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.