Friday, September 10, 2010

Review of Outlive Your Life by Max Lucado

Book Description:

These are difficult days in our world's history.  1.75 billion people are desperately poor, natural disasters are gouging entire nations, and economic uncertainty still reigns across the globe.  But you and I have been given an opportunity to make a big difference.  What if we did? What if we rocked the world with hope?  Infiltrated all corners with God's love and life?  We are created by a great God to do great works.  He invites us to outlive our lives, not just in heaven, but here on earth.  Let's live our lives in such a way that the world will be glad we did.

My Thoughts:

Lucado does another fine job in this book.  Although there seems to be more fluff than most of his books, Lucado continues to make and explain legitimate points.  Included in this book are Scripture references prior to each chapter and a prayer at the end.  I especially enjoyed the prayer because it allowed the reader to actually pause and turn over the specific topic covered in the chapter to God.  At the end of the Outlive Your Life, David Drury adds a Discussion and Action Guide to supplement the book.  This is also a nice touch.  The D&A Guide allows the reader to asses themselves based on questions posed for each chapter along with specific challenges to the reader.

The meat of Lucado’s book consists of 16 chapters all designed to stir up reflection in the reader.  Chapters may or may not be applicable to the reader as we all struggle with a variety of issues and living as Christ instructs.  Although the chapters are very short, Lucado utilizes both Scriptural and real life examples of each situation discussed in the chapter.  I feel that Lucado could have gone more in depth in the chapters and eliminated a few of the real world examples.  They seem to fill up the pages more than the purpose. 

Overall, Outlive Your Life is a good read.  The book encourages the Christian reader to stay on task and put into action ways to live beyond the mundane life.  I would recommend this book as an easy but effective read for anyone who wants a refresher in Christian living.  Furthermore, if you just need a fresh perspective or some ideas to make the world a better place, pick up a copy. 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Review of The Heavens Proclaim His Glory

Book Description:

“I can see how it might be possible for a man to look down upon the earth and be an atheist, but I cannot conceive how he could look up into the heavens and say there is no God.”  Abraham Lincoln

Our world displays the handiwork of God all around us—in the land and sea, the animals and the plants. But in respect to the sky, the heavens, the universe…there’s a realm of beauty and creation man has not been able to witness, until now.  The Heavens Proclaim His Glory is a compilation of stunning photography taken by NASA’s Hubble® Telescope capturing striking images of stars, galaxies, cosmic events, planets, and more. Vivid up-close photographs are paired with a romantic Psalm or quote, as well as a short description of the image. The Heavens will open up a whole new world of worship and praise for our God. 

My Thoughts:

A picture is worth a thousand words does not come close to describing The Heavens.  Picture after picture revealing God’s creation beyond our comprehension is what you will find in this book.  The pictures alone stir up praise and awe of our Creator.  You cannot possibly go through this book and not gasp at the splendor of our King.  We live on this earth and yet God created so much more.  The expanse of the solar system and galaxies beyond our comprehension are revealed to us through The Heavens.  The addition of Scripture and quotes from well known Christian authors and others are not even needed.  However, they do add another dimension to the book that tries to put it all in perspective.  This book is a must have for anyone who teaches on any level at a church.  It is sure to stir up much conversation and even help show just how big God is.  Obviously God cannot be limited to the pages I this book, but The Heavens does do Creation justice. 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Review of A Guy's Guide to Life by Jason Boyett

Book Description:

What does society want of teen guys? To be independent, tough, and macho? To be a sensitive, caring metrosexual? To excel in school and sports and business? The challenges are many, and we haven't even mentioned the most important-and most frightening-topic of conversation: girls. The road to manhood is a perilous one.

Guys need a guidebook, one that asks and answers the questions they're reluctant to discuss. They need a book that addresses the myths of manhood with a straightforward approach teenage guys will appreciate and absorb. Author Jason Boyett understands what many fail to realize—that somewhere between the awkwardness and braggadocio, the goofiness and the developing body, there is a real person struggling to make his mark on the world.

My Thoughts:

A Guy’s Guide to Life is very soft and written as more of a “be your friend” than a “you’ll thank me later” book.  As I read the book, I kept picturing the parent who wants to be “cool” with his child’s friends so he talks the lingo, is more lenient, and brushes off the real issues.  While this book is a good basic boy-to-man book, it fails to provide strong Biblical guidance that is so needed by men to young men.  The author opts for coolness as opposed to taking the genuine opportunity to give straight from the Bible, how to deal with life, instruction.  Boyett had the audience and perfect opportunity to make the Bible relevant and “cool” to a young man and passed on it. 
As a youth leader, I would not recommend this to a student but I would suggest a parent pick it up and read first before encouraging their teen son to read it.  I will not dismiss the book entirely as the chapter on Faith is good as well as the several pointers on volunteering, serving, and loving, etc.  Additionally, Boyett covers respecting parents, others, and treating girls appropriately.  Therefore, while Boyett does not offer the sound Biblical references I was hoping for, he does give some good advice.  Boyett sometimes resorts to vulgar or crude language and dismisses values to make points that could have easily been made in good taste.  Another problem with A Guy’s Guide to Life is that it opens the door to questions or thoughts that a teenager may not have had until reading an excerpt from the book.  My fear would be a kid with a good head on his shoulders looking into something because he read it in a book recommended by a youth leader or pastor who did not take the time to read the book first himself.  Perhaps I am just old, or old fashioned, but after working with youth for over fifteen years I have not seen many that would take this book seriously. 
If I had to recommend a reader, I would say a parent who needs some ideas on breaching tough subject matter with their son or who isn’t really a “talker.”  He could steal some humor or ideas from Boyett to start the conversation rolling.  I will give Boyett credit for covering practical topics such as shaving, tying a tie, how to dress, respect, and so on.  Not a bad book, but could have been a lot better.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Review of Unburdened by Chris Tiegreen

Book Description:

In his Word, God promises us freedom from worry.  Wouldn’t it be nice if we actually believed him?  What would happen if you took the concerns that grip you, that keep you awake at night, that clench your stomach in knots . . . and truly handed them over to his keeping? 

Like no other writer can do, best-selling author Chris Tiegreen opens your eyes and heart to a better, more weightless way to live.  Unburdened won’t teach you how to avoid responsibility or hide from serious issues.  Neither is it about how to escape and go live on a beach—though having a couple of palm trees around never hurts.

It’s about taking the burdens you currently carry and making them much, much lighter.

It’s about transferring the weight of your responsibilities from the weak shoulders of your flesh to the strong fingertips of God.

It’s about learning to live in deep-down, heart-level freedom.

And no one who reads Unburdened will walk away unchanged.

My Thoughts:

I feel the best way to review Tiegreen’s Unburdened is to provide several quotes from the book, which I will supply at the end of my review.  In this approach, you can sense just how well thought out and to the point Tiegreen’s book is.  Tiegreen divides his book seemingly into two sections; the first few chapters discuss our burdens, why we have them, and how we create them; the last few chapters discuss how to lay those burdens at the feet of Jesus and actually walk away from them [the burdens, NOT the responsibility].

Tiegreen reminds his readers of Jesus' teachings concerning worry and concern.  He points out quite often [to drive home his point] that we all "believe" Jesus’ teachings, yet we live as if they mean nothing to us or are meant for someone else.  Unburdened does not provide a hands-off attitude towards avoiding responsibility or the pat “everything will be alright” attitude.  Nor does it provide an out from serious issues we all face.  Tiegreen provides an easy, systematic approach to learning how to trust God with your burdens and letting Him carry them.  Just like His Word describes.

The key to an unburdened life is allowing the Spirit of God to not only give you strength but to BE your strength.  What can we do aside from Him?  It is a simple concept, really.  But very difficult for us to employ because we want to be in some sort of control of certain aspects of our lives.  Tiegreen does an excellent job of making us realize the need to release control and the effects it will have on our lives.

The unburdened life isn't so much about avoiding burdens as it is about carrying format them with the strength of Another.  The former leads to a life of purposelessness the latter builds an eternal Kingdom.  The first approach is a choice to be weak; the other is a choice to be supernaturally empowered.  This isn't a matter simply of living with abandonment, but of living with abandonment to God.  (12)

We may know him theoretically as Israel’s Deliverer, Provider, Healer, and Warrior, but we know him personally only if he performs those roles in our lives when we need him to.  (17)

God gives us an amazing offer:  we can trade all of our complications for his peace, all of our stresses for his strength, all of our neediness for his supply.  (59)

Whenever we feel the weight of our burdens, there’s some aspect of God’s character or some truth from his Word that we aren’t fully trusting.  (67)

We crave the ability to do all we have to do with freedom and rest rather than burdens and stress.  Ultimately, the only way to do that is to realize the power that works within us – and to rely on that Spirit of power to do his work.  (198)

I highly recommend this book to everyone, regardless of whether you have come to the point in your life where you truly rely on God for all your strength or not.  There are wonderful reminders of how awesome our Savior is.  We could all use a refresher in turning over the “stuff” to God.  Let go and let God!

I would like to thank Tyndale House Publishers for a complimentary copy of this book.  All opinions are my own and I was not required to write a positive review.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Review of Jesus Manifesto by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola

Book Description 

Christians have made the gospel about so many things—things other than Christ.  Religious concepts, ideas, doctrines, strategies, methods, techniques, formulas, "its" and "things" have all eclipsed the beauty, the glory, and the reality of the Lord Jesus Himself.  On the whole, Christians today are starved for a real experience of the living Christ.  We know a lot about our Lord, but we don't know Him very well.  We know a lot about trying to be like Jesus, but very little about living by His indwelling life. 

JESUS MANIFESTO presents a fresh unveiling of Jesus as not only Savior and Lord, but as so much more.  It is a prophetic call to restore the supremacy and sovereignty of Christ in a world—and a church—that has lost sight of Him.

Every revival and restoration in the church has been a rediscovery of some aspect of Christ in the process of answering the ultimate question that Jesus put to His disciples: "Who do you say that I am?" 
Read this book and see your Lord like you've never seen Him before. 
Christians don’t follow Christianity; they follow Christ.  Christians don't proclaim themselves; they proclaim Christ.  Christians don’t point people to core values; they point people to the Cross.  Christians don't preach about Christ; they preach Christ.  What is presented is razor-sharp, cut-glass clarity of the Lord Jesus Christ.  It has never been more valuable or more needed. 

My Thoughts:

Jesus Manifesto starts out very tedious and repetitive.  I understand the literary concept of repetition to drive home a point but the first few chapters are so repetitive it almost made me stop reading.  To their benefit however, Sweet and Viola mix in some very good points during the repetition and keep the reader involved.  

Rather than resting on human wisdom, Jesus Manifesto rests solidly on Scripture, the word that contains the Word.  Occasionally, Sweet and Viola will pull a verse from [not out of] context to make a point.  I was somewhat frustrated by their use of Scripture, with many bits and pieces from various parts of the Bible bulleted to prove a point without providing context for each.  They stretch the context in this regard but never out right use a verse to “win an argument.”  

Christ’s “crosswork” is given little attention provided en the magnitude of its implication.  Sweet and Viola make wonderful points about Christ’s supremacy and His “life” without paying much attention to what His death meant.  If this is truly a “manifesto” then adequate time should have been spent in Christ’s atonement.  

I think Sweet and Viola are accurate in their assessment of today’s church and the need to get back to the core of Christianity…Christ Himself.  Too often, we try to preach about how to do this or that.  We teach emulating Christ but do not teach Christ; which would make emulating Him all the more rational.  Sweet and Viola state that we often become tempted to, “. . . motivate people with lower things: principles, rules, regulations, religious duty, shame, fear, and guilt. . . . to preach on ‘things’ instead of Him.”  I believe they hit the nail on the head with this.  How many pastors or teachers lost sight of Christ and start dissecting Scripture to make a point or sway a political passion?    

Jesus Manifesto is refreshing in that it reminds us Christ lives within us if we have made Him our Lord and Savior.  Our focus is allowing Him to live in and through us; our lives being the very Spirit that indwells us.  We lose sight sometimes and try to serve Him and make serving our focus instead of getting to know Him and living for and with Him. 

Overall, Sweet and Viola have written a good book.  Jesus Manifesto is not quite a “manifesto” but it does bring us back to the root of Christianity.  There are several stimulating points made and enough real life examples for why we need to stop acting like Christ and experience Christ.  This book reinforces through the Bible What and Who Christ is.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Review of ReChurch by Stephen Mansfield

Product Description

It seems that everyone who has ever been part of a church has suffered a “church hurt.” The pastor had an affair or the congregation fought over money or the leaders were disguising gossip as “prayer.” Stephen Mansfield has been there. Though he is now a New York Times best-selling author, he was a pastor for over 20 years, and he loved it—until he learned how much a church can hurt. Yet he also learned how to dig out of that hurt, break through the bitterness and anger, stop making excuses, and get back to where he ought to be with God and his people. If you’re ready to take the tough path to healing, Mansfield will walk you through it with brotherly love, showing you how you can be better than ever on the other side of this mess … if you’re willing to ReChurch.

My Thoughts

If you are or have been an involved member in a church, you most likely have experienced "church hurt."  Undoubtedly, you put your tail between your legs and left or you "fought the [not] good fight" and made the situation worse.  Whatever your story, ReChurch by Stephen Mansfield provides a way out from the hurt and bitterness in a rather direct, but loving manner.  Mansfield, a former victim of "church hurt," provides anecdotes for how he personally recovered from the hurt and details them in a way to help others recover from the same or similar issues.  Mansfield does not mince words in his book and I believe this approach is needed to make his points.  

Mansfield utilizes Koine Greek translations of Scripture to paint a better picture of what certain words mean.  This application and the examples following allow the reader to visualize forgiveness.  Mansfield backs up his solutions and statements with stories from the Bible that adds credence to his book.  Additionally, Mansfield notes Scripture to remind the reader that we are to act according to God's Word.  Inevitably, we are going to face tough circumstances, betrayal, and even "church hurt" [the place where we are programmed to think we are always safe].  Once we accept this truth and that humans are not infallible [yes, even church members], we can move on to the life we are called to live.

The greatest thing about this book in my eyes is that you can take Mansfield's suggestions and directions and apply them to any type of hurt, bitterness, or fragmented relationships in your life.  While primarily focused on getting over the "church hurt" and getting back into a church serving, Mansfield does wonders explaining our responsibility for how hurt negatively effects us and our relationship with God.  Ultimately, WE decide how to let the hurt or betrayal affect us and our lives.  We can "take the bait" and be caught in the "animal trap" of bitterness or we can learn how to forgive in a real and meaningful way that eliminates the negative.

ReChurch is a very liberating book that should be read by anyone trying to get over the forgiveness hump or "church hurt."  As Mansfield points out, "You have a destiny, but your destiny is fulfilled by investing in the destinies of others."  This adequately summarizes every point that Mansfield makes in ReChurch.  Ultimately, we are gifted by God and called to fulfill a purpose much greater than sulking in our hurt.

I would like to thank Tyndale House Publishers for a complimentary copy of this book.  All opinions are my own and I was not required to write a positive review.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Review of You Can Be Everything God Wants You To Be by Max Lucado

God made only one version of you.  He custom designed you for a one-of-a-kind assignment.

You are heaven's Halley's comet; we have one chance to see you shine.  You offer a gift to the world that no one else brings.  So find it and bring it!  And when you do, both you and God will smile.

Yes, you can be everything God wants you to be.

My Thoughts:

Lucado’s You Can Be Everything God Wants You to Be is clearly a book designed for a younger person.  The book is a quick read and has things such as fancy catchphrases, pictures,  and fonts to attract the reader.  This immediately gives the impression of being for a young reader.  The book is divided into several sections all designed to direct the reader to finding out their purpose in life.  Lucado provides great explanations in a clearly organized and concise manner.  Any reader should be able to take Lucado’s direction and apply it to their lives.  Additionally, the book is short enough and succinct enough that if you gave it to a graduate or new believer they would not be inundated with “something else to read” or overwhelmed with theology.  Lucado references several Scriptures throughout the book utilizing primarily The Message and New Living Translation.  This makes understanding the verses easy for young readers and new believers.  As with all Lucado books, I gleaned several concepts that could be applied in my life.   
On a side note, You Can Be Everything God Wants You to Be also appears to be a book that was written and published because of contractual issues or something.  I was excited to receive Lucado’s new book as they are always great reads and applicable.  However, this book was a summary of a book already written by Lucado [The Cure for the Common Life] and did not provide much new insight.  Lucado did make his point well and I believe accomplished his intent with this book.

You Can Be Everything God Wants You to Be comes with a sticker on the front advertising, "Great for Graduates!”  This is true and is also a book that you could give to a new Christian, or a young teenager.  A "seasoned" Christian can also read the book to be reminded that we are all made with a purpose and should not "live out of someone else's bag."  Lucado hit the nail on the head when he stated, "You cannot be anything you want to be.  But you can be everything God wants you to be."

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Hurry up and wait.....

So, how many of you would wait in line for 90 minutes to be seated at your favorite restaurant?  I am guessing you would if you're like any of the millions of people who eat out every night.  Now, how many of you would spend time in prayer with God and wait 90 minutes for an answer, or in silence waiting to hear from God?  Now that I have your attention, I'll share with you something that came to mind when [you guessed it] I was waiting in line for 45+ minutes to be seated at a restaurant.

In this fast paced, microwave, drive-thru society we expect everything instantly.  Instant message, instant coffee, instant rice, instant movies [movies on demand], instant cash, instant credit approval, you get what  I mean.  We do the same thing with God too I am afraid.  We say a quick prayer and think, bam, where's my answer or sign God?  We read some Scripture and say to ourselves, I didn't really get anything out of this or God how come you aren't speaking to me through what I read.  How many of us actually give God time to respond?  Do we even sit still and quiet for 5 minutes?  We take our "outside" lives and try to apply it to our Spiritual life.  For instance, when we sit in a room with people no one can stand the awkward silence.  When we're alone with God we never allow for any silence, and then wonder why we haven't heard.

The very subject of not hearing from God has come up in several instances this past week and waiting in line just reaffirmed the need for me to blog on it.  A few friends and even a gentleman in my men's Bible study have mentioned to me that they don't hear from God, or that God never talks to or answers them.  I simply asked, how long have you waited in reverent silence during prayer to hear?  Have you given Him the chance to actually respond?

So just what does God's voice sound like I have been asked.  "How do you learn to recognize anybody's voice?  You pick up the phone, and if you know somebody well you know their voice. It's by experience.  You've listened to it many times, and it has a certain tone.  One thing you need to know about God is God's voice is never frantic.  When you hear desperate thoughts, or panicky thoughts, that's not God's voice.  God's voice will never lead you into panicky desperation." - John Ortberg

Paul says that while we're waiting for God to set everything right, we suffer.  But suffering produces perseverance, and perseverance produces character, and character produces hope (Romans 5:3-5). God is producing these qualities in us while we wait.  What that means is that waiting is not just something we have to do until we get what we want. Waiting is part of the process of becoming what God wants us to be.  When waiting for God, He blesses us.  “Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him” (Isaiah 30:18).   What does it mean to be blessed by God while we wait on Him?  As we wait on God and His timing, He can accomplish so much in our hearts. Often we find new purpose in life, receive answers to prayer, see God work, increase our faith, and most often we see God’s perfect plan fulfilled in our situation.  Remember, waiting is not wasted time! 

If you want some Jesus bumps [as my friend George calls them] then know this about eagles and Isaiah 40:31.  Did you know that an eagle knows when a storm is brewing long before it breaks?  When a storm is eminent, the eagle will fly to a high spot and wait for the winds to come.  This is how they respond to storms.  When the storm arrives, they set their wings so that the winds lift them up, high above the storm.  And, as the storm rages below them, the eagle soars high above it, effortlessly gliding with ease.  What is fascinating is that the eagle does not escape the storm; the eagle does not suffer through the storm, or hope to survive.  The eagle does not fly away from the storm.  The eagle just simply uses the winds of the storm to lift itself high above the storm. The eagle's response is to rise high above the storm on the very winds that brought the storm close.  WOW!

Now I know that I got off track here and there but it all still pertains to waiting on the Lord and actually giving Him time to respond.  Pray and stop thinking; pray and stop planning; pray and stop talking.  Today may look the same as yesterday, the circumstances may have stayed the same, but continue to allow God's promises to take root in your heart.  Hurry up and wait upon the Lord.  I guarantee that being fed from God is much more filling and worth the wait than that dinner you got waiting in line for 90 minutes for.

Monday, March 22, 2010

My Jonah Complex

You can run from God but you cannot outrun God.  This is the story of my life.  I think a lot of us share this in that we often choose to do our own thing versus God’s will.  This does not necessarily have to reflect a call to the ministry but includes any aspect of your walk with Jesus that you have not given over total control.  My story is that I was called into youth ministry some 18 years ago.  Because I lived the life of a minister’s child, I personally did not want that life and told God, “No!”  As life progressed, God allowed me to be successful at my career, even allowed me several accolades and such. This is to say that God will not punish you for ignoring Him.  God does not operate that way.   He is a God of love and grace.  However, God will often bring you back to His will and quite succinctly open your eyes to where you need to be.

I have heard many sermons lately about Jonah.  I found it necessary to blog my experiences because I must be facing the “Jonah complex” now for God to have several different podcasts all speak about Jonah.  The funny thing is that they are from months ago to recently and I just got around to listening them.  It’s awesome how God works and His incredible timing.  There are many parts to the Jonah story, and by default, most people think of it as a fairy tale where this guy [Jonah] gets swallowed by a large fish and lives inside of it for three days.  If you get deeper below the surface of the story, you see particular points.

Jonah attempted to go to Tarshish, the farthest place he could go from Ninevah where he was told by God to go (Jonah 1:1-3).   How often do we go as far as we can in the opposite direction of where God wants us, thinking [hoping] we can hide or that He will change his mind?   Jonah was to go to Ninevah, approximately 600-700 miles from where he was.  Instead, he got on a boat to travel 2,200 miles to the west near Spain.  Let's put that in perspective.  That’s the equivalent of me being called from Orlando, Florida to go to Richmond, Virginia.  Instead of heading to Richmond, I get on a ship and head to Brazil.

Next thing we see is Jonah getting on that ship in Joppa and heading to Tarshish.  After they set sail, a storm comes.  Jonah, staying in the bottom of the boat, is called up to answer to the other people on the boat as to what he did to cause the storm (Jonah 1:5-10).   Isn't it interesting to read that the other people on the boat all called out and prayed to their gods in time of need?  Once Jonah explained that he disobeyed God they asked what should be done.   Jonah again takes the easy road and says to throw him overboard.  I think at this point in time he could have just cried out to God and repented, asked them to turn the boat around, and God would have calmed the storm.  They tried to turn the boat around on their own but were unsuccessful (Jonah 1:13).  But Jonah would rather take the easy way out and end his he thought.  Jonah is tossed overboard and immediately the storm ceased.   End of story?  No way.   This is where it gets real personal for me.

God provided yet another opportunity for Jonah to obey God and do as God instructed.  God provided a large fish to swallow Jonah and keep him for three days and nights (Jonah 1:17).    [A side note here is the beauty of the fact that even in this horrible situation, God used it for His glory.  Do you notice that the men then feared the Lord?  The one true God!  Because of Jonah's admission to running from God and the subsequent happy ending, the sailors made vows and sacrificed to God!!] (Jonah 1:9-10; 14; 16)   I relate so much to this part of Jonah's story.  God has given me more than enough opportunities to trust him with my life and my future.   He has revealed His plan and yet I still choose mine.  I am willing to take the easy way out so many times instead of just going.   I fool myself and think I can hide, then when God gets my attention again I still don't go to Ninevah.

The amazing thing of this whole story is that Jonah finally obeyed.  While inside that fish, Jonah cried out to God.   At Jonah's seemingly lowest point, he realized what he had done and cried to God for mercy and another chance (Jonah 2:1-9).  [This is something I really want to change in my life too.  That at my lowest points I actually seek God and His will fervently.  I want to be like that constantly.]  And wouldn't you know it; the God of second chances came through and provided Jonah the opportunity to obey.  I wonder on what day of the three Jonah finally prayed that prayer.   I imagine he was like me and the rest of us and probably yelled at God the first day, pouted and whined the second day, and finally woke up the third day.

So Jonah gets that opportunity and steps out and goes to Ninevah.  Lives are changed, God spares the city.  Jonah's obedience saves the lives of numerous Ninevites (Jonah 3:1-10). This is the part I want to be.   Getting to the place where God wants me and teaching the youth of that city.   Changing lives for Him. Furthering His Kingdom.   Not running from God any longer.   Giving Him every part of my being and not just the parts I want to. Thanks Jonah!

For me, I see through Jonah that God doesn’t chase us, He waits for us.  And when we finally obey, He comes through yet again and blesses our obedience for His sake.

To understand why Jonah might not have wanted to go to Ninevah read Nahum 3:1-5.  Another point of curiosity is that when the seas calmed, do you think Jonah was just sitting there floating and asking to come back on the ship or had the fish already swallowed him?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Review of Chronological Guide to the Bible

Publisher’s Description:

Readers will see the people, places, and events of the Bible come alive with this guide that will enhance your study with any Bible. The Chronological Guide to the Bible’s colorful pages guide readers step-by-step through the nine epochs of biblical history -- the same ones used in the best-selling Chronological Study Bible. Customers will maximize their understanding as they experience God’s word in dynamic historical order, no matter which translation they choose to use. Dig deeper into the cultures and people of biblical times with The Chronological Guide to the Bible.

My Thoughts:

This book exceeded my expectations. I have wanted to compare secular history with the Bible for years, and this book presented that comparison wonderfully. It is difficult, at least for me, to read the Bible and try to place the times in context with other events in history. The authors set out to, and I believe successfully presented history as close as possible to Biblical events.

The Chronological Guide to the Bible begins with a brief overview and explanation of why the canonical order of the Bible was rearranged. Next, the authors provide a disclaimer of sorts for why they chose to relate certain events in history with Biblical events where no clear date was established. The book is divided into 9 Epochs [spans of time]. Each Epoch is then presented with timelines, maps, photographs, and Biblical outlines. A chronological reading guide is also included so the reader may read and check-off the affiliated books or chapters of the Bible covered in the related Epoch.

As The Chronological Guide to the Bible does not quote Biblical text, this book can be utilized with whichever translation of the Bible the reader chooses to parallel the book. I highly recommend this book to anyone who, like me, wants an enhanced understanding of the context and historical background of what was happening outside the framework of the Bible. This is a great book for teens through adults and opened my eyes to several interesting facts that put the history in Bible in better perspective.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Monday, March 1, 2010

Review of 66 Love Letters by Dr. Larry Crabb

Publisher’s Description:

Presented as a dialogue between one man and God, 66 Love Letters explores each book of the Bible as a letter from the Creator to you with the scarlet thread of Christ Himself woven through the pages and culminates in an epilogue that offers a summarized view of the entire Bible.

My Thoughts:

Although Dr. Crabb makes a point to explain to the reader that he is writing as if God was speaking to him in the first person, I found this book to be borderline impious. Dr. Crabb even goes so far as to say, ". . . what God wants us to hear in each book of the Bible . . . ." Reading words from an author as if God was speaking them offended me. In an effort to provide a concise review however, I tried a different approach and an open mind and started over.

Dr. Crabb presents a very enlightening summary of the 66 "love letters" [books of the Bible]. As explained by Dr. Crabb, this book would provide much better as an accompaniment or supplement to the reader reading each book of the Bible individually. Dr. Crabb even suggests taking sixty-six weeks to read his book along with the Bible. As a reference or different perspective on each book of the Bible, Dr. Crabb's 66 Love Letters did an admirable job and even brought to light some new understanding of the Bible.

As someone who is seeking a clearer understanding of the Bible and who may be in the infant stage of his or her understanding of the Bible, I recommend this book. If you have a theology background or are well versed in the Bible then this may not be the book for you. For any reader, I absolutely suggest that you read the Prologue prior to delving into 66 Love Letters. This will provide an explanation for why the book is written as it is.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”