Books I’ve Reviewed


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 an entrepreneur does not begin placing these quips on cups for sale, they are missing a great fundraiser opportunity! If we would simply spend some prayerful thought over these few examples, our lives would be enhanced and changed. These are not the only ones, but they are enough to illustrate the gift that Mark Batterson possesses.

The book is a follow-up to Mr. Batterson’s, In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day. It takes a great amount of courage to chase a lion anywhere, and that point surfaces throughout this new work. The book is full of encouraging, challenging, and inspiring stories of “lion chasers.”
I read the book and was both greatly encouraged and emotionally disturbed. While those that know me may think that is fairly common, okay, perhaps it is. On the one hand, the book really challenges us to dream big and chase the dream fearlessly. On the other hand, most of us are not going to be world changers and therein lies the tension.

While reading the book, I was often reflecting on my life and what lions I have chased. In retrospect, most seem more like kittens compared to the stories in the book. The subtitle is “If Your Dream Doesn’t Scare You, It’s Too Small.” The emotional struggle comes in because most of my dreams are small by comparison, and no matter how much effort I exert, a scary dream of making a huge impact, escapes me.

To Mr. Batterson’s credit, he does attempt to encourage the non-lion hunters in his book. We are told that each of our dreams is in God’s hands and He is the One that will determine the significance of it, even if it takes hundreds of years to be revealed. While that is true, and does offer a measure of reassurance, it is hard to not compare our modest efforts of daily obedience with the world-impacting examples given within the book.

I also understand that it is impossible in any written effort to provide all the balance needed, so it is not a major flaw within the book. I share it only to give a warning that if you are not a world-shaker, you might suffer a tinge of guilt and some emotional introspection. Overall the book is excellent and well worth the read and I would recommend it.

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

41wM1vz--FLPatrick Flanery has a knack for long sentences, academic words, and revealing the inner thoughts of his characters. I Am No One opens the door to a world that we know is true but wish was not. As a fan of the TV show, Person of Interest, this book was an immediate draw.

The characters are interesting though considerably normal. Some are wealthy, most are simply little wheels in a big cog, yet unaware of their place. The story moves well and has few surprises along its path.

Surveillance, extended and broken families, international affairs, as well as pushing the boundaries of mental and moral restraints, are all central to the plot. Poor choices have consequences, and sometimes it is years before they reveal themselves to us. In addition, in our current environment of technology dominated lives, we really are foolish if we don’t think our lives leave a digital footprint that is being captured by someone.

Flanery also captures the struggle that many of us battle with age and remembering. We are overloaded with information and sometimes it is easy to forget. Or is it? In this story, forgetting or not is a key to unravel truth.

Though fairly predictable, the story moves well, the characters are interesting, and the insights revealed are worth pursuing. “We are being watched,” how much so and by whom remains a mystery.

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

resetNick Hall is a young man with a passion for His generation and the Kingdom of God. This combination helps fulfill God’s search for someone to stand in the gap – Ezekiel 22:30. Nick and his co-workers with PULSE ministries are men for this task.

Reset – Jesus Changes Everything, is nothing out of the ordinary regarding its writing style, storytelling or clever delivery, but it is the Gospel of Jesus Christ throughout and is, therefore, extraordinary. The Power of the life-changing good news of Jesus comes through on every page and is worth reading and sharing with others.

Every generation needs a voice and Reset is shouting loud and clear in ours. Many of us from the Jesus revival of bygone days have been praying for such a time and this book shares the reality of the answer to our heart’s cry. God is moving among the young again and those of us older folks could not be happier!

Each chapter unfolds the love of God for the broken, downcast, bound up, and lonely. Young people are seeking to discover if there is hope for them, and this book answers the questions clearly and precisely – yes there is and His name is Jesus!

Jesus can and will reset your life. Run to Him and He will set you free from whatever has you trapped. God’s love, grace, and mercy shout from the pages of this book, and I highly recommend that you read it.

This book was provided by Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review. You just read mine.

good gospelThis book is both an exercise in frustration and full of insights. Like most of us, the author speaks truth as well as prejudice from her own life experience. Since I would be part of the problem revealed in the book, it will be difficult for my review to be viewed objectively.

The book claims to be an endorsement of the Gospel and on the one hand, it clearly is. Sadly, the book is also a proclamation of almost every liberal, left wing leaning political viewpoint. With the exception of gun control, and that one was hinted at, every problem in our world can be traced back to men, white people, capitalism, global warming, evil corporations, abuse of native populations, and prejudice in general. While there certainly is an element of truth in each of these issues, the one glaring reality missing from the book is personal responsibility especially in regards to sinful choices being made.

The author refers to “most scholars” and “it is now commonly understood,” yet these statements are not reflective of many regarding how to interpret Genesis and the first three chapters of the Bible. The author also fails to take into account that God is the One that reveals Himself as He chooses and just because we may not like the way He has chosen, does not give us the right to dismiss it. God is not anti-male but has revealed Himself as Father, not mother and Jesus was a man, not a woman.

I am sorry the author suffered sexual abuse at the hands of men, many of us have. I am sorry that her ancestors were slaves and that white people abused them, but men, whites, and sinful people of all color need to repent, not simply blame others for their current state.

There are issues in our world that need dealing with and I am grateful that intelligent people are attempting to bring change, but change begins with accepting personal responsibility for our sinful actions, and not simply blaming race, governments or companies. Yes, places like Haiti are a mess, but doesn’t rejecting God and endorsing and embracing witchcraft have something to do with it, or is it simply evil corporations abusing the farmers? The same could be asked about Native Americans. What place does God’s judgment have in any of the current conditions we see in our world or is everything simply the result of evil, white men? What about many places in the world that have not had the white man’s influence, (most of the Bible for example) yet is saturated with sin and death?

Yes, there are huge numbers of black men in jail, but what about those that murder, rape, steal and perpetrate real crimes against others, is it all really simply tied back to evil, white men that simply want to exercise their privilege? A certain percentage certainly could be, but personal responsibility still comes into play and that aspect seems to be lacking in the book.

The author promotes peace and I would agree on that topic, but peace is not in a left-leaning political answer but in a Person. Peace begins and ends with submission to Christ and an acknowledgment of our need for cleansing of our sins through His blood. There are consequences for our rejection of God, His Law, and His ways. I would submit that much of the problems globally are caused by those choices and not simply the fault of misogyny and patriarchy.

On the positive side, the author does promote love, acceptance of others, welcoming open dialogue and a challenge to seek peace. We certainly would agree on those topics. This book was provided for review by Blogging for Books.

giftMax Lucado is a gifted writer and truly a wordsmith. His ability to communicate deep truth with simple wording is magnificent.

The Gift for All People, is an older book, yet remains powerfully present in its insights and thoughts. I’m not sure if it was intended to be used as a daily devotional, but it clearly fits that description.

Each chapter is short, yet contains wonderful insights into God’s ultimate Gift to us – Jesus. Whatever else one may take from this book, the truth that God loves us, did everything possible to redeem us, and is always for us, shouts on almost every page.

Well worth the read again and again, for we all need to know how much God loves and pursues us. We can rest in His unending, unchanging and always seeking us, grace. God gave us the Ultimate Gift in Christ, but also gave another wonderful one in the author.

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

light of the lastMr. Black has produced a compelling story combining fiction, Scripture, politics and even a love story. When I ordered this book from Blogging for Books, I did not realize that this was the third installment in his War of the Realm series.

While reading the book, two of my granddaughters visited us and exclaimed, “How did you get that book! We have been waiting for it to come out.” This began a lively discussion about the plot and background of the third book. Naturally, they had the first two books, so we agreed to a swap!

I quickly read the first two books and reread the third one. While not necessarily required to be drawn into the world the author has created, this backdrop did provide some helpful information.

Light of the Last is well written and for a book of 300 plus pages, moves quickly. Black includes a Reader’s Guide at the end of the book to shed some additional insights into each chapter. Mr. Black also includes the necessary disclaimer regarding theology and author’s license when dealing with angels, demons, and a Sovereign God.
Since I always enjoyed the Frank Peretti books, these three novels were a natural fit for my taste. Regardless of one’s view regarding the interaction between angels, demons and humans, the story is plausible and very enjoyable.

There are many plot twists, character development is well done, and there is plenty of tension to keep the book interesting and the pages turning. I loved the book and will look forward to reading the rest of them in the series as they are released, that is if I can get them away from my granddaughters.

heaven

The author does a very good job of grounding his views of heaven in Scripture. Like most of us, when the Scripture is silent or not as clear as we would wish, McKnight fills in. The single most important point of the book is contained in the title; heaven is not just a great thought, wishful thinking, or an illusion, but a promise from the One that cannot lie.

It would seem that the author is heavily influenced by N. T. Wright, and that is neither good nor bad, just an observation. Wright has written extensively about the location of heaven being on the New Earth, and the author adopts that point of view throughout the book.

As the author states, “Any discussion of Heaven can quickly get theoretical,” but that does not stop most of us, including the author, on stating our theories as facts. Exactly where is the New Earth and are there only three heavens or dozens of them? While the Scripture gives us hints, clarity is not revealed, no matter how adamant McKnight or Wright remains.

The book is worth reading because the author points his readers to Christ, the Word, and to live a life worthy of our eternal destination, even if we may not all agree on that final location. In addition, McKnight explores arenas that many refuse to enter such as; will there still be marriage relationships in heaven? And, how will we live in heaven with all those people we don’t get along with or that don’t particularly like or love us? And, how about those who have never heard the Gospel, will they make it? I won’t spoil his answers, but they are interesting.

Whatever your view of heaven, you will be encouraged by this book.

This book was graciously provided by Blogging for Books for review.

heaventoearth

Josh Ross and Jonathan Storment do an excellent job of presenting the truth of what our earthly lives are really about. We certainly were left here on earth to accomplish something. If the rapture or attain heaven was what our lives were all about, then we need to have some way of expediting the process like a Christian hit man or something. “Do you believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior? Great, now go join Him.” Bang.

Okay, probably not the solution that these men are trying to reach with their book. Their work is a shaking of a current viewpoint of many in the Church that is hindering the salt and light affect that the Scriptures clearly teach. Escapism is popular, but not necessarily correct.

There are many excellent stories and the book is populated with some great sound bites:

  • How did we get to the place where following the most revolutionary Man who ever lived doesn’t revolutionize the people who claim to follow him?
  • God uses restored people to restore people.
  • But the Christian hope says that the God who is above time is also able to redeem what happens in our time.

Those three are sufficient to make my point. All excellent thoughts that are easy to remember but deep enough to move us to prayer.

I would agree with authors about needing to invest in our reality in order to help bring the Kingdom of God into it. However, we must not forget that our citizenship resides elsewhere. This world is not our home, nor our ultimate destination.

One quote I would take exception to is: “The main point of God’s judgment is that He will reverse the curse.” I am not sure that is taught anywhere in Scripture. Bruising the serpents head, everything being destroyed in intense fire and heat, and a new heaven and earth are promised, not bringing up back into the Garden of Eden. A New Covenant was established, and a new race of people is the result of being born again. The Second Adam has not brought back the old, but established the new.

In our efforts to change the focus from the rapture, we must not forget that there is a place we are heading that is out of this world.

Overall an easy to read book full of excellent stories and challenges, that I would recommend.

This book is provided by Blogging for Books, for which I am grateful.

Astrangefter reading The Book of Strange New Things, it became clear why so many of the anti-Christian establishment loved the book. Yet again, Christianity and Jesus proved to be less than what human love, acceptance of others, and the painful journey of this life requires. Perhaps Jesus is good enough for aliens on a distant planet, but not for real people with real pain and suffering.

The book is full of sex scenes and sexual overtones run throughout, as well as being populated with an abundance of profanity. I guess I was expecting something else when the cover referred to a missionary journey to the stars. Silly me, I expected a thrilling story of miracles with a mixture of science fiction and the triumph of the Gospel. Instead, I was invited into yet another slam on the Apostle Paul and the ineptness of salvation to really mean anything to anyone.

I’m not sure if the author intended this to be a Christian book, but what is communicated is Christianity’s lack of actual life-changing and sustaining power permeating throughout its pages. Based on the message of the book, Jesus clearly is not the answer to any problem, regardless of the solar system.

Of course the author is an excellent writer. The story moves along quickly but the ending lacks any closure, and the book left me sad that so many people will read the book expecting victory and will only encounter failure. There might be hope in human love, but don’t go looking for it in the Scripture or in a personal relationship with Jesus.
This book was provided by Blogging for Books, for which I am grateful.

foldThe Fold by Peter Clines is a fast read and enjoyable in spite of the perfunctorily f-bombs and unnecessary sexual scenes. I guess writers today feel the need to add sensual and profane material to their work in order to attract current readers.

The premise of the book is not new, but the story holds your attention until the very end, which is no small task in our day. Many have explored folds in space, alternate realities, and time, and this Sci-Fi thriller follows in their footsteps.

The story has gripping characters, a somewhat unique hero and quite a few twists and turns. I won’t spoil the story with plot giveaways, but the novel is well worth reading with the above caveat about language and sex. While I am probably a bit old fashion. I would not recommend this book to younger readers.
This book was provided by Blogging for Books.

divine applauseDivine Applause is the second book I have read by Jeff Anderson. Anderson connects with a deep longing in most believers’ heart – we want a touch from our Heavenly Father. If we are honest, many of us, at one time or another, have had our doubts about God, at least, a personal God. God can seem distant and unconcerned with our petty lives. This is especially true when life is hard and God appears to be uncaring or busy elsewhere.

In Divine Applause, the author attempts to answer the unanswerable, and as should be expected when attempting the impossible, falls a bit short. However, that is not to say that there is not a great deal to be gained from this read. Anderson does an excellent job at keeping the story moving along and at providing pictures of our Father’s involvement in our lives, even if He remains unseen or unheard.

Two stories in particular stood out. One for its appropriate application, and one for its failure in effectively making the point, at least to me. The successful illustration involves the author’s small child sitting on a rock waiting to be noticed by his dad driving home from the store. The child was placing himself in a position to be noticed and he expected to be found by his loving dad. Why would we expect less from our Heavenly Father? God notices us, loves us, and keeps His loving eye upon us. I whole-heartedly agree!
The other picture, which simply did not resonate with me, is a primary one used throughout the book. A last second shot taken by his son during a basketball game was directly tied to a shotgun type prayer from the author. While many parents I am sure pray for such things, to use this illustration as “proof” that God noticed the author is outside of my theological comfort zone. What about the child’s parent praying that their son would have blocked the shot? What about the pain and emotional distress caused to the losing team? Did God love the author and his son more than the other kids playing the game? What if the author’s son would have missed the shot, does that mean God doesn’t care or isn’t there? I get the point of the illustration, but the ramifications of using that story as a proof for God’s attention, is a huge stretch.

Overall, I would recommend the book and there is much to be gained from reading it. The chapters devoted to fasting, giving, and praying in secret are excellent and worth the price for the entire book.
Blogging for Books provided a review copy for my reading pleasure – thank you!

lifeLife with a Capital L by new author Matt Heard was next in line in my reading regime. The book begins with an emphasis on our human side and for a minute dread arose in my brain. My thoughts turned to hesitation regarding yet another book dealing with self-help, self-placating, self-worship, self-healing or whatever. Frankly, I am sick of all this self-worship. The Bible states very clearly that we are die to our self, not worship it, but to my relief, this book did not unfold that way.

Heard walks that line between self and obedience to our Lord carefully and also in a redemptive manner. Jesus said both, “I came that you may have life abundantly,” and, “Deny yourself and follow Me.” Heard is faithful to both sides of this seemingly contrary human battle. By denying ourselves and following Christ, true, abundant, fulfilling life can and will follow.

The author does an excellent job of mixing personal stories and experiences, as well as multiple quotes to prove his premise. Heard’s call to live a meaningful life is not new with him, but is actually ancient, and he clearly presents his case.

Christ came to redeem us as humans, and when we step out of this temporal life, we will be glorified humans, and not turn into something other than human. It is almost as if God knew what He was doing when He created us in His image, and had an eternal purpose in mind. Sarcasm intended. Since we were created with a purpose, and will remain human, perhaps the author’s call to learn to live life with a capital L now should be heeded.
Blogging for Books sent me this review copy, and I would recommend reading this book.

randyRandy Alcorn’s book hand in Hand arrived the other day from Blogging for Books. The topic covered in Alcorn’s latest effort is no small task – the reconciliation of God’s sovereignty and the free will of man. I commend the author for the effort, though the task was impossible from the beginning.

The book attempts to present both sides of the argument and therein lays my basic disagreement with the task. While I commend the author’s attempt to reconcile, bring clarity and even unity around the points of agreement on this divisive topic, my fundamental disagreement is with the presupposition that these two points of view are the only ones regarding the sovereignty of God and human free will.

The author explains how he was saved and raised in the Armenian camp and now resides more in the Calvinist one. The flavor of the book attempts to be neutral, but regardless of the effort, the view of the author clearly comes through as to the best preferred one.

Trying to reconcile “camps” of theology, while an excellent mental exercise, probably won’t accomplish much. The author does present some excellent points that I wish could have been more of the focus rather than just seeming afterthoughts. For example:

“God sometimes gives both sides of the picture. We’re not to choose between them but to believe both, even when we don’t understand how they fit together.”

“Let’s seek consistency with Scripture, not with Calvinism or Arminianism.”

These are both excellent thoughts that could produce life instead of the division caused by choosing theological camps to reside in. In fact, in one place the author uses a word that I have adopted regarding theological positions:

“Both John Calvin and John Wesley were intelligent, compassionate, clear-thinking Biblicists…”
Now, there is a term that could help end some of the division caused by settling into a camp in the name of a man, instead of the Word of God – Biblicists. Simply let the Scriptures speak and do not overlay a man-made grid of theology over them.
Overall the book is worth a read because of the Scriptures quoted, the often-discussed way of dealing with suffering that falls upon the believers, the clarion call to love and accept each other in our differences, and to expand our understanding of the various viewpoints held by so many in our day.
I am not sure the author achieves his purpose, but then again, it was an impossible task from the beginning.

ask itAndy Stanley’s books just seem to get better. His book on leadership resonated with my spirit, and I have often quoted it to help others. Stanley’s latest work is even better! Ask It will help anyone and everyone that reads it.

As a pastor for over three decades, Stanley’s answer to the most frequently asked question I have ever been asked is excellent. While most of us have developed some sort of variant of Stanley’s answer, his is far better! I won’t spoil it for you by telling you the question, just go buy the book now and find out!

Fast paced, well written and covering most of this life’s major issues, Ask It is excellent on all levels. In fact, Part 4 dealing with A Question of Morality is one of the finest attempts I have read on trying to deal with this difficult topic. Just this section alone is worth the price of the book, though you will want to read all of it once you start.

The book includes a study guide and I certainly hope this book becomes a best seller – it should.
This book was provided by Blogging for Books.

downloadHeaven, Hell, and Life After Death by Precept Ministries is my first foray into their abundant materials. Strange, that it took all these years, and an offer for a free book, to get me to take a look. I am glad I finally did.

Under Precept’s “40minute” label, this little study would work well in a small group format. Indeed, that is why it was created! Each chapter is filled with Scripture and inductive questions that will help guide a group of people through the texts. For the most part, they are well thought out.

There are some questions that seem way too obvious, but then again, perhaps new believers need something like that to help them think through the topics. Each leader could tailor the questions to their own group fairly easily though, so the obvious ones could be easily avoided or dismissed quickly.

There was one mistake that I noticed and that is where they stated that Paul was in Rome (pg. 76), but I believe he was in Greece (Athens) instead, but such is life and no one is perfect except Jesus! The geography mistake does not discredit the discussion, however, so it is not a big deal. I am surprised that the group that focuses so much on the details would miss this.

Overall a very well thought out presentation of the major Scriptures dealing with life after death and I would encourage any small group to use the materials to have a lively discussion on the topics.

The book was provided by Blogging for Books and I am very grateful for it.

messageBe the Message by Kerry and Chris Shook arrived on my desk the other day for my review. I began reading it and initially slow in getting into it. Life is busy and reading sometimes takes a back burner to doing.

I eventually started reading and then became engrossed. It’s not that there really is anything in the book that I haven’t preached on, but just the way the Shooks shared their journey hooked me. Obviously successful in pastoring and church planting, after reading the book, I understand why they are being used in so many great ways by the Lord.

Throughout the book, a challenge is presented to actually take our faith and live it. Not the wear it on our sleeve type, you know, plaster the car with bumper stickers and wear WWJD bracelets, but actually get out among the lost and hurting and attempt to help. What a novel idea.

Truth is also shared on these pages and that is refreshing. Messing with people’s lives is, well, messy. Becoming involved with the homeless, orphan, and oppressed is not convenient. Ministry opportunities pop up at times when we wish they would not, that is if we are honest. The Shooks are honest.

While there are many good thoughts in the book, the one on finding your “Holy Disturbance” is very good. What is it that really gets your blood pumping? What do you always return to in your conversations and in your mind? Each of us has a passion, and the advice given in Be the Message is excellent – go do something about it.

We may not be able to do everything but doing nothing is not helpful. All of us can do something and if we step out, we may be amazed at what God does with our efforts. Go read the book, and then begin to change the world by helping those right in front of you.

This book was provided by Blogging for Books, for which I am very grateful.

a short walkScott Hubbartt starts what he believes will be a leisurely stroll and ends up nearly dead. Cocky, self-assured and ready to start his day, Hubbartt expects to enjoy the walk, find some missing pieces to his wife’s family legacy and arrive for dinner at his destination. The book would not need to be written had the day turned out as expected.

Full of drama, danger, redemption and sometimes annoying country details, A Short Walk to the Edge of Life is worth the read. The moral of the story is excellent with God being the Redeemer and Deliver as it should be.

Hubbartt seems to be a Christian before his near-death experience, but if he was not, he certainly became one while facing the end on his journey. Looking into our own death has a way of filtering out what is really important, and Hubbartt does a good job wrapping up all of key issues.
The book seems almost incomplete though with little mention of his families’ reactions to his ordeal and survival. Perhaps an extra few pages added to explore that angle could be considered in the next edition.

The book is well written, keeps your attention and even if you have never camped in your life, you will be able to relate to some of the struggles faced. Enjoy the journey and don’t miss the main point – live your life for what matters now instead of wishing you had when it is almost too late.

 

head of a penDancing on the Head of a Pen was a delight to read or perhaps better stated, experience. Robert Benson shares the highs and lows, insights and glimpses behind the writer’s pages we love to read. Humorous, honest, and enlightening, the little book is well worth reading.

When choosing what to read for Blogging for Books, I ventured outside of my normal selections. I had no idea what to expect from a book about writing books. I began the journey with hesitancy, but finished it with a flurry.

As an author who writes teaching type books, I wondered what other writers think about when they are staring at a blank screen. Benson shares his story about writing his stories in a delightful way. I won’t ruin your time in his book by sharing his secrets, but I will encourage everyone to read his words — even those who will never write a book.

 

greaterGreater by Steven Furtick is another great book by this author and pastor. I don’t know Steven but he seems like the kind of guy you would want to grab a cup of coffee with and relax. While challenging his readers to step up and dream big, he manages to keep humility and acceptance of where his readers are in the picture. Nice touch and often hard to accomplish.

The book is basically a look at the life of Elisha but really the prophet’s story is simply a launching off place for the author’s points. I am sure Furtick preached through these texts and those would have been fun, encouraging sermons to listen to…no wonder his church is exploding with growth!

Perhaps the only drawback of the book would be focusing on being and doing greater over against being and doing obedience, but that is simply a small pet peeve of mine. We are called to obedience and to bring out thoughts and dreams into alignment with our Lord’s and not the other way around. Yes, we should dream big and attempt great things for God, but only at His bidding, not because we can.

 

The Martian by Andy Weir is well written, fast paced, and overall a very enjoyable read. Being a sci-fi lover, the concept of the book was attractive from the beginning. The star of the story is trapped on Mars with seemingly insurmountable odds to overcome, and enough detail into the day-by-day struggles to make it plausible.
Though te minute details of survival do drag on sometimes, that is to be expected in order to keep the “real” feel of the situation. I don’t have any point of reference to know if what was written is even close to a real or possible scenario, but then again, what difference does that make – the book is fiction.
The bookthe martianis laced with way too many profanities for my taste and completely lacks any discussion about the reality of facing death. If someone really was dealing with this life and death situation, it would seem strange to not even entertain the concept of eternity or what happens after we expire.
While I could not recommend this book to my Christian readers, it is well written and will keep one reading until the end to find out what happens if you don’t mind being bombarded with gratuitous f-bombs.
Blogging for Books provided this book to me for free in exchange for an honest review.”

book coverTricia Williford has pulled back the curtain to a world often overlooked. Christians are not supposed to hurt for long, show weakness, struggle with depression, or suffer without presenting a stout smile through clenched teeth. And Life Comes Back blows all those myths away, and rightfully so!
A gifted writer, Williford shares the pain and depths of heartache reached when her husband is suddenly taken by death. The subject matter is not really a feel good story, but the journey and conclusion certainly is. Victory and new life can come from the ashes of death and this book proves it.
Very well written, fast paced, brutally honest, and extremely insightful, anyone who reads this book will find something to cry and to cheer about. There are many nuggets of truth and since all of us have or will encounter someone in the midst of pain, reading this book will help prepare us to assist and not simply offer trite clichés.
Tricia Williford has a gift and I look forward to reading more from her in the future. The only negative is the seemingly gratuitous mention of her body parts in comparison to her girl friends, but I guess I am old fashion and fail to see the need for such things. For some reason Christian authors, and by extension the publishers who approve their words, have no problem with this topic.
I would recommend this book to anyone who desires to understand how it feels to walk through a major loss. Multnomah provided this book through its Blogging for Books program.

41S+K+dTvML._SS300_This is an excellently written book that, sadly, I would not recommend. I know you are not supposed to argue with someone’s personal story, and the author’s is a tragic onebut this well written book is much more than a story, it is evangelism. The author is an excellent writer, talented and will probably go far in Christian writing circles. She will also be hailed in most agnostic and atheist ones. At the risk of coming across as insensitive, I must be so.

The author states that this book “is not a manifesto against evangelicalism,” but she is wrong. That is exactly what this work is. I would not dare to assign her motives, and I believe she is genuine in what she writes and feels, but within the pages of this fast reading book almost every basic tenant of conservative Christianity is swept aside or demeaned, intentional or not.

The heroes of the book are those who can swear, drink and skinny dip without concern. Those who have moved on from the religious trappings of prayer, church attendance, or moral restraint are presented as the ideal model to imitate. Whereas, those who desire to walk in modesty and purity, go to the mission field, don’t date, homeschool, or vote along conservative lines, are harsh, out of touch and almost dangerous (cultic).

The friends that were not walking with Christ were the lifeline and those who were Christians were the culprits. Being born again is stated as “a way of stereotyping, an excuse for all evils,” in one of the chapter subheadings. Someone should have told Jesus to use a different term, because he used it long before that “great political schemers of your time” Chuck Colson made it popular.

While the book is very well written, it is not a book for Christian audiences. The author, and I guess by choice, the editors, allow many f-bombs, s-bombs, sexually oriented themes and references, and excessive drinking. All of these are used as a way to delineate between insightful, free believers and those old religious kill joys who are still bound up. True freedom and healing is found in carnal excess, freedom to curse, hanging out with equally carnal friends drinking margaritas and psychological counseling. Apparently the Gospel is neither strong enough nor powerful enough to offer any real help.

It is a shame that the story told is true. With the studies showing that a large percentage of young people are leaving the faith in college, answers must be pursued as to why. Drinking, swearing, throwing off moral restraint and abandoning the Bible and prayer don’t quite seem like the correct answers to me.

Perhaps more involved parents and avoiding the dating scene that ripped the author’s heart to shreds and opened her up to so much pain and bitterness would have been a better choice. Maybe choosing not to embrace bitterness would have led to less defilement and recovery time. Maybe living a life for others instead of slipping into self absorption might have offered another way out or through the darkness. People will hurt us, ignore us, even abuse us; we have a choice as to our response. Bitterness, carnality, and anger are not the only, nor the best options.

In the pages of this book full of personal pain, Jesus is unable, God is nowhere to be found and the Holy Spirit is never mentioned. Repentance is ignored, forsaking sin through a willful choice is not an option and human love and acceptance is the answer to all problems. I am grateful the author made it and is recovering. I trust that her words do not empower a generation to follow her path.

I would not recommend this book to a Christian audience and the Gospel message contained within it, while popular in our day, is not Biblical or even necessarily redemptive.
Blogging for Books provided a review copy for me.

gwsThe Word of God is living and active and able to change the hearts of its readers. Steven Scott has compiled the specific words of Jesus to help achieve that end. The Greatest Words Ever Spoken, is a companion that we should always have close by us.

Even with the advantages of technology to assist with this project, the labor intensive chore of compiling the words of Christ topically must have been mind numbing at times. On the other hand, being so saturated with the words of our Savior, perhaps help renew the author’s way of thinking. It has mine.

Ever wonder what Jesus had to say on prayer, works, family, or faith? What did Jesus say about Himself, His Father, and His Spirit? Angels, demons, false prophets and security, the answers are readily available. In fact, there are more than nineteen hundred thoughts covering more than two hundred topics in this reference book.

This resource is not really meant to be read cover to cover, but what a delight to do so. Chapter after chapter of the most profound thoughts uttered by the greatest Mind ever to walk the planet await the reader.

The words of Christ are in red, and though a minor distraction, I get the reason why. The author’s intent is to lead us to Christ’s words with no mistake regarding who said what. What Jesus shared, will change our lives if we read His words and allow the Holy Spirit to drive them deep into our hearts and minds.

This is a must have tool for every believer.

crashSteven Furtick has hit a home run with his latest book – Crash the Chatterbox. Sometimes we tend to think that only the mass murders listen to the voices in their heads, Furtick would disagree. We all have a non-stop voice in our heads and it usually sounds just like us.

This constant chatter is what the author refers to as the chatterbox. An apt term. While there is an evil tone to some of the noise, most of it is first person condemnation. “I will never amount to anything.” “My life will always be like this.” “I failed again and God is tired of me messing up all the time.” Sound familiar?

Furtick writes with humor, grace and candid honesty. The author shares multiple stories of personal failures and the effect is to endear the message even more to the reader. The point of sharing these personal struggles connects well. Even the most successful preachers still struggle with the constant chattering in the mind.

Not only are the issues clearly revealed, but the answers are as well. There is no quieting the constant negative refrain in our brains, but we can defeat it. We can replace the condemnation with the truth of God’s Word and His clearly revealed plan for each of His children. Furtick does very well in explaining how to accomplish these tasks.

There are many excellent sound bites in the book and my copy is now a mixture of black, white and highlighter. This is a must read and I have already used several of the quotes and points in talking to some couples.

Multnomah Books provided the review copy through their blogging for  books program, for which this blogger is very grateful.

 

 Patrick Morley has written another excellent book. Not surprising because everything I have read has been so. Perhaps it is because his heart and ministry aligns so well with mine. More likely it is because he is an excellent writer being used by God to touch thousands of men.

In this quick reading book, Morley uses ten very well known men from the Scriptures to highlight a trait needed in all godly men. Each of these heroes of the faith was a mixture of success and failure, victories and defeats. You know, just like us, and that is why this book works so well. Morley hit a nerve that is central in all men.

Every man wants to live a life worth living. All guys want to know that it mattered that they were on this earth. Every man also knows their sins, weaknesses and how far they fall short. How God Makes Men will answer many of those heart-felt needs with clarity, humor and insight. Each mighty man presented also had major battles and scars. Being perfect is not the requirement for being used by God, for which we can all breathe a sigh of relief.

Just a few pithy quotes should entice you enough to buy the book:

• “Your system is perfectly designed to produce the results you are getting.”

• “You are God’s plan to redeem and change the world.”

• “If God didn’t use flawed men, He wouldn’t use any men at all.”

Statements like these populate the entire book and cause the reader to stop and think. If God can use men like Abraham, David, Gideon and a host of other imperfect guys, then He can use me as well. If you are a man get the book, and if you are not but know one, buy it for him.

Multnomah publishers graciously sends me books if I will write a review – a match that is very much appreciated and helps to ease the drain on the pocketbook, so thank you!

Sun Stand StillStephen Furtick is an excellent wordsmith. When I received this little devotional in mail my first thought went something like, “oh brother, yet another 40-day plan to feel better about myself.” After picking it up and actually reading the book, I have changed my mind.

Furtick bases this devotional on his best-selling book of the same title. Having not read that book, I was not sure how this book would work for me. Reading the original book is not required in order to be encouraged and challenged by this one.

Each chapter is short and ends with a prayer focus. If a reader would simply read the passages discussed that would be enough to help many of us. Beyond the Scriptures included are Futrick’s pithy, catchy statements that are memorable.

• He’s made you on purpose for a purpose

• God did not crate you to fit in. He intends for you to stand out.

• Embrace the reality that between the promise and the payoff, there is always a process.

• What we see as a permanent condition, Jesus sees as a temporary circumstance.

• Stop waiting for what you want. Work with what you have.

There are dozens of these short, yet powerful thoughts sprinkled throughout the book and these provokers alone make the book worth the cost. I didn’t spend 40 days reading it like I was supposed to, but I will go back and revisit the book just to enjoy the word spinning.

Multnomah provided this book to me through its Blogging for Books program, for which I am very grateful.

moving forwardI have a prejudice that must come to light before writing further – I don’t react well to self-focused type books. Self-help, self-restoration, self-pleasing, and even self-forgiving type books seem to rub me wrong. When I study the Scriptures, it seems the best cure for the self is to take it to the cross and let it die there.

With that confession off my chest, let me also state that for the most part, I enjoyed the book. Dr. Worthington kept close to the Scripture and a reasonable distance from embracing Freudian psychology. It not that I am unappreciative of the truth regarding the human mind and its problems; I just believe the solutions lie in Christ and not in reliving the past or accepting the child within. (I know, a gross over simplification, but there is my prejudice again.)

Dr. Worthington shares his internal struggles and how he put his own teaching into practice -a healthy dose of reality that many of us preacher types need. It is easy to teach on forgiveness, but a much harder thing to do when we need to do the forgiving.

One flavor of the book I really appreciated is that the author never states the typical one size fits all answer. In fact, Dr. Worthington works very hard to state the opposite. “This is what worked for me and the way I did it, but it may take many different forms for you.” Thank you for stating this truth!

Before reading the book I can honestly say I have not really thought much about self-forgiveness. There have been personal failures, loss and heartaches, but those are just part of life in my view. The mistakes I have made I have tried to deal withsometimes with success, and at other times, not so much. However, I can see where a different personality type would benefit from the material in this book. I personally know several people that need to learn these principles of self-forgiveness, and I will be recommending this book to them for their consideration.

All of us who are believers practice many of these steps anyway, but it is helpful to have them presented in a systematic type approach. Well worth the read even if you are not all that into your self. Multnomah publishers graciously sends me books if I will write a review – a match that is very much appreciated and helps to ease the drain on the pocketbook, so thank you!

book

Chad Hovind’s book, Godonomics, is an interesting mix of personal stories and teaching material. The subtitle is a bit misleading in my opinion as the book falls short in practical advice. “How to Save Our County and Protect Your Wallet through Biblical Principles of Finance,” is somewhat ambitious. With that disclaimer made, the book is well worth reading. Godonomics is a defense of capitalism. While many Christian leaders are leaning toward the social gospel of Marx, Hovind unapologetically defends the economic model of supply and demand. Hovind presents his case that only free market capitalism is the correct, Biblical financial model. Hovind clearly points out how true capitalism will effectively help the poor more than any form of Marxism or communism. The primary role of government is to protect the rights of its citizens and not to overburden them with taxation and legislation. By lessening the tax burden on businesses and wage earners, there will be more money to spur growth and giving. Hovind also enters into the realm that many fear to go – endorsing the rich business owners against those that will not work. The government is not supposed to be in the wealth redistribution business, but instead is to offer protection to those that make the wealth. Many Christians are misguided in their view due to emotional and not logical thinking, according to Hovind. The social gospel appeals to the heartstrings but is not a Biblical model. “If one does not work, neither should he eat,” stated Paul the Apostle. Work should be encouraged, and profit is the motive, so states Hovind. While the author attempts to walk the fine line of not endorsing either Democrat or Republican political parties, I can’t help but feel his message will be rejected by both. In essence, Hovind is stating that the Libertarian party is probably the closest to the Biblical model, even though he does not use those exact words. The role of the government should be limited, very small, and get out the social arenas. On this we agree, however, I am not sure that those currently in power ever will. There is one chapter devoted to personal finance, and as I stated above, it really is void of specifics. Don’t go into debt. Teach your kids to save and give. On second thought, I may be overly harsh, for in reality, those are excellent points. A key piece of advice Hovind presents is that our direction is more important than our intentions. Again, sagely counsel. Overall, well worth the read, if for no other reason, than to dream that someday we may return to our Christian roots in our leader’s governing style. Multnomah provided this book through their “Blogging for Books” program, for which I am very grateful. FearlessFearless is the true story of Navy Seal Adam Brown. When this book arrived at my house via the Blogging for Books program graciously sponsored by Multnomah Books, I had no idea of the trauma that was ahead. Outside of my typical reading choices, reluctantly I plowed in. Almost from the beginning, Eric Blehm had me. Fast paced, brutally honest, and rippling with tension, the author does a marvelous job. In fact, Blehm does such a great job; I encountered emotions not recently touched. At one point, I threw the book down on my desk and sobbed. This crying continued for several days as I refused to pick the book back up. Not my typical response to reading a book on theology or some Christian living principle, which is my normal staple. From the onset, I knew that Adam died, but I simply did not want to get to that point in the story. As the story unfolds, a bonding takes place between the reader and Adam. Perhaps that is too limited. The relationship is between the reader and the entire group of players in the book would be more accurate. One cannot read this book and not fall in love with Adam’s wife, his children, his peers and this hero. Adam is presented with all of his warts exposed, yet you end up cheering for him as he overcomes obstacles that would derail most humans. Adam simply did not know the word quit. Neither did his wife Kelley. I knew the date that Adam died. As the book sped along towards that event, I grew in my apprehension. It was coming, and I couldn’t do anything about it. All the troubles, heartaches, struggles, failures and victories would end soon and my anger grew. My mind raced to seeing Kelley and the children collapsing when receiving the news. The funeral. The words shared by Adam’s peers. All made it very difficult to finish this book. It simply is hard to read when you can’t see due to crying. I would challenge any man to read this book and not be moved. Eric Blehm does an outstanding job of honoring those that truly deserve it. While I don’t necessarily like to encounter such emotional stress, once I picked up the thrown book and finished it, in some strange way, I felt fearless. Plastic DonutsPlastic Donuts by Jeff Anderson is a small book. In fact, it measures 4.5 x 6.5 inches, and by being this small, they were able to make just over 100 pages in length. Please don’t let the small package fool you. Anderson does an excellent job of filling this little book with large points. I have not moved over to reading eBooks yet, so when it was time to pick a new book from Multnomah Blogging for Books, there were limited choices. Plastic Donuts seemed like an interesting title, so I ordered it, not having a clue what subject it was going to cover. Upon receiving it in the mail, I was surprised by the size and the topic – giving. My first thought went, “Oh great, a book about tithing, just what I wanted to read.” Since I did choose it, I decided to overcome my initial impressions and press on. Good thing. Anderson does an excellent job of keeping the focus of this book right where it should be – on the Lord. The author does a good job of dancing around the whole issue of tithing and focus on giving to delight the Father. Many within the Church argue over percentages and requirements, but Anderson skips all of that and says, give so the Father smiles. While we may disagree over tithing, no one should be able to argue over seeking the Father’s approval and smile. The chapters are short and to the point. Anderson does not settle the debate surrounding tithing, but then again, who could. What the author does, and in an excellent manner, is prompt his readers to give a gift that is acceptable to the Father. What does Plastic Donuts have to do with giving? Pick us this small book and find out, for I won’t spoil that for you. Overall, a quick, well thought out read that I would recommend.   51+UI2+xriL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_Colt McCoy, and NFL quarterback, and Matt Carter, pastor of a large church in Austin Texas, team up to write this latest entry in a long line of men oriented type books. Well written and fast paced, the book is worth the read. Both men have tasted success and failure in their lives. Colt, while having a stellar college career, barely misses his life-long dream of winning the national championship. Matt pastors a huge church yet struggled with porn and had successfully alienated his wife for the sake of ministry. What these brothers share is open, honest, and should hit a nerve in most men. Dealing with central issues like, being faithful, laying down our life for our families, dealing with temptation, the role of suffering, and how to make a lasting impact on those that follow us, are all covered. Every man that reads the book will be challenged, encouraged, and inspired to finish the task at hand. The book also includes a study guide for small groups. I will recommend this book to the men I know. Multnomah provides books to me for blogging for which I am grateful. Thanks! Dr. Jeff Klick     book Dr. Grant went home to be with his Lord in 2012 and this book was his final writing effort. Well written and interesting, the book proposes that the end of the “American Empire” is at hand. Well, at least by the end of 2014 at the latest. The collapse is unavoidable. Dr. Grant believes in premillennialism and his writings reflect that eschatological view. The presupposition underlying the writing is that the antichrist must arise from the old Roman Empire and establish him self as the world dictator. Since America is not mentioned in the Scriptures, she must decline. If you believe in premillennialism, then this book is for you. If your end times bent lies elsewhere, you will walk away frustrated. Dr. Grant is consistent in his application of this end time’s worldview throughout the book. Since America is now the sole superpower in the world, something must happen to reduce her to a more humble, non-participant as the end unfolds. Current financial crisis’s regarding banking, housing, debt and international positioning, all are fit in nicely to the presupposition. The book is full of mostly plausible explanations of why the events unfolding in our world are happening and how they work to destroy Am The solutions offer Multnomah graciously sends me books if I will write a review – a match that is very much enjoyed. This selection, The Pressure’s Off by Dr. Larry Crabb, was a mixed read. The book was originally published in 2002 and recently released again this year, and included a workbook section as well ased to the American Empire collapse are not what I expected. If America is going to be ravaged with poverty and reduced to a petty sideline player in world events, then simply buying some silver coins does not quite seem quite enough. Other solutions included selling my house and renting, not paying off my mortgage so I can use hyper-inflated dollars to pay off my loan, checking to make sure by bank is safe, and trying to get off of the internet grid.  While these may or may not be wise decisions, in the face of the end of our country, they simply did not seem deep enough to me.erica. There are some issues that are a stretch, but overall the book is believable. The book does wander somewhat into conspiracy theory land with a secret group of wealthy individuals in the Common Market, but they are necessary to complete the story according to end time’s worldview. Overall, the book is a quick read and full of interesting data. Dr. Grant may be right or he may be wrong, but that really is not the point of the read. The point is that changes are coming and a wise man sees them and makes changes in preparation for them. If you liked end time books, you will love this one. If not, save yourself some frustration. Multnomah publishers graciously sends me books if I will write a review –  a match that is very much appreciated and helps to ease the drain on the pocketbook, so thank you! 41yTJsQgCHL._AA160_ This book was first released about ten years ago, but I just encountered it recently. Having read multiple leadership books over the last thirty years, I have a good idea of what to look for in one. While many are almost a waste of time, this one is worth the read. Short, quick reading, summarized nicely, packed with truth, and full of memorable lines, Stanley does an excellent job capturing the essence of leadership. Growing up living in a huge shadow cast by his father, Andy Stanley learned leadership. Like most children, I am sure he learned many things he did not want to repeat, but he also grasped the best from his father’s ministry. There is no hint of bitterness in the book, which is refreshing. Many pastor’s children grow up into hurt, angry, bitter adults. Andy did not and for that, whatever his parents failures, they deserve some praise. Stanley builds the book around five concepts. The first is critical and that is to embrace your strengths and get help with your weaknesses. In fact, find someone to delegate those things that you are no good at and focus on what you do well. Sound and freeing advice for those in leadership. Leaders must also have courage and every leader has to be clear in the midst of uncertainty. Leadership is what comes out in the unknown. Vision propels us through the murky, almost always present times of not knowing what to do, or how to do it. Lea Stanley also commands every leader to find a coach. Coaches are those that are outside and can see our blind spots. They are someone that loves us and is willing to endure our reactions when they point out what needs to change in our lives. They are in fact brave leaders themselves.ders lead when others do not know where to go. The fifth element is the maintaining of our character. Many leaders fail because after they achieve an element of success they compromise in order to keep it. May that not be said of those that we help inspire to leadership positions or ever said about us. Andy Stanley does an excellent job of presenting leadership principles in an easy-to-read manual. Earlier I mentioned how quotable this book is. Just ponder over these couple as I close this review: “there is no cramming for a test of character. It always comes as a pop quiz.” “Pencil in your plans. Write your vision in ink.” Multnomah publishers graciously sends me books if I will write a review –  a match that is very much appreciated and helps to ease the drain on the pocketbook, so thank you! Product Details Mike Glenn is a pastor in Tennessee and has written an encouraging book focused on being positive, or as he repeatedly states,The premise for the book contains an understanding that the Church has been too focused on God’s no and not enough on His yes. While there is a temptation to just blow this book off as yet another grace filled, power of positive thinking type book, “yes.” In fact, by the time I was finished with the 209 pages I was fairly worn out with the word. I did not do an actual count, but the word, “Yes” must have been used thousands of times. I could not quite get there. Even though it was a struggle to finish the book, I am grateful that I did. The last few pages contain abundant truth and were well worth the effort to get through the previous chapters. That sounds harsher than I desire, for the book is well written and contains a great deal of truth. The problem for me is that I am simply worn out with all of the focus on the positive and almost completely ignoring God’s negative commands. By positive and negative I mean the focus on yes and no that the author used throughout the book. I am all for being positive and focusing on grace and God’s empowerment, but not at the expense of balance. God is the One that came up with the Law, which was primarily negative and restrictive, the restraints in the Garden, and the Ten Commandments, which by the way really are full of, “no.” The Wisdom Books are full of negative commands and the Prophets condemn God’s people for their lack of restraint. As we move into the New Testament, commands to avoid doing things are just as clear and frequent as the ones that say that we are free to do what we want. I am reasonably sure the Pastor Glenn was not promoting a new Gospel but attempting to help people to understand that God is for them and has a wonderful plan for each one of them. On this, we would agree. Where we might disagree is that God also still issues commands that are negative in nature and He does focus on holiness, sanctification, purity and obedience, all of which entail embracing no, not just yes. God has a wonderful plan for each believer and the author brings this out clearly. The book is therefore worth the read, but I would recommend not going overboard on yes when God clearly has said no too many things. Multnomah publishers graciously sends me books if I will write a review – a match that is very much appreciated and helps to ease the drain on the pocketbook, so thank you! Burchett has a catchy title and a book that is also well written by this national sporting events director. The book is full of painful stories that clearly expose the major flaw of the 21st century church – its members. Godly people are often brutal to one another and Burchett presents plenty of ammo to back up that statement. The Burchett’s suffered through personal trauma at the hands of some local church people and unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. Many atheists and backslidden Christians will readily point out the failures of God’s people relationallyand who could blame them. God’s children are human and therefore still awaiting perfection. That does not excuse rotten behavior it just gives a bit of grace to it. While reading the book there was a taste in my mouth that just did not sit right. Perhaps it is because it is so easy to point out failures and much harder to offer solutions. A whiff of bitterness hung in the air as I read the stories of neglect and abuse. Of course, they are true. I have been a pastor for over thirty years, trust me, I know Christian people can be just awful to one another. But, the taste still lingered even as I finished the book. Maybe it was the criticalness or just the brutality of the reality that tasted bad, maybe not. The book ends with a discussion and checklist on grace. Am I living in it and giving it to others? Excellent questions and perhaps the lack (not absence, just not enough) of grace throughout the book is the taste I cannot quite get out of my mouth. Yes, people are nasty, but writing a book that is full of their failures is just not my style. I do not like attack shows on the radio and I will not listen to folks that make their living out of pointing out what everyone else does that is wrong. So, I guess this book really never had much of a chance with me since it is predisposed toward the failures of everyone. The problems addressed in the book are real. The Body of Christ is not known for love but for shooting the wounded. It seemed to me that a gunshot victim here just shot back a bit too much. Multnomah publishers graciously sends me books if I will write a review –  a match that is very much appreciated and helps to ease the drain on the pocketbook, so thank you! Product Details

While there is much to be enjoyed in the book, I can’t help but feel that it did not accomplish the task intended. If the sub title is to believed, Breaking Free from Rules and Performance, the book does not help there. Dr. Crabb consistently challenges his readers to pursue the new way of living and forsake the old. The old way is one of striving to receive blessings from God and the new way is to simply desire God. Who could possibly argue with that?an afterword entitled, A Ten-Year After Afterward. The frustration comes in with describing the new way of living. The challenge to avoid living in the old way for the new way is expressed often. If the pressure is off, it certainly is not off in the attempt to assure that we do not slip back into the old way of living. We must pursue the new way and forsake the old. Every decision, every choice, every attitude should be evaluated to make sure we are not in the old way. The pressure seemed immense to me to make sure that I am not living in the old way but the new. I am left with the nagging feeling that it was necessary to live a new way rule in order to break the old way rule.Another frustration is that the book takes forever to actually get to the book’s message, and even when it does, it is extremely vague. In a nutshell the point is that we are to abide in Christ, seek Him first, and not just the blessings, and to endure hardship in this life for God’s glory. This life is not all there is and God does not promise us happiness here. God promises to be with us, in us, and to bring us into a deeper relationship with Him through Jesus. These points eventually come through but not until very late in the book.Aside from those two negatives the book is well written and even with my frustrations over the new way old way pressure, the goal of abiding in Christ does come shining through. There are some excellent concepts included in the book so let me highlight a few:”We no longer depend on a linear relationship between performance and blessings to arrange for the life we want.””Only the mature value the blessings of presence over the blessing of presents.””We prefer a vending-machine God to a sovereign, personal one. “”The plain fact that we moderns have trouble grasping is that God is not cooperating with our agenda to make this world a safe and wonderful place to live. ” Dr. Crabb does an excellent job of challenging his readers to pursue Christ for the sake of the relationship and intimacy; not for the possible blessings received, and that is an excellent point and makes the book well worth reading. Dr. Jeff Klick
Man Alive: Transforming Your Seven Primal Needs into a Powerful Spiritual Life Man Alive – Patrick Morley Patrick Morley is very well known for his passion in reaching men for Christ, and this shines through in the book. This quick reading book is loosely centered on what Morley calls every man’s “7 primal needs.” These needs include feeling like you have a purpose, to understand that God loves you, to break free from destructive habits and to understand that you are not alone, among others. After being a pastor for thirty years, I would concur with Morley’s findings that most men struggle with many or all of the seven areas discussed. The book is clearly written to reach men that are busy and in addition, do not have a long attention span. Crisp chapters followed by discussion points reflect the author’s ministry of teaching small groups of men. While sometimes glossing over the topic too quickly, there is enough meat in each chapter to stir an excellent small group discussion. Since we seem to love a sound bit culture, the book contains several worth repeating: “Christianity is heart transformation, not behavior modification.” “There are many ways to leave the Father but only one way to come back home.” “A disciple is called to live in Christ, equipped to live like Christ, and sent to live for Christ.” “Repentance is like cutting a piece of string in half. No matter how many times you cut it in half, half is still left.” Excellent thoughts indeed! Perhaps one of the best points made in the book, and there are many, is that whatever occupation a man may pursue, it is an ordained one. There is no difference to God whether someone is in the ministry professionally or not, whatever our hand (and in this case our career) finds to do, we do to the glory of God. The book is worth a read and especially useful for any small group gatherings of men to stimulate open conversation.
The Pleasures of God: Meditations on God's Delight in Being God John Piper has written over forty books and is an amazing thinker and communicator. In Pleasures Piper explores a concept based on another book written by Henry Scougal sometime in the 1600’s.  The thought that prompted this 258 page work goes like this, “The worth and excellency of a soul is to be measured by the object of its love.” Through nine chapters, Piper attempts to answer what is the object of God’s love thus revealing His soul. Chapters include how God loves the Son, creation, His own fame, works, election, doing good to His children, the prayers of the saints, and personal obedience of those that follow Him. There is much to be enjoyed in this work including Piper’s gift of being a wordsmith. Sentences like these are priceless: “I find the atmosphere of my own century far too dense with man and distant from the sweet sovereignty of God.” “Grace is the pleasure of God to magnify the worth of God by giving sinners the right and power to delight in God without obscuring the glory of God.” “Obedience is the irrepressible public relations project of those who have tasted and seen that the Lord is good.” I would love to be able to think and write like this someday. Piper is to be commended for his work that always directs everyone back to Jesus. On just about every page, Jesus is exalted and man is directed to look to Him and live. On the negative side, there are only a couple of comments. First, the large number of footnotes, which are printed in such a small font that most readers over the age of 40 will never be able to see them. It would have been better to include the notes into the chapter if they were that important, or use endnotes for ease of reading. Second, Piper is strongly Calvinistic and it shines forth in his chapter on God taking delight in election. I understand that good men disagree on the topic, but there is no disagreement allowed in this chapter. If you disagree with Piper, you are simply wrong. A frustration to me occurs with sentences like these: “Election is the good news that salvation is not only a sincere offer made to all, but a sure effect in the life of the elect and a transformation of faith produced by the power of God’s grace.”  This certainly is not good news and it is not a sincere offer from God if someone has no choice and is destined for eternal wrath before the creation of the world.  “It is not act of love to deny the reality of a terrible future which men and women can escape if they know it is coming.” If one follows Piper’s view on predestination, then this is an untrue statement. Only the chosen, elect will escape and those destined to hell have no other choice. With those two negatives aside, the book is well worth the read and Piper does an excellent job of keeping the reader’s attention from start to finish.
Tender Warrior: Every Man's Purpose, Every Woman's Dream, Every Child's Hope
Tender Warrior – Stu Webber I am not sure why this book ended up in my possible selections books from Multnomah, but I am very glad it did. The last copyright I can find in it is 1999, thus not what I expected when I cracked the cover for the first time. That is the only disappointment within its pages. In the sporting world, most of us have heard of the “it” of leadership. Regardless of how people may feel about Tim Tebow, just about everyone that meets him says he has “it,” in spades. It oozes out of every pore of his body, and while I have never met Mr. Webber, I would say he has “it” as well. From the opening pages to the final chapter, leadership shines forth. Tender Warrior is a clarion call to all men to step up, stay in, and be a man. Not is some false macho fashion, but in a well rounded, take up your cross and follow Jesus way. Webber explains how each of his four pillars of manhood – King, Warrior, Mentor and Friend, tie together to make a man that is resembles our Lord Jesus. I could not agree more. Webber mixes a very clear call with grace and conviction rarely found in gender focused books. While there are explanations given for some of the male tendencies, there are never excuses, and that is excellent. From cover to cover, men are called to be real men, and Webber does a truly outstanding job in this book. Perhaps the best tag line is the one under the heading: Every man’s purpose, every woman’s dream, and every child’s hope. It simply cannot be said any better than that when considering the role of a man. I highly recommend this book!
Gabe Lyons is an excellent writer and an influential figure in our world. I cannot argue with Mr. Lyon’s take on the status of the next generation of Christians, though I wish he was not altogether correct. I believe Lyons has his pulse on the group of believers he labels as, “Restorers,”  even though I would fit better in his group called, “Separatist.” The subtle disdain in which this passing away group is handled, reflects a prejudice revealed most likely from the author’s reaction to his upbringing. Lyons makes this first group the old, resistant to change, harsh, judgmental, etc. and the restorers the new, alive ones, compassionate, and most ready to engage the evils of the world. I wonder where all those established schools, hospitals, food pantries, and world-wide compassion ministries came from historically, if not from those “separatists?” Lyons findings are interesting and revealing. The current brand of restorer Christian does seem to seek more to blend into society  rather than to confront it for Christ. I applaud the efforts of everyone to serve, express compassion to the sick, weak, and homeless, and to engage culture at every level. However, without Christ being the main focus, these efforts are not really complete. One quote shows the core problem from my point of view. In writing about the restorers as “Creators not Critics, Lyons reveals: “They seeing “doing good” as the perfect dance partner for conversion. Both are important, but neither one takes precedence over the other.” Jesus might be surprised with that sentence, as well as many of those who do good works will be at judgment time. Matthew 7 comes to mind when those after death, approach the Savior with their good works and they are told to depart from Jesus. Doing good deeds and raising the cultural level is good, but it never will be on the same plain as the Gospel. I don’t believe Lyons intends to present a Christ-less Gospel, but he certainly comes close at times in his praise of the new breed of Christian. To his credit, the author does state that we need to bring Jesus into everything we do and everywhere we go. I would concur, but probably not in the abstract manner that he is so excited about in this book. We are told in multiple places to avoid evil, shun foolish companions, flee from temptation, to have our minds renewed, not to imitate wickedness, and to generally live in a completely different lifestyle than those that don’t know Jesus. I really can’t think of a verse that tells me to adopt, embrace, imitate, or for that matter, provide an alternative to what is ruled by the god of this world. A fine line is walked when we begin to attempt to raise the level of the dark kingdom without first confronting its pungent, sin-filled, death unleashing roots. For the record, I am not an isolationist, I simply belong to another Kingdom and my citizenship is there. The book is worth the read and I am glad that Blogging for Books, a program with Multnomah sent it to me. Leonard Sweet in his book,
Viral; How Social Networking is Poised to Ignite Revival is interesting, challenging, and disappointing at the same time. I received an advance reading copy from WaterBrook as part of the Blogging for Books program. Thank you for the generous gift! As a busy pastor it is hard to keep up with the plethora of books being published so this provides a good cross section of opportunities. Dr. Sweet is a prolific thinker and writer and it shows as you plow through this material. Like many books of this type, I believe much is written to challenge other thinkers and PhD’s rather than to reach a more general audience. Just glance at the hundreds of foot notes and you will understand my point. Sweet uses an extremely wide range of authorities to make his point and perhaps takes a measure of delight in quoting some that he knows will provoke a reaction from his more conservative readers. Arousing your readers anger however, is an effective tool to get them to talk about your book. The premise of the book really never comes into focus and the ending left a feeling of disappointment as Sweet failed to make the point of his subtitle. Sweet does a good job of developing the argument that there is a divide between those born in 1973 and those after, an arbitrary date that he chose to create to make his two camps. Those born before the invention of the bag phone (1973) and those after are divided by technology and processes of using them. Pros and cons and strengths and weaknesses of each group are developed, though somewhat convoluted and often not very easy to follow. It would seem that Sweet is clearly in the camp that is before 1973 yet longs to be more in the other one and is attempting to make the transition. I would also fit into this breakdown. Googlers and Gutenbergs are the two camps with the first one being the younger folks and the latter being us older ones. These are clever terms and Sweet is consistent in his usage of them throughout. There is much of value in this work and I would recommend it. However, if you are looking for answers or even clarity as to how to deal with the divide, this book is not for you. In addition, if you hope Sweet provides an answer to how the social network will ignite a revival, that is also not clear. Dr. sweet may be correct in his presuppositions, he simply does not communicate it well as to the details.   The Jesus Mission by Steven K. Scott was sent to me in an exchange program initiated by Multnomah and for this, I am grateful!
This is the first book that I have read by Scott, but after reading it, I will get his more famous one, The Greatest Words Ever Spoken. Scott’s consistent elevation of Jesus is wonderful! There are many sections of The Jesus Mission to enjoy and a few to endure, like most books. The chapters that expound on what it means to be born again, to be intimate with God, and what Jesus actually said, are all excellent. The chapters that are more like a high-pressure sales job and motivational seminar are not so good. There is life to be gained from all of it because it is saturated with the words of Christ; there was just an overall feeling of salesmanship throughout that was disappointing to me. I do not like to be pushed, and this book had somewhat of that feel. Still, I would recommend the book highly because Jesus is exalted and the plan of salvation and discipleship is clearly explained. The constant theme that knowing Jesus should change your life is also much needed in our day, yet sadly lacking in the Church culture. Chapter 14 is worth the purchase price of the book alone. This is one of the best, succinct explanations of who Jesus is that I have read. This chapter could be printed off as a salvation tract and help many lead their friends to Christ. Any honest seeker of truth would be challenged by this chapter as to the claims of Christ and His followers. Excellent! Overall, Scott does a good job of moving the reader to what his title promised, even if it was a bit misleading as the focus of the book. The emphasis of the book was really not on the 27 missions of Christ, but on His person and words, and really, you cannot go too wrong with that foundation. Multnomah sends books to pastors to read and blog about and this is a quite a blessing since funds are often limited.
Mark Batterson’s latest book, Soulprint; Discovering Your Divine Destiny, is my most recent gift. Mr. Batterson does an excellent job of presenting truth in a memorable fashion. His wordplay skills are excellent. Spinning th oughts and sentences that flow together is an art form that has approached masterful in Soulprint.  “It’s more than a realization. It’s a revelation. It’s more than self-confidence. It’s holy confidence.” is one of hundreds of examples spread throughout this work and this technique makes the book very enjoyable to read. The inspiration for the book’s message comes from one of the great Bible hero, David. Lessons are taken from David’s early days up through his fall with Bathsheba. Running through the book is hope and a clear focus on the Lord’s gracious redemption both in David’s life and ours. Soulprint the title, is even a word play on fingerprint. We each have a unique set of prints on our fingers and Mr. Batterson argues we also have a unique soul given as a gift from God. We are made with a God-ordained destiny waiting to be discovered and released. Batterson challenges us to revisit our past and see the work of God there and how it shaped us for the future. We cannot of course change anything back there, but we can learn from it and see God’s handiwork in it. We should reflect on the defining moments of our past and see how they make each one of us a unique expression of Christ. There are many enjoyable personal examples and I won’t list them all so as to ruin your journey though this delightful book. Buy it yourself and learn who you are in Christ.
This little book written primarily by Jeff Feldhahn is a wonderful tool for men to gain some insight into the world of women. On several occasions after reading a chapter, I would discuss the content with my bride of thirty-six years to see if what was written was accurate.  Most was, though not often applicable to those married for over three decades. In fact, many of the chapters contain a disclaimer of the discrepancies between younger women versus those over forty-five. The six major understandings presented in the book present a helpful, though not detailed, plan for men to improve their relationship with their wife. Similar to the format used in the best seller, *For Women Only* by Shaunti, this book is based on interviews and focus groups of women. Their responses to survey type questions were gathered, organized, and then synthesized into the six main points. This little book touches on why women need love, desire less sex, want security in the relationship more than financial gain, just want a hug and not necessarily a solution, and still want her man to notice and complement her about her physical appearance. While not earth shattering in revelation, the lessons learned in the pages of this book would help many newly married folks to understand basic differences between the husband and wife, and is therefore a good read. The book states it is not intended to deal with deep marital issues, and they are correct. The book also lacks a lot of “how to” type answers that will arise if a man honestly ask questions while reading it. Overall the book is a helpful look into the sometimes mysterious world of women. It is written by a man with the help of his wife and is a quick read that is worth the time.
Mr. Batterson’s book is an excellent reminder to focus on what is important. If we really are headed for eternity then eternal matters should direct us at the root level of our lives. The book is full of sound bites that stick in the mind and encourage a great deal of thought. Consider the following sample: “But minds often remain closed to truth until hearts have been opened by compassion.” “Most of us let what we cannot do keep us from doing what we can.” “The truth is that most of us are already educated way beyond the level of our obedience.” “Learning isn’t a luxury; it’s a stewardship issue.” “Don’t just criticize what’s wrong; do something right. Quit living as if the purpose of life is to arrive safely at death.” “Everything you see was once a sound wave in the vocal cords of God.” I could go on but each of these sentences easily could be developed into a series of messages to preach on for weeks and months! Excellent thoughts are contained in each nugget. Batterson clearly issues a call to return to loving our Father with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength. This love is not something to be simply enjoyed or experienced in our prayer closet, but is to be demonstrated to a hurting world all around us. If a reformation is going to take place it will occur at the individual level and its realty will be felt in a person to person encounter. True Christianity is outward looking and not self-focused. Primal issues a clear call to get back to the roots of Christ’s message and begin to change the world in which we live. A final quote sums up the book’s theme – “Isn’t it time to stop serving your purposes and start serving His? Isn’t it time to stop striving in your own strength and start flowing in His? Isn’t it time to stop building your own kingdom and start advancing His?” The answer to all three questions is yes, in fact, it is way past time.
Radical Together by David Platt, is an excellent call to real Christianity for the everyday believer. As a pastor for about 30 years, I can and do hardily recommend this short book. In its pages rest the truth lost in our modern activity oriented church model. It seems to me that many pastors and churches are guilty of a proliferation of events and gatherings simply to justify large salaries and buildings. Being radical for Christ is simply returning to a Biblical model of saint-driven ministry and abandoning the top down model in place in most churches today. The apostle Paul challenged the pastors to equip the saints and the ones being equipped should be challenged to use their equipping! Platt accurately and succinctly challenges pastors and churches to rethink the current model and release the saints to minister. Good for him! It is strange to me that something so Biblical must be sold as being radical, however, that is where we are today in our understanding of the church life. Platt constantly challenges the current conventional thinking of how to “do church,” with a much more basic call to obey Jesus in whatever He calls you to do. That sort of thinking is radical in our day and it is truly a shame. Jesus commanded His followers to deny themselves, take up their cross and to follow Him wherever He may lead. Platt has the unabashed gall to actually attempt to implement this in the modern church! Again, good for him! The book is full of actual stories from real people that have accepted the call to be radical, or as I like to say, obey the Scripture. While this could come across as self-serving, Platt is quick to point out his shortcomings and failures and to divert the glory to God for anything good that is being accomplished. Again, good for him! Overall an excellent book and quick read that would certainly change the way church is run in America if pastors would seriously consider the author?s challenge to rethink what they are doing. As a pastor that has been walking in this model since 1993, I could not agree more with Platt on his call and I hope his words are read far and wide. That’s my humble but deadly accurate opinion anyway…
  The Corruptible, by Mark Mynheir was sent to me via the blogging for books program conducted by Multnomah. This type of novel is somewhat out of my normal reading patterns having just completed my latest PhD. While I have been plumbing the depths of theology and such, the world of fiction continues on with great passion. The Corruptible is an enjoyable read but left me a bit frustrated with Christian novels in general. The main character obviously has been around the other Christian folks in the story for I believe this is the second novel in the Ray Quinn mystery series, yet he remains an unbeliever. Maybe the book was written to so that it would be read by both Christians and non believers, but leaving out the religious overtones would have changed the story very little. In fact, simply substituting any religion or even self-help practices probably would have helped the alcoholic, self-absorbed main character as much as the occasional references to God and prayer. Why is it that Christian authors have such a hard time really developing their character’s personal relationship with God in these type novels? I have similar questions regarding why Christian schools and drama groups are so reluctant to produce Christian plays and musicals, but that will have to wait to be answered. Even with the above caveat, Mynheir does an excellent job of keeping the story moving along and since he has a police background, he certainly comes across as an insider. The reader is privy to many internal aspects of police work and tools that are not typically known. The process of researching out backgrounds and vetting suspects adds a nice touch of realism to the plot. In addition, insight is given into the emotional and relational struggles of folks in this line of work that only could be known from one who endured them. The author also does an excellent job of letting us into the mind of the struggling detective, and what he does to cope with his issues. The book is worth a read and is a nice distraction from the issues in life that we all face, and in spite of my frustrations mentioned earlier, I would recommend it.   I received this book from Multnomah in an exchange program. If I would write a review, they would send the book. I love this program!
Having recently reviewed another book by Mr. Alcorn entitled, If God is Good, it seemed natural to explore some his fictional writings as well. In the first book reviewed, Mr. Alcorn explored the entire arena of why a good God would allow evil into His creation. In this fictional work, the battle between good and evil is presented in graphic fashion. The story presented in The Chasm reminded me of a cross between The Pilgrim’s Progress and This Present Darkness. The main character, Nick Seagrave, encounters Joshua, an angel of darkness parading as a messenger of light, the Woodsman, a personification of Jesus, and a host of angelic warriors made up of both good and evil. This is a short book, and reads very quickly because of the intensity of the personal struggles revealed. While not wanting to ruin the plot for you, Mr. Alcorn does an excellent job of weaving reality and the supernatural together in this novel. In the midst of the story there are some very enlightening observations. One in particular stood out to me. The main character was caught in the middle of supernatural battle that everyone else was completely unaware of. Nick’s eyes were opened to the reality that no one else could see and as Nick observed the battle raging all around him, he makes an observation that is very powerful. While we humans tend to hold a neutral, dual citizenship position regarding God’s and the devil’s kingdoms, the supernatural world offers no such luxury. There are only two choices without any hint of nuances, tones, or shading. Black or white without any gray. It is not possible to straddle the fence in the supernatural realm. There is a war and it is anything but subtle or open to negotiation. Like Nick, each of us must ultimately choose which side we will follow and to whom we will bow. Neutrality is not an option. We know from the Scripture that eventually every knee will bow to the Lord Jesus, in this novel, it is revealed how and why. This is an excellent novel, probably not suited for younger children, but a definite read. I had not heard of the author or this title previously primarily due to not getting out much I guess and not really staying up on the latest movements in the broader church world.
While I have been a pastor for about 30 years, I rarely follow trends or movements having plenty to do in my own little world. First the positives: Awakening is well written and geared to a general audience. If believers will follow the instructions given I firmly believe they will deepen their walk with God. Making space in our lives for God’s presence cannot help but be beneficial. Cutting out or limiting the distractions that steal our limited time will also encourage growth in our walk with God. Fasting, limiting worldly interactions, and setting aside twenty-one days a year to grow in our walk with God will produce good fruit. The book is clear, quick moving, and populated with testimonies revealing success stories of people that followed the plan. The negatives I have are more geared to what was not shared. While personal testimonies from victorious folks is encouraging, what about people that follow the plan and remain in the mess? I cannot believe that everyone that follows this plan is delivered from pain and suffering and walks away a new person. There are hints that some folks still have to endure problems, but the book reads more like The Prayer of Jabez, which to me was just a little better than Christian magic. Recite the same prayer every day and your life will change, God has to bless you, etc. The nagging feeling I had was this is a new results guaranteed program from another Charismatic corner of the Church. If you simply follow these easy steps, your life will be glorious! You will speak in new tongues, your love for God will remain in high mode all the time. My antidotal stories do not quite line up with these. Many folks fast, cry out to God, dedicate their lives to service and still suffer tremendously. Many still divorce and remain un- healed. Still can’t find enough employment. Still suffer abuse, neglect, and persecution. Most do not speak in new tongues or experience supernatural events. Life is often a grind-it-out event. I would encourage folks to read the book and commit to a twenty-one day dedication to God. As stated, your spiritual life will change if you make space for God. I would also encourage people to have a longer term perspective on this life. This life is hard, difficult, often discouraging and downright depressing some days, because we were not made for this life, but the next! Dedicating our lives to follow Christ should be a time of awakening but it also always ends with a cross. A cross had one purpose, okay two, pain and death. Not all of our Christian life is full of happiness and sunshine, but often encompasses endurance and walking through shadows. Rededicating our lives to God will encourage spiritual growth, but there are not magic formulas or fufu dust in our walk with God, and expecting one will lead to disappointment.
Theodicy is often defined as an argument in defense of God’s goodness despite the existence of evil. It is obvious that in our world we have an abundance of evil. What is not so apparent is the reasons why. Randy Alcorn offers many possible explanations for maintaining a seemingly contrary opinion that God is both all good and all powerful, and yet, there is great evil in our world. Alcorn avoids much of the technical writing that is often associated with this debate. Philosophers writing to other philosophers often cloud the subject so much that unless you are very well acquainted with the inner workings of the discussion, you feel completely left out. Alcorn does very little of this and yet provides rich insights into why a good God would allow evil to exist in His creation. Any reader will benefit from finishing the 494 pages! The book is saturated with both Scripture and personal interviews. The Scripture provides the answers from God’s point of view, and the personal testimonies cement the discussion in human reality. Almost every chapter is full of quotes and examples from real people that either are suffering, or have suffered tremendous evil. Loss of loved ones, terminal diseases, abuse at the hands of strangers or even family members, financial loss, and many other examples of personal pain are presented with no attempt to blunt the real suffering endured. Answers are provided as to why some of the pain and suffering is being endured, but unlike so many other works, none of the pain is softened. These are real people just like you and I, and they have endured tremendous suffering. Is there a reason? Can God possibly be justified in allowing such things to take place? Randy Alcorn does an excellent job of providing multiple reasons as to why and to what purpose these tragedies have taken place. While philosopher atheists would argue that Randy is missing the point in his presentation, one clear truth presented is, that those that are Christian suffers, are living testaments to God’s goodness not from a lack of pain and sorrow, but in the midst of it. In the very center of heartache, disease, death, and all manner of evil endured, these believers are drawing closer to Christ than before their lives were touched. Most of us would agree that personal testimony is still the strongest argument. Alcorn in his book touches upon all the tradition characters in the on-going debate, as well as some from the historical perspective. What he succeeds in doing is moving the discussion from the overt technical to something that is practical and understandable for his target audience. For this he should be commended. Alcorn combines into, and explains many of the traditional theodicy’s his book – The Free Will Defense, The Greater Good Argument, The Consequences of Sin Argument, The Best of all Possible Worlds Argument, The Soul Making Argument, The Afterlife Argument, and Mankind has Limited Knowledge Argument. While each of these alone will not answer all of the questions associated with this topic, all of them together certainly will provide some serious thought to the question. Alcorn’s favorite one seems to be the Greater Good approach. God is after something in each one of His creatures that He cannot get without the tool of pain and suffering. If you have suffered heartache and can’t find the reason why, this book is a must read. It also would be beneficial for every young person to read before entering the corridors of upper education where wily atheists await with their take on the problem of evil. Better to be prepared before hand, than to repair the damage afterwards.
This is the first book that I have read by Dr. Wright, it most likely will not be the last. While there is nothing startling or even overly new contained within the pages, the writing style is excellent and therefore enjoyable reading. Dr. Wright clearly presents the misconceptions held by many that we will someday spend eternity sitting around on clouds strumming harps with little else to do than float. While we may have some rest time, the Scripture certainly does not paint such a picture of our next life. The Apostle Paul states that we will, “judge angels” and we will be “reigning” with Christ doing something. While it is not altogether clear all that we will be doing, we will not be simply idle. Dr. Wright is an excellent thinker and if you want to be encouraged and perhaps stretched to ponder some more traditional ways of viewing heaven, then this book is for you. It is a shame that a book like this even has to be written because it reflects how far removed Christianity really is from the Biblical viewpoint. For that reason alone, this book is worth the price. Dr. Wright is careful to distinguish between what is clearly revealed in Scripture, and what is his conjuncture and for that I am grateful. Many writers of his stature often mistake these two differences. I would recommend this book for anyone that would like to think, be encouraged about what comes after this life, and how the current Church needs to retrain their mission. Other Books Recently Read But Not Reviewed:

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