Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Zondervan and Thomas Nelson have put a ton of titles on sale from their catalogue. Obviously, it’s going to be a bit hit-and-miss, but here are a few worth checking out:

The Culture of Like

Aimee Byrd:

Really, what’s going on beneath much of our playful, self-indulgent, liking banter ruse is the fact that it’s all a marketing ploy. Is it a coincidence that I liked a fitness website and now I get ads run on my page for losing weight and breast implants? I don’t know, maybe some comments I’ve made about exercise also contributed. But the point is, advertisers are trying to customize to our liking. Every commercial on TV now wants us to like them on Facebook. Their crazy computer spiders (how creepy is that?) skulk on our every cyber-move and pounce in with the customized add. Liking a website is their free ticket to advertise their latest sell.

Merry Christmas from Chuck Norris

Remember Van Damme’s ultimate splits commercial? I think CGI Chuck’s got him beat:

When nothing created everything

Joe Carter:

Throughout history people have been awed and thrilled by retellings of their culture’s creation story.

Aztecs would tell of the Lady of the Skirt of Snakes, Phoenicians about the Zophashamin, and Jews and Christians about the one true God—Yahweh. But there is one unfortunate group—the children of atheistic materialists—that has no creation myth to call its own. When an inquisitive tyke asks who created the sun, the animals, and mankind, their materialist parents can only tell them to read a book by Carl Sagan or Richard Dawkins.

But what sort of story are they likely to find? Should they be told, as famed astrophysicist Stephen Hawking claims in his book The Grand Design, that “the universe . . . create[d] itself from nothing”?

Since Hawking’s explanation is a bit too drab and not specific enough for bedtime reading, I’ve decided to take the elements of materialism and shape them into a purportedly accurate, though mythic, narrative. This is what our culture has been missing for far too long—a creation story for young atheistic materialists.

Get Saved From What? in today’s $5 Friday at Ligonier.org

Today you can get Saved From What? by R.C. Sproul (ePub) for only $5 in today’s $5 Friday sale at Ligonier.org. Other items on sale:

  • Who is the Holy Spirit teaching series by Sinclair Ferguson (audio and video download)
  • The Truth of the Cross by R.C. Sproul (audiobook)
  • Reformation Profiles teaching series by Stephen Nichols (audio and video download)

$5 Friday ends tonight at 11:59:59 PM Eastern.

22 Productivity Principles from the Book of Proverbs

Eric McKiddie:

Some of these principles you can find in secular productivity literature today. (Indeed, many of the proverbs can be found in secular ancient Near East literature, verbatim.) But seeing them in God-breathed Scripture reminds us to adopt those principles with a God-centered perspective. Other principles in the list don’t get as much ink or pixels in productivity books or blogs. Let us consider how to incorporate those in our mindset and our workflow, so that we can glorify God all the more in the work that we do.

My favorite books of 2013

That season has come around once again, where top ten lists abound! As you know, reading is one the few hobbies I have, regularly reading well over 100 books a year. With that much reading, it’s no surprise that there’s a range of quality. Most are in that “good, but not earth-shattering” category, a few were so bad I’m not sure how they were even published… but a few were legitimately great. Here are the ones that made the cut this year:

Jesus on Every Page by David P. Murray

Jesus on Every Page by David Murray

From my review:

One thing is clear as you read Jesus on Every Page: Murray’s excitement for the subject matter is palpable, particularly when he shares 10 ways we can find Jesus in the Old Testament. Jesus can be found in creation, in the characters we meet, in the Law itself, in the history of God’s people, in the OT prophets, in the work of Israel’s poets… Christ is everywhere—even showing up in person on occasion.

Learn more or buy it at Westminster Books or Amazon.


Death by Living by N.D. Wilson

death-by-living

From my review:

N.D. Wilson’s writing is an acquired taste. His writing isn’t entirely linear. He follows the rabbit trails of his mind wherever they lead. He leads you to conclusions in a way that’s sometimes so subtle it’s easy to miss. But, if you follow him where he leads as he celebrates lives lived well, you’ll see this important truth: our lives are meant to be spent. As much as we lament time passing us by, as much as we loathe the idea of death, we can see even death as a gift.

Learn more or buy it at Westminster Books or Amazon.


Boring by Michael Kelley

boring-michael-kelley

From my review:

For years, a number of authors keep saying they want to write about why it’s okay to be “ordinary.” I’m glad one finally did. Boring is a much-needed book, one that is sure to be a relief for many weary Christians who are exhausted by the unrealistic expectations of the radical, even as it calls us to a greater demonstration of faith: being obedient right where we are.

Learn more or buy it at Amazon.


The End of Our Exploring by Matthew Lee Anderson

The End of Our Exploring by Matthew Lee Anderson

From my review:

Too many of us struggle to understand how to ask questions well or even understand the purpose of a question. But Anderson gives us a framework for asking the right questions in the right way that I’m sure will be valuable for years to come. This book is a wonderful gift to readers of all stripes; I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Learn more or buy it at Amazon.


The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce

fantastic-flying-lessmore

This book, written for kids five and older, is a wonderful love letter to reading, and a fantastic reminder that regardless of how you read, it’s story that really matters.

Learn more or buy it at Amazon.


Sound Doctrine by Bobby Jamieson

sound-doctrine-jamieson

From my review:

Jamieson’s book is thoughtful, helpful, and packed full of wisdom. It succeeds in reminding us that sound doctrine truly is for all of life—and it’s a book you can’t easily walk away from without feeling at least a touch of conviction. Indeed, we all too easily take the implications of our doctrine for granted.

Learn more or buy it at Westminster Books or Amazon.


Five Points by John Piper

9781781912522_p0_v2_s260x420

From my review:

Piper desperately wants to see the love of God in the five points of Calvinism; to see the doctrines of grace manifest their fruit: faithful joy in the lives of God’s people.Five Points is the kind of book I want to give to the person who struggles with the idea of Calvinism. It’s readable, challenging, thoughtful, and, most importantly, faithful to God’s Word.

Learn more or buy it at Westminster Books or Amazon.


Is God Anti-Gay? by Sam Allberry

is-god-antigay-allberry

From my review:

…the blood of Christ is sufficient to cover even the worst of sins. Homosexuals aren’t a special class of sinner outside the reach of the grace of God. In Is God Anti-Gay?, Allberry does a tremendous job of equipping Christians to think biblically about homosexuality and, Lord willing, to use what they know to reach the homosexual community with the love of God and see them, like all sinners, “repent and believe.”

Learn more or buy it at Westminster Books or Amazon.


Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman

fortunately__the_milk

The second non-traditional entry on this list (scary, isn’t it?). If you were proto-emo in the 90s, you were a fan of Neil Gaiman’s fantasy comic, The Sandman. This book is not The Sandman. Instead, this is a fun, quirky story for kids 8–11 where the only angst comes from wondering when Dad’s going to get home with the milk. I really enjoyed it (even if my daughter didn’t).

Learn more or buy it at Amazon.


Sensing Jesus by Zack Eswine

sensing-jesus

From my review:

Sensing Jesus, by the author’s own admission, is meant to be a slow burn. If you blast through this book, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. “Apprenticeship needs meditation and time,” as he puts it (27). Readers would do well to take Eswine at his word. Read slowly and thoughtfully. Make lots of notes. Be willing to recognize where you see yourself in its pages, and consider how God might challenge you through it to recover the humanity of your ministry.

Learn more or buy it at Westminster Books or Amazon.


And just for fun, here are a couple of honorable mentions:

  • Humble Orthodoxy by Joshua Harris (my review)
  • The Pastor’s Justification by Jared C. Wilson (my review)
  • Crucifying Morality by R W Glenn (my review)

See what made the cut in years past:

So that’s my list—what were a few of your top reads this year?

I’m giving you a whole pile of books for Christmas!

One of the things I’m most grateful for about this blog is the opportunity to share great books with you—and this Christmas, I have the privilege of giving some of you a ridiculous pile of great books! In partnership with the fine folks at Crossway Books, David C. Cook, Thomas Nelson, B&H Books, and Cruciform Press, I’m giving away a whole pile of books (keep reading for the complete list). But there’s more than books this time around—Logos Bible Software has generously included three copies of the Logos 5 starter base package, featuring nearly 200 books! You’ll need to sign up for a free Logos account in order to win (which you can do here); you can also download free apps to read your books on any device here. Here’s a look at all the books in this year’s prize pack:1

… and don’t be surprised if you see some more items added to the list before the giveaway is through! Best of all, three of you will be receiving this fantastic collection of books! You read that right—there are three sets to win. To enter, all you need to do is use the PunchTab widget below and answer the following question in the comments: What’s the big thing God’s been teaching you in 2013?

This contest ends on Friday, December 20th at midnight. Thanks to all who enter!

One final note: Logos Bible Software would like to send a special thank you to all participants who enter using the email entry option in the Punch Tab app (nothing spammy, I promise!). As a thank you from Logos, you’ll receive a discount on the purchase of several titles, including To Live is Christ To Die is Gain for $14.95 (regular $16.95), and 15 percent off both The Pursuit of God and Spiritual Waypoints.

Book Review: Slave by John MacArthur

Title: Slave: The Hidden Truth About Your Identity in Christ
Author: John MacArthur
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (2010)

“Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus…” (Rom. 1:1). Over and over again, the New Testament’s writers refer to themselves by this one word—doulos. Typically, we see it translated in English as “servant” or “bondservant;” but is that most accurate way to translate it?

Does doulos really mean “servant?”

According to John MacArthur, it would be better translated as “slave.” In his latest book, Slave: The Hidden Truth About Your Identity in Christ, he examines the implications of what it means for each of us to be a slave of Christ.

MacArthur’s teaching gifts are on full display in Slave as he provides valuable insight into slavery in first century Rome, and illustrates how that understanding allows Christians today to better appreciate much of the language of Paul and the New Testament writers as they describe their relationship to Christ.

Against the historical backdrop of slavery, our Lord’s call to self-sacrifice becomes that much more vivid. A slave’s life was one of complete surrender, submission, and service to the master—and the people of Jesus’ day would have immediately recognized the parallel. Christ’s invitation to follow Him was an invitation to that same kind of life. (p. 43)

In reality, Slave isn’t simply about making readers see themselves as slaves of Christ. MacArthur, by focusing on the doctrines of grace—the total depravity of man, God’s unconditional election, particular redemption, irresistible grace and the perseverance of the saints—gives readers a complete picture of who we are in Christ.

This ultimately culminates in MacArthur’s exposition of the doctrine of adoption. That is, all who put their faith in Christ are not merely slaves, we are also His sons and daughters adopted into God’s family with all the rights of a natural born child. [Read more...]

Looking Back: My Favorite Books of 2010

My love of reading good books has only increased in this last year. Over the course of the year, I decided to track how many books I read (and how many audiobooks were listened to).

Turns out that, as of this writing, I’ve read and listened to a combined 96 books in 2010. (People always ask me how I can read so much; now I’m beginning to wonder, too…)

Of these, some good, some great and at least a couple that were made of poop sandwiches, I want to share with you some of the best of the bunch—the ten or so books I read this year that were helpful, meaningful and enjoyable. There were a few others that probably should have made the list, but I had to restrain myself.

With that in mind, I give you the list:

Business & Leadership

Free by Chris Anderson

Why I liked it: I’ve listened to this one two or three times since I downloaded it from Audible.com (free, naturally). All about the history and power of “free,” Anderson demonstrates how the concept of giving something away is a powerful tool to help make money. But more than that, “free” is changing our expectations (for example, the expectation on the web is that nearly everything is—or should be—free). While the author is a little too broad in some of his assertions, I found it to be a really insightful and very challenging look at marketing best practices, and just how much the concept of free is transforming how we think and how we do business. Well worth reading or listening to.

Linchpin by Seth Godin

Why I liked it: The big idea of the book is discovering what it means to be indispensable. And the one of the keys is to see yourself as an artist in what you do. Do everything with excellence (even the dreary stuff) and be someone who “ships” (i.e. you get things done).

Godin’s thinking in this book is very much in line with a number of other works from the last couple of years like Fake Work, Why Work Sucks, Grown Up Digital and Drive. It’s less about showing up to do work that may not be in line with the vision and goals of your company and more about doing work that matters. And speaking of Drive

Drive by Daniel Pink

Why I liked it: In the industrial economy, carrots & sticks always seemed to work best to motivate people—if they do well, give them a reward (a raise, an extra day off) and if they don’t, well, perhaps it’s time for the pink slip. But what happens when that doesn’t work anymore? How do you motivate people in the information age?

Daniel Pink narrows it down to three factors: Autonomy, mastery and purpose. When people are given some level of control over what they do, the opportunity to become “masters” in it and the work is connected to a larger purpose (beyond making some person rich), Pink’s research has shown that employee satisfaction increases dramatically and the work they do gets better. We’ve been using these general ideas in our departmental reviews for about a year and it’s been extraordinarily helpful.

And as a bonus, the book also helped potty train our daughter.

Biography & Memoirs

Decision Points by George W. Bush

Why I liked It: I downloaded the unabridged audio from Audbile.com a few weeks back as a lark. Bush comes across as a far more thoughtful, capable and likable man than he was ever portrayed in the media. While no doubt the truth lies somewhere in the middle of how Bush (and—I assume—his ghostwriter) describes events and what the media gave us, it’s a fascinating look at the life and presidency of America’s 43rd President.

Fun fact about the book: Bush includes a surprisingly thorough and accurate gospel presentation in the book. I was not expecting that.

Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas

Why I liked it: What I learned from Bonhoeffer, aside from gaining a wider understanding historically of the conditions in Germany that led to Hitler’s rise to power, and aside from discovering a deeper knowledge of the life of a twentieth century martyr, I gained a glimpse of what a life lived fully in-tune with one’s theological convictions can look like. Bonhoeffer’s focus on costly discipleship reminds us that the Christian life is one that is active, not merely reactive. And this is something we would do well to remember always.

Read my full review here. [Read more...]

Book Review: Seeds of Turmoil by Bryant Wright

Title: Seeds of Turmoil: The Biblical Roots of the Inevitable Crisis in the Middle East
Author: Bryant Wright
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (2010)

It’s rare that a day goes by when there isn’t a new story in the media about the ongoing turmoil in the Middle East. Despite attempts to forge a lasting peace, there is none to be found. Temporary cease-fires give way to full-scale conflict. Suicide bombers wreak havoc throughout the region. Iran’s president has stated his desire to wipe Israel off the map. It seems like no matter what action is taken, no matter who is involved in peace talks, it just keeps going.

Buy why? Why is there such turmoil in this region—and why is Israel at the center of it?

The root of the problem, says author Bryant Wright in Seeds of Turmoil, lies in the sinful actions of one man: Abraham.

In part one of Seeds of Turmoil (which is the bulk of the text), Wright walks readers through the biblical account of the birth of Abraham’s children, Isaac and Ishmael, and of the rivalry between his grandchildren, Jacob and Esau, explaining how the prophecies made about each are still coming to bear in our present age.

These chapters read very much like sermon or lecture transcripts. There is a great deal of repetition that in a series of messages would feel quite natural (reminding & reinforcing what was learned the week prior); however, in print form it falls a bit flat as a reader moves from one chapter to the next in relatively quick succession.

Even still, I can understand why Wright felt the need to cover the same ground in multiple chapters—it’s important to stress that the conflict that exists today is, in a very real sense, a conflict between two “brothers.”

Had Sarah, in an act of unbelief, not told Abraham to sleep with Hagar (which he did without complaint), Ishmael would never have been born and God would never have said of him that he would be “a wild donkey of a man, his hand against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he shall dwell over against all his kinsmen” (Gen. 16:12)—a prophecy ultimately fulfilled in the modern Arab nations of the Middle East. Similarly, had Jacob not stolen the blessing of Esau, there would not be the strife that exists between Israel and Edom (modern-day Jordan).

These chapters also do a solid job of stressing the seriousness of sin. Abraham committed (consensual) adultery. Jacob committed identity theft. And the consequences are felt to this very day. [Read more...]

Book Review: Outlive Your Life by Max Lucado

Title: Outlive Your Life
Author: Max Lucado
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (2010)

Some time ago, I was in the president’s office at a Christian NGO and noticed a new book on his desk. Making conversation, I asked, “What’s that one about?” It’s about the Christian’s responsibility in areas of poverty and injustice, he said. I made a mental note and determined to give it a read.

A couple weeks later, I began to read Outlive Your Life by Max Lucado. Over the course of 16 chapters, Lucado loosely examines the first twelve chapters of Acts in an attempt to show readers how they “were made to make a difference” in the lives of impoverished men, women and children around the globe.

Christian books on social justice and caring for the poor are tricky things. There’s a tendency to turn a God-honoring act into “God’s mandate” for the Christian life. A false gospel based around our work, rather than Christ’s work on the cross.

So where does Outlive Your Life land?

A weird place.

First, what did I like about this book?

Lucado is a very fast-paced writer; his style is easy-going, light and conversational. The plus side of this is that it makes this book a very quick read. The chapters are short (usually no more than about 4-5 pages) and you can breeze through it in a couple hours.

Lucado’s use of illustrations from everyday life help makes his subject matter come alive. He generally portrays himself as a bit of a goober, so you get the impression that he’s just a regular guy who puts his pants on one leg at a time (but when he puts his pants on, he sells hundreds of thousands of books).

When it comes down to the content, I greatly appreciated chapter 15, “Pray first; pray most.” This section in particular was a strong reminder of the importance of prayer and why everything we do, if we are followers of Christ, should be saturated with prayer.

Additionally, I did appreciate the idea behind the chapter, “Don’t write anyone off.” There’s no one that God can’t save—so why would we write off anyone as “unsave-able” when God is capable of doing more than we can imagine? After all, He saved Paul, who persecuted the Church & murdered Christians and used him as His instrument to spread the gospel throughout Asia Minor, and into Rome.

Now, having said that, there is a lot that concerned me about Outlive Your Life.

Some of it’s just goofy, like a strangely graphic description of a temple guard on page 78 (that I’m not entirely sure is historically accurate) that wouldn’t seem out of place in the movie 300. There’s some creative speculation into biblical stories in an attempt to engage readers… But there’s also this prevalent notion that sound doctrine isn’t as important as actions and working together for the common good. [Read more...]

Book Review: The Boy Who Changed the World by Andy Andrews

Title: The Boy Who Changed the World
Author: Andy Andrews
Publisher: Thomas Nelson/Tommy Nelson (2010)

Andy Andrews is an author who desires to inspire. In the last book of his I read, The Noticer (reviewed here), Andrews sought to show readers how a bit of perspective on their circumstances can completely change their outlook on life. In his latest, The Boy Who Changed the World (a children’s book), Andrews seeks to encourage young readers to make the most of their lives.

Andrews quickly tells the stories of four men: Norman Borlaug, a farm boy from Iowa who grew up to develop a seed that has helped feed billions of people; Henry Wallace, 33rd Vice President of the United States who, as a boy, loved learning about plants and, as an adult, hired Borlaug to develop his “super seed;” George Washington Carver, a student who taught Wallace all about plants (and later became a teacher & scientist who discovered 266 different things you can do with peanuts); and Moses Carver, a farmer who rescued young George from bandits who’d burned down Carver’s barn and raised George as his own son.

As Andrews shows, each one affected the others in ways that none of them could have anticipated. If Moses hadn’t rescued George, George would never have gone on to teach Henry about plants. And if Henry hadn’t learned about plants, he’d never have gone on to be the Secretary of Agriculture and then Vice President, and he’d never have hired Norman to develop his super seed.

In these inspirational tales, Andrews wants children to know one thing: “Your life matters more than you know.” This is a good message for children (and adults, too).It’s a reminder that the decisions we make have far reaching consequences, for good and bad; you never know what’s going to happen because chose to serve in the children’s ministry at your church. You never know the impact of a great teacher or even a dad who spends real quality time with his kids.

Because the book (like all of Andrews’ books) is designed to inspire broadly, it’s a strong moral message. Where The Boy Who Changed the World falls flat is that because it’s so focused on inspiring kids to see how their lives matter, (“God made your life so important…”), if taken alone, the message can leave kids (and adults) thinking, “Wow, God made me really special. I must be really something,” but miss the fact that He does so for His glory and not our own.

All that said, I did enjoy The Boy Who Changed the World and am comfortable sharing with my daughters. I believe that parents will, overall, find the book helpful and be able to use it to encourage discussion as a family about how God might use each of us to make an impact in our communities and (maybe) the world.

An electronic copy of this book was provided for review purposes by the publishers

Book Review: Permission to Speak Freely by Anne Jackson

Title: Permission to Speak Freely
Author: Anne Jackson
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (2010)

“What is one thing you feel you can’t say in church?”

When Anne Jackson published that question on her blog in May, 2008, she wasn’t prepared for the response. 497 comments (and counting) later, she knew she’d hit on something significant: A large number of people feel like they can’t be open and honest about their struggles with their church.

Jackson knows something about this. As the daughter of a Southern Baptist pastor, Jackson struggled with pornography addiction, sexual promiscuity, substance abuse, sexual abuse at the hands of a youth pastor and depression. For years, she never felt the freedom to share these things with anyone but those closest to her (including her husband). In Permission to Speak Freely, Jackson shares her struggles and what she’s learned about the healing & freedom that comes from opening up about our sins, temptations and abuses we may have faced.

This book is messy. Jackson’s writing is alternatingly funny, raw, and at times all-together heartbreaking. Reading her struggles with depression and attempts to push away her husband… this really hit me hard as a man whose wife struggles with depression.

In all honesty, the fact that she could even gather up the courage to share her struggles the way she has in Permission to Speak Freely is to be applauded. It’s extremely helpful for others to know they’re not alone in facing depression, sexual temptation, pornography addictions… The worst thing we can do to ourselves in our sin is to convince ourselves that we’re the only ones who face whatever it is that tempts or has power over us. Sharing her experiences with pornography, drugs and depression shows others that they too can overcome. They can speak up. They can be healed. They can have hope.

This—what she refers to in the book as “the gift of going second”—is a great gift indeed.

There were, however, a some things in the pages of Permission to Speak Freely that didn’t sit quite right. [Read more...]

Book Review: Anne Bradstreet by D. B. Kellogg

Title: Anne Bradstreet
Author: D. B. Kellogg
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (2010)

The colonization of America in the 17th century was a fascinating time period. The circumstances that drove men and women to travel for weeks to forge a new life for themselves in what would become the United States are beyond what most of us can fathom. And the story is often told as acts of relentless heroism and bravery in the face of uncertainty.

Except when it comes to the Puritans. The Salem witch trials and an inflexible attitude & work ethic are, sadly, what the bulk of us think of when we consider the Puritans who founded much of New England.

And because of this, it’s easy to overlook figures like Anne Bradstreet, a devoted Puritan, wife, mother and… poet. Published as part of Thomas Nelson’s Christian Encounters series, Anne Bradstreet by D. B. Kellogg offers readers a taste of the life of this extremely unusual figure.

And unusual she was. [Read more...]

DVD Review – Read and Share: The Jesus Series, Life and Miracles

Title: Read and Share: The Jesus Series, Life and Miracles
Publisher: Tommy Nelson (Thomas Nelson Kids)

Good quality children’s videos are hard to find, and I’m not just talking about faith-based ones. As a picky parent, it’s really important to me to have video content that I’m comfortable with for my daughters. So I was intrigued when I received a copy of Read and Share: The Jesus Series, Life and Miracles.

Based on Gwen Ellis’ Read and Share Bible, this 30-minute video takes viewers on a very fast overview of Jesus’ three year ministry. I found that, overall, the stories were handled well, particularly the feeding of the five thousand and the last supper. Given the amount of content they covered in a short amount of time, this is an astonishing feat.

There were, however, a few things that didn’t sit quite right with me. Many are simply preference, but a significant one (to me) was the assertion that Jesus “found twelve good men” to be His disciples. While I understand that they need to keep the stories age-appropriate, and a lengthy discussion about the sinfulness of mankind might be more than the average three-year-old can handle, it’s something for parents to be aware of so they can discuss.

The art style, taken directly from the Read and Share Bible, is very cute and eye-catching. That said, I think it’s a style that is better served by a 2-D approach (rather than CGI).

Finally—and I know this is probably a niggling thing—but all the characters are very, very Caucasian. At this point, I suspect we all realize that Jesus wasn’t white (given that He was born in the Middle East), so why do we still depict Him as such in our children’s products?

So that about covers the grown-up perspective. Now for the most important question:

What was my daughter’s reaction?

We sat down to watch the video during lunch and her eyes were glued to the screen. Her attention was fixed on the story (a miracle in itself since she’s three!), and when it was over, she asked, “Can we watch it again?”

We ended up watching this video four or five times in one day, and it’s still one of her most frequent requests.

Overall, I was satisfied with Read and Share: The Jesus Series, Life and Miracles. If I had to choose between (most) VeggieTales selections and this, Life and Miracles wins hands down.

A complimentary copy of this DVD was provided for review through Thomas Nelson’s Booksneeze program

Book Review: Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas


Title: Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy
Author: Eric Metaxas
Publisher: Thomas Nelson

World War II is unquestionably one of the most devastating events in human history.  Like perhaps no other, it is a testimony to the evil of which man is capable.

Hitler’s extraordinary rise to power and his reign led to Germany’s rising out of the shame of their defeat in the First World War, followed quickly by the nation’s devastation as its desperate people bought into the promises of their false messiah. Along the way, tens of millions of men, women and children were brutally murdered.

And, seemingly, no one could stop them.

But not all of Germany’s people were deceived. Some stood against the Nazis.

Among them was Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a pastor and author whose works, including The Cost of Discipleship and Life Together, are still widely read today.

Eric Metaxas’ Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy is the first major biography on this important figure in forty years. Relying on past biographies, interviews and letters from Bonhoeffer written over the course of his life, Metaxas paints a captivating picture of this twentieth century martyr. [Read more...]

Book Review: Plan B by Pete Wilson

plan-b

Title: Plan B: What Do You Do When God Doesn’t Show Up the Way You Thought He Would?
Author: Pete Wilson
Publisher: Thomas Nelson

I wish books like Plan B didn’t need to be written.

And if I had to guess its author, Pete Wilson, does too.

“Do you remember the day you discovered your life wasn’t going to turn out quite the way you thought?” asks Wilson (p. 1).

Whether it’s a certain job, or for children, marriage—whatever it may be—we’ve all got plans and dreams for our lives. The question is, are our plans and God’s the same?

Whatever you wanted for your life, if you’re a Christian, you may well have assumed God wanted it for you as well. You might not admit it, even to yourself, but you were pretty sure God was going to sweep down and provide for you as only God could do.

The problem is, what you assumed was not necessarily what happened. (p. 4)

Wilson reveals our issue when dealing with any sort of trial: We are completely flabbergasted when it happens! We assume that our plans are what God intends—and when those things don’t work out, we’re left spinning our wheels.

And Wilson seeks to encourage his readers to move forward in their new normal and look to Christ as their only source of fulfillment.

Loving People with the Cross

One of the things I appreciate most in Plan B is Wilson’s obvious pastoral heart. His love for people saturates every word of this book as he describes the end of marriages, the self-destructive behavior of godly parents’ children and a host of other situations.

But, where it becomes most evident is when he approached the real issue: The cross.

“You need to know that the cross is not just the starting line,” he writes. “It’s the very centerpiece of your story with God. It’s the place where the pain of ‘you will have trouble’ meets the triumph of ‘I have defeated the world.’” (p. 149) [Read more...]

Book Review: Free Book by Brian Tome


Title: Free Book
Author: Brian Tome
Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Are you living a life of freedom or one of fear? That’s the question at the heart of pastor & author Brian Tome’s latest, Free Book. Tome is “a fanatic about freedom” (p.3). He hates that people are beaten down by systems that prevent them from experiencing true freedom, “the kind of freedom that God offers” (p. 4). He wants to see people living in that freedom. And that is a good desire. How he expresses this desire, however, is lacking.

Lost in the Noise

This book is a bit of a mixed bag. There are some really good and helpful things, but much of it is just noise. And sometimes it’s a real challenge to see which is which.

Tome like far too many authors, tries too hard to be funny and edgy. He goes for the punchline, for the “shocking” statement in an attempt to show his freedom and it’s incredibly unappealing as a reader. It actually made me want to not read the book. He talks about his hatred of wearing a motorcycle helmet and how, whenever he’s in a state where it’s not required, he’ll ride without. This is one of the ways he exercises his freedom in Christ. The Spirit is a Spirit of freedom yes, but He’s also the Spirit of wisdom. Freedom is not an excuse to be foolish.

Other points are contradictory or just plain silly. Defining freedom, Tome writes, “Freedom is being who God designed you to be. It’s living free of condemnation and free of others’ concern. It’s developing a healthy conscience and not allowing things in your past that you’ve repented and been forgiven of to still taint your conscience. It’s believing that if God is okay with you, then who gives a rip if someone else isn’t?” (p. 19) Now, in a certain sense, this is true. We should rest in the assurance of God’s favor, absolutely. “If God is for us, who can be against us?” wrote Paul in Romans 8:31. However, it doesn’t excuse the valid concerns of others, something that Tome even acknowledges later in the book. “If your community says you have a blind spot, you probably do” (p. 193). [Read more...]