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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.

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 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.

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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