Weekend Reading: January 13, 2018

Welcome to the weekend!  Some of you are buried in snow and others have escaped the tundra to warmer climes. Regardless of where you are, here are a few items you might enjoy catching up on this week.

Before I begin, I’ll just note that some of my reading habits are changing. I’m devoting more time to reading books in my schedule, and less to reading tons of news articles – that and my work is filling in all those gaps as well with a busy season coming on.  So I may be sending a more selective list of articles, and adding in more books here from time to time.

One thing that fascinated me was the closing of many Sam’s Clubs this week. It came on the heels of Walmart’s announcement of pay raises for many of its employees.  The reason I say “fascinated” is because of the dynamics involved.  The press jumped all over the irony of the situation, but aside from that irony I think other interesting decisions were at play – and the results affect many people. If you listen to Sam’s Club executives this was just part of a larger strategy that has been moving people toward online purchases (remember when Sam’s/Walmart purchased Jet.com – I didn’t even know such a site existed). But maybe there’s more to it – ya, they were probably going to do this anyway, but they probably thought that doing it during a week where there was some good news on the retail side at Walmart would help stem some of the blow-back…they thought wrong. They may have guessed right if the decisions were affecting similar groups of people, but that wasn’t the case.  One affected only the employees, while the other affected both employees and the consumer directly.

Furthermore, maybe you’ve noticed that there’s somewhat of a community rivalry between Sam’s and Costco that gets manifested in comments between shoppers/members. Personally I loved to point out the deficiencies of Sam’s (faithful Costco member here!), and enjoyed wooing friends over to Costco…not that it takes much wooing once they’ve seen things for themselves (I jest, I jest…sort of).  I’m curious what you think – is this a big deal, and how will it help Costco if at all?

Okay, switching gears a little here – I read this article, ‘Life coaches on Instagram break the first rule of therapy—that’s why it works’ and found it interesting because its coming from a completely different mindset than I normally come from.  I had zero idea about the Instagram coaching phenom, but its not surprising to me. I do a little mentoring myself, I suppose, but wouldn’t consider myself a “life coach” – which lead me to wonder how anyone could consider themselves a life coach…what are the steps involved?  If you believe this article, there aren’t any at all…

On to religion…there’s a guest article on Desiring God’s website called, ‘How Have Catholics Changed Since Luther?’ that is pretty interesting.  I’m always trying to understand the Catholic Church better because I have many friends who are Catholic.  And by “understand” I mean the life and mindset of the church, and not just the beliefs of the church (that’s a separate – and important – discussion for another day). For someone concerned with historic Christianity and the gospel message, I have often seen the disconnect between say, what Rome teaches historically, and what a certain Pope says, or what local Catholics believe, as important.

The same is true for what the Bible teaches and what an “evangelical” megachurch pastor says from the pulpit. Often there is a disconnect there, and most often it can be traced back to men who have sought to adapt the Bible’s teaching to their times in order for it to be relevant or to fit within their assumptions/worldview. Funny enough, those adaptations have a way of sticking around for hundreds of years until the average church attender just assumes they’re part of the historic faith.

So this article isn’t comprehensive but it get the mind turning. The question I think all Christians need to ask themselves is this: does what my priest/pastor/parson/elder say on Sunday morning match up with what I’m reading in the Bible?  I’m assuming this can be done by anyone – and that you don’t have to be a great scholar, just a good reader who reads for context and asks questions. And that is the key – are we asking the right questions (are we asking any questions at all??).  Good church leaders will directly answer or help sort through our questions using the Bible, and not just their opinion. Discerning adults should know the difference whether you’re Catholic or in an evangelical denomination.

Speaking of faux evangelical leaders: Trump’s “Spiritual Advisor” Wants to Grab Your Fruit. I cannot say strongly enough how disgusting this is. It also exposes a sad lack of discernment in our President – and in more mainstream men like James Dobson who prop up the idea that the President is a real Christian man etc. Nonsense. I support the President and many of his excellent policies, and I think that overall he’s doing a good job all things considered. But while politically it may be disgusting to listen to liberals in the media rant on (and in many cases completely fabricate) a daily basis about the evils of Donald Trump, let’s not lose our ability to be discerning. There’s been enough lack of discernment, and an abundance of foolishness, which has been exhibited on the record for Christians to be able to parse out the difference between the man’s character and, say, his economic or foreign policies.

Another semi-political story that finds its roots in the tech sector: How Do You Vote? 50 Million Google Images Give a Clue

Ho boy…We Know Almost Nothing About This Secret US Government Airline

Interesting: Flashback: Harvey Weinstein Accuser Says He Used Friendship With Oprah to Abuse His Targets

Books…here’s what I’ve read thus far.  Some really interesting reads thus far.  Liturgy of the Ordinary was really encouraging and totally different, a Night to Remember was very well written and insightful, Distilled Knowledge was fantastic, humorous and well researched. It offered a scientific look at drinking and alcohol that I enjoyed. The Kim Philby spy book was fascinating and annoying at the same time. No one likes the idea that their governments can be so inept. The Agatha Christie book was very well written – the literary aspect of it was its crowning accomplishment I think. Chernow’s Death of a Banker book was a nice summary/overview of finance in the past few hundred years, though I often found myself wanting more information. Seeking Allah Finding Jesus was a fast-paced read with great insight into the average life of a Muslim who loves his faith. I found Ferguson’s The Whole Christ littered with good theology (though I disagreed with him on the covenant of redemption assertions), though it was an odd sort of book (something he might agree with) – or at least an odd approach to the topic. Yet it is likely a good thing for pastors to read through; it certainly seemed geared to them. The Pre-Suassion book was insightful, and helpful, though you could see how it could have 1. been done in a shorter volume and 2. cited more studies to backup its ideas. Mixed in there was  volume of Christian poetry, which was also very enjoyable.

That’s it!  I hope you enjoy your weekend – stay safe on those roads!

PJW

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