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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.

Book review of Mark Driscoll’s–Who Do You Think You Are?

20/01/2013 Comments off

Thank you to Thomas Nelson BookSneeze program for the preview opportunity to review this work.

     Forgetting who we are in Christ is a stable diet for many believers, thanks to the fall and depravity.  In a culture of “I need to feel good about myself” and the never vanishing ‘self-esteem movement’, finally a work that brings out an exegetical commentary on the book of Ephesians presenting a biblical worldview in contrast to the psychologized drivel that is so prevalent in our society.  In acclaimed Driscoll style, a contextual work that brings the Bible into everyday life with a humble and scholarly tone that is refreshing in a world looking to define itself by many competing idols with much needed sobriety and candidness.

     I agree with Driscoll, we all live in an identity crisis.  This crisis produces worshippers (we all are worshipping something whether Christian or not).  By worship, Driscoll defines “Worship is the continuous outpouring of all that I am, all that I do, and all that I can ever become in light of a chosen or choosing god.”  This ‘worship’ is the product of the idols we have; of which he further defines as identity idolatry which can be thought in terms of Items, Duties, Others, Longings, and Sufferings (idols).  In light of the worship definition, it is easy to see how we can ‘worship’ these things.  It is also clear that religious language like ‘worship’ and ‘idolatry’ may produce the temptation to blow off the convicting truths that we are ‘idol factories’ as they may reveal that we are not as ‘good’ as we think we are or that our self-esteem is not as healthy as it should be.  The book of Ephesians provides the lens of the creation-fall-resurrection-restoration narrative we all walk through that define our everyday lives.  

     I enjoyed many things about this book.  Each chapter starts with a pericope of text from a chapter of Ephesians.  This is not your traditional Christian book which slaps three sentences of scripture text to sprinkle a ‘holy wand’ on the chapter.  Mark actually grabs large chunks of text and meticulously works through it in the coming pages.  I also like the footnotes on each page that point you to the exact Biblical references to concepts and points made in each chapter.  A few highlights from the book that I appreciated are,

Practically, focusing on just the sin aspect of our identity leads to despairing, navel-gazing Christians obsessed with their sin.  Such Christians wrongly think that the best sermons are those that beat them up by reminding them how awful they are—without any mention of their new identity in Christ.  The Word of God is not a club for beating Christians until they emotionally bleed as repayment for their sin.  Jesus already took our blows and shed His blood in our place.  And on the cross He did not say, “It is not finished, so beat yourself up to add to your salvation.”  He said, “It is finished!”

“C.S. Lewis was fond of saying that we are often guilty of “chronological snobbery.”  We arrogantly see people  from the past as more naïve, primitive, and less sophisticated than ourselves.  The truth is that people have always been the same, and today, people are as pagan in their thinking as ever.

“To varying degrees, we’re all guilty of participating in our culture of rudeness.  Which of us hasn’t become jealous when others succeed?  Yet we hate it when we are on the receiving end of this rudeness.”

“The true test of your theology is not just what you say, but also how you pray.”

“Bitterness is often related to how much you love the offender”

“Faith is an internal conviction that leads to an external action.”

    This book was interesting to me and will benefit future believers in my life as well.  It challenge, inspire, and enlightened me in reminding (see first quote above) that my desire for good theological sermons or messages has been also contributing to my forgetfulness of the good news of the gospel. Mark’s section on Spiritual Gifts, especially the introspective questions were very helpful, and I think it may also be helpful to not only ask them of ourselves but to ask our ‘communities’ these questions about our Christian witness as well.  Of course, Driscoll makes you think and hold’s your attention, and I found this especially helpful with the personal testimony stories that started each chapter.  It made them more real and transferable.  This commentary on Ephesians was presented in a cohesive, yet appealing manner, however, I wish there was a way to also bring the cross-references directly into the chapter rather than having to flip back and forth.  I would like to also note that there are already a myriad of resources out there to bring this work from conviction to application to implication.  Check out:  the Ephesians Campaign 

    Mark Driscoll successfully convey Biblical truth and this book is saturated in scripture, cross references and historical affirmations that is equally impressive.  I would highly recommend this book to all types of readers and humans alike as it addresses all of life, not just Sunday morning.

203857: Who Do You Think You Are? Finding Your True Identity in Christ Who Do You Think You Are? Finding Your True Identity in Christ
By Mark Driscoll / Thomas Nelson

We answer how we are countless times each day, but rarely do we think about who we are. Revealing that we define ourselves by things other than Jesus, Driscoll identifies who you are in Christ—saintly, blessed, saved, afflicted, heard, and more. Discover that you’re not what you do; rather, who you are determines what you do. 256 pages, hardcover from Nelson.

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.

The 360° Leader–John Maxwell Book Review

15/11/2011 2 comments

You can lead from right where you are!  In John Maxwell’s new book, he outlines how to lead up, lead to the side and lead down from where you are in ANY organization.  “This fantastic book is based on the knowledge that good leaders are not only capable of leading their followers but are also adept at leading their superiors and their peers. 360° Leaders can lead effectively, regardless of their position in an organization.”

For years I have struggled to lead, always impatient with the dead silences, and for the most part, a reluctant leader tainted by bitterness of the solitary leading I have been a part of and this book gave me hope.  Why?  To me, I was reminded that leadership is influence and influence happens dramatically from the middle.  It is high stress, low recognition, intensive, and not the place many folks want to be in…until now.  I was so struck by this book as God has been working in my life to rescue my ambition for this past year, preparing me to realize that THIS is was what I was called to do.  This also showed me that much discipleship can occur from the middle that dramatically influences everyone in an organization.  This book was so interesting I also purchased the audio version so that I could redeem my commute!  I also took the assessment, which was very helpful to show that I have much to work on in the areas of;

  • Investing in relational chemistry
  • Putting completing fellow leaders ahead of competing with them
  • Giving rewards for results
  • Exhibiting a whatever-it-takes attitude toward helping my team and/or organization
  • Considering how decisions or events will impact people above, beside, and below me
  • Adapting to my leader’s personality while still being my genuine self
  • Being attuned to my leader’s weak areas but focusing on his/her strengths
  • Accurately evaluating opportunities according to my leader’s priorities
  • Praise the strengths and accomplishments of peers
  • Exhibiting a sincere motivation to help my peers succeed
  • Remaining friends with peer competitors
  • Seeking to collaborate with my peers to fill in knowledge and skill gaps
  • Embracing and enjoying acceptable humor with co-workers
  • Seeking to celebrate the differing strengths of my peers and seek to get to know them better
  • Not taking rejection of my ideas personally
  • Actively seeking out a cause for those who have disengaged from a task or a relationship
  • Encouraging followers by catching them doing something right
  • Adapting my leadership style according to what my people need
  • Considering what I have personally modeled before criticizing the behaviors of my followers (or my leaders)
  • Being strategic in rewarding outcomes I want repeated
  • Seeking to align pay with results achieved
  • Praising effort, but rewarding results

Some of these (especially the underlined ones) were areas I have been blind to and I can see looking back (starting businesses, planting churches, leading ministries, etc), if I had thought more about being intentional with them, I might have ‘lead’ better and not hurt as many as I have.  This book was very interesting to me and it challenged, inspired, and enlightened me on how selfish I really am and how patient people have been with me.  John Maxwell made really think about my ambitions and he held my attention well.  As with all of John’s books (and I have read quite a few of them) the information was impeccably presented in a cohesive, yet appealing manner which gave me hope that leading from the middle is NOT something to avoid but embrace.  Although I was a little disappointed that there was not a lot of scripture in the book itself, but being acquainted with John’s writings, ministry, and life, it is very evident that much of this book is based upon biblical principles which successfully convey Biblical truth.   I would highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about serving and investing in others, not just for leaderships sake but to be a better witness for the Gospel.  If there was any scripture I was reminded of reading this book, it was;

Christ’s Example of Humility

2:1 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:1-11 http://www.esvapi.org/assets/play.swf?myUrl=hw%2F50002001-50002011(ESV)

Thank you Booksneeze for this investment in me, and by far this is the best book I have reviewed for you so far.  Thank you!

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.

Enemies of the Heart: Breaking Free from the Four Emotions That Control You by Andy Stanley–Audio Book Review

21/07/2011 2 comments

Thank you to Christian Audio Reviewers program for access to this audio!

Andy Stanley describes 4 obstacles in the life of a believer (and I would also propose non-believer too) of guilt, anger, greed and jealousy.  Through life examples and biblical references, we see how there is no disconnect regarding the prescription for these maladies.

I have wanted to read something by Andy for a while, however with this audio I found it hard to stay focused on the audio due to the narration.  Although the topic was enticing and engaging, the narration left something to be desired (and I gave it a fair shot by listening to it a few times before writing this review).

The audio did challenge me to revisit studies have have done on the 4 enemies and it was good for me to revisit my biblical counseling foundations in these areas in my life.  Although the author attempted to convey biblical truth I was turned off by the therapeutic gospel elements of the tone of the book.

I must confess however that the information was presented in a cohesive, yet appealing manner and I can give Andy a charitable judgment in that I believe he was attempting to successfully convey Biblical truth.  I would not recommend this book to others because I believe that stories, reflections, or revisiting sin history do not take the place of confession (which he does address) or repentance and especially obedience to scripture when it comes to the 4 enemies.

Resolving Everyday Conflict by Ken Sande & Kevin Johnson–Audio Book Review

25/06/2011 Comments off

Thank you to the Christian Audio Reviewer’s Program of christianaudio.com for the opportunity to review this audiobook.

All of us have conflicts.  In the intro the authors state that maybe you are even picking up this book because your in one now.  As we all know, conflicts happen, whether in writing an email, posting on social networks, in line at the store, or at the yearly family gatherings.  You pick any time and place, conflicts are probably going on.  Conflict is not prejudice and can be found in most relationships.  Conflicts happen because we live in a fallen world and the result of this depravity, lack of communication, and perseverance to resolve the situation, conflicts are all around us.  No one is left unscathed.

You probably recognize the famous author Ken Sande of Peacemaker Ministries who wrote the best seller, The Peacemaker:  A Biblical Guide to Resolving Conflict.  This new book (REC), states that;

Everyone encounters conflict–whether it be with a co-worker, family member, friend, or complete stranger. And yet we all desire harmony in our relationships. Resolving Everyday Conflict is a practical, biblical, and concise guide to peacemaking in everyday life that can turn your troubled relationships into peaceful ones.

I am a peacemaking addict!  Why… it seems that I am very aware of the conflicts in my life regularly.  This audio was timely, biblical, good narration, and short enough to be knocked out in a couple of days.  I actually listened to it a few times (and probably need to listen to it again…).  As always am challenged by the Peacemaker Ministries material and this is no exception. 

Chapter 3 was probably the most impactful for me in that the authors take some time to break down and explain Peace faking, Peace braking, and Peacemaking.  I was struck because I have always known (prideful of course) that I was a peace breaker, but the authors go on to describe that one can actually mix both of them together, and as I listened I was convicted that I at times am also a peace faker.  I could not help but think (in my subsequent reviews) that I wish I could also share this with a few folks I was in conflict with now, and I was convicted again, in that the authors address this heart motive too… This message was for me, not for ‘them’.

I highly recommend this audiobook in that the authors challenge our culture and remind us of the gospel and the biblical indicatives and imperatives when it comes to peace making.  Further the presentation of the material was informative, cohesive, down to earth, filled with transparency, authenticity, examples and the narration was very appealing.  The author’s successfully (as always) conveyed Biblical truth, and I would recommend this to ANYONE who is interested in becoming a peacemaker.  If your willing to take it further than the audio, on the PM site, you can even take an online course!  Excellent resource and highly recommend!

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