Thursday, July 12, 2018

Review: Anxious for Nothing: Finding Calm in a Chaotic World

Anxious for Nothing: Finding Calm in a Chaotic World Anxious for Nothing: Finding Calm in a Chaotic World by Max Lucado
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

My wife and I listened to this book on audio book while we traveled back home. Overall, this is a fairly decent book. One of the things I really appreciated about it is how it feels almost as a devotional/spiritual formation/practical commentary on the Letter to the Philippians. Lucado did a good job of continually bringing in multiple parts of Paul's letter to help the reader/listener understand various parts of the letter in light of other parts. One caution I had, that I've noticed is a common practice today, is the usage of so much Scripture in references. Now don't get me wrong, I'm all for using a lot of Scripture (I've had students tell me time and again that I use A LOT of scripture when I teach/preach/etc.). What I mean is the passing references to a verse here or a verse there, without the surrounding context of some of that verse. I'm not saying Lucado took any verses 'out-of-context', but what I am saying is that this practice can lead people to believe that they can do the same, having no regard to the author/preacher/whoever's work at studying and summing up the rest of the context while just referencing one verse. I personally believe this one practice has led to much of the division we see today among Christians, but I digress. This book is a great short read/listen. It serves as a challenge and an encouragement to deal with the anxiety present in your life. Using the acronym C.A.L.M. (Celebrate God, Ask Him for help, Leave the problem with Him, & Meditate on good things), Lucado also helps walk the reader/listener through a process by which he/she can practically follow and begin to identify and address the areas and sources of anxiety that are currently present in his/her life. I recommend this book, especially because of its simplicity and brevity to read/listen to and digest.

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Review: Simply Jesus: A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did, and Why He Matters

Simply Jesus: A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did, and Why He Matters Simply Jesus: A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did, and Why He Matters by N.T. Wright
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is a must read (as is most of what I've read thus far by Wright). My mentor said that "Mere Christianity" had been a book that he believed every Christian should read (especially college students), but this book takes the same mission that "Mere Christianity" did and fulfills it from a different angle, with a more modern feel. Having read "The Day the Revolution Began" prior to this one, I can see some of the ideas present in this book that Wright later developed more in that one, but still it was a great read to be challenged, encouraged, and refreshed in my understanding and journey of knowing who Jesus is and why that really matters.

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Monday, June 25, 2018

Review: Revelation's Rhapsody: Listening to the Lyrics of the Lamb: How to Read the Book of Revelation

Revelation's Rhapsody: Listening to the Lyrics of the Lamb: How to Read the Book of Revelation Revelation's Rhapsody: Listening to the Lyrics of the Lamb: How to Read the Book of Revelation by Robert Lowery
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I started this book a number of years ago. This week I'm purposfully taking the week to intentionally study and work on material for the upcoming school year. This was the first book that I wanted to read when re-visiting Revelation in preparation for a class I'm teaching this fall. While I have already encountered much (if not all) of the material (mostly due to students of Dr. Lowery whom I've read/listened to), this book is still a vital resource for anyone looking to read and learn more about the last 'book' we have in the Bible. Dr. Lowery does a masterful job at helping students of the Scriptures, both new and old alike, approach Revelation with level headedness and humilty in order to seek out understading and truth. In addition to the methods and 'tools' Dr. Lowery provides in this short little book, he also provides an extensive list of Old Testament allusions found within Revelation. This feature alone is well worth the book! Overall, I highly recommend this (as a starter or as a refresher) if you are engaging with Revelation on any level.

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Monday, May 21, 2018

Review: How to Be a Perfect Christian: Your Comprehensive Guide to Flawless Spiritual Living

How to Be a Perfect Christian: Your Comprehensive Guide to Flawless Spiritual Living How to Be a Perfect Christian: Your Comprehensive Guide to Flawless Spiritual Living by The Babylon Bee
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I wrote a better review but it was all deleted without saving. This is my shorter (probably not as good) review because my wrist is hurting, haha. =)

This book is satire. People of said it, it's worth saying again. It's important to know if you're planning on reading this book and taking everything it says seriously. That being said, it does do a fantastic job poking fun at REAL issues today by painting them in an outrageous light. Hence the satire. I have college students sending me articles all the time from the Babylon Bee, and the same humor you've come to expect from those are on nearly every page of this book! I found myself chuckling and laughing out loud quite a bit. I sometimes think about if I were to teach at a university what books would I use to teach with. This would be a book that I would have students use to do a project on. With the engaging humor and the over-the-top satire of it, I think it provides a perfect opportunity for students (and everyone else) to look at the outrageousness of it and follow the thread back to reality and evaluate if we (even if subconsciously) actually believe/act in these ways. Anyway, funny book, makes you think about how Christians today can appear and portray themselves, defiantly worth the read. If you pick up a copy, sit back and enjoy!

"I received this book from the publisher through their book launch program."

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Review: Original Blessing: Putting Sin in Its Rightful Place

Original Blessing: Putting Sin in Its Rightful Place Original Blessing: Putting Sin in Its Rightful Place by Danielle Shroyer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I've been reading this book off and on for a year (it's crazy when I looked down and saw I literally started this book and finished it on the same day a year apart... that wasn't intentional but cool that it happened, haha). Overall, this book is certainly an interesting book to read and a thought provoker. The theological concept of 'original sin' has always intrigued me, mainly because of how it really seems unnecessary and doesn't seem to have as much biblical basis as many claim. I'm not an end-all authority on theology so I really appreciate reading varying perspectives on different concepts. Shroyer's book is certainly a nice addition to the conversation. While at times it seems a little taxing to push through, there was much that I enjoyed reading, even if her contributions were not enough to yet convince me of ALL of her conclusions. In all fairness, I hope to reread this book in the future (within a much shorter time frame) and I'm hoping I'll be able to derive a better understanding/appreciation for this book as well as provide a better review. Overall, I have a hunch/suspicion that anyone who holds onto the doctrine of 'original sin' will take issue with this book and won't be convinced otherwise. Yet despite this, it's a book worth reading and given a serious shot at contributing a valid voice within this theological conversation.

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Sunday, May 6, 2018

Review: Out of a Far Country: A Gay Son's Journey to God, a Broken Mother's Search for Hope

Out of a Far Country: A Gay Son's Journey to God, a Broken Mother's Search for Hope Out of a Far Country: A Gay Son's Journey to God, a Broken Mother's Search for Hope by Christopher Yuan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Where to start... I grabbed this book about 3 years ago from a book table at a conference. It was one of those where (to be honest), the cover didn't really appeal to me and the title led me to believe it was a memoir of an immigrants journey to the US and becoming accustomed to 'Westernized' Christianity. Not that it would necessarily a bad read, it just wasn't something that really screamed at me to read. Nonetheless, something about this book made me buy it and keep it on my shelf.

I recently joined a 'launch team' to help read, review, and promote Dr. Yuan's newest book due late this summer, early fall. Due to this sudden opportunity, I remembered this book sitting on my shelf and thought to myself that I should probably make sure that I read his memoir (and first book) before I start adventuring into his new one (just in case there was some groundwork I needed to know). After finishing this book, all I can say is 'WOW!' I had NO idea how good this book was. Aside from the subtitle (which to be honest would trigger A LOT of 'judging a book by its cover by individuals who are pro same-sex relationships and the sort, due to the implications that the author arrived at a different destination than his beginning camp of homosexually active), reading about the life of Christopher AND his mother, the brokenness all throughout their family, and the awesome ways that God worked to speak to them and literally physically save their lives was just an absolutely incredible experience.

There was much to Chris's life that you wouldn't expect (but I don't want to spoil it for you, so you'll just have to pick it up and read it yourself). Nonetheless, to read about the journey, life choices, and metamorphosis that took place in the life of a family that dealt with as much as the Yuan family, is truly an enriching experience.

I HIGHLY recommend this book to just about anyone and everyone. It's not difficult to read by any stretch of the imagination, and is very engaging. It's presentation is genius, with each chapter written (almost as journal entries), alternating between Chris and his mother. Overall, fantastic, easy, and encouraging read that truly capture the modern day example of how prodigals lost in a far country from God can truly return home no matter what they've done and experience the love that their Creator has for them.

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Saturday, April 14, 2018

Review: Open to the Spirit: God in Us, God with Us, God Transforming Us

Open to the Spirit: God in Us, God with Us, God Transforming Us Open to the Spirit: God in Us, God with Us, God Transforming Us by Scot McKnight
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was able to request the book from Waterbrook press in order to write an unbiased review of it. First, if you know me, you know that I REALLY like reading Scot's work! I've enjoyed each of his three books on 'religious experience' (The Heaven Promise, The Hum of Angels, and Open to the Spirit), but this one was certainly my favorite of the three. In fact, this might be my favorite book that I've read by him since 'Jesus Creed' (I still have such books as "Fellowship of Differents" and "The Blue Parakeet" to read).

In this book, Scot does a beautiful job of calling us to a position of being 'open' to who the Holy Spirit is, and what He's doing around us and in us. There are probably parts of this book that would make some feel uncomfortable, simply because it's a subject matter that some of our circles in Christianity steer clear of and won't touch even with a 10ft pole. Regardless, this is a wonderful addition to the books available and is VERY easy to read. I highly recommend this book to anyone who has never really explored this mysterious figure of the Godhead, and is interested in exploring more about who the Holy Spirit is and what He does. Hands down, my 2 favorite chapters were chapter 9 (dealing with the subject of baptism in Scripture and how the Holy Spirit is connected with that) and chapter 15 (dealing with opening up to living a life of love infused and driven by the Spirit). There were other really good chapters (and a few that were just okay), but those two, I thought, were worth the time to read!

Reading this book ignites a desire to want to live life with more purpose, and helps you discover (or remember) truth that enables you to do just that. I would encourage you to read this book with an open mind, and then prayerfully and purposefully seek out what God may be leading you to do through the directing guidance of His very own Spirit!

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