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Awakening Faith by James Stuart Bell with Patrick J. Kelly

November 24, 2013 1 comment

Description:

In simple, updated language, Awakening Faith by James Stuart Bell provides a year of inspiring readings drawn from the earliest teachers and writers of the church—the Church Fathers. In every reflection you will be refreshed by deep wells of wisdom and spiritual insight. (From the publisher’s website)

Excerpt:

“The best Christians in every age take sanctification seriously, without diminishing the work of the Spirit and his grace in transforming us. The Fathers exemplified this understanding. They discussed and exhorted every possible virtue, especially love, humility, mercy, purity, and generosity. Their blessing to us is the seriousness with which they treated virtue, and their refusal to deconstruct or reduce the teachings of Jesus to make them more palatable or easier to achieve. They were clearly not interested in softening the edges of their exhortation for the sake of complacent believers–pursuing a holy life was difficult in their view, but nonetheless imperative.” (From the introduction)

Review:

We tend to look at history in terms of great events or great personages. But most of life is lived in the everyday, uneventful plodding down the path of life. We are so enamored with the end of the road (our goals) that sometimes we miss the sights along the side of the road. A book like Awakening Faith can help us slow down and enjoy the journey.

This book is a devotional with daily readings taken from the early church fathers. The readings are numbered rather than assigned dates. I personally like this in a devotional because it removes the anxiety of being behind if you miss a day. It also allows you to pick it up and start any day of the year.

The page layout is well done with a topic, heading, pertinent verse, reading, and author. Most entries are a full page of comfortable print. This book even comes with a ribbon marker to help keep your place. The dust-jacket is attractive and has a pleasant feel.

The reader will find these writings to be very warm and pastoral. These early Christians struggled with some of the same issues as you and I. They were concerned with the health and growth of believers and it comes through in their writings.

This book makes an excellent devotional that is easy to read yet is rich and deep. Any believer will find this book helpful. Those who have never read the early church fathers will find this book an accessible introduction to their writings. But whether you are familiar with these early Christians or not, I hope you will pick this book up and benefit from the insight and passion of the church fathers. James Stuart Bell and Patrick Kelly have done us all a favor in compiling this book.

Book Details:

  • Author: James Stuart Bell

  • Publisher: Zondervan

  • Format: Hardcover, Jacketed

  • Page Count: 400

  • ISBN#: 9780310514879

  • List Price: $24.99

About the Author:

James Stuart Bell, Jr., is a former director of religious publishing at Doubleday, executive director of Bridge Publishing, and executive editor at Moody Publishing. The writer, editor, or compiler of more than 140 books, he owns Whitestone Communications, Inc., a literary development agency, and makes his home in the western suburbs of Chicago. Bell is married with four children. (From the publisher’s website)

Where to Buy:

Disclaimer: I received this book From Zondervan via Cross Focused Reviews in exchange for my unbiased opinion.

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Categories: Reviews, Zondervan

God in My Everything: How an Ancient Rhythm Helps Busy People Enjoy God by Ken Shigematsu

September 17, 2013 2 comments

Excerpt:

“Perhaps you are neither a business person nor a pastor, but you find yourself consumed by your work, your studies, your family, your involvement in the church or community – all good things in and of themselves – but they feel like they’re crowding out your life with God. In fleeting moments you yearn for a deeper, richer, more transforming friendship with God, but this seems elusive, perhaps even impossible. What if there was a way to experience God as your deep center, not only in your formal prayers and Bible reading, but in the midst of your studies, work, exercise, and play? What if there was a way to enjoy God not only as you sit in quiet contemplation but as you move about your day? What if you could weave friendship with Christ into the fabric of everything you do without leaving your world and becoming a monk?” – from the Preface

Review:

God is a God of order. He created us to enjoy order. My kids function at their best when they are on a schedule. I function at my best when I am on a schedule. Most people have a rhythm to their life whether it is by design or by default. In this book, Ken Shigematsu explores the concept of spiritual rhythms as a way to fully engage and enjoy God.

In the first section of the book, Mr. Shigematsu introduces us to the “rule of life”. This monastic principle helps give structure to our spiritual growth. The imagery of a trellis is used and is very helpful in illustrating this concept. The second section is concerned with the roots of our spiritual growth. These roots are three-fold: sabbath, prayer, and sacred reading. The third section is concerned with how we relate to others. This is also three-fold: spiritual friendship, sexuality, and family life. The fourth section’s three-pronged emphasis deals with our restoration: care for our bodies, play, and money. The fifth and final section unpacks how we reach out in three ways: work, justice, and witness.

This book found me as I began to desire a more disciplined approach to my own relationships to God and others. There is much wisdom to be found in this book. It has made me hungry to find some primary sources and study this topic more deeply. I appreciated the author’s ability to communicate profound truth in such an integrated way. I pray that this book will gain a wide readership and that it will be used greatly to deepen many people’s relationships with God. It has given me some structure as I begin my journey to deepen my intimacy with God.

Book Details:

  • Author: Ken Shigematsu

  • Publisher: Zondervan

  • Format: Softcover

  • Page Count: 256

  • ISBN: 9780310499251

  • List Price: $16.99

About the Author

Where to Buy:

Disclaimer: I received this book from Zondervan via Cross Focused Reviews in exchange for my unbiased opinion.

Categories: Reviews, Zondervan

Finally Free : Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace by Heath Lambert

September 12, 2013 1 comment

Excerpt:

“This book is about something much better than pornography. This book is about the amazing power of Jesus Christ to free you from pornography. In this book, I want to share with you the amazing depth and effect of Christ’s power to eradicate pornography from your life. Whether you struggle with pornography yourself or are trying to help someone who struggles, I have good news for you: no matter how intense or long-standing the struggle, it is the work of Jesus Christ to set people free from such sin.

Review:

Everyone knows someone who is struggling with addiction to pornography. Most would like to help. Many do not know how. Those who are enslaved to their sin despair of ever finding a way out. Heath Lambert has written a book that seeks to break the chains of lust by means of a simple word: grace.

In this book, Dr. Lambert exposes the false belief that those enslaved to pornography often assume: I can overcome this by trying harder. Dr. Lambert shows us that it is by God’s grace that we can be freed from pornography and points us to eight specific ways that God’s grace is manifest in our lives to help us overcome this sin. The appendix consists of help for those whose loved one is struggling with pornography.

Although this book specifically targets pornography, I believe it could be adapted to counsel those who struggle with any besetting sin. I found this book to be thoroughly biblical in its approach and practical in its application. Dr. Lambert tackles each chapter with a pastor’s care and a doctor’s precision. As I read this book, I found my heart moved by the grace that God has given us not only to be saved from the eternal penalty of sin but also the grace He has given us to subdue sin in our mortal bodies as we grow in holiness.

This book needs to be in the library of every pastor. I will recommend this book first and without any hesitation to those who ask. I cannot always say that with books on this topic. Some books focus too much on the sin and end up ensnaring some in renewed temptation. This book seeks to take the focus off of the sin and points the reader to the Saviour. Thank you Dr. Lambert and Zondervan for producing such a valuable resource for those who hurt and for those who want to help. May God be glorified for years to come by this book.

Book Details:

  • Author: Heath Lambert

  • Publisher: Zondervan

  • Format: Softcover

  • Page Count: 176

  • ISBN: 9780310499237

  • List Price: $14.99

About the Author

Where to Buy:

Disclaimer: I received this book from Zondervan via Cross Focused Reviews in exchange for my unbiased opinion.

Categories: Reviews, Zondervan

A Theology of Luke and Acts by Darrell L. Bock


Luke-Acts comprises about twenty-seven percent of the New Testament. This represents the largest percentage by a single author. In this volume, A Theology of Luke and Acts, Darrell Bock gives us an introduction to and a theological survey of the Lucan Corpus. This book is part of a larger series published by Zondervan titled: Biblical Theology of the New Testament.

I have read three different commentaries by Bock on the book of Luke. That being said, the material here is organized in a much different fashion. This is not an expositional commentary on the text. Rather, it consists of introductory material, theological themes and canonical discussion. Bock is an excellent New Testament scholar and he shares with us the fruits of his study in this volume.

For this review, I have chosen to focus on chapter 22: Luke-Acts in the Canon. This sections deals with 1. The Reception of Luke-Acts into the Canon, 2. Luke’s Contribution to the Canon, 3. Luke’s Parallels with Other Parts of the New Testament and 4. How Normative is Luke-Acts?

1. The Reception of Luke-Acts into the Canon
This section introduces the reader to the acceptance of the early church to Luke as the author of the Gospel account that bears his name as well as it’s acceptance into the canon of scripture.

2. Luke’s Contribution to the Canon
This section is split into two sections: Contributions Tied to God, Jesus, and the Spirit and Contributions Tied to the Activity of the Church.

A. Contributions Tied to God, Jesus, and the Spirit
Bock shows us here how God works out his plan of salvation in the person of Jesus through the power of the Spirit. He discusses the unique contributions Luke makes in helping us understand the program of God, eschatology, divine providence, Jesus’ teachings especially through parables, the role of the Holy Spirit, and the miraculous activity of God through Jesus and the apostles.

B. Contributions Tied to the Activity of the Church
Here we see Luke’s contribution to our understanding of the church’s mission, structure, preaching, missionary activity, ethics, and prayer.

3. Luke’s Parallels with Other Parts of the New Testament
In this section, Bock shows us the parallels with the various other parts of the New Testament: The Synoptics, John’s Gospel, Paul’s Writings, The Catholic (Universal) Letters, and Revelation. Bock does a masterful job of showing how the themes and theology weave in seamlessly with the rest of the New Testament canon.

4. How Normative is Luke-Acts?
Here we ask the question: Should we expect the things that happen in Luke-Acts to be a normal experience in the life of the church and believer?
Bock leads us into the understanding that God acts when and how He wills. We should never presume upon God and say that He has to act in a certain way.

Overall, I have found this book to be informative and an excellent guide to understanding Luke’s theology. I recommend this as an introduction to any study of Luke-Acts. You will find that this book will give you a good foundation for teaching, preaching, or studying through these texts of Holy Scripture.

This book was provided to me for the purpose of review by Zondervan.

  • Hardback: 494 pages
  • Publisher: Zondervan
  • ISBN-13: 978-0310270898
Categories: Reviews, Zondervan