Tag Archives: Book Review

Into the Fray

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I had never heard of Matt Mikalatos before requesting this book but the idea of the book of Acts basically retold for today intrigued me. I never thought of Acts as being a tough book to understand or read through but as I read Into the Fray I was reintroduced to the story of Acts through storytelling that grabbed my attention and caused me to think again of how miraculous and amazing the stories written and shared in this book of the Bible actually are. Unfortunately, many times we read over them without a second thought and we do this to our own detriment.

There are many main characters throughout the book of Acts, for instance, Paul, Peter, Barnabas, the Philippian jailer, Lydia, the demon possessed girl, the Ethiopian eunuch and many more. However, the story of Acts is unequivocally the story of how God worked in the early church through the Holy Spirit to draw many people to Himself and cause the church to spread throughout the world like a wildfire. If not for the Holy Spirit, none of what is shared in Acts would have been possible. The church never would have impacted the world as it did and it would have torn itself to shreds from within. How else could the stories shared in Acts have actually happened apart from the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit? It would be impossible.

How does the author go about reaching his objective? Each chapter begins with a retelling of a story in Acts as if it happened today. He does not cover every single story in Acts in this manner because the book would have been well over 700 pages. Instead, he picks 14 stories to share using language from today that does not take away or add anything to the story, but simply retells it from a revised perspective. But why is this even necessary? Could people not just read the book of Acts as it is and be amazed? Yes. This book is not trying to take the place of Acts in the Biblical canon, it is simply retelling stories that many times we read over and have lost the amazement of how miraculous many stories actually are. For example, one story that many people in Christian circles just kind of gloss over is the story of Ananias and Sapphira. This story should produce a fear in people about how seriously God takes things in His church. This couple sold land, and gave money to the church, but apparently were deceptive in their giving and thus they were both killed for it. In Acts 5:11, it says that as a result of Ananias and Sapphira, “great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things.” Imagine if this kind of fear came upon the church today? Imagine how much of an impact it would have on how people interact with each other and how people go about with their daily lives? Unfortunately, we read stories like this and simply believe God just does not deal with people like that anymore and thus the story is just read over without much thought given to it. You also do not hear many sermons on this topic today but imagine if we did?

Simply stated, Matt Mikalatos does a great job with this book and his retelling of some of the stories from Acts. As I read through the book, I found myself challenged in what I thought about God and how He works. Have I been guilty of trying to control how God works? Or have I simply been presenting myself to God to work in whatever manner He chose? While reading through Acts, it is easy to see that even though there were times of disagreement between people in the church, they allowed Him to move in and through them as He saw fit. They did not put restrictions on God as we many times do today. Imagine a church today with the fear of God and mindset of the church in Acts? It would truly be an unstoppable force.

In one of the last chapters, Matt writes the following: “May God grant us the ability to speak the good news we have experienced without embarrassment, with boldness, and with simplicity.” It is a statement I have been challenged to begin praying in my own life. I long to see God work in and through my life as He did in the book of Acts. He is the same God today as He was then and is perfectly capable of doing the same thing today that He did in Acts. I pray that I would not lose the wonder of seeing and desiring God to move in my life in the same way He did in the New Testament.

Disclaimer: In accordance with FTC regulations, I received this book from Baker Books in return for a review of the book.


Essentialism

Essentialism

Essentialism is for the busy person looking for a way to take control of their lives. Essentialism, as the front flap says, is not about “getting more done in less time, but getting only the right things done.” Focusing on the right things can be a difficult task, especially for the person stuck wearing many hats. This book is similar to What’s Best Next by Matt Perman, you can read my review for that book here, but without the Gospel woven into everything.

Essentialism is divided into 4 parts: Essence, Explore, Eliminate and Execute. Essence is all about the mindset of someone who wants to focus on the essentials of life and goes through how what we do with our lives is basically our choice. When it comes to our day and how we plan it out, we have the choice with most things we do. For many businessmen or women, there are things that are required but Greg talks about how each person needs to choose what they take part in and what they wind up giving their time to and learn how to say no to things that are not essential. He uses personal stories to help drive this story home. Along with that he speaks of needing discernment and learning how to make trade-offs when it comes to our choices.

The second part goes deeper into the idea of discernment and how if we are to be successful at becoming an essentialist, we need to determine what is essential to our lives. Greg drives this point home with these essential parts of what every “essentialist” should have in their lives: escape, look, play, sleep, and select. Each of these parts is important for a person to keep their wits about them. I specifically enjoyed the section on play. He mentioned a couple companies that strategically placed times of “play” in their employees work day and the benefits that resulted from those times.

Part 3 is about elimination, what can be eliminated from our lives that keep us from focusing on the essentials. This starts with clarify, the moves on to dare, uncommit, edit, and limit. So far, you can see that Essentialism is pretty basic but the author’s intention is to help people make the decisions necessary to become more focused and not allow the things on the peripheral to get more attention from us then they need. This part is probably the hardest for most of us because sometimes we do not want to eliminate anything from our lives, no matter how trivial it may seem or no matter how much we know we need to cut it out. It can be compared to the person who knows they need to diet but loves food so much they do not want to cut anything out. For us to gain control of our lives elimination is a must and this part helps lead someone through deciding and discerning what can be cut out.

The last part is what most everyone struggles with: execution. Even the best laid plans fail if there is no execution. No matter how many books you read on productivity, or how many apps you have on your smartphone to get things done, it does not matter if there is no execution on our part. Imagine a sports team training for a big game. They go through drills over and over again, they watch film of themselves, they watch film of their opponent, and they plan. Coaches will sit down and come up with a plan of attack on how to play their opponents and then they will practice that plan, and keep practicing until they feel they are ready. However, at the end of any big game, if you ask the coach of the losing team what went wrong, many times you will hear something similar to this: “we just didn’t execute our plan.” This is where the rubber meets the road. If you fail to execute what you just spent time reading, then nothing will change in your life and years will pass by and you will wonder what happened.

Overall, this book is a good book for someone wanting to simplify their lives and learn how to become an “essentialist.” I cannot say it is my favorite but the author makes some great points and it helps that he has actually experienced what he is writing about. This is not a bad book though and if you find yourself struggling to catch your breath because of everything pulling at you, pick up this book as it is simple and easy to read but also practical.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review as a part of their Blogging for Books program in exchange for an honest review.


What is Biblical Theology?

What is Biblical Theology

Can Biblical theology be covered fully enough in just over 100 pages? The simple answer is no, but that is not the aim of this book. Jim Hamilton knows there is much more to the topic, so he does not dig as deep as you can, but stays at the surface to keep the book simple but effective. The question this book addresses is “How do you read the Bible?” Jim Hamilton sets out to help people see the Bible as a whole instead of simply as parts. As I have grown older, I have come to understand the Bible was written to be taken wholly as one complete book about God and His plan for the world, and not just little parts. Too often, when I was younger, as I would read the Bible, I would read it as a self-help book. I would believe the Bible was written to simply help me become a better person and to make something of my life. I thought it was all about me. However, the Bible is not all about me, it is all about God. God is the center and when we put ourselves at the center, we miss the whole point of the Bible.

The back of the book has this to say:

The Bible recounts a single story – one that began at creation, encompasses our lives today, and will continue until Christ’s return and beyond. In What is Biblical Theology?, Jim Hamilton introduces us to this narrative, helping us understand the worldview of the biblical writers so that we can read the Old and New Testament as those authors intended. Tracing the key patterns, symbols, and themes that bind the Bible together, this book will help you understand Scripture’s unified message and find your placein the great story of redemption.

This book is written to help people understand Biblical theology, and thus, be better able to read and understand the Bible as a whole. In the book, biblical theology is “the interpretive perspective reflected in the way the biblical authors have presented their understanding of earlier Scripture, redemptive history, and the events they are describing, recounting, celebrating, or addressing in narratives, poems, proverbs, letters, and apocalypses” (p. 16).

This book would be a great addition for someone who does not have the time or money to attend a Bible or theology school. What is Biblical Theology is not written to be an “end-all” book on theology, but in my opinion, this book would be great for the person who desires to understand the Bible on a deeper level while they read. It is simple enough for the casual reader to understand but deep enough to give the reader a beginning grasp of biblical theology.

If you are someone who has not had the Biblical education you might have wanted or desired, pick this book up as it will help you in your understanding of the Bible and grow your devotional life along the way. If you are a seasoned pastor who has been in the ministry for years, this book would be worth your time as it might help you find ways to make the Bible come alive to the people in your congregation.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Crossway in exchange for this review. Thanks for taking the time to read this review and feel free to leave comments or questions.

 


Everyday Church.

Everyday Church by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis

Do you believe the time is coming where the church in America is going to have to make some changes with how it attempts to reach non-believers with the Gospel? Do you believe the church in America can continue to wait for the world to come darken its doors? Do you believe that we might be missing something if that is our mindset? According to Everyday Church, 85 million Americans will never come to church. There are various reasons why they will never come to church but that is not the point. The point here is that if we continue to wait for the church to come to us, we will basically miss any opportunity to share the gospel with much of the population. With that mindset, Tim Chester and Steve Timmis approach the topic of how to really do church. With that said, this review is going to be brief but not because there is not much to include. The opposite is true in that there is so much truth within these pages, you will need to pick it up for yourself.

Everyday Church is basically an exposition of 1 Peter. Steve and Tim do an amazing job of breaking down the text and helping the reader understand it from the early church perspective and then applying it to our current culture. They make a point I believe many modern day American Christians would not necessarily agree with in that they say Christians today have been pushed to the margins. No longer are Christians sought after for wisdom and ideas. We are no longer at the center of the culture. We have been pushed to the edges and whenever we speak up, people want us to just go back to our buildings and leave them alone. They want us to stop “judging” them. The best defense Christians have for the faith is Christians truly living out their faith. If we are not living in such a way to make Christ look attractive, then why would the world want to believe? The authors present the book of 1 Peter as the perfect guide to help us rediscover the way to really impact the world with the Gospel and it is through our everyday lives, not our events. Events can make an impact, but it is our lives that truly draw people to desire a relationship with the Lord.

One of the ways they encourage us to live the gospel every day is to stop creating groups in the church to ask non-believing friends to join, but instead to join groups in your community already formed. They encourage us to put more importance on the everyday living than on just the big events. They are not saying avoid them, but if we are to make a lasting impression on our communities, we will need to step outside our walls and meet people where they are.

Read some of the following quotes taken from the book:

“Christians are like immigrants, foreigners, temporary residents, refugees. We do not belong. We do not have the rights of citizens. We are outsiders. We are living on the edge of the culture.”

“We need to do church and mission in the context of everyday life…We must think of church as a community of people who share life, ordinary life. “

Speaking of Christians in our culture today, “We may not often be persecuted, but we are marginalized.”

“We cannot claim to be faithfully proclaiming the gospel to the lost through our Sunday preaching when most of the lost do not attend church. We need to do mission outside church and church events.”

“We need to discover or recover the sense that if this year we are not imprisoned, then it has been a good year in which by the grace of God, we have gotten off lightly.”

“Love and passion and enthusiasm are infectious…You will never attract people to Jesus if you are not excited about Jesus. Enthusiasm creates interest. Passion breeds passion. Loving Jesus is the antidote to legalism.”

The last part of this book I want to touch on in this review is here in this culture today, we need to stop believing that missionaries only need to be sent overseas to preach the Gospel. With 85 million Americans who will never go to church, it is time to start living as missionaries in our own culture. We need to recover the idea that this world is not our home, we are just passing through, and our mission in our short time here is to share the Gospel with the world around us. It takes our lives…the lives that happen Monday through Saturday, not just the life we live on Sunday.

Tim Chester and Steve Timmis have hit a home run with Everyday Church. As I look back through it, there is something underlined or highlighted on almost every page. This book is a must read for anyone serving in the ministry. Tim and Steve both live in Europe and their insights into the church there are profound. It has been said that if you want to see where America is going culturally, look at Europe. Because of this, I believe what Tim and Steve have experienced in Europe and write about will be extremely profitable for us here in America. And as I already said, if you serve in ministry in any capacity, this book is one you need to pick up. Not only will it open your eyes, it could help change how you see and do church.

Thanks for taking the time to read this review. Comments are welcome.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Crossway in exchange for this review. Thanks for taking the time to read this review and feel free to leave comments or questions.


Draw the Circle by Mark Batterson

 

I once heard a quote that has become pretty famous within a certain context and among those who would call themselves alumni of Liberty University.

“Nothing of eternal significance happens apart from prayer.”

Practically any Liberty University student who attends convocation, Liberty University’s weekly chapel service, would remember hearing this quote at least once. It would be nearly impossible to attend Liberty even for just a semester without hearing that famous quote by the late Jerry Falwell. I personally believe this quote holds immense value and truth and it has challenged me many times to become a man who prays regularly.

With that said, Mark Batterson wrote Draw the Circle with the idea of challenging/inspiring people to pray. Things happen when God’s people pray. Draw the Circle is a devotional book based off of Mark’s recent book on prayer called The Circle Maker. I have not yet read that book but I have every intention of reading it after going through this one. This book is the third one I have read by Mark Batterson and I can honestly say Mark is an author I enjoy reading. I have recently started listening to his Podcast from National Community Church and his speaking is just as challenging. God has blessed Mark with a great vision and passion for the world and how to reach it with the Gospel. However, Mark does not just write out of a distant knowledge of this topic of prayer; he writes from experience. The story of how National Community Church began is one of how important prayer is and should be to followers of Christ. Time after time, God would open doors that only He could open so only He received the glory. And Mark is humble enough to give God the glory for all that has happened.

With Draw the Circle, Mark gives 40 short readings that are full of reasons and challenges to pray. Each story leaves you inspired to begin to pray and to keep praying. He shares personal stories as well as testimonies from people in his church as well as people God has brought into his life. And the great thing about each story is they leave you hungry. Some stories have the knack to make someone believe nothing like that would ever happen to them, it is just a “feel-good” story. The stories Mark share are all the type that make you realize they could happen to you, if you would only take the chance and make praying a priority in your life. This book makes you anxious to begin praying and gets you excited to see what God is going to do, even if you wind up having to wait years before God answers your prayer.

Which brings me to the next great thing about this book; the honesty that Mark writes with is reassuring. He does not lead readers on to thinking that as soon as they start praying, all their prayers will be answered. On the contrary, he is not so naïve to only share stories of successes in praying and quick answers, he also shares those stories where years pass before an answer is given. Even in this light though, it does not take away from the challenge to pray.

I am going to keep this review short because I believe anyone should just go pick up Draw the Circle and read it for yourself. It is worth every minute you take to read it and each day’s reading takes no longer than 5 to 7 minutes so you really have nothing to lose, but so much to gain. This book would even be a great challenge for any church or small group to read through and put into practice as well. So what are you waiting for? Go get a copy for yourself and let it challenge and inspire you to pray, or to keep praying if you are already a prayer warrior. I pray it speaks to you as it did to me.

In compliance with regulations introduced by the Federal Trade Commission, I received a complimentary copy of by Zondervan in exchange for this review.


I Am Not but I know I AM by Louie Giglio

In 2002, I was introduced to Louie Giglio through his ministry to college students, Passion. Then in 2003, along with a couple friends, I traveled to the last actual One Day conference they did in Texas. Even though I have never met him personally, I would have to say he is a man God has used to greatly impact my life for His glory. I am very thankful for the ministry that Louie Giglio and his wife have at Passion as well as Passion City Church in Atlanta, GA. I have been inspired many times listening to podcasts of his as well as messages from the yearly Passion gatherings. Needless to say, because of Louie’s obedience to God’s calling in his life, thousands of people have been impacted and I love hearing how God continues to use him, not because of who he is, but because of how God loves to use people to show His glory to the world.

The last sentence in the above paragraph briefly states what this book is all about: little people like us being brought into the big, amazing, magnificent story of God to be used for His glory. Too often we try to live as if this world centers on us and history is all about us. This leaves us with a very small view of the world and a small view of God. Louie begins his book speaking of how God reveals Himself to Moses through the burning bush as “I AM” and how because of the name God gives Himself, the best way for us to remember who we are is to think of us as “I am not.” It is a play on words that is very simple, yet profound. Louie is great at communicating truths from God’s Word in a very practical and easy to understand way which can have a lasting impact on those who take the time to listen. Is this because Louie brings all this attention to himself or because he is just that gifted? No. He would be the first to point back to God and say that the only reason Passion has taken off like it has is because of the big God he serves and who has invited him to take part in the big story of God. This is what life is all about and the sooner we accept this, the sooner we can begin living a life that will leave a lasting impact in the lives of those people around us.

The synopsis on the back of the book has this to say:

“God is looking for ordinary people to play significant roles in HIS STORY.

Our God is more expansive and powerful than we could ever imagine, the all-mighty creator of galaxies beyond our reach. But He is also the loving creator who has formed and fashioned you. Yet, as valuable as you are to Him, God’s best for your life is to invite you into a story that is all about Him.”

This book spoke to me at the right time in my life in that too often, I forget how small I really am in comparison to God. I feel like God really needs me and that without me, the world would be in a bigger mess, or at least the little part of the world where I am involved. However, when I take a closer look at all that God is in control of, I cannot but be put into my rightful place, which is a benefactor in the story of God. God did not make this story all about Him and then just make us pawns who just go about doing His bidding mindlessly and without a choice. No, God gave us the choice to follow Him and then invited us to take part in the story that is all about Him. When we accept that invitation, our lives take on new meaning which is incomparable to anything this world has to offer. However, so many people are stuck in their own little worlds with a big view of themselves and a little view of God. Even professing followers of Christ can have this mindset. Imagine how the church would change for the better if everyone who was a follower of Christ, and thus a part of the body of Christ, would accept this mindset and opinion of God and themselves? It brings chills to my spine thinking about this because of how the church would be able to change the world because no one would be pointing to themselves or their own accomplishments. Everyone would be pointing to God and what He has accomplished and the fact that God has invited us to take part in this story of God that encompasses all of History.

After listening to Louie speak for so long, I can practically hear him speaking this book as I read it. God has given him a unique ability to speak truth in a way that makes sense and through this, from the start to finish this book will open your eyes. Louie uses Scripture and personal stories to really get the point of this book across to anyone who reads it. You will find yourself amazed but at the same time thinking, “why didn’t I think of that?” However, the biggest thing you will walk away from this book with is a renewed awe of God and thankfulness for being invited to play a part in the story of God.

Something I typically do in my book reviews is include a couple quotes from the book to just whet your appetite a little. Here are a couple for you to ponder that stood out to me:

“God was awesome before we ever heard or spoke His name.”

“You were in the mind of God in eternity past. Yet, as God thought about you and me, His mission wasn’t to point us to ourselves but rather to open our eyes to fully enjoy Him. From the start, God was intent on making sure we knew how truly magnificent He is.”

“And what’s really wild is that while He doesn’t need any of us, He is choosing to include us, inviting us into the Story that never ends.”

I highly recommend this book to anyone who will take the chance to read it. It will inspire you and encourage you in your walk with the Lord and yet remind you how much God truly loves you and longs to have a relationship with you. We do not deserve this place in God’s story He has invited us to share in but God, in His grace, chose to invite us along for the ride. After reading this book, you will have to make a choice: am I going to live as if life is really about me, or will I accept the fact and live out the truth that life and history is ALL about the real “I AM” who was, and is, and is to come?

 

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review as a part of their Blogging for Books program in exchange for an honest review.


Dangerous Calling by Paul David Tripp

 

Dangerous Calling

This book is, simply put, a must read for any individual who desires to enter full-time, part-time or lay pastoral ministry. I would actually go so far as to say that this book would be an eye-opener for anyone in the church because many people in the church do not truly understand everything a pastor faces in his life and ministry. Paul David Tripp does an amazing job of capturing the dangers and temptations that face not just the pastor, but his family as well. Dangerous Calling takes a long, in-depth look at pastoral ministry and reveals what could be considered a darker side of ministry.

Before reading this book, I was only vaguely familiar with Paul Tripp and his ministry, and most of my exposure was through Twitter and a couple podcasts. I must confess that I am pleased I went with the recommendation to review Dangerous Calling. As a part-time youth pastor for the last two years, I have faced only portion of what many pastors have faced throughout their ministry. However, everything I read in Tripp’s book was presented in a clear and understandable way. What Paul writes in this book makes perfect sense and was not only a challenge to me, but also an encouragement because it shows that I am not alone in my struggles, nor will I ever be alone.

From the very beginning of the book, you see that Paul Tripp is not trying to hide behind a façade of seemingly perfect ministry. He is more than willing to share his own personal stories of struggle and weakness as a pastor that God brought him through and used in his own life and ministry to bring him to where he is today. He helps the reader understand that he is not above them looking down on them, but trying to walk alongside of them to encourage them and help them so they do not make some of the same errors he has made. He also uses stories from pastors who have come to him for help and encouragement. However, all of these stories and examples and insight are meant to bring us to the understanding that pastors still need the same grace we preach just as much as those we preach to need it. Pastors have not arrived at a certain level of holiness that has allowed them to become a pastor. Pastors are not above the gospel. Pastors are not at a place in their spiritual walk where they need something besides the gospel to keep them going. The hope of glory according to the Bible is Christ IN us, not Christ AND us. So the gospel includes everything we need to live a life that brings glory to God and leads us into a more intimate relationship with the Lord. This gospel is the same for everyone, from the newest follower of Christ to the most seasoned and battle-worn disciple. We are all saved by the same grace and are all called to make disciples. The temptation thought that faces many pastors today is the idea that they have arrived and they are somehow above those they are preaching too. This could not be further from the truth. Paul Tripp does an amazing job at explaining this in a way that helps humble a pastor but yet encourage them and push them towards the gospel.

I believe this book would do well in the hands of any seminary student as well and would be a very beneficial and insightful text for any would-be-pastor. In one part of the book, Paul shares stories from different seminary classes he has had the opportunity to teach and how it opened his eyes to how seminary is a very beneficial tool to help train ministry leaders, but it can also be extremely dangerous as well if the student’s heart is not truly where it needs to be. This topic is discussed in chapters entitled “Big Theological Brains and Heart Disease” and “More than Knowledge and Skill.” Being a pastor takes more than just theological knowledge and communication skills and counseling wisdom. Being a pastor takes a heart that seeks to chase and follow after God’s heart step by step. If the heart is not in it, the person filling the pulpit will do little to truly fill the role of a pastor in their local church. Dangerous Calling served as a great reminder and heart check for me in my ministry. Many times I have found myself falling short of my calling and with how I respond to and love people and this book brought me to an understanding of how I daily need God’s grace and to preach the gospel to myself in order to give me a heart after God’s own heart. The heart is the key to any ministry position and if our heart is left to wander, our ministry will wander as well.

Here are a couple noteworthy quotes from the book:

“In pastoral ministry, it is very hard to keep what God says is important, important in your heart.”

“It is critical to understand that your ministry will always be either propelled by or victimized by what you treasure.”

Being a pastor is much more than just a position to hold or a profession to seek. Your life is always under pressure from both the internal and external. Internally you have a battle raging as a follower of Christ and as someone attempting to lead and shepherd other Christians. You also face external pressures from those very people within your church as well. These pressures can eventually lead a pastor to crack, especially if their heart is not in the right place.

There are so many other quotes I could include or points I could make that I drew from this book but I am just going to strongly encourage you to actually pick up a copy of the book as well and read it for yourself. I highly recommend reading it as your eyes will be opened to the dangerous calling that pastors face. If you are following God’s leading in your life to be a pastor, this book will be great. Or, if you simply want to understand how you can minister to your pastor, this book would be well worth your time.

 

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Crossway in exchange for this review. Thanks for taking the time to read this review and feel free to leave comments or questions.


The Next Christians by Gabe Lyons

The Next Christians by Gabe Lyons

Being an avid reader, I love picking up books by authors who I am unfamiliar with. Gabe Lyons is one of those authors. With this being the first book I have read by Gabe Lyons, I was unsure what to expect but what I came across was a very well written and thought through book. Gabe helped start Catalyst as well as founding a “learning community that mobilizes Christians to advance the common good in society.” This is evident from the moment you open the book.

In today’s society, Christians have not been defined as being “thinkers.” Most people would probably define them as hypocrites, judgmental, and other similar demeaning words. However, this is far from the purpose God founded the church and what He desires from His followers. In Gabe’s first book, he wrote about how society/culture is having a growing disregard for Christians. The Next Christians speaks of how Gabe notices a trend of new Christians who are actively beginning to engage society and culture in a new way.

The Next Christians takes an invigorating look at how Christians can begin to truly impact culture. The previous generation did its best to avoid culture and tried to stay away because of how they were worried culture would impact them. Unfortunately, remaining on the defensive did not keep the culture from impacting the church in a negative way. Now though, as Christians, we need to actively engage the culture for us to have any chance at impacting the world for Christ. We have to be what the Bible calls the “hands and feet” of Jesus. And we have to do this in ways that Jesus did, by going to the broken. Jesus came into the world as a baby and lived among those He desired to reach and save. If we want to see a world changed for God’s glory, we need to do the same thing, be willing to go to where the hurting and broken live.

Towards the beginning of the book, Gabe writes about three different types of Christian approaches to the world: Separatist, Cultural, Restorers. While I might not completely agree with everything in this part of the book, I have to agree with the following statement: “Telling others about Jesus is important, but conversion isn’t their only motive. Their mission is to infuse the world with beauty, grace, justice and love.” If Christians were to truly live this way, the world would begin to change because they would see what following Christ is all about. And when people see genuine examples of Christ followers in the world, they take notice and people change.

This book was a great challenge and I would highly recommend it for anyone to read, especially for someone who feels God leading them into any form of ministry. It is a refreshing book that gives new light on how the younger generation, the next generation, of Christians can truly make a difference for Christ, and Gabe gives some great guideposts to how this can be done. Go ahead and pick up a copy, it will be worth your read.

Thank you for taking the time to read this review. I hope it gives you an idea of what this book contains and whether you want to take the time to read it or not. Feel free to check out any of the other book reviews on my blog: https://thetoddlynn.wordpress.com/ and follow for any new blog posts or reviews.

 

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review as a part of their Blogging for Books program in exchange for an honest review.


Culture Shift by R. Albert Mohler Jr.

Culture Shift by R. Albert Mohler Jr.

This book review truly took me a while to write. I am not always the best with words and when I read a book that is truly intellectually challenging, I want to make sure I do the book justice with my review. However, when you review a book by one of the greatest Christian thinkers of today, it can be quite the daunting task, especially if you do not have a Ph.D. or any other Master’s degree. This book is great for someone who wants to challenge themselves.

One of the biggest struggles for Christianity today is to figure out how to remain Biblically centered but also engaged in the culture to the extent that we can actually make an impact on it. This book will actually help the reader be more prepared to engage the culture here in America. Listen to what the back of the book has to say about Culture Shift:

Mass media and technology are exploding. Popular entertainment relentlessly pushes the envelope. Biomedicine stretches ethical boundaries. Political issues shift with the polls. Christian orthodoxy is questioned on every front. The world in which you live is undergoing a major cultural transformation-one leading to a widespread lack of faith, an increase in moral relativism, and a rejection of absolute truth.

Take a minute and read over that again. Christians are being pushed into silence here in America. The problem comes because Christians are not embracing the Bible wholeheartedly. We allow ourselves to not hold fast to the Word of God which is what we should be clinging to the most. Christians focus more and more on how to live within the culture instead of focusing on how to become more like Christ. We look for reasons to justify our actions instead of standing unwaveringly on the Word of God. We do not want to be different anymore with how we act and thus people who are not followers of Christ are not seeing in our lives reason to become a follower of Christ. In many churches, there are more fights and arguments over new converts. In twenty or thirty years, it is hard to imagine what the church will look like. Culture Shift helps the reader see the kind of changes we have already faced in just the last couple generations.

Now, I do not want to take this review as a platform to bash the American church because that is not what this book is about. This book is about engaging the culture in which we live, and to help you be more prepared to engage. This book touches on morality in public law, free speech, scientific advances, abortion, natural evil and the digital revolution. It was really hard to pick out what to really focus on in this review because basically every chapter is worth the read, especially if you want to have a better understanding of how the culture has already shifted to this point. There is a quote that says if we do not learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it. After reading this book, I am able to see this truth much more clearly. If we as Christians do not learn how to be more engaging with the culture in which we live and yet remain distinctively different, we will cease to look like Christians; we will cease to live as followers of Christ. We are not called to be comfortable, we are called to go and make disciples. Reading this book will help challenge and push you to this extent.

 

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review as a part of their Blogging for Books program.


For the City by Darrin Patrick and Matt Carter

 

This book is a must read for anyone who desires to plant a church or someone in church leadership. Matt Carter and Darrin Patrick have been where any church planter will be. They have also been where any church leader will be. Both of these men have started churches from scratch and have, by God’s Spirit, led them to be impactful churches in their respectful cities. Through all of this, they have had to ask the hard questions that any church will need to ask itself. Matt and Darrin have had to attempt to figure out what their church is going to be all about. For the City attempts to get Christians to come back to the very purpose of the church and how here in America, we might be missing the point with how we do church.

Here is what the back of the book has to say:

“How will the church respond to the needs of people today, as the suburbs shrink and cities expand? Matt Carter and Darrin Patrick challenge Christians and church leaders to take a second look at the church’s calling and responsibility for the renewal and restoration of the city. Hear their stories and learn how you and your entire church can faithfully proclaim the gospel while living out the reality of a community changed and transformed by its message.”

When America was first founded, it seemed that there was always a church near the center of the town. Whereas, it now seems that churches have moved out of the city to the suburbs just like most Christians have moved out of the city to the suburbs. Matt Carter compares how churches have been moving in recent years. He says churches have focused on being a church IN the city, AGAINST the city, or OF the city (p. 24-27). Each of the first 3 statements represented a negative response from the church towards the city whereas a church FOR the city seeks to “speak the truth of the gospel and is not afraid to uphold a biblical worldview and moral standard” (p. 26). It seems that many churches these days, or establishments that call themselves churches, have sacrificed some part of the true calling of the church in order to be relevant with today’s culture. But, whenever you look at the church in the New Testament, or study the church throughout history, it is never called to be relevant; it is called to represent Christ to the world and many times, this is far from being relevant.

For the City is a challenging and very well written book. Matt and Darrin do a very good job of using Scripture as well as personal stories to defend their points while using their own testimonies of how each were led by God to plant a church that was FOR the city. Because of this, they went into the heart of their respective cities, Austin and St. Louis, to start churches. The result of their commitment to follow where God leads them has been growing churches making a lasting impact in their city for God’s glory.

If you are a pastor, church leader or someone who feels God leading you to eventually plant a church, this is a must read for you. Matt and Darrin do a great job of sharing the highs and lows of planting a church because planting a church is not an easy process and they make sure not to sugar coat any part of what they say or make it appear easy to do what God has led them to do. One of my favorite parts of the book was chapter 9 which is simply titled “Confessions.” In this chapter, both of these men share what they see as being where they failed in their church planting and leadership endeavors. I greatly enjoyed their sincerity throughout the whole book. You can truly see how they have a huge heart for the church to get back to its mission here on this earth and not allow the American dream or other pursuits to distract the church from what it was called not only to do, but to be. I pray that God raises up more men to plant churches like these that are not afraid to step out of the suburbs and back into the city.

 

 In compliance with regulations introduced by the Federal Trade Commission, I received a complimentary copy of by Zondervan in exchange for this review.