Wednesday, December 10, 2014

52 Weeks with Jesus

Author:  James Merritt

First Publication:  December 2014

Publisher:  Harvest House Publishers

Source:  Net Galley

The sub-title tells you everything about this book:  "Fall in love with the One who changed everything".  That alone got me interested in reading it.  It brought back memories of the first time I read Philip Yancey's classic book called "The Jesus I Never Knew".  Even though we might be focused on Jesus everyday of our lives, it is always good to take a fresh, in depth look at various aspects of our savior.

Merritt takes us back to the basics of Jesus.  His meditations are reflections not only on who Jesus is but also how he impacted the author's life and ministry.  Take the upcoming year and spend it getting back in touch with what is the most important relationship a person can have.  

I read the book in a short period of time but plan on re-reading it in depth during 2015.  It will be a book that I return to again in the future.

Highly recommended.  

Friday, August 22, 2014

Praying Through the Names of God

Author:  Tony Evans

First Publication:  September 1, 2014

Publisher:  Harvest House Publishers

Source:  Net Galley

Tony Evans continues to prove why he is one of my favorite authors.  In this book he examines the many different names of God.  

Dr. Evans gives a look into each of the names.  My favorite part of the book, and what makes it different from other books, is he includes prayers.  It gives the reader a chance to see Dr. Evans prayers.  Also included are blank pages for you to journal at the end of each chapter.

If you are struggling with your prayer life, this is a great way to energize it.  Dr. Evans prayers will help you learn how to pray.  And by picking a different name each day it mixes things up and reminds you of the many different ways God presented Himself in the Bible.

Highly recommended.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

One Kingdom Under God

Author:  Tony Evans

First Publication:  July 2014

Publisher:  Moody Publishers

Source:  Net Galley

Tony Evans was one of the first authors I started following when I began to read Christian books.  Later I started watching him on television and listening to his podcast.  I did hear him in person once (so far) at a Christian rally.  He is an amazing speaker and author.  Evans always stays focused on God’s Word and I appreciate the chance to read his insights into the Gospel.  This is another classic work of his that I thought would be easier to comment on if I included some excerpts from the book.

1.        ”Everyone has an idea and a viewpoint, but I believe God has spoken and He has not stuttered.  There are two answers to every question:  God’s answer and everyone else’s.  And when they differ, everyone else is wrong.  Thus it befits us to bring our lives under God’s rule and passionately pursue His kingdom.”  I remember reading a comment like this in one of his earlier books and it has stayed with me through the years.  “God has spoken and He has not stuttered” is a good way of keeping at the front of our thoughts the truth of God’s Word.

2.       “While there is nothing necessarily wrong with thoughts and feelings, they shouldn’t be the deciding factors to what is true.  Truth transcends feelings.  For example, you may feel like you have a headache so you take an aspirin.  But the lab report might tell the truth that you have a brain tumor, and an aspirin won’t do any good.  Your head hurting felt real; it just didn’t reveal the truth.  When you miss the truth, you miss everything.  Likewise, when you miss the truth of God’s Word, you miss the kingdom.”  Many people try to put their feeling ahead of the truth.  We want to see the best in people so we won’t admit other’s shortcomings.  It is also very true concerning our own problems.  We try to justify our actions because they feel right.  Dr. Evans reminds us that our feelings are wrong unless they are aligned with God’s Word.

3.       “One of the reasons we often don’t live in light of this truth is because we confuse the terms “power” and “authority”.  For example, on the football field the players are bigger and stronger-more powerful-than the referees.  The referees are older, smaller, and more out of shape than the players.  The players can knock you down-power.  But the referees can put you out-authority.  Satan has power, but the only way he is free to use that power over the lives of individuals, families, churches, or even the broader society is the failure to operate from under the rightful headship of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Satan does not have the authority to use his power when men function under the covenantal covering of Jesus Christ.”  How easy it is to confuse power and authority.  The world tries to convince everyone that power is more important.  Dr. Evans goes back to his football days (as a chaplain for the Dallas Cowboys) for this example.  Even if you do not like football, I believe most people will understand this message.  Too often we get lured into believing that Satan’s power is the strongest force on Earth.  This explanation reminds us that God’s authority is the supreme power that trumps Satan’s power.

4.       “But the truth and power of God’s Word can be nullified in your experience if you refuse to let the Word speak to you as it is or you start mixing it up with your human viewpoints.  Now please notice I did not say the Bible can lose its power or authority.  That will never happen because God said His Word is “forever settles in heaven” (Psalm 119:89).  But the Bible’s power is blunted in our lives when we do not respond to God in humility and obedience.”  How many times do we see someone we believe to be a Christian go down the wrong path?  It is one of many reasons why we need to stay focused on God’s Word.

“One Kingdom Under God” is a great reminder that we need to keep God at the center of our thoughts and lives.  When our focus is on Him, He keeps us on the right path.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

A New Evangelical Manifesto

Author:  David P. Gushee-editor

First Publication:  August 2012

Publisher:  Chalice Press

Source:  Net Galley

Summary:  Being religiously conservative does not necessarily mean being politically conservative. There is a significant, emerging segment of conservatively theological Christians who agree with politically liberal counterparts while staying true to their own faith regarding a wide variety of political issues in contemporary America. 

It is time for a new look at faith and politics in America. It is time for A New Evangelical Manifesto. 

The book, not really a manifesto, is the work of numerous authors with each contributing a chapter.  It is divided into 3 sections.

Section One:  A new kind of evangelical Christianity...
Chapters deal with the church in America today and continue through God's vision.

Section Two:  Leading to holistic love...
This section concerns loving those who don't have a voice in society.

Section Three:  ...and Redemptive  Approaches to Public Life
What is a Christian's response to various hot button subjects (global warming, death penalty, consumerism, etc.)

While I might not agree with every writer in this collection, it is a very worthwhile book to read.  I would find it to be a good study guide for a small group.  The group could read the chapter ahead of time and discuss their responses to the authors.  Even though everyone might not agree on the conclusions, everyone does need to prayerfully consider all of the subjects addressed in this book.


Friday, May 02, 2014

Taking God at His Word by Kevin DeYoung

Subtitle:  Why the Bible Is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What That Means for You and Me

Source:  NetGalley

After reading and loving his previous book, I decided that I needed to read more of Kevin DeYoung's books.  When I saw that this one was available for review it jumped to the top of my to be read stack.  Like many people, I have certain authors that I pick up and read everything they write.  Included in that group is Philip Yancey and Max Lucado.  Now Kevin DeYoung has joined the list of my favorite authors.

DeYoung's award winning previous book, "Crazy Busy", was very good and I found this to be another good book.  The author has a gift for reminding us of the basics of our Christian faith.  In "Crazy Busy", he helped the reader to remember that Satan can use every thing (work, family, hobbies, even the church) to keep us busy and distracted from our walk with the Lord.  "Taking God at His Word" is a great book for a young Christian to see what God's word really means.  And it is a good reminder for long time Christians to keep us focused on the truth of God's word. 

Read this book and fall in love with God's word all over again.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Storytelling God by Jared C. Wilson

Subtitled:  Seeing the Glory of Jesus in His Parables

Some of my favorite, and most memorable, times are when you hear a great storyteller craft a yarn. Time seems to fly by as you hang on every word.  Often you might not know where the story will go next.  Although I have known many good storytellers, none were better than Jesus.  He used parables to tell stories that anyone could relate to and think they understand.  Most of the time i believe the message did not occur to the listeners until after he was finished.

Jared C. Wilson demonstrates how Jesus not only used the parables to explain morals but, like all of the Bible, how they lead us to Christ.

Some of my favorite lines from the book:

The parables give us a direct portal to the kingdom of God being done on earth as it is in heaven.

The parables, as the wisdom of God, are aimed not only at the mind but also at the heart.

I would recommend that you follow the author as he takes a fresh look at the parables.  Maybe he will open your eyes to something that has been in front of you all along.

The Truest Thing About You by David Lomas & D. R. Jacobsen

From Amazon:  There are many true things about you—true things you use to build an identity. Parent. Introvert. Victim. Student. Extrovert. Entrepreneur. Single.

These truths can identify you, your successes and failures, your expectations and disappointments, your secret dreams and hidden shames. But what if your true identity isn't found in any of these smaller truths, but in the grand truth of who God says you are? In other words, lots of things are true about you—but are they the truest? 

David Lomas invites you to discover and live out the truth of who God created you to be: you are loved, you are accepted, and you are made in God's image. It's time to move beyond the lesser voices and discover why everything changes when you become who you really are.

Throughout history, mankind has struggled to determine its identity.  Over time, people have identified themselves by what they do, which family they belong to, who they are married to, how much money they have, and too many other ways of making them stand out.  But is this the way a Christian should go about it?

Satan tries to make us focus on our identity as the way the world sees us. The group Big Tent Revival sang a great song called "Two Sets of Jones" that demonstrates the difference between a worldly and a Christian viewpoint.  The song shows what happens to two families named Jones when they have children.  If you have not heard it, look it up and listen to it as a reminder of what this book is all about.   

The authors of this book showcase a similar theme.  Too often we are caught up in Satan's lies as to what our identity really is.  Lomas and Jacobsen use a very reader friendly method of demonstrating the way the Gospels show us the different way Christ looks at us.  Just like when Peter stepped out of the boat and walked on the water, when we keep our eyes on Jesus life is the way it should be.  When we start looking at all of the turmoil around us and what the world says, our identity suffers.

Highly recommended. 

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Crazy Busy by Kevin DeYoung

I had never read any of Kevin DeYoung's books but when I had the chance to read a short book about being busy, I thought it was a good time to try one.

The author lets you know that he kept this book short because we are all busy.  In today's world it is easy to get wrapped up in both work and our personal lives.  The main question is what are we busy doing?

I did not read anything groundbreaking but he does an excellent job of reminding us to make God number one in our lives.  One of Satan's best traps today is to make us feel we have to do everything.  It is easy to be pulled into being a "Martha".  We want to be everything to everyone.  DeYoung reminds us that God is the only one who can be everything.

I highly recommend this book to everyone even if you don't think you have a problem with business.  DeYoung explains what the Bible says about it and what we need to do as Christians.  I know I will be re-reading this on a regular basis.