Resurfacing…

Hey there!

 

It’s been months since I wrote…. sorry for that!

 

It’s not about material scarcity – in fact, I’ve I’ve been busy with doing many intriguing readings.

 

But I haven’t been able to schedule writing into my free time, due to various personal and work-related stuff.
Nevertheless, it seems that I’ve found a sustainable rhythm to spend my free time, so I should be able to produce a decent review again soon, hopefully before the year ends.

 

So hang on there, go out, and enjoy the Dutch “summer”!

 

Cheers,

KJ

 

 

#7.2 – WHAT’S BEST NEXT (MATT PERMAN) – PART 2/2

(You can find part 1 of this post here)

We left off at the core principle of making ourselves effective. This part is all about crystallising that principle. It’s about constructing a system that will support your effort to become effective. This system is called DARE: Define, Architect, Reduce, and Execute. Let’s talk about each of this step in detail as we move on.

Define

This step is all about developing your mission statement, knowing your vision (i.e. your overarching life calling, or life goal), knowing your roles (your specific everyday callings in your life), and your goals (creating change at quarterly, yearly, and multiyear increments). Your mission statement should consist of three components:

  1. Core purpose: your overall reason for existence
  2. Core principles: the guiding principles by which you will live your life
  3. Core beliefs: your identity and ultimate destination

These three components should address four main themes: (1) who you are, (2) why you are here, (3) where you are going to end up at the end of all this, and (4) what the main principles are by which you will guide your life. This is the essence of Chapter 11.

Chapter 12 contains perhaps my favourite quote from throughout the book:

To every person there comes in their lifetime that special moment when you are figuratively tapped on the shoulder and offered the chance to do a very special thing, unique to you and your talents. What a tragedy if that moment finds you unprepared or unqualified for work which could have been your finest hour.

 Sir Winston Churchill

We must become ambitious – for the glory and honor of God. It’s such a fatal fallacy to think that we may not be ambitious; we may for the correct purpose. To realise that ambition we need to have a robust life goal. It is a specific aim with a finishing point. Your mission is your chief way, and your life goal is the concrete what. It is a huge objective that is so big that it governs everything else you do, and it will likely take your entire life. Now, how do you come to your life goal? Ask these two questions to yourself:

  1. What would I do if I had all the money I needed and could do whatever I wanted?
  2. What would I do if I could do only one thing in the next three years?

If you could do only ONE thing on this planet, what would it be?

That’s your life goal. How to make it happen?

  • Put it in a place where you will remember it and review it
  • Weave it in the structure of your life
  • Utilise evolutionary progress rather than scripting everything out

If you have a hard time figuring out your life goal, newsflash: life still can go on. Do what’s before you with excellence, take steps for fundamental reasons and not instrumental ones, care about who as much as what, increase you opportunity stream, read inspiring books and biographies and watch inspiring movies, stay faithful in prayer, and finally take action and commit.

Now roles, or better: callings. All Christians have a calling, and every area of their lives is a calling. All of our jobs and every area of our life has a dignity and meaning that gives great significance to it. Each role is a stewardship for which we are ultimately responsible to God himself. Maybe you’ve realised by now, Ï have too many hats. How can I possibly organise them? You may start by grouping them into five categories: individual, family, church, social, and professional. For each role, list the corresponding responsibilites you need to undertake. Make sure you live out your  role by:

  • Make it a routine to review your roles in your weekly review, and ask what you most need to do this week to serve your primary roles, any additional roles you can do, and any roles that you are possibly neglecting.
  • Weave them into the fabric of your life.
  • Connect them to your life goal as the means to accomplish it.
  • Keep them from competing. Whenever possible, seek to do things in a way that involves multiple roles.

Architect

This step aims to help you structure your life by living mainly a flexible routine, not a set of lists. Three things are involved:

  1. How to set up your week
  2. What routines to be inserted into your week
  3. How to get creative things done

Why do you need a basic schedule? The reason is simple: people operate best from a routine, not a set of lists. It also keeps you from massive overload, and helps you integrate all of your roles. At the same, it enables creative thinking. You should begin by setting up your week using a time map, or a weekly schedule. Divide your week into time zones, representing the main roles and responsibilities of your life. You may want to divide your day into 30-mins slots, but avoid having too many items. Keep it simple. Make it easy to remember so it becomes automatic and natural to the way you live. There are six routines Perman recommends you to harness:

  1. Get up early
  2. Keep a daily workflow
  3. Have a weekly workflow
  4. Prayer and scripture
  5. Reading and development
  6. Rest

Reduce

Reducing means freeing up some capacity and it certainly is needed if you’re trying to fit too much in your schedule. Why is it needed? Something called the ringing effect explains a phenomenon wherein a system that is nearing its capacity (around 75 percent) can be greatly disturbed by small nuisances. In short, this means that everything is on edge when full capacity is a tiptoe away. In order to be effective, you need to plan everything for around 75 percent capacity only. To get more things done, reduce the number of projects you’re working at once. To get more done, do less.

What should we do to reduce the number of things we have to do? There are four main avenues:

  1. Delegate: Contrary to popular belief, delegation is not a way to get rid of something you avoid doing. It’s an opportunity to serve by building up the other person. A jargon used here is stewardship delegation. The other individual is given both an area of responsibility and the freedom to choose whichever methods they prefer to accomplish it.
  2. Eliminate: Two components of elimination are getting rid of tasks that don’t need to be done, and eliminating unnecessary parts of the task. Use 80/20 principle together with Parkinson’s Law. 80 percent of your productivity comes from 20 percent of your tasks. Identify things that fall into the ‘trivial many’ so you can correctly identify the ‘vital few’. Parkinson’s Law construes that a task will generally expand to fill the time allotted to it, so reduce the time you allot for a specific task.
  3. Automate: Make your tasks run on autopilot (this is actually something I’m busy with in my job).
  4. Defer: Putting things aside for later and time-activating them.

But I have so many time killers! I’m constantly interrupted by people craving for my attention!

Actually harness them.

Kill multitasking. You can never effectively do two things at once. You can quickly switch between tasks, but it incurs switching costs. Loss of concentration, time to refocus, those are switching costs. Plan your tasks in big time chunks so you don’t switch between menial tasks.

PROCRASTINATE. Yes, you read me right. Get this, motivate yourself to love what you do. There will be a slimmer chance for you to procrastinate. But procrastinate positively. Sometimes we just need to wait until more information is needed to wrap up a task, or you face a very large task that can be effectively solved when broken down. Then do nothing. Don’t do something else.

Finally, turn interruptions into a positive experience. Avoid this as much as you can by planning uninterrupted work time, but in case interruptions are an inevitable part of your daily routine, embrace them and use them as opportunities to do good for others. Minimise interruptions and realise that interruptions can boost your effectiveness.

Execute

Execution can be summarised into the acronym P.O.D:

Plan.Organise.Do.

Planning means planning your week. Create a weekly plan that contains your most important priorities this week and weave them into the design of your week. How to do this correctly? First, pray and review your mission and vision. Then define your priorities for the week by reflecting and reviewing your roles, goals, project, action lists, and calendar. Finally, organise your priorities in a way that makes them easy to do. Organising implies different things. It means separating the large items from the small items. It means pruning and prioritising. It means scheduling anything that needs to be scheduled. It means doing small actions right away.

Organising means managing your email, workflow, projects, and actions. You can manage your workflow by collecting ideas readily, processing correctly (in order, one item at a time, and not putting things back into your inbox), and organising (yes, we do  a lot of organising) items based on need-to-follow-up. Projects and actions can be organised using four types of list:

  1. Weekly priority list ( = this week)
  2. Master projects list (= this quarter)
  3. Master actions list (=this quarter)
  4. Backburner (=someday/maybe)

Project plans can support your projects. A project plan should contain the project’s purpose, principles, actions and info.

“Do” means executing your responsibilities daily. A few principles can help you seize the day effectively. First, plan your day ahead. Write down the three most important tasks you can accomplish today, review your calendar, review your priority list this week, and write down any other things you need to do. Then schedule your day at only 70 percent capacity or less (remember the ringing effect). Make sure you consolidate your time into large chunks. Do the most important thing first, and do it one at a time. Focus on outcomes, and not activities. See your day in terms of people and relationships first, not tasks. As k yourself, how can I build others up? Utilize the key question in the moment: What’s best next?

The last large chunk in the book discusses the repercussions of our improved productivity in organisations and society. Peter Drucker spelled out that modern society’s survival and functioning depends on the effectiveness of large-scale organisations, of which individual effectiveness is an indispensable building block. As individuals we are then called to understand management and leadership. Ultimately, improved productivity should be used for the sake of the poor. It’s a global call for all of us.

DISCUSSION

This book makes an enjoyable read, although it demands you to invest a good amount of time to really internalise the content. The first remark didn’t come until I was summarising this book. There’s too many things to be conveyed. While Perman is consciously aware of the problem with David Allen’s Getting Things Done of abundant to-do-lists, Perman actually has too many (nested) lists. Maybe I’m wrong, and I’m squeezing too much juice. There are actually too many useful points. Nevertheless, I highly recommend you to sit down with a bunch of highlighters and sticky notes. Consider reading this book a personal study session. You may even want to summarise the book for yourself using a personal notebook.

_____________________________

Let me know what you think of this book!

The next review will be on a cyber security book on phishing.

 

#7 – WHAT’S BEST NEXT (MATT PERMAN) – PART 1/2

Time for another business book review!

Although you might not find this book sitting in the “Business and Management” shelves in your favorite bookstore, this is essentially a business book. The difference is that most of the arguments are built around biblical perspectives, so there’s a higher chance that you’ll have to teleport yourself to the “Spirituality” department.

This book is amazing because it combines two seemingly unfitting topics: Christianity and productivity. And this book is both a Christian living book and a productivity book. You can’t say it’s either of the two. Perman spends more than ten chapters to make his point in both areas. It’s both biblically sound and managerially robust.

Because of its extent, I’m forced to split my review into two parts to avoid producing a post that requires half an hour of your undivided attention. In this part, I’ll focus on the biblical principles used by Perman to lay a solid foundation on why we need a Christian view on productivity. In the other part, I’ll present the practical part of the book on how you can drastically improve your productivity.

Matt Perman has the correct resume to write this book. He holds an MDiv from a seminary and also a Project Management Professional certification. Previously he served as Senior Director of Strategy of John Piper’s Desiring God Ministries. Perman maintains a gospel-driven productivity blog, What’s Best Next, which carries various supplemental resources to the book. 

DESCRIPTION

Title: What’s Best Next: How The Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done

Author: Matt Perman

Topic: Work, Christianity, Labor productivity

71ela9w82bgl 

SUMMARY

This part of the review covers the first two parts of the book, namely First Things First: Making God Supreme in Our Productivity and Gospel-Driven Productivity: A New Way to Look at Getting Things Done. They collectively make up the first ten chapters of the book. Perman starts big; in the preface he lists twelve myths on productivity and busts them open. For example, he believes that productivity is not about getting more done faster, which is in reality efficiency. Productivity, per Perman is more about effectiveness. Another myth he decimates is that productivity is best defined by tangible outcomes. He argues that productivity is about intangible – relationships developed, connections made, and things learned.

The introduction is essentially a short summary of the book. He asks the reader to first acknowledge that it is hard to get things done and that we need a Christian approach to embrace productivity. He then lists reasons of why we need to care greatly about personal productivity. For example, a good productivity approach enables us to be more effective in doing good for others and that managing ourselves well enables us to excel at work and in life. He goes further by explaining the concept of gospel-driven productivity and building blocks of this notion.

It is hard to become productive these days because we have not updated yet our tactics and strategies from the industrial economy that emerged in the 20th century. Borrowing Drucker’s term, we are now standing in the era of knowledge economy, where we are no longer ‘industrial workers’ but ‘knowledge workers’. These obsolete tactics render us unprepared to meet the challenges of ambiguity and overload that color this era. Efficiency, contrary to popular belief, is not the answer. Effectiveness is.

It doesn’t matter how efficient you are if you are doing the wrong things in the first place.

Yes, you can get the wrong things done. Sometimes efficiency can even make things worse. This happens when you become an expert at doing the wrong things, which is the definition of unproductivity. It can also potentially hamper innovation and makes us shy away from creating intangibles.

That’s why we need God in our quest to become productive. Thus far, we have recognized four generations in time management:

  1. Getting organized
  2. + Adding calendars, setting goals, and formulating long-term aims
  3. + Identifying values
  4. + Identifying principles

Perman believes it’s time for a fifth generation: God-centeredness. This is because God is ultimately foundational to true principles and He ultimately defines what the rights are to get done. Moreover, He is “what matters most”. The Bible is packed with passages showing that God actually wants us to be productive. The Creation story shows the first mandate ever given, which is to be productive. In the era of Jesus’, there is the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30, which shows that God cares about ROI. Being productive requires intentionality (Eph 5:15-17). As Christian, our motives should revolve around loving God and seeking to serve Him.

In Part 2, Perman gradually builds the definition of “productivity”, drawing pieces of the notion from individual chapters. This begins in Chapter 4, where he defines productive things as things that pass muster at the final judgment and receive the verdict of being “eternally productive”. To be productive is to get done what God wants to be done. What does God want to be done? Good works (Matt 5:16, Eph 2:8-10, Tit 2:14, John 15:16). 

It’s not only about doing good works, it’s also about being fruitful in doing good works (1 Thess 5:15; John 15:8; 2 Cor 8:2; 9:6,8; 1 Cor 15:58; Prov 3:27; 11:24-25; 1 Tim 6:17-19). We are to make the best use of our time. As John Wesley put it:

Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as you ever can.

Being productive is then doing all the good you can, and it’s not just about the spiritual things; it’s anything we do in faith. This also means that productivity is about other people, not about you. It’s about becoming a useful person and making contributions. By no surprise, the guiding principle is love. Love is at the heart of Christianity. We are most effective when we seek the good of other before ourselves. To have love as the guiding principle of our lives means that the continual mindset in all we do should be, “What will serve the other person? How can I benefit my neighbor?”. Loving others means six things:

  1. Have real goodwill toward the other person.
  2. Put the other person first.
  3. Be eager in meeting the needs of others, not begrudging and reluctant.
  4. Be proactive, not reactive, in doing good.
  5. Avoid a self-protective mindset and take pains to do good for others.
  6. Be creative and competent in doing good, not lazy and shoddy.

Counterintuitively, putting others first is actually the best way to be productive at work. Many books have spoken about the benefits of generosity, which are bigger at your end than at the other person’s end. Read for example Love is The Killer App by Tim Sanders and Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi.

The only to be productive is to realize that you don’t have to be productive. Perman makes his point by explaining the doctrine of justification by faith and not by works. Christianity is not about moralism. If we were to do good in order to become justified, we wouldn’t do them for others’ sake. We would selfishly accomplish things for our own sake. Nothing we do can add even one bit to our justification (and ultimately, salvation).

This relates to the misconception of ‘peace of mind’, which is often equated to ‘the feeling when you’ve ticked all your to-do list boxes.’ It is far more than that , and it definitely should not depend on what we do. The ultimate peace of mind comes, in the same way our justification does: through faith. It is best expressed in day-to-day life, and it can only be found outside of ourselves. Our identity is not defined by our productivity, but in what Christ has done for us. Even if every single thing breaks down, our identity remains intact.

Only secure people can serve. Insecure people are always worrying about how they appear to others. They fear exposure of their weaknesses and hide beneath layers of protective pride and pretensions. The more insecure you are, the more you will want people to serve you, and the more you will need their approval. – Rick Warren

True and lasting effectiveness stems from character, not personality. It looks at who we are. Psalm 1 tells about the “blessed” person who “yields its fruit in its season… in all he does.” Everything works for his own good. Virtue and character are what it takes to live a productive and fruitful life. Being a person of character is the greatest success, and it leads to being able to make the most of our time in the decisions of everyday life, as it becomes the source of our ability to determine what’s best next. God works through our renewed understanding (Rom 12:2) to enable us to determine the best course of action (Eph 5:10,17). How do we then make character flourish? By meditating on the Scripture (Psalm 1:2) and praying.

The core principle of making ourselves effective is by learning to be able to lead ourselves before managing ourselves. What is the core principle to productivity? Know what’s most important and put it first. If we do our activities this way, the smaller stuff will fall into its place. The Bible tells us to work with priorities (Matt 6:33). Decide what really matters first: God and His Kingdom, and then do it. Knowing what’s most important is personal leadership, and putting it first (into action) is personal management. These two things are equally important in harnessing productivity. Personal leadership is about objectives, and personal management is the tactics you use to reach those objectives. Within personal leadership, you have mission, vision, long-term goals, and roles. Within personal management, there are projects, calendar, action lists, etc. Be aware that the things within personal management may strangle you, so always ask yourself over and over: what’s best next? This is the core idea.

To be continued here

#6 – #STRUGGLES (CRAIG GROESCHEL)

It’s time for another review! I try my best to maintain a variety of posts, and I hope I’m not repeating the cycle too soon. The title starts with a hashtag… did I make a typo error? No, the title of the book comes with a hashtag, and there’s a pretty good chance you can already guess what this book is about.

To be honest I forgot why I wanted this book. I bought this book shortly after it was released, which doesn’t happen too often. Nevertheless, I didn’t regret the purchase. It is one of the few books I completed in a few sittings.

Craig Groeschel is a heralded pastor in the U.S. One of the most well-known fruits of his ministry is the popular YouVersion Bible App. He pastors LifeChurch.tv, which I believe live-streams its services every Sunday. There’s a bunch of videos of his sermons on Youtube and he is very active on social media.

41pvlzgwjyl-_sx362_bo1204203200_

Image courtesy of Amazon

 

DESCRIPTION

Title: #struggles: Following Jesus in a Selfie-Centered World

Author: Craig Groeschel

Categories: Social media, Technology, Christian life, Spiritual growth

SUMMARY

Allow me to start with the introduction; it’s a very honest and relatable piece of writing.

“We’re busy, but bored.

We’re full, but empty.

We’re connected, but lonelier than ever.”

 The problem per Groeschel, is that technology solves an old problem, but creates a new one – a bigger one, perhaps. We try to escape from real-life struggles but at the same time migrate them to the virtual world. Envy, jealousy, unnecessary comparison, lust and greed still exist. It’s just that they now exist in the world of ones and zeroes, hence the #struggles. Groeschel states that we need to regain #control, and that there are particularly eight areas of #control we need to regain:

  • Contentment
  • Intimacy
  • Authenticity
  • Compassion
  • Integrity
  • Encouragement
  • Worship
  • Rest

For each area, there is a chapter exclusively devoted to address them in detail. The first value to redefine is contentment, which is easily killed by us comparing ourselves with other people virtually. There are basically three types of envy you potentially harbour: financial and material envy, relational envy, and circumstantial envy. There’s only one cure to the envious: Christ. Until we let Christ be all we need, constant discontent will always drag us. How do we put this to practice? As straightforward as it sounds, stop comparing. We also need to celebrate other people’s successes, and cultivate a heart of gratitude. As Solomon said a few thousand years ago:

… for the happy heart, life is a continual feast (Proverbs 15:15, NLT)

The second problem is intimacy. It’s so easy to label someone a “friend” nowadays. Being connected in a specific social media platform instantly makes you befriend somebody else. We’re now also very accustomed to immediate affirmation and instant gratification as metrics of friendship. This results in what scientists call deferred loneliness. Instant gratification defers our opportunities for loneliness that can develop into more meaningful relationship. We even develop this millennial disease called FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). Now, how do we solve this issue? Be present. Presence is powerful. Get together with people instead of using Hangouts. Be physically present when you can.

A person-to-person conversation can go to amazing places that texting back and forth will not go.

Make sure that the person you’re with is the most important person in the world when you’re together.

Instead of FOMO online, what you really should be afraid is missing out on the people in front of you.

 

                Now, authenticity. The online world is a perfect place to put on veils and masks so nobody (or at least as few people as possible) can see the real you. We not only filter our shots of our lunch, but also our identity. We cherry pick which sides of our lives can and cannot be seen by others and create multiple versions of ourselves for all kinds of reasons.

Social media practically trains us to present a self that isn’t honest.

Okay… so how should I behave then? Beth Moore once said: “Be authentic with all, transparent with most, and intimate with some.” Everything we say must be true but not everything true should be said. Don’t overshare. We have to drop the veil. Don’t pose as somebody else. The danger when you are so used to showing your filtered self is that you may not be able to know your true self.

That is scary.

Only Christ can remove our veil. Our identity comes from who you are following, which better be Jesus and not anyone else. We also have problem with being desensitised. As social media thrives, empathy plummets. Noble causes become easily abandoned, people become more self-obsessed, we have a hard time becoming sensitive to what really matters, and we are trained not to interact directly as often as we used to. The original Greek word for the word “compassion” means to be moved as to your bowel. Yes, compassion should be pretty similar to having butterflies fly in your stomach. However, having compassion alone is not enough. True compassion requires action.

To say you care but then not act is not to care at all.

And here’s what I love: When you get outside of yourself, God changes lives. But sometimes he does what you least expect – the life He changes most is yours.

The next thing on the list is integrity – which is “who you are when no one is looking”. Groeschel deals with lust, conviction, and peace in this chapter, supported by various statistics of how dangerous technology is in attacking our integrity. The reconciliation begins with us being honest with ourselves and starting to put protective controls in place. Technology also sometimes robs us of our peace, which can be measured by how content we are. There is no other way to resist these unceasing temptations but to submit to God (James 4:7-8).

Scrolling down the list brings us to encouragement. It is about using social media to encourage people, by at least not contributing to the problem. Being quiet when you don’t need to speak up and not gossiping. I like how gossiping is being defined: talking about a situation with somebody who is neither part of the problem nor part of the solution. Spectating is also participating in gossip. We need to carefully reflect and ask what draws us into gossiping, why it makes you feel rewarded, even if someone else looks bad? We need to ask ourselves before we post anything: Will my post become helpful or hurtful?

I strongly advocate the THINK formula for this case:

Is it True?

Is it Helpful?

Is it Inspiring?

Is it Necessary?

Is it Kind?

In this era of oversharing, you should also avoid sharing things that do not belong in public domain. Keep what’s private, private. Then, ask yourself if you’re actually permitting or even encouraging others to gossip. You shouldn’t associate with those who gossip. Consider yourselves warned, though: even if we obey these three rules, we will sometimes be shot with slander, but we must endure. Expect persecution, but endure it.

Let’s now talk about restoring worship. There is a great chance we’re practicing idolatry with social media. Idolatry is taking anything and making it more important than it should be in life. Timothy Keller eloquently sums it up as:

An idol is whatever you look at and say, in your heart of hearts, ‘If I have that, then I’ll feel my life has meaning, then I know I have value, then I’ll feel significant and secure.”

We need to stop and reflect: Are we being seduced? Are we placing too much value to something that’s not important? God has always wanted the first place in our lives. He should be first. Anytime He’s not in the first place, we will seek for satisfaction somewhere else, and it turns into a vicious cycle until He sits in His rightful place.

Finally, Groeschel brings us to the topic of rest. Every chapter opens with several quotes, and I can find one of my favourites here:

Because God has made us for Himself, our hearts are restless until they rest in Him. – St. Augustine

I didn’t know that something called nomophobia exists. It’s the fear of being without a mobile device (hence no mobile). We constantly distract our minds and never let it shut down and rest. We indeed have freedom to do many things, but because we can do it doesn’t mean we should do it. We should not be mastered by anything. There’s a great tip to practice this: be still. Be completely still for five minutes. Also plan some good defensive and offensive strategies. Turn off your social media notifications. Commit to a dedicated time of solitude every day.

To conclude, Groeschel invites the reader to really acknowledge that a problem actually exists. This is hard because the longer a problem persists, the more discouraged you become, the more excuses you make and the more you learn to compensate. You cannot change what you are willing to tolerate. To be able to change, you need to want to change.

DISCUSSION

Overall, I like this book for its heads-on-ness. It’s spiced up with your usual “pastor humor”, although sadly there’s a fair amount of hashtag abuse #throughout #the #book. At the end of the book, Groeschel prescribes the Ten Commandments of Using Social Media, which in my opinion is highly relevant to us. These include: #3: Use social media to facilitate, not replace, real relationship, #6: Do not post out of emotion, and #10: Do not base your identity on what people think. The book is lightweight, and it can certainly be finished within a few days. Nothing “too theological”, but it’s filled with lots of careful dissection of various bible verses. Finally, Groeschel also inserted practical safeguards for you to apply in the form of “protective” apps and programs for your devices.

________________________________________________________________

Let me know what you think of this book by leaving comments!

The next review will be on a business book about productivity.

#5 – CYBERSECURITY AND CYBERWAR (P.W. SINGER & ALLAN FRIEDMAN)

 

Howdy!

Sorry about the delay; I haven’t had much after-work time to write a proper review. I hope I will still be able to publish once per week after this one…

As promised, this time I will write a book that concerns my academic background/interest for the past year: cyber security. This book helped me wade through the intricacies of the field when I first decided to sign up to the domain. It has helped me understand all the buzzwords and the essentials of cyber security, not from a technical perspective but rather as a multidisciplinary field. My encounter with this book was uncanny: I was sitting at a train when someone came in with this book in his hand. The cover intrigued me and made me run a quick Google search. In two or three days, I was already holding it.

It turned out to be euros well spent. Thanks to it, I survived my first cyber security lecture, aced my first cyber security course, and graduated on cyber security.

About the authors: P.W Singer and Allan Friedman both held reputable positions at Brookings Institution, an established think tank based in Washington, D.C. At the time of writing the book, Singer served as founding director of the Center for the 21st Century Security and Intelligence at Brookings. He now serves as Strategist at New America. After having served as Research Director of the Center Friedman now acts as Director of Cybersecurity Initiatives at National Telecommunications and Information Administration in the US Department of Commerce. Both authors are active on Twitter via @peterwsinger and @allanfriedman.

DESCRIPTION

Title: Cybersecurity and Cyberwar: What Everyone Needs to Know

Author: P.W. Singer and Allan Friedman

Categories: Computer security; Computer networks; Cyberspace; Cyberterrorism; Information warfare

51ouwtueadl

Image courtesy of Amazon

 

SUMMARY

The book is conveniently divided into three big chunks, which intuitively guide the reader on a journey starting with presumably little to no knowledge of cybersecurity and cyberwar to help them finish with knowledge on what they need to know on the two matters.

In Part I, How It All Works, the authors begin by defining the important buzzwords that are often mentioned in security. It’s basically Cybersecurity 101 in printed form. They begin by explaining what cyberspace is and how the Internet is set up and governed; what is meant with identity and authentication; the famous CIA (Confidentiality, Integrity, and Availability) triad; the concept of security, threats, and vulnerabilities, as well as explaining WikiLeaks, Advanced Persistent Threat (APT), and human factors in security. Don’t waste your ink underlining all the different definitions listed here – a comprehensive glossary is placed conveniently at the end of the book so you can return to these definitions from time to time.

If you made it through Part I, good, because the authors are just getting started. Part II is the longest part of the book, in which they begin to draw upon application of the aforementioned concepts and paste some real-life examples to make the circle round. It’s called Why It Matters, and to convince you why cybersecurity is a thing you should care about, all kinds of cyberattacks are elucidated here. I’m not judging them of trying to evoke fear among the readers, but hey if it works, why not? You can find explanations on hacktivism (e.g. activities done by Anonymous or similar groups), cybercrime, cyberespionage, cyber counterterrorism, cyberweapons, and…. cyberwar.

In the last part, What Can We Do? you are prompted with questions that are framed towards rethinking Internet governance from various perspectives. Examples are weighing the possibilities of redesigning the Internet from a technical perspective, building a set of legal frameworks to govern the Internet, how private parties can be involved in such effort, studying the incentives of the different cyberspace actors and finally how we as individuals (should) play our roles and protecting ourselves. The authors top off the book by looking at key trends (in 2014, mind you) that might influence aspects of cybersecurity. These are cloud computing, Big Data, mobile revolution, demographic shift of Internet users, and finally Internet of Things. Now these trends are no longer trends; they’ve become reality. Two weeks ago, we heard that the Internet of Things played a huge role in a gargantuan DDoS attack (distributed denial of service, where a server is flooded with very high illegitimate traffic to render it unavailable for usual services) that swept out the entire Internet. Nevertheless, if you don’t know a thing about cybersecurity, you want to understand it, and you have several hours to spend, grab this book.

 

DISCUSSION

Apart from the fact that there are three parts that make up this book, I find the book to be highly unstructured. There are no chapter numbers or subchapters to help you navigate your way with ease. I suggest the idea behind it is that the authors want you to follow the book logically and not topically – which is a valid argument to help people understand the connections between the topics. However, readers who may only want a sip from the cup may find difficulty picking which side to drink from. That aside, I highly compliment the 250+ footnotes that accompany the notes; they really make the claims rigorous. Beware that this book is very compact – the font size is smaller than usual and the margins are rather tiny. Invest some good hours in reading this book and you’ll get the most of out it. If possible, do it in fewer than five sitting so you don’t miss out on the connection between the subchapters.

 

WHAT’S NEXT

Sorry for the rather short post, I’ve moved heaven and earth to get this post up for publication…

I already have another cybersecurity book ready for review. I’m also close to finishing a highly acclaimed biography. However, the next book I’ll review will be on the dangers of social media from a spirituality viewpoint. Please stay tuned – I hope to be able to come back next week!

’till next time,

-KJ-

#4 – THE MORE OF LESS (JOSHUA BECKER)

Howdy!

How’s it going? I hope you enjoyed reading my last review as much as I did writing it.

Now I’m back in the Low Lands and this means that I might not be able to keep up with posting twice a week. The main goal of enforcing me to read at least one chapter of a book per day still thrives on ‘though! I’ll strive to regularly post even after I start working full-time.

On a different note, I received a few books as graduation presents from relatives. The More of Less was one of them. Initially, I came across the book from a Twitter post. I found the title (and the cover image) compelling, at least compelling enough to be inserted into my wishlist.

What I found most interesting about the book is that it actually is a self-help book, although you’d most likely find it on the home organisation shelf or something similar. It also promises something huge: own less, and be more satisfied.

 WHOA.

In the spirit of consumerism and bombarding advertisements, do you really want to promote such idealism? Do you really expect people will buy into your nonsense?

 

the-more-of-less

Image courtesy of Tiny Buddha

 

Read on and be the judge.

 

DESCRIPTION

Title: The More of Less: Finding the Life You Want Under Everything You Own

Author: Joshua Becker

Categories: Simplicity, Consumption (economics)

 

SUMMARY

A book on minimalism should be minimalist as well, don’t you think? That’s why I will keep my summary to the bare minimum. Becker makes my job easy ‘though: around 50% of the book is built on people’s experiences with minimalism, and it’s not that I don’t value them, but if you want to go through the interesting testimonies, you’ll have to get the book yourself.

I’ll just get to the bottom of it: what is minimalism?

 

The author uses the following definition:

The intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of anything that distracts us from them.

Instead of telling you what it is, I’ll tell you what it’s not:

  • It’s not giving up everything
  • It’s not about a better way of organising

The goal of it is to “unburden our lives so we can accomplish more.” You can define what kind of minimalism you want to pursue: reduce the number of items you currently have by 60% or limit the number of items you own to a reasonable number. Why would you want to pursue minimalism? Because consumerism. Consumerism only promises but never delivers. Your happiness, contentment, security, or acceptance in life is not determined by how many items you own (contrary to the bombarding advertisements). Your happiness is your own decision.

Becker gives a lot of practical tips on how to begin the minimalism journey. First, you need to declare a statement of purpose for your life. What will you pursue after you have successfully decluttered your life? Next, begin the cleaning up with the most familiar area in your life. Here goes another useful suggestion: don’t start with the house, start with the car first. Tackle room by room in your house and classify things to keep, relocate, and remove. Get rid of duplicates, and finally share your story with fellow minimalist hopefuls. Becker also gives examples of stuff that will usually give you a hard time in minimising: books, paper, technology, keepsakes, car, and house.

 

If you find minimising is too extreme of an action for a first trial, you may want to experiment. Becker advises the reader to create a statement of experiment such as the following:

Experiment: I will live without __________________ (possessions) for ______________ days (or weeks or months)

At the end of that time I will decide either:

[  ] Yes, I can live without those possessions.

[  ] No, I still need them.

 

Pretty straightforward. A suggested timeframe for an experiment is twenty-nine days (Why? Go read the book). The crown jewel of the book I think resides in Chapter 9, Maintenance Program. There are  a chock-full of practical suggestions on how to create habits that sustain minimalism. Samples include:

  • Make your bed each morning
  • Wash dishes right away
  • Keep flat surfaces clear
  • Place junk mails immediately into recycling bin
  • Limit the number of televisions in your house
  • Make your gift requests known early.
  • Be patient with our family.
  • Practice gratitude as a discipline.

 

In Chapter 10, Becker sets forth practical advice on how to deal with family members who are yet not willing to take up minimalism. Dealing with your spouse calls for a different measure from dealing with your teenage children. Then he suggests the minimalist family take up generosity. Instead of selling unwanted items, just give them away. He argues that this practice will add joy and contentment to the household. You may start really small, but make sure you give. Set aside X amount of money from your paycheck, divert one specific expense, and spend time with a generous person. Generosity is evidently contagious! Finally, bring it up a notch by not only donating money but also time.

 The last two chapters respectively speak about starting an intentional life. You can focus on three areas in your life: your schedules, your bodies, and your relationships. You should reduce the distractions you have and appreciate rest, for instance. In maintaining your well-being, you should watch what you eat and exercise regularly. Finally, never be afraid of parting ways with unhealthy relationships. Every goodbye gives room for a new hello. The last chapter strongly emphasises the point of not settling for less. Take action and become of service to someone else. It’s the ultimate form of minimalism: “emptying” yourself so you can “fill” others.

 

WHAT’S NEXT

Pay a visit to the Becoming Minimalist website to find out more on minimalism.

Outlook: The next review (#5) is yet to be decided, but a strong candidate is a book on cyber security.

-KJ-

 

 

#3 – LOVEOLOGY (JOHN MARK COMER)

A book on relationships.

 

Aha!

 

That seems fitting for people my age.

 

Exactly what I had in mind when I picked up this book off the shelf.

 

Loveology: God. Love. Marriage. Sex. And the never-ending story of male and female.

 

Fair enough.

 

The rest is history.

 

John Mark Comer, as I’ve discovered, is a teaching and vision pastor at a church in Portland, OR. Little did I know that such position exists! He turns out to be very witty, tackling postmodern issues with razor-sharp theological arguments. Comer is also an avid reader himself; check out his Twitter timeline for books he’s currently reading or if you’re into indie music, his timeline is also a great source for fresh tunes.

 

DESCRIPTION

Title: Loveology: God.Love.Marriage.Sex. And the never-ending story of male and female.

Author: John Mark Comer

Categories: Man-woman relationships; Marriage

 

loveology

Image courtesy of Christian Today

 

SUMMARY

Comer deals with the main issue first: Love. He opens the book with the story of Adam and Eve and moves on to explaining what the Bible thinks about love. He outlines the differences between the Hebrew words used to define love, such as rayah (love for a friend – which I think is comparable to philia), dod (lustful love or eros), and ahava or the one we’re most familiar one: agape. He closes this part by concluding that Jesus’ love is that of ahava, the one that’s based on selflessness, that moves past mere affection, and the one that’s entrenched on commitment.

 

In Part Two, Comer uses the story of Adam and Eve to explain the model marriage that God has in mind. He believes there are four reasons for marriage: friendship, gardening, sexuality, and family. Allow me to explain these points using his own words. First up, friendship:

God never says, “All you need is God.” Adam has God, and it’s not enough. God says, “It is not good for the man to be alone”

In other words, one’s spouse should be one’s closest friend.

Second, Adam was tasked with a gardening project (“be fruitful…”). We also, live to work, and our work should be based on a specific calling or vocation. One’s marriage should be built around this calling.

Couples who exist simply for one another are doomed to failure.

If the point of your marriage is your marriage, it will collapse in on itself.

If the end goal of your relationship is your relationship, it will self-destruct.

And therefore, Comer mandates the reader to have a sense of his/her calling before getting married and that the spouse should become a “helper” for the other person (ezer in Hebrew, meaning partner).

The third reason concerns sexuality, but I will talk more about it in a devoted paragraph. The fourth and last reason is family, and this is where the procreation mandate gets in (“…. and multiply). To end Part Two, Comer skilfully inserts the fifth reason that was not mentioned in the beginning: re-creation. This reason only exists because Adam and Eve had failed to sustain their marriage. Marriage should be viewed as “two broken people coming together to find healing in Jesus.” and that “the point of marriage isn’t to find our missing half. It’s to help each other become all that God intended.” Marriage also isn’t an elixir for all your problems now, it will only expose what’s already inside you. Happiness isn’t the reason for a marriage, it’s the result. It’s not something God owes the married couple, nor something a spouse owes the other person. It’s also a gift. And so, if you put your faith (or reason for happiness) in your spouse, it’s a matter of time until they let you down.

As my senior pastor often reiterates: Marriage is not about expecting the other person to make you happy, it’s about you making the other person happy.

 

The third part is all about sex. Comer kicks off by rectifying a common misconception about sex, which states that sex in and on itself is bad. Wrong. God’s view of sex as a good gift is unchanged, even after the fall in Eden. He recycles the word echad (which he introduces in the first part) to make his point that sex is much more than a casual, consensual thing. It’s a physical and spiritual fusion between two humans (echad), and therefore he calls the reader to flee from the temptation of porneia (you can make an intuitive guess of what this word means…).

 

Part 4 is about romance. Comer studies the “notorious” Songs of Solomon to explain that there are four points that mark the journey of a relationship towards marriage:

  1. The chase: It is the male’s job to instigate and lead the way for romance. Men are also called to lead and to take risks.
  2. The line: Not getting anywhere near the line until the wedding day. Comer warns the reader not to found a relationship upon sex for three reasons:
    1. The echad explanation
    2. Sex obscures the vision
    3. It’s not sustainable
  3. The friends: Become best friends with your partner. Open up to each other. Allow each other to be scrutinised.
  4. The journey to the day: Every relationship is a journey. Either it’s shying away from marriage or moving towards it. An advice: don’t date until you’re (close to) ready to get married. Put your outdoor work in order and get your fields ready; after that, build your house (Proverbs 24:27).

After these four points, Comer makes his point by drawing illustration from Isaac and Rebekah’s fateful encounter at the well. Now there’s a brilliant paragraph here. It’s a point I’ve heard repeatedly during sermons in my church. I’ll just paste it right away:

After the decision to follow Jesus, I would argue the most important decision you will make is who you marry. That decision will shape your life. Your children, family, where you live or don’t live, what you succeed at or fail at, your future –  all of these things hinge on who you marry. A bad decision can cripple you for life. And a good one can unleash a whole new world. A lot’s at stake.

Using the story, Comer also points out that it is OUR job to figure out if the person we’re dating is God’s pick for us. And because I like dos and don’ts, I’ll list some from this chapter for you:

  1. “… don’t settle. It’s far better to be single and unhappy than married and unhappy. The former you can change, but marriage is for life.”
  2. “You don’t have to get married. Ever.”
  3. “Don’t marry someone you hope will change.”
  4. “Don’t explain away the red flags. When your family and friends say stuff you don’t want to hear – listen… Whatever you’re frustrated with now in your potential spouse, ratchet it up by ten…”
  5. “Don’t forget you’re not just marrying a husband or wife. You’re marrying a father or mother.”
  6. It doesn’t belong to the list, but it’s worth mentioning: “No matter who you marry, they will have problems and issues, and, at some level, they will be a “bad match” for you. It’s inevitable… When it comes to marriage, there’s no perfect match.”

The next chapter in this part deals with waiting. Because waiting is an activity, Comer teaches us how to wait from Psalm 37: trust in the Lord, do good, dwell in the land, enjoy safe pasture, take delight in the Lord, commit your way to the Lord, be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for God.

Part 5 deals with male and female. In light of the current worldview that deteriorates the value of gender, this part becomes ever relevant. God created males and females as genders, or sexes for specific purposes. First of all, genders are equal before God, but we’re also unique. However, the Biblical view is that the man should lead and the woman should be his partner. He then also sheds some light on what Paul says in the New Testament regarding the roles of husbands and wives, on the gift of singleness, and on homosexuality.

Finally, Comer beautifully crafts a closing piece by writing an epilogue opened with the story of Jacob and appends a Q&A section which apparently was the brainchild leading to the book.

 

DISCUSSION

I love this book SO much that I’m afraid I’m unable to write an objective assessment of it. In fact, I had this book brought to a publisher and had it translated into Indonesian (which has been around for roughly 2 years and is still selling well). I love how Comer uses original Hebrew and Greek words to edify the reader, I love the humour sprinkled around the book, I love… let me just stop now.

As I’ve penned quite an extensive summary, this time I want to invite you to think about what I’ve written above. Things I wrote in the summary are the ones I highlighted in the book, those I found most interesting or most thought-provoking. Sometimes I leave a huge question mark on the margins as well. So please, have at it and leave your comments below!

 

WHAT’S NEXT

Do check out some of the Loveology resources freely available on Youtube:

Part 1: Marriage

Part 2: Sexuality

Part 3: Dating

Part 4: Q&A

Or check out the introductory video to a small group Bible study designed to accompany the book.


Outlook: The next review (#4) will be on minimalism.

-KJ-

#2 – From New Recruit to High Flyer (Hugh Karseras)

Thanks for the kind words on the first review!

As promised in my previous post, this time I’ll do a review on a business book. While last time I did something with a New York Times bestseller, my next choice rests on something more modest. It’s not (yet) as evergreen as The 7 Habitsnor is it as recent as Thinking Fast and Slow. Nonetheless, the book speaks deeply to me for its relevance.

The title suggests something for a first-runger, or in more popular terms, an entry-level employee. The book is as relevant to me now as it was when I started my first corporate job almost 4 years ago. As I’m starting a clean slate in an entirely different career course, rereading the book was the first thing I did when I returned home for holiday. Turned out it was time well-spent. If my memory serves me well, I had this book as a gift to myself just before I actually applied for that corporate job. Talk about a worthy early investment 😉

I haven’t heard much of the author, Hugh Karseras, except for the fact that….he wrote this book. According to the About the Author page in the book, he is an investment bank executive with degrees from Princeton and Harvard Business School. He had also spent time working for consulting giant McKinsey & Company.

51xvzku5rxl-_sy344_bo1204203200_

Image courtesy of Amazon

DESCRIPTION

  • Title: From New Recruit to High Flyer: No-nonsense advice on how to fast track your career
  • Author: Hugh Karseras
  • Category: Career development, Executive ability, promotion

EXTENT

The book is reviewed in its entirety.

SUMMARY

Three big parts make up this book. One part usually consists of a few chapters, and each chapter ends with a summary of what has been explained. I particularly like the fact that for every point he makes, Karseras includes endorsements from executives that vouch for his argument. You can find insights from a few hundred executives from esteemed organisations across the globe.

The first and shortest part speaks of having the right attitude. Karseras construes that your career is first and foremost built upon your attitude. You need to be – among other things –  in possession of a relentless work ethic, proactive and can-do approach, flexibility, humility, and respect for others.

Karseras then moves on to the second part, in which he teaches you how to master the fundamentals of your job as a first runger. He suggests you adopt a systematic approach in working (e.g. filing your work meticulously, prioritise your tasks, start your day early, and take full advantage of training programs) and get acquainted with basic quantitative calculation and essential Excel functions (which are nicely compressed into a four-page Appendix). Karseras also places emphasis on developing stellar communication skills by learning how write and speak effectively. A bunch of dos and don’ts of writing and speaking are parceled out here, such as:

  • Do listen actively – but don’t remain silent.
  • Do express a point of view – but don’t argue.
  • Do be fact-based – but don’t be too detailed.
  • Do be to the point – but don’t be blunt.
  • Do use corporate language – but don’t overuse management jargon.

Finally, he expects that first-rungers will most likely be given the responsibility to manage a project, so he closes the second part by giving tips on how to become a good project and people manager.

The third and final part is built around the idea that organisations will always have politics running in it, however small it could be. Karseras acknowledges this and the fact that most first-rungers will have a tough time navigating through it without any guidance. He first advises the newbies to build their network – both deep and broad ones – by for instance delivering professionally, being helpful, and maintaining meaningful contact. He also believes that for first-rungers to succeed, the presence of a mentor is nonnegotiable. Karseras believes mentors are important to provide them support and advice on different issues. Eventually, first-rungers need to be politically savvy by understanding the organisation’s culture, ensuring that they don’t make enemies early in their career, and remembering that first-rungers are always on show.

BONUS: A disciplined approach to avoid typos (from Chapter 4 Learn Business Communication Skills 1Speaking and Writing Effectively): 

  1. Set aside time to proof properly.
  2. Print out hard copies of your work and never proof on your computer screen.
  3. Clearly mark corrections on the hard copy and wait to make changes on-screen until you are done with the entire hard copy.
  4. Transfer the changes to the electronic copy.
  5. Print out the correct electronic version.
  6. Repeat the process until you find no markings.
  7. When proofing important documents, find a quiet environment, read and reread the printed document out loud word for word to ensure a clean document.

DISCUSSION

You cannot help but notice that Karseras wrote the book with his career path in mind. Having started as an investment banking analyst, he has included a chock-full of basic quantitative analysis skills which naturally he deems important for first-runger.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s just that if you want to thrive as a brand strategist, associate pastor, or a SOC (Security Operations Center) analyst level 1, there could be more relevant books for you out there. The fact that the book was written ten years ago when some jobs we know strive for did not exist yet, is perhaps the most plausible reason of this slight obsolescence. However, if you do want to follow in his footsteps or in any other business-related roles (such as a growth hacker), keep this book on your desk. You’ll find yourself wanting to return to this book for practical advice every now and then. The parts on attitude and wading through office politics are in my opinion, universally relevant. Karseras also did a great job avoiding the risk of making his book culturally biased by including executives from different parts of the world (although 58% of them work for American organisations as the Appendix states).

The book’s subtitle really lives up to its promise: no-nonsense advice was given.

WHAT’S NEXT

The next business book review will be on productivity.


How did I do? As usual, please leverage the comments feature to ask questions or hand in suggestions!

Outlook: The next review (#3) will be on relationships.

-KJ-

 

 

#1 – The Reason for God (Timothy Keller)

HERE WE GOOOOOOO!!

FIRST EVER REVIEWWWW!!!

“You sure you want to review a Tim Keller book?”

……

 

Reviewing a Tim Keller book as a novice is not an easy task. First, why would you review a New York Times Bestseller? Second, as one guy puts it:

“It’s THE Tim Keller!”

Nevermind, I’ll just go with it.

First off, this book was chosen because it has spoken to me deeply. The author repeatedly mentions that this book is for “skeptics” – those who doubt God’s existence. This post however, is not meant to be apologetic but is a fair review of a book that has struck a complex chord in me. I was never a strong skeptic but again it’s always nice to have meticulous explanation of your faith. I bought this book during my “Great North America Shopping Spree”two years ago (you’ll see more books coming up), when I impetuously shopped for more than 20 books and more than half of which are still intact.

Tim Keller is pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York, also one of the founders of The Gospel Coalition. Statistically speaking, he is my favourite author: I have five of his books sitting on my shelf, more than any other authors.(Yes, you’re right, I haven’t read the other four). I follow his reading list and watch some of his keynotes on conferences (e.g. during the 2015 The Gospel Coalition National Conference). He is also an avid fan of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien.

DESCRIPTION

  • Title: The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism
  • Author: Timothy Keller
  • Category: Apologetics, faith, skepticism

EXTENT

The book is reviewed in its entirety.

SUMMARY

Keller divides the book into two big parts: The Leap of Doubt (Part I) and The Reasons for Faith (Part II). It’s almost like a question-answer setup. In Part I Keller explicates common doubts that skeptics have with regards to Christianity, or “reasons for disbelieving Christianity.” Among those are:

  1. There can’t be just one true religion;
  2. How could a good God allow suffering?;
  3. How can a loving God send people to hell?;
  4. Science has disproved Christianity.

He does these propositions justice. Most of the times he dissects these doubts and only spends the last quarter of a chapter to make his point that a certain proposition DOES NOT hold. I’ll give you a foretaste: The following are axioms taken from Chapter 1 , There Can’t Be Just One True Religion:

Each religion sees part of spiritual truth, but none can see the whole truth.

To which Keller responds:

How could you possibly know that no religion can see the whole truth unless you yourself have the superior, comprehensive knowledge of spiritual reality you just claimed that none of the religions have?

Another one:

Religious belief is too culturally and historically conditioned to be ‘truth’.

To which Keller responds:

If you insist that no one can determine which beliefs are right and wrong, why should we believe what you are saying?

*drops mic*

I can go on to the other chapters, but let’s move to Part II. As the title suggests, this part lists reasons why your faith in a Christian God is a provable one (“there are sufficient reasons for believing it”.) Again, let’s draw samples. My favourite chapter in this part is Chapter 13, The Reality of The Resurrection. It deals with the problem of proving that Jesus did actually resurrect. Keller inserts his classic answer to the doubtful:

If Jesus rose from the dead, then you have to accept all he said; if he didn’t rise from the dead, then why worry about any of what he said? The issue on which everything hangs is not whether or not you like his teaching but whether or not he rose from the dead.

He goes on to arguing why the account on resurrection is too challenging to have been fabricated, listing reasons such as the number of witnesses (as recorded in 1 Corinthians 15:3-6), the fact that the first witnesses were women was not a good way to present a fabricated account, except only that it was indeed true, and so on. Other strong reasons set forth by Keller in other chapters include the story of the Cross and the problem of sin.

Mind you that the book does not solely revolve around Christian works or the Bible. References to secular thinkers are often made. The Notes subsection at the end of the book lists many references to academic scholars. The arguments presented are well-crafted and are well-directed towards the heart of the matter.

DISCUSSION

To me, the book is an Apologetics 101 textbook for advanced learners. I find the reading a bit too heavy for laypeople, and it implicitly requires you to have some background knowledge on the discourse of atheism. Maybe Keller was aware of this problem, and he has decided to write a prequel to this book. It’s called Making Sense of God: An Invitation to the Skeptical.

I however, like how the book is set up. The Intermission section in the middle serves as a steady bridge between the two parts, so readers are aware of the connection between the two. He puts the cherry on top with Where Do We Go from Here, which reminds the reader of what motives should be pursued after he/she discovers faith in Christ through the book. I like the confidence he displays; it’s as if he can already see how a person would feel after finishing the book.

WHAT’S NEXT

Making Sense of God was just released last month. As with any other good series, I strongly recommend you to start with that first before reading The Reason for God (that makes the two of us). If you love the wit of Tim Keller, you might probably want to check out his other books.

 


How did I do? Please let me know your thoughts!

Outlook: The next review will be on a business book.

-KJ-

A Guide to Reading My Blog

Before I actually dive in into my first review (don’t worry, I’ve selected the lucky book), it may be good to introduce you to how I structure my reviews. Variations may apply, but the skeleton remains as follows:

  • INTRODUCTION
    • Here I say a short story of why the book is chosen, how it got into my hand and a short description of the author.
  • DESCRIPTION
    • All the basics: title, author, and the category which the books falls within.
  • EXTENT
    • The scope of the book review; in case of lengthy books it is likely that I will give reviews in parts.
  • SUMMARY
    • A gist of the most important ideas of and quotes from the book (in my opinion).
  • DISCUSSION
    • The idea of this section is to raise a healthy assessment on the propositions of the book. I will give out questions that I personally have raised during my reading.
  • WHAT’S NEXT
    • Related further readings, be they from the same author or different ones. When applicable I’ll also attach links to online resources that can complement the book.

The idea is for you to also engage in discussions with me. You are invited to leverage the comment section to add on things I might have missed or to simply add a new discussion thread.

Did I miss anything essential? Leave a comment and let me know. Please stay tuned!

-KJ-