Friday, May 23, 2014

Confessions of an Everyday Disciple
By Randy Harris

OVERVIEW: This book offers down-to-earth wisdom from a lifetime follower of Jesus. Out of his own practice of the spiritual disciplines, his presentations before hundreds of churches and university audiences, and his deep love for his students, Randy draws us into the circle of love for God and for our neighbors. (From the back of the book.)

AUTHOR: Randy Harris is a popular speaker at conferences, churches, and college campuses across the United States and around the world. He is a professor of theology and ethics and has received numerous awards for his classroom work. He holds degrees from Harding School of Theology and Syracuse University. This book completes a trilogy, which began with God Work: Confessions of a Stand-up Theologian (2009) and Soul Work: Confessions of a Part-time Monk (2011).

MY REVIEW: If you get the opportunity to hear Randy Harris in person―do it! If not, then by all means read his books. This one, Life Work: Confessions of an Everyday Disciple is the third in his excellent trilogy. And it is a good one!

This is a book about ethics. Its about good and bad behavior. Harris shares from his experience as a teacher of ethics, from reading a lot of books, and from being in a different church almost every week. Most of us do not get too excited when we hear the word ethics. But Randy Harris writes like he speaks―in an entertaining way. Entertaining but deeply spiritual. Sometimes when reading one of his books I feel like I do when the nurse is so good at injecting the needle that I am surprised that I have been jabbed with a needle. Thinking about it I realize there was a little pain but I didn't really mind. This is a book that will prick you occasionally but most of all it will bless you.

( I received this book free from Leafwood Publishers in exchange for an honest review.)


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Treasuring the God Who Loves You
By John Piper

OVERVIEW: John Piper invites you to experience deeper intimacy with God through these thought-provoking and soul-enriching meditations. Whether you are just discovering the divine richness of Scripture or have long been a passionate student, you'll find a deeper understanding of God and renewed insight for your journey. (From the back of the book.)

AUTHOR: John Piper is founder and teacher of and chancellor of Bethlehem College and Seminary. For thirty-three years he served as pastor at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis. He is the author of more than fifty books, including the contemporary classic Desiring God.

MY REVIEW: I have been a long time admirer of John Piper's writing, of his devotion to Bethlehem Baptist Church where he devoted thirty-three years of his life and his strong proclamation of the supreme-ness of Christ in all things. I do not have the same appreciation for his deep and sincere devotion to Calvinism, which he has proudly proclaimed on numerous occasions. But that aside, John is a excellent writer and this collection of short devotions is spiritually uplifting.

There are fifty short devotions in this book and each one can be read in just a few minutes. His paragraphs are filled with Scripture. His thoughts on these Scriptures are thought provoking and challenging. Many days after reading some of them I find myself still considering them and rethinking what they mean. I recommend this book to students of the Word and all who are serious about daily devotion.

(I received this book from Blogging For Books in exchange for an honest review.)


Monday, May 19, 2014

In the movie, "Inventing The Abbotts" there is a reference to an old barn being torn down.

Joaquin Phoenix said, "They always tear down the good stuff."

They do. They always tear down the good stuff.

When I was a kid every Saturday afternoon found us down town people watching.

I loved that old town.

They tore it down.

At my last congregation we had a beautiful baptistery, communion table, with a preacher's stand up in the pulpit area that matched it and a beautiful wooden cross that also matched.

They tore down the baptistery, took out the communion table and speaker's stand and hid the cross.

So many things are being torn down.

On a regular basis as I move around from place to place  I find myself saying, "I can't believe they tore that down!"

Today's theme seems to be: "Change Is Good."

Many times it is. But not always!


I'm old and well used. But I'm not ready to be cast aside or torn down yet.

Old barns, church buildings, towns----everything old and well worn needs to be given careful consideration before it is torn down.

Many times change is good. But not always!


Saturday, May 10, 2014

A Year-Long Quest for Spiritual Formation,
Reorientation, and Activation
By Brian D. McLaren

OVERVIEW: From critically acclaimed author Brian McLaren comes a brilliant retelling of the biblical story and a thrilling reintroduction to Christian faith. This book puts tools in the readers hands to create a life altering learning community in any home, restaurant, or welcoming space. The fifty-two (plus a few) weekly readings can be read a loud in 10-12 minutes. They offer a simple curriculum of insightful reflections and transformative practices which will guide an individual or group of friends through a year of rich study and growth. (From the back of the book.)

AUTHOR: Brian D. McLaren is an author, a speaker, an activist, and a public theologian. After teaching college English, Brian was a church planter and pastor in the Baltimore-Washington, D.C. area for over twenty years. He is a popular conference speaker and a frequent guest lecturer for denominational and ecumenical leadership gatherings in the United States and internationally, and is theologian-in-residence at Life in the Trinity Ministry.

MY REVIEW: I received this book from Hachette Book Group in exchange for a fair and honest review. And that's what this is. It's fair and it's honest and it's hard for me to write. It's hard because I like Brian McLaren and I don't like to disagree with him―but I do! Brian is a brilliant author, speaker and theologian. But I just honestly do not agree with some of his theology and philosophy. So there is great parts of this book that I don't like because I simply do not agree with what he is saying. Therefore, I can't recommend it.

The idea for the book is excellent and it is laid out in a beautiful way―a year long quest. Brian is an excellent writer. Much of what he writes is like reading poetry. Poetry that is interesting and fun to read. The problem with me is, I just don't agree with some of his conclusions and what they encourage. So my recommendation for my conservative friends is―don't waste your money on this book, you won't like it. But if I have any liberal friends that are reading this blog, I have to say―you will love this book. If fact, you may think it is the best book you have read in a long time and that it was written just for you.

(I received this book from Hachette Book Group exchange for a fair and honest review.)


We would head South out of town toward the Red River and cross over into Texas. Once inside Texas we drove straight to the Liquor store. Loaded up two or three cases of whiskey and headed back across the Red River into Oklahoma.

My sister-in-law's father was a bootlegger. Once he got home with the liquor he would take the bottles out of the case and distribute them in hiding places around the house until a buyer came by to pick up a pint or two.

I liked Henry. I liked him a lot. He was a quiet man with an easy going disposition. He took me on his liquor buying trips to have somebody to talk to and maybe I made him less of a suspect to the Highway Patrol sitting on the side of the rode just inside the border looking for bootleggers.

I lived with my brother and his family when I was young. My sister-in-law and her father were close so I spent a lot of time at Henry's. I watched men and women, usually men coming in and out. The police watched this also but he paid them off so they never bothered him. One day I was at his house when the police came unannounced. They walked around in the house for a few minutes, raised the table cloth up from the kitchen table, looked under it, put it down and said, "there's nothing here" and left.

Henry had once worked full-time at Fort Sill, a nearby army base. I don't know what kind of work he did but he had lost some of the fingers on one of his hands. All the time I knew him he made his living from bootlegging and playing Moon. Almost every day he could be found in the back of a pool hall playing Moon. He was very good at it and always had a roll of money.

One of the high lights of my youth was a trip I made with Henry, his girl friend, my brother, his wife and their young daughter. We all piled into Henry's Ford and drove from Oklahoma to California and back. It was a great trip for a young boy who had never been anyplace outside of Oklahoma except to the liquor store in Texas and that was just fifty miles away.

Even as a young boy I never thought liquor was a good thing. I didn't drink it then---or ever. I didn't think it was a good thing to break the law and I knew that bootlegging was against the law. And I didn't think I was breaking the law by being friends with somebody who did. Henry was such a nice man that he didn't seem like a criminal to me. I was glad when the law changed and Henry got on the right side of it. He eventually opened his own liquor store.

I never did learn to like the idea of people drinking whiskey. Because so many times they end up getting drunk. And that's bad.

Henry's gone now. The house where he lived and bootlegged from is gone. My brother and Henry's daughter are gone too. I have a lot of memories from those Oklahoma days so many years ago.
For two years while a student at Abilene Christian College in Abilene, Texas I crossed over the Red River back into Oklahoma to preach for a little country church. I drove over the same road that Henry and I had traveled together several years before.

Monday, May 05, 2014


Caring for The Most Important
Part of You
By John Ortberg

OVERVIEW: Bestselling author John Ortberg presents a spiritually satisfying classic that will help you rediscover your soul―the most important connection to God there is―and find your way out of the spiritual shallow-lands to true divine depth. With characteristic insight and an accessible story-filled approach, Ortberg brings practicality and relevance to one of Christianity's most mysterious and neglected topics. (From the back of the book.)

AUTHOR: John Ortberg is Senior Pastor at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church in Menlo Park, California. He is the bestselling author of Who Is This Man?; It All Goes Back in the Box; The Life You've Always Wanted; and If You Want to Walk on Water, You've Got to Get Out of the Boat.

MY REVIEW: John Ortberg is one of my favorite writers. He knows and writes about the needs of people. In this book he addresses anxiety, depression, fear, loneliness. Many times, not always, these are symptoms of a soul that has lost touch with its source of life. Ortberg points out that like a flower snipped from the vine, the soul that is not turned toward God can only wither away.

This is a book about the most overlooked, underrated, and least-understood part of your being. "The health of your soul isn't just a matter of saved or unsaved. It's the hinge on which the rest of your life hangs."This is an important book! Ortberg points out that we've neglected the eternal part of ourselves, focusing instead on the temporal concerns of the world―and not without consequence.

I love the way he uses stories to make a point and illustrate the truth. The three sections of this book are: What The Soul Is, What The Soul Needs and The Soul Restored.

A favorite part of this book for me, is his many references to, stories about and quotes from Dallas Willard. If you are an admirer of Dallas Willard, as I am, you will appreciate this part of the book also.

(I received this book from Thomas Nelson Publishers in exchange for a fair and honest review.)