Saturday, November 26, 2011

Book Review: A Book with Heart

     Tyndale Publishers blessed me with a complimentary copy of LEAD...for God's Sake in exchange for an honest review. Todd G. Gongwer penned this book with conviction and passion that all believers should take to heart. Why do we do what we do? What motivates people to live? In this fictional account, Coach Rocker, a Kentucky high school basketball coach finds himself in the midst of life struggling along with his players' game, not knowing why he is even alive. From his career to his family Steve Rocker's life seems to be ripping at the seams, in need of more than a quick fix.
     Then, a godsend in the form of Joe Taylor, school janitor, begins mentoring Coach and in effect, the entire school and beyond. Through Taylor's guiding hand and genuine care for others he transforms the lives of everyone he possibly can and whomever will allow him the opportunity. Taylor is the hero of the story, but it's the deep void in Coach's heart that is the driving force in this modern-day parable. Every pursuit in our lives must start from within the heart. People can't live their life with lasting meaning if they are only pursuing worldly treasures. Those are fickle and will perish when the person does as well. What lasts beyond our lives here? Only with God at the center of our hearts can we lead to leave a lasting legacy.
     Honestly, I would have normally passed by this book on a store display. However, as an option to review it, LEAD...for God's Sake seemed appealing enough to give it a chance. Had I not read it, I would have never know what I was missing sadly. I am not a sports fan my any means, so I was relieved that basketball only comes through as the background in the book. It's the wisdom of Taylor that reaches the other characters' hearts, as well as the readers.
     By the end of the book, I was crying, so prepare with a box of tissue at your side. This volume would be wonderful for any believer or seeker or maybe someone who is questioning their very being. We all lead in some manner, whether it's at home, school or the workplace. Everyone can LEAD...for God's Sake.

Todd Gongwer has spent nearly twenty years developing his expertise in leadership, team, and cultural dynamics. He has held executive positions in companies ranging from entrepreneurial start-ups to public entities. He also served as an assistant college basketball coach for over a decade. He lives in Indiana with his wife, Traci, and their two children.

Click here to purchase your own copy of Lead...for God's Sake.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Book Review: Great Guide to Fasting

     I owe a big thank you to Bethany House Publishers for sending me a complimentary copy of A Woman's Guide to Fasting in exchange for an honest review. Lisa E. Nelson, author and speaker, presents a guide to not only fasting itself, but to the preparation and aftermath as well. Fasting is not a commandment, but a discipline practiced throughout the Bible. To modern ears, fasting may seem antiquated and daunting. However, Nelson breaks down the physical and spiritual aspects of fasting for the reader.
     In A Woman's Guide to Fasting Nelson makes it a point that one only begins a fast for the proper reasons. As Jesus came to fulfill the Law, we are not bound to any specific fast. We are to make sure our fasts are done at the Spirit's prompting. There are various reasons to practice fasting and this book covers those reasons adequately, among them to request healing, protection and humility. Nelson also includes different fasts such as liquids-only, partial fasts, Daniel fasts and twenty-four-hour fasts. I particularly liked the fact those are each hit upon in subsequent chapters as to the different preparations needed for each type.
     I was truly excited to start reading this volume. I have always been intrigued by the discipline, but have been intimidated by fasting. No longer will I be intimidated by fasting due to Nelson's encouragement throughout. In fact, in the last portion of the book she uplifts the reader by relating the mistakes she has made along the way her fasting journey. Sometimes she has tried to do fasting in her own strength rather than relying on God's. We have all done that in some way in our walk with Christ.
     A Woman's Guide to Fasting certainly will not be a dust-collector upon my shelf. As much as it was pleasurable to read, it is useful as well. This book would be great for anyone who practices fasting or has a desire to begin. It only is a mere 147 pages and is well written. I hope anyone who picks this book up is on their way to deeper experience with God. Again, thank you to Bethany House for this wonderful read.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Book Review: Empowering Read?

     WaterBrook Multnomah Press gave me a complimentary copy of John Bevere's soon-to-be released Relentless in exchange for an honest review.  Bevere wants to convey to believers that they have been given more than they realize through God's grace. Christians have been empowered through grace to rule over this life, rather than being ruled by circumstances and occurrences. This empowerment is the key to have a relentless faith that leads to the finish line.
     Everyone has those days in this life where they find themselves ready to throw in the towel and walk away. But, God has called believers to continue with a tenacity that only could be Christ-powered. Bevere reminds Christians what armor is at our disposal to resist the devil and his ploys. Through wielding the armor, obedience and prayer Satan won't even win a battle. In closing, the author points out for what end and why believers are called to live relentlessly.
     This book is not to casually glance over. Relentless is a book that challenged my beliefs and uplifted my spirit in the process. My biggest challenge was figuring out how to apply what John Bevere was teaching me. How do I feel empowered, yet stay humble, without losing my dependence upon the Father? Many of the questions that arose were addressed in the subsequent pages. I would caution readers not to lose sight of Christ. Satan would love to use the teachings in Relentless for his advantage. He did to Eve, he could do it to us.
     I finished this book a couple of days ago. I waited to write my review to sort my feelings out. Ambiguity still is plaguing me. I'm not sure if I could ever feel comfortable yelling out loud to command Satan to flee as suggested. Maybe it's just the idea that I am not comfortable with. There were definitely portions of the book that I found harder to swallow. Could it be that the western world's Christianity has been so watered down that we are luke-warm and don't realize it? Is this God's call to live life more abundantly?
    Grace is a gift given to us. Many Christians take it, yet don't use it. It's as if someone was given the most wonderful Christmas present ever. The one treasure that they waited years for to receive. Once it is in their hands they set it down on the shelf, only to collect dust. God wants us to live this life with Him. His grace is in abundance and freely given. Relentless is a great tool to use to understand what grace can mean to every Christian in the world. Through Bevere's easily-grasped anecdotes to his personal life and musings to biblical teaching, this book can propel you further in the race, guiding you closer to the finish line. I only hope your faith will be Relentless!

Order your copy of Relentless here!

About the Author
John Bevere is the author of such bestsellers as Extraordinary, The Bait of Satan, The Fear of the Lord, Under Cover, and Driven by Eternity. His books have been translated into over sixty languages, and his weekly television program, The Messenger, is broadcast around the world. John is a popular speaker at conferences and churches and his ministry, Messenger International, offers resources to those who want to understand and apply God’s principles. John’s wife, Lisa, is also a bestselling author and speaker. They live with their family in Colorado.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Life Lessons from the Emergency Room

“9-1-1. State your emergency.”

“Yes, my 5-year-old son is having a severe asthma attack.”

“Is he alert and breathing?”

“Yes. He is. It is very labored.”

“Okay, we have paramedics on their way.”

     This is how our weekend began on an all-too-recent Friday evening. As usual my husband was working and I found myself praising the Lord that my in-laws live only minutes away to watch my other kids. As I called the fire department, I was packing my purse with some extras (Bible, Tylenol, water and snack bars, etc.) knowing we were in for a long night. This has become a “normal” routine for my family and over the course of four years I have learned the emergency room provides a great opportunity to spend some time with my Bible and Heavenly Father.
     As I see my son wheeled past other patients on stretchers waiting their turn in the emergency room and hear a nurse calling out “Trauma Bay B,” I then realized the gravity of the situation. The nurses, doctors and respiratory therapist all came streaming in and began hovering around Jacob assessing his situation. I stood to the side, as to not become an obstacle, answering the same set of questions to various staff. Intermittently, I prayed for my baby to be okay and soon found God restored my peace.
     Fast forward, nine tedious hours, we are told he has pneumonia and will be in for at least a few days. As soon as I entered the pediatrics ward God sent a little gift of encouragement to keep me going. The lead nurse happened to be one of the mothers from Jacob’s soccer team. I hadn’t had a chance to meet her and here she was smiling, letting me know she cared. Hence, my Father cared. Let me just say, at 2:30 in the morning this mama’s brain was fried and I was running on pure adrenaline. We get up to his room and are asked another series of questions.
     After an hour’s sleep, I was almost to the point of hysteria. As soon as I saw my husband, I began to cry for no other reason than being emotionally exhausted. I went home to go shower, rest for a bit and to take snack for Jacob’s soccer team. I felt I was truly on my last leg and here we were not even 24 hours into this ordeal. As I am driving to the fields, this song I never heard before began to play on the radio. For the better part of the song this man sang to the Lord, “I need You. I need You.” Over and over. The song ministered to my heart as it was able to put words to my feelings. I was literally too tired for much, except to pray, “Help me.”
     Jacob stayed a total of three nights and was administered eight medications to stabilize and to begin his healing. We came home with an astronomical eight medications to finish his healing. I am more thankful than I have been in a very long time. Sure, we deal with asthma all the time. But, the severity of this episode demonstrated a few things to me.
     First and foremost, the fragility of life is as delicate as an eggshell. You never know when your shell is going to crack. Life is such a gift many take for granted everyday. It’s easy to get stuck in the grind of life and forget that every breath God grants us is precious and beautiful. We are each living miracles and works of divine art. May we treat ourselves as such.
     Our Father is faithful beyond comprehension. Deuteronomy 7:9, “Therefore know that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments.” In fact, a couple of days before Jacob’s hospital stay I was reading a book and God’s faithfulness was pondered. That chapter really stuck out in my mind. Little did I know that I would be getting a first-hand lesson in the matter. I always get a kick out of the ways God can teach us. I knew every step of the way He was there faithfully standing by us, looking out for us and blessing us with His love and presence.
     Building on that, our Lord will sustain us through it all. It’s in the thick of things, God shows himself the most. If it wasn’t for Him, I would have broken down this time. Yet, my family is still standing because He held us up by His sovereignty and might. He is King of kings and Lord of lords.
     Another thing I learned over that weekend was it is all in God’s timing. He chooses when trials come our way. Just when we think we cannot handle another trial, setback or heartbreak, God allows us to face the situation. Whether we choose to face it head on or not is really a matter of faith. We will either submit to His will, endure the trial and come out a little more like Christ or we can choose to submit to fear and the ploys of the Devil. It is when we are weak, we can choose to have the best Defense or not have one at all.
     God is faithful all of the time. It doesn’t matter if you are hurting at home or in the emergency room, He is there. This Thanksgiving I am not only going to be thankful for what I have, but for my life itself. May we not only be thankful on this one day of the year, but rather be thankfully living every day to the fullest. John 10:10b says it so well, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”