Category Archives: Book Reviews

Book Review: Pulling Weeds, Planting Seeds

Book Review:  Pulling Weeds, Planting Seeds by Dennis Rainey

The Good:

Pulls on Your Heart Strings.  No regrets.  That is one goal each parent typically has as they give their best attempt at parenting.  Well, Dennis Rainey from the very beginning tugs on your emotions to bring you to your knees.  You want to look back at your parenting and have no regrets, but know that you followed God’s plan and did your best.  This book will help you do just that.

Can Someone Help Me Reach That?  You ever at a store and you can’t reach an item on the top shelf, but no one is there to help you out?  You know what you want, but you can’t reach it.  Some parenting and family books out there present these ideas that are so high on the shelf, you will never reach it.  Not this one.  Rainey does a masterful job at providing practical, honest, attainable advice that is reachable and attainable.

The Bible Says That.  You know how you can trust a character-building book?  If it is full of Bible verses about character.  No better source to build into one’s integrity than to tap into the book written by the Holy God.

The Bad:

Had an ending.  I’m for real.  I really enjoyed this book and was disappointed when I reached the end.  Each chapter was just a few pages and was a treat for me each night before bed.  Like a nice little spiritual snack before I hit the pillow.

Out of Print.  Very few occasions of being out of date.  However, it is an older book and is not updated with technological advances.  One other bummer is the book is out of print and used copies are the way to go.

The Grade:  A.  I went in looking to be a better parent with this book.  Instead, I came away inspired to be a better follower of God.  The approach was more than just being a better spouse or parent, although that was a big part of it.  This book took you to new challenges and presented heartfelt convictions.  You walk away from each chapter ready to lead your family, love your family, and care for you family better than yesterday.

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Book Review: Sacred Parenting

Book Review:  Sacred Parenting by Gary Thomas

The Good:

I’m Gonna Be Honest.  The author held to a commitment to honesty throughout the book.  Using personal examples, he was able to present an honest and realistic approach to Biblical parenting.  The “perfect parent” band-aid was ripped off pretty quickly, disarming the reader to identify with the principles presented.

The B-I-B-L-E, that’s the book for me.  Most parents of small children have to choose wisely what parenting books they read.  Both for content and for the sake of time.  So, if I’m going to read a parenting book, if it has a firm foundation in Scripture, my time and content satisfaction is enhanced.

Challenge Accepted.  Are you sure you want to be challenged as a parent?  Are you really sure?  Thomas has an incredible talent of laying out parental challenges that lie ahead that are convicting but irresistible.  You cannot help but continue turning pages to discover new challenges around every corner.

The Bad:

My Heart Hurts.  Not exactly a bad thing.  Maybe you need an antacid…or maybe it’s the convicting power of God’s Word.  But the author presents challenges that are daggers straight to the heart.  TUMS may have calcium, but no pill can take away the heart aches of parenting.  The honesty of the book is refreshing, but at times is difficult to accept.

The Grade:  A.  As a parent and youth & family pastor, I regularly read parenting books and articles.  This writing has vaulted to the top tier of parenting resources.  Honest, convicting, and insightful are some of the descriptions that come to mind.  Thomas does not take the easy way out, but provides a road map for spiritual formation parenting, both in the child and the parent.  You will walk away from this book changed.

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Book Review: In Praise of Plodders

Book Review:  In Praise of Plodders by Warren Wiersbe

The Good:

Struck Gold.  This is an absolute gold mine for pastors and ministry workers.  There is so much wisdom in its pages and Wiersbe does not let up from the first pages to the last.

Pastoral Training.  From the Sunday pulpit to the days in between, the reader will be trained to be a good shepherd to his people.  Good reminders, encouragement, and even warnings are given to the reader.  Wiersbe provides insight into ministry that only a grisly veteran could provide.

Whose Line is it Anyway?  I’ve said this before about Wiersbe…he provides the best one-liners that you can just take to the bank.  But, in this book, he relies on pastors of today and yesterday to provide incredible knowledge and teaching to the pastor of old and young.

The Bad:

Repeats Occasionally.  Because these were excerpts from a Christian newsletter, there are occasions where the author repeats information.  But, because the information is so valuable, is it really a bad thing if you read it more than once?

The Grade:  A+.  This was my favorite pastoral ministry book that I have read thus far in my ministry.  Wiersbe has a talent for providing enough push to drive the minister to greater heights, while balancing enough encouragement to push through difficulty and tough sledding.  This book should be on the shelf of every pastor within arm’s length of their desk.  I wouldn’t leave home without it.

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The Pastor’s Book

Book Review:  The Pastor’s Book by R. Kent Hughes

The Good: 

Re-Print!  Maybe the editor missed something.  Instead of “The Pastor’s Book”, would it be more appropriately named “The Pastor’s Textbook”.  The reader will have the experience of sitting in a classroom listening to elder pastors reveal the foundation of pastoral care and leadership.

You Again?  This is a book that will have a place on the shelf within reach.  Would be wise to use a note-card to note all the pages that can be used for various ministries and situations.  For example, you have a wedding coming up?  Well, turn to page 137 to find how to appoint a wedding coordinator.  A few pages later you will find script for a wedding ceremony.  Before all this you can find pre-marital counseling help.  I’m telling you, so many scenarios where this book will give you the full package.

But How Does That Make You Feel?  A guest writer comes in towards the end of the book to discuss pastoral counseling and knocks it out of the park.  You like detail, well this guy talks about how to walk your counselee in the room, position your furniture, and how to be silent.  I’m not being sarcastic, it is incredible practical and dynamite for the pastoral counseling.

The Bad:

Half a Hundo?  Yes, it is expensive.  On sale now on Amazon, but it usually sells for around $50.  This was given to me by a gracious family, and I’m so glad they did.  All that being said, it is worth the price of admission.  Think of it as a seminary level class, and the price does not seem so bad.

The Grade:  A.  Although I’ve been a pastor for about a decade or so, I still know I have much to learn about the pastorate.  Weddings, counseling, funerals, communion, and the list goes on.  No book could review all the scenarios, but this one covers the ins and outs of ministry quite well.  Pastors of all experience levels should have this on their shelf to better shepherd their flock.

If you are looking for a much better review, click here.

 

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Book Review: Start With the Heart

Book Review:  Start With the Heart by Kathy Koch

The Good:

What’s a Parent?  Excellent introduction to the book and the first chapter is worth the price of admission.  The beginning to the book provides a parenting summary that is very well done and worth the read.

Off The Charts.  The diagrams and charts were very well done.  These charts and diagrams are valuable tools in parenting and provide tangible ways to improve your parenting.

Well Organized.  Something I appreciate is a well-organized anything.  Well, Dr. Koch does a superb job of organizing her data, information, and instruction.  The chapter headings, book flow, and organization were all top notch to allow for a smooth read.

The Bad:

Discipline Light?  There were times when I thought the discipline was a bit light.  This could have been on purpose to allow parents to apply their own discipline based on their parenting style.  However, there were times when it seemed to care about the feelings of the child more than a disciplined way of parenting.

More practical than spiritual.  As a pastor, obviously I lean more toward spiritual-heavy, but to be fair, this was not the point of the book.  This was a motivational book, not as much a spiritual tool.  However, when the Scriptural support was evident and appreciated.

The Grade: B.  Highly practical and useful tool for any parent.  Loved the explanations and defined attributes of parenting.  Not at the top of my list, but valuable enough to recommend for parents of young children.

 

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Book Review: Choosing Marriage

Book Review:  Choosing Marriage by Debra Fileta

The Good: 

Great Combo.   The author is a licensed counselor and a passionate believer, which provides a great combination of practical and spiritual help to the marriage relationship.  While providing real life examples from her personal life and counseling situations, it gives a well-rounded approach to building healthy marriages.

See Things From the Other Side.  Truth be told, most of the marriage books on my shelves are from the male perspective.  Sure, they are full of Biblical truth, but they lack one thing…the view from the other side of the aisle.  A book about marriage from the wife’s point of view was sorely needed, and Debra Fileta is a great place to start.

For real, for real.  One thing you can say for sure about this book, it is honest and real.  For example, the author gives a hilarious story of her honeymoon that provides a reality of what marriage can be.  The rose-colored glasses are knocked off your face, and the realistic approach to a godly marriage is refreshing and appreciated.

The Bad:

Can you hand me my glasses?  One complaint I have actually has nothing to do with the content of the book.  For some reason, the text seemed faint in some places.  Maybe it was just my copy, but the font could have been a little bolder for the reader.  Small annoyance in a very enjoyable read.

Careful of the hyperbole.  It was rare, but I did catch some hyperbole.  For example, in the final chapter the author mentions marriage as the “hardest and greatest thing you’ll ever do”.  Taking out the spiritual side of things, perhaps this is true.  But the greatest thing we will do as believers goes beyond our marriage, and into eternity.

The Grade:  A.   If I had to describe the book in one word:  enjoyable.  Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t just a book of whimsical saying and enjoyable stories…this book had some dynamite advice and counsel for the marriage relationship.  My point is it was written in a way where you could enjoy improving your marriage, while being challenged in an appropriate and endearing manner.  Kudos to Debra Fileta in providing a valuable resource to both singles and married folks in their pursuit of reflecting the relationship of Christ and His bride.

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Book Review: The Tech-Wise Family

Book Review:  The Tech-Wise Family by Andy Crouch

The Good:

Ready for a Challenge.  Listen, this is not for beginners.  The instructions are not keep your phone usage under 5 hours per day and limit your binge watching for the weekend.  No, this book will make you want to throw your phone out the window and hug your kids for an hour.  The challenge is real people, so buckle up.

Hold Hands.  Why do we hold our kids’ hands in the parking lot?  To lead them to our car and not let them get hit by a Target shopper who couldn’t wait to hit the dollar bin.  Same principle here.  Crouch holds your hand the whole way, guiding you through each principle, and giving you practical steps to accomplish each step.

Rest in Peace.  Most of us reading this do not rest.  You may have times of leisure, but we do not rest.  God rested.  Is this thing on?  God rested.  And yet we still think we can go 24/7 with another shot of espresso, a smartphone, and a Google home.  Doesn’t work that way.  You need to rest, and this plan will help you get there.

The Bad:

Have you met my kids?  I love my kids dearly, but some of these rules/steps are…I’m laughing out loud as I type this thinking of my children…unrealistic.  To his credit, the author does say this is not a one size fit all plan.  For example, tea on Sunday?  Yeah my 4 year old son is gonna be hyped for an afternoon of tea and classical music.  I can just hear him saying, “Daddy, my turn to pick?  I’d like to hear Symphony No. 5 in C minor…please daddy?”.  Or the rule of no screens till they are 10.  Now keep in mind, this is cherry picking the difficult ones.  Most principles are dynamite and need to be considered.

The Grade:  A-

The case is made.  I mean, just look at this Time Magazine article, there is no debate anymore.  Too much screen time for children is dangerous and hazardous to our kid’s spiritual and mental health.  It’s time we take control, set boundaries, and not allow the addiction to technology start when they are in diapers.  Feel free to start small.  That is what our family did as we have implemented several ideas, and they have been beneficial to our family.  And one more thing, the tech-wise family, it starts with the parents.  Set the example, and lead your family into being a tech-wise family.  It will be uncomfortable at first, but that’s often where God works best.

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Book Review: Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage

Book Review:  Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage by Jim Newheiser

The Good:

Biblical and Sensitive.  The author has great bed side manner in wading through difficult questions about marriage and divorce.  The book does not tip-toe around subjects, but appropriately guides the reader through Biblical texts carefully and effectively.

Explanations for His Explanations.  The author is so careful to take every angle and side to each question of marriage.  Newheiser goes to great lengths to thoroughly present solutions to marriage questions and take you on a full ride around all possible scenarios.

Fight Club.  Many marriages need to read the conflict chapter together.  This could save so much heartache and tension in a marriage.

The Bad:

N/A

The Grade:  A+.  Every pastor should have this on their shelf.  It provides Biblical answers to an array of ministry and counseling situations.  Additionally, it bestows great value for marriage counseling in its beginning pages as well.  With bite size chapters, well-formed summaries, and even discussion questions for further thought, the book is a must purchase for answers about marriage and divorce.

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My Favorite Spurgeon Quotes

Instead of my normal book review, I thought I would just share my favorite quotes from Charles Spurgeon’s devotional “Faith Checkbook”.  These are quotes that impacted me the most from his book, but don’t stop there.  I would encourage you to take this book as a yearly challenge for your devotional time.

My own weakness makes me shrink, but God’s promise makes me brave.

It will be far more profitable for me to become unselfish and out of love to my Lord Jesus begin to care for souls of those around me.

Among the lost souls in hell there is not one that can say, “I went to Jesus and He refused me”.

Jesus is yours now if you will have Him, lean on Him, lean hard on Him.

The Lord does not mock humble souls.

Those whom God blesses, devils cannot curse.

What can the Lord deny us after giving us Jesus?…for if there had been a limit anywhere, He would have kept back His own Son.

The Lord’s eye is not dim, and He sees the blood of the great Sacrifice with steady gaze.

If we are wise, we shall rather welcome the refining process than decline it.

His own Spirit was wrought this desire in us, and therefore He will answer it.

He that sends the clouds can as easily clear the sky.

We must feel for others, and give them, not a few dry crusts, but such things as we ourselves would wish to receive.

He argued from past deliverances that he should receive help in a new danger.

God has given us a promise of real estate in the glory-land.

Blessed is the man who is busy in secret with his kindness.

Jesus still proclaims the opening of the prison to them that are bound.

He chooses to send you, it is not for you to shrink from the heavenly call.

The Lord may not give gold, but He will give grace.

A dauntless faith in God’s brushes fear aside like the cobwebs in a giant’s path.

Let me make my service of Jesus my occupation, my lifework, my one pursuit.

We have been loved too long, and bought at too great a price to be now forgotten.

You are immortal till your work is done.  If the Lord has more witness for you to bear, you will live to bear it…A wiser mind that our own arranges our destiny.

Our bodies humble us and that is about the best thing they do for us =)

Clouds may gather, but the Lord can blow them away.

What a bondage it is when the child of God is sold under sin, held in chains by Satan, deprived of his liberty, robbed of his power in prayer, and his delight in the Lord!

The fear of God casts out envy of men…He who fears God has nothing else to fear.

The enemy has been once overcome.  I fight with a beaten foe.

It would be well to know much, but better to love much.

Worry kills, but confidence in God is like healing medicine.

Rest assured that losses for the Lord are not losses.

In Him we died unto sin once, and the capital sentence cannot a second time be executed.

Warrior of the cross, fight on!  Never rest till thy victory is complete, for thine eternal reward will prove worthy of a life of warfare.

All our past mercies are tokens of future mercies.

We have only to summon courage enough to go forward, and we shall win dark homes and hard hearts for Jesus.

Tears clear the eyes for the sight of God in His grace; and make the vision of His favor more precious.

Our business is to persevere and learn by little by little.

He whose soul does not worship will never live in holiness.

Let me never find the galley of self-conceit and self-confidence floating on the waves of my usefulness.

Try the preaching of the crucified, risen, and ascended Savior; for this is the greatest “draw” that was ever yet manifested among men.

His heart is with His people, His delight is in them, He is never slow to meet them.

God cannot turn to us unless we turn from our sin.

Jesus made the life of His people as eternal as His own.  How can they die as long as He lives.

God’s time is the best time.

It ought not to be difficult for us to humble ourselves, for what have we to be proud of? =)

O Lord, sink me in self that I may rise in thee.

The all-sufficient is sufficient for my largest want.  He who is sufficient for earth and heaven is certainly able to meet the case of a poor worm like me.

We have looked elsewhere long enough, it is time that we look along to Him who invites our expectation, and promises to give us His salvation.

Let us thank God for a little success, and pray for more.

The remembrance of the grief shall heighten the flavor of the delight.

How can we distrust when Jehovah Himself becomes house and home, refuge and rest to us?

I have more knowledge, more experience, more patience, more stability than I had before the trials came.  (Amen!)

But as for the Lord our God, He is present when we seek Him, present when we need Him, and present when we already enjoyed His aid.

He will be all to all His beloved so long as the moon endureth.

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Book Review: Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands

Book Review:  Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands by Paul David Tripp

The Good:

Is This Real Life?  What I appreciate about this book is how true to life it is.  These are not utopian principles that only exist on perfect planets.  No, we are talking about chapters full of incredible, insightful and practical advice that belong on the counselor’s shelf.

What does that mean?  Clear definitions of words using Biblical backing.  For example, gossip was defined as when “I confess the sin of another person to someone who is not involved”.  Yep, that’s it.  These tightly wound, easy to pick up definitions are throughout the book, and quite helpful in everyday counseling opportunities.

I’m gonna use that.  You will find yourself saying “oh, I’m gonna use that” out loud on numerous occasions.  The charts, tactics, Bible passages, and unique methods are so valuable to help people who are in need of a change.

The Bad:

Careful there partner.  What I like about Tripp’s books is they are never short on boldness.  It is bold from the very first page where it claims this will be the “best news a human being could ever receive”.  Now that’s bold.  But on occasion, he goes a little too far in his theological statements using language that might be too absolute or take an interpretation too far.  It’s rare, but make sure to not take it all as Gospel (which I don’t believe Tripp intended in the first place).

The Grade:  A-.  I think I am a bit late to the party.  Nearly every counselor training session that I have attended, the speaker recommends this very book.  And it did not disappoint.  Great value in the counselor setting, and for that matter as a pastor, parent and husband…great value in everyday life.

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