Archive for the ‘Book Review’ Category

Book Review – Crazy Love by Francis Chan

Product Details Over my vacation I read Francis Chan’s book, Crazy Love (not to be confused with the summer blockbuster, Crazy, Stupid, Love). I have a lot of respect for this man, so I was really looking forward to this read. I have seen him speak and I feel like he can be a riveting and powerful speaker, but I found the book to be a bit dry at times. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy or feel inspired by this book in many ways.

I really, really did!

In fact, there were many very convicting chapters and concepts, especially towards the middle section of the book. But both the beginning and the end of the book did not hold my interest as much as I was expecting they would. I did appreciate the fact that he included video clips on his book website, crazylovebook.com. I felt this resource enhanced my reading experience.

Overall, I do feel as if I have been challenged to be more giving and loving. I really felt convicted during chapter four, “Profile of the Lukewarm.” It was almost painful to read through that chapter! I felt the same way about chapter eight, “Profile of the Obsessed.”

Francis Chan has a gut-level honest way of saying the truth that reminds me of one of my all-time favorite modern-day “prophets,” the late Keith Green. You feel convicted to your core, but also a little bruised and weary at times too. Don’t get me wrong. He never says something in a judgmental way. He simply brings light to the sharp and penetrating* power of God’s Word.

After reading this book, I am moved to be more loving, more givingmore like Christ. I don’t want to live my life for my own personal desires and goals, but instead for Christ’s purposes and glory. To do anything less than that is falling short of my calling as a believer, as a Christian.

Even with my slight disappointment, I still feel like Francis Chan packs a powerful punch in Crazy Love . . .

So I would give his book an A- rating.

If you are a believer and looking to hone your purpose in life, this book will give you many things to think about and even more things to get busy doing!

*Hebrews 4:12

Today’s post is linked to – No Ordinary Blog Hop and

A Few Highlights from My Vacation

For the past two weeks I’ve been on vacation. (In fact, I’m still relaxing at my In-laws cabin in Dandridge, Tennessee as I type!) But I wanted to share some of the highlights from our trip so far . . .

Our first stop was at King’s Dominion Amusement Park near Richmond, Virginia.

The guys especially liked the “Intimidator” with such amazing drops that you nearly black-out at the end! Oh, and don’t forget to compare my youngest, Braden’s, hair with the first pic. I think that gives you a visual of the rush of air you encounter on these rides!

A quick stop at Colonial Williamsburg just in front of the Governor’s Palace.

A nice shot on Virginia Beach of my three good-looking sons.

We took a little tour of Cape Henry’s lighthouses – one of which was the first built in America.

We went to Steven Furtick’s church, Elevation, in Charlotte, North Carolina. Elevation posts all of their sermon series they’ve had over the years on this wall. (BTW, Steven wrote the book, Sun Stand Still. Check out my review of his book here.)

Sun Stand Still by Steven Furtick – Book Review

There have only been two books in my life (other than the Bible) that have spiritually inspired me to such a significant degree and this book is one of them. Granted, both of the books were read while I was at a very discouraged point, desperately seeking answers. But regardless, in my opinion this is a great book.

As many of you know, last week I took a week off, out of discouragement, to unplug from life and plug into God. All I did was pray, journal, read my Bible and read this book for several days in a row. Amazingly, I felt as if God spoke to me loudly even on the very next day of my “fast.” And by day three and four, I felt even greater clarity about what God was saying to me.

I have to give credit for that clarity to this book and the way God is using Steven’s humble heart and message.

The idea behind the book is taken from Joshua chapter 10, when Joshua prayed an audacious prayer for God to make the sun stand still long enough for the Israelite army to defeat their enemies. That may seem like a selfish prayer, but Joshua was simply acting upon the victory God had already promised him. At the point when Joshua prayed his prayer, things weren’t going the Israelite’s way. But Joshua didn’t give up in the face of “discouragement” or seeming defeat. He claimed what God so graciously wanted to give him and the entire nation, so that God’s power would be demonstrated.

There were two major “ah ha” moments (among many) for me that I had while reading this book. The first was realizing just how much I look to people to give me confidence and confirm my direction or ability. But Furtick reminded me that it’s all about God! God is the one who makes the good things in my life happen—not me! You might think that wouldn’t be an encouraging thing to realize. But the reality is that I feel a huge weight being lifted and a renewed desire to focus completely on Him as He is strong in my weakness.

Now, let me back up a little—Furtick is no “name it and claim it” kind of preacher. He simply wants us to realize how “good” and how “great” our God is. And if we really believe that, then we will be bold enough, “audacious” (a word that Furtick should coin!) enough to ask God for big things. Now that doesn’t mean we can feed our “cash cow.” This isn’t about making our lives easier. This is about daring to walk into dangerous territory knowing that God will go before us to do great things!

I’m guilty—I have to admit that I’ve prayed wimpy, non-pushy prayers because I didn’t want to presume upon God! This was my second “ah ha” moment. I think somewhere along the line I picked up the idea that it’s wrong to presume that anyone would give me something good. I should beg and plead for it—because I don’t deserve it—and then quietly back peddle if anyone, but especially God, says “no.”

My old view of God is way too small, too weak, and so terribly stingy! Now I’m learning to view Him as a hugely loving and generous God who wants me to ask Him for big, bold, audacious requests—because He can deliver! Wow—such a gracious God, we serve! Who knew?!

I give Steven Furtick’s book, Sun Stand Still, an A++ rating.

So don’t just sit there, go buy it today! If you take Furtick’s message to heart, it will be the first of many great things you’ll do!

Mary Beth Chapman’s Choosing to SEE – Book Review

Product DetailsI give the book, Choosing to SEE by Mary Beth Chapman an A+.

In case you don’t know, Mary Beth is the wife of Grammy and Dove Award winning Christian recording artist, Steven Curtis Chapman.  Her book is an autobiographical account of their life leading up to the tragic accidental death of their five year old adopted daughter, Maria, and then how God brought them through that dark valley to find hope.

I have to say, Choosing to SEE is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. The first half of the book opened my eyes to the challenges Mary Beth faced, like chronic depression, issues with body image, as well as, marital conflicts. She also takes the reader along on their God-inspired journey to adopt, not one, not two, but eventually three daughters from China.

By the middle of the book she took a detailed and graphic look at the day they lost their beloved daughter. It brought me to tears, not just for the loss of Maria, but for the devastation it brought to their son, Will, who was the one who accidentally hit her with their SUV. Let me tell you, I didn’t stop crying (off and on) throughout the rest of the book—and I’m not a crier! But they were good tears—cleansing tears. I think that’s because I resonated with so many of the feelings and issues Mary Beth encountered. So if you are going through a valley experience, this will speak profoundly to you as well.

Mary Beth amazed me with her brutal honesty, in not only hard truths, but also in humorous moments. She drew me close when she shared her doubts, and she inspired me when her family refused to let this tragedy define or defeat them—truly believing that God is in control no matter how bitter the circumstances.

Back in May of this year, I wrote a music review of her husband’s recently released CD, Beauty Will Rise. This recording was also inspired by the tragic loss and as I listen now to the CD, I’ve discovered an unexpected bonus. I understand a little more of the background and the meaning of each song, (even the wording of each song) since reading the book, giving me a renewed appreciation for this particular CD.

To wrap it up: if you are looking for a book that you won’t soon forget, this is it.

And if you’re looking for a book that will inspire you to trust God in the worst of circumstances, this is it!

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Book Review – Disappointment with God

I give Disappointment with God by Philip Yancey an A-.

I read Disappointment with God about 15 years ago.  At the time, I remember thinking that it was very insightful and helpful.  I also recommended it highly to those who were questioning God’s goodness.  Since that time, I haven’t been able to locate my copy of the book.  But while on vacation, I found a copy at a discount bookstore, so I decided to buy it again and reread it.  Here’s my latest review of this classic book.

I must say that I wasn’t as impressed by the book this time around only because Yancey sometimes seemed to repeat concepts more than I felt necessary, and at times, he uses language more appropriate for a theologian than the average reader.  However, in the very first chapter, he grabbed my attention with an encounter he’d had with a discouraged young writer.  This young man was on the cusp of getting his first book published—ironically on the life of the “down-and-out” Bible character, Job. Once the young writer had written his book, he encountered several “disappointments,” which seemed to knock the young writer’s fledgling faith out from under him.  This set the stage for Yancey’s exploration of how God works.

In his book, Yancey focuses on three main questions:

  1. Is God unfair?
  2. Is God silent?
  3. Is God hidden?

He examines, with an insightful eye, the biblical stories of everyone from Adam to Jesus, pulling out interesting details that I would have certainly overlooked.  Here are the four main impressions I gained from the book:

  1. God wants a love relationship with us more than anything.
  2. God is fair, but life is not—at least not until we experience life in Heaven.
  3. God’s ways of relating to His people have changed throughout the ages—allowing faith to supersede obedience.
  4. God has a divine “shyness” at times that is necessary to develop our faith.

After all these years, I still feel this is a worthwhile read for anyone who struggles with disappointment in life or in God.  As I alluded to before, it can be a bit intellectual at times, but I feel like it is often the intellectual person who struggles most with the apparent incongruity of God at times.  Overall, Disappointment with God is great book that I would recommend especially for those who struggle in this area.

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Don Miller’s A Million Miles in a Thousand Years – Book Review

I give A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller an A-.

Writing a book review on Don Miller’s A Million Miles in a Thousand Years is tricky because I don’t agree with everything he asserts or concludes.  In fact, it seems at times he revels in stepping over conventional Christian lines.  But Don has such a unique way of communicating that I find myself putting aside my concerns and like a tourist going along for fun-filled ride through his wonder-world.

Years ago, I read Don’s first memoir, Blue Like Jazz. For the most part, I found it, in parts, inspirational and overall very entertaining.  The same can be said for A Million Miles, however, I think I appreciate this effort just a tad bit more.

First of all, this book covers a lot of ground, literally and figuratively.  Don starts out with a dilemma.  His first memoir was so successful that a couple of movie producers wanted to make a movie out of his life loosely based on his book, Blue Like Jazz.  The only problem was that his life needed to be jazzed up! The reality that his life is boring and mundane sends Don on a quest for meaning and purpose.

You will find that this book covers everything from Don’s unfinished business with a father who abandoned him after his parent’s divorce, to some profound ponderings on life and relationships, to a crash course on the important elements of story for any aspiring writer, to discovering what he had been missing in the story of his real life.  He is amazing at weaving all of these elements together with precision and gut-level honesty.  I feel like his writing style is mesmerizing—like listening to a good friend tell you his deepest, darkest secrets.  I read it in just three or four days, which is rather fast for me.

If you need to let go of past hurts, move forward, or simply want to make a difference, no matter what you think of the guy and his philosophy of life or Christianity, this book will give you a lot to chew on, and in one way or another, inspire you to live a better life.

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Book Review – The Me I Want To Be

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I’m going to start a new practice.  Whenever I read a good book, I’m going to review it for you on my blog.  This time my review is on John Ortberg’s latest book, The Me I Want to Be, Becoming God’s Best Version of You.

John Ortberg has been one of my all-time favorite authors.  However, his last few books have left me somewhat frustrated.  This book is no exception, however, I must say that I enjoyed it better than I have some of his more recent titles like, When the Game is Over, It All Goes Back in the Box, and God is Closer than You Think.  (To be fair, I did not read another more recent title, Faith and Doubt)

If I were to rate The Me I Want to Be, I would give it a B+.  Some of his other older titles I would have given an A or even A+.  Those titles are, Everybody’s Normal till You Get to Know Them, Love Beyond Reason, and If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat.

I’m going to start with what I didn’t like first, since I want more emphasis given to what I did like than what I didn’t. What I did like overshadowed my dislike of certain aspects of this book.

Here’s what I didn’t like about The Me I Want to Be:

  • I didn’t agree with his advice in chapter 4.  He said that if going to church has become an obligation to you, (perhaps out of a difficult season in your life), quit going for a while with the belief that your desire will return.  I strongly disagree.  I think this is dangerous advice.  If we cut ourselves off from church and biblical community during those vulnerable times, I believe, we are allowing a tired spiritual life to turn into a calloused one.  Those are the times we need to seek support from other Christ-followers the most.
  • I also did not like the organization of a paradigm he used in chapter 6.  Sometimes the names in the quadrants did not match up with the descriptions he gave—it was somewhat confusing.  I also wasn’t sure I agreed with some of the assertions he made in the descriptions of the paradigm.
  • I felt as if the spiritual heart-beat of the book could have been stronger.  He did great with this aspect in the last section of the book, but a so-so job in the rest of the book.
  • I felt somewhat frustrated by the various indicators he used to help readers discover their identities because they were not sufficiently connected together chapter to chapter.  I expected and hoped for a culmination and there really wasn’t any.

Here’s what I did like about The Me I Want to Be:

  • His trademark humor is fairly consistent in this book, however, I do not feel it is as funny as those A+ offerings mentioned above.
  • I felt challenged to grow closer to God and to take greater faith risks, especially near the end of the book.
  • I appreciated his various explorations into discovering our identity through various indicators; how we grow, identifying our desires, identifying our learning style, identifying signature sins, etc.  (although, as mentioned above, they were not sufficiently connected)
  • I liked some of the strategies he offered for working on problem areas.
  • I liked his emphasis on “setting our mind”—changing troubling thought patterns.
  • I liked his emphasis on developing accountability and support relationships.

Overall, I feel this is a good read and would recommend reading it because I feel the good far outweighs the bad.

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