Books I’ve Reviewed


511DWOzzaTL._SX319_BO1,204,203,200_How to be a Perfect Christian by a couple of really talented guys over at The Babylon Bee showed up in my mailbox a few days ago. A gift from Multnomah for being part of their reviewing group. A gift is not quite the right word. Perhaps something more along the line of a treasure.

As a long time follower of The Bee, I couldn’t wait to get into the book. If you are easily offended or put off by heavy satire and sarcasm, then this is not the read for you. Every page and nearly every Christian preferential viewpoint is brutally exposed to the knife of the two gifted writers of this book.

There is no rock unturned in pointing out the foolishness we Christians tend to embrace in our pursuit of walking out the faith. Through pointed, often nearly sacrilegious exposition of everything we hold near and dear, the guys expose the folly of trying to achieve the title of the book.

The handbook includes chapters on finding the right church, worshipping like a pro, serving without ever lifting a finger, quarantining your home, and fighting the culture war, among others. Each is a slap in the face throw down to smack the Church in her face regarding how poorly we fail in truly embracing the Biblical commands to love one another and to be salt and light in a dark, needy world.

Christians are known for fighting over nearly everything, and the Bee in their book, ram home the point as to why. This book is not to be read by the faint of heart. Every subject touched upon produces a smile, sometimes an audible laugh, and almost always a sigh for the truth of the points being made.

From Biblical misquotes to assigning obvious nonsense to historical figures, How to be a Perfect Christian will keep you turning pages to explore the path to perfection. Once you finish your journey, it becomes painfully obvious that the goal is only achieved in Christ and His work, not our own efforts. Why do we keep trying to replace the Cross and the work of our Lord? Read this book to find the answer to that question if you dare.

 

512SLnw4pPL._SS300_Receiving a death sentence has a way of getting our attention. When the word “cancer” leaves the mouth of the professional in the white coat, we can have a life-changing experience. We should.

Erwin Raphael McManus received that news and then wrote a book. Perhaps it was the other way around, but regardless, The Last Arrow, Save Nothing for the Next Life, is birthed from a life well lived and a vision to finish strong.

The challenge from the opening page is to not leave anything on the table when we check out of this life and enter into eternity. We have one life and we are expected to live it to the fullest for God’s glory and for His Kingdom.

Launching off from the story of Elisha commanding a pagan king to strike the ground with an arrow in 2 Kings 13, the author builds his case for not stopping short in this life, but finishing empty. Spend it all before it is too late. Give everything to the cause of Christ for once we are dead we can do no more.

Facing death often causes us to evaluate what we are doing and why. Sooner than later we all realize that we have a limited amount of time chasing unlimited options for spending it. In our minds, we all know we are going to die, but in our lives, we often live like we are not. This book challenges that thinking from the start.

I tend to look for quotes that motivate me and this book has plenty. Here are several that are worth pondering:

 

• I will take absolute control over my personal responsibility to develop and maximize whatever potential God has given me for the good of others.
• Perhaps the most powerful virtue was that they (samurai warriors) no tragedy in death, only in not living a life of service to their master.
• All of us have life principles – whether stated or unstated, conscious or unconscious – that define us. Although we might never give them language, we always give them power.
• If you are not where you want to be why do you keep choosing to stay where you are?
• Because the greatest mistake we make in life is to try to control the things we have no control over and to relinquish control over the things we can affect and change.

There are many more, but these give a flavor of the book and author’s main thought – take control of your life and finish strong. Or, do not leave arrows in your quiver for we cannot take them with us when we leave here.

One can lean towards guilt and fear about failure if this book is read without knowing that the Lord is the One that leads, guides and empowers and that His grace is sufficient to cover even our worst mistakes. Guilt never motivates as long as passion and vision do. This author is dripping with both passion and vision and that is evident on nearly every page.

A very good read, well-illustrated with many personal stories, and a strong challenge to live a life worthy of the calling we have received in Christ.

This book was provided by Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

 

61UObtk9EaLThe Air I Breathe: Worship as a way of life, is a short, fast, and powerful read. An older book that has been re-released recently and it is well worth the time. That is of course, if you want to be challenged in your daily walk with the Lord!

Louie Giglio is the founder of the Passion movement and after reading this short book, you can understand why he has been successful. Passion certainly flows out of the author and on the pages of the book.

The book is a clarion call to worship. Not just in our songs and during the weekly service, but with every breath we take. God created His children with the ability and inward desire to worship. Every human worships and we must be clear as to the target of that act.

Simply defined, Giglio explains worship as, “Worship is our response to what we value most.” While not a long definition, it certainly should cause us to pause and consider. What do we give our time, attention, and focus to? Who or what draws our deepest desires? What gets us motivated and excited? If it is not the Lord of the Universe, we need to rethink what we are doing and why. The author expounds on that definition with this thought – “Whatever you value most will ultimately determine who you are.”

We were made to worship and God is One that is worthy of that worship. I love this quote as well, “Our lives are on loan from God, a sacred trust of opportunities and decisions.” What a thought! Some day each of us will give an account of what we have done with this gift of life we have been given.
The book is quite God-honoring. For example, “God is always bringing the dead back to life. Giving the lost unending purpose. Turning rebels into worshippers. Awakening praise from the pits.” All excellent reasons to worship our Lord!

“Worship is a whole-life response to God’s greatness and glory.” And, “The true test of worship isn’t so much what we say, but how we live.” Both excellent insights into how our daily lives should begin and end in worship. How about this thought? “My witness was my work and my work was my worship.” I need to let that soak in for a decade or so!

The book also includes a set of questions for small groups and an excellent list of Scriptures used. In addition, there is an excerpt from another book by the author. One thought from these few pages is also excellent to consider: “This book is not about you and making your story bigger and better, but about you waking up to the infinitely more massive God story happening all around you…and discovering God’s invitation to join Him in it.” It is not about us, but about Him!

A great read full of wonderful thoughts that should prompt the reader to close their eyes and worship the unseen God!

This book was provided by Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

 

41zPZt51szL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_The Master Coach: Leading with Character, Building Connections, and Engaging in Extraordinary Conversations, is a great read. While I am not that far removed from the business world to be unaware of the term, “coaching,” I have not purposefully participated in the process. At least I didn’t think so until I read the book!

Gregg Thompson writes a clear manual on how to engage in the art of coaching. Anyone can be a coach, even pastors! In fact, if we are in any relationships at all, we probably have given or received coaching. The book opens up the window into what is going on behind the scenes of many relationships we already have.

While not a Christian book per se, the contents certainly are saturated in ethics, truth, authenticity, noble intentions, appreciation, and accountability. All of these traits should be involved in any pastoral or Christian relationship and not simply limited to the secular business world.

I was initially concerned with the goal of the book because I don’t have a desire to become a master coach. That concern was easily removed as the book unfolded. If we are involved with people, we will coach. And, if we are going to coach, then we should learn how to do it well. The book is a perfect manual for this goal.

Consider this sentence and see if it should not apply to any business, church or ministry?

“A master coach is a catalyst for sustained personal change in individuals that in turn will tangibly impact the organizations in which they work and communities in which they live.”

Who does not want that? If we are not involved in helping others grow and change, we should probably consider a different line of work. Or, how about this quote:

 “Coaching is an attitude and a commitment to having a positive influence on the lives of others.”

When I consider the job description of a pastor, elder, leader or manager at any level, this must be our goal. We need help in learning how to have a positive influence on others. This book is great at stimulating such thoughts.

Most of us struggle with relationships on some level and often it is related to the irritations caused by those other people. Think about this sentence the next time those people’s quirks begin to bother you:

 “In order to deliberately seek out others’ highest potential, the great coach intentionally overlooks their shortcomings and limitations.”

As I said, we all need help in growing!

The book is populated with great quotes that should cause us to pause and reflect deeply:

  • “We may very well be the butterfly who causes a hurricane. We never know where our impact will spread and we may never see its results directly.”
  • “What occupies the biggest real estate in your mental space? Does it serve you well?”
  • “This will allow you to create the habit of fully experiencing your emotions while consciously selecting your reactions.”
  • “Courage is doing the unpopular when you know it is the right thing to do.”
  • “Fundamental Attribution Error – we generally attribute our own behavior to situational influences but tend to blame the actions of others on character.”
  • “Other people cannot make us feel happy or sad; they just give us information.”
  • “…asking yourself whether your words will be an improvement on silence.”

There are of course many more, but these should give a flavor of the insight provided. Our lives matter to many, and we all have a great deal to share with others. Even our failures are of value if it helps someone not repeat them.

In addition to the excellent chapters, the book is populated with checklists that I found very helpful.

  • Top 10 Coaching Mistakes
  • 7 Steps Leaders Can Take
  • Top 10 Qualities of Great Coaches
  • The 60 Big Coaching Questions

There were many others and just the lists included would make the book worth reading.

Gregg Thompson has written an excellent book that might just live up the quote on the front cover by Marshall Goldsmith – “The Master Coach could well become the definitive book on creating a coaching culture.”

I highly recommend this book to anyone that wants to learn how to become a positive influence in the lives of others. In others words, everyone!

 

 

 

 

511bneXh3YL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_The Old Testament Case for Nonviolence was sent to me for an honest review. I don’t know Matthew Fleischer, though we have exchanged emails regarding the delivery of the book.

First, Mr. Fleischer is an attorney and his training and attention to detail surfaces in every chapter. The author does an excellent job of presenting his case, and yes, I chose that word on purpose! Like any trained lawyer, the author builds his case one step at a time, and in great detail.

The logic used is consistent throughout the book. While ultimately, we will disagree upon his conclusions, at least in part, his logic and case presented are consistent and worth reading.

I was unfamiliar with many of the resources quoted and my eyes were opened to a section of the Body of Christ unknown to me before reading the book. There appears to be an entire part of the Church that believes and preaches with great passion non-violence for any reason. My ignorance on the topic has now been dealt with.

There is a great deal within the pages of the book that I agree with, so please don’t throw it all out over my conclusions on matters where we disagree. The author does an excellent job of explaining God’s incremental revelation of Himself, and even how God moved along the primitive human experience to the beautiful one finally revealed in Christ. This section of the book is worth the study time and thoughts and is very well done.

Many difficult issues are addressed and by understanding what God was doing in changing not only His own people, but setting up an example for the entire known world to follows, helps explain some difficult texts.

These issues include slavery, the abuse of women, the murder of children, and such difficult topics contained in the Old Testament. Again, while I may not hold entirely to the explanation the author provides, I applaud the effort to attempt to provide one.

The first nine chapters are excellent and the author does a great job presenting his case. The rest of the book, while well written and consistent from my point of view slips quickly into eisegesis or sometimes spelled isogesis, not exegesis.

The chapter entitled, “Maybe God Didn’t Do It,” was rough to read. The stretch to reach such a place, while still attempting to hold to the inspiration of Scripture was painful to endure. While stating, “We must not try to define God ourselves,” the author does exactly that in this and the following chapters.

The attempt to force God and the Scriptures into the nonviolence box, while understandable considering the topic covered, is difficult to accept. I’m not mocking the attempt, nor the motives behind it; I’m just saying the objectivity flew out the window in order to make the point.
I could even agree on many points within these chapters except for the punchlines, or summations made such as: “we must conclude that God is entirely nonviolent,” and “Jesus removed all violence from the law.” No, we do not have to conclude either of those things.

In another chapter, a false forced choice is set up between trusting the Old Testament writers or the New Testament writers for both can’t be correct. Really? We will agree to disagree on that one.

As the author moves to his conclusions, even more question marks appear in the margin of the book I was given to review. “As the first nine chapters of this book demonstrate, God is opposed to all human violence, even if he sometimes uses violence himself.” That conclusion is the authors and clearly contradicts God’s direct commands to use the death penalty throughout the law. Multiple places God directly ordered His people to war and to kill people.

In the final chapter on conclusions, the author violates his own statements – “We simply have to read it (OT) carefully enough to avoid jumping to scripturally unsupported conclusions.” Attempting to swat away hundreds of Scriptures regarding commands of God that do indeed reflect violence is a fulfillment of what the author just wrote not to do.

The author also claims that violence should be nonexistent as in the New Testament. While he did not develop the book of Revelation at all, I guess all the death and judgment and eternal punishment must simply be allegorical or explained away.

One last reaction from the conclusion section, because this is getting long and not intended to be so negative. This sentence is a perfect example of the aforementioned eisegesis – “So God sent in the prophets to keep his antiviolence message alive, to give Israel a vision of a future entirely free of violence, and to complete preparations for Jesus’ arrival.” And, the OT ends with a yearning for peace, a hunger for an end to all war and violence…Interesting, for Malachi 4:6 speaks about restoring the hearts of the fathers back the children, and if the people of God didn’t obey, God would unleash destruction upon them.

So, overall the book is worth reading to expose the reader to the viewpoint within this section of the Body of Christ. The author does an excellent job of detailing his arguments and the footnotes are extensive. I would expect nothing less from an attorney.

While I will disagree with the author’s conclusions, I do commend and support his right to maintain them. I trust that those that read the book will be blessed by the attempt to justify God, but will do their own research into how to deal with this topic of violence.

51raYZvG7FL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_The Chalk Man was both good and frustrating. My expectations were high due to the hype on the cover and there was an anticipation of the plot developing that never quite arrived. The story is good, moves along nicely and is very well written. I was just primed for more than the story ultimately delivered.

Bouncing back and forth in time is a common fiction usage and the author does it quite well. The story seemed to promise the supernatural or at least something out of this world, yet as the novel unfolds, we are taken into the realm of the mind, not some otherworldly place. Though, the mind is often scary enough.

The plot is pretty straightforward and if you pay attention, the ending is not really as much of a surprise as the back cover had promised. I don’t want to be overly negative, because the story was very well written and does carry the reader all the way to the end in a quick read.

I cannot recommend the book to a younger audience due to some sexual scenes and profanity here and there. There is also a not so subtle attack against religion and Christianity throughout the book. Why is it that so many British authors hate Christianity I wonder? Anyway, be warned if you read the book that there is homosexual child rape, profanity, smoking and an anti-Christian bias throughout.

Overall the author provides a chilling view into the mind of disturbed people. In addition, many insights are given into what it is like to be a child and a disappointed, frustrated middle-aged man. If I have judged the author’s photo correctly she is neither, so well done on that creative writing aspect!

This book was provided by Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

51UV14l2C+LOtherworld, by Jason Segela and Kristen Miller is a fun fiction read and all too close to possible. With the push for more realistic escape through technology, the authors have simply taken that desire and made it real in print. Of course, it’s fiction but time will reveal that they are not that far off from a possible reality.

The story is an engaging one centered on a love story between two unlikely kids from different sides of the tracks. Not unique, but the twist is most of the story takes place with the frame of an alternate reality provided by a sinister group called, The Company.

With a headset, gloves and typical VR type gear, one can be transported into another world of their own choosing. Every aspect of fun or depravity can be explored without consequence. Or can it? What would happen if the game took a dark turn? What would take place if the computer-generated characters meant to be part of the scenery and backdrop became alive or self-aware?

Beyond the typical VR experience, The Company has been kidnapping sick, damaged people and using them as test subjects on a more advanced version of the game. What could possibly go wrong with that idea?

What would happen to these people that die in the VR world, would they get to start over like their counterparts in the early version, or would they die in the real world? For that matter, what is the real world anymore?

Well written, tight plot, lots of twists and a fast moving read. Except for the gratuitous swearing required for some reason, the book is worth the time to escape and leaves you hoping for a sequel.

Blogging for Books provided this book in exchange for an honest review.

51Qxwy9cxsLNyxia, by Scott Reintgen, is one excellent read. I love sci-fi and this title did not disappoint. In fact, it went beyond my expectations. It seems many authors need to mess up the story with sex, swearing, and off-color humor. This title had almost none of that! Thank you, Mr. Reintgen for telling the story without the junk.

It’s easy to get involved with the main character and the cast that he battles throughout the book. The action is intense and the story deepens as the pages speed by. The author does an excellent job of telling the story while creating the feeling that you can’t wait to see how it all turns out in every chapter.

The story centers around Emmett, a poor kid from the wrong side of the tracks. Invited to travel to a new mysterious planet, Emmett is pitted against his fellow travelers in a non-stop, sometimes lethal competition to be one of the finalists. There are ten on the ship but only eight will make it to fame, fortune and the planet.

As the pages fly by, many twists and plot turns come into focus. The feeling is created that something is just not right with this game or the guy in charge of it. What is being hidden and why? What is this mysterious Nyxia anyway? What is its true potential and to whom? Many questions and even some answers unfold as you read along.

I won’t ruin the story, but the plot is tight, the characters are a wonderful mix, and the story left me hoping the sequel wouldn’t take too long to write. Even as I approached the end of the book, I was looking forward to seeing what happens in the next edition.

Nyxia is a well written, entertaining book that draws you in quickly and doesn’t let go easily.

This book was provided by Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

imagesIt’s not often that the hype on the cover falls short of the story within the book, but in Convicted, it does. This gripping story of real-life polar opposites moved me to deal with many of my own preconceived ideas of others.

It is easy sometimes to simply look at someone and “know” who they are and what they are thinking. How many times do we take a glance, size them up, and categorize the person we have never spoken to. This true story of two men shoves that point correctly into the reader’s mind often. As it should.

A crooked cop knows that the young black man from the wrong side of town must be a drug dealer. He does not listen, in fact, refuses to even consider the possibility that the kid may be telling the truth. After all, he fits the profile. If the facts don’t quite line up, well, just adjust them to do so. The goal is to remove drugs from the street, not to listen to some kid’s excuses.

The wrongly convicted young man seethes in hatred and desires nothing more than to slowly beat the crooked cop to death when he finally sees him again. Who could blame him? Everything and everyone fight against the young man.Can God intervene and rewrite the story?

I won’t ruin the punchlines but the book cover gives away plenty. God is real and He loves both these men. Can God lead these two men, that should hate each other to actually love one another? Can God’s grace, love, and mercy overcome racial bigotry and lead even these men to forgiveness?

What will happen when they finally meet after prison? Will the wronged young man kill the crooked cop? Read it to find out!

An excellent book that is a page-turner that spoke clearly to my heart. May the Lord open a wide door of readership for this work.

This book was provided by Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

51ld4lFaDLL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_If you like details and descriptions, this is the book for you! Having never been to Europe, I was a bit lost at times trying to visualize the endless names of cities, counties, and locations in England. That aside, the continuing story of Martians invading the world is a riveting ride.

The Massacre of Mankind, Sequel to War of the Worlds is just that, a sequel. The story picks up a few years after the initial invasion of the “men from Mars.” Most of us have probably either read the book or seen the movie, so we immediately have an image in mind. Sounds of the death rays and the 100’ high fighting machines come flooding back into the brain.

The book does not disappoint in carrying over the image and sounds. The Martians come back and this time they are ready to stay. In fact, they are more than ready and instead of a few landings in England, it’s a full-fledged invasion that hits around the globe.

Strap in for details, details and more details regarding the machines, their occupants and even down to their blood feeding habits. I knew they came here for more than the scenery! This second invasion will not easily be defeated by some germ, for the Martians are smart and they have learned from their first failed attempt.

Can the earth be saved? Will another fluke answer help stop this horde of blood-sucking invaders? They are way beyond us poor humans in brainpower and their technology blows our best defenses out of the water with ease. Is there no hope?

I won’t spoil the plot for you but the answer rests beyond. One never knows who is watching this little blue orb we call home.

A fun, quick read, with the detail caveat mentioned earlier. If you liked the original, you will love the sequel. If you never heard the first invasion, then watch the movie first. You will glean a great deal more from the book if you do. Well worth the read!

This book was provided by Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

51Oq0tJdERLFollow the Cloud, by John Stickl, is an excellent reminder that our goal in life is to live. We are not to be dominated by fear or hesitation, but by walking daily in the light of our marvelous Savior’s love.

After reading this pastor’s book, I understand why he has such a vibrant ministry. The ability to communicate in memorable phrases abounds on nearly every page. Consider just a few of the ones I highlighted with my trusty yellow pen:

• Jesus is the narrow gate that leads to a wide life.
• A heart full of faith gives us eyes full of vision
• …understanding always comes through obedience
• Remember, your future is always on the other side of your fear.
• The last thing you want to talk about is probably the first thing Jesus wants to address.
• Jesus is always more concerned with your next step than your misstep.
• We don’t take steps to become someone we take steps because we are someone.

There are dozens more of these type nuggets. Each of these thoughts and the many others lead me to think deeper about my relationship with my Father. The amazing grace displayed by sending Jesus and the Holy Spirit for His children is beyond anything but worship. And, as Stickl so aptly states, Worship reconnects the drifting heart to the Anchor of our souls.”

Two final thoughts that sum up the Follow the Cloud theme – “Destiny is not about finding tomorrow; it’s about walking with God today. It’s not a destination; it’s a way of life.” And, “Kingdom people are God’s answers to the world’s prayers.”

Our lives matter and God has a will and purpose for each one of His children. We draw near to Him, learn to live in His presence, and they walk out and change our world.

The book is an excellent read and I intend to make it mandatory reading for those that work with me.

Blogging for Books provided this copy to me in exchange for an honest review.

51Pqu8mhrtLBreak Open the Sky is a clarion call to real Christianity instead of simply playing church. Stephan Bauman while attempting to shake the typical pew sitter out of fear, walks fearlessly into many former safe zones.

Consider this sentence for example: – “I am convinced that much of what we call faith is really not faith at all; instead it’s a culture that has developed around faith. More broadly, I am concerned our version of Christianity has become, in part, only an echo of the real thing.”
Bauman continues to explain that much of the church is driven by sales, growth, and numbers more than love, charity, and service to the downcast.

The book is roughly centered around Jesus’ teaching in the Beatitudes, though it would be hard to pin it down there exactly. Each of these sentences from Jesus’ famous teaching in Matthew 5 is touched upon and usually, an application is made from a story from a far-off country Bauman either lived or served in.

Great lessons of faith to learn to overcome fear are presented in multiple stories. Wonderful sentences such as this are to be found throughout – “…that we can make suffering an intimate friend is a notion as old as our faith, but it is reserved for those willing to view suffering as an unlikely teacher, yet one dripping with wisdom.”

At the heart of the book is love, God’s love working itself out through those of us that have received it. “Unlike grace, which requires revelation, love requires demonstration-tangible expressions of compassion through everyday actions, not just words.” The author actually expects his readers to overcome fear and walk in love towards those among us that need it the most. How novel of a thought in our day, yet how powerful!

We are challenged in each chapter to step out of our comfort zone and into helping others. We can learn a great deal from others as we lay aside our prejudices and preconceived ideas. Wisdom often comes disguised in a trial or even a bag lady, if we have eyes to see.

The book’s purpose to me seems to be to help move us from inaction to action, from self to outward love, from fear to faith, and not just any kind of faith but the kind of faith James wrote about – being seen by our actions.

Well worth the read and is thought provoking on multiple levels. This book was provided by Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

51p+4pNx6fL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_City of Miracles, by Robert Jackson Bennett, concludes a trilogy of fantasy stories following the exploits of an assassin named Sigrud. Sigrud is good, very good at his trade. In fact, he seems to never age or slow down like ordinary people.

Sigrud remains strangely the same compared to his peers. Age does not touch him. It seems neither can death no matter how close or how powerful. There is some sort of protection covering him. Probably better stated a miracle.

There is a strange scar. A history. A life regretted. There is pain, loss and a constant nagging about something bigger than what is visible to the naked eye. It seems like the life that is lived by most is not the actual life being lived by others.

Mystery. Intrigue. Suspense. Supernatural activities and plot twists abound in this novel exploring life and the very difficult choices we are often forced to make. Every choice has consequences, but how do we know we made the right ones? What would have happened, or could have happened if we chose differently?

Can one emotionally and physically scarred man make a difference for the entire world? Will it all come down to the choices that he makes to save or ruin everyone? Has Sigrud really lived as long as he has simply to do nothing? Can his scar actually be the saving grace for all?
City of Miracles is a fast-paced page turner as might be expected for a successful novel series. It does not disappoint.

Other than a few unnecessary f-bombs, the book is acceptable for most readers. In fact, while not a Christian novel, one thought is profoundly motivating:

“What a tremendous sin impatience is, he thinks. It blinds us to the moment before us, and it is only when that moment has passed that we look back and see it was full of treasures.”

Deep truth indeed. Life is full of opportunities, choices, successes, and failures. Each makes a mark on our lives and countless others. This is true in our world and in the one created by Robert Bennett. All will be resolved in Sigrud’s world and you will finish the book with a sense of both completeness and contentment. I wonder if that could be said of our life and world as well?

This book was provided by Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

51wokPNjJOL._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_It’s not often that I describe reading a book as an experience, but in this case, it is the only word that fits. Eugene Peterson’s As Kingfishers Catch Fire, is a work to be felt.

As I was enjoying this book of sermons, the words of the Queen of Sheba kept going through my mind – “Happy are these your servants, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom!” 2 Chronicles 9:7(b)

Dr. Peterson and I could not be more different in our preaching styles, yet every message he wrote spoke to my heart and soul. My respect for the insights shared and the word pictures painted cannot be exaggerated.

After reading this book, I have gained so much appreciation for Dr. Peterson’s skills as both an orator and translator. The breadth of knowledge of the English language has inspired me to dig deeper for insights for my own congregation.

Dr. Peterson’s insights and reflection on the usage of the metaphor throughout Scripture is worth the price of the book alone. I will never read the varied stories of the Bible without considering the lens presented within the pages of this book.

Here are just a few statements that gave me pause for deeper reflection, and isn’t that what both a sermon and book should do?

• Preaching is important. It develops an imagination adequate to embrace revolution.
• If we pray without listening, we pray out of context.
• Prayer is not a way in which we order things; it is a way we become ordered.
• Our purpose in gathering each Lord’s Day is to prepare us to live what we hear, to get what we hear with our ears into our feet as we follow Jesus.
• And prophets insist that we deal with God as God reveals himself, not as we imagine him to be.

There are hundreds of these type sentences scattered throughout the book and enough food for deep thought to last this me for quite some time. I will be returning to Dr. Peterson’s thoughts repeatedly to plumb the depths of this excellent book.

If you are a pastor looking for inspiration or someone that simply enjoys excellent sermons, this gathering of forty-nine will keep you busy enjoying God for a long, long time. I highly recommend this work.

This book was provided for Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

51VInJbMfKL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_Eleanor, by Jason Gurley, is a fascinating combination of fiction types. Part science fiction, part time travel, part soap opera, and part metaphysical, Eleanor is primarily a story of regret and redemption.

Tragedy and death hit a family killing a twin daughter, but this is not the first death in their history; or is it? One is not quite sure for most of the story what happened before these twins were born.

This well-written story moves quickly and jumps between realms and historical moments often blurring the lines so much you can’t quite tell who is who or what is real. Perhaps that is what makes this novel so entertaining and fast paced.

Pain and heartache often visit, but how we cope with it can impact generations. Some leave and others stay but give into drugs or the bottle to help numb the always present sorrow. Many are unaware of the consequences of their actions upon others, and therein is one of the themes of Eleanor. All of us have others in our lives that will be affected by the way we deal with pain and sorrow.

The religious aspects of the novel are missing, but the author does explore what happens after death somewhat. I won’t spoil the ending, but it centers on making changes to the past to correct or create perhaps a different future. Would we make the same choices if given the opportunity? Would it really change anything or make any difference if we did choose?

Overall Eleanor is an excellent read. The perfunctory inclusions of scattered f-bombs seem unnecessary, but alas, the modern writers seem bent on inclusion to assure us of reality and relatability I assume. It’s too bad really because they are not necessary to a very well written story. Since Mr. Gurley included them, I, therefore, cannot recommend this story to younger readers.

I look forward to reading other works by this talented author. This book was provided by Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

51oVySz5SEL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Life After Heaven; How My time in Heaven Can Transform Your Life on Earth, by Steven Musick with Paul Pastor, is not your typical “I visited heaven,” book. Yes, there is some description of what takes place on the “other side,” but the bulk of the book focuses on why that reality should influence our current one.

The author traces his life from the early days to the current one and shows us how the reality of heaven should make a difference in our here and now. Heaven is real but that is not our primary concern. What matters from the author’s point of view, is that heaven should be invading the temporal, and is not something that we just bide our time waiting for.

The author’s description of his experience fits into what is typically understood by those that have either died or nearly did. Bright light, while tunnel, open fields with peace, joy and ease on the other side of the journey. Musick’s includes an extended dialogue with Jesus as the Lord opens up the details of the author’s life. This happens to fit my expectation as well, so I hope what the author experienced is common to us all.

The author’s primary mission is to ask his readers to be observant of heaven all around us. Kingdom of Heaven bubbles is the term used. Written from a Charismatic experience point of view, I’m sure some anti or non-charismatic readers would be put off by the emphasis on personal experience, but they would be missing the larger point.

Yes, the author was “slain in the Spirit,” at a Vineyard church service. While under this multiple hour experience, the author returned to heaven and was also healed of a long-term disability while being told by Jesus, “that everything will be different now.” That proved to be very true.
Miraculously healed physically was just the beginning. Musick now began to experience little bits of heaven in his daily life. Moving in what would be probably referred to as the gifts of the Spirit, the author began to follow the daily leading into many “bubbles” of heaven.

I will let others argue over what is real, what is fake, and are the gifts still relevant in our day. The story told by the author is well worth reading. We all need to slow down and take stock of what is going on around us. While I have never seen the heavenly glow on someone like the author has, I have had supernatural experiences by listening and praying for others. Did heaven come down? Maybe.

The book is a fast read and worth the time. Most of us that would read this book would agree that heaven is real and that the Lord there wants to impact us here. That is the point of the book and I simply could not agree more with it.

41zDSx-maML._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_When ordering Enjoy; Finding the Freedom to Delight Daily in God’s Good Gifts by Trillia Newbell, I had no idea this book was primarily written for a female audience. As a male, I will attempt to translate.

My reasons for choosing this book included a nagging frustration over a discussion that keeps occurring regarding Christian Hedonism. A term, by the way, that I fully reject! While I understand the arguments, the term hedonism is simply too far gone to be Christianized in my humble opinion. Similar to using terms like, “Christian adultery,” or “Christian thievery,” I simply cannot come to grips with the frequent usage of the term hedonism.

“Enjoy,” is a term I can accept and embrace. Like the author, I fully embrace God’s call to enjoy, rejoice in, accept, find pleasure in, and delight in His good gifts without feeling guilty for doing so. Yes, we need balance and life is not all about smelling the roses, however, when we do stop to enjoy God’s flower, we are not sinning, but actually worshipping the Creator of that beauty.

The author does an excellent job of balancing enjoying and abusing. We are called to delight in God’s creation and His good gifts to us, not to worship or be consumed by them. The gifts and objects of enjoyment should draw us back to the Lord, not take His place in our lives.

From relationships, sexual pleasure with marriage, money, creation, art, and life itself, the author covers most of the opportunities we possess to enjoy this life and the One behind it. All of these gifts, and many more, should help deepen our relationship with our God. God did not give us gifts, emotions, the ability to enjoy in order to tempt us, but to help us walk through this life in preparation for the next.

The book also includes a weekly plan to help implement the content of the chapter, as well as a study guide with questions at the end of the book. Both of which are also very well done.

While I am not in the habit of reading books intended for a female readership, I am grateful that I did read this one. I would encourage you to do the same.

This book was provided by Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

51g9t9qqd0l-_sx311_bo1204203200_Tony Perkins’ No Fear is an excellent, encouraging, enlightening, edifying, enjoyable, okay, you get the idea, a really good book! The book is a collection of inspiring stories of real life people that took stands against oppressive, aggressive, powerful foes.

After each story, Perkins adds some personal touches from both Scripture and his world that help amplify the point of the struggle. Again, some very good insights from someone that has been in the trenches himself for many, many years.

Moving between tears and anger against such abusive behavior, each chapter unveils a story of courage in the face of overwhelming odds. Some end well and some the end is still in waiting. All will move you emotionally and hopefully provoke prayer. We have a foe, but we also serve the Almighty that empowers those that stand in His name and for His Word.

Fear is a normal response, but the author makes a compelling argument to fear the One that can destroy us in hell as opposed to man that can simply kill the body. Fear is to be expected in a battle, but victory comes to those that rest in the Lord. Sometimes that victory is seen and other times it will only be revealed in eternity.

Another excellent point to these stories is that the people are normal people. Students, small business owners, and everyday type people. Each has a story and every one of them is inspiring. We do not have to be famous to make a difference, just courageous in our faith.

Each chapter ends with some thought-provoking questions that would lend themselves to small ground discussions. Overall, I highly recommend this book for anyone that wants to be both challenged and encouraged.

This book was provided by Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

51uiqo6vyml-_sx327_bo1204203200_This book is a good read and helpful on multiple levels. The premise of the book is that our leadership skills are directly tied back to the greatest commandment as explained by Jesus. We are to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and if we want to be an extraordinary leader, we must learn to do the same in our leading. And, almost as an afterthought, though, it really is the main point, this leadership is demonstrated by the second greatest commandment Jesus gave, to love our neighbor as ourselves. As leaders, we will demonstrate extraordinary leadership as we walk in love towards those around us.
The book is broken down into three main parts also including an introduction and conclusion. Part One explains the need for leaders to grow from ordinary to extraordinary. Part Two develops the four aspects of leading with our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Part Three is one chapter and attempts to develop what extraordinary leadership actually looks like in practice. Though the weakest section of the book, there are truths to be gained here.
There are some wonderful pull quotes that I will direct your attention to:
• Our leadership will be evaluated by what we do, not what we intend.
• Paul prayed specifically that God would equip these leaders with wisdom. Paul didn’t pray, “God give me wisdom so that I can give them good direction.” No, he prayed that God would the Ephesians wisdom and revelation to navigate the challenges they were facing.
• We must be what we want others to be.
• Extraordinary leaders understand that when the gifts of staff members are aligned with their actions, the organization will achieve maximum effectiveness.
• Leaders keep their eyes on the big picture. They account for the unexpected.
• You must be relentless about coaching your staff to adjust the fractional discrepancies. (In reference to staying close to the organizational vision)
• We should focus on measuring results rather than on mandating a particular process.
• Every time you are able to tie everyday tasks to vision outcomes, you provide immeasurable motivation to teams.
• Patience and endurance are fueled by conviction. Conviction is the mark of a true vision. Conviction puts teeth on a passion.
• Strong visionary leaders must remember that vision leaks.
• Fear has stolen the future of countless leaders. (Mark Miller quote)
• You make wise decisions not so you can be popular but so you can do what’s best for everyone involved.
There are of course more, but these present a flavor of the insights provided in the book. Each of these quotes are surrounded with additional insight, but they represent the thoughts and truth presented in the work. These quotes were just some of the ones I highlighted in my copy.
The challenge is clearly presented by the author – for leaders to step up from being simply a good leader to being an extraordinary one. The author believes that every leader can become great, and should. The last few sentences in the book make this clear – “Extraordinary doesn’t mean perfect. Extraordinary means the pursuit of God’s Great Commandment. And in the pursuit of leading with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our strength, the perfecting continues.”
Well said. The book is worth reading and should have a place on every leader’s shelf.
Dr. Jeff Klick.

imagesJesus over Everything, by Clayton Jennings, is a story of redemption told through the eyes of a mover and shaker in the Millennial Generation. Mr. Jennings is not a pastor or theologian, but as he repeatedly states, he is a proclaimer of the Gospel.

Hundreds of thousands have flocked to his meetings and millions have seen his social media presentations. While Jennings states he is not an entertainer, he obviously must be somewhat able to engage an audience in our every changing, fast paced society.

Jennings states that he simply shares the Gospel. The real, not watered down version shared by most teachers in our day, at least according to him. I understand where he is coming from and why he states such things; I simply recoil at such broad brushing of thousands of my peers that love Jesus and honestly attempt to present the same Gospel.

The book is populated with personal stories and experiences from both the author and those that have shared with him. God is in the life-changing business and I am very grateful for that truth. Many have been touched through this young man’s teaching, and my criticisms aside, he seems to have an impactful ministry.

Jennings does point people to the One that can change their life. Each of us has a need and only Jesus can fill it. Aside from the harsh tone of the book, these truths come forth clearly. By harsh, I mean that Jennings calling card is to attack the status quo being almost a “shock jock” in his presentations.

On the premise that his generation is tired of lies and hypocrisy, Jennings claims to present the clear Gospel without the pretense of “most” Christian communicators. Again, a gross over exaggeration and unnecessary slam on many godly pastors. Yes, there are those fakes and those that present a fake Gospel message, but there are many that are preaching the real deal as well.

The book is long on personal stories and self-exaltation and frankly short of detail and depth. Yes, we need to be bold and straight-forward in our message. No, we do not need to attack everyone else and state that we are going to persecuted if we speak the truth. We will if the truth is Jesus, and we will rejoice. If we are attacked because we come off like a jerk, well, that is a different matter.

This review is a bit negative, but I genuinely hope the young man that wrote it will continue to walk with Jesus and impact millions for the Gospel. I also know, that men that are strong, state things strongly, and are willing to take a tough stand, often come across as harsh. I pray the author will grow in gentleness as he ages while not losing his passion for our Lord. Preach the Gospel speaking the truth in love.

This book was provided by Blogging for Books for an honest review.

tebowTim Tebow’s Shaken is an adventure into the heart and soul of one of the most polarizing figures in sports. Not to me, but given his blacklist from football, his always present haters, and those that almost constantly mock his Christianity, Mr. Tebow seems to bring out the worst in some.

I’m a football fan, though my tolerance for their ever left leaning political takes is driving me away, and anyone that can claim Tebow is not blacklisted has not watched much football. Each team keeps at least 3 quarterbacks and it is highly unlikely that Tebow is worse than some I have seen.

Anyway, the book gives a peek into the emotional and spiritual roller coaster of someone that is front and center in the public eye. The book is populated with stories from Tebow’s NFL career and how he dealt with being cut from three different teams.

Each chapter is an excellent mixture of story and application. The subtitle of the book is “Discovering your true identity in the midst of life’s storms,” and that about sums up the goal and reality of the book. Who we are, what we say, and how we overcome the struggles of this life is far more important that any trophies or fleeting glory we will receive from others. Fame is fleeting; character and what we do for others is not.

I’m sure A. J. Gregory helped put this book together into its current form, and I would commend her for her efforts. Well edited and written, the book reads quickly, yet remains inspiring. If you like football, insights into sports, and personal application, you will love this book.

One reoccurring message that resonates in each chapter is that God can do more with who and what we are than we ever dreamed. God is not limited by our failures, self-worth, or what others may think of us. The constant challenge Tim Tebow faced after his dream kept crashing was, is God’s plan better than my own? Excellent question and this book answers it clearly.

It really does not matter the hand we have been dealt; what matters is Who dealt it to us. Shaken also introduces us to multiple people that Tebow has met over the years that have helped him stay grounded and focused on what is really important – living for God and helping as many others as we can.

I loved the book and would recommend it to anyone that wants insight into the great young man.

Blogging for Books provided this review copy in exchange for an honest review to the satisfaction of all involved.

gapAn Old Tale Newly Twisted

The author’s premise for the book is excellent. Take a classic from one of history’s greatest writers and update it. This type of writing often works. The Gap of Time is a loose, modern telling of The Winter’s Tale by Shakespeare.

Winterson is a gifted writer evidenced by her many novels, though I found her style difficult to follow at times. Many pages had to be reread to figure out who was speaking and what was the point of the discussion.

The book does draw in the reader with a desire to finish it and figure out how all the character’s stories will end. And, the author does a nice job tying up all the loose ends, and if I remember correctly, the story roughly parallels Shakespeare’s tale of wasted relationships.
My knock on the book is more of personal one. The book is full of explicit cursing, sexual scenes including homosexual ones, and therefore reads more like an old trashy dime novel from bygone days, than a serious work of fiction. Why current authors feel the need to include gratuitous sexual scenes and f-bombs throughout their works, I fail to understand.

Overall the book fulfills its promise to reinterpret Shakespeare’s tale, but I could not recommend it due to its general tenor towards an R rating.

Jason B. Ladd sent me his book in exchange for an honest review. I do not know Mr. Ladd who stated he found me through my website, but I would like to say thanks for sending the book!

Second, I would like to thank Mr. Ladd for his service and sacrifice for our country. Third, I commend this marine for being willing to take a firm stand for righteousness in the midst of an ever-shifting sandy view of such matters. I would expect no less from one who serves in the Marine Corps.

In a general take, the book is full of comparative insights about searching for the truth of Christianity through lessons learned by being a Marine and more specifically, a fighter pilot. Mix in some antidotal stories from marriage and parenting, and you get a pretty good idea of the overall flavor of the book.

Moving to more specific thoughts, the book often makes poignant statements. For example:

• In the military, hope is not a course of action.
• Your children will establish a worldview. It will either develop from the outpouring of your love or from an establishment that loves them not.
• I was unprepared to give my children meaningful answers to life’s important questions.
• The most heinous atrocities committed in the 20th century were committed in the name of atheism.
• In the name of autonomy, with the spirit of ingenuity, by the power of technology, and through the acceptance of plurality, we have forgotten about morality.
• You will be discouraged at times, but you must complete the mission.
• The slaves of alcohol, nicotine, and pornography are ruthless and unforgiving; they do not discriminate and hold millions under their control.
• Contrary to the platitude that “all religions are basically the same,” most major religions make mutually exclusive claims. That means they cannot all be correct.
• It is impossible to prepare for battle if you are ignorant of the war.

This is simply a sampling of some of the ones I underlined in my copy. The book follows the author’s journey from apathy to conversion in Jesus. Weaving military examples and stories throughout, Ladd challenges each reader to discover what they believe and why.
The defining word used throughout the book is worldview. Here is why it is important in the author’s words (and I would concur!)

Without understanding your worldview, you cannot provide justifiable answers for these questions, disqualifying you from providing hope to the hurting and crippling your ability to lead with conviction.

Sounds like this was written by someone that knows something about leading! If we don’t understand what we believe and why we bank our life upon it, we simply cannot make a difference in our world, and we have nothing of value to pass on to the next generation. The author has done both with this work. He clearly explains what he believes, why he believes it, and has left a work to pass on. Nicely done sir.

I would recommend the book.

lion
Mark Batterson has penned another excellent book. Well written with great illustrations and inspirational stories throughout. The ability of this author to wordsmith is beyond anything I have read. If I was running for political office and needed a soundbite, I would hire him on the spot.
These phrases are not simply given for entertainment purposes, but are full of life. Consider just a few of my favorites here:

• The best way to discover your dream is to help other people accomplish theirs.
• Great conflict cultivates great character.
• Don’t let what you cannot do keep you from doing what you can. Don’t give up before you give it a try.
• Don’t put a period where God puts a comma.
• The litmus test isn’t what we know; the litmus test is what we do with what we know.
• The hardest part of any dream journey is starting. You can’t finish what you don’t start.
• Even when you have a setback, God has already prepared your comeback.
• To the infinite, all finites are equal.

The last one is revelatory, and if

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