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Launch Your Life by Kenny Silva–Book Review

31/03/2013 Comments off

Thank you Thomas Nelson for the opportunity to review this work!

What if there was a guide regarding your identity, your career, your finances, your home and growth?  ‘A guide for the growing up for the almost grown up’ is just the resource for you. 

As stated by the editor,

“Unlike many self-help books for twentysomethings that hone in on finding a job and achieving success in your career; Launch Your Life helps you view the entire picture, allowing you to deal with everything from setting a budget, finding a home, and selecting a church to dealing with the changing relationships, and finding a fantastic job that suits this happier, healthier version of you.”

This book has just enough transparency of the author (Kenny Silva) that you realize this is NOT just another one of those self-help books mentioned above.  This work is a facilitator of real and actual advice through a biblical worldview, complete with great scripture references and honesty from the author.  One of the reviews I read, said this book would cause you to think more highly your self than you ought.  The reality, at twentysomething, that really is all your thinking about… yourself.  It is a major transitional time in our North American culture when leaving home and planning on going into the outside world.  Kenny attempts to show that by going, you don’t have to do it alone or without some discernment. 

My last comments on this work are going to be trying to think as someone who is twentysomething versus a 42-yr. old reading this work.  The format was interesting, however, I found the pages hard to turn and it just felt ‘klunky’ and I was wondering if I was going to rip a page and damage it, versus being the ‘mobile’ work I think the author and publishing company were shooting for.  The concept of providing a journal and some pockets, a rubber band, and wire binding are cool, I just thought they might be a little more ‘rugged’ than they were.  I was grateful that the author is a graduate of RTS and quotes the ESV in context throughout the work and I did not see any ‘psycho-babble’ which is so prevalent in works like these.  It was refreshing to see some solid biblical content regarding the topic areas.  I would recommend this work to twentysomethings, but possibly not as an individual gifting but possibly to a group or small group so that they could go through it together with a mentor or in community to dialogue through the material.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons license.
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Toxic Charity Book Review–thank you Metanoia (Bill Stanfield)

05/05/2012 Comments off

This is the a rare review without an assignment from a publisher, this book was referred to me by Bill Stanfield of Metanoia, who is DOING (James 1:22 http://www.esvapi.org/assets/play.swf?myUrl=hw%2F59001022(ESV) what this book talks about, I was referred to him through numerous non-believers in the Charleston area that are struck by what he is accomplishing (1 Timothy 3:7 http://www.esvapi.org/assets/play.swf?myUrl=hw%2F54003007(ESV), and good book referrals are an evidence of God’s grace in a world of 140 characters of less.  Thank you Bill!

I heard someone say, we are so busy with our meetings, service projects, outreaches, and programs that believers cannot ever truly make an impact with their neighbor.  A few years ago I was convicted through reading When Helping Hurts, that there is something wrong with the way ‘ministry’, ‘charity’ or ‘benevolence’ work is done.  What I have realized since then, is that good intentioned believers may read a work like this (Toxic Charity or WHH) and like my years with trying to engage other believers with the presupposition of true biblical counseling, the eyes are opened for a short while, but later with the pressures of ministry, congregations, and depravity, it is back to the way we are used to doing it.  Back to the ‘Christian’ programs, back to the ‘Christian’ food banks, back to the short, quick fix, did-my-good-deed-check-my-box without a commitment.

Although TC is not as saturated with scripture as WHH and tends to be a little more caustic, it is still a new book in my arsenal of removing the haze from their eyes when it comes to rethinking making an impact with others.  This book was interesting to me, it challenged me, and enlightened me, that this topic is not going away.  Other believers are trying to wake up Christians as well, and it appears that maybe a few are listening? I think the thing that strikes me the most about these works is that many of the foundational principles are already in effect because of common grace, but in many instances, non-believers are convicted, apply, and see the implications better than routine believers.

What do I mean?  I think quotes will help with that;

Dependency.  Destroying personal initiative.  When we do for those in need what they have the capacity to do for themselves, we disempower them. (3)

Our memory is short when recovery is long.  We respond with immediacy to desperate circumstances but often are unable to shift from crisis relief  to the more complex work of long-term development. (6)

Everywhere I looked, I observed the same patterns, from overseas church mission trips to the inner-city service projects of campus organizations.  Wherever there was sustained one-way giving, unwholesome dynamics and pathologies festered under the cover of kindheartedness. (35)

Churches want their members to feel good about serving the poor, but no one really wants to become involved in messy relationships. (57)

Relationships built on need tend to be short-lived. (60)

The local church is an institution with institutional needs.  It is important to understand this.  It begins with an informal group of like-minded people who come together for fellowship and worship, it evolves into structured organization with budgets and staff and buildings, and finally it matures into an enduring institution.  It functions like all other institutions—with stated mission and an intrinsic motivation to preserve and protect its own interests.  The lion’s share of church budgets are spent on meeting the needs of the congregation, not for the needs of the outside communities.  To earmark mission-trip expenditures as primarily for spiritual benefit of members would be in keeping with traditional church budgeting.  It is important to understand this so that we will not be disappointed by unrealistic expectations. (70)

And the number of church members volunteering in outreach programs measures only activity, not outcomes.  (76)

When leadership is committed to outcomes rather than activity, to measureable results rather than budget size or number of engaged members, changes in mission focus can be navigated with an acceptable level of disruption. (78)

For disadvantaged people to flourish into their full, God-give potential, they must leave behind dependencies that impede their growth.  Initiatives that thwart their development, though right motivated, must be restructured to reinforce self-sufficiency if they are to become agents of lasting and positive change. (102)

Experienced microlending organizations have identified three essential elements for successful microloans:  The borrower must have (1) an ingrained work ethic, (2) a demonstrated entrepreneurial instinct, and (3) a stable support system. (120)

Is your church engaged in community development ministry?  All answered in the affirmative.  But when asked to name their target neighborhood and there transformative goals, none was able to give a definitive answer.  All were in engaged in community service of various sorts, but none were focused on transforming a specific community. (133)

What is required to transform a deteriorating neighborhood is a geographically focused vision with measurable goals over extended time. (133)

In short, become an expert in your community.  Immerse yourselves in every aspect of community life.  Volunteer as appropriate, but make no long-term commitments.  Be interested, supportive neighbor for at least six months before attempting to initiate any new activity. (160)

Is there a way we can bring more human dignity to the process of exchange rather than simply using one-way giving?

Can we increase our personal involvement with those in crisis to assist them with housing, day care, or other support while they get back on their feet? (182)

Robert Lupton (author) does make you think about your activities with charity.  The material was well laid out, held my attention (lots of great application stuff in it as well), and the information was presented in a cohesive, yet appealing manner.  I think more scripture, possibly from a creation, fall, redemption and consummation perspective might bring some more convicting applications, but also driving home implications of what is being suggested.  I would highly recommend this book to ANYONE (believers and non-believers)

076205: Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help
By Robert D. Lupton / Harpercollins Publishing

Public service is a way of life for Americans; giving is a part of our national character. But compassionate instincts and generous spirits aren’t enough, says veteran urban activist Robert D. Lupton. In this groundbreaking guide, he reveals the disturbing truth about charity: all too much of it has become toxic, devastating to the very people it’s meant to help.

In his four decades of urban ministry, Lupton has experienced firsthand how our good intentions can have unintended, dire consequences. Our free food and clothing distribution encourages ever-growing handout lines, diminishing the dignity of the poor while increasing their dependency. We converge on inner-city neighborhoods to plant flowers and pick up trash, battering the pride of residents who have the capacity (and responsibility) to beautify their own environment. We fly off on mission trips to poverty-stricken villages, hearts full of pity and suitcases bulging with giveaways-trips that one Nicaraguan leader describes as effective only in "turning my people into beggars."

In Toxic Charity, Lupton urges individuals, churches, and organizations to step away from these spontaneous, often destructive acts of compassion toward thoughtful paths to community development. He delivers proven strategies for moving from toxic charity to transformative charity.

Proposing a powerful "Oath for Compassionate Service" and spotlighting real-life examples of people serving not just with their hearts but with proven strategies and tested tactics, Lupton offers all the tools and inspiration we need to develop healthy, community-driven programs that produce deep, measurable, and lasting change. Everyone who volunteers or donates to charity needs to wrestle with this book.

Business for the Glory of God by Wayne Grudem

25/03/2012 Comments off

Thank you to christianaudio.com’s audio reviewer program for the opportunity to review this audio.  A humble blessing as usual!

One of the things that has always caused consternation with me about ‘church’ was the separation between ‘leadership’ and ‘laity’, or the professionalization of the ministry.  I will never forget driving to a ministry commitment with a newly invited friend, and about half way to our location, he started weeping.  When I asked him what was wrong, he said, “no one has every let me get into the game, thank you.”  Somehow it had been communicated to my friend that unless he was a pastor, went to seminary, and a part of ‘leadership’ he could never ‘get into the game’ of doing real ministry.  Given that 99% of the population is not in ‘full-time’ ministry as felt by my friend and many others, a treatise reminding us that business can be done for the glory of God is a refreshing change.  On top of that, renown author Wayne Grudem is one that can cause us to take a moment and pause on this topic acknowledging that scripture makes no divide between sacred and secular.

Does the Bible teach on the moral goodness of business?  Can I have a business, work for someone else, or do business with vendors for the glory of God?  Is business, employment, making a profit, competition, and meetings, something that can be done for the glory of God?  Wayne Grudem captures this misnomer regarding business and points us back to scripture.  An apt legitimizer of our secular days which can be redeemed looking toward restoration.

This book when it was originally released (2003) so moved me that I also invested in the Logos version so that I could readily share it with and invest in others.  Having this in audio form was a refreshing reminder to take application onward to implications.  The narrator was interesting, coherent, and enthusiastic about the material and author.  It was evident in inflection, timing, and meditative pauses to get you thinking.  Due to my current employment and being part of a team, it has been a good mission field to take study, prayer, and ‘church’ to real life and join Christ in what He is already doing in the day-to-day. 

  
This work was interesting to me, it inspired, and enlightened me in many ways.  As usual, Wayne Grudem makes you think, holds your attention, while presenting in a cohesive and yet appealing manner.  Refreshing also in that Grudem successfully conveys Biblical truth into the everyday.  I would highly recommend this work to others, with all world-views.

Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus–Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson — Audiobook Review

25/12/2011 Comments off

Thank you Christianaudio.com Reviewers Program for the opportunity to review this book!

Do you really need another Christian Parenting book and is your parenting really Christian?

Elyse and Jessica evaluate their work by this scathing statement and even get bold enough to state that the best parenting book is the Bible, then why another one you ask?  Because many of them teach parents how to train up their children to be either Pharisees or Prodigals.  That is all about to change when Mother and Daughter describe how to parent with grace and an emphasis on the Cross.

As a biblical counselor I see many Christian parents, in their desire to raise godly children, lean toward rule-centered discipline. There is, however, a far more effective method–a gospel-centered, grace-motivated approach that begins with the glorious truth of God’s love for sinners.

In Give Them Grace, parents will learn how to connect the benefits of the cross–especially regeneration, adoption, and justification–to their children’s daily lives. Chapters address topics such as our inability to follow the law perfectly, God’s forgiveness and love displayed at the cross, and what true heart obedience looks like. Fitzpatrick and Thompson also discuss discipline, dealing with popular culture, and evangelism as a way of life. Parents will find this book a great resource for raising grace-filled, Jesus-loving kids.

This was an exemplary and very interesting work, even now as kids have all grown and we are now interacting with grandchildren.  It challenged, inspired, and enlighten me to remember the gospel first for myself, and the benefits of making time in the moment with children.  Something not normally considered in the life of parenting or grand parenting.  The author(s) made me think about the ‘rules’ we have for the grandkids when they come over;

  1. No whining or complaining.
  2. Ask before you do anything.
  3. An adult will only ask you once.
  4. No tattle telling.
    In putting these through the grid, I see that every time we address these areas we get a chance to share the gospel with them, and it has been amazing to see the gospel of grace walked out as ages 5-10 respond differently to the same message.  I was made aware too, how these same ‘rules’ can can tend toward rule-centered discipline and I need to be cautious of that.  I thought the author(s) did a great job of holding my attention attention and the audio narrator even did a fantastic job of singing beautifully some of the songs in the book as well.  Elyse and Jessica presented gospel centered parenting information in a cohesive, yet appealing manner.  Even the appendixes were fantastic, especially the gospel story to share with kids!  It goes without saying that

NANC

    counselor Elyse successfully conveys Biblical truth and ensures that the Bible is the final authority for all matters of parenting.  I highly recommend this book to any parents and grandparents who desire to supplement their Bible reading with gospel-centered application.

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth.
Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame
when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.

Psalm 127:3-5 http://www.esvapi.org/assets/play.swf?myUrl=hw%2F19127003-19127005(ESV)

The Grace Effect: How the Power of One Life Can Reverse the Corruption of Unbelief by Larry Alex Taunton

14/12/2011 Comments off

Thank you Thomas Nelson for the opportunity to review this book

After a short term mission trip, the author and his family discern their hearts being knit to an HIV positive Ukrainian girl.  What transpires is the journey the Taunton family begins in the process of adopting Sasha – the main character.  Mixed with some insightful contextualization and historical narrative, the author weaves a blow by blow narrative and how a Christian worldview filters the arduous process of adoption in a foreign country.

The reason I chose this book was for the title and the quote;

Simply defined, the ‘grace effect’ is an observable phenomenon that life is demonstrably better where authentic Christianity flourishes.

I anticipated an evangelistic story in which relational dynamics over the long haul would result in a transformed life – a conversion to Christianity perhaps.  What I discovered was that the author was more impacted by the adoption events and his relationship with a famous atheist than this being a ‘how-to’ regarding relational evangelism. 

Mr. Taunton starts and ends the work relaying some background of his relationship with Christopher Hitchens in which we see relational dynamics and cordiality that is very inspiring and did much to disarm the traditional assumptions of ‘us’ versus ‘them’ in apologetic engagements.   There is much to be seen in this authentic relationship dynamic that reflects the author’s quote above and much that Christians could learn in engaging the culture with non-believers. 

The work was very interesting with both the conversations with Hitchens and with the ordeal of the adoption process.  It challenged, inspired, and enlightened me in many areas; the cost (materially, spiritually, etc) in the adoption process, but also I was impacted with the weaving of the authors reformed faith throughout the work. The format and outline of the book did much to reflect a struggle with a Christian worldview in a predominately atheist culture and friends.  The reflection of events to teach Sasha the alphabet was also inspiring as well.  The chapter opening quotes were fantastic and related to the subject matter and set a great meditative tone for the post writing of the chapter. 

I thought the author did a good job of presenting the information in a cohesive, yet appealing manner of a story.  I was also struck by the way the the author successfully conveyed Biblical truth throughout.  Scripture was used in context, hermeneutically accurate and relevant..  Although I was expecting a different type of book, and normally don’t read these types of books, I would recommend this book to others who are pursuing adoption in another country so that they could realize the cultural dynamics of other countries.  I think the author did a great job of showing that it is easy to take our freedom of religion – specifically Christianity in America for granted, and the freedoms we have to walk out our worldview and expect the same respect and how submitting to cultural dynamics actually wins in the end.  The included discussion guide I think is the best part of the work and would have perhaps, liked to have seen this weaved into the chapters versus an addendum – where the temptation is to be flippant versus engage it as part of the chapter.  It could have brought more to a meditative element to the quote above throughout the work.

554406: The Grace Effect: How the Power of One Life Can Reverse the Corruption of Unbelief The Grace Effect: How the Power of One Life Can Reverse the Corruption of Unbelief
By Larry Taunton / Thomas Nelson

The Fight of Our Lives: Knowing the Enemy, Speaking the Truth & Choosing to Win the War Against Radical Islam

17/08/2011 Comments off

Since September 11th 2001, there has been a war against the American people that has been covered up.  Why did the media stop talking about terrorism?  Warren Bennet and Seth Leibosohn bring the behind the scenes travesties to our attention in gripping and in your face content.  There is a radical movement of zealots whose main goal is to destroy the United States and we don’t have a clue.  I am not usually a political science or current events type of guy, but this title intrigued me because it HAS been sometime since Islam was brought to the American people’s attention.  So I wanted to get educated.  I got educated alright, as a matter of fact, I was alarmed that our government has been contributing to the appeasement and apathy of the radical Islam movement.  The author’s document (very well) incidents from September 11th to 2010 in which radical Islam extremists have killed people with little to no recourse.  To me, being a veteran and serving my country this was a shock in that I gave my life to my country.  I think what makes this topic/book so alarming was being reminded of the oath of enlistment I took when I joined the Army;

“I, _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.” (Title 10, US Code; Act of 5 May 1960 replacing the wording first adopted in 1789, with amendment effective 5 October 1962).

What strikes me about this oath and the material in the book, is that someone(s) clearly does not understand what it means to “bear true faith and allegiance to the same”.  It comes down to this… Loyalty.  Are we being loyal to the US, its history, its founding fathers, and the blood that was shed to protect this country by sweeping radical Islam under the carpet.  No.  I was both challenged and enlightened by the authors regarding the state of affairs and the fact that we the American people are in desperate need of relearning of what America is all about.  I also want to comment that the authors were able to hold my attention because the information was presented in a clear and chronological historical narrative that made the facts they were presenting even more alarming.  I would recommend this book to others and have.  The last two chapters are the best part of the book.  If your interested, Homeland Security recently did a study that shows terrorism by Muslim-Americans down in 2010.

The Little Red Book of Wisdom By Mark DeMoss–Book Review

26/07/2011 Comments off

Thank you to Thomas Nelson for the opportunity to review this book!

“From the first, my passion to write this book has had dual engines to thank my father and to prepare my boy and two girls in the way that my father prepared me.” Mark DeMoss

A modern book of Proverbs for the 21st century.  Each chapter/section is a recollection of past lessons through the eyes of the author.  Wisdom that the author has accumulated over the years.  The best way I can describe what they author was trying to accomplish with this book was to leave a legacy of wisdom for the next generation and in my opinion he did it well.  Divided into two sections, “Wisdom For Your Professional Life” and “Wisdom For Your Personal Life”, each chapter is designed to be read and mediated on.  This is not your standard coffee table book, it is a treatise of friendly reminders about professionalism, discipline, common courtesy, and investing in others.

If I had to describe the book in one sentence it would be that it is discipleship by investing in others through contextualization. I found the book to be very interesting to me.  It did challenge, inspired, and enlighten me in a couple of ways.

1.  I was reminded about my letter/note writing and the importance of reclaiming that lost art.

2.  I was reminded to listen more than I think.

I found the content of this book to be challenging, attention grabbing with the personal stories, and it was presented in easy bite size chapters with a great flow.  The author also presented and conveyed Biblical truth in his stories and it is evident that the Bible influences his daily life and there is no disconnect like many of us from Sunday to Monday.  I would recommend this book to others, especially those who are not above the wisdom of the age and are burdened with the next generation.

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