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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.

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.

Called to Controversy: The Unlikely Story of Moishe Rosen and the Founding of Jews for Jesus by Ruth Rosen

27/03/2012 Comments off

Thank you Thomas Nelson for the humbling opportunity to review this work.

What if your child took a birds eye view of your life and wrote it down, what would it look like?  Ruth Rosen takes this task to heart as we read the biography of Moishe Rosen, the illustrious leader of Jews for Jesus.  What makes this biography unique is that it from the eyes of a family member who continues in the ministry her father started.  Her meticulous research and thoughtful commentaries on the events she covers also bring touching insight that I thought complimented the work well.

Why is it titled, “Called to Controversy?”  Ruth states that she puts some data to some controversial items in the history of her fathers starting of the JJ ministry that is not elsewhere.  Honestly, I was unaware of those controversies, and was more interested in the perception of Ruth of her father and the JJ movement so I probably missed whatever ‘controversies’ were addressed.

I was struck by this book many times and in sharing some quotes, I think you will see why;

Don’t let yourself become a desk jockey.  People spend too much time sitting at their desks.  You can’t witness on your seat; you gotta use your feet.  This made perfect sense to Moishe, and he never forgot the admonition.  Later, when it was his turn to supervise field missionaries, it was one of his guiding principles.

A lot of my principles came as counter measures to bad experiences.

But after the move, even though she was happy to entertain guests, she loved having a home life that was distinct from her husband’s work (this was a convicting reminder for me to remember my wife wanting some piece and quite from time to time).

I saw in Moishe a person with a biblically tough-minded reality about him that I did not often see in other in the ministry.  From the start, one of Moishe’s gifts was his ability to encourage others to exercise their own gifts.  Part of that encouragement was his genuine appreciation for what others could do.  (I was struck that his daughter saw this character quality in him and it touched me deeply in light of my own struggles with my daughter seeing reality.)

Dad’s insistence on the apology made us feel important; the incident stands out as a reminder of how Dad respected us and cared for our feelings. (An instance in which Ruth was wrongly accused of something and Moishe respectfully and firmly executed mediating the offending party to make things right)

What I learned about volunteers was, first, you had to give more of yourself to them.  And second, they were highly motivated – often more motivated than professionals.

The caveat, I guess I should have a higher view of it (Christian counseling) might be best interpreted as Moishe’s recognition that some Christian counselors genuinely help their clients.  But he felt that the proliferation of counseling degrees rather than theological degrees from Bible scholars and seminaries was not healthy, and that the potential for damage in the field was very high.

Moishe taught by example, and that included how to give an honest and meaningful apology, a skill that, while often overlooked, truly is a measure of greatness.

I found this book very interesting, as it challenged me with wanting to invest more in relationships than evangelism for the sake of evangelism  It inspired me by giving me hope that family does and will see the truth regarding good character, integrity, and doing the right thing.  It enlightened me by giving me hope that maybe my own daughter some day will see past the lies she was told do some investigating on her own.  I also liked how Ruth made me think throughout the book as she related her father’s thought processes, and reasoning’s for doing things, and especially conviction when doing right things. 

Ruth held my attention and the story held my attention as I was always looking to read more of her perspective of her father and his ministry.  I was also struck by the appendices in that Ruth shared a gospel presentation by her father and it really (for me) tied the whole book together in that, the purpose of his life (and ours) is to share the good news of Christ, and if she saw that through his life, so much that she continues with JJ today, wow… It was interesting to also find out that Moishe was part of the Council of Biblical Inerrancy with many other heavy hitters (“Moishe felt strongly that no group should outlive its usefulness.  He was immensely pleased that the ICBI chose to disband in 1988, satisfied that they had completed their task by clearly defining and bringing public attention to the issue of inerrancy.” 

I highly recommend this work to anyone interested in a biography, evangelism, character, integrity, and leaving a legacy.  May it inspire you as it did me.

554918: Called to Controversy: The Unlikely Story of Moishe Rosen and the Founding of Jews for Jesus Called to Controversy: The Unlikely Story of Moishe Rosen and the Founding of Jews for Jesus
By Ruth Rosen / Thomas Nelson

* Why did Moishe Rosen, a Jewish man raised in an Orthodox home, become the founder of Jews for Jesus? Showing how her father challenged the status quo for Jews and Christians alike, Rosen offers a comprehensive look at Moishe’s life, revealing the personality traits, principles, struggles, and successes that made him a controversial figure. 320 pages, hardcover from Nelson.

To a former deacon–loss of spouse

10/12/2011 Comments off

John B,

I know that many join me in extending heartfelt sympathy on the passing of your wife. One of the greatest bonds of relationships we have is the one that exists between husband and wife, and the breaking of that bond no doubt brings unspeakable pain.

While I cannot offer you the answer to the “why”, I do believe that we have a wonderful God and Comforter who is the Holy Spirit that will be there in your times of grief and pain.

The Bible gives great assurance for the Christian as it says in

“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”

1 Corinthians 15:55 http://www.esvapi.org/assets/play.swf?myUrl=hw%2F46015055(ESV)

In other words, we know that even though death has “a word” here on this earth, it does not have the “final word” since we know the Resurrection of Christ has removed the “sting and victory”.

 

Rest assured, we will keep you in our prayers, and if there is any way that I can be of assistance to you, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

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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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