December 30, 2009

Book Review

The Jesus You Can't Ignore by John MacArthur

The goal of this book was to dispel the myth that some Christians have about Jesus. Many people seem to think Jesus was a nice guy. While they are right in saying He is a nice guy, that doesn't mean He didn't say things that might offend people. He spoke the truth out of love.

MacArthur reviews several key confrontations that Jesus had with religious leaders of His day. From these confrontations we see that Jesus was not the happy-go-lucky many people envision Him as.

Overall, I was not too interested in this book.

When I first got the book I thought MacArthur would have some valuable insight into these confrontations. Most of what MacArthur wrote can be easily understood from Scripture itself.

Although, I guess if people did understand the Scripture there would have been no need for MacArthur to write this book. That is his intended audience for this book, not me.

This book also seems as thought the editor, Phil Johnson, spent many days and nights flipping through a thesaurus. I had to look up several words in almost every chapter.

Here are some examples from one chapter of words that I wasn't sure of the meaning:

So my question is, if people can't understand the confrontations of Christ from Scripture, how are they going to understand if from this book when the author uses words that the average person probably doesn't know?!

If you think Jesus was a nice guy and never said or did things to offend others then read this book. Otherwise you can probably skip this one.


December 28, 2009

I Won!

As most of you are aware Kiplinger was trying to charge me, a loyal customer, to renew my subscription more than what they would charge a new subscriber. You can read about it here and here.

I have yet to hear back from the editor of the magazine, but I did receive in the mail the other day a Financial Advisor's Discount Rate. Get this. Only $5 plus $3.97 shipping and handling for a one year subscription!

So to recap. They were going to charge me $14.97 to renew my subscription while new subscribers could get a subscription for $10. Then, because I am a professional, they will give me the exclusive rate of only $8.97!

So I mailed back the form with my check for $8.97! We'll see what happens now.


December 16, 2009

Letter to the Editor of Kiplinger's Magazine

So I decided to send a letter to the editor regarding the pricing scam they are running for their loyal customers. Below is the message I sent.

I think it is wrong of Kiplinger's to charge your loyal customers more for the magazine than a new subscriber can get from Amazon, Magazineline, or your own website.

I will let my subscription expire then order a new subscription for the lower price, IF I am still interested in your magazine. Money and SmartMoney only charge $10 per year (new or existing customers) and their magazines are just as good as yours.

Shame on you for treating your faithful readers like this.

I'll see what the response is, if any, and post it here for all to see.

Still thinking and righting the wrongs of the world, here at Doe Valley.


December 15, 2009

Kiplinger Magazine

I have been a subscriber of Kiplinger Magazine for several years now. The last time I renewed the subscription I paid $20 for two years. My subscription is set to expire in January of 2010.

I received my last issue the other day. Throughout the issue there were several postcard advertisements to order a gift subscription to the magazine for $12 per year.

My limit for any magazine is $12 per year, so I decided to call and renew my subscription. I asked the customer service representative on the phone to give me the best deal.

She said you me it was $14.97 for one year, $26.97 for two years, or $37.97 for three years.

I explained to her that that was not the best deal going. She told me that was the best deal for me! So which one did I want.

I simply said, thank you, but I'll let my subscription expire. She said Ok and have a nice afternoon. I then explained it was evening were I was at. But thanked her for her time and hung up.

She had no interest in trying to deal or anything.

So this is how Kiplinger's is going to play it! They charge their loyal customers more than the new subscriber.

I am not sure if I will give myself a gift subscription for $12 or not. The other option I have is to renew the magazine for $12 per year through Even Amazon has the subscriptions for $12.

I am not sure what I will do, it's not like I love the magazine or anything. It just gives me something to read at lunch. I might have to wait for the price to drop to $10 per year again. Who knows.

The more I think about it, I may write to the editor of Kiplinger to get their side of the story.

Always thinking about something here at Doe Valley.


December 03, 2009

Book Review

The Power of Integrity by John MacArthur

This is a good book that biblically describes a life of integrity - a life without compromise regarding biblical principles.

Integrity is consistent obedience to God and demonstrating the character of Christ throughout your life while living in a fallen world.

MacArthur starts by describing the essential elements of integrity. Then he moves on to providing biblical examples of people of integrity. Finally, he finishes the book by looking at practical ways to apply integrity in everyday life.

There is a study guide at the back of the book for each chapter. The study guide briefly summarizes the chapter and provides a few questions to answer regarding the information presented in the chapter. Finally, there are a couple of suggestions for prayer and ways to apply the truth examined in the chapter.

Overall, this is a good book to read about the biblical standard for integrity. Integrity is probably needed today more than ever.


November 30, 2009

Book Review

Life Lessons with Max Lucado
Books of Ruth & Esther

This is a 12 lesson bible study on the books of Ruth & Esther (4 lessons on Ruth and 8 lessons on Esther).

Each lesson has a particular theme based upon the bible reading. The lessons start with a reflection question then the Scripture is read. The Scripture is included in the book. Both the New Century Version and the New King James Version are included for comparison.

The lessons do not usually include the entire chapter of Scripture, only the relevant portions needed for the particular theme of the lesson.

There are some basic discovery questions and response questions which encourage you to think about the Scripture. There are also additional questions which get you thinking about how you can apply the Scripture in your life.

The author also included an inspirational writing in each lesson as well as a prayer and additional bible readings demonstrating the theme of the lesson.

There is room in the book to answer the questions as well as some journaling and additional thoughts.

Overall, I would highly recommend this study book series for an individual, group, or even a sermon preparation guide.

Each lesson takes about 1 hour to complete in a small group setting.


November 16, 2009

Book Review

The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey

The author presents a total money makeover in a few "simple" steps.
  1. Save $1000 for emergencies
  2. Create a debt snowball plan - make minimum payments on all debts and focus on paying off the smallest debt first.
  3. Save a 3 to 6 month emergency fund (based upon monthly expenses)
  4. Invest 15% of gross income
  5. Save for college (ESA plan first, then 529 - $2000 per year)
  6. Payoff Mortgage
  7. Have fun - invest - give
Those are essentially the steps. Follow each one in order and don't move on to the next until you complete each step.

Overall, I agree with the author. There is no better plan for personal finances. However, that doesn't mean there aren't other plans that are equally as good. I do believe that if you follow his steps, you will eventually be debt free and living a healthy financial life.

One thing I didn't like about the book was the number of times the author said he was a millionaire, lost if all and is now a millionaire again! Seems a little egotistical to me.

I also found the customer testimonies annoying. They all seemed to praise the author, how great he is and how much they love him. Blah Blah Blah. I realize some testimonies are good and necessary, but I think most of them simply feed the author's ego and fill his book!

Overall, I would recommend this book and this plan for anyone wishing to get in shape financially.

November 13, 2009

Book Review

In the Footsteps of Faith by John MacArthur

In the Footsteps of Faith exams the lives of several men and women of the bible. In particular MacArthur looks at:
  • Noah
  • Abraham
  • Moses
  • Rahab
  • Hannah
  • Jonah
  • Mary
  • John the Baptist
  • Peter
  • Paul
  • Lydia
  • Timothy
  • Epaphroditus
  • Jesus
These men and women provide us with great examples of faithful Christian living. We can learn from their successes and failures. We can see their faith in action and pattern our lives after them.

If anyone is looking for ways to increase their faith and find ways to live faithful, then this is a good book to read.

There is a study guide for each chapter at the end of the book.

The study guide briefly summarizes the main point of the chapter then provides a few questions to think about or discuss. Finally, there are a couple of thoughts to pray about and some ways to apply the truths of the chapter.

October 22, 2009

Book Review

A Random Walk Down Wall Street by Burton Malkiel

This is a classic investment book. It gives a brief introduction to the major investing styles/theories and explains why the best bet for most people is to buy and hold (mostly index funds).

The book is separated into 4 parts:
  1. Stocks and their value
  2. How the Professionals operate
  3. New Investment Methods
  4. A Practical Guide
Even though this book provided me with no new insight, I believe this is a great book for anyone interested in learning about investing in the stock market.

The fact remains that buying and holding good companies over the long run works. The question is, what are the good companies? Why not just buy them all with an index fund!


October 06, 2009

Questionable Practices

I received a phone call the other evening. The lady on the phone identified herself as "so in so" from the American Cancer Society. She wanted to thank me for donating money to them last year.

I responded that I wasn't aware of donating money to them, but it could have been my wife.

She asked if it would be ok to send me a pledge card for this year.

I replied, "Sure, send me some information."

This weekend I received an envelope from the American Cancer Society. Inside it there was a return envelope, a blue slip of paper thanking me for my donation this year, and a return "invoice" for my donation this year.

The blue slip of paper also had in big bold print across the top of the page, "Your prompt reply will save us the expense of a reminder mailing."

This is unreal! I simply agreed to receive their information, not be invoiced for a donation I don't plan on making!

Also, I looked at the postage on the envelope and it had $0.61 on it! Even more unreal. I weighed the contents of the envelope and it was 0.4 ounces which would require the standard postage rate not $0.61!

What a waste of money. If this is the kind of marketing scheme or tactic that the American Cancer Society is using, then it should be SHUT down immediately. Let them live off the money the tobacco companies give them each year.

I wonder how much money the American Cancer Society could have saved if they would have charged the correct about on postage.

Let's see, 0.61-0.44=.17 times 10,000 letters equals $1,700! They could have saved this money if someone was just doing their job correctly.

Also, I don't watch football much, but I noticed this past weekend it was some type of breast cancer awareness day or something, everything was pink. I wonder how much they spent on the advertisement of that, the cost of the shoes, the banners, etc. What a waste.

I believe charitable organizations play an important role in our society, but they also need to be good stewards of their money. Needless to say the American Cancer Society won't be getting my money.


October 02, 2009

Book Review

The Gospel According to Jesus by John MacArthur

This is probably the best book I have read which clearly and easily explains the Gospel as Jesus did. A true Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ, receives Him both as Lord and Savior.

The Book is separated into six parts:
  • Today's Gospel: Good News or Bad
  • Jesus Heralds His Gospel
  • Jesus Illustrates His Gospel
  • Jesus Explains His Gospel
  • Jesus Fulfills His Gospel
  • Appendixes
Parts two through five are explanation and commentary on specific things Jesus said and did during His ministry. This, of course, comes right from Scripture.

The appendixes contain brief information about what the Apostles did and said regarding the Gospel as well as the teaching from church history.

MacArthur ends the book with some answers to common questions people have about the Gospel.

Overall, this is a great book to read for anyone wanting a better understanding of what it means to truly follow Jesus Christ. It is good for the new Christian and the mature Christian.


August 26, 2009

Book Review

A Tale of Two Sons by John MacArthur

This book is really an in depth study/commentary on Luke 15:11-32, the parable of the prodigal son.

MacArthur separates the book into five parts:
  • The Parable
  • The Prodigal
  • The Father
  • The Elder Brother
  • The Epilogue
Each part has several chapters describing a particular aspect of the parable.

Overall, I believe MacArthur writes the truth in depth. Maybe a little too deep, in this case, for the average person. I found the book to kind of drag on in spots with too much detail for me to follow.

MacArthur correctly states in the Appendix that Jesus used parables as a tool to teach and defend the truth. However, I do think MacArthur gets a little excessive in his explanation of this parable.

In fact, several times I had to stop reading and get a dictionary out to look up words MacArthur used. After figuring out the meaning of the word, I could think of several other more common and understandable words to use instead.

I wonder how much of this book was MacArthur's writing versus Phil Johnson's editing. It seems to me that Johnson likes to use those "big" words.

At any rate I do not recommend this book to the average reader. While I believe MacArthur is correct in his description of the parable, the book seems to be geared more to the academic world rather than the common Christian.

Jesus used about 26 sentences in the parable. MacArthur used 210 pages to explain it!

August 12, 2009

FICO Score again!

As my regular readers know, I have made some comments on here about the FICO scoring process. My comments were even published in last months Kiplinger's magazine.

This month I get my FICO score update and it dropped 22 points to its lowest level since I started monitoring it!

Amazingly enough, my actual credit has changed any! There is definitely something fishy with FICO!


August 06, 2009

Published Again!

My letter to the editor of Kiplinger's magazine was published in the September 2009 issue.

This letter was in regards to credit scores and the closing of credit card accounts. I had several credit cards closed by the company and was expected a drop in my credit score. My credit score actually went up.

As it turns out, inactive cards don't hurt your score. Hmm.. Sounds like something fishy with FICO!

You can pick up your own copy of Kiplinger's to keep as a souvenir.


August 03, 2009

Book Review

"The Contemporaries Meet the Classics on Prayer" compiled by Leonard Allen.

This book contains many authors' thoughts on prayer. The oldest writings are from Martin Luther and John Calvin during the 1500's. Some of the contemporary, more familiar names are Max Lucado and Jim Cymbala.

The book is divided into 10 chapters, each dealing with a particular topic of prayer.
  • the purpose of prayer
  • the Psalms as prayer
  • patterns for prayer
  • a passion for prayer
  • the posture of prayer
  • problems with prayer
  • powerlessness and prayer
  • public and private prayer
  • pastoral prayer
  • the power of prayer
Overall, this was an okay book. I was excited to start reading it, but after a few chapters it got a little boring. It does provide you with a nice introduction to many authors' writings. If you like their style then you can get their books for future reading enjoyment.

Personally, I thought several of the authors wrote a lot of words, but didn't really say anything of any value.

I would recommend this book only if you are looking specifically for a wide variety of writings on the topic of prayer to determine which authors you want to study more thoroughly.


July 20, 2009

Hammered Again!

Well, as my faithful readers know, e*trade hammered me and many of its customers when they abruptly liquidated their mutual fund line. You can read my thoughts on it here and here.

It looks like another company is up to some games as well.

I "had" an S&P 500 index fund. It was the Harris Insight Index fund (HIDAX), now owned by Virtus.

On July 16th, I received an e-mail from e*trade stating that I have a new trade confirmation. I thought that is strange because I didn't make any trades.

I logged into my e-trade account and sure enough found all of my shares of HIDAX were sold, at a large loss of course. I sent e*trade's customer service a message questioning why the fund was sold.

This time it doesn't appear as though it was e*trade's fault. Here is their response:

"Dear Mr. Matthews,

Thank you for your message regarding your brokerage account.

The VIRTUS INSIGHT TR VIRTUS INDEX FD, HIDAX, liquidated its assets on 7/14/2009. As part of that liquidation your shares of the company fund were sold on 7/15/2009. "

So because some company can't manage an "unmanaged" index fund I have to lose over $7,000!

I have about had it with mutual funds. The only mutual funds that I have are with Columbia and TIAA-Cref.

I have been added some ETF's to my portfolio, but they are from Vanguard. So I will need to reevaluate my portfolio and determine what I need to do because of poor management!


July 17, 2009

Buying large quanities saves money right?

I am sure you have all heard the concept of buying larger quantities to save money right? I know that has been my thought as well, so last night at Wal*Mart I decided to find out how true this old saying really is.

I only looked at two items, so it isn't very scientific, but they are two items that I buy periodically.

First up was kitchen garbage bags, 13 gallon Glad Drawstrings, unscented.
78 bags cost $10.58 or $0.1356 cents per bag
45 bags cost $5.98 or $0.1328 cents per bag

Therefore, it is cheaper to buy the smaller quantity.

Next up, Vitamins, One Source Active Children's Chewable.
240 count cost $10.98 or $0.045 cents per pill
144 count cost $5.98 or $0.041 cents per pill

Again, it is cheaper to buy the smaller quantity.

I also did some quick comparisons on Amazon as well. It seems as though the same thing occurs.
100 bags = $0.1554 per bag
160 bags = $0.2006 per bag

The point is, always compare prices before buying larger quantities.


July 16, 2009

Famous Again!

My letter to the editor of Smart Money magazine was published in the August 2009 issue.

You can read my original letter here.

They trimmed the letter a little bit, but still got the gist of it right.

The last time I was published in Smart Money magazine was August 2007, with Warren Buffet on the cover. Amazingly, Warren Buffet is on the cover of the August 2009 issue as well!

You can pick up your own copy of Smart Money to keep as a souvenir.


July 08, 2009

Book Review

The Heart of the Bible by John MacArthur

This is probably the best summary (quick) understanding of the important scripture references every Christian should know.

MacArthur gives 52 key verses and a brief explanation of each. The idea of the book is for the reader to read, understand, and think about one piece of scripture a week for the entire year.

The passages are grouped together in chapters to help the reader focus on one aspect of Christianity for several weeks before moving on to the next topic.

I would strongly recommend this book to a new or growing Christian. This would also be a good book for a more mature Christian looking to deepen or strengthen their faith as well.


July 07, 2009

Book Review

"Because the Time is Near" by John MacArthur

This is an excellent explanation on the book of Revelation.

MacArthur takes each section and explains it in an easy to read and in an understanding way to the average reader. This is essentially a commentary on the book of Revelation for the average person.

MacArthur takes the scripture in a literal way. The Church will be raptured, there will be seven years of tribulation, a literal 1,000 year millennial Kingdom, the final rebellion and judgment, and then the eternal state for all.

This is probably one of the best books that I have read regarding the facts and explanation of Revelation. I highly recommend it to all.


June 18, 2009

Letter to Dave Reed

Here is a letter to our local state representative.

Just a quick note to say that I DO NOT support any tax increase. The current fiscal problems have indeed been exacerbated by Rendell’s spending habits. We wouldn’t be in this mess if he hadn’t spent money foolishly and gave taxpayer’s money to his buddies.

If fact, I would ask that you and your fellow legislators review Rendell’s behavior and take the appropriate action against him.

Thanks for continuing to work hard for Indiana County and Pennsylvania.


June 08, 2009

Letter to Kiplinger's Magazine

Below is an email sent to the editor of Kipligner's Personal Finance Magazine.

In regards to the story "The New Rules of Credit Cards" in the July 2009 issue.

I've had at least 5 credit card accounts closed in the past year (one was opened in 1996) because of inactivity. I thought my credit score would drastically drop like your article states. As it turns out, my credit score has actually gone up to 832! Maybe closing inactive accounts isn't as bad as what we are led to believe.


June 01, 2009

Book Review

The Gospel According to The Simpsons by Mark I. Pinsky

Being a fan of The Simpsons, I was excited to read this book. The purpose of the book is to examine the spiritual aspect of the show.

The book starts out interestingly enough, by evaluating some of the characters and their spirituality. However, toward the end of the book, the author seems to spend most of the chapters giving the story line of several episodes without actually analyzing or thoroughly evaluating the spiritual side of the show.

The worst part of the book was the concluding chapter. It seemed to be just a bunch on quotes from other people with no real point.

Whether you enjoy or hate The Simpsons television series, this is one book you can skip.

This review is based on the first edition of the book. I have an updated edition that I will read at some point in the future.


May 27, 2009

Book Review

Matthew 24-28: The MacArthur New Testament Commentary

MacArthur provides thorough Scriptural commentary throughout this book. There are many great lessons to be learned from this text. MacArthur provides a great description of a spiritual tradgey (Matthew 26:36-46) as well as a great view of the command to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:16-20).

MacArthur's commentaries are mainly expository. Meaning, he takes scripture and explains it with other scripture. His expository style, however, is easy to read and understand. He does digress into other scripture or theological topics at times, but I believe he does this so anyone reading this commentary would be able to understand the other scriptural passages that he references.

I would highly recommend The MacArthur New Testament Commentary Series to anyone looking for an in-depth Biblical explanation of Scripture.


May 22, 2009

A letter to Money Magazine

Below is a letter I sent to the editor of Money magazine regarding an article in their June 2009 issue.

I was excited to see an article about the associated costs of living a faithfully religious lifestyle
("The Price of Faith" June 2009).

The Jewish and Muslim families seemed to adhere to their religion strictly and faithfully. The Christian family seemed to also, but the closing statement caught me off guard.

"'We used to feel that if we just did our jobs using the gifts God gave us, we would be taken care of financially' says Kent. Now they know it's up to them to take care of themselves."

If that is how the Koeman family really feels, I think the authors could have and should have found a more faithful family to represent Christianity.

My question to the Koeman family is this: When you were "poor" only making around $30,000 a year, did God not provide for you?

Maybe they didn't have everything they wanted, but I'll bet God gave them what they needed! Too bad they didn't realize it.


May 18, 2009

Letter to the Editor of Smartmoney

Below is a letter to the editor of SmartMoney Magazine.

While I agree that e*trade is a pretty good brokerage firm overall, ("Finding the Best Fit" June 2009) the article left out one huge mistake e*trade pulled on some of its clients.

In March, e*trade abruptly terminated their line of mutual funds. This of course forced investors to liquidate their holdings, no doubt many at huge losses. How's that for customer service!

I have yet to read any analysis about this from any newspaper or magazine source, probably because e*trade advertises in most major publications (including your own).


May 12, 2009

Lasagna anyway you cook it!

While I was shopping the other day I noticed in the pasta area there were two types of Lasagna, oven ready and regular.

I needed to know the difference, so I started my sleuthing.

First, the obvious. Both were branded with the Great Value label. The oven ready box is blue. The regular box is red.

Next, I observed the price. $1.49 for each. Interesting.

What about the size of the box? The regular box is 16 ounces and the oven ready box is only 12 ounces.

That's it! The weight is different, therefore, it must be because the ingredients are different making one box heaver than the other.

Upon looking at the ingredients they were identical.

So then what is the difference between regular lasagna and oven ready lasagna?

Apparently you get 4 ounces less of the oven ready lasagna for the same price as a regular box!

Remember you read it here first at Doe Valley, the place that answers those tough questions simply by thinking.


May 11, 2009

Book Review

Captivating by John and Stasi Eldredge

This book is co-authored by John and Stasi Eldredge. Sometimes it is clear who is writing, other times it is not.

Overall the premise of the book is for women to be captivating. Their hearts should provide the invitation to romance so they can let their true beauty shine forth all the while having an adventure throughout their lives.

“What Wild at Heart did for men, Captivating will do for you” is the caption on the back of the book. When I read the caption, I was a little annoyed because “Wild at Heart” did nothing for me. In fact, I though the book was wrong, so I had little expectation for this book.

As I started reading, however, I found this book to be better in places than “Wild at Heart.” The places I found myself enjoying were when Stasi wrote. I found myself usually disagreeing with John’s writing.

This book is an okay read, but could have been better if Stasi would have wrote the whole book. As with “Wild at Heart” the theology is a little off in places and the authors seem to use more movie and cultural references than scripture to prove their point. Sometimes (as with “Wild at Heart”) the scripture is interpreted in a weak or liberal way to further attempt to substantiate their point.

This is another book you can safely skip.


April 27, 2009

Book Review

Teaching to Change Lives by Howard G. Hendricks

This book provides seven ways to help you be a better teacher. The book is geared toward teaching the word of God, but could be applied to any subject.

The seven methods are summarized below:

1. Teachers never stop learning.
2. People learn differently – so teach them differently.
3. The most effective learning comes from involvement.
4. To communicate your subject you must know it well, believe it, and live it.
5. Teaching is from the heart, meaning your whole self.
6. Effective teaching is motivating.
7. Preparation of both teacher and student makes for the best learning experience.

The author dedicates one chapter each to the above mentioned topics. There is also an introductory chapter at the beginning and summary chapter at the end. At the end of each chapter there are some reflection type questions to ponder.

Overall, this is a good book and a worthwhile read if you are interested in improving your teaching.


April 08, 2009

Book Review

Matthew 16-23: The MacArthur New Testament Commentary

MacArthur provides thorough Scriptural commentary throughout this book.

MacArthur's commentaries are mainly expository. Meaning, he takes scripture and explains it with other scripture. His expository style, however, is easy to read and understand. He does digress into other scripture or theological topics at times, but I believe he does this so anyone reading this commentary would be able to understand the other scriptural passages that he references.

I would highly recommend The MacArthur New Testament Commentary Series to anyone looking for an in-depth Biblical explanation of Scripture.


April 06, 2009

Book Review

Wild at Heart by John Eldredge

Wild at Heart claims to be a spiritual/christian living type book to help men discover who they are meant to be and help women understand what men need to be like.

Basically the author calls the men in churches today a bunch of sissy's or wimps. To be a real man they need to be wild and adventuresome; to follow their boyhood dreams; men need to fight!

The author quotes many other people throughout the book (which to me often times don't seem to fit in to what the author is trying to get at). He also uses movies to reference what real men should be like (like Hollywood knows what a real man is!).

The author does make an attempt to use scripture to prove his point. Often times, however, he seems to twist the scriptural interpretation to help prove his point. In reality, there are many correct scriptural references that prove the exact opposite of the author's point!

Overall, I cannot recommend this book for various reasons.

First, I believe the author to be wrong about Christian living. I won't go into detail about why, but you can read other reviews on Amazon that further discuss this.

Second, the book just isn't well wrote. There are many long paragraphs that don't seem to make sense. They are just a bunch of sentences piled together. In other places, the author seems to realize this problem and would just (seemly at random) split the paragraph into two paragraphs, neither of which make sense.

The scary part is the fact that this has been a best seller among christian books.

This is one book you can safely skip!


April 03, 2009

Book Review

2 Corinthians: Finding Strength in Weakness (Life Guide Bible Studies)

The lifeguide series is a great series for group Bible study.

This study guide presents Paul's second (biblical) letter to the Corinthians in eleven group sessions. The questions are easy to understand and provide a lot of opportunity for discussion, not just simple one word or yes/no type questions. Each chapter usually had our group of 10-15 in discussion for about an hour.

I highly recommend this book and series to anyone wanting to start a Bible study group.


April 01, 2009

Book Review

Give it All to Him by Max Lucado

This is a small, short book (only 58 pages) about giving all of your "trash" to God who gives you a new beginning through Jesus Christ.

I had to read this book through twice, because the first time I just didn't get it. Each "chapter" starts with a story from another of Lucado's books (I think this is what confused me the first time I read it). The chapter then expands on that story.

Lucado starts his book by letting the reader know that they are not alone; everyone has sin and burdens (trash) in their life. He describes that further by giving examples such as loneliness, worry, pain, resentment, revenge, and failure.

Lucado closes by describing a Way to take out our trash and get rid of it permanently. There is Someone who see and wants your burdens. As we confess our sins and give them to Him He forgives, cleanses, and gives us a new beginning.

I was looking for a quick inspiration/introductory book to give to people as a witnessing tool. I believe this books does that in a way that is appealing and understandable, yet it is true to Scripture.


March 30, 2009

Book Review

Go Preach by John Gilbert

This book is an excellent "beginners" guide to preparing a worship service, paying particular attention on the message or sermon.

The author begins by examining a little history and theology of preaching and what preaching really should be like, which is not necessarily what you hear on Sunday mornings anymore unfortunately. In fact, Gilbert devotes a chapter to the (correct) idea of the sermon as a proclamation of the Good News, not just story time as is so often the case today.

Gilbert dedicates a chapter each to the initial preparation of the sermon, knowing about the congregation you are to preach to, and a more in depth look at sermon preparation as well as the use of the lectionary.

The author also has several chapters of topics such as: grammar, humor, practicing the sermon, and evaluating your preaching. Gilbert gives information about the actual delivery of the sermon and what to do afterward, such as, silent prayer or an alter call.

Finally, the author closes with ways of getting ideas for new sermons and a chapter on special occasion preaching, such as, funerals, weddings, baptisms, and so on. At the end of the book the author lists several other helpful books for a preacher to have in his collection.

Overall, this was an excellent book for the beginning preacher. I didn't agree with everything the author had to say though. For example, Gilbert writes "Do not wear white socks" (page 89). I wear white socks all the time and do not believe it detracts from the message at all!

Gilbert did get the main point of preaching across and that is to proclaim the Word of God! "Preaching is first and always the proclamation of God's Word" (page 12).

I would recommend this book to anyone interested in improving their preaching skills.


March 16, 2009

Letter to Kiplinger's Magazine

Below is a letter sent to the editor of Kiplinger magazine regarding their April 2009 issue.

Dear Editor:

I enjoyed reading the article “Simple Plans to Beat the Market” (April 2009). This has been my investment strategy for a number of years now and has performed well for me. The Kiplinger portfolio, which sticks with one family of funds, is a nice idea. However, this can also be costly when the company decides to close the funds, which is what E*Trade decided to do recently.

I had all of my funds in the E*Trade family and was forced to liquidate them realizing large losses with each fund. I switched to other similar funds that track the same indexes thereby minimizing the effects of the losses, but it still doesn’t make me feel any better about the way E*Trade handled the situation.

Your articles could mention the possibility of a fund shutting down and what investors should do (sell now or hold until the liquidation date). I have yet to read any real analysis about why E*Trade closed its mutual funds.


March 04, 2009

How do you “lose” billions of dollars?

I still can’t quite figure this out. How are these companies losing billions of dollars? I suppose it all comes down to greed and mismanagement, but the money has to be somewhere, right? Let me give you an example.

Say I make blankets in my shop. Each blanket consists of yarn and labor. Furthermore, let’s say the yarn costs $10 per blanket and the labor costs $25 per blanket. My breakeven point would be $35 (ignore other indirect costs for the purpose of this example).

If I sell the blanket for anything more than $35, I make a profit. If I sell it for less than $35, I “lose” money.

Let’s say I sell the blanket for $10. Technically, I “lose” $25 on the deal. But that $25 really isn’t lost is it? Of course not, I gave that $25 to the person who made the blanket.

So the money is still out there somewhere, it is just in someone else’s pocket. That person then takes the $25 and buys things with it. So they don’t have the money anymore either. They have passed it on to someone else. This is the way our economic system works.

When AIG says they lost $60 billion, is that money gone or is it just in someone else’s pocket? I content that if the $60 billion loss is real and not just some type of accounting technicality, then someone HAS AIG’s $60 billion. It just didn’t disappear. Someone has AIG’s $60 billion! If it was just an accounting technicality, then it never existed in the first place, so there isn’t a loss!

A similar situation occurs with the stock market. For every trade there is a buyer and a seller. When the market drops that means people are selling, but it also means someone is buying.

The question is, who is this someone? Who has AIG’s $60 billion? Who is buying in this market?

Those questions I cannot answer, can you?


March 02, 2009

Book Review

The Pillars of Christian Character by John MacArthur

This book looks at the most essential character traits or attitudes a faithful Christian should have. In particular the book focuses a chapter on each of the following:
  • Faith
  • Obedience
  • Humility
  • Selfless Love
  • Unity
  • Growth
  • Forgiveness and Blessing
  • Rejoicing
  • Gratitude
  • Strength
  • Self-Discipline
  • Worshiping God
  • Hope
This book is well wrote and researched. As always MacArthur describes his points with Scriptural truth. This book is easy enough for the beginning Christian to understand, but also powerful enough for the more mature Christian to continue their growth.

At the end of the book is a study guide for each chapter. It contains a brief summary of the chapter, a few questions to think about or discuss, a couple of topics to prayer about, and ways to apply the chapter in your life.

As mentioned, i would recommend this book to new or mature Christians.

February 13, 2009

Book Review

John MacArthur Bible Study Guide: James

This study guide series is one of the best I have ever used. Macarthur gives an introduction to the book of James regarding the authorship, the background and setting, along with historical and theological themes. He also mentions some interpretive challenges that may arise from the Scripture.

MacArthur starts each chapter with some opening questions and then provides some background information to the passage of scripture. There is room in the study guide for you to answer the questions. The scripture is then read (which is included in the study guide) along with some of MacArthur’s notes about the passage.

There are then several questions to help you understand the passage better. MacArthur provides a cross-reference Scripture passage to further explore the meaning of the original passage from James. There are, of course, additional questions to ponder or discuss.

Finally, MacArthur sums up the passage and lists a few more questions to help you reflect on the text and what you have learned.

I highly recommend this study guide series for either your own personal study or a group discussion. Each chapter can take about an hour during a group Bible Study meeting.


February 11, 2009

Book Review

Colossians & Philemon – The MacArthur New Testament Commentary Series

I just finished reading this commentary on Colossians and Philemon by John MacArthur.

MacArthur provides thorough Scriptural commentary throughout this book.

He starts by providing a thorough background about the book of Colossians and Philemon. This includes information about the author, the city of Colossae, the church at Colossae, and the situations that were occurring there. MacArthur also provides the same for Philemon.

MacArthur’s commentaries are mainly expository. Meaning, he takes scripture and explains it with other scripture. MacArthur does digress into other scripture or theological topics at times, but I believe he does this so anyone reading this commentary would be able to understand other scriptural passages that he references.

I would highly recommend The MacArthur New Testament Commentary Series to anyone looking for an in-depth Biblical explanation of Scripture.


February 09, 2009

Book Destruction!

I mentioned that I was going to destroy one of the books I recently reviewed, so it would never deceive anyone again. Here are some images of that destruction!

The End


February 02, 2009

Book Review

I finished reading "Ten Commandments: Twice Removed" by Danny Shelton and Shelley Quinn.

The title of the book is very deceptive!

About halfway through the first chapter I was starting to wonder about this book and where the authors were going with it. Then in chapter two it hit me. This book has little to do with the Ten Commandments. It focuses mostly on #4 "Remember the Sabbath Day."

The authors then go on to describe Saturday (actually Friday at sundown to Saturday sundown) as being the Biblical Sabbath, during Bible times and still today. The authors "prove" that Christians should still observe the seventh-day Sabbath.

I won't go into detail here as to why the authors are wrong, but I will say the authors used a deceptive title for their book as well as a deceptive description on the back cover.

My questions is: Since the authors resorted to deceptive tactics to get people (me) to read the book, then what does that say about their message and content of the book?

In summary, this book is not really about the Ten Commandments (yes, it does mention them all briefly). It is really only about one group's view of the Fourth Commandment.

Do not be deceived by this book. Read and study Acts 20:7 for the day of worship.

For your information, I plan on destroying this book so no one has a chance to be deceived by it!


January 26, 2009

Getting Involved Sometimes Works!

Over a year ago, Highmark and Independent Blue Cross proposed a merger of their medical insurance companies. The state government held hearings and asked for input from PA state residents.

You can read the letter I sent them last October here. I also received a formal response from them. (Actually, it kind of scared me when I got it, I thought it was going to be some kind of cease and desist order or something, but it was just a response from their lawyers to my criticisms of the proposed merger)

Anyway, last week, Highmark and Independent Blue Cross called off the proposed merger. Chalk one up for the little guys!


January 22, 2009

Book Reading

As I mentioned in a previous post, I plan to read at least one book a month this year.

Last night I picked out my next book to read, "In Step with God" by Dr. Robert A. Cook.

As I started thumbing through it, I realized it sounded very familiar. So I compared it with another of Dr. Cook's books titled "Walk with the King Today" and found out that "In Step with God" is simply a reprint of "Walk with the King Today."

Even though it was a good book, (you can read the review here) I decided not to reread it. I picked out a book on the Ten Commandments to read instead.

Still thinking and reading at Doe Valley!


January 21, 2009

Book Review

I finished reading Charismatic Chaos by John MacArthur last night.

This book is a thorough evaluation and examination of the Charismatic movement. As usual MacArthur backs up what he says with Scripture.

This book could easily be used as a textbook for a class, but it is also very readable for the person interested in learning more about the Charismatic movement on their own.

Each chapter is segmented into questions that MacArthur answers. For example, the question for chapter 1 is “Is experience a valid test?” While answering that question, MacArthur introduces other questions related to that main question of each chapter. A sub-question for chapter 1 is “Was Peter a Charismatic?”.

I found the presentation and layout of the material excellent and thoroughly examined.

Overall, I would recommend this book if you are interested in a Biblical evaluation of the Charismatic movement.


January 20, 2009


As many of my long time readers know, I haven't been watching the news much anymore. I found that I was getting too irritated and agitated at things the liberal media overlooks for its Democratic buddies.

For example, a few years ago the media pretty much demanded Bush to release his college transcripts, which he did. What about Obama? No demand from the media to release his college transcripts. Which isn't a big deal to me, but it is the point of the matter of the liberal bias in the media.

It's not that I don't have ideas for blogs, I have tons of them. In fact, since the media compares Obama to Lincoln and other people, I was working on my own comparison of Barack Obama. Of course mine was going to compare Obama with the anti-Christ and Satan......but why get myself worked up over something I can't change. Here is an interesting post on the comparison of Obama and Lincoln.

I am tired of it and cannot continue to be frustrated by it for the next four years or longer. So my blog postings will be minimal. I will probably only write about the few things that happen more on a local or state scale rather than the federal level.

Besides, when the digital TV conversion takes effect, I will no longer be able to watch TV!

I also set a goal to read one book a month this year, so I will continue to post my reviews of them here as well starting tomorrow.

Just one more thought provoking question before I go:

Have we ever found out for sure if Obama is actually an American by birth, which of course is required to be President of the United States?


January 05, 2009

Book Review

Strength for Today by John MacArthur

This is the second of MacArthur’s daily devotionals. It follows the same format as “Drawing Near."

This book examines scripture more in depth than most simple devotional books. The same scripture might be discussed for several days in a row. Each day there is also a prayer suggestion and also a "for further study" section.

The book provides practical daily devotions to provide you with spiritual growth and strength for the day. I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a daily devotional.