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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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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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Ghost Boy by Martin Pestorius

ghost boyAn absolutely amazing story! From the first chapter all the way to the end I found myself not wanting to put this book down as I was drawn so deeply into the life of Martin. Several things amaze me about this book.

First of all, it is an autobiography. The story alone is amazing but the fact that Pistorius writes it all himself is astounding. The style, the flow, the way he describes things are all so beautiful and well done. It’s surprising that he didn’t use a ghost writer.

Second, it was a learning experience for me like none other. To be able to enter into the mind and experiences of someone with these disabilities helps widen my world view, my understanding, and my compassion for those suffering with disabilities. The abuse he received as many treated him less than human is tragic. Martin gives us an insider’s view that is very rare. That said, I felt that for the most part he left out the subject of God and religion. Certainly he mentions God a few brief moments. Toward the end he briefly mentions that God will be the center of their marriage which reveals that God is a bigger part of his life than he has told.

Third, it was inspirational to see how someone with so very little was able to accomplish so much. We take for granted so much in our everyday life. To make a single sound, to pour a cup of coffee, or sit up without falling over – all of these were things Martin could not do. And yet he overcame his limitations, graduated from college, found full time employment, and married the woman of his dreams. Incredible!

This is a book that will bless you enormously as it did me!

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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Blessed Child by Ted Dekker and Bill Bright

_240_360_Book.957.coverA thriller from start to finish, this is one book I had a hard time putting down. I’ve read Ted Dekker before and so I knew his writing was strong and gripping – I wasn’t disappointed. What WAS surprising, was the strong evangelistic emphasis in this novel. Maybe that is the influence of Bill Bright.

Although the story follows the boy Caleb’s miraculous ability to heal, the message is not that healing of the body is the most important, but the greatest healing is that of the soul. This was strongly emphasized in the second half of the book. And in the end it was made very clear that there is only one way to the Father and that is through Jesus Christ.

At times the spiritual experiences described in this book seem ‘over the top’ but as Bill Bright comments in a note at the end of the book, these miracles are no less spectacular than those found throughout the Scripture. We are normally so closed to the spiritual world that we don’t see it as real.

I finished this book encouraged in faith and longing for a closer relationship to Christ. That’s more than most novels are able to accomplish. 

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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Turning Your Down Into Up by Gregory L. Jantz

Turning Your Down into Up is a book written for people who are suffering from depression. I found this book to be very practical and useful. Although I haven’t experienced the kind of depression that Dr. Jantz describes, I found it very helpful to know the symptoms and as a pastor I can use this resource as a help to those who are in need.

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Each chapter is filled with practical examples of the stories of those who struggle and the background issues behind their depression. Jantz fills his book with so many varied examples that it seems that anyone with depression should be able to find a point of contact and help.

I found it very insightful that Jantz gives homework at the end of each chapter as well as the use of journaling. This is not just about knowing the causes or issues involved but he asks the reader to actually do something in your life about it.

Also, his approach to depression is holistic. For example it can be caused by family background, abuse, present loss, chemical imbalance, spiritual issues or any combination of these. I appreciate that he spent a chapter on the spiritual issues and healing that is needed although I wish it was more of a central topic than just one of many chapters.

But all in all, I would recommend this book for anyone who is suffering depression.

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I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

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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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Heresy by Michael Coren

“Heresy” seems to deal with many issues that attack Christians today and cut them down. These are reasons that the world persecutes Christians. Each chapter deals with a false assumption about Christianity and then tears that assumption apart.

Coren begins with a fascinating introductory chapter which gives numerous examples of persecution of Christians and mistreatment in comparison to those of other religions. After the meaty introduction, you wonder why Christians are so terribly singled out. And it leads right into the first chapter.

Then he starts on the nine myths or heresies about Christians that are meant to be the most outlandish or shocking and therefore get the most attention. For example: Hitler was a Christian or the DaVinci Code controversy. For most chapters he briefly describes the accusation (heresy) against Christians and then gives example after example after example that disprove it. Some of the chapters are almost biographical. For example, he answers the accusation against Christians being stupid by giving short bios of seven brilliant British Christian authors. He has a similar tactic for most chapters.

This book is valuable as a resource if I ever need to deal with that particular issue. But at times I had the feeling that the author simply was cutting and pasting from his extensive research in order to fill the chapter with enough material to support his point. Granted, there were some very powerful insights, but for most of the book, Coren goes overboard with too many examples that are commonly known. Where is the unique insight that this book can contribute to these issues that hasn’t already been said?

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A Shot of Faith to the Head

This book is not light reading to say the least. But neither is it difficult to understand. Mitch Stokes does an outstanding job of communicating deep concepts that are at the heart of the belief in atheism.

Stokes divides his book into three parts which confront each of the three main arguments against the existence of God: You cannot prove there is a God. Science proves there is no God. Evil in the world proves there is no God. He then systematically and logically tears each of these arguments apart and really leaves the believer with an arsenal to discuss against atheists. To help us capture each argument, he gives us a set of bullet points at the end of each chapter.

I’ve taken several weeks to read this to let the thoughts sink in, and this book has really opened my eyes to a number of concepts I hadn’t seen before. Every Christian ought to read such a book to reinforce what they already know and believe. No, you’re not an unthinking fool to believe in God. Belief in God is simply the most logical explanation for everything we see and experience around us.

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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Your Church is Too Safe by Mark Buchanan

Mark Buchanan wrote a powerful book which directly confronts many of the prejudices held by Christians today. Each chapter takes a theme that needs to be confronted in the church and he challenges us with a story from the Scripture that dealt with such an issue.

There are two things that are exceptional about this book. First, the topics that he deals with are very real and controversial today. For example include ministry to homosexuals, dealing with a religious spirit, and hospitality to those off the streets. Amazingly, he is able to juggle these topics without falling into liberalism or explaining away the Scriptural view. Instead he brings us right back to what the Scripture teaches every time.

The second exceptional thing about this book is the style. Buchanan is a very gifted writer – much more than most Christian writers with an ability to open the eyes of our imagination with his stories. And the stories he tells (many from his own congregation) are amazing and sometimes so shocking that the images remain in your mind for days. For example, he tells of the woman of the street showing up at church on Sunday morning devouring handfuls of bread and several little cups of wine during communion not because she was hungry and thirsty, but because she was hungry and thirsty for the grace of God. Such stories stick with you for a long time.

He also used other images that were just as powerful. The chapter entitled “Going to Mordor” was, in my opinion, the best of the book. He took Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” and connected it with our ministry as Christians in going out to save the lost. As Christians we are not merely “tourists” but we are “travelers” on our way through a journey instead of being a tourist merely dabbling in wares along the way.

There is a lot of food for thought in this book and I will be returning to his ideas over and over again.

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