Thursday, July 6, 2017

Chazown by Craig Groeschel

        



        If you're familiar with the Christian 'celebrity' world, chances are you have heard of Pastor Craig Groeschel of Life Church in Oklahoma City. What's that? You have not heard of him. Well, odds are better that you may have used the mobile Bible app created out of his church called "You Version". Ah, now you recognize him, or at least the app. But, Pastor Craig is a mega-church Pastor, conference speaker and writer.. This month, I was asked to review a revised version of one of his prior books called "Chazown", given to me free by the kind leaders of Waterbrook Press, available at http://www.bloggingforbooks.com. The views expressed are entirely my own.
        First, what in the world is a Chazown? Chazown is a Hebrew word that means "vision" or "dream" (feel better now?). The tag line on the title of the book says. "Discover and Pursue God's Purpose for your Life". And the book centers on helping you achieve that end. It includes a lot of questions, diagrams and pertinent points to think through on the way to achieving your goals. And those questions and assorted resources are great as a guide, and would definitely be helpful for introspection or small group study, which is most likely why they were designed.
        Since a great deal of Christian marketing is aimed at the felt needs of individuals, while offering minimum scripture,, it is no surprise that Chazown fits that pattern. Now, I am not knocking it. As I do believe Pastor Craig is a gifted writer, very funny and practical in his applications. If you go through the questions and genuinely reflect on them I am confident you will come out with more insights on your purpose for living than prior to taking the adventure.
        However, my hesitations with the book, and the approach it uses, is that I can not see the Apostles, first generation disciples, or anyone committed to Biblical patterns, as having used the approach given. While the author does start off with a scriptural foundation for his treatise, and does often quote scripture, it is most often not the emphasis. I can not see Peter, James, John, Paul, etc. as having sat down to ask themselves these questions and going through this process. Thus, it is not a God given vision being addressed but, ultimately, how to get 'your own' (ie - and then state it was GOD given).
        Again, I like Pastor Craig and there is no questions that he and his church have done a great deal for the body of Christ world-wide. But, in this case, please remember when reading that that no one in scripture actually did all of the things being advocated, and many still somehow managed to fulfill God's plan for their lives. I hope that if you read or if you do not, that God will also lead you to HIS Chazown for you, that you may discover and pursue your God given purpose.
       

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Say Goodbye to Regret by Bob Santos

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      I have reviewed books written by Bob Santos previously and it has always been a good experience. Mr. Santos has written three previous books and "Say Goodbye to Regret - Discovering the Secret to a Blessed Life" is his latest work. But don't let the title confuse you, for while it does address regret that we have had in the past, to some degree, the focus centers mainly around the key to avoiding regret in the future, which is the wisdom of God.
      The first chapter "If I Only Knew Then..." should hit close to the home of all those who reads it, as he writes about a theme all too common for multitudes, if not everyone. The remaining chapters expound on the subject of regret, and center around avoiding it in the future through the use of wisdom. Yes, there is a chapter on putting past regrets to rest. But, wouldn't all of us like to avoid having regrets in the future by making wise decisions? This is where the author's greatest contributions to the subject come into play.
      A couple of things I have liked about all of the books I have read by Bob Santos include the following. First, the subjects he has chosen to write about thus far have been very relevant to everyone, including the topics of grace, Bible study and regret (Champions in the Wilderness is a compilation of several topics). Second, having been a college campus minister for many years prior to his writing career, he is in touch with not just the issues but the thought process some will use in 'mentally responding' to each thesis he proposes and this gives him an ability to anticipate the reactions of others before they have even voiced their complaints.
     I admit I was a little disappointed that the book did not focus more on past regret and perhaps the title through me a little bit. So, for that aspect I do not consider it his best work of the four subjects but it is still worth a read. If you have ever found yourself thinking from time to time 'why do I keep making the same dumb decisions' then this is probably a place you may want to start. And, ALL of us can use a little more wisdom for the future. I look forward to the next contribution the author makes to the literature world, though I can't imagine what relevant topic he will choose to tackle next. Pray for him for the wisdom of God for his future.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

The Spirit Contemporary Life by Leon Fontaine



           Leon Fontaine is the Pastor of the Springs Church in Canada, and the CEO of the Miracle Channel. His book The Spirit Contemporary Life is a look at opening your life up to the miraculous touch of God to flow not only to you, but through you to others. I received this book for free through the book review program for bloggers, available at www.bloggingforbooks.com. The views expressed in the review are my own.
           First, I do want to commend Pastor Leon for his understanding of Biblical ministry through the individual people who make up the body of Christ on earth. He emphasizes well the ability of anyone to tap into the miraculous and live a Spirit empowered life today. The first several chapters are laced with miracle stories that make the supernatural a simple phenomenon and not a special privilege reserved only for the elite. This aspect of the work I enjoyed.
          However, I also had some draw backs with the book. First, the Spirit Contemporary concept itself, in my eyes, is simply another marketing technique to say the things the Bible already says. The second drawback was his continued references to the The Holy Spirit as simply "Holy Spirit" without the modifier "the" (even though the Biblical text uses quite the opposite, but in his effort to help others understand the personal nature of the The Holy Spirit, he does not feel the modifier is needed). These are two minor points, but they only serve to underscore the overarching issue I had with it, that in explaining his church's approach to being Spirit contemporary, it simply makes pragmatism (ie - does it work) the standard for the model, rather than letting the Bible determine the model, though he and many others like him would say that is what they're doing.
          So, can you get a lot out of the book? Yes, you can. But, for me, it's not one I plan on keeping on my shelf for continued use. I hope that more people will learn that they too can see the miraculous in their life in a simple way. But, I pray that they also understand that the Bible and not our pragmatic expectations are what God chooses to approve of today. And may we live in the light of those truths in a truly Spirit Contemporary way.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

With My Eyes Wide Open by Brian "Head" Welch



      Brian "Head" Welch, one of the main musicians in the rock band Korn, entered into a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ several years ago, and soon after left the band. He later wrote a biography which chronicled his journey up to that time. But, now, a few years later, he's back with the band again, but with no less of an intriguing tale as when he first began his original steps of faith. His new book "With My Eyes Wide Open" tells of his journey back to Korn, and highlights the importance of family and being willing to do what it takes to save the ones we love.
      Much of the drama in the book centers around his journey after leaving Korn, trying to live a "normal" life, raise his daughter and begin a solo career. But, it also includes the troubles of adjusting in a world outside the music industry. The ups and downs of his own personal struggles, bad business deals that nearly left him destitute and the heartache of his daughter's own struggles are chronicled in the pages.
   What I appreciated most about the book was his honesty about the struggles he faced. And I felt the pain he endured over his daughter, and her struggle just to survive. His failures are life lessons to not let the circumstances keep us down. And, in restoring his relationship with the band Korn, he also shows us not to throw away the people we love the most. His victories are a sweet reminder that God can make miracles out of our mistakes and cause us to triumph in spite of insurmountable obstacles. I received this book for free as part of the book review program for bloggers, available at http://www.booklookbloggers.com. I hope that you will learn and grow from Brian's journey.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Rooted by Banning Liebscher




    Banning Liebscher is the founder of the worship group "Jesus Culture" and also the founder and Pastor of Jesus Culture Church in Sacramento. I received his book "Rooted" for free through the book review program for bloggers from Waterbrook Press available at www.bloggingforbooks.com. And I was surprisingly impressed by this new release, particularly by the personal nature of Banning's writing style and his sensitivity to what really matters.
    Following the life of David, the author draws parallels from David's life that we can apply to our own, and stresses some of the important truths we can take away from these rich narrative experiences in the life of one of Israel's greatest leaders. Emphasizing strongly the traits of intimacy, serving and community, the book gives the reader plenty of food for thought in these important areas which impact all of us in one way or another. He illustrates with many stories form his own life experiences, making the lessons much more closer to us individually.
    For those who are expecting a deep set of verse by verse theology lessons from David's life story, you may find yourself disappointed by the material. But, for those who simply want to grow closer to God, to be a better servant in the world around them and become more connected to others in community, "Rooted" will be worth reading through. May you read and be rooted and grounded in God's love as a result of this author's work.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Man Myth Messiah by Rice Broocks



           Though the name of Jesus of Nazareth is known literally throughout the world, what people understand about him widely varies. But, to be certain, no other name seems to have the ability to evoke both strong positive or negative reactions wherever it is mentioned. Pastor Rice Broocks, from Bethel World Outreach in Nashville, Tennessee, has written previously about the truths of Christianity in "God's not Dead", but in his newest release "Man Myth Messiah" he tackles, head on, the claims about Jesus, examining who He was, in the light of both scripture and historical research. I received this book for free as a part of the book review program for bloggers, available at www.booklookbloggers.com and the views expressed are my own.
     First, I previously read and reviewed Rice's book "God's Not Dead" on my blog, found at www.therefugeministries.blogspot.com but I actually like :Man Myth Messiah" a little better. Both are well written and documented, but I think the author spent time focusing on the issues that surround Jesus rather than talking about the critics this time, more than in his previous effort. And, I commend him for it. The chapters include discussions on the Gospels, Jesus crucifixion, His resurrection and even the subject of miracles.
     Another thing I liked is that the author is not afraid to tackle the views of the skeptics, doubters and even atheists. He has obviously studied many of their arguments and does not dismiss them. He simply shares the opposing viewpoints and challenges the reader to evaluate the evidence. It is not an attack on anyone, but merely a presentation of Gospel beliefs.
     I think this book will be a good resource for anyone who has heard many of the common arguments against the person of Jesus Christ, stating that He didn't exist, or He didn't do what people say He did, or that He wasn't the Son of God. All of these opinions and others receive their fair treatment throughout the book. I also think it would be a good help for high school or college students who finds themselves consistently having to defend their faith against an onslaught of critical viewpoints. I hope that Pastor Rice Broocks writes more apologetic materials in the future, to better reach more unbelievers, who would benefit from his teachings, and to equip more Christians for works of service, to be better prepared to know what they believe and why they believe it.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Do Hard Things by Alex and Brett Harris



    This is an incredible book! Why don't I just come right out and say it first. I loved it and was challenged by it. I still am dwelling on the simple concept espoused throughout the pages of this book, which the title spells out clearly, "Do Hard Things". I had received this book years ago, but I recently received a new edition with more material added for free through the book review program for bloggers, available at www.bloggingforbooks.com. The views expressed are my own.
     So, a little background. At one time, Alex and Brett Harris were your average teenagers, trying to enjoy their summer, when their dad gave them a large reading assignment (think big books) for summer. In the middle of it, they began to wonder if there were more to the teenage years than pop culture suggests. This led to a few 'small' things that they would go on to accomplish, like starting what was at one time the largest teen blog in America (www.therebelution.com), interning for the Alabama Supreme Court in their teens, becoming the statewide directors for four Alabama Supreme Court Campaigns (yes, while still teenagers), writing two best selling books, and a host of other things from then until now. But, the book does not just share their story and ideas, as it also highlights the stories of others who took the challenge and did hard things in their lives also.
    There is so much to say about this book, but first my recommendation. This book is specifically targeted to teens, to dispel the myth of adolescence and the low expectations of teenagers that are created by themselves and others. However, I recommend it for anyone, at any age, because ALL of us undoubtedly have areas in our lives that we don't attempt to do, simply because they seem too "hard". Anyone can glean from thee pages and put the concepts into practice. It also includes discussion questions and, a feature I m glad they included, which was an invitation to meet Jesus Christ.
    Don't leave life on this planet asking the question to yourself "what if I had only,,,". Read this book, put the principles into practice and then realize that you did what you otherwise might never have done, and there will be no 'what if' at the end of your journey. My thanks to the Harris brothers for writing this book, May you do more works in the future, even if it's hard to do it again.