Thursday, December 17, 2009
Batterson says our problem is that we are not great at living the Great Commandment. "The quest for the lost soul of Christianity begins with rediscovering what it means to love God with all our heart, soul, and strength."
Batterson looks at the four elements of this commandment. God has ordained passion, something that breaks your heart because it breaks the heart of God. We respond to God's creation with awe and a soul filled with wonder at the glory of God. "Loving God with all your mind means making the most of your mind by learning as much as you can about as much as you can." Loving God with all your strength means "expending tremendous amounts of energy for kingdom causes."
Batterson hopes his book will inspire his readers to do great things for God. He knows many of his readers have God-sized dreams within them.
The encouragement in this book may be just what it takes to get you to respond to that nudge of God.
I received this book from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for review.
For more information on this title, go to http://waterbrookmultnomah.com/catalog.php?isbn=9781601421319
Monday, December 14, 2009
Friday, December 11, 2009
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Monday, December 7, 2009
The reader is asked at the beginning of the book to take time to understand the current financial conditions and then establish a budget. Goals are to be written out with the first being to get out of debt.
There are many suggestions as to how to cut expenses.
There are ideas on how to get ahead at work (and get a raise).
If you just need a little extra cash, there are ideas for that too, even if you have to work from home.
Martin rounds out the book with ideas for saving and investing.
Martin ends his book with wise advice for all: be generous and be content.
Any one of the ideas in this book is worth the price (under $6.).
This book was provided for review by WaterBrook Multnomah Press.
See more information on this title: http://waterbrookmultnomah.com/
Saturday, December 5, 2009
I wish I would have thought to add up the figures. A million killed under this ruler. Then 250,000 killed by that ruler. Then two million killed in the other tribal war. On and on. It seemed every chapter contained another so many hundred thousand killed.
Chinua Achebe is quoted early in the book: “The trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely the failure of leadership.” (221) And that could be said of almost every country. “By the end of the 1980s, not a single African head of state in three decades had allowed himself to be voted out of office.” (378,9)
The warfare continues as in 1998 Ethiopia and Eritrea fought a border war in which 100,000 died. “In 2000 there were more than ten major conflicts underway in Africa.” (679)
Meredith’s conclusion: “In reality, fifty years after the beginning of the independence era, Africa’s prospects are bleaker than ever before.” (681) Africa is a region where school enrollment is falling, life expectancy is falling, and the economic output of the entire continent is less than that of Mexico.
It would appear that Western assistance is the only answer. But Meredith notes that Africa has received far more foreign aid than any other region in the world (more than $300 billion), but with no discernible result. Will more money solve the problem? Meredith notes, “But even given greater Western efforts, the sun of Africa’s misfortunes…presents a crisis of such magnitude that it goes beyond the reach of foreseeable solutions. At the core of the crisis is the failure of African leaders to provide effective government.” (686)
Decades of corrupt rulers have ravaged Africa. What is its future?
Thursday, December 3, 2009
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
One might think that revisiting the life of Jesus year after year would not yield fruit. But the idea is that of a spiral. Each year one goes deeper into the experience of the life of Christ.
In living the liturgical year, the Christian approaches the life of Christ from a variety of perspectives. Advent is about learning to wait. Lent reminds us, “We must be prepared to give up some things if we intend to get things that are even more important.” Ordinary time lets us pause for contemplation.
Chittister does a great job in explaining the history and meaning of each part of the year. She got me excited about the adventure of living the liturgical year. I expected some ideas on how to do so but was disappointed. Chittister says, “Liturgical spirituality is about learning to live an ordinary life extraordinarily well.” I just wish she would have told me how to get started!
This book was provided for review by Thomas Nelson Publishers.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Some say the Twilight Saga should be embraced by Christians because there are good moral themes in the book. The universe is a moral one. The couple waits for marriage to have sex.
Yet Jones has found disturbing messages in the Twilight books. Violence, for example, is seen as a natural response to any threat. On occasion, the Mormon religion of the author comes through. Jones compares these troubling themes of the book with God’s intention for life.
Jones has included questions for reflection after every chapter. These are great for discussion as to what concepts can be taken from the Twilight Saga and which ones should be left there. She has also included a book-by-book discussion guide to address the themes and messages each book portrays.
This would be a great book for parents and youth workers who want to discuss the Twilight Saga with readers of the series. With the synopses Jones provides, it is not necessary to have read the books to be able to use Touched by a Vampire in discussing and evaluating the Twilight Saga.
This book was provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.
For product information: http://waterbrookmultnomah.com/catalog.php?isbn=9781601422781
Monday, November 16, 2009
Batemen, in her afterward, says she questioned how she was going to write a vampire novel that glorified God. She came up with the idea of a metaphor, relating the vampire’s thirst to that of an alcoholic’s. I am not so sure the novel glorifies God but the book is a good read.
Nina is an alcoholic. She’s lost her marriage, her business and the respect of her daughter. After rehab, she tries to make a new start in her hometown – staying with her sister, the sheriff. The next door neighbor appears to be a nice man but is actually a vampire. Yet he is a vampire with a conscience. He only kills and drinks the blood of “bad” people, unlike the female vampire in town who kills for sport and vengeance.
Dead bodies drained of blood, both animals and humans, set the stage for Nina in danger. She faces the demon of alcoholism and the deadly threat of a jealous vampire.
Nina is close to middle age so I doubt teens would find this novel of interest.
Glorifying to God? I can’t say. But it is a good story and is well written. If you would like an alternative to current vampire novels, this may be the one for you. Discussion questions make this book suitable for a group read.
This book was provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.
For product information: http://waterbrookmultnomah.com/catalog.php?isbn=9780307457158
Saturday, November 14, 2009
The owner of the home has a one night stand with a movie star up from LA. She thinks he’ll leave his wife for her and she ends up going after him in LA and the attempt is a disaster.
The other women of the household are all having romance problems too. Only one of the women is a Christian and she does evidence some concern about the morality of the others at times.
This novel must be for a younger generation who sees one night stands as rather inconvenient and probably leading nowhere. My generation (60+) is different. I am appalled that the immorality does not bother the one Christian in residence. Yes, she is to love her roommate but still…
This book bothers me. It treats immorality as nothing too devastating.
In the end, there are some redeeming factors. Some of the nonChristian characters might actually come to look to God. But no mention of Jesus. And the novel ends on Christmas Day.
This is the second in this Bloomberg Place series. I read it for a book group. I don’t plan to read any others in the series.
Let Them Eat Fruitcake, David C. Cook, 302 pages.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Once you make it through the first twenty pages or so, the book is much better. The story then flows relatively well.
There are many social issues dealt with in this book – too many, I think. The holocaust is a major theme with a great deal of background material needed to see its relationship to the descendants’ current family situation.
Another theme concerns a deadly fire from which one of the characters was rescued when he was four. Now he is a teen and is trying to deal with the memories and the possibility of his responsibility in the origin of the fire. Woven into this theme are the father of the family who does not want to discuss the past event and the mother who does.
Mixed in with the family situation is marital strife between the husband and wife. He spends every spare hour with his hobby and she is tempted to form a relationship with a fellow teacher.
And then, to add another theme, there is the niece of the wife who comes to live with the family. Her dad is off in Europe and she was left with her grandma who then died a few days later (hence the opening funeral). Her dad’s quest in Europe has to do with the holocaust and possible valuable but hidden heirlooms.
While some of the themes intertwine, there are just too many of them. I would have rather had one theme dealt with in detail.
I did find the book an interesting read and did learn about Warsaw during WW II. To do the entire story line justice, however, there should have been as much time and effort given to the other themes as well.
This book was provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group. I'll pass it along to you if you are the first to comment on this blog.
For product information:http://www.randomhouse.com/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9781400074570&ref=externallink_wbp_whitepicketfences_sec_0916_01
Friday, November 6, 2009
Thursday, November 5, 2009
The essentials of history are being replayed in that future world. Everything spiritual here has become physical there. Blood and the Books of History form a bridge between the two worlds.
This fourth book in the series by Dekker completes a circle. This book can be read after Black, Red, and White (as I did), or read first, with the others following. Nonetheless, Green has many references to the events in the previous books. The background information generally comes in the form of characters musing.
I can’t help but think that to read Green as the first in this series would be very confusing. There were times when I was confused and I’ve read the others. I would suggest beginning with Black.
Green makes a smashing finish to The Circle Series.
This book was provided for review by Thomas Nelson Publishers.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Claudette’s gay stepson flies in to help her move. He arranges a great deal with movers and painters but then returns to Hawaii and his partner. Can Claudette survive? She doesn’t know how to shop, how to clean house, or how to do laundry. She has never had to live on a budget. She doesn’t even know how to be a decent neighbor. She certainly doesn’t want to accept help from anyone, especially her sister. Nonetheless, kind and helpful people, many of whom are Christians, intrude in her life with humorous results.
As Claudette faces her own needs she must also face secrets from her childhood.
Carlson’s book gets off to a slow start. The real action does not get going until Claudette is left to herself and tries to make a go of it, about page 200. But from then on, the action is quick and the laughs frequent. If you persevere through the slow beginning the story is well worth reading. I would recommend it to elderly female readers. There is a reader’s guide at the end of the book which would make it suitable for reading group.
This book was provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.
Product information: http://waterbrookmultnomah.com/catalog.php?isbn=9781400070824
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Monday, November 2, 2009
Maya is working toward emancipation when her mother is released from prison. Her mother seems to want to reconnect with Maya. Is it just for money? Should Maya stay and work out a relationship with her mother or should she go on tour with a girl's band? Maya is a pretty new Christian. How is she going to deal with these issues?
Maya writes a "green" article for a newspaper and the author has added green tips at the end of each chapter in the book. A reader's guide is included which would make this book great for a teen reading group.
What Matters Most is book three in the Maya series of a Diary of a Teenage Girl. If the story line sounds interesting, I would suggest starting with the first title in the Maya series, A Not-so-simple Life.
This book was provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.
For more information on this title: http://waterbrookmultnomah.com/catalog.php?isbn=9781601421197
Sunday, November 1, 2009
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
My advice is that if you want to give this book to someone, do not give it to a person who is up to date on current events or anyone with knowledge of physics or science in general.
A reader with interest in current events will notice quickly that many of Jeffrey’s sources are from a decade or more in the past. Much of what Jeffrey would have the reader believe is breaking news is really old stuff. When you read this book, keep one bookmark at his footnotes. It will disappoint you.
When Jeffrey talks about futuristic weapons, he is way out of his element. He mentions, “a beam weapon known as a collective accelerator. It uses powerful magnets to accelerate the orbits [sic] of electrons around the nuclei of atoms to the speed of light.” (See p. 93.) If you believe this, try to tell that to the people at CERN who have built the Large Hadron Collider near Geneva. The multi-billion euro project is the world’s largest and highest-energy particle accelerator and it is expecting speeds of only 99.9999991% of the speed of light (and they are having trouble doing that right now).
Jeffrey would have the reader believe in the invention of a Star Trek type photon torpedo device, an energy beam weapon. But check the footnote and you find it refers to a patent from 1989! (Think that “weapon” was anything real?) And then there is the “Voice of God” weapon. Jeffrey’s source? A blog! And that blogger ends the entry with, “Does it exist? I don’t know.” And who could resist the possibility of weather weapons? (His sources there are articles from 1987-1991.)
Jeffrey would have us believe that, “...globalist strategies and the phenomenal growth and expansion of surveillance capabilities are setting the stage for the rise of the Antichrist... The Antichrist will arise in our generation.” “Governments can spy on anyone without due cause or due process.” “Increasingly, [the shadow government] officials have taken control of Western societies in the name of national security.”
Jeffrey tries to convince the reader there are the secret organizations dedicated to one global government. He goes through the Bilderbergers, the Council on Foreign Relations and the Trilateral Commission. While their meetings and membership are supposed to be secret, Jeffrey knows all about them and their agendas. (Haven't we had enough books on conspiracy theories in the last several decades?)
Jeffrey says his book is “far from sensationalism.” I disagree. He writes a new book about every year so he has to come up with “new” material or recycle something old. If you’ve read Grant Jeffrey before, you already know what’s in it. If you’ve never read Jeffrey before, skip this book. He’ll have another one in about a year and maybe that one will have some truly new information in it worth reading.
Monday, October 26, 2009
Jason Faircloth faces a crisis of faith. His daughter, his wife, his reason for ministry, his superficial faith in God...are all gone. He resigns his successful preaching position and sets out to find his granddaughter.
Faircloth never loses his heart for God but does lose his heart for traditional Christianity and all its manmade disciplines. He becomes a self-motivated wisdom hunter, finding God’s truth in the Bible and his honest encounters with others.
This book originally came out in 1991 and was probably before its time. Arthur’s critique of legalistic Christianity will be better received now then it was then. It is a thought provoking book. What does it really mean to be a Christian and how does a Christian act, according to the Bible and not culture? There is a discussion guide which would make this book suitable for a group discussion.
The writing is uneven, however. It would seem Arthur has a message to promote and has added some action here and there to make the entire story acceptable. There is also the woman who comes on the scene (twice) “just” when Faircloth needs rescuing and then conveniently disappears! Certainly she is a loose end that could have been written into and out of the story in a better way.
This book was provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.
Wisdom Hunter, Multnomah, #978259052592, $13.99. See more information at:
Monday, October 19, 2009
In our time, most couples (including Christians) have sex before marriage. Wilson argues that these sexual encounters establish bonds that remain. Because of sex from the past emotional and physical dysfunction is all too frequent. The good news is that God can heal your wounds and restore your marriage, no matter what your sexual past.
The first part of the book helps the reader understand how sex from the past affects one’s marriage today. The second part of the book deals with healing, taking the reader through specific steps to restoration of intimacy in the marriage. Practical exercises, tools and a study guide actively take the reader through the process. It begins with making a life map, a reflection on the events of your past. Wilson walks the reader through the process of determining where healing needs to take place. She uses many reflective questions with plenty of space to write a response.
A woman’s response to sex is complex. It is more than just a physical act. God intended that it unite the souls and bodies of two people. The bonds remaining from sex outside of marriage leave scars and cause future intimacy problems. Wilson was healed of these scars and shares the steps she took to allowed God to it.
If you love your husband but you don’t want to make love with him, this book is for you. There is healing available. God wants to heal your marriage.
This book is written for women but husbands can benefit from reading it too. The husband can help his wife feel safe and loved as she is healed and opens up to greater intimacy.
This book was provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.
Kiss Me Again, Multnomah, #9781601421586. See more product information at:
Saturday, October 17, 2009
The subtitle of this book is “getting to the heart of your communication struggles” and that is exactly what it does. The Bible says that our words come from our heart. What we say reflects who we are at heart.
Did you lash out when your feelings got hurt? What does that say about your heart? Do your words reveal you trying to please yourself rather than please God and follow His agenda for your relationship?
Those are the kinds of issues Tripp deals with in this book. It is not a book that offers a quick fix for your communication issues. It is a book that aims to change your heart. When your heart is changed to be obedient to God’s agenda for your relationships, your communication will change as well.
This is not an easy book to read as it requires you to examine your heart. Tripp makes sure the reader understands that allowing God to rule your communication won’t happen immediately. It is a journey of increasing submission to God’s agenda for your communication.
Read this book and allow God to change your life.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Unfortunately, there are so many errors at the beginning of the book, some may not make it past the first 40 pages or so.
Some of the errors are just typographical in nature, such as “presenßce” on page 26. Some of the errors are careless in nature, such as, “After graduating from Calvin College, a conservative Christian school in Iowa...” on page 36. Calvin College is actually in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Some of the errors show poor editing, such as “St. Paul’s Xcel Center” on page 284 which becomes “St. Paul’s Excel Center” on page 287.
Some errors show incomplete research or just confusion. For example, Blumenthal takes some time to explain the history and influence of Rousas Rushdoony. But consider the following quotes. “Upon graduation, Rushdoony entered the clergy as a minister in the ultraconservative Orthodox Presbyterian Church...” from pages 17-18. “Then Olasky...abandoned his Jewish background to join Rushdoony’s ultraconservative Presbyterian Church in America[,]” on page 40. Actually, neither of those statements is correct. Rushdoony was ordained into the PCUSA (not Presbyterian Church in America, PCA) in 1944 then subsequently left that denomination in 1958 and joined the more conservative Orthodox Presbyterian Church.
Some errors show a lack of Blumenthal’s understanding of the large and complex world of Christianity. Blumenthal speaks of, “...Calvinist-inspired teachings of John Wesley...” on page 55. Wesley was definitely not inspired by Calvin. Consider these statements from Wikipedia.org: “In contrast to George Whitefield’s Calvinism ... Wesley embraced Arminianism.” And, “Wesley ... expressed himself strongly against the doctrine of Calvinistic election and reprobation.” John Wesley was as Arminian as you can get!
Some errors show shoddy research. Consider his claim that John Calvin “burned dozens of heretics at the stake” as recorded on page 23. His footnote says his source is page 153 of The Complete Idiot’s to the Reformation & Protestantism. That “fact” is not there. When one looks at the Complete Idiot’s Guide and other sources on Calvin’s life, the truth is that there was only one heretic, Servetus, executed under Calvin’s authority. Calvin did not want Servetus burned at the stake, spent many hours with him, begging him to recant, but in the end did nothing to stop the execution (see page 159 of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Reformation & Protestantism).
Granted, these errors are not essential to Blumenthal’s argument about the Republican Party. However, I read a book like this one to learn new information. If I find so many mistakes regarding what I do know, is there any assurance there are fewer or less serious mistakes in what I don’t know?
It is too bad Blumenthal could not have been more objective in his writing. His message is important but his bias will turn potential conservative readers away. For example, saying of James Dobson that “sadomasochism [is] at the core of his philosophy” is going to alienate many potential readers (see page 63).
That said, I am very glad I read this book on how the Republican Party has lost its way. The revelations in it are disturbing. If Blumenthal represents how non-Christians see what the right has done in the Party, Republicans are certainly in trouble.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
On a buying trip for her aunt’s store, Beth sees a carving that tugs at her heart. She buys the carving and, through the conniving of her aunt, begins a correspondence with the carver.
Like Beth, Jonah has suffered loss. His is physical. A sleighing accident resulted in his loss of two fingers and the full use of one leg. He realizes he is a damaged person but has been able to live with it. He knows that all people are damaged in some way.
Can Beth ever learn to live with her damaged self? Will she ever lower the barriers she uses for protection and allow herself to love again?
Cindy Woodsmall has written a wonderful Amish love story for the winter season. The reader experiences the gentle ways of the Amish and how two of them cope with hurt and pain. My only complaint is that the story is over too quickly (at fewer than 200 pages).
I received a free review copy of this book in return for blogging my review. I will pass this copy on to you if you are the first to make a comment on my blog.
ISBN: 9780307446534, $14.99, WaterBrook Press. See product information at:
Friday, October 9, 2009
Monday, October 5, 2009
There are people hurting all around. They need to hear the gospel. They also need to have their practical needs met. We need to do something today to make someone else’s life better. Joyce reminds us that we are to get involved in helping others and not just throw money at projects. She quotes Hybels who encourages Christians to “allow poverty to touch us, to involve us…”
Joyce admits to her own selfishness. It was the only life she knew until she met her husband, Dave, a giver. She reminds us Christ can deal with that sinful nature if we allow Him to renew us. Putting others first is a daily surrender.
Loving people as Jesus wants us to will not happen by accident. We will have to do it on purpose. It will cost us some comfort and some pleasure (but look at what Jesus sacrifices). Love takes effort and always costs something. None of us can claim we don’t know how as Meyers gives lots of practical ideas for showing love near the end of her book.
Meyers believes our participation in the Love Revolution will change the world. We are to live to love, being part of the solution instead part of the problem.
The Love Revolution, FaithWords (Hachette Book Group), #9780446538565
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Monday, September 28, 2009
In Helsinki, Lenin’s train ride from Finland is recounted. In Petrograd, we hear of the crushing of 720 major and minor revolts in one year. The old section of St. Petersburg is essentially frozen in 1917.
Tied in to Mak’s visits to Berlin and Bielefeld is a concise yet excellent account of the rise of the Nazis and how Hitler finally became chancellor. While in Predappio, where you can still buy Nazi and Fascist memorabilia, Mak writes of Fascism and its areas of similarity (and difference) to Nazism.
At Auschwitz, the stories he recounts are depressing. He ponders how much the Germans knew and who turned their heads to the awful truth. He also tells very encouraging stories of people who helped thousands of Jews escape.
The personal interviews Mak recounts are priceless. The reader gets to experience the events through the eyes of those who actually took part. At Stalingrad (Volgograd) we read the account of young German officer Behr, a supply officer on the eastern front in late 1942. In January of 1943, he gave a personal account to Hitler of the terrible conditions in that frozen war zone. “At that moment I realized that Hitler lived only in a fantasy world of maps and little flags. It was then that I knew for certain that we would lose the war.”
Reading of the actions of the French during WW II is depressing. A bright light in the darkness were the resistance fighters. After the war, almost all French collaborators were granted amnesty with many eventually rising to power on deGaulle’s post war government.
Surprising to read about was the Allied practice of bombing residential areas. The aim was to lower German morale but hundreds of thousands of civilians died in the process.
About two thirds of the book deals with the first half of the twentieth century. For someone like me who was born at the end of that period, the extended descriptions of WW I and WW II are welcome.
In the last part of the book Mak looks at the student unrest of the 60s, how Europeans deal with their past and move on, and how eastern Germans adjusted to “freedom.” Mak reviews the ethnic wars of the Yugoslavs, Serbs, Croates and others. How quickly we have forgotten these wars in the light of 9/11. “Kosovo has once again become a forgotten corner of the globe...”
Our forgetfulness is perhaps the reason I found this book so valuable. We need to remember. We need to again encounter the first person accounts of our past. Born and raised in the U. S., In Europe helped me to understand what Europeans have experienced in this last century.
I highly recommend the book. It’s big at 829 pages, but at 20 pages a day you can cruise through the book in a little over a month.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
The answer to our current situation, Benefiel says, is the path of soul-based leadership. There is a necessary place for spirituality in the corporate world. Corporate leaders can and should lead based on values rather than merely the bottom line. The corporate world can return to concern for the well-being of the worker and the customer in addition to profit.
Benefiel gives the reader several examples of individuals who have followed the path of soul-based leadership. Using their examples as well as an increasing amount of literature, Benefiel suggests a leader begins on the path by listening to his or her own heart. A decision is made, steps are taken, and stumbling occurs. The leader finds partners to help.
Benefiel covers the additional soul-based leadership practices of keeping the mission at the fore, practicing gratitude, battling for the soul, and breaking the cycle of violence.
At the end of her book, after the reader is convinced soul-based leadership is necessary and possible, Benefiel explains the process of spiritual transformation. Since the current culture ignores the inner reality of the soul, many corporate leaders might not know how to develop spiritually. Benefiel focuses on the classic Christian formulation of the three ways to describe the process. “The three ways - the purgative way, the illuminative way, and the unitive way – describe the journey of the spiritual sojourner from an initial spiritual awakening through many ups and downs all the way to union with God.” (P. 142) The process is not linear (one never “arrives”) but is more like a spiral of repeated and deeper experiences. The developmental process can be applied to corporations as well as individuals.
Not matter what kind of leader you are you will benefit from the admonition and encouragement in this book. Spiritual leadership is necessary for organizational effectiveness. Leaders need to pay attention to their souls and Benefiel’s book is a great place to get started.
(The Crossroad Publishing Company, ISBN-13: 9780824524807, $16.95)
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Cassandra's husband Ken thinks giving her a dog for Christmas is a great idea. But will it help her heal or will it bring up too many hurtful memories?
Stray Affections is a great book for dog lovers and a light read for winter evenings.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Whaley travels through the Bible to identify the guidelines of worship that pleases God. The creation narrative reminds us man was created for worship. From Israel’s history and the writings of the prophets we find brokenness is a prerequisite for genuine worship, obedience is at the very center of worship and real worshippers demonstrate personal integrity. From the New Testament we find that true worship embraces love for the people of God, shown by service.
At the end of each chapter, Whaley offers practical suggestions to guide the reader to a lifestyle of worship. He reminds us we are in a battle as we fight idols seeking our worship. Our practice of God pleasing worship will culminate in the perfect worship of heaven as seen in the book of Revelation.
A couple of positive aspects of the book include Whaley’s knowledge of Hebrew and Greek. He helps the reader see the many aspects of true worship through the various words used to describe it. Also, if you have even wondered how to use the Psalms in daily worship, Whaley gives a week of devotions as an example.
There were two aspects of the book I found negative. As Whaley goes through the Bible, he quotes or retells biblical narratives, often for several pages. For someone familiar with the stories in the Bible, I would have preferred a synopsis of the account and then the lesson to be learned. I disagree with Whaley in his use of Deut. 28. He believes the curse found in that chapter is still in effect today. He is “certain” the “return of so many epidemic diseases today is the direct result of mankind’s disobedience” is worshipping other gods. (See pp. 204-5.)
Overall, I would recommend this book as sorely needed to get to the foundation of what it means to truly worship God in a manner He finds pleasing. This book would make a great study tool for worship leaders, pastoral staff, Sunday School classes or small groups.
Sunday, September 13, 2009
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Max Lucado uses Scripture and encouraging stories to address each of these fears. We tend to forget that we were made by God and are loved by Him. His love is perfect. His presence is with us. We forget that our children, our possessions, our health, our money, everything we have belongs to God. We forget that God provides for us and He asks us to trust Him for our well-being.
We forget that Jesus faced His fears in the garden with prayer. We forget that Jesus comforted his fearful disciples with His bodily presence and that we can find that same assurance in His body, the church, today. We forget that God is sovereign and world events serve His purposes.
Lucado encourages us to place all our fears in the hands of God except one. We fear God won’t stay in the box in which we have put Him. Count on it. He won’t. Plan on encountering the God Whom you should fear with awe, reverence and respect.
This book would be a great study for a small group. For such a use, a 38 page discussion guide is provided at the end of the book. These are troubled times but we are not to fear. Lucado helps us fight our fears by putting our faith in action through relying on the promises God has made to us.
Sunday, September 6, 2009
Stearns weaves his own story into the book. He was a successful Christian, CEO of Lenox, and driving a Jaguar to work. He received a call in January of 1998 from people at World Vision who were looking for a new president. He struggled with the call but ultimately accepted.
Our gospel has a gaping hole in it – the command to go into all the world, to lift up the poor and marginalized, challenging injustice, rejecting worldly values, and loving our neighbors as ourselves. “Proclaiming the whole gospel...encompasses tangible compassion for the sick and the poor, as well as biblical justice, efforts to right the wrongs that are so prevalent in our world.” (P. 22) Christianity is more than just belief. Stearns quotes his former pastor, “It’s not what you believe that counts; it’s what you believe enough to do.” (P. 87)
Previous generations were not aware of world wide needs. Loving their neighbor meant immediate neighbor. Now we can see the suffering around the globe. “And yet only about 4 percent of all U. S. charitable giving goes to international causes of any kind.” (P. 102) Part of the problem concerns the news media. An airline crash in the U. S. or the latest movie star divorce are headline news while the 26,575 children who die daily from largely preventable causes related to poverty go unnoticed.
Stearns notes that the church has a poor record regarding injustices in the world. Slavery was not opposed by the church (as a whole) for hundreds of years. The church was also missing in the 1950s and 60s regarding the issue of segregation. We might wonder how the church stood by when great atrocities occurred in the past. Are we doing the same today by ignoring the poor and hurting in less developed countries?
Is our lifestyle consistent with our faith values? The average giving of church members in 2005 was under 3% of their income. Of the money that is given to churches, only 2% goes to overseas ministry of any kind. “If every American churchgoer tithed, we could literally change the world.” (P. 218) There would be an additional $168 billion for use in ministry to those in need.
Stearns has a daring prayer on page 198. It reads in part, “Open the eyes of my heart, Lord, to see the world as you see it. Let my heart be broken by the things that break your heart.”
What can one individual do? Stearns gives several stories of the impact of just one person who took Jesus’ commands seriously. One does not have to be rich or be talented. One just has to be willing. “It starts with you. In the end, God simply calls you to be faithful to the things He has given you to do.” (P. 277)
The book is big and an expensive. Because of that, it will not have the impact it could have had as an affordable paperback. Yet it is worth the price and effort to read the book. You just might be the one...
Friday, September 4, 2009
Seeing the wake of Pope John Paul II, she decided to go on a spiritual pilgrimage of sorts, visiting other churches. Despite being taught as a child that the roof would fall in (or worse), Shea visited fifty churches in a year of Sundays (and a couple of Saturdays). She attended many churches in her area of Massachusetts and also relied on the specials at Southwest Airlines to attend those at a distance.
Her experiences? She heard a sermon to boycott Wal-Mart at Trinity United Methodist Church of Christ, washed feet at a Seventh Day Adventist Church, sat with thousands listening to Joel Osteen give a 28 minute (TV restriction) talk on weight loss, was fascinated by speaking in tongues, sat in a church totally ignoring the needs of Katrina victims (only 60 miles away), listened to Rick Warren in his typical Hawaiian shirt, and many more.
Her conclusions? Shea didn’t like the glitz, the show, the well orchestrated service. Instead, she was impressed with the simple service, with the heart of people helping others, with genuine hugs, and with people truly living out their beliefs. She visited what, in my mind, were pretty strange churches. Some could hardly be called “Christian.” Others had only a few attendees and rows of empty seats. Some had sterile, modern buildings while others showed an appreciation of traditional art.
While I am troubled by the spirituality of Shea, her observations of the churches she visited were very interesting. Ever wanted to know what a stranger would think of your church service? Read Shea and get a pretty good idea.
Monday, August 31, 2009
Patience, forgiveness, and reconciliation mark the events happening in Sweetgum.
Award winning Beth Pattillo has introduced us to a town just like yours, with hurts and secrets that need to be made right. The characters and situations are all too real. For me, missing what a more clear influence of Christ as events progressed. While some of the characters attended church, Christianity was not an essential aspect of the process of change. Since some of the situations remained unresolved, perhaps the sequel (which I read shortly for a book group) will provide the lacking spiritual influence.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Each chapter is written by a different author and the list is like a “who’s who” of the Reformed branch of Christianity. Due to the variety of authors, the reader will note some repetition and overlap of topics that could have been eliminated with better editing.
Burk Parsons begins by revealing that it was his studying of the Word of God that convinced him Calvin’s theology was the correct interpretation of Scripture. Derek Thomas next gives the reader a short biography of Calvin. Sinclair Ferguson reminds us of Calvin’s heart for God with his life a marriage of learning and piety.
D. G. Hart addresses Calvin’s role as Reformer and encourager of Protestants in various countries. Harry Reeder notes how Calvin restored the role of church leadership with the offices of pastor, teacher, elder and deacon. Steven Lawson says Calvin was the most prolific of all the Reformers, systematically preaching through books of the Bible.
W. Robert Godfrey emphasizes Calvin in the pastoral role, comforting and admonishing based on the sovereignty of God. Phillip R. Johnson claims that Calvin’s writings, such as the Institutes (published when Calvin was only 27 years old), has secured him a place in history. Eric J. Alexander reminds us that Christocentric is the one word description of Calvin’s theology, preaching and thinking. Thabiti Anyabwile shows us Calvin understood the working of the Holy Spirit in salvation and in the union of Christ and the believer.
John MacArthur explains the first of the “five points of Calvinism,” total depravity. Richard Phillips brings light to the second point, predestination. Thomas K. Ascol defines redemption, recognizing the serious nature of sin. Keith Mathison explains the Remonstrance (opposing the teaching of Calvin) with the Canons of Dort answering the five points. He also gives a good summary of the doctrine of irresistible grace. Jay Adams rounds out the points of Calvinism with an explanation of the perseverance of the saints.
Philip Graham Ryken addresses Calvin’s doctrine of union with Christ where, through the Holy Spirit and by faith, we receive Christ and all His benefits. Michael Horton clarifies Calvin’s teaching on salvation and what union with Christ really means. Jerry Bridges explains how Calvin’s theology is worked out in everyday in holiness through self-denial, cross-bearing and hopefulness. Joel Beeke ends the collection with a description of Calvin’s teaching on prayer as a holy and familiar conversation with God.
Calvin has received a lot of bad press over the centuries. If you would like to read what Calvin really wrote, what he really preached and how he really addressed his pastoral roles, this book is for you. As a Calvinist myself, I am glad to see such a readable and understandable book presenting Calvin to our generation.
Monday, August 24, 2009
One of the reasons I was interested in Prince was because I know people from Michigan who speak very highly of the Princes as a strong Christian family of the Christian Reformed Church. Prince also has Dutch ethnic roots, as do I. Simons does say Prince was raised with a deep belief in God. Friends of the wealthy and influential Prince family included James Dobson and Charles Colson. But there is no mention of Prince’s later conversion to Catholicism. While Prince’s wife was dying of cancer he had an affair with their previous nanny, got her pregnant and married her shortly after his wife died. “The affair was a disturbing revelation for some close to Prince. They knew him as a deeply religious man dedicated to his family, and the affair was inconsistent with the man they thought they knew.” (p. 75). Perhaps Simons tackled an impossible task. Maybe the only person who knows Prince is Erik himself.
Not only is this book not a biography of Prince (I learned about him from Wikipedia than this book), it has some other problems. Simons says Prince had a military ID that he flashed in 2001 when he went to “ground zero.” Prince had been in the Navy (he had left the Naval Academy after three semesters then had done a subsequent tour in the Navy Seals) but for fewer than five years (p. 199). His ID certainly could not have been current. Simons also says Prince “retired” from the Navy as a SEAL (p. 44). This is inaccurate as one does not retire from the Navy with fewer than twenty years of service.
Simons never mentions that Prince was intern in the White House under George W. Bush, that he campaigned for Pat Buchanan, interned at the Family Research Council (which his father co-founded), that his sister married into the Amway family… What little is revealed about Prince’s character comes near the end of the book, When Blackwater is under congressional and FBI investigation for the killings in Nisoor Square (Sept. 16, 2007). “His mood could turn from bad to worse at the drop of a hat…” (p. 232). He admitted he was not a patient man. “He was not convinced patience was, in fact, a virtue.” (p. 232).
The book was disappointing and Erik Prince does not appear to be the “Christian” my Michigan friends want me to think he is.
If you want to read about Erik Prince, skip this book. If you want to read about the 70% of the U.S. intelligence budget being spent on private contractors (p. 115), some to analyze data, or how the contractors were not under the same oversight as state department employees or those in the military, then this book is for you.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Each judges the other. Cessationists are said to be afraid of a spiritual encounter, are dull in worship and are more interested in defining doctrine than evangelism. Charismatics are said to succumb to the love of experience, elevating experience over biblical truth. They are flashy rather than humble and forget 2,000 years of church history.
Sam Storms attempts to bridge this divide. He begins by giving his own story: raised a Southern Baptist, trained at Dallas Theological Seminary, pastured a non-denominational church, began to experience the gifts of the Holy Spirit, then went to the Kansas City Vineyard Church (1993) and later to Wheaton College (1999). Storms tells several experiences he had, convincing him the gifts of the Spirit were current today.
Storms notes that some call for “balance.” If by balance some mean pulling back from biblical truth and what the Spirit is doing today, he rejects it. “[B]lical balance is pursuing everything the Bible demands with the degree of emphasis and energy that the Bible commands.” (P. 105) He follows British pastor David Pawson who argues that the convergence of evangelicals and charismatics is not between the two but above them both.
Both groups agree that worship should be theocentric – God is to be glorified. “Cessationists believe God is most glorified when biblical truths about him are accurately and passionately proclaimed in song, liturgy, and recitation of Scripture. The focus of worship is to understand God and to represent him faithfully in corporate declaration.” (P. 153) “Charistmatics, on the other hand, believe God is most glorified not only when he is accurately portrayed in song but when he is experienced in personal encounter. Charismatic worship … insists that he is truly honored when he is enjoyed.” (P. 153)
Storms wants Christians to both learn and feel. He notes Paul had both rational and transrational (not irrational) experiences (1 Cor. 14:15).
This book was of particular interest to me as the subtitle, Spiritual Journeys of a Charismatic Calvinist, mirrors my own story. Storms has a good message but I don’t think there is as much interest in this topic as there was a decade or two ago. That may explain why his sources and references are mostly from the 90s. This book would be a suitable one for discussion by a group wanting to understand the issues.
Monday, August 17, 2009
The text of the stories contains words the reader can emphasize to add drama to the story. For example, “One day a s-s-s-sneaky s-s-s-snake came s-s-s-slithering up to Eve.”
While the book part of this book/DVD combination is fitting for young toddlers, the DVD part is well suited for older ones. The illustrations are similar so children will see continuity between book and DVD. The stories on the DVD are much longer so require a longer attention span, hence suitable for older toddlers. Various voices are used which helps keep the child’s attention.
As with any children’s Bible story book, I suppose, a little freedom is taken with the Bible text but nothing that I should think would cause alarm.
All in all, a superb little book and DVD combination.