Friday, October 24, 2014

Firsthand by Ryan and Josh Shook


              I read a work by Pastor Kerry Shook recently and in it he mentioned a book that his sons had written. When I saw that "Firsthand" by Ryan and Josh Shook was available for free to me, through the book review program for bloggers available at from the Crown Publishing Group, I decided to obtain a copy. I am glad I had read it, and believe that it is a topic that was needed to be addressed, but no one necessarily knew to ask about when requesting a good subject to cover. Allow me to explain.
             The book is written by two brothers who are the sons of a 'mega-church'  Pastor  in Texas. It tells the story of how they realized that the faith in Jesus Christ their parents possessed was not their own. They were, basically, 'second hand Christians'. "Firsthand" documents their journey, each on their own, to discover if they really believed what they had been taught their entire lives. And, while written from the perspective of two Pastor's kids, the book would be good for anyone raised in a Christian home or in church their entire life.
             The topics addressed in each chapter touch on issues such as why it matters, the soul thirst we all have, getting rid of our religious 'checklist' and other parts of learning how to experience a firsthand faith. The chapters end with real stories from others who have gone on similar journeys, things to think about and suggestions to help you try and explore the topic covered in the chapter.
              Not many would think to address the subject of whether belief is personal or not, and if they did, they might not write about it. In our culture, it could be tempting for Christians to assume that people raised in church are automatically Christian. But, everyone has to develop their own relationship with God. If you are someone, or know someone, who is struggling with what they believe, this would be a great book for them to read. Ultimately, the Bible refers to God in many places as the God of "Abraham, Isaac and Jacob". I pray that He will be your God too, that you will get to know Him firsthand.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Bethlehem Road by Michael Whitworth

bethlehem road_1

             The Old Testament book of Ruth is a classic love story filled with sorrow and joy, despair and victory, death and life. At just a cursory glance, we might overlook the rich wealth of wisdom contained in it's few chapters. In the book "Bethlehem Road" by Michael Whitworth, the author explores the book of Ruth in detail and gives the reader reason to pause and consider the implications of the text on his or her own journey down the road of life. I received this book for free through the book review program for bloggers, available at and the opinions expressed in my review are my own.
             Michael Whitworth is the author of several other books and preaches in Bowie, Texas. At the beginning of this work, he answers questions people frequently have about the book of Ruth. Then he launches into a verse by verse exposition of the Biblical text of Ruth, offering clarification and insight into the contents. He does share personal stories throughout his writing, including the sometimes painful twists and turns we can encounter as we seek to serve God in everyday life. The introduction of the book alone will resonate with many who have had ups and downs in life that left them heart-broken and grieved.
             The book is unique in the fact that it functions as somewhat of a commentary on Ruth, but endeavors to maintain a bit of a devotional feel, in my opinion, throughout it's pages. Commentaries can sometimes be dry and complicated, and he does avoid the excessive complications by keeping the explanations simple. However, a few times I did find it to be a bit slow to get through. Yet, that did not keep me from enjoying it.
              He borrows from a wide range of commentators to explain the verses in Ruth. But, I think the most helpful way to use this book is simply, as I suspect it may have been intended to some degree, as a guide to learning more about the book of Ruth when you do dive into it in your own Bible readings. I do hope to see other works from the author in the future, as he kept enough of my interest to keep the pages turning.