Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Review: Awakening Faith: Daily Devotions from the Early Church by James Stuart Bell with Patrick J. Kelly



Review: Awakening Faith: Daily Devotions from the Early Church
James Stuart Bell with Patrick J. Kelly
Zondervan
2013

Who knew?  I certainly didn’t.  What a rich legacy those of the early church have left for us!  And it’s been all but lost to the majority of the believers in modern times.  Lots of reasons for that loss, but this isn’t the place for listing them.

What it is the place for is to appreciate what Bell and Kelly, along with all those that make this sort of work happen, have done for us.  The introduction explains a little about the Church Fathers and what some of their concerns were, how they understood their life and times, and some of the encouragement they offered.  A short biographical sketch of each of them is included at the end of the book.  I found that very helpful in placing them in their respective time frame.  Polycarp was very early and Maximus the Confessor about 500 years later. One of them even had contact with Attila the Hun---in a positive sort of way.   

Although I have not read every entry, I can say that this is definitely a worthwhile book to buy and savor.  I have decided to use it as a devotional for myself.  (Thank you, Zondervan and Booksneeze.) The depth and breadth of these writings is so different from what I’ve seen anywhere else.  And I’ve looked and read a lot lately. 

Only thing that might have been nice would have been to include from which of the volumes the devotional reading was drawn since there are an entire shelf full of the writings of the Church Fathers, but that’s just the school girl part of me talking.  That in no way detracts from what was written.

Yes, I do recommend this devotional book without reservation.  

This book was provided to me by the publisher via Booksneeze in exchange for this review.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Review: Ministering to Problem People in Your Church: What to Do with Well-Intentioned Dragons by Marshall Shelley



Review: Ministering to Problem People in Your Church: What to Do with Well-Intentioned Dragons
Marshall Shelley
Bethany House Publishers
2013

This book covers most of the people issues anyone has encountered if they have hung around the assembled church folks for any length of time.  Some of us have been on both sides of this one, regrettably.  Not fun from anybody’s perspective.  And that is the reason that this book needs to read.  By all of us.  

What this author describes may be told from the church perspective, but I think you’d meet the same challenges elsewhere.  But since this is for ministers we’ll stay in that realm.   

His list of Dragon Species (42) is pretty thorough and he will introduce the reader to several of them in the reading. My favorite, if I can use that term in that way, involves the charter member’s reaction to a growing church and all the tactics that person used to stay in control.  “Dragons are best known for what comes out of their months…Dragon’s tongues may be smooth, but they are usually forked.”(59). Yes, this is book deals with the real world of ministry. And it does not paint a pretty picture.  In fact, I’d recommend reading it on a bright, sunny spring day.  It shows the difficulties and how some have worked through them.  The cost is high in all the case studies related in this book, and for that reason I found this a very difficult read.
This book is a re-issue of the 1985 version entitled Well-Intentioned Dragons by the same author, for those of you who may have a copy of that somewhere.  Another look at it might be helpful from time to time.  I do not know which material if any may be new in this version.  This is an easy read that is a tough read.  The author’s parting words may encourage some of his readers.  “…it is life among the dragons that develops the qualities God requires.” (203). Have to think about that a while more, myself.
Overall, for those that are considering entry into the ministry or are in the throes of dragon vanquishing I do recommend this book.  In fact, it needs to be requires reading in that case.  For the laity, read this one and consider whether you are acting as a well-intentioned dragon or helping limit the damage they create.
This book was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for this review.