Tongues Of Fire (book review)

I am blessed to be the son of Pentecostal parents; and both of my parents come from Pentecostal parents too, as well as two Pentecostal great-grandmothers. That makes me a fourth-generation “holy roller”! But my Pentecostal heritage actually goes back farther than that, which made reading Tongues Of Fire such an enjoyable read. 

This book is billed as a 50-day devotional, with excerpts from sermons and writings of some of the best-known Pentecostals of the last 150 years. Yes, there are some “newcomers” that have some essays in this book as well, but I found the real substantive, enlivening writings to be from those old-timers. 

One of those old-timers said, “The Spirit is the first power we practically experience, but the last power we come to understand” (Oswald Chambers). How sadly true that so many Christians dig no deeper after their moment of conversion! 

It took me much longer than 50 days to read through these devotionals because I spent time pondering the messages and introspecting on their application to my life. 

Whether you are a seasoned Pentecostal, a newcomer, or someone simply hungry for more of God’s Spirit to be manifested in your life, you will enjoy diving into Tongues Of Fire.

War As I Knew It (book review)

Throughout my life, I’ve had the privilege of meeting World War II soldiers who fought in the Third Army in Europe. I’ve said to them, “Oh, so you were Patton’s man.” And the response is always the same, “Yes sir!” they proudly respond with a smile. General George Patton was a unique military leader, and his memoirs called War As I Knew It capture his uniqueness. 

George Patton lived as if he were always in pursuit of something big. He always pushed himself, those under his command, and even those in leadership over him, to keep moving forward. His memoirs cover the final 2+ years of World War II, from the time he landed his troops in Africa until Germany surrendered. 

Patton’s Third Army was an unstoppable force! They covered more ground, took more territory, captured or killed more enemy combatants, liberated more cities, and destroyed more enemy material than any other army in US history! This was because of Patton’s drive, and because of his strenuous personal preparation before the war even started. 

These memoirs record Patton’s successes, but he also is transparent enough to list where he miscalculated and where he was simply a beneficiary of good fortune. 

For students of leadership, US history, or military history, War As I Knew It is a very insightful book. 

Words To Winners Of Souls (book review)

Horatius Bonar has given us a collection of sermons preached to pastors, which have been collated in a book under the title Words To Winners Of Souls. 

Although these were words by a pastor to pastors, this shouldn’t be a book exclusively read by pastors. Anyone who wants to successfully share their Christian testimony with unsaved friends and loved ones can find much to digest in these sermons. That being said, this is still a must-read (and I don’t say that very often) for those in pastoral ministry. 

Bonar was a no-pulled-punches preacher! He spoke candidly and forcefully, but he also spoke out of a love for the Body of Christ and its ministers. Early on in this book he says, “We take for granted that the object of the Christian ministry is to convert sinners and to edify the body of Christ. No faithful minister can possibly rest short of this. Applause, fame, popularity, honor, wealth—all these are vain. If souls are not won, if saints are not matured, our ministry itself is vain.” Wow: “our ministry itself is vain”—you cannot get more gut-level honest than that! 

In this collection of messages, Bonar helps us diagnose what may be hindering our soul-winning practices, and he also proposes the remedy for those shortcomings. These words are honest and often hard to hear, but they are so needed for everyone who desires, as Jesus does, “that none should perish but all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). 

Pastors, please read this book! 

Parishioners, please get a copy of this book for your pastor and then offer to prayerfully read through it with him or her. I promise you: this book will pay eternal dividends. 

UPDATE: I have shared some quotes from this book here.

They Came For Freedom (book review)

I was first introduced to Jay Milbrandt through his book The Daring Heart Of David Livingston. I was so captivated by Jay’s writing style that I had to seek out more of his books. They Came For Freedom is the story of the first pilgrims that came to this land we now call the United States of America. 

Jay uses his training as an attorney to sift through the voluminous historical documentation that was available for him to use in the writing of this book. Just as an attorney is trained to evaluate the evidence to be presented in court in light of the biases of a witness, Jay does the same thing with the many people who documented the story of the pilgrims. 

What Jay really wanted to try to capture in this history was the reasons why people wanted to come to this new world. Were there religious motivations? Were there commercial considerations? Were they just adventurers or maybe malcontents? So Jay goes back further into history to set the stage and give us some of the motivations that went into the decision to make such an arduous voyage across the Atlantic Ocean. 

In reading this book, undoubtedly you will hear some names of people and places that sound familiar to you. But I’ll bet you are going to see these people and places in a way that your school history books never presented. I found this book absolutely fascinating! I felt about They Came For Freedom the same way I did about Jay’s book on Dr. David Livingston: This is history that reads like a novel. 

You may think the story of the first pilgrims coming to these shores is so well known that this book isn’t going to be worth your time, but I can assure you that you are guaranteed to learn something you never knew before. Well done, Jay! 

What Christians Believe (book review)

C.S. Lewis remains my all-time favorite author. His ability to explain concepts of theology is unparalleled in both his own time and into modern times. What Christians Believe is a classic case in point. 

During World War II, the BBC was looking for something both inspirational and educational to carry on their airwaves to the British troops abroad and the war-weary British citizens on the home front. They discovered a little-known professor of literature that presented something so fresh and revitalizing that his notoriety immediately skyrocketed throughout England! Part of what he presented as a series of audio essays for the BBC is captured in this book What Christians Believe

One of the things I enjoy about Lewis is his ability to simplify complex topics without feeling like he is “talking down” to you. What theologians had made so complex and out-of-reach to many of the uneducated, Lewis made accessible to a vast audience.

If you have a friend or family member that has asked you about your Christian faith, but doesn’t see to “get it” when you explain it, the short essays in this book may be just the thing to get the conversation started again. Better yet: read the chapters along with them and then get together for a time of discussion. I think you will be pleased with the doors that C.S. Lewis may open for deeper understanding and more productive conversations about your Christian faith. 

Starlight And Time (book review)

Creationists (especially young-Earth creationists) have often been stymied to reconcile the biblical evidence for the creation of Earth with the astronomical evidence of observable stars and universes being billions of light-years away. As D. Russell Humphreys notes in his book Starlight And Time, “Good science requires that we try to reconcile both the young-earth data and the cosmological data.” 

So how can both things be true: an Earth that was created 6000 years ago and a distant star appearing to be billions of light-years old? Using the theories of general relativity applied to the best cosmological data, Dr. Humphreys presents a novel hypothesis that appears to accommodate all of the data we have gathered. 

The equations of general relativity have always indicated that time itself had a beginning, which means we have to be open to the idea that something outside of Time—outside of our universe—had a hand in the beginning of our universe. Dr. Humphreys does an excellent job of unpacking these equations to show how accurately they end up being in agreement with the biblical account of Creation. In fact, he notes that “as measured by clocks on earth, the age of the universe today could be as small as the face-value biblical age of about 6000 years.”

I’ll admit that physics wasn’t my favorite subject in school. However, after leaving school I was determined to get a better grasp on it, and found myself actually enjoying the studies of physics and cosmology. With my rudimentary grasp of these concepts, I still struggled to conceive the impact of all the equations that Dr. Humphreys laid out, but that didn’t keep me from being astounded at how well his theory fits all the evidence. 

The physics equations shouldn’t stop you from picking up a copy of this book either. In fact, if you enjoy creationist apologetics, this book needs to be on your “must read” list. 

The Return Of Sherlock Holmes (book review)

I don’t read very many fiction books, but I am a huge fan of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s character Sherlock Holmes! I just finished listening to a wonderful collection of short adventures from the book The Return Of Sherlock Holmes. The audiobook I listened to was expertly narrated by Stephen Thorne.

Without being as wordy as some authors, Doyle paints such descriptive pictures of Dr. Watson, Holmes, his clients, his villains, and the crime scenes. I can “see” exactly how the characters look and “hear” how they talk, and can feel the emotions they are feeling. And the crime scenes are also painted in such vivid detail by Doyle, that I can catch all of the same details the Sherlock Holmes is taking in.

I cannot stand how some detective story authors “uncover” some hidden details at the very end that magically helps their protagonist solve the crime. The “magic” of Sherlock Holmes’ solutions is that Doyle allowed you to see everything Holmes saw. The real art is in the way Holmes uses his gift of deductive reasoning to solve the clues.

These mysteries are not always crimes. Often times they are simply perplexing problems. I’ve never been called upon to solve a crime before, but I certainly am called upon to find solutions to thorny problems. In that regard, I owe a debt to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle for helping me learn from Sherlock Holmes how to deduce the most logical solution to my mysterious situations.

These are also great stories to read aloud, especially to your kids.

A Spiritual Clinic (book review)

Some of the most formative leadership books I read early in my leadership journey were written by J. Oswald Sanders. Books like Spiritual Maturity and Spiritual Leadership. It’s my desire to be a lifelong learner, and in that pursuit, I need an external, objective source to help keep me on track. Sanders’ book A Spiritual Clinic is just the check-up I needed! 

In the physical world, we may get a check-up from our primary care physician, a counseling session with a mental health professional, or perhaps a regular check-up with a spiritual advisor like a pastor or mentor. All of these are healthy if they are all grounded in the principles in God’s Word. 

Sanders brings us to his spiritual clinic for a well-rounded check-up of our spiritual leadership. He says, “[This book’s] thesis is that the complex strains and problems which the Christian worker encounters in the contemporary world find their answer, not in tranquilizers or stimulants, but in a correct understanding and application of scriptural principles, and effectiveness in Christian work is the natural outcome of conformity to spiritual laws enunciated in the Scriptures.” 

So “doctor” Sanders holds up the mirror of God’s Word to our activities to see how we are performing in light of God’s standards. He addresses topics like stress, learning, suffering, depression, spiritual ups-and-downs, and our conscience. He zeros-in on leadership topics like ambition, authority, discipleship, use of time, and understanding God’s calling. 

Each chapter is short but packed with so many principles that it should take you quite a while to evaluate and implement. This is time well spent! 

I am a Moody Publisher book reviewer. 

Halley’s Study Bible (book review)

I believe Halley’s Bible Handbook may have been the first Bible study resource I got my hands on when I was a pre-teen. It was a slender book but packed with insights that even this third-generation Pentecostal boy hadn’t heard before. So I was quite intrigued when I heard about Halley’s Study Bible. 

Let me get something out of the way right upfront. I’m a blogger for the BibleGateway Blogger Grid (sometimes called #bgbg2 on Twitter), so I’m occasionally offered a free book in exchange for my honest book review. However, there are more books that I pass on than books I agree to review. Since I am already working my way through the Faithlife Illustrated Study Bible, I wasn’t too eager to dive into another study Bible just yet. But I’m so glad I did! 

Reading Henry Halley’s concise overview of each book of the Bible was nostalgic for me, reminding me of what initially intrigued about his handbook: taking voluminous information and giving such a clear, concise overview. 

The study notes on each page offer fascinating insights, and the unique perspective Halley offers of the people, places, and practices chronicled in the pages of Scripture are unparalleled. And what I especially appreciate is Halley’s whole-Bible approach. By that, I mean his ability to show you a theme that originates in the Old Testament and finds its fulfillment in the New Testament, showing how all of the Bible is interconnected. 

If you are looking for a new way to study your Bible, I highly recommend Halley’s Study Bible to you. 

I am a HarperCollins book reviewer. 

Five Presidents (book review)

Some of my favorite books to read are in the categories of history and leadership. Five Presidents by Clint Hill is a treasure-trove of both history and leadership, giving us a front-row seat to the leadership styles of five United States presidents. 

Mr. Hill was on the presidential protection detail for Presidents Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Gerald Ford. During his time, America experienced several “firsts” and Mr. Hill was right there to see them firsthand. During this time in our country’s history, only one of these presidents was elected, reelected, and finished both of his terms as president: Dwight Eisenhower. President Kennedy was assassinated, President Johnson finished JFK’s term but withdrew from running for reelection, President Nixon resigned during his second term, and President Ford became the only president to serve as both president and vice president without being elected to either office and then was defeated in his reelection bid. 

Five Presidents is not only an eye-opening, behind-the-scenes look at key historical events during the 1960s and ’70s, but it is also an informative study on the different leadership styles of these five unique men. Eisenhower ran the executive branch like a general, Kennedy was an idealist, Johnson used brute force, Nixon started off well and allowed his own insecurities to derail him, and Ford served as the “ordinary man” trying to clean up the mess left by his predecessor. 

Mr. Hill also documents the changes in the operations of the Secret Service. When he began his assignment, there were no bullet-proof presidential vehicles, no protection for presidential candidates (only elected officials), no permanent residence for the vice president, and no Air Force Two. By the time he retired, all of these things—and many more—had been implemented. 

Whether you enjoy history, leadership, or presidential biographies, Five Presidents will be a highly enjoyable and informative book for you. 

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