Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Book of Life Recovery: Review

The Book of Life Recovery: Review
The subtitle of this book pretty much says it all: Inspiring Stories and Biblical Wisdom for “Your Journey through the Twelve Steps”.  “The Book of Life Recovery (Stephen Arterburn and Stoop, David, Tyndale Momentum, 2012) consists of 12 chapters which correspond to the steps of 12 step recovery programs (AA, NA, OA, EA, and the many other anonymous programs that have spun off from Alcoholics Anonymous over the past 70+ years.  This book calls the various addictions “problems” which makes it a more universal help. Each chapter starts with a step, followed by a quote from scripture, then 1 or more personal stories  or ‘shares’ along with an ‘insight’ into what the particular step means. Each chapter includes a series of bible studies that can be done individually or in a group and which relate to the issues involved in working the current step.
The founders of Alcoholics Anonymous carefully chose the wording in many places of their manuscript. Realizing that many people who suffer from addiction feel far from the Judeo Christian God, and also to be of assistance to people who do not have a specific religious background, they invited sufferers to find a Higher Power, a ‘God of their own understanding”. Christians often have difficulty with that, since as they try to proclaim the God that they have learned about in church, all sorts of ‘gods of my own understanding’ pop-up. This book is unabashedly Christian in nature, and as such is very much needed. For too long people have felt that they could either go to meetings or they could go to church, but the two, because people experience God so differently, often seem mutually exclusive. With this book we are invited to experience a paradigm shift that allows Christians to understand God as He reveals Himself in the church, and to work the steps with a biblical understanding.
The studies that follow each step are short, and don’t require a lot of theological training, but do offer the opportunity to dig deeper into scripture and see how it applies in a personal way. There seems to be an assumption that people working through this book are using the “Life Recovery Bible” and so scripture references often include the appropriate page numbers, a good thing since it’s not a given that everyone grew up winning prizes for Bible drills.
Whatever life problem that you’re recovering from, this book can help you go through the process, and the personal stories help you see that you’re not alone. Counselors and Pastors should find this a welcome addition to their book shelves, a valuable tool that offers insight from a different perspective than they might usually be working from.
4.5 of 5 stars
I received a copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Review of The Power of Prophetic Blessing by John Hagee

The title intrigues me, the subject of Blessing is one that I am reading about and studying elsewhere, and the first few pages seemed to foretell an interesting read.  In the first two parts of the book, Hagee charts out the course of blessings, states we are born to be blessed (referring to the blessing Abraham received as narrated in the book of Genesis), shows  the power of blessings, and cites Jesus as the source of several New Testament blessings. Part three includes some ‘hands-on’ practical information about how to release, receive and proclaim a blessing.
Throughout the book there are highlighted statements which invite the reader to ‘think on this’.
But, this was a difficult book for me to read. I suppose I have heard of Pastor Hagee in passing, but this is the first of his books that I have read, and am not overly familiar with his ministry. Beyond the fact that theologically I do not agree with his take on Israel, I felt that some of his references to Zion were out of context and included more as a matter of publicity than for what they added to the content of the book.
Another distraction for me was what seemed to be confusion in genre. At times, the tone of the book was that of popular press: chatty and familiar, a conversation among friends with a lot of personal anecdotes about answered prayer in his family(not to mention subtle plugs for his other books and not so subtle plugs for CUfI); and then there would be a switch to a more scholarly style, writing for students and theologians, with lots of references that the average reader will never take the time to check.  
There is some helpful and comforting information in this book, and it will appeal to many people on different levels, but it’s not the type of book I can wholeheartedly recommend.
Rating ‘3’ of ‘5’.
I received a copy of this book in exchange for publishing an unbiased review.  The publisher has also given me another copy to give away. Comment on this blog post before Sept 1, 2012, and I’ll randomly select a reader to receive a copy of the book.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

review: Experiencing Spiritual Breakthroughs

In exchange for an unbiased review, the publisher has provided me with an e-copy of “Experiencing Spiritual Breakthroughs” (Multnomah Books, 2012) by Bruce Wilkinson.
Dr Wilkinson asks us to look at where we are on our spiritual journey, where we are in our relationships with God, our spouse, our children, and most importantly to ask ourselves if we are where we want to be. You probably already realize that most people are looking for something more than what they have, or this book wouldn’t have needed to be written. In this book, Wilkinson lays out several principles that help us get to the next step. He uses ‘Three Chairs’ as a metaphor for three types of “spiritual status before God”. The statuses range from 1) no personal; relationship, to 2) nominal Christianity, to 3) a full acceptance of Jesus as Savior AND Lord. The goal of this book is to help us get to the point of full acceptance, and using Biblical examples, the author lays out a plan.
Like several other books by this author that I’ve read, I found “Experiencing Spiritual Breakthroughs” to be a fairly easy read. The principles that he lays out are biblical, practical, and simple. You don’t need to be a theologian to understand what he is saying. Many books in the popular press claim to have the answers but the reader has to spend so much energy trying to figure out how any of it applies to his life, that he has nothing left when it comes to putting things into practice. IN this book Wilkinson doesn’t try to cover every possibility, rather he limits himself to how to breakthrough to that next level in the context of God, spouse and children. My hunch is that other areas of our lives will be affected to.
I have noticed a tendency for people in general to give up when things get tough. Wilkinson’s analogy of the second chair – the nominal Christian- probably fits most of these people. The Apostle Paul never writes to the churches that they should quit in the middle of the race: he encourages them to fight the good fight, to keep the faith, to finish the race, and to go into training and run as if you want to win. The people that are willing to do all of that are probably in the first chair, fully accepting of Jesus’ Lordship.  And what do we do with the third chair people? We remember that the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.
We’re all looking for something, and this book may have the ideas, the suggestions, the steps to take that will help us to find it. Great resource for an Adult Sunday School class, small group study or perhaps as part of a class on evangelism.  4.5/5