Monday, April 22, 2013

Obedience can be difficult. A review of "Sent" by Hilary Alan

Obedience is sometimes hard, and when God has plans for you that don’t make sense, it’s even harder. But, as Hilary Alan’s family finds out, being obedient to God brings its own set of blessings, blessings beyond anything you might have dreamed of if you were content to follow your own roadmap to success.  You’ll read their story in Sent: How One Ordinary Family Traded the American Dream for God’s Greater Purpose (Hilary Alan, WaterBrook Press, 2013).
Let me get this out of the way early, I didn’t enjoy reading this book, but I’m still rating it 5/5. I usually don’t like reading books that elicit tears; but instead of blatant sensationalism designed to cause an emotional response the author manages to portray raw emotion, not for effect but as a part of the story.  I also don’t like books that remind me of how far I am from where God wants me to be when it comes to obedience.  This book manages to do both of those things.  And that’s why I didn’t like reading it.  That’s also why it deserves a high rating.
At first glance, this is a simple account of a family who is led to follow where Jesus leads. The author has done a great job of chronicling events without bringing in ‘maudlin’.  This is a story of people who make the leap from sitting in the pews to being the church, to picking up their cross to follow Jesus.
The Alan’s story is typical up to a point: following the road to success and making time to do church on Sunday. But things start to get interesting and atypical when a tsunami on the other side of the world happens, and there is an available heart ready to respond to God’s call. Hilary describes with a rare honesty some of the questions they had before answering God’s call, some of the ‘reasons’ they had for not being able to go, and how God worked things out so that His plans for the Alan family would be accomplished.
Obedience looks like this: “Despite all the opposition and obstacles, walking forward in obedience was easy for us, simply because we believe that all of God’s promises are true. And through it all, God was whispering, “Just trust Me. I know what I’m doing.
I’m praying that as a result of reading this book, I’ll grow in obedience. My call may not be to rebuild after a tsunami, but God wants me to be available to go wherever He calls me to go.

The publishers were kind enough to send me a copy of this book in exchange for a review. 

Monday, April 1, 2013

Altar Ego... God sees me differently than I do

First of all I want to make it clear that I like Craig Groeschel’s writing. That’s a main reason why I requested to review Altar Ego: Becoming Who God Says You Are.  And I wasn’t disappointed. Groeschel writes in an engaging manner that makes the written word seem like a personal conversation. It’s like sitting in church and knowing that the pastor is speaking directly to you, even though there may be several hundred other people in the auditorium.
Besides, this is a message that a lot of people need to hear: God is not finished with us yet. God knows what we look like and he’s waiting for us to see that picture instead of the ones that bombard our brains on a regular basis. We don’t have to buy into the images that others try to project on us: inadequate, not smart enough, the wrong body image, we dress wrong, we don’t and we can’t and we’ll never be good enough. God on the other hand sees a masterpiece, the person that can and does and will, the person that God wants to send forth as His ambassador.
In Altar Ego you’ll learn how living with patience, integrity, honor and gratitude makes you the person that God had in mind, and will let you dare to live boldly for God.
My favorite chapter is “bold prayers”. I’m guilty as charged, I soften the prayers, try to give God an out, and miss out on the blessings that God wants to shower on me and others.
5 out of 5!
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for the review. 

Firsthand - a review

It’s something that many people in the pews rarely think about, but is their faith really theirs, or is it what Ryan and Josh Shook call ‘secondhand religion’. Religion is passed down from generation to generation; faith is something personal and individual. Explore the differences in Firsthand: Ditching Secondhand Religion for a Faith of Your Own. (Ryan and Josh Shook, Waterbrook Press, 2013).
With a combination of their own experiences and stories from others who have made the switch from second hand to first hand, the Shook brothers offer valuable insight into the state of the Christian church, a church which according to researchers, is seeing an entire generation slip away.
As a pastor and as a father of a teenager, I’m thrilled that this book has been written. It’s written for teens/20 somethings, but should make perfect sense to anyone who has ever struggled with their faith, anyone who has ever questioned where God was hiding, anyone who ever got tired of church traditions which made no sense because they had never been explained. (And often the only reason that something is a tradition in a particular church is that it has been done more than twice.)
The book itself is an easy and enjoyable read.  Doing the work in the “Think About It” section might be a little more difficult, but worth the effort. This book invites the reader to examine his faith to see if it is the real thing, or just a copy of what we’ve seen someone else doing.
Read the book, answer the questions and ignite the passion that true faith is all about.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for a review. I was not required to write a positive review.