American Exceptionalism and Civil Religion

51fi93hwfwl-_sx331_bo1204203200_At first look, I thought that this would be a stuffy and quite honestly boring book on a subject I am not interested in – Politics. But I “accidentally” purchased it and felt obliged to give it a try. Boy was I surprised!

I have to say that this book has forced me to think about many issues concerning my American identity and views that I hadn’t questioned before. Wilsey is not afraid to touch any “sacred cow” among Christian conservatives including President Reagan and Christian homeschooling materials. I’m so thankful that there is someone out there like Wilsey who is willing to look critically at the view of America as the “chosen nation.” I dare say that reading this book has had a great impact on my world view and for that I am greatly indebted to John Wilsey. I believe that the Christian church in America ought to take a close look at the issues he brings up and rethink what it means to be a “city on a hill.” We need to “differentiate the church from the nation while situating the church within the national community.” (p. 222)

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Dataclysm by Christian Rudder

9780385347372_custom-84ac93a546bfd78bead01a68de71b9e85e675dcd-s99-c85            I found this book to be fascinating and enlightening. Christian Rudder uses the data from social media to discover various aspects of our thinking and behavior. The diagrams and figures are very helpful and I felt that I learned a lot about how people today think concerning areas that are not really talked about. For example, Rudder reveals the racism that is floating beneath the surface despite all the political correctness in our society. Much of what this book deals with is relations between men and women which should not be a surprise since Rudder heads a computer dating service and used data from his company for much of the information of this book.

I would highly recommend this book if you want to discover what people who use facebook, twitter, and a dating service are like. This would include a huge segment of the population of the US. What it does not account for is the rest of society. Those who don’t use facebook, twitter, or a dating service which would be the older generation. But also, so many might use facebook but not post anything personal on it.

Even if it’s not a balanced database, the information he does discover is well worth knowing and understanding. It opens our eyes to the world around us that is outside of our little circle.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the Blogging For Books program in exchange for this fair and unbiased review.

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A Parody Survival Guide

1ebe_the_sharknado_survival_guideFirst of all, if you didn’t realize it from the beginning, this is NOT a real survival guide by any means but is a parody of survival techniques. Believe it or not, I accidentally ordered this book without paying close attention and thought it was actually a real survival guide of some freak disasters. Boy was I wrong!

Based on the “Sharknado” film and many other types of sci-fi films, this little book takes you through hilarious unnatural disasters, the dangers involved and ways to ultimately escape with your life. I laughed my way through much of this book – the imagination it took to come up with these scenarios is amazing and very creative.

It’s thanks to this book that I discovered the film “Sharknado” which ended up being one of the funniest films our family has watched in a long time – we were all in tears.

Although I wouldn’t buy this book for myself, I would certainly buy it for my 15 year old son who would enjoy this type of book – it really seems more on his level and is perfect as a birthday or Christmas gift.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the Blogging For Books program from WaterBrook Multnomah in exchange for this fair and unbiased review.

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Great story – sometimes hard to follow

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This is the powerful story of Kevin Adams and his family and how they fell from their financial success and then how God brought them to total surrender through many challenges in their financial situation. They learned to completely trust in God as their provider and that story is awesome.

I gleaned many powerful thoughts from this book and some great insights concerning our relationship to God and waiting upon God’s provision. To see someone who has lived waiting upon God completely gives great credibility instead of simply teaching on it from the Bible.

Many have compared this book to “Blue like Jazz.” For me “The Extravagant Fool” doesn’t even come close to how “Blue Like Jazz” spoke to me and how easy it was to understand. I don’t know what it is, but I had to read some paragraphs two or three times to try and understand what Adams is saying. Am I slow? Maybe it’s all the metaphors? Maybe it’s because I’m not a businessman. I had a hard time understanding the story itself at times and what is concretely going on. Most difficult to understand are the numerous journal entries. It’s almost like he is speaking in some kind of code and I don’t know what that code is – that is, except for journal entry #23, which was filled with pithy sayings or lessons that are truly gems.

I don’t want this review to be totally negative because it’s a powerful story of God’s calling and leading. I have been amazed many times in this book to see how Adams had to literally lay his life on the line in faith – especially with this new calling of being a writer. I hope that he continues to write as God has called him and will be led to bless the body of Christ more than ever.

This book has been reviewed as a part of the Booklook Blogger review program. Thanks to Zondervan Publishers who provided a copy for review. I was not required to write a positive review.

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Greater by Steven Furtick

20140621-104925-38965069Pastor Steven Furtick writes a series of inspirational messages based on the stories of Elisha from the Old Testament. The main point of this book is that God has a great calling for you – a great purpose for your life.

His style is very informal and in that way is easy to read – almost like he’s sitting with you in the back yard talking like old friends. Sometimes it’s a little bit annoying but usually it makes the message more personal.

There were several points in the book which really made me think and I thought were incredibly insightful. My favorite part of the book was Furtick’s story about Lysa who was called by God to homeschool her children rather than travel as an author and motivational speaker. He had this poignant remark which hits the bulls-eye: “Whatever [God] calls you to do is the greatest thing you can be doing at that moment.”

Not everything hit the “bulls-eye” such as the chapter based on the miracle of the floating ax. The teaching points based on the miracle seemed to me to be a stretch. But even so, I believe that the main ideas were solid – it’s just that forcing the biblical text to say these things is manipulation.

The end of the book has excellent study questions and I believe this book would be a good basis for a study group. Overall, I would highly recommend this book to any Christian who would like to rediscover God’s calling for their life.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the Blogging For Books program from WaterBrook Multnomah in exchange for this fair and unbiased review.

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Where the Wind Leads by Vinh Chung

This book is an eye-opening account of the life of a refugee family fleeing from Vietnam in the late 70’s. Extremely detailed, Chung gives an account that stretches for the first section back to his grandparents and all they went through to establish a successful business and then the devastation that the invasion of the communists did to their family.

The second part o0849947561.jpgf this story takes place duringthe escape from Vietnam and all the perils involved. Its mind boggling to read how this family survived through absolutely horrendous circumstances – dozens of times they should have died except for the providence of God.

Finally, the last section of this book tells us how the family survived in America with no money, no language, and no credentials for work. It is here that the details of their interaction with others in America and their adjustment to life here is most revealing.

I have to say that this autobiography has had a major impact on how I view refugees and helped me to realize how important it is for us to lift them up in respect, dignity, and honor. Jesus would first and foremost would have made it a priority to care for people like refugees. We take so much for granted and so easily look down on those who don’t speak English, look different than us, dress strangely and are dirt poor. We simply don’t understand them. Read this book and you will see yourself in their shoes.

This book has been reviewed as a part of the Booklook Blogger review program. Thanks to Thomas Nelson Publishers who provided a copy for review. I was not required to write a positive review.

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The Martian by Andy Weir

An AMAZING BOOK! This is a very realistic novel about a NASA mission to Mars that goes wrong and leaves an astronaut stranded on the planet. The whole book becomes a Mars survival story which adds a lot of dimensions to a typical survival book because it’s a different planet with no people or life whatsoever.91c4ZDFCn1L._SL1500_

There are a lot of technical explanations and engineering that at times are hard to completely understand but for the most part, I was able to follow. Weir presents dozens of “impossible” situations which seem to point to the certain death of Mark Watney, but every time he amazes and cleverly solves each problem. Problem solving is at the heart of this story.

Be warned that there is quite a bit of profanity throughout the book – in fact the very first sentence kicked it off. If that offends you, don’t read this novel.

Weir keeps us in suspense throughout – at no point does it get slow or boring. There is a great balance between Mark Watney, earth, and the crew. If I had time, I would have read the book in almost one sitting. It’s one of those stories where you just HAVE to know what’s going to happen and how he is going to survive this one.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the Blogging For Books program in exchange for this fair and unbiased review.

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It’s a God Thing by Don Jacobson

its-a-god-thing-when-miracles-happen-to-everyday-peopleI enjoyed this book as a follow up to the previous volume “When God makes Lemonade.” These are all brief but amazing stories of how God works in the lives of ordinary people in extra-ordinary ways. Some stories are better than others but they are all wonderful testimonies giving credit to God for his miraculous provision. I wonder if this book is marketed toward women readers as probably a majority of the stories are by women and a number of them about miraculous births.
I’m looking forward to reading the next book of testimonies as soon as it comes out!

This book has been reviewed as a part of the Booklook Blogger review program. Thanks to Thomas Nelson Publishers who provided a copy for review. I was not required to write a positive review.

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A Godward Heart by John Piper

It’s not a book you really read continuously from cover to cover like most. Piper’s A Godward Heart is more of a devotional that you pick up every day or from time to time in order to be inspired by a portion of Scripture or a A-Godward-Heartinspirational theme concerning our relationship with God.

It’s a mixed bag – some meditations are better than others. But, as always, John Piper is an excellent writer and communicator and has insights that are at times brilliant. What I love is that you sense that he is not just exposing the Scripture but he is exposing his own heart as he grapples with God and the Word. Piper is very real and in that way he takes us along in his journey.

My favorite moment revealing that intimacy was when he tells of how he came face to face with a seminary professor who simply said: “I love Jesus.” (p. 22) That simple phrase had a huge impact on Piper – a simple profession that means everything. This is a book that will draw you closer to the Lord in so many ways and so we can thank John Piper for bearing his heart and revealing the Lord in the Word.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the Blogging For Books program from WaterBrook Multnomah in exchange for this fair and unbiased review.

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The question that never goes away by Philip Yancey

QTNGA1-560x1024Philip Yancey returns to his book “Where is God when it hurts?” and responds once again to tragedy in the light of three recent tragedies: the war in Sarajevo, the tsunami in Japan, and the killings at Sandy Hook Elementary.

Yancey spends much of his time making it very clear that there are no easy answers. This is certainly not a book to answer clearly the question: “Why?” Instead he weeps with those who weeps and takes us along into the journey of those involved in these horrible tragedies.

I was most touched by the chapter that delved into the tragedy at Sandy Hook. It was here that Yancey most profoundly finds the words that are a balm in the midst of tragedy as he takes us almost word for word through a memorial he led at a nearby church. After reading this book, I am so thankful for the loved ones that I do have and receive every day I have with them as a gift from God.

This book has been reviewed as a part of the Book Look Blogger review program. Thanks to Zondervan Publishers who provided a copy for review. I was not required to write a positive review.

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