The Normal Christian Life


This past Sunday I preached a message on the story of David and Goliath from 1 Samuel 17 titled “The Normal Christian Life.” One of my goals for the message was to communicate that David didn’t really do anything spectacular in defeating Goliath. He didn’t have any special weaponry, armor, or fighting skills. Instead, he simply did four things that are central and common to the life of anyone seeking to walk by faith:

  1. David viewed his circumstances through a spiritual filter. In other words, David saw the spiritual reality behind the physical circumstances of his life. The rest of Israel looked at Goliath and saw a more than nine and a half foot tall invincible enemy. David looked at Goliath and saw a man who was not stronger than God. Like David, Christians live their lives by interpreting their circumstances through a spiritual lens.

  2. David made decisions according to God’s faithfulness to his promises. Since David was looking at his life through spiritual eyes, he made decisions based on his knowledge of God’s faithfulness to his promises. This led him to tell King Saul, “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine. Your servant will go and fight him.” The only reason David made this decision was because of his spiritual knowledge and his trust that God would keep his word. This practice should be a normal part of how Christians live their lives. We make decisions based upon our knowledge of God’s faithfulness to his promises.

  3. David believed in his own weakness and in God’s strength. In order to fight Goliath, David first had to realize that he was utterly incapable of defeating the giant. No weapons, armor, or skill that he had in and of himself could ever hope to bring Goliath down. In order to defeat the giant, David had to not only realize this but embrace the truth that he was utterly weak. But it turns out that this is a fine place to be, because God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness. Part of the normal Christian life is embracing our inadequacies and thereby experiencing God’s limitless strength.

  4. The motivation for David’s obedience was a commitment to God’s glory. The fuel for David’s battle against Goliath was his desire for the glory of God to be known by all who would see the giant fall. David knew that Goliath would only fall if God did something. In other words, in Goliath’s defeat, everyone who saw the battle would know that God had acted mightily - not David. Part of living the Christian life is a desire to live in such a way that people are able to see God’s glory through you (1 Samuel 17.46).

As I have written about before, there’s no such thing as “Bible heroes.” There are only weak men who reckoned upon God’s being with them, David included. David didn’t wake up that morning expecting to slay a giant. But he did wake up that day intending to something very normal: trust God and walk by faith.

We balk at the notion that David didn’t do anything spectacular or extraordinary in his battle against Goliath. Surely there must be something special about him in order for him to defeat Goliath! Doesn’t David deserve some credit for slaying the giant? I don’t think so. Instead, David simply did what any follower of God wants to do: trust in God and make decisions accordingly. It’s certainly true that God did something remarkable with David’s faith and obedience, but there was nothing David did that you and I can’t duplicate in our own lives.

By saying this I am meaning to differentiate between what David did, and what God did. For David’s part, he essentially did the four things listed above: see the spiritual reality of his physical circumstances, act according to God’s promises, embrace his own weakness and God’s strength, and obey for the glory of God. These are all very human and very attainable things for any follower of God. For God’s part, on the other hand, he used David’s faith and obedience to do something remarkable: take down the invincible giant.

I don’t mean to over-simplify the Christian life, but perhaps we too often over-complicate it. It’s easy to get caught up in the ifs, hows, whens, and whys that we never even take a step of faith. David’s experience is “normal” to the extent that he simply trusted and followed where God led. This is the same opportunity available to you and I. We can likewise share in this normal Christian life that David lived. And we serve the same God as David did. In David’s case, his “normal Christian life” found him on a battlefield with a dead giant at his feet. It may be that God will use your “normal Christian life” to slay giants as well. Or not. That’s not up to you and I. Our job is to trust and obey, and to leave the results up to God, knowing that whatever we do - and whatever God does - it will be for our good and ultimately for his glory.

Sometimes the story of David and Goliath is taught as an encouragement that, if you just believe enough, anyone can topple the giants in their life. Don’t believe that for a minute. The giants in your life will kill you; they will chew you up and spit you out. You are utterly unprepared to face them on the field of battle. But the giants of your life can’t kill your God. In fact, they are nothing compared to him, and he reigns over them as Lord. And he calls you to face your giants. But not under your own power. Instead, walk by faith, act according to God’s promises, and commit yourself to displaying his glory with your life, and leave the results up to him. This is what it means to live the “normal Christian life.”

A Harmful Spirit from the Lord

Digging Deeper.jpg

Last week I wrote about some difficult parts of 1 Samuel 15. Well, chapter 16 has some interesting bits as well, so today we’ll take a closer look. I often don’t get a chance to look at these difficult passages in a sermon because most of the time fleshing out interesting tidbits is beyond the scope of a traditional message. That being said, I enjoy “digging deeper” into these potentially confusing parts of scripture, and if you do too, read on.

The tricky bit of 1 Samuel 16 comes in verse 14: “Now the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and a harmful spirit from the Lord tormented him.” Even on the surface, this verse rubs us the wrong way, because the thought of God sending a harmful spirit on anyone is rather off-putting. Why would God send a harmful spirit on a person? And where does God get these harmful spirits from? How can a harmful spirit come from a good God?

First of all, what is a harmful spirit? Unfortunately, the text doesn’t help us much. The older NIV translation says the spirit was “injurious” rather than harmful, and the most recent NIV translation goes even further to say that the spirit was actually “evil.” The ESV translates the word as “harmful.” Was it a demon? Possibly.

Some have sought to reason away the perceived problem by stating that the “harmful spirit” that came upon Saul was not a demonic figure, but was actually some sort of illness, perhaps even a mental illness. This is why Saul could be soothed simply by hearing some calming music from his personal minstrel, David (1 Samuel 16.18-23). For instance, if the harmful spirit were an affliction of anxiety, it’s certainly possible that some calming music would do much to help with Saul’s battered mental state. The same would be true if the “harmful spirit” were some sort of physical malady that could be treated with music therapy.

Regardless of the form of the spirit’s manifestation in Saul, one thing is certain: the “harmful spirit” had a divine origin that was observable even by Saul’s servants: “And Saul’s servants said to him, ‘Behold now, a harmful spirit from God is tormenting you’” (1 Samuel 16.15). Whatever was happening, it was clear to everyone who saw it that God was involved.

But that just brings us back to our initial question: how can a good God send “harmful spirits?”

No matter how off-putting you and I might find the notion of God sending a harmful spirit upon Saul, we should note one thing: it doesn’t bother the author of first Samuel. We know this because he offers us no justification or reasoning in the text. He simply states it as a fact, as though such things were regular occurrences. To him, the idea of God sending a harmful spirit was not off-putting and did not cause him to question his faith. It was simply a fact of life.

The reason for this, I believe, is that the author of 1 Samuel had a robust understanding of God’s sovereignty, and especially his sovereignty over evil. To the author of 1 Samuel, it’s perfectly natural for God to send a harmful spirit upon Saul, because God is the Lord - even the Lord over evil.

James 2 says that demons believe in God, and they shudder at the thought of him. Why do they shudder? Because they are subject to his authority. In other words, God is Lord even over the demons. In Luke 8 Jesus is confronted by a man inhabited by many demons. These demons recognize Jesus’ authority and beg him not to send them into the abyss. Rather, they suggest, allow them to inhabit a herd of pigs. Luke 8.32 says that Jesus “gave them permission.” Jesus didn’t force them to go into the pigs or into the abyss. Instead, he used his authority to give the “harmful spirits” of Luke 8 permission to do what they suggested. If the “harmful spirit” that Saul had was a demon, it was only afflicting him by God’s allowance, according to God’s authority.

Likewise, if the harmful spirit that afflicted Saul was a physical or mental malady, this is also a result of God’s permission. “‘Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?’” (Exodus 4.11) Similarly, God either allowed or afflicted numerous people with ailments throughout scripture for his sovereign purposes.

Whether God intentionally afflicted Saul with a harmful spirit (such as in Exodus 4.11), or whether he allowed the harmful spirit to torment him (such as in Luke 8.32), the end result is the same: the harmful spirit came from God. And for whatever reason (and there was a good reason, even if we don’t know it in full), God either caused or allowed some evil, harmful spirit to attack Saul.

But this should not cause us to despair, or to question God’s goodness. For we are sure that although God is the Lord over evil, he is not the author of evil. God uses sin sinlessly. That is, he can remain Lord over sin and use it for his purposes without sinning.

In the case of Saul, God used the “harmful spirit” to introduce David onto the scene and prepare him for his future reign, as well as to ignite the bitter strife between Saul and David that would go on into the future. Perhaps God used this harmful spirit to further enflame Saul against David, making his condemnation all the more just.

Regardless, as we stated earlier, the notion of the harmful spirit coming from God did not concern the author of 1 Samuel, and nor should it concern us. We should be encouraged that even “harmful spirits” come from God. They don’t run amok of their own accord, doing whatever they please. No, they have a Lord; they have a Master. And that Master uses all things - even harmful spirits! - for his glory and our good.

Sanitized Scripture

Digging Deeper.jpg

1 Samuel 15 is a hard chapter of the Bible to read.  Not because it's difficult to understand, but because some of what is described therein seems to be so brutal and barbaric that it's hard to think that God condoned what took place. 

But he did.  

In this chapter of scripture, God gives King Saul a mission: go and completely obliterate the Amalekites - man, woman, child, and animal.  This Saul does, albeit not completely.  He saves some of the choicest animals and he also saves Agag, the king of the Amalekites, presumably to show him off as a trophy of his victory.  

But this is not what God has commanded.  Instead, God commanded the complete annihilation of the Amalekites, including their animals, and including their king.  In response to what Saul left undone, Samuel himself finishes the job, so to speak: "And Samuel said [to Agag], 'As your sword has made women childless, so shall your mother be childless among women.'  And Samuel hacked Agag to pieces before the Lord in Gilgal." (1 Samuel 16.33, ESV, emphasis added)  

I don't know about you, but hearing that anyone was "hacked to pieces" is enough to make me wince, let alone hearing that it was done "before the Lord."  It's a description that is mean to illicit a visceral reaction from us, the readers, and I think it's safe to say it succeeds in doing so.  

As I was studying to preach this text recently, I read the same passage in the NIV, and was surprised to find this translation of the same verse: "But Samuel said [to Agag], 'As your sword has made women childless, so will your mother be childless among women.'  And Samuel put Agag to death before the Lord at Gilgal." (1 Samuel 16.33, NIV, emphasis added)  

You'll notice that the description of Agag's death in the NIV is much more palatable.  It's a lot easier to read that someone was "put to death" rather than "hacked to pieces."  

The most literal translation of the original Hebrew follows more closely with the ESV rendering of "hacked to pieces."  Why then does the NIV translate the same verse as Agag simply being "put to death"?  Clearly this rendering takes our modern sensibilities into account.  We don't like to hear about a human being having been "hacked to pieces."  It's easier and less messy and creates fewer questions to hear about them being simply "put to death."  

But as difficult as it is for us to read, I think we need to retain the language of Agag being hacked to pieces.  Is it brutal?  Yes.  Is it graphically violent?  Yes.  Does it illicit reactions of shock and disgust?  Yes. 

And that's the point.  

We bristle when we think that God told Saul to wipe out the Amalekites completely, man, woman, child, and animal (1 Samuel 15.3).  We put up our defenses, based mostly on our 21st century sensibilities, and we accuse God of over-reacting.  Certainly it's not necessary to kill everyone and everything in the nation of Amalek, is it?  Even the children?  Even the animals?  What did they do?

Not long after being released from slavery in Egypt, and right after crossing the Red Sea, the Israelites were attacked by the Amalekites (Exodus 17).  And not only that, but when the Amalekites attacked, they purposely attacked the weakest people in Israel: the women, children, elderly, and ill (Deuteronomy 25).  Like a schoolyard bully picks out the weakest kid on the playground to pick on him, knowing that he won't fight back, so the Amalekites chose the weak, under-nourished, untrained Israelites to pick on right after leaving 400 years of slavery.  As a result, God declares holy war upon the Amalekites and promises their destruction (See Exodus 17.14 and Deuteronomy 25.19).  

By the time of King Saul, the Amalekites had continued to be a thorn in Israel's side for centuries, and, put simply, their cup of wrath had filled up to the brim.  God was merciful to not destroy them outright at the very beginning.  Instead he was patient and long-suffering, giving them hundreds of years to repent and turn to him, but they never did.  So now the time has come for their sin to be dealt with.  And the means of dealing with them that God has chosen is to send in Saul and the Israelites to utterly wipe them out - man, woman, child, and beast.  

This is why, I think, it is important to know that Agag, king of the Amalekites was "hacked to pieces" and not simply "put to death."  God cannot allow sin to go unpunished, and his punishment must be severe - severe enough to satisfy the justice of a perfectly holy, perfectly righteous God.  What does that kind of justice look like?  It looks like the total decimation of the Amalekites, and the hacking to pieces of their king.  God's justice is more than just a "put to death" kind of justice.  It's a "hacked to pieces" kind of justice.  Although it might seem harsh and brutal to us, it is just.  It is a picture of how grievous sin is to a holy God, and how desperate our need is to be made right with him.  

But in actuality, the destruction of the Amalekites and the grisly death of their king is but a shadow of the divine justice of God.  It is nothing compared to his wrath upon sin that will be poured out for all eternity in hell.  As severe as the punishment of the Amalekites was, and as much as we recoil in horror at the thought of Agag being hacked to pieces, both of these pale in comparison to God's eternal vengeance toward sin, in a place where the worm never dies and the fire is never quenched (Mark 9.48).  

I don't say these things for their shock value, but rather to magnify the glory of the cross.  Because you and I are just like the Amalekites.  We have spurned God at every possible opportunity, and we deserve the same fate as the Amalekites and that of King Agag.  Actually, if we're honest, we deserve worse.  

But God did the unfathomable: he sent his Son into the world to suffer that fate for you.  Jesus Christ willingly offered himself to be decimated and "hacked to pieces" in my place, himself suffering the eternal vengeance of a holy God on my behalf.  "But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ - by grace you have been saved - and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2.4-7).

This is why I appreciate the ESV translation of 1 Samuel 15.33, hard as it might be to digest.  When the consequences of sin are magnified (like being hacked to pieces), the glorious grace of God in the gospel is likewise magnified.  

Time had run out for the Amalekites.  Their cup of wrath was full and it was time for justice to be served.  But there is still time for you.  You don't have to share their fate.  You don't have to live in the fear and regret of offending a holy God, because that same God sacrificed his Son to save you from destruction if you will call out to him.  

The Hour of Power


When I was a kid I remember watching a television program called "The Hour of Power."  It was a religious broadcast of the services from the Crystal Cathedral, pastored by Robert Schuller, and for a time was the most watched church service in the world.  The show usually consisted of a testimony of some well know professed Christian, a special music number, and a brief meditation by Schuller.  In time, Schuller went off the theological rails, embracing a form of universalism, and the Crystal Cathedral closed in 2010, about five years before Schuller died.  

While Schuller's ministry and the Crystal Cathedral eventually met their demise, the title of the television broadcast is worth considering.  The "Hour of Power" referred to the length of the church service at the Cathedral, and it seems to me that an "hour or power" is a powerfully accurate way to describe what happens on Sunday mornings at Bible believing churches all around the world.  I'd refer to Riverview's service as an "hour of power," but our services usually last about 75 minutes, and "An Hour and Fifteen Minutes of Power" just isn't as catchy.  

Nevertheless, I would argue that perhaps the greatest act of power that a Christian can enact is simply to attend a worship service at a local church on a regular basis.  There is unquantifiable power contained within a church service, and Christians can tap into that power every time they gather for worship.  

Just consider all that takes place within a worship service: dozens, scores, and even hundreds of voices unite in song, declaring truths about who God is and what he has done.  These truths serve to bind up the broken-hearted, give confidence and courage to those who are weak, drive out fear, and inspire hope.  

Moreover, when churches come together in prayer those same dozens and hundreds unite their hearts in petitioning the Lord of the universe, who answers them when they call.  Indeed, cities, nations, and the hearts of rulers are changed and affected by the joined prayers of God's people in worship.  Consider that: God's people have more power in prayer than do the mightiest of rulers.  

When we read the word of God together, we remember his mighty works, the wonders he has performed, and the miracles he has done.  And we remember that God has promised that same power is available to those who believer.  

When the word of God is preached it does not return void.  That is, it accomplishes all that God purposes to accomplish through it, either to soften hearts to his truth, or to harden them.  Either way, the word of God is powerful, and when it is declared faithfully, authoritatively, and prophetically it likewise has the power to build up, tear down, transform stony hearts into hearts of flesh, and make the dead come alive.  

When we gather around the communion table, we "declare the Lord's death until he comes."  This, too, is an act of great power.  Participation in communion is described by Paul as equivalent to a declaration of what Jesus has done.  And not only that, but also a declaration of what he will do (when he comes).  It is a symbolic and powerful act that declares the power of Christ in conquering death and sin and providing victory over the same through his death and resurrection.  When we proclaim the Lord's death, we are literally tapping into resurrection power.  

Furthermore, when we gather together as a community, we have the power to encourage one another, to provide divine support, confession, service, correction, and to intercede for one another through prayer.  All of this comes from spiritual power provided by God.  Were it not for him, we would have no such power to minister to one another.  

But there's more.  In fact, the church itself is a sign of the power that is ours.  The church is a band of disparate sinners who have all rallied under the banner of Christ.  This is no small feat, considering the multitude of differences that exist between us, and that would otherwise serve to divide us.  But in Christ, we have the power to overcome those differences and unite under our common allegiance to our Savior.  Through Christ we have the power to overlook our differences (or, probably more accurately, to see our differences for what they are in light of our unity in Christ).  Our unity in Christ is an action of God-fueled power.  

And we are also empowered to serve God and one another through the miraculous, supernatural gifts given to us by the Spirit of God.  All believers, regardless of their "natural" abilities, have been given supernatural gifts by God for the benefit of serving the church and reaching out t the world.  These gifts are not common, but are Spirit-empowered.  When we use the gifts God has given to us through his Spirit, we are enacting a great amount of divine power.  

As if all this weren’t enough, the powerful effect of gathering with other believers for worship causes us to love one another, encourage and be encouraged, and to be stirred up for good works (Hebrews 10.24). Going to church can and does have a powerful effect on believers.

Too often we think of attending church as something rather common, or perhaps more unfortunately, something that has become rote, or that we take for granted.  May it never be!  Instead, going to church to gather with the body of Christ is a supernatural act of power.  May we see it as such, and may we tap into this unending source of power.  But in order to do so, you have to actually go to church.  Better yet, you should join a church - better even still, become a member at Riverview!  The local church is the context that God has chosen to display his miracle working power.  Come, and be a part of it.  

No God But One: A Short Book Review

"The secret things belong to the Lord our God."  So says Deuteronomy 29.29.  The Apostle Paul agrees: "Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!  How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!"  

When it comes to the life and death of author and speaker Nabeel Qureshi, these are the only truths I can cling to when I try to understand why the Lord allowed him to die of stomach cancer in 2017.  By all accounts, Nabeel was poised to continue a dynamic gospel ministry to even larger platforms, reaching more people, and preaching the gospel to those who need to hear it.  An accomplished apologist and communicator, Qureshi's writing and speaking were persuasive and powerful.  It seemed to me that he was just beginning his rise to prominence and exposure, so that he could have the greatest impact for the kingdom.  So why would God see fit to end his life at the age of 35?  

"The secret things belong to the Lord our God."  

Without a doubt, the process of Nabeel's death was a testimony to the goodness of God.  Throughout his dying process, Nabeel created multiple videos where he talked about faith, life, and death.  His grim prognosis gave him a unique perspective by which he could talk about significant spiritual and eternal issues to a large audience.  You should take the time to watch some of his videos.  

A couple of years ago I read Nabeel's first book, "Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus" which told the story of his conversion from Islam to Christianity, and I was entirely enraptured by the book.  It was fascinating to read of his Muslim upbringing to the relationships he made with Christians that challenged his views, and whom God used to ultimately bring Nabeel to saving faith in Christ.  Throughout that book, Nabeel made passing comments about Muslim objections to Christian doctrine and briefly explained the intellectual process of first attempting to defend the Muslim faith, to ultimately conceding that it could not answer his questions in the way that Christianity could.  If you have not read this book, I highly recommend it to you.  

This year I read Nabeel's second book, "No God But One" and was once again blessed by his thought, passion, ability, heart for the lost, and love for the gospel.  The difference between the two books is that "Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus" is more of a biographical book about Nabeel, where as "No God But One" is an overarching defense of the Christian faith with some biographical bits scattered throughout.

"No God But One" is superficially billed as a defense of the Christian faith against the Islamic objections to it.  It is that, to be sure, but it is also so much more.  Rather, the strength of this book rests in Qureshi's ability to ask life's biggest questions and then to answer them from both the Muslim and Christian perspectives.  Having been a devout Muslim for the first 20+ years of his life, and a Christian until the time of his death, Nabeel is uniquely qualified to answer the questions from both perspectives (not to mention, he's no intellectual slouch, holding multiple degrees in multiple fields of study).  And his manner of writing is down to earth, accessible, and inherently readable and accessible to all.  I whole-heartedly recommend this book to you.  You will be blessed by it.  Here are some things you will gain if you read "No God But One":

1. You will better know how to defend your Christian faith and answer life's biggest questions.  As stated previously, the strength of this book is not so much a defense of the Christian faith as much as it is a training manual on how to answer the big questions.  Throughout this process, Nabeel examines what he calls the "positive evidence" and the "negative evidence" for the answer to those questions given by both Christianity and Islam.  For example, what is the "positive evidence" that Mohammed was the messenger of Allah?  What is the "negative evidence" for such a claim?   What is the positive and negative evidence that Jesus existed and that he died on the cross and rose again?  Can those claims coexist?  

2. You will know why your Muslim neighbors believe what they do about God, Jesus, and the Bible.  From the Muslim perspective there is quite a bit of overlap between Christianity and Islam.  For example, Muslims regard Christ as a great messenger of God, and the Bible as a message from God.  Why do they believe these things and yet not see Christ as Messiah?  Why do they not believe that Jesus died on the cross?  Why  do they not believe in a triune God?  As a former Muslim, Qureshi has particular insight into why Muslims believe what they do about Christianity.  This knowledge can help you gain a sympathy and love for your Muslim neighbors as you seek to share the gospel with them.  

3. You will learn more about Muslim culture.  In his discussion of Mohammed, Nabeel makes several connections between Muslim theology and Muslim culture.  For example, why do Muslims find it offensive to depict Mohammed in cartoons?  Nabeel explains the theological and cultural connections that create this offense.  Because of many cultural difference between Muslims and Christians, the thought of engaging Muslims in spiritual dialogue can be somewhat overwhelming for many Christians (including myself).  This book will help you see these details and know how to navigate them.  If the thought of engaging your Muslim neighbor in conversation about spiritual things makes you nervous, you need to read this book.  

4. You will increase your burden for the lost, especially for Muslims.  And that is always a good thing.  Nabeel's heart bleeds with a desire for lost people to come to know Jesus.  When you read his passion, you will find yourself sharing in it.  

5. You will discover what it looks like to lose the whole world and gain your soul.   In Christianity, we often flippantly talk about disciples of Jesus leaving everything to follow him.  Muslims like Nabeel (and a few others he mentions in the book) know exactly what it means to leave everything to follow Jesus because they actually did.  Conversion to Christianity in the Muslim culture is not taken lightly.  The testimony of these fellow believers will serve to strengthen you in your faith and firm up  your resolution  to boldly follow Christ.    

6. You will increase your love of the gospel and your desire to share it with others.  Nabeel does an excellent job of presenting and defending the gospel message in relevant ways.  I came away from this book with a greater appreciation for God's saving work in the gospel.  If a book can do that for  you, it's worth a read.  

There are numerous other positive elements to Nabeel's writing and thinking that would take too much room to list.  The only negative aspect of Quereshi's story and writing, in my opinion, is the weight that he gives to revelatory dreams.  That is, he believes that God can and does speak to people through dreams.  Indeed, Nabeel himself would attribute the determining factor of his conversion to a series of dreams he had in which God appeared to him.  I do not believe that such a thing is impossible, but rather the notion  of God communicating with individuals through dreams is one that can get out of hand quickly, so when we declare that God has spoken through a dream, we should do so slowly, and with much thought before hand.  To his credit, I believe Nabeel does this.  

As an added bonus, I recommend that you consider "reading" this book as an audiobook (as I did).  The book is read by the author, and he does a wonderful job of narrating his writing.