Monday, June 27, 2011

End of the Journey

After a lot of thought and some changes that have occurred over the last year in my life, I've decided to discontinue posting to this site.

Old postings and reviews may be found at my new blog The D Ticket.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Spirit in Football by Kathryn Nixon and Ana Boudreau

Kathryn Nixon and Ana Boudreau in The Spirit in Football presents the fruits of the spirits from Galatians 5:22-23 to children through images and word pictures related to football. For example, they present to children the idea of gentleness by not reacting badly to a penalty. Or one learns about joy through the excitement of a touchdown. Each of the nine fruits of the spirit is presented in two pages, with one page providing a supporting verse and the other page matching the specific fruit of the spirit to a concept familiar to those who enjoy football. The book also includes an introduction from National Football League player Matt Hasselbeck and a football themed prayer.

I’m a sports fan and looked forward to sharing this book with my son. He really enjoys playing with sports balls so I thought the pictures would grab his interest. He, a young three year old, sat patiently through a full reading of the book. But on a personal level he was more engaged with the author’s baseball book on the fruits of the spirit. At this time, the fruits of the spirit are over his head. But, this book does help serve to introduce concepts like kindness and self control to young children and begin the foundations of character building.

Review Copy Provided by The B&B Media Group, Inc.

The Spirit in Baseball by Kathryn Nixon and Ana Boudreau

Kathryn Nixon and Ana Boudreau in The Spirit in Baseball presents the fruits of the spirits from Galatians 5:22-23 to children through images and word pictures related to baseball. For example, they present to children the idea of patience through waiting for one’s turn at bat. Or one learns about joy through the excitement of a homerun. Each of the nine fruits of the spirit is presented in two pages, with one page providing a supporting verse and the other page matching the specific fruit of the spirit to a concept familiar to those who enjoy baseball. The book also includes an afterward from Mrs. Nixon’s husband Trot Nixon, former Major League Baseball player, and a baseball themed prayer.

I’m a big baseball fan, so this book caught my interest since I could share faith and baseball at the same time with my son. But to be honest, as a young three year old what engaged him was finding the baseball in every picture. He really likes sports balls. So the great news was he would be willing to sit through multiple reads since he could find the baseball every time. But alas the fruits of the spirit are at this time over his head. But, this book does help serve to introduce concepts like kindness and self control to young children.

Review Copy Provided by The B&B Media Group, Inc.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Jesus, My Father, the CIA and Me by Ian Morgan Cron

Ian Morgan Cron in Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me recounts key moments in his life and his growing relationship with God. Cron was born to affluent parents, including a father who was an executive for Screen Gems working in the United Kingdom. His parents socialized with the rich and famous in London, but the senior Cron’s entertainment career was wasted by a curse, the curse of alcoholism. Oh, and his father worked for the fledging CIA on an occasional basis! Cron grew up in fear of this father and seeking to gain his approval and at times just approval. As a young man he developed his own substance abuse problem, which he struggled and struggles with. Along with Cron’s need to connect to his father, Cron also describes hs desir to connect to God in a meaningful way and how he used substance abuse to replicate feeling close to God.

Overall Jesus, My Father the CIA and Me is a highly readable book. The episodes from Cron’s life are typically engaging and you are able to enter into the incidents with Cron. My biggest complaint is Cron occasionally uses phrases or makes cultural references that belong to today and not Cron’s earlier years. For example he makes a reference to “$#*! My Dad Says” which simply removed me from his storytelling taking me a few minutes to return. Cron provides his readers a generally enjoyable tale, which records one man’s walk with addiction and God. It is the sort of summer read that one can both find entertainment and meaning in.

Review Copy Provided by Thomas Nelson

Thursday, June 2, 2011

We Shall See God: Charles Spurgeon’s Classic Devotional Thoughts on Heaven by Randy Alcorn

Randy Alcorn in We Shall See God collects fifty experts from Charles Spurgeon’s sermons on the topic of heaven. Alcorn has selected from Spurgeon’s vast treasury of sermons excerpts that show Spurgeon’s thoughts on heaven and the importance of Jesus in a theology of the afterlife. After every two to five page Spurgeon excerpt, Alcorn provides commentary on Spurgeon’s thoughts and helps provide linkages to the modern day. Alcorn for his modern reader additionally edited each section to meet modern conventional grammar, often resulting in rearranging large paragraphs into smaller chunks. Alcorn along with the excerpts provides biographical information on Spurgeon for readers unfamiliar with his life and ministry.

For the purposes of this review, I want to focus primarily on Spurgeon’s thoughts. Though Alcorn’s commentary is helpful and helps readers get to the point of sermons written in the language of the 19th century. Spurgeon overall paints a picture of heaven that is exciting, better than one can expect and adventurist. Spurgeon chaffs at those who view heaven as a boring uninteresting existence that humans would not want to spend an eternity in. Instead heaven is a place of rest and sabbath where believers will finally know Jesus in a personal manner. The saved will live in heaven as kings, redeemed by the work of Christ. In heaven there will be no place for sin, but there will be room for laughter and joy. Spurgeon believed that believers would retain their personal identities and friendships, deeper than we could have in the old earth, in the restored creation. This is a devotional book and the cheery and exciting picture that Spurgeon paints of heaven is highly encouraging. On a side note there have been a lot of discussion about heaven and what does it mean to be an Universalist. Spurgeon makes clear that he believes that he believes that there will be more in heaven than those that are lost to hell, an existence without God. Alcorn states his belief that Spurgeon is not an Universalist in anyway, as Jesus is the key to salvation. But it does lead to questions about what does it mean to be an Universalist and the importance to provide each other grace in this debate. In my opinion, we are currently experiencing an vigorous theological debate amongst believers about heaven. In short, it’s nice to see where we have been already to help us determine where we are going.

Review Copy Provided by Tyndale House Publishers

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Flight Plan: Your Mission to Become a Man by Lee Burns and Braxton Brady

Lee Burns and Braxton Brady in Flight Plan: Your Mission to Become a Man welcomes boys into the adventure of becoming a man. Burns and Brady frame this adventure in word pictures of flight, using stories and examples of flight school, fighter pilots and other aviation allusions. They introduce boys to seven key virtues of manhood:
• The True Friend: Leave No Man Behind
• The Humble Hero: Develop a God Sized Vision
• The Servant Leader: I Am Third
• The Moral Motivator: Make a Difference
• The Bold Adventurer: Don’t Sit Around
• The Noble Knight: Called to Duty
• The Heart Patient: Give Up Control
This is followed by discussions of issues that boys will have to face in a virtuous way as they move into manhood. These topics including relationships, sex, drugs and alcohol, school, success and other issues boys are sure to need to address head on. Every chapter ends with a set of discussion/reflection questions that can help boys examine their own thoughts on the material.

My academic training is history. The old adage was we tell you what we are going to tell you, tell you and then tell you what we told you. Chapter 3 “Flight Pattern” seemed like a great tell them what you’re going to tell them chapter introducing the virtues of a man. Each one of those virtues deserves an in-depth examination. Instead the chapters that follow deal with issues facing boys and young men not further exploration of the seven virtues. Now the discussions of things like sex are frank and handled in a mature and non-demeaning way. But what is missing are strong ties back to the virtues like “The Noble Knight.”

How would I recommend using this book? First, it would be a good discussion piece between fathers and sons. The book would help break the ice on topics I would have loved to have discussed with my own father. I don’t remember my father in I having “the talk” or evening having a glancing conversation on issues like pornography. This book makes it so you can’t but not talk about those issues. It’s that blunt conversation that would make me questioning using the book in some settings as a small group resource. For a group of mature teens willing to engage in a serious conversation about these issues there could be benefits in going through this book in a group setting. But for younger and less mature boys, the use of the proper words for sexual organs will likely result in snickers and laughs. The authors suggest reading the book before age 12, which may work in their setting of a boys school. However, it may not work for every youth leader in their setting with that age group. And for a less mature, and maybe some mature adults, having conversations about sex, your body, or puberty with boys could be problematic.

Overall, this is a good book that outlines the issues that boys face today. The picture of the journey from boyhood to manhood as an adventure is engaging and accurate. And the use of airplane imagery will likely hook some boys reading the book. The best part of this book is it examines some difficult issues, but in a honest, Biblical and grace filled manner. And while some readers may cringe at these topics, transparency is the book’s true strength.

Review Copy Provided by The B&B Media Group, Inc.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Love & War: Find Your Way to Something Beautiful in Your Marriage by John & Stasi Eldredge

John and Stasi Eldredge in Love & War let their readers into a secret. Marriage is a battle, it’s more than a battle it’s a war and failure would be devastating. The Eldredges use their own marriage and those they have counseled to detail how this war for your marriage is taking place and strategies in order to win the day. The key principal that they teach is that a couple should include God in their relationship. Only by centering a marriage around God can a couple survive Satan’s attacks and attempts to rip the relationship apart. Additionally, it is only through God’s strength that a couple can overcome the damage caused by the hurts that each member of the partnership brings into the union. In the end, they argue that one of the most important things every marriage needs is healing, healing of the hurts done by others and by each other. They teach that healing can only come by forgiveness.

I went into this book a little apprehensive. I thought Wild at Heart very insightful but also not my typical preferred content. So I went into this book prepared not to enjoy it. Well, I was wrong. I love how the Eldredges focus on marriage as a story, but not just any story but an epic battle between good and evil for your marriage. I believe this imagery speaks to the heart of a man and is more effective in communicating truth than a 12 step self help fix your marriage book. And let’s be honest, it’s likely the husband and the wife that needs to be wooed into reading a book on marriage. Additionally, the chapters do move from topic to topic, but they don’t give us a checklist to fix a marriage but instead show how couples are attacked in different aspects of their marriage and how Jesus can be invited into that particular battle. I find their advice highly practical and realistic, feeling like advice from those that have reached a spiritually mature place in their marriage to those at the earlier steps. They are clear, your marriage will not be perfect, it will not be a fairy tale, it will have ups and down and they are not going to try to convince you otherwise just because you are a Christian. Speaking of realism, I found their discussion on sex honest, transparent and somewhat refreshing in seeing a Christian couple be honest about the need for sex and how they have been sexually disconnected at times and how they have reconnected. If asked today to recommend a book on marriage, I would wholeheartedly reach first for Love & War.

Review Copy Provided by WaterBrook Multnomah