Saturday, October 30, 2010

Outlive Your Life – Max Lucado

© 2010 Thomas Nelson, Nashville

I like to read Max Lucado’s books. He seems to be everywhere in the Christian publishing community—Bible studies, Christian living books, the children’s “Hermie” series (where he even makes appearances in the videos), bringing his message of love for the world across the radio waves in the UpWords segments. Whenever I need to read something that is well-written, as well as easy-to-read, I pick up one of Lucado’s latest. He’s like the popcorn of the Christian books world—you love to read him, it goes down easy, and you might even want a little more.

Then I picked up this book. The writing was good, but the buttery lightness of popcorn was not there. All of a sudden, Max is making his readers draw or cross a line (real or imaginary), of commitment to truly live their lives. In this study of the first part of the book of Acts, Lucado draws a picture of “doing something about it” whenever a need arises. He challenges the modern church to imitate the Jerusalem church, and it is inspiring.

The book includes focal scripture for each chapter; excellent Bible study; superb illustrations; and a closing prayer of encouragement for the reader. Lucado makes us take a serious look at our response to famine, poverty, disease, and other pressing needs in our society and world, and then he closes with a chapter devoted to Christ’s injunction that “if you have done it to the least of these, you have done it to me.” Following the body of the book are discussion questions and action suggestions prepared by David Drury to make the book more practical for the reader.

I recommend this book, if you’re tired of a mediocre Christianity. I do not recommend it if you are pleased with yourself and your Christian walk. (5 reading glasses)

Benjamin Potter, October 30, 2010

[Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this http://BookSneeze.com> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”]

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Sun Stand Still – Steven Furtick

© 2010 Multnomah Books, Colorado Springs

You expect to read mixed reviews for things—books, movies, restaurants. You don’t often see them in the same review. But I find myself with mixed thoughts after having read Steven Furtick’s new book Sun Stand Still.

Steven Furtick is the founding pastor of Elevation Church in Charlotte, North Carolina. He is young. He is hip. He is everything that an up-and-coming pastor would want to be. What does he have that gets the attention of book publishers, and turns the head of readers? A good line and a noticeable presence. Elevation has grown to more than 6,000 attenders in three locations in four years—that’s noticeable. The first few pages of the book reveal several catchy, creative lines for the memory of the reader.

Basing his premise on the story of Joshua’s prayer mid-battle for the day not to end until the Israelites have completely defeated the enemy (see Joshua 10 for the full story), Furtick builds an argument for strong faith-filled prayer. The book is inspiring to the point of excitement. It is a reminder that we are to exercise extreme faith in our daily living, and daily prayer in our faithful living.

On the upside, the author speaks to a new, younger audience who may not be impressed with the age-old preacher filled with sweat and rage as he shouted the message to this new audience’s grandparents. Furtick opens scriptures to inspire Christians to build into their faith a God-sized desire.

Several things were not so exciting about the book though. First of all, the need for the author to create a dictionary to define his terminology: audacious faith; Sun Stand Still prayer; Page 23 vision, and the like. Also, the “Page 23 vision” itself is based on Jim Cymbala’s Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire rather than Christ. And especially, the tendency for the teaching to come across as a magic mantra which will cause the person praying to accomplish great things for God (though, the author spends several pages trying to avoid just this misunderstanding).

Did I enjoy the book? Were good ideas developed? Yes, of course. Is this a book I would recommend? I’m not convinced that it would be a helpful read. For this reason, I give it only two and one-half out of five reading glasses.

Benjamin Potter, October 26, 2010

Monday, October 25, 2010

What Is a Healthy Church Member? – Thabiti M. Anyabwile

©2008 Crossway Books, Wheaton, IL

Thabiti Anyabwile is the senior pastor of First Baptist Church, Grand Cayman Islands. He is also a former assistant pastor for Mark Dever at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. Is it any wonder that he would be part of the Nine Marks team? In a follow-up book to Dever’s Nine Marks of a Healthy Church and What Is a Healthy Church? Anyabwile offers some practical advice on what a healthy, growing church member looks like.

The author lists ten (instead of nine) marks of a healthy church member. The ten are parallels of Dever’s nine marks of a healthy church, and interrelated to them. As dealt with in the book, the marks are:

  • An expositional listener
  • A biblical theologian
  • Gospel saturated
  • Genuinely converted
  • A biblical evangelist
  • A committed member
  • A seeker of discipline
  • A growing disciple
  • A humble follower, and
  • A prayer warrior
Anyabwile includes evidence of scholarly research (though some might argue that it is heavy on Nine Marks theology throughout—but the reader needs to remember that it is part of the Nine Marks reading material) and a sample church covenant appended. The chapters on conversion and commitment are worth the price of admission.

What sets this book apart from most books that are being printed for healthy churches these days? This book is actually written with the church member in mind, instead of the focus on teaching church leaders how to produce healthy churches. The sad thing about this focus audience is that the book will rarely find its way into the hands of pew perchers (but I suspect any number of preachers will read it).

My advice—use this little book as a group study in a discipleship setting, or even as a new members’ class curriculum. It is worth four out of five reading glasses either way.

—Benjamin Potter, October 25, 2010

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Vintage Church – Mark Driscoll & Gerry Breshears

©2008 Crossway Books, Wheaton, IL

Mark Driscoll, founding pastor/teaching elder of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, WA, and Gerry Breshears, theology professor and division chair for the school of biblical and theological studies at Western University, follow-up their book Vintage Jesus, with a book that discusses what church is.

As in the previous work, chapters deal with issues directly affecting church as we know it and are followed with FAQ sections in reference to the previous chapter’s topic. The design and flow of the book are pretty good. As usual, Driscoll relies well on his skill as a communicator to present his views. In the book you’ll find a well-developed definition of what church is, a discussion of church history, and a philosophy on where church is going. Topics addressed include church leadership, worship, and discipline among others.

While the authors are quick to point out that local expressions of the church can be healthy regardless of size, the focus of the “where the church is headed” sections of the book tend to be an apologetic for the multi-site, video-enhanced, mega church pattern. One would not find fault in this seeing as how that is the pattern which is practiced at Mars Hill.

Distracting from the authors’ intent are the chapters entitled “How Is Love Expressed in a Church?” (which is cumbersome and off-topic), and “What is a Multi-Campus Church?” and “How Can a Church Utilize Technology?” (both of which take on a tone that seems to border on justification rather than teaching). On the other hand, the chapters entitled “What Is Church Discipline?” and “What Is a Missional Church?” are particularly helpful and insightful.

The plethora of biblical references (mostly footnoted to avoid distraction) have a tendency to be distracting to the reader, and border on proof-texting in the attempt to show biblical foundation for the ideas presented. Otherwise the scholarly work in preparing the text is evident.

The pertinent questions: Who is this book’s audience? The design is for preachers and church leaders, and most likely not the laity—although there are parts that would be helpful to church members who want to educate themselves. Should you read this book? Not if you are a died-in-the-wool traditionalist who sees all change and innovation as Satanic (you’ll just get mad). But if you are looking for ways to make your church more effective in her neck of the woods, you might just be inspired by this book. I found much to think about. That’s why I’m awarding it four out of five reading glasses.

—Benjamin Potter, October 21, 2010

Friday, October 15, 2010


I've joined BookSneeze, an on-line review consortium. (see widget at the side) Now I'll just see when they've got another ministry-related book for me to review. You will know if I've received the book from BookSneeze if you see a mention in the review disclaimer line.

I review for BookSneeze

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Experiencing the Resurrection – Henry & Melvin Blackaby

© 2008 Multnomah Books, Colorado Springs

Sometimes you expect something. It’s that way when I pick up a book that has Henry Blackaby’s name attached to it. He has been helping his children get their start in publishing good studies for Christians over the last few years. Typically, because of his work in Experiencing God, I tend to expect one of two things from Blackaby: stating the obvious in a fresh, new way and thus extracting from his readers that “I knew that” moment that challenges us to open our eyes as we live (as happens every time I revisit the EG material); or I find myself looking for that re-hash of the EG material without calling it Experiencing God.

Interestingly, you find neither of these things in Experiencing the Resurrection. What you find is somewhat of an enigma, especially for Blackaby. While there is nothing readily identifiable as profound, neither do you find anything really objectionable. It seems to be an almost entirely unnoticeable book. It is rather light in the realm of theological texts, and on the safe side, with the one possible exception being the chapter on “Resurrection Hope” which focuses entirely on heaven. My personal issue with this is the claim that the hope and glory that we have as Christians is manifested in heaven. The reality (scripturally, which is why it’s disappointing to find this in a Blackaby book) is that our hope is embodied in Christ. When we focus our hope on anyone or anything other than Christ, we miss the point. Certainly, we look forward to eternity in heaven, but our hope lies solely in Christ.

Is this book worth your time? Perhaps, but I wouldn’t recommend that you rush right out and buy a copy unless you are in need of a book to remember the Resurrection by. For a lackluster effort, I give a lackluster two reading glasses.

Benjamin Potter, October 14, 2010

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Follow That Mouse – Henry Melton

©2010 Wire Rim Books, Hutto, Texas

After an outing into a different series (debut “Home Planet Adventures” story Pixie Dust), Melton is back with a new “Small Towns, Big Ideas” story. This time with the smallest of towns—Ranch Exit, Utah—and the biggest of ideas—save the world.

Most of Melton’s stories fit fairly easily into the Science Fiction category, others are more in line with the Fantasy genre. Follow That Mouse brings together the best of both these worlds—the science, and the fantasy.

Dorothy Comal (Dot Com to her friends) and her friend Ned Kelso stumble onto a war of wizards that threatens to wipe Ranch Exit completely off the map. And this while they are working on school projects designed to put it on the map.

If everything works out, they’ll save not only Ranch Exit, but also the world, and find each other in the process. You’ll like this story, and it even has dancing mice! (five reading glasses, this is Henry Melton at his best. More awards in the future?)

Benjamin Potter, October 7, 2010

Monday, October 4, 2010

Voices of the Faithful, book 2 – Kim P. Davis, ed.

© 2009 Nashville, Thomas Nelson

In this series originally created by Beth Moore, you will find one-page devotions written by the hand of frontline workers in International Missions settings. Thoughts written by International Mission Board (SBC) workers and compiled by the editor will make you laugh, cry, and shout out loud. Each month is devoted to a theme such as prayer, God, Jesus, and many more. Some of the most meaningful entries are in the month devoted to children—you’ll need a tissue that month.

Davis weaves the thoughts together with inspiring introductory material for each month. Spend a year with the missionaries. Get this book. And if you haven’t yet read it, get the first volume. (five reading glasses)

—Benjamin Potter, October 4, 2010

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