Archive Page 2

12
Jun
16

book review: 5 Things Every Parent Needs to Know About Their Kids & Sex

Cover ArtAs a mom of 4 daughters, I chose to read this book to review because I hoped to find a resource to equip me in talking with them about sex. I was not disappointed by Miller’s book; it is candid, honest, and useful.

Ms. Miller is very open about her qualifications for writing on this topic. She shares about growing up as a pastor’s daughter and the sheltered life that didn’t prepare her for the real world of sex. She endured sexual abuse at the hands of a youth pastor in high school, which led her to turn to pornography and have an unfaithful relationship with a young man she was engaged to before finally breaking free by God’s grace. She is now a speaker at colleges and churches on the topic of sex, and is happily married. Her story is heartbreaking yet encouraging, as she shares how God has healed her and is using her to bring light and hope to a subject that can be intimidating and even terrifying for parents.

Ms. Miller’s 5 points center around one thing: your child is not the exception. In talking to our kids about sex, the ineffectiveness of sheltering, mainstream media offerings, pornography, and sexual abuse, she underlines the fact that avoiding talking with them in hopes of not “spoiling” our kids’ innocence will only backfire. They will learn about all these topics from someone, and don’t we want it to be us, their parents?

She explains that the best approach is not just one big conversation at some predetermined age, but a lifetime of open, respectful discussions that are age-appropriate and that can and should be initiated by both parent and child. Families should determine their values and then cover these topics in light of that. The best way to protect our children is to educate them and to prove ourselves trustworthy listeners and information givers. Ms. Miller gives very thoughtful information based on her most up-to-date research, as well as providing updates via her website 5thingsbook.com.

Each chapter ends with very practical tips (“The Bottom Line”) as well as a written interview with an expert on the topic covered within. I feel well-equipped to have meaningful conversations with my daughters, and am not intimidated by issues that may arise. I am thankful for this book and highly recommend it to parents who want to have honest, real conversations with their kids on a hard but beautiful subject.

I received a free copy of this book from Baker Books, and was under no obligation to provide a favorable review.

12
Jun
16

book review: liberating king: breaking free from the tyranny of sin

Cover ArtThis book was enjoyable and encouraging, written in a very conversational style that is easy and quick to read. Stephen Miller is a worship leader at his church, and understandably uses song lyrics to illustrate and support his points. He has many examples of people who have suffered and struggled yet held fast to the Lord who liberates.

I am personally in a valley season spiritually right now, so I was greatly excited to read this book. It was very encouraging to read about the hard times that a worship leader has had, seeing that I am not alone in my struggles. Miller is quite relatable and transparent, and I admire and respect him for that. I will be honest though, that the book didn’t leave a deep impression on me, in that I have not been left meditating on the truths he reminds of or the methods he proposes to aid the reader in breaking free.

Overall, it is worth reading and I hope to revisit it at some point. I’m thankful that there are spiritually mature people who are courageous enough to share their struggles without glossing over the fact that walking with Christ does not equal a trouble-free life.

I received a free copy of this book from Baker Books that I might review it. All opinions are my own.

04
Apr
16

Book review: It’s Not Too Late, The Essential Part You Play in Shaping Your Teen’s Faith

dupee.inddThis is one of those rare books that is able to teach and exhort the reader to do what is best, without browbeating him about his failures. I so appreciate books I can start with excited anticipation and finish with satisfied expectations, and It’s Not Too Late is one of the best I’ve read in a while. Dan Dupee speaks candidly, of both his own and others’ experiences with the faith journeys of teens and young adults, and he presents his information in a very readable and helpful manual.

This book is a compilation of Dupee’s findings from surveying 300 plus parents and their kids, through personal meetings and internet communications. He boils down his findings into a concise definition of success: The young Christian adult owns his or her faith in Jesus Christ, reflects it in priorities and decisions, and lives it in community with other believers, seeking to influence the watching world. And as he unpacks this, he consistently (and encouragingly) proves that parents are the most influential forces in their kids’ lives, no matter their age. He debunks social myths such as the irrelevance of parents and the inevitability of college kids to walk away from their faith, while providing practical approaches and do-able tips to parents to give their young kids a strong foundation, foster maturing relationships with their teens, and grace in times of going prodigal.

I so highly recommend this book-while reading it I used chapter 9 Christian Kids Can Thrive in College with a college student I am mentoring, and I am also excited to apply the truths within as our 4 daughters grow up.

I received a free copy of this book from Baker Books for review purposes. All statements are my own and I was not obligated to give a favorable review.

11
Mar
16

The Heart of Revelation

410injcq9ol-_sy344_bo1204203200_If there is any book that can capture the fascination and imagination of Christians, it is Revelation.  For most of 2000 years, John’s apocalypse has has been a source of so much intrigue and debate.  Much of that debate centers on what all of the strange imagery found in the book means.  Is this history written in advance, a play-by-play of things yet to come?  Is this a series of pictures describing the entirety of the church age, while we wait for the return of Christ?

The hardest question, though, is what this book means to us right now.  For example, if you believe Jesus will rapture his church away and Christians won’t be here to see any of what is recorded, is there actually any value in reading the book today?  And if you believe the millennium is right now, you still might look at the book and wonder what you are supposed to get out it.

Scott Duvall has written a very helpful book, The Heart of Revelation: Understanding the 10 Essential Themes of the Bible’s Final Book.  In this, Duvall avoids getting pulled into these debates and instead looks at Revelation to find the major themes that the book teaches.  These themes are true for the church at all times, regardless of your preferred understanding of the endtimes.  These themes are: God, Worship, The People of God, The Holy Spirit, Our Enemies, The Mission, Jesus Christ, Judgment, The New Creation, and Perseverance.

Duvall spends a chapter on each of these, focusing on how Revelation teaches the topic.  He is thorough without ever feeling wordy.  He is very sharp in staying on his topic, and he brings a pastor’s heart throughout.  There is a constant push for you to love the God of Revelation and to see how the message of this book is not just a curiosity for the end of the world, but rather is full of tremendous truths that are relevant to your life right now.  The book is written at a level that I think anybody can appreciate (I’m giving it to my 13 year old to read next.)

Overall, I am very grateful that Duvall has written The Heart of Revelation and I recommend it highly!

 

25
Oct
15

The New Pastor’s Handbook

newpastorsThere is definitely a surge of material coming out lately in support of pastors.  With The New Pastor’s Handbook: Help and Encouragement for the First Years of Ministry (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2015), Jason Helopoulos has written a helpful book that I expect will become required reading in many evangelical seminaries.  The angle of this book is to walk through a handful of issues that a new pastor will face in his first years in ministry.  The issue is not so much a series of case studies about what to do when you have a tough situation as instead a stark assessment of the fact that you sure will have tough situations to deal with, and those tough situations do not mean you have failed as a pastor.

The overall approach here is very gentle, matching the book’s subtitle of being “Help and Encouragement.”  It’s very easy to come into ministry and expect that it will simply be a matter of coming in and conquering new territory for the Lord.  The fact is, as a pastor you are dealing with real people – which is simply another way of saying sinners.  You’ll come fact to face with their sin, including ways they will personally disappoint you and betray you.  The fact that the sinners in your church still sin doesn’t make you a failure as a pastor.

Over and over, Helopoulos comes back to the amazing privilege and indescribable rewards of being a pastor.  It is a lofty role indeed.  And just as frequently, he reminds the new pastor of the real fuel of his ministry: the pastor’s personal walk with Jesus.  The book consists in 48 chapters which are probably 3-4 pages each, and while I read them probably 5-10 at a time, it would be profitable to read these one at a time, perhaps each morning as one begins a day of ministry.  I think this is a book that would reward multiple readings.

I would highly recommend using this as an introduction to the pastoral ministry, and then using some of the “Practical Shepherding” series by Brian Croft as a more detailed supplement for actual “how to do this” type advice.  Finally, Tripp’s Dangerous Calling is a great examination of the pastor’s heart.  Each of these is incredibly valuable and worth space on the new pastor’s bookshelf.

I was provided a complimentary copy of this book by Baker in exchange for an honest review.  I was not required to give a positive review, but I do so gladly!

25
Oct
15

Love Casts Out Fear

lovecastsoutfearWhen you pick up a book, you expect the cover to give you some idea of what you are getting. Far too often, I have found that Baker Books is a little deceptive in this matter, and this book is like that. You would think with a subtitle like “A Jihad Survivors Journey from Revenge to Redemption” that we would be looking at a story of somebody who was perhaps embroiled in the Islamic Brotherhood or something, but found Christ. His “jihad” years were from age 6-11. Even the idea of identifying the author as “Brother Nathan” and choosing to rename his hometown to “Anytown” to keep from identifying him seems silly, since the rest of the book includes so many details it would not be hard for somebody – especially somebody with government connections – to work out exactly who the author is.

I find it really hard to grade this book. Brother Nathan has had a faithful Christian walk in difficult circumstances, and God has used him to do much in the name of Christ in Egypt. But if you are picking this book up expecting to read about his dark days in jihad, and then find that his father was a pastor, and after coming to Christ, he becomes a pastor in his father’s footsteps, it’s a bit of a letdown. There is absolutely a place for people publishing quality Christian educational materials in Arabic and serving the church of the middle east. There is a great beauty in reading the love of his mother and the sweet courtship Nathan had with his wife. It’s amazing to see how God takes a nobody in an obscure village of Egypt and raises him up to be a voice to Christendom around the world.

That said, with limited reading time available to me … if I had understood what this book was actually about, I doubt I would have read it. There are stories that are more compelling reading out there. Please do not misunderstand me – what God has done in this brother’s life is glorious. But with only so much time to read so many books, I would not have chosen to read this one, and I would not have finished it except that I promised to produce a review for it.

Baker Books provided a complimentary copy of this book to me in exchange for an honest review.

08
Oct
15

Book Review: Tranquility: Cultivating a Quiet Soul in a Busy World by David W. Henderson

I give this book 5 stars across the board: for teachability, readability, Scriptural accuracy, and hopefulness.  David Henderson writes out of his honest successes and failures to make the most of the time and opportunities God has given him.

He begins each chapter with numerous quotes about time, its use and its passage. I lingered on those as I read, allowing them to really sink in. He also interweaves his writing with Scripture, especially Ecclesiastes, focusing on how God has represented time through His human authors, and the wisdom they have gained around it.

My copy of Tranquility is filled with passages underlined and starred, passages that gave me a new perspective or really taught me. The author really probes deeply, helping the reader to see not just the negative results of over-busyness, but the heart reasons we seek busyness in the first place. And they’re not all bad reasons.  He also shows that this is not just a 21st century problem, but rather one that humans have struggled with for centuries.  I for one find it very hopeful when I see that I am not alone in my struggles, and that God Himself knows and has answers for them.

I will close with one of my favorite paragraphs that I think summarizes Henderson’s overall aim:

“There really are only two ways to view our time. We can follow the culture into a driven life, in which we view our time as our own, to meet our own needs. Or we can follow Christ into a called life, in which we yield up our time, giving it back to its rightful owner, and then allow him to lead us into the life he has already designed for us.” (p. 118)

I hope you will be as blessed by this book as I have been. I received a free copy from Baker Books Publishers in exchange for my honest review.