Reviews

take action bible (thomas nelson)

A product of Thomas Nelson’s partnership with World Vision, this Bible is the perfect gift for someone embarking on  mission service, be it short- or long-term.

Interspersed throughout this NKJV version are 52 stories about contemporary people living the missionary life in spite of the challenges and dangers they face. Following each story is a Bible passage to meditate upon and questions that help you contemplate on your personal like.

This Bible is the kind you’d use to gird on your armor of faith at the start of every week as you seek to do what God has specifically called you to do. Systematically used, by yourself or in a small group, these weekly studies are perfect for the new, naive, apprehensive missionary. At the end of the Bible are 52 action plans. They are practical, tangible things to do that will make a difference in the world. I like the stories and the Bible passages and the questions. However, the additional list of actions at the end of the Bible are my favorite. It gives me the opportunity to use my senses and physical abilities to focus on a specific task for the week that will put my faith into action. I am going to post them on JesusSteps and anywhere else to encourage people to take that adventuresome step into missions.

Our six years in Nepal were the best experience of our lives and I can see how this Bible would be an appropriate antidote for the anxious worries and questions one often has before leaving familiar ground, loving family and supporting friends to go into the unknown.

(I received this book free from Thomas Nelson. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.)

Reviews

max on life, by max lucado (thomas nelson)

This is not a typical Lucado book. It is not like sitting in the pew listening to Preacher Max spin a 50,000-word sermon; Instead it is like reclining on a couch for a private session with Counsellor Max.

The book is a compilation of 172 questions and concerns that are answered by Lucado. Why precisely 172, I don’t know. (This would bother and distract the pages out of the OCD reader, I think.) For the most part, each answer is no more than a page and structured very Lucado-like—-an interesting illustration, a scriptural reference and a practical suggestion. While the order of the questions seems random, there is a thorough subject and scriptural index at the back of the book that is handy.

Since the subject of stewardship, specifically money and tithing, is one of my favorites and one that is controversial, it was the first I looked up. And I give Lucado’s response 5 stars on question #126. He says God gives us a paycheck for four reasons: to honor Him, to provide for your family, to support your country and to enjoy it.

The Q&A formatting of the book has an Ask Max column feel to it. The questions are about practical, every-day Christian living, and the answers reflect his years of serving people as pastor and counsellor.

Whether you read it from front to back, or by using  the subject index or by using the Scriptural index (my choice), you’ll enjoy your counseling sessions with Max. At $24.99 for three to four hours, you can’t beat the price!

(I received this book free from Thomas Nelson. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.)

Reviews

finding our way again by brian mclaren (thomas nelson)

My Aunty Pauline and my Uncle Solomon are two very different people who have very little in common. They are so different, I can’t imagine them hanging out if Pauline weren’t married to Solomon’s brother. But there is one thing they have shared in common for as long as I can remember–their practice of fasting. It’s something I’ve never understood. I’d watch them Sabbath afternoons gathered with the rest of our large extended family at the mother’s home, around the table piled high with food and I’d marvel at how they were never tempted by the deliciousness around them. (Of course, I never wondered enough to give up Sabbath Chicken Biryani to try their ritual myself.)

I’ve questioned them about their fasting and while I respected their personal reasons, their reasons weren’t reason enough for me to try it. McLaren’s advocacy of fasting, on the other hand, is supported by universal arguments and biblical examples. I find him objectively convincing and almost want to try it–sometime in the future.

Until McLaren’s book, the only window I had to fasting and Christianity was my uncle and my aunt. Until McLaren, I categorized rituals and practices like fasting and meditation to monastic living and Asian culture. Having grown up in India, fasting and meditation was for everyone else but the Christian–It was something the Muslim, the Hindu and the Buddhist did, and seemed like a penance of some sort, a self-deprivation with a secret agenda. There was something strange and mystical and zen-like about it all. But after reading this book, I feel I should rethink and study the topic from a more biblical perspective.

McLaren harnesses the history and the common themes shared by Christianity, Islam and Judaism to challenge the reader to a fresh, new perspective of community. His passion for evangelism seems to fuel his appeal to Christians to embrace those who seem radically different from us on the surface. I can see how certain portions of his book, combined with his well-publicized practice of celebrating and sharing in the fast and the feast of Ramadan with his Muslim friends, could infuriate many Christians. Yet, I can’t help but feel that his approach of embracing the brotherhood in all men is reflective of Jesus dining with publicans and drinking from Samaritan wells.

I’m not on board with everything in the book, but I do agree with the importance of finding commonality with people of different faiths, and I do see the sense in how discipline and self-denial can make us more aware of our humanness and more sensitive to the needs of others. While the book has certainly given me a lot to think about, I have to admit I’m still a long ways off from giving up a meal, let alone three, anytime soon.

(I received this book free from Thomas Nelson. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.)

Reviews

sabbath by dan b. allender (thomas nelson)

Endorsing this book, to me, is a no brainer. But then, I’m a third-generation Sabbath keeper, and can’t imagining surviving life without the joy and rest of the Sabbath Day.

I love the way Allender unfolds the true meaning of the Sabbath while expelling the myths and traditional restrictions that have burdened the Day sullied its name. With every chapter and every concept, the Sabbath is redressed with God’s original plan for communing with man.

The Sabbath is less about refraining from toil and work and more about being renewed and revived. It is less about what you don’t do on the Sabbath Day and more about what you do in the joy of the Lord. It is less about a ritual and more about a state of fellowship and worship. “The Sabbath is a day of sensuality when we say to one another, ‘Taste and see that the Lord is good'” (p. 66).

I remember growing up with Sabbath rules and sunset times that  made by Sabbaths long and tedious. I also remember the freedom that came when I allowed relationship with God and my special time with Him dictate what I would and would not do on His Holy Day. The book highlights the essence of the Sabbath, encouraging the reader to focus of strengthening your relationship with God and rejoicing in Him rather than being burdened by the guilt of proper observance. True Sabbath observance is a natural consequence when you are in true communion with God and your community.

As much as I love this book and as biased as I am towards it as a Sabbath keeper, I have only one gripe about the book. While all of the reasons Allender gives in support of a Sabbath-keeping lifestyle are biblical, he is quite ready to compromise on the actual day of the Sabbath.”It doesn’t matter what day you enter the Sabbath, “he says on page 3. Giving the example of ministers who are usually the busiest over the weekends, he condones the keeping of Monday or Friday as the Sabbath.

The same Bible that so well outlines the beauty and joy and grace found in fellowshipping with God on the Sabbath Day is very clear on the actual day of the Sabbath–“Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God” (Exodus 20:9). The call to Sabbath-observance is about the entire commandant, including the day– and not just the spirit of the commandment.

As a Sabbath keeper, the book was an absolute delight; as a Seventh-day Adventist Sabbath keeper, the idea of rescheduling God’s designated holy day made me cringe.

Reviews

Tithing by Douglas Leblanc (Thomas Nelson)

Kudos to Thomas Nelson for championing the basic disciplines of faith. Far too many Christians today have swung so far left that the warm fuzzies of God’s grace entwining with man’s heart have obfuscated the everyday responsibilities of Christian life and service.

The Cross and God’s grace give us salvation; but the life of the saved is more than clinging to the promise of that Cross. We do not live in a monastic cocoon. Saved or not, we are required to live responsibly in a sinful world. And it takes more than grace and a warm fuzzy feeling to do that. The Ancient Practices Series brings back to focus the basic need and the foundation of Christ-like living– practices governed by discipline, worship, priorities and principles. Tithing is one of seven in the series.

What I like about the book is that Leblanc does not fill it with proof texts and stories from the Bible to justify and validate the practice of tithing. That would be compiling stuff we already know or what we can Google on our own. More importantly the truth and theory of tithe does not immediately beget tithers. Tithers are born out of a tested, worshipful, loyal relationship with God. Knowing this to be true, Leblanc crafts this book out of the experiences of tithers across the country. Real people, real stories. And the result is a book that not only convinces us about the need to practice tithing, but also challenges us to tithe as an act of worship and praise.

Challenge yourself to read the book with an open and prayerful mind. Be persistent, read it from beginning to end. While there are a few unnecessary digressions, the bulk of the material is worth the editorial oversight. So keep at it!

(I received this book free from Thomas Nelson. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.)

Reviews

Immanuel’s Veins

I feel like such a jerk giving a negative review of a book that begins with 16 raving endorsements. The only thing I liked about the book was the skillful development of the character Toma. His persona was unveiled in parallel to the unveiling of the theme of sacrificial love.

Beyond that, there were a few things that bothered me:

1) The inconsistency of the language. The story is set in the 1700s, but the conversations are mixed with colloquial phrases from centuries later. Phrases such as “hunk of a man” and “party pooper” seem out of place in the conversations.

2) Many chapters are identical except for the setting and the characters. I grew tedious of back to back scenes of the same thing–good guy drawn by seductive being, confused by mystical culture and compelled to fight violence with violence. I felt like the book was trying hard to compete with dark, gothic vampire novels while holding on to some sort of spiritual reins.

3) The spiritual lesson in the book feels lik an after thought. I was two-thirds into the book before I felt this was a Christian publication. And even after that, there were a few uncomfortable moments. For example, Toma’s love for Lucine–while sacrificial in the sense that he was willing to die for her–was a physical attraction for the most part. I wanted to see Toma grow in a deeper understanding of what love really is. It was like he took a giant leap of commitment to love without  knowing why.

Maybe the story is a very involved allegory with complicated symbolism that I just didn’t get. Or maybe the problem was that I was hoping for an Aslan and not a Toma. And this was just was not Narnia.

****

WIN A IMMANUEL’S VEINS T SHIRT DIRECTLY FROM THOMAS NELSON PUBLICATIONS: One thing the book does do is get you thinking about just how much you’d do for love. Will love incapacitate you from rational thinking and moral decisions? Or will love move you to towards God and goodness no matter what? And what is sacrificial love? COMMENT BELOW WITH YOUR T SHIRT SIZE AND YOU’LL BE ENTERED INTO A DRAWING FOR A FREE T SHIRT. ONLY NORTH AMERICAN RESIDENTS, PLEASE. I WILL CONTACT THE WINNER FOR THE MAILING ADDRESS.

I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com <http://BookSneeze.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Reviews

Outlive Your Life, by Max Lucado

I have an aversion to art created solely for promotion. When I heard Lucado wrote Outlive Your Life with World Vision in mind and 100% of his royalty was being donated to projects,  I lost interest in the book even before opening it. But, to not read it would break my streak–Having read every Lucado, I just had to. I’m glad I did.

This book is not about World Vision per se; it’s about living the Gospel Commission with fervor. And that excites me. Very much. Except for illustrations from World Vision’s work around the globe, the book is entirely a persuasive appeal to every Christian, every church, to get back to the model of the early Christian Church.

My opinion is that over the past several years, self-centeredness has made a slow, subtle creep into the Christian market. Under the guise of spiritual formation, today’s hot topics center on self–working on your personal relationship with God, developing a personal Bible study plan, setting personal goals for a better lifestyle. No doubt, intimacy with God is absolutely essential and is the cornerstone of a solid Christian life. But there’s something wrong when our need to get more of God has cleverly taken priority over our responsibility to give more to God.

Lucado, of course, is not tactless as I am. Couched in diplomacy and biblical examples, he urges the reader to take a long, hard look at the church in the Acts of the Apostles. He tells you why through inspiring stories. He paints an almost-like-heaven picture of a world where every Christian lives like the early church. And he calls you to imagine  the what if’s–“What if we rocked the world with hope?”

Over and over again, Lucado points out how–in theory–living an active Christian life is easy. Statistically, we have the wherewithal to do this. He gives this example: There 145 million orphans in the world and 236 million professing Christians in the United States. Technically this should be an equation that equals zero orphans in the world! Something to think about, huh? Read the book; there’s so much more.

I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com <http://BookSneeze.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Reviews

Same Kind of Different As Me, by Ron Hall & Denver Moore with Lynn Vincent

On the surface, this a true story about two very different men who are serendipitously brought together to create a life that they eventually share together. One is an illiterate, penniless sharecropper fleeing his life of slavery; the other is a man on a personal mission to wealth and success. The woman who brings them together is one man’s friend and the other man’s wife.

Deeper though, between the words and pages that tell their stories, is another story. And it is about God’s hand of miracle creating a purpose and providential plan for Denver Moore and Deborah & Ron Hall.

Either way you read it, you’ll need a mega portion of faith to accept the book as non fiction. Just hearing it told in the first person by Denver and Ron is not enough to make it real for the average reader. Even the verifiable events and places in the story and the photographs at the back of the book don’t make up for the supernatural eeriness that permeates the last two-thirds of the book. From Deb0rah’s dream that foretells Ron and Denver’s friendship to Denver’s recurring prophetic visions to the “visitations” by angels and the dead, the story brings heaven and earth a little too close for the average reader’s comfort.

But to the reader who believes in a God who communicates with ordinary everyday people, who believes that every one is called by God for a purpose, this book is an affirmation of the worthiness of life on earth. It is book that will tug at the godliness of the reader to make his life the best that it can be–through the power of God.

And to the reader who has never experienced God, open the book with an open mind. You just may be surprised by what you hear and feel by the end of the book.

To tell you more would give away the story.

(I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com <http://BookSneeze.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255)
Reviews

Fearless, by Max Lucado

Fearless arrived in the mail at 2 pm today. Four hours, several snacks and a few pillow fluffings later, I’ve come to the last page. And I feel affirmed of my normalcy, of my humaness. I also feel encouraged about tomorrow and what it could bring. The book has challenged me to take fear on with the power of God’s presence

If you are a Christian feeling the brunt of life–death, recession, disappointment, whatever–and are afraid, this is a must-read, an investment to a better future. Of course, it doesn’t magically take the bad stuff away or blind you to harsh realities. But it does help change your attitude and perspective.The overall theme of the book is that in order to live in contentment and peace–in spite of the fearful situations in life–you need to believe that God is in control and you need to let God be in control.

Fears are real and creep into all our lives.”Yet left unchecked, they metastasize into obsessions” (p.80). This does not mean that you should not be proactive or make calculated decisions. Lacado points out that there is a fine line between prudence and paranoia–Use judgment and common sense in practical and spiritual choices, but don’t get drowned while contemplating on all the things that could go wrong.

With his usual mastery of storytelling, Lucado weaves lives of people into practical lessons of coping with fear. His honest exposition of the topic includes an examination of his own fears. I found the book very relevant it connects the subject with present time–people gripped in difficult economic situations. The book makes the exorcism of fear a personal journey and places a caring Savior right in the middle of all of our worries.

My favorite part of the book was early on in the book –Lucado describes Jesus sleeping on the boat during a storm and the disciples interpreting his sound sleep as a Master who did not care. From this, the author draws two points crucial to surviving fear: 1) Fear can unravel our belief in God’s goodness; 2) Being a Christian does not exclude tough, scary times. Throughout the book, he comes back to these two points in different ways. The bottom line is you can curl up and give up or you can live unafraid, knowing that “if it hasn’t gotten better, it’s not the end.”

In Lucado’s eloquent words: ” Getting on board with Christ can mean getting soaked with Christ.”

(Note: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com <http://BookSneeze.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255)

Reviews

Lead Like Ike, by Geoff Loftus

The premise of this book is great–there are valuable leadership and administrative lessons and strategies to be gleaned from Dwight Eisenhower’s D-Day operations.

However, the book lacks practical application of these lessons. Throughout the historical narrative of Eisenhower’s operations are text boxes with administrative nuggets. But that’s where it ends. There is no how-to or strategy on implementing these ideas in today’s business setting. An example–On page 78 the lesson gleaned is ” Knock ’em out. If your mission is to put your competition out of business, you can’t afford to do it in a leisurely fashion. When opportunity knocks, go after it fast.” Besides the fact that it is ludicrous to imply that anyone’s “mission” would be reduced to merely putting someone else out of  business, the author fails to tell you how to get this done.

The book also assumes the reader has a good grasp of history and Eisenhower. For example, chapter two jumps right into lessons to be learned from Operation Torch without any background or clue about Torch. The only introduction to it is the last paragraph of chapter one that connects Torch to North Africa.

The book is really more about how Ike led than how to lead like Ike. And that’s the content; the language and intermittent use of colloquialism is another issue.

The book did not “knock me out.”

(Note: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com <http://BookSneeze.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255)