Category Archives: Christian books

Living Fit – Book Review

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Don’t let the title fool you, this isn’t a diet book but a book that explains how to be fit in all aspects of your life – Spiritually, In Relationships, Financially, Health and Emotionally.

Each chapter highlights one aspect then breaks it down into 4 sections that pertain to each one.

Before reading this book, I never thought about how it is required to be a completely fit person to be an effective witness for our Lord.  We need to be healthy to be able to combat all the obstacles we are going to run into in our lives.

I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.  It is well-written, easy to read addition to your library.

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Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart (Teen Edition) Book Review

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If the title doesn’t sound intriguing then the first line of the first chapter will definitely grab your attention.

J.D. Greer starts off by saying “If there were a Guinness Book of World Records for Amount of times having asked Jesus into your heart” I’m pretty sure I would hold it.

This book brings up a valid point in church teachings -“How can I know that I am saved?” “Was my confession heartfelt enough?” “Was I truly repentant?”  And the list of our doubts about our salvation goes on and on.

The author addresses these doubts in an easy to read format covering 8 chapters.  He takes us from his personal journey through belief, repentance, questions and also includes 3 appendices for further information.

I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.  I enjoyed his honesty and openness about his journey and feel the information was clear, concise and informative.

All The Colors That I See – Book Review

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This is a children’s board book that offers the interaction of touching, patting and other actions for toddlers to identify colors.  This book shows how God made all the colors and that they are all beautiful.

This book comes with bonus online content at bhkids.com for parents and teachers.

I give this book 5 out of 5 stars.  The bright colors and fun pictures make it interesting for young readers.

 

The Marriage Challenge – A Book Review

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The first thing I must say about this book is – It should be mandatory reading prior to getting married.  That is right, I felt this book would be a great tool in marriage – even those of us already married can ascertain valuable insights and help from this book.

 

Art Ranier has broken down a financially successful marriage into 12 chapters, with an additional 4 chapters to highlight issues, as he calls them marriage dividers, that can hinder your success as a couple.

Don’t get me wrong this book is NOT a God wants you to be rich heresy, but rather a step by step plan to live biblically with your finances.

 

One of my favorite parts of the book are the challenges at the end of each chapter for couples to do together.

 

I give this book 5 out of 5 stars.  A must read

 

https://www.lifeway.com/en/product/the-marriage-challenge-P005805333

Luther on Leadership edited by David D. Cook—Book Review

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This book was published in 2017 amid a plethora of Luther books due to 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.  Unlike many books that focus on Luther’s legacy, life and theology, this one takes a different approach:  what can we learn from Martin Luther’s leadership style?

Nobody can deny that great change came as a result of Luther’s convictions and his life.  Here is a quote from the book:

The legacy of any leader can be measured by the positive change he cements
in his own organization, nation, or culture. While many leaders
across the millennia have created change in their society, few have caused such
broad-based change as Martin Luther. Someone surveying Europe in 1600
would have found a cultural milieu that was markedly different than what
was present just a hundred years before, in 1500. For a society that had not
changed markedly in a thousand years, the seismic shift that Luther brought
in the span of a few decades was remarkable. From the church, to government,
law, education, and economics, the hue of society was drastically different because
of the leadership of Martin Luther and his fellow Reformers.

What was it that made Luther such an effective leader?  This is the question the book sets out to answer.

The first section does review Luther’s life and legacy.  For the Lutherans among our readers, this may be a review of facts they already know.  The second deals with different modern models of leadership, comparing Luther to these models.  Each section is written by a different author.  Topics covered include:

  • Luther as a change agent
  • Luther as an adaptive leader
  • Luther as a transformational leader
  • Luther as a pastoral leader
  • Luther as a servant leader

I found this book interesting and readable.  It is well written, clear and while referring to many academic models of leadership does not bog down in academic terms that lose the average lay person.  I came away with a better sense of Luther as a leader we can learn from today.  While his circumstances and personality were unique, all church leaders can learn from his dedication to Biblical truth as well as his ability to communicate his vision to followers and energize them for God’s work.

Verdict:  I was given a pdf copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a blog review.  I give it five stars.  Ask your Pastor to add it to the church library!  For ordering information follow the link below:

https://wipfandstock.com/luther-on-leadership.html

 

Fanning the Flame #11–Book Review

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As part of the Fanning the Flame process, various team members have been assigned to read books and write book reports which are then shared with everyone.  This one was written by my husband, Pastor Terry Culler on “Surprising Insights from the Unchurched” by Thom Rainer.  Want to know more about what Pastor Terry has to say?  Visit his blog, goodnewsforabadworld.wordpress.com.

Rainer, a well known Southern Baptist leader approached this study from an interesting perspective–rather than ask the unchurched what they would like to see in a church, he surveyed the formerly unchurched, those who had changed from unchurched to church members.  He asserts that this is a better indicator of the things churches should pay more attention to than the opinions of people who were probably never going to become church members.  The formerly unchurched were those who had not been in church except sporadically for at least 10 years.

The people surveyed were from a number of different denominations and belonged to churches with different worship styles.  They were asked to put down which factors led them to join their congregations.  The two most frequently mentioned were Pastor/Preaching (90%) and Doctrine (88%).  The two least frequently mentioned were Worship style/Music (11%) and location (7%).  Other indicators in declining order were friendliness, a witness from somebody in the church, attendance by a family member, atmosphere, a relationship other than a family member, Sunday School, Children’s or Youth ministry, other group ministries.

One of the standout points of interest among the formerly unchurched was an attraction to a church that held strong biblical convictions.  Another was that only 4% of the formerly unchurched said that a denominational name had a negative impact on their decisions.  Churches that are unambiguous and clear in what they teach are the ones more likely to see visitors return.  High expectations are seen as positive and not a negative thing to those who were formerly unchurched.

The second part of the book deals with the leadership of pastors who are successful in attracting the formerly unchurched.  One of the sections in the latter part of the book focuses on how to become a church that attracts the previously unchurched and this can be summarized by the following:  be biblical, conservative and convictional;  give evangelism priority and passion;  provide deep biblical teaching; develop effective small groups; have a neat and clean church; seek excellence, etc..

What I got from this book is that we at St. Paul’s have a strong platform on which to build to make ourselves attractive to those who are seeking truth in a world filled with lies.

 

Mere Hope by Jason G. Duesing — Book Review

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Jason Duesing, author and academic leader at Midwestern Seminary, does not use the term “mere” in the usual sense. He harkens back to a more ancient use in which the connotation is not “bare” or “trivial” but “central” or “essential.”

In our world we are made instantly and constantly aware of so many tragedies and conflicts that it’s easy to become cynical, indifferent and despairing. We are quick to “medicate, avoid conflict, exaggerate, deflect, blame and hide.”  To counteract this, Duesing maintains Christians must remember and turn to our biblical sources of hope.

“Until Jesus returns, Christians should look down at their foundational gospel hope, look in at their fountain of living hope, look out at the need for a flourishing hope, and look up and focus on future hope.”

His suggestions for focusing on hope include:  regular time with God’s Word, Christian fellowship, singing, praying, remembering our purpose to share the gospel promise with others.

Mr. Duesing makes a strong, scriptural and theological case for continuing to live an active and hopeful Christian life.  This little book is  chock full of literary references, and if you love to read, as I do, you will no doubt find some new authors you are interested in checking out.  Lord of the Rings aficionados , take note!  Duesing is obviously a fan of Tolkien and uses this series to illustrate some of his main points.  He also loves to quote C.S. Lewis, J.K. Rowling,  and a host of other writers, theologians and philosophers.

This author likes words, too, and you may learn some new ones.  Some are theological:  propitiation, for example;  others are just interesting — my favorite was eucatastrophe.  (I’ll let you check out the book on your own to learn the definitions.)

In spite of his somewhat academic approach, the writing is clear and the main points are understandable.  My only concern is that many readers will become a bit bored with the many references to authors and works with which they are unfamiliar ( I didn’t but that’s the English major in me!)

Verdict:  Three stars

Check out the link below to learn more or order:

http://www.bhpublishinggroup.com/products/mere-hope

Fanning the Flame #9–Book Review

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One of my assignments for this month’s Fanning the Flame team meeting, was to read and book and write a book report.  Here is my finished product.

PRAY WITH YOUR EYES OPEN

BY Richard L. Pratt, Jr.

 

Richard Pratt, who is a professor of Old Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, examines prayer by dividing it into these three basic components:  God, the Believer and Communication.  Each section of the book addresses one of these categories.

 

Looking at God

  1. View God through the eyes of a servant—recognize our total dependence upon Him
  2. Describe God as you pray—for example when you pray for guidance, you might call Him “good shepherd”; when you pray in grief, think of Him as “comforter”
  3. Use metaphors and comparisons in our prayers—call God “my rock” or “my shield”
  4. Broaden your focus by praying in detail about God’s activity in salvation history, past and present. For example, you could contemplate the details of the death and resurrection of Jesus.  Thinking about the Bible story in prayer will draw you into the sweep of the divine drama that is still unfolding
  5. Being guided by Scripture sense God’s presence by picturing God in His heavenly dwelling.
  6. Remember that God is everywhere, He is with you to protect you. Imagine walking with Him in the garden, and allow Him to take you away from the worries of the world.

Looking at Ourselves

  1. Open your heart honestly to God, praying about all your feelings, positive and negative, without allowing the negative ones to lead you into irreverent grumbling or rebellion
  2. In your mind, paint a vivid picture of yourself and your circumstances: are you feeling lost in the desert, rejoicing on the mountaintop?
  3. Trust in God’s goodness; don’t be motivated by greed or selfishness
  4. Reflect on your personal blessings, and God’s care for the world
  5. Reflect on God’s will with a desire to see the world changed.
  6. Be open to God’s response.

Looking at our Communication

  1. Maintain a proper balance between form and freedom: because God is our father, it is appropriate to speak with Him in an informal, spontaneous way;  because God is our king, it is also appropriate to plan our prayers and speak more formally
  2. Don’t spend so much time taking or writing down requests, that you must hurry through the actual prayer.
  3. Prayer should be urgent and persuasive: focus on God’s people, the world around you, and God Himself.
  4. Take time to tell God the story of what He has done in your life. This gives strength and joy.
  5. Prayer can be more than words: strong feelings may demand weeping or singing, kneeling or raising hands.
  6. Practice prayer—your prayer lives, like any other skill, will only develop if you practice.
  7. Consider taking a prayer retreat, or setting aside an entire day for prayer.

 

Corporate prayers can become lifeless through repetition.  Some suggestions are:

  1. Have a special emphasis for a month, week or quarter
  2. Use prayer to celebrate a special occasion
  3. Plan a group prayer retreat

Throughout the book, Pratt relies heavily on the Psalms as examples and illustrations for his points.

I read this book quickly and that does not do it justice.  Each section includes discussion questions and exercises.  In our vision narrative, Beth Ann mentioned we might have small groups devoted to the study of prayer.  This would be a great book to read and work through with such a group.  If you read it as individually, it would be best to read one chapter a week and taking the time to journal and try some of Pratt’s suggestions.

Leading Major Change by Jeff Iorg–Book Review

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The Lutheran ladies received a free copy of this book in return for an unbiased review.  Ordinarily, I wouldn’t have given it a second glance.  It is definitely geared toward Pastors and other ministry leaders involved in making major changes in their church or ministry.  However, since I am on the leadership team of our church and we are in the midst of a transforming process (Fanning the Flame), I found myself interested and excited to see what Jeff Iorg had to say about the process of change and how to lead people through it.

He begins by reviewing different definitions of leadership (our topic this month).  It’s not as easy to pin down as you might think.  My favorite was:

“Leadership is a process in which leaders and followers raise one another to higher levels of motivation, accomplishment and living.”

That is certainly what our congregation is trying to do through Fanning the Flame!

Dr. Iorg has led a number of organizations through major change.  His resume includes:  relocating a church, a church plant, major change in a Baptist Convention, and relocating and reorganizing a large seminary.  He uses his own experiences throughout the book to discuss the pitfalls and opportunities that are part of the process of change.  Also interspersed are brief testimonies from others (employees, laypeople, etc.) who have participated in some of these major changes.

I especially appreciated his emphasis on servant leadership, and the necessity of providing pastoral care for followers.  He reminds readers over and over that change is an event, but transition is a process which can continue for some time after the change.  It can be difficult for many, it can require great sacrifice,  and a good leader needs to earn and retain the trust of followers throughout the entire process.  Followers are the people who must buy in and accomplish the change.  Everyone involved must truly believe that the mission matters most.

“Leaders intend real change–and that is often painful.  It causes organizational upheaval and personal angst.  Leaders’ decisions sometime inflict pain on their followers.  Good leaders do not enjoy hurting others, but are responsible to make difficult decisions (in the short run) for the long-term benefit of advancing God’s mission and the particular mission of the organization they lead.”

Verdict:  I enjoyed this book, and will be passing it on to my husband and other leaders of our congregation.  It was readable and full of useful information and insights for those involved in change within a church or ministry.  However, it will appeal to a limited audience.  I give it four stars.  If you are interested in purchasing it, the link is below:

http://www.bhpublishinggroup.com/products/leading-major-change-in-your-ministry

Costly Grace by Rob Schenck–Book Review

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Rob Schneck has the gift of leadership.  Growing up in the 70’s he converted from nominal Judaism to evangelical Christianity.  His faith journey took him through a variety of roles:  van driver and lay preacher at a shelter for heroin addicts;  Assembly of God pastor; activist in the anti-abortion movement;  supporter and leader of the religious right; minister to a number of top government officials and now founding president of The Dietrich Bonhoeffer Institute.

Rob’s memoir is an honest account of one man’s struggle to fulfill his God-given calling.  He freely admits his failures (lack of attention to his family, being influenced by pride and prestige, being judgmental, etc.)  I think most Christians who are seeking to grow in faith will identify with Schneck as he wrestles with God, allowing himself to be changed and molded in the process.

Verdict:  I couldn’t put this one down.  It’s a new release so you should be able to borrow or request it from your local library.