Category Archives: Book Reviews

Book Review: Rejoicing in Christ

Book Review:  Rejoicing in Christ by Michael Reeves

The Good:

Only Scratching the Surface.  As we reviewed this book as board members, one deacon in our meeting said this book serves as a reminder that we “have only scratched the surface.  I think we often have too little of a view of Jesus”.  Wow!  And this book will do that to you.  Get ready, because Reeves will make you realize how little you know about your Savior.  But don’t let it get you down, allow this read to inspire you to get to know Jesus better.

Take a Breather.  This is some heavy stuff.  You may need to put the book down, take a breather, and digest what you just read.  You feel like you just ate a whole double cheeseburger in one bite (I shouldn’t be writing before I eat my lunch), when you should just be dipping that burger in ketchup and taking one bite at a time.  Did I mention I’m hungry?

You Talkin’ to Me?  Although there is great depth, what I appreciate most about the book is the conversational tone.  It is as if I am sitting down with the author and talking about Jesus.  And Reeves does a masterful job at taking theological truths that have always been there, and drawing out incredible insight about Christ.  I enjoyed sitting on the front porch having a talk with the author, so to speak.

The Bad:

Heavy Lifting.  That is not necessarily a bad thing, but more a warning.  You will be challenged in your knowledge and relationship with Jesus.  OK, so that’s not bad at all.

The Grade:  A.  A tremendous read that provides mind-blowing insight into the person of Jesus Christ.  The book takes you on turns you weren’t expecting but always ends the journey in the same place, where you sit in wonder and honor of the Savior, Jesus Christ.

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Book Review: The Master Plan of Evangelism

Book Review:  The Master Plan of Evangelism by Dr. Robert E. Coleman

The Good:

Unique.  Wasn’t sure what to find when I opened this book.  Honestly, I knew little about the author or the book.  What I found was a unique approach to evangelism.  Usually you will find a method like ABC or a Romans Road rendition.  Instead, it tracks the steps of Jesus with His disciples and outlines the principles of evangelism that followed the sandals of our Savior.  Unique approach, but one that made this a worthy read.

Bible. Bible. Bible.  This man knows his Bible or his concordance needs a new binding from all the use.  From page to page, the Bible is used to back up his principles.  When you are talking about how to share something so delicate and important as evangelism, you better handle the Bible with care and abundance.

The Bad:

Practicality.  The question becomes when you write a book about following the footsteps of Jesus, can you practically pull of this type of mentoring, discipling, and evangelism?  Even the author would answer negatively to this question.  But just because we fall short of Christ, doesn’t mean we do not try.  However, there is a sense of, how am I going to do this like Christ.  It begs the question, why did he leave this task to someone like you and me?  Don’t let this part discourage you, but be a goal to continue to reach for.

The Grade:  B.  There were parts of this book I absolutely loved.  The mentoring side of discipleship and the call to “make disciples” was absolutely dynamite.  The plane took off with tremendous speed and there were times it coasted in the air, but the landing made it work the trip.  Enjoy this unique look at evangelism.

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Book Review: What is the Gospel

Book Review:  What is the Gospel?  by Greg Gilbert

The Good:

Let’s Gooooo.  A common joke I have with the teens of our church, go where?  But as one would say during an intense moment of the game, Let’s Goooo!  And there were times in this book, especially the closing chapters, where you are motivated to share the topic of this book.  The Gospel is on your lips and ready to be shared.

Love Increase.  You not only gain knowledge and insight about the Gospel, but it also allows the reader to gain in their love and appreciation of the Gospel, and especially with the Savior.  I can honestly say I love my Savior more after reading this book.

Finally, clarity.  You know our church culture has gone a little crazy with the use of Gospel.  Gospel living, gospel exercise, gospel pancakes (OK, maybe not that last one…maybe).  Gilbert does a masterful job of providing concise, clear doctrine of the Gospel.  Nothing added, nothing deleted in his explanation of this Biblical-based definition of the Gospel.  And the reader will certainly appreciate the clarity and conciseness of this small book.

The Bad:

Little Dog Dogmatic.  We are talking a like a teacup size dog-matic problem here.  There were small instances where the author may have gone a little too far in his own preferences and beliefs on what was truth.  However, what I may have questioned caused me to appreciate two things.  First, it spurred me to research and ask more questions on topics like “the kingdom”.  Second, I love his passion and confidence in his beliefs.  That confidence spilled over into vital doctrines of the Gospel that were needed for the reader.  This boldness allowed him to gain traction in other areas of the book where the Gospel needed clarity and boundaries.

The Grade:  A.  Has been on my reading list for some time, and so glad I had a chance to finish.  It was like a modern Gospel primer.  Sure, that’s lofty praise, but I appreciated how it clearly presented the Gospel, disputed the false claims, and brought you back to the core of the Gospel message.  I walked away encouraged, confident, and motivated.  None many books can accomplish such a feat.

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Book Review: Pilgrim’s Progress

Book Review:  Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan

The Good:

I’m an adult.  I’m sure I read at least parts of this growing up in a Christian school, but I never really appreciated it.  But now I’m a full-grown man, and I didn’t have to read it for an assignment or book report.  That seemed to make a difference as I took my time with this classic.

Mastery of Theology.  What a masterful work of art, weaving God’s Word into the story of the Christian time after time.  Bible verses and passages that fit so well into the conversation and events of each page were placed perfectly.  It truly was a masterpiece.

Gospel Comes Alive.  You can’t help but feel invested in the pilgrimage.  You put people’s faces on characters as they reveal their struggles.  And as the Gospel is so richly described, you appreciate the sacrifice of the Savior and the promise of the final destination.

The Bad:

It’s Old.  Now before you rip me.  I know, it’s a classic piece of literature.  But as someone who is not classically trained in Old English, there were times when it was not a smooth read.  I’m sure there are revised versions out there, but I wanted the real deal.  So I labored at times, but it was worth it.

The Grade:  A

I’m reading a book that is centuries old that has stood the test of time.  Anything lower than an “A” would be an insult.  Pilgrim’s progress captures the essence of God’s Word while putting legs on the Gospel.  Characters are characteristics of real life, and causes the reader to place himself or herself on the map.  The question becomes, where on the Christian life journey are you?  Will you make it to the Celestial city?  What a sweet ending for the Christian, and a dark warning for those who do not believe.

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Book Review: What Did You Expect?

Book Review:  What Did You Expect? By Paul Tripp

The Good: 

Goal of Marriage.  It won’t take you long before you realize this isn’t just a marriage tips book.  If you want that, check out the grocery magazine stand or peruse the self-help books at Barnes & Noble.  Here, you find a spiritual awakening to your marriage.  You get a theological education of where God wants to take your marriage, and where God wants to take YOU in your marriage.  That’s what makes this a worthwhile read.

A Mirror to Your Soul.  If you are not ready to dive deep into your heart, then you better not click “Add to cart” on Amazon.  But, if you are ready to get to the heart of the problem, issue, or struggles of your marriage, then buckle up…this book will take you there.  I’ve never thought I had a bad marriage, but is that what I want?  “Not a bad marriage”.  For a great marriage, I MUST work at my marriage, and even more so, work on MYSELF in my relationship with God.

Can you give me an example?  I love a good story.  And when the stories of real marriage examples weave in and out of the chapter contents, it makes for a much more enjoyable read.  If the whole book was principles and practical tips, it still would be a valuable book.  But, with the real life examples of marital difficulty and victory, the reader gets the best of both worlds.

The Bad:

Verbose.  This was a BOOK.  Nearly 300 pages worth made it for a very long, but important read.  While all the material is valuable, I typically feel like it can be condensed when it gets to that thickness.  If I drop the book on my foot and it hurts, it’s too much and time to sum up.

The Grade:  B+

The length was the only downside to the book.  Tripp is one of my favorites.  Man, he is able to take theological concepts and apply them to everyday life-like no other.  Challenging principles from Scripture that get to the heart of the husband and wife, rather than surface marriage tips that only gloss over the real problems and issues.  If the self-help books are a band-aid, this here book is major heart surgery.  And if I’m your marriage doctor, I would be prescribing you this book to read 2 chapters and call me in the morning.

 

 

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Book Review: 10 Who Changed the World

Book Review:  10 Who Changed the World by Daniel L. Akin

The Good: 

The Stars.  The stars of this book were the missionaries.  Men and women that I admire greatly.  Incredible stories of dedicated faith through hardship, persecution, and even martyrdom.  Missionaries who took the Gospel where it needed to go.

They Said It.  The author went to great lengths to provide quotes from the missionaries themselves.  From personal letters, journal entries, and other documents were used to give the reader actual missionary quotes.  Powerful does not even describe the words.  As some quotes were taken just moments before the missionaries were killed.

Biblical.  While the biographies of these missionaries were remarkable, the Biblical basis for their legacy was what held the book together.  Each missionary story was assigned a passage of Scripture that weaved through their life story.  This was a perfect touch by the author to make sure the glory is given where glory is due.

The Bad:

Read with a little excitement (audio book only).  Ok, confession time…I didn’t actually read the book.  I listened to it on audio book.  Obviously, the reader was a professional and there was never any mistakes, pauses, or interruptions.  However, there was little enthusiasm.  As a pastor, if I would have read some of these pages, I could not help but raise my voice.

The Grade:  A-

Wow.  It was a word that I would say out loud as I listened to these powerful stories of legendary missionaries of yesterday.  If you want a book that will inspire you to share the Gospel, you can start here.  I could not wait to get in my car for more stories of missionaries being faithful to their call.  What is amazing, the missionaries were often quoted as what they did as no big deal.  They each saw it as the calling of any Christian, to follow where God leads and share his precious gift of salvation with others.  To them, it was a privilege to give their life to such a call.

 

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Book Review: Date Your Wife

Book Review:  Date Your Wife by Justin Buzzard

The Good: 

Younger Author.  No offense to the many marriage book authors I’ve read in the past, but they were typically old dudes.  While I certainly am not discounting the wisdom that comes with age & experience, I appreciated a marriage book by someone who was in the same life stage as myself.  Someone with young kids and a younger marriage.  As a result, I was glued to the author’s words as I was often living out similar experiences, trials, and victories.

Let’s Chat.  Easily was the best conversationally friendly book I had read on marriage.  There were great talking points throughout the book.  While some chapters lacked some depth, it made up for it immediately with the practicality and ability to transition the material into a conversation with your wife.

Short Chapters.  For a slow reader like myself who sneaks in a few pages here and there, the chapter length was a blessing.  It actually encouraged me to read more as I felt like I was progressing.  Sometimes the 30 page chapters are intimidating can be like trying to swallow the whole pizza, rather than having small chapters to take many small bites or slices.

The Bad:

Mr. Repeat.  The author tends to repeat himself.  The author tends to repeat himself.  Ok, I’ll stop.  It was a little annoying at the beginning, but it seemed there was purpose to the repetition.  When I was about halfway through the book, I was able to share with my wife all I had learned, and the concepts and lessons came-a-flowing out of my mouth.  Why?  Could be because of the repetition.

The Grade:  A-

There was a considerable amount of lessons and insight to appreciate from this book.  The application of Adam & Eve to current marriage was especially appreciated.  Justin Buzzard is tremendously creative in his pursuit of his wife, and the creativity spills out onto the pages.  I’m more excited about the days ahead of my marriage than I was before the book.  Even after finishing the book, I feel like the journey has just begun with the principles and ideas I gained from reading “Date Your Wife”.  A read I would put on every husband’s shelf.

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Faith’s Checkbook – Preview Review

Book Review Preview:  Faith’s Checkbook by Charles Spurgeon

The Good:  This is the book I have chosen as part of my devotions this year.  So, naturally I am just a couple of months into it, but I wanted to share a few quotes that were especially memorable.  Bookmark this blog post, as I hope at the end of 2018 to list off all the incredible quotes from the book, which I believe will have an impact on your life.  Here are a few lessons I’ve already learned from “Prince of Preachers”.Quote #1:  “My Own Weakness makes me shrink, but God’s promise makes me brave”

Isaiah 41:10 comes to mind.  An encouragement to God’s people from the prophet Isaiah.

Reminds me of the many men and women in Scripture who were given a task.  Moses to lead the Israelites, David to defeat Goliath, the disciples to risk their lives for the early church, Paul fighting for the name of Christ while in shackles…how could they do it?

This quote really hit me hard – “my weakness makes me shrink”.  It does guys.  I’m not the best conversationalist – so does that weakness give me an excuse in sharing Jesus with others?  I’m no longer the young, cool youth pastor (never was, but you guys didn’t have to think that), so does that mean I can’t dive deep into the lives of teenagers?

Each of us have been given a task, a mission field, an assignment from the Lord – how often do we let our weaknesses get in the way…when God has proven over and over in Scripture how He, and He alone, can make us brave.

Quote #2 – “Among the lost souls in hell there is not one that can say “I went to Jesus and He refused me”.

John 6:37 – Aren’t we thankful this statement is true?  Jesus would never deny us if we come to Him.  What an amazing statement of truth.  Oh what a blessing that is.

Because you know what – I don’t know about you, but there are certainly a boat load of reasons Jesus could say no to me.  At one point an enemy of the cross and at this point, very much a sinner…but Jesus can’t deny me as His Savior.   Why?  Because of His love, His grace, His mercy…and everything else that makes Him my Redeemer.

Doesn’t that just give you chills?  There is no one in hell because Jesus denied them their chance at eternity in paradise.  No, it was because they denied Jesus.  And all those that are fortunate enough to call Him Savior – we are eternally grateful He did turn us away

Quote #3 – “If we are wise, we shall rather welcome the refining process than decline it.”

Zechariah 13:9 is the verse accompanying this quote.  Refining silver is a process that takes some time.  High heat of over 1700 degrees F, intense melting process, ridding the mineral of its impurities takes time…

We are no different.  God will continue to work on us, sanctify us until the day of Jesus Christ (Phil. 1:6).  The worse thing we could do is to resist the process.   Silver isn’t refined in a microwave or with a Bic lighter…it takes time and major heat.

The difficulties, challenges, temptations, disappointments…let them be teachers.  Don’t miss the refining process.  Don’t “decline” what God is doing in your life.  The goal of the refining process was a precious metal.  For us, God’s refining process, if we allow it and submit to it, can also produce something very precious.

Conclusion – hope these quotes can challenge and encourage you today…

Quote #1:  “My Own Weakness makes me shrink, but God’s promise makes me brave”

Quote #2 – “Among the lost souls in hell there is not one that can say “I went to Jesus & He refused me”.

Quote #3 – “If we are wise, we shall rather welcome the refining process than decline it.”

 

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Book Review: Gaining by Losing

Book Review:  Gaining by Losing by J.D. Greear

The Good:

I’ve Got a Story for You.  Where does he find these illustrations?  These are stories that seem to come from the deep annals of history, but are so very effective.  Remarkable stories that I should have heard before, but are extraordinary and unique to the reader that introduces chapters masterfully.

Fresh & Biblical.  Possibly what stands out the most in terms of his writing style is Greear’s ability to take a familiar text and draw out fresh, practical ideas.  In so doing, he is able to stay true and Biblical, but still drive the point in fresh, powerful ways.

Fearless.  This man is fearless.  Sure, he admits times in the book where his faith was weak.  But his faith stood the test and was fearless in his pursuit to plant churches and spread the Gospel.  Honestly, it is as much inspirational as it is practical.

Gospel Living.  This man believes in the power of the Gospel.  It is a lifestyle, not a belief you put on your shelf and pull it out when you feel like perusing it’s pages.  Gospel is central, and may be the best articulation of the practical aspects of living out the Gospel.

The Bad:

Buckle Up.  More a warning than a “bad” review.  Get ready to move in a direction that you ordinarily would fear.  Don’t be surprised if you are inspired to do something great for God as a result of this book’s encouragement.

The Grade:  A+.  EVERY church leader should read this book.  It takes you to a new level of faith leadership.  What I mean by that is, it forces you to face your fears in ministry and pushes you to make that step of faith in your ministry.  The pages are full of inspiration, practical methods, and challenges to make each page turn an exciting adventure.  As William Carey said, “Expect great things of God, and then attempt great things for God!”  This book will help you get there.

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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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