Book Review: The Dynamic Heart in Daily Life

img_0081Human beings are not simple creatures. We are a complex web of what we think, what we believe, and how we behave. All three aspects of the human experience affect how we relate to God, ourselves, others, and our circumstances. In personal ministry and faith based counseling, these aspects must be kept in mind, because the root issue may connected to something different than the issue at hand. This is what Dr. Jeremy Pierre discusses in his new The Dymanic Heart in Daily Life published by New Growth Press.

Most of us are not as self-aware as we would like to admit. Many times our behavior is connected to something deeper than what is on the surface. When we can get past the superficial issue, down to the root of what is going on in our heart we can begin to see growth and healing. For many of us we need help doing that which is why we turn to friends, pastors, and counselors for help. Whether you are the friend, pastor, or counselor it is important to be equipped to point the person seeking counsel what is truly going on in the heart.

In the book, Pierre gives a biblical theology of the human heart and its dynamic nature. He shows how what we think affects our beliefs (desires) which in turn affects our behavior and how that relates to the world around us. The goal of ministry and faith-based counseling is to look past the behavior to what is truly going on in the heart. Many times behavior can be modified by repenting of wrong thinking and beliefs, which is the theory of neuthetic counseling. Sometimes, however, additional psychotherapy and/or medication can be helpful. Pierre seems to point to a faith-based cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) approach in personal ministry and counseling. Basically, our behavior can be modified when we reorient our thinking and beliefs to match what Scripture says about who God is and who we are. The goal is to help others become more self-aware and help them apply the gospel to every day life situations.

Pierre does an excellent job of making this concept of faith-based CBT applicable in peronal biblically based ministry for church leaders who are not formally trained counselors. He also does an excellent job of providing real life examples of how this approach can be applied in every day life. This book is an excellent biblically based resource for pastors, ministers, and counselors who desire to serve their parishioners and clients well. It is a great side table guide to better understand how the gospel applies to the dynamic heart of people in every day life.



I received this book in participation with the Cross Focused Reviews blog tour program in exchange for an honest review of the book. 


Book Review: “Kill Devil” by Mike Dellosso

imageThe definition of great fiction is when the reader has difficultly determining where the story begins and reality ends. Great fiction draws the reader in and makes them feel like they are living in the midst of the story. The reader sees, hears, and feels what the characters see, hear, and feel. In essence the reader becomes the characters. This is the type of writing that is displayed by Mike Dellosso in his new book Kill Devil, the second book in the Jed Patrick series published by Tyndale House.

In Kill Devil, Jed Patrick and his family are trying to start a new life after leaving the Centralia Project. He thinks they are off the grid when their cover is blow and are thrust back into the throws of working with the CIA. Jed is in possession of classified information that can bring down the Centralia Project and they want the information destroyed. The storyline moves briskly from Idaho to Denver to Alcatraz. Jed thinks he is being enlisted to take down the Centralia Project, but discovers that he is in fact working for them again. With his daughter’s life at stake, Jed must wade through murky waters to discover the truth.

Mike Dellosso does an excellent job of capturing the readers interest. His writing style is much like Lee Child or Brad Thor. The reader is made to feel like they are Jed Patrick living the story as it unfolds. Dellosso moves the story along briskly and gives the reader just enough information to make them what to keep reading. Unlike some thrillers where it is easy to figure out “whodunit,” Dellosso does an excellent job of throwing in plot twists that makes the reader second guess where the storyline is going. The short chapters give a “teaser” effect that makes you want to start the next chapter to find out what happens next.

If you love reading a good thriller, Kill Devil is a good book to consider. I reccomend the Jed Patrick series it to anyone who loves Jack Reacher, Robert Langdon, or Scot Harvath. I could not put the book down and finished it in just a few days. I would, however, reccomend reading Dellosso’s book Centralia first because it provides some back story that you miss if you jump right into Kill Devil.
I received this book from Tyndale House Publishers as a member of the Tyndale Bloggers Network program in exchange for an honest review of the book.


Learning to pursue the Caller and not the calling

23505897I love it when the Lord uses a book to speak straight to my heart the exact words I need to hear at a particular time. Some time back I was in a used book store here in Birmingham when a book caught my eye. The title was Called: My Journey to C.S. Lewis’ House and Back Again by Ryan J. Pemberton. I was intrigued! As I thumbed through, I realized that the book was a spiritual memoir about the author’s call to ministry, which involved him studying theology at Oxford in England. I knew that I had to buy it, because I myself have been struggling with my own calling and what that means in my life. I am glad I did!

Using the medium of story, Pemberton shares his experience with following the call of God on his life. For him the call meant leaving his comfortable job and studying theology halfway around the world in an effort to become a writer who relays spiritual truth in a way that the average person can apply to their lives. The journey took him from mountain tops, living in C.S. Lewis’ home; to lows, living away from his wife during their first pregancy. However, through it all, Pemberton reminds us that “being called by God…doesn’t mean being called to a particular job, school, or even vocation, so much as it means being called to surrender” (pg.237). The calling of God is about dropping our nets and following Jesus wherever he leads. Following Jesus is not easy and will cost us something, but in the end it is worth it because Jesus is always worth it!

Although the specifics of his story are different, the journey is the same. When the journey brought him to places he never imagined he would be, like waiting in line at the social services office. He asked himself the same questions that everyone asks when life does not turn out the way we’d hoped. Lord, did I hear you wrong? Am I not called? Did I misunderstand? Is this worth it? In the end, Pemberton discovers that the Christian life is not about pursuing a calling, but pursuing the Caller. His story harkens to what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, “seek first the kingdom of God ships righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33, ESV). When we pursue the calling above all else, it becomes an idol. Yet, when we pursue God above all else, we discover our true purpose, namely to enjoy God in personal relationship.

I loved this book because I read my story in Pemberton’s story. I have found myself in many of the same positions, spiritually speaking. His story speaks right to my heart because I fully understand the difficulty of leaving all to follow Christ. I have been where he was, ready to throw in the towel. Yet, hearing a story similar to mine, from someone who is walking the same journey reminds me that I’m not alone. It beckons me to stop and be reminded that God did not call me to serve Him, He called me to trust Him. For the first time, while reading this book, that truth made the journey from my head to my heart. My life may not end up how I envisioned, but all that matters is that my name is written in heaven and in that I rejoice.

I am thankful for Ryan Pemberton’s obedience to the call of God on his life. He truly is a wonderful storyteller! His writing is a gift from the Lord. He draws the reader into the story by making the reader feel what he felt and experience what he experienced. This book is a great reminder that the call to follow the Lord is one of adventure and is never dull! I highly recommend this charming memoir to anyone who has said yes to following God. It will remind you that you are not alone!

As a gift to my readers Ryan has graciously offered a signed copy of the book to be given away on this blog. The giveaway will be held from May 22 – June 5. More details will be forthcoming!


Book Review: Living in the Light Money, Sex and Power

imageWhat is supreme in our life? What takes first place in the priorities of our life? The answer will reveal where we place our hope and determine what or who we worship. In truth the place of preeminence is reserved for Christ alone, yet because of the Fall many other things take His place in our life. Three specific places that all people look for fulfillment are money, sex, and power. Put in priority, these there can bring immense joy. It is when they are put in the place of Christ, that they can become a snare that leads to other sins. This is what Dr. John Piper discusses in his new book Living in the Light: Money, Sex, and Power published by the Good Book Company.

In the book, Dr. Piper reveals that money, sex, and power are precious gifts from God in order to bring joy and fulfillment in the lives of His people. However, because of sin they can be perverted and placed as preeminent in our lives. If we allow one of these to take the first place in our hearts the damage it can have in our lives and others’ lives can be devastating.

First, sex was created by God not only for procreation, but bring joy and pleasure for His people. However, the lie of Satan “was to make the fruit look more desirable than God” (pg. 29). Our first parents “exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man” (Rom. 1:23, ESV). What God intended as enjoyment and pleasure, mankind put in the place of God. In regards to sex, this was done by taking sex out of the bonds of covenant marriage and partaking whenever we see fit. This is seen rampantly in our culture with the redefinition of marriage, gender issues, pornography, premarital and extramarital sex. When enjoying sex takes priority over enjoying God through sex, we have exchanged the glory of God for images.”

Second, money was created by God as a way for mankind to flourish. Through money we can give and receive material goods and services. Money helps us meet our most basic needs and allows us to enjoy the world around us. However, because of sin we pursue the gift rather than the Giver. Money can become our primary goal in life. This can happen through seeking a lucrative career path or being stingy with what God has given us by placing it in savings accounts. Money was not meant to be pursued above God because when we pursue God first he will graciously give us all things. This does not mean that we will become wealthy, but it means that he will meet our needs and provide for us.

Third, power was created by God as a way for us to pursue pleasure through Him. However, power can easily become distorted in our lives and we pursue it above all things. Through power we can exalt ourselves and hurt others. This is most commonly seen through “climbing the corporate latter” where we step on others in an effort to get to the top. Power was not meant to be pursued above all else, but as a way to pursue please through God.

Application for the Christian Life
The remedy, as Dr. Piper puts it, is to put the Son back at the center of the solar system of our lives. When the money, sex, and power get out of “orbit” it causes many problems. However, when Christ is preeminent in our lives he graciously gives us all things as good gifts to enjoy him.

Sex was given as a gracious gift to glorify God by enjoying the pleasure that only he can give. When it is enjoyed within the bonds of convenient marriage, sex can bring immense pleasure and ecstasy. God has given us freedom within those bonds to explore and enjoy the spouse he has given us for his glory. Yet, even marital sex cannot completely satisfy, only Jesus can. Marital sex, is intended to point us to the only one who can satisfy and complete us in the covenant community we have in Christ. In marriage, we must give God the glory for the good gift of sex that points us back to him!

Money was given as a gracious gift by God as a means to provide for us and bring us pleasure. When it is enjoyed as a means of enjoying God, money can bring enjoyment and pleasure in this life. God has given us the freedom to enjoy his created world through money. To some he has given much and other he has given little, but he has graciously given to all. Whether he has given you much or little, we are tasked with the responsibility of being good stewards with what he has given. Each of us must trust God to provide no matter how much money we have in the bank.

Power was given as a gracious gift by God to pursue pleasure through him. When it is enjoyed as a means for enjoying God the good of others, power can bring us immense joy. It is only when we abuse the power we have been given for selfish gain that distorts the gift. God has given some people places of power in order for them to fight for justice. This is one way that we can exercise of our God given power, no matter how much we have been allotted.

Ultimately, all three of these gifts have been given to us, in one degree or another, as means by which we can pursue and enjoy God. We would be wise, by God’s grace, to steward them well.

I would highly recommend this resource to anyone struggling with placing money, sex, or power as preeminent in their lives. Which in one degree or another includes us all! Dr. John Piper uses his gift of writing to point the people of God back to Christ. It is only when seek Christ above all else that all these things are added to us (Matt. 6:33-34). This short book would be excellent for personal or group study. What a blessing Dr. Piper is for the church!
I received this book from Cross Focused Reviews in exchange for an honest review of the work.

Book Review: Zeal Without Burnout

imageMinistry is hard! It is tiresome, demanding, never ending work that requires a great deal of sacrifice. If you are in ministry or have been in ministry you know exactly what I am talking about. But all too often the journey in ministry brings an unexpected detour due to burnout. For folks in ministry, the passion (or zeal) that brought them to ministry is what drives them towards burnout. In his new book Zeal Without Burnout, Christopher Ash sheds light on the reasons why ministers burnout and ways to remedy the problem before it occurs.

Throughout the book, Ash gives seven keys to warding against burnout in ministry. Each of these seven brutally remind us that we finite creatures and are not God. In fact, we are in desperate need of the Lord each and every day!

First, we need sleep. God wired human beings for the need to sleep. This daily rhythm of rest allows us to cease from work and recharge. Sleep not only allows the body to rest, but it rests the mind. While we sleep our brains process what we experienced that day. Sleep most importantly, reminds us that while we rest God continues to work.

Second, we need Sabbath rest. Sabbath rest is a weekly rhythm of rest where we take an entire day off from our typical work. For most ministers this will not be on Sunday, but another day during the week. This is a time to enjoy the Lord through any means that truly allows us to rest. People rest differently. Some rest while reading or journaling, while others rest by hiking or playing a sport. The important principle is to cease from work and allow the Lord to work while we rest.

Third, we need friendship (or community). This is an important support system that allows us to share our burdens and enjoy the Lord together. Without friends, we become isolated and can feel like we are going at it alone. I must confess that I struggle with this key.

Fourth, we need inward renewal. Every day we need a time set aside where we pray and read Scripture to commune with God. By doing this we are feeding ourselves. The majority of the work of ministry is pouring into others. But if we are allowing the Lord to pour into us then we will dry up and be of no use to others.

Fifth, we need to warned against the celebrity mentality. Our society celebrates and worships fame. Unfortunately, this same mentality has crept into the church. All too often ministers fall into the trap of celebrity, which becomes their demise. In the end it devestates their ministry because they become disqualified for ministry service.

Sixth, we need encouragement. It cannot be said enough, ministry is difficult! Ministry leaders desperately need encouragement. The biggest encouragement that people in ministry need is that it is worth it. Many who are in ministry have left their family, a comfortable career, or hometown to follow their calling. Unfortunately, many times it is difficult to see how ministry is worth the sacrifice.

Lastly, we need to be reminded of the joy of ministry. Most people who enter the ministry do so because they express a calling from the Lord. Yet, after life punches you in the face and knocks you down that can such the joy out of ministry. The encouragement is that the Lord does not need us to serve him, but he wants us to serve him. This must serve as a wonderful reminder that serving the Lord is a joy, not a chore.

This book was highly encouraging and easy to read. One of my favorite quotes comes from the end of the book. Ash says, “If I never preach another sermon, never lead another church meeting, never give another talk, never have another one-to-one spiritual conversation with anyone, never use my gifts ever again in ministry, my name is still written in heaven. And in that I will rejoice.” These very powerful words speak truth to the heart of a minister on the edge of burnout. We must remember that the Lord has called us to serve him not because he needs us, but only because He chooses to work through us. This puts into perspective the need for rest in the midst of the demands of ministry.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who is currently in ministry and anyone who is considering ministry. It is a wonderful resource on a needed topic! If you are in ministry you must learn how to balance the demands of the job with rest and replenishment. This resource will help you work through that without throwing in the towel.


I received this book from Cross Focused Reviews in exchange for an honest review of the work.

Book Review: NLT Guys Slimeline Bible

imageGod’s Word is essential to personal spiritual growth. The psalmist writes “Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.” (Psalm 119:105, NLT). It is not only the way through which believers get to know God, but it is the way through which God leads believers through life. This spiritual journey, for many, begins early in life. For this reason it is important for young people to understand and know God’s Word.

Commissioned in 1996 and updated in 2013, the New Living Translation is a good modern Bible translation that lands in the middle between literal and readable translation theory. It does a good job of keeping the message of the biblical text center, while simultaneously making the text readable, which is great for younger readers. The NLT translates ancient measurements, weights, currency, and time into the modern equivalent. It also translates biblical phrases, idioms, and names while some translations only transliterate them. The NLT is translated to be read aloud which is great for group study, personal reading and memorization.


Key Features for the Guys Slimline Bible:

  • Design: The slimline design fits easily in the hands for personal reading. It also fits well into a backpack for travel or use in various settings.
  • Footnotes: The footnotes do an excellent job of explaining portions of the text that may be difficult to translate or understand.
  • Cross-References: The NLT places cross-references in text for quick access to similar passages for personal study.
  • Dictionary/Concordance: The NLT dictionary/concordance is an excellent resource for defining biblical terms and locating other passages that use the same word.
  • Maps: The maps at the back of the bible allow the reader to understand the world of the Old and New Testaments from a geographic perspective.
  • Reading Plan: The 365-Day Reading Plan allows the reader to read through the entire bible in one year by reading a few chapters each day.
  • Memorization Verses: The NLT provides key verses to memorize that are organized by topic. This allows the reader to apply God’s Word to their lives in varying situations.

As mentioned above, the NLT is great for younger readers. The Guys Slimline Bible would make a great gift for graduations, baptisms, confirmations, etc. I would reccomend this resource to youth pastors and youth workers for use in with their students.


I received this book from Tyndale House Publishers as a member of the Tyndale Bloggers Network program in exchange for an honest review of the book.




Book Review: Family Worship

The practice of family worship is a concept that has become more popular among American Christians in recent years. However, the formal practice of family worship is rooted in ancient Christian History. Which means, that the practice was lost, at least in part, for a few generations of modern Christians. This begs the question, what is family worship, why is it important, and how do we restore the practice in the modern church? That is what Dr. Donald Whitney discusses in his new book Family Worship, published by Crossway.

What is family worship?
According to Dr. Whitney it is the daily worship of the Lord within a family unit. In his book Dr. Whitey outlines three essential parts to family worship that can be practiced daily. First, read the Scriptures. Whitney encourages the man of the house to either read or delegate the reading of Scripture every day with his family. This also includes a short discussion of the passage read to help the family understand the implications of the passage and how to apply it to daily life. Second, pray with your family. Family worship must include the crucial practice of daily prayer. This can be done by one person or by multiple members of the family. The point is to pray for the needs of the family and the application of the Scripture passage read that day. Third, sing together as a family. Whitney encourages family worship to include the practice of singing at least one song of praise to the Lord. This can be accomplished by singing to a recording, playing the song with a family instrument, or by singing a capella.  Throughout the book Whitney drives the point home that family worship is as easy as read, pray, sing.

Why is family worship important?
First, worship in general and family worship in particular is important because God alone deserves to be worshipped. The Lord is great and glorious and is deserving of our worship and adoration. Second, family worship is important because it brings the family together for a common purpose, namely to worship the Lord. In a society where families are increasingly busy with work, school, sports, and a host of other distractions, family worship is a time where families can unplug and spend time together with the Lord. Third, family worship is important because it is a great way to facilitate discipleship. As the family reads and discusses Scripture it allows parents to grow their children in the knowledge and application of biblical truth. It also instills the importance of prayer in children and models the practice for them.

Although the local church can help in many of the same ways, and it is important to gather regularly for corporate worship and discipleship, it is not the primary role of the church to raise a family. The role of the church is to equip and encourage the family to worship the Lord and grow in discipleship. Discipleship happens in every day life. The family is only at church gatherings a few hours a week. The church cannot possibly properly disciple families in that limited amount of time. Unfortunately, over the past few generations we have seen the family place that primary responsibility of discipleship onto the church, which has fostered the “professionalism of ministry” and brought on the rise of church programs to handle the discipleship of families. If the family worshiped together and discipleship happened in the home, the church could go back to its original role of equipping families to worship and disciple in the home.

How do we start the practice of family worship?
Many young Christians did not grow up in a family that practiced family worship. They do not feel equipped to start the practice in their own family. The simple answer is start today! Consult resources such as Family Worship. Also trust the leadership of the local church to guide and equip you to begin family worship in your home.

I fully enjoyed reading Family Worship by Dr. Donald Whitney. It has helped equip and encourage me to start the practice in my own family. I would recommend this book to every pastor and church ministry leader. Read it and start using it as a resource to equip the families in the local church. I also recommend it to Christian men. This is an excellent resource that can you begin today, this important practice of family worship.

I received this book through the Crossway Review program “Beyond the Page” in exchange for an honest review of the book.