Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Review of PASSION; THE BRIGHT LIGHT OF GLORY by Louie Giglio

Title: Passion: The Bright Light of Glory
 
Author: Louie Giglio
 
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
 
What It's About: Passion tells the story of the popular Passion conferences led by Louie Giglio to college students all across the nation each year as well as stories of what it means to live a life of passion toward Jesus.
 
Why I Read It: I've been a fan of Louie Giglio for some time. I used to be a college minister and took some students on the Indescrible Tour with Chris Tomlin and Louie Giglio. I've since read and hear much from Giglio and love his passion for Jesus.
 
What I Liked About It: With this book, you get to read a lot of voices who come across as genuinely passionate about Jesus and his mission in the world. I loved hearing about Giglio's journey of starting Passion. I love hearing from Francis Chan because the guy radiates a deep love for Jesus. John Piper gives a compelling call to realizing the supremacy of Christ. This book is great in the way that it exudes the enthusiasm of its title while bringing it to life in the stories of its authors. If you aren't familiar with the Passion Conferences, this book will give you the lowdown on what God has been doing through them for several years.

Review copy provided by Thomas Nelson through Book Look Bloggers
 
Where You Can Buy It: Amazon.com

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Review of JONAH: GOD'S SCANDALOUS MERCY by Kevin Youngblood

Title: Jonah: God's Scandalous Mercy
 
Author: Kevin Youngblood
 
Publisher: Zondervan
 
What It's About: Jonah is a commentary on the biblical book of Jonah in Zondervan's new Hearing the Message of Scripture commentary series. This commentary, along with others in the series, is focused on interpreting the Hebrew language, tracing the author's thoughts and arguments as presented in the book, and revealing how modern day believers should see the book of Jonah as applying to them today.
 
What I Liked About It: The commentary has a great overall format in the way that it presents the biblical text, breaks it down, and outlines its structure. Jonah is one of the most interesting books of the Bible, and I enjoyed the the author breaks the text down both in terms of the events it records and the literary approach the author takes in communicating the events. This includes parts that are straight narrative and parts that are in poetic form. The author states the way some of the events of the story are also symbolic of something else. For example, the Jews often understood Jonah's three days and nights in the belly of a fish as a journey into and out of death. The author also shows the parallels between the story of Jonah and Jesus' story, particularly Jesus' calming of the storm, his wrestling in prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane while the disciples slept, and, of course, Jesus' death and resurrection three days later. I also enjoyed the author's discussion of the role of divine and human freedom in the response of the people of Ninevah. Overall, this is a helpful little commentary for anyone studying the book of Jonah and wanting to know how it fits into the redemptive narrative of Scripture and how it applies to us today.

Review copy provided by Zondervan, courtesy of AcademicPS
 
Where You Can Buy It: Amazon.com

Review of THE SOCIAL CHURCH by Justin Wise

Title: The Social Church
 
Author: Justin Wise
 
Publisher: Moody Publishers
 
What It's About: The Social Church is about the way churches should approach using social media to reach people.
 
Why I Read It: I'm a firm believer in social media and its ability to connect people and ideas. Although I don't work for a church, I can see the importance for churches to use social media to help people get connected to the gospel.
 
What I Liked About It: Justin Wise is an expert in the area of social media, and he shares his story of how he came to be such an advocate for social media use in the church world. I loved his recounting of Luther's use of the technology of his day to spread the message of the gospel. Wise helps readers to understand the amoral nature of social media, that it can be used for good or bad, and that churches are missing out on an important opportunity if they don't seek to use social media to connect with people. Wise shows that social media is a uniquely "social" media because of the way it provides a two-way communication in a way that past broadcast media couldn't. Wise makes a compelling theological case for churches to take seriously their need to build relationships with people through social media.Though the book is directed specifically toward churches, I'd recommend it to any Christian who wants to engage an audience through social media.

Review copy provided by Moody Publishers
 
Where You Can Buy It: Amazon.com

Friday, April 18, 2014

Flash Fiction Friday: The Journal, Part Seven

Check out Sara's journey after awakening in a world with a rewritten history in episodes 12345, and 6.




As Sara closed the journal, she heard a loud explosion coming from the city ahead. The sky was beginning to get dark, but among the tall buildings in the distance, she saw smoke begin to ascend. She had to know where it was coming from and if the world was beginning to end again.

She got into the driver's seat and sped toward the city, ignoring Jack's warning to go into hiding. If she was the one destined to stop whatever Faceless had planned, she couldn't do any good in hiding. She'd never run from danger before. She wouldn't do it now.

She thought about Jack. She would've loved to have grown up with a brother, but the history she remembered didn't include a brother. And now he was gone again. Could she trust him? She didn't know.

Thirty minutes later, she joined a crowd of people looking up at the flames lighting up the night sky from the top stories of a luxury hotel. Sara recognized the building, but she didn't know it as a hotel. She remembered it as the Faceless Corporation headquarters from the days when everyone thought they were a mysteriously benevolent organization focused on making people's lives better. Before they disappeared and no one knew where they really came from. It was also the building from which she saw Michael plummet to his death.

Emergency vehicles surrounded the building and police officers were pushing people back. Sara could see injured people on stretchers. They must have been the ones to get out. The ones below the top levels of the hotel.

"What happened here?" Sara asked a man beside her.

"No one knows," the man replied. "I was eating at a diner a couple blocks away when I heard the explosion. We all rushed outside and saw this."

Sara wished she could get inside the building. It couldn't be a coincidence that this building, of all the buildings in town, exploded. Why the upper levels?

What if someone is trying to cover something up? she thought.

Sara looked around, but she knew she'd never be able to make it past the officers. As she scans the crowd around her, she notices a face that looks familiar. Michael's face. Her heart sank. If they could bring her father back from the dead, could Michael really be back as well?

She began making her way through the crowd toward where she saw him, but when she got there, he was gone. She continued looking around. Up ahead, she sees him walking toward the back of the hotel. She follows him. She's surprised to see a lack of activity behind the hotel. Just a few police officers. She looked up and saw that the explosion, although in the upper levels, seemed to affect the front of the building more than the back. 

The man who looked like Michael waited until the officer guarding the back looked away to sneak into a door at the back of the building.

So there is a way in? she thought.

She waited as the man had, then went through the same door. She found herself in a darkened hallway. Michael was nowhere in sight. She slowly makes her way down the hallway when she finds a door. Though it’s dark, she barely made out the word "Basement" on the door. 

She descended the steps, seeing a room barely lit up below. When she gets to the bottom, she sees that the room looks like a control room. A large screen is lit up with images. None that she recognizes. She looks around for Michael, but as far as she can tell, she is alone. 

The screen goes blank for a moment, then lights up with footage of two people under a tree in a field. Sara's skin is suddenly covered with goose bumps. The footage is of the day Michael proposed to her. But it wasn't filmed. Someone had been watching them.

Sara watched as Michael professed his love to her. She felt desperate to find him alive, but she felt foolish because it was obvious someone was messing with her. Luring her in here.

But for what?

"Too bad we never got to the altar," a voice behind her said. 

Sara turned around. Michael walked out of a shadow. 

"Hi, Sara," he said. "It's good to see you."

"How?" she said, backing up for fear that this man was an impostor.

He walked closer to her.

"It doesn't matter how. All that matters is that you stopped it."

He pulled her close to him. "I've missed you so much," he said.

She returned the embrace, but she couldn't be sure that this was real. 

"What do you mean I stopped it?" she said. "We didn't stop anything. I saw you die, and then I was dying myself."

He pulled back and looked her in the eye. "But we're both here now. And we're alive."

Sara glanced around the room. Michael wasn't making sense. Faceless had completely erased any evidence of their existence. Yet here Michael stood inside the building where she'd lost him. A building whose upper floors were on fire. A building once known as the headquarters of Faceless.

Which made her wonder, why was Michael down here?

"What is this place?" she said. 

He smiled. "The place where you agree to let this thing go."

Suddenly, several men in black masks came down the stairs.

"I'm sorry, baby," Michael said. "We've worked really hard to get this right."

The men grabbed her, pulling her hands behind her back. She felt betrayed. But surely this couldn't really be Michael. The man was just an illusion.

"Why?" she said.

"I really did love you," he said, "but this thing you thought we were trying to stop is bigger than either of us. We could only save the world by destroying it. We didn't foresee that you would survive it. And we definitely didn't foresee that you would remember it."

Michael had been a part of this whole time. The thought felt like a punch to her gut.

"What are you planning?"

"Exactly what you see." He let the words hand in the air before saying, "A whole new world."

One of the men put a rag up to her face. She fought to get free, but she soon faded out of consciousness.

When she awoke, she found herself strapped to a chair once again, but this time she wasn't alone. 

To be continued...

Photo Credit: karimiaz via PhotoPin CC

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Review of CLOUT by Jenni Catron

Title: Clout
Author: Jenni Catron
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
What It's About: Clout is about the God-given influence everyone has and everyone should be exercising in the world.
Why I Read It: I saw a lot of my favorite leaders on Twitter talking about this book, and I always enjoy reading books on influence.
What I Liked About It: The book is specifically about influence as something that God has designed into each person. Catron explores some of the flaws in most of us that negatively impact our influence. I personally resonated with the areas of comparison, insecurity, and control. Catron tackles these "clout killers" by sharing interesting stories along the way and showing what will counteract each of the clout killers. After exploring the clout killers, she takes readers on a journey of developing their God-given influence. It's a journey of self-discovery as you explore who you are as God has created you and how God has designed you to impact the world. Clout is a good book for discovering areas that you struggle with when it comes to influence and how to replace those flaws with something more constructive. 

Review copy provided by Thomas Nelson through Book Look Bloggers

Where You Can Buy It: Amazon.com

Friday, April 4, 2014

Review of TREASURING CHRIST WHEN YOUR HANDS ARE FULL by Gloria Furman

Title: Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full
 
Author: Gloria Furman
 
Publisher: Crossway
 
What It's About: Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full is a book about pursuing Christian in the midst of being a busy mom.
 
Why I Read It: This is a book for moms and, obviously, I'm not a mom. My wife is, however, and I know the struggles she faces each day as she raises our three young children. I know it can be exhausting and discouraging with barely a moment to sit down, let alone pursue the heart of Christ each day. I was sent a copy of this book from Crossway for review, and I found it interesting just because it deals with what my wife faces day in and day out.
 
What I Liked About It: With a book that's designed for busy moms, you would expect it to be small and concise, and that's exactly what you get with Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full. Gloria Furman is a busy mom and wife, but she's also someone who clearly loves Christ and the role that she's been placed in. What's great about this book is that is seeks to show purpose and meaning in the things that mothers do each and every day. From encouraging moms that God designed motherhood to revealing the reality that it's not always picture perfect. From what I can tell, moms struggle with how so many moms appear to have it all together, and they sometimes feel like they're the only one. Furman encourages moms that they are not. There's no such thing as the perfect mother, and anyone who appears to be is working really hard to maintain that outer image while struggling just as much on the inside. Furman's book is about the practicalities of what it's like to be a Christian mother. As my wife is reading this book, I'm praying that God is using it to encourage and strengthen her as a mom and as a follower of Jesus.

Review copy provided by Crossway Books
 
Where You Can Buy It: Amazon.com

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Review of CHRISTIAN FAITH IN THE OLD TESTAMENT by Gareth Lee Cockerill

Title: Christian Faith in the Old Testament
 
Author: Gareth Lee Cockerill
 
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
 
What It's About: Christian Faith in the Old Testament is an overview of the Old Testament from the perspective that the Old Testament was the Bible of Jesus and the apostles. It seeks to show how the Old Testament foreshadows the New Covenant, the arrival of Jesus, and the faith of Christianity.
 
Why I Read It: The Old Testament is interesting with all of its stories and the way God interacts with the world. The Old Testament is something people often struggle with, while the New Testament seems to present a much more loving God. I read this book because it seeks to show how Christianity originated in the way God dealt with humanity and made promises in the Old Testament.
 
What I Liked About It: Initially, I decided to read this book because I thought it was going to be a theological discussion of how people were saved by faith in the Old Testament. I would have really gotten into a book like that. Unfortunately, that's not what this book is about. However, it's still a good book for what it is designed to be. The book is a good overview of the Old Testament, and it reads well with helpful charts throughout. The book does a good job of showing how God interacts with his creation in love in the Old Testament. It seeks to show how relevant the Old Testament is to New Testament Christians. I liked the description of the Old Testament as "the Bible of the apostles." 

Review copy provided by Thomas Nelson as a part of Book Look Bloggers
  
Where You Can Buy It: Amazon.com