Check Out My New Review Site: Love/Like/Hate

Some of you have already visited my new review site Love/Like/Hate. Thanks for stopping by! If you haven’t visited the site yet, please check it out. The URL is:

https://lovelikehateblog.wordpress.com/

As a member of Blogging for Books, Best Buy’s Tech Insider Network (and top-250 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:

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Review: Experiencing Spiritual Breakthroughs by Bruce Wilkinson

I have to admit I was initially turned off reading this book due to the very casual writing style early in the book.  If I recall correctly, much of the early section of the book was adapted from presentations Wilkinson has given to large groups.  In that setting, the familiar style probably worked better.  But I really got tired of sentences being punctuated by “friend” so frequently.  However, I’m glad I kept reading because Wilkinson offers up some great advice in this book.  

The book is divided into three main sections.  The first (and largest) section of the book talks about individual faith.  The second talks about marriage and the third explores relationships between parents and their children.

Wilkinson says there are three types of faith: the First Chair, Second Chair, and Third Chair.  As you might imagine, the First Chair believer is the one who is all in.  As Wilkinson describes it, “First Chair living is anchored in a person’s whole intellect, will, and heart.”  The Second Chair believer sounds like an accurate description for many of us; this person has committed to belief in Christ but is inconsistent and often compromises with the world around him or her.  As Wilkinson says, “The Second Chair person has God on the tip of his tongue but self on the throne of his heart.”  Meanwhile, a Third Chair person has not personally committed to faith in Christ, although they may be immersed in something Wilkinson calls “churchianity” – surrounding oneself with the trappings of faith (such as church attendance) but not having a personal relationship with Christ.

Wilkinson’s goal in this book is to help the reader move into First Chair faith.  He uses Biblical examples of men from these different chairs to illustrate the impact our position has on our relationship with God and those around us.  He also then gives an example of each chair from modern life.   He has a good discussion about how goals differ from these different chairs and does a nice job of showing the slippery slope of compromise.

Most of Wilkinson’s target audience would likely identify themselves as Second Chair Christians, under the rubric he proposes.  It is of some note, then, when Wilkinson says, “From personal experience I can tell you the most unhappy, frustrated, stressed, and disillusioned people in the world are not non-Christians as you might expect, but Second Chair people who know Christ yet who fight Him and His leadership for years and even decades.”

Wilkinson spends significant time explaining the effects of being a Second Chair Christian and then begins to work toward a solution by proposing a series of questions to work through in order to gain a better understanding of lordship in our lives.  The primary tool he recommends is confronting personal sin, and he devotes significant time to discussing how to confront these sins in our lives.  He also offers practical tips for recognizing recurring sin and developing a strategy to avoid remaining ensnared by it.

He says there are two primary motives at the root of sin:

  1. We seek the pleasure that comes from that sin, and
  2. We seek the absence of pain that is the immediate source of our temptation to commit that sin.

He then begins to turn the book toward personal relationships, noting that 70% of “our inner conflict” results from unforgiveness.  This leads him to a discussion of marriage that at first felt a bit out of place in the book, but seemed appropriate once I got a little further in.  Of course, he talks about having a First Chair marriage, too, and he spends some energy discussing how a marriage should look.  He addresses the roles of husbands and wives.  Although he generally espouses traditional headship and helper roles (with a good bit of clarification since there is such misunderstanding in public discussion), he also cites Scriptural authority for the wife to rule her household.  He also discusses what he calls the “The Seven Stages of Marital Slide” and calls on men and women to find joy in their marriages.  He had a great personal example from his life of taking a year away from ministry to focus on his marriage and his wife because his wife confronted him on the fact he had prioritized his ministry over her.  This section led to a very nice discussion on restoring marital oneness.

He then moved on to discussing being a First Chair parent.  By now, I was looking forward to the advice he would offer in this section.  He exhorts parents to raise godly kids, not just good kids, and he makes good use of a sports metaphor to explain how critical it is that we pass along true faith to our children.

A relay event has always struck me as a powerful illustration of parenting. Success for us as mom and dad isn’t just about how well we run as individuals, but about how well we pass the baton. And only when the story of the generations who follow us is told will our “win” at raising godly kids be known.

Wilkinson goes on to discuss different parenting styles and the effects these styles can have on our children, and he proposes seven steps to raising godly children.  He spends the last chapter explaining that pain in a child’s heart can haunt them as adults, so he suggests an approach in order to deal with this sort of “heart wound.”

Overall, the guidance in the book is good, and I certainly felt much better about the book when I finished it than earlier when I was frustrated so many statements ended with a causal address.  On the whole, I recommend the book, and there are some sections that are particularly strong.  If you want to check out the first few pages of the book, you can do so for free at Amazon.

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

Review – Average Joe

I really tried to like Average Joe by Troy Meeder, but I could never quite get there.

There are certainly parts of the book I enjoyed and found helpful.  I actually loved his story about Jim “The Gardener” and how we are part of God’s tapestry of life.

book cover

I enjoyed reading about Troy’s varied adventures.  He works to draw some meaning of out of each of them.

And that’s part of the problem.   Sometimes, he tries too hard.   For instance, I never once believed him when he painted a picture of being trapped in a hole filling with sewage.  I’m sure he was in such a hole; but the story of panic was not credible – especially since he initially said the hole was 5-feet deep, but then goes on for pages sounding as though he believed he would die in the hole.

The bigger issue is that too much of the book is about Troy Meeder rather than about God.  Don’t get me wrong; I fully believe Troy has a great relationship with God and has done some powerful things to minister to those around him – but Troy paints his life anything but an “average joe.”  He’s a cowboy, a pilot, a missionary, a pastor, a horse whisperer, a scuba instructor, etc.  The book is as much about Troy’s larger-then-life exploits as anything else, and that’s what disappointed me the most.

There are some good lessons in the book, but those same good lessons can be gleaned in many other places.  The book didn’t really offer any especially helpful insights, other than that Troy Meeder sounds like one pretty incredible guy.

There is the obligatory study guide at the back of the book, but in the end, I can’t recommend this book for any sort of study group.  If you feel like you want to read about Troy’s life and glean a few bits of wisdom, it’s a reasonable light read, but that’s about it.

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

Review – Radical Together

Every now and then, I come across a book that really makes me stop to examine how I live out my faith. So it was recently with David Platt’s Radical Together. This is not a book for the faint of heart.  This book will challenge you in many ways.

book cover
Radical Together

I understood that fact going in. That was actually of the reasons I selected this particular book to review.  But I don’t know if I was prepared for the daily wrestling it would inspire.

The book was published in April of 2011 as a follow-up to Platt’s successful book Radical. Platt is the pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama. While Radical was aimed at individuals, Radical Together is Platt’s call to leaders of the church to unite around the call to spread the Gospel to all people groups.

In essence, Platt says we spend too much time, energy, and resources chasing the American Dream while people around the world perish without ever having an opportunity to hear the good news of Christ.  He argues this is true not only of individuals, but also of churches.

One of the more intriguing chapters to me was “The Genius of Wrong,” in which he argues church leaders too often get lost in developing programs rather than directly discipling their flock. “What this means then,” he writes, “is that church leaders are intended by God not to plan events but to equip people. Leaders do not exist to provide services; they exist to serve people.”  He also warns, “Be careful not to let programs in the church keep you from engaging people in the world with the gospel.” I appreciated this recognition that church committees and programs sometimes actually get in the way of ministering to those around us, although there is also danger in taking that perspective too far and neglecting the church.

But the biggest focus of the book is understanding Matthew 24:14:

This good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed in all the world as a testimony to all nations. And then the end will come. (HCSB)

Platt calls us to actively embrace and personally participate in spreading the good news to all people groups. I found it a bit easy to quibble with his definitions of people groups here, but that’s a minor point. The Scripture is clear that we are to join with God in spreading His good news to all the world. The question Platt poses is whether we take this opportunity seriously. His answer, looking at how casually we often live out our faith, is that we do not take it seriously enough. His goal with this book is to spur church leaders to equip their congregations to join in God’s work.

While I am not a minister, I found the book very helpful at a personal level. It is targeted at those in vocational ministry, but the application is broad enough to be meaningful to others like myself.  Platt also includes a study guide in the back of the book with helpful discussion for a small group.

There are things I could criticize about the book. Perhaps he doesn’t dive deeply enough at times. Maybe some of his Scripture references feel like they could be better fleshed out. Maybe he seems to play on emotion a bit too much at times.

However, in the end, despite any faults, this book challenged me in my faith like few others have in recent years. I highly recommend reading it. I’m looking forward now to reading Radical with a small group of friends.

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

Book Planning

Help me choose my book topic.

What do you think (other than that the embedded “polldaddy” promo is pretty lame)? 

Book Reviews

Free BooksI received an email last week with an offer to get a free copy of an Andy Stanley book if I would simply blog a book review.  As you may have guessed by now, I really like Andy Stanley.  My curiosity was piqued, so I went to the website to check it out. Lo and behold, it was legit.

Today, my copy of Enemies of the Heart arrived.  I’ll be reading it over the next few weeks and will then post a review.  Then, I get to pick another free book, and the process starts over.

For a wannabe writer like me, this seems like a pretty cool gig.  I get free books, get to study how these guys write, and get to practice my own writing.  And it’s free.

Anyway, I mention it here in case any of you want to try it.  If so, go to the blogging for books website to sign up.  You can pick different genres that interest you, and then you have several options of books you will be offered to review.