Category Archives: Book Reviews

Book Review: The Art of Neighboring

Book Review:  The Art of Neighboring by Jay Pathak & Dave Runyon

The Good:

Best Camouflage is Right in Front of Your Face.  I had a high school teacher that would repeat that phrase when he didn’t notice the person in the front row raising their hand.  It tends to be true in life.  We often neglect the things that are right in front of us.  This book is one of those obvious premises that is so clear in Scripture, but we often generalize it and walk right past it.  Love your neighbor actually means to LOVE…YOUR…NEIGHBOR.  Imagine that?

Uber Practical.  If you have read my reviews in the past, you know what a big fan I am of practical books.  Don’t just give me all the information and don’t give me pointers on what to do with what I learned.  Help this poor slow reader connect the dots.  And boy does this book do that!  It gives you numerous ideas and even personal examples on how to put the principles into practice.

The B-I-B-L-E.  Pathak & Runyon do a fantastic job of using Biblical examples, typically from the life of Jesus to drive each point home.  If I’m going to step out on a limb here and start applying these bold, but needed actions, it helps to have some Biblical support.

The Bad:

Huh?  One concern I did see was on page 174.  The paragraph under the heading “Find a Partner”.  With phrases like “all truth is God’s truth”, and listing of various religions as possible partners in “honoring God”.  Could cause some confusion and almost sounds like relativism.  I don’t think that was his intention, but did raise my eyebrow.  Basically, it was not a well-thought out idea and slightly tainted the ending of the book for e.

The Grade:  B+

Well thought out practical ideas that the church needs to hear.  You want to read books that change your life, and I can honestly say this book does.  It has convicted me in how I interact with my neighbors and in the month that I have been reading this book, I’ve met at least 3 new neighbors.  Sure, not astronomical numbers, but it’s a start.  Want to be a good neighbor?  I think even Mr. Rogers would tell you, try this book on for size.

 

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Book Review: On Being a Servant of God

Book Review:  On Being a Servant of God by Warren Wiersbe

The Good:

Grandpa Wiersbe.   You can imagine the words of this book coming from a grandpa, giving their grandson advice about ministry.  Maybe I think that because both my grandpa and my wife’s grandpa were in ministry for decades.  The advice is not in a condescending tone, but come across as loving and caring.  You want to get to the page to learn more, like you are sitting on your grandpa’s proverbial knee.

Quotes For Days.  This man has a quote for everything, and each one is dynamite.  Seriously, how does he do it?  Wiersbe doesn’t just reference one or two servant books and take some nuggets to build on.  No, he grabs quotes from deep in history, professors, old preachers, and the list goes on.  No stone was left unturned to drive the point home.

Ministry A to Z.  This is like the Amazon logo of ministry books.  It takes you from A to Z of every aspect of ministry.  Both practical aspects of ministry and also the personal/spiritual side as well.  Such wisdom in these pages from a man who has lived it.

The Bad:

Nada.  Nothing bad to report.

The Grade:  A+.  This book will be on my “read again and again and again” list.  OK, I don’t really have that list, but if I did, this book would be at or near the top.  So much wisdom and practicality to this book, where it walks alongside you in ministry and drops truth bombs on every aspect of your life.  It is a must read for all those that are going into ministry, non-negotiable.

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Book Review: The Screwtape Letters

Book Review:  The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

I know what you are thinking.  Have you been living under a rock?  Did you just recently learn to read?  How’s come a pastor just done read this book?  Well, to be honest I grew up without much of a desire to read.  I didn’t really like it.  I’m a bit of a slow reader, a visual learner, and Calvin & Hobbes, Guinness Word Record books, and Garfield were the only books I remember completing.  So, let’s just say I’m still catching up from the days of comic books and playing outside…and beginning to really enjoy reading.

The Good:

Eye-Opening.  When you dive into the spiritual realm, it is truly an eye-opening experience.  The unseen is a fascinating place to take your mind, and when you begin to imagine the spiritual warfare that is happening behind closed doors, it truly opens your mind to what could be happening.

Just Said “Wow” Out Loud Again.  It’s true; while I was reading this book I would actually say “wow” out loud.  The reality of these temptations were so real life, it was almost shocking at times.

Mind-Reader.  The way Lewis puts the temptations and discussions between tempters, is like he could read minds.  He was a master at finding common temptations and constructing his sentences to take you to times where your mind and temptations were real life experiences.

The Bad:

Mind Tricks.  Not a knock on the book, but was a challenge.  Every time the “Enemy” was mentioned, it wasn’t Satan, it was God.  And when you heard “Our Father”, it was not speaking of “Our Father, Who art in heaven”, but the Great Deceiver himself.  So as you read, you almost had to trick your mind so you can follow the storyline and experience the spiritual battle yourself.

The Grade:  A.  Sure the language was a little older and took some getting used to…but there is a reason this book has been set to plays, quoted by a President, and read by thousands.  It is a fascinating display of behind the scenes literature.  The reader is capture by what is happening behind the scenes and capture by what might happen next to the “the patient”.  Get your mind ready, understand the context, and buckle up for an incredible ride.

 

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Book Review: The Pastor’s Family

Book Review:  The Pastor’s Family by Brian & Cara Croft

The Good:

It Takes Two.  Probably my favorite aspect of the book is each chapter provides two perspectives:  the pastor and the pastor’s wife.  This did two things.  First, as a pastor it provided encouragement, challenge, and practical training for the years ahead.  Second, it provided a whole new perspective of what the wife feels, deals with, and the challenges they face.  It allows the reader to come away more sensitive to the other spouse and a willingness to see the other side of situations.

Big Eye Emoji.  I was shocked.  Maybe I need to be a better student of church history, but I had no idea of the struggles some of the greatest preachers in history had in their family life.  Marital struggles, parenting regrets, and family difficulty…how was I so naive.  If these fellas struggled, I need to be even more on guard and fight for my marriage, my family, my children.

Heart to Heart.  At the end of each chapter, it allows the husband and wife to ask questions.  Each of these questions were well thought out and are valuable to a ministry marriage.  Put these into practice and allow it to be life-changing material rather than just head knowledge.

The Bad:

For Real.  This is stretching it, but for someone early in ministry there needs to be a warning here.  This book is real and honest.  It speaks of difficulties, depression, struggles…just make sure you are ready to read this.  It acts as a warning, and an important one, but prepare yourself if you are just entering ministry or have a young marriage/family.

The Grade:  A.  Those in ministry need to read this book.  It won’t take you long, but it will have great impact.  It’s highly practical, challenging, and encouraging along the way.  It’s like a pastoral mentor and his wife taking you by the hand and leading you through the next years of your marriage and parenting.  The value goes beyond the price of the book.  Without a godly family, how will you have a godly ministry.  Sometimes we get things backwards…this book will help put you back on track.

Extra Credit:  Read the reflection article on pages 107-109.  It is dynamite.

 

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Book Review: Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart

Book Review:  Stop Asking Jesus into Your Heart by J.D. Greear

The Good:

Clear as Whatever the Opposite of Mud.  I don’t think I have read a description of salvation that was so clear and simple.  Anyone that is confused or even over-confident about salvation, this is a book you could put in their hand with confidence.

Hi, My Name is Jeff, Here’s a Book.  Someone asked me about the book as I started reading it, and I told them after just two chapters I wanted to give the book to everyone I knew.  The content is that good and vital to a proper understanding of the Gospel.

Weren’t You Just Here?  I often would circle back to the very sentence I just read to make sure I got it right.  I don’t often do this in books, but with this one it was different.  The material was so significant, I wanted to make sure I truly comprehended what I was reading.

The Bad:

That’s Some Bold Sauce.  The author was not shy.  There were some bold declarations of theological terms, where he would define them.  Now I didn’t see any errors, but that would be a dangerous path for me to walk down.

The Grade:  A.  With a topic of salvation so central to the Christian faith, this book should be on your shelf to read and refer to on a regular basis.  Don’t let the title of the book put you off.  In fact it seems the author isn’t that big of a fan of the title either.  It’s a small book that packs a punch and will organize what you know, and allow you to be articulate in your witness and knowledge of the Gospel.

 

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How will your marriage be OR How is your marriage now?

Book Review:  Ready to Wed by Dr. Greg & Erin Smalley

The Good:

Marriage Counseling 101.  In the next year, I’m planning to add and revise some of my pre-marital material.  And guess what book will have a big part of that revision.  Yep, this one right here…excellent pre-marital counseling advice, material, and exercises.

I Got Homework.  Although this book is written for those preparing for marriage, I found myself completing many of the homework assignments on my own and with my wife.  So marriage veterans, don’t think for a minute this book will not benefit your marriage.

Who Wrote This Chapter?  Within the “12 Ways to Start a Marriage You’ll Love”, there is a new author for each chapter.  Why is this a good thing?  Well, it allows the book to have varied personalities and styles to make the book more enjoyable.

The Bad:

Didn’t I Hear This Before?  Although the different authors can be a good thing, the downside is there is opportunity for repetition and slight contradictions.  Some of the opinions of the authors may differ somewhat and can hurt the continuity of the book a little.  None of the contradictions are drastic, but there are small ones here and there.

Shameless Plugs.  One author seems to use their chapter as a platform to promote their book over and over.  It would be like if I mentioned my book “Bottom Line”, which is a devotional for teens & young adults, on this blog.  Or if I would put the reader to www.bottomlinedevotional.com for book information and purchase options in a book review blog.  But I would never do that.

Weak Sauce.  The majority of the book was Biblically sound.  However, there was at least one author who seemed to not like the word “sin”.  It’s OK to call it that!  Instead of calling the problem “pride”, words were used like “buttons pushed”.  Come on, don’t come at me with that weak sauce!

The Grade:  B+.  I really enjoyed this book for its variety, meaty advice & counsel material, along with solid Biblical principles.  Occasionally there would be some repetition or weak fluff marital direction, but that was rare.  It was a great read and encouragement for those preparing for marriage, and those that tied the knot years ago.

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Need help with parenting?

That seems like a silly question.  Couldn’t all parents use at least a little help with parenting.  Paul Tripp wrote a book called “Parenting”.  You know what it is about?  Parenting.  Seriously though, it’s more than that.  This book has a dynamite combination.  Sometimes when you combine two things, it’s not so great.  Like hot dogs and mayonnaise, not what the doctor ordered.  Or how about stripes and plaids?  Gasoline and an open flame?  These are all disasters waiting to happen.  But when you combine a parenting book with the Gospel, you get a must read.

Book Review:  Parenting:  14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family by Paul Tripp 410ppsax0fl-_sx328_bo1204203200_

The Good:

Don’t Skip the Intro.  What a way to set up a book!  Like a great pregame from a coach, the author’s motivation in the opening pages is impeccable.  Not sure about the book, read the intro and you’ll be asking “Where do I sign?”

Gospel-Centered.  The author’s web page suggested his concern of parenting self-help books, and even his previous parenting books being held in more importance than God’s Word.  So, the author goes all out in taking the Gospel into parenting, rather than the other way around.  And he does a masterful job of instilling Gospel principles into everyday parenting.  It’s not too over the top, the “porridge” tastes just right.

That Didn’t Take Long.  Read a chapter and set a timer…it won’t be very long until you are tested with these practical principles from God’s Word.  These chapters are filled with practical lessons, that are both challenging and convicting.  And it doesn’t take long for you to be tested on the material.

The Bad:

This, This, and This.  The author has a certain style.  He like a particular mode of writing.  The book is filled with a specific literary technique.  I was trying to be subtle there, but the author tends to lean on a repetitive style of writing, and enjoys repeating a phrase in different ways.  Most of the time, it is very effective and needed, but every once in a while the list just seems redundant.

The Grade:  A.  For any phase of parenting, this book is a must read.  Read it before having kids.  Read it when you are in the heat of the battle.  Read it as a grandparent.  Suggest it to friends.  Suggest it in parent meetings.  It’s a must read.  It goes to the heart of both the parent and the child, and it does not let go.  It is enlightening, frustratingly challenging, spiritually uplifting, directionally on target, and never wavers from the truth of God’s Word.  It is a must read.

 

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Book Review: Churches Partnering Together

Book Review:  Churches Partnering Together by Chris Bruno & Matt Dirks81g57-vr2ol

The Good:

Where Do I Sign?  This book is not short on inspiration.  I loved reading the real life examples of churches partnering together, and the amazing accomplishments for the kingdom of God.  If you are not excited to at least explore a possibility of partnering, then maybe you should take a vitamin or something, because it is definitely inspirational.

Emphasis on Prayer.  This was probably what I most appreciated about this book.  This wasn’t just a “How-To” book on church partnerships.  The authors were careful that these partnerships were bathed in prayer and were God-directed.  Very wise move by the authors and should be appreciated by the reader.

The Bad:

Watered-down.  Due to the wide range of denominations that might pick this book up, there were some aspects that required watering down, or at least vagueness.  For example, one part of the book spoke of the essentials of the faith, but failed to go into detail.  This had to be a discussion the authors had while writing, and I’m sure proved to be a difficult task.

The Grade:  B+.  I wouldn’t call this book earth-shattering, but it is high on practicality and helps the reader fulfill the goal of the title.  If you are looking for ways to partner with other churches, this book will provide valuable insight on how to accomplish your pursuit.  Along with valuable examples, the reader will allow other experiences to vault them into a successful partnership.  This book holds hope for churches to reach their greatest potential together for the glory of God.  I’d say that’s a pretty good review.

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Book Review: The Goodness of God

Book Review:  The Goodness of God by Randy Alcorn

The Good:51v3wMK6YnL

The Honest Truth.  Some books are careful about what people might think or those that might disagree.  Not this one.  This book raises its right hand and tells the truth, nothing but the truth, and gets a whole bunch of help from God.  That’s probably what I like most about this book is its honesty.  This was a difficult task to provide people with “assurance in the midst of suffering”.  But this book shoots down argument after argument with the truth of God’s Word, basic reasoning, and turns the tables with fantastic questions.  Which brings us to my next point…

Awesome Apologetics.  Man, if you are on the lookout for a dynamite apologetics book.  Light the match and be ready for this to blow you away.  Countless times I stopped after a rebuttal to common arguments of atheists and anti-sufferer-ers…and I was like “that is so good!”.  Responses that are practical and in the category of “Why didn’t I ever think of that?”, but yet powerful and so effective.

Priceless Definitions.  All throughout the book, Alcorn provides these quick definitions for words that are a regular part of our vocabulary.  Easily one of my favorite parts of the book when I would stumble upon another Alcorn-ism, so to speak.  For example, on page 110, we find a definition of worry as “momentary atheism crying out for correction by trust in a good and sovereign God”.  Signed, seal, and deliver that one to the bank!  And there’s more, but I don’t want to spoil them all for you.

The Bad:

Some Repetition.  There is some repetition of thoughts in the same chapter that could be avoided, but even that is ticky-tack.  Really not much wrong with this book, and I can see why I was given this book and told “It is excellent”…because it is.

The Grade:  A+.  When have you picked up a book, and upon finished the final page, your perspective on life is changed.  Now that’s a powerful book.  Randy Alcorn uses God’s Word effectively in reorienting your mind and heart towards a proper perspective on suffering.  He’s not afraid of feelings and what is fair, he simply brings the truth of God’s Word on the subject of suffering, and let’s you have it.  And argument after argument from the other side of God’s Word is shot down with overwhelming consistency and extensively.  Send this book to your hurting friend, sick neighbor, or grieving family member.  It’s worth the price on Amazon, the stamp, and it’s weight in gold.

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Book Review: Age of Opportunity

Book Review:  Age of Opportunity by Paul David Tripp

The Good:index

Do you know a Teenager?  Then read this book.  If you are a parent of a teenager, read this book.  If you work with teenagers, read this book.  If you know the name of a teenager, read this book.  Seriously, it is one of the best books I have read for guiding teens to a godly life.

Preparation for Life.  I feel like this book truly prepares the parent for real life.  Tripp is honest in his parenting short falls and weaknesses that we all share as parents.  He does not sugar coat the difficulty of raising a teenager, but he provides valuable insight on truly getting your teenager ready to face the world, AND have an effect on the world for Christ.

Biblical.  This book is intensely Biblical.  Drawing the wisdom and insight from Scripture, it allows you trust what is being presented, because it is straight from God’s Word.  It not only provides the Scripture backing, but also ways to guide your teens to find their answers for living within the pages of the Word of God.

The Bad:

Length.  If you are not an avid reader, this would be the only drawback.  It is a long parent book, but if you stick with it, it is well worth your time.

The Grade:  A.  No book is perfect (except ones that are inspired by God), but this one is a good as they come.  Every parent should have this on their shelf and should be referenced often in their pursuit of raising godly children.  It provides practical ways to prepare their child for real life along with a proper balance of living an effective Christian life.  Priceless advice that needs to be read and re-read often.

 

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