As a member of Blogging for Books, Best Buy’s Tech Insider Network (and top-50 review contributor), and Thousandshores Power Users, I frequently receive items for free – or at a substantial discount – to review. Consequently, I recently realized I spend a lot more time writing reviews than I do writing my normal blog entries, so it made sense to put all my reviews in one place. So I started the new site in March 2017. Of course, I also review items I purchase at retail.
I know when I’m shopping for a new item, I pay close attention to meaningful reviews; so I try to be diligent about making sure my reviews are actually helpful.
As of now, most of my prior reviews have been posted on the site. In fact, you’ll see some that were previously published here. Others were first published on Best Buy, and some others on Amazon. A few others were at other sites. My general plan going forward is to upload at least one review per day, so check back often for new content.
Anyway, I hope you find it useful. At the very least, it’s been a fun project for me.
You can also follow the “review version of me” on Twitter as @LLHReviews:
Callaway is a Christian humorist and speaker who has authored more than 20 books. I began reading his book To Be Perfectly Honest with a little trepidation and a healthy dose of optimism.
Unfortunately, the trepidation proved to be the more warranted of the two.
The book purports to be a humorous look from Callaway at year in which he accepted the challenge to only tell the truth. The book is written in the form of a diary, detailing daily events of truth or dare, so to speak.
I’ve seen plenty of reviews lauding the book. This is not one of those reviews. I expected the book to be funny. It did have a few moments of actual humor, but it desperately need more. I expected the book would communicate timeless truth in an interesting way. There were a few moments of insight, but they were too few and far between.
In the end, I felt like I was reading the smarmy ramblings of someone who had to put out a product for his publisher rather than for God‘s glory, or even his own advancement.
To be perfectly candid, I can’t recommend the book. If you read it and enjoy it, I commend you for finding treasure in such a barren land.
Disclosure – I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.
This is Eric’s fourth devotional. I think he’s getting the hang of it. This one focuses on the parable of the soils.
The Soil of Our Souls
by Eric Jordan
As soil must be properly cultivated to accept a seed, so your heart must be prepared to accept the gospel. Keep these questions in mind as you read Mark 4:3-20:
Is my heart more like one of the poor soils: the path, the rocky soil, or thorny soil?
When is my heart more like the good soil, pursuing knowledge of the word and recognizing my need of God’s sustaining hand?
How can I recognize the poor soils in my heart, and allow God to cultivate my heart so that it becomes the good soil?
After finishing this devotional, review these questions with the intent of allowing God to cultivate the soil of your soul.
The first three types of soil represent the hearts of people who have heard about Jesus but are not yet ready to believe. The first seed is sown on a path where birds come and take it away. This illustration represents the people who have heard about Jesus but then allow Satan to come and turn their hearts away. As the soil on the path is hard and will not allow the seed to take root, the hearts of these people have become hardened and unreceptive to the gospel. The second soil is rocky and shallow so the seed sprouts up quickly; however, when the sun comes, the seed withers and dies. These are people who shrivel under persecution. Their family might tease them or maybe they face adversity and turn from God. The third soil is thorny, and, when seed is sown, thorns grow around the plant and it is choked. This person grows but gets distracted and bears no fruit. These people pursue material things rather than relying on God. These people do not follow Christ, just as the plants do not mature and bear fruit.
The last soil represents a zealous believer. This soil has been prepared to accept the seed, and the seed then matures into a healthy plant producing a bountiful harvest. The last soil represents a person who hears the word and treasures the word upon hearing it. The soil cannot produce fruit on its own; it must receive seed from the sower. Likewise our hearts remain barren unless we receive the seed of Christ. Those who truly receive seed of Christ bear spiritual fruit.
The lessons in this parable point to the fact we must examine our heart and see what “soil” it is made of. If we are one of the first three soils, then we must seek God and allow him to change our heart. When we do this examination, we must understand nobody is perfect, so we are still susceptible to being one of the poor soils. If we cannot figure out which category we fall under, then we pray that God will help us to examine our hearts and follow his leading.
The hearts likened to the bad soil turn their backs on God, while the hearts that parallel the good soil ask God to help them. We should apply the lessons we learn in every parable to our lives. A true believer rejoices in producing fruit of the good soil, and for that we must rely on God to cultivate our hearts every day.
This lesson about Queen Esther is the third devotional Eric has written to use with kids in the neighborhood.
By Eric Jordan
Esther is a book of powerful kings, beautiful queens, deceit, pride, and trust; however, the two most important themes woven into the story are courage and God’s providence. Esther showed much courage throughout very difficult circumstances. God showed his control by making Esther find favor with Xerxes after the king had banished Queen Vashti, his wife. There are things we can do every day to apply the lessons in this story to show courage and faith in God.
Esther’s tremendous courage saved the Jews. Esther’s courage starts to emerge in Esther 4:16: “I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.” (ESV) The story is set after Queen Vashti was disposed of due to her disobedience. To find a suitable bride, Xerxes sent his men to search throughout the kingdom. After many months, Esther won the favor of King Xerxes and became queen. Esther never told Xerxes she was Jewish. Ultimately, the malevolent Haman, the king’s second-in-command, tricked Xerxes into ordering that the Jews be eradicated by not telling the king that it was the Jews that he was destroying, but instead telling him that “a certain people” were not obeying the laws placed by the king. Esther then risked her life by approaching the king without his summons. It was his custom to put to death those who presumed to approach him uninvited. Esther further risked her life by telling the king that she was one of the people Haman had ordered killed, and she begged the king to issue orders to protect her people, the Jews, from destruction. Esther had tremendous courage, and risked her life to save the Jews in Xerxes’ kingdom.
Even though the book of Esther never mentions God or prayer, it is clear that God is in control, and it is also clear that Esther and Mordecai serve him in their efforts to save the Jews. God chose Esther to be queen of this place at this time so she and Mordecai could foil Haman’s evil scheme to eradicate the Jews. Moreover, God orchestrated these events to preserve the line from which Jesus would come. He protected the Jews from destruction in order to keep the promises he made to Abraham to build him into a great nation and bless all families of the earth through him. See Genesis 12:1-3. Also, Galatians 3:8 proclaims, “Long ago, the scriptures said that God would accept the Gentiles because of their faith. That’s why God told Abraham the good news that all nations would be blessed because of him.” (CEV) God used Mordecai and Esther to protect his people and carry out his promise of blessing all nations through the Jews.
So how can we apply the lessons of Esther to our lives? First, we can remember that even when circumstances seem grim, God is in control and can, and sometimes does, transform potentially tragic conditions into blessings. However, in Esther’s case, she didn’t stand back and watch this tragedy unfold, she allowed God to use her as part of the solution. She had to approach the king without knowing whether he would kill her or listen to her petition. We should always remember that God requires us to take part in his plan, and sometimes that means stepping forward into uncertainty. As Christians we need work hard to trust God while we work hard to serve him.
God’s providence and Esther’s courage are witnessed throughout the book of Esther. We, as Christians need to have more courage; we also need to have more faith in the sovereignty of God. It would be sad to read Esther and not let its lessons affect our lives. The most important lessons intertwined in this story are the sovereignty of God and Esther’s courage.
This is the second devotional Eric has written. He and I wrestled over the example he chose, but he thought it would work for kids. Please also see his first devotional.
The Supportive Samaritan
September 24, 2010
The parable of the Good Samaritan reminds us that we should help others in need. This parable is told because a person, well-educated in the law, wanted to test Jesus. So he stood up and asked what he had to do to inherit eternal life. In order to answer the question, Jesus asked him for his understanding of the law. The man answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus commended his answer as being correct. “Do this, and you will live,” he said. But then the man, attempting to justify himself asked one more question: “And who is my neighbor?’” To answer the expert’s question, Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan recorded in Luke 10:30-37. Read the parable and then consider the following questions:
In what ways did the priest and the Levite act wrongly?
What do we learn from the Samaritan about how to treat others?
How can we follow the example of the Samaritan in our own lives?
So, in what ways did the first two passers-by react wrongly? Well, think about it this way: You fall off your bike near a remote road, injuring your leg so badly that you can barely drag yourself to the roadside. To your relief, you hear a car approaching. As the car draws near, you notice it is a nicely-detailed, black Cadillac with spinner hub caps. It’s driven by a sharply-dressed businessman who slows just enough to look you in the eye and then drives off. Dismayed, you begin to worry that you’ll be stranded overnight. Soon, however, another vehicle approaches. A lady, perhaps a rich socialite, wearing a beautifully-sequined, red dress and a diamond necklace with a matching ring and earrings approaches in a Rolls-Royce and merely glances your way as she drives by. These two people clearly notice your need for help, but they show no concern and ignore any obligation to help. Why don’t they stop to help?
They probably recognize that stopping to assist will be very time-consuming. They might also feel they can ignore your need because you do not know them and no one else is there to see them act so improperly. They act wrongly by showing no compassion and selfishly ignoring your need. They do not love you, their neighbor, as themselves.
The third man in Jesus’ parable, a Samaritan, took compassion on the injured man, a Jew, and took him to an inn where he paid for his care. In what ways did the Samaritan love the injured man as himself? To continue the analogy, you are still lying bloodied and bruised on the side of the road, wondering how in the world you are going to get home. An old car approaches and slows. A man wearing a McDonald’s cap and uniform rolls down the window of his 1974 Ford Pinto and asks if you need help. Without waiting for an answer, he speeds ahead, pulls over, jumps out of his car, and runs quickly to your side. He then calls for an ambulance and follows it to the hospital. After he checks if you are ok, he calls your parents and waits for them to arrive. This man clearly shows compassion on you, even though he does not know you and even though it means he will be late for work. His example is one we should follow.
How can you apply the lessons in this parable? If someone in your school is getting bullied, there will be people who join in, people who watch or ignore, and hopefully people who help the bullied person. Which person would you like to be, and why? Most of us will say we want to be the person who protects and stands by the bullied classmate. But, what if that person has often been mean to you? Or what if the kid being teased is really weird? In those cases, are you willing to risk others laughing at you or bullying you, too? Sometimes, doing the honorable thing is actually quite difficult. We should help people like the Good Samaritan did. We should not ignore an obligation to help other people and we should go out of our way to help those in need. And we can apply the lessons of the Good Samaritan in everyday things such as remembering that everyone is our neighbor, helping our parents around the house after a hard, stressful day, and helping people up when they’ve been knocked down(figuratively and literally). The parable of the Good Samaritan tells us that everyone is our neighbor.
As I mentioned previously, our men’s retreat last month inspired Eric to write some devotionals. The following is the first devotional he wrote after getting back. I think he did a pretty good job, especially for a 12-year-old!
Eric. J. Jordan
Are you using the resources God has given you to bring others to him? The parable of the talents warns us to use our God-given gifts to draw people to him. In the parable of the talents, a master goes away and gives his servants money, each according to his own aptitude. The first servant, who is given five talents, and the second servant, who is given two talents, invest all the money given to them and double the amount, while the other servant decides to protect his one talent and buries it in the ground. Upon the master’s return, the first two are entrusted with more money, and the third servant gets the money entrusted to him taken away. He is thrown outside, where it is harsh and, as Jesus said, “where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” What did the first two servants do to please their master? And how did the last servant displease his master so? How can we, as Christians, live ourlives like the first two servants?
Let’s take a look at the first two servants, and how they pleased their master. First they knew their master well. They also respected their master. And, most importantly, they obeyed their master’s will, even in his absence, by wisely investing the money in stock. By the time their master returned, they had doubled their share, which greatly pleased him. These two servants brought joy to their master.
Now let’s examine the third servant. First off, the third servant was given less, implying that he was less able to manage more. In the story, it is unknown why he was unable to oversee more; however, it could be that he was given money in the past and failed to invest it wisely. Maybe this was the first time he was entrusted with money, and the master was testing him. Perhaps he did not do well in the seemingly picayune things; or maybe he did some other thing that made him untrustworthy. Like the first two servants, this servant also knew his master well, and he understood his master’s high expectations, but he let his fear of the consequences of failing override his obedience of the master. To avoid the consequences of dissatisfying the master, the third servant protected the one talent and, being the lazy person he was, he buried it. It seems wrong for the master to treat the servant like he did, doesn’t it? After all, the servant protected his money. Maybe, but the purpose of this story is to explain God’s expectations for his people. God is disappointed in us when we don’t invest in his kingdom.
What can we do to please God and apply the lessons in this parable? We can get to know our neighbors and show them love, or we can go on mission trips. The purpose of mission trips is to share the gospel with people who sometimes haven’t even heard Jesus’ name! We can even quote scripture when playing with our friends. We can also please God by being nice to those who are vindictive to us. The Bible even says “If your enemy is hungry feed him, if your enemy is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing so, you will heap burning coals on his head.” (Romans 12:20) We should seek to please God by applying the lessons in this parable.
We should try to be like the first two servants and take risks for our master, Jesus Christ. The first two servants are praised for their virtue and obedience. The third servant’s lazy actions are excoriated by the master because that servant was entrenched in his habit of taking the easy way out. We should be exorbitant in our sharing of the gospel. It is important that people know the gospel well to protect themselves against the Devil. This is why we should share the Word with people every day. The parable of the talents teaches us to invest our resources in building God’s kingdom.