Monday, February 22, 2010

Chandler on the Gospel

I preached Sunday on Luke 11:5-13, a passage that immediately follows Jesus' giving of the Lord's prayer.  While preparing to preach I listened to Matt Chandlers sermon on the same passage and he made this statement about the gospel: 

The gospel is not that if you love Jesus then you'll get everything you want. The gospel is that you'll get Jesus and he will be enough no matter what.

Well said Mr. Chandler, well said.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

World War Two Books

This week I finished a book called The Third Reich at War by Richard J. Evans. It's the third in a series on the Third Reich by a history professor from Cambridge. This volume addressed the years from 1939 to the end of the war in 1945. At 900 pages, it is thoroughly researched and heavily referenced, yet also easy to read. But the title is a bit misleading. Evans certainly deals with the "war" part of the war, but if the title was meant to described the content of this book, then it would likely be named, How the Germans Killed Lots of People During WWII. The level of detail Evans provides throughout the book on both how they were put to death and the amount of people killed is overwhelming at times. I know, sounds encouraging. So why would you want to read this? After turning the last page and closing the cover I thought "more people must read this book. Especially high school students." It is too easy to forget the atrocities this world has endured, especially when we live in such a comfortable time. No culture that forgets God is very far away from repeating the acts of the Nazis. In fact, the book makes a pretty strong case for Hitler being primarily driven in his desire to eliminate the Jews by his Darwinistic convictions related to the 'survival of the fittest' and the need to protect the integrity of the master race. 

Evans concludes the book this way:

The Legacy of the Third Reich… extends far beyond Germany and Europe. The Third Reich raises in the most acute form the possibilities and consequences of the human hatred and destructiveness that exist, even if only in a small way, within all of us. It demonstrates with terrible clarity the ultimate potential consequences of racism, militarism and authoritarianism. It shows what can happen if some people are treated as less human than others. It poses in the most extreme possible form the moral dilemmas we all face at one time or another in our lives, of conformity or resistance, action or inaction in the particular situations with which we are confronted.

Or, to summarize, it shows what happens when sin reigns and controls a nation.

Though the book is very readable, the literary quality pales in comparison to the WWII book I completed just prior to picking up the Evans volume. For my 2009 birthday, my parents bought the six-volume set Churchill wrote on the history of WWII. I finished volume one in December and picked up Evans immediately afterwards. Churchill is a master writer, one of my favorites (in fact, one friend recently accused me of having "a man crush" on Churchill) and his ability to turn a phrase is among the best in the English language. Churchill had a team of writers accompany him on this book, and these guys were no slouches. Read what they said about Churchill's influence on their writing style in this work:

From the Foreign Office, Sir Orme Sargent and Professor Savory submitted notes on Britain, Poland and the coming of war.  Sir Alexander Cadogan sent extracts from his then unpublished diary of the Churchill-Roosevelt meeting in 1941.  From Cambridge, Professor Goodwin, a former flight-Lieutenant in the Royal Air Force, submitted a 150-page account of the Blitz.  Kelly was given the task of reducing this to three typewritten sheets. 'They seemed quite good', Kelly recalled, 'till I sat beside him and he pulled out his red pen and slowly and patiently corrected what I had written.  My sloppy, verbose sentences disappeared.  Each paragraph was tightened and clarified, and their true meaning suddenly stood out. It was like watching a skillful topiarist restoring a neglected and untidy garden-figure to its true shape and proportions.  In the middle of this penitential process he gently turned to me and said: 'I hope you don't mind me doing this?'
Finally, I'm in the process of re-reading The Red Horse, a novel about the Italian involvement in WWII. This is likely the best work of literature I've ever read. I'd put it up against all the great classics: War and Peace, Les Miserables, the Count of Monte Cristo. This is one of the few novels I have ever read a second time. It apparently won an award as the "European novel of the decade" (though I've not been able to find the evidence of the award recognition). The first time reading this book, after putting it down, I felt like I had lost a good friend, not wanting the story to end or the people to go away. If you have wanted to tackle a larger novel but haven't found the right one, this would be a good one to try.

On a humorous note (maybe), my son occasionally asks about the books I'm reading. Since WWII themes have lately dominated this list, much of my responses are related to War History. So occasionally the Nazis will come up and we will discuss who they were and what they did, trying to keep the conversation within the realm of what a 5 year old can handle. Last week he had a new friend over to play. They began in his room and within a few minutes he came out crying frantically and wringing his hands. Julie asks "whatever is the matter?" The child said, "Are the Nazis going to kill me? Please tell me they are not real! Please?" Apparently our son was trying to teach his new friend a little war history. Julie calmed him down and the boys went back to playing together. Now, I can only imagine how the conversation went down that night in their home…