Category Archives: Books

Review, Review, Review

It has been awhile since I reviewed books, and there are a lot that have been completed. Here are a few of them to begin catching up.

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Won by Love

Norma McCorvey (with Gary Thomas)

Thomas Nelson, 1998 (244 pages)

The name Norma McCorvey might not strike you, but the name “Jane Roe” certainly would. McCorvey is the famous name attached to the landmark Supreme Court case legalizing abortion. In this book, McCorvey simply tells her story, but it is a unique story.

You see, eventually, McCorvey was “won” by the love of Christ and of His followers. She totally despises the abortion industry, and speaks out against it on a regular basis. She is a “Christian” who professes her faith openly. (While there are some doctrinal issues, the story is nonetheless astounding.)

If for no other reason, read this book to learn more about the abortion “industry.” McCorvey worked in a clinic, and gives many grizzly details of both the clinics and the powerful and influential people who stand up for abortion rights so often. The book is an easy read, but there are times where the details are very grotesque and hard to take.

I am appreciative to Joyce Davidson, the wife of one of our elders, for lending me this book after a recent sermon I preached on abortion. It is a great read and I highly recommend it.

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Studies in Hosea

K. Owen White

Convention Press, 1957 (142 pages)

In February, the Freed-Hardeman University lectures dealt with the minor prophets. I try to read a book ahead of time that deals with the subject, so I chose this volume, dealing with just one of those prophets, but one whose story I love to read.

This book is designed to be a teacher’s guide in walking students through the book. As such, it is quite dense, but contains a lot of good information. To me, one of the strengths is how White was able to bring together many different passages from Hosea that teach the same concept and list them for easier study.

While not easy to read in a word-for-word fashion, I still found this book helpful. If you are planning to teach some lesson on Hosea, you might find this little volume helpful, and it will cause you to think about certain subjects within the book in a deeper and more logical way.

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The Faith of Ronald Reagan

Mary Beth Brown

Thomas Nelson, 2011 (originally published in 2004) (237 pages)

I reviewed this book over the weekend for Booksneeze.com. Here is a link to that review.

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Put Your Dream to the Test

John Maxwell

Thomas Nelson, 2009 (234 pages)

This is not an exaggeration: this book jumps into my “10 books you need to read” list, and did so from page one.

As one who loves to dream, and loves to dream big, I loved this book. The reason, though, may surprise you. I did not love this book because it gave me “permission” to dream. I loved this book because it helped me learn how to dream!

Maxwell’s book lists 10 questions that every person needs to ask about the dreams they have for their life. While none of these are difficult in themselves, when put together, they will help you focus your dreams and see if you really (really, really) want to do them.

Upon completing this book, I began writing down a dream, but it will take some time to finish it. It is due to a lack of motivation, it is because it is really big. In fact, one of my new goals for 2011 is to spend time finishing the writing down of this one dream!

Buy this book!

(and thank me later!)

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There are more books to review, but that’s enough for today. Hopefully, over the next couple of weeks, I’ll catch up!

Quite a Story!

Quite a Story!

The Faith of Ronald Reagan is a story that intrigued me from page one. As one who has admired President Reagan for years, this title was interesting to me. I am always interested in finding out what motivates those who lead, so this book served that purpose, at least to a point, for learning more about what motivated Reagan.

Mary Beth Brown tries to show that the faith in Christ that Reagan was taught as a child remained with him throughout his years, from college to Hollywood to politics, and ultimately to the Presidency. At times, it seems to me that she stretches just a bit too far in trying to attribute anything and everything that happened in Reagan’s life to faith. However, she is consistent throughout the book in showing Reagan’s faith in many and varied circumstances.

Even if one was not a “fan” of President Reagan, they will find some of the stories found in this book to be interesting. As one who was just a lad when Reagan was elected to the highest office in the land, the stories about the attempt on his life were fascinating to me. I felt it was a strength of the book to open with that incident, and then look back. Reagan’s faith and strength may have never been stronger than on that day, when, for all intents and purposes, he should have died.

If you like Presidential history, or just good political biographies, I think you will enjoy this book.

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I reviewed this book for booksneeze.com in exchange for a free copy.

I review for BookSneeze®

A Common Bond

A Common Bond

Just as only lawyers can really understand lawyers and nurses can only understand other nurses, only a preacher can really understand the life of a preacher. That’s one reason preachers like to get together. When we get together, we laugh, tell stories, and feel a connection that is hard to describe.

A few years ago, Paula Harrington compiled a book for preachers’ wives. My mom was one of the contributors to that book, which was a collection of quotes, tips, advice, and stories. Now, our sister Paula has done it again, this time turning our attention to the preachers themselves. Her new book, A Common Bond, is a collection of stories and tips from preachers who have “been there” and “done that.” I’m honored that sister Harrington asked me to review the book on our blog!

The names of the preachers are ones you will recognize, but it is far more than the names that make this book memorable. What makes this collection of material memorable is that a preacher finds himself nodding, laughing, and even shedding a tear, knowing that he isn’t “the only one” who has faced a particular situation or gone through a certain difficulty.

My dad is among the 30 ministers who contributed to this work. Other names include Dan Winkler, the late Jim Bill McInteer, Jay Lockhart, Keith Parker, and Hardeman Nichols. Simply reading their words (some attributed and some anonymous due to the sensitivity of the questions) will give a preacher a renewed sense of brotherhood.

If you are a preacher, or would like to understand preachers just a little more, I think you’ll find this book helpful. You may click here for more from Paula’s personal blog. Her post contains a link to purchase the book.

The Pages Podcast: A Primer

The Pages Podcast: A Primer

A few weeks ago, Dale Jenkins and I unveiled “The Pages Podcast.” The podcast is set to record for the first time in early March, and we would love for you to be part of it!

The Pages Podcast will be, as Dale describes it, an old fashioned book club for the 21st Century. With advances in technology, we  have the opportunity to have a book club all over the country and even, the world!

Since unveiling the idea, a lot of work has gone in to getting the club organized in a helpful way. Here are some things you need to know:

1. This is not just for preachers. Our goal is to review books that deal with all areas of the Christian life. We will look at biographies, leadership books, finance books, and many other helpful books, both old and new. Our goal is to help you build a nice library.

2. The podcast will be recorded in the evenings. We are doing this so that those with “9 to 5″ jobs can be part of the live podcast. We will interview people from the club, leaders, and even some of the authors. In fact, on our first podcast, we will be interviewing the author of the book!

3. We have partnered with the Gospel Advocate company to bring you great discounts on the books. Our first book, The Seed Principle by Aubrey Johnson will cost you only $5. After that, we will be able to get books published by Gospel Advocate for 25% off, and all other books they sell for 15% off!

4. The podcast will last about 45-60 minutes each month, and we also want your feedback on our Facebook page. Each month, we want your comments and reviews on The Pages Podcast’s Facebook page, so we can build a good set of reviews.

So far, we have about 30 people involved. As word spreads, we feel this group will grow, and we want you to be part of it! If you are interested, send an email to keaton.bell@gospeladvocate.com. Keaton has worked very hard behind the scenes to set up the club in conjunction with Gospel Advocate, and we thank him for his work!

I hope you will join the club, and we look forward to reviewing The Seed Principle with you in early March!

Finally…Some Book Reviews!

Since I write very brief reviews, I have been waiting to do a review post until I had several to pass along. Here is the latest batch.

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The Mystery of God’s Will

Charles Swindoll

Thomas Nelson, 1999 (222 pages)

It is rare that a writer admits from the outset that he does not know the topic very well, but Swindoll clearly makes that claim at the beginning of this volume. Gaining a true and full understanding of the will of God is a nearly impossible topic to cover, but Swindoll’s effort in this book is commendable.

Obviously, there are some things Swindoll writes in this book with which I disagree, but I still found it to be a helpful read. Simply put, it is impossible to explain God’s providence and how it works, but in this book, Swindoll tries to do just that in ways that I find to be over-stating the case.

I would recommend this book for serious Bible students, but would not for those who are not well-grounded in the faith. The book is an easy read, and it worth your time, but it is not a book you can just skim through and take at face value. Deeper study is necessary alongside this book.

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Contrary to Popular Belief

Joey Green

Three Rivers Press, 2005 (272 pages)

This is a simple “gift book” that contains brief nuggets that we all assume are true. Green tries to give a few short facts to show that these things are not true.

Some are very interesting, while others are clearly wrong. Green, if he is a Christians, surely does not share a literal view of the Bible, as he has about three things in this list of 250 that are Biblical, but claims they are wrong.

The historical and scientific things in the book, though, are quite interesting. They are also fun to read. (One example: “George Washington was not the first President of the United States.” He was the first under the Constitution, but there were Presidents under the Articles of Confederation, too.) If you enjoy little nuggets like that, you’ll enjoy this book. Be warned, though, there is a lot of chaff with the wheat!

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Faith is My Fortune

Richard Clark & Jack Bates

Pepperdine College Book Store, 1962 (316 pages)

A biography of George Pepperdine, Faith is My Fortune is an interesting and entertaining look at a man who truly left an amazing legacy. Pepperdine is best known by many folks as the namesake of California’s Pepperdine University, but he was more than just a philanthropist.

In this book, the authors share tales of Pepperdine’s life from the very beginning. The book is basically divided into three parts. There is the background and growing up years, followed by his work with Western Auto stores, then his work in the Church and with the college. Each of these sections shares insight not only into Pepperdine’s personal life, but also into America at the time. From a small farm in the midwest to a very wealthy man on the west coast, George Pepperdine saw so much.

The book is hard to read at times, as it seems somewhat disjointed, but it is still worth your time if you are a student of Church history, or of biographies.

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Decision Points

George W. Bush

Crown Publishers, 2010 (497 pages)

I like “W.” While I don’t agree with everything he did as President of our country, I still find him to be a fascinating figure in modern history. His memoirs were a fantastic read.

The title is well-chosen, as Bush sets forth decisions he made throughout his life (mostly during his time as President, of course) that he felt were most important. Instead of a chronological day-by-day account of his time in the White House, these points of decision are a wonderful focus on what Bush will most be remembered for.

To me, the chapter on 9/11 (“Day of Fire”) is the most compelling. I knew much of what Bush’s day was like, but this chapter tells far more that I did not know.

One of the strengths of this book is that Bush is willing to tell of things he did that he now regrets. It is not just a “look what I did right” book, and I highly respect that. Even if you are not a “fan” of George W. Bush, you will find this book to be a great leadership volume. Though long, it is an easy read, and one that I hope to read again someday.

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Seven Things a Loving God Hates

Allen Webster

Heart to Heart Publications, 2007 (159 pages)

This is the second time I have read brother Webster’s book in a cover-to-cover manner, although I have used it many times for sermon and lesson preparation.

My Sunday morning Bible class is currently studying the book of Proverbs, so, when we came to Proverbs 6 and looked at these “seven things,” we used brother Webster’s book as the basis for our study. It was a great help to me as the teacher, and the class truly enjoyed the study and the discussion each chapter led to.

Based upon his popular tract series, Seven Things is a must-read. Webster supports each chapter with strong research, a multiplicity of Scripture references, and well-chosen illustrations. I highly recommend this book for personal study or for a class or small group study.

If You Like Books……..

If You Like Books……..

It is no secret that I love reading. But I know that many of you do, as well.

An older “tradition” that isn’t done as much anymore is the book club. However, I am thrilled today to let you know about a 21st Century version that you can be part of!

Dale Jenkins and I are beginning “The Pages Podcast.” It is a modern-day book club. Each month, we will announce a book geared toward Christian living. Then, on an assigned night, we will discuss the book in podcast form. You can listen live to our discussion, make comments in the chat room and even, if time allows, call in to make comments. Our goal is to get guests, including some of the authors, to come on with us as we discuss the book.

Now, here’s the best part: we are working on plans to get the books for less money than you would pay for them in book stores! Once the title is announced, we will let you know how to get that month’s book.

Please know that this is not just for preachers. We plan to talk about biographies, finance books, leadership books, books on parenting and family, and general Christian living books. Also, we have a goal of discussing books that are both new and old, so there will be much variety.

Now, what can you do?

1. If you would like to be involved, you can “like” the page on Facebook. If you are not on Facebook, or prefer email, email your interest to thepagespodcast@edge.net. By letting us know, you will be added to our email list and will be notified of the first title (to be named in early February) and the date of the first podcast (early March).

2. Spread the word. The more people we have involved, the more fun this will be. A larger number will also help us “leverage” with authors and book stores as we seek to get you the best price possible on the book each month. It would be great to start out with 100 folks!

We hope you will enjoy this new venture, and that you will learn from the reading and the discussion of these books over the coming months. Our goal is to record the podcasts in the evenings so as many folks as possible can join in live.

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Dale recently posted a “press release” about the launch. Here is that post.

A Great “Set” of Reviews

Four reviews today, and I like all four books. Enjoy!

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Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters

Meg Meeker

Ballantine Books, 2006 (267 pages)

Simply put, this is one of the best (if not, “the” best) book on parenting I have ever read. Obviously, as a dad with a daughter, this book appealed to me, but I found some principles here, too, that will help in raising my son.

Meeker is able in this book to share very blunt truths with us fathers. Her approach is clear, concise and, at times, downright “in your face.” However, she backs up all her statements with almost countless references to research and also with life stories she has seen over decades of serving as a counselor.

The key word is “strong,” and Meeker never backs down from that concept. In a world that teaches girls to be “tough,” Meeker teaches us dads “10 Secrets” to making a girl become truly strong. Though not written from a true Christian perspective, the book still teaches that fathers are to pass along certain traits, including our faith.

Dads, read this book! While you may know much of what is said here, the book adds a lot of weight and depth to how you will approach your precious daughter.

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Words from the Fire

Albert Mohler

Moody Publishers, 2009 (200 pages)

Dr. Albert Mohler’s blog and podcast (“The Briefing”) are two of my favorite things to take in each day. So I was excited to get a book written by him. Also, considering it was on a subject that I enjoy, I was doubly excited.

And I wasn’t disappointed. The book deals with the 10 Commandments. While you may think there is nothing more to learn on these ten statements from God, Dr. Mohler is able to share with us some modern thoughts that are very needed.

The best chapters, to me, are those that deal with what we sometimes call the “vertical” commands (those dealing with our submission to God). Mohler hammers home the concept of the true holiness of God, and of our need to be absolutely reverent as it pertains to the Lord.

Preachers, you will find nearly every chapter to be helpful in your study of the 10 Commandments, and you will also find that each chapter can be “preached” with just a little work. I highly recommend this book.

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Fireproof

Eric Wilson

Thomas Nelson, 2008 (312 pages)

Rarely do I read novels, but I couldn’t pass on this one. Leah had read it and told me that it meant a lot to her, so I took the time to read it. I figured I would be bored out of my mind, but I could hardly put it down!

Due to the success of the movie by the same name, as well as the popularity of this novel, most of you know the basis of Fireproof. The novel is able to draw the reader in, and make you feel for this couple as they struggle through a horrible relationship, and as the husband strives to win back his wife.

The overall message that I gained was that my bride is worth fighting for. While the story is good, that application is priceless. Hopefully, Leah has seen that in me since I finished this novel.

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Living Life in the Zone

Kyle Rote, Jr. and Dr. Joe Pettigrew

Thomas Nelson, 2009 (329 pages)

I reviewed this book in another article for booksneeze.com. If you are interested, you can read that post here.

Good Thought-Provoking Book

Living in the Zone walks men through 40 days of Bible study and self-evaluation. The book is designed for those who love sports, and each chapter contains a story of someone associated with the world of athletics who models a specific and needed trait.

The 40-day approach has been all the rage lately, probably due to the success of Fireproof and its 40-day Love Dare. “Zone” is a book that is challenging, and will really cause men to think.

The 40 days are divided into 6 “zones” in which men need to evaluate their success and maturity against what God has to say in His Word. Maybe the most challenging is the zone of “work.” We often place work in its own compartment and fail to use it for spiritual purposes. The words of this book help us balance that against God’s Word.

The book is very much “devotional level,” but it is still challenging. Each chapter ends with questions and an assignment. Some of these assignments, though, are truly challenging. Some are more than one-day assignments, which might turn a few readers away.

Overall, I found the book to be helpful, and a needed reminder. If you are looking for a simple devotional book for men, this is a book to pick up. If you are looking for a deeper Bible study, you might want to look elsewhere.

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I reviewed this book for Booksneeze.com, in exchange for a free copy of the book.

I review for BookSneeze

Quick-Fire Book Reviews

When God Builds a Church

Bob Russell

Howard Publishing, 2000 (292 pages)

I read this book as I prepared some ideas for sermons for 2011. I had read this book several years ago, but thought it needed to be read again.

Russell, the “senior pastor” of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, wrote this book as a way to show that growing a congregation isn’t just about some gimmicky method or the latest fad. At the time this book was written, Southeast had about 13,000 in weekly attendance.

The book features 10 principles that are as simple as “worship,” “evangelism,” and “fellowship.” While these are old principles, they still work.

To me, the best parts of this book are two chapters. First, the first principle Russell speaks about is “truth.” While I don’t agree with everything Southeast teaches, Russell makes it clear that they will not stray from the core doctrines of their church. In a time when far too many are doing just that, this is refreshing to read.

However, the reason I highly recommend this book is because of the fourth principle, “excellence.” Russell makes it clear that, not only are people looking for excellence, true service to God demands it. We cannot “half-do” Christianity and expect people to be drawn to it. Leaders need to make this a part of all they do.

This is an easily read book. While you won’t agree with everything in it (considering it speaks often of choirs and bands, as just one example), the overall principles in this book are timeless and need to be reinforced.

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Why Men Hate Going to Church

David Murrow

Thomas Nelson, 2005 (248 pages)

We often speak about how there are more women in the typical congregation than men. Some of that is due to women living longer, but that is not all that plays into this dynamic. Murrow tries to present several reasons why men of all ages simply do not want to attend church.

I was excited to read this book, but I found myself slightly disappointed. The reason is simple: Murrow makes a great argument near the beginning of the book that congregations cater to women more than men, but then he basically says the same thing over and over throughout the pages of the remaining chapters.

That said, I think this book is worth your time. If you read it with an honest mind, you will see that nearly every congregation is “guilty” (for lack of a better term) of falling into some of these traits. The one that hit me the most was that we often simply do not challenge people enough, and men want a challenge! As a congregation starts and begins to grow, men are involved because there are all sorts of tough decisions to be made and long-range challenges to be addressed. However, as time goes on, we get comfortable and stop meeting big challenges. Men, then, are not as interested.

I would recommend this book for elders and preachers. Even if you don’t like to read, you can get the gist of this book from the first few pages, and that is a good start.

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Sheet Music

Dr. Kevin Leman

Tyndale, 2003–reprinted in 2008 (276 pages)

I won’t comment much on this book, because the subject matter is intimate in nature, but I do highly recommend this book. Dr. Leman’s book is subtitled, “Uncovering the Secrets of Sexual Intimacy in Marriage,” and the book is worth your time.

Written in a style that is both informative and fun, Dr. Leman helps husbands and wives see common problems in this area of marriage, and helps them know how to address them.

Again, we have several younger readers to this blog, so I will avoid being specific in this review, but I would recommend this book to any married couple. You may not agree with every page, but the overall message of the book is very clear and well written.

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Death to the BCS

Dan Wetzel, Josh Peter, and Jeff Passan

Gotham Books, 2010 (195 pages)

Yes, I do read books other than those that deal with the Bible, money, and family!

If you are a college football fan, this is a must-read. Whether or not you like the BCS, which decides college football’s national championship, you will learn from this book. It is far more than a rant, and the book is deeply researched. It is clear and concise in dismissing the “stories” (to use a mild term) we are fed about this system.

The only drawback to this book is that it seems as though it was rushed to be published. I noticed a handful of spelling errors throughout the pages. While not many, it seemed to be a case of meeting a deadline more than waiting a few weeks to edit one more time.

Other than that, this is a fun read about a controversial subject that you will enjoy.

Oh, and I agree…the BCS needs to be killed off!

Three Reviews

This post will finally catch us up on book reviews! (At least, until I finish another book.)

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The Screwtape Letters

C.S. Lewis

originally published 1942, my copy published by Harper Collins in 2001 (209 pages)

I have had this book on my shelf for a long time, and a member at Lebanon Road suggested that I would love it. That gave me the “umph” needed to add it to my reading list.

I’m so glad I did!

Lewis is able to weave through the letters from “Wormwood” to “Screwtape” (an uncle demon to his nephew) the way we see Satan working in our world. The allegory is clear, but haunting. At times, it is almost too real.

Lewis stated that he struggled writing this book because he had to think like the devil would think. However, just looking at the world around with a clear mind will show how Satan works, and it comes across very clearly in this work.

In my mind, the most powerful letter is #25, where Wormwood tries to show how “the same old thing” is the worst  thing humans can think of. In other words, we are always looking for the newest, fastest, and most exciting. Sound familiar?

Read this book! It is short, but will truly cause you to think about how subtle Satan is, and of how well he does what he sets his mind to do.

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Facing Your Giants

Max Lucado

Thomas Nelson, 2006 (233 pages)

Based upon the life of David, this volume shares with readers how we can face the insurmountable times in our lives with God’s help. Lucado is able to take some of the more familiar times in the life of David and show how they were used to defeat more “giants” than just one named Goliath.

In my mind, that is the best part of this book. It is not just a look at David and Goliath. Instead, it is a devotional style walk through major times in the life of David, and it shows how this man faced many giants. We rarely will face a bully like Goliath, but we will face the “giants” of fear, betrayal, and loss. David faced these, too, and Lucado is able to use those common areas of life to show us how to handle them.

This is very much a devotional-level book. There are some times where I feel the author takes a few too many liberties with the text, but overall the book is helpful. The study guide in the back of the book is one that I find more helpful than many others I have seen.

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Communicating for a Change

Andy Stanley and Lane Jones

Multnomah Books, 2006 (199 pages)

This book does one thing, and that is that it tries to get those of us who preach to, well, do one thing: preach one point.

199 pages are spent showing the “why’s” and “how’s,” of doing that, but the one point of this book is to preach just one point.

I preach multi-point sermons like many other preachers do, but I didn’t see this book as an “affront” to that style. I read it as a different approach to preaching, and I did find a lot in it to be helpful. I see this book as another in a long line of books that show other ways of preaching (and preaching Biblically). It is up to the preacher and those who hear to determine what is best for the situation. Some need to be one-point preachers. Others need to preach several points. Some need to learn to make a point!

If you agree with the overall premise or not, this is still a must-read for preachers.