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Posts Tagged ‘freakonomics’

This week: godly friendship, a secular perspective on evangelicals, the life of Paul, and thoughts on the market crash.

The Gift of Friendship and the Godliness of Good Friends (Parts 1-4) (by Kevin DeYoung)

Friendship is wonderful, and we all want it. But friends can be hard to come by. This is nothing new. A true friend has always been one of God’s most sought after gifts. “Many a man proclaims his own steadfast love, but a faithful man who can find?” (Proverbs 20:6). Thankfully, the book of Proverbs says a lot about friendship. It won’t help you find friends, at least not directly. But Proverbs will help you be a better friend. And the best friends usually have the best friends.

Evangelicals Without Blowhards (by Nicholas Kristof)

But in reporting on poverty, disease and oppression, I’ve seen so many others. Evangelicals are disproportionately likely to donate 10 percent of their incomes to charities, mostly church-related. More important, go to the front lines, at home or abroad, in the battles against hunger, malaria, prison rape, obstetric fistula, human trafficking or genocide, and some of the bravest people you meet are evangelical Christians (or conservative Catholics, similar in many ways) who truly live their faith.

Paul’s Downward Trajectory (by Justin Holcomb)

Do you see the trajectory as Paul matures in faith? This is what happens when you boast in Christ alone. Your weakness becomes more evident. You can’t help but make much of Christ and little of self. That is maturity according to Paul—boasting in nothing but Christ’s grace and our weakness.

Why the Market Meltdown is Crazy (by James Altucher, Freakonomics)

So, don’t read the news; don’t panic. How many people in San Francisco took iodine pills because newspaper headlines (The New York Times, for instance) were talking about the “radioactive plume” that was going to hit San Francisco the week after the Japanese earthquake? Not many, I think.
My take: Relax. Eat a doughnut. Enjoy the weekend.

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This week: a piercing story about the loss of a son, bad manners with media, giving your ideas momentum, making all things new, and some arguments against owning a home.

It Was Not Wicked for the Lord to Take Our Son (by Lisa Blanco)

As our plans as parents have been thrown into confusion and sadness, we are faced with the question of what happens next. I long each morning to wake up to a crying baby to console in my arms. Ernie longs to come home from a long day of work to play with his son, and each time we walk to the garage we have to pass an empty nursery painted in blue. Through each seemingly impossible fear that rushes to our minds, the Lord has calmed us with several great truths about himself and our circumstance.

Bad Manners Masquerading as Media (by Tim Challies)

We find ourselves in that tricky space where many of us are applying old rules to new media. But we may also be excusing sinful or rude habits by our thoughtless dedication to these new media. In some cases we will look back in a few years and marvel that we could ever have been so rude. By that time society will have caught up and negotiated new etiquette. But for the time being many of us behave like barbarians (albeit barbarians with high-tech devices and Internet connections).

The Art of Momentum: Why Your Ideas Need Speed (by Jocelyn K. Glei)

When it comes to momentum, frequency of execution is perhaps more important than the duration of execution. Even if you’re working on your project for just an hour a day that’s enough to keep your objectives and recent activities top of mind. Then, when you sit down to work on it again, you can slip quickly back into the flow.

Making All Things New (Not All New Things) (by Tullian Tchividjian)

God doesn’t plan to utterly destroy this present world and build a brand-new world from scratch. Instead he plans a radical renovation project for the world we live in today. The Bible never says that everything will be burned up and replaced. Rather, it says that everything will be purged with fire and restored. God won’t destroy everything that now exists, but he will destroy all the corruption, brokenness, and chaos we see in our world, purging from it everything that is impure and sinful.

Why I’d Rather Shoot Myself in the Head than Ever Own a Home Again
(by James Altucher)

The serf is flushing money with his rent payment. But he has more cash in the bank, a more diversified portfolio, and is generating liquid cash (hopefully) from other investments. He also has the cash to be an entrepreneur, move around to take advantage of other opportunities, etc. This (in my experience) more than makes up for the rent down the drain.

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The January and February crop of releases includes a number that I would like to see but only one that I’ve actually viewed.

The Social Network (January 11)

This movie about the founders of Facebook currently has a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 97%. This looks like a well-made film, rated PG-13. Here is Ebert’s review.

UPDATE: I thought this was just ok.  It definitely does not hedge on demonstrating the depravity of man. Timberlake and Jesse Eisenberg really are tremendous.

Freakonomics (January 18)

This is the documentary based on the book and blog by Stephen Levitt and Stephen Dubner. I loved the first book, thought the second was so-so, and enjoy their blog so I’ve been looking forward to seeing this.

Secretariat (January 25)

From the previews, this film looks like “Seabiscuit 2: Extra Cheese” but the reviews have actually been solid and it is a pretty amazing true story about a horse winning the Triple Crown (of which there have only been 3 in the last 60 years).

Conviction (February 1)

This movie looks like a great story and is rated R for violence and language.

Update 5/5/11

Powerful film. Watch it. Very bad language but very fitting. Read my full review here: Conviction: Who is My Advocate?

Waiting for “Superman” (February 15)

I’m already not a fan of the public school system, and the director of this film doesn’t seem to be either. It’s sure to be a bit manipulative in and how the stories of these kids are told but likely a very true indictment.

Update 5/5/11

Wow. Very well done documentary with very effective arguments. It only served to encourage us in our homeschooling but you ache for those kids who have no choice. Not the greatest film to watch if you’re a member of the teacher’s union!

UPDATE (2/1/11)

Unstoppable (February 15)

This was one of those late entries into the DVD releases. Unstoppable was a fun movie, not overacted by Pine, Denzel, or Rosario Dawson. It’s pretty predictable like any action flick but I enjoyed the 2 main characters and the back stories that give them at least a little depth. After seeing this film, I wanted to park an old car or camper on the train tracks behind our house and watch a train  just destroy it! (staged, of course, with their consent!) When you watch this movie, you have to think about why you like it, especially the ending: men sacrificing for the sake of others, coming through when things are stacked against them.

Get Low (February 22)

This was #3 on my top movies of 2010 and I wrote a review of it here. This is a fantastic movie; don’t hesitate to give it a view.

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Books I briefly review in this post (click to jump to a specific book):

My Top 5

Teach Them Diligently by Lou Priolo

Counterfeit Gods by Tim Keller

Here I Stand by Roland Bainton

Hidden Smile of God/Filling Up the Afflictions of Christ by John Piper

What is the Gospel? by Greg Gilbert


Other Interesting Reads

The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

The Twilight Series by Stephanie Meyer

Freakonomics/Super Freakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner


Teach Them Diligently by Lou Priolo

“Until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,” Ephesians 4:13-15

This might be the best parenting book I have ever read. I’m not exaggerating! Priolo is helpful and practical and yet not overwhelming. Here are his key points:

  1. Use the Bible in instructing your children!
  2. Teach in the moment!
  3. Convict using the Word. Use Scripture to demonstrate to your children where and how they are in sin.
  4. Correct: Intentionally hone in on your children’s sin and work with them to seek change.
  5. Setting good habits for your children is not to be underestimated and requires grace giving training.
  6. Use of the rod must always include reproof, always with the Word of God.

I was convicted through Priolo that I have not been using the Word to make things clear to my older 3. I have even been lazy and have been using unbiblical terms and language, like “frustrated” or even “fussing.” I also think I can take short cuts during times of discipline with my kids and short change them in teaching them and helping them grow. I appreciated how Priolo’s book managed to simplify parenting for me. Parenting and life in general, can feel so incredibly complex most of the time. It’s not complex. Biblically, it’s not. In parenting, Scripture is the primary source and guide. It’s not an option to not use it. Scripture is not simply a tool but a bit more than that. Priolo even outlines how in the NT the use of the Word to bring about change and godliness parallels the Holy Spirit’s work in us. Compare Ephesians 5:18-6:9 and Colossians 3:16-4:1. I highly recommend this book and wish that I would have read it 5 years ago!

‘Oh, it’s not that He [The Holy Spirit] is unable to work if you don’t cooperate. It’s that He has not promised to work apart from the Bible.”


Counterfeit Gods by Tim Keller

“The human heart is indeed a factory that mass-produces idols. Is there any hope? Yes, if we begin to realize that idols cannot simply be removed. They must be replaced… What we need is a living encounter with God.”

This book surprised me. I read Prodigal God at the end of 2009 and was just destroyed by it and the fresh complete exegesis of Luke 15:11-32. Counterfeit Gods might be better. Keller walks you through different idols we tend to wrestle with in modern America and parallels these struggles with men and women of the Old Testament. Keller gives you a new perspective on Abraham, Jacob, Leah, Jonah, and others. His final chapter with his closing thoughts on Jacob is alone worth the cost of the book. Keller is thorough when it comes to the idols we battle and then he keeps coming with the gospel in response.

“Idolatry distorts our feelings. Just as idols are good things turned into ultimate things, so the desires they generate become paralyzing and overwhelming.”


Here I Stand by Roland Bainton

“Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason – I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other – my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen.” – Martin Luther, Diet of Worms, 1571

Bainton gives us an informative, seemingly complete, and very entertaining biography of Martin Luther. What a stirring and yet encouraging read! If you only have a cursory knowledge of Martin Luther as the catalyst of the Reformation and maybe even the story of how God saved him, or even if you know more about Luther, you have to read this book. Bainton paints Luther as one of us, a man who definitely sought God with all he had but a man with sin, not perfect, who struggled often just as we do. Luther was not the #1 catalyst of the Reformation. Jesus was. Luther can’t even be accurately cast as the #2 catalyst of the Reformation, you have to give that credence to the Vatican who so vehemently and publicly responded to Luther’s 95 theses that it more than blew up in their faces and we were given an unprecedented access to the Bible and renewed faith in Jesus as the center of our salvation and hope.  Luther’s life is a story of a man very much in touch with his own sin and Jesus’ death for it all whom God used in a huge way, a man whose thoughts reverberate with us to this day.

The Hidden Smile of God/Filling Up the Afflictions of Christ by John Piper

“The question is not whether we die, but whether we will die in a way that bears much fruit.”

These two books are #2 and #5 in John Piper’s “The Swans are Not Silent” series which are based on annually given biographical sermons at Desiring God’s Pastor’s Conference. The Hidden Smile of God deals with the topic of the fruit of suffering and depression in the lives of John Bunyan (late 1600s, wrote Pilgrim’s Progress), William Cowper (late 1800s, poet, friend of John Newton), and David Brainerd (early 1700s, knew Jonathan Edwards). Filling Up the Afflictions of Christ deals with the cost of bringing the gospel to the nations in the lives of William Tyndale (early 1500s England), Adoniram Judson (1800s, first American missionary), and John Paton (late 1800s, Scottish missionary to the New Hebrides cannibals). Both are worth the read simply to get an introduction to these men of God and their trials and struggles. Judson and Paton are 2 of my heroes, men who laid down their lives in pioneer missions. Hidden Smile surprised me in how much it encouraged me. Bunyan was an unbelievable testimony to the Holy Spirit and Cowper and Brainerd are helpful in the reality of their struggles with melancholy and depression.

“Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,

But trust him for his grace;

Behind a frowning providence

He hides a smiling face.”

-William Cowper, “God Moves in a Mysterious Way”


What is the Gospel by Greg Gilbert

“The Bible is the story of God’s counteroffensive against sin. It is the grand narrative of how God made it right, how he is making it right, and how he will one day make it right finally and forever.”

God, man, Jesus, response. The Gospel is that simple but you can’t leave any of those out and still call it the Gospel. Gilbert does a great service with this book, systematically simplifying the Gospel for us and then digging into the essentials. It was a good refresher for me in what the Gospel is and in the importance of sharing the words of the Gospel with others. You cannot read this book and then decide to sit back and keep the knowledge to yourself. Gilbert stirs you in the essential truths of the gospel and to walk in confidence in living it and sharing the gospel with those who do not know it or understand it. This book is a short read and good giveaway to others, good both for building up a believer and for a friend wanting to understand the heart of the Bible.

“There could be nothing healthy at all in Christians who couldn’t care less how we define and understand the gospel.”


Other Interesting Reads

The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

“Everything belonged to him [Kurtz] – but that was a trifle. The thing was to know what he belonged to, how many powers of darkness claimed him for their own.”

I finally picked up this book, the masterpiece that Conrad is known for, about a man’s journey to the heart of Africa in search and in expectation of a confrontation with one man, Kurtz. This story is about his journey but truly about Kurtz, the man he is to meet and confront and Kurtz’s descent into darkness and madness. The first 40 pages dragged a bit for me, it was very difficult to get into, but then the book takes off and you, like the narrator, are just anticipating the meeting with Kurtz and seeing him face to face. An extremely good read. We identify with the narrator, Marlowe, but like him, we grow to identify with Kurtz. Would we do differently than Kurtz? In the deepest part of our hearts, the darkness in our flesh, I think we have to be honest and say we find a Kurtz. That’s the beauty of this story. You’re fascinated with Kurtz but the journey is Marlowe’s.

The Twilight Series by Stephanie Meyer

Yes, I did plow through all 4 books this past Spring. My thoughts are here and here for my recommendations and why I think this series is so polarizing and so engrossing.

Freakonomics/Super Freakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner

“Knowing what to measure and how to measure it makes a complicate world much less so. If you learn to look at data in the right way, you can explain riddles that otherwise might have seemed impossible. Because there is nothing like the sheer power of numbers to scrub away layers of confusion and contradiction.”

Freakonomics can be summed up by one word: incentive. What are we motivated by? What incentives work? How does this affect our society? From cheating sumo wrestlers and teachers to prostitution to gang finances and accounting, the first book is a fun and interesting read about practical economics. I love how the notion of innocent altruism is simply wrecked by research and experience. We were made to seek reward! The question is in what? Not in this world. The authors don’t give a solution but definitely infer how many different ways of satisfaction we seek and how it never ends. Freakonomics to me is all about how the world is broke and unsatisfying and yet how thirsty and seeking we truly are. Super Freakonomics did not measure up to the first for me. It did not have the same depth and just was not as fun of a read as the original. Read the first, don’t bother with the second.

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