Sunday, December 9, 2012

Review: Finding God in the Hobbit by Jim Ware

Review: Finding God in the Hobbit
Jim Ware
Salt River

What a nice surprise this book was for me! I was expecting the usual allegory and not much else, but I can say happily that I was disappointed. And I am glad of it. Disappointments aren't all bad, it seems.

What delighted me was watching (reading) how a person steeped in the word of God and the other areas that Tolkien knew so well allowed those interests rise to the surface almost effortlessly and to shape the entire work. Ware captured me from the first page as he identified possible connections that Tolkien may have made, connections that totally eluded me when I read The Hobbit.

This is not a book that could be classified page turner. Instead it reminded me more a meditation by Ware. In fact, if you read large portions of this at one sitting, you will not enjoy this at all. The style will begin to annoy you and you will put it down. There’s the nit for those that need one. So sit back and think a little when you read this book. Maybe use more like a devotional.

I do recommend this book as one to nibble on, one to think on, and one to possibly remind you of how "unsteeped" many of us are in any sort of literature.

I received this book from Tyndale in exchange for a review.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Review: The Conviction to Lead: 25 Principles for Leadership That Matters by Albert Mohler

Review: The Conviction to Lead: 25 Principles for Leadership That Matters
Albert Mohler
Bethany House Publishers

This seems to be Dr. Mohler’s foray into the plethora of leadership/management books available to the public. His stated goal from page 20 is to “redefine Christian leadership” related to held beliefs, and “to motivate” those with those beliefs to preparation for leadership. Worthy goal and hopefully one that has defined his twenty years as the president of a denominational seminary.

His 25 principles are a list of what he thinks leaders should be. He draws heavily from those he considers to be successful leaders of the past in business, political, and military fields. Martin Luther, Francis Schaeffer, and Stephen Colbert are also mentioned. The principles here are not new or innovative if the reader has read any of the works published in the business field within the last thirty years.

His presentation of the principles is brief and in some cases he makes statements that seem antagonistic. “The fact is that most human beings evidently do not like to think.” (59) Really? Or this one, “Reading is like any other skill---most people are satisfied to operate at a low level.”(101) or this speaking of credibility, “…you cannot even lead a Boy Scout troop without it.” (89) where he denigrates the efforts of those that have ever worked with the Scouts as some minor thing. I understand the point he is trying to make in these cases, but find his communication skills (chapter 11) lacking.

Overall, this book one that you can pass up despite the glowing recommendations that some have given it.

I received this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for this review.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Review: What on Earth Am I Here For? by Rick Warren

Review: What on Earth Am I Here For?
Rick Warren

It’s been 10 years already? Yes, it has, and in that time another generation has grown up and is asking what life is all about. So it’s time for an updated edition of this book.

The first thing I noticed when I received this book was the crisp clean design for the dust jacket. Much nicer, cleaner look than the earlier edition. Inside there’s a new font, paper and page setup. Then there’s those nifty little QR links. Yes, I did check them and they work just fine, as did the other links related to this study. It’s all free, too. Except the book, of course. There are even listening guides to download if you want to follow along with the discussion that accompanies each week’s focus. So far I am impressed with this anniversary edition.

The original text was maintained here with the addition of a couple of new chapters at the end. Those two chapters are helpful. They cover a couple of the major pitfalls that most of us know all too well,envy and people-pleasing. As with the rest of this study, Warren covers these topics well too, in my opinion.

The general topic, “What on earth am I here for?”, covers a huge territory, but the author has approached it well and presents enough material so that by the time a person is finished with this study he’ll have enough information and encouragement to examine his own life and formulate some plans that he’d liked to see accomplished in his own life. The student will also have a better idea of his own place in the grand scheme of things.

As I read through this book, I realized that those of us who have already been through the study could benefit from a refresher course, too. So this new edition isn’t just for the younger generation. Maybe a checkup to see how we are doing with our lives?

Yes, I recommend this book. Do I agree with every word? No, and that isn’t the point. Direction, focus, and a sense of my place in the world is. Warren has a book that makes you look and decide for yourself about those issues.

This book was provided by Zondervan in exchange for this review in conjunction with BookSneeze.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Review: Jesus: Pure and Simple by Wayne Cordeiro

Review: Jesus: Pure and Simple
Wayne Cordeiro
Bethany House Publishers

I have to admit I had not heard of this author until I received this book for review. Judging from this list of his other titles I have been living on another planet recently. All that is corrected now.

Jesus: Pure and Simple reminds the reader about what is most important in his relationship with Jesus. Jesus, Himself. The basis of this book could be from either a verse from the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 6:33) or one from Revelation 2 (the letter to the Church at Ephesus). The focus is the same. And this is serves as a good reminder of focus.

Throughout the book the author speaks of different distractions that distort or blur our focus on the “things above.” Dissatisfaction really spoke volumes about the climate today. The quote that stuck with me was “staying near the door” and related to that Cordeiro’s reminder to focus more on how many are not within the Church (read “Kingdom of God”, or how ever your tradition describes the Church universal) than how many are inside your church. Ouch! for all that tend to get too wrapped up in bigness.

The book is an easy read and filled with helpful, insightful and useful guidance for anyone from the pulpit to the pew. I do recommend this book. The author has included some questions for consideration at the end of each chapter which could be used for private or group study.

I received this book from Bethany House Publishers for review.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

When to Speak Up & when to Shut Up by Dr. Michael D. Sedler

Review: When to Speak Up & When to Shut Up
Dr. Michael D. Sedler
Chosen Books

The title says it all in describing this book. The author looks at different examples of keeping quiet when you shouldn’t have and speaking when silence would’ve been the wiser choice. This is a primer on effective communication techniques. Each chapter looks at that from a particular perspective, and generally how the subject messed it up first. Just like we all do. It’s OK to admit that.

The author’s style is gentle and easy to read. Maybe too easy, even, since I found myself just speeding passed some important points. Slow down a bit with this one and learn. He’s been at it professionally long enough to know what he is talking about. One of the big points I missed was have a plan. If peer pressure is an issue, learn how to say no. If you know you are having a conference with your boss that might be challenging, think about what you will say before the event.

Overall, I recommend this book as a starting point for learning effective communication. It is a skill and one that can needs practice in most of our lives.

This book was provided in exchange for this review.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Review: The Open Bible NKJV from Thomas Nelson

Yes, this is the Open Bible from years ago that has been re-issued. It was great then and it still is now. My favorite helps are the Biblical Cyclopedic Index and, believe or not, the maps. The index lists a word, defines it, and then covers the uses or occurrences by category. That opens lots of new areas for consideration from the very beginning.

The maps are readable, colorful and color coded, and are assembled in chronological order from the Genesis period to modern times. There is so much more there to explore. This Bible makes study fun.

There are other study helps too that included the Jewish feast dates, the Maccabean period, and brief summaries of the Apocrypha. I don’t think they published a version of this that includes those books of the Apocrypha, but the summaries give the reader some insight into them.

Each book starts with a helps section and an outline. Throughout the reading notes give alternate readings. Cross references? Of course. There’s so much to commend this particular edition of the NKJV. The font size works for me, a corrected vision person. Please check this one out before you purchase any Bible.

What don’t I like? Not much to say there, except the paper weight may be too light for some. Suits me, but I don’t use hi-liters.

I do recommend this version of the NKJV.

I received this book in exchange for my review from the publishers.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Review: Understanding World Religions in 15 Minutes a Day by Garry R. Morgan

In 15 minutes a day?!! I had to see this book. Believe it or not, this book lives up to expectations. Morgan states in his preface that his aim is to be concise and recommends a textbook he uses in his classes for those that what to learn more. Condensing any major religion into a 15 minute read is a challenge and one that I feel he has met well.

He defines religion at the start and that is helpful given the various ideas that exist. There is also a brief discussion of why looking at other's religion is important. Especially so now in the globalization of nearly everything. His descriptions give the basics of each religion covered. Remember the 15 minutes a day thing.

Another of his aims is to be descriptive and not necessarily comparative and to avoid the “mine’s better than yours” rhetoric. In that he generally succeeds. As he admits, a person’s cultural point of view is difficult to avoid, and from time to time you will see in his word choices some minor reflection of his particular bias.

I found his chapters on the religions generally associated with India and China very informative. Their history covers centuries and Morgan found a way to cover that time span with enough depth to understand them better and stay within his 15 minutes a day theme. That requires skill and he has shown the ability to accomplish that.

I do recommend this book as a great start point for understanding our neighbors globally and locally much better. Maybe this will be useful in better communication between us. One can always hope.

This book was provided to me by Bethany House Publishers for review.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Review: You're Stronger than You Think: The Power to Do what You Feel You Can't by Dr. Les Parrott

Review: You’re Stronger than You Think: The Power to Do What You Feel You Can’t
Dr. Les Parrott
Tyndale House Publishers

This book is a great start place for anyone who is tired of feeling helpless, hopeless, and all those other discouraging words that you hear from within or without. If you’re ready to lose that, start here. This book has a companion workbook and an opportunity to access an online strengths profile. After reading through this book I would suggest investing in both of those items, too.

Early on Dr. Parrott promises no psychobabble and holds to that promise. He draws from his own experience, the experiences of others, and a copious number of professional studies to back up his observations and advice. And yes, he does included Biblical references where they are pertinent. Other sources are interspersed with that, as well.

He organizes his book around some familiar points, heart, mind, and soul. Each section examines the strengths available and some of the barriers to utilizing those strengths. He does not cover anything truly revolutionary, but uses the familiar to help his readers understand more clearly. So if you are looking for some novel fix-it, this book is not for you. His way will require some earnest work on the reader’s part. It will be worth it.

His writing style is easy to read with none of the academic jargon. The presentation seems almost too easy in fact and that may be a draw back for some reader’s. It will be easy to devour it quickly and miss the import of what he has to say. So, slow down. That’s where the workbook will so helpful if you’re serious.

I do recommend this book to you.

I received this book for review from Tyndale House Publishers.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Review: Relentless Pursuit: God's Love of Outsiders by Ken Gire inclusing the outsider in all of us

Review: Relentless Pursuit: God’s Love of Outsiders including the outsider in all of us
Ken Gire
Bethany House Publishers

Poignancy, insights, revelation and even humor from time to time. It’s all in Ken Gire’s Relentless Pursuit. That’s what I found in this book. Gire uses his own life as an example, along with others to be sure, to illustrate the love of God and His untiring desire to re-gather His people to Himself.

Gire makes several references to the poem The Hound of Heaven, which I had never read before and it is included in this book. It is quite a poetic endeavor and I recommend it to this reader. Gire also mentions toward the conclusion of his book a reading of this poem that can be found online that helped me appreciate it even more. Do check that out, but this isn’t about the poem, but Gire’s book.

The title confused me. Outsiders? Who is the outsider? The guy that doesn’t go to my church, the lost, the high school student that has been unfriended?

Gire has organized Relentless Pursuit into discreet chapters with a set of questions at the conclusion of each one. The book may be used in a study group or for private meditation. As the contents page reveals, he works his way through the idea of pursuit. What it is, who is pursued, and who does the pursuing and some of the whys. Along the way the reader will meet several Biblical people who were well acquainted being outsiders and pursued, but this is not a character study of Biblical persons. In fact this is not a typical Bible study. This book is about the Author and His continuing interaction with Gire, hence “relentless pursuit”.

As I read through this I kept finding myself walking with him in a common experience. The pursuit does not end for Gire when he became part of the redeemed family of God, but continues into his life as a believer, too. Although that is not a new bit of information, Gire’s treatment of how that has worked in his life is. That is the value of this book in my opinion and is the reason I will recommend it to you.

The reader may find Gire’s style here a bit scattered, but as you will learn there is a reason for that. So stay with him and then ponder what he has said. It is well worth it.

I received this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for this review.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Review: Empty Promises by Pete Wilson

Empty promises. The things that don’t live up to expectations. We’ve all experienced that disappointment and in this book Pete Wilson works through the most common varieties of empty promises. He not only draws from his own life, but also from the lives he has seen lived around him for his examples. Biblical examples abound as backdrops to show us that this is not a new thing. What is new, for me anyway, is calling the problem broken promises rather than idolatry. While the latter is at the root of the problem, the symptom most of us experience is that emptiness when we expected fullness.

It is an easy read, but not trite. It is a familiar read, and sadly one that we just don’t seem to heed. It seems every time we try the next gimmick dangled in front of us first and have to relearn this lesson. This is true not only in our religious life, but the secular as well. Keeps the presses turning on either side of that great divide.

Happily, Wilson does add some helpful ideas at the end of his book, and if even one of the suggestions is practiced, we’d all experience more fulfilled promises instead of the empty sort.

Overall, I recommend this book for the reminder it brings and for the review of our own inventories. If you are looking for yet another quick fix, don’t bother. This isn’t it, even if one actually existed.

This book was provided for review by Thomas Nelson via the BookSneeze blog.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Review: Unashamed to Bear His Name by R.T. Kendall

Review: Unashamed to Bear His Name
R.T. Kendall
Chosen Books

How to review this book? The author is an accomplished author, pastor and speaker. Intimidated? A little bit. But if his aim is that it will change my life (from the preface) I thought I’d see what he had to say.

After meandering around some points and coming back to others, I must say that his aim is partially fulfilled in this book. He has written in the gap between evangelicals and charismatics and in doing so probably will lose one side or the other. Maybe both? Right or wrong in what he writes, sadly. And that is a problem for his writing this and for the church as well. Maybe it will not be so in the years to come.

The strength of this book is the encouragement to persevere and not be ashamed of the Gospel. His journey is an example of just that. It does take courage to step out and do what you know is right, regardless of the cries from the establishment.

I do not agree with some of what he has to say, but that’s OK. You probably won’t either. And that’s OK, too. Read this for the encouragement he offers to be Unashamed to Bear His Name.

This book was provided to me by Chosen Books for review.

Review: My Own Worst Enemy by Janet Davis

Review: My Own Worst Enemy
Janet Davis
Bethany House

“Shining is not pride.” and “Hiding is not humility.” OK, she has my attention right from the start. What does she mean and how does that square with Biblical teaching? Well, don’t want to spoil the book for you so I’ll let you decide if she makes her case or not.

Davis’ book has a subtitle, too, that speaks volumes. “How to stop holding yourself back.” Through a series of case studies and her own story the author illustrates just how that happens not only to most of us, but also to the women of the Bible. She revisits many of them and shows their growth and strength in a way I had not thought about before. And I think she’s on the mark with her work.

The cases studies are not dry reading. She depicts real people with real emotions in real circumstances in real struggles. You will find yourself in at least one of those chapters I can guarantee. Or maybe more than one. Please read closely about the time frame that each case covers. The transformation is what you are looking for, the how did they do it part and miss that in most of the women presented the change took time. Lots more time than some want you believe. I missed that initially and had to back up a little.

I got to the last chapter thinking, “That’s nice and so what?” though. Read that last chapter! It isn’t there to add a few more pages to the book. It has a purpose and tied it all together for me. A final subtitle in that chapter says it all. “Jesus Did Not Fix Her, He Freed Her”

I do recommend this book. Sure it’ll challenge some of your views, but go ahead and look at them to decide if she isn’t on to something here.

This book was provided by Bethany Books in exchange for this review.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


A quick follow up on the Mansfield review. The certificate has been claimed now. Thank you for your interest. And congratulations to the the winner.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Review: Healing Your Church Hurt by Stephen Mansfield

Review: Healing Your Church Hurt
Stephen Mansfield

Mansfield wrote this book out of need he saw among those that had experienced a church hurt. The need as the title suggests is healing. He is no stranger to the hurt he writes about here and does not dance the around the deep wounds that he received from a congregation that he had pastored for several years. In fact, he is brutally honest in some instances. What he has to say is not new territory or a magic bullet that will fix everyone and everything. So if that’s what you are hoping for from him, don’t’ say I didn’t warn you up front.

What he does have to say is how to actually do the things that will lead to your healing. The ideas are not novel. They are biblical. The same stuff you have read over and over again but tried to find a way around, especially the forgiveness thing. What he does is to help guide you through that process drawing from his own experiences, failures, and finally healing.

His section about forgiveness is the best I’ve read in a long time. For those of us that have heard the “forgive and forget” advice but have ended up discouraged that we just couldn’t do that, this book will free you from that unneeded or deserved guilt. Read it for that if for no other reason.

It does have a few places that didn’t work as well as the forgiveness section, but that may be a matter of style preference on my part. His writing can be as direct as Hemingway and that is enough said about that.

I do recommend this book. It is a fast read, an easy read, but slow down and absorb what he has to say.

To make that even easier for you I have one free via a gift certificate to give to the first person that requests it. Please leave your contact information so I get your mailing address to send the certificate to you via snail mail. No other contact or selling your info will happen. Promise.

I received this book from Tyndale Publishing in exchange for this review.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Review: Church Lady by Chandra Peele

The author has tried to restore the luster to a term that has many, many negative connotations. She does knit together some interesting anecdotes that seemed more like transcripts than anything else to me. It is quite readable and for those that like this sort of book you will enjoy it.

This book was provided by New Hope via NetGalley for review.