BELLA’S GIFT – Rick and Karen Santorum (2015)

•March 2, 2015 • Leave a Comment

She had a 10 percent chance of survival at birth.  Ninety percent of Asantsurvivors don’t live to see their first birthday.  Yet Isabella Santorum is a fighter.  In May of 2015, she will celebrate her 7th birthday!

Bella’s Gift is the heart-gripping tale of Rick and Karen Santorum and their daughter, Isabella.  This little princess was born with Trisomy 18, a rare condition that means she has an extra chromosome in every cell of her body.

Rick and Karen Santorum share how this little girl changed their family for the better and how she has inspired all who know her.

The Santorum’s don’t sugarcoat this story.  They lay the raw details on the table and express the pain they have experienced and the heartbreak they have endured.  Yet, God’s gift of Bella to the Santorum’s  helped transform their priorities and revolutionize their family.

Such a story is yet another indication that Rick Santorum is the kind of man that needs to occupy the White House in 2016.  America is ready for a leader of faith; a leader who values family, and a leader who is unashamed to draw bold lines for the good of a nation.

4 stars

I received this book free from the publisher.   I was not required to write a positive review. 

FALLEN: Out of the Sex Industry and Into the Arms of the Savior – Annie Lobert (2015)

•February 26, 2015 • Leave a Comment

annie lobertFallen is her alias.  Fallen is also the name of her memoir – a heartbreaking tale of a woman imprisoned in the human trafficking industry, sinful excess, and substance abuse.

When I learned that Annie Lobert had written a book that described her descent into human trafficking and her radical conversion through the Lord Jesus Christ, I was eager to hear this incredible redemptive tale.  Her husband, Oz Fox is the lead guitar player in the band that I’ve followed since the mid 80’s, so Annie Lobert’s book in my mind became required reading.

Fallen is an extremely difficult book to read.   Annie Lobert tells the sad tale of her journey into darkness where she is manipulated, beaten, bruised, lied to, and abused.  The book is an inside look at what the German’s refer to as the zeitgeist – the spirit of the age.  Lobert unveils a worldly system that most people are captivated by.  She refers to this worldly system that reeled her in as “a new, rich lifestyle that commanded my attention, and ultimately my worship.” Behind the glitz and glamor, however,  is a vicious worldview that lures the unsuspecting.  Shrouded behind the veil lies a plethora of pain, suffering, suicide, horror and tragedy.  Herein lies the greatest strength of the book.  The author paints a true portrait of the world, the flesh, and the devil.  Fallen is a vivid reminder of the truthfulness of Proverbs 16:25.

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.

A series of circumstances drew Annie to the Savior, where she repented of her sin and accepted the free gift of salvation from God through his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Some doctrinal difficulties emerge in the book that are influenced by some charismatic teaching that cannot be supported by Scripture such as receiving the Holy Spirit subsequent to one’s initial encounter with Christ.  Scripture clearly tells us, “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – Jews or Greeks, slaves or free – and all were made to drink of one Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:13).

Ultimately, Fallen is about the redemptive work of Christ which took root in Annie Lobert’s heart.  For this God receives all the glory, not only for her salvation and deliverance from the chains of sin but also for her ministry that she currently has in Las Vegas, which ministers to sex trafficking victims and prostitutes.  Lobert’s testimony is a reminder that no one is out of the reach of God’s amazing grace!

I received this book free from the publisher.   I was not required to write a positive review. 

 

 

 

THE MATHENY MANIFESTO – Mike Matheny (2015)

•February 23, 2015 • Leave a Comment

“Whatever happened to the love of the game?”  Mike Matheny wants055344669X_b answers in his book, The Matheny Manifesto.  Less than ten pages into the book, I noticed my eyes began to well with tears.  Indeed, the love of the game has been displaced for ego, selfishness, and parents who live vicariously through their kids.

Back to the tears.  As Matheny made his lament, my memory bank rewinded back to the mid-70’s when I played baseball for Lacey Elementary.  I instantly remember the day when my buddy, John Rohr was on the mound.  John loved to throw the knuckle ball.  The only problem is that John’s dad was the manager of the club.  And Mr. Rohr didn’t like the knuckle ball.  So with two down and a runner aboard, John threw a knuckle ball.  “Johnny!” Mr. Rohr yelled.  Strike one!  A glance back to me at second base.  John wound up.  Another knuckle ball.  “I thought I told you …” Swing and a miss.  Strike two!  Another glance back to second base.  Everyone knew what was coming.  John tossed a third knuckle ball and struck out the poor little wretch at the plate!  “You’re out!”  Mr. Rohr couldn’t believe it!  We’ve talked about that scene dozens of times over the last forty years and will probably keep talking for another forty years!

Mike Matheny has a great point.  Young people have lost the love of the game.  I still remember the days of Dairy Queen, … And who could forget the triple play that John Rohr, Steve Robbins, and I turned in 1978.  We never turned another triple play again and I’ve only seen one turned since – at Safeco Field a few years ago.

The Matheny Manifesto is about the love of the game.  Manager of the St. Lewis Cardinals weaves his life story into this fascinating account which is in the final analysis his life philosophy and baseball philosophy.

Matheny explores the keys to success, not just in baseball – but in life.  These keys include:

  • Leadership
  • Confidence
  • Teamwork
  • Faith
  • Class
  • Character
  • Toughness
  • Humility

At the center of the book is a commitment to “old-school” views which find their origin in the teaching of Jesus.  Matheny is quick to give glory to God and is compelled to live out the kingdom priorities of Jesus – both on the field and off.

Perhaps the most impressive feature of the book is Matheny’s commitment to servant leadership, what he refers to as an “upside-down organizational chart.”  Matheny articulates his vision of servant leadership:

The leader, the boss, puts himself at the bottom, in a supporting role, and empowers his subordinates to excel.  Somehow, he loses no power or authority or respect.  In fact, his stature is enhanced because he has honored the people entrusted to him.

While the author shares his original manifesto which was written to parents of a little league team he coached, the essence of the manifesto emerges clearly in the pages of this well-written book.

The Matheny Manifesto will remind you why you love the game of baseball and will spur you on to live life with passion, integrity, honor, and courage!

I received this book free from the publisher.   I was not required to write a positive review. 

 

EXPERIENCING THE TRINITY – Joe Thorn (2015)

•February 16, 2015 • 1 Comment

a trinityWhat do you get when you combine passionate spirituality, gospel-saturated writing, and the best of Reformed theology? Answer: A book that every Christ-follower should read, absorb, pray over, digest, and re-read.

Experiencing the Trinity by Joe Thorn is a combination of honest reflection and soul-searching which is informed exclusively by the Word of God. Imagine the contemplative musings of A.W. Tozer, the insight of C.S. Lewis, and the theological precision of J.I. Packer mixed together in one short book. The end result is Experiencing the Trinity.

Over twenty years ago, I was introduced to the notion of “preaching the gospel to yourself.” Jerry Bridges was my instructor and his guidance has served me well.  This biblical principle has been a gigantic source of encouragement in the Christian life. Joe Thorn picks up where Bridges left off by guiding readers through 50 short essays that put “meat on the bones” and show what it truly means to “preach the gospel to yourself.”

The book is arranged in three sections – Father, Son, and Spirit, respectively. The author writes in the first person and aims gospel promises to the head and heart with clarity, honesty, and gospel-centered resolve.

This is a book the dead guys would be proud of. It would certainly attract the attention of godly men like John Owen, Richard Sibbes, Jonathan Edwards, and John Bunyan. One of the advantages of Thorn’s work is that he casts aside the “wordiness” that the Puritans were famous for. Instead, he encapsulates a doctrinal reality in a few short pages but never at the expense of biblical truth.

Experiencing the Trinity is a short book. But this little gem is packed with gospel promises, gospel power, and fuel for Christ-followers who are struggling with fear, doubt, anxiety, or temptation.

My hope is that Experiencing the Trinity receives a wide reading; that thousands of Christians will be strengthened, edified, challenged, and equipped to continue the race – all the way to the Celestial City. And may many who have yet to embrace the promises of the gospel find refuge in the Triune God who alone grants forgiveness and peace to everyone who turns from their sin and casts all their hope and future in the Lord Jesus Christ!

Highly recommended!

I received this book free from the publisher.   I was not required to write a positive review. 

CONTAGIOUS DISCIPLE MAKING – David Watson and Paul Watson (2014)

•February 12, 2015 • Leave a Comment

0529112205_bContagious Disciple Making by David and Paul Watson is a practical and readable guide to obeying the Great Commission.    The book is arranged in two parts, the mindset of a disciple-maker and the practices of a disciple-maker.

Part One: The Mindset of a Disciple-Maker

The first section describes some of the philosophic presuppositions that a person should embrace which will enable him to carry out Christ’s mandate to make disciples.  The authors present eight principles to that end:

  1. Disciple-makers embrace lessons taught by failure.
  2. Disciple-makers deculturalize, not contextualize the gospel.
  3. Disciple-makers plant the gospel rather than reproduce their religion.
  4. Disciple-makers realize how hard completing the Great Commission will be for strategies and organizations built around branded Christianity.
  5. Disciple-makers realize the structure of the community determines the strategy used to make disciples.
  6. Disciple-makers realize their culture and religious experience can negatively influence their disciple-making unless they are very careful.
  7. Disciple-makers understand the importance of obedience.
  8. Disciple-makers make disciples, not converts.

Part one contains some important biblical principles that readers should read, digest, and reflect upon.

Two specific critiques are worth noting.  First, there are some negative feelings toward denominations that I take exception with.  The authors maintain that “the denominational education and indoctrination process make it impossible to fulfill the Great Commission.”  The statement is a land mine which is never supported with facts.

Second, the chapter on contextualization is an overreaction and needs adjustment to be adjusted.  In addition, the concern with “doctrine-centered” discipleship is disturbing and also needs to be adjusted.

Part Two: The Practices of a Disciple-Maker

The second half of the book is geared more to people in the trenches who are actually making disciples.  The authors stress the need for prayer, engaging lost people, finding a person of peace, discovery groups, establishing churches, leadership, and mentoring.

While much of this material is valuable, the section on finding a person of peace is especially worth reading: “The Person of Peace is the one God has prepared to receive the Gospel into a community for the first time … This person may be from any walk of life, but he or she will welcome you, listen to your message, help you with your livelihood, and allow you to stay in his or her home and influence his or her family and the community for the sake of the Gospel.”  Such an approach has been fruitful around the world and will serve disciple-makers well.

Contagious Disciple Making is a worthwhile read that has minor bumps along the way.  It is a journey worth taking.

I received this book free from the publisher.   I was not required to write a positive review. 

3 stars

 

 

THE DARING MISSION OF WILLIAM TYNDALE – Steven J. Lawson (2015)

•February 9, 2015 • 1 Comment

DAR05BH_200x1000American people have the right and the freedom to criticize military movements in a foreign theater.  This kind of deplorable behavior makes freedom loving Americans cringe – for the freedom to criticize is actually secured and maintained by the very soldiers “under the gun” of critique.  In like manner, Christians have become quite adept at either criticizing their theological heritage or downplaying the importance of church history which subtly undermines the heroes of the Christian faith.  This mind-numbing, soul-shrinking language that discounts the pillars of church history only strengthens the assertion that R.C. Sproul often makes: “We live in the most anti-intellectual period in all of church history.”

Yet, church history is making a comeback.  Church history is rising from the ashes and is beginning to shine once again.  The heroes of the Christian faith who have been sidelined are making their way back onto the “field.”  Calvin, Luther, Edwards, Whitefield, Knox, and Spurgeon are returning to the collective consciousness of the church – especially in the younger generation.  In my own Christian pilgrimage, I give most of the credit to R.C. Sproul for rattling the cage of my mind and shaping my hard heart in order to not only appreciate church history – but to actually love it!

Another important contributor to this resurgence in the study of church history is Steven Lawson.  In 2007, he introduced the series entitled, A Long Line of Godly Men.  The first volume, The Expository Genius of John Calvin introduced readers to the Genevan theologian and sought to “raise the bar for a new generation of expositors.”  Since that time, several new volumes have been released that survey the lives and ministries of Jonathan Edwards, Martin Luther, John Knox, C.H. Spurgeon, Isaac Watts, John Owen, and George Whitefield.

The newest installment in the series, The Daring Mission of William Tyndale summarizes the life of brave Brit, credited with the first English translation of the Bible.

Lawson presents the high points of Tyndale’s life and guides readers on a step-by-step tour which culminates in the martyrdom of a courageous and godly man.

Tyndale’s theological convictions are summarized in five monumental sections:

  • Radical Corruption
  • Sovereign Election
  • Particular Redemption
  • Irresistible Call
  • Preserving Grace

Lawson is quick to alert readers to the Calvinistic piety of Tyndale, a man who stood shoulder to shoulder with the other giants of the Christian faith.

The Daring Mission of William Tyndale is yet another gift to the church from the pen of Steven Lawson.  Young and old will be challenged, emboldened and encouraged as they read about a man who lived what he preached and died for a worthy cause.

Highly recommended!

5 stars

I received this book free from the publisher.   I was not required to write a positive review. 

CALVINISM IN THE LAS VEGAS AIRPORT – Richard Mouw (2010)

•February 6, 2015 • Leave a Comment

acI am a Calvinist.  Since I paid a visit to the Las Vegas airport a few weeks ago, I felt compelled to read Richard Mouw’s book, Calvinism in the Las Vegas Airport.

The author is interested, as the subtitle suggests, in “making connections in today’s world.”  Mouw rightly notes that some Calvinists are stuck in the Netherlands and have a difficult time reaching out and relating to postmodern people.

The Basics of Calvinism

The author admits upfront that he believes that Calvinism is essential to the gospel.  Such an admission caught my attention – so I read on.

Ultimately, Dr. Mouw seeks to answer one basic question: “How can I best be a Calvinist in the twenty-first century?”  The question is well-placed and deserves an answer.

Part of the answer involves a basic explanation of the historical origins of the theological system that has been labeled, “Calvinism.”  The author rightly adds, “But unlike other traditions, Calvinism rigorously guards this emphasis on divine sovereignty by refusing to allow any other theological point to detract from it.”  Mouw continues by providing a biblical rationale for the five points of Calvinism.

The Blunder in Las Vegas

The tone of the book is warm, the discussion is thought-provoking.  And the discussion that concerns Calvinism is helpful.  Yet a problem begin to surface as the author appears to be sympathetic to inclusivism.  He speaks about unbelievers who will “bow in worship, acknowledging that Jesus is the One whom he should have named all along … and that the Savior will welcome him into the eternal kingdom.”

The author refers to another unconverted friend and wonders out loud: “Is it possible that in this process of surrendering her will to her ‘Higher Power,’ she has, at some level of her being, reached out to accept God’s offer of salvation through Jesus Christ – even though she is present psychologically incapable of articulating her experience in those terms?”

So the book takes a turn that I never expected.  Yet the author laments, ” … I can be sure that I have not wandered too far from the Calvinist path.”

At the end of the day, we find the reality of unconditional election being pitted against God’s generosity, what the author refers to as “divine stinginess.”

Mouw argues for a kinder and gentler Calvinism.  This is commendable and should be encouraged.  But compromising truth for the sake of kindness is not only wrongheaded; it fails to glorify God and in the final analysis.  Compromising truth fails to love others and serve them well.

Calvinism in the Las Vegas Airport is a worthy idea that takes off well but ends up making a crash landing on the wrong runway.

2 stars

 
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