Monday, December 24, 2012

The Blessed Church by Robert Morris

The Blessed Church - Robert Morris            According to his biography, Pastor Robert Morris reaches a potential audience of up to 90 million people each week with his TV Program The Blessed Life. The church he Pastors, Gateway Church in Dallas, has an active membership of over 25,000 people. So, even though I had never read any of Pastor Robert's previous works, I was excited to have an opportunity to review his recent book, The Blessed Church, and I was not disappointed with the selection.
            Pastor Robert states at the outset of the book, "On the pages that follow, I hope to reveal why I think we've experienced the blessings we have" (pg. 5). The Blessed Church goes on to tell the story of how Gateway Church has grown and developed over the years and the principles the church has employed to facilitate that growth in a healthy and God honoring manner. One of the things that makes the book a "blessed" book is that the author does not exalt Gateway as the model of perfection. He uses it a an example of what God can do through anyone who is open to allowing Him the liberty to be at the head of the 'leadership chart'.
            How does he tell the story? He divides the book into six sections. The first begins with the Gateway story, but the remaining five sections outline the major areas that have encompassed the principles that Pastor Robert emphasizes have been so vital to the growth of Gateway Church. These sections include Blessed Vision, Shepherds, Leaders, Government and Church Culture. Each section has chapters that detail the principles behind the processes. And in relating the stories which illustrate the timeless truths the author wishes to impart, he paints a picture of how blessed a church can become by pursuing the God who blesses abundantly.
             The book is primarily geared to church Pastors and leaders, so some may think that the book's material does not apply to them. However, Biblical truths about vision and leadership can apply in all arenas of life, from our jobs, to our family and to serving in a local church. I don't believe you'll be disappointed to learn more from this seasoned minister of God. And as a special feature, for those who want some "action points", throughout the book are spread 'keys to a blessed church', which are points of emphasis to help you remember some of the main points each chapter addresses.
              In the conclusion, Pastor Robert writes "I wanted to present to you, in all humility and gratitude, the principles, purposes and passions that have driven our decisions since founding Gateway Church back in the year 2000" (pg. 201). You succeeded Pastor Robert and have delivered a balanced and detailed account of the blessing of God that rests on one church, but is available to any church who will follow the leader and the principles God has designed for the local church. I received this book for free from "Water Brook/Multnomah Publishing Group" for this review. I am thankful I had the privilege of reading it. You may read an excerpt of the first chapter at Read Chapter 1 .

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Jesus - A Theography by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola

           What's a theography? Perhaps you asked yourself that question as you read the title of the blog. As authors Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola point out in their work Jesus - A Theography, through their theography they are pointing out "God's interactions, intersections and interventions with humanity through the life of Jesus." (pg.x).
          The book is very thorough in following the life of Jesus, but not just from His birth. They begin, instead, with who Jesus was from eternity past (in the beginning) and continue all the way up until His second coming. This is something not normally attempted when writing a normal biography about Jesus, and the authors cover the full spectrum of Jesus life, past, present and future with an acute emphasis on not missing the big picture. The big picture to them is showing from the scriptures themselves that the entire Bible is all about Jesus from beginning to end.
           One of the things which makes the work unique is the extensive note section at the back of the book. Coming in at close to 100 pages, the writers document extensively to support their claims and leave no question as to whether or not they spent the amount of time needed in researching this project. The notes section contains enough books, articles and other resources listed that it would take someone months to even begin to follow up on their labors in study. This is a strong point for anyone interested in studying the subject further.
           While the book uses many of the Old testament types and shadows to paint a picture of Jesus, it also utilizes many illustrations, symbols and character portrayals, such as Moses, Joseph and even Abraham to fill in the details more precisely. Some may take issue with the use of a few of these comparisons and claim they lack enough support to warrant their use. But, there are more than enough items which carry strong sciptural support to reveal the person of Jesus Christ throughout the Biblical pages.
           If you're looking for light reading, this may not be the book for you. But if you are desiring to go beyond merely the face of the Bible stories you've read for so long, you may discover a whole new treasure of riches, waiting to be revealed. This book was given to me complimentary as a part of the book review program for bloggers at  If you want to know more about the Bible and the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, this might be a good place to begin.

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Necessity of an Enemy by Ron Carpenter Jr.

             Most people view their enemies as, well, enemies. Given the fact that enemies normally come to do us harm and not good, this is an easy evaluation for anyone to make. However, as Pastor Ron Carpenter Jr. writes in his book The Necessity of an Enemy, perhaps we should see our enemies less as obstacles and more as opportunities.
             Pastor Carpenter writes early in his book, an enemy can be defined as "the people, weaknesses and situations in your life that try to destroy the passion you have for God's purpose and plans for you" (pg. 8). He quickly distinguishes that it is not necessarily the person who is your enemy but the spiritual force behind the person who is endeavoring to keep you from what God has created you to be and what He has created you to do. But he firmly establishes the fact that enemies come with many weapons that are designed to thwart us from our destiny.
              The book is divided into eight parts. Though the material builds on the previous segments, each one has valuable insights and scriptural truths which can be used to strengthen a person spiritually and to better equip them for the inevitable conflict they will encounter in life. Each "chapter" (though not marked as a chapter) is only a few pages and can be read even by a person with limited time available.
              One unique feature of the book is the study guide included at the end. The guide is designed for small group use, including instructions on how to structure each meeting. I found this to be a valuable help, and can easily see how such a precious resource could be an invaluable tool for a church, Bible study or even personal devotional time. I would encourage anyone who reads this book to take the time to use the study guide to explore the material thoroughly.
             In the Acknowledgements page at the end of the book, Ron carpenter writes "After over four decades of life with over twenty years in ministry, this first book is long overdue." If what I have read is any indication of the reservoir of spiritual riches inside the author, then I agree with his assessment. I only hope the wait is not as long for his second book. I received this book for free from "WaterBrook/Multnomah Publishing Group" for this review. I am glad I had the privilege of reading it. You may read an excerpt of the first chapter  at Read Chapter One.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Twelve Unlikely Heroes by John MacArthur

                Dr. John MacArthur is no stranger in the world of Christian preachers, nor is he in the world of Christian authors. In one of his newest books, Twelve Unlikely Heroes, he again writes as an experienced minister and established author to challenge his readers to grow more into the image of Jesus Christ by examining the lives of those some would call heroes and recognizing the Godly traits in their lives which earned their place in the historical Biblical record.
                The book does as it's title suggests, it looks at twelve unlikely heroes. The characters chosen to be examined by MacArthur include women like Esther, prophets like John the Baptist, and runaway slaves like Onesimus. Pastor Macarthur establishes early on that what ultimately made the individuals great was not just their achievements, but the God who was behind them and enabling them to do great exploits for Him.
                You may or may not find yourself agreeing with the author's choice of Biblical characters to review. I, for one, found Jonah and Miriam in particular not quite the image I had in mind when I think of a hero. But perhaprs this simply further establishes the writer's point in his introduction to the book that "And these true heroes who make an eternal impact are invariably the most unexpected and ordinary people - God makes unlikely heroes" (introduction - pg. x).
                The chapters are simple enough and short enough that one can easily read a chapter at a time and gain much from each seperate segmment. One thing Dr. MacArthur consistently does in all of his sermons and writings is provide a rich amount of background about the lives of those he explores, and he does not disappoint in this book either.
                This book was given to me complimentary as a part of the book review program for bloggers at I am thankful that I made it my choice and would recommend it to those who desire more knowledge of the Biblical characters they frequently read about but sometimes overlook. And if one point can be made from Dr. MacArthur's treatise, it is that the men and women God uses are ordinary people, just like you and me. If we will yield ourselves to God and His word, though we may be overlooked and unrecognized in the eyes of the world, we, too, can be unlikely heroes to our father in heaven.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Tithing by Douglas Leblanc

        The question of tithing as a valid practice in the Christian church today is a hotly debated subject among many. But the book Tithing:Test Me in This by Douglas Leblanc never attempts to tackle the issue of the validity of the practice in our century. Instead, Mr. Leblanc invites the reader to meet 12 different families who have practiced this discipline and to learn how it has affected each of their lives. The book is one of eight volunmes found in the Ancient Practices series that explore eight different disciplines of faith.
         I was not particularly looking for another theology lesson on tithing when I approached this book and I was not disappointed. Instead, what I discovered was an intriguing look into the lives of each family the author interviewed, individuals who consider tithing both scriptural and necessary for their personal lives. Their stories consistently abound with the lessons they learned, such as putting God first, trusting Him when it looked as if they would not survive by giving and doing more than they ever thought they could. It challenged me to reexamine the Biblical principle of tithing that I have believed and practiced for over 20 years, and in doing so made me recognize it again not as a mere ritual, but as a response to a love relationship with a God who loves the world and wants to change people's lives, including the way they approach their finances.
         The author purposely does not espouse one group of beliefs as the standard of the tithing practice. But what he does is talk about the rich and the poor, Christian writers and Jewish Rabbis, the young and the old, Episcopalians, Adventists, Church of God Pastors and others. The range of tithers is so wide that it leaves no room for criticism that the author may have been trying to focus on one specific people group. Doug Leblanc has done an excellent job by including those from all walks of life.
          This book was given to me complimentary as a part of the book review program for bloggers at I am thankful that I made it my choice and would recommend it to those who are not looking for more theological arguments, but would like to hear the personal experiences and results of those who practice what has already been preached many times before.