style of writing makes If These Walls Could Talk and enjoyable book to read.

Rise and Walk by Dennis Byrd–A Review

Rise and Walk: the Dennis Byrd Story

Rise and Walk: The Trial & Triumph of Dennis Byrd by Dennis Byrd with Michael D’Orso (HarperCollins/Zondervan, 1993), 258 pages.

On November 29, 1992, Byrd, a 6’5”, 270-pound defensive lineman for the New York Jets, in an attempt to sack the Kansas City quarterback collided with his 280-pound teammate. The collision shattered Byrd’s neck and paralyzed him from the neck down. The book describes in graphic detail the physical and emotional devastation he experienced and the excruciating route to his goal of walking again. After his seven-hour surgery, he was told that he may never walk again. In a few months, he defied all predictions and reasonable hopes and began walking again.

Through this experience, he kept his faith in God, as he did throughout his life. He credits the role played by his wife, family, friends, doctors, therapists, the general public, his Jets teammates, the help and encouragement of Leon Hess the Jets owner. He gives credit to God’s love and miracles and human faith and love.

Byrd recounts his upbringing in poverty in Oklahoma and his love of football, his experience of playing for Tulsa University and the New York Jets.

His determination and discipline motivated and inspired me. For months, I experienced chronic pain and inability to walk due to issues with my lumbar spine and resulting sciatica pain. I experienced nothing so severe as Byrd, but after surgery, rehab and home health I am getting closer to my goal of walking.

The Payne Stewart Story by Larry Guest–A Review

The Payne Stewart Story, by Larry Guest (Woodford Press, Stark Books, 2000) 201 pages.

The book begins with the story of Payne Stewart’s death. He, with five others, were flying in a Learjet 35 at about 35,000 feet altitude (or above) when the plane completely lost its oxygen. The passengers were immediately frozen to death. The unguided plane continued its flight crashing in a South Dakota field. The chapter on the crash is chilling, riveting, and intensely dramatic. The testimonies at his memorial service influenced thousands as it was carried on CNN.

His father coached Payne in golf until his death. From his earliest days, Payne had what they called a “silky swing.” In his early years on the Tour, he was cocky, arrogant, and insensitive to others. The author said, “There was a time when he would have made the top-ten of the least liked guys on the Tour.”

Payne Steward underwent a spiritual and personal conversion that changed his attitude and life. He became a “kinder, gentler, more caring fellow” thus turning “from an ugly duckling to a lovable goose.” Some disliked his flamboyant snickers and swagger, yet his persistence, improved attitude, and his brilliant play won them over. He won three major championships. His and his wife’s (Tracey) generosity was demonstrated by a gift of half a million dollars to the First Orlando Foundation which would help children.

The author quotes freely from the observations and testimony of his fellow golfers on the Tour, his coaches, his friends, and his family. This helps one gain a more realistic picture of who Payne Stewart was.

Aim High by Dave Johnson–A Review

Product Details

Aim High: An Olympic Decathlete’s Inspiring Story, by Dave Johnson with Verne Becker (Zondervan, 1994), 233 pages.

Dave Johnson is a two-time Decathlon Olympian and current World Record holder for the second day events of the decathlon. He won the decathlon Bronze Medal in tine 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games while competing with a broken foot.

He was made famous by the “Dan vs. Dave” Reebok ads of 1991-1993. This opened doors for other commercials and gave a platform for his to speak to youth from a viewpoint as a positive role model.

After he retired from his Olympic career in 1997, he has served in coaching and education.

In Aim High, Mr. Johnson describes how his parents were not home much, and he wanted to find his identity and be someone. He became a troublemaker. He said, “I did not want anyone else telling me who I should be or what I should do. I didn’t want anyone controlling me. When someone put any kind of restriction me, I immediately did the opposite. Laws and authority figures by definition set limits, so I sought to defy anyone those limits.” This is a definition of a sinful person apart from God. He became a leader of a gang of guys who vandalized, drank, stole beer (at one period of months over $5,000 worth), they broke into houses and stole things, and even harmed others.

When his family move, a change came into his life. Christian teammates and coaches helped him come to know Christ. His faith enabled him to face difficulties in his decathlon experiences and in life, for example when they lost a child. As the expected Gold Medal winner in the Barcelona Olympics, unknown to the crowd he participated with a broken foot. With the encouragement of his coaches, he fought to the end. He said, “You know the Olympics is not really about winning gold medals; It’s about that phrase in the Olympic creed: ‘Not to have conquered, but to have fought well.”

Two things stand out in the book to me. One is the evil possible when a person acts selfishly being his or her own god. The second is the wonderful transition that can come in a person’s life who surrenders their life to Christ.