Friday, September 4, 2015

The Battle Plan for Prayer by Stephen and Alex Kendrick

This is a great introduction to Christian prayer.

The book is written by the Kendrick brothers and is inspired by their recently released movie, War Room. They know the power of prayer, having grown up in a praying family and attending a praying church. They've seen God answer countless specific prayers over the years.

They want their readers to learn to pray more biblically and strategically. They give a foundation of Scripture and then explore prayer's benefits, purposes, and how God answers prayer. They remind us we need to prepare our hearts to boldly approach the throne of God in faith. They have great stories of prayer from the Bible and from Christians throughout history. They write about the components of prayer and attitudes and habits that make prayer ineffective and those that make prayer effective. They also emphasize that salvation is necessary for true communication with God. The second half of the book contains good general teaching on the Christian life related to prayer, such as the condition of the heart, the will of God, the names of God, and other topics that are important to understanding prayer.

The authors suggest readers commit to reading one chapter of this book a day. Doing that makes it a great devotional. The writing is down to earth. I really liked that. There is no super spiritual attitude or academic flavor to the book. I felt like the authors were across the kitchen table talking to me.

I think the chapter I appreciated the most was the one on praying for other Christians. I so often say that I'll pray for someone and then really not know how to pray. They've included a sample prayer that is great. And then there are the fifteen suggestions in an Appendix.

This is a good book for all Christians. New Christians will find a comprehensive explanation of prayer. Seasoned Christians may not find anything shockingly new (we've read about ACTS before) but will again be reminded of the necessity of prayer and its power. They'll also read the stimulating chapters on praying for their family, those in ministry and their church.

The authors have included a prayer at the end of each chapter. They have also included a number of Appendixes. I really like the ones that have suggestions for specific prayer based on Bible verses. They have also included discussion questions for each of the 35 chapters.

The authors are tired of disinterested churches making little impact on their communities. They're tired of lifeless Christians consumed by their own pursuits. They want to see revival and prayer is the key.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

Stephen Kendrick is a speaker, screenwriter and film producer. He has coauthored New York Times bestsellers. He serves on the board of the Fatherhood CoMission. He and his wife have six children.
Alex Kendrick is a screenwriter, actor and movie director. He is a featured conference speaker and coauthor of New York Times bestsellers. He and his wife have six children.
You can find out more about the Kendrick brothers and their work at https://kendrickbrothers.com/about.

B&H Books, 208 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book through Icon Media for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Taming the To-Do-List by Glynnis Whitwer

Procrastination. We've all experienced it. Whitwer says she was an expert in it. She has learned how to conquer it and she shares her ideas with us.

I like how she distinguishes filling our days with work and doing our best work. She wants to see us progress on our highest and best callings of life – work that makes the greatest impact on lives (ours and others). “Busy work is the thief of our best work,” she writes. Her goal for us is not to get more things done but to get the right things done.

She helps us understand procrastination and our motivation behind it. Once we've done that we can identify motivators to get us moving in the right direction. We look at the cost of decisions, the cost of procrastinating, stress (from procrastinating), fear, overload, perfectionism, decision making, will-power, time management, setting goals, identifying projects vs. tasks, prioritizing, and getting an accountability partner.

I really appreciate her comments on planning time for renewal, like Bible reading and other activities that energize us. She even wants us to take time to dream.

This book is not going to tell you how to create the best to-do list. It will help you understand how you can accomplish the most important tasks before you, slaying that procrastination dragon. The choice is still yours. Whitwer gives you the tools for getting the best things done. It's still up to each of us to follow through.

Food for thought: “What is God calling you to do that you haven't done yet?”

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Glynnis Whitwer is the executive director of communications for Proverbs 31 Ministries and contributor to their email devotional. She is the author of several books. She and her husband have five young adult children and live in Arizona. She blogs regularly at www.glynniswhitwer.com.

Revell, 208 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Beyond the Cherokee Trail by Lisa Carter

This novel has everything I like in fiction. It is well crafted. It has characters who grabbed me. And it informed me of a heartbreaking time in our nation's history.

Carter combines a present day story with that of the relocation of the Cherokee in 1838, a journey known as The Trail of Tears.

In the present day, Linden, trying to get her fledgling PR career going, has arrived in Cartridge Grove to help the Snowbird Cherokee community commemorate the 180th anniversary of their ancestor's experience. Interwoven into that narrative is the story of Sarah Jane, daughter of the white doctor who helped the Snowbird Cherokee and who went along on the journey.

I don't know how an author could pack any more into a novel. In the contemporary narrative, Linden finds a journal that connects us to the historic journey. Carter has thrown in some romance in the contemporary story too as Linden meets Walker, a Cherokee with a past that affects him still. But Linden has a past too, one that she is not willing to face.

I especially liked the historical narrative. I'd read about the Trail of Tears in elementary school but never gave it much thought. Carter has brought the historical event to life. She helps us see the life the Cherokee had in the mountains of North Carolina and the suffering they experienced in the move. A Reader's Note gives us the history of the treaty and the enforced removal. Of the sixteen thousand moved, six thousand perished along the twelve hundred mile route. Carter's fictionalized account of those historical events is heartbreaking.

The interweaving of the historical and present day stories is done expertly. I found the present narrative intriguing and the historical one captivating. The characters have been developed well and are realistic. Linden and Walker are both flawed characters with hurts that need healing. Linden's grandmother is a free spirit, ready to live the life she was forbidden to have decades ago.

And I love to learn something new in a novel. Not only did I learn about the Trail of Tears in 1838, I also learned some of the current social structure of the Snowbird Cherokee and their feelings toward those not Indian. I learned about being a Marine sniper. I learned about the restoring nature of trees. I saw how guilt and pain can be healed by God with the supportive love of others.

This is a great novel and I highly recommend it. There is an extensive discussion guide and this would make a good choice for a reading group. I'll mention just one of the questions: “If you were to record a final entry into the journal of your life, what would you write?”

My rating: 5/5 stars.

Lisa Carter is an author and has taught at the collegiate, high school, and middle school levels. She is a frequent speaker and vocalist at women's ministry events. She and her husband have two daughters and live in Raleigh, North Carolina. You can find out more at http://lisacarterauthor.com/

Abingdon Press, 320 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The Reckless Love of God by Alex Early

Sometimes we Christians are satisfied with a study of God rather than knowing Him personally. Early wants us to know that God loves us deeply, inspiring us to develop an intimate relationship with Him.

Early concentrates on Jesus as He is an exact representation of God. A right view of Jesus is defended, explaining His compassion and love. We are taken through many examples from Jesus' life, His sayings, and the parables He taught. Bible stories are given in their entirety and commented upon. John 11:1-44 is completely quoted, for example, before Early comments on it. There are also many quotes from noted Bible scholars, theologians, and popular writers both past and present.

In the course of the book, many topics are covered, such as the witness of the church and reading the Bible rightly, including contextualization and exegesis.

I found Early's writing to be rather academic in nature. It almost seemed like I was reading a thesis on the love of God as shown in the Bible somewhat adapted for the general Christian reader. At the end, I felt like I had an intellectual understanding of God's love for me, as shown in the Bible. I felt an application was missing. Now that I knew intellectually that God loves me recklessly, I was not helped to passionately and personally experience that love, say through prayer or through healing the wrong image of fatherhood I might have. There were no suggestions as to how I could know God intimately and develop that relationship.

That being said, I was challenged by a couple of topics Early wrote about. One was his identification of areas that prevented him from realizing God's love for him. He writes about projection (projecting onto Jesus a character trait that love would come only if Early was behaving correctly), inoculation (getting only snippets of the gospel, say in Sunday sermons, made him immune to the entire message of the power of the gospel in the world), and unrepentant sin (losing sight of the serious nature of his own sinfulness and the great gift of Jesus dying on the cross). Those are good points for each of us to consider.

Another area in which I was challenged was in the way I read the Bible. “The reckless love of God for you is not found on just one page, but every page of the Bible. This changes how we read it from cover to cover. If your starting point is with anything other than the nature of who God is and the reckless love he feels and demonstrates for you, then you're bound to end up missing the overall point of Scripture – that our holy, righteous, all-powerful God has gone to great lengths to forgive our sin, heal what is broken in us, and fill us with his eternal, unbreakable love.” (69%) That inspires me to read my Bible differently.

I have mixed feelings about this book. I think the message is good but the style is too academic in nature. I also missed the practical help we readers need to develop an intimate relationship with God once we know He loves us so much.

You can watch the book trailer here.

My rating: 3/5 stars.

Alex Early (MDiv, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary; MA, London School of Theology) is a pastor and church planter. He served as a theology professor, created Acts 29 West Academy, a missional-theological training center, and launched Acts 29 podcast. He is pursuing a Doctor of Intercultural Studies degree at Western Seminary. He lives with his wife and children in Atlanta, Georgia. You can find out more at http://www.alxegesis.com/.

Bethany House, 192 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Prayer Works by Stephen Kendrick and Alex Kendrick with Amy Parker

This is a good book for young children on what prayer is and how to go about it. It not only teaches about prayer but has kids actually praying too.

It starts with explaining what prayer is, then why we should pray, what we should pray for, how to pray, etc. Each reading is about the equivalent of one page of text, taking the child maybe five minutes to read. Some are even shorter. There is a Bible verse at the beginning of the reading and an encouragement to specifically pray at the end. There are also cute illustrations on each page. There are twenty two pages at the back of the book with space for children to write down their prayers. There is also a prayer for salvation near the back as well as a Parent Connection with suggestions for a directed conversation about prayer.

I think this book would work well with younger school age children, around ages 6 to 9. The style of the illustrations might be too childish looking for older children. It would make a good daily devotional on prayer.

It was inspired by the recently released movie, War Room.

My rating: 4 stars.

Stephen Kendrick is a speaker, screenwriter and film producer. He has coauthored New York Times bestsellers. He serves on the board of the Fatherhood CoMission. He and his wife have six children.
Alex Kendrick is a screenwriter, actor and movie director. He is a featured conference speaker and coauthor of New York Times bestsellers. He and his wife have six children.
You can find out more about the Kendrick brothers and their work at https://kendrickbrothers.com/about.
Amy Parker has written more than twenty books for children, teens, and adults. She and her husband have two children. Find out more about her and her books at http://www.amyparkerbooks.com/.
The illustrator is Lisa Manuzak and you can see her work at http://www.lisamanuzak.com/.

B&H Publishing, 128 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book through Icon Media for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

Peter's Perfect Prayer Place by Stephen Kendrick and Alex Kendrick

In this delightful book for children, Peter tries to find his own special place for prayer. He is inspired by his mom who is in her very own prayer room. He looks in the kitchen, thinking he may have found a spot where he can take a snack and drink and talk to God. But clanging pans are noisy and maybe the kitchen will smell like broccoli!

With simple rhyming verse we follow Peter to his tent but it is dark. He finds his tire swing is too distracting with noise and animals running around. His tree house looks good as he would be closer to God, but it is so high. He searches more places and wonders where God will hear him.

His dad has the answer. God will hear Peter anywhere and any time.

There are extra features in this book, including a Parent Connection. A parent can use the suggestions on that page to lead their little one in a directed discussion about prayer. There is also a collection of stickers so kids can identify when they prayed and when God answered. A large Prayer Poster provides ample space to write prayers and attach the stickers appropriately.

This book is a great one to help children understand prayer and begin the habit of writing down their prayers. This book was inspired by the recently released War Room movie.

My rating: 5 stars.

Stephen Kendrick is a speaker, screenwriter and film producer. He has coauthored New York Times bestsellers. He serves on the board of the Fatherhood CoMission. He and his wife have six children.
Alex Kendrick is a screenwriter, actor and movie director. He is a featured conference speaker and coauthor New York Times bestsellers. He and his wife have six children.
Daniel Fernandez was born in Santiago de Chile and has lived in Germany since the age of five. He has worked as a creative director, art director, illustrator, designer, and has worked for many advertising agencies and publishing editortials in Chile. He has published more than 30 titles and has won numerous awards.

B&H Publishing, 24 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book through Icon Media for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Street God by Dimas Salaberrios with Angela Hunt

What an amazing story - from hustling drugs as a young teen to being a preacher.

Salaberrios was told by his parents that if he worked hard he would get a good life and a good salary when he was older. But the lure of flashy toys and expensive rides right now was bait that hooked him and drew him into drug dealing as a young teen. He got trapped in an organization and was arrested for the first time when he was only thirteen. Arrested again when he was fifteen, he went to Rikers Island then got out on bail.

He went deeper and deeper into the drug hustling culture. He nearly killed a man in a botched armed robbery. He got hooked on cocaine and then crack. He experienced something like demon possession when there was finally intervention and salvation. Even though he had a new Lord, he was still a drug lord and it took him a while to get out of it all.

His is an amazing story of God's grace and restoration. I can tell God had His hand on Salaberrios, saving his life many times. For me, the book was a lesson on a culture entirely foreign to me. I had no idea how young urban boys got sucked into the drug culture. Salaberrios did an excellent job of explaining the bait that lures them in. It was amazing he made it out of that culture alive as death is a common experience for them.

Salaberrios has had an amazing ministry after he was saved. He has traveled internationally and seen miracles too many to count. He has established a ministry in the drug culture he used to be a part of. What an amazing story!

Salaberrios has written this book with the aim of drawing people to Christ, Who is active, alive, and powerful today. His is a very powerful testimony to that end. I recommend this book to parents and teens alike. It is informative to the culture of the inner city yet is so encouraging as to what God is doing today.

Find out more about the book and the author, watch the book trailer and book endorsements and read the first chapter here.
You can download PDF excerpts and Discussion Questions here.

Dimas Salaberrios is pastor of Infinity Bible Church, which he founded in partnership with Tim Keller and Redeemer City to City, in the South Bronx of New York City. He has shared the gospel on every continent except Antarctica. He is also president of Concerts of Prayer Greater New York. He has a MDiv from Alliance theological Seminary. He and his wife live in the Bronx with their two daughters.
Angela Hunt has authored more than 130 works. He books have sold nearly five million copies worldwide. She has received numerous awards. She has a doctorate in biblical studies and is currently working on her ThD. She and her husband live in Florida.

Tyndale Momentum, 304 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Into the Trenches by Andrea Barringer

While this is a novel, the author says that it is mostly true. It is a fictionalized account of the horror of war based on personal experience.

Annelyse is a young woman who decides to join the Army, following in the footsteps of her older sister. We are along with her through boot camp, training, and then assignment. She spends time at Walter Reed but, when a volunteer is needed for deployment to Iraq, she evaluates the lives of her workmates and volunteers. Her experiences there are heartbreaking.

This is a powerful novel. Many of us have no idea what soldiers experience when they are in a war zone. Barringer has done an excellent job of taking us into the action. Through the eyes and heart of Annelyse, we experience the tension, the drama, the insecurity and the pain of war. We feel what it is like to lose buddies. We feel the internal torture of aiming a gun at a child strapped with explosives. We experience the mental anguish of coming back home, the guilt of being alive, the depression of hopelessness, the need for help.

There are a number of important issues covered in this book besides those of the military in war. For example, remaining pure while dating. There is really good teaching on the tactics the devil uses to sidetrack Christians. There is also a clear presentation of the gospel. The book is written from a strong Christian viewpoint. The importance of trusting God and relying on Him comes through very clearly.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to really know what soldiers experience when deployed to a place like Iraq and when they return. Wrap the story in the struggle to trust God, add a little romance and you have a very good novel.

Because this book is authentic, there are some rough scenes. They are appropriate to the story so I found nothing offensive. It just portrays the reality of war and those who fight in them.

You can watch the book trailer here.

Andrea Barringer is a veteran of the United States Army having served four years active duty at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington DC, and four years in the reserves. She lives in Florida with her husband and their daughter. Find out more at https://m.facebook.com/BarringerBooks.

CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 344 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the author for the purpose of an independent and honest review.