Saturday, December 27, 2014

Book Review: "Exploring Christian Theology - Revelation, Scripture and The Triune God" (Volume 1)

When I first received this book I was a little concerned that it was going to be some really dry, purely intellectual reading, but I was wrong. This book is really good on sharing the importance of theology. This volume isn't too long with 272 pages, and covers two subjects (nice length); the way in which it's designed is really like having two books in one. The first subject is Scripture and all that entails including the inspiration of the Scriptures. This subject really has to be covered first as it is foundational.  If you don't come to the conclusion that the Bible is 100% inspired by God (Holy Spirit), then you will have no basis upon which to build any of your beliefs. Along those lines let me quote from page 109 of this book, "The proper conception of inspiration holds that the Holy Spirit acted on the writers of the Bible in an organic way, in harmony with the laws of their own inner being, using them just as they were, with their character and temperament, their gifts and talents, their education and culture, their vocabulary and style. The Holy Spirit illumined their minds, aided their memory, prompted them to write, repressed the influence of sin on their writings, and guided them in the expression of their thoughts even to the choice of their words." (Quote by Louis Berkhof).  

The first section also includes 10 memory Scriptures as they relate directly to the subject of the inspiration of the Scriptures. There are also little blocks of information through out the pages for quick reference on the subject at hand, and are also very well-written.

The second subject or book in this volume is on the Triune God, the Trinity. The Trinity is one of those doctrines that is foundational to Christians worldwide, and it will be hard to understand unless you accept as fact that God's Word (BIBLE), as stated in section one, is truly 100% the inspired Word of God.  This section will cover and explain how God exists as three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and each person is fully God, yet there is one God (not three as erroneously taught by some). While this may be one of the hardest doctrines to wrap our finite minds around, it is taught throughout the Bible (Old and New Testaments) as you will see in this section. I feel this book did a good job of explaining the Trinity and showing many passages that teach this foundational truth of Christianity.  

This second section includes 14 memory Scriptures, again, related to the subject. There are also other handy tools such as a glossary of terms. This is helpful as many of the terms in this book are words you've never heard from a modern day pulpit. There is also a section at the end of each part of the book called "shelf space," which refers you to other books on the same subject for further study (and in most cases more in-depth), which I found helpful. The book suggestions are broken down into three categories: beginner, intermediate, and advanced.  By their own rating system, I would say they would likely consider this book intermediate. So, if you did find this book a little too detailed, look at their book suggestions and look for a book rated beginner; if this book was too simplistic for you, then look at their book suggestions and pick a book that is rated advanced.

I would give this book four and a half stars. it's a good book on theology, not too terribly long and pretty easy to read. That being said, if you pay retail price 1 volume is just $16.99, but it only covers two subjects, inspiration of the scripture and the Trinity, so to get a more fuller study of theology you need to buy the other 2 volumes (soon to be released), which means putting out about $50 ($40 if you look around) to cover basic theology.  Volume 2 covers creation, fall, and salvation; and volume 3 covers the church, spiritual growth, and end times. While that doesn't cover absolutely everything in theology, with those three volumes, you should have a pretty good handle on biblical theology when you're done.

I received this book free from the publisher, Bethany House. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Review of "What the Bible Says About Prayer"

I am a minister of the Gospel and believe prayer is of utmost importance in a Christian's life. Your Christian life will always be lacking if you are not in prayer on a regular basis. As with all Rose Publishing products, their products are always easy to read and and I love the visual layout of their materials. I also like the durability of their laminated/gloss pamphlets, and it's flat enough that you can keep it your Bible.

This pamphlet "What the Bible Says About Prayer" is only 14 pages (panels),  but it has over 100 scriptures, so while it is a quick read, it has a lot of scriptures to review.  You get all the basics on prayer that you'll need to get your prayer life going. This is a great tool for a new believer to understand the basics of prayer and its layout makes it very easy to understand. If someone understands this pamphlet they'll be on their way to a fruitful prayer life. This would be great for a Sunday School class or a "New Believers" Bible Study.  You want to check it out.  I believe you'll be very pleased and it is only $3.99 (or less with or - you just can't beat it! I give this 4.0 out of 5 stars as it is very good for a new believer, but very basic for anyone who has been a Christian for any length of time.  

Rose Publishing has provided me with a reader copy for my honest review. 

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Bible Review: New King James Version Study Bible - Second Edition - Full Color

 I grew up with the King James Version (KJV) and therefore memorized most of my scriptures in KJV.  My first KJV Bible was used for many, many years to where I could visibly tell you where on the page most verses were located.

Over the years I changed over to the New King James Version.  I like its similarity to the KJV, yet it is clearer to read and understand, as KJV was written in 1611 in Elizabethan English so many of the words and their meanings in KJV are different now in 21st century. 

The KJV was translated to English from the Textus Receptus Greek for the New Testament and Masoretic Hebrew Old Testament. If that matters to you, then you should like the NKJV as it too was translated from the same above mentioned manuscripts. If that last sentence doesn't matter to you, don't worry about it.  Let's move on :-)

Now, about this specific version. 

First, a quick summary of some of the features of the updated version on the New King James Study Bible are:
NEW attractive full-color page design
NEW stunning Bible-land photos and graphics
NEW in-text maps and charts 
Full cross-references with textual notes
Book introductions, outlines, and timelines
Bible Times and Culture Notes
Word studies and indexes
Reader-friendly notes and articles ideal for extended study
Deluxe NKJV Concordance including proper names


The above mentioned features are "some" of the main features, but this Bible is full of other great features and information that would make this review much longer. Let's go over some of these features. As stated above, this full color edition is very colorful and has many stunning photos and graphics.  Also, this Bible is full of helpful maps and charts. As is standard in most Bibles, it has a center column of cross-references and some textual notes, but one thing unique about this is the center-column is shaded a light gray (I personally like that).  The book introductions, outlines, and timelines are excellent. As you read through you will see olive call blocks of information on "Bible Times & Culture Notes" you will find this quite helpful and informative. One of my favorite features is the gray block at the bottom of some pages with "Word Studies" that has great information and also references "Strongs" corresponding number for further study. And one final notes on the features - it has a larger and better concordance than I have seen in most Bible (starting at page 2145-2339). 
 Introduction, Outline and Timeline

Large Concordance
Closing thoughts: As colorful as this Bible is, it does NOT have the words of Christ in red.  While this doesn't matter to me, I thought it was worth mentioning.  

This bible has a total of 2400 pages (that's big), but with all the valuable information it needs to be that many pages. As to be expected, it is also quite a heavy Bible weighing in at 3.8 pounds (but I have heavier, so it's no big deal to me).

My final analysis is this Bible deserves more than four stars so I'm going to give it five stars.  If you're looking for a NKJV Bible you should consider this Bible!

TO order the ISBN: 0529114380 (Hardcover, also available in bonded leather and imitation leather).  NOTE: When you order make sure it is the new 2014 edition. Check or (as well as many other book retailers to order)

Thank you to Thomas Nelson and BookLook bloggers for providing me with a copy of this book to read and review; all opinions are my own. I was not required to give a positive review.

Friday, November 7, 2014

My brief story to health and Book Review of "Go Fresh: A Heart-Healthy Cookbook"

Before I start this review, I want to share why even reviewing a cookbook can help you.  Our society pushes fast food and junk (wrongly named food) at us ALL the time.   

Back in August 2011 I watched a video on "Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead" that got me really thinking then I read some some good material on food health and then video, "Forks Over Knives"). I saw that I needed to make some major changes in what I ate. 
Then in the coming months I also watched some other food documentaries including,  Food, Inc, Food Matters, Hungry for Change as well as others).
In 3 years I haven't returned to my junk food (but a little once in awhile, but for the most part I don't want it.  Some people look at me like a health nut or like I'm deprived BUT I love being 30-35 lbs. lighter, I love being able to cycle an avg. of 26 miles on one bike ride (2-4 times a week), I love not having GERD, I love not having RLS. I love having more energy (less fatigue), I love not getting a cold or flu (and no flu shots), I love having less issues with my blood sugar, and the list goes on. And most importantly God tells us in I Cor. 10:31 states "So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." and also in I Cor. 6:19-20 states "do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body." Can it really be any more clear that we should take care of our bodies!  So this book isn't the finally answer in my opinion but a GREAT on.


I've reviewed a lot of books, but this was my first cookbook.  I have tried a few recipes (very good) and have gone through the entire book.  I consider myself a very healthy eater, so I thought this would be a good book for me to review.  This is put out by the "American Heart Association," and while I don't agree with all their advice or ingredients used in some of their recipes, but I can easily substitute those items, so even with that I am very glad this book is out.  This book will help the average American to eat much healthier than they do now.  I believe if all people ate based on this cookbook we would be a healthier America

The cookbook starts with its first section of:
"Fresh, Fast, and Healthy" with some really good tips.  On page 18 I especially like their "Good Nutrition in a Nutshell" that alone would change the majority of Americans' eating habits.

The second section is "Recipes" starting on page 22 to page 299 (250 in all).  
The recipes are broken down into sections as follows: Recipes, soups, salads and salad dressings, seafood, poultry, meats, vegetarian entrees, vegetables and side dishes, sauces and condiments, breads and breakfasts, and desserts.  Also, in the recipes it is easy to follow and clearly gives all ingredients needed, servings, prep time, and cooking time. It also breaks down calories, fat, cholesterol, sodium, carbohydrates, fiber, sugars, and protein per serving.  Then, they have a really neat feature for each recipe called the "dietary exchanges." This tells you by number how many starches, vegetables, fruits, fat-free milk, fats, lean meats, other carbohydrates are in each meal so you can keep track and make sure your meals are balanced.

Then, there is the Appendix, again, some really helpful information broken down into 3 sections. 
A. At-a-Glance Food Storage Guide 
B. At-a-Glance Vegetable Cooking Times
C. Ingredient Equivalents

In the book last few pages is a helpful Index.

I give this book a strong 4 stars. 
I like it and look forward to making some meals from this cookbook.

I received a free copy of this cookbook from the publisher, in exchange for my honest review.  I was in no way required to write anything positive, all thoughts and opinions expressed here are completely my own.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

From the heart: Election changes things...No, Jesus changes things!

I am happy if you voted yesterday, as I thank God we are in a country that gives us that freedom. While I am happy that the Republicans have seized the Senate and gained control of the Congress, I'm not happy because they are Republicans, but because they are the more conservative of the two parties and Obama needs to be stopped (if possible), and Democrats sure weren't going to do that!  That being said, I think both parties fall way short compared to what God expects of our nation.  ALSO, it is yet to be seen what the Republicans will do in the next 2 years, but regardless, it won't be a Christian country in two years.  We're still going in the wrong direction, AND even more so, the sleeping Church needs to repent.  We're in this mess because the church went worldly, the church stopped preaching the whole counsel of God.

Again, we're not in this mess because of the politicians, but again, it's because of a lukewarm, if not dead church (  So as to not sound totally hopeless, God always has a remnant of people that will serve him 100%.  The question is, is that you? Is that me?  I hope so.
All this election can do is possibly, just maybe (but doubtful), slow impending judgment until America repents of her sins.

So what are we going to do as the church? Are we going to leave spiritual matters to the politicians? We better not!  Are we going to claim victory because of an election, while the church has not changed one bit? I believe our only hope is a repentant church that returns to Jesus acknowledging we have left our first love  - JESUS!  (See

So as I close this brief article out, I challenge you who are born again, blood bought Christians who believe in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus our Savior, will you give your all for Jesus and pray that our nation be spared, or at least that we can make a difference for God's kingdom no matter what the final outcome of our nation will be.  (See (see &

I still love America in spite of her falling from God, especially in recent years, but I love the church more. There is nothing on earth as awesome as the church functioning the way God intended it.

So my final words are that the "battle" wasn't won at the election.  
It is won on our knees as a repentant and praying people in love
with Jesus who are willing to obey the Lord without compromise.

I'm excited in Jesus, as ultimately He is in control.  Jesus is our victory!  Now and forever! AMEN!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Book Review: "STORM - Hearing Jesus for The Times We Live In"

As I do this review, I am reminded that I have not read any books by Jim Cymbala in over a decade - I guess I could say I forgot how good he really is as a Bible teacher.  He teaches a lot on prayer, and this book is no exception. In "Storm" you will learn a lot about prayer and a lot about revival.  He also points out how we have gotten away from the ways of the early church, and that much of what we call church today has no resemblance to the true Church. He discusses the many problems we have in the modern day churches, and how we need to get back to simple Bible believing and get away from all these "new things" that we think we need to do to have a successful church or to be a successful Christian. He also takes a break from teaching in 4 chapters spaced throughout the "Storm" to have some people share their testimony, I think they are included to show real life examples of prayer and the mighty power of God.  

I am very impressed with this short book (only 182 pages), and I am sure it will be a blessing to many.  Since reading this book, it has inspired me to listen to many of his sermons on line, especially one life-changing audio sermon, "My House Shall be Called a House of Prayer."  Also, this book has inspired my prayer life, which was definitely in need of something to spark it.  While I gave the book 4 stars (actually 4.5), as to its impact on my prayer life, it is beyond even 5 stars!  Read it, it's not deep, it's an easy read. Maybe it will be a life changer for you, or at least remind you how important prayer is in our lives, and that we serve an awesome God!

Note: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review and the words expressed here are my own.

Bonus video:

Please spend 50 minutes to listen to this powerful message.
If you can't access it from here go to:

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Devotional: ”Life is a VAPOR"

Life is a lot of things, but today,  I would like to briefly share that life is a vapor.  This truth is found in the Bible: "You do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away" (James 4:14).

Sadly, I lost a cycling friend Sunday.  While we never met in person, he wrote me after every ride (3 times a week for over 2 years) with words of encouragement.  I was devastated to find out Monday that he had been hit by a car and died at the scene. This isn't the first time someone I knew online died while cycling.  Yet, I will continue to cycle my average 65-70 miles a week (thankfully I'm not on roads most of my rides as I live near the Silver Comet Trail with no cars), knowing that this activity, or any for that matter, could be my last.

Over the years I have known many who like a vapor appeared for a little time. Yet, not one of them knew that that day would be their last and their life would vanish away.  Even a "long life" is little time in light of eternity.

I cried and have had much grief over my cycling friend's death this past Sunday. One because I never thought this would not happen to him as he was a very experienced cyclist (I felt like I knew him personally), but mostly my grief is that I am not sure of his spiritual state and it just hurts so much.  I have all kinds of questions running through my head.  Did I show him Jesus? And even more, did I not seize opportunities to share Jesus with him?  This isn't the first time I have battled these questions as people around me or cyber friends pass away suddenly.  While we don't want to live in guilt (that doesn't accomplish anything),  I do think a good question to ask ourselves is, "Am I sharing Jesus as often and unashamedly as He would have me do? Or do I keep my mouth shut because I don't want to offend anyone even when God has placed an opportunity to share Jesus with someone?

Now, onto my next thought, are YOU absolutely sure that you are ready to meet Jesus?  Through a myriad of circumstances (and the fact our days are numbered) your life could end soon, maybe even today!   ARE YOU READY?  You just never know and you don't get a second chance after death to make things right - what a sobering thought!  As Hebrews 9:27 states: "And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment."

Closing words from Psalm 39:4-7 "Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my day are numbered, and that my life is fleeing away. 5 My life is no longer the width of my hand. An entire lifetime is just a moment to you human existence i but a breath. 6 We are merely moving shadows, and all our busy rushing ends in nothing. We heap up wealth for someone else to spend. 7 And so, Lord, where do I put my hope? My only hope is in you.  

I have no desire to scare you into becoming a Christian.  The Lord has to touch your heart, and you then need to repent of your sin and guilt before an almighty God and Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

As a believer in Christ, you no longer fear death, but you live for Him knowing your days are numbered and you have a God given purpose on this earth in your allotted days on earth. My prayer for you and me is that we will "finish this race" (II Tim 4:7) and hear the words of our Lord say, "Well done, my good and faithful servant" (Matt. 25:21)

Is there some one you have delayed talking to about Jesus? Please don't delay any longer! 

Maybe you don't personally know Jesus as your Lord and Savior, and the Lord is speaking to you today, don't resist His love drawing you to Himself (Almighty God and Savior Jesus Christ).

Please feel free to forward this to others.  Actually, please do forward it

Thank you.

Jim Mazzulla

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

My review: David Wilkerson...The Man Who Believed!

As I write this review, I would like to give a little background of my connection to David Wilkerson's materials.  I became a follower of Jesus (i.e. Saved, Born-again) in June 1975.  Sadly, the group of people around me did not guide me in the truths of the Bible, but some time within the first year as a Christian I ended up reading "The Cross and the Switchblade."  It was the reading of that book that made a huge and lasting impact on my life.  It was also from reading that book that I believe the Lord spoke to my heart, "that is what you are called to do" (minister to people). It was then that I knew I had a call to ministry. So, amazingly that book set the course of my life in serving Jesus.  Then, in the early 1980's I came across his newsletter from "World Challenge," which I still receive today. I have a box full of these short teachings by David Wilkerson. 

I also have many of his books, some out of print, which I treasure knowing they are hard to find today (if not impossible). As the years went by, I found myself going through some real hard times spiritually (late 1980's) and found another book, "Have You Felt Like Giving Up Lately" (still in print) by David Wilkerson. Again, I don't recall how this book ended up in my hands, but it was most helpful during that trying time in my life (I have given and recommended this book to many over the years).

Also, in 1987 I was able to visit his new church, "Times Square Church" in Manhattan, New York.  There, again, the Lord touched me in a mighty way through this then new church.  So, while I have never personally carried on a conversation with David Wilkerson, there are over 35 years of my life being touched by this ministry and the man of God, David Wilkerson.  I believe my review is qualified and not just a review with no background into David Wilkerson and his ministry.

As I excitedly received a pre-release (from Zondervan) of this book, "David Wilkerson" authored by his son Gary Wilkerson, I couldn't wait to jump into these pages.  I always feel it is good to know the man behind the scene (so to speak), and over my 35 years of being touched by David Wilkerson, I really didn't know the man behind this great ministry. As I picked up this book and stated reading through its pages, I was so excited to learn more about the man David Wilkerson.  It covers his entire life from his birth to his going home to Jesus.  The childhood section was a little dry to me and it didn't interest me much, but it did give me a good background on his family and his childhood.  The story covers much of his younger years and middle-aged years in ministry, and also covers his latter years, but not in as much detail, and then briefly mentions his death (by car accident).  I learned much about this private "man of God" (a term I don't use loosely) and his triumphs and his failures.  It was good to see what was going on behind the scenes.  I think we often can idolize people (even ministers), and in reality they are people just like you and me.  Gary and other family members, as well as friends and fellow ministers who knew him personally, share in this book and it's not all flattering. They show he was human just like you and me. He had his own set of fears, failures, and fame.  Usually all we know about is a man's fame.  This book will show all sides with due respect to this man of God. I feel through this book I have a clearer understanding of David Wilkerson and saw how one can be used of God, and what it takes to be a "man of God."  One will see many things in this book, but one that sticks out to me was that he was a man of "prayer." His son Gary did a great job gathering information from family (especially Don, David's brother) and from many others who have been involved in his life and ministry over the years. 

I give this book a well deserved 5 stars.

Note: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review and the words expressed here are my own.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

My Review: Answering Your Kids' Toughest Questions - Helping Them Understand - Loss, Sin, Tragedies, and other topics

In this day and age where we, even in the church, are pressured to say what people want to hear, rather than just proclaim the truths like they are revealed in the Bible, it is great to see this mother and grown daughter teamed up to put this Bible-based book together, though the majority of the speaking in this book is from Jessica (the daughter).  I also like how the book is written.  The answers are right on and pointing you to the Bible for their answers.

Some of these subjects are hard to answer especially to kids, but Jessica (and Elyse) do a real good job at providing age-appropriate answers without compromising Biblically in their answers. Sadly, too many others writing to and regarding kids often are "nice," but include little to any truth.

Some of the subjects dealt with include sin, why people die, why people divorce, what is hell, natural disasters, sexual sin, homosexuality, et cetera. Their answers are age appropriate, Biblical and not "sugar coated." Each subject has examples of answers that are appropriate to different age groups.

I like that the book is written by a mother and daughter team, and especially how they both contribute their own personal experiences and insights.

Some of their explanations for kids are equally beneficial for some adults who still have questions about these same subjects, though it is written for parents to help answer kids' tough questions.

While this is a short book (under 200 pages) and only 10 short chapters, it is very practical and real. While the authors make it clear they don't understand everything, they offer some good insight into these tough questions from their Biblical insight and experience.  I believe this book is worthy of your time and may help you and your kids have a better understanding of these tough questions.  If you are a grandparent, parent, youth pastor, pastor, or counselor get this book as I believe it will be a help to you.  It is also suitable for older kids to read themselves, too.

**I received this book for free from Bethany House in exchange for this review.**

Monday, August 25, 2014

My Review: Strange Glory - A life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I have only known bits and pieces about the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, so I really enjoyed the book from the very beginning. I also liked the way that the author, Marsh, shared about the life of Bonhoeffer making me feel like I was there with him on a personal level.
I have known about Bonhoeffer for years, but this is the first biography I have read on him. The author filled in a lot of unknowns for me about him from childhood to his death. Some of the minute details, while not necessary, did give a more complete picture of Bonhoeffer. I did find the beginning of the book a little slow because of these details, but I am still pleased that the author shared them to give a complete picture of who Bonhoeffer was.

The book also gave some historical insight into the German church in the 1930s and 1940s, as well as some insight into Hitler and the Nazis. The only thing I did not like about the book was the author's possible insinuation of Bonhoeffer's sexuality. I am not going to get into that in this review; see other reviews if you are curious or read the book for yourself. I did not think it necessary to mention in the book, especially since it is speculation.  I feel you will enjoy this read, especially to become familiar with Bonhoeffer's very unique character.

This book has peaked my interest in reading another biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  The other biography is: "Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy."

I received this book for free from the publisher’s Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review.

The following are some famous Bonhoeffer quotes:

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

My Review: The Case for Christ (Student Edition)

Defending the Faith! Can you? This book will help you to do so!

You'll find this book an easy read with relatively short chapters (one objection per chapter).   This book deals with the subject of apologetics (defense of the faith). It is only 95 pages long; whereas, the original version of this book is 320 pages.

I hope this review will encourage you to read this book or give it to a student who would be helped by the book.  I am a fan of Lee Strobel's and love his life story of going from an atheistic journalist who decided to research Christ "as a journalist," which took him on a two-year investigation of whether God really exists and whether Jesus is really God's unique son. I love his material so this was a good read for me.  The difference in the "Student Edition" from the original version is that it is much briefer in general on each point, but a great start for any student (teen) with questions. 

In this book he covers common objects to Christianity.

Objection #1:  Since Evil and Suffering Exist, a Good God Cannot. 

Objection #2:  Miracles Contradict Science; Therefore, They Cannot Be Real.

Objection #3:  Evolution Explains Life, So God Isn't Needed.

Objection #4:  It's Intolerant to Claim Jesus is the Only Way to God

Objection #5:  A Loving God Would Never Send People to Hell.

Objection #6:  I Still Have Doubts, So I Can't Be a Christian.

Conclusion:  I really like the concluding thoughts.

This book is a good starting place for those questioning the common objections or to prepare one in talking to others on these subjects. It's a great read for teens, and if they read it and want more, I would encourage them to read the 300+ page edition.  Even as an adult, who has been a Christian for decades, I enjoyed reading it.

Note: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review and the words expressed here are my own.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

My recent review of a great book, "The Greatest Words Ever Spoken"

I review quite a few books, but this one was a special treat for me. I love this book’s design and concept. I even like the thin tissue-like paper used in this book. This would be a nice book in bonded leather or leather. “The Greatest Words Ever Spoken” contains ALL the words of Jesus in Red with some surrounding verses in black to help with context. You may need/want to read more of the verses around it for a more accurate interpretation. This is a valuable book to complement your Bible reading time and is actually Bible readings of Jesus’ words. Over 200 topics (spoken by Jesus) are broken down into 9 categories in 9 chapters. The only part of this book that is not from the Bible are the introductions to each chapter, which are written by Steven K. Scott, who compiled this book. I find the introductions are very good. The table of contents is well-organized and helpful in finding the topic you are looking for. The back of the book contains a scripture index and subject index, which are also quite helpful in using this book. It’s an easy book to use and can be used as a Bible devotion or topical Bible study of Jesus’ words. It is not likely that you will read this book from cover to cover, but more likely you will jump around in it. With that being said, if you want to read all that Jesus spoke, you might enjoy reading it from cover to cover. The book is 519 pages long, it’s not a short book, and the font is pretty small (but very clear), so it’s a lot of reading. Being God’s Word, it is not a book you will want to read quickly. The NIV version is not my favorite version, but it does make it readable for all ages.

I recommend this book as a great reference book and one you will want to keep in your personal library permanently.

I received a free copy of The Greatest Words Ever Spoken from Waterbrook Multnomah in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Review of "Creating Community" (a book on doing small groups as a main part of your church)

I given this book 3.5 stars out of 5. I read this book at the recommendation of our pastor for the new and small church I attend.  For the vision of the church it definitely had a lot of practical advice that I believe our church will use some of it.  I especially like that the book deals a lot with keeping it simple.  There are easy guidelines to follow. If your church is considering small groups, which I personally believe every church should consider, then this book will be a good addition to your library, especially for those in ANY form of leadership in the church.

What I didn't like about the book:
1. I found it misleading that Andy is listed as the co-author, as he only wrote the introduction. The book is written by Bill Willits (he did a good job).
2. About 11 mentions of scripture, otherwise, not a strong scripture-based book. Some Biblical principles used, but that's about it.
3. A lot of comparisons to "corporate America" and successful business men, which I'm not a fan of as I believe the church is NOT to be compared or modeled as a corporation.
4. It is not a highly spiritual book, so it didn't change my spiritual life, but it did excite me about future community, which does effect our spiritual life.
5. This book is 10 year old, it is time they put out an updated and revised edition.  I would be very interested in a new revised edition.

I would recommend getting the book. You will surely get some great nuggets of truth and some great guidelines for small groups.  It's a short book, so it is a really small investment of your time.  If you even get one thing from this book that will help your church grow into a stronger spiritual community (through small groups), it will have been well worth your time.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Book Review: "How To Be Rich" by Andy Stanley

Spoiler Alert: I briefly share some of the principles of Andy Stanley's book in my review, not to spoil the book for you or lessen your curiosity, but to encourage you to read it ALL and get a fuller understanding of the subject in a way more than a review can do.  So please read my review and then go out and get this book.

Overall, I like Andy Stanley's books, and this book is no exception.  It is a short book of 160 pages (which includes small group study guide) and an easy read.  While I know he is not into the prosperity message, I was curious on how he would handle this subject being that he is in a very affluent suburb of Atlanta (Norcross, GA) and his church is by no means a poor church.  How would a successful, mega-church pastor, who is not poor in any respect handle this subject. Sadly, many affluent, mega-church pastors twist or avoid scriptures to make a case for their extravagant lifestyles.  This book would prove to be different.  For starters the subtitle of the book hits the nail on the head of what this book is really about, "it's not what you have. It's what you do with what you have" that is the essence on this book.  And "rich" has a double meaning throughout the book.  It deals with money, material things, and possessions; but it is also about what it really means to be RICH spiritually with God.  He also brings into perspective that fact that most Americans are richer than 96% of the world.  While I don't agree with Andy Stanley's remark that for 'most' Americans $37,000 a year would represent a pay cut..." (pg. 29) (I believe a lot of people fall below $37,000 a year), even so, I would have to agree that what is considered "poverty" in America would be very rich to most of the world. 

That being said, what does this book cover that I gave it a 4 star rating?  As he gets past the first few chapters and covers some very good foundational truths, he then does an excellent job breaking down many verses in 1 Timothy chapter 6 as to the principles shared in this book.  This is especially the case with 1 Timothy 6:17, 18 that states, "Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share."

While I think it is a good book for everyone, I think it is an even better book for those who have been blessed with much financially.  As he states on page 34, "the richer people get, the smaller the percentage of money they give away".  He also gets into having a generous heart with the money God blesses us with, be it a small or large amount - a very good teaching on generosity.

He also does a good job helping us to see that all we have is God's, meaning 100% (not just 10%).  This Biblical teaching can really help us put all we have in proper perspective.  It's all God's - you are just a steward of it.  As you finish this book you will see that it isn't about "BEING RICH" like so many people think, but about being rich toward God and being a good steward with all that God blesses you with. 

Note: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review and the words expressed here are my own.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Review of "A Godward Heart" by John Piper - God-centered meditations

 "A Godward Heart" has many great and encouraging words.  Right from the beginning, Piper explains the reason for writing this book is that he believes that a life can be changed by short meditations (paragraphs) as much as by books.  I agree with him.  Sometimes our hearts are hungry, and yet we are short on time or are tired and won't make it through a long chapter, but this is do-able even if you are tired or short on time, as they are short (3 to 4 pages).  

I love the words of endorsement that Nancy Leigh DeMoss gives regarding this book, and I would like to quote here as it is spoken so perfectly.  She states: "A Godward Heart is a fresh invitation to seek the Lord, to sit at the feet of the savior, to savor Him as your greatest treasure, and to find deep satisfaction for your soul as you drink from His well that never runs dry."

Another thing I like in this book, as well as others by Piper, is his transparency.  I like real and Piper is real

If you are used to the many self-centered books among Christian material, this book may actually seem foreign to you, as it is not about you! This book is Christ-centered and ultimately about doing all we do for the pleasure of God, which by the way, will automatically bring the most pleasure to your Christian walk (as a side benefit not a goal).

I recommend using this book as a devotional for 50 days or just reading a short meditation when you have a couple minutes throughout your day.  I can't say all his meditations are equal, especially if you are new to Piper's writing style and themes.  Therefore, I think my being familiar with other writings by Piper made this book more enjoyable.  There were a few meditations I just didn't quite get where he was going with them or even why they were included, but I moved on to the next meditation.

As for rating this book, I would give it 3.5 stars (if allowed).  Otherwise, I gave it 4 stars, which was a little generous, but 3 stars would have been too low of a rating for this book.

Read it, enjoy it, and if you are new to Piper, let this be a primer.  Get his other books and you'll start seeing the knowledge and wisdom of this godly man.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

My Review of Strange Fire by John MacArthur

I was excited about reading the book (and reviewing it here), even though his conference by the same name caused quite a stir among many Pentecostals and Charismatics.

As I start this review, let me state I am very, very familiar with John MacArthur's teachings and have read many of his other books and listened to countless sermons of his.  Most of his material is great and I love it; except when he gets on the subject of spiritual gifts, tongues, healing and miracles, and on those subjects I lovingly and respectfully disagree.

When MacArthur stays with scripture, he's an awesome teacher.  But when he closes his mind to charismatics, he also throws out any scriptures that support Charismatics'/Pentecostals' view of miracles as still being for today as well as tongues, etc.

In about 90% or more of this book MacArthur's examples refer to the Word of Faith, TBN or some other false sect of the Charismatic/Pentecostal movement.

Even with the shortcomings cited in the Charismatic/Pentecostal movement, it is usually no more flawed than any other non-charismatic (even cessationist) ministry or church.  Man is flawed and if you look deep enough no one is perfect.  But on the other hand, I am thankful for the many ministers that do represent the Lord in a God glorifying way.

Throughout this book he calls "tongues" gibberish and irrational blabber.  Wow! That seems quite disrespectful and irreverent to call something Charismatics look at as from the HOLY Spirit!  He also calls all healings or miracles that happen when the sick are prayed for as fake. Really, are ALL healing's and miracles that happen in a prayer meeting or through the laying on of hands fake?

Note: I do believe John MacArthur believes God can sovereignly heal or do a miracle today, but it has nothing to do with the gift of healings or miracles as taught among Charismatics.

Based on my reading of this book,  he could have more accurately named it, "Charismatic Chaos II – Exposing the Word of Faith Movement (TBN) in the 21st Century".

All that being said, since he does share some real concerns, I found his book somewhat helpful.  I also found it informative on how a cessationist's mind set works.

Interestingly, it has made me think all the more how precious it is to me to be a conservative Continuationist.

John MacArthur is a wonderful teacher when he sticks to the Bible passages and stays away from this issue, and very possibly a Biblical view called Continuationism as believed by Charismatics.

My recommendations on this subject from a Continuationist's view would be Wayne Grudem's book  "Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine" (Covers many doctrines), or his book "Bible Doctrine" (abridged from Systematic Theology).

Also two book that I know of, but have not read, that have been written by Charismatics as a response to John MacArthur's "Strange Fire" are "Authentic Fire" by Michael Brown and "Holy Fire" by R.T. Kendall.

Disclosure: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review blogger's program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Short Devotional: God's Pruning Process

I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. John 15:1, 2

As we look into the pruning process I must share my wife's pruning ability. When I first saw the pruning work of my wife, Joyce, I thought she killed the plant or at least stunted its growth forever.  Boy, was I wrong! It grew back and looked great!  Now, if my wife does a heavy duty pruning I trust her, as I have seen that her pruning is helping the plant.  Also, after my wife first prunes a plant it is rather ugly, but given time it turns beautiful. 

Most of you know that trees need pruning in order to grow properly and bear fruit. Pruning involves cutting off the dead branches and cutting back the living branches, both to shape the tree or vine and to stimulate growth.  So much more with our heavenly Father, as He is the perfect pruner, when He prunes us we know that He knows what He's doing and the end result is you will be more beautiful in God's vineyard. According to this verse, pruning sounds to me like a painful process! However, as painful as it can be to go through this “process,” it is necessary and worthwhile. Think about it, the branch that bears NO FRUIT is history, but it is the fruit bearing branch that he PRUNES so that it will bear MORE FRUIT.  As Christians you are pruned NOT because you have no fruit, but so you'll have even more.

Here’s why:
1. God's pruning is to get rid of stuff in our life that is not healthy.
Often we allow sin (always wrong and bad) or even weights (not necessarily bad/sin, but not beneficial, something that holds us back) into our lives, and it hinders us from bearing fruit or much fruit. 
Heb. 12:11 states: " For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it."
Heb. 12:1 states: "...let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us..."

2. God’s pruning redirects our spiritual growth.
Each branch that is cut stops the plant's growth in one direction and redirects it in another. Sometimes God shuts a door in one area because He wants to refocus our efforts, energy and gifting in another – often one where He knows we’ll be more effective. If we exist to bring God glory and build His kingdom, it’s not so much about where I want to go and what I want to do, but where He can use me the most.

3. God’s pruning improves the quantity and quality of fruit in our lives.
Pruning at the right time and in the right place can actually increase the number of shoots produced by a plant, thus, increasing its yield. A temporary decrease in an area of your life will actually bring the increase! Don’t give up on the vision God has given you, but press on. Your breakthrough could be right around the next corner.

Jesus desires for us to bear fruit for him, we start with fruit, then MORE fruit and then MUCH fruit.  
I like what I have heard stated that we find ourselves in one of three states right now.

Either we are:
1. Being pruned
2. Healing/recovering after being pruned or
3. We are in full bloom.
(But don’t get too excited if you are in full bloom, because you are about to be pruned again.)

If you are a Christian, you are going to be pruned. Count on it. None of us are immune to it. You may not be in the pruning process right now…you may be in full bloom, enjoying a relatively easy life. Praise God! Enjoy it! But don’t get too comfortable…the scissors are going to come your way again!

*Note: Some of the content of this devotion came from: