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Review: Finding God in the Hobbit by Jim Ware

Review: Finding God in the Hobbit
Jim Ware
Salt River
2006

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 y…

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
2012

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 stat…

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

Review: What on Earth Am I Here For?
Rick Warren
Zondervan
2012

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…

Review: Jesus: Pure and Simple by Wayne Cordeiro

Review: Jesus: Pure and Simple
Wayne Cordeiro
Bethany House Publishers
2012

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 …

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
2003

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…

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 …

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 o…

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
2012

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 th…

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
2012

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 …

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 th…

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

Review: Unashamed to Bear His Name
R.T. Kendall
Chosen Books
2012

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…

Review: My Own Worst Enemy by Janet Davis

Review: My Own Worst Enemy
Janet Davis
Bethany House
2012

“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 …

Wow!!

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.
G

Review: Healing Your Church Hurt by Stephen Mansfield

Review: Healing Your Church Hurt
Stephen Mansfield
Barna
2012

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 ab…

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.