Core 52 – Growing Your Bible IQ

On the very first page of the introduction, Mark Moore lays out the purpose of the book when we references a study which concludes Bible engagement is “the single most powerful predictor of spiritual growth.” From that point on Core52 provides a great tool for readers to engage with the Bible.

I’ve had the opportunity to sit under Mark Moore’s teaching at a number of events where he is the speaker and our staff has used some of his video resources for continued training. He is an excellent public speaker and is just as versed as he communicates through the written word.

Core52 is a tool for individuals and groups to use to increase Bible IQ and enhance our ability to engage with God’s Word and with others. There is a reading (the author calls it “an essay”) for each week along with tools to assist the reader in deepening his or her understanding of the weekly core truth. The book covers the topics of creation, holiness, prayer, money, the Cross, freedom, humility and many more.

Here’s an example of an insight gained through this book. In one of earlier chapters, Mark Moore wrote about holiness and sought to clarify what holiness is. In chapter five he wrote this: “Holiness happens when God proclaims, not when a person performs. Our holiness is God’s gift to us, not our gift to Him. Holiness is received, not achieved.” While there is more in the chapter, I thought that was an excellent way to describe holiness and is helpful to those who struggle with not “feeling holy enough.”

Core52 is a solid resource that can be used as a personal devotional tool, a small group study and a study for new believers.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher Waterbrook Multnomah.

You Don’t Need a Title to Be a Leader

No TitleThis is my first Mark Sanborn book, but I’ve heard him speak before and know he is a prominent voice in the area of leadership. Even if I didn’t know the author, the title of the book would have been enough of a hook to interest me in reading the book. I like the concept that everyone can lead regardless of the name on the letterhead or your business card. Since leadership is primarily about influence, a title is not required.

In the early pages of the book, Sanborn establishes that as a primary principle: “The bottom line is, influence and inspiration come from the person, not the position.” His encouragement to the reader is that he or she can be leader, even if his or her title doesn’t reflect a leadership position.

Throughout the book, he provides examples from his own experience and the experience of others to demonstrate how influence and inspiration can come from all different levels. He refers to people who are teachers, bellhops in a hotel, insurance customer service agents and waitresses to give evidence of leadership.

One of his principles I highlighted was this: “Leadership is intimately linked to service.” Whether someone sits at the top, in the middle or at the bottom of an organization, he/she can still be a leader as he/she serves.

A critique I have of this book is that at times it seem a little disjointed. I felt like he jumped from topic to topic within a chapter. While the content was good, I didn’t always feel like it connected within the chapter.

I really like the principles Sanborn lays forth regarding leadership and it would be a good read for anyone who seeks to be a person of influence.

(I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review)

The Best Question Ever – a review

best questionAndy Stanley is one of my favorite authors and speakers. He communicates in an engaging way, both in the spoken and written word, and is also very practical. He continues that in his book The Best Question Ever.

In this offering, Stanley explores what he calls a new approach to decision-making. His premise is that rather than look to make the right decision, we should look to make the wise decision. He states it like this: “In light of your past experience, your current circumstance, and your future hopes and dreams, what is the wise thing to do.”  Rather than just look at a decision and see if there is anything wrong with it, we should see what is wise.

In The Best Question Ever Stanley applies this question to decisions regarding our time, our money and our relationships.  In all these areas, making wise decisions is vital because they can have lasting impact on our own lives and those around us.

I like how Stanley emphasizes the importance of making wise choices on page 125 of the book:  “None of us plan – or intend – to get into trouble.  The problem is, we don’t have a plan not to.  Adopting the Best Question Ever enables us to plan not to.”

Everyone wants to make good decisions.  In this book, Stanley gives some good insight from God’s Word on how to go about making good decisions and part of it is seeing that we are not as unique as we think we are.  When faced with a decision, we can convince ourselves that we are the exception to the rule.  We can go down a certain path because we can handle it, we are smarter or it simply won’t happen to us like it does to other people.  On page 111, he puts on paper what many people think:  “Nobody has ever felt this way before. No one has to deal with what I have to deal with.  I can handle it.  I’m not live everybody else…”

Stanley speaks directly to our need to see that we aren’t unique, that we do need wisdom outside of our ourselves, that wisdom seeks advice from others and God wants to help us make those wise decisions.

The Best Question Ever would be a good resource for high school and college students and young adults.  While more mature adults would benefit from this book, many of the decisions to which he refers are being made by those in the young adult period of their lives.  This would be a good tool for pastors and leaders in student ministry to work through in a small group setting.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review

Unstoppable review

Many people are familiar with Nick Vujicic from his videos on YouTube and the sharing of his story through social media. Unstoppable is his second book and while I haven’t had the opportunity to read his first one yet, I knew this would be a good read.

What is interesting to see is the response Nick’s picture and story receive when initially viewed. I used a brief quote from Unstoppable in my Sunday School class a couple of weeks ago and I assumed most of my students had heard of Nick. Those who hadn’t were a bit taken back by the cover of his book. The first time you see a picture of a man born without limbs causes you to wonder how it happened or if the picture is real. He definitely captures a person’s attention.

While Nick’s story is both powerful and inspirational, I felt the strongest part of Unstoppable were the chapters that dealt with the subjects of bullying and suicide. In his story, Nick candidly shares his struggles with both of those issues. He offers practical advice and helpful resources to those who may be struggling with suicide or bullying and offers encouragement to those who know people battling with one of those challenges.

What added weight to the words of his own experiences were the stories he shared of people he met who contemplated suicide or were victims of bullying. He made it clear that those issues aren’t just dealt with by those who have a physical challenge such as his. The stories he shared of people he has met in his ministry under girded what he wrote about and brought those dark issues into the light.

He also brought a good challenge to the reader who may have a friend who is bullied or is showing signs of harming oneself. His encouragement was to step in, provide support and seek outside assistance for those who need it. One of the difficulties Nick had from his bullying experience was that no one spoke up for him. I thought his words on those two subjects were very helpful and a good resource.

Unstoppable is a story of faith, trust in God and how God uses people of all shapes and sizes to accomplish His work. It is a good read for both teens and adults.

(I received this book from WaterBrook Multnomah in exchange for my review)

New Book “Unstoppable” Nick Vujicic

A lot of people have heard the name Nick Vujicic.  I’ve seen people post videos of his inspiring story.  He has spoken in schools and churches around the country.  His new book Unstoppable is set to be released in a just a couple of weeks.  Below is a video that gives some idea of what the book is about.  You can even read an excerpt of the first chapter by clicking here.

I received my preview copy in the mail this week and look forward to reading it soon.  Check back here in a few weeks and you can read my review of it.

There is a link on the excerpt page where you can pre-order your own copy of Unstoppable.

The Fourth Fisherman – a review

The story of The Fourth Fisherman weaves together the story Joe Kissack, a man in the US, with three fisherman from Mexico who are lost at sea for months and survive.

Both stories standing alone would make for compelling reading.  Joe tells his story of success in business, but struggles in his personal life, including his marriage and relationship with God. The account of the fishermen, how they were adrift at sea and managed to survive for such a long time draws you in and you causes you to turn the page to see what happens next.

The combining of these two stories makes for unique reading, especially when you discover the obstacles that Joe had to overcome to meet the fishermen face to face.

As Joe says in the book, it is not just about two stories; it is one story – God’s story.   It is God’s story of forgiveness, rescue and God’s involvement in the lives of His people.

The Fourth Fisherman will not only move readers with the facts of the story, but also challenge readers with the faith displayed by the characters in the book.  Knowing that these were real events that happened to real people will challenge the reader to examine how he/she would respond in a similar situation.

This book is a good read and worth your time.

(I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review)


Enemies of the Heart

Practical.  When I think of Andy Stanley, that is the word that comes to mind – practical.  It seems that whenever he speaks or writes, he is able to cut through to the real issue at hand.  In this particular book, he truly does get to the heart of the matter.

He begins and ends the book with the same thought – our hearts are so important.  Everything we do – love, lead, parent, build relationships, teach, etc. – all come from our heart.  In his practical style, he drives his point home and drills down to the four enemies that we deal with in our hearts – guilt, anger, jealousy and greed.

Not only does he reveal the four enemies we face, he gives ways to combat those enemies.

It is easy as you read this book to see these enemies in someone else’s life.  Stanley addresses that reality and causes the reader to look inward to see if one of the four enemies has taken up residence in his or her own heart.  The questions he presents do help the reader take an inventory of what is happening inside the reader’s own heart.

Another bonus of the book is what he offers parents.  Through his own personal illustrations of talking about these enemies with his kids and the direct recommendations he makes to parents, Stanley equips parents to help their own children monitor their hearts.  Too often, as he points out, we focus on our kids behavior (what is happening on the outside) and neglect their hearts (what is happening on the inside).

This is a great resource for individuals, parents and those in ministry.  The content of this book would make a great teaching series for those who work with adults and students.

Pick up a copy of Enemies of the Heart and let Andy Stanley help you to begin to monitor the condition of your heart.

(I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review)

Win a Book By Rating Review

I’ve posted before about checking out my reviews on the Blogging For Books website.  They have added a new feature – when you rate a review, you are entered in a drawing to win a free book.  Naturally it would be one of the books from their selection of books, which of course have been reviewed by a blogger (like me).  A rating does require you to enter your email address, but that also allows them to contact you if you win!

If you are interested in offering a rating on one of my reviews and thus have a chance to win a free book, you can click here.

The Next Christians

As I began reading “The Next Christians,” I hadn’t had the benefit of reading Gabe Lyon’s previous book “UnChristian.”  The previous book outlined the decline of Christianity in America.  “The Next Christians” offers a much brighter outlook on the future of the church and gives a title not to just this book, but to an emerging movement of Christians.

One of the great pictures Lyons paints in his book is that the next Christians are focused on restoration.  Their goal is not just to get people “saved” by focusing on our sin and our need for redemption (which we truly need!).   But, as Lyons puts it, they focus on the whole story, beginning with the goodness of God’s creation and the ultimate restoration that will take place at Christ’s second coming.  His contention is that the church has at times only focused on our sin problem and how to get to heaven and avoid hell.  The next Christians are telling the entire story and striving to be agents of restoration in our world today.

To describe the next Christians, Lyons identifies what they are not.  While it is dangerous to use labels or stereotypes to describe a group of people, Lyons does a good job of characterizing many in the church.  He uses two broad groups – Separatists & Cultural – to describe a large segment of today’s church goers.  Separatists do their to not associate with today’s culture while Cultural Christians take on many aspects of the culture.  Cultural Christians take what society says is “cool” and puts a Christian spin on it.

Lyons does a good job illustrating these two definitions, but does it to show how the next Christians strive not to blend into culture, not separate from it, but rather engage in it and to begin bringing about restoration.

He then uses these phrases to flesh out what the next Christians look like:  provoked, not offended; creators, not critics; called, not employed; grounded, not distracted; in community, not alone; countercultural, not relevant.  He also uses real-life stories of people who show what it looks like to live as an agent of restoration.

What Lyons describes in this book is a shift of focus on what the church should be about.  Lyons tells stories of Christians who move to the inner city, who meet in community, who take jobs in the “secular” workplace, all for the purpose of being the church in today’s culture and bring about restoration.  He identifies some of the challenges of being a next Christian and how it also a call to some fundamental practices of Christ-followers – listening to God through His Word, spending time in prayer and meeting in community for both encouragement and accountability.

The Next Christians is not a call to abandon the church of today or leave your current fellowship to start a whole new gathering.  More than that, it is a challenge to see how we can be agents of restoration in our particular segment of society, to see how you and I can use our God-given gifts and abilities in the places where God puts us.

You can read an excerpt here.

(I received this book free from WaterBrook Multnomah in exchange for my review and thoughts on this book.)