Book Review browsing by category



Sunday, March 29th, 2015

Product Details


Since I wasn’t sure what my weekend would bring, I thought I would write about something I am using and have been using for close to a year now: the ESV Reader’s Bible.

If you read the Bible at all, or are at least somewhat familiar with it, you know it is filled with chapters, divisions, verse numbers, often notations, and a host of other things (i.e. helps which turn into distractions). This Bible is different. When I first saw this I wondered about the wisdom of a Bible like this…and whether I would ever use it. But one day last year I decided to buy it…as quirky as it seemed.


Late last summer I embarked on a journey. I began reading Galatians through Colossians in preparation for my 2015 sermon series on Freedom. Along with that I continued my practice of reading the Psalms and also Proverbs (every other month). My most trying leg of the journey though has been to read the whole Old Testament no matter how long it took. To date, that leg has me in I Kings 10. Yeah…long journey. 🙂

But I have thoroughly enjoyed just reading the Bible. No verses. No chapter headings. No notes to be distracted by. Just reading it like a novel. It doesn’t work as a study Bible. Nor will you want to take it to worship to use as the pastor preaches. But to just read the Bible like a novel? This is it!

I’d like to suggest you invest in one. I know of only one style (check out the link above for more information). I honestly believe your Bible reading will be enriched by it and you will find the Bible coming alive. Oh…be careful though: it just might change your life! 🙂


Tuesday, January 6th, 2015

Product Details

In the fourth expectation of this post, I mentioned a book, Wisdom Hunter (WH), which radically changed my life. Since WH is a work of fiction, it would be easy to pass it off as fluff. It will be to your detriment to do so.

WH was written by Randall Arthur (aka Randy Dodd in real life) as a semi-autobiographical book detailing his “near death” by and rescue from legalism. It was 1994 when I read WH for the first time because I loved to read fiction. One year later, while on a spiritual retreat of 4 days of prayer and fasting, I read WH again. I am not ashamed to admit God had softened my heart so much that I struggled with tears through most of the book.

It is the “fictional” story of Jason Faircloth, a hard-nosed fundamentalist pastor, whose world is turned upside down by the death of his runaway daughter (a result of his overbearing legalism at home) and subsequent death of his wife, who blames him for her death. The book is his search for his son-in-law and granddaughter, neither of whom he has never met. Disclaimer: during his search his whole way of thinking changes and Jason is not the same man he once way.

Woven into the story, are journal entries which document his questions and findings. In a very real way they parallel Randy’s own situation (to a point) and changes of thought. I’m going to encourage you get a copy of WH for yourself. I have, over the years, probably given away over 50 copies to friends and family-people I knew needed to hear this story. I promise you will not be disappointed if you buy it. If so, let me know and I will buy it back from you so I can give it away.

Randy and his family were serving in Germany when his mission board became aware of his authorship of WH and he lost close to 80% of his mission support. I began correspondence with him as Randy, Sherri and the kids were making plans to go to Berlin to start a church. He has since moved back to the states. His heart for God is genuine. This book shows his heart. You can read about him at his website.

Randy has also written three other novels: Jordan’s Crossing (the danger of liberalism); Betrayal (a sequel to WH that will leave you shaken and humbled); and Forgotten Road (the danger of the health/wealth teaching). If you like WH you have to read Betrayal aka by a newer title, Brotherhood of Betrayal. He has recently written a non-fiction book entitled 46 Stones.


Tuesday, November 4th, 2014

Remember this name: Elijah Quinn Carlson.

Remember it and remember you heard it here. If my judgement of someone who has a lot of potential is correct, you will be hearing more of Eli in the future.

I know Eli personally. He has attended the church I pastor since it started. His mom and dad are a vital part of our church life. What you don’t know about Eli is he was a top-notch swimmer who, if he had had the drive, could have swam on scholarship anywhere in the country.

While he was skilled at swimming (setting numerous records); writing was his passion. Ever since I have known him, Eli has loved to read, dream, and write. His specialty was fantasy.

Enter Paradigm. (Aside: the first time I saw that word I pronounced it pair-a-dig-em. Yeah…real smart. That was a few years ago) 🙂



Paradigm is a futuristic-type novel where humans and the Wynt (Eli’s own creation) are at odds. Various nuances play a big part in their rivalry/hatred/ mistrust for each other. Various personalities are introduced with different agendas and just when you think you have it figured out…BAM he changes the playing field. He threw enough twists to keep the plot moving along without “the expected outcome.”

Eli introduces some unique aspects to his book. First, I know he wrote a whole new language (Wynt) for his book. He also has done some (what I will call) “scientific dreaming.” I can’t say much more or I would give it away. He also includes a Codex (dictionary of sorts) as an appendix.

Oh…Eli wrote this for a Senior Class assignment called Patriot Expo which all seniors at our local high school must participate in to graduate. More writing and editing has brought it to publishing status. He had it self-published.

If you like the scifi/fantasy genre, you ought to pick up a copy. Oh…and look out for that ending. It isn’t what you would expect.


Sunday, October 26th, 2014

I live in a small town in the middle of Indiana. Population: about 3500 with the county around 22,000. Quite a bit different from the big cities like Indy, Louisville, Atlanta, Pittsburgh, and others. As a result, it is easy to close the eyes and say, “Whew! Glad that is not an issue here.” However, no matter how small the city or town; no matter how large the city or town; there is a homeless and hungry situation to be dealt with. I have recently been chosen to be on the board of the Owen County Chamber of Commerce and I guarantee at the next meeting I will ask.

I have my friend Allen Madding to thank for bringing more awareness to me. I mean, I have been aware of the homeless and hungry. One can hardly read the paper or watch the news without having the eyes opened to its reality. I have read of people living under bridges in cardboard boxes, make-shift dwellings, and/or tents. Just within the past year or two the largest city close to Spencer, Bloomington, had hundreds of tent people stake out in a park. Being homeless in Spring, Summer and Fall is one thing. Being homeless in the Winter is just bone-chilling to me.

My friend, Allen, has written a book called Shaken Awake. It is a short but powerful book of 52 pages. Allen sets a scenario for the book by telling of a man who dies (freezes to death) on the doorstep of Peachtree Street Church. He segues into a snow storm which grips Atlanta unawares, causing all sorts of havoc with citizens of all makes and models. The story is interspersed with the response of  Peachtree church which is like so many churches of our day: “dead” and about to close its doors with no outreach at all. Peachtree responds by opening its doors and becoming a shelter.

Allen closes his book by discussing the homeless and hungry situation gripping our country (for obvious reasons). But he also gives some organizations which are trying to be part of the solution. Allen knows whereof he speaks. After a mission trip to Venezuela, he and his wife made themselves more familiar with the homeless/hunger situation where they lived and then did something about it by starting a non-profit called Feed the Hungry Forsyth, Inc. After moving to St. Pete due to a job downsizing, he has become involved with a non-profit called Feed St. Pete.

I am not ashamed to admit some wet eyelids as I read the story. But wet eyelids ain’t worth squat if they don’t lead to action. I plan to investigate what is and can be done here. And you? I suggest you go to Allen’s website and ask for a copy  of his book or visit Amazon on Wednesday and order it there.

Do you have a homeless/hunger situation where you live? Are you doing anything about it?


Monday, August 18th, 2014

Product Details

Back in early July Caleb Suko asked me if I would be willing to be on the launch team for his new book, “What If…” It is subtitled “How to Kill Worry and Anxiety Before They Kill You.” I was more than happy to help out but then I found out the launch would be less than a week after I was gone on vacation. Bad mix. Read book on vacation. Nope. So I told Caleb and he was okay with me reading it whenever I had the time and then writing a review. I even waited until the book came out so I could buy it and not carry around a 198 pdf file. 🙂 So, here is my review.

First, I met Caleb through blogging. He is a missionary/pastor in Odessa, Ukraine. He is married and the father of five children. Given the events of the past couple of months in Ukraine and being the father of five children should give him some credibility about worry and anxiety. 😉 To make matters a bit more tense, until just about a week ago (August 5th), he and Christine and the five children have spent the past 10 months in the states traveling thousands of miles visiting their supporting churches. All while keeping an eye on his beloved Ukraine (which is also Christine’s homeland).

The book: I wasn’t sure what to expect. I have read many books over the 40+ years of being a pastor on subjects like worry, anxiety, fear, etc. Some have been written from a clinical view. Some have been “cheesy” i.e. offering easy answers or being filled with cliches. Some offered no answers. Some took the therapeutic route, while some took the “super spiritual” route. What I like about Caleb’s book is he did a great job of avoiding all the clinical garbage which comes from a subject like this, while at the same time giving some “meat” to what is behind worry and anxiety and how it affects a person. There is one thing I really like about this book

Caleb saturates it with Scripture. It is everywhere.

I also like that he doesn’t browbeat anyone, condemning them to hell as a hopeless sinner because they do worry. What he does do is give some logical, reasonable answers to the problem which plagues so many of us. In fact, he spends a whole chapter hitting the “Don’t worry…be happy” philosophy really hard. It is really hard to say one of the best parts of the book is such-and-such because that part is chapters 11-15 (“Don’t Worry About…”) and then chapters 17-19 (“How to Kill Worry”).  Both sections are practical, usable information.

I suggest if you have an issue with worry  and anxiety or if you do any counseling which involves these issues, this book would be a good one to add to your library.

I was asked to review Caleb’s book but not told I had to give a good review. I am glad to. Well done my Ukrainian friend and brother!


Monday, August 4th, 2014

Product Details


I recently finished reading “Creature of the Word” by Matt Chandler, Josh Patterson and Eric Geiger. I’m not sure why it took me till 2014 to hear about and read this book since it was written in 2012. That’s too bad. I wish I had read it sooner. Then again, since I believe God’s timing is never askew or haywire, maybe it is just the right time to read it. It took me awhile…something like a month to read. Not that it was tedious. It wasn’t at all. It was thought-provoking.

I realize this is not everyone’s cup of tea, but I have a plan (and that is dangerous). I’d like to give a brief review of “Creature” in this post. I’ll give a brief reminder next week, then starting the following week I plan to use one post a week to cover some of the material in each chapter. The book consists of 12 chapters so there you have it. 12 weeks. 12 posts. Unlike this week I plan to post on Tuesday night at 8:00 so it will cover all day Wednesday. I’d love for you to join me if you care to. Just let me know. We can share links.

I have written before how I was the victim of “program death.” I would go from this conference to that conference seeking inspiration and encouragement, not really knowing I was falling prey to the “next best thing” syndrome. I used to attend a Pastor’s Conference at Overlake Christian Church in Kirkland, WA almost every year. I was blessed beyond measure, but as I look back with “maturity” I also realize I was falling into the trap of looking for a program to pull me through. I finally wised up and stopped with that nonsense. If I attend a conference now it is one dealing with my situation (like TheSticks).

What I liked about “Creature” is what it was not. It was not a book on a program. It was not a book of “this is guaranteed to grow your church.” It was not a book of “how to.” If anything, it downplayed that concept. Simply put:

The “Creature” is the church.

This is a book about being a Jesus-centered church. No programs to buy or follow. Each chapter was challenging and eye-opening, some obviously more than others. It never talked about church growth or even church health. It never said, “Do this and you will thrive.” It simply took the every day areas of the “creature” and always pointed to Jesus.

If you are a pastor, I’d like to challenge you to read it. If you love your pastor, I would suggest you get it for him as a gift (with an explanation). 🙂 If you want to join me in blogging about it on Wednesdays, let me know. I’d love to have you.  Interested? You can check out the book here.


Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014

I know. All spell check monitors went absolutely nuts! 🙂

Holsom is a series of graphic novels., i.e. comic books

Back story: Several months ago I posted a review of a book on Amazon. The little company which published it saw that review and asked if I would be willing to review other material of theirs. “Sure! Why not? I’m always up for a good book.” My pickings (of what I was interested it) were sort of slim, but I decided to choose a book (which I have never received) and a series of graphic novels called “Welcome to Holsom. Population: Weird.” I received the first six books in the series. There is a total of 24 now.

Once I saw them I decided to take a slightly different approach. I’m not much of a comic book reader so I decided to ask two boys in the church to read them and give me their impressions. It has taken awhile but here is their “review” of the book. I am having to edit for word count.

The two boys were Noah and Cooper, ages 9 and 8 respectively.

#1 is about believing God, even when you don’t think He is there.

#2 is about trusting people.

#3 is about being friendly.

#4 is about being tempted.

#5 is about being better about telling your parents about things that they probably won’t believe.

#6 is about doing the right thing even when it’s tempting to do the wrong things.

Holsom was a town named after Horatio Holsom. It begins with a bully chasing some kids who hide in a barn and end up finding a robot. Through a series of adventures they learn some good life lessons (see above). Both boys liked the stories, although one thought they were too short and too quick to read. They both liked the humor in each one. They both liked that the stories had main characters who believed in God. One felt they were good reading, but not quite up to par with Tolkien (he is a LOTR fan) or C..S.Lewis. 🙂  As if…(my note)

The ultimate test? I had my 7 1/2 year old grandson read them to me last month. He liked them and even made me howl when he did the robot language. So I reckon it is safe to say they passed the test.

The also sent me two other graphic novels: one called “Beauty Queen: the Story of Esther” and “The Christ.”  Both boys liked the art work in them, as well as the story. The same artist did the Action Bible.

Thanks Noah, Cooper and Braden.

I was sent this material free of charge for the purpose of review. I was not required to give a good one.

I’m on vacation this week, but didn’t want to completely disappear from the blogosphere. So I thought I would publish something. If all works as planned, I will have met Larry and possibly Matt this morning for breakfast.


Monday, June 9th, 2014


I am not a deep thinker. I have said that before. Some books, some writers and some speakers go so deep I am lost.

There is a man in the church whose intellectual prowess astounds me. When he talks to me about his area of expertise, his wife likes to joke about my eyes glazing over. That is not a “slam” against him. It is a commentary on my inability to grasp some things.

I find myself that way with some books, especially on apologetics. I like things simple and concrete. Understandable. Not too heady. Able to be understood and, if necessary, to be used in conversation or the pulpit.

Truth Matters is one of those books which skirts the line for me. Subtitled “Confident Faith in a Confusing World,” I chose this book because of this tag line: “We know church kids today have real questions and often can’t defend their faith. Others are honestly seeking the truth.” These questions may come from a professor, a friend, or even their own inquiring mind.

This book was written in response to so many church kids who get bombarded with modern scholarship and have no answers. Here are some of the chapter titles:

Is God There? Does God Care? (Then why can’t He do any better than this?)

Let’s Make a Bible (Who picked these books, and where’d they come from?)

Contradictions, Contradictions (Why does the Bible have all these mistakes?)

I’ll Need an Original  (How can copies of copies be the same as the real thing?

And the Winner Is… (Who decided what Christianity was made of?

A Likely Story (How do we know Jesus rose from the dead)

Admittedly, it read easily in parts and fascinated me. In other places, I was sorta lost (but it did a good job of bringing me back). The latter is because of my own mind and “grasping” ability. I am going to keep this book in a handy place. It dealt with questions I have been asked personally-here and in person.

I would also recommend it to anyone (honestly) seeking answers and anyone wanting to give the answers. If you wonder about any of the topics listed in the chapter briefs above-both pro and con-you need to read this book. I truly don’t think you will be disappointed.



Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

Have you ever noticed when someone yawns it seems to be catchy? All of a sudden one or several more are trying to say, “Don’t do that” while stifling a yawn or experiencing a full-fledged yawn.

When something is boring we often say something on the order of “I was at a yawnfest.”

The word yawn is associated with one of two things usually: something boring or the person is a little tired.

So what in the world is Drew Dyck talking about when he writes about Yawning at Tigers? When we think of tigers we envision these massive and ferocious cats which roam the jungles, often stalking their prey. Tragically, the lore surrounding these giant cats is not so idyllic any more. Over the past century the tiger population has dropped by 97%. An estimated 3200 tigers remain in the wild, fewer than those in captivity in U.S. zoos. Most tigers live their lives in concrete jungles, not the jungles of India or Africa. They are gawked at, pictured, followed from one end of the enclosure to another, rather than being the stalker ready to pounce when the time is right.

The tiger has been tamed, domesticated, in a sense. Drew’s contention is we have tried to do the same thing with God. Tame Him. Domesticate Him. Limit Him to our way of thinking. But God won’t be tamed. While He deserves our highest loyalty and reverence, we have attempted to blunt His greatness. We too often spend our lives yawning at God instead of being captured by His greatness.

I really liked Mr. Dyck’s book Generation Ex-Christian so I was drawn to this book by that and also by the subtitle: “You Can’t Tame God, SO STOP TRYING.” I was not disappointed. It caused a dilemma for me. It was so good I wanted to keep reading, even late into the night. But it was so packed with good “stuff” I needed to stop and think some. It also had me thinking, “There has got to be a sermon series in this-one focused on the Majesty of God.”  🙂

I would really recommend you read this book. Carry a highlighter with you when you do….you’re going to need it. But the most important thing you will need is an open mind and heart as you catch a glimpse, not of a tame God, but a wild restless One who moves us and draws us into a life of adventure.

I bought this book on my own and was not asked to do a review.

For a look at my Sunday sermon, check out my other blog.


Monday, May 12th, 2014

Product Details

There are a lot of reasons why people drop out of church. There are a lot of reasons people drop out of Jesus. We all know people who used to go to church faithfully. Maybe they were involved in the youth program. Maybe they grew up in a pastor’s home. Maybe they were a pastor or youth pastor at one time. Maybe they were on a worship band and traveled leading in worship. The scenarios are countless.

But somewhere along the way they “dropped out.” Just kaput. Or maybe more gradual. If you are like me it confounds you. It baffles you. It certainly has me asking, “What happened? Why?” I should know. I have someone (who used to be) close to me who is one of them.

I read an excerpt from this book in a magazine thanks to Ryan, the youth pastor, and decided I wanted to get the book. I needed answers. I’m getting them. The author divides them into 6 groups:

The Postmodernist

The Recoiler

The Modernist

The Neo-Pagan

The Rebel

The Drifter

I’m not going to attempt to describe each one. I suggest you do that research on your own. (Buy the book). This book is subtitled “Why Young People are leaving the Faith…and how to bring them back.” He does a good job of showing both. Like all books which “suggest” something, you have to apply it to your own situation. How good is it? I am only on the Neo-Pagans and I am already recommending it. That’s how good it is!

Want to see more you can check it out here. I believe every pastor, youth pastor, church leader, and anyone interested in saying something worth listening to ought to read it.

What else are you reading that you might recommend?