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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.

Communicating for Change…not just for sermons…

16/03/2013 Comments off

Thank you christianaudio.com for the opportunity to review this work, and as always for investing in my spiritual walk.

Communicating for a Change, by Andy Stanley and Lane Jones, Colorado Springs:
Multnomah, 2013. AudioBook narrated by Lloyd James.

When you communicate is it for change or wasting oxygen?  If you could only have one point and confine it to one point could you do it?  What if everything you have been taught about putting together a sermon (discipleship, teaching, public speaking, or just dialoguing with someone) was wrong?  This 2010 book finally made it to audio and bring to life story and application in two parts.  First, a pastor wants to improve his Sunday delivery and he meets a trucker that will change his life.  Second, Andy and Lane outline the principles in application for those who need lists.

I found this audio interesting in that I am not preaching every Sunday, but yet I am dialoging with folks all the time and this really challenged my thinking in this area.  It challenged my desire to fire hose people and instead focus on one point.  Whether it is in engaging in good questions or communicating for change.  This audio enlightened me in thinking that just because I wasn’t preaching, I could benefit from a critique of my communication methods.  I don’t know if I am asked to preach again, if I would put the outline together like this, but it would definitely influence a one point fallen-condition-focus in my next one.  

I felt like for the first part of the book reading the One-Minute Manager, which caused me to rewind and listen multiple times, however I picked up more in the second half of the audiobook as it focused on application. 

The outline of the method being described is:  Determine your goal; pick a point; create a map; internalize the message; engage your audience; find your voice; start all over (Me, We, God, You, We).  I would also add that the next step…implication is going to take some mediation, thinking and asking good questions for the dynamics I have in my life.  For 196-pages of the book, Lloyd James did an excellent narration which was presented in a cohesive and yet appealing manner.  This book although mentioned scripture and had some sprinkled through it was not an exegesis.  The most gracious comment I could share about the work would be that implications were made that pointed to Christ sharing one-point versus bulleted-sermons and handouts.  Would I recommend this book to others?  Maybe.  It is not a MacArthur or Jay Adams work on preaching with a purpose, but it does give novices something to think through before ‘studying’ homiletics. 

525140: Communicating for a Change: Seven Keys to Irresistible  Communication Communicating for a Change: Seven Keys to Irresistible Communication
By Andy Stanley & Lane Jones / Multnomah Publishers, Inc.

Speakers and preachers—follow this instructive parable to keep your message alive and your audience alert! By knowing your destination before you leave (identifying the major premise you want to communicate), using your turn signals (transition ahead!), and employing five other practical points, you’ll be on the road to success—and drive your message home! 176 pages, hardcover from Multnomah.

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.

From Connie and I to you…

24/12/2012 Comments off

John 3:16 can give us the message of Christmas.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”

While this verse is often overlooked as being a “Christmas verse” we can easily see the loving, giving heart of the Father in that he gave His only begotten Son.

God the Father set the example of giving, and it was carried on through the life of Christ while He lived here on this earth. Jesus said in,

John 14:9 ESV  Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

This spirit of giving originated with the Father and radiated through the Son, and in turn Jesus commands us to do the same in,

John 13:34 ESV  A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”

This love is not based on feelings or emotions, otherwise Jesus would not have been able to “command” us to love. He is talking about the kind of love He had when He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane,

Luke 22:42 ESV  saying, "Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done."

He is talking about each one of us doing our part in love regardless of what we “feel” like at any given moment.

This is the kind of love that will visit a new friend’s home and hold the hand of one who is discouraged. This is the kind of love that will cry with another who cries, and who rejoices with another who rejoices. This is the kind of love that will look “beyond faults” and see the need.

We encourage you at this wonderful time of year to appreciate our giving God once again, and to minister to the “one another’s” all around us.  We call it the ministry of investing in others without needing the credit.  This season should reveal Prophet, Priest and King to all of us.  And emanate from all of us.  Some from the Word, some from life you lead, the actions you take, the inconvenient moments we all have every day.  Thank you for sharing your lives with us.  So Connie and I want to extend you Merry CHRISTmas and Happy New Year!!! 

And He said, "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father." After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, "Do you want to go away as well?" Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that You are the Holy One of God."
(John 6:65-69 ESV)

Father Hunger: Why God calls men to love and lead their families by Doug Wilson

03/09/2012 Comments off

Thank you Thomas Nelson for the great privilege of being a reviewer in your Blog review program.  I have been changed by your investment!

In a society that has been severely degraded due to the absence of Father’s there is a growing movement in evangelical circles to call us back to the truth.  Doug Wilson’s newest work is one of those primaries every male should have on his discipleship shelf (well read before shelving of course).  After a recent failed attempt to reconcile with my estranged daughter, I have much needed comforting gospel-centered reminders when I am tempted to despair, this is a good encouragement.  Brie (my daughter) also was a part of the recent healing and of which I am grateful;

The best way to peer into the overall gist of the work, I would like to share some quotes which come from 3 different pivotal sections of the book;

A father is responsible to lead his children in a way that helps them think biblically about everything.

In contrast to this, consider Abraham Kuyper’s famous statement from his inaugural address at the Free University of Amsterdam.  “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry:  ‘Mine!”  If this is true, and it most certainly is, what are the ramification for education?

As was shown earlier, authority flows to those who take responsibility.  Taking responsibility is the foundation of all the true authority.  This means that reestablishing authority is accomplished by taking responsibility.  Often a simple reassertion of authority is an attempt to evade responsibility.  The point is reasserted so that some one else will do what needs doing.  This is not only impotent; it is counterproductive.

Further the titles of the chapters drive home some quite obvious points that are very bold and needed as well;

First Words, What Fathers Are For, A Culture of Absenteeism, Masculinity, False and True, Atheism Starts at Home, The Education Axle, Small Father, Big Brother, Escaping the Pointy-Haired Boss, Poverty and Crime at the Head of the Table, Church Fathers, Ha, Conflicted Feminism, The Fruitful Father, Some Father Mechanics, Our Father, It Starts with You.

We need more Doug Wilson’s, Mark Driscoll’s, Paul Washer’s, Matt Chandler’s, Edwin Cole, Patrick Morley’s.  We do live in a time when being a man is playing video games all the time, living with your parents, moral relativistic engagements of entitlement, and never responsible.  I remember having a ‘Courageous’ movie night at my house, I had to invite over 30 men to get 6 to show up.  Guys don’t need cowboy church or football themed worship services, what they need is to zip their pants up in the front.  We need bold voices in our culture speaking to our pride, self-righteousness, and avoiding responsibility hearts.  Until there is revival with men, the downward spiral continues.

Father Hunger will challenge, inspire, and enlighten every man to dust off their pride and confess and repent in the areas that need work.  This is not a soppy, wear a bib book, this book is going to take you to the places you do not want to go and it is about time.  Mr. Wilson does make you think, holds your attention, and it is presented in a cohesive, yet appealing manner.  Mr. Wilson also saturates his work with scripture (and much appreciated – indicative of a man who spends time with the Word), successfully conveys Biblical truth.   I would highly recommend this work to Men in all walks of life.

554765: Father Hunger: Why God Calls Men to Love & Lead Their Families Father Hunger: Why God Calls Men to Love & Lead Their Families
By Douglas Wilson / Thomas Nelson

Absentee fatherhood seems to be the norm in today’s culture and it impacts everyone – families, children, wives, and husbands. Pastor and parenting expert Douglas Wilson reveals the true cost of invisible dads to families and society, encouraging them to be the fathers God calls them to be. Includes self-evaluation tools for dads to critique their fathering methods and a study guide for men’s Bible studies and small groups.

The Truth About the Lordship of Christ by John MacArthur

14/06/2012 Comments off

Thank you Thomas Nelson for early preview of this work, this opportunity continues to be a blessing to me.

In The Truth About the Lordship of Christ, MacArthur is not dealing with minor problems or disputes peripheral to the faith, but with the crucial issue of all—namely, What does it mean to be a Christian? His answers in this condense work addresses what I consider to be the core issue of present-day Christianity.

Why is today’s church so pathetic? Why are we able to tout many conversions and grow church members but have less and less impact on our culture? How is it that Christians are indistinguishable from the world? Is it because we are calling the unregenerate/lost, Christians? Or is it that many are settling for a “form of godliness but denying its power”

(2 Timothy 3:1-5 http://www.esvapi.org/assets/play.swf?myUrl=hw%2F55003001-55003005(ESV))? This pivotal work in MacArthur’s Truth series is successful in turning true followers/disciples from the feeble gospel and deceitful propaganda of this age to a true gospel-centered focus. This work reveals a man whose conscience is clearly taken captive by the Word of God. It reveals that he knows how to read the Bible for what it actually says, and is fearless in proclaiming that Word to desperate and handicapped generation.

As with all of MacArthur’s works, this book was very interesting, concise, and thorough.  As always, MacArthur also challenges, inspires, and enlightens in a very charitable way.  MacArthur teaches us through scripture to discern and think;

204168: The Truth About the Lordship of Christ The Truth About the Lordship of Christ
By John MacArthur / Thomas 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.

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