The Common Rule

Book: Earley, Justin. The Common Rule: Habits of Purpose for an Age of Distraction

Point: Our daily habits form us. If we are not intentional about those, or if we buy into the lie that unrestrained freedom is the good life, we will wither.

Path: Earley helps those of us lost in our business to begin to order our lives around 8 keystone habits. These simple (not necessarily easy) habits form how we view ourselves, others, our world, and our God. These are separated into two categories, daily and weekly and include: (Daily) Kneeling prayer, Meal with others, Phone-free hour, Scripture before phone, (Weekly) Hour conversation with a friend, Curated media, 24 Hour fast, and Sabbath.

Agreement: This book was a challenge to me. I appreciate much of what he said. Some of the habits were new to me, some were not. Some I continue to practice, some I have yet to try. I have even incorporated other habits not mentioned in this book, but as a direct result from reading it.

The simplicity of the habits is deceptive. Some are really hard. I could feel myself fighting against them. For example, putting the phone away for an hour was revealing for me.

I don’t disagree with any of the keystone habits he has chosen. They are good. There are other ones, for sure, but these are helpful.

Earley is both thoughtful and interesting in his writing. I enjoyed reading the book. The simple charts were helpful to reorientate myself in the overall movement of the book, in the same way that the habits themselves help me to reorientate myself daily and weekly.


He is a good writer, however there are points in the book where an idea or a sentence sounds great, but it fails because it is 1) false; 2) unproven; or 3) vague. In those moments I could sense the undercurrent into which we easily fall, namely, “Everyone is saying it, and it sounds good, so it must be true.”

Here are some examples from the chapter on prayer:

“I believe in the power of words – and especially the words of prayer – to shape the world” (32). Is this sentence, and the paragraphs surrounding it, saying his words are powerful, his praying is powerful, the one he is praying to is powerful, or all three? There is truth here, but it is vague.

“There are two kinds of prayer” (34). Only two? Are there more? Where do you get this from?

“You say your prayers until your prayers say you. That’s the goal.” (43) Is this true? Is it false? It may be true, but where do you get that from? Help me to understand why it is true.

His epilogue, On Failure and Beauty, was both encouraging and confusing. I recognize that trying to live a thoughtful life is not easy. There will be failure. But what is this “failure”? How do you defining “failure”? Is failure just another way to say, “I didn’t pursue a thoughtful life”? By failure do you mean sinning against others by responding in anger, indifference, or apathy? If failure “is making you a work of art” (166), I need to know what that failure is. I think if he were to switch out the word “failure” with “dependence”, “humility”, “faithfulness”, or perhaps another word, I would be able to better understand his point. As it stands, this appears to be a “you’re messed up and I’m messed up, so we are good” type concession. That may make me feel ok about myself, but that doesn’t help me. I need to hear that God’s mending is what makes all things beautiful, not my “fault lines” (166).

Personal App: Living life without intentional habits to reorientate me toward God and others will numb my relationships, shrivel my soul, and hasten my body to the grave.

Favorite Quote: “But the rest that our souls need is not simply a nap. It’s the rest that comes with realizing we don’t have anything to prove anymore” (147)

Who should read this:

If you are expecting this to be the foundational book of any of these ideas, you will be disappointed. It was not written to be that. There are excellent books on prayer, fasting, community, etc. This book was written, not as the go-to manual, but as a reality check to get you interested in a life that is possible because of God’s work. This book serves as an agent of change in the same way a hallway of a home serves hospitality – people pass through it to the larger rooms. For that, I am thankful for this book. I will re-read it. I will recommend it.

Stars: 4 out of 5

Other books along this theme would be:

Reinke, T. 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You

*I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.

The promise fulfilled

We just finished our four week series in the Panoramic Picture of the Bible. The promises fulfilled in Christ give us hope that the promises of Christ will be fulfilled as well.

“Your heart must not be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if not, I would have told you. I am going away to prepare a place for you. If I go away and prepare a place for you, I will come back and receive you to Myself, so that where I am you may be also.  You know the way to where I am going.”

John 14:1–4 (HCSB)

Celebrate Life!

Today is our annual Celebrate Life Day. Every year it is a day of mixed joy and pain, laughter and weeping. Every year. This year. We celebrate life today because four years ago Tanzen was born. We celebrate life today because four years ago we almost lost Crystal to her stroke. This year we celebrate life because we have watched our beloved Ita step from this world into her eternal home. 

We take our celebration seriously. Today is not a day that we wallow in sentimentalism or bask in trivialities. 

We will not hold our daughter’s hand and think of how lucky we are.

We will not step into the sunshine with Crystal and forget that she can walk.

We will not relegate Ita’s existence to a place in our hearts or happy memories. Whether or not her memory lives on within me makes no difference. Her existence has not ended.
No. We will take this celebration seriously because we take life seriously. We take eternity seriously. We take joy seriously.
We will not forget that we are more than particles and energy.

We will not forget that every breath we have is a gift. 

We will not forget that evil is real and not an opinion. 

We will not forget that death is painful and will one day be eliminated.

We will not forget that life is hard and tears sting.

Today we celebrate life.
We celebrate because the Maker has given us one more day. We celebrate because he has promised that there is more to come. Celebrate with us!


The real challenge of Christian living is not to eliminate every uncomfortable circumstance from our lives, but to trust our sovereign, wise, good, and powerful God in the midst of every situation.

– Macarthur, Anxious for Nothing 

How then should we choose? by Huffman

How Then Should We Choose? Three Views on God’s Will and Decision Making
by Douglas S. Huffman (editor)
Product Details
  1. Hard cover: 269 pages
  2. Publisher: Kregel
  3. Date Published: 2009
Point: Discerning God’s will and making decisions accordingly is a crucial element of the Christian walk. This book displays three different perspectives on the issues.
Path: The editor, Douglas S. Huffman has brought together three of the leading views on God’s Will and Decision Making. He incorporates the “Specific-Will” view presented by the Blackabys (authors of Experiencing God), the “Way of Wisdom” view presented by Garry Friesen (author of Decision Making and the Will of God), and the “Relationship View” presented by Gordon Smith (author of Listening to God in Times of Choice).
The editor then compares the various views and provides a valuable bibliography at the end.
Sources: Each view attempts to base their view on Scripture, the Blackabys believe that special revelation is normative for today. “If the Bible does not present a picture of the normative Christian life, then there is no other place Christians can turn to see how they should relate to God today.” [37)].
Friesen believes that the Word of God is sufficient. “Where God commands, we must obey. Where there is no command, God gives us freedom (and responsibility) to choose. Where there is no command, God gives us wisdom to choose. When we have chosen what is moral and wise, we must trust the sovereign God to work all the details together for good.” (102) 
Smith believes that the mystical is paramount. “What I hope we will see is that Christ is so present to our lives that we simply cannot choose ‘on our own.’”
Agreement: I found this volume to be the most helpful in my study of these various views. I have never read a 3 views or 4 views book and been disappointed. They are an excellent way to get into the conversation. They will help the student to see the basic tenants of each view in a short amount of time.
Disagreement: My own view most closely resembles that of Friesen’s, although slightly modified. I found that the Blackaby’s responses were rather trite in places. As far as the presentation by Smith, it appeared to be overloaded with case studies on particular believers in the past.
Stars: 4.5 out of 5
It would be worth another read and I would recommend it.

If this review was helpful, let me know here

Tactics by Koukl

Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing your Christian Convictions
by Gregory Koukl
Product Details
  1. Paperback: 200 pages
  2. Publisher: Zondervan
  3. Date Published: 2009
Point: The defense of the Christian faith begins with a proper understanding of the attack.
Path: Koukl demonstrates a handful of tactical questions which are able to cut to the heart of the primary objections and misunderstandings of the Christian faith. Following the role of the famous detective, Columbo, the author explains how a reasonable answer begins with a thoughtful questions. “What do you mean by that?” “How did you come to that conclusion?” and “So, if I understand you correctly, you are saying that…” all represent simple questions which will disarm most preconceived notions about the foolishness of the faith.
Sources: Koukl relies heavily on the evidentialist apologetic, in line with men such as Strobel, Geisler, Craig, etc.
Agreement: I appreciate Koukl’s intent – teaching the believer how to be an Ambassador for the faith, more discussion and diplomacy than fighting and confrontation. 
His tactics are simple and thoughtful.
The book is easy to read and provides a variety of illustrations, making it easy envision a conversation.
The strength of this book is in the Columbo method.
Disagreement: I don’t care for referring to conversion as “sealing the deal” or “closing”. 
I am not sure how far I would go in saying that you can argue someone into the kingdom (although his critique of “loving someone into the kingdom” was very timely). I believe a defense of the faith is primarily a defense, and he does an excellent job at making the assailants stop and think.
Personal App: Am I thoughtfully listening and responding to what people are really saying about biblical teaching?
Favorite Quote: “As with the emperor and his imaginary clothes, all it takes is one person to calmly say, ‘You’re naked.’ That’s the power of Columbo” (104).
Stars: 4.5 out of 5
It would be worth another read and I would recommend it.

If this review was helpful, let me know here