Monday, May 09, 2016

A Golden Story!

I have had this book on my shelf for a long time and finally finished the book.  Don’t let the title, Bug Swamps Gold, fool you, this is a wonderful book retelling the story of a young girl growing up during the depression years in the 1930s and 1940s.  The story takes place in South Carolina and contains so many stories, funny, tragic and everything inbetween in the life of Billie Wilson.

She writes about her time in Bug Swamps.  It was a difficult time which was made bearable by a family which was based on love.  If you enjoy reading about the depression era through the eyes of a young girl as she is growing up, surrounded by extreme conditions in life, yet, comes out the victor . . . all because of a family’s love, then this is a great book to read. 

I received this book from in exchange for this review.

Let God Qualify You!!

I have always enjoyed / benefited reading Steven Furtick’s books.  I know he is a polarizing figure among church leaders.  I have listened to his sermons and really cannot find where he is putting down God, or playing off of people.  Yes, he is a little outrageous, but, I believe he has a message we need to hear.  In his newest book, (Un)Qualified: How God Uses Broken People to Do Big Things, Furtick hopes to help the reader come to the belief they are qualified to do the work God has called them to do.

The book title came from an interview with John MacArthur.  During that interview, MacArthur used the word "unqualified" to describe Furtick.  As a result of that statement, Furtick used the words from McArthur to write this book and sermon series associated with it. 

Furtick explains how we view ourselves greatly determines whether we see ourselves as unqualified or as qualified.  Often times we look at our negatives and hold onto those as opposed to seeing the good within us.  The call in the book, which is just over 200 pages, is to reclaim our identity in the sight of God. 

He starts the book with a section entitled “The Third Word.”  This is because we often fill in the blank of the statement “I am ____” with a negative word or phrase.  Once again, the hope is that we will see ourselves in a new light and see ourselves in a positive light.  The goal is to let God fill in the 3rd word, which will be encouraging.

I received this book from in exchange for an open and honest review.

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Interactive and Fun Pre-K Bible!

My First Hands-On Bible is a wonderful Bible for young children and their parents.  This Bible is a fun, engaging and interactive Bible for parents to use with their young children.  The Bible is designed for children between ages 3-6.  There are other Hands On Bibles for older children as well.  Understand that this is NOT the entire Bible.  It is selected stories, 85 of them, from the Bible.  They are considered lessons. 

Each lesson focuses on a specific point of a Bible story.  What is really great is the fact that it’s not just a story and move on.  Along with the stories are activities, illustrations, prayers and a Jesus Connection.  There are stories, but the Hands-On Bible also uses scripture to reinforce the story.  This is what makes the Bible hands on.  It is a great way to engage children to be excited about learning from the Bible and be able to apply the stories into their lives.  It is also a great way for parents or grandparents to connect with their children / grandchildren.

The scripture passages are from the New Living Translation.  Not my preferred choice, but that is not the point of this Bible.  Overall, I would highly recommend this Bible for young parents.  It would be a great gift.

I received this from Tyndale blog network in exchange for an honest review.

God's Story and Yours!

I appreciated reading Michael Horton’s new book, Core Christianity: Finding Yourself In God's Story.  The purpose of the book is the fact that many times we really do not know the reason for the faith we have.  Horton is hoping we can better understand our story in the midst of God’s Story.  Until we do, Horton believes, we will be stymied in our spiritual growth and we will never have the intimate relationship with God we were called to have.

According to Horton, the book has 4 main themes - -
1.  Doctrine leads to biblical drama.
2.  The drama yields specific doctrine
3.  The doctrine leads to praise or doxology
4.  Finally, doxology leads to good works or discipleship.

He weaves these themes throughout the 10 chapters ~

Getting Started: God’s Story and Ours, or Why Doctrine Matters
1. Jesus is God
2. God is Three Persons
3. God is Great and Good
4. God Speaks
5. God Made the World but We’ve Made a Mess of It
6. God Made a Promise
7. Joy to the World!
8. Jesus is Lord
9. What Are We Waiting For?
10. In the Meantime: Callings
Afterword: Tying It All Together

Horton continues to speak more about God and His nature, as opposed to humanity and our role.  He wants the reader to have a better understanding of who God is, then after determining who God is, we are to find ourselves in this drama, which ultimately leads to praise and discipleship.

Overall, this is a very good book.  It is short, less than 200 pages, and is easily read.  If you are wanting a very basic view of God, and willing to read into where you fit into the story, this would be a great book to read.

I received this book from in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Hope in Moving!

In the book, After the Boxes Are Unpacked: Moving On after Moving In, written by Susan Miller, she shares her adventures in moving and coping from a Christian Perspective.  This is an easy to read book which is filled with stories and is meant to encourage the person who has moved or is moving.

This would be an excellent book to give to those who are moving, or have moved a number of times and are tired from it and seems lost or hopeless.  It becomes easy to feel lost and depressed after a move, even those moves which are anticipated.  The book is separated into three different sections ~

Let Go
Start Over
Move Forward

The purpose of this book is to give hope to those who are on that journey.  The hope is that after grieving what you miss and lose, you will have a new beginning and recognize that.  Taking intentional steps, which ultimately leads you to moving forward with your life. 

Overall, this is a very good book and helpful for those who are moving.  A reminder is that this book is written from a very Christ centered point of view.

I received this book from Tyndale Press in exchange for an honest review.

Excellent Discussion of a HOT topic!

I have always believed as a pastor, I need to review and study theological positions I do not always agree with.  That will help me to better formulate and state what I do believe.  This is the reason I wanted to read this book, Four Views on Hell.  This is not necessarily a fun topic to discuss, write about or preach about.  But it is a biblical topic that must be studied so we can have intelligent conversations about our varying beliefs.

With that in mind, I was excited (if there is such a thing) to read this book about hell.  People have been debating this topic for centuries.  What happens to those who do not believe in God?  What about those good people who don’t believe in Jesus?  What about those nasty people?  Are all saved?  Are only some elected for eternity with God / without God?  Lots of questions we can ask about this topic.  This book does not purport to be an answer book, but it serves to give the reader 4 basic views on hell.

Each author had an opportunity to make his point, then the other 3 authors would give their criticism.  The writing and criticism were all accomplished in a good spirit.  At times there was some harshness, but overall the tone was collegial. 

The four views were ~

Eternal Concious Torment - by Denny Burk – Burk discusses the more traditional Evangelical Christian view of hell.  Those who are reject Christ will suffer eternally in hell.

Terminal Punishment / Annihilationism – by John Stackhouse – Stackhouse initially held to a traditional view of hell, but now turns towards God’s goodness as people will be punished in hell, but that punishment will ultimately be death and destruction.  Their lives will be terminated after judgement day.

A Universalist View – by Robin Parry – Parry discusses a Christian Universalist view of heaven.  He believes the road to heaven leads through Christ, yet all creation through the atoning work of Christ will ultimately be reconciled to Christ.

Hell and Purgatory – by Jerry Walls – Walls discusses the belief that we need to be purged from our sinful state in order to come before Christ.  He differentiates the terms satisfaction from sanctification.  He believes we need the process of sanctification, after death in order to be worthy to come before Christ. 

The editor offers a good conclusion, highlighting some of the arguments made be the various authors.  This is a very good book, and I would recommend it for those wanting to study more on this topic.

I received this book from in exchange for an honest review.

This is Your Brain on Sports!

When I saw this title, This Is Your Brain on Sports: The Science of Underdogs, the Value of Rivalry, and What We Can Learn from the T-Shirt Cannon, by L. Jon Wertheim and Sam Sommers, I knew I had to read this book.  I was not disappointed.  The entire book is fun to read.  It’s interesting to see some of the “science” behind sports.  The authors wrote, “As outlandish as sports conduct may seem, it is rooted in basic human psychology, neuroscience and cognitive tendency.” 

There are chapter titles that will pull you in.  Titles like “WhyGiving Every Little Kid a Trophy is Such a Lousy Idea” to “Why Rooting for the Mets Is Like Building That IKEA Desk.”  They go on with “Why Our Moral Compass Is More Flexible Than an Olympic Gymnasts,” and “Tribal Warfare: Why the Agony of the Other Team’s Defeat Feels Just as Good as the Thrill of our Team’s Victory” are very enticing.

They explain why a tennis player like Andy Roddick would fire a tennis hall of famer like Jimmy Conners and replace him with a tennis coach who had a losing record.

There are many anecdotal stories, talking about most sports to the psychology of rooting for the underdog, to violence, to the Mets, to trophies for kids.

Whether or not you are into sports, this is a book you will like.  Some explanations could have become tedious, but I thought they were well explained and made sense to me.

I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

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Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Leading from heart, soul, mind and body!

 I greatly appreciated Jenni Catron's book, The 4 Dimensions of Extraordinary Leadership.  For quite awhile I have believed that we work through the 4 different components of who we are; that is; our heart, spirit, mind and body.

With that in mind, Catron seeks to explain how to be an extraordinary leader.  You lead effectively and in an extraordinary way, when you lead with your whole being, i.e., heart, spirit, mind and body.  Catron seeks to help guide the reader to experience that reality as they lead within any organization.  I found her stories and applications easy to follow and very applicable to my daily life.

The book is split into 3 sections, Moving from Ordinary to Extraordinary; The Dimensions of Extraordinary; and The Practice of Extraordinary Leadership.  Catron weaves stories in and out of each chapter to help the reader see catch her points.  The book is very easy to read, but is filled with a deep message.  Her theme of leadership comes from the New Testament Gospel of Mark 12:30, where we are commanded to love the Lord our God with all our heart, and all our soul and all our mind and all our strength.  She is not preachy, but does use some biblical themes in this book.

Overall, I would recommend this book as a good introductory book for someone wishing to learn more about leadership.

I received this book from in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, February 22, 2016

A Good But Basic Bible Study

Jesus: Experiencing His Touch, is part of a Bible Study series by Kay Arthur and David Arthur.  The Bible Study is broken into 6 weeks, with one lesson per week.  The theme behind all of the Bible Studies is that there is no homework required; and each Bible Study should last for approximately 40 minutes. 

This particular Bible Study is based on Mark 1-6.  There are additional Bible Studies by the Arthur's which includes the remaining chapters of the book of Mark.

I have reviewed other Kay Arthur Bible Studies and felt they were move inclusive than this one.  I was left wanting more meat from this Bible Study.  I was hoping to use this as part of a Bible Study series I was going to teach from the Gospel of Mark, but will not use it. 

I believe this Bible Study is better suited for those who are just starting to get into Bible Study and are not ready to go deeper in the Word.  I say that not meaning to be overly critical since there are many people who will benefit from the approach the Arthur's take on this and other studies.

I received this study from in exchange for an open and honest review.

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Tuesday, February 16, 2016

A Good Devo to Read!

Devo for the Rest of Us: The Next 40 Days on Your Journey of Faith Paperback, by Vince Antonucci was an easy to read and mostly light devotional book.  It takes the reader on a 40 day journey in the hopes that the reader will draw closer to God.  I found the book to be very enlightening.

While I didn't feel the book was filled with an abundance of scripture, that was okay with me, since I like to read stories and illustrations which relate to life and help me along on my journey.  Oftentimes it is these stories which will help me better understand myself, who I am and who I am becoming.

 With this in mind, I appreciated the writing style which was mostly story telling.  Vince is a pastor in Las Vegas and refers to his region of ministry on a regular basis.  This book challenged me and encouraged me and gave me some new insights into how I can look at God.

This is an 8 week journey which requires the reader to read about 5 pages Monday - Friday or whatever equals 5 days in your week.  It's a good book, as long as you are not looking for a deep devotion with lots of scripture.

I received this book from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for an open and honest review! 

Ignite Your Passion For God (Bible Study)

As a pastor, I normally do not use Bible Study books for my weekly Bible Study.  We simply go straight from the Bible.  But this short Bible study by Kay Arthur, Ignite Your Passion for God, caught my attention. 

After reading through the book, I am going to use it during my Bible Study, but I am not certain how I will complete it within 40 minutes.  Some chapters have a great deal of insight and depth to them, so I am allowing about 8 weeks to complete this study.  There are “Insight” notes within the chapters which help guide the user in understanding the passage which is being discussed. 

This Bible Study is designed in such a manner that you are not required to do the work or homework in advance.  As we look at drawing closer to God, we will use this book and see how this impacts the people of the church.

There are 6 chapters in the book, which examines what influences or even takes away from our passion for God:

God’s Word
Sharing the Gospel

This is a very good basic study guide which I would highly recommend. 

I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for this review.

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Monday, February 01, 2016

It's Not What you Think!

It's Not What You Think: Why Christianity Is About So Much More Than Going to Heaven When You Die, by Jefferson Bethke, was a very interesting book.  The premise of the book is to help the reader understand that Christianity is not just about getting our ticket punch and having a free ride to heaven.  That’s part of the plan, but Bethke wants us to understand and believe there is so much more to life than what we think.

With that in mind each chapter discusses why something is not what we think it is, in actuality, it’s more than what we think.  At times the book was a little frustrating because, while Bethke had a lot to say, I think it was confusing.  He tried to pack so much into one section that it was easy at times to lose where he was going with this thought process. 

He wrote about how life and church and faith are not what we think it is, and that applies to his generation as well.  I appreciated his approach as he tackled many areas of Christian faith which are possibly taken a little too lightly.

I think you have to read this book with an open mind and look at what his views are and compare and contrast that to your own views, theology and convictions.  Hopefully this book will stretch you thinking.

Overall, this is a good book.

I received this book from in exchange for an honest and impartial review.

Do you have GRIT?

In their book Grit to Great: How Perseverance, Passion and Pluck Take you from Ordinary to Extraordinary, authors, Linda Kaplan Thayer and Robin Koval have written a motivational type of book.  This is not a book which will tell you how to go about achieving greatness.  It is a book which is designed to motoviate and inspire you to work towards greatness.

This is an easy to read book which tells a great many stories about simply ordinary people who had GRIT and turned their lives into extraordinary lives.  They use a GRIT scale, in which the acronym stands for ~
  • Guts, 
  • Resilience, 
  • Initiative, and 
  • Tenacity.
The point of the book is that achieving greatness or excellence takes work.  Too many people don't want to put in the work, but their stories about average people who do great things because of their GRIT are compelling.  It takes effort and energy, which maybe is the downfall, if greatness or excellence is not your goal, then this is just an ordinary book filled with fun and interesting stories.

At the end of each chapter is a section called Grit Builders.  This is designed to give you some action steps to start you on your way to reaching your goals.  They also created a scale to determine your GRIT level, you can find that test at and take the grit test.

Overall, this is a very good book and I would recommend it for those seeking to grow and change in who they are.

I received this book from in exchange for an honest review.

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Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Rise!! Church! Rise!!

Rise: Bold Strategies to Transform your Church, by Cally Parkinson, through the REVEAL Group, has written a very good book to read.  Most books like this focus on how to grow the church and give you a number of good well meaning plans to help in that endeavor.  This book is a little unique in that it has as it’s main focus the area of the spiritual well being and power of a church.

For the past 10 years the authors were researching various churches throughout the United States. The goal was to help church leaders better understand ways in which churches can achieve and maintain spiritual growth.  Over 2,000 churches were involved in this study.

The conclusion is that the more activities a church has, does not correlate to greater spiritual growth.  That is really nothing new in the church leadership world.   With this in mind, the question becomes, how do you enable a church to grow spiritually without the addition of more programs and meetings. 

The authors believe every church falls into one of eight patterns of spiritual growth, whether they are effective or not.  They identify 8 various archetypes of church health, believing every church fits in one of these categories. 

They are ~
The Troubled Church
• The Complacent Church
• The Extroverted Church
• The Average Church
• The Introverted Church
• The Self-Motivated Church
• The Energized Church
• The Vibrant Church

Each chapter includes a case study of one church and how they addressed their issues to move forward.  This helps the reader if their church is in this situation to see some form of application.  Of course, not all situations will work for each church, but this book is helpful in giving the leader a better understanding of their church and how to move forward.

I received this book free from the publisher through the Tyndale Blog Network in exchange for an honest review.