Break Open the Sky is a clarion call to real Christianity instead of simply playing church. Stephan Bauman while attempting to shake the typical pew sitter out of fear, walks fearlessly into many former safe zones.
Consider this sentence for example: – “I am convinced that much of what we call faith is really not faith at all; instead it’s a culture that has developed around faith. More broadly, I am concerned our version of Christianity has become, in part, only an echo of the real thing.”
Bauman continues to explain that much of the church is driven by sales, growth, and numbers more than love, charity, and service to the downcast.
The book is roughly centered around Jesus’ teaching in the Beatitudes, though it would be hard to pin it down there exactly. Each of these sentences from Jesus’ famous teaching in Matthew 5 is touched upon and usually, an application is made from a story from a far-off country Bauman either lived or served in.
Great lessons of faith to learn to overcome fear are presented in multiple stories. Wonderful sentences such as this are to be found throughout – “…that we can make suffering an intimate friend is a notion as old as our faith, but it is reserved for those willing to view suffering as an unlikely teacher, yet one dripping with wisdom.”
At the heart of the book is love, God’s love working itself out through those of us that have received it. “Unlike grace, which requires revelation, love requires demonstration-tangible expressions of compassion through everyday actions, not just words.” The author actually expects his readers to overcome fear and walk in love towards those among us that need it the most. How novel of a thought in our day, yet how powerful!
We are challenged in each chapter to step out of our comfort zone and into helping others. We can learn a great deal from others as we lay aside our prejudices and preconceived ideas. Wisdom often comes disguised in a trial or even a bag lady, if we have eyes to see.
The book’s purpose to me seems to be to help move us from inaction to action, from self to outward love, from fear to faith, and not just any kind of faith but the kind of faith James wrote about – being seen by our actions.
Well worth the read and is thought provoking on multiple levels. This book was provided by Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.
City of Miracles, by Robert Jackson Bennett, concludes a trilogy of fantasy stories following the exploits of an assassin named Sigrud. Sigrud is good, very good at his trade. In fact, he seems to never age or slow down like ordinary people.
Sigrud remains strangely the same compared to his peers. Age does not touch him. It seems neither can death no matter how close or how powerful. There is some sort of protection covering him. Probably better stated a miracle.
There is a strange scar. A history. A life regretted. There is pain, loss and a constant nagging about something bigger than what is visible to the naked eye. It seems like the life that is lived by most is not the actual life being lived by others.
Mystery. Intrigue. Suspense. Supernatural activities and plot twists abound in this novel exploring life and the very difficult choices we are often forced to make. Every choice has consequences, but how do we know we made the right ones? What would have happened, or could have happened if we chose differently?
Can one emotionally and physically scarred man make a difference for the entire world? Will it all come down to the choices that he makes to save or ruin everyone? Has Sigrud really lived as long as he has simply to do nothing? Can his scar actually be the saving grace for all?
City of Miracles is a fast-paced page turner as might be expected for a successful novel series. It does not disappoint.
Other than a few unnecessary f-bombs, the book is acceptable for most readers. In fact, while not a Christian novel, one thought is profoundly motivating:
“What a tremendous sin impatience is, he thinks. It blinds us to the moment before us, and it is only when that moment has passed that we look back and see it was full of treasures.”
Deep truth indeed. Life is full of opportunities, choices, successes, and failures. Each makes a mark on our lives and countless others. This is true in our world and in the one created by Robert Bennett. All will be resolved in Sigrud’s world and you will finish the book with a sense of both completeness and contentment. I wonder if that could be said of our life and world as well?
This book was provided by Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.
It’s not often that I describe reading a book as an experience, but in this case, it is the only word that fits. Eugene Peterson’s As Kingfishers Catch Fire, is a work to be felt.
As I was enjoying this book of sermons, the words of the Queen of Sheba kept going through my mind – “Happy are these your servants, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom!” 2 Chronicles 9:7(b)
Dr. Peterson and I could not be more different in our preaching styles, yet every message he wrote spoke to my heart and soul. My respect for the insights shared and the word pictures painted cannot be exaggerated.
After reading this book, I have gained so much appreciation for Dr. Peterson’s skills as both an orator and translator. The breadth of knowledge of the English language has inspired me to dig deeper for insights for my own congregation.
Dr. Peterson’s insights and reflection on the usage of the metaphor throughout Scripture is worth the price of the book alone. I will never read the varied stories of the Bible without considering the lens presented within the pages of this book.
Here are just a few statements that gave me pause for deeper reflection, and isn’t that what both a sermon and book should do?
• Preaching is important. It develops an imagination adequate to embrace revolution.
• If we pray without listening, we pray out of context.
• Prayer is not a way in which we order things; it is a way we become ordered.
• Our purpose in gathering each Lord’s Day is to prepare us to live what we hear, to get what we hear with our ears into our feet as we follow Jesus.
• And prophets insist that we deal with God as God reveals himself, not as we imagine him to be.
There are hundreds of these type sentences scattered throughout the book and enough food for deep thought to last this me for quite some time. I will be returning to Dr. Peterson’s thoughts repeatedly to plumb the depths of this excellent book.
If you are a pastor looking for inspiration or someone that simply enjoys excellent sermons, this gathering of forty-nine will keep you busy enjoying God for a long, long time. I highly recommend this work.
This book was provided for Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.
Eleanor, by Jason Gurley, is a fascinating combination of fiction types. Part science fiction, part time travel, part soap opera, and part metaphysical, Eleanor is primarily a story of regret and redemption.
Tragedy and death hit a family killing a twin daughter, but this is not the first death in their history; or is it? One is not quite sure for most of the story what happened before these twins were born.
This well-written story moves quickly and jumps between realms and historical moments often blurring the lines so much you can’t quite tell who is who or what is real. Perhaps that is what makes this novel so entertaining and fast paced.
Pain and heartache often visit, but how we cope with it can impact generations. Some leave and others stay but give into drugs or the bottle to help numb the always present sorrow. Many are unaware of the consequences of their actions upon others, and therein is one of the themes of Eleanor. All of us have others in our lives that will be affected by the way we deal with pain and sorrow.
The religious aspects of the novel are missing, but the author does explore what happens after death somewhat. I won’t spoil the ending, but it centers on making changes to the past to correct or create perhaps a different future. Would we make the same choices if given the opportunity? Would it really change anything or make any difference if we did choose?
Overall Eleanor is an excellent read. The perfunctory inclusions of scattered f-bombs seem unnecessary, but alas, the modern writers seem bent on inclusion to assure us of reality and relatability I assume. It’s too bad really because they are not necessary to a very well written story. Since Mr. Gurley included them, I, therefore, cannot recommend this story to younger readers.
I look forward to reading other works by this talented author. This book was provided by Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.
Life After Heaven; How My time in Heaven Can Transform Your Life on Earth, by Steven Musick with Paul Pastor, is not your typical “I visited heaven,” book. Yes, there is some description of what takes place on the “other side,” but the bulk of the book focuses on why that reality should influence our current one.
The author traces his life from the early days to the current one and shows us how the reality of heaven should make a difference in our here and now. Heaven is real but that is not our primary concern. What matters from the author’s point of view, is that heaven should be invading the temporal, and is not something that we just bide our time waiting for.
The author’s description of his experience fits into what is typically understood by those that have either died or nearly did. Bright light, while tunnel, open fields with peace, joy and ease on the other side of the journey. Musick’s includes an extended dialogue with Jesus as the Lord opens up the details of the author’s life. This happens to fit my expectation as well, so I hope what the author experienced is common to us all.
The author’s primary mission is to ask his readers to be observant of heaven all around us. Kingdom of Heaven bubbles is the term used. Written from a Charismatic experience point of view, I’m sure some anti or non-charismatic readers would be put off by the emphasis on personal experience, but they would be missing the larger point.
Yes, the author was “slain in the Spirit,” at a Vineyard church service. While under this multiple hour experience, the author returned to heaven and was also healed of a long-term disability while being told by Jesus, “that everything will be different now.” That proved to be very true.
Miraculously healed physically was just the beginning. Musick now began to experience little bits of heaven in his daily life. Moving in what would be probably referred to as the gifts of the Spirit, the author began to follow the daily leading into many “bubbles” of heaven.
I will let others argue over what is real, what is fake, and are the gifts still relevant in our day. The story told by the author is well worth reading. We all need to slow down and take stock of what is going on around us. While I have never seen the heavenly glow on someone like the author has, I have had supernatural experiences by listening and praying for others. Did heaven come down? Maybe.
The book is a fast read and worth the time. Most of us that would read this book would agree that heaven is real and that the Lord there wants to impact us here. That is the point of the book and I simply could not agree more with it.
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.
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.
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.
Jesus 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.
Tim 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.
An 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.
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