Category Archives: Christian non-fiction

When God Makes Lemonade

0849964709.jpg_5When God Makes Lemonade is a fantastic book of short but true stories from a very wide variety of authors. Most stories are around 6 pages long  and include a wide spectrum of topics. The tie that binds all these stories together is the tragedy that amazingly turns around into triumph. Although not all stories are clearly focused on God or Christ, most at least point to Biblical principles.

Whether you want to find a story for a sermon, to be encouraged in hard times, or to bring a word of hope to a friend in trouble, this book will help. As a pastor I’ve already used several stories as powerful illustrations and will continue to do so. At the end, Don Jacobson promises that this is merely the first volume of others to come. I’m already looking forward to the next one!

This book has been reviewed as a part of the Book Sneeze 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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Heaven’s Lessons by Steve Sjogren

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Based on the book description, I had assumed that this book was mainly about Steve Sjogren’s near death experience (NDE). It is not. Each chapter begins with a very brief excerpt from his NDE which becomes a launching point into the topic of the chapter.

Basically, this book consists of ten spiritual topics that the author learned from his NDE. The topics are only interrelated because those are the areas in which Sjogren was most impacted. It was an easy read but it didn’t seem like the book really connected as a whole. On the other hand one can take any one chapter as a personal devotional reading or inspirational reading without reading the whole book.

In my perspective, the bottom line is that “Heaven’s Lessons” simply doesn’t offer anything unique or different than what is already out there in numerous sermons or devotional readings. I would rather have simply read more about Sjogren’s NDE than his sermonizing about it.

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Jesus by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola

JesusATheographyCountless books have been written on Jesus from almost every aspect one can think of but what makes this one unique is that this account not only reveals the story of Jesus from the Gospels, but it plumbs the depths of the Old Testament (the “First” Testament as they call it).

Chapter one alone is almost worth the price of the book as the authors explain the concept of Jesus found throughout the Scriptures. Used throughout is a typological interpretation of the Bible. Jesus is seen in images, historical events, and people of the Old Testament. This approach opens up a huge area of new insights for Biblical studies.

One will discover many “pictures” of Jesus because of the use of the Old Testament imagery applied to his life. I found myself making numerous notes on the back pages for future reference. Highlights include: Jesus as the Tree of Life, his view of women, his use of questions, Jesus as the third “thief”, and the comparison between the Ark of the Covenant and the tomb of Christ and many more.

Despite their methodology, I was disappointed to find only three chapters devoted to the themes of Christ in the Old Testament. If fact, they wrote that “an entire book could be written expounding Jesus Christ from Genesis 1 and 2.” Maybe it should have been longer or in two volumes but I felt like much more in depth study of the types of Christ found in the Old Testament could have been done.

Also, at times, things that are mere conjecture are written as if they were fact. Sometimes the connections between Jesus and other events or objects seem stretched or forced. At other times the writers appear to be inserting some kind of sermon into the chapter which doesn’t exactly fit into the flow.

But all in all, this book will remain on my shelf and be utilized many times in the future to use for teaching, for preaching, and inspiration. It’s well worth the purchase and to own as a reference work on Christ which is much more complete than most.

This book has been reviewed as a part of the Book Sneeze 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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Spirit Rising by Jim Cymbala

spirit_risingThe work and ministry of the Holy Spirit is clearly a passion of Jim Cymbala in this book and you can’t help from catching the vision from him.

The opening personal story is absolutely amazing and gripping and definitely reveals the power of the Holy Spirit. And throughout most of this book, Cymbala continues to make his points through the life stories of people that have come through the doors of his Brooklyn Tabernacle church. Just like the rest of his books, the testimonies are what shine.

At the same time I was disappointed that there was so little Biblical teaching. He does spend some time teaching in the Word and his focus is always refreshing but not anything groundbreaking or “meaty.” He hasn’t really added any new insights as he did so effectively with “Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire.”

That said, Cymbala more than makes up for it through the life stories and as you read this you will be inspired and blessed as you witness God change lives in unbelievable ways.

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Tough Guys and Drama Queens by Mark Gregston

I snatched this book up for one reason alone – my son is thirteen and has begun the reeling adolescent years. I was curious what I could learn from Mark Gregston about the months and years ahead. I wasn’t disappointed.

If you have a child or children approaching the teen years or even already in the throes of those years, this book is a must read. It will help you not only to understand your teen but to understand yourself and how to parent in a way that will lead to a better relationship with your teen.

The book begins by exposing how different this generation is from our own. Comparing our own childhood to our children’s is not really possible. The remaining 2/3 of the book deals with very practical issues of parenting. It deals with the parenting practices to avoid and then more importantly, the parenting practices that really work.

I found this book extremely practical and easy to read. The pages are filled with stories of actual teens and their struggles with their parents. Just hearing these stories helps parents realize that they are not alone in the problems they face at home and gives hope even in the worst of circumstances.

What’s the bottom line in issues with teens? Work to build relationship. Gregston does an outstanding job of giving us tools in order to do that as parents.

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Surfing for God by Michael John Cusick

“Surfing For God” is a book for men who struggle in any way with pornography. Cusick’s main thesis is that men who are addicted to pornography are actually looking for the kind of satisfaction and joy that only can come from a relationship to God. About the first third of the book is spent reinforcing that point.

The last 2/3 of the book are much more practical and I felt like he gives teachings that are much more helpful. He nails issues very concretely and gives some very practical solutions. For example: Satan’s tactics, triggers which turn to pornography, crucial difference between guilt and shame, getting through urges to indulge, etc.

Throughout the book Cusick continually illustrates his points with real life examples – many men will be able to relate to this and realize that they are not struggling alone. Most importantly though, he gives examples of men who have been freed of the addiction to pornography and dramatically changed.

Finally, I think that the most powerful point he makes is that most men are missing out on the joy and beauty of the Lord God by being fooled that satisfaction can only be found sexually. Men need to learn to delight in the beauty and presence of the Lord.

I would recommend this book to any man whether you are addicted to pornography or rarely indulge in it. In today’s day, all men to some extent are faced with the temptation that pornography brings. Cusick gives powerful ammunition against it and practical teachings for a deeper, more satisfying relationship with God.

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