Category Archives: @ashertopia

Everybody, Always by Goff

I’d heard so much good stuff about Goff’s Love Does (2012) with 3000+ reviews on Amazon with a 5 star rating! I was excited to get my hands on his follow-up book, Everybody, Always (2018), which also has a 5 star rating with over 1200 reviews on Amazon. With so many people loving these books, I was bummed to find that I had mixed feelings.

Everybody, Always
by Bob Goff
Thomas Nelson
April 2018

Before I get into the things I wasn’t enthusiastic about, let me first say that I listened to this audiobook read by Goff himself and it was excellent. Goff is clearly a true believer and his enthusiasm and story telling are outstanding. There is almost nothing in this book that I wouldn’t want people to emulate or attempt to do in their own life. But there are some thing I think Goff responds to by going from one extreme to the opposite extreme. From legalism to hyper grace, from in-your-face proselytizing to vague loving acts. I think at root here, Goff has too much faith in humanity’s ability and desire to be good and do good works. Let me give some examples.

Goff seems to believe that humans are inherently good. At one point he says that the difference between the sheep and the goats (Matt 25) was those who “just didn’t know what to do so they did nothing.” That is absolutely not what Jesus is saying here. Jesus is calling out a callousness of heart. Goff is making excuses for the goats. Which is it? The total depravity of mankind means that we are inherently selfish and sinful. We don’t always premeditatedly sin, but to say we sin only on accident is equally incorrect. We choose to give and love because He first loved us. Without this regeneration, we could do good things sometimes but we wouldn’t actually be good. So unregenerate people aren’t frozen by a lack of understanding how to take care of those in need. They don’t want to. Those are the goats Jesus is talking about.

He also focuses on good works without providing the reason why we are doing them (the hope that lies within). When I heard Goff say, over and over, that you don’t need to tell people about Jesus, but just love people like he did I recoiled. There are so many stories, like, how he sometimes buys 20 In-N-Out burgers and drives around giving them out to people who are hungry. This is a great story and I agree that it is definitely a loving and kind thing to do – something we are commanded to do by God. But the reason for why we should do this is where I’m confused and I think Goff is missing the whole picture. Why do we love people? Because Christ first loved us. Do we love only because of Christ? Do we love only when it’s a selling point for Christianity? Of course not. But why one or the other? Why not both? I wondered about the motive here. Is our motive to make the world less sucky? Or is it to point a dying world to the life-giver?

Goff says things that lead me to believe that the whole purpose of Christianity is to love our neighbors with good works “patience, kindness and understanding.” But nothing at all about making disciples. In case you think I’m splitting hairs, it’s not me! He keeps making division where none needs be.

“Knowing things about the Bible is terrific, but I’d trade in a dozen bible studies for a bucket full of love and acceptance. And truth be told, so would everyone around us.” Why not both? We learn to love by learning about God’s love for us, which is in the Bible. Studying the Bible is where we learn our purpose – and it’s not just kindness, patience and understanding. It’s also speaking truth, teaching others about God and the right way to live (disciplining).

Ironically, Goff continues to tell us to not tell others about their behavior and how to act yet his whole book is his attempt to tell us how to live.

Goff, to me, is an example of an overreaction to the hyper legalism of those who stand with signs and shake their finger at the sinful world around them. So turned off by the unloving attitude and behavior, Goff responds by going too far toward “loving” that they go from one rut on the side of the road, across the road to the rut on the other side. The narrow path is a razor’s edge that’s difficult to stay on. We have to avoid judgmentalism, legalism, finger pointing and disdain AND total affirmation of the unrepentant and good works.

One last thing. I was struck by was the overwhelming sense that Goff’s life is richer than mine and probably most of the people who would read this. I mean richer in the sense of he is clearly richer than the average reader. He buys cars and airplanes and houses whenever he wants. He travels half a million miles a year. He can do anything he wants. But I can’t and probably you can’t either.
For instance, he gets a collect call from a prison, which costs $9.95. He accepts that call at least three times in that story, then buys an ankle bracelet that costs so much that Goff says he “gasps and clutched his chest” but he pays it for a stranger. I tried to find how much that would by searching online and it looks like this was probably a couple hundred bucks to set up then maybe $10-20 a day. Goff said this bracelet costs him a “bundle.” This one story has Goff paying an unexpected several hundred dollar charge. The stories in the previous chapters where he rents airplanes or even buys a water airplane are even more. Can you afford this? I can’t. So as I listened I kept thinking that many of these stories were out of touch with average Christian.

This isn’t to suggest that if we get that call that costs $9.95 we shouldn’t accept it. We should. And we should give out food, donate to the Goodwill or shelters, volunteer time for charities and be kind to people we meet. It was that I was turned off by Goff’s generally expensive examples of these. It didn’t come across as encouraging, but discouraging. It felt like I was reading about the privileges of wealth were a guy tells us about all his extra time, extra money and perfect family with his daredevil sky diving and airplane flying son and his “Sweet Maria.”

Like I said at the beginning of this review, I liked the book for the most part. And if a reader hears and acts more loving then great! But I think this is a shallow Christianity that has more in common with the feel good Osteen faith than the real Gospel that focuses on not just making someone feel better in their sin, but helping them find life and relationship with Christ and feeling better about the freedom that they now have from sin.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com and a believer, a husband, a dad, a geek, an artist, a gamer, a teacher, a learner and tired.

Thor: Goddess of Thunder, Vol. 1

After hearing about Thor 4, I figured I had to read the origin of the Female Thor. After finishing this In not sure it makes much sense.

Thor: Goddess of Thunder, Vol. 1
Written by Jason Aaron
Art by Jorge Molina
Marvel
May 2015

Thor is his name, not a title. Seeing a female character get his power through the hammer makes no sense as Thor has the power in him as a god. It also makes no sense for her clothes to change. Whatever, I guess.

Comics are comics. If you’re looking for a primer on the upcoming MCU film, this probably won’t work. Not just because the hammer is destroyed in the films, but also because so little is explained here.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com and a believer, a husband, a dad, a geek, an artist, a gamer, a teacher, a learner and tired.

Dead Six by Correia & Kupari

I didn’t know what to expect here. This book was recommended to me and I actually thought it was scifi. I thought it would be all the way to the half way punt when I realized that “Dead Six” wasn’t some kind of matrix style VR thing. This is straight up warfare, like a Call of Duty game set in the world of today.

And I liked it.

Dead Six
by Larry Correia & Mike Kupari
Baen
September 2011

It’s been a really long time since I read a pulp military thriller. I gave up on popular fiction like Clancy or Cussler when I realized every book was the same. This has the thrills, a significantly more MA rating, and wasn’t by the numbers.

I enjoyed the two main characters and how they had their own personalities, capabilities and interests. I liked the secondary characters although when you get into it you realize there aren’t a ton of different characters, just the same ones over and over: techy, heavy gunner, their, hot lady who also can fight, rich criminal, etc.

And because there were so many characters the narrator starts to recycle voices. I’ve enjoyed this narrator before, but it seemed this time people were either nasally or gravelly.

I’m definitely going to read the next one.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com and a believer, a husband, a dad, a geek, an artist, a gamer, a teacher, a learner and tired.

It Can’t Happen Here by Lewis

I’m a fan of cautionary stories like Fahrenheit 451, Animal Farm and 1984 so I thought I would enjoy this book, but I was wrong.

It Can’t Happen Here
by Sinclair Lewis
1935

Unlike the messages of those other books – control of information, totalitarianism, surveillance state, thought control, dangers of socialism/communism due to human nature – the message here that fascism could take root in America like it did in Germany and Spain doesn’t survive the antiquated time and setting of the story. Further, the main character seems to bounce around from Liberal to Communist to a sympathizer of socialism in his fight against fascism. And like most of these types of books from the early-mid 1900s the issues are more important than the story, which suffers by the end. Listening through this book was tedious.

The Audible narrator is pretty perfect for this book, though. Exactly the old timey sound I would want.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com and a believer, a husband, a dad, a geek, an artist, a gamer, a teacher, a learner and tired.

Jennifer Blood, Vol. 1 by Ennis and Batista

With the release of Garth Ennis’ The Boys on Amazon, I’ve been checking out some of his previous work. Jennifer Blood is one such work.

Jennifer Blood, Volume 1
A Woman’s Work is Never Done
written by Garth Ennis
art by Adriano Batista
Dynamite
Feburary 2012

From the publisher: “Jennifer Blood is a suburban wife and mom by day – and a ruthless vigilante by night! Every day she makes breakfast, takes the kids to school, cleans the house, naps for an hour or two, makes dinner, puts the kids to bed, and kisses her husband goodnight. This suburban punisher is ready to be unleashed in a story that can only be told by the legendary Garth Ennis. Collecting issues #1-6 of the hit series, along with additional bonus material, sketches, cover gallery, and interview with Garth Ennis!”

The first five issues in this collection start with “Jennifer” narrating the story of her revenge against her uncles in her diary. The story is driven largely by the diary text and we know very little of what is going on until mid-issue five. All we know is that this woman lives a normal life during the day but has been planning for a long time to go on a killing spree of this mafia-like family over the course of a week. It is entertaining and violently satisfying. But then at the end of issue five, Ennis seems to want to speed things up so the diary says she will stop writing until the main bad guy (and last uncle) is killed. Issue 6 starts – starts! – with the infiltration of his base complete, all his men dead, and him dying while “Jennifer” spends almost the whole issue explaining to the uncle (and us) why she is on the killing spree. It completely jumps away from the cool planning aspects and straight to exposition. It feels rushed and unfinished.

There are multiple other volumes written by Al Ewing so the story goes somewhere, I guess. But the first volume falls flat. It builds to the very baddest of the bad guys and then just fast forwards to the end. I hope that The Boys doesn’t follow this template.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com and a believer, a husband, a dad, a geek, an artist, a gamer, a teacher, a learner and tired.

Solaris by Lem

I had no idea what to expect here. the description seems to imply a love story and Very Serious Deep Thoughts. Man was I disappointed.

Solaris: The Definitive Edition
By Stanislaw Lem
Audible
1961

I’m going to tell you what I wish someone had told me [SPOILERS]: this is boring as heck. Not the charming slow moving classic SciFi with quaint science and thoughts on the future. No, this is an incredibly long winded story where long sections are nothing but back story on the planet. At first I thought it was interesting and wll thought out. After a time I just want to move on.

As for love, the way the main character treats the female lead is incredibly chauvinistic and demeaning. Very little actual love. In fact, he “falls in love” with the alien created version of his dead wife for almost no reason even though he loves her for not being his wife. Huh? If he doesn’t love her because she looks and acts like his wife what exactly is it he loves? Her lack of memory? Her charm? The fact that she a fake version of his dead wife? Makes no sense. But he does fall in love with his suicidal alien construct. Maybe. I don’t care. This story isn’t about love, it is about a man who longs for something he can’t have. That’s not romantic. It’s pathetic.

The alien (Ocean) is interesting. You’ll get no resolution here and that’s actually fine. But I’d prefer more time spent on the Ocean than on the constructs. A better solution is the main character recognizing that the Ocean is sentient and attempting to contact it, rather than longing for his dead wife/ dead construct to come back.

I powered through this but I don’t recommend it. There are simply too many better options.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com and a believer, a husband, a dad, a geek, an artist, a gamer, a teacher, a learner and tired.

Discriminations and Disparities by Sowell

Current events and cultural hot topics can be very difficult to understand. The media, pop culture and uninformed loud people on social media all have opinions. But what’s really going on? That’s why I chose to go to a real expert.

Discrimination and Disparities
By Thomas Sowell
Read by Robertson Dean
Blackstone Audio, Inc
March 2018

I’ve come to realize that almost everything is more complicated than people think they are. Sowell’s book is an extremely readable explanation of how, all too often, people settle for prevailing sympathies instead of digging into the reality that no one thing causes no other one thing. Starting in the very first chapter, Sowell uses examples to explain in very easy to understand ways how only one-factor out of many can impact chances for disparity in outcome.

Sowell moves through several common misconceptions about how the world is the way it is and why certain policies have unintended consequences. While not advocating for any political party, Sowell is clearly Capitalist and open market. He makes compelling arguments that seeing decisions through an economic world view can help us make decisions that are based on facts rather than feelings.

I found this to be very interesting and read it in only two days.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com and a believer, a husband, a dad, a geek, an artist, a gamer, a teacher, a learner and tired.

30 Days to Understanding the Bible by Anders

Can you get a good exegetical understanding of the Bible and the theology therein in only a month? Possibly.

30 Days to Understanding the Bible
by Max Anders
Thomas Nelson
October 2018

This is actually an expanded thirteenth anniversary edition of Anders’ book. I’d never heard of it or read it before. It’s fascinating! Like a survey course in college this book goes a little deeper than normal studies but not quite as deep as higher level classes. I read through several and liked the way that he presented the information, allowed for repetition and fill in the blanks and then sometimes allows time for a test.

Speaking of time: there is no way that normal readers will get through this in 15 minutes! Some chapters, to be done right, will take 30 minutes or more. There is a lot of data to learn in each chunk. The good news is that the data is worth learning. So the extra time is worth it.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com and a believer, a husband, a dad, a geek, an artist, a gamer, a teacher, a learner and tired.

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for review. 

The Spirit of God Illustrated Bible

The premise of this book is to tell stories of the Bible with an emphasis on the role of the Holy Spirit in each of the stories. There are a couple reasons why this isn’t as successful as I would have liked.

The Spirit of God Illustrated Bible
by Doris Wynbeek Rikkers
Illustrated by Fernando Juarez
ZonderKidz
September 2018

First, It is called an “Illustrated Bible” but isn’t a Bible. It is a children’s book of child-level Bible stories. Everything from Creation to Joseph to David to Jesus to Paul and finally to the child (which I thought was a really great way to end the book.) But if you are going to tell stories, rather than actually illustrate the Bible, it seems incorrect to call this a Bible. It should be upfront.

Second, the stories really stretch the participation of the Spirit and attribute to it things it may not have actually done. Look at the first story: Genesis 1. God is seen as creating (good) and then the Spirit is said to make sure that all the stars “stay in place.” I guess you could attribute the fact that all things are held together by God/Jesus and since the Holy Spirit is a part of that it is said to participate. But in Genesis you don’t have the Spirit actually doing that. In the second story, the Spirit is the one that breathes life into Adam. On the other open page (22) you actually read Gen 2:7 where is says the Lord God breathed life into the man. I don’t mean to split hairs here because God is God. But attributing things to the Spirit where the Bible doesn’t seems like a leap I wouldn’t recommend.

The art is gorgeous. I love how the Spirit is represented as wispy white smoke that curls around the characters when the Spirit takes action. I like the vast majority of the stories. And I love the ending. Not a bad book, just not what I expected.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com and a believer, a husband, a dad, a geek, an artist, a gamer, a teacher, a learner and tired.

Hell to Pay by Chmilenko

Book 2 of Ascend Online was very different than book 1. Unlike most series, it seems that Chmilenko is focused on the world of the game (and perhaps the battle between in-game sister “gods” Order and Chaos) rather than the players.

Hell To Pay
Ascend Online 2
by Luke Chmilenko
Ætherworld Productions
April 2017

In book 2, the setting changes to the nearby (three days away) large city briefly discussed in book 1, and the goings-on of one of the Thieves Guilds and two players in the guild. It’s also more of a mystery as the story begins with our anonymous hero waking up in a torture room with a new magical sigil on his chest and his guild master dead. He doesn’t remember anything from the point that he took on a quest called The Heist. How a human player could actually have their memory wiped by the game is confusing and scary – both to the players in the story and to the reader.

Interestingly, the characters in this book never interact with the characters in book 1 – and that’s fine with me. This thriller was significantly more than the normal introductory story, allowing book 1’s explanation of the game and the world to suffice so we could jump right in to the new characters.

A down side to this Ascend Online, in terms of LitRPG, is that it seems to make no effort to tell any part of the story outside the game. So it’s simply a fantasy book with gaming stats and some pseudo third wall breaking. Even though it is much better written than The Dark Herbalist series, I find the real lives of the players to add to the main story and avoiding any consideration of that part of our main characters is a weakness so far in Ascend Online. Still, the third book is in my queue and I’m excited to jump in to it.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com and a believer, a husband, a dad, a geek, an artist, a gamer, a teacher, a learner and tired.

The Dark Herbalist series