Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A hardy book well worth it

FOUR STARS: REVIEW OF As Silver Refined: Answers to Life’s Disappointments by Kay Arthur

This book is well worth purchasing. It is so meaty and hardy—and is virtually two books in one. The book itself is more than 275 pages long while the additional 13-week Bible Study at the end consisting of 75 plus pages. Talk about really being able to dig into God’s Word!

The book talks to readers about refining their lives—how God can take what is impure and make it pure and turn the dull into beautiful. Issues in the book include how to use one’s past to move forward toward the future and how God can use the things in your life to make you into someone He “can use in the lives of others to show them that no matter where they’ve been, no matter how deep the hole, no matter how painful the trial, there’s hope. There is victory (page 118).” Chapter topics include: understanding disappointment, past regrets, facing stress, victory over discouragement, and the secret of endurance.

Arthur also weaves in her own personal stories of suicide, her prodigal son, and her father’s unexpected death throughout the book allowing the reader to connect. It is also chocked full of Scripture which I appreciate. This is no surprise, though, after all Arthur is the queen of Inductive Bible study at Precept Ministries.

*I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Mark Batterson has done it again!

FIVE STARS: SoulPrint: Discovering Your Divine Destiny by Mark Batterson

Mark Batterson has done it again!

I have been a big fan of Batterson since I read In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day, and Soul Print doesn’t disappoint. As always, Batterson is a masterful writer that makes the biblical stories jump off the page. The book is full of deep insight, but also contains plenty of humor. Soulprint is educational and entertaining all rolled into one!

Using biblical David as a foundational prototype model, Batterson shows readers how to find their unique soulprints. While our chief objective is to be just like Jesus, Batterson says our other destiny is “to be unlike anyone who has ever lived…to become like Christ is to become unlike anyone else. He sets us free from who we’re not, so we can become who we were designed to be.”

The book is separated into five major sections—Holy Confidence, Lifesymbols, The Crags of the Wild Goats, Alter Ego, and The Devil’s Workshop—which helps readers discover their authentic, unique soulprint. At the end of the book is a very useful tool where Batterson notes the key ides from each chapter along with discussion questions to use for further self-discovery or with a group.

This book is a must read for those seeking to stretch themselves for the sake of discovering their divine destiny.

*I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A special book bound in spiritual love

REVIEW: His Little Princess by Sheri Rose
Shepherd [FIVE STARS]

I have two “Little Princesses” in my life—my two nieces—and it would be a joy to read this book to them each day.

The book is unique in that it is a devotion and prayer book for young girls, something often not seen. But being a “big Princess” myself, I also found the wisdom and prayers it contained encouraging and uplifting. The book is arranged with a Letter from the King (Holy God) one page and on the opposite page a prayer for the Princess(your little one). The devotion topics range from respect, beauty, courage, character, thankfulness, to Jesus our Savior.

My favorite thing about the book is that each letter and prayer is based on Scripture. This is the bind that I consider most important. For example the Letter from the King entitled “My Beautiful Creation,” is based on Nehemiah 9:6, “You alone are the LORD, Creator of the heavens and all the stars, Creator of the earth and those who live on it, Creator of the ocean and all its creatures. You are the source of life, praised by the stars that fill the heavens.” How magnificent! Shepherd takes the Bible’s already glorious words and truths and puts them in a form that young girls can grasp.
Another thing that I like about the book is the “Little Princess” prayer that goes with each letter. This book teaches girls not only to be thankful for all God has done for them in reading the Letter from the King, but it also teaches them how to pray and offer up thanksgiving for all God has done for them. And I like how each prayer ends: “In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.”
This devotional book would be a treasure for any mother, father, grandparent, uncle, or aunt to read to the “Little Princesses” in their lives. Not only will the Princesses be blessed, but they will, too.

*I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Get your Chazown on!

4 STARS: Review of Chazown by Craig Groeschel

This book disturbed me.

Don’t worry, that’s OK…that is what is supposed to do.

Author Craig Groeschel asks, “Are you willing to let God disturb you with dreams so big that you don’t know how they’ll be accomplished?”

If you are, this book will help you create a roadmap of how to get there with God’s unique purpose for your life.

The book was broken up into small, bite-sized chapters which I enjoyed. It gave me time to pause after each chapter and reflect on the topic at hand, and it also helped me feel like I was succeeding (even if it was just in a small way by reading 33 chapters in a few hours) so that I could move on to succeed in a big way for God.

The book is also two-for-one…a workbook fit into a book. Groeschel offers additional free online resources and worksheets to go along with the book to make your time and energy more productive and focused on finding your God-given “Chazown,” which is the Hebrew word for vision.
By working through the book you can create your personal vision statement and then move forward to set it into action. Groeschel is a practical pastor—which I have liked in his other books as well—in that he lets the reader become the driving force in the book. For example, it is up to the reader to decide what part of his/her vision statement on which to work first (there are five fundamentals he suggests). “Go and live your action plan in that part of your life for a while, then come back and create a plan for another area,” he writes. I appreciate this. Sometimes when we want to make changes in our lives, we create a list of those changes, but when we see how long the list is (at least for me) it is crushing. So instead of going forward with gusto to change and cross things off the list, we sometimes just do nothing. I believe doing it in bite-size pieces, as Groeschel permits, will ensure success in the long run instead of trying to swallow it all at once and get suffocated.
Rejoice in knowing that God chose you to live right now. So get your “Chazown” on!

*I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Holes can only be filled by the Holy

REVIEW: {W}hole by Lisa Whittle

In this book, author Lisa Whittle walks the reader through how to truly become whole. We all have holes in our life story that can only be filled by God and Whittle shows how to give Jesus access to those holes so He can fill them.

She focuses on three main holes in one’s life: the hole of religion, the hole of roles, and the hole of experiences. I highlighted, dog-eared a great many pages of the book for the truth in which they spoke into me and holes from which I suffer.

Throughout the book, Whittle weaves her personal story with Scripture and action points to help the reader fill his/her own holes. At the end of each chapter she poses poignant questions for the reader to consider. Sitting down the book after each chapter and pondering on the questions are worthwhile.

In the Appendix she offers results of a 2010 research study conducted by Barna Research about how Christians feel about their self-perception, their priorities in life, their intentional service for God and more. The results are very eye-opening.

At the end, she writes one of my favorite things in the book: “We claw and grasp and reach and strain to stay afloat by our own efforts. All the while Jesus wants us to face the end of ourselves so He can fully begin.”

*Tyndale House Publishers has provided you with a complimentary copy of this book.

Monday, October 3, 2011

REVIEW: Lioness Arising by Lisa Bevere

TWO STARS: Looking for more meat for my lioness teeth to tear into

As an animal lover, I was excited to get this book and read about how women are supposed to be lionesses to wake up and change the world.
The author states that since Jesus was the Lion of the tribe of Judah, we are to be the lioness. I really like that picture!

But then the book fell short for me. There are some good quotes which caused me to ponder, though, like the one from Matthew Arnold (a 19th century British poet and philosopher): “If ever there comes a time when the women of the world come together purely and simply for the benefit of mankind, it will be a force such as the world has never known.”

Overall, unfortunately there just didn’t seem to be enough meat for my lioness teeth to tear into. Maybe it wasn’t the book, though, maybe it is me—a pastor who is already fierce and wants to become fiercer. I believe this book is more aimed toward women who need to first discover and embrace they are a lioness, not those who already know they are.

*I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

REVIEW: The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven by Kevin and Alex Malarkey

I had some people in my congregation tell me about this book, so I was excited to finally read it.

It is about a young boy and his father who were in a horrific car accident. The boy was in a coma for months. During those months, he said he was in heaven with Jesus.

The boy, Alex Malarkey, was the first child to ever undergo the surgery made famous by actor Christopher Reeve, and Alex is still confined to a wheelchair.

The book is written by both father, Kevin Malarkey, and son, Alex. Alex contributes at the end of each chapter giving his own personal account of what happened.

The heart of the book is that while Alex cannot function fully in the physical world, but he can operate in the spiritual world in remarkable ways.

The Malarkey family is Christian and the book contains many uplifting stories of how God has blessed and provided for the family through the tragic accident. It is a stirring book and a worthwhile read.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Jesus loves the Church thus should we

REVIEW: Why Church Matters by Joshua Harris

As a pastor, I was definitely intrigued by the title of this book, Why Church Matters, because I know someone people who think otherwise. As excited as I was to dig into the book, I ended up being a bit disheartened as the information given was not that deep. This book might be helpful for a new Christian, but for long-time Christians, the book may not bear much fruit.

Author Joshua Harris offers some simple answers to Why Church Matters, the most clear-cut being that Jesus loves the church thus so should we. He compellingly reminds us that we are living stones of Christ’s church and corporate worship “glorifies God in ways nothing else can.”

The bright spots in the book are all the powerful quotes on the importance of church he brings in from other preachers such as Mark Dever, C.J. Mahaney, Paul David Tripp, Chuck Colson, John Piper. Harris also offers a “Ten Important Questions” section which readers can use to help find a church home. As a pastor, it was interesting to check my own church against these questions to see where my church stands.

*I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

REVIEW: Primal: A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity by Mark Batterson

I have been a big fan of author Mark Batterson after I read his first book, In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day: How to Survive and Thrive When Opportunity Roars.

Primal is about how when all the superficialities are stripped away, what is the primal essence of Christianity? Batterson breaks the book down into four parts to answer this intriguing question:
1. The Heart of Christianity
2. The Soul of Christianity
3. The Mind of Christianity
4. The Strength of Christianity

Batterson is masterful at using illustrations and this book includes many science illustrations to get his points across. While he also utilizes Scripture in the book, I wish he would have used more Scripture. The science stories seem to trump Scripture stories throughout the book.

Nevertheless, I found myself making notes, underlining and dog earring almost every other page in the book. It is just chocked full of so many nuggets of wisdom. One chunk that I was drawn to was when Batterson asks the question: “So how do you stay energized?” I was captivated by that question, as I am sure many others are, because life sometime saps the energy out us. Well, Batterson answers the question this way: “Stay in the will of God…pursuing God-ordained passions and going after God-sized dreams is the way we produce energy. Nothing is more energizing.” (p.146) What a great answer and reminder that God will give us sustaining energy when we serve Him.

A Discussion Questions section at the end is also a nice feature of the book—it can be used with small groups to explore the concepts even deeper and more personally.

While it is a very good read, if you have only one choice, I prefer and highly recommend Batterson’s first book In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day over Primal.

*I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

REVIEW: The God I Never Knew: How Real Friendship with the Holy Spirit Can Change Your Life by Robert Morris

Informative and illuminating.

Author Robert Morris says one of the most frequently asked question he receives is “How can I know the will of God?” Morris says the answer is the Holy Spirit. “The reason more Christians don’t know the will of God is that they don’t have a friendship with the Holy Spirit—the One inside them whose job it is to reveal all truth to them,” Morris writes. Amen—who wouldn’t want MORE truth revealed to them?

This book sheds light on who the Holy Spirit is and also shows the benefits and blessings the friendship with the Holy Spirit will bring.

Admittedly, this book was a little dry at first and it seemed almost like reading a textbook, but after pushing through the first two chapters, I found the rest of the book (a total of 20 chapters), a much easier read. In fact, I highlighted and dog-eared many pages that I plan to refer back to as I serve as a pastor in ministry.
This book does a nice job of highlighting the history of Pentecost and its meaning. It also covers misconceptions of the Holy Spirit, which is beneficial because some Christians have an apprehension about the Holy Spirit. Morris seeks to educate people about this very important third person of the Trinity.

If you seek to know more about the Holy Spirit and want to discover how to have more of the Holy Spirit in your life, this book is made to show you the way.

*I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

REVIEW: In a Pit With a Lion on a Snowy Day: How to Survive and Thrive When Opportunity Roars by Mark Batterson

I had a problem with this book—it cost me more than 10 highlighters! I think I used up an entire highlighter before I finished the first chapter alone. I couldn’t stop highlighting the words of wisdom and profound, insightful biblical truth found throughout the book. There is hardly a word not covered in yellow.
Author Mark Batterson is a masterful writer that makes biblical stories jump off the page. The Scripture text that is the focus of the book is an obscure passage found in 2 Samuel 23 that tells of Benaiah, a mighty, bold warrior who killed a lion. Through this story, Batterson gives readers seven skills that will help them chase the “big lions” in their lives.
A nice feature in the book is at the end of each chapter, readers are given “Points to Remember” that summarize the chapter in a few bullet points as well as questions for readers to consider and ponder as they begin their lion chasing adventure.
This book touched me and provided me much needed Christian counsel during a time when risk was called for in my walk with God. Batterson writes in the book: “The greatest opportunities were the scariest lions. Part of me has wanted to play it safe, but I’ve learned that taking no risks is the greatest risk of all.” Amen!
This book has made me want to be a lion chaser and more of a risk taker for Jesus. If you have the guts and gusto to step out in faith and chase lions for God, read this book and allow it to walk alongside you in that adventure. But a fair warning: If you get this book, get a pack of highlighters to go with it—you will need them!

*I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Monday, April 18, 2011

A DOSE OF HOPE ... Review: Life Without Limits by Nick Vujicic

I’ve wanted to read this book for a long time—ever since I saw Nick Vujicic on a Christian television channel. While Nick acknowledges that adversity is universal to all, he has a very special story to tell. Nick was born without legs or arms, yet his optimism doesn’t seem to quit! Reading this book and learning about Nick’s life and the struggles he has overcome makes me appreciate my life. He simply says in the beginning of the book, “No matter what your circumstances may be, as long as you are breathing, you have a contribution to make.” That statement is convicting, especially coming from someone who has triumphed over so much. If you are feeling sorry for yourself for any reason and want to quickly get a reality check, read Life Without Limits.

I believe Nick’s message in this autobiography is to offer people hope. He even says in the book, despite his disability that he was “never crippled until [he] lost hope. Believe me, the loss of hope is far worse than the loss of limbs.” That is a compelling message coming from someone who has been through so much. This book is Nick’s offering of hope to the world. If you need a dose of hope, accept this book's offering and imbibe.

*I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

REVIEW: Under the Overpass by Mike Yankoski

Not many of us in the U.S. have ever prayed, “Lord, please keep the rats, cockroaches, and any other fun little things off us while we sleep tonight.” But through the eyes of author Mike Yankoski, one gets a glimpse into the lives of people who live on the streets across the country who pray that prayer—people whose only meal of the day may just be a trash bag full of throw-away popcorn from a movie theater and a few fast-food packets of relish. This book teaches that “comfort is relative.”
For more than five months, two upper-middle class young men, author Mike Yankoski and his friend Sam, took on the challenge of living on the streets in six different cities across the country to truly put their Christian faith into action and to “be fully present in the places where people are most broken.”
It was hard to put down the book—I wanted to experience each new adventure that lay ahead for Mike and Sam along with the people they would meet and how God would shine through in each situation. The risk in reading this book, though, is that you will likely be convicted as I was. Mike and Sam didn’t just talk about helping the homeless and experiencing the pain the homeless feel while sipping coffee in a fancy coffee shop—they actually got up and did it. They spent time with the least of these. When was the last time I did that? When was the last time you did that? I think this is a book every Christian should read and share with others, as it truly shows how to put love into action.
*I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.