How I Got This Way (book review)

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Who doesn’t love Regis Philbin? Even if a morning talk show wasn’t your thing, the personality and professionalism that Regis demonstrated for over 50 years put him in a category all by himself. How did he get this way? He tells us in his entertaining memoir How I Got This Way. 

I purchased the audiobook for this one because I love hearing Regis speaking so passionately about those things that fire him up. Although he was mostly subdued in his recording, there were moments that his Irish was up! 

This book is presented in a very interesting format, with each chapter being named after a person who had a huge impact on fashioning Regis into the television icon that he became. Some names are readily recognizable, while others would be names known to only a handful of people. Since Regis would stick with this person through all of the years that he knew them, as the book progresses you will begin to see these strands intersecting with other people and forming a comprehensive picture. 

This was a delightful book! If you want a behind-the-scenes look at the television industry almost from its very beginning stages, this memoir will more than fit that bill. 

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That Hideous Strength (book review)

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That Hideous Strength is the conclusion of C.S. Lewis’ space trilogy. Although this was written almost 70 years ago, it sounds ominously like our culture today. 

I mentioned in a previous book review that the first two books of this trilogy—Out Of The Silent Planet and Perelandra—should be read together. Those who have read these first two books will definitely have a greater appreciation of the themes which come to their conclusion in this capstone book. But That Hideous Strength is such a well-told story and culture commentary that it may be read by itself and still be highly enjoyable. 

It’s amazing to me how much foresight Lewis had into the hideous ways the spirit of the antichrist can insinuate itself into our day-to-day culture and ultimately into our politics. This book is really a behind-the-scenes look at both how evil people propagate their evil plans, and how godly people stand in God’s strength to combat those plans. Spoiler alert for those who haven’t read the last chapters of the Bible yet: Evil always loses because Jesus Christ is the undefeated Champion even over the darkest of evil forces. 

As I’ve mentioned in a previous C.S. Lewis book review, this space trilogy is probably not the best place for first-time Lewis readers to jump in. This trilogy is more of a graduate-level course in seeing biblical themes portrayed in ways only a mastermind like Lewis could imagine. But for those who are already well steeped in Lewis’ writings, all three books of this trilogy are must-reads! 

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The Thompson Chain-Reference Bible (book review)

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Full disclosure: I’m a bonafide Bible study geek! I’m always on the hunt for any study tool I can get my hands on that will help me dive deeper into God’s Word. Quite possibly the gold standard for biblical study aids is The Thompson Chain-Reference Bible. 

As a young person, I would hear pastors talking about their Thompson Chain-Reference Bible, so I always assumed this was merely a “preacher’s Bible,” and as a result, I never really looked into it. Now I’m kicking myself as I think about all of the rich study material I had missed out on previously. 

Check this out: the back portion of this Bible contains 800 pages of cross-referenced study materials! Dr. Frank Charles Thompson (after whom this study Bible is named) spent almost 20 years compiling the notes that went into this Bible’s first printing in 1908. Since then, the improvements have only made using this study tool a richer experience. Because of Dr. Thompson’s detailed work, following the “chain” of scriptural references for a biblical character or a biblical theme is literally at your fingertips. There are even “chains” you can follow within each book of the Bible. 

If you love studying the Bible as much as I do, this fascinating work is a must-have for your library. 

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I am a Biblegateway Blogger Grid book reviewer. If you would like to read more about how to use this Bible, please check out this link on the BibleGateway Blog.

Perelandra (book review)

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Perelandra by C.S. Lewis is the second book in Lewis’ space trilogy. Of all the books in this series, this is the only book that I would recommend reading the first book—Out Of The Silent Planet—first, so that you can fully appreciate the story. 

Out Of The Silent Planet took place on Malacandra (or Mars) where our protagonist Dr. Elwin Ransom learns the Old Solar language and clashes with the antagonist Dr. Edward Weston. Perelandra (or Venus) is the setting of this second book, which essentially picks up right from the conclusion of book one. 

Although C.S. Lewis had much stricter definitions for terms like “allegory” or “parable,” his fantasy stories in both this space trilogy and his Narnian books clearly are telling a much grander and more real Story than merely the fictional accounts in these books. This concept is on full display in Perelandra. 

In the biblical account of the temptation of Eve, the whole affair is covered rather quickly. The devil says, “Eat the fruit,” to which Eve replies, “We’re not supposed to.” And then the devil says, “Nothing bad will happen to you if you do eat it,” and she does it. In Perelandra, C.S. Lewis takes us back to that scene and imagines the debate that might have happened, with Ransom counseling the Lady of Perelandra to obey, and Weston (or at least Weston’s body) trying to convince her to bravely disobey. The interplay between these three characters is quite fascinating. 

This story is a very enjoyable read on its own, but I found that the backstory of Out Of The Silent Planet increased my enjoyment in reading this book again. Whenever you choose to read this book, you are in for—with all due apologies to C.S. Lewis—a lovely allegory! 

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Holy Sexuality And The Gospel (book review)

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I’m not sure there could be a more timely book for our current generation than Christopher Yuan’s Holy Sexuality and The Gospel. 

My wife was reading Dr. Yuan’s memoir, which he co-wrote with his mother, called Out Of A Far Country, and she continually raved to me about the powerful message in their story. As I began to look at that book, I saw his more recent release—Holy Sexuality—and immediately got pulled into its timely message. 

It appears dialogues about sexuality, sexual orientation, and what God condones or condemns regarding sex are taking place everywhere. Dr. Yuan clearly addresses these issues by taking us back to the foundational truths of the Scripture. 

Dr. Yuan’s clear message is not about heterosexuality or homosexuality, but about holy sexuality. That is, what does God say about sexuality, and how does this tie in to the Gospel of Jesus Christ? This book is unabashedly Bible-centric, but it’s presented in concepts and language that everyone can grasp. 

In my opinion, this book is a must-read for pastors, youth pastors, and parents who engage the younger generations in conversations about sexuality. Pop culture has a message they are promoting in every movie, TV show, and music album, so thoughtful, loving Christians need to be armed with the truth from God’s Word on how to get to the root of both the cultural message and the biblical message. Dr. Yuan will help you be more attuned to the message in our current culture, as well as how to have loving and meaningful conversations about what is a very sensitive subject for many people. 

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Podcast: Talking About “The Shawn Effect”

On this episode of “The Craig And Greg Show” we talk about: 

  • Greg’s booked called The Shawn Effect
  • what leaders look like [1:14] 
  • leaders make friends easily [2:53]
  • how you can get a free copy of The Shawn Effect [3:53]
  • Shawn’s parents set him up for success [5:15]
  • leaders get informed so they can interact with others and stay relevant [6:28]
  • Shawn demonstrated chivalry and trained young men to be gentlemen [7:53]
  • leaders don’t need a platform or a big following to be an influencer [8:40]
  • Shawn shows how leaders love [10:33]
  • leaders are encouragers [11:37]
  • leaders are readers and appliers [12:27]

Check out this episode and subscribe on YouTube so you can watch all of the upcoming episodes. You can also listen to our podcast on Spotify and Apple.

Out Of The Silent Planet (book review)

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I truly believe that leaders are readers. But leaders need to also be discerning in the books they choose. I almost exclusively read non-fiction, but I make an exception when a fictional piece of literature is a mind-expanding book. As I am re-reading C.S. Lewis’ space trilogy, I’m reminded again how this master storyteller can pack so much into a few pages. Book one in this trilogy is Out Of The Silent Planet. 

In its simplest form, this book is about a trip to Malacandra (or Mars), but as with any fantasy work written by Lewis, the story tells a far deeper and more substantial Story. In this book, we go behind the scenes to witness the aftermath of the battle in heaven when Lucifer and his fallen angels attempted to usurp God’s throne. In the Malacandrian language, Lucifer is “the bent one,” having deviated away from God’s loving design, so those who have allowed themselves to be influenced by him are also called “bent.” The three Earthlings who have arrived on Malacandra show their level of straightness or bentness as this story unfolds. 

Another fascinating part of this book is the subtle change in language. The main protagonist is a philologist named Dr. Elwin Ransom. Watching how Lewis shows Dr. Ransom progressively learning the language of the inhabitants of Malacandra, contrasted with the way the bent men continue to speak it in “baby talk” is amazing. Ransom slowly learns more of the planet’s culture and the nuance of the language becomes more precise as he does so. And Lewis keeps pace by showing us the evolving vocabulary as the story moves along. 

If you are already a C.S. Lewis fan, this is a great book to continue your journey into his vast mind. But if you haven’t been exposed to much of Lewis’ writings yet, I would suggest holding off on this book until you have a better grasp of his more accessible works. 

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Seeing Beauty And Saying Beautifully (book review)

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Seeing Beauty And Saying Beautifully is, in my mind, a grand slam! It features one of my favorite poets (George Herbert), possibly the most prolific evangelist of history (George Whitefield), my all-time favorite author (C.S. Lewis), all tied together by my go-to theologian (John Piper). Seeing Beauty And Saying Beautifully is part 6 in Piper’s series called “The Swans Are Not Silent.” 

George Herbert was a pastor of a small country church and a prolific poet who wrote almost all of his poems uniquely. “Of the 167 poems in The Temple, 116 are written with meters that are not repeated,” which even modern poets find astounding. George Whitefield spent more hours of his life preaching than he did sleeping, and he spoke with such a captivating style that he was quite possibly the first celebrity of the American colonies. C.S. Lewis wrote everything from history to fantasy, autobiography to poetry, theology to children’s novels. Peter Kreeft says of him, he “was not a man: he was a world.” 

John Piper finds in all three of these men a common thread: They all were able to not only see the beauty of God in everything, but they were able to express it in a beautiful way that drew in others to see the beauty of God for themselves. Pastor John calls this “poetic effort.” 

Pastor John also wrestles with how the profound creativity and eloquence of his three subjects meshes with the apostle Paul’s admonition that human eloquence could drain the Cross of Jesus of its power (see 1 Corinthians 1:17-2:5). He concludes that poetic effort for the sake of exalting the speaker or poet does turn people’s eyes to man and away from God. But that poet, evangelist, or author that uses the beauty in God’s creation to point people to the Creator is doing so in a way in which God is supremely exalted. This, Pastor John says, is exactly what Herbert, Whitefield, and Lewis have done, and done so well that their poetic efforts are still fruitful and God-glorifying long after their deaths. 

Seeing Beauty And Saying Beautifully is a wonderful book for those who enjoy biographies, theology, or the craft of skilled artisans. If you don’t know about the poems of George Herbert, the preaching of George Whitefield, or the vast library of literature of C.S. Lewis, let this book be your doorway to a rich new world of discovery, enjoyment, and God-glorification. 

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Churchill’s Ministry Of Ungentlemanly Warfare (book review)

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This book was a complete and pleasant surprise! I have read so many books about Winston Churchill, including a number of books that Churchill himself wrote, and I never knew about the prime minister’s special group that played such havoc with the Nazi war machine. Giles Milton unpacks the fascinating tale in Churchill’s Ministry Of Ungentlemanly Warfare. 

This book reads like a classic spy novel, but it is the actual historic record of saboteurs, weapons makers, and out-of-the-box plotters who absolutely frustrated Adolph Hitler’s war plans at nearly every turn. The start of World War II caught so many by surprise that they were woefully unprepared to confront what appeared to be the invincible German military. Some in the British government hit upon the idea of fighting a guerrilla-style war to slow down the Germans’ advance. 

Mr. Milton does a marvelous job of following six key gentlemen in the way they created new weapons, new training regimens, and new fighting styles. Everything they did was so unconventional that the traditional leaders in the British government and military hesitated to give their support to this special ministry, and even went out of their way to thwart their efforts. Fortunately, Mr. Churchill was all-in on this group and cleared out the roadblocks for them. 

Whether you enjoy fictional spy novels or non-fictional accounts of historical events, I’m confident you will thoroughly enjoy Churchill’s Ministry Of Ungentlemanly Warfare. 

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Secrets Of Dynamic Communication (book review)

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If you’ve ever seen Ken Davis speak, you will recognize instantly his ability to capture an audience’s attention and keep them engaged through his entire presentation. In Secrets Of Dynamic Communication, Ken has given us the step-by-step regimen he uses to prepare such enthralling presentations. 

Let me just state right up front that anyone who communicates with a group of people will need to get this book. I’m not talking about just those who speak to large groups of people, but even someone who runs a sales meeting or teaches a Sunday School class will benefit from the strategies outlined in this book. 

Ken has developed a whole course around the acrostic SCORRE. These are steps that have been battle-tested by Ken himself and refined over years of his public speaking. He has done a masterful job in distilling the basic structure of an engaging address, while still leaving ample room for every speaker to infuse their own unique style and personality. 

Each chapter ends with a review and practice section that will help you begin to learn and apply these steps. Ken also has some excellent tools in the Appendices that will jump-start your speaking craft. 

I’m so appreciative of Ken Davis’ willingness to open up his storeroom of speaking insights to share with all of us! 

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