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A Book Review — A Book To Make You Smarter

Some books you read for the joy of it.

Some books you read because you want to learn something.

Sometimes, a both does both. That is the case with Christopher Manske’s excellent new book, The Prepared Investor. It was an unexpected pleasure.

I was eager to read The Prepared Investor because I wanted to learn. Markets, investing, and financial planning are all things that I, as a middle-aged person, need to start thinking about a little more seriously. It started as a learning project. As I read, it turned into a joyful experience. The Prepared Investor is a guide to financial planning and investing, but it is really about human nature and history.

Manske indicates in the book it took him a decade to write it, and the research and skill at storytelling show he did his homework. He is as comfortable telling about Napoleon’s escape from Elba as he is referring to tables and charts of marketplace indices. But more than this, he shows how things such as leadership (Napoleon), terrorism, or social unrest play a very important role in financial stewardship. Take for example this excellent observation from 1970.

While it is easy to find articles about the Kent State shooting itself, its much more difficult to find the Wall Street Journal’s description of the stock market published the day after the tragedy: ‘Stock prices took their steepest dive since President Kennedy’s assassination.’

P. 160

The Prepared Investor is filled with this kind of cause-effect analysis. Without giving too much away, the point of the Kent State example is observing how markets react to unfamiliar actions of a dramatic nature. The lesson to be learned is an investor, regardless of ideology or politics, should recognize the responses people and markets make to various stimuli and then, knowing what history says will happen next, make appropriate investments to capitalize on it.

Manske is talking about wealth. I read the book, however, and thought about spirituality and maturity. We live in very unsettling times where something dramatic happens almost daily, and everyone knows about it instantly. Recognizing their patterns of behavior can help me identify how these variations impact my daily life and work. People respond spiritually much the same way they respond financially — when uncertainty comes, they withdraw to ‘bunkers’ of safety. Manske spends a lot of time on analyzing 9-11. I remember those days well. I never saw as many people in church as I did the month after 9-11. But, when the crisis abates, people return to their normal patterns. Within two months of 9-11, church attendance declined to below numbers of what it had been before the crisis. We held several special prayer services right after 9-11 and the church building was filled with people, elbow to elbow. A year later, we held a special one year anniversary service and only about fifteen people showed up. People return to normal, and sometimes it is a new normal, and that normal comes much quicker than most people anticipate.

It is human nature at work, and that is the background for Manske’s work.

There are three features of the book that were helpful.

  1. The outline is easy to follow, and he uses “Action Steps” as a checklist for those wishing to implement what is being learned.
  2. Charts and graphs. Then more charts and graphs. And now some charts and graphs about the charts and graphs. The Prepared Investor is loaded with this kind of data, and if you like that, there is plenty to enjoy.
  3. My favorite part was the long chapter near the end as a timeline of Manske’s own notations in real time about the spread of COVID-19. As a reader, I would be interested to see his contemporary notes right now as we spike. If for nothing else, this part of the book documents in historical fashion what has already happened, because people forget and they bend their memories toward ideologies and preconceived notions rather than reality.

The Prepared Investor is a quick read coming in at 209 pages. I read it in one week, and a big part of my leisure time during that week was making pies and chicken and dressing.

Who would like this book? People who love history will want this book, so too would someone who has a little bit of savings and is wanting to invest it well, People who are interested in human behavior will like it as well. Manske is well read and references everyone from Yuval Noah Harari to Henry Kissinger to Quentin Tarantino.

Who should read this book: I think every graduate of high school and certainly college would benefit. It would make a great Christmas present or graduation gift. In fact, it probably should be on your list of books to read this year simply because the knowledge, though fine tuned to finance, is really universal in nature. This book will make you smarter and wiser.

Advent 2020: 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12

During the season of Advent, I am translating from Greek to English the weekday epistle readings out of the Daily Lectionary of the Book of Common Prayer.

Tuesday, 1 December 2020 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12


Chapter Two

1. For you know yourselves, brothers and sisters, that our introduction to you was not in vain. 

2. And, as you know, we had the courage to speak of our God to you, the gospel of God in great opposition, after having suffered and been insulted beforehand in Philippi.

3. Our appeal to you was not from error, duplicity, or subterfuge. 

4. But, just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so also we do not speak so as to please people but God, who is the one proving our hearts.

5. Just as you know, we came neither with flattering words nor with a pretext for greediness. God testifies to it. 

6. Nor glory seeking from people, not from you or from anyone,

7. although we had the power of authority as Christ’s apostles. Instead, we became as infants in your midst, like a nursing mother cherishes her own children. 

8. So, longing in this way for you, we determined to share not only the gospel of God with you, but our very souls. That is why you have become beloved. 

9. You should remember, brothers and sisters, our labor and effort, working night and day so as to not be a burden to anyone as we preached the gospel of God to you. 

10. You and God are witnesses to how devoutly, righteously, and blamelessly we behaved to those of you who are believers.

11. Indeed, you know, like a father to his own children were each one of you, 

12. Urging you, consoling you, affirming you to walk worthy of your God, who is calling you into his own kingdom and glory.


Commentary

First, a textual note. For reasons I can’t understand, English renderings tend to put the opening phrase of verse 7 with verse 6, where it would read “Nor seeking glory from people, not from you or from anyone, although we had the power of authority as Christ’s apostles” as all verse 6. All my editions of the Greek New Testament list that phrase about authority being the first part of verse 7. It doesn’t change the meaning, but keeping it in the structure of the GNT allows for that great imagery of authority and power contrasted with being an infant.

Paul claims the gospel came from them not with error, duplicity, or subterfuge in verse 3. If we examine those we get three important claims for ministry. Paul says he was not in error. What he means is not that he doesn’t make errors, but the gospel he preached is not a mistaken one. Often it was claimed of Paul that he was preaching the wrong gospel or an altered version of it. Here he affirms he was not mistake about Christ, salvation, or the way of discipleship. he also claims that he did not have mixed motives. This is important, because a person could preach the right (no errors) but have duplicity. My reading of many churches, ministries, and pastors informs me some of them have sound doctrine but their motives are mixed in that they say it is all for the Lord but in reality they are promoting themselves. Subterfuge is a different kind of impurity Paul says is absent from his preaching. He never tried to trick the people. He was open, honest, and transparent. Any church or ministry that fudges numbers, lies about attendance, or plays politics to curry favor with a certain demographic is engaged in subterfuge.

I am fascinated by the use of infants as a metaphor. If you read it closely, he is not saying the Thessalonians became infants as he was the father. He is saying the opposite, he was like an infant, weak and lowly to them, rather than bossy and pushy. He waited for them to take the lead. I don’t know about you, but it is hard to do this. It is hard to wait, slow down, and allow others to lead. It must have been really hard for Paul. But that is what he did. No wonder he was able to write elsewhere, “I am crucified with Christ.” Crucifying our desires to control, frame, guide, and dominate is vital to spiritual leadership. And here, I would like to note, this is the opposite of what they teach in seminary and what the world defines as ‘real’ leadership. Paul says real leadership is celebrating how others grow into their role rather than grabbing all the headlines and sucking all the oxygen out of the room. I confess, I am a work-in-progress on this one.

There is a joke buried in verse 10. Paul outlines how devout, righteous, and blameless they were toward ‘those who are believers.’ Does this mean he was ungodly, wicked, and guilty to those who were not believers? I doubt it, but Paul’s choice of language is fascinating.


Questions For Application

  1. Paul says he was insulted in Philippi, but that didn’t stop him in Thessalonica. What insults and crude attacks have you worked through? How did it make you stronger?
  2. Paul lays it all out there that he wasn’t in it for the applause, the payday, or the recognition. What was his goal, and, more pointedly, what is your goal in the Christian life? At work? At home?
  3. Who do you share your very soul with? Why? Can a body of believers be called a church if the souls are not shared? Can a pastor or leader lead a church where the souls are not connected?
  4. What does a walk worthy of God look like in 2020 and in your world?

Advent 2020: 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10

During the season of Advent I am translating the weekday epistle readings from the Daily Lectionary of the Book of Common Prayer.

Monday, 30 November 2020 1 Thessalonians 1


Chapter One

1. Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy to the Thessalonian church: Grace and peace to you in Father God and Lord Jesus Messiah.

2. We always give thanks to God for the memory of you, continually making our prayers for you. 

3. Remembering before our God and Father your faithful work, the labor of love, and hopeful patience in our Lord Messiah Jesus.

4. Knowing he chose you, our brothers and sisters who have been loved by God.

5. Because our gospel came not to you only with words, but with great conviction, in power and the Holy Spirit. You know so much of what happened to us while among you, all on account of you. 

6. You became imitators of us and the Lord, welcoming the word with the joy of the Holy Spirit in the midst of great distress.

7. So that you might become an example to all those believing in Macedonia and Achaia. 

8. For the word of the Lord has resounded from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place where your faith in God has gone. There is no need to have you speak anything. 

9. For they tell about you, about what kind of welcome we had from you, and how you converted from idols to serve the living and true God.

10. And to wait for his son out of the heavens, the one whom he raised from the dead, Jesus, the one who will rescue us from the coming wrath. 


Commentary

Whatever else the Thessalonians may have gotten wrong, they clearly impressed not only Paul and his traveling companions but also the other churches with their readiness and eagerness. It is locked up in the idea of welcome. For Paul this has a powerful meaning, as any student of the letter to the Romans can attest to. It is not merely perfunctory. It is a spiritual reality.

Verses 2 and 3 focus on remembering. In verse 2 it is a noun — “our memory” of you. Paul remembers them, and what they mean to him, and this focuses his prayers. Then in verse 3 he uses memory again — this time a participial verb where Paul remembers what they had done when he prays to the Lord. He remembers to pray for them.

Look carefully at the list of three things in verse 3: faithful work, labor of love, and hopeful patience. We can see our old friend the triad of faith, hope, and love, albeit it slightly dressed up and modified. Faith is about the work–commitment. Love is now also about the work, the reason we work is not the work itself or ego driven success but our love for others. Hope is what keeps us at it without giving way to our lesser nature. The idea of work weaves itself throughout both First and Second Thessalonians. Here it is a commendation. By the time Second Thessalonians closes, it is a rebuke, as if these once hard working people had lost their way with poor theology.

The most powerful idea here is that of conversion in verse 9. Converting from idols to the One True God and with that conversion begins the waiting game: waiting for Jesus to rescue from wrath.

The coming of Jesus is the theme looming over the entire epistle but he dallies around before he gets to it. I think there is a reason for this. It presents a certain clunkiness to the text; like someone beating around the bush before he gets to the point, which doesn’t emerge again in fullness until chapter four. I have some ideas about that but I will save them for later.


Questions For Application

  1. When was the last time you welcomed someone into your life? Home? Church?
  2. Who do you imitate? Why?
  3. The Thessalonian disciples threw down idols to follow Jesus. What are you still clutching ahold of that keeps you from following Jesus fully?
  4. Who should be locked away in your memories to pray for, but you have forgotten?

If I Close My Eyes I Can See The Sunset

This is the perfect story to finish the free Thanksgiving stories from the Fondue Writers Club.

Paul Bennett’s use of visual imagery creates a world where my sensory perception runs wild. I can smell — seriously — I can smell the garage, the hospital floor, the room, and the pie. I can feel the cold stethoscope, the crisp sheets, the steering wheel, the computer. I can hear the beeps from the machines, the car engine, and the voice of the nurse. I can see the headlights in the darkness, the computer screen, and the sunset’s brilliance. I can taste regret.

Click on the slice of pumpkin pie to read ‘The Years the Locust Ate’ and remember we’ll be back soon with free Christmas Stories to keep you entertained as we all continue to persevere in the midst of this horrible health crisis. Stay safe, be well, check on your neighbors, and remember to love each other.

Can you smell the cloves, ginger, and cinnamon in this pie? I can.