Category Archives: Book Reviews

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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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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