Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Recently, a popular, seeker-driven, mega-church pastor blogged that since Christians are spirit filled, we should do things better than Apple, better than Disney and better than Google. I fear that the seeker-driven model has led many to believe this same thing. It causes us to evaluate ourselves and our churches in a very pragmatic way. Success becomes defined by how many seats we fill, how much money we receive and in everything we do being more than the culture around us. By this standard, our music should be more entertaining, our books should be better written and our church service is judged on aesthetics and cultural relevancy. I don’t believe that comparisons to Apple, Disney and Google are valid. Our standard, our measuring stick is the Word of God. We can perform better than the culture and still be unbiblical. We are never guaranteed success by the world’s standard. However, we are promised that suffering and persecution are going to come to those who follow after Jesus. I am encouraged by the pastor of the small church, and the missionary who sees few converts, but both continue to be faithful to their call. Are they failures because their results are viewed as less than those of the world? I think not. We do need to be prepared to contend for the faith. We need to give our best effort for the cause of Christ, but we are not defined by the results. God is responsible for the results of our faithfulness. God’s strength is evident in our weaknesses. Many times we are not called to be the best, but the least. My fear is that the American church is moving toward pragmatism and away from biblical fidelity.

Counterfeit Gospels is a look at the true Gospel in a world of false alternatives. Wax portrays the Gospel as a three-legged stool that collapses with any one element missing. He lists the three legs as the Gospel story, the Gospel announcement and the Gospel community. While I fully agree that the Gospel story and announcement are essential parts, I still came away not fully convinced of the points made about the Gospel community. I fully agree that Gospel community is a vital part of the Christian life, but I am not sure it is part of the Gospel itself. I still found this book very helpful even with the few points that I may disagree with.

What I found to be especially helpful was the focus on counterfeit gospels that are present today. Wax not only points out the counterfeits in this book, but he also shows why these counterfeits are attractive to us. So many of these counterfeits are present in our churches today. This book effectively counters the counterfeits. I also found it helpful to realize that the Gospel announcement of the life, death and resurrection of Christ is vital to be told in the context of the Gospel story. In a country where we can no longer assume a general knowledge of Christ, we must tell the story of creation, the fall and our sinful state before God. The Gospel announcement is not good news without the Gospel story. This is a book that I definitely would recommend.

“I received a copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this
review.”

Photo of F. Dostoevsky Русский: Фёдор Михайлов...

Fyodor Dostoevsky is one the best, if not the best, Russian authors ever. After reading this book by Peter Leithart, I found much to admire and some things not so admirable about the man. Dostoevsky was a man of many vices that negatively impacted his life. Loss of money due to gambling was a problem until late in his life. However, Dostoevsky was convinced Christ was the answer to the ills of Russia. Christ or Christ-like characters were present in many of his books. While my theology would probably be vastly different than his, Dostoevsky saw Christ as his only hope and savior. He was a man like many I know. He viewed Christ as his savior, yet still struggled with the sin in his life.

The writing of this book left me with mixed feeling. The book was very interesting to follow. However, it is written with fictionalized conversations added, leaving one to wonder which sections are true and which are not. The story also jumps around to different major events in his life. As one with little prior knowledge of Dostoevsky, I was completely lost on the order of events in his life. This book was a good read, but left me wanting something more. I learned some important thinks about Dostoevsky, but just not sure if I learned enough to encourage others to read it.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Torn is a book that talks about trusting God when life is hard. The book is split into two sections – trusting in God when torn & how to put the pieces back together. If we are honest, it is many times hard to trust in God when it feels as if He is not with us. The book reminds us that God is with us even in those times when it seems as if everything is falling apart. While our circumstances change, God’s character doesn’t. We can take comfort in being able to come to a God who is always there and never changing. When trying to put the pieces back together, Wilhite reminds of the importance of sharing our struggles with others.

For me most of the book was a helpful reminder of things I know, but seem to forget. However, the last chapter on learning to forgive was very helpful to me. It was one of those moments where God really used this chapter to show me an area that I needed to work on. I had just read in Matthew where it talks of leaving your sacrifice at the alter and leaving  to make amends with someone who has something against you. I picked up this book and the very next words were on what I had just read in Scripture. God used this to make me realize that I needed to forgive and not hold on to bitterness. I have had to left go of bitterness towards a biological father who left me behind and an ex-wife who I felt wronged me. I had held on to these things without ever realizing it. This chapter was a great help and guide for me. I would recommend this book.

I received this book free for review from Multnomah Books.

Behind the Veils of Yemen by Audra Grace Shelby is an amazing look at the life of women in Yemen. In this book, Audra shares the journey her family takes from becoming missionaries through their time in Yemen. There are two things that really stood out to me in this book. First, God is always faithful and still works in many miraculous ways. Second, the life of Muslim women in Yemen is not what I expected. What many would consider degrading or abusive, they see as a way of life and honoring to God. I found it interesting that when the woman gather together and the veils come off, they are not drastically different than Western women. They share in each others lives. They discuss struggles and celebrate joyous events. They do everything they can to honor God and not bring shame to their families. However, their view of God is heartbreaking. Their god is not a loving god, but a vengeful god who is very impersonal. They fail to even get proper medical care at times because if it is God’s will they believe they will get well on their own. This book drove me to pray for God to remove the blindness these women have towards the true God. It also led me to give thanks for those going to foreign lands to bring the true God and the Gospel to those who need to hear.  This book was both encouraging and heart breaking. This would be a book I recommend for anyone to read.

 

I have received this book free for review from Chosen Books.

Our Last Great Hope is a good book on the Great Commission. Ronnie Floyd’s heart for this topic comes through in this book. In this book, you will see areas in your life where an urgency for the Great Commission should make a difference. Everything from our churches, to our families, to our desires, to our finances should look different if we embrace the task of the Great Commission.  As I read this book driven by an author motivated by this task, it made me examine how at truly felt about the call for Christians to reach the nations with the message of Christ.

While much of the book is not new material for someone with a passion for missions, it was a good reminder of many things we sometimes forget. However, there was one section in particular that made me think about things I had never really considered much. This would be the chapter about transforming our families. I was confronted with the fact, that in my home and in our churches, we are not doing a good job of training our children for the Great Commission. We are far too guilty of training them at being successful in chasing the American Dream. What if were more actively training our children to be future pastors and missionaries?  I came away from this book feeling encouraged, yet challenged. There is much work to be done, and my prayer is that this book will inspire people to the call placed before us. This is definitely a book that I would recommend.

 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The Scroll follows the journey of Dr. David Chambers, a biblical archaeologist who agrees to on last dig. Chambers has lost his faith and his fiancee. Now he is called out of recent retirement for one last dig, only to be faced with his former faith and former fiancee. In the face of opposition for this dig, he must once again turn to these former things that he has left behind. While uncovering some of the greatest biblical finds ever, he also recovers a faith that is of greater value than any treasure.

I thought this novel was well written and interesting from beginning to end. The authors did an excellent job of including biblical history into this book. At times, I really felt taken back into the time of temple worship. The imagery and use of biblical text was great to read. So many times Christian novels have no visible trace of Christianity at all. That was not the case with this book. The faith of Dr. Chambers in this book is a central theme that is integral to the story. There were several times that I needed to put this book down, but couldn’t because the story was so intriguing at that point. There were actually times that I needed to pull out my bible to look up sections of scripture that were used. I actually learned biblical history from this novel. It has not been very often that I have found a novel that has accomplished that. This is definitely a novel that I would recommend.

 

I received this book free for review from Waterbrook Press.