Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Prodigal by Brennan Manning (A book Review)

Brennan Manning spent the majority of his life teaching and living out the love and grace of God. Being a man who had experienced much pain and failure in life, Manning understood life as a ragamuffin and knew he was but a beggar at the door of God's mercy. He was a man that was overwhelmed by the grace of God. He wrote many books about this grace with his most famous being The Ragamuffin Gospel, a book that has impacted millions including myself.

Manning chose to write a novel for his final book before his death, and he chose to do a retelling of the parable of the prodigal son, a parable that was the parable of his own life and experience coming home to God his father. The novel is called simply The Prodigal and is coauthored by Greg Garrett.

The Prodigal tells the story of Jack Chisholm, a mega-church pastor and author known for his slogan, "We have got to do better." After a night of drinking in Mexico which leads to an affair with his assistant, Jack's world crumbles in on him. He loses his family and is dismissed from his pastoral position and goes back to Mexico to drink his pain away and consider what few options he has left. His father that he hasn't spoken to in years comes to Mexico to take him home, the small town in Texas where he grew up. While at home, Jack reconnects with his family, with himself, and ultimately with the God who loves him.

The Prodigal, like the parable, is a story of grace. It is a story of failure and disappointment and how God's love and grace toward his children is much greater than any failure and disappointment. Life is full of pain and trouble but God's love never changes and his grace is never ending.

This is a good book for those wanting to read a story of how grace extended and received can impact an individual life, a family, and a community. It was Brennan Manning's story and it is our story if we return to the father.

This book was provided by in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A Call to Resurgence by Mark Driscoll

“For those Christians concerned that culture is trending more hostile to the faith, I assure you after two decades on the front line that this is not a time of retreat but rather resurgence. This is not a time of retreat but rather resurgence. This is not a time for compromise, but rather courage. The fields are ripe”
So writes Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill Church Seattle, in his latest book A Call to Resurgence: Will Christianity Have a Funeral or a Future? Driscoll rightly proclaims that Christendom in the United States is over, pointing out that the days of social benefits existing for those claiming to be a Christian are gone. According to statistics, only about 8% of Americans claim faith in Christ and have lives that demonstrate that faith. These alarming numbers cause one to wonder about the future of the church in America.
In Chapter 2 of his book, Driscoll details the things that have “rung our bell.” This list includes New Paganism, homosexuality, pornography, intolerant tolerance, bad dads, and cheap Christians. In all of these areas where Christianity has lost its voice, Driscoll calls for Spirit-Filled Christians to stand up and move forward in battle, regardless of the costs. And there will be costs.
Driscoll points to the “tribes” of Christianity, those groupings of believers that have specific theological emphases that determine tribal membership and leaders that are known to all tribe members. One of the problems, Driscoll contends, is that the leaders of the differing tribes do not know each other so end up being on separate missions when the Bible calls believers to one united mission – to make disciples. Driscoll calls primary borders (national borders)--those that separate Christians and non-Christians. All other borders should not be ones that separate us from our mission. They are distinctives of the tribes but not hills worth dying on.
In chapters 5-7, Driscoll writes about The Holy Spirit, Repentance, and Mission. These three chapters alone make the book worth your time.  I couldn't help but read these chapters and want more out of myself and the church. His words will give hope for the church and encourage action toward the mission of the church.
Though Driscoll shows how the church has lost ground in America, he is optimistic about what the church will accomplish if resurgence takes place. For more information go to

I recommend this book for those wanting to explore further what has happened to Christianity in American and how to take back what the enemy has stolen.

This book was provided at no cost from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey

Do you want to be financially fit or flabby? Do you want to control your money or have it control you? These are questions that each of us face at some point. Each of us must make decisions on how we are going to manage our money because if we don't, then our money will manage us. Dave Ramsey provides a plan for financial fitness in his book The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness.

In his book, Ramsey walks through the steps, Baby Steps, to guide you through a process that will result in financial stability and a debt-free life. He understands that getting to complete financial freedom is difficult and requires what he calls "gazelle intensity." Much of the pain comes from the reality that personal finance is only 20% knowledge and the remaining 80% is behavior. So we are battling ourselves and reshaping our entire financial worldview when begin to do things differently than all of those around us. But, Ramsey points out, the goal is to live like no one else now, so we can live like no one else later.

One thing I appreciate about Ramsey (and this book) is his simple common sense approach to finances. He doesn't over complicate the steps, but he understands it is difficult and requires discipline. To accentuate and give credence to his system, he includes numerous stories from real people who have implemented the Makeover and experienced major freedom and life-change from it. These stories provide a wide variety of examples of ways people became debt free. I will warn you that Ramsey will be in your face regarding the ignorance of debt accumulation. He has experienced first hand the danger and disaster of bad financial management so he hits debt pretty hard, but makes his point. Through the hard-hitting words, you can tell he does it because he wants to help you avoid what he and many others have learned the hard way.

I initially wanted to read this book for the investment portion but received much more than that. This book instructs about the myths regarding money that abound in our culture and addresses the spiritual nature of money and life.  This is a book that I wish I had been given when I was much younger. These principles should be taught in high school personal finance.

I recommend this book to anyone wanting to be financially free and I hope that is everyone.

I received this book from in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Forgiveness by Matthew West

It's the hardest thing to give away
The last thing on your mind today
It always goes to those who don't deserve

It's the opposite of how you feel
When the pain they caused is just too real
Takes everything you have to say the word...


These words by Matthew West from his song Forgiveness ring true. I can relate to them and, if you are honest, you can too. Forgiveness is one of those acts that we know is the right thing to do, but incredibly difficult to follow through in application. We want justice. For things to be made right. Someone has to pay, right? Often we carry unforgiveness around  inside that weighs us down, sometimes resulting in a life of bitterness, pain, and distrust. When Jesus is hanging on the cross, he asks his Father to forgive those who are crucifying him. These words just do not compute in my finite mind because I know inside that wanting them to be forgiven would not be my top priority at that moment. Yet, Jesus used some of his last breaths to utter those words. Jesus understood and wanted us to understand as well.

Forgiveness. Easy to receive, hard to give.

Matthew West has taken on this difficult subject in his new book, Forgiveness: Overcoming the Impossible. Known for his songs that tell stories of life, West continues this style to bring us face to face with forgiveness through sharing true stories of forgiveness and unforgiveness to shed light on how both affect a life. Over the past few years, West collected stories that individuals shared with him and in this book he presents eighteen of them in four main sections: Forgiving Others, Asking for Forgiveness, Forgiving Yourself, and Embracing  God's Forgiveness. These stories will move you to face the unforgiveness in your own heart.

This book is recommended for all and is one of the best things I have read on the subject. I believe we have all struggled with the issue of forgiveness and my guess is that most of us are currently wrestling with this on varying levels, whether offering or receiving forgiveness from others or even from God. I believe your story will connect with at least one of the stories shared in this book.

We all have a story. Don't let it end with unforgiveness.West writes about the result of forgiveness in his song and in his book with these words:

It'll clear the bitterness away
It can even set a prisoner free
There is no end to what its power can do

So let it go and be amazed
By what you see through eyes of grace
The prisoner that it really frees is you.

I received this book from in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Frame 232 by Wil Mara (A book review)

What would you do if you received an inheritance, part of which is a secret that can turn the world upside down and provide new clues to a major event of history? Would you tell someone or let secrets remain secrets? Sheila Baker is faced with these decisions in Frame 232, the new novel from Wil Mara.
After her mother's death, Sheila inherits everything, including a key to a safety deposit box. Inside the box is a film. And on the film is the footage made by the "Babushka Lady," a lady seen in photos taken at Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963, the day of President Kennedy's assassination. The Babushka lady had remained unidentified until now, over 40 years later. Sheila's mother was the Babushka Lady.

After watching the video, Sheila discovers why her Mom had kept it secret. Not knowing what to do, Sheila contacts billionaire Jason Hammond, a man who involves himself and funds the search for answers to secrets of the unknown. Sheila and Jason are propelled headlong into a whirlwind of shady characters and governmental figures that will stop at nothing to keep the truth of the Kennedy Assassination from being revealed.

Having been born 2 years after the assassination of Kennedy, I only know what I have read or heard about, including all of the conspiracy theories. I didn't know much about the Babushka lady, so I found this book to be very interesting, even though it was only a fictional "what-if" thriller. Mara keeps his readers on the edge of their seats as the bad guys do everything they can to keep the incriminating film from going public. The characters are well developed and he makes you care what happens to them, a quality of a well told story.

I had a great time reading this book. It was great fun to enter the  Kennedy assassination story, one fraught with conspiracy theories and a wide assortment of opinions. I recommend this book to anyone simply wanting to read a thriller novel, but especially anyone interested in the Kennedy assassination.

Watch the video below as Wil Mara introduces his new book.

I received a copy of this book from Tyndale Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Clear Winter Nights by Trevin Wax (a book review)

Chris Walker is at a breaking point. He is a recent college graduate, is engaged to be married to the love of his life, and is soon to be a leader of a new church. But Chris is doubtful about it all. He doesn't know what he believes about life anymore. Breaking off the engagement and stepping away from all of his life plans, he goes to the only person that has ever been able to provide him clarity, his grandfather, a retired minister.

In one weekend together, Chris and his grandfather embark on theological discussions that cover most of the hot topics of the Christian faith and why many object to it. The grandfather, Gil, provides clear explanations of his Christian faith and gives Chris much to think about and chew on. Chris is confronted with himself and has to make decisions about who he is.

Clear Winter Nights, the debut novel of blogger Trevin Wax, is called "theology in story" (says so right on the cover). It is exactly that. When I first started the book, I expected it to be contrived and preachy. I was wrong. I could relate to some of the doubt of Chris and his frustrations with what he believes about Christianity and how it contrasts to what he sees in the lives of people professing it, like my own. I found myself learning the basics of Christian theology all over again while engaged in a story with doubts not unlike many we all share from time to time. Though the discussions between Chris and Gil felt rushed at times, the main points were still made.

This book will be good for people struggling with their faith. It is a quick read, coming in at 147 pages in an undersized paperback. It has a conversation guide with questions in the back as well.
This book will also be helpful for people with no faith but are wanting to at least understand where Christians are coming from. It will give them a more accurate picture than what they would see or hear on their television or favorite news program.Caution: this book is not intended to and will not replace the more comprehensive books on theology

I enjoyed this book, but I would have liked to know more about some of the story items that were left incomplete. Not sure if Wax has sequels in mind, but I want to know more about what happens with the father and girlfriend...and even the grandfather.

(I received this book from the Waterbrook-Multnomah Blogging for Books program in exchange for an honest review.)

Thursday, June 13, 2013

when mockingbirds sing by Billy Coffey (a review)

Leah Norcross and her family are new to the town of Mattingly and are not feeling very welcome, since people from Away are viewed with suspicion. Leah mostly keeps to herself and her stutter just adds to her lonely existence.  When Leah begins painting detailed pictures depicting future events, given to her by her imaginary friend, the Rainbow Man, the quiet community of Mattingly is plunged into chaos and confusion. Could the Rainbow Man be God or is he evil or does he exist at all? Does Leah have a special gift or is she crazy?  

Such is the basic plot of Billy Coffey’s latest novel, when mockingbirds sing (Thomas Nelson Publishers).  Being from a small town myself, I am a fan of stories that portray small town life. Coffey has accurately described the possibilities of what could, and would, likely happen when the normal is disrupted by the magical or supernatural in a small “leave us to our ways’ type of place. The reader of when mockingbirds sing will walk with a host of characters (including Leah’s spunky best friend Allie) through Mattingly and wrestle alongside them with the deeper issues of life, including relationships, priorities, friendship and family, faith and doubt, good and evil, and questions about the existence of the unseen. Along the way, you will laugh and cry and, in the end, you will be satisfied with a story well told.  When I turned the last page, I was somewhat sad to leave Mattingly, but I was pleased to find out that Coffey would return there with another upcoming novel.
If you want a good summer read, this is one you should pick up. I am confident you will be glad you did.

(I received this book from in exchange for an honest review)

Friday, May 3, 2013

A Dream So Big by Steve Peifer

Steve and Nancy Peifer experienced tragedy when their son Stephen was born with trisomy 13 and died after only eight days. Overtaken with grief and seeking God to make sense of the pain, Steve sensed God saying to him, "Make your wife's dream come true." Nancy's dream was to be a missionary. Out of tragedy, God took a grieving heartbroken couple and their family to rural Kenya to be dorm parents at Rift Valley Academy, a boarding school for missionary kids. A Dream So Big recounts their journey and how God made beauty from ashes, taking an unlikely man and using him to start a feeding program in schools throughout Kenya and to build computer centers to train these children in technology to help educate them out of poverty.

I have a heart for Africa and read books any chance I get on how people are making a difference there. This book was different than most I had read. I think it is the honesty in which it is written. I appreciated and could relate to the struggles that Steve encountered as he wrestled with Kenyan culture and the obstacles he faced in trying to feed the children. Much of the story is told through excerpts from emails he sent to financial supporters in the states. Some of the emails were humorous stories of life at a boarding school with the students and other were heartbreaking stories of poverty.

A Dream So Big has something for everyone. While reading this book, I learned more about third world relief work, about boarding school life, and about how God makes heroes out of people who will for the most part live in obscurity with virtually no recognition for the difference they have made. These people, like the Peifers and others you will meet through this book, are the modern day heroes of the faith.

This book will educate, challenge and inspire you to dream big, to live a life of purpose in service for others, especially those who have are born into and live in poverty.

I received this book from in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Jeremy Camp-I Still Believe (A Review)

Even when I don’t see, I still believe

Jeremy Camp penned these words to a now familiar song just two weeks after the death of his first wife, Melissa. They had been married only 3 ½ months when ovarian cancer took her life. He was in a fog and felt like God wasn’t there and even if he was, he wasn’t listening.  After crying out to God, he received an answer to his sadness from God: “Pick up your guitar.”  Jeremy did and wrote “I Still Believe,” a song that summarized that moment in his life but was a reality in all that had come before that and all that has followed.

In his recent book, I Still Believe: a memoir (previously released in 2011 under the same title but different subtitle), Camp shares his story.  He begins with the early years and speaks openly of the mountaintops and valleys of his life journey. He speaks openly about his father’s drinking and his father’s   conversion to Christ, which takes the Camp family on a completely different course. Jeremy writes about what it was like growing up in poverty, yet having parents that were rich in the Lord. Surrendering to Jesus is a trait that Jeremy learned from his parents and one that he carries to this day. He recounts his battling of competing desires in his heart and the triumph of Christ as his chief desire.

The greatest test of his faith came in the death of his wife. Struggling for answers and wrestling with God about why this happened to such a faithful girl, Jeremy ultimately surrenders to the foundational timeless truth: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68).

Jeremy Camp began using his place as a young widower to magnify the glory of God in the pain so others could see and believe that God truly can and will make all things new for those who believe.

Even when I don’t see, I still believe.

Since the passing of his wife, God has blessed Jeremy Camp with a new love, three children, and ever-increasing career success. I am inspired to read of how his second wife is strengthened by the story of Jeremy’s first wife and wants him to keep sharing the story so others can grow in their faith for the glory of God’s name.

This story is an illustration of how God makes beauty out of ashes. Fans of the music of Jeremy Camp would benefit from reading about the life behind the songs. It will give new meaning to the words that will drive us all forward in the journey:

Even when I don’t see, I still believe.

This book was provided by the Tyndale Blog Network in exchange for an honest review.


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Dirty God by Johnnie Moore (A review)

When asked what is unique about Christianity as compared to other world religions, C.S. Lewis answered without hesitation, “It is grace.” Grace is what I need so desperately and what you need as well. It is the only thing that can give each of us that offend God a chance at peace with Him. It is a gift from God and cannot be earned. We are saved by grace and depend on grace for every breath we take.

Dirty God is a book about grace. 

Johnnie Moore, vice president of Liberty University, divides his book into two parts: Getting Grace and Giving Grace. 
In part one, Moore writes about the God who didn’t mind getting his hands dirty to extend his love to people in need. Jesus entered without reservation into leper colonies and into the homes of social rejects. His entire life and ministry was characterized by grace. Through impactful stories and anecdotes, Moore calls for believers, who are the recipients of God’s grace, to be happy and free in who they are in Christ. God accepts and loves imperfect people. He has used ragtag people in the past for his purposes and continues to pour out favor on the outcasts to this day. Jesus is in the business of being a friend to the friendless.  In the last chapter of the first section, “How to Miss the Grace of God,” Moore warns of the dangers of faking, pretending to have a relationship with God. He writes that “Looking good isn’t the same as being good. Faking it never works.” In faking, we miss grace because grace is in opposition of looking good and living to impress others.

Part two of Dirty God is a call for grace in action. “Grace is radical, and it’s meant to be lived in radical ways.” Moore writes:

The kind of grace the world needs, and the kind of grace Jesus gives, is the kind of grace that will cost us something. It’s the tough grace that causes us to chance losing a friend because we finally tell her what she needs to hear. It’s the kind of grace that causes you to put yourself in great personal danger to stand up for the disenfranchised or enslaved. It’s the kind of grace that might make people think you’re weak, when you’re actually strong – the kind of grace that will be misunderstood in a world that looks out for number one…grace intervenes…grace stands up for truth when people don’t want to hear it and grace stands in the gap for those who haven’t a voice. Grace takes the hit. Grace decides to charge injustice from the front lines. Grace sometimes says what no one wants to hear and then keeps saying it until everyone has heard it.

Dirty God is a book that will help you understand the grace of a loving God who was willing to sacrifice His son to save us. Moore will challenge and inspire you to be a giver of grace to this grace-starved planet.  It is time to get our hands and feet dirty in the trenches with Jesus as we live out grace.

(I received this book in exchange for an honest review from )