Chasing Your Dreams (In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day, by Mark Batterson)

battersonNot all great preachers are great writers. Mark Batterson is one of the few who are. Like my favorites, Max Lucado and Charles Swindoll, Batterson has the cadence of a poet and the wisdom of a pastor.

This book includes profound thoughts that are beautifully crafted. Here are a few:

God is in the business of strategically positioning us in the right place at the right time. A sense of destiny is our birthright as followers of Christ.

We’re inspired by people who face their fears and chase their dreams. What we fail to realize is that they are no different from us.

In the beginning, the Sprit of God was hovering over the chaos. And nothing has changed. God is still hovering over chaos.

Your ability to help others heal is limited to where you’ve been wounded

The premise of this book is that you can experience success and blessings when you boldly chase after dreams that come from God—be it those revealed in the faintest of whispers in your subconscious or those packaged in calls heard loud and clear. The book then goes on to prove this premise by shuffling examples and practical lessons, beginning with Benaiah.

And because I’m a sucker for nobodies who surface as heroes, I love that Benaiah and his lion-chasing bravado on a snowy day is the foundation of this book (despite reviews—like this one—that question the heroic details of the story). For me a story doesn’t  have to be accurate in order to inspire and motivate me. The storyteller and preacher in Batterson were successful in making me assess missed opportunities, while recalibrating my life lenses with a vow to make the rest of my life on earth more accountable to my Creator God.

In spite of the much needed motivation I received from this book, I did find that everything from the illustration of Benaiah to the contemporary examples to the practical tips could have been sandwiched into a much shorter book. The repetition of some content and fillers had me speed reading through much of the book. Other than this shortcoming, I really like this book and have passed it on for someone else to benefit from its encouragement.

For more information about the book from Waterbrook Multnomah, go here. To learn more about Mark Batterson and his ministry, go here.

And for the record, I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.
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Humble Orthodoxy, by Joshua Harris (Multnomah)

humbleNo matter how good a book is, first impressions do matter. In this respect, the book fails: Humble Orthodoxy is the size of my hand and the thickness of my phone, retailing at  $9.99—that’s 16 cents per tiny page of the 61-paged primary section of the book.

On the other hand, the premise of the book is totally worth the price. On the cover, the subtitle of the book is “holding the truth without putting people down.” in the first few pages is this: “We need to be courageous in our stand for biblical truth. But we also need to be gracious in our words and interaction with other people.”

This is probably the shortest book I’ve ever read on the need for authentic Christianity, yet between every few lines is a home run. This little book is the slap of rude awakening many of us Christians need right now. Here are a few of these zingers, each of them worthy of the hashtags #humbleorthodoxy and #livelikeChrist.

  • “Truth matters . . . but so does out attitude.”
  • “One of the mistakes Christians often make is that we learn to rebuke like Jesus but not love like Jesus.”
  • “All of us should be less concerned with whether others are being faithful to God’s truth than with whether we are being faithful to God.”
  • “The truth is not our truth; it comes from God. And the ability to uphold it with loving humility comes from him too.”
  • “Orthodoxy shouldn’t be a club to attack someone else. It should be a double-edged sword that starts by piercing our hearts, laying them bare before God so that we say, ‘Forgive us, Lord!’”
  • “Are we giving as much energy to obeying and being reformed by God’s Word personally we are to criticizing its detractors?”

True to its premise, the book includes excellent study guides with applicative exercises.

All in all, this is a small yet powerful book that’s relevant to Christian living.

(I received this book free from Multnomah. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.)

secrets of the vine for women by darlene marie wilkinson (multnomah)

If you’ve read Secrets of the Vine by the author’s husband, Bruce Wilkinson and get the concept of living a life of dependency of Jesus, then don’t get his book. But if you’ve read it and still don’t understand how to make time for Jesus in a crowded life of demands made of you as wife, mother, caregiver and breadwinner, then get yourself a copy of this book.

Expounding on it predecessor, this book deals with more of the practical barriers that keep us from letting go and letting Jesus direct our choices, perspectives and attitudes in life. Using everyday examples of women attempting to fill a full and meaningful life for themselves while meeting the demands of life, Wilkinson emphasizes how being connected to Jesus the Vine is not something you squeeze into your schedule as time permits; but is instead what your entire day is anchored upon. Everything you do is layered atop your constant connection to Jesus. It is the fuel that not only propels you along but that also brings focus and meaning to your purpose as a woman.

A small book, a powerful concept, that illuminates an ageless truth–One needs to be connected to the Vine to produce fruit.

 

(I received this book free from Multnomah. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.)

31 days of power by ruth meyers (multnomah)

Thirty one chapters. Each one is a prayer that is interspersed with Bible texts relevant to some aspect of the power needed to survive the spiritual warfare on earth. Overall, the subject matter is great, and I can see how it can be very helpful to many. But I didn’t find it personally beneficial or uplifting. Here’s why.

My prayers are my personal, intimate conversations with God. I don’t like reading a prayer that someone else wrote and using it as my personal prayer. The only exception is the prayers in the Bible, like David’s Psalms, which I readily apply to myself–because it is part of the inspired Word of God.

But this book of 31 prayers feels generic to me, like the memorized prayer of a namesake Christian. It’s too much along the lines of  “Now I lay me down to sleep.”  While I can appreciate the prayers of Ruth Meyers like I do those of St Assisi–for its content or literary qualities–I cannot adopt them as my own.

Maybe if these prayers were changed from personal prayers to devotionals, it would be useful to me. But, like I said, nothing wrong with the book or its content, it’s just not something that works for me.

(I received this book free from Multnomah. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.)

http://waterbrookmultnomah.com/bloggingforbooks/reviews/ranking/5864/short:1

Chazown, by Craig Groeschel

If I had the patience, I’d look up the page number for you. But somewhere in Chazown, Groeschel says something like “You’ve got just one shot at life, so live it for the second embrace.” (Referring, of course, to Jesus’ hug at the pearly gates.)

This book is a manual on how to live that kind of  life–a life outlined, motivated and charged by a vision. But not just any vision; not what you aspire for yourself, not what your family dreams for you. The vision is God’s–what God foresees for you, what God wants to reveal to you. Everything about the book is practical and applicable. It’s a straight forward how-to, akin to the Dummies Series. You know what I mean–not in the sense that it insults your intelligence but in the fact that it is simple enough for anybody. You don’t have to be a seasoned theologian or an experienced Christian to grasp the fundamentals of this book. All you need is to be desirous of living your life to the fullest.

The language is simple and conversational, interspersed with sporadic levity. (I could have done without the jokes, but I can see how it could aid in keeping a reader’s attention. So I’ll lay off his not-so-funnies). The chapters are short and focused, with relevant pull quotes. I’m not sure if Groeschel or his editor gets credit for the quotes, but it is rare to see pull quotes used as effectively as they are in Chazone. They are so good that you can skim through the book, read just the quotes and get your money’s worth.

Somewhere else in the book Groeschel explains how living God’s will for you is simple but not easy. It’s like running a marathon, he says. The mechanics are simple–put one foot in front of the other, repeat until you get to the finish line. The process, on the other hand, is not easy. You need the stamina, the motivation, the drive, the perseverance, the support, etc, to keep you going till the finish line.

Everything from page layout to font to diagrams to cover art to white space to language to content–and pull quotes, of course–is cohesively practical and simple. And in some strange way, all these elements come together to make you, the reader, feel that this thing about living to fulfill God’s vision, God’s chazown, is doable and not as far-fetched as it seemed before you picked up this book.

Good work, Team Multnomah and Groeschel. This one is a keeper for me.

(I received this book free from Tyndale. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.)

http://waterbrookmultnomah.com/bloggingforbooks/reviews/ranking/1390