Thinking Out Loud

July 8, 2014

On My Bookshelf

bookcase - roseland greene blog

One of the blessings of this blog is that your faithful readership has led to increased generosity on the part of several Christian publishers.  Unfortunately, not every book gets reviewed, but I wanted to mention several to you.

Before we begin, you’ll notice many books for men in this list. Okay, there’s only four, but that’s significant. Men’s books don’t sell well in the Christian marketplace, so this emphasis is a bit of a surprise. Plus, all four are from HarperCollins Christian Publishing group. Hopefully the market can sustain all this activity happening at the same time.

The Hope Quotient – Ray Johnston (Thomas Nelson) — More than just a motivational or self-help book, this California pastor has packed this book with charts and graphics as well as supporting scripture references and comes at a time when many people feel hope is lacking. The HQ test allows readers to test their own Hope Quotient.

Rare Bird – Anna Whitson-Donaldson (Convergent) – The real life memoir of a mother whose 12-year old son was washed away in a nearby creek following a freak rainstorm. This book releases in September from Convergent. To get a taste of this, check out this post on her blog, The Bridge: One Terrible Night. Releases in September.

Small – Craig Gross (Nelson Books) – The founder of XXXChurch.com writes celebrating the ordinary and the insignificant. While the book is general in nature, Gross incorporates story from his rather unique ministry. This book is releasing in August, and unlike the others listed here, I’m already one-third of the way in, so we may end up doing a full review on this one. (Trivia: This is a must-gift book for anyone who serves their local church as a greeter!)

7 Ways to Be Her Hero – Doug Fields (W Publishing) – The author of the classic Purpose Driven Youth Ministry and teaching pastor for the last 22 years at Saddleback is back with seven steps men can take to improve their ability to be a husband. He’s already got my attention with Step #1: Don’t Say Everything You Think.  Oh, oh!

The Dude’s Guide to Manhood – Darrin Patrick (Nelson Books) – The chaplain of the St. Louis Cardinals names twelve different characteristics that can be developed in any man of various stages in life.

Be The Dad She Needs You To Be – Kevin Leman (Thomas Nelson) – One of the foremost experts on family dynamics, prolific author and speaker Leman really needs no introduction as he delves into the relationships between fathers and daughters. There is much practical advice here; fathers of girls might want to keep this book handy.

The Good Dad – Jim Daly (Zondervan) – The President of Focus on the Family comes into many of your homes via radio each and every day, though often while the Dad in the family is at work. (I’m betting at least 70% of Focus listeners are female). The book is somewhat autobiographical as Daly didn’t have the benefit of great role modeling.

Love Well – Jamie George (David C. Cook) – The subtitle is Living Life Unrehearsed and Unstuck and encourages the reader to move beyond the paralyzing effects of fear shame and hopelessness.  This book releases in August.

Losing Your Faith, Finding Your Soul – David Robert Anderson (Convergent) – This book is releasing through the “edgy” imprint of Waterbrook/Multnomah, so it is no surprise that it deals with going through that period of life when lifelong faith assumptions start to unravel and beliefs about God, faith and church are in flux. The Connecticut Episcopal pastor deals with times we experience a “shift in our spiritual foundation.”

Nobody Knows: The Harry T. Burleigh Story – Craig von Buseck (Baker) – That this book is in hardcover adds to the mystery here. The book is subtitled, The Forgotten Story of One of the Most Influential Figures in American Music. In this case, we’re talking about the original American music form, Negro Spirituals.

Crash the Chatterbox – Steven Furtick (Waterbrook) — After getting downright giddy about Furtick’s first two books on this blog, you would think I would have done anything to get my hands on an advance reader copy of his third book. But alas, I’ve allowed myself to become jaded by all the online attention being given to Furtick’s $1.75 million (U.S.) home. I may get to this book yet, or read it privately without doing a review. I guess I’m just too disappointed in how this author’s journey is playing out, and it’s unfortunate because I had high hopes.

June 23, 2014

Book Review: God is Near by Clark Bunch

“Reading about incarnate deity shouldn’t be a chore. This part of the story in particular should feel more like taking a child to a parade than loading the dishwasher.” ~Clark Bunch, God is Near, p. 65

What if I asked you to take several pages and give me overview of the Bible? What is it saying? How do the various stories fit together? Does any of this matter to me?

Being part of the Christian blogosphere has allowed me to interact with some of the greatest people on the planet, but there are some writers in particular who I feel are a kindred spirit. One of those is Clark Bunch who blogs at The Master’s Table, and I was honored when he asked me if I would be one of a select group to review his book, God Is Near: His Promise To His People (Outskirts Press).

God is Near - Clark BunchClark has taken on the unenviable task of blending two objectives into a single book, and keeping that book under 100 pages: To show the immanence (nearness) of God in relationship to His people, and provide an overview of the wider arc of the Bible’s big story.

The result is a concise, informal Bible summary that offers great giveaway potential to that person in your circle of friends who has started asking questions about your faith; but also offers a few insights for those of us who have been in church from infancy.

Eight of the ten chapters concentrate on the Old Testament underpinnings of our faith, but show the foreshadowing of the promise to come. With an almost poetic cadence, each chapter affirms the immanence of God, but without sacrificing the transcendence.

Some of the best portions of the book are where Clark breaks from the narrative to offer some personal glimpses as well as his own insights into the texts. I particularly liked the comparison of the Passover to Christ himself, or the relationship between heaven as depicted in Isaiah and as described in Revelation.

From my perspective, God is Near is a great appetizer. It sets up the reader to want to learn more; to ask more questions.

God is Near is available on ebook in a Kindle edition; or your local bookstore can order it in print from Ingram. You can follow Clark Bunch’s blog (link above) or keep up with book buying opportunities on @Godisnearbook on Twitter, or at this page at Outskirts Press.


Read an excerpt from God is Near that appeared at Christianity 201.


 

 For my Canadian readers, buying the print version of God is Near may be a challenge. A similar project both in purpose and page length, by a Canadian author was reviewed here a few weeks ago.  Read about God Enters Stage Left by Tim Day.

 

June 18, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Wednesday Link List 2

It’s summertime and you don’t need an Angler’s License to fish for Christian news and opinion pieces on the net.  You’ll also need to first click anything below to PARSE, the blog of Leadership Journal, and then click the item you wish to see.

Paul Wilkinson blogs at Thinking Out Loud, though his Christianity 201 readership appears to be growing about three times faster than T.O.L. this week. He has never been a messenger at an SBC conference, but he once delivered newspapers.

 

Typically, my youngest son includes his youth pastor as a reference on job applications; but for this summer job there is the terse admonition, “You may omit names of ministers of religion.”

Typically, my youngest son includes his youth pastor as a reference on job applications; but for this summer job there is the terse admonition, “You may omit names of ministers of religion.”

June 5, 2014

I See a Blood Moon Rising

Filed under: books, Humor, music — Tags: , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:08 am

Four Blood MoonsBlood Moon RisingWith the popularity of the books Four Blood Moons by John Hagee, and Blood Moons Rising by Mark Hitchcock, it occurred to me that it takes very little lyrical adaptation to make the old Creedence Clearwater Revival song Bad Moon Rising fit.

With apologies to the original writer, John Fogerty:

 

I see the blood moon rising.
I see trouble on the way.
I see earthquakes and lightnin’.
I see those bad times today.

Don’t go around tonight,
Well it’s bound to take your life,
There’s a blood moon on the rise.

I hear hurricanes a blowing.
I know the end is coming soon.
I fear rivers over flowing.
I hear the voice of rage and ruin.

Well don’t go around tonight,
Well it’s bound to take your life,
There’s a blood moon on the rise.

Hope you got your things together.
Hope you are quite prepared to die.
Looks like we’re in for nasty weather.
One eye is taken for an eye.

Well don’t go around tonight,
Well it’s bound to take your life,
There’s a blood moon on the rise.

Don’t come around tonight,
Well it’s bound to take your life,
There’s a blood moon on the rise.

June 2, 2014

Author’s Shack Simile Deserves a Fresh Look

The Gate - Dann StoutenIt was inevitable that in the wake of The Shack there would be imitators, and many are probably yet to come. Some of these will succeed and others will be pulped for recycling, but overall, I was surprised to see 2013′s The Gate by Dann Stouten (Revell) turning up at remainder prices earlier this year. This book deserves better, it deserves a second look.

Though I haven’t read the latter, I thought that the book might be well-described as The Shack meets The Five People You Meet in Heaven, but since I’m only qualified to note comparisons to the former, that is the best place to begin.

Like the popular Paul Young novel, Stouten’s novel involves a point of crisis that the author must redeem somehow, though in this case redemption rests on the shoulders of both of the two parties involved, and The Gate‘s “great sadness” is not quite as dark. The book also deals with our need for reconciliation and forgiveness. Both books use fiction as a means of teaching. The two titles have much to say about heaven. Also like Young’s bestseller, this one has great potential appeal to the male reader, accomplished here with the use of auto industry references that will especially resonate with collectors of vintage cars. Finally, like Shack, the book also allows the main character to have interaction with visible representations of all three parts of the triune Godhead; this book’s version of which would probably be less like to attract the controversy which dogged the bestseller.

The book is both peppered with and faithful to scripture, reflecting the author’s vocation as a Dutch Reformed pastor. There are some very teachable moments throughout, thought it was a scene with the main character reading bedtime stories to his daughters that I actually went back to re-read twice. Giving the character three daughters, along with interaction with female relatives throughout the story prevents this narrative from being male-dominated.

Again, I don’t know how this book did not receive wider publicity and marketing on its release, but I’m prepared to help remedy that here, and encourage you to track it down.

May 13, 2014

On Reviewing Books

Filed under: books — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:54 am
No, not mine. I wish...

No, not mine. I wish…

One thing I’m really thankful for is that I came into blogging after years in Christian publishing. When I was offered review books, I didn’t just jump at the offer of something for free, but rather knew the titles, authors and themes I wanted to have in my library. I probably turn down more books than I accept.

There are bookshelves in our recreation room, bookshelves in our bedroom, bookshelves at the top of the stairs, and yes, bookshelves in our living room. It’s the living room collection that reflects the most recent or more often referred-to acquisitions. Some were sent for review. Some I picked up at remainder sales. A few I was willing to pay full price for.

At some point, the collection will need to be downsized. I’ve heard people, including pastors and Christian leaders, talk about going from 3,000 titles to 300. They speak of the angst of the process as though they were forced to give away their children. I totally get that. There will be titles my kids won’t want; and giving them away is going to hurt.

Each book has a story. I can tell you where or how I came to receive it. How it affected me. I can even quote sections of many of them even though no paragraphs are underlined and no page corners are turned down. I’m the same with worship songs. I can tell you where I was when I first heard a particular song.

I still work both in and around the publishing industry. The books I am involved with selling are not always the same ones I read. I can’t let my personal tastes dictate what might be a bad business decision; neither can I let the popularity of a Christian bestseller lead me to think that I am obligated to go beyond the first chapter.

At Christmas when everyone was home from college, I picked up a set of three books by a well-known Christian author that are now out of print. I said to the boys, “When the time comes and you’re setting up your own households, I really hope you fight over who gets these.” I think they just might do that.

Book Shop Talk Masthead

May 12, 2014

Yawning at Tigers: Holiness for a new Generation

Filed under: books, God — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:48 am

Simply knowing about God can never take the place of experiencing him. You could gather facts about God for the rest of your life and he could still be a virtual stranger to you. You can observe the flame, but never be warmed by the fire. ~p. 140

…a paradoxical truth about God’s holiness. It overwhelms, but it also draws. It terrifies and it captivates. It bows our heads even as it lifts our hearts. Ultimately, it results in joyful and reverent worship. ~p. 49

Yawning at TigersIf I started out the review by saying that Yawning at Tigers is a book about God’s holiness, I’d probably lose some of you. Surely every scripture verse on the holiness of God has been dissected and exegeted to death, right? I might have agreed before I read Drew Dyck’s book, but now into my second reading I am finding myself amazed again both by the ‘otherness’ of God and by how the larger Church constantly needs new authors to bring such truth home to us in fresh ways. Think Jerry Bridges meets Donald Miller. Or something like that.

Yawning at Tigers: You Can’t Tame God So Stop Trying has just the right mix of teaching, analogy and relevant stories from the author’s personal life. For a first time with a major publisher — okay, there was Generation Ex-Christian for Moody Press in 2010 — it hits all the right notes, but that’s to be expected from the Managing Editor of Leadership Journal, a periodical in the Christianity Today family of publications. Drew has also written widely in other media, which included interviewing yours truly years ago for the Canadian magazine, Faith Today. (No, I wasn’t the feature…)

What would happen if we were to find ourselves, as we will some day, standing before a holy God? A mix of terror and surprise, the latter because basically our God is too small. Like Job, we speak of things which we do not understand. Perhaps we should borrow some reverence from the people who spell God, G-d; and spell Lord, L-rd; as a reminder of utmost sacredness of even His name.  But, through all this he loves us.

Yawning at Tigers will get you thinking along these lines. The 224-page paperback (and also e-book) releases this week from Thomas Nelson, and I hope some of you will take the time to discover a new author. For more info, including an opportunity to read the first chapter free, go to YawningAtTigers.com.

Related:

 

May 7, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Religion Soup at Naked Pastor

Post something amazing online and you could find yourself here next week! Click anything below and you end up at PARSE, the blog of Leadership Journal, a division of Christianity Today; from there, click the story you want to read.

That’s it for this week. Between now and next Wednesday, join me at Thinking Out Loud, Christianity 201 and on Twitter

Congratulations to Phil Vischer, Skye Jethani and Christian Taylor on Episode 100 of the Phil Vischer Podcast! Click the image, sent in by listener Kyle Frisch to listen/watch.

Phil Vischer podcast episode 100

Songs with substance: Enduring worship

If you check the right hand margin over at Christianity 201, you’ll see that all of the various music resources that have appeared there are listed and linked alphabetically. Take a moment to discover — or re-discover — some worship songs and modern hymns from different genres.

April 30, 2014

Wednesday Link List

This paradigm-shifting "chunky" cross necklace is sold on Etsy. Click the image to purchase.

This paradigm-shifting “chunky” cross necklace is sold on Etsy. I’ve seen the “inline” cross on bracelets, but never necklaces. Click the image to purchase.

It’s the last day of the month and also the income tax deadline in Canada. Having 15 more days than my U.S. friends in no way implies that I’ve got my tax return complete, or even started; but hey, we’ve got links.

Walking out to the tip of the hand was the highlight of my recent trip to Rio. Okay, actually I found this on the blog Launch Clarity; click to read (and check out the April 24th post on church signs.)

Walking out to the tip of the hand was the highlight of my recent trip to Rio. Okay, actually I found this on the blog Launch Clarity; click to read (and check out the April 24th post on church signs.)

Clicking anything below is going to redirect you to PARSE, the link list’s owners for the past ten months. Happy linking!

Paul Wilkinson can be read daily at Thinking Out Loud, Christianity 201 and Twitter. Below: A Baptism cake (source unknown).

Baptism Cake from Café Church Kingston Ontario

April 29, 2014

Book Review: God Enters Stage Left

 

God Enters Stage Left - Tim Day

I hesitated to do a review of this book on this page, since access to this title might be somewhat limited for most of you, but considering I’m reading parts of it for the second time, and especially consider the book’s backstory, I think it’s important enough to cover here.

God Enters Stage Left is written by Tim Day, the senior pastor of The Meeting House, Canada’s fastest-growing church, approaching twenty multi-site locations, probably best known for its teaching pastor, Bruxy Cavey. Meeting House is a “church for people who aren’t into church;” and is known for presenting the “irreligious message” brought by Jesus.

The book does what has become a trend lately, taking the Bible as a single story and aiming to present the “story arc” of its 66 individual books in a unified, cohesive way.

Tim DayThere are several things I found unique to this book.

First, the book comes out of the church’s environment, so everything is written with the non-churched, not-Bible-literate reader in mind. The pass-along potential here is huge (see fourth point.)

Second, the book doesn’t attempt to deal with each and every aspect of the Biblical narrative. Some items — especially Genesis — receive a much longer treatment than you’d expect, especially considering the Biblical “play” is reduced to six acts.

Third, Tim Day has this unusual thing which ambushes the reader unexpectedly at various junctures: He asks the reader very personal questions as to how this story intersects with their story. Have you ever read a book review that started asking you questions? (Like that!)

Finally, the way the church is distributing this is as unusual as the book itself. The church offers it on a pay-what-you-can donation basis with proceeds going to the church’s “audacious” ministry project goals. On the unSeminary Podcast with Rich Birch, Tim explains the how the book fits into the church’s overall vision, and also how your church could produce a custom edition with your pastor’s forward and your church name on the front and back.

Rich – …A friend of mine, Ben Stroup, talks about how books really are the new business cards. People see them as, if you want to kind of understand, in the marketplace, if you want to understand what we do, here’s a book. Rather than just ‘here’s a business card.’ … Why not charge for them? Let’s loop back on that. Why not actually say it $5 or $10?

Tim – Couple things. I just found that I couldn’t think of a good enough reason to charge for them. I just basically came down to and said, ‘If this is going to create a hiccup, a little bit of a barrier, something when someone might say, ‘I only have $20 in my wallet, and it’s $5 a book, I’ve got five people I want to invite, who do I need to cut off that list?’ I thought, ‘why am I doing that? It just didn’t make sense.’ If we just give them away to everyone, and people want to chip in, and it would kind of be a community experience, I couldn’t think of a downside to it … We have two churches now, they are dialoging on how they want to do it. They are two churches of about 1500, 2500 in size and they want to get the books and do the same thing with them where they just give them out. ‘Can we just buy a whole boat load of them at printing cost.’ And we may personalize them where the pastor writes the foreword. And we strip off any sort of our church brand. And the church just gives them away in their community. I think if I would have had that charge thing, all sorts of those conversations would have just stopped. And to be honest with you, I think the day of the pastor who somehow wrote something that turned him into a millionaire, I think that day has probably come and gone. It doesn’t sit super well. I just don’t think it sits well with the average person out in the street. So the conversation of ‘You are just giving this away? You are not making any money? You don’t make anything? Nothing?’

Rich – Zip, zero, zilch you mean?

Tim – It’s good news to people. That becomes good news that there is a message more important and it doesn’t need to be a part of my economy. And I love it! It just has made me happy!

Rich – Absolutely. Now the thing I, ’cause I know there’s some pastors probably thinking, that’s a great idea. I’m encouraged that you are working with some other churches, how do we repackage this. Even that, I think it’s incredibly gracious to say we want to work with another church. ‘You take the book, put your foreword on it, strip our branding from it, we just want the message to go out?’ Is that what you are saying, fundamentally with those other churches?

Tim – Oh ya. Like I said I will remove any reference to The Meeting House from inside. You write the foreword and you put your brand on the back of it.

Back to the book itself, this is transformative material. Most Christians are simply not articulate when it comes to describing the Bible’s story arc. A first step before giving the book away would be for people to read it for themselves.  As the book’s cover states, the Bible’s big story has a big plot twist, and many smaller ones as well.

It’s a story no human could make up.

[Download an ePUB version of God Enters Stage Left for FREE]

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