Monday, December 23, 2013

Book Review: Ministering to Problem People in Your Church

Marshall Shelley has updated his book about "well-intentioned dragons" in the church.  I'm glad he did.  Reading the real-life stories of pastors who have dealt with difficult people, been scarred by the experiences, and/or been strengthened through the experiences helped me evaluate my own actions. First, am I being a difficult person. Next, am I properly ministering to the difficult people in my life.

I especially appreciated the information about coping with mental illness within the church.  So often it is ignored, whispered about, or spiritualized (just have more faith and you won't be depressed, schizophrenic, etc.)  Shelley recommends practical strategies such as setting clear boundaries with those who are struggling so they don't completely drain the pastoral staff.  He also offers a beautiful story of how a pastor and his church dealt with a disruption of their worship service by a mentally ill woman who was off her medication.  Their kind and helpful example was alone worth reading this book.

This is an absolutely essential resource for anyone doing ministry in a church of any size.

I received a free e-Book from the publisher, Bethany House, for my review.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

No More Guilty Pleasure

A review of Desiring God by John Piper

As a Christian I had always understood and accepted that the chief end of man is to glorify God…but I got stuck on the second part.  Enjoy Him?  Wasn’t the Christian life supposed to be hard, with denying oneself, taking up one’s cross daily, and being persecuted?  Yes, I knew I was supposed to worship as well as obey; However, I felt guilty if I enjoyed the worship “too much.”

John Piper’s book is the antidote for the Christian who has trouble enjoying life.  Pleasure is not a dirty word for the person who is following God.  We glorify Him best when we are enjoying Him, in good times and bad.  Piper covers worship, money, marriage, suffering, and much more, all from the perspective of desiring and enjoying God.

I received a free review copy of this book from Waterbrook-Multnomah.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Gospel and Acts in Story Form

Moody Bible Institute professor William H. Marty presents the drama and heart of the Jesus story sequentially, using all four eyewitness accounts from the New Testament.  Like his book The World of Jesus (also from Bethany House Publishers) Marty includes historical and cultural notes to enlighten the reader about practices or events that may seem strange to the modern Western mind.

This short book would make an excellent group study.  Consider it as part of a New Testament survey course for new Christians or for youth.  Dr. Marty has a gift for making the Bible and its historical context accessible to all people.

I received a free review copy of The Jesus Story from Bethany House publishers.

Book Review: Letting Go of your Limitations by Sandie Freed

Sandie Freed wants to see God’s children freed from their self-imposed limits: legalism, disappointment, pride, fear, etc. She starts with the example of Saul’s (Paul’s) life.  He was a legalist among legalists, a Pharisee. Jesus confronted him and the proud Saul became the servant Paul through a process of letting go of his past.

Freed offers the encouragement that all Christians can experience the transforming power of God in their own lives.  She reminds us that repentance means to change the way we think.  To help us along, questions for reflection appear at intervals throughout the book.  I recommend it for individual or group study.

I received a free review copy of Letting Go of yourLimitations from Chosen Books.  

Review: A Call to Resurgence

Pastor Mark Driscoll writes from experience.  He ministers in a city (Seattle) where fewer than 20% of households have children.  To someone like me who has lived in the Midwest and the South my entire life, it is hard to imagine living in such a place or ministering outside the Sunday School/look at our great nursery/married couples class models. But we all have to learn to do this if we are to experience a resurgence of the gospel ministry of Jesus Christ.

Mark helps us to understand our “tribes” (the different “flavors” of churches in America) and how we can cooperate and reach out to the unchurched.  There is a whole chapter on repentance, with a call to “…repent of both unrighteous sin and self-righteous religion.”
I recommend this meaty book to everyone with a stake in seeing people reached with the transforming and saving power of Jesus Christ.  Church staff, teachers, parents, single adults and mature students can all benefit from reading A Call to Resurgence.  You can also visit Mark Driscoll's website, The Resurgence for more information, ideas, and encouragement.

I received a free review copy of this book from Tyndale, the publisher.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

God's Plans for Israel

Often western Christians forget that our scriptures were written from a middle-eastern perspective.  Sandra Teplinsky, a Messianic Jew, enlightens us all about the sanctity of covenant, the historical context of Bible prophecy, and God’s concept of justice.  As an attorney, Sandra is careful to back up everything she says with documentation, too.

If you have ever wondered whether Israel still matters or if God still has plan for the Jews, read this book.  Likewise, if you are concerned about the plight of the Palestinian people, you need to see Sandra’s compassion for them. While you will be grieved if you don’t already know the history of the Church’s betrayal of Israel and the many betrayals of Israel by western “allies,” the author offers hope for the future.  Learn how you can pray and minister to God’s special people.

I received a free review copy of this book from Chosen, a division of Baker Publishing Group. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Look Honestly at Evangelism: From an Atheist's Perspective

While some people experience dramatic conversion experiences after a single presentation of the gospel, many do not.  All people are on a journey, and we Christians need evangelism strategies that meet people at various points along their journeys.  More than strategies, however, we need relationships.  Jim (currently a pastor) and Matt (currently an atheist) give us a picture of what such a relationship can look like in Saving Casper.

I cringed as Matt Casper related some of his experiences with those seeking to reach him with the gospel.  Many of them seemed all too eager to tell him he was going to hell, while few bothered to see Matt as a human being much like themselves.  Respect seems to be the missing ingredient in many evangelism efforts. 

When I consider how Jesus approached people, as recorded in the Bible, I don’t see Him hitting people and telling them all about the hell for which they were bound.  Yes, He taught about hell; but when we see Him with individuals, we see how He saw them as unique people.  He cared about their families, their sorrows, their illnesses--and their eternal souls.  We should follow his example.  Matt Casper points out how confusing it is for someone on the outside to look at Christians and not see them doing what even he, an atheist, knows Jesus told them to do.

Please read and share Saving Casper.  Then build some relationships with people of all beliefs.  Respect them, learn about them, and let them see Jesus in you.

I received a free review copy of this book from Tyndale Publishers.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Ultimate in Independent Learning

Ministry in Dangerous Places

Based on the premise that God has not called us to be safe, but to be faithful, Caleb tells exciting stories from his life as an "unusual soldier" for Jesus Christ.  He has gone on missions to some very dangerous and dark places.  He also trains others to do the same.

From page 46: "…we often equate God's "blessing" with personal safety." Yet Caleb found himself wanting a life more like William Wallace and less like Mr. Rogers.  Read the stories of people who went to minister in dark places, in dangerous places, or among despised people.  Learn that God reaches out to all those people and places.

This would be an excellent book for a group of young men or women to study together with an older, seasoned missionary or minister.  In a nation obsessed with keeping kids perfectly safe from every "danger," including non-organic food, refined sugar, and ordinary bumps and bruises, this book is a breath of fresh air.  Some risks are worth taking, especially for those of us who already have eternal life.

I received a free review copy of this book from Bethany House in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Dragonwitch: A Book Review

I am not much of a fiction reader, but since this was supposed to appeal to those who like fantasy, I gave it a go.  The plot was interesting enough, with classic good v. evil.  I might have liked it more if there had been more suspense and ambiguity about who was good and who was evil.  Instead, I could guess the ending several chapters before I got to the end.

Regular fiction readers will probably enjoy this book,  part of the Tales of Goldstone Wood series.  

I received a free review copy of this book from Bethany House.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A History of God and His Friends

Finding God in the Bible by Darren Wilson: A Book Review

Darren Wilson introduces us to God's friends.  What a motley crew!  Adulterers, murderers, cowards, and weird people of all stripes--these are people God considers his friends.  Darren challenges us to have a friendship with God rather than an acquaintance.

God, of course, is more than a mere buddy.  As God, his friendship causes Him to test us, refine us, shape us, and change us radically.  Abraham was a great example of this process.  God's great love longs for friendship with those He created.

Look at Bible characters like David, Gideon, and Elisha in a new way.  Then get to know God in a deeper way.

I received a free review copy of Finding God in the Bible from Chosen Books.  I also received a copy of the DVD Father of Lights, in which Darren continues his mission of filming God at work in the lives of people everywhere.  See my review of Father of Lights here.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Appointments with Heaven by Dr. Reggie Anderson: A Book Review

This book had such compelling stories that I had a hard time putting it down.  Dr. Anderson is both a medical doctor and a great storyteller.  More importantly, his stories are about God and the Heaven that awaits those who place their hope in Him.

The author shares his personal story: from amazing childlike faith to unbearable family tragedy to unbelief to faith again.  Anyone who has wondered about or wandered from his/her faith can relate to this story.  He goes on to tell the stories of others who have faced death and heard from God.

Those who are acquainted with grief will find solace in Dr. Anderson's description of the peace that goes with the passing of a believer--a peace he has been privileged to witness often in his country medical practice.  Add to your understanding of God's eternal provision for His children both now and forever by reading this book.

I received a free review copy of Appointments with Heaven from Tyndale Publishers.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Godonomics by Chad Hovind: a Book Review

Many voices today claim to have God's word about economics.  Chad Hovind actually looks at the text of God's Word to answer the important questions about how to wisely handle wealth. How do God's laws in Scripture handle private property, greed, and charity?  What would God say to Karl Marx?  What do we learn from the practices of the early Christian believers?  Chad Hovind tackles these questions and many others.

In a world where many Christians have been deceived into using the secular government to create "social justice," Chad calls us back to God's mandate for real justice--meaning laws are applied equally to all persons, rich or poor, male or female, whatever their creed or ethnicity.  Only real justice can lift the poor and restrain the greedy.

The discussion of first-, second- and third-party purchases should be required reading for all Americans.  I have never read such a simple, elegant explanation of what happens when people buy for the consumption of others or buy using other people's money.

This book is suitable for an adult Bible study, an economics class in a Christian high school, or individual enrichment reading.  I received a free e-book from Multnomah Books for my review.  I also purchased a hard copy for my church library and will recommend it to our pastoral staff.  Read more reviews here.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Book Review: God Distorted by John Bishop

This book explains how the image of our earthly father often interferes with our understanding of the heavenly Father.  The misunderstandings hamper our ability to truly enjoy an intimate relationship with our God and Father.  John begins with chapters about different "Daddy Types" and the problems they can cause.  He weaves his personal story into the text as well.

Fortunately, the book then goes on to show the real Father as he reveals Himself in Scripture.  This Father is in perfect control, is always there, and needs nothing from us.  He simply loves us, even before we understand or feel "worthy." 

A study guide is included for individuals or groups to use in their pursuit of truth that sets us free from the distortions in our minds.

I received a free review copy of God Distorted from Multnomah Publishers.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Back to the Future?

Read Thomas Jefferson's proposed plan for educating children.  It is almost entirely opposite what our country actually does.  Perhaps we should try his way instead.  It would save money and produce better-educated individuals at every level, from elementary through university.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Book Review: Angels in the Fire

It was night.  Dann and Tracey were headed home after celebrating their wedding anniversary.  At the same time, a man was coming straight at them, driving the wrong way on the highway.  While the car in front of them had time to swerve, Dann did not.  The result was a fireball.

You will agonize with the bystanders who try to free two people trapped in a blazing, crumpled car.  In the midst of this hopeless situation, however, another rescuer shows up.  He was seen by Tracey (he even knew her name) and by other rescuers.  He did the impossible, then vanished.

But the miracles continued, through a long recovery.  This is an inspiring account of divine intervention, family, and faith.

I received a free review copy of this book from Bethany House publishers.

Haiku from the Left Brain is Published

Well, I successfully (mostly) uploaded my first Kindle e-book.  I followed Guido Henkel's directions.  My only problem was that Amazon didi not like the MOBI file I created in Calibre.  I made an EPUB (Nook style) instead and Amazon converted it for me.  I still haven't got the Table of Contents to upload, but that's not a big problem for a short book of poetry.

Next time I think I will do the whole thing in html and try uploading that file instead of trying to convert to MOBI first.

Now that I have a book, I also have an Amazon Author Page.  Please visit and take a peek at my book.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Resources for Formatting and Publishing E-Books

Those of us who engage in lifelong independent learning may sometimes find we have a book inside us. Once it is written, why not share it quickly as a self-published e-book?  I am working on several short books now and am in the process of formatting one for Kindle.  Thinking about trying this?  Here are some reviews of resources I'm using right now:

Free Kindle Book Covers

Lets Get Digital by David Gaughran

Also check out Guido Henkel's amazing series of blog posts with detailed instructions.

I'll post when I have successfully formatted and uploaded my first Kindle book.

Monday, July 8, 2013

The Importance of Lifelong Learning

Here's a little article I wrote for Yahoo! Finance: I Squandered my Intellectual Capital.  I discuss the steps I wish I had taken to preserve some of my most marketable skills for my re-entry to the job market after my kids were grown.

A Book About Surviving and Thriving

When Got Intervenes by Dabney Hedegard

In this memoir, Dabney Hedegard recalls her extraordinary life.  With a list of life-threatening ailments that would have killed almost anyone, her survival is a miracle.  She shares her story to encourage others in difficult circumstances.

Her cancer was discovered while she was carrying her first child.  She postponed Chemotherapy as long as possible to give that child a fighting chance.  They both survived, but Dabney went on to face one health challenge after another.

God's intervention brought the Hedegard family through their struggles.  He preserved their marriage and blessed them with four children in the midst of it all.  You can learn more about the Hedegards on Dabney's blog.

I received a free review copy of this book from Tyndale House publishers. You can read an excerpt from the book now.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Book Review: Unfinished by Steven K. Scott

Unfinished is a condensed version of The Jesus Mission by the same author. Steven Scott discusses the four callings Jesus gave to His followers—including those who follow Him today.

 I appreciated a quote on page 18: “What would happen if, instead of inviting people to pray to receive Christ, we invited them to become followers of Jesus Christ?” This is what Jesus did. Granted, Jesus was physically there at the time, but doesn’t He still want us to be His followers?

 The book reads a bit like an outline, with each calling having a series of assignments and actions. I sometimes felt overwhelmed at all the information Scott was cramming into this small book. It might have helped to have an outline or chart presented on the first page, followed by the text of this book so rich in content.

 I received a free review copy of Unfinished from WaterBrook Press.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

This is My Latest Bible Study Tool

I got this plan through the Olive Tree Bible app on my Kindle Fire. So far I really like the way it mixes up Bible reading to keep me from getting bogged down. Ten chapters a day (one from each of ten lists) keeps Bible reading balanced. There is no getting bogged down in chapter after chapter of history or neglecting the lesser-taught books of the Bible. I wouldn't try this system without the app to keep me on track, but a more organized person could probably manage it!

Professor Grant Horners Bible Reading System by dwayneforehand

Saturday, June 15, 2013

"The World of Jesus" by Dr. William H. Marty

Written by a professor at Moody Bible Institute, this book covers the period between the Old Testament and New Testament. It is for any person who wants to better understand the historical context for the New Testament. While Dr. Marty is a scholar, one need not go to seminary to benefit from this great little book.

Dr. Marty writes as a storyteller because history is, after all, a compilation of stories. Learn about the empires that ruled Israel and Judah: the Persians, the Medes, the Greeks, and the Romans. Learn why the Herods were so feared. Learn to appreciate the courage of the Maccabees.

If you don't know a Pharisee from a Sadducee, or a Maccabee from a Macedonian, this book will give you the big picture of history from Malachi through Acts. I recommend this for everyone from older youths through seasoned Sunday School teachers.        

I received a free review copy of this book from Bethany House publishers.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Get a Fire Going: Spark, by Jason Jaggard

My generation in church grew up singing around the campfire, “It only takes a spark to get a fire going. And soon all those around can warm up in its glowing.” I recaptured that sentiment when I picked up this book by Jason Jaggard.

The concept is simple. Take a small risk every week: something that could make the world a better place. Spark groups are small groups of people who each commit to take one risk each week for four weeks and share with each other the results.

In a world where parents try to shield their children from all risk and adults sue one another because everything has to be somebody else’s fault, Spark is a breath of fresh air.  The 100% safe life, even if it were possible, would be too boring and meaningless to endure!  Let this book ignite you today—and may we all put our sparks together to light the world.

I received a free review copy of this book from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers.

Song: "Pass it On" by Kurt Kaiser

Prototype by Jonathan Martin: A Book Review

What if we truly believed, like Jesus did, that we were beloved by God Almighty? Jonathan Martin asked this question, and Prototype was the answer. Jesus is the prototype for a new kind of human.

According to, a prototype is: “someone or something that serves to illustrate the typical qualities of a class; model; exemplar.”  If Jesus told us to follow Him, why don’t we look more like Him and do the things He did?  Martin thinks it is because we don’t really believe God loves us like He loves Jesus.  Fix this faulty thinking, and we fix much of what limits us in our Christian lives.

One theme from the book that spoke to me was the celebration of scars.  Say what?  Think about it.  People knew the risen Christ because He showed them his scars.  Our scars are a record of our lives.  They are proof of what has been overcome and hope that other things can likewise be conquered.  If only we the body of Christ would share our scars with one another instead of hiding them from each other!  We could really know and help and love each other in spirit and in truth.

This encouraging book is suitable for adults and maturing teens. Parents might want to read this with younger teens, because Martin addresses some mature subjects in a frank, yet tasteful manner.

I received a review copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Can We Know Truth? How Can We Know?

A review of  Reasons for Belief by Norman Geisler & Patty Tunnicliffe

This is an apologetics book for those without a theology degree.  This accessible treatment of ten essential questions addresses the most common questions everyday Christians must answer for themselves and be ready to answer for others.

All the essentials are covered, from the nature of truth to the existence of God to the deity of Jesus Christ to the reliability of the biblical manuscripts.  The treatment of truth is especially important in this postmodern age when many have grown up with the idea that “truth” can be different for different people.  The authors show that for truth to mean anything, it must be the same for all people.

I thought the approach taken by the authors was thorough.  They present all the alternative answers to each question and tackle them one at a time until only the truth remains.  This book would be an excellent group study for adults or youth.  It is also a great addition to personal and church library collections.

I received a free review copy of this book from Bethany House. 

Monday, May 6, 2013

A Commonplace Book?

I have just come across the term "commonplace book" and wanted to share it.  It is not a diary, but more of a journal dedicated to collecting literary fragments.  Perhaps instead of dogearing pages on all my books whenever I read a cool, quotable phrase, I should keep a commonplace book.  It would be better than the fragments of paper all over my desk and in my files!  Here's a link if you'd like to learn more.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Book Review: Signs, Wonders, and a Baptist Preacher

Signs, Wonders, and a Baptist Preacher by Chad Norris chronicles Chad’s spiritual journey from his childhood in a Southern Baptist home through his questions and God’s answers as he tried to reconcile the Jesus of his youth with the Jesus of the Bible.  There are bumps along the journey, but I love Chad’s openness about the process of opening up to all God wants to reveal and do.

I identified with Chad’s struggles with mental illness and his desire to seek healing.  I greatly appreciate his challenge to think about what Jesus really did and what He calls us to do.

Let me close with a favorite quote from page 128:
…Kingdom power is not about “the great man of God’ who rides into town with great faith.  It is about the common man with just a little bit of faith who starts to do the things that Jesus did.
I received a free review copy of this book from Chosen Books.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Expand Your World: India

Learn about the Orphans of India

New from Word Films, Mother India is the story of runaways and abandoned children surviving in a train station.  Two men set out to document the situation and find themselves overwhelmed by the stories they hear.  Instead of just making a documentary, they enter into the lives of a group of orphans living as a family on the streets and help convince the older children to let the youngest two go to a Christian orphanage.

I watched this film with my daughters, ages 11 through 22.  They were as riveted as I was, concerned about how these children survived.  Parts are very difficult to watch, e.g. references to sexual abuse and drug use, but the film is supposed to educate us.  This was made with sensitivity and would be a good film for a missions program, Sunday School class, or family viewing.

I received a copy of this DVD free from the publisher for my review.

Follow up with an activity that supports orphans in some way.  Here is an excellent book for ideas:

Orphan Justice by Johnny Carr tells ways everyone can help, even those who can't adopt or foster.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Tool for Studying Bible and Poetry

The One Year Book of Psalms is a resource for anyone who wants to study the Psalms.  By dividing this collection of sacred poetry into daily readings and using the New Living Translation, William and Randy Peterson have made these ancient songs more accessible to the modern reader.

As one who grew up with the majestic language of the King James Bible, I was concerned that a really modern translation would make the Psalms less musical, but I was pleasantly surprised.  This is my first time to own anything in the New Living Translation; I can now understand its appeal to modern ears.

A daily devotional and additional features such as quotations from notable Christians and fascinating facts about particular Psalms make this a great addition to your daily Bible reading.

I got my copy of this devotional free with my accumulated points through the Tyndale Rewards program.

Review: Break Away

Break Away from Word films is a nice, clean family movie.  It is set in South Africa, but the problems of corporate downsizing, unemployment, and financial hardship are nearly universal. A father loses his job and offers a bicycle messenger and delivery service to provide for his family.  Along the way, he becomes good enough to try his hand at racing.  The family sticks together and offers encouragement in trying times.

I found parts of the movie a bit slow, but I am more of an action/thriller person.  This would certainly be a good movie for anyone who enjoys competitive cycling or is looking for a family-safe movie to watch together.

To check out this DVD, watch the trailer.

I received a copy of this DVD free from the publisher for my review.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Helping Dogs with Injuries

I want to give a round of applause to Ruff Rollin' wheelchairs for dogs.  They helped a local dog, Chamberlin, who was abandoned and lost the use of two legs due to malnutrition.  Now Chamberlin gets around well and helps raise funds to help other abused animals.

Homeschoolers and others who want to learn about animal care or help in the community should contact their local animal shelter or rescue organization to volunteer.  Families can provide foster homes, collect food donations, walk dogs, help at rabies immunization clinics and much more.  Learning to live a humane life is important for everyone.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Firsthand by Ryan and Josh Shook

Firsthand is a book about growing up and taking responsibility for one’s own faith.  The Shook brothers include quotes from many young people to illustrate how one takes the step from following the faith of a parent to owning a personal faith in Jesus Christ.  Faith that is “secondhand” will not withstand the storms of life, as many young people learn when they leave the safety of home and youth group.

This book is recommended for young adults and those who love them.  Read the first chapter here.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, Waterbrook-Multnomah, for my review.  

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Book Review: Miracle for Jen by Linda Barrick

Miracle for Jen is the true account of the Barrick family, hit head-on by a drunk driver on their way home from church one Sunday evening.  The daughter, Jen, survived with a traumatic brain injury and the rest of the family dealt with her recovery while healing from their own wounds.

Written from the perspective of Jen’s mother, this book does not sugarcoat the recovery process.  Brain injuries are unique to the individual, and Jen’s recovery may be one of the most unique.  Anyone struggling to understand pain and suffering as a Christian would benefit from the Barrick’s experience.

The importance of a supportive family and church network is emphasized, as is day-by-day reliance on God’s grace.  Jen’s story is inspirational and encouraging, although her recovery was not exactly the miracle parents would choose.  God heals in surprising ways and gives us the grace to go forward.

I enjoyed this honest account of God’s provision during a family’s worst nightmares.  Keep some tissues nearby and be prepared to read in one sitting if possible.

I received a free review copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers.

Read more about brain injuries at: Brain Injury Association of North Carolina

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Book Review: Simply Jesus by Joe Stowell

Joe Stowell asks us to examine our lives and see if we believe that Jesus is enough—simply Jesus.   Are we satisfied with a relationship with Jesus, or are we content to go days, weeks, or months without having much to do with our Savior?

Citing Philippians Chapter 3, Stowell teaches us about “three all-surpassing realities” Jesus gives when we believe in His finished work at the Cross:
  • We gain Christ;
  • We are placed “in Christ”; and
  • Our resurrection is guaranteed.       
   In light of this, isn’t Jesus enough?  If your head says, “yes” but your heart is wandering in search of other stuff, let yourself be reminded of just what you have in Jesus Christ.  I recommend Simply Jesus for Christians of all ages and maturity levels, but especially for the person who has “gotten over” what Jesus did for him/her.  Fall in love all over again with the One who is everything.

 I received a free review copy of the e-book from Waterbrook-Multonomah Publishers.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Learn to Program for Free

Want a site that is free, fun, and teaches valuable skills?  Go to Codecademy and choose one of their free courses.  I am currently studying javascript and html/css so I can make my blogs, webpages, and commercial writing look better and do more.  I have a programming background (FORTRAN in the eighties), but no previous experience is necessary for these introductory courses.

There are glitches in a few of the lessons on occasion, but nothing insurmountable.  Anyone from young teens through senior adults could enjoy these courses.  Many topics are covered, including Ruby, Python, Javascript and HTML.

Important Questions in Life: Am I Really Saved?

A review of Stop Asking Jesus into Your Heart by J.D. Greear

When I was asked to review this book, I jumped right on board.  I had seen many teens and young adults struggling with the question of whether they had really been saved.  I had also seen adults living as they pleased, feeling secure in the “fire insurance” they had acquired years earlier.  Pastor Greear addresses both these issues by turning to the Scriptures.

Rather than emphasizing a sinner’s prayer said at a particular point in time, Greear points to the scriptural examples of people asking what they must do to be saved.  Rather than an emphasis on the right words, scripture points to the right posture or attitude, i.e. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ…” (Acts 16:31) and Jesus’ admonition to “…repent and believe…” in Mark 1:15.  When Greear struggled with his own assurance, a friend pointed him to John 3:36:
“He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; and he that believeth not the son shall not see life…”
There are only two kinds of people: those who believe and those who do not.  Thus the real question is “Do you believe?”  Greear devotes the rest of the book to exploring how to establish that you have repented and believed, trusting in the finished work of Jesus Christ and not on works.

You can know you are saved.  Stop struggling and let J.D. Greear show you from the Scriptures how to be saved and know it.

I received a free review copy of this book from B&H Publishing Group.

Friday, February 1, 2013

The Conviction to Lead by Albert Mohler

Albert Mohler, youngest president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, presents his insights on successful leadership in this excellent book.  Short chapters each address one key topic, making it easy to find what you are looking for.

Mohler draws from the wisdom of past leaders, including the apostles, Luther, Augustine, and Thomas More.  He also addresses contemporary issues in chapters such as “The Digital Leader” and “The Leader and the Media.”  My favorite chapters, however, were eight and twelve.

In chapter eight, “Leaders are Teachers” Mohler introduced me to Augustine’s thoughts on teaching:  A teacher loves his pupils, loves his subject matter, and teaches because he loves Jesus.  It should be an encouragement to teachers to know that their love will really make a difference as they lead in the school, church, or office.

As a librarian, I must also praise chapter twelve, “Leaders are Readers.”  This title is not a cliché—it is the honest truth.  Mohler suggests a simple reading plan.  Make three lists: must read, should read, and want to read.  Be sure to choose a balanced reading program that includes books from all three lists.

This book is an easy read, is packed with useful information, and would make an excellent gift for anyone who leads.  Since nobody follows all the time, I can’t think of anyone who would not benefit from reading this. 

 I received a free review copy of A Conviction to Lead from the publisher, Bethany House.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Medicines That Kill: The Truth About the Hidden Epidemic

Dr. James Marcum, an experienced cardiologist, has concluded from his experience and personal research that drugs are the number one killer in the United States.  Many deaths from various causes could possibly be traced back to a medication taken incorrectly, a side-effect of a drug, or a chain reaction in which drugs are taken to counteract a side-effect of another drug.

This is a practical book.  It made me more aware of just how powerful drugs and herbal supplements can be.  His accounts of elderly patients and the innocent mistakes they make (such as faithfully taking their diuretics as prescribed even when dehydrated from an acute illness) should make us all more vigilant as we look in on our parents or grandparents.  "Natural" medicine also gets scrutiny, since many things we consider safe and natural can be deadly if combined with certain prescriptions or taken in excess.

Dr. Marcum is not against modern medicine.  He does want us to respect their power, take them only as prescribed, and make every effort to identify the root causes of illness rather than using drugs to simply mask symptoms.  As a Christian, the doctor also mentions the power of loving relationships and trusting that the Creator has given us what we need to stay healthy in many cases: fresh vegetables, abundant water, and plan for regular rest and sleep.

This book should be read by anyone who ever takes prescription, over-the-counter, or herbal substances.  I received a free review copy from Tyndale House publishers.